BTVS, Season 3, Episode 2
"Dead Man's Party"
Writer: Marti Noxon
DIR: James Whitmore, Jr.
Blurb: A Nigerian mask that Buffy's mother has acquired from the gallery has the unique power of resurrecting the dead.
Scene 01: We open with Buffy in her room at home, putting away some small items and gazing around. The music suggests mixed feelings and some ambivalence about being back in Sunnydale. She grabs up her sweater and marches into the hall.
Scene 02: In Joyce's room, she's busy with hammering a nail into the wall in order to hang a ceremonial mask. Buffy comes in and startles her, causing Joyce to clumsily put the hammer through the drywall. They share some awkward, what with Joyce not being used to having her in the house again after her summer away.
Joyce tries to smooth over the moment by turning attention to her borrowed acquisition from the gallery... said tribal mask of Nigerian origin [and the blurb tells you why it shouldn't be out of its crate]. The mask nicely covers over the fresh hole in the wall... alas, it doesn't do anything to cover Joyce's drapes.
She tells Buffy that she wants to cheer up the room a bit, but Buffy points out that the mask looks like it wants the room to suffer. Joyce jokes that Buffy has no appreciation for primitive art. She notes Buffy holding her sweater in a deathgrip and asks after her going out. Buffy nervously wants to make sure it's okay for her to do so, straining the point for us that things are strained between them.
Joyce at first tries to delay her with food, and then offers to drive her but Buffy asks if she'd rather she just didn't go out, willing to stay home to make her mother feel better about their trying to put the missing summer behind them. Joyce recognizes that she's acting a bit smothering and tells her to go and have fun.
Commentary: This scene is well handled for what it is doing, which is to introduce the theme of this episode: Buffy's having run off without a word and the gang trying to surpress their disappointment and resentment at her for it.
And Buffy can't really help them out because she's still dealing with the Angel-to-Hell trauma and she's just not ready or able to explain what happened in those last few shattering minutes of BECOMING.
They're all going through this thing, but they can't connect with one another because they all want to pretend that nothing has changed.
On first watch, this particular scene seems a bit slow and unnecessary, but when you've watched the whole episode it's easier to appreciate how this tense air between Joyce and Buffy really showcases what this episode is focused on. The zombie summoning mask is incidental.
Scene 03: Buffy is walking along the streets of Sunnydale looking for Xan and Willow. She hears a loud bang of garbage cans from the back of some stores and goes into an alleyway to see what the issue is. There she sees a man walking suspiciously casually and rushes up to take him unawares.
I can tell just from his back that this is Xander. Buffy, apparently, cannot.
Buffy steps clumsily on an empty can, and Xan turns with a rebel yell [well, attempted] and tries to stake her, but is easily disarmed. He gets shocked face at seeing her standing there. Buffy hands it back with a jokey quip [and yes, it is one of the funny aneurism moments from the future]. The stake is one of those extra large ones that always look ridiculous.
Their reunion moment gets interrupted by a real vampire attack. After Buffy kicks the attacker into a set of cans against the wall, a female voice comes from a walkie talkie Xan is wearing at his waist asking for an update from "Nighthawk".
This particular vampire is a more gifted fighter than the usual and even Buffy seems to be struggling to keep up with his hand to hand moves. But from the darkness comes Willow, Cordy and Oz to assist. They yank him off of her and give her the opening to stake him. Mostly by distracting him by being shoved around and ending up in a heap on the ground.
Buffy gives them a "hey", while our team lay where they fell in their Monster Hunter regalia huffing and puffing. The Winchesters, our group still isn't.
We Have Credits
Scene 04: When we arrive back, the gang are standing with a nervous Buffy outside of Giles' apartment. Buffy is reticent at facing the music of her running off on her Watcher like that. Xand and Wills are not full of sympathy.
Xander, in particular here, is obvs quite a bit bitter about Buffy's action months prior [which is actually a character trait of Xan's; he's the one far more likely to ream Buffy out when she's disappointed him]. There is a tense moment when Giles and Buffy stare at one another, while Xander tries shabbily to lighten the mood. Rupert finally gives her a welcome home and invites her inside.
Scene 05: Moments later, Buffy and the gang are inside and Buffy is telling Giles that she got back a few hours ago, but wanted to see her mom first, which is understandable. Rupert goes off to answer the whistling tea kettle while Oz drops that Buffy's no longer wanted for Kendra's murder [uh... but about that 'resisting arrest', 'assaulting a cop', 'material witness to a felony murder'... hmmm... "LOOK OVER THERE, SHINY!!"].
Scene 06: In the kitchen [ew, why is that rusty water heater stuffed in the kitchen next to the stove??], Giles hears Buffy sharing a laugh with her friends. He takes a moment to gather himself from a close case of the happy-tears, before returning to the living room with the stiff upper-lippy.
Commentary: This is a really nice moment with Rupert, and Tony excels at giving a glimpse behind Rupert's seemingly casual attitude toward Buffy's missing/returning that he'll show the rest of them when he returns to the living room.
Scene 07: He sets down tea and cookies, but of course, he's the only one to actually take the tea. The gang goes straight for raiding the sweets. Cordy asks Buffy about where she was staying and if she lived in a box but Buffy deflects about long-story-tell-it-later-itis.
Xan pressures her to hit the highlights, but Giles suggests Buffy could use some time to settle herself back in before playing 1000 questions.
Xander changes the topic to their summer of Slayage in her absence and they're all very proud of themselves for their 60%-ish dusting rate among the vampires [which, actually is awfully good considering that not one of them ever actually practices fighting techniques or anything... ever...]. Only Cordelia is less than enthused, but that's only because she's objecting to the slaying outfit she picked out and wants to upgrade it to something more stylish.
Talk turns to Buffy getting back in the routine, starting with a low-key friend date. Xan begs off with Cordelia-plans, while Cordy doesn't exactly endorse that they had anything special going on. Willow also tries to beg off, citing homework but Buffy slightly pleads for a store browsing date, and Willow says sure. Giles then brings up her school-problem with that whole expelled thing, but she assures him that her mother has set up an appointment to meet with Snyder to smooth everything over.
Commentary: Buffy doesn't seem to notice her friends reticence here. I did, immediately. I was surprised when nobody suggested a night of Bronze-fun and thought it felt a bit of an odd ending to the scene. Later though, it makes perfect sense.
Scene 08: The following day, we're in Snyder's office where he's wearing a look of surprise and claims, "Absolutely not!"
Joyce is appalled by Snyder's intrasigence but he's more than proud to tell her that keeping Buffy out of SHS fills him with a pleasurable tingle of joy. Joyce is pissed. Snyder is happy. Buffy is uncomfortable.
Joyce threatens to take this subject all the way up to the mayor if she has to. As she's closing the door, Snyder pops a mint and suggests that would be an interesting turn of events. As we'll remember, Snyder's first call upon expelling Buffy was to the mayor's office.
Commentary: Armin is wonderful here in his snarky, creepy, bullying delivery. I found this whole short scene hilarious strictly due to his line delivery and face-acting. It's also, of course, building on our Mayor as Big Bad this season that was introduced with Snyder's gleefully reporting to one of the Mayor's assistants in BECOMING.
Scene 09: Joyce takes Buffy to the shopping district to drop her off for that browsing date she made with Willow. Joyce brings up possibly swinging private school, if Snyder refuses to budge. Buffy is appalled and suggests home schooling.
Scene 10: A while later, Buffy is left standing in front of the Espresso Pump with tinkly piano note... all alone... poor Buffy.
Willow is a no show. And here in the age before Sunnydale got cell phones. She's left waiting pathetically on an ugly steel bench, probably getting dirt all over her short, pink, flowery skirt.
Commentary: This being Sunnydale, Buffy doesn't immediately run home in a panic at Willow's uncharacteristic no-show to call her home and make sure she's alright... which would've been my first impulse. SUNNYDALE, Buffy -- Have you forgotten the constant mysterious deaths??
Scene 11: Buffy forlornly wanders up the walkway to her home, feeling ignored and forgotten by her best friend. There she meets, leaving her house, PAT. Apparently, Buffy's mother's new friend made shortly after she bailed. Joyce, to fill the time with something other than worry, joined a book club and became fast friends with PAT... I'm going to assume that PAT was the instigator and Joyce just found herself overwhelmed by this woman... who isn't a demon or evil witch, despite my suspicions.
PAT sunnily tells Buffy that she sort of took it upon herself to look after the distraught Joyce while Buffy was off on her sojourn. PAT excuses herself and sunnily jaunts off, after passive-aggressively pointing out how Joyce was left in a mess over the summer.
Commentary: And since it will be obvs how much irritation PAT causes, can I just take a quick mo' to give kudo to Nancy Lenehan. She does a very nice job of being just a little too perky and sunny while going out of her way to remind Buffy just how big she screwed over Joyce's head by running away like she did.
Scene 12: Buffy wanders into the kitchen, where Joyce is perusing her latest book club material. She tells Buffy that Willow did call to say she'd been held up. She next wonders if it might not be nice to invite her friends over for dinner as a gang the following evening. Buffy is stinging from Willow's no-show and the PAT encounter, so she's not immediately receptive to a big thing, but Joyce sorta already did it, so Buffy half-tries-to-smile and says it'll be fun.
Joyce sends Buffy to the basement for "company plates" despite Buffy suggesting that her friends are "normal plate" people.
