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The Big Damn Buffy Recap S03E20 “The Prom”

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In every generation, there is a chosen one. She alone has a zit on the side of her head that just will not go away. She will also recap every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with an eye to the following themes:

  1. Sex is the real villain of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe.
  2. Giles is totally in love with Buffy.
  3. Joyce is a fucking terrible parent.
  4. 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)
  5. Xander is a textbook Nice Guy.
  6. The show isn’t as feminist as people claim.
  7. All the monsters look like wieners.
  8. If ambivalence to possible danger were an Olympic sport, Team Sunnydale would take the gold.
  9. Angel is a dick.
  10. Harmony is the strongest female character on the show.
  11. Team sports are portrayed in an extremely negative light.
  12. Some of this shit is racist as fuck.
  13. Science and technology are not to be trusted.
  14. Mental illness is stigmatized.
  15. Only Willow can use a computer.
  16. Buffy’s strength is flexible at the plot’s convenience.
  17. Cheap laughs and desperate grabs at plot plausibility are made through Xenophobia.
  18. Oz is the Anti-Xander
  19. Spike is capable of love despite his lack of soul
  20. Don’t freaking tell me the vampires don’t need to breathe because they’re constantly out of frickin’ breath.
  21. The foreshadowing on this show is freaking amazing.
  22. Smoking is evil.
  23. Despite praise for its positive portrayal of non-straight sexualities, some of this shit is homophobic as fuck.
  24. How do these kids know all these outdated references, anyway?
  25. Technology is used inconsistently as per its convenience in the script.
  26. Sunnydale residents are no longer shocked by supernatural attacks.
  27. Casual rape dismissal/victim blaming a-go-go
  28. Snyder believes Buffy is a demon or other evil entity.
  29. The Scoobies kind of help turn Jonathan into a bad guy.
  30. This show caters to the straight/bi female gaze like whoa.
  31. Sunnydale General is the worst hospital in the world.
  32. Faith is hyper-sexualized needlessly.
  33. Slut shame!
  34. The Watchers have no fucking clue what they’re doing.
  35. Vampire bites, even very brief ones, are 99.8% fatal.
  36. Economic inequality is humorized and oversimplified.

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.

Season three is drawing to an end, but we need just one final monster-of-the-week to give us the personal closure necessary for the enormous milestone of our favorite characters graduating high school. Becuase they’re going to be too busy fighting evil at their actual graduation.

We open on Buffy sleeping while Angel watches her. Again, I ask: why is it creepy for Edward Cullen to watch Bella sleep, but not creepy for Angel to watch Buffy sleep? #LiveFreeAndTwiHard.

Buffy mentions that she might want to leave some stuff at Angel’s house for when she spends the night. And she assumes he’ll be taking her to the prom.

Buffy: “Lots of girls have older boyfriends. You’ll blend.”

Yeah, not so much. Because at this point in the series, David Boreanaz looks like he’s easily in his thirties. Clearly uncomfortable, Angel says it’s probably time for Buffy to go home. She argues that it’s still a while before sunrise and opens the curtains, immediately burning him with blinding sunlight.

So, Buffy is apparently planning on moving in with Angel post-graduation, and Angel is starting to realize that’s the plan, which he hasn’t really been let in on.

After the credits, Xander runs into Anya, the wish demon who’s been popping up occasionally to cause problems. Having been on the receiving end of some pretty nasty vengeance that endangered not just his friends but the entire dimension, he is understandably not real keen on Anya.

Xander: “So, now how did that work? Women would wish horrible things on their ex-boyfriends, you’d show up and make it happen.”

Anya: “That’s right. The power of the wish made me a righteous sword to smite the unfaithful.”

Xander: “Well, hey. Good luck with that. Hope it works out for you.”

Anya: “You know, you can laugh, but I have witnessed a millennium of treachery and oppression from the males of this species and I have nothing but contempt for the whole libidinous lot of them.”

Xander: “Then why are you talking to me?”

Anya: “I don’t have a date for the prom.”

So, here’s a question: if Anya doesn’t like men, and she’s been around for a millennia…has she ever considered not dating them? I mean, you can’t change your sexuality, and if Anya is straight (we’ve only seen her in romantic relationships with dudes and I’m not sure we ever got a bi-vibe from her, but I could be misremembering) then it’s not like she can hook up with women on general principle, but there’s a really easy way to avoid romantic relationships with men. You just don’t have romantic relationships with men.

Anya explains that Xander is at fault for her humanity since it was Cordelia’s broken heart that caused her to make the wish that robbed Anya of her powers in the first place. She feels that since she’s now stuck with teen human emotions, it’s Xander’s duty to take her to prom. Plus, she’s caught him staring at her breasts before, so she knows he finds her attractive.

Xander: “Nothing personal, but when a guy does that, it just means his eyes are open.”

I call out a lot of casual sexism in this show when it’s directed toward women. Now, let’s talk about how male characters are treated. Xander is a horny teenage boy, but there was no reason that line needed to lump all men in with the behavior of horny teenage boys. The enduring myth that men just golly gee whiz can’t control their sexual urges is both unfair to men and the foundation of rape culture. (#6)

Xander, not having a date to the prom himself, relents. As he explains to the other Scoobies later, it’s either date the demon or his hand, and he chooses the demon. Willow is pretty convinced that Anya will end up killing him, but Buffy sees the bright side: they all have dates to the prom now. She’s super excited about her dress and how much fun she’s going to have with Angel.

