Written by David Greenwalt
Directed by David Greenwalt
The Scoobies are discussing Homecoming plans at the Bronze, except for Buffy, who isn’t sure she’s going. Because Dweeby Guy hasn’t asked her yet. Again, I do not understand this boy’s relationship pacing. He celebrates her agreeing to go on one date with him by giving her a Claddagh ring, then he’s panicked because he hasn’t done flowers yet, and then he doesn’t ask her to Homecoming because he thinks she’d think it was corny. Does he know, like, anything about her or about how to be in a relationship? They agree to go to Homecoming with excruciating politeness and consideration, but then she bails from the Bronze, citing tiredness. They have a sweet kiss.
Angel is pacing at the mansion. He has now acquired a shirt (dangit), but he was kind enough to leave it unbuttoned. He seems like he’s still pretty disturbed and jumpy from hell. Buffy comes to bring him blood from the butcher. She seems kind of tense. She still hasn’t told anyone about him and doesn’t plan to, because “they wouldn’t understand that [he’s] better.” What?! Willow’s the reason he’s “better” and Giles knows the curse worked! What wouldn’t they understand? This is so frustrating. She also tells him she’s dating someone, which is the first thing she says that gets a reaction out of him, but he just fixes the flipped-under collar of her jacket. *squints* Wait a second, is that his leather jacket she’s wearing? It’s awfully baggy on her.
She continues telling him about her relationship with Dweeby Guy, but it really just seems like she’s trying to convince herself she’s happy.
Smash cut to Dweeby Guy dumping her because she’s been so distant lately. Hooray! Let’s waste no more time with Dweeby Guy. She halfheartedly tries to get him to reconsider, but it doesn’t work. In the distance, someone in a creepy van is watching her with binoculars. An identical someone is sitting next to him. They seem to have a lot of high-(or at least medium-)tech stuff. They send video feed of Buffy to this old guy…who is hanging out with Mr. Trick! Hello, Plot A.
A nervous-looking man is shown into the Mayor’s office. We finally get to meet the Mayor! There have been at least four references to him, starting in “I Only Have Eyes for You.” Excellent. The first shot of the Mayor is just of his hands, which he’s cleaning with a disposable wipe. That’s perfect. He sits down at his desk, and we still don’t see his face. Nervous-looking man’s name is Allan, and he gives the Mayor a file on the German twins in the medium-tech surveillance van. At last, the camera pans up to the Mayor’s face. He has a used car salesman sort of outfit, he’s a germaphobe, and he has this sort of affable fatherly air that is still somehow sinister. The Mayor wants to keep an eye on the Germans and any other interesting people who show up.
It’s senior picture day! Cordelia looks dazzling, Xander does a goofy grin, Willow does a nice smile and then switches to worry when the camera doesn’t go off (at which point it does), and Oz is just Oz—sort of a contented deadpan. Willow and Xander are planning to help each other with their Homecoming outfits so they can be sure to impress their respective significant others.
Buffy is in the library training with Faith. Faith has bracing words of comfort about her breakup with Dweeby Guy: he’s a loser and Buffy just needs to party to be over it. I really like this scene. It’s probably one of the most companionable Buffy/Faith scenes in the whole series, and she’s kind of a better friend to Buffy right now than anyone else has been lately. Faith also volunteers to go with Buffy to Homecoming so that they can use and discard some studs.
Cordelia is campaigning for Homecoming Queen against a couple of ditzy popular girls.
Buffy is still finishing up her checklist for reenrollment, and now she needs a letter of recommendation from a teacher. She stops one of her teachers from the previous year, who doesn’t remember her at all. Not cool, lady. I might take an embarrassingly long time to remember all of my students’ names every semester, but I never forget their faces. Buffy is rather hurt by stupid teacher lady’s forgetfulness. That was her favorite teacher.
She’s also sad because compared to when she was at Hemery, she’s pretty much unknown. She also missed class pictures, so she won’t be in the yearbook at all. It was Cordelia’s job to tell her, so she goes to demand an explanation. They start getting pretty catty with each other. Cordelia fires off a few low blows. And now all of a sudden Buffy is determined to become Homecoming Queen to prove she can win in Plot B. *head desk* Ugggggh. Save me from popularity contest plots.
