Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Directed by: Reza Badiyi
Written by: Ashley Gable and Thomas A. Swyden
Story by: Joss Whedon (notice how they are better when he plots out a narrative?)
Air Date: May 19, 1997
Early in the episode, an English class discusses Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” and the line “If you wrong us, shall we not take revenge?” is dropped. This very line is the theme of the episode, to a point, but only in regards to the drive for Clea DuVall’s excellent portrayal of Marcie Ross, a girl ignored by everyone and who, though quantum-mechanics (something Giles is ashamed to have neglected in his research) is made invisible. With this new ability, she sets out to take her aforementioned revenge out on one person in particular: everyone’s favorite pretty lady, Cordelia. What follows is a showcasing of the BtVS’s quality storytelling, character development, and the cast’s awesome range, as well as one hell of a “monster of the week” episode.
This episode also employs some powerful themes you might miss on first glance, but are brought to the forefront immediately by the superb acting of SMG, Charisma Carpenter, and – of course – guest star DuVall (whose turn on Carnivale, later in life? Also perfect). While this is a story about being an outcast from one perspective, from another its all about loneliness. This episode’s three main ladies each suffer through their own special kind, and deal with it differently. Marcie, clearly, seeks out revenge and Cordelia – as she herself mentions – surrounds herself to relieve the pain. Buffy? She just continues to press on, doing what she’s doing, letting the things she wants go in favor of “saving the world a lot”. There is a beautiful moment where Buffy actually smiles upon seeing Cordelia trying on her dress for the coronation of “May Queen” – SMG plays this well, with enough conviction in the eyes to make it real.
You might notice that I’m sitting here, praising the hell out of this episode more than any of the others. That’s because I had the most profound reaction to this episode. Previous watches were mostly to just get through the first season. Its no secret (to me or to everyone else out there) that the first 12 episodes are lackluster in comparison to everything that follows. But watching to “review” each individual episode, I have to look for more detail, more story. In short: more things to complain about or be in favor of. This episode surprised me. I’d always liked it: I liked the character of Marcie (though I’ve always been miffed that they never brought her back in any way, shape, or form, particularly the comics); I liked the way she became invisible; I liked the FBI dudes all around campus and showing up to “save the day” at the end and the hint that they’ve been doing these kinds of things all this time (are they The Initiative? ); and I liked the showcasing of Cordelia actually being a human being I can tolerate and not want to punch in the face, for the first time. These things made it a solid B episode.
But here’s the deal: In comparison to everything else that has happened before this episode – especially in regards to production values and overall episode quality – “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” is a breath of fresh air. Talk about a huge improvement! See, Joss Whedon penned the story for this episode, like the previous one. This might be why they’re a step in the right direction. But talk about post-production improvements! The music in this one is touching at times, tense at others, something I’d forgotten was possible on this show. The effects are real solid, with even the CG bat that beats that dude in the locker room looking moderately OK. For 1997. And that scene in the gas room (which looked ripped right out of Resident Evil’s basement lab from the first game)? Actual tension was created in this episode. You can say “Skyler, you didn’t feel any tension before because you’ve seen all these episodes 100 times before” but let’s face it: as right as that might be, the situations these characters get themselves into aren’t really that suspenseful, primarily because of the music and the severe lack of lighting. These wrinkles were ironed out and made better. If only they’d had a better method of rescue aside from Angel’s “deus ex machina” moment.
Having said all of that, there are a few things that bring the episode down, mostly the fact that Marcie ended up being crazy, though. Sympathy for this character, coming from both Buffy and co. and the audience, would have presented a challenge insofar as how we view her plight. Making her insane, while realistic, destroys and cheapens and, while not damning in the least, it does mean they elected to take the easy way out of the episode, rather than present a deeper question. This is fine and perfect, though, when you stack it up against the insanely poor episodes this season has had to offer, thus far (lookin’ at you, Teacher’s Pet!).
Only one more episode to go and then we’re gonna be out of here. And, thankfully, its a good one, with setup presented in this very episode by way of an awesome conversation between Giles and Angel. Have to see the ramifications of that, tomorrow!
Episode Rating: 95
Death Count: 31
Annoying Scream Count: 18
-I love-love-love that Snyder keeps Buffy from doing any investigative work (or tries to). I mean, I know why/how. But its nice to see.
-I love Buffy’s giant bag of medieval weaponry. Was that… a flail!?
-Why would the school hold its coronation stuff at a night club? Where people drink? These are teenagers, people. Not. Very. Responsible.
-Marcie gets a curtain draped on her, it doesn’t go invisible, which means either the clothes she was wearing at the time turned invisible, too, and she hasn’t washed them, or she’s naked.
-Clea DuVall’s acting is great, but her voice work near the end is even better.
-I have a few “Have a Nice Summer!”‘s in my year books…
-Best line comes from that douche in the locker room, regarding Cordelia: “Oh, its not her arm I want to be on”
-Willow and Xander tell Snyder some lawyer is known as “The Beast” – hope he’s nicer than the one that shows up in season 4 of Angel:
-I love that, if you look real close, you can see the textbook Marcie reads from, the one about assassination, contains only the lyrics to Beatles songs: