BtvS 2.04

Promotional CD tracks

12. Escape (1'26) 64kbps / 192kbps

The episodes: Surprise and Innocence

"Surprise" and "Innocence" were written to play as a two-parter in the same week, with the first episode deliberately left as a cliff-hanger in order to draw Buffy's audience to its new scheduling home. Together they form perhaps season two's consumate "episode", showing how a 22-part narrative thread can be turned on its head mid-way; over this, it shows how to match two utterly different yet compelling plot threads running at different speeds (The Judge and Angel's curse); over this, it shows how a complex mesh of subplots and character development (Willow/Oz, Xander/Cordelia, Giles/Jenny, Drusilla/Spike, Buffy/Angel, Xander's military mindset) can be successfully interwoven with snappy dialogue; and over this, it shows how all can fit into a dramatically unified double television episode. And over this? "Surprise/Innocence" leaves a staggering number of open plot-threads that drive the season towards the rivetting finale. Back in 2.13-14 the change of vision is startling: from its opening dream sequence it feels cinematic. It also feels vaguely epic, despite never over-stepping its invisible small-screen, advert-shadowing, teen banter boundaries, and there is a single-mindedness to the direction that oozes confidence. If there is any point at which the series broke into its stride as a true cult classic, this is it. And never has an episode title applied to so much of the plot: "surprise" is everything it promises to be, and the interpretation of "innocence" is a question that keeps you guessing.

Fun quotation:
Buffy: "Fixation on insignificant detail is a definite crush sign."

The music

For all its pretensions, much of the "Surprise" episode has little need of major score work, with most of the first half given over to brief snatches of action or barely audible underscore. The "big bad" diversion, The Judge, is given only a 3-note theme [Ex.2]. However, this episode is where the Buffy/Angel love theme (hereafter referred to as the 'B&A Love Theme' [Ex.4] emerges fully-formed from a huge array of the mostly piano-based melodies of previous episodes. Once theopening phrases and setting theme itself are fixed, it immediately takes root in a number of variations (some of them wafer-thin) where the relationship comes into play, laying the way for the highly sensual extension of the theme in the following episode's flash-back. Here dialogue and plot will make way for impressionistic visuals and a centre-stage cue that arguably won Beck an instant following amongst Buffy viewers.

Cue notes

At this point in season 2 the cue-by-cue suddenly starts to become an important part of the feature. We start to see how Christophe Beck is beginning to manoeuvre his themes strategically.


Sparse strings open this episode, with synth choral effects, seaguing into the song "Anything" at 0'35 (written by fellow Buffy composers Shawn K. Clement and Sean Murray and performed by Cari Howe"), but Beck's tremolo strings intrude during this, and more pleasantly harmonic strings accompany it. As Angel is staked, an orchestral sting strikes, followed by loud choir (battling sound effects).


Nerf, thrash it, baby!]


The 'B&A Love Theme' [Ex.4], beginning on piano, but joined by very subtle string/clarinet accompaniment, then doubled by cor anglais. A beautiful self-contained cue, but the theme here is tentative and minus the extensions later added to complete it as a melody.


Spike's "package". Atmospheric underscore: synth effects giving an edgy effect. Eerie piano and distant chorus added as Drusilla gets to see part of her present. The scene's thump ending eschews Beck's normal gliss for what sounds like an amplified gunshot.


"Do you really think you're ready, Buffy?" Tremolo strings as part of Buffy's dream comes true. Sitar heralds the entrance of the head of the gypies on Jenny. A truly new sense of exotica to lend this appearance a weight beyond its outward appearance at this stage in the episode.


Sitar and drum frame the scene [Ex.1], with strings, as Jenny is resolved to ensure Buffy gives Angel no moment of happiness.


Jenny surprises Buffy (at this point we don't know her intention). Tiny atmosphere+mini-shock spot created by quiet high strings followed by sniping synth.


The uncertainty continues as Jenny drives Buffy to the Bronze. Low brass/drums hint at action to come. And it does at 19'54: tutti orchestra action cue accompanying Buffy's battles with vampires, muted when cutting to the inside of the Bronze as the birthday party-givers wait her arrival.


Part of Drusilla's present is opened by Buffy. Cautioning synth atmospherics give way to Psycho slicing strings as an arm reaches out.


The legend of The Judge. Bass clarinet line featuring a 3-note theme, hereby noted as the "Judge Theme" [Ex.2], choir, then low strings.


