Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Reptile Boy   Rewatch 
March 11, 2015 10:43 PM - Season 2, Episode 5 - Subscribe

Cordelia drags Buffy to a party at a local fraternity, one with a time-honoured tradition of feeding high school girls to the snake demon in the basement.
posted by yellowbinder (21 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Xander and Cordelia really need to get together already so he can drop his Buffy obsession once and for all.

Cordelia's grating fake laugh never fails to get a real one out of me. Her half-hearted compliments to Buffy are fun as well.

We get yet another creepy boys killing girls story. The "Don't trust college seniors interested in high school girls" message is a little muddled by the episode's push towards advancing Buffy's romance with the much much older Angel.
posted by yellowbinder at 10:51 PM on March 11, 2015

Where does that demon snake rank in terms of Least Subtle Metaphor for this show? Because it can't be lower than top 5.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:46 AM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

So this episode, while it's not terribly good, does have something going for it, in that it's explicitly about the patriarchy and how it engages with young women, especially those with the potential to have power. You'll notice that Joyce is very deliberately absent from this episode. Instead, our male "good" authority figures are Giles, Angel and Xander. Giles wants to control Buffy's actions and time. Angel wants to control whether their relationship happens or not. Xander wants to control Buffy's love life. And of course we have the frat boys, who have absolutely no respect for women at all. They want to use women to cement their position in society. With a penis snake. Well, no-one ever said Buffy was subtle.

There's also some fun contrasts in how the three women in this episode interact with the patriarchy. Cordelia clearly accepts the system as it is and wants to use it as best she can. Buffy is frustrated with its restraints but rebels by ignoring some men only to go with another. Willow, of course, gets to be the best (fuck yeah Willow Rosenberg!), with her first of all supporting her sister, Buffy, then calling out the men on their behaviour.

Unfortunately all these pieces don't entirely work together. Xander's jealously is really obnoxious (and will remain so, I'm so with yellowbinder on wanting him to hook up with Cordelia here) and I find the whole "Giles is fussy, Buffy is grumpy" dynamic a bit tedious at this point. The episode also ends up kind of being a bit close to a very special episode. Buffy's one night of rebellion is instantly punished: she drinks one drink, she tells one lie and goes to a party and this nearly leads to her metaphorical rape. It's a bit on the nose really. The show is always better when it avoids this kind of moralising.

-Jonathon gets a name!
-The running away girl at the start bursts perfectly through a window with no damage. Sunnydale is just full of safety glass I guess
-Tom Warner is really a proto Parker
-They work out about the frat by looking at missing girls. They live in Sunnydale. Surely there are sodding loads of missing girls?
-"You're going to live forever and you don't have time to grab a cup of coffee?"
-I like that Xander hurts his hands punching the frat guy
-"Angel, how do you shave?" Good question. Maybe he's just got a good electric razor.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 1:39 AM on March 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

-Tom Warner is really a proto Parker

I hadn't spotted this, but damn, that is dead-on.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:20 AM on March 12, 2015

The plot here is kind of a peek ahead at the way privilege and (supernatural) power are linked throughout Angel. I'd wager a whole lot of the frat's alums have Holland Manners or Lilah Morgan on retainer.
posted by kewb at 3:52 AM on March 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

Spot-on, Cannon Fodder. And Willow is the one who holds all the complicated plot threads in her head and sees what's going on, whether it's a Bollywood film or her friends' lives. I love her dummy spit at Giles and Angel - even if it didn't make her feel better, it was what needed to be said and I suspect makes the audience feel better. It did for me, anyway. Knowing that she will lose this role and have her own confusing dramas that she cannot see through clearly makes me a bit sad, even though it's obviously more fun for her character to be a player rather than, well, a Watcher.

But yes, it's easy to see how Buffy develops her self-righteous streak if this is what happens when she lets go enough to have one drink.
posted by Athanassiel at 4:48 AM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, and if your frat house is conveniently located right next to a cemetery, how difficult would it be to dispose of your supernatural snake/penis dinner remains in a way that can't be traced immediately back to you? And who builds a frat house next to a cemetery anyway unless they are Up To No Good?!
posted by Athanassiel at 4:54 AM on March 12, 2015

I didn't discover Buffy until well after college, but regarding the privelege of the fraternity members, it was nice to see the question of "how do these degenerate asshats manage to do so well in life?" answered - it's because they have a demon in their basement manipulating the universe in their benefit, duh. Coming from a school like the University of Virginia, this made all kinds of sense.

Note: UVa actually has a cemetary right on grounds, so that didn't seem too out of place to me. A mildly amusing diversion for first-year students is to go find the headstone with your dorm name on it.
posted by LionIndex at 6:28 AM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Where does that demon snake rank in terms of Least Subtle Metaphor for this show?

