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'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' recap: Beer turns college kids into Neanderthals

Season 4 | Episode 5 | “Beer Bad” | Aired Nov 2, 1999 on The WB

After dusting a vamp, it looks like Buffy just saved Parker the Scumbag’s life. He apologizes for being awful, but Buffy is just daydreaming in psych class as she watches Parker flirt with another girl.

“These are the things we want,” says Professor Walsh, conveniently. “Simple things. Comfort, sex, shelter, food. We always want them and we want them all the time. The id doesn’t learn. It doesn’t grow up. It has the ego telling it what it can’t have, and it has the superego telling it what it shouldn’t want. But the id works solely out of the pleasure principle. It wants. Whatever social skills we’ve learned, however much we’ve evolved, the pleasure principle is at work in all of us.”

The other girl giggles at something Parker says. Buffy forces herself to look.

“What do we do when we can’t have what we want?”

Buffy drifts back into the daydream, where Parker again asks for forgiveness, holding flowers and a tub of ice cream for her. Ah, we see Buffy is still in that pesky post-Parker depression. But thankfully, this episode will be the final straw.

A quick sweep of the Internet reveals “Beer Bad” is one of the most hated episodes in the entire Buffyverse. It does feel stale and drawn out in some scenes, particularly the fire-rescue climax. Still, genuinely guffaw-worthy moments exist here, thanks to sharp editing, good direction, and Xander’s mustached fake ID.

Xander is eager to assimilate on campus after securing a bartender job at the college-town pub: “No more looking down on the townie!” Unimpressed, the gals keep gabbing, Buffy about Parker, Willow about not-Parker. “There are better men wherein the mind is stronger than the penis,” Willow tells Buffy, while Xander memorably and loudly declares, “Nothing can defeat the penis!”

Xander’s first day working at the pub is a disaster. He can’t make drinks (“Ice water? Do you want that on the rocks?”). Even his rehearsed attempts to pick up girls implode when a snobby college guy wages a little class warfare (“We are the future of the country, and you keep our bowl of peanuts full”). Your heart has to break for Xander in this scene.

Meanwhile, Willow and Oz catch a concert at the Bronze, and Oz feels a tingly, weird vibe when the singer Veruca takes the stage. Willow tries to keep his attention, but fails. We all know the horrible place where this is heading.

Back at the pub, Buffy sees Parker kissing that girl from class and jets back to Pouty Town. She realizes Parker’s “problem with intimacy” is that he can’t get enough of it. She calls herself a slut and an idiot. Now your heart breaks for Buffy.


“Foamy …”

Self-worth at all-time low, Buffy decides to accept drinks from strangers. Great idea! They’re intellectual strangers. They like quoting Thomas Aquinas and hearing themselves talk: “All the socio-economic and psychological problems inherent to modern society can be solved by the judicious application of way too much beer.” This quote should hang in more American bars.

And so our hero drowns her sorrows in Black Frost with three white guys and the amazing Kal Penn: “It’s nice. Foamy. Comforting. It’s beer.” The next day, Buffy’s hangover manifests strangely. She forgets to put on clothes for class, barks out in class, and steals a girl’s sandwich.


After Buffy’s second night out with the “really smart guys,” Xander starts to worry. He sends Buffy home and attempts to send the rest of the guys home too, but they won’t leave, and their behavior grows increasingly wild. The dumb, drunk college kids transform into actual cavemen before Xander’s eyes.

Turns out Xander’s boss, the bar manager Jack, spiked the Black Frost beer with a potion to turn drinkers into actual Neanderthals. “Beer makes all men the same,” he reasons. “My brother-in-law’s a warlock. He showed me how to do it.” Hahaha, best brother-in-law ever.

The spell wears off eventually, but Xander knows a Slayer-strong Cave Buffy could pose a serious threat on campus. He calls Giles for help. In her dorm room, Buffy has gone full Neanderthal. She starts smearing cave paintings on her walls and spinning over and over in her computer chair, after plotting Parker’s death.


“I’m tired of you men and your manness,” Willow lectures Parker later in a campus cafe. Foreshadowing! While Willow tries to teach Parker some respect, Parker tries to make a case for one-night stands, “People shouldn’t have to preface casual sex with, ‘Just so you know, I’ll never grow any older with you.'” It’s a fascinating tête-à-tête on two very different beliefs about relationships. The problem is, Parker starts coming on to Willow, and she sees right through it.

“You’re unbelievable! Men haven’t changed since the dawn of time,” she exclaims. And just like that, the Neanderthals burst into the cafe and knock out Parker and Willow. They promptly start to burn it down, with everyone inside.

On her quest for more beer, Cave Slayer smells the fire and runs toward it, with Xander and Giles chasing after her. Her Slayer instincts still trump all else. After helping Willow and the cavemen escape, Cave Buffy finds Parker trapped in the fire and rescues him, despite hating him.

When the smoke clears, Buffy’s classroom psych fantasy comes true. “Do you think you could forgive me?” Parker sheepishly asks Buffy, with his big, dumb puppy-dog eyes. Parker sympathizers can argue that Buffy took Parker’s one-night stand too harshly, but good luck convincing an 18-year-old college freshman of that. We’re all done with Parker anyway.

Buffy whacks him on the head with a giant stick. Finally, the writers grant viewers a slice of the pleasure principle, too.

Big bad of the week: Jack the bar manager, who spiked the Black Frost beer with the caveman potion. You can’t hate him too much, though, after his spot-on complaint about snot-nosed college kids and “their fruity little microbrews.”

Quote of the week: Xander’s “Au contraire, mon frère” and Buffy’s zippy retort, “Frère means brother.” Adorable friend exchanges FTW.

Heinous ’90s fashion of the week: Check out Veruca’s frosted blue eyeshadow and gloppy pink lip gloss. And are those snakeskin pants? Wow. I mean, she’s cute by ’90s standards, but she looks straight out of a vintage J-14 magazine.

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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