Fear, Itself

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"Fear, Itself"
Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode
Buffy looks at Gachnar, the fear demon, revealed to only be a few inches in height
Episode no.Season 4
Episode 4
Directed byTucker Gates
Written byDavid Fury
Production code4ABB04
Original air dateOctober 26, 1999
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"The Harsh Light of Day"
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"Beer Bad"
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (season 4)
List of Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes

"Fear, Itself" is the fourth episode of the fourth season of the horror television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003). Written by David Fury and directed by Tucker Gates, the episode originally aired on The WB Television Network in the United States on October 26, 1999. In this episode Gachnar, a demon with the ability to materialize terror, is accidentally conjured and wreaks havoc on a Halloween party, leading Buffy and her friends to confront their worst fears.


The fraternity house in the episode is known as the Alfred Rosenheim mansion located in Los Angeles, California. The mansion is a registered Cultural Monument, and was used as the setting for the first season of FX series American Horror Story, which used a studio stage for interior scenes.


While carving jack-o'-lanterns in Xander's basement, the gang discusses plans for Halloween; Buffy continues to mope over her situation with Parker. They decide to go to the Alpha-Delta house for a party. The next day at school, Buffy and Oz both express their concerns for Willow and her use of magic. Buffy spots Parker and immediately runs away. Willow follows her, explaining that she should get over it and have fun at the party that night, but Buffy thinks that Giles will want her to patrol. When Buffy goes to visit Giles, she's surprised to find him embracing the Halloween spirit. He discourages her from patrolling and encourages her to go party.

At the Alpha-Delta house, the members are getting ready for the party. One finds a symbol in an old book to paint on the floor. Anya goes to see Xander, wanting to know where their relationship is heading. He agrees that they're somewhat dating, inviting her to the party. Buffy, who skipped her psych class, visits the professor and asks for her assignment, but she receives a cold response. Riley, however, gives her the assignment, telling her to have fun on Halloween. Oz and Xander carry a sound system to the Alpha-Delta house, and Oz installs it while one guy paints the symbol from the book. Oz cuts his hand, spilling drops of his blood, which activates the ritual to summon Gachnar.

Joyce alters one of Buffy's old costumes, Little Red Riding Hood, and talks with her about how things used to be. Buffy waits outside the house for her friends, and Xander shows up dressed as James Bond. They run into Willow, dressed as Joan of Arc, and Oz, going as God. Everything at the party starts to go awry as fears begin to become real, and the fake scary objects like plastic spiders and skeletons, become alive. The gang enters the house, but they encounter several obstacles. Later, Anya arrives at the party, dressed as a bunny, but she is unable to get inside because the entrances to the house have become sealed up. She sees a girl screaming at a window, and the window then disappears from the house. Inside, Buffy tells the gang to find a way out and get help. A skeleton attacks her from behind, but after she attacks, it becomes fake again. Buffy and Willow fight over Buffy rejecting help from her friends and pushing them away, as well as Buffy and Oz arguing with Willow about her use of witchcraft. Willow insists she can safely do a guidance spell. Meanwhile, Anya goes to Giles for help.

Xander tries to talk to the gang but finds that he's become invisible to them. Willow and Oz find a staircase and head up. As they're walking, Oz begins to change into a werewolf and scratches Willow before running away from her. Xander approaches a mirror, and a head on the table behind him says that he can see him. Oz sits in a bathtub, chanting to himself that he isn't going to change. Willow conjures her spell. However, it quickly spins out of control, and she screams for help as it attacks her. Buffy, hearing Willow's cries, tries to get to her, but she falls into the basement where bodies come up from the ground and grab at her. Giles and Anya are unable to find a way inside, so Giles cuts a door using a chainsaw. While fleeing through the house, the gang ends up in the room where the mystical symbol is painted. Giles and Anya break into the room. They determine the sign on the floor to be the Mark of Gachnar, and Buffy and Giles express fear about how scary the demon looks in the illustration. Buffy destroys the symbol before Giles can tell her that destroying the symbol will bring Gachnar forth. But when the demon has manifested, it turns out to be merely a few inches in height. After a laugh at absurdity of giving in to one's fears, Buffy squashes Gachnar with her shoe. At Giles' place, the gang eats candy while Giles makes a discovery: the arcane footnote below the illustration of Gachnar in his book reads "Actual Size" .

Arc Significance[edit]

  • This episode foreshadows Joyce's death; in this episode (the fourth in the season), Joyce tells Buffy: 'I will always be here for you.' Yet in the fourth episode of the next season, 'Out of My Mind', Joyce has her first health scare relating to her brain tumour, which eventually causes her death in the season five episode 'The Body'.
  • In this episode, the deepest fears and insecurities of each member of the group are made manifest:
    • Buffy fears that being the slayer means being alone, and she is going to be deserted by everyone she loves. This is a fear that Buffy struggles with throughout the remainder of the season and in future seasons.
    • Willow fears she will never be a competent witch and that she will lose control of her magic. She also cries "Oz, don't leave me!" as he runs off, which foreshadows events in Wild at Heart.
    • Xander fears that no one cares about him anymore and his friends are uninterested in what he has to say due to him being the only one from the gang who doesn't attend college, and the one not having real supernatural powers, leaving him to become invisible like Marcie Ross in "Out of Mind, Out of Sight."
    • Oz fears that he cannot control the wolf inside him any longer and will manifest even though it is not a full moon. This idea of not knowing where the line is between him and the werewolf features significantly in future episodes.
    • Anya's more comedic fear of bunnies is introduced in this episode. This becomes a running joke for the remainder of the series.
  • Joyce mentions dating a homicidal robot (Ted, Season 2).


External links[edit]