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EARSHOT (ep #3.18)

(a.k.a. Winning Friends through Telepathy)

Written by: Jane Espenson
Directed by: Regis B. Kimble
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
Seth Green as Oz
Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles
Guest Starring: Kristine Sutherland as Joyce Summers
Alexis Denisof as Wesley Wyndam-Pryce
Ethan Erickson as Percy West
Danny Strong as Jonathan Levinson
Co-Starring: Larry Bagby III as Larry
Keram Malicki-Sanchez as Freddy
Justin Doran as Hogan
Lauren Roman as Nancy
Wendy Worthington as Lunch Lady
Robert Arce as Mr. Beach
Molly Bryant as Ms. Murray
Rich Muller as Student
Jay Michael Ferguson as Another Student

Plot Summary

Buffy was temporarily telepathic, which alerted her to someone who wanted to massacre Sunnydale High students.

Plot Details

The episode opened in a playground, where Buffy battled two demons. They fought well, but Buffy still managed to stab one to death. A bit of its pale blue, glow-in-the-dark blood soaked into Buffy's hand as the other demon fled.

In the library, Giles admitted that, based on the information that Buffy and Angel got from Faith, he knew nearly nothing about the Mayor's ascension. After needling Giles about his lack of success, Wesley proceeded to explain how little he was able to learn. The other characters walked out.

Buffy was still jealous of the fact that Angel had to pretend to be attracted to Faith in order to get what little information they did get from her. Willow kept recommending that Buffy talk to him, but this was still too logical for Buffy to consider.

Giles did some research and found that Buffy might have been infected with an "aspect of the demon" that she will inherit. She suddenly got worried. At a pep rally for the basketball team, Buffy started feeling for horns. Willow tried to comfort her by saying that she thought that Giles was slipping, when her eyes got big and she started wondering about whether the demon had male parts.

That night, Buffy ran into Angel while on patrol. He was worried about her with Faith about. Like Willow, he also suggested that there might not be anything to the aspect of the demon thing, only without suggesting that Buffy might soon gain a male organ.

The next day, Willow, Xander, and even Oz excitedly talked about the previous night's basketball game until Buffy, who could not come, showed up. They tried to convince her that she did not miss much until Cordelia arrived and gushed some more. While talking, Xander wondered to himself if Cordelia and Wesley have kissed. Buffy commented on this, and Xander said that she must have read his mind. Buffy realized that he was right.

As Buffy walked down the halls to the library, she heard the thoughts of various students and teachers. She liked it when one male student thought that she was beautiful, until he started fantasizing about what he wanted to do about it.

Buffy told Giles that she was happy that she got mind reading instead of a tail from the demon. Giles was initially skeptical, but then realized that this would be a very useful power for Buffy to have. It would greatly help her in combat. Buffy had other ideas of where it could be used.

In a class discussion of Othello, Buffy dominated the conversation with insightful comments, impressing the teacher and inciting envy among other students. Later, she went to see Angel and started to talk about Faith to see what thoughts she could read. Unfortunately, this did not work on vampires. Angel did figure out what Buffy wanted to know and assured her that he had no feelings for Faith.

Buffy, Xander, Willow, Oz, Cordelia, Wesley, and Giles met in the library to discuss Buffy's new ability. It quickly became clear that they were all uncomfortable with Buffy being able to read their minds. After she left, Giles found a case where someone else gained this ability. That person is currently in isolation.

In the cafeteria, Buffy started to get overwhelmed by the competing minds that she was reading. Eventually, a single thought overpowered the others. Somebody was planning to kill all the students. Buffy was so shocked that she dropped her tray. The camera started spinning and she fainted.

She woke up outside, surrounded by Giles and her friends. She told them that someone was planning to kill the students. She wanted to go back to the cafeteria, but settled for Giles driving her home while Willow, Xander, Oz, and Cordelia made a list of who was in the cafeteria and started investigating.

At Buffy's home, Joyce was going a little overboard in her pampering of Buffy but did not want to sit with her. Buffy quickly figured out why when Joyce had a quick thought about what she and Giles did back in "Band Candy," twice, on the hood of a police car. Joyce was mortified.

Willow narrowed the suspects to a dozen. She assigned names to Xander, Cordelia, and Oz and ordered them to interview the people. Like in "Go Fish," Willow interrogated Jonathan. Meanwhile, Oz questioned Hogan, and Cordelia bluntly asked Mr. Beach if he were planning to kill a bunch of people. Xander questioned three women about their perfect romantic evening. Oz, however, failed to interview Freddy, the newspaper editor, who hid under his desk when Oz arrived.

Giles and Wesley were preparing a potion to cure Buffy. The only problem was that it needed the heart of the second demon, and, without Buffy, Giles did not know who could get it. We then saw the obvious answer, Angel, battling the demon.

