CW: Attempted Sexual Assault
How many of us went on a school trip to the zoo? (I did when I was 6) How many of us fell under mind control from evil hyenas? (I was too busy watching the gorillas throw poop.) Anyways, our favorite sleaze bag Xander does both and what happens next becomes, in my opinion, one of the worst episodes, maybe in the series. Buckle up as we delve into “The Pack”.
Do we not chaparone field trips anymore?
We open at the oft-mentioned Sunnydale Zoo, full of teenagers running amok with no chaperones. This will turn out well. Anyway, Buffy is looking over the zoo map where she is accosted by the bullies of the episode. They come by and accost her for no reason other than ‘bullies’. The gang meanders off right before Xander and Willow excitedly come up and tell about them seeing zebras mate, which Willow so eloquently put it Like the Heimlich, but with stripes”. They mosey on for a bit more talking about how this is not a bad trip because of no classes, which Xander (not so) surprisingly loves.
We are then introduced to the seeming loner of the episode, Lance. He is either writing or drawing something as he stares at the chimpanzee enclosed before the group of miscreants approach. They surround the poor kid and treat him like crap for no reason other than their enjoyment. They surround him and before anything bad could happen, they are stopped by Principal Flutie. Lance tells Flutie that everything is ok and nothing is going on. Flutie glares at the gang before leaving.
The cretins decide to reward Lance with a trip to the hyena house, which is closed off. They ignore that and go in anyway. We do need to mention the shoddy way the zoo booked off the hyena house. Anyway, Xander sees this and chases after them. Buffy and Willow follow suit but are stopped by a zookeeper. Xander goes in and interrupts the gang of n’er do wells, leaving Lance to run off. But before they can do anything, one of the hyenas flashes a glow from its eyes, which causes the same from Xander and the bullies.
Xander has changed…by being more Xander
Shock of all shocks, we open back up at The Bronze, where there is no cover for DJ Night. Buffy and Willow are hanging out as besties do, with Willow asking if Buffy noticed any changes from Xander once they left the zoo. Buffy smirks, knowing the reason that Willow noticed as much as she did as she is still head over heels for Xander. Willow tosses the head over heels moment in Buffy’s face, mentioning Angel and his leather jacket she still has. As if on cue, Xander shows up being his usual ‘charming’ self, but hyena-powered. On top of his usual creepiness, we now add smelling Buffy’s hair and munching on her croissant. Then here comes the superpowered gang of bullies who make people move because ‘it was their table’ as well as making a fat joke which makes Xander laugh, to the ladies’ chagrin.
When one goes to a library in school, what do you expect to use it for? Studying? Research? Not even close. If you go to Sunnydale, Giles and Buffy use it for kickboxing practice. After quickly finishing, Giles sends her to class so he can heal. Then we see a POV shot of something low to the ground chasing students in the hallway. Oh no! Killer hyenas! But Buffy is able to pick it up? False alarm, the new mascot got loose. Principal Flutie introduces us to Herbert the Razorback. What exactly is a Razorback? Simply an actual pig with foam dorsal spines, an ill-fitting football helmet, and false tusks.
Dodgeball wasn’t much different than when I was in school
As someone who was short and scrawny, you would think I hated dodgeball. Au contraire, I loved it. However, these were weird rules. No cones to hit to bring out eliminated teammates, no real rules, just random teams throwing the balls. Anywho, on one side had Xander, the bullies, and Lance among the extras. And the other hand Buffy, Willow, and their group of extras. It comes down to Buffy on her side, with the other side consisting of Xander, the bullies, and Lance. Instead of taking care of Buffy and winning the game, everyone turns on Lance and showers rubber ball doom onto him. Buffy rushes to save them, with the villainous group slinking away.
Willow later catches up with Xander to talk to him about his recent attitude change. At first, he mentions going through changes, and perhaps he has some sort of feelings for her. But, he twists it to tell her he is dropping geometry and will not need her to tutor him anymore, while also mentioning her having a ‘pasty face’, causing her to run off. Buffy walked in during the middle of it, walking up to the group as Willow rushes away. She glares at Xander, daring him to say something to her. He simply snickers at her and walks off.
Careful of eating raw pork
Ah, lunchtime. The most segmented part of the school day. You eating at the same table with the same people every day. We all remember that scene from Mean Girls. The group o’ meanies walks up to a table outside where one of the guys sitting down asks Xander about some singer of a band, like seen at one of the nightly sojourns to The Bronze. Instead of engaging in a deep philosophical discussion about frontmen, Xander and the group of hyena types just glare before stealing their hot dogs and walking off because they smell something less cooked. Their heightened sense of smell leads them to the room Herbert the mascot is in. After surrounding the cage and frightening the poor thing, they all dive in and devour the poor pig.
