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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Surprise

Angel: "You still haven't told me what you wanted for your birthday."
Buffy: "Surprise me."

Deciding to have sex for the first time is a major life decision; Buffy and Angel had been working up to it for a long time and it was inevitable. It's hard to tell what happened to Angel at the end of the episode, but it appears that jumping a cargo ship to Asia and months of separation from Buffy might have been the way to go, after all.

There is a lot of couple interaction besides that of Buffy and Angel in this episode: Oz finally asks Willow to go out with him, and says things that people usually think but don't say in these situations – like "I'm going to ask you out but I'm really nervous about it." Xander is now trying hard to get Cordelia to publicly acknowledge that they have a relationship.

The Judge confirms that Spike and Drusilla have human qualities; they "share affection and jealousy." (Drusilla is just a hoot watching the Judge destroy Dalton, saying, "Do it again! Do it again!") While Spike is now emotionally depressed, physically scarred, and confined to a wheelchair; although he is still evil, his personality appears to be changing. He is starting to sound almost like the voice of sanity in contrast to Drusilla's madness.

Jenny, who is (interestingly enough) trying to keep Buffy and Angel apart, has a secret: she's a gypsy. Didn't see that one coming.

Bits and pieces:

— The symbolic dream sequences work incredibly well with the plot. Broken plates, white nightgowns, rings dropping to the floor, wonderful symbols of lost virginity.

— Oz attends Buffy's surprise party as Willow's date and sees Buffy slay a vamp. What's fun is that he takes it in stride, and says "it explains a lot." The atypical reaction is a lot more fun than shocked histrionics.

— Angel gives Buffy a cladagh ring.

— The gang use "round robin" calls in order to be free to fight evil.

— Drusilla's clothes are now the more traditional vampire clothes, black and red. And the music at the party ("Transylvania Concubine") is very expressive of Drusilla.

— Dalton is too human because "he reads." Not all vampires are straight-up, dyed-in-the-wool evil.

— Brian Thompson, who played the Judge in this episode, also played Luke in "Welcome to the Hellmouth" and "The Harvest."

— In the dream sequence at the beginning of the episode, Willow says in French, "The hippo stole his pants." This seems to be a reference to Oz's animal crackers spiel at the end of "What's My Line, Part 2."

— Obligatory dog reference: Willow wears a sweater with a dog on it.

— Buffy says that they never saw Drusilla's body (and, one assumes, Spike's). But if Drusilla were dead, wouldn't she be dust?

— Angel gets out of bed nude, but falls out of the door into the rain fully clothed a moment later.

— This is the first episode that takes place on Buffy's birthday. Buffy birthday episodes become an annual tradition for the rest of the series.


Willow: "Oh, I don't know, though. I mean, he is a senior."
Buffy: "You think he's too old 'cause he's a senior? Please. My boyfriend had a bicentennial."

Oz: "I'm gonna ask you to go out with me tomorrow night. And I'm kinda nervous about it, actually. It's interesting."
Willow: "Oh. Well, if it helps at all, I'm gonna say yes."
Oz: "Yeah, it helps. It-it creates a comfort zone. Do you wanna go out with me tomorrow night?"
Willow: "Oh! I can't!"
Oz: "Well, see, I like that you're unpredictable."

Giles: "Even if she is alive, uh, we can still protect Angel. Dreams aren't prophecies, Buffy. You dreamt that the Master had risen, but you stopped it from happening."
Xander: "You ground his bones to make your bread."
Buffy: "That's true. Except for the bread part."

Giles: "The more I study the Judge, the less I like him. His touch can literally burn the humanity out of you. A true creature of evil can survive the process. No human ever has."
Xander: "What's the problem? We send Cordy to fight this guy, and we go for pizza."

Four out of four stars,

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


  1. Ahhh, the annual Buffy Birthday Disaster. A grand tradition.

    If Buffy ever somehow punched her way through the fourth wall and met her creator she'd probably kick his ass ass for ruining all her birthdays.

  2. This episode really moves me. Buffy is so vulnerable and so afraid of her dreams, as well she should be. One of the joys of watching this series is watching this tough as nails superheroine still have a weak, needy side.

