2.12: Kissing Is Sex
For entertainment purposes I'm going to try to untangle the incredibly weird metaphor that this episode is trying to deliver. Wish me luck.
Sex leads to babies. So far so good; this is true in the real world. Teenagers aren't prepared to take care of babies but might think they are, so adults try to explain the dangers of sex by making the teenagers pretend that they have to take care of babies. They do this by assigning them raw eggs to look after - in pairs, so most kids only have the egg 50% of the time - which is very easy, because the eggs are nothing like babies.
The supernatural catch is that the eggs...are literal babies. Not human ones of course but still. One advantage to this plot development is that, much like the Dematorin of the previous episode, it offers an in-universe handwave for the nonsensical way all the characters are acting: the bezoar inside each egg exerts a subtle influence over the nearest human mind right from the start, making the students devote themselves wholeheartedly to this inane assignment instead of taking the logical route and sticking the egg in the refrigerator each night and grabbing a new one to bring to school in the morning. The longer the eggs incubate, the stronger the influence becomes, accounting for how Giles and other adults eventually fall victim to them. I don't think there's ever an explanation about where the eggs came from in the first place, but the sex ed teacher must have gotten the bezoar's mental whammy before the class even began, which is why he decided on such a dumb project in the first place.
Props to Xander, of course, for doing the second most logical thing and hard-boiling his egg. It seems fair to assume that he also was affected by the bezoar trying to enthrall him, but that impulse was overridden by his inherent resistance to studying.
Now let's get to the downside: the writers trying desperately to apply Plot A to the main characters' development and the season arc. "Among teens unwanted pregnancy would be the number one negative consequence of sexual activity. This is partly because Some teens think of a baby as a toy, or as a companion who will give them love. The truth, of course, is that a child is a relentless, needy tyrant. So, as discussed last week, I've devised an exercise that may give you some idea of what an enormous burden having your own tiny charge can be--" I pulled this quote from the shooting script because it's more ham-handed than the aired version, but thereby it provides a clearer Aesop. Don't have sex or you'll have a baby and babies suck.
Maybe this would have landed a bit better if any of the characters actually wanted a baby before the exercise. As it is, all we can take from it is that bezoar eggs, i.e. metaphorical children, do not give you love and will eventually destroy you. Kind of harsh, isn't it? Buffy and Joyce ending on bad terms makes it even uglier, and let's not get into the Whedonverse's fondness for forced mystical pregnancy stories. (Poor Cordelia.)
There's also a slight hiccup in that none of the teenage characters are actually having sex. As a set-up for Buffy and Angel getting it on in the next episode, "Bad Eggs" would be pretty shrewd, but the danger of pregnancy in their case is immediately nixed when Buffy discovers that vampires can't have children, which it really seems like she should have already known or expected, but I digress. Maybe the entire bezoar plot is just a clever misdirect for the less obvious consequences of sex?
Which brings me to the peculiar back-and-forth between Xander and Cordy during the sex ed class. They're using the topic to accuse each other of being bad in bed...but they're not in bed. They've never been in bed. All they do during their secret trysts is kiss, just like Buffy and Angel when they're procrastinating on patrol.
And I've got to be honest here - this fascinates me, precisely because nobody thinks twice about it. In all kinds of fiction, when two characters have sex you know that they're "together," unless they're too young for the audience to feel comfortable with that, and then the cue is kissing. In real life? It's pretty much the same thing! If you see two teenagers kissing, chances are they're a couple. If two adults have been dating for a while, most people will probably assume they've had sex. How is this so ingrained? Why is the strictly human practice of romantically pushing mouths together analogous to the act of reproductive animal intercourse? Do these questions have anything to do with the way this episode was written, or am I the only one who even thinks about them?
Buffy Is the Title: Our girl gets put through so much. She really did a good job saving the Gorch victim in the mall, and the only reward she wanted for it was an amiable food court dinner with her mom. It's going to be such a relief to get to the end of this season just so Joyce is let in on the secret.
The Buffy and Angel Show: I know that I said all they're doing on patrol is kissing, but there's really a big question mark around the physicality of this stage in their relationship. We see first base, it could be up to third, but I'm going to place my bets on second. Imagine what that must have been like, for both of them - Buffy getting the rush that hasn't faded with age and experience, Angel rediscovering the innocence of a gentle touch.
