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'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' recap: Angel returns for Thanksgiving

Season 4 | Episode 8 | “Pangs” | Aired Nov 23, 1999

Buffy the Vampire Slayer easily dusts a vampire on the UC Sunnydale campus, but feels like she’s being watched. After a furrowed brow pause, Buffy moves on while the camera reveals Angel watching her from behind some bushes.

Whether you’re on #TeamAngel or not, you can’t deny the gravity of this scene. Angel’s back in the Buffyverse for the first time since leaving for his own WB spin-off, and it means Buffy’s in danger. Great timing, too. Just as Riley and Buffy take a peculiar interest in each other, the ex-boyfriend pops back in town. That’s college.

The next day, UC Sunnydale has a groundbreaking ceremony for a new cultural center; Buffy, Willow and Anya attend because Xander is one of the construction workers. As the gals watch Xander dig, Buffy and Willow talk about the meaning of Thanksgiving.

Willow goes off about the cultural wipeout while Buffy waxes nostalgic about her mom’s cooking. Joyce won’t host Thanksgiving this year, so Buffy’s more preoccupied with missing the holiday. Between daydreams of having sex with Xander, Anya turns around to remark how she loves a good ritual sacrifice. Buffy says Thanksgiving isn’t a sacrifice.

“To commemorate a past event, you kill and eat an animal,” Anya reasons. “It’s a ritual sacrifice. With pie.”


Suddenly, the ground caves under Xander and he drops into the Old Sunnydale Mission. He’s fine, but the chilling music and spooky crosses on the walls let viewers know the Big Bad of the Week just woke up.

Later, Buffy decides to cook her own Thanksgiving dinner at Giles’s house and invite the Scooby Gang. “Hey, we could not invite Anya!” Willow brightens. Willow and Anya’s mutual dislike for each other only grows in future seasons, so it’s cool to see those behaviors take root early in their relationship.

Covered in a blanket and looking sick, Spike is still trying to escape Riley’s team of Commandos. Even though he’s “neutered” and can’t attack anyone, Riley points out that if Spike (“Hostile 17”) spills about the Initiative, it puts their entire operation at risk.

Anya arrives at Xander’s place to find him pasty and sick. Suddenly a caretaker, she makes him call off work and tells him if she catches whatever he has, they’ll die together. “It’s romantic!” Anya says. Xander calls her a strange girlfriend and Anya perks up. It’s the first time he’s ever called her that. Xander quickly says he’s probably delirious, but she’s overjoyed anyway.

Back at the mission ruins, a threatening green mist springs forth and spreads to the UC Sunnydale cultural center. After settling over an ancient-looking knife, the green mist transforms into a man who immediately kills the professor who presided over the construction ceremony.

Hus kills the professor.

Buffy and Willow sneak around the professor’s office after the murder hits the news. They discover that the professor’s ear was missing when her body was found, so Willow wonders whether a witch was responsible. Buffy notices an artifact missing from its case in the professor’s office, and they identify it as an 1800s Chumash knife.

Buffy tells Giles about the murder while unpacking groceries for Thanksgiving at his place. After he agrees to look up a connection between the Chumash Indians and ritual ear removal, Buffy leaves to get more groceries. Again, she feels like she is being watched.

After she leaves, Angel appears from the back room, explaining he came from Los Angeles because Doyle had a vision of Buffy in danger. Angel doesn’t want Buffy to know he’s in town because he doesn’t want to distract her and get her hurt. Giles doesn’t like keeping secrets, but agrees not to say anything.

In town, Angel also tells Willow he’s here to protect Buffy, but both Willow and Angel get sidetracked by catching up. Willow is annoyed with Angel for “leaving for her own good,” still rattled from her own tragic breakup with Oz a couple weeks ago. Angel tries to focus on business, but he wants to know who Buffy’s talking to. That would be Riley, whom Buffy adorably invites to her Thanksgiving dinner. Sadly, he’s going home to Iowa.