Over in Plot A, apparently the Germans aren’t the only ones Buffy is going to have to deal with. We’ve also got a weird demon who looks like the anthropomorphized cross between a pineapple and a stegosaurus, some hunter dude who looks like a 19th century mountain man, and…Lyle Gorch. Ugggggggh. Save me from heinous Texan stereotypes. Now he’s got a wife, whose name is Candy. Lyle and his brother were the Heinous Texan Stereotype Vamp Bros; Lyle and Candy will be the Heinous Texan Stereotype Vamp Couple. Mr. Trick has brought all these absurd villains together for the 75th Annual Hunger Ga—I mean, for Slayer Fest ’98.
Whoever hunts down and kills Buffy and/or Faith wins the considerable money pool to which they have all contributed.
We’re now in Willow’s room, where she and Xander are doing dance preparation. She keeps coming out from behind her changing screen in different outfits for his opinion. There’s soft, friendly/romantic background music, and they’re reminiscing about their lifelong friendship and looking forward to that continuing the rest of their lives. Um. Hang on a second. Xander asks how far things are going with Oz. She retaliates by asking about him and Cordelia, and then she comes out from behind the screen again just as he’s finished putting on his tux. They’re each spellbound by how good the other looks. Guys, what are you doing. They start moving closer together. No, come on! Willow panics because she’s not sure she can dance, and Xander promptly shows her how easy it is. Then they start kissing. AAAAAARGH. Way to give us what Willow wanted all of S1 and the first half of S2 now that it’s a bad thing! After a long moment of kissing, they break apart and freak out.
The next day, Buffy is trying to marshal her troops for the Homecoming Queen campaign. And—wait, what the hell is she wearing? At first I thought it was a dress under a grey cardigan, but it’s just a skirt under a grey cardigan.
Unfortunately, these troops are already Cordelia’s. They’ve been doing exactly the things Buffy wanted them to do for her for Cordelia, and they leave the library with her, awkwardly. Giles doesn’t understand why they care about this tripe. Buffy’s attempt to pretend she doesn’t really care about it is slightly undermined when she crushes her glass soda bottle with one hand.
Campaign montage! Also, Slayerfest ’98 preparation montage. Ugh this is so boring. Huh. Mr. Pineapple Stegosaurus can sprout throwing daggers from his forearms. Cordelia has an edge in the campaign because she has way more money she can blow on it. Willow is an intensely anxious wreck because of the accidental snog with Xander the previous night, so she agrees to help Buffy behind Cordelia’s back. The Germans are still spying on her.
Jonathan! Yay! Buffy is trying to get his vote with a cupcake. He reveals that Cordelia paid him for his vote, so Buffy goes to confront her about bribery. They have another argument that descends to low blow territory. As dull as I find this plot, I do find parts of this scene pretty funny. Xander pulls Cordelia away before it can get worse.
Cut to Willow and Xander in her room again. They talk about both the Buffy vs. Cordelia issue and the accidental snog issue, but usually the two of them aren’t talking about the same one of those topics at the same time. They end up less upset and more resigned that this is a problem but still very attracted to each other.
Buffy gets in the limo, where the only other person inside is Cordelia. No Faith. The rest of the gang is forcing them to spend time together so they can work out their issues. Unfortunately for them, the limo driver is one of the Germans, and none of the Slayerfest contestants has seen Faith, so they think Cordelia is her. The limo stops and they hear running footsteps. They go outside and find themselves in the woods. There’s a TV sitting there with a message from Mr. Trick about SlayerFest. Aw, cute, he made a logo and there’s a jingle and everything.
Dingoes Ate My Baby are playing “She Knows,” a song Oz wrote for Willow. Faith doesn’t get why Willow and Xander aren’t having fun. She spots Dweeby Guy dancing with another girl and is disgusted. Giles shows up with dire news, but it’s a joke! He’s actually just there to enjoy the hors d’ouvres.
In the forest, Buffy nearly steps into a bear trap and Cordelia nearly gets shot by the hunter, but they get him caught in one of his own traps. Buffy makes him give them info on all the other contestants. Before Cordelia can convince him to tell everyone else she’s not Faith, Mr. Pineapple Stegosaurus’s knives strike the tree right next to her, and the girls run.
