"The Prom" is the twentieth episode of the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the fifty-fourth episode in the series. Written by Marti Noxon and directed by David Solomon, it was originally broadcast on May 11, 1999, on The WB network.
DEVIL IN A PROM DRESS — Spring has definitely sprung in Sunnydale as talk turns to all things Prom, and while Buffy and Angel grapple with the impossibility of a future together, she is determined on keeping a villain intent on crashing the Prom from ruining her friends' perfect high school moment. Meanwhile, a chance encounter between Xander and Cordelia may have reopened their lines of communication, but he is saddled with a demonic Prom date, while Cordy only has eyes for the new watcher Wesley.
Buffy wakes up in Angel's bed at the mansion after the two fell asleep after patrol. Buffy talks about bringing some of her stuff over, "like couples do," and casually mentions going to the prom.
At school, Anya, still a mortal 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, he'll have to do something about it.
At the library, 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, Richard Wilkins 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 back onto the prom. Wesley and Giles, much to his own surprise, will both be chaperoning, which Buffy says 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 causes it to freak out.
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 when the sun shines on them. Angel awakes from the dream, worried.
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. However, Angel isn't interested, and snaps that there's more important things to worry about. After Buffy talks about how the prom and graduation are part of growing up, Angel finally tells her 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, so he breaks up with her and tells her he doesn't want to be with her. Buffy refuses to accept this at first; she asks him how she's expected to keep away from him, and Angel tells her than he's going to leave town after the Ascension.
At home, Buffy tells Willow about the break up and realizes that Angel was right; the two of them really can't be together. Despite the realization, she's heartbroken, and she cries on Willow's lap.
At April Fool, Xander spots Cordelia through the window and goes in to tease her about taking too long to choose a prom dress. However, he's stopped short when an assistant chides Cordelia for speaking to a friend while on the clock. Cordelia then reveals that because of her father's twelve year long tax fraud, she's now working there to save up for a prom dress on layaway. Her family has no money, nowhere to live, and she can't afford to go to any of the colleges that accepted her. Xander is lost for words, while Cordelia says that he can now go tell everyone that he now has a one-up on her. Suddenly, one of the beasts, now free from its cage, jumps through the window. When it focuses on Cordelia, Xander pushes her out of the way so it can attack him instead. However, just after starting to attack Xander, it spots a guy trying on a tux and it leaves Xander to attack him instead. After it's done, it jumps back out the window and leaves.
At the library, the gang study the video of the attack as Buffy mopes in the background, distracted by her recent breakup. Cordelia notices that the beast has good taste in clothes because he left Xander, who was wearing a sloppy out fit to go after the guy in formal wear. Buffy says she doesn't want to see it anymore, but Giles says it's important because she has to hunt down the creature. However, Giles and Wesley do recognize it as a hellhound, a vicious demon foot soldier bred for war. Wesley asks what Cordelia was doing in the store with Xander, and as Cordy struggles for a response, Xander covers by saying that she was burning a hole in daddy's wallet as usual and that he just bumped into her on his hunt for his tuxedo. Someone who appears to be controlling the hellhound is then spotted on the tape.
It turns out that the person is Tucker Wells, who Oz knew from a chemistry class. Tucker has plans to ruin prom night by sending a hellhound into the prom, trained to attack people in formal wear. Willow, Xander, and Oz all bemoan the fact that they're going to have to skip the prom, and this snaps Buffy out of her funk. She declares that she won't let one jerk ruin the prom for her friends, and she will do whatever it takes to preserve her class's special night. Buffy then issues orders for everyone to split up and search for clues. She ends up finding an address at the butcher, a place Tucker frequents to get food for his hounds. She runs into Angel, and the two have a post-breakup argument. As Cordelia leaves work, upset that she wasn't able to cover the cost of her prom 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. Tucker refuses to divulge his reasons for his vicious plan, though it's revealed in a flashback that he was rejected by the girl he asked. Buffy ties him up before he can release the hound, but soon finds out that there are more demons, three of which are en route to the school.
Buffy rushes to Sunnydale High and, after a few close calls, manages to kill all of the demons. Buffy changes into her prom dress and shows up for the dance. Cordelia clings to Wesley but not before thanking Xander for paying for her prom dress, ending the rift between them. Later, Anya tells Xander of her history of cursing men in long and graphic detail, while Willow and Oz just enjoy the evening.
When class awards are given out, Xander is snubbed for Class Clown. Jonathan goes up to the microphone and asks if Buffy is present. Everyone turns towards her as a spotlight shines on Buffy at the punch bowl. Jonathan reads a speech in which the Prom Committee acknowledges 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. They know that she's protected and saved almost all of the people present at the dance, contributing to the 1999 graduating class's record breaking low 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 umbrella trophy. Buffy, stunned and smiling, walks through all the cheering crowd, and receives her award.
