One evening at the Bronze, Xander suavely saves the Slayer from a menacing vamp before mounting the stage and playing a guitar solo. He's rudely awakened to find himself stuck in biology class, taught by Dr Gregory. After class, Dr Gregory who is shown to be the only teacher to believe in Buffy, is killed by an unseen monster.
That night at the Bronze, Xander is taunted by another student named Blayne for his lack of sexual prowess. When Buffy and Willow arrive, Xander puts his arms around both girls in an effort to buff up his reputation. Buffy brushes him off as soon as Angel arrives. Angel gives her his leather jacket to warm her up and Buffy notices claw-like marks on his arm. She jokes that he looks like he's been attacked by a giant fork. Angel warns her about a new threat and 'not to let him corner her as he'll rip her throat out.' He leaves quickly without warning.
The next day, Buffy informs Giles about 'the fork guy'. The substitute biology teacher, Ms. French arrives and her beauty turns every boy's head. She seems to have an interest in insects, particularly the praying mantis.At lunch, Cordelia finds the headless body of Dr Gregory in the cafeteria locker. The Scoobies try to figure out if there's a connection to the Master but don't rule out the possibility of another monster lurking about.Later that night, Buffy is patrolling in the park and confronts a vampire with a large, claw-like hand. The fight is interrupted by the police and the vamp escapes. While pursuing him, Buffy sees the vampire bump into Ms French. She simply stares at him and the vampire immediately flees in panic.
At school the following morning, Buffy is sent to a counsellor to help her get over seeing a dead body. This causes her to be late for Ms French's class, where she has prepared a test. She helps Xander with a question. Buffy peers in through the window and sees Ms French turn her head 360 degrees to look at her.After class, Ms French asks Xander if he could come over to her house in the evening to work on a project to which Xander gleefully accepts.
Back at the library, Buffy tells Willow and Giles about Ms French's head spinning. She convinces the two that she believes the teacher is a praying mantis. They discover that Blayne, a student who worked on a project at Ms French's house, never came home. Buffy tries to warn Xander, who brushes her off and states that she's just jealous.
Ms French welcomes Xander into her home with a drink, a fire lit in the fireplace and a revealing dress. The drink is spiked and knocks Xander out. The teacher drags him into the basement as she turns into a giant insect. Xander is locked in a cage alongside Blayne, the student from the previous day. Blayne tells him how Ms French mates like a praying mantis, before biting the head off her victims.
In the library, the gang discovers the She-Mantis lures virgins into her lair as mating partners. Willow reveals that Xander is a virgin before calling his mother and asking if he's home. They realise that Xander is in great danger. Buffy gets Giles to record bat sonar as Ms French picks Xander as her next victim.The Scoobies visit the house belonging to Ms French but are greeted by an elderly lady. She is the real Ms French but had retired from teaching in 1972. In order to quickly track down Xander, Buffy finds the one-handed vampire and forces him to tell her where the She-Mantis hides. He's quick to tell her as his fear of it is so great. The vamp tries to attack Buffy but she swiftly stakes him with a broken fence post. Buffy breaks through the window as the She-Mantis prepares to mate with Xander. She uses the bat sonar to weaken it before hacking it up and destroying it. Xander, meanwhile, destroys the eggs already in the house.
Buffy, wearing Angel's jacket, meets him at the Bronze. He tells her to keep it and Buffy is clearly smitten with him.
Later on, Buffy puts Dr Gregory's glasses back in his classroom closet, not noticing there are She-Mantis eggs attached to the bottom shelf...
- An Arm and a Leg: The Claw vampire was once a member of the Order of Aurelius who displeased the Master and gave his hand in penance.
- Always a Bigger Fish: A vampire with a nightmarish metal claw is about to attack a woman when she turns around and is revealed to be the substitute teacher. The vampire hisses, recoils, runs off and dives into a manhole.
- An Aesop: Buffy's is, "You do your homework, you learn stuff."
- Artistic Licence Biology: Mantises don't necessarily eat their mates; it's typically only observed in the lab and not in the wild.
