Buffy is still hurting because Parker Abrams dumped her after a one night stand. In a daydream during one of Professor Walsh's classes (about the role of the id in Freudian psychology) she saves Parker's life and he swears to do anything to get her back. A dialogue with Willow later shows how much Buffy is not over him yet.
In the real world, Xander uses a fake ID gets a job as a bartender at the on-campus pub. Buffy stops by the pub and sees Parker entertaining a girl at one of the booths. She bumps into Riley, who gives her the lowdown on Parker's womanizing habits. Buffy pulls up a stool at the bar, where Xander is having some difficulty getting into the groove of the job. Fed up, Buffy is getting ready to leave when she is stopped by several college boys who insist that she join them in enjoying some beer. Meanwhile, Oz and Willow are in The Bronze together, but he seems to have a connection to the singer Veruca when she gets on the stage with her band Shy.
The next morning, Willow doesn't just have to cope with Veruca having called her a "groupie" when Oz introduced them and the feeling that Oz is mentally absent, but also with Buffy — who seems to be suffering from "Black Frost" in more than the usual way. She seems to be dumbing down more and more just sitting watching a Luscious Jackson video. That evening when Buffy drinks herself further and further into idiocy we get a glimpse why: Jack has a chemical lab set up and is putting more into the beer than just malt.
Xander finally sends Buffy home, but her four drinking buddies decide to stay for a while longer. Colm leaves to go to the bathroom and soon emerges as a violent Neanderthal. The Neanderthal rushes at Xander and knocks him out. Xander wakes up to the Neanderthal leaning over him and the other three students cowering on the other side of the room. The Neanderthal emits a primal yell and the other three are overcome with violent convulsions. Backs hunch over, brows thicken, arms grow longer and more muscular, voices deepen, hair on their head and facial hair becomes long, dirty, and wild, and they gain hairy chests, backs, arms, legs. The four Neanderthals surround Xander, who chases them away with his lighter. The four Neanderthals are now loose in the world. Xander finds out that the owner of the pub has been brewing something as revenge for twenty years of college kids taunting him. While the boys escape to the streets of Sunnydale, Xander gets Giles to help. They find Buffy drawing cave paintings on her dorm wall saying "Parker bad!" Giles and Xander are unable to keep Buffy in her room when she gets a craving for more beer.
Meanwhile, Willow confronts Parker with what she says he has done to Buffy. He turns his charm on her, and she seems to be swayed by it, but then she reveals she has been playing along with a rant about how primitive men are just when the four Neanderthal students burst into the room. They knock Willow and Parker unconscious and start a fire that rapidly burns out of control. Xander catches up with Buffy and when they see smoke from the Neanderthals' fire, they rush to help.
Though afraid of the flames and unable to figure out how to use an extinguisher anymore, Buffy saves Willow and after hitting him Parker. In the end, Parker thanks Buffy for saving his life, and apologizes just the way she had daydreamed it just to get knocked unconscious by Buffy's club, much to the approval of the rest of the gang.
- An Aesop: Too much beer is bad for you. Or perhaps all men are Neanderthals at heart.
- Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Lampshaded with the beer that turns the college kids and Buffy into neanderthals.
- All Cavemen Were Neanderthals: The cavemen that the college students are turned into are like this, though in this case it was the result of a punitive magic spell and thus no one was trying for scientific accuracy.
- All Men Are Perverts:Willow: There are men, better men, wherein the mind is stronger than the penis.Xander: Pfft. NOTHING CAN DEFEAT THE PENIS! [off their looks] Too loud. Very unseemly.
- Answer Cut: "Where is Giles?"
- Asshole Victims: The frat boys.
- Willow appears to be falling for Parker's charms, but then she laughs and tells Parker what she thinks of him.
- Also, caveman Buffy picking up a fire extinguisher, looking at the fire, looking at the extinguisher, figuring something out... and then tossing the extinguisher at the fire and looking puzzled.
- Buffy clubbing Parker instead of the expected Golden Moment.
- The Bartender: Xander gets a job as bartender and looks forward to acting as The Confidant to pretty girls, only to get run off his feet and insulted by arrogant frat boys. When one pretty girl does look ready to pour out her troubles, Xander brushes her off because he's too busy worrying about Buffy getting plastered with those same frat boys. He ends up quitting his job in a huff because the owner brewed up some cursed beer that turned those drinking it into Neaderthals. Some people just can't be satisfied.