Afterwards, the students enjoy the rest of the dance. Anya dances with Xander and finds herself not minding a bit, while Giles tells Wesley to stop worrying and ask Cordelia to dance. Buffy walks over to Giles, and he congratulates her on her work on getting rid of the hellhounds. He also expresses his surprise that the class could be so gracious. Buffy tells him that people can surprise you sometimes. Looking toward the door, Giles sees something, and holds Buffy's award for her. She turns and sees Angel standing there in a tux. He tells her he understands that it's an important night for her, but it doesn't change anything between them. Buffy accepts this, and the two dance.
- This episode marks the end of Buffy and Angel's relationship. He will leave Sunnydale after "Graduation Day, Part Two" and start the spin-off series Angel.
- Buffy achieves the high school moment she dreamed of ("Homecoming") and is floored to be recognized by her peers for her work.
- We learn in this episode that Cordelia's father was guilty of tax fraud of some sort, reducing her family to near poverty. This change eventually leads to her migration to L.A., where she will team up with Angel in "City Of."
- When Anya asks Xander to the prom, she references the events of "Lovers Walk" and "The Wish."
- Tucker Wells has an even more obscure brother, Andrew, who will become prevalent in the series from his debut in "Flooded," eventually becoming part of the Scooby Gang until the end of the series.
- Buffy states that Angel is 243 years old. Since he became a vampire in 1753 ("Becoming, Part One"), by 1999 he would have been a vampire for 246 years. She also doesn't account for his 26 years of life before becoming a vampire ("The Prodigal"), making him 272.
- Up until this point, it was normal for civilians in the series to not mention the supernatural events that they experience. Giles explained this as the ability of people to "rationalize what they can and forget what they can't" ("The Harvest"). This episode is the first time that the students of Sunnydale High openly show awareness of the supernatural events at their school. While Buffy is presented with the Class Protector Award, students shout out "zombies" ("Dead Man's Party") and "hyena people" ("The Pack") as examples.
- Mr. Chase (Only mentioned)
- Cordelia Chase
- Rupert Giles
- Alexander Harris
- Anya Jenkins
- Jonathan Levinson
- Jack Mayhew
- David Metz (Only mentioned)
- Daniel Osbourne
- Willow Rosenberg
- Snyder (Only mentioned)
- Buffy Summers
- Joyce Summers
- Tucker Wells
- Richard Wilkins (Only mentioned)
- Wesley Wyndam-Pryce
- Unidentified girl (The Prom) (Only in flashbacks)
Organizations and titles
- Big Lou's (Only mentioned)
- Chase residence (Only mentioned)
- Crawford Street
- Hellmouth (Only mentioned)
- Maple Court
- Revello Drive
- Sunnydale High School
- Wells residence
Rituals and spells
- Ascension (Only mentioned)
- One vampire, staked by Buffy.
- Unidentified man, killed by a hellhound.
- One hellhound, killed by Buffy with a crossbow.
- One hellhound, killed by Buffy with a knife.
- One hellhound, neck snapped by Buffy.
- One hellhound, killed by Buffy (only mentioned).
Behind the scenes
- Buffy's prom dress was designed by Pamela Dennis, while Vera Wang designed her wedding dress.
- Cordelia tells Wesley he'd look "way 007 in a tux." The shooting script for "Bad Girls" describes Wesley as: "thinks he's Sean Connery but he's pretty much George Lazenby."
- An unconfirmed rumor is that winner of the A Buffy Christmas sweepstakes, Jessica Johnson of Maryland, appears in this episode.
- Sarah Michelle Gellar listed this among her favorite episodes: "I loved 'The Prom.' It stood for everything Buffy was about: the fact that she so badly wanted to be part of the other kids' lives."
- Because "Earshot"'s premiere was delayed, viewers at the time 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.
- "The Prom" had an audience of 3.8 million households upon its original airing.
- This exchange was cut:
- Giles: "Fine. You're all suffering from a touch of Spring Madness, if you ask me."
- Oz: "Mine is more space madness. But I'll feel better once I get used to the weightlessness."
- Willow: "Promise me you'll never be linear."
- Oz: "On my trout."
Pop culture references
- Xander's "sock puppet of love" routine is reminiscent of Señor Wences, a ventriloquist who would draw a face on his hand and speak through it with a funny voice.
- Buffy's line "miles to go before we sleep" is a reference to the 1922 poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost.
- Xander refers to Tucker as "hellhound raiser," a wordplay on the Hellraiser franchise.
- On his way out to investigate at the Magic Box, Xander references Snausages, a brand of dog treats that was known for its television commercials.
- Buffy jokes that Angel gets his blood from "McPlasma's," a wordplay on the McDonald's fast food company.
- Buffy says she's "gotta stop a crazy from pulling a Carrie at the prom," in reference to the horror character who kills several of her classmates during prom.
- The tapes Tucker uses to train the hellhounds to attack the prom include the films: Prom Night (1980), Pump up the Volume, Prom Night IV: Deliver Us from Evil (1992), Pretty in Pink (1984), The Club (1994), and Carrie (1976).
- Oz says he teared up when they played the 1979 disco song "We Are Family" by Sister Sledge.
- At the prom, when Giles and Wesley are at the snack table, Wesley is holding a red napkin. When it cuts from Cordelia walking in and Wesley says "very hot," the napkin is now yellow.
