Wild at Heart
Written by: Marti Noxon
Directed by: David Grossman
Air Date: Nov. 9, 1999

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I’m getting older, and thus, have had more experiences. That’s why I’m able to say, without a doubt, that I was emotionally attached to these characters enough to get emotional two different times during the course of this episode. I think I’ve only seen it once, prior to this, in its entirety. So many of the feelings were fresh, to me, here. And as far as send-offs for characters go, I think Marti Noxon, Seth Green, and Alyson Hannigan really knocked this thing out of the park, even though there were other problems with the episode as a whole.

Starting back in “Living Conditions” and then last episode in the regrettable “Beer Bad”, Oz has been picking up some odd feelings for a dopey looking bug-eyed woman named Veruca. Turns out, she’s a werewolf, too, and soon she is trying to get all over Oz’s nasty hairy self at night. After he escapes on night one of the full moon cycle, he meets up with her and the two have a great game of “chase the uptight bitch lady” across campus before ending the night in what was likely gross, violent wolf intercourse in the woods. This, obviously, bothers Oz greatly as he still loves Willow with his all of him, but he has to figure out the new changes going on for himself.

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Willow tries her damndest to get ahead of the whole thing by talking to Buffy, Xander, and then finally Oz himself, but it goes nowhere and, soon enough, the first big moment of the episode comes to a head when Willow walks in on Oz and Veruca the morning after some heated cage match style sexing. Oz trapped Veruca to keep her from killing – and to keep Buffy from killing her, too – but Willow riddles Oz with pain bullets by cutting him to size, asking why this was his best option, something with bitch face Veruca is like “yeah, what the fuck, man” and agrees with. Its a tearful, pain-filled scene that really cuts to the bone. It felt real, and honest, which is saying a lot given the circumstances. The fact that the script, and these two actors, could make a scene post-werewolf-sex seem this legit is a testament to the power of the gang that put this show together back in ye olden days.

The climax, however, shows the weakness of the old, worn out, monkey suit werewolf costumes. Oz vs Veruca is clearly coming from the outset, but the battle is lame. The reasoning for it, that Oz is trying to protect Willow from crazy, gross Veruca, is noble. But its so fast and so pathetic looking, it doesn’t even mean a damn thing in the end. Watching two dudes jump around in a well lit room while trying to tackle each other on all fours does not make for overly exciting television. After Veruca’s throat is eaten and Buffy comes in to beat Oz into submission (while using that tranq gun they still have!) we finally see some well shot action sequences. But even that is all over too fast. I feel for the guys that had to wear those suits, but thankfully there is only one more werewolf episode in this series, and just one after that in “Angel”.

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Aside from the shit costumes and makeup and how poor an actress Paige Moss is while trying to be a cross between sexy and creepy, the other issue I have with this is the portrayal of Oz. Buffy comments on his stoicism in a moment of tension, but the monosyllabic Oz is usually seen as astoundingly loyal, trustworthy, and honest. He doesn’t necessarily outright lie, here, but his sneaking around and his lack of help-seeking seem like deviations for his character, sacrificing development for narrative. Its nitpicky, here and there, but Seth Green manages to make the best of it and it all works out. I just wish he’d have tried talking to someone about it, even if it had just been Giles.

Speaking of Giles, what a poor sod! Hanging out at the Bronze so he can either remain “hip” or at the very least continue to be around his only friends. Later he’s seen as being overly delighted to be interrupted from watching game shows on TV so he can associate with Buffy and company on a dangerous mission. And then he seems more interested in the military guys Buffy encountered on her Veruca hunt than talking about Oz and Willow. This is great set up for his character, as is the decision Willow makes to use dark arts to get revenge for emotional damage. These characters are all starting to get older and some of the first steps toward their final televised states are starting here.

Episode Rating: 86

Additional Notes:
-Spike’s intent to monologue is cut short by a tazer. I wonder what his plan would have been if this hadn’t happened?
-Giles mentions that Buffy has been wrecked up in the heart before and come out OK. Buffy reminds him she had to literally go to Hell to accomplish this. Giles shuts up
-After Buffy stakes that first vampire and he doesn’t react to her stupid pun pisses her off but made me smile
-I almost cried in this episode twice. My God what will happen next season?
-Willow’s cute academic jealousy was a real highlight
-More Riley. That guy is a huge doof.
-While other characters get more in depth development toward the rest of the series, we only get bits and pieces about Xander’s family. We’ll see that come to a head much later on

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