"The Freshman" is the season premiere of the fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the fifty-seventh episode in the series. Written and directed by Joss Whedon, it originally broadcast on October 5, 1999 on The WB network.
MOVING ON — Trying to adjust to the rigors of college life proves to be harder than Buffy imagined. She moves into a dorm, must contend with a less-than-stable roommate and the complexities of dating college men. On campus, Willow is overly enthused about college life and her ongoing romance with Oz, and Xander unexpectedly returns from his self-discovery adventure. Elsewhere, Giles seems to be enjoying his life away from being a librarian and a Watcher.
Buffy and Willow are on a stakeout at the cemetery while discussing which classes Buffy should take for her first semester at college. They discuss the fact that Buffy is choosing her courses at the last second, which she credits to a busy summer of slaying and that Giles has told her to start keeping her identity as the Slayer under wraps again. The vampire they're waiting for awakens and prepares to attack them, but backs out when he sees their arsenal of vampire-slaying gear. He slips away with Buffy and Willow not having noticed a thing.
In the next day, Buffy arrives at the UC Sunnydale campus, ready to select her classes and move into her dorm room. However, she is completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people there as well as being handed fliers by the various campus groups, fraternities, and general student protesters. Buffy meets up with Willow and Oz and tells them that she feels disoriented by the new experience. Willow, on the other hand, is very excited by the new surroundings and is enjoying every second. Oz is also not fazed at all due to Dingoes Ate My Baby playing there on a regular basis; although he claims not to have a clue what's going on, he already knows several people.
Buffy and Willow tour the campus library, and discuss Giles enjoying his free time now he's no longer a Watcher or a librarian, and that Xander is still away on his summer cross-country trip. Buffy and Willow go to visit the college library and are amazed by its size, far removed from their old hangout. When Buffy tries to get the "Intro to Psychology" book, she knocks them off the shelf onto the head of another student. He introduces himself as Riley Finn, the teaching assistant for Professor Walsh's Psych 105 "Intro to Psychology" class.
Buffy arrives at her new dorm room in Stevenson Hall. She has already moved in and her new roommate Kathy is in the process of doing so. Kathy tells Buffy that she can tell that she is cool and thinks the upcoming year will be "super fun," while she hangs a poster of Céline Dion, much to Buffy's chagrin. During the night, Buffy has trouble sleeping because Kathy snores, laughs, and smacks her lips in her sleep.
Buffy attends a class the next day in order to find out if enrollment is still open, however when she asks the person next to her about it, the professor humiliates her and throws her out. Later, with Willow and Oz, she attends Psych 105. Professor Walsh jokingly states that those students not in her good graces will come to know her as "the evil bitch monster of death." Students who stay in her favor will come to know her simply as "Maggie." Buffy is further unnerved, realizing that college is going to be far harder than high school was.
That night, she meets Eddie, another freshman student who is just as overwhelmed as she is by the new environment. They discuss their need of a "security blanket" in their unfamiliar surroundings. Eddie tells Buffy that his security blanket is the novel Of Human Bondage, which he has read ten times and keeps by his bed, while Buffy's is Mr. Pointy. As they then go their separate ways, Eddie runs into a gang of vampires led by Sunday. The group break into Eddie's dorm room and taking all his stuff, leaving behind only a note on the bed.
The next day, Buffy looks for Eddie in psych class but can't find him. She goes to his dorm room to find the note and empty room, with the resident assistant explaining that some students can't handle the college life and bail out early on. Although, as Buffy sits down, she spots Of Human Bondage still in his nightstand. Knowing he wouldn't have left it, she realizes something is wrong. In Sunday's lair, the vampires go through Eddie's belongings. Sunday bemoans that they don't go after cooler people and gets ready to go on that evening's hunt. Laying dead on the floor, Eddie's eyes snap open.
Buffy visits Giles to find a half-naked female visitor in his apartment. The woman is an old friend named Olivia who refers to Giles as "Ripper." Buffy tells Giles of the mysterious disappearance and tells him they need to start researching to find out what's going on, but Giles is reluctant to help. He reminds Buffy that he is no longer her Watcher, nor does she have one anymore, and now she's growing up she has to learn how to handle these things herself. Buffy leaves, while Giles reminds her he'll always be there if she really needs him.
That night, Buffy runs into Eddie in a deserted part of campus. She says she's sorry for what happened to him, but he responds he's not. Eddie attacks her and Buffy quickly stakes him. The group of vampires that turned Eddie were watching, so Sunday attacks Buffy. Buffy is soundly thrashed by the vampire while the others watch. With her arm sprained, she runs. Buffy is shaken by the fight and goes home the next day. She finds her mother surprised to see her home so soon, then discovers that she is using Buffy's room as storage space for the gallery. The phone rings and Buffy answers, but the caller hangs up.