Meanwhile, Angel finds Buffy’s notebook at his house, and it’s super embarrassing:

Buffy has written "Buffy & Angel 4 Ever" on her notebook, and the lettering is all fancy and underlined and carefully drawn out. Like, she took time on this.

Hey, Angel? Do you think maybe you might be dating, you know…a teenager?

There’s a knock at the door, and surprisingly, it’s Joyce. She’s never been over to Angel’s house, and the shackles on the wall give her pause. She doesn’t make a lot of small talk; she tells him that she knows Buffy spent the night with him, and she’s worried about their relationship.

Joyce: “I don’t have to tell you that you and Buffy are from different worlds.”

Angel: “No.”

Joyce: “She’s had to deal with a lot. Grow up fast. Sometimes even I forget that she’s still just a girl.”

Angel admits that he’s been thinking more about their differences, especially now that Buffy intends to go to college in Sunnydale. Joyce tells him that Buffy can’t think clearly about him and things are going to get rough. It’s going to be up to him to do what’s best for Buffy:

Joyce: “I know you care about her. I just hope you care enough.”

Go. Joyce.

When I first watched this show, I was twenty-two and thinking, “That’s bullshit. No parent should interfere with their kid’s relationship!” Now, I’m thirty-seven and the parent of a teenager. I’m like, “Yes, Joyce. Finally, you are doing parenting right.” Because while we need to let our kids make their own mistakes, etc., we need to also know when to step in when things have gotten out of hand. For example, when our teen daughter is dating a vampire. And Joyce did this in the best way possible. She appealed to Angel as an adult, calmly and free from condescension. She made it clear that this isn’t about her or anything Angel has done in the past. It’s about Buffy, and Buffy’s future.

Some of you might disagree with me on this one, but I really feel like this is one time I have to give Joyce credit.

In the library, Buffy and Willow are discussing a short, shiny blue thing with fringe.

Giles: “What’s that, a demon?”

Buffy: “A prom dress that Wil was thinking of getting. Can’t you ever get your mind out of the Hellmouth?”

Giles is like, yeah, that would be great except for the fact that we’ve got that whole Ascension thing coming up. They briefly recap what’s been happening, with Willow stealing the pages and the fact that The Mayor is going to become a demon, and it’s done in a way that doesn’t feel like clunky, obvious exposition. Marti Noxon wrote this episode, and she does a damn good job catching up casual viewers in a way that won’t make regular viewers roll their eyes at this scene.

Wesley and Cordelia enter from the stacks and Wesley reminds them that they have no idea what kind of demon The Mayor is going to turn into. He says they shouldn’t be worrying about a school dance when they’ve got more important things to do, but after Cordelia says he would look like James Bond in a tux, Wesley announces he’ll be chaperoning the dance with Giles.

Hold on. In what capacity is Wesley going to chaperone this dance? We still haven’t found out what his cover is for being at the high school at all. Now, he’s just going to show up at a school function like part of the staff? In what…how…wait…

You know what? No. This is yet another case of the good people of Sunnydale not doing enough to protect themselves and their children. #8, my friends. #8.

Buffy mentions that Willow should go to a particular store to look for a dress, and Cordelia quickly objects, using the excuse that she shops there. So, clearly it’s the store where she works, and she doesn’t want the other Scoobies to know she has a job.

Xander: “I myself am dipping into my hard-earned road trip fund to procur a shiny new tux, so look for me to dazzle.”

Giles: “And I shall be wearing pink taffeta, as chenille will not go with my complexion. Can we please talk about the Ascension?”

Buffy tells Giles that they all understand how serious this is, but since they stand a pretty good chance of dying at their graduation ceremony, they deserve at least one night of normal high school experience.

Cut to a shitty looking house and a creepy humanoid dog thing slathering and biting at its cage. So…that’s probably going to come up later. But we cut to a cathedral, where Buffy and Angel stand in front of a priest in wedding attire. They exchange rings, kiss, and walk out together into the sunlight, where Buffy promptly burns to death. Angel wakes from his nightmare, we go to commercial, and I’m like, “Okay, so, did Buffy come over, or is this going to be an interfaith household? Because I don’t remember her being Catholic.” Jenny Trout, always focused on the important details.

That night, they’re patrolling in a sewer when Buffy once again brings up the prom, and once again, Angel shuts her down. I know how you feel, Buffy. When I was a senior in high school, my boyfriend was a guy in college. And boy howdy, he was not into the idea of taking me to prom. Why? Because he was a fucking adult. Once I was twenty-one, I was also like, “Uh, yeah, I can see why he wouldn’t want to go.

I took one of my theater friends instead. He was also in his twenties. He told everyone he was my married lover. Best prom ever.

Imagine Bernadette Peters, but taller and 17 years old, standing next to a guy who looks like Paul Rudd's more meticulously groomed brother. We're on a bridge in Milham park in Portage, MI.
Here’s a picture.