    And, I love watching how the group (that now includes Oz) all gather around to help her. Especially Giles, who insists that they have the party in spite of everything. He has changed a lot!

  3. Oh I love Drusilla so much. From dancing to Transylvania Concubine to shouting "Do it again!" - she is at her full insane glory here.

    Wonderful episode with lots of information and plot developments crammed in. Jenny is secretly part of the gypsy tribe that cursed Angel, the judge was introduced and reassembled and then of course Angel at the end. Definitely a huge turning point for the show.

  4. I still love this episode. As Miguel points out, it is really a turning point in terms of both plot and character development.

    I love the Spike/Drusilla switch. It is now he that is ill; she that is well. However, it is still she that is crazy; he that is sane. Fantastic twist on what we saw in the previous episodes.

  5. Buffian bliss here. I wonder if the green mugs in the initial dream and Buffy being pitched into the water with her green pants on was a link or a coincidence. I probably pay attention to the wrong details. That's me.

    Interesting to note (on the DVD Joss' interview) that Jenny being a Gypsy was NOT in the writers' initial plans. That changes a lot. And Vincent Schiavelli doesn't need ANY makeup to look spooky ! (no offense, you're (another) a great actor sir !)

    Special mention today for a) Juliet L. : you scare the *bleep* out of me you *bleep*ing nutcase ! and b) SMG : her portrayal of her inner turmoil is amazing. Kudos ladies ! And yay ! Glad to see B. Thompson returning ! He has such a beautiful and natural "evil" voice.

    Willow and Oz are so cute together. I surely can understand why Xander would want to "officialize" his "relationship" with Cordy.. Oh ! Giles has been 10 YEARS on the hell mouth ?! Very tenacious (from both sides actually...)

    I'd like to mention that I saw the cladagh ring previously though, on a few occasions. That detail hit my eye. And The Irish have good taste. (And make great music; they know how to have fun; thank you for Riverdance: yes, I love the Irish.)

    Buffian bliss : a tragic love story, interesting (understatement) villains, cuteness, excellent acting and acting and still plenty of witty dialogue. Xander's "big blood belly" made me LOL.

  6. sigh

    and I re-read myself people. Really.

    "excellent acting and acting"

    and CASTING; thank you.

  7. Long time reader, first time poster here. Thanks for Billie for all the excellent reviews.

    I came to Buffy actually in the fourth season, and caught up by watching reruns and spoiler / episode summary web sites. I remember reading the episode transcript before seeing it, and the episode still deeply affected me. In my mind, this is where Buffy went from "good" to "great."

    I really noticed the score "Close Your Eyes" by Christopher Beck when Buffy first went to see Angel after her first nightmare.

    It's nice to have the Willow / Oz cuteness balancing out the angst of Buffy / Angel relationship and the comedy of Xander / Cordelia escapades. In "Bad Egg" in the sex ed class, Willow appeared initially slightly anxious when the teacher started talking about sex, then confused by the Xander and Cordelia back and forth. Here when Buffy started talking about going all the way with Angel, Willow just seem to go into romantic fantasy mode. It's just so sweet and cute to then watch her interact with Oz. Finally, someone who's smart enough to "smell the hottie" :-)

    I was not a big fan of the weak Drusilla. I absolutely love to be scared of and hate the powerful and insane Drusilla. So feral and unpredictable. I thought for a moment she was going to blow out Dalton's candles for real.

    When the Judge's arm grabbed Buffy's throat, I cant help flashing to the Auton's arm grabbing the 9th Doctor's throat.

  8. Great episode, obviously. Like Rebecca pointed out, it's great (and so very Joss) to have the cute and funny balance out the drama and angst. This episode is where I really start to like Oz. "I'm gonna ask you to go out with me tomorrow night. And I'm kinda nervous about it, actually." Also "Actually, it explains a lot." Love Oz.

    Also loving: Buffy/Angel love theme, the way everyone stares at Angel after he mentions that Buffy's been tossing and turning in her sleep, Xander's line about "idiot Jed." Joss, that's not a very nice way to work your brother into the script!

