"The Wish" is the ninth episode of the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer television show, and is the forty-third episode in the series. Written by Marti Noxon and directed by David Greenwalt, it originally broadcast on December 8, 1998 on The WB network.
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR — Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned-Cordelia, wanting to be rid of all things Xander and his spooky entourage, decides that all of her troubles started when Buffy moved to Sunnydale and wishes that historic event never actually happened. Not knowing that a an evil genie would grant her fateful wish, Cordelia is transported into an altered reality in which the Hellmouth is open and The Master is alive and ruling, with Willow and Xander as his undead minions.
Buffy, Willow, and Xander are in the park, where they were attacked by a demon. After they slay it, they discuss the fallout of Xander and Willow's kiss. Xander says he's left many voicemails on Cordelia's phone, but she has yet to return his calls. Willow admits that she feels terrible about what happened and that the idea of Oz not speaking to her again upsets her more. Xander asks Buffy, who's also feeling low after severing ties with Angel, how she's coping. She responds that she finds comfort in her friends.
Cordelia is in her bedroom, with the wound from her impaling still fresh. She goes through pictures of Xander, cutting up and burning them, as she listens to his countless messages.
At school the next morning, Willow hangs around near Oz's locker, hoping to catch him. She tells Buffy that Amy saw Cordelia at the mall, looking "scary." Outside school, Cordelia pulls up in her car. Dressed to impress, and trying to appear as confident as possible, she strides through school until she runs into Harmony and her clique. Cordelia is surprised when Harmony seemingly welcomes her back into the group with open arms. She is then introduced to Anya, a new girl at school. Harmony tells Cordelia that she needs to get back into the dating game, and tells her about a "stallion", who turns out to be Jonathan. The group laughs and walk away from Cordelia, with Anya close behind.
As Oz gets books from his locker, Willow runs up and starts apologizing for everything. Oz tells her she's already said it all, and Willow asks if there's anything she can do. Oz tells her to leave him alone as he needs time to figure out where their relationship stands, and it's not his problem that she's feeling guilty nor is it his responsibility to make her feel better. He walks away.
Cordelia spots Xander walking towards her and asks a random jock named John Lee to come near her. She actually asks if she has anything in her teeth, but she makes it appear that, from Xander's point of view, the two are kissing. As Xander walks away, John Lee tells Cordelia that he can't risk being caught speaking to "Xander Harris' cast-off" and quickly leaves. Cordelia then runs into Anya, who admits that she doesn't like Harmony, dismissing her tendency to say whatever she thinks is "cool" at the moment. The two quickly befriend each other, united in their general disdain for men.
At the Bronze that evening, Cordelia and Anya hang out with a group of people. Xander, sitting with Willow and Buffy, pretends to laugh and begs his two friends to help. Buffy tells Xander that, although she supports him, she won't takes sides against Cordelia, and Willow says she's still upset about Oz. Xander declares that he's sick of feeling guilty and is ready to pick himself up. Buffy and Willow agree, but their enthusiasm quickly fades.
While at the bar grabbing drinks, Buffy sees Cordelia moving toward the door and decides to follow. Outside, Cordy accuses her of being sent by Xander, but Buffy explains that it was her own choice to come. She tells Cordelia that she understands how much Cordelia is hurting, and how she felt better after talking with friends. Suddenly, a vampire attacks and Buffy makes quick work of it, but in the scuffle Cordelia is pushed into a pile of garbage. Harmony and her friends come out of the Bronze and spot Cordelia, covered in garbage, and laugh at her. Cordelia declares that all of her bad luck over the last couple of years is Buffy's fault.
In the next morning, Cordelia tells Anya about the Bronze incident, revealing that her fall into the garbage popped some of the stitches on her torso. Anya gives Cordelia her necklace, which she calls a "good luck charm", and agrees with Cordelia's complaints. As Buffy, Willow and Xander sit nearby, Cordelia tells Anya: "I wish Buffy Summers had never come to Sunnydale." Anya suddenly turns around in full demon visage and says "Done", with a sudden flash of bright light. When it clears, Anya is gone, and so are the majority of the students. Cordelia, now injury-free, realizes that Anya is a "good fairy" that granted her wish. In the hallway, Cordelia bumps into Harmony and company, who are her friends again as they gossip about the other students. One of the girls comments on Cordelia's "daring" outfit, as the rest are wearing dark clothing. Just then, John Lee approaches Cordelia and asks if she'll go with him to the upcoming "Winter Brunch". Cordelia doesn't know what the event is, but tells John that she'll call him anyway.
