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The FRESHMAN (ep #4.01)

(a.k.a. Welcome to UC Sunnydale)

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
Seth Green as Oz
Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles
Guest Starring: Kristine Sutherland as Joyce Summers
Marc Blucas as Riley Finn
Dagney Kerr as Kathy
Pedro Balmaceda as Eddie
Katharine Towne as Sunday
Lindsay Crouse as Maggie Walsh
Co-Starring: Mike Rad as Rookie
Shannon Hillary as Dav
Mace Lombard as Tom
Robert Catrini as Prof. Riegert
Scott Rinker as R.A.
Phina Oruche as Olivia
Denice J. Sealy as Student Volunteer
Evie Peck as Angry Girl
Anil Raman as Earnest Fellow
Jason Christopher as Nonserious Guy
Jane Silvia as Conservative Woman
Mark Silverberg as Passing Student
Walt Borchert as New Vampire

Plot Summary

Buffy has a tough time adjusting to college and with the local gang of vampires.

Plot Details

In a cemetery, Buffy and Willow discussed the classes that they might take. Behind them, a vampire rose from his grave. He thought that he would have an easy first meal, until he saw Buffy and Willow's weaponry. He decided that the smartest course of action would be to slink away quietly.

On orientation day, Buffy wandered through the UC Sunnydale quad, feeling overwhelmed and being barraged with fliers for various causes. She was relieved to find Willow, who had her own collection of fliers. Willow was excited about being in a place where knowledge is valued, but the way she said it suggested that something else was on her mind, even before running into Oz.

Buffy and Willow toured the library. Willow was impressed that it was a real library where people were expected to be quiet. They then went to the bookstore, where Buffy accidentally dumped four textbooks on another student's (Riley's) head. Fortunately, he seemed good-natured about the accident. Willow tried to impress him with the fact that she knew the phrase "operant conditioning." He seemed mildly impressed, or at least more impressed with her than with Buffy.

Buffy went to her dorm room and met her roommate, Kathy. Kathy appeared to be very enthusiastic for classes to start. If that were not annoying enough to Buffy, Kathy also hung a Celine Dion poster and snored throughout the night.

The next day, Buffy attended a class on American culture. The instructor got very upset when Buffy whispered to another student. He made a point of humiliating her and kicking her out of the class. She then went to psychology, where she ran into Riley. He did not remember her at first, and then only as Willow's friend.

That night, Buffy wandered the campus and ran into another student, Eddie, who was also in her psychology class. He was as lost as she was, and he had a map. They eventually found where they were and parted. Buffy went one way thinking that she made a new friend while four vampires ambushed Eddie.

The vampires entered Eddie's dorm room and dumped all his stuff into boxes. When they finished, they left a note on the bed and left. When Buffy missed him in class the following day, she investigated his room. The resident assistant said that it was not uncommon for students to simply leave because they could not handle college. Buffy got suspicious when she saw that his copy of Of Human Bondage was still there even though he described it as his security blanket.

The vampire gang, led by Sunday, sorted through Eddie's belongings while his body was lying around. She was not happy with his taste in music and expressed a desire to start killing people with better taste, even though her general plan was to kill the weak. There was some excitement when they found a Klimt poster, which tightened the competition between Klimt and Monet for most popular artist on posters.

Buffy walked into Giles's apartment and found a woman wearing just one of his shirts. Giles walked out of his bedroom wearing a bathrobe. Buffy talked about Eddie being missing and wanted to work out plans to deal with this, but he thought that she should be able to handle it herself.

While wandering the campus, Buffy saw Eddie. Unfortunately, when she approached him, she saw that he was a vampire. She quickly staked him and then found herself surrounded by Sunday and her gang. Buffy and Sunday engaged in a bit of banter before Sunday started to kick Buffy's rear end. Buffy fled.

Sunday's gang, now with two extra members, was having a lot of fun discussing their encounter with Buffy. In fact, Sunday suggested that they "hit the tunnels." Meanwhile, Buffy returned to visit her mother only to find that her old bedroom was now a storage room.

