Synopsis: Buffy is infected by a demon that will cause her to inherit an aspect of the demon. The aspect she inherits helps her cheat in class and save the school from a mass murder. She inherits telepathy.
Review: One of the reasons I write television reviews is because I believe television effects people whether they recognize it or not. I firmly believe that violence on TV is a big factor in why violence is prevalent in today's schools. The WB's decision to postpone this episode had nothing to do with children's welfare. It had to do with the one thing that matters to large Hollywood networks: money. This episode hints to a school shooting. The Columbine shooting occurred one week before this episode was supposed to air, and the WB postponed it to a slot much later in the season. They were afraid airing it would be perceived as insensitive and may hurt advertising revenue. This episode had a message of hope that high schoolers need to hear. Earshot was supposed to be episode six and ended up being episode eighteen. In a series like Buffy, there can be a lot of developments during that amount of time. The episode seems a little out of place but that does not diminish the creativity of this great episode.
Actually, the plot is a cookie-cutter plot. If employed correctly, the use of a cookie-cutter plot is not indicative of a lack of creativity but rather allows creativity to shine even brighter. Earshot is the classic whodunit where there is a long list of possible suspects. Each one has a motive. Each one has the opportunity. Our sleuths (the Scooby Gang) discover evidence leading to one suspect after another just to have each suspect exonerated. The actual evildoer is not captured until the last second. Buffy the Vampire Slayer mixes this tried-and-true formula with a classic science fiction element, telepathy, resulting in a great episode.
Although this episode employs a cookie-cutter plot, it sheds any hint of typical high school stereotypes and throws a whole gamut of interesting characters at us. Comical moments abound between reoccurring character Larry and Xander. Xander helped Larry come out as a homosexual in a previous episode, and a misunderstanding persists between the two, because Larry believes Xander is also gay. Oz wondering if Buffy thinking what he is thinking causes Buffy to become him and causes him to cease to exist had me laughing out loud.
This episode managed to balance two equally exciting plots. It is hard to say which should be labeled A-plot and B-plot. Buffy is infected with an aspect of the demon. They discover that aspect is telepathy. The telepathy will drive her crazy unless Angel can retrieve the heart of the other demon. In the meantime, the Scoobies rush to discover who Buffy overheard planning to kill everyone at the school before it is too late.
In another move defying stereotype, the killing ends up being the lunch lady pouring rat poison into the food--Xander's original guess. With almost no mention of the Mayor and the complete absence of Faith, this episode seems out of place as we are gearing up for the big showdown with Faith and the Mayor in the finale. The WB's unfortunate decision to push this episode back in the season pushes this otherwise excellent episode to an 8.5 out of 10.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10 (Reviewed by: Matthew Miller)