Sunday, December 5, 2010

"Classic" Recap: Buffy the Vampire Slayer "Band Candy"

There’s a reason I’ve chosen to do a classic recap of this particular episode when I have so many current episodes I still need to blog (sorry…going to school full time while working two jobs that equal the hours of a full time job has kind of cut into blogging, to say the least). If you aren’t up to date on the Whedonverse in general (especially the Buffyverse) and you plan to become so in the near future and don’t want to be spoiled, just keep on scrolling to other blog posts (I’ll have a Big Bang Theory post up soon, at least). Spoilers ahead after the jump.

“You’re my slayer. Go knock his teeth down his throat.”

So those of you who have read the latest issue of Dark Horse’s “Buffy Season 8” comic book series, or those of you (like me) who don’t read it but keep on top of the major events that happen through fan sites like, you know that there has just been a major death in the Buffyverse. Our dear Watcher, Rupert Giles, recently met his demise at the hands of Angel. As a little memorial to Giles, I’ve decided to recap what is probably my favorite episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” season 3’s “Band Candy.” Among other things, it features some great Giles moments and some wonderful comedic acting from Anthony Stewart Head. Rewatching this episode this afternoon, I was struck by just what a good show “Buffy” was. The dialogue in this episode was especially fantastic- quick and smart. Jane Espenson, the episode’s writer, truly outdid herself with this one, and I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing it again, albeit a bit wistfully, knowing what’s in store for all the characters in the future.

The episode opens with a fun visual gag (something Joss Whedon shows do well). Buffy and Giles are in a graveyard, and Giles is reading something rather dramatically. It looks like they’ve found a new, kind of odd, way to pass the time while on patrol, but it’s just Giles helping Buffy study for the upcoming SATs. A vampire breaks up the study session, of course, and Buffy dispatches him handily. The next day, the SATs are the main topic of discussion among the Scoobies as they go about their school day. Besides that stress, Buffy is also frustrated with her mom and Giles. Ever since she came back from her summer as a runaway in Los Angeles, they’ve been watching her and scheduling her every last second, and Buffy is feeling quite smothered.

Meanwhile, the Mayor is having a very suspicious meeting with Trick, his vampire lackey. A demon in Sunnydale requires tribute, and Trick is on the case. The Mayor isn’t thrilled that Trick is sub-contracting out part of the job, but Trick assures the Mayor that the sub-contractor is excellent and has worked in Sunnydale before. Soon after, the Scoobies are being drafted by Principal Snyder to sell “band candy,” aka candy bars to help raise money for new marching band uniforms. All is clearly not right in Sunnydale, but really, when is Sunnydale ever completely “right?” Joyce buys 20 out of 40 candy bars from Buffy. Joyce won’t, however, let Buffy learn to drive. Driving would make Buffy a bit too mobile for Joyce’s comfort. Buffy does have a good point, though. She can just get on a bus. She’s done it before. Frustrated, Buffy leaves to go train with Giles. Giles is coming up with silly new training techniques (he asks her to basically “use the force” to throw a medicine ball blind folded) just so he can keep an eye on her. And he buys her other 20 candy bars, which I thought was adorable and shows just how much of a father figure he was to her.

After only a few minutes, Buffy skips out on training, too, claiming that her mom wants her at home. She doesn’t go home, though. She goes to visit Angel. Buffy’s whole arc in this episode is so very teenager-y. It’s amusing considering I’ve been watching mostly season 6 episodes for a while. It’s a very different tone. All the characters are much more innocent and optimistic. Anyway, Angel is shirtless and practicing some tai chi when Buffy finds him. They chat a little, but they’re still very awkward. Which makes sense, considering Buffy killed him and all. When Buffy gets home, she is greeted by her mom, who gives her a very stern look as she stands in the hallway. The reason for Joyce’s unhappiness is soon apparent, as Giles peeks his head around the doorway, too. They know Buffy has been lying to them both about her whereabouts. At first, the conversation is serious, but as it goes on, Joyce and Giles, who are eating the candy bars, start to act a little off. The act break shows us why. The person making the band candy is none other than Ethan Rayne, Giles’ nemesis.

