Buffy the Vampire Slayer - The Prom

Summary

Buffy is sleeping, just sleeping, with Angel. They've taken a post slayage nap at his place. When she wakes, she complains about the absence of mirrors (vampires don't see themselves in them) and her need for a drawer for some of her things. She mentions the upcoming prom and how she'd like to spend the night at Angel's afterward. She just assumes he'll be her prom date. This seems to make Angel nervous and he says she really ought to be leaving. Buffy doesn't think it's morning yet, but when she opens the drapes, sun streams in almost frying Angel.

At school, Anya (of The Wish and Dopplegangland) approaches Xander. Although she despises men, she was the demon responsible for punishing them for their betrayal of women, she is now a 12th grader and she really wants to go to the prom. And she doesn't have a date. She chooses Xander because she finds him less obnoxious than the rest of the alpha males (well she did classify him as alpha male, that's a compliment) and she knows he's dateless. A little desperate, he agrees. When he tells the gang, they are a bit surprised, but happy everyone has a date. And Buffy is thrilled with her dress.

At Angel's place, he sees Buffy has left a notebook behind. On it she has scribble "Buffy & Angel 4ever". There's a knock at the door and it's Buffy's mom. She talks to Angel about the different worlds he and Buffy come from and how she's really still very young. She says Buffy doesn't think rationally when it comes to Angel and he's going to have to do the thinking for both of them. She says there are hard decisions to make and he must make them.

At the library, Willow and Buffy are discussing prom dresses. Giles comes in and tells them that the pages from the books of ascension Willow got (in Choices) indicate that on graduation day the mayor will transform into a demon. Wesley shows up with Cordelia following and points out the problem is they don't know what kind of demon. He feels they should concentrate on the slaying and ignore the dance. Cordelia says he'd look great in a tux and he immediately states he will be chaperoning the event with Giles. Buffy says that since they may all die on graduation day, they should at least get to enjoy the prom. We cut to a house in a deserted part of town. Someone puts in a video of prom type dance music and shows it to a caged demonlike creature which goes mad at the sight.

The scene is a church. Buffy and Angel are being married. They exchange vows and walk out into the sunlight, man and wife. Once there, Buffy goes up in smoke while Angel watches helplessly. Angel wakes up. That night, he and Buffy are pursuing a vampire into the sewer. Buffy would rather let it go and talk about the prom, but Angel insists. Buffy quickly stakes the vampire. She confronts Angel about his grouchy mood and makes him talk. He says he believes they should split up. Buffy thinks this is brought on by what the mayor said in Choices. Angel says the mayor was right. Buffy denies this saying the mayor is the bad guy. Angels says Buffy deserves a normal life, even more so because she'll never really have one. She deserves someone who can make love to her and have children with her. She says she isn't thinking about that now, but Angel says she soon will be. He says he doesn't want her to be with him. She asks how can she stay away from him. He replies that after the ascension, when they have defeated the mayor and Faith, he will leave.

Buffy tells Willow what happened and Willow sides with her. She starts deriding Angel, but Buffy says that Angel is right. Willow says she knows. She hoped for the best, but always thought there was no future for them. Buffy cries.

Cut to the caged demon, only it escapes from its cage. Cut to Xander passing the dress shop he saw Cordelia in in Choices. And she's looking at the same dress. He walks in to criticize her for taking so long to buy the dress. Then he discovers she's working at the store. She needs the job to earn the money to buy the dress. She tells Xander she's broke. Her father made a mistake on his taxes, for the past 12 years. She has no cell phone, no car, no dresses. She can't afford to go to any of the colleges that accepted her and they are losing their house. And she has to wear a name tag. Xander is shocked. Before he can say anything, the demon bursts in. Xander pushes Cordelia away and confronts the demon which knocks him down. But it spots a guy wearing a tux and immediately attacks him. After killing him, it returns to Xander, but strangely suddenly leaves.

At the library, the gang are watching the security tape from the store. Cordelia points out that the demon headed straight for the well dressed guy. Wesley and Giles identify it as a hell hound, a demon bred purely to kill. They feed off the brains of their foes. Wesley asks Cordelia what she was doing there with Xander (he actually seems a bit jealous). Xander chimes in that Cordelia was burning a hole in her dad's wallet and he just bumped into her. He keeps her secret. Oz notes that there is a boy in the video he recognizes, Tucker. And he seems to be controlling the hell hound. Willow hacks into his e-mail and sees he sent a letter saying he would do something to ruin the big night, obviously prom night. A hell hound trained to attack people in formal wear suddenly makes sense. The gang are resigned to not having a prom, but Buffy says no. She's determined her friends will have a good time, even if she has to kill everyone on Earth to achieve it.

