Recap / Buffy the Vampire Slayer S3E20 "The Prom"
"Once again, the Hellmouth puts the "special" in "special occasion"

Buffy wakes up in Angel's bed at the mansion after the two fell asleep after patrol. Buffy talks a bit about bringing some of her stuff over so every once in a while she could spend the night and she mentions going to the prom. She opens the curtains to check for the sun, and accidentally lets in a strong beam, which hits Angel. However, he manages to move before it really burns him.

At school, Anya, still a mere human being, asks Xander to the prom. Both of them are dateless and desperate, so he says yes. Later, Buffy, Willow, Oz, and Xander discuss prom plans and dresses. Joyce visits Angel at the mansion and tells him she's worried about the effect he's having on her daughter. She tells him that he can't get in the way of her future, and if Buffy can't see that then he'll have to do something about it.

Buffy and Willow are talking prom dresses while Giles is continuing research for the Ascension. Using the pages that Willow ripped out of the Books of Ascension, it's been determined that, upon Graduation Day, the Mayor will transform into a demon. However, what kind of demon he will transform into is still unknown, and there's no further information at this point. As a result, the discussion moves onto the prom. Giles and Wesley (neither of whom see the point of it) will both be chaperoning the prom, which Buffy protests is going to be the one and possibly last night of fun they'll have in Sunnydale. Meanwhile, in a small house, someone plays a video for a caged dog-beast that makes it go wild.

Buffy and Angel are in a church getting married. As they exit the church, Angel is fearful of the sun, but it is Buffy that burns up and dies - not him - when they come in contact with the sun's light. Angel awakes from the dream.

While patrolling, Buffy and Angel head into a sewer in pursuit of a vampire as Buffy asks him what he's planning to wear to the prom, but Angel isn't interested and snaps that there's more important things to worry about.

Angel is still disturbed by his dream, the visit from Joyce, and the Mayor's words to them; after Buffy talks about how the prom and graduation are part of growing up, he finally tells Buffy that they need to talk. He tells her that it's unfair for her to be in a relationship with him because of all the things he can't give her. In order to make her realize how serious he is, he breaks up with her and tells her he doesn't want to be with her. Buffy refuses to accept this at first, and asks him how she's expected to keep away from him, and Angel tells her than he's going to leave Sunnydale after the ascension.Buffy goes to Willow for comfort and she realizes that Angel was right; the two of them really can't be together. But, after such a long and dedicated relationship falls apart so quickly, Buffy just feels horrible and cries.

At April Fools, a store where Cordelia Chase is working, Xander spots her through the window and goes in to tease her for what he perceives as her spending a long time trying to pick a dress. However, he's stopped short when an assistant chides Cordelia for speaking to a customer. Cordelia then reveals that because of her father committing tax fraud, she's now working there to save up for a prom dress because her family lost all of their money, and now she has nowhere to live and she can't afford to go to any of the colleges that accepted her. Xander is clearly shocked by this and can't come up with any words in response, while Cordelia says that he can go back to his friends, and laugh at her getting her comeuppance for teasing them all this time. However, their argument is cut short as one of the beasts that broke free breaks through the window. It initially attacks Xander, but then it spots a guy wearing a tux. Leaving Xander, the beast kills tux guy before rushing away.

At the library, the gang study the video of the attack as Buffy mooches in the background clearly distracted by her break-up with Angel. Wesley asks what Cordelia was doing in the store with Xander, and as Cordy struggles for a response Xander covers by simply claiming they were sniping at each other as usual. Cordelia notices that the beast has a preference for people in formal wear, while Giles and Wesley recognise it as a Hellhound, a vicious demon foot soldier bred for war. Suddenly someone is spotted on the tape who appears to be controlling the Hellhound. It turns out that the person is Tucker Wells, who used to have a chemistry class with Oz. Tucker has plans to ruin prom night by sending a hellhound trained to attack those in formal wear after the students. Willow, Xander and Oz all bemoan the fact that they're going to have to skip the prom since it won't be safe, and this snaps Buffy out of her funk as she declares that she won't let one jerk ruin the prom for her friends and she will do whatever she can to ensure her friends have their wonderful and special night (since she won't be able to anyway) and will do what it takes to ensure one jerk doesn't wreck it for everyone else. Buffy then issues orders for everyone to split up and search for clues. She ends up finding an address at the butcher where Tucker ordered cow brains to feed the dogs. She runs into Angel and the two have a post-break-up argument. As Cordelia leaves work upset that she won't be able to attend the prom as she couldn't save up enough from the dress, her co-worker tells her it's already been paid for.

