It's hard to be too down on an episode that features characters in formal dress being chased around a forest by monsters who want to kill them. There's a certain fun factor that can't be ignored, and its one of the reasons that the episode holds up for the most part. I especially like the spiny demon, which I think is one of the show's better demon designs overall. But what the hell were they thinking bringing Lyle Gorch back? That guy wasn't very interesting in "Bad Eggs," so why they thought we needed more of him I can't fathom.
"P.S. The limo was not cheap. Work it out."
- Note left for Buffy and Cordelia
At its heart, this episode tells a story about Buffy and Cordelia, where they work up some palpable animosity and then get thrust into a dangerous situation where they learn to get along and we find out that Cordelia isn't such a bitch after all. Personally, I liked it better when it was called "Out of Mind, Out of Sight." And we didn't need to see it again: By now we should all be fully on board with the notion that Cordelia is far more charming and likable than we originally thought, and it annoys me that this episode seems to set her back to season one just so it can build her back up. It doesn't help that Buffy's obsession with defeating Cordelia seems also to be a season one retread. She even frames it in such a way that she's trying to recapture her glory days at Hemery High, as (sort of) chronicled in the movie. Whatever. So over it.
What works slightly better is the sudden resurfacing of the romantic tension between Xander and Willow. While the plot between Buffy and Cordelia seems redundant, it seems in Xander and Willow's case that revisiting the issue in light of all that's happened since gives us a new take on it, and it even seems like a natural progression for them, although I think the episode emphasizes the awkwardness and discomfort of the situation a little bit too much, while glossing over the obvious terribleness of what they're doing to their respective significant others.
But despite these minor hiccups, the episode holds together fairly well, and ends with a great twist: the Homecoming Queen is a tie, and neither Buffy nor Cordy won. It's annoying this is the second time in as many episodes that the show brings nothing really fresh to the table, but at least this time around it's a pretty enjoyable ride.
- This episode introduces the sinister mayor of Sunnydale, who I think is a really fantastic villain. His incredibly over-the-top small town wholesomeness is great for laughs, but it also becomes genuinely creepy when his darker side shows through.
- Scott's breaking up with Buffy is an unhappy moment, but it's hard to blame him. Buffy's a tough person to be with, particularly if you're not in on her secret. Of course, doing it right before homecoming wasn't very kind, so that makes his humiliation by Faith pretty satisfying.