bathroom stall, buffy, buffy season 1, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, charisma carpenter, clea duvall, comedic moments, crushed velvet, homecoming queen, mock turtleneck, out of mind, poor use of Beatles songs, toilet bowl, twinkie defense, yeah yeah high school is awful
“That is such a twinkie defense. Shylock should get over himself. People who think their problems are so huge craze me. Like this time I sort of ran over this girl on her bike. It was the most traumatizing event of my life, and she’s trying to make it about her leg! Like my pain meant nothing.”
It does not bode well for this recap that I watched this week’s episode on Sunday to “give myself a head start” and can not, for the life of me, remember what it was. It’s the penultimate episode of the first season and I’m drawing a complete blank.
And it’s “Out of Mind, Out of Sight.” Man, talk about an aptly named title.
Ok, back on track here. I actually like this episode – for one, it’s Cordelia centered and I’ve really grown to appreciate Charisma Carpenter’s adroit handling of the character. For another, this week’s guest star is Clea Duvall, who at this point in her career was “that teenaged weirdo” in pretty much any show or movie that needed one. (She was that girl who lived in the bathroom stall and ate toilet bowl cleaning discs on “Popular.” Yeah, that girl.)
Everyone knows that SMG was originally auditioning for the Cordelia role, right? SMG certainly has strong comedic moments as Buffy, but I can’t imagine what her Cordelia would have been like. Carpenter’s deadpan, dead-on, tart-tongued homecoming queen was a welcome change from the vapid headed blonde mean girls who dominated so many of these high school narratives. She was self-centered, but she was no fool. And you were going to be in a bad way if you dismissed her as such.
Yet another morning dawns bright and vicious in Sunnydale. An extra waltzes across the screen in a blue, crushed velvet, mock turtleneck body suit and I know Cordelia has started yet another horrendous fashion trend at Sunnydale High. The trendsetter, herself, is on the arm of her boyfriend, Mitch, and discussing the upcoming May Queen election with soon-to-be-recurring harpy, Harmony Kendall. Buffy dumps a bag full of weapons and textbooks in their path – the second time this season the writers have used this trope to embarrass Buffy and reveal her stash of stakes, which completely dates the show, because Buffy would be out on her ass faster than you can say “Zero Tolerance Policy” today – so that Cordelia can make fun of how weird the Slayer is.
Buffy stares after the normal trio with a look that’s meant to be wistful for all the “normal” teenage things she’s left behind, but I choose to interpret as regret that her Superhero code of ethics don’t allow her to pop Cordy square in the nose.
In English class, their teacher discusses “Merchant of Venice.” Because we’re not always about subtly in setting up our themes here in first-season land, we are treated to the famous “if you prick us, do we not bleed” speech that just happens to end on “if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?” Subtlety! As the class weighs in on the soliloquy, Cordelia issues an, er, dissenting interpretation: Shylock should get over himself.
“With Shylock it’s whine, whine, whine, like the whole world is about him! He acts like it’s justice, him getting a pound of Antonio’s flesh. It’s not justice, it’s yicky.”
Say what you will about Cordy, her points are self centered, but they’re not dumb – this isn’t a girl who coasts by on her good looks.
In the boys’ locker room, Mitch is taking a shower and talking to one of his friends while he’s mostly naked, you know, like guys do, talking about how Cordelia is hot and he wants to bang her, and blah blah blah teenage boys being jerks talk. Once he’s alone though and having what I’m sure are super deep thoughts, Mitch is hit from behind and knocked to the ground. He holds his head in confusion at the baseball bat that seems to be floating in mid-air right before it beats him into unconsciousness. And we hear a woman’s laughter floating in from nowhere.
Cordelia is campaigning for May Queen by handing out chocolates with her initials on them, so that voters will associate her name with something sweet – I told you this girl is no dummy – but spares a moment to snub Buffy. No chocolates for Buffy Summers! That’s ok, Buffy doesn’t need Cordelia’s dumb chocolates anyway because now she gets to go investigate Mitch’s attack, and that burns calories. Snyder tries to run interference, but gets distracted by Willow and Xander’s transparent talk about Mitch suing the school.
Inside the locker room, someone has spray painted the word LOOK across a bank of lockers.
Giles thinks that the culprit might be invisible. It’s nice for Giles to be right so early in an episode for a change.