Anyway, Buffy is starting to notice that Angel isn’t as geeked for the prom as she is:

Buffy: “Every time I say the word ‘prom’ you get grouchy.”

Angel: “I’m sorry. I’m just worried that you’re getting too invested in this whole thing.”

Buffy: “What whole thing? Isn’t this the stuff that I’m supposed to get invested in? Going to a formal? Graduating, growing up?”

Yeah, Angel. All that stuff Joyce mentioned when she came to see you. Angel uses the dreaded “we need to talk,” and after Buffy tells him to just spit it out, he drops this bombshell:

Angel: “I’ve been thinking about our future. And the more I do, the more I feel like us, you and me being together…is unfair to you.”

Buffy asks if Angel was shaken by what The Mayor said, and reminds him that The Mayor is a bad guy. But Angel thinks he was right. Buffy deserves a life that he can’t give her:

Angel: “You deserve more. You deserve something outside of demons and darkness. I mean, you should be with someone who can take you into the light. Someone who can make love to you.”

Buffy: “I don’t care about that.”

Angel: “You will. And children.”

Buffy: “Children? Can you say ‘jumping the gun’? I killed my goldfish.”

Angel: “Today. But you have no idea how fast it goes, Buffy. Before you know it, you’ll want it all. A normal life.”

Buffy: “I’ll never have a normal life.”

Angel: “Right. You’ll always be a Slayer. But that’s all the more reason you should have a real relationship, instead of this. This freakshow.”

Okay, we need to discuss something here. While I wholeheartedly support Angel and Buffy breaking up because I do not care for their relationship, Angel is making a lot of assumptions here that aren’t his to make. For example, his insistence that Buffy will have to have sex and children to be fulfilled. People walk around not having sex or children all the time and being okay with it. I also take issue with the idea that Buffy could have “a normal life” or even a future. Angel knows just as well as Buffy that her days are numbered; Slayers are not known for their longevity. If Angel wants to cut and run, fine, but presenting this as “I know better than you” is, well…pretty dickish (#9)

So, how do I think Angel should break up with her? Glad you asked. “I am a couple centuries older than you, and the age difference is becoming more pointed with every milestone you reach in your life. This isn’t something we can overcome, so despite loving you, I feel we need to end things.” Because that’s really what’s happening. Put that way, it doesn’t belittle Buffy or make assumptions about her life. Yes, I realize it’s not as fraught with drama, but damnit, Buffy deserves better, and the audience deserves better; basing the demise of their relationship on the certainty that Buffy will want children and white picket fence is a prime example of #6. And Buffy agrees.

Buffy: “Who are you to tell me what’s right for me? You think I haven’t thought about this?”

Angel: “Have you? Rationally?”

Buffy: “No. No, of course not. I’m just some swoony little school girl, right?”

This would be awesome if the show didn’t continue pushing the “Angel is right because Buffy really does need to have kids someday,” angle.

Angel tells Buffy that he’s thinking with his head instead of his heart, and she opens fire:

Buffy: “Heart? You have a heart? It isn’t even beating!”

Daaaaamn, Buffy. At least you’re not as awful as Hoyt Fortenberry, though. That’s a relief.

Buffy tells Angel that she’s never going to be able to stop loving him:

Buffy: “I want my life to be with you.”

Angel: “I don’t.”

Daaaaaamn, Angel.

Buffy is like, “I can’t believe you’re breaking up with me,” and I’m mentally adding, “in a sewer.” Angel tells Buffy that after the Ascension, he’s taking off. If they live. If they don’t, he won’t have to come up with a deposit on an apartment, so that would be a plus.

Later that night, Buffy is sitting in her window, which looks uncomfortable as hell, while Angel gazes broodingly into a fire. The next day, Buffy tells Willow what happened, and Willow is outraged that he dumped Buffy right before the prom. Buffy says she thinks Angel is right, and Willow agrees. Because that’s Joss™ brand feminism. Women can be strong, just so long as they recognize that a man is right about everything. Buffy cries hard and tells Willow that she feels like she can’t breathe, and this is like, way before that Jordin Sparks song came out.

Meanwhile, that creepy humanoid dog thing escapes its pen. So…that’s going on. Maybe somebody should deal with that?

Xander sees Cordelia at the shop where she secretly works. So obviously, he has to go in and make fun of her. He sees her holding up the beautiful dress she was looking at last time and makes a crack about her apparent indecision. That’s when a saleslady named Rhonda (I can tell from her name tag) approaches.

Rhonda: “Is this a customer or a friend?”

Xander: “Neither. Just stopped by for my daily helping of bile.”

Rhonda: “So, you better get back to work and quit goofing. Mrs. Finkle so has it in for you.”

Humiliated, Cordelia has to explain to Xander:

Cordelia: “I’m trying to buy a dress.”

Xander: “But don’t you already have all the dresses?”

Cordelia: “I have nothing, okay? No dresses, no cell phone, no car. Everything has been taken away because daddy made a little mistake on his taxes…for the last twelve years. Satisfied? Are you a happy Xander now? I’m broke. I can’t go to any of the colleges that accepted me, and I can’t stay home because we no longer have one.”

