Ladyghosts: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Episode 3.05, “Homecoming”

We are gonna get out of here, and we’re gonna head back to the library, where Giles and the rest of the weapons live. Then I’m going to take out the rest of these guys, just in time for you to congratulate me on my sweeping victory as Homecoming Queen.

If this episode had been made later, you know that "army of skanks" would have appeared on that board somewhere.

“Homecoming” is a fun episode but it is, by no stretch of the imagination, a particularly deep episode. I think of it as a placeholder – it launches important plotlines for the rest of the season, but the actual impact of the A-plot fizzles quickly.

The main storyline revolves around the long simmering animosity between Cordelia and Buffy. Cordelia is running for Homecoming Queen, because that’s what girls like her do. And Buffy is stewing over the girl she used to be. For those of us who entered the series from the movie (which I like on its own merits just fine), we have an edge on where Buffy’s coming from. The movie establishes that Buffy was a popular, vapid fashion victim whose life is essentially ruined by becoming the Slayer. This backstory is eluded to the very first episode of the show when it’s revealed she’s been kicked out of school for lighting a gym full of vampires on fire. When she came to Sunnydale, Buffy made half-hearted stabs at regaining her lost life before surrendering the war.

Jonathan!

In the supernatural world, she’s kinda of a big deal. But in the real world? Her teachers don’t remember her, she’s failing at her classes, her classmates barely know her name, and she can’t get it together enough to get her senior portrait taken. Even the milquetoast new boyfriend dumps her. So when Cordy is tactless enough to pounce on Buffy’s fragile ego, the Slayer does what she does best – she fights back.

There’s a lot comedy in the dueling campaigns for Homecoming Queen – they one up each other, they bargain for votes, they nearly come to blows in the middle of the hallway. One of the things I found fairly interesting about this campaign is that Buffy is deliberately styled in retro ’50s clothing and hair, playing up these hyper feminine traits. Not that she slobs it up on the regular, but there’s an obvious effort here to contrast “Back-to-the-Future Buffy” against “Xena Buffy.”

While they’re fighting, Mr. Trick is organizing the first ever Slayerfest, inviting all sorts of miscreants to hunt the two slayers (he mistakes Cordelia for Faith) including that werewolf hunter from Season 2 and the surviving Gorch brother and his tarty new wife. Hilarity and explosions ensure. Cordelia gets some great lines. She frightens off a vampire. Giles is knocked unconscious. Neither of them win Homecoming Queen. The end, see you next week.

So first they're like this...

 

And then they're like, "what?"

 

And then they're like "screw you guys."

The meat of the episode is truly in the flavoring. OK, I have no idea what the hell that’s supposed to mean, but let’s talk about the storylines that get kicked off here:

The Mayor – The Mayor has been a shadowy figure since his name is first uttered in the first season and “Homecoming” is our initial introduction. He’s very concerned about the fate of Sunnydale’s children, because he believes the children are the (his) future. He hates germs, likes golf, makes his assistant very nervous, and seems to know an awful lot about the demonic underbelly of his town.

His line to the nervous assistant, “I have faith in you,” is funny/foreshadowy looking back on it FROM THE FUTURE.

For my money, The Mayor is one of the show’s best Big Bads. If you’ve never watched Buffy before, you are in for a fantastic ride.

Angel’s return – Buffy specifically mentions that she is keeping his presence a secret from everyone. This in no way will come back to bite her in the ass.

Willow and Xander – Willow and Xander share an illicit kiss while trying on their Homecoming outfits, which somehow sparks a full on crotchal burn for each other. It’s, honestly, one of the least charismatic pairings in the entire show, and at least for Xander, it comes completely out of left field. BtVS made a big deal of how devastated Willow was by Xander’s constant rejections. But except for the near-kiss at the beginning of Season 2, Xander has never once indicated he reciprocated. So either he’s attracted to her because he’s got a girlfriend and is scared of commitment, or he’s attracted to her because she’s unavailable to him, with a side salad of jealousy that he’s lost her affection. No matter what the motivation, I’m side eyeing the hell out of him.

Ew

Mr. Trick – The Mayor forces Mr. Trick into his employment, which will have its own repercussions, as well as give us an insight into how he gets what he wants. Despite his aw-shucks personae, The Mayor is Serious Business.

And in important other news, next week is “Band Candy.”

Published by

[E] Slay Belle

Slay Belle is an editor and the new writer mentor here at Persephone Magazine, where she writes about pop culture, Buffy, and her extreme love of Lifetime movies. She is also the editor of powderroom.jezebel.com. You can follow her on Twitter, @SlayBelle or email her at slay@persephonemagazine.com. She is awfully fond of unicorns and zombies, and will usually respond to any conversational volley that includes those topics.

