Buffy: I'd feel like killing myself.
As Buffy, Xander and Willow return from patrolling, they discuss the lack of vampire activity with Spike and Drusilla presumed dead. Angel, who is still recovering from his ordeal with Drusilla, has also confirmed the Order of Taraka has been called off. However, when the three enter Buffy's house, they find Joyce kissing a strange man.
Misinterpreting an odd situation, Joyce introduces her friend, Ted Buchanan, a salesman. He tells them that he has been seeing Joyce for quite some time now. He charms Willow and Xander with computer talk and cooking, respectively. Ted promises to make it up to Buffy for surprising her. Buffy becomes uncomfortable with Ted's 1950s mannerisms; this is not calmed by Ted's offer of miniature golf.
That night, Buffy beats a vampire to an unusually bloody pulp before killing him, worrying Giles that something is troubling her. She refuses to divulge, but Giles secretly has a good idea of what is happening. Later that night, Buffy asks Angel for his take on things, while she tends to his wounds. He says that her mother shouldn't be forced to be alone, and she should give Ted the benefit of the doubt. She reluctantly complies with this idea.
The golf outing goes poorly, as Joyce has revealed Buffy's anti-social behavior. When Buffy cheats, Ted lectures and threatens her with a slapping out of sight of the others, but his cheerfulness comes back full force when rejoining the others.
Joyce doesn't believe this incident happened, claiming Ted thinks the world of her. Buffy recruits her friends to spy on Ted. Under an assumed name, Buffy talks her way into Ted's workspace. He has never missed a day of work, doesn't get sick and is getting engaged. Indeed, Ted has a picture of Joyce on his desk, but the part with Buffy is folded under.
At dinner, Ted denies the engagement, but confesses to Joyce that he has hopes they will one day get married. Buffy slips out for some slaying and on her return, finds Ted has read her diary. He threatens to tell Joyce about the 'Slayer' unless she toes the line. She defies him and is slapped. In the resulting brawl, Ted falls down the stairs; Joyce then finds him, seemingly dead.
The day after a talk with the cops, Buffy is in a haze of guilt. Willow and Xander discover Ted's cookies are drugged. Cordelia finds Ted has had four wives since 1957, all of whom have since "disappeared." That night, while Giles patrols, Jenny surprises him and apologizes for avoiding him. A vampire attacks and Jenny accidentally shoots Giles with a stake-gun instead of the monster. Giles, only slightly injured, takes the shaft out of his own body and dusts the vampire.
Buffy again finds Ted in her room; this second fight reveals he is a robot. He escapes to find Joyce. The Scooby Gang investigate Ted's bunker, decorated in '50s style. Xander finds the four wives—all dead. Ted finds Joyce, who is more than a little confused by the fact that he has somehow come back to life. He tries to coax Joyce into following him, but his malfunctions reveal his true intentions; Buffy knocks him out with a frying pan. The next day, Joyce swears off men forever, and says that from now on, the two Summers women shall be manless. Buffy suggests renting a chick flick.
The gang returns to school the next day, with Buffy cleared of all charges, and discussing their discoveries about Ted. Apparently the real Ted Buchanan was a sickly and unsuccessful inventor in the 1950s whose wife left him. In desperation, he built a robot version of himself, "a better Ted," possibly to be the man he thought his wife should have. The robot then kidnapped Ted's wife and held her captive in his bunker until she died. The robot then sought out other women resembling Ted's dead wife and repeated the process again and again.
All seems to have returned to normalcy... with the exception of Mr. Giles and Ms. Calendar kissing in the library.
Tropes in this episode include:
- Actor Allusion: Ted is a great cook. In Three's Company, John Ritter played Jack Tripper who was a Master Chef and owned his own bistro.
- Annoying Arrows: Giles is shot with a crossbow bolt at point blank range and proceeds to pull it out, stake a vampire with it, and limp to the hospital.
- Giles: No, no, really, I, uh, I don't think it went in too deep. The advantages of layers of tweed. Better than kevlar.
- Armour-Piercing Slap: Ted's slap knocks Buffy into the wall.Buffy: [smiles] I was so hoping you'd do that.
- Behind the Black: Towards the end of the episode Ted appears in Buffy's room by stepping out of the corner by her bed. Except Buffy was in her room in full view of that corner for quite some time before he appears. The fact that the camera was pointed away from there seems to be the only reason she didn't notice him.
- "Be Quiet!" Nudge: Occurs when Willow nearly slips up about Buffy liking Angel (to Ted and Joyce) and Buffy has to nudge her. Willow then uses a replacement word instead.
- The Bluebeard: Robo!Ted has spent decades re-enacting his creator's failed relationship, with the same result every time.Xander: So, I'm Ted, the sickly loser. I'm dying and my wife dumps me. I build a better Ted. He brings her back, holds her hostage in his bunker'o'love until she dies. And then he keeps bringing her back, over and over. Now, now that's creepy on a level I hardly knew existed.
- Catchphrase: Ted has a couple: "Beg to differ" and "I'm not wired that way." Both of them take on far darker meanings as the episode goes on.
- Clothing Reflects Personality: Buffy wears the Dungarees of Depression to school after killing Ted.
- Cold Iron: Ironically used against a non-supernatural foe when Buffy cold-cocks Ted with his iron skillet.
- Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are:
- Deadpan Snarker: Angel gets a rare opportunity here, when Buffy keeps complaining to him about Ted being all anyone can ever talk about.Angel: So you going to talk about something else at some point?
- Description Cut: Buffy comes home to find (awkwardly) that Joyce has a serious boyfriend. She insists she's fine with it — cut to her whaling on a vampire with enough violent fury to creep out Giles.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Children refusing to accept their separated parent's new love interest; issues of trust and support from parents and peers, of boundaries between child discipline and domestic tyranny; exploration of Domestic Abuse.
- Don't Sneak Up On Me Like That: Startled by Jenny walking up behind him while he's on patrol, Giles waves a cross in her face.
- Double Meaning: Cordelia calls Xander on how he's only badmouthing Ted after Buffy has killed him. Xander retorts to his secret Love Interest, "I sometimes like things that aren't good for me."
- Emotionally Tongue-Tied
- Enter Stage Window: Ted ends up nailing Buffy's bedroom window shut.
- Eureka Moment: Xander does a Mood Whiplash after eating one of Ted's cookies, making Willow suspicious. Later Cordelia points out the rug doesn't match the (lack of) décor in Ted's apartment. They find a trapdoor hidden underneath.
- Facial Horror: Ted after being hit in the face with a skillet.
- The FetteredCordelia: I don't get it. Buffy's the Slayer, shouldn't she have—
Xander: What, a license to kill?
Cordelia: Well, not for fun, but she's like this Superman. Shouldn't there be different rules for her?
Willow: Sure, in a fascist society.
Cordelia: Right! Why can't we have one of those?
- "Nobody beats the machine."
- "I'm not wired that way."
- Willow saving some of Ted's parts foreshadows her interest in the Buffybot.
- The issues of a Slayer accidentally killing a human come up again in "Consequences".
- On finding out about Buffy's 'delusions' about vampires, Ted threatens to have Buffy put in a mental institution ("Normal Again").
- Friend or Foe: Jenny shoots Giles with a crossbow while he's struggling with a vampire.
- Frying Pan of Doom: How Buffy takes down Ted, which is Laser-Guided Karma given his oft-praised cooking.
- Genre Refugee: Ted, a seemingly nice guy dating Buffy's mom who reveals a disturbing verbally abusive side. Compare to the demons and vampires he comes off almost like an after-school-special villain. And then we learn he's a serial killer. And a malfunctioning robot.
- Give Me a Reason: After spending most of the episode being an ass to Buffy when her mother isn't around, when Ted reads her diary and hits her, Buffy is happy to finally have an excuse to fight back and gets in a fist-fight with him.Buffy: I was so hoping you'd do that.
- Guess Who I'm Marrying?: Joyce Summers nearly marries an evil robot. However, Ted was actually pretty good at seeming nice, so it makes sense that he had everyone fooled. Except for Buffy, because of her tendency to take an automatic dislike to villains before she even gets evidence, combined with him threatening her when her mother wasn't around. Of course, the fact that he was surreptitiously drugging everybody else didn't hurt...
- Half Truth: Joyce tries to protect Buffy by telling the detective that Ted fell down the stairs, but Buffy immediately tells the full truth.
- Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul: Ted's cooking contains sedatives and other drugs, and Buffy is the only person who never eats any of it.
- Good Thing You Can Heal: The detective questions whether Buffy hit her stepfather in self-defense, because thanks to her Slayer powers she had no bruise where Ted had hit her.
- "How Did You Know?" "I Didn't."
- How Unscientific!: The series brings in sci-fi elements, but without much comment from the characters. Arguable this was already done in "I Robot, You Jane," but that also involved a demon. Continuity is maintained, however, in that we see Ridiculously Human Robots in later seasons as well.