The next day, there were more interviews. Once classmate, Nancy, claimed that she did not believe that students were spying on her until Willow asked her. Larry denied that he had any secrets. In fact, his grandmother was trying to fix him up with dates. However, he was very sympathetic to what he perceived to be Xander's plight and suggested that Xander put a coming out announcement in the paper.

By the next morning, Buffy was so far gone, that she could not pick out one thought from all the din. Angel, hiding under a heavy blanket to shield himself from sunlight, arrived with the potion.

Oz, Xander, Willow, and Cordelia burst into the newspaper office and confronted Freddy. They were very threatening until Freddy said that the reason why he was hiding from Oz was that he thought that Oz was coming to get revenge for a negative review of Oz's band. Buffy arrived just as Cordelia read a suspicious note from Jonathan. Everyone split up to find him.

In a Sunnydale High clock tower that we have not seen before, Jonathan looked over the campus and opened a case containing a rifle. Eventually, Buffy saw him there and jumped up to confront him. She eloquently talked about how nobody really cared about his pain because they were too busy with their own. Eventually, Jonathan gave her the gun. It was only then when he said that he was planning to kill himself, not other people.

Fortunately, Xander got distracted from his search for Jonathan by the smell of cafeteria food. He wandered into the kitchen to see the lunch lady pouring rat poison into the mulligan stew. Xander panicked and ran into the cafeteria to turn over tables. The lunch lady chased him and was about to chop him up when Buffy arrived. It was fairly easy for Buffy to defeat the lunch lady.

Some time later, Willow decided that she should give the information from the interrogations to the yearbook because they were interesting reading. Buffy mentioned that Jonathan was doing better, but he is facing the repercussions of bringing a gun to campus. She liked helping people without slaying, but she drew the line at going to the prom with him. She also let Giles know that she knew what he did with his mother on the hood of a police car.

The Good

In To Air or Not to Air below, I discuss the controversy that occurred because this episode was scheduled to air in the United States less than a week after the Columbine High School massacre. I believe that delaying broadcast was the right decision, but, in a way, it was a pity because this episode was more insightful than most of the commentary immediately after the massacre. I know that Jonathan was not really planning a massacre, but some of the people who have committed school massacres were people like him: people who were in pain and believed that nobody cared. I do not want to go so far as to suggest that the Columbine massacre would have been averted if the killers saw this episode first, but there were many people who needed to hear what Buffy said to Jonathan.

As one would expect from nearly anything written by Jane Espenson, this was a very funny episode. When I think about this episode, I mostly think about the serious issues it addressed, and addressed well. However, it is also a lot of fun. Save for "Doppelgangland," most of the previous few episodes have been quite serious. It is good to have a fun episode once in a while.

The Bad

There was no way that the creators could have known that there would be a school massacre less than a week before this episode was to air in the United States. However, there have been a few massacres in the years before, so another school massacre was not unforeseeable. Several of the lines would be in poor taste immediately after a massacre.

Overall Rank: 38

Action: 5

Buffy fought two demons during the teaser.

Angel later fought the second demon.

The lunch lady pursued Xander until Buffy arrived and beat her up.

Comedy: 7

Willow asked if Buffy would get an aspect of a boy demon.

Buffy's telepathic ability allowed her to get may amusing insights about others, especially about an event that took place twice in "Band Candy," on the hood of a police car.

Willow, Oz, Xander, and Cordelia interviewed suspects.

Cordelia reverted back to her self-centered personality.

Giles walked into a tree.

Drama: 8

Buffy is still feeling jealous of having seen Angel with Faith.

Buffy worried about what aspect of a demon she would get.

Buffy and Jonathan talked about the pain that everyone is feeling.

Romance: 4

Angel stated that he would love Buffy even if she were covered in slime.

Angel declared that he has loved only one person in his 243 year life.

Character Development: 5

Xander appears to think about little other than sex. In other words, he is a 17-year-old male.

Willow is a little insecure about whether Buffy really needs her and is concerned that she does not know much about what Oz is thinking.

Oz's mind is more active than his mouth.

Cordelia says whatever she has on her mind, as if we did not already know that. Also, she is back to working with the other characters, even when Wesley is not present.

Jonathan has been feeling ignored and has even become suicidal.

Importance: 3

This episode is a sign that Jonathan may become a more important character.

Most Valuable Player: Buffy

There are three very strong candidates. Xander would probably get the award for discovering the lunch lady poisoning the mulligan stew if he did not already get the Sherlock Holmes award. Buffy talked Jonathan out of committing suicide and defeated the lunch lady. Finally, Angel managed to get the demon heart and brewed the potion that saved Buffy. Buffy barely wins the MVP for this episode.

