“Out of Mind, Out of Sight”
Written by Joss Whedon
Directed by Reza Badiyi
The episode opens on Cordelia walking with Harmony and her current arm candy. A school dance is coming up, during which Cordelia will be crowned May Queen. Buffy comes out of the library and bonks into them, spilling a bunch of medieval weaponry from her bag and earning their scorn. Buffy does not enjoy being treated like a social leper.
In English class, they’re doing The Merchant of Venice and talking about whether or not Shylock’s quest for revenge is justified. Looks like another conveniently plot-relevant day at school. (I wonder what it would be like to be a genre-savvy student at a school in an urban fantasy universe. Would you always get nervous about how the themes in your literature classes were going to manifest as monsters next?) Willow is wearing a Scooby Doo shirt! Holy crap is this a Cordelia-centric episode?
In the boys’ locker room, arm candy Mitch is getting changed. He reveals himself to be a complete douche when the other guys ask him about being Cordelia’s date to the dance. He fully intends to do some “science experiments” with her afterward. (YOU THOUGHT THAT EUPHEMISM WAS GONE BUT YOU WERE WRONG.) Once the other guys leave, a disembodied female voice starts laughing, and then a floating baseball bat beats Mitch unconscious.
Cordelia is campaigning for May Queen—oh, so she hasn’t been elected yet. She is rude to Buffy again, and then Willow and Xander start a major inside joke session, which makes Buffy feel even more left out. She was popular at her old school, and she is very much not popular here. That seems to be getting to her.
Snyder is trying to quash the rumors that another student has been murdered inside the school, and Mitch gets wheeled out on a stretcher. Unsubtle Buffy strikes again! Yay! Willow creates a very effective diversion by suggesting loudly that Mitch said he was going to sue the school. Buffy slips into the locker room. She finds that several lockers have been spraypainted with the word “LOOK.”
In the cafeteria, Buffy, Willow, and Xander are trying to figure out what “LOOK” is about. Giles shows up to join in. He thinks it might be someone telekinetic, something invisible, or a ghost or poltergeist. They all think ghost is the most likely one. They divide up tasks, and Xander is annoyed, but more willing to do research than to talk to Cordelia, so he goes with Giles.
Cut to Cordelia chatting with Harmony. The camera moves around in a very strange way, almost like it’s representing a first-person shot. Then there’s a flashback in the same perspective, in which Cordelia tells some girl to scram. In the present, Harmony gets shoved violently down the stairs into the courtyard by something invisible. At the bottom, Buffy hears the disembodied female laughter. She follows it and bumps into the invisible girl. She tries to talk to her, but the girl doesn’t respond, and Buffy soon loses track of her.
So apparently option B was the correct answer: someone invisible. The Scoobies talk about how invisibility is an interesting power. Also, the girl is clearly targeting Cordelia if she’s gone after Mitch and Harmony. Buffy’s task is to keep an eye on Cordelia to make sure nothing else happens, and Giles teases her that she’ll have to work on listening to people. (What nonsense. Buffy has proven over and over that she’s better at listening to people than any other character.) A lone flute starts playing, much like the one in the background noise during the talent show rehearsal (even if that was just an accident, I’m going to pretend it was a continuity nod, because that’s way more awesome), and Buffy follows it.
In the library, Giles gets a creepy feeling, and when he turns around, Angel is there! Hello Angel I have missed you so much! We find out that, soul or not, vampires don’t cast reflections. Giles is a bit nervous, but they have a good conversation. Giles is torn between being fascinated and disturbed at the idea of a vampire in love with the Slayer. Angel wants to help Giles get the information he needs so that he and Buffy can stop the Master. He tells Angel about the invisible girl attacking people. Angel introduces the idea that invisibility might not be a wonderful power after all, which is supported by the following scene.
Another flashback! We see the invisible girl for the first time. She tries to join the conversation of Cordelia and her friends, but they brush her off, barely noticing her. This hurts her deeply.
In the present, it looks like Cordelia was right to be so confident; she’s May Queen. There are a couple of weird guys in suits standing off to the side. Buffy looks through the yearbook for likely Invisible Girl suspects. Marcie Ross, a flute player, seems promising. Willow and Xander don’t remember her at all.
