Season 1, Episode 4 - “Teacher’s Pet”
Original airdate: March 25, 1997
Project 310 re-watch date: Dec. 25, 2008
This is the first episode of the series that features Xander as its central character -- in previous episodes, both Willow and Buffy had been placed in danger’s way, but not Xander -- and fittingly, it starts off with a Xander daydream.
Since Xander eventually had a long-term relationship on the show with Cordelia and then Anya, it’s easy to forget how focused on Buffy his early romantic efforts were.
Of course, this episode is also the first of many, many times that Xander’s misguided attempts at love put him right in harm’s way. To recap, substitute teacher Natalie French shows up (played by total hottie Musetta Vander), but is actually a she-mantis looking for virgin high school boys to mate with, then feed on.
It’s easy to forget about, and even dismiss, the whole “fork guy” subplot, but he actually plays an integral role in the episode. Without him, Buffy, Willow and Giles wouldn’t have found Xander in time. He also represents Buffy’s willingness to use vampires as something more than just stake-fodder. Though “fork guy” ends up getting staked, he’s the first (if an unwilling first) of many demon informants (not counting Angel, who at this point still hasn’t been revealed to be a vampire).
Speaking of Angel, Xander’s dislike for him shows up in this episode for the first time. Combine that with Xander’s early dislike for vampires in “The Harvest”, and its easy to see why Xander never really likes Angel, even once he’s moved beyond his crush on Buffy. It’s nice to see a character trait that showed up in the first four episodes of the show get carried throughout all 7 seasons.