Dec 10 2012 2:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Don’t Talk Dirty in Front of the Poltergeist

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Where the Wild Things Are

You get Fang, I’ll get Horny. That pretty much sums up “Where the Wild Things Are,” though in fact this line is something Buffy says to Riley when they are fighting a vampire and a demon who are (gasp!) working together. This is something of a marvel, and they agree Giles should know about it, but first they have to take a little detour to the Riley rack for some romantic rompage.

This is what happens when Super-Jonathan takes it into his Super-Head to Super-glue a slightly fractured relationship. Imagine if he’d spent a day on world peace.

Spooky footage of the Eye Nisha Tivva fraternity house comes on the heels of the intimacy, and I’m suddenly but dimly reminded, in advance, of some frat house where Anya will kill a whole bunch of guys, after she redemonizes herself in the wake of a certain social disaster with you know who. This almost passes for foreshadowing, because speaking of XandAnya, guess who’s arguing within the close confines of the ice cream truck that is Xander’s latest McWorkplace? He is losing the exchange—which is about her perception that he’s become disinterested in her, or possibly impotent—by sticking his foot in his mouth.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Where the Wild Things Are

Anya is having one of her periodic major attacks of insecurities, in other words. It all concludes with Xander shouting “hot sweaty big sex!” and tearing at his uniform... in front of a bunch of kids and their parents. I hate when that happens, don’t you?

When the gang finally gets around to investigating the whole demon-vampire alliance, Riley blames Adam for bringing the evil races together. This would be sweet, they all agree, if it wasn’t so lethal. Riley also mentions that he’s decided to have a party for his fellow Initiative-Americans, all in the spirit of building morale. He invites Giles. Giles no doubt remembers that the last time they partied together, Riley made him feel super-incredibly-ancient... just before Ethan turned him into a Fiorl demon. Thanks but no thanks, Giles says. Then he accidentally lets slip that he has plans and mentions where. He will, alas, regret this.

Next, BuffRiley remembers that they want to have some more sex. What an awesome plan! Forrest and Graham catch a bit of the moaning from the fraternity’s unnaturally cold hallway. As things heat up in the bedroom, their fireplace flares and one of the disposable Initiaguys gets nearly immolated. But actual rugburns and an absent commander are no reason not to throw a party. Darn it, the morale must go on!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Where the Wild Things Are

Anya would rather not. She is dragging her sorrows to the Bronze, where Spike tries to give her a scare. Actually, he tries to mug her. The two begin to bond, hilariously, over their good old heydays as homicidal monsters. Anya says of Xander: “Now I can barely hurt his feelings.”

This is pretty much the basis of their relationship, in my opinion. Anya is simply too unfiltered to be with a shrinking violet.

Over at the frat party, Xander’s confiding to the group about Anya being upset. Buffy’s busy eye-boinking Riley and is so distracted that Willow confesses to having destroyed one of her sweaters. Tara helps cover for her: it’s cute beyond belief. Move in together already, you two!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Where the Wild Things Are

Then the best thing ever happens! Because then some of the party guests find a . . . well, this is not the term we use at home, but here in this venue I’ll call it a Happy Wall. Touch it and good things happen. In your pants! Through the next series of scenes, as our heroes run back and forth, seeking apparitions, fighting momentary possession and hacking off their hair, and suffering the pangs of sinful remorse, they pass the growing crowd playing with the Happy Wall. Oh, if only the local grocery could install something like this. Or Vegas. It’d be a big hit at a casino. You’d be so relaxed when you sat down at the roulette table to lose all your worldly possessions.

Xander, having been dumped for the evening, discovers that somewhere between Cordelia and Anya he’s picked up some improved flirting chops. There’s a girl named Julie, see, who is totally picking up what he’s putting down. In fact, she out and out finds him funny. (Which leads to Xander coming perilously close to quoting Les Nessman’s immortal line: “Funny peculiar or funny ha ha?” Yes, I have a head full of similarly useful knowledge. No, I can’t change a tire or decode a DNA molecule. Do your own homework!)

Having discharged their social obligations, Buffy and Riley are catching a stairway to.  . . well, to his room. To discharge other things. This, I’m sure, takes them past Happy Wall. I am almost as enchanted with the Happy Wall as I was with alternate-universe Jonathan!

