00:00 – 15:00
When this episode of Buffy aired in 1997, Puff Daddy (with Mase) was still #1 on the US top-ten charts with “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down,” while the Wallflowers’s “One Headlight” ruled the alternative charts. Around this time is when I realized my musical tastes were considered more “alternative” than “mainstream.”
Over in the UK, “Block Rockin’ Beats,” by The Chemical Brothers, ruled the radio waves.
The biggest movie in the US was Liar Liar, starring Jim Carrey. It would end up being the third-highest grossing movie in all of 1997, behind Men In Black and The Lost World: Jurassic Park, but only because James Cameron’s Titanic didn’t premiere until December 21.
In March 1997, I was once again living in Lynchburg, Virginia, still working for Hills Department Stores, but plans were already in motion that would have me moving once again when I accepted a job offer from the Target Corporation. The “special editions” of the original Star Wars trilogy were released in February and March, and I remember going to the theaters to watch them with my boss (our wives were uninterested in Star Wars—go figure).
The day after this episode aired—Tuesday, April 1, 1997—Asa Butterfield was born. He’s the English actor who currently stars in Netflix’s Sex Education. He’s an adult now, and I’m that much older.
Here in the fifth episode of the series, we’ve already developed a shorthand for story settings and routines. The teaser opens at night, in a graveyard. A vampire appears suddenly in full knuckle-face and Gene Simmons hair. He immediately goes into a kung fu stance for a sparring session with Buffy.
Buffy takes the time to quip: “We haven’t been properly introduced. I’m Buffy. And you’re . . . history!” She stakes the vampire, causing him to—in the vernacular of this show—be “dusted.”
Good. The full effect is back. I thought we lost it with Claw/Fork Guy in the last episode.
Giles is nearby, and he criticizes Buffy’s performance. Poor technique. Subpar prioritizing. Execution was adequate, but a bit too bloody for his tastes.
Giles feels that Buffy is spending too much time and energy. She should just plunge and move on.
The librarian finds a ring in the middle of the vampire’s dusted remains. The piece of jewelry seems to bother Giles. He thought this vampire was just a random kill, but it may be something else. He plans to consult his books.
Which is all consistent with Giles’s characterization to this point in the series.
We cut to the Master’s underground lair. The Master has his own book, it seems. He plunks it down on a lectern and begins to read from it. Stuff about a “time of crisis, of worlds hanging in the balance.” This sounds like something from DC comic books.
The Master also mentions that his great warrior, the Anointed, will arise from the ashes of five dead. The Brothers of Aurelius will greet him and usher him into his destiny. The Anointed will lead the Slayer into Hell.
The Writings of Aurelius will get a shout-out in the season finale, but nowhere else as far as I can remember.
The Master slams the book closed, and the short teaser comes to an end. Cue the opening credits and that rockin’ theme music.
Act I opens in the library of Sunnydale High School. Naturally. We’re at around the three-minute mark for the episode. Buffy is studying the vampire’s ring, while Giles studies a book. Giles says he believes the symbol on the ring is the rune for “fidelity,” but it doesn’t connect with any sect he’s studied.
Buffy points out the sun-and-three-stars on the inside of the ring. “Haven’t we seen that somewhere before?” she asks.
This doesn’t jog Giles’s memory, but Buffy immediately finds—in a book, no less—an entry about the Order of Aurelius.
A new character, a boy named Owen (Christopher Wiehl), enters the library. He lost his Emily Dickinson book, you see, and it’s kinda his security blanket. Buffy says she has something like that, only it’s actually a blanket. Buffy is flirting. The two engage in some meet-cute banter. Owen didn’t think that Buffy was the type to hang around the library. Buffy insists that she “loves” books.
After Owen leaves, Buffy talks about checking out a book on Dickinson poetry herself.
Giles guides her back on topic. He says the Order of Aurelius is a very old and venerated sect. If they’re in Sunnydale, it’s for a good reason.
Buffy looks down at her outfit and asks Giles if it makes her look fat. For the terminally obtuse: Buffy is interested in Owen. At least for part of one episode.
Later, Buffy and Willow are getting lunch in the school cafeteria. They talk about Owen Thurman, of course. Willow says he hardly talks to anyone. He’s solitary and mysterious. Willow says she once clocked him brooding for forty minutes straight.
Buffy talks about Owen’s love of Emily Dickinson poetry. Willow says that Owen is sensitive, but manly. She calls Buffy a “vixen” when she shows Willow that she checked out a Dickinson book as well.
Xander is already seated at the table as Buffy and Willow join him. Xander is wondering what the “green stuff” on his tray might be. Buffy tells her friends that there is apparently a new vampire sect in town.
They see Owen enter the cafeteria. Buffy goes to sit with him, and Cordelia “accidentally” bumps into her, causing her to spill her tray. Buffy makes a crack about Cordelia’s hips being wider than she thought. Cordelia laughs sarcastically, but the moment makes me think about Charisma Carpenter’s allegations about Joss Whedon’s verbal abuse.
Sorry. I’m trying not to do that.
Owen refers to the “green stuff” that Xander mentioned as Soylent Green, which I’m sure made every science-fiction nerd giddy.
Cordelia sits with Owen and invites him to the Bronze that evening. Owen asks Buffy if she’s going to be there, and they arrange to meet at eight.
We cut to a walk-and-talk between Buffy and Willow in the hallway. They are talking about Owen, of course. They run into Giles, who leads them to the library. He tells the young women that a violent and disturbing prophecy is about to be fulfilled. In his continued role as Chief Exposition Officer, he tells them that the Order of Aurelius is supposed to bring the Anointed One to the Master. This is supposed to happen “on the evening of the thousandth day after the Advent of Septus.” Which, coincidentally, is this very night.
Buffy is rattled because this conflicts with her planned date with Owen. She has her priorities straight, it seems.
The next scene is Buffy and Giles in a graveyard. No vampires. Giles says he must have been mistaken. He gives Buffy permission to go to the Bronze, and to Owen.
We cut to a bus, which has a driver and only four passengers. Perhaps it is an airport shuttle. Hard to tell. One of the passengers, a militia-type, says, “A pale horse emerged with death as its rider.” Then, he begins talking about judgment, as one does in these situations.
Buffy arrives at the Bronze. She sees Owen dancing with Cordelia, and leaves.
Meanwhile, back on the bus, Militia Guy is ramping up his sermon, standing in the aisle.
“That day’s gonna bring fire. Fire comin’ down! Judgment. Don’t think you’re ready, ready to look upon him. If there’s sin there, there’s sin all around. It’s a liquid. On that day there won’t be anybody tellin’ us what to do or why we’re doin’ it. You can’t prepare. On that day—”
“Hey!” says the bus driver, “You gotta sit down. Okay?”
A reasonable request that doesn’t even matter, because one of the Order of Aurelius steps in the path of the bus and gets hit. The bus swerves, smashes through a sign and hits a pole.
The driver asks if everyone’s okay, and they all seem to be.
When the driver gets out to check on the guy he ran over, the vampire attacks him. Then we see vampires swarm the bus and begin killing all the passengers.
This is where Act I ends, but we’re not quite at the fifteen-minute mark. That comes near the beginning of the next scene, the first of Act II, which is a walk-and-talk in the high school hall between Buffy and Xander. They are talking about Owen, of course.
Everyone is talking about Owen in this episode.
Join me next time for more discussion about the fifth episode of Buffy, “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date,” where we’ll get deeper into Act II and the obstacles to love faced by the Vampire Slayer.