"Dead Man’s Party"
Written by Marti Noxon; directed by James Whitmore, Jr.

Buffy unpacks in her bedroom (see “Anne”) and then heads to Joyce’s room. Joyce is startled at the sound of her voice, having gotten used to living in a quiet house while Buffy was gone. She shows Buffy a Nigerian mask from her gallery, saying that she wanted to hang it up and brighten up the room. “It’s angry at the room, Mom,” Buffy tells her. “It wants the room to suffer.” She says that she wants to go out and find Willow and Xander, but Joyce doesn’t seem to want her to leave. Buffy encourages Joyce to tell her not to go if she doesn’t want her to, but Joyce says that she wants everything to go back to normal. Buffy walks through Sunnydale, hearing a suspicious noise and spotting a man dressed in black. She tries to sneak up behind him, but he hears her coming and turns on her with a stake. She quickly realizes that it’s Xander, who’s shocked to see her. A vampire attacks them and Buffy does her thing. Cordelia tries to get in touch with Xander via a walkie-talkie (calling him “Nighthawk”), which Buffy is surprised to see he has. Willow, Oz, and Cordelia arrive at the scene, apparently not realizing at first that they’re helping Buffy. Buffy kills the vamp and greets her puzzled friends.

The Scoobies head over to Giles’ apartment and Buffy tries to make excuses not to go in and see him. However, when she finally knocks on the door, Giles seems relieved rather than angry. Inside, Oz tells Buffy that she’s no longer wanted for murder (see “Becoming, Part 2”) and Xander asks her where she went. In the kitchen, Giles is pleased to hear the Scoobies getting along so well. When he returns to the living room, he says that Buffy might want to wait a little while before telling everyone where she went. Xander tells Buffy that they’ll keep slaying for her while she gets used to being back, though they have to admit that they weren’t doing too well at it. Buffy says that she wants to get back into her normal routine and tries to make plans with Xander and Willow, both of whom seem busy. She finally talks Willow into meeting up with her the next day. Giles tells Buffy that she’ll have to talk to Snyder before she can be allowed back in school (again, see “Becoming, Part 2”), and she replies that she and Joyce have already set up an appointment with him for the next day.

Unfortunately for Buffy, Snyder refuses to let her back into school, even when Joyce argues that he has no right to keep her out. He tells Buffy that her future in fast food looks bright. As they leave, Joyce tells Snyder that she’ll go all the way to the Mayor if she has to. After she’s gone, Snyder says to himself, “Wouldn’t that be interesting.” Joyce drives Buffy downtown and assures her that they’ll figure something out, even if Buffy has to go to private school, something she’s not thrilled about. Buffy waits for Willow for awhile, and when she doesn’t show up, Buffy walks home. She runs into a woman named Pat leaving her house. Pat knows who Buffy is and says that she’s a friend of Joyce’s from a book club. Inside, Joyce tells Buffy that Willow called and got held up somewhere. Joyce suggests having a dinner party with the Scoobies, admitting that she already told Willow about it and invited everyone. Buffy reluctantly agrees to the plans and goes downstairs to get some nice plates. In the basement, she sadly looks at a picture of herself, Willow, and Xander before finding a dead cat. Joyce and Buffy bury the cat in the backyard, Joyce giving a brief eulogy. That night, after they go to sleep, the eyes of Joyce’s mask glow red and the previously dead cat claws its way out of its grave.

Buffy walks through Sunnydale High, which is deserted, and runs into Angel. He tells her that her friends are waiting for her and that she should go. She says that she’s afraid, and he replies that she should be. As the school bell rings, Buffy’s alarm clock rings and she wakes up from her dream. Downstairs, Joyce tells Buffy that she’s going to talk to the superintendent and is also looking at private schools, including one that’s only for girls. Buffy is horrified at the prospect of attending an all-girls school with a dress code, but Joyce isn’t sympathetic. “Buffy, you made some bad choices,” she tells her daughter. “You just might have to live with some consequences.” She encourages Buffy to tell some authorities, such as Snyder and the police, that she’s the Slayer so that she can have exceptional allowances, but Buffy reminds her that she doesn’t need any special attention. As Joyce opens the back door, the previously dead cat runs into the kitchen, surprising them both.

