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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Freshman

Sunday: "Freshmen. Man, they're so predictable."
Vamp: "And you can never eat just one."

The beginning was kind of depressing, but in a way, that was appropriate.

Angel is gone, Xander is away, Willow and Oz are in their element and ignoring Buffy, Giles is getting laid and enjoying his leisure instead of waiting around to be helpful, and Joyce has already taken over Buffy's bedroom – and even worse, Buffy gets ignored by a cute guy ("Oh yeah, you're Willow's friend") and yelled at by a shithead professor. The setting has changed, the supporting cast is changing, Buffy's life has changed, too, and it makes perfect sense that she would be overwhelmed and depressed. It felt strange to me, too; I was really missing the library, the 90210 school, the extras we've gotten to know.

Starting college is horrendously confusing and stressful and I think this episode mentioned nearly every common experience: not signing up in time, not getting what you signed up for, not being able to find buildings (and wandering around with a campus map), adjusting to the roommate from Hell (and on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, her roommate actually might be), the fliers, the Jesus freaks, and so on. That exchange about waiting in line for your ID brought back flashes of a few years ago, when I had to wait for mine in a monster line and in hundred degree heat. My ID photo had my hair plastered to my head and sweat beads on my brow.

I loved that scene with Giles and that cool British woman. It wasn't ambiguous; it was clearly obvious that they'd just been in bed together. Giles' character has definitely gotten cooler. He used to be so prissy – and then Wesley sort of took on that aspect of Giles' personality and that allowed Giles to become cool, hmm?

It's too bad that Sunday got killed. But then again, she was kind of a female Spike, wasn't she, and we don't need two of them. I enjoyed the stereotypical college student vamps, the Klimt/Monet poster competition, that comment about Slayer's blood being like Thai stick. "We have to kill some cooler people... somebody remind me."

In the end I could see that The Buffy Powers That Be are definitely capable of meeting the college experience and making it their own.

Bits and pieces:

— They definitely need a substitute for the library. I miss the library.

— How did Buffy get home and to the Bronze if it's five miles and she doesn't have a car? And how did Xander know where Buffy's room was?

— Did they ever explain what "the tunnels" were? Did I miss it?

— And here's an elementary one. Buffy has to hide her powers from her new roommate. Why isn't she rooming with Willow?

— I liked the scene in the Bronze where Buffy saw a man that looked like Angel. And I liked the crossover scene where Angel called Buffy, she answered, and he hung up. (This was also in the Angel premiere episode that aired directly afterward.)

— I hope the professor that yelled at Buffy ends up being lunch for Spike in a later episode.

— Commandos with stun guns? Hmmm.

— Willow has new hair. I think Oz's is another color again, too.

— Note from later: If you're new to the Buffyverse and would like to watch Angel in the correct order, I've put together a Buffy/Angel Crossover Guide.

— Another note from later: Hello, not-yet-famous famous person! And hey, Xander quotes Yoda in this very episode. What are the odds?


Buffy: "How do you get to be renowned? I mean, like, do you have to be 'nowned' first?"
Willow: "Yes, first there's the painful 'nowning' process."

Girl: "Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior?"
Buffy: "Uh, you know, I meant to and then I just got really busy."

Buffy: "Gentleman of leisure? Isn't that just British for unemployed?"
Willow: "Uh-huh, he's a slacker now."
Buffy: "Speaking of slack, have you heard anything from Xander?"
Willow: "Not for awhile, he's still on his cross-country-see-America thing. He said he wasn't coming back until he had driven to all fifty states."
Buffy: "Did you explain about Hawaii?"

Sunday: "I'm Sunday. I'll be killing you here in a minute or so."
Buffy: "You know that threat gets more frightening every time I hear it."
Vamp: "Uhh... are we gonna fight? Or is there just gonna be a monster sarcasm rally?"

Vamp: "Okay, but you gotta share the eating. 'Cause I'm thinkin' slayer's blood's gotta be, whoa, like Thai stick."

Xander: "The point is, you're Buffy."
Buffy: "Yeah, maybe in high school I was Buffy."
Xander: "And now in college, you're Betty Louise?"
Buffy: "Betty Louise Plotnick of East Cupcake, Illinois."

