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Recap: Buffy The Vampire Slayer S 3 E 19 Earshot
No graveyard this time. As a change of pace, we open on a playground. Our heroine fights with two ugly, mouthless, Creature-from-the-Black-Lagoon-esque demons. She manages to kill one while the other one hightails it out of there. Zoom-in on Buffy's left hand: some glowing goo seeps into her skin. Her hand starts to itch throughout the next day.

Buffy goes to Giles to get some itch-counseling. He picks a demon mug shot out some old book, and Buffy confirms it's the one. Giles says that touching these demons can cause one to be infected with an Aspect of the Demon.

During lunch, Xander jealously eyes Cordy as she wanders off, and wonders to himself if she's been making out with Wesley. Buffy empathizes with Xander, thinking that he's just spoken his thoughts aloud. "You read my mind," exclaims Xander. Buffy looks contemplative. She heads down the hallway distractedly and proceeds to zero in on everyone's inner thoughts. She goes to Giles, who is agape—but makes the logical leap that the demons didn't need mouths because they communicate telepathically. Buffy is excited to start playing with her new power. Giles suggests that she could anticipate her opponents' moves.

"Oh, way better than that!"

Cut to English class. Buffy cribs the answers from other students' minds, impressing the teacher. On the downside, Buffy also detects Willow's surprise that she actually read and understood a book, Xander's lusty thoughts of the teacher, and Freddy Iverson's (the editorial writer) disdain for all other living beings.

Next stop: Angel estates. Buffy uses her newfound power on Angel, talking about Faith and trying to provoke some thoughts from him. Angel gets wise to her act and tells her mind-reading doesn't work on vampires. He also warns her that this mind-reading thing can have its drawbacks.

Ruefully, Buffy returns to school, barraged by everyone's painful thoughts. In the cafeteria, the din grows louder until one thought comes through clearly:

"This time tomorrow, I'll kill you all."

Buffy runs around frantically, trying to figure out who said it, but she can't separate one thought from another. She freaks out, covers her ears, and faints. She comes to under a tree with the gang peering down at her. Buffy tries to barge back into the school, only to be driven backward as she is overwhelmed by random thoughts. Giles offers to take her home while the Scoobies investigate everyone who was in the cafeteria.

Giles and Wesley figure out how to cure Buffy, but they need the heart of the demon that got away. And lo and behold, Angel is out fighting said demon. Hours later, there's frantic knocking downstairs, and Wes open the front door to admit Angel, under a smoking blanket. Angel holds up a glass flask containing a blue, glowing concoction. Angel supports Buffy's head and tips some of the blue liquid into her mouth. The medicine is worse than the sickness, but in time Buffy reawakens.

Dramatic music tingles as we see Jonathan up in the Clock Tower ... with a rifle.

The gang compares notes, and learn that the only person they've been unable to find is Freddy Iverson. They finally corner him in his office, only to discover that he's been ditching Oz because of a bad review he wrote of Dingoes Ate My Baby. Buffy arrives, telepathy-free. Cordelia finds a letter to the editor from Jonathan, which says: "By this time tomorrow, you will all know what I have done."

The Scoobies split up to find him, while he prepares his gun in the clock tower. Ever-reliable Xander races into the cafeteria, but is distracted by some prepared bowls of America's favorite dessert, green Jell-O. In the quad, Buffy spots Jonathan and uses some impressive moves to reach the tower, bursting in to find Jonathan pointing the gun at her. Buffy talks Jonathan down by explaining that the reason no one pays attention to him is because they're concerned with their own anxieties. A sedated Jonathan hands her the gun, saying he came up there to kill himself.

Back in the cafeteria, Xander is about to scarf down some Jell-O when he catches sight of the lunch lady tipping a huge, cartoonish box labeled "RAT POISON" into the food. The maniac comes at him with a butcher knife, and is about to cleave Xander a new one when Buffy swoops in and disarms her.

Time for the recap. Jonathan is suspended and less popular than ever due to his rifle-happy ways. Giles inquires if Buffy is ready to train. She agrees to work out after school, and then adds, "You know, if you're not too busy having sex with my mother!"

