Home page All episodes sorted by rank All episodes sorted alphabetically All episodes sorted by writer All episodes sorted by director All episodes sorted by season Episodes with the most polarized opinions Episodes largely forgotten by fans Best and worst streaks of episodes An analysis of what makes episodes great Buffy writers sorted by the quality of their episodes Buffy directors sorted by the quality of their episodes Seasons of Buffy sorted by the quality of their episodes Buffy characters sorted by their possible contribution to episode quality Predicted episode quality based on writer, director, characters, and when aired Episodes that are much better or much worse than predicted Tastes in episodes Episodes ranked by taste Seasons ranked by taste Characters ranked by taste Writers ranked by taste Directors ranked by taste How the results on this site were obtained Ranking important contributors Reviews and Essays Frequently Asked Questions The links page Go to the sitemap


(a.k.a. The First Great Buffy Episode)

Written by: Joss Whedon
Directed by: Joss Whedon
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: Mark Metcalf as The Master
David Boreanaz as Angel
Kristine Sutherland as Joyce Summers
Robia LaMorte as Ms. Calendar
Andrew J. Ferchland as The Anointed One
Co-Starring: Scott Gurney as Kevin

Plot Summary

Buffy initially resisted a prophecy that she will die facing the Master and ended up killing him afterward.

Plot Details

At the Bronze, we were supposed to believe that Xander had finally come to his senses and asked Willow out. However, he was just practicing how he was to ask Buffy out to a spring dance. Doing so with Willow might seem cruel, but Willow seemed to enjoy pretending.

Buffy killed her third vampire of the night, which momentarily distracted Cordelia from her make-out session with her new boyfriend, Kevin. Buffy thought that Giles would be proud of her success, but he was pulling another all-nighter trying to translate a prophecy. He did not like what he came up with.

A moderate earthquake interrupted all of this action. Everyone seems disturbed except for the Master, who saw the earthquake as a portent of his latest attempt to rise to power.

The next morning, Xander shooed Willow away so he could ask Buffy to the dance. Buffy turned him down, which he did not take it well.

Giles called Angel and asked to see him after sundown. Ms. Calendar came in and presented a list of apocalyptic signs such as a cat giving birth to snakes, a lake boiling, and a newborn with inward facing eyes. She also had e-mails from a monk with prophecies about the Anointed One. Giles asked her to get more information while refusing her request for more information.

Cordelia asked Willow to help hook up the sound system for the dance. She agreed, but was distracted by a depressed Xander bouncing a tennis ball off of a chalkboard. Willow seemed to be genuinely sympathetic about Xander being rejected but would not be a consolation date for him. This did not lighten his mood any.

Buffy entered the library and overheard Giles tell Angel that there was a prophecy that Buffy would die. She was extremely distraught when she heard this and announced that she would no longer be a slayer. Giles and Angel were eventually left speechless.

Buffy's mother was concerned about Buffy's mood. She actually showed some insight into Buffy's situation for someone who did not know that Buffy is a slayer prophesized to die. She even showed Buffy a new dress that she got for her.

Cordelia and Willow went to fetch sound system equipment from the school. They were quite upset to find Kevin and two other students dead, killed by vampires.

Buffy was trying on the dress when Joyce interrupted. Apparently there was something on the news concerning Willow. Willow was afraid that vampires were going to take over her world and make it theirs. Buffy stated that she was going to do what she had to do.

Giles had apparently told Ms. Calendar what was to happen, because she explained it back to Giles, and the audience. She also said that the monk sent out one last message, a Bible verse. Giles figured out that this meant that the Anointed One was a child, and not the vampire that Buffy killed seven episodes ago. Giles decided that he would go face the Master by himself, but Buffy had other ideas. They had a brief argument that ended with Buffy knocking Giles unconscious. Buffy took a crossbow and wandered outside. The Anointed One met her and started to lead her away.

Xander was not happy that Giles "let" Buffy go off to face the Master and decided to get Angel to help him find out where Buffy went. Angel was reluctant to help, but Xander would not take no for an answer.

Giles, Willow, and Ms. Calendar tried to figure out where the Hellmouth was to open, which is where the vampires will congregate. Willow suggested that it would occur at the Bronze because the Harvest took place there. With the school dance going on at that time, Willow and Ms. Calendar went to warn the dancers. However, as soon as they left the school building, they saw what looked like zombies from Night of the Living Dead surrounding them.

Buffy and the Master played hide-and-seek for a while until the Master approached her from behind. He told her that Buffy would not only fail to prevent the Master from escaping, but that she was essential for him to escape. Apparently, he needed to taste her blood to be free. He bit her and let her fall unconscious into a pool of water. He then escaped.

Xander and Angel were close enough to hear the Master's escape. Angel pulled Buffy out of the pool of water and declared her dead. Xander was calm enough to try CPR and revive Buffy.

