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Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 3, Episode 18
3x18 Earshot
Air date September 21, 1999
Written by Jane Espenson
Directed by Regis Kemble
Episode Guide
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"Enemies"
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"Choices"
Cast
Starring
Sarah Michelle Gellar Buffy
Nicholas Brendon Xander
Alyson Hannigan Willow
Charisma Carpenter Cordelia
David Boreanaz Angel
Seth Green Oz
Anthony Stewart Head Giles
Guest Starring
Kristine Sutherland Joyce
Alexis Denisof Wesley
Ethan Erickson Percy
Danny Strong Jonathan
Co Starring
Larry Bagby III Larry
Keram Malicki-Sanchez Freddy
Justin Doran Hogan
Lauren Roman Nancy
Wendy Worthington Lunch Lady
Robert Arce Mr. Beach
Molly Bryant Ms. Murray
Rich Muller Student
Jay Michael Ferguson Another Student

"Earshot" is the eighteenth episode of the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and is the fifty-second episode in the series. It was written by Jane Espenson and directed by Regis Kemble. It was originally broadcast on September 21, 1999.

After accidentally receiving the power of reading minds, Buffy discovers that her newfound "gift" can actually be more of a curse.

Synopsis

318 Earshot1

The demon's blood infects Buffy.

While on patrol, Buffy fights two mysterious, mouthless demons. One manages to escape, but Buffy slays the other. However, unknown to her, some of the demon's blood is absorbed into her hand. The next day at the library, the Scooby Gang gather for another group meeting, where they find that Giles is making little to no progress with The Mayor and has no clue what the Ascension is. Wesley soon arrives, promising new updates, but his information is exactly the same as Giles'.

Meanwhile, Willow and Buffy talk about Angel's recent impersonation of Angelus to get close to Faith. Buffy is worried that he and Faith may have gotten more intimate than she saw. Willow suggests that Buffy talk to Angel and straighten things out. Percy arrives, telling Willow that they'll have to reschedule their planned study session. Willow then talks to Buffy about the basketball game held after school later that day. Apparently, everyone except for Buffy is going.

318 Earshot2

Watching the pep rally.

Buffy is bothered by persistent itching on her hand, and decides to talk to Giles. After a little research, he tells her that the demon's blood might have infected her with an "aspect of the demon." Later that day, Xander, Willow, Oz, and an absent-minded Buffy watch a pep rally, where Willow catches Buffy feeling her head for horns. Willow further horrifies her by wondering if the demon is male. That night, Buffy meets Angel during her usual patrol and tells him about the demon. Angel tells her that he'll still love her no matter what she looks like, though his exact wording only freaks her out even more.

The next day at school, Buffy finds the rest of them ecstatic about the game from the day before. When Cordelia passes by, Buffy hears Xander wondering if she and Wesley had ever kissed before. She responds to him, aloud, and he remarks that "[Buffy] read [his] mind." Buffy then walks through the school halls, where she finally realizes she's hearing people's thoughts. Freaked out, she talks to Giles about her new ability, and he realizes the mouthless demons are telepathic. Buffy seems overjoyed about it, and Giles says that this power may be very useful in combat.

318 Earshot3

Buffy discovers that telepathy doesn't work on vampires.

Buffy can't resist to use it to her advantage in class first, though. During a class on literature, while they're studying Othello, she answers the teacher's questions without any difficulty, impressing the rest of the students and especially the teacher. Buffy then hears the thoughts of Freddy Iverson, who writes editorials for the school newspaper, and has a seriously negative opinion about everything and everybody at Sunnydale High.

Later that evening, Buffy visits Angel at the mansion and attempts to use her mind-reading abilities on him to discover what really happened with Faith. Angel realizes what she is trying to do and tells her she won't be able to read his thoughts. He reassures her that what happened with Faith meant nothing and that in 243 years, he's only ever loved Buffy.

The gang meets up at the library again the next morning, where Buffy tells her friends about her new power. She finds Xander constantly thinking about sex, and Wesley keeps thinking about Cordelia. Oz thinks extremely deep thoughts, while Willow is upset because Buffy has access to Oz's mind and will learn more about him than she ever will. While in the school cafeteria, Buffy's telepathy starts to become painful, as the voices become too much for her to endure. Out of nowhere, a single, menacing voice stands out among the pandemonium: "This time tomorrow, I'll kill you all." Buffy passes out, overwhelmed by the cacophony of others' thoughts.

318 Earshot4

Giles: If it doesn't go away she'll go insane.

