November 5, 2022

Buffy 4.8, Pangs: Just Like Old Times

Posted in TV tagged , , , , , , at 1:03 pm by Jenn

I love that there’s an arrow in the stuffed pilgrim

Summary: A guy in a very ’90s fleece vest is walking through the park at night when he hears noises behind him. He spins around and comes face to face with Buffy. Though he looks like a normal college student, he’s a vampire, and he’s very unhappy to see the Slayer. He tells her to go back where she came from, since things were great before she came. “And they say one person can’t make a difference,” she says as she stakes him. She seems to feel someone else’s presence, so she looks around a little, but she doesn’t see anyone. That’s because the person watching her is a master at lurking – it’s Angel.

UC Sunnydale is breaking ground on a new cultural center, and the dean, Guerrero, introduces an anthropology professor so she can give a speech before the construction begins. Buffy, Willow, and Anya are in the audience, and Xander is on the construction crew. Anya gushes over his masculinity (I will say that he has impressive biceps) and how much better this job is than his last one. Willow misses the free hot dogs on sticks, though. Anya says she’s imagining having sex with Xander right now. Considering those biceps, she’s probably not the only one.

The professor likes that they’re breaking ground on the cultural center right before Thanksgiving because living in a melting pot is about contributions from other cultures making ours stronger. Willow objects – Thanksgiving is about one culture killing another; we just don’t talk about it. Buffy thinks part of her anger comes from the way her mother raised her. Sheila doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving or Columbus Day, and Willow thinks her viewpoint is right.

Buffy decides she’s better off not celebrating Thanksgiving this year, since her mom is going out of town. Anya disagrees, since she enjoys ritual sacrifices. Buffy says that’s not what Thanksgiving is, but Anya points out that it involves killing and eating an animal to commemorate something that happened in the past: “It’s a ritual sacrifice with pie.”

The professor ends her speech and makes the ceremonial first dig. Anya’s unhappy, since she wanted to watch Xander dig. He gets his chance next, so Anya’s day is made. She imagines having sex with him again. “Imaginary Xander is quite the machine,” Buffy comments. Suddenly he falls through the ground into some ruins.

That night, Angel lurks around Buffy and Willow’s dorm, where they’re talking about the accidental discovery of an old mission everyone thought was lost. Well, Willow’s talking about it; Buffy’s at the window, still feeling like she’s being watched. She wonders how an entire mission could be lost. Willow explains that there was a huge earthquake in 1812 and everyone thought it was leveled. They built over it like they did with the church the Master was in. It makes Willow wonder what else is underground. In Buffy’s experience, it’s mostly sewers full of demons.

Midterms are over and everyone in the dorm is excited to go home for Thanksgiving. Not Buffy, though, since she doesn’t get to have a family holiday. She decides to host her own Thanksgiving for the Scoobies. Willow’s disappointed that she changed her mind about the holiday being a sham. Buffy says it is, but it’s “a sham with yams. It’s a yam sham.” She wants to recreate the memories she has of childhood Thanksgivings, since everything’s different now. “Well, I supposed there could be slight yams,” Willow allows. She suggests not inviting Anya, but Buffy wants to capture the spirit of everyone having a place to go.

Spike has been out in the cold (well, as cold as it gets in L.A.) since escaping the Initiative, and he’s still trying to stay a step ahead of them. Riley, Forrest, and Graham search for him while discussing their Thanksgiving plans. Riley only gets a short break since Spike is still at large. Forrest doesn’t see him as much of a threat, since he has that implant that keeps him from hurting people. He taunts Riley for being a Mama’s boy, since he obeys Walsh’s orders so closely.

Anya goes to Xander’s the next morning, wanting to accompany him to the worksite so she can watch him dig some more. But he’s sick, and she thinks it’s bad enough for him to stay home. She knows about illnesses since she gave a lot of them to horrible men when she was a vengeance demon. She decides to stay with him even if she might get sick, too, since it would be romantic for them to die together. Xander says she’s a strange girlfriend. She appreciates being given that label. (Maybe not the strange part, though.)

