Dead Man's Party

Perri's Review | Julie's Review | Mary Beth's Review | Abby's Review | Chris's Review | SunSpeak

Perri's Review

My, my, look at all of the names up there. Just look at what a little begging and pleading (and well-placed blackmail) can do to get reviewers! < g > Another basically 'no-plot' episode, but with character stuff like this, are we caring?

Buffy unpacks, returning her life (in theory) to normal, then prepares to leave to go find her friends. She stops in to tell her mother, who is hanging a Nigerian mask on her wall; her mother, still adjusting to the Slaying thing, is hesistant to let her leave but, after some dancing around the subject, allows Buffy to go out on her own. Buffy wanders through the old familiar alleys, then creeps upon a tall dark figure, stalking suspiciously. The figure whirls, weapon in hand, and Xander almost stakes Buffy. Xander is startled and happy to see Buffy, but before either of them can talk, a vampire attacks. It's strong enough to give the two of them trouble -- until the other three Slayerettes come riding to the rescue. Buffy winds up rescuing them, slaying the vampire before turning to face her shocked and silent friends.

After what is apparently, an awkward reunin, the group heads to see Giles; Buffy is nervous (and Xander's not helping), but finally knocks. Giles appears -- and stares silently, before welcoming Buffy home. Giles gets the kids settled in his apartment then happily retreats to the kitchen to savor the relief of having his Slayer home and safe. Buffy avoids telling everyone the details of her summer, aided by Giles, and the Slayerettes fill her in on their activities as slayer-substitutes. Buffy thanks them and looks for company the next day; Willow reluctantly agrees to meet her. Buffy is off the hook on the murder charges, Oz tells her, but still not in school, according to Giles.

A meeting between Snyder, Buffy and Joyce leaves Buffy still expelled and Snyder 'tingly' (whcich no one really wanted to know about). Joyce is outraged and threatens to go the school board and mayor, but Snyder is unimpressed. Joyce tries to offer some options, but Buffy isn't enthusiastic. She's also left hanging, when Willow doesn't show up to meet her.

Buffy heads home and is greeted on her doorstep by Pat, her mom's new friend, who is talky, believes in guilt, and is almost offensively perky. Joyce says Willow called and apologized for missing Buffy; she also offers to host a dinner party for Buffy and her friends, including Giles, the next night -- plans she's already made. Buffy helps reluctantly, but while retrieving the 'company plates', finds a dead cat in the basement. She and Joyce bury it in the garden, and Buffy goes peacefully to bed -- as the eys of Joyce's Nigerian mask glow. And in the garden, the dirt stirs and the dead cat emerges, very much mobile.

Buffy is wandering the halls of Sunnydale High, empty and silent. She emerges into the sunlight of the courtyard -- and Angel meets her there. He tells her her friends are waiting, she tells him she's afraid. In usual comforting Angel manner, he answers, "You should be." Buffy wakes to another nightmare -- her mother has called the school board to protest, and found a private school that might take her. She objects and Joyce informs her she'll have to live with the consequences of her choices. She tries to get Buffy to tell people about her 'special circumstance', obviously not getting it; before things can get ugly, the 'dead' cat trots through the door.

Giles arrives with a cage to take the cat away, and notices the mask on the wall. Before he and Joyce can start talking, Buffy kicks him out, but can't come with him as she's banned from school grounds. The Slayerettes are tease Giles about his new 'pet', then dicuss Buffy's party that night. By the time they're finished, they have concluded that they want a big party -- preferably with as few opportunities to actually talk to Buffy as possible. Oz promises to bring his band, and Giles' objections are overruled; unforunately, joyce has also changed the rules and invited Pat. More uninvited gueats start arriving, and soon the house is packed with strangers.

Buffy wanders silently and lonely through her own party; an attempt to talk to Willow results in blatent stonewalling on Willow's part, as she assures Buffy everything is fine when it obviously is not. An attempt to talk to Xander is even worse, since he's too busy making out with Cordy to do anything other than send a few semi-snide remarks Buffy's way. And, upstairs, the mask is doing the eyeglowing thing again -- and corpses are starting to walk away from their deathbeds.

In the kitchen, Joyce has retreated into schnapps and talking to Pat. Buffy overhears only the part where her mother is saying it's almsot worse to have her home; it's the last straw, and she runs upstairs and begins packing again. Giles finally figures out what's causing the cat and other assorted zombies to walk -- the mask, of course, and tries to reach Buffy, but runs into a preventive wall of partying teenagers. He races for his car and Buffy's house, but the Salyer has problems of her own. Willow walks in just in time to see Buffy getting ready to run, and her cool facade finally cracks. Giles trip to Buffy's hosue is interrupted when he runs over a 'man' -- who turns out to be awalking corpse. Giles finds himself surrounded by zombies, as Willow and Buffy's hurt arguement is interrupted when Joyce shows up, realizes what's going on, and really cuts loose. When Buffy tries to retreat, the fight follows her down to the party, where Buffy finds herself in front of a firing squad of hurt, resentful friends and family in the middle of a crowd. Joyce yells, Xander jumps in with his two-cents worth, Cordelia and Oz try to referee, Willow watches, Buffy is caught between defending herself and collapsing in tears -- and zombies start breaking in through the windows.

Giles finds himself trapped, his car keys outside the vehicle, and finally manages to hotwire it and get back on his way. All agurments are forgotten as the Slayerettes fall into their old habits, pulling together to start slaying. Pat gets grabbed early, but they manage to get most of the rest of the partygoers out of the house and teh doors locked. It doesn't work for long; more zombies break in, chasing them upstairs. They find Pat dead and take her with them, but Oz and Cordy are trapped downstairs. In the same room as the mask, Pat 'wakes up'.