Buffy goes to the last place she heard Invisible Girl moving around and climbs up into the ceiling. There’s a pretty cavernous crawlspace up there, and it’s sturdy enough to support her weight for some reason. Someone has made sort of a nest in one of the corners. The camera does that weird first-person thing again, and then there’s a knife floating behind Buffy. Buffy takes a yearbook from the nest. She was right: it’s Marcie Ross. She leaves, and Marcie doesn’t pursue her.
Cut to the English classroom. Mrs. Miller hears Marcie laughing, and then a plastic bag goes over her head. Cordelia arrives in time to pull the bag off her, but a floating piece of chalk writes “LISTEN” on the chalkboard.
In the library, the Scoobies are looking at the yearbook. The only signatures in there say “Have a nice summer,” including from Xander and Willow. Ouch. Xander and Willow still don’t remember her, but they both had four classes with her in freshman year. Giles realizes that Marcie is invisible because nobody noticed her. Apparently, relativity is on steroids if you live on the Hellmouth. Marcie wasn’t part of anyone’s acknowledged reality, so she became invisible.
Flashback! Mrs. Miller is asking everyone questions in a past English class, and she never calls on Marcie. As she despairs of ever catching anyone’s attention, her hand starts to turn invisible.
The Scoobies are fine-tuning their theory, and Willow and Xander are feeling a little guilty for their part in the erasing of Marcie Ross. Cordelia comes in, terrified, wanting Buffy’s help. She knows whatever’s been attacking the people around her is actually targeting her. Her self-centeredness pays off at last! Buffy grudgingly explains what’s going on. They show Cordelia Marcie’s yearbook picture. Like Willow and Xander, Cordelia has no memory of Marcie at all.
I think Marcie heard that. She’s now mumbling rather psychotically while rifling through the stuff in her nest for restraints and weapons.
Cordelia refuses to cancel the coronation, because that would mean letting Marcie win. Buffy agrees, because that way Cordelia can be bait. Cordelia’s not happy about that. Buffy and Cordelia talk as they go somewhere safe for Cordelia to change into her dress, and Cordelia reveals that at least some of her popular girl persona is an act just so she doesn’t have to be lonely, but she feels like nobody actually cares about her.
Giles, Willow, and Xander hear the flute, and they go looking for its source. Elsewhere, Buffy leaves Cordelia in a mop closet to change. The flute sounds lead Giles, Willow, and Xander down into the boiler room. Alas, it’s just a recording! The door locks behind them, and we hear the hiss of gas.
Buffy admits that Cordelia has a point about how popularity can be pretty empty. When Cordelia’s blunt remarks abruptly cease, Buffy breaks into the closet and goes after her, but Marcie is already pulling Cordelia into the ceiling.
In the boiler room, they try to shut off the gas, but the valve is broken open. They’re starting to suffocate.
Buffy finds Cordelia in Marcie’s nest, but Marcie kicks her onto a more fragile part of the ceiling. She crashes through, and then Marcie injects her with something that knocks her out.
At the Bronze, Buffy comes to, tied to a chair. Cordelia is also tied to a chair, and her face is numb. On the curtain in front of them, the word “LEARN” is painted in gold glitter.
Giles, Willow, and Xander are in serious trouble, and at the Bronze, Marcie arrives with a tray of surgical tools. She tells Cordelia she isn’t the student; she’s the lesson. Marcie plans to carve up Cordelia’s face to make it truly unforgettable. She’s been watching everyone long enough to know that Buffy is the Slayer. Buffy manages to get a scalpel off the surgical tray, and she starts cutting herself free. Marcie talks herself into a rage and slices Cordelia across the cheek. Buffy breaks loose, but before she can free Cordelia, Marcie attacks.
In the boiler room, just as Giles, Willow, and Xander are passing out, the door opens. Angel is here to save the day! He has the book Giles was after, and he can take care of the gas valve.
Buffy is done pitying Marcie, but it’s kind of difficult to fight an invisible opponent. Buffy pauses for a moment to listen, and she figures out from Marcie’s breathing where to throw her next punch. Marcie tumbles through the curtain, ripping it off and covering herself in it. That invisibility isn’t much use anymore. It also raises the question of whether Marcie’s clothes turned invisible with her, or if she’s just been running around naked for months. Doesn’t she ever get chilly?
