May 28 2012 2:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: They’re Acting Like A Bunch of Us!

Here’s a combination that’s emblematic of the whole Buffyverse: a fresh grave and SAT prep. Giles is grilling Buffy. It seems like just minutes ago she was taking make-up exams for her junior year material, but now they’re waiting on a disposable vamp who, predictably, shows, growls, attacks and then goes poof. School and slayage, business as usual on the Hellmouth.

Buffy’s feeling especially all work and no play because, now that Joyce knows where she’s spending her nights, she’s overprogramming what might otherwise have been downtime. Also, Mom’s emphatically not down with her superheroic spawn getting a driver’s license. Driving’s a responsibility, you know. So... does she think Buffy’s not good with responsibility?

Feeding demons is a responsibility too. While all this parenting is in progress, City Hall is developing an evil diversionary tactic. The Mayor and Mister Trick are putting the finishing touches on a dinner party for someone named Lurconis. They just need the right entree and they’re good to go.

Next day, the Scoobies are coupled up and contemplating the big exam. Oz has done it all before, and Cordy surprises the group by mentioning that she tests well. They’re clearly choosing to remember her dumb episodes more clearly than her smart ones. (This may seem unfair, but I’d argue it’s the way of families: your ten most brilliant actions are as nothing to the time you accidentally set Aunt Trudy on fire. And that’s even if they do agree she was kind of asking for it. You just never live that stuff down.) 

Then Principal Snyder turns up. SATs be damned—he redirects the gang’s studious energy into fundraising for the band. Nothing but 100% market penetration will do, the memo from the school board tells him. Get this stuff into every adult within the city limits! Apparently it goes on to add, “and you should eat the stuff too, Snyder.”

The candy is the delicious magical handiwork of Ethan Rayne, a.k.a. Robin Sachs, Giles’s childhood bad boy bud (or, if you prefer, obvious slash interest). It regresses the adults of Sunnydale back to their irresponsible teens. The immaturity starts as an encroaching phenom: first the teachers of Sunnydale High start to flake, just a little. Thoughts the proper Mrs. Bartrum has no doubt been keeping to herself forever, about Snyder being a pinhead and Willow’s name being silly and treelike, start to escape her so-prim lips.

There’s a little stretch where the adults try to maintain a mature facade, to hide the fact that they’ve caught a terminal case of the stupids, but no. Then they boogie on the Bronze, which is apparently the only place in town with a liquor license, at least until next year when they open up UC Sunnydale and create a campus drinkin’ district for Xander to briefly find employment. 

In other news, Angel is all but absent from this episode—no loss there—and with a city crawling with middle-aged men who’ve got teenaged love on their minds, we seriously don’t want to know who Faith’s up to.

A big part of the fun in “Band Candy” is Snyder tagging along with the gang, clinging like a creepy, unpopular burr to the Scoobies as they try to figure out what’s going on and how to stop it. Armin Shimmerman must have had so much fun discovering his inner teen. It’s his character’s golden moment—he gives me the shivers.

We all went to school with guys who acted like that, right? Just like that? And did we suspect they’d end up authority figures, in the school system?

Even bigger fun, though, is Giles and Joyce on their shoplifting, cop-baiting, public snorkeling rampage through the post-apocalyptic district of the city...  and then, later, Buffy trying to chaperone them. All while also trying to figure out what’s up—Lurconis is expecting the Mayor to serve up a brace of infant sashimi, it turns out—and stop the slaughter in time.

Luckily for the babies, the deductive effort required to work out the bad guys’ plan mostly involves beating on Ethan, who’s always willing to ’fess up to avoid pain. Even Joyce and Giles manage to overcome their raging teen hormones when they hear what’s at stake, and pitch in to save the wee ’bairns. Battle is joined, and nobody crucial dies. Clearly it’s not sweeps week or anything.

Jane Espenson wrote some of the best non-Joss Buffy scripts and this one of hers rocks my world. “Band Candy” is great comic entertainment, and like most of my favorite comedies it has, at its heart, a core of serious matter. It’s a meditation on what it means to be an adult, on the theme of responsibility and what happens when everyone just lets it all drop. The meat of the question is given voice by Buffy’s mom when she says she feels “like getting married and having a kid was just a dream, and now things are back like they’re supposed to be.” 

