The Freshman (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

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"The Freshman"
Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode
Buffy, now a college freshman, explores the campus feeling overwhelmed
Episode no. Season 4
Episode 1
Directed by Joss Whedon
Written by Joss Whedon
Production code 4ABB01
Original air date October 5, 1999
Guest actors
Episode chronology
← Previous
"Graduation Day"
Next →
"Living Conditions"
List of Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes

"The Freshman" is the first episode of season 4 of the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The episode was written and directed by series creator Joss Whedon. The narrative follows Buffy Summers as she attempts to fit into her new college environment at UC-Sunnydale. She first encounters several problems and struggles with her feelings of isolation. Willow is blossoming with Oz in the new environment, Xander is away, and Rupert Giles has his friend Olivia visiting and tells Buffy he is no longer her Watcher.


This episode is crucial because it begins the process during which the Scooby Gang are shown dealing with a much more adult world than in the previous seasons, and must themselves work to become adults.

Buffy, Willow and Oz begin attending the University of California at its fictional Sunnydale campus. Buffy (as novelist A.M. Dellamonica writes) "feels overwhelmed by the University of it all, while everyone else is apparently thriving."[1] Willow is excited by the bigger library and the opportunities to advance her learning, while Oz seems typically unfazed. Meanwhile, Giles is a retired "gentleman of leisure" now that the Sunnydale High School library has been destroyed, and Xander is out of town on his much-anticipated cross-country road trip.

Buffy and Willow go to the campus bookstore for supplies, where Buffy accidentally knocks a pile of psychology textbooks onto the head of Riley Finn, who introduces himself as a TA for Professor Walsh's Psych 105 "Intro to Psychology" class. Usually pretty cool, Buffy fumbles the conversation:

Riley: I'm a TA, I'll be helping the Professor out. I'm sorry, I've forgotten my manners in all the concussion... I'm Riley.
Willow: Willow, and this is my friend Buffy.
Riley: It's nice to meet you both.
Buffy: I'm nice to meet.[2]

Buffy then goes on to her new dorm in Stevenson Hall, where she has already moved in and her new roommate Kathy is in the process of doing the same. Kathy expresses her belief that the upcoming year will be "super fun", but Buffy is unconvinced when she sees Kathy hanging a poster of Céline Dion on the wall. During the night Buffy has trouble sleeping because Kathy snores, laughs, and smacks her lips in her sleep.

On the first day of classes, Buffy is humiliated at being ejected from a class by a bullying professor (of pop culture, no less) in front of dozens of other students, and in the next class she feels overwhelmed by the heavy workload promised by Professor Walsh, wondering how she will find the time to both study and slay vampires. Feeling increasingly lonely and isolated on campus, she is relieved to strike up conversation with a fellow freshman named Eddie (who is also taking Psychology with Professor Walsh) when they are both lost on campus at night. They discuss the need for a "security blanket" in unfamiliar surroundings, and he says that the novel Of Human Bondage serves this purpose for him. After Buffy and Eddie separate, he is killed by a group of vampires, who then go to his dorm room, steal his belongings, and leave a fake note from Eddie claiming that he decided he couldn't handle the stress of college and went home.

The next day, Buffy is disappointed to find Eddie missing from class. She goes to his dormitory, finding it empty but for the note and the novel "Of Human Bondage", which is still in his nightstand. Considering their conversation of the previous day, she does not believe that he would leave the book behind, and goes to Giles for advice. However, Giles feels she is capable of handling the situation herself.

That night, during a patrol, Buffy comes across Eddie in a deserted part of campus and is horrified to realise he is now a vampire. The vampires that turned Eddie are watching and now attack. Buffy is thrashed by their leader, Sunday, who injures Buffy's arm and causes her to flee. Buffy's confidence is greatly shaken by this encounter, and she decides to visit her Mom and some familiar surroundings. Joyce did not expect to see Buffy home so early in the semester, and because of this she has been using her daughter's room as extra storage space for the gallery.

When Buffy returns to her dorm room on campus, she finds all of her belongings missing and a note similar to that found in Eddie's room. Buffy goes to The Bronze and mopes around, feeling even worse when she sees a man with a pronounced physical likeness to her former boyfriend Angel. However, she is greatly cheered by the appearance of Xander, who reveals that his tour of America never happened because his car broke down in Oxnard and he spent the rest of the summer washing dishes at the fabulous "Ladies' Nightclub" to earn money for repairs. Now he has returned home, where he lives in the basement of his parents' house and is expected to pay rent. Buffy tells Xander about her negative early experiences of college, and expresses a fear that she cannot adapt to the college experience, but Xander greatly moves her by describing her as "my hero" and explaining that he always thinks "What would Buffy do?" whenever he is in a bad situation. (He adds, "Ok, sometimes when it's dark and I'm all alone, I think, 'What is Buffy wearing?'"[2]) They then agree to track down the vampire lair and reclaim Buffy's stolen belongings.

