October 15, 2022

Buffy 4.5, Beer Bad: The Pleasure Principle Gone Wild

Posted in TV tagged , , , , , at 1:07 pm by Jenn

Art bad

Summary: Buffy’s on patrol and things are going the way they normally do…until she realizes that Parker is nearby. She tells him to stay down while she fights a vampire. Some other vampires grab Parker, but Buffy’s able to kill all of them and save him. He’s super-grateful, especially considering the way he treated her. He plans to do whatever it takes to make it up to her. Maybe someday she’ll forgive him?

“No,” says a classmate Parker’s flirting with during one of Professor Walsh’s classes. Buffy comes out of her daydream and tries to ignore them. Walsh talks to the class about the basic needs people want all the time (shelter, food, comfort) because of the id. It doesn’t learn or grow up. The ego and superego try to keep it in line, but the id just wants stuff, no matter how much people have evolved. It’s all about the pleasure principle. So when we can’t have what we want…well, if we’re Buffy, we go back to our daydream, which now features Parker with his shirt unbuttoned, asking for forgiveness while offering flowers and ice cream.

Xander has gotten a job as a bartender at a local pub, and he wants to practice his skills on Buffy and Willow – not skills related to serving drinks but to lighting people’s cigarettes and listening to sad drunks share their sad tales. Willow notes that he’s too young to be a bartender. Xander shows her his fake ID, which includes a picture of him with a really bad mustache. “I don’t believe this is entirely on the up-and-up,” Willow says. “What gives it away?” Xander asks. “Looking at it,” she replies.

Buffy would be happy to play along with Xander’s practice run and tell him her pretend problems, but she’s having enough trouble with her real ones. He wants to practice on those, but it’s clear that she doesn’t want to talk about them. Willow jumps in, making up a scenario where she’s pregnant with her stepbrother’s baby, but he’d rather be with her best friend.

On the way to class, Buffy shifts to her real problems, wondering if Parker put her in a fantasy bubble and will eventually want to be with the real her. Willow gently tells her that she needs to think about something other than Parker. There are better men out there who know that “the mind is stronger than the penis.” Xander scoffs and exclaims, “Nothing can defeat the penis!” He realizes he said that way too loudly. Buffy tries to defend Parker, thinking he has intimacy problems because of his father’s death. Willow’s done with that and tells her to share her problems with the bartender.

That night, Xander works his first shift at the pub and is quickly overwhelmed by all the orders. Buffy comes in, spots Parker with a date, and accidentally bumps into Riley. He, like Willow, is anti-Parker, but Buffy’s too laser-focused on Parker to listen. I need someone to shake her really, really hard until she comes to her senses and realizes that she can do so much better than Parker.

At the bar, Xander chats with a student with horrible bangs, but a guy named Colm (I think – two of the guys look a lot alike and the IMDb is no help) interrupts and makes Xander look dumb for not being an intellectual. He tells Xander that while the students are the future of the country, Xander just fills the bowls of peanuts. “We are what these girls want,” Colm says. Xander tries to one-up him by asking for ID before giving him a pitcher of beer, but his boss, Jack, walks by and tells Xander to serve him.

Xander finally gets the chance to put his empathetic-listening skills to use when he notices how down Buffy looks. She tells him that Parker’s only intimacy problem is not being able to get enough of it. She admits that she knew what he was. Would it be murder if she left him tied up in a cave and let vampires attack him? She calls herself a slut and an idiot. Xander tries to comfort her but he gets called back to work.

Buffy starts to leave but bumps into a guy who’s friends with Colm. He invites her to stay, and Colm and a third guy join in to flirt with her and ask her to hang out with them. Buffy spots Parker leaving with his date and decides this is the better place to be right now. Yeah, surrounded by snobby college guys – that sounds like an awesome night!

Oz and Willow are at the Bronze, where he gets a weird feeling as a band takes the stage. The lead singer is Veruca, and she locks eyes with him while she sings. Now Willow has a weird feeling, too. Back at the pub, Buffy drinks with a table of guys. She was brought up to believe that beer was bad (thanks, Joyce), but since she’s chugging it, she must not think that way anymore. Colm says that if philosophers had developed theories of morality while drinking, there would be no good or evil, just “‘kind of nice’ and ‘pretty cool.'”