Oz and Cordy emerge from their closet and assault Giles, who has finally made it. He tells them the mask holds the spirit of a demon called Ovu Mobani,a nd that if any of the zombies puts the mask on,t hey will become the demon incarnate. Needless to say, Pat grabs teh mask and puts it on. Instantly, the mask becomes part of her; Buffy attacks, but the demon's eyes flash a bright light and Buffy is thrown agaisnt a wall. She finally tackles Mobani out the window; Giles send Oz to tell Buffy to go for the demon's eyes -- both his power and his weak spot. Oz races off, in time to see Buffy jam a shovel through the demon's eyes. The demon, and the zombies, disappear. Joyce rushes to her daughter as Oz hugs Willow, and a tentative peace is restored when Buffy and Willow embrace. And, at the coffee bar across town, Willow tells Buffy about her experiments with witchcraft, Buffy admits that she screwed up by running, and they begin to rebuild some bonds with an insult contest.

Buffy is back in town, vampires beware. But the Slayerettes were starting to get pretty good at the whole slaying thing; I somehow doubt they're going to happily step to the sidelines again.

Buffy was somehow cleared of the murder charges (no details), and Snyder is probably going to let her back in school, courtesy of Giles.

Buffy managed to throughly piss off just about everyone she knows (a little unjustly, but I'll rant on that later), with the possible exception of Cordelia, who seems more sympathetic than mad. But fences are being mended, at least between her and Willow.

Xander and Cordelia are all over each other in serious public -- no problems there (except for a little nausea in the audience).

Let me say up front that I am just way overidentifying with Buffy here, and am not nearly as objective as I'd like to be. But trying.

Almost all of the characterization -- and 90 percent of the episode -- revolve around the various reactions to Buffy's return. And poor Buffy -- I actually don't really blame her for getting ready to run again. After returning from the worst months of her life, not only is (apparently) no one glad to see her, but they're all mad at her/avoiding her/treating her like a leper, adding that guilt to the rest of the crap she's carrying around. (IMNSHO, they were totally wrong in ganging up on her -- again, I can forgive Joyce a lot, but Xander was totally out of line, as usual. And could they have picked a worse time and place for that little confrontation? What they said needed to be said, oh yes, but not that way. Not ever.) She didn't run, though, and I don't think she'll try again; but she so needs to tell someone about what happened to Angel, because she's not going to be able to deal with it on her own for much longer; repression can only take you so far. She has to talk to someone about all of this instead of trying to carry it all herself and assuming no one else is going to understand (no, Buffy, they don't understand, that's because you haven't told them!). And I hope she does tell in such a way as to leave Xander writhing in the dust with guilt, thank you very much.

You may have guessed I'm not particularly pleased with our Mr. Harris. Again. He's taking everything so damn personally -- Buffy leaving was a personal betrayal of him, and the hell with what Buffy might have been feeling, or might need now. As usual with Xander, he wants everything in black and white -- good, bad; right wrong; good guy, evil guy. So Buffy was wrong in leaving and there's no shades to why she might have left. Grr. Admittedly, he's not in possession of all relevant information, and I fully expect him to guilt trip as soon as he finds out the full story about Angel; and, in the interest of fairness, I'll also grant that the summer must have been hard on him; the Slayerettes have largely taken the place of his absentee parents as his family, then one of them -- the center of that family, his best friend and former lust object -- takes off, leaving the rest of them not only alone, but holding the bag for the slaying thing. And, as Chris pointed out, his girlfriend also took off and he's gotten to spend all summer with Oz and Willlow, king and queen of cuteness. Yeah, I can see where he'd flip, but this was still excessive, and unjust, especially when he descended to hitting Buffy in her love life. He's seventeen. I just keep telling myself that. He's seventeen....

Joyce is another one who has gone over the edge. but she gets a way with a lot more by virtue of a) being Buffy's mother and the one who suffered worst when she was gone and b) complete lack of information. She still, from all indications, doesn't know the full details of Angel/Angelus, Kendra, etc., and everything else Buffy have been through since she was chosen, from Merrick's death on (I'm assuming a Merrick or Merrick-equivalent in this universe, same as the movie-verse). So, she's wigging and, while I'm ticked at her for a) choosing to lose it in the middle of the party and b) losing it without bothering to try and figure out what was going on in Buffy's head (she just got back but she's ready to run again -- could you guys have been doing something wrong? Could she maybe have problems you're too busy guilting her about to try to fix?), she's entitled to a certain amount of wig at this moment. And she's able to admit to Buffy that she screwed up that last night in Becoming, while also not taking the complete blame for it. She's not doing a bad parenting job, overall; she's just got to stop losing it at the worst possible times (and what was up with inviting Pat to that dinner? Oh, yeah, a lot of honest talking is going to be accomplished in front of a clueless witness, yeah. Subconciously avoid much, Joyce?). At least living through the Party of the Living Dead should help impress on her that none of this is something Buffy does deliberately, nor is it something she can walk away from. I got the definite impression she was absorbing that much, at least. And she did offer to drive Buffy to the Slaying, which is impractical, but supportive in it's own weird way.

Willow did pretty well, overall -- she bailed on meeting Buffy at the worst possible time (I don't care what else she had going on; if she couldn't get out of it, she should have told Buffy so instead of promising too and then disappearing. It lacks class). And she directly lied about not avoiding her, which is typical for Old Willow, and went all passive-aggressive (Chris' description, we were on the phone for quite a while discussing this) in choosing the noisy party Buffy so didn't need over a quiet dinner where they'd actually have to talk. But, eventually, New Willow let Buffy have it in an almost Cordelia-like fashion, kicking her butt out of self-pity and at the same time trying to offer her a shoulder to lean on. Whether or not Buffy can accept that is going to be the next problem. Certainly Willow has done the best (outside of Giles) at accepting Buffy back home and back into their lives.

Giles is, well, Giles -- he doesn't actually give a damn where Buffy was, he's just relieved and happy to have her back (and, admittedly, distracted by the Weirdness of the Week). Eventually, he's another one Buffy is going to have to talk to, and I think Chris is right, there's going to be some fall-out from him eventually -- he's jsut being way too calm. Or he's doing a really nice job of sublimating his agressions into zombies and Principal Snyder! Must say it is always very cool to have the Ripper show up -- Giles, what were you getting into that you learned how to hotwire a car? Not to mention pin someone to the wall and intimidate them into submission? Not that we object.... And an interesting study in dynamics during the library scene with him and the Slayerettes, between Xander's backslap and Giles acceding to the 'democracy in action'. < g > Any adult outsider would be totally baffled.