Sherlock Holmes Award: Xander

Xander was the one who first hypothesized that the lunch lady was poisoning the mulligan stew, and he was the one who actually saw her do so. Angel gets a bit of credit for figuring out that Buffy was telepathic without having to be told, and Buffy gets credit for hearing that someone was going to kill everyone.

Goat of the Week: Lunch Lady

The lunch lady had no reason to believe that someone would overhear her thought. However, did the lunch lady really believe that nobody would walk into the kitchen while she was pouring rat poison in the mulligan stew? It is plausible that Xander might have wandered in anyway even if he were not looking of Jonathan. She should have used a more generic box. This way, when caught, she could just say that she was adding salt.

Random Commentary

I am a little embarrassed to admit that I was already thinking the same thing when Willow asked if the demon were a boy demon.

I hate to break this to students reading this, but I imagine that there are very few teachers who have not fantasized, as Mr. Beach did, about getting rid of the students.

It may be a coincidence, but in the newspaper office, there is a poster in which Uncle Sam does a finger gesture with the pinky extended similar to the one done by Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers movies. Seth Green happens to play Dr. Evil's son in those films.

To Air or Not to Air

On April 20, 1999, two students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado arrived at school heavily armed and proceeded to kill a teacher and twelve students. Soon afterward, the WB Network decided not to air the episode "Earshot" as scheduled and instead aired a repeat. This move was controversial, but I believe that the network did what it had to do.

In the aftermath of the Columbine massacre, the media tried to explain why it happened. With very little thought, the media concluded that the media were responsible for driving the perpetrators to violence. This might look like collective guilt or deep self-examination, but that would be true only if the media were a single, amorphous entity. Instead, there was a lot of finger pointing.

Mostly, the media jumped on the idea that the perpetrators (may have) played Doom, listened to Marilyn Manson, and watched violent films and television shows. I do not remember anyone accusing Buffy the Vampire Slayer of influencing the perpetrators. However, I can understand it if some people decided to be careful with actions shows like Buffy.

The idea that a student would perform a massacre at Sunnydale High was one of the red herrings in the episode. The characters made many insensitive statements. Oz said that he always went straight to the obituary section in the campus newspaper. Xander wondered "Who hasn't just idly thought about taking out the whole place with a semiautomatic." Oz suggested that doing so was becoming trendy. Such statements would be quite insensitive in the wake of the Columbine massacre.

As a result, I reluctantly have to say that the WB network was correct to delay airing "Earshot." It was not that important to the season 3 arc, so fans could still follow the subsequent episodes. Furthermore, it would have been insensitive to joke about high school massacres at the time.


I know that nearly everyone else asked this, but why did Jonathan bring a sniper rifle to school if he wanted to kill himself?

Newspaper Headlines

DVD Extras

Commentary by Writer Jane Espenson The commentary sometimes fell into a discussion of things that people could easily figure out from watching it. However, it was mostly interesting. There are spoilers through episode 17 of season four and the first season of Angel. Insights include:

Interview with Joss Whedon is the same interview with Joss Whedon, Doug Petrie, and Jane Espenson on "Enemies" and "Earshot." Joss Whedon discussed the balance between the humorous aspects in the beginning of the episode and the more serious aspects as Buffy realizes how much pain people have. Jane Espenson talked about how she likes the character of Jonathan and why she had Buffy unable to read Angel. Both Whedon and Espenson talked about how this episode was to air less than a week after the Columbine massacre.

Memorable Dialogue

All thoughts are in italics.

"Scabby demon #2 got away. Scabby demon #1: big check in the slay column." Buffy

"Hogan Martin thinks he so hot. Like we should all be awed by him 'cause he put a ball in a net." Xander
"Hey, Xander." Hogan
"He said my name! He knows my name!" Xander

"Is it me, or is this really lame?" Buffy
"I don't know. I usually enjoy lameness, and this is leaving me kinda cold." Oz
"Well, according to Freddy's latest editorial, 'The pep rally is a place for pseudo prostitutes to provoke men into a sexual frenzy which, when thwarted, results in pointless athletic competition.'" Willow
"And the downside being?" Xander
"The school paper is edging on depressing lately. Have you guys noticed that." Willow
"I don't know. I always go straight to the obits." Oz

"I'm suddenly gonna grow this demon part, and we don't even know what it is. It could be claws or scales... [Willow's eyes grow wide] What?" Buffy
"Was it a boy demon?" Willow

"You know, Oz, I look at all this beauty, all these healthy young women, and I wonder why I ever wasted my time on Cordelia. I mean, look at her. She's no better looking than the rest of 'em." Xander
"None of 'em are really my..." Oz
"[Sees Wesley] Oh, my God, he's looking at her. He's got his filthy adult Pierce Brosnany eyes all over my Cordy." Xander
"You're a very complex man, aren't you?" Oz

