Recap: Buffy the Vampire Slayer S 4 E 4 "Fear Itself"

"I was just thinking about the life of a pumpkin. Growing under the sun, happily entwined with others. Then someone comes in and rips your guts out."

The Scoobies take Buffy to a Halloween frat party so she can cheer up after being dumped by Parker. The frat accidentally summons a fear demon and it takes over the house, changing the layout at will.

Tropes in this episode:

  • An Aesop: Our fears aren't so scary when you face them, as shown when the Monster of the Aesop turns out to be tiny.
  • Answer Cut: Upon realising that the frat house must be under some sort of spell or enchantment, Buffy insists that the others leave, pointing out that they have to go get the one person who'll be able to make sense of all this. Cut to Giles, sitting placidly at home in his sombrero while munching Halloween candy.
  • Answers to the Name of God: Oz dresses for Halloween as God (which basically consists of wearing his own clothes an a name tag saying "Hello, my name is GOD"). This is the punchline to Willow having dressed up as Joan of Arc, because of their similarities, such as the close relationship with God. He runs with it in dialogue.
    Xander: Why didn't I think of that? I coulda been God!
    Oz: Blasphemer.
    [Later, after having to listen to annoying "spooky" sound effects in a haunted house, the noises finally stop]
    Buffy: Thank the Lord!
    Oz: [holding power lead] You're welcome.
  • Anticlimax: Triple subverted. Giles begins explaining how they can stop Gachnar from manifesting, mentioning destroying the symbol. Buffy then calmly walks over and punches through the floor it's on. Then Giles finishes his sentence, revealing that destroying the symbol is not one of the ways and will instead cause him to manifest immediately. Gachnar begins to appear and the gang is truly and legitimately terrified... until it turns out that he's miniscule and easily stopped by Buffy stepping on him. Later, Giles is shocked when he reads the caption under the picture of Gachnar, and laments he should have translated it earlier... it says "actual size".
  • The Beard: Buffy says "He wanted the candy, I was just the beard" with regards to her father taking her trick or treating on Halloween. Joyce informs Buffy the candy was actually for her.
  • Big Little Man: Actual size.
  • Big Red Devil: Well, not exactly big...
  • Blood Magic: Oz cuts his finger fixing the stereo, setting events in motion when he bleeds on the painted Mark of Gachnar on the floor.
  • Call Back:
  • Chainsaw Good: Giles, making an entrance after the haunted house's door disappears. Go, Ripper!
  • Cheap Costume: Oz's God costume consists of a nametag with "Hello, my name is GOD". Who needs costumes when you're that cool?
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Subverted:
    Buffy: Our fears are manifesting it. We're feeding it. We need to stop.
    Xander: If we close our eyes and say it's a dream... it'll stab us to death!
  • Clothes Make the Superman: Just in case everyone turns into their costumes again, Xander dresses as James Bond, Willow as Joan of Arc, and Oz as God.
  • Cobweb Jungle
    Willow: Uh, ah! Cobweb! Okay that part was realistic.
    Oz: Frat boys aren't too obsessive with their cleaning. Might not be decoration per se.
  • Creepy Basement / Our Zombies Are Different
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Literally
  • Description Cut: "We're gonna have the best time." Cut to the frat party-goers screaming as they're confronted by their fears.
  • Dem Bones: A plastic skeleton turns into a walking corpse.
  • Don't Celebrate Just Yet: Subverted; the Scoobies are stuffing themselves with chocolate after having defeated the Monster of the Week when suddenly Giles says in an alarmed voice (with accompanying dramatic music) that he should have translated the description of the Fear Demon in his Tome of Eldritch Lore. It turns out the words are; "Actual size".
  • Don't Sneak Up On Me Like That / You Just Ruined the Shot: Buffy punches a kid in a demon mask when he leaps out at her.
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: Not because he can harm you, it's just tacky.
  • Dynamic Entry
