This week on Buffy and the Art of Story: Out of Mind Out of Sight (Season 1, Episode 11 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
Along with plot turns about an invisible girl, this episode covers (1) scene transitions (done so well!); (2) flashbacks (maybe not done so well) (3) theme; (4) strong dialogue; and (5) a midpoint that's not so strong.
As always, the discussion is spoiler-free, except at the end (with plenty of warning).
Sorry, no Season 1 DVD commentary for Out of Mind Out of Sight.
Next Up: Prophecy Girl S1 E12
Last Week: Nightmares S1 E10
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About Lisa M. Lilly
Lisa M. Lilly is the author of the bestselling four-book Awakening supernatural thriller series and the Q.C. Davis mysteries. She also wrote the short-story collection The Tower Formerly Known as Sears and Two Other Tales of Urban Horror, the title story of which was made into the short film Willis Tower.
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She is also the founder of WritingAsASecondCareer.com.
Episode Transcript for Out of Mind Out of Sight
Hello and welcome to Buffy and the Art of Story. If you love Buffy the Vampire Slayer and you love creating stories or just taking them apart to see how they work, you’re in the right place.
I am Lisa M. Lilly, author of The Awakening Supernatural Thriller Series and the QC Davis mysteries and the founder of WritingAsASecondCareer.com.
This Week: Out of Mind Out of Sight
This Monday we’re talking about Season 1, Episode 11: Out of Mind Out of Sight. In particular, I’ll cover:
- the excellent transitions from scene to scene;
- the intriguing themes the episode explores;
- the great dialogue lines;
- but what I see as a weak Midpoint that undermines the story;
- and flashbacks and whether or not they have a purpose here or are justified given that they slow down the present-day story
Out of Mind Out of Sight was written by Joss Whedon, Ashley Gable, and Thomas A Swyden and directed By Reza Badyl.
As always, there will be no spoilers until the very end so I can talk about foreshadowing. But I’ll give you plenty of warning.
Okay, let's dive into the Hellmouth.
What To Include In Opening Conflict
As we should, we begin with our opening conflict. Cordelia and her friend Harmony are talking and walking in the halls of Sunnydale. And this might be the first time that we get Harmony’s name. I’m not positive on that, but it’s noticeable because it’s right at the beginning.
Cordelia is talking about getting her dress specially made for the spring dance because off the rack gives her hives. Though she hasn’t been elected May Queen yet, she is confident she will be.
Buffy, coming from the side, trips and falls right in front of Cordelia and Harmony. All her weapons fall out of her bag. She tries to explain, saying it’s for history class and Mr. Giles.
Cordelia and Harmony make fun of her and walk away.
Buffy is still on the floor as she watches them leave. And this is one of many times when Sarah Michelle Gellar's expression is so clear. Her eyes look so sad as she watches and listens to them make fun of her.
This conflict is not our main plot, but it does foreshadow it.
We always want in the beginning of a story to have some kind of conflict to hook the reader or audience member, and it can be completely unrelated to the plot. It can start the main plot. Or, as here, it can reflect it or give us a hint of it or reflect it.
Doubling down on the theme of our episode, we switch to the classroom where a teacher is talking about Shylock. I had to look this up because I did not read Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice. I didn't know that's where it came from.
The teacher is asking about Shylock and the anger of the outcast in society. So this is a bit of an echo of that first scene where Buffy is the outcast. It sets up further our main plot about an outcast invisible girl.
Justice or Vengeance
Cordelia says Shylock is too self-involved and argues that he is not seeking justice. As I understand it, based on my reading, this is an ongoing debate among critics. Whether Shylock was seeking — do we call it revenge or do we call it justice.
Is he the hero is he the antagonist?
It is a compelling theme. But for whatever reason, in this episode, it doesn't quite play out for me in a way that feels satisfying or that keeps my interest. I always remember the episode is one that I don't love. And I thought perhaps as I went through it and analyzed it for the podcast that would change. But I’m sorry to say it didn't really.
But I do try to dig into why that is. If you love this episode, please let me know what you loved about it and why.
They're definitely things I think are amazing here, as always with Buffy as a whole, though it didn't quite come together for me.
Cordelia and Her Teacher
After class the teachers tells Cordelia it's always exciting to know someone did the reading. I’m sure when I first saw this I was annoyed because Cordelia seemed to be expressing a somewhat shallow take on it. Particularly because she compares it to when she ran over a girl “just a little.” And the girl tried to make it all about her and her hurt leg instead of about Cordelia's trauma.
Looking into it further, I can see how that conversation echoes the theme.
Also because now that I teach, I understand the teacher’s comment more. I get that it's more that someone at least took the time to really read something and comment on it. Sometimes it can be really difficult to get students to do that.
