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BtVS 1.5 “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date”
written by Rob Des Hotel and Dean Batali, dir. David Semel

This episode (acronymically referred to as NKaBotFD) is rarely mentioned in fans’ “best of” lists, but in building the Buffy mythos, it contributes more than it has been given credit for. First, even more than in the previous “Witch” episode, where Buffy’s slayer duties conflicted with her desire to regain the popularity associated with being a cheerleader, NKaBotFD highlights one of the show’s essential themes: the conflicts between our hero’s “normal” life and the responsibilities of her vocation. I was noticing this as I watched it, and then I watched the featurette in which Joss Whedon says the very same thing. (Either I am very bright, or I have a very retentive memory, or I can read Joss Whedon’s mind. Whichever it is, I’m giving credit to Whedon.)

Another contribution of this episode—several, in fact—quite a few quotes that have become iconic “Buffyisms,” starting with the teaser, in which Buffy introduces herself to the vampire she’s about to slay: “I’m Buffy, and you’re….history!” {stake!—poof!} Others:

Giles warns Buffy to conceal her secret identity and she promises, “Well, in that case I won’t wear my button that says, ‘I’m a Slayer. Ask me how!'” (I actually have that button as a refrigerator magnet; I don’t have a lot of fannish swag, but I love that button.)

This classic exchange in which Buffy and Xander discuss her (entire lack of) love life:

XANDER: You’re acting a little overly, aren’t you? I mean, you could have any guy in school.
BUFFY: He’s not any guy. He’s more…Oweny.

XANDER: Sure, he’s got a certain Owenosity, but that’s not hard to find. I mean, a lotta guys read. I can read.

In three lines, three different examples of “Slayer slang” as described by Michael Adams: using an adverb (overly) as an adjective, or else to describe an implied adjective (here perhaps “emotional” or “upset”); adding -y to a noun to make it an adjective (Oweny); and the creation of an entirely new word: Owenosity, which appears to mean the essence of “Owen.”

Confronted by Giles with yet another impending prophecy of doom, Buffy insists she can go on her date with Owen and still be “on call” for Slayer duty, saying, “If the apocalypse comes, beep me!” We never see this beeper again after this episode, or anything similar, such as a cell-phone—the Scoobies are limited to land-lines until season seven (a vampire does use a cell phone in season 3)—but this line is frequently quoted as quintessentially Buffy.

Cordelia’s first words on catching sight of Angel in the Bronze: “Hello, salty goodness!” When she loses her memory in Angel 4.6 “Spin the bottle,” she’ll have the same reaction. Nice work with the continuity, writers!

Owen is the first of the impossible “normal” guys Buffy will long for. He likes her, but he doesn’t quite get her. Both Giles and Owen, for different reasons, describe Buffy here as “the strangest girl.” Owen’s morbid emo fascination with Emily Dickinson and death turns into a fascination with danger for its own sake. He has no idea what he’s getting into. It’s irresistible to see him as a prototype of Riley Finn in seasons 4/5. Riley has more skills and motivation, a better understanding of “the mission,” but his first encounters with Buffy leave him similarly baffled:

RILEY: She’s all right, I guess. She’s just kind of… I don’t know. Peculiar….I don’t dislike her. She just–she never feels like she’s really there when you talk to her. I like girls I can get a grip on. (4.7 “The Initiative”)
OWEN: It’s weird.
BUFFY: What is?
OWEN: You! One minute you’re right there. I’ve got you figured. The next, it’s like you’re two people.
BUFFY: Really? Which one do you like better? (1.4 NKaBotFD)

 

It’s also in this episode that we get our first glimpse into Giles’s backstory, and some information about how the Watchers’ Council works (at least for some Watchers):

 

GILES: I was ten years old when my father told me I was destined to be a Watcher. He was one, and his, uh, mother before him, and I was to be next.
BUFFY: Were you thrilled beyond all measure?
GILES: No, I had very definite plans about my future. I was going to be a fighter pilot. Or possibly a grocer. Well, uh…My father gave me a very tiresome speech about, uh, responsibility and sacrifice.
BUFFY: Sacrifice, huh?

And finally, Whedon once again subverts our expectations—after warning us right up front with the Master’s prophecy that “‘the Slayer will not know [the Anointed One], will not stop him, and he will lead her into Hell.'” I’m virtually certain that the first time I saw this episode, I got so caught up in all the Owenosity that, like Buffy and Giles, I followed the red-herring of the crazy-prophesying vampire and was shocked to discover how the prophecy had been fulfilled. I wish I could say that I was annoyed, but at the time, I was really creeped out.

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