Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Season 3 Episode 18

Earshot

5
Aired Tuesday 8:00 PM Sep 21, 1999 on The WB
9.3
out of 10
User Rating
632 votes
29

EPISODE REVIEWS
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Episode Summary

EDIT
After an encounter with a demon with no mouth, Buffy is infected with the demon's blood and she gains the ability to hear people's thoughts. At first her newfound ability is useful for cheating on schoolwork and eavesdropping on the thoughts of those around her, but when the voices continue to flood her mind, she realizes that she cannot control the power. Amid the chaos, Buffy hears a killer planning a mass murder at the school. Now she must keep herself from going mad long enough to prevent a catastrophe.moreless

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • Earshot

    9.5
    Kudos to writer Jane Espenson for this little gem! Here lies a mostly stand-alone episode which does what BtVS is best at: using a supernatural device, telepathy in this case, as a method to say something profound about life. What really propels this above the rest is the fantastic writing. Buffy's clocktower scene with Jonathan is quite powerful and very applicable. The rest of the happenings involve a whole lot of misleads and a ton of snappy humor. Aside from a couple relatively small problems I was very entertained from start to finish.



    This time around I'll begin with the one thing I didn't like. That would be Buffy's contuining distrust of Angel and his feelings for her. I went on about this in my review of "Enemies" (3x17) so I won't beat it over the head here. I am pleased that Willow is at least giving her solid advice. Willow says, "just talk to him." I'm also glad that she took Willow's advice and cleared up that nonsense.



    I really appreciated the amount of side characters used here. Not only does this work to give the viewers more choices of who could be committing the murder, but it also gives the writers an opportunity to continue developing characters like Larry and Jonathan which is always good. Jonathan is the one who's getting a lot of attention though. He has become a really fascinating character over the first few seasons. A lot of things add up to his suicide attempt here. The biggest foreshadowing of this was in "Go Fish" (2x20) when some jocks were dunking his head in water and ridiculing him. Buffy helps him and he seems angry and embarassed about it. Jonathan says to Buffy in the clocktower "I just wanted it to stop." If the suicide attempt hadn't been by Jonathan this sequence wouldn't have been nearly as meaningful. We kind of know and feel for him and his development logically leads to this. This was an incredibly smart move by the writers.



    Buffy's side of the clocktower scene was even more telling. The telepathy ability could have been used completely for laughs, but instead we get laughs and a vital discovery about teenagers in general. She tells Jonathan "My life happens to, on occasion, 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." I think Buffy's speech speaks for itself!



    A smaller scene I really adored is when Buffy goes to see Angel right after getting her telepathy. Her intent is to read his mind and find out what this guy is thinking all the time. I have a feeling a lot of girls would love to be able have this ability with their boyfriends, and likely vice versa. But Buffy can't read Angel because he's a vampire! This forces them to just sit down and communicate to each other. Once again, words have been getting in the way of truthfully talking to each other. "Hush" (4x10) is an entire episode devoted to this idea. The lesson is to simply express you're feelings to your partner in an honest and nice way; you're likely to get an honest and nice response back as Angel gives here.



    There's a few things I wasn't happy about along the way, but this is a fantastic ride. Several misleads, lots of laughs, great writing, and powerful drama. This episode rocks!moreless
  • Utterly fabulous!

    10
    The Good;

    It's all stunning. Jonathon shows his star quality, the mindreading is excellent, the comedy and action fantastic. If I was to select one ep to show to people to demonstrate how great the series is I think it would be this one. The only thing that could make it better would be if Faith and Dawn were in it.



    The Bad;

    Um? Well, the excuse of why Buffy can't read Angel's mind is rather stupid. It's also a letdown that we never get to read Faith's thoughts.



    Best line;

    Hard to pick but I think I'll go for Jonathon 'You all think I'm an idiot. A SHORT idiot!" (although at 5'2 he's only an inch shorter than SMG, not "3 feet tall"). The one I use all the time though is Oz's 'I call that a radical interpretation of the text' plus Angel's 'I'm a funny guy'. Buffy's entire speech to Jonathon is just too beautiful for words.



    Character death;

    None, thankfully



    Shot;

    Again none although Jonathon has a deer-rifle to kill himself. Some have asked why he uses something as cumbersome as a rifle but even the US has some gun control and they're easier to get than a handgun.