Cordelia asks for help with a paper. She and the teacher plan to meet the next day after class.
Halls and Locker Rooms
We then see Cordelia and Harmony again walking in the hall. Cordelia tells Harmony her dress is ready, and it's so great Mitch is gonna die.
We cut to yet another dimly lit Sunnydale locker room. This time the boys’ locker room. So apparently they don't have any bigger budget than the girls do for lightbulbs.
And we see Mitch, who has just been mentioned. Given Cordelia's line, which links these two unrelated scenes, we think that he'll probably die.
Story Spark in Out of Mind Out of Sight
So no surprise when strange things happen. We hear a girl laughing but we don't see her. At 4 minutes 30 seconds in a baseball bat appears to rise by itself and start beating on Mitch.
This is the Inciting Incident or Story Spark that gets our main plot rolling.
Here it happened exactly where it should, at 10% into the episode. So even if our initial conflict had not foreshadowed our main plot and was something unrelated, around 10% we would expect to see is that spark or incident that puts our main plot in motion.
And we cut to credits.
Cordelia Wants Your Vote
When we return Cordelia is handing out candy with a C on it and asking for votes. She refuses to give Buffy one and says, “Oh I don't think I need the loony fringe vote.”
Buffy is clearly hurt by this. It doesn't really help when Xander and Willow come up and start laughing about something Cordelia did in grade school that was similar. They are laughing so hard they can't get out what happened.
And they don't really need to because they keep setting each other off by just saying a few words. Buffy, though, doesn't get the in jokes and now feels left out even with her two friends.
Buffy as Outsider
Trying to offer some comfort, Xander says what kind of moron would want to be May Queen anyway? And Buffy says I was. Xander tries to backpedal a bit. Buffy comments on how nice it was when she was queen and it was fun. We get this wistfulness, and maybe not wistfulness but sadness, again from Buffy at how now she is in this very different position.
While she doesn't say it, even with Xander and Willow she is still a bit of an outsider. Because she hasn't gone to school with them their whole lives.
I also feel like I need to comment that this is 20 some years later. So quite a few times in this episode we get language that I don't think we would hear now. Generally, people are using the term “moron” to refer to anyone. And some references to mental illness like the “loony” and the “lunatic fringe.” We will hear some others. I'm using them only as quotes. I'm not suggesting this is how we should talk.
An Injured Mitch
At 7 minutes, 8 seconds in we find out that Mitch is not dead after all. He is badly beaten up. As he's being taken out on a stretcher he tells Buffy what happened and that the bat moved by itself.
We now get one of our quotes of the episode, one of my favorites. Snyder says — Principal Snyder — in case you weren't tuned in the last couple episodes — Snyder says, “No dead students here. This week.”
He then tries to keep Buffy from going into the locker rooms and says she's always sticking her nose into things. Willow and Xander distract him by talking about how Mitch's father might sue.
A Possessed Bat?
In the still dim locker room, Buffy sees a message on the locker room doors: Look.
We cut to Xander and Willow talking about this in the cafeteria. Giles joins them. He says that, assuming the bat itself is not possessed, this could be telekinesis, an invisible creature, or an angry ghost.
Willow is tasked with looking for missing or dead students, records of them. Giles asks Xander for help. We get another great candidate for quote of the episode. Xander says, “What, there's homework now? When did this happen?”
Our First Flashback
We switch to Cordelia. She’s talking about how depressed she is about Mitch. He’s all black and blue and will look bad in the photos.
We then get out first flashback. It is black and white. We see Cordelia and Harmony once again talking about Mitch. But, in addition to the black and white, we know it’s in the past because Cordelia’s talking about how Mitch just broke up with someone else, and he’s nosing around her.
We hear a girl off screen say, “Hi, guys.” Cordelia turns and says, “What do you want?”
Then, in present day, we have her turn to look at Buffy. Buffy has asked if she can talk to her, and she gives Buffy that exact same look.
The Downside of Using Flashbacks
Flashbacks, like dreams, can be tricky to use in fiction. The flashback happened in the past, so we are pulling the reader away from the main plot. Some writers really hate flashbacks, some readers really hate them.
I am not as opposed to them in principle.
Sometimes it is a sign that the writer’s lacking confidence. So rather than letting the readers figure it out and infer what’s happening based on the present, the writer is saying, “Hey, let me tell you about this thing that happened in the past.”
I feel like here is an example of one that, at least for me, doesn’t quite work. As the episode goes on, we can figure out that there was this girl who was ignored. Who was an outcast. And who is now trying to get back at Cordelia.
And I feel like the parallels to Buffy, which is partly what this flashback is for, have already been shown to us. We’ve already gotten that, though we don’t know that is going to be the driving force for the antagonist yet. I might have been more engaged with this episode if I needed to figure that out along with Buffy.
