We open on a school field trip at the zoo. Buffy is harassed by four mean kids, but she brushes them off. The mean kids move on to harass some nice but nerdy kid, but Principal Flutie breaks it up. The mean kids decide to take the nerd to visit the hyenas, who are off limits for some reason. Xander goes after them to try to rescue him, but Buffy and Willow get stopped from entering the Hyena cage by some creepy zookeeper who says some creepy stuff about hyenas. Then the mean kids and Xander look into the green glowy eyes of the quarantined hyenas and get possessed by them. This all has something to do with Africa, as we learn from the insistent African-sounding soundtrack that goes on whenever the hyenas are around.
Xander doesn't seem quite right after that. First off, he doesn't like croissants anymore, he is mean to Willow and laughs at mean jokes. He seems to be in with the mean kids now, which is also very un-Xander. It seems that the metaphor might be that mean cliques act like a pack of hyenas, preying on the weak. There follows an epic dodgeball scene and an adorable scene where Buffy holds a piglet, but soon the episode goes from there to dark.The pack surrounds and eats the adorable piglet, and then Xander goes after Buffy and tries to rape her. (She hits him in the head with a desk.) After that, the pack (minus Xander) gets sent to the principal's office where they eat the principal.
Buffy, Willow, and Giles enlist the zookeeper's help to transpossess the students(put the hyena back in the animals rather than the humans) and Buffy lures the pack back to the zoo. However, the zookeeper turns out to be planning to take the spirits into his own body. He knocks out and hides Giles, performs the ritual(with a knife at Willow's throat) and then tries to rip Willow's throat out. Xander tackles him and the zookeeper is thrown into the hyena enclosure. They haven't been fed.
Later, Xander asks the girls what he did while possessed. He freaks out at the idea of eating the piglet and is relieved to hear he was uninvolved in eating the principal. Buffy decides not to tell him about the Attempted Rape. Once the girls are gone, Giles arrives and tells Xander that he can't find any record of post-possession memory loss, then promises that the secret is safe with him.
- Absentee Actor: This is the first time one of the main cast is absent, in this case Cordelia.
- All There in the Manual: The Sunnydale High Yearbook reveals Heidi became a vegetarian after the possession ordeal.
- Alternate Identity Amnesia: Xander says he doesn't remember what happened during his time as a hyena. Giles privately confronts him, saying none of the other students displayed amnesia, and Xander admits he just doesn't want to talk (or think) about it.
- Animal Motifs: When you think about it, Principal Flutie not only was highly hopeful for Herbert, but he was a little similar to a pig himself.
- Artistic License Biology: Of all the "animal spirits" to use to write this extended metaphor about testosterone-addled teenage boys and why they are dangerous to girlsnote , the writer chose the one mammal where the male never, ever forces the female to mate - because the female hyenas are bigger and more aggressive, because their matriachal social structure means all males are low in the pack hierarchy, and because the female's genitals are built so awkwardly that it's impossible for a male to penetrate her without her cooperation.
- Attempted Rape: Hyena possessed Xander on Buffy. She fights him off.
- The Bait: Buffy leading the pack to the zoo.
- Bait-and-Switch Comment: Hyena possessed Xander appears to be making a Love Confession to Willow, but then he cruelly humiliates her.
- Battle Discretion Shot: Buffy drags in an unconscious Hyena possessed Xander.Willow: Oh, my God, Xander! What happened?
Buffy: I hit him.
Willow: With what?
Buffy: A desk.
- Cerebus Syndrome: The episode takes a plotline which sounds somewhat goofy - bullies become possessed by the spirits of evil Hyenas - and slowly makes it darker and darker until we get scenes of cannibalism, Attempted Rape and attacks on children. We also get the first indication of how willing the crew is to abruptly kill off recurring characters.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Principal Flutie is literally eaten alive by the pack.
- Dodgeball Is Hell: And the coach loves it.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?:Giles: Xander's taken to teasing the less fortunate?
Giles: And, there's been a noticeable change in both clothing and demeanor?
Giles: And, well, otherwise all his spare time is spent lounging about with imbeciles.
Buffy: It's bad, isn't it.
Giles: It's devastating. He's turned into a sixteen-year-old boy. Course, you'll have to kill him.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The series establishes Buffy has a hang up about killing humans, but here she has no problem throwing the zookeeper into the hyena pit to be eaten.
- Everybody Hates Mathematics: This time its Xander.
- Evil Detecting Pig: Herbert squirms and squeals when Hyena possessed Xander passes by.
- Exit, Pursued by a Bear: The last we see of the zookeeper is a hyena dragging him off screen by the ankles.
