FEATURE: Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Ted
Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Cordelia and Xander got the smoochies on during the showdown with I-Am-The-Bug-Man from the Order of Taraka, Jenny is still reeling a little from everything that went on in The Dark Age and Buffy's identity as the Slayer still remains a secret from her mum Joyce.
Ted sees Buffy having to deal with the fact that Joyce is in a relationship with a man named, you guessed it, Ted. He gives her the wiggins but everyone else seems entranced by him; he cooks a mean mini pizza and gives Willow free software for her computer. When Ted threatens her during a game of mini-golf, Buffy employs the gang to do a bit of snooping. However, Ted does some snooping of his own leading to a showdown with Buffy which doesn't end so well for Ted. Well, until it turns out he's actually an android serial killer with a penchant for his wives.
The last time Buffy attempted a technological episode, it was the laughable I Robot, You Jane which has not aged well at all in the eyes of this discerning viewer. Ted on the other hand feels like a completely different episode to the one I watched when I was younger. This was always an instalment I skipped (along with Bad Eggs - next week's offering) because I just didn't think it was very good; I didn't like the premise, there was a lack of fighting and Ted just irritated the hell out of me and not in the way he was supposed to.
Now, however, I beg to differ (I will never use that phrase again. It gives me the creeps). I actually think this may be one of the scariest episodes Buffy has ever produced, a domestic nightmare with, until the end, very little to actually fight. Rather than make this a lesser episode, as I thought before, it actually makes it far more tense and makes the fight between Buffy and Ted seem all the more important.
First let's look at the character of Ted; seemingly perfect human being who makes great food, works really well at his job and seems to love the hell out of Joyce. In reality, he's a serial killing robot and, because this is Buffy, he's a woman-hating serial killing robot with domestic violence tendencies. John Ritter's performance is so perfect as Ted that I can actually feel my skin crawl as I'm writing about him. His turns of phrase, his benign facial expressions and the tension that runs through his body when Buffy and Joyce start to stand up to him is measured brilliantly; he's a figure it is so easy to hate and that is where the episode's power lies. Also, I have to mention SMG's reaction expressions in this episode, which beat those of What's My Line by a country mile.
Like many other episodes in this season, Ted is a metaphorical glance at the life of a teenager through the eyes of monsters. Here, Buffy is forced to confront an evil that might be entirely human and might become her stepfather. She feels powerless because no one else can see quite what she does thanks to her Slayer sense. When she thinks she killed Ted, her world is rocked (just as it will be when Faith dispatches the Deputy Mayor in Season Three) because Buffy's moral code does not allow for the harming of humans, even those she doesn't happen to like a whole bunch.
The domestic violence angle lends an interesting dynamic to that problem. Does the fact that Ted hit her first and threatened her further make it ok that she strikes back? Well, prior to the robot discovery, no not really. Buffy really goes for him and uses her abnormal strength against him, something which she only does with humans in extreme situations (like when Larry attempts to grope her or attack Xander). It adds another dimension to Buffy's tenure as the Slayer - she's very good at killing demons but will never use her powers against another human unless she has to. It's this moral dilemma that will make Faith so tricky to deal with next season.
And elsewhere in the episode, for balance, Xander and Cordelia are carrying on in secret and Giles and Jenny rekindle their relationship with some smoochies in the library (boy am I dreading Surprise).
A complete 180 on this episode then; Ted may not be full of action, but as a slow-burning domestic thriller involved robots, it's pretty damn good.
Quote of the Week:
Xander - "Can we say over-reaction?"
Buffy - "Can we say sucking chest wound?"
Let's Get Trivial: Both John Ritter and Sarah Michelle Gellar were horrendously ill when filming their fight scene, which might also explain why the climactic fight is more Indiana-Jones-esque and involves just a couple of whacks with a frying pan.
Demonology 101: Ted may be the first human robot hybrid on the show, but he certainly won't be the last and it will become an interesting exploration of similar themes to this episode later in the series.
You can read Becky's look at the What's My Line two-parter here.