Willow listens rapturously as Xander finally says the words we've been longing to hear: "Would you, um, date me?" The words are not meant for her, obviously. Xander is rehearsing, working up the nerve to ask Buffy to the Spring Fling. Meanwhile, Giles is translating the book Angel got him last episode. When Giles finally locates the passage he's been searching for, the excitement drains from his face as he discovers the Slayer's fate. As he sits in horrified silence, his teacup begins to shake; An earthquake is felt all over town, and the Master revels in it.
"Yes...YES! Shake, Earth! This is a sign! We are in the final days, my time has come...Glory! GLORY!"
(Looks to the Annointed One)
"What do you think, 5.1?"
The next day, Xander takes Buffy aside and pops the question. She tries to play the "I Don't Want to Ruin Our Friendship" card. Stung, Xander gets up in a huff. "Guess a man's gotta be undead to make time with you." Now it's Buffy's turn to be hurt. Xander snorts an apology; he doesn't handle rejection well. Funny, considering all the practice he's had! He stormily departs.Cordelia spies Willow in the hall and rushes right over. Love that outfit! Our favorite doormat asks what Cordy wants. Cordelia asks her to help hook up the sound system at The Bronze for the dance. After agreeing to meet up at the A/V room, Willow sees Xander tossing a tennis ball at the chalkboard in an empty classroom, and asks how it went with Buffy. On a scale of one to ten?It sucked. Brightening, Xander proposes that he and Willow can pair up instead. But she isn't interested in playing Rebound Girl, and chides him for even suggesting it. She leaves Xander alone, with his ball.
"That's okay. I don't wanna go. I'm just gonna go home, lie down and listen to country music. The music of PAIN."
Nightfall. Buffy stops short in the library when she overhears Giles talking with Angel about the prophecy – specifically, the part where Buffy will face the Master, and die. Hysterical laughter bubbles out of her. Angel and Giles exchange a look. Huh, she took that well. But the mirth dissipates when Buffy asks if the prophecy specifies how messily she dies. She turns on Giles, wondering if he was planning on sharing this newsflash. Giles confesses he was angling for a loophole. Buffy's got one: She quits. Resigns. Fired. Moving on. Cutting losses. Taking a sabbatical. Giles, in a small voice, starts to remind her how grave the situation is and should the Master rise— Buffy hurls his books at him.
She throws her cross necklace to the ground and walks out, leaving a defeated Angel and Giles to look at each other.Buffy, in her room, pages through a photo album. Joyce comes in, wondering what’s bothering her. An idea hits Buffy; she suggests they leave town for the weekend; a real mother-daughter bonding thing. In typical clueless parent fashion, Joyce believes that Buffy wants to leave town because she didn't get asked to the dance. She opens Buffy's closet to reveal a full-length sleeveless white dress, saying she saw Buffy eying it. She encourages Buffy to go stag.Cordelia and Willow rendezvous at the A/V Room, where Cordy monologues about how her date flaked on her. They reach the door to the lounge, where they see some of jocks sitting on the couch, apparently engrossed in TV. Cordy opens the door, and her date's body falls out, revealing a scene of carnage. Cordy screams and drops to her knees. News reaches Buffy, and we cut to Willow's bedroom. Willow is recovering from the shock of seeing her friends' bodies. She tells Buffy that she has seen some awful things by now, and thought she could handle it. Buffy silently comes to a realization. She tells Willow to take care, the subtext of which is "...because you'll never see me again."Giles busts out the weapons, declaring that he will face the Master himself. Buffy (who just showed up) disagrees. She's geared for war: a leather jacket thrown over her prom dress. Giles and Buffy bicker a bit, and determine that neither will give in. Buffy cold-cocks him. Timber! Miss Calendar rushes to attend to the woozy librarian, and Buffy puts her cross back on. She exits the school and sees the A.O. on the lawn. He wahs for help, but she says to skip the games. He takes her by the hand and leads her away. Willow rushes to the library with Xander in tow. It turns out that Willow picked up on Buffy's 'Once more into the breach' tone. Xander knows just the person to help.Angel hears a rapping on his door. It's Xander, who comes busting in. He enlists Angel to take him to the Master. When Angel scoffs at that, Xander clarifies his position by pulling out a big cross and shoving it in Angel's face.Buffy and the A.O. reach the Master's lair, where approximately 60,000 candles are burning. The Master's voice welcomes her. She tries to get him to show his face, but in surround-sound voice he says he wants the moment to last. He warps behind her and goes all Jedi, holding her in place with his mind. He gloats that she only knew half of the prophecy, and the kicker is that blood is what sets him free. He drinks her, then lets her flop lifelessly into a nearby pool.
