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05 June 2006 @ 07:46 am
2.4: Inca Mummy Girl  
Xander: Buffy? Where are your priorities? Tracking down a mummifying killer or making time for some Latin lover whose stock in trade is the breakage of hearts?

Prompts and questions are there to spark discussion. If they're useful or interesting to you, go ahead and respond to any aspect of them. But please feel free to bring up anything else that interests you, as long as it somehow relates to the episode under discussion.

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Inca Mummy Girl
Writer: Matt Kiene + Joe Reinkemeyer
Director: Ellen S. Pressman
Airdate: October 6, 1997

1. Dangerous Smoochies
Xander: Well, yeah, I'm gonna take Willow, but I'm not gonna *take* Willow. In the sense of "take me. See, with you we're three and everybody's safe. Without you, we're two.
Buffy: Ah, and we enter dateville. Romance, flowers...
Xander: Lips.

There's definitely the sense in this episode that romantic relationships and the physical contact that come along with them introduce dangers. What sorts of dangers might be included in the warnings about going from three to two, in introducing romance, flowers, and lips, and in entering dateville? Does this merely illuminate dynamics that already exist among the characters? Or does it make concrete dynamics that have been a bit free-form up until now? Can we relate this to other relationships in the episode? In the course of the season?

2. Meet the Band
Devon: Let me guess: not your type? What does a girl have to do to impress you?
Oz: Well, it involves a feathered boa and a theme to "A Summer Place". I can't discuss it here.

What kind of possibilities does the introduction of not just Oz but also Devon represent for the character groupings? For the storyline? For other types of appeal for the show? How effective or interesting is the segue to meeting Devon and Oz (Cordy's brief relationship with Devon)? In what ways to Devon and Oz's interactions together give us some key themes for the women of season 2? How much does Oz's original characterization remain as he continues to appear on the show?

3. Xander's Relationships with Women
Xander: Okay, I have something to tell you. And it's kind of a secret, and it's, um, a little bit scary. I like you. A lot. And I want you to go to with me the dance.
Ampata: Why was that so scary?
Xander: Well, because you never know if a girl's gonna say "yes", or if... she's going to laugh in your face and pull out your still beating heart and crush it into the ground with her heel.

What kind of material does this episode provide regarding Xander's relationships with women? Are there new developments with Xander's connection to Willow? Buffy? If Buffy wants to be a normal girl, in what ways does Xander want to be a normal guy? How do the different female characters contribute to the building up of (or breaking down of) Xander's confidence? Do the events impact the way that he interacts with girls that he likes in future episodes in this season?

4. Sympathetic Monsters
Ampata: Thank you. You are always thinking of others before yourself. You remind me of someone from very long ago: the Inca Princess.
Buffy: Cool! A princess.
Ampata: They told her that she was the only one. That only she could defend her people from the nether world. Out of all the girls in her generation... ...she was the only one...
Buffy: ...chosen.
Ampata: Do you know the story?
Buffy: It's fairly familiar.

What do we think of Ampata's version of the Inca Princess's story? How effective are the parallels between the Princess and Buffy? In what ways does the episode create sympathy for the princess by comparing her to Buffy? Or in what ways does it create sympathy for Buffy by comparing her to the princess? Taking this from another direction, how about the dangers that Ampata presents? Are there dangers that we see Buffy present as well? Could we draw parallels to the way that Buffy & Ampata are forced into circumstances, and also imagine some not so pleasant potential outcomes of that?

Other Potential Topics: Xander's enthusiasm for Twinkies; the introduction of Jonathan; adding more and more sites to Sunnydale; the mummy storyline and horror cliches; the use of music in episodes
lusciousxanderlusciousxander on June 5th, 2006 12:57 pm (UTC)
When Xander thought of Willow as a girl he doesn't think of her lips... I disagree, seeing as he had thought of her lips before, we saw it in When She Was Bad. It was clear that he was hesitating to kiss her, but he did think and attempt to. I think Xander does have the potential to be attracted to Willow. However, Willow is in the friends zone, she's the best friend, the sweet little girl he used to play with when they were kids. And that's what Willow is to Xander, a kid. Her clothes, personality, gestures, mannerism... very child-like. Xander wants a woman, someone strong, someone dominant, but most importantly a woman.

