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Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Season 2 Episode 15


Aired Tuesday 8:00 PM Jan 27, 1998 on The WB
out of 10
User Rating
675 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

Buffy and the gang track down a suspected werewolf roaming in the woods and also try to stay out of the way of a bloodthirsty hunter who is after the same beast. Meanwhile, Willow worries when Oz doesn't appear anxious to take their relationship to a physical level.moreless

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  • SPOILERS ahead!!!

    It is always difficult to review an episode which just so happens, to its own misfortune, follow a much beloved episode. "Phases" is the follow up to "Innocence", and in many ways, is the type of episode that needed to follow "Innocence". Don't get me wrong, the episode is far from perfect, but it is an episode almost entirely devoid of Angelus (until the near end) and represents Buffy moving on from her traumatic experience with Angel.

    There is a werewolf in Sunnydale, and the Scooby Gang fear that he has murdered a school girl. In among this, Cordelia and Xander continue their much eccentric relationship, whilst Oz and Willow continue to get closer.

    In this episode, Oz discovers that he is a werewolf. Whilst the title "Phases" may suggest a psychological exploration of Oz's life, upon such a shocking discovery, the episode is more concerned with Buffy saving the werewolf, whom she does not realize to be Oz, before he is killed by Kane, a generic werewolf hunter.

    That is the biggest issue with this episode. The plot to the episode is of an early Season 2 quality (Monster of the Week type) but the episode itself could so easily have unravelled something greater. To discover that you are a werewolf, a beast three nights a month, is a life altering realization. And we get little snippets of Oz's life suddenly changing before his very eyes. Unfortunately, the episode leaves far too much time dealing with the new "threat" Kane, building up some rather weak suspense on whether Kane will kill Oz.

    Oz is such an endearing character in his limited appearances thus far in the series. Seth Green is excellent and the interactions between himself and Alysson Hannigan's Willow are priceless, timeless, and simply, PERFECTION!

    As I mentioned earlier, Angelus has only a cameo in this episode as Buffy attempts to move on from the sudden loss of her boyfriend. Angelus' very little appearance too is metaphorical of Buffy moving away from her personal life, and further embracing her duties as Slayer. There isn't much mourning of Angel's death (it really is a death), but rather, about reeling from the shock. The end of the episode further rips at Buffy, who realizes she is the target of Angelus' passions (further elaborated on in the episode titled "Passion")

    "Phases" is a difficult episode to review. It must somehow mount the challenge of following "Innocence", and whilst it is entirely devoid of brilliance, the episode is entertaining, if not disappointing.moreless
  • Oz and Willow!

    As a werewolf plagues the town of Sunnydale, the Scooby gang attempts to find it before Cain, a professional werewolf hunter. Unbeknownst to any of them, the werewolf just so happens to be Oz!!

    I love this episode! It's so funny, and has great character development. I really love the early episodes with the initial Willow and Oz relationship.
  • Phases

    This is a relatively lightweight Oz episode that makes him even more part of the group and manages to also further his relationship with Willow. We find out that Oz is a werewolf, amusingly bit by his cousin. I have really mixed feelings on this revelation. I'm not too happy that another one of the group is a supernatural being. Buffy's a Slayer, Angel's a vampire, Willow's soon going to be dabbling in witchcraft, and now Oz is a werewolf. While the writers do a great job of using the supernatural as a metaphor for life, I actually liked the mix of regular humans to supernatural beings. Now things are beginning to get weighted in the supernatural and I suppose I'd have preferred otherwise.

    The episode begins with a series of light and entertaining scenes. Oz is looking at the same cheerleading trophy that Amy's mom got stuck in back in "The Witch" (1x03), which is beyond cool. This is a subtle reference to something that only the viewers even know about and is further proof that the writers of this show have respect for its viewers. I also love the P.E. scene where Oz says he got bit by his little cousin and Buffy 'acts' all weak with Willow cutely nodding approvingly. Larry then grabs Buffy's ass, and she flips him over her shoulder in response. I guess I've got a soft spot for seeing Buffy flex her supernatural muscles in front of the "regular people" from time to time. This is why I also loved Buffy bending the hunter's rifle with her bare hands towards the end.

    The werewolf turning out to be Oz is actually pretty unexpected. I love his comment after waking up in the forest naked: "huh." Reminded me exactly of Mal's 'huh' in Firefly's "Serenity." Oz discovers part of him is now a monster and that he is a danger to those around him. We know from "Wild at Heart" (4x06) that the instincts of the beast are within him even when he's not in werewolf form.

