Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Season 1 Episode 6

The Pack

Aired Tuesday 8:00 PM Apr 07, 1997 on The WB
out of 10
User Rating
901 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary


While enduring the annual field trip to the zoo, Xander and several other students enter the quarantined Hyena pen and become possessed by the demonic spirit of the wild animals. When Buffy notices a significant change in Xander's personality, she must figure out what happened and how to reverse it before something terrible happens.


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  • nobody mess with MY Willow!

    well, what can I say... it really bothers me, but I must admit I'm so not a fan of Xander's own storylines. plus, there are no really good moments... well, I kinda like dodge ball scene but while watching it I want to kick Xander's ass every single time for being such a jerk with Willow, especially for the things he tells her after this freaking game.

    though Nicky is really charming and attractive in this epi -- maybe I am (like Buffy) SO into dangerous guys or maybe it's just the confidence that Xander has here. but it's kinda funny and amazing that all it takes to turn geeky Xander into scary Xander is a liberal splash of hair gel :)

    but still -- my least favorite episode, probably not only in this season, but in the whole series...

    FAVE SCENE: dodge ball.

    FAVE QUOTE: Buffy: Yeah, I often do [take a bath], I'm actually known for it.moreless
  • Xander's back at the center of this story, in another horror movie premise doubling as a metaphor for high school anxieties.

    During a field trip to the zoo, Xander wanders too close to the hyena cage along with a quartet of obnoxious popular kids, and all five of them get zapped with a kind of spiritual transference spell that turns them into a tight-knit band of roving savages, preying on nerds and gradually turning more and more feral. And who's behind the transformation? The lowly zookeeper, who had hoped to get hyena-ed himself.

    Again, I'm going to save one of my major objections to this episode until the "overall thoughts" section, since it's a problem I had with "Teacher's Pet" as well. Instead, I'll note some minor annoyances here, like the way the teenagers look a little silly leaping catlike at their victims, and the way the writers throw away a good potential action sequence when the pack surrounds Buffy during a game of dodgeball, then turns away from her to pummel someone else.

    And yet, even though the analogy of hyenas to high school cliques isn't developed as well as the "sex = icky" theme of "Teacher's Pet," the storytelling in this episode is engaging and a few of the scenes genuinely creepy, as when the Xander-less pack goes after Principal Flutie in his office. If there's one thing nearly all adultsand authority figures in particularfear about kids, it's that there will come a day when children realize that grown-ups feel like frauds, with no real power beyond vague threats. What exactly can the principal do if his students don't obey? In this case, nothing. The pack rips him apart, and Principal Flutie dies. I have to say: I did not see that coming, and I thought it was refreshingly hardcore. A reminder that, to quote De La Soul, "stakes is

    The Flutie-murder alone bumped this episode up half a point, as did the way that this Xander-focused episode ended up being mainly about Willow, a character finally starting to get her due nearly halfway through the first season. Willow has a touching conversation with Buffy at The Bronze about which boys they like and why, and when Dark Xander starts ignoring her and sniffing around Buffy, Willow is deeply and profoundly hurt. Thus far, Buffy The Vampire Slayer has been hit-and-miss in its grasp of high school lifesomething I'll talk more about belowbut there's something hauntingly familiar about the relationship between Xander and Willow, two longtime friends dealing with becoming adults, and developing attractions they can't quite control.moreless
  • Stop Laughing

    This episode is where the weird stuff really starts happening. I love that the series isn't afraid to put its stars in odd situations that would be certain death in other series. The biggest draw back is that viewers will come to expect the crew can get out of any situation, so long as Giles has his books and Buffy kicks some tail. It means that the stakes are likely to skyrocket. It's also a rather dark episode - woo, cannibalism.moreless
  • Best episode so far

    I'm watching from the beginning so don't know what is to come, but this episode was very entertaining. It had good lines, "Dodgeball is such a brutal game... I love it!" and a good performance from a Xander. Also when Xander bullied Willow it's the first time I've been emotionally involved with the characters. Hopefully good things to come.
  • The Pack

