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GO FISH (ep #2.20)

(a.k.a. Creature from the Black Lagoon: The Bad Version)

Written by: David Fury & Elin Hampton
Directed by: David Semel
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris
Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg
Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia Chase
David Boreanaz as Angel
Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles
Guest Starring: Charles Cyphers as Coach Carl Marin
Jeremy Garrett as Cameron Walker
Wentworth Miller as Gage Petronzi
Conchata Ferrell as Nurse Greenliegh
Armin Shimerman as Principal Snyder
Co-Starring: Danny Strong as Jonathan
Jake Patellis as Dodd McAlvy
Shane West as Sean

Plot Summary

Sunnydale High's swim team members were turning into sea creatures, and Xander might have been next.

Plot Details

The episode opened with a beach party celebrating the Sunnydale High swim team's success. Xander, Cordelia, and Willow were sort of in the spirit, but Buffy brooded alone. This gave Cameron, one of the swim team members, the opportunity to chat her up. She was not that receptive and may have welcomed the interruption when some other swim team members started to dunk Jonathan in ice water. Buffy quickly came to the rescue despite Jonathan's lack of appreciation.

Two of the swim team members walked away, complaining about Buffy. As one walked ahead, he noticed a foul odor. He looked back and found just the skin of the other, Dodd, as we saw a black creature sneaking into a sewer pipe.

Willow was teaching students to make pie charts, except for Gage, who was playing solitaire with naked ladies on the cards. After class, Principal Snyder came in to say that they could not find a substitute for the computer class, so Willow needed to finish the semester. He also wanted Willow to remove a failing grade from a student who did no work and took no tests but happened to be on the swim team.

Meanwhile, Cameron drove Buffy to school. He claimed that he wanted Buffy to feel comfortable, but locked her in the car when she wanted to leave. When he tried to go further with Buffy, she bashed his face on his steering wheel, bruising his nose. Unfortunately, Principal Snyder saw at leas the last part. He was not happy and, of course, blamed Buffy.

In the library, Buffy interrupted a rant to notice that Giles, Xander, and Willow were busy researching. They were investigating Dodd's apparent death. Willow, and Buffy, however, did not seem to take things too seriously, as they were talking about Oreo cookies and cholesterol.

Xander went to the vending machines for a study break. On the way, he ran into Cameron and made sure to comment on the nose. After a bit of discussion on what does constitute swim-team perks (e.g., after-hours cafeteria access) and what does not (e.g., Buffy), Cameron went into the cafeteria. Xander heard a scream and barged in to find Cameron's skin on the floor, and a black creature.

Buffy noted that Dodd and Cameron were the best swimmers on the team, so Gage, as the third best swimmer, was likely to be next. This suggested that someone has it in for the swim team. Willow volunteered to interrogate Jonathan while Buffy tried to follow Gage.

Willow interrogated Jonathan as a possible suspect. He confessed: he got revenge on the swim team... by urinating in the pool. Meanwhile, Xander heard Coach Marin say that he needed another member of the team if they are even to compete in the finals.

Buffy did a very poor job of being inconspicuous while following Gage. He stormed out of the Bronze, only to run into Angel. Angel commiserated with Gage, and then bit him. Buffy came to the rescue, a bit too late. Angel had already decided that he did not like Gage's taste. He spit out the blood and stormed away. This made Gage a little more appreciative of Buffy's presence.

Buffy, Willow, and Cordelia watched the swim team practice. Gage seemed as interested in keeping Buffy's attention as in practicing. Then, the nearly naked body of the newest swim-team member, Xander, distracted the women. He joined the swim team to keep an eye on everyone when Buffy cannot. Cordelia was proud that her boyfriend was part of the swim team, and Willow liked to picture Xander when he was not even wearing the Speedos.

After practice, Gage was alone in the locker room when he smelled a foul odor. Outside, Buffy heard screaming. She ran inside and found a sea monster. It did not attack. Instead, it waited as Gage tore his own skin off, revealing himself to be a sea monster. Then both sea monsters attacked Buffy and threw her around until Coach Marin showed up. The monsters quickly dove into a sewer grate.

In the nurse's office, the coach admitted that he probably did not want to know that his team was taking steroids. Buffy apparently believed him, because she concluded that Nurse Greenleigh was at fault. Before confronting her, Buffy and Giles went monster hunting with a tranquilizer rifle while Xander tried to figure out what the swim team was taking and how they were taking it.

