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Recap / Buffy the Vampire Slayer S4E1 "The Freshman"

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"Buffy, I've gone through some fairly dark times in my life, faced some scary things, among them the kitchen at 'The Fabulous Ladies Night Club.' Let me tell you something, when it's dark and I'm all alone and I'm scared or freaked out or whatever, I always think, 'What would Buffy do?' You're my hero."
Xander Harris

Directed by Joss Whedon

Written by Whedon & Douglas Petrie

Buffy and Willow are on a stake out in a cemetery and are discussing which classes Buffy should take for her first semester at college. They talk about the fact that Buffy has left choosing her classes to the last minute. Buffy puts it down to Giles telling her to keep her identity of being the Slayer a secret. They're so engrossed in their discussion that they don't notice the vampire they've been waiting for has quietly slipped away after noticing them carrying weapons.

Buffy arrives the UC Sunnydale campus, ready to select her classes and move into her dorm room. However she is overwhelmed by the general number of people around as well as various students handing her leaflets and posters. Buffy meets up with Willow and Oz and reveals her feeling of being disorientated by the new experience. Willow, on the other hand, is excited about it and is enjoying every second. Oz seems unfazed by the situation as his band are studying there too. He does say that he doesn't have a clue what's going on though.


Buffy and Willow tour the campus library and meet up with Giles, who tells them that he's enjoying his free time now that he's no longer a Watcher or a librarian. Xander is still away for his summer cross-country trip. As Buffy and Willow explore the library, Buffy tries to reach for textbooks on a top shelf and accidentally knocks them off. They hit Riley Finn on his head, leading to his introduction as Buffy's teaching assistant in Professor Walsh's 'Psych 105: Introduction to Psychology' class.

Buffy arrives at her new room in Stevenson Hall. She's already moved in and her new room-mate Kathy is in the process of doing so. Kathy tells Buffy that she thinks she's cool and that she thinks this year will be 'super fun'. She then hangs a poster of Celine Dion on the wall much to Buffy's dismay. During the night, Buffy's sleep is disturbed as Kathy snores, talks and smacks her lips in her sleep.


The next day, Buffy attends a class to see if enrollment is still open however the professor humiliates her and throws her out when she finds out she isn't registered. Later on, Willow and Oz attend Psych 105 with Buffy. They're taught by Prof. Maggie Walsh and Riley is present as teaching assistant. She introduces herself to the class and explains that if they're in her bad books, they'll come to know her as the 'evil bitch monster of death' but if they're well-behaved, they'll know her as simply Maggie. Buffy is unnerved and realises college will be much harder than high school was.That night, Buffy meets another student named Eddie who is just as overwhelmed by the college environment. Buffy and Eddie discuss their need of a 'security blanket' in unfamiliar surroundings. Eddie reveals his is a novel named 'Of Human Bondage' and Buffy tells him of Mr Pointy but doesn't elaborate on what it is. They go their seperate ways with Buffy glad in the knowledge that someone else is also having trouble adjusting.

Unfortunately, Eddie's luck runs out as he bumps into a gang of vamps led by a woman called Sunday. The vamps break into his dorm room later on and clear it out, leaving a note by the bed.The next day, Buffy searches for Eddie in her Psych class. She goes to his dorm room and sees it empty with the college attendant explaining some people don't handle college life well and bail early. As she sits on the bed, disappointed that the only person she'd connected with has left, Buffy notices the novel sat on the desk. Buffy knows that Eddie would never have left without it and suspects something is wrong.

In Sunday's lair, the gang go through Eddie's belongings. Sunday complains that they don't go after cooler people and they get ready to go on another evening's hunt. Just then, Eddie's eyes snap open.

Buffy visits Giles' apartment to find a half-dressed woman in his apartment. The woman visitor is called Olivia and is a friend of Giles, clearly having known him for some time. Buffy tells Giles of the disappearance and insists that they must do some research but Giles is reluctant to help. He reminds Buffy that he's no longer her Watcher nor does she have one anymore. Buffy sadly leaves with Giles reminding her that he will always be there for her if she's desperate.

Tropes in this episode:

  • Academy of Adventure: Justified in that this university is in Sunnydale.
  • Action Fashionista: Sunday weaponizes her fashionista tendencies by insulting Buffy's fashion sense, then punching her while she is distracted. She also steals clothes from her victims, throwing out anything she thinks is "not" and keeping anything she thinks is "hot".
  • All According to Plan: Sunday lampshades this when Buffy falls through the skylight into the midst of the vampires, picks herself up and quips "just thought I'd drop in."
    Sunday: I must say, you've really got me now. I mean, it's a diabolical plan, throw yourself at my feet with a broken arm and no weapons of any kind. How'm I going to get out of this one?
    Buffy: You got a nice set-up here, but you made one mistake.
    Sunday: Yeah? What was that?
    Buffy: Well, I'm not actually positive, but statistically speaking people usually make at least— [Sunday makes Buffy Talk to the Fist]
  • All There in the Script: The names of the Sunday's minions: Dav (the heavy girl), Rookie (The Stoner), Jerry (the bearded vamp) and Tom (the survivor who gets tasered at the end).
  • Alone in a Crowd: Buffy is overwhelmed by the size and confusion of college.
  • Alpha Bitch: Not only is Sunday the leader of her gang, but she's also a jerkass to both her minions and her victims.
  • Art Evolution: The show was filmed in 16:9 widescreen from the first episode. Joss Whedon didn't want the show put on DVD in this fashion, so the only places to see widescreen Buffy (at least from Season 4 on) are Hulu and DVDs released in Europe, where Joss' request for 4:3 format was ignored. (Similarly, Angel, which debuted the same night as this episode, was filmed in widescreen but not broadcast that way until the third season.)
    • Also, from this episode on, the photography comes more bright, colorful and saturated, better contrasting with Angel.
  • Berserk Button: Sunday goes too far when she steps on Buffy's Class Protector award.
  • Big Eater: Dav, the chubby vampire within Sunday's gang. Sunday calls her out on it.
  • Bill... Bill... Junk... Bill...: Sunday going through Eddie's CD collection:
    Sunday: Boring...boring...boring...boring...astonishingly boring. We have to kill some cooler people; will someone please remind me?
  • Blood Knight: Sunday is excited at the prospect of fighting a Slayer, seeing it as a challenge
  • Book Dumb: Buffy
    Eddie: Of Human Bondage — have you ever read it?
    Buffy: Oh, I'm not really into porn... I mean I'm just... I'm trying to cut way back.
    • Her being very interested in Xander working as a male stripper does not help.
    • And later...
      Xander: You up for a little reconnaissance?
      Buffy: You mean where we all sculpt and paint and stuff?
      Xander: No, that was the Renaissance.
      Buffy: Oh. I've had a really long week.
    • Also, Xander; before his car broke down, he was planning on driving and not stopping until he had driven to all 50 states.
      Buffy: Did you explain about Hawaii?
      Willow: Well, he seemed so determined.
  • California University: UC Sunnydale
  • The Cameo: While at the Bronze, Buffy mistakes another man for Angel for a moment, with David Boreanaz making an uncredited appearance when she first spots him.
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: After blowing Buffy off earlier, a repentant Giles turns up with an armful of weapons to help... after the Scoobies have already defeated Sunday's gang.
  • College Is "High School, Part 2": Averted
  • Covert Pervert: Buffy hints at this, first suggesting she is trying to cut way back on porn (in regards to the book Of Human Bondage) then being really interested when Xander mentions working as a male stripper.
  • Crash-Into Hello: Buffy meets Riley Finn by knocking a pile of psychology textbooks onto his head. He takes it well.
  • Crossover: Buffy receives a phone call at her home, but hangs up when she doesn't hear anything. This episode aired the same night as the Angel series premiere, where it's revealed the call came from a despondent Angel.
  • Crush the Keepsake: Sunday deliberately steps on and breaks the umbrella trophy thing Buffy was given at prom in the previous Season by her classmates to thank her for all the times she saved them.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Sunday kicks Buffy's ass with ease in their first fight, which ends with Buffy forced to run away after her arm is injured. In their second fight, Buffy fares a little better, but was still losing until Sunday pressed her Berserk Button.
  • Decoy Antagonist: Sunday — credited as a special guest, and kicking Buffy's ass in their first fight, only to get dusted at the second one, in the same episode.
  • Dark Action Girl: Sunday is one of the few vampires that give Buffy a run for her money.
  • Description Cut:
    Willow: Is Buffy in danger?
    Xander: She's in a holding pattern, we've got some time.
    [Cut to Buffy getting beaten up by Sunday]
  • Does This Make Me Look Fat?:
    Dav: Does this sweater make me look fat?
    Sunday: No, the fact that you're fat makes you look fat. That sweater just makes you look purple.
  • Face-Revealing Turn:
    Buffy: God, I was worried that something had happened to you... [Eddie turns to reveal his Game Face] ...and of course it has, 'cause you're a vampire.
  • Failed Attempt at Drama: Buffy is glaring through the skylight at the vampires looking through her looted stuff.
    Buffy: Laugh all you want, this time we play it my way. And the rules are just going to be a little bit— [skylight breaks under her]
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Buffy is reassured after defeating the vampire gang that college will be just like high school after all. "At least we know what to expect." Cue the escaping vampire (Tom) mook being tasered by camouflaged men in balaclavas toting heavy firepower.
    • Professor Walsh's specialty is "operant conditioning", e.g. behaviour modification.
    • For the next episode — Giles asks Buffy, "The evil is this way?" She replies, "My room is."
  • Felony Misdemeanor: The vampire gang raids the rooms of their victims. Spying on them through the skylight, Buffy remarks:
    Buffy: Oh! That's my skirt! You're never going to fit in it with those hips! We have to kill them!
  • Friendship Moment: A lonely, depressed and injured Buffy runs into Xander at the Bronze, who crouches down before her, proposal-like, and tells her: "You're my hero. Now let's go put that bitch in the ground!"
  • Game Face: Sunday doesn't even bother using hers, except to threaten an underling... until Buffy starts to kick her ass.
  • Heroic BSoD: College life is taking it's toll on Buffy and with her friends busy, she's a bit unfocused which allows Sunday, whom Buffy could easily defeat, to get an advantage over her the first time. Second time, after Buffy done some soul searching (and especially when her class protector award is broken), not so much.
  • Heroic Second Wind: Sunday breaking Buffy's Class Protector Award pisses Buffy off enough to take her out.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Loads of this from Buffy — e.g. saying "I've gotta stay sharp" while missing the vampire she was expecting sneaking up behind her, and reprimanding Giles for having an affair with a younger woman — Giles politely avoids bringing up Angel.
  • Improvised Weapon: Buffy swats one vampire with a tennis racket — the blow breaks off the handle, forming a perfect stake.
  • Ironic Echo: "Lose your way?"
  • Jerkass: The professor in the Pop Culture class that publicly humiliates a confused Buffy when she tries to audit it and see if it's full.
  • Kick the Dog: Sunday breaks Buffy's Class Protector Award right in front of her, just to be a bitch and hoping to demoralize her. Instead, she just royally pisses Buffy off and gets herself dusted.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: Xander paying for his new car by working as a male stripper. He refuses to provide details.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Sunday's response to being staked is to indignantly put her hands on her hips before dusting.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Sunday's gang attack freshman loners, steal everything from their dorm room and leave a note claiming they've taken off because they can't handle the stress.
  • Man Hug: After glomping Willow and even Buffy's roommate whom he's never met before, Xander confirms with Oz that as manly men they don't need to hug.
  • Meet Cute: Buffy meets Riley Finn when she accidentally knocks a pile of heavy psychology textbooks onto his head. He takes it well.
  • Metaphorgotten: Xander talks to Buffy about overcoming her fear, then stops when he realises he's quoting from The Phantom Menace and Scarface (1983).
  • Mooks: Dav, Rookie, Tom, and Jerry.
  • Must Be Invited: The vampires are able to break into dormitory rooms because they are public accommodations, not homes.
    • Which doesn't tally with what we see later when Angel has to be asked to come in, unless he was just being polite.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: While beating up Buffy during their second fight, Sunday breaks Buffy's Class Protector Award, thinking it would break her spirit. Instead, it enraged her and gave her a second wind.
  • Not so Dire: Buffy, prowling in the cemetery, asks, "Anything?" as if asking Willow if she's seen any vampires. Turns out she's asking about what college courses are available.
  • New Old Flame: Olivia for Giles.
  • Nice Guy: Eddie was the first person to befriend Buffy at UC Sunnydale.
  • Poster-Gallery Bedroom: The vampires keep a running tally of whether the poster they found in their victim's dorm was Claude Monet's "Waterlilies" or Gustav Klimt's "The Kiss"; the two are the most common prints in real-world college dorm rooms.
  • Red Shirt: Eddie
  • Rousing Speech: Buffy is feeling down after losing her first fight to Sunday, but fortunately runs into her Xander-shaped friend.
    Xander: Buffy, I've gone through some fairly dark times in my life, faced some scary things, among them the kitchen at The Fabulous Ladies Night Club. Let me tell you something, when it's dark and I'm all alone and I'm scared or freaked out or whatever, I always think, "What would Buffy do?" You're my hero. Ok, sometimes when it's dark and I'm all alone I think, "What is Buffy wearing?"
    Buffy: Can that be one of those things you never, ever, tell me about?
  • Security Blanket: Buffy doesn't really have one, unless you count Mr. Pointy…which, regardless, she will lose before the end of the episode thrown-staking Sunday. Eddie has his copy of Of Human Bondage — the fact that Sunday's gang leave it behind when stripping his room tips Buffy that Eddie hasn't just taken off.
  • Schmuck Bait: Sunday criticises Buffy's fashion sense, then punches her in the face when Buffy looks down at her clothes.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here:
    • Tom and Dav. Tom doesn't get far.
    • The opening scene sees Buffy and Willow at a graveyard of a recently deceased student knowing from the way he was killed that it was from a vampire. The two get so distracted in their talk that they don't see him rise from the grave. He creeps toward them to attack them, but notices the stakes next to Buffy and deduces she's the slayer. He wisely decides to leave them be and sneaks away with Buffy and Willow unaware of the vampire the whole time.
  • Slip into Something More Comfortable: Inverted; Buffy shows up unexpectedly at Giles' apartment and Olivia answers the door wearing only his shirt. Olivia subsequently leaves the scene saying, "Let me slip into something a little... less comfortable."
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Sunday's skills are a match for Buffy's.
    Sunday: I'm Sunday, I'll be killing you here in a minute or so.
    Buffy: You know that threat gets more frightening every time I hear it.
    Stoner Vamp: Uhh... are we gonna fight? Or is there just gonna be a monster sarcasm rally?
  • Stern Teacher/Red Baron:
    Walsh: I'm Professor Walsh. Those of you who fall under my good graces will come to know me as Maggie. Those of you who don't will come to know me by the name my TA's use and think I don't know about, "The Evil Bitch Monster of Death."
  • Special Effect Failure: When the vamps enter Eddie's dorm room, their reflections can be seen in the mirror near the door.
  • The Stoic: Guess who...
    Willow: How can you be so calm?
    Oz: Long, arduous hours of practice.
  • The Stoner: Rookie.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Sunday gets annoyed at times because her minions are a bit immature and dimwitted.
  • Talk About That Thing:
    Xander: Prank? Oh, the room. Well some friends of Buffy's played a funny joke, and they took her stuff. And now she wants us to help get it back from her friends who sleep all day and have no tans.
    Willow: Oh! Those friends!
  • That Came Out Wrong/Just Like Making Love:
    Willow: It's just, in high school, knowledge was pretty much frowned upon. You really had to work to learn anything. But here, the energy, the collective intelligence... It's like this force, this penetrating force, and I can just feel my mind opening up, you know, and letting this place just thrust into and— and spurt knowledge into... That sentence ended up in a different place than it started out in.
  • That One Boss: In-universe, Sunday is initially this for Buffy.
  • Throwing Off the Disability: Sunday busts Buffy's left arm pretty bad in their first fight. But thanks to Buffy's Healing Factor, her arm isn't broken in the final showdown with Sunday, it's just sore.
    Buffy: And for the record... the arm is hurt. NOT broken. (Punches Sunday across the room with her left hand)
  • Too Happy to Live: Just when Buffy finally finds a new friend that's as confused as she, Eddie gets vamped.
  • Tough Room: Buffy says this after her "drop in" joke doesn't land.
  • Villain Ball: Sunday has the better of Buffy for most of the episode, even managing to sprain her arm. When she seemingly has Buffy at her mercy, she deliberately breaks Buffy's Class Protector Award under the belief that it would demoralize her further. Instead, she pisses Buffy off enough to get her to pull off a Heroic Second Wind and dust her.
    Buffy: When you look back at this, in the three seconds it takes to turn to dust, I think you'll find the mistake was touching my stuff.
  • Use Your Head:
    Sunday: What about breaking your arm? [grabs Buffy's other arm] How'd that feel?
    Buffy: Let me answer that with a head butt. [she does and sends Sunday staggering]
  • Weapon Twirling: Buffy does this with Mr. Pointy, followed by an Offhand Backhand staking of Sunday. She's back! (…but loses Mr. Pointy in the process.)
  • Your Door Was Open: The door to Giles' home — the beginning of a Running Gag for this season.
  • You Can Barely Stand: Buffy gets a rather cool line:
    Sunday: What about breaking your arm, (grabs at Buffy's left arm) how'd that feel.
    Buffy: Let me answer that with a head butt. (she does and sends Sunday staggering) And for the record, the arm is hurt, (punches Sunday, sending her flying) not broken.
  • You Remind Me of X: Buffy momentarily thinks she sees Angel in the Bronze.