Joyce is hanging up a Nigerian mask given to her by a friend at the gallery while Buffy finishes unpacking. She reluctantly allows Buffy to go to find her friends, who are coordinating a vampire hunt via walkie-talkies. Buffy stumbles upon the vamp-hunting Schoobies and assists them in staking, only to have everyone shocked at her sudden return. Everyone heads to Giles' apartment, where he puts on the usual 'stiff upper lip' when he sees that Buffy has returned. Later, everyone discusses the news that Buffy is no longer wanted for Kendra's murder and also speculate on where Buffy went during the summer while, unseen by the others, in the kitchen Giles nearly cries from the relief that Buffy has returned safely, but composes himself before returning to the group.
The next day, Joyce takes Buffy to see Principal Snyder, who takes vindictive pleasure in keeping Buffy from re-entering Sunnydale High despite the fact she no longer has criminal charges against her. Joyce then discusses the idea of sending Buffy away to school (with the obvious intent of getting her out out of harm's way in Sunnydale) before dropping her off at a coffee shop for a scheduled meeting with Willow, who does not show up. Buffy goes home and meets Pat, a book club member of Joyce's who does not hesitate to comment about Buffy's recent behavior and its impact on Joyce. While fetching fancy "company" plates for a dinner with her friends that Joyce arranges, Buffy finds a dead cat in the basement. Buffy and Joyce bury it, but later that night, the Nigerian mask's eyes glow red, and the dead cat crawls its way out of its grave.
Buffy has another nightmare involving Angel. The next morning, while she and Joyce are discussing her schooling options in the kitchen, Joyce suggests that Buffy should not be so secretive and tell a few people such as Principal Snyder and the police that she is the Slayer. The dead cat surprises them. Giles comes over to remove it in a cage. Buffy waves him in and says, "Welcome to the Hellmouth Petting Zoo." He notices the mask before leaving for the library, and Buffy gets ready to head there with him, but Giles stops her, as she is no longer allowed on school grounds. Later in the library, the gang are discussing various "welcome back" dinner scenarios for Buffy ("Is it a gathering, or a shindig, or a hootenanny?"), but convince themselves that a big party would be more appropriate. Giles, who is doing research on Buffy's reanimated cat, is distracted by the discussion and overlooks a page in his book showing Joyce's Nigerian mask.
Dingoes Ate My Baby soon arrives at Buffy's house without notice, along with many "guests" from school that Buffy barely knows. Overwhelmed by all of the partygoers, Buffy tries to talk to Willow, who pretends to be distracted so that she doesn't have to talk to her. Buffy then tries to talk with Xander and Cordelia Chase, but finds that they're too busy kissing each other to be bothered. Meanwhile, Joyce is telling Pat in the kitchen how much it means to her to have Buffy back, though it has been harder on her than expected. Overhearing only the end of Joyce's statements and misinterpreting them, Buffy goes upstairs and decides to pack her things again.
At the library, Giles is horrified by what he finally uncovers about the mask. He tries to phone Buffy's house, but the partygoers who answer the phone fail to properly relay his message, or even understand it, with Dingos Ate My Baby playing at full volume ("There's no 'Buddy' here! You've got the wrong house, 'Mr. Belvedere!'").
Willow, having decided to try and make things up with her friend, finds Buffy in the bedroom and is visibly angry that her best friend is thinking about leaving again. The two then get into an argument, as Willow accuses Buffy of just giving up on Sunnydale and for not being there for her during a summer when she needed her help as Willow's life developed (due to dating Oz and dabbling in magic). Willow also accuses Buffy of being so worried about people being angry with her that she didn't bother to ask anyone else how they were doing.
Giles decides to drive to the party, angrily talking to himself about how dumb Joyce was to hang a cursed mask as decoration ("Do you like my mask? Isn't it pretty? It raises the dead. ...Americans!"). On the way, Giles accidentally hits a man standing in the road. He gets out of his car and discovers that the man is a reanimated corpse. Giles barely escapes oncoming zombies as other dead bodies rise all over Sunnydale.
