Friday, 5 July 2013

FEATURE: Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Teacher's Pet

Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy is now settled into school, but her arrival has had an impact on insecure Xander who is struggling with both a crush on his friend and his own neuroses.

Teacher's Pet focuses in on Slayerette Xander to provide a little bit of character development on what has been a mostly comic relief role so far. Opening with a dream in which he heroically saves Buffy from a vampire before performing a killer guitar solo on stage at The Bronze, it's clear Xander's having a little masculinity crisis now Buffy is around. Sadly, he awakes during biology class and is forced back into reality, particularly when the biology teacher turns up dead. Thankfully, substitute teacher Miss French is there to step in with her winning smile and predatorial shoulder pads to help cover biology and give Xander a sense of sexual prowess. Well, at least for a second.

The student/teacher fantasy has long been a staple of teenage boys on screen, particularly in the 90s by the looks of things. It also crops up on the first season of Dawson's Creek (which appeared on the same network as Buffy) with Pacey and his English teacher so there was clearly something in the water back then, though that storyline lacked decapitation. Having never been a teenage boy, I can't speak from experience but television tells me it is so and therefore it must be true. Buffy tackles this by taking the victim/predator dynamic to the extremes because it turns out that Miss French is just a great big bug. The episode sends up just about every cliche associated with this narrative; the awkward meetings in classrooms, the self-delusion and the convenient meeting at the teacher's home.

It leads to some amusing moments, particularly when Xander is trying desperately to be cool in the face of teasing jock Blaine, who maintains the illusion that he has a sexual history to rival Don Juan. However, there isn't a whole lot going for this episode outside of that. It's nice to spend some time with Xander and learn a bit more about him as a character (including middle name Lavelle), but other than that, the episode is definitely not one of the most memorable aside from setting up Xander's character traits.

The budget clearly went on recreating a giant praying mantis for this episode because both episodes we see staked don't dust but hit the ground with a thump, upsetting the show's continuity slightly; even if they dust off screen, we usually hear it. Also, notice the stake in Xander's dream which isn't so much aiming for the heart as it is the appendix.  I'm nitpicking yes, but for a show that develops a very specific mythology and usually has an eye for detail, it just smacks a little of carelessness. 

But seriously, guys, check out all the velvet clothing! Possibly one of the most 90s episodes of the first season's run, this episode features some classic shiny, soft jumpers worn by both Xander and this week's bait Blaine. Willow also gets a look in on the velvety action at The Bronze whilst Buffy opts for a 60s style mini-dress and Angel's leather jacket. Yes, the hulking Cryptic Guy shows up again this week in a flattering vest and said jacket combo warning Buffy about a Fork Guy and sporting three not-so-flattering wounds on his arm.

Angel and Buffy's relationship is developing slowly in the background of the episodes and though interaction is slight so far, Boreanaz and Gellar's chemistry already sparks. Likewise, the ensemble dynamics between the four main characters is great and I really enjoy revisiting the earlier library scenes in which Giles is hilariously technophobic, Buffy actually does some homework (though doesn't know how to find books) and Willow displays some early computer hacking skills. The research scenes will quickly become the staple of a Buffy episode and it's fun to see the trope developing.

Like Witch, Teacher's Pet is mostly a filler episode, a monster of the week that doesn't really further the season beyond developing Xander's character a little more, but it's just a tad too silly to be wholly memorable.

Next Time: Never Kill a Boy on a First Date

Quote of the Day: Xander - "I wonder what she sees in me? It's probably the quiet good looks coupled with a certain smoky magnetism"

Sunnydale Who's Who: Natalie French is played by Musetta Vander who also appeared as a Siren in O Brother Where Art Thou? She clearly has a penchant for luring males to their doom.

- Becky

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