So in the course of about two months last year, I went through five seasons of Buffy on DVD, finally seeing for the second time episodes I hadn't, for the most part, seen since they first aired. I took a little break and ploughed through Season Six on tape in four days (I watched a record eight episodes one day, a record I broke going through thirteen episodes of Angel S2 one Saturday). Season Seven I had seen just the previous year, and frankly, I only knew of a few stellar episodes anyway.
At the end of April, I created a list of favorite Buffy episodes according to number: favorite first episode, favorite second episode, favorite fourteenth episode, etc.
Here it is, temporal anomalies intact. (WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!)
3.1 "Anne" - I recently discovered there's a contingent of "Anne"-haters out there, which I don't get. First of all, this episode has tons of great lines.
Larry: If we can focus, keep discipline...and not have quite as many mysterious deaths, Sunnydale is gonna rule!
Oz: I don't know. I think we're kinda getting a rhythm down.
Xander: We're losing half the vamps.
Oz: Yeah, but...rhythmically.
Xander: You don't hide. You're bait. Go act baity.
Cordelia: What's the plan?
Xander: The vampire attacks you.
Cordelia: And then what?
Xander: The vampire kills you. We watch, we rejoice.
Buffy: Hey, Ken, wanna see my impression of Gandhi?
(she smashes Ken's head under the gate)
Buffy: Well, you know, if he was really pissed off.
Then there's just the great story of Buffy coming to terms with her identity. I think Joss did a great job with the theme, though some probably think it was too heavy handed. Also, there's this really cool bit where you see Ken approaching a person on the street before he's actually introduced as a character. And a kickass fight with a hungamunga. And a touching final Buffy/Joyce scene. What's not to like, I say.
3.2 "Dead Man's Party" - Hm, you'd think I had a thing for Season Three. Granted, this isn't a popular episode, and I'm not overly fond of a lot of the 2s. I don't mind 1.2 "The Harvest," but it's nothing to write home about. 2.2 "Some Assembly Required" is awful. Kathy grates on me way too much in 4.2 "Living Conditions." Dawn is annoying in 5.2 "Real Me," though not as horribly irritating as she would later become. And Harmony is fairly amusing. This one wins out because I'm a sucker for zombies, and I love Giles' "'Do you like my mask? Isn't it pretty, it raises the dead.' Americans."
Oz: Well, a gathering is brie, mellow song stylings; shindig, dip, less mellow song stylings, perhaps a large amount of malt beverage; and hootenanny, well, it's chock full of hoot, just a little bit of nanny.
4.3 "The Harsh Light of Day" - This one was pretty tough, as one could make a case for the 3 in any of the first five seasons. What really put this one over the top was the very end, with Anya, Harmony, and Buffy all walking away, alone, and I don't think it had dawned on me that their storylines in the episode had all been paralleling each other. I was all, good job, Jane!
Xander (shelving books): I'm not enjoying this.
Giles: Well, shelve them correctly and we can finish.
Xander: I don't get your crazy system.
Giles: System? It's called the alphabet.
Xander: Huh, would you look at that?
4.4 "Fear, Itself" - I think Giles in a sombrero trumps just about everything. Also, Giles with a chainsaw. Plus, Oz's God costume.
Xander (taunting the fear demon): Who's the little fear demon? Come on, who's the little fear demon?
Giles: Don't taunt the fear demon.
Xander: Why? Can he hurt me?
Giles: No, it's just...tacky.
7.5 "Selfless" - This episode is just spectacularly fantastic. It introduced us to the wonder that is Ultimate Drew (responsible for this week's great Angel episode as well ["Origin"]). Sepia-toned flashbacks in subtitled Swedish. More Olaf action. Brutal, brutal cut from Anya singing to Anya impaled on a wall. It's a shame Season Seven dropped Anya's character development from this episode, since her next character development was to get sliced in half.
Aud: The rapid reproductive rate of our rabbits has given me an idea. I can give the excess out to the townspeople, exchanging them not for goods or services, but for goodwill and the sense of accomplishment that stems from selflessly giving of yourself to others.
Olaf: Ha ha ha! Sweet Aud! Your logic is insane and happenstance, like that of a troll.
