Living Conditions

Written by Marti Noxon
Directed by David Grossman

Perri's Review | Valerie's Review | SunSpeak

Perri's Review

An okay second episode of the season, with a few good moments, but I hope the second season arc kicks in soon.

Another night in Buffy's dorm room, and another night listening to Kathy's favorite song over and over and over, and watching her iron her jeans. Buffy attempts to escape from her slightly-overly detail-oriented roommate to go on patrol with Willow, only to have Willow leave and Kathy decide to join her for the "cup of coffee". Naturally, they get attacked by a demon with bad skin and glowing blue eyes. Buffy shoves her roommate out of the way and takes on the demon; after absorbing quite the beating, it finally retreats, leaving Buffy to spin a story to her bruised roommate. They head back to the dorm, as the demons watch, and follow.

Buffy heads for Giles the next morning to report her encounter, catching Giles just finishing a session of jogging. She also treats him to a monologue about her new roommate's peculiarities and annoyances. Giles counsels patience and she resolves to follow his advice. Meanwhile Kathy, unaware of her roommate's resolution and unable to clean her sweater from the previous night's close encounter, decides to raid Buffy's closet, finding a replacement sweater -- and Buffy's bag o' weapons. Buffy continues to religiously avoid Kathy, to the point of cutting in front of a guy in the dining hall line. Parker has no problems with this, even offering valuable advice on surviving on dining cards, and getting Buffy to tell him her dorm.

Buffy joins Willow, Oz and, surprisingly, Xander at their table; she tells them about her demon encounter but, before they can discuss it, are joined by Kathy, wearing Buffy's sweater. Kathy can't imagine why Buffy would mind -- and proceeds to drip ketchup on it, infuriating the Buffster. She rails against her to Willow again -- who has problems of her own, since she's involuntarily living in party central. Kathy returns and she nad Buffy spend another evening driving each other crazy with labeled food, gum on tables, open windows, and flossing. Buffy finally chooses to sleep instead of killing her roommate -- and prmptly wishes she'd chosen otherwise. The demons he fought invades her dreams, conducting a ritual that involves blood, insects and sucking something out of Buffy's body into its own. She wakes to find Kathy staring at her, annoyed.

Buffy relays the dream to the Slayerettes, including Giles, the next morning, but is quickly derailed to another diatribe against Kathy -- who promptly shows up and tells all about her own dream, identical to Buffy's. After an exchange of surly and perky insults, Kathy leaves, and Giles tries to make his Slayer focus on the demon problem instead of the roommate problem. Buffy heads out, leaving the Slayerettes to watch after her in worry.

That night, the demons assemble around a fire, summoning a "great one"since they have located "her". Another fire is brewing Buffy's dorm, when she comes home to find cute guy Parker sprawled across Kathy's bed, in animated conversation. He's brung freezer bags to assist Buffy in her assault on the dining hall, but Buffy is too annoyed by his rapport with her roommate to appreciate it. Parker retreats in confusion, leaving Buffy and Kathy to face off. Buffy puts a lock on her closet, the window opens and closes a few more times, Kathy calls Buffy spoiled, Buffy rudely raids Kathy's labelled milk and the situation goes downhill fast before Buffy leaves for patrol. Willow, accurately predicting the situation, worries out loud to Oz, who heads off to patrol with Buffy in her place. He exchanges a significant look with a blonde stranger, but keeps going, as a trio of camouflage-clad goons stalks through the undergrowth. After he and Bufyf meet up, he once again gets to listen to the 10 Things I Hate About My Roommate speech, culminating in Buffy smashing a bench in frustration and rage, which worries even the unflappable Oz. But he can't do anything immediately, so Bufyf and Kathy wind up in the same small room together again, with tapping pencils, clipping toenails and cracking eggs becoming weapons in a nuclear war of silence. Again, Buffy retreats to bed -- to dream of demons again. As does Kathy.

Daylight finds Willow uncomfortably listening to Kathy complain about Buffy's instability; Buffy catches the tail end of the conversation, and goes ballistic. Buffy seems to return to normalcy, before she concludes, quite seriously, that Kathy is an evil threat and must be killed. Willow is naturally against this plan, particularly when the evidence presented is the ironing of jeans and toenail clippings which Buffy measured and insists continued to grow. Buffy does promise to talk to Giles first, and Willow calls to warn him that the Slayer has lost it, then goes to warn Kathy.