Seeing Through the Antagonist’s Eyes
I also think maybe the writers here were trying to add emotional weight so that we see through the antagonist's eyes.
As Cordelia and Harmony are being mean to Buffy. Harmony is hit by an invisible force. She falls down the stairs and is hurt. This is about 11 minutes, 20 seconds in. We hear laughing. This is the same laughing we heard in the locker room with Mitch.
The One Quarter Twist in A Story
Of course, Buffy didn't hear it. This incident is our One Quarter Turn in the plot. I call it that because it comes about one-quarter of the way through, though sometimes you'll see it a bit earlier or a bit later.
Here it’s about right on target.
It is the first major plot point, and it generally comes from outside the protagonist. So here, it’s nothing really to do with Buffy. Maybe her being there contributed to our antagonist’s feelings. But for the most part the antagonist has a grudge against Cordelia and is first going after Mitch and now Harmony.
This turns the story because it's the first time Buffy witnesses something. Here's the laughter and now she is beginning to track our antagonist, though not knowing who or what she is.
On The Trail
But she is on the trail, she follows the laughter. And she ends up in the band room. She thinks she's following a ghost, but then the ghost bumps into her. She tries to talk to, what she now thinks is probably an invisible girl, but gets no answer.
And we have a commercial break.
When we get back we see two guys in black suit standing around the school, nothing more than that right now with them. I don't know that I noticed them the first time that I watched this episode or realized that they were significant.
Buffy tells Giles what happened. And because whatever it is bumped into her, they all conclude it is an invisible girl or maybe an invisible girl ghost.
Xander says that’s so cool, the power of invisibility. And he would use it to protect the girls locker room which is another one of those things that I hope now would not be thrown in there to be funny. At the time I don't think Willow and Buffy and Giles could've loved that, but it kind of gets glossed over, not commented on.
They talk about Cordelia being the common denominator of Mitch and Harmony.
Xander and Willow walk away. They're talking about ordering dinner, and Buffy is with Giles and again looks a little sad as she watches her two friends with known each other forever walk away.
Buffy Watches Cordelia
She is going to try to watch over Cordelia. We see her that evening in the school hallways. And she is watching through window and closed door Cordelia and her friends getting ready for the dance. There is laughing and Cordelia’s dress is very pretty.
Outside Looking In
It’s a little bit of an obvious metaphor for Buffy feeling like she is on the outside looking in, but I don't mind.
It seems fairly realistic and it represents much of what Buffy's life is at Sunnydale. She is doing all these things to protect everybody. Yet, most of them are not her friends or don't even know she's doing it. Or like Cordelia perhaps think she's weird.
This is also why I don't necessarily think we needed that flashback to link Buffy with our antagonist to kind of hit us in the face with the idea that Cordelia is similarly mean to Buffy the way she was to the invisible girl.
Following the Flute
Buffy hears a flute playing and follows it again to the band room. And we cut to Giles in the library and he also hears the flute. This is another nice thing that I admire in this episode despite that it doesn't quite work for me as a whole.
I love the way these unrelated scenes are linked together.
So here we have the flute and then we have Giles. At first I thought oh, he's gonna go follow the flute. But instead Angel comes to see him in the library. Giles is startled because he's looking into the pane of glass and seeing his own reflection, he doesn't see anyone next to him.
But then he turns and Angel is there.
Angel and Giles
And Angel says don't worry, I didn't come here to eat. Giles figures out this must be Angel, whom he hasn't met before but whom he has heard about from Buffy. Angel wants to help with defeating the Master who is our season antagonist.
We haven't seen him in this episode, but this reminds us that he's around.
It also reminds us about Angel. And we get another great quote, Giles sums up the central conflict in the season so far, the sort of romantic subplot. He says “A vampire in love with the Slayer. It's rather poetic in the maudlin sort of way.”
They talk about the Master. Giles says he wishes he had more volumes of Slayer prophecies. He's read everything that he can find, but many are lost. Angel says no he knows about one of them, a particular Codex that was just misplaced, but he can get it.
Giles mentions the invisible girl and says it's a wonderful power. Angel says he doesn't know about that. Looking in the mirror and seeing nothing is overrated pleasure.
We get another flashback in black-and-white. For the first time we actually see Marcy. the invisible girl. We don't know her name yet. And she is looking in a mirror. So again we have that link, the reference to the mirror. Then Marcy is looking in the mirror, so it's another connection between the scenes.
She is trying to take part in a conversation between Cordelia and Harmony. They are making fun of a speaker that just talked for what they say is two hours and was so boring.
Marcy throws in things about the man's toupee. And they completely ignore her as if she is not there. Cordelia even repeats the comment about the toupee, and everybody laughs.