Scene 13: In the basement, Buffy happens to find a picture that is on an old book shelf of her, Wills and Xander. She gets a few forlorn notes of regret over the distance between her and her friends.
Putting this aside, she reaches for the company plates and comes up with a falling dead cat scare.
Commentary: Yeah. Silly. Actually this wasn't really a dead cat scare, because it didn't actually startle in the way it should have. The dead cat prop looks a bit silly, the blood was a bit too fakey, there is no explanation offered for how a cat got into Joyce's basement and died without anyone smelling it and it felt really clumsy that a photograph [looking a bit too staged] managed to find its way onto a random shelf in the basement.
The whole scene is really awkward, and they're just plain overselling the emotional distance of Buffy from the gang. It's actually annoying me that they're trying so hard to manipulate me into feeling sorry for Buffy because her friends have gone on with their own lives while she was off and about, or what have you [oh, shut up PAT - get outta my head].
Scene 14: A short time later, and Buffy is digging a hole in the garden for the dead cat [with that shovel that they just used on us]. The hole isn't nearly deep enough to bury a thin pamphlet let alone a bag o' dead animal.
Joyce says a few words about the stray cat finding its way, which Buffy takes as a possible comment about her before she starts trying valiantly to fill in the shallow depression that is acting as a dead-cat burial-hole.
Commentary: Honestly. They couldn't secured permission to dig a decent hole from the homeowners? It's not like they couldn't just fill it in for them after filming. And if it was that big a deal, then why have this scene... they could've easily just reworked it a bit to focus on Joyce and Buffy's faces and talk about just burying the cat under the bushes.
This scene can't work because it's so badly done. Also, Sarah uses a shovel like someone in a skirt and heels trying not to mess up her outfit and nails, rather than a Slayer who has gotten used to messes, which just further undermines the silly scene.
Scene 15: That night, Buffy lies awake in her bed in the dark feeling out of place with more forlorn tune.
Commentary: Y'know, I didn't notice until now just how much time we're spending trying to make us realize that Buffy's feeling out of place and her friends aren't helping. We get it... HONESTLY, WE DO.
Please get on with it.
Scene 16: We skip on over to Joyce's bedroom, where we see her sleeping soundly. A slow pan takes us to the tribal mask hanging on the wall. It gives us some Red Eye Glow and a bit of Low Humming Buzz of Up To No Goodness.
Commentary: It's a general effect I would've expected to see during season 1, circa "I Robot, You Jane".
Scene 17: Outside in those bushes, we pan to the ground. To a scare chord, we see the quite dead cat break free of the ground and running off with lots of unpleased kitty mewls.
Scene 18: Elsewhere we see Buffy wandering into Sunnydale High during a sunny day. But the music, the utter emptiness of the place and the slightly off-kilter way the camera wanders in front of her tells us immediately that this is in dreamtime.
She checks in the library to find no one. Wandering out into the sunny courtyard, we see a completely empty place. Angel joins her. She mentions that she thought that her friends would be here and Angel assures her that they're waiting for her. Buffy half-recognizes that she may be dreaming, but Angel can neither confirm nor deny her speculation. Angel tells her that she better go, and Buffy tells him that she's afraid. He replies that she should be.
With this not-comfort, she wanders away from him. Behind her the school bell rings....
Scene 19: Where it merges with her alarm clock buzz waking her up.
Scene 20: In the kitchen, Buffy stands in front of the open fridge while Joyce tells her about making an appointment with the Sunnydale Schools Superintendant to discuss Buffy's case. In the meantime she's also gotten information on Ms. Porter's Private Girls School - just in case the SHS doesn't work out.
Buffy is super bratty and short tempered about being shunted off to an all-girl's school. Joyce puts down her coffee cup and tells Buffy that she made some bad choices and she just might have to deal with some real consquences.
It's about time.
Joyce goes on after this exchange to ask some pertinent questions like why Buffy can't tell just a few people like Snyder or the police about why she gets into the occurances that she does that might make it easier on her. As she's doing this and Buffy is giving her the "you just don't get it" looks, Joyce is grabbing the kitchen garbage to put in the trash can outside. When she opens the door, the dead kitty comes rushing in, startling them both with it's unceasing habit of growling/angry-wailing.
Commentary: I like scenes like this because this episode has really been laying it on thick that poor, little Buffy is being shunned by her friends, the school and is being overly smothered by her mother after the awful thing with Angel. It's trying way too hard to put Buffy in an innocent light and shove us to being on her side. We can get there all on our own, thanks -- we were there for the Angel debacle, after all. It makes me a little resentful toward the episode itself, because Joyce, Xander, Willow and Giles DO have a legitmate beef with Buffy having run off for the whole summer without a word as to where she went or if she was okay. They have a right to feel some resentment about it, especially when they aren't in on what exactly happened during that last battle with Angelus.