Buffy springs into action. She sends Wesley and Cordelia to Tucker's house. Oz and Willow to the friend Tucker e-mailed. Xander to the magick shop. And she heads to the slaughterhouse to see if anyone has been ordering brains. She's in luck. Someone has and the butcher gives her the address. But she also bumps into Angel, buying blood. She tells him about the threat to the prom. She also says she will go stag. She has given up on getting a perfect high school moment but intends to make sure it isn't ruined for the others. Angel offers to help, but she turns him down.

At the dress shop, Cordelia is leaving without her dress. She hasn't made enough money to finish paying for it. But another clerk points out someone has paid for it. At the library, Buffy meets Giles, Willow, Oz, and Xander. They've come up with nothing, but she tells them she has the address and insists they go to the prom. She also tells Giles to go there. She wants him to make sure they are safe. He tells her she's being rash. She says they have a right to the night. He realizes Angel isn't taking her. Buffy admits that and tells him Angel is leaving. He tries to comfort her, offering ice cream. But she says taking out the demon breeder will do for now.

Wesley and Giles are chaperoning the prom. Wesley is really taken aback when he sees Cordelia, who looks great in the dress. He goes to talk to her. Meanwhile, Anya is talking Xander's head off, with stories about horribly vindictive and violent wishes she has granted angry women in the past. He leaps at the chance to talk to Wesley and Cordelia, saying how great Cordelia looks. She thanks him, and it's clear she's thanking him for buying the dress for her and keeping her secret. As they move off, Giles scans the room, obviously looking for Buffy.

Buffy makes it to Tucker's hell hound raising site. She walks in and confronts him. She sees a stack of videos (Pretty in Pink, Prom Night, Carrie) and realizes that's how he has been brainwashing the hell hounds. He tries to fight her but is easily overcome. She asks why he would do such a thing. We see a flashback to him asking a girl to the prom and being turned down. Buffy discovers he had three hell hounds he has already released.

Buffy catches up with the hell hounds at the school. She kills one with her crossbow before they enter. The other two start chasing her. She plans to lead them away from the school, but the sound of the music attracts them and they head back to the prom. She catches up with them and kills one. The other is about to attack her but a guy in a tux walks in and it turns to him. She catches it and breaks its neck. She drags the hell hounds out and changes into her prom dress, making it to the big night.

Giles is thrilled to see Buffy. Willow tells her the night has been perfect and Buffy is happy. She's given her friends the night she wanted them to have. Later, they are handing out awards. Xander is upset that he didn't win class clown. There is an extra award. The students have decided to give Buffy an award. They realize that strange things happen in Sunnydale and that she has saved their lives. She gets a parasol engraved with the words "Buffy Summers Class Protector".

Later in the evening, Wesley asks Giles if it would be appropriate for him to ask Cordelia to dance. Giles tells him Cordelia is 18 and Wesley has the maturity of a blueberry scone. Wesley goes for it. Giles walks over to Buffy. He tells her he didn't realize children en masse could be gracious. She says every now and then people surprise you. He agrees. He takes her parasol and turns her around to see Angel (looking good in a tux) coming in. Angel tells her he didn't want to miss the big night. But nothing has changed. She says she understands. They dance.

Analysis

Last week, I argued that the mayor's comments about Buffy and Angel were correct. This week, Buffy's mom and Angel both reiterate those comments. And Buffy finally admits that they are the truth. At the beginning of this season, in Anne, Buffy accepted what she was, the slayer. She returned home to take up her role. This week and last, she accepted the consequences of that role and also the consequences of a relationship with a vampire. She talks of the prom as a rite of passage, part of growing up. She's correct. In accepting her nature, her responsibility, and the realities of life, she has grown up.