Whump!

Tropes

  • All Men Are Perverts: Carnal desire, Xander be thy name.
    Buffy: And the boys in this school are seriously disturbed.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Xander uses the opportunity to quiz girls about their turn-offs and ideal dates. "Smoking, insensitive men, and Birkenstocks."
  • Ask a Stupid Question...
    Jonathan: You think I just want attention?
    Buffy: No, I think you're up in the clock tower with a high-powered rifle because you wanna blend in.
  • Axes at School
  • Backhanded Compliment: Angel surprises Buffy while she's patrolling (actually, while she's inspecting herself in her hand mirror, looking for demonic aspects).
    Angel: Hey. I'll still love you. Even if you're covered with slime.
    Buffy: [droopy] I liked everything until that part.
  • Bait and Switch: So, Buffy finds out that someone is going to go all mass-murdery on the school. We see Johnathan assembling a rifle in a clocktower. ...nope, turns out he was going to kill himself.
  • Big Man on Campus: Hogan Martin, basketball star.
  • Blessed with Suck: Buffy fills in the rest of the gang on the recent development of her new power. Xander worriedly tries not to think about sex, but fails. Miserably. Oz waxes philosophical. Willow is excited at first, but then worries that Buffy will understand Oz in a way she never can, and that Buffy will no longer need her as a friend. Predictably, Cordelia thinks exactly what she says. One by one, Buffy drives away all her friends.
  • Brand X / Expo Label: RAT POISON.
  • Brawn Hilda: The lunch lady, though her stunt double is visibly not.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: At the end of the episode Willow wants to know if Buffy feels better about the situation with Angel.
    Buffy: Well, we talked... and then he ripped out the heart of a demon and fed it to me... and then we talked some more.
    Willow: See? That's how it should work!
  • Brick Joke: "TWICE?!"
  • Broken Heel: Exploited in the cold open. A mouthless demon chases Buffy into a playground and she trips, but it's a clever feint.
    "You demons can't resist a run and stumble, can you?"
    • Then subverted again when the demon turns out to be pulling the same trick so his companion can sneak up on Buffy.
  • Brutal Honesty: We're finally given proof that Cordelia really does say exactly what she thinks.
    Cordy: (thinking) I don't see what this has to do with me.
    Cordy: (speaking) I don't see what this has to do with me.
  • Call Back: Willow grills Jonathan in a scene reminiscent of "Go Fish."
    • Similarly, Xander asks Larry some leading questions about whether his "secret" is leading to "unexpressed rage." Once he finally figures out what Xander's babbling about, Larry proudly bellows, "Man, I'm out! I'm so out I've got my grandma fixing me up with guys." Xander is embarrassed by all this public gay talk — even more so when Larry encourages Xander to come out himself. D'oh.
    • At the Summers' home, Joyce tucks Buffy and her cow jammies into bed. She offers to get Buffy a pillow, a blanket, or to make her some soup, all in an effort to prevent Buffy from reading her mind.
    Buffy: You had SEX with Giles?!
    Joyce It was the candy! We were teenagers!
    Buffy: On the hood of a police car?!
    Joyce: [hurries out] I'll be downstairs. You— ...feel better.
    Buffy: TWICE?
  • Caustic Critic: Freddy Wilson.
    Oz [reading] "Dingoes Ate My Baby played their instruments as if they had plump Polish sausages taped to their fingers.""
    Freddy: Sorry man.
    Oz [beat] No, it's fair.
  • Chekhov's Gag:"I've been saying for years that the lunch lady's gonna do us all in with that mulligan stew."
  • Chekhov's Gun / Delicious Distraction: "Ooo, Jell-O!"
  • Cheshire Cat Grin: After Buffy trips in the opening, one of the creatures looms over her. She unexpectedly flashes a smile (uh oh), then snap kicks its leg, knocking it into a swing set.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl
  • The Cloudcuckoolander Was Right: Xander offhandedly remarks he suspects the lunch lady wants to poison everybody. Yeah right, Xander, like that would ever happen.
  • Comes Great Responsibility: Buffy scans her classmates' minds and the teacher herself, pulling information from her dissertation.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Cordelia is less upset at Freddy's nihilistic rantings than at his neglecting to mention the cheerleaders. She has the same reaction to Jonathan's suicide note. "We are so unsung."