- Hypocritical Humor
- Lodged-Blade Recycling: The vampire is laughing over how Giles got shot with his friend's crossbow, when Giles yanks out the bolt and stakes him with it.
- Meaningful Name: Ted is clearly based off serial killer Ted Bundy. The office whiteboard with the sales count even says "Ted B."
- The Mirror Shows Your True Self: Ted's reflection in the window behind Buffy tells the audience he's not a vampire after coming Back from the Dead.
- MetaphorgottenBuffy: Vampires are creeps.
Giles: Yes, that's why one slays them.
Buffy: I mean, people are perfectly happy getting along, and then vampires come, and they run around and they kill people, and they take over your whole house, they start making these stupid little mini pizzas, and everyone's like, "I like your mini pizzas," but I'm telling you, I am...
Giles: Uh, uh, Buffy! I-I believe the... subtext here is, is, rapidly becoming, uh, uh, text.
- Monster of the Aesop
- My God, What Have I Done?: Buffy after she knocks Ted down the stairs and breaks his neck.
- Non Sequitur: Ted utters a few after—"Want some gravy with that?"—Buffy shorts out some of the wiring in his arm.
- No-Sell: Buffy looks surprised when Ted gets up again after she gives him a Megaton Punch, so she has to follow it up with several more blows, eventually knocking him down the stairs. When he turns up after being Not Quite Dead, Buffy delivers several body blows to no effect.
- Not Even Human
- Not So Dire:
- Buffy finds the door to her house is open and tells the Scoobies to wait while she investigates. She hears a glass break and her mother gasp, "No!", charges into the kitchen and quickly hides her stake behind her back on finding her mother and Ted kissing.
- Giles has to go on patrol because the Slayer is suffering a Heroic BSoD The Scoobies then find a clue that proves Ted is bad. "Let's get our Slayer back on her feet before someone else gets hurt." Description Cut to Giles being stalked by Jenny?
- Only Sane Slayer: No one except Buffy suspects Ted's motives, and while at first it just seems like she's upset about her mother getting a boyfriend, it turns out that Ted laces his cooking with drugs to prevent people from catching on to his scheme.
- Out-of-Character Alert: Cordelia gets up Xander for praising her outfit in front of Buffy and Willow, because it would give away their Secret Relationship.
- Parental Sexuality Squick: Buffy finding her mother 'frenching' Ted. Then finding her father-substitute kissing Jenny.
- Parent with New Paramour: A very, very dark take on this trope.
- Peek-a-Boo Corpse: Although we don't see them, the (literal) skeletons Xander finds in the closet.
- Percussive Therapy: Buffy says she's OK about her mother taking up with a new man. Gilligan Cut to a shocked Giles watching Buffy beating the crap out of a vampire with a dustbin lid.Giles: It, it's, it's staking time, really. Don't you think?
- Perp Walk: Although the police don't want to press charges "at this time," Buffy has to walk past staring students at school the next day.
- Pocket Protector: Giles after getting hit by a crossbow bolt.Giles: No, no, really, I, uh, I don't think it went in too deep. The... advantages of layers of tweed. Better than Kevlar.
- Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: At the beginning of the episode, Willow and Xander are arguing about Captain and Tennille, whom Buffy has never heard of.
- Puppy-Dog Eyes: Giles has apparently learned some lessons from Buffy, as Jenny complains about him doing this.
- Real Men Can Cook: Only he's not a real man.
- Reset Button: A line at the beginning implies the Order Of Taraka (from the previous episode) simply backed off (three were killed over the previous two episodes, but most are presumably still out there).
- Handwave: Spike is (temporarily) out of the picture, so presumably there's no longer a bounty being offered. According to Angel the "contract is off."
- Rewatch Bonus: Ted's threat to have Buffy committed by telling her mother about her Slayer 'delusions' has a lot more bite after seeing Season 6 "Normal Again", where we discover Buffy's parents had her committed for a brief time after she first told them about vampires.
- Ridiculously Human Robots: Especially for one built in The '50s.
- Right Behind MeBuffy: I'm pretty good at sensing what's going on around me, and there is definitely something wrong with this... Ted.
Buffy: Of course, Ted. Who'd you think I was talking about?
Xander: Hi, Ted! Ted, who's here.
Ted: Hello, kids!
- Robotic Reveal: To escape being choked to death by Ted, Buffy stabs him in the arm... revealing wires and everything.
- Secret Diary: Ted reading Buffy's diary sparks off their first 'fatal' confrontation.
- Secret Relationship: Cordelia overreacts to Xander giving her a compliment, because they want to keep their affair secret and the Scoobies will be tipped off if they stop snarking at each other.
