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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dead Man's Party

[Updated April 29, 2013]

I have a hard time writing about Dead Man’s Party because it’s one of two episodes in the entire series which I really dislike watching (the other being As You Were, if you must know). I wrote the following 9 years ago at ATPO, and my opinion hasn’t really changed:
“When something bothers me, people tell me I "must" talk about it or things will get worse. I find this untrue. I find that talking about it is, in fact, what makes things worse. It works much better for me to resolve things internally; that's the way I’m able to put them behind me and move forward. When Buffy ran away after Becoming 2, I completely identified with her and was (and still am) furious at Xander, Joyce, and Willow for their mis-treatment of Buffy upon her return.”

I’d be fine if the episode just presented 2 sides to the issue, with viewers free to take one or the other, but the whole episode, including its aftermath in later episodes, reinforces the message that Buffy was the only one in the wrong. I really can’t watch without getting mad about this.
That’s me following the plotline. If you have the same reaction I do, it may help to think of it in metaphor. In the metaphors I’ve suggested for the show, Xander represents Buffy’s heart and Willow her spirit. One way to read the episode is that Buffy’s heart and spirit are angry with her for abandoning her duty after Becoming. IOW, she’s guilt-tripping herself. An obvious example of this would be the dialogue right after the teaser, when she’s hesitating before knocking on Giles’ door:
“Buffy:  What if he's mad?
Xander:  Mad? Just because you ran away and abandoned your post and your friends and your mom and made him lay awake every night worrying about you?”

That certainly could be Buffy talking to herself. Try applying this to other confrontations and see if that helps.
Whether we think of it as plot or as a metaphor for internal guilt, we should analyze the behavior of the characters for what that says about them (or about Buffy’s conscience). I’ll try to summarize what I see as the key points.
Willow. Willow did three things wrong in this episode that I can see: (1) she flaked on her date with Buffy; (2) she didn’t listen to Buffy at the party, both metaphorically and in reality unable to hear her; and (3) she whined about life issues that are pretty standard for any teenager, while never even asking about the much more extreme trauma Buffy suffered (in part because of Willow herself) in Becoming 2.
That said, I do cut Willow some slack here. She may not have known that Buffy blamed herself for Willow’s injuries (Becoming 2: “I never should have let her do that spell. Angel must have known.”), even though we the viewers know that Angel did not know and the raid to get Giles wasn’t Buffy’s fault at all. Willow tried to resoul Angel because she thought that’s what Buffy wanted. She had no way to know that it worked out in the worst possible way. And the reason she didn’t know was not her fault at all, it was that Xander lied to Buffy. Buffy obviously couldn’t talk to Willow about the spell or its consequences if she thought that Willow really did want her to kill Angel as Xander told her. So Xander’s Lie drove a real rift between the two friends.
Joyce. Her biggest mistake was insisting on confronting Buffy in front of the entire party. She had the opportunity to raise her issues with Buffy at any time. She’s also the adult; she should know when and where to have such a discussion. She also unfairly criticized Buffy when she told her that “you made some bad choices” and might have to suffer “consequences” such as going to private school. Buffy’s “bad choices” aren’t what got her kicked out of school. That was a combination of her duty and the fact that Snyder is a “nasty little horrid, bigoted, rodent-man.”
Xander. Almost every single word he says to or about Buffy is utterly indefensible. The reason she couldn’t confide in anyone was largely the fact that his Lie to her separated her from her friends, particularly Willow. I don’t want to make this post tediously long, so I’ll limit myself to his worst example: “I'm sorry that your honey was a demon, but most girls don't hop a Greyhound over boy troubles.”
Word by word (almost): Xander hated Angel and certainly isn’t “sorry”; “honey” demeans her relationship with Angel and probably Buffy herself; Angel’s status was much more complicated than just that of “demon”; Buffy is not “most girls”; and “boy troubles” is so inadequate a description of what Buffy went through that I would have cheered if she actually had punched him right then.
That leaves us to consider Buffy. In fairness I ought to give both sides of this, and my bias is pretty obvious, so I’m going to quote a discussion I had years ago with another ATPO poster and livejournal friend of mine, shadowkat. I’ll let her make the general case for Xander, Willow, and Joyce (somewhat edited) and of course repeat my response (also edited). Note that shadowkat wasn’t trying to defend every particular thing they said, just their general side of the case:
Shadowkat: “They saved the world with her in Becoming. At the end of that two-part episode: Xander barely got Giles out alive, Willow had just come out of a coma and did an amazingly difficult spell, and Joyce wasn't sure if her daughter had gone off to her death. Buffy just leaves Joyce a note that she's leaving. Buffy is 17 years of age and Joyce's only child….. Not sure if Joyce shared her note with them or not. Would assume so...but still. That just means, Buffy only saw fit to tell Joyce. Not them.
They have no clue if she's okay, what happened with Angel, etc. As far as they know she and Angel could have taken off together or Angelus kidnapped her. All they know at the end of Becoming Part II? Is the world didn't end.
All summer they fight vampires. Get injured. Try to make things work and try not to worry about Buffy. Has Buffy worried once about her friends? Not that we know of.
Has she thought about Giles? Not that we are aware of. All Buffy thinks about is Angel. She hasn't sent her mother a note saying she's okay or any word to Giles. Giles in fact has been traveling around looking for her - this we find out in Anne.