  • Contemplate Our Navels: Oz is quite talkative in his own head. "I am my thoughts. If they exist in her, Buffy contains everything that is me. She becomes me. I cease to exist." Out loud this becomes, "Hm."
  • Conveniently Coherent Thoughts: Played straight, until the thoughts start to overwhelm Buffy.
  • Crash into Hello: Buffy is too distracted by telepathy to notice Mr. Breech, who bumps into her in the hall. "Ooo, whoa there," says the kindly old teacher, "You watch where you're going now." Buffy apologizes, but Beech's thoughts turn menacing as he skulks off. "Students. If we could just get rid of all the students..."
  • Damned by Faint Praise: In a Call Back to "Doppelgangland", Hogan feigns disbelief at Percy's tutoring. "I actually heard him complete a sentence," he tells Willow. "It had a clause and everything."
    • At the pep rally, Oz muses that the cheerleaders' spelling has improved.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Freddy's editorial, "BIG GAME DRAWS MINDLESS BRAIN DEAD MOB."
  • Delicious Distraction: Xander with Jell-O.
  • Description Cut: Giles and Wesley are in the library, mixing up a potion to cure Buffy. Giles expositions that the potion requires the heart of the second demon, and mutters snidely out of Wes' earshot, "How are we going to get it without a Slayer?" We cut the mouthless demon flying through the night air and smashing into a picnic table. Close on its heels is Angel, who has apparently agreed to procure the demon's heart (and has even vamped out to gain the necessary strength for the task).
    • Giles getting enthused about the use of mind reading for Slaying.
    Giles: It could be very useful. You could anticipate your opponent's every move. Turn his plans against him.
    Buffy: Oh, way better than that. (Cut to Buffy cheating in literature class)
  • Dirty Mind-Reading: In the hall, Buffy passes one boy who thinks to himself how attractive Buffy is. She stops briefly to tune in to his admiration, but quickly scurries off when his thoughts turn more lascivious.
    Buffy: And the boys at this school are seriously disturbed!
    • She also finds out that her mother had sex with Giles. On the hood of a police car. Twice.
    • She also hears Wesley mentally perving on Cordelia.
  • Dramatic Drop: Shocked by the evil voice, Buffy drops her food tray, earning applause from the cafeteria.
  • Everyone Is a Suspect: Willow takes charge of the investigation, playing Rabid Cop with Jonathan (again). Cordelia goes to Mr. Beech and bluntly asks him if he plans to kill everyone tomorrow (somehow, I doubt that was in Willow's script). Xander gets sidetracked and schmoozes with some girls. Oz goes looking for his next suspect, Freddy, but can't find him—he's hiding under a desk.
  • Eureka Moment:"Man, you read my mind."
  • Fainting Seer: Buffy goes around grabbing people, trying to find the source of the voice she heard. She puts her hands to her head to block out everything, and the camera goes all woozy until Buffy faints.
  • False Reassurance: Giles walks Buffy to the car and tries to reassure her when Buffy asks if she'll be okay. Giles says, "You'll be fine. I promise." To himself, Giles thinks, "If it doesn't go away, she'll go insane."
  • Fanfic Fuel: This episode has spawned several fics regarding Willow's comment about...ahem, her idea of the aspect of the demon.
  • Foreshadowing: When Buffy tells her friends that someone was thinking about killing students, Xander quips that the lunch lady will "do us all in with that Mulligan stew."
    • Also for "Superstar", when Willow questions Jonathan.
    We all have fantasies that we're powerful, more respected. Where people pay attention to us. But sometimes the fantasy isn't enough, is it Jonathan? Sometimes we have to make it so people don't ignore us. Make them pay attention.
    • Buffy jokes that Jonathan will ask her out to prom. At the prom Jonathan presents her with the Class Protector award for saving not only his life but many other Sunnydale students.
  • The Freelance Shame Squad: Everyone in the cafeteria claps when Buffy drops her tray.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Giles researches a case similar to Buffy's, except that the man in question has had to go into complete isolation to avoid being driven insane.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Buffy's not sure if she can trust Angel, because it looked as if he were enjoying his tongue-wrestling session with Faith a little too much. This is mirrored by her teacher's lecture about everyone having "internal Iagos."
