Home page All episodes sorted by rank All episodes sorted alphabetically All episodes sorted by writer All episodes sorted by director All episodes sorted by season Episodes with the most polarized opinions Episodes largely forgotten by fans Best and worst streaks of episodes An analysis of what makes episodes great Buffy writers sorted by the quality of their episodes Buffy directors sorted by the quality of their episodes Seasons of Buffy sorted by the quality of their episodes Buffy characters sorted by their possible contribution to episode quality Predicted episode quality based on writer, director, characters, and when aired Episodes that are much better or much worse than predicted Tastes in episodes Episodes ranked by taste Seasons ranked by taste Characters ranked by taste Writers ranked by taste Directors ranked by taste How the results on this site were obtained Ranking important contributors Reviews and Essays Frequently Asked Questions The links page Go to the sitemap

DEAD MAN'S PARTY (ep #3.02)

(a.k.a. It Raises the Dead!)

Written by: Marti Noxon
Directed by: James Whitmore Jr.
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris
Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg
Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia Chase
David Boreanaz as Angel
Seth Green as Oz
Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles
Guest Starring: Kristine Sutherland as Joyce
Nancy Lenehan as Pat
Armin Shimerman as Principal Snyder
Co-Starring: Danny Strong as Jonathan
Jason Hall as Devon
Paul Morgan Stetler as Young Doctor
Chris Garnant as Stoner #1

Plot Summary

A zombie attack and character frustrations interrupted Buffy's welcome home party.

Plot Details

Buffy interrupted her mother hanging Nigerian masks. Buffy wanted to go out to find Willow and Xander, but Joyce was a little reluctant to let her go. While wandering, Buffy saw someone lurking in an ally and decided to follow. Although she was not very stealthy and stepped on a can, Buffy still managed to grab a stake and almost used it to kill Xander. Before he could catch his breath, a vampire ambushed them. Buffy staked the vampire after she and the vampire tossed Xander, Willow, Oz, and Cordelia out of the way.

The others brought Buffy to see Giles, who was quietly grateful to see her. Oz informed her that she was no longer wanted for murder. However, she still had to go to Principal Snyder if she wanted to get back into school.

Unfortunately, Snyder was not eager to have her back. In fact, he seemed to enjoy keeping her out of school and enjoyed Joyce's threat to take her case to the mayor. Later, Joyce suggested private school for Buffy, but Buffy liked the idea of home schooling more.

Joyce dropped Buffy off at the Espresso Pump to wait for Willow, who never showed up. Buffy eventually walked home and ran into Pat, Joyce's extremely obnoxious friend. Inside, Joyce mentioned that she invited Willow, Giles, and everyone else over for dinner and sent Buffy to the basement to get the special plates. While there, Buffy found a dead cat. Burying that cat was not Buffy's idea of a mother-daughter bonding activity.

The next morning, the cat returned to Buffy's home, shocking her and her mother. They called Giles, who brought a cage and took it to the library. The cat attracted some interest—including from Oz who wanted to name it Patches—but attention quickly turned toward the dinner that night. Without consulting with either Buffy or Joyce; Oz, Xander, Cordelia, and Willow convinced a reluctant Giles to turn it into a hootenanny.

Buffy was a little startled to see Pat show up for the dinner. Buffy was even more surprised when Oz's band showed up and asked where to set up their instruments.

Meanwhile, the eyes of Joyce's mask were glowing red and a couple of accident victims awoke from the dead. As various zombies stumbled around outside, Giles discovered the Nigerian mask in one of his books. He tried to call Buffy, but a guest (Stoner #1) answered and was quite unhelpful.

At the party, Willow and Xander seemed reluctant to talk with Buffy. She wandered off and overhead her mother tell Pat that it was worse in some ways to have Buffy back. This led Buffy to decide to pack and run away from home again, but with the door open so she would be sure to be caught.

Willow found her first. She finally vented her feelings about how she had to go through life changes without her best friend around to talk to. Joyce arrived and confronted Buffy as well. Buffy tried to flee to the party, but Joyce was not in the mood to be ignored. Xander came to Joyce's defense, which led Cordelia to jump to Buffy's defense.

Meanwhile, Giles was rushing to Buffy's house. In the middle of a rant, he struck a zombie. When he went to check on the zombie, more arrived. He fled to his car without his keys. Fortunately, he still remembered how to hotwire a care and managed to escape.