Later that afternoon, Harmony and Cordelia are catching up at the top of the courtyard stairs. Cordy has gone to the hospital to check on Mitch and is dismayed to discover he’s all bruised up, because that will not be ok in their formal pictures. How can she show them to her future children?! Suddenly, Harmony goes tumbling down the stairs. I can’t say I haven’t thought about shoving Harmony down a flight of stairs either, but she’s hardly been on screen long enough to be annoying at this point. Way to be preemptive, invisible assailant.
By the way, there are all sorts of atmospheric black and white flashbacks going on throughout this episode from the point of view of our invisible assailant, a girl named Marcie. There’s pretty much no reason to recap them – they all revolve around the same thing. Cordelia is a popular bitch who ignored this girl named Marcie, who took all these snubs incredibly personally, because in high school, this kind of shit feels like the end of the world. I’m not even being sarcastic about that. To sum up; Marcie has a vendetta.
So, anyway, in real time, Snyder is freaking out about Harmony’s accident and the potential lawsuits the school could be liable for. Buffy is suspicious that Harmony threw herself down the stairs and darts up the landing in time to see the door to the music room close. She follows but doesn’t see anyone, though she can hear laughter.
Angel has randomly shown up in the school library in the middle of the day long enough to have a heart-to-heart with Giles and promise to go find a lost book of prophecies about the Slayer. Giles opines about the tragedy of a vampire being in love with a Slayer and mentions that Angel doesn’t have a reflection, because not being seen is this week’s theme. Underline, exclamation point. We don’t see Angel’s reflection, we don’t see Marcie’s pain, we don’t see Cordelia’s loneliness, and we can’t see Buffy’s longing to be normal. Everyone is their own little island of issues.
The English teacher from earlier in the day is found in her classroom with a plastic bag over her head. Cordelia is able to revive her and another message is found scratched on the chalkboard: LISTEN.
Anyone half paying attention to this episode has now figured out that all the attacks are connected to Cordelia, and Cordelia, who has been paying attention, rushes off to the library to get help from the Scooby gang.
Because you’re always around when all this weird stuff is happening. And I know you’re very strong, and you’ve got all those weapons … I was kind of hoping you were in a gang.
After some discussion, it’s decided that Cordelia will go to that evening’s May Queen coronation because not going would mean Marcie’s won, or some sort of dubious reasoning and Buffy will be her personal bodyguard, because that’s what Buffy does. The two girls have a heart-to-heart about the perils of popularity as Cordelia changes into her gown in a mop closet. Being popular means being lonely, because people only want to be near you because of what you are, not who you are – but it’s better to feel lonely than to actually be alone. Buffy is touched enough to try to sympathize with Cordelia – she used to be popular in her old school, and being the Slayer is an isolating job, but all she gets back from Cordelia is dead silence. After punching through the door, Buffy discovers Cordelia being hauled through the ceiling tiles. She pursues, but Marcie gets the drop on her and injects the Buffster with something that knocks her out.
When she comes to, Buffy has been tied to one of the coronation chairs at the Bronze (doesn’t this school have a cafetorium or something?). Cordelia is in the other one, freaking the hell out, because she can’t feel her face anymore. This is Bad News. On the stage curtains, Marcie has written LEARN in huge glitter letters. Badder News. Marcie is going to teach everyone a lesson by writing it all over Cordelia’s beautiful face – the invisible girl whips a dropcloth off a tray of surgical instruments. Everyone is going to pay attention to Cordelia for the rest of her life, Marcie explains. Her name is going to be on everyone’s lips. I can’t help but think of The Princess Bride, but without the comedic relief. This is one of the genuinely disturbing moments in B:TVS. We don’t see Marcie at all, but Clea Duvall is selling the crazy in her voiceover.
Buffy manages to finagle a scalpel and saw through her bonds. Marcie whoops her good before she can get Cordelia free and for a moment, the Slayer is at a loss. It’s not until she can go still and quiet that Buffy is able to track Marcie, throwing her into the stage curtains. Now she has a target. Marcie doesn’t have a chance.
Now that the situation is under control, a squad of FBI agents rushes into the Bronze and hustles Marcie off. This has happened before, they say,
and they can take Marcie someplace where she’ll be helped and become a productive member of society. By enrolling at invisible assassin spy school. Marcie doesn’t seem too bothered by her new career path. Happiness is a warm gun, as the song goes.
Oh, yeah. Marcie locked the rest of the Scoobies in the basement of the school and tried to gas them to death, but Angel saved them. Whatever. Total b-reel filler.
TNMAS, Cordelia stops to thank Buffy and the gang for all their help. She’s embarrassed and awkward, endearing for a moment, but then Mitch is there, and Cordelia has a reputation to maintain. Good-bye, endearing Cordelia. We’ll see you next season.