In the mission, green smoke drifts out of the hole Xander made when he fell. The anthropology professor is eager to take a look around down there, though she’s disappointed that the cultural center will have to be built somewhere else. The green smoke enters a display case in her office and surrounds a knife. It takes human form, and the human uses the knife to slit the professor’s throat.

Buffy and Willow search the office that night after hearing about the murder. Willow found out that the professor had an ear cut off, so they could be dealing with a witch, since there are some great spells that are improved with ears. Or maybe it’s an ear-harvesting demon that’s building another demon out of ears. Or maybe the professor cut off her own ear, like Van Gogh. Actually, Willow can’t make that theory work. Buffy realizes that something’s missing and IDs it as a Chumash knife from the early 1800s.

She goes to Giles’ place to both update him on the murder investigation and start cooking for Thanksgiving. He’s familiar with the Chumash, who were indigenous to the area. He thinks the knife was a convenient weapon for the killer, but Buffy says there was also a big pair of scissors nearby, so the killer purposely chose the knife. She’s annoyed that Giles doesn’t own a turkey pan. He asks why they’re not doing this at Buffy’s house. She says he’s the patriarch, and in American tradition, the patriarch hosts. Otherwise, it’s meaningless. He guesses she just wants him to have to clean everything up.

Buffy heads out to get more supplies, and as soon as she leaves, Angel emerges from another room in the apartment. He’s there because his buddy Doyle (from the spin-off) had a vision about Buffy, and Angel thinks she’s in danger. He wants to do more than just keep an eye on her. Giles reminds him that he doesn’t have to protect Buffy; she’s not his responsibility anymore. Angel points out that she’s not Giles’, either, but he’s obviously not going to ditch her to look after herself.

Giles wants to tell her that Angel’s around, but Angel doesn’t want to get in her way. Giles thinks there’s a connection between the vision and the mission. Obviously something in the ruins was disturbed and is angry. Angel says it could have been trapped but was released when Xander fell through. He suggests that Giles talk to a priest named Gabriel who has a long history with the town.

Angel wants to go follow Buffy again, and Giles says that she would object – it’s not fair that Angel gets to see Buffy but she doesn’t get to see him. Angel tells him that he’s not exactly enjoying this. He doesn’t like being on the outside looking in on his ex. He’d forgotten how bad it feels. Spike can relate, since he’s unable to join some other vampires as they feed on a human. Poor Little Match Girl Spike!

Buffy and Willow meet up downtown, discussing the importance of homemade whipped cream. Buffy promises this is the last thing she’ll be so old-fashioned about. Not that she has time for anything else, since she has to take a break from cooking to meet with Father Gabriel. Riley joins the two of them, having spotted them a few blocks away and run to catch up with them. Willow ducks out to give them some privacy.

She heads into a coffee shop, where Angel grabs her, putting a hand over her mouth so she can’t scream. She thinks he’s evil again, but he tells her he’s there to help Buffy. Willow urges him to tell her, but Angel thinks that would make it worse. She rants that leaving for someone’s own good is bull; you can’t just run away because there are problems. She apologizes, explaining that she’s dealing with personal stuff.

She gets that Angel wants to keep his distance. He laments that everything’s different now. Willow asks if it’s true that he’s working with Cordelia. (It is.) She’d love to talk more about that but Angel is focused on helping Buffy and doesn’t have time for the personal stuff. Well, maybe he has time for one question: Who’s the guy Buffy’s talking to?

Buffy’s telling Riley about the Thanksgiving she has planned for the Scoobies. She invites him to come if he doesn’t have plans, promising that she’s a great cook “in theory.” Riley says he’s leaving tonight; he got a last-minute flight home to Iowa. “That’s one of the ones in the middle, right?” Buffy asks. Heh. Like her, he has happy memories of childhood Thanksgivings. He always has fun back home. They paraphrase the Robert Frost quote, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

…Unless you’re Spike, in which case, no, Harmony doesn’t have to take you in. She’s been doing some self-help reading and has taken control of her own power. She refuses to take him back. He tries to seduce her, but she remembers her reading at the last minute and won’t give in. She even has a stake ready for him. Spike doesn’t think she’d actually kill him, but she definitely looks angry enough. He asks for someone to eat before he goes, but she chases him off.

