Cordelia is excitedly talking to Harmony and her friends about the spring and May Queen competition when Buffy bumps into them, spilling various slayer paraphernalia on the floor. She makes the excuse that Giles has lent them to her for a history project.
In English class, Cordelia comments that in the Merchant of Venice, Shylock is self-involved and whiny. She likens it to a bicycle rider she ran over; the girl whined about her pain and ignored Cordelia's traumatic experience. The teacher appears to agree with the viewpoint. After class, Cordelia arranges to talk to the teacher the next day about her paper.
In the boys' locker room, Mitch Fargo, Cordelia's boyfriend, is attacked by a floating baseball bat. Cordelia is outside campaigning for May Queen. As Xander and Willow mock Cordelia, Buffy feels left out and explains to them that she was the May Queen at her old school. The conversation ends when it's discovered that Mitch has been beaten up. Principal Snyder arrives, confirming Mitch isn't dead. Before Mitch is taken to the hospital, he explains what happened but refuses to let Buffy into the crime scene. Willow and Xander distract him, allowing Buffy to slip into the locker room. The word 'look' is spray painted on to the lockers.
At the library, the Scoobies are stumped. They suspect a ghost is behind what is happening. Meanwhile, Harmony asks Cordelia about Mitch's condition to which she replies that his bruises are too bad for them to be photographed at the prom. In a flashback, we see Cordelia and Harmony talking about Mitch's latest break-up with his girlfriend Wendy and whether Cordelia would like to be his girlfriend instead.
In the present day, Harmony is pushed down the stairs by an invisible force and hurts her ankle as Buffy approaches. Buffy follows an invisible being laughing, which causes it to bump into her as it escapes.
Later on, Xander suggests a cloak of invisibility worn by the Greek gods. Buffy dismisses the theory as the crimes being committed are too petty. As the Scoobies disperse, Buffy follows the sound of a flute. In the library, Giles is surprised by Angel who offers to get hold of a book of prophecies, the Pergamum Codex. Another flashback sequence shows Cordelia and Harmony discussing a lecture and ignoring a girl called Marcie. In the present, Cordelia wins the May Queen competition. When looking over Willow's list of missing students, Buffy sees Marcie and suspects her when it says she played the flute. Tracking Marcie, Buffy finds her hideout just as Marcie finds Cordelia's literature teacher. She suffocates her with a plastic bag. Cordelia arrives shortly after and manages to save the teacher. An invisible hand writes the word 'listen' on the blackboard.
As Willow looks over Marcie's yearbook, she sees that all the messages written are generic 'have a nice summer'; a sign that no one knew her. She's horrified to see her own message is exactly the same. Giles realizes that Marcie became invisible because people treated her like she didn't exist. In a flashback, we see a teacher overlook Marcie for the other students when she puts her hand up in class. She looks down, disappointed and realizes she's turning invisible. As the Scoobies realize Marcie is after Cordelia, the latter enters the library and asks Buffy for protection (as only Cordelia can). They decide to use Cordelia as bait and Buffy will act as her bodyguard. As Cordelia is getting dressed, she confides in Buffy that she's lonely too, even though she's the most popular girl in school - all the kids seem to want is to be in the "popular zone." Marcie lures Willow, Xander and Giles into the boiler room where she locks the door and turns the gas on, before grabbing Cordelia. Buffy follows Cordelia and finds her unconscious. Marcie surprises Buffy, kicking her and knocking her out.
Buffy wakes up, tied to a chair next to Cordelia. They see the word 'learn' written on a curtain. Marcie explains that Cordelia is the lesson, or she will be after she plans to make a mockery of Cordelia's face by surgery. Buffy kicks the tray with the surgical tools on and manages to free herself from the ropes. Angel rescues the other Scoobies and turns off the gas. Buffy concentrates, listening for Marcie and knocks her into a curtain before knocking her out. Two FBI agents, who of course aren't exactly forthcoming with the details, arrive to take Marcie away.
Cordelia comes by the next day after the coronation to thank the Scoobies for saving her, much to their surprise. However her reaction when Mitch arrives shows she's not ready to give up her popularity.
Meanwhile, Marcie is taken to a school full of invisible students by the FBI. She sits down in class and opens her textbook. The title reads 'Assassination and Infiltration'.