When Buffy returns to her dorm room, she finds all of her belongings missing and a note similar to that found in Eddie's room. She goes to the Bronze and she thinks she sees Angel from afar, but it turns out to just be a guy who looks like him. As she mopes, Xander suddenly appears behind her, having returned from his trip a couple of days earlier. He reveals that his car broke down in Oxnard and his tour of America didn't happen, but instead he spent a month and a half washing dishes at Ladies Night club earning money for repairs (which mercifully came to an end when a male stripper fell ill, although Xander refuses to elaborate further). Xander also says that he now lives in his parents' basement and has to pay rent. Buffy tells Xander about Sunday, explaining that she doesn't want to intrude on Willow and Oz's first days in college by involving them. She then admits that she doesn't think she'll be able to handle the new environment. Xander tells Buffy that in the darkest times of his life he would get through it by thinking about what she would do and that she's his hero. Xander pledges his full support in stopping Sunday.
The two research and find that the student disappearances started at the same time that a fraternity lost its charter, its house lying empty while zoning issues dragged on. Heading there, the two spy on the vampire group through the skylight as they root through and laugh at Buffy's possessions. Xander decides to round up the rest of the gang while Buffy remains behind to keep watch, only for the skylight to give way from under her, landing her right in front of Sunday and the other vampires.
In Buffy's dorm room, Willow assures Kathy that Buffy isn't the kind to run away… except for the time when she did. Xander turns up and, after a happy reunion with his friends, gets them to come with him to help. Meanwhile, Buffy is being kicked around by Sunday; when she sees the vampire break the Class Protector Award she was given at her senior prom, Buffy is angered enough to regain her confidence and soundly trounces the vampires. She is helped when Willow, Xander and Oz turn up. Although a couple of the vamps escape, Buffy manages to take out Sunday with a backhand throw of a broken tennis racket. Later, the gang recovers Buffy's things from the lair when Giles approaches laden with weapons. He apologizes to Buffy for turning her away and is ready to fight the evil. Instead, he's just asked to help carry the boxes. Buffy realizes that college is actually turning out to be like high school, so she at least knows what to expect.
Tom, one of the only surviving vampires from Sunday's lair, runs away from the scene. He is suddenly stunned with a taser, then three masked men armed and dressed in camouflage fatigues approach the fallen vampire.
- Buffy begins attending college, but she won't go on to graduate. In her second year, she'll move out of her dorm to take care of her mother ("Family"), then decide to take the rest of the semester off after Joyce dies ("Intervention"). Her own death in "The Gift" will prevent her from applying for re-enrollment on time. In "Life Serial," she decides to audit classes with Willow and Tara Maclay for the rest of the semester but does not continue after the Trio messes with her. Later that year, she'll apply for re-admittance but receives a rejection letter for missing the deadline again ("As You Were").
- Buffy says: "Can't wait till mom gets the bill for these books. I hope it's a funny aneurysm." Ironically, Joyce's cause of death will be a brain aneurysm ("The Body").
- Buffy mentions Mister Pointy, the stake left to her by her late friend and fellow Slayer, Kendra Young, in the episode "Becoming, Part One."
- Giles states to Buffy that she needs to start doing things on her own and not always coming to him for help, since she's getting older and he can't always be there. He will later fully enforce this after he goes off to London in "Tabula Rasa."
- Buffy answers the phone but doesn't hear anything; in "City Of," it's revealed that this is Angel calling Buffy but is unable to say anything, so he hangs up.
- Normally pink in color ("What's My Line? Part One"), the stuffed pig Mister Gordo is black and white in this episode.
- Among the things taken by Sunday and her gang, there's Buffy's Class Protector Award, given to her in episode "The Prom."
- This episode marks the first appearance of the Initiative, although the operation will only be revealed to the audience in "The Initiative."
- This is the first episode not to feature Sunnydale High School, which was blown up in "Graduation Day, Part Two."
- Angel (Only in visions)
- Doug (Only mentioned)
- Riley Finn
- Rupert Giles
- Alexander Harris
- Kathy Newman
- Daniel Osbourne
- Willow Rosenberg
- Buffy Summers
- Joyce Summers
- Maggie Walsh
- Olivia Williams
- Unidentified Alpha Delta member
- Unidentified Christian student
- Unidentified megaphone student
- Unidentified RA
- Unidentified rally student
- Unidentified student volunteer
- Unidentified vampire (The Freshman)
Organizations and titles
- Arizona (Only mentioned)
- Grand Canyon (Only mentioned)
- Hawaii (Only mentioned)
- Oxnard, California (Only mentioned)
- Ladies Night (Only mentioned)
- Sunnydale, California
- 1630 Revello Drive
- Gallery (Only mentioned)
- Harris residence (Only mentioned)
- Rupert Giles's apartment
- University of California, Sunnydale
- Buffy Summers' diary
- Class Protector Award
- Mister Gordo
- Mister Pointy (Only mentioned)
- Taser blaster
- Eddie, sired by Sunday and dusted by Buffy.