Themes in Out of Mind Out of Sight
These two scenes encapsulate additional themes running through this episode. One is this difference, and it's often a gender difference, between this idea of the power of invisibility. You’ve probably heard about. You know the question: If you could choose to be invisible or fly which would it be?
Flying or Invisibility
I read an article suggesting that women more often choose the power to fly because they already feel invisible and it doesn't feel like a great power. It feels like a negative. Because it is so much harder to be heard in the workplace or in mixed groups or in many different situations.
I feel like we see this reflected when Xander says, cool – invisibility, and we see Willow look really troubled.
And between Giles and Angel. We have this conversation where Giles says it's a wonderful power. Angel – who in many ways is invisible, can't see himself in a mirror, skulks around his outside society – is saying no, you know what it's not great.
So it clearly isn't only splitting along gender lines, but I found it interesting that we have this theme there. This idea of what it's like to be invisible. That is doubled down where Marcy is talking and says something and then Cordelia says it and everybody laughs and again.
Not Being Heard
This reminds me of the cultural phenomenon that often happens, at least I've experienced it in business. I know many other women who have. When everyone's talking, and the woman advances a theory or an idea or a solution. Everyone just keeps talking past it until a male colleague says the very same thing, and then everyone listens.
And here we see that happening with Marcy among a group of women. But it is the higher status woman Cordelia.
Cordelia says something and everyone listens. So there are these themes about power and visibility and being ignored. And I really like that and it's part of why I really want to like this episode. Yet I'm not sure we ever come to any real conclusion about this or say anything about it.
This flashback doesn't really move our plot forward. It gives us the back story about Marcy, which I feel like we could get through present day conversations. In fact, we will have one soon about Marcy's yearbook when we get back to remain plot.
We are in the school's courtyard. Cordelia is being applauded as the Queen. She has been elected, and she's giving a speech. We’re about 20 minutes into the episode, so we are moving toward its Midpoint.
Buffy and Xander are off to the side. Willow has that list of dead or missing students. She also notices the two guys in black suits who are standing near the stage and asks if Cordelia has bodyguards now.
Buffy notices that the most recent missing student, Marcy Ross, played the flute. And she connects it to the flute that she heard and the band room.
So this is the first time we've gotten Marcy's name.
Buffy goes to the band room sees a footprint on a chair and climbs up she pushes a ceiling tile out of place and gets up into an overhead crawlspace. She discovers that someone is living there and there are many things there including a flute and a teddy bear.
The camera angle tells us that Marcy is watching. It zooms in as Buffy looks at Marcy's yearbook. Buffy reads it and says “Marcy Ross, so it is you.” And behind her and knife is hanging in the air halfway through the episode at 22 minutes, 42 seconds in.
What You Find At The Midpoint
So I guess it's maybe a little more than halfway, because episodes are generally 42-43 minutes. But we have what I see as our Midpoint commitment.
I've talked about this before. You're probably tired of hearing it if you listen to all the episodes.
For those who have not, at the Midpoint, we will see either a major reversal for our protagonist or a major commitment. Our protagonist commits to the quest, throws all in. Think if you've read or watched Gone With The Wind, Scarlett O'Hara starving in her neighbors garden, can't find any food, and she says, “As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again.” And that is the literal Midpoint of the movie, this vow by Scarlett.
You can also have both a reversal and a commitment.
Buffy Takes A Yearbook
Here I looked for what is our moment. We don't have a reversal for Buffy here. We do have her identifying Marcy for certain.
I feel like the most we have in the way of a commitment is when Buffy takes that yearbook. So she doesn't just observe Marcy. She takes the yearbook and she climbs out.
She has put herself directly opposed to Marcy, but this isn't a super-strong commitment. And I feel like it's another reason why perhaps this episode just doesn't grab me. Though I do like the yearbook and it is definitely key.
Not long at all later in the episode, we will see how the yearbook helps Buffy and her friends figure out what's going on and why.
Attack on the Teacher
The next scene we have is the teacher who was so kind to Cordelia. She looks up, thinking Cordelia has come to see her after class, and instead the invisible Marcy laughs and puts a plastic bag over the teacher’s had to suffocate her.
Now Cordelia does walk-in. She gets the bag off of the teacher, who does survive. Marcy writes on the blackboard – all Cordelia and the teacher see is this chalk moving by itself, and it writes Listen.
And we cut to commercial.
When we’re back, Buffy is in the library showing Giles, Willow and Xander the yearbook.
And every single person has written “have a nice summer” to Marcy. Giles thinks this seems like she has lots of friends. But everyone explains to him that this is the thing people say when they don't know anything about the person, don't remember them, and don't care. “Have a nice summer.”
Xander says it's the kiss of death. He and Willow both say they didn't know Marcy. And Buffy points out that they wrote it, too, although Willow I think wrote “Have a great summer.”