Giles responds by getting Xander and Oz in position; the three of them literally net the Slayer and get her tied up for her own good. Her continued ranting against her roommate only convinces the guys that she has been possessed; Giles heads off for supplies to break the spell. But Xander and Oz aren't enough to keep the Slayer under wraps; she escapes, leaving the boys unconcious in her wake as she stalks off on the hunt for her roommate. Buffy messes up Kathy's rug; Kathy retaliates by slugging her. Buffy retaliates by ripping her roommate's face off -- revealing the face of a demon. "I knew it!" the Slayer yells triumphantly.

The demons finish their casting and another, bigger one appears through the ground, as Kathy slams Buffy to the floor of their dorm. Giles and Buffy realize simultaneously that her dreams were real -- that Kathy is a demon and was attempting to steal Buffy's soul to hide from her own people, from whom she ran away. Buffy dislikes this plan and the fight begins, as Giles begins a ritual to reverse the effects of Kathy's spell. The Slayer, short part of her soul, comes out on the losing end of teh fight but, as Kathy prepares to finish with the soul-stealing part of the evening, Giles finishes his ritual -- restoring the soul Kathy stole.

Just in time for Big Demon to come breaking through the door -- and order the wayward demon home. Kathy pouts and complains, but the Slayerettes arrive in time to see her sent through a vortex in the floor. Big Demon follows, and the dorm room sees its first peace in weeks.

A few days later, Willow finishes moving into Buffy's dorm room, both resolved that they will be perfect roommates. Then Willow steals half of Buffy's sandwich....

Buffy and Willow are now roommates.

The commandos are still stalking around campus doing.. something.

Not much, except that Buffy and Willow have to learn to live together now.

< sigh > I was trying to convince myself it wasn't true. But then, ironing jeans should have been the first sign of evil. :P Seriously, I'm more than a little disappointed with the route they chose to go with Kathy. God knows we don't need another regular, but demon-roommate gag was so obvious. I would have much preferred getting to watch her figure thing sout over the season -- or even just having Buffy be psycho and wrong. I mean, we've done the 'everyone thinks Buffy is nuts and is wrong' thing before -- admittedly not to this level, but still... I expected a better twist than the obvious. On the other hand, this way, we don't have to put up with Kathy the Queen of Perk anymore. And the 'retreiving the brat kid' dialogue was pretty entertaining.

As was watching Buffy go psycho. < g > As I've commented befor e(and will untilt he end of time), I, too, had the roommate from hell for the first part of freshman year; I just wish getting rid of her had been as easy as casting her into another dimenson. And Buffy wigs so nicely, you don't realize it's out of control until it's out of control. Nice job from Sarah throughout.

Giles is treating Buffy much more as an equal these days, including giving as good as he gets in the sarcasm rallys. He hardly stutters at all these days. And he's still coming through with the spells in apinch -- way to go, Watcher boy! He and Oz otherwise mostly just get to be sounding boards for various people throughout the ep, Oz performing in his usual delightful and sympathetic capacity.

Xander's parents continue to seriously underwhelm me. One thing to charge the kid rent, that's damn her standard practice these days. But charnging him for meals!?! Plus there's the fact that Xander is quite obviously bored to tears. he's apparently not employed yet, not going to college -- he was hoping the demons were apocalyptic just so he'd have something to do. That boy's got to find something to do with his life besides wait for the Slayerettes to need him.

Well, it's allw ell and good that Willow and Buffy are living together; I just hope their friendship cans tand it. On the other hand, they've lived in each others' pockets for the last two-odd years anyway; this won't be that much of a change. And it saves having to make excuses for patrols, at least. But pretty typical Willow -- listening patiently to Buffy's problems while never even mentioning her own demonic problems. Geez. Freshman who spend semester one partying and semester two making up the courses they flunked during semester one. :P Major points to Willow for friendship.

Parker's a cutie, and amusing, even if he did have the poor taste to be amused by Kathy. That's two new cute, entertaining guys in Buffy's life -- why does this feel like a train wreck being set in motion?