Buffy returns from her searching and orders everyone else to attend the prom while she takes care of the hounds. She tells Giles that Angel is leaving town, and while she's upset her main focus now is stopping the Hellhound. She finds Tucker in his basement and confronts him about why he would want to destroy the best night of a senior's life. Tucker refuses to divulge his reasons, although it's revealed in a flashback that his only reason is that the girl he asked to go with said "no". Buffy ties him up before he can release the hound, but finds out that there are four other dogs, and three are already on their way to the school. Buffy rushes to Sunnydale High and, after a few close calls, manages to kill all of the dogs. Buffy changes into her prom dress and shows up for the dance. Everyone looks amazing dressed-up in their tuxes and formal dresses. Cordelia shows up and clings to Wesley (after thanking Xander for paying for her dress, restoring their friendship) while Anya tells Xander of her man-cursing past, much of Xander's discomfort. Willow and Oz just enjoy the evening.

When class awards are given out, Xander is snubbed for Class Clown. Then Jonathan goes up to the microphone and asks if Buffy is present. Everyone turns towards Buffy as a spotlight shines on her as she gets punch; it takes her a moment to realise that the attention is on her. Jonathan reads a speech in which the students acknowledge that they know a lot on unusual and weird stuff goes on at the school, and they also know that Buffy was always trying to protect them from it and that she's protected and saved almost all of the people present at the dance, giving the 1999 Graduating Class the lowest mortality rate in Sunnydale High history. He then announces that the senior class wishes to offer its thanks by awarding Buffy the first ever Class Protector Award complete with a trophy (actually a decorated parasol with a small plaque). Buffy, stunned beyond belief, walks through all the cheering students and teachers and happily accepts the award, finally allowing her to have a perfect high school moment.

Afterwards, the students enjoy the rest of the dance. Anya dances with Xander and finds herself not minding this part, while Giles tells Wesley to stop pottering about and just dance with Cordelia. Buffy then arrives, and Giles congratulates her on her work on getting rid of the Hellhounds, and expresses his surprise that the class could be so gracious. Buffy tells him that people can surprise you sometimes, and Giles sees something at the door and takes Buffy's award from her. Buffy turns and sees Angel standing there in a tux. He tells her he understands that it's an important night for her, but he still meant what he said before. Buffy tells him she understands and the two dance, trying to make the most of what little time they have left.


