In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone ordered way too many Girl Scout cookies this year. 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.
- Mental illness is stigmatized.
- Only Willow can use a computer.
- Buffy’s strength is flexible at the plot’s convenience.
- Cheap laughs and desperate grabs at plot plausibility are made through Xenophobia.
- Oz is the Anti-Xander
- Spike is capable of love despite his lack of soul
- Don’t freaking tell me the vampires don’t need to breathe because they’re constantly out of frickin’ breath.
- The foreshadowing on this show is freaking amazing.
- Smoking is evil.
- Despite praise for its positive portrayal of non-straight sexualities, some of this shit is homophobic as fuck.
- How do these kids know all these outdated references, anyway?
- Technology is used inconsistently as per its convenience in the script.
- Sunnydale residents are no longer shocked by supernatural attacks.
- Casual rape dismissal/victim blaming a-go-go
- Snyder believes Buffy is a demon or other evil entity.
- The Scoobies kind of help turn Jonathan into a bad guy.
- This show caters to the straight female gaze like whoa.
- Sunnydale General is the worst hospital in the world.
Have I missed any that were added in past recaps? Let me know in the comments. Even though I might forget that you mentioned it.
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.
Buffy’s back home, unpacking in her room, and she doesn’t look happy about it. She goes into her mom’s room, where Joyce is hanging something up:
Joyce: “We got a very exciting shipment in at the gallery. I, um, thought I’d hang a few pieces in here. Cheers up the room.”
Buffy: “It’s angry at the room, Mom. It wants the room to suffer.”
“You have no appreciation of primitive art.”
And you have no clue on how to be a good parent, so I guess you’re both even, huh?
So, let’s talk about this mask in relation to #17 and #12. Joyce says the mask is Nigerian. Okay, but it’s like, supposed to be a tribal mask, right? Which tribe? Nigeria has a ton of people in it, and I’m going to assume that because of this, indigenous cultures are probably as diverse there as indigenous cultures in North America. Just a quick Google check said there were over three hundred distinct tribes in Nigeria alone. When a season four (equally problematic) episode involved the Chumash people, the tribe was specifically mentioned, and was geographically correct. So, North American indigenous peoples get their own distinct identities, but not indigenous African people. It’s just “Nigerian.” We run into the same issue later with the First Slayer. She’s just “African.” So we’ve got the entire plot of this episode hinging on some scary, foreign culture that doesn’t even get a specific name (#17), but we also have the added flavor of knowing exactly why that dynamic exists and persists with regards to American perception of African countries (#12).
So back to the episode. Buffy wants to go out and find Willow and Xander, but Joyce is understandably gun shy. Still, she says she wants to put the whole thing behind them, and lets Buffy go out.
Cut to Buffy, walking alone and sad down some alleys. She runs into a shadowy figure, which is Xander, you can tell from his ears, but it’s supposed to be like, a tense moment. Buffy steps on a can to get his attention, and he whirls around, ready to stake her. He’s stunned to see her, but what could have been a touching reunion is interrupted by a vampire bursting out of a crate.
They’re apparently shipping vampires into Sunnydale now.
Buffy and Xander fight the vampire, while over a walkie-talkie Cordelia reveals Xander’s embarrassing handle: Night Hawk. Seriously, that’s the name they picked for Xander’s super awesome vampire hunter name.
Oz, Willow, and Cordelia run in to help, and to be fair, until they’re all knocked down in the alley and Buffy stakes the vamp herself, they’re doing pretty good for humans against a creature of the night. While they’re all sprawled on the concrete, Buffy greets them with “hey, guys,” and the opening credits roll.
The Scoobies immediately take Buffy to Giles’s house:
Buffy: “You know, maybe it’s too late. Maybe we should just come back tomorrow. What if he’s mad?”
Xander: “Mad? Just because you ran away and abandoned your post and your friends and your mom and made him lay awake every night worrying about you? Maybe we should wait out here.”
Buffy knocks on the door, and when Giles answers, he’s just as stunned as the rest of them were. Xander tries to joke, because he’s a jackass, and Giles shuts him up. Then just says, “Welcome home, Buffy.” Which tells us, the viewer, what we already know: Giles isn’t mad at Buffy. He’s just glad she’s back.