- Air-Vent Passageway: Marcie Ross lives above the school's music room in a space accessible only by climbing up through the drop ceiling.
- All of the Other Reindeer: Poor Marcie was shunned so much she turned invisible.
- Ask a Stupid Question...:Harmony: (reading a chocolate Cordelia plans to hand out for May Queen votes) "C for Cordelia?"Cordelia: "No, C for Wilma, little brain."
- Bad Liar: Buffy stumbles into Cordelia, spilling a bagful of medieval weaponry over the floor. She claims Giles lent them to her for history class. Fortunately Cordy is too self-centered to care what a mental case like Buffy gets up to with that creepy librarian anyway.
- And after Snyder catches Buffy sneaking into the crime scene. "Mitch wanted me to get his comb."
- The Bait: When Cordelia insists on going ahead with the May Queen celebrations, the Scoobies decide to use her to draw out Marcie. Unfortunately she's way ahead of them and uses her flute music played on a tape recorder to draw Giles, Xander and Willow down to the basement, leaving her free to deal with Buffy and Cordelia.
- Batter Up!: Marcie attacking Mitch.
- Big Damn Heroes: Angel turns up in time to save Giles, Xander and Willow.
- Birds of a Feather: Cordy's speech in this area needs some work.Cordelia: Buffy, I, uh, I, I know we've had our differences, with you being so weird and all, and hanging out with these total losers... Well, anyway, despite all of that, I know that you share this feeling that we have for each other, deep down...Willow: Nausea?
- Blatant Lies: Giles tells Buffy that the janitor freed them from the basement, knowing that Angel is trying to avoid Buffy.
- Brick Joke: Willow and Xander tell Snyder that Marcie's victim is going to sue the school. Later when Harmony gets her ankle broken by Marcie, Synder examines it.Harmony: Ow!Snyder: (looking alarmed) Don't sue.
- Character Development: For almost the entire first season Cordelia has been categorized as little more than a bitchy Brainless Beauty. This episode reveals her to be considerably smarter and more self aware, along with having a Hidden Heart of Gold.
- Chekhov's Lecture:"OK class, how does Shylock's anger over being a Jew relate to our discussion about the outcast in society?"
- Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Marcie is actually rendered invisible because no one ever noticed her (an effect heightened by the school she attends being built over a hellmouth).
- Coconut Superpowers: We get one quick CGI shot of a floating baseball bat and at one point the invisible character hits another character with a baseball bat... the hand of which is just off-screen.
- Conversation Cut:Student: "Guys! Mitch got whaled on; I think he's—"Cut to Snyder: Dead? Don't be ridiculous! What are you — ghouls? There are no dead students here...this week.
- Couldn't Find a Pen: LOOK in red paint is written on the lockers where Mitch was attacked. LISTEN is chalked onto the blackboard after a teacher is attacked. LEARN in glitter when Buffy and Cordelia wake up in the Bronze after being kidnapped by Marcie.
- Crush. Kill. Destroy!:Buffy: "Monsters don't usually send messages. It's usually crush, kill, destroy."
- Cursed with Awesome: In his meeting with Angel, Giles discusses his fascination with the invisible Monster of the Week, to which Angel replies, with a dose of sardonic humor:Angel: Looking in the mirror every day and seeing nothing there? It's an overrated pleasure.
- Deadly Gas: Marcie locks the Scoobies in a basement and opens a gas valve.
- Deadpan SnarkerGiles: How do you hunt someone you can't see? You may have to work on listening to people.Buffy: Very funny.Giles: I thought so.
- Dramatic Wind: Tustles Buffy's hair (inside the Bronze) when she's listening for Marcie.
- Everybody Lives: Mitch and the teacher survives Marcie's assault. Marcie is a Karma Houdini.
- Freudian Excuse: The reason for Marcie's actions and brutality is because literally everyone ignored her to the extend that the Hellmouth turned her invisible. Buffy is initially sympathetic, but upon seeing how crazy Marcie is and how far she's willing to go to get back at those who snubbed her, she drops it.Buffy: Y'know, I really felt sorry for you. You've suffered. But there's one thing I really didn't factor into all this. You're a thundering loony!
- Ghostly Chill: The absence of this tells the Scoobies they're not dealing with a poltergeist.