Joyce walks in on Buffy packing to run away again, finds out what's happening and, regardless of the fact that people are watching, decides to have it out with Buffy, furious that her daughter is willing to put her through the misery of not knowing where she is again. As party guests quickly leave the awkward situation, Xander also decides to vent at Buffy about how selfish her running away was, while Cordelia takes Buffy's side and Oz tries to keep everyone calm. Just as Buffy is about to completely break down, the newly reanimated zombies crash through the windows and doors, causing the Scoobies to immediately drop their argument and band together to combat the threat. Several guests are killed. Oz and Cordelia hide in a downstairs closet, while Buffy and others rush upstairs with a gravely-injured Pat. In the bedroom, Willow checks Pat's pulse, only to find that she is dead.
Giles arrives to tell Oz and Cordelia about the mask containing the powers of the zombie demon Ovu Mobani, which means "Evil Eye." Whichever zombie puts it on becomes the demon incarnate, which Pat does. Other zombies cower down while Buffy soon realizes that the demon's gaze hypnotizes whoever is looking at it when its eyes flash (like a camera flash). Buffy pushes the newly demonized Pat out of the window shortly before it could kill Willow. Oz tries to tell Buffy about how to kill it, when he is hypnotized. Buffy uses this opening to plunge a shovel into the Pat demon's eyes, depowering and killing it. It vanishes along with all the other zombies.
With the demon's defeat, Joyce and the Scoobies are unable to bring themselves to spite Buffy any longer, and the entire group embraces.
The next day, Giles tries to convince Snyder to let Buffy return. When Snyder refuses, Giles warns him that he will take things up with the state supreme court and make life very difficult for him, professionally. When Snyder still resists, Giles physically intimidates him into giving in. Meanwhile in the coffee shop, Willow tells Buffy about her dabbling in magic and the two, once again best friends, bond by trading playful insults.
Tropes present in the episode:
- 555: The channel setting on Xander's two-way radio.
- 24-Hour Party People: Well, the fact that they actually are total strangers is the problem.
- All Is Well That Ends Well: After the conveniently-timed attack of the zombies, the Scooby Gang put aside their conflict without really addressing the issues that tore them apart earlier:
- Buffy feels she can't talk about Angel to her friends. When Angel comes Back from the Dead she keeps this to herself, with serious consequences in "Revelations".
- Xander's resentment of Buffy abandoning them over her Angel grief inevitably raises his resentment over Buffy and Angel's relationship. In "Revelations", Xander quickly jumps to verbally attack Buffy over keeping Angel's return a secret, and does his best to get Angel killed, thinking her judgement is clouded again.
- Willow's desire to have Buffy as a friend conflicts with Buffy's isolation from those who don't share her burden. This continues throughout Seasons 3 and 4 until Willow gains her own powers through her study of witchcraft (ironically this causes new problems).
- Joyce does her best to support Buffy's profession, but never gets rid of the feeling that Buffy is drifting away from her.
- Alone in a Crowd: Buffy at her own Welcome Home party.
- Always a Bigger Fish: The zombies cower in fear from the recently-resurrected Ovu Mobani.Xander: Generally speaking, when scary things get scared: not good.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Snyder's reasons for refusing to let Buffy back in Sunnydale High are her poor grades, bad attendance record and, above all else, "tingling pleasure" that he's finally rid of her.
- Asshole Victim: More "Annoying Victim" with Joyce's Book Club friend Pat and The Stoner who answers the phone.
- Barrier-Busting Blow:
- Xander and Buffy's reunion is interrupted by a vampire bursting through a boarded-up window at them.
- A zombie is Zerg Rushed and thrown out the door, only to smash a hand through a glass section and grab Oz.
- Bond One-Liner: Buffy shows She's Back."Hey Pat!" (Ovu Mobani turns to look at Buffy and gets pitchfork in the eyes) "Made you look."
- Both Sides Have a Point: While both sides in the tension between Buffy and her friends and family act like jerks to each other, both also have valid reasons to be upset. While the Scoobies and Joyce weren't wrong to be angry and hurt that Buffy abandoned them without a word, Buffy also had valid reasons to feel isolated and overly-pressured, and that the other Scoobies and Joyce weren't entirely helpful in supporting her with them.