Cordelia comes through once again. I'm still of the opinion that her standing there making out to the point of totally ignoring Buffy (not to mention the rest of the crowd of people, in front of whom she normally wouldn't be caught dead snogging with Xander), was wildly out of character, but I'll overlook it for her excellently in-character intervention between Buffy and Xander. As usual, she jumps in with absolute, total honesty, completely lacking in tact -- but she's also the only one to even attempt to see things from Buffy's POV. Between her and referee Oz (who still rocks beyond words), the Slayerettes just might survive this.

Snyder is a horse's ass and I don't want to know if any or all of his body parts are tingling, twitching or doing the hula. Just way too much information, dude. Interesting, though; Snyder was absolutely unafraid about Joyce going to the mayor, but Giles and the state court terrified him. Just how sewn up is the Sunnydale government? I may have to revise my estimation of their collective intelligence/lack thereof regarding vampires.

Best Moments
The Slayerettes converging on Vamp Boy. I am very amused that both Willow and Cordy were still up holding the vamp when both of the guys were sprawled on the ground.

Giles nearly collapsing after seeing Buffy again. I'd been hoping for huggage, but this was even better -- to see Giles escape his kids just long enough to go into the kitchen and have that nice, teary-eyed nervous breakdown from relief we've all been expecting. ASH did an awesome job.

Oz's whispered 'six out of ten' correction to Willow. < giggle > They are so cute!

Joyce's righteous rant on Snyder. Dianne is right, we just need to make a list of the various and assorted insults that have been aimed in Snyder's direction.

Oz inspecting the cat. This was the most Ozian he's been yet this season -- just loved it. Actually, the whole scene with the Slayerettes hassling Giles about his 'pet' was fun.

The confrontation in the party. One of those scenes that's great because it's so painful! Personally, my sympathy was with Buffy almost entirely (I know, I know, but been there, done that, burned the t-shirt, can't help it), and watching her stammer and go incoherent was just heartwrenching. Good job by SMG.

Giles in the car. First the snide comments about the mask (< snerk! >), then the zombie fight and the hotwiring. Too much fun!

Oz and Cordelia advancing through the house with ski poles. Another one of those character juxtapositions that shouldn't work, but does. So amusing to see Cordy in a closet with someone other than Xander for a change...)

Oz arriving with crucial information just as Buffy figures it out. His completely deadpan, "Never mind" was lovely! I'm so glad to have Oz around full-time these days.

Giles telling Snyder where to get off. Besides the fact that Armin on screen = happiness, I always enjoy seeing the Ripper make brief appearances -- but Buffy and Giles aren't even attempting to pretend Snyder is anything but the enemy now, and they aren't trying to hide what they are. This... could be very cool.

Willow and Buffy's tag. Amusing as hell and perfectly within character for both of them, despite the fact that Willow couldn't have had that conversation at the beginning of last season.

Questions and Comments
Do I need to comment again on the lack of A-plot? No? Okay, moving on. Seriously, it was an vast improvement over last week, so I'll be quiet.

Oh my, Joyce's new CPD best friend was annoying as hell. That woman needed to get out more! Every single person I was watching this with took one look at Pat and said "Demon". Well, except for the one who said she might be the mayor. < g >

Ew, gotta hate the aatention to detail, putting stuff on the pillow when the burn victim got up and walked out, to say nothing of the burn victims's far-too-realistic makeup. < shudder > . Once again, the makeup guys are just a little too good at their jobs...

Giles, dear? Why did you take the keys out of the ignition in the first place? I would think that's an instinct you'd have lost a long time ago -- quick getaways and all.

Nice morph on the mask -- what would we do without ILM coming up with cool effects like this and sharing?

Oh, I love 35mm! All those lovely wide shots of the Bronze and Buffy's room... Too cool!

I'd been wondering when they were going to do something with Joyce's gallery -- lots of opportunities for Bad Things there.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5. Still not quite up to the usual Buffy standards, but several outstanding character moments that, as before, outweigh the lack of an A-plot. Hopefully the plot deficit will be ended with next week's ep and the beginning of the new story arc.

Julie's Review

I thought I'd try reviewing again. It was fun last week & nobody had a fit so...< g > And again the disclaimer of no particular order for any of this as my mind refuses all training to that end.

It starts with Buffy slowly and quietly unpacking a few hours after the end of Anne. She looks somewhat confused and detached by being home. Almost like she feels she doesn't belong there anymore. And when she decides she wants to go see the Scooby Gang, there appears to be an ackwardness between her and Joyce, much like what was previously seen in Ted. Neither one knows what to say and is afraid to talk about the real issues. (Episode theme here.) Joyce tries to deflect it with talking about the mask she's hanging on the wall. (Gee, mask with fangs. Wonder why Buffy didn't have a problem with this?) Buffy picks up that and makes one of her usual avoidance techniques -- wisecracks ("It's angry at the room, Mom, it wants the room to suffer.") and one wonders is she got her behavior patterns from her mother. Both are extremely insecure in the present situation; Buffy's willing to stay home if Joyce wants her to and Joyce fussing over her eating and walking outside alone at night. While Buffy is home, it is very obvious nothing's been discussed between them.

Buffy leaves to head for the Bronze and notices a stranger lurking. She follows only to discover it's Xander and they both startle each other. Buffy gets her first clue as to what the Slayerettes have been doing in her absence and just how organized they've gotten when she hears Cordy over the walkie-talkie. The vamp that Xander & co. were trying to find strikes and they all have a hard time. Buffy finally dusts it as the Slayerettes all end up in a big pile...and none of them look overjoyed at her return.

They take to Giles' place and Buffy is hesitant about knocking. Giles seems to be the one person she's having the hardest time facing which is interesting as it turns out he's the only one not overtly upset with her. He invites them in and makes tea. (Okay, I'm not a Giles drooler, but this was a great ep for him. He had what I thought were several show-stealing scenes. He's becoming less of the mild-mannered English gent. Very interesting.) I loved the scene with him in the kitchen with a few snuffles of relief and happiness that Buffy is back safe and sound. A definite warm fuzzy there.