Xander: "Buffy, this is all about fear. It's understandable, but you can't let it control you. 'Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to anger.' No wait, hold on. 'Fear leads to hate. Hate leads to the dark side.' Hold on, no, umm, 'First you get the women, then you get the money, then you...' okay, can we forget that?"
Buffy: "Thanks for the Dadaist pep talk, I feel much more abstract now."

Willow: "How can you be so calm?"
Oz: "Long, arduous hours of practice."

Xander: "Do we hug?"
Oz: "I think we're too manly."

Let's give this episode two out of four stakes. It definitely improved as it went along and I liked it better when I saw it the second time,

Billie Doux reviewed all of Buffy and Angel, so she knows the plural of apocalypse.


  1. When I first watched this I was so sad that they were no longer in high school. But looking back I see that the BTVS story just got better from uni days. (Although a lot of my all time fav episodes were in fact from season 3!)
    A great episode to start with I thought. I am glad they killed Sunday off though as she annoyed me and I didnt warm to her straight away like I did with Spike.
    My favourite scene was Buffy in the Bronze being sad (but only because of the song that was playing - it was beautiful). I didn't like Buffy being sad but this seems to always be a theme in the first episode of each season.

  2. First time I saw this episode I wasn't too fond of it. But since then I've actually had the university experience. The endless lines, constantly feeling lost, confused and overwhelmed, wishing you could just pack it all in and go hitch-hiking across Europe. All I missed out on was the annoying room-mate. So I kinda related to this one more and like it a lot better now.

  3. I think Joss really nailed the first day at college experience. Feeling overwhelmed, lost, out of place. Everything in Buffy's life has changed drastically and she is desperately searching for something or someone familiar, only to find that everyone else is moving on with their lives (Giles, Joyce etc.) Having gone through the college experience since seeing this episode the first time, I could relate to this episode a lot more this time around. I enjoyed it a lot. There was tons of witty dialogue and I was fond of Sunday - thought she was a fun villain. Too bad they had to kill her off right away.

  4. This is such a “meh” episode for me. Re-watching it, I wound up examining Buffy’s hair in great detail. Is she wearing a wig in the back part? Is that why it’s so frizzy?

  5. Like everyone's said, this episode is a pitch perfect depiction of the first few days of college. So relatable. Having no idea what you need to do, how to do that stuff, or where anything is? Been there.

    Other stuff: how do the vamps get into their victims' rooms without invites? Why is Xander wearing a sweatervest? I love stoner vamp. Loved the shout out to "Anne." Yes, Josie, Buffy's hair could use some serious conditioner.

    Um, did anyone notice that Xander said "Avengers assemble." That was...very, very weird.

  6. This is not the best season opener of the bunch. It feels as though the writers were trying to re-start the series, but maintain other parts of it. It doesn't really work for me.

    But...I do love the glimpses of Spike we get in the opening credits!

  7. I really think two episodes a week, each from a show, are too thinly spread (that means from now on a season will get done with rewatching in about 6 months!). If I was a newbie (like Jane and a.m., which I always love to read their reactions), I would never be able to wait that long to watch them (I knew that was how many of you guys watched them live, but since we have all the series at our disposal...).

    If I may make a suggestion, how about doing it like before, an episode in two or three days, but just alternate between Buffy and Angel?

  8. Hi, Anon -- if we did a new episode every two or three days, it would basically be two episodes a week, one of each, which is pretty much what we're doing now. We did have some participants comment that we were moving too fast for them.

    And any comment any time is welcome. If someone wants to move ahead faster, they can absolutely do that. We can also pick up the pace when summer rolls around again.

  9. The scene on campus when Buffy was getting inundated with flyers rings very true. I actually work in a university and right now we are gearing up for the annual madness that is Freshers' week. It'll be just like that, except with lots of rain and more drinks promos.

    The episode introduces us to Buffy at college well enough but its not that much fun at the start, probably because Buffy seems quite lost and alone... and that Pop Culture lecturer was just so evil! It really feels quite overwhelming and I was glad when some baddies emerge to take us into some more familiar territory.

    Sunday is an entertaining antagonist that I could have imagined surviving beyond one episode. I'd never considered her similarities to Spike before but now that you mention it Billie, its a good point.

    When Xander finally shows up I actually felt relieved, and was right with Buffy in being happy to see him and I enjoyed what was left of the episode as everything falls back into place with the scoobies.