    • Which brings up the question of whether Angel actually slept with Faith while undercover. Those suspicions are eventually put to rest in the Angel episode "Sanctuary."
  • Good Is Not Nice: Moved by her words, Jonathan relinquishes his gun. Buffy promptly unloads it and promises him a nice comfy cell somewhere. "It's a lot like high school, y'know, except instead of noogies..."
    • In the epilogue, Buffy's afraid that Jonathan's starting to "get that look", meaning that he'll ask her to prom. Giles suggest it might be a charitable gesture. "What am I, Saint Buffy?," she balks. "He's like three feet tall!"
  • Goodbye, Cruel World!: Jonathan mailed his suicide note to the school paper, though it is vague enough to suggest he intends to pop off his classmates.
  • He Knows Too Much: Xander lifts a bowl of Jell-O to his mouth. As he does so, he looks up at the lunch lady and stops in his tracks. They lock eyes and hold still, the lunch lady frozen in mid-pour as if searching for a plausible explanation. Finally, she grabs a butcher knife and charges at him.
  • Hermaphrodite: Willow suddenly wondering if it was a boy demon that touched Buffy leads to the fear that she will turn into this.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Buffy can't read Angel's mind, due to him being a vampire. It's now impossible to watch this scene without thinking of them as a reversed Edward and Bella.
    • Or Sookie and Bill.
    • It also helps that even at the time, people (including the Television Without Pity recapper) were making the same joke that's now popular about this aspect of Twilight: Buffy was reading his mind, and there simply wasn't anything in there.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Giles readings the highlights of his research on the the Mayor's Ascension. He does know that it's not the ritual flaying of the demon Azorath, but then trails off, admitting that he really has no clue what's going to happen. During his speech, Wesley bustles in, acting like a know-it-all. He draws himself up to his full height and begins, "Azorath." and the gang files out in disgust.
    • Xander sneering at Sunnydale High's hoops stars.
    Xander: Hogan Martin thinks he's sooooo hot. Like we should all be awed by him cuz he can put a ball in the net.
    Hogan: Hey Xander.
    Xander: He said my name. He knows my name!
    • The next day at school, the Slayerettes are oohing and aahing over last night's game, but shush up when Buffy arrives, saying the game wasn't so great. Cordelia jumps in to make it clear that Buffy missed the game of a lifetime.
    • On the court, Xander watches Cordelia cheerleading and wonders aloud what he ever saw in her. Suddenly, he spots Wesley ogling Cord in the distance and goes mad with jealousy.
    "He's got his filthy adult Pierce Brosn-y eyes all over my Cordy!"
    • Wesley points out that since Buffy can hear everyone's thoughts, the need to have mental discipline in order to not broadcast their thoughts to Buffy. Within seconds, Wesley thinks about Cordelia in a highly inappropriate way. Buffy smirks at Wesley, and he excuses himself from the room in embarrassment.
    • Also vertically-challenged Buffy rejecting Jonathan as a prom date because he's too short.
  • I Have to Go Iron My Dog: Joyce gives a bedridden Buffy a wide berth. "I— ...I have laundry."
  • I Resemble That Remark: Oz 'interviews' one of his suspects, Hogan Martin, by asking if he's pressured to be "the guy who does everything right", and if so, how much of a strain is it to maintain this "false persona"?
    Hogan: I guess... Moderate strain? [earnestly] Is that a good answer? I wanna get this right.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: Lauren E. Roman and Sarah Michelle Gellar reunite in this episode from their days on the soap opera All My Children, in which Lauren played Laura Kirk English and Sarah played Kendall Hart.
  • In-Joke: According to Jane Espenson, Joss Whedon hates having demons with tails on the show, as the tails almost never look realistic. That was parodied in this episode, with Buffy checking if she has one.
  • Innocent Innuendo: Buffy, discussing her itch problem with Giles, is obliged to mention that it was "A good touch. Not a bad touch."
