October 8, 2022

Buffy 4.4, Fear, Itself: A House Divided

Posted in TV tagged , , , , , at 1:10 pm by Jenn

If you want insurance in case you turn into your costume, you can’t go wrong with a superhero

Summary: The Scoobies are carving jack o’lanterns in Xander’s basement room, though Buffy’s kind of ruining the mood by moping about Parker. The friends were going to spend Halloween (which is the next day) watching a horror movie but Xander accidentally rented Fantasia instead of Phantasm. “Maybe it’s because of all the horrific things we’ve seen but hippos wearing tutus just don’t unnerve me the way they used to,” Oz says. Willow would rather go to a haunted house/party at a frat house. Xander’s upset about not being invited, but Willow tells him he can come, too.

Buffy decides to head home without even carving her pumpkin. Oz notes that she’s “still suffering a little post-Parker depression.” The Scoobies want to smack Parker for the way he treated her. (So does the audience.) On her way home, Buffy encounters a demon and punches him. It’s actually a guy in a Halloween mask. He’s mad that he got hit, but I say that if you jump out to scare a woman walking alone at night, you deserve whatever she does to you.

The next day, Willow tells Buffy that she feels like she’s plateaued in terms of learning magic. She’s gotten the basics down, but the next step is stuff like conjuring and transmutation, which is close to scary forces. Buffy advises her not to push too hard if she doesn’t feel ready. Willow was looking for encouragement instead of caution. She figures that since she’s in college, she might as well experiment. She’ll know when she’s reached her limit.

Oz joins the conversation, which he thinks is about alcohol. He’s on Buffy’s side, thinking that Willow shouldn’t take any big risks. As a werewolf, he knows what it’s like to have power he can’t control. But whatever Willow wants to do, he’ll support her. She admits that she kind of likes it when he worries. Buffy spots Parker nearby and takes off, not wanting to be around him. Willow doesn’t want her to let him chase her off, but Buffy would like a break from dealing with her feelings about him. Willow hopes she’ll meet someone at the party that night. Buffy’s not interested, and she’s decided to go patrolling instead of celebrate Halloween.

She heads to Giles’ place, where the normally anti-Halloween former Watcher has gone all out with candy, decorations, and a (culturally insensitive) Mexican costume. He claims he never hated Halloween; he just hasn’t appreciated it before, since he was always busy with Watcher duties. Buffy tells him she wants to patrol tonight, since they could end up dealing with something they don’t see coming, like when Ethan wreaked havoc in town. Giles reminds her that supernatural creatures tend to stay hidden on Halloween, finding the day “crass.” He doubts that anything supernatural will happen that night.

The frat hosting the haunted house/party is working on their decorations and scares. They’re worried the sound system is too weak, but one of them knows Oz and thinks he’d loan them something better. They need to go all out so they can scare chicks enough to make them fall into the guys’ arms. As one guy claims, Halloween isn’t about anything spooky – it’s about getting laid. “Is there any holiday that’s not about getting laid?” another guy asks. “Arbor Day,” the first guy replies. Well, of course. The second guy gives the first a symbol he found in a book that they can paint upstairs.

Anya goes to Xander’s to complain that he never called her after they slept together. He reminds her that she said she was over him. Well, she lied, and he should have gotten that. He’s not exactly unhappy to see her, so she suggests that they celebrate the one-week anniversary of their night together by going out. Xander tells her he has plans with the Scoobies.

Anya wonders why he keeps hanging out with them now that they have nothing in common. He tells her their friendship goes beyond that. He invites her to the party, which she interprets as a date, though he won’t fully admit that. He tells her she’ll need to get a costume, preferably something scary. Anya can’t think of anything, but Xander figures that after centuries of terrorizing people as a demon, she’ll be able to come up with something.

Buffy goes to see Professor Walsh after skipping her class “for personal reasons.” Walsh is unsympathetic and tells her to deal with her problems on her own time. If she misses another class, she’s out. Riley hears the whole conversation and tells Buffy that Walsh means her threat. Buffy needs to get herself together and make the class a bigger priority. She says she’ll do the work she missed that night, but Riley thinks she should enjoy herself on Halloween. It’s a time to put aside your responsibilities. Buffy appreciates the encouragement (and the fact that he actually listened to her, unlike Walsh).

A frat guy is painting the symbol on the attic floor when Oz and Xander bring over Oz’s sound system. Xander asks what the symbol means, but the guy doesn’t know. Xander isn’t really that interested anyway, and he quickly gets distracted by a bowl of peeled grapes (to serve as eyeballs for blindfolded women who will hopefully be scared enough to, well, fall into the guys’ arms).

One of the guys encourages Xander to pledge their frat, but Oz says he’s a “civilian.” Xander doesn’t appreciate being outed like that. Oz uses a pocketknife to fix a problem with a wire, accidentally cutting himself. He shakes off the injury, dripping blood on the painted symbol, which shimmers. A fake spider turns into a tarantula and crawls away without any of the guys noticing.

