Written by Matt Kiene & Joe Reinkemeyer, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, co-starring Nicholas Brendon, Alyson Hannigan, Charisma Carpenter and Anthony Stewart Head, featuring Ken Lerner, Eion Bailey, Michael McRaine, Brian Gross, Jennifer Sky, Jeff Maynard and James Stephens, also with David Brisbin, Barbara K. Whinnery, Gregory White, Justin Jon Ross, Jeffrey Steven Smith and Patrese Borem.
This episode is the first of a very few episodes centered around Xander: how he is attracted to Buffy, oblivious about Willow’s feelings for him… In the teaser, Xander chases after a group of bullies that are in a restricted section of the zoo: the hyena house. Here is where the transpossession takes place; the bullies get possessed by a hyena because of the predatory act they commit by trying to put their victim, Lance, in the hyena cage, and Xander accidentally gets possessed also because he was chasing them. Throughout the episode, Buffy and Willow slowly start noticing something is different about Xander. Giles isn’t worried, as he says: “It’s devastating. He’s turning into a sixteen-year-old boy.” But the girls just don’t recognize him anymore and know something is wrong. At first, the signs are subtle: he sniffs Buffy’s hair, makes weird comments on the food, makes fun of people, starts dressing well (the biggest surprise!!!), and then starts hanging out with the bullies. Most startling are the cruel things he says to Willow, starting by making her believe that he’s been acting different because of her and ending with: “I won’t have to look at your pasty face again.” This obviously breaks Willow’s heart. Alyson Hannigan is such a good actress, the scenes where she is sad or heart-broken or angry are always the most touching. We also find out for the first time that she has feelings for Xander.
Also, this episode, like “Teacher’s Pet”, touches on sexual assault, as Xander tries to rape Buffy before she hits him with a desk. Fortunately, in the end all is well that goes well (as always in the earlier episodes of “BtVS”) and Xander pretending he remembers nothing of his actions and his later conversation with Giles are absolutely hilarious.
And while Giles gets much closer to Buffy, we see less of Joyce, perhaps a sign that he will be more important in her life than a parent could ever be.
20th Century Fox Television and Mutant Enemy Inc., Kuzui Enterprises and Sandollar Television.
Next time: "Angel".