- The Cavalry Arrives Late: At Giles's insistence, Oz runs outside to tell Buffy to Go for the Eye...but when he arrives, he's momentarily incapacitated by Ovu Mobani and can't get the message out. Luckily, Buffy's already figured it out.
- Captain Obvious: The Scoobies struggle to close the door on a zombie horde.Joyce: What do we do if they get in?Xander: I kinda think we die.
- Cassandra Truth: Giles is the only one who points out that the Wild Teen Party to welcome Buffy home is a bad idea, but the other Scoobies sneer at his concern as just him being out of touch. Needless to say, he's quite right and things end up getting ugly.
- Also, more to the point, he's right that's it's not remotely what Buffy needs at the moment, she ends up just feeling more isolated, almost runs away again, and gets in a fight with them and her mom.
- Cats Are Mean: Justified; it's a zombie cat.
- Cat Scare: Happens twice. Before and after the cat is buried.
- Chekhov's Gun: The mask is shown to the audience during the first minute of the episode.
- Cheshire Cat Grin: Giles frightening Snyder with his inner Ripper.Snyder: I'm not convinced.Giles: (slams Snyder against the wall) Would you like me to convince you?
- Made extra creepy by the smile and mild tone.
- Conflict Ball: The repressed resentment the Scoobies and Joyce feel about Buffy's disappearing act boils over when she appears to be running away again.
- Comically Missing the Point:
- Buffy tells her mother she's got to make contact with the Scoobies. Joyce asks, "Are you going to be slaying?" "Only if they give me lip."
- Giles asks Buffy how he found her mother. "Well, I pretty much remembered the address."
- Compensating for Something: Albeit a lack of superpowers rather than virility; Xander wears a huge wooden cross when out patrolling, as opposed to Buffy's tiny cross necklace.
- Conflict Ball: Let's just say that Joyce and Buffy's friends mishandle her return from LA on a thermonuclear level. Joyce is an early season one flake, while Willow and Xander are their season six/seven selves four years early.
- Continuity Nod: Buffy has been cleared of the murder charges over Kendra's death.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: The vampire knocks down the Scoobies, while Buffy dusts him easily.
- Dangerous Key Fumble: Giles drops the ignition keys during his fight with the zombies, so has to hotwire his own car while they're breaking through the windows.
- Dangerous Windows: Zombies don't bother with doors.
- Deadpan Snarker: For once, not played for laughs, with Xander making far too many snide comments about Buffy.Xander: And what'll we talk about at a gathering, anyway? "So, Buffy, did you meet any nice pimps on your travels? And oh, by the by, thanks for ruining our lives for the past three months."
- Description Cut: "Mom is making an appointment with His Ugliness. I know she can break him." Cut to Snyder: "Absolutely not! Under no circumstances!"
- Destination Defenestration: Buffy and Ovu Mobani go out the bedroom window together.
- Don't Sneak Up On Me Like That: Buffy sees a suspicious-looking character in an overcoat creeping along a dark alley at night. She sneaks up on him, only to step on a discarded soda can whereupon she's almost staked by a startled Xander.
- Dramatic Irony: Joyce wants to know why Buffy can't just tell the police or Snyder the truth about her being a superhero fighting demons. We already know from Season 2 that Sunnydale's Chief of Police and Principal Snyder are working to uphold the Masquerade on behalf of the Mayor.
- Dramatically Missing the Point: When Buffy starts griping about going to a private school, Joyce snaps back that Buffy made some bad decisions and is just going to have to live with the consequences. Buffy of course had no choice whatsoever in becoming The Chosen One.
- Everything's Deader with Zombies: Even cats.
- Evil Mask: Zombie!Pat turns into Ovu Mobani after putting on the mask.
- Et Tu, Brute?: When it looks like Willow will join in the Scoobies What the Hell, Hero? diatribe, a tearful Buffy begs her not to.
- Eye Scream: Buffy stops the wearer of the Ovu Mobani mask by shoving a garden spade through the zombie's eyes.
- Failed a Spot Check: Giles turns a page while arguing with the Scoobies about what sort of party to throw Buffy, and fails to notice a picture of Joyce's mask.