Joyce has, in other words, backslid from that place where her focus is largely external—raising the daughter, keeping the mortgage paid and the fridge full—and back to a self-centered view of the universe.  

“Band Candy” may be stretching its point to some extent. Even kids who aren’t the Slayer manage to show up for work and school and successfully mind younger children now and then. The adults in Sunnydale, when they become youthified, take a total break from all their responsibilities. They aren’t normal teens trying on adult roles, but teens in full-bore party mode, on total vacation from jobs, families, nursing stations. It’s little wonder that the Scoobies are horrified by what they see.

And that’s hilarious: Willow’s expression of consternation, when she recognizes her doctor, is priceless. Nobody looks appalled quite like Alyson Hannigan looks appalled.

Anyway, it’s a joke, and we’re supposed to buy into the rampant teen behavior, and for the most part it’s chuckleworthy enough that I shouldn’t peck at it.

But here’s my other small complaint: somewhere along the line, Joyce antes up her car keys.  And I am a little disappointed by Buffy’s bad driving. It’s funny, sure. I see that it’s a good idea, plot-wise, for her to be dependent on others for transport. I see that it looks good onscreen to make the Slayer run, sometimes in slo-mo, to every other confrontation with evil.  Why, even next week, in “Revelations,” she’s foot-racing Faith and her ten-minute lead to Chez Angel. 

(Wouldn’t it be funny if she sometimes had to take a cab? Here’s a transport receipt, Watcher’s Council! Process that!)

Anyway. Buffy’s taken the class, and she’s got super-reflexes. Someone who can, while blindfolded, bounce a ball off a wall and hit her Watcher in the bean should be able to handle the family roadster.

And speaking of Ripper the Joyce-boinking Watcher, one of the things that is cool about this episode is that the adults don’t forget who they are—they just cease to care. Giles remembers that Buffy’s his Slayer, and when they find Ethan at the candy factory, he tries ordering Buffy around. As with most BtVS role reversals, it’s deftly managed and nothing but fun to see.

“Band Candy” represents the first time the Mayor engages in overt evil scheming, and his plan of the week gets shot down in flames. It doesn’t seem to cost him anything; at this early point in the season, one might even be persuaded he’s not all that big a threat.

We all know better, of course, but things have only just begun to heat up.

Next week: Angel Interventions and adventures in Britishness.

A.M. Dellamonica has a short story up here on — an urban fantasy about a baby werewolf, “The Cage” which made the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2010. She also has a second story up here called “Among the Silvering Herd.”

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1. Lsana
Best moment of this episode in my opinion was when the gang realizes Giles must have regressed too, and Xander tries to reassure them that "Giles at fifteen is still Giles, right?" The look on Buffy's face as she remembers what she knew about the teenage Giles was priceless.

Beyond that, I guess it was a little unrealistic that there wasn't one mature teen amongst all of the adults in Sunnydale, but I'm willing to go for "Rule of Fun" on that one and just enjoy the episode.
Constance Sublette
2. Zorra
I also love that when the spell candy wears off Giles and Joyce don't forget what happened either. It's also just right that this memory follows them along for the rest of the series that Joyce participates in as a healthy person, but never in any way there are reprecussions from other than the inevitable at some point Buffy's "EEEEEEEEEEEEUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!"

The scene of Joyce and Giles listening to records -- pricelessly perfect; the guy chooses and pontificates and the girls listens. Giles and his hair. What a pita adolescent he was ... no wonder ... "the Ripper."

Love, C.
Alyx Dellamonica
3. AMDellamonica
Lsana, I am with you--Buffy and the Scoobies are proof positive that being a teen doesn't mean being a total flake! But the band candy obviously has some kind of "become your worst teenaged self" effect.

You gotta love it when Buffy finds out.

I really like the album-listening too, Zorra.
john mullen
4. johntheirishmongol
This is a really fun ep and I really liked the byplay between Joyce and Ripper. The scene where he gets her the coat just is too carefree for words. And Buffy's face when she realized what they did is just perfect.