Olaf the Troll: Stop! Stop! It is Olaf!
Villager #2: The troll is doing an Olaf impersonation!
Olaf: I am Olaf!
Villager #3: Hit him with fruits and various meats!
3.6 "Band Candy" - Christ, this is like the 3s. Four classics (1.6 "The Pack," 2.6 "Halloween," and 4.6 "Wild at Heart" are runners up), and 5.6 "Family" ain't bad either. I had to go with the funniest and most entertaining one. When the adults of Sunnydale revert to their teenage psyches, it's just brilliant. Giles pulling the cigarette out of his ear, I'm just saying.
Snyder: Whoa, Summers! You drive like a spaz!
Xander: I don't get this. The candy's supposed to make you feel all immature and stuff, but I've had a ton and I don't feel any diff...nevermind.
6.7 "Once More, with Feeling" - CHRIST ON A FUCKING STICK. This was up against 1.7 "Angel," 2.7 "Lie to Me," 3.7 "Revelations," 4.7 "The Initiative," 5.7 "Fool for Love," and 7.7 "Conversations with Dead People." I like them all quite a bit for various reasons (and I'm willing to discuss said reasons with anyone who's interested), and that last one could give them a run for their money just on the Holden scenes (written by Joss) alone. But in the end, how can they hold a candle to the musical? It was ballsy to try, but it worked wonderfully. Joss used the songs to get the characters to express their emotions in ways they couldn't normally.
Demon and Henchmen: She is pretty well with fiends from hell / But lately we can tell / That she's just going through the motions / Faking it somehow
Demon: She's not even half the girl she...(looks down at wound) owww!
Buffy: Will I stay this way forever? / Sleepwalk through my life's endeavor?
Handsome Young Man: How can I repay--
Buffy: Life's a song / You don't get to rehearse / And every single verse / Can make it that much worse
Spike: Life's not a song / Life isn't bliss / Life is just this / It's living
4.8 "Pangs" - 6.8 "Tabula Rasa" is a runner up, but this one's funnier and has more great lines, despite my slight annoyance at Buffy's seeming apathy towards Xander's diseased plight and Willow's odd stubbornness to defend the vengeful, murderous spirit. Jane Espenson shows up for the third time on the list, bringing the funny and raising some interesting points about Thanksgiving. Buffy's monomania about having a perfect Thanksgiving dinner is hilarious.
Anya: To commemorate a past event you kill and eat an animal. It's a ritual sacrifice, with pie.
Buffy: It is a sham, but it's a sham with yams. It's a yam sham.
Willow: You're not gonna jokey-ryhme your way out of this.
Willow: The coroner's office said she was missing an ear. So I'm thinking, maybe we're looking for a witch. There's some great spells that work much better with an ear in the mix.
Buffy: That's one fun little hobby you've got there, Will.
Willow: Or...or maybe an ear-harvesting demon that is, like, building another demon completely out of ears. Or...Ooh. Thought. We're just assuming someone else cut off the ear. What if it was self-inflicted, like Van Gogh?
Buffy: So, she brutally stabbed herself, dumped the body, then cut off her own ear?
Willow: No. She cut off her ear, then killed herself, then dumped the body...I'm really off my game, aren't I?
Anya: So this is Angel. He's large and glowery, isn't he?
Xander: He's evil again.
Angel: I'm not evil again. Why does everyone think that?
3.9 "The Wish" - This one was easy, with very little strong competition. A dark twist on It's a Wonderful Life, we get to see what Sunnydale would have been like had Buffy never come, and it's not very funny. You have to give props to an episode featuring a montage in which our favorite protagonists not only die, but kill each other. A true classic.
Xander: And they burst in, rescuing us, without even knocking? I mean, this is really all their fault.
Buffy: Your logic does not resemble our Earth logic.
Xander: Mine is much more advanced.
Buffy: World is what it is. We fight, we die. Wishing doesn't change that.
Giles: I have to believe in a better world.
Buffy: Go ahead. I have to live in this one.
Master: Behold the technical wonder which is about to alter the very fabric of our society. Some have argued that such an advancement goes against our nature. They claim that death is our art. I say to them...well, I don't say anything to them because I kill them.