    Tied up;

    Not this ep



    Knocked out;

    Dinner lady by Buffy and Buffy herself faints.



    Women good/men bad;

    Again a female villain



    Jeez!;

    RAT POISON IN THE JELLY! The dinner lady is actually a recurring character, she's also amongst the mob in BBB. Xander's comment on 'taking out the place with a semi-automatic' and later admission that this is 'bordering on trendy at this point' is obviously near the knuckle. You wonder if things had worked out differently if Xander could have been one of season 6's trio (making them a quartet).



    Kinky dinky;

    Buffy is flattered by one of the male students admiring her beauty (love her bashful preening) then shocked that he wants to slam her against the lockers and ravish her (love to know what the second guy in that scene was thinking?). She won't always be so dainty, one day she'll happily allow Spike to do that to her and a whole lot more! But maybe it's an inherited thing amongst the Summer's girls as we finally discover the truth about Joyce and Ripper and the handcuffs on the hood of the police car? And Dawn will of course end up giving RJ a lapdance in 'Him'. Seems denial and sluttiness run in the Summer's family? (as well as incredible beauty). Willow worries that Buffy will develop a 'boy demon part' as her aspect of the demon. Oz and Xander admire Cordy and the cheerleaders. Freddy describes them a 'pseudo prostitutes whipping men up into a sexual frenzy'. Wes considers himself a very bad man for lusting after Cordy. Cordy has kneemarks on her back but claims their from the cheerleading pyramid. Once again Xander shows his yen for older women, fancying the English teacher. Willow tells Jonathon that 'fantasies are fun'. Xander questioning of a trio of babes seems to resemble the questions Playboy ask their Playmate of the Month rather than the FBIs serial killer profile.



    Calling Captain Subtext;

    Xander once again has one of his uncomfortable talks with Larry. Despite being able to read Willow's mind Buffy doesn't pick up any hints of lesbianism. Her reading of Cordy's mind demonstrates that Cordy really doesn't have a subtext, she literally says what she thinks. Nice to see that The Merchant of Venice is still relevant in supernatural teen US series. Xander considers Wes 'Pierce Brosnany' which is a weird way for one straight man to think of another.



    Guantanamo Bay;

    Of course this is the ep which was postponed by the Columbine massacre. For UK fans it meant that we got to see the last eps of season 3 FIRST and if you waited for the video boxsets wonderful vigin eps one after the other. Willow interrogates Jonathom again.



    Where's Dawn?

    It would have been interesting to hear Dawn's thoughts about all things Sunnydale. The only time we see Wes meet Joyce and presumably the littlelest Summers as well. Does Dawn ever learn about Joyce and Ripper's tryst?



    Questions and observations;

    Wonderful in just so many ways, perhaps the most perfect ep of Buffy ever.

    Recently went to see The Punisher; War Zone (not good) and was proud of myself in recognising one of the henchmen as Freddy Iverson from this ep. Xander's maths needs work. Snyder is a Bangels fan. Love the headlines in the school paper, especially 'Apathy on the rise, no one cares'. The final tree gag makes me laugh every time and was apparently ASH's idea. The mislead with Jonathon is so clever. Speaking of minor recurring characters we also have 'Asian Joe' an extra whom you see a lot in the background at SDH. Here he's the guy who thinks about being a software jillionaire, his first and possibly only line in the series. Would the Flaying of the Demon Azareth really be a bad thing? Presumably for the demon Azerath? Percy becomes a recurring character. 'Magic' Jane Espensons commentary is wonderful. The demons closely resemble the Drakh from Babylon 5. Angel comments that in his whole life he's only ever loved one girl, Buffy, which is bad news for Darla in season 2 of Angel;TS. As Jane comments we see Angel hunting solo which is rare before his own show. What is with Willow's hat, is she taking up flyfishing or something?

    Marks out of 10; 10/10 , up there with Dopplegangland as possibly the best ep evermoreless
  • A Buffy PSA

    10
    I love the episodes that include recurring characters and in this one we get to see a bunch. Larry, Percy, Jonathan, Harmony, and other one off characters make an appearance in this hilarious but serious episode.



