\m/15-Minute Hellmouth\m/: Buffy the Vampire Slayer DeepWatch: Season 1, Episode 2: “The Harvest” (airdate: Monday, March 10, 1997): Part 2 of 3.

15:01 – 30:00

We were on the cusp of Act II as we reached our first 15-Minute milestone in this episode.

Buffy Summers ran into that guy who hangs around the Bronze a lot and who loaned her his leather jacket, all the while being mysterious and dropping cryptic hints about the Master and the Harvest. Buffy runs into him at the mausoleum where she fought Luke, the vampire world’s He-Man. Buffy figured out that the entrance to the subterranean lair was in the mausoleum.

This time, Buffy’s mysterious stalker tells her that his name is Angel. So, it’s official now. I no longer have to refer to him as Mysterious Guy.

Angel also tells Buffy that once she’s in the tunnels to head east, towards the high school. She’s more likely to find the Master and her missing friend there. As we left Sunnydale last time, Buffy told Angel to wish her luck.

Buffy heads down alone. Angel doesn’t offer to accompany her, which might later seem a little out of character, but we don’t know him that well, yet. When Buffy is no longer in the mausoleum, Angel says, quietly, “Good luck.”

Now, we’re in the underground tunnels and Act II.

The tunnels are dark and creepy. Buffy’s not alone, however. She turns around and we all discover that Xander Harris has followed her here. In Part 1, I was joking around about superhero names for the other members of Team Buffy, soon to be known as the Scooby Gang. For Xander, I made up names playing off his insecurities, his defensive humor, and his lustful crush on Buffy. But, I think there is a better superhero moniker for Xander.

Brave-but-Stupid Guy.

Xander seems capable of great heroism when it comes to his friends, but he never approaches his actions in the most intelligent way.

Xander didn’t follow Buffy because he’s stalking the Slayer, upon whom he has a massive crush. At least, this isn’t the main reason. The missing Sunnydale student, Jesse McNally, is Xander’s best male friend. Certainly, Willow Rosenberg is his best friend, regardless of gender, but Jesse is his best boy bud. Xander admits that he is afraid, but he’s adamant about accompanying Buffy to rescue Jesse.

But, he brought no weapons with him. As we’ve established, brave but stupid.

Buffy gives Xander a cross for protection. He already knows about the stake-to-the-heart strategem, but what else can kill the vampires?

Buffy says, “Fire, beheading, sunlight, holy water . . . the usual.” Which tracks with most of the vampire lore that I know.

Buffy tells a lurid story about once beheading a former varsity left tackle with an X-Acto knife. Xander says he finds the story “oddly comforting.”

Back in the Library, Rupert Giles (whose superhero name would have to be Book-Man, right? Along with Professor X-position) is reading up on the Harvest. Giles sometimes reads aloud, even when he’s alone.

Giles says, “For they will gather and be gathered. From the vessel pours life. Pours life—On the night of the crescent moon, the first past solstice, it will come.”

“Of course,” Giles says, to no one, “That’s tonight.”

That sets the dramatic timeclock to ticking. Buffy and Xander are underground, trying to locate the Master’s secret lair. Meanwhile, that Harvest thing Angel warned Buffy about is scheduled to happen tonight. That rachets up the drama.

We leave Giles in order to find out what’s happening in the Computer Lab. Cordelia and Harmony are in the class with Willow. We’ve already gotten to know Cordelia Chase as Sunnydale’s resident Mean Girl. Harmony Kendall we’ll get to know more later. For now, she is just one of Cordelia’s vacuous friends, and hasn’t been named yet.

Cordelia is talking to Harmony about Buffy. At the Bronze last night, Buffy attacked her as she was coming out of the restroom. This actually happened, so you can’t blame Cordelia for talking about it. Cordelia and Harmony are having some difficulties writing a program, so Cordelia asks her friend to see what Willow did. Harmony tells Cordy that Willow is working on something else. She is; she’s researching natural disasters, in a bid to find out more about the Harvest.

Cordelia and Harmony continue to talk about Buffy. Harmony is the one who tells Cordy that Buffy was kicked out of her last school. Another student in the class asks why she was kicked out. Cordelia suggests that it was because “she’s a psycho-loony.”

Willow defends her new-found Slayer friend. “She’s not a psycho,” she says. “You don’t even know her.”

“Excuse me?” Cordelia says. “Who gave you permission to exist? Do I horn in on your private discussions? No. Why? Because you’re boring.”

Harmony announces that the program is completed and Cordelia asks how to save it.

Willow suggests they hit “Deliver,” which prompts Cordelia to hit the DEL key—this is “delete,” of course—and all of Cordelia’s work disappears.

In the commentary track for this episode, Joss Whedon talks about the shameless way they used computers to get information that wouldn’t have been found on computers years later, much less in 1997. In the series, computers became a fictional construct for dealing with exposition. You’ve seen this done in countless television series since, certainly. Whedon says they weren’t interested in going for realism. Computers were story props. They were more interested in character emotions. I’d say the evidence bears this out.

Back in the tunnels, Buffy tells Xander that they are getting close. Xander wants to know how she can tell. “No more rats,” Buffy says.

I’ve always assumed that this means the vampires were draining the rats for food. But, I guess it could also mean that the rats are somehow repelled by the presence of vampires.

They find Jesse lying in the side tunnel. He seems relatively okay, although he insists that he’s “not okay on an epic scale.” Buffy smashes the shackles on Jesse’s ankle. Jesse suggests he may know the way out.

We see a couple of vampires skulking about as Buffy, Xander and Jesse run off. Jesse says that the vampires knew that Buffy was going to come. They were using him as bait.

