Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Buffy: Out of Mind, Out of Sight (1.11)

One of the numerous wonderful moments in Out of Mind, Out of Sight is the classroom sequence where Cordelia explains her world-view: how everybody thinks their own problems are somehow more important than everybody else's, and how instead of whining about it, you should probably just get over it. And while you can bring up Cordelia's hilarious self-involvement over the course of her tenure in the Buffyverse, little of the vacuous and self-centered qualities to her personality are necessarily the 'real her'. She can be just as lonely and isolated as everybody else, yet why bother letting those emotions become your entire being? You can be surrounded by people and still be isolated. Like she says, "It beats being alone all by yourself".

The theme of isolation is reflected throughout the episode, from Cordelia's revelations about her own feelings of loneliness and Buffy's sad memories of being popular and distracted not by slayage but by fun and silliness, to the insanity of Marcie Ross, so sad and alone that she literally becomes invisible. That central idea is considerably deep, overcoming the fantasy goofiness of a floating baseball bat or whatever. Here we have various incarnations of the one overriding fear that we all experience in high school: that we'll be alone.

The idea is depicted so well. The flashback sequences are particularly painful, from Marcie's gradual resignation to the fact that she'll always be ignored, to the black comedy of Cordelia unconsciously repeating exactly what Marcie just remarked, getting the response that entirely eluded Marcie just a couple of seconds earlier. There's also that gut-wrenching moment where Xander and Willow both realize that they were just as complicit in Marcie's downfall as Cordelia and the popular kids were. These circumstances aren't cut-and-dry and easily understood, it's something they're all guilty of, even when their intentions are generally good.

Of course, away from the intelligent themes, Out of Mind, Out of Sight is plain kick-ass. Clea DuVall is brilliantly unhinged in the present-day scenes, her voice radiating a manic frenzy of bitterness and anger. The CIA coda, while still so out-of-place and isolated as an element in hindsight, is still remarkably effective, an ending you wish would have been followed up on somehow.

My favorite episode from season one, this is a flawless showcase for Charisma Carpenter and a wonderful depiction of how Buffy works when it is at its best. We have such strong character moments, some neat visual flourishes, and an idea that attacks like a sucker punch of emotion. A true series classic. A+

Guest stars David Boreanaz (Angel); Clea DuVall (Marcie Ross); Armin Shimerman (Principal Snyder)
Teleplay Ashley Gable, Thomas A. Swyden Story Joss Whedon Director Reza Badiyi


  1. No way does this rate better than Nightmares. I think this ep is OK, but nowhere near A+. I thought I'd be able to respect your opinion, but not when it's clearly so wrong.

    Ok, I hope that sounds as sarcastic in print as it does in my head. While I do disagree with some of your ratings (though not many of them) the reviews are awesome, so thanks.

  2. Aww, I have a real fondness for this episode. I love the themes, the use of metaphor, how brutally honest it all is as a commentary on high school politics. I don't know, it's to me the very first Buffy classic.

    But... yeah. Heh.