    ChrisB, I'm right with you on the opening credits and Spike.

    Regarding the pace, despite what I said in another post, I'm quite happy with the slow down as I did find it quite hard to keep up. I don't think there's any way to keep up with a newbie who's hooked on the show and has some free time. I know I'd watch them back to back for hours.

  10. I struggled with this episode a bit. Like Annie, I started to like it more when Xander showed up - go figure, my least favorite character brought me back into the story. Do I have to start changing my mind about him?

    The early part was hard to watch. I struggle sometimes with the pacing of this show. Things mostly move along at a good clip which keeps the story lively and the characters fresh. However, in this case (kind of like ep 2 of season 2) the way everything is flung at Buffy just starts to make me irritated. She is an attractive, confident person with friends at the school which is just a few miles from her home, it beggars belief for me that she would be so instantly and thoroughly swamped by all of the freshman problems in the first two days. Yes, I remind myself, she did recently get dumped by her boyfriend, shoved from the nest by her mentor and beaten up by an extremely snarky bad girl vampire. Even so, I get cranky when I feel the characters are bent a little too far just to serve the plot.

    My obligatory Willow comment: I wish Sunday hadn't gotten staked. I would have loved to see her and bad Willow meet up somehow. Joss could have twisted the story and characters into pretzels to make that happen and I'd probably have enjoyed it anyway. Not very consistent of me, I know.

    I'm looking forward to what comes next, but I really enjoyed seasons 2 and 3 so I'm apprehensive.

    As far as the new pace of the re-watch, I am likely to move ahead if a story arc catches my interest. I did that at a few times this summer and kept a file of my comments after watching the episode and put them on the board when the re-watch caught up to me. After I finished season 3 a little while back I wasn't in the mood to move ahead so I just watched this one yesterday.

  11. Newbie report:

    Hello 16:9! Yay! The 4:3 screen ratio of the first three seasons was making me nuts.

    I guess the French braids in the opening is to show that everything has changed since they've left High School. In ashes. And Buffy shows that she's off her game when she lets the vamp get away.

    Random notes: When Buffy meets Riley and for that whole conversation, Buffy is standing next to a picture of Anne Frank. Is that significant? Otherwise, as others have mentioned, this whole college thing drags. I think it would have been just as effective to have started the episode at Buffy's meeting with Eddie. Sunday and her minions! Awesome! But in the fight, the minions are kind of lame. Sunday does all the work and the minions do nothing. Then Sunday wins the fight, and they don't all pile on and eat her? I thought they were hungry? And why did they clean out Buffy's room? They knew she wasn't dead yet. That's a good way to blow their cover.

    Finally! Xander! And Xander brings Buffy back from her state. I knew Xander was the real hero of this show. Surely there are some fanfics about the Fabulous Ladies' Nightclub?

    I'll miss Sunday. One more episode and she would have earned a limerick. Well, maybe just a couplet.

    You win the fight when friends come through.
    Minions don't, but Scoobies do.

    In the original broadcast, Buffy and Angel were broadcast back-to-back, right? Which one was first? So I watch them as they were intended.

    And about the re-watch schedule - I'm a lot happier with the slower pace. This newbie couldn't keep up with one every two days. Not all newbies get hooked and want to race through. Sadly, I'm not hooked. I still don't like Buffy Somers, and that is a problem with enjoying this show.

  12. pucklady, I'm sorry you're still not "hooked" -- although I'm assuming you like the show enough to keep watching it! I became seriously addicted to Buffy in the second half of the second season, and was pretty much obsessed until it ended.

    Watch Buffy first. Angel aired on Tuesday nights on the same channel directly after Buffy for two years, and when they were on hiatus, they were on hiatus together. But only for the first two years (Buffy 4 & 5, Angel 1 & 2). Buffy moved to another network for its 6th and 7th seasons, and even though there were crossovers again in Buffy season 7, some of the timing got weird. But I have it covered -- I did a crossover guide. And I'll be giving them in the proper order on the Buffy/Angel rewatch box on the top left.


  13. Spike's in the title sequence! Yeah!! Unfortunately, he's not in the episode, but it gives me hope for the future.

    I love Alyson's sorter hair, but somehow it makes her look taller and skinnier too...

    Speaking of skinny--so there are vampires that still worry about being fat? I always dreamed that if I became a vampire I'd gain some awesome confidence and magically look and feel gorgeous--I guess not, huh?

