I mean, people are perfectly happy getting along and then vampires come and they run around and they kill people and they take over your whole house, they start making these stupid little mini-pizzas and everyone’s like, “Oh, look! A mini-pizza!” but I’m telling you, I have…
So this is the John Ritter episode. If you’re under a certain age, you could probably care less that this was the Ritter episode. But if you grew up with reruns of Three’s Company and hadn’t seen John Ritter on your screen in well over a decade, you probably squealed with delight when he showed up on your little teenage vampire show. I somehow always think that “I Robot, You Jane” is this episode, because the title fits thematically, but it’s, you know, not.
So after the events of “What My Line(s),” Sunnydale is pretty quiet on the vampire front. Buffy is once again enjoying her rare downtime (though the trouble she gets into on her “downtime” has come up at least three times this season alone) when she accidentally walks in on Joyce making out with a stranger in her kitchen.
We don’t know exactly how long Buffy’s parents have been divorced, but it’s certainly fresh enough to cause Buffy a great deal of consternation to see her mother dating again. Her mom is apologetic and hesitant but clearly happy; Ted’s a single, employed male who doesn’t mind that she has a kid and is over a certain age, which is basically winning the dating jackpot.
Buffy, predictably, behaves like a petulant brat about this revelation, first complaining to Giles about “vampires” who cook mini pizzas in her house and then to Angel about how her mom only wants to talk about Ted all the time. Angel shuts her up with a make-out session. Giles, luckily, does not.
During a “family” outing to mini-golf, Ted catches Buffy lying about her hole-in-two score. His reaction seems a bit over the top, as he lectures her while slapping his leg repeatedly with his golf club, and then telling Buffy he’s going to slap her across the face. Of course, as soon as everyone else wanders up to them, Ted is all smiles. And he brought cookies for everyone.
Ted, obviously, is a convincing liar. Buffy has instincts about Bad Stuff, being the Slayer and all, but no one else is really on board with the Ted-is-evil train. Willow at least agrees to look up his workplace for Buffy to investigate.
Ted turns out to be a software salesman, the best in his company. Buffster pretends to be a temp to dig up some office gossip. She learns he’s nicknamed The Machine, beats the sales goal every day, and is getting married in two months. To Joyce. And he stole a photo from Buffy’s house, folded her out of the picture and framed it on his desk. DUH DUN DUH!
That night at dinner, Buffy once again refuses to eat the meal Ted’s cooked for them, angrily demanding to know if her mother is engaged. Ted says he hopes that Joyce will agree to marry him sometime soon, which gets Joyce all flustered and blushing and makes Buffy act like a total brat. She gets sent to her room, and then she sneaks out to go slaying.
When she gets back, climbing through her bedroom window, Ted is waiting for her. He’s been reading Buffy’s diary and wants to know what a “vampire slayer” is, saying she’s a sad, sick little girl. And she’ll start toeing the line or he’ll tell her mother all about her diary:
Buffy: I think you better get out of here. Now!
Ted: Or what? (stands up and steps toward her) You’ll slay me? I’m real. I’m not some goblin you made up in your little diary. Psychiatrists have a word for something like this: delusional. So, from now on, you’ll do what I say, when I say, or I show this to your mother, and you’ll spend your best dating years behind the wall of a mental institution. Your mother and I are going to be happy. You’re not going to stand in the way. Sleep tight!
I’m not sure if the writers had already planned out the backstory that’s revealed in the sixth season episode “Normal Again,” but if you’ve seen it, you understand how threatening this is to Buffy. Her reaction in this context makes more sense.
When Ted tries to leave with her diary, Buffy tries to stop him, so Ted wallops her across the face. This is what she hoped for, because now she gets to hit him back. We know there’s something wrong with Ted, but it’s still upsetting to see Buffy just unleash her Slayer abilities on this (presumably) middle-aged human guy. During their fight ““ which Joyce witnesses ““ Buffy knocks Ted down the front stairs where he breaks his neck and dies.
This episode marks the first time “real” repercussions intrude on the Slayer’s life on the show. She’s killed a man ““ she’s dragged into the police station and questioned about it, saying that Ted started the fight. The cop pretends to believe her, but we all know that Buffy has a police record from what happened in LA, where she burned down a school building, so no one believes that he believes her. This is bad.
TNMAS, Buffy shows up in her emo overalls ““ I, for one, would like to apologize for this ’90s fashion trend, which I actively participated in ““ and has to tell the Scoobies that she killed a guy. Now Xander and Willow seem ready to believe that Ted was some sort of monster, because Slayers kill monsters, but the look on their faces when Buffy has to admit he was just a man is pretty heart wrenching. Buffy runs home after discovering the cops are in school, asking to see her records.
At the library, Xander is on a rant-spree. There is no way that he’ll believe Buffy murdered a human being just because she didn’t like the guy dating her mother. He’s going to find out what happened! He’s going to solve this mystery! None of Willow’s investigations turn up any dirt on Ted at all. She’s flummoxed.
