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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: When She Was Bad

Cordelia: "You're really campaigning for bitch-of-the-year, aren't you?"
Buffy: "As defending champion, you nervous?"

The nursery rhyme goes, "When she was good, she was very, very good; but when she was bad, she was horrid." There was a fun takeoff by Mae West: "But when I'm bad, I'm better." Both meanings apply, to some extent.

Buffy isn't really bad; she's just suffering from a little post-death trauma. She's distant, revved up, and shopping too much – and can you say pent-up rage expressing itself in negative behavior? She also expresses a lot of anger specifically toward Angel. Buffy has realized that vampires are Not Good, and she doesn't want to be in love with one. Who can blame her? Buffy is indeed badder in the sense of sexier, as she does a slow, sexy dance with Xander in a deliberate attempt to hurt Angel. This is not the nicest thing to do to two guys you know are crazy about you, and which by the way really hurts Willow, as well.

Fortunately, Buffy manages to work through her rage while simultaneously thwarting the Anointed One's attempts to revive the Master. Who needs psychotherapy when you can smash your enemy's bones into powder with a sledgehammer? Her friends, who are at first understandably pissed off, manage to forgive her outrageous behavior and move on, even after Buffy's 'tude nearly gets them sacrificed. After all, it's just your average week in Sunnydale.

This episode allowed Buffy to become more of a three-dimensional character. She gets cranky, she has issues, she can even be a bitca at times.

Bits and pieces:

— David Boreanaz is now in the cast. Thousands cheer. And there is no "Into each generation" introduction this time.

— Time has elapsed during the show's hiatus, paralleling summer vacation.

— The dream Buffy has about the Master in Giles' clothing is a shocker, because it is completely unexpected. Excellent writing there.

— Cordelia still doesn't know that Angel is a vampire.

— Cordelia continues her slow integration into the Slayerettes. Sure, there are still insults being slung, but Cordelia now knows the score. She's even the one to tell Buffy to get over it. (It sounds like Charisma Carpenter has a cold here. Or maybe it's just too much character.)

— Buffy coldly tortures a vampire woman who was left as a decoy. This is new behavior for Buffy.

— Xander and Willow are close to kissing in the opening scene, but as soon as Buffy returns, Xander is once again obsessed with Buffy. That's sort of sad.

— Giles has developed a crush on Jenny Calendar; their conversation about what they did during the summer illustrates perfectly that they may both be teachers, but they are extremely different people.

— The music we hear when Joyce driving Buffy to school goes, "It doesn't matter what I want / It doesn't matter what I need." Very appropriate for a girl who is angry about the life that has been forced upon her.

— In this season's hair report, Xander's is shorter, Joyce's is longer, Cordelia's is lighter, and Willow's is redder and a couple of inches shorter. Buffy's is now shoulder-length and blonder, and her makeup has also changed. And her new clothes, purchased by her father in L.A., are better suited to the character: sexier and less juvenile.


Xander: "Hey, did you guys hear that Cibo Matto is going to be at the Bronze tonight?"
Willow: "Cibo Matto? They're playing?"
Xander: "No, Will, they're going to be clog dancing."
Willow: "Cibo Matto can clog dance?"

Cordelia: "Oh, look, it's the Three Musketeers."
Buffy: "Was that an insult?"
Xander: "Kinda lacked punch."
Willow: "The Three Musketeers were cool."
Cordelia: "I see your point."
Xander: "I would have gone with Stooges."

Buffy: "Cordelia, your mouth is open. Sound is coming from it. This is never good."

Cordelia: "Whatever is causing the Joan Collins 'tude, deal with it. Embrace the pain, spank your inner moppet, whatever, but get over it. 'Cause pretty soon you're not even gonna have the loser friends you've got now."

Willow: "That's what it was! I mean, why else would she be acting like such a b-i-t-c-h?"
Giles: "Willow, I think we're all a little too old to be spelling things out."
Xander: "A bitca?"

Willow: "What would somebody want with Master bones?"
Xander: "A trophy? A horrible conversation piece?"

Snyder: "There're some things I can just smell. It's like a sixth sense."
Giles: "No, actually that would be one of the five."
Snyder: "That Summers girl. I smell trouble. I smell expulsion, and just the faintest aroma of jail."

Buffy: "Because I don't trust you. You're a vampire. Oh, I'm sorry, was that an offensive term? Should I say undead American?"

Cordelia: "It stays with you forever. No matter what they tell you, none of that rust and blood and grime comes out. I mean, you can dry clean till judgment day, you are living with those stains."
Jenny: "Yeah that's the worst part of being hung upside down by a vampire who wants to slit your throat. The stains."