- Rookie, dusted with a crossbow by Willow.
- Jerry, staked by Xander and Oz.
- Sunday, staked by Buffy.
Behind the scenes
- Starting with this episode, the series was filmed in 16x9 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 4x3. 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. Hulu has the widescreen versions of seasons 4–7.
- The exterior shots of UC Sunnydale were filmed on the UCLA campus.
- The man in the Bronze who looked like Angel was actually played by David Boreanaz up until the point his face became visible.
- Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia Chase) and David Boreanaz (Angel) are no longer series regulars and have been removed from the opening credits. This is the first season premiere not to feature the two characters, as well as the first time in the series that an actor is removed from the opening credits.
- This episode marks the first appearances of Marc Blucas (Riley Finn) and Lindsay Crouse (Maggie Walsh). Riley will be a recurring character at the beginning of the season and will be made a series regular from "Doomed" up until "Into the Woods." He will make one final guest appearance in the episode "As You Were." Maggie Walsh will be a recurring character throughout the season.
- Whedon based Professor Riegert on "an old prof of mine, Joe Reed, who kicked my friend David out of the class day one in front of 200 kids. Joe is cool."
- This line where Sunday is dissing Buffy's umbrella was cut:
- Sunday: "What better way to say, 'I am the very most of geek'."
Pop culture references
- One of the flyers Willow is given is from Take Back the Night, an organization that protests sexual, relationship, and domestic violence.
- Kathy hangs up a poster of the singer Céline Dion.
- Eddie's security blanket is the novel Of Human Bondage (1915) by W. Somerset Maugham.
- Sunday and her gang have a tally score going between pieces from painters Klimt and Monet.
- Buffy compares Giles to Playboy creator Hugh Hefner.
- Xander quotes "purple mountains majesty" from the patriotic song "America the Beautiful."
- Xander mentions he watched the film Grand Canyon (1991).
- Xander quotes "Avengers assemble!" in reference to the fictional superheroes team. Coincidentally, years later, Joss Whedon would direct the first Avengers movie for the MCU.
- While trying to discuss fear ("Fear leads to anger...") Xander misquotes Yoda's dialogue from Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999). The correct quote is "Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering."
- Xander attempts to quote Al Pacino from Scarface (1983). The quote is: "In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women."
- In reponse, Buffy thanks him for the "dadaist pep talk," referring to an art movement known for expressing nonsense and irrationality.
- Xander tells Buffy he sometimes asks himself, "What would Buffy do?" which is a play on the popular phrase "What would Jesus do?"
- David Bowie — "Memory of a Free Festival Part 1"
- Moby — "Everloving" (Promo)
- Sound Stage Music Library — "Freaky soul"
- Splendid — "You and Me"
- Stretch Princess — "Universe"
- The Muffs — "I Wish That I Could Be You"
- Christophe Beck — original score
- Armenian: "Առաջին կուրսեցին" (Freshmen)
- Czech: "Nováček" (Novice)
- Finnish: "Keltanokka" (Freshman)
- French: "Disparition sur le campus" (Disappearance on Campus)
- German: "Frischlinge" (The Freshman)
- Hungarian: "Az egyetem" (The University)
- Italian: "La matricola" (The Freshman)
- Japanese: "フレッシュマン" (Freshman)
- Polish: "Freshman"
- Portuguese (Brazil): "A Caloura" (The Freshwoman)
- Romanian: "Bobocul" (Rookie)
- Russian: "Первокурсница" (Freshman)
- Spanish (Latin America): "Novatos" (Freshmen)
- Spanish (Spain): "Bienvenidos alumnos de nuevo ingreso" (Welcome New Students)
Behind the scenes
|Willow: "It's just in high school, knowledge was pretty much frowned upon; you really had to work to learn anything. But here, the energy, the-the collective intelligence, it's like this force, t-this penetrating force, a-and I can just feel my mind opening up, you know? A-and letting this place just thrust into and-and spurt knowledge into... that sentence ended up in a different place than it started out in."|
|Xander: "Buffy, this is all about fear. It's understandable, but you can't let it control you. 'Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to anger.' No wait, hold on. 'Fear leads to hate. Hate leads to the dark side.' Hold on, no, umm, 'First you get the women, then you get the money, then you...' okay, can we forget that?"|
|Buffy: "Thanks for the dadaist pep talk, I feel much more abstract now."|
|Willow: "He said he wasn't coming back until he'd driven to all fifty states."|
|Buffy: "Did you explain about Hawaii?"|
|Willow: "Well, he seemed so determined."|
|Giles: "I'm not supposed to have a private life?"|
|Buffy: "No. Because you're very, very old and it's gross."|
|Xander: "Buffy, I've gone through some fairly dark times in my life, faced some scary things, among them the kitchen at the fabulous Ladies Night club. Let me tell you something, when it's dark and I'm all alone and I'm scared or freaked out or whatever, I always think, 'What would Buffy do?' You're my hero."|