    When Buffy encounters a demon on patrol, it infects her with telepathy. With this ability, she and us are able to hear everyone's thoughts. My favorites were Oz and Cordelia. His were so deep and hers were so superficial, they all just made me laugh. My favorite scene is the pep rally scene. I liked the blocking and the dialogue. It had some of my fave lines of the series, including Xander's "Pierce Brosnany eyes" comment and Oz saying he read the school paper for the obituaries.



    The one thing I didn't like was the blatant misdirection about Jonathan. He is shown with a shotgun in the clocktower, and then he reveals that he was going to commit suicide, which is a pretty hard thing to do with such a long gun. I liked the end scene with Xander and the lunch lady though. It was scary when you think about the implications, but funny anyway.



    I understand why they yanked this episode from original airing, but I was so happy they included it in the original spot on the DVD. This is my second favorite episode of the season, only because it doesn't have Spike, but it is one that I never get tired of.moreless
  • Earshot

    8.0
    Earshot was a very interesting episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was fun to watch Buffy using her new found ability on those around her, though some times she wished she didn't hear what she did. It was interesting to learn what some people were thinking. When Buffy heard some one plotting to kill, she started a frantic search. Eventually she stopped the lone gun man who was actually only going to kill himself. Buffy learned about the true nature of what happened in Band Candy between Giles and her Mom. It was an entertaining episode that fits right in.moreless
  • "Infect? Infect? Giles, Infect?"

    10
    He he! I love this episode its hilarious! Buffy picks up part of a demon by accidenly getting some of it's goo on her skin. She tells Willow and Willow says, "Was it a boy demon?" HA! loL! U gotta love it! She then hears a voice in the cafeteria say, "Tomorrow u will all die" and she immediatly tries to find out who it is. She thinks it's jonathon, the school nerd-short guy who everyone is really mean to, but infact he was going to kill himself. It ends up to be the cafeteria lady who wanted to put rat poison in everyones food. All in all, great episode, extremely funny, especially with some of the things Buffy ends up hearing...

    Wesley: God look at Cordelia, no, don't look at Cordelia! lol!moreless
Justin Doran

Justin Doran

Hogan

Guest Star

Wendy Worthington

Wendy Worthington

Lunch Lady

Guest Star

Robert Arce

Robert Arce

Mr. Beach

Guest Star

Larry Bagby

Larry Bagby

Larry

Recurring Role

Kristine Sutherland

Kristine Sutherland

Joyce Summers

Recurring Role

Alexis Denisof

Alexis Denisof

Wesley Wyndam-Pryce

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

FILTER BY TYPE

  • TRIVIA (11)

    • Xander's accusation of Larry is reminiscent of a similar awkward confrontation revealing Larry's homosexuality in "Phases" (S2E15).

    • When Buffy reads her mother's mind, she's hearing about the fling with Giles that Joyce had off-camera during the episode "Band Candy". After being hinted at a few times since then, we now know exactly what happened between the two and where.

    • Goof: When Buffy does the flip to get on top of the building near Jonathan, her shirt is not the same one that she is wearing before and after she does the flip.

    • Nitpick: The closet that it looked like Joyce got the blanket out of isn't there in later episodes....so where'd it come from?

    • Nitpick: Right after Angel tells Buffy he would love her even if she was covered in slime, and the scene changes to an outside shot, it is the same one from "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered", when Cordelia is shunned by Harmony's group. If you look closely you can see Harmony in the background.

    • Goof: When Buffy's in the lunch line and walks out of it, you see that there is no food on either of her plates. Then in the very next shot, each plate has something on it.

    • Goof: When Buffy is at Angel's and is reading his mind his necklace is under his shirt when the camera is facing him yet just over it when the camera is facing her. Although you do see it pop out of his shirt when he stands up it seems unlikely it would keep going in and out while he is sat still.

    • Goof: When Buffy sees Jonathan in the clock tower, the clock says 12:40. When she runs up the stairs to climbs up and jumps in the tower window, the clock says 12:15.

    • Goof: When Buffy is fighting the cafeteria lady, the cafeteria lady has gotten skinnier in the middle of the fight, for a few cuts. It's pretty obvious that it was a stunt double.

    • Nitpick: When the mind-reading starts really getting to Buffy, why don't they take her to Angel's instead of home? There most likely wouldn't be many people walking around outside the mansion like there are outside Buffy's house. Plus, the mind-reading doesn't work on Angel so wouldn't she be better off with him?

