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Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a drama about a young girl who inherits the powers to fight the demons that threaten the Earth. She lives in Sunnydale, California which happens to be the Hellmouth and must learn to master her powers while also trying to have some semblance of a normal life. The WB 1997 - 2001. UPN 2002-03.

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Episode 4 - Inca Mummy Girl

30 December 2013

Synopsis: The students of Sunnydale are preparing for a cultural exchange programme. On a trip to the local Incan exhibit Rodney Munson tries to steal a seal from a mummy but is killed by it. The mummy then kills and swaps places with Ampata the boy who was supposed to stay with Buffy. The new female Ampata fits in well and falls for Xander. But her "bodyguard" keeps attacking and insisting she go back to her coffin. She kills him but won't kill Xander. Buffy and Giles figure out what is going on and try to put the seal back together.Ampata

The Good: The Inca Mummy story was ok but not much more than that. I liked that Ampata was presented as a real person who genuinely struggled with her situation. She didn't sacrifice the lives of others with a smile on her face, it was a difficult choice for her. Her interactions with Xander were cute and they definitely furthered the story of the Slayerettes internal dynamics.

That was clearly the main thing to take away from this as Buffy, Xander and Willow moved toward a healthier set of relationships. Buffy finally thanks Xander properly for saving her life by acknowledging that without him she would have been a sacrifice like Ampata was. In addition to that they share a nice moment by her front door when she tells him he looks nice. They are finally moving to a new part of their friendship where the spectre of his attraction to her will no longer hang over them. This is true for Willow too who hears Xander explicitly point out his lack of interest in her. Although it will take her time to move on she now accepts that she needs to and here comes new boy Oz to take an interest in her.

As you would expect the episode was filled with some lovely touches of humour. The show is becoming adept at mocking the clichés of TV which they are forced to follow. When Rodney goes missing the gang jokes that perhaps the Incan mummy killed him before realising that on the Hellmouth that is exactly what happened. I really smiled at Giles greeting Ampata and immediately asking her to translate the seal. Buffy's comment "That was in no way awkward" summed it up perfectly. Then you had Willow looking adorably out of place in her Eskimo outfit and saying "sigh" out loud when Xander complains about not being able to see her shrug in the outfit (for more on Willow see Best Moment). Finally you had Xander asking if Ampata was a praying mantis which was a nice call-back (104).

The Bad: Although the parallel was drawn between the young girl sacrificing her life for her people I didn't think much was done with it. Buffy of course did chose to sacrifice her life with the Master but Buffy was given a fighting chance. The Incan girl was told her life would literally end and the writers perhaps wisely didn't get into whether she was being sacrificed to appease a real deity or on some superstition.

The plot itself had some flimsy parts to it. Was the "bodyguard" meant to be a real person? Presumably he was as he died and was mummified. But are we supposed to believe think that this particular Incan cult had managed to keep descendents tracking the mummy's tomb for hundreds of years through Spanish and then post-colonial rule? Was he following the coffin around from museum to museum dressed like that and with only a knife to protect her? Or did he morph into existence only when the seal was broken? Either way he looked pretty foolish appearing out of nowhere swishing his knife wildly.

As we knew all along that Ampata was the Incan girl it made parts of the plot feel a little dull. The lingering dance and almost-kiss she and Xander share felt fairly insubstantial as we waited around for her to be found out. The conclusion felt a bit flat too as Ampata didn't exactly make a choice either way about killing Xander and just expired. The gang all wandered off making me question exactly how Giles kept getting such unfettered access to the museum and whether anyone was going to ask who had desecrated the exhibit.

The Unknown: Who is Oz and what's his deal?

Best Moment: Despite this being an underwhelming episode the dialogue between the gang was excellent as ever. I particularly like the way the writers find ways to make otherwise predictable conversations sparkle. Take this exchange between Willow and Buffy:
B: "Ampata's only staying two weeks."
W: "Yeah and then Xander can find someone else who's not me to obsess about. At least with you I knew he didn't have a shot. Well you know I have a choice. I can spend my life waiting for Xander to go out with every other girl in the world until he notices me. Or I can just get on with my life."
B: "Good for you."
W: "Well I didn't choose yet." 

The Bottom Line: Another monster-of-the-week story which didn't really work. Fortunately the writers put a lot of effort into making the Slayerette stuff solid and that helped carry this along.


Cordia's Second Look
Inca Mummy Girl
Season 2, Episode 4
Original airing: 10/6/1997

My Rating: 43

The Good: I feel this episode has a lot of bad, from acting to storyline to poor characterization, but one good thing I can say is that it gives us an introduction to Oz. Since half of his lines are "Who is that girl?", referring to Willow, it's pretty obvious that he's being introduced to finally solve the Willow/Xander dilemma. And it's about time. Unfortunately, nothing much actually happens in this episode except for Oz being able to appreciate Willow's authentic Eskimo costume when every other girl at the dance is dressed to show skin. But it's a start.

The Bad: This episode suffers from so much. Firstly, it's right after School Hard (203), which was truly fantastic. And now we not only have no Spike or Drusilla, but it's another Monster of the Week who is defeated at the end with the only loss of life being random people we don't care about. Though it does beg the question of what the museum curators thought when they saw the braces on their new mummy, Rodney. But overall, the main plot of the episode lacked punch. We've seen this before in Teacher's Pet (104)! Xander even references it when he asks Ampata if she's a giant praying mantis. The main difference here is that Ampata actually seems to genuinely like Xander back, which is particularly difficult on Willow.