But you know what? Xander isn’t going to say shit. Because he’s poor, too. And deep down, there are limits to where even he will not sink to hurt Cordelia.

Hey, remember that humanoid dog thing? Yeah, that’s still loose.

This thing is like, a grown man in a blotchy rubber suit with patchy hair, yellow eyes, and ears like a goblin.

It crashes through the window of the boutique, and Xander pushes Cordy out of the way to take it on himself. The thing starts to attack him, but then it sees a dude in a tux and goes after him. And like, really goes to town shredding this dude while Cordelia and Xander look on in horror. It checks out the sales ladies, then runs out.

Hey…why was there a guy in a tux in a boutique full of women’s clothing? I guess I’m supposed to assume that they also rent tuxes? But they aren’t in any of the shots of the store.

Anyway, back at the library, the Scoobies watch the security camera footage of the attack, which also doesn’t show any tuxes.

Cordelia: “You know the part that really weirded me out? That thing had good taste. I mean, it chucked Xander and went right for the formal wear.”

How many times now has Cordy found the clue before everyone else? I wish I would have kept track of that. Her superficiality is like a superpower.

Buffy doesn’t want to watch the tape again because she’s pretty sure she has the details. But she says it in this super sad way that makes me maybe think that she’s not as upset about the guy in the tux getting mauled as she is about seeing a guy in a tux when she doesn’t have a date for the prom. Is that wrong of me to assume she would be so shallow?

Wesley and Giles explain that the creature is a Hell Hound, and I’m really disappointed. I thought a Hell Hound would look…I don’t know. Less like a dude in a plastic suit from Spirit Halloween.

Cordelia notices something on the screen:

Cordelia: “Look! Right there! Zoom in on that!”

Xander: “It’s a video tape.”

Cordelia: “So? They do it on television all the time.”

Xander: “Not with a regular VCR, they don’t.”

Annoyed by the bickering, Wesley wants to get to the very important issue at hand:

Wesley: “What were you doing with Xander?”

Cordelia: “What? Um. I was–”

Xander: “Burning a hole in daddy’s wallet as usual. I just bumped into her during my tuxedo hunt.”

Good job, Xander. This is where you start transforming into a class act.

Oz also sees something on the tape:

Oz: “What’s that? Pause it.”

Xander: “Guys, it’s just a normal VCR, it doesn’t…oh wait, uh, it can do pause.”

I really love the way Marti Noxon writes Xander.

Oz spotted a guy outside the store, and they recognize him as Tucker Wells, another student at the school. They figure he’s behind the Hell Hound thing, and that’s enough probable cause for Willow to hack into his email. She finds a very anti-social message about Sunnydale students dying on their big night, which Giles puts together with the formal wear thing.

Cordelia: “Oh. Are we all catching up now?”

Cordelia, you’re a genuine treasure and I am going to miss you after this season.

The kids are pretty down about missing the prom, which is later that night. Willow wonders aloud if she can take her dress back.

Buffy: “Don’t you dare.”

Willow: “But Tucker’s gonna–”

Buffy: “No. You guys are gonna have a prom. The kind of prom that everyone should have. I’m gonna give you all a nice, fun, normal evening if I have to kill every single person on the face of the Earth to do it.”

Xander: “Yay?”

After the break, Buffy starts handing out assignments. She sends Willow and Oz to find the recipient of the threatening email, and Wesley and Cordelia to Tucker’s home, and Xander to the magic shop. Buffy checks out the slaughterhouse because Giles said Hell Hounds eat brains. So, Tucker was getting brains from somewhere to feed them.

The guy at the slaughterhouse confirms that a weird kid comes in buying brains a lot. He gives Buffy the address the weirdo left (why would a slaughterhouse need your address to sell you offal?) and Buffy’s about to leave when she spots Angel there, doing a blood pickup.

Don’t you hate it when you run into your ex in the last place you’d expect to see them?

Let’s talk about this slaughterhouse for a minute. I want to know why their customers need to provide their addresses to buy brains. I also want to know if they’re acknowledging the vampire problem in Sunnydale when they’re selling those bags of blood to regular customers like Angel, or if they pretend people just really love blood for no reason? This could either be #8 or a business keeping valued customers happy. That’s actually a spin-off I’d watch. Just a series about the businesses in Sunnydale that acknowledge the reality of their town and what they do to service the demon demographic of their community.

Anyway, Buffy and Angel have an awkward conversation in which he tells her that he misses her.

Buffy: “Can we not, please? When I think about us I have this tendency to sort of go catatonic and I really can’t afford to do that now. I’ve gotta stop a crazy from pulling a Carrie at the prom.”

Wait, if she didn’t have the world to save, she would give in to her broken heart and wallow in her misery? That sounds super familiar. I feel like a girl who wasn’t mandated by fate to save the world over and over again once did that in a vampire story and everyone said she was weak and harmful to girls for having those emotions. Huh.

Angel asks Buffy if she’s still going to the prom, and she tells him she’s going to go, sans date.

Buffy: “I’m over the whole ‘Buffy gets one perfect high school moment’ moment thing.”

