Go Fish
Written by: David Fury/Elin Hampton
Directed by: David Semel
Air Date: May 5, 1998

In a move that is going to shock the pants off anyone that knows me (including myself, from the future, come back to read through these at some point, many tomorrows from now), I’m going to be giving “Go Fish” a 74/100 score. Let me put this into some perspective for you: The first time I watched through Buffy was alone, in my bedroom, back when I was in high school. I would watch episodes until 3am, on school nights, just to watch as fast as I could. I was hooked. I never missed an episode, never missed a moment. But I fell the fuck to sleep during “Go Fish” because it was so boring. I remember when my family and friends watched the show, I warned them, they watched it, and they agreed with me. I even used to skip this episode because of how bad it was. My god, either I was really dumb then or I am really dumb now because I actually kind of enjoyed this episode.

Maybe its because I’m coming off of “I Only Have Eyes for You“, an episode I used to like but found myself disappointed with this time around. Or maybe its because I know, now, what happens in the next few episodes and – hell – even the start of the next season. Or maybe its just that I’d subconsciously elected to give this one a fair shake for the first time ever? I don’t know about any of that, but I do know that “Go Fish” – while far, oh so very far from a perfect episode – is a delight and just stupid, mindless fun. And don’t get me wrong, I hate stupid, mindless fun when it slows down the series or the season or the episode. But I don’t feel like that is the case with this episode, an episode which develops characters, ideas, and themes, all while having fun.

Try to watch Xander react to Buffy, Willow, and Cordy seeing him in his swim team gear for the first time and not laugh. Try to not be charmed by Buffy thinking her cholesterol joke was cute and witty. Try not to be touched by Cordelia ranting about loving Xander when she thinks he’s become a fish person. These things help make the characters who they are in later seasons, nay, later on in this episode. Willow’s cute “I’ll crack him like an egg” line, regarding interrogating a poor, defenseless Johnathan is telling of the direction her character is going, as well as how far she’s come. And even the stupid coach and his stupid plan are amusing; he didn’t want to take over or cause any problems. He just used top secret Russian secrets to win the State championship. So much for “big bads” needed higher motivation.

And you know, despite myself, most of the effects and the costumes for the fish monsters are pretty damned solid. Watching Gabe (member of the team) tear the skin of his chest to reveal the demon underneath is a great effect, one that impressed me. Also, they aren’t demons. At all. They’re people who have had their genetic code fucked up by their coach. This impresses me, too, and it gives Buffy the reason she needs to not slay these monster in their underground dwelling. They might be monsters, now, but they were her classmates and friends. Its a solid moment that showcases what I didn’t like about “I Only Have Eyes for You” and what I like about “BtVS” most of the time: their dedication to helping people. Here, Buffy wants to find a solution so no one else gets hurt. Its not about her.

So yeah, I hated this episode before, and now I kinda enjoy it. It has tons of fun, cute character moments, solid effects, a decent soundtrack (for once), and a tight pace that never lets things get boring. I was ready to blast this episode to bits, but after only a few minutes of watching the episode again, I knew I was going to have to change my mind. Future viewings may alter my opinion, but for now, “Go Fish” has everything it could possibly have going for it, which isn’t an awful lot, but it is enough to get past the cheesy, hokey aspects. I never thought I’d say it, but its a pretty good episode.

Episode Rating: 74

Additional Notes:
-Poor Johnathan is going to use all the pressure and antagonizing to try to do something stupid next season, and he’ll be using dark arts soon enough
-Speaking of, after the last episode, Willow is aware of the dark arts and starting with the next episode, she’s going to become more and more proficient in their use. Uh oh!
-Cordelia suggesting Xander go out for the football team the next year is a nice touch
-Plasma treatments!
-Poor nurse!
-The episode is so anti-“school spirit” that it makes me wonder if even teachers watching this episode when it aired were rooting for this message