Nurse Greenleigh confronted Coach Marin about the steroids. Coach Marin did not want to hear about it and threw her in the sewer to feed the monsters. Meanwhile, Xander found out that the team, including him, had been inhaling the steroids in a steam room. He was quite upset.

Buffy decided to interrogate Coach Marin while Willow went to interrogate Nurse Greenleigh. The latter revealed nothing for obvious reasons. However, Coach Marin confessed that he drew off of research from behind the Iron Curtain. Apparently, they were using fish DNA to improve their swimmers. He then drew a gun and forced Buffy to join the sea monsters to satisfy needs other than for food.

Xander and Cordelia visited the pool. He went into the locker room and out came a sea monster. Cordelia was very upset, but promised to still look after Xander until he showed up and wondered what all the fuss was about. They then realized that they were in the presence of a sea monster and should probably flee.

Xander decided to go after Buffy, who was awaiting a sea monster attack. He confronted Coach Marin and managed to keep him from getting the gun. He apparently knocked the coach unconscious, because he was then able to lift Buffy out of the sewer without interference from Marin. In any case, as soon as Buffy got out, the coach attacked again and ended up in the sewer with the sea monsters. They seemed very happy to tear him apart.

The episode ended with Dodd, Cameron, Gage, and Sean all going out to sea. Well, actually only three of them as I doubt that there was enough in the budget for a fourth rubber suit.

The Good

I often cite this episode as an example of the fact that even the weakest episodes have redeeming features. In this case, there are three good scenes. The first is the scene in which Willow interrogated Jonathan. The second was when Cordelia, Willow, and Buffy first saw Xander nearly naked. The last scene was when Cordelia poured her heart out to the sea monster she thought was Xander.

The Bad

Nearly every other aspect of this episode falls in the category of the bad.

This episode beat the audience over the head with the theme of special privileges for athletes and the negative effects of steroids. It is particularly bad when Willow all but gave a public service announcement against steroids.

A supposedly feminist show should not use the phrase, "like a woman," to denote weakness or cowardliness.

Overall Rank: 113

Action: 4

Two sea monsters attacked Buffy in the locker room. They fought until Coach Marin showed up.

Buffy had to fight off sea monsters while Xander battled Coach Marin. When Xander rescued Buffy, Coach Marin tried to attack again and ended up in the sewer with the sea monsters.

Comedy: 6

This episode is a bit more quotable than the typical stand-alone episode.

The scenes that I mention in The Good section are all funny, even the one in which Cordelia thought that Xander turned into a sea monster.

Drama: 3

Xander faced the possibility that he too might become a sea monster, and Cordelia was genuinely upset when she believed that he did turn into a sea monster.

Romance: 2

Cordelia seemed to enjoy looking at Xander's nearly naked body, and poured her heart out to the sea monster she thought was him.

Character Development: 1

Cordelia appears to genuinely love Xander. Her speech when she thought that he turned into a sea monster was one of the only good parts of this episode.

Importance: 0

Someone who missed this episode would not miss anything other than one or two jokes.

Most Valuable Player: Xander

The characters spent much of their time figuring things out rather than doing anything. However, Xander gets the MVP for rescuing Buffy from the sea monsters.

Sherlock Holmes Award: Buffy

Buffy figured out that swimmers were disappearing in order based on their ability and later guessed that steroids might explain some of what was happening. She lost points for thinking that Nurse Greenleigh was at fault, but nobody else really did much, so she gets the award.

Goat of the Week: Coach Marin

Coach Marin was the one who dosed the swimmers with steroids. He probably did not know that the steroids would turn his swimmers into sea monsters, but he had every reason to realize that there would be negative consequences. In a bit of poetic justice, the sea monsters killed him.

Random Commentary

When I rewatched "Go Fish" episode for this review, the theme was even more topical than when it aired. For a long time, most Americans thought of steroids as something that the random Chinese or Eastern European Olympians took before getting caught. They wanted to pretend that the excessive number of home runs in the era was due to a more tightly wound ball or umpires not calling the high strike. When I wrote this review, many people were talking about steroids in Major League Baseball. They realize that many of the home runs were due to sluggers dosing up. I only wish that this were an episode worthy of the topic.

