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FEAR, ITSELF (ep #4.04)

(a.k.a. Six Inches of Terror)

Written by: David Fury
Directed by: Tucker Gates
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
Emma Caulfield as Anya
Adam Kaufman as Parker Abrams
Lindsay Crouse as Maggie Walsh
Co-Starring: Marc Rose as Josh
Sulo Williams as Chaz
Aldis Hodge as Masked Teen
Walter Emanuel Jones as Edward
Adam Bitterman as Gachnar
Michele Nordin as Rachel
Adam Grimes as Lobster Boy
Darris Love as Hallmate
Larissa Reynolds as Prsent Girl

Plot Summary

Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Oz found that their fears were really just a six-inch demon.

Plot Details

Xander, Willow, Oz, and Buffy were carving pumpkins, or, at least, three of them were while Buffy just pined for Parker. Xander was looking forward to the Halloween vidfest, but he was disappointed to find that he rented Fantasia instead of Phantasm. Furthermore, he only just found out that everyone else was planning to go to a fraternity party.

Buffy wandered home and was jumped by a person wearing a demon mask. For some reason, he did not understand why a woman walking alone late at night might get upset by someone jumping out at her.

In the dining hall, Willow talked about how she felt that she was not progressing in her magic studies. However, both Buffy, who said not to bother, and Oz, who was concerned that Willow was progressing too fast, failed to give her the encouragement she was seeking. Buffy then saw Parker and lost her appetite.

Buffy visited Giles to talk about patrolling on Halloween. She either forgot the lectures from "Halloween" that evil things do not like to go out on Halloween or remembered that episode and did not believe those lectures.

Anya visited Xander, who had actually believed her when she said that she was over him. He did recover somewhat by saying that he was glad to see her and suggested that she come to the fraternity party in a scary costume.

Buffy apparently missed psychology class and went to get the assignment from Prof. Walsh. Walsh was not happy that Buffy missed class and told Buffy that she would be dropped if she missed another class. Riley was a little gentler on Buffy and suggested that Buffy go out and have fun that night.

At the frat house, Xander helped Oz install the sound system. While there, he noticed an occult symbol being painted on the floor, but peeled grapes that were soon to pose as eyeballs diverted his attention. While fixing the system, Oz accidentally cut himself and spilled a couple of drops of blood on the symbol. This set off visual effect waves and turned a plastic spider into a tarantula.

Buffy had her mother adjust Buffy's old Little Red Riding Hood costume. This led to a bit of nostalgia about Halloweens past and about the father who no longer has time for her. Buffy felt that she would be better off not getting close to anyone, but her mother disagreed.

Xander dressed as James Bond, just in case he turned into his costume again. Willow dressed up as Joan of Arc and Oz wore a "Hello, my name is GOD" sticker. On the way to the party, they ran into three people dressed as the commandos at the end of "The Freshman."

When Xander said that Anya would come later, Buffy felt like a third (fifth?) wheel. Willow tried to reassure her that she would have a good time. Meanwhile, the peeled grapes pretending to be eyeballs turned into real eyeballs, setting off mass panic at the party.

Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Oz entered the haunted house section of the party. Initially, the four were not particularly scared. However, Willow soon walked into some realistic cobwebs, that Oz said might be real. (The fraternity members were not known for cleanliness.) Then a mechanical skeleton startled Xander and a real spider fell on Willow, causing all of them to be a bit scared.

They decided to get going to the party. Buffy noticed a pool of blood on the floor, and Willow noticed bats on the ceiling, which then flew down around the characters even though they were made of rubber. Xander suspected a trick, but a disembodied voice saying "Release me" freaked them out again.

Meanwhile, Anya arrived in her very scary bunny outfit. She knocked where the door should be, but received no answer. She walked around and saw a woman screaming for help in a window that closed itself off. She immediately worried about Xander.

Xander, along with the others, could find neither the stairs to the party nor the way out of the house. They did find a fraternity member hiding in a closet in shock. As they were trying to get information from him, a plastic skeleton with a plastic knife stabbed Buffy in the back. Buffy quickly disabled it as the fraternity member sneaked back into the closet, which promptly disappeared. Buffy decided to go upstairs to find out if anyone was trapped while the rest wanted to find Giles.

Anya was already one step ahead of them. She arrived at Giles's apartment and filled him in on what she saw. She was very worried, but only about Xander. Giles, on the other hand, believed that Xander would be safe because he was among friends.

Buffy and Willow were busy arguing. Willow wanted to conjure a light to guide the way and was very hurt when Buffy questioned her magical ability. Willow stormed off and Oz followed. Xander tried to be supportive of Buffy only to realize that she did not even know he was there.