Now Willow and Tara are talking horses. Nothing sexual there! Willow confesses to having had a bad birthday party pony experience. Hey, didn’t Xander once flash back to a bad clown experience from a different birthday? Were they always fated to be Scoobs, or is that just life on the Hellmouth?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Where the Wild Things Are

Willow makes a subtle but nevertheless recognizable girl on girl romance move™ on Tara, who freaks out when they touch. Here we go again. Someone has to be possessed? Pick the shy girl! Tara is Sunnydale’s punching bag. We call that a misfire, Will. It’s not your fault, but sorry anyway.

By now, Anya and Spike have laced on their boogie shoes and turned up at the party, and Xander discovers he’s a little jealous. “Hi, Hostile Seventeen!” he chirps, when Spike makes the mistake of taunting him. Actually, it’s not that much of a mistake. The military men show their usual level of initiative under controlled party circumstances by ignoring them completely.

XandAnya ends up yelling at each other, across the dance floor, about having broken up. Xander joins a game of spin the bottle, finds himself reluctant to rebound right that second, and gets himself seriously lip-snockered by Julie. She’s so into him. Two seconds later, she’s bolting for the bathroom—past the Happy Wall!—and cutting off her hair.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Where the Wild Things Are

Willow’s search for Tara, meanwhile, turns up a spectral preadolescent drowning in the tub. She gets a good scare, and shrieks, and Buffy and Riley almost hear her. They don’t stop what they’re doing, though. (Each other, remember? Safely, passionately, repeatedly, and with echoey voices.) Xander can’t get anyone to agree to help Julie, and Tara turns up to confirm that bad things are afoot and they should leave.

Before they can make a plan or rescue BuffRiley, there’s a sudden outbreak of jungle vegetation, followed by an earthquake. The party-goers flee the house screaming. Campus security does not show up. Spike is all too happy to see evil developing, right up until the moment when something ties him into a chair just for being sexy. Graham is the next to get possessed. Forrest drags him into the unsecret Initiative base. Forrest, you’re not supposed to use the elevator during an earthquake. Did you learn nothing from “Hush?”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Where the Wild Things Are

After the evacuation, Xander and Anya have an argument about going in to rescue BuffRiley. (He will always go in to rescue Buffy, Anya.) There is an awesome Spike monologue where he pretends he is going to help. But no. We all howl with laughter. It is James Marsters’ latest finest moment.

So Xander attempts a rescue, the house tosses him out a second time, and they all head out to find Giles singing in a sort of boho coffee bar-type place. The girls are taken with the Rupert and his miraculous voice. Xander is creeped out both by the fact that he is singing at all and that his female friends find their mentor attractive. Giles is patently displeased to have been outed as a musician.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Where the Wild Things Are

All of this eventually leads the Scoobies to an evil old lady who used to care for orphans in the frat house, “care for” in this case being a euphemism for abuse the heck out of the disadvantaged little sinners. Giles realizes that Buffy and Riley are powering the apparitions. From now on, whenever somebody has sex on the show, they should say “We’re just gonna go power some apparitions; catch up with you guys later.” The word poltergasm is also deployed in this scene, and that works too. “We’re headed home to feed the poltergasm. Don’t wait up.”

Or: “Hey, lover, wanna go make some vines grow in the foyer?”

Or: “Wanna make the walls shake, baby?” Oh, wait. People actually say that one.

The point I should be making is everyone is deeply unimpressed with the sweet-looking elderly decorated humanitarian, who presumably got her award from the Mayor, which should have been a tip-off right there. The Scoobies could, I feel, fruitfully investigate other Wilkins awardees. They would probably find ’hero’ firefighters who tossed babies to flame demons and hero ditchdiggers who left microorganisms in the city’s allegedly clean tapwater and Citizens of the Year with a thing for raising the dead.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Where the Wild Things Are

With the truth revealed, WillTara and Giles do a spell to lure the not-actually-dead kids away from the house. XandAnya return to the frat to battle the vines on the staircase. Me, I’d call the Initiative and say: “Hey, we’re trying something. Head up in force with the hedge-clippers at Oh Something Hundred.”