Oz: “Hey, so you’re not wanted for murder anymore.”
Buffy: “Good. That was such a drag.”
I love the understatement here, as well as the easy way the narrative moves along without lingering on the question of what will happen to Buffy now that she’s back and was a fugitive at the end of last season. There’s no need to explain why Buffy’s been cleared of the murder charges. There will have been an autopsy on Kendra, that sort of thing, and evidence that comes to light or what have you. Since this isn’t Law & Order (donk donk) we don’t have to know all those details. Those aren’t what’s important. Which is a good tip for your writing; if something is important, but you can plausibly gloss past it, go ahead, if it feels realistic or the reader/viewer can put the pieces together in their minds.
As the kids talk, Giles goes to the kitchen for tea. He stops for a minute to listen to them, and does this:
I love this Giles moment, because it not only shows that he missed Buffy and is relieved at her return, but it’s very clear that he’s missed the sound of these goofy, obnoxious kids that drive him crazy all the time with their inane chatter. Now they’re all together again, and things are right in his world.
But for some reason, he wears a tie even when he’s just sitting around at home.
Xander asks Buffy to tell them what she’s been up to, but Giles thinks she probably needs some decompression time. He’s right; she’s not interested in telling them what happened in L.A.. In fact, I’m not sure she ever does, that I can remember. I guess I’ll find out as the season goes along.
Buffy compliments the gang’s Slayer abilities, and they tell her they’ve actually managed to take down six out of ten vampires. Which is pretty impressive. And none of them died in their failed attempts, so that’s also impressive. They offer to take over vamp dusting duties for a while, but Buffy says she wants to get back to her normal life. When she suggests they all hang out the next day, everyone is busy, but Willow reluctantly says she’ll change her plans. Giles reminds Buffy that she’s still expelled from school. Buffy says that her mom is going to see Snyder, and she’ll definitely be returning to Sunnydale High.
But when we cut to the next day, in Snyder’s office, his answer is a definite no. Joyce tells him he doesn’t have the right to keep Buffy out of school, since all the charges against her were dropped:
Snyder: “I have not only the right, but also a nearly physical sensation of pleasure at the thought of keeping her out of school. I’d describe myself as ‘tingly’.”
Snyder is the best non-supernatural villain on this show. He’s so much fun to hate. He cites Buffy’s penchant for violence, property damage, and her horrible grades as enough to keep her from re-enrolling, and suggests she look into a career in fast food.
Buffy and Joyce leave, but not before Joyce threatens to go “all the way to the mayor” to fight for Buffy’s rights. Snyder smirks and says:
Snyder: “Wouldn’t that be interesting.”
Season two had several moments of foreshadowing regarding the mayor, so the viewer gets the idea that maybe there’s something up that we need to worry about there. Snyder bringing up this line is more foreshadowing, and really neatly reminds the viewer of all those past moments when the little weasel mentioned the mayor.
Joyce reassures Buffy that everything is going to be okay, they could send her to private school. Buffy recoils at this idea, and suggests homeschooling, to which Joyce answers that they’ll work something out. She drops Buffy off at the Espresso Pump. This is the first appearance of what will become a new and often used setting in seasons three and four, and to a lesser extent, seasons five, six, and seven. Buffy waits for Willow, who doesn’t show.
When Buffy gets home, she runs into an art-teacher-looking lady, Pat, coming out of the house. Pat is Joyce’s friend from book club. She tells Buffy that she’s glad she’s home, since Joyce was so torn up about Buffy’s disappearance.
Inside, Joyce tells Buffy that Willow tried to call to tell her that she was “hung up”, but that she didn’t leave a message. Joyce suggests inviting the whole gang over for dinner, then tells Buffy that she already did, so basically it’s on. She sends Buffy to the basement for the “company plates”, where Buffy finds a dead cat. Like you do, in your basement. Thanks to the internet, I know that finding random cats in one’s house is pretty common, but this episode has baffled me for years. How the fuck do you not smell a dead cat rotting in your basement?
Buffy and her mom bury the cat in the yard:
Buffy: “Next time, I get to pick the mother-daughter bonding activity.”
Joyce: “Do you want to say something?”
Buffy: “Like what? Thanks for stopping by and dying?”
