\m/15-Minute Hellmouth\m/: Buffy the Vampire Slayer DeepWatch: Season 1, Episode 6: “The Pack” (airdate: Monday, April 7, 1997): Part 3 of 3

30:01 – The End

The library at Sunnydale High School is the perfect place for us to meet to talk about these episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yes, I know this is one of our main sets for only the first three seasons. But, I liked the library, with all of its musty old volumes about demonology and Satanic rites, and a book cage large enough—and formidable enough—to hold a werewolf. More on that later.

In Part 2 of this DeepWatch (TM), Xander, possessed by an evil hyena, was mean to the doe-eyed Willow (unacceptable) and later tried to rape Buffy (really, really unacceptable) while the other four members of his “pack” make a buffet lunch out of Principal Bob Flutie. The pack had previously shared a pig, the school mascot, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy their appetites.

Goodbye, Principal Flutie. We hardly knew ye.

At the conclusion of the last part, Xander was locked in the formidable book cage, with Willow left to guard him, while Buffy and Giles were making plans to talk to the eminent hyena zoologist Dr. Weirick at the Sunnydale Zoo.

Suddenly, it’s night. Outside, a young woman with an infant in a backpack comes across our original mean quartet lying on the ground, obviously sleepy after the huge meal they just consumed. The woman’s presence awakens them and they begin rising, menacingly. Tor is drooling. The woman is scared and leaves in a panic.

Back in the library, Xander wakes up. He seems almost normal, trying to sweet-talk Willow by saying things were better between the two of them before Buffy arrived in Sunnydale. When Willow gets close enough, Xander attempts to make a grab at her through the huge book return slot. Willow evades her friend easily enough, but she wasn’t surprised by the attempt. This is not her Xander in the cage.

Now we cut to a new setting: Dr. Weirick’s office. We join Weirick, Giles and Buffy in mid-conversation. Weirick doesn’t seem overly surprised that the hyenas were able to possess someone. He says there was something strange about the hyenas from day one. He knows about them being worshipped by the Primals, who had rituals for taking the hyena spirits. Giles says his research shows that the ritual involves some sort of predatory act and some kind of symbol.

Buffy interrupts the two men before they disappear further down the geek hyena spirit rabbit hole. Weirick suggests they can reverse the trans-possession if they get the students to the hyena cage right away.

Buffy says they know the location of one, but not the other four. Weirick says the other four members of the pack will attempt to track down the missing one. No worries—the rest of the pack will come to them.

Which immediately makes Buffy concerned for Willow’s safety.

Right on cue, we’re back in the library. Xander is trying to get Willow’s attention. Then, suddenly, Kyle and Heidi appear in the library windows, and Kyle begins saying Willow’s name, in a creepy singsong way.

End of Act III.

Act IV begins in the library, right where we left off. The hyena-possessed pack of bullies are calling Willow’s name from the high, semi-circular windows. The pack breaks through the windows and enters the library, while Xander literally rattles his cage. The pack sounds more like chimpanzees as they break Xander out of the book cage.

Willow runs down a hallway to elude the pack. She finds an unlocked classroom and hides under a teacher’s desk.

Xander knows her scent and tracks her. He enters the classroom, looks around, doesn’t see Willow. We’re led to believe he leaves the room, then Willow emerges from her hiding place and—

There’s Xander, in front of the desk. Willow shrieks. Xander lunges over the desk after her, but Willow runs. When she opens the classroom door, Heidi is there waiting. It’s not looking so good for Willow.

Until Buffy bashes Heidi over the head with a fire extinguisher.

That seems to take the fight right out of her. Giles is there in the hallway as well. They still have Xander and the rest of the pack to contend with, however.

Xander rushes Buffy and she kicks him. Kyle, Tor and Rhonda appear at the end of the hall. Giles, Willow and Buffy run back into the classroom and lock the door. The pack can’t get to them now, so they leave.

Willow says they could be faking it, no doubt remembering how Xander performed the same trick on her. Buffy doesn’t think so, because they are hungry and will be looking for someone weak to attack. Giles says they should find a way to lure them back to the zoo, so that the reverse ritual can be performed.

