In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will finish Hemlock Grove and sit there for an hour going, “What the hell did I just watch?” She will also recap every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with an eye to the following themes:
- Sex is the real villain of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe.
- Giles is totally in love with Buffy.
- Joyce is a fucking terrible parent.
- Willow’s magic is utterly useless (this one won’t be an issue until season 2, when she gets a chance to become a witch)
- Xander is a textbook Nice Guy.
- The show isn’t as feminist as people claim.
- All the monsters look like wieners.
- If ambivalence to possible danger were an Olympic sport, Team Sunnydale would take the gold.
- Angel is a dick.
- Harmony is the strongest female character on the show.
- Team sports are portrayed in an extremely negative light.
- Some of this shit is racist as fuck.
- Science and technology are not to be trusted.
WARNING: Some people have mentioned they’re watching along with me, and that’s awesome, but I’ve seen the entire series already and I’ll probably mention things that happen in later seasons. So… you know, take that under consideration, if you’re a person who can’t enjoy something if you know future details about it.
The episode opens with Cordelia and Harmony strolling the hall with some random guy who has his arm around Cordelia. They’re talking about the Spring Fling dance that’s coming up, and how Cordelia is having her dress specially made. And I have this painful and crushing memory of what a bitch I was in high school, when I had my prom dress specially made to copy one that Nicole Kidman wore in Vogue, because I thought I was that damn special. With the money I spent on it, I probably could have bought someone else a dress and a prom ticket. God, teen me sucked.
Anyway, the guy walking with Cordelia says she should wear a dress that’s blue like her eyes, and Cordy points out that her eyes are hazel. She also calls him Helen Keller, and I’m like, “No, Cordy! Bad Cordy!” and I smack her cute little nose with a rolled up newspaper.
Ever the sycophant, Harmony is quick to tell Cordelia and this dude that they’re going to look awesome when Cordy is May Queen. Cordelia is trying to downplay her chances, in a really phony, self-gratifying way when Buffy spills her ass into frame. You know, for a slayer, she’s kind of clumsy, isn’t she? I mean, she can do all this cool arial kick fighting shit, but this is at least the second time she’s tripped and spilled all her weapons out.
Is there no zero tolerance policy on this sort of thing at Sunnydale High?
I went to high school the same time Buffy did, and while I was once allowed to bring a no-shit-totally-real sword to school with me for a class presentation, I had to jump through some major hoops and get a lot of warnings about discipline and trust before it happened. They were the same talks everyone would get if they wanted to bring a knife to cut a birthday cake or something, so I’m pretty sure a morning star and an axe and shit would be covered in the student handbook somewhere. No one thinks it’s odd that this girl carries around a purse full of weapons at all time? And that she careens dangerously into other students with it? Nobody is noticing this?
#8, Sunnydale. Come on.
Anyway, Buffy is eager to point out how not at all weird this situation is:
Buffy: “You’re probably wondering what I’m doing with this stuff, huh?”
Cordelia: “Wow! I’m not.”
Buffy: “Uh, for history class. Mr. Giles has this, like, hobby of collecting stuff, which he lent me… for… show-and-tell. Did I mention it was for history class?”
If anyone in Sunnydale isn’t guilty of #8, it’s Harmony, who says:
Harmony: “She is always hanging with that creepy librarian in that creepy library.”
Unfortunately, I’m betting money that Harmony isn’t creeped by inappropriate student/teacher relationships, just the fact that Buffy seems to have an interest in knowledge and learning. Still, she shows more self-awareness of the situation than any of the faculty members or Buffy’s own mom.
Cordy, the random dude, and Harmony all walk off laughing at Buffy and the time she attacked Cordelia at The Bronze, and Buffy looks all dejected and hopeless.
In English class, Cordelia answers a question about The Merchant of Venice by calling Shylock self-involved and too wrapped up in his own oppression to see the pain of other, less oppressed people. Did I mention she’s saying this to a woman of color? Because she’s saying it to a woman of color, who appears to be not real impressed:
Just hang in there. You’ll have tenure soon.
Cordelia even throws in a personal anecdote to prove her point:
Cordelia: “People who think their problems are so huge craze me. Like this time I sort of ran over this girl on her bike. It was the most traumatizing event of my life, and she’s trying to make it about her leg. Like my pain meant nothing.”
You want to imagine something wretched? There are probably people who were like, “Yeah, right on!” when they watched this for the first time. Probably the same people who agree with Spike and Giles on the subject of Native American oppression in season four.