    • Nitpick: Given the length of the rifle, and the shortness of his arms, Jonathan would've had one heck of a tough time trying to shoot himself with it.

  • QUOTES (26)

    • Buffy: Listen, there's a killer in the cafeteria.
      Xander: See? I've been saying for years the lunch lady is gonna do us all in with that mulligan stew.

    • Xander: (his thoughts) What am I gonna do? I think about sex all the time. Sex. Help! Four times five is thirty, five times six is thirty-two. Naked girls. Naked Buffy. Oh stop me!
      Buffy: God Xander, is that all you think about?
      Xander: Actually... bye!

    • Oz's thoughts: I am my thoughts. If they exist in her, Buffy contains everything that is... and she becomes me. I cease to exist.
      Oz: Huh.

    • Angel: You don't have to play games with me Buffy. Never.
      Buffy: Well, you're not exactly Joe-here's-what-I'm-thinking.

    • Wesley: Xander just illustrated something. Chances are you are all going to be thinking whatever you least want Buffy to hear. It's a question of course of mental discipline.(Wesley's thoughts) Look at Cordelia. No, don't look at Cordelia! She's a student. Oh, I am a bad man. A bad, bad man. (Wesley looks up to see Buffy smirking at him.) Excuse me.

    • Willow: Could you believe it? Right at the buzzer, three points for the win!
      Oz: It was pretty intense.
      Xander: Yeah! for a minute there I thought you were going to make an expression!
      Oz: I felt one coming on, I won't lie.

    • Angel: Hey, I won't let anything happen to you if I can help it. No matter what I'll always be with you. Hey, I'll love you even if you're covered in slime.
      Buffy: I liked everything until that part.

    • Buffy: 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'd probably be good for his self-esteem, if you...
      Buffy: Oh, come on, what am I, Saint Buffy? He's like three feet tall!

    • Larry: Man, I'm out. I'm so out, I've got my grandma fixing me up with guys.

    • Cordelia: I think I should work with Wesley.
      Xander: You have no shame.
      Cordelia: Oh, please. Like shame is something to be proud of?

    • Xander: I'm still having trouble with the fact that one of us is just going to gun everybody down for no reason.
      Cordelia: Yeah, because THAT never happens in American high schools.
      Oz: It's bordering on trendy at this point.

    • Buffy: Guess I won't be writing that book, "Winning Friends Through Telepathy."

    • Angel: A lot of things that seem strong, and good, and powerful - they can be painful.
      Buffy: Like, say, immortality?
      Angel: Exactly. I'm dying to get rid of that.
      Buffy: Funny.
      Angel: (gives a serious look) I'm a funny guy.

    • Willow: Yeah, well, I still bet patrolling was way better, 'cause, wow, important.
      Buffy: Well, I thought I saw a four-legged demon. But it was just a dog.

    • Cordelia: It was an incredible game. I've never cheered so hard in my life. I still have knee-marks on my back...(everyone gives her a strange look) From the pyramid, eugh!

    • Willow: According to Freddy's latest editorial, "the pep rally is a place for pseudo-prostitutes to provoke men into a sexual frenzy, which, when thwarted, results in pointless athletic competition."
      Xander: And the down-side being?

    • Buffy: Is it me, or is this really lame?
      Oz: I don't know - I usually enjoy lame, but this is leaving me kinda cold.

    • Willow: Too bad you're patrolling, 'cause we're all going - Oz, Xander, everybody.
      Buffy: Great. Everybody who isn't currently Buffy.

    • Buffy: I don't. I don't think about you much at all. Nobody here really does. Bugs you, doesn't it? You have all this pain, and all these feelings and nobody's really paying attention.
      Jonathan: You think I just want attention?
      Buffy: No. I think you're up in the clock tower with a high-powered rifle because you wanna blend in. Believe it or not, Jonathan, I understand about the pain.
      Jonathan: Oh right. 'Cause the burden of being beautiful and athletic, that's a crippler.
      Buffy: You know what? I was wrong. You are an idiot. My life happens to, on occasion, 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.

    • Buffy: I'm suddenly gonna grow this demon part, and we don't even know what it is. It could be claws or scales... (off Willow's look) What?
      Willow: Was it a boy demon?

