"Fear, Itself" is the fourth episode of the fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer television show, and is the sixtieth episode in the series. Written by David Fury and directed by Tucker Gates, it originally broadcast on October 26, 1999 on The WB network.
HOUSE OF HORRORS — Buffy reluctantly agrees to join Willow, Oz and Xander at a Halloween party where they stumble into a real-life house of horrors masquerading as an innocuous fraternity. Meanwhile, Giles is called upon to help out the college crowd when all he wants is to get into the spirit of the holiday.
While carving jack o'lanterns in Xander's basement, the gang discusses their plans for Halloween, while Buffy continues to mope over her situation with Parker. They decide to go to the Alpha Delta house for a Halloween party. Buffy leaves early; on her way home, a kid wearing a demon mask jumps out at her, and she hits him without thinking. He asks her what is bugging her and then takes off, not getting to hear Buffy's reply of "That's what I'd like to know".
The next day at school, Buffy and Oz both express their concerns for Willow about her magic. Buffy spots Parker, and immediately runs away because she doesn't want to face him. Willow follows, and tells her to get over it and have fun at the party that night; however, Buffy thinks that Giles will want her to do some patrolling. Much to Buffy's surprise, however, when she goes to visit Giles, he's wearing a sombrero and is in an incredibly cheerful Halloween mood. Reminding her that demons are generally quiescent on Halloween, he encourages her to go to the party.
At the fraternity house, the boys are getting ready for the party. One of them finds a symbol in an old book to paint on the floor of the party room. Anya goes to see Xander, and again wants to know where their relationship is heading. He agrees that they're somewhat dating and invites her to the Halloween party that night, telling her to dress in something scary. Buffy visits Professor Walsh and asks for her missed assignments, but is met with less than kind reception from the strict teacher. Riley, however, gives her the assignment and then tells her to have fun on Halloween. Oz and Xander carry the equipment for a sound system to the fraternity house and Oz installs it while some of the guys paint the symbol on the ground. Oz cuts his hand, and some of his blood spills onto the symbol making it pulse with energy — and turning a fake spider lying on it into a real one.
Joyce sews one of Buffy's old Halloween costumes, Little Red Riding Hood. They talk about how things used to be with her dad around and her mom's current social life. Buffy waits outside the party for her friends, and Xander shows up dressed as James Bond. They run into Willow, who's dressed as Joan of Arc, and Oz, who's going as God (his costume consists of a "Hello, My Name Is" sticker with the word "GOD" written on it).
At the party, a guy leads a blindfolded girl to stick her hand into a bowl of grapes and tells her the grapes inside are eyeballs. When she takes the blindfold off, they really are eyeballs. Everything at the party goes crazy as people run in all directions screaming, some ending up mutilated and injured in various ways. The gang starts to make their way through the maze, but they encounter several Halloween obstacles, including fake cobwebs and skeletons that jump out at them. They really start to get scared as a spider crawls on Willow, they discover real blood on the floor and bats fly down from the ceiling.
Anya arrives at the party, dressed as a big pink and white bunny, but she is unable to get in as the front door has disappeared. As she walks around to the front, she sees a girl screaming at a window, and the window disappears from the house. Inside, and unable to get out of the house, Buffy tells the gang to find a way out and to get help. They find Chaz, one of the fraternity members, in a closet saying that "it's alive." A skeleton attacks Buffy from behind with a knife, but she destroys it and it becomes fake again. Buffy and Willow fight over Buffy giving orders and then over whether Willow can safely do a guidance spell to lead the way. Anya goes to Giles for help.
Xander tries to talk to Buffy and the gang, but he finds that he's invisible to them all as they completely ignore him. Willow and Oz, who go off on their own to find a way out, find a set of stairs, and head up. As they're walking, Oz starts to change into a werewolf and scratches Willow before running away from her. Xander approaches a mirror, and along with his reflection, a once-fake head on the table behind him says that he can see him too. Oz sits in a bathtub, chanting over and over that he isn't going to change. Willow conjures her spell to Aradia, the goddess of the lost. The spell, however, gets out of control and she screams for help as it attacks her. Buffy, hearing Willow's cries, tries to get to her, but instead falls into the basement where the dead start coming up from the ground and grabbing at her. A dead man tells Buffy that she will keep fighting but always end up in the same place.