    • "I still have knee marks on my back!" (beat) "From the pyramid!"
  • Interrupted Suicide
  • Kirk Summation: The lunch lady is about to cleave Xander a new one when Buffy appears and grabs her arm. The lunch lady is of the opinion that high-school students are vermin and filth. Buffy: "I don't see this being solved with logic."
  • Knife Nut: The lunch lady's cleaver.
  • Lame Comeback: Buffy, snapping at Xander, asks if sex is all thinks about. Xander: "Actually... [beat] Bye." He bolts.
  • Le Parkour / Super Window Jump: In the quad, Buffy runs straight up the balustrade of the stairway. She then does a back-flip up onto the roof tiles, and then somersaults into Jonathan's sniper nest through the slatted window.
    Nancy: I could have done that.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang: At the library, Willow distributes assignments for everyone. "Today, people!" she snaps. They skedaddle, but not before Willow reminds them to "write neatly!"
  • Liquid Assets: The "Aspect of the Demon."
  • A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read / My Skull Runneth Over: Even at home, Buffy is bombarded with the thoughts of her neighbors; shutting the window doesn't help.
  • Nameless Narrative: Unusually for the Buffyverse, the mouthless demons aren't named.
  • Mistaken for Gay: The Xander/Larry scene, but another one that's easily missed is what Buffy suddenly blurts out "No, I do need you!" (answering Willow's thoughts as opposed to what she's saying) to which Cordy says, "Ok, what are you talking about? Because you are soooo creepy right now."
    • And the one with Xander wasn't quite intended as this at the time. Joss wanted to make either Xander or Willow gay in season 4, and before he decided on Willow he put in possible foreshadowing for both of them.
  • Motive Misidentification
  • Nietzsche Wannabe: Freddy of the misanthropic editorials dismissively thinks, "Look at them, scrambling for the teacher's praise like pigeons for old bread crusts," then decides he should write that down because it's "deep."
  • No Mouth: The demons in question are telepathic, and thus don't need 'em.
    Willow: I don't like this whole 'no mouth' thing. It's disquieting.
    Buffy: Well, no mouth means no teeth. [On Second Thought] Unless they have them somewhere else.
  • No Sympathy
  • Not Important to This Episode Camp: Snyder doesn't appear in this episode, but Buffy reports that he's got "Walk Like an Egyptian" stuck in his head.
  • Not So Different: Jonathan scoffs at Buffy for presuming to know his pain. "Oh, right! 'cause the burden of being beautiful and athletic, that's a crippler!" Duly ticked off, Buffy carefully explains that sometimes her life "sucks beyond the telling of it."
  • Oh Crap: Xander's face when he learns of Buffy's power. First Willow then Buffy at the idea the aspect of the demon might turn her into a Transsexual.
  • Obligatory Joke: Angel warns that Buffy should be careful with her new power, because things that seem good on the surface can be painful.
    Buffy: Like, say, immortality?
    Angel: Exactly. I'm dying to get rid of that.
    Buffy: Funny.
    Angel: [deadpan] I'm a funny guy.
  • Out of Order: The original airing of this episode was delayed by the network because the episode deals with an (apparent) attempted mass murder at a high school. It was to air just a week after the mass murder at Columbine High School in April 1999; hence Oz's quip that school massacres are "bordering on trendy." The WB network was unamused, and "Earshot" did not air until five months later, on the eve of the next season.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: During the library confab, Wesley bustles in ("Terribly sorry, I was detained. Official Council business") and asks Giles what he was talking about.
    Giles: I was just filling Buffy in on my progress regarding the research on the Ascension.
    Wesley: Oh? And what took up the rest of the minute?
  • Power Glows: The demon's blood.
  • Power Incontinence
  • Power Perversion Potential: There's been some...interesting stories about the aspect of the demon.
  • Psychic Block Defense: Angel tells Buffy that her parlor tricks won't work on him because, like mirrors, "The thoughts are there, but they create no reflection in you."
  • Psycho Strings
  • Punched Across the Room / Tap on the Head
  • Quip to Black: Whump! Poor Giles.