Buffy goes to meet Father Gabriel at his church but she’s moments too late – the man who killed the professor is there, and he’s strung up the priest to kill him as well. Buffy fights the man, who tells her, “I am vengeance. I am my people’s cry. They call for Hus, for the avenging spirit to carve out justice.” Buffy asks if they told him to start an ear collection. They fight some more, and just as it looks like Buffy’s going to be able to finish him off, something makes her stop. Hus says she slaughtered his people and is now killing their spirit. Then he turns into a bunch of birds that all fly away.

Buffy takes all this back to Giles, wondering why she didn’t take Hus out. “I like my evil like I like my men: evil,” she says. She thinks guilt stopped her. Giles reminds her that Hus killed innocent people. She pauses the conversation to give him instructions for cooking the potatoes. He doesn’t have a ricer! How could Giles not have a ricer? Also, what’s a ricer? He dryly says they’ll mash them with forks, which the Pilgrims must have done. Back to Hus: Buffy wants to stop him, but she’d prefer to do it without killing him.

Willow arrives with books and peas. Buffy objects to the peas being frozen. Willow didn’t have time to buy and shell fresh ones, since she was reading about the Chumash’s battles. Giles says they were peaceful, but Willow’s research says that changed after the white settlers came along. Buffy worries that the peas will be mushy. Giles announces that he likes mushy peas. “You’re the reason we had to have Pilgrims in the first place,” Buffy shoots back.

Willow continues that the white settlers enslaved and imprisoned the Chumash, hanging the ones who tried to rebel. They were sent to a mission, where they got sick. Another group was accused of stealing cattle, and after they were killed, the killers cut off their ears to bring back as proof. In other words, Hus’ desire for vengeance is pretty justified, and he’s carrying it out by doing all the things that were done to his people.

A wolf watches from outside as the three discuss when and how to handle the situation. Giles wants to stop Hus, Buffy wants to wait until after dinner, and Willow thinks they should actually be helping Hus in some way. They can at least bring the tragedies that happened to the Chumash to light. Maybe they can even give them back their land. Buffy tries to keep the peace, eventually heading back to the kitchen to tend to the turkey.

Giles quietly tells Willow that he thinks Buffy’s in danger. Willow tells him she saw Angel (he may have lost his edge when it comes to being stealthy). As they’re about to start bickering again, Xander and Anya arrive. Giles and Willow are concerned since Xander looks so sick, but Buffy just notices that he doesn’t have the rolls he was supposed to bring.

Hus gathers some more weapons from the anthropology department as Xander tells the Scoobies that the doctor he saw couldn’t figure out what’s wrong with him. Buffy thinks his illness is related to Hus – the Chumash in the mission got sick, so maybe Xander has what they had. And what did they have? Malaria, smallpox, and syphilis. Xander has all three? The Chumash are so generous! Willow assures Xander that since the illnesses are mystical, they should go away once this is all over.

The question now is how to make this all be over. Giles snarks that they should give Hus some land. “Sarcasm accomplishes nothing, Giles,” Buffy admonishes. “It’s sort of an end in itself,” he mutters. Xander wants to go back to the part where he has syphilis. Anya assures him that, while it’ll make him blind and insane, it won’t kill him. (The smallpox will, though.) Willow thinks she might be able to find a spell that can cure him. Anya unhelpfully offers Xander some pictures of what will happen to him.

Willow says that Hus is just doing what was done to him. Xander notes that he didn’t give anyone syphilis. Giles says that when Xander freed Hus’ spirit, he saw Xander as one of his oppressors and punished him accordingly. Giles wonders why he targeted the professor and Father Gabriel. Xander doesn’t care – Buffy just needs to slay Hus. She says there’s some debate about that. Willow adds that there are two sides to the situation. “Well, the representative from syphilis votes yea,” Xander says.

Willow argues that it’s not that simple. Xander doesn’t agree – Hus is a vengeance demon, so he needs to be killed. Anya’s taken aback by her boyfriend’s attitude toward something she used to be. Willow and Giles note that Hus is a spirit, not a demon, and they don’t know what will kill it. As the group starts to argue about the complexities of the situation, Buffy blurts out that the pie she’s been making needs more condensed milk. She’s going to focus on dinner right now so they can have a perfect Thanksgiving. Giles tells her that Hus won’t stop. His vengeance won’t be satisfied. “Hatred is a cycle,” and he’ll just keep killing.

