"The Freshman" is the first episode of the fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and is the fifty-seventh episode altogether. It was written and directed by Joss Whedon. It originally broadcast on October 5, 1999.
While Willow blossoms in the college environment, Buffy has a difficult time adjusting — getting lost, getting kicked out of a class for talking, meeting her Celine Dion-loving roommate Kathy and getting soundly beaten by the leader of a campus vampire gang that steals from its victims.
Buffy and Willow are on a stakeout in a cemetery while also discussing which classes Buffy should take for her first semester at college. They discuss the fact that Buffy is choosing her courses at the last second, which she credits to a busy summer of slaying and that Giles has told her to start keeping her identity as the Slayer under wraps again. They are so engrossed with this that they don't notice when the vampire they are waiting to awaken quietly slips away when he sees they are carrying an arsenal of vampire-killing gear.
Buffy arrives at the UC Sunnydale campus, ready to select her classes and move into her dorm room. However she is completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people there as well as being handed fliers by the various campus groups, fraternities, and general student protesters. Buffy meets up with Willow and Oz and reveals that she feels overwhelmed and disoriented by the new experience. Willow, on the other hand, is very excited by the new surroundings and is enjoying every second. Oz is also not fazed at all due to his band playing there on a regular basis—although he claims not to have a clue what's going on, he already knows several people.
Buffy and Willow tour the campus library, and discuss Giles enjoying his free time now he's no longer a Watcher or a librarian and that Xander is still away on his summer cross-country trip. Buffy and Willow go to visit the college library and are amazed by the sheer size of it, far removed from their old hangout. When Buffy tries to get the "Intro to Psychology" texts she knocks them off the shelf onto the head of Riley Finn. Riley introduces himself as a teaching assistant for Professor Walsh's Psych 105 "Intro to Psychology" class.
Buffy arrives at her new dorm room in Stevenson Hall. She has already moved in and her new roommate Kathy is in the process of doing so. Kathy tells Buffy that she can tell that she is cool and thinks the upcoming year will be "super fun". As she says this to Buffy she hangs a poster of Céline Dion much to Buffy's chagrin. During the night, Buffy has trouble sleeping because Kathy snores, laughs, and smacks her lips in her sleep.
Buffy attends a class the next day in order to find out if enrollment is still open, however when she asks the person next to her if it is, the Professor humiliates her and throws her out when he learns she isn't registered. Later, with Willow and Oz, she attends Psych 105 taught by Professor Maggie Walsh and TA'ed by Riley Finn. Professor Walsh jokingly states that those students not in her good graces will come to know her as "...the evil bitch monster of death." Students who stay in her favor will come to know her simply as "Maggie." Buffy is further unnerved, realizing that college is going to be far harder than high school was.
That night she meets another freshman student named Eddie, who is just as overwhelmed as she is by the new environment. Buffy and Eddie discuss their need of a "security blanket" in their unfamiliar surroundings. Eddie tells Buffy that his security blanket is the novel Of Human Bondage, which he has read ten times and keeps by his bed, while Buffy's is 'Mr. Pointy' (although she doesn't elaborate what that is). Buffy and Eddie then go their separate ways, with Buffy left glad in the knowledge that she isn't the only one who's having trouble adjusting.
Unfortunately, it isn't Eddie's night to be lucky as he runs into a gang of college vampires led by a woman called Sunday. Later, the vampires break into his dorm room and completely clear it out leaving behind only a note on the bed. The next day, Buffy looks for Eddie in psych class but can't find him.She goes to his dorm room to find the note and empty room, with the resident assistant explaining that some students can't handle the college life and bail out early on. As she sits despondently that the only person she's felt a connection with has left, she spots Of Human Bondage still in his nightstand. She knows that he would not leave that behind and suspects something is wrong.
In Sunday's lair, the vampires go through Eddie's belongings. Sunday bemoans that they don't go after cooler people and gets ready to go on that evening's hunt. Just then Eddie's eyes snap open...
Buffy visits Giles to find a half-naked female visitor in his apartment. The woman visiting Giles is an old and clearly intimate friend named Olivia Williams (she refers to Giles as "Ripper" at one point). Buffy tells Giles of the mysterious disappearance and tells him they need to start researching to find out what's going on, but Giles is reluctant to help. He reminds Buffy that he is no longer her Watcher, nor does she have one anymore and now she's growing up she has to learn how to handle these things herself. Buffy sadly leaves, while Giles reminds her he'll always be there if she really needs him.
That night Buffy runs into Eddie in a deserted part of campus. Eddie tries to attack Buffy, and she stakes him without trouble. The group of vampires that turned Eddie are watching though and the leader of the group, named Sunday, attacks Buffy. Buffy is soundly thrashed by Sunday while the others watch. Her confidence shattered and her arm sprained, she runs. Buffy is shaken by the fight and goes home the next day for some comfort from Mom and familiar surroundings. She finds her mother surprised to see her home so soon and is using Buffy's room as storage space for her gallery. The phone rings, but when Buffy answers it the caller hangs up.
