Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Prom   Rewatch 
July 15, 2015 11:59 PM - Season 3, Episode 20 - Subscribe

Hoping to set her free to live a normal(ish) life, Angel breaks up with Buffy for good just before Prom. While she's processing this she has to stop some hellhounds from tearing the dance apart.
posted by yellowbinder (15 comments total)
Jonathan giving Buffy the little trophy thing definitely has more impact if you've seen Earshot, which nobody had when The Prom was new because of the episode order shuffling. Otherwise it's kind of remarkable how you can take Earshot out of the season lineup without it affecting too much. I don't know if you could do that with any of the other episodes this season.

So, Wesley and Giles are the prom chaperones... did they ever deal with the question of what Wesley's "cover" was at the school? Is he just the second librarian?

As the Sunnydale High era winds down, I can't resist saying that a few years back me and my girlfriend made a pilgrimage to Torrance High School, where Sunnydale High was filmed. Being there is really weird, because it looks just like Sunnydale High, but a little dingier. Normally if you go to a place where something was filmed it seems a lot smaller in person and there's no second story and the windows are in the wrong places. But Torrance High is set up exactly like Sunnydale High, so everywhere you look there's a familiar spot from the show. (There's the fountain! There's the stairs!)

The Summers' house is apparently just a few blocks away. IIRC we tried to find it, but we didn't have the address and EVERY house in the neighborhood kind of looks like Buffy's house.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:12 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ursula: that's so cool! I wonder if I can convince my wife that we should totally do that...

This episode has some fun moments, and a couple of important ones (the class protector one could have come from a different episode), but it's mostly forgettable. The monster of the week is so lame, mainly due to the rubbish costuming. Those hell hounds were not terribly scary, and despite Giles and Wesley talking them up, they don't pose anything like a threat.

The whole breaking up with Angel thing is a long time coming, and while it needs to be dealt with, I'm glad when it's over. (oh, and the whole coming for one last dance thing at the last moment is so cheap. Frankly Buffy deserves a lot better than Angel). The one thing I do like is Joyce coming over to talk to Angel about their relationship, because she can see what her daughter cannot.

There are lots of fun moments here though. Wesley and Giles fencing, Willow and Harmony signing each others books, and anya and Xander's wonderful first date.

-Angel's buffy burning alive dream is good and creepy
-Praise you by fatboy slim
-I guess Xander's last gesture towards Cordelia somewhat makes up for his behaviour towards her. I'm just glad that arc is over and done with
-"For gods sake man she's 18 and you have the emotional maturity of a blueberry scone".
-I love the hangman scene "They always go for the e"
-"Decimated the village in hours". So the demon killed a tenth of the village in hours? Doesn't sound thaaat bad...
posted by Cannon Fodder at 5:09 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Wow, I did not realise that was filmed in Torrance! I hung out there for a week or so one summer with an almost-girlfriend. But that would have been 94, far too early for Buffy the series. Still cool though.

I thought the opening scene with Angel watching Buffy sleep was creepy. And while their breakup didn't particularly move me, Buffy falling apart afterwards with Willow was quite well done.

Anya almost convinces me with her explanation of why she still wants to go to the prom although ex-vengeance demon and convinced of men's utter scumminess. I do love her idea of suitable prom conversation.

So yeah, gets some stuff happening but really we're all holding our breath for next week...

By the way, Cannon Fodder, is it authentic in your part of the world to say "scone" as if it rhymes with "phone"?
posted by Athanassiel at 6:38 AM on July 16, 2015

It's regional I think. I pronounce it to rhyme with phone, but I think in the north it rhymes with gone.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 7:22 AM on July 16, 2015

I don't know why but when they give Buffy the umbrella I always start to cry. It doesn't even feel particularly realistic because it's literally the only time in the run of the show that random civilians seem to notice and appreciate Buffy's work. But still. Sniff.
posted by chaiminda at 8:43 AM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

The "Class Protector" award is a really nice bookend to the beginning of the season, with episodes like "Homecoming," where Buffy's upset that, unlike her previous life at Hemery where she was all over the yearbook, she's on track to be completely forgotten; no awards, no photo, nothing. It's just so nice to see her get something.

Another random bookend: when Buffy and Angel are just starting to date in S2 (Halloween), she has a major freakout about how her hair looks post-fight when she meets him at the Bronze, and this episode starts with her joking about how messy her hair looks after waking up next to him (well, then later he breaks up with her, but I don't think it was the hair). (Does Angel really not know what a prom is?)

In any case, glad to see the end of the Buffy/Angel relationship (well, the "end") with the one-two punch of the Mayor and Joyce's advice (I really think there should be more scenes with Joyce talking to the various vampires…every scene with her and Spike or Angel is enjoyable). I was happy when all my least favourite characters (Angel, Cordelia, Wesley) moved to another show…started watching Angel recently (I can't believe it took me so long) and am actually enjoying it a lot, back half of season four notwithstanding. I'd be happy to participate in an Angel discussion.

