May 14, 2022

Buffy 3.5, Homecoming: Welcome to Slayer Fest

Posted in TV tagged , , , , , , at 1:12 pm by Jenn

Let the games begin

Summary: It’s another Bronze night for the Scoobies. Everyone except Buffy is talking about the upcoming homecoming dance, their last as high-schoolers. Cordelia expects to be homecoming queen, and she’d like a limo. Buffy reveals that she might not go. Scott joins the group and Willow tries to stop the conversation. Cordelia guesses that Buffy’s down because Scott hasn’t asked her to the dance yet. Scott says he thought she would find it corny, but they awkwardly agree to go together. They even kiss.

Buffy leaves her new boyfriend to go see her old boyfriend, who’s still hanging out in his old mansion and is jumpy but not feral anymore. She brings him some blood and asks how he’s feeling. He says it hurts less. She tells him she hasn’t told anyone about his return yet, and she isn’t going to. They wouldn’t understand that he’s okay. She’ll keep helping him, but her life has changed and she wants to devote more time to it. She mentions Scott, and Angel isn’t happy to hear that she’s seeing someone else. She tells him she appreciates having someone she can count on.

Cut to the next day, when Scott tells Buffy they should break up. She seems to be distracted all the time. She promises that she’s going to get better about that, but that’s not enough for Scott. They’re done. As Scott walks away, someone watches Buffy through binoculars. That someone is in a van full of surveillance equipment. The watcher has a twin, who calls someone (no name; I’ll call him Ian after the actor playing him) so he can connect his own surveillance equipment. Mr. Trick is there, pleased that the equipment will help him keep an eye on his “target.”

Deputy Mayor Allan Finch nervously enters his boss’ office with what might be bad news. His boss is Mayor Richard Wilkins, and the news is that the twins from the van (Frederick and Hans) are in town. They’re suspected terrorists and murderers. Wilkins smells the paper Finch handed him with the twins’ mugshots, then asks to see Finch’s hands. He doesn’t think they’re clean enough. People need to scrub their hands after every meal. After all, cleanliness is next to godliness. Wilkins tells Finch to put the twins under surveillance and inform him of any other sketchy people spotted in Sunnydale.

Over at Sunnydale High, it’s picture day. Cordelia’s is pretty much perfect, Xander’s is cheesy, Willow’s is uncertain, and Oz’s is…Oz. He doesn’t change his expression for the camera. Willow tells Xander she needs his help picking an outfit for the dance. She wants to wear something that will make Oz have a reaction. Cordelia checks out her competition for homecoming queen, Holly and Michelle. She only sees one of them as a threat.

Willow worries that Buffy will miss photo time. She’s in the library, training with Faith, and Oz isn’t sure anyone told her it was picture day. Cordelia offers to go get her now. Buffy will need to clean up a little first, since she’s working up a sweat taking out her anger over her breakup. Faith thinks that rage will give her an edge in slaying. She offers to go to the dance with Buffy, wanting her to have a fun night even without a date. As Cordelia is about to enter the library to talk to Buffy, she gets distracted and starts chatting with a couple of guys whose votes she needs.

The next day, Buffy tracks down one of her former teachers to ask if she’ll write a letter of recommendation to allow Buffy to come back to school. Unfortunately, the teacher has no idea who Buffy is. At lunch, Buffy mopes while Cordelia tries to drum up support from her classmates. Buffy laments how different her life is at Sunnydale High from how it was at her previous school. There, the yearbook was full of pictures of her. Here, she’ll just have one. The Scoobies break it to her that she won’t even have that one – she missed picture day.

Buffy goes straight to Cordelia to confront her for not telling her about picture day and for generally being self-centered. Cordelia argues that she’s under a lot of pressure. She doesn’t think Buffy gets how much work goes into campaigning for homecoming queen. Maybe she’d win if it were about monsters and blood. Buffy decides to prove herself and join the race. “You’ve awakened the prom queen within,” she warns.

