Sunday, November 13, 2011

Homecoming

Season #3, Episode #5: Homecoming

"You've awakened the prom queen within."



I know what you're thinking as you look at this picture. Well, first you're probably stunned by the array of awful skirts (or skorts?). Or maybe you're now scouring your hidden away CD collection for every Collective Soul album you own because the 90s. But eventually, you will probably wonder what Cordelia is doing in this picture with Buffy and Willow, and why are they so happy together? Why, according to Rose's blog, it's almost as if Cordelia doesn't exist.

Oh, but she does exist, reader. Cordelia is as delightful as ever, only the writers delegate her role to making boneheaded comments every few scenes and acting oblivious. Basically Oz-status, but even Oz occasionally gets his own episode.

Finally, in Homecoming, Cordy gets her dues.

The Scoobies couple up at The Bronze to discuss Homecoming dance logistics--limo or Oz's van?--before a sullen Buffy, who hasn't yet been asked to the dance by puppy dog Scott. One might assume he's a little down with love after his two BFFs just got killed by an after school special on love, but I digress.

Or is it Scott that's got her down in the dumps? Eventually he turns up and says he will go to the dance I guess, but he's not the only man in her life anymore.

Buffy runs off to deliver Angel some blood and some cold hard truth. Since the last episode, Angel has managed to master a shirt in addition to pants, though buttoning said shirt remains a challenge. He also seems to have mastered the English language, as he and Buffy carry on a full-fledged conversation in which Buffy reveals that she is moving on with her life and has a new, non-demon boyfriend whom she can count on.

Cut to Scott telling Buffy that they shouldn't see each other anymore. As if this wasn't stressful enough, we see a stakeout van spying upon Buffy getting dumped and transmitting it to some moody Germans who then transmit it to Mr. Trick and an old guy. Then, opening credits. Whew, y'all! Four minutes in and you better fasten your seatbelt!

When we return, a nervous lackey brings a report on the moody Germans and their current whereabouts to a wakcy guy who smells the report and then chastises the lackey for not properly washing his hands. This is the Mayor, the man we've heard tell of for seasons from the likes of Principal Snyder and the Sunnydale police. Ominous music plays as the Mayor lectures on cleanliness and tells his lackey (who we learn is Deputy Mayor Alan) to let him know of any other unsavory creatures in Sunnydale. At this point, we still don't know what side of the good vs. evil fight the Mayor falls on.


On yearbook picture day, Cordelia scopes out her competition for Homecoming Queen. Buffy and Faith aren't in attendance at picture day, however, because they're busy letting their aggression out training. Faith says, "F MEN!" and suggests that she and Buffy go to the dance together, find some clueless guys, and use and discard them. And it is but the beginning of the great big homoeroticism between the Slayers.

Everything seems to be going wrong for Rebound Buffy. She approaches her favorite teacher to ask her to write a recommendation letter per Snyder's request, but the teacher doesn't even remember her. And on top of being dumped, Cordelia forgets to tell Buffy that she needs to get her school picture taken, so she won't even appear in the yearbook. A couple more miles down this path and she'll be turning invisible and wielding revenge via a knife to Cordy's face and eerie clarinet playing.

But Buffy won't go down without a fight, and sets her sights on the ultimate prize: a crown. It's Buffy vs. Cordelia for Homecoming Queen.

Back at the Trick mansion, we learn why the Germans (and various other icky demons) are in town--for Slayerfest '98.

No, I am not kidding. Seriously, Slayerfest.
In attendance: Gorch, the cowboy vamp from Bad Eggs and his wife, a spiney yellow thing, moody Germans, and an old dude. Their mission: to destroy not one, but both Slayers, for a handsome cash prize.

Up next is a plot point that I so badly want to skip. I so badly want to spare everyone the horrible memories. And if this plot point didn't prove itself to be a facet of many episodes to come, I probably would. Hopefully, if you're like me, your brain will do all the blocking out for you.

But when Xander and Willow get dressed for the Homecoming dance and reminisce about how far they've come as friends, and Willow emerges wearing a super ugly dress, they experience a surge of terrible, evil hormones and...

They make out :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :(

Why does this happen? Who fell asleep at the writing desk? WHO ALLOWED THIS???

Moving on. Buffy goes all work and no play, creating huge graphs and charts documenting the best strategy for Operation Cordelia Sux and Buffy Rulez. She tries to enlist the rest of the Scoobies, only they betray her to help Cordelia out of guilt for...making out :( :( :( :(

As penance for the horrible visual of Willow and Xander's lips meeting that will haunt your dreams for years to come, we get a throwback montage of Cordelia and Buffy on the campaign trail set to Fastball. Buffy hands out muffins, while Cordelia gives out muffin baskets. Cordelia puts up campaign posters, and Buffy puts up...bigger posters.

Faith and Buffy planned to take a limo to Homecoming together, but Xander and Willow decide to con Buffy and Cordelia into sharing a limo instead so that they will work out their differences. And let me tell you, there will be bonding.

Remember Slayerfest?

Slayerfest participants redirect the limo into the woods, where they will hunt Buffy and Cordelia, whom they think is Faith. Mr. Trick relays the objective of Slayerfest to them through a videotape, kind of like proto-Saw.

What ensues is a classic case of a chase through the woods Most Dangerous Game style, mistaken identity, and wily survival skills. The fun is in watching it, so I won't bore you with the details. And Buffy and Cordelia do sort out their differences while holed up in a cabin hiding from Germans--Buffy tells Cordelia that all she wants is to be a Normal Teenager, and Cordelia reveals in a panic that she thinks she loves Xander, which for some god forsaken reason endears her to Buffy. They hug, they summon their Girl Power, and they go to kick the crap out of some Slayerfesters.

Buffy and Cordelia repair to Sunnydale High where they hope to collect some weapons, kill off their hunters, and freshen up in time for the Homecoming crowning. A few mishaps and one hostage Giles later, they rush to the Bronze, beaten and bloody, ready to claim the crown. And surprise surprise, there's an unprecedented tie for Queen?

A tie between Buffy and Cordelia's competitors.

All in all, vintage Buffy. Lots of laughs, classic misdirection, goofy villains, well-choreographed fight scenes. People tend to rank Homecoming as one of the top episodes of the series, but I wouldn't go that far. Cordelia gets a chance to shine, but she won't really be paid her dues until Angel. An entertaining episode, highlighted by our introduction to the Mayor. Later in the episode, he chastises Mr. Trick for bringing a rebellious element into Sunnydale. The Mayor's MO: to keep control over the supernatural forces at work in Sunnydale, whether that entails joining up with them or not. Means to an end: eliminating the Slayers.

This will be the only thing worth remembering in later episodes. And Homecoming gives us a whole lot that's worth forgetting.


Favorite moment: Gorch and his wife wait for the Slayers in the Sunnydale High library, where Buffy quickly stakes the latter. Just when Gorch is about to do away with Cordelia, she gets in his face and taunts him, saying, "I haven't even broken a sweat. In the end, Buffy is just the runner-up. I'm the queen. You get me mad, What do you think I'm going to do to you?"

Don't mess.

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