    What is Joss's thing with eye poking out? It happened twice already with the Master, Dru nearly makes it a third time here, and it's not the last time it happens/almost happens in the series.

  9. You're very welcome, Rebecca, and I'm glad you're commenting now!

    These were my first real reviews, and I always think about that when I'm reading them. If I were writing these reviews today, they would be twice as long. Three times! My later reviews actually *are* two or three times as long as my early ones. I promised myself I wouldn't rewrite them, though.

  10. I like that the backdrop to this episode is the two vastly different celebrations, Buffy's 17th Birthday and Dru's party to celebrate her recovery and bring about Armageddon. I have to say that neither looked to be much of a blast.

    I agree that Dru is a much more threatening figure now she has her strength not least because she's so incredibly insane. I do like how although she has all the strength, her mind is every bit as fractured as before, Spike manages to keep her from totally flaking out giving a nice balance to these antagonists. I'm just so glad they didn't let that church organ kill Spike for good.

    When the Judge is reassembled that the first targets he identifies are Dru and Spike is a nice touch 'you two stink of humanity, you share affection and jealousy'. It's amusing how reasonable he is when Spike points out that he's indebted to them, you'd of thought a big bad monster like that would have burned them up no questions asked.

    @celticmarc interesting to hear that Jenny as a gypsy was not planned, I had wondered because her actions in earlier episodes don't really fit, especially when she pulls away from the group after her demonic possession experience.

    Willow and Oz – brilliant again when Oz say's he's going to ask her out, she says she's going to say yes, he then asks her and then she remembers its Buffy's Birthday and says she can't 'I like that your unpredictable' LOL. Willow and Oz dialogue just gets better for me with every watch.

    Angel and Buffy really do make me cringe though, wow! So much teenage angst! Angel giving Buffy a Claddagh ring... nice thought I guess, but I'm not a fan of those rings and wouldn't know what to do if I was given one lol. Nothing against the Irish though, they're our closest neighbours in Scotland, just find those rings kind of tacky... I know I'm in the minority though.

  11. Hum.....

    This is an interesting thought Billie...After a re-watch, a re-write ?

  12. Like everyone else I really love this episode and can see that it is the beginning of great things for the show.

    As I mentioned before, my first time through, I was so taken with Spike that I didn't notice how awesome Dru is as much until now. She really is horrifying in this episode and in many ways makes for a scarier villain than Spike. As others have mentioned, her insanity is the wild card that really makes her terrifying.

    The romance between Buffy and Angel is better here than it has been in past episodes, and I would guess that this episode is what made so many fans become so obsessed with this pairing. It does feel like a teen romance, though, as many have pointed out, but that is what it is so it makes sense.

    Willow and Oz make my heart melt. I adore them together, and I love that Joss avoided the super awkward tongue tripping over itself scene for Willow that many would expect. I like that she was fairly confident in her exchange with Oz when he was asking her out on a date for the first time. Her only embarrassment seemed to be over her realization that she had a previous commitment on the night of the date.

    Xander and Cordy are very funny together and cute at the same time. I like their banter even though it can be fairly nasty at times.

    There were so many funny lines in this episode, most of which have already been mentioned. However, one of the funniest for me was when Giles warned Xander not to spoil the surprise for Buffy in his very English manner (I can't remember the exact line, but it was great) and Xander replied by asking why Giles couldn't just shush him and why did the English always have to be so dramatic about everything. Xander then proceeds to mention the dramatic way Giles talks yet again later in the episode, much to Giles annoyance. I really love their dynamic.

    So glad Spike survived, even though his gorgeous face is all messed up!

    Thanks again, Billy, for this great rewatch.

  13. I loved this episode, but how could you not? As I've said before, I really love Oz and Willow and the scene where he asks her out is adorable. I love her small talk about his band and the groupies, and I really love that when the aforementioned awkward silence arrives he steps right in and tells her that he is nervous to ask her out. The best part for me, though, was when Willow was walking away and said, "I said 'date'!" with that cute adorable face!