Buffy returned to her dorm to find her belongings gone and a note on her bed allegedly from her. Buffy then went to the Bronze to listen to the depressing music. Fortunately, Xander was there. He went on his cross-country trip and got as far as Oxnard before his car broke down. He worked at a night club until he could afford to get a new car.

Buffy tried to say that college was going well, but Xander was not dumb enough to buy it. He started his pep talk by misquoting Yoda and Tony Montana, but he recovered and successfully raised Buffy's spirits and gave her the confidence she needed to take on Sunday.

Buffy and Xander broke into a newspaper office to do some research. They discovered that disappearances started just when a fraternity house was abandoned. They climbed up to the roof and saw the vampire gang going through her belongings. Xander left to get weapons just before Buffy fell though the skylight.

Kathy was talking with Willow and Oz. They were all confused about the note on Buffy's bed. Willow denied that Buffy would ever take off, except for the time that she did take off between the second and third seasons. Oz realized that the note was not in her handwriting a bit before Xander entered. Xander managed to tell Willow and Oz that vampires stole her belongings without letting Kathy know that he was talking about vampires. Xander, Willow, and Oz immediately went to Willow's room for weapons.

Meanwhile, after a bit of banter, Sunday and Buffy started to fight. Like before, Sunday got the better of the fight while the minions watched. Eventually, a couple of the other vampires decided to leave only to run into Xander, Willow, and Oz. Willow shot one vampire with a crossbow while Oz and Xander staked another. Once all the other vampires fled or turned to dust, Buffy tossed a stake in Sunday's heart.

As Buffy, Xander, Oz, and Willow carried Buffy's belongings back to her dorm, a guilt-ridden Giles charged up with a crossbow, battle ax, and cross. Buffy, however, had finally decided that she could handle college and that it was starting to look like high school.

Meanwhile, a vamprie from Sunday's gang who managed to escape was fleeing across campus when he was hit by a taser. As he was lying on the ground, three people dressed as commandos approached him.

The Good

This episode does a good job in introducing the show and the characters to new viewers while setting up the fourth season. With Sunnydale High School reduced to rubble and Angel and Cordelia away in Los Angeles, this will be a different show. Even returning viewers need to be introduced to the new setting and dynamics.

This episode introduces several new characters such as Riley, Professor Walsh, Kathy, Eddie, Sunday, her gang, and Olivia. Some of these characters will not become particularly important. Some did not even survive this episode. However, a couple of them will play an important role this season.

The Bad

It is unfortunate that Sunday was killed off this early. She would have made an interesting recurring villain who could cause trouble until the season arc gets started.

Overall Rank: 76

Action: 5

Buffy staked Eddie after a brief fight.

Buffy and Sunday had a one-sided fight that ended with Buffy fleeing with a hurt left arm.

Buffy and Sunday fought in the abandoned fraternity house while Xander was fetching Willow, Oz, and weapons.

Later, Xander, Willow, and Oz burst in and joined the battle.

Comedy: 2

Willow expressed her excitement over college and ended up talking about something very different.

Xander's adventures over the summer were amusing.

Drama: 6

Most of the drama came from Buffy having a difficult time adjusting to college.

Romance: 3

Giles appears to have a new girlfriend.

Character Development: 8

Buffy had a difficult time adjusting to college life. She often felt lost and lonely. As a result, she was not at her best when she fought Sunday. Even worse, her punning was pathetic. However, a pep talk from Xander and a more successful attack against Sunday's gang lifted her spirits.

Willow is adjusting to college life quite easily and enjoys being in an intellectual environment.

Xander did not have the adventure that he was expecting and is now living in his parents' basement. He is still committed to slaying and still admires Buffy.

Giles apparently has not found a job since he blew up his library. He is currently involved with a younger woman and appeared to want to back off from his role as a mentor with Buffy. By the end of the episode, he seemed to regret the last bit and probably wants to remain as her mentor. It is not clear what he thinks about being with a younger woman.

Riley is a teaching assistant in the psychology class that Buffy, Willow, and Oz are taking. He appears to be easy going and interested in Willow, although it is unclear if his interest is romantic.