- Christophe Beck — "Dearly Beloved"
- Christophe Beck — "Beginning of the End"
- Cracker — "The Good Life"
- Kool & the Gang — "Celebration"
- Fatboy Slim — "Praise You"
- Christophe Beck — "Class Protector"
- The Lassie Foundation — "El Rey"
- The Sundays — "Wild Horses"
- Armenian: "Ավարտական պարահանդես" (Graduation Ball)
- Czech: "Maturitní ples" (Graduation Ball)
- Finnish: "Tanssiaiset" (Prom)
- French: "Les Chiens de l'Enfer" (The Hell Hounds)
- German: "Der Höllenhund" (The Hellhound)
- Hungarian: "Az iskolai bál" (The School Ball)
- Italian: "Il Ballo" (The Ball)
- Japanese: "Prom Party" (プロムパーティ)
- Polish: "Bal absolwentów" (Graduation Ball)
- Portuguese (Brazil): "O Baile de Formatura" (The Graduation Ball)
- Romanian: "Banchetul" (Banquet)
- Russian: "Выпускной бал" (Graduation Ball)
- Spanish (Latin America): "El Baile de Graduación" (The Graduation Ball)
- Spanish (Spain): "El Baile de Fin de Curso" (The Ball of End of Course)
- This episode is included in The Slayer Collection: Cordelia DVD.
- The novel Sunnydale High Yearbook includes mentions and pictures of events from this episode.
- Two Buffy the Vampire Slayer action figures were based on Buffy and Angel during the prom.
- The Big Bads & Monsters Adult Coloring Book features an illustrated of the hellhounds running to the prom.
- The song "Wild Horses" by The Sundays was included in The Album.
- This episode's original score was included in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Soundtrack Collection.
Behind the scenes
|Anya: "You know, you can laugh, but I have witnessed a millennium of treachery and oppression from the males of the species. And I have nothing but contempt for the whole libidinous lot of them."|
|Xander: "Then why are you talking to me?"|
|Anya: "I don't have a date for the prom."|
|Xander: "Well, gosh. I wonder why not? It couldn't have anything to do with your sales pitch."|
|Anya: "Men are evil. Will you go with me?"|
|Xander: "One of us is very confused, and I honestly don't know which."|
|Joyce: "I don't have to tell you that you and Buffy come from different worlds."|
|Angel: "No, you don't."|
|Joyce: "She's had to deal with a lot, grow up fast. Sometimes even I forget that she's still just a girl."|
|Angel: "And I'm old enough to be her ancestor."|
|Joyce: "She's just starting out in life."|
|Angel: "I know. I think about it more now that she's staying in Sunnydale."|
|Joyce: "Good. Because when it comes to you, Angel, she's just like any other young woman in love. You're all she can see of tomorrow. But I think we both know that there are some hard choices ahead. If she can't make them, you're gonna have to. I know you care about her. I just hope you care enough."|
|Oz: "Once again, the Hellmouth puts the 'special' in 'special occasion.'"|
|Wesley: "Mr. Giles. I'd like your opinion. While the last thing I want to do is model bad behavior in front of impressionable youth, I wonder if asking Miss Chase to dance would-"|
|Giles: "For God's sake, man, she's eighteen. And you have the emotional maturity of a blueberry scone. Just have at it, would you, and stop fluttering about."|
|Wesley: "Right, then. Thanks for that."|
|Jonathan: "We have one more award to give out. Is Buffy Summers here tonight? Did she, um... This is actually a new category. First time ever. I guess there were a lot of write-in ballots, and, um, well, t-the prom committee asked me to read this. 'We're not good friends. Most of us never found the time to get to know you, but that doesn't mean we haven't noticed you. We don't talk about it much, but it's no secret that Sunnydale High isn't really like other high schools. A lot of weird stuff happens here.'"|
|Student #1: "Zombies!"|
|Student #2: "Hyena people!"|
|Student #3: "Snyder!"|
|Jonathan: "'But whenever there was a problem or something creepy happened, you seemed to show up and stop it. Most of the people here have been saved by you or helped by you at one time or another. We're proud to say that the class of '99 has the lowest mortality rate of any graduating class in Sunnydale history, and we know at least part of that is because of you.' So the senior class offers its thanks and gives you, uh, uh, this. It's from all of us, and it has written here, 'Buffy Summers, Class Protector.'"|
- "The Mortuary." Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Archived from the original on February 15, 2001.
- Evan Ross Katz, "Buffy's Costume Designer Had the Best Job in the World." Paper Magazine, April 8, 2021.
- "Bad Girls Script." Buffy World. Archived from the original on July 16, 2019.
- Keith Topping, Slayer: An Expanded and Updated Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Virgin Books, June 2002.
- Jeff Jensen, "The Goodbye Girl." Entertainment Weekly, March 7, 2003.
- Joal Ryan, "'Buffy' Slayed by School Massacre." E! Online, April 23, 1999.
- "Nielsen Ratings for Buffy's Third Season." Nielsen Ratings for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, & Firefly. Archived from the original on July 5, 2008.
- "The Prom Script." BuffyWorld. Archived from the original on August 14, 2008.