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'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' recap: Willow vs. Werewolf

Season 4 | Episode 6 | “Wild at Heart” | Aired Nov 9, 1999 on The WB

“Wild at Heart” is one devastating episode for anyone who wrapped themselves in Willow and Oz’s “security blanket” relationship while Buffy’s love life went off the deep end. Assemble the tissue boxes.

The episode starts with Buffy back to her plucky, pun-making self as she patrols UC Sunnydale for vamps. She’s officially over Parker, thank the gods, and getting in a quick kill before meeting her friends at the Bronze. Spike watches her and starts a hilariously menacing monologue just before he’s electrocuted and captured by the commandos we’ve been seeing all season. This episode clearly aims to shock.

The Scooby Gang seems up for a fun night ahead, even with unemployed slacker Giles at the table, until Veruca (Paige Moss) shows up onstage with her wah-wah band.

Buffy writers had to build chemistry between Oz and Veruca quickly when Seth Green wanted to leave the show. Veruca’s story feels a bit rushed, although they lingered on her presence every time she appeared in season 4. With the introduction of Tara, the Veruca plot ended up blending well with season 4, but only in retrospect.

"Buff, have you heard of this Veruca chick? Dresses like Faith, voice like an albatross."

“Buff, have you heard of this Veruca chick? Dresses like Faith, voice like an albatross.”

What’s wonderful about “Wild at Heart” is how Buffy goes from being vulnerable to being the fully supportive, lean-on-me friend to Willow. Their friendship deepens beautifully in season 4. While navigating the choppy waters of college heartbreak, Buffy and Willow take turns sharing the load, offering chocolate or shoulders to cry on.

Buffy also bounces back quickly in academics after Parker. After missing several psychology classes, Buffy manages to pull off a good grade and Professor Walsh asks her to lead a class discussion group, prompting bursts of jealousy from Willow. After Buffy’s long funk, I’m just plain proud of her for getting a good grade. College is important, even in the Buffyverse!

Willow’s day sours even more when she goes to meet Oz for lunch and finds him chatting up Veruca. Willow painfully tries to keep up with their band chatter (“I don’t speak musician-ese”), but awkward pauses punctuate the conversation until Oz splits. It’s completely uncharacteristic of him to bail, especially when Willow planned to meet him for lunch, but Oz’s personality takes a major shift in this episode—and that’s the point. Veruca leaves shortly after making a snide comment about Willow’s abstract top.

“How come you didn’t tell me I look like a crazy birthday cake in this shirt?” Willow pleads when Buffy arrives.

It’s a full moon that night, and Oz locks himself up as usual … but he manages to break the cage door free of its hinges, natch. You’d think Sunnydale would have better cage makers. Professor Walsh encounters the ferocious Wolf Oz on her way home from work.

When I first saw this episode, I could’ve bet money that Oz would rip Walsh to shreds and Buffy’s academic rise would be stunted by Slayer duties (and a dead professor). But Marti Noxon delivers an even hairier plot when Walsh finds herself cornered by not one werewolf, but two. Walsh escapes unscathed when a female werewolf tackles Wolf Oz to the ground.

Wolf costumes have come a long way since 1999.

On the bright side, wolf costumes have come a long way since 1999.

Oz wakes up in the woods the next day, and there Veruca is, naked and next to him. Oz looks horrified. He doesn’t remember how he got here, physically or mentally. They hit the dorm laundry room to find clothes, where Oz wonders aloud why they got out of their cages. Stunned by this admission, Veruca pounces. She tries to convince him werewolves don’t belong in cages, even if it means they’ll hurt and kill people a few times a month.

You’ve got to give it up to the casting agents and Paige Moss, whose cringe-worthy sex appeal and weirdness work well in this role. She manages to taunt Oz, seduce him, and promise to help him all in one raspy breath.

