Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Earshot   Rewatch 
July 8, 2015 9:18 PM - Season 3, Episode 18 - Subscribe

A close encounter with a telepathic demon's blood gives Buffy the ability to hear others' thoughts. As the constant barrage of thoughts incapacitates her, she overhears someone thinking of killing off the student body. The rest of the gang works to figure out who's behind the plot and save Buffy before she's driven insane.
posted by yellowbinder (13 comments total)
I love this episode. it starts out with all of the kind of things that people fantasize about telepathy: reading the teacher's mind so you can look smart in class, or reading your partner's mind so you don't have to start a difficult conversation. The scene where she's reading the Scooby Gang's thoughts is just perfect, nailing each of the characters, especially Oz's hidden depths, and Cordelia's nearly complete lack of hidden depths. Then the tension keeps ramping up as Buffy discovers the downside to telepathy, and Buffy and Jonathan's conversation at the end is just lovely.

My only nit to pick is that I wish Buffy's discomfort with Angel was a little less-focused on jealousy of Faith, and a little more focused on how upsetting it was for Angel to get into the role with so much gusto that he assaulted one of her friends.
posted by creepygirl at 9:55 PM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

I remember this episode got postponed for months because of the Columbine massacre, and then I think they aired it that summer with disclaimers and warnings. (A quick check on Wikipedia confirms this.) Fortunately it's kind of a standalone episode, so it's not like the season's big arc got totally screwed or anything. But it was still weird, seeing this new, random Buffy episode during the summer, months outside of its continuity, after everybody had graduated and Sunnydale High got destroyed and everything.

In hindsight it seems kind of extreme for the WB to go that way, given that Jonathan ultimately wasn't even planning to go on a shooting spree. But at the time Columbine was a huge, horrifying story and the whole school massacre thing hadn't become a common occurrence, so it didn't seem so weird that the WB would make that decision. The timing on this episode was just really unlucky.

For those of you who didn't know, Danny Strong (Jonathan) would go on to be a major player in Hollywood, co-creating Empire and writing a couple of the Hunger Games movies.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:21 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

The thing that most annoys me about this episode is that despite both Giles and Wesley being clueless about the Ascension, it never occurs to Buffy to use her telepathic powers to, I don't know, eavesdrop on the Mayor? Huh? Even if they didn't actually learn anything, the comedic potential...

You know what's fun is watching this episode with the subtitles on (which I habitually do so I can keep the volume lower). It makes it like an extended video for "Everybody Hurts".

And Joyce's fussing to prevent Buffy from learning that she and Giles had sex - twice - on the bonnet of a police car - is just priceless. That and Oz's deep thoughts, which still crack me up.

So overall a wheel-spinning episode in terms of the season plot, but a very enjoyable one. And it sets up the plot for S6 very nicely indeed, though I would bet Whedon wasn't thinking quite that far ahead.
posted by Athanassiel at 5:46 AM on July 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

One of Oz's best episodes. "I am my thoughts. If they exist in her, Buffy contains everything that is me, and she becomes me. I cease to exist."
posted by Windigo at 7:46 AM on July 9, 2015 [4 favorites]

This episode and Epiphany from Angel have founded almost the entirety of my personal philosophy.

The speech that Buffy gives to Jonathan, it seemed at the time, so very, very meaningful. The idea that everybody else is a dick to you because they are so wrapped up in their own shit was so very comforting in weird way. This thought that everyone is too wrapped up in their own pain reminds me regularly to cut my fellow human beings some slack when they are jerks and remember that my drama may not be readily apparent to others and may very well be totally unimportant.

It's a comforting perspective that has helped me be a better, more forgiving person.

Plus, I love any episode with Jonathan.
posted by teleri025 at 1:04 PM on July 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

One of Oz's best episodes. "I am my thoughts. If they exist in her, Buffy contains everything that is me, and she becomes me. I cease to exist."

OZ: Huh.
posted by Sebmojo at 4:01 PM on July 9, 2015 [4 favorites]

Definitely a fun one, good mystery with interesting cast of suspects. Until last night I wasn't sure if this Nancy is the Nancy from The Wish, just with ringlets. She's not.

The school shooting stuff is definitely intense so I think it was the right call to pull it. I can't imagine many shows today going as far as this does.

Oz's thoughts are great, but Cordelia's steal the show. And she actually speaks with surprising depth when told she has no shame: "Please, like shame is something to be proud of?"
posted by yellowbinder at 4:42 PM on July 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

I love Cordelia's think-then-say lines so much in this one.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:35 PM on July 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

Yup, a good episode, although a surprising amount of filler here. The whole "oh Buffy is going made from too much telepathy" bit which takes up a good part of episode feels a bit dramatically inert: it's such a goofy problem that we know it's going to be resolved soon, and did we really need a scene of Angel beating up some demon other than to keep the stunt guys happy?

