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Fear, Itself

We start off with an interesting shot of Xander through the eye of a pumpkin — literally. Xander has apparently carved a pumpkin version of himself: it is, according to the gang, both mocking and full of self-loathing. They're obviously way more observant than we are, because we see nothing but a plain old pumpkin face. A woeful Buffy is not participating in the carving, because she identifies with their pain too much. Xander, who accidentally rented Fantasia instead of Phantasm, feels left out because the gang forgot to mention the upcoming frat-house Halloween party. This is our first big clue to the fact that Xander has issues about being the only non-student in the group. Buffy takes off, claiming sleepiness. The gang discusses her depression, wishing they could smack Parker. On her way back to the dorm, Buffy mistakenly attacks a "demon" in a Halloween costume.

The next day at school, Willow is sharing with Buffy her concerns about moving on to the next level of witchcraft (conjuring, transmutations, and other dangerous stuff). Oz comes in on the tail end of the conversation, and hopes Buffy didn't encourage her. He's worried about Willow because he knows what it's like to have a power you can't control; his werewolf situation puts him in touch with some dark stuff that he doesn't much like. Buffy spots Parker laughing with group of friends and suddenly realizes she "forgot to ... be hungry." She takes off, and Willow follows, telling her not to let Parker get to her. Buffy just wants to not deal with anything right now, and she doesn't want to go to the party, either.

Giles in a sombreroBuffy heads to Giles' place in order to share with us the absolutely hilarious image of Giles in a poncho and a fringed sombrero. Buffy is confused, because she thought Giles hated Halloween, but he doesn't; he just never had time to get into it. Giles tells Buffy that there's no need to patrol, since creatures of the night shy away from Halloween.

Over at the frat-house, everyone's preparing for the party. They realize that they need to call Oz for help with the sound system, which isn't cutting it. One frat-boy shares the enlightening revelation that Halloween is all about getting laid. Another, Chaz, displays a mystical symbol in a book, which he's going to paint on the floor upstairs. He thinks it's nothing more than cool — but the ominous music tells us it's more than just cool.

Over at Xander's, Anya surprises Xander in his basement, though she's not naked this time. Uncle Rory, smelling of peppermint schnapps, let her in. Anya is upset because Xander never called her; she admits that she didn't mean it when she said she was over him. He admits that he's not unhappy to see her, and they agree to go to party together, with Willow, Oz, and Buffy, of course. Anya, though, feels that Xander has little in common with them, since they go to college and don't live with their parents, unlike Xander. Xander tells Anya that she needs to get a scary costume.

Buffy goes to get her assignments from Professor Walsh, the mean psychology teacher, because she missed class for no good reason (Buffy and Jamie are kindred spirits). The Professor is expectedly harsh, telling her that she'll be kicked out if she misses one more class. Riley gives Buffy some rather teacher-like advice to work harder, but nonetheless encourages her to go party tonight (Halloween).

At the frat-house, Oz comes to loan the guys his stereo system just after they've painted the weird symbol on the floor. Xander, who came with Oz, is impressed with their set-up. They suggest that he pledge the fraternity, but Oz tells them Xander's a "civilian." Xander looks annoyed with Oz. Oz manages to cut himself when trimming a speaker wire, and accidentally drips a bit of blood on the symbol. Something mystical happens, though no one notices. A little plastic spider laying on the symbol suddenly morphs into a real tarantula (a cool little effect), providing nightmare-fodder for Jamie.

At Buffy's house, Joyce fixes up an old Red Riding Hood costume for Buffy, remembering that Buffy wore it when she was twelve and her father still went trick or treating with her. Buffy expresses sadness that her dad didn't like spending time with her enough to stay with the family, but Joyce reminds her that their divorce had nothing to do with her. Buffy worries that whenever you open your heart to someone, they bail on you, but Joyce declares that she, Giles, and Buffy's friends are there for her; there's nothing to be afraid of.

On campus, people are toilet-papering and generally being crazy. Willow, on the phone in her dorm, tells Oz that Buffy said she'd go to the party after all, and they need to make sure she has fun. "If Parker shows up," she says, "we'll just ax-murder him. That's Halloweeny." She leaves, in her Joan of Arc costume, and runs by some interesting characters in the hall.