I think the defining moment will be when Xander sees Willow in the black dress in Homecoming. The first time he sees her as a woman, which also means that his attraction towards her was there from the beginning, it just needed a little push. Sadly, Willow's shyness and insecurity stood in the way all that time.
Mireille: Xander (lostgirlslair)mireille719 on June 5th, 2006 01:55 pm (UTC)
One of the things that makes Willow/Oz work for me in a way that Willow/Xander doesn't (again, for me: I love Willow, I love Xander, and I'm not denying canon, but they don't work for me as a romantic couple) is that Xander needs to see Willow as, basically, not-herself for things to really take off between them. She's in formal wear, she's looking far more mature than she really is at the time.... she's Someone Else's Girlfriend, as well, which makes her forbidden fruit (Xander likes things that are not good for him, after all) and more desirable than she would be ordinarily.

Whereas Oz sees Willow in that awful Eskimo costume and is still drawn to her for all of her quirky weirdness that Xander loves in his friend Willow but seems not to be drawn to romantically.
your royal pie-ness: XanderEntre (xmirax)entrenous88 on June 5th, 2006 02:16 pm (UTC)
It does just seem so charming that Oz finds Willow intriguing in her eskimo costume. She definitely stands out!

That's an interesting point, that Xander needs Willow to be unlike herself in order for there to be attraction. He does seem to find certain qualities she has attractive...but not in her, necessarily. Kind of like when he says "Smart girls are hot" about Anya, and Willow says, aggrieved, "You couldn't have figured that out in high school?"

But I also wonder in this episode -- and this is why I love these re-watchings, because I honestly never thought of this before -- what ways that Willow contributes to the Xander/Willow not happening.

And it seems like Willow really wants to emphasize Xander's outsider + loser status. I'm not saying this is the only thing she wants to do; in other respects she strikes me as a fun friend and a great support for Xander and Buffy. But here...it's interesting that when Xander says he doesn't like Freddy Munson, Willow says "You just don't like him because he beat you up for five years." Which...um...that's an odd thing to remind Xander of, and certainly seems to make him feel awkward/embarassed, less able to move beyond being targeted as a guy who doesn't fit in.

Then later when Willow is advising him on costumes, and suggests Bavarian, Xander basically tells her he doesn't want to look dumb. And she says "Why are you so worried about looking like an idiot? That came out wrong." And I found that line really interesting, because it's not that Willow's saying why do you care about what people think. She seems, through a slip of the tongue that she herself recognizes, to imply that she can't understand why Xander is no longer willing to do stuff that make him unappealing to a broader scope of people, and by extension keep him safe in her orbit.

It was really interesting to me to get this from the episode in this go-round. I think Xander absolutely sends Willow mixed messages, but to me it makes the dynamic between them more complex and intriguing to consider how she potentially undercuts his confidence a little, as a way to keep him close, but perhaps also in a way that makes him find her unappealing.
Mireille: Willow (lostgirlslair)mireille719 on June 5th, 2006 02:32 pm (UTC)
Which is actually a really interesting thing to look at in light of Willow's later character development.

I mean, it's wholly understandable (as is Xander's behavior--these are not perfect people, and these are not *mature* people; I mean, honestly, even by "Chosen" they're still very young adults). Willow isn't necessarily doing this consciously, and Xander is one of Willow's only two friends at this point; she doesn't want him to grow apart from her, and if he changes his "loser" status, he might.

