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The PACK (ep 1.06)

(a.k.a. Attack of the Hyena People)

Written by: Matt Kiene & Joe Reinkemeyer
Directed by: Bruce Seth Green
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris
Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg
Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia Chase
Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles
Guest Starring: Ken Lerner as Principal Flutie
Eion Bailey as Kyle DuFours
Michael McRaine as Rhonda Kelley
Brian Gross as Tor Hauer
Jennifer Sky as Heidi Barie
Jeff Maynard as Lance
James Stephens as the Zookeeper
Co-Starring: David Brisbin as Mr. Anderson
Barbara K. Whinnery as Mrs. Anderson
Gregory White as Coach Herrold
Justin Jon Ross as Joey
Jeffrey Steven Smith as Adam
Patrese Borem as Young Woman

Plot Summary

On a field trip to the zoo, hyenas possessed Xander and four brat kids, causing them to get in all sorts of trouble.

Plot Details

While wandering around the zoo, four annoying students decided to hurl a few insults toward Buffy despite lacking the cognitive capacity to come up with anything witty. Buffy did not seem particularly upset. An excited Xander and Willow ran up to her and said that she, unfortunately, missed watching the zebras perform a sex ed. demonstration. Buffy was less enthusiastic. Xander had to explain that field trips were not about learning; they were about missing class, something that Buffy understood.

The four brat kids decided to pick on another student named Lance. Their insults toward him were equally lacking in originality or wit. Principal Flutie intervened, but without his normal touchy-feely rhetoric about forgiveness and tolerance. He did somewhat believe a very intimidated Lance when he said that nothing was going on. The brats rewarded Lance by taking him into the closed hyena house. Xander said that no actual slaying was needed to rescue Lance, so he followed. Buffy and Willow decided to stop them, but the zookeeper stopped Buffy and Willow instead. He told Maasai tribal stories about hyenas understanding human speech and calling out humans after dark. If this were true, it would suggest that hyenas were Maasai speakers (or, perhaps, Swahili speakers) and would pose no threat to English speakers.

In the hyena house, the brats decided that the hyenas would like to have Lance as a meal, not realizing that humans taste horrible. Believe me, I know. (Note to the humor impaired: The last sentence was a joke.) Xander rescued Lance only to become the brats' next target. They were all interrupted when the animatronic hyena's eyes started glowing, causing Xander's and the brats' eyes to glow as well.

At the Bronze, Buffy and Willow discussed Xander's weird off-screen behavior and established to the five people who had not already figured it out that Willow had a big crush on Xander. Willow suggested that Buffy might have similar feelings toward Angel. Xander showed up and started acting ruder than normal. For some reason, Willow wondered if she were responsible. The brats showed up and started hurling more unoriginal insults at an extra.

The Sunnydale High mascot, Herbert (a baby pig the size of a large cat), ran through the halls until Buffy caught him. Principal Flutie was grateful but did not appreciate having to explain how a cute pig was really a fierce razorback. After a brief lecture about the importance of school spirit, Xander arrived, causing Herbert to freak out.

On a rainy day, regular gym classes were replaced with dodge ball. The game got fairly rough, with Xander tossing a particularly hard throw at Willow. Eventually, the game came down to Buffy vs. Xander, the four brats, and a male extra. Xander and the brats decided to pick on the extra as the gym coach did his Colonel Kilgore (Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now) impression.

Willow confronted Xander after the game. He cruelly hinted that he might have feelings for her, but then took the opportunity to toss the most imaginative insult of the episode so far.

Xander and the brats decided to go swipe hot dogs and smash lunches. They did not like the idea of eating cooked meat, so they instead decided to get some fresh pork. Xander and the brats then went out to the courtyard without a speck of blood on their faces or clothes. Xander, who apparently has super hearing now, decided to listen in on a very upset Willow wondering why Xander was being so cruel, thinking that there was something wrong with her.

Buffy decided that there was something weird going on and went to Giles for answers. He initially dismissed her concerns as typical teen behavior until Willow came in to announce that Herbert had been eaten. This finally convinced Giles that there might be something going on. He eventually figured out that the hyenas possessed Xander. He even had an old book with an engraving showing people with limbs gnawed off.

