Pangs
Written by: Jane Espensen
Directed by: Michael Lange
Air Date: Nov. 23, 1999

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The obligatory “Thanksgiving” episode of “BtVS” finally arrives. After having a Halloween episode and a Christmas episode, it was all a matter of time. And while those episodes either made with the laughs or pulled on the heart strings, respectively, this episode does its best to manage both, with mild-to-limited success. See, the plot of the episode prays upon the viewers proposed “White Guilt” a bit too much in regards to its avenging Indi… Native American spirit, insofar as it goes on a tirade during a beat down, and Willow makes a huge case for not killing it, while Giles and – comically enough – a tied-down Spike argue on the side of having either no guilt at all, or at least being sensible about it. In the way that “Beer Bad” was all about the dangers of alcohol to the point of being too preachy, “Pangs” gets close to this area, as well.

But while the level of beat-you-over-the-headisms is high as a goddamned kite, the truth is that everything else in this episode is gold, pure gold. Buffy, fresh to college and in an attempt to be an adult and take charge, tries to create a new tradition by having her friends over for a Thanksgiving dinner. This includes, obviously, Willow, Xander, and Giles. But Spike shows up, burning in the sun, having been tossed out by Harmony, and is promptly invited in for no other reason than he knows information about the Initiative, the only person to have any real info at this point (comically he is placed at the table side for dinner, as seen above. I think this is hilarious). And on top of that, Xander brings Anya because, quite frankly, he enjoys her company and, what, like she has family to go home to for a holiday? Yeah, not so much. This creates scenes that mimic real-life Thanksgiving prep, like getting all the food, prepping the turkey, and making sure everyone is ready for dinner at the appointed hour. Only, in this world, it also includes not getting shot up by arrows.

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The episode also marks Angel’s first return cameo to the series since his departure to his own show, but not his last. If you remember right, at the end of “The Bachelor Party”, Doyle has a vision about Buffy and Angel scurries off to Sunnydale to help protect her, but he does so in the shadows, attempting to make it so that Buffy can focus on her job, and he can focus on saving her life. This will obviously lead to some issues, later, and while it doesn’t really do much to serve the story other than to get Angel into “BtVS” so that Buffy can get to L.A. for his next episode, it does create a really cute scene where Willow grills him on having Cordelia working for him. Nice to know where her thoughts on Cordy lie after all this time, eh?

On top of this, the episode stands out as having some additional moments of hilarity. The “Cavalry” scene with half the Scooby team riding bikes across campus to reach Giles’ home is cute and fun, even if the music is somewhat disappointing overall. And Xander getting syphilis from an ancient Native American curse is played to great effect, particularly in his new found insistence that they kill the son of a bitch what cursed him. Willow assuming the spirit is making a monster out of body parts is both a callback (to a really shitty episode) and a reference about things to come this very season, a very Whedonesque moment if you know what it alludes to. And Anya. Sweet Anya. She will become a series regular here before too much longer and it couldn’t have happened any sooner: the human who was a demon for hundreds of years is finding her place in a world that she doesn’t understand. But where does she get the money for her clothes?

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SPEAKING of clothes! Did anyone else shudder every time Buffy’s stupid cowboy hat was on screen. Never seen it before, don’t think it ever shows up afterward. Is it a play on “Cowboys & Indians” or something? That she has to deal with the nasty “savages” that are coming after the women-folk? Or Xander’s penis? I dunno, but it looked dumb. Dumb as hell. Oh well, its all made better when, near the end of the episode, the spirit, named Hus(?), turns into a bear and Spike freaks out, tied a chair, shouting “YOU MADE A BEAR! UNDO IT! UNDO IT!”

The episode ends on a solid cliffhanger, with Xander – being Xander – informs Buffy that Angel was in town even though he wasn’t supposed to. It leads into an honestly painful (for two reasons, one good, one bad) episode of “Angel” – but that’s not the point of a “BtVS” review, is it? No, the bottom line is, the Thanksgiving episode of “BtVS” stands on its own as being an episode that wastes too much time focusing on an issue its viewership likely doesn’t care about, and not enough time on comedy and fight sequences (the final brawl in Giles’ home is pretty weak and those flying arrows are comically bad). But, ah well. At least it saved me from having to write the Game Boy Color review for another day.

Episode Rating: 80

Additional Notes:
-Spike pulls a Boromir and gets stuck with 100 arrows
-Best line? Spike: “Invite me in!”
Giles: “Seems unlikely”
-Spike’s shock that Harmony had a stake under her pillow: “you had that in OUR bed?!”
-Buffy talking about food prep while everyone else talked about taking out the bad guys
-Xander started work in construction, where he’ll exist for the rest of the series if I’m not mistaken
-Angel gets jealous of doofy Riley. Don’t get jealous, Angel. He’s a doof
-Willow references the Master. 10 points for the Master! For no real reason…
-In their memories, I wonder if Dawn went with Buffy’s mom to her aunt’s for Thanksgiving. Seems likely…
-GOD Dawn is coming up soon…….. UGH!

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