Meanwhile, Giles and Anya are unable to find a way in, so Giles pulls out a chain saw and cuts a door into the house. In their frenzied attempts to escape their fears that have somehow come true, all the gang runs into the coat room and things seem back to normal. From the book the frat boy used, they determine that the sign on the floor is the Mark of Gachnar. Giles and Anya then break into the room. Buffy destroys the symbol before Giles can tell her that destroying the symbol will bring Gachnar forth. But as the demon has manifested itself, it turns out he is mere inches in height. After a laugh, Buffy simply squashes him with her shoe. At Giles' place, they eat candy, and Giles discovers his mistake. The small picture of Gachnar in the book had a Gaelic inscription reading, "Actual size."
- This episode is the second of three Halloween-themed episodes. In this episode Giles reveals the reason why supernatural forces avoid going out on Halloween: "They find it all much too crass". A Halloween episode occurs every second season of Buffy, previously in season two with "Halloween" and later in season six with "All the Way".
- From this episode onward, Riley will appear as a regular until "Into the Woods".
- This episode features the first time Anya mentions her phobia of bunnies, which will be a running gag for the rest of the series.
- Oz expresses worry over Willow's frequent use of magic. Tara will later express the same concerns, which will become a running theme with Willow for the remainder of the series.
- This episode marks Buffy's first contact with Initiative "commandos" (though she mistakes them for people in costume).
- Joyce mentioned Buffy's father and her first serious Sunnydale boyfriend, Ted, whom she now knows was a robot. Joyce also remarks that she is no longer the "social butterfly" she used to be.
- When Xander, Willow, and Oz notice that Buffy is very down because of Parker, Xander asks if anyone wants to "smack that guy", and they all raise their hands. Their wish comes true when Buffy (as a cavewoman) bashes him over the head (twice) with a club in "Beer Bad", and when Riley punches him in "The Initiative".
- Willow references the events of "Gingerbread" when comparing the fact that both she and Joan of Arc were tied and set to be burned at the stake.
- Parker Abrams
- Aradia (Only mentioned)
- Ted Buchanan (Only mentioned)
- Riley Finn
- Rupert Giles
- Alexander Harris
- Anthony Harris (Only mentioned)
- Jessica Harris (Only mentioned)
- Anya Jenkins
- Daniel Osbourne
- Ira Rosenberg (Only mentioned)
- Sheila Rosenberg (Only mentioned)
- Willow Rosenberg
- Buffy Summers
- Hank Summers (Only mentioned)
- Joyce Summers
- Maggie Walsh
- Unidentified Hallmate Boy
- Unidentified Lobster Boy
- Unidentified Masked Teen
- Unidentified Present Girl
Organizations and titles
Weapons and objects
Rituals and spells
- Josh, broke his neck falling down the stairs while trying to run away from the Gachnar chaos.
- Gachnar, squashed by Buffy Summers.
Behind the scenes
- The title "Fear, Itself" is a reference to Franklin D. Roosevelt's famous "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself" speech from 1933.
- The actual text in the old book describes: "A special bus route will open in Dublin today despite reports that it may cause traffic congestion as a result."
- This book is a 1963 edition of the real book "Picture Museum of Sorcery Magic & Alchemy" by Émile Grillot de Givry (originally published in 1929), with its duster and interior adapted into the prop used in the series.
- This dialogue was cut due to length:
- Willow: "Oz!"
- Xander: "Will!" (she appears, moving down the hall.) "We've got trouble. There's something terribly wrong with Buffy. She can't even tell that I'm—"
- Willow: "Oz!" (Willow can't see Xander either, so he stops. Willow looks around.) "Oh, God… Okay, guiding spell. Okay. Yeah. I can do it." (She takes off. Xander turns back and knocks a pumpkin off a table in frustration.)
Pop culture references
- Xander was appalled to find he has mistakenly rented Fantasia instead of Phantasm for movie night.
- Xander repeated a line from Star Wars to Oz as he frowned at the speakers; "Sensing a disturbance in the Force, Master?"
- When Giles said "It's alive!" he was referring to the film Frankenstein.
- Buffy is dressed as Little Red Riding Hood , Xander as James Bond , and Willow as Joan of Arc.