So Buffy comes back to Sunnydale. She expects everyone and everything to be the same as she left. Sorry doesn't happen that way. Part of life is dealing with change and dealing with the consequences of leaving without any word or note. Also realizing that other people and their problems no matter how seemingly trival can be important. She was needed and loved by her friends as more than just the slayer. In Dead Man's Party she begins to realize that.

She tells them little. They on the other hand reveal quite a bit of how they feel. And to their credit? They attempt to deal with her. But Buff is not the sort to discuss her problems. She contains everything and wants to move forward without talking about it. Makes sense - after all up until Becoming she had to keep the whole slaying gig a secret from her mom. So discussing things? Just does not come naturally. This causes all the pent up emotions that everyone is trying to contain to erupt. Like they always do. In a very bad way.” 

Me again:
“The problem I have is not that Buffy was completely in the right (she wasn't), but that her friends were so clearly in the wrong.

The main problem was this: not one of them tried to find out what had happened in the mansion or to understand what might have caused her to flee. They never even asked. They were all accusatory (Xander) or self-centered (Willow). And not once did they stop to consider that their own actions may have contributed to the problem.

As for Buffy, I think her silence about Angel was the right approach. She knew her friends had tried to help. If she told them that their "help" was actually a disaster, that wouldn't change the result but it might make them less willing to help in the future.”

Shadowkat: “Actually I think they did try to find out. Remember that scene towards the beginning where they are all hanging out at Giles' apartment?

“Oz: Hey, so you're not wanted for murder anymore.
Buffy: Good. That was such a drag.
Xander: So where were you? Did you go to Belgium?
Buffy: (gives him an odd look) Why would I go to Belgium?
Xander: I think the relevant question is why wouldn't you? (smiles hugely and giggles) Bel-gium!
They both laugh.
Buffy: What about you, Xander? What's up with you?
Xander: Oh, you know, same old, same old.
Cordelia: Hardly.
Xander: Okay, I lied, a whole lot is new.
Buffy: Well, that's good, isn't it? New is good.
Cordelia: So were you, like, living in a box, or what?
Buffy: Well, it's a long story.
Xander: So skip the heartwarming stuff about kindly old people and saving the farm and get right to the dirt.
Giles: Perhaps Buffy could use a little time to adjust before we grill her on her summer activities.
Buffy: What he said.
Xander: Fair enough. In fact, you can leave the slaying to us while you settle in. We got you covered.”
See? Xander asks twice and she fluffs it off. I doubt she told them much of anything. They may have assumed she had a great time in LA when they were worrying about her.” 

And I get the last word ‘cuz this is my blog:
“No. My point was that no one asked what happened in the mansion. What Xander asked, twice, was where she went/what she did over the summer. Not the same thing.