Poor Willow is treated terribly in this episode, both by Xander and the writers. She gets very little screen time to go through her emotions while she makes a huge decision to stop pining for Xander. And Xander is rather callous with her. He's either completely dense and doesn't realize how she feels, or he's purposefully trying to hurt her. Either way, it's not pretty to watch.

All the characters feel like they really have nothing to do in this episode. Cordelia complains a bit, Buffy kicks stuff, Giles researches, but there's no real heart to it. Even the worst episodes in the past have managed to insert some character development. Everyone really feels like their phoning it in here and Angel wasn't even deemed worthy of inclusion. The story is all about Ampata and the cameras are constantly on her, leaving very little time for the people we actually care about.

Favorite Moment: I struggled to even find a favorite moment in this episode. Finally, I settled on the adorableness of when Giles says hello to Ampata and then instantly asks her to translate the seal. As Buffy points out, the humor is in the awkwardness.

The Bottom Line: Terrible. This episode had a clichéd plot with no character development. The one interesting factor, Oz and Willow, was barely even touched on. Can I have more Spike now, please?

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  • What bothered me most were the many Spanish aspects of Ampata... Despite y'know, her being killed giver or take 2 millennia before the Spanish colonisation.

    Viewer score: 40 / 100

    Posted by Tom, 29/12/2013 6:20pm (9 months ago)

  • I understand the feeling of letdown for this episode coming hot off the heels of "School Hard," but I didn't think this was near as bad as some other "monster of the week" episodes. It's refreshing that this show can have a little more substance at times than just monster shows up, monster wants to do evil things, monster is destroyed.

    I thought they gave the mummy here some very logical reasons for wanting to be alive and the actress played her overwhelming sadness at the loss of her own life and innocence very well. I was much more interested in this than, say, an episode like "I Robot."

    When you know your format calls for changing things up so you're not just fighting vampires every single week, it's nice to see a show that puts some thought into what else they can bring their heroes up against, but also ways they can breathe life into the show (ha) in creative ways like this.

    In a lesser show with a lesser writing staff, things would have just played out like this: Seal is broken, mummy comes to life, mummy starts wreaking havoc because mummies are bad, Buffy and the gang need to kill the mummy.

    My rating for this would be Average Monster of the Week Episode Score +2

    Posted by Brando, 27/06/2011 3:31pm (3 years ago)

  • my errors (wish the blog allowed edits). Xander says Montana not Wyoming in the quote I mangled above. Sorry Wyoming people.
    The first Leone film was "Fistful of Dollars" not "Man With No Name" but the series is famous for this nameless, complex character in the poncho. If you knew the films and the nature of the morally ambiguous character, the joke is still funny, but it gives you more to think about and why Xander would choose to model himself after this figure. It is that type of layered characterization and nuance that makes the Buffy experience so fun and thought provoking.

    Posted by Lenni, 14/03/2011 2:09pm (4 years ago)

  • Just listened to the podcast and read the review. Robin and I picked the same moment where Willow is trying to assess her feelings about Xander. Maybe I am reading too many of his reviews?

    I do agree about your comments in the podcasts about how often the viewer had to suspend disbelief over simple things like breaking and entering into a city museum. Where did Inca Mummy girl get the dress for the dance? etc. In most episodes of Buffy, you are less distracted by those sort of continuity issues. (Of course we are accepting Vampires, witches and many other fantasy elements but the show is usually good at staying within the universe it builds and making it somewhat credible).

    I most appreciated your comments in the podcast about the way this weaker episode followed "School Hard" and that paralleled the weakness of "I Robot" after "Angel" in season one. It is this type of observation about the nature of the show that keeps me listening. (Okay that and the fashion comments.)

    The reference Xander is making to spaghetti westerns is to Sergio Leone (pronounced Lee-own-ee). His films are more than mere westerns. Xander is dressed very much like Clint Eastwood in the Leone film "Man With No Name". Xander is choosing a iconic figure, the nameless, loner, hero -- perhaps antihero. Here is a link to the wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man_with_No_Name
    It adds to Xander's character that he is trying to channel both Clint Eastwood and this famous independent character. Later when Xander offers his life to save Willow, he is still "in the role" but now we also accept that Xander is brave and loyal friend who will stand up to danger. It makes his sometimes awkward, sometimes buffoonish behavior, more tolerable.
    Cordia, these small moments of character development, even in bad episodes, are why I watch and why Buffy is a series worth rewatching. Spike becomes so very interesting and worth our attention because of the complexity of the characters and their interactions. Pretty can only take you so far.

    Once again, thanks for the rewatch podcast and reviews. Lenni

    Posted by Lenni, 14/03/2011 1:51pm (4 years ago)

  • Funny how my memory of this episode was "not great, a monster of the week." One of the joys of rewatching is paying more attention to the interactions between Buffy, Xander and Willow. I really appreciated the scene where Willow realized she had a choice between continuing to pine for Xander or to move on. Buffy urges her to let go and comments "good for you." Then with perfect timing Willow looks up worried, "I hadn't decided yet." Her plaintiff tone and sweet delivery do not mask the fact that Willow, in many ways, is the character who at this stage is most self aware. She seems to know herself. As the series will develop her character will change and perhaps become lost, but these early years, even with few lines, give you a strong sense of Willow and I, for one, really identified with her as the bright, eccentric girl.
    I do wonder that Xander knows Sergio Leone movies. I thought his answer to Buffy's query about his costume's origin -- "Leone by way of Italy pretending to be Wyoming" was a really funny line.
    Not sure first time viewers will love this episode but I enjoyed the rewatch.

    Posted by Lenni, 12/03/2011 3:00am (4 years ago)

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