- Serious Business: Buffy cheating at mini-golf leads to Ted threatening to slap her. Ted then does a creepy Mood Whiplash the moment Joyce appears.
- Shot in the Ass: Jenny Calendar shoots Giles either in or very near the rear end with a crossbow bolt.
- Smart People Build Robots: Willow can't resist holding onto some components of Ted for further study.
- Sorry to Interrupt / Book-Ends: At the start of the episode Buffy walks in on her mother kissing Ted. At the end of the episode, Buffy walks in on Giles and Jenny kissing.Buffy: Okay! That's it! I give up! Do I have to sound an air horn every time I walk into a room? What is it with grown-ups these days?
- Squee!: Willow's reaction to Ted saying he can get her a free computer upgrade.
- Staircase Tumble
- Standard Female Grab Area: When Joyce pulls her arm free, Ted shoves her into the wall.
- Standard '50s Father: Ted's public persona.
- Stepford Smiler: Buffy says her mother has been acting totally different since Ted turned up. "Different like Stepford."
- Subverted Suspicion Aesop: Buffy admits that she might be being too quick to write off Ted. Then he threatens to hit her, actually follows through on it, and turns out to be a robot serial killer.
- Sue Donym: When Buffy is investigating her mother's new boyfriend, one of his co-workers ask who she is. She says "Bu— Linda. Belinda."
- Suppressed Rage: Ted acts like a nice guy in front of Joyce and Buffy's friends, but is an ass to Buffy herself and threatens her when they're not around. Even before this, Buffy takes an instant dislike to him and spends her time taking her anger out on vampires. When Ted reads her diary and slaps her, Buffy unleashes all of that suppressed rage, happy that Ted finally gave her an excuse to hit him.
- Talk About That Thing: Buffy tries to bunk off doing on a picnic with Ted because they have to do "that thing." Xander refuses to play along.Buffy: We were gonna do that...thing.Willow: ...oh, right. That thing!Xander: Hey. We can do that thing anytime. I'm tired of doing that thing! We're on!
- Technically a Smile: Buffy's reaction to Mum's substitute to her Disappeared Dad.
- Tempting Fate:
- Lampshaded again.Xander: Yeah, with Spike and Drusilla out of the way, we've really been ridin' the mellow, and I am really jinxing the hell out of us by saying that?
Buffy: Yeah, but we'll let you off this time.
- After angsting over Ted's death, Buffy finds her window has been nailed shut and gripes how the day can't get any worse. Ted then appears, back from the dead.
- "I plan to forget the whole thing and pick up right where we left off." Buffy then walks in on Giles/Jenny snogging.
- Lampshaded again.
- The Triple: Xander assumes Ted must have been a Monster of the Week for Buffy to kill him.Xander: What was he: a demon, a giant bug, some kind of dark god with the secrets of nouvelle cuisine?
- Thou Shalt Not Kill Muggles: Prior to the Robotic Reveal, Buffy had enough evidence to paint Ted as an abusive control freak who was already planning a wedding without telling Joyce. She's still horrified by the idea of killing a normal, non-superpowered person.
- Unexplained Recovery: Ted is deliberately nonchalant about his reappearance after leaving Buffy's home in a body bag.Ted: I'm a salesman! That's what you should have remembered. No matter how you put him down, a good salesman always bounces back.
- Verbal Backspace: Joyce worries that Ted is still out there. Buffy replies, "Trust me, he's on the scrapheap." Joyce gives her a funny look. "...of life."
- Violence Really Is the Answer: In-Universe; Buffy is just looking for an excuse to deal with Ted the way she deals with the other demons in her life.
- Waking Up at the Morgue: Ted's explanation to Joyce for being Not Quite Dead.
- Weakness Turns Her On: Buffy quite enjoys nursing Angel back to health.
- What Are You: Buffy to Ted when he comes back from the dead without a Game Face.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Buffy freaks out when she thinks she's killed the eponymous character in self-defense, but when he comes back and is revealed to be a robot, she has absolutely no qualms about destroying him (though he was an asshole Serial Killer).
- You Could Have Used Your Powers for GoodBuffy: Willow, tell me you didn't keep any parts.
Willow: Not any big ones.
Buffy: Oh, Will, you're supposed to use your powers for good!
- You Remind Me of X: Angel thinks her mother is entitled to someone else in her life. "Loneliness is the worst thing there is." Buffy reluctantly agrees to give Ted a chance, and they proceed to the snogging.
- Zipping Up the Bodybag: Ted after he breaks his neck falling down the stairs.