Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Season 3 Episode 2

Dead Man's Party

Aired Tuesday 8:00 PM Oct 06, 1998 on The WB
out of 10
User Rating
627 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary


Buffy returns home, but finds that picking up the pieces of the life she left behind may not be as easy as she had hoped. Her mother is trying to accept her back with open arms, but she doesn't seem to trust that Buffy won't just run away again. Her friends seem happy to see her, but their odd behavior makes it appear that they silently resent Buffy for taking off. And, of course, before these problems can be laid to rest, the dead of Sunnydale start to rise.


Who was the Episode MVP ?

No results found.
No results found.
No results found.
  • Buffy the vampire slayer

    It's a good episode
  • Dead Man's Party

    This episode has two distinct halves to it, one which is great and the other which is poor. The first half is dealing with the unresolved issues from Buffy skipping town in "Becoming Pt. 2" (2x22). The second half is a somewhat poorly done zombie plot that seems to happen right when important dialog is about to be said. I can't help but feel cheated by the fact that all is forgiven just because they killed some zombies together. This is a cheap way out of having to find real solutions to the problems everyone has with Buffy taking off and not telling anyone. There are a few really powerful scenes, though, which help elevate this a bit beyond failure.

    The episode begins with Joyce telling Buffy she wants to put this whole mess behind them, which we find out later isn't that easy. The group's initial reaction to suddenly seeing Buffy back is perfect: they all looked kind of dazed and confused. None of their reactions can compare with the beautiful piece of subtle acting by Anthony Stewart Head when Giles, alone in his kitchen, gives us a potent emotional sense of happiness and relief just by his expressions. This is possibly one of my favorite "small moments" in the entire series.

    I was very pleased to see that it isn't going to be too easy for Buffy to get back into school. I do, however, love Giles' pressuring of Snyder at the end. I have some real issues with some of the characters' reactions though. First of all, while I can buy that the group has issues with how Buffy took off, they seem to be overdoing the anger and not at all understanding what she went through. This seems a tad out of character, especially Willow being so avoidy. However, the scene between Buffy and Willow in Buffy's bedroom helps exlpain why she feels the way she does and is quite touching.

    While walking around the stupid party she didn't even want, Buffy understandably gets the impression that everyone is ignoring her and would prefer she not even be there. She hears a guy say the party is for a "chick on rehab." Joyce even says that things were in some ways better before Buffy came back. I could feel Buffy's sadness and can understand why she nearly took off again. This leads to the big confrontation downstairs where Joyce and most of the Scoobies all start attacking Buffy for leaving without telling anyone. The group should be more understanding of what Buffy went through! I agree that she should have left some indication that she was at least 'okay,' but poor Buffy! It's great to see that at least Joyce admits she made a mistake when she gave the ultimatum to Buffy in "Becoming Pt. 2" (2x22).

    It's here when the zombies come literally crashing in and ruin the rest of the episode. These guys are hokey, boring, and completely spoil the incredibly important argument that was being had. So the final verdict is that I loved most of the scenes dealing with Buffy's return and really disliked all the zombie stuff. I would have been perfectly content if there was no supernatural threat. Overall it's an 'okay' episode at best.moreless
  • Good but not brilliant

    Dead Man's Party

    The Good;

    Cordy's outfit, Buffy's homecoming. Joyce's friend Pat. Jonathon. The attack of the undead, another Sunnydale High cheerleader seemingly amongst them. Giles's 'Americans' line and his hotwiring the car. Oz's party definitions. 'Ripper' threatening Snyder

    The Bad;

    Before Giles arrives the house is full of zombies, after he gets there they all disappear? Also would Joyce really choose to hang that horrible mask in the bedroom, even if it is art?

    Best line;

    Oz; "And a hootenany. Well that's chock full of hoot. With just a little bit of nanny" (How effortlessly cool is Seth Green in this scene?)

    Whedon Cliches;

    Character death; So long Pat, we hardly knew you. But at least the actress goes on to be Earl's mum in 'My Name is Earl'

    Tied up; none although when Xander says he's tied up tomorrow Cordy says 'You wish'??????

    Kinky dinky; Buffy is aghast that Joyce wants her to go to private school where she'll have to wear a schoolgirl's uniform. Well it worked for Britney. Cordy says that Xander turned her on with the whole 'Nighthawk' vamphunter look (she also seemed to like him in his army gear in Halloween) Her party dress has to be seen to be believed. Also see 'Tied Up'

    Calling Captain Subtext; this time it's Oz and Cordy who end up in the closet together

    Questions and observations;

    So where is Dawn in all of this? Snyder advises Buffy to get a job in fast food which she eventually does. The confrontation between Joyce and Buffy is really long overdue and Joyce really does have a point. Willow is studying to be witch. Jonathon gets in on the demon fighting for the first time as do Joyce and Devon. After this it's business as usual and we're glad to get back to the status quo in Sunnydale. Joyce's tipple is schnapps and she has a book club (which she later attends in season 5). She also skis to judge by the weapons Oz and Cordy use in the closet. Xander calls himself Nighthawk on patrol, they seem to be pretty good at the vamp staking, having killed at least 6. I'd love to see if they handled any other supernatural threats during the summer. The Mayor is mentioned again and the first appearance of the Expresso Pump. Cordy refers to Buffy as a freak but she'll later become one herself on Angel. Presumably the Watcher's Council used their influence to help get Buffy back in school (see also Checkpoint). Willow is still practicing witchcraft and growing more proficient.

