Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Episode: “Dead Man’s Party” (October 6, 1998)
Synopsis by Jason Henderson
Buffy’s returns to Sunnydale to struggle with hurt friends, touchy family, and zombies.
Buffy: Sarah Michelle Gellar
Cordelia: Charisma Carpenter
Angel: David Boreanaz
Willow: Alyson Hannigan
Xander: Nicholas Brendan
Oz: Seth Green
Mr. Trick: K. Todd Freeman
Giles: Anthony Stewart Head
We open where the last episode left off, with Buffy walking a tightrope with her jittery Mom, who is glad to have her daughter back but still hurt and angry. Mom has brought an old, totemic mask from her gallery, which she hangs in Buffy’s room as a decoration. “It brightens up the room.” “It’s angry at the room, mom,” Buffy says. “It wants the room to suffer.” Buffy decides to go look for her friends, and Mom acts as if she may never return. “Will you be slaying?”
Buffy walks the streets and follows a suspicious, coated figure into an alley. The figure senses her sneaking up and turns, wielding a stake. It’s Xander, of all people, and his belt-mounted radio erupts with Cordelia’s voice. “Nighthawk, are you okay?” Xander is shocked to see Buffy, but there’s a vampire he’s stalking. The vampire strikes, and as the rest of the Slayer gang-- Willow, Oz, and Cordelia -emerge, Buffy vanquishes the foe. “Hi, guys,” she says.
The gang go to see Giles, and Buffy is afraid the watcher will be mad. “Mad?” Xander offers. “Just ‘cause you ran away and abandoned your post and your friends ad your mom and mae him lie awake at night worryin’ about ya?” But when Giles sees her, all is genuinely forgiven, and he invites the kids in and basks in listening to them talk.
Principal Snyder, though, basks in watching Buffy and Mom beg him to let Buffy back in school, a request he is thrilled to deny. Mom says she’ll take it all the way to the Mayor. “Wouldn’t that be interesting,” the Principal muses.
When Willow stands Buffy up for drinks, Buffy knows she has a lot of strain to overcome, and there’s more at home when Mom announces she’s invited the gang and Giles to dinner. Buffy goes down to the basement to get the “good plates” and finds, of all things a dead cat, which she and her Mom bury together.
Buffy dreams of Angel, who says her friends “are waiting for you.” She’s afraid, she says. “You should be,” the dead vampire replies.
Mom’s still having trouble getting Buffy back in school, and Buffy’s horrified to learn private school might be the best route. “You made some bad choices, Buffy,” Mom says. “You just muight have to live with the consequences.”
One of those consequences is that Buffy can’t go to the library with Giles to figure out why the cat they buried has come back to life, mangy and angry. Giles whisks the cat off, stopping to “admire” the demon mask on the wall.
The gang try to make sense of this party Joyce has invited them to and decide it’d be easier to deal with Buffy if they made a big party of it, and they ask Oz to bring his Band. They accept Giles’ agreement as some kind of permission to do this, and that night, about the whole school shows up at Buffy’s place to drink, carouse and listen to music, allowing Buffy to be isolated in a crowd of acquaintances.
Meanwhile, throughout Sunnydale, while the demon mask throbs in Buffy’s room, the recent dead come back to life.
Buffy’s being chilled out of her friend’s lives, and when she overhears Mom telling batty friend Pat that “having Buffy back is almost worse,” the slayer decides its time to pack. Willow decides to come up to Buffy’s room to talk, but the two fight when Willow sees the suitcase Buffy’s filling. Buffy says she’s trying.
“Wow, and it looks so much like giving up,” Willow says. “I’m dating… having serious… dating… with a werewolf. And I’m studying witchcraft and killing vampires, and I didn’t have anyone to talk to about all this scary life stuff. And you were my best friend.”
Giles, meanwhile, has dug up information on the mask, which brings the dead to life, a threory confirmed by the zombies he has to fight when he hits one in the street. He loses his keys and has to hotwire his own car to get away. (“Like riding a bloody bicycle,” the mysetrious watcher says.)