We then turn to a devastated Willow who is pouring her broken heart out to Buffy. Willow has convinced herself that she is the third wheel and Xander is nicer to Buffy because he wants her (Yeah, that adds up). Buffy reassures Willow and heads to Giles to see if she can pinpoint the problem. She brings him all the warning signs, which he somewhat humorously writes off as him being a teenage boy. Buffy keeps failing to convince Giles that something more than hormones is at work until he mentions about ‘preying on the weak’. It clicks to Buffy of the attitude change after the hyena cage. Before they can get any further into this, Willow rushes in to say that they found a dead…and eaten Herbert.
Principal Flutie, we hardly knew thee
Principal Flutie, rightfully so, is on the warpath as he approaches the group, sans Xander. He demands that they meet him in his office, as he knows what they did. They did themselves no favors with all but admitting it. Meanwhile, the 3/4 of the Scooby Gang not possessed by evil hyena spirits figure out what we knew all along. Giles has the bad news that if they cannot figure out how to stop the possession, there could be some deadly consequences, so Buffy rushes off to find Xander.
CW: Attempted SA Buffy rushes into the classroom that held the former mascot looking for Xander. While looking around and discovering pieces of the poor pig’s spine among other bones, she is surprised from behind by Xander, who is creepier than usual. At more than one point, Xander is able to overpower her, apparently getting stronger is one of the side effects of the possession. Xander starts to tell her creepy things that you know have been in his head since the beginning. The scene cuts just ass he starts to sniff and nuzzle her. The next scene has Buffy dragging an unconscious Xander into the library and into the same cage we all had in our high school libraries. Before anyone says it never went that far, Buffy actually says he tried his hand at ‘felony sexual assault’.
While this scene is going on, they keep cutting back to Principal Flutie in his office with the other hyena-possessed crowd. They slowly surround him as Flutie tries to get to the bottom of the issue, even threatening to call their parents. Before he can dial one number, they all jump onto the principal, kill him, and eat him. Even sadder the camera pans down to a photo on his desk of himself. No significant other, no pets, nothing.
Zoo Tycoon never played like this
Xander finally wakes up in the library cage, while poor Willow is still doing her hyena research all alone in the library. While Willow does seem, genuinely concerned for her friend, Xander seems uncharacteristically the same to her. He seems to finally be over Buffy and lays out how he finally wants to show her affection. Willow once again shows how lowkey clever she is, but goaded Xander into revealing that he is still under the spell.
Meanwhile, Buffy and Giles are talking to the zookeeper, trying to convince him about the hyena possessions. According to the zookeeper, this is a special breed of a hyena (of course it is) that was worshipped by ancient priests. The best way to solve this issue is a reverse transpossesion , but he needs the kids to come to the hyenas. The keeper states that because after feeding and sleeping they will meet up with the rest of the pack…Uh-oh! That means they are coming for Willow at the library. As if on cue, the rest of the ruffians crash into the library to release Xander and go after a scrambling Willow. Just when it seemed like Willow’s time ran out, here comes Buffy and Giles to save her. They decide to split the party with Willow and Giles heading to the zoo right away while Buffy guides the baddies there.
How did Giles and Willow get so dumb so quick?
Back at the entrance to the hyena house, Giles runs inside and leaves Willow outside to help guide them in. The zookeeper in his finest Violet Beauregard robes and facepaint as Giles runs in. With the ceremonial markings on the floor, it takes too long for Giles to figure out that the keeper was one of these high priests trying to gain the hyenas powers, but the teens were able to do this before him. As a reward for him finally figuring this out, the zookeeper knocks him out and stuff him in a closet.
Willow hears Buffy running in with the gang close behind. Being one of the intelligent ones, Willow readily agrees to get her hands tied and the keeper putting a knife to her throat because they need a predatory act for the transpossesion. Willows finally yells that it was a trap all along, causing her to stop and get tackled. Before they could finally finish her, the keeper screams something in another language, causing all the hyena souls(?) to transfer to him. So, here we go, the final battle between him and Buffy. Could someone with all the souls topple here when she had trouble with one soul? Nope, a quick couple of blows and she throws the priest/druid cross-class who gets eaten by the hyenas.
Couldn’t be more tone deaf
The episode closes on the gan reviewing what happened in the past few days with Xander not remembering what happened while he was under the spell. The girls brush it off before he runs into Giles. Giles talks about no mention of memory loss, meaning that Xander remembers everything he did during the episode. So, do we use this as some sort of character development and see Xander grow as a person. Does this cause a rift between everyone? Do we use this as a teaching tool on SA? Nope, we end on whimsical music and never speak of it again.
In closing, this would have been a pretty good and interesting episode if they never had that scene. But by keeping it, trivializing it, and brushing it under the rug, it really put a huger sour note on the episode. The way such a sensitive topic was handled really put this as the weakest episode of the season, maybe of all time. The big blemish on an overall solid first season.(1.5 / 5)
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