What Buffy did over the summer (waiting tables in a cheap restaurant) was not very interesting from an outsider's perspective. What she was really doing was trying to come to terms with the fact that she had been left with nothing but herself:

Whistler: In the end, you're always by yourself. You're all you've got. That's the point.

That wasn't something she could tell Xander then or ever. But it also wasn't the key point in Xander's misbehavior in DMP. That had to do with Angel. And here's what Xander had to say [see “sorry your honey was a demon” line discussed above].
Doesn't sound like much effort on his part to understand. And that's leaving out his betrayal of her in Becoming.

As for Willow, she didn't come to the room to understand, she came to accuse Buffy of ignoring Willow's problems [discussed above].
I know Xander and Willow were both 17. I just don't think that gives them any more of an excuse than it gives Buffy.

I'm not saying that Buffy was entirely in the right. She wasn't. But Buffy is shown to be entirely in the wrong, and, worse, accepting that conclusion:

Buffy: I am sorry.
Willow: It's okay. I understand you having to bail. I can forgive that. Mm, I have to make allowances for what you're going through a-and be a grownup about it. (gives Buffy a slightly smug look)
Buffy: (smiles) You're really enjoying this whole moral superiority thing, aren't you?
Willow: (smiles) It's like a drug!
Buffy: Fine! Okay. I'm the bad.


It's that combination of misbehavior by her friends and Buffy (as usual) taking the blame that makes the episode so difficult.” 

In comments, local-max made some excellent points which I’ll incorporate (slightly edited) as well, along with my response:
“I'm sympathetic to the Scoobies here, though I think they are ultimately more in the wrong than Buffy is. I think the most essential point for explaining (not justifying, explaining) their behaviour is that Buffy's having left them for months convinces them, as Shadowkat points/pointed out, that Buffy doesn't really care about them. Buffy has, in a sense, all the power in her relationships with those around her -- from their perspective. She can up and leave at any time, and they can do nothing about it; they are dependent on her, emotionally, and to give their lives meaning, in a way she isn't on them. And I do think, ultimately, that to every one of the characters here, Buffy is more central to their lives than they are to hers: Buffy is Willow and Xander's idol, and indeed the *only* important person in Joyce's life, save Pat, who dies at the episode's end. That's a very hard thing to live with, and they all, of course, deal with it badly.
Mostly, I think that the episode comes across the way it does because of the strong Buffy POV we are given. We see Buffy suffering; the Scoobies don't. We don't really see the Scoobies' inner lives, though we get glimpses of them. The reason why I believe that this is important is that the central reason people are upset with Buffy is that they realize here that they are basically supporting players in Buffy's story, to be discarded and then picked up at will. This is something that leads to a dependency on Buffy which is quite unhealthy and causes many of their problems….
Willow, I think, stands Buffy up out of fear of rejection, which can be overpowering. And when she finally comes to see Buffy, I really don't think she is coming there to tell Buffy that she wished Buffy were there for her. I think she was coming there to try to talk to her, to communicate, to see where she was -- and then Buffy was packing up to *leave*. To leave them again, to prove Willow's fear that she's just stopping off before the next abandonment. And indeed, Willow's reason for bringing up her own reasons for needing Buffy are partly selfish, but there is another layer to them too: Buffy had just indicated that she knows that Willow stood her up because she was worried about her, and Willow is trying to get across that she has her own inner life, one which she feels that Buffy doesn't care about. Buffy doesn't owe it to Willow to care about her when her problems are that much bigger, but it happens to run across her biggest fear, which is that people will ultimately come to their senses, decide she is a loser, and leave her.”

My response:
“Yes, they do have legitimate grievances against Buffy. I admitted that in my discussion with Shadowkat, though I downplayed it otherwise. BUT, she has pretty serious grievances against them. Mostly Xander, though she doesn't realize that yet. The miscommunication with Willow is something we can see in this dialogue:

Buffy: Sorry that I had to leave, but you don't know what I was going through.
Willow: Well, I'd like to.
Buffy: You wouldn't understand.

The reason Buffy believes Willow wouldn't understand is, of course, Xander's Lie. From Buffy's perspective, Willow wanted her to kill Angel. How could Buffy then communicate the extent of her emotional devastation at doing that which Willow actively encouraged her to do? And, of course, from Buffy's perspective, if Willow had really wanted to know what Buffy was going through, she wouldn't have stood her up.