Angel offers to help, and Buffy is like, nah. Which makes sense from a tactical standpoint. We’ve seen how south things can go from the instant Angel gets involved.

At the boutique, Cordelia is about to leave for the night when saleslady Rhonda reminds her to take her dress. Sadly, Cordelia hasn’t been able to pay for it. Rhonda tells her that it’s paid for, and when Cordelia checks the tag, she’s shocked speechless. I think we all know who paid for the dress. And I think we are all thankful to him for doing so. I’ve never wanted to hug Xander more.

Buffy goes back to the library, where the Scoobies are bummed because they haven’t–

Wait second.

How was Cordelia at work for her shift when we just saw her leave the library to go somewhere else with Wesley?

Anyway, Buffy tells the Scoobies that prom is starting soon, so they should go get ready. When they protest, she insists that she’s going to take care of the Hell Hounds herself, and she puts on scary Slayer tone to remind them that it’s either go to the prom or get their asses handed to them by their supernatural buddy.

Once they leave, Giles has his say in the matter. Which is nice, because Giles doesn’t really get to do much this episode other than stand in the background apparently nursing the same cup of coffee for two full days. He tells Buffy that just having an address doesn’t mean the hard part was over. Buffy’s like, sure, go crush their dreams, that’ll be fun, and Giles guesses that Angel isn’t taking Buffy to the prom. She tells Giles that Angel is breaking up with her and leaving town, and Giles legitimately sighs in relief. I’m not kidding. You can watch the scene yourself, and he looks like he’s thankful he didn’t give in to his first impulse to shout “Thank you, Jesus Christ, our heavenly Lord!” or something. I’m chalking this up to a combo of developing #2 and his generally un-positive feelings about Buffy being in a relationship that was not only ultimately doomed, but with a dude who murdered Giles’s girlfriend and tortured him for like, days. Which, by the way, is fully understandable.

Giles: “I don’t really know what to say. Um, I understand that, um, this sort of thing requires ice cream of some kind.”

Buffy is like, save the prom first, ice cream later, and Giles asks if she’s sure. Uh…I don’t want to tell you how to run your Watcher business here, but I think telling the Slayer that saving a whole gym full of people from a brain eating dog is optional is probably not in the handbook. Luckily, Buffy knows it’s not optional and heads off to deal with some devil dog.

At the prom, students are dancing to Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You” to remind us of everything that was the absolute fucking worst about the late ’90s. Anya regales Xander with endless anecdotes about vengeance she’s inflicted on various guys, while Wesley and Giles reminisce about their school days. And then Cordelia arrives looking like a literal goddess and Wesley almost chokes to death perving out about her. But I mean, in this case, I can’t even blame him, and I remind myself that Charisma Carpenter was only pretending to be a high school student in this scene because god and full time damn:

I don't even know how to explain this one. Cordelia's dress is metallic and sparkly, and it fits her like a damn glove. There's a slit on the left front all the way up to her tight, and the neckline is low. She has her hair pulled up, which is always a good look for her.

Willow and Oz arrive:

Willow: “Maybe we should dance before we get beseiged, bedeviled, or beheaded or something.”

Oz: “Not gonna happen.”

Willow: “You’re not even a little nervous?”

Oz: “Do you think Buffy’s gonna let us down?”

My heart. My heart, guys.

Xander and Anya run into Cordelia and Wesley, and Cordelia thanks him for the dress without saying explicitly, “Thank you for the dress.”

Xander: “It looks good on you.”

Cordelia: “Well, duh!”

They smile at each other in a moment of true reconciliation for the past and closure on their relationship for us as an audience. They aren’t going to get back together, but they’re not going to part ways hating each other as much as they did before. Also important to note? The only money Xander has is the money he was saving for his post-high school road trip, and he sacrificed some of that to make Cordelia happy with no expectation of a return on his investment.

My heart.

Buffy finds Tucker and his Hell Hound in a secret basement lair where Tucker has been using ’80s prom movies to brainwash the dog. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if he used Footloose and then the Hell Hound got to the prom and saw everyone dancing, so he didn’t attack, and then he just went ate Jon Lithgow’s brain instead?

Buffy makes the mistake of asking Tucker why he wants to ruin prom. He says he has his reasons, and we flashback to Sunnydale High at an earlier point in time:

Tucker: “You wanna go to the prom with me?”

Girl: “No.”

Dude gets turned down by a chick, so he plans to murder everyone at school. That’s some ripped-from-the-headlines-basically-every-week shit.

Hey, do you guys think this dude looks like Anthony Perkins?

A guy who, in my estimation, looks just like Anthony Perkins.

Buffy ties him up and tells him she’s going to go enjoy the prom, but then she finds a whole room of empty dog crates. Tucker tells her that three Hell Hounds are on their way to prom right a damn way.

After the commercial, Buffy finds the Hell Hounds outside of Sunnydale High. She shoots one with a crossbow, and when it falls, the other two chase her, allowing her to draw them away from their intended destination. But then they hear the sound of music and happiness and abandon their pursuit. She manages to subdue them right outside the doors to the gym, in front of a terrified prom goer. While everyone parties, she carries the dog corpses into some bushes, then pulls her prom dress out of her weapons bag.