Joyce: “How about, um, goodbye, stray cat who lost its way. We hope you find it.”
Because there’s nothing more comforting than being compared to a rotting stray cat.
In the night, the mask in Joyce’s room does this:
Which is probably not a great thing for it to be doing. Meanwhile, outside, the dirt on the cat’s grave starts moving, and the zombie cat claws its way up, very much alive.
I wonder if the two things could be related.
Buffy dreams that she’s walking through the entirely empty halls of Sunnydale high. When she reaches the courtyard, Angel appears. Buffy tells him that she’s afraid, and he responds that she should be. Buffy’s alarm goes off, and it is the most annoying alarm anyone has ever heard.
You know, I vaguely remember Buffy having that cool moon and stars horoscope alarm clock in her room before. That had a nice beep. Why not use that?
In the kitchen, Buffy’s just trying to get some breakfast while Joyce goes on and on about school. She’s been on the phone to the superintendent, and calls Snyder a “nasty little bigoted rodent man.” I’m not sure where bigoted comes in, but she says it. You know how people (usually people who’ve just put their foot in their mouth when commenting on one or more oppressed groups) will say, “I don’t see color, I hate everyone equally”? I feel like Synder is possibly the only person I could actually believe that of.
But I still like him way better than this Snyder:
Joyce also mentions that she checked out a private school for girls:
Buffy: “So now it’s jackets, kilts, and no boys? Care to throw in a little foot binding?”
Joyce: “Buffy, you made some bad choices. You must might have to live with some consequences.”
I’m so torn on this one. Because while the side of me that firmly believes Joyce is to blame for Buffy running away (you know, on top of all the other circumstances), Buffy is being a whiny little brat here and then makes a crack about having to “ride the little bus”, so I think she does need to be called on how melodramatic she’s being. Comparing private school to foot binding? Come on, Buffy.
That said, Buffy didn’t actually make any bad choices. She didn’t have any choices. She was wanted for murder but had to run from the police to stop her evil ex from destroying the world. She couldn’t have gone home even if she’d wanted to, because the cops were after her. And one thing I wish they would have explored more was if there would have been a consequence to people finding out she’s the Slayer. Joyce was ready to tell anyone and everyone, and probably would have if Buffy had turned herself in. We wouldn’t have known it at the time, but there is a big, shadowy organization rounding up supernatural creatures. Telling local law enforcement that Buffy is a Slayer would likely not gone well for her.
Anyway, Joyce opens the kitchen door and in runs the should-be-dead cat. She and Buffy look at each other in horror before we cut to Giles at the front door, bearing a cage. The cat has conveniently run into Joyce’s bedroom, where Giles notices the mask. He comments on it, and Buffy interrupts the discussion of ancient art that’s about to ensue by reminding Giles that they need to research zombie cats. Giles reminds her that she’s not allowed on school property. He tells Buffy he’ll call her as soon as he has an idea what’s going on with the cat
In the library, Oz gets up close and personal with undead Garfield:
Oz: “It looks dead. It smells dead. Yet it’s moving around. That’s interesting.”
Cordelia: “Nice pet, Giles. Don’t you like anything regular? Golf, USA Today? Anything?”
Giles: “We’re trying to find out how and why it rose from the grave. It’s not as if I’m going to take it home and offer it a saucer of warm milk.”
Oz: “Well, I like it. I think you should call it ‘Patches’.”
You can’t see it well here, but Oz is wearing blue nail polish. In the mid-to-late 1990’s, previously scarce nail polish colors like blue and black and gray were suddenly everywhere, leading to more guys painting their nails. It was a novelty thing that seems to have faded out; I don’t see it in the wild as much anymore. But at the time it was like, “Oh my god, our generation is so hip and amazing.”
Baby boomers had Woodstock, Gen X had dudes wearing nail polish. What a time to be alive.
Willow reminds everyone that they’re supposed to be going to Buffy’s house for dinner, and that they should all help out and bring things, which quickly devolves into them turning the dinner into a party, because they don’t want to face actually having to talk to Buffy. Giles says he doesn’t think it’s a good idea to involve a band and a whole bunch of people, but he’s overruled by the social anxiety of four teenagers. As they discuss things, Giles flips right past a page in his book that bears a picture of the exact mask he just saw at Joyce’s house.