    Of course, this show isn't just about adorable redheads...Drusilla and Spike continue to shine! She is crazy but he totally helps her in the perfect way. The scene with the flowers was so great. But even in her insanity, she's also still filled with revenge and really looks excited at the prospect of seeing Angel tortured by watching Buffy die first.

    I had my suspicions that Buffy was going to lose her viriginity in this episode when her mom made the "are you sure you're ready" comment in her dream. But, I was so happy to see that they didn't film any more than the two of them laying down...Glee always goes way further than that and I hate the older person leading the virgin through their first experience trope. Plus, I think of David Boreanaz as Booth, so he still seems way too old for Buffy to me. How much older is he than SMG?

    Unfortunately, my week's been hectic, so I haven't seen part 2 yet, but I am looking forward to getting home from school today and watching it! I think I know where it's going (the hints have been out there for a while in the reviews and comments) but one of the quotes from above also seems like some good foreshadowing...if only I didn't have to go to work!

  14. "You think you know what's to come, what you are. You haven't even begun."

    A quote from season 4 I found oddly appropriate. :)

    DB is 8 years older than SMG. Angel was turned when he was 26, so even if you (for whatever reason) choose to ignore the 200+ years of vampirism, he's still too old for 17 year-old Buffy (imho). That said, I do love them together.

  15. strangely its not the 200+ that does bother me as much. It is very much Buffy's youth and innocence that makes it seem so wrong. So 26 or 226 he's still too old for 16/17 yr old school girl, that said a 226 year old man really should know better, more so than a 26 year old. If Buffy was 21 with some relationship experience behind her it wouldn't be so much of an issue for me. Although its doesn't bother me as such, its just seems wrong so I'm not rooting for them as a couple like Willow is.

  16. Well, this one was a lot of fun. The various couples were the best part. Woz is the best! But I was sad when Willow was teasing Xander "You didn't have a date." I felt so bad for Xander. You know he wanted to scream "I did too have a date!" I have great respect for Xander. Respecting Cordelia's wishes, even though it is a blow to his ego.

    And of course Drusilla and Spike is a love for the ages.

    The only pair I'm not getting is Buffy and Angel. And I am squicked out by the age difference. Now that they've done the deed, it looks even worse.

    We found out Jenny Calendar was just a plant at that school. Boo. I liked her. And speaking of villains, Uncle Whatzizname is scarier than all the vampires we've seen so far! Eeek!

    Well, except for Drusilla. I'm loving evil Dru. When she freaked out over the flowers, I thought her vamp party planners (were they cute or what?) would just jump in and cut the blooms off of the thorns.

    And when she threatened Dalton, I just knew she would poke out his eyes. Poor Dalton. Speaking of ....

    The vampire named Dalton, it's said
    Got a kick out of all that he read
    But not such a smarty
    He went to Dru's party
    Got "favored" and now he's just dead.

  17. That might be your best limerick yet, pucklady! When the rewatch is done, can a new post be made of all of your limericks and attached to the main Buffy page? Every time you write a new one, I want to go back and re-read all the old ones.

    I'm glad I'm not the only one who's creeped out by the age difference. The interesting thing is, if they were on a show together now and dating I probably wouldn't even notice the difference, but teens should not be dating 26 year olds...does that make me sound old?

  18. pucklady

    If we'd be working at the same office, I'd yell :"give the woman a raise !!"

    If we were at a hockey game I'd shout : "she shoots...she scores !!"

    Here, I can only type : give the woman a chocolate filled gold medal !"

    Keep up the great limericks !

  19. This was a good episode, though I have a feeling I'm going to like part 2 better. I did find the Judge to be kind of not-scary, but Drusilla more than takes up the slack there!

    I like your run through of the various states of the couples, pucklady. I know Buffy and Angel are supposed to be our tragic pairing, but I was more gutted for Giles when we found out about Jenny. Hope it goes better for them than I'm expecting.

    The age thing between Buffy and Angel doesn't bother me. I figure it works for this kind of story since she's spent the last year or more killing vampires and facing demons. Also I think it works because David Boreanaz really projects a sense of purity into Angel's love for Buffy. We know he isn't at all innocent of course!