Buffy enters the prom looking killer and definitely not like she was just wrestling with mutant demon dogs:

Buffy's dress is strapless, light mauve taffeta with a sort of gathered top with a jeweled broach or something at the top of the gathers. She did what she could with her hair, but honestly, she didn't have a lot of time on this one, with the Hell Hounds.

And Giles sees her and he’s like:

Giles is in a tux. And he's smiling. But most importantly, Giles is in a tux.

because that means the Hell Hounds are defeated and she gets to go to the prom after all. Because in this moment, Giles is all of us.

And also, I just really wanted an excuse to put a picture of Giles in a tux in this post.

Buffy finds Willow and Oz, who tell her everything is perfect. We fade to later when the prom committee is doling out class superlatives. Buffy isn’t popular or noteworthy enough to have to be concerned with this part, so she’s just getting herself some punch, when:

Jonathan: “We have one more award to give out. Is Buffy Summers here tonight?”

Everyone looks around in confusion, including Buffy.

Jonathan: “This is actually a new category. First time ever. I guess there were a lot of write-in ballots and, um, well the prom committee asked me to read this. ‘We’re not good friends. Most of us never found the time to get to know you. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t noticed you. We don’t talk about it much, but it’s no secret that Sunnydale High isn’t really like other high schools. A lot of weird stuff happens here.”

Voice In Crowd: “Zombies!”

Another voice: “Hyena people!”

Yet another: “Snyder!”

Jonathan: “‘But whenever there was a problem or something creepy happened, you seemed to show up to stop it. Most of the people here have been saved by you, or helped by you at one time or another. We’re proud to say that the class of ’99 has the lowest mortality rate of any graduating class in Sunnydale history. And we know at least part of that is because of you.’ So, the senior class offers its thanks and gives you a…this:”

Jonathan holds up a sparkly umbrella.

Jonathan: “And it has written here, ‘Buffy Summers: Class Protector.”

The score swells as Buffy walks through the crowd of her wildly applauding peers. And she looks like this:

Buffy is holding the golden and sparkly umbrella and looking proud and happy.

And I look like this:

Me, with my hands over my face while I sob uncontrollably.

I cry for a while, then return to writing this recap.

The prom goes on, and everyone is having a good time. Except for Wesley, who’s on the fence about asking Cordelia to dance. He tries to ask Giles’s advice:

Giles: “For god’s sake, man, she’s eighteen. And you have the emotional maturity of a blueberry scone. Just have at it, would you, and stop fluttering about–”

Then, he abruptly cuts himself off and gets up to go…see Buffy.

I’m gonna spare you all my headcanon here. You know what it is. But what I will say is that it’s pretty fucking odd that Giles would tell Wesley, yeah, go “have at” that student, guy who is here at this high school in an official capacity. I’m sure it will be okay. Is Giles trying to get Wesley banned from school grounds or arrested or something? Because it’s not going to happen. They were already letting this dude just kind of lurk around with no regard for student safety.

P.S., here’s another picture of Giles in a tux:

Giles is still wearing a tux. This is not a gratuitous photo at all.

Anyway, Giles tells Buffy that she did a good job saving the prom, and he expresses his surprise that the students of Sunnydale were actually grateful for her help.

Buffy: “Every now and then, people surprise you.”

Giles: “Every now and then.”

Giles has spotted Angel, who has come to the prom to sink the S.S. Giffy, which is a name I think not many people actually use for the Buffy/Giles ship. But it’s worth it to note that this exact scene, this exact scene, is the port from whence the Buffy/Giles ship set sail.

So, Angel has shown up to dance with Buffy at her prom, which, ship stuff aside, I’m not a big fan of. It makes me sad because Angel is still leaving. He’s there to be thoughtful, and I give full credit to him for that, because he’s trying to show Buffy that he really does care about her. But she was having an up night, and we were seeing a moment that was all about Buffy. Now, it’s a night about Angel, and it kind of narratively overshadows the part that made me cry. I wish the episode would have just ended there.

“The Prom” is definitely on my list of favorite Buffy episodes. Not just because it was the origin of what is perhaps the most controversial and divisive of all Buffy ships (Spawn running a close second), but because Buffy finally got to have that one perfect high school moment she dreamed of. That she deserved. And that we in the audience deserved to share with her. We also got to see Xander and Cordelia’s enmity come to a satisfying conclusion, and Xander is now cast in a whole new light and ready to move in a more mature direction. The rest of the Sunnydale High students are, too. And that’s going to be important when Graduation day rolls around…

DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUUUUUH!

35 Comments

  1. Nanani
    Nanani

    “there’s a really easy way to avoid romantic relationships with men. You just don’t have romantic relationships with men.”

    “People walk around not having sex or children all the time and being okay with it.”

    I just want to say THANK YOU for consistently calling out the compulsory-heterosexuality crap.

    As an asexual reader, I appreciate it.

    August 3, 2017
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    • Alisha
      Alisha

      And for calling out the childree thing!

      August 11, 2017
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  2. Devil's Kitchen
    Devil's Kitchen

    “I also want to know if they’re acknowledging the vampire problem in Sunnydale when they’re selling those bags of blood to regular customers like Angel, or if they pretend people just really love blood for no reason?”