I always thought Ethan made a good fun bad guy and I expected we would get a lot more interesting episodes with him but it never happened. It was too bad we didn't. It was a great character.
6. Gardner Dozois
A good fun episode, one of the best of the comic episodes. I'm still disappointed that Giles didn't turn out to be Jack the Ripper in a previous life, but, having let that possibility go, they did a good job with the thugish teenage Ripper, although how someone with the accent he has in this episode ends up having the accent that Giles usually has, I don't know. Considering that he supposedly grew up in a Watcher family, which implies at least middle-class, if not upper-class, that he'd have that working-class accent as a teenager seems unlikely.

One of the best things about this episode is how most of the besotted people pull themselves together and try to help save the babies, in spite of being under a spell, Giles, Joyce, even Principle Synder. And yes, certainly some people would still be level-headed and responsible even when they were youthified, but you have to assume that some element of the spell brings out their worst behavior.

Since Giles and Joyce probably didn't have protection on them when they settled down to boink on the hood of the police car, it's a good thing that Joyce didn't get pregnant--which would have been an interesting plot twist, come to think of it.

If I'm remembering correctly, Mr. Trick is casually desposed of at the end of this episode, almost offhandedly--still think he deserved a more flamboyant end.

Ethan does show up in another episode, the one where he turns Giles into a demon, also one of the funniest episodes (he was the villain in three of the funniest episodes, in fact), but yeah, it's too bad he didn't turn up more frequently, as he was very good.
Robert Evans
7. bobsandiego
Trick doesn't buy it for a few more episodes. It's after 'Bad Girls" where Faith slips over to the dark side and when Trick is no more that is when she , shall we say, finds new employment beyond the watchers council.
8. sofrina
@6 - mr. trick exits this episode promising, "you and me, girl! there's high times ahead!"

an interview back then stated that mr. trick and the mayor weren't gelling, so they offed him and brought faith over. much better chemistry.
Constance Sublette
9. Zorra
I assumed that Giles's Ripper dialect and diction was part of being the tough Ripper, as so many in the UK would do in those days, even members of the House of Lords.

It's like musicians who are white tend to express themselves "black," -- or used to, particularly in jazz -- and white kids all throw black gang signs -- often at this point not even knowing what any of that is about -- while imitating black "street' in all kinds of other ways too.

Love, C.
10. jennythereader
I always figured that the spell turned the adults into the sort of teens they're afraid they were. As if the bad moments, the ones they look back on as adults and cringe, was all there was.
11. emeraldarcher
I choose to believe that the Band Candy didn't regress them exactly- instead it regressed and had an intoxicating / inhibition-lowering effect on them all. In a sense we're all still partially our teenaged selves underneath (who hasn't caught themselves wondering how it is they aren't 16/ 18 *insert memorable year here* anymore?)

The band candy seems to target that part of their personality and bring it out- sans normal inhibitions. If it had only focused on the teenaged aspect of their personality- I'm not sure enough would have changed to affect the kind of distraction needed. The spell had to include the inhibition-lowering element in order to work. This is why they all know who they are- they remember everything and all of their responsibilities.... but they desperately want to ignore them and have some fun for once! Giles and Joyce, upon hearing the stakes, slog through as best they can in this state but are obviously still really fuzzy on the present.

That said- definitely one of my absolute favorites- and often worth watching "Earshot" just for the repercussions.

"You know, if you're not too busy having sex with MY MOTHER!"

*Giles splat*
12. Dr. Thanatos
You know, Giles and Joyce not stopping for protection makes me want to check the calendar for when someone decided to give Buffy an imaginary sister...
13. Gardner Dozois
Having Giles knock Joyce up would certainly have been an interesting complication. It certainly would have made Buffy's Daddy Issues even more complex, and changed her relationship with Giles--which is probably why they didn't do it.
14. Dr. Thanatos
Come to think of it, doesn't Dawnie look a little like Rupert around the eyes?

BTW rewatch of How I Met Your Mother last night of Slapsgiving II where Alyson Hannigan gives the scary "you are dead to me" look where her hair flies up around her head and her eyes glow red and her enemies vaporize. An homage to our Dark Willow!!!
Alyx Dellamonica
15. AMDellamonica
@jennythereader - I love the "cringe" theory--I'd never heard that before!!

