Episode title: Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered
Original air date: February 10, 1998
“Well, this is new territory for me. I mean, my valentines are usually met with heartfelt restraining orders.” – Xander
Yes it’s another of my favourite episodes with this Xander lead episodes see’s him teaming up with Witch Amy to cast a love spell on Cordelia after she leaves him fearing the damage their relationship is doing to her status at Sunnydale High. Of course things don’t go exactly as planned when Xander suddenly finds himself irresistibly attractive to all women except Cordeilia!
Amusingly this episode was actually written on the fly to cover for Sarah Michelle Geller who was off filming her episode of “Saturday Night Live” and leaving the writers with an issue of writing a Buffy episode essentially without Buffy. An issue handily solved in this episode by having turned into a rat by a jealous Amy who assumes that Buffy is trying to steal Xander from her while they are under the influence of the love spell which she misguidedly cast. Ultimately it’s a gamble which pays of here as Nicholas Brendon proves himself more than capable of carrying an episode on his own and personal issues aside it makes me wonder why he was never called up to head up a show when he finished on Buffy.
One of the strengths of the episode is really in playing up the odd nature of Xander and Cordelia being a couple, especially when they come from such different social groups that you wouldn’t think that they could ever be a couple. This ultimately is the reason for their break up at the start of the episode with Cordelia dumping him on Valentine’s day in an ultra-cold move on her part. However by the end of the episode their relationship is strangely stronger and more believable than it was at the start.
Another great aspect of this episode is how it manages to tie the show back to the season 1 episode “Witch” by having Amy showing herself capable of the same powers as her mother, who we can assume judging by Oz’s comments about the trophy’s eyes following him a couple of episodes back is still trapped as a trophy statue. Amy will later become another key character in the later seasons, but this episode provides a great introduction to her, especially when she is introduced using her magic to get out of handing in an assignment. Here she is despite her claims not quite mastered her magic yet, especially judging by how badly her spell gets out of hand with Xander soon being chased by a horde of frenzied girls, including more amusingly Buffy’s mum and Drusilla who are equally unable to the power of the love spell with both really adding to the fun especially when Drusilla attempts to pursue him only to find herself locked out of the Summers house due to not being invited in.
It should also be noted that amongst all the main ladies taking their turn to try and seduce Xander, with Willow turning up in his bed and Buffy giving us one of the sexiest moments of the series as she shows up in the library in a short coat and little else. True a lot of these scenes are hammed up especially with Jenny who trades barbs with Amy over who Xander should choose, while Xander’s almost permantly flustered state from not being used to all this attention let alone every woman in Sunnydale suddenly wanting him only makes it work further.
Outside of the fun of Xander’s misguided attempts to use magic for his personal gain (it wouldn’t of course be the last time as we will see in the later episodes), but even with Buffy being largely absent from this episode it still manages to build the ongoing Angel plot line who it seems sees Valentine’s day as one to really dig out his most devious tricks and antics, seen here by him presenting Drusilla with the still warm heart he tore out of a shop girl, but to the chagrin of Spike whose clearly starting to lose his patience with Angel being back to his evil self.
For the trivia fans this is equally an important episode as we get to see the return of Oz’s band “Dingoes Ate My Baby” represented here by “Four Star Mary” who are often referred to as being The Buffy band by fans. On the more obscure side of things it also marks the first time we see “Alpert tomb” named after producer Richard Alpert.
A great episode throughout with some fantastic comedy elements throughout as the show proves itself to be just as strong even without any major horror elements, while once again showing just how creative the writing team could get even with the simplist of plots
Next Episode: Passion