But we’ll get there.
The teacher looks super relieved when the bell rings, but when Cordelia approaches her to talk about her final paper, the teacher congratulates her on her “good observations” in class, and Willow does the most epic background eye-roll ever caught on film:
Just looking at that makes my eyes hurt.
Cordelia sets up an appointment for the next day with the teacher, and leaves class to catch up with Harmony. The good news is, Cordelia’s dress is ready. The bad news is, she lives on the Hellmouth and says, “Mitch is going to die,” in the context that Mitch is going to be excited about the dress. Mitch is the random guy from before, I guess. Right after Cordelia signs his death warrant, we cut to Mitch showering in the locker room. Oh my god, you guys, seriously? In the locker room again? We’ve had a dead dude fall out of a locker, a student almost fatally electrocuted, another student murdered in a vicious heart-stealing attack… at what point is the school going to wise up and not allow students in there unsupervised, or just brick up the door altogether?
As Mitch gets dressed, his buddies tease him about looking good for Cordelia at the Spring Fling dance, and he makes a joke about wanting to get on her. So basically, he’s a douchey jock who’s looking to get into Cordelia’s pants, and that’s all we really care to learn about him before he’s left alone with the chilling sound of derisive female laughter, and then a possessed baseball bat attacks him, seemingly on its own.
Admittedly, the spooky invisible effect is somewhat diminished when you know someone is holding the bat just off camera.
In the hall, Cordelia explains her new campaign strategy to Harmony. She’s handing out chocolates with a C on them, in the hopes it will sway people’s votes for May Queen. She offers one to Buffy, then takes it back, saying she doesn’t need the “looney fringe” vote. We will talk about mental illness in the Buffyverse later. Buffy serves up an uncharacteristically subpar comeback, saying she doesn’t even like chocolate. Xander and Willow come to Buffy’s locker and launch into a meeting of the We Hate Cordelia club, which involves much sputtering laughter and in-jokes about hats, which Buffy can’t really join in, since she just came to the school this year. To cheer Buffy up, Xander says:
Xander: “What kind of moron would want to be May Queen, anyway?”
And Buffy looks like this:
How did the Sad Keanu meme take off, but not the Sad Buffy meme?
Buffy is just a little annoyed when she tells Xander and Willow that she was May Queen at her old school. Only they didn’t call it May Queen. But she did get to wear a crown and be the most popular, and it’s clearly bothering her that those days are over.
But screw Buffy’s inner angst! The really important part of this scene is LOOK AT WHAT WILLOW IS HOLDING IN HER HAND!
I loved those! Do they even make those anymore? I really want one now. I want a four pack, actually, because I could drain those suckers in three seconds flat. Literally the only thing that held back my time was the suction in the bottle that kept the liquid from coming out fast enough.
A student runs down the hall alerting everyone to the fact that Mitch got beaten up. Cut to Principal Snyder calling the kids a bunch of ghouls for expecting Mitch to be dead. Excuse me, Principal Snyder? You’ve been here for three episodes and two kids have already died on your watch. Why is it outside of the realm of possibility that someone could be dead now?
This entire episode, by the way, is one big ball of #8, so I hope you like numbers with round, sensuous curves, everybody.
As they wheel Mitch out on a gurney, Buffy asks him what happened. He explains that a floating bat beat him up, and Buffy announces with pretty much no subtlety at all that she’s going to go poke around the crime scene. Which, of course, Snyder overhears, leading to this exchange:
Snyder: “Where do you think you’re going?”
Buffy: “Um, Mitch wanted me to get his comb. He- He likes his comb.”
Snyder: “I don’t think Mitch needs his comb right now. I think Mitch needs medical attention, and you need to stay away from the crime scene. Always sticking your nose in.”
Man, the Buffster is really not on her game this episode. I mean, of course she was going to get caught. Look how close she was to Snyder when she said she was going to go check out the scene:
Dude, Buffy, he is riiiiiight there!
Does anyone else feel like Buffy was massively out of character in this episode? We’re like seven minutes in, and she’s already fallen down and dropped all of her weapons, failed at an insult, and broadcast that she’s going to tamper with a crime scene in front of the principal she’s trying to hide her secret identity from. The only episode where she’s more inexplicably out of it is season 4’s “Superstar,” and that was for plot reasons.