They still think that maybe they never had classes with her, didn't interact with her until she asked for the yearbook signatures. But Willow finds out they have four classes with her, and they realize that no one noticed her and she became invisible.
Flashbacks Not Needed?
So this scene right here is part of what I'm talking about, that I don't think we needed those scenes showing us flashback. Showing us what happened with Marcy. Because this pretty much fill us in as our characters figure it out.
Giles says it's quantum mechanics. We get another great quote when Buffy says, “I think I speak for everyone here when I say, ‘Huh?’”
I was really surprised how many quotes I wrote down from this episode. It's another example of how one episode can still have so many amazing things in it, and it's why generally I keep saying though it didn't grab me, I still pretty much enjoyed watching it. When I rewatch Buffy, I always go ahead and and watch this one because there is a lot of great stuff in it. Including these quotes.
Giles elaborates on physics and quantum mechanics and how because people perceived Marcy as invisible, she became it with a little help from the Hellmouth.
We Flash Back
We then get another black-and-white flashback.
In this one, the teacher, the same teacher, is calling on people. Marcy keeps raising her hand. The teacher never calls on her. She looks at her hand, and you can see she's feeling very afraid and shaky as the hand gradually disappears.
Sympathy for the Antagonist?
I want to have this great sympathy for her at this point. And yet it doesn't really hit me emotionally that much. Maybe because we've already been told this, maybe because we don't know anything about Marcy other than that everyone ignored her. I understand I don't know how you do that, because who would tell us about her?
Although Buffy does see some things that belong to Marcy up in that space. Maybe we could've had her getting to know Marcy better or learning more about her as part of the story. But we don't really get that.
I don't like to try to take apart a story based on “oh, I think the author should've done some other thing.” I want to look at the story as it is. So I'm just throwing that out there as maybe that would've been something that might've been more engaging for me.
Obviously, it wasn't the way the writers decided to go with it.
What Does Marcy Want
Xander is saying what does Marcy want. And Buffy shows a marked-up photo of Cordelia. She says, yes, it's what they thought. It's Cordelia.
At that moment Cordelia walks in the door of the library. So another nice transition because these really are, though our characters stay in the same place, these are two different scenes. this is a new scene.
Cordelia first insults Buffy and her friends, saying Buffy is weird and herfriends are losers. But she wants Buffy's help, and she thought Buffy might be in a gang because of all those weapons and because she's always around when strange things happen.
And remember at the end of our pilot, Cordelia was talking about the vampires who broke into the Bronze. She said it was some kind of gang, and Buffy knew them.
So we see this theme of Cordelia, this is how she is making sense of Buffy and what she sees as the weirdness of Buffy.
All About Cordelia
Cordelia says, “It's all about me. Me, me, me.” And Xander says for once she's right.
Buffy explains what is happening, what they think Marcy is doing. We hear Marcy ranting as Cordelia insults her picture in the yearbook. Then we're back to Buffy, who says this might be about the May Queen.
Cordelia is determined to be crowned. She says otherwise Marcy wins. And we get another great quote, one of my favorite Cordelia quotes. She says, “She's evil, okay, way eviler than me.”
They all kind of have to agree with her and Buffy says ,well, you know this will be good, Cordelia will be bait to draw Marcy out. And Cordelia says, am I really bait?
She and Buffy are now walking down the hall in the high school. Cordelia is going to get her dress on and get ready for the dance. They talk about loneliness.
Cordelia says she can be surrounded by people and be completely alone. And how people just want to be in the popular zone, and they're so busy trying to agree with her, or agreeing with her, that they don't even hear what she's saying. Buffy asks, okay, then why do you try so hard to be popular?
We get another great quote. Cordelia says, “It beats being alone all by yourself.”
Next Cordelia and Buffy find a broom closet or janitor’s closet which Buffy thinks will be safer for Cordelia to change in. Cordelia goes in to change, and Buffy stands outside. That Buffy would stand outside rather than being in there with Cordelia, it seems a little shortsighted given that she knows that Marcy has been up in this space between the ceiling tiles and the ceiling.
On the other hand, I guess she might think it's better to be outside and keep watch. Whatever the reason, we hear this flute music again. We see Xander, and Giles and Willow trying to follow it, and we cut between them and Buffy and Cordelia.
Buffy Tries to Bond with Cordelia
Buffy is talking to Cordelia through the door about how she felt when she was popular and how sometimes she did feel something was missing. Cordelia is reacting more with surprise and almost scorn. She can't believe Buffy was ever popular, or at least that's what she's saying.
And Buffy has a great quote here, something like, “How about this heart-to-heart with a little less heart from you?”
