AKA: I will live vicariously through you one way or another
Warm up your cold open with some fire
JUST KIDDING. We’re only on episode three, baby. There’ll be plenty of time for that feelings nonsense later (I’m looking at you, seasons 5 and 6). No, today we’re going to listen to Giles liken cheerleading to a cult. He attempts to forbid it, but Buffy forbids his forbiddance. She says she just needs something safe and normal in her life. The quick cut to a bubbling cauldron clues us into the irony.
Willow and Xander accompany Buffy to tryouts, where the latter gives her a bracelet. It says “Yours Always,” which Xander insists was pre-engraved on all of them. Yuck. Cordelia tries talking shit to Willow and Buffy, but Willow is more interested in catching up with Amy. Amy and Willow used to have brownie-eating sleepovers, but more recently Amy lost a bunch of weight training several hours a day with her mom. That’s enough backstory for the cold open, though, because would-be cheerleader Amber is on fire and Buffy has to put it out.
The gang reconvenes in the library to speculate about spontaneous combustion, which is often tied to rage. Willow offers to hack school records to see if Amber has a history of outbursts while Xander asks around. Buffy says they don’t need to help, but they’ve decided they’re the Slayerettes. These leads end up going nowhere.
Back at the Summers house Joyce is muttering dismissively as Buffy describes her day. She doesn’t actually know what Buffy was auditioning for. Buffy not-so-subtly remarks that Amy and her mom train together, but Joyce points out that she has a gallery to run. Single-parenting in SoCal ain’t cheap.
At the next day of tryouts, Amy runs into Cordelia. Literally – she knocks her over. Cordy gives Amy this long spiel about her dreams of being a cheerleader and what that would entail. She makes vague threats about what will happen if she didn’t make the team.
Amy is unsurprisingly bummed, and because you can’t spell “Buffy Summers” without “Bummer” our favorite Slayer is here to commiserate. It turns out they each find themselves living with single mothers as the result of divorce. Amy feels like she needs to live up to her mom’s cheerleading legacy and the pressure has been mounting since her parents’ split.
Meanwhile Xander is going on and on about Buffy to Willow and I am already so sick of this subplot. He is asking Willow for advice on how to ask Buffy out and calling her “one of the guys” all in one breath.
If you’re not first…
The results have been posted: Cordelia is on the team, Buffy is first alternate, and Amy is third alternate. Despite the term “alternate” Xander assumes this means they made it-made it and is a bit too cheery when delivering the news.
We see the bubbling cauldron again, this time with a voice cursing Cordelia. (Amazon’s closed captions completely ruined the mystery of who the titular witch is.)
Joyce has been briefed on this episode’s theme, so upon hearing Buffy didn’t make the squad she encourages her daughter to join Yearbook like she did in high school. Joyce just wants Buffy to stay out of trouble, and Buffy just wants her mom’s support.
Xander tries to ask Buffy out, but THANK GOD Cordy is acting weird enough for Buffy to need to cut him off and follow her. At her driver’s ed course, the instructor insists Cordelia drive – even though Cordelia says she isn’t feeling well and has apparently failed three times. Seriously, dude, you’re going to have her drive you and two other students when she is vocally expressing her inability to drive safely?
We get a blurry PoV shot and, shock of shocks, Cordelia crashes the car. She winds up standing in the street, completely blind. She is only saved from being hit by an oncoming truck (whose driver was all too willing to hit a pedestrian) by Buffy.
Back in the library Giles theorizes witchcraft is the source of the trouble. The Scoobies deduce it must be Amy since the prior two victims – and Amy’s mom – were cheerleaders. Buffy doesn’t blame her since she knows the pressure Amy’s mom is putting on her. This is especially nice of her considering she is no longer an alternate due to Cordelia’s untimely blinding. Buffy is officially in the target pool.
Giles explains how they can determine if Amy recently cast a spell. The ingredients will all be conveniently located in their combo chemistry-biology class. Buffy spills the potion on Amy during a chaotic sequence where another cheerleader is also being cursed (her mouth just disappears. It’s just gone. I’d say this is one of the more disturbing shots of the episode.). The potion turns blue, which means Amy is the witch. Unfortunately, Amy realizes what is happening and steals Buffy’s bracelet for her next concoction. Back at her house, she takes out a lot of her pent up aggression on her mom and makes her mom do her homework.
