Mark Watches ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’: S02E13 – Surprise

In the thirteenth episode of the second season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, all joy is destroyed forever. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy.

I liked this episode so much, and that’s why it pains me how upsetting it is. AND THIS IS ONLY HALF OF THE STORY. Goddamn it! But in one episode, the writers manage to grow nearly every character in fascinating ways, introduce a hell of a plot, and then DESTROY ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING. oh god OH GOD.

I wanted to talk about one particular point that I’m actually not entirely sure on, and it’s something I think will either pan out in the second part, or I’ll be able to get a better perspective on it from all of you. The reveal that Jenny is actually Janna, of the Clan Kalderash, is so brilliant that my heart hurts in a million different places. It’s surprising and evil, a way to make her character conflicted and interesting, and I am totally on board with seeing how it will turn out.

But – and you knew this was coming – I am a bit hesitant about the use of the Romani culture on American television. There’s a lot of context that makes me feel this might be okay. First of all, Jenny has been portrayed in a positive light so far, and she’s not set up to be the villain purely because of her culture. Even when she’s forced into the role of antagonist by her uncle, it’s still shown to be a major source of conflict for her character. Still, her uncle isn’t that layered of a character, coming off as some overzealous sadist who wants someone else to suffer regardless of their moral standing.

It’s interesting to me that the show does go out of its way to draw the line between Drusilla, Jenny, and the culture they came from, stating very explicitly that Angel deserves the pain he gets because of what he did to their family and Clan. There is something here that could be used wonderfully if the culture is treated respectfully, but it’s one of the only things that’s regularly given a very superficial treatment by the writers of this show. (And let me just remind you all that the Romani culture considers “gypsy” an ethnic slur, so please avoid using it in a pejorative sense, okay? Obviously if you need to discuss the use of that word, that’s totally an acceptable context, but I think a lot of people genuinely have no clue that word is an incredibly oppressive slur. If you’re at all interested in reading more about the issue (and you should be!), I rather love Golden Zephyr on Tumblr, and you should check out their archive for a whole lot of educational goodness about being Romani.)

This issue, though, is paralleled well with every other character in this episode. The writers draw characters together in “Surprise,” which makes me nervous. You know this is only done so that they can tear them apart and Whedon can add another month to his lifespan, right? But in this episode, we finally see Willow and Oz together in a significant capacity. We see Xander attempt to convince Cordelia that perhaps they shouldn’t be so secretive about their feelings for one another, and then I suddenly find myself liking him a whole lot? And it’s not that I dislike Cordelia, because I am so endlessly fascinated by the constant complication of her character! But in this situation, I can see that she’s so desperate to keep up her reputation that she’ll hurt a guy she actually likes. Let’s not kid ourselves, either. I genuinely think both of them are more obsessed with being tough and emotionless than they’re willing to admit, and that deep down, the two appreciate each other a whole lot.

We also see that SPIKE HAS SURVIVED OH MY GOD YES. I seriously like his character, but now his role has been reversed in a way with Drusilla. It took me until “Surprise” to really feel out their relationship and Drusilla’s characterization. It’s a clever thing to make her birthday so close to Buffy’s, especially since we get to see Buffy’s birthday ruined as Drusilla’s progressively gets better. Part of that comes from Spike’s gift to her: The Judge. (Sorry, I need to do this: OH MY GOD IT’S BRIAN THOMPSON OH MY GOD IT’S THE ALIEN BOUNTY HUNTER FROM THE X-FILES OH MY GOD.) What’s so awesome about the introduction of The Judge is how the mere pieces of him provide such an important plot point for multiple characters without him ever actually being on screen. His arm is what causes Buffy to have to fight off vampires outside her own birthday party; it’s what causes the group to induct yet another person to their secret club (FUCK YES, PLEASE LET THIS MEAN THAT OZ IS AROUND MORE); and it forces Angel to (try to) leave Sunnydale to hide the arm far away from town. Jenny recognizes how perfect of an opportunity this is to separate Buffy and Angel, satisfying the request from her uncle. Bless Robia LaMorte, who plays this scene so believably. You can see the conflict on her face. She’s over-excited about the prospect, yet entirely nervous about what she’s doing to a man who saved her life. In that sense, she represents this fascinating division: Does she respect and honor the culture she came from, or does she judge a man for his deeds in the present?

However, I am ignoring the power and the heart at the very center of “Surprise”: Buffy and Angel. I can’t deny it anymore. The two have this brilliant, furious chemistry that is absolutely necessary to make this episode work. I know I had my doubts earlier, but I’m ready to discard them now: these two love each other. Watching Angel bid goodbye to Buffy on that shipping dock (WHICH IS NOT EVEN THE MOST AGONIZING SCENE IN THE EPISODE) is just too much for me to handle. Ugh, I am getting emotional just thinking about it. (Though, at the time I’m writing this, it’s 11:55am on the Sunday before this was posted, and I am also thinking about the season finale of Sherlock, and I think this is all just too much to handle.)