- Beauty Is Never Tarnished: The frat boys end up devolving into neanderthals physically as well as mentally, but Buffy still looks the same. Slightly justified in that Xander sent her home while the frat boys kept drinking.
- Broken Aesop: The reason the beer caused the problem is because someone tampered with it. The plot would not change in any way if the beverage were soda. The moral, if there is one, is "Don't accept food or drink from people who hate you," or possibly "Be polite to waiters and bartenders, because if they snap they can totally mess you up." Which aren't actually bad lessons, albeit a little situational. But as for the beer, the intended moral target? Foamy. In fact, the episode was made to procure funding from the anti-alcohol lobby, who then noticed the broken message and refused to pay up.
- Buffy Speak: Buffy is suffering the afterness of a bad night of badness.
- Beer good. Foamy. Comforting.
- Call-Back: To "The Pack" when Willow appears to be falling for Evil!Xander's spiel, only to reveal she was playing him all along.
- Also to "Graduation Day, Part 2," where Buffy says that her mind is so fried all she can process is "Tree pretty, fire bad."
- Can't Get Away with Nuthin': A common danger on the Hellmouth.
- The Casanova: Parker; confirmed by Riley.
- Chekhov's Classroom: Professor Walsh's lecture on the id.
- Comically Missing the Point: Xander asking a customer if he wants his ice water on the rocks. caveman Buffy and the fire extinguisher.
- Crash-Into Hello: Buffy spills the beer of both Riley and the frat boys.
- Daydream Surprise: Buffy keeps fantasizing a Rescue Romance with Parker. The second dream involves Parker with his shirt open, holding flowers and ice cream.
- Death Glare: Buffy to Giles when he suggests she not drink beer.Xander: Giles, don't make caveman Slayer unhappy.
- Delicious Distraction: Several examples, though Willow's offer of soup fails to distract Oz from Veruca.
- Devolution Device: The beer.Bartender: My brother-in-law's a warlock; he showed me how to do it.
- Drowning My Sorrows: Buffy is still distraught over Parker's lack of interest in her.
- Everybody Lives: Buffy dusts three vampires in a dream sequence but, other than that, no one dies in this episode, not even the bar owner.
- Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting: There's more vampire kung-fooey in Buffy's Daydream Surprise than usual, including cheesy action music.
- Foreshadowing: Buffy as a Cave Slayer? It turns out Sineya/The first slayer speaks somewhat like her in the season finale...
- Willow seems to express fatigue with "men and their man-ness" in this episode, foreshadowing her break-up in the next episode. Her next lover turns out to be female.
- Fur Bikini: Unfortunately averted, as Xander laments in "Something Blue".Buffy: Anyone remember when Buffy had the fun beer-fest and went One Million Years B.C.?Xander: Sadly without the fuzzy bikini.
- Get Your Mind Out of the Gutter: Buffy calls Willow "Gutter Brain" when Willow takes Buffy's account of the previous night to involve group sex, not drinking beer with four guys.
- Golden Moment: Spoofed; Parker learns his lesson, only to get clubbed on the head.
- Held Gaze: Willow is alarmed over the way Oz and Veruca are staring at each other as she sings.Willow: Buff, have you heard of this Veruca chick? Dresses like Faith, voice like an albatross?
- Hulk Speak: Caveman Buffy speak this way.
- Hypocritical Humor: Willow was quite happy to be Oz's groupie; now she gripes over Veruca pigeonholing her as one.
- Karma Houdini: The bar owner who caused the whole mess gets off with nothing worse than Xander telling him "You're a bad man."
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: Caveman Buffy clubs Parker over the head again; Giles, Willow and Xander just shrug and walk off.
- No, You: Buffy and the drunk college boys. "No, you stupid!"
- Nubile Savage: A cursed batch of beer turns a bunch of frat boys into cavemen, with crooked teeth, heavy brow ridges, plenty of extra hair - and Buffy, who had plenty to drink, looks like Buffy with sexy-unkempt hair (though Xander cut her off sooner than the others).