When Buffy returns to her dorm room, she finds all of her belongings missing and a note similar to that found in Eddie's room. Buffy goes to The Bronze and hangs around feeling miserable – a mood which isn't helped when she thinks she sees Angel, but it turns out to just be a guy who looks like him. As she mopes, Xander suddenly appears behind her, having returned from his trip a couple of days earlier (having not called since he didn't want to intrude on their college adventure or help them move). Xander reveals that his car broke down in Oxnard, and his tour of America didn't happen. He spent a month and a half washing dishes at the fabulous "Ladies' Night" club earning money for repairs (which came to a merciful end when one of the male strippers fell sick, although Xander says "not a power on this Earth [can get me to tell that story]"). Xander also says that he now lives in his parents' basement and has to pay rent. Buffy tells Xander about Sunday, and that she doesn't want to intrude on Willow and Oz's first days in college by involving them. She then admits that she doesn't think she'll be able to handle the new environment. Xander tells Buffy that in the darkest times of his life (many of which happened in the "Ladies Night" club), he would get through it by thinking about what she would do and that she's his hero. Buffy is touched to hear this praise and faith in her, and Xander pledges his full support in stopping Sunday.
The two do research, and find that the student disappearances started at the same time that a fraternity lost its charter and its house has been lying empty while zoning issues dragged on. Heading there, the two spy on the vampire group through the skylight as they root through and laugh at Buffy's possessions. Xander decides to round up the rest of the gang while Buffy remains behind to keep watch, only for the skylight to give way from under her, landing her right in front of Sunday and the other vampires.
In Buffy's dorm room, Willow assures Kathy that Buffy isn't the kind to run away... except for the time when she did. Xander turns up and, after a happy reunion with his friends, gets them to come with him to help. Meanwhile, Buffy is being kicked around by Sunday; when she sees the vampire break the Class Protector Award she was given at her senior prom, Buffy is angered enough to regain her confidence and soundly trounces the vampires. She is helped when Willow, Xander and Oz turn up. Although a couple of the vamps escape, Buffy manages to take out Sunday with a backhand throw of a broken tennis racket.
Later, the gang recovers Buffy's things from the lair when Giles approaches laden with weapons. He apologizes to Buffy for turning her away and is ready to fight the evil. Instead, he's just asked to help carry the boxes. Buffy realizes that college is actually turning out to be like high school, so she at least knows what to expect.Tom, one of the only surviving vampires from Sunday's lair, runs away from the scene when he is suddenly stunned with a taser. Three masked men dressed in camouflage fatigues approach the vampire with guns of some sort.
- Buffy says "Can't wait till mom gets the bill for these books. I hope it's a funny aneurysm," foreshadowing Joyce Summers' death.
- While Sunday is beating up Buffy, she says "Oh, and this." Holding Buffy's Class Protector Umbrella.
- Giles stated to Buffy that she needed to start doing things on her own and not always going to him for help since she was getting older and he wouldn't always be there. He would later fully reinforce this after he went off to London.
- Eddie, sired by Sunday and dusted by Buffy Summers
- Rookie, dusted with a crossbow by Willow Rosenberg
- Jerry, dusted by Xander Harris and Oz
- Sunday, dusted by Buffy
Behind the Scenes
- Starting with this episode, Buffy was filmed in 16x9 widescreen; this would be the case for the next three seasons. However, Joss Whedon never intended for it to be shown this way, so while the widescreen version is shown on Sky One in the United Kingdom, all American showings are in 4x3. DVD releases of the final four seasons have followed the same pattern, with European (Region 2) discs displaying the episodes in 16:9 widescreen format and North American (Region 1) discs not. Netflix has the widescreen versions of Seasons 4-7.
- Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia Chase) and David Boreanaz (Angel) are no longer series regulars and have been removed from the opening credits. Angel's absence was explained at the end of season 3, but Cordelia's whereabouts will not be shown until "City of." This is the first season premiere not to feature the two characters.
- This episode aired the same night as the series premiere of Angel, "City of". The two episodes share a very brief crossover moment: In this episode Buffy answers the phone but doesn't hear anything; in "City of," Angel calls Buffy but is unable to say anything, so he hangs up.
- This is the first time in the series that an actor has been removed from the opening credits.
- The man in The Bronze who looked like Angel was actually played by David Boreanaz up until the point his face became visible.
- This episode marks the first appearances of Marc Blucas as Riley Finn, Lindsay Crouse as Maggie Walsh, and The Initiative. Riley will be a recurring character at the beginning of the season but will be made a series regular from "Doomed" up until "Into The Woods". He will make one final guest appearance in the episode "As You Were". Maggie Walsh will act as a recurring character throughout the season. The Initiative will also contribute largely to the main story arc of Season Four.
