It's harder to get a review of the next episode up when the next episode isn't very good, and I think you'll be hard pressed to find anyone who ranks "Inca Mummy Girl" among their favorites. In addition to its sub-par plot and writing, it's rather a downer just because it comes right after "School Hard", when all of these elements promising us a great season are introduced. Then we get nothing - no Spike and Dru, no advancement of the season's plot. It's the first (and only) episode of Season 2 without Angel. What were they thinking?
One quick specific gripe I have to make is about the cultural portrayals, and this is actually one thing where I agree with Mark, possibly the first and last time since I started reading his reviews. The whole treatment of South America (you know, the country of South America, where they speak South American) was embarrassing. The International Dance or whatever was cringe-worthy. Sven dressed up as a viking. Vikings didn't even wear helmets with horns, did you know that? DID YOU? To be fair, this kind of event probably did happen at high schools in the 90's, so maybe we can just look at this as realism, but ugh. Someday I want to go to an event in a foreign land where they make me dress up in a historical American costume. Maybe I could be a Puritan!
The episode does have one redeeming feature, though (aside from the usual collection of scattered funny lines and the fact that Giles exists): the introduction of Oz. I think it makes perfect sense to concentrate on that factor, no?
But first, Willow. I might have thought a little too hard about the scene with Rodney, but a couple things surprised me: first, that Willow didn't hold it against him that he used to beat up Xander, and second, that Rodney was actually really nice to her. I got the impression that there was something of a friendship between them. Not enough of one for her to spend a second mourning him, of course, but an appreciation of each other. Which is weird, right? What does a smart shy kid see in a bully? What does a troublemaker see in a genius?
On Rodney's side it's kind of sweet. On Willow's side it's a bit ominous - apparently, she cares more about a person's behavior toward herself than she does about his behavior in general, or even toward her own best friend. I could even believe that her years of frustration with Xander led her to take some conflicted pleasure at his abuse. On the other hand, ouch. That's pretty bad. Let's give her the benefit of the doubt and say that she only started liking Rodney after he reined in his bullyish tendencies.
Clearly what I'm doing here is trying to justify the drabble I wrote the other day, because nobody commented on it and my heart is empty. Okay, no seriously though, I accept and embrace the drabble being ignored, it wasn't that interesting, but here's my thoughts in a different form: Willow and Oz have something unexpected and awesome in common, shown to us before they meet. Rodney and Devon have practically nothing going for them except a vague social coolness which manifests in Rodney as rebellion, and in Devon as shallow charm. Willow and Oz, on the other hand, are incredibly smart people with talent, courage, and individuality. Yet they don't look down on anyone. They're not too good to hang out with the morons, even when they have nothing to gain from it.
I especially like seeing Oz and Devon interact - rather extensively, considering that they're both brand-new characters and not talking about anything related to the episode's plot - because their friendship continues for as long as Oz is in the series, though I'm pretty sure that Devon stops appearing in person. Part of it, obviously, is that they're in a band together. Part of it is that Oz himself is terminally apathetic (I'm sure I'll have a lot to say about that later, but for now, let's just acknowledge it - he's not perfect, though he comes close). But the main thing is that they're just buddies. Oz is okay with Devon being his shallow self because he doesn't need anything more than him, and he's okay being up front with his criticisms because he knows Devon respects him and deserves honesty.
Cordelia and boyfriends. And here's another interesting relationship square: Willow/Oz, Cordelia/Devon. We'll have to keep an eye on the latter; I don't remember how long they last, but I want to see what it is that breaks them up, since right now they're essentially perfect for each other. Oz's friend and Willow's enemy - are they too alike to make it work?
Oh shoot, I think I have more to say about Willow. Isn't this supposed to be a Xander episode? Well, that's fairly pat. He falls in love with a dead girl, it ends badly. Although, if it were happening in real life, I think I'd feel pretty bad for him - he and Ampata make a great match, even if there isn't a whole lot of reason that their feelings for each other should develop so swiftly. Aside from his insensitivity to Willow, he really wasn't even a jerk about it.
But forget him, for the moment. Think instead of Willow in the Eskimo suit. Remove the weird high school cultural festival context. It's a great costume, and she's excited about it. Until she gets to the event, and Buffy isn't there, and Xander's only about Ampata. All alone in a parka, poor Willow.
Enter Cordelia, looking gorgeous and baring skin, and all too ready to make fun of the nerd girl who doesn't have the sense to do the same. The message is pretty damn clear: if you don't want to be alone, better learn how to attract the boys. Willow herself states it explicitly: "Maybe I should have worn something sexy."
Now, I'm divided on how this was resolved. On one hand, NO. WILLOW, NO. Be your fun, creative, parka'd self. Thank the heavens that Oz was there to back me up, stating just as explicitly that he's interested in the fun girl over the sexy girl. On the other hand, Cordy's path was ultimately the one that Willow chose. Not entirely; she never adopted the Cordette styles and obviously she wasn't seeking the attention of boys at the end. But she did learn about being cool. Her growth in confidence, I think, had less to do with finding people like Oz who appreciated her for who she was, and more to do with simply avoiding any possibility of again getting caught in an unsexy outfit at a dance.
I think I actually had a better point to make before I wrote that down. Oh, well.
All in all, I think if you're an Inca princess who was unfairly sacrificed a thousand years ago in the prime of your youth, you still shouldn't kill people just to stay alive. Although there are a lot of other considerations to this that weren't even brought up - has she really been conscious the whole time she's been a mummy? That's horrible and someone should do something about it. Also, did she save her people by being sacrificed, or was it just one of those meaningless heathen rituals? Big difference!
The girl herself. Not much to say about Buffy, but I did pause for a while on the final lines, when Xander points out that she chose to give up her life when it was needed, and Buffy says "I had you to bring me back." Of course she's looking first and foremost for something to say to make her friend feel better, and this definitely fits the bill. But how does it fit into the context? Buffy and Ampata both had to make the ultimate sacrifice; Buffy was the only one who actually did it, even though she didn't want to. It's basically luck that she's alive now, but it's luck in the form of Xander.
So, is this just an expression of gratitude to give him in exchange for his acknowledgement of her own strength? Or is it more to say that she had friends, where Ampata didn't? That actually might heighten my sympathy for the mummy. Maybe there is some truth behind it - it was easier for Buffy to give of herself, because she knew that there were others who would do the same for her, even if she didn't know that one of them would in fact nullify her own death. Ampata had no basis for learning how to be selfless.
I still don't like her though. Stay in your box, damned dead girl!
Giles and objects: Got some for you! Now we'll have some fun! Here's Giles with a magnifying glass.
Here's Giles with an icepack. Bonus Buffy!
Here's a better one of Giles with a magnifying glass.
Here's Giles with a cup of tea! Probably already had one or two of those, but to me they never get old.
Okay, this episode feels sufficiently squeezed out. Here's some icons.
And, bonus - here's one from the last episode.