Willow loudly exclaims that she overheard Mitch saying he was going to sue the school, which gets Snyder off Buffy’s back just long enough for her to sneak away to the locker room. There, she finds the bat used to beat up Mitch, because the Sunnydale police are not great at their jobs.
We couldn’t find an evidence bag big enough, so we decided to close the case.
Even if the paramedics were the first on the scene, they would have made sure the bat didn’t just get left lying around. It’s evidence in a crime, because remember, no one in Sunnydale seems concerned about the fact that they have monsters and vampires and shit running around everywhere.
Buffy checks out the lockers nearby, and- after a brief Vanna White impersonation- discovers someone has graffitied “LOOK” onto them.
“Yes, there are two o’s on the board.”
In the cafeteria, the core four try to figure out what’s up with their latest spooky fest.
Giles “It’s a bit of a puzzle, really. I’ve never actually heard of anyone attack by a lone baseball bat before.”
Xander: “Maybe it’s a vampire bat.”
And this is the response he gets:
Whatever, Xander. I thought your pun was masterful. You combined my love of grisly murder and my love of baseball in a way a baseball bat normally couldn’t. Or… no, you know what, baseball bats can do the grisly murder on their own, can’t they? Especially in Sunnydale.
Giles suggests a few options. Either the bat is possessed, someone is pulling a Carrie, or they’ve got an angry ghost on their hands. Though I’m not sure how angry a ghost you would have to be to give in to the temptation of beating Mitch nearly to death. He gave off a real date-rapey frat jock vibe. If I were a ghost, I’d probably have taken a few swings at him.
Buffy tells Willow that compiling a list of dead and missing students would be a good start. Yeah, Willow, get right on that, and in forty years when you’re done, we’ll pick up the investigation. Giles asks Xander to help with research, but Xander isn’t keen on doing anything extracurricular with regards to vampire slaying. He says he wants Buffy’s job of asking around to find out what happened to Mitch, but when she points out he’d have to talk to Cordelia, somehow Giles starts to look like the better option.
In that cool outside upstairs hallway thing Sunnydale has, Harmony finds Cordelia and asks her why she wasn’t in fifth period. Cordelia says she went to the hospital to see Mitch, and when Harmony asks if he’ll be okay, Cordelia says:
Cordelia: “Well, the doctor says he’ll be fine. They’re gonna send him home tomorrow, but you should have seen him lying there, all black and blue. How’s he gonna look in our prom pictures? How am I ever going to be able to show them to anyone?”
So, once again, Cordelia isn’t concerned about someone else’s suffering, just how it affects her. Mitch was beaten and terrorized by a bat-wielding poltergeist, and Cordelia is just worried he’ll embarrass her with his terrible face. Just as Harmony comforts her about the wonders of airbrushing, we’re invited into a grainy flashback wherein Cordelia tells Harmony of her plans to date Mitch if he makes the varsity baseball team. Then we hear someone (from the POV of the camera) say hello to them, only to be cruelly rebuffed for daring to speak to them. Then we resume the scene the flashback interrupted. Buffy stops Cordelia at the top of the stairs and asks to talk to her, and Harmony is about to deliver some scathing verbal beat down when an unseen force pushes her down the stairs.
Okay, let’s leave poor Harmony falling down the stairs a minute to talk about something I feel is important. I know we’ve discussed how BtVS isn’t the icon of feminist television it gets credit for being, and there are underlying themes that really squick me out now that I’m older and, if not wiser, at least slightly less ignorant than I used to be, BUT. Harmony’s friendship with Cordelia is a part of the show I really like. Yes, Harmony joins in with Cordelia to bully people, and later she turns on her, but in the first and second seasons, we see Harmony being a caring and supportive friend to Cordy, even when she doesn’t deserve it. Should Harmony tell Cordelia to suck it up, at least she didn’t get beaten nearly to death? Well, Harmony can’t, because she’s just as selfish and short-sighted as Cordelia, but that’s beside the point. As crappy as she treats everyone who isn’t in her social sphere, Harmony displays actual care and concern for Cordelia in this episode, and this lays the groundwork for our #10.
Where were we?
Oh yeah, right.
As Buffy and Cordelia rush to Harmony’s aid, Snyder comes up and sees just another potential lawsuit on his hands. Cordelia insists that Harmony just fell down the stairs, but Harmony swears she was pushed. The same disembodied laughter from the locker room can be heard again, but only Buffy seems to hear it. She follows it up the stairs and sees a door closing as if it had been opened by no one at all. Inside the room, Buffy collides with something she can’t see. She investigates further, stepping into the band room, where we see a ceiling tile lifting up. Buffy calls out to whoever is there and promises she isn’t there to hurt them, she just wants to talk.
