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PANGS (ep #4.08)

Written by: Jane Espenson
Directed by: Michael Lange
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris
Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg
James Marsters as Spike
Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles
Guest Starring: Marc Blucas as Riley Finn
Mercedes McNab as Harmony Kendall
Emma Caulfield as Anya
Leonard Roberts as Forrest Gates
Bailey Chase as Graham Miller
Tod Thawley as Hus
David Boreanaz as Angel
Co-Starring: Margaret Easley as Curator
William Vogt as Jamie
Mark Ankeny as Dean Guerrero

Plot Summary

Buffy fought an Indigenous American spirit as the characters debated the true meaning of Thanksgiving

Plot Details

A young man was walking alone at night when he thought he heard something behind him. He was right. It was Buffy. She hit him, which got him to reveal his vampire face. He was hardly a challenge as she quickly staked him. She suspected that she was being watched, but she did not see Angel.

Buffy, Willow, and Anya attended a ceremony to mark the beginning of construction for a new cultural center on campus. They were there mostly to see Xander in a tank top and hard hat do some digging. With Thanksgiving approaching, Willow took a time out to give a rant against the holiday. Buffy was mildly interested, but Anya's attention was elsewhere. Eventually, Xander started digging. Unfortunately, the ground collapsed under him and he fell about 12 feet (four meters) into a cavern, identified as the Sunnydale Mission, which was lost during an earthquake in 1812. The anthropology professors were apparently very excited at the find.

Buffy decided that she wanted a traditional Thanksgiving dinner despite Willow's reservations. Willow decided that she could use some comfort food and was eager at the opportunity not to invite Anya. Unfortunately for her, Buffy disagreed with the latter point.

The next morning, Anya visited Xander as he was dressing for work. He was very feverish, so she told him to stay in bed. As she was undressing him, he called her a "strange girlfriend." She was very pleased to hear the last word of that statement.

In the old mission, a green, misty visual effect flowed up the roof. It reformed around an Indian knife in an anthropology professor's office. The green mist took the form of an Indian warrior and slit the professor's throat. Buffy and Willow investigated the scene. A missing ear gave Willow several theories such as witches, an ear-harvesting demon, or a Van Gogh complex. Buffy discovered that a ceremonial knife from the local Chumash tribe was missing even though a murderer looking for a convenient weapon could have used a pair of scissors.

Buffy briefed Giles about what she found in the middle of talking about food shopping and dodging questions about whether her decision to host Thanksgiving at Giles's apartment was just an excuse to dump cleaning duties on him. After she left for more supplies, Angel came out and discussed the reason why he is in this episode anyway—a vague warning from a friend in the previous episode of Angel—and the need for him to be out of Buffy's sight in order to set up the next episode of his show.

While Willow and Buffy were out, Riley caught up with them. Willow discovered that the coffee shop sold coffee, so she sneaked off. Angel grabbed her and pulled her aside. After quickly reassuring her that he was not evil, he said that his friend had a vision of Buffy in danger. He wanted information about Buffy, but was distracted by Riley. Buffy, meanwhile, was inviting Riley to her Thanksgiving dinner, but he was going to Iowa to visit his grandparents.

After spending the night fleeing the Initiative and watching other vampires feed, Spike tried to return to Harmony. She told him to get out. When he tried to seduce his way back in her heart, she pulled out a stake and threatened him. He got the message and fled.

Buffy went to visit a priest who was supposed to be an expert in local history. Instead, she found an Indian warrior spirit, Hus, executing him. Buffy and Hus had a fight that ended with Buffy holding the knife to Hus's throat, who was able to guilt-trip Buffy into letting him go. He turned into a flock of ravens and flew off.

Buffy reported to Giles. She was feeling guilty about the fact that Hus did not seem to be pure evil. Willow came by with seven very large, very old books on the Chumash people. She was outraged about the atrocities committed against them and wanted to do something. Buffy was more concerned with the fact that Willow brought frozen peas instead of fresh. Giles recognized the fact that Hus's modus operandi appeared to coincide with atrocities committed against the Chumash. He and Willow stated a pointless argument in which he wanted to stop Hus and she wanted not to make any sense. Then a very sick Xander arrived with Anya. Willow and Giles were worried about his appearance, but Buffy was simply upset that he did not bring rolls.

It appeared that Xander received several of the diseases that the Chumash received when holed up in the mission, including malaria, smallpox, and syphilis. Willow thought that she had a spell to cure him, but it turned out to be a stuffing recipe. The discussion quickly devolved into arguments about whether to kill vengeance demons (Xander) or not (Anya) or, more specifically, whether to kill Hus (Xander and Giles) or not (Willow). Buffy, meanwhile, was more concerned with her pumpkin pie. They were interrupted by another knock on the door.

It was Spike hiding under a blanket. The others were not interested in letting him in until he said that he had information about the Initiative. He found himself tied to a chair, but inside. Spike joined the argument on Giles's and Xander's side, but it still was not resolved.