And, I'm not slamming Buffy here for not just telling them the story. She's not ready to face the emotions that are going to come with sharing what she had to do to Angel because of her suck-ass duty. But that doesn't take away the fact that the gang are not in the wrong for being pissed at her for disappearing on them. It also doesn't have anything to do with why Snyder kicked her out after a year and a half of constant fighting and skipping classes and ending up murder-adjacent [poor Kendra].
It's easy for us to take Buffy's side because we know everything, plus we also know that Snyder is working on behalf of the shady mayor.
But the episode is trying so hard to pretend that everyone around Buffy is being unreasonable, and that just isn't true based on what information they have to work with. Yes, Willow blowing off her shopping date with Buffy was pretty crappy-friend but it's not like she's committed a crime against humanity, there. If they really want me to be pissed at Willow for not being there to reconnect with Buffy, it's going to take more than one missed shopping trip -- and while Willow has obviously not rushed over to Buffy's house to see her in the meantime, I don't see Buffy going over to her house either.
This whole situation is not a Buffy's-right/everyone-else-is-unfair thing and the episode really needed to lighten up on trying to force us onto Buffy's side when we're already likely to be there without the prodding.
Scene 21: Later Buffy is welcoming Giles, who has an animal cage with him, to the Hellmouth Petting Zoo.
Scene 22: Giles grabs the kitty from under Joyce's footstool, with everyone grimacing about the stench coming off of the thing. Buffy quips that she wanted Forest Pine or April Fresh, but Joyce insisted on Dead Cat.
Rupert notices the mask and Joyce starts fan-gasming about her dealer who has wonderful collections of world art, but Buffy interrupts to tells Giles that they need to go into research mode, not boring art talk. Giles tells her she should stay and spend time with her mother, at first giving us the feeling that he's still smarting over Joyce calling him out for taking up Buffy's time behind her back, but it turns out that he's actually trying to put Buffy off because she's not allowed to go back to the library... or anywhere on school grounds as long as her expulsion is still in effect. Snyder was very clear on that point.
Scene 23: At the library, Oz is fascinated by the growling kitty zombie. Conversation turns to Buffy's welcome back dinner that evening, which after some wondering about what they're going to talk about when everyone wants to avoid Buffy's summer of missing, turns into plans for a loud-music, dancing and not-stuck-in-uncomfortable-silences kind of gathering.
Giles is busy flipping through a book which actually has the mask that Joyce has hanging on her wall, but because he isn't looking while he's Scooby-gabbing, he doesn't note it as he habitually turns through the pages.
Scene 24: That night, Buffy is laying out the guest dinner ware. With the doorbell, she nervously straightens her dress and answers, but she's a bit nonplussed to find PAT standing on the stoop. She doesn't wield a stake, alas.
PAT is there with her empanadas and makes small chat by assuring herself that Buffy isn't thinking of any more flights of fancy.
Buffy summons Joyce with a yell. Just in time for the doorbell to ring again, but it still isn't her friends. Rather, it's Dingoes and groupies asking where she wants them to set up, to her utter confusion.
Commentary: I find it a bit difficult to imagine that Giles, at the least, wouldn't call Joyce with a heads-up about what the gang is planning. I could accept the bad-form from the teenagers, but him... hmmm... questionable.
Scene 25: Later, Dingoes is rocking, Willow is proud-girlfriending, and Buffy's home is full of people she doesn't know. She wanders her house until she sees Willow. She tries to have a conversation with Willow about how the party is great and all, but she was really hoping that they could just find some time to talk. Willow plays the "I can't hear because we're right next to the band playing" pantomime. I'm not convinced that Willow isn't hearing exactly what she's saying and just doesn't know how to react and isn't ready herself to get into a deep discussion about how Buffy really disappointed her.
Buffy wanders away, before making up her mind again and coming back to drag Willow away from the Dingoes.
Scene 26: In a semi-quiet corner, Buffy tries to find out from Willow if they're okay. Willow says they're way okay, but her line delivery suggests that no, they are not. And it isn't lost on Buffy at how fast Wills extricates herself from the conversation to run back to the loud music where conversation isn't possible.
Scene 27: Upstairs in Joyce's room, the tribal mask gets it's glow-eyes on.
Scene 28: Across town, buzzing sounds over a scene of a pedestrian vs. car accident. Suddenly, the corpse opens its eyes. He sits up, and he's not a vampire.
Scene 29: Back at Buffy's, the party continues. Buffy tries to slip by a making out Xander and Cordelia. He calls to her and tells her about how happy they all are to have her back. Even Giles, even though he is still doing library time rather than being there. Cordelia agrees with the sentiment, but then tells Xander that she was kind of turned on though by his whole boy-Slayer look. They start making out again and giggling over his Night Hawk moniker.