Got to bring in another script quote here: "Buffy and ANGEL are leaning against a tree. Kissing madly. It's pretty hot. Finally, Buffy breaks away." Yes, it is pretty hot, it's true and you should say it.
My Willow Tree: This is where we learn that Willow is Jewish, and it's the first step in a not entirely welcome progression of her character. Xander's joke about Christian values is no more than cute banter, and Willow's equally cute objection is the right response to that, as is her satisfaction with his advice to substitute the dreidel song for the Christian values. Later on, she won't let this kind of remark slide, no matter how harmless its intent. She won't even remember that being optimistic was something that her friends loved about her.
Xander and Cordelia: I'm not taking either side, but I think what people don't get about Xander's assholery is that it comes from the same place as Cordy's. He's jealous of her popularity, money, and confidence, and when she rubs it in, he fights back. She's jealous of his genuine friendships, self-reliance, and (such irony) confidence, and when he rubs it in, she fights back. Neither of them realize that they have something worth coveting, so they don't know how effective their barbs are; all they can do is escalate.
It's a lot like the way siblings fight in childhood. No logic, just attempts to hurt the other and an inability to walk away. Fortunately, they're getting close to learning something from all this.
Giles and Objects: One thing I never enjoy watching in this show is the kind of possession that leaves the character acting normally enough to fool the others, and for some reason it's always worst when it's Giles. The bezoar should not be allowed access to his reassuring voice and librarian movements!
I'm bummed I didn't get a still of Giles with an egg, but I really like the scene where he's lurking in the background while the kids talk until he comes forward with some exposition, so there's some of that below.
Buffy walks toward "Everyday woman", a totally "L7" clothing store. She can't help but notice a YOUNG, STUDLY GUY in western-style clothes, who's clearly hitting on a CUTE GIRL. The girl sits on a bench outside the store. He stands by her, one foot on the bench. He talks, she laughs shyly.
Description of a classroom set, and...
There are posters on the wall about vegetables, teen pregnancy, that sort of stuff. Mr. Whitmore is pacing while the assembled class looks on.
Wait. Hold on. Wait. The posters are about vegetables, teen pregnancy, and "that sort of stuff"? What qualities do vegetables and teen pregnancy have in common? Is there a third item that fits into this category? What am I missing here?
Intro for the other Gorch.
As in the picture, Lyle's older brother, TECTOR, is a large, graceless guy. He's not the sharpest tool in the shed - but what he lacks in brains he makes up for in sheer, brutish power. Like Lyle, he speaks with a Texas drawl.
Particularly long one coming up (these things are a pain to format), but it's an extension of the key conversation that Buffy and Angel have about their future, and I thought it deserved to reach a few more eyes. It was also my inspiration for the new fic linked at the end.
So you don't think about the future.
How can you say that? You're not
like me. You could have a normal life.
(off her look)
You know what I mean. Less not
normal. You really don't care what
happens a year from now? Five years
from now -- ?
I - I can't care.
Angel. when I try to look into the
future, all I can see... is you--
Angel shakes his head.
And I don't have a choice. Don't you
know that? If I could do the logic
thing, you think I would even be here?
All I can see is you... All I want is you.
A beat. Finally - Angel node. Giving into it.
I know the feeling.
He draws her back into his arms. They kiss tenderly, passionately. Tomorrow entirely forgotten.
Well, this is the end of Buffy's life as she knows it. For the next few episodes I've already got "Older" as my fic link, and of course I'm excited to get there and maybe even revive that old thing after I run out of it. I don't know if this means the next post will come sooner, though, since I've got some life stuff going on. You know, brought home an egg and it hatched a bezoar which is now fused to my spine and controlling my actions.
- There are some lines in this episode that aren't that notable in print but made fantastic by the actors' deliveries: "Why do you all have eggs?" "It's an egg, Buffy, it doesn't emote," and Buffy's indignant "How?" when a Gorch says it's all her fault.
- I had to google the spelling of dreidel and in doing so discovered a virtual dreidel you can spin. I don't know what any of the symbols mean but it's addictive.
- I can't differentiate Lyle from Tector so I just think of them both as Gorch. My feelings about them as villains are pretty neutral.