This is is exactly the kind of episode that you don’t want to show your friends if you want to get them to watch Buffy. It has all the cheese of season 1, but with very few redeeming qualities, not even that many witty lines. Good season 1 episodes use monsters to highlight a real life problem (like being bullied or ignored at school or having over-competitive parents or coaches), but this one is about… predatory women looking to mate and find a father for their babies?
It also doesn’t help that the vampire from the B-story is one of the least scary monsters in the show, and that “Ms French”, the femme fatale teacher/praying mantis, is really slimy and smarmy to the point that she has 'you can't trust her' written all over her, which makes Xander look all the stupider for falling for her seduction. (And why is she speaking in a British accent, BTW? It’s fortunate that Giles is on the show, or it would look like another case of the Hollywood British Baddies cliche.)
I'm not too fond of Xander playing the role of Horny Drooling Idiot Teenage Boy (all the more so since these are the moments when it hits you that Nick Brendon looks a bit too old for the part). Way too many bad teenage comedies cliches there (see Worst Lines). It was funny to find out that Blaine, the guy bragging about his 'conquest' was a virgin, but I don’t get why Buffy was so surprised that Xander was a virgin, and the scene in which Xander and Blaine get ridiculed for their virginity (despite the fact that both Buffy and Willow were the same age and virgins as well at the time) seems like an example of a gender double standard. It would make more sense if they had heard a lot from Xander bragging about his alleged sex life, but as far as we know he only vaguely and unconvincingly tried to do it once to prove himself in front of Blaine when Buffy and Willow weren't even present.
Buffy keeps being the one to think of the solutions to all the mysteries, which is usually great, but at this point I started feeling it was too much - she is the brains and the leader and pretty much perfect, while everyone else's contributions were minor; I started yearning to see some flaws and quirks of hers, which we fortunately get to see more later on. I don't like Giles' characterization in this episode, he is more of a fussy librarian than a mentor and doesn't even seem very useful. The only new things we find out about him are a bit of info about his past friends that doesn't matter much, and... that he's interested in women. (As if Xander's drooling idiot act wasn't enough, we also get Giles making comments about Ms French's attributes throughout the episode.)
There is still some good stuff in this episode - like Xander's hilariously unrealistic fantasies (I think this is the first time we see a character's fantasy on the show). There's some development in the shipping area: Xander says (to Ms French) that he loves Buffy; he is obviously jealous of Angel; we get the first hints that Willow has a crush on Xander; and there's also a little bit of romantic tension between Buffy and Angel, who seems to have dropped his cheeky attitude here and is in full broody mood. Flutie is really good in this episode - I'm realizing in this rewatch how funny he was, he was a bit like a high school David Brent/Michael Scott. I think he just got overshadowed in my mind by Snyder, who was even funnier and more memorable. And it was nice to see a good and supporting teacher (Dr Gregory, the biology teacher) who was aware of Buffy's intelligence (he judged rightly that she was "smart and thinks on her feet") and could have made her high school experience better; so of course, he had to get killed in a gruesome way right after the first scene. His faith in her seems to have meant a lot to Buffy since she cried over his death. (Season 1 Buffy is so much more open with her feelings than the hardened later seasons Buffy, who will need days to be able to turn her grief over her mother's death into tears.)
Other things I noted about this episode, besides having the first character fantasy scene, is that it's the first episode that uses a science lesson to propel the main plot (in a similar way that, for instance, psychoanalysis will be used in "Beer Bad") and that it features the first case of the Xander Demon Magnet trope, as well as an example of Xander Damsel in Distress. It's an ironic inversion of Xander's fantasies where he is the hero who saves Buffy, while Buffy is scared and acting like a classic damsel in distress. He may be in love with Buffy, but he doesn't really seem comfortable with her strength, fighting skill and courage, and fantasizes about a more traditional scenario where he could play her swashbuckling hero. Other silly moments for Xander include accusing Buffy of being jealous when she warns him about the teacher, and acting as if a) he has already told Buffy how he feels about her or asked her out, b) she has already rejected him, and c)there is reason to think that she is secretly attracted to him; neither of which is the case. It's hard not to feel some sympathy for him when he asks if it's so incredible that an attractive woman could want him. His insecurity might actually work as an explanation why he acted so gullible.
Another thing we see for the first time and that we'll see many times later: Xander commenting on another man's attractiveness with a mix of jealousy and fascination (seeing Angel for the first time and saying that Buffy didn't tell him what an attractive man he was) is something we'll get to see often in later seasons (he'll make similar comments about Oz, Riley and Spike).
Flutie: We all need help with our feelings, otherwise we bottle them up and before you know it, powerful laxatives are involved. I really believe if we all reach out to one another, we can beat this thing. I’m always here for you if you need a hug, but not a real hug, because there is no touching, the school is sensitive to wrong touching.
Buffy: Factoid three: her fashion sense screams ‘predatory’.
Willow: It's the shoulder pads.
Honorary mention goes to Xander asking what kind of girly name is Angel.
Xander: No, no, this is the most beautiful chest… dress I’ve ever seen.
Rating: 1.5 – one of the worst episodes of the show
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