What we have here is a failure to communicate, to coin a phrase, but ultimately (IMO) it comes back to Xander. Buffy and Willow both could have handled it better and undoubtedly would have if he hadn't interfered.

Reading your comment caused me to realize that I didn't talk about Giles in my post. In a way, he has the biggest grievance against Buffy. He did absolutely nothing wrong and wasn't implicated in Xander's Lie. Her failure to let him know that she was ok is by far her biggest fault in my book.”

Well, that should be enough for everyone to take a side and let loose their own buried emotions. J
Let’s get back to the episode itself. The zombies are a metaphor, of course: if you try to bury your feelings, they come back to get you. Because Buffy was the one to confront and kill the zombie master (putting an end to the zombies), I’m inclined to see the zombies here as representing Buffy’s own feelings towards her friends for what she sees as their failure to understand what she had to go through with Angel. An alternative and very possible reading would see them as representing the anger of Xander, Willow, and Joyce. Either reading works perfectly well and gets us to the same place.
If the message is about the danger of repressed feelings, though, then there’s a real problem. That metaphor could very easily be seen as incoherent in the context of the plot. The message is supposed to be that if you repress thoughts and feelings, they’ll come back in worse form later on. The problem is that the attack of the zombies interrupted the fight in the living room, that is, the very expression of feeling which the metaphor suggests should take place. IOW, perhaps the metaphor got in its own way.
We can avoid this conclusion if we believe that the interruption was intentional, that the expressions of anger and disappointment haven’t achieved catharsis but are still latent in all the characters. That’s the way I’m inclined to read the episode. By this logic, the real demon was the zombie master who was summoning all these buried emotions, and Buffy prevented that from continuing when she killed it. I’m inclined to see that as Buffy shutting off the summoning of her own buried emotions, but it’s also possible to read it as shutting them off for everyone. Either way, the price is that those feelings remain repressed; the episode didn’t actually resolve the problems.
Assuming I’ve read that correctly, there’s another message as well: they don’t have to be friendly with each other – or even, in the case of the other students, know her at all – in order to cooperate in the face of something which threatens every one of them.
Buffy and her friends see the world in different ways because she has to endure things which they never see. Buffy sacrifices herself for the sake of harmony (no pun here) with her friends, something she does repeatedly throughout the show. But while that may leave her friends feeling vindicated, it’s bound to contribute to a sense of isolation on Buffy’s part. The party itself reinforced this sense of isolation – most of her fellow students don’t even know her.
But she saved them all anyway.
Trivia notes: (1) The Wikipedia summary of the book Joyce read over the summer, The Deep End of the Ocean, makes its relevance to this episode pretty obvious: “It is about an American middle class, suburban family that is torn apart when the youngest son is kidnapped and raised by a mentally ill woman, until he appears at the front doorstep of his real mother and asks if he can mow the lawn.” The name of the father in the book was Pat, which I suspect gave us the name of Joyce’s friend. Pat was a morally ambiguous character in the book, as Pat is here. (2) The stoned guy on the phone called Giles “Mr. Belvedere”, who was the title character in a 1980s sitcom. He was an English butler. (3) “Weebles wobble but they won’t fall down” was the advertising slogan for a child’s toy. Xander paraphrased it in describing the zombies.

16 comments:

  1. The biggest mark against the Scoobies for me, is that they totally circumvented the opportunity to talk to Buffy in more depth about their feelings and her actions, but turning what was supposed to be a quiet initimate dinner, into, in Oz's words, a hootnanny. That was disrespectful to Joyce, who was accepting of it though. And it was really disrescpectful of Buffy to dodge the opportunity if it was bothering them so much.

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    1. Yeah, they were so critical of her for not "telling" them, but they never even asked despite multiple opportunities.

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  2. I'm not all the way caught up on your previous posts, but I'm enjoying them. I'm one of the contributors to 2maggie2's notes on LJ, local-max; for some reason I can't get this to work commenting from my LJ account.