Can we all just agree that Buffy and Angel going to the factory where Drusilla’s party is at is just a bad idea? I was actually confused as to why Giles thought it was a good plan. It’s kind of not. Also, can we agree that Drusilla’s party looks like a goth club night? If I walked in on that, I wouldn’t think it was a gathering of vampires at all.

There are a few things during this scene that are wickedly clever, the first being the choice to have The Judge assemble before Angel and Buffy even arrive. There is absolutely no hope that they can stop this happening, and now there’s a demon who can bring about the Apocalypse roaming Sunnydale. Oh, and he’s invincible. Also, he sort of looks like a Smurf on steroids. SORRY TO PUT THAT IN YOUR HEAD.

I adored the choice to have The Judge spot Buffy and Angel spying on them, prompting one vicious confrontation between all of these characters. I am truly glad that Spike and Drusilla are antagonists because they’re the kind of villains who both love a good, cheesy monologue, and they don’t care about following what’s expected of them. They’re almost self-aware that they’re the bad guys, and they don’t care. They’re going to do what they want, and they’re going to pursue whatever it is that makes them feel good. Of course, they’re also a good parallel as a couple to Angel and Buffy. It’s like Spike and Drusilla are more of an intellectual couple. They’re overtly more sexual, and there are subtexts of control (for both parties) that they exchange with one another. I don’t just mean that they switched the role of caretaker, since Spike is now in a wheelchair and Drusilla has been healed. Their relationship seems to address the idea of power, and I’m fascinated how neither one seems to have more power than another.

It’s not that I think either Angel or Buffy controls the other. The post-escape scene in Angel’s apartment is just an interesting contrast to what we’ve seen of the other vampire couple. The two are much more emotional, eager to touch and assure the other of how much they love one another. There’s an inherent pain to their relationship, as if two lonely souls are finally finding a solace they thought didn’t exist. I’m not sure if this episode confirms that Angel and Buffy finally had sex, but I think it’s easy to read that when Angel wakes in the middle of the night and is barely clothed. I imagine there probably was some fandom drama regarding this, but I’m also curious if there was a larger criticism for showing a possibly sexual Buffy on television. Did this happen? I wasn’t paying attention to this show when it was on, so I have no idea if parents everywhere decried the loss of innocence on their television sets.

I can’t say I understand what the hell happens at the end of this episode. Clearly, Angel is in a whole lot of pain, and I’m sure it has something to do with Jenny’s task from her uncle. But the goddamn episode cuts to a “To be continued…” card as Angel is crying out Buffy’s name and I AM SO CONFUSED. Look, Angel’s a pretty tough vampire, so whatever is going on must be horrific for him to deal with.


About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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566 Responses to Mark Watches ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’: S02E13 – Surprise

  1. SosaLola says:

    The saddest moment for me was very short and can be easily dismissed: Xander calling his mom and her not recognizing him. He actually said, "Mom." And he's an only child. *hugs Xander*

  2. mgauck says:

    "There’s an inherent pain to their relationship, as if two lonely souls are finally finding a solace they thought didn’t exist."

    You totally get it… not giving anything away by saying this continues to play out through their relationship.

  3. RoseFyre says:

    Uhu, unf ab bar qbar n Qnja guernq lrg?

    Qnvyl Qnja Guernq gvzr!

    Qnja jnagrq gb fcraq gvzr jvgu Ohssl ba ure oveguqnl. Wblpr pbaivaprq Qnja gb yrg Ohssl unir gvzr jvgu ure sevraqf. Nyfb, fur jnf gbgnyyl rkcrpgvat Ohssl gb pbzr ubzr naq zbnarq n gba jura Ohssl pnyyrq naq fnvq fur jnf fgnlvat ng Jvyybj'f sbe n ubzrjbex guvat. "Jr onxrq lbh n pnxr naq rirelguvat! V urycrq!" Gura Ohssl znqr fbzr fbeg bs pbzzrag ba Qnja'f gnfgr va sbbq, naq Wblpr fnvq gung Qnja unq bayl urycrq yvpx gur onggre, abg pubfra gur erpvcr.

    Ohssl yngre gbyq Qnja gb fgnl njnl sebz nezf, jvgu ab bgure rkcynangvba tvira. "Nezf. Gurl'er rivy." "…Jung?"

    Nyfb, va Vaabprapr, Natryhf qvqa'g tb nsgre Qnja…lrg. Ur jnf cebonoyl cynaavat ba vg, ohg V guvax Jvyybj jnf fgvyy uvf svefg gnetrg, nsgre Ohssl'f frys-rfgrrz.