Buffy quickly exits.
Scene 30: Upstairs, the glow-mask continues its summoning eye-glow.
Scene 31: In the ER, a burn victim is pronounced. But he reanimates to a nearby nurse's really bad day. She gets a neck snap [but strangely, we don't see her again as a zombie... or maybe a touch of fridge-brilliance -- with her neck snapped, she could be reanimated but unable to actually move her limbs].
The zombie goes for a stroll.
Scene 32: At the party, Buffy tries to clean up a bit obvs not into it all while a really handsome white-blond guy makes more of a mess by shoving popcorn into his mouth.
Nearby, two stoners discuss whose house this even is. One of our pair says he heard it was for some chick who just got out of rehab. Buffy is embarrassed.
Scene 33: In the kitchen meantime, PAT is introducing Joyce to schnapps and wheedling her about how she's doing with Buffy back from missing.
Joyce tells PAT that she thought a magic hug would fix everything once she got Buffy home, but now that she's there everything is still really awkward and it's almost worst.
Buffy naturally hears this last part and is devastated.
Commentary: And, I loathe this scripting. Joyce just wouldn't word her issues with Buffy this way, except to cause maximum emotional trauma to the overhearing Buffy. "It's worst than Buffy actually missing"?? No! No, she wouldn't have said that. She would've mentioned how must stress there is with Buffy trying to fit back in around the house and the problems with what to do about school but she wouldn't say that having her back is "in some ways worse" than having her missing.
That was more manipulation to force us to see Buffy as the victim of her callous family and friends and this isn't necessary. We are already sympathetic to Buffy without those closest to her being turned into bad guys for their very legitimate feelings about her running away and staying incommunicado for three months.
WE DON'T NEED A DESIGNATED BAD GUY IN THIS SITUATION.
Scene 34: Buffy rushes upstairs with the sniffles and pulls out her runaway-bag. She starts packing again [including the Dungarees Of Emotional Trauma].
Scene 35: In Joyce's bedroom, the mask continues summoning the dead. Outside, zombies stumble toward Joyce's house.
Scene 36: In the library, zombie kitty is pissy because it's still in the cage and the mask is trying to bring it back to Joyce.
In the meantime, Rupert is going back over his books now that the gang isn't there to distract him. He finds a description of Joyce's wallhanging and rushes to the phone to issue a warning.
Scene 37: At Buffy's, my white-blond stud wanders by. The phone rings. To Giles' growing frustration, he's stuck talking to stoner guy who has no idea who Buffy is and calls for anyone named Buddy to come and take the phone. He tells Giles he's outta luck and hangs up on him.
Scene 38: In Buffy's room, Willow has come looking for her. You can imagine the look on her face when she sees Buffy packing for another walkabout.
Buffy snottily says that no one would mind anyway but Willow starts showing that anger she's had about Buffy's leaving and tells her to have a good time, and to remember to not-write. Buffy can't understand why Willow's attacking her when she's trying but Willow says that her packing looks sorta like giving up.
Buffy accuses Willow of avoiding her so they couldn't talk about things, but Wills tells her that this isn't easy on her either because she's been going through things too. Buffy thinks she's talking about herself running off, but Willow clarifies that was only part of it. She's been having a difficult time wrapping her head around dating a werewolf and her magic use is taking her to scary places and Buffy wasn't there for her to talk about all of this life stuff with because she just ran out without a word.
Commentary: And of course, Aly tears up so she rocks this scene. But more importantly, you can see why this episode was wasting effort in trying to make this all about Buffy's feelings of abandonment on returning. Willow has a legitimate gripe here. They all do. I just don't understand why the episode was trying so hard to make the Scooby Gang and Joyce the bad guys when in my opinion there isn't any.
This is about the fallout of Buffy's decision to run away, but the episode seems to be contorting itself to make it about Buffy's not being instantly forgiven for being selfish [as far as the gang can tell -- they still don't know what happened or just how trauma inducing it was]. And this scene actually reinforces, for me, that Buffy is being too self-centered when she immediately assumes that Willow's only problem in life is all about her.
And yet, the script doesn't seem to notice that. So it makes this about everyone ganging up on poor Buffy instead of having a more even-handed view.
Scene 39: Out on the streets, Giles is rushing [sorta -- that car doesn't exactly 'rush' anywhere] to Buffy's. He's annoyed at Joyce for hanging unknown masks that raise the dead on her bedroom walls and consequently isn't watching the road. Which leads him to hitting a pedestrian!
