Recap: Buffy The Vampire Slayer S4.E2 — “Living Conditions”

[E] Slay BelleLadyGhosts of TV Past6 Comments

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“Giles. I just talked to Buffy and, yeah, I think she’s feeling a little crazy. No, not bitchy crazy, more like homicidal maniac crazy. So I told her to come see you, ‘kay?”

In the overall canon of the B:TVS universe, “Living Conditions” is a blip on the importance scale. While we get our first glimpses of Parker and Veruca, it’s one of the Monster-of-the-Week episodes that exists solely to be entertaining and has no long-lasting impact on pretty much anything. But for a one-off, “Living Conditions” has aged remarkably well. It’s still as funny as I remember it being.

Animated gif from Buffy the Vampire Slayer of Buffy telling Oz, "So then Kathy's like, 'It's share time' and I'm like, 'Oh yeah? Share this!'" and punching the air.

Last week, season 4 dealt with the off-kilter feeling of being thrust into the larger world of adulthood after high school ends. This week is another ritualized growing-pain, the abject horror of having to share your living space with a stranger. The close quarters, Cher soundtrack, clothing stealing, and passive-aggressive volleys before open warfare are the stuff of familiar, familiar nightmare. Everyone’s got a story. Even me, and I went to college where all the dorm rooms were singles. (It was a major selling point as far as I’m concerned.) I had hall mates who dealt drugs out of their rooms, moved in old boyfriends/girlfriends, let their pets shit all over the common area, drank my flu-tainted orange juice, punched holes in the common hallway, only bathed once a month and left their unwashed clothes in the bathroom, set off the dorm fire alarms by smoking so much pot, and threatened to claw out my eyes, but I never had a single one of them attempt to steal my soul while I was sleeping. Well, at least to the best of my knowledge. Maybe I should get that checked out.

A demon trying to suck the soul out of Buffy

For whatever bizarre reasoning the writer’s concocted, Buffy and Willow are not rooming together at UC Sunnydale, despite the fact that one is a practicing witch and the other is a superhero with a secret identity. It seems like maybe Giles would have suggested they request each other as roommates. Instead, Willow has an un-seen raver for a roommate, and Buffy gets Kathy, a junior mom-type who irons her jeans, labels her hardboiled eggs, and insists on a call log. (True story: one of my hall mates also ironed her jeans, because her family maid did it for her before she went to school and she didn’t know anyone who went around with un-ironed jeans.) Kathy has a perky demeanor and enjoys Cher on repeat, and not even the good stuff, just the techno ’90s remixes. 

A refrigerator full of food with enormous labels that say Kathy

Their living conditions (get it, get it?) are an escalating series of push and pulls, and that’s before Buffy starts having nightmares about demons sucking strange light out of her body and spilling blood on her Egyptian cotton matching pajamas. Kathy gives as good as she gets, honing in on Buffy’s friends, her lunch tables, and her locked closet, all while smiling brightly ““ entirely too chipper for a regular ’90s era college student. In retrospect, this should have been everyone’s first clue that there’s something wrong with her. 

Animated gif from Buffy the Vampire Slayer of Buffy drinking Kathy's milk straight from the carton.

Now, when you and I have terrible roommates, we gossip about them behind their backs to our friends, obviously, and we say things that might be hyperbolic, like wanting to murder them in their sleep. You and I are not the Slayer, someone who is actually capable of committing grievous bodily harm. So when Buffy starts wishing violence upon Kathy, her friends become concerned for her sanity. However, given that we are in season 4, and every single time her friends have poo-pooed Buffy’s instincts about someone’s evilness they’ve been wrong, you’d think that they’d take her instincts a bit more seriously.

This is a TV show. They do not.

Animated gif from Buffy the Vampire Slayer of Buffy saying, "She irons her jeans! She's evil!"

Instead, they do exactly what they did in high school and send Buffy to Giles for a stern talking to. This one is delivered with a net dropped overhead and while Buffy is tied to a chair, but it’s still a talking to. Giles, of course, eventually looks through his nerd books and realizes he was wrong in doubting Buffy (just like last week!). In the meantime, she’s knocked Xander and Oz unconscious, and gone on the hunt.

 Oz and Xander knocked unconcious.

Of course Kathy is a real demon. A real 3,000-year-old demon who has escaped to our world to attend a state school and needs to rip Buffy’s soul from her in order to disguise herself from her dad’s private detective team of glowing eyed, orange skinned demons. Buffy rips her face off (literally), gets a little banged around, and is saved when Demon Dad shows up to take his spoiled little demon princess back to their alternate dimension.

Buffy grapples with Demon Kathy, who's had the skin torn off her face

And so, Willow moves in with Buffy, as it always should have been, though she might want to watch her back if she’s gonna keep stealing Buffy’s sandwiches.

Still of Buffy, captioned "I mean, sometimes I get the feeling that she's not quite normal. You know?"

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[E] Slay BelleRecap: Buffy The Vampire Slayer S4.E2 — “Living Conditions”

6 Comments on “Recap: Buffy The Vampire Slayer S4.E2 — “Living Conditions””

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  1. Profile photo of Dormouse
    Dormouse

    I felt like season 4 uppped the goofy factor from season 3, and I laughed out loud frequently when I watched it. This episode was particularly amusing because of the roommate tension.

  2. Profile photo of Jujujuniper
    Jujujuniper

    My favorite part of this episode is Oz. His conversation with Buffy in the park (“On the plus side, you killed the bench which was lookin’ shifty.”) was hilarious, and it seemed like he and Buffy were actually friends, not just somewhat associated because he was dating Willow.

    1. Profile photo of [E] Slay Belle
      [E] Slay Belle

      Absolutely. I think he went because he was helping out Willow, but it is nice to see them have a relationship with each other, not just through Willow by proxy. Though, in a couple of episodes that will all be moot.

  3. Profile photo of Sheena really wouldn't mind an early autumn
    Sheena really wouldn't mind an early autumn

    Oh. My. God. This is one of my favorite one-off Buffy episodes, ever. Ever ever.

    The passive-aggressive roommate snit war is hilarious. The “my dad is pissed that I ran away to go to college, so I’ll just borrow my roommate’s soul so he doesn’t find me and ground me forever” is absurd and funny. And, well, Buffy trying to convince everyone that her (seemingly normalish if momish) roommate is a demon, but they don’t believe her? AFTER ANYA? Seriously, guys?

    However, this is the first episode with Veruca. Stupid Veruca.

    1. Profile photo of [E] Slay Belle
      [E] Slay Belle

      Veruca! You will ruin everything!

      But, yeah, the escalating roommate war is priceless. The part where she’s guzzling the milk cracks me up everytime I see it.

      1. Profile photo of Sheena really wouldn't mind an early autumn
        Sheena really wouldn't mind an early autumn

        I think I’m gonna have to re-watch this episode once my own horrible roommate situation is resolved. It will be all the funnier to see the call-logging and milk-chugging and toenail-collecting when I don’t have my very own asshole roommate to deal with.

        And, yes, stupid Veruca. I mean, I like Tara, but I hate that Willow and Oz just exploded and that it was all because of stupid Veruca.

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