3.06. Band Candy
Jane Espenson’s writing debut is one of the funniest episodes in the verse, alongside episodes like Something Blue, Tabula Rasa, Intervention
, AtS Spin the Bottle, Smile Time
… and I notice that many of those episodes are those with some kind of spell that changes people’s behavior, or where the actors get to play something different from their usual self. Making main characters act wacky but providing a reason for it is a tried and tested way of making good comedy episodes, especially if you portray it as characters showing a side to themselves that you don’t normally see. In this episode, Anthony Head, Armin Shimerman and Kristine Sutheland get to play wild teenage versions of themselves, in a very amusing contrast with their regular selves.
There’s just one problem: the premise of the episode (i.e. the explanation why they’re acting like that) is stupid and doesn’t make sense.
In addition, the first half of the episode is really nothing special. Xander and Willow continue with their cutesy cheating, this time playing footsie under the table in the classroom, with Cordelia sitting right in front of them (?!). In that very same scene, we get another sign that Cordy has really fallen for Xander – she uses the abbreviation “BX” – Before Xander. Buffy is fed up with all the obligations she has (including studying for STAs) and frustrated with Giles and Joyce for constantly reminding her to study/train and not letting her do what she wants with her time, and with Joyce not letting her drive the car (despite the fact she hasn’t passed the test, which doesn’t make Buffy look very reasonable); but she’s ready to use them as alibis for each other, while she sneaks out to see Angel.
The sight of Angel doing shirtless Tai-chi, to the sound of some slow romantic/dramatic ambient music, while Buffy, having just came in, watches him (boy, he needs a long time to notice she’s there?), is one of the most unintentionally hilarious moments in the show.
It’s supposed to be all about temptation and sexual tension, but it’s just so cheesy. Funny also how he’s doing perfectly OK until she comes in, then he says he’s getting better and stumbles for no reason, so we get a scene of Buffy helping him. It’s at this point that the Buffy/Angel scenes in season 3 are starting to get really corny and boring. Angel has recovered way too fast, and I can understand that – ME didn’t want a wild beast-like Angel for half a season. But here they’re starting their S3 dynamic of having very awkward conversations, making out occasionally and trying to not make out the rest of the time, and (apart from Amends
) not dealing with their issues - they don’t talk about him losing his soul and the things he did when he lost his soul, about her sending him to hell, about his time in hell, nothing. (Though they still haven’t made out this season – that happens in the next episode.) He asks her about Scott, and Buffy needs a moment to remember who he is, which is pretty funny (“Scott?... oh, boyfriend Scott”) but doesn’t tell him that they’re not dating anymore – presumably because she feels she and Angel are ‘safer’ that way. Angel says is rather strange – that he’s worried about her safety; Buffy assumes he meant with Scott, which is again funny whichever way you take it, but he meant with slaying. Uh, Angel, Buffy has been slaying for years and she knows how to take care of herself – she’s far better in fight than you… and why are you talking like you’re her dad? I bet there are people who find this sweet and romantic – that he’s worried about her
while he’s the one just back from hell and still physically and mentally not quite well – but to me it just feels really patronizing.
In the meantime, Snyder is forcing the students to participate in yet another bizarre extracurricular task – selling candy to finance the school’s marching band. Which is really a part of Mayor’s sinister plan, but in this episode we find out that Snyder doesn’t really know what Mayor’s plans are, he’s just an authoritarian bureaucrat who obeys his superiors. The Mayor, meanwhile, is as evil as a villain can be: he’s not just in league in all sorts of evil demons, but he’s ready to give one of those demons a tribute in the form of all of Sunnydale’s babies… to eat. It doesn’t get eviler than that, does it? He’s a real politician – he’ll do anything and get in league with anyone with power. And in the meantime, he’s chipper and talks about the importance of children, and not just for show – he really seems to believe in it – despite the fact he’s sacrificing the infants to ensure his own position (and calmly calling his secretary to tell her which sewer repairs should be made, while he’s in the sewer waiting for the demon to come and collect the babies). He gives the task to his new right hand, Mr. Trick, who in turn decides to hire a subcontractor – Ethan Rayne. This is Ethan’s third appearance in the show (after Halloween
and The Dark Age
), and he’s as weasel-like and opportunistic and cowardly as ever, yet strangely almost likeable. And to be fair, he doesn’t actually know what the tribute is about.