- Joyce threatens to go over Snyder's head to the Mayor, then storms out of the room. Snyder smirks. "Wouldn't that be interesting."
- Snyder says to Buffy, "I noticed that hot dog stand needs new employees. You'll look so cute in that hat." Fast-forward to Season 6's "Doublemeat Palace."
- "Didn't anyone ever warn you about playing with pointy sticks? It's all fun and games until somebody loses an eye."
- Willow identifies herself as a witch for the first time, though she says it will take years of study before she's a fully-fledged one. She mentions knocking out the lights of an entire city block while trying to contact the spirit realm — her Magic Misfires will become a Running Gag.
- Friend Versus Mourning Your Undead LoverWillow: This isn't easy, Buffy. I know you're going through stuff, but so am I.Buffy: I know you were worried about me, but—Willow: No. I don't just mean that. I mean, my life. You know? I'm having all sorts of... I'm dating. I am having serious dating with a werewolf, and I'm studying witchcraft and killing vampires, and I didn't have anyone to talk to about all this scary life stuff. And you were my best friend.
- From Bad to Worse: The argument between Buffy and Willow looks like it's going to resolve their issues when Joyce enters the room and gets upset. Buffy responds by running downstairs where everyone gangs up on her. Then zombies attack.
- Gilligan Cut: Xander tells Buffy that she shouldn't bury stuff, as it only comes back to bite you. Cut to Giles being attacked by zombies.
- Go for the Eye: Buffy stabs Ovu Mobani in the eyes with a pitchfork (after figuring out that's where its power lies). Naturally, it's a Gory Discretion Shot.
- Gory Discretion Shot: The burn victim zombie killing the hospital staff is seen as a vague reflection in the heart monitor.
- Half Truth:Willow: We were getting good. We dusted (nods) nine out of ten [vampires].
Oz: (whispers to Willow) Six out of ten.
Willow: Six out of ten.
- Hassle-Free Hotwire: Justified due to Giles' delinquent past, along with his car, which dates from the same era. "Like riding a bloody bicycle!"
- Giles even manages to strip the wire with nothing but his fingernails.
- Improvised Weapon: After the zombies burst into the house, the Scoobies have to grab whatever's nearby as a weapon.
- In Vino Veritas:Joyce: You know what? I don't care. I don't care what your friends think of me, or you for that matter, because you put me through the wringer, Buffy. (inhales) I mean it...and I've had schnapps.
- Innocently Insensitive: Pat means truly well and just wants Buffy and Joyce to mend their relationship, but is obliviously insulting to Buffy's situation when trying to be helpful.
- Is It Always Like This?: Joyce after their home is attacked by zombies.Joyce: So, is this a typical day at the office?Buffy: No. [beat] This was nothing.
- It's a Long Story: Buffy re what happened over the summer.
- It's All About Me: In Season 2, Buffy was tormented for months by her boyfriend's evil alter ego, kicked out of the house, expelled from school, accused of murder, oh and had to sacrifice her boyfriend to save the world. So, it's only natural that she leaves Sunnydale. But all Xander can focus on is how "miserable" his life was with Buffy gone, and blows off all the trauma Buffy suffered with Angel as "boy troubles".
- Let's Get Dangerous!: When Buffy runs into the Scooby Gang again they're down with the slayage, all tooled up with holstered stakes, radios, and large crosses hanging around their necks.
- Literal Metaphor: "You can't just bury stuff, Buffy! It'll come right back up to get you."
- Mandatory Line: Buffy has another Angel dream.
- Mask of Power: The mask's eyes glow every time it raises the dead. Ovu Mobani shoots flashes of light that can knock down even Buffy.
- Monster of the Aesop: When Joyce puts up the tribal mask to cheer up the room, Buffy says that it appears angry at the room instead. Likewise the cheerful reaction of the Scoobies and Joyce to Buffy's return mask anger at her leaving. These buried issues rise like zombies in a Literal Metaphor.
- Mundane Utility: Willow used a glamour to hide a zit.
- Neck Snap: The Stoner's death, and Buffy intervenes Just in Time to stop this happening to Willow.