- For some reason, whenever it's on-screen, the she-mantis makes a sound like a cicada.
- An in-universe example that also serves as Fridge Brilliance: During the dream sequence, Xander finishes off the vampire by staking it... Through the opposite side of the chest from where the heart actually is. Xander is sleeping through biology class.
- As You Know: Giles feels the need to explain who the Master is to the only other people who already know.
- Attempted Rape: By a giant mantis.
- The Beard: After Blayne mocks Xander's non-sex life, he asks Buffy and Willow to pretend to be his girls. Willow is certainly eager to play along.
- Big Creepy-Crawlies
- Blatant Lies: Twice in a single conversation.Giles: Um, this computer invasion that Willow is planning. One assumes that it's entirely legal?Willow/Buffy: Of course/Entirely.Giles: Right. Wasn't here. Didn't see you. Couldn't have stopped you.
- Buffy Speak / Cryptic ConversationGiles: That's all he said? Fork Guy?Buffy: That's all Cryptic Guy said — Fork Guy.Giles: I think there are too many 'guys' in your life.
- And Buffy's "Destructo Girl. That's me."
- Chekhov's Classroom: The lecture from the science teacher's substitute about the cannibalism seen in female praying mantises.
- Continuity Nod: The biology teacher was in the previous episode as well.
- Conceive and Kill: The She-Mantis preys on male virgins: mating with them to fertilise her eggs and then killing them.
- Cut Apart: Buffy is about to kick down Ms French's door when a harmless old lady opens it — turns out she's the real Natalie French, whose identity the She-Mantis used as a cover.
- A Day in the Limelight: This was the first episode to focus on someone other than Buffy, in this case, Xander.
- Daydream Surprise: Xander saving Damsel in Distress Buffy, who's wearing a red dress. Plus he's a rock star. When Ms. French invites him to her house it cuts back to him jamming.
- Distracted by the Sexy: Xander mentions being distracted by the cheerleading squads' new short skirts, then is distracted on camera by Ms French's slow-motion Sexy Walk.
- Dream Sue: Xander dreams of saving Buffy and being a rock star.
- Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: While the whole episode could be interpreted as a metaphor for the fact that adult women preying on male minors is just as bad as if the genders were switched, nobody in the episode itself seems to share that opinion. The principal mentions to Buffy that the school would come down hard on any "wrong touching" that might happen between her and the grief councilor, but none of the kids or even Giles point out that a female teacher encouraging the amorous hopes of 16-year-old boys is creepy as hell even without the whole "eating them afterwards" aspect. The girls just humor Xander in his plans to get laid with the teacher. When Buffy calls Miss French "predatory", she really just means she's a human-eating predator.
- The End... Or Is It?: Some of Ms. French's eggs are still unaccounted for. And they're starting to hatch. Oddly enough, this is never brought up again.
- Evil-Detecting Dog: Buffy captures the Claw-vampire and uses him to find out where the She-Mantis is.
- Exorcist Head: Or "the full-on Exorcist twist".
- Expository Hairstyle Change: Buffy's hair is all curly in Xander's dream, a clue that it's not the real Buffy. This trope continues throughout the series, where Buffy will often adopt curly hair in episodes where she's Not Herself.
- Failed Attempt at Drama: Buffy goes to play the tape at a suitably dramatic moment, only to hear Giles' voice rambling on about something boring. It's the wrong side.
- Flashback Cut: Xander flashbacks to the dream of himself as a rock star when he thinks he's scored with the new teacher.
- Gender-Inverted Trope: Buffy and Willow rescuing the boys from Virgin Sacrifice.
- Gilligan Cut: Giles asks Buffy to promise she won't do anything rash (like hunt a knife-handed vampire after the clearly-upsetting death of Dr. Gregory). She does. Cut to her in the park where the vampire was last seen.
- Go Mad from the Revelation: Dr. Ferris Carlyle on discovering the existence of the She-Mantis.
- Homoerotic Subtext: Xander calling Angel "buff" and "a very attractive man".
- Hook Hand combined with Wolverine Claws for "Claw".