Oz tried to comfort Willow during her rant. However, he found himself turning into a werewolf. He fled as Willow begged him not to leave her. Meanwhile, Xander was temporarily relieved that at least he can see himself in a mirror. He lost his sense of relief when a disembodied head claimed to be able to see him as well.

Willow went ahead and cast the spell to summon the guiding light. However, when she tried to decide where she wanted the light to lead her, it split into a swarm of lights. She got scared and screamed to Oz for help.

Buffy was the one who heard her. She busted into a room to try to get to Willow, but found that it had no floor. She fell into the basement where a guy with a broken neck told her she was no longer alone. Three people rose from the basement floor and grabbed her.

Meanwhile, Anya and Giles examined the outside of the fraternity house. Anya was very anxious, but Giles was more curious. He eventually decided to create a door using a chainsaw that magically appeared from a bag that was much too small to hold it.

Buffy escaped from her tormentors and crawled through a door to the second story of the house. There she found Oz—who was last seen in a bathtub terrified of turning into a werewolf—and was soon joined by Willow—who was no longer tormented by little lights. They were even able to hear Xander muttering.

Willow thought that their meeting meant that they escaped. Buffy, however, believed that they were brought to the room for a reason. Xander saw the occult symbol and found the book where it came from. Willow started to translate the text from Gaelic when the walls started shaking. However, that just turned out to be Giles with his chainsaw, followed by Anya.

Giles started to read the text. It apparently said that the symbol was used to summon a demon called Gachnar. He said that there are two ways to cancel the summoning spell, and destroying the symbol was not one of them. Unfortunately, Buffy destroyed the symbol before he got to the "not."

In fact, destroying the symbol finished the spell. The area under the symbol started to glow and Gachnar rose out of the floor. It stretched to its full height, all six inches. Willow thought it was cute, and Xander taunted it until Giles pointed out that it was tacky. Eventually, Buffy stomped on it.

Back at Giles's apartment, Buffy was enjoying his Halloween chocolate, but Willow was feeling a little sick. Xander was curious about Anya's costume, but she just said that bunnies scared her. Giles, meanwhile, realized that caption to the drawing of Gachnar said, "Actual size" in Gaelic.

The Good

I like how this show remembers what had happened in the past. Three of the characters dressed as something that might be useful in a fight if they turned into what they were dressed as again. I suppose one could also add Anya, if she dressed as the rabbit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Willow also remembered nearly being burned at the stake.

This is a very creepy episode. This feels like it should be shown on a large screen in a very dark room.

The episode's theme, fears are not nearly so bad once they are faced, may be simplistic. However, it is good to have some simple, clear metaphors in episodes to be shown to people new to the series. This makes it easy to explain how the supernatural elements of the show simply reflect real world problems.

The Bad

The fourth season finale covers similar ground in terms of character development and does so much better.

Overall Rank: 54

Action: 2

A plastic skeleton attacked Buffy.

Buffy was beset by three creatures in the basement.

Comedy: 7

Giles wore an amusing costume on Halloween.

Anya provided comic relief, especially by wearing a bunny costume

Gachnar was quite funny when we actually saw him.

Drama: 7

Buffy is still in a lot of pain from Parker abandoning her.

The characters were separated and forced to face their fears. Xander was afraid of his friends leaving him behind. Willow had issues with magic. Oz was worried about being a werewolf. Buffy feared being alone.

Romance: 3

Anya and Xander are now dating.

We learn the true meaning of Halloween.

Character Development: 9

Oz has grown concerned that Willow's experimentation in magic will hurt her. He is also concerned about not being able to control his werewolf side.

Xander is a little sensitive over the fact that he has less in common with his friends than he once did. He also feels that the other characters forget that he is around.

Joyce felt a little social phobic when she first came to Sunnydale but has mostly gotten over it. She is still a little concerned, particularly since her last boyfriend was a killer robot. This means that she now knows Ted's true nature, unless there was a different killer robot that we have not seen yet.

Buffy has apparently inherited Angel's ability to smell blood. She is still in a lot of pain from Parker abandoning her and is starting to believe that she may be better off if she does not let people into her heart.

Willow is not happy that others are not supportive of her dabbling in magic. She can also read some Gaelic.

Importance: 3

Most of the importance of this episode comes from the character development and from the development of Xander's relationship with Anya.

Most Valuable Player: Giles

Giles gets the MVP for pulling out his chainsaw and cutting through the house until he reached the others. Anya gets some credit for bringing Giles to the house. Gachnar was a contender for everything that he did to scare most of the characters, but he blew it when Buffy stomped him.

Sherlock Holmes Award: Anya

Giles was able to read the text, but missed out on this award by failing to translate the caption and for already winning the MVP. In a weak episode for this category, Anya will get the award for figuring out that she needed to contact Giles.

