Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered   Rewatch 
April 15, 2015 10:38 PM - Season 2, Episode 16 - Subscribe

Spurned by her popular friends for their relationship, Cordelia dumps Xander on Valentine's Day. He turns to Amy to cast a love spell on Cordelia, making her desire him again so he can return the heart stomping. The spell backfires, causing every woman in Sunnydale except Cordelia to be madly, murderously in love with Xander.
posted by yellowbinder (12 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is a pretty fun episode. I know it has Xander casting a sort of date rapey spell, however two things forgive that for me

1)The show explicitly calls him out on it
2)He was using it to try and enact emotional revenge, which, while still quite gross, isn't as over the line as it could be.

The spell, of course, backfires (and this is unstated, but the most logical reason that it happens is that Cordelia already loves Xander. Awww, even if that is a poor choice.) and we have the rest of the episode, which goes straight for comedy in many instances. The best are probably the adults, in particular Jenny coming to talk to Giles and then noticing how attractive Giles is, and then Giles frustratedly trying to corral her and Amy into helping him reverse the spell. Generally speaking, the episode is funny enough to allow me to forgive the seedy core to it, there's a lot of good stuff here.

The episode also takes the time to forward Angel's plot, with him constantly taunting Spike and deciding to do something to Buffy, only to get confounded by Drusilla who of course wants to give her love the gift of eternal life. We also have the final scene where Cordelia stands up to her idiot friends, becoming 90% more awesome, which is pretty impressive, as she was already pretty awesome (seriously, in this rewatch Cordelia really has become an MVP for me. She's pretty great).

-Some really bad continuity in this episode. Xander runs home from school to his room, where Willow is waiting (and wow is she sexy in that scene) and then the next scene goes back to school again. And it's still day? Why did Willow know he'd be at home if he cut class to go there?
-I love Xander barricading the door and Buffy walking past it. The best thing is that barricade just stays there unremarked on for the rest of the episode.
-Amy turns Buffy into a rat, and then back again. Willow should have been taking notes.
-"No-one can love two people at once!" Claims Jenny. I guess Jenny doesn't believe in polyamory then.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:14 AM on April 16, 2015

Tiny tiny ridiculous thing I noticed years ago about this episode and now cannot stop thinking about:

In the scene where Willow is in Xander's bedroom, there is a box of Rogaine on his nightstand.
posted by Katemonkey at 5:21 AM on April 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

I seem to remember an old fantasy story about this. Actually, more than one, but the one I remember is:

A depressed office worker is working at his boring desk, when a genie appears and asks what his third wish is. He doesn't remember wish 1 and 2, so the genie explains that his first wish was such a horrific disaster, his second wish was to have everything 'back the way it was before', which obviously included a memory reset. So he wishes to be irresistible to women. The genie says "Granted" then "That's funny, that was your first wish, too." and vanishes.
posted by Mogur at 9:22 AM on April 16, 2015 [5 favorites]

Xander acts badly here but I guess it's ok because his motives are spite rather than lust? And he doesn't take advantage of anyone so we're seeing improvement I guess. But yeah, fun episode, the Drusilla stuff always makes me giggle.

The Angel stuff is heavily in the background in these episodes but still active, he's out there, he's horrible and manipulative and deadly and he's coming for you. It's a good balance between still having standalone episode while keeping the long running plots in viewers' minds.
posted by yellowbinder at 12:01 PM on April 16, 2015

This episode is one of the reasons that I'm not much of a fan of Xander.

The love-spell-for-spite part of it is pretty awful on its own, but then Cordelia finds out that he meant to cast the spell on her, and thinks it's because he wanted to win her back.

And Xander lets her think that. At no point does he admit his nasty motives for the spell.

It's a character trait of his that comes up again and again, his unwillingness to admit his worst actions and thoughts. He never admits to faking amnesia about the hyena episode. He doesn't own up about The Lie; it comes out through Willow during an argument with Buffy in Season 7. He can't admit his fears about marriage to Anya, so he summons a demon instead, and doesn't admit to THAT until Dawn's about to be dragged off by the song-and-dance demon. He can't face telling everyone that he made a mistake and needs to call off the wedding, so he leaves poor Anya to announce it instead.