This exchange is pretty great:

Anya: I don't have a date for the prom.
Xander: Well gosh. I wonder why not. It couldn't possibly have anything to do with your sales pitch?
Anya: Men are evil. Will you go with me?
Xander: One of us is very confused, and I honestly don't know which.

The Willow/Anya tension is only a season and a half from boiling over...

The past couple of episodes have been great for Willow/Buffy scenes in a whole spectrum of emotion.

I think the show's motto should be: "I'm going to give you all a nice, fun, normal evening if I have to kill every single person on the face of the earth to do it."

Giles has some good lines in this one. "And I myself will be wearing pink taffeta as chenille would not go with my complexion." I would pay good money for that scene. Offering Buffy sympathy and ice cream. And the blueberry scone line cracks me up every time. I feel, eighteen or not, this mysterious prom chaperone who only nominally works at the school dancing with a student would have been looked at askance, but hey, they barely notice things like hellhounds, so…let's just take away from that scene that Giles is awesome and that school dances somehow always bring out his jokey side.

I liked the Xander-Cordelia dress scene when I saw it the first time, and I still like it now. It's a really nice moment for both characters, and it lets them end their arc, which had a lot of undignified moments, with dignity.

Tucker saying "I have my reasons" and then that really quick, simple cut to a girl saying "no" to him is a good way to undercut his macho posturing. I know the hellhounds aren't much of a threat, but we've got the big threat coming, and dammit, this one's about everyone having one perfect high school moment and I'm okay with that.
posted by ilana at 9:41 AM on July 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

I liked the Xander-Cordelia dress scene when I saw it the first time, and I still like it now. It's a really nice moment for both characters, and it lets them end their arc, which had a lot of undignified moments, with dignity.

Tucker saying "I have my reasons" and then that really quick, simple cut to a girl saying "no" to him is a good way to undercut his macho posturing. I know the hellhounds aren't much of a threat, but we've got the big threat coming, and dammit, this one's about everyone having one perfect high school moment and I'm okay with that.

You're right that that final moment for Xander and Cordelia is perfect. Unfortunately all the moments leading up to it leave me a little sour. Still, I find your defence of this episode reasonably compelling: perhaps I was too harsh.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 11:28 AM on July 16, 2015

Xander does say and do a lot of crappy things. If I think about it, though, so does everyone in the show. I think the difference is that, with most of the other characters, it's either a crappy thing that involves something mystical (magic, Watcher's council) or something operatically bad (deadly betrayal, trying to end the world, etc.) that many of us have no real-life experience with. Xander's crap (objectifying women, saying some ugly things particularly to and about women, being jealous, telling a massive lie by omission) involves things that we have to deal with every day, and that I'm becoming more and more aware of.

I think, at least, for me, that this makes it easier to be mad at Xander but gloss over and forgive things for the other characters. My dad's never going to send me on a Cruciamentum (Giles, that was terrible, but hey, we love Giles). My best friend probably won't use magic to end the world (Willow does some terrible things, but aw, it's Willow!) Experiences with men who use words like "slut" and leer? Very familiar, very irritating.

Anyway, that's how my thought process goes on the Xander situation. He's not my favourite character by a long shot and I don't want to sound like I'm excusing his actions or statements, but I think the relatability of them makes them hit harder.
posted by ilana at 12:15 PM on July 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

llana, that's a great distinction and I think it explains how we let Giles go, even though the Crucia-whatever thing was just reprehensible. It was his special magical-guild "duty", so we give him a pass.

But what about Cordelia? Most of her put down lines are thinly veiled versions of "you're poor, ugly, and a loser". I totally get wanting to smack Xander when he does his Nice Guy victim-bullshit or various other psuedo-funny sexist shtick. I'd love to hear Buffy/Willow whomever cut him off with "Shut the fuck up Xander, you're being an asshole". But Cordelia deserved that, perhaps not as much as Xander, but in a per minute of screen-time basis, maybe more frequently.

My guess about this would be that we get the overall message from the show that we're supposed to hate Cordelia's snobbishness, but still love her, since after we get to know her she is a vulnerable person with good qualities. Whereas, the message about Xander seems to just to love him and his goofy foibles. Xander didn't have to redeem himself to become a Scooby, we were already supposed to like him.

Oh, and I am also strangely touched by the umbrella scene.
posted by skewed at 2:13 PM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Athanassiel, looking at the filming locations page I saw that Doublemeat Palace was filmed in a Coffee Bean I drive by ALL THE TIME. It's not like that was the show's finest hour, but it's still kinda cool.

