Teacher's Pet

Lizbet's Review | Perri's Review | Chris's Review

Lizbet's Review

Thankfully shorter than the one I did for Angel...

When Dr. Gregory, the one teacher in the school who gives Buffy encouragement goes missing and is replaced by a femme fatale named Natalie French, Buffy senses foul play. Finding his decapitated corpse confirms that something weird is going on in Sunnydale. Meanwhile, Cryptic Guy shows up to warn Buffy that there is a new vampire in town, and gives her his leather jacket - revealing an arm cut with four parallel slashes. When Buffy goes hunting for this new vampire (who has a claw on one arm instead of a hand) she sees him run into Natalie French -- and run away whimpering in abject fear.

Buffy tries to investigate Dr. Gregory's murder, but is distracted by Xander's hormonal interest in the new biology teacher. Buffy, Willow, and Giles finally conclude that Ms. French is, in fact, a praying mantis -- a big bug. Moreover, she is a "Cleptus Virgius" - a virgin thief, who preys only on young, innocent boys. Xander, entranced by pheromones and big bazooms, isn't buying it, and goes over to her house to make "model" egg sacks -- a project another student, Blayne, never returned from the day before. When he does so, he finds Ms. French in an extremely un-teacher-like dress, and is fed a drugged martini that knocks him out right after Ms. French morphs into a mantis.

When the Slayerettes (minus Xander) find out that he is at the She-Mantis' home, they go tearing off to the rescue. Buffy finds The Claw and forces him to lead them to the Mantis' house. The vampire leads them there, gets free, and Buffy stakes him. They break into the basement to find Xander on the verge of having his chastity assaulted by the mantis. Buffy chops the mantis into bits and rescues Xander and Blayne who both vehemently deny that they are virgins.

At the Bronze, Buffy runs into Angel again, who compliments her on slaying another vampire. She offers his jacket back, and he refuses with a charming smile. The new biology teacher is a boring dictator, and Buffy misses Dr. Gregory. But lurking on the back of the biology classroom is an egg sack...

Uneven but fun. Xander is the little-too-typical teenage boy with a crush on an older woman, but it's a nice twist that the femme fatale is really fatal. The Claw subplot is a heavy-handed attempt to work vampires into the story (the show works just fine when the Slayerettes are up against non-bloodsucking fiends).

What makes the episode are the little moments. Buffy and Angel in the Bronze (still sniping, but beginning to look at each other as something other than vampire and Slayer), Willow fussing over Xander, ("But... but... I like his head! It's where you find his eyes and his hair and his cute"), Giles' conversation with his insane buddy from England. The plot can disappear on the wind, but the characters are priceless.

Rating: Two of four. Fun to watch, but will never be your favorite. Unless, of course, you like bugs.

Perri's Review

Gotta go with Lizbet here... Pretty low on my list of episodes to rewatch, but like any Buffy episode, there are some very good bits.

As usual, Lizbet covered it. Go read hers.

Mostly just Buffy/Angel stuff. Willow and Xander get their first look at Angel (and Xander's jealousy instantly kicks in), and Angel and Buffy get through an entire scene without any verbal assaults, and a certain amount of flirting.

I'm sorry, Miss French was just not a believable bad guy. She was fairly creepy as a human (loved Fork Guy backing off from her, and the Exorcist head twist was fairly cool) but once she became the Bug, this turned into a Japanese monster movie worthy of the end of 'The Lost World'. And the virgin twist was an excuse to embarrass Xander and Blayne, no other real purpose. Still, it was fun seeing the guys' reactions to her, particularly Xander and Giles.

Great. Xander completely loses his mind. Not that he had much of one at this point, anyway, but still... He was balancing on the edge of being out of character for the first half of the ep, just because his hormones were so far out of whack, but recovered for the second half to become slightly more heroic. Nice escape attempt, he even tried to help Buffy fight the Bug (of, course, she had to shove him out of the way, but...) and he was the one with the presence of mind to go after the egg sacks. The best Xander moments, in fact, are at the end -- his escape attempt, protecting Blayne, trying to help Buffy, his infinitely cute reaction to Willow babbling about his virginity, and his straght-forward admission that Buffy was right and he was an idiot. Not too shabby for a hormone-crazed 16-year-old male.

