"His idea of wooing doesn't involve a Yanni CD and a bottle of Chianti."
If I hadn't been sure that Buffy was not quite like most other teen dramas on television, this is the episode that did it for me. In fact, if I saw you within 24 hours of watching this episode, I probably interrupted you at some point to say, "OH MY GOD I just watched this episode of Buffy you won't believe what happened oh my god oh my god!"
We open in a zoo during a class field trip. A group of bullies who we have never seen before and will never see again (for good reason, as we will find out) trick a nerdy kid into entering the off-limits hyena exhibit. I find the idea of a hyena exhibit delightful in the first place, let alone one that's all blocked off with caution tape (for good reason, as we will find out). They try to push nerd boy into the hyena cage, and who comes to save the day but our very own Xander! No sooner has Xander ushered him to safety than he and the bullies all see the hyenas emerge, and everyone's eyes light up a mysterious green, and then they all start cracking up, and you think, "No....way......."
I neglected to mention the fact that Willow has a big girl crush on Xander. Ok, we've gotten that out of the way. Willow has a crush on Xander, he doesn't notice her, now we don't have to think about it anymore. But she spends an awful lot of time complaining about it to Buffy, and is doing this at The Bronze when Xander walks in with a swagger, takes a big bite out of Buffy's sandwich, sniffs everyone, and makes a wordless love connection with the leader of the bully gang with this smoldering glare:
It seems that Xander has turned mean. He's been spending too much time with The Wrong Crowd. We can tell because he cackles at other peoples' misfortune, breaks poor Willow's heart, incites fear and panic into the school's ADORABLE pig mascot, and is overly-aggressive at dodgeball.
This all seems quite goofy, until the kids find the pig mascot in a cage and eat it alive. I am not kidding. This happened. They celebrate by walking onto the set of a music video for which they wander around Sunnydale High modeling Gap's new fall fashions. Oh wait...
Principal Flutie finds out that the gang were responsible for eating the pig and takes them into his office. They (minus Xander) circle around him, swipe at him, close in, and...
THEY EAT. PRINCIPAL FLUTIE.
THE KIDS. ATE. THEIR PRINCIPAL.
In the meantime, Xander corners Buffy and essentially tries to rape her, going on and on about how he knows she wants bad boys, and clearly she is attracted to him, and, "I like it when you're scared!" This will be summarily forgotten for the rest of the series. Also, THE KIDS ATE THEIR PRINCIPAL. But one thing I can say for the show is that it is always calls rape what it is, something that most shows/films/news articles/people fail to do. (I'm looking at you, Dollhouse.) Buffy drags an unconscious Xander into the library to lock him in the cage that is inexplicably in the library (and will come in handy for many seasons to come) and we hear the following:
Willow: What happened?
Buffy: I hit him.
Willow: With what?
Buffy: A desk. He tried his hand at felony sexual assault.
It turns out that the zookeeper is somehow responsible for the hyena possession as it is a part of his sacred ritual to paint his face blue and become possessed by a hyena. This dastardly plan is foiled and the kids are un-possessed. But we find out that they remember everything that happened during their period of possession, and we never see the bullies again, leaving you to imagine them lying in bed, the memory of ripping apart their principal's flesh on their minds, transferring schools, decades of therapy, lifelong veganism...
Favorite moment: Buffy: They didn't hurt him, did they?
Giles: They...ate him.
Buffy: They...ate Principal Flutie?