"The Wish"
Written by Marti Noxon; directed by David Greenwalt

It’s a peaceful day in a Sunnydale park, where Buffy, Xander, and Willow are having a picnic. Or, at least, it was, until their meal was interrupted by a demon. The demon strangles Buffy while Willow searches for a weapon, finally coming up with a knife. Buffy kills the demon, which, unfortunately, doesn’t “go poof,” and the Scoobies decide they’ll have to bury it. Xander asks after Faith, whom Buffy says isn’t very social. She says that slaying is tough and that Slayers shouldn’t spend too much time without other people. Buffy asks if Xander has tried to reach Cordelia (see “Lovers Walk”) and he says that she won’t return his calls. Willow, who also hasn’t spoken to Oz, says she’s looking forward to school the next day, because she’ll be able to beg for forgiveness. Xander asks Buffy how she dealt with her own bad breakup experience, and she says that they helped her. Cordelia cuts up and burns photos of Xander in her bedroom while she listens to his numerous messages on her answering machine.

Willow stakes out Oz’s locker at school the next morning, telling Buffy that she’s worried because he hasn’t stopped by it yet and might need books from it. She tells Buffy that Amy saw Cordelia at the mall the night before and says she looks “scary.” Cordelia arrives at school decked out in leather and strolls in as if nothing happened. She meets up with Harmony and some other friends, as well as a girl named Anya (Emma Caulfield), who has just moved to Sunnydale. Cordelia’s friends encourage her to forget about Xander and start dating again immediately. Harmony then tells Cordelia that Jonathan is the perfect guy for her - “I'm pretty sure he won't cheat on you. At least not for awhile. Plus, he’s got a kill moped.” The Cordettes laugh and walk off. Willow finally runs into Oz and tries to start a nonchalant conversation, but he’s not interested in hearing her apologies once again. He tells her to leave him alone so that he can figure things out on his own. Cordelia tries to avoid Xander, going so far as to pretend to make out with another guy to make him jealous. The guy, John Lee, tells her he can’t be seen with her because she’s Xander’s “reject.” Cordelia runs into Anya, the only person who hasn’t given her a hard time for what happened with Xander, and the two start complaining about men. “Deserves whatever he gets,” Anya says. She starts to ask if Cordelia wishes something, but Cordelia would rather act than wish, and decides that she’s going to prove that she’s over him.

At the Bronze that night, Cordelia flirts with a guy while Buffy and Willow mope and Xander tries to cheer them up. “I need to be both giving and receiving of mirth,” he tells them. Buffy isn’t in favor of being against Cordelia, since she was the one who was hurt the most by what happened with him and Willow. Willow agrees that they should have to pay for what happened. Xander disagrees, saying that they should be allowed to do what they want. The girls try to get on board, but the three soon go back to being depressed. Buffy goes to get them chocolate and Xander starts complaining about Cordelia’s seemingly happy façade. “Tears of a clown, baby,” he says. “Or is it…grins of a sad person?” He touches Willow’s hand, but she tells him that if she wants to get back together with Oz, they can’t fall back on old habits. Cordelia leaves the Bronze and Buffy goes outside after her. Cordelia asks if Xander sent her outside, but Buffy assures her that he didn’t. She tells Cordelia that she’s been in her shoes and that telling her friends about her problems helped. Suddenly, a vampire jumps out and Buffy fights him off. Cordelia winds up in a pile of trash and is spotted by her so-called friends, who take it as another opportunity to laugh at her. Cordelia complains to Buffy that she’s always on the receiving end of bad happenings, and the next day at school she continues her rant with Anya. Anya loans her a necklace and again asks if Cordelia wishes something would happen to Xander. Cordelia instead chooses to blame her bad luck on Buffy and says, “I wish Buffy Summers had never come to Sunnydale.” Anya turns around, her face demonic, and replies, “Done.”

Suddenly, Cordelia is alone on campus, Anya and the Scoobies having disappeared. She realizes that Anya was some sort of “scary, veiny good fairy” and excitedly heads inside. All of the other students (of whom there aren’t as many as usual) are wearing drab clothing, though Cordelia is still wearing a bright blue dress. She runs into the Cordettes, who call her dress “daring,” and John Lee, who asks her to go with him to a winter brunch. At the end of class, the teacher and students rush out and Cordelia asks why everyone’s in such a hurry. One of the Cordettes says that curfew begins soon, but Cordelia wants to go to the Bronze. Her friends are shocked at the suggestion and Cordelia notes that the Bronze must not be cool in this new world. Harmony asks Cordelia why she’s acting and dressing so strangely; Cordelia says that she hit her head and has been having problems with her memory. She asks if Xander and Willow are unhappy, and Harmony says that they obviously are - they’re dead.

