Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Wild at Heart   Rewatch 
August 12, 2015 10:17 PM - Season 4, Episode 6 - Subscribe

Oz takes notice of a sexy lady werewolf, and Buffy takes notice of a military presence on campus.
posted by yellowbinder (18 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My friend, after I groused on Facebook about this pair of episodes:

"You, actress playing Veruca, we're not sure if people are going to understand that you're a villainous character. Bend your neck more."
"More often or more bend?"
posted by yellowbinder at 10:21 PM on August 12, 2015 [7 favorites]

Yep, well this episode had to happen, as Seth Green was leaving the show. It kind of makes sense that it's the wolf that drives Oz away. Just as Willow tries with magic in 6, Oz tried to ignore the wolf, hide it away, but it is a part of him, and this episode explores it. While Veruca takes it to extremes, clearly something touches him. This isn't the greatest episode of all time, but it's pretty good at what it accomplishes. Willow's confusion and heartbreak is well done, and the feeling of someone slipping away from you is rather good, and not something the show had really explored up until this point. It's absolutely a college experience, unfortunately.

We also have Spike getting tasered here, which is just great, and is a smart way to do something new with a character who's behaviour (I live to fight you another say, slayer, bwa ha ha!) was getting a bit tired.

-What the hell is going on with Veruca's song lyrics? "Dip a finger in me." What? Ew.
-Who names their child Veruca?
-Walsh mentions wild dogs to Riley. But she runs the initiative!
-Willow turning to magic to avenge herself, even if she backs out of it
-"Oz, now might be the time for your trademark stoicism"
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:03 AM on August 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh, Veruca. You're like a bad cross between Shirley Manson and Faith. Your voice isn't bad, but what is up with those lyrics? PS: pouting actually isn't that sexy. You really are a wart.

I still can't get over the lameness of the werewolves, though I'm pretty sure it didn't bother me so much at the time. I guess I was more wrapped up in the story. But the scene with them slogging as they change, and their human fingers interlocking becoming werewolf fingers interlocked? Excuse me while I vomit.

On the other hand, there are some really lovely bits at the start. The safety blanket that is the Bronze. Giles showing up and Xander's gibes about him not having anything better to do borne out by the enthusiasm with which he later greets Buffy. Moussaka! Prof Walsh screaming like a girl in a horror film and running away, flinging her handbag/briefcase behind her.

And those early bits with Willow and Oz are just so sweet and lovely, and make the ending that much more heart-breaking. Poor Willow.

Oz's crypt cage reminds me awfully of Spike's lair. Likewise his room and those early scenes with him and Willow in bed are reminiscent of Tara and Willow in bed later on.

Questions for my fellow watchers: did Oz actually kill Veruca? What did they do with the body? Did it stay wolfy? I realise we cannot really answer those last two. And was Willow really trying to commit suicide or was she just miserable and not paying attention?
posted by Athanassiel at 4:50 AM on August 13, 2015

Oh, I forgot: Willow's attempt to dress like Veruca/Faith to recapture Oz's interest. Did she ever wear those leather pants again? Hang on, did she nick them from Buffy?
posted by Athanassiel at 5:09 AM on August 13, 2015

Questions for my fellow watchers: did Oz actually kill Veruca?

The shooting script says: "He gets a jaw lock on Veruca's neck and violently BITES HER. She SHRIEKS WITH PAIN, a horrible death knell..." so I think that's what they meant to convey. Also I think if Veruca had survived, there would have been some conversation about what to do about her, since voluntary confinement wasn't going to happen and they didn't know about The Initiative at this point.

This episode burns through a lot of my Oz-goodwill. His failure to immediately communicate to the others what he knew about the other werewolf could have gotten people killed. And I have no doubt he would have communicated immediately if the other werewolf wasn't someone he wanted to fuck.

It makes me seriously consider a cynical read of Amends: he's only fussing about waiting for the right time because he's just not that strongly sexually attracted to Willow. He sure as hell didn't wait until the right time when he really wanted to fuck Veruca. (Unless he has a totally idiosyncratic definition of "right time" which includes "while I am still dating someone else and in such a time and place that she will be sure to discover us together the next morning and be traumatized").

I also get the feeling that if Willow hadn't come by when she did at the end, he would have left without saying goodbye. (It's consistent with his later complete lack of communication.) Which really kind of sucks.
posted by creepygirl at 7:51 AM on August 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

Heh, Giles describes Buffy to other people in the last episode (after she'd turned cave-Slayer and run away) as having a "sort of a sideways limp," and now I keep thinking about someone trying to find Veruca by saying she has "sort of a sideways neck."

I think Willow may have worn the Leather Pants of Morally Corruptible Ambiguity again in season 6. (Embracing your dark vampire side? About to cast a spell to doom your love? Addicted to magic? Try Leather Pants!) Willow is the most self-aware about her costuming in this episode: "How come you didn't tell me I look like a crazy birthday cake in this shirt?" (A phrase I love and have used often.)