Buffy went to investigate the scene of Herbert's murder. Xander was waiting for her and tried to attack her. He seems to have concluded that Buffy was attracted to Angel because he is mysterious, and thus dangerous. Therefore, he was going to be dangerous himself. Off screen, Buffy managed to knock him unconscious with a desk. Meanwhile, Principal Flutie confronted the brats, minus Xander, about Herbert's demise and consumption. Apparently, Herbert was not filling enough, so they decided to eat Flutie.

Buffy dragged an unconscious Xander into the library's book cage, apparently without anyone questioning her. Giles arrived and told Buffy and Willow that the brats apparently ate Principal Flutie. Buffy came up with the theory that the zookeeper probably knew more about the hyenas than he let on. She and Giles decided to confront him while Willow watched Xander.

The zookeeper did not seem surprised to hear that the hyenas possessed some students. He suggested pooling information with Giles while Buffy fetched Xander and the brats. The zookeeper seemed particularly interested in the fact that a predatory act was necessary for the spirit possession to take place. He also noted that finding the students should be easy, as they will all congregate around the one in the cage. Joss Whedon has commented that the best way to get the audience emotionally involved in an episode it to put Willow in peril. Buffy now realized that the audience was about to become emotionally involved in the episode.

Xander regained consciousness and begged Willow to let him out, but she was not fooled. Unfortunately for her, the zookeeper was correct; the brats did come looking for Xander with a defenseless Willow in the room. Fortunately, the brats came through the windows, which allowed Willow to run out the door and hide. Unfortunately, possession has given them a greatly improved sense of smell. They found the classroom where Willow hid. Only a quick whack with a fire extinguisher allowed Buffy to rescue her. Willow ran into Giles's arms and all three locked themselves into the classroom. The pack went off to find weaker prey.

Giles and Willow went directly to the zoo while Buffy went to find the pack. She found them menacing a family but was easily able to convince the pack to follow her to the zoo. At the zoo, Giles found the zookeeper already prepared to perform the ritual. A bit too late, he figured out that the zookeeper wanted to be possessed. The zookeeper quickly knocked Giles unconscious.

As Buffy and the pack approached, the zookeeper started tying Willow up. She realized too late that she was to be the victim of the predatory act and that viewers were once again going to become emotionally involved in the episode. The zookeeper shouted a word in Maasai, which caused the pack's eyes to glow. Now free of the possession, Xander immediately bull rushed the zookeeper, saving Willow. Buffy then tossed the zookeeper into the cage with the hyenas, who promptly ate him. With perfect timing, Giles then entered the room and asked if he missed anything.

At school, Buffy and Willow briefed Xander on what happened. He claimed no memory of what happened between the field trip and finding Willow with a knife to her throat. Both Willow and Buffy appear to be very quick to forgive Xander. They even made a point not to mention the hurtful things that he did. After Willow and Buffy left, Giles came and mentioned that there was no record of any memory loss while possessed. Xander was very grateful that Giles neglected to tell this to Willow and Buffy.

The Good

The African-themed score was interesting.

The Bad

I think that we were supposed to see the brats as threatening even before they were possessed. However, I found them more annoying than threatening, albeit very annoying. Another problem with the brats was that there was nothing to distinguish them other than gender or hair color. None of them had any personalities even before they were all possessed.

I imagine that it is very hard to impossible to find trained hyenas. However, the animatronic hyena seen in this episode was almost laughably fake.

Xander was possessed, so he would not be morally responsible for Flutie's murder. The official theory was that wild dogs ate Flutie, so he would not be held legally responsible. Still, the episode wimped out and made sure that Xander was not present when the brats ate Principal Flutie.

This episode had more drama and more action than most of the other episodes this season. However, it does not work that well. It is too hard to think of what this episode did well, and there are too many plot holes. This is an easily skipped episode.

Rank: 133

Action: 5

Xander tried to attack Buffy in Herbert's room.

The pack chased Willow into a classroom. She escaped only when Buffy was able to fight them off.

The pack attacked a family until Buffy lured them away.

The pack started to attack Buffy in the hyena house. When the hyena spirits were transferred to the zookeeper, Xander, and then Buffy, attacked him.

