Lizbet's Review | Perri's Review

Lizbet's Review

Buffy sees a young boy at the door to one of her classes as a student opens a book and spiders crawl all over him. Sensing something weird is (yet again) going on in Sunnydale, she and the Slayerettes turn to Giles for explanations. But by the next day, even weirder things are happening and Giles is at a loss. Buffy's day just isn't going well; she forgot her bag for her weekend with her father, and she has a sudden history test that she never studied for. When time seems to go altogether too quickly and she doesn't even get her name down on the test paper, she sees the same little boy who was watching the day before.

She goes to Giles - and finds him wandering, lost in the stacks. Worse, he seems to have forgotten how to read. They hear about a student being bludgeoned, and visit the hospital to see her, only to discover that she is the second victim. The first is a young boy who is still unconscious. Returning to the library, Buffy and Giles are trying to sort this out, theorizing that Buffy saw the astral projection of Billy, the boy in the hospital, when Hank Summers comes, several hours earlier than expected. He takes Buffy outside to tell her that he doesn't want to spend time with her, that she is the reason that he divorced her mother, and that he is disappointed with her. As she watches her father walk away, Buffy sees the little boy yet again, and follows him this time into the gym. Billy tells her he has to hide from the Ugly Man. While they are talking, the Ugly Man appears, and Buffy tries to fight him and fails. She and Billy run off.

Meanwhile, more and more strange things are happening. Willow and Xander walk into a classroom - and Xander's clothes mysteriously disappear. Cordelia's hair turns into a rat's nest and she is dragged into the chess club. Willow is grabbed by an opera company and made to perform Madame Butterfly on stage. Xander is attacked by the clown that frightened him at his 6th birthday party... except for now the clown has a knife. Meanwhile, Buffy and Billy escape the Ugly Man through a hedge, and somehow land in the Sunnydale cemetery at night, where Buffy comes face to face with the Master. The Master pushes her into an open grave and buries her alive.

Giles finally deduces that Billy has brought the nightmare world with him, and the Slayerettes go looking for Buffy - and find her grave in the Sunnydale cemetery that has mysteriously moved opposite the school. Giles' nightmare of Buffy's death having come true, he mourns her - until her hand reaches up out of the grave and grasps his. Pulling herself out, she dusts her clothes off, and looks up to reveal a vampire face - her own nightmare. Their last hope being waking Billy from his coma, they rush off to the hospital while the world goes steadily crazier around them. In the hospital, Buffy fights the Ugly Man and calls Billy over to finish it. Billy reaches out to pull off the Ugly Man's face - and wakes. Everything returns to normal, and Billy reveals it was his little league coach (who called him Lucky Nineteen) who beat him up for losing a game. Buffy goes off to spend the weekend with her adoring father, and Xander admits to Willow that he still had the hots for Buffy when she was a vampire.

This and The Pack are my two favorite non-Angel episodes (yes, I differentiate between Angel and non-Angel episodes, wanna make something of it?) Not quite an arc episode, it does begin the set up for Prophesy Girl (with Buffy's nightmare of being attacked by the Master).

Characterwise, seeing what scares everyone the most is illuminating. Giles' fears all seem to be tied to his role as Watcher: his inability to do research, his horror at failing to protect Buffy. Xander's fears are the most typical: the nightmare of walking around in your underwear (honey dear, you've got nothing to be ashamed of... *drool* sorry, I'm back), and the fear of a manic clown. Willow fears being the center of attention (and it's wonderful how when she was telling Giles about Xander's sudden lack of clothing, she is just horrified at the idea of having everyone stare at her).

Buffy, of course, gets the vast majority of the nightmares. Starting rather small (sudden history test), building to painful (her father's complete rejection of her), and moving to horrific (buried alive and rising as a vampire), her nightmares are the ones that are most potentially devastating to both her personally (can there be anything worse than being rejected by a parent?) and to the world (the Master got free! Yikes!)

As Perri comments in the review for Invisible Girl, the theme here is perception=reality. Gotta watch what you dream on those nasty Hellmouths... The more heavy-handed conclusion is that facing your fears makes them go away. It would be nice...

Perri's Review

An episode that bounces between being quite funny to truly, deeply painful. Ouch.

I got Lizbet to do it. Read hers.

As Lizbet says, this is pretty much a stand-alone, although it does build on some things from 'The Puppet Show' (Xander's fear of clowns, Willow's debilatating stage fright). And the reality=perception thing that is developed in 'Invisible Girl' starts here. Be careful what you dream of...

And one of Buffy's nightmares is the Master escaping. You have to wonder if that's a nightmare, or a premonition for 'Prophecy Girl', as the Master escapes leaving her for dead.

We get a lot of nice character development here, most of it from what we don't see.

