First of all, I LOVE CORDY. Cordelia’s fake laugh is hysterical. And then when she says “I respect you too much to be dishonest” re: Buffy’s hair and clothes. EXCELLENT. And of course the scene where she lays out all the ground rules for Buffy coming with her to the party is fabulous. Then in the end, Cordy realizes that she’s much rather hang around high school boys whom she can control than ~cool~ college boys. I LOVE YOU, CORDY.
The opening scene is all sorts of adorable. I like that we get instances of Buffy, Willow, and Xander hanging out in a non-slaying capacity. It makes the whole world feel a bit more real, like things are still happening, even when we aren’t watching.
Wow, is that enough absurd phallic imagery? I mean, wealthy men sacrificing women to their devotion to a Giant Snake. That is not terribly subtle, and I’ll admit I kind of enjoy it in a so-bad-it’s-good-way.
I love Willow’s rant at Giles and Angel, complete with her admission that it didn’t make her feel any better. Also, “Angel, how do you shave?” brings up an interesting question. Does he shave? If he does, I imagine he’d be quite adept at doing it by touch at this point. But in a lot of legends, vampires can’t change their hair. It doesn’t grow and occasionally they can’t even cut it (this is the trigger for Claudia’s mental breakdown in Interview With a Vampire). But that tradition tends to be confined to books and movies, since you can’t really force an actor to keep exactly the same look across several seasons of a television show. So I’m guessing Angel mastered the shaving thing a long time ago and has since bought an electric razor so he doesn’t have to worry so much about cutting himself. Yes, I have spent far too much time thinking about this.
Speaking of Angel, his role in this episode is interesting. The first scene between him and Buffy is really awkward, with him highlighting their age difference, but not necessarily turning down a date or a cup of coffee. In fact, he’s the one who suggests them. Buffy is the one who can’t quite articulate what she wants from him, possibly because she doesn’t know. The whole scene feels over-dramatic to me, probably because both Buffy and Angel are assuming that they know what the other one wants. Then he gets super protective of her when she’s captured at the frat party, but doesn’t actually do much in terms of rescuing her. He knocks a few guys out, but without the rescue mission Buffy probably would have been just fine. She frees herself, gets a sword, and takes out both Tom and Machida without any help. Angel really wants to protect Buffy, but she doesn’t need him to.
Buffy is crushing on Angel haaaaard. The thing about Buffy/Angel is that I think that Joss is maybe playing the star-crossed lovers thing straight, but then you get something like the scene in the graveyard which is so over the top that it feels like it is making fun of those “vampire in love with an innocent girl” stories. And then at the end, you get Buffy confidently walking away from Angel because she’s realized she doesn’t need a boyfriend. So… idk. Is Joss playing it straight or his he lovingly criticizing those kinds of stories? I think it’s probably a bit of both.
I’d also note that it’s not just a fraternity or fraternity culture that’s being dealt with here – this particular fraternity is represented as one that caters to (likely generations of) wealthy and privileged men. I thought there were a lot of undertones concerning class. The Bollywood thing was definitely icky, but the point was to establish Buffy, Willow, and Xander as having “no money” to do things – this opens an episode about these characters being introduced to an organization that prides itself on its wealthy membership. A lot of Xander’s comments on the Frat implicate his feeling locked out of this social scene based on class, and even beyond the obvious misogyny of the “hazing” the frat boys subjected him to, I also got this sense of it being a demonstration of power by those who had wealth against someone who lacked it.
Of course, they put that almost wholly on Xander, as opposed to Willow (who’s off convincing Giles and Angel to Stop Being Meanies to her friend) or Buffy (whose beauty and the Frat’s need to complete their bizarre, Phallic-Obsession ritual allow her to pass into this world just long enough to be sexually assaulted/fed to a Giant Phallic Snake look I don’t know). I guess between Buffy and Xander we could see two, gendered forms of exploitation against those of lower classes – Xander’s very pointedly emasculated as a form of humiliation, and Buffy is objectified and pretty thoroughly dehumanized. Of course, the same thing happens to Cordelia, who does appear to have some level of access to wealth, even though she also seems to see the opportunity to interact with the members of this particular fraternity as a means of developing/increasing such access, so ultimately the nature of the gender-exclusivity of the group comes in, as her gender still ultimately dehumanizes her in their eyes.