Thankfully... or unfortunately... for Rupert, when he rushes from the car to check on his victim's condition he doesn't find a man about to sue him for everything he owns. But, he does find a clearly already dead, animated corpse. Who is just as angry over that being run over thing as anyone would be.
Rupert gets into a wrestling match as a few more stumblers close in on him.
Scene 40: Back with Buffy, she's trying to tell Willow that she wanted to call them everyday, but Willow doesn't think that makes up for not actually doing it. But as the best friends are working on their issues, Joyce wanders in still tipsy from her Adventures in Drinking With PAT.
She's instantly pissed at seeing Buffy's runaway bag sitting on the bed with clothes in it [as she should be].
Joyce tells her that she can't just think she's going to run off whenever she feels like it, but Buffy's all discombobulated now and rushes out of the room, admitting that she doesn't know what she's doing. Willow and Joyce follow.
Scene 41: Downstairs, in the worst place and circumstances for it, Joyce finally tells Buffy that she's not going anywhere. As everyone stares in discomfort at the sudden scene, Joyce shouts at Buffy for the hell that she put her through. Buffy turns the argument on Joyce by reminding her about the ultimatum she issued [which I've already explained elsewhere is horseshit and why... Buffy's running away had nothing to do with Joyce or her drunken ultimatum, this was Buffy's choice because of Angel-trauma and nothing more -- everything else is an excuse to justify her actions].
Xander starts to weigh-in on what Buffy put first Joyce through and then all of the rest of them by her selfish action. Buffy admits that she screwed up, but hints at the Angel-trauma as the reason she had to ditch [but which doesn't explain why she couldn't drop a dime for three months] but Xan asks why she couldn't talk to any of them about it instead. Buffy says there wasn't anything that they could do, it was something she had to handle on her own.
Xan accuses her of burying things that are just going to come back and get her later [owtch... horribly clumsy scripting].
Commentary: So, we've addressed Willow and Joyce. Let's take a second to look over Xander, here. His anger is palpable and he usually comes in for about the same amount of hate as Joyce for "attacking" Buffy. Personally, I'm far more ready to stand on everyone else's side on this one: Xander really comes across as butting in and really is "attacking" in ways that I don't agree with for Joyce or Willow.
This is a horrible place for this conversation, but I can forgive Joyce for choosing it because she's right in that Buffy was trying to leave... again... instead of talking to her mother and Joyce has already put up with a lot of shit from Buffy and by extension Rupert over this Slayer business that still hasn't been thoroughly explained to her by her daughter where the explanations should be coming from.
I'm much less forgiving of Xander for throwing logs on the fire here, instead of either keeping his mouth shut until things calm down and Buffy's is ready to talk to him in a much less emotionally charged circumstance, or to at least try to calm things down a bit. It's obvious that he's allowing his own anger to lash out here at Buffy, but this isn't the place to be adding to the tension and it does come across as everyone starting to pile on in the most humiliating of circumstances.
I still think that Xan has every right to be angry at Buffy and to let her know it -- just not here and not now.
Scene 42: Outside, the zombie that Giles hit is trying to kill him. Rupert kicks him off and makes it back to his car, but he notices his keys are left on the ground. As the zombies try to punch their way through the windows to get at him, he's left to try to hot wire his car fast enough to get out of there before they get to him.
Scene 43: Back at Buffy's, she's shouting down Xander for not being the sort of friend she could've gone to because he'd always made his feelings about her and Angel perfectly clear. He sarcastically tells her that he's sorry her boyfriend was a demon but that she didn't have to hop a greyhound out of town over some boy trouble.
Cordelia steps in to tell him to chill out and argues on Buffy's behalf.
Of course she does it in a Cordy-way: "I'm Buffy, freak of nature" "Naturally I pick a freak for a boyfriend" "It's pretty much my fault that he turns into a killer"...
This leaves Buffy to tearily beg her to step back out of her shoes, to Cordelia's confusion because she was trying to help. Things quickly turn more nasty between Xander and Buffy as he calls her an idiot and she points out his whole stupid Night Hawk persona. Oz, now not liking where things are going, tries to step in to dial things down a notch. Willow calls him off, stating that talking isn't helping so they may as well try a little intra-Scooby violence.
Alas, the zombies don't get the intra-Scooby thing or the sense of sarcasm that Willow delivered her lines with. They bust in through the picture window and start immediately attacking the party guests who didn't have the good taste to leave when it became obvious the party was well and truly over.
Stoner Guy gets his comeuppance for not trying harder to find "Buddy" when Giles needed to talk to Buffy.
Scene 44: In the meantime, Xan and Cordy have retreated to the kitchen to guard Buffy's back from that quarter where Burn Victim has come crashing through the door window. He keeps pummeling with a fire poker Buffy had tossed to him and Cordy tries stabbing with uh, something but being a zombie it won't stop coming.