  • Actor Allusion: One of the movies that Tucker used to train the Hell Hounds is Pump Up the Volume, which Seth Green and Juliet Landau were in.
  • Anonymous Benefactor: On her way out, Cordelia's co-worker tells her not to forget her dress. Cordy says she hasn't finished paying for it, but the girl says someone picked up the tab.
  • Analogy Backfire: When dumping Buffy, Angel says he's trying to think with his head instead of his heart.
    Buffy: You have a heart? It isn't even beating!
  • Apology Gift: Xander puts an end to his post-breakup Snark-to-Snark Combat with Cordelia by paying for her dress.
  • Autocannibalism: One of Anya's clients wished for her ex to cannibalize himself. "Even I had a hard time watching that one, let me tell you."
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: Jonathan says that they have one final award — a new category, and there were a lot of write-in ballots — and asks if Buffy Summers is there. He then reads a prepared statement from the prom committee: it turns that Sunnydale High's students were actually aware of Buffy's actions when protecting them from the evils of the Hellmouth the whole time. Thus, Buffy is presented with the Class Protector Award.
  • The Bait: Buffy attempts this at the school, trying to lure the hellhounds away from the gym. They give chase, but stop and turn around when they hear Kool & The Gang's "Celebration" coming from inside. D'oh.
  • Ballroom Blitz: Averted thanks to our heroine.
  • Beautiful Dreamer: Albeit with Messy Hair.
  • Becoming the Mask: Because Anya is now a teenage California high school girl she has all the same urges, like the desire to go to the prom accompanied by an attractive male.
  • Brain Food: Giles says that the hellhound is a sort of "demon foot soldier," and that it feeds off the brains of its victims. Buffy has a Eureka Moment when she realises that whoever controls the hellhound would need to feed it, so she asks around the butcher shops for someone buying animal brains.
  • Break Her Heart to Save Her
  • Breather Episode: Subverted; the plot doesn't revolve around the Ascension, but Angel breaking up with Buffy sets up both the next season as well as Angel's own spinoff.
    • Arguably it still counts; despite Angel and Buffy breaking up (and even then, they dance together at the end), the main conflict (the hell-hounds) is resolved quickly and the episode is filled with heartwarming moments.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: Buffy Neck Snaps a Hellhound as it's about to savage a student. He asks where the bathroom is — Buffy helpfully points the way.
  • Buffy Speak: Buffy waking up at Angel's place with some serious bed-head. She notes that they got carried away with the "whole post-slayage nap thing."
    • Giles being told to chill and let the Scoobies enjoy "a night of prom-y fun".
    • Buffy notes that every time she brings up prom, Angel gets grouchy. He tells her it's nothing. "No," she observes, "you have something-face."
  • Call Back: The 'Buffy and Angel 4ever' recalls the Forever heart tattoo by Lily/Rickie in "Anne", and a similar reluctance by Buffy to let go of the idea of a One True Love who'll always look after her.
  • Can't Have Sex, Ever: Angel tells Buffy she deserves "someone who can make love to you". Buffy protests that she doesn't care about sex or having children.
    Angel: Today. But you have no idea how fast it goes, Buffy. Before you know it, you'll want it all, a normal life.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: Down in the sewers, Buffy has picked a fine time (tracking a vampire) to talk to Angel about their relationship. When the vamp finally leaps out, Buffy peevishly stakes him ("Not now.") and carries on talking.
  • Catapult Nightmare / Man on Fire: Buffy and Angel are in a church getting married. As they exit the church, Angel is fearful of the sun, but it is Buffy that burns up and dies — not him — when they come in contact with the sun's light. Angel awakes from the nightmare in a cold sweat.
  • Changed My Mind, Kid
  • Chastity Couple: Angel and Buffy fall asleep in the same bed after a hard night's slaying. Buffy thinks it's quite romantic the next day, but Angel realises they're both flirting with danger.
  • Class Clown / Assumed Win: At the awards ceremony, they begin to announce to the class clown award. Xander rubs his hands together in anticipation. He doesn't get it — an obnoxious kid wearing a polka dot vest and a hat made of balloons collects his prize.
    Xander: [disgusted] Please. Anybody can be a prop class clown.
  • Continuity Nod: Joyce visiting Angel at the mansion to tell him she's worried about the effect he's having on her daughter. He lets her in, and they exchange awkward pleasantries. She notices the manacles on the wall from "Enemies", and her jaw sets. Whoops.
    • Buffy's reference to "Choices", saying that Angel shouldn't listen to what the Mayor said about outliving Buffy, because he's the bad guy and bad guys are not to be trusted. Angel reluctantly says the Mayor was right.
    • When Jonathan mentions all the weird things that have happened in Sunnydale, two of the students in the crowd shout out "Zombies!" (Dead Man's Party) and "Hyena People!" ("The Pack")
  • Convenient Slow Dance: The Sundays' cover of The Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses" starts up. Xander and Anya dance together; Wesley, following much cajoling from Giles, follows suit with Cordelia. Finally, Buffy turns and sees Angel standing in the door, tux and all.