    I think this episode is largely written as it is to help set up events in the next couple of episodes (in particular Revelations). So the ending, with Buffy contrite, is not authorial voice of the 'correct' view of things. I think Buffy is ultimately in the right, more so than the wrong.

    That said, I'm sympathetic to the Scoobies here, though I think they are ultimately more in the wrong than Buffy is. I think the most essential point for explaining (not justifying, explaining) their behaviour is that Buffy's having left them for months convinces them, as Shadowkat points/pointed out, that Buffy doesn't really care about them. Buffy has, in a sense, all the power in her relationships with those around her -- from their perspective. She can up and leave at any time, and they can do nothing about it; they are dependent on her, emotionally, and to give their lives meaning, in a way she isn't on them. And I do think, ultimately, that to every one of the characters here, Buffy is more central to their lives than they are to hers: Buffy is Willow and Xander's idol, and indeed the *only* important person in Joyce's life, save Pat, who dies at the episode's end. That's a very hard thing to live with, and they all, of course, deal with it badly.

    (cont'd)

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    1. Mostly, I think that the episode comes across the way it does because of the strong Buffy POV we are given. We see Buffy suffering; the Scoobies don't. We don't really see the Scoobies' inner lives, though we get glimpses of them. The reason why I believe that this is important is that the central reason people are upset with Buffy is that they realize here that they are basically supporting players in Buffy's story, to be discarded and then picked up at will. This is something that leads to a dependency on Buffy which is quite unhealthy and causes many of their problems. I tend to think (SPOILER) that the real "way out" of this dynamic is for the characters to either move away from a Buffy-centric paradigm or to accept that they are supporting characters and lose their bitterness about it. Chosen presents us with the former, in that all the potential slayers become slayers themselves, and thus potential 'stars,' and Potential presents us with the latter, in which Xander and Dawn find peace being supporting, off-screen players. (End SPOILER)

      Willow is both the most sympathetic and also the one for whom most textual evidence is given, so I'll focus there, but I think the same applies to all three. From "Anne", we have Willow instituting her "past tense" rule, and in the Bronze she states:

      Willow: Wouldn't it be great if Buffy just showed up tomorrow? Like nothing happened.

      In particular, Willow was in a wheelchair, just barely surviving a coma when Buffy left. The Scoobies are mostly doing okay; they are fighting vampires, but they are not in the hellish life Buffy is. But, perhaps because the show is Buffy-centric, most of the scenes in Sunnydale feature Willow alternating between pining for Buffy and trying to follow in her footsteps. Buffy is in L.A. and thinks about Angel. Does she miss her friends? We find out, in DMP, that she did -- as she looks at a picture of her and Xander and Willow. And she asks to see her friends. But her friends are desperately afraid that she doesn't care about them at all, and there is some justification for the fear that Buffy's abandoning them was always inevitable.

      Willow, I think, stands Buffy up out of fear of rejection, which can be overpowering. And when she finally comes to see Buffy, I really don't think she is coming there to tell Buffy that she wished Buffy were there for her. I think she was coming there to try to talk to her, to communicate, to see where she was -- and then Buffy was packing up to *leave*. To leave them again, to prove Willow's fear that she's just stopping off before the next abandonment. And indeed, Willow's reason for bringing up her own reasons for needing Buffy are partly selfish, but there is another layer to them too: Buffy had just indicated that she knows that Willow stood her up because she was worried about her, and Willow is trying to get across that she has her own inner life, one which she feels that Buffy doesn't care about. Buffy doesn't owe it to Willow to care about her when her problems are that much bigger, but it happens to run across her biggest fear, which is that people will ultimately come to their senses, decide she is a loser, and leave her.

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    2. Wow, many points to consider here; thanks very much.

      First off, I recognize you from lj. My lj name is mefistopheles and I've commented on Maggie's threads as well as at Shadowkat's. I believe we've interacted both places.

      I very much agree that this episode sets up Revelations. That's one reason why I suggest at the end that the lack of resolution is intentional. In fact, I see that non-resolution as setting up many future episodes as well. I've suggested in comments to the post on Becoming [SPOILERS] that the distance between Buffy and her friends will increase over time, in part because of her role as General. I said there that we see signs of this in S4 with Willow's "I'm not your sidekick!" in Fear, Itself, and in all of the The Yoko Factor. There will be other episodes as well.