4.10 "Hush" - Easy schmeasy. Brilliant, awesome episode. This is the silent one. Joss shows up again on the list, cause, again, he took a risky concept and knocked it out of the park. I love the way he weaved the thematics of language and communication seamlessly into the episode. There are so many little things I love about this episode, and Giles' overhead projector scene is a classic.
Giles: I have a friend who's coming to town, and I'd like us to be alone.
Anya: Oh, you mean an orgasm friend?
Giles: Yes, that's exactly the most appalling thing you could have said.
5.11 "Triangle" - While 3.11 "Gingerbread" is great and is the runner up, I don't think I'm allowed not to pick this one, seeing as it's the one from where I got my diary title and all [I have another diary titled "Insane Troll Logic"]. Many people have issues with Willow's characterization in this episode and thus hate it a lot, but I love Olaf the Troll way too much. Look, another Jane Espenson episode.
Olaf: Bar maid! Bring me stronger ale! And some plump, succulent babies to eat!
Willow: I wish Buffy was here!
(Buffy runs in.)
Buffy: I'm here!
Willow: I wish I had a million dollars!
Xander: I'm not choosing between my girlfriend and my best friend. That's insane troll logic!
Olaf: What are you fighting for, minuscule blonde one? Your friends? (He gestures to Anya and Xander.) These two? They will never last. Anyanka is very difficult to live with, and he...he is ludicrous, and far too breakable. Their love will never last.
Anya: It's possible that he's in the land of perpetual Wednesday, or the crazy melty land, or you know, the world without shrimp.
Tara: There's a world without shrimp? I'm allergic.
1.12 "Prophecy Girl" - Ha, I'm cheating! It beats out the other contenders (among them 4.12 "A New Man" and 5.12 "Checkpoint") with its extra special season finale power. It's got lots of great moments I remember. Xander's rejection by Buffy (remember, I'm Xander). The A/V room massacre. Willow's describing her reaction to Buffy. Buffy learning about the prophecy of her death. Oh! And Cordelia driving through the school to get to the library. It would have been a great end for the series if it hadn't been picked up.
Willow: How'd it go?
Xander: On a scale of one to ten...it sucked.
Xander: You were looking at my neck.
Xander: You were checking out my neck, I saw that.
Angel: No, I wasn't.
Xander: Just keep your distance, pal.
Angel: I wasn't looking at your neck.
Xander: I told you to eat before we left.
Master: You're dead!
Buffy: I may be dead, but I'm still pretty. Which is more than I can say for you.
Master: You were destined to die. It was written!
Buffy: What can I say? I flunked the written.
3.13 "The Zeppo" - Believe it or not, the runner up is 6.13 "Dead Things," for the awesome Buffy/Tara scene at the end. But I agree with Jonathan in enjoying the parody of serious Buffy episodes in "The Zeppo." I don't think everyone is as terribly out-of-character as some claim, and it's very funny. And Xander's "I like the quiet" is just cool.
Buffy: Should I burn them?
Willow: I brought marshmallows. Occasionally, I'm callous and strange.
Xander: You're in a band. That's like a business-class ticket to cool with complimentary mojo after take-off. I gotta learn an instrument. Is it hard to play guitar?
Oz: Not the way I play it.
Giles: All we know is that the fate of the entire world rests on the--did you eat all the jellies?
Buffy: Did you want a jelly?
Giles: I always have a jelly. I'm always the one that says, "Let's have a jelly in the mix."
Willow: We're sorry. Buffy had three!
2.14 "Innocence" - Well, that was easy. The Angelus arc is, for some, the most powerful arc in the history of the series, and it really begins here. So many great moments. Angelus exhaling the smoke of the woman he just sucked on. Willow discovering Xander and Cordy kissing. Xander and Cordelia stealing weapons. Oz and Willow in the van. The fucking rocket launcher. And that last scene, where Buffy looks at her birthday candle and says, "I'll just let it burn" makes me tear up just thinking about it. I mean, dust. There's dust in the air.
Drusilla: I'm naming all the stars.
Spike: You can't see the stars, love. That's the ceiling. Also, it's day.