    Xander: Hey everyone, it's Giles. With a chainsaw!
  • Eye Scream: The peeled grapes posing as eyeballs become eyeballs.
  • Fantastic Aesop
  • Feet-First Introduction: Anya the Bunny.
  • Foreshadowing:
  • Geometric Magic: The frat guys find a cool-looking circle full of symbols in some book and paint it on the floor. Then Oz happens to spill blood on it. Oops!
  • Giant Foot of Stomping: How Buffy disposes of Gachnar. He's tiny, so this is what it looks to him.
  • Halloween Episode
  • Haunted House
  • Hidden Depths: The uptight Giles actually enjoys Halloween. He just never had the time before.
  • I Know What You Fear
  • I'm Standing Right Here
  • Lame Comeback: Willow being adorable again.
    Buffy: Will, let's be realistic here, okay? Your basic spells are usually only about 50-50.
    Willow: Oh yeah? Well... so's your face!
  • Literary Allusion Title: From Franklin D. Roosevelt's famous first inaugural address; "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."
  • Little Red Fighting Hood: Buffy dresses up as Red Riding Hood.
    Xander: [wolf-like] What you got in the basket, little girl?
    Buffy: Weapons.
    Xander: Oh.
  • The Last of These Is Not Like the Others/Beware the Nice Ones: Willow is talking on the phone.
    Willow: Yeah, Buffy said she was coming but I haven't seen her. We have to make sure she has fun. We have to force fun upon her. And if Parker shows up we just ax-murder him. That's halloweeny!
  • Madness Mantra: "I'm sorry I didn't know... I'm sorry I didn't know..."
  • Mirror Scare: "I CAN SEE YOU!"
  • Mobile Maze
  • Mundane Solution: What to do when a demon makes the front door disappear? Cast a spell to bring it back? Nope, cut your way with a chainsaw.
  • Nice Hat: Giles' sombrero.
  • Now You Tell Me: Giles reads that "there are two ways of stopping the demon from being fully summoned. Destroying the mark of Gachnar—" Buffy promptly tears up the floorboards that the symbol is painted on. Giles continues; "—is not one of them and will in fact bring forth the fear demon itself!" Oops.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Willow is talking to Why-Did-I-Rush-Into-Sleeping-With-Parker!Buffy about her forays into the black arts.
    Buffy: Well, no one’s pushing. You know, if it’s too much don’t do it.
    Willow: Don’t do it? What kind of encouragement is that?
    Buffy: This is an ‘encouragement’ talk? I thought it was ‘share my pain’.
  • Panty Shot: At least Gachnar's last view on Earth was a good one. Red Underwear!Buffy!
  • Partial Transformation: Oz inexplicably starts to change and gets stuck halfway between man and wolf. He ends up huddled in a bathtub, scared out of his mind and muttering a hopeless Survival Mantra that he's not going to change.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Buffy's "Oh... my... God!" on seeing Giles dressed as a Mexican cliche.
  • Reveal Shot: Xander wielding a large kitchen knife, only he's cutting into a pumpkin.
  • Running Gag: Anya's fear of bunnies is introduced.
  • Sarcasm Mode: Default setting for Professor Walsh
  • Spark Fairy: Willow summons one to guide her to Oz. But when she stops and starts planning her next steps out loud, the fairy responds by multiplying into a cloud that swarms around her head, driving her further into the house.
  • Survival Mantra: "You're not gonna change, you're not gonna change, you're not gonna change..."
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: *squish*
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Anya doesn't understand the whole knocking thing.
  • Tempting Fate: "We're gonna have the best time."
  • The Man Behind the Curtain: Gachnar
  • Take a Third Option: By accident. Buffy destroys the mark of Gachnar, which summons the little demon and allows her to crush him.
  • Verbal Backspace:
    Buffy: This is much better. There is no problem that cannot be solved with chocolate.
    Willow: I think I'm gonna barf.
    Buffy: Except that.
  • Visible Invisibility: Xander
  • "What Do They Fear?" Episode
  • You Can See Me?: Xander says not only "You can see me?" but "You can hear me?" too.
  • Your Costume Needs Work: The Scoobies catch sight of the Initiative commandos, but think they're more people playing dress-up on Halloween.