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'Buffy' nostalgia recap: An ode to the most forgettable episode ever

Season 5 | Episode 9 | “Listening to Fear” | Aired Nov 28, 2000

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is my all-time favorite show. I’ve seen every episode at least twice, prior to this rewatch, and many of them many more times than that. And yet, somehow, I had all but forgotten the very existence of season five’s “Listening to Fear.” If you, too, need a refresher, “Listening to Fear” is the one with the alien monster from outer space. The alien was gray and weird and bland and forgettable, just like the episode. Here are all of the reasons you’ll never remember this Buffy episode.

  • More hospital. All hospital, all the time. I didn’t remember what an absurd amount of season five takes place in Joyce’s hospital room, but it’s roughly (warning: hyperbole alert) 80 percent of it. Buffy and Dawn are visiting Joyce yet again, and while it’s realistic and sweet, it’s all starting to run together.
  • The Scoobies try to Slay without Buffy. This never goes well and it’s always a lot of hemming and hawing and forgettable, awkward exchanges.
  • Crazy people think Dawn is invisible/nonexistent/etc. Again, this is a common trope for the season, albeit an important one for the plot. Joyce does have a semi-memorable outburst during Willow’s Jewish Santa scene, but it’s so uncomfortable to watch that I kind of mentally blocked it out, which is the same end result as it being boring and impossible to remember.
  • Willow and Tara are a cute couple. They’re looking at the stars and being adorable, but they’re not doing magic and the thing they discover is the boring gray snot-monster alien, so they lose all the points.
  • The creature kills crazy people and creeps along unseen. But if a Buffy villain isn’t seen and isn’t making witty quips or engaging in spectacular battles with our heroine, does it really exist?
  • Riley calls the Initiative and basically rejoins them. Wait, Riley left the Initiative? When did that happen? Just kidding, we all know he left, but no one really cared, so this doesn’t matter either.
  • Joyce yells at Dawn and calls her out on being real. Later, she’ll ask Buffy if she was right about Dawn not being real and not being her daughter. Buffy confirms it, because it’s true (and good on Joyce for putting the pieces together on her own), but Joyce asks Buffy to protect Dawn anyway. These two scenes are the only reason to remember anything about “Listening to Fear.” I remembered Joyce yelling at Dawn for not being real and I didn’t actively remember her asking Buffy to make sure to protect Dawn like a sister even if Joyce dies, but it makes sense and adds to the pile of reasons for her sacrifice at the end of the season. Here’s the exception to my grand statements about this episode. Now, back to boring.
  • The alien attacks the Summers women. Buffy kills it good, in her own home. I just watched this episode and I barely believe this happened. That’s how forgettable this showdown was.
  • Spike was there. You’ll just have to take my word for it. He was being creepy and stealing pictures of Buffy from her basement, because stalker.
  • Riley gets there to save the day … too late. Story of Riley’s life, right? Up next is “Into the Woods,” so we’re reaching his breaking point, which is coming about five episodes past most reasonable viewers’ breaking points.
  • We find out that Ben summoned the snot-monster alien. Because he’s cleaning up Glory’s messes—AS ALWAYS. Whine, whine, whine, Ben. Why don’t you and Xander go start a club for whiny white guys who summon demons to solve their problems? Xander can join in season six.
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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