Cultural Catchup Project: “Bad Eggs” (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

“Bad Eggs”

April 29th, 2010

You can follow along with the Cultural Catchup Project by following me on Twitter (@Memles), by subscribing to the category’s feed, or by bookmarking the Cultural Catchup Project page where I’ll be posting a link to each installment.

When I was going through the first season, I was warned by many that there were some weaker episodes which weren’t indicative of the show’s future quality. However, to be honest, most of it worked fine: we expect there to be kinks, and the episodes only felt like failures if you were holding them to standards that the show simply didn’t have at that point in time.

However, I think “Bad Eggs” is a complete failure regardless of one’s expectations, an episode which never once evolves into something worthwhile or even all that interesting. You can see what the episode is trying to accomplish, and you can even see how the script tries to work around its inherent flaws, but none of it actually comes together into an episode that manages to stand on its own two feet.

Coming off of “Ted,” where the weekly demon was clearly personified and even presented as a human, a huge creature (the Mother Bezoar) with absolutely no personality or motivation is a pretty big letdown. Not only does it pale in comparison to Ted, or Spike, or Drusilla, or the Master, but it even pales in comparison to the praying mantis in “Teacher’s Pet.” It’s a problem that the episode never lives down: as creepy as the thing in the floor birthing eggs might be, our complete lack of knowledge regarding its motivations or its intentions (outside of some gibberish from Willow and Cordelia) keeps us at arm’s (or tentacle’s) length.

The episode tries, you’ll notice, to fix this in two ways. The first is that just about everyone is sucked into the gambit: just about every character but Xander and Buffy, including Giles and Buffy’s Mother, become infected by the creatures. The episode does this in order to try to convince us that this problem is so huge that we need to stand and take notice, but it’s a cheap way to create scale that fails to really amount to anything.

The other fix is the introduction of the Gorch brothers, who arrive in Sunnydale and have their first hunt interrupted by Buffy’s intervention at the mall. The two have some personality, don’t get me wrong, but their presence in the episode feels like a way to “fix” the lack of personality in the main storyline rather than something which actually connects with it. One of them dies in the climax, but we have no emotional connection to them, and you can’t just introduce a cowboy vampire and pretend that this makes them a compelling antagonist for the series. You need to do more than have them run concurrent to another threat, and the lack of connection means that both sides of the story remain fairly limp and without meaning.

Surely, you could make the argument that the episode is worthwhile for the hormonal overload that Angel and Buffy, and Xander and Cordelia, find themselves trapped within in the hour, which is something which will obviously continue as the series goes on. However, it all felt a little bit broad here: the show is about to go to a very dark and dramatic place in “Surprise” and “Innocence,” which makes the episode’s struggles that much more apparent in retrospect. It’s unfortunately positioned in such a way that it fails to live up to the serialized stories before and after, and even the standalone story which directly precedes it.

“Bad Eggs” is not the worst episode of television I’ve ever seen, but to be honest it’s one of the most unfinished: you can see how they’ve tried to fix it, and you can also see that it probably wasn’t ever going to be saved. There was just nothing to latch onto within this story that connected with the characters, and what fun can be derived from the episode could be boiled down to a 4 minute YouTube video, which is probably not something that an hour-long drama should be shooting for. However, because the episode feels so out of place, its impact is minimal: it makes me wonder how it all went wrong, and just what they were thinking going to production on it, but it does nothing to take away from what came before or the crowning achievement to come.

Cultural Observations

  • Buffy’s grounding seemed really silly here, entirely designed to get her mother to the school – it makes me wonder why they bothered, as it seems inconsistent with their relationship thus far this season.
  • Since it came up in the comments, I am noticing Danny Strong as the constantly-in-danger Jonathan who keeps ending up a helpless victim to various circumstances.
  • The whole “parents through eggs” thing wasn’t the worst design decision in the world if it had manifested itself better: my favourite thing in the episode was Xander boiling his egg, honestly.
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32 Comments

Filed under Cultural Catchup Project

32 responses to “Cultural Catchup Project: “Bad Eggs” (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

  1. I have decided that I want your thoughts on “Surprise” and “Innocence” right now. This one review a day thing is killing me because now I look forward to it, and when it’s over, I get upset.