Meanwhile, meanwhile PAT is watching from a corner in the hallway. She gets face-grabbed and hauled away.
In the kitchen, Xan complains that the guy wobbles, but he won't fall down [referencing Weeble Wobbles].
Scene 45: In the living room, the gang wrestle a zombie out of the front door [which strikes me as useless since they did come through the window, which is now wide open]. Even Devon gets in on the zombie wrestling this time out [but I think he should be killed for wearing those shoes without socks].
Buffy shouts for help from Xander at the front door to keep it closed. He sends Cordelia while he's busy tying the limbs of kitchen zombie.
Scene 46: At the front door, the zombie punches through and grabs at Oz sending everyone running upstairs.
There they find PAT lying on the floor. They help drag her into Joyce's bedroom, as she starts to come around.
Scene 47: Back at the front door, Cordelia is trying to help yank Oz from the zombie's grip. They break him free, but aren't able to get up the stairs... both take off toward the rear of the house.
Scene 48: Upstairs, Buffy and Xander try to keep the door closed against a banging zombie but he manages to hit the door hard enough to send Xander across the room. The zombie's strength is enough to keep Buffy from slamming the door shut.
In the meantime, Joyce and Willow discover that whatever happened to PAT, she's no longer coming around -- she's dead.
They abandon PAT near the glow-eyed, buzzing Zombie Mask to join Buffy and the returning Xander at the bedroom door trying to keep rampaging zombie out.
Commentary: I can't help but notice that Xander is looking particularly good in those jeans.
Scene 49: Downstairs in complete darkness, we hear Cordy say she no longer hears anything and maybe they should check. Oz opens a door and we find out they'd hid in a closet. Cordy grabs a pair of ski poles to use a weapons while they recon the downstairs. Above their heads they can hear the battle at the bedroom door in progress.
They run into Giles. He gives exposition about the zombie mask summoning the dead to wear it. The first dead dude to get the mask on becomes an incarnation of a minor demon.
Scene 50: In Joyce's bedroom, that one zombie is kicking some major ass on our heroes. This allows the reanimated PAT to grab the summoning mask and put it on. She becomes the worldly incarnation of Ovu Mobani.
The attacking zombie immediately drops to its knees and bows and scrapes before its new lord. Ovu and Willow stare at one another for a moment, allowing Ovu Mobani to reveal its awesome power -- a flashbulb effect that causes the receiver to be stunned immobile for a minute. Just long enough to be killed and added to its ranks of zombie servants. It also has enough strength to back hand Buffy into flying across the room and lay stunned for a moment on the carpet.
It flashbulbs first Buffy, and then Willow. When it tries to snap Wills neck, Buffy sends both herself and the demon out of Joyce's bedroom window and into the yard below with a diving tackle.
Scene 51: On the staircase, Giles, Cordy and Oz hear the battle move from upstairs to the back yard. They reverse course, but a zombie grabs Giles by the throat, delaying them.
Commentary: This bugs me. I just don't see these three playing the Scooby Doo Sneak Step up the staircase when they know that their freinds and Buffy are fighting for their lives. It makes zero sense to me that they wouldn't have already rushed up to the second floor to help out, especially after Giles informs them how important it is that none of the zombies get a hold of that power mask.
But then again, I also had problems with the earlier scene where Willow rushes upstairs with Buffy, Joyce and Xander while leaving Oz fighting for his life at the front door. That also seemed highly unlikely to me, though I was obvs willingly overlooking it since I didn't mention it then.
Scene 52: Outside, Buffy is repeating to herself not to look at Ovu Mobani's face while also looking for a weapon.
Scene 53: In Joyce's bedroom, the attacker zombie has gotten his second wind now that Ovu isn't terrifying him. Joyce joins Xander and Willow in pummelling it.
Scene 54: In the backyard, Buffy gets tackled but shields her eyes from the flashbulb effect and kick Mobani off of her.
Scene 55: At the staircase, Giles sends Oz to jump over the railing and get a message to Buffy that Ovu's power lies in its eyes. The zombie continues trying to press forward to grab Giles while Cordy stands with looks of revulsion and Giles holds it off with Oz' ski pole.
Scene 56: Outside, Buffy grabs a shovel but she gets flashed stunning her immobile. Oz' fortunate arrival and yell causes Ovu to turn and give him an eyeful of white light. But it also breaks Buffy free of her immobile stun.
She calls to PAT, and plants the shovel through her eyes. This has the convenient effect of disintegrating both Ovu Mobani's new body and all of the raised zombies without a trace.
Scene 57: In the aftermath, Joyce rushes to find Buffy and throw her arms around her. Everyone else is relieved to see no more dead bodies stinking up the place.
The Scoobies come together and all is forgiven.