The rest of the Slayerettes seem to be less-than-thrilled especially in the face of Buffy wanting to avoid talking about why she left, etc. Buffy just wants everything to be back to 'normal', ie: the way things were before she left. The less she wants to talk, they less they want to as well, almost as if she can't share that with them, then how can they share anything with her? Trust level seems to have bottomed out. I kept going vacillitating from wanting to hit Xander to wanting to hug him. Several of the issues that Buffy has were made a bit worse by decisions Xander made in B2. However, he's also the only one to point out the issues, but in his usual blunt fashion. Wonder if Cordy's been giving him insensitivity training.

One thing of minor interest. Oz tells Buffy that she's not wanted for murder any longer, but no details. I'm disappointed in Joss for trying to sweep this under the rug, but I'll keep a bit of hope for something more about this in the future.

The next day sees Buffy and Joyce in Snyder's office as they are trying to get Buffy back in Sunnydale, but no luck; Snyder's all 'tingley' about having expelled Buffy and has no intention of rescinding it. The 'tingley' scared me. I don't want to know about him being 'tingley'. Eugh. But I do want to know what the deal with Snyder and the mayor is. Buffy and Joyce leave, and the possibility of Buffy having to go to a private school comes up to Buffy's dismay.

Buffy goes to meet Willow at a coffee place but Willow's a no-show. Not surprising as Buffy had cornered her into it at Giles' the evening before. Buffy becomes more isolated and lonely. She gives up and goes home to see a strange woman leaving her (Buffy's) house. She introduces herself as Pat, a friend of Joyce's. I couldn't stand this woman. She reminded me of one of _my_ mom's friends. Buffy seems to be feeling the same way. The woman is tactless. Worse than Cordy.

Buffy goes inside and is informed by her mom that she's having Giles and the Slayerettes over for dinner tomorrow. Buffy seems less than happy, but thanks her mom anyway. Joyce sends her downstairs to get the good dishes. Buffy balks, but Joyce uses 'mom guilt'. A nice touch that. In the basement, Buffy finds a picture on a shelf-it's of her, Xander and Willow. She looks sadly at it and put it back rather than beinging it upstairs. She's realizing that things won't be that way again, but doesn't want the reminder of what's gone. Then Buffy reaches for the dishes and instead pulls down a dead cat. (ick)

Buffy and her mom bury the cat outside and we have more of the theme stated here. (Hoping that the stray 'found it's way home'.)

I have an issue with the upcoming. It's not important, but it caught my eye. It's the clock. On most clocks like that, the little glowing dots in the corner help you know pm and what alarm is set if at all. When Buffy goes to bed, only one dot is showing. If it's for her alarm, then she's going to bed at 11:34 _AM_. If it's denoting pm time then her alarm's not set and shouldn't have rung the next morning. And best yet--when the alarm _does_ go off in the morning the dot's in a different place! Sorry again. I'm anal. I'll behave. Maybe.

Glowing eyes with the fanged mask. Not scary. Neither is the cat. Looks al lot like the fake cat toy playing Salem on Sabrina. Where's ILM when you need it?

Buffy's dreams have changed since she's home. No more escapism in it with Angel and beaches and love talk. Now she has the school all to herself. Completely. Well, almost. Hard to say if it's Angel or Angelus with her, perhaps more of a blend. The dress is Angelus, but none of the nastiness. But not the loving, semi-helpfulness of Angel either. He pretty much tells her that isolation is of her own making. Then she's woken up by the schoolbell/alarm clock. Things go downhill for Buffy. Less and less it looks like things won't be the same for her and she doesn't know how to cope other than keeping it all inside much as she had in WSWB. Buffy has not mastered being able to talk to others when she has major problems. I think she doesn't know how. Or at least how to begin. This is looking more and more like the emotional plot in WSWB only instead of deliberately driving the others away, this time she has with her silence. Not looking good.

"Welcome to the Hellmouth Petting Zoo." I love it. :) So Giles like to notice the mask. Must be the fangs. Giles bundles up smelly kitty to the library for study purposes. (One good way to keep all those unwanted students out.) Buffy gets another brick for her isolation wall; she's not allowed on school property.

The Slayerette conference was interesting. They're far more open and relaxed than they had been with Buffy. They don't want to deal with Buffy quietly yet, so they opt to make the dinner at Buffy's into a big party. Score one for Giles. He seems to be the only one who understands what Buffy needs but is voted down. I'm wondering if he understands because of his 'Ripper' peroid when he escaped from his parents expectations.

Foreshadowing with black paint. Pat's been invited to the party and makes a badly timed comment to Buffy about Buffy leaving again. I liked Buffy's panicked calling for her mother. The shell is cracking and Buffy's trying to stop it. Things get worse with Willow's selective hearing. She could hear just fine until Buffy tries to really talk with her. Buffy wanders off looking like she had when she was wandering the streets in Anne.

Randoms scenes of dead people coming back to life and the mask eyes glowing. We don't get a sense of danger until the hospital scene whe after the body comes back we hear off-screen screams. I think Joss really has it in for healthcare professionals.

Buffy continues to wander and finds Xander and Cordy making out. Very interesting to see that Xander's Buffy Radar still works. Xander is very hard on her. Buffy backs off from from it and goes looking for her mother just in tile to hear her mother tell Pat that things are in some ways harder now that Buffy has returned. This is the final straw for Buffy.

More dead men on parade. Loved scene of Giles realizing what's happening and trying to call Buffy. (more anal stuff: We hear Giles dialing the phone, but no dial tone first. Hell Bell doesn't need it or what?)

Buffy has hit the emotional basement and reacts as she has in the past: by leaving. Willow finds her packing and really lays into her. (Go Willow!) Willow seems to be coming more into herself and I like it. A first for her to take Buffy to task and on her own behalf. Yea! This is a kick that Buffy really needs, as hard as it is. the shell she's been hiding in starts crumbling. And when Joyce and the others join in, Buffy finally begins to deal with it by talking (okay, yelling). Tough love. :) Cheap group therapy. I love Joss for not dodging the issue.

More Giles show-stealing. I love his muttering. ROTFLOL! "'Do you like my mask? Isn't it pretty? It raises the dead.' Americans!" As much as some here are fearing it, I think something may happen with the adults. I'll make no judgements until or if it happens. Giles seems to be having more and more of 'Ripper' coming out. Hotwiring the car was lovely!


