Saturday, February 19, 2011

Buffy Blog: "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered"

Valentine’s Day is coming and Xander decides to give Cordelia a heart shaped locket. Buffy wonders if Cordy even knows what a heart is. Cordelia feeling the scorn and ostracism of her Cordettes for dating a “looser” like Xander (“a girl wants to look good for her geek”, says Harmony) decides to dump him (“we don’t fit”) on Valentine’s Day, the worst day of the year anyone could dump someone on.

“Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” penned by Marti Noxon and directed by James Contner is Buffy doing the you broke my heart but I still love you and want you back theme that is so prominent in fiction, film, and television. As this is Buffy, however, this theme is done with several twists and curves.

Amy from “The Witch” is back and she is following in her mother’s footsteps. Amy is practicing witchcraft. Xander sees her practise witchy magic on their teacher. Amy is supposed to hand in assignment but hasn’t completed it. She thus casts a spell on her teacher convincing her that she turned in the assignment when she really didn’t.

Hurt by Cordy breaking up with him Xander gets the bright idea to blackmail Amy and have her cast a spell on Cordelia making her love him so he can take his revenge on her by breaking up with her before she breaks up with him. This being Buffy the spell, of course, goes awry. The spell makes everyone but Cordelia fall for Xander including Buffy (who Xander still has a thing for), Amy, Jenny, Willow, Buffy’s mom Joyce, and the Sunnydale High’s lunch lady. As the battle for Xander’s heart among Sunnydale’s female population gets more intense so does the anger of each Sunnydale female at anyone who stands between her and Xander. Amy turns Buffy into a rat to keep her from getting the Xander she wants. Just when it seems that the spell can’t make Xander’s “love” life any crazier than it already is Drusilla pulls Angelus off of Xander just as he is about to kill him telling Angel that Xander is a real man and his face is a poem. The spell Amy and Xander cast, in other words, affects vampires as well as humans. Drusilla, in turn, is kept from turning Xander into a vampire by the female mob infected with Xandermania.

“Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” may be in large part a Xander episode but the various love relationships of the Scoobies weave through the episode. “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” thus moves character arcs and the arc of season two forward. We have already talked about the demise Xander/Cordy relationship. But I want to touch on several aspects of this relationship I didn’t earlier. There are hints throughout the episode that Xander and Cordy really have something “special” with one another. Cordy likes how Xander looks (“I let Buffy dress me”, he says) as he gives her the heart locket at the Bronze on Valentine’s Day. Cordy wears the necklace Xander gave her even after she breaks up with him. Xander saves Cordy from the wrath of the Cordettes who go from ostracizing Cordy for dating Xander to ostracising Cordy for breaking up with Xander when Amy’s spell kicks in. Cordy saves Xander from the female mob each member of which loves Xander so much they are more than willing to kill him if they and they alone can’t have him. At the end of the episode Cordy breaks away from Harmony and the other Cordettes after they verbally abuse him. Cordy calls Harmony, and by extension the other Cordettes, “sheep”. “You're a sheep”, she says. “All you ever do is what everyone else does just so you can say you did it first. And here I am, scrambling for your approval, when I'm *way* cooler than you are 'cause I'm *not* a sheep. I do what I wanna do, and I wear what I wanna wear. And you know what? (Xander smiles) I'll date whoever the hell I wanna date. No matter how lame he is”. The Xander/Cordy relationship continues and moves to another level.

The Xander/Cordy relationship is not the only one that comes into play in “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered”. Angel continues to stalk Buffy and her friends and sends Buffy flowers on Valentine’s with a card that says “Soon”. Presumably Angel’s is informing Buffy of his intention to kill her soon. The strained and sexually tense relationship between Spike, Dru, and Angel continues. Spike buys Dru a necklace for Valentine’s Day. Angel gives her the still warm heart of a “quaint little shopgirl” knowing, as Dru tells Spike, that Angel knows what “speaks to a girl’s heart”. The relationship between Jenny and the Scoobies and Jenny and Giles remains strained thanks to what happened in “Surprise/Innocence”. Giles exhibits some jealousy when Jenny becomes a victim of Xander’s spell. He still has feelings for her. Willow’s and Oz’s relationship continues and Willow proudly tells Amy that her “boyfriend is in the band”. Oz’s band, Dingoes Ate My Baby, is back and plays on Valentine’s Day at the Bronze. Willow and Oz exchange looks with each other while Oz is on stage and Willow is in the audience.

The Moral: Be careful what you wish for and think before you mess with magicks.

Witchcraft Lore: Amy warns Xander that love spells are the hardest spells to get right. Amy calls upon the Diana the Roman goddess of the hunt and later of the moon to cast the love spell for Xander. In “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” Diana is referred to as the goddess of the hunt and love. Amy calls upon the goddess Hecate, the Greek and Roman goddess of magic and crossroads, to turn Buffy into a rat. She uses a similar spell on Jenny but is stopped by Xander from finishing the spell. When Amy casts her spell her eyes turn black just as Willow’s will when she casts a spell in “Becoming” at the end of season two and beyond. Buffy will develop a taste for cheese as a result of being a rat (see season four).

Laugh Out Loud: Buffy figuring out that the doors in the Sunnydale High Library, the doors which have served as barriers between the Scoobies and those out to get them on several occasions, open both ways. Xander walking through the school hall to the music of the Scottish soul group Average White Band (“Got the Love”) as women look on him with love (or is it obsession) and guys look on him with anger and jealousy.

Mise-en-scene: Xander’s bedroom contains comic book posters, a car poster, a pool ball triangle, and plastic spiders. What does this tell us about Xander?

This is Real Life: As Giles tells Xander the spell he casts “is not a love” spell but an “obsession” spell. “Selfish, banal obsession”. And as Giles tells Xander such “obsession” is dangerous. “People under a-a love spell”, he says, “… are-are deadly. They lose all capacity for reason”. You don’t need me to tell you how dangerous and potentially violent obsession has and can be. According to Buffy Xander invoked “the great Roofie spirit” to carry out his spell. Roofie refers to the drug flunitrazepam which is sometimes used incapacitate victims so date rape can be committed.

Previously on Buffy: Xander and Cordy are hiding in the basement again. They hid from bug man in “What’s My Line”. In “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” they are hiding from the Xandermania mob.

Foreshadowings: When Willow is coming on to Xander she licks his ear. She will lick the ear of her doppelganger in season three’s “Doppelgangland”.
Explanation, Explanation: Once Giles and Amy break the spell Cordy tells the obsessed with Xander mob that they have been taking part in the “best scavenger hunt ever”.

The Chorus: “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” is another one of my favourite episodes of Buffy. This episode was one of the funniest comedies I had seen in years when I first saw it years ago. Thankfully it is a comedy bereft of what passes for humour in American sitcoms and absent what passes for comic “acting” in contemporary American sitcoms (standard overacting trying to act funny procedure). “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” is realistic comedy and comedy with a tragic and a tragicomic Shakespearean dimension.

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