  • Corner of Woe: During the Scoobie meeting about the hellhound, Buffy quickly excuses herself from another replay of the tape to sit on the library steps, apart from the others (she eventually rallies herself for her Rousing Speech).
    Xander: How's it going over there, Buff?
    Buffy: (Thousand-Yard Stare) Fine.
    Xander: Well, I just wanted to say that your impersonation of an inanimate object is really coming along.
    Buffy: Thanks.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Oz complimenting Xander on his "interesting" choice of taking Anya to the dance. Xander pleads that it was down to either Anya or (gestures with his hand like Señor Wences) "the sock puppet of love". Not even touching that one.
  • Death Glare: Buffy scared her friends off to the Prom with one, when they refuse to let her fight Tucker alone.
  • Description Cut: Buffy speaks for everyone when she tells Giles to put the Ascention on the back-burner for now. One night of glory; "Not too much to ask." Cut to a creepy, dilapidated house, wherein an unseen figure is attending to hairy demons in cages.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: Angel telling Buffy that she deserves a real relationship, not this "freak show". This hits her like a slap in the face. He apologizes for that remark, and says this isn't an easy decision for him. Buffy explodes, demanding to know who gave him the right to make decisions for her.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Buffy asks Tucker what kind of sicko would want to ruin the happiest night of a senior's life. Tucker glowers and says he has his reasons. Cue a Flashback Cut of Tucker asking a girl to the prom, and her flatly saying, "No."
    • Buffy gets this — she is moping about Angel then when her friends start getting scared about going to the Prom thinks if she can't be happy at least she can make them happy, and gives the page quote.
  • Distracted by the Sexy/Double Entendre
  • Elephant in the Living Room: Buffy, Angel, even Shipper on Deck Willow — know perfectly well that a long-term relationship between Buffy and Angel is impossible, yet Buffy still clings to the fantasy until Angel forces the issue.
    • Jonathan's speech is a less heartbreaking version of this trope.
  • Enhance Button: Cordelia asks Xander to "zoom in" on the security tape of the hellhound. "They do it on TV all the time."
    • Moments later, Oz asks to pause on a shot of Tucker standing in the shop window. "Guys!!" shouts Xander, exasperated, "It's just a normal VCR, it doesn't — oh wait. It can do pause."
  • Foreshadowing: Joyce telling Angel that he's getting in the way of Buffy's future, and if Buffy can't see that, it's his responsibility to do something about it.
    • We learn in this episode that Cordelia's father was guilty of tax fraud, reducing her family to near poverty. This change eventually leads to her migration to LA, where she will team up with Angel.
    • Tucker Wells has an even more obscure brother Andrew, who will appear in Season 6 as a member of three wannabe supervillains called "The Trio".
      • (Possibly) One night of glory; "Not too much to ask."
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The tux-wearing Victim of the Week is savaged by the hellhound out of sight.
  • Great Offscreen War: Giles mentions that Hellhounds were bred "during the Machash Wars", about which no other information is given.
  • Heroic Vow: See page quote.
  • High-School Dance
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday
    Oz: Once again the Hellmouth puts the "special" in special occasion.
  • Hypocritical Humor / Tsundere: Anya's rant about witnessing "a millennium of treachery and oppression from the males" of Xander's species, and how she has "have nothing but contempt for the whole libidinous lot of them," to which Xander rightly asks why she's talking to him. Shifting from foot to foot, Anya admits she doesn't have a date for prom.
    Xander: And gosh, I wonder why not? Can't possibly have anything to do with your sales pitch.
    Anya: [testy] Men are evil! [vulnerable] Will you go with me?
  • I Do Not Drink Wine: Angel apologises for not having any coffee to offer Joyce. Not because of the drinking blood thing; it just makes him edgy.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Angel realises he must leave Sunnydale so Buffy can have a chance at a normal relationship.
  • I Warned You
  • I'm a Humanitarian/Your Head Asplode: On the dance floor, Anya regales Xander with vengeance demon war stories. Specifically, that one time a scorned wife wished her husband's head would explode, except that she and Anya "were standing three feet from him at the time. What a mess." Xander looks like he's praying for a similar fate as Anya prattles on about another time when she made a victim cannibalize himself.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The final hellhound pounces on Buffy just as she unsheathes a knife. The pair roll around a bit, before finally we hear a yelp. The dead hellhound turns over, revealing that it fell on the blade.
  • Improvised Weapon: When confronted, Tucker tries to break a vase over Buffy's head, but she deftly ignores his attack. Undaunted, he then grabs a screwdriver and holds it in front of him like a switchblade. Buffy easily disarms him, then uses the extension cord from the shattered lamp to tie his hands. Later, Buffy snatches a red curtain from outside the gym and tackles one of the hellhounds, immobilizing it for a minute.
  • Ironic Echo
  • Lame Comeback: Back at Buffy's house, Buffy has just filled Willow in on her breakup. Willow dutifully calls Angel a "big dumb jerk person." Scratch that; he's a "super maxi-jerk" for dumping her right before prom. Buffy tells Willow it's okay, she doesn't have to vilify Angel on her account.
