Welcome Back to the Hellmouth: “Bad Eggs”

bad-eggs

I almost hate to admit it, but I kind of understand the temptation to put cowboy vampires (vampire cowboys?) in Buffy … at some point. Maybe not in this episode, which is the Buffy equivalent of when you try to make pasta sauce out of whatever’s in your cupboard and while it might technically contain tomatoes, at least, and hold together in some way, that doesn’t mean it was a good idea.

But if you were writing a show set in southern California you might at some point think about history, and then want to put something Olde in — not a serious part of history, nothing too real, but something of the Pop Cultural West, maybe — and it might occur to you that there were cowboys, right, at some point, and heck, maybe some of ‘em got turned! Why not.

Let me answer that: BECAUSE THIS EPISODE, IS WHY NOT.

On the other hand, I present to you: the mall. The mall at which Buffy and Joyce are shopping, as the episode opens; the mall that is somehow the Platonic ideal of Nineteen-Nineties American Mall As I Knew Them. The white tile. The food court. The lighting. The sad hallway to the bathrooms — why were they always so sad, those hallways? — that, in this case, also leads to the very, very dark arcade.

The mall is so perfect you could use it as the foundation for a thesis about malls in ‘90s American television.

This is not that thesis.

Season 2, Episode 12, “Bad Eggs
Written by: Marti Noxon
Directed by: David Greenwalt
Original airdate: January 12, 1998
Rewatch date: January 15, 2018 FOR STUPID REASONS that I would like to say are because I was a very busy woman with a social life but are more like “It’s January” “I’m a little depressed” and “I downloaded Animal Crossing and that was a foolish mistake.” I DID go see a band on the 12th, but it was an early show and thus I have no excuse, really.

“I killed my Gigapet!”

The problem with the perfect mall is that the mall scene contains exchanges like this:

“You looked like a streetwalker.”
“But a thin streetwalker!”

I know that teenage girls (and those of us who are no longer teenage girls) can have unrealistic expectations of their bodies that are fed by the media, but there is a particular horror in watching a show that was so proud to give us this amazing female character … make this extremely slender female character say stuff like this.

But lo, it gets worse. This is not the worst line in this episode. We’ll get there. Be patient.

There are occasional moments of goodness in “Bad Eggs,” and one of them is Buffy using all the cliches of the spurned girlfriend against Lyle Gorch when she fights him in the arcade. “You promised you’d never cheat on me again,” she says, cueing the would-be victim that this is not a nice guy and upending the idea of the cheated-on woman as a victim. Here she is, wrath itself. Their dialogue is uncomfortably gendered, even as Lyle realizes she’s the Slayer, but it doesn’t rattle Buffy. Not coming from a Gorch; why would she care? “Oh, they say they’ll call,” she cracks as he runs off.

It’s a little taste of what’s to come, two episodes down the road, from someone whose words do have the capacity to hurt. And with that in mind, it’s all a lot rougher.

Another moment of goodness comes when Buffy has to explain to her mom, who is waiting in the food court (of course), why she is late and does not have the dress Joyce asked her to pick up. Joyce bemoans Buffy’s lack of responsibility, which is exactly as unfair as all parents are when you’re 16, and asks if she thinks about anything other than boys and clothes.

Buffy: Saving the world from vampires.
Joyce: I swear, sometimes I have no idea what goes on in your head.

Buffy told her mom! She told her! And it went over about as well as it possibly could … for now. But she tried, in her own Buffy way, irreverently, flippantly, but honestly. She wants Joyce to know; she wants her mother to be proud of her, but she can’t ask for that. Not for pride, not for support, not for understanding. It’s a tiny scene, but it says so much about how the Slayer is isolated, even when she has friends who know her secrets.

Those friends, or at least some of them, are very busy making out, because this episode is also about sex ed and eggs and … uh … demon babies, I guess. All of the smooching leads somewhere, since “Surprise” is the next episode, but right now it’s just Xander and Cordy and their aggressively loud lip-smacking/face-chewing, with interruptions for overtures of professed loathing.

(Their smooching will be part of the loop of smacky television kisses that plays on endless repeat in my own personal hell.)

Cordy will make out with Xander, but will she raise an egg baby with him? Is there a terrible outfit at some point in this episode? Does a bear shit in the woods? The answer, of course, is yes. Buffy, having missed teen health, is a single parent to her own very special egg.

Which, frankly, seems preferable to having to share eggsponsibilities with a teenage boy. (The people behind this egg simulation have checklists. They are not fucking around. For reasons.) We had egg babies in fifth grade, and the whole single parent question was never raised. We did not co-parent. We made our eggs little felt sleeping bags (or our mothers did) and kept them in the jumbo-sized matchboxes we had for lighting our potbelly stove, and we named them things like Juniper.

We had two eggs and can only remember one’s name. We were a terrible egg mother.

(We love Joyce’s backseat parenting, though.)

Our eggs did not contain evil pipe-cleaners that are still wearing their polka-dot squid Halloween costumes. Is it cheating, on the creepiness scale, that one of the pipe-cleaner aliens puts its pipe-cleaner tentacle right in Buffy’s ear? Ear things are always gross (thank you, Wrath of Khan) and at this point, Buffy was still learning on horror-movie soundtrack cues, and leaning hard, to the point where parts of the pipe-cleaner-squid plot are more effective than they maybe deserve to be. If, let’s say, you’re a person who covers her ears at scary previews because the music is such a hardwired cue.