At dinner time, Buffy’s setting the table with the company plates, which basically should have been thrown in a garbage fire because they were near a dead zombie cat, so I’m glad they don’t actually eat off of them. The doorbell rings, and it’s Pat, Joyce’s friend who looks like she’s about to lead a workshop on some culturally appropriative workshop about spirit guides at a new age store whose logo is supposed to be a butterfly but suspiciously looks like a lavender vulva.
No, seriously, tell me she doesn’t:
Buffy asks if she wants to see Joyce, then shouts a panicked “MOM!” up the stairs, the way we all do when our parents’ friends want to interact with us. The next guest to arrive is Dingoes Ate My Baby, who ask where to set up. Buffy is confused.
The party is in full swing, leaving the Scoobies to do their own thing and generally ignore Buffy, as they planned. Buffy tells Willow she’d rather it was just the the gang, not this huge rager, but Willow acts like she can’t hear her. So Buffy drags Willow off to ask her if everything is okay between them. Willow insists it is, but immediately runs off again.
In Joyce’s room, the mask does its glowy-eye thing. Elsewhere in Sunnydale, a seemingly dead accident victim lying in the road amongst police and EMTs suddenly opens his eyes.
At the party, Xander and Cordelia are making out. Buffy tries to sneak past them, but Xander says it’s great that so many people are there to welcome her back. Buffy points out that many people at the party don’t even know her, but Xander and Cordelia get too caught up in talking about how hot it was to kill vampires together, and they start making out again. Buffy, sensing her presence is no longer needed, leaves them to it.
In the emergency room, a burn victim has just flatlined. The doctor declares him dead, and the patient sits up. The sound of attacking ensues.
As Buffy grows increasingly suspicious of the motive of the party, she walks past some dudes who appear to be smoking weed. They’re talking about how the party is for a chick who just came back from rehab. I’m not sure they understand how rehab works. In the kitchen, Joyce and Pat are getting loaded on clear alcohol and talking about how Joyce is coping with the return of her runaway daughter:
Joyce: “Really? I’m…I don’t know. While Buffy was gone, all I could think about was getting her home. I just knew that if I could put my arms around her and tell her how much I loved her, everything would be okay.”
Joyce: “Having Buffy home, I thought it was going to make it all better. But in some ways, it’s almost worse.”
And this is what Buffy overhears.
Now fully convinced that everyone was happier without her, Buffy goes to her room and starts packing her bags to leave again. As the mask glows, zombies from all over Sunnydale are beginning to converge on the Summers house.
Giles finally gets back to that page about the mask. He tries to call Buffy, but the stoned guy from before answers the phone. He doesn’t even know who Buffy is. He actually answers the phone, “Party villa, can I rock you?” which is officially the way I’m going to answer the phone from now on. The guy is too messed up and interested in people doing shots to bother with Giles’s phone call.
So, here’s another thing that I think pretty well qualifies as #3. There are teenagers having a huge, loud party with free flowing alcohol and at least one loady smoking up in the living room. Joyce, you are the parent. It is your job to make sure there isn’t like, underaged drinking and drug use going on in your house. But you’re too busy talking to your pottery teacher friend about how awful it is to have your daughter safe at home to even notice that all this is going on.
Upstairs, Willow catches Buffy packing and flips out. Buffy says she’s trying, that Willow doesn’t know how hard things are for her, and that everyone was doing fine when Buffy was out of the picture. Willow just wants Buffy to talk to her, but Buffy points out that Willow has been avoiding doing just that. And while I normally love Willow, she is super selfish in this scene:
Willow: “This isn’t easy, Buffy. I know you’re going through stuff, but so am I.”
Buffy: “I know that you were worried about me–”
Willow: “No, I don’t just mean that. I mean, my life. You know? I’m having all sorts of…I’m dating. I’m having serious dating, with a werewolf. And I’m studying witchcraft and, and killing vampires, and I didn’t have anyone to talk to about all this scary life stuff. And you were my best friend.”