Outside the school, these two super cool characters are hanging out, trying to blend:
Everyone notices Agent Smith over there, right?
Buffy, Willow, Xander and Giles don’t notice them, because they’re busy talking about ghosts. Buffy doesn’t think it was a ghost, she thinks it’s an invisible girl, due to the laughter and the fact they physically collided.
Giles: “A girl on campus with the ability to become invisible.”
Xander: “That is so cool!”
Xander: “Well yeah, I would give anything to be able to turn invisible. I wouldn’t use my powers to beat people up. I’d use my powers to protect the girls’ locker room.”
Giles: “It must be a fairly heady experience. Having that ability.”
I’m almost hesitant to point out that Xander’s willingness to spy on unwitting and unwilling girls as they change is a perfect example of the Nice Guy belief that women are objects who owe it to men to be on display, and the cultural expectation that young men should be excused for this belief because it’s “funny.” On the other hand, someone really does need to do something about the killer locker rooms at Sunnydale high. So, #5, but he brings up a good point.
I’m in agreement with Xander that another student having a super power does seem cool. After all, he doesn’t know the reason why yet. He shocks the rest of the Scooby gang with some trivia about cloaks of invisibility in Greek myth- and not Harry Potter, because Harry Potter didn’t exist yet. Wrap your mind around that for a second. The gang realizes that the two people hurt so far had something to do with Cordelia, so the invisible girl must have a beef with her. Xander and Willow leave, and Giles tells Buffy that he’ll look up ways to make invisible people visible again. Um, Giles? Paint. Chalk dust. Glitter. These are things off the top of my head that would make an invisible person visible, and you can probably get all of these inside the school.
There’s a writing thing. Try not leave an obvious solution to a problem just hanging out there. Either give your readers a reason to think it won’t work, or at least have them discuss it as an option.
Here’s another thing not to do:
Buffy: “I think Cordelia’s going to be working on her May Queen dress tonight. Maybe there’ll be some action.”
Okay, in a previous scene we’ve already been told in a bit of incidental dialogue that Cordelia’s dress is finished. And also, that someone else was making it. And Cordelia is not the Molly Ringwald, make-my-own-dress-for-prom kind of quirky girl. So what does she have to work on?
The whole thing seems to be a convenient excuse for the next scene, in which Buffy looks wistfully through a window at Cordelia and her friends… well, I’m not sure what they’re doing.
What is she doing with that mobile? Is Cordy gonna wear that?
I’m 100% certain this scene is a call back to Buffy and her friends making the decorations for the dance in the movie. I’m also certain that all it does here is to remind us that Buffy used to be popular and she isn’t anymore. In a season three episode, this conflict arises again, when Buffy fights with Cordelia for homecoming queen. But here, it’s kind of forced, since in the context of the lines we heard before, there’s really nothing for Cordelia to do with her dress (“she’ll be making decorations for the dance tonight,” would have made more sense, since that’s a thing popular kids seem to be involved in), and it doesn’t make sense for Cordelia to be working on a dress at school, anyway. That’s the kind of thing you do at home, where the sewing machine is.
The scene is really there just to remind the viewer of Cordy’s popularity and Buffy’s lack of it. But it’s not a totally necessary reminder, and there was no reason for it to be so clumsily shoehorned into the episode.
Wandering away, Buffy hears a flute playing. In the library, Giles hears it, too, and is, I presume, afraid of being beaten to death by an invisible student armed with heavy occult books. He catches sight of his reflection in a glass-fronted cupboard:
And when he turns around, he sees:
So, vampires don’t cast a reflection in the Buffyverse. What a cool way to introduce that.
It’s also a cool way of re-introducing the audience to Angel, who has been MIA for a while but is an important part of the next episode in the season arc.
Giles is obviously afraid of Angel, a detail I didn’t pick up the first few times I watched this season. Probably because I was like, “OMG ANGEL OMG VAMPIRE!” and I wasn’t really paying attention to the rest of the scene. But it makes sense that as a Watcher, Giles would be afraid of Angel in a way the other Scoobies wouldn’t be. After all, he’s read all the Watcher diaries and he knows what vampires are capable of. It’s something that doesn’t entirely go away through the rest of the series, and it’s one of those things that the viewer takes for granted, but it adds another level of realism to the world. World building and character building doesn’t have to smack you in the face, it can be subtle and in the background, and sometimes that’s more effective.