Mary Beth's Review

Okay. So *that's* the episode we've been waiting all summer for. I liked "Anne" fine.... I thought it did exactly what it was supposed to do very well. It just wasn't the best of all Buffy episodes.... mostly because it wasn't really. But it couldn't be because....well... she wasn't Buffy at the time.

This episode really gets the 3rd season going in *style*.

First and foremost, Marti Noxon is amazing. Good story, *wonderful* character development, crisp witty dialogue. James Whitmore Jr. once again did a fabulous job as director. Gorgeous lighting, fabulous camera angles, and more fine acting performances out of the cast. These two teamed up for "I Only Have Eye for You" last year and that episode was masterpiece. They could work together *all* the time and I'd be in heaven. The music was perfect. The usual beautifully scored "character" scenes were subtle and poignant. The "Night of the Living Dead" scenes had the perfect horror movie quality to them.

So Buffy's home and all is not well. Thank Joss they picked up almost immediately after the last episode. Count on him to give us what we wanted all along (mostly) with a little of "what Buffy went thru on her own" some references to "what the gang went thru on their own" and a whole lotta fall out when she returns. Can't wait for what's next.... 'cuz it's still not all better yet. Just... less broken.

Well there was a fabulous Night of the Living Dead/Pet Semetery thing going on here. Sure, it's not quite original... but it didn't have to be. It was *good* and it was wonderfully intricately woven in to the real story, which was character's reactions. So I'm focusing on that.

In this ep, Buffy's still not sure of herself and her situation. She's actually still lost. The gang is more a gang than ever. She's worried Giles will be angry. Everything she does is tentative. So not her.... until she fights--then the instincts kick in. SMG was wonderful. Her pain was palpable.... I understood where everyone was coming from, which is part of what made it so brilliantly painful, but still wanted her to have her "but what about what *you* did to *me*" moment. Then again, there were people not in the know present and they couldn't hash it *all* out then. They did a fabulous job with each character's reactions to Buffy's return.

Loved the awkward scenes with Joyce at home.... Joyce being overly motherly to try to compensate.... Buffy being overly dutiful daughter to compensate.... Both ending up totally over compensating.

I'm still on the side of liking Joyce after this one. She admits her faults, but she has her perspective-- as does everyone else. She's a mom who was worried... who was scared.... and who just saw her daughter try to runaway again.

How perfect that she stumbled across the gang on one of their slayer outings! Xander's shock and mix of relief and almost annoyance on seeing Buffy was touching and heartbreaking and altogether "enh" worthy. Cordy's "Hey Buffy" was perfect! The awkward silence and staring from all of them once the slayage was done was a wonderful sign of what was to come.

Giles.... oh.... Giles. The scene in his apartment. I don't know what I can say about this. Except that it was perfect and I almost cried. The scene at Buffy's door was so awkwardly touching.... that he picked up on Buffy's need to take her time talking about it was perfect. His quiet joy and relief at her return had me near tears. Loved that everyone ignored his tea in favor of cookies. His bit with the care was classic: "Like my mask? Isn't it pretty? It raises the dead...... Americans!" and leaving his keys outside. The group I was with just *knew* that was going to happen.

Oz was once again priceless.... his description of parties was an instant classic and if "It's chock full of hoot with just a little bit of nanny" doesn't make the 3rd season t-shirt I shall be very put out. :)

Interesting that we got some Cordy/Oz stuff. As the newest Slayerettes, it was interesting that they were separated from Buffy/Willow/Xander when the going got really rough. But it's those 3 that really need to work it out.

Willow as fabulous. She's still trying to be the positive one and peppy and supportive when she's not alone with Buffy.... hiding her hurt and fixing everyone else's problems. I'm all too familiar with that. But then she let it out. Loved that she reminded Buffy that it wasn't all about her.

Xander was the biggest owie.... and I was right with him until he went off on Angel again. At that point, it was so clear they didn't know what had happened and he was *so* not one to talk, not having filled Buffy in on the plan. Still.... that boy has grown *up*.... he's Night Hawk now. *giggle* Seriously, he's got more confidence in how he carries himself and how he communicates. He's gonna tell it like he sees it and to heck with everyon else. And Cordy likes it.

Cordy's crash and burn attempt at taking Buffy's side was sweet and annoying. So her.

Oh, and another interesting dream with Angel. In sunlight. *sigh*

So can I have him back now?

Questions Raised:

Thank goodness Pat kicked the bucket (shovel?). Otherwise we'd be addressing lots of "Joyce/Pat?" questions. That woman scared me.... and I'm not the only one who wondered just what she wanted from Joyce.

Joyce and alcohol..... more than a passing fancy? Just an occassional drinker under stressful circumstances? Alcoholism seems to "real" for Joss to deal with directly. He's said before he doesn't want to get too real because it detracts from how real the un-real stuff seems to the gang... but I could be wrong.

What's going to happen to Willow and her witchcraft (and just *why* was she trying to contact the spirit world)?

So, does the gang know about Angel or not? It seemed not, except that Willow seemed more understanding (name-calling aside) in that ending scene?

More and more questions raised about the Mayor, the City Council and just what's going on in Sunnydale.

I found it interesting that Giles was sort of lurking off to the side after thing were "over" .... is he withdrawing from the group a bit now that there's another adult figure in on the secret? How will this whole thing have affected him?

Abby's Review

Dead Man's Part was incredibly painful and truthful -- I loved it! The arguing, the attempts to pretend nothing happened, the non communication all rolled together into a knuckle biting, sock throwing good time.

I know Joss has said he doesn't want the show to get too real, but this episode shows perfectly how realism can be melded into fantasy.Most other shows seem to ignore consequences in favor of ratings. (The fact that every character on 90210 doesn't have the same STD blows my mind.) Buffy ran away. She didn't call, she didn't write, she didn't send Champ as a singing telegram. But like any teenager, she expected everything to stay the same during her absence. And like real life, it didn't.

People move on. They grow and evolve whether you're there or not. Which seemed to be a lesson Buffy needed to learn.