Okay. So, you’re dating. That’s hardly as big a deal as being suspected of murder and having to kill your own boyfriend. You’re studying witchcraft and killing vampires, and you didn’t have anyone to talk to? Not, you know, Xander or Cordelia or Oz or Giles? Giles is like, the number one most perfect person to talk to about your teenage witchcraft, because he definitely has experience in the teen witch department. Meanwhile, Buffy had literally no one, and now she’s come back to a life she’s been cleanly cut out of. It’s one thing to be angry with someone for running away; that’s totally normal and understandable. But maybe instead of going, “Hey, here’s how your sudden disappearance affected me,” Willow could have actually asked Buffy about why she left and what she was going through. But she doesn’t. She gives excuses for why she couldn’t do that, why it’s Buffy’s fault that she couldn’t, then basically calls her a neglectful friend.
Giles is on his way to the Summers house, and he’s had just about enough of Joyce (and it’s only episode two of this season), compelling him to utter one of the most famous and often-quoted lines of the entire series:
Giles: “Unbelievable. Do you like my mask? Isn’t it pretty? It raises the dead. Americans.”
He’s so busy bitching about the whole zombie mask thing that he accidentally hits a pedestrian. He gets out of the car to check on the guy, only to find that it’s a zombie. It grabs Giles, and other zombies are shambling his way.
In Buffy’s room, Willow is still on the whole I’m-not-going-to-be-at-all-forgiving-or-understanding kick, when Joyce comes in. So now Buffy has two people, who are supposed to care about her and who have been acting like they don’t, yelling in her face and telling her how terrible she is. Overwhelmed, Buffy runs downstairs.
This is such a weird story to share, but I have to. I used to know this person who, in hindsight I realized, took every single part of their personality and made all their decisions based on some kind of jumbled pastiche of entertainment stuff they liked. And I’m not talking about when people are really, really into a movie and they quote it all the time, or you think of them and go, “Oh, Mike. The Star Wars guy.” I mean like, I’m almost 100% sure her divorce was the result of her wanting to live out The Last Five Years. She was super toxic, beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. I should write about her sometime, but nobody would believe me, she was that bad. Anyway, when she got upset about something, anything, she would do the whole I’m-so-overwhelmed thing almost instantly, and she would do it in this super precise imitation of Sarah Michelle Gellar’s delivery of her “Stop it, please, I don’t know, I can’t” etc. lines from Buffy. Just watching this scene gives me this hard physical reaction because of that. My neck is doing a thing. A terrible, terrible thing.
Joyce, empowered by the schnapps she drank earlier, lays into Buffy, bringing the house party to a screeching halt as party goers find themselves trapped in that most awkward of teen situations: being at someone’s house while they fight with their parents:
Joyce: “You can’t imagine. Months, of not know. Not knowing whether you were lying dead in a ditch somewhere or, I don’t know, living it up?”
Buffy: “But you told me! You’re the one who said I should go. You said if I leave this house, don’t come back. You found out who I really was and you couldn’t deal, don’t you remember?”
Joyce: “Buffy, you didn’t give me time. You just dumped this thing on me and you expected me to get it. Well guess what? Mom’s not perfect, okay? I handled it badly. But that doesn’t give you the right to punish me by running away.”
Buffy: “Punish you? I didn’t do this to punish you.”
Xander: “Well you did. You should have seen what you put her through.”
Buffy: “Great, thanks. Anybody else want to weigh in here? How ’bout you, by the dip?”
The “you by the dip,” by the way, is Jonathan, a recurring character whose importance throughout the show continues to grow all the way into season seven, where his blood is used to open the seal of the Hellmouth, setting in motion the major arc of the last season. We’ll talk about this more as the recaps continue, but I just wanted to point out that he’s still consistently showing up since his first appearances last season.
I also think it bears mentioning that the actor who portrayed him, Danny Strong, adapted the screenplays for both parts of Mockingjay and also co-created the series Empire. So, good job, Danny.
Xander: “You know, maybe you don’t want to hear it, Buffy, but taking off like you did was incredibly selfish, and stupid.”
Okay, so while we’re trapped in this shit show of blame, can I point just one teeny thing out, here?
Nobody has asked Buffy why she ran away.
Which Buffy points out:
Buffy: “Okay, okay! I screwed up! I know this. But you have no idea! You have, you have no idea what happened to me or what I was feeling.”
Xander: “Did you even try talking to anybody?”
Buffy: “There was nothing that anybody could do. Okay? I just had to deal with this on my own.”