Giles asks Angel if he’s there to see Buffy, but Angel says it’s too difficult for him to see her, on account of the whole vampire/Slayer thing, and Giles thinks it’s poetic for a vampire to be in love with a Slayer. Which seems like a weird stance for a Watcher to have; after all, the point of being a Watcher is to protect the Slayer from, you know… vampires. I could see a line about the tragic romance of it all coming from Willow, though.
Angel warns Giles that something big is going on with The Master, and asks him basically how current he is on Slayer lore. Giles says he’s studied everything he could, but some of the most important books about Slayers and slaying have been lost. He names a few, and Angel tells him that one still exists, The Codex, and he can get it. And for a minute, dear reader, I swear Giles is going to straight up mouth kiss Angel. You really have to watch the scene to get the full effect, but the second Angel is like, “I’m going to bring you this super rare book,” Giles turns into this giggling, stuttering school girl parody of himself. So, if you’re a vampire and you need to win over a Watcher, I guess books help.
Angel notices one of the books Giles is carrying and they start talking about the invisible girl tormenting the school. Giles says he finds the idea fascinating, and Angel points out how depressing it is to look into a mirror and never see anything in it. Which, I guess it would be. Perhaps that’s a part of the dehumanizing and disassociating between the demon component of the vampires and their human souls in the Buffyverse; they no longer see who they are, so they forget who they are. Which begs the question, how does Angel get his hair to look so perfect, then?
The line is a nice segue to the next scene, a flashback where this girl is looking in the mirror:
Cordelia comes into the bathroom, talking to Harmony and another friend:
Cordelia: “God! I am never sitting through another one of those alumni lectures again! Two hours of ‘My trek through Napal.’ Hello, there is nobody caring.”
Bathroom mirror Girl: “Did you guys see his toupee? I mean, it looked like a cabbage.”
Cordelia: “And those slides? ‘That’s a mountain. That’s a mountain, too. Now look at some mountains.'”
Harmony: “I swear, he had three slides and just used them over and over.”
Bathroom mirror girl: “I know, but did you see his toupee? I mean, it was like, the worst.”
Harmony: “We’re talking, okay?”
Cordelia: “Oh, and did you guys check out that extreme toupee? Yeah, that’s realistic. It looked like a cabbage.”
Why did Cordelia steal that joke? That joke wasn’t even funny. The dude is a mountain climber who went to Nepal and now does inspirational speaking. There is tons of material there. For example, right off the top of my head:
- Did he steal that toupee from the Yeti?
- What’s that toupee made out of, a Sherpa’s back hair?
- A toupee? Why? Did you have to amputate your comb-over when it got frostbite?
- Did you spend A Night on Bald Mountain? (And come on, invisible girl is a band geek, why didn’t she immediately go for that one?
The bathroom girl looks after the other girls adoringly as they leave, but finding herself alone again, her expression sours.
In the courtyard, in the present, Snyder is declaring Cordelia May Queen, and of course, she takes the whole thing super humbly:
Cordelia: “Being this popular is not just my right, but my responsibility.”
Xander and Willow make little, “Oh, Cordelia” faces as they pass through the courtyard to find Buffy, who’s watching the whole May Queen presentation go down. She believes Cordelia is the key to whatever is going on. Willow gives Buffy the list of dead and missing students, which is multiple pages. Because Sunnydale. #8
Willow sees the two MIB lurking around the school and asks if Cordelia had hired a bodyguard. Buffy is reading the list of names and mentions that a Marcie Ross disappeared six months ago. Neither Willow nor Xander knew her, and her only activity was band. She also just happened to play the flute, I’m guessing this:
So does Buffy. She links the flute playing, the missing girl, and the band thing together and says she’s going to check it out.
In the band room, Buffy sees a footprint on a chair and puts two and two together about the ceiling tile the audience saw moving earlier. She climbs into the ceiling and-
Can I just tell you a horrifying story? This is cheaper than therapy, so I’m going to say yes. Okay, so, when I was little, I lived in a house that had the same type of ceiling tiles in the bathroom. I was a weird child, and my mom worked third shift, so I was left to my own devices for much of the day, and I liked to play in the bathroom a lot. I said I was a weird kid, okay? Well, one day I was pretending the floor was lava and climbing from the toilet to the sink, and when I stood on the sink, I bumped my head on the ceiling tile. It moved a little bit, and I was like, “Oh, cool! I bet this is like The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and I’m going to end up in Narnia!” So, I shifted the tile, and you know what I saw? NOT MR. TUMNUS. It was a shower of dead boxelder bugs. In my hair, in my eyes, and horrifyingly and worst of all, in my mouth.