The next morning Buffy is beyond peppy. She breaks her alarm, half apologizes/half argues with Joyce, says something about being the Slayer to Joyce, and sings “Macho Man” a lot. This translates to her literally throwing another cheerleader across the gym during pre-game practice. Of course, this means her stint as leader of Sunnydale cheers is over before it really began.
Willow and Xander carry Buffy to the library, and she’s basically the drunk friend on the precipice between very happy and very sad. In a nice callback to Xander and Willow’s earlier conversation, Buffy says Xander is like one of the girls.
Giles diagnoses Buffy with a nasty case of Bloodstone Vengeance. They’ve got about 3 hours to either reverse the spell or cut off Amy’s head. Buffy votes for the former, because she still doesn’t blame Amy for all of this.
Which witch is which?
Buffy and Giles go to Amy’s house. They find Amy’s mom. Giles gives her this really intense dressing down before Buffy sees… a plate of half-eaten brownies?!! That’s right: the single characteristic we know about Amy is how we know she and her mom have swapped bodies. Amy’s mom told her she was wasting her youth which is just sad. I’m sad that all we know about Amy is that she likes brownies and her mom doesn’t like her.
They grab her mom’s spellbooks and head back to the school. Willow and Xander are at the game keeping an eye on who they still think is Amy. We get some more PoV shots from her perspective: flashes of Giles, Buffy, and the real Amy in the chemistry lab attempting to reverse the spells. She runs out of the game to stop them, and Willow and Xander follow her. There is a brief fight in the hall, which includes Amy(‘s mom) doing a Darth Vader choke out to Xander and a Jack Torrence to the chem lab door.
Giles has finished reversing the spell in time, but Amy’s mom is still crazed. She and Buffy throw each other around a bit. It’s witch versus slayer. Buffy deflects a spell meant for her with the reflective surface of a dissection plate. Amy’s mom is magicked away to live in her old cheerleading trophy forever. Amy gets to live with her dad now. And guess what: they’re making brownies this Saturday. Buffy and Joyce get a nice reconciliation as well.
Trav’s single sentence review of Witch: No wonder Amy’s dad left.
I really like this episode. It’s our first true monster of the week, but we also get some real-world storylines to parallel the supernatural ones. It also introduced us to Amy, the first of several recurring minor characters. (Don’t worry, we won’t talk about brownies anymore.) We also get a better sense of Buffy’s moral compass and how she differentiates good and evil at this point in time. (4 / 5)
Where to watch Witch (sponsored links!)
American Horror Story Delicate, Multiply Thy Pain
American Horror Story Delicate began last night, Killer Queens. And it was, well, a complicated episode. This makes sense because this season is about a complicated topic.
Just in case you didn’t know, this whole season is based on the novel Delicate Condition by Danielle Valentine. If you haven’t read it yet, you should.
Anna Victoria Alcott is an actress who just got her big break. She was in a horror movie that no one can stop talking about.
Except Anna herself. Because this career success couldn’t have come at a worse time. She and her husband Dex are in the middle of the difficult IVF process. It’s expensive, time-consuming and painful. Ironically, so is trying to win an Oscar.
But Anna has other things to worry about. Someone is messing with her. Several women are watching her in public. Worse, someone appears to be getting into her home, slashing notes she leaves for Dex, and removing her vital IVF medication from the fridge so it spoils. Her calendar is hacked to move her doctor appointments around so she misses them. Worst of all, someone broke into her home and crawled into bed with her.
Of course, no one takes any of these concerns seriously. Her agent, Siobhan, is focusing on getting her an Oscar. Her husband, Dex, doesn’t seem to give a shit about her except for when it comes to having a baby. He’s frequently dismissive of her concerns and only seems to want her around when it’s convenient for him. He goes so far as to kick her out of his show opening because she’s on edge.
You know, maybe because she’s clearly being stalked by someone who is trying to keep her from having a baby.
AHS Asylum had a lot of dark and important things to say about mental health care in America. AHS Coven had a lot of dark and important things to say about race and gender relationships.
Last season, AHS NYC wasn’t so subtle. Yes, there was a killer. But the real historical horror of the AIDs epidemic in the 80s was the focus of the season. And that worked very well.
This season, the story is clearly about female body autonomy. Anna is a woman struggling with so many issues that modern women face. The balance between our careers and our families. Feeling like growing old is the most unforgivable thing a woman can do. And of course, the fact that our bodies often feel like they don’t belong to us.
I was also pleased to see some AHS alumni. Denis O’Hare as Dr. Hill was delightful. Leslie Grossman and Billie Lourd will be involved soon, and they never bring anything less than their A-game.