Forget top five, this is number one with a spiked drink and a penis costume. There are a few close ones in the first season (Witch, Out of Mind...) but this one is basically no subtext and all text.
posted by yellowbinder at 8:02 AM on March 12, 2015

Love Willow's speech in this one.

I like that it becomes pretty clear one of the reasons that Giles is so uptight and controlling about Buffy's choices is his own struggles with teenage darkness and power that come to light over the next few episodes. ("Buffy, you think I don't know what it's like to be sixteen?")

The "I told one lie. I had one drink" thing is a little much (though I like the acknowledgement of the paradox that alcohol is described both as a "grown-up thing" and something to do when you're "tired of being mature"), but it's balanced a bit by Willow, with her first real challenge to authority figures she respects, and who will grow to have her own issues with power. It's interesting to compare how she speaks to Giles here with what she says to him in S6 (about it not being a good idea to piss her off); I think there's a lot to explore in how similar the two of them can be in terms of power, control, and interior vs. exterior. There's a reason they both hit it off so well ("she was truly the finest of all of us") and can clash so brutally. What I'm saying is, more Willow and Giles scenes, please (says the person whose cats are named Willow and Giles).

Cordelia is sadly a bit too insightful when she tells Xander he'll go to college someday...to deliver pizza to college kids. Xander hurting his hand is one of the only realistic depictions of violence (along with Willow's "ow ow ow happy but ow" from next season).
posted by ilana at 10:01 AM on March 12, 2015 [4 favorites]

I think this episode might be remembered a bit more fondly if they hadn't shown the demon. (This isn't the last time they have a horribly fake giant snake demon with a muscular human male torso, either. You'd think they'd have learned their lesson.)

It's been fascinating for me to revisit these episodes about college life that I watched as a child. ON this, my second viewing, I was like "oh, hey, it's a date rape metaphor! Who knew?"
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:43 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

'-"Angel, how do you shave?" Good question. Maybe he's just got a good electric razor.'
Even after hundreds of years in hell, his electric razor does not fail him. He emerges mad, but clean shaven.
posted by Bee'sWing at 5:23 PM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

He's a vampire.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:38 PM on March 15, 2015

Does Angel's hair actually even grow if he's dead?
posted by LionIndex at 7:03 AM on March 16, 2015

Does Angel's hair actually even grow if he's dead?

Good question. The physiology of vampires in this show raise lots of questions. They apparently have flowing blood (to the extent that they can have sex!), can smoke but can't produce oxygen... it's all very confusing! The truth is of course that their capabilities vary as the writers demand it: look at the wildly varying responses to daylight vampires exhibit, with Spike spending quite a lot of season 4 running round under a blanket (and I think Angel will spend a fair amount of time in the back end of this season hanging round in the shadows of an open court during the day) yet some burst into flame immediately. Also, what exactly does garlic do to them, because Buffy will use it occasionally, but never in a combat situation. Maybe they just really hate the smell. Magic similarly will vary wildly in power depending on the plot: it can utterly change reality one moment, then the next the most powerful witch in the world won't be able to teleport (because it would make the plot much harder to write!)
posted by Cannon Fodder at 7:45 AM on March 16, 2015

Sometimes Spike has very visible roots, and sometimes he doesn't, so I always assumed that the hair kept growing. Even though that was just because Spike is played by a human actor.

On the other hand, I always kind of assumed that the boners were magic.

You can also pretend that more powerful vampires, such as Angel and Spike, have more sun resistance, but that's a total cop-out to explain why the main characters don't burn up but the lackeys do.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:58 AM on March 16, 2015

Boners could be rigor mortis. Helps if the vamp in question is a "shower" instead of a "grower".
posted by LionIndex at 8:25 AM on March 16, 2015

FanFare: I always kind of assumed that the boners were magic.
posted by yellowbinder at 10:36 AM on March 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

My favorite vampire physiology bit comes from the licensed V:tM book "As One Dead", which as part of its being dumb start to finish contains a scene where a vampire is forced to open her mouth by holding her nose shut so that she'll have to open her mouth. You know, to breathe. Which vampires, being animated corpses, have to do.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:57 AM on March 17, 2015

"The physiology of vampires in this show raise lots of questions."

Oh lord. I've just thought about vampire poop. Once a month and as hard as diamonds.
posted by Bee'sWing at 6:10 PM on March 18, 2015

I don't remember this bit at the beginning where they are watching what I guess is a Bollywood film.

Xander: Why is she singing?
Willow: She's sad because her lover gave her twelve gold coins, but then the wizard cut open the bag of salt and now the dancing minions have nowhere to put their big maple .. dish thing.
Xander: Uh huh. Why is she singing?
Buffy: Her lover? I thought that was her chiropractor.
Willow: Because of that thing he did with her feet? No, that was personal.
posted by bunderful at 11:27 AM on January 3, 2016

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