Written by: David Greenwalt/Joss Whedon
Directed by: Bruce Seth Green
Air Date: December 8, 1997

Spoiler alert! John Ritter is a robot. There, that’s out of the way. The above image is the one every site uses for this episode, and rightly so. Its the best makeup work they had at this point, and a true testament to how damned great Ritter was in this episode, even going so far as to have prosthetic robot parts hanging on his face and in his mouth. I think he’s the biggest “guest star” they ever had and I know why they picked him; he’s a nice guy. That’s how he’s seen in almost every role he ever had. To have him come across that way was creepy to begin with, but by having it be revealed that he is actually a creeper in some fashion only adds to the joy and fun of it all. To say Ritter had a lot of fun in this role is probably an understatement.

This is an episode all about Buffy’s mom, truth be told. Joyce hasn’t had a lot of screen time, but when she does I love her for what she provides. Here, we see her in love and dating this dude-bot, Ted. Buffy obviously is against the idea right away, as evidenced by her brutal beating of a vampire before she stakes it (something Giles picks up on right away). She says he “wigs” her and all that, but the honest truth is that she is opposed to this guy right away because she and her mother have a thing going. We’ll see in season 3 that she can’t tolerate it when people can live without her, and this shows up here, first. Its a nice touch of “flaw” to a character trying so desperately to have a perfect life. I can respect the writers choices on this matter, 100%.

Of course, the episode tries to do a few different things. If the first is to tackle the idea of accepting a new father figure, the second is covering what it means for Buffy to take a human life. Ted mistreats Buffy a ton in the first half of this episode, even going so far as to slap her, which Buffy returns… ten-fold. This leads Ted to “die” after falling down a flight of stairs in the Summers’ home. The guilt and depression we see Buffy go through is telling of her character. In the next season we see someone else accidentally kill a human and the effects of this do a completely different thing to her. Buffy, though, goes through all the pains of being a “good guy” and dealing with the psychological issues involved with taking a life. Giles comments on how it can destroy a person, Cordy posits this is because Giles summoned a demon that killed a bunch of people a few episodes back (“The Dark Age“). Comedy ensues.

This would all be great and fine if Ted didn’t come back as a robot and make killing him justifiable. Or, you know, if they had him come back, get destroyed, and still have Buffy dwell on her thoughts, feelings, and emotions over the idea of killing someone. Just because you find out afterward that the person you killed was bad – or a robot – doesn’t make those feelings in your gut go away. She brushes it off like its nothing. It does a disservice to the idea of what happened to her for a third of the episode. For shame, writers, for shame.

The rest of the episode sees Giles and Jenny getting back together (I love how Giles gets shot by an arrow and love comes back into their lives. Subtle, guys. Real subtle), Xander getting high off of ecstasy-laced cookies, Willow getting all excited over computer things that are so terribly out-of-date at this point (not to mention the fact that she apparently dug around in dead-Ted’s skeleton), and Buffy’s mom got more than 3 minutes of total screentime for a change. Considering all of this and the fantastic way Ritter plays his character, “Ted” is a solid episode worthy of its status as one of my favorite “monster-of-the-week” episodes. Its even got the right blend of horror (the look on Xander’s face when he sees Ted’s first wives in that closet? We don’t even have to see what he sees to know it was distressing and awful) to mix in, and plenty of comedy, too. A fine filler episode that develops ideas, characters, and their relationships.

Episode Rating: 87

Additional Notes:
-Why wasn’t Principal Snyder anywhere to be found when the police were at the school? Seems like a wasted moment
-I like that those mini-pizzas are clearly store-bought, packaged goods
-The interaction between “Belinda” and the dude at Ted’s workplace is hilarious. I got to know
that guy in eight seconds
-The scene between Buffy and Angel where she wraps his wound is sweet. Jesus, am I becoming pro Buffy/Angel?!
Good work, Giles!
-So sad to remember that Ritter passed away all those years ago. R.I.P., man.