The next day, Willow complains to herself about Oz and Veruca’s connection. She asks if Buffy has heard of Veruca: “Dresses like Faith, voice like an albatross.” Buffy’s too busy watching TV to listen to her. All her brain can handle right now is the tiny people and bright colors. “I’m suffering the afterness of a bad night of…badness,” she explains. Willow thinks she hooked up with Parker again. Buffy says she was with four smart guys, which disturbs Willow a little, though she just asks if Buffy’s okay.

Buffy explains that she went to see Xander, then saw Parker, then drank beer. There was no sex, just lots of drinking. Willow rants about Parker frying Buffy’s brain. He deserves a slow, torturous death by spider bites. Until they can set that up, they’ll throw spitballs at him in class. Buffy agrees and starts to leave, still wearing her pajamas.

In Walsh’s class, Buffy continues acting weird. She grabs a sandwich from a classmate, apparently not seeing anything strange about that. In a lab somewhere, someone combines a bunch of chemicals that ultimately drip into a keg labeled Black Frost, the same kind of beer Buffy was drinking with the guys at the pub.

Buffy goes back to the pub that night and drinks with the guys again. Their conversation style has changed from intellectual to barely able to string five words together. Xander’s so concerned that he doesn’t take pick up on the perfect opportunity to put his empathetic-listening skills to use with a student.

Oz catches Willow as she’s leaving her dorm, and she notes that he skipped class. He invites her to go see Veruca’s band with him; they asked him to sit in. Willow doesn’t want to be a groupie, so she tells him she’s just going to study. Even without werewolf instincts or enhanced senses, Oz would be able to tell that something’s going on with her.

Buffy and her drinking buddies’ conversation has devolved into them just calling each other stupid. Xander puts a song on the jukebox and Buffy runs over to see where the music’s coming from. He tells her it’s time to go home, but she just wants more music and beer. He informs her that he’s cut her off. “Did it hurt?” she asks. He has to hold her back from going back to the table and drinking more. “Beer good,” she insists. “Beer bad,” he corrects, then wonders what he’s saying. He sends her home to bed.

Willow goes to a coffeehouse, where runs into Parker. She glares at him until he asks if she wants something. She slams him for hurting Buffy, but he claims not to understand that he did anything wrong. Parker says some relationships are intimate, but most are just a couple of people encountering each other briefly. Can’t two people feel attraction and “create something wonderful” one night, then go back to their lives the next day without making more out of the encounter than it was?

Willow explains that some people, like her and Buffy, equate intimacy with respect and friendship. People shouldn’t have to ask ahead of time if the other person is going to move on the next day. Parker argues that they also shouldn’t have to go into casual sex with the disclaimer that they won’t stay together. That removes the fire from it. Willow concedes that he might be right. Parker says he doesn’t regret what happened with Buffy, but he’s sorry for hurting and misleading her. He’s impressed that Willow cares about her so much.

The guys at the pub have now devolved so much that they’re basically monkeys. Xander’s closing things down, and he takes advantage of their poor mental state to get a bigger tip. He hears crashing noises from the restroom, and Colm bursts out, now fully a caveman. He knocks Xander out, then yells him awake. The other guys have suddenly sobered and smartened up a little, and they realize they should leave, but before they can, they also go full caveman.

Xander yells for help, then realizes he might be able to save himself: The lighter he’s been carrying around with him spooks them. “Fire bad. Fire pretty,” Colm says. “Fire angry!” Xander exclaims, chasing the guys off. He runs to the backroom to get Jack, calmly telling him that some of the patrons have turned into cavemen. “They had it coming,” Jack says.

The cavemen run around campus, generally acting like…you know, cavemen. One trips and another laughs at him, so the first one hits him with a branch. Jack tells Xander that he’s been dealing with – and annoyed by – snooty college kids for decades. Beer makes everyone equal. Xander puts together that the beer is responsible for the guys’ devolution. Jack is proud of himself; his warlock brother-in-law showed him what to do. Xander realizes that Buffy could be suffering the same fate. Jack tells him the effects will wear off in a day or so, but Xander knows someone could get killed before then.