21 thoughts on “Ladyghosts: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Episode 3.05, “Homecoming””

  1. I kind of really enjoy this episode. Just fun, a lot of good one liners (Cordelia: “I’ve been doing the Vulcan death grip since I was four!”), Mr. Trick, and, of course, the Mayor. I also like when Faith gets back at Scott for dumping Buffy and going to the dance with someone else. It’s nice to see their relationship before it got…well, complicated, to say the least.

    Okay, now a brag moment: I met Harry Groener (the Mayor)!!! I saw him in Spamalot on Broadway and met him afterwards. He was incredibly nice! I got an autograph and a picture with him (in which he bear hugged me)! I told him he was my favorite villain on Buffy, and he grabbed my arm and said, “Oh my God, I LOVED that show. I was so sad when it ended!” He said he still watched it after he was killed off. He was so awesome. And he’s a fantastic singer.

  2. I actually think this is quite an important episode for Cordelia, because you get these little glimmers of “Hey, Cordelia’s fucking awesome” throughout the series (I’m ahead of you in my series recap, so I don’t know if this is SPOILER ALERT or not; but the episode where Buffy can read minds and Cordelia is saying exactly what she’s thinking is fucking brilliant and hilarious) and her lack of victimhood about the whole “being stuck in the woods” thing is great; she’s just really fucking intent on getting out of this ridiculous fucking shit.

    Can you tell I love Cordelia? She’s the Alpha Bitch made into the girl she could actually be (even if she does get major Karmic Fuck You’d by Joss for no reason and then suddenly decides to become an actress in LA despite being perfectly intelligent and then Angel and let’s not talk about Angel).

    Cordy Cordy Cordy, you make my heart happy.

    1. ‘Earshot’ — You’re right, this is obviously an episode meant to give more attention to Cordelia, because she was fast becoming a fan favorite. It just.. doesn’t have a lot of long term impact or deep philosophical meaning. Which is fine, because not every episode has to be deep and important, its just.. there. I think ‘The Wish’ is Cordy’s more important story, with far more character development.

      And you don’t have to worry about spoilers on my part. I’m getting into double digit watchings on some of these episodes.

      1. I can get that. I actually think these kind of episodes are really important for the lulz, because they space out the emotional development so it doesn’t feel like something massively momentous is happening each week.

        I’m actually pausing my rewatch to wait for you now, just to have people to squee too.

        I also always cry at Class Protector. I warn you now.

        1. I know, right? My husband and I were just talking about it at lunch, and I thought about it in the context of this episode, where Buffy says she feels invisible at school. I love everything about that scene. And I love even more that the umbrella makes an appearance next season.

  3. Everybody agrees the Mayor is the best! Especially once Faith rolls into the whole mix. Good stuff.

    I may have squee’d a bit at “Band Candy”. Episodes like “Band Candy”, “Once More With Feeling” and the like are what made what’s good about a show like Supernatural possible.

  4. The Mayor is by far my favorite Big Bad.  Its the WAY he’s evil.  He’s as bad as he wants to be, and there’s a weird innocence about it that makes him appealing and funny.  Sort of like the Sheriff in the recent BBC version of Robin Hood. He’s just bad.  No real overarching reason for it.

    To be honest, I ENJOY watching Homecoming, though it’s not my favorite episode.  The “screw this” ending is fantastic.  And yes, Xander and Willow makes me so sad.  Though how often did you have a best friend of the opposite sex who you were like, “I really love this person, so maybe it’s romantic too?”  As adults, we can look at that and go, “No.  He’s just my friend and I love him because of that.”  In high school, you’re still trying to work out that there can be different kinds of love, and that’s what I’ve always chalked the W/X relationship up to.

    1. I was really taken up with the tension of the Willow-Xander at the time, I was really struck by how charisma-less their hook up was now that I’m watching it with older eyes. Much older eyes.

      I think my favorite Mayor scene is in the cafeteria, where he’s talking to Angel and Buffy about his dead wife. He’s fucking with them, but he’s not lying either. He really does know where their relationship is heading. Its over the top Glory evil or Frankenstein evil, or First Evil evil, but it hits closest to the bone.

  5. I still shout JONATHAN! whenever he comes on to a screen – including last night while watching Gilmore Girls.

    “I asked for strawberry icecream. This is icecream with strawberries in it!”

    “I don’t understand the difference.”

    I love Jonathan.

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