Best Moments:
Buffy and Giles after she catches him jogging. I love their interactions lately -- him just short of snarky and her being completely unoffended.

Parker's entire riff on cafeteria dining. < g > Wow, I'm glad I always had an apartment.

Xander and Oz trying to reassure Buffy that Parker was interested. How far you've come, Xander -- and both of them were so sweet.

Oz accompanying Buffy on patrol. He's so amusing when he's being bland, then he gets all intense after she loses it. Really nice.

Buffy escaping from the boys. Yes, they should have tied her tighter.

The guy in the next dorm poking his head out during the fight. < snicker > Yup. Don't bother to call the campus cops, just tell them to shut up. But where was the RA during that?

Big Demon taking Kathy demon home. < snicker > For all that I wasn't wild about the plot, this was highly amusing, I admit.

Questions and Comments:
So what was that significant look between Oz and the blonde girl?

i was going to say that, by now, the Slayerettes should know to trust Buffy's instrincts, but she was sounding completely out of it, so they're off the hook.

Good directing through the Buffy/Kathy roommate wars, and equally good editing. Mostly amusing as hell!

Rating: 3 stars out of 5. A couple good bits, but just not the finely honed and unpredictable insanity we've come to expect from Marti.

Valerie's Review

Okay, I figured from the get-go that Kathy had to be a demon. I'm not sure whether I wanted to be right--it was a little too pat.

The ep was fun and entertaining, and said what it was supposed to say, but a little lackluster in a way I can't quite pin down. I know not every ep can be a pinnacle, and a mediocre BtVS ep remains superior to most shows' good ones; but I've been waiting all summer, and it's about time we got a knockout, darnit! :-) (Yes, I'm spoiled. Your point?)

Kathy's "people" were not exactly the masterpiece of Optic Nerve's demon shop, but they were appropriate somehow. Once again the monsters of a more lightweight monster story are more in a 50s-horror-homage vein, while the designs for the antagonists of the heavy-duty story lines have generally been more lifelike and viscerally ishy. I have to say, even after she tried to steal Buffy's soul, I felt sorry for Kathy and almost wanted the gang to find a way to keep "Dad" from dragging her back to her home dimension. I like to think that the way we saw her last week (presumably before she knew her fellow-demons had tracked her down) was the "real" Kathy--a little annoying, but genuinely excited about learning and growing and experiencing college life (and, as it turned out, human life). Demon or not, it sucks that she got that taken away.

OTOH, we have enough not-so-apocalyptic demons hanging around, so it's just as well that she's (presumably) gone for good. After all, cluttering up the landscape with entirely too many cool regular and recurring characters was the problem *before*, which has been alleviated by sending Angel and Cordy off to their own show.

It might have been cool to watch the humanization of Buffy's demon roomie, if they hadn't already started (and hopefully will be continuing) that idea with Xander's ex-demon girlfriend. I'm looking forward to seeing Spike next week, but I have to say it's Anya I'm most interested in getting back at this point. They just can't leave her development where it was in "Graduation"!

Poor Willow! Once again she's listening to Buffy gripe about something, and being Supporto-Gal, while keeping her mouth shut about her own (in this case apparently much worse, until they found out about the soul-stealing thing) problems. I realize venting isn't her way (though on the occasions when she does let loose, it's usually a doozy), but that was not much fun to watch. It's nice that she did get out of the Loud Party Zone and move in with Buffy, at least. It'll be interesting to see how they adjust to suddenly being in each other's space 24-7, especially since (as far as we know) they're both only children.

A little worried about the Xander factor. I want him in the mix, but they can't have the poor guy hanging around mooching food off Willow's plate every week. And he needs to get a life in general; but pretty much any life he gets will likely take him further from the gang on campus. Potential story fodder, yes, but not a happy thought. Will have to see how that develops.

Oz continues to be Oz. I loved the little moment of the look he exchanged with that girl -- can it be anything but mutual werewolf recognition? And followed immediately by a brief glimpse of the ninja demon-gamekeepers stalking her. Talk about your flash foreshadowing! I swear they put that in there just to watch the fans go nuts on it.