- Glasgow Grin: Marcie intends to inflict this on Cordelia, amongst other assorted facial mutilations.
- Go Mad from the Isolation: Now here's an interesting example. Marcie was so ignored by her peers that, with some Hellmouth magic, she eventually became literally invisible to them - and it took the Scoobies to even notice she was gone. Being alone in her invisible world only made Marcie that much more unhinged, as Cordelia finds out the hard way.
- Golden Moment: Averted; Cordelia is thanking the Scoobies for their help when Mitch comes up to her and asks why she's hanging around these losers. Cordy quickly makes herself scarce.Xander: Where's an invisible girl when you need one?
- Government Conspiracy: Marcie is taken to a facility where, it is assumed, she is being trained as an assassin. Along with teens who are similarly cursed. While it's not made clear what the overall goal of this place is, it's still shady.
- Hey, That's My Line!: After Harmony is pushed down the stairs.Buffy: What happened?Snyder: Hey, who's the school principal here? (to Harmony) What happened?
- Hidden Depths: Cordelia. This is also the first episode in which she starts to get closer to the Scoobies.
- If You Can Read This: A Spy School textbook on infiltrating a cult compound to assassinate its leader is readable in DVD format, and consists of the lyrics to "Happiness is a Warm Gun" by The Beatles, with the titular line changed to "Joy is a hot revolver."
- Incredibly Obvious Tail: The two FBI men stick out like black-suited MIB's on the school grounds. Then again, this is Sunnydale.
- Insane Equals Violent: Marcie is crazy and is all about using violence to achieve her batshit insane ends.
- Invisibility: Marcie's entire schtick. She was such a wallflower, that the Hellmouth turned her gradually invisible.
- Invisible Jerkass: Upon becoming invisible, Marcie becomes a violent psychopath who takes violent revenge against everyone who scorned and ignored her.
- It's All About Me: Cordelia again.Cordelia: People who think their problems are so huge craze me. Like this time I sort of ran over this girl on her bike. It was the most traumatizing event of my life, and she's trying to make it about her leg! Like my pain meant nothing.
Cordelia: Somebody is after me! They just tried to kill Ms. Miller! Uh, she was helping me with my homework. And Mitch! And Harmony?! This is all about me! Me, me, me!Xander: Wow! For once she's right!
- Later on:
- It Sucks to Be the Chosen One: Buffy pines for the pre-Slayer days when she was popular, though there is the tacit admission that she has actual friends now.
- Irony: Buffy dismisses the idea of a Greek god being the assailant because "it's too petty." Had she read her classical mythology, she may not have been quite so certain.
- Jerkass Has a Point:
- Xander points out that, for once, Cordelia is right in her assertion that it's all about her.
- Xander accuses Cordelia of having a fabulous lack of priorities when she still wants to be crowned while her life is at risk. Cordelia retorts that if they stop the coronation, Marcia has won. Buffy says that Cordelia has a point and proceeds to use her as a bait to draw Marcie out.
- Karma Houdini: After having brutally beaten a guy with a bat, asphixiated a teacher, tried to disfigure Cordelia and tried to stab Buffy, Marcie gets rewarded with a training in assassination and infiltration.
- Lame Comeback: Cordelia is giving out chocolates to drum up votes.Cordelia: Here's a chocolate... (realises it's Buffy) Oh, I don't think I need the loony-fringe vote.
Buffy: Well, I don't even like chocolates! (to herself) Okay, that was the lamest comeback of our times.
- Lame Pun Reaction:Giles: I've never actually heard of anyone attacked by a lone baseball bat before.Xander: Maybe it's a vampire bat. (everyone stares at him) ...I'm alone on that one, huh?
- Laughing Mad: Marcie!
- Layman's Terms: When Giles first mentions quantum mechanics.Buffy: I think I speak for everyone here when I say 'Huh?'
- Loners Are Freaks: Marcie magically turned invisible from social ostracization and set out to take violent revenge on everyone she deemed responsible.
- Madness Mantra: Of sorts. Marcie's yearbook is full of generic 'have a nice summer' messages, which is explained as being a "Kiss of Death" by Xander, as it's what you write in the book of somebody you don't know. Showing that nobody knew who Marcie was.
- The Men in Black: The men who show up at the end to take Marcie away.