Meanwhile, Cordelia drove up just in time to rescue Willow and Ms. Calendar from the zombie vampires. She then drove them through the school hallway to the library. The three women manage to flee into the library just in time to bar the door. They were doing the usual pathetic job of trying to brace the door with light objects, including a cart on wheels. They were so distracted that they did not notice a tentacle come up through the floor and attempt to grab Willow. Giles was able to rescue her.

The Master was very unpleasantly surprised to see Buffy. He tried to hypnotize her but she was no longer vulnerable. After a bit of a scuffle, she tossed him through a skylight onto a jagged piece of a broken table in the library, killing him. This resulted in the tentacled monster receding into the floor and the other vampires leaving.

Buffy, Giles, Xander, Willow, Cordelia, Angel, and Ms. Calendar all congregated in the library. They decided to go to the dance after all, although Giles insisted that he was not going to dance.

The Good

Xander's double rejection from Buffy and Willow was well written and well acted by everyone involved. It is not pretty; it is not idealized. Instead, it is real.

The scene when Buffy learned that she was prophesized to die is one of the most powerful scenes in the entire series. I found it difficult to resist simply transcribing the entire scene for the memorable quotes section below. Sarah Michelle Gellar showed why she routinely topped the list of actresses who deserve Emmy nominations but have no chance to get one because the Emmy voters cannot recognize quality when the see it.

Scenes like Buffy's mother comforting her, Willow telling Buffy that vampires were taking over her world, and Xander reacting to Buffy going off to face the Master would be the highlight of nearly any other episode this season. In this episode, the very dramatic scenes almost hide them completely.

I may sound harsh when I grade the other episodes of this season. This is only because praise for episodes like this would ring hollow if I am generous with my praise for much lesser episodes. This episode is the first sign of the greatness that this show is capable of. Fortunately, many more episode reach this level and nearly a dozen or so even surpass this level. Each episode is rated in comparison with the other 143 episodes of this series. Episodes like this one set a high standard that is difficult to reach.

The Bad

As far as major season-long villains go, the Master was not that tough.

Overall Rank: 12

Action: 8

Buffy staked a vampire in the teaser.

The Master and Buffy had a brief fight in his lair, but it was more hide-and-seek than action.

Cordelia rescued Willow and Ms. Calendar and drove them to the school library. While there, they fought off vampires trying to enter and a tentacled beast coming up through the floor.

A "bad guy" outside the school failed even to slow Buffy down as she, Xander, and Angel marched to the school library to a familiar tune.

Buffy has a much better fight with the Master on the school roof. It ends with the Master falling through a skylight we never saw before onto a jagged piece of a broken table.

Comedy: 1

Xander and Angel had a debate on whether Angel was checking out Xander's neck.

Drama: 10

Buffy rejected Xander's proposal to go to Spring Fling as a date. Willow then rebuffed his proposal to go with her instead. This turned out to be painful for all three.

Most of the characters had to deal with Buffy's certain death.

For the first time, Willow realized that the good guys will not necessarily win. She was afraid for the future.

Romance: 7

For a moment, Willow got to live her fantasy about Xander asking her out when Xander practiced asking Buffy out in the Bronze.

Xander asked Buffy to go to Spring Fling with him as a date. She turned him down.

Angel figured out that Xander is in love with Buffy when Xander shamed him into helping Buffy.

Character Development: 8

Buffy—explicitly stated that she had no romantic interest in Xander. Even though she was in a dangerous profession with a short life expectancy, she had just now faced the possibility that she will die.

Willow—may be in love with Xander, but she is not so desperate as to be his second choice. She was badly shaken by seeing dead bodies of people she knew.

Xander—may have identified as a coward in earlier episodes, but he is fearless to the point of stupidity when someone he cares about is in danger.

Angel—loves Buffy. Her prophesized death was very painful. However, not even Buffy's death could bring him to want to get involved until Xander shamed him.

Ms. Calendar—is willing to do her share of work, but she wants to be involved and part of the group.

Joyce—again shows that she wants to understand her daughter. She is handicapped by not knowing about Buffy being a slayer and everything that entails.

Importance: 9

This is the first great episode of the series and shows what the cast and crew are capable of. It also resolved the first season arc by killing the Master.

Most Valuable Player: Xander

This is a no-brainer. Buffy is the only other legitimate candidate because she defeated the Master. However, she did so only after the Master defeated her. In fact, killing the Master kept her from being the goat of the week after being responsible for letting the Master out of his lair. Meanwhile, Xander went above and beyond the call of duty (and all reason) to charge into the Master's lair and save Buffy's life. Had he not done so, she never would have defeated the Master. Cordelia also deserves some credit for rescuing Willow and Ms. Calendar from the zombie vampires and Giles gets credit for rescuing Willow from the tentacled monster.