Once I've seen it, I can't un-see it. It's not a pretty sight.

It doesn't help that the writers seem to think Xander's more inherently adorable than he actually is. I think the writers wanted us to feel sorry for him when he thought that Buffy actually liked him, and then realized that it was the spell. We end with Buffy thanking him for not raping her while she was under the spell's influence, and Cordy getting back together with him, and we never see Willow refusing to talk to him or even remembering that this happened.

On a lighter note, Angelus pulling Xander out the window was pretty funny.
posted by creepygirl at 6:28 PM on April 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'm glad you said something, creepygirl. I was going to just not comment on this one because it made me really uncomfortable to watch. I think the first couple of times watching the series I didn't notice these things so much. But once I started to have doubts about Xander as a Nice Guy™ it became really hard to see him positively because of the wealth of petty entitled nastiness. I understand that it's hard to be a teenage guy who isn't very popular, who can't get dates with pretty girls, who is made fun of for being a nerd. You know why I understand? Because I was a teenage girl just like that (not that I wanted to date pretty girls in high school). So it's not that I don't get where he's coming from. But Xander just seems to ooze a kind of entitlement of the sort that doesn't understand why those mean girls are denying him their sexy bits to perve over as much as he wants. He's not quite at the level of a gator or MRA - but the fact that the scriptwriters seem to think it necessary for Buffy to THANK HIM FOR NOT RAPING HER is bloody creepy.

Inferiority, being useless and trying to conform to some kind of ideal of a Real Man are things Xander struggles with throughout the series. Xander is also repeatedly identified with the heart, emotional awareness, understanding and compassion. It could be argued, I guess, that Xander at his worst helps him learn so that he can become Xander at his best. But increasingly for me, seeing Xander at his worst just undermines the times when he behaves well later on. I don't trust that he's actually learned, that he's actually being altruistic, because he's just so very much in it for his own gratification.

Anyhow. Xander rant over. I do love the Valentine's Day gifts: Spike gets Drusilla a necklace; Angel gets her a heart; Xander gets Cordy - a heart necklace! Nice. And Cordelia's growing on me, I think I'd forgotten how much she improves. Back in S1 ("Out of Mind, Out of Sight") she talked about feeling alone even amongst her posse, because if she acted like herself no one would want to be her friend, and here we have her actually standing up for herself and what she wants despite the pressure from her friends. Way to go Cordy!

And once again the Buffyverse plays fast and loose with actual mythology. Diana/Artemis was not ever the goddess of love (that would be Venus/Aphrodite). Clearly it's an alternate universe in which Greek and Roman mythology were quite different.
posted by Athanassiel at 9:29 PM on April 16, 2015

In defence of Xander, he didn't make Buffy thank him. I guess I didn't think through the whole implications of him not telling Cordelia the truth of the love spell, and you're right, that is pretty gross. I think Xander is a difficult character on the show. I'm never sure if Brendon, who is far too old for the part, was actually good casting: he's far too physically developed for the kind of emotional immaturity he displays. Teenage boys do have poisonous ideas, and sadly Xander often holds onto them. I think Xander at his best is enjoyable, but frequently the show wants him to perform a certain role in the plot which means he does stuff that seems pretty gross (the epitome being Once More with Feeling, where they introduce that conclusion essentially to cheaply end off the episode, but clearly did not think through the massive implications). I can still like Xander, but it can often be hard work in these early episodes.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:03 AM on April 17, 2015

I'm not going to defend the Xander behavior but I'm inclined to let most of the characters' flaws - even the ones they never redeem - go and accept them as imperfect people.

I'm not really bothered at all by the thanks for not taking advantage. We thank people all the time for doing things that basic decency would call upon them to do. I don't think that's calling it exceptional to resist that temptation, it's just recognizing the temptation. We thank them from our own perspective because that's the perspective we have and because we are not their ruler/deity such that we can commend them for their own moral victory. Buffy is aware Xander is attracted to her and that, being human, he must have been tempted.
posted by phearlez at 9:00 AM on April 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Xander's awful. He's always been awful (he also kills a bunch of people for a dumb reason in 'Once More with Feeling'). He's also brave and sweet.