    Qnja'f va gur ynfg fprar bs Vaabprapr, gubhtu, naq qbrf vafvfg ba fvatvat gb Ohssl, hayvxr Wblpr. Naq jura Ohssl jba'g oybj bhg gur pnaqyr, fur tbrf gb qb fb, ohg fgbcf jura ure zbgure tvirf ure n ybbx, orpnhfr pyrneyl Wblpr unf svtherq bhg gung fbzrguvat vf jebat, vs abg jung.

    • SosaLola says:

      V qvqa'g xabj lbh jrer qbvat Qnja Qnvyl guernqf! Ner gurfr sebz gur pbzvpf jvgu Qnja cerfrag qhevat gur uvtu fpubby lrnef be lbhe bja gubhtugf?

      • NB2000 says:

        Zbfg bs gur guernqf fb sne unir orra jung gur vaqvivqhny pbzzragref guvax jnf unccravat, nygubhtu bppnfvbanyyl gurer ner zbzragf sebz gur pbzvpf cbfgrq (yvxr va zl pbzzrag orybj).

      • RoseFyre says:

        Zl bja gubhtugf. V unira'g ernq zbfg bs gur pbzvpf, gubhtu V'ir ernq fbzr.

        Naq gur Qnvyl Qnja Guernqf ner njrfbzr! V guvax n ohapu bs hf frrz gb or qbvat gurz, naq qvfphffvat gur bcgvbaf sbe jung fur pbhyq unir orra qbvat – jurgure gung'f cynlvat n ynetr ebyr be ab ebyr ng nyy, fhpu nf gur vqrn gung fur ernyyl unq gb or bhg bs gbja sbe pregnva cnegf bs Jung'f Zl Yvar gb jbex.

    • NB2000 says:

      V jnf tbvat gb fnir vg hagvy gur arkg erivrj, naq vs gurer'f n Qnja guernq V'yy ercrng vg, ohg gur Snyfr Zrzbevrf pbzvp vapyhqrf n synfuonpx gb Vaabprapr.

      Fcrpvsvpnyyl vg'f gur fprar jurer Natry pbzrf gb gur fpubby naq ubyqf Jvyybj ubfgntr, va gur nygrerq gvzryvar Qnja vf jnyxvat guebhtu gur unyyf jvgu Knaqre naq Jvyybj (pyrneyl gur jubyr ortvaavat bs gung fprar tbg fuvsgrq ohg gung'f jurer vg ortvaf) naq Natryf fraqf OBGU bs gurz bss gb gur yvoenel yrnivat Qnja oruvaq sbe gur "Pbzr urer V unir fbzrguvat gb fubj lbh" cneg. Fb vg'f Qnja gung Wraal gryyf gb trg njnl sebz uvz. Jura Wraal fgngrf gung ur'f abg Natry nalzber Jvyybj znantrf gb trg pybfr rabhtu gb chfu Qnja bhg bs gur jnl bayl sbe uvz gb teno ure vafgrnq. Fb gur erfg bs gur fprar jvgu Ohssl'f neeviny vf ynetryl gur fnzr (gur "svaqvat gur obqvrf bs nyy lbhe sevraqf" yvar trgf punatrq gb "fvfgre naq sevraqf"). Jura Ohssl pbyyncfrf ol gur jnyy ng gur raq bs gur fprar Qnja ehaf bire gb uht ure.

      • RoseFyre says:

        Uhu. V thrff Qnja jbhyq uheg zber guna Jvyybj, sbe Ohssl, fb gung'f jul Qnja. Gubhtu jul fur jbhyq or va gur uvtu fpubby ng gung cbvag…V thrff gur pbzvpf rfgnoyvfurq gung fur xabjf nobhg gur fhcreangheny ol gura? Orpnhfr hayrff gurl punatrq n YBG, Wblpr ernyyl pna'g.

        • NB2000 says:

          Lrnu V unir gb nqzvg guvf bar'f xvaq bs…abg nyy gung jryy vagrtengrq. Vg pbzcyrgryl punatrf gur ortvaavat bs gur fprar va n jnl gung qbrfa'g znxr frafr, jr ybfr gur erfbyhgvba bs Jvyybj svaqvat bhg nobhg Knaqre naq Pbeqryvn.

          Gur fnzr pbzvp nyfb unf n synfuonpx gb Cebcurpl Tvey gung fubjf Qnja va gur Znfgre'f ynve jura ur xvyyf Ohssl fb fur qrsvavgryl xabjf ng guvf cbvag. Wblpr ba gur bgure unaq, jryy gurl qba'g npghnyyl zragvba jung gur fvghngvba jvgu ure vf. Znlor jr'er fhccbfrq gb nffhzr fur fgvyy svaqf bhg va Orpbzvat Cneg Gjb (vs gung'f gehr gura V vzntvar Wblpr jnf Abg Unccl gb svaq bhg Qnja xarj).