There’s a knock at the door, and when Buffy opens it, she’s confused because no one’s there. Spike pops up and asks for help. He’s covered in a blanket to keep him safe from the sun, but when she shoves him back, he gets a little burned. He begs to be invited in, but Buffy and Giles both refuse. Spike tells them he can’t bite anyone, asking Willow to back him up. She reminds him that he vowed to kill her and Buffy, so she’s not really motivated to help him out here, but she confirms that he “had trouble performing.”

He says he’s been neutralized for good: “Spike had a little trip to the vet and now he doesn’t chase the other puppies anymore.” He can’t bite or hit anyone. Buffy doesn’t consider that enough of a reason to help him. He offers up information on the commandos. What does Buffy have to be afraid of? Well, Hus, who’s summoning more spirits to help him in his quest for vengeance.

Giles has invited Spike in but the Scoobies are taking all precautions by tying him to a chair. He complains that Buffy’s tying the ropes too tightly and cutting off his circulation. She reminds him that he doesn’t have any circulation. He says he came to her in friendship (“well, all right, seething hatred”) and she shouldn’t mistreat the person who’s offered her information. However, he won’t give up that information until he’s gotten something to eat.

While Anya takes over cooking and Spike asks for brandy, Giles realizes that other than Xander, Hus has gone after authority figures. Buffy thinks Dean Guerrero could be next. Willow hasn’t found a “nice, non-judgmental way” to kill Hus, and she says they’re not in a western. They’re dealing with one oppressed warrior. Buffy really feels bad about this (not bad enough not to keep giving Anya cooking instructions in the middle of the conversation) but they have to stop Hus. Apologizing won’t cut it.

“Oh, someone put a stake in me,” Spike says, annoyed. “You got a lot of volunteers in here,” Xander replies. Spike tells the Scoobies that the settlers won. They came in, killed the Chumash, and took their land. That’s what conquering nations do. Caesar did it, and his famous quote isn’t, “I came, I conquered, I felt really bad about it.” History is about defeating your opponents. They can’t fight Hus if they’re feeling apologetic.

Buffy and Willow say they don’t want to fight anyone. Willow would like to sit down and talk to Hus, but Spike doesn’t think he’d feel better after chatting with someone he sees as responsible for genocide. It’s kill or be killed here. “Maybe it’s the syphilis talking here but some of that made sense,” Xander says. Giles grumbles that he said a lot of that stuff earlier but no one listened to him.

Buffy decides that warning the dean should be the priority right now. Willow and Anya volunteer, and Xander apparently feels well enough to tag along. Spike would prefer if he stayed, since he thinks he can bite someone if they’re dead, and it doesn’t look like it’ll be long before Xander is. Buffy tells the Scoobies to hurry, not because they need to save the dean but because dinner is being served in an hour.

Spike requests food again, asking if Buffy and Giles knows what happens to vampires who don’t feed. Apparently they turn into living skeletons. Buffy offers him gravy, since that has blood in it. “Do you know what else has blood in it? Blood,” he replies. She considers gagging him so the Scoobies can have a peaceful dinner. She’s determined to make sure it’s quiet and civilized.

An arrow flies into the apartment and lodges into a wall. Hus has arrived. Buffy tells him that they really do feel terrible about what happened to the Chumash, and they’re trying to help. “You can have casinos now!” she exclaims. The other spirits join Hus and fire more arrows into the apartment. Still tied up, Spike can’t do anything to defend himself, and he almost takes an arrow to the heart.

Willow, Xander, and Anya leave the dean’s house, having confirmed that he’s safe. Willow thinks he got a crazy vibe from them. Xander says it’s probably because Anya started things off with, “Everybody got both ears?” On the plus side, the dean’s wife gave them a pie. They run into Angel, whom Anya, meeting him for the first time, describes as “large and glowery.” Xander suspects that he’s evil again, making Angel wonder why everyone thinks that. Willow says he’s there to protect Buffy. “I haven’t been evil for a long time,” Angel protests. Willow adds that Buffy doesn’t know he’s there.

