[Review by Mike Marinaro]
[Writer: David Greenwalt | Director: David Greenwalt | Aired: 11/03/1998]
The battle for Homecoming Queen is on, and it’s a lot more fun than it has any right to be. This isn’t a mind blowing episode of BtVS, but it’s quite entertaining. Where it loses some credibility is in its choice of demon contestants in Mr. Trick’s SlayerFest 98. As example, the remaining Gorch vampire and his ‘wife’ are somehow cornier that when he appeared back in “Bad Eggs” [2×12] . Nevertheless, lots of other important stuff happens here. The Mayor is introduced, Buffy tries to compete in a popularity contest in hope that she’s chosen for something besides beheading, and there’s more Mr. Trick.
Early on we see Buffy visiting Angel at the mansion trying to explain to him that she’s moved on and that things are different now. Angel’s reaction to all this news is perfect because his last ensouled memory is sleeping with her. It’s no wonder that he still feels extremely close to her. Buffy also tells him about her relationship with Scott Hope. She thinks he’s a stable guy, but it turns out her “out of it” behavior hasn’t gone unnoticed, so he breaks up with her.
This (the emotional detachment with her boyfriends) is a problem that Buffy has throughout the entire series. She feels like she’s giving a relationship her all even though she’s not genuinely emotionally open. Like Riley says in “Into the Woods” [5×10] , “It’s about me taking care of you! It’s about letting me in.” In that same episode, Xander tells her that in order to have a working relationship you’ve got to be completely open with your partner, “I’m talking scary, messy, no-emotions-barred need.” Buffy fully understands and articulates her problem by “Conversations with Dead People” [7×07] , while talking to the vampire Holden.
The rest of the episode is completely focused on Buffy and Cordelia. Because Cordelia gets side-tracked by her Homecoming Queen campaign and forgets to remind Buffy about the photo shoot, Buffy takes a stand and decides to compete against Cordelia (and the others) for Homecoming Queen. She tells everyone it’s not a big deal to her, but it’s obvious it means a ton. Buffy breaking the glass bottle with her hand after she discovers that all her friends are helping Cordelia instead of her is the first striking example of its importance. It’s not until later and under attack when Buffy admits to Cordelia the true reason for competing. She simply wants to be chosen for something other than slaying for once so that she’s recognized as being a person, and not simply the Slayer.
It’s amazingly fitting, though, that neither of them win the crown. Cordelia is made for this competition, so when she loses too, Buffy doesn’t have to feel very bad about it. On an unrelated topic, we finally got to see the Mayor! Right from his very first scene he comes across as creepy and multi-layered. There’s a lot more entertainment and development for him on the way.
Overall this is a perfectly enjoyable episode with a few small problems. The only thing I outright hated was Willow and Xander’s kiss. This relationship is really coming out of nowhere, from a character development perspective, and I don’t buy it at all. It appears as though the only reason the writers made them do this is because Cordelia is moving over to AtS next season. Also, Anya (entering the picture soon) will need Xander to be free so she can put the fun moves on him. I find the Willow and Xander ‘thing’ one of the few times in the series where the characters did something I felt was out of character. In reality, though, it’s a small complaint in an otherwise very fun episode.
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ Oz breaking up the Buffy and Scott Homecoming stalemate. “The judges will accept that as a ‘yes.'”
+ Mr. Trick calls Buffy nubile.
+ Buffy’s favorite teacher from the previous year doesn’t remember her.
+ Mr. Trick’s speech on the recorded tape meant for Buffy and Faith.
+ Willow and Xander’s “formal clothes” scene before the kiss.
+ Willow and Xander deciding to swap Faith for Cordelia in the limo so Buffy and Cordelia can work out their ‘issues.’
+ Giles trying to make a joke about there being trouble then wandering off for mini sandwiches.
+ Faith insinuating to Scott Hope’s new girlfriend he has some kind of genital disease.
– Mr. Trick could have easily escaped police custody if he’d tried (unless they were vampires, but it didn’t appear that they were).
* This may be stretching, but the Mayor says, “You have all my faith,” to his assistant Allan. It’s interesting because Faith ends up killing Allan in “Bad Girls” [3×14] and then ends up taking his place by the Mayor’s side in “Consequences” [3×15] .
* During the Sunnydale yearbook photo shoot, the faces of the Scoobies while having their pictures taken really seems to hint at their futures. Cordelia ends up trying to be an actress in AtS, Xander ends up finding some ‘cool’ when he learns that he has it in him in “The Replacement” [5×03] , Willow is currently cute and happy but ends up a magic addict and quite sad in S6, and Oz’s face remains unchanged which represents his character.
* Faith suggests to Buffy that they use and discard “the studs.” This is proven to be quite true of her personality when she has sex with Xander in “The Zeppo” [3×13] , then immediately kicks him out of her apartment.