- Horny Devil: The closest we get to this trope on the series.
- Horrifying the Horror: Buffy is tipped off that there's something off about Miss French when the claw-handed vampire tries to attack her, only to sense her true nature and run for the hills.
- Hot for Teacher: Every boy in school, including Giles, is smitten with Miss French.
- Important Haircut: Buffy also has curly hair in The Teaser, which turns out to be Xander's daydream.
- Little Black Dress. One might also call it a Freudian Slip.Xander: It's the most beautiful chest... dress I've ever seen.
- Lecture as Exposition
- Literal Maneater: The She-Mantis needs a virgin male to fertilize her eggs, whom she will then devour.
- Living Aphrodisiac
- Logical Weakness: The She-Mantis may be a demon, but it's still a bug. The Scoobies are able to ward it off using cans of bug spray, and Buffy plays recorded bat sonar to paralyze it, since bats pray on mantises and hearing their sonar makes their nervous system "go to hell."
- Matter of Life and Death
- Mentor Occupational Hazard: Buffy's biology teacher expresses confidence in her abilities as a student and encourages her to excel. He is immediately slaughtered by a giant insect.
- Miming the Cues: Buffy didn't do her homework, so when the teacher asks her to explain how ants communicate, Willow has to help her. She gets the mime for "touch" right, but she misinterprets "smell" as "B.O." The teacher, without even turning around, asks if Willow has anything else to say.
- Monster of the Aesop: In this case an evil Mrs. Robinson.Buffy: The younger man is too dumb to wonder why an older woman can't find someone her own age, and too desperate to care about the surgical improvements!
- Monster of the Week: The She-Mantis.
- Mrs. Robinson: Mrs French, who is actually a praying-mantis monster disguised a Mrs. Robinson in order to lure male virgins for her to eat.
- Not So Stoic: Buffy normally handles death well. She quietly cries in the library after finding the body of Dr. Gregory.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Ms. French has a strange way of pronouncing her r's. It works for the character, given that she's a giant insect. It's actually because her actress is South African.
- Percussive Therapy: Xander takes a machete to the She-Mantis eggs.
- Police are Useless: Buffy's fight with Claw is interrupted by the police arriving (one of whom was disguised as a wino earlier). This appears to be one of the few occasions we see the Sunnydale police actively trying to catch a killer.
- Screaming Woman: With a camera pullback from inside her mouth. Also, Cordelia, which rapidly becomes her usual role.
- Shadow Discretion Shot: Buffy killing the She-Mantis — likely more for budget reasons than averting violence.
- Ship Tease: Buffy continuing to wear Angel's coat, and her "Oh boy" as she watches him walk away at the end.
- Shout-Out: Buffy described Ms. French's head-twisting abilities as "an Exorcist-twist".
- Slipping a Mickey
- Stealth Pun: When forcing her to take counselling, Mr Flutie shouts at Buffy to "Heal!" She sits. Good dog.
- Urban Legend Love Life: Jerk Jock Blayne.
- Virgin Power: Subverted. Of course, Xander, who has been professing his masculine sexual prowess for the entire episode, falls into the demon's trap, and consequently has to endure the barbs of his friends for being a virgin. It's made a little more tolerable for him by the discovery that the year group's stud who had been making Xander feel inadequate for his lack of sexual experience was also entrapped by the demon.... meaning he was a virgin, too. Xander may have been embarrassed, but the jock was downright humiliated.
- Weirdness Magnet: The first time this hits Xander.
- What Happened to the Mouse?:
- What happened to the eggs?
- Blayne is never seen or mentioned again after this episode, despite surviving and clearly being set up as a sort of Gender Flip version of Cordelia to antagonise Xander. It wouldn't seem so odd but this episode comes straight after the one introducing Amy Madison who becomes a recurring character on and off til the end of the show's run.
- You're Just Jealous / Idiot Ball: Xander disregarding Buffys attempts to warn him about the killer bug.
- You Must Be Cold: Angel lends Buffy his coat, pissing off Xander, who knows what it implies.