At the Bronze, Faith ruins Dweeby Guy’s night by pretending she’s one of his exes and that she has good news about their STD medication. Faith is my favorite thing about this episode. Giles is not pleased with the hors d’ouvres, since pigs in blankets don’t count as hors d’ouvres if you’re British, I guess. He’s just gonna go back to the library until Buffy—until someone gets crowned Homecoming Queen. Oh man Giles is my other favorite thing about this episode. That was the sweetest thing ever.
Buffy and Cordelia have barricaded themselves inside some kind of abandoned cabin. Cordelia is terrified that they won’t survive and she’ll never be able to tell Xander she loves him (Maybe, that is. If it’s not just hormones. She’s not sure yet.) Buffy taunts her about the campaign to get her angry instead of scared. She’s kind of surprised that Cordelia maybe loves Xander.
German boss guy shows off his medium-tech tracking equipment to Mr. Trick. (Don’t know why he thinks that’ll impress the guy who somehow got a hold of 2500 MB/s fiber optic internet in 1998, but whatever.) He uses it to cut off the phone connection from the phone in the abandoned cabin Buffy and Cordelia are in before Buffy can finish leaving a message for Giles.
Mr. Pineapple Stegosaurus offers to cut off hunter guy’s leg, which is still caught in the bear trap. How thoughtful. He declines.
Giles gets the partial message at the library. At the cabin, Cordelia asks Buffy why she even cares about Homecoming. Buffy explains that she wanted to prove that she did normal teenage things; she wasn’t just the Slayer protecting the world. Mr. Pineapple Stegosaurus breaks in and attacks. They fight him, and then the Germans fire a grenade launcher at the cabin. Buffy and Cordelia dive out a window. Mr. Pineapple Stegosaurus tries to dive through a different window, but it’s boarded up, so he just bounces back. Hahaha. He and the cabin go boom. The girls are now on their way to the library.
At the library, the Heinous Texan Stereotype Vamp Couple have knocked out Giles and are lying in wait. So they’re the type of gamers who camp. They are officially the worst. The Germans track Buffy and Cordelia to the school. Someone knocks on the door of the place Mr. Trick and Boss German are at, and it’s the police! They haul Mr. Trick away.
Oh hey, I guess I was wrong about the library doors only swinging both ways in “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered.” Mrs. Heinous Texan Vampire Stereotype attacks Buffy as soon as she enters the library, and Buffy stakes her with the spatula from the cabin. Mr. Heinous Texan Vampire Stereotype is furious, but he runs away with his tail between his legs after Cordelia gets in his face with an angry speech about how they’ve killed most of the other competitors. Oh, for the love of—STAKE HIM. Don’t just let him get away! Giles wakes up, and they realize that the corsages are actually from the Germans, and bugged. This gives Buffy an idea for how to take the Germans down. She uses them to trick the German twins into shooting each other.
In City Hall, the police bring Mr. Trick to the Mayor’s office. Mr. Trick is very confused. Oh hey so the Mayor is the Big Bad. This year is a “big year” for him and it’s not because of elections. He was very impressed by Mr. Trick’s initiative. He offers him a job. And a disposable wipe.
Buffy and Cordy, disheveled, dirty, and (in Buffy’s case) bloody, arrive at the Bronze just in time for the coronation. It’s a tie! Between the other two girls who were running. Haaaaaa I don’t care.
Maybe you can already tell, but I don’t particularly like “Homecoming.” Plot A is kind of stupid and Plot B is kind of shallow. None of the contestants in Plot A were remotely threatening (although I’ll always love Mr. Pineapple Stegosaurus).
I hated having Lyle Gorch back. He wasn’t a good villain in “Bad Eggs,” and he’s even more superfluous here. And I don’t see why the writers think letting a vampire get away like that is funny enough to balance out the fridge logic of how many people he’s probably going to kill offscreen now. It’s maddening. Can I just assume he tripped on a tree root five minutes later and impaled himself on a twig? Yeah, I’m gonna do that. The Germans were ridiculous, and not (at least for me) in an entertaining way. The hunter guy might as well have been Cain from “Phases,” since if they weren’t going to do anything with the character, he could at least have been a familiar face. The subplots are where the good parts of the episode live. As I said already, I love Faith in this one and I love Giles. We also finally meet the Mayor and learn that he’s up to something. Even if the whole SlayerFest thing is really stupid, Mr. Trick is pretty funny throughout, and it’ll be great to see him team up with the Mayor, since they have such radically different personalities. Willow and Xander’s storyline is not one I’m at all fond of—I’m not sure I even find it plausible. But even if it takes a dagger to my Willow/Oz-shipping heart, I’ll admit that it’s at least better drama than Buffy and Cordelia’s rivalry, which will have no effect on any other episodes.