Cordelia: Well, does looking at guns make you wanna have sex?
Xander: I'm seventeen. Looking at linoleum makes me wanna have sex.
Oz: So, do you guys steal weapons from the Army a lot?
Willow: Well, we don't have cable, so we have to make our fun.
Oz: Sometimes when I'm sitting in class...You know, I'm not thinking about class, 'cause that would never happen. I think about kissing you. And it's like everything stops. It's like, it's like freeze frame. Willow kissage.
4.15 "This Year's Girl" - This one blew me the hell away on the rewatch. Faith's dreams are great, and we get to see the Mayor again. There's just something so intense about this episode. And holy motherfucking shit, that fight at the end. Faith breaks through a window, and she and Buffy tousle and tumble down the stairs, and Buffy gets slammed through a glass door, and it's all just so fucking awesome. And the "Five by five" end is one of those classic Mutant Enemy endings you remember forever.
Xander: I'd hate to see the pursuit of a homicidal lunatic get in the way of pursuing a homicidal lunatic.
Willow: She's like this cleavagey slutbomb walking around going, "Ooh. Check me out, I'm wicked cool. I'm five by five."
Tara: Five by five? Five what by five what?
Willow: See, that's the thing, no one knows!
3.16 "Doppelgängland" - I'm taking the easy way out, I know. It's impossible to choose. 2.16 "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" is a great wacky love spell episode, 4.16 "Who Are You" is a great body switch episode, and 5.16 "The Body" is an amazing episode, period. But this one has two Willows! It's immensely entertaining. Joss delivers yet again.
Willow: Old reliable? Yeah, great. There's a sexy nickname.
Buffy: Well, I didn't mean it as...
Willow: No, it's fine. I'm Old Reliable.
Xander: She just means, you know, the geyser. You're like a geyser of fun that goes off at regular intervals.
Willow: That's Old Faithful.
Xander: Isn't that the dog that the guy had to shoot...
Willow: That's Old Yeller.
Buffy: Xander, I beg you not to help me.
Giles: She was truly the finest of all of us.
Xander: Way better than me.
Giles: Much, much better.
Xander: Will, we saw you at the Bronze. A vampire.
Willow: I'm not a vampire!
Buffy: You are. I mean, you were. Giles, planning on jumping in with an explanation any time soon?
Giles: Well, uh, something... something very strange is happening.
Xander: Can you believe the Watcher's Council let this guy go?
Angel: Buffy, I...something's happened that...Willow's dead. Hey, Willow. Wait a second.
Xander: We're right there with you, buddy.
Willow: A human? Oh, yeah? Could a human do this? Aaaaaahhhhh!
Anya: Sure, yeah. Humans do that.
Alfonse: Yeah, I think, yeah.
2.17 "Passion" / 4.17 "Superstar" - You can't make me choose! The former wins for drama, the latter for comedy. It's like the Golden Globes! "Passion" is just brilliant and heartbreaking, and "Superstar"...they made new opening credits! They changed the fucking credits! Brilliant! Hilarious episode. "Passion" taught us that Joss Whedon isn't afraid to kill a pseudomajor character, and "Superstar" taught us that you can make a shrimp joke once, and then again, and then the next season, and then a couple years later on Angel. "Passion" has...just...for fuck's sake, it's "Passion"! It belongs on this list! The runner up is 6.17 "Normal Again," and it's possible 7.17 "Lies My Parents Told Me" had a shot as well, but I'll wait for the DVDs.
Xander: Excuse me, but have you ever heard of knocking?
Jonathan: We're supposed to get some books. On Stalin.
Xander: Does this look like a Barnes & Noble?
Giles: This is a school library, Xander.
Xander: Since when?
Angel: It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we can live without passion, maybe we'd know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow. Empty rooms, shuttered and dank. Without passion, we'd be truly dead.
Buffy: I think that Jonathan may be doing something so that he's manipulating the world, and we're all, like, his pawns.
Anya: Or prawns.
Buffy: Stop with the shrimp!
Xander: Right, you can't just go "librum incendere" and expect... (book bursts into flames)
Giles: Xander, don't speak Latin in front of the books.