He reports that all the weapons were taken and asks why the Scoobies went to see Dean Guerrero. Willow explains that they think Hus is going after leaders. Angel says that since Hus is a warrior, a leader to him is the strongest fighter. That means the Slayer. Angel says he’ll call her and warn her while the others head back to Giles’. He breaks the locks on some nearby bikes so they don’t have to walk.

Giles takes Angel’s call in the middle of the war zone, casually saying they’re fully aware of the situation and currently under siege. Since he’s British, he says thank you. Buffy asks who called and Giles just says, “Someone.” Spike, who’s full of arrows, would like to know what the plan is. Buffy goes for Giles’ weapons chest and takes an arrow in the arm. Spike announces that apologizing wouldn’t be such a bad strategy after all. He calls out to Hus that they’re sorry. Yeah, Hus doesn’t care.

As the other Scoobies bike across campus, Buffy and Giles start fighting back against the spirits. Xander arrives just as one is about to fire another arrow, and he hits the spirit over the head with a flowerpot. Anya and Willow team up, using gardening tools as weapons. The spirits start entering the apartment, which they soon discover was a mistake, since Buffy’s really good at hand-to-hand combat. Spike just stays put and keeps getting shot with arrows.

Buffy stabs a spirit but her knife doesn’t have any effect on him. Willow and Anya’s tools aren’t doing much, either. Angel arrives, takes in the scene, and jumps in to snap the neck of the spirit Willow and Anya are fighting. “What’s he like when he is evil?” Anya asks. Inside, Buffy fights a spirit while another sneaks up on her. Angel throws something into his chest from the courtyard without Buffy even noticing.

After some more fighting, Buffy discovers that Hus’ knife can hurt the spirits. But before she can start killing, Hus suddenly turns into a bear. “You made a bear!” Spike says in horror. “I didn’t mean to,” Buffy replies meekly. “Undo it! Undo it!” he yells. He tries to get away, scooting his chair around, but he tips over and ends up on his back.

Xander manages to save the day by distracting the Hus-bear. He calls him Gentle Ben and throws rolls at him for giving Xander syphilis. Buffy’s able to run up behind Hus and stab him with his knife. He turns back into his human form, then goes up in green smoke. The other spirits do the same, and the fight is over. Angel stays outside, never seen by Buffy. “What happened? Did we win?” Spike asks from the floor.

He’s allowed to sit at the table with the Scoobies while they eat dinner together. Despite all the complications, apparently the food turned out well. Willow feels bad for fighting the spirits, and Giles tells her that instincts take over when violence is involved. “Yeah, that’s the fun,” Spike says. He’s annoyed that after all the fighting, none of the Scoobies bled.

Giles compliments Buffy for her successes both with the meal and the battle. She’s disappointed that Thanksgiving wasn’t as perfect as she’d hoped. Xander thinks it was pretty traditional – there was a lot of anticipation, then a big fight, and now they’re all tired. Giles notes that everyone survived. Buffy cheers up, agreeing that her first Thanksgiving in charge was successful after all, since they all got through it.

Xander suggestively tells Anya that his syphilis seems to be clearing up. “And they say romance is dead,” Buffy comments. “Or maybe they just wish it.” Willow thinks they might have started a new tradition. Okay, maybe not, but with everyone working together, it was like old times. “Yeah, especially with Angel being here and everything,” Xander replies casually. Buffy looks up in surprise and everyone waits to see how she’ll react. Spike smirks at the blindsiding. “Oops,” Xander says.

Thoughts: This is the first Thanksgiving episode of a TV show I remember discussing the unsavory history of the holiday. And yet it still manages to give us scenes of togetherness and friendship without being sappy.

I was going to write something about Buffy, Willow, and Anya’s outfits at the groundbreaking ceremony, but nothing I could say would capture their essence. As they say, a picture is worth 1,000 words, so here’s the picture.

Anya is blunt and self-centered and doesn’t get a lot of social cues, but if you watch her during the Scoobies’ scenes, she takes really good care of Xander. She definitely cares about him beyond just having sex with him.

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