  • Race Against the Clock: "This time tomorrow, I'll kill you all."
    • Lunchtime? Well, that should have been the tip-off.
  • Reality Subtext
  • Red Herring: Taking a sniper rifle and going to a sniper position to commit suicide.
  • Rescue Romance: Lampshaded by Buffy after she stops Jonathan from killing himself.
    He's starting to get that look, you know, like he's gonna ask me to prom.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Freddy's office is filled with his grim editorials.
  • Rule 34: "Was it a boy demon?" is a mildly popular target of this.
  • Rule of Drama: Given the length of the rifle, and the shortness of his arms, Jonathan would have had one heck of a tough time trying to shoot himself with it.
    • All he had to do was take off his shoe, put the muzzle in his mouth and pull the trigger with his toe.
      • In real life, Ernest Hemingway ended his life with a similarly long firearm, in his case a double-barrel shotgun.
  • Rule of Three: Giles tells Buffy that it's likely that she has been infected with an aspect of the demon.
    Buffy: Infect? Infect?
    [Giles is still reading]
    Buffy: Giles.
    [he glances up]
    Buffy: INFECT?!
  • Saying Too Much
  • School Newspaper News Hound: Willow mentions how depressing the school paper has become since Freddy took over. Oz says that he doesn't notice, as he always skips right ahead to the obits.
  • Scully Syndrome: At first, Giles doesn't believe that Buffy can read minds—until she repeats back to him what he thought about her shoes. "If a fashion magazine told her to, she'd wear cats strapped to her feet."
  • Shaped Like Itself: One of the headlines in Freddy's school newspaper is; "APATHY ON THE RISE — NO-ONE CARES".
  • Shocking Swerve: The episode is so focused on having a big twist to the killer's identity that it forgets to have the Red Herring make any kind of sense as anything other than a deliberate red herring. Who tries to kill themselves with a sniper rifle in a clock tower?
  • Smarter Than You Look: Even Willow is astounded by Buffy's aptitude in class.
    Willow: Buffy did the reading? Buffy understood the reading?"
    Xander: When did she study? Was I supposed to study? Ms. Murray's kinda hot.
  • Sniper Rifle: The rifle Jonathan uses is a modified Ruger Model 77 Mark 2, which has been custom converted to break down in a carrying case.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": Willow gushes about she's never seen anyone jump like Hogan Martin! "They should call him The Jumper."
    Xander: Or a name that isn't an article of women's clothing.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Buffy jumps when she turns round to see Angel standing behind her.
    Sorry. I didn't see you, so I should have known you were there.
  • Talking Down the Suicidal: Buffy thinks she is talking down a school mass shooter. She does succeed, but it turns out Johnathan was not intending on a shooting spree, but suicide.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink
  • Teacher's Pet: Nancy.
  • Think Unsexy Thoughts / Psychic Static: Xander attempts to recite the times tables in his head: "Four times five is thirty. Five times six is thirty-two," but then interjects, "Naked girls. Naked women! And naked Buffy! Oh, stop me!"
  • The Triple: Willow tries to reassure Buffy as Buffy lists the possibilities of what demon part she could end up with, like "claws, or scales." Willow's eyes go wide with fear. "Was it a boy demon?"
  • Throw It In: Anthony Stewart Head either genuinely ran into the tree at the end by accident, or the actor ad-libbed it. As stated below, he never dreamed that Joss would include it, but it makes for one of the funniest scenes in an episode full of them.
  • Too Soon: The episode was delayed from April to September 1999 when the Columbine Massacre happened four days before its set air date.
  • Unpredictable Results: Buffy doesn't know what the Aspect of the Demon will be, and worries if she's going to grow horns and a tail. Willow wonders if Buffy will grow something else.
  • Watch Out for That Tree!: When Giles walks into the tree at the end of the episode, it was actually Anthony Stewart Head's idea to do it, although he had never dreamed that Joss Whedon would let him get away with it.
  • You Are in Command Now: Willow organizes the hunt for the mass murderer while Buffy is incapacitated.

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