Xander: So we're saying he did a spell just to make us think he was cool?
Xander: That is so cool!
5.18 "Intervention" - 4.18 "Earshot," another Jane ep, was a close runner up, but the Buffybot is hilarious. Plus, unlike "Earshot," this one contains important plot developments. And it gets special points for Sarah's brilliant acting in the final scene. Maybe it's just me, but I actually saw the layers of Sarah playing Buffy playing the Buffybot, rather than just playing the Buffybot straight.
Buffybot: You're evil.
Spike: And that excites you?
Buffybot: It excites me, it terrifies me. I try so hard to resist you and I can't.
Buffybot: Darn your sinister attraction!
Buffybot: Hey! You look just like me! We're very pretty.
2.19 "I Only Have Eyes for You" - There may be better options, like 6.19 "Seeing Red" or 3.19 "Choices," but I like this one cause it feels like a mini-horror movie, with the sinking into the ground and insect invasion and stuff. And the Buffy/Angel parallel stuff is very cool.
Xander: Oh, no, no. No. No cool. This was no wimpy chain rattler. This was "I'm dead as hell, and I'm not gonna take it anymore."
Giles: Well, despite the Xander-speak, that's a fairly accurate definition of a poltergeist.
Xander: I defined something? Accurately? (closes book) Guess I'm done with the book learning.
Giles: To forgive is an act of compassion, Buffy. It's not done because people deserve it, it's done because they need it.
3.20 "The Prom" - First, I have to mention that 5.20 "Spiral" is the runner up, because everyone hates it. I think it's a great, action-packed episode, and it would win this slot if "The Prom" weren't the only Buffy episode that's made me cry. Like, really cry. And it has nothing to do with Buffy and Angel breaking up and everything to do with everyone's selflessness. Xander buying Cordy's dress. Buffy risking her life for the sake of others. The Class Protector Award. Angel showing up to give Buffy her perfect night. It's just all so fucking beautiful.
Anya: Look, I know you find me attractive; I've seen you looking at my breasts.
Xander: Nothing personal, but when a guy does that, it just means his eyes are open.
Buffy: I'm gonna give you all a nice, fun, normal evening if I have to kill every person on the face of the Earth to do it.
2.21 "Becoming Pt. 1" - I like Angel, so it was good to get his origin story in "Becoming," and I also like Whistler and wish we'd seen more of him (I especially love his closing monologue). Dru's killing Kendra is one of those scenes that always sticks with you, and it's one of the few times Dru's really scary. 3.21 "Graduation Day Pt. 1" is the runner up for the great Buffy/Faith fight.
Spike: It's a big rock. I can't wait to tell my friends. They don't have a rock this big.
Whistler: Bottom line is, even if you see 'em coming, you're not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change, not really. But it does. So what are we, helpless? Puppets? No. The big moments are gonna come, you can't help that. It's what you do afterwards that counts. That's when you find out who you are.
2.22 "Becoming Pt. 2" / 3.22 "Graduation Day Pt. 2" - So it's late, and I'm cheating, okay? How am I supposed to choose when my two favorite seasons come to a close? "Becoming" doesn't make me cry or anything, but it has a kickass Buffy/Angel swordfight. And "Graduation Day" has a giant melee and a really crappy CGI snake and the blowing up of Sunnydale High. Anyone who's seen these episodes can understand why they make the list. The runner up is 4.22 "Restless," cause dream episodes are cool.
Buffy: What are you, just some immortal demon sent down to even the score between good and evil?
Whistler: Wow. Good guess.
Angelus: Now that's everything, huh? No weapons. No friends. No hope. Take all that away, and what's left? (thrusting a sword in her face)
Buffy (stopping the fucking sword within an inch of her face): Me.
Cordelia: I personally don't think it's possible to come up with a crazier plan.
Oz: We attack the Mayor with humus.
Cordelia: I stand corrected.
Oz: Just keeping things in perspective.
Cordelia: Thank you.
Giles: There is a certain dramatic irony attached to all this. A synchronicity that borders on predestination, one might say.
Buffy: Fire bad. Tree pretty.
And that, my friends, is that.