Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Buffy The Vampire Slayer, "Beer Bad" Review (4x05)

Brief Synopsis: “Still trying to come to terms with Parker’s womanising, Buffy starts to hang out at the college bar, where she and a group of upper class students drown their troubles in an excess of beer. It soon becomes apparent that the local brew brings out the wild side of the Slayer and the students, as they all transform into cave people.”

"Fear Itself" (4x04) quick link here                                                                                                                         "Wild At Heart" (4x06) quick link here

Three quick notes before we get started...

1) This review will almost definitely contain spoilers for episodes after this one.
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With that being said, let’s get started, shall we?

“Beer Bad” is not one of my favourite episodes of the season. In fact, it is one of my very least favourites. It feels a little disjointed and lacking to me. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a memorable moment or two along the way, however. In essence, the premise of the episode is that Buffy and a group of snobby, arrogant, spoiled rich guys drink a lot of beer and subsequently turn into cave people. Sounds thrilling, no? Based on that plot, it would have been almost impossible to create a decent episode. Why am I supposed to care about four idiots being turned into cavemen and possibly being killed? Not only were they incredibly douchey to Xander (which made me want them to be killed more), but a plot very similar to this was already explored in season one, when four rude Sunnydale High students and Xander were turned into hyenas (“The Pack”). The difference between the two is that “The Pack” was showcased as creepy and disturbing. A live pig was eaten and the school principal was murdered. This episode is showcased as comedic. Even though I’m not the biggest fan of this episode, it does have some redeeming features. The first and most important of which is cave-Buffy clubbing Parker over the head (woohoo!). The second of which is the pros and cons of a one-night-stand conversation between Willow and Parker. Throw in a few funny moments as well and this episode isn’t entirely bad at all.

The episode opens with Buffy pouting over Parker. I’m glad that the show isn’t glossing over this moment quickly. Buffy opened her heart to someone and that person used her, slept with her, and discarded her. Buffy still has feelings for him. From an outside perspective, we all know that Parker is a douchebag that doesn’t deserve for Buffy to pine over him. He’s not worth the effort. However, it’s not about how we feel, it’s about how Buffy feels. I’m sure almost everyone reading this can empathise with Buffy in this episode. Having deep feelings for someone that has just dumped you or used you. It sucks. All you want to do is get that person’s attention back. Buffy dreams that Parker apologises to her and wants to be with her again. It’s a completely understandable dream to have in the situation that Buffy is in...but, damn it, Buffy! Parker is a grade-A ass-clown! I hope that smashing him over the head with a branch in the conclusion of the episode gives you closure. Riley punching him in two episodes time doesn’t hurt either.

This episode contains the first of many, many, many career changes for Xander over the next year. Xander’s story this year is a very realistic representation of somebody who’s struggling to find their place in the world. He feels unwanted at home, he’s living in the basement, and he’s drifting from boring job to boring job in order to have the money to pay the rent. It happens to a lot of people just after they leave education. Over the next year, Xander works as a Boost Bar salesman, an ice cream van driver, a pizza delivery man, and a load more jobs before finally finding a career in construction, where he excels. Before all of that, Xander gets a job in the college bar. Are you telling me that I’m supposed to believe that Xander gets a job in a bar at 18/19 years old? He’s not old enough to work in a bar in the United States! He has the worst fake moustache in history on his fake ID! He looks like that dude from My Name is Earl! In addition to this, it’s a college bar! Why is nobody ID’ing Buffy or the douchey college guys before allowing them to buy alcohol?! It’s later revealed that the bar owner wants the douchey guys to drink the beer as he’s cursed it, but why would he let Buffy drink it without ID’ing her? That’s my biggest problem with the episode. A lot of it is so over the top and/or unrealistic that I can’t engage in the story very much.

Speaking of the assholey students...

“See, we are the future of this country and you keep the bowl of peanuts full. We are what these girls want and, uh…four glasses.”

Along with Parker, these guys deserve to be severely punched. The Indian student that becomes a caveman (Kal Penn) is the same actor that plays the shaman in the “Angel” season three episode, “That Vision Thing”.