Giles: "What are you going to do? Crawl inside a cave for the rest of your life?"
Buffy: "Would it have cable?"

Xander: "Well, we could grind our enemies into talcum powder with a sledgehammer, but, gosh, we did that last night."

Three out of four stakes,

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


  1. Having myself a Buffy rewatch, starting with season 2. I've always liked this episode. It was a smart move to focus more on the emotional fallout from last season and Buffy's post-death trauma rather the vamps' scheme to bring back the Master. That's one of reasons I love Buffy. Characters always came first.

  2. Hi Billie,

    I stumbled upon your blog due to my current obsessive rewatching Torchwood/watching Torchwood related youtube videos/reading Torchwood reviews phase and your recaps gave me the urgent need to do even more (and even more obsessive, is that even possible?) rewatching Torchwood. Now I've started to read your Buffy reviews and guess what... I feel like much Buffy rewatching is needed! Oh dear God, when am I going to sleep...

    Thanks anyway and keep doing that!

  3. Welcome to the site, Ellen! And you're very welcome.

  4. I struggle with this episode. I understand that Buffy is, understandably, traumatized, but I think Joss and Co. take her a bit far. The dance with Xander is just cruel, especially the bit at the end when she hurls that simply awful comment at him, turns her back and walks out.

    I might have been more accepting of this action if Xander and/or Willow had been a bit slower in forgiving her, but the happy ending has always bothered me. I would find it very difficult to get beyond something so nasty.

  5. I was excited to get into season 2, and after the first few minutes, I enjoyed the episode. But those first couple minutes - totally and completely cliche. I said out loud "Miss me?" at pretty much the exact same time Buffy did. Pretty much knew exactly what was going to happen during the entire opening scene. Thankfully, it got better, and I like that they chose to focus on what happened to Buffy in the past - most shows seem to have a tendency to just ignore anything that's already happened, like there were absolutely no consequences. The various Star Trek shows are famous for that. So after a rocky start, a pretty strong episode.

  6. I've always been pretty fond of this episode. It was the first episode of Buffy I ever saw and even though I didn't understand everything that was going on it made me want to see more of the show.

    I liked seeing a different side of Buffy. Even normal teenagers without her sort of supernatural issues go through bitchy phases, and it makes sense for Buffy to go through it. It definitely made Buffy more three dimensional and not a perfect super hero. I also kind of enjoyed her sexy dance with Xander and her exchange with Cordelia. Good season premiere.

  7. I enjoyed this episode for the most part. It was a little jarring to go from the group happiness at the end of "Prophecy Girl" to the traumatized Buffy in this one in only 2 days. Buffy reminded me of the bratty Harry in Order of the Phoenix who was also hard to get used to at first. But then I had to remind myself that teenagers can be bratty sometimes. I'm sure I hurt my friends with cutting remarks too often when I was 16, but if you have a strong bond you're able to get beyond that. Plus, although no one voiced this idea, it felt like Buffy was trying to protect her friends by distancing herself from them. It didn't work, obviously, if anything it made them less safe, but after almost getting them all killed multiple times, I can understand wanting to keep them away from the baddies even if that means losing them as friends. Thankfully, she seems to have realized that she needs them to be the best slayer she can be.

    That being said, I hated the almost kiss at the beginning. It's so strange that most of you know where these relationships are going and I don't but I really like Willow and I want her to be happy. Thankfully, it seems like Xander is coming around to that same realization.

    Phew! I made it to season 2 and the intro to a great character is apparently just around the bend...I'm having a hard time waiting between episodes but I'm resisting by watching other shows in between:)

  8. a.m., I hadn't really thought about it, but a lot of people new to Buffy get hooked and start marathoning through the episodes and we're sort of holding the newbies back.

    If anyone new to the series feels like they have to take off on their own, believe me, we'll understand. Bunch of huge fans here. Although it's definitely more fun when you can talk about it afterward. I had friends at work and online friends to talk to on Wednesday mornings after each episode, and it meant a lot to me.

  9. Thanks, Billie! I think I can hold back but only by binging on a few other shows in between:) But it's worth it to have new fresh comments to interact with...

    I've just started Firefly and maybe I'll watch Angel when we get to the right moment--is it season 4? Plus I still have touchwood to finish and I could always start supernatural or game of thrones or some other Doux certified fun. Plus, school's not out yet, so I've still got tons of work I'm supposed to be doing and unfortunately my house won't clean itself...

    I'll keep my foot on the Buffy brake for as long as I can, but either way I'm enjoying the ride!