    I imagine that Angel just pretends to be a really, really big fan of black pudding. And that “black pudding only tastes right when you’ve made it yourself, am I right?”

    Or something.

    DK

    August 3, 2017
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    • Kim
      Kim

      Think it would help if he pulled out his totally flawless Irish brogue?#worstaccentever

      August 8, 2017
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    • Kim
      Kim

      God, crying just reading about the Buffy Summers: Class Protector thing.

      And yeah, Giles basically saying she’s 18 and totally fair game is kinda troubling for a man who spends all his time with hot 18 year olds (assuming Willow and Xander are of age too, not sure) who is closest to the girl who’s into older men who look good for their age.

      August 8, 2017
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  3. candy apple
    candy apple

    I love that we see Buffy’s parasol award again when she’s at college.

    Also, Angel’s a dick, but Angelus was “the demon wearing Angel’s face” that killed Jenny.

    August 3, 2017
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  4. Alex
    Alex

    This is one of my favourite episodes, too, for pretty much the same reasons. But I will rethink my opinion of Xander after this episode. I didn’t give him credit for all the heartwarming and *mature* things he did this episode. I really hoped you would’ve taken a screenshot of the moment where Giles is looking at Buffy and giving that dorky lovestruck smile. But the world’s not a perfect place, after all.

    I also want to comment on Xander’s “it means his eyes are open” thing. I admire women openly, and perhaps without enough shame. But I’m in full control of myself. I don’t lose control just because a woman has fantastic legs or bright eyes or lovely breasts. But I’m not a man of subtlety, so yes, sometimes my gawking gets noticed. I kind of sort of identify with Xander, despite how much I’ve hated him in all the episodes prior to this, because I don’t think he really meant any harm by that line.

    Although, I’m the sort to apologize for my shameless conduct rather than justify it. Maybe that’s the dividing line.

    August 3, 2017
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  5. saint_buffy
    saint_buffy

    20 years later and just reading the recap made me cry. Damn, I do love this show. Okay, now, I still think Joyce is out line but for the same reasons as 20 years ago. See, to me Joyce doesn’t get to decide when she can be parental and when ahe can’t. Had Joyce been more involvex and an actice parent this far, sure girl, protect your daughter. But she really hasn’t. Buff has largely been left to her own and now Joyce thinks she can pipe up? No, sit down. Also, why is it okay for Joyce to talk to Angel presuming to know what Buffy needs but Angels a dick for doing so? How about Joyce take her concerns to the girl in question.

    August 3, 2017
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  6. Alexander
    Alexander

    I absolutely loved the part where Buffy gets the ‘Class Protector’ award. I teared up when I watched the episode and I teared up just reading a recap of it.

    August 3, 2017
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  7. Jemmy
    Jemmy

    This is high on my favourites, mostly for the part at the end. I think the “Class Protector’ awards leads really well into the graduation ceremony, what Buffy asks her classmates to do in the finale is built on her efforts as class protector.

    I have always been both amused and horrified that Sunnydale High has a mortality statistic for their graduating years.

    August 4, 2017
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    • Jemmy
      Jemmy

      Also I think this is the first time a group of people have acknowledged publicly there’s something up with Sundaydale and not have it overwritten with some kind of amnesia later. Those kids will be the adults of Sunnydale in a few years, sending their kids to school. The adults of Sunnydale must know there’s something very wrong, why people dont’ leave is beyond me.

      August 4, 2017
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      • Sarah Dixon
        Sarah Dixon

        Sunnydale really reminds me of Derry in the Shining.

        August 4, 2017
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        • Sarah Dixon
          Sarah Dixon

          I meant *It* not the Shining.

          August 4, 2017
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          • Mel
            Mel

            I know, right? There’s an undercurrent of ‘knowing that something isn’t right in both fictional towns, but until Prom, nobody in Sunnydale really announces it publicly. Derry features in a few of Stephen King’s books, like Castle Rock in Needful Things and The Dark Half. I remember him mentioning Derry in another one of his books, aside from IT but I can’t remember which one.

            August 6, 2017
          • TheFormerAstronomer
            TheFormerAstronomer

            @Mel – The Body (which was turned into the movie Stand By Me) and Insomnia are set in Derry too.

            August 7, 2017
      • Sunnie
        Sunnie

        I sort of look at it like a combo of the human determination to create normalcy even in extraordinary situations (prison, dictatorships, etc) and the fact that the hellmouth has to have some sort of attractive aura that subdues thoughts of leaving (to help feed the demons? Or something?). I dunno. Or maybe the Joker poisoned the water supply?

        August 7, 2017
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    • Jemmy
      Jemmy

      Insomnia is in Derry I think. Tommyknockers goes through there, cos someone sees the clown.

      Yeah, Summerdale has that same vibe you get in the small towns in King stories. Everyone knows but no one really talks about it.

      August 7, 2017
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  8. ‘Again, I ask: why is it creepy for Edward Cullen to watch Bella sleep, but not creepy for Angel to watch Buffy sleep?’

    It wasn’t watching Bella sleep that was the creepy bit about what Edward was doing. It was the bit where he broke into her house and watched her *without her knowing he was there or giving permission*.