Mom busts into Buffy’s room, seeing the telltale suitcase, and flips. She and Buffy storm down and argue loudly, and soon Xander joins in. Buffy shouldn’t have decided to handle verything by herself. “You can’t just bury stuff,” he says. “It’ll just come back to getcha.”
The dead are shuffling in droves for Buffy’s house, and they bust in, immediately killing people. Buffy, Willow, Xander and Mom end up in Buffy’s room with Pat, the now dead friend, who returns to put on the mask and become the head Zombie Demon. Buffy and Zombie Demon Pat go out the window, and once Giles passes good advice “the soruce of power is the eyes,” Buffy puts ZD Pat’s eyes out with a shovel. All the Zombies disappear, minimizing cleanup, and there are hugs all around.
Giles roughs up Principal Snyder to convince him to let Buffy back in school. (“I can make life very difficult for you… would you like me to convince you?”)
We end with Buffy and Willow re-bonding over sodas by calling one another names. “Tramp.” “Delinquent.” “Witch.”
- The remarkable thing about this, the second episode of the third season, is how vulnerable, delicate and sad Buffy appears. It’s a strong motif of the series: as a slayer, Buffy is a confident professional, but on all other counts she’s a fairly normal sixteen-year old with all the attendant personality quirks. She’s periodically obnoxious, and often lonely and scared. Here, as Mom points out, Buffy “has made some bad choices,” and the series doesn’t let her get off easily. Her friends are hurt and mad at her, and she can’t dispatch those problems as easily as she can the latest invading demon. In fact, she nearly runs from the problems she comes back to. It’s interesting to see her like this, unable to say whatever magic words would fix things or do whatever needs to be done, because all that can be done is what, ultimately, she does: wait, and work through it.
Buffy painfully sees that her friends, although glad to see she’s all right, have continued their lives without her: Willow has emerged as a much more confident girl, and Xander is far more confident and direct. Her friends make it clear that she can’t walk in and out of their lives without some measure of damage.
- I like how Giles is the single character who accepts Buffy’s return unconditionally. As her watcher, Giles has a destiny so completely linked with her that for him, this ordeal of Buffy’s is clearly transient. He’s genuinely touched to see her back, and ready for business. In that sense he’s the faithful servant: Giles will always help her any way he can, and she cannot hurt him.
- I was never a teenage girl, but I found the scenes between Buffy and her Mom particularly real in their tension. Mom has no idea how to deal with her daughter—she’s angry, protective, loyal and scared, all at once. She says to Pat, “it’s almost worse now that Buffy’s back,” because it’s true: once you get what you hope for (the safe return of a child, here) theres still a mess to clean up, and that’s never easy.
- Odd that all the zombies disappear when the demon chief dies. This is tremendously sad for all those who will never recover the bodies of their violated dead. Sunnydale is a heartily troubled town if it takes this kind of thing in stride - - and it does.
- Um, isn’t it strange that the gang decide they can co-opt Buffy’s Mom’s party and turn it into (as Oz declares it) a Hootenanny? Would you do that to your friend’s mom? But then, Joyce (Mom) is a swell sport.
- Nice to see indications that Giles wasn’t always such a dapper guy, as here, when he hotwires a car in nice hoodlum fashion.
- Interesting that in this episode, it’s Mom who brought the trouble in the house.
- All told, this is a well-done episode, because it occupies a valuable place in the season- the creators are bring Buff back from her runaway period step-by-step. We end with healing, Buffy and Willow beginning to talk normally again.
On Americans and curios:
“’Do you like my mask? Isn’t it pretty; it raises the dead.’ Americans!”
(Giles, driving to warn Buffy, before stopping to duke it out with the dead.)
On revived dead animals:
“I like it. I think you should call it ‘Patches.”
(Oz, on the cat that came back.
On the order of scary things:
“Generally speaking, when scary things get scared? Not good.”
(Xander, on the zombies who cower before Demon Zombie Pat)
Buffy: “You’re really enjoying this moral superiority thing, aren’t you?”
Willow: “It’s like a drug!”
(This is the beginning of a renewed beautiful friendship.)