- Over-the-Shoulder Carry: As you do when you're a Neanderthal.
- Painful Transformation: The college boys turning into cavemen.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: The fake moustache Xander wears on his fake ID.Xander: What gives it away?Willow: Looking at it?
- Perverted Sniffing: Caveman slayer sniffing Xander. At the end of the episode, Willow is seated on a park bench with Buffy crouched next to her and Buffy sniffs her hair as well. Note that Hyena possesed Xander sniffed Buffy in "The Pack", so the sniffing has gone full circle.
- Phlebotinum-Induced Stupidity: Buffy drinks cursed beer which turns her into a cavewoman. (Although she still looks the same, the guys who drink the beer literally look like cavemen. Granted, Xander expressly cut her off before the rest) Ends with a Spoof Aesop:Xander: And was there a lesson in all this? huh? What did we learn about beer?Cave Buffy: Foamy.Xander: Good, just as long as that's clear.
Giles: I can't believe you served Buffy that beer.Xander: I didn't know it was evil.Giles: You knew it was beer!
- Of course, the beer itself wasn't a good idea for someone who can literally punch through car doors.
- Quizzical Tilt: caveman Buffy knows that fire extinguisher can help her with the fire, but just can't seem to work out how...
- Rescue Romance: Parodied when Buffy keeps having a Daydream Surprise in which she saves Parker from vampires and earns his eternal gratitude and apologies for dumping her to chase other women. After Buffy drinks some cursed beer and turns into a Nubile Savage she saves Parker from a burning building and gets this, accompanied by the requisite orchestral music...only for Cavewoman!Buffy to club him over the head and walk off.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: The frat boys.
- Shaped Like ItselfWillow: I'm tired of you men, and your... man-ness.
- Space Whale Aesop: The episode was written so the show could apply for funding from the National Office of Drug Control Policy, but they rejected it because the Fantastic Aesop was too fantastical.At least one show, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," was rejected after it showed itself to be immune to the drug office's worldview. "Drugs were an issue, but it wasn't on-strategy. It was otherworldly nonsense, very abstract and not like real-life kids taking drugs. Viewers wouldn't make the link to our message," says someone in the drug-policy office camp who read and helped reject it. 
- Spoof AesopXander: And was there a lesson in all this? huh? What did we learn about beer?Cave Buffy: Foamy.Xander: Good, just as long as that's clear.
- Sophisticated as Hell: The college boys.College Boy #1: All the socio-economical and psychological problems inherent in modern society can be solved by the judicious application of way too much beer.
- Stock Footage: The shot of the university immediately after the opening credits is re-used from "The Freshman" as Buffy can be seen walking among the crowd in her outfit from that episode.
- Swivel-Chair Antics: Caveman Buffy manages to fall off one.
- Technicolor Science: Brewing up the cursed beer.
- Tempting Fate:Willow: I tell you, men haven't changed since the Dawn of Time! [cavemen burst in]
- The Exit Is That Way: Xander gently guides Buffy away from the other cave kids.
- This Is My Boomstick: Xander scares a quartet of college kids-cum-cavemen with his lighter. "Fire angry!"
- Think Nothing of It:Parker: Buffy, I don't know what to say. After the way I've treated you, and now I owe you my life.
Buffy: It's nothing.
Parker: It's everything. You're everything. And I'm going to do whatever it takes to get you to forgive me. Do you think that you might—
[Buffy snaps out of her daydream at the sight of Parker chatting up another girl]
- Title DropBuffy: Ow, oh, want beer. Like beer. Beer good.Xander: Beer bad. Bad, bad beer. What the hell am I saying?
- Throw 'Em to the Wolves: Discussed when Buffy ponders revenge on Parker.Buffy: If he were tied and gagged and left in a cave that vampires happen to frequent it wouldn't really be like I killed him, really.
- Very Special Episode: The episode attempted to have a moral lesson about drinking alcohol, mainly to take advantage of the Office of National Drug Control Policy giving shows money for doing anti-drug episodes. However, the show ended up not getting any money, mainly because the curse on the beer turned people into cavemen and because of this:Xander: And was there a lesson in all this? Huh? What did we learn about beer?Buffy: Foamy.Xander: Good, just as long as that's clear.