This bad memory of the ceiling tile is probably the sole reason I don’t like this episode, because it’s literally all I can think about when they show those damn tiles.
Anyway, Buffy crawls around in the ceiling a little bit and finds a little nest:
Definitive proof that the teen girl is an invasive species.
As Buffy messes with Marcie’s flute, we hear heavy breathing. I know it’s “heavy breathing,” because it says [heavy breathing] in the closed captions. Buffy continues to paw through Marcie’s belongings and finds her year book. And hey, you know what sucks about hunting down an invisible person?
When you find them, they immediately try to sell you Cut Co.
Marcie decides not to knife Buffy, and Buffy takes the yearbook back through the
wardrobe boxelder bugs ceiling with her.
Hey, remember the teacher from the beginning of the episode? She hears a door close and assumes it’s Cordelia coming in for their after school meeting.
It’s not Cordelia.
But Cordelia is on the way, and when she sees her teacher with a bag over her head, she rushes immediately to help.
Rare photo of Cordelia Chase caring about another human being.
The fact that it’s Cordelia finding her is very, very important here. Consider what we’ve seen of Cordelia in this episode. She cares about nothing and no one but herself. She’s a ruthless political strategist, hungry for power even when there is really none to be had. She believes she’s owed the adulation of her peers, she’s co-opted the trauma of others to take on the role of victim herself, and she has no self awareness. Plus, she stole Marcie’s toupee joke, and it wasn’t even a good joke to begin with, so why bother stealing it? At this point, we’re rooting for Cordelia to get murdered by Marcie, because she’s horrible. If she had just stood there, screaming, without trying to help the teacher, it would have pushed her over a very crucial line. If a character is generally not a dick, but they don’t react well in a crisis, an audience can forgive them. If we’ve seen a character act super dickish for an entire episode- especially if the story also includes meditations on dickishness past from the POV of the victim of the aforementioned dickery- then the audience isn’t going to forgive that character if she sees someone dying or possibly dead and she doesn’t try to help.
At the same time, we’re also starting to lean away from Marcie as a sympathetic figure. It was easy to sympathize with her before. She beat up a super unlikeable guy with a baseball bat. She pushed Harmony down the stairs, just as she was about to be mean to Buffy. And she’s been “missing” for six months, living in the school, watching her classmates have lives all around her, untroubled by her absence. We’re starting to feel bad for Marcie, despite her violent tendencies, and, hey! She didn’t kill Buffy, though she was clearly thinking about it.
But then we see Marcie try to murder her teacher in cold blood. And why? Because the teacher is superficially connected to Cordelia in some way? Things are starting to feel not right, and the pattern of Marcie’s violence is escalating. A few whacks with a baseball bat, and she stopped before she killed Mitch. Pushing Harmony down the stairs might have just been a misguided attempt at a non-fatal injury to scare her; maybe Marcie didn’t know how dangerous a fall like that could be. But we’ve seen her pick up a knife and hold it above Buffy’s back. Now, we’ve seen her purposely try to suffocate a teacher. She’s not doing these things just to get attention. She’s trying to get revenge.
This is my design.
Cordelia saves the teacher’s life, and they watch in horror as a piece of chalk writes “LISTEN” on the board.
In the library, Buffy shows the other Scoobies Marcie’s yearbook. Things in Marcie’s yearbook looks… bleak:
Willow: “Oh my god. ‘Have a nice summer.’ ‘Have a nice summer.’ This girl had no friends at all.”
Giles: “Uh, once again I teeter at the precipice of the generation gap.”
Buffy: “‘Have a nice summer’ is what you write when you have nothing to say.”
Buffy asks Willow and Xander if they knew Marcie. They deny it, and Buffy points out that they both wrote “Have a nice summer” in Marcie’s yearbook. Okay, in Willow’s defense, she wrote “have a great summer,” but she’s still horrified to realize that they both had four classes with Marcie the year before and still have no recollection of her. Due to something Giles explains with quantum mechanics rather than mystical forces- okay, score one point against #13 on that one- that because Marcie was perceived as invisible, she became invisible.