    • So, you’re saying I shouldn’t tell you that I’ve already written them, and that I’m delaying them purely to stick to once-a-day schedule? :P

      • Jason S H

        Oh c’mon! I know compulsively checking this website in hopes that they’ve been posted is unhealthy, but I can’t stop. Only you have the power to stop this.

      • Um, yeah, you shouldn’t have told me that, because now I’m going to have to beg. Come on, just a little click? Tomorrow’s Thursday anyway and there is SO much TV on! I’m sitting in my room all alone trying to write a paper!

        • Susan

          Soooo glad to know I have company in this new dimension to my obsession. Knowing, Myles, that you watched “Surprise” and “Innocence,” like DAYS ago, is extremely painful!

          • Gill

            I’d like to add my voice to the general wailing here too. We all know those eps are game-changing, and I really, really want to see what Myles makes of them. NOW. Please?

  2. Ricky B

    I like that you included a “Gorches” tag… I totally forgot they were introduced in this poor episode. Needless to say, it’s not a season 2 highlight. Unfortunately for us all, it’s not really the worst episode either.

    • Jason S H

      I agree, but only because of a certain episode from season 1. ‘Bad Eggs’ vs. ‘I Jane…You, Robot’ ….there’s no contest in my eyes.

      • I will very gladly take up the “I Robot” side of that debate: “Bad Eggs” is poorly executed and a mess that never comes together, while “I Robot, You Jane” is cohesive and makes an interesting point about late 90s technophobias. It may not be one’s favourite episode, and I can see why someone might like “Bad Eggs” more, but this is by far the objectively “worse” episode between the two.

      • Ricky B

        I’ll try not to make this a “worst episodes of Buffy” thread, but in my opinion the real clunkers are actually in later seasons. But I suppose that’s a discussion best saved for the latter stages of the Catchup Project.

        • Susan

          First, I HATE “Bad Eggs.” I hate it more now than I did the first time, because of everything the series becomes. It’s just an embarrassment.

          That said, it has a few redeeming moments: I really like the little moment in the library, when Buffy learns of the consequences of being “tardy” (what most people call “absent) in health class, when Giles almost smashes her egg, and when it dawns on him that they’re all holding eggs. Not a big deal, and certainly not enough to hinge an entire episode on, but it’s well executed enough that I don’t just skip the whole ep entirely when it comes up in the rotation.

          I do like the Gorches (and the surviving Gorch will show up again at some point down the road).

          And I like the Angel/Buffy moments, which are sweet and, more importantly, serve to prime the narrative for what’s to come in “Surprise.” I mean, smoochies aside, we haven’t, until “Bad Eggs,” seen much more than hints about how deep the bond between Angel and Buffy has become. When Buffy tells Angel, “When I look into the future, all I see is you. All I *want* is you,” we know what path they’re on and how far they’ve come.

          All told, a scant, what, 3 minutes? out of 44 or so. But still.

        • Jason S H

          Crap, so maybe there is a bit of a contest. Since you covered the criticisms of ‘Bad Eggs,’ (quite well I might add) I’ll just point out a few things that make me enjoy it(a little) more than ‘I Robot.’ I guess for me, Bad Eggs is lucky because it’s well-placed–basking in the glow of the episodes that follow it. As such, I really enjoy the scenes between Buffy and Angel and scenes of Willow and Buffy talking about Buffy and Angel. Also, I think the cold open really resonates. Joyce understandably misinterprets Buffy’s behavior as simple teenage self-absorption and it just feels right. I really enjoy those moments of bitter irony. Then again, I liked the last scene of ‘I Robot.’ I guess this argument is pretty moot, but man do I hate that Power Ranger looking MotW from “I Robot,” and Willow talking to her computer, and the phrase “JACKED IN,” and most everything else that episode has to offer. But most of all, ‘I Robot’ really bugs me because when I share Buffy with people I have this instinct to just skip over the whole episode entirely but I never can bring myself to do it–it is, after all, Jenny’s first episode. ::sigh::

          • The only thing that bothers me about “Robot” is the way that it conceptualizes the dangers of the internet, and technology. Those kinds of TV episodes NEVER hold up well because of the quick progression of the technology itself and cultural understanding of it. Heck, this episode felt dated back in 2000, a mere three years later.