    "The Pack" is an odd little piece that is all over the place in terms of quality. There are some moments of gutsiness, moments of cowardice, moments baked in pure clich, and it's all coated in the episodic amnesia that is S1. In some ways the episode reminds me of "The Witch" [1x03] in that it tells a stand-alone story that is firmly in the "high school is hell" mode of making broad statements about the high school experience rather than telling its story through the characters we care about. The episode almost makes it work by having Xander be among the possessed, but it's all thrown away by the end of the episode. Enough teasing, though -- let's get into the meat of it all. ;)

    The central concept behind "The Pack" is in exposing the dark side of social cliques. The pack isolates and preys on the weak and then devours them, made literal here due to the Hellmouth. This concept is set up in the opening sequence, which is written and directed in the most clichd manner possible. Fortunately, the episode's execution of this concept becomes a bit better when filtered through a possessed Xander and his interactions with Buffy and Willow. When Xander lashes out at Willow we later see the after-effect it has on her. On full display is how painful it can be to have a trusted friend seemingly turn on you in an instant something that can actually happen during those teen years, albeit generally not due to hyena possession.

    After Xander has done his damage to Willow he moves onto Buffy, but he's not looking to hurt her emotionally he's looking for something a lot more physical. One interesting bit of information to come out here is that Xander sees Buffy as liking men that are "dangerous and mean, right? Like Angel. Your Mystery Guy. Well, guess who just got mean. " While I can see why Xander might come to this conclusion when looking at Angel, S1's episodic amnesia bites again with Xander acting like Owen from "Never Kill a Boy on the First Date" [1x05] never existed. In Owen we have some evidence to support that Buffy can also like a non-threatening nice guy. I do think Buffy likes men who have a bit of mystery about them, but that doesn't necessitate danger or cruelty.

    Things get interesting when the pack, sans Xander, actually eats Principal Flutie while Xander makes an attempt to sexually assault Buffy, both of which combine to make quite a shocking sequence particularly for S1. I very much appreciate the episode's guts in going there, but sadly that appreciation quickly gets diluted by the follow-through. Xander's assault is promptly forgotten by episode's end and never brought up again despite being fertile ground for both character insight and exploration. Principal Flutie's gruesome demise is also pretty washed over in the episodes that follow, with only jokes about it down the road. Speaking of missed opportunities, how about there being absolutely no parallel drawn between the possessed students and Cordelia's often cruel 'pack?'

    To put the final punctuation on my feelings regarding "The Pack," I'll refer to the giant slo-mo scene involving the possessed pack. This is a unique scene, to be sure, but the shot and the music are allowed to continue going on for way too long, to the point of absurdity. It's a bizarre shot that, in the grand scheme of the season and the series, just doesn't end up giving me a lasting impression other than "weird."

    In the end it's a bit difficult to sum up "The Pack." It's decidedly a mixed bag, but what's ultimately damning is like so much of S1 its irrelevance. There are some good ideas thrown around and even a few individually compelling scenes, all of which keep the episode interesting to watch and help hold it together. Sadly, though, there's just not much I find compelling outside of said scenes and ideas as the central theme -- while relatable in a broad sense -- is a mixed bag in execution.

    "The Pack" holds up alright as a stand-alone story (I actually prefer "The Witch" [1x03] in this regard though), but I just can't seem to care much when all is said and done. When events like these don't have follow-up consequences and/or reflection, they lose long-term relevance and all we're left with is an uneven one-off. The light-hearted 'everything is back to normal' attitude at the end of the episode sums up that dissatisfaction for me. If this same basic concept was tossed into the more complex S2 landscape, then I think we'd be looking at an overall much more compelling episode.moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (11)

    • Goofs: The Hyena exhibit is a very dangerous design. There is no guardrail or similar barrier to keep visitors at a safe distance. Anyone can walk up to the bars and get mauled, as the bars are wide enough for people to stick their arms or legs through. In fact, the bars are so wide apart that not only could skinny people or children squeeze completely through, but the hyenas could simply walk out of their exhibit.