    There's also a lot of anti-men dialog in this episodes with Buffy basically saying that the typical male has no conscience, is preditory, and is aggressive. All these comments seem to fall flat when they discover Oz, one of the most gentle guys around, happens to be the savage beast they've been hunting. Perhaps what's being said here is that all men have a beast within them, but what's important is how they use those instincts. If used in a positive way, such as to create a sense of self-confidence and motivation, then having some 'beast' within them becomes an asset. But if not kept in balance all you'll see is the beast, which in turn will create a predatory and aggressive individual. Oz becomes the counterpoint to Buffy's opinion of the typical male here and essentially proves her wrong.

    On the smaller side of themes, I found it amusing to see Buffy's name appear at the top of the list on Willow's search for school offenders. I also found it very intriguing to consider the possibilities of the reason behind Buffy giving Xander a close hug after he kills a vamped Teresa who had her pinned down. Buffy hugs on tight, then right after she lets go she looks up at him for a second like she's considering saying something important to him, but instead storms out of the room. Xander's reply perfectly reflects his confusion, "Oh, no, my life's not too complicated." Xander is still is very attracted to Buffy and wants to date her quite badly (I can't say I blame him either). Us viewers can tell Buffy didn't mean anything romantic by her glance or her hug, it was meant as comfort with a friend. But to Xander, who is still sexually attraction to her, it means a lot more and now has him thinking about possibilities again. This confusion is directly dealt with in the next episode.

    Willow also got some good development here. She complains about Oz showing so much affection for her one moment and then going quiet and cold on her the next. At this point in the show, Oz is still a very new member of the Scooby Gang, so it is understable that he isn't immediately able to confide in them when he finds out he's the werewolf. In defiance of this lack of communication, Willow goes over to his house and unleashes Willow-fury (even an angry Willow is cute, in the first three seasons at least) on him right as he's changing into the werewolf. Willow's gradual confidence boosts gained over the course of the season, which prominently began back in "Halloween" (2x06), is finally put to full use here. It's great to see Willow be so up front with her feelings.

    At the end Willow goes to talk with Oz about everything that happened. Oz is gentle and offers to give her some space after what happened. The new and improved Willow, though, decides to say "screw it" with needing time and tells Oz she very much wants to actually begin dating him and that she doesn't care that he's a werewolf. This series has the most subtle and wonderful character development I've ever seen. Willow's slow growth of confidence over the season is simply one more thing added to a long list of character growth for proof.

    So while there were a lot of strong and intriguing themes running through the episode, some stuff didn't make it through so well. The werewolf suit looked preposterous and only worked when it was in the dark so I couldn't see it. In addition to the werewolf, the werewolf hunter was also dumb and came across completely one-dimensional. That's never good. I also didn't appreciate Buffy's semi-light attitude considering what she had just went through. She seems almost content with the way things are until Angelus reminds her with a dead student that he's bad now. Overall, though, the strengths overpowered the weaknesses in this solid episode.moreless
  • Why we love Oz


    The Good

    Wonderful opening scene, Oz's reaction to the news he's a werewolf, the burgeoning Oz and Willow/Xander and Cordy relationships, the mislead with Larry is hilarious and a nice subplot with Theresa as Angelus and co are not forgotten.

    The Bad;

    Very little, excellent ep

    Best line;

    Willow; "Three days a month I'm not much fun to be around either"

    Is just beaten by;

    Giles "Let's not jump to conclusions"

    Buffy "I didn't jump, I took a tiny step and there conclusions were"

    Questions and observations;

    Willow and Cordy seem to be bonding despite Will's reference to CC as a 'skanky ho', their disparaging of men smacks mightily of subtext. That said Willow says she 'Wants smoochies' and seems less alarmed by Oz's possessing chains than intrigued. He doesn't wear them however unlike Buffy who finds herself helpless once more, caught in Cain's net. Cain's suspicion of Buffy and Giles in a May-to-December romance seems incredible but what else would the pair be doing in lover's lane at mignight? Buffy's comments on the male nature of the werewolf are positively misandrist (and later we'll see the female werewolf is deadlier than the male). Cordy refers to the things she can't tell her father about because he still thinks she's a good girl? It's pretty clear Xander doesn't have sex until The Zeppo so how far do they go?

    The scene where Angelus offers to walk Theresa home is just chilling. I think what makes it so effective is that he seems so plausible, the devil with the Angel's face.

    Much better werewolf than we'll see later, note they switched back to the more traditional image for Nina on Angel. Oz is shot for the second time and knocked out for the first whilst Xander kills his second vamp. It had to be pointed out to me at the time but now it seems hard to miss the 2 guys pushing Giles' car as it arrives at the Bronze.