Dawn is as deserving of a dad who is Giles as Buffy herself is. She gets a bit shafted in the father-figure department, doesn't she? But we're getting ahead of ourselves, mmmm?
16. erosloff
Hey Alex! Former student, here :). I was thrilled when I noticed that you were writing a blow-by-blow Buffy rewatch -- over the past month, I've been watching it for the very first time (and eating it up like candy... already nearing season 7). I was actually a little young for it when it aired... the one I episode I was privy to was 'Once More, With Feeling', which I had already seen several times upon my initial viewing of the series (because obviously, it's amazing). This made watching Buffy interesting -- given that I knew some key things about how far the characters had come by the time the curtains open on the musical. It kind of felt like snapping a circle -- how did the characters come to be in all those collective places?

Anyway... 'Band Candy' is such a great episode. I hear you on the kind-of-hating Joyce front (at least, in the early seasons), although Kristine Sutherland is a great actress; it's really the way she's written that gets to me, but you've covered the why handily in previous posts. My point in bringing her up is that I love that she gets a chance to let loose in this episode, reconnect with the teenage experience (and maybe appreciate her teenage daughter's predicament a little more) and likewise that Buffy gets a chance to see the world through her mother -- and through Gile's -- eyes. It's a lovely, laugh-inducing role reversal... and I think both Gile's and Joyce steal the show.

I always wondered in earlier seasons if they'd end up together, given Gile's obvious emergence as Buffy's father figure... although there was never much in the way of romantic tension between them. I love that 'Band Candy' flirts with this possibility, if only in this limited context; we get a chance to see a romance between them play out, and then move on. The scene in Gile's apartment, listening to records... Priceless. The more I see of Anthony Stewart Head, the more I love him. And I feel like his music collection plants another seed -- we're not surprised when later we discover that he's musically inclined.

One of the things I love about Joss Whedon is his sense of continuity... the moment episodes later, when Buffy is let in on her mother's thoughts surrounding the events of this episode... one of the hardest belly laughs I've had in a good, long while. Not only can Joss pulp it up, he can keep juicing it for all it's worth.
Alyx Dellamonica
17. AMDellamonica
E! I remember you well! How's the writing going?

I rather like the family structure whereby Buffy (and other heroes) have parent figures who aren't together romantically, but that probably says more about me than about anything. I like to see parenting teamwork in fiction that isn't muddled by relationship stuff, I guess.
18. erosloff
The writing is going quite well! I'm halfway through the second draft of my first novel... book one in a YA Trilogy. Buffy's actually given me a lot of inspiration, and helped to keep me going (I don't allow myself to watch any episodes until I've got my writing done for the day, haha). I've really started to make steady progress on my book (and took a year off from the working world to do it). The short story's on the backburner for now, but I intend to finish it one day.

I agree with you that Joyce and Gile's relationship was more interesting for lack of a romance. Particularly since Joyce doesn't understand the role Gile's is playing in her daughter's life for some time... it's not like he got parental permission, first. I'm not saying that I wanted them to have a romance... I just wondered (at that point in the series) if that's what the writers would choose to do. I thought this was a more organic alternative -- their coming together could've happened given these circumstances, so I like that they took it there, but things went back to normal afterward (albeit with some hilarious residual awkwardness).
Alyx Dellamonica
19. AMDellamonica
Yes. They're two people who have one big thing in common--Buffy--and some grounds for mutual admiration/attraction. But the events of Band Candy essentially ensure that it's never to be.

And it would've been pretty wretched for Joyce, I think, loving two people with capital D destinies. We forget that in his way Giles was chosen too.
20. NullNix
Gardner Dozois@6, I can completely believe Ripper's accent shift, because that particular shift is extremely common. You grow up in North London and you get Ripper's accent (well, actually, ASH's accent) -- but then you adopt a closer-to-RP accent in order to get by, because it is more socially acceptable and the 'accent of educated people'. I know people who've managed shifts from accents much further from RP than Estuary English is (the two are pretty closely related).

(One classic case of such a shift would be Patrick Stewart, but people who aren't actors do it too. I'd venture to say that *most* people in the UK with tending-to-RP accents originally had a different accent, and shifted consciously or otherwise.)

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