    • In this episode it is revealed that Sunnydale High School's mascot is the razorback, which is a type of wild boar.

    • Nitpick: The scenes on the computer that show Hyenas and the scenes of the "pack" show them laughing while attacking and eating their prey but in reality Hyenas are silent when feeding.

    • Lance is standing in front of the chimps when the four bullies walk up. When they say his name, "Lance", one of the chimps reacts by turning around suddenly, as if that is his name. This references to Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp, an early 70's show that spoofed the spy genre. The show featured chimps in clothes with lines dubbed in by humans.

    • Goof: The Sunnydale Zoo seems to have questionable quarantine practices. Buffy and the others can enter the "Hyena House" at any time despite it being closed for quarantine. In reality, new animals are physically isolated and access is restricted to essential personnel only.

    • This species of hyena only exists in the Buffyverse. In the real world there are only three species of hyena: the Spotted, Striped, and Brown. There is also the closely related Aardwolf.

    • Nitpick: The zookeepers' use of the term "breed" to refer to the type of hyena is wrong. Breed is used when referring to domestic animals (such as a breed of dog). He should have said "species".

    • The leather jacket that Buffy wears in this episode is the same jacket that Angel gave to her in "Teacher's Pet" (1x04).

    • Goof: Rhonda's hair is shorter in the opening zoo scene than in the rest of the episode.

    • Goof: When Xander and the others first go into the hyena habitat and the hyena's eyes light up, the light completely misses one of the hyena's eyes and is lighting up below it.

    • Nitpick: While Xander is locked up in the book cage, Willow watches a documentary about hyenas on the computer monitor. The first clip shows a pack of hyenas, but all the following clips depict African Wild Dogs, as proven by the white tufts of fur at the end of their tails.

  • QUOTES (16)

    • Coach Herrold: All right, it's raining. All regular gym classes have been postponed. So, you know what that means... dodgeball. Now, for those of you that may have forgotten, the rules are as follows: you dodge.

    • Heidi: Shouldn't you be hovering over the football stadium with Goodyear written on you?
      (Xander laughs and Buffy gives him a look)
      Xander: Kid's fat.

    • Buffy: (About Xander smelling her) Okay, now what?
      Xander: You took a bath.
      Buffy: Yeah, I often do. I'm actually known for it.
      Xander: That's okay.
      Buffy: And the weird behavior award goes to...

    • Xander: (Greeting Buffy and Willow) Girls!
      Buffy: Boy.
      Xander: Sorry I'm late, I just forgot that we were going to be here.

    • Buffy: I was looking at the fishes.
      Willow: Was it cool?
      Buffy: It was fishes.

    • Giles: The rest of the pack were spotted outside Herbert the mascot's cage. They were sent to the principal's office.
      Willow: Good! That'll show 'em. Did it show 'em?
      Buffy: They didn't hurt him, did they?
      Giles: They, uh... ate him.

    • Willow: Buffy saved both of our lives.
      Xander: Before she came here our lives didn't need that much saving, did they? Weren't things a lot simpler when it was just you and me?
      Willow: Maybe...

    • Buffy: It shouldn't be too hard to find a new principal. Unless they ask what happened to the last one.

    • (Buffy jumps on top of Xander)
      Xander: I've been waiting for you to jump my bones.

    • Xander: I'm feeling that you're not in field trip spirit here.
      Buffy: Well, it would... It's nothing. I... We do the same zoo trip at my old school every year. Same ol' same ol'.
      Xander: Buffy, this isn't just about looking at a bunch of animals. This is about not being in class!
      Buffy: You know, you're right! Suddenly the animals look shiny and new.

    • Buffy: I didn't notice anything. Of course I'm not as hyper-aware of him as, oh, for example, you...
      Willow: Hyper-aware?
      Buffy: Well, I'm not constantly monitoring his moods, his health, his blood pressure...
      Willow: 130 over 80.
      Buffy: You got it bad, girl.
      Willow: He makes my head go tingly.