  10. Love, love, love this episode. But that wasn't always the case. I remember the first time I saw this, I thought it was very painful to see Buffy being such a bitca, and some of the scenes were just plain mean. Now however, this episode always bumps up higher and higher in my ratings. And as Billie says, this is where Buffy gets three dimensional. The vampires are lame and uninteresting, there is something else going on here which is much more fascinating, and I totally get Buffy's post-trauMaster-stress.

    There are many great scenes in here, but I'm going to point out one, the Buffy-dance.

    The whole scene wrapped around an atmospheric song is a genius move by Joss IMO. Up until this point everyone knows that there is something up with Buffy, but what? Cue music - a perfect shot of Buffy walking into the Bronze. Walks up to Angel, who looks very hurt. Buffy totally stabs him in his un-heart, and Angel manages to look even more devastated. Cut to Cordelia, who picks up on this (she is really becoming human now isn't she?), then Buffy asks Xander to dance. A few shots of the band (ex-Beatle John Lennon's son Sean is on that stage, how cool is that?), then we have brilliant shots of Angel and Willow, both looking painfully miserable, and it's like they are channeling the spooky music. More scenes of Buffy dancing, and we can see that Xander is getting more and more uncomfortable. He is now really starting to realize what's wrong with Buffy, and she stabs him too in the heart with her NOT thanking him for saving her.

    This scene would never have worked without a musical piece as the "lead" character. A great, risky and difficult move by Joss. That scene must have been very difficult to shoot. Great work by all the actors here...

    Watch that scene again, turn up the volume, and just enjoy every frame of it. Just wonderful IMO, and a very important defining Buffy-moment.

    PS. I remember I had those songs "Spoon" and "Sugarwater" by Cibo Matto on my playlist for ages after I saw this first time around. Great band.

    Best episode so far. Just wonderful.


  11. I think this is a great start to season 2 bringing continuity to the show by reminding and dealing with the fallout from the season one finale.

    We see that that Buffy is still disturbed by the events with the Master and consequently finds it hard to readjust to the threats of Sunnydale after summer away in LA. She ends up dealing with her own fears by becoming a total 'bitca'

    I find her leading Xander on on the dancefloor to be the apex of her meanness as she's hurting all her friends at the same time... really, how can she do that to Willow?

    Speaking of Willow, I really feel for her in this episode, with Xander flirting with her at the start with the ice cream which is interrupted by Buffy's return. The way Xander shuts down her attempt to recreate the moment in The Bronze is painful to watch.

    Cordelia is great in this episode, letting her better side shine through while still being the Cordy we know. I like it when Buffy responds to Cordelia calling her out for being a bitch 'I think its about time that you start minding your own business' Cordielia responds 'its long past'. Her awareness of the way she is makes her character so much more interesting to me.
    The final scene after the anointed one's plan is thwarted when a very sheepish Buffy faces Willow and Xander again for the first time after bitca badness is lovely. I think its really touching the way they both make an effort to make her see that they are still her friends by not even mentioning it.

  12. I think I may be the only one who thoroughly enjoys Buffy's inner bad girl surfacing. "Have I thanked you for saving my life? Don't you wish I would?" Perfect!

    The season kicks off with Buffy embracing her slayerhood and kicking ass. Her training scene is very intense and ends with be-heading the dummie. How many of those does she go through? She is so focused on being ready for the next foe that she loses sight of what she's supposed to be protecting. By the end, everyone is friends again, which may be too neat and tidy BUT it is television.

  13. As I stated above, I have always had issues with this episode. This time through, Buffy’s attitude really, really grated on my nerves.

    It’s a good example of how one’s mood affects what one is watching. I am overworked and overtired and have no patience for bitcaness of any kind today. Luckily, I saw this episode a long time ago and I know that my extremely negative reaction is due to me, not the show.

  14. Newbie report:

    I'll be mostly posting the thoughts I had as I watched the episode.

    Well, that was more like it. The first three minutes was better than the whole first season. Then Buffy showed up messing with my ship. Boo. She is rocking a new hairdo, though. Makes me think maybe it's time for a trim of my own. Not much, just a couple feet off the bottom.

    Netflix's resolution went all to crap with this episode. I honestly thought it was a dreamscape for the first 20 minutes because it was fuzzy and nobbly, but it never changed. The first season wasn't like this and I sure hope the rest of the series isn't.

    SMG's double for the training scenes looks nothing like her. She's at least 9 inches taller than SMG.

    We're your bosom friends. The friends of your bosom. (Hee!)

    Sexy dance. Buffy, I am really trying to like you, but you keep doing things like this? Ugh.