Goat of the Week: Nobody

Gachnar may look like the obvious candidate, but he cannot help being only six inches tall.

Random Commentary

During this season, the show will get many things wrong when describing teaching assistants. However, one thing that the show got right is Riley having to grade papers rather than go out and have fun. One common graduate student joke is that one of the main advantages of being a graduate student is flexible hours. That is, graduate students get to choose which 20 hours they wish to work each day.


Other than the caption, everything in the book allegedly written in Gaelic was really in English (see below). Did the spell cause Willow to see it as Gaelic?

The Gachnar Text

The caption reads, "Fig. 237 GACHNAR - FIR MEIT"

... unostentatiously reading the exorcismal prayers, and a choirboy hides behind him holding the basin of holy water. In the background is the altar prepared for Mass, which will begin as soon as the scandalous scene ends.

Exorcisms are still practiced in these days, and have even been retained in various dissenting branches of the Catholic Church. I have in my possession a very curious English etching (Fig. 138) engraved in 1816 after a drawing by Stephanoff, representing a scene of exorcism. The action is taking place at the beginning of the nineteenth century and in the United Kingdom—a country which yet flatters itself upon having banished diabolism from its theology and conversation. In order to increase the effect of terror in the scene, the artist has not shown the exorcised object at all, but all the personages are turned toward ...

DVD Extras

Original Script was actually a bit useful as a way to figure out the names of the two fraternity members who were discussing the true meaning of Halloween.

Memorable Dialogue

"I was just thinking about the life of a pumpkin. Grow up in the sun, happily entwined with others, and then someone comes along, cuts you open, and rips your guts out." Buffy

"Maybe it's because of all the horrific things we've seen, but hippos wearing tutus just don't unnerve me the way they used to." Oz

"I got better things to do than tag along to some fraternity." Xander
"You can come." Willow
"'K, but only because I lied about having better things to do." Xander

"Where's supportive boyfriend guy?" Willow
"Oh, he's picking up your dry cleaning, but he told me to tell you he's afraid you're gonna get hurt." Oz

"Halloween's not about thrills, chills, and funny costumes. It's about getting laid." Josh
"Is there any holiday that's not about getting laid?" Edward
"Arbor Day." Josh

"That's the funny thing about me, I tend to hear the actual words people say and accept them at face value." Xander
"That's stupid." Anya
"I accept that." Xander

"I though maybe we could go out tonight for our anniversary." Anya
"Anniversary?" Xander
"It's been exactly one week since we copulated. Did you forget?" Anya

"There is some good, scary fun to be had on campus tonight." Riley
"Yeah, what are you doing?" Buffy
"Well, I am gonna sit here and grade papers." Riley

"Don't make fun. I work long and hard to get this pompous." Riley

"I'm starting to feel like there's a pattern here. Open your heart to someone, and he bails on you. Maybe it's easier to just not let anyone in." Buffy
"I thought it might be easier. You must've noticed that I'm not exactly the social butterfly that I was when I was with your dad. I don't think I made a single new friend the year we moved to Sunnydale." Joyce
"Why not?" Buffy
"Fear. I didn't believe I could trust anyone again. It's taken time and a lot of effort, but I've got a nice circle of friends now. I mean, don't get me wrong. I'm still a little gun-shy. It certainly didn't help that my last boyfriend turned out to be a homicidal robot. I will always be here for you, and you've got Mr. Giles and your friends. Believe me, there's nothing to be afraid of." Joyce

"If I were Abbot and Costello, this would be fairly traumatic." Buffy

"Thank the Lord." Buffy
"You're welcome." Oz

"Xander's trapped." Anya
"Where's Buffy and the others?" Giles
"Oh, they're trapped too, but we gotta save Xander." Anya

"I am the dark lord of nightmares, the bringer of terror. Tremble before me. Fear me. Tremble." Gachnar
"He's so cute." Willow
"Who's the little fear demon? Come on, who's the little fear demon?" Xander
"Don't taunt the fear demon." Giles
"Why? Can he hurt me?" Xander
"No, it's just tacky." Giles

"There is no problem that cannot be solved by chocolate." Buffy
"I think I'm gonna barf." Willow
"Except that." Buffy

"That's your scary costume?" Xander
"Bunnies frighten me." Anya

"I should've translated the Gaelic inscription under the illustration of Gachnar." Giles
"What's it say?" Buffy
"Actual size." Giles

Characters in Peril

I am operating on the opinion that all peril in this episode was imagined and not real, so nobody was in any real peril.


Departed Characters Remembered

Strictly the Caucasian Persuasion

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 19, 2012