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'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' recap: Full-moon fever

Season 2 | Episode 15 | “Phases” | Aired Jan. 27, 1998 on The WB

How do you top a two-parter in which Buffy and Angel, the great love of her young life, consummate their relationship, only for him to lose his soul and turn into a killer? Maybe something light yet satisfying, much like the episode “Ted“?

Not a chance. This is the Hellmouth, after all.

In “Phases,” Willow and Oz awkwardly try to put sentences together, recapping their movie date. They go their separate ways: Larry and some other guys taunt Oz about hitting that, while Willow tells Buffy she’s jonesing for a big old smooch. She doesn’t want to be the only girl in school without a boyfr—whoops.

Buffy is making progress, though. She only thinks about Angel/Angelus every few minutes. (Relationship grief must bring out the best in Buffy, because she looks fantastic—all fresh blond highlights and midwinter tan.)

What would make her feel better is a group hang with the gang, but Willow is still dealing with Xander and Cordelia’s relationship.

And Cordelia is struggling with Xander always talking about Willow and Buffy when they’re supposed to be making out in her dad’s car in the middle of nowhere. But their face-sucking is interrupted when a big, hairy werewolf paw slices through the car roof. They shake the beast and speed off.

Buffy examines the damage the next day at school. Giles finds reports of other animal mischief around town. Since the attack happened the night before the full moon, they’ll need to be on guard again tonight.

In gym class, they learn about self-defense. Disappointed she has to hide her Slayer strength, Buffy cheats just a little when Larry gets handsy.

Giles has more info on werewolves. They’re a representation of our animal side: aggressive, predatory, and without conscience, drawn out by the moon. The wolf could be anyone, but it’s still a human, so no silver bullets. It must be taken alive.

Buffy and Giles don’t have much luck on patrol until they split up, and Buffy winds up tangled in a net, caught by a fellow hunter named Cain. He has a hard time believing a librarian and a petite teenage girl could catch a werewolf. (So much rampant chauvinism in this episode!)

Cain hunts werewolves for cash and doesn’t care that werewolves are human the rest of the month. He tips them off that wolves are attracted to hormones, so Buffy and Giles head to where all the Sunnydale teens are bumping and grinding these days—the Bronze.

Willow and Cordelia commiserate about their guy troubles like best friends, the first time the two have ever had a regular conversation.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer - A werewolf is loose in SunnydaleThen the werewolf drops in and ruins their bonding moment. The crowd scatters and the wolf escapes before Buffy can capture it. Cain joins them, mocking her for not killing it when she had the chance. If someone gets hurt, he warns, it’s on her.

Angelus, on the prowl and out to make Buffy’s life miserable, abducts and kills one of her classmates. But the police call it an animal attack, so Buffy wonders if she should off the wolf after all.

Daylight comes, and the werewolf reverts to its human form … a Daniel “Oz” Osbourn human form, to be more exact (gasp!). And he’s a little confused why he slept naked in the woods.

He calls his aunt, who confirms the baby cousin who bit Oz’s finger is, in fact, a werewolf. Oz is pretty overwhelmed, especially when he finds out a girl was killed, and there’s one more night of wolfiness ahead.

But the gang, not realizing Oz is their guy, suspects Larry, the aggressive senior who was bitten by a dog recently.

Oz bails, and Willow takes it personally.

Xander hurries off to confront Larry in the locker room. Larry does have a secret, but not what Xander thinks. He’s gay, and feels good saying so, especially since, thanks to miscommunication, he thinks Xander is gay too.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Oz transitions into a werewolf during the full moonBuffy reviews the evidence and wonders whether the girl really was killed by a werewolf. A visit to the morgue proves it was a vampire when the girl rises from the dead and relays a message from her maker before Xander stakes her: “Angel sends his love.”

Harsh.

On Buffy’s suggestion to take charge, Willow visits Oz just as he’s trying to shackle himself up. She clumsily demands answers about their relationship status and won’t leave without them, even though he implores her to scram.

Before he can explain, he turns into a werewolf right there on the living room floor and goes after her.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Willow tells Buffy and Giles Oz is the werewolfWillow, the smartest girl in school, stupidly flees through the woods. She trips and falls, but Oz-Wolf smells something and distractedly runs the other way.

Willow gets back to school in time to let Giles and Buffy know it’s Oz they’re hunting.

Cain lures Oz-Wolf toward him, but Buffy knocks Cain out and steals his gun. She wrestles with Oz-Wolf, and Willow gets a clean shot with the tranquilizer gun, saving them all. He’ll be sore in the morning, Giles says, but still Oz. He’ll just have to lock himself up for a few days every month.

What does this mean for their blossoming romance? Willow apologizes for shooting Oz, he apologizes for not knowing how to tell her. He’s surprised that she’s not wigged and that she kisses him. It’s a brave new Willow. And he’s a werewolf in love.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Willow and Oz share their first kiss

Big Bad of the Week: Oz discovers he’s a werewolf, but he’s just a big teddy bear compared with vengeful Angelus, and the hunter, Cain.

Quote of the Week: Oz: “I’m going through some changes.” Willow: “Well, welcome to the world!”

Heinous ’90s Fashion of the Week: Willow’s lime green overalls and striped, cable-knit sweater with beaded choker.