Comedy: 2

Flutie tried to explain how a tiny pig was really a fierce razorback and gave a speech about school spirit.

Giles tried to explain away Xander's behavior.

Drama: 6

Xander was cruel toward Willow and Buffy. Willow believed that it was her fault.

Willow was quite upset to see what was happening to her best friend.

Romance: 1

Possessed Xander used Willow's feelings for him to hurt her, and his feelings toward Buffy might have influenced his attack on her. Otherwise, there was no romance in this episode.

Character Development: 1

Xander—now has something to feel guilty about. He very badly hurt the two people he apparently cares about the most. I fully understand why he might want to pretend that he remembers nothing.

Willow and Buffy—Appear to be very forgiving people. Even if they intellectually understand that Xander was not responsible for his actions, they were both hurt badly.

Importance: 0

Most Valuable Player: Xander

I do not hold Xander's actions against him when he was possessed. He won his first MVP for attempting to rescue Lance in the beginning of the episode and for rescuing Willow at the end. Buffy gets credit for her rescue of Willow in Sunnydale High.

Sherlock Holmes Award: Buffy

She realized that there was something supernatural with Xander rather than simply dismissing his behavior as being due to teen hormones or something wrong with Willow. Giles deserves some credit for finding the specifics in his book and for figuring out that the zookeeper was the villain. He loses points for being too late on the latter point.

Goat of the Week: The Zookeeper

He went through all this trouble to import these special hyenas only to have a bunch of brat kids steal the hyena spirits.

Random Commentary

Xander did note that field trips were all about not having to attend class. From the faculty's perspective, they are all about not having to teach class. When I was an instructor, I did not plan field trips. However, I would include videos, group projects and other things so that I would not have to teach as much class in any given session.

One way in which hyenas differ from other species is that they have a matriarchal social structure. Once the brats were possessed, the two women should have taken command of the pack or, at least, fought each other for control of the pack.


Willow watched a video that started to show hyenas but then showed African wild dogs instead. Many people have wondered why. My guess was that she was watching a video on African predators in general. If we saw more of the video, we might have seen lions, leopards, cheetahs, and, perhaps, crocodiles.

How did Xander and the brats eat Herbert without leaving any blood at the scene of the crime or on their clothes?

I may have been joking about having personal knowledge of this, but it is true that human meat tastes terrible. Individual animals that eat humans are quite rare. Most shark attacks involve the shark biting a human, saying "Yuck!", and spitting the human out. A wild animal might attack a human if it were rabid, or if it thought that the human was threatening it, its young, or its territory; but wild animals rarely attack humans for food. Even if Xander and the brats had a hyena psychology, and would thus not see eating humans as cannibalism, they would still seek out tastier food than human.

Memorable Quotes

"It was like the Heimlich, with stripes." Willow

"I'm not constantly monitoring his health, his moods, his blood pressure." Buffy
"130 over 80" Willow

"You just run along to class while I wait for the feeling to return to my arms." Giles

"Today, it's all gangs and drugs and those movies on Showtime with nudity. I don't have cable; I only heard. When I was your age, we cared about the school's reputation and the [American] football team's record, all that stuff. Of course, when I was your age, I was surrounded by old guys telling me how much better things were when they were my age." Principal Flutie

God, this game is brutal. I love it." Gym Coach

"Xander's taken to teasing the less fortunate? And there's a noticeable change in both clothing and demeanor? And, well, otherwise, all his spare time is spent lounging around with imbeciles?" Giles
"It's bad, isn't it?" Buffy
"It's devastating. He's turned into a sixteen-year-old boy. Of course, you'll have to kill him." Giles
"Giles, I'm serious." Buffy
"So am I, except for the part about killing him. Testosterone is a great equalizer. It turns all men into morons." Giles

"Why couldn't Xander be possessed by a puppy or some ducks?" Willow

"This is definitely the superior Xander. Accept no substitutes." Buffy

Characters in Peril


Evil Escaped

Buffy and the Law

Giles Unconscious

Spoiler Links

Highlight the space after each question to find the answer. It is strongly recommended that you do not do so if you have not seen episodes through the episode indicated.

This page was last modified October 31, 2012