Buffy is finally starting to learn the value of studying. *g* Which moral is a bit heavy-handed, but what the heck. When Willow and Giles doubt her, she runs off, does her own research, and figures out how to defeat the Bug more or less by herself. But she's got a problem -- Cryptic Guy has stopped being annoying (despite how hard she tries to keep him that way) and started being, well, a guy -- a cute one who flirts with her and gives her his jacket. Which is permanently attached to her for the rest of the episode and a considerable part of 'The Pack'... *g*

Angel, for his part, gets to be a tad more human. The evidence he fought (and lost against) another vampire is interesting, as is the fact that vampires apparently heal fast; there's no sign of scars or anything later in 'Angel'. And he more or less ignores Buffy's sniping this time, and is actively flirting with her in the second Bronze scene. Very cute.

Gotta love Willow. She certainly throws herself into defending Xander's manhood in the Bronze -- no reluctance whatsoever to cuddling up to him. And her frantic searching for him as they realize what Miss French is is adorable -- and almost exactly the same as Xander's reaction when she disappears in 'I Robot, You Jane.' Fun, huh? Xander really is a little dense... And Buffy has apparently been working on Willow's wardrobe/image -- she's got makeup on and looks rather spectacular in the first Bronze scene.

And Giles does, in fact, notice women. Good to know he at least has the potential for a life. And his willingness to admit Buffy was right and he was wrong is admirable.

Best Moments:
The first scene at the Bronze. First Xander using the girls to look macho, and Willow going along willingly, then Xander's reaction to Angel. And, of course, the major WAFF as Angel gives Buffy his jacket. Really cool.

Dr. Gregory. The scene where he basically informs Buffy he expects more from her because he knows she can do it, and encourages her to prove everyone else wrong about her is really sweet; particularly since, unlike Giles, he doesn't know the reasons for Buffy's permanent record. I resent the deliberate screwing with our emotions here, since we're set up to care about the guy so we'll care when he buys it, but what the hell. Great character.

The Slayerettes collective reaction to Dr. Gregory's death. Buffy's reaction, the quiet grief, is really nicely done -- Willow and Giles both hovering over her, the bit with the glass of water, everything. And Giles's reaction to his colleague's death is also touching.

Principal Flutie making Buffy go to the counselor. Babbling away like Willow on uppers, trying oh so sincerely to make sure the kids are taken care of.

Cordelia in the counselor's office. She keeps bouncing between being an actual human touched by death to being the self-centered twit we all know and hate.

Giles's phone conversation. Completely insane and Giles is trying to treat it like it's not, with absolutely no success. Beautiful.

Xander cutting down the egg sacks. He gets all intense and focused and adult for a minute there, and it almost makes up for what he's been like for most of the rest of the episode.

The second Bronze scene. Oh, come on, Buffy and Angel flirting like crazy (with Buffy not quite sure what to make of the whole thing), Angel's backward glance as he leaves and Buffy's breathless 'Oh, boy.' WAFFs all over the place.

And no one else in the classroom noticed the teacher's head turning 180 degrees? Huh?

Fork Guy was in this episode why? Granted, it gave Angel a reason to show up, since he does specialize in vampires, but it was still pretty pointless.

The egg sack at the end. So, the science teacher was a virgin? And she left the eggs there instead of back in her den where they would be safe. And no one has found them yet? It's supposed to be another creepy twist ending, but it's so implausible that it just doesn't work.

And no one had moved Dr. Gregory's broken glasses? In how many days? Granted, it was a nice bit with Buffy picking them up, but again, too implausible to have the intended effect.