Scene 58: The following day, Rupert stops in on Snyder. They exchange words about Buffy's readmittance which Snyder has no intention of doing despite Giles' arguments that legally there isn't any way for him to keep her expelled. Snyder tells him he's not convinced.
Rupert pulls out a bit of Ripper and asks if Snyder would like him to start convincing....
Scene 59: Meanwhile, at the Espresso Pump Buffy and Willow are finally having their coffee date. Buffy apologizes for not being there for Willow during her scary adventures in beginning witchcraft, but Willow says it's all fine. She relays that she has to make allowances for what Buffy is going through and be the adult.
Buffy gets a smile and accuses her of really enjoying this moral superiority thing of hers. Willow agrees with a grin that it's like a drug.
They quickly fall into a series of playful insults at one another, proving that their relationship is truly okay.
Commentary: And because it is Sarah and Aly together, the scene both sparkles and is extremely amusing... much more so than the scripting would suggest. These two being cute together can really elevate everything in the simplest scenes. I really liked exiting the episode on their hurling insults at one another while both are grinning smartassedly at each other. It was a nice note after all of the arguing earlier.
The Good: First, I do like that we're getting an episode where everyone is still dealing with their resentment at Buffy for running off. I think it was a good choice not to have everyone just blow off that she was missing without a word all summer. And, I also like that the fallout from BECOMING in relation to Snyder wasn't just forgotten instantly.
That moment in Giles' kitchen after Buffy first returns is magic, thanks to ASH.
Armin Shimmerman's Snyder is awesome.
I really loved all of the scenes when it's just Buffy and Willow talking with one another for ill or good. Sarah and Aly both do fine jobs with their strained relationship in the middle of the episode and then their rebonding in the last scene.
The Bad: I really resented the obvious script-view pummeling us with Buffy's "innocence" in the face of her friends' neglect, while apparently discounting everything that they were put through in not knowing what happened to her or if she was even left alive after battling Angelus.
Scene 13 and 14 is just badly awkward and it didn't actually add enough to the episode to be necessary.
I hate that scene with PAT and Joyce in the kitchen designed to have Joyce say the stupidest thing possible for Buffy to overhear. It was clumsy, but worst, it was scripted in a way that no normal person would phrase things in order to make us feel sorry for Buffy one more time and push us toward the confrontation the Scoobies need to have with her.
Other Thoughts: The episode in general has an issue with pacing. As you can see by the review, I've included 59 scene changes -- that is an insane number for a 42 minute episode. It has the effect of tricking the brain into thinking the episode is running on longer than it actually is, despite none of the scenes being truly excruciating or anything.
The one thing I didn't like about dealing with the aftermath is how Buffy is escaping scrutiny for resisting arrest and assaulting that cop in the school hallway. It doesn't make sense that the Mayor wouldn't be all over pressing that issue considering he was very interested in Snyder kicking Buffy out of school. I'll not place it in the bad, but I do find it too oddly convenient.
I've mixed feelings on the handling of PAT. Obviously, we were supposed to dislike her as a buttinski in the Summers home and that did work for what it was, but it also felt a little too over the top in order to justify the fact that later Joyce is going to completely blow off the death of her fast friend. We're not meant to bond with her either so that we don't notice that no body seems all that concerned about her murder, as if she's only a dayplayer even though she's getting more screen time than that [she's being treated like Stoner Guy, but her role is a little too meaningful to Joyce for that to entirely work].
I've also got mixed feelings about Ovu Mobani. Obvs, the demon threat isn't the point of the episode but the issue lies in that he's not treated as a subplot, either. His mask and the impact of zombies returning are given too much screen time for it to be a background effect, but not enough screen time to actually develop any interest. This would've worked better with less time spent on watching it's glow-eyes and seeing various extras stumbling about. Since the point of this episode was in Buffy's tension-filled return, we should've really treated the Mask and the demon as a subplot - giving it the minimal screen time that it required to get the pieces in place for the showdown while focusing on the relationships among the Scoobies more. I would've especially liked a scene where Buffy did go to Willow's house, only to have no one answer followed by her going to Xander's but have him rushing out to meet with Cordelia. I'd also have liked a scene with just Willow and Xander talking to one another about how it's weird to have Buffy suddenly back like nothing happened and not being sure whether they should ignore that she left for the summer or whether it would be better if they had a Scooby Meeting to get it out on the table.
The Score: This episode strikes me as really average, mostly because of the pacing issues caused by too many scene jumps which always drags things down. But, it also has the problem of putting too much emphasis on the boring zombie-stuff when the real meat and potatoes of the episode is the Scooby Gang and Buffy dealing with the consequences of BECOMING's aftermath.
3.0 out of 5 stars
Next Up: Supernatural's "HOME".