Xander: “Yeah, and you see how well that one worked out. You can’t just bury stuff, Buffy. It’ll come right back up to get you.”
So, Buffy didn’t try talking to anybody. She’s there now. She’s been there. And not a single one of her friends or her mom has wanted to talk to her about running away. Not even Giles, who is arguably the only person in Sunnydale who could possibly understand how horrific things could have gotten inside Angel’s house of torture and demon conjuring.
Let’s just examine the actions of the characters in the season two finale, shall we? Willow, knowing full well that Buffy is headed over to kill Angel, decides to try her spell, anyway, because as we will see throughout the series, Willow is rarely as concerned with the outcome and ramifications of her spells as she is with the ego boost she gets from just seeing if she can pull them off (#4). Xander, knowing that Willow is trying to do the spell, tells Buffy to kill Angel, anyway, a decision that is probably equal parts “If I tell her, she might endanger herself and the world waiting to see if the spell worked,” and “I hate Angel anyway and with him out of the picture I might win a prize.” (#5) And Joyce told her daughter to never come home (#3). So I’m really confused as to why Buffy’s actions were considered selfish here.
Xander’s last line about not burying stuff annoys me in two ways: one, it’s the Scoobies who have been trying as hard as they can to avoid one-on-one time with Buffy so that they don’t have to talk to her–something they continue to insist that they want to do–, and it’s a cheap set up for a cutaway to Giles fighting the zombies. Under other circumstances, the line might be clever, but here it just feels like, whoa, dude. Humor? Not appropriate right now.
Giles fights off the zombies and manages to get back inside his car. As the undead hoard beat on the windows and roof, Giles realizes that he’s dropped his car keys outside. Bemoaning his stupidity, he hurriedly hot wires the car. To which he says:
Giles: “Like riding a bloody bicycle.”
So, on top of this being yet another example of weird skills Giles has that go pretty much unremarked upon in the series, we’re meant to infer that Giles has also hot wired cars many times.
This is exactly why we need a spin-off show about Watchers. At this point, I don’t even care if Anthony Head is involved. I just want to see what the fuck they’re teaching at the academy.
Back at the party, Buffy points out that she couldn’t actually talk to Xander, anyway, since he was so anti-Angel in the first place. Xander replies with all the grace and tact that one would expect of him:
Xander: “Look, I’m sorry that your honey was a demon, but most girls don’t hop a Greyhound over boy troubles.”
Thanks for proving her point, dickhead.
Cordelia even calls him on this:
Cordelia: “Time out, Xander. Put yourself in Buffy’s shoes for just a minute, okay? I’m Buffy, freak of nature, right? Naturally, I pick a freak for a boyfriend, and then he turns into Mr. Killing Spree, which is pretty much my fault–”
Buffy: “Cordy! Get out of my shoes.”
Even though she’s doing it in an extremely Cordelia way, Cordelia does have a point. Nobody has tried to sympathize with Buffy at all.
What I find interesting is that they’re talking about demons (which, granted, could be taken figuratively) and killing sprees (a little less likely to be interpreted as a figure of speech), and there’s absolutely no reaction from the other party goers. Probably because of #26, but it could also be because they’re trying to figure out an escape plan.
The fight continues, with Oz stepping in to try to calm the situation. Actually, if anyone could be a good mediator here, it’s Oz. He’s a supernatural creature himself, and has had to deal with the fallout from that, but he was also probably worried about Buffy in her absence. This entire episode could have just been Oz counseling everyone calmly through this.
Willow: “No, let ’em go, Oz. Talking about it isn’t helping, we might as well try some violence.”
And on cue, zombies burst through every ground-floor window of the house.
Willow: “I was being sarcastic!”
The zombies don’t seem to be of the people-eating variety; they bust in and just start fighting and breaking necks. Joyce asks if they’re vampires, and after Buffy stakes one and nothing happens, it’s apparent that they are not. Which means all the staking the other Scoobies are doing is also not working. They try to wrestle a zombie outside, while Pat is dragged off, screaming, by another one.
Willow, Xander, Joyce, and Buffy run upstairs, just like Cici in Scream 2, but this time it’s obviously going to work out better for Sarah Michelle Gellar. They find Pat unconscious in the hallway, but it’s only after they wrestle her into Joyce’s bedroom that they realize she’s dead. As they try to keep the zombies out of Joyce’s room, where they all seem to be headed, the mask falls off the wall and Pat’s eyes open.