- When Josh tricks a blindfolded Rachel into believing that peeled grapes in a bowl are actually eyeballs, he says "Eyeballs, Rachel. They're eyeballs." Because of the effect Gachnar was having on everyone in the frat house, when Rachel removed her blindfold, she saw the grapes as eyeballs. Josh's line may be an allusion to a similar line from the cult vampire film The Lost Boys, in one character says to the other: "Maggots, Michael. You're eating maggots. How do they taste?" During that scene, much like Gachnar, David was creating an illusion to trick Michael into believing the rice he was eating was actually maggots.
- 28 Days — "Kool"
- 28 Days — "LA Tune"
- Third Grade Teacher — "Ow Ow Ow"
- Verbena — "Pretty Please"
- Christophe Beck — "Haunted"
- Armenian: "Վախը սեփական անձով" (Fear Itself)
- Czech: "Sám Strach" (Fear Itself)
- Finnish: "Pelon kokokuva" (Fear the Whole Picture)
- French: "Le Démon d'Halloween" (The Demon of Halloween)
- German: "Der Dämon der Angst" (The Demon of Fear)
- Hungarian: "Félj magadtól!" (Fear Yourself!)
- Italian: "Il Sapore del Terrore" (The Taste of Terror)
- Japanese: "現実となった恐怖" (Fear Became a Reality)
- Polish: "W obawie przed sobą"
- Portuguese (Brazil): "O Próprio Medo" (The Fear Itself)
- Romanian: "Frica însăși" (Fear Itself)
- Russian: "Страх, собственной персоной" (Fear, Itself)
- Spanish (Latin America): "Miedos" (Fears)
- Spanish (Spain): "Terror" (Terror)
- Three Buffy the Vampire Slayer action figures were produced based on this episode: "Fiesta Giles", "Bunny Anya", and "Fear, Itself Anya".
- An illustration of the scene of the Scoobies w facing Gachnar was included in the "Big Bads & Monsters Adult Coloring Book".
- This episode was included in the Curse of the Hellmouth DVD collection.
- Darris Love, the actor who portrays the "hallmate", also portrays George in Angel episodes "The Thin Dead Line" and "Belonging".
- This is the seventh and final episode of the series without any vampires. ("Witch", "The Pack", "I Robot, You Jane", "The Puppet Show", "Inca Mummy Girl" and "Living Conditions" are the first six).
Behind the scenes
|Xander - "People, prepare to have your spines tingled and your gooses bumped by the terrifying... Fantasia. Fantasia?"|
|Oz - "Maybe it's because of all the horrific things we've seen, but hippos wearing tutus just don't unnerve me the way they used to."|
|Xander - "Phantasm. It was supposed to be Phantasm. Stupid video store."|
|Xander - (about his jack o' lantern) "I don't know. I was going for ferocious, scary, but it's coming out more dryly sardonic."|
|Willow - "It does appear to be mocking you with its eye holes."|
|Oz - "The nose hole seems sad and full of self-loathing."|
|Buffy - "I don't know. I'm starting to feel like there is a pattern here. Open your heart to someone, and he bails on you. Maybe it’s easier to just not let anyone in."|
|Joyce - "I thought it might be easier. You must have noticed that I am not exactly the social butterfly I was when I was with your dad. I don't think I made a single new friend the year we moved to Sunnydale."|
|Buffy - "Why not?"|
|Joyce - "Fear. I didn't believe I could trust anyone again. It's taken time and a lot of effort, but I've got a nice circle of friends now. I mean, don't get me wrong. I — I'm still a little gun shy. It certainly didn't help that my last boyfriend turned out to be a homicidal robot. I will always be here for you. And you got Mr. Giles and your friends. Believe me, there is nothing to be afraid of."|
|Xander - "Hey, Red. What you got in the basket, little girl?"|
|Buffy - "Weapons."|
|Xander - "Oh."|
|Buffy - "Just in case. Like the tux, Xander."|
|Xander - "Bond — James Bond. Insurance, you know — in case we get turned into our costumes again. I’m going for 'cool, secret agent guy'."|
|Buffy - "I hate to break it to you, but you’ll probably end up 'cool head waiter guy'."|
|Xander - "As long as I’m wielding some kind of power."|
|Buffy - "There's no problem that cannot be solved by chocolate."|
|Willow - "I think I'm gonna barf."|
|Buffy - "Except that."|