Sherlock Holmes Award: Giles

Giles figured out that the Anointed One was a child, not Andrew Borba. This helped to undo the damage he did a few episodes ago that earned him a goat of the week award.

Goat of the Week: The Master

The Master is this week's goat for underestimating Buffy and leaving her behind. It is tough to give it to him, however. After all, how could he know that a human being with no mystical powers whatsoever would dare charge into his lair to help Buffy? Still, he should have done more to ensure that Buffy stayed dead such as drain her completely of blood.

Random Commentary

I have lived in earthquake country and have played the game where people try to guess the magnitude of the earthquake they just felt. I do not think that the Master should substitute for a seismograph, but there are serious problems in the school if a 5.1 earthquake did that kind of damage to the library. (My record for the strongest earthquake that I have experienced is the Loma-Prieta Earthquake, which was 100 times as strong as a 5.1.)

Xander's reaction to Buffy's rejection seems quite unfair to Buffy and to the audience observing the interaction, but it is very understandable from Xander's point of view. Buffy hurt him, and the fact that it was without malice does little to soften the pain. An instinctual reaction when hurt is to strike back, which he did. His reaction was far from ideal, but it was real.

Xander's feeling of self worth was hurt, so it is natural that he seek out the one person who wants to be with him in that way. I do believe that he realizes that Willow is in love with him, but that he did not realize how much it would hurt her to make her the obvious second choice. I give Willow a lot of credit for not giving in to her desperation and saying no as well, even though the double rejection was especially hurtful for Xander.


Vampires have no breath? If so, why do we hear them pant? How are they able to speak? It would be much more plausible if Angel simply stated that he does not know CPR or if there is a mystical reason why a body that is dead cannot give life to a living human.

Many people wonder how Giles knew Angel's phone number and how Xander was able to find Angel's home. Apparently Buffy gave them the information off-screen.

Memorable Quotes

"Yes, yes! Shake, earth! This is a sign. We are in the final days. My time is come. Glory, glory! What do you think? 5.1?" The Master

"Giles, care. I'm putting my life on the line battling the undead. Look, I broke a nail, OK. I'm wearing a press-on. The least you could do is exhibit some casual interest. You could go 'hmm.'" Buffy
"Hmm." Giles

"Even I was bored, and I'm a science nerd." Willow
"Don't say that." Buffy
"I'm not ashamed. It's the computer age. Nerds are in. They're still in, right?" Willow

"Willow, I really like your outfit." Cordelia
"No, you don't." Willow
"No, I really don't, but I need a favor." Cordelia

"I'm just gonna go home, lie down, and listen to country music, the music of pain." Xander

"So that's it, huh? I remember the drill. One slayer dies; next one's called. Wonder who she is? Will you train her, or will they send someone else?" Buffy
"Buffy, I" Giles
"They say how he's gonna kill me? Think it'll hurt? Don't touch me. Were you even gonna tell me?" Buffy
"I was hoping I wouldn't have to, that there was some way around it." Giles
"I've got a way around it. I quit." Buffy
"It's not that simple." Angel
"I'm making it that simple. I quit. I resign. I'm fired. You can find someone else to stop the Master from taking over." Buffy
"I'm not sure that anyone else can. All the signs indicate" Giles
"The signs? Read me the signs. Tell me my fortune. You're so useful sitting here with all you books. You're really a lot of help." Buffy

"Giles, I'm 16. I don't wanna die." Buffy

"I'm not OK. I knew those guys. I go to that room every day, and, when I walked in there, it wasn't our world anymore. They made it theirs, and they had fun." Willow

"The part that gets me, though, is where Buffy is the vampire slayer. She's so little." Ms. Calendar

"Calm may work for Locutus of the Borg here, but I'm freaked out and I intend to stay that way." Xander

"As the soon to be purple area of my jaw will attest, I did not let her go." Giles

"I don't like you. At the end of the day, I pretty much think you're a vampire, but Buffy's got this big old yen for you. She thinks you're a real person, and, right now, I need you to prove her right." Xander
"You're in love with her." Angel
"Aren't you?" Xander

"See how you like it." Cordelia

"You're dead." The Master
"I may be dead, but I'm still pretty, which is more than I can say for you." Buffy
"You were destined to die. It was written." The Master
"What can I say, I flunked the written." Buffy

"You have fruit punch mouth." Buffy

"Buffy died and everything." Xander
"Wow, harsh." Willow
"I should have know that wouldn't stop you." Giles

"We saved the world. I say we party. I mean, I got all pretty." Buffy

"I like your dress." Willow, the Master, and Angel

Characters in Peril


Evil Escaped

Giles Unconscious

Unusual Pairings

Spoiler Questions

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 on November 2, 2012