- Never My Fault: Joyce all but openly dismisses the fact that her ultimatum to Buffy in the second season finale was instrumental in Buffy's decision to run away. However, unlike most other examples, she admits that she reacted badly, but still states that it didn't give Buffy the excuse to run.
- Xander also ignores the fact that him refusing to tell Buffy crucial information (that she should stall the fight because Willow was going to try to restore Angel's soul) probably caused her more suffering than if he had just told her. Also, him lying to her by saying that Willow wanted Buffy to "kick [Angel's] ass" when she actually said the opposite didn't help with Buffy's fear of opening up to Willow. But of course Xander just blames Buffy for keeping things to herself.
- Night of the Living Mooks: The zombies attracted by Ovu Mobani attack the Summers house en masse.
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
- No Ontological Inertia: All the zombies vanish the instant Buffy defeats Ovu Mobani, leaving the Scoobies swinging clubs at thin air. It saves them the job of having to get rid of all the corpses and the city officials having to explain all the corpses out of their graves.
- No-Sell: Buffy stakes a zombie in the heart. Doesn't work.
- No Sympathy: Buffy was tormented for months by Angelus, kicked out of the house, expelled from school, accused of murder, and had to sacrifice her boyfriend to save the world. So, it's only natural that she leaves Sunnydale. But none of the Scoobies, or even her own mother, actually care about her emotional turmoil and spend most of their time ignoring her out of spite for running away, before openly calling her out on it during the party.
- Not So Stoic: After Buffy comes to his house, Giles keeps his demeanor until he leaves for the kitchen to get the Scoobies a Spot of Tea. While in the kitchen listening to them talk and laugh, Giles has to stop what he's doing and choke back Manly Tears.
- Obligatory Joke:Xander: Oh, I would, but, uh, (reaches his hands around Cordelia's arm) I'm kind of tied up.
Cordelia: You wish.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Though normally one of Buffy's biggest fans, Xander is noticeably unenthusiastic about seeing her again, and his wisecracks have a nasty edge to them.
- Our Zombies Are Different: Type V
- Papa Wolf/Parental Substitute: After several attempts to have Buffy resume school are shot down by Snyder, Giles has a go. He is in full Ripper mode, and first threatens to go to the state government about Snyder's behavior, then...Snyder: I'm not convinced.
- Ripper shoves him against a filing cabinet, dearly wanting to hurt this slug of a man.
- Passive-Aggressive Kombat: The Scoobies act like they're glad to see Buffy, but repeatedly find excuses not to socialize with her.
- Pet the Dog: Out of all the Scoobies, Cordelia is the only one to actually sympathize with what she went through and try to defend her actions. However, she does so with her usual Brutal Honesty, leading Buffy to snap and tell her to stop helping.
- Raising the Steaks: The mask raises a dead stray cat buried in the Summers backyard.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: The eyes on the mask glow red when raising zombies.
- Rule of Symbolism:Xander: You can't just bury stuff, Buffy. It'll come right back up to get you.(Description Cut to Giles fighting a zombie.)
- Running Gag: The start of the Summers house getting trashed on a regular basis by the Monster of the Week.
- Sarcasm ModeGiles: Unbelievable. "Do you like my mask? Isn't it pretty? It raises the dead!" Americans!
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Some of the party-goers start filing out the door when the Scoobies start arguing loudly. They must have run straight into the approaching zombies.
- Shout-Out: The title is one to the Oingo Boingo song of the same name.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: When Joyce shouts at Buffy how worried she was over the summer after Buffy ran away, Buffy angrily retorts that she's conveniently leaving out the fact that Joyce told her to never come back if she left.
- Smug Snake:
Buffy: You're really enjoying this whole moral superiority thing, aren't you?
- Principal Snyder over not letting Buffy back in the school.
- Willow once Buffy has apologized.
Willow: (smiles) It's like a drug!
- So Much for Stealth: The Scoobies have a loud argument about Angel in front of a roomful of witnesses. Admittedly the references to Buffy's boyfriend being a demon (the word "vampire" isn't used) sound like an insulting euphemism, and the entire argument does sound like it's about Buffy running away after a bad break-up (or telling her mom she's gay). Then zombies come crashing through the windows, so upholding the Masquerade becomes moot — "The Prom" reveals this is one of the incidents that made it past the students' Weirdness Censor.