At the party, a girl sticks her hand into a bowl of peeled grapes intended to feel like eyeballs, but when she takes off her blindfold, she sees that they really are eyeballs. She screams.

The groupBuffy meets up with Xander, who is dressed as James Bond (in the sense that he's wearing a tuxedo) in case they get turned into their costumes again. Willow and Oz come along, Willow as Joan of Arc and Oz as God (wearing regular clothes and a name tag reading, "My name is God"). Xander mentions that Anya will be meeting them there, causing Buffy to feel left out. As the group walks, they run across the camouflaged, weapon-bearing, vampire hunters, wondering who they're supposed be (Oz suggests NATO). Interesting, but still giving us no insight into where that little plot is going. Ahh, the torture.

At the party, some serious chaos is going on upstairs. Not that we really know what it is, because there's some really freaky directing here. Basically, the lights are flashing, and people are running around screaming their heads off. We do see one guy trip down the stairs and break his neck. Pretty. The gang enters, but no one's downstairs. Willow walks into a "fake" cobweb, and Oz spots a tarantula on her shoulder. Buffy finds real blood on the floor, and the gang hears some squeaking. Suddenly, a horde of bats swoops down from the ceiling, and the group cowers. Once the bats are gone, they find a rubber one on the floor. A deep, threatening voice shouts, "Release me!" They're catching on that something is wrong.

Anya arrives in a riotously not-scary bunny costume, and finds that the frat house has no door. She sees a girl screaming in a window, but the bricks around the window suddenly grow and merge, covering the window. (another cool effect). The cute little bunny instantly fears for Xander's safety. Inside, the gang can't find the door either — or the stairs, for that matter. The gang hears something ... it's Chaz, hiding in the closet. Behind Buffy, a fake skeleton becomes real and stabs Buffy in the shoulder with a "fake" knife. She kicks it's butt before it becomes fake again. They hear screaming upstairs, and Buffy orders the gang to find a way out and get Giles while she investigates, but Anya is already there, giving him the rundown. An argument ensues at the frat-house when Willow rebels against Buffy's orders, wanting instead to do a spell. Buffy rather rudely declares that Willow's spells don't work all that well. (And we thought their first fight of the season would stem from being roommates.) Willow stalks off, Oz follows, and Xander tries to comfort Buffy. She doesn't hear him or see him, though, and is peeved because she thinks he bailed on her. Xander realizes that he's become invisible.

Buffy's and Xander's fears, then, have already come true. Oz is next, suddenly starting to morph into werewolf-mode (despite the lack of a full moon) and being, of course, unable to stop it. He runs away from Willow, in order to protect her. We next see him in a bathtub, chanting to himself, "You're not gonna change. You're not gonna change." Xander spots himself in a mirror, glad that he can, at least, see himself. So, apparently, can a "fake" head nearby. Willow does her spell, but the little light she conjures refuses to follow her instructions, and splits itself into many little lights, attacking her like a swarm of bees. Buffy hears her shouting and bursts through a door, falling into the basement. The dead guy who fell down the stairs appears, telling her she's not alone anymore ... dead bodies start climbing out from underground attacking Buffy.

Xander taunts himOutside, Giles and Anya have arrived. Giles, realizing he needs to create a door, whips out a chainsaw and gets to work. Inside, the gang all wind up in the room with the symbol, back to normal. Xander finds the book with the picture of the symbol, and Willow, trying to translate, explains that a summoning spell must have been triggered, and that a fear demon named Gachnar is trying to manifest himself by feeding off of their fears. Giles and Anya suddenly arrive, having sawed their way in, with the walls closing up behind them. Giles shows Buffy a picture of the terrifying-looking demon, and starts to read aloud how the demon can be destroyed, and when he first says, "Destroying the Mark of Gachnar, " Buffy rips apart the floor in order to do so. Giles finishes his sentence: " not one of them and will in fact immediately bring forth the Fear Demon itself." Loud noise ensues, and a freaky looking demon emerges, roaring. He looks up — he's no more than six inches tall. He threatens them in a squeaky little voice, and Xander taunts him. Since Buffy's job is to slay demons big and small, she squashes him like a bug.

And this brings us to the ever-amusing wrap-up scene. The gang chows down on Giles' chocolate, Xander makes fun of Anya's "scary" costume (bunnies scare her), and Giles realizes that the picture of the demon in the book had a caption: "Actual size."

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