While I'm not sure I like Xander's new "look at me I'm an arrogant jerk" mentality, the Scooby Gang was again realistic with their "we're grumpy at you so we're gonna play in our own sandbox until you apologize" act. It's hard to forgive when it feels like you've been deserted whether you're a kid or adult. I was happy to see that they didn't just welcome Buffy back and head back to the library to await Buffy's instructions. Just like Buffy needed time to heal when she ran away, the Gang needed time to heal when they realized she came back to them.

Joyce was all too human in this episode. Sure, a mother shouldn't say those things (how it was better before Buffy came back). But parents say it all the time... and sometimes worse things. They're human. At least once a month you can find a talk show featuring run aways and their parents, and there are always families with teens who have run away more than once who can be heard saying "it's better when the kid is gone."

The only two things that bothered me were Angel and Pat. The Angel scene seemed gratuitous. I left the scene thinking "Nice, David got paid for the week, can we move on?" And whether Joss intended it or not, Pat was definitely trying to get Joyce out of whatever closet she thought she was in, which was probably a choice by the actress.

A perfect begining to a great season.

Chris's Review

Dead Man's Party, A.K.A., And how did you spend *your* summer?

With a simpler supernatural gambit than the run-of-the-mill Buffy (but one that makes more sense than last week's "Anne" monster plot) and more character stuff (but better integrated, since the gang's all together) a lot of the fallout from Buffy's disappearance gets tied up in this ep, and a few new hints and some timely reminders are explored.

Let's see: while Buffy was waitressing, sleeping, and building up some scar tissue from the events of "Becoming II", everyone else had to keep having lives (with the possible exception of Giles). In between running the gallery and waiting by the phone, Joyce joined a book group and made friends with obnoxious do-gooder Pat (and can I just say, if Pat *really* had Joyce's interests at heart, she would _never_ have let her read "Deep End of the Ocean"? Excellent book. About a child's kidnapping. What was she thinking??). The Scooby Gang was busy: flunking summer school, slaying monsters, wondering where Buffy was, vacationing in Mexico, and having life issues. So when Buffy comes back, things are a little more complicated than everyone anticipated.....

Simple Stuff:

Some of the major Buffy questions that weren't addressed in "Anne" get answered here --- Buffy's not wanted for murder any more (good, and proof that the Sunnydale P.D. is not totally hopeless), and she's still expelled and banned from school grounds (at least, as of the beginning of the ep she is. Not good.).

Snyder is just as malevolent as ever, and so far it's unanimous: *no one* wants to know about his sensations or feelings. Anything he says on the subject automatically qualifies as oversharing.

The demon mask plot was simple but effective, since it got everyone involved in the situation *very* fast and nicely interrupted the emotional laceration scenes with giggles and eeeeww's. ; Not to mention giving us some hysterical Giles comments in the car ("'Do you like my mask? Isn't it pretty? It raises the dead.' Americans!").

Joyce is, predictably, overcompensating like heck to make up for "driving Buffy away", and Buffy is massively overcompensating for running away by being the Good Daughter. The two of them don't start to re-bond until right before the party, when they have their argument about the plates; they're both too nervous until then, too unsure that the things are back to normal. Joyce's little speech over the dead kitty points that up also.

Everyone's obviously glad Buffy's back, and she's clearly glad to be back --- and equally obviously, no one is sure of these facts until the massive screaming scene in the middle of the party. Bad timing plus Buffy keeping stuff back equals Meltdown City. Most of it gets resolved by the end of the ep --- except that Giles, who also had some reason to be angry at Buffy, never gets around to being mad (I'm wondering if he gets to do his meltdown impression next week).

The question of Angel's re-souling and trip to Hell never gets addressed onscreen, so all the issues that could come up because of *that* are left to dangle for a while too. I tend to think that Buffy never explained exactly what happened, even by the end of DMP; there are too many other issues that could come up due to the way that chain of events played out.

More Complex Character Stuff:

Like I said, the bad timing of everyone's reactions leads to repression of their feelings until it just explodes in the middle of the party (SMG is just *fantastic* during this scene, and Alyson Hannigan is equally great). The other half of this equation was the lack of information; I didn't hear anyone asking her *why* she ran away --- they all assumed it was a combination of murder charge, expulsion, kicking out of the house, and fighting Angel. Which it was, but the *way* she lost of Angel was the deciding factor. Not that Buffy was told anyone any of this, or mentioned that she pretty much been sleepwalked her way through the summer.

So it makes perfect sense that when she starts to freak, right on schedule, everyone freaks right back at her. Nonoe of them are compos mentis enough to even really register that the confrontation is happening in a room full of strangers and near-strangers --- except for Buffy, who can't give her best defense due to discretionary restraints. Was that fair to Buffy? No. Was she fair to them in not even sending a postcard? Nope. Everyone was a bit wrong, everyone was a bit right (with the possible exception of Xander --- more on him below) and all of them just have the lousiest timing ever seen. Luckily, the slayage following the meltdown both re-bonds everyone and gets rid of the extraneous partygoers (one way or the other) and they all have a chance to calm down. (Too bad about Pat, though... while I didn't like her, I don't think Joyce is going to be feeling very calm about losing her new friend this way.)

Willow's reactions seem to be as much of a to her as they do to Buffy. She's thrilled Buffy's home, but still massively hurt to have been shut out for the summer, as well as now, when Buffy's still holding stuff back. So on the surface, she's glad but a little resentful that her friend doesn't see how she hurt her. Underneath, she's just mad, with some justification. So Willow "Have some lemonade, Cordelia" Rosenberg pulls the party stunt on Buffy, by not telling her about the band, allowing word of the party to get out all over the place, and lying to her face that everything's okay when she asks. Most of her issues get dealt with in the scene in Buffy's bedroom though (*really* well handled by Alyson) and by the end they're on the road to having their friendship back, since Buffy is willing to take responsibility for what she did wrong, and Willow's willing to listen (in between mocking Buffy).