This isn't just evident in her acceptance of Angel's decision. And she makes that acceptance very clear. First when talking to Willow and later when telling Angel, at the prom, that she understands why he will do what he must. But there are other signs of maturity. Believing her big night has been ruined, Buffy determines that her friends will still have their big night. She takes charge as she never has before. She orders Wesley (to Tucker's house) and Giles (to the prom to watch over the others). And they don't really fight her. This is a mature Buffy in control. And it's only appropriate that having given up on the thought of the perfect night, while working to make the night perfect for others, she actually gets what she wants. The students recognize her help and protection and Angel comes through.

Xander and Cordelia also grow up a lot in this episode. When Xander discovers that Cordelia is broke, he doesn't make fun of her. In fact, he goes out of his way to preserve her secret. He makes up the story about how they met at the dress shop. And when Buffy wants Wesley and Cordelia to go to the magick shop, he quickly volunteers - because it is right next to the dress shop and Cordelia is clearly afraid of being exposed. He buys Cordelia the dress, knowing it's something she really wants and probably the first thing in her life she hasn't been able to get. And he doesn't ask for credit. He does it without telling her. And when she thanks him at the prom, he says nothing. Maybe Xander would still like to get together with Cordelia, but he's become mature enough to be glad that she's happy and to work for her happiness. Meanwhile, Cordelia does something she's never done before. She thanks him. These are the first civil words she's had for Xander since their break up. She's got past it.

People keep giving things up in this episode. Angel gives up Buffy. He does this because he thinks it's the best thing he can do for her. Buffy gives up any chance for a decent prom to ensure her friends can have one. Xander pays for Cordelia's dress - given how broke he is that's quite a gift. And the money must have come from his on the road fund. Meaning he just might not be as free to travel as he wished. He does it to make Cordelia happy, maybe to make up for the unhappiness he's brought her in the past. And Cordelia gives up her anger, finally accepting what happened with Xander. I think it's interesting that the scene in which Cordelia thanks Xander occurs immediately after Anya's lengthy recitation of horrible revenges taken by angry women against their men.

Anya is the living embodiment of Cordelia's rage. By taking her to the prom, Xander accepts responsibility for that rage - Anya points out that her situation is really his fault. By buying the dress for Cordelia, he performs a penance. He does something good for the person he has wronged. And the rage is quieted. Anya stops her litany and by the end actually seems to be enjoying dancing with Xander. Her change, from angry harridan to happy prom girl, is a concretization of the change in the relationship between Xander and Cordelia.

The two parental figures here, Buffy's mom and Giles, frame the episode. Joyce confronts Angel and essentially drives him away. She does this because she wants her daughter to be happy. And she doesn't believe that in the long run a relationship with Angel can bring her happiness. Giles brings Angel and Buffy together, although only for the night. He wants to provide Buffy with a happy moment, realizing how much it means to her.

I don't think Joyce's actions do more than prompt Angel to immediate action. He's clearly been thinking the same thoughts since the mayor's speech to him and Buffy in Choices. At the end of that episode, as they tried to talk each other into believing what the mayor said was false, it was clear neither believed what they were saying. At the beginning of this episode, when Buffy talks of their future as a couple, Angel gets very uncomfortable and prompts her to leave. His dream happens after he sees Joyce, but it is an indicator of his inner thoughts.

Some quick final comments. I am disappointed that Cordelia's job was forced upon her rather than a choice, as I speculated last week. Someone told me that according to recent polls the IRS is the most feared agency in the US. I find that a little surprising since the ATF is usually the group that shoots at you, but it does lend a lot of realism to Cordelia's plight. Although given the tax problems Willie Nelson and Mike Tyson have, while still maintaining a pretty decent lifestyle (well when Mike's out of prison), I really doubt things would be quite so desperate. And why would they take Cordelia's dresses? The opening scene, in which Buffy asks for a drawer seems a brief homage to David Mamet's Sexual Perversity in Chicago (made into the film About Last Night) in which the same drawer conversation takes place. If sunlight streaming through the window is enough to fry Angel, why is he so lax in opening the door to Buffy's mom in broad daylight. Prom dresses look a lot better than they did when I was in high school. I seem to recall less sleek, more frills. You've got to love Anya's comment about knowing Xander is attracted to her because he stares at her breasts. And his reply that it merely means his eyes are open. And hasn't Buffy learnt anything? School dances just don't work for her. Scott dumped her just before homecoming and Angel breaks up with her on the eve of the prom. Hang up those dance shoes.

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