Buffy and Xander follow Jesse, and there are vampires around every corner. He eventually leads them into a dead-end chamber with no other exit.

“We can’t fight our way back through those things,” Xander says to his friend. “What do we do?”

“I’ve got an idea,” Jesse says.

Jesse’s face then morphs. Jesse was not only killed by the vampires, but he was also turned into one. Potential Scooby Gang member Jesse McNally is now undead.

“You can die,” Vamp-Jesse says.

Blackout. Act II ends.

As Act III begins, we’re still a few minutes shy of the 30-minute mark. We pick up where we left off. Jesse is a turncoat, and he has also been turned. Into a vampire, that is. I always thought that people who have been turned had to be dead for a certain amount of time before they became vampires and rose from their graves. Jesse’s vampire existence seems to complicate that. Maybe it’s different when the transition is headed up by one of the Old Ones, like the Master.

Hah. I’m justifying like a mudding trucker over here, trying to bend an artificial reality to match another artificial reality. Maybe recently turned vampires need a short dirt nap, maybe they don’t. Maybe Jesse spent some off-camera time genuinely dead before his inner-demon kicked in.

Relax. It’s just a show.

The first thing Xander says when he sees that his friend has been turned into a vampire is, “Jesse, man. I’m sorry.” I thought this was a great dialogue choice. Xander was genuinely sorry that his friend was, in essence, murdered and replaced. Perhaps he even felt a little guilty for not being able to prevent it. There’s a great deal of characterization in just those four words.

Jesse, however, makes a good case for adopting the vampire lifestyle. He feels good. He’s stronger. He can hear the worms in the earth, which is helpful if you’re planning to go fishing, I suppose.

Buffy tells Xander to pull out the cross she gave him. The cross causes Jesse to back up. Buffy throws Jesse out of the chamber into the throng of vampires approaching the doorway. She and Xander force the old metal door shut. There appears to be no way out.

Until Xander spots a grate in the ceiling. Buffy jumps on top of a barrel and peels the ceiling vent grate open. Xander climbs into the duct, and Buffy follows, just as the vampires are breaking through the door.

The ventilation duct is just a smaller tunnel, but it does seem more spacious than normal air ducts. Xander and Buffy emerge from a manhole in what appears to be an electrical substation. A vampire grabs Buffy’s leg on the way out. A little tug-o’-war ensues. When Xander manages to drag Buffy from the manhole, the vampire’s hand begins to burn. It releases Buffy.

Back at the his lair, the Master is upset that they’ve failed to capture the Slayer. He should be drinking her heart’s blood by now. He even snaps at a vampire named Colin. He tells Colin that he has failed his Master and demands that he say he’s sorry. Colin does say he’s sorry, but then the Master pokes out his eye after telling the other vampires to get Luke for him.

Cut to, the Library, where Willow enters to find Giles still researching. Giles asks Willow if she found anything. She says she looked through the old newspapers around the time of the 1937 earthquake. There was a rash of murders for several months prior to the quake. Willow appears a little nauseated as she says the murders seem like the type Giles is looking for. “Throats, blood . . . “

Back at the underground church, the Master has Luke kneel before him. Darla is a spectator as Luke drinks blood from the Master’s wrist. It feels a lot like Communion.

“My blood is your blood,” the Master says, after taking his hand back. “My soul is your soul.”

“My body is your instrument,” Luke intones.

The Master draws a symbol on Luke’s forehead and announces that Luke is the Vessel. Every soul he takes on this “most hallowed night” will feed the Master. Eventually, when Luke has claimed enough souls, the Master will have the strength to free himself and walk the earth. “And,” he adds, “the stars themselves will hide!”

Buffy and Xander return to the Library and tell the others what happened to Jesse. Buffy asks Giles if he has anything that will make their day worse.

“How about the end of the world?” Giles says.

The librarian says that about sixty years ago a very old, very powerful vampire came to the area. Not just to feed, but because of the mystical powers of the area itself.

“The Spanish who first settled here called it ‘Boca del Infierno.’ Roughly translated, ‘Hellmouth.’ It’s a sort of, um, portal between this reality and the next. This vampire hopes to open it.”

“Bring the demons back,” Buffy says

“End of the world,” Xander says.

But, of course, the Master was stopped last time by the massive earthquake that swallowed up half the town and the vampire. Giles says opening dimensional portals is a tricky business, and the vampire probably got himself stuck, like a cork in a bottle.

The Harvest comes once in a century, on this very night. Giles explains how the Master will use one of his vampire minions—called the Vessel—to feed and draw power to free him and open the portal. He draws, on the whiteboard, the three-pointed star symbol that the Master put on Luke’s forehead.

Buffy says, “So, I dust anyone sporting that symbol, and no Harvest.” Reducing complicated exposition to simple action plans is one of her Slayer superpowers.

As Giles and Buffy begin to discuss where the Vessel will go to feed, Xander says, “They’re going to the Bronze.” This makes perfect sense to everyone. The Bronze is the only other big set they have, and where else will a lot of people be congregating at night in Sunnydale?

The gang leaves the library. The sun will be down before long, as Giles reminds us. Buffy says she has to make a stop first, but it won’t take long. She needs supplies.

We get an exterior shot of a spectacular reddish-orange sunset.

Then, we are back in Buffy’s bedroom. Buffy pulls a heavy black jacket from her closet as Joyce Summers enters the room.

“You’re going out?” Buffy’s mom asks

“I have to,” Buffy says, putting on her jacket.

This is where Part 2 ends, at the 30-minute mark. We’re very close to the end of Act III. The stuff is about to hit the fan.

Join me next time for Part 3, and the final act, of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer DeepWatch of “The Harvest.”

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