Xander, on the other hand, is a jerk. First he participates in the little party stunt (don't *tell* me he didn't spread the word around as much as possible), then necks with Cordelia to the deliberate exclusion of Buffy, and finally during the argument he attacks her (as she said) on behalf of everyone else without *even* getting into his own feelings (and taking a couple below-the-belt shots at Buffy's relationship with Angel). Coward. He's not technically wrong in anything he said, but he was *not* the person who should have been saying it, or taking so much self- righteous anger in it. I'm pretty sure they never got into what *really* happened to Angel --- 'cause if they did, and he was being this much of a jerk, I'd really have to hate him. I'm betting they didn't, and Mr. Harris has some groveling coming up. Right now, I'm looking forward to it. A lot.

Joyce has had a hell of a lot to deal with, and I was *very* glad to see her defend herself for not being perfect (using pretty much the same words I've been using this summer to defend her to other Buffy watchers who hate her right now - well, except for the bit about the schnapps. ). I was also glad that she got that "if you left to punish me, it worked" out --- especially since that was *so* far down on the list of reasons Buffy left. I hope that she and Buffy can keep dealing with all of this onscreen; for the first time, she got to see her daughter kick into Slayer mode, in what was really a pretty low-key situation for the Hellmouth. I'd like to see Christine Sutherland's reaction portrayal of Joyce's reaction to hearing about Prophecy Girl, at this point. Poor Joyce has got several more surprises in the monster-slaying business to look forward to --- not to mention having to tell *Hank* about this at some point. Boy, is _that_ going to be a fun conversation.... (as well as a good way of keeping the "secret identity"-tension part of the series up, if they bring her father back to 'help' with his wayward daughter).

Cordy is a little out of character in the public smoochies department, but otherwise she's a hoot. On one level, it's weird that she stepped in to defend Buffy, but on another, she always does this --- tries to defuse situations by hitting people with reality checks in her wonderfully tactless way. I don't think she likes to be in the middle of emotional chaos, so she always looks for a way to get things under control again. The smooching with Xander I can put down to either insecurity after a summer away, or wanting as much of his attention as possible with Buffy back and everyone talking about her, now.

Oz, is, well, Oz. Nicely low-key, never losing his head, truthful and helpful and hysterical. Love the boy, and I'm glad that he and Willow are getting an ep of "issues" to deal with pretty soon.

Giles. Wheeeee! Wonderful stuff all the way through for ASH. From that first scene of welcome with Buffy (and the soooo sweet look of relief on his face when he's in the kitchen alone), to the Ripper qualities peeking out in hotwiring the car and dealing with Snyder, *this* is all the stuff I was hoping for last week and was happy to finally get. Like I said earlier, he *seems* to be dealing the best of the bunch--- but I wouldn't bet money that his worrying over the summer doesn't come up again later. Lots of other small great bits too --- like the phone conversation where another piece of pop culture sails over his head ("Mr. Belvedere...?") and the nervous comments on the mask when he visits Buffy and her mom together for the first time since she came back. Nice job of bringing up his past, too, after first giving the hint ("Like riding a bicycle.") then following up on it with the oh-so-civilized confrontation of Snyder leading in to "Let me convince you." I'm convinced. So are several women on the list who never looked at him before....

Residual Thoughts:

The new sets look faaaabulous, I love the coffee bar already, and I'm looking forward to more scenes being set farther afield in Sunnydale. Coooool!

Better costumes on the gang, too --- loved Buffy's Barbie-pink dress with the butterfly clip, loved the matching leather jackets on the Slayerettes (and I recognized Xander from his ears --- I think I've been watching this show too long), and the suspenders look *gooood* on Giles. Applause for the designers.

The music behind the "Army of Darkness" sequence is hysterical ---- whoever picked it out is probably the same person who chose Cordy and Xander's Smoochie Theme Music. It was aslo nice to see Dingos Ate My Baby again, although I swear I can see Devon's tonsils every time he decides to sing!

The "dead" kitty was just --- ugh. : > It didn't look dead, it didn't look alive, it looked ... undead. Nice job--- well, not *nice*, but effective. Oh yeah.

Love the drinking game bit in the party --- something else to add to the Official Buffy Drinking Game. ("Fiesta foul, man --- you gotta do a shot!")

Speaking of that --- the moment with Jonathon and the nachos was great (this kid is going to have the *weirdest* memories of high school...) and the conversation with the stoners ("I heard this is for some girl who just got out of rehab") had me rolling on the floor. It's tiny stuff like this that makes it really Buffy again, cheesy mask plot or not.

Four stars out of five, with an 8 out of 10 for the argument pain factor.

[And what did I do with *my* summer? Visited Antarctica, wrote the great American novel, explored my past lives, visited relatives in the sanitarium, and got addicted to Babylon 5. Oh, and got my hair dyed. How 'bout you? ]


I'm really looking forward to this "new" Angel coming back. Buffy's life is going to get even more interesting. But what I'm really waiting for is how Angel will relate to the restorer of his soul--Willow. Now *that's* going to be fun to watch in an angsty kind of way." -- Leslie

"That was a truly painful thing to watch. I *so* felt for Buffy when she was getting verbally attacked by everyone at a moment when she felt so truly hurt and lost. When Buffy looked around, her eyes full of tears, I could just feel her pain. I've been in similar circumstances and it's just heart-wrenching. For a brief moment, she had *no* friends. I've been there. *Ouch*. :-(" -- Debra

"With all due respect to the GASPers, Giles usually doesn't do much for me -- until he lets his dark side show. Then he becomes *much* more interesting. Not quite as compelling as Spike, but definitely intriguing. Character flaw on my part, I suppose, but it can't be helped." -- Jean

"Watching Pat put the mask on and morph? Well the morph was the only thing that kept it from being Pat-in-a-mask (which just *way* isn't scary), but it was also a nice way to cover Sophia. After all, the morphing only changes the shape of the face-- nothing gruesome, they just morphed from "actor-who-played-Pat in the mask" to Sophia in the mask" :) But with some FX, it looks (o.k., only very *mildly* ;) demonic. Kinda clever, that." -- Dianne