Cordelia reveals herself to be a fan of Nietzsche:
Cordelia: I don’t get it. Buffy’s the Slayer. Shouldn’t she have…
Xander: What, a license to kill?
Cordelia: Well, not for fun. But she’s like this superman. Shouldn’t there be different rules for her?
Willow: Sure, in a fascist society.
Cordelia: Right! Why can’t we have one of those?
And then she brings up that time Giles killed a guy too:
Giles: Whatever the authorities have planned for her, it can’t be much worse than what she’s doing to herself. She’s taken a human life. The guilt, it-it’s, it’s pretty hard to bear, and it won’t go away soon.
Cordelia: I guess you should know, since you helped raise that demon that killed that guy that time?
Giles: Yes. Do let’s bring that up as often as possible.
Cordelia is on a super roll this episode. After Giles takes off, the girls notice that Xander has suddenly become a calm hippie guy, hugging his friends and no longer terribly worried about Buffy being prosecuted for murder, mysteriously after eating some of Ted’s cookies.
Willow runs some analysis on Ted’s chocolate chip cookies, which, from what is shown of the scene, involves her sticking the whole cookie under a microscope. Which is totes science. But, whatever, she discovers that Ted’s been doping his cookies with some chemical that might be made up, but shares some properties with ecstasy. Hurray, he’s a verifiable bad guy! Now they’re off to dig up more evidence!
Just in time too, because back at the Buffy homestead, Buffy is having the worse day ever. First she thinks she killed her mother’s boyfriend, then her mother is all weird at her and has nailed her window shut, and then the dead boyfriend shows up in her bedroom. See? Trust Buffy’s instincts. She can tell a human from a non-human, even if she can’t specify what exactly is giving her the wiggins. Ted beats up Buffy and her stuntwoman. During the fight, Buffy manages to rip open Ted’s forearm, revealing a bunch of circuitry. Before she can really react, Ted knocks her unconscious because he hears Joyce moving around downstairs. Ted’s a robot, y’all!
In our B-storyline, Jenny is still really pissed off that every time she tries to hang out with Giles she gets attacked by vampires or possessed by demons or something. It’s very upsetting and Giles hasn’t made the emotional healing process any easier by batting his pretty British eyes at her every chance he gets:
Jenny: I’m doing pretty good, actually. I’ve stayed out of mortal danger for three whole weeks. I could get used to it. I’m still having trouble sleeping, though.
Giles: Oh, of course. Um… you, you, you need time.
Jenny: Or possibly space. Rupert, I know you’re concerned. But having you constantly poking around, making little puppy dog eyes at me, wondering if I’m okay… You make me feel bad that I don’t feel better. I don’t want that responsibility.
While Buffy is grounded and the Scoobies are investigating, Giles is on patrol. Jenny surprises him on patrol and the two take down a vampire (sorta). Jenny shoots Giles in the back with an arrow, which seems completely reasonable retaliation for the events of the past few weeks. They’re back on good terms afterwards.
The Scoobies break into the Magic Shop computer repair shop that’s listed as Ted’s address. Cordy’s keen sense of interior design quickly points out the tacky rug that’s hiding a trapdoor into Ted’s real apartment. The lair is less “evil genius” and more “Leave it to Beaver” complete with an actual record player and lovely views of the suspiciously bricked-up windows. Xander hustles the girls out of there after checking out a closet. A perplexed Willow asks what he found; ‘His last four wives.”
Joyce is on the fast track to becoming dead wife number five. Ted is trying to hustle her out of the house and bitching about how Buffy is more important to her than the recently dead guy. Even Joyce, noted denialist, can’t help but realize something is wrong. Mostly because all of Ted’s lines in the later half of the show are creepy as all get out:
Ted: You’re going to love the house. It’s furnished just the way you like it. I spent a lot of… telling me what to do! …time decorating.
Joyce: Well, then I’d, I’d probably better go pack.
Ted: I already have your clothes. They’re your size, they’re always your size. You left me once, but I keep bringing you back. Husband and wife is forever. Forever.
When she doesn’t move fast enough, Ted knocks her unconscious. Which is convenient, because then Joyce misses Buffy sneaking back downstairs and smashing Ted with a cast iron frying pan. Get it? Cause he likes to cook? So Buffy hits him with a domestic tool? There’s no subtext here. The blow rips open Ted’s face and exposes the circuitry underneath and it takes a few more bangs before the robot is down for good.
TNMAS, the gang gives us the wrap up in a walk and talk. Ted was once a real guy whose wife had left him and who happened to be some sort of early robotics genius. He built Robot Ted (for companionship? Creepy sex partner?) After Real Ted died, Robot Ted kept kidnapping “wives,” looking for his creator’s perfect ’50s fantasy family, which, you know, never existed beyond television. The Scoobies dumped the robot at a scrap yard. Willow kept some parts for “research.” Buffy and Cordelia are inexplicably dressed as twinsies, and the gang can’t go into the library because Giles and Jenny are making out in there.