But it also lays the groundwork for something that reappears later on a far larger and more disturbing scale: Willow is willing to do things that are harmful to people she loves, in order to keep them with her. This is a little thing (and I think you're right, it probably does undermine any chance of a real romantic relationship between Willow and Xander, so she's shooting herself in the foot), but it does flow into Willow's later arc quite believably.
your royal pie-ness: willow iconentrenous88 on June 5th, 2006 02:44 pm (UTC)
Yes and yes to your first point. That's something I always think of when people say "But Buffy acted this way" or "But Willow said this" or "But Xander made that decision" as justification for why particular characters aren't good people or as a rationale for dislike/character-bashing. These are young people, still working things out, and quite frankly many of the decisions that they make are far more capable than you'd expect of that age group. And what, no one else ever acted in their self-interest when they were a teenager?

Anyway. :)

Great observation tying in those quick moments to Willow's more obvious willingness in later narrative arcs to do harm to people, or undercut them, in order to keep them close.

And just as an incredibly basic point, some people make excellent friends, but wouldn't be good romantic partners (Buffy seems to make this decision about Xander, Xander makes it about Willow, and really, Cordelia makes the decision a while back that Xander isn't friend material but does later become good boyfriend material).
Mireille: Willow (lostgirlslair)mireille719 on June 5th, 2006 03:01 pm (UTC)
These are young people, still working things out, and quite frankly many of the decisions that they make are far more capable than you'd expect of that age group.

And yes, their decisions frequently have bigger consequences, because they're TV characters--their *lives* are on an epic scale. I mean, when I was 17, I didn't make any decisions that would save the world, so if I screwed up, it wasn't that big of a deal. I probably *did* do something to discourage a girl I liked from getting back together with a boyfriend I hated/was jealous of/thought was creepy; it's just that, well, he wasn't a vampire and she didn't have to send him to hell.

Great observation tying in those quick moments to Willow's more obvious willingness in later narrative arcs to do harm to people, or undercut them, in order to keep them close.

As little as I like some of the later narrative arcs (or at least, as little as I like the way they were handled; I can't think of one that I don't think at least had potential to be really good), I can't say that this stuff came right out of nowhere, not when I go back and look at who the characters were at the beginning.
JG: BX by dothestarswyoujgracio on June 5th, 2006 03:14 pm (UTC)
All the core characters, with the exception of Giles I think put people in "boxes" and fight like hell to keep them there.

That means that Willow will try to keep Xander within his "Loveable loser" box, much like Xander tries to keep Buffy within the "Super hero, really hot super hero, like Wonderwoman" box.

I'm sure we also saw moments when Xander tried to keep Willow in the "Best Bud, who kinda looks female, but don't think too much about it, cause' yuck, she's one of the guys" box.

Anyway, I think Xander goes for powerful women. Even if the power is hidden. That Ampata has the power to kill him, even if he doesn't know it, is a big draw. And Ampata is a character that again shows us just what it is that Buffy can expect from her life, reinforcing the "I'm Doomed" angle.

Also, Willow, in the Eskimo costume? Is hot! :)
your royal pie-ness: willow eagerentrenous88 on June 5th, 2006 03:23 pm (UTC)
Xander definitely does love the powerful women -- it's interesting to see it doesn't stop at Buffy, but extends not only to monster women like Ms. French and Ampata, but other slayers like Kendra, and Faith.

And of course Cordy has her own powers even before she gets demon-powers.

Heee, really? I think Willow looks cute. And she looks hot, in that the costume must have been way overheated for the Bronze. Plus I feel bad for her when she knocks the top off the Eiffel Tower Of Cheese.
JG: Geekjgracio on June 5th, 2006 03:35 pm (UTC)
Not really Kendra. He talks to her one time, she goes all shy and not empowered, and he loses interest.

Nope, for Xander a woman needs to be able to kick his butt or at the very least give as good as she gets. Buffy is Buffy, and IMO he loses some interest in her after he sees she's not as powerful as he thinks she is, with her whole "not standing up to her boyfriend thing" (Angelus). Cordy is the one character that can verbally spar with him. Faith is Faith. Anya is more terrifying than Angelus, and also very hot. The more he starts to see her as a fragile woman though, one who won't fight back, the harder it gets for the marriage.