Buffy says the pack is tough, but they seem to be growing more stupid. She tells Giles and Willow to go ahead to the zoo and she’ll lead the possessed students to them.

Elsewhere, still the same night, a husband and wife are having an argument as they get into the family car with their child. The pack, now new-and-improved with the addition of Xander, surround the car and begin calling the child’s—Joey’s—name in that singsong way. Xander breaks a car window with his elbow and is going after Joey.

Buffy arrives and begins showing off her Slayer Fu. She takes the time to quip that Xander shouldn’t play with his food while only his legs are sticking out of the car window. She taunts the possessed students and then runs away, luring them after her.

Giles and Willow are at the zoo, arriving at the pathway to the Hyena House. Giles says that Dr. Weirick must be inside. He tells Willow to stay at the entrance to warn the adults as the possessed teenagers show up while he goes inside the habitat to make preparations.

We cut to Buffy, who has also arrived at the zoo, with the pack in close pursuit.

When Giles arrives inside the exhibit, Dr. Weirick is wearing booga-booga face paint and traditional Masai ceremonial garb (at least, according to Giles). Giles asks the zookeeper if he’s prepared, to which Weirick responds, “Almost.” Giles notices the “sacred circle” painted on the floor.

Giles makes the deductive leap that the circle would have been on the floor when the transference occurred in the first place. He suddenly realizes that this episode’s Big Bad is the zookeeper himself. And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for those meddling kids.

Giles says, “How terribly frustrating for you, that a bunch of schoolchildren could accomplish what you could not.”

Dr. Weirick is confident that the power will soon be his. Giles attempts to get away, but Weirick uses his staff (part of the traditional Masai ceremonial garb, no doubt), striking Giles in the stomach and then across the back, knocking him out. Giles being knocked unconscious becomes a Buffy trope. Get used to it.

Hearing the pack approaching, Willow runs inside the Hyena House to warn Giles and the zookeeper.

Giles is nowhere to be found, of course. The zookeeper tells Willow that the librarian is lying in wait. He says he needs Willow’s help. He binds her wrists and then holds a large knife to her throat. He reminds her that a predatory act is required for the ritual.

Willow says, “You’ll pretend to slash my throat and put the evil in the hyenas?”

“Something like that,” Dr. Weirick says, which means he’ll actually slash Willow’s throat and put the evil inside himself. Willow’s no dummy.

When Buffy comes running in with the pack hot on her trail, Willow does her best Admiral Ackbar impression and says, “Buffy, it’s a trap!”

Xander tackles Buffy from behind. Then, he and the other four juvenile delinquents, who are probably hopped up on booze and goofballs, dogpile on Buffy while the zookeeper begins his creepy white man chant.

The eyes of the students all flash green again, including Xander’s this time, and then Dr. Weirick’s eyes do the same. The zookeeper looks like he’s about to eat Willow’s face when a recovered Xander comes to her rescue, knocking Dr. Weirick to the floor.

After the hyena-fueled zookeeper easily deflects Xander’s attack, Buffy joins the fray. She spars with Hyena-Man for a moment, then tosses him over the barrier into the hyena pit. Kyle and his crew of bullies get up and scurry away. Buffy checks the hyena cage to see if she can help the zookeeper, but it’s too late. With the incidental aid of the real hyenas, she’s already murdered him.

It was an accident, of course. But, it was also an accident a couple of seasons later, when Faith Lehane first killed a human. It was treated much more seriously then, for some reason. I thought there was some sort of rule about Slayers not killing humans. Or, it doesn’t count if you allow mystically-charged hyenas to do the murdering for you. There seems to be a gray area.

A disoriented Giles stumbles into the room and asks if he missed anything.

Our outro is back at a daylit Sunnydale High School, presumably the next day. Buffy, Willow and Xander are walking together outside. Wherever this was shot, it’s a beautiful setting.

Willow says she heard that the vice-principal’s taking over until they can find a replacement for the late Principal Flutie. Buffy says it shouldn’t be too hard to find a new principal. Unless they ask what happened to the last one. Xander needs reassurance that he had nothing to do with what happened to Flutie.