Rating: 2 stars out of 5. Even the priceless Angel/Buffy bits aren't enough to save this plot. Too many holes a truck could be driven through, and Xander's opening daydream (not to mention an entire episode of macho posturing) is, well, annoying. Actually, the best way to rewatch this episode is to just fast-forward every time Xander comes on screen, until he wakes up after being captured.

Chris's Review

This ep is pretty much the least loved of the entire Buffy pantheon. Every series has to have a worst episode, and for Buffy, this one is universally regarded as it. Not that it's all that terrible; even bad Buffy eps are better than most other TV. But it does have a weak plot, unlikely villain, and Xander being fairly jerky for most of the story.

That said, I'm quite fond of it. So, here's my dissenting opinion and an explanation of why I liked "Bugs Suck" the first time I watched it.

Quite probably I got sucked in when Dr. Gregory was so incredibly cool to Buffy, offering her belief in her intelligence and abilities when the only thing he'd seen so far was fast thinking and a bad permanent record. All teachers should be like this; many are, but few get the chance to show it. This was the ep *before* the infamous Pack Principal Flutie Feast, but even here it's fairly obvious that no one is safe. Not even if they're really cool, and they support the heroine. So when Dr. Gregory got killed five seconds later, I immediately cared about whether or not the bad guy bit it.

The bad guy in question being Ms. French didn't hurt; yeah, it turns into a bad monster flick at the end, but while Ms. French is believed to be just a bizarre sub, she's creepy and seductive and amusing. The series' soon-to-be trademark funny-ick-factor kicks in when she munches on a cockroach sandwich right after making an appointment with Xander. She's just the kind of woman that other women don't trust---not because she's beautiful, but because she treats *all* men (or, well, males) as if they're more important than _any_ woman. You immediately know she's the bad guy by the way she zeroes in on Xander and Blayne, and barely sees Buffy and Willow.

And what about Xander? I found his jerkiness more funny than annoying. The pheromone issue aside (maybe he was under the influence, maybe he wasn't, it's too close to call) he was acting like your typical delusional teenager. Needing to act like he's more cool than he is, knowing that he isn't ("Those who can, do. Those who can't, laugh... at those who can do."), and feeling *completely* overlooked by Buffy, he jumps at the chance to flirt with Miss French. He had _no_ idea what he was in for when he showed up at her place. Does that justify some of his lameness? Maybe. He makes up for it by the end of the ep, anyway. Xander's just too silly to be irritating to me, since I knew he was toast the second he heard that jungle-call music upon seeing Miss French for the first time.

The best bits though, the bits that define why I like this episode, are all with Buffy and Willow and Giles. When Giles asks if what Willow and Buffy are doing with the computer is completely legal, and they lie to his face, and he responds with "Right. Didn't see you, wasn't here, couldn't have stopped you..." I cracked up. During that scene, and the ones following it, with Giles talking to Carlisle and Buffy proving she has a brain by doing research on Praying Mantises, it started to become clear that she and Giles are a team. Yeah, he's the adult, but 90% of the time, that's unimportant. She's the Slayer, he's the Watcher. Period. This is not a show about wise adults teaching clueless kids, or smartass kids outsmarting clueless adults. It's about facing the Forces of Darkness (supernatural or natural) with back-up and help from others, whether or not they're older or younger than you are.

Both Buffy and Giles also take Willow's abilities and concerns seriously, treating her as a fully equal teammate. At this point, she has the least confidence and the least reason to be there, but no one assumes that she can't make a contribution. Which she does, and not just because of the computer hacking; she was more than willing to go to the mat for Xander, and she was the first one to realize he was in danger (for obvious reasons, yes, but it's still true).

Even Xander, dork that he is, gets to redeem himself at the end by trying to save Blayne and going after the eggs---and admitting he'd been a jerk. There's more than one hero to this show, which is _great_, because as entertaining as hero-based shows can be, ensembles are infinitely more fun to watch.

And I figured all this out while watching "Bugs Suck". Which is why I'll always have a soft spot for it (well, that, and you get to see Giles gush over Ms. French, which is ughsome in a way, but also really cool in another way, and... I'll shut up now).

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