When she regains consciousness, Buffy tells The Scoobies to interrogate everyone in the cafeteria in order to figure out who the killer is. Giles tries to find a cure for Buffy, but before she leaves to rest at home, she hears the painful truth: she'll go insane if the telepathy continues. At home, while trying to comfort Buffy, Joyce inadvertently lets slip through her thoughts that she and Giles had sex on the hood of a police car while they were acting like adolescents in "Band Candy".

Meanwhile, the rest of the gang starts interrogating members of the faculty and the students. They make little progress with their research and every likely suspects are crossed out, except for Freddy, who Oz can't seem to find. In the meantime, Giles and Wesley had come across a potential cure for Buffy's telepathic abilities, though it requires the heart of the second remaining demon. Angel hunts down the demon at the cemetery, and successfully acquires the heart.

318 Earshot5

Buffy: On the hood of a police car?!?

He brings the ingredients needed for the spell to Buffy's house the next morning. Giles performs an incantation, and Buffy downs the potion. Buffy's body soon undergoes convulsions. Then she loses consciousness. Moments later, she wakes up again, good as new, and heads to the school to straighten the mess out.

Meanwhile, the Scoobies finally corner Freddy in his office, where they realize that he isn't the killer. Rather, he's been avoiding Oz out of fear of retaliation for a negative review he had written about Dingoes Ate My Baby. Oz isn't mad at all; he remains calm, saying, "No, it's fair."

Buffy shows up just as Cordelia finds a letter on Freddy's desk from Jonathan Levinson, an ignored and disregarded student, announcing a dire plan. The gang then splits up to look for Jonathan.

318 Earshot6

The lunch lady.

Meanwhile, Jonathan loads a firearm, ready to pull the trigger, up in the high school clock tower. Buffy locates him and quickly jumps into the tower to confront him.

Jonathan remains hostile at first, claiming that he is tired of everybody disregarding him for his small size and his lack of abilities. Buffy civilly talks to him, telling him that the reason everybody ignores him is that they have their own problems to deal with. She lets him hand the rifle over to her and then unloads it, but is then surprised to learn he hadn't planned to murder anyone: he had actually gone to the tower to kill himself.

Elsehwhere, Xander is still looking for Jonathan in the cafeteria, and while picking at some Jell-O, looks up and sees the overweight lunch lady putting rat poison into the students' food.

They stare at each other for a few seconds before Xander runs out and warns everybody to stop eating their lunch. The lunch lady pursues him and tries to attack Xander with a cleaver. Buffy shows up in time and knocks the weapon out of her hands. The lunch lady calls the students "vermin," always eating and never stopping. Buffy decides that the lunch lady has lost her mind and knocks her unconscious. The next day, Giles and Buffy discuss the recent adventure. Buffy is relieved not having any voices in her head; Jonathan has some repercussions to deal with, but Buffy seems confident of his recovery, even dreading he might ask her to the prom. Going over business as usual Giles asks her if she's up for some training, and Buffy agrees. Innocently, Buffy remarks, "We can work out after school, if you're not too busy having sex with my mother," which causes Giles to walk straight into a tree.

Continuity

  • This episode marks the second time Willow interrogates Jonathan, the first in "Go Fish". While interrogating him, she asks if he has ever had a fantasy about being powerful or respected. Later on Jonathan will cast a spell to make this fantasy come true in "Superstar".
  • It is revealed that vampires are immune to telepathy - their thoughts cannot be read. However, future episodes show that vampires can be read by empaths and can receive projected thoughts from telepaths.
  • Angel told Buffy that, in all of his existence, he has only ever loved her. In the spin off Angel, Angel and Cordelia fall in love. Buffy and Cordelia are the only 2 women Angel has ever truly loved in his existence.
  • In the same discussion, when Buffy express her insecurity to Angel on their relationship because of Faith, Angel say "I don't want a bad girl. I've done that before. I've lived a long time Buffy, and I'm past that. I've been with dozens of girls like her. More" It implied the two other bad girls from the show: Darla and Drusilla.
  • This episode includes the only scene where we ever see Wesley and Joyce meet.
  • This is the last time Angel is seen in Buffy's house.

