Project 310 - Earshot

Season 3, Episode 18 - “Earshot”
Original airdate: Sept. 21, 1999
Project 310 re-watch date: Feb. 11, 2009

And now we come to THE most controversial episode of the entire seven-season run of “Buffy”, and it had nothing to do with anything intentional on the part of the crew.

The episode was originally scheduled to air on April 27, 1999, but one week earlier, the massacre at Columbine High School occurred. Because this episode featured two things -- a student loading a rifle in the school clocktower, and someone trying to kill all the students -- it was postponed until September.

The WB was able to delay this episode without hurting Season 3, because it didn’t have any huge impact on the Ascension plot.

Back in 1999, Sarah Michelle Gellar lobbied The WB to let this episode air as scheduled, because the ending with Buffy and Jonathan might have actually sent a positive message to those involved with Columbine. However, The WB held the episode back until September.

As for the hype surrounding the episode, the media got a lot of things wrong, and still does to this day.

To clarify:

-Jonathan is the student with the rifle. He goes up to the clock tower to kill himself. He has no intention of killing any other student, and expresses that directly to Buffy.
-A cafeteria worker wants to kill all the students by poisoning them. Buffy overhears this thought, but it’s mixed in with so many others that she doesn’t identify who it came from until the very end of the episode.

Where the media got mixed up is saying the episode featured a student who wanted to kill all the other students. However, this wasn’t the case.

Comically enough, Xander actually identified the killer as the lunchlady after Buffy passed out (though in a joking manner). Of course, Xander then followed this up by saying “Who hasn’t just idly thought about taking out the whole place with a semi-automatic.” That line, more than anything else in the episode, is probably what got this episode delayed.

(Strangely enough, another Xander joke that seems wholly inappropriate got cut from the season finale, which also got delayed).

Media controversies aside, this is a GREAT episode. Written by Jane Espenson, it hit upon a lot of pertinent issues. It was also poorly ripped off for a Season 3 episode of “Charmed”, which I actually saw long before I saw any episode of “Buffy”. There were a lot of stolen plots between “Buffy” and “Charmed” back then, and almost always, the “Buffy” episode was better (and usually first). Strangely enough, Harry Groener (aka The Mayor) played a key role in that “Charmed” episode, after not being seen at all in this “Buffy” episode.

Favorite Quote:
Joyce: I’ve got laundry.
Buffy: Why are you... You had sex with Giles?! You had sex with Giles?!
Joyce: It was the candy. We were teenagers!
Buffy: On the hood of a police car?!
Joyce: I’ll be downstairs. You feel better
Buffy: Twice?!
(Amazingly, some people hadn’t picked up on the tension between Joyce and Giles after “Band Candy”, but this confirmed everything).