Giles realized that the two people who were murdered were authority figures, so it was decided that Dean Guerrero would probably be the next target. Willow, Anya, and Xander went to warn him, although Spike was hoping that Xander would stay behind and die so Spike could eat him.

Dean Guerrero did not take them seriously, perhaps because Anya asked if they still had ears. On their way out, they ran into Angel, who figured out that Hus put together a raiding party and was going after Buffy. He sent the three of them back on stolen bicycles while he called Giles.

Giles had already figured that one out. As the arrows flew in, Spike was ready to apologize, but nobody seemed to be listening. Then the cavalry of Willow, Anya, and Xander arrived. Xander took one of the warrior spirits out with a flower pot while Willow and Anya tried to do to another what Willow threatened to do to Riley in "The Initiative" if he hurt Buffy. Meanwhile, Buffy took on Hus and Giles took on another spirit warrior.

Angel arrived and helped Willow and Anya out. The two of them went inside to help Giles while Angel dealt with more warrior spirits. Buffy discovered that the Chumash knife could hurt Hus, who responded by turning into a black bear. It proceeded to growl, hug Buffy, and scare Spike. Xander came up behind it and distracted it by throwing yams. This gave Buffy the opportunity to stab it with the Chumash knife. The other spirit warriors disappeared back into green mist.

With the danger over, Angel decided to take one last look at Buffy through the window before walking off. The others enjoyed their Thanksgiving meal except for Spike, who was disappointed that nobody bled during the siege. The episode ended with Xander accidentally letting slip the fact that Angel was present.

The Good

I appreciate the attempt to include an ambiguously evil antagonist.

The Bad

Except for "Living Conditions" and "Beer Bad," the episodes of this season so far have been average to good, which is a bit unusual for the beginning of a season. This run had to end sometime.

I understand that this episode made the United States look like a pretechnological society. However, despite what the beginning of the first act might suggest, the United States does possess earth-moving equipment. We do not excavate ground for buildings using hand shovels.

Many people who hate this episode cite the fact that there was no good reason for Angel to be in it. As Giles figured out in "Surprise," Buffy has been in danger before and will be in danger again. Nothing in this episode suggested anything different or special. The battle in the end could easily have been written with the characters able to manage without his help. His presence did not serve this episode at all. Instead, it was to set up the next episode of Angel. It would have helped if Giles was at least given a line in which he asked Angel if he simply latched onto the first excuse to come see Buffy, no matter how weak because that was both true and plausible.

The part that makes me hate this episode the most is the portrayal of Willow. In "Gingerbread," her mother was a caricature of the politically correct professors that David Horowitz and Bernard Goldberg write about. There has never been any evidence that Willow has taken on these values outside this episode. Her best friend since kindergarten was dying on the couch. Everything that we have seen up until now suggested that her first concern would be to save Xander. Instead, she cared more about the nonsense that she was babbling about than about him.

Overall Rank: 141

Action: 8

Buffy had a brief fight with a vampire during the teaser.

Buffy fought with Hus in the church.

Hus and his fellow warrior spirits besieged Buffy and Giles in his apartment. Xander, Willow, Anya and Angel attacked some from the outside until Buffy killed Hus.

Comedy: 7

The opening of the first act, especially imaginary Xander's activities, was rather fun.

Anya and Spike supplied a fair amount of comic relief.

Drama: 2

There was pointless debate over atrocities committed against Indians/Native Americans/Indigenous Americans.

Romance: 2

Anya is pleased that Xander considers her to be a girlfriend.

Character Development: 2

Willow was absent in this episode. Instead, she was replaced with a robot who looked like her but was apparently controlled by her mother. This robot mouthed stereotypically politically correct nonsense like Sheila Rosenberg used to do. It also does not like Anya.

Riley apparently does not need to wear a face mask anymore now that the audience knows that he is one of the Initiative's commandos.

Xander now thinks of Anya as a girlfriend.

Buffy needs to feel a sense of family, especially when her mother was away on Thanksgiving.

Importance: 3

Spike has now taken refuge with Giles.

Most Valuable Player: Buffy

Xander gets credit for distracting Hus, but Buffy was the one who defeated him. This would have been a clearer victory if she did not let Hus go earlier. Spike also gets credit for successfully getting sanctuary at Giles's apartment, but he failed his first attempt at sanctuary with Harmony. There was no reason to have Angel in this episode, so I will not reward him for helping take out warrior spirits.

Sherlock Holmes Award: Buffy

Buffy discovered the missing knife in the display case and later discovered that the Chumash knife could hurt Hus. Giles recognized the fact that Hus appeared to reenact atrocities committed against the Chumash. Angel figured out that Hus would go after Buffy rather than Dean Guerrero. Even if I were inclined to give Angel credit, figuring out that the Chumash knife could hurt Hus gives this award to Buffy.