Cordelia and Willow have the most straight-forward nightmares. Cordelia loses her looks and instantly loses her popularity, forced to join the nerds in the chess club. No big shockers there. Willow gets off pretty lightly on the whole nightmare thing -- she only really gets hit with the one of being forced on-stage. No deep traumas or fears there, which is surprising considering the life she's currently living. Although she does wind up taking on a lot of the side effects of other people's dreams (being chased by the clown, faced with Buffy's grave and Buffy as a vampire) which is also pretty typical of her current life.

Xander has a slightly rougher time of it. First, the usual 'naked in front of the class' dream makes an appearance (and a whole-hearted agreement with Lizbet; we have absolutely no problems with Nick Brendon showing up anywhere in his shorts. Wow! 'She never said anything about him being buff'... *drool*). Then he gets hit with what is apparently a deep childhood trauma with the homicidal clown. Interesting that his subconcious supplies him with an actual reason to be afraid of the clown, namely the knife, maybe to make him feel better about an essentially silly fear. Sorry, Dr. Freud stepped in there for a second. But Xander shines as the only one to actually face up to his fears -- he turns around and punches out the clown before it can hurt him or the other Slayerettes. Of course, apart from Buffy, he's the only one faced by a concrete fear that can be dealt with by punching it out.

Giles takes it on the chin, although not as badly as Buffy. Like Lizbet said (hey, she's gotta be right sometimes!), his fears are mostly associated with being a Watcher, and failing Buffy. (Although, I'd guess that being lost in the stacks and losing the ability to read is also a lot like Xander's 'naked' dream; basic anxiety. Freud really would have a field day with these people).

Poor Buffy. Her nightmares range all over the place, from normal teenage angst of forgetting a test, to higher level teenage angst of being soundly, taotally and completely rejected by her father as the sole cause of her parents' divorce) to major Slayer angst of facing the Master and losing, then being transformed into the thing she's fought against so hard. And Giles saw this coming -- "Given the things she tends to dream about..." -- which suggests that nightmares are a normal part of life for her, and she doesn't get to get rid of them by waking Billy.

Best Moments
Xander and Willow attempting to interrogate Wendall about the spider attack. Xander just doesn't have a very subtle approach...

Any time Cordelia gets hit with a nightmare. I'm sorry, she deserves everything that happens to her!

Giles' reaction to not being able to read. It's obviously such a heavy, horrible blow to him, but he's still struggling to get past it so he can help Buffy. Just too heartmelting.

Buffy's confrontation with her father. I tend to fast-forward through it, but that's because it's too damn painful to watch. Buffy's growing, crippling pain, her father's completely callous rejection and summary of why everything is her fault, confirming her worst fears -- just rip our hearts out and stomp on 'em!

Giles explaining everything to Xander and Willow. He keeps leaving out crucial bits of information, and Xander's reaction to being confused is hilarious.

Willow laughing at Xander after the clothes incident. The by-play is wonderful.

Xander knocking the clown cold! Yay! Xander really can be a hero when he's pushed.

Buffy facing off against Ugly Guy in the hospital. She looks damned scary, everything kicked over into Slayer mode, and the vampire fright mask is really effective.

The revelation. Buffy urging Billy to face his fear, Xander's quiet 'I get it' when Willow remains clueless, Billy's 'Wizard of Oz' wake-up ("I had the strangest dream...") and the confrontation aainst the coach. It's lovely how he makes a break for it, and Xander and Giles grab him. An awesome Xander episode all around.

Giles' face when he helps Xander grab the coach. While Xander is mostly confused and a little mad, Giles is completely, coldly, adultly pissed off. Partly because of any adult's reaction to a child being abused, but also, I'm guessing, because he has responsibility for three specific children, and can easily see them in that hospital bed. Very intense.

Xander and Willow's conversation at the end. "I'm sick. I need help.""Don't I know it." At least Willow is keeping her sense of humor about the whole Buffy/Xander thing.

So, I'm assuming we got a Universal Reset after Billy woke up. The last two days didn't happen and something more normal happened instead. I'd love to read the aftermath; did Buffy take the test and pass it in the other version? What happened to Xander's gym clothes? Good stuff like that.

Not really a question, but I would have liked for this to have been an Angel episode, for reasons entirely apart from the drool factor. I wonder what Angel's nightmares would have been...? Not to mention his reaction to Buffy the Vampire.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5. The Ugly Guy routine wore a little thin, and they chicken out a tad at the end; I get the feeling Billy was supposed to have been beaten by his father, and they changed their minds at the last second. But they sure didn't chicken on anything else! It's a little uneven throughout, bouncing oddly from humor to major drama, and the pacing is a bit odd; nothing I can put my finger on, but I think this is another one where a lot wound up on the cutting room floor. But pretty damn good.

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