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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
previous
"Enemies"
next
"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 altogether. The screenplay was written by Jane Espenson and directed by Regis Kemble. It originally broadcast on September 21, 1999.

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, she doesn't notice that some of the demon's blood gets on her skin. 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 as to what the Ascension is, let alone any way to stop it. 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, everybody except for Buffy is going.

318 Earshot2

Watching the pep rally.

Buffy is bothered by persistent itching on her hand (the one the demon blood got on), and decides to confer with Giles about it. After a little research, Giles tells her, rather distractedly, 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 Chase passes by, Buffy hears Xander wondering if she and Wesley had ever kissed before - although, actually, he wasn't speaking. Buffy then walks through the school halls, where she finally realizes she's hearing people's thoughts. Buffy, freaked out, 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 Ms. Murray. 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, but Angel realizes what she is trying to do and informs her that his thoughts no more reflect into her mind than his image does on a mirror. 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 her newfound ability. 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 newfound power starts to become painful, as the voices become too much for her to endure. Just then, a single, menacing voice stands out: "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 find out everyone who was in the cafeteria, and interrogate them, to find out who the potential 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 - twice! - on the hood of a police car while they were acting like adolescents under the influence of the magic 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 almost all 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, but it requires the heart of the second 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 (would-be) killer. Rather, he's been avoiding Oz out of fear that Oz is mad at him for a negative review he had written about Oz's band. However, much to Freddy's surprise 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.

In the meantime, Xander is still looking for Jonathan in the cafeteria (in the same way Scooby and Shaggy look for monsters in the kitchen), and while picking at some food, looks up and sees the overweight lunch lady putting rat poison into the food.

They stare at each other for a few seconds before Xander runs out and warns everybody to stop eating the food. 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 to business as usual Giles asks her if she's up for some training, and Buffy agrees. Quite harmlessly and in her usual manner she says, "We can work out after school.", but then adds "If you're not too busy having sex with my mother.", leading Giles to walk straight into a tree.

Continuity

  • This episode marks the second time Willow interrogates Jonathan, the first having been 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 in the Buffyverse are immune to telepathy - their thoughts can't be read. However, future episodes show that vampires can be read by empaths and can receive projected thoughts from telepaths.
  • Angel matter-of-factly told Buffy in all of his existence, he had only fell in love with her. This would later slightly change as he fell in love with Cordelia as well in the Angel series.
  • This episode includes the only scene where we ever see Wes 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 clocktower 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 (and the sub-theme of this episode).
  • 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 this.
  • 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 scene at the end, 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.

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 due to the final scene which includes Sunnydale High's destruction). 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 favourite 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.

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 substantial 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 comentary 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 about sex. Cordelia's thoughts are simple sentences she then speaks out loud, showing no depth, and thus reflecting her shallow character.
  • Xander interrogates possible suspects for the mass murder using the FBI's serial killer profiles which Willow has downloaded from her computer. Nic 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.

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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