Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Great Buffy Rewatch: Teacher's Pet, Season 1, Episode 4

So, we move from a really good episode to an episode that is only so-so. A giant praying mantis? Really? But, it does serve as an excellent showcase for the psyche of Xander. Let's get started.

The episode starts in the Bronze. Xander suavely saves Buffy from a vampire, then mounts the stage to play the guitar. Buffy looks on, helpless and adoring.

Suddenly, Xander is awakened from his daydream by his science teacher. None of it was real. Class ends, but Dr. Gregory asks Buffy to stay behind. He knows that she burned down the gym at her old school, but he feels she has potential, and encourages her to try hard. Buffy is touched. Sadly, right after she leaves his classroom, he is killed by an unseen something.

At the real Bronze that night, Xander's manhood is questioned by his class mate, Blayne, who is bragging about his sexual conquests. Xander asks Willow and Buffy to pretend to help him deflect Blayne's criticisms. But as Xander puts his arm around Buffy, she wanders off, having seen Angel in the background. Angel notes she is cold, and gives him his leather jacket. His arm shows the wound from what looks like a huge fork. He then gives Buffy a cryptic warning and disappears.

This is the first time that Xander and Willow see Angel. Xander is a little intimidated.

The next morning, Xander informs Buffy that Dr. Gregory is missing. As they're discussing it, Ms. Natalie French saunters up, exuding sexuality and gazing at all the boys. The boys, including Xander, are appropriately entranced. She asks Xander where Science 109 is, but Xander is tongue-tied; Blayne helpfully escorts her there.

In science glass, Buffy finds Dr. Gregory's glasses, which disturbs her. Ms. French is substituting for Dr. Gregory, and it becomes clear she is obsessed with bugs, finding them noble and beautiful. She focuses on the praying mantis.

In the lunch line, Xander focuses on how much Ms. French is obsessed with him. The gang overhear Blayne brag about his scheduled one-on-one with Ms. French. Meanwhile, Cordelia opens one of the cafeteria refrigerators, and finds the body of Dr. Gregory. His head is missing.

In the library, the gang and Giles discuss what could have happened to Dr. Gregory. Giles is able to tell the group about the mysterious vampire Angel warned Buffy about - apparently a vampire who had displeased the Master and had his hand cut off. However, Dr. Gregory's body was not drained of blood.

Buffy is patrolling in Sunnydale at night, interrupted by a homeless man who warns her about how dangerous it is. Buffy finds a small storm drain where apparently the de-armed vampire lives - he has replaced his missing hand with three sharp claws. They fight unconclusively, but are disrupted by the homeless men who are actually undercover cops. Shaking them off, the vampire finds another victim - Ms. French. But, sniffing her, he turns tail and runs, obviously terrified.

Buffy tells Giles about it the next morning. Giles suggests Buffy keep a close eye on Ms. French. But on the way to class, Buffy is waylaid by Principal Flutie, who insists that Buffy needs to speak with a counselor since she saw the body of Dr. Gregory. Buffy overhears Cordelia talking with the counselor.

Buffy runs to science class, and sees that Ms. French has given the students a pop quiz. She notes Blayne is absent, and sees Ms. French draping herself over Xander. Somehow, Ms. French turns her head around 180 degrees, which is creepy (I really wish I could have found a picture of that online!).

In the library, Buffy tells Giles and Willow what they saw. Buffy hypothesizes that Ms. French is perhaps some kind of an insect. She looks for a book on bugs.

Xander shows up for his one-on-one with Ms. French, but she reschedules for that evening at her home. Xander is understandably excited. When Xander leaves the room, she prepares her sandwich - with crickets. Yuck.

Back in the library, Buffy theorizes that Ms. French is somehow a praying mantis, since they are the only creatures that can turn their heads like that. Willow discovers that Blayne never returned home last night. Giles agrees to call a friend from Oxford who studied entomology and mythology.

Buffy runs into Xander. She tries to warn Xander that Ms. French is an insect, but Xander is incensed.

Later that evening, Xander shows up at Ms. French's home. She is wearing a low-cut dress. She serves him a martini. Xander becomes woozy, and admits to Ms. French that he loves Buffy. Ms. French turns into a praying mantis, and Xander passes out from the drug in his drink.

At the library, it turns out that a female praying mantis rips off the head of her mate while they're...mating.

Xander wakes up in a cage, and finds Blayne in a cage next to him. Blayne warns Xander about what happens when she mates - she does rip the head off the poor sap.