Downstairs, Oz and Cordelia emerge from their hiding place to find a mostly empty house. When Giles appears around a corner, they nearly kill him with ski poles by accident. Then Oz says:
Oz: “Looks like the dead man’s party’s moved upstairs.”
OMG THEY SAID THE TITLE OF THE THING IN THE THING!
Giles tells them that the zombies are after the mask in Joyce’s bedroom, which is tied to the zombie demon called Ovu Mobani, or “evil eye”. Just for shits and giggles, I looked up Igbo and Yoruba to English translators and learned that Mobani means basically nothing in either and Ovu means “moss” and “youth” respectively. I don’t know how accurate that is, but I had to be a pedant, as it is the nature of these recaps. It could mean evil eye in another language used in Nigeria, I have no idea.
Anyway, the mask, when put on by a zombie, makes the zombie into the zombie demon itself. Which isn’t awesome, because Pat is like, thirty inches from the mask. She gets up, shoves Joyce, and puts the mask on.
Demon-Pat’s main power seems to be super strength and eyes that blind you like a camera flash. Buffy pushes her out the window, and they both tumble into the backyard while Joyce bludgeons the living ass out of a zombie with a baseball bat. I like that Joyce’s home defense system is a baseball bat.
Battling with a zombie on the stairs, Giles tells Oz to go to Buffy and let her know that the source of the demon’s power is its eyes. Oz makes it out there just in time to see Buffy stab “Pat” in the eyes with a shovel. Because Buffy isn’t stupid, Giles. Once Pat is vanquished, all the zombies disappear. Oz, in his Oz way, tells Buffy:
Oz: “Never mind.”
In the aftermath, Joyce asks Buffy if this is what she usually does, and Buffy assures her that this was pretty tame. Then everyone hugs, and all is forgiven, still without anyone asking Buffy a damn thing about why she disappeared. Let’s just ignore this, they seem to say with their embracing arms, and move on. Giles, looking on, seems just as confused as I am.
It’s daytime again, and Snyder is in his office, getting ready for a meeting with the mayor. Giles pays Snyder a visit, attempting to reason with him about Buffy returning to school. Snyder won’t budge, and says Giles can take it up with the city council. Giles fires back that he plans to take it up with the state supreme court, which…you know, Giles, you can’t start with the supreme court. You actually do have to start with the school board, sue them, and go from there. But whatever. Giles tells Snyder that if Buffy isn’t allowed back at school, he’ll make life difficult for Snyder in a professional capacity. When Snyder still isn’t swayed, Giles grabs him by the tie and shoves him into a filing cabinet, all with a very threatening, very cheerful smile.
At the Espresso Pump, Willow is telling Buffy about her progress with witchcraft, and forgives Buffy for running away.
Buffy: “You’re really enjoying this whole moral superiority thing, aren’t you?”
Willow: “It’s like a drug!”
Buffy: “Fine, okay. I’m the bad. I can take my lumps…for a while.”
This devolves into a playful exchange of sometimes misogynist insults, and the episode closes with everyone still blaming Buffy for running away.
Okay, it might seem like I’m being hard on everyone here, and not taking into account how worried people are when someone runs away. Having witnessed and experienced the fallout of a young relative who ran away for just a few days, I can only imagine that a loved one going missing for months is an even more hellish nightmare. But in this episode it wasn’t a case of Buffy just running off because she was sad or mad. She ran away because she was told she didn’t have a home anymore. She felt responsible for the deaths of Angel and Ms. Calendar, and she’d endangered the lives of her friends just by being around them. To Buffy’s mind, being close to her friends would hurt them. She was facing a murder charge, and had no idea that she’d been cleared. Support from her mother was no longer an option. Buffy did what she thought she had to, and her hand was pretty much forced.
The fact that her loved ones knew this, and either wouldn’t acknowledge it or, in Joyce’s case, flat out disavowed any responsibility, makes this episode pretty hard to watch. The only real support Buffy gets from anyone is from Cordelia and Giles, and they’re mostly silent on the subject.
This episode is one I don’t rewatch often, because it bums me out.