Joyce modifies an old Little Red Riding Hood costume for Buffy so she can wear it to the party. Joyce gets nostalgic about past Halloweens, when Hank used to take Buffy trick-or-treating. Buffy was always annoyed by him – not because he was protective like Joyce thinks, but because he wanted to steal her candy. Joyce admits that he stole the candy for her. Hank really did want to spend time with Buffy, unlike now.

Joyce reassures Buffy that their divorce had nothing to do with her. Buffy, however, can’t help feeling like there’s a pattern of opening her heart to someone and getting abandoned. Maybe it would be better if she kept herself closed off. Joyce can relate, since she didn’t want to make any connections when they first moved to Sunnydale. She was afraid that she couldn’t trust anyone. But now she has a good group of friends. It took work, though, and it didn’t help that the first guy she dated after her divorce was a killer robot. She reminds Buffy that she has her friends and mother for support. She has nothing to be afraid of.

That night, while college students throw around toilet paper and shoot each other with silly string, Willow (dressed in chain mail) arranges to meet Oz before the party. She wants to make sure Buffy has fun. If Parker shows up, they’ll kill him, which is appropriate for Halloween. She chats with a dormmate, then passes a guy dressed as a lobster who’s trying to convince his girlfriend that he’s not interested in anyone else. The frat house is now a mixture of haunted-house spooky and college-party fun. I’m not sure which category the grape eyeballs fall into when they turn into real eyeballs.

Xander, who’s wearing a tux, meets up with Little Red Riding Hood Buffy and asks what’s in her basket. It’s weapons. Xander’s dressed as James Bond in case they turn into their costumes again and he needs to be cool. Buffy warns that he could turn into a waiter instead. “As long as I’m cool and wield some kind of power,” he says.

Willow and Oz join them and explain their costumes. Willow’s Joan of Arc, since she relates to her – Willow was almost burned at the stake and has a close relationship with God. Oz is simply wearing a name tag that says he’s God. Xander wishes he’d thought of being God. “Blasphemer,” Oz says. On their way to the party, they pass some commandos and wonder who they’re supposed to be. Oz guesses NATO. Xander tells the others that he invited Anya, but since she’s having trouble finding a costume, she’ll meet them there.

Buffy’s bummed that she’ll be the only one in the group without a date. Willow assures her that they’ll have a great time. Probably a better time than the people already at the party, who are running around, screaming in fear. One guy falls down the stairs. “Release me!” a voice growls. But when the Scoobies enter the house, they don’t hear anything, and they’re the only people downstairs.

The haunted house isn’t that impressive in terms of scares, though I have to give the frat guys credit for doing a lot of decorating. Of course, as Oz notes, the cobwebs might be real, considering frat guys don’t do a lot of cleaning. Xander gets spooked by a fake skeleton that springs out of a closet with a knife. He says he wasn’t scared, just in the spirit. Willow’s next for a scare when the tarantula from the attic appears on her shoulder.

The Scoobies are ready to get through the haunted house to the party. Oz is confused when the path he thought led to the attic doesn’t take them there. Buffy finds real blood on the floor, then hears a squeaking noise. The Scoobies look up and see a huge swarm of bats above them. They all fly away, and when Oz picks up one left behind, he sees that it’s just rubber. Xander guesses that they’re just dealing with normal Halloween frights. But the voice growls, “Release me!” again, indicating that something else is going on.

Outside, Anya arrives in a costume most people wouldn’t find scary: She’s a bunny. The door has disappeared, so she can’t get in. She goes around the house, looking for someone to let her in, and sees one of the party guests banging on a window and screaming for help. The bricks surrounding the window move together and cover it up.

Inside, the Scoobies can’t find stairs or a door, and they can’t figure out where they are. Oz shuts off the soundtrack of screams and spooky sounds, prompting Buffy to say, “Thank the Lord” without even thinking about Oz’s costume. Willow thinks they should get out of there, since they don’t know what’s going on. Xander hears a hissing noise, frustrated when Buffy repeats what he’s saying without seeming to hear him. The sound leads her to a closet where a frat guy is freaking out. “It’s alive,” he tells the Scoobies. Nearby, the skeleton that scared Xander turns into a real skeleton and starts moving on its own.

Buffy tries to get the frat guy to tell the Scoobies what’s going on. He spots the skeleton over her shoulder and cries out. Buffy fights the skeleton, which turns back into plastic. The fight was real, though, and Buffy has a cut on her shoulder to prove it. The frat guy wisely goes back into the closet to hide, and the closet disappears.

Buffy tells the Scoobies to find a way out of the house and leave while she goes upstairs to see if anyone needs help. Willow doesn’t want to leave her behind, but Buffy needs the Scoobies to get the only person who can figure out what’s happening. That would be Giles, who’s alone at home, waiting for trick-or-treaters. Anya comes over and tells him they need to save Xander. Okay, and the others, too. She tells him what she saw at the frat house and he starts gathering supplies. He doesn’t think she should worry about Xander, who’s at least with friends.