Willow's heartbreak, even with the cheesiness of the wolves, is so well done, probably because Alyson Hannigan is so good at playing crying and wounded. You just want to hug her. (I was dumped by my True Love high school boyfriend at about this part in the semester freshman year of college, but to be fair we were in two different countries so it was for the best and then I met my husband. I still feel this episode, though.)

I'm pretty sure Oz actually does kill Veruca, which adds a huge reason for him to take off. It's not exactly the same by any means, but Buffy (s2), Oz (s4), and Willow (s6) all leave town for a while after killing someone who was doing evil things and killing (or trying to kill) the people they loved. (Of course, the first two are in the heat of battle, and the third is a much colder pursuit.) As Buffy says, to remind us: "Yeah. I ran away and went to hell and then got through it. I'm kind of hoping she doesn't use me as a model."

Buffy clearly has regained some of the confidence she lost from Parker (after whacking him on the head a bunch), as she's back to punning at full steam and criticizing her stupid vampire opponent for not playing along (building herself back up here with the "you were thinking, what, a little helpless co-ed before bed" line). "That's it? That's all I get? One lame-ass vamp with no appreciation for my painstakingly thought-out puns." (Painstakingly is actually a much better pun than heartburn, and I think this is the first time I heard it.)

Spike getting tasered is pretty funny, and this starts an interesting arc for him.

I love Giles trying to hang out with the gang at the Bronze. Good continuity with Oz praising his record collection. It actually seemed more normal to me when I watched it in high school, because of course I wanted to hang out with Giles, than it does now that I, even at 30, feel painfully old when hanging out with college-aged kids.

I am proud of Buffy making Willow academically jealous (maybe Buffy really just thrives without the distraction of emo boys). Too bad she then gets sucked into the Initiative and things go downhill again.

I wonder if anyone's collected the weird things Sunnydale residents say in their sleep. Willow's "it's in the sandblaster" isn't quite Spike's "I'm covered in footwear!" but it's cute. ("All Geminis to the raspberry hats" doesn't count because she's faking at that point.)

I hate the whole "big lunch?" "I like to eat" part. It's, what, a cheeseburger? It's not like she's consuming a bison whole. Who would comment on it like that? Come on, Oz.

Then Willow does the whole "I have to pretend I'm the chill girl and nothing's wrong" thing. I'd like to see her post an AskMe at this point in the episode, just to see the comments. Xander and Willow's conversation about her Oz problems is really pretty sweet and, except for not being overly suspicious of Oz (which is nice, actually) generally right on the money. I love it when a character advocates for honest communication, rather than game-playing and subterfuge. Oz's "trademark stoicism" becomes an issue here. The second night - there were definitely other options there, as Willow rightly points out. (More AskMe fodder: if your relationship gets over an incident of cheating, you can't use it to keep score or get back at the other person later, or things are doomed. I'm Willow-biased, but I think she's also right that the two incidents don't really compare on the cheating scale.)

Giles watching Jeopardy is awesome. Did Jeopardy give away dinette sets? They're really pushing the "Giles feels useless" this episode, as Buffy rebukes him for how excited he is that people may be in danger.

I'm really glad they didn't go for the "both Buffy and the Initiative guy dropped their guns and picked them up at the same time and now she has a real gun and" thing I was worried about when I was watching this for the first time. Oz leaving is more devastating than Oz getting shot (although that would come full circle from him getting shot in "What's My Line?") "My whole life, I've never loved anything else," use of the word "anything" to describe a person aside, always makes me tear up.
posted by ilana at 8:24 AM on August 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

Ha, I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks about AskMes characters would write! I agree, they obviously needed to come up with a way for Seth Green to exit the show, but I am disappointed that they did it this way. It does seem to undo a lot of Oz's good example of how to be a good boyfriend. Not that that was necessarily the most important thing, but I thought it was important to have one healthy relationship. Nope, everyone suffers! I am even more disappointed by his reappearance later. I guess I could headcanon it into an example of what Veruca says being true, that the wolf nature predominates. He may have been sensitive musician boyfriend before, but becoming a werewolf truly began to change him into the bestial id-creature. (Now I am thinking of some sort of weird slash between Oz and Cave-Buffy, who is also a fairly id-controlled person.)

BTW, missed the edit window above. I meant when Oz & Veruca "snogged", not "slogged". Stupid phone auto-correct that hasn't learnt Australian yet.
posted by Athanassiel at 8:21 PM on August 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh that scene with Willow and Oz in bed when he says "Come back to me" so sweet and so bitter. However, most of his behavior this ep. is out of character for Oz as he is SUCH a good boyfriend up until this point. Oz not telling Willow about what is going on might have been denial knowing how much this would hurt Willow who we know was often ignored in favor of sexier women, but we aren't given any indication of that so his failure is pretty inexplicable.

But I gotta say, wolf or no wolf, Veruca? Really? She's just so...predictably awful as the other woman. I wish they had made her a better character so there would have been some actual tension instead of such a cringeworthy "villain." I mean ok wolf hormones, but Oz talked to her and I can't see how he would talk to her for more than five minutes even with "musician talk" being thrown into the mix. I also can't imagine he would allow Veruca to be so awful to Willow.