Back in the library, Giles gets off the phone with his friend. It turns out the "She-Mantis" turns herself into a beautiful woman to lure innocent virgins to her nest. Willow tries to call Xander, but finds out he left for Ms. French's home already. The best way to kill a She-Mantis is by cleaving her with a sharp blade. Buffy also suggests using a bat sonar, which she believes will immobilize the mantis. Willow finds Ms. French's address, and her birthday - she's in her nineties. Indeed, upon arriving, they find an elderly Ms. French, She used to be a teacher.

In the cellar, the She-Mantis approaches the two cages, and appears to use eenie, meenie, miney, moe to select her next mate. Xander "wins".  She binds him up and lays her eggs.

Helpless, Buffy decides to use "fork-hand" vampire to locate Ms. French, so she goes down the storm drain and finds him. Bound, the vampire finally cringes at one house, just in time to escape. But that's okay, Buffy dusts him.

The gang run into the basement to find the She-Mantis approaching Xander, ready to mate. Buffy kills the Mantis, and, while Xander and Blayne are glad to be freed, they are both horrified when Willow reveals that both are virgins. Xander takes Buffy's blade and destroys the egg sacs.

The episode ends in science class, with the new teacher droning on. In the closet, hanging from a shelf is a glistening egg sack that moves and cracks. The episode ends.

What do I think? Well, the horror movie serving as a metaphor for the predatory behavior of an older woman with children is especially prescient with the number of teachers who have affairs with their charges. Granted, this particular teacher would end up killing her virgin mates, but otherwise, I think Xander's response is spot on. Of course he'd be attracted, especially given his frustrated attempts to secure the affections of Buffy. Finding out he was destined to be bug food and the father of more bugs, the episode ends with him destroying all his progeny in rage.

A lot of people online have expressed frustration that the show ended with the egg sacs in the classroom, a menace that was never mentioned again. I don't mind. It felt very Twilight Zone to me. Maybe they took years to mature, and were destroyed when the high school blew up? That's my theory.

Best Quotes:

Xander (in response to an insult from Blayne): Something really cutting.  (to Willow) Sometimes I just go with the generic insult.
Willow: Why pay more for the brand name?

Xander (about Angel): Well, he's buff. She never said anything about him being buff.
Willow: You think he's buff?
Xander: He's a very attractive man! How come that never came up?

Ms. French (to Xander): Could you help me?
Xander: Egguh - yes.
Ms. French: I'm looking for Science 109.
Xander: Sure. It's...uh..I go there everyday - oh, god, where is it?
Xander (after Blayne takes over, walking away with Ms. French): Funny how the earth never opens up and swallows you when you want it to.

Xander: You two might be a little young to understand what an older woman sees in a younger man.
Buffy: Oh, I understand.
Xander: Good.
Buffy: A younger man is too dumb to wonder why an older woman can't find someone her own age and too desperate to care about the surgical improvements.
Xander: I'm not too dumb to....what surgical improvements?
Willow: Well, he is young.
Buffy: And so terrible innocent.
Xander: Those who can, do. Those who can't laugh at those who...can do.

Principal Flutie (escorting Buffy to the counselor): We all need help with our feelings, otherwise we bottle them up, and before you know it powerful laxatives are involved. I really believe if we all reach out to one another we can beat this thing. I'm always here is you need a hug - but not a real hug, there's no touching in this school, we're sensitive to wrong touching.

Cordelia: was...let's just say I haven't been able to eat a thing since yesterday...I think I lost like seven and a half ounces - way swifter than the so-called diet that quack put me on...I'm not saying we should kill a teacher everyday just so I can lose weight, I'm just saying when tragedy strikes, we have to look on  the bright side- you know, like how even a used Mercedes still has leather seats.

Giles: I had a chum at Oxford, Carlyle, advanced degrees in entomology and mythology...
Buffy: Whosy and whatsy?
Giles: Bugs and fairy tales.
Buffy: I knew that.

Giles: This computer invasion Willow's performing on the Coroner's assumes it's entirely legal?
Buffy and Willow simultaneously: Of course - entirely.
Giles: So I wasn't here, didn't see it, couldn't have stopped it.

Xander (after Buffy informs him Ms. French is a mantis): It's not weird, it's perfectly understandable. I've met someone, you're jealous.
Buffy: I'm not jealous..
Xander: Nothing I could do about it. There's just a certain chemcial thing between Ms. French and me.
Buffy: I know, I just read about it, it's called, uh, a pheromone, this chemical attractant insects give off.
Xander: SHE'S NOT AN INSECT - OK!? She's a woman. Hard as it may be for you to conceive, a human woman finds me attractive. I realzie she's no mystery guy handinhg out leather jackets - and while we're on the subject, what kinda girly-name is Angel, anyway?
Buffy: What's that got to do with...
Xander: Nothing! It just bugs me!

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