But then there are noises and Cordelia's muffled screams. Buffy has trouble getting in the doors unlocked. She breaks in and sees Cordelia's feet going through the ceiling.
Popularity, Theme, and the Outcast
This conversation about popularity and aloneness seems to be yet another theme through the episode, or an elaboration on our theme, of the outcast. Where we’re saying okay, there's the outcast, but people who are surrounded by people can also feel lonely.
An interesting thing to explore, yet I don't know that we really explore it here. So while I love the quote and I love the conversation, I feel it just isn't picked up on in the story itself.
If you have other thoughts on that, I would love to hear them. I just am not seeing it. And it's not that everything our characters say, or every theme we touch on in a story, has to be played out in that story. That would lead to “The moral of the story is….” I'm not looking for that. But I feel like there are a number of intriguing concepts in this episode that are not really played out in the plot, and yet we spent all this time on these flashbacks.
Maybe that too is part of what is not quite working here.
The Three-Quarter Turn
We now have another change in direction, or we just saw another change in direction, with Marcy grabbing Cordelia. That was about 33 minutes, roughly 3/4 through the story. Usually we see a plot turn there.
It typically grows out of the protagonist’s action at the Midpoint or the reversal to the protagonist. So it shouldn't be like the first major plot point that comes from outside the protagonist. This one should grow organically from that Midpoint, and yet still spin the story in another direction.
And we have that here with the combination of Marcy grabbing Cordelia, but also with Buffy.
Because she knocks Buffy out, injects her with something. She ties up both Buffy and Cordelia in the Bronze to these thrones for the spring dance.
Growing from the Midpoint
I feel like this does come from that Midpoint because that is when Buffy took the yearbook when she invaded Marcy’s space. That put her in Marcy’s sights in a way that she hadn't been before.
Marcy will even tell us that she thought Buffy would understand. Because she had been seeing Buffy as a sort of sister outcast. Then Buffy started opposing her, so this does grow from the Midpoint.
And it takes the story in a new direction. Because now we’re not hunting Marcy, we’re in direct confrontation with her.
Buffy is directly trying to protect Cordelia and stop Marcy.
At the Bronze
As Buffy wakes up Cordelia is panicking. She can't feel her face. It's numb. The word Learn is written on the wall, and Marcy is taunting them. She says Cordelia will be the lesson and that she's can given Cordelia what she's always wanted. Everyone will look at her.
Marcy unveils a cart with a tray of scalpels and knives and surgical instruments.
In between the Marcy, Buffy, and Cordelia scenes we get Giles and Willow in Xander. They have followed the flute, thinking they're following Marcy. But it's a recording she made, and it lures them into a room where they become trapped. The gas has been turned on and they will pass out and ultimately die if no one saves them.
Buffy obviously can't save them because she is tied up, literally, and they can't help her, so we are cutting between them and they're talking about how crazy Marcy is but they're unable to do anything about it because the gases overcoming them and Buffy inching her fingers forward to get the scalpel.
As Cordelia is pleading with Marcy and arguing with her, Buffy gets the scalpel and saws at the ropes while Marcy yells at Cordelia. She gets free kicks of fights with the invisible Marcy.
Angel to the Rescue
In the meantime, Angel has come to the school to bring the Codex to Giles. He finds our three friends and drag them out of the room then goes back to turn off the gas because he doesn't need to breathe. This whole, I guess I would have to call it a subplot with Xander, Willow, and Giles tracking the flute, feels a little flat to me. We obviously needed a reason why they aren't there to help Buffy.
So it gets them out of the way and gives Angel something to do.
In the episode earlier in the season I talked about how he would just show up, look good and say cryptic things. So he does come and save the day.
Lack of Tension?
But it's just there's not that much to it. Even having him come to bring this Codex that is going to be important – I’ll talk about more in the spoilers about it –not that much is happening there. And again we are stepping away from our main plot.
Maybe it could've just been done more, quickly because it didn't feel to me like it raised the tension very much to flip back and forth between the scene in the room with a gas leak and Marcy and Cordelia.
For one thing, there's no way that I believe that these three can die. Yes, Joss Whedon has set out that important characters can die, but there's no way I think he's going to wipe out three of our four main characters, or I guess of five if we count Angel.
Buffy and Marcy
Buffy tells Marcy she used to feel sorry for her, but then she realized Marcy is a thundering loony. This is more language we probably wouldn't use today. But also not just the language, even if we set that aside, it feels to me like not enough of an explanation for Marcy.
Yes, we have the mystical/science explanation of no one paid attention to her and she became invisible. That is heartbreaking. Yet we don't, at least I don't, really feel bad for her. Part of it is because the story dismisses her as, okay, and then she just went crazy.
Well, she's isolated – even more so, she's invisible. This would be terrible for anyone's mental health. And yet it's treated as, well, she's just crazy. I had sympathy for you, but you're crazy, so now I don't.
