I wonder if I hate this episode so much just because I've had a terrible day? Maybe if I watched "Flooded" right now I would think that it was the greatest episode ever. I remember thinking that I wouldn't have liked "Listening to Fear" half as much if I hadn't been attacked by rubber-cockroach-costumed midget from outer space that very same day. It really resonated with me.
Cut to Willow on the Streets of Sunnydale, engaging in a little petty vandalism. No, actually she's just doing a little gumshoe work. Xander walks up, and Willow snaps at him because he accused her of using magic inappropriately earlier. Hey! They let Xander out of his cage! We haven't seen him outside Der Zauber Kasten or without Anya in a very long time. They halfheartedly apologize to each other for their earlier tiff, and then Willow points out a very tiny skid mark. She seems to think that the speed of the vehicle that caused it is suspicious. Xander is of the opinion that "those could have been made anytime." "This wasn't," smugs Willow as she hands over a crack vial filled with black paint scrapings taken off of the invisible fire hydrant. The same hydrant which Xander is oblivious to until he runs right into it. Willow must have some pretty good eyes to see a few flakes of black paint hanging in midair. Xander makes the connection that the van that was following Buffy a few weeks back was also black, so obviously the two must be related. Huh? How can they be sure that the paint came from the same black van and not, say, one of the many other black cars that could have run into an INVISIBLE FIRE HYDRANT? Sure, it's on the sidewalk, but have you seen how people drive lately? This is all just a little too Encyclopedia Brown for my tastes. Xander stumbles across another invisible object. Willow waves her little spray can over it and pronounces it "a pylon. One of those orange traffic cones." Thanks, Captain Obvious. Pretty soon she'll be saying things like, "It's sage. An herb often found in gardens." They agree that the cone should follow Xander back to Der Zauber Kasten for research purposes while Willow goes to track down the van.