In terms of everyone suffers, Whedon was pretty open that no one on Buffy gets to be happy for that long so Willow was due for some heartbreak.
posted by miss-lapin at 2:32 AM on August 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

In terms of everyone suffers, Whedon was pretty open that no one on Buffy gets to be happy for that long so Willow was due for some heartbreak.

Yeah, that sounds like a mechanical rule (angst because it was Willow's turn for it rather than angst deriving from the characters and the arcs so far) that would result in a character as flat and one-dimensional as Veruca was.
posted by creepygirl at 5:41 PM on August 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I guess I can understand why you would want to avoid letting your characters fall into niches like "the cheerful one who never has anything bad happen" and "the shit magnet" and so on, but it seems just as silly to think, "welp, Willow's been happy for a while now, we'd better make something bad happen to her just because". Suffering should happen from the plot, rather than arbitrarily from a dice roll. Otherwise it's too much like life.
posted by Athanassiel at 7:53 PM on August 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Well it wasn't just because but rather Seth Green was leaving the show and so they had to write in his departure. As departures go on Buffy it could have been worse. Oz wasn't killed(later he escapes the initiative) so he not only could have been killed off the show but killed off by one of the lamest plot lines ever.
posted by miss-lapin at 5:48 AM on August 18, 2015

"You, actress playing Veruca, we're not sure if people are going to understand that you're a villainous character. Bend your neck more."
"More often or more bend?"

Now I can't stop noticing it. Annoying episode ... rewrites all of Oz's good qualities for dumb reasons. Also I dislike the werewolf costumes and I find the Riley/Initiative arc a tad dull so I'm dreading that.

But I love the scene with Buffy comforting Willow after she shoots Oz.

I think I'm going to skip the whole Initiative thing. Except that means skipping the introduction of Tara ... ARGH!
posted by bunderful at 11:11 AM on January 10, 2016

Hush, the Faith two parter and New Moon Rising will give you the broad strokes of the Tara story with little Initiative stuff and Bonus Faith!
posted by yellowbinder at 11:22 AM on January 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think Goodbye Iowa is important to Tara's development, because the bit with the sabotaged demon locator spell shows that Tara's deception about her supposed demon nature wasn't just a lie of omission (failing to tell Willow the whole truth), but that she actually took an affirmative step to deceive Willow about it. (Unfortunately it's a very Initiative-heavy episode otherwise).

But then I think Tara's deception was a lot more important than a lot of other people do, so YMMV.
posted by creepygirl at 12:21 PM on January 10, 2016

But then I think Tara's deception was a lot more important than a lot of other people do, so YMMV.

Well I think you're correct that it is important if you think about what it means in terms of her relationships with other characters; on both occasions her actions are dangerous, not just misleading: here it stops them tracking down actual demons, then in Family it almost gets them all killed (and really should have, the demons in Family are just the worst). But in terms of the show, you can tell the writers don't care that much about it. Family could have had more fall out, and should have, which is what makes it quite a weak episode. I think to an extent when they introduced this plotline they had different ideas about who Tara was (and I think they had in mind a physically different Tara), but Amber Benson's performance pointed them in another way.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:27 AM on January 11, 2016

Yeah, I guess I'm trying to cling to the non-saintly aspects of her character. Some people love Tara for her sweetness--because she's always polite to Spike, or because she's motherly with Dawn, or because she calls Giles "Mr. Giles" (it boggles my mind, but I've talked with people who like her for that last one.)

I like her for the less sweet aspects. The part of her that was rebellious enough to leave home, even with her supposedly dire future. The girl who said, "What, are you kidding? She's nuts," when Willow suggested the Scoobies shouldn't judge Buffy for supposedly sleeping with Spike (Season 5, in Intervention). The girl who went along with the resurrection, despite her reservations, and who insisted on the resurrection continuing even when the "testing" part for Willow got really scary (so scary that Xander wanted to stop it.)

If someone thinks that the "real Tara" is just the sweetness and light, then all of that above stuff and the deception is just kind of irrelevant. If someone's like me, and thinks the less-sweet aspects are part of the "real Tara", the deception is a fascinating (and frustratingly unexplored) part of that.

I agree with you that the writers are in the first camp.
posted by creepygirl at 7:15 PM on January 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

I've really appreciated your thoughts on Tara creepygirl. I can definitely read characters like her little deeper than the levels the writers generally intend, so your more complicated reading of Tara and others has been really interesting.
posted by yellowbinder at 1:43 PM on January 12, 2016

This back to back with Beer Bad makes this a pretty fucking rough patch of Season 4, but while Beer Bad is stupid fun, this one is just hard to watch and perfunctory. Props to casting and the actor for making me hate Veruca sop much on sight, but still. if a Buffy episode has "Wild" in the title, it's probably worth skipping.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:26 AM on September 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

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