    You hit on all the good quotes/moments--Klimt, monster sarcasm rally, arduous hours of practice, and the non-hugging Oz and Willow. I really loved that scene when the Scoobies came around the corner to see if Buffy needed any help. It felt like all was right in the world again. Giles showing up with the weapons in a state of panic was also hilarious. I guess he's not as much of a slacker as Willow thought.

    This episode was fine--but it didn't inspire me to binge watch the season yet. Like Jane, if a binge urge comes on, I keep my comments/notes until the rewatch catches up to me. Plus, with school and new TV starting, I'm good with the slower pace for now...

  14. The non-hugging Oz and Xander, I mean...

  15. I really liked the fact that Buffy was overwhelmed at university. I've watched lots of "superhero" students crumble in first year so I thought it was absolutely authentic. Willow is totally in her element but Buffy is not. She did well enough in high school to get into a university but it was never her love. She's there because she thinks she's supposed to be (another common thing for university students). I wanted to show this episode to first years everywhere (they'd have to know the series first I guess). They would see that it is normal to be overwhelmed in first year, even if you are a vampire slayer. I also liked the fact that a lot of Buffy's strength comes from a belief in herself and confidence and when that gets kicked she is not herself but you can always fight back and find yourself. I agree that there were some plot issues - why did they let Buffy run away? - maybe Sunday was totally confident that she could kick Buffy's ass - but I enjoyed the episode anyway.

  16. Xander to the rescue :) :)
    "No power in the world can make me tell the rest of that story" Lol

    Sunbunny you heard right. Xander did say Avengers assemble. Kinda interesting trivia now that Josh has directed Avengers :)

    One thing I have always loved about Buffy as a suerhero is that she knows when to run away...

  17. This is the first episode that i liked . When i started watching (from season 1) i didn't expect the show to be that silly and full of non logical things (every show has that, but there is a limit to what i can have). I always wondered if it was the intention of the writers to insult the viewers.

    Anyway, i liked this episode because of the empathy i felt, watching Buffy in all the confusion/loneliness. The character was more real/human.

    Xander's return felt as a relief (who had thought!), to see and feel Buffy brighten up a little.
    He made me smile for the first time.

    I was afraid Sunday would be the new big bad this season. This ep surprised me in more than one way it seems.

    Great ep. Keep them coming!

    Sorry for the grammar, English is not my first language.

  18. I had to rewatch this episode when I learned that Pedro Pascal was in it. Little did we know….. Too bad he was vamped and dusted so quickly.

  19. This is one of the misses for me. I get that Joss was trying to capture how overwhelming the college experience can be, especially to someone who's used to the traditional schedules and assigned homework of high school, but Buffy''s never been your GPA obsessed, is this gonna be on the exam asking people who staked their identity on high school and how well they did there.

    I guess it's technically true that anyone can get overwhelmed by anything, but Buffy was never one of those shows where random stuff that other people can literally deal with every day is enough to set her back unless it's someplace she needs to go. One of the Buffy Episode Guides mentioned that Amends random snowstorm coming in the nick of time to prevent Angel's attempted suicide "steered the Episode into Quantum Leap territory" but Buffy has always had that aspect of random events turning out helpful at least in the long term.

    She's dealt with going into battle after being promised certain death. She's dealt with her mother writing her off as an impulsive, irresponsible girl, and selling her out to a mob. She's dealt with her father abandoning her, her surrogate father betraying her, and being more reviled by her schoolmates than Harry Potter three fourths of the way into the first five novels.

    Again, I get that anyone can be overwhelmed, and there will come references to how "one bad day" can end it all, but that's more the Sword of Damocles than Chekhov's gun. Nobody would praise the show if it ended with Buffy slipping on a banana peel and fracturing her skull, just because it can happen to anyone.

    It's so obvious that this petty BS can't be enough to bring Buffy down that it just feels like every second this episode wants to pretend it could is worse than wankery, because it's not even that pleasurable.

    Season 2 and Season 3 premieres had her on the mend from real tragedy and trauma. Season 3 ended with the most unambiguous win she'd ever had and a breakup that was pretty much inevitable from the beginning.

    Stories should start with a compelling particular and then connect it to a universal. This episode tried to do the opposite, and it didn't work for me.


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