    August 5, 2017
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    • Jenny Trout
      Jenny Trout

      Technically, Angel did that, too. When he was evil but not banned from the house. And since we know now that Edward was there trying to eat her, it puts those two actions on the same level for me.

      August 5, 2017
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      • Huh? If Angel did that when he was evil, surely that was part of the whole being evil thing?

        I don’t see why it’s a problem for Angel to watch her sleep when she’s willingly gone to his house and fallen asleep there, presumably in the knowledge that he’s going to be awake and likely watching her. That just isn’t the same thing as coming into someone’s own house without their consent or knowledge.

        August 6, 2017
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    • Mel
      Mel

      I haven’t seen Twilight for a really long time but does Edward break into Bella’s house before or after he takes her on their “date” to play baseball? Because that’s the only time I remember her inviting him in. Unless the rule about vamps not being able to enter a house until they’re invited doesn’t apply to Twilight… and it wouldn’t be the first rule Stephenie Meyers decided to ditch.
      Just on Angel though – the only time i ever thought he and Buffy had chemistry was the very first time she hid him in her room, when he took his shirt off so she could clean his wound. Classic cliche but it worked.

      August 6, 2017
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  9. @Mel: Before. And you’re right – I hadn’t thought of it until Jen drew the comparison here, but Meyer did leave out that aspect of vampires. Which, frankly, doesn’t even register as a blip with me compared with all the other problems with her writing, but it depends how much going off-canon matters to you…

    August 6, 2017
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  10. Re. Derry: It’s in ‘Dreamcatcher’ and ‘22.11.63’.

    August 6, 2017
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  11. @Jemmy: Yes! I’d forgotten ‘Insomnia’; Mike Hanlon even shows up as a minor character. And that reminded me of ‘Bag of Bones’, which is also set there and mentions one of the scenes from ‘It’.

    Actually, it’s not just Derry or Castle Rock – King’s always loved doing crossovers between his books, and will go out of his way to make passing references to one book in another. In ‘Gerald’s Game’ and ‘Dolores Claiborne’, the main characters get unexplained visions of each other at key moments (each character gets visions of the character in the other book, I mean).

    Sorry, I’m straying way off the topic of Buffy, but it’s something that’s of interest to King fans. I believe there’s a diagram out there somewhere of how all the different books link in obscure ways to each other; I know it was something we used to discuss when I was on a Stephen King newsgroup, way back when.

    August 7, 2017
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  12. I think ‘The Body’ was actually Castle Rock? Pretty sure I remember Ace Merrill being in it, and he was definitely Castle Rock (Needful Things).

    August 7, 2017
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  13. Sarah Dixon
    Sarah Dixon

    Derry’s probably at least referenced in the Dark Tower books as well.

    August 8, 2017
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  14. Laina
    Laina

    <3 I like this episode and I love the Twilight-hate salt, lol. Good recap 🙂

    August 8, 2017
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  15. Oh, I meant to ask; what’s this about blueberry scones? I’ve never heard of a blueberry scone (no reason one couldn’t be made, but just not a thing I’ve ever seen anyone do). Is this a thing you have in America, or was this Giles trying to make a British reference and missing the mark?

    August 8, 2017
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    • JennyTrout
      JennyTrout

      We have a lot of blueberries here, so it’s actually a common flavor.

      August 8, 2017
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  16. I know – blueberry muffins are a really American thing (that have crossed the Atlantic to us). I just didn’t think Americans had scones? I guess I was wrong. Do you have any other interesting scone flavours?

    August 8, 2017
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    • H. Savinien
      H. Savinien

      We do have scones, they’re just considered more…eh, high class than muffins maybe? They’ve only become popular in the last ten years or so, but you can get them at most coffee shoppish places.

      My mom made maple bacon ones and cayenne chocolate chip ones.

      August 8, 2017
      |Reply
  17. Wow! OK – you’ve obviously improved a lot on our basic flavours. (Over here, scones typically come in three varieties – plain, fruit, and cheese. The fruit ones have raisins in but are always known as ‘fruit scones’ rather than ‘raisin scones’.)

    August 9, 2017
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  18. Emily Smith
    Emily Smith

    The only bi vibe from Anya that I can remember is in Same Time, Same Place, when she helps Willow cast a locating spell. Before they do it, Anya asks if it’ll get sexy, and afterwards, happily declares that it did get a little sexy.

    My second favourite part of this episode is the fact that Tucker is played by the guy who voiced Aladdin.

    My favourite part is the Class Protector scene. I teared up just reading about it. Actually watching it makes me sob like a baby.

    August 9, 2017
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  19. Anon123
    Anon123

    This was the most legitimate thing I’ve read all day and made me rofl:

    “That’s actually a spin-off I’d watch. Just a series about the businesses in Sunnydale that acknowledge the reality of their town and what they do to service the demon demographic of their community.”

    But seriously, I’d forgotten how sweet and emotionally satisfying this episode was. Why can’t Marti Noxon have written all the things in this show?

    Anyway, thanks again for a great recap! These things are a great source of laughs when I need them. 🙂

    August 11, 2017
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