Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 1 Episode 4: Teacher’s Pet is not known as one of the strongest of Buffy episode, but it has it’s moments. Spoilers? Count on it.
Buffy’s dreams – usually prophetic – often feature in Buffy. Alternatively Teacher’s Pet opens with a dream by Xander, in which he saves Buffy from a vampire, she is grateful, attracted to him and he plays a guitar solo. He wakes to Buffy saying, “you’re drooling”, as he has nodded off in Biology class.
The dream says a lot about Xander’s character and motivation at this point in the series, and introduces the first Xander centred episode. While we often see Willow in peril in early Buffy, Xander is placed in this position in this episode.
Dr Gregory is delivering a lesson about ants. There is a cute moment in which the teacher asks Buffy questions from the homework and Willow tries to communicate answers to Buffy through mime. Not only does this set the tone for the lesson that Buffy needs to learn in this episode – to do her homework – it also foreshadows silent communication in Season 4’s Hush. Dr Gregory is not taken in and asks to see Buffy after class. He surprises Buffy by having confidence in her abilities and predicts she will excel if she does the “homework thing”. Dr Gregory is then seen in his lab being attacked by the leathery arm of a mysterious creature.
Later in the Bronze, Blaine, who had also been in Dr Gregory’s class, is bragging about his sexual conquests. Xander is drawn in to this “banter” and attempts to use Buffy and Willow to show how confident he is with women. Buffy is distracted though by the entrance of Angel. Xander complains to Willow that Buffy did not mention how buff Angel is. Meanwhile Angel warns Buffy about a “fork guy” and gives her his coat, (as you do).
As ever there is great dialogue in this episode:
Angel: You’re cold.
Buffy: You can take it.
Angel: I mean you look cold. (hands her his jacket)
The next day Buffy and Willow are concerned to hear that Mr Gregory is missing. Xander is blasé about it, he celebrates that not doing his homework was not such a bad idea. He has the most to learn in this episode. He continues to act like a walking teenage hormone machine; mentioning that he was distracted by the cheerleaders when he heard the news and then shamelessly ogling Miss French the substitute teacher. Blaine competes with Xander to impress the teacher and in creepy predatory male stakes. However as the episode progresses roles are shifted as Miss French is revealed to be the real predator.
Cordelia finds Dr Gregory’s headless body in the canteen fridge. Giles and the gang are clearly upset by Dr Gregory’s death, they all liked him. As they try to come to terms with his loss they realise they are facing more than one threat, as Dr Gregory’s killing does not match what they have heard about the “fork guy”; a vampire who cut off his hand in penance for upsetting the Master.
The episode shows development for several characters. At first Buffy’s instinct is to go out and patrol, find and fight the bad guy. But moved by Dr Gregory’s loss, she works through a series of clues, follows them up carefully and with research deciphers them. Her thorough approach enables her to work out how to both locate and kill the monster of the week. She takes lead in the research group, directing Willow and Giles in tasks to acquire the information needed. In short she takes Dr Gregory’s advice and does the homework. She is very aware of this aspect of her growth and announces it proudly several times.
Giles also learns to embrace other methods of research, under Buffy’s direction. Willow seemingly has the least to learn, she already does her homework and uses a range of resources. However her feelings for Xander and her panic when he is in danger threaten to derail her from sensible approaches.
Xander makes mistakes, being drawn in by Miss French’s attention and going to her home. But even when he is with her, he is thinking about Buffy and says her name. It turns out that Miss French is a giant praying mantis, or she-mantis and specifically a virgin thief. He has not been paying attention to the warning signs, including a direct warning from Buffy that Miss French is a bug, (to be fair Buffy could have approached this with more subtlety).
Xander has not learnt to do the homework and any rationality he may have had is further clouded by his feelings of jealousy at the attention Angel is showing Buffy. However by the end of the episode it is impossible for Xander to not recognise that he has acted foolishly and that he was wrong. He acknowledges this, apologises to the group and thanks them. Unlike Blaine, who hasn’t learnt anything, and continues to be absolutely awful.
Buffy appears to be very self assured and to have developed in this episode, her teacher-student relationship with Dr Gregory was respectful, moving and clearly positive and mirrors her growing trust in Giles.
However, the episode is left with the developing relationship between Buffy and Angel. Buffy is currently unaware of the dangers which this relationship may hold. So as much as this episode is about doing your homework, it can equally be read as warning of the potential risks of embarking on romantic and sexual relationships. Parallels can be drawn between Angel and Miss French as older adults who show an interest in younger people, who are not what they seem and who pose threats to them. So at the end of day Xander may have actually learned more than Buffy in this episode.
And then of course in the final scene we see some of Miss French’s egg sacs in the school lab cupboard, a fun horror ending which is never followed up on.
Text © Angela S