            I was watching old episodes of Law & Order: SVU the other day and there was this episode called “Chat Room,” which also goes into the dangers of chatting with strangers on the internet (something I now do every single day, this comment for example), and like “Robot,” it is laughable. I just think it is really hard to pull of this type of episode; it’s only relevant for about five minutes.

          • ‘Off’*, not ‘of’! Dammit!

          • Tausif Khan

            The thing with I, Robot… is that it does accurately portray debates about technology at the time. These concepts are still being employed in discussions about technology today. I had a college class last year which distinguished between technophobia and technophilia. I liked looking at it because it reminded me of those debates. I see it as more of a historical piece.

            Furthermore I like that while they point out the dangers of being too involved in a computer world they also avoid being to antiquarian is by presenting the debate between Rupert and Jenny. So all around I felt it was good social commentary.

      • Gill

        Hmm. There’s an episode in S4 involving a bar which is often considered worse still. You know which one I mean.

        • Tyler

          Sadly, I don’t even consider that episode the worst of S4. But I guess that’s a discussion for a few months’ time. :)

          • Susan

            There will be a lot to critique about S4, I think. The weakest season of the series, overall. Though it has several excellent episodes. But that’s for later.

            I think Myles is right that “I, Robot” hangs together better than “Bad Eggs,” but I also agree that it is easily the most dated ep. And I would rather watch “Bad Eggs.”

            Frankly, Giles’ antipathy for computers is played too heavily throughout the series. Sure his knowledge and wisdom is rooted in ancient mysteries and magicks, but he’s a really smart, savvy dude. You’d think he’d be able to figure out how to use a computer.

            “I, Robot” is also the ep that gets Buffy’s birthday wrong.

          • Beth

            I see that I’ll be on my Season 4 soapbox for awhile, haha. :-) Even Joss himself doesn’t understand why it’s gotten the bad rap – he acknowledges the overall arc is weak (though it could have been stronger if Lindsay Crouse had stayed aboard as originally planned) but there are a TON of great episodes. For that season, I just take one episode at a time (you know, like you would do for a lot of great TV shows) and enjoy the episodes as they are. Although I understand why some people don’t prefer this season above others, I really, really, really don’t get the hate. But I also pretty much love (or at least ‘like’) most Buffy episodes – except IRYJ, Reptile Boy, Beer Bad (although Willow sticking up against P…. is a great scene), Family (I know, I know, I’m in the minority), Doublemeat Palace and Wrecked. And yes, that means I don’t dislike WTWTA – if you ignore the “wild” stuff, it’s actually quite funny. Anyway, enough rambling! ;-)

        • Susan

          I kinda have a soft spot for that ep. I know it’s bad for me, but I like it anyway. Like, you know, beer.

  3. Tausif Khan

    The only thing I found redeeming about this episode is that it solidified Buffy’s superhero bravery. She faced the mother bezoar even when other supernatural beings were afraid of it.

  4. Eldritch

    “I am noticing Danny Strong as the constantly-in-danger Jonathan who keeps ending up a helpless victim to various circumstances.”

    For some reason, according to the DVD commentaries, Danny Strong became a favorite of some of the writers, so he was invited back several times. Particularly among the female writers apparently. He must have some kind of sex appeal that I’m missing. ;-)

    I believe it was Jane Espensen who brought him over to “Gilmore Girls” when she moved to write that show. (I’m kinda surprised that we haven’t seen him in “Battlestar Galactica” or “Caprica” since she writes/wrote for those shows too.)

