“One day I’m gonna live in a town where evil curses are just generally ruled out without even saying.”
Hey guys, remember the ’90s? Remember how hot baby doll shirts were? Remember how we all agreed they were a terrible idea? Sadly, we can not go back in time and erase these horrors from screen, so we’re forced to watch Buffy strut around in a purple baby-doll sweater and a really, really short purple satin skirt. She wears this fabulous piece of frippery on the class trip to the history museum to see the Inca Princess exhibit, which is somehow tangentially related to a Sunnydale High exchange program? Where they get students from all over the world? Who are in some sort of catalog you get to pick from? You can tell from my abuse of the question mark that the show did not do a particularly good job of setting up this week’s monster plot.
It’s Inca Mummy Girl week here in Buffy recap land. Xander’s horrendous love life is a recurring theme/joke over the course of the entire series ““ I mean, it even gets sung-mocked during Once More With Feelings ““ and IMB is the second of the Xander-falls-for-a-monster episodes. I was looking forward to rewatching it because I remember the episode fondly, not in the least because we get introduced to Oz, but during the episode an awful realization crept over me: it’s a stinker. There’s a nice subplot that parallels the Slayer’s destiny with that of a sacrificed Incan princess and we get to see Willow looking absolutely adorable. But after last week’s glimpse of Spike and Drusilla, this entry is just a blah-flavored loser fest. I’ll even slap my money on the bar and say that this episode contains some of the worst dialogue to ever be uttered during the course of the series.
How about this one? What kind of girl travels with a mummified corpse… and doesn’t even pack lipstick?
I’ll say one thing for you Incan mummies. You don’t kiss and tell.
Let’s get the basic plot of this one out of the way so we can talk about what a creeper jerk Xander comes off like. A 500-year-old preserved mummy is on display at the Sunnydale museum. She was a sacrifice and is held in some sort of quasi-alert afterlife by the presence of a curse, embodied in this case in a plate decorated with a seal describing her story. After the seal is broken, the mummy walks the mean streets of Sunnydale.
Buffy mistakes the mummy for her South American exchange student, which is an easy mistake to make as the mummy sucks the life force out of random extras to regain her youth and beauty. Because she is hot, Xander falls in love with her, makes some disparaging remarks about Willow, and tries to make out with her at the school dance.
The mummy needs to continually replenish her beauty and youth with the life force of others, which makes her a monster, but she’s a monster because she was destined to give up her own life for the good of the world, something Buffy can identify with. But unlike Buffy, she never comes to terms with this reality. And instead lashes out at everyone close to her in a mad effort to retain her new life. As she begins decaying, she makes the choice to try and kill Xander, which leads to Buffy accidentally ripping her arms off. Seriously. Actually it’s kind of awesome. We all screamed “Ew!” in my house.
That’s the entire episode. No, really. In between, we see Jonathan for the first time, Oz for the first time ““ and he’s so adorable, being a decent human being in comparison to Devon and Xander ““ and Cordelia acts like a self-absorbed brat.
We’re good, right?
Ok, let’s talk about Xander, my friends.
We all know that Xander has the hots for Buffy. He admits he loves her in the last episode of the first season, he’s blinded enough not to recognize Buffy using him during her embarrassing sexy-time dance at the Bronze this season, and he flat out keeps saying it over and over again. But Xander’s proprietary interest in Buffy’s love life reaches a new, creepy intensity in this episode.
He’s always felt the freedom to tell her that he doesn’t think she should be interested in Angel and takes every opportunity to bash the vampire. He tries to sabotage her date with Owen in season 1. He asks her out despite knowing that Willow is interested in him, and then tries to rebound his rejection by asking Willow out instead. During this episode, Xander gets really aggressive:
XANDER: Hold on a sec. This person living in your house for two weeks is a man, with man parts? This is a terrible idea!
WILLOW: What about the beautiful melding of two cultures?
XANDER: There’s no melding. Okay? He can keep his parts to himself.
XANDER: Not with her. In the same house as her. Am I the only one who’s objective enough to make that distinction?
XANDER: Buffy, where are your priorities? In tracking down a mummifying murderer, or making time with some Latin lover, whose stock in trade is the breakage of hearts?
And then there’s this:
BUFFY: I thought you were taking Willow.
XANDER: Well, I’m gonna take Willow, but I’m not gonna take Willow. In the sense of “take me.” See with you, we’re three and everybody’s safe. Without you, we’re two.
BUFFY: And we enter dateville. Romance. Flowers.
BUFFY: C’mon. All the years you’ve known Willow, you’ve never thought about her lips?
XANDER: Buffy, I love Willow. She’s my best friend. Which makes her not the kind of girl who you think about her lips that much. She’s the kind of girl I’m best friends with.
Not only is Xander saying this in front of Willow, who he is obviously, perfectly aware has a thing for him, he’s just lying. Over and over again, he mentions how much he loves Buffy, how he’d be happy to be romancing and flowering and kissing her, but Willow isn’t good enough for him. But she’s good enough to be his fall back gal, his gal pal, his date to the dance pal. You can write some of this behavior away to typical teenage boyness, but the repeated examples of him acting like an insensitive jackass ““ you know, when he’s not trying to sexually assault someone and then pretending it never happened ““ goes way beyond teenaged meathead.
So here’s the question: what are we supposed to think about Xander? He gets his moments in the sun ““ at the end here, he insists the mummy take his life instead of Willow’s ““ but they’re never coupled with any sort of character growth or amends to be made. He just drifts on and on. Whedon is pretty hard on the problems of traditionally masculine behavior ““ he finds it destructive and he’s not exactly subtle about his criticisms. But Xander seems to exist in this other realm. Are we supposed to understand that his continual bad luck with women ““ the demons, the mummies, the giant insects ““ is connected to his caveman-like approach to romantic life? If so, the connection isn’t clear enough. He never learns, he never grows, and he never pays.
WOW: Barring the number of exposed bellies we see this week, there’s no tremendously hideous outfit to highlight. Instead, I feel like some praise should be directed Willow’s way for her awesome Inuit costume at the cultural dance.