“Welcome to the Hellmouth petting zoo,” Buffy greets Giles, who has come to the house to get the cat. He notices the mask on Joyce’s wall and recognizes it as Nigerian. Buffy tries to usher him out for research, but he tells her that she’s not allowed on school property. At the library, the other Scoobies research while Oz turns his attention towards the cat, which he thinks Giles should name Patches. Willow brings up the dinner party that night and Cordelia announces that she’s “the dip” (in other words, that she’s bringing onion dip, because it doesn’t require any cooking). Oz says that they should figure out what kind of party it is. He introduces the distinction between a gathering (“brie, mellow song stylings”), a shindig (“dip, less mellow song stylings, perhaps a large amount of malt beverage”) and a hootenanny (“chock full of hoot, just a little bit of nanny”). Xander isn’t sure what they would talk about at a gathering, since he’s bitter that Buffy took off without a word. Willow suggests that Oz and the Dingoes play at the party and Giles protests that Buffy might want something more intimate. The other Scoobies outvote him and make the decision to have what is probably somewhere between a shindig and a hootenanny. Distracted, Giles turns a page in his book and completely misses seeing a picture of Joyce’s mask.

Buffy finishes up preparations for the dinner party as Pat arrives with empanadas, saying that Joyce invited her to join them. The Dingoes arrive soon after, surprising Buffy, who was never told that they were coming. The party turns into a full-swing shindig/hootenanny attended by a number of people who probably couldn’t pick Buffy out of a line-up, but who have come to her welcome home party anyway. Buffy tries to talk to Willow, who says that she can’t hear her over the music. Buffy pulls her into another room, where Willow tries to pretend that everything’s fine and she isn’t avoiding spending time with Buffy. In Joyce’s bedroom, the mask’s eyes glow again. Elsewhere in Sunnydale, a seemingly dead accident victim suddenly gets up. Buffy passes Xander and Cordelia, who are making out, and asks if Giles is coming to the party. Xander puts on a happy face, expressing how happy everyone is that she’s back. At the hospital, a burn victim is pronounced dead, but suddenly gets up and begins attacking people. Buffy passes party guests who don’t know who she is and heads towards the kitchen, where Joyce and Pat are sharing some schnapps. Joyce admits that she wanted Buffy back while she was gone, but now that she’s there, things aren’t any better. Buffy overhears and grows upset that no one seems to truly care that she’s home. She heads upstairs and begins packing a bag. Outside, a band of zombies raised by the mask make their way towards the Summers’ house.

At the library, Giles finally finds information about the mask in a book and quickly calls Buffy’s house. However, his call is answered by a stoner who can’t hear him over the music and doesn’t know Buffy anyway. Willow finds Buffy packing and accuses her of giving up. Buffy replies that she’s “trying to make things easier,” but Willow doesn’t think things will be easier for the Scoobies if she leaves again. She says that she just wants Buffy to talk to her, but Buffy reminds her that she was avoiding her. Willow says that Buffy was going through some tough stuff, but she was as well - she’s dating for the first time, her boyfriend is a werewolf, and she’s experimenting with magic. “I didn’t have anyone to talk to about all this scary life stuff,” she says tearfully. “And you were my best friend.” Giles drives over to the Summers’, complaining that Joyce didn’t do any background research on the mask before she hung it up in the house. He hits someone with his car, and when he goes to check on the guy, quickly realizes that he’s already dead. He and some other zombies attack Giles. Buffy tells Willow that she missed her and the others and wanted to get in touch with them, but Willow says that she’s not excused from not getting in touch. Joyce arrives and Willow says that Buffy was going to run away again. Buffy protests that she’s not sure what she’s going to do and Joyce tells her she can’t just run away whenever she wants to. Buffy runs downstairs and Willow and Joyce follow her back to the party.

Joyce demands that she and Buffy have a talk, despite the fact that they’re surrounded by a bunch of other people. She blasts Buffy for leaving without letting anyone know that she was all right, and Buffy reminds her that she threw her out. As guests begin to leave, Joyce says that Buffy didn’t give her time to adjust to the news that she was a Slayer. She admits that she reacted badly, but that didn’t give Buffy the right to leave. Xander jumps into the conversation, telling Buffy that her decision to leave was selfish. Buffy agrees that she made a bad choice, but says that no one knew how she was feeling. Xander asks if she tried talking to anyone about her feelings, but Buffy replies that she had to work through everything on her own. Giles fends off the zombies and gets back into his car, but quickly realizes that his keys are on the street. Using his old juvenile delinquent skills, he hotwires his car and drives off.

Buffy tells Xander that she couldn’t have talked to him because he was so vocal about not liking Angel. He shoots back that most girls who have bad break-ups don’t skip down. Cordelia jumps in, trying to defend Buffy, but not doing so in a way that Buffy appreciates. Willow tries to talk to Buffy again, but Buffy tells her she can’t take another person jumping all over her. Xander tells Buffy that she owes it to Willow to listen to her, but Buffy doesn’t want to hear what he has to say. He tells her she’s being an idiot and she throws “Nighthawk” back in his face. Oz tries to play referee, but Willow tells him to let everyone battle it out: “Talking about it isn’t helping. We might as well try some violence.” Suddenly, a zombie crashes through the living room window, followed by some of his buddies. “I was being sarcastic!” Willow protests. The Scoobies start to fight the zombies, Buffy quickly taking charge and sending Xander to the kitchen. Buffy tries to stake a zombie, but they’re not vampires, so it doesn’t work. Xander and Cordelia fight zombies in the kitchen, also unable to get the better of them.

Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Joyce run upstairs, where they find Pat, who’s unconscious, and take her into Joyce’s bedroom. Cordelia and Oz try to make it upstairs as well but are unsuccessful. The Scoobies upstairs realize that Pat is dead. The mask is knocked off of the wall and begins to glow again. Nearby, Pat’s eyes open. Cordelia and Oz, who briefly hid in a closet, decide to see if the coast is clear, grabbing ski poles as weapons. They run into Giles, whom Cordelia first suspects might be a zombie. He says that the zombies are trying to get to the mask, which holds “the power of a zombie demon” called the Evil Eye. If one puts on the mask, it will become the demon itself. While the Scoobies are distracted by a zombie, Pat moves towards the mask, pushing Joyce aside when she sees her. Pat puts on the mask and the zombie the Scoobies were battling cowers in fear. “Generally speaking,” Xander tells Joyce, “when scary things get scared - not good.” Pat looks at Willow and says, “I live, you die.” Her eyes flash, but Buffy moves in front of Willow and is briefly stunned by the light. When she’s recovered, she tackles Pat and they fall through the bedroom window to the backyard.

Giles, Oz, and Cordelia head out back but are stopped by another zombie. Buffy runs from Pat, making sure to shield her eyes (“not looking. Not looking!”). Giles sends Oz outside, telling him to let Buffy know that the demon’s power is in its eyes. Just as Oz arrives outside, calling to Buffy, Buffy grabs a shovel and gets Pat’s attention. She thrusts the shovel into Pat’s eyes, making her and the other zombies disappear. “Never mind,” Oz says. The Scoobies reunite back inside the house and Buffy assures her mother that the battle was nothing big. She and Xander compliment each other’s work, and the Scoobies; fight is quickly over. The next day, Giles goes to Snyder’s office and says that he has no right to keep her out of school. He threatens to take the case to the Supreme Court and make Snyder’s life miserable. “Sorry. I’m not convinced,” Snyder says smugly. Giles grabs him and throws him against a file cabinet. “Would you like me to convince you?” he asks with a smile. Buffy and Willow finally meet for coffee and Willow talks about some of the magic stuff she’s been doing. Buffy teases that she’s acting morally superior and the two share some playful banter about each other’s shortcomings.

MORAL, or CRAMMING COMPLEX ISSUES INTO A NUTSHELL: Masks are creepy, and deadly. Like zombies!

GRADE: B A cathartic episode with the right blend of humor and drama. (And I don’t care that I’m the only person who seems to think so!)

MEMORABLE QUOTES - Buffy: “Well, i-if it’s okay. I, um…I’d like to find Willow and Xander.”
Joyce: “Will you be slaying?”
Buffy: “Only if they give me lip.”

“Check it out. The Watcher is back on the clock. And just when you were thinking career change, maybe becoming a…a looker or a…a seer.” - Xander to Giles

Xander: “So, where were you? Did you go to Belgium?”
Buffy: “Why would I go to Belgium?”
Xander: “I think the relevant question is, why wouldn’t you?”

Willow: “Still, we were getting good. We dusted nine out of ten.”
Oz: “Six out of ten.”
Willow: “Six out of ten.”

Joyce: (re: the dead cat) “Do you wanna say something?”
Buffy: “Like what? Thanks for stopping by and dying?”

“It looks dead. It smells dead. Yet it’s movin’ around. That’s interesting.” - Oz re: the previously dead cat

Cordelia: (re: the dinner party) “I’m the dip.”
Xander: “Uh, you gotta admire the purity of it.”

“Unbelievable. ‘Do you like my mask? Isn’t it pretty? It raises the dead!’ Americans.” - Giles

Cordelia: “Put yourself in Buffy’s shoes for just a minute. Okay? I’m Buffy, freak of nature, right? Naturally I pick a freak for a boyfriend, and then he turns into Mr. Killing Spree, which is pretty much my fault….”
Buffy: “Cordy! Get outta my shoes!”

Giles: “Cordelia, it’s me! It’s me!”
Cordelia: “How do we know it’s really you and not zombie Giles?”
Giles: “Cordelia, do stop being tiresome.”
Cordelia: “It’s him.”

Willow: “All right. I’ll stop giving you a hard time. Runaway.”
Buffy: “Will!”
Willow: “I’m sorry! Quitter.”
Buffy: “Whiner.”
Willow: “Bailer.”
Buffy: “Harpy.”
Willow: “Delinquent.”
Buffy: “Tramp.”
Willow: “Bad seed.”
Buffy: “Witch.”
Willow: “Freak.”

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