Prof. Walsh teaches the psychology class that Buffy, Willow, and Oz are taking. At least on the first day of class, she projected a tough persona.

Kathy is Buffy's very chipper roommate. Like Willow, she appears to be excited to be in college rather than overwhelmed. She also snores.

Olivia appears to be a new love interest for Giles. She did not appear to be particularly surprised to see Buffy wander in Giles's apartment without knocking and cared enough to ask about Buffy after she left.

Importance: 7

This episode helped to set up the fourth season and introduced several characters of varying importance, some of whom actually survived this episode.

Most Valuable Player: Xander

Xander must have spent the summer in Oxnard thinking about how poorly he performed in the third season, because he opened the fourth season with an MVP. He gets it for giving Buffy the pep talk and gathering Oz, Willow, and the weapons for the assault against Sunday's gang. Buffy gets some consideration for eventually defeating Sunday, but she needed to be less pathetic in her earlier encounters if she wanted the award for this episode.

Sherlock Holmes Award: Xander

Buffy figured out that a gang of vampires could be working the campus. Xander discovered the gang's hideout, and Oz realized that the note was not in Buffy's handwriting. Xander's discovery was most crucial, so he gets this award as well.

Goat of the Week: Sunday

Sunday had Buffy at a disadvantage, an opportunity that very few vampires ever get. Instead of finishing Buffy off, Sunday let her go. She paid for it with her undeath.

Random Commentary

Willow's comment about operant conditioning came across to me as someone who knows very little about a subject but hopes that someone will be impressed by the little that she does know. I am not sure if this was intentional in order to show that Willow was trying to impress Riley or if this was a case of Joss Whedon trying to impress the audience with what little he knows. In any case, operant condition is a basic, and, in my opinion, not very interesting, topic in psychology that would be covered in any introductory class.

I am sure that times have changed since I went to college, and I did not go to a typical college, but Klimt and Monet posters would have fallen well behind in popularity to posters of the Beatles or of a photograph by Robert Doisneau of two people kissing. The comment about Beatles posters probably makes me look much older than I really am. I went to college from 1988-1992, and, yes, the Beatles were still popular then, at least where I went to college.

I did not relate to Buffy all that much in this episode because I was much more like Willow when I went to college. I very much enjoyed being in an intellectual atmosphere and, especially, my newfound freedom.

I had earlier expressed my amusement that Robia LaMorte, who played Jenny Calendar, was barely older than Charisma Carpenter or Nicholas Brendon. Now, we have Phina Oruche, who is somewhere between eight weeks younger than Robia LaMorte, to ten years and eight weeks younger. When I wrote the rough draft of this review, the IMDb listed Oruche as being born in 1979, which would make her younger than any regular cast member on the show. When I copy edited this page, the IMDB had her as being born in 1969. I went to Wikipedia and found birth years of 1979, 1975, 1972, and 1666 in various versions of Oruche's article. I admit that the last year is a bit implausible and might be due to vandalism.


When Buffy had a bruise on the left side of her face, why did she tuck her hair behind the ear on that side? It seemed to make more sense for her to cover it or at least make it less noticeable.

Sunday must have spent a very long time beating up on Buffy for Xander to have time to find Buffy's dorm on an unfamiliar campus; talk to Willow, Oz, and Kathy; go to Willow's dorm for weapons; and return to the abandoned fraternity house when he believed that there was no hurry. It would have been much better if the editing made it look like Buffy fell through the skylight well after Xander left.

The Buffy Guide questioned whether a university would have a single section of Introduction to Psychology with just one teacher. It is true that Introduction to Psychology is usually one of the most popular classes on college campuses, and psychology is so broad that very few people are qualified to teach all areas. However, I went to college at a University of California where we had one section of Introduction to Psychology per quarter taught by a single instructor. Furthermore, there was no evidence that this was the only section at UC Sunnydale that year.