    • Oz: (reading) "Dingoes ate my Baby play their instruments as if they had plump Polish sausages taped to their fingers".
      Freddy: Sorry, man.
      Oz: ...No, it's fair.

    • Giles: 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 bumps into a tree as Buffy walks away)

    • Buffy: ... 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'm... going to go downstairs now, you... feel better.
      Buffy: ... TWICE!?

    • Willow: So you're feeling better about Angel?
      Buffy: Well, we talked, then he ripped out the heart of a demon then fed it to me and then we talked some more.
      Willow: See, that's how it should work.

    • Xander: Hogan Martin thinks he's sooo hot, like we should all be awed by him just because he put a ball in the net.
      Hogan: Hey Xander.
      Xander: He said my name! He knows my name!

    • Giles: Well, I'm not even convinced that this is genuine mind-reading. You're most likely just projecting your thoughts onto...
      Buffy: When I walked in here three minutes ago you thought "Look at her shoes, if a fashion magazine told her to she'd wear cats strapped to her feet."

  • NOTES (13)

    • Although episodes are normally listed according to air date, which would put this postponed episode as the last in season 3, a special exception was made for this episode because this is the place in which it appears in the tape and DVD releases.

    • This episode is seventh in Joss Whedon's list of his top ten favorite episodes according to his personal letter included in the Australian Chosen Collection Box-set. The episodes on this top ten list are not ranked, but are put in order of which episode aired first.

    • The A&E biography for Buffy the Vampire Slayer makes note of this episode but incorrectly keeps saying that the student [Jonathan] was going to kill the other students. They even had a clip of Marsters talking about this episode and how it dealt with students killing each other. Jonathan was going to kill himself; the crazy lunch lady was going to poison the students.

    • When Giles walks into the tree at the end of the episode, it was actually Anthony Head's idea to do it, although he had never dreamed that Joss Whedon would let him get away with it.

    • Regis Kimble, who directed this episode, also designed the title sequence of Angel.

    • The name of the Sunnydale High School newspaper is the Sentinel.

    • Lauren E. Roman & Sarah Michelle Gellar reunite in this episode from their days on the soap opera All My Children, where Lauren played Laura Kirk English and Sarah played Kendall Hart.

    • Should you be watching reruns of season 3 episodes, look for a shortish Asian guy carrying a skateboard. He's in many episodes and is referred to as "Asian Dan" by the cast. In the season 4 DVD, Seth Green, Joss Whedon, and Marti Noxon joke about his frequent appearances in the "Wild at Heart" audio commentary.

    • This episode is unique in that, despite having the supernatural element of Buffy hearing other people's thoughts, the main evil of the episode - the person planning to kill everyone at Sunnydale High - turns out to be human, not some supernatural being.

    • In the October 1, 1999 issue of Entertainment Weekly, Sarah Michelle Gellar said this was her favorite episode.

    • The rifle Jonathan uses is a modified Ruger Model 77 Mark 2, which has been custom converted to break down in a carrying case. "Sturm, Ruger and Company Inc. - Arms makers for responsible citizens."

    • Unless Oz was merely making a joke, the Sunnydale High newspaper has an Obituary section.

    • The original airing of this episode was delayed by the network because the episode deals with an attempted mass murder at a High School and it was to air just a week after the mass murder at Columbine High School.

  • ALLUSIONS (4)

    • Giles: Berk.
      Giles refers to Wesley using a British slang term for idiot.

    • Xander: Ok, so turn-offs include: smoking, insensitive men and Birkenstocks.
      Xander interviews the attractive girls of Sunnydale and turns the psychological profile into a fact finding mission for the lovelorn. A list of turn-offs like these are commonly found in the profile accompanying a featured model in magazines like Playboy.


      Birkenstocks are a brand of sandals commonly thought of as being very "hippy".

    • Xander: He's got his filthy, adult, Pierce Bronan-y eyes all over my Cordy.
      Xander complains about the way that Wesley looks at Cordelia with a comparison to Pierce Brosnan. Pierce Brosnan is an actor best know for playing James Bond and is considered to be quite good looking.

    • Buffy: Anyway, it's been itching like crazy. No big. Just another problem for the good people at Lubriderm, right?
      Lubriderm makes skin care products such as hand lotion.

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