    6/10, good but not brilliant

  • I think I know what they were going for, but it just fell far short.

    Its kind of like Marvel's Civil War - the side that has the better argument is acting so contemptuously and demonstrating so many of their worst in-character traits that you find yourself rooting for the side that actually is wrong. Yes, Buffy should not have run off, left the Slaying to the Normal Scoobies, and stayed out of touch for three months. But to use a military analogy, Buffy deserved to be napalmed, but instead she was nuked. Xander and Willow briefly became the characters they would become in later seasons, shrill caricatures that knew how to lecture. Joyce briefly became the flaky idiot of S1. I don't think she had a lower moment than when she casually dodged Buffy's pointing out that Joyce's ultimatum played a role in Buffy leaving. 'Mommy's Not Perfect' is so shallow a thing it rings in my ears years later.

    Let's not forget Willow, who could have calmed things down when she found Buffy packing, but instead ratted her out. If one wants to see where the Xander who left Anya at the altar and the Willow who made snarky threats while trying to kill her friends came from, lookie here.

    Looking back, maybe this firestorm was needed, but I will still remember this as the episode they cornered someone who couldn't fight back without hurting them and used that against her. All the traits that normally endear the Scoobies made me want to see them turned into Scoobie Snacks. Oh, and Joyce? Next time you make casual friends, tell them that you can lecture your daughter, but they can't? If her pal from the book club had been an old family friend, that's one thing. But you've empowered a complete stranger to talk trash in a situation she knows nothing about. Worst ep in the best season.moreless
  • Dead Man's Party

    Dead Man's Party was a great episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayers third season. This was a fun episode centering around Buffy's return and every one reacts in their own way. The Gang were on patrol when Buffy found them and it was funny. Buffy's mom Joyce was very mature in handling Buffy's return and she was great in this episode. The sub story in this episode was about Zombies which was cool. The writers keep things original and unique, yet familiar and cliche however cliches are so for a reason, and making fun of them is fun too. The characters are all engaging and relatable.moreless
Paul Morgan Stetler

Paul Morgan Stetler

Young Doctor

Guest Star

Chris Garnant

Chris Garnant

Stoner #1

Guest Star

Nancy Lenehan

Nancy Lenehan


Guest Star

Kristine Sutherland

Kristine Sutherland

Joyce Summers

Recurring Role

Armin Shimerman

Armin Shimerman

Principal Snyder

Recurring Role

Jason Hall

Jason Hall


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (5)

    • The pink dress that Buffy wears to the party is the same one she wore in the dream with Angel in "Anne".

    • Nitpick: When the zombies smash through the front door it is not a solid door but only a thin sheet of laminate or some similar material.

    • Goof: When the zombies attack the house, you see Joyce standing by the desk sort of close to the door. When Xander and Cordelia go into the kitchen, you see Joyce holding a flower pot. But in the next shot, Joyce has no flower pot in her hands, and later picks it up to bean a zombie with.

    • Nitpick: When Buffy goes home after not meeting Willow, she has blue shoes on. But when she goes downstairs to get the "company dishes" her shoes are pink.

    • Nitpick: It is strange that we only see human zombies during the large-scale rising of the dead near the end of this episode. After all, the mask raised the cat, so one would assume it would raise all dead animals within a certain distance as well.

  • QUOTES (19)

    • Buffy: Hey Pat! (Stabs a shovel through the mask's eyes) Made you look.

    • Buffy: You're really enjoying this moral superiority thing, aren't you?
      Willow: It's like a drug!

    • Cordelia: I'm the dip!
      Xander: You've got to admire the purity of it...
      Cordelia: What? Onion dip. Stirring. Not cooking. It's what I bring.

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

    • Joyce: (about the mask) It cheers up the room.
      Buffy: It's angry at the room, Mom. It wants the room to suffer.

    • Xander: Okay, so one vote from the Old Guy for a Smelly Cheese Night, and how many votes for actual fun, huh?

    • Buffy: What about home schooling? It's not just for scary religious people any more.

    • Oz: Hey, so you're not wanted for murder anymore.
      Buffy: Good. That was such a drag.

    • Xander: I guess a lot of people are glad to have you back.
      Buffy: It seems like people I didn't even know missed me.

    • Oz: (about the dead cat) It looks dead, it smells dead. Yet it's moving around. That's interesting.
      Cordelia: Nice pet, Giles. Don't you like anything regular? Golf, USA Today, or anything?

    • Xander: So, where were you? Did you go to Belgium?
      Buffy: Why would I go to Belgium?
      Xander: I think the relevant question here is why wouldn't you? Belgium!