Angel must leave tonight—shifting to Drusilla angry at the loss of part of her present. The B&A Love Theme played quietly on piano with quiet string harmonies gives way to low strings and atmospheric synths, with some tremolo high strings during a tense moment in the scene.


Buffy and Angel are to part. A variation of the B&A Love Theme: in triple time, with piano accompaniment.


A plain iteration of the B&A Love Theme for piano is gilded with string harmonies, as Angel presents Buffy with a ring at the dockyard. Wind join in briefly before pausing, as Angel is presumably about to declare his love for Buffy; a tentative piano figuration is rudely interrupted by...


Vampires attack: an action cue with strings and brass to the fore, and military percussion. (N.B. At 29'10" an accompanying string figure will be familiar in a more centre-stage setting in the premiere to season 3, exhibited in promo track 1 'Deliverance' at ca.1'05, with copious wind doubling. Tenuous connection only!) Horn calls and rising string scales scream out as Buffy is thrown into the dock and Angel jumps in after her.


Quiet strings and tic-tock pizzicato/harp underscore the Judge research, sweaten out into the major key for a a piano line that hints at the B&A Love Theme, but in an extremely subtle way: In [2.02 Ex.5] and [2.06 Ex.4] melodic hints were precursors, but here just a breathe of piano in a recognisable register (actually using the syncopated rhythm of the previously mentioned exs. and following the shape of [2.11 Ex.1]) is enough to spark recognition without hammering the point home.


Buffy dreams again: Wind effects and other atmospherics, out of which a synth choir emerges. Screaching synths, high clustered strings and bass drum enter as Drusilla makes another entrance. The underscore is still unsettling but more melodic as Angel comforts the awakened Buffy.


"More music!" - the Rasputina song "Transylvanian concubine": No better song was used in the series, here to reflect the deranged musical sensibilities of Drusilla as she parades through her birthday party. Creepy cello, off-kilter vocal line, typical 90's pop band, and a hint of other instruments lending a vaguely psychedellic air. And this in turn is rudely smothered by sound fizzling effects and Beck's brass (a good instrumental choice that cuts through both sonic 'voices') as the Judge is re-formed. Rising synth chorus shifts us back to Drusilla's eyes (as was used for her in Buffy's last dream) before a very quick upward-gliss sting caps the scene.


The Judge is re-formed and, while not at full strength, must be in contact with his victims in order to consume them. Beneath this scene, the "Judge Theme", in its customary low tessitura, hums through, with some extension, but not fully harmonised.


Buffy and Angel sneak up on Spike et al. After some synth atmospherics reflecting the spookiness of the locale, both are captured - the music here uses 0'00-0'16 of promo track 12 (see top of page). They are brought before the Judge, whose theme has now lept from clarinet/strings to brass (not on promo). A build-up of a synth choral chord ups the tension as the Judge's hand reaches out - this is covered by 0'16-0'32 of the promo track. Their escape is accompanied by 0'32-1'26 of the promo track - a melange of starkly dissonant and glissandi strings followed (after a pause longer on screen than in the album, it seems) a racing piano figuration over gliding synth chorus, topped by crescendo brass.


Upper strings move in parallel 6ths, shifting into bitter-sweet harmony [Ex.3]. Gentle and sensitive as a bedraggled Buffy is offered Angel's bed to warm up. This, however, is a mere prelude to a return of the B&A Love Theme on piano, in a sligntly stilted variant, broken up in sections by more string underscore, until Angel declares his love - at which point strings and piano gradually merge comfortably round the love theme. All ends softly, rather than triumphantly, in the minor key, and the following space of time is left, for the moment to our imaginations.


Instead we are dealt the episode's chief "surprise" (cleverly submerged behind the freak-of-the-week disguise)... Angel awoken and struck by the force of the curse lifting from him, unable to warn Buffy. After the first rumbles of thunder, Beck's score explodes (with external thunder) into a desperate repeating upward string motif, and we are left with thuddingly final brass notes and the echoe of chorus on the mother of all cliff-hangers.


Somehow, Nerf, we all hate you at this point. Come back, Buffy, and tell us what happens next!

Musical examples

Ex.1 [mp3] Sitar for the gypsy Jenny Calendar and her father, ca.16'32 [180Kb at 96kbps]

Ex.2 [midi] The "Judge Theme", e.g. ca.22'45

Ex.3 [midi] String underscore (Buffy closer to Angel), 39'24

Ex.4 [midi] The basic Buffy & Angel love theme (B&A love theme), unextended and with minimal embellishment at this point, 4'20