      STILL SPOILERS: I agree with your analysis of Willow's fears that she's not important to Buffy. That's what I think we see in Fear, Itself (and other episodes, including TYF and Restless, to say nothing of TTG or Grave). I further agree that S7 provides a resolution (mostly) of these issues. END SPOILERS

      What I'd add to your comments is to emphasize my criticisms of the SG in the post above. Yes, they do have legitimate grievances against Buffy. I admitted that in my discussion with Shadowkat, though I downplayed it otherwise. BUT, she has pretty serious grievances against them. Mostly Xander, though she doesn't realize that yet. The miscommunication with Willow is something we can see in this dialogue:

      Buffy: Sorry that I had to leave, but you don't know what I was going through.

      Willow: Well, I'd like to.

      Buffy: You wouldn't understand.

      The reason Buffy believes Willow wouldn't understand is, of course, Xander's Lie. From Buffy's perspective, Willow wanted her to kill Angel. How could Buffy then communicate the extent of her emotional devastation at doing that which Willow actively encouraged her to do? And, of course, from Buffy's perspective, if Willow had really wanted to know what Buffy was going through, she wouldn't have stood her up.

      What we have here is a failure to communicate, to coin a phrase, but ultimately (IMO) it comes back to Xander. Buffy and Willow both could have handled it better and undoubtedly would have if he hadn't interfered.

      Reading your comment caused me to realize that I didn't talk about Giles in my post. In a way, he has the biggest grievance against Buffy. He did absolutely nothing wrong and wasn't implicated in Xander's Lie. Her failure to let him know that she was ok is by far her biggest fault in my book. [SPOILER] We'll see the consequence of that in Revelations.

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    3. Yes, I knew you were mefistopheles!

      Anyway, I agree, and I agree that it all comes down to Xander. Or, not all of it -- not Joyce's side -- but the biggest bulk of it. Which is why he is the one to SPOILER be the heavy in Revelations, where we both get more of his side, and where he makes a mistake so big that he has to back down.

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  3. As you can probably tell, I only recently discovered your blog (from a link from AVC). I loved your posts there too. Reading your expanded comments here have compelled me to rewatch--yet again--many of these episodes.

    I just want to tell you that you have saved this episode for me. I used to hate it with a passion because it made me mad at everyone. Now, through Buffy's eyes, I can appreciate the subjectivity of the story. Thank you!!

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  4. I hate this episode due to the Scoobys nature of accusatory self-centredness without bothering to even think for one minute about the circumstances surrounding Buffy's disappearance.

    As far as they're concerned, Buffy is being hugely selfish.

    Firstly Joyce told Buffy not to come back, then she was expelled, she just killed her boyfriend who got his soul back, and finally, oh what, she is wanted for Murder, and Im sure any sending letters or phone calls back could be problematic.

    I can sort of understand people being upset and not being the most tactful, I can appreciated a good argument, but this was a pretty poor argument and there's no acknowledgement from any of them about this.

    Some friends. And kill a few zombies, and all is forgiven and we get big huge around?

    It doesn't sit well with me.

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    1. I agree with you, as you can see. I think life for Buffy and her friends was never really the same after the events of Becoming. Willow and Xander just couldn't relate to what she had to do, and of course Xander's Lie exacerbated the problem. It affects their relationship from this point on.

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  5. I gotta disagree with your main premise; I don't think the episode was about Buffy being wrong and the others being right, or vice versa. As I see it, the point of the episode was that the problems between Buffy and her friends/family really weren't that big a deal. She understood that she hurt them, and they understood that she had her reasons, and everyone was eager to put the incident behind them and move on.

    But it's one thing for someone to understand how you feel; it's another thing to KNOW they understand how you feel. If Joyce and the Scooby Gang hadn't chewed Buffy out, they'd always suspect that she never really appreciated how much it hurt to have her gone. And if Buffy had kept quiet about how painful the events of "Becoming" were for her, she could never be sure that her mom and her friends really understood why she ran away. Forming bonds with others is built on the premise that they know you and understand how you feel; if you keep your true feelings hidden from them, your bonds with them will weaken, as they do for our heroes this episode.