"Yes, I know Buffy's been through much. Yes, I know the sending-Angel-to-Hell bit sucked seriously dead bunnies through a *very* twisty straw. But I'm afraid I'm going to go and make myself mighty unpopular by saying that it's high time for her to suck it up and deal."
"Brava! Of course, it's not totally objective of me to say so since Angel bored me senseless -- so Angelus for that matter once the novelty wore off. *BUT* while I can totally see that for Buffy it is a tremendous loss, very difficult etc - I do wish she'd make an effort to deal. She doesn't have to get over it instantly and I don't expect her to. But I do think she ought to start trying to get a little perspective on it. There were larger issues (there *are* larger issues) at stake...uh, yes, well, stake is the word pun not intended...and I'm starting to ramble." -- Dianne and Deb

"Buffy's Dream -- this is me, thinking off the cuff here. I'll probably change my mind by the end of this post: I think the dream symbolized how alone Buffy was feeling at the time. She'd seen the gang but hadn't quite connected with them.... matter of fact, it was clear (she thought) that they were a team without her, doing fine without her. Thus the emptiness in a place she couldn't be with them anymore. She was afraid of trying to push her way back into their lives.... Buffy's actions throughout the episode, as I said earlier, were very tentative, unsure... she was extremely unconfident (unless she was fighting). She could sense the buried trouble.... and she was afraid of confronting it. Afraid, perhaps, of losing even more than she already has? She just wanted things to be "brainless fun" -- because that was safe and easy. Angel was there as the one person who always understood her best to tell her that her friends are still there, they're waiting for her to make the move, and that it wasn't going to be easy. Also, to look d@mn fine in that suit in the sunlight. :)"-- Mary Beth

"O.K., I *know* I'm in the minority here, but I'm almost about to start a pro-Joyce faction, just to feel less alone. :) I *soooo*feel for Joyce. I think she makes total sense, and was highly amused by the fact that her explanation "you hit me with it too fast, I couldn't process, I screwed up, I'm not perfect" was almost exactly the defense I was arguing for her up through this past week :)))" -- Dianne

"It's like she had great friends . . . and then she didn't. How confusing for her. She was all alone in a room filled with people. How very scary and lonely. Nobody in her life realizes that the Slayer can have fears too and I think this was one of them." -- Debra

"I was especially impressed with the way Aly managed to do Willow during the one-on-one at the party-- very clear that everything was not quite all cool... but you couldn't quite nail down what was wrong. There was nothing for Buffy to call her on." -- Dianne

"*Nobody's* actions have been perfect through this. Everyone of them has a list of "could of" and "should of"s. But everyone's heart was in the right place, and everyone was acting from genuine confusion and/or pain and/or shock. And I think it's cool they seem to be at the point where everyone can accept group blame and group good intentions and group forgiveness... and just general 'groupness.'" -- Dianne

"Now Xander.... Xander ticked me off *royally* with his behavior with Cordy.... rubbing the kissing in Buffy's face..... basically brushing her off.... and then attacking her love for Angel. *He* may not have liked him, but she loved him.... and he was OVER the line with the crack about her love life. He may have stood up for JOyce and for Willow, but he was rubbing his moral superiority in her face.... well he damn well better have some of it rubbed back in his when Buffy finds out he withheld vital information. I still admire how much he's changed, grown, etc. But... but..... Grrrr." -- Mary Beth

"Tonight's ep was *great* and also extraordinarily painful. The mid-party confrontation scene just hurt. Intellectually, I understood where Xander, Willow, Mom et. al. were coming from--after all, they didn't *know* she'd had to send Angel to hell, nor did her mom know that Buffy'd overheard the Pat conversation--but I was *totally* where Buffy was. All of a sudden there's a team there and you're not on it. You're being attacked from all sides without a chance to explain yourself...everyone you care about and trust is furious at you, is shutting you out, blames you for their problems...Yow. No wonder she wanted to leave, and no wonder she was reduced to tears and near-incoherency in the living room. I thought SMG did a tremendous job with that. " -- Gina

"Alyson's performance was also terrific. At first I was furious at Willow for ditching Buffy, but upon reflection it was understandable considering Buffy had more or less refused to listen to the fact that she already had other plans. A self-centered streak which also showed up in the "I know you were worried about me" line, after which Willow had to inform her that no, she actually had other things on her mind besides Buffy, like her *own* life issues..." -- Gina

":) I love Xander for consistently being Mr. "Who's Fooling Who?" Reality Check. Unfortunately, Xander's part in the guilt (aside from crimes of ommission in Becoming2) is in wobbling back and forth over the fine line between "straightforward" and "@$$hole"." -- Dianne

"But what she was finding out here is that they're not simply there automatically on-tap for her. They're not only a resource, they're people. And she can't abandon them like she did, return, and expect them to suddenly be there the way they always have. Unfortunately, the two clashed :(-- Buffy needed extra TLC, and they needed extra consideration from her. Hence, clash-age. Timing in life sucks that way sometimes." -- Dianne

"I can cringe at some of Joyce's choices (say that one three times fast), but I do think she loves Buffy, and is trying to cope with something she has _*no*_ preparation for. How many people would be able to cope with their beloved daughter, who you maybe had hopes for going to college and developing a rewarding career, telling her, "Hey Mom, guess what? There really are such things as vampires! No, I'm not taking drugs. See, that guy who just turned to dust? Vampire! No, *you're* not taking drugs. Oh, and by the way, I'm The Chosen One, and I have to spend the rest of my (very short) life slaying them. See ya, 'bye!" You can see that _maybe_ that's a little hard to believe/accept?" -- Maureen

"The other thing that jumped out at me was something going seriously hinky with the Buffy-knocks-demon-Pat-through-the-window stunt. It looks fine on the inside shot--they both go out the window at an appropriate speed, and the whole window goes out with them, including the vertical piece of wood in the mide. But on the outside shot, the wood *doesn't* break, and what we see are two stuntpeople coming through separate panes and *crawling* to the edge of the roof as fast as their little elbows will carry them before going off head-first. More than a little awkward! All I can think is that the rough surface of the shingles threw a HUNGA MUNGA into the works...but they should at least have *rolled* off if he couldn't have them stop on the roof to trade a blow or two, which would have made the most sense. Very weird." -- Valerie

"You know she just called up Giles and said: 'Get over here. Now. And bring a big cage.'" -- Dianne

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