According to the Wikipedia page for this episode, when they filmed the Buffy/Angel breakup Sarah Michelle Gellar was so upset that they had to close the set for 25 minutes while she sobbed it out. If true, that's kind of cute because it shows how invested SMG was in the show, but at the same time... yikes.

Years ago I read some interview where Joss Whedon was asked what he'd learned about running a TV series, and he said, "Cast for sanity. That means make sure that the people that you’re excited by as actors are people that you can live with for seven years." I'd heard that SMG could be "difficult," and I've always assumed that quote was about her. The breakdown that shut down the whole production for half an hour sounds very much like the kind of thing that might make Whedon tear out whatever hair he had left.

(Having written that last paragraph, it now looks kind of bitchy and gossipy to me. Well, whatever; it's not like I'm gonna ruin SMG's day.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:14 PM on July 16, 2015

My favorite Xander moment isn't the part about paying for Cordy's dress, it's this part here:

Wesley: Perhaps we could stay on the topic for once. What were you doing this afternoon?
Cordelia: What? Um, I was...
Xander: Burning a hole in daddy's wallet, as usual. I just bumped into her during my tuxedo hunt.

Cordy's desperately trying to hide the fact that she's working at the shop. Xander could humiliate her here by revealing it. And it wouldn't be completely unprovoked: Cordy had humiliated him in Amends by revealing something that Xander told her in confidence about his family's drunken Christmas antics. But he has a rare moment of restraint, and I like that more than the big showy gesture.

Of course, it says something about my decidedly-mixed feelings about Xander, that one of my favorite moments is when he's preserving Cordy's illusion of normality by pretending to be an asshole to her.

As for the rest of the episode, I think it's nice that Buffy got a moment of appreciation here, but overall I find this episode weak sauce compared with some of the truly outstanding episodes we got this season.
posted by creepygirl at 9:46 PM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Cannon Fodder, thanks. I was mocked mercilessly for saying "scone" as Giles does in this ep (rhymes with "phone") and had to teach myself to say it to rhyme with "gone". Of course, now I've gone so far that I can say "scoan" again in an ironic way.

ilana, I think you are on to something with Xander. He's just a normal guy, with no amazing superpowers or even much beyond the normal Whedon snark to recommend him. Although I do generally like him better as the series progresses, I think he's definitely at his worst in the first 2-3 seasons. This is the time when many of the others are at their best, so it kinda makes him stand out. Interestingly though, when I get mad at what Xander does, I get mad at the character. When I get mad at what Willow does, I get mad at the writers for making such stupid decisions. Huh.

Anyway, I do think it is lovely poetic justice to have the potentially sexually-objectifying, possessive, jealous and insulting guy hooking up with the ex-vengeance demon who tells him in gory detail about all the horrible things men do and need to be punished for. In a way, they are both exaggerations of a particular type - sexist man, humourless feminist - so putting them together both reinforces and undermines those stereotypes.

And, in the spirit of the protective umbrella, as we reach the end of S3 I would like to just say that I don't know you, I'm not friends with you in real life or anything, but you're all enriching my appreciation of Buffy with this re-watch. Thanks especially to yellowbinder for keeping up with the posting to give us all the excuse to nerd out, swap theories, reminisce and giggle over the good lines. You guys rock.
posted by Athanassiel at 11:15 PM on July 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

Small world. I took the photo of Torrance High School Ursula Hitler linked to.
posted by dislegomena at 12:25 PM on July 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

There's a lot to love here. I've heard that it's classic to tear up at Wild Horses here, and while I love love love the Sundays' cover of that song, I do not care about Buffy and Angel at all. I weep at the class-protector award, though. You can tell by some of the shots that Willow got that to happen, too. And, of course, Joss being Joss, it'll be gone in a few episodes.

The Xander and Cordelia stuff here says a lot. One of Xander's major problems, I think, is that in any bickering, he immediately goes for the angle that will cut deepest. This makes sense from a guy who has always assumed that nobody will give his thoughts any weight to begin with, and is exacerbated by Cordy's demeanor of dishing it right back and acting above everything. So when she lashes out at him pre-emptively here, I think he gets for the first real time her vulnerability and the fact that he has the actual capacity to hurt. So him using his very scant money to make sure she can have her dress and go to the Prom with Wesley, only interrupting them to compliment her, is meaningful to me.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:05 AM on October 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

So nice that the rest of the townspeople, this time the students, actually acknowledge Buffy! I've been making little comments throughout the series about how there is an endless supply of teenagers for this school. It was funny to hear that this has been a period of lowered deaths for the school. Jeez how many kids actually make it to adulthood in this town??
posted by LizBoBiz at 8:03 PM on February 4

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