Willow assures him that he only ate the pig. Xander claims to have no memory of the time in which he was possessed. He asks the girls if he did anything else embarrassing during that time. Happy that Xander’s back to normal, they choose not to tell him.

Giles, who is lurking around nearby, not being creepy at all, tells Xander, after Buffy and Willow enter the building, that he’s been reading up on animal possession, and there’s nothing at all about memory loss afterwards. Xander asks Giles if he told Buffy and Willow that. Giles says that his secret dies with him.

Which means Xander remembers all the mean things he said to Willow and Buffy as well as eating Herbert. It also means that Kyle, Rhonda, Tor and Heidi will remember eating a human being for the rest of their lives. Yuck.

And, as Xander walks away from Giles, here the episode ends.

This is the second Buffy episode to feature no vampires. The first was “Witch.” It doesn’t matter if the word “vampire” is in the title of your series. You don’t have to have a vampire in every episode. We’ve now added witches, giant praying mantises, and animal possession to our supernatural lexicon. This is similar to the way every episode of The X-Files wasn’t about aliens. I don’t think our seasonal story arc about The Master was even mentioned.

While it’s true that this wasn’t one of my favorite episodes of the series, I wouldn’t group it with my least-favorites either. With tongue firmly in cheek, I can say this one was soldily middle-of-the-pack.

Firewater’s Of-Course-You’ll-Have-to-Slay-Him Episode Rating: 3 Stars

Let’s meet here again next time, you and me. We’re going to begin discussing episode seven of the first season of BTVS. This will be “Angel.” It’s a good one.

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4 thoughts on “\m/15-Minute Hellmouth\m/: Buffy the Vampire Slayer DeepWatch: Season 1, Episode 6: “The Pack” (airdate: Monday, April 7, 1997): Part 3 of 3

  1. I agree there is a double standard of sorts here regarding murdering humans, because when Faith did it you thought they’d send her to the gas chamber twice to make double-sure she was dead. Like you noted, I guess if hyenas are involved it’s no biggie.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Fine work you’re doing analyzing a beloved series; I just hope you live long enough to finish it, and that I live long enough to finish reading it! It’s been a while since I’ve watched this one, but my memory is that Weirick went over the rail inadvertently during his fight with Buffy. Did she really pick him up and throw him? On the other issue, if the show was simply vampire after vampire after vampire, they likely wouldn’t have gotten a second season, let alone seven. In creative matters like this, it’s best to defer to the Master…

    Agree with you on the rating. Not a favorite, but we learn a few things about Xander when his inhibitions come down, perhaps who he’d like to be in the high school hierarchy? Also, aren’t hyena packs matriarchal? That could have been an interesting dynamic to play with.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, man. About Weirick. Not trusting my own memory at this point, I reviewed the sequence in this episode again just now. In my notes I had written that “B tosses Weirick to the hyenas.” Looked that way again to me this time. A good defense attorney would argue that it was accidental, and in the heat of battle that’s certainly possible, but Buffy (a stunt double in a bad wig) physically tossed the vet through the air and over the hyena pit barricade, and none of the Scoobies even suggested trying to save the man. It’s no better or worse that the first time Faith accidentally killed a human.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Amazing how your memory goes… or mine, at least! I have always given Buffy a pass here, not even seeing a crime. Heat of battle, as you say. Faith killed that guy in the heat of battle as well, and my first thought was, “What’s she going to do? She can’t very well tell the cops that she was fighting a gang of vampires and mistook him for one.” Then we find out what she’s going to do: She’s going to dispose of the body and join the dark side.

        Then, of course, Faith always did live out on the edge. Buffy, like Captain Picard, always tried to do the right thing; Faith was guided by Captain Kirk’s principle, “Will this be fun?” Ultimately, Joss’s story arc needed a rogue slayer. Engaging in this discussion makes me think that he may have been a little heavy-handed in how he created one. Still, it all came out in the end…

        Thanks again for doing this. I’m having a ball!

        Liked by 1 person

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