The Prom
originally aired May 11, 1999

Cordelia Synopsis

It's the big prom day and everyone is talking about what they're going to wear.  The scooby gang are sitting inside the library and an argument ensues about the importance of the prom over the Ascension.  Buffy and Willow argue that they should be allowed their one perfect night while Giles and Wesley say that the prom is insignificant compared to the certain doom of the Ascension.  Then, Cordelia says to Wesley when he says the prom is a waste of time:

"Well that's too bad because I bet you'd look way 007 in a tux."
Willow also doesn't have a prom dress yet, and Buffy says:
Buffy: We'll get you a dress.  You know we should check April Fool's.
Cordelia: Don't go there!...I shop there!
Later, Xander walks by the dress store (April Fool's) again and notices Cordelia inside holding up a dress.  Of course he walks in to tease her and Cordelia tries the best she can to cover up the real reason she's there.  Her attempts to cover up the truth are unsuccessful, however, as a co-worker tells Cordelia she better go back to work as Mrs. Finkle 'has it in for her'.  The following exchange ensues:
Xander: You work here?
Cordelia: Yes!  Yes!  I work here.
Xander: But, uh, why?
Cordelia: I'm trying to buy a dress.
Xander: But don't you already have all the dresses?
Cordelia: I have nothing, ok?  No dresses!  No cell phone!  No car!  Everything has been taken away because daddy made a little mistake on his taxes...for the last twelve years.  Satisfied?  Are you a happy Xander now?  I'm broke!  I can't go to any of the colleges that accepted me, and I can't stay home because we no longer have one.
Cordelia: [making a scene] Yeah!  Neato!  Now you can run along and tell all of your friends how Cordy finally got hers!  How she has to work part-time just to get a lousy prom dress on layaway!  [walks off but then turns around]  AND, how she has to wear a name tag!  Oh, I'm a name tag person!  Don't leave that out because the story just wouldn't have the same punch!
Right then the hell hound jumps in through window and Xander pushes Cordy out of the way to protect her.  He tries to stop the hound but it goes to attack a man wearing a tuxedo and then leaves.  Later, when everyone is sitting in the library reviewing the surveillence video of the attack, Cordelia says:
Cordelia: You know the part that totally weirded me out?  That thing had taste!  I mean he chucked Xander and went right for the formal wear!
Nobody really pays attention to what Cordelia says because they think she's just being superficial as she normally acts around them.  Then Wesley asks:
Wesley: What, uh, were you doing with Xander?
Cordelia: What? was...
Xander: ...burning a hole in daddy's wallet as usual.  I just bumped into her during my tuxedo hunt.
Cordelia is visibly surprised and grateful for Xander's help in covering up the real reason why she was at the dress shop.  After more research and a little hacking done by Willow, the gang finally comes to the conclusion that the hell hound had been trained to attack anything in formal wear:
Giles: ...a hell hound trained to attack people in formal wear...
Cordelia: Oh, are we all catching up now?
Later, as Cordelia is going home from the dress shop, her co-worker reminds her to take her prom dress with her.  Cordelia then admits that she doesn't have enough money to pay for it yet when she is surprised to hear that somebody paid for it already!  So Cordelia shows up to the prom wearing her beautiful dress and as she walks in, Wesley starts choking on his food as he stares in awe of Cordelia:
Wesley: May I say you look smashing?
Cordelia: It's a start!
The two walk off together hand-in-hand, and on their way they run into Xander and his prom date, Anya.  Xander is clearly desperate for some different conversation other than hearing about gruesome wishes Anya had granted in the past so he asks Wesley and Cordelia how they are doing:
Wesley: Very well, thank you.
Cordelia: Yes!  Thank you.
Xander: It [the dress] looks good on you.
Cordelia: Well duh! [smiles]
Cordelia says 'thank you' in such a way as to tell Xander that she's figured out that he bought the dress for her and she's very grateful.  Xander gets the message and the two give each other understanding looks.  As the episode ends where Buffy gets the 'Class Protector' award and everyone starts slow dancing, Cordelia and Wesley start dancing together.

Most memorable line

Cordelia gets to prove that she's not as frivolous and stupid as everyone thinks:

"Oh, are we all catching up now?"
Most memorable scene

The scene where Cordelia is forced to tell Xander the truth about her situation is a classic.  Charisma did an excellent job with her lines and you could see how hard it was for her to come to terms with the humiliation she felt.

What we learn

Story arcs Comments

Mesuvius: Well, Marti's done it again.  Marti Noxon, the writer of such classic episodes as 'Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered' and 'I Only Have Eyes For You,' really knows how to write for the characters of Buffy.  The development of Cordelia in this episode was a huge step forward while staying true to the Cordelia character which is a very difficult thing to do.  Charisma put in a great performance (loved the scene with her and Xander in the dress shop) and I love how Cordelia was finally forced to release all the secrets that she's been keeping bottled up inside.  The theme I got out of this episode was the mending of relationships and being honest to yourself (ie, Cordelia and Xander, Buffy and Angel, etc.) and I thought it was very well done.  Of course the perfect high school moment scenario of this episode will certainly not be happening again over the next two weeks as a season finale which will probably severely traumatize us will be shown.  Can't wait! :)

TyMcNeal:  Well, wasn't that just a big bucket o' fun? "The Prom" finally gave the characters one perfect night, something they deserve after all the trauma they've been through this year. We get one of Marti Noxon's best, along with "The Wish," and just behind last year's "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered." The actors showed they appreciated her effort with some great performances. Of course, more set up for "Angel," with Angel announcing that he'll be leaving town after the Ascension. Cordelia's dire financial straits are established, leading to her eventual "employment" with Angel. I also appreciated that Cordelia got the significance of the formal wear. That kind of deductive reasoning should come in handy if the EW article is on-target.
I liked the scene in the dress shop. Even with a lot of reasons to do so, Cordelia won't lie to Xander about why she's working there. But the best Cordy moment is, naturally, when she and Xander meet at the prom. I've seen a lot of people slamming her for being self-centered in this scene. I don't see it. She's obviously sincerely thanking Xander for his gesture. The "Well, duh!" is delivered teasingly and Xander smiles at it, accepting it as teasing. I saw it as her way of saying, 'We're cool, let's end the war.' A nicely done bit, verbal and non-verbal, by both Nick Brendon and Charisma. Now for one last X/C dance at a post-graduation Bronze party, just to wrap things up neatly. Finally, if Cordy-lust doesn't give Wesley a spine, I give that 'ship until the first time she sees him cowering in fear. Still, they seem to be so into each other that I wonder if Cordy wouldn't have broken it off with Xander to chase Wes even without the fluking. I guess we'll never know. Overall, ! a really well-spent hour of television viewing, and a return of Cordy-with-layers. Yay.

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