There were a few things that were off. My Introduction to Psychology class was about eight to ten times as large as the one in the show. My guess is that the show wanted to save money by constructing a smaller set and by having fewer extras. The second issue is that professors as renowned as we are led to believe Prof. Walsh is almost never teach introductory classes. They usually teach only graduate level classes and advanced upper division classes. These classes are considered to be more desirable to teach, so the senior professors usually dump the introductory classes on junior faculty. Furthermore, professors get renowned for specializing in specific areas, not in the broad knowledge needed to teach an introductory class. However, I did have a very renowned professor teach Introduction to Social Psychology, which is one step more specialized than Introduction to Psychology.

Memorable Dialogue

"Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior?" Conservative Woman
"You know, I meant to, and then I just got really busy." Buffy

"I've heard about five different issues, and I'm angry about each and every one of them." Willow

"It's just in high school, knowledge was pretty much frowned upon. You really had to work to learn anything, but here, the energy, the collective intelligence, it's like this force, this penetrating force, and I can just feel my mind opening up, you know, and letting this place just thrust into and spurt knowledge into... That sentence ended up in a different place than it started out in." Willow

"It's my on-campus boyfriend." Willow
"Oh, no, I forgot to pick mine up. Lines probably pretty long now." Buffy

"He's on his 'cross-country, see America' thing. He said he wasn't coming back until he'd driven to all 50 states." Willow
"Did you explain about Hawaii?" Buffy

"This is Psych 105, Introduction to Psychology. I'm Professor Walsh. Those of you who fall into my good graces will come to know me as Maggie. Those of you who don't will come to know me by the name my TAs use and think I don't know about: the Evil Bitch-Monster of Death." Prof. Walsh

"Of Human Bondage, have you ever read it?" Eddie
"Oh, I'm not really into porn. I mean, I'm just trying to cut way back." Buffy

"Does this sweater make me look fat?" Heavy Vamp
"No, the fact that you're fat makes you look fat. The sweater just makes you look purple." Sunday

"I'm not supposed to have a private life?" Giles
"No, because you're very, very old, and it's gross." Buffy

"I'm Sunday. I'll be killing you here in a minute or so." Sunday
"You know, that threat gets more frightening every time I hear it." Buffy

"The best part was when you ragged on her clothes. She was like, 'no, not the ensemble.'" Stoner Vamp
"Those jeans with the little patches? She has no one to blame but herself." Sunday
"I heard they're coming back." Heavy Vamp
"Not if I kill every single person who wears them." Sunday

"Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to anger. No, wait, hold on. Fear leads to hate. Hate leads to the dark side. Hold on, no. First you get the women, then you get the money, then you... OK, can we forget that?" Xander
"Thanks for the Dadaist pep talk. I feel much more abstract now." Buffy

"Buffy, I've gone through some fairly dark times in my life, faced some scary things, among them, the kitchen at the fabulous Ladies Night Club. Let me tell you something. When it's dark and I'm all alone and I'm scared or freaked out or whatever, I always think, 'What would Buffy do?' You're my hero. OK, sometimes when it's dark and I'm all alone, I think 'What is Buffy wearing?'" Xander
"Can that be one of those things you never, ever tell me about?" Buffy

"Oh, that's my skirt. You're never gonna fit in it with those hips." Buffy

"Say, don't I know you from beating the crap outta you?" Sunday

"I must say, you've really got me now. I mean, this is a diabolical plan. Throw yourself at my feet with a broken arm and no weapons of any kind. How am I gonna get out of this one?" Sunday
"You got a nice setup here, but you made one mistake." Buffy
"What was that?" Sunday
"Well, I'm not actually positive, but statistically speaking, people usually make at least..." Buffy

"Buffy wouldn't just take off. That's just not in her nature, except for that one time she disappeared for several months and changed her name, but there were circumstances then." Willow

"How can you be this calm?" Willow
"Long, arduous hours of practice." Oz

"Do we hug?" Xander
"I think we're too manly." Oz

"Well, some friends of Buffy's played a funny joke, and they took her stuff, and now she wants us to help get it back from her friends who sleep all day and have no tans." Xander

"When you look back at this, in the three seconds it'll take you to turn to dust, I think you'll find the mistake was touching my stuff." Buffy

Characters in Peril


Evil Escaped

Buffy and the Law

Strictly the Caucasian Persuasion

Spoiler Questions

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This page was last modified on November 18, 2012