In class, which is populated by less than a half of the normal amount of students, the teacher reminds them that there will be no classes the next day due to the monthly memorial, and he bolts for the door. Cordelia asks Harmony, who is also rushing out, what the hurry is. Harmony explains that her mother worries when she's late home, and she wants to get back before curfew starts in an hour. Cordelia is confused and suggests going to the Bronze, which the girls think is a sick joke. Harmony then asks Cordelia if everything is okay, because she's acting strange. Cordelia claims that she's having trouble remembering things, and asks if Xander and Willow are miserable. Harmony confirms, telling Cordelia that they're both dead.
Heading to the parking lot at dusk, Cordelia finds it empty. She asks the janitor what's going on, and he explains that students aren't allowed to drive, suggesting that she get home before sunset. Walking through Maple Court, she finds all the businesses are closed and the place is almost deserted. She suddenly runs into Xander and Willow, dressed in dark leather clothing. Cordelia is relieved to see them and admits that Sunnydale was much better with Buffy around. Willow, wrapping her arms around Xander, says that she's bored and ready to feed. They kiss, much to Cordelia's dismay, but she gets even more of a shock when she realizes the two are vampires. She runs away, but doesn't get far before Xander knocks her out. However, before he can feed, Giles, Oz, and Larry turn up armed with crosses and weapons. They keep the two vampires at bay as they gather Cordelia and leave in Oz's van. In the library, the three, along with another member named Nancy, notice Cordelia's bright clothing, something known to attract vampires. Giles then sends them out to watch the perimeter.
Xander and Willow head to the Bronze, a vampire hangout with caged humans. In the back area, the two speak to their ruler, the Master. He picks up a girl he had just tried to feed on, telling them he couldn't because she kept looking at him. He tosses her to Willow, who picks up where he left off. The Master asks for a report, and Xander tells him of their near-kill before the "White Hats" stopped them. The Master promises that Giles will soon be dealt with. Xander then mentions that Cordelia mentioned "the slayer." The Master tells him it's especially important to keep Slayers out with the opening of "the plant" less than a day away, and orders the two to kill Cordelia or else, since she spoke of summoning a Slayer.
In the library, Cordelia wakes up telling Giles it was all because she made a stupid wish, but Giles assumes she's hysterical. However, Cordelia then asks him why he is in Sunnydale when Buffy isn't, given that he was her Watcher. Giles is confused because he's never revealed his Watcher status to anyone. A noise outside catches his attention, and he enters the cage to grab weapons as he asks Cordelia to start over. However, the cage shuts behind him, as Xander and Willow arrive. Locking Giles in, the two bite Cordelia and drink of her blood. They depart and leaving Cordelia's corpse fallen on the ground. Finally kicking his way out of the cage, Giles meets up with a battered Oz and Larry who tell him the vampires surprised them. Nancy is dead. Giles has the two take Cordelia's body to the incinerator. However, he notices Cordelia's necklace and removes it before they take her away.
As the Master pours himself some blood from an espresso machine, Xander and Willow arrive and report their success. Willow tells the Master that she's been good, and he allows her to play with the "puppy". In his apartment, Giles makes a call to the Slayer's Watcher and explains he needs to meet with her. However, he learns that the Slayer doesn't check in with her Watcher often because she's so busy, so Giles leaves a message before going back to research.
Willow heads into an area where a figure is lying in a cage. Willow talks to the prisoner about how much she hates daylight, but now she's allowed to play. The man in the cage doesn't answer, so Willow enters and yanks his head back, revealing the prisoner to be Angel. She opens his shirt to reveal several large open sores. Willow boasts that the people Angel tried to save will die that evening, but it'll be quick, which is more than can be said for Angel. Xander tosses Willow some matches and tells her that he's more than happy to watch. Willow lights a match and prepares to have fun.