Speaking of egg-parenting, and distant memories of school, let me pose a question: How often did your high school classes get canceled? Because ours … did not. Admittedly, my high school was at least half a mile (probably more) from anything except the home of the boy I crushed on for three years or so, so there was nowhere for us to go. But classes didn’t just not happen, as they seem to do in Sunnydale with alarming regularity. Teen health gets canceled because the teacher vanishes. What do the kids do when they aren’t immediately in the library, faintly wondering if something weird happened to the missing teacher? Do they … play a sport? Make out in the darkroom? Just sit outside and gossip? (Along the same lines: School ends at 2:30? What kind of school is this? And she can just stay in the library until 5:30? California is/was weird.)

The gossip in the library is somewhat flat on account of Buffy and Willow are sluggish and monosyllabic, and Xander boiled his young. This one time, Xander gets off easy where the Creatures of Sunnydale High are concerned. Willow, though alien-drugged, is not so dumb as to not notice how weird Xander and Cordelia are being, and if you just flinched while remembering the moment when she finally finds out about those two, you were not alone. I preemptively cringed for at least two-thirds of this episode and the next one.

The entire egg-possession plotline, well … it goes nowhere. Some people get possessed. Some don’t. Buffy escapes possession because she comes home from patrolling/making out with Angel (more on that in a moment) and finds her egg waking up. (Buffy keeps an iron in her bedroom, which seemed absurd at first but on second thought seems pretty wise, given her profession.) The teacher did it, the mother monster (which looks like a wet tarp) is in the basement, no one ever discusses how weird it is that monster eggs look just like chicken eggs. Everyone gets possessed, even Giles and Joyce, but even that isn’t enough to get Buffy ungrounded after her mom catches her in her room fully dressed at two in the morning. For some reason there is an entire shed of axes on school grounds. The cowboy vampires show up just in time to be a pain in the ass. One gets eaten. No one is sad.

Pre-full-school-possession, the actual worst line happens:

Buffy: “And your egg isn’t acting odd or anything?”
Cordelia: “It’s an egg, Buffy. It doesn’t emote.”
[she looks for an escape from Buffy’s weirdness] “Shaniece! Is that your real hair?”

Sure, Cordelia is tactless as all get out, but she just said that to one of Sunnydale’s rare black students — a girl who has no lines of dialogue and looks just delighted to have Cordy barreling down on her.

This was not a good choice.

So let’s talk about Angel, and the moment when you’re watching Buffy and you realize that you have, in fact, aged. I love Buffy and Angel, though I would never have qualified as a full-on shipper. But this time, when Buffy says to him, “When I look into the future, all I see is you. All I want is you,” I immediately started all-capsing: HONEY YOU’RE SIXTEEN, ANGEL, WHY ARE YOU ENCOURAGING THIS.

But that’s the point of Angel, isn’t it? He should know better, but he doesn’t, being somewhat emotionally stunted and probably living off rats for much of the last hundred years or two. He’s an older man and a commentary, intentionally or no, on the kind of older men who need to date much younger woman. (Oh, the irony.) Boreanaz is so mild, so convincing as the exact kind of distantly committed hot dude I would’ve fallen for in high school, that I can see exactly why he’s everything to Buffy even when I want her to push him into an open grave and vanish before he can climb out. He’s dangerous and safe at the same time.

For now, anyway. For now he is the person for whom Buffy will break every rule.

Oh, my heart.

MISCELLANY

  • Why would Everyday Woman be closed when the food court is open?
  • Why are there so many scruffy dudes with earrings in our heroines’ health class
  • Giles, casually reading in the library cage the entire time the teens discuss their egg babies. A new level of casual yet committed reader. A level to which I aspire.
  • Every time there’s a scene with Buffy going to sleep or waking up I think about makeup remover. And sleeping in a bra. And how unlikely that is.
  • Best foreshadowing moment: the cut to the IN LOVING MEMORY headstone when Angel and Buffy start making out in the graveyard.
  • Oh my god the library sign: Sunnydale High School Web Site Coming
  • I’m a little obsessed with how often it’s very obviously the stunt doubles. I feel sort of affectionate about this. It’s so of a different era. And Buffy’s double could probably pick Buffy up with one hand.
  • Xander’s face when he knocks out Cordelia, wow.

HEY, THAT GUY! FACTOR Those Gorch brothers have been busy. One was, most entertainingly, a V dealer on True Blood; the other has been on 156 episodes of Cold Case, which I assume means he’s one of the leads.
DOES BUFFY GET INJURED? Well, she escapes possession, and that’s what counts.
WORST FASHION CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY Pretty sure Willow killed another Muppet
IMPORTANT THING THAT NEVER COMES UP AGAIN I just reminded myself that the surviving Gorch brother does make a second appearance. A loose end, tied.
IN HOW MANY WAYS DOES XANDER NOT DESERVE WILLOW’S AFFECTION All the ways that involve broom closets and bad excuses
WHO GETS LOCKED IN THE LIBRARY CAGE No need to lock anyone up when Giles is just chilling in there, catching up on his ancient mythology.
DO BUFFY AND ANGEL FAIL TO COMMUNICATE They’re doing so good right now. Of course.

Welcome Back to the Hellmouth: “Bad Eggs”

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