Of course, Buffy has a throwaway line about living on a Hellmouth and mystical energy, and I’m like, come one, guys. Even the X-Files occasionally had an episode where it wasn’t aliens.
We see a flashback to Marcie in English class with the teacher she just tried to murder. Though she keeps putting her hand up, the teacher is calling on everyone except her. And then shit starts to get real:
Buffy: “This isn’t some great power that she can control. It’s something that was done to her. That we did to her.”
And as Buffy suspected, Marcie’s end goal is doing something horrible to Cordelia. This is something Cordelia has figured out, as well, and she runs into the library to beg for Buffy’s help in a way only Cordelia could:
Cordelia: “I knew you’d be here. Buffy… I, uh, I know we’ve had our differences, with you being so weird and all, and hanging out with these total losers… ooh. Well, anyway, despite all of that, I know that you share this feeling that we have for each other deep down.”
Cordelia: “Somebody is after me! They just tried to kill Mrs. Miller- she was helping me with my homework- and Mitch and Harmony… this is all about me! Me, me, me!”
Cordelia figured from the super strength, the weapons, and the fact that Buffy’s around whenever weird stuff happens, that Buffy is in a gang. She’s looking for protection, because she doesn’t know what else to do. Oh, and Giles points out that she’s never been in the library before. So, I guess Cordelia is street smart, instead of book smart. Buffy gives in and decides to help her. Despite the numerous times we’ve seen Cordelia in the same place as Marcie and interacting with her, when Buffy shows Cordelia a photo, she can’t remember Marcie.
In her hidey hole, Marcie is ranting to no one about how Cordelia and all her “slut friends” ruined Marcie’s life. She’s going to make them “learn,” and as she says this she reveals a rope and a doctor bag.
Marcie shops at Clayton’s hardware.
The Scoobies figure that whatever Marcie is going to do will happen at the May Queen coronation at The Bronze that night. Wait a minute, is The Bronze like The Max on Saved By The Bell? Is it owned by or a part of the school somehow? I can’t believe a local high school would have a school function in a warehouse bar.
Because Marcie is, in Cordelia’s own words, “way eviler than me,” Cordelia refuses to skip the coronation and let Marcie win. Buffy decides the best course of action should be to use Cordelia as bait to draw Marcie out, while Xander, Willow, and Giles keep researching a way to cure her.
In the hallway, Cordelia expresses sympathy for Marcie, saying she understands how terrible it feels to be lonely:
Cordelia: “Hey. You think I’m never lonely because I’m so cute and popular? I can be surrounded by people and be completely alone. It’s not like any of them really know me. I don’t even know if they like me half the time. People just want to be in a popular zone. Sometimes when I talk, everyone’s so busy agreeing with me, they don’t hear a word I say.”
Buffy: “Well if you feel so alone, then why do you work so hard at being popular?”
Cordelia: “Well it beats being alone all by yourself.”
So now we’re starting to get a sense of what Cordelia is really like. Being popular is only important to her because she’s afraid of being alone. No matter how little we care for Cordelia, we have to sympathize with her here. And as Marcie becomes more destructive, and Cordelia becomes more constructive (opening up to and trusting people who aren’t “in a popular zone”), now the audience should become less supportive of Marcie, and come over to Cordelia’s side a bit.
In the library, Xander, Giles, and Willow hear flute music, and they rush to the source, hoping to catch Marcie and, between the three of them, subdue her. But when they find the source of the music coming from a tape recorder in the school’s basement, they realize they’ve been trapped. They’re sealed in a locked room with a gas leak and the most boring flute recital recording ever.
God, I HATE the flute!
Meanwhile, Buffy is pouring her heart out through the door of a mop closet Cordelia is changing in. When Cordelia’s snappy barbs turn to the sounds of struggle, Buffy breaks the door and finds Cordelia being abducted through
Jenny’s boxelder bug nightmare the ceiling.
In the basement, the Scoobies find their predicament is just a little more dire than they thought. The gas is not only leaking, but the handle to turn it off is broken, and they can’t break down the metal doors because a spark could cause an explosion in the room that is rapidly filling with gas.
Buffy finds Cordelia theatrically staged in the ceiling nest in an oddly romantic, fairytale princess kind of way:
What’s Buffy/Cordelia fanfic called? Cuffy? Coffy? Bordelia?
She’s so concerned with helping Cordelia that she isn’t aware of Invisible Marcie, who kicks her ass through the ceiling, then knocks her out with a syringe full of something.