Spike, still on the run, doesn’t have a home. He tries moving back in with Harmony but she threatens him with a stake because he used her in their last two encounters. Although Harmony has always been hilariously horrid, it’s cool to see her finally stand up for herself.

Buffy tries to track down Father Gabriel, who may help find the Chumash knife thief. Unfortunately, Buffy arrives at the church just in time to see the Green Mist man, a Native American who speaks perfect English, slice Father Gabriel’s throat.

Buffy and the Chumash warrior spar briefly, before he informs Buffy he is Hus, a spirit seeking justice for the Chumash tribe. Hus accuses Buffy of slaughtering his people, and then transforms into a flock of birds and disappears into the night. Buffy freezes, confused and shaken by the encounter. The fight wasn’t bad, but her fuzzy feelings toward Thanksgiving are openly challenged by vengeful Native American spirits. It’s not the pure-evil bad guy she’s used to fighting.

Back at Giles’ place, Buffy sums up her conflicting feelings in the most Whedoneque way possible: “I like my evil like I like my men. Evil. You know, ‘straight up, black hat, tied to the train tracks, soon my electro-ray will destroy Metropolis’ bad. Not all mixed up with guilt and the destruction of an indigenous culture.”

Willow collects a pre-Google stack of books on the Chumash tribes. She explains how the Chumash endured imprisonment, forced labor, and the introduction of European diseases. Proof of Chumash deaths were—you guessed it—their mutilated ears.

As Giles and Willow argue about whether to hurt or help the Chumash spirit, Buffy freaks out and decides to ignore the danger altogether. She throws herself into a cooking frenzy. “Over bickering and confusion, I’ll take pie.”

Xander and Anya show up, with Xander looking worse than ever. Buffy ignores this too and asks why he didn’t bring rolls. Turns out, Xander’s sickness is part of the vengeance lesson, since he dug on Chumash land. He’s suffering from multiple diseases the Chumash encountered: malaria, smallpox, and syphilis.

Buffy avoids the conversation altogether, but is again distracted from making dinner when a “parboiling” Spike shows up on Giles’ doorstep, begging to exchange Initiative information for an invitation into Giles’ house. They let him in when Willow confirms he still can’t bite anyone.

Everyone, Spike included, argues about how to stop Hus. Here, James Marsters masterfully proves his chops as a comedic addition to the cast with his kill-or-be-killed advice on the situation: “The history of the world isn’t people making friends. You had better weapons and you massacred them. End of story.”

Willow, Anya, and Xander go to warn college’s Dean Guerrero that his life may be in danger, because Hus has been targeting authority figures. Hus, meanwhile, summons more vengeance spirits to attack whom he believes to be the real authority: Buffy.

The spirits attack Buffy, Giles, and Spike with arrows. Tied to a chair, Spike is helplessly hit with arrow after arrow, but none pierce his heart. Buffy tries to get weapons but is shot in the arm.

Angel, Willow, Xander, and Anya return and try to attack the Chumash spirits with shovels, but none will die. Only when Buffy cuts Hus with his own knife does she discover only Chumash weapons can kill them. Hus turns into a large black bear, which Buffy fights and finally stabs. Hus and all the other spirits disappear into puffs of green smoke.

"You made a bear! Undo it!"

Angel leaves town without being seen by Buffy, and the gang finally eats Thanksgiving dinner. Still tied to a chair, Spike sits with them and whines about not being fed. Xander accidentally mentions Angel was in town and everyone turns to look at Buffy, whose fork clatters as the credits roll.

Big bad of the week: Hus and the Chumash vengeance spirits. Spike takes a delightful turn as a clever, reasonable ally in the face of danger.

Quote of the week: “A bear! You made a bear! Undo it! Undo it!” —Spike to Buffy, after Hus transforms one last time

Heinous ’90s fashion of the week: Buffy’s cowboy hat in the ceremony scene seems completely out of place, both in her personal style and in California. Then again, 1999 was a pretty good year for country music.