    So presumably Oz's cousin bit him whilst human? So a werewolf can infect someone even in human form? Willow better not let Oz give her any lovebites. And did Oz's cousin get bitten or does being a werewolf run in famillies, Teenwolf style? How come Oz wakes up the second night naked and wondering what happened but not the first? Probably the best ever example of Slayer strength, Buffy bending the barrel of Cain's rifle in her bare hands, totally impossible for any human to do.

    I always thought the Owen who Buffy spots cheating on his girlfriend in Lovers Lane was the same Owen from Never Kill A Boy on a First Date but it's not (nice to see that despite her own heartache Buffy still likes romantic gossip). Nice reference to The Witch too with Oz examining the cheerleader trophy. Larry and Xander is a wonderful scene, one of my favourite of the entire series. Surely even the most fervent of Tara's kittens can't fail to be charmed by the Willow/Oz romance?

    The series just hitting a series of straight sixes right past the boundary every time, 10/10

  • Phases

    Pha, Pha, Pha, Phases.... was a Perfect episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. This episode is definitely a Classic of the series, though the series is in whole. This episode was great in intorducing new twists in a few different characters. Buffy and Angel are no more as he is evil now, however Zander is with Cordelia, Willow is with Oz, and it makes Buffy feel like the odd one out. I really enjoyed watching Oz's story line increase and be really cool. Seth Green was great in this role. I didn't know when to bring this up, but this episode seems good enough, considering the kiss between Oz and Willow, it is interesting that they both appeared in My Stepmother Is An Alien and kind of went on a date, and here they are again dating. I really think that the series is getting better with each episode, though they are all instant Classics in their own right, at least in my opinion.moreless
Camilla Griggs

Camilla Griggs

Gym teacher

Guest Star

Megahn Perry

Megahn Perry

Theresa Klusmeyer

Guest Star

Keith Campbell

Keith Campbell


Guest Star

Larry Bagby

Larry Bagby


Recurring Role

Seth Green (I)

Seth Green (I)


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (10)

    • Nitpick: In this episode, Cain makes it clear that he intends to kill the werewolf and then skin it because the pelt is valuable. He also has a number of werewolf fangs from past kills. However, according to at least one future episode (and most other film and TV werewolf stories) once a werewolf dies it reverts to human form. This should leave the hunter with human skin and teeth. However, there are lot of inconsistencies throughout the show on this point. In "Wild at Heart" s04e06 Veruca is mauled and consequently killed by Oz, yet did not change back into human form.

    • Nitpick: At the beginning of the episode, from Willow meeting Oz to Buffy walking up as Oz is talking to Larry, a female student wearing a green sweater with horizontal black and white bands on the torso and sleeves walks past several times from several directions.

    • When Willow runs into Oz, he is staring at a cheerleading trophy in a case and remarks that it looks like the eyes are watching him. This is a reference to the season one episode "The Witch" (1x03), when Amy's body is taken over by her mother who wants to relive her cheerleading glory days and possesses her daughter. At the end of the episode, she is banished and trapped inside the trophy in the case and you can see her eyes moving wildly back and forth.

    • Goof: When Giles and Buffy are sitting in the car, an announcer says that the girl was found dead two days ago. This would indicate that the girl died on the first night of the tri-werewolf attack time, and that they are on the last day. However, all throughout the rest of the episode, Giles keeps mentioning that they have another day left.

    • Goof: When Buffy and Giles head to The Bronze after the werewolf, Buffy is wearing a dark colored jacket, but when they get to The Bronze she is wearing a beige jacket.

    • Nitpick: Buffy says that a werewolf is a human 28 days out of the month. Cain responds that that is why he only hunts them on the other 3. A lunar month, however, is 28 days, not 31.

    • Goof: When Buffy walks into The Bronze, the left strap of her backpack is hanging somewhere at her elbow. When the scene cuts to her back in preparation of her first view of Oz-Wolf, the strap has magically returned to her shoulder, and even has nestled itself under the collar of her jacket.

    • Goof: When Willow runs into the library, in different angles Giles' glasses go from on and off his head several times.

    • Goof: In the final scene when they capture Oz, in the shot of Giles it is raining but when it cuts to Buffy and Willow there is no rain falling on them.

    • Goof: When Willow first runs from the werewolf she falls over and gets quite a lot of dirt on the seat of her pants, but in the next scene in the library, Willow runs in and her pants are clean.

