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Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode
Episode no.Season 4
Episode 8
Directed byMichael Lange
Written byJane Espenson
Production code4ABB08
Original air dateNovember 23, 1999
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"The Initiative"
Next →
"Something Blue"
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (season 4)
List of Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes

"Pangs" is the eighth episode of season 4 of the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

On Thanksgiving, Buffy encounters the restless and vengeful spirit of a member of the aboriginal Chumash tribe, who were wiped out by white settlers.[1] During a tense confrontation, the Slayer fights a losing battle against her formidable foe - but a mysterious protector watches over her from the shadows.

Buffy scholar Rhonda V. Wilcox has written, "It is unquestionably one of the most controversial episodes of Buffy. It is also one of Buffy creator Joss Whedon's declared favorites.".[2]


Buffy, patrolling, finds a vampire, engages, and then slays it. Angel has been watching her from behind some bushes. The college's Dean Guerrero orates for the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Anthropology building, and Xander is one of the construction workers. Xander begins to dig, but the ground suddenly caves out under him, and he drops into an old abandoned building. Accidentally and unnoticed, he frees the spirit, Hus, who wants revenge.

Buffy, upset that her mother is going to be out of town for Thanksgiving, decides to cook her own Thanksgiving dinner and invite all her friends.

Covered in a blanket and in terrible shape, Spike runs through the woods, trying to escape Riley and his Initiative team as they look for him.

Anya arrives at Xander's to find him incredibly sick, and right away starts taking care of him.

A green haze comes up from the old Mission and goes to the Cultural Center where some weapons are being kept. After the haze comes in contact with a knife, it turns into a large Native American man and kills the curator. Buffy and Willow later secretly investigate the murder, and wonder why the curator's body was missing an ear. They discover that a Chumash knife is missing.

After Giles agrees to look up information on the Chumash people, and Buffy leaves, Angel appears from Giles's back room, having come to Sunnydale because his friend had a vision of Buffy in danger. Willow goes to get coffee and runs into Angel. He tells her he's just looking out for Buffy because she might be in trouble.

Starving, Spike tries to get food from Harmony, but she threatens him with a stake and he leaves.

With only a blanket to protect him from the sun, Spike shows up at Giles's place, asking for help. Buffy is reluctant to give it, but after he offers inside information on the Initiative and Willow helps him explain that he can't bite anyone anymore, she allows him in.

The spirits attack Buffy, Giles, and Spike with arrows. Helplessly tied to a chair, all Spike can do is try to move out of the way as he gets hit with arrows. Willow, Xander, and Anya encounter Angel on their way back and they determine that the Chumash went after Buffy. Angel shows up and helps them out. Buffy cuts one of the Chumash with his own knife, and reaches the conclusion that their own weapons can kill them.

Hus turns into a large black bear, causing Spike to panic and knock his chair over. Buffy struggles with the bear and then stabs it. Hus and the other spirits disappear.

Angel walks away without being seen by Buffy, and later the gang sits down to Thanksgiving dinner. Still tied to a chair, Spike sits with them and whines that he still hasn't been fed. Xander accidentally lets it slip that Angel was in town.[3]


Wilcox writes, "As Espenson says, 'The core of it was something Joss had wanted to do for a long time, which is have a dead Indian at Thanksgiving — a very poetic illustration, I think, that we do kind of live in this country by virtue of some very ugly conquest. And the next thing you know we had a very non-threatening bear and some funny syphilis.'("Writing" 111)."[2]

Critical reaction[edit]

Sally Eamons-Featherston comments that it stands out from other Buffy episodes for dealing with the issue of race. Its moral complexity is symbolised by Buffy's initial appearance in a black hat, traditionally the sign of a Western villain, and the program makes several references to the Western genre. The episode was however criticised for stereotyping Native Americans, particularly Chumashes, who actually had a complex culture, while the Chumash warrior is portrayed here as speaking in a highly cliched way.[4]