Mr. Trick tells a group of people (including the twins and Lyle Gorch) that competition is a great thing. Everyone has a desire to win. He’s gathered some humans, vampires, and demons for a special competition. There’s an entry fee, and Lyle pays his with the money he and his new bride, Candy, were going to use for their honeymoon. (That money seems to be from a bank robbery. It’s blood-stained but nonsequential, so I think Mr. Trick will accept it.) Mr. Trick announces that the games will begin soon. It’l be open season for the two targets, Buffy and Faith. Welcome to Slayer Fest ’98!

Willow tries on some potential homecoming outfits in her room as Xander makes sure his tux fits. She’s really intent on having a nice experience since this is her first big dance with a boyfriend. She helps Xander with his tie and remembers how he wore a clip-on for a fancy eighth-grade dance. Now it’s four years later and they’re still friends. Xander thinks they’ll end up in neighboring rest homes and she’ll still be helping him out.

He asks how far Willow and Oz have gone. She says it’s none of his business, so he guesses they’re rounding second base. When she shows him her next outfit possibility, a simple but nice black dress, he tells her she looks gorgeous. Willow says he looks great, too. She starts worrying about dancing, so Xander offers to give her a practice spin. Their closeness makes them weak and they end up kissing. After a few seconds, they both stop and admit they made a huge mistake. They blame the fancy clothes and vow not to let it happen again.

The next day, Buffy gathers Xander, Willow, and Oz in the library and shows them a chart of all of her homecoming-queen competitors’ pros and cons. She knows she has a tough fight here, since this is a popularity contest and she’s not really popular. Then again, she’s not unpopular – after all, there was a good turnout at her welcome-home party. You know, the party where a bunch of people were killed by zombies. Still, everyone had a good time before that!

Buffy asks Willow to make a database so they can keep track of people’s votes. She wants Oz to talk to the less popular students and those who wouldn’t normally vote. Cordelia comes in and Buffy says she wants to keep things friendly; the Scoobies don’t need to choose sides. Unfortunately for Buffy, Cordelia has already recruited them to work for her. To be fair, Xander’s dating her. And I think Willow’s too scared to say no. And Oz just does whatever Willow does, so there goes Buffy’s whole crew.

As the others leave, Giles joins Buffy and says he doesn’t get why the girls are making such a big deal out of a little title. She lies that no one’s taking it that seriously, then clutches a glass bottle so hard that it breaks. Music montage! The girls chat with their classmates and try to get votes while the Slayer Fest competitors test out their weapons (or, in the Gorches’ case, make out). One demon, Kulak, has blades that come out of his arms. Convenient!

Buffy runs into Scott, who promises her his vote. She humbly accepts it, acting like she doesn’t want him to feel obligated, but after he leaves, she checks his name off a list of votes she wanted. More of the music montage! Buffy bribes her constituents with cupcakes, but Cordelia overshadows her with gift baskets. I guess the faculty doesn’t monitor this kind of stuff and there are no rules about it.

Willow is awkward around Buffy, who says it’s fine that her best friend is helping someone else, though she’s really trying to lay on the guilt. Willow agrees to give her 15 minutes with Cordelia’s database. The twins are watching them and now have microphones capable of hearing them, even though the girls are in a classroom and the twins are in their van. They learn that the Scoobies are going to the dance in a limo, and Faith will be riding with them.

Buffy gives Jonathan a cupcake and tries to get his support. He tells her Cordelia already bought his vote (with actual money). Buffy confronts Cordelia, who accuses Buffy of trying to be like her. She needs to stop trying to recapture her “glory days.” Buffy calls her out for being mean and asks if she has parents. Cordelia replies that she has two of them, unlike some people. Wow, really? What is this, second grade?

Cordelia tells Buffy to stay out of her way, then starts to push her a little as she walks off. Buffy grabs Cordelia’s hand and tells her not to do that again. Willow and Xander are approaching, and Xander tries to break up the fight before the rivals say something they’ll regret. “Crazy freak!” Cordelia exclaims. “Vapid whore!” Buffy spits back. Too late, Xander.