    • Tausif Khan

      I don’t know whether he still acts but he had a budding interest in writing for television. He was nominated for an Emmy for his work on the HBO special Recount about the 2000 election debacle in Florida.

  5. Gill

    Jonathan is a delightful character who grows over the seasons – he has a complete arc of his own. So does Harmony, one of Cordelia’s followers.

    Bad Eggs is one of my bottom five, certainly, though I quite like some of the concepts involved – training for the future in the Hellmouth involves nurturing monsters instead of fake babies. (The novelist Anne Fine wrote a book about that concept of teaching teenagers about the down side of babies in “Flour Babies”, so it was familiar to me.) There are life-lessons to be learnt from the experience, but not those the Authorities wanted them to learn. And Joyce is in heavy denial about so many aspects of Buffy’s life right now. Still, as you say, it has a few good moments which do not redeem the mess of the whole, particularly in light of some stellar episodes either side.

  6. Tyler

    You’re not alone in disliking Bad Eggs. While I’ll still take most of Buffy’s worst over that of various other shows, there are a few genuinely low moments, and S2 has two of them, imo, (Bad Eggs being the first).

    However, I did want to take a moment to say that what you see as a problem for Bad Eggs–its placement between stronger and more dramatic episodes–I think is maybe its one saving grace. I suspect that Bad Eggs was placed where it was as a kind of respite from the darker stuff around it. Like a palate cleanser. I think that there’s a sort of meta-pacing going on.

    Of course, that doesn’t excuse Bad Eggs one bit; it could’ve been lighthearted and good, too.

    • Susan

      I agree with you about the meta-pacing. We see it in Buffy, in Angel, in Firefly, and even in Dollhouse. In the midst of some really heavy crap, you’ll get a goofy episode or two that lighten things up considerably. When it works well, the lighter episodes still do some heavy hitting (I’m thinking “Tabula Rasa” in S6, for example–or, hell, “OMwF,” right before it). Even though I’ve already defended it because it does push the B/A story ahead, “Bad Eggs” is like the writers had a group brain spasm.

      “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered,” in S2, succeeds much better at the goofy/heavy balance.

  7. I won’t attempt to defend Bad Eggs per se, but I will use it to make a point about quality in general. Which is that at this time – Season 2,3 and to some extent 4 – there were clunkers like this, episodes which didn’t work, but they still had things to enjoy – little moments, jokes and so forth. In later seasons – which I still very much enjoy, and which contain some of my favourite episodes – there wasn’t always this extra polish so that often a bad episode was simply bad.

    • Susan

      You know, I’d argue the reverse. I can’t think of a single episode in the last three seasons that I would consider completely irredeemable–or unsuccessful at all. There are those that don’t rise to greatness, sure.

      I’d say that we could have done without a couple of eps in each of the first three seasons, and at least 25% of S4 (I can’t wait to be able to rant about the goings-on there), but the writers’ room is running at full capacity in the last three seasons, IMO. Once I clear S4, the impulse to skip any episodes is gone for me.

  8. Hehehe… lousy as this episode was, I can’t help remembering the look on Xander’s face when he almost eats his boiled egg… wonderful! :)

  9. Eric

    It should be noted for cinema geeks that Lyle and Tector Gorch were two members of Sam Peckinpah’s _The Wild Bunch_.

  10. BobT

    I remember trying to get a friend into the the show back in the day. Because I thought this show was the best thing on I’d ever seen on tv at the time.

    So I told him he should really give the show a try that night. I was a little embarassed the day after.
    I still thought it was funny episode though.

    I’ve noticed that outside of season 1, that a lot of these lighthearted filler episodes with really silly premises are usually right before an episode that ar either great, important for the continuity or really depressing. And sometimes all three of them.

    Not sure if the did that consciously but there are at least two more episodes in season 2 that are like that.
    So whenever you have to sit through one of these, you can usually look forward to something great after that.

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