The A.V. Club called it "an outrageously entertaining episode", noting the many funny moments but also the complex moral debate over the Native American "evil".[5] Persephone Magazine called it the start of a run of three excellent episodes, including Something Blue and Hush.[6]



  • Crossover with Angel: After Doyle received a vision of Buffy in trouble ("Bachelor Party"), Angel arrived in Sunnydale in this episode. Buffy is angry that Angel did not inform her and confronts him in "I Will Remember You", aired immediately afterward.
  • Willow amusingly questions Angel about hiring Cordelia at Angel Investigations.
  • Anya meets Angel for the first time. After watching him coldly kill the Chumash warriors when he leaps into the battle, she wryly asks Willow, "So what's he like when he is evil?" This was referenced in "Surprise" and "Becoming"
  • Twice in the episode, characters (Willow and Xander) react to seeing Angel by asking him if he's "evil again." Angel is vaguely offended by the repeated question, and asks rhetorically, "Why does everybody keep saying that? I haven't been evil for a long time..."

Arc significance[edit]

  • Xander now refers to Anya as his girlfriend. Riley and Buffy are establishing a relationship as well. Angel shows a jealous streak when he asks Willow, "...Who's that guy?" when he sees Buffy and Riley in an obviously affectionate conversation, despite the fact that he has already told Willow that he doesn't "have a whole lot of time for personal stuff." This plays out as a factor in The Yoko Factor.
  • Willow foreshadows the nature of this season's "Big Bad", Adam, by hypothesizing a demon made out of parts when a victim is missing an ear. In an earlier episode, "Some Assembly Required," the Epps brothers attempted a similar creation, albeit a human rather than a demon.
  • Xander's afflictions in the episode are briefly mentioned in song in "Once More, with Feeling".
  • While discussing Angel's decision not to inform Buffy while following her, Giles says the line "It's not fair. You know that's what she'd say. You can see her, but she can't see you?" which is then directly referenced in the continuation of this story in the Angel episode "I Will Remember You" when Buffy says "What is it? You can see me, but I can't see you?".
  • Spike displays evidence of his character's evolution and shifting loyalties, though the other characters do not yet recognize it. Early in the episode, he speaks to Buffy and her friends as an outsider: "You won. All right? You came in, and you killed them, and you took their land." By referring to the group as "you," he reinforces that he does not belong to that group. Later, though, after the battle, he tentatively asks, "What happened? Did we win?" His use of "we" indicates that he is beginning to identify with the group. This growing sense of identification may be based on some combination of his recognition of the increasingly symbiotic relationship he has with them, their common European heritage (having already spoken of the group as representatives of the "conquering nation" that eliminated the Chumash), or even a calculated decision that alliance with the group would be in his overall self-interest. (He has already reluctantly admitted that, due to the limitations placed on him by the electronic chip in his brain, he is at their mercy to some extent.)


  1. ^ "Buffy the Vampire Slayer series 4-8 Pangs". Radio Times. Retrieved 19 April 2013.
  2. ^ a b Wilcox, Rhonda V. (Spring 2011). ""Let it Simmer": Tone in "Pangs"" (PDF). Slayage: The Journal of the Whedon Study Association. 33 (9.1). Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  3. ^ "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Pangs Synopsis". Fandango/AMG/Rovi. Retrieved 19 April 2013.
  4. ^ Emily Dial-Driver; Jim Ford; Sally Emmons-Featherston; Carolyn Anne Taylor (2008). The Truth of Buffy: Essays on Fiction Illuminating Reality. McFarland. pp. 55–65.
  5. ^ Murray, Noel (August 7, 2009). "The Initiative, Pangs, etc". AV Club. Retrieved 19 April 2013.
  6. ^ "Retro Recap: Buffy the Vampire Slayer S4.E8: Pangs". Persephone Magazine. Retrieved 19 April 2013.

External links[edit]