As previously mentioned, there was a long period of time where it seemed like this episode was always on. Always. Any time I turned on the WB, there was Clea DuVall, awkwardly trying to make conversation with Cordelia and her gang of mild teenage harpies. There was Buffy, going full Jedi on her invisible enemy. There was Cordelia, showing an unexpected soft side before pivoting on a goddamn dime and turning into her old self again.
“Out of Mind, Out of Sight” is a very Cordelia episode for season one—in fact, it opens on Cordy, who loves spring, primarily because it gives her the chance to campaign to be the May Queen. She’s a peculiar genius at making things about herself, from the very turning of the seasons to The Merchant of Venice. “Shylock should get over himself,” she opines, in a glorious moment of obliviousness.
The Shylock moment—brought to us by yet another teacher who will never be seen again—illustrates, on the surface, Cordelia’s apparent lack of sympathy. It introduces the episode’s theme a little more overtly than later Buffy tends to do; the teacher wants to talk about Shylock’s anger at being an outcast from society, and lo! Here is a student with a great deal of anger at being an outcast.
But to bring Shakespeare into it from another angle, the lady doth protest too much. Cordelia works very hard at being the center of society, and what she doesn’t understand is that not everyone is good at it. To her mind, anger is just whining; she probably thinks those who feel outcast aren’t trying hard enough. Not everyone can do what she does, what the end of the episode makes so clear: She can turn her queen bee attitude on and off like a switch. She’s not an airheaded twit; she’s calculated her position and how to maintain it. (She can still be a bitch.) Of course she wind up going to L.A. to be an actress. She’s acting all the time. She cares so much about being the queen that she’ll put on whatever face it calls for—including showing Buffy her gratitude, when it comes right down to it.
Marcie Cross gets a pretty good end in this episode, because she’s not a villain. But neither is Cordelia.
Season 1, Episode 11, “Out of Mind, Out of Sight”
Story by: Joss Whedon
Written by: Ashley Gable & Thomas A. Swyden
Directed by: Reza Badiyi
Original airdate: Monday, May 19, 1997
Rewatch date: Friday, May 19, 2017
(I can’t wait to do this all on a better schedule for season two.)
“I think I speak for all of us when I say HUH?”