That also doesn't feel authentic to Buffy, to me. Because as I talked about last Monday, part of her power is her empathy for others. Her ability even to help give them voice like when she basically gave Billy the words to stand up to his coach.
Wishing For A More Complex Antagonist
I get it. She has to defeat Marcy. She's not about to let her carve up Cordelia's face. But I feel like it's a real missed opportunity here to have a nuanced and complex antagonist.
Maybe some of this is just that we know the writers can do this. They do it so much and will do it so much throughout Buffy. It's part of what I love about the show. But the realities of network TV is as I understand it, often things go very fast. You have a plot, a story line, and you’re set off to write it. There isn't always the time to do everything you would like to do so.
Perhaps that simply what happened here, and we just don't get as layered and as rich and antagonist in this one0off episode as we get with many of our antagonists. Particularly the season-long ones. Though even some of them that are just for an episode we sometimes see more.
Or as in The Puppet Show, we don't really get much about the antagonist, but we get this very intriguing character in it.
The Climax of Out of Mind Out of Sight
So back to Buffy fighting. Cordelia is screaming and crying. And Buffy tells her to shut up. Buffy, pp to that point is kind of losing to Marcy, who is taunting her about how do you fight someone you can't see?
But when Cordelia is silent, Buffy stands still and listens. And we have this nice moment with this noise like a breeze, and it’s blowing Buffy's hair, and it’s sort of mystical around her. She holds very still and listens.
We hear something creaking, and she turns and punches Marcy.
Marcy becomes tangled up in the curtains for the stage. Now Buffy can see her and fight her.
This is all part of the climax. I should've introduced that like a whole.
As Buffy is struggling to break free to saw through that rope, that brings us into our climax. We get to this fight which the big confrontation between the protagonist and antagonist.
Men in Black
Then these two guys in black suits sweep in and say that they’re FBI. They'll take it from here. Buffy says, “You can cure her?” And they say they can rehabilitate Marcy, she'll be useful member of society. They refuse to answer when Buffy asks or states, “So this is happened to other kids.”
This climax also feels a bit unsatisfying to me.
Yes, Buffy does defeat Marcy, and she calls on something in addition to her physical strength to do it. So we even see a little bit of growth here in that stillness and listening is important.
Yet these two FBI guys coming in just does feel strange. Maybe because they’re from a different kind of story. Until now, we are dealing have been dealing mainly with the supernatural, even when we brought in the robot. It was as part of this demon who is now in our present-day world.
Here, we have this intrusion of a government agency and law enforcement into what is normally a supernatural story. And we didn't get a lot of set up here. We did see these two guys around. So they're not completely out of the blue, but it just feels a bit off to me and anticlimactic to just have them whisk Marcy away.
We then go to the falling action part of the story. This is where we tie up loose ends. Or in this case untie Cordelia.
We see Buffy and her friends together with Giles. They fill her in on the flute and the gas leak. But Giles stops them from telling her that Angel is the one who saved them.
I think this is in deference to Angel saying it's too hard to be around Buffy. And Giles knowing it's probably hard for Buffy as well. So he must think it’s better that he doesn't mention Angel's visit.
Maybe he doesn't want to mention anything about the Codex until he looks into it, so he doesn't want to say why Angel was there. But I'm just guessing.
Cordelia finds our group of four at the library and very sincerely thanks them.
She doesn't just say thanks or thank you, she really talks about what they did for her and what it meant to her. Willow says, hey, we were just gonna go get some lunch, want to join us?
Before Cordelia can answer, Mitch comes up and says you're not hanging out with these losers. Cordelia says are you kidding? She was just helping them with their fashion problems, and of course she's not joining that leper colony.
Xander says where’s an invisible girl when you need one.
What Is An Epilogue?
So plot threads have been resolved, and we get what I see as an epilogue.
I've been thinking about epilogues. Because Shiromi Arserio, who is the producer/narrator of three of the books, the audiobook editions, in my Awakening series, asked me after listening to my comments about prologues what I thought about epilogues.
A number of books she's been narrating lately have very long epilogues. First I had to look up the definition of epilogue. It's one of those things that, of course I know what it is. I've seen it in books; I've even included them. Although I can't remember if I ever actually labeled one “epilogue.” But when it comes to definition, I had to resort to the dictionary.
I think this is a pretty good one: Miriam Webster on line says an epilogue “is a concluding section that rounds out the design of a literary work.” Also, the final scene of a play that comments on or summarizes the main action.
Out of Mind Out of Sight Epilogue
So here we have invisible Marcy and the FBI bringing her into this classroom. I see this as an epilogue because it does somewhat comment on our main plot. And I guess you could say it rounds out the story in the sense that we knew the FBI took her away.