    Unlike most BtVS monsters, the zombies don't represent a problem the characters are facing, but rather the solution to it. They're a metaphor for the harsh words the characters exchange at the party, and as soon as they show up, everyone starts getting along again. Buffy steps back into her role as leader without missing a beat, the Scoobies fight together as well as they ever have, and once the zombies are gone everyone's back to smiling and laughing and not yelling at each other. Sometimes friends need to hash things out and share their feelings, even if it's unpleasant, and sometimes a team of monster fighters needs a good threat to face before they can really be a team again. That's why there's no resolution to the argument, because there was nothing to resolve. Buffy wants to be back, her friends and family want her back, and no one's done anything that can't be easily forgiven. They argued because they needed to clear the air between them, not because someone needed to be proven right and someone else proven wrong.

    Yes, there's that closing scene with Buffy apologizing to Willow, who claims to have "moral superiority", but neither character is taking anything they say all that seriously. Buffy treats being chided over her running away like she would any other joke at her expense: admit there's some truth to it, show she's a good sport, but give a playful warning not to push it. And once Willow compares her holier-than-thou attitude to a drug rush, it's pretty clear her claims of superiority are only in jest. Note that the scene ends with them hurling insults at each other, and no one's feelings are hurt because they know the other person is only kidding. They couldn't have done that earlier in the episode; as long as they still had unexpressed grievances, a fake insult would have been tinged with real bitterness. But now that they've shared how they really feel, they can be comfortable with each other again, and know each other well enough to tell when being called a "tramp" or "delinquent" is meant in a cute way, not a mean way.

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    1. I don't think the episode was "about" anyone being wrong, per se. I think the fights just came across that way: Buffy was wrong. As I read it, the episode was "about" the danger in burying your feelings.

      That said, I like your reading of the zombies as representing the harsh words. I think that's similar to my interpretation in which they represent the repressed feelings of anger (expressed in harsh words, to use your reading). Your reading has the advantage that the metaphor doesn't get in its own way, though I do think that seeing things as unresolved has advantages for later episodes.

      I still don't like the way they yell at Buffy. :)

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    2. I don't think the episode was taking sides with anyone in that argument, but since Buffy was outnumbered her opposition got more chances to voice their opinion. The only person she had to back her up was Cordelia, and that kind of help she can do without.

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    3. I don't know if it was intentional, but this dialog suggests to me that it was:

      Buffy: Okay! Okay. I screwed up. I know this. But you have no idea! You have, you have no idea what happened to me or what I was feeling!

      Xander: Did you even try talking to anybody?

      Buffy: There was nothing that anybody could do. Okay? I just had to deal with this on my own.

      Xander: Yeah, and you see how well *that* one worked out. You can't just bury stuff, Buffy. It'll come right back up to get you.

      Xander's line about burying stuff then flash cuts to the zombies.

      So I read it as intentional, but I'd agree that your reading is also possible. And LOL re Cordelia.

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  6. I'm watching through the series for a second time (And reading along in your book! It's been wonderful so far!) and I was just so strongly moved by this episode that I had to comment about it. I hated the way everyone piled onto Buffy in this episode. Joyce might not have had a full idea of what Buffy was going through (though she didn't exactly handle things well), but Xander and Willow certainly did. For them to act so coldly towards her and then be surprised when she thought about leaving again... I don't know how they could be so callous.

    There aren't many times in the series where I want to just grab a character and tell them that they're wrong, but this was one of the few times. I really don't know if this was what the writers were going for or not, but Xander is such a small, petty child in this episode it's one of the only episodes where I can't stand him at all. He calls Buffy selfish and stupid, when he's the one who was acting selfishly and stupidly when he told her his lie in Becoming. I don't really have a point here, I just wanted to vent about the way Xander acted in this episode.

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    1. Heh. That was pretty much my reaction on first watch, and even now I often skip the spisode on re-watch.

      Thanks.

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