Yet another cliched plot gets twisted out of recognition, and we get a cool new character in the process.
We open with a flashback to medieval Spain, in which monks trap the demon Moloch, the Corrupter, in a book, and bind him there. Naturally, the book finds its way to the Sunnydale High School library, where computer science teacher Ms. Calendar is working on a project to scan the library's books into a database, with the help of Dave, Fritz, Willow, Buffy and an unwilling Xander and Giles. Giles the technophobe skirmishes with Ms. Calendar; and Willow scans the book containing Moloch into her computer -- where he wakes up.
Soon, Buffy discovers that Willow has gotten involved in an on-line romance with a boy named Malcolm, whom she has never met. The relationship quickly shows negative effects, as Willow starts skipping classes and argues with Buffy when Buffy tries to warn her to be careful. Both Buffy and Xander become suspicious; more so when Fritz and Dave also develop strange behavior. Buffy finally follows Dave to the abandoned CRD factory, which is mysteriously busy. Unfortunately, she also catches the wrong kind of attention -- Dave sets Buffy up to be killed, and warns her just in time.
Ms. Calender finds the book that had contained Moloch is now empty, and the Slayerettes eventually conclude that Moloch was scanned into the Internet. Truly worried for Willow, Buffy goes in search of her, but finds only Dave's body, the victim of an apparent suicide. They conclude he was murdered by Fritz, and head to Willow's house, leaving Giles to contact Ms. Calendar and find a way to banish Moloch from the Internet. She proves surprisingly receptive -- a technopagan, in fact, with a deep interest in the occult. They prepare a spell to bind Moloch as Buffy and Xander follow a kidnapped Willow to CRD, where she is being held. The spell is successful, binding Moloch into a robotic body -- unfortunately, it's a body that's too strong for Buffy and company to fight. Finally, Buffy sets the robot up to be fried by making it punch a circuit box.
Basically a stand-alone episode. The string of bad romances continues for the Slayerettes, Giles's computer-phobia reaches new heights, and we meet Ms. Calendar for the first time.
At last, a Willow-centric episode. Willow is delighted to find a boy who is interested in her (as opposed to Xander, who never looks twice) and throws herself wholeheartedly into the romance. We get to see some of her rare resentment towards Buffy (who has no problems getting the attention of guys, including Xander), but she also doesn't completely lose control of herself; she's alert enough to recognize that Malcolm knows more than he should, and some of his manipulations. And she also has the guts to go after a demonic robot with a fire extinguisher to help her friends.
Xander is amusingly cute as he tries to protect Willow from her 'mystery guy'. Buffy's right on when she says he's gotten used to being the only guy in Willow's life; he doesn't think of her as a girlfriend, but he doesn't particularly want anyone else around her. And him and Giles both wandering around panicking when they can't find her towards the end is also quite adorable.
Giles the technophobe confronted with Ms. Calendar is great! Nice chemistry between those two, and Giles's very real fear of computers is a really nice character touch; we knew he didn't like them from way back in the pilot, but he takes it to such an extreme! His banter with Ms. C and his very genuine explanation of why he doesn't like computers at the end are very well done.
Buffy is Buffy -- concerned about Willow, willing to do whatever it takes to keep her safe. Not a surprise.
Ms. Calendar really rocks. I thought sure she was another of Moloch's corrupted, then she starts talking about omens and portents... A very calm woman, very settled in herself, already adjusted to the occult, and perfectly willing to give Giles trouble -- I love it!
All of the bickering between Ms. Calendar and Giles. He's met his match.
Xander and Buffy working themselves into a panic about Willow's mystery man. They just kind of feed off each other until they're both ready to go running around in circles screaming. *g*
Dave's death. A chilling scene, from the writing of the suicide note to the slow pan to Fritz.
Willow attacking Moloch with the fire extinguisher. Willow doesn't get into the physical confrontations often -- really only against Darla in the pilot, and 'Amy' in The Witch. Mostly it's Xander and Buffy who do the fighting.
The final scene, with the Slayerettes making a joke of never having normal relationships, then their dawning silence as the truth sinks in. Fade to black, start cracking up.
It's been pointed out before, but Willow's scanning was really sloppy. That released the demon? She didn't even read it right to left, but straight down the middle of the page. Anyway....
I am amazed at the quality of equipment Sunnydale has in its computer labs. Video pick-ups? Huh?
Yes, Buffy does change from being a sophomore on one info screen to being a senior on the other (or vice versa). Joss says he did it on purpose, as a nod to those of us who watched the movie.
After Giles makes the crack about not dangling things from his ears, look at his ears. In the profile when Ms. Calendar walks past him, you can see the earring hole from the earring he wore on VR.5. *g*
Love this title, by the way -- very nice homage to Azimov... and Johnny Weissmueller. < g >
Rating: 4 stars out of 5. A nice twist on the on-line romance murder plot, a great performance from Alyson Hannigan, and lots of witty repartee. Some rather gaping plot holes, but nothing I can't rationalize.
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