We didn't know what was going to happen to her. I don't know that we needed to know because our protagonist’s arc has resolved. Buffy did protect Cordelia. She did stop Marcy.
I guess I like that we at least see what happened to Marcy if we’re going to bring in these FBI guys that otherwise don't seem to fit.
So they bring her into a classroom. We see a teacher. On all the students’ desks, their books are open in front of them. But they're all invisible. Marcy sits down and opens her book to the chapter on assassination and infiltration. And we hear her say, “Cool.”
Theme and Message
I found this disturbing the first time I watched it. And I continue to find it disturbing. Which I'm sure is the point. These government guys had been watching and watching, and they didn't intervene when Marcy was doing any of these things. In fact, Buffy called them on that when they came in, and they said, well, we came in as soon as we could.
Really? Because, yeah, they’d been standing around.
I guess you could say they were trying to figure out if this is what was going on.
Now we find that they are wanting to weaponize Marcy and that there is no real attempt to help her mentally or emotionally but just to use her.
I also have a little trouble with it in terms of the episode as a whole. Because how does this fit with any of those themes that we raised?
Is the answer that the outcast becomes a weapon against society?
You can certainly make an argument for that. That being an outcast, that the way others treat someone, can both be wrong and have these terrible consequences.
But I don’t know if that’s what the episode was trying to say or not.
We have Buffy, who is something of an outcast but who nonetheless is putting her life on the line all the time to protect other people. We haven’t really explored what the difference between the two is. I am sort of on the fence with this epilogue, as I am with the entire episode.
That’s all until we get to the spoilers.
Buffy and the Art of Story is a production of Spiny Woman LLC, which I keep forgetting to say.
I hope you will come back next Monday when we will talk about the Season Finale Episode 12 Prophecy Girl.
Spoilers in Out of Mind Out of Sight
Okay, we are back with spoilers.
The major one is this Codex that Angel says he will get, and Giles talking about the prophecies about the Slayers. This is done so quickly and almost feels like an aside in this episode. It feels like it's just an excuse to get Angel into the episode. And to remind us about the Master.
But that Codex will have the prophecy that drives the entire finale – that Buffy will face the Master and she will die.
Part of me wants to say the scene didn't need to be in this episode. It felt kind of shoehorned in. We could have just put it in Episode 12, Prophecy Girl.
Setting Up Giles’ Diligence
Then I thought about it, and I suspect the authors wanted to do this earlier so that we get to Prophecy Girl we feel like Giles has been studying the Codex.
Because in no way do we want to feel like Giles leaps to the conclusion that Buffy is going to die. So he needs to have time to really study this Codex. To cross-reference, to be in a place where he is very authoritative and very certain about this prophecy. So I think that's probably why we get it in this episode.
And maybe the reason partly for the whole gas leak, in addition to getting Willow and Xander and Giles in a place with they can't help Buffy, is to kind of obscure the importance of that Codex.
I still would've liked to have seen Angel come in for maybe another reason. But it's intriguing as it is because we have set up now this idea that there are these prophecies about the Slayer.
Zen and Buffy
There is some foreshadowing for the entire series here when we see Buffy
holding still and listening. This is part of her training. We will see over the course of the series that she develops more and more of this sort of inner calm, this connection to everything. This kind of Zen -like approach.
She doesn't focus on that all that much. Here and there we see it. Then in Season Five she really doubles down on it when she is dedicated to truly studying and learning about being a Slayer and wanting to give herself the best possible chance to survive. We will see her working with crystals, meditating, and doing handstand on one hand and concentrating.
This was a nice little bit of foreshadowing for that aspect of being a Slayer.
Season 4 Foreshadowing
We also have some pretty heavy Season Four foreshadowing. I said we aren’t used to seeing government agencies in Buffy. And I talked about the idea of weaponizing supernatural. Here, weaponizing our antagonist.
In season for we will see an entire arc where we have the Initiative. I think it's a branch of the Army, it's a branch of the military, that is all about studying demons and modifying their behavior. But a segment of the military wants to use them as weapons.
Now here we have a girl being used as a weapon in total disregard to her mental health.
The Initiative will be focusing on vampires and demons, not human. So in some ways I feel like they're not quite as bad as the FBI is depicted here. But it does definitely give us a little hint of that. Now whether that was already planned that there was going to be the story arc, I don't know.
But it is interesting to me that so early on we see a bit of this concept, that perhaps there are people in government who are aware of all this going on and who want to use it.
Prophecy Girl Next Monday
That is it for the spoilers. Thank you again for listening, and I hope you'll join me next week on Monday evening for Prophecy Girl, the finale of Season One.
Buffy and the Art of Story is a production of Spiny Woman LLC. Copyright 2020.