The weird guys in suits show up. They’re FBI! They take Marcie away so they can “rehabilitate” her. Buffy deduces that Marcie isn’t the first person this has happened to. The suits leave, and Buffy turns to help Cordelia.
The next day, Giles, Xander, and Willow are avoiding mentioning Angel’s involvement to Buffy. Cordelia comes by to thank them for saving her. (Xander is wearing a shirt that says “Peep Show” and depicts a cartoon girl in her underwear on it. Gross.) When Mitch shows up, Cordelia backtracks to save face, then leaves.
Cut to a very sterile building, where the suits lead Marcie into a whole class full of invisible students. Their textbook has chapter titles like “Assassination and Infiltration.” Yikes.
This is a pretty decent episode, though I still think “Nightmares” is the best stand-alone of season 1. Marcie being turned invisible by the neglect of the entire school is an effective fusion of Plot A and Plot B, but, like "Nightmares," it suffers because it focuses on a one-shot character rather than anyone we care about. It's the first time since “Witch” that we’ve had deeper exploration of Cordelia as Buffy’s foil. I think when Buffy sees Cordelia trying on her dress with all her ladies-in-waiting, she sees what her life could have been if she’d never become the Slayer. I think this is the last of the episodes with the ominous horror conclusion. In "Witch," Catherine Madison is left trapped in the cheerleading trophy. In "Teacher's Pet," a couple of mantis eggs escaped Xander's purge and start hatching. Here, Marcie ends up training to become an assassin for the government. None of those threads ever get picked up again; they just lurk in the background, possibly going unnoticed by the main characters forever with serious offscreen consequences. I can't decide if I think this is a cool writing move or a lazy one.
It’s interesting to see Buffy quietly grieve her old life in this episode. Part of her misses being the popular girl, and she still feels a little like the odd one out with Willow and Xander. Even though they're her friends, they've been friends with each other longer, and she's still isolated from them by her calling. But after talking to Cordelia, she seems to realize that popularity was hollow and unfulfilling compared to having a real friendships and an important purpose. Being the Slayer is starting to look like a metaphor for adult responsibilities (so it's interesting that most Slayers never survive to adulthood). By the end of the episode, Buffy realizes that she's starting to outgrow her old, Cordelia-esque self, and she's more content than she has ever been with her role as the Slayer. This is a perfect setup for what’s coming in the finale.
Not a lot new with Willow or Xander, really, except more evidence of how close they are as friends. Nobody’s crushes get in the way of any of these interactions. Willow and Xander both feel a bit bad that they were part of what turned Marcie invisible, but Marcie’s subsequent attempt to murder them and Giles kind of relieved them of the obligation to make amends.
Cordelia gets layers! Sort of. That insecurity we’ve glimpsed before comes back in a major way. She doesn’t find popularity any more fulfilling than Buffy did, but she doesn’t believe anyone will like her if she doesn’t have that going for her. I don’t think this remotely exonerates her from being a bully, though. It actually seems a bit cowardly if she’s aware that she’s a bully but just keeps doing it. A few of the popular girls at my high school became popular because they were so nice to everyone. Why can’t Cordelia try it that way?
Giles doesn’t really get much new development, but his and Angel’s roles are what connect this episode to the season’s arc. I really like their first meeting. Giles is wary of Angel, but quickly recognizes in him an intelligent mind on par with his own. It’s kind of odd. Giles still hasn’t had a scene with just him and Xander, but now he’s already had one with Angel. I don’t appreciate Giles acting like Buffy isn’t a good listener. It seems like he constantly struggles with an instinct to dismiss the 16-year-old blonde California girl as shallow and ditzy.
Angel clearly respects Giles already, and his willingness to work with someone other than Buffy shows that he’s becoming ever so slightly more sociable. However, he thinks it would be unwise to deal directly with Buffy because of their feelings for each other, which confirms that the kiss at the end of “Angel” was intended by both of them to be a goodbye. How much longer will they be able to keep that up? I think Angel rescuing Giles, Willow, and Xander is the moment when he really earns Giles’s trust.
“We could talk to her, reason with her…possibly grab her.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.