This episode also did something I never thought could happen. It managed to scare me with a calendar notification. That was a special moment for me as a horror fan and calendar-obsessed person.
What didn’t work
Here are some things I didn’t love. First off, the main character Anna is a pushover. She can’t say no to Dex, Talia, Dr. Hill, or Siobhan. No one gets a no from this woman!
Anna didn’t act like that in the book. She stood up to everyone all the time, it was great. She wasn’t getting any support, but she was advocating for herself! That was such an important part of her character, and I’m sad to see that she’s lost that here.
I also hate the changes made to Siobhan and Talia. Now, please understand that this isn’t me complaining that the book was different. That’s not my point. Siobhan was a kind, loving woman who supported her best friend even while dying of cancer. Talia was a smart, business-oriented woman who was still kind. She was trying to start a family with her transgender husband, and bonded with Anna over their IVF journeys. These were vital characters in the story.
I feel like they’ve been railroaded.
All that being said, this was a decent start to AHS Delicate. It’s not the best start of a season we’ve had. But it’s okay. I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the season is going to bring. (4 / 5)
Wheel of Time, Strangers and Friends
Episode two of Wheel of Time, widened the divide between the show and the books. Things are happening out of order, people are acting out of character. Whether this is to the detriment of the show, however, has yet to be determined.
One character missing from episode one was Rand. You know, our main character. But we finally catch up with him now.
He’s living in a city with a woman named Selene. They don’t have what I’d call a super healthy relationship. She spends a bit too much time talking about her ex.
Yes, for those of you who didn’t read the books, this is going to be important.
Rand is also working at an insane asylum. He’s kind and patent with his charges, but not all of his fellow caregivers are.
Meanwhile, Lan and Moiraine are recovering form their Fade attack from last episode. Rather than taking the time to actually heal, Moiraine decides to head out to find Rand. Her team comes with her, which seems to really bother her.
While that little hissy fit is taking place, Nynaeve is causing issues. Not by anything she’s doing, but by what she’s not doing. As none of the regular novice teacher have been able to get her to use the One Power, Liandrin offers to try. No one, including me, is thrilled with this. But, the Aes Sedai are desperate. They know that The Dark One is around, and they need Nynaeve to be ready. So, they let the person who’s driven other students to their deaths and actively committed multiple hate crimes take over.
What could go wrong?
The special effects in this episode were really well done. I especially liked the dead fade nailed to the wall.
I was also pleased with the introduction of Elayne. Ceara Coveney is playing her, and doing a fine job. She’s warm, kind and sweet. I am thrilled that she’s around.
One of the greatest things about Wheel of Time is the friendships between the characters. Rand, Perrin, Mat, Nynaeve and Egwene legitimately care about each other. Elayne seems to care for Egwene right away. I really love that.
What didn’t work
One thing that bothered me in this episode, and frankly the last episode, was Liandrin keeping Mat in prison. I feel like this wasn’t adequately explained. Why does she have him? How did she trap him? What in the hell is she trying to get from him? Perhaps I simply missed something, and please let me know in the comments if this is the case. But it feels like some poor writing to me.
I also don’t love how Moiraine is portrayed in this episode. Really, in this season so far.
I get that she’s never exactly been a warm person. She’s not personable, open, or kind. Some (most) fans of the book would likely agree that she’s kind of a bitch.
But she’s not a bitch for no reason. She certainly isn’t the sort to lash out at the people who love her because she’s in pain. And that’s what she’s doing through this episode. She’s taking her pain out on Lan. And that’s just out of character for her.
It feels very much like a lot is being skipped over from the Wheel of Time books. But, so far at least, I don’t feel like anything vital has been missed. It feels more like the story is being streamlined.
Yes, I understand how this might go horribly wrong. I think we’ve all seen that. But as of right now, the changes make sense for the switch in mediums.
Now, let’s see if it stays that way.
(3 / 5)
Fantastico Disasterpiece Theatre: Francois and The Unicorn Review
Gringo Fantastico is a troubled luchador presenting Troma films from the safety of a derelict recreation center nestled in chaotic Tromaville. He is tortured by the French-Canadian Demon Piñata Francois who trash talks and hurls abuse throughout the episodes. This week’s special guest is Jonah Ray Rodrigues. New episodes release on the first of each month on Troma NOW.
Roll the Tape!