- This line where Sunday is dissing Buffy's umbrella was cut due to length:
- Sunday: "What better way to say, 'I am the very most of geek'."
Pop Culture References
- While trying to discuss fear ("Fear leads to anger ...") Xander misquotes Yoda's dialogue from Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace, which hit theaters a few months prior to the episode, about how fear can guide a Jedi to the dark side of the force (see quote section below). The correct quote is "Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering."
- After screwing up the Star Wars quote twice, Xander attempts to quote Al Pacino from Scarface ("In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women.") before dropping the subject altogether.
- When Xander is trying to get Buffy to rally the Scoobies together to fight Sunday and her gang, he says "Avengers assemble!" Joss Whedon would go on to direct and co-write The Avengers, which was released in 2012.
- The exterior shots of UC Sunnydale were filmed on the UCLA campus.
- Kathy Newman hangs a poster of the Canadian and internationally famous singer Céline Dion, much to Buffy's chagrin.
- Eddie's security blanket was the novel Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham. When Eddie first mentioned it, Buffy thought it was about porn.
- Sunday and her vamp posse have a tally score going between Klimt and Monet pieces, two famous early 20th century painters; the score is based on paintings that they steal from their freshmen prey (while commenting that freshmen are so predictable in their choice of artwork).
- Buffy compares Giles to Playboy creator Hugh Hefner. A vampiric Hefner would later cameo in the comic book Angel; After the Fall, where he is killed by Spike, who then takes over the Playboy mansion and installs his own harem.
- Xander tells Buffy he sometimes ask's himself "What would Buffy do." Which is a play on "What would Jesus Do."
- French: Disparition sur le campus (Disappearance on campus)
- German: Frischlinge (The Freshman)
- David Bowie - "Memory of a Free Festival Part 1"
- Moby - "Everloving" (Promo)
- Sound Stage Music Library - "Freaky soul"
- Splendid - "You and Me"
- Stretch Princess - "Universe"
- The Muffs - "I Wish That I Could Be You"
- Christophe Beck- original score
- The yearbook seen in this episode, the Sunnydale High Yearbook, was released as a tie-in product after this episode aired.
- This is the first episode not to feature Sunnydale High School, which was blown up in "Graduation Day, Part Two."
- This marks the last time we see Mr. Gordo on the T.V. show. It would later return in the comics.
|Xander - "Some friends of Buffy's played a funny joke. They took her stuff, and now she wants us to help get it back from her friends who sleep all day and have no tans."|
|Willow - "It's just in high school, knowledge was pretty much frowned upon; you really had to work to learn anything. But here, the energy, the-the collective intelligence, it's like this force, t-this penetrating force, a-and I can just feel my mind opening up, you know? A-and letting this place just thrust into and-and spurt knowledge into... that sentence ended up in a different place than it started out in."|
|Xander - "Buffy, this is all about fear. It's understandable, but you can't let it control you. 'Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to anger.' No wait, hold on. 'Fear leads to hate. Hate leads to the dark side.' Hold on, no, umm, 'First you get the women, then you get the money, then you...'okay, can we forget that?"|
|Buffy - "Thanks for the dadaist pep talk, I feel much more abstract now."|
|Willow - "He said he wasn't coming back until he'd driven to all fifty states."|
|Buffy - "Did you explain about Hawaii?"|
|Willow - "Well, he seemed so determined."|
|Giles - "I'm not supposed to have a private life?"|
|Buffy - "No. Because you're very, very old and it's gross."|
|Xander - "Up for some reconnaissance?"|
|Buffy - "You mean that thing with sculpting and painting and stuff?"|
|Xander - "No, that was the Renaissance."|
|Buffy - "Oh ... I've had a really long week.|
|Xander - "Basically, I got as far as Oxnard and the engine fell out of my car, and that was literally. So, I ended up washing dishes at 'The Fabulous Ladies Night Club' for about a month and a half while I tried to pay for the repairs. No one really bothered me or even spoke to me until one night when one of the male strippers called in sick and no power on this earth will make me tell you the rest of that story. Suffice to say I traded my car in for one that wasn't entirely made of rust, came trundling back home to the arms of my loving parents, where everything was exactly as it was except I sleep in the basement and I have to pay rent. How's college?"|
|Buffy - "Male strippers?"|
|Xander - "No power on this earth!"|
|Buffy - "OK. College is good."|
|Xander - "OK, uh, once more with even less feeling."|
|Xander - "Do we hug?"|
|Oz - "I think we're too manly."|
|Dav - "Does this sweater make me look fat?"|
|Sunday - "No. The fact that you're fat makes you look fat. That sweater just makes you look purple."|
|Xander - "Buffy, I've gone through some fairly dark times in my life, faced some scary things, among them the kitchen at 'The Fabulous Ladies Night Club.' Let me tell you something, when it's dark and I'm all alone and I'm scared or freaked out or whatever, I always think, 'What would Buffy do?' You're my hero."|