In the fifth episode of the third season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Cordy and Buffy fight, and then they hang out and things are really nice? If you’re intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy.
You know, after watching “Homecoming,” I had to actually stop and think about what dances I did go to. Truthfully, I don’t think I once went to homecoming during high school. I don’t think homecoming was that big of a deal to my school back in those days; our football team was rather awful, and the dance was always held in our stuff gymnasium. Out of the four years in high school, I’m pretty sure I only went to our Winter Formal (which was held in this horrendous building that was a museum for ORANGE COUNTY, the least interesting thing imaginable) and our Senior Prom. My date to the prom was a girl who later told me that she thought it was gross that one of my friends came out because he should have kept it to himself, SO THAT WAS REALLY FUN. If I’m not mistaken, I was actually the “King” at Winter Formal and if I still had a photo of the official photo taken that night, all you would see is the fact that everyone there was MYSTIFIED as to how I won. Like, that year’s Queen made a face that said, “What the fuck just happened?”
People knew me in high school, but it was because I was so heavily involved in things. I only had a small group of people I’d call my friends, and most people were nice to me (when they weren’t bullying me) because they knew they could pay me to do their homework. No, for real, that’s who I was in high school. I think that’s honestly why I won that year, because at that point, I had like 30 different essays floating around campus that were being used by lazy kids who didn’t want to study. For what it’s worth, I don’t feel the slightest bit guilty about that. I was supporting myself and trying to pay rent while everyone else lived with their parents. The money was good. THE END.
This is all an extra-long chance for me to give y’all a billion excuses why I don’t like formal dances when I could have just said that I am horrific at dancing and it causes me a whole lot of social anxiety to be expected to dance. Hell, even when I see the characters on Buffy dancing, it makes me nervous just by default. I experience social anxiety through them. I think that when you combine all of this, that’s why I liked “Homecoming” so much. It takes this staple of American school life, and it disrupts it for forty-five minutes. (On that note, I’m curious about any Watchers who don’t live in the U.S. What sort of official functions do you have during school that are similar to prom or homecoming?)
I’m glad that I stated yesterday that I needed a Cordelia episode because then I was promptly handed one. Yes, this episode is more about Buffy than it is about Cordelia, but she has such a large part in “Homecoming” that I’ll just take whatever I can get. I know that I comment a lot about how Buffy tackles awkward situations, but I really just want to state that I am growing to adore the fact that the writers repeatedly make these characters so awkward. This show would not be as interesting if everyone had the most perfect quip available, or if they navigated the social strata of Sunnydale high with perfection. Even if Xander’s jokes are terrible most of the time, I don’t think I’d like him as much if they were good. That’s his appeal to me. He wouldn’t be Xander if he didn’t try too hard, or if he didn’t read the dynamics of a situation properly to discern if maybe he shouldn’t make a joke. The same goes for characters like Cordelia or Willow. While I understand that the writers sometimes make the group excessively witty (WHICH I AM NOT COMPLAINING ABOUT BECAUSE I LOVE WITTY DIALOGUE), I find it incredibly realistic that they all fuck up and overstep their boundaries at times. Plus, every time that Willow goes a bit too far, she does that overcompensating thing (like when Scott walks up in the cold open) that is the most adorable thing on the planet.
The story that this episode sets up is probably the most uncomfortable scenario we’ve seen so far. First of all, Buffy agrees to go to the dance with Scott, and then it immediately cuts to Buffy bringing Angel blood to consume and telling him she’s seeing someone else. UGH WHAT IS THIS SHOW DOING TO ME? I am just so full of feels, and I have nowhere to put them, and no one is telling me how to cope with Angel/Buffy, and I didn’t agree to this when I signed up for this show, okay? It’s just not fair. And now I have to deal with Mr. Trick coming back?
Oh, wait, IS THAT THE MAYOR? WE’RE GOING TO SEE THE MAYOR? Oh my god, WHY IS THE MAYOR SO PLAIN AND HORRIFYING? Why is he obsessed with cleanliness? Why doesn’t it explain anything at all about his involvement at Sunnydale High? WHY IS THIS SHOW GIVING ME SO MUCH TO DEAL WITH AT ONCE?
No, you’re going to have Faith and Buffy go to homecoming together? Did – did I just start shipping Buffy and Faith? Like, I know I desperately want to read a gay subtext into everything, but in that one instance, I was like WOULDN’T IT BE COOL IF THEY WENT TO HOMECOMING AND THEN FELL FOR EACH OTHER AND THEN IT WAS PERFECT? Yes good. This is what I want.
Oh, come on, Buffy. I’m already so distressed at this point in the episode, but now you’re going to point out that since becoming the Slayer and getting kicked out of school, Buffy has no friends aside from the Scoobies and no one, not even the teachers, really know who she is? BUFFY IS SO LONELY ALREADY. This is just too fucking much, Buffy.
Oh, I see what this episode is doing. Cordelia and Buffy are going to battle for homecoming queen. Why am I kind of excited about this? Well, once I understood what the episode was going to be framed with, the only thing I was hoping was that this little competition wouldn’t get too mean. I generally like Cordelia’s cluelessness or lack of tact. It’s entertaining to me, but once she made the crack against Buffy’s family life, she went WAY TOO FAR. I was actually surprised Buffy didn’t just knock her out cold right then and there. Thankfully, though, while the two definitely fight a whole lot for nearly twenty minutes straight, I don’t think things ever got to this level of mean-spirited nonsense.
