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'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' recap: Monster Giles

Season 4 | Episode 12 | “A New Man” | Aired Jan 25, 2000

Willow bursts in on a Buffy-Riley hookup with news there’s a fire-breathing demon on campus. Armed with weapons, the trio rushes to the library—only to find out it’s a surprise party for Buffy’s 19th birthday, with all of Buffy’s college friends and Giles.

It’s the best Buffy birthday bash in a long while, considering her last one was attacked by zombies and her 17th was crashed by Spike and Drusilla. Buffy introduces Riley to Giles as her boyfriend, catching Giles entirely off-guard. It doesn’t help when Riley asks if Giles is retired.

Buffy eagerly tells Giles about Professor Walsh and how she’s “the smartest person she’s ever met.” When Giles asks why she wasn’t invited to the party, Buffy answers, “She’s like 40; she’s got better things to do than hang out with a bunch of kids.” It’s a harsh blow to Giles, who absolutely does not have anything better to do than just that.

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The next day, Riley introduces Buffy to Walsh as the Slayer, not just her freshman student. It’s cordial. They promise to learn a lot from each other. We’re not supposed to know yet how much Walsh likes to learn, examine, experiment, and play with supernatural creatures/humans under her magnifying glass. But we will. “We thought you were a myth,” Walsh tells Buffy. “Well, you were myth-taken.” I still love that line, 15 years later.

When Giles finally does encounter Walsh, she bluntly says, “Buffy clearly lacks a strong father figure,” insulting Giles and his relationship with Buffy. Cue the cringing when he refers to Buffy as a girl, and Walsh corrects him by calling her a woman. Giles leaves in a huff, as any father would when another adult points out someone he loves as his own child is no longer a child. The last thing he needs right now is a reminder that he’s useless.

Alas, that’s exactly what happens when Giles tries to warn the gang about the possible demon threat in Sunnydale, only to find the Initiative has already neutralized it. At the scene, Willow breaks the news that Riley is one of the Commandos and Professor Walsh is the Initiative’s boss. Feeling neglected and entirely out of the loop, Giles shoos away Willow and Xander, and packs up his things to leave.

Chaos worshipper Ethan Rayne, Giles’s old frenemy, emerges from the shadows and starts talking smack. Hilariously, Giles catches him mid-sentence and threatens to beat him up. Ethan convinces Giles to go out for a drink to warn him about something weird going on in Sunnydale.

All Ethan actually knows is demons are scared of some new danger (not the Slayer), and something called “314” has them scared most of all. It’s throwing the world out of balance. It’s an exciting new tidbit in the Initiative mystery, but after a few drinks, the old sorcerers stop talking shop and start to lament the good old days when they were at the top of their game.

“Someone snuck in and left us a couple of has-beens in our place,” Giles says, in one heartbreaking drunken ramble. “This Initiative, I mean, their methods may be causing problems, but they’re getting the job done. Where am I? I’m an unemployed librarian with a tendency to get knocked on the head.”

While the two men drink away their night, two girls have a night in. Willow makes plans to try more magic with Tara, by floating a rose and plucking its petals by syncing their powers together. “We’ll start out slow,” she says. Bow-chicka-wow-wow. We know where this is going. It’s big step. Willow finally has a partner in crime to learn and practice more magic. And unlike Giles, Tara doesn’t tell her to stop or be careful. Willow also starts hiding her meetings with Tara from Buffy. This becomes important later, when the close friend group starts to splinter.

The next morning, Giles wakes up as a giant Fyarl demon, thanks to a cruel magic trick from Ethan. Giles bumbles around, eventually finding help from Spike because (swoon) Spike speaks Fyarl. These scenes are fairly entertaining, especially when the ever-reasonable Giles starts giving in to the natural Fyarl rage.

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Buffy only realizes Giles is the Fyarl after she stabs him (but finally sees his eyes). “You’re the only person in the world who can look that annoyed with me,” she tells him. Giles definitely feels the love, but it doesn’t solve the problem of his current uselessness to Buffy. This cloud hangs over the Buffy/Giles dynamic until he finally returns to England in season 5.

The episode fascinates in retrospect, foreshadowing major problems in the Buffy/Riley relationship. Riley freaks out when he tells Buffy not to hold back and she kicks him across the room during a friendly spar. It’s the beginning of his discomfort with her powers and leadership. Riley has always been a protector, and he doesn’t know how to cope when his girlfriend beats him in a fight. (Plus, she held back.)

“You’re in charge,” Riley realizes by the episode’s end. “No one’s giving you orders. I like it.” We can see his jaw twitching as he says it. “Give me another week to get ready, and I’ll take you down,” he says with a wooden smile. Something tells me he means that. Riley’s inferiority complex comes to a head in season 5.

Both Giles and Prof. Walsh close out the episode offering advice and caution to their respective “children.” When writers want you to examine parallel story structure, they let you know it: Giles warns Buffy about integrating into the Initiative, while Walsh warns Riley about Buffy’s spontaneous nature. “Her loyalties are uncertain.” Both conversations appear to end on good terms, until Walsh walks into room 314.

Big bad of the week: Ethan Rayne, professional bad guy. End of story.

Quote of the week: “I like pancakes because they’re stackable,” Buffy to Willow, showing her adorably great mood thanks to Riley.

Heinous ’90s fashion of the week: Willow wears a choker in the first scene. And here I thought we were in a new millenium. Not yet, no sir.

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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