- Monochrome Past: Marcie's flashbacks of her non-interactions with Sunnydale students.
- Monster of the Week: An invisible one, to Giles' admitted fascination.
- Noodle Incident: Buffy feels left out when Xander and Willow start laughing over a past Cordelia incident.Xander: Cordelia, man, she does love titles!
Willow: (laughing hysterically) Oh, God! Remember in sixth grade with the field trip?
Xander: Right! Right! The guy with the antlers on his belt!
Willow: Be my Deputy!
Xander: And remember the-the hat?
Willow: Oh God! The hat!
Buffy: Gee, it's fun that we're speaking in tongues.
- Oblivious Mockery: Played straight with Xander mocking Cordelia's May Queen obsession, when Buffy used to be one. Played for Laughs with Cordelia who's so used to insulting the Scoobies she even does it when asking them for help.
- Power Perversion Potential: Xander Thinking Of The Potential of being invisible. And protecting girls' locker rooms.
- Professional Killer: After being apprehended, Marcie gets recruited to be an assassin for the Government.
- Quantum Mechanics Can Do Anything: With a little help from the Hellmouth anyway.
- Rule of Threes: Marcie's 'lesson' — LOOK, LISTEN, LEARN.
- Sanity Slippage: After disappearing, Marcie's sanity disappeared too and she became viciously psychotic.
- Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: The Scoobies realise they've been suckered by the tape recorder.Xander: Can you say, 'Gulp'?
- Sequel Hook: Partway through the episode, Giles meets up with Angel for the first time. Angel offers to loan Giles the Pergamum Codex, from which Giles would learn a horrible prophecy in the next episode.
- So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Buffy and Cordelia share a rare moment of bonding over this.
- Staircase Tumble: Marcie pushes Harmony down the stairs.
- Stealth Hi/Bye: Giles is alone in the library when he hears something. Is it the ghost? Giles sees his reflection in a glass cabinet, then jumps when he turns and finds Angel standing next to him.
- Spy School: Marcie gets sent to one.
- Stock Quotes: The two FBI men talk in official clichese.FBI 1: We're not at liberty to discuss that.
FBI 2: It would be best for you to forget this whole incident.
Buffy: Do you know that you guys are very creepy?
FBI 2: Thank you for your help.
- Sympathy for the Devil: Buffy is initially sympathetic to Marcie because of her Friendless Background and everything she suffered as a result. Of course, she ends up dropping this upon seeing how psychotic Marcie has become and how far she's willing to go to get back at everyone who ignored her.Buffy: Y'know, I really felt sorry for you. You've suffered. But there's one thing I really didn't factor into all this. You're a thundering loony!
- To the Pain: When Marcie has Cordelia and Buffy tied up, she waxes about how she's going to slice up Cordy's pretty face."You should be grateful. People who pass you will remember you for the rest of their lives. Children will dream about you. And all your friends who come to the coronation tonight will take the sight of the May Queen to their graves."
- Trivially Obvious: Marcie's yearbook is filled with the phrase: "have a nice summer!" Buffy tells Giles that this is what people write when they have absolutely nothing else to write.
- Verbal Backspace: At first, when Giles is assigning roles to the team, Xander asks to talk to Mitch's friends rather than do research. When he hears that "talking to his friends" involves talking to Cordelia, he all but jumps at doing research.
- Vertical Kidnapping: Marcie on Cordelia.
- We Need a Distraction: Principal Snyder intercepts Buffy as she goes to check out the locker room where Mitch was attacked. Willow and Xander distract him by claiming Mitch's dad is going to sue the school. Later Marcie draws the Scoobies away from Buffy and Cordelia with a tape recording of her playing the flute.
- With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Marcie becomes insane after she becomes invisible.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: The project involving training invisible people as assassins is never mentioned again.
- Wrong Context Magic: This is the only time in the series (and in Angel, for that matter) which the protagonists encounter a paranormal phenomenon that is not connected to any supernatural event, but rather a scientific one.
- Your Eyes Can Deceive You: Buffy is unable to land a punch on Marcie until she shuts her eyes and just listens.
- Your Mind Makes It Real: Marcie became invisible because she was so unnoticeable, she was perceived as such by everyone around her.
- You're Insane!:Buffy: There's one thing I didn't factor into all of this. You're a raving loony!