"I'll love you even if you're covered with slime." Angel

"It was intense." Oz
"Yeah, for a minute there, I though you were gonna make an expression." Xander
"I felt one coming on. I won't lie." Oz

"It was an incredible game. I've never cheered so hard in my life. I still have knee marks on my back. From the pyramid." Cordelia

"I'm not even convinced that this is genuine mind reading. You're most likely projecting your..." Giles
"When I walked in a few minutes ago, you thought, 'Look at her shoes. If a fashion magazine told her to, she'd wear cats strapped to her feet.'" Buffy

"A lot of things that seem strong and good and powerful, they can be painful." Angel
"Like, say, immortality?" Buffy
"Exactly, I'm dying to get rid of that." Angel

"I don't see what this has to do with me. I don't see what this has to do with me." Cordelia

"I am my thoughts. If they exist in her, Buffy contains everything that is me, and she becomes me. I cease to exist. Hmm?" Oz
"What am I gonna do. I think about sex all the time. Sex. Help. Four times five is 30. Five times six is 32. Naked girls, naked women, naked Buffy. Oh, stop me!" Xander
"God, Xander, is that all you think about?" Buffy
"Actually, bye!" Xander
"Xander has just illustrated something. The chances are, you're all going to be thinking whatever you least want Buffy to hear. It's a question, of course, of mental discipline." Wesley
"He's right." Giles
"Look at Cordelia. No, don't look at Cordelia. She's a student. Oh, I am bad. I'm a bad, bad man." Wesley

"No one else exists either. Buffy is all of us. We think, therefore, she is." Oz
"She knows so much. She knows what Oz is thinking. I never knew that. Before long, she'll know him better than I do." Willow

"Who hasn't just idly thought about taking out the whole place with a semiautomatic? I said idly." Xander

"I'm still having trouble with the fact that one of us is just gonna gun everybody down for no reason." Xander
"Yeah, because that never happens in American high schools." Cordelia
"It's bordering on trendy at this point." Oz

"You had sex with Giles? You had sex with Giles?" Buffy
"It was the candy. We were teenagers." Joyce
"On the hood of a police car?" Buffy
"I'll be downstairs. You feel better." Joyce
"Twice?" Buffy

"We all have fantasies where we're powerful and respected, where people pay attention to us." Willow
"Maybe." Jonathan
"But sometimes, the fantasy isn't enough, is it, Jonathan? Sometimes, we have to make it so people don't ignore us, make them pay attention. You know what I'm talking about, don't you?" Willow
"You want me to pay attention." Jonathan

"Hi, Mr. Beach. I was just wondering, were you planning on killing a bunch of people tomorrow? Oh, it's for the yearbook." Cordelia

"[Reading a review] 'Dingoes Ate My Baby played their instruments as if they had plump Polish sausages taped to their fingers.'" Oz

"'By this time tomorrow, you'll all know what I've done. I'm sure you understand that I had to do it, and that although death is never easy, it's the only way.' God, doesn't anyone write in to praise the cheerleaders? We are so unsung." Cordelia

"Stop saying my name like were friends. We're not friends. You all think I'm an idiot, a short idiot." Jonathan
"I don't. I don't think about you much at all. Nobody here really does. Bugs you, doesn't it? You have all this pain, all these feelings, and nobody's really paying attention." Buffy
"You think I just want attention?" Jonathan
"No, I think you're up in the clock tower with a high-powered rifle because you want to blend in. Believe it or not, Jonathan, I understand about the pain." Buffy
"Oh, right, 'cause the burden of being beautiful and athletic, that's a crippler." Jonathan
"You know what? I was wrong. You are an idiot. My life happens to, on occasion, suck beyond the telling of it, sometimes more than I can handle. And it's not just mine. Every single person down there is ignoring your pain because they're too busy with their own. The beautiful ones, the popular ones, the guys that pick on you, everyone. If you could hear what they were feeling, the loneliness, the confusion. It looks quiet down there. It's not. It's deafening." Buffy

"We talked, then he ripped out the heart of a demon and fed it to me, and then we talked some more." Buffy
"See, that's how it should work." Willow

"It's nice to be able to help someone in a nonslaying capacity, except he's starting to get that look, you know, like he's gonna ask me to prom." Buffy
"Well, it'd probably be good for his self-esteem if you..." Giles
"Oh, come on, what am I, Saint Buffy? He's like three feet tall." Buffy
"I'm glad to see you've recovered from your psychic encounter more or less intact. Feel up to some training?" Giles
"Sure, we can work out after school, you know, if you're not too busy having sex with my mother." Buffy

Characters in Peril


Police and Guns

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 16, 2012