Using the college computer system, the pair locate the vampire gang in a disused frat house. While Buffy angrily watches the vampires using and abusing her belongings through the glass roof of the frat house, Xander leaves to round up the assistance of Willow and Oz. Unfortunately, the roof breaks and Buffy lands on the floor in front of the vampires. They fight and she is once again losing, in part because of her sore arm from their previous encounter, but seeing Sunday damage the Class Protector award she was given at her senior prom angers Buffy enough to regain her confidence and soundly trounce the vampires, taking out Sunday with a bankhand throw of a broken tennis racket. As Buffy and friends return to the dorm with her belongings, Giles makes a belated appearance with weapons, apologising for his earlier dismissal of her fears and promising that they will fight the evil together.

Meanwhile, one of the vampires from Sunday's gang is hit with a taser by three masked men in camouflage fatigues.


  • The original storyline for the character of Sunday was that she was a former Slayer turned vampire.
  • Buffy references Mr. Pointy, the stake left to her by her friend and late Slayer Kendra.
  • The yearbook seen in this episode, the Sunnydale High Yearbook, was released as a tie-in product after this episode aired.
  • The college vampires have a tally of Gustav Klimt versus Claude Monet posters they have stolen from the freshmen they kill. A poster of Klimt's painting, The Kiss is found in Eddie's belongings.
  • This is the first episode not to feature Sunnydale High.
  • When Buffy sees the back of a man's head who she thinks might be Angel, the man is actually played by David Boreanaz until his face becomes visible.
  • Starting with this episode, Buffy was filmed in 16:9 widescreen; this would be the case for the next three seasons. However, Joss Whedon never intended for it to be shown this way, so while the widescreen version is shown on Sky One in the United Kingdom, all American showings are in 4:3. DVD releases of the final four seasons have followed the same pattern, with European (Region 2) discs displaying the episodes in 16:9 widescreen format and North American (Region 1) discs not.
  • Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia) and David Boreanaz (Angel) are no longer series regulars and have been removed from the opening credits.

Cultural references[edit]

  • Planet of the Apes – Oz quotes the famous line "It's a madhouse. A madhouse!" in the beginning of the episode to describe the crowd at the college. The line was previously quoted by Xander in "When She Was Bad".
  • Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace – During the pep talk Xander gives Buffy at the Bronze, he uses Yoda's "Fear leads to anger..." quote, and mangles it several times.
  • Scarface – Xander also attempts to quote Scarface during his pep talk, but he stops himself before finishing the quote.
  • The Avengers – Xander further makes references to the Avengers when saying "Avengers Assemble" referring to getting the gang together to help Buffy. Ironically, it's a line that goes unused in The Avengers, also directed and written by Joss Whedon.
  • The David Bowie song "Memory of a Free Festival" plays in the background as Buffy enters Giles's apartment.
  • A Gentleman of Leisure - Giles's new definition of himself, according to Willow - is Gentleman of Leisure, referring to English P. G. Wodehouse's novel.
  • When Buffy meets Giles in company with a lightly dressed Olivia in his flat, she compares him with Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy Enterprises.


Arc significance[edit]

  • Crossover with Angel: Buffy answers the telephone, but hears nothing, not even breathing. The reason is explained in "City of", which was broadcast immediately afterward. Buffy also imagines seeing Angel's side-profile at the Bronze, but it isn't Angel (although David Boreanaz does appear).
  • This episode marks the first appearance of Riley Finn ("Angel's non-broody, intimacy-capable replacement"[1]), Professor Walsh and the Initiative, the group of military commandos that fight demons and vampires and gives rise to this season's Big Bad.
  • Giles's girlfriend Olivia (Phina Oruche) appears for the first time; she reappears in the episode Hush, during which she says it is too frightening for her to visit Giles again. She appears once more in the episode Restless, but only as part of Giles's dream. She, in life, is a good friend and a colleague in English theater of Head.
  • Buffy's roommate Kathy plays a bigger role in "Living Conditions".
  • The show will explore the transition from high school to the more complicated college life, which offers significantly more freedom and thus opportunities for mistakes. This episode showed Buffy's loneliness and self-doubt as a small fish in a big pond.
  • Willow tells Buffy that she believes their old High School library didn't have the best selection. However in the first episode upon meeting Buffy she says she believes the library to have a great collection. It is likely that as she grew up her thirst for knowledge could not be satisfied with the library's books.
  • Foreshadowing: Professor Walsh says, "Those of you who don't will come to know me by the name my TAs use, and think I don't know about, 'The Evil Bitch Monster of Death.'"
  • In the University's bookstore, Buffy says, "I can't wait for Mom to get the bill for these books. I hope it's a funny aneurysm." Joyce Summers dies in the fifth season episode "The Body"; in the following episode, "Forever", the cause is revealed to be an aneurysm.[3]


  1. ^ a b Dellamonica, Alyx (Sep 3, 2012). "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Living Conditions of the Freshman Kind". Retrieved October 14, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Buffy Episode #54: "The Prom" Transcript (Full-text)". Retrieved October 14, 2012. 
  3. ^ Boyer, Sabrina (March 5, 2009). "Buffy for Beginners 4.1: The Freshman". Retrieved October 14, 2012. 

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