Body Count

  • Unidentified demon, killed by Buffy
  • Unidentified demon, killed by Angel

Behind the Scenes

Production

  • Joss Whedon wrote two scenes in this episode; the scene in the classroom where Othello is discussed, and the scene in the clock tower between Buffy and Jonathan.
  • According to Jane Espenson, Joss Whedon hates having demons with tails on the show, as the tails almost never look realistic. That was parodied in this episode, with Buffy checking if she has one.
  • Buffy's class discuss Shakespeare's Othello in English class. Previous drafts of the script had them discussing Henry VIII or The Catcher in the Rye, but Joss Whedon rewrote the scene to make it tie in with Buffy's feelings.
  • Jane Espenson says that the fact Joyce and Giles had sex under the influence of the chocolate bars in "Band Candy" was confirmed in this episode because she was shocked fans still weren't sure about it.
  • In her commentary on the DVD, writer Jane Espenson reveals that when she found out that she was going to write this episode she knew that she wanted the student in the tower to be Jonathan. Even though Danny Strong had only had small, comedic parts on the series over the years, she had faith that he would be able to handle the dramatic scene.
  • The final scene, in which Giles walks into a tree, was not in the shooting script. It was a last minute addition by Anthony Stewart Head, intending to provide the scene with more comic relief.
  • The 'Star Trek; The Next Generation' episode entitled 'Tin Man' features a telepath driven to the brink of insanity by hearing the voices of those around him which he cannot drown out, just as Buffy is here. The character in question is played by Buffy alumni Harry Groener.

Broadcast

  • This episode's subject matter, in conjunction with the mass shooting at Columbine High School (which occurred a week before the intended airdate for this episode), led the WB to postpone this episode's broadcast. The episode finally aired September 21, 1999, two months after the Season Three finale (which was also delayed, as the final scene includes the destruction of Sunnydale High). Due to the long delay, "Earshot" was aired in other countries before it was shown in the United States. Sarah Michelle Gellar lobbied hard for this episode (which she considers one of her favorite Buffy episodes) to be released on schedule. She thought it was great and would help those affected by the Columbine tragedy. The Buffy novel, The Evil That Men Do, was also delayed due to Columbine; it was published one year later than originally planned.
  • Noel Murray of The A.V. Club criticized the portrayal of telepathy in the episode, but also praised the humorous and poignant insights it provided into what Buffy's friends were thinking

Deleted Scenes

  • A line of Buffy cut for length:
Buffy: "Say 'Uncle'. Oops. No mouth."

International Titles

  • French: Voix intérieures (Inside voices)
  • German: Fremde Gedanken (Foreign Thoughts)
  • Portuguese: O Alcance da Voz (The Reach of the Voice)

Music

Other

  • We learn in this episode that Sunnydale High has a high enough mortality rate for the school newspaper to run a regular obituaries section.
  • When Buffy tells her friends that someone was thinking about killing students, Xander quips that the lunch lady will "do us all in with that Mulligan stew." Coincidentally, it was in fact the lunch lady who was planning to poison the students. Xander would do something similar in the episode "Him".
  • In Cockney rhyming slang, a word is replaced by a rhyming word, usually part of a two-word phrase. For example "apples" is used to refer to stairs, as in "apples and pears". "Berk" comes from the rhyming pair "Berkeley Hunt". So, when Giles called Wesley a "berk", he was actually calling him something a lot more offensive. However, the term "berk" on its own is considered inoffensive.
  • Regis Kemble, who directed this episode, also designed the title sequences for Angel.
  • The stunt double for the lunch lady was extremely obvious because of the massive size difference. Jane Espenson identified this issue in the DVD commentary for this episode, in which she claimed most people assumed the stunt was done by a man instead of a woman.
  • When Buffy is in the Library and she hears the Scooby Gang's thoughts, their thoughts all reflect their respective personalities. Giles, as the fatherly-type earlier confirmed in "Helpless", worries about her well-being. Oz's thoughts are at first odd, but come to a logical conclusion, hence showing his depth and understanding. Willow's thoughts reflect her insecurities about herself and her place alongside the more powerful Buffy. Xander, in true teenage boy fashion, is obsessed with sex. Cordelia's thoughts are simple sentences she then speaks out loud, showing no depth, and thus reflecting her shallow personality.
  • Xander interrogates possible suspects for the mass murder using the FBI's serial killer profiles. Nicholas Brendon would later become a recurring guest star on the TV series Criminal Minds, playing a computer expert who aids FBI profilers in catching serial killers.
  • In this episode Jonathan is suspected of plotting a mass shooting. In the season 7 episode "First Date", in the form of the First Evil, he does actually plot a mass shooting.