With the necklace in hands, Giles finds references to a demon named Anyanka, the patron saint of scorned women. Larry asks what she does, and Giles explains that Anyanka grants wishes. He then remembers Cordelia saying that the world was meant to be different. He sends Oz and Larry home as he prepares to look through more research materials. Driving back to his apartment, Giles spots vampires herding several people into a truck. He attacks and frees the citizens but cannot fight off the vampires. As he lies on the ground, he suddenly hears a scuffle and the vampires are slain. Looking up, he sees a battle-hardened girl, who confirms that she is Buffy Summers and asks him what she's doing there.
Taking Buffy to his house, Giles explains that Anyanka's power lies in her power center and, if it is destroyed, all the wishes she's ever granted will be reversed. Buffy is uninterested and simply asks how to kill her, but Giles explains that it isn't necessary. Giles tells her that the Master is the supreme vampire in the town and is planning something for that evening. The Slayer immediately sets out to kill him. Giles tells her she'll need a plan, but she isn't interested and demands to know where the Master lives. Buffy goes to the Bronze to find it completely deserted. Heading into the basement, she finds Angel cowering in the cage. He recognizes her and tells her that he waited for her but she never came. When the Master rose from the Hellmouth, Angel was imprisoned. He asks to be released so he can help her, and Buffy, tired of being regarded as Sunnydale's savior, moves to free him. However, when Angel recoils from her cross pendant, Buffy realizes he's a vampire. She balks at the idea of releasing him, thinking he's leading her into a trap. Angel shows her his scars, explaining that if nothing else is true: he wants the Master dead.
At the plant, the Master gives a speech in front of an assembled throng of vampires as Willow and Xander stand at his side. In a nearby holding area, human prisoners, including the newly captured Larry and Oz, listen as the Master explains his plans: he is pushing aside the anarchic tradition of hunting and killing, and introducing mass production. He orders one of the prisoners, a member of Harmony's gang, placed on the machine in front of him. She struggles, and the vampires stun her into paralysis. Still live, she is moved along the conveyor as several metal arms are forced into her body, draining her blood.
At his apartment, Giles is in the middle of summoning Anyanka. His ritual is successful, and Anyanka appears, upset that a man summoned her. As the Master finishes his speech, Buffy and Angel arrive. She points a crossbow at the Master and fires, but he spots her and uses Xander as a shield, the arrow hitting him in the shoulder. All hell then breaks loose, as Angel releases the prisoners. They all scatter, except for a few, including Larry and Oz, that stay to fight the vampires.
Giles asks what Cordelia wished for, and Anyanka just gloats that she had no idea the wish would create such an exciting world. She advances on him, but Giles isn't afraid as Anyanka's power lies solely in the wishing. Anyanka grabs him by the neck and lifts him off the ground, telling him that she is the wishing. As Buffy fights the numerous vampires, Xander attempts to attack from behind. Angel spots this and saves her, though he is staked in the process. He says Buffy's name just as he turns to dust. Buffy continues the assault.
Anyanka tells Giles that the world they live in now is the only world there is and there's no going back. In the plant, the fight continues. Buffy stakes Xander, as Oz pushes Willow back onto the wooden cage, killing her. The Master moves to fight Buffy personally.
Giles spots Anyanka's necklace, identical to the one Cordelia was wearing, glowing. He rips it off her. Buffy fights the Master, but she is overtaken and he is able to snap her neck.
Giles grabs a blunt object from his desk and prepares to destroy the necklace. Anyanka tells Giles he has no way of knowing if the other world is truly better. Giles, knowing the other world couldn't be any worse than this one, doesn't hesitate and smashes it. Buffy's body drops to the floor as the wish reverses.
Everything reverses to the exact moment Cordelia wishes that Buffy hadn't moved there, though the former doesn't remember anything. Anya attempts to grant the wish, but nothing happens. Cordelia, enjoying the idea of wishing for stuff, starts to wish horrible things on her former friends and men in general. Anya follows, unsuccessful in granting any wishes, as Buffy, Willow, and Xander sit nearby, talking and laughing.
- After Buffy slays the demon, Willow asks: "Is anyone else waiting for it to go poof?" She would say the same line on Xander and Anya's wedding day in "Hell's Bells".
- Buffy's talk with Cordelia outside the Bronze mirrors the talk they had in the episode "When She Was Bad", only in reverse roles.
- This is the second time Cordelia would be caught outside the Bronze in garbage, the first being in "Some Assembly Required".
