“Oh, I know this one! ‘Slaying entails certain sacrifices, blah blah bliddy blah, I’m so stuffy, give me a scone.’” – Buffy
So after the excitement of last week’s episode things are toned down this week as Buffy has to deal with a life force sucking mummy called Ampata who is preying on unsuspecting souls to maintain her human form. Things of course only get worse when Xander falls for her unaware of the secret she hides.
Essentially a rerun of “Teacher’s Pet” as Xander once again falls for the wrong woman let alone another supernatural creature, which will be something of a running theme for Xander over the course of the series as we will see in future episodes, but considering he lives on the Hellmouth it’s a little less surprising that this keeps happening, but at least with his future relationships he knew what he was getting into unlike here were he once again bumbles his way into another dangerous liaison.
Unlike in “Teacher’s Pet” which saw Xander almost ending up as the breeding partner / snack for a shape shifting giant praying mantis, his relationship with Ampata is actually more of a mutual connection, as she chooses to prey on other guys to maintain her human form rather than using Xander as just another guy to drain and even when she finds herself in a situation were she is forced to feed on his she stops herself. Motives aside its quite touching to see the relationship between Ampata who disguises herself as Buffy’s foreign exchange student and for a guy who keeps looking for love in all the wrong places be it his obsession with Buffy, his humour based flirting with Cordelia or just falling for a shape shifting praying mantis it was nice to see him actually finding someone to reciprocate his feelings, while he continues to remain oblivious to Willow’s love for him.
Ampata is more of a sympathetic villain and one whose life is almost parallel Buffy’s in that they both carry the weight of being expected to give their lives to save their people, even if Buffy here is more concerned with not being able to go to the dance at the bronze due to her slayer duties. Her character is also fleshed out further by her revealing that while Mummified she was still able to hear the world around her and explaining away the fact she speaks perfect English and isn’t completely baffled by the modern world.
Unlike so many of the other episodes which focus on characters other than Buffy, the Xander-centric ones always seemed to be able to hold their own, which might owe a lot to the natural charm of Nicolas Brendon who always manages to balance the moments of drama and comedy perfectly and does so once more here, even if the episode might be lighter on the drama elements than some of the later episodes. We do however get adorable scenes such as Xander and Ampata eating Twinkies on the bleachers which I can’t help wouldn’t work so well in real life, yet it would seem is the kind of thing that works when it comes to impressing 500 year old Incan princesses.
Still it’s not just Xander who is getting romantic attention this week as this episode also marks the first appearance of Oz, who appears here as the lead guitarist for “Dingoes Ate My Baby” whose music would be provided by “Four Star Mary” who in fan circles as “The Buffy Band”. Oz immediately is open about his feelings for Willow even if he will spend the next few episodes obsessing over her before the pair finally connect, so for now Willow is simply a mystery girl to him let alone one who catches his attention while dressed as an eskimo (best Willow outfit ever!). Oz is such a great character right from his early appearances as he shuns all the usual conventions for his character type as despite being a lead guitarist he’s laid back and cares little about attention from band groupies instead choosing to see people for who they are, something which is clear right from this first introduction.
Buffy meanwhile gets a pretty light week with this episode as she mainly provides the comic relief spending most of the episode with Giles and really only steps up for the finale were she has a brief fight with a rapidly decaying Ampata who bizarrely thinks that tossing her into a sarcophagus is enough to stop her. Buffy also gets to face off against the defender of Ampata’s tomb which totals one guy who looks like he’s stumbled out some naff DTV action movie especially with his cheap looking facial scar and laughable midlife crisis ponytail. At the same time the “Twilight” fans will get more of a kick out of this character seeing how he’s played by Gill Birmingham who played Billy Black.
While not the most action packed of episodes especially after last week it still has a number of fun beats which helps to hold your interest and perhaps because of Nicolas Brendon that this episode works as well as it does as his natural charm really helps to carry what is essentially a pretty sparse episode in terms of actual substance. As such this episode is one more for the fans than the casual watcher, especially when its used more as an opportunity to build these characters let alone giving us the first introduction of another key and as yet future member of the Scoobies.
Next Episode: Reptile Boy