The confrontation in Buffy's house came close to getting violent when the zombies arrived. They killed Stoner #1 and chased most of the other guests away. As most of the characters struggled to get the zombies out of the house, one dragged Pat away and killed her. Unfortunately, she quickly became a zombie. The others did not notice and brought her into the room where Buffy, Joyce, Xander, and Willow fled. Meanwhile, Oz and Cordelia managed to hide in a closet.

Cordelia and Oz emerged with ski poles and nearly attacked Giles. Giles explained that the zombies were trying to get to the Nigerian mask in order to become a demon incarnate. However, he warned the wrong people as Pat rose and put on the mask. After a scuffle, Buffy managed to throw Pat out the window to the lawn. Giles told Oz to tell Buffy that the Pat zombie's power was in her eyes, but Buffy figured it out on her own and defeated it.

Giles paid a visit to Principal Snyder about getting Buffy readmitted. Snyder was unmoved until he realized that Giles was willing to take his case outside Sunnydale and away from Snyder's political influence. Giles also added a little physical intimidation.

At the Espresso Pump, Willow discussed her budding witchcraft with Buffy. So far it involved covering a zit and blowing power for an entire block.

The Good

I appreciate what this episode was trying to do. It would be easy to have people happy to have Buffy back and go on with their lives as before. Instead, we see that their emotions were more complicated. Now that they do not have to worry about whether Buffy was alive or try to get her back, they can focus on how it felt for Buffy to abandon them for the past few months. Needless to say, they would not be grateful.

The Bad

One good rule of horror filmmaking is that zombies = boring. Vampires have personality. Werewolves are capable of doing more than lumbering and moaning. Zombies simply hold their arms out and walk so slowly that they would have a difficult time chasing down a tortoise. I know that zombie movies tend to be more about people trapped in a house surrounded by zombies than about the zombies themselves, but the zombies themselves are still boring

Pat was extremely obnoxious. This would not be too bad if this were primarily a humorous episode in which we would cheer when the annoying woman was killed. However, this was a serious episode and would have worked much better if we were instead sad at the death of Joyce's friend who helped her cope with Buffy's absence over the summer. This, however, would have required us to actually like Pat. I do not see how anyone, even Joyce, could have liked Pat.

The make-up on some of the zombies was quite bad.

Overall Rank: 140

Action: 8

A vampire ambushed Xander and Buffy. She managed to stake the vampire after Willow, Cordelia, and Oz arrived.

A gang of zombies crashed the party, killing two people including Pat. After a battle, Zombie Pat became a demon incarnate for a short while until Buffy shoved a shovel into its eyes.

Comedy: 0

Drama: 8

Much of the drama centered on the others' reaction to Buffy's return. All were happy to have her back but had more complicated emotions described under character development.

Romance: 2

Xander's Nighthawk persona was a big turn-on for Cordelia.

Character Development: 8

Most of the character development came from reactions to Buffy returning.

Buffy clearly did not anticipate the reaction that she received. It did not occur to her that anyone would have been angered by her absence. She does not realize how much the others love, worry about, and depend on her. She just wanted to pretend that nothing happened and have everything go back to normal.

Joyce had spent so much time worrying about Buffy that she had no time to be angry at her for causing that worry. Now that Buffy is back, the other feelings are coming out.

Giles had the least ambivalent feelings about Buffy's return. He is simply grateful to have her back and is the most willing to go on as before.

Willow went through some changes over the summer. First, she is in a serious romantic relationship for the first time in her life. Second, she has become very serious in her study of witchcraft. She desperately wanted her best friend to be around during this time and is upset that Buffy was somewhere else.

Xander claims to be concerned with what Buffy put Joyce, Giles, and Willow through, but he has his own issues as well. He never approved of Buffy's relationship with Angel. Much of what occurred during the last nine episodes of the second season confirmed his beliefs. He may not say so, but he probably realized that there would have been much less pain if she chose him over Angel. He does not like coming in second to a mass murderer.

Importance: 1

This episode (mostly) wraps up everyone's complicated feelings toward Buffy's absence over the summer so the show can get going on the season arc in the next episode.

Most Valuable Player: Buffy

This was not a good episode for MVPs or Goats. However, Buffy did defeat Zombie Pat, so she gets this award. She is the first character to win MVPs in three episodes in a row.

Sherlock Holmes Award: Giles

By reading books rather than attending a hootenanny, Giles easily earned this award. Buffy gets some credit for figuring out on her own that she needed to attack Zombie Pat's eyes.