But no, instead, there’s an epic battle between Xandanya and the house. It has a Tarzan and Jane look to it, to my eye, because of the foliage and the way the two of them are clinging to each other. Anya saves Xander and gets her hand seriously punctured. Xander almost loses an eye. (Is that foreshadowing?) They are very heroic, these two, and I love them for it, and in time they battle their way through all the evil everything and burst in on BuffRiley. Who are all, “Don’t you knock? We’re stoking the mystic forces here!”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Where the Wild Things Are

Along the way, Xander and Anya also rekindle their own feelings of sweet, sweet love.

It’s not really the point of “Where the Wild Things Are,” but the events of this episode nail down the most important thing about Buffy’s relationship with Riley. It’s vanilla, yes, but it goes on awhile, and they have sex on a regular basis. This episode represents the very beginning of the one period where the Slayer gets to go home regularly to a certain spesh Someone and cuddle up for what’s left of the night.

A lot of things in the Sunnydale period of Buffy’s life are pretty damned tragic. But despite the ultimate failure of her relationship with Riley, it’s important and a wholly positive thing that she gets to have a sustained period of together with anyone. Angel was a one-night disaster. Parker creeped and fizzled. Faith’s interference threatened to make this Strike Three, sexually, and we all know what’s coming in Buffy’s next relationship. Without Riley—without months on end of Riley, without still together in S5 of BtVS Riley, she would never have had that taste of extended couplehood.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Where the Wild Things Are

The part of becoming a grown-up that’s tied—for many of us, anyway—in having a steady, intimate relationship comes, for Buffy, from this romance. To that, I can only say Go Riley Go! Just, you know, have your house exorcised first.

Next: Return to Oz

A.M. Dellamonica has three novelettes up here on Her ‘baby werewolf has two mommies,’ story, “The Cage,” made the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2010. There’s also “Among the Silvering Herd,” the first of a series of stories called The Gales.

Now you can read her novelette, “Wild Things,” that ties into the world of her award winning novel Indigo Springs and its sequel, Blue Magic.

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Chris Nelly
1. Aeryl
My first thing, is when did Riley rearrange his room? Based on the light coming thru the door, it's situated to the left of the bed(if you were facing the headboard) when in every other shot the door has been in front of the bed(if you were sitting on it).

Next thing, for those who were unaware, Anthony Stewart Head really does sing. And I don't mean just here and later in the show, but like in actuality. Here he is singing Wise Up Janet Weiss, complete with fishnets, full FrankNFurter makeup and a leather jacket. Also, check out rock horrer opera, Repo!(not the Forrest Whitacker, Jude Law ripoff) to watch him kill and sing! Beautifully.
Gardner Dozois
2. Gardner Dozois
This is by far the stupidest episode of the whole season, and one of the weakest of the whole series. Pretty much a wheel-spinner in terms of the overall season arc, it's mostly an excuse to show lots of scenes of Buffy and Riley boinking.

The best parts, and about the only parts really worth watching, are Giles singing, and Spike's brilliant bit where he says, more or less, "I'll go in there! Even though it's deadly dangerous...ah no, acutually, screw it, I won't."

You're right that Riley is the closest that Buffy would ever come to having a regular boyfriend, but although she has LOTS more sex with Riley than she does with either Angel or Spike or even Angel and Spike combined (probably more in this episode alone, in fact), she never really seemed to connect with Riley on the same kind of deep emotional level, which is why they eventually drifted away from each other. As Spike acutely says, "the girl likes a little monster in her man"--and Riley was just too bland and whitebread to provide it.
Keith DeCandido
3. krad
If I remember right, that week SMG appeared on Angel, and this script was partly to accommodate her being on the other show, so Buffy's role was reduced to just a few scenes.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Gardner Dozois
4. Gardner Dozois
Would have been more interesting, and more creative, to have had an episode where the Scoobies had to handle a menace all on their own because Buffy was in Los Angeles, visiting Angel. This way was stupid.
Allana Schneidmuller
5. blutnocheinmal
I missed this episode when I was watching Buffy as it aired, looks like I'm not missing too much.
I would like to see it mostly for the Giles singing part. His song Legal Assassin was my favorite of Repo! The Genetic Opera. (Good songs, costumes, sets, but a rather flawed movie.)
Emma Rosloff
6. emmarosloff
Agreed that this episode isn't particularly memorable, save a few moments.