- This episode marks Anya's first appearance. Her first arrival happens to serve revenge on Xander, whom she later ends up falling in love with.
- The scene where Cordelia walks through Sunnydale's main street finding it a deserted wasteland with the populace too frightened to venture out at night is repeated shot by shot in 'Doppelgängland' where Vampire Willow finds it full of happy people.
- The Wishverse showcases the difference Buffy coming to Sunnydale makes, that things would be infinitely worse without her. This is especially relevant to "Gingerbread" where Joyce questions whether Buffy really does any good by being the Slayer.
- This marks the first episode in which an evil form of Willow says her catchphrase: "Bored now." She later repeats this in "Doppelgängland" and "Villains".
- This is the first mention of Cleveland, Ohio as another Hellmouth and center of demon activity.
- This version of events is different from what would eventually be established in "Something Blue", "Triangle" and "Selfless" (though the tome Giles is reading from might not be 100% accurate): Anya cursed her unfaithful lover Olaf herself, attracting the attention of the demon D'Hoffryn, and accepted D'Hoffryn's offer to "elevate" her to demon status.
- Angel described Buffy as his "destiny". This was actually confirmed to be literally correct, as Whistler reveals that they were inevitably destined to meet each other and create the Twilight universe for a "greater evolution", in Riley: Commitment Through Distance, Virtue Through Sin and The Hero of His Own Story.
- Giles reads that destroying Anyanka's necklace would reverse all of the wishes she fulfilled. This seems to only apply in the world where the power center is destroyed, as in episode "Hell's Bells" one of her former victims is still under her curse.
- Even in the alternate reality, the prophecy of the Pergamum Codex still comes to pass as the Master kills Buffy in both realities. However, Buffy could not have been revived in this episode, as neck snapping is irreversible.
- This episode's premise, along with that of "Birthday", are very similar: a dissatisfied and disillusioned Cordelia makes a pact with a higher power (Anyanka and The Powers That Be, respectively) to have history rewritten (in "The Wish", Cordelia wished Buffy had never came to Sunnydale, while in "Birthday", Cordelia wishes that she had never met up with Angel at a party in L.A., instead running into a talent agent who makes her into a celebrity), resulting in a future which Cordelia initially appreciates, but soon regrets due to the tragedies that resulted from her decision. In both episodes, the future is returned to normal, the only difference being that in "Birthday" Cordelia is the one to change time back to normal, while in "The Wish" it is Giles.
- Angel does not appear in the scenes taking place in the main reality, as he is keeping his distance from Buffy after the events of "Lovers Walk".
- Angel (Wishverse)
- Larry Blaisdell (Wishverse)
- Cordelia Chase
- Ted Chervin (Only mentioned)
- Rupert Giles
- Rupert Giles (Wishverse)
- Ginger (Only mentioned)
- Alexander Harris
- Alexander Harris (Wishverse)
- Harmony Kendall
- Harmony Kendall (Wishverse)
- Jonathan Levinson
- Amy Madison (Only mentioned)
- Master (Wishverse)
- Daniel Osbourne
- Daniel Osbourne (Wishverse)
- Willow Rosenberg
- Willow Rosenberg (Wishverse)
- Buffy Summers
- Buffy Summers (Wishverse)
- John Lee Walker
- John Lee Walker (Wishverse)
- Unidentified caretaker
- Unidentified Cordette
- Unidentified Cordette (Wishverse)
- Unidentified demon
- Unidentified teacher
Organizations and titles
- Battle at the Blood Plant
- Winter Brunch (Only mentioned)
Weapons and objects
Rituals and spells
- Unidentified demon, stabbed in the chest by Buffy Summers.
- A vampire, dusted by Buffy Summers.
- Unidentified girl, drained by a vampire in front of the Bronze (in alternate reality).
- Unidentified girl, drained by Willow (in alternate reality).
- Cordelia Chase, drained by Willow and Xander (in alternate reality).
- Nancy, killed by vampire (only mentioned, in alternate reality).
- Three vampires, dusted by Buffy (in alternate reality).
- Unidentified boy, drained by vampires at the Bronze (in alternate reality).
- Unidentified Cordette, drained with a machine by the Master (in alternate reality).
- Angel, staked by Xander (in alternate reality).
- Xander, staked by Buffy (in alternate reality).