And now that I think about it, Willow should be a part of Xander's post S6 wet dreams, ya can't beat Darth Willow as far as power goes, although the veins are a turn off. :)

So, I see Xander as really liking powerful gals. But then again, I've seen people accusing Xander of being a woman hater, pretty much.
Third Mouse: Anya (huh!)thirdblindmouse on June 5th, 2006 08:29 pm (UTC)
The more he starts to see her as a fragile woman though, one who won't fight back, the harder it gets for the marriage.

Interesting point. He starts to see her fragility in season 5, though, before the proposal, so I've assumed that it's her otherness (he's never been able to escape fear of dorkdom) that really drives him away, and that his proposal in "The Gift" is exactly what Anya analyzes it to be at the time, despite his suave assurance that it's something else.

Most people underestimate Xander as a speaker. Sure, when he's flustered he'll say things like, "Can I have you," but when he gives speeches, they're the best any of the scoobies give. It's his real talent.
aychebaycheb on June 6th, 2006 02:18 pm (UTC)
I agree about the proposal although I don't think Xander knew it at the time. I'm not sure though that the failure to go through with the wedding had to do with how he saw Anya as much as how he saw himself. I think he was being both honest and insightful when he told her that at the end of Hell's Bells
your royal pie-ness: XanderEntre (xmirax)entrenous88 on June 6th, 2006 02:20 pm (UTC)
Agreed. I think Xander's hard choice to leave Anya at that point had everything to do with him.
JG: BX by dothestarswyoujgracio on June 6th, 2006 05:59 pm (UTC)
I kinda don't agree, simply because the way he sees himself is influenced by how he sees Anya.

He thinks that if given the "chance" he'll go the way of his father. Except Demon!Anya, wouldn't give him that chance. He'd probably never love her as much as he does Human!Anya, but she wouldn't allow him to become an abusive husband. First time he tried, end of story for Xander.

He can see himself being abusive towards Human!Anya though, so, yes, it's how he sees himself, but it's also how he sees Anya.

The marriage proposal, I also kinda think it's what Anya thinks it is, even if he isn't aware of it. OTOH, much like Chosen, where I see the ending as them being all friendly with each other because they were gonna die, Joss has said they really were friendly, so maybe the marriage proposal was "honest". It's open to interpretation really.

Third Mouse: Anya (axe)thirdblindmouse on June 7th, 2006 08:24 am (UTC)
I see Chosen as a different boat. They both really changed a lot since Hell's Bells and Grave, and I can imagine them just enjoying each other's presence (something we see them do for the first time in season 7).
JG: Geekjgracio on June 7th, 2006 08:51 am (UTC)
Sorry, I didn't make myself clear.

When spoking of Chosen, I meant for the most part the Scoobie Gang, not the Anya and Xander relationship. I'm one of those that think "Xanya" were friendly at that point, and maybe things could have worked between them. Maybe.

It's the Scoobie Gang that I'm unsure of. Lots of resentment going on, and unlike S4 resentment that could be "explained" away as "Spike tricked us! We're dumb!" Chosen's resentment was real, since most people had "reasons" to be angry with each other because of something.
Third Mousethirdblindmouse on June 8th, 2006 02:17 am (UTC)
Oh, I agree. I don't see them being close after closing the Hellmouth. All that really connected them since The Gift was the Hellmouth and their shared past, and once the Hellmouth was closed, I don't think memories are going to pull them together harder than the other memories are going to push them apart.
your royal pie-ness: anya iconentrenous88 on June 5th, 2006 02:03 pm (UTC)
Good point -- we know how intent Xander seemed on Willow's lips at that moment. Then he's completely distracted by Buffy's return.

It seems in WSWB that if a framework existed without Buffy, maybe Willow would catch more of Xander's notice.

But by this episode, it seems like Xander is going to be attracted to more adult appearing women.