- The icecream truck argument. Emma Caulfield plays Anya so excellently. She's so clearly different in all the little ways that she talks, holds herself and emotes. The moment when they realize they've been overheard is just priceless. Those moments come fewer and farther between as the show progresses.

- Giles playing at the coffee shop. I love how this foreshadows his involvement in the musical. The girls are right to swoon! Giles is tired of playing librarian -- he misses being a debonair English man who enetertains women at his flat. He's definitely having a mid-Watcher-life crisis, and it ties into the episode's theme of sex and relationships, since he's currently without any.

- Spike's increasing bravado and his comisery with Anya. This is one of the things I love about Joss's characters, their sense of self-awareness. Two oh-how-the-mighty-have-fallen baddies, reminiscing about the horrific old times in all earnesty. It feels so backward, and yet it's just right. I also love that Spike's answer to his evil impotence is to just act ridiculous. Because why not? The situation is pretty ridiculous.

As far as Buffy and Riley and all the sexing, it always felt a bit forced. Not that the episode isn't hot and steamy (or the two aren't happily consenting), but it's as if they're trying to replicate the kind of chemistry she had with Angel (and will have with Spike), and they can't -- it's just too vanilla. This is illuminating, but not necessarily intentional. We all know that sex = ratings, so I'm sure all those tussled sheets and sharp cutaways served a dual purpose.

I do think it's important that she gets this one, steady relationship -- this template of what a healthy, normal relationship can be. But the sad truth is that Buffy tends to live in the moment, what with life and death hanging in the balance all the time. Her life is a constant struggle, fraught with evil and pain, so it's no wonder she's so attracted to men who thrive in that atmosphere as well, whether or not they're any good for her in the long run.
Gardner Dozois
7. Dianthus
The girl needs some monster in her man because it turns out there's some monster in the girl. This is quantity vs. quality. She'll go back to Spike, again and again, despite her ambivalance, b/c he's that good (but when he's bad, he's better).
Actually, I read somewhere that when the suits complained about all the violence in the show, Joss & Co. delievered this little F/U.
Spike and Anya were adorbs, almost as adorbs as Spike and Joyce.
Constance Sublette
8. Zorra
There are parts of this episode I love -- especially the unconstrained sex part between a couple -- that happens to be Buffy and Riley -- building a wall of thorns between the madly in love-sex couple and the rest of the world, and the rest of the world seeing that as a threat. We've all been in that one, on both sides. I admire how the show did that metaphorically. And with lots of great sex. Buffy got so little of any joy in her life after becoming the Slayer, I was joyeous that she had this, for as little a time as she had it. Every person should have a moment - moments - episode like this in their lives. And again, I'm so glad that the Slayer got hers.

The creepy housemother and kids part connected to this -- do not like, not at all.

But they had to hook the sex thang to something Bad, I guess, because it is the Hellmouth etc. But I wish just once crazy wild burning circle of fire sex wasn't hooked to EviLe in the Larger World.

I've often wondered if the writing team was trying hard to figure out something about the fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast (roses) and Sleeping Beauty (the wall of thornes, sleeping for a hundred years) and the sex trance we fall into when falling in love when young hot and horny. They didn't quite make it, but I give them applause for trying.

Love, C.
Leslie Arai
9. creepygirl
I liked Giles's singing (and the resultant swooning), Anya and Spike commiserating, and Spike's quickly-squelched heroic impulse, but man, this was a bad episode. Really, really bad.

I'm glad Buffy got to have at least one healthy sexual relationship, just wish they'd hired an actor with more natural chemistry with SMG than Marc Blucas had. Honestly, it always seemed to me that Riley had a more easy rapport with Willow than with Buffy. The Buffy-Riley sex scenes always felt a bit like an effort to make up for the lack of chemistry in other scenes.
Gardner Dozois
10. Gardner Dozois
I agree, creepygirl. Riley had far more rapport with Willow than he had with Buffy--which, if they'd followed through on that, would have been an interesting twist. Having Riley fall for Willow instead of Buffy would have set up an interesting triangle.