    • Xander: Check it out. The Watcher's back on the clock. And just when you were thinking career change, maybe becoming a Looker or a Seer.
      Giles: Thank you, Xander.

    • Cordelia: Put yourself in Buffy's shoes for just a minute, okay? 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...
      Buffy: Cordy! Get out of my shoes.

    • Buffy: Didn't anyone ever warn you about playing with pointy sticks? It's all fun and games until somebody loses an eye.

    • Willow: All right, I'll stop giving you a hard time... runaway.
      Buffy: Will!
      Willow: I'm sorry... quitter.
      Buffy: Whiner.
      Willow: Bailer.
      Buffy: Harpy.
      Willow: Delinquent.
      Buffy: Tramp.
      Willow: Bad seed.
      Buffy: Witch.

    • Giles: 'Oh, look at my mask, isn't it pretty? It raises the dead!' Americans.

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

    • Oz: We should figure out what kinda deal this is. I mean, is it a gathering, a shindig or a hootenanny?
      Cordelia: What's the difference?
      Oz: 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.

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

  • NOTES (6)

  • ALLUSIONS (15)

    • Xander: Man, this sucker wobbles but he won't fall down. 

      Xander refers to the Run DMC song "Peter Piper" from their "Raising Hell" album. The actual lyrics go "The turntables might wobble but they don't fall down."

    • A dead black cat comes to life at the mask's beckoning, showing a sudden, vicious behavior which alarms Joyce and Buffy. This may be an allusion to the 1989 film Pet Sematary in which a man buries a cat in cursed land. The cat comes back to life but is not the same friendly animal it was before.

    • Near the beginning of the episode, Buffy finds a dead cat in the basement, and she and Joyce bury it. The next day, they discover that the cat has returned.

      This may be an oblique reference to the song "The Cat Came Back" (1893) by Harry S. Miller in which several attempts are made to get rid of a cat, but no matter what was tried, "the cat came back the very next day".

    • Xander: So skip the heartwarming stuff about kindly old people and saving the farm and get right to the dirt.

      This is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it reference to Lucy Maud Montgomery's novel "Anne of Green Gables," where an orphan girl named Anne was adopted by a well-meaning elderly couple who thought they were getting a young boy to help work on their farm. Xander probably says it after Buffy tells the group she used her middle name, Anne, while she was living in L.A.

    • Cordelia: Nice pet, Giles. Don't you like anything regular? Golf, USA Today, or anything?
      USA Today is a national, daily newspaper. When it was first started publishing, it was the only major newspaper to print color photographs.

    • Cordelia: Yeah, but the outfits suck. This whole Rambo thing is so over.
      Rambo is a character in a series of movies starring Sylvester Stallone. Rambo's preferred form of dress was a tank top (or bare chest), headband, bandolier, and a big gun. Cordelia is exaggerating her outfit's resemblance to a Rambo ensemble.

    • Cordelia: Come in Nighthawk. Everything OK?
      A catchphrase from the 1980s British sitcom Allo! Allo!, set in wartime France. "Nighthawk" was the codename of René Artois, pusillanimous café proprietor and unlikely "hero" of the French Resistance.

    • Oz: I think the dead man's party moved upstairs.
      Oz speaks of the zombies moving upstairs with a reference to the Oingo Boingo song "Dead Man's Party".

    • Xander: Man, this sucker wobbles but he won't fall down.
      Xander equates the resilient zombie with a Weeble. Weebles were toys that were basically egg shaped and bottom heavy. The ad campaign said that "Weebles wobble but they won't fall down."

    • Giles: Like riding a bloody bicycle.
      Giles compares hot-wiring the car with the ability to ride a bicycle. Tradition has it that if you once knew how to ride a bicycle you will be able to ride again, even if you have not ridden for a long time. Apparently, Giles 'the Ripper' did more than conjure demons during his youthful wild years.

    • Party Goer: You got the wrong casa Mr. Belvedere.
      The guy on the phone compares Giles to Mr. Belvedere, a character from the television show (1985 - 1990) of the same name. The character Mr. Belvedere was a English butler.

    • Buffy: Mom I'm a Slayer. It's not like I need to ride a little bus to school.
      Buffy responds to her mother's suggestion of special accommodations by the school by contrasting being a Slayer with a handicap. Often mentally or physically handicapped students in a regular school will have a special small bus. Riding the little bus is associated with a handicap.

    • Pat: Well between your situation and reading "Deep End of the Ocean" she was just a wreck.
      "The Deep End of the Ocean" by Jacquelyn Mitchard is a novel about a family whose 3 year old son is kidnapped. The novel focuses on the ensuing family and marital problems.

    • Buffy: What about home schooling? You know it's not just for scary religious people any more.
      In the United States, school is mandatory for children up to age 16. Parents who disapprove of the content or quality of public education may opt for home schooling, where the parents themselves teach the children. Home schooling is mostly associated with conservative religious people who disagree with the moral content of public school classes.

    • Cordelia: I'm thinking more sporty. Like Hilfiger maybe.
      Tommy Hilfiger is a clothing designer. The label is roughly comparable to Ralph Lauren's Polo and consists mostly of casual clothes.