R.J.'s enchanted football jacket leads to hilarity. Reviving the over-the-top teen humor of earlier seasons makes for a great episode, says Rachel Lovinger
Sarah Michelle Gellar, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

R.J.’s enchanted football jacket leads to hilarity

Despite a slow start, the latest ”Buffy” episode, ”Him,” is a perfect example of how funny this show can be. When the Scooby gals go under the influence of a power that changes their personalities, it gives them the chance to act silly without losing their dark sides. Even Dawn’s character shows promise (not just the promise that she’ll get herself killed off), changing from unbearably awkward to slutty, rebellious, catty, and — dare I say it? — interesting.

The cause of their transformation — the enchanted Varsity football jacket — is one of the show’s more hilarious plot twists; it seems like a throwback to the first few seasons when nearly every enemy was based on some kind of teen trauma, taken to supernatural extremes and turned into monster form. Two other nice nods to the past: when Dawn resurrects Buffy’s old cheerleading costume (from the second episode) and when Xander flashes back to his own love spell mishap in season 2.

Though it’s funny enough to watch Buffy change from counselor to seductress after seeing R.J. in the jacket, the conversation between Xander and Dawn (right after her heart is broken) is even better. When Xander refers to R.J. as ”that guy in the jacket,” I laughed out loud at Dawn’s ridiculous response: ”That’s what I used to call him in my head before I knew his real name!” Finally, a glimpse of her dramatic and comedic potential.

The real treat comes when Anya and Willow join the competition and all four would-be lovers confront each other. Their bickering and wild plans to use their powers to win over R.J. (including Willow’s plan to turn him into a girl) makes Dawn so distraught that she lies on the train tracks in an attempt to sacrifice her life and prove her love. While Dawn was trying to kill herself, I nearly died from laughing when I came close to falling off the sofa.

The writers manage to keep the same level of tongue-in-cheek storytelling in the scenes that follow — with split-screen action backed by a ’70s soundtrack and the pairing of reluctant partners Spike and Xander. It all leads up to another favorite slapstick moment: when Principal Wood is working quietly at his desk and Spike is outside his window, wrestling the rocket launcher out of Buffy’s hands. With so much humor to offset their challenges, it’s no wonder that the ”Buffy” gang has survived so many years of living on the Hellmouth, ”where even the outerwear isn’t safe.”

What did you think of this week’s show?

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