The cavemen make a mess on campus as one of them gets really interested in cars. He gets hit by one, and the other three guys chase off the driver, then smash his car. They spot a couple of women running away in fear and go after them. What kind of alert do you put out on campus to let people know there are cavemen running around? Is there a code for that? Code Neanderthal?

Xander does the smartest thing anyone can do in this situation: He gets Giles. They go to Buffy’s dorm, bickering over whether it was okay for Xander to give her beer, evil or not. “Well, excuse me, Mr. I Spent the ’60s in an Electric Kool-Aid Funky Satan Groove,” Xander snarks. “It was the early ’70s and you should know better,” Giles replies. Xander notes that he’s not Buffy’s father; she’s an adult. Not that she’s acting like one, since she’s drawing on her wall and looks kind of feral. “Parker bad,” she says.

Parker really bad, since he’s now trying to charm Willow the same way he charmed Buffy. Just when it looks like she’s falling for it, she calls him out. He’s just operating on the pleasure principle, not sharing or connecting. “That’s right, I got your number, Id Boy,” she says. She rants about how men only want sex – they “haven’t changed since the dawn of time.” Just then, the cavemen burst in. “See?” Willow says.

Xander and Giles watch as Buffy spins herself around in a desk chair until she falls off. She tries to turn on the TV, saying she wants the people and doesn’t know where they went. Giles tells her slowly and loudly, like he thinks she’s deaf, that the TV is off. She hits it and says she wants the people. Giles thinks Xander should stay with her, but when Buffy gets up close to Xander and starts sniffing him, Giles decides they should leave her alone.

Xander wants to find the cavemen before they cause any trouble. Buffy asks for beer, and when Giles says she can’t have any, she demands it. “Giles, don’t make cave-Slayer unhappy,” Xander cautions. “Buffy strong,” Buffy says. “Buffy get beer.” She throws Giles across the room and runs out.

At the coffeehouse, the cavemen have knocked out Willow and started a fire. They’re confused about their inability to reach donuts in a glass case. The fire quickly gets out of control, so the guys flee. Xander manages to find Buffy on the quad and uses cave-talk to communicate with her. He hopes there’s still a bit of the Slayer left in her. She smells smoke from the coffeehouse and the two of them head over there.

The cavemen are rounding up the women in the coffeehouse when Buffy arrives. Something breaks through her cave-brain and she grabs a fire extinguisher, though she doesn’t know how to use it. Sorry, Buffy, throwing it at the fire won’t do anything. But her protective instincts are still there, and she jumps over the flames to get to Willow. Meanwhile, Giles questions Buffy’s dormmates, hoping someone’s seen her. He describes her hair color, her height, and her newly acquired sideways limp.

Trapped by the fire, Buffy spots a window up high on a wall and does some gymnastics moves to reach it and kick it open. The cavemen and their would-be conquests get out as Buffy picks up Willow and rescues her. She goes back in and finds Parker, who was knocked out and is just now coming to. She knocks him back out with one of the cavemen’s branches, then rescues him, too.

Once everyone’s safe and the fire’s out, Xander asks Buffy if she’s learned a lesson about beer. “Foamy,” she says. “Good. Just as long as that’s clear,” he replies. She goes to the van the cavemen have been placed in and shares a last moment with them. Parker approaches her and says almost the same things he said her in daydream. Cave-Buffy responds by hitting him with the branch again. The Scoobies give him a satisfied glance, then head off.

Thoughts: One of the cavemen is played by Kal Penn.

Did anyone ever fact-check Parker’s story? I’m inclined to believe that his father isn’t really dead. He seems like the type to lie about that.

Oz continues to get the best lines:

Oz: “You got a table.”
Willow: “I had to kill a man.”
Oz: “Well, it’s a really good table.”

Buffy may have caveman brain for half the episode but it doesn’t affect her hairstyling skills (until the end) – her hair looks great here.

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