I used to think Buffy’s motivations in this episode were entirely shallow, much like how I used to feel about her desire to be a cheerleader in “Witch.” I think I mentioned in that review that I never wanted to be popular when I was in grade school. Most of the popular kids seemed like superficial morons, and I wanted more out of my friendships than status. So when a character I root for, like Buffy, pursues dumb high school stuff like the cheerleading squad and the title of Homecoming Queen, I tend to wall off from them until that storyline ends. But this time around, I was able to spot why a character with as much depth and complexity as Buffy would take the time to care about something like this. She’s never wanted to be completely defined by being the Slayer, and she also doesn’t want to be defined by her two expulsions. Becoming Homecoming Queen would prove that she’s more than the hardest things in her life. She can still have some glamour. I can get behind that, as long as it’s only an occasional thing.
What the hell are you doing, Willow? At the end of S2, she said Oz’s name when she was regaining consciousness, even though Xander had just told her he loves her. I thought that put her crush on Xander firmly in the past and Oz firmly first in her affections. It’s a particularly jarring development right after “Beauty and the Beasts,” when Willow’s entire focus was on supporting Oz and clearing his name.
What the hell are you doing, Xander? This is the first time he’s shown any sign of nonplatonic interest in Willow at all since his confession at her bedside in “Becoming.” True, he’s been a little nosier than one might expect about Willow’s relationship with Oz, but that seemed to be just friendly/brotherly overprotectiveness, not jealousy. Admittedly, I haven’t seen as much emotional attachment to Cordy as he showed in S2, but if I’d been watching this show for the first time, I don’t think I would have seen this coming. And just in time for Cordelia to be seriously considering whether or not she’s in love with him. Bah.
For the first time since “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered,” Cordelia cares about popular girl concerns. I think part of what makes this episode unsatisfactory is how jarring her return to S1 form is when she’s been such a nice part of the gang for so long. It’s not a complete regression, though. She is thinking about what her relationship with Xander means and she does resolve some of the fear issues we saw in her when she ran away in “Becoming: Part 1” and was ashamed of it in “Becoming: Part 2.”
Oz is only in the episode enough to remind us how not okay it is for Willow to be fooling around with Xander behind his back. He’s sweet and cool and a perfect boyfriend.
Giles is still completely in Buffy’s corner, which makes her continued reluctance to confide in him a growing source of frustration for me. He doesn’t understand the appeal of the Homecoming Queen thing any more than I do, but he still has complete confidence in Buffy’s ability to win it. He’s not just attending the coronation to support her, he’s attending it because it doesn’t occur to him to think anyone else could ever beat Buffy. It’s so heartwarming. I adore him.
Even though Faith’s not in the credits, I’m going to give her a section. Ever since Cordelia became one of the Scoobies, she’s been less and less Buffy’s foil. I think Faith is now that. Buffy’s come far enough accepting her role as the Slayer that we don’t need Cordelia to show us what she could’ve been if she’d never been chosen anymore. Instead, we’re seeing examples of how unique Buffy is in her approach to Slaying. Kendra was entirely by the book, with many aspects of her life and personality suppressed and consumed by her duty. Faith has major anger issues and is all about getting what she wants. Buffy is somewhere in the middle, and unlike either of the other Slayers we’ve met, she has family, friends, and school with which to fill her life. Buffy is more similar to Faith than Kendra, but that only makes the contrast more significant. There are even multiple references to the sister-like bond between them. Buffy is Neutral Good, while Faith is Chaotic Neutral. (I’d say Kendra was Lawful Neutral.) She definitely acts like a sister to Buffy in this episode. Two weeks ago, she was flirting with Dweeby Guy, but now she’s ruining his post-Buffy relationship in revenge for him dumping Buffy. She’s the only one in the entire cast who offers sympathy about Buffy’s breakup.
Angel is barely in this one. He’s slowly recovering from his time in hell. He got his powers of speech back, but he only uses them to say four words. I think he’s still processing.
“As Willow goes, so goes my nation.”
“You’re just trying to make me mad so I won’t be so scared! …And, hey, it’s working! Where’s a damn weapon?”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.