- Spot the Imposter: Cordelia and Oz suddenly bump into Giles.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.
- Spot of Tea: Naturally, the first thing Giles does is fetch tea and biscuits for his prodigal Slayer.
- Spy Speak/Code Name: "Nighthawk?"
- Stranger in a Familiar Land: Buffy finds Xander and Willow cold-shouldering her, her mother has made new friends in her absence, and she's still expelled from school so she can't even go back there.
- Tempting Fate: Oz tries to defuse the tension between Buffy and Xander.Willow: No, let them go, Oz. Talking about it isn't helping. We might as well try some violence.(Cue zombies crashing through front window)Willow: I was being sarcastic!
- Title Drop: From Oz, "I think the Dead Man's Party's moved upstairs."
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Most of the cast, actually.
- Buffy is still hurting from killing Angel and not only regrets coming back, but rejects family and friends. Justified when her friends practically ignore her and don't consider all the pain she must have been in.
- Xander is pissed that Buffy ran away from Sunnydale (she left to deal with her grief), and so patronizingly calls her leaving "selfish and stupid", says she's being an "idiot" for having trouble verbalizing her feelings, and belittles the months of emotional trauma she endured before running away as "boy troubles". And he does it in front of dozens of her classmates!
- Likewise Joyce accuses Buffy of running away to punish her, and can't understand how much Buffy is bound to her profession by fate, not choice.
- Willow surprisingly, though less so than Xander. When Buffy returns, she completely ignores her to the point of throwing her a "welcome home" party where she doesn't have to talk to her. And right to the end, she keeps complaining that Buffy wasn't there to hold her hand during Willow's entirely voluntary experiments with witchcraft over the summer, and that she had no-one to talk to about her apparently quite conflict-free relationship with Oz. She acts like this is somehow equivalent to what Buffy is dealing with, like being forced to murder the man she loved. (Though at this point Willow doesn't know yet that her re-ensoulment of Angel worked.)
- Snyder was always an asshole, but here he clearly shows he gets off on how much Buffy is hurting.
- Averted when Cordelia tries to sympathize, Oz attempts to mediate, and Giles fights Snyder on Buffy's behalf - and, unlike all the others and against Buffy's seeming expectations, Giles doesn't chew her out for running away. Even though he probably has the best reasons to do so.note
- Two Words: Added Emphasis: Principal Snyder refuses to allow Buffy back into school, so Giles goes to have a quiet word.Snyder: If the word is Buffy, then I have two words. "Good" and "Riddance".
- The Triple: With Snyder refusing Buffy readmittance to Sunnydale High, all Joyce can find for Buffy is a private girl's school.
- Giles tells Snyder he had no grounds for expelling Buffy in the first place. Snyder replies, "I have grounds, I have precedent...and a tingly kind of feeling."
- Unwanted Assistance. When Cordelia tries to put herself in Buffy's shoes with her usual Brutal Honesty.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!
Cordelia: I'm just trying to help.
- Volleying Insults: Willow and Buffy end the episode with a good-natured exchange of jibes.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Everyone (except Giles) comes down on Buffy for running away to the extent that she almost runs away again.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Devon is helping the others block the front door, but he vanishes when Cordelia comes back from the kitchen and isn't seen again. Likewise, there are students blocking the windows in the dining room who vanish when the zombies burst in.
- Wild Teen Party: The party was originally, as Giles planned it, just going to be a quiet affair to welcome Buffy home (which Buffy would have preferred), but her friends overrule him and turn it in to one of these; ostensibly because they think it's going to be more fun, but actually because there's all sorts of tensions surrounding why Buffy left which, now she's back, they're all avoiding dealing with—having the huge party is just an excuse to avoid her as much as possible while 'welcoming' her back. Needless to say, it gets ugly even before the zombies show up.
- Zombie Infectee: Pat is already dead when she gets hauled into the bedroom the Scoobies are holed up in. Then she becomes Not Quite Dead.
- Zombie GaitXander: (whaling on the zombie with an andrion) Man, this sucker wobbles, but he won't fall down!