Goat of the Week: Stoner #1

It is even harder to pick a Goat than to pick an MVP. Joyce brought in the mask, but, despite Giles's rant, she had no reason to realize what it was. Everyone's reluctance to discuss their feelings for most of the episode or keep their feelings in when appropriate caused some of the problem. However, this was quite understandable.

Only two people stand out. Oz was the one who pushed for a hootenanny when a gathering would have been much more appropriate. This would have provided a safe forum to discuss everybody's feelings and fewer potential victims for the zombies. The other candidate is the guest (Stoner #1) who answered the phone and made little effort to find out who the call was for. Had he found one of the hosts, Buffy would have been warned about the mask in time to do what is necessary to stop the zombies. Stoner #1 died for his error, so he gets the Goat.

Random Commentary

Did it occur to anyone to consult with Joyce about the dinner plans? I get that a theme of the episode was the characters' reluctance to discuss their feelings with Buffy. However, it is Joyce's house and she should have a say in what goes on.

I know that Buffy was not around, but did Willow really have nobody to talk to about life stuff? For example, Xander was her best friend since childhood.

Memorable Quotes

"I'd like to find Willow and Xander." Buffy
"Will you be slaying?" Joyce
"Only if they give me lip." Buffy

"I have not only the right, but also the nearly physical sensation of pleasure at the thought of keeping her out of school. I'd describe myself as tingly." Principal Snyder
"Buffy was cleared of all those charges." Joyce
"Yes, and while she may live up to the not a murderer requirement for enrollment, she is a troublemaker, destructive to school property and the occasional student, and her grade point average is enough to... I'm sorry, another tingle moment." Principal Snyder
"I don't see how you can be so cavalier about a young girl's entire future." Joyce
"I'm quite sure that a girl with the talents and abilities of Buffy will land on her feet. In fact, I noticed as I came in this morning, that Hot Dog on a Stick is hiring. You will look so cute in that hat." Principal Snyder

"What about home schooling? You know, it's not just for scary religious people anymore." Buffy

"I had a thought. What if I invited Willow and Mr. Giles and everybody over for dinner tomorrow night? Don't you think that would be nice? [pause] Since I sorta already did, I was hoping for a yes." Joyce

"Do you wanna say something?" Joyce
"Like what, thanks for stopping by and dying?" Buffy
"How about good-bye stray cat who lost its way. We hope you find it." Joyce

"We should figure out what kind of deal this is. I mean, is it a gathering, a shindig, or a hootenanny?" Oz
"What's the difference?" Cordelia
"Well, a gathering is brie, mellow song stylings; shindig, dip, less mellow song stylings, perhaps a large amount of malt beverage; and hootenanny, well, it's chock full of hoot, just a little bit of nanny." Oz

"You know, I'm having all sorts of... I'm dating. I'm having serious dating with a werewolf, and I'm studying witchcraft and killing vampires, and I didn't have anyone to talk to about all this scary life stuff, and you were my best friend." Willow

"Unbelieveable! 'Do you like my mask? Isn't it pretty? It raises the dead.' Americans!" Giles

"Put yourself in Buffy's shoes for just a minute, OK? I'm Buffy, freak of nature, right? Naturally, I pick a freak for a boyfriend, and then he turns into Mr. Killing Spree, which is pretty much my fault..." Cordelia
"Cordy, get out of my shoes!" Buffy

"Talking about it isn't helping. We might as well try some violence. [crash] I was being sarcastic!" Willow

"How do we know it's really you and not Zombie Giles?" Cordelia
"Cordelia, do stop being tiresome!" Giles
"It's him." Cordelia

"Generally speaking, when scary things get scared, not good." Xander

"I understand you having to bail, and I can forgive that. I have to make allowances for what you're going through and be a grown-up about it." Willow
"You're really enjoying this whole moral superiority thing, aren't you?" Buffy

"I'll stop giving you a hard time, runaway." Willow
"Will!" Buffy
"I'm sorry, quitter." Willow
"Whiner." Buffy
"Bailer." Willow
"Harpy." Buffy
"Deliquent." Willow
"Tramp" Buffy
"Bad seed." Willow
"Witch." Buffy
"Freak." Willow

Characters in Peril


Strictly the Caucasian Persuasion

Unusual Pairings

Spoiler Questions

Highlight the space after each question to find the answer. It is strongly recommended that you do not do so if you have not seen episodes through the episode indicated.

This page was last modified on November 12, 2012