What Ethan does is to cast a spell through the candy bars that make every adult in Sunnydale act like… teenager? Child? Completely irresponsible? A combination of all of these? I really don’t know which of these it’s supposed to be – the more you think about it, the less it makes sense. The point of the whole thing is to make the adults so self-absorbed that they won’t even notice when all the newborn babies are stolen from the hospital. So if the idea is that the adults in this episode were acting like teenagers, that means that the majority of teenagers are juvenile delinquents and all of them are completely irresponsible and immature, and for some reason they act like they’re akl\ll drunk, to the point that you could steal babies right in front of them and they wouldn’t care. Or did the adults turn into a fictional version of a teenager from one of those stupid teen comedies in which every teenager is an idiot who doesn’t care about anything but having fun, fun, fun all the time? This has always bothered me, despite how much those scenes make me laugh – it’s all based on a really stupid and annoying stereotype that I hated with all my heart when I was a teen myself. The episode even has Buffy say that “(they’re acting like a bunch of) us” – despite the fact that Buffy is 17 and not like that at all, and is actually in the process of saving everyone as she does all the time; and Oz says that looking at the immature version of the adults is like a sobering look in a mirror… despite the fact that Oz absolutely never acts like that. That explanation doesn’t make sense anyway – where are the wallflowers, the depressed suicidal types, the overachievers, the people who had to take care of their younger siblings and were forced to grow up faster, and so on? Even the teenagers who really are as wild and irresponsible as the adults here don’t act like that all the time
. On the other hand, it’s not explicitly stated that the spell makes the adults turn into teenagers as the Soobies speculated (which doesn’t even make sense with Giles – he became ‘Ripper’ in college), just that it makes them act irresponsible and immature. People in this episode don’t act younger, they act like they’re really drunk. But if that’s the case, why are they all reverting to their old musical tastes and their old TV obsessions from the 1970s? Surely they’ve liked some music and some TV in the last couple of decades as well? And how convenient is it that, despite reverting back to their immature selves, they’re sexually interested only in each other, not in the actual teenagers. (Or maybe the actual teenagers are too mature for them?) And finally, some of the things that the spell-affected adults do isn’t even adolescent behavior: being obsessed with candy or going on about Willow having the name of a tree and giggling about it is the behavior of a pre-school child.
So after this rant about the nonsensical premise of this episode, why do I like it? Well, how can one not love Ripper!Giles, Teen!Joyce and Teen!Snyder, and the rest of the adults acting completely silly? I can’t decide what I love more, Giles and Joyce as a young rebel couple, or Snyder as a clingy pathetic kid trying to be cool. Giles calls himself Ripper but he’s a less angsty and more fun version of Ripper - he isn’t actually reverting into a dark magic, hates the world, ticking time bomb guy, despite what Buffy was afraid of – he’s more interested in smoking pot, starting a rock band (which he says he’s decided to do), robbing stores to impress Joyce, headbutting cops and banging Joyce. Oh, and of course, the moment he starts reverting to Ripper, Giles starts smoking. (Smoking: always a sign of being a bad boy/bad girl. Either that, or a sign that you’re doomed.) Giles as a bad boy is unforgettable, and it gives Anthony Stewart Head the opportunity to use his real accent, which is similar to Spike’s (ASH coached James Marsters to make him improve his accent). Ripper!Giles and Spike both have the same working class bad boy persona - and we know that they’re both faking their accents, since they’re really from posh families. (Joss once said that Spike is what Giles grew out of, and Giles is what Spike refused to become.) Teen!Joyce is a girl who wants to have fun and who’s into cool, sexy bad boys. She’s a bit of a follower – more like Dawn than like Buffy in that respect. It’s great to see Giles and Joyce shed their responsible personalities and inhibitions and just enjoy themselves for once – and they both really needed to get some.
I can fanwank that the spell removes people’s sense of responsibility, and that the reason why Joyce and most other adults turned into “teenagers” is that this was the last time they felt free – or the last time they remember feeling free (Giles, naturally, turned into the “Ripper” version of himself he was at college, during his rebellious phase); or rather, into really exaggerated versions of their teenage selves; the older that people get and the more responsibilities they have, the more they tend to idealize their adolescence and youth as this wonderful carefree period of their lives that it actually never was. When Teen!Joyce says she feels like she’s just woken up, like getting married and having kid and everything was just a dream – I find it a bit sad; Joyce doesn’t seem to normally have much fun, we rarely hear about her friends and since her divorce, she seems to have only dated one guy, who turned out to be a killer robot (and the next time we see her dating, it will be right before her death). I wonder if she and Giles ever contemplated the idea of hooking up outside the candy spell, or if they were too embarrassed after this episode – this episode suggests that there was an attraction between them. One detail from this episode – Giles and Joyce listening to the song “Tales of Brave Ulysses” by Cream
together in his room – got a subtle and poignant callback in season 5, in Forever
, the episode after The Body
, in which Scoobies mourn for Joyce in different ways; Giles is sitting in his room silently listening to this song, a reminder of the time he and Joyce connected beyond their usual conversations about Buffy’s well-being.