These things are not contradictory, even though you'd think they should be.
posted by Sebmojo at 7:23 PM on April 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm still not sure Xander wasn't just improvising, taking the bullet for Dawn in OMWF.

I dunno. I hate the Nice Guy™ thing as much or more than anyone, and Xander is its patron saint, but his instinctive unwillingness to take advantage of the situation in this episode helps his character a lot, I think, and also makes sense. Xander is a bundle of insecurity, wanting to be "the guy" when he never really can be, and so much of what he does is like he's trying to act out that part, and that's where we gat all the shitty Xander stuff. But once we know him better, I'd say there's a big aspect of Xander being a guy with no real male role models in his life before Giles, and a lot of different women in his life in different roles, and he's still feeling it out like a clumsy, foolish oaf most of the time, but in this case, he's got his "What Would Giles Do?" bracelet on and handles things admirably.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:46 PM on October 5, 2015

Oh, and Joss has that comic-book folly of needing to explain every oddity with applied phlebotinum when not doing so often works better. Here, we didn't need an explanation of why the spell didn't affect Cordelia, and would have been better off without one.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:48 PM on October 5, 2015

Rewatch notes from my lunchtime episode of Buffy yesterday:

Giles: "Buffy, can I have a word?"
Buffy: "Have a sentence, even."


I *adored* that scene with Spike, Drusilla, and Angel. Spike got Dru a ruby (?) necklace, but just as Dru is about to express her appreciation for it, Angel appears and puts a still-beating heart in front of her. "I found it in a quaint little shopgirl."

To get back at him for giving Dru the *clearly* superior gift, Spike starts to taunt Angel about dilly-dallying on attacking Buffy.
Spike: "Why don't you rip her lungs out?"
Angel: "Lacks... poetry."
Spike: "Doesn't have to." [Thoughtful tone] "What rhymes with LUNG?"
Extra funny because english accent implies english slang answers to that question.

Oz's band is playing at the Bronze. They have a pretty catchy riff but the words to the song seem to be just: "Pain. I can't sleep." repeated over and over.

Xander straight up yells at Cordelia for breaking up with him on Valentine's day even though she's clearly being the opposite of a POS in that moment. Ugh. And then goes up to Amy and says, "I'm about to blackmail you. I want some respect around here. For once I want to come out ahead. I want the hellmouth working for me." Ugh again. Could he not just have asked for a favor? SMH. But surprisingly enough (since I am *not* a Xander fan lol) this is his only bad moment in the whole episode.

I don't fault him at all for the spell itself. He just wants to reject her as revenge for her breaking up with him, not ... to get her to be with him against her will or anything creepy like that. That's exactly the sort of petty payback I happen to think is completely appropriate lol.

The little piece of violin music when Xander is running to his room to get away from the suddenly interested girls at school, to find Willow waiting for him in his bed? That bit of music slaps.

There's a large plastic bug on Xander's wall. Why does this boy have bugs on his bedroom walls for decor?!

Poster at school: WANT TO BE IN? SMOKING CUTS YOU OUT. [Group photo of a bunch of teens with one person cut out of it, like dashed outline and white fill.] RIGHT CHOICES RIGHT NOW

Buffy the rat hahahahahaha I had forgotten all about this! Omg! LOL. Is this how Amy gets turned into a rat, because I do remember that?

Xander putting his hand on Amy's mouth before she can curse Ms. Calendar, "Quit with the Hecate!"

I loved the moment when Angel shows up and grabs Xander from the bedroom window. Well timed. (Buffy what are you thinking why haven't you uninvited Angel from your house yet?!) And then with Dru! How utterly clever, I love this plot.

Buffy saying thanks for not taking advantage is phrased as, "There might just be hope for you yet." I'm... kind of okay with that.
posted by MiraK at 12:09 PM on February 27

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