Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season One: Teacher’s Pet (22nd Anniversary Retrospective)
And here it is. The first episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer I would actually recommend you skip watching. Welcome To The Hellmouth is a great introduction to the show, The Harvest is a necessary part of the series and it’s a set-up to literally everything that comes afterwards (Plus it’s not too bad), and Witch has recurring themes and characters that will come up in future episodes and seasons. But this? This has none of that, it’s a basic monster of the week style plot without a decent monster.
After Witch, you’d expect the next episode to be even more nuanced, with even greater subtext. You’d be mistaken. The episode is essentially “Wow, some teachers are sexual predators! Not this one though, this one is an ACTUAL predator.” It’s a far cry from “This parent wants to live through their child” and somehow less subtle, even though the previous episode had a plot literally about Vicarious Living. Perhaps it’s the fact that episode actually had subtext rather than… well, just text.
Most of this episode is irredeemable. From the shaky cam fight scene towards the end of the episode (clearly done only due to the fact they never actually finished the full Mantis suit) to the downright awful acting of Musetta Vander as Natalie French, the quality of the episode never rises above being simply mediocre.
The main cast is as great as ever, I suppose. Sarah Michelle Geller is still great as Buffy, Nicholas Brendon as Xander gets the most exposure he’s had so far in the show, Alyson Hannigan (while mildly side-lined) is as wonderful as ever as Willow and Anthony Stewart Head is still utterly mesmerising as Giles. The issue here is with the guest cast, mainly Musetta Vander as Natalie French (Alternatively known as The Mantis Lady): she just feels like she’s playing the role without care nor effort. Her lines are delivered without any authority and it seems like she doesn’t even want to be on the show.
Overall, Teachers Pet is one of the weakest episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season one. Hell, it might be one of the weakest episodes of Buffy overall. It’s certainly one of my least favourites.
Best Moment: More of an ironic best moment this one, but it’s probably the scene where Mrs French is coming onto Xander. Not for the dialogue or anything, oh no. No, for the slow change into a giant Mantis pincer on Xander’s leg. Since the whole goal for her is to get the boys impregnated, why the hell didn’t it wait until it was, y’know, doing the deed to change? Surely that’d make the whole goal much, much easier?
Best Character: Xander. Sure, it’s a pretty bad episode all things considered, but he’s easily the best part. An exploration of teenage sexuality through the lens of the teen itself, the entire episode is a deep dive into what he himself considers acceptable, towards his own knowledge of the human sexuality. It’s clear from this that most of his knowledge of sexuality comes from pornography (as is often the case with young people) and it’s a heavy influence towards the way he acts.
Best Line: “So there’s something else out there? Besides Silverwareman? Oh this is fun, we’re on Monster Island.”
Fun Fact: This episode is the first of six episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer that co-producer David Greenwalt wrote. He went on to co-create Angel with Joss Whedon.
by Ryan Easby