Memorable Dialogue

"Well, all I know is my cheerleading squad wasted a lot of pep on losers. It's about time our school excelled at something." Cordelia
"You're forgetting our high mortality rate." Willow
"We're number one!" Xander

"Eternal, a true mother, giving birth to new life and devouring old. Always adaptable, nurturing, yet constant, merciless." Cameron
"Boy, I was just gonna go with big and wet." Buffy

"You're asking me to change his grade?" Willow
"I never said any such thing. All I'm suggesting is that you recheck your figures, and I think we'll find a grade more fitting to an athlete of Gage's stature, perhaps something in a D." Principal Snyder

"It's a slap in the face to every one of us who studied hard and worked long hours to earn our Ds." Xander
"Xander, I know that you take pride in being the voice of the common wuss, but the truth is certain people are entitled to special privileges. They're called winners. That's the way the world works." Cordelia
"What about that nutty 'all men are created equal' thing?" Xander
"Propaganda spouted out by the ugly and less deserving." Cordelia
"I think that was Lincoln." Xander
"Disgusting mole and stupid hat." Cordelia
"Actually, it was Jefferson." Willow
"Kept slaves, remember?" Cordelia
"You know what really grates my cheese? That Buffy's not here to share my moral outrage about swim-team perks. She's too busy being one of them." Xander

"So I'm treated like the baddie just because he has a sprained wrist and a bloody nose, and I don't have a scratch on me, which, granted, hurts my case a little on the surface, but meanwhile he gets away with it because he's on the aren't-we-the-most swim team who, by the way, if no one's noticed, have been acting like real jerks lately. So, anything new with you guys?" Buffy

"So, something ripped him open and ate out his insides?" Buffy
"Like an Oreo cookie, well, except for, you know, without the chocolatey cookie goodness." Willow

"The skin's the best part." Xander
"Any demons with high cholesterol? You're gonna think about that later, mister, and you're gonna laugh." Buffy

"God, this is so sad. We're never gonna win the state championship. I think I've lost all will to cheerlead." Cordelia
"Raise your hand if you feel her pain." Xander

"So, you delved into the black arts and conjured up a hell beast from the ocean's depths to wreak your vengeance, didn't you?" Willow
"What? No, I snuck in yesterday and peed in the pool." Jonathan

"Psycho bitch, man!" Gage
"Gotta be talking about Buffy." Angel

"Was that the thing that killed Cameron?" Gage
"No, that was something else." Buffy
"Something else?" Gage
"Yeah, unfortunately, we have a lot of something elses in this town." Buffy

"Oh, my! Now that, girls, is my kind of..." Cordelia
"Xander?" Willow

"I figure I can keep an eye on Gage when Buffy and the others can't." Xander
"When you're nude? I meant to say changing." Willow

"Where's Gage?" Buffy
"He was right behind me, putting his sneakers on, but it's not the velcro kind, so give him a couple of extra minutes." Xander

"The discus throwers got the best seats at all the crucifixions." Xander

"I wouldn't break out the tartar sauce just yet. It's not like you were exposed more than once. Twice?" Buffy
"Three times a fish guy. What am I gonna do?" Xander
"You, you, you! What about me? It's one thing to be dating the lame unpopular guy, but it's another to be dating the creature from the Blue Lagoon." Cordelia
"Black Lagoon, the creature from the Blue Lagoon was Brooke Shields." Xander

"I think we should lock the rest of the swim team up before they get in touch with their inner halibut." Buffy

"Boy, when they were handing out school spirit, you didn't even stand in line, did you?" Coach Marin
"No, I was in the line for shred of sanity." Buffy

"Xander? Oh, my God, Xander! It's me, Cordelia. I know you can't answer me, but, God, this is all my fault. You joined the swim team to impress me. You were so courageous, and you looked really hot in those Speedos. I want you to know that I still care about you, no matter what you look like, and we can still date, or not. I mean, I understand if you wanna see other fish. I'll do everything I can to make your quality of life better, whether that means little bath toys, or whatever." Cordelia

"I think we can safely say we found Sean. He was in the pool skinless dipping." Cordelia

"Great, this is just what my reputation needs, that I did it with the entire swim team." Buffy

"Harris, how are you feeling?" Coach Marin
"A little dry, nothing a lemon butter sauce won't cure." Xander

"I want you to know that you've really proven yourself to me, and you don't have to join the new team next year if you don't want. I'd be just as happy if you played football." Cordelia

Characters in Peril


I do not count being turned into a sea monster to be a death.

Evil Escaped

Police and Guns

Buffy and the Law

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 9, 2012