    Willow: But... that's the best friend's job. Vilifying and grousing.
  • Lap Pillow: Buffy breaks down crying in Willow's lap after Angel dumps her.
  • The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: When Jonathan says that Sunnydale High is different from other schools and that students have already noticed that a lot of weird things, we hear scattered shouts of "Zombies!", "Hyena people!", and "Snyder!"
  • Linked List Clue Methodology
  • Little Black Dress: Cordy's
  • Loners Are Freaks: Tucker
  • Love Hurts: Post-Breakup Buffy
    Willow: I'm sorry. It must be horrible.
    Buffy: I think "horrible" is still coming. Right now, it's worse. (her face contorts in pain) Right now, I'm just trying to keep from dying.
    Willow: Oh Buffy.
    Buffy: (sinks her head into Willow's lap) I can't breathe, Will. I feel like I can't breathe...
  • Magical Security Cam: Averted and lampshaded
    Xander: Zoom in? This is a video tape.
  • Male Gaze: Lampshaded by Xander. Anya asserts that she knows he finds her attractive because she's caught him looking at her breasts. Xander lampshades it with, "Nothing personal, but when a guy does that, it just means his eyes are open."
  • Meaningful Echo: Again to the James/Grace ghost dialogue in "I Only Have Eyes For You".
  • Monster of the Week: Tucker and the Hellhounds
  • Neck Snap: How Buffy kills the last hellhound.
  • Never My Fault: Anya whining that Xander caused her current predicament by being unfaithful to Cordelia, resulting in Anya getting stuck in a high-school girl's body.
  • No Sell: Tucker smashes a vase over Buffy's head. For a girl who has to bench 400 pounds so she can fight vampires and demons a dinky little thing like that works as well as you might think.
  • Oh Wait!
    Anya: All I know is I really want to go to this dance and I want someone to go with me.
    Xander: Be still my heart. Oh wait, it is.
  • Ominous Multiple Screens: Tucker's lair. In addition to being caged, his hellhound's head is held in place so it's forced to see the TV (a la A Clockwork Orange).
  • Out of Order: Due to the episode "Earshot" not being aired out of respect for the victims of the Columbine massacre, television viewers of this episode were unaware of Buffy stopping Jonathan from committing suicide. The fact that Buffy saved his life makes his presentation of the Class Protector Award to her even more significant.
  • Percussive Therapy: On prom's eve, Giles picks up on the fact that Angel isn't coming. He notes apologetically that this sort of thing is out of his depth, though he guesses the appropriate thing to do is offer Buffy ice cream. Aww. "Ice cream will come," Buffy notes stoically. But not tonight; "Great thing about being a Slayer; kicking ass is Comfort Food."
  • Person as Verb: Buffy makes a comment about stopping a crazy from "pulling a Carrie on the prom".
  • Rant-Inducing Slight
  • Reverse Psychology: As Willow is describing her prom dress to Buffy, Wesley's voice cuts through the air, saying that they can't trifle with a school dance with the Ascension on the horizon. Cordy laments that it's too bad, because he would look "way 007 in a tux." Buffy and Xander share a knowing look; Manipulative Bitch to the rescue! Wesley reconsiders it, then announces that on prom night he will be assisting Giles in "chaperoning duties."
  • The Reveal
  • Serious Business / Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: When arguing about helping fight Tucker rather than go to the Prom.
    Oz: Buffy it makes sense to...
    Buffy: [Death Glare] Have. A nice. Time.
  • Shout-Out: When Giles interrupts a conversation about the Prom to say they ought to focus on the mayor's Ascension, Buffy says, "Giles, we get it, miles to go before we sleep," a phrase from the famous Robert Frost poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening". Faith later quotes from the same line in a dream sequence in "Graduation Day, Part Two":
  • Signature Scene: The quote at the top of the page, and why not? It's a Crowning Moment of Funny, Crowning Moment of Awesome, Crowning Moment of Heartwarming, in universe it's treated as Nightmare Fuel and on the heels of Angel dumping Buffy even a Tear Jerker.
  • Sunnydale Syndrome: Averted in a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: When Angel turns up at prom, the band is singing the lines, "Wild horses couldn't drag me away." In fact the whole song sums up Buffy's and Angel's relationship quite well.
  • Super Window Jump
  • Tearjerker: Angel breaking up with Buffy, and the scene where Buffy breaks down in Willow's arms afterwards.
  • Tempting Fate: For once this has a good result — Buffy says she's given up on trying to get that one special high school moment. At the end of the episode she's recognised by entire student body and gets to dance at the prom with the man she loves.
  • Thinks Like a Romance Novel: Angel finds the words 'Buffy and Angel 4ever' on Buffy's schoolbook.
  • Vampire Dance
  • Waxing Lyrical
  • Wham Episode: Angel breaks up with Buffy, setting up Season 4 as well as Angel's own show.
  • You Are Too Late: Buffy closes in on Tucker, restraining him against a wall while belittling his evil plan. "Lucky for me you're an incompetent maladjust." She prepares to lock him in the other room, but upon opening the door, she sees three empty cages with TV screens in front of them. Tucker grins evilly. Uh oh.
    Tucker: Gotta have a redundancy system. Any "incompetent" knows that.
  • You Remind Me of X