|"Wild at Heart"|
|Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode|
Oz kisses Willow before leaving town
|Episode no.||Season 4
|Directed by||David Grossman|
|Written by||Marti Noxon|
|Original air date||November 9, 1999|
"Wild at Heart" is the sixth episode of the fourth season of the American television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, first airing on November 9, 1999 on The WB. It was written by Marti Noxon and directed by David Grossman.
In the episode, Oz (Seth Green), a werewolf, is drawn by animal instinct to Veruca (Paige Moss), another werewolf. This causes friction with his girlfriend, Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan), and ultimately Oz leaves town to explore the wolf side of him. The circumstances seen in "Wild at Heart" arose from Seth Green's abrupt decision to leave the series.
Buffy is chased by a vampire, which she fights and then stakes. Her well-thought puns are not appreciated. Spike stalks Buffy from a distance and promises trouble, but he is struck by Tasers and carried off by the masked and heavily armed people lurking in the Sunnydale shadows. At the Bronze, the gang talks about college and why they're still hanging at the Bronze, and then to their surprise Giles joins them. Veruca's band, "Shy" starts to play and all the guys are mesmerized by her singing.
The next morning, Willow wakes up in Oz's bed and they talk about how they'll be apart for three nights while there's a full moon keeping Oz locked up, and a Wicca group is meeting on those three nights. At school, Buffy gets a great grade on a Psychology paper and Professor Walsh asks her to lead a discussion group on the topic. Willow is actually academically envious of Buffy. Veruca invites Oz to sit with her at lunch, which he accepts since there is room for Willow and they start talking amps. Willow arrives, and is lost by their terminology, leading everyone to flee the incredibly awkward situation. Buffy tells Willow not to worry about Oz.
That night, Oz locks himself into a cage in a crypt but he breaks free. As Professor Walsh is leaving the school that night, Oz jumps out at her. Another werewolf appears and while Professor Walsh runs and hides in the bushes, the two werewolves jump out and fight with each other. Oz wakes up the next morning to see that the other werewolf is Veruca. They sneak into the campus laundry room for clothes and Veruca appeals to the animal within him. Willow shows up at Oz's and instead of being welcomed with opened arms, Oz is closed off and so she leaves. Buffy informs Giles of the two werewolves being spotted on campus and later goes to Oz, but he says he doesn't remember anything about what happened when he got out. Desperate for a male perspective, Willow asks Xander about Oz and he suggests they talk and work it out.
Oz arranges for Veruca to meet him in the crypt that night. He wants her to lock herself in the cage with him so no one gets hurt, and finally gets her into the cage. Immediately before transforming, they kiss. The next morning, breakfast foods in hand, Willow arrives and is shocked to see Oz and Veruca curled up naked together. Oz gets dressed and explains Veruca is a werewolf like himself, who had to be locked up so she couldn't hurt anyone. He claims he had no choice, but Willow, tearful and angry, points out Oz could have instead told the other Scoobies, and perhaps found a solution other than locking her up with him. Stoking the argument, Veruca agrees with Willow, and Oz, in an uncharacteristic burst of anger, orders Veruca to leave. He continues trying to explain things to Willow, but she doesn't want to hear it. She asks him if he had feelings for Veruca, which he denies, only that he could sense something, to which she asks if he wanted her 'in an animal way', more than he wanted her, and runs off crying.
Walking home in a dazed state, Willow walks in front of an oncoming car, which Buffy can't save her from, but Riley happens to be there and does. Buffy takes Willow back to their dorm and then goes to take care of Veruca. Using Oz's heightened senses to lead the way, Buffy and Oz go looking for Veruca, although Buffy is not interested in Oz's explanation for why he committed the actions which have left her best friend heartbroken. They find Veruca's clothes and then come to the conclusion that she left her clothes to throw them off her scent and has gone after Willow. Willow is in one of the campus labs, conjuring a spell that will prove to be devastating revenge against Oz and Veruca. She can't bring herself to complete the spell, however, and Veruca then enters, locking the door with intent to kill Willow when the sun goes down and get her out of the way. Just in time, Oz breaks in and the two werewolves fight until Oz rips Veruca's throat out. Before he can attack Willow, Buffy arrives and tranquilizes him, and then turns to comfort a traumatized and hysterical Willow.
The next day, Buffy talks to Giles about a heavily armed guy she ran into while searching for Veruca who was dressed the same way as the guys they ran into on Halloween. Willow finds Oz in his room, packing. Unsure of what separates him from the wolf, he is leaving until he can figure it out. Oz tells Willow he only ever loved her and then walks out. After a brief hesitation, he drives off in his van.
In a BBC interview, writer Marti Noxon says she would have liked to direct this episode, as it was "close to [her] heart" - particularly the metaphor that "most of us have a creature inside of us that makes us do things that we wish we didn’t do." She adds, "The whole issue of sexuality between men and women is kind of fraught because of the beast."
Joss Whedon had originally envisioned the love triangle between Oz, Veruca, and Willow to continue for most of season four. However, Seth Green abruptly left the show to pursue a movie career, explaining that "the character was always better served in a recurring capacity and Joss and I both felt it was better to revert to that status." Despite that statement, Green would only return in two more episodes, both in the fourth season. Whedon says losing Green so suddenly was a "heartbreaker... and so Willow got her heart broken. I took what we were feeling and put it on-screen, so everybody would be on the same page."
In the episode's DVD commentary, Seth Green said that during filming for the scene where Oz and Veruca have supposedly just woken up from mating as werewolves, he was naked except for a "boy-thong". He stated that this was incredibly uncomfortable since Paige Moss, the actress playing "Veruca", had her boyfriend visiting the set. Lindsay Crouse, the actress playing Professor Maggie Walsh, once played Seth Green's mother in an after school special. In this episode Oz (as a werewolf) attacks and tries to kill Maggie. Seth Green laughingly called it "the circle of life".
- This episode is the last to feature Oz as a main character (and is the final time Seth Green's name appears in the opening credits); he returns for only two more episodes in the series: "New Moon Rising" and "Restless" (in the latter episode as part of a dream sequence). He is replaced in the opening credits in the next episode by Spike (James Marsters).
- Buffy is now interested in the commandos she keeps seeing. This is building the plotline of the Initiative.
- Willow and Oz talk briefly about the kiss that she shared with Xander in "Lovers Walk".
- Willow's reaction to her heartbreak was to turn to dark magic for revenge. This theme will play out more and more as the series progresses.
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