"I'm just sorry Kathy turned out to be a demon. (Although I did see that coming from Day One). Not that another new character was needed but having someone 'normal' (i.e. not a slayer/slayerette) would be fun. Kind of like having Cordelia back before she became one of the group." -- Debra Ann

"I'm enjoying the newness of it...I'm a little uncomfortable with some of the changes, but change is hard to adjust to sometimes. I'm hardly unhappy. I laughed my ass off last night during Buffy -- so I'd say they're doing their jobs. We're two episodes in. And to draw the inevitable (and getting kind of annoying) comparisons to past seasons.... 2nd *and* 3rd seasons didn't kick into gear until the 3rd episodes or so..... and look what's coming next week. IMHO, we're doing just fine." -- MB

"Other than the occassional snicker, this episode completely failed to draw me in. I just sat there. I _never_ just sit there when watching Buffy. I'm not sure what they could have done to improve the audience involvement, but they needed to do something. I don't consider a 'fun' ep should lack an emotional investment since it's 'all in fun.' For me it's a necessity, not a luxury." -- Julie

"Here's something missing that I was looking foward to. I thought it was so cute how very tactile Oz became after making love to Willow last season. I was wondering if it was partly some of the werewolf (the wolfy part anyway) in him to be so with his um, mate, as it were. (I was especially thinking this as his preferred action was stroking and playing with Willow's hair.) *sigh* I know the summer has gone by, but I'm sorry that they made time make those little touches a casualty. " -- Julie

"I'm swearing off saying 'toodles.' Should anyone hear me utter it, smack me or say 'Kathy'. I'm _not_ giving up hockey--especially not the Red Wings. Grrr." -- Julie

"What do you do with a problem named Xander? He can't afford college... heck, he can't even afford to pay his parents to feed him! He's *got* to be feeling rather left out from the old gang, with all of them off to either college or LA-LA land. Hence the "can we crank up the Scooby Gang, can we, huh?" moment in this week's episode. In his eyes, *any*thing has to be better than the "do you want fries with that?" options facing him at the moment. Unless.... Okay, factoid #1: Xander has--in whatever weird Hellmouth-y way he got it--military experience. Factoid #2: we have here on campus some kind of Special-Forces-type para-military anti-demon operation going on. What if the Scooby gang twigs to the ninja guys, and decide they need an undercover agent to infiltrate the scene? Voila! Xander has a job that doesn't involve any deep-frying... probably. He _would_ be the perfect go-between from the Slayer's gang to the demon-hunters. Thoughts, screams, fanfic??" -- Maureen

"But why would they want to "infiltrate" the ninjas? They kill demons, Buffy kills demons... There really isn't a bad there. Unless they consider werewolves to be fair game. And just imagine asking Xander to be the one to rescue Oz... "
"Well, we have no proof so far that these guys *kill* demons -it's possible that they just trap and capture them for study. And even if they _do_ kill demons, if I were Buffy, I'd be a little uneasy about some vigilante pseudo-Slayers hunting in the same territory as me. Accidents can happen that way. Also, if these guys don't know about the Slayer-thing, seeing her "superpowers" in action might lead them to believe *she's* a demon, and target her accordingly. It's happened before, after all - remember Sid? So I can see where Buffy and/or Giles might want some information on what the ninjas were up to, without necessarily revealing the existence of the Slayer and the Scooby gang to them. Hence, the need for an undercover agent..." -- Lizbet and Mo

"Rather than going "under cover" Xander starts to feel left out of the gang again -- cut off, useless. Maybe even has a falling out of sorts over .... something. Then he discovers the vigilante group with their cammoflauge and shiny weapons and finds new purpose. Joins up. Gets gung ho.... and ends up being shoved face to face with Oz.... " -- MB, being evil

"I keep forgetting to burble over this, but in case no one has pointed out, the campus of UC Sunnydale is the campus of UCLA. I'm *so* having homesickness (schoolsickness?). Bruin Walk! Ackerman Union! Powell Library! The Great Toilet of the Psych Building! (OK, you didn't see that one, but if you turned around...) Home!!!! < sniff > But I lived in the dorms, after graduation I *worked* for the dorms, and let me tell you, those are not the UCLA dorms. I *so* wish." -- Lizbet

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