And hey, we know from the Inca Mummy Girl and Anya that Xander apparently digs not only supernatural/demonic women, but Older Women (like, thousands of years older).
mazal_mazal_ on June 5th, 2006 03:55 pm (UTC)
Willow, Xander

Willow has a mean streak, seen as early as the show's pilot when she tricks Cordelia and Harmony into erasing their computer projects. I see this character flaw -- at least as much as her interest and ability in magicks often beyond her power to control and which then control her -- as leading naturally to the DarthWillow of Season Six.

And, yeah, Xander likes women with greater power and status than himself -- in sharp contrast to Riley, who ultimately can't take it.
your royal pie-ness: willow disbeliefentrenous88 on June 5th, 2006 03:59 pm (UTC)
Re: Willow, Xander
That's interesting, the "deliver"/delete misdirection that Willow gives Harmony and Cordelia.

She also performs a very *small* instance of that type of petty revenge in "School Hard", when she advises Cordelia (who has been insulting Buffy) to "have some punch" (that Willow knows is just lemons and no sweetener).

Very interesting, these little telling moments.
WesleysGirlwesleysgirl on June 6th, 2006 05:07 pm (UTC)
Re: Willow, Xander
Just jumping in, I don't know if I'd call Willow tricking Cordelia and Harmony into erasing their computer project a mean streak. To me, a mean streak is being mean just for the sake of it, because you can, and I definitely felt like we had enough background to explain why Willow would do something like that to Harmony and Cordy -- because they'd been horrible to her for years.
your royal pie-ness: dork!XAnder (singingllama)entrenous88 on June 6th, 2006 03:44 pm (UTC)
I've always thought of this episode as a stand-alone in many ways, but it really does highlight some interesting themes that become crucial to the overall arc of the season. It's funny, but the latter part of the season's emphasis on "sex is dangerous, sex changes people" really begins to build from earlier episodes, and in this one in particular.

Of course here it's not sex per se, but the precursor to more serious physical interaction, kissing. From Xander's avoidance of Willow's lips, to the number of moments when Xander almost kisses Ampata, to the obvious way that Ampata kills by draining life-force via kisses, that simple contact becomes fraught and problematic. But even in the deadly kissing Ampata gives, at least until her body deteriorates and becomes obviously dessicated (ew to her arms coming off), there's an eroticism that gives us a nice link between sex and death and a basis for starting to be wary of what happens when the characters come together physically.
your royal pie-ness: xander/oz iconentrenous88 on June 6th, 2006 03:54 pm (UTC)
Oz's character, Oz/Devon
I was thinking about our first glimpse of Oz, and how his character seems quirky, but not necessarily the quiet/stoic Oz of later narrative development. In a way, Oz's humor doesn't seem *too* far off from Xander's at this stage. And his expressions are, well, more expressive, though of course we could attribute that to his love-at-first-sight type glimpse of Willow, when he seems bowled over by her Inuit costume.

It strikes me too that it's very fun to get some more overtly slashy moments (what, like I was never going to bring it up?) particularly in the Oz/Devon interactions, and in Devon's huffy "What does a girl have to do to catch your interest?" conversation. It's strategic: Devon seems very puzzled by Oz, and focused on him, and that draws our focus on Oz when Willow and the other characters don't yet realize that Oz exists. But it also gives us a character who seems mysterious and appealing through the perspective of another guy (as opposed to Angel who becomes mysterious through Buffy's constant wondering about him).

Funny too that the show chose, rather than just introducing Oz and making Devon a kind of background sidekick (though certainly Devon never becomes a featured character), we meet Oz through the brief Devon/Cordy fling. Partly it seems a way to demarcate how Oz's relationships will be different from Devon's more casual, objectifying relationships (like Devon's line, "She doesn't have to talk," which actually comes across as pretty damn funny to me, considering how much Cordelia talks). And partly it seems like we're getting a sense of another group/circle of focus at Sunnydale High, by meeting two guys in this band, having opportunities to connect that band and one of the show's favorite hangout for the characters (the Bronze) and by giving the show more of a window to launch an even tighter relationship between music and storyline than it had in the past.