    Oh, now I see why everyone snickered when I asked what happened to the Creepy Kid. (Hey, I'm a Supernatural fan. I'm used to abandoned plot points.)

    Spank you inner moppet. (I can't be the only one whose mind went straight to the gutter? What is an "inner moppet" anyway?) But yay, Cordelia, telling off Buffy! You go, girl!

    "That Summers girl. I smell trouble. I smell expulsion, and just the faint aroma of jail." (adjusts junk) Eeew.

    They are really rampinp up the sexual innuendos this episode. In fact, the whole writing feel seems very different. Did they fire the writing staff and get all new ones?

    If they hurt Willow, I'll kill you. (Oh, Xander. I knew I was right crushing on you)

    Then there is the whole seduction scene between Buffy and Angel. He's the better man here. He doesn't take the (age-inappropriate) bait.

    Undead-American (hee!)

    Upside-down Scoobies! Oh, no! My first thought was that those poor actors hanging upside down for who knows how long, it must have been awful! But on freeze-frame, I can see they were all doubles. Whew! Stunt people get paid for this. Now I can move on.

    We watch the tall Buffy double fight monsters while everyone rests up. I think SMG had the day off.

    Buffy realizes she's been a jerk (for 13 episodes by my count) and everyone forgives her. Well, all except one.

    The Master died again, but he only gets one limerick.

    Well, it's getting better, but I'm still not sold. I really think the show would be a lot better if they got rid of that Buffy girl.

  15. Pucklady, I get where you are coming from with not liking Buffy. She can really be a bitca at times, and this ep had it in spades.

    I'm thinking - a child, with siblings often take certain roles in the family, they need to learn to share and to be considerate, the oldest one often takes a role of helping the younger, and the youngest one might be irresponsible and expecting help from the older siblings.

    On the other hand, an only child, which Buffy is, with no siblings might sometimes become selfish, spoiled, and has never had the opportunity to learn sharing and caring for others.

    For me, the Slayer, if you think about it HAS to be the only child type. The one with a lot of self-confidence, making decisions sometimes selfishly in order to be able to save the world. There are no "sibling-slayers" out there to cover your tracks - you are alone.

    As I said above I initially had problems with this ep, because of mean Buffy, but now I totally except it. There will be more episodes when you might think that Buffy acts like a bitca again - but it's OK. The heart of the show is still that she has her Scooby friends. And we all love them - we don't need to love Buffy.

  16. So I enjoyed this episode. It's a whole new level of Buffy but if you've read my comments you won't be surprised to hear that I kind of missed the first season. The first season is all campy, comic book type fun even if the acting is not great and the writing suffers sometimes. With the second season we move into more complex characters with depth and angst and other heavy emotions. Also great in its own way but almost a loss of innocence. Of course, dying will do that to ya apparently and we all have to grow up some time.

  17. Billie, it's funny you said how newbies tend to marathon Buffy because during this rewatch I couldn't control myself and have upped my pace. It's been seven years at least since I've seen it, so I'm really enjoying myself.

    I'll still be commenting as I go along I"ll just be a little ahead of the official rewatch. Shows what a good show it is that I can get addicted all over again.

  18. I was too busy to rewatch this until today. I really enjoyed it -- more than when I first saw it as others have mentioned. I like many of the same aspects of it that have already been mentioned, but my favorite aspect is the way both Xander and Willow begin responding to Buffy like friends in real life would. They aren't just side kicks like they were in season 1 or like they would be in a lot of shows.

  19. I just don't care for this one, which is odd for a Joss episode. It's not just Buffy's bitcaness, the episode also suffers from a lack of humor and anytime you split up the Scoobies, the show loses some of its specialness.

    Plus, the fact that Master has bones always bugged me. No other vampires before or sense leave bones when they're dusted.

  20. sunbunny, the bones totally bothered me too! I think about them every time someone else gets "dusted."

  21. I always thought that the bones survived because the Master was so old that he wasn't like other vampires. His face was different, too. It sort of devolved.

  22. I think that's what they were thinking when they wrote it, but there's a super old vamp in season 3 with cloven hooves and I don't remember him leaving bones. I always bought the Master's face for whatever reason but the bones just bothered me.... :/

  23. drnanamom, I agree. For years I considered the first season almost a different, inferior show. But with the re-watch it became so clear to me that it was those innocent beginnings that stole my heart. BtVS would greatly up the stakes and expand the universe in this second season, with a fantastic story arc and the introduction of many beloved characters. But the heart of the show was this small core of Buffy, Willow and Xander against the world. This dynamic was lost somewhere in the second season and never regained.


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