They couldn't do it, though--he was there to be Buffy's love interest, no matter how forced the scenes between them felt. It's the same way they had to force the supposed attraction between Harry Potter and Jenny even though all the spark on screen was between the actors who played Harry and Hermionie.

And yes, in spite of several good bits, this is overall a really bad episode. Especially following after the three good episodes that came before it.
Gardner Dozois
11. Dr. Thanatos
Agree mostly forgettable except Anya, who is never forgettable.

Off topic agree that Harry/Ginny was bogus but it should have been Luna and Harry (Larry?). Topic for a different thread. Like Snoldemort.
Gardner Dozois
12. Gardner Dozois
Off topic again, all the chemistry in those movies was between the actors who play Harry and Hermoine, who clearly should have been a couple. Not only was there no chemistry between the actors who played Harry and Ginny, there was no chemistry between Ron and Hermoine either. Harry and Luna did have a certain degree of chemistry, although I think his chemistry was stronger with Hermoine. He had none whatsoever with Ginny, except that they told you that he did.

In a pathetic attempt to bring this back on topic, much the same way that Buffy had no real chemistry with Riley, not the kind she had with Angel and Spike. But he was there to be the Love Interest, and that's the role they dutifully had him perform.
Alyx Dellamonica
13. AMDellamonica
Gardner, Krad - I would have loved to have seen an episode where the Scoobies had to cope with the end of the world or something huge with no Buffy involvement at all.

Dianthus - are you saying the episode was meant to redress a lack of sex as opposed to violence?

To be fair, Gardner, people do try out low-chem relationships sometimes, don't they? Especially if the high-chem was apocalyptically bad?
Chris Nelly
14. Aeryl
To be fair to the Harry Potter cast, the kids were cast at 10(Ginny's case 9) and years of working closely with Emma Watson, vs a few scenes with the actress who played Ginny over 8 years, probably had a lot to do with that chemistry/lack thereof.

For the most part, I tend to think we were fortunate that the kids they did pick were talented as all hell.
Gardner Dozois
15. Dianthus
Not to address a lack of sex, exactly - just to mess with the suits: You don't like that? How 'bout this instead?
They've linked sex and violence before, after all, and will do so again.
For those who wonder, JM has narrated all but one of The Dresden Files on CD. He's not limited to one character. He gets to play them all. Good stuff.
Gardner Dozois
16. Gardner Dozois
I think the Scoobies could have coped with at least a minor Apocalypse on their own, without Buffy, and it would have been fun to see them try. After all, at this point they could have called on Riley and the Initative troops for brute force, they have two witches and a magician in the group (Willow already powerful, although not as powerful as she'd later become; and they didn't have Giles do magic often ENOUGH in the course of the show, but it's clear that he knows HOW at need), and a thousand-year-old ex-demon to ask for advice on supernatural matters. Would have been even more fun to rope Spike in to helping them, no doubt reluctantly on his part. Much better way to cover Buffy's absense than an episode where she does nothing but boink Riley from one end of the episode to the other.
Gardner Dozois
17. adaptr
@4 Gardner Dozois: But this is Buffy The Vampire Slayer, after all... she sort of has to be in it.
That said, I agree - but it may have been a network decision, more than a Josh decision.
I think the closest we ever get to a non-Buffy apocalypse is The Zeppo (which I didn't like when I first saw it but it grows on me in re-watches.)
Gardner Dozois
18. Gardner Dozois
They could have covered her absense sufficiently by showing a shot of her talking to Angel, or riding on the bus to go see him, or ignoring the ringing phone at Angel's place while the Scoobies try and fail to get in touch with her. I suppose they thought it was more commercial to fill up their requisite Buffy-appearance time with shots of her having sex, though.
Alyx Dellamonica
19. AMDellamonica
If I have to choose between Buffy ignorning a phone and Buffy getting her poltergasm on, I'm not feeling like there's much contest.
Gardner Dozois
20. Gardner Dozois
That's probably how the producers felt too. But it did mean that we got the stupid plot gimmick that drove this episode.
Alyx Dellamonica
21. AMDellamonica
True enough, Gardner. They could have done many much-more-amazing things with 40 minutes of story.

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