"By the way..." (SPLAT)' "I like your dress."
Xander and Angel arrive to find the Master's gone up, and Buffy drowned. Angel says that Xander has to perform CPR, as he has no breath. Xander does the deed. Grunt grunt Don't you die on me grunt. Buffy opens her eyes, seemingly suffused with some new power. Xander and Angel smile at each other. Well, there's a first (and last) time for everything.Miss Calender perceptively asks where the Hellmouth is supposed to open. They conclude the most likely candidate is the Bronze, given the dance tonight. Willow and Jenny go to warn everyone. Outside, Miss Calendar fumbles with her car keys and notices they're surrounded by a bunch of vamps advancing towards them George Romero-style. Tires squeal behind them; it's Cordelia in her Beamer, urgently telling them to get in. Cordelia drives right into the school, leaving a rather large hole in the wall, and parks outside the library. Well, they generally walk there, but okay. Giles hears the ruckus (wuh duh fuh...?) and gets up to see the girls rush inside and barricade the doors. Giles wonders why they vamps are coming here. In the foreground, we get an answer, as a large three-headed rises from the floor. Giles breathes, "The Hellmouth." Only he does so in a demonologically fascinated way that seems scary and wrong.The Master observes this scene from the skylight. He crows about how beautiful the world is. Buffy's cuts in; the world's not his just yet. He looks at her, flustered. Isn't she dead? Buffy concedes the point, but says she's still pretty. The Master's unamused, and pulls that Jedi trick again. She obliquely observes that he has "fruit punch-Mouth." The Master is taken off guard, and Buffy gives him Buffy punch-mouth. Ow. She then grabs the Master by the throat and flips him into the pit, neatly impaling him on a convenient broken shaft of wood. Instead of combusting, his skin disintegrates until there's nothing left but a skeleton. And with that, the slimy snake demon skitters back into hell. The vamps flee.Xander informs those who didn't know that Buffy died. Should've have known that wouldn't stop her, Giles beams. Aw. They decide to go party at the Bronze. They all walk out, and we can make out some of their separate comments. Giles says he's not dancing; Cordy takes credit for driving into the school, and Angel — say it with him, now — really likes Buffy's dress. ("Yeah, yeah. Big hit with everyone.") They leave us to wonder whether they'll be back for another season. Thank God they were. Final shot: The Master's bones.
Breaking the Fellowship: Buffy renouncing her mission, leaving an utterly defeated Giles and Angel in the library. Willow, at home, regards a picture of herself and Xander; She tries calling him, but he yanks his phone off the hook.
Enemy Mine: Xander and Angel find common ground in their desire to save Buffy.
Environmental Symbolism: A "Just say NO" poster was hung in the room where Xander was wallowing in his misery, where Willow rejects his rebound attempt to get a date to the dance. This is ironic because both Willow and Buffy "just said no" to Xander.
Evil Gloating: With Buffy under his thrall, the Master strolls over to her and removes her jacket. He expresses thanks for her trying to stop him, as there's nothing imprisoning him now.
"Facing the Bullets" One-Liner: Subverted — Buffy prepares to face her prophesied death and succumbs to her own Buffy Speak when trying to make up a noble last line: "When Giles wakes up, tell him ... oh, I don't know. Make up something cool, tell him I said it."
Flat "What.": Xander's reaction to being turned down twice in one day.
Angel denies "looking at" Xander's neck.
The Master's hypnosis failing him.
Forgotten Fallen Friend: Apparently Cordelia and Mitch's relationship dissolved right after the Marci debacle, because she is making out with Kevin at the beginning of this episode and seems to have really fallen for him.
Foreshadowing: Miss Calendar presciently asks about the Master's remains, but Buffy thinks he's not going anywhere.
Xander: I don't like you. At the end of the day, I pretty much think you're a vampire. But Buffy's got this big ol' yen for you. She thinks you're a real person. And right now I need you to prove her right.
Jenny: Okay, so this Master guy tried to open the Hellmouth. But he got stuck in it, and now all the signs are reading that he's gonna get out, which opens the Hellmouth, which brings the demons, which ends the world.
Giles: Yes. That about sums it up, yes.
Jenny: The part that gets me, though, is where Buffy is the Vampire Slayer. She's so little.
The Lonely Piano: When Xander leaves Buffy in the quad, the Tinkly Piano of Pain plays. Also heard when Buffy removes her necklace.
The Buffy theme plays slowly on a piano over the final scene.
Love Martyr: Cordelia and Willow walk and talk as Cordy exposits how Kevin flaked on her last night. She's chagrined to admit that she doesn't care. "God help me... I think it's cute."
Willow coaching Xander on his pickup lines. Xander wants to test them on Buffy right away, but Willow points out that she's gone. She pathetically offers to let Xander practice on her some more.