At The Bronze, Buffy and Cordelia have woken up tied to the coronation thrones on the stage. Cordelia is panicking because she can’t feel her face. Oh, and this is also going on, so… that’s ominous:
Marcie’s evil impulses were once controlled through arts and crafts therapy, hence the glitter.
Despite their weakness from the gas, the Scoobies are still trying to escape their doom. Giles cuts the hell out of his hand wrestling with the valve, and he and Xander improvise a battering ram that won’t cause a spark. Willow holds the floor down with her ass, because I guess the director couldn’t figure out anything helpful for her to do. Nobody is getting out of this room alive.
At The Bronze, Marcie does some monologuing and unveiling of surgical tools. The gist of all of this is, she’s going to cut up Cordelia’s face in revenge for Cordy being so beautiful and popular.
Marcie: “You should be grateful. People who pass you on the street are gonna remember you for the rest of their lives. Children will dream about you. And every one of your friends who comes to the coronation tonight will take the sight of the May Queen to their graves.”
So, to the pain, then?
Oh, and the reason Cordy’s face is numb? It’s loaded up with local anesthetic so she can be awake for her entire disfigurement.
This is some Red Dragon shit.
While the Scoobies start to valiantly die together, Cordelia tries to talk Marcie out of Why-So-Serious-ing her:
This does not have the intended effect.
Down in the basement, Giles has nearly succumbed to the gas, and he’s just kind of slapping at the door in futility when out of no where, Angel is there to rescue them. He arrived via basement to give Giles The Codex, and he smelled gas. Because Angel can’t breathe, he’s the perfect guy to fix the gas leak while Willow, Giles, and Xander stumble to safety, gas drunk.
Buffy decides that although she had sympathy for Marcie before, she doesn’t now because Marcie is “a thundering looney.”
You know what I want to add? #14: Mental illness is treated poorly. From everything we’ve seen in the story so far, we should hate Cordelia and love Marcie. After all, Marcie is just a vigilante, right? Getting revenge on the people who wronged her in an unfair system? Cordelia is responsible for Marcie’s invisibility, at least in part. And she’s proven to be a self-centered, cold person, despite a slightly small, kinda chewy loneliness center. But we care about her, because the last time we saw her, she was pouring her heart out as a victim of her own popularity. The last time we saw Marcie, she was raving and jabbering to herself. And nobody likes a crazy person, I think my fellow mentally ill people know that all too well. So, we wind up with our title character declaring that she can’t be sympathetic to someone who is mentally ill, and that’s a good reason to beat her up. No, Buffy. A good reason to beat her up is because she’s attempted to murder people. Not because she’s “crazy.”
Unfortunately, this isn’t the last time we’re going to see #14. It will figure in heavily in season 5, as well.
In order to fight Marcie, Buffy has a very special moment of zen that lasts five seconds, at least:
Uh, doesn’t Marcie have a whole bunch of surgical tools right there? Might want to keep an eye on those.
Then, she does what I suggested ages ago: she punches Marcie, manages to hit her, knocks her backward and under a curtain. Or, just workshopping a little bit here… maybe Buffy could have just ripped the curtain down and thrown it over Marcie in the first place. Or, she could have flipped that tray of surgical instruments in her general direction. That shit was sharp, something had to stick, or maybe she would have grabbed something to fight with, revealing her location.
I feel like Slayers aren’t as cut out for invisible girl wrangling as snarky bloggers are.
Buffy knocks Marcie out, and the MIB from earlier bust down the door. So, basically, thanks for getting here on time. Although, Angel fans take note: one of the MIB introduces himself as “Agent Doyle.” Coincidence? Extremely likely, but someone can do something fannish with that, I’m certain.
The agents are from the FBI. They assure Buffy that they can help make Marcie a helpful member of society again, and Buffy realizes that this isn’t the first time this bullshit has gone down.
At school, Buffy asks Willow, Giles, and Xander how they escaped the boiler room, but before Xander can tell her the truth, Giles jumps in and says it was a janitor. No mention of Angel, whatsoever. Cordelia stops by to thank them, and she does, but when Mitch sees her talking to the core four, she blows them off and calls them a social leper colony. Xander makes a glib remark about “where’s an invisible girl when you need her?” and we see Marcie being led by the FBI agents to a classroom full of other invisible children, where she’ll be getting a much different education:
Hey… anybody think this is foreshadowing for the Initiative?