- Willow, staked by Oz and Larry (in alternate reality).
- Buffy, neck snapped by the Master (in alternate reality).
Behind the scenes
- From this episode on, the vampire dusting effect now features the vampire's skeleton as they turn to dust.
- Two lines were cut from Giles' conversation with Anyanka:
- (Giles: "Cordelia Chase, what did she wish for?")
- (Anyanka: "I had no idea her wish would be so exciting. Brave new world. I hope she likes it.")
- Giles: "She's dead."
- Anyanka: "It happens."
Pop culture references
- When the Master sits down at the Bronze and asks for news from Xander, he says: "Now, what news on the Rialto?" This is a quote from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, at least the third time this play has been mentioned on Buffy.
Goofs, bloopers & continuity errors
- After Cordelia obliviously asks the Cordettes if they want to go to the Bronze, you can clearly see a microphone above Harmony as she exclaims, "is that a joke?"
- In "Prophecy Girl" the Master tells Buffy that he wouldn't have been able to leave his imprisonment if she hadn't faced him, and yet in this episode he is seen at the Bronze. It should be noted that The Harvest could have taken place as planned and released the Master without the presence of the Slayer.
- The Spies — "Tired of Being Alone" (Plays while the Scoobies are at the Bronze.)
- Music House — "Get Out of My Way" (Plays as Buffy follows Cordelia outside the Bronze.)
- Christophe Beck — "Bizarro Sunnydale"
- John 5 — "Plastic" (Plays as vampires Xander and Willow enter the Bronze.)
- Christophe Beck — "Blood Machine"
- Christophe Beck — "Slayer's Elegy"
- Gingersol — "Never Noticed" (Plays after reality returns and Cordelia's wish is revoked.)
- Armenian: "Ցանկություն" (Wish)
- Czech: "Přání" (Wish)
- Finnish: "Toivomus" (Wish)
- French: "Meilleurs Vœux de Cordelia" (Best Wishes from Cordelia)
- German: "Was wäre wenn..." (What If...)
- Hungarian: "A kívánság" (The Wish)
- Italian: "Il Desiderio" (The Wish)
- Japanese: "ねがい" (Wish)
- Polish: "Życzenia" (Wishes)
- Portuguese (Brazil): "O Desejo" (The Wish)
- Romanian: "Dorința" (Wish)
- Russian: "Желание" (Wish)
- Spanish (Latin America and Spain): "El Deseo" (The Wish)
- The episode script was included in "The Script Book: Season Three, Volume 2".
- Four Buffy the Vampire Slayer action figures were produced based on Willow, Anyanka, Xander, and Cordelia in this episode.
- The episode was included in the DVD collection Curse of the Hellmouth.
- Joss Whedon ranked this episode as his sixth favorite of the entire series in The Last Sundown featurette of the Buffy season 7 DVD, and is notable for being the only episode on the list that was not at least partially written by him (although he was uncredited for his writing contribution for "Conversations with Dead People" which ranked ninth on the list).
- This is the only episode where Cordelia and Anya have direct interaction. Although they both play primary love interests to Xander, the two outspoken women only speak to one another in this episode.
Behind the scenes
|Larry - "Okay, the entire world sucks because some dead ditz made a wish? I just want to be clear."|
|Buffy - "Why don't I just put a stake through her heart?"|
|Giles - "She's not a vampire."|
|Buffy - "Yeah, well, you'd be surprised how many things that'll kill."|
|Buffy - "World is what it is. We fight, we die. Wishing doesn't change that."|
|Giles - "I have to believe in a better world."|
|Buffy - "Go ahead. I have to live in this one."|
|Anya - "You trusting fool! How do you know the other world is any better than this?!"|
|Giles - "Because it has to be."|
|Cordelia - "I wish Buffy Summers had never come to Sunnydale."|
|Anya - "Done."|
|Cordelia - "That would be cool. No wait, I wish Buffy Summers had never been born."|
|Anya - "Done."|
|Cordelia - "And I wish that Xander Harris never again knows the touch of a woman. And that Willow wakes up tomorrow covered in monkey hair."|
|Anya - "Done."|
|Cordelia - "In fact, I wish all men, except maybe the dumb and the really agreeable kind, disappear off the face of the Earth. That would be so cool."|