Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | November 30, 2010

Robin’s Review: S1, E04 – Teacher’s Pet

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – 104 – Teacher’s Pet

Synopsis: New teacher Miss French arrives and causes the men of Sunnydale to take notice. The teacher she replaced was killed and suspicion falls on a vampire who cut his own hand off and replaced it with blades like a fork. But while hunting him Buffy sees Miss French scare him away. Buffy and co work out that Miss French is a She-Mantis who mates with virgin men to breed and then kills them. While they search for her Xander and another boy Blayne are already locked up in her basement awaiting their fate.

The Good: The familiar pattern from last episode is in place here and again it works quite well. There is a threat to Sunnydale, it escalates and Buffy stops it.

It was a good showcase for Xander and his stage of life. His interest in Buffy was treated as a serious thing and that was the strongest part of the story. His daydream was good for comedy purposes but it also showed us the affect she is having on him. Then when she tries to warn him about Miss French all he can think about is how Buffy doesn’t see him as a potential boyfriend (as she clearly does with Angel). Finally as Miss French’s drugs kick in Xander says that he loves Buffy. She is still on his mind even when he is with another woman.

The way his virginity was involved in the story was clever too. It fitted the She-Mantis mythology nicely but of course it also exposed us to the reality of his situation. Xander is an innocent guy and his daydreams expose how he desperately wants to be seen. His virginity isn’t a joke; it’s just a part of who he is right now and the contrast with the mysterious, older Angel make it clear why Buffy is a lost cause for him.

Buffy too gets good moments here. Her conversation with Dr Gregory sets up why his death means so much to her and she reminds us of her proactive headstrong personality by disobeying Giles to go out hunting.

Despite the difficulties of taking a giant bug seriously (see The Bad), Blayne’s fear communicated the threat which Miss French posed pretty well. There was also something very creepy about the whole potential mating process which the writing pointed to without (thankfully) elaborating. I liked the use of mythology to explain the She-Mantis’ back-story. I also appreciated Giles being smart enough to acknowledge and ignore Willow’s illegal hacking. Fork-hand vampire apparently cut his hand off as penance for the Master which kept that story on the radar. You can’t beat a good Cordelia one-liner either. Her reflection on Dr Gregory’s death was that we should all look on the bright side “like how even used Mercedes still have leather seats.”

The Bad: The trouble is there is a giant bug in the room. For most dedicated sci-fi fans the bug costume isn’t an insurmountable obstacle to suspending your disbelief but for any casual viewer it will look too silly. The costume also limits what the final few action scenes can reasonably look like which didn’t help the story come to a very exciting conclusion. Miss French’s insect qualities were heavily signposted too which made the story less intriguing compared to the previous episode’s Witch tale.

The one curve ball in the plot was the discovery of the real Miss French, an old lady whose identity our She-Mantis had co-opted. But that meant Buffy had to find another way to seek her out and led to the least convincing part of the story. Her plan to go use Fork-hand vampire as her tracking dog wasn’t time effective considering the danger Xander was in. There was no guarantee that she would be able to find him in time or that he would be so easily pressed into service. His swift staking made that whole part of the story seem particularly rushed.

There was probably one joke too many as well. When Giles discovers the origin of the She-Mantis there’s a gag about the insane professor. When they find the real Miss French there’s a joke and when Buffy tries to play the sonar she gets Giles’ voice instead. All of these might have worked if they weren’t piled one on top of another. The worst offender though was Blayne asking Xander how he liked his eggs. They were both facing death and it was the wrong note to hit at that moment.

The Unknown: What does Giles do about Miss French’s house? There’s a huge dead bug in the basement now, how is he going to keep that from the authorities? Will the Baby Manti about to hatch ever be seen again?

Best Moment: A small moment this but when Xander sees Angel he comments “He’s a very attractive man. How come that never came up?” It’s a good line because it serves many purposes. Of course Xander is jealous but it also allows him to acknowledge the obvious fact that Angel is more attractive than him. In many subsequent teen shows every actor is good looking and it becomes harder to differentiate levels of attractiveness. In real life people are always comparing themselves to others, judging and gossiping. Here Xander points out the truth and its clear how that makes him feel. That honesty is far better for the show than everyone being gorgeous.

The Bottom Line: Another fun episode. This was the least impressive episode so far but it still had plenty to offer.

59/100

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