Monday, June 7, 2010

Buffy 1x04 - "Teacher's Pet"

Frankly, "Teacher's Pet" is a pretty uninteresting episode of Buffy, which is a bit of a surprise because it comes from David Greenwalt (who was a frequent contributor to Buffy and also a co-creator of Angel). But this is his first episode, so I'll give him a pass. Besides, we don't really know how much the writing credit means. In the Buffy writer's room, as in most shows, the script is a collaborative effort. So let's not go passing out blame on this one. Check out my thoughts after the jump.

"Those that can, do. Those that can't, laugh at those who can... do."


Unlike "Witch," this episode has no real twists or turns. It turns out to be basically what you think it's going to be - the teacher is actually a giant mantis who wants to prey on Xander. Duh. Predictability's not always a problem, because a lackluster story can sometimes be saved by good performances or production or a couple particularly memorable scenes, but nothing much stands out here. The episode spotlights Xander but doesn't give him anything interesting to do, keeping him firmly in the "goofy friend" role rather than really developing him. As a result of that, there winds up being some rather funny dialogue moments, but it's not enough to save this episode. Overall, I think it's the weakest thing I've reviewed so far, and yes that does include the film and the unaired pilot.

Probably my favorite part of this episode is the beginning and the ending, involving Dr. Gregory. In a show of this kind, it's typical for the relationship between students and their teachers to be largely adversarial, so it's kind of surprising when a teacher takes a genuine interest in Buffy as a student, noticing (rightly) that she's actually rather intelligent. Then, of course he gets killed off. Heaven forbid Buffy have a pleasant educational relationship. In any case, this leads to a rather touching moment at the end of the episode where Buffy picks up Dr. Gregory's glasses and puts them in his coat pocket, both of which have been left in his former classroom, apparently forgotten by everybody else. Dr. Gregory is little more than cannon fodder, but the episode unexpectedly shows him some respect. Also, the fact that he fell prey to the She-Mantis implies that he was a virgin even at his advanced age, which the show could easily have played for a laugh but chose not to. Good call.

But right after this, the episode ends on with a revelation--there are still eggs remaining, and one of them hatches. Usually in later seasons of Buffy something like this would indicate further importance to the ongoing story, but this one is never followed up on. In this case, it's just a monster movie cliché that's thrown in to pay homage to the show's horror influences, not dissimilar to the final shot of the trophy "Witch." I think the episode might have played better without it, by leaving us with the unexpectedly quiet and contemplative moment that preceded it, but it is what it is.


  1. You know, I'd forgotten about the glasses thing at the end. Now that you've reminded me, I almost want to rethink this episode's quality. Almost. But not quite--it's just not very good.

  2. At least the final shot in "Witch" is brought up again later, if only briefly, by Oz in season 2 (or 3? I forget). That, for me, was a fun moment, because only people who have been watching every episode from the beginning get the joke.

  3. I completely forgot that. In fact, I still don't remember what you're talking about. I'm sure I'll pick up on it now that I'm looking for it.

  4. If I remember properly, he does a double take or otherwise indicates that the trophy in the case has something wrong with it--but maybe that's my memory trying to fill in its own gaps.

  5. It goes down something like this: at the beginning of an episode, he's looking at the trophy case with Willow and says something like "Isn't it weird how this cheerleader's eyes seem to follow you around wherever you go?" Then Buffy comes along and the plot of the episode starts.