    • Willow: Oh, my God, Xander! What happened?
      Buffy: I hit him.
      Willow: With what?
      Buffy: A desk.

    • Giles: I've been reading up on my animal possession, and I cannot find anything anywhere about memory loss afterwards.
      Xander: Did you tell them that?
      Giles: Your secret dies with me.
      Xander: Shoot me, stuff me, mount me.

    • Willow: Why couldn't Xander be possessed by a puppy, or some ducks?

    • Xander: We just saw the zebras mating. Thank you, very exciting!
      Willow: It was like the Heimlich... with stripes!
      Buffy: And I missed it. Yet somehow I'll find the courage to live on.

    • Giles: Xander's taken to teasing the less fortunate?
      Buffy: Uh-huh.
      Giles: And, there's been a noticeable change in both clothing and demeanor?
      Buffy: Yes.
      Giles: And, well, otherwise all his spare time is spent lounging about with imbeciles.
      Buffy: It's bad, isn't it?
      Giles: It's devastating. He's turned into a sixteen-year-old boy. Of course, you'll have to kill him.

  • NOTES (6)

    • This episode is first in Joss Whedon's list of his top ten favorite episodes according to the letter given with 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.

    • Featured Music:
      All You Want by Dashboard Prophets - At the Bronze, as Xander starts to change
      Reluctant Man by Sprung Monkey - As Kyle and his friends enter the Bronze
      Job's Eyes by Far - As Xander and the Pack are walking together

    • Sarah said on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno that she was going to pull down Nicholas's pants during the dodgeball scene because he was acting really dumb. At the last minute she gave up and Alyson said that she would do it. She got so excited that she pulled his underwear down too. It happened in front of a lot of extras.

    • The filming location for the zoo scenes in this episode is a source of some debate. Many sources (such as IMDB and Keith Topping's book Slayer) claim that the scenes were shot in the San Diego Zoo. Most sources however, including the official Watcher's Guide, list the site as the Santa Ana Zoo.

    • The signs in the Sunnydale Zoo are written in the same font as the signs in Jurassic Park.

    • Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia) does not appear in this episode, even though she is credited in the opening titles.


    • Buffy: Wow. Apparently Noah rejected the hyenas from the ark, because he thought they were an evil, impure mixture of dogs and cats.
      This a reference to the famous story of Noah and the Ark from the Book of Genesis. In the story God instructs Noah to build a large ark and fill it with two representatives of every species of animal and bird. The story that Noah rejected them came from Sir Walter Raleigh's "History of the World". Raleigh wrote that hyenas could be reproduced later by crossing dogs with cats and were not necessary to preserve on the Ark

    • Buffy: No. That still doesn't explain why he's hanging out with the dode patrol.

      Play of words on the "Dome Patrol", a nickname for the fast-moving, hard-hitting New Orleans Saints linebacking corps made up of Rickey Jackson, Vaughan Johnson, Sam Mills and Pat Swilling (late 80s/early 90s).

    • Buffy: But it's safe to say that in his animal state his idea of wooing doesn't involve a Yanni CD and a bottle of Chianti.

      Playing music from the New Age musician Yanni and serving the wine Chianti are certainly much more socially acceptable forms of attracting a mate than Xander's "felony sexual assault" attempt.

    • Buffy: I cannot believe that you of all people are trying to Scully me.
      The character Dana Scully in the television show The X-Files is constantly attempting to find a scientific explanation for paranormal occurrences.

    • Girl: Shouldn't you be hovering over the stadium with Goodyear written on you?

      The "fat kid" is compared to the Goodyear blimp, commonly seen at sporting events.

    • Buffy: Oh great, it's the winged monkeys.
      Buffy compares the school bullies with the evil winged monkeys from the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz.

    • Willow: It was like the Heimlich with stripes.

      The Heimlich Maneuver is a First Aid procedure to assist someone who has something stuck in their throat. It involves standing behind the victim and performing an abdominal thrust.