That night, Willow and Xander are back in her room, distressed because their friends are fighting. Willow thinks it’s her and Xander’s fault – they felt so bad about kissing that they overcompensated by siding with Cordelia, which messed up the Scoobies’ dynamic. They try to come up with a solution, but it’s hard when they can’t stop thinking about kissing each other again.

The night of the dance, Buffy happily gets in the limo at her house, then quickly loses her happiness when she sees that Cordelia is the only other passenger. The other Scoobies want the girls to take this time to work out their problems. They’ve also nicely left the girls wrist corsages. But now they have a new problem: Their driver is one of the twins, and instead of the dance, they’re being taken to Slayer Fest.

When they arrive, the twin runs off and the girls realize they’ve been left in the woods. Buffy quickly senses that something’s wrong. Nearby are a TV and VCR with a note telling them to press play. Mr. Trick appears on the TV screen and welcomes them to Slayer Fest ’98. They’re the prey for a bunch of hunters and have just seconds to get a head start running for their lives. Cordelia doesn’t get it, just calling out that she’s not a Slayer. When there’s a boom and the TV and VCR explode, the girls realize this is for real.

The other Scoobies are at the dance, but Willow and Xander aren’t having a good time. (Oz’s band is performing so he’s not with them.) Faith doesn’t get why they’re moping. She spots Scott with another girl and calls him a sleazebag. Giles arrives and tells Xander and Willow that something has happened and they need to find Buffy. Then he admits he was just messing with them and heads off to find food.

Buffy and Cordelia run through the woods, though Cordelia thinks she can get herself out of the competition by explaining to the hunters that she’s not a Slayer and shouldn’t be there. Buffy steps in a bear trap but is able to get out of it before it can snap onto her leg. Behind them, a hunter takes a shot, but Buffy throws the trap at him and immobilizes him. She takes his gun and makes him tell her what they’re dealing with. He gives her a rundown of the other hunters and the surveillance. As Cordelia tries to politely request an exemption from the competition, Kulak narrowly misses hitting her with his arm blades.

Faith amuses herself by pretending she and Scott had sex and one of them gave the other an STD. His date isn’t so interested in him anymore. Giles tries to cheer up Xander and Willow, then decides to leave until it’s time for the homecoming-queen announcement. He praises the Scoobies for their plan to make Buffy and Cordelia spend time together. Xander notes that they haven’t arrived yet, so they must be having an intense fight.

Buffy and Cordelia find a rundown cabin to use for shelter. Buffy’s the only one with a weapon, so she tells Cordelia to find one of her own. Cordelia’s starting to grasp the reality of the situation and is too worried about dying to think about anything else. Buffy tries to cover the windows and actually protect them as Cordelia frets that her life is going to end too soon. Buffy promises that they’ll get out of there and get some weapons from the library. Then Buffy will take out the hunters AND win homecoming queen. That lights a fire under Cordelia, making her angry rather than scared.

She looks for a weapon but only finds a spatula and a phone. Buffy’s like, “Remember what a phone is used for? Do you think that might be useful right now?” But leaving Giles a message gives Mr. Trick and Ian a heads up about where the girls are. Ian sends the twins after them. Giles gets Buffy’s message as Cordelia asks why things always end badly when she’s around Buffy. “Welcome to my life,” Buffy says. Cordelia would rather be in her own life, thank you. Buffy invites her to leave any time she wants.

Cordelia says that all she wanted was to be homecoming queen. That’s all Buffy wanted, too. Cordelia doesn’t know why Buffy cares about that when she gets to be a hero all the time. But that’s exactly why Buffy wanted something as normal as being crowned homecoming queen. Her life is all about being a Slayer. She wanted something she could look back on to remind her that she got to be like everyone else. It would be proof that she was chosen for something other than being a Slayer. “Besides, I look cute in a tiara,” she says.