          • RoseFyre says:

            Ubarfgyl, V guvax gur pbzvpf ner…fbzrjung jryy-qbar ohg abg ragveryl? Juvpu znl or orpnhfr gur Qnja ergpba vf nyfb fbzrjung jryy-qbar ohg abg ragveryl. V'z abg fher gur jevgref gbgnyyl gubhtug guebhtu jung ybtvpnyyl punatrq naq jung qvqa'g, fb zhpu nf gurl gubhtug "yrg'f vafreg Qnja vagb rirelguvat!" Orpnhfr fur jbhyqa'g unir orra gurer sbe rirel rirag rire, naq V xvaq bs srry yvxr gur jevgref jnagrq gb vafreg ure vagb nyy gur vzcbegnag fghss (gur Znfgre'f Ynve, guvf fprar), rira jura vg znxrf ab ybtvpny frafr sbe na 11 lrne byq gb or unatvat nebhaq, rira jura vg qbjatenqrf bgure punenpgref ol ure vafregvba – nf lbh fnvq, guvf fprar qbrfa'g qvfphff Jvyybj'f ernpgvba gb gur Knaqre/Pbeql erirny, naq jung V ernq bs gur bgure bar qbrfa'g zragvba gur snpg gung Knaqre vf gur bar jub fhttrfgrq PCE. Fb ol vafregvat Qnja naq tvivat ure NYY GUR GUVATF, vg uhegf Jvyybj naq Knaqre.

            • NB2000 says:

              Bu V qrsvavgryl nterr, gur srj zbzragf jr'er fubja srry ernyyl sbeprq naq gelvat gb nqq ure vagb fbzr rcvfbqrf whfg yrnqf gb gur fgbevrf snyyvat ncneg. V fhccbfr lbh pbhyq nyjnlf unaqjnir vg nf gur zbaxf orvat va n ovg bs n ehfu (ng yrnfg whqtvat ol gur bcravat bs Ab Cynpr Yvxr Ubzr gurl unq Tybel oernxvat gur qbbef qbja juvyr pnfgvat gurve fcryy)?

              naq jung V ernq bs gur bgure bar qbrfa'g zragvba gur snpg gung Knaqre vf gur bar jub fhttrfgrq PCE

              Vg'f npghnyyl jbefr, gurl gnxr gur vqrn njnl sebz uvz naq tvir vg gb Qnja vafgrnq. Nf lbh fnvq tvivat ure NYY BS GUR GUVATF naq guhf frevbhfyl qvzvavfuvat Jvyybj naq Knaqre'f ebyrf, obgu gurer naq va Vaabprapr.

              • RoseFyre says:

                Gehr, gur zbaxf jrer va n ehfu, ohg vg'f nyfb zragvbarq yngre gung Qnja jnf gur tbbq xvq, gur dhvrg bar – vg jnf yvxr fur jnf arire abgvprq. Gung'f gur ivrj V cersre gb tb jvgu – gung fur jnf whfg fbeg bs gurer, qvqa'g punatr nyy gung zhpu, orpnhfr gur rnfvrfg jnl sbe gur zbaxf gb vafreg ure jnf gb unir ure ABG znxr punatrf. Fb nyy gurfr punatrf znqr va gur pbzvpf…V cersre gb unaqjnir vg nf gur jevgref tbvat engure bireobneq – ohg lbh pna nyfb unaqjnir vg nf gur zbaxf abg univat gvzr, nf lbh fnvq. Rvgure jnl, vg'f abg qbar hore jryy.

  4. Shiyra says:

    "The writers draw characters together in “Surprise,” which makes me nervous. You know this is only done so that they can tear them apart and Whedon can add another month to his lifespan, right?"
    ^^^THIS x1,000,000
    You are not prepared in the least.

    "…but I’m also curious if there was a larger criticism for showing a possibly sexual Buffy on television. Did this happen?"
    Hahaha! Two words: frnfba fvk.

    I'm not going to touch on anything important in this episode cuz everyone already has gotten to it, but I just want to say something about Oz. He is so awesome! Is it just me, or does he seem relieved and even more relaxed after he finds out that vampires are real?

  5. buffyfan96 says:

    First, I love your blog! I've never met someone who didn't know ANYTHING about Buffy. I got most of it spoiled for me. :/

    But I want to say that a common mistake is that Drusilla is the "gypsy" girl that got Angel cursed. That isn't true. It was someone else. A lot of people get confused about that!

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