Of course, right when you think this episode is going to be about the campaigning only, the writers introduce SlayerFest ’98, which sadly has nothing to do with Slayer. I’ll be honest: when Mr. Trick announces SlayerFest, I kind of grimaced. It wasn’t that neat of an idea to me and a bit cheesier than I expected. It was neat to see Gorch back from “Bad Eggs, and that yellow demon looked awesome. But I suppose that initially, the idea of a group of hunters going after the Slayers didn’t seem that interesting.
Oh, how lovably wrong I was.
First of all, the competition between Buffy and Cordy inadvertently causes something else: Xander and Willow. I seriously wish that sometimes I could find a way to just record my reactions to things I watch because I just totally lost my shit once they kissed. I devolved to irrationally yelling at a television show I could not change or affect. I kept screaming NO NO NO NO MAKE IT STOP WHAT ARE YOU DOING OH MY GOD. Look, I actually like the idea of Willow and Xander together BUT ONLY WHEN THEY ARE SINGLE. Willow, how could you do that to Oz? Xander, why do this when you are with Cordelia? Ugh, I am so uncomfortable with all of this, and it’s made even worse by the fact that I can’t deny that they are so goddamn cute together. Willow puts it best later in the episode: the whole group dynamic has been drastically changed. WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH ALL OF THESE FEELINGS?
So. I know I’m notoriously bad at figuring things out. It’s been like this for a long time. I swear to you, I did not realize the ramifications of swapping Faith out for Cordelia until their limo stopped. LIKE SERIOUSLY. I mean, they were the only two in the car!!! HOW DID THAT THOUGHT NOT EVEN ENTER MY BRAIN? You know what? I blame it me being totally distracted by their beautiful dresses. THERE. THAT MAKES SENSE.
Sticking those two together, though, is a brilliant method to get them to talk to one another. It reminded me of a version of The X-Files episode in season three called “Quagmire,” where two characters are trapped in a possibly dangerous secret and are sort of forced to discuss one another. It’s not an unfamiliar trope, but I don’t care. I love it!
I enjoy that Buffy gets to tell Cordelia that she is desperate for normalcy, and that she’s sort of sick of people criticizing her for it. Everyone around her, regardless of whether they know she’s the Slayer or not, gets a chance to have a “normal” life in comparison. Why is it fair that she gets shamed for trying to be the homecoming queen? That is what Cordelia needs to hear, and I am so happy that she just listens. She doesn’t say shit during that whole exchange, and to me, that is such a fantastic sign that someone is actually hearing you.
And as serious as this all is, bless the writers for injecting humor into it. Like Cordy not realizing that there’s a telephone that they can call Giles on. Or the fact that she, at one point, legitimately uses a spatula to fight that demon character. BLESS YOU. But even the scene at the Bronze shows us that this show can mix drama with humor. Giles made jokes. He made TWO OF THEM. And I genuinely laughed at both of them. I JUST WANT TO BE BEST FRIENDS WITH HIM! HE IS SO WONDERFUL.
It’s at this point that we need to discuss Cordelia Chase. I like her character. A lot. I feel like this show doesn’t use her enough, and when they do, they give us bits and pieces of her that just makes me want more. As it stands, her monologue to Gorch is my favorite thing she’s ever done in the series, not just because it’s entertaining and hilarious, but because for those few moments, we see a side to Cordelia that’s been hidden all along. Other characters in the show see her as vapid and shallow. It’s hard to deny that she does care about superficial things, but she does so in a way that’s just so fearless. Why can’t she be pretty and popular and fabulous? That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t fuck up along the way, and we can see from this episode that she can be mean in her execution, too. But in that moment when Cordelia confronts Lyle Gorch, she lets go of all of her fears about her appearance to show all of us that she is so much more complicated and aware than we believe she is. It’s like she opens the curtains for us to give us a glimpse of what’s going on inside her head, and it’s just brilliant and wonderful. CORDELIA YOU ARE SO WONDERFUL. You are my queen.
After all the drama the two go through, I found it to be perfectly gorgeous that there’s a tie for homecoming queen, and neither Buffy or Cordy get it. It’s just so beautiful in every way, and I love the look of disgust on their faces. I don’t think this episode was about teaching us that wanting to be homecoming queen was a bad thing. On the contrary, it’s perfectly fine to want to be popular or to be recognized. What’s important is understanding these motivations and empathizing with those around us. Cordelia didn’t see that. Which is of course a bit ironic, since Buffy was Cordelia at her last school. But it’s a neat chance to bring these two characters together.
I can’t close out this review without doing this, though, so please indulge me:
JESUS WHAT THE FUCK WHAT IS THE MAYOR. WHAT IS HE DOING. WHY IS HE LIKE THAT. OH MY GOD WHY IS HE WORKING WITH MR. TRICK. DON’T YOU DARE HURT MY BUFFY. I SWEAR TO GANDALF I WILL END YOU
WHAT THE FUCK!?!?!?!?
Death Count: 4 – The demon guy who exploded, the two German dudes, and Mrs. Gorch. Total: 17