    More bothersome for me in this being Buffy's first time is that it feels like a choice made from her pain that Angel had meant to leave. I would have liked her to make the decision from strength to reflect her kick-ass persona.

  20. What a.m. said. :) pucklady, I was also thinking that when we get to the end, maybe we could compile all of your limericks and post them?

  21. OH ! I second that great proposition !

    Great, great idea !!!

    (Please say yes pucklady) (please)

  22. Woohoo! Pucklady limericks for everyone!

  23. Okay, interesting bit of trivia. I watched this with my daughter yesterday (I didn't get to write here about it, because after we watched it, things got kind of hectic), but yesterday was my daughter's 18th birthday and lo and behold, we were watching a birthday episode! So that was fun, albeit Buffy is turning 17, but still...
    The episode was definitely picking things up right from the start. The writing seemed a bit tighter and better and I could feel a sense of drama right away, even during the opening nightmare sequence, which is especially interesting, because usually it's such an overdone trope that I tend to not pay them much heed.
    I was again saddened to find out that Jenny is apparently a (reluctant) villain, because I still get the sense they are writing her out. I like her (or maybe I just like the actress) so I don't really want her to leave. Here is something interesting, though. It always strikes me how different the world is today from how it was just 23(?) years ago. But as soon as it was revealed the Jenny was a gypsy and was supposed to be maintaining a curse, I could see my daughter tensing up. She started going on a diatribe about how gypsies are not like that, and they don't curse people, etc. I explained that just about every culture has had some group or subsect of people that they attributed bad things to. Gypsies are just one of many. And more to the point, this show was done back around 1997 and people thought differently about things back then. She understands that and said as much, but I still can see when something like that happens, she's immediately gets weirded out.
    I was annoyed that Buffy and Angel slept together. I still am old-school enough to think 17 is too young, and more importantly, she is completely unable to be in "love" with him. I don't get the sense that she knows him well enough to actually have any real feelings for him beyond common teenage stuff. I said more about that in the comments of the last episode, but I think people think about it all the time, because tv shows and movies tell us we're supposed to. As though getting laid is the most important goal we're supposed to have at all times. I am very interested to know what's going on with Angel outside screaming at the end of the episode. I'm hoping this is related to the really amazing stuff everyone here has been talking about.
    One minor complaint: I try not to "judge" (pun intended) the special effects too harshly, because I know that this was done about 23 years ago. But I would think we could do better than what the Judge looks like. When I saw him, I thought immediately of the monster in Young Frankenstein. I could just imagine the Judge being played by Peter Boyle and dancing to "Puttin' on the Ritz". And he's wearing blue body paint? Why? Is he supposed to be scary? 'Cause I ain't scared. If that guy walked up to me, I'd be laughing at him, even after he ripped my arms off.

  24. JBA, your daughter is completely right about the gypsy thing. It was a simplistic plot device that has not aged well.

    And I totally agree about the Judge. But that's one of the things I always loved about Buffy -- the writing was always several steps ahead, but special-effects-wise, it was still a low budget show with a cult following.

  25. Yes, the gypsy thing is a terrible stereotype (and they generally don't call themselves that). But Jenny is one of my favorite minor characters from Buffy.

  26. Is everyone else also obsessively following JBA's comments like crack at this point?

    Because I know I am. Getting to re-watch Buffy Season 2 through the eyes of someone who hasn't seen it before and doesn't have it spoiled for them... OMG. I could mainline this!

  27. Mikey, I just saw your comment. Thanks. I was worried people didn't care about what I think. I am trying to comment on each episode, but I have been having a really hard time keeping up. I will try to work on it more.

    1. Omg dude, I'm stanning your comments so hard right now. (Did I use that term correctly? I'm old and heard it in a YouTube video...)

      Honestly, a few years ago I discovered that my partner Roy had totally missed The Usual Suspects, like-never heard of it, knew zero about it. I immediately made him watch it while I say on the couch watching him watch it. It was amazing.

      Your Buffy watch comments are like that to the power of ten.

  28. My daughter laughed and said that yes, you are using it correctly. That's better than me. I still don't understand the term very well. I know what it means, but I don't see the point in making a new word for it. :)


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