Welcome back to Tromaville for Chapter Dos of Fantastico Disasterpiece Theatre! Gringo Fantastico (Nate Turnpaugh) returns to the screen with guest Jonah Ray (current host of Mystery Science Theater 3000) to proudly host Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957). Turnpaugh espouses his love for the movie in our most recent interview and credits his friends with helping him to discover it. “They kept trying to get me to watch it, and one day I finally did.”
On a totally unrelated note, the Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines libel as “a written or oral defamatory statement or representation that conveys an unjustly unfavorable impression.” For no reason at all, I choose to immediately correct the record and inform you that Fantastico actually hosts Herb Freed’s Graduation Day (1981).
We once again begin with grainy VHS footage of an interview from the luchador’s past. Much like the previous episode, Fantastico becomes upset at the prodding questions being asked of him. As this ongoing narrative continues to build, it is becoming obvious Fantastico is coming close to a breaking point.
These segments, while short, work to highlight Turnpaugh’s screenwriting ability. They feel authentic and demonstrate a solid understanding of wrestling culture. Crafting a compelling story can be difficult when it is broken into parts and spread across significant time. However, he creates bite-sized pieces of lore that manage to both satisfy and leave the audience craving more.
A Piñata by Any Other Name
Before the movie can start, Fantastico has to deal with the usual shenanigans from Francois. When it is time to bring out Jonah Ray for his interview from the Satellite of Love, Francois outright refuses. The interview must come at the cost of Fantastico’s soul. Fearing for the worst but desperate to continue the episode, Fantastico agrees to a one-day-only loan of his soul.
Enter Francine. She’s a sassy yet loving unicorn who only wants the best for Fantastico. She is complimentary and eager to help, offering her kind words in a sugary sweet voice. For all intents and purposes, she is the opposite of Francois. And yet, she is Francois. At least, she is Francois after consuming Fantastico’s soul.
Turnpaugh continues the ongoing theme of addressing his PTSD within the episode. He explains it as, “the whole concept of self-worth with the PTSD and things like that because that is a problem that I’ve experienced. When people are constantly negative towards you and you constantly have to defend yourself and you constantly be on edge and finally something happens and you don’t have to do that anymore. But you’re so guarded when that happens that you don’t know how to act.”
Throughout the episode, Fantastico chafes against Francine’s presence. He is unsure of what to do when someone speaks affectionately to him after suffering Francois for so long. The only punishments she doles out are rainbows that make you laugh. It’s unsettling and a little uncomfortable and is exactly what working to replace negative self-talk with positive self-talk feels like.
The Satellite of Love
The interview segments with Jonah Ray feel like listening to old friends banter. Turnpaugh tells me he first met Ray at the Malco Drive-In Theater last year where they both attended Joe Bob’s Jamboree. He admits to being caught off guard when Ray knew who he was and was familiar with his work.
Fame and the mental games it causes one to play ends up becoming a large part of the interview. When asked by Fantastico when he felt like he had made it, Jonah Ray responds “I don’t think there is a there, there.” He likens the fame game to climbing a ladder. “You’re […] looking up […] but you rarely look back down.”
One of the best portions of the interview is when Jonah Ray goes full meta and begins roasting the ego necessary to take on the role of a media host. It’s hard not to laugh when you remember this is coming from the mouth of one host straight into the ear of another. It is important to note that both men are playing characters as hosts, which according to Ray changes the dynamic.
New Place, Same Thing
Jonah Ray also spends time talking about the difference in production having moved away from Netflix and onto Gizmoplex. He says it has been a lifelong dream to host MST3K and the move has allowed him space to better bring his vision of hosting to the screen. Netflix, while important in bringing MST3K back, seems to have sucked some of the soul out of the show. He believes moving to Gizmoplex helps with delivering the level of quality fans expect.
Turnpaugh is familiar with format shifts, having moved his show from YouTube onto Troma Now. I ask how this has changed things in terms of production and he says while he has never felt more supported, he has started placing more pressure on himself. “The pressure is never from Troma.” Lloyd Kaufman clearly believes in the show, as he’s recently started giving it top-billing on the site.
Back to Basics
The end of the episode brings back an extremely confused Francois. It seems consuming Fantastico’s soul didn’t go exactly as planned. Turnpaugh promises that audiences have not seen the last of Francine and that some answers may be coming sooner rather than later. You’ll just have to tune in next month to see what insanity happens next in Tromaville.
My rating for the episode: (4.6 / 5)
Follow @realfantastico on the platform formerly known as Twitter to join in with the rest of the Fantasticats as they live-tweet each episode the Friday after release. Episode three features special guests Toby Poser, John Adams and Lulu Adams.