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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Bad Eggs

[Updated April 29, 2013]

Ted may generate widely divided opinions, but Bad Eggs doesn’t suffer from that problem. No, it consistently appears on lists of “worst Buffy episodes”, so I might as well admit up front that I really like it. I think it’s hilarious, but it also plays an important role in the seasonal arc and there’s a very good reason why it appears at this point in the season.

Thematically, it’s an episode about SEX. It screams sex; well, it screams sex and talks softly but insistently about responsibility:  “Xander:  Well, you know, it's the whole 'sex leads to responsibility' thing, which I personally don't get.” Irony duly noted.
Speaking of sex and (ir)responsibility, we see Xander (Buffy’s heart) and Cordelia (Buffy’s shadow self, her shallow aspect) obsessed with sex in the biology class. Since in my view it’s All About Buffy, I see this as telling us, in metaphor, that Buffy’s thinking about it too. And, obviously, if she’s thinking about sex there’s only one person she’s thinking about it with, and that’s Angel: “Angel, when I look into the future, a-a... all I see is you! All I want is you.”
She’s gone back and forth on this for several episodes, as we saw most obviously in Reptile Boy, an episode which certainly discouraged the idea. In Lie to Me she told Angel that she loved him but wasn’t sure she could trust him. The events of The Dark Age and WML seem to have encouraged her trust.  Bad Eggs, though, delivers the same message as Reptile Boy albeit more subtly (admittedly a rather low bar).
Her heart is thinking about it, as is her selfish aspect; that latter point alone should give her pause. Nor does the immature behavior of Xander and Cordy in the closet, in class, or elsewhere suggest that it’s a good idea. We also know that the X/C relationship is wrong. Xander and Cordy know it; they talk about it the whole time they’re kissing in the closet:

“Xander:  You know what? This would work a lot better for me if you didn't talk.
Cordelia:  Well, it'd work a lot better for me with the lights off.
Xander:  Are you saying that you can't look at me when we do... whatever it is we do?
Cordelia:  No, it's not that I can't, it's just more... I don't want to.
Xander:  That's great! That's just dandy! We're repulsed by each other, we, (indicates the door) we hide from our friends...
Cordelia:  Well, I should hope so! Please!
Xander:  (nods) All in all this is not what I'd call a big self-esteem booster.
Cordelia:  Tell me about it! (looks him over) Just look at you! And those clothes. Where did you get those shoes?!
Xander:  Okay, you know what? I don't need this.
Cordelia:  Ditto! Like a hole in the head!”

Sex requires both maturity and responsibility. In fact responsibility is the surface point of the episode (see trivia note 6), what with the eggs themselves a lesson in responsibility and Joyce constantly referring to Buffy not being responsible:
“Joyce: A little responsibility is all I ask. Honestly, don't you ever think about anything besides boys and clothes?”
 “Joyce:  Oh, they're [kids] just so irresponsible.”
“Joyce: Young lady, you have to learn some responsibility, okay? Once and for all.”
Buffy’s own behavior of blowing off her search for the Gorches to snog with Angel – a scene very like X/C in the closet – suggests that it’s diverting her from her destiny. The ending scene probably isn’t what Joyce had in mind when she grounded Buffy for not being responsible. And if we’re talking about maturity, note that Buffy’s stuffed animals are plainly visible while she’s kissing Angel.
It’s a bit more of a stretch, but I think it’s also possible to see the Bezoar as a metaphorical vagina dentata. It’s a mother figure, it lives in the school basement, and it swallows Tector whole. If I’m right about this, there’s a message here. And we’re about to see it.
Trivia notes: (1) Lyle and Tector Gorch were 2 of the characters in the movie The Wild Bunch. Another character in the movie is named Angel. (2) Buffy told her egg “good night Eggbert.” Speedy Eggbert was a computer game modestly popular at the time Bad Eggs aired. (3) Xander’s “cruel to be kind” phrase is yet another one from Hamlet, Act III, sc. iv. (4) A bezoar – the type of demon – is an indigestible object trapped in the digestive tract. Yeah, it’s a real word. (5) The plot for the episode could be based on either Robert Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters, the movie based on his book, or the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers. (6) I never know if stuff like this is obvious or not, but a “bad egg” is somewhat dated slang for an irresponsible person, a rogue. The title, like most in the show, therefore has multiple meanings: the eggs (duh); the Gorches (rogues); Buffy, Xander and Cordy (irresponsible, a word Joyce specifically applies to Buffy).


  1. I've always ben kinda "meh" on this episode. The eggs as children trope was funny for about 20 seconds, as I always thought that was the STUPIDEST thing EVAH. The flour bags as babies made a little more sense to me.

    Still, its thematic importance cannot be denied.


    And the timing of your review of this episode could not be more appropriate with the recent comic revelation that Buffy is (SERIOUSLY DON'T KEEP READING BACKWARDS IF YOU DON'T WANNA KNOW) tnangerp.

  2. Ooh. I didn't know that. The local store which carried the comics went out of business so I haven't been following S9.

  3. I am not real thrilled about it at the moment. I've always felt that if the show was about feminist empowerment, then the comics are about the feminist backlash, but sometimes they seem to be following tropes not challenging them.

    So we will have to wait and see, I suppose, and see how this plays out. There are some other things happening I'm not thrilled with either, look up Buffy #9 variant cover if you want to see what that is.

  4. I would not be happy about that at all.

  5. Spoiler

    Andrew and superscience to the rescue apparently, but we will have to wait and see, once again. It does tie interestingly with Buffy and her role as defined by Primeval though.

  6. "It’s a bit more of a stretch, but I think it’s also possible to see the Bezoar as a metaphorical vagina dentata. It’s a mother figure, it lives in the school basement, and it swallows Tector whole. If I’m right about this, there’s a message here. And we’re about to see it."
    I kept this in mind as I rewatched this one recently, and I have to say I don't think it's a stretch. The textual evidence for it is overwhelming once you're looking for it.

    Take Mr. Whitmore's lecture:
    "The sex drive in the human animal is intense.... Of course, for teenagers such as yourselves these feelings are even more overwhelming. With all sorts of hormones surging through your bodies, compelling you to action..." He then asks about consequences, like pr-egg-nancy (sorry). Well, what does the Bezoar do? It compels everyone to, um, expose it, regardless of the consequences (the spawning of its eggs).
    "Buffy (reading about the Bezoar): 'Pre-pre-historic parasite. The mother hibernates underground, laying eggs. The offspring then attach themselves to a host, taking control of their motor functions through neural clamping.'

    Xander: 'Neural clamping.' That sounds skippable.

    Buffy: So, our people are taking orders from the mama bezoar."
    The Bezoar spawn first attacks Buffy after she returns from her hunting/make out sessions with Angel. It even sucks her energy during sleep.

    Also, the mama bezoar is a giant pink monster in a tunnel in the basement that's full of eggs.

    Almost every line when Buffy and Xander are in the basement is a really dirty pun on this reading:
    "Xander: Do we really wanna go in there?

    Buffy: We really don't."

    "Buffy: We can't let them spread those eggs.

    Xander: I'll handle it. Um, can you, uh, hold down the fort?

    Buffy: I'm gonna need a weapon. I'm gonna need a *big* weapon."

    As is the sign, "Basement door must remain locked at all times."
    This makes Bad Eggs pretty a hilarious duping of the standards and practices people at the WB.

    1. Great points. I think Jane Espenson really enjoyed stuff like this, as she'll later show in DP.