Cordelia heads to the parking lot, but is unable to find her car. She asks a janitor where it is and he tells her that students aren’t allowed to drive to school. He advises her to get home before the sun goes down. Cordelia goes downtown and finds it surprisingly empty. She runs into Xander, who’s wearing leather, but doesn’t realize that this suggests something is off about him. She mentions that Harmony told her he was dead and says that they need to find Buffy. She admits that things were better when she was around, but Xander wonders why Cordelia would want to contact the Slayer. Willow, also dressed in leather, appears with a “bored now,” and Cordelia complains that, even in her supposedly ideal universe, they’re together. Xander suddenly vamps out and challenges Cordelia to make a run for it. Vamp Willow and Xander share a kiss before giving chase. They easily catch up to her and knock her out, but their game is interrupted when a van pulls up and Giles, Oz, Larry, and a girl named Nancy - collectively referred to by Xander as the White Hats - jump out with crosses and weapons. They get Cordelia to safety, much to Vamp Xander and Willow’s disappointment.

At the library, the White Hats tend to Cordelia, wondering why she would wear bright blue when vampires are attracted to bright colors. Vamp Xander and Willow head to the Bronze, which has become a feeding ground for the vamps of Sunnydale. In the back room, they’re greeted by the Master (last seen in “Prophecy Girl”). Xander tells him that Cordelia mentioned Buffy, whom he says is “striking fear in nobody’s hearts.” He reminds them that “the plant” starts operating in less than 24 hours and orders them to find and kill Cordelia before she can get in touch with Buffy. In the library, Cordelia comes to and frantically tells Giles that they have to contact Buffy and get the world back to the way it was. She wonders why Giles is in Sunnydale if Buffy isn’t, and Giles is surprised that she knows he was a Watcher. He heads into the book cage to get some weapons, then suddenly finds himself being locked inside by Vamp Willow and Xander. “You’re in a big cage,” Vamp Willow says helpfully. Vamp Xander grabs Cordelia and taunts Giles, “So you’re a Watcher, huh? Watch this.” Giles is forced to watch helplessly as Vamp Willow and Xander bite and kill Cordelia.

After Vamp Xander and Willow skedaddle, Giles gets out of the book cage and confirms that Cordelia is dead. Oz and Larry run in, announcing that a bunch of vampires attacked them outside and killed Nancy. Giles asks them to take Cordelia’s body to the incinerator, but before they go, he sees Anya’s necklace and takes it off of Cordelia. Back at the Bronze, the Master is pleased to learn that Cordelia is dead and grants Willow permission to “play with the puppy.” Giles calls Buffy’s Watcher, complaining that the Hellmouth in Sunnydale sees more activity than the one that apparently exists in Cleveland (see “Chosen”). Back at the Bronze, Willow complains of boredom again as she enters what looks like a jail cell. She straddles her “puppy” and grabs his hair, pulling him up so that we can see that he’s Angel. She tells him that the plant is opening that day and that the people he tried to save will die. “It’s gonna be quick for them,” she says. “Not for you, though. It’s gonna be slow for you. That’s right, Puppy…Willow’s gonna make you bark.” She rips his shirt open, revealing a number of marks from past torture sessions, and Xander throws a lit match onto his chest. Willow gleefully lights her own match and starts in on another round of torture. Giles finds information about the necklace in a book and learns that it belongs to Anyanka, the “patron saint of scorned women,” who grants wishes. He sends Oz and Larry home and heads to his own place to get more books. On the way, he sees a group of people being attacked by vampires and stops to help them. He is quickly knocked aside and watches with surprise as someone else takes care of the other vampires. Once they’re dead, he looks up and says, “Buffy Summers?” She responds in the affirmative and asks why she was summoned to Sunnydale.

Giles takes Buffy to his apartment, where he discovers through the magic of reading that Anyanka’s powercenter must be destroyed to reverse the wishes she’s granted and take away her power. However, the book doesn’t tell him what her powercenter is. Buffy suggests putting a stake through Anyanka’s heart, even though she’s not a vampire - “you’d be surprised how many things that’ll kill.” Giles says that he wants to put the world back in order, but Buffy (calling him “Jeeves”) points out that he can’t be certain that the world Cordelia mentioned is actually better than the one they’re living in. Giles says that the Master must have seen Cordelia as a threat or he wouldn’t have had her killed. Buffy asks why no one has tried to kill the Master, since they know where to find him. She decides to go after the Master on her own and try to improve the world they’re stuck in. She goes to the Bronze, but finds it empty. In the basement, she finds Angel still in his cell but doesn’t do anything to help him. He recognizes her, having been sent to Sunnydale to watch after her (see “Becoming, Part 1”), and calls her his “destiny.” She’s not impressed and asks him where the Master is. He tells her that the “plant” (a factory) is starting up that night and offers to show her where it is. She starts to let him out of the cell, but stops when she realizes that he’s a vampire. She accuses him of trying to lead her to the Master, but he shows her his wounds and promises that he wants the Master dead as much as she does.

