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'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' recap: Cutest demon ever hijacks Halloween

Note: Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a security blanket during my formative teenage years. I’m overjoyed to relive the show with all of you through a new series of recaps. I’m starting with season 4, while other fine contributors will take previous seasons.

Season 4 | Episode 4 | “Fear, Itself” | Aired Oct 26, 1999 on The WB

As the Halloween spirit blankets UC Sunnydale, Buffy remains deep in a post-Parker depression, wallowing in rejection after her first college hookup. Xander tries to rally the gang with a horror-movie screening, but he accidentally picked up Fantasia instead of Phantasm at the video store. They all decide to hit up the Alpha Delt frat party on campus instead.

Before the party, we see vignettes of everyone’s biggest troubles to date. Buffy continues to skip meals and classes to actively avoid Parker on campus. Willow feels like her Wiccan wisdom has plateaued, but she’s nervous to tap into darker, primal forces. Oz cautions her because he still knows what it’s like to lose control as a werewolf. Anya finally confronts Xander about never calling her after they sleep together. Xander also becomes visibly upset when Anya points out that his friends have moved on to college without him.

Over at Alpha Delt, the frat brothers plan the ultimate bash to get laid, complete with pop-up skeletons, peeled grapes (“They’re eyeballs, Rachel!”), and a mystical symbol painted on their floor. Oz and Xander stop by to install a speaker system, but Oz cuts himself and spills some blood on the floor, activating the symbol.

Once again, frat boys are portrayed as intelligent, considerate people on TV.

As usual, frat boys are portrayed on TV as intelligent, considerate people.

Arguably, the best Buffy stories are the character dissection episodes, where each of the Scoobies falls victim to some supernatural evil that feeds on specific pieces of human identities. Back in season 3, “Earshot” revealed everyone’s inner thoughts. Later in season 4, we’ll see each character’s personalized dreams.

Though we feel like we know and love this cast already, the Buffy writers always find some way to dig further into these characters, revealing their secret idiosyncrasies, peeves, or hopes. In “Fear, Itself,” David Fury reveals each of their deepest fears one by one. Just when I thought nothing could top last Halloween (when Ethan Rayne turned everyone into their costumes), along came season 4.

The gang assembles for the party: Xander dressed as James Bond, Buffy as Red Riding Hood, Willow as Joan of Arc, and Oz as God. They pass by some of the commandos we saw in “The Freshman,” but Buffy mistakes them for people in costume. Inside the Alpha Delt house, they can’t find the party, and just walk in circles. They encounter real blood, real screams, real bats, and a real cowering guy in a closet, before the closet vanishes.

Xander invites Anya to the party and tells her to dress as something scary, but she arrives dressed as bunny. Her phobia of bunnies remains one of the best running gags throughout the Buffy seasons. Anya can’t get into the house, but she sees a girl screaming for help from one of the windows. Anya turns to Giles for help; he is sitting at home eating Halloween candy in his sombrero.

Giles embraces Halloween.

Giles embraces Halloween.

Inside the house, everyone gets separated. Xander’s fear of being forgotten manifests when he’s rendered invisible to his friends. Oz starts changing into a werewolf and his fear of hurting Willow comes true. He scratches her before he runs away. Alone, Willow attempts to conjure a guide to lead them out of the house. She loses control of her spell and the guide quickly multiplies and attacks her. Meanwhile, zombies grab and hold Buffy in the basement, where a dead frat boy says she will always end up alone, feeding on her fear of being abandoned (by Parker, by Angel, by her father). Even Anya wrings her bunny paws outside the house, afraid of being literally shut out by Xander.

The door to the house disappears, so Giles cuts into the house with a chainsaw, smiling like the badass he is. Buffy fights off the zombies and escapes the basement, finding everyone else upstairs. Xander locates the book with the symbol and they realize it’s the Mark of Gachnar.

Giles and Anya break into the room. Buffy punches the symbol before Giles can tell her that destroying the Mark will bring Gachnar forth. But as the demon rises from the floor, the Scoobies see he’s about four inches tall. “I bring the fear!” Gachnar yells in his pipsqueak voice as Xander taunts him. “Don’t taunt the fear demon,” Giles scolds Xander. “It’s tacky.” Buffy laughs and steps on Gachnar, killing him. Giles later translates the caption under the small picture of Gachnar in his book: “Actual size.”

Gachnar the Fear Demon.

Gachnar the Fear Demon: “Tremble before me!”

Big Bad of the Week: Gachnar, the most adorable fear demon of all time

Quote of the Week: “Mi Casio es su Casio,” says Oz to the frat boys, while loaning out his speaker system.

Heinous ’90s Fashion of the Week: Remember choker necklaces? Buffy and Willow both wear them in the cafeteria scene. They still look as uncomfortable as they did in 1994. Wait, didn’t this air in ’99? Behold the grasp of the choker.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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