And then there’s Snyder – who is hilarious in this episode, but it’s also the first episode in which he is kind of sympathetic and almost likeable. Contrary to his usual sternness, he’s so eager to hang out with the Scoobies and following them around. He’s unsuccessfully hitting on Joyce, and trying to impress everyone and act cool. You get the impression that the reason he hates kids so much is that he never got to have many friends in school or get dates. He also wants validation from authority figures – bragging that the Mayor got him commendation and shook his hand. That’s not that different from normal adult Snyder, whose main motivation in his career seems to be to please the Mayor.
Oh right, there was a plot about a demon and a tribute in this episode. Well, Buffy figures it all out - again. (Buffy is almost always the one to figure out things, even though Willow is supposed to be smart one. Buffy may not be bookish, but she’s amazingly street-smart.) She fights Trick, manages to kill the demon in Sunnydale’s huge sewer, and Trick escapes grinning and cheerfully promising “high times” to Buffy. He seems to be impressed with her skills almost as much as Spike was in season 2 (“Ordinarily, I let other people do my fighting for me, but I gotta see what you’ve got”.) Ethan also escapes, again.
Best lines/best moments:
The Mayor: I made certain deals to get where I am today. This demon requires its tribute. You see, that's what separates me from other politicians, Mr. Trick. I keep my campaign promises.
Snyder: WOAH SUMMERS, YOU DRIVE LIKE A SPAZ!!!
Ripper!Giles makes fun of the cop:
Joyce (seeing her car that Buffy has thrashed): OMG! What was I thinking when I bought the geek machine?!
A pudgy middle-aged guy, shirtless but with his tie still on, runs on the stage at the Bronze, takes the mike from Devon (the singer of Dingoes Ate My Baby) and dives off the stage.
Willow: I don’t like this. They could have heart attacks.
Buffy: Maybe there’s a doctor here.
Willow: Actually, that is
my doctor. He’s usually less… topless.
Snyder trying to hit on Joyce: “So… are you two, kinda, like, going steady?” and Joyce rolling her eyes and moving away from him.
Ripper!Giles asking Buffy to hit Ethan, and jumping for you and punches the air when she later does:
Snyder bragging that he took “Tae Kwan Do at the Y”, doing bad Kung-fu moves.
Willow (reading the graffiti on the school wall): “KISS ROCKS”? Why would anyone want to kiss… Oh, wait, I get it.
Angel’s presence seems to do wonders for Buffy’s fashion sense – she wears nice sporty black shirt and black pants when she goes to see him, much better than most of her fashion choices this season.Giles’ and Joyce’s outfits change drastically under the influence of the spell – Giles loses his glasses and tie together with his accent, and wears a white shirt, blue jeans and a coat tied around his waist. He also seems to be wearing guyliner. Joyce wears a mini skirt and high boots, which she might have borrowed from Buffy who wore similar things in season 1 and occasionally season 2; I guess since Buffy often looks like she’s raided her mom’s wardrobe this season, it’s only fair for Joyce to do the opposite. Later on she also has the feathered coat that Giles stole.
As it was hinted here and later confirmed in Earshot
,Joyce and Giles had sex on the hood of the police car, after Giles knocked out the cop. Joyce later shyly produces a pair of handcuffs from the pocket of her stolen coat, when Buffy asks for something to tie Ethan up with.
There’s one intentionally hilarious (Willow’s doctor) and one unintentionally hilarious (Angel doing Tai-chi).
Ms. Barton the teacher calls Snyder “Commandant Snyder” behind his back. Buffy calls Ethan “Rat Boy” and “farm-fresh chicken”. Snyder calls Giles “Brit-face”.
Destroying the English language:
Buffy refers to her mom letting her drive her car as “driveyness”.
Pop culture references:
Buffy references Willy Loman from Death of the Salesman.
Teen!Snyder asks to be called just by his last name, “like Barbarino” – apparently a TV character from the 1970s show
, played by John Travolta (which I only know thanks to BuffyGuide
). Teen!Joyce asks Ripper if he likes Seals & Croft, a soft rock duo ( thanks again, BuffyGuide), but Ripper shoots her a look and she adds “Me neither”. A few middle-aged guys, including Willow’s doctor, sing “Louie Louie” at the stage at the Bronze. Joyce tells Ripper he’s cool like Burt Reynolds. Joyce says the coat that Ripper just stole for her are cool, “very Juice Newton” (a country-pop singer, apparently popular during the 1980, and thanks again, BuffyGuide/Google). Cordelia says her mom started wearing her clothes, including her lycra pants, and her dad started locking himself in the bathroom with copies of Esquire
. (Really? That’s quite tame, he’s not even using Playboy
(My thanks to usagianddarian
for the animated gifs.)