BtvS 2.04

© Text and transcriptions: Rob Gokee

Promotional CD tracks

There were none for this episode, and my best guess is because a lot of the themes from “Anne” were carried over to “Dead Man’s Party.” This helps the continuity of the arc. I wish that the “Anne theme” (named loosely by me) had been on the promo CD, but there was only so much room and so many wonderful cues…

The episode

Picking up right where the previous episode left off, Buffy returns home hoping things will be just as she left them. Unfortunately, she finds things awkward and uncomfortable as the gang and her mother shun her emotionally. Meanwhile, a Nigerian mask that Joyce hangs on the wall in the Summers’ home begins raising the dead and pulling them toward the house. The episode ends with a heated argument between the gang and Buffy, followed by a zombie battle that pulls everyone together and leaves us more or less back to normal, or as normal as things can be in Sunnydale.

Fun quotation:
Xander: "Generally speaking, when scary things get scared, not good.”

The music

The first thing I noticed was the lack of music in this episode. Where “Anne” had 24 minutes of music, "Dead Man’s Party” has only 16. Buffy’s return home to face the consequences of her actions is a very awkward situation for all parties, and Joss intends for the viewer to share in that awkwardness. A lot of the key moments of this episode are scoreless, leaving the viewer feeling uncomfortable during the exchanges between Buffy and her friends and family. The most prominent cues are the reprises of the “Anne theme,” which pop up when Buffy is still feeling very Anne-like and alone. Chris does a wonderful job at varying the theme, even giving us a very dissonant sounding version at one point when she is dreaming once again of Angel (see the cue notes for the specific scene). There is also a specific theme for the mask itself, which I will hereafter refer to as the “Mask theme.” It is a combination of low brass and a didgeridoo, which does a great job at giving us a Nigerian feel while taking into account the negativity surrounding the mask itself. Also of note is a large amount of “Dingoes” music played at the party in the Summers’ home, supplied well by Four Star Mary.

Cue notes

All timings are approximate.


Return of the “Anne theme” as Buffy unpacks, using brass and strings to create a feeling of familiarity.


Eerie sound effect and strings as Buffy sneaks up on what ends up being Xander. Chris has a brief brass upswing to the “Anne theme” again, before we switch gears to a brassy fight scene, with a glockenspiel (?) added, and we end the scene with strings as the gang sees Buffy for the first time since she got back.


Nerf Herder doing their thang


A return to the “Anne theme” as Giles opens the door to Buffy, a version played by a piano and backed by strings…


…which returns as Giles weeps silently in his kitchen over her return, again with strings and light piano.


Chris does an excellent job of foreshadowing here as the word “mayor” comes up, using low brass followed by the “Anne theme” on woodwinds. Chris helps Joss set up the mayor as the “Big Bad” for season three without giving anything away.


“Anne” again on piano with a drone note played on strings as Buffy is stood up by Willow, and walks home dejectedly. The theme continues to haunt her during the moments where she still feels alone.


Soft woodwinds as Buffy pines over the picture of her with Willow and Xander, but immediately changes to ominous brass when Buffy discovers the dead cat.


“Anne” is played again as Buffy and Joyce bury the dead cat, mirroring her feelings with the stray cat who, as Joyce eulogises“…lost its way, we hope you find it.” This is an excellent use of analogy between the cat and Buffy, and the recurrence of the theme helps bind it together. It is here when we first hear the “Mask theme” [ex.1] as day turns to night and the cat claws its way out of the grave. Chris uses low piano chords and brass, combined with a didgeridoo to help along the ethnicity of the mask and the impending doom it brings. The scene and cue finish with a crescendo.


Piano playing a very interesting (and my personal favorite) variation on the “Anne Theme” during the act two opening dream sequence with Buffy and Angel. Along with string swells, the piano plays a dissonant sounding line that follows the theme, which ends at the sound of Buffy’s alarm clock. It is very unsettling in quality, mimicking Angel’s cryptic words during his walk through the empty high school with Buffy.


High strings as the dead cat walks in the door, short but effective transition to the next scene.


A harp (?) plays on the picture of the mask in Giles’ book, followed by the return of the glockenspiel and didgeridoo as dead people now begin to rise, with a large brass upswing to…


Four Star Mary pretending to be the Dingoes, playing “Nevermind”]


Building (and swirling) strings off the Four Star Mary song, and then an immediate switch to the “Mask Theme,” with a bass upswing to….


Four Star Mary “Sway”]


Abrupt return to “Mask” as more dead rise and head toward the mask.


Four Star Mary “Sway (reprise)”]


The “Anne theme” returns underneath Four Star Mary with a piano undercurrent of arpeggios with the theme played over it by a flute as Buffy packs her things once again, switching abruptly to “Mask” again as the act ends.


Act three begins with heavy percussion and strings as Giles, in research mode, reaches an “Oh dear” moment and frantically tries to reach Buffy at her home. Chris’ use of the strings weaving and climbing in dissonance works effectively at building tension…


…as we switch to Buffy’s home and the phone ringing under Four Star Mary playing “Pain.” As a listener, our frustration at having the cue cut off is mimed by Giles frustration at trying to get through to Buffy, again an example of Chris’ ability to use his score to make the scene whole.


Abrupt switch back to short brass as Giles mounts for an attack (in his trusty Citron). We move back to “Anne” as Buffy continues packing, surprised by Willow.


As the scene moves downstairs, we switch back to Four Star Mary still playing “Pain” underneath Willow’s speech.]


Piano and woodwinds accompany ‘Willow tears’, but quickly change to brass as Giles’ journey to the Summers’ home is detoured by a zombie in his path. Chris uses low strings moving to brass and a well-timed choir sample, once again cutting us off with a switch to…


…silence, until the scene moves downstairs to Four Star Mary finishing “Pain” as Buffy is confronted angrily by Joyce and her friends.]


High strings traversing the “borders” the grand staff enter as Giles deals with the zombies on his way back to the car, followed by the brass mimicking in short bursts. The cue ends with the string section again, cut off quickly to return to the “intervention.”


On Willow’s word “violence,” we move into the big action cue of the episode as the zombies attack the partygoers. Chris uses string and brass, with choir voicing sporadically over high and frenzied strings. The choir comes back as the zombies push the gang upstairs. We end the cue and the act with a return of “Mask” as it pulses with power.


Act four starts off silent as Oz and Cordy check out the downstairs. Strings restart the cue as Giles jumps out, followed by a low brass and piano upswing to “Mask” as Pat puts the mask on. We move to strings and brass, and they both become frenzied together as Buffy takes the fight to the yard and uses a shovel to end the cue and Pat.


We finish the scene with a tremolo violin followed by the rest of the string section. “Anne” is played one final time (using strings and piano) under everyone making up and resolving Buffy’s return, leaving behind the remnants of Buffy’s feeling of being alone, at least for now. We fade to Giles and Snyder having a “conversation” in the principal’s office.


Low, ominous strings as Giles threatens Snyder, bringing to mind the days of “Ripper.”


An unknown acoustic guitar piece plays underneath Willow and Buffy at the Espresso Pump.


All hail the 'Herd!]

Musical examples

Ex.1 [mp3] "Mask theme" 12'54-14'12 [259Kb]

The a-melodic sound design style of this "theme" makes an accurate notated example impossible