Quotes

Male Student - (V.O.) "Wait til I’m a software jillionaire and you’re all flipping burgers. Who’s the loser then?"
Buffy - "Well, I thought I saw a four-legged demon. But it was just a dog."
Oz - "A weredog?"
Buffy - "Regular."
Xander - "Tough luck."
Buffy - (to Jonathan) "My life happens on occasion to suck beyond the telling of it. Sometimes more than I can handle. And it’s not just mine. Every single person down there is ignoring your pain because they're too busy with their own. The beautiful ones. The popular ones. The guys that pick on you. Everyone. If you could hear what they were feeling. The loneliness. The confusion. It looks quiet down there. It’s not. It’s deafening."
Xander - "Hogan Martin thinks he's sooo hot! Like we should all be awed by him 'cause he can put a ball in a net."
Hogan - "Hey, Xander!"
Xander - "He said my name! He knows my name!"
Willow - "The school paper is edging on depressing, lately. Have you guys noticed that?"
Oz - "I don't know. I always go straight to the obits."
Xander - "You know, Oz, I look at all this beauty, all these healthy young women and I wonder why I ever wasted my time on Cordelia — I mean, look at her. She's no better lookin' than the rest of 'em."
Oz - "None of them are really my..."
Xander - "Oh, my God! He's lookin' at her. He's got his filthy adult Pierce Brosnany eyes all over my Cordy."
Oz - "You're a very complex man, aren't you?"
Oz - [thinking] "I am my thoughts. If they exist in her, Buffy contains everything that is me, and she becomes me. I cease to exist." [aloud] "Hmm."
Angel - "Buffy, careful with this gift. Lot of things that seem strong and good and powerful, they can be painful."
Buffy - "Like, say, immortality?"
Angel - "Hm, exactly. I'm dyin' to get rid of that."
Buffy - "Funny."
Angel - "I'm a funny guy."
Buffy - "(reading Joyce's thoughts) You had sex with Giles? You had sex with Giles?"
Joyce - "It was the candy, we were teenagers."
Buffy - "On the hood of a police car?"
Joyce - "I'll be downstairs. You feel better."
Buffy - "Twice?"
Buffy - "What do we know?"
Xander - "What don't we know. Tell her Giles."
Giles - "Based upon the supposed date, graduation day, and the mayor being impervious to harm, I've cross referenced-"
Xander - "He's a cross-referencing fool."
Giles - "And I've eliminated several possibilities. It's not the ritual flaying of the demon Azarath nor the, uh... I don't know what's going to happen."
Oz - "That was kind of an anti-climax."
Buffy - "We don't know anything? The whole fake Angel thing was for nothing?"
Giles - "No, no, no. If nothing else Angel's charade has brought Faith's treachery to the open and this information on the ascension will prove useful eventually, I just need to put it together."
Wesley - "Terribly sorry, I was detained. Official counsel business. Mr. Giles, you were speaking?"
Giles - "I was just filling Buffy in on my progress regarding the research on the Ascension."
Wesley - "Oh, and what took up the rest of the minute?"
Giles - "Touché. Of course, my work is unofficial. I'm sure, however, with the resources of the council at your disposal, you will have something to add."
Wesley - "Well, I am pleased to state, with certainty, that the demon Azarath will not in any way be involved..." (everybody leaves) "I'm sure we'll find out more soon."
Giles - "Demon Azarath?"
Oz - [reading Freddy's review] "Dingoes Ate My Baby played their instruments as if they had plump Polish sausages taped to their fingers."
Freddy - "Sorry, man."
Oz - "No, that's fair."
Giles - "It says they can infect the host."
Buffy - "Infect? Infect? Giles? Infect?"
Willow - "So, you're feeling better about Angel?"
Buffy - "Well, we talked, then, then he ripped out the heart of a demon and fed it to me, and-and then we talked some more."
Willow - "See? That's how it should work."
Giles - "How are you?"
Buffy - "Loving the quiet. Nobody in here but me."
Giles - "Jonathan? How’s he?"
Buffy - "Pretty crappy. His parents are freaking. He got suspended. And toting a piece to school? Not exactly winning him a place with the in-crowd. But, I think he’s dealing."
Giles - "Well, it’s good of you to check on him."
Buffy - "Well, it’s nice to be able to help someone in a non-slaying capacity. Except, he’s starting to get that look, you know — like he’s gonna ask me to Prom."
Giles - "Well, it would probably be good for his self-esteem, if you..."
Buffy - "Oh come on! What am I, Saint Buffy? He’s, like, three feet tall!"
Giles - "I’m glad to see you’ve recovered from your psychic encounter more or less intact. Feel up to some training?"
Buffy - "Sure. We can work out after school. You know, if you’re not too busy having sex with my mother!" (Giles walks into a tree)

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