“Soon, you just start to feel sorry for everybody else because they don’t know what it’s like to be as alive as we are, as free,” Veruca says. It’s a brilliant line, because it unabashedly applies to werewolves as much as it does to cheaters. Oz pauses, clouded by Veruca’s offer, but shakes it off. He doesn’t want to be free to kill people. He tells her she shouldn’t either, but it sounds like he’s just trying to convince himself.

While Oz scans the newspaper to see if he killed anyone last night, Willow stops by, decked out in something Veruca would wear. Willow tries her hardest to seduce Oz, but doesn’t get a response. He plays everything off as “fine,” and says he’s just “tired.” Rejected and confused, Willow finds Xander for Y-chromosome advice. He offers up the quintessential guy solution: Maybe you should just talk about it with Oz? Willow looks defeated.

Before sundown the next day, Buffy finds Oz fixing the door on his cage. She asks him gently about escaping last night, and maybe running into another wolf, but he claims to have blacked out. Buffy prods one more time, asking if anything is wrong. Oz brushes her off.

He calls Veruca to join him in the cage that night, to prevent them from attacking people. She laughs off this “cozy little arrangement,” but the wolf starts to consume both of them at once, an apparently “blood-boiling” experience that is equal parts horny and violent. Oz grabs Veruca and locks the cage, and the camera cuts away from the rough, hairy lovemaking.

Cage-free is the way to be.

Cage-free is the way to be.

Bearing food and drinks, Willow hopefully hops down to the cage the next morning, only to find Oz and Veruca naked and intertwined. Seth Green is the little spoon! Props to Alyson Hannigan in this scene. Those are real tears she’s crying. Struggling to put pants back on, Oz tries to explain himself and his utilitarian attempt to keep Sunnydale safe. Willow points out that literally anything else would have been a better option than spending a night locked in a cage with Veruca. Adding salt to the wound, Veruca loudly agrees. Without looking at her, Oz yells at Veruca to leave.

Willow runs away from the confrontation and nearly gets hit by a car. Captain America Riley happens to be in the right place at the right time to rescue her. Buffy takes her back home and prepares to find and fight Veruca. Buffy tells Willow not to hurt herself, and rather to place the blame where it belongs.

To a very heartbroken Willow, this sound like a job for a witch. She conjures extra-black magic to “let Oz and Veruca’s deceitful hearts be broken … in the name of hell.” It’s stunning foreshadowing of the powerful Willow of future seasons, who turns to dark magic in her emotional desperation. But right now, she’s still young and in love, and can’t go through with it. Veruca finds Willow just as she stops the spell.

“Wow. For a minute there, I thought you might actually play rough,” Veruca taunts.

Veruca is a hideous name used only for vile characters (see: “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), and yes, it’s a type of foot wart. Moss plays up the evil nature of her character well. She slithers around campus, cracks her neck all the time, and makes too-long eye contact with everyone. She’s the definition of uncomfortable until the final scene, when she makes good on her threats.

Oz rips out Veruca's throat. More like "The Wolf of Maul Street," am I right?

Oz rips out Veruca’s throat in The Wolf of Maul Street.

Veruca attacks Willow, but Oz stops her and seriously, audibly, rips her throat out with his teeth. It’s sweet, you know? Buffy shows up in time to stop Oz from attacking Willow; then Oz decides to leave town. Those last few minutes happen quickly, and it’s all we can do to not cry along with Willow when Oz kisses her goodbye. Then the writers fake us out when Oz hesitates before driving away, before crushing all hope to smithereens.


We feel you, Winston.

Big bad of the week: Spike is back in town, but Veruca definitely takes the cake this week, not because she’s a werewolf, but because she’s an effective homewrecker.

Quote of the week: “All the Geminis to the raspberry hats!” Willow says to Oz, while they’re in bed and still together. This is how I want to remember them forever.

Heinous ’90s fashion of the week: I actually love the “crazy birthday cake” shirt, but Willow doesn’t get a free pass on the black pleather pants and a gauzy goth blouse when she dresses like Veruca to seduce Oz. It’s heartbreaking, especially because Willow used to mock Veruca’s wardrobe for being exactly like Faith’s. Burn.

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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