The next day, the Scoobies are in study hall, but Giles, who was supposed to supervise study hall that day, isn’t there. The scoobies briefly discuss how strange that is, and Xander and Willow play a little footsie. Yet another moment that reminds me just how long ago this episode takes place. Principal Snyder ushers a substitute monitor to the study hall room. She’s an older woman, and the students all assume they’re in for a rather painful study hall. As soon as Principal Snyder is out of ear shot, though, she smirks and tells them they can all leave. Buffy uses the free time to find out what has happened to Giles. She goes to his house and finds him looking through his albums. She is extremely surprised to see Joyce there too. Giles and Joyce claim they’re having a “summit meeting” in response to Buffy’s complaints of being overscheduled. They’re planning out her full schedule between the two of them. So they say. Joyce clearly wants Buffy out of there. She wants her out of there so badly she hands Buffy the keys and says she can take the car.

Giles and Joyce, big surprise, don’t actually discuss Buffy’s schedule when she leaves. They listen to music and smoke and just act very teenager-like. They decide they want to go out somewhere, and Joyce suggests the Bronze. Giles says the Bronze is dead. In a trademark Whedon visual joke, we then cut to Sunnydale’s adults partying it up at the Bronze. Willow and Buffy arrive there, thinking they’re going to spend an evening drinking coffee, listening to music, and studying for the SATs, and they are very surprised at what they find. Especially when they find Principal Snyder. Or “Snyder” as he now prefers to be called. Willow, Buffy, and Oz conference about how strange everything is, and Buffy says she wants to talk to Giles. The gang piles into Joyce’s car, and before they have time to protest, Snyder joins in, happily proclaiming that Buffy “drives like a spaz.” That’s probably one of my all-time favorite “Buffy” moments. Armin Shimerman can really bring the comedy.

As the Scoobies drive through Sunnydale, they see that the whole town has erupted in chaos. All the adults are getting into teenage-style trouble or just hanging around being unproductive. Giles and Joyce are right in the thick of it. They walk past a shop and Joyce remarks that she likes a coat. Giles steals the coat for her and a hat for himself. When a police officer tries to stop him by pointing a gun, Giles subdues the officer. It’s amusing to temporarily see Giles in teen badass mode. He and Joyce then start making out on the hood of the police car. Buffy, still looking for Giles, gets in a car accident that actually wasn’t her fault. The Scoobies get out of the car and look around, and somebody steals Snyder’s candy bar. When they see how upset Snyder is over it, they realize that the candy bars are what is making all the adults act like teenagers.

Buffy tells Willow and Oz to go get Cordy and Xander and go to the library to do some research. Buffy gets Snyder to take her to the source of the candy. She finds her mom and Giles there, still making out. Buffy’s not the only one in an awkward situation. At the library, Willow and Xander are struggling to confess their recent kiss to Oz and Cordy. Meanwhile, Buffy has managed to separate Joyce and Giles, and the head into the candy factory. Unsurprisingly, they find Ethan. Ethan takes off, and Buffy and Giles race after him. Buffy finds Ethan hiding, and she threatens him to get him to tell her what he knows. He doesn’t know the entire story (ie what he’s providing a distraction for), though. Giles gleefully asks Buffy to kick Ethan’s ass, but Buffy doesn’t oblige.

With strategic camera work yet again, we’re clued into the nature of the tribute before the Scoobies are. A pack of vampires stride into a chaotic hospital and take babies right out of the nursery. Buffy’s not far behind us, though. Buffy is soon on the phone with Willow, who is researching Larconis, the demon who must be paid tribute. She sadly informs Buffy that the tribute is babies. The Scoobies want to head off to the hospital, but there’s the problem of what to do with Ethan. Joyce pulls handcuffs out of her pocket. And I’ll just let that last sentence sit there. The Scoobies arrive at the hospital too late, of course. The babies are already gone. Luckily for the Scoobies (and the babies), Giles randomly starts remembering facts about Larconis. Larconis lives in the sewers, so that’s where they’re headed.

The sewer is the site of the big showdown between the Scoobies, some vampires (including Trick) and Larconis, which looks kind of like a basilisk. Giles rushes into the middle of the fray and inadvertently lets Trick escape. Then he almost gets eaten by Larconis. Giles is saved by some quick moves from Buffy, who burns Larconis to death. The Mayor is not happy with Trick for letting Larconis be killed. Apparently he likes having baby-eating demons beneath his city. At Sunnydale High, everything is pretty much back to normal. Principal Snyder is back in full form, and he demands that the Scoobies clean some graffiti off the lockers. Buffy walks out of the school building with Giles at the end of the day, and they run into none other than Joyce. Buffy chooses to ignore the extreme (but kind of adorable) awkwardness that ensues.

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