Man Bites Man: Cordelia biting a vamp that's holding her. "See how YOU like it!"
Metaphorgotten: Xander rehearses again: "You know Buffy, Spring Fling just isn't any dance. It's a time for students to choose, um...a mate, and then we can observe their...mating rituals, and tag them before they migrate, just kill me!"
Milking the Giant Cow: The Master hamming it up in his lair, saying the earthquake is a sign that they're "in the final days." Well, his final days, at least.
Neck Lift: The Master ends up on the receiving end of this, after grabbing Buffy's neck for the third time that evening.
No Ontological Inertia: Killing the Master is all it takes to re-seal the Hellmouth and banish any demons that had wandered into the mortal world while it had been open.
Noodle Incident: Joyce tells Buffy about going to a homecoming dance alone her freshman year at college. It was awful for an hour, until she met Buffy's dad, who had a date - "and that's a much funnier story that (Buffy) will *not* get to hear".
Not So Different: Cordelia is oddly smitten with Kevin for ignoring her, which Willow can relate to. ("I hear ya.")
Angel grrs that Xander is in love with Buffy. Xander: "Aren't you?"
Not So Stoic: Giles, normally so put-together, spends a full twenty-four hours struggling to find some evidence that the prophecy is falsifiable. When Buffy confronts him and Angel, not only does she have a meltdown, but Giles is a complete wreck.
Offhand Backhand: Buffy marches determinedly toward the school, with Xander and Angel close behind. A vamp gets in their way. "Oh, look. A bad guy." She decks him without pausing.
When Buffy enters the Master's lair, the Master tells her that she isn't the "hunter" but rather the sacrificial "lamb."
The cross, of course, is a symbol of sacrifice. The moment that Buffy rips off her necklace to floor is a rejection of the sacrifice demanded of her. The cross is also a symbol of resurrection, though, which becomes relevant once Buffy is coughed back to life.
It's not a coincidence that the prom dress looks like a wedding dress; Buffy is married to the Slayerhood, and her loss of a normal life is the ongoing theme of the series.
Giles has already crossed the boundary from Watcher to father figure. (A fact later reinforced by his telling Buffy "I'm older and wiser— Just do what you’re told for once!")
Running Gag: Everybody likes Buffy's dress - Buffy herself, Joyce, Willow, Angel, even the Master.
Same Story, Different Names: There are some striking similarities in this episode to the film version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Both Buffys must face a vampire king on prom night. Both girls wore a white dress with a leather jacket thrown over it. Interestingly, small screen Buffy is wearing Angel's leather jacket, and big screen Buffy is wearing love interest Pike's leather jacket.
Series Fauxnale: The entire first season was completed before the show began airing, with no one having any idea if they would get past these thirteen episodes. Thus, the season stands on its own quite nicely, while the finale still leaves the door open for future seasons.
Sign of the Apocalypse: Buffy fills Giles in on the previous evening's hunt, and how the vamps are increasing in number and cockiness.
Ms. calender lists off some strange happenings in the news, the highlights of which include were a cat giving birth to snakes, and a baby born with its eyes facing inward. Buffy discovers blood pouring from the sink in the girls' bathroom.
If only they could have kept it that way for the vamps, we could all live in peace.
Single Tear: A tear rolls down Buffy's cheek as she realizes that her death will be in the service of evil.
So What Do We Do Now?: Miss Calender asks this aloud once the Hellmouth closes. Someone suggests heading to the Bronze. "We saved the world. I say we party."
Stop Helping Me!: Joyce tells an endearing story about how she went dateless to a dance in college, and that's where she met Hank Summers. She succeeds in making Buffy smile for a minute, but then Buffy notes that Joyce had her whole life ahead of her. "Must be nice." Sniff.
Stripped to the Bone: Unlike most vampires, who turn completely to dust upon their death, The Master leaves behind a skeleton; the Anointed One later tries to use these bones in a ritual to return the Master to life.
Taking You with Me: Buffy muses there's nothing in the prophecy that says the Master can't go down with her.
Throw the Book at Them: "'Signs'? [hurls book] READ ME THE SIGNS! [throws another one] TELL ME MY FORTUNE! You're so useful sitting here with ALL YOUR BOOKS!"
Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: As they're making their way though the sewers, Xander chides Angel for staring out his neck. Angel is offended, as though he's the victim of a misunderstanding. Like the time on Angel where a guy thought Angel was hitting on him — he always tries to apologize, and no one ever believes him.
Theme Tune Cameo: This episode is first (and only) time Nerf Herder's opening credits theme is played during the show. A slow version plays at the end, as the Scoobies are filing out of the library.