Goat of the Week: Willow

Willow gets the Goat for failing to convince anyone to ignore the deaths of innocent people and Xander's potential death.

Random Commentary

The vampire in the teaser said that things were great before Buffy came. This suggests either that the Initiative has not had much of an effect in controlling the vampire population or it is new and its activities are being blamed on Buffy.

Despite what Buffy said, very few people who fit in that category call themselves "Native Americans." Instead, that phrase is used primarily in academia. From what I gather from people who actually go to reservations, the people there call themselves "Indians" or "Indigenous Americans."


Perhaps the most cited imponderable in this episode is Anya acting like she met Angel for the first time when she met him in "Doppelgangland." She was in the same room with him then as well as in "The Prom," but it was very plausible that she was not formally introduced to him in either episode or that she would not remember him if she were introduced to him. There was probably no reason for her to consider him important until after she started to hang around Xander in the fourth season.

Memorable Dialogue

"Oh, very manly, not at all Village People." Buffy
"So much sexier than the outfit from his last job." Anya
"Oh, I miss the free hot dogs on sticks." Willow
"I'm imagining having sex with him, right now." Anya

"Thanksgiving isn't about blending of two cultures. It's about one culture wiping out another, and then they make animated specials about the part where, with the maize and the big, big belt buckles. They don't show you the next scene where all the bison die and Squanto takes a musket ball in the stomach." Willow

"Soon he'll be sweating. I'm imagining having sex with him again." Anya
"Imaginary Xander is quite the machine." Buffy

"It is a sham, but it's a sham with yams. It's a yam sham." Buffy

"Ooo, we could not invite Anya." Willow

"I inflicted a lot of putrefying diseases on men when I was an avenging demon. You look like you're getting all of them." Anya

"I'm thinking maybe we're looking for a witch. There's some great spells that work much better with an ear in the mix." Willow
"That's one fun little hobby you've got there, Will" Buffy
"Or maybe an ear-harvesting demon that... It's like building another demon completely out of ears. Or, oh, thought, we're just assuming someone else cut off the ear. What is if was self-inflicted like van Gogh?" Willow
"So, she brutally stabbed herself, dumped the body, then cut off her own ear?" Buffy

"Tell me again why we're not doing this at your house?" Giles
"Giles, if you would like to get by in American society, then you are going to have to follow our traditions. You're the patriarch. You have to host the festivities, or it's all meaningless." Buffy
"And this is in no way an elaborate scheme to stick me with the clean up?" Giles
"How about that ceremonial knife, huh?" Buffy

"We don't say 'Indian.'" Buffy
"Oh, right, yes, yes, always behind on the terms. Still trying not to refer to you lot as 'bloody colonials.'" Giles

"Let's give him some land. I'm sure that'll clear everything right up." Giles
"Sarcasm accomplishes nothing, Giles." Buffy
"It's sort of an end in itself." Giles
"Hey, can we come rocketing back to the part about me and my new syphilis?" Xander
"It'll make you blind and insane, but it won't kill you. The smallpox will." Anya

"Willow, tell 'em what I did." Spike
"You said you were gonna kill me, then Buffy." Willow
"Yes, bad, but let's skip that part and get to the part where I couldn't bite you." Spike
"It's true. He had trouble performing." Willow

"I'm saying that Spike had a little trip to the vet, and now he doesn't chase the other puppies anymore." Spike

"Oh, someone put a stake in me." Spike
"You got a lot of volunteers in here." Xander
"I just can't take all this mamby-pamby boo-hooing about the bloody Indians." Spike
"The preferred term is..." Willow
"You won, all right? You came in, and you killed them, and you took their land. That's what conquering nations do. It's what Caesar did, and he's not going around saying 'I came, I conquered, and I feel really bad about it.' The history of the world isn't people making friends. You had better weapons, and you massacred them, end of story." Spike

"Maybe it's the syphilis talking, but some of that made sense." Xander
"I made a lot of these points earlier, but fine, no one listens to me." Giles

"Oh, leave that one. He looks like he's ready to drop any minute, and I think I can eat someone if he's already dead." Spike

"You know what happens to vampires who don't get to feed?" Spike
"I always wondered that, actually." Giles

"Living skeletons, mate, like famine pictures from those dusty countries, only not half as funny." Spike

"You can have casinos now." Buffy

"I think he thought we were crazy." Willow
"Maybe if Anya hadn't opened the conversation with 'Everybody got both ears?'" Xander

"So this is Angel. He's large and glowery, isn't he?" Anya
"He's evil again." Xander
"I'm not evil again. Why does everyone think that?" Angel

"Did you see me? Two seconds of conflict with an indigenous person, and I turned into General Custer." Willow

"Oh, lay off. You all had a fine meal, but me, an entire siege. You'd think one of you would bleed a little." Spike

Characters in Peril


Departed Characters Remembered

Buffy and the Law

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 23, 2012