The mind reading stuff is great, very funny, which is nice, but it also takes the time to have Willow feeling left out by her best friend becoming even more powerful. And of course that final speech to Jonathon, which is really great, and really important. She's utterly right of course, and it's a lesson we can all take. Often we think someone is being cruel, or deliberately snubbing us, when they're honestly not thinking about us at all, because they're worrying about a dozen other things. I love that the lesson Buffy learns from seeing in people's minds is empathy, because often telepaths can end up learning quite different lessons from looking into people's heads.

-Yeah, the whole rifle thing makes no sense. I guess the closest I can get is that his dad/uncle had one and he stole it. It's an incredibly impractical weapon with which to take your own life.
-Oz and Cordelia definitely MVPs when it comes to their thoughts.
-You'd think mind reading demons could fight better really
-Oz goes straight to the obits in the school paper
-"Oh way better than that!" Gellar's really funny here
-We get a repeat of Jonathon's interrogation scene, but this time he doesn't crack
-"No it's fair." Oz takes criticism well.
-This has the chef turning into a man mid fight. Also Buffy comes on pretty strong against a mortal here.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 11:49 PM on July 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

This is one of my favorite episodes. The lesson that people are blind to our pain because they are wrapped up in their own....so poignant, but still done with that telltale whedon humor. One of things I like is that Jonathan challenges that Buffy can know pain like he does and she's honest about how she absolutely does. It illustrates how even people who look like they have a great life are probably struggling with things we don't know about. But it's lovely that Buffy confronts Jonathan with compassion.
posted by miss-lapin at 6:44 AM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think most of the good stuff has already been covered here, but I think it's always interesting when narrative fiction, that by necessity focuses our attention on a few main characters, reminds us that everyone is the hero of his or her own story (essentially, anyway), and that the characters who are important to you might not even be noticed elsewhere (which is sort of the flip side to thinking that the popular people who it seems like everyone notices have no problems, because you don't know their whole story either). You can see that in the beginning of the episode, where Xander is stupidly excited that Hogan Martin (who I don't think we've ever even seen before) knows his name. It's like The Zeppo, but with even more "minor" characters.

That the Percy/Willow plot isn't forgotten and is brought up again here makes me happy.

Giles running into the tree at the end when Buffy says "If you're not too busy having sex with my MOTHER!" justifies the existence of this entire episode to me, though there's so much good, with everyone's thoughts, the scene with Joyce, and Willow's unhappiness. I agree Oz and Cordelia are the MVPs here, especially when Cordelia asks Mr. Beech if he's "planning on killing a bunch of people tomorrow." As she says, "tact is just not saying true stuff. I'll pass." (Which could easily have been from this episode.)

The "here's a list of all the hard work I've done and I still don't know anything" with Giles near the start of the episode is a sadly familiar feeling (in life in general, not just in the show).

Xander wondering jealously if Cordelia and Wesley have kissed - wait till we see the real thing happen. That'll get rid of the jealousy. Oy Wesley's thoughts in the scene in the library. So uncomfortable.

I'm probably a jerk for thinking that the literature teacher's dissertation sounds incredibly unoriginal.

Angel's "I'm a funny guy" might be my favourite line of his on the show.

Even Larry gets a small arc - he's openly gay and proud! Too bad he dies in the finale (sigh).

Oz saying, "no, it's fair" to the "Dingoes Ate My Baby play their instruments as if they have plump polish sausages taped to their fingers" review makes me love him more.

Now we wait for "Superstar" (Jonathan hasn't really learned how to deal with his particular pain) and the season six arc (calling into question the "I wouldn't ever hurt anybody.") It's all of a piece, basically - the desperate desire to be noticed, finding its ways into different kinds of expression.

But, most importantly, Giles walks into a tree.
posted by ilana at 11:48 AM on July 16, 2015 [5 favorites]

There's just so, so much that I love about this one. This series didn't always break it's one-off stories as well as it could have and this one was done with inspiration and genius that just made it nearly perfect.

My only quibble, to put it up top, was the jarring nature of cutting straight from Jonathan saying that he was going to commit suicide (and not shoot up the school) into the largely-comedic climax with the lunchlady. Like, I recognize that he has already given Buffy the rifle by that point and there's no danger left there, but that's still a major thing, and I suspect this was largely just a product of its time in both the social-morés-sense as well as how serialized drama works.

I was Class of '99, so this episode's timing works out perfectly for me. So much of my thoughts re: Columbine were all about "how did y'all not see the light at the end of the tunnel coming so soon?"

Cordelia is the funniest, and I love what the show does with her in this season. Her "think-then-speak" bit is hilarious, but isn't a result of her being dumb, or even necessarily shallow. Just shameless and hyper-confident. And as the next episode will go on to prove, she's plenty smart and capable (getting accepted into the Ivy league) but fucked over by her family circumstances.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:16 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh wow the acrobatics for Buffy to get up to the tower were soooo bad. Lol People dont jump like that!
posted by LizBoBiz at 9:29 PM on January 28

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