The theme behind this episode is fairly self-explanatory: alcohol is bad for you. I hate this recurring theme in the Buffyverse. Whenever one of the younger Scoobies (Buffy, Xander, Willow...) drinks alcohol in the first four or five seasons, it goes horribly wrong. I understand that this show is primarily aimed at teenagers and young adults and the show is trying to discourage people from drinking, but alcohol isn’t necessarily a bad thing! Drinking in moderation isn’t a problem. It’s only binge drinking that is going to cause you major problems. In this instance, Buffy drinking alcohol leads to her turning into a cavewoman. As much as I dislike the ‘alcohol is bad’ aspect of this episode, there’s no denying that cave-Slayer is hilarious. I defy you to watch her spinning on her chair without laughing. Why does cave-Slayer suddenly have much thicker eyeliner? Actually, did they wear makeup in those times? Eventually, Xander refuses to serve Buffy alcohol anymore...

Xander: “No, I’ve cut you off.”
Buffy: “Did it hurt?”

The true winner of this episode is Xander. He gets that ridiculous tip from the cavemen students. I like to think that a portion of this money was used towards the deposit of his house in season five. The circle of life is a wonderful thing...arrogant pricks are mean to Xander, arrogant pricks get poisoned and become cavemen, Xander gets a massive tip from them, Xander uses the money to buy a house. Happy days.

There are two other aspects of this episode that I find rather lame...

1) Xander scares the cavemen away with a lighter. Oooh, terrifying villains run away from a tiny, tiny flame.
2) The reasoning behind the bar owner turning the douches into cave people. Why cave people? Why not something more interesting or imposing? Some students talk down to you, so you curse them? Why not just ban them from the bar?

Xander: “You’re a bad, bad man!”

I do enjoy the fact that Xander is the moral voice of reason in this episode. I enjoy Xander throughout this entire episode, actually. Not only is he the primary comedic relief, but “Beer Bad” gives us glimpses into Xander’s current mental state. He’s feeling directionless in life and on top of that he feels neglected and left out by the rest of the Scoobies because they all went away to college without him.

The most interesting and significant part of this episode for me is the Parker vs. Willow conversation about casual sex. I see both sides of this argument. On the one hand, casual sex can be perfectly acceptable. However, both sides of the party need to be aware of the situation before it happens. Buffy didn’t know that it was a one-night-stand. Parker made Buffy believe that he wanted a relationship and then totally screwed her over (giggity). What this conversation does show us is how manipulative Parker truly is. I truly believed that Willow had been sucked in by Parker and that she was feeling empathetic towards him. Until...“Just how gullible do you think I am?” Yes! Willow, you are a Goddess! I can see why Willow chose to take drama in the next season! She’s a very convincing actress already!

Cave-Slayer saves Parker from a burning building. Even though we wish she didn’t, it does show that Buffy has the instinct to save people even when she’s not her usual self. Then, cave-Slayer smacks Parker over the head with a tree branch. That was a magical moment of television and should be played every Christmas. I can die happy now.

There is also a subplot at work during this episode. Oz is mesmerised by the singer of “Shy”. It’s the same girl we saw Oz walk past and sniff at during “Living Conditions”. He is transfixed by her from the moment he first sees her at The Bronze. Willow tries to regain Oz’s attention after she notices this, but it’s to no avail. It’s laying the groundwork for their werewolf connection and for Oz’s departure in the next episode. I really wish I could skip “Wild At Heart”. It’s so depressing! I don’t want Oz to leave!

Some other thoughts on “Beer Bad”...

This is the last ever “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” episode (and one of only eight) to not feature a vampire in it at all. From this point onwards, Spike is in every episode, so even when the monster-of-the-week isn’t a vampire, there is still a vampire in every subsequent episode.
Willow was far too quick and convincing with her fake story for Xander’s benefit (“rough day, wanna talk about it?”).
Willow: “Wherein the mind is stronger than the penis.”
   Xander: “Nothing can defeat the penis!”