- Faking Amnesia: After Buffy and Willow save him, Xander tells them that he can't remember a thing and hopes he didn't do anything "too embarrassing". Giles, however, sees right through it.Giles: I've been reading up on my animal possession and I cannot find anything anywhere about memory loss afterward."
Xander: Did you tell them that?
Giles: Your secret dies with me.
Xander: Shoot me, stuff me, mount me.
- Foreshadowing: Buffy says they need to put the hyena back in the hyena and they do. First they put it in the zookeeper. Then they put him in the hyena.
- Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Weirick wears glasses and is a power-hungry bag of dicks.
- Gang of Bullies: Even before being possessed, Kyle, Tor, Heidi and Rhonda are a group of jerks constantly bullying other students
- Gory Discretion Shot: The pack jumps on Principal Flutie and the camera pans to his photo on the desk, then cuts to Willow watching a documentary showing hyenas feeding.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Weirick is eaten by the hyenas he tried to capture the spirits of.
- The Hyena: One of the clues of the possession is a hyena laugh.
- Hypocritical Humor: Buffy is telling Willow that a relationship with Angel wouldn't work, then perks up when she thinks Willow has just seen him.
- I Ate WHAT?!: Xander isn't happy hearing that he ate raw pig. He's probably even less happy that he remembers he did that, and is just pretending he doesn't.
- I'm a Humanitarian: The gang eat Principal Flutie. They just...freakin' eat him.
- In with the In Crowd: Xander starts hanging out with a group of bullies. Judging everyone else's reaction, they are not the 'in crowd' so much as the 'pest crowd'.
- Infant Immortality: A woman with a baby stumbles across the pack, but they're too busy digesting their last meal to chase her.
- It Sucks to Be the Chosen One: Buffy brushes off the taunts of the mean kids, but Rhonda's "Were you this popular at your old school? Before you got kicked out?" clearly hits home.
- Jerkass: Even before they get possessed by hyena spirits, they gang are a nasty group of malcontents.
- Just Desserts: Weirick winds up in the hyena pen, and is subsequently eaten alive by them.
- No Name Given: Weirick's name isn't mentioned in the actual show, just in the credits. He's referred to as "Zookeeper" throughout, which is how viewers know him.
- No Ontological Inertia: Averted, though the applicability of the trope is arguable. Xander pretends that he doesn't remember any of his actions after the hyena spirt leaves him to avoid some very uncomfortable things he'd rather just forget.
- Obviously Evil: No prizes for guessing that Weirick's the main antagonist.
- Oh, Crap!:
- Buffy looking in the book at what hyena possession leads to.
- The Scoobies realising the pack will go to Xander, and Willow is alone with him.
- Peer Pressure Makes You Evil: Initially this is what Giles thinks. Buffy thinks it's more along the lines of 'possession pressure.'
- Perverted Sniffing: Xander sniffs Buffy's hair early in the episode and then again during the attmpted rape.
- Power Walk: By the Pack.
- Self-Disposing Villain: Downplayed. The villain is eaten by a hyena by Buffy throwing him into the hyena cage.
- Scully Syndrome: Lampshaded by Buffy to Giles.Buffy: I cannot believe that you, of all people, are trying to Scully me! There is something supernatural at work here.
- Shout-Out: Buffy refers to the hyena-possessed bullies as the "winged monkeys."
- Super Strength: Weirick after taking the power of the hyenas.
- Talking Your Way Out: Hyena possessed !Xander tries talking Willow into letting him out of the book cage; fortunately Willow isn't as naïve as she acts.
- Teens Are Monsters:
Giles: Buffy, boys can be cruel. They tease. They prey on the weak. It's a natural teen behavior pattern.
- Kyle, Tor, Heidi and Rhonda are already mean prior to the possession.
- Also discussed with:
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Xander quickly goes from goofy jokester to sadistic asshole in this episode. In his defence however, he was possessed, and thus not fully in control of his actions.
- Weirdness Censor: Flutie was "eaten by a pack of wild dogs".
- Wham Episode: This episode is our first indication of how willing Joss is to suddenly kill off recurring characters.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: There's no word on what happened to the bullies after they're de-hyena'd, and the fact that they have to deal with the memory of eating a living human being. Supplementary material reveals that all four of them survived until Graduation and one of the girls became a vegan.
- Would Hurt a Child: Weirick is perfectly willing to murder a teenage Willow.
- You Have to Believe Me!: Giles refuses to believe Buffy when she claims Xander has been possessed by a hyena spirit. Being Buffy, she calls him on it (see Scully Syndrome above).
- You're Insane!: Flutie's Famous Last Words after he is slashed and before he is eaten.