  • QUOTES (10)

    • Willow: (Referring to Oz) I mean one minute he was telling me that he was going through all these changes, and the next he started going through all these changes!

    • Buffy: That was weird.
      Xander: What, it's not okay for one guy to like another guy just because he happened to be in the locker room with him when absolutely nothing happened and I thought I told you not to push?
      Buffy: All I meant was that he didn't try to look up my skirt.
      Xander: Oh, oh, yeah - that's the weirdness.
      Buffy: Weirdness abounds lately.

    • Willow: It used to be so much easier to tell if a boy liked you. He'd punch you on the arm, and then run back to his friends.

    • Willow: I can't figure him out. I mean, he's so hot and cold. Or, luke-warm and cold.
      Buffy: Welcome to the mystery that is men. I think it goes something like, they grow body hair, they lose all ability to tell you what they really want.

    • Xander: I just don't trust Oz with her. I mean, he's a senior. He's attractive--okay, maybe not to me, but...and he's in a band! And we know what kind of element that attracts.
      Cordelia: I've dated lots of guys in bands.
      Xander: Thank you.

    • Willow: I'll give Xander a call. What's his number? Oh, yeah--1-800-IM-DATING-A-SKANKY-HO!
      Buffy: Meow!
      Willow: Really? I've never gotten a meow before.
      Buffy: Well deserved.
      Willow: Darn tootin'!

    • Willow: It is nice. He's great. We have a lot of fun. But I want smoochies!

    • Giles: It acts on pure instinct. No conscience, predatory and aggressive.
      Buffy: In other words, your typical male.
      Xander: On behalf of my gender, hey!
      Giles: Yes, let's not jump to any conclusions.
      Buffy: I didn't jump. I took a tiny step, and there conclusions were.

    • Willow: Well, I like you. You're nice, and you're funny, and you don't smoke. Yeah, okay, werewolf, but that's not all the time. I mean, three days out of the month I'm not much fun to be around either.

    • Buffy: What guy could resist your wily Willow charms?
      Willow: At last count? All of them. Maybe more.
      Buffy: Well, none of them know a thing. They all get an 'F' in Willow.
      Willow: But I want Oz to get an 'A'! And, oh, one of those gold stars.

  • NOTES (6)

  • ALLUSIONS (10)

    • Oz: Great, Larry! You've really mastered the single entendre!
      A double entendre is something that can be taken two ways. "Entendre" means "to hear" in French, so the idiom makes sense. Oz is implying that Larry's blunt and has a one-track mind.

    • Visual: When Xander and Buffy are standing by Buffy's locker, you can see a sticker for Velvet Chain at the top of the locker.
      Velvet Chain is an LA based band that appeared at the Bronze in the season 1 episode "Never Kill a Boy on the First Date".

    • Xander: Willow would be Robby the Robot's love slave, I wouldn't even have a head ...
      Robby the Robot is a character from the sci-fi movie Forbidden Planet from the 50s.
      Xander's comment about Willow being Robbie the Robot's love slave is a reference to the season 1 episode "I Robot, You Jane".
      Xander's comment about not having a head is a reference to the season 1 episode "Teacher's Pet" where Xander has a run in with a giant praying mantis-woman. She would mate and then eat her mate's head.

    • Cain: I've got to deal with people for the ethical treatment of werewolves.
      A play on People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA is probably one of the best known and most radical of the animal rights organizations. Animal rights activists seek to end the use of animals in medical experiments, stop poor treatment of domesticated animals and are naturally against hunting.

    • Cain: Daddy's doing a great job carrying her bag of Milk Bones.
      Cain continues to belittle Giles' role in hunting the werewolf by describing him as carrying a bag of Milk Bones (the dog treats).

    • Buffy: Who could resist Sunnydale's own house of hormones?
      A play on the phrase house of horrors which is a common name for a carnival or amusement park haunted house and the fact that the Bronze is filled with raging hormones.

    • Buffy: We just have to get there before mein furrier.
      A play on Mein Fuhrer and the fact that Cain was hunting for animal pelts and hence a furrier. Mein Fuhrer was a title used to refer to Hitler

    • Xander: And yet ironically lead to the invention of the moon pie.
      Moon pies are chocolate covered, marshmallow filled, cookie sandwich snacks. They have nothing to do with the moon other than their round shape and name.

    • Cordelia: I think you splashed on a little too much Obsession for Dorks.
      A play on the cologne Obsession for Men.

    • Larry: Oh, thank you Thigh Master.
      The Thigh Master was a piece of exercise equipment used to tone the thigh muscles. It's probably most famous for the use of actress Suzanne Somers in its commercials.