Willow and Buffy bicker about whether the Scoobies should leave and whether Buffy has the right to boss them around. Willow wants to do a guiding spell that will conjure an “emissary” to help them get out. Buffy notes that Willow doesn’t have a great track record with even basic spells, so moving ahead to conjuring might be a bad idea. Willow protests that she’s not Buffy’s sidekick.

As Oz goes off with Willow to calm her down, Xander tries to tell Buffy that this isn’t a good time for in-group arguments. But Buffy somehow can’t see or hear him, and she’s annoyed that he’s seemingly wandered off. She goes off looking for him as he calls after her, wondering what’s going on. He ends up alone in a hallway.

Willow complains to Oz about Buffy’s skepticism that she can handle dark magic. They’ve found the stairs, and as they go up, Oz realizes that he’s starting to change into his wolf form, even though there’s no full moon. Willow suggests that they find a way to restrain him, but he says there’s no time. She tells him she can try the guiding spell instead. Oz accidentally scratches her with his claws, then runs off to keep from hurting her further. She calls after him not to leave her, and her voice echoes throughout the house.

Xander finds a mirror and is relieved to see that he’s not invisible. A bleeding, decapitated head behind him says he can see Xander, too. Oz sits in an empty bathtub, whispering to himself over and over, “You’re not gonna change. You’re not gonna change.” As Buffy searches the house, crossbow in hand, Willow does her conjuring spell. She creates a little green light and tells it to take her to Oz. As she’s thinking about all the things she needs to do, the light multiplies and she gets swarmed.

Buffy hears Willow yelling for help but can’t get to her. She breaks down a door and finds herself falling into a basement. The guy who fell down the stairs appears and tells her that everyone she opens her heart to will run away from her. But she’s not alone anymore. Hands reach up from underground and grab at her.

Outside, Giles and Anya have arrived, and he determines that they’ll have to create a door. Good thing he brought a chainsaw! Buffy fights off the zombies the arms are attached to, but the dead partygoer tells her that no matter how hard she fights, she’ll end up in the same place. Why does she even bother? Buffy makes her way to a little door, which is normal-sized when she emerges on the other side. She realizes she’s made it upstairs to the party.

Everyone up there is quiet, too scared from whatever they’ve seen to do anything but cower. As Buffy spots Oz, Willow runs in, swatting at the lights that are no longer surrounding her. Xander’s also there, and the others can see and hear him again. Oz realizes that the house separated them to scare them. Buffy thinks it also brought them together again for some reason.

Xander sees the symbol on the floor and finds the book it came from. Willow identifies the symbol as the Mark of Gachnar, which is used to summon…well, Gachnar. The spell must have been triggered somehow, and now Gachnar is feeding on fear to manifest himself. As the demon growls to be released, the Scoobies decide to get everyone out of the frat house so their fears will stop feeding him.

Giles arrives just then with his chainsaw (and Anya). He tells the Scoobies that the walls have been closing up behind them. He’s familiar with Gachnar and says his presence is changing the reality of the house. They can’t let him fully manifest. Buffy thinks she could fight him, but Giles shows her a picture of the demon and she realizes she doesn’t want to have to face him. They’ll need to break the spell instead.

Giles starts reading from the book how to shut down the spell. “Destroying the Mark of Gachnar…,” he begins. Buffy punches a hole through the symbol without letting him finish: “Is not one of them and will, in fact, immediately bring forth the fear demon itself.” Oops! A light shines out of the broken symbol and Gachnar rises up from the floorboards. He looks scary…but it’s just a trick of the camera. He’s actually just a few inches tall. “Big overture, little show,” Xander comments.

Gachnar tries to convince the Scoobies that he’s “the dark lord of nightmares” and they should tremble before him. Willow says he’s cute. “Who’s a little fear demon?” Xander coos, like Gachnar’s a baby or a cute animal. Giles tells him not to taunt Gachnar – not because Gachnar can hurt him but because “it’s just tacky.” Buffy decides that “size doesn’t matter” and slaying is slaying. Gachnar tells her that everyone’s going to abandon her. “Yeah, yeah,” she replies dismissively before stomping on him with her foot.

The Scoobies head to Giles’ house to eat his leftover candy. Buffy declares that there’s no problem that can’t be solved with chocolate. Willow comes up with one: feeling sick from eating too much candy. Xander questions Anya’s costume, which she explains by revealing that she’s scared of bunnies. Giles realizes that he overlooked something in the book and they were never in danger. The caption under the picture of Gachnar reads, “Actual size.”

Thoughts: When Oz delivers his sound system to the frat house, he says, “Mi Casio es su Casio.” Oz, I love you.

I doubt he was thinking that way but if the Scoobies had turned into their costumes again, Oz would have been able to save the day.

Buffy: “Your basic spells are usually only about 50-50.” Willow: “Oh, yeah? Well…so’s your face!” I love a good “so’s your face,” even when it doesn’t make sense.

I want to give Oz a big hug after the “you’re not gonna change” scene. How horrible to have no control over yourself like that.

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