Oh, Xander…don’t publically yell about ‘the penis’. It draws stares.

Buffy spills Riley’s drink on him, thus bringing her embarrassing moments around Riley to two (the first being dropping books on his head in “The Freshman”). Why did Riley ever date this woman?
Buffy: “If he were tied and gagged and left in a cave that vampires happened to frequent, it wouldn’t really be like I killed him, really.”

Please, please, please do this! Please?! Parker makes me miss Scott Hope, who was so sinfully boring that he made me want to look at the background in scenes he was in.

Giles was absent for half an hour of this episode! It just goes to show how disconnected he is from the rest of the Scoobies at this time. There was no way to work him into this college-heavy story earlier. I missed him rather a lot in this episode, I must admit. He is such an important part of the show. It truly misses his presence during his absence in season six.

Quote Of The Episode

Xander: “And was there a lesson in all this, huh? What have we learnt about beer?”

Buffy: “Foamy!”

Xander: “Good. Just as long as that’s clear. Anyways, I think the boys in the car are contained for the time being. This will give them some time to ponder the geo-political ramifications of being mean to me!


What are your thoughts on "Beer Bad"? Did you enjoy this episode? Dislike it? Let me know all your thoughts in the comments section below!

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  1. I often think of this episode as my least favourite one from the whole verse. I recently rewatched it, and while some moments have kind of grown on me, it's still in my Top 5 worst Buffyverse episodes.

    I remember the first time I watched it I also thought Willow was falling prey to Parker's charms. It made me SO MAD! I remember pausing the episode just to calm myself down.

  2. The only good thing about this ridiculous episode is that Buffy finally got over the whole poop head Parker...

  3. I thought it was one of the funniest episodes ever! Also I drank at the time but was totally for the message because even when I did imbibe the alcohol I didn't feel it was good for me, anymore than chocolate or potato chips. Has for casual sex, never been one for this and glad because I found if it is long-term someone always gets hurt. I was so happy that Xander and Willow finally showed how strong they could be without Buffy and they finally started to become the leaders they were meant to be. As for Parker, well...maybe she knocked some sense into him...but I doubt it.

  4. I really liked this episode. Love the discussion of id, ego and superego and how this was shown through all the characters. It provided levity. Willow/parker chat was ace. Cave buffy so, so funny! I would give it a 7 or 8

  5. Danielle Willmott6 March 2014 at 09:36

    This episode does have it's funny moments but it's pretty bad.. like fire. :p But I can relate with Buffy in this episode. I'm sure 90% of people have been in a relationship and been used and discarded which hurts a lot. However the Parker being knocked out moment, fabulous! Great review Shangel :)

  6. This ep was really bad! I usually hate any ep that is Xander centric or has Xander as the hero (this counted because Xander figured out that the beer was causing the students to revert to animalistic behaviour). First of totally unrealistic- CA has a strict penalty for underage drinking. Buffy would have NEVER got into that bar unless she had a fake ID, same goes for some of the other patrons. They couldn't have ALL been 21. Secondly ever notice how Buffy does NOT drink again until she is 21. Come on it's college for God's sake. No more house parties besides the one in Fear Itself and of course Where the Wild Things are? I went to more college parties in one week than Buffy did in all of season 4. IMO this ep was made to show the dangers of college drinking. (They do know this is the US right? LOL) The only thing GOOD about this ep is Parker getting hit over the head by Buffy. Apparently he didn't learn his lesson because he was still talking smack about our heroine until Riley knocked him out. Bad precedent for a show about female empowerment. Getting smacked even lightly with a tool by THE SLAYER should have been enough to knock some sense into him without having a man add extra punctuation to the sentence. I know Riley doing this was a sign to the audience that he actually liked Buffy but still...

  7. It's worth noticing that the network asked Joss to do an episode about the dangers of drinking alcohol, since Buffy was such a role model to the teenagers. "Beer Bad", one of the silliest episodes in the show, is obviously a way to troll those guys... That curiosity, plus few scenes, make this episode... Less bad.