A crowd of vampires has gathered at the Master’s factory, where he’s giving a speech about them being the superior race and using the human concept of mass production to improve their killing techniques. At his apartment, Giles does a spell to summon Anyanka, who isn’t thrilled about being beckoned. A Cordette is volunteered to be the first to demonstrate the Master’s nifty blood draining machine, which ensures that blood is fresh because it’s extracted from someone who’s still alive. Buffy and Angel arrive, taking in the scene, and Angel asks what their plan is. Buffy holds up a stake and replies, “Don’t fall on this.” The Master toasts to the future with the Cordette’s blood, then spots Buffy firing a crossbow bolt at him and uses Vamp Xander as a shield. “Puppy got out,” Vamp Willow notes. Angel frees the human captives as fights break out between the vampires and the White Hats. Giles asks Anyanka what Cordelia wished for and Anyanka expresses her pleasure over the way things turned out. He orders her to change things back. Angel tries to save Buffy from Vamp Xander, but winds up getting staked himself. Buffy expresses no interest in his fate. “This is the real world now,” Anyanka tells Giles. “This is the world we made. Isn’t it wonderful?” Buffy gets the better of Vamp Xander, killing him and moving on to find another vamp to fight. Larry and Oz grab Vamp Willow and impale her on a piece of wood. (She’ll be seen again in “Doppelgangland.”) Buffy and the Master head towards each other as Giles spots Anyanka’s amulet and grabs it, preparing to smash it. “You trusting fool!” she says. “How do you know the other world is any better than this?” “Because it has to be,” he replies. The Master gets the upper hand and snaps Buffy’s neck as Giles smashes the amulet.

Cordelia and Anya are back on campus, everything back to the way it was just before Cordelia made her wish. She repeats her invocation, but this time nothing happens, much to Anya’s confusion. Cordelia makes another wish, this time that Buffy was never born. Anya grows irritated when she can’t grant the wish, especially when Cordelia wants to get rid of all men, “except maybe the dumb and the really agreeable kind.” They walk off, passing the Scoobies, who are oblivious to everything that has happened.

MORAL, or CRAMMING COMPLEX ISSUES INTO A NUTSHELL: Never wish for anything, ever.

R.I.P.: Cordelia, Angel, Xander, Willow, Buffy (sort of)


GRADE: A- A fantastic, Buffy-style twist on It’s a Wonderful Life in which every character is different and every actor is on top of his or her game.

MEMORABLE QUOTES - Xander: “But you know what really bugs me? Okay, we kissed. It was a mistake. But I know that was positively the last time we were ever gonna kiss.”
Willow: “Darn tootin’!”
Xander: “And they burst in, rescuing us, without even knocking? I mean, this is really all their fault.”
Buffy: “Your logic does not resemble our Earth logic.”
Xander: “Mine is much more advanced.”

Xander: “Look, you want to do guilt-a-palooza, fine, but I’m done with that. Starting this minute, I'm gonna grab ahold of that crazy little thing called life and let it do its magical little heal-y thing. What’s done is done. Let’s be in the moment. Behold the beauty that is now. Who’s with me?”
Buffy: “He’s actually making sense. We’re young and free in America. How dare we be spun by love or the lack of same?”
Willow: “Absolutely. I-it’s self-indulgent. I-I’m in. I’m on the joy train.”
They all smile, then stop
Buffy: “That didn’t work. Who wants chocolate?”

“No. No! No way! I wish us into Bizarro Land, and you guys are still together?! I cannot win!” - Cordelia to Vamp Xander and Willow

“Yes, I’m aware that there's a great deal of demonic activity in Cleveland. (pause) It…well, it happens, you know, that, that Sunnydale is on a Hellmouth. (pause) It, it is so!” - Giles to Buffy’s Watcher

“So Cordelia wished for something? Well, if it was a long, healthy life, she should get her money back.” - Oz

“Okay. The entire world sucks because some dead ditz made a wish? I just, I just want it clear.” - Larry

Buffy: “World is what it is. We fight. We die. Wishing doesn’t change that.”
Giles: “I have to believe in a better world.”
Buffy: “Go ahead. I have to live in this one.”

“I don’t play well with others.” - Buffy

Back to Buffy episode guides

Back to Fun and Games