Episode title: Surprise
Original air date: January 19, 1998
“My boyfriend had a bicentennial.” – Buffy
It’s only been a couple of weeks but already we are faced with another two part episode, but more importantly this episode also marks the first Buffy birthday something which would become a running theme with future Buffy birthdays falling on either the 13th or 14th episode of each season. This however doesn’t mean Buffy has an easy week, as Spike and Drusilla return with a new plot to assemble the limbs of a powerful demon known as “The Judge”.
Opening with one of the better homages to the red room from “Twin Peaks” as Buffy takes a surreal journey through the Bronze which includes a French speaking Willow telling a monkey “The hippo stole your pants” in a random throwback to her conversation with Oz about animal crackers in “What’s My Line (Part 2)” while the journey ends with Drusilla staking Angel. It’s at this point that Buffy of course wakes up no doubt the disappointment of the anti-Angel brigade who thought that they might have been rid of his brooding self. Still this dream sequence really does foretell a lot of big plotlines this episode introduces especially when it serves to setup the big evil for the season.
Speaking of which we get some big hints of the future of Angel when Jenny is visited by her uncle (played here by the always great character actor Vincent Schiavelli) who we discover was responsible for cursing Angel with a soul and that Jenny was sent to Sunnydale by her Gypsy tribe to ensure that his curse remains intact, especially when it can be broken by him having one moment of happiness. Knowing that Buffy could unwittingly cause this Jenny sets out to try and separate the couple, which luckily for her is plan which requires little thinking when Angel is tasked with hiding part of the judge to prevent him being reassembled. Yes it might be a little convenient in terms of plotting but I’d rather take this over some half-baked plot concocted by Jenny.
At the same time while it might seem perhaps a little too soon to bring back Drusilla and Spike, it’s great to see them back still showing the wounds of their previous showdown with Buffy and Kendra with Spike now confined to a wheelchair and sporting some cool facial wounds. While surprising to see that Vampires can be crippled, its only added to by the fact that Spike it ready to call it quits and get out of Sunnydale, which is especially surprising when he’s previously killed two slayers. Drusilla though is not ready to give up it seems especially now she has been restored to her full powers even though she is none the less crazy going off her meltdown over the flowers being wrong at the party she is throwing to celebrate their resurrection of “The Judge”.
On a lighter note, this episode finally sees Oz and Willow getting together after a wonderfully awkward discussion between them over how they are going to ask the other out, with Willow ultimately bringing him as her date to Buffy’s surprise birthday. A birthday which she makes her grand entrance falling through the window battling a vampire who she proceeds to stake with a drumstick! Amusingly Oz take the fact that vampires exist with little concern and actually seems more relived as many of the strange events in Sunnydale are suddenly written off for him. Xander and Cordelia’s relationship meanwhile is still none the clearer even if she does also turn up to Buffy’s birthday, which did leave me kinda confused as I thought she was still not fully committing to being a member of the group.
The ending of this episode is really what most fans remember this episode for though as Buffy and Angel have sex, which while it might seem kinda timid now, back when the episode was released was a much talked about aspect of the episode especially when such things happening on a show like this were unheard of, while lets face it we didn’t have the now easy access to copious amounts of pornography that we have these days, making such mild titillation all the more thrilling especially when it was so unexpected….or perhaps myself and my friends were just abit more sheltered than most back then. On the other hand the fact that we get so many references to the age difference between Buffy and Angel, including her telling him repeatedly that she will be late for school does add a creepy edge that I don’t remember picking up when I originally watched it, but then this seems to be one of the aspects of vampire dating that always seems to be kicked under the carpet. Of course their hook up proves to be the moment of happiness needed to break Angel’s curse as we end on the fantastic image of Angel howling into the rain as the episode ends
So what now? How will Buffy deal with her boyfriend turning back into his evil self, let alone how do you defeat a demon which was previously killed by an entire army? Join us next week to find out!
Next Episode: Innocence