Kulak crashes in through a window and tackles Buffy, making her drop her gun. She throws him off and grabs a pair of antlers from the wall to use as a weapon. Cordelia tries to be helpful by whacking him with the spatula. Buffy tells her to go for the gun, but Cordelia’s a bad shot. Buffy tells her to try the spatula again. Outside, the twins arrive and fire up a grenade launcher. When the grenade flies into the cabin, Buffy and Cordelia jump out a window. Kulak tries to do the same, only the window he chooses is boarded up. The cabin blows up with him inside it.

The girls head to the library, but the Gorches are there waiting for them. They knocked out Giles, those jerks. Mr. Trick is surprised that the girls got away, but Ian assures him it’s just temporary. Just then, some men arrive at their lair and drag Mr. Trick away. When the girls get to the school, they discuss their plan, which goes out the window as soon as they step into the library and encounter the Gorches.

Candy fights Buffy, but Cordelia has finally seen how helpful the spatula really is. She tosses it to Buffy, who uses the wooden handle to stake Candy. Lyle is upset but Cordelia is no longer scared. She tells him that she and Buffy have taken out four hunters and Cordelia hasn’t even broken a sweat. “In the end, Buffy’s just the runner-up. I’m the queen,” she says. And that means Lyle should be very worried about what she’s capable of. Lyle decides not to find out. He says goodbye and heads off.

Giles regains consciousness and starts cleaning up the mess in the library. He feels a little responsible for the girls’ night, since he approved of the Scoobies’ plans to put them in the limo together. Buffy’s okay with it, since she and Cordelia got some “quality death time.” Plus, as Cordelia mentions, they got free corsages. Giles didn’t know about those, and Buffy realizes they weren’t from the Scoobies. The corsages contain tracking devices, which the hunters have been using to follow the girls.

As the twins arrive at the school, Buffy tells Giles to get her some wet toilet paper. Ian gives the twins the girls’ coordinates and watches eagerly as they close in. Buffy runs out of the library, drawing the twins’ fire. When one follows her into a classroom, Ian directs the other toward Cordelia’s signal. Buffy throws the wet toilet paper at the twin following her, and Ian tells the twins to adjust their coordinates. They end up facing each other and shooting each other through a wall. When the corsage signals die, Ian declares himself the winner of Slayer Fest.

Mr. Trick is taken to City Hall, where he meets Wilkins. He knows Mr. Trick isn’t human, and he wants to make sure no one disrupts what’s going to be a big year for him. Mr. Trick thinks he’s going to be kicked out of Sunnydale for racist reasons. Instead, Wilkins talks about how children need to be looked after, and rebellious children need to be controlled. Mr. Trick thinks he’s talking about Buffy and Faith, and he says he’s taken care of them. Wilkins has heard about Slayer Fest and thinks it was a smart idea. He wants Mr. Trick to work for him.

Buffy and Cordelia finally make it to the dance, filthy and tired and a little bloody. “Long story,” Buffy tells the Scoobies. “Got hunted,” Cordelia says. “Apparently not that long,” Buffy replies. She acknowledges that Cordelia isn’t to be messed with. They’re just in time for the homecoming-queen announcement, but after all they’ve been through, it’s no longer that important to them. Just kidding – it’s still really important. Devon reveals that there’s a tie. The two winners are…Holly and Michelle. Buffy and Cordelia walk out in disgust. Hey, at least they won Slayer Fest!

Thoughts: Continuing the excellent casting this season, Harry Groener is perfect as Wilkins.

I love this exchange between Mr. Trick and Kulak:

Mr. Trick: “We all have the desire to win. Whether we’re human…vampire…and whatever the hell you are, my brother. You got them spiny-looking head things. I ain’t never seen that before.”
Kulak: “I am Kulak, of the Miquot Clan.”
Mr. Trick: “Isn’t that nice.”

Buffy’s problem in the campaign is that no one fears her. Everyone’s too scared of Cordelia not to give her their support (or at least lie that they’ll vote for her). Which is actually a good thing, because that means Buffy’s nice.

I love that someone working for Mr. Trick took the time to come up with a Slayer Fest logo for the end of his welcome video.

1 Comment »

  1. Deja said,

    I always assumed that Slayer Fest was a play on Ozzfest

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