Buffy the Vampire Slayer-1×11: ‘Out of Mind, Out of Sight’

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Written by Ashley Gable & Thomas A. Swyden
Story by Joss Whedon
Directed by Reza Badiyi
Original Air Date: May 19th, 1997

Let me get this out of the way; I am a massive fan of Cordelia. For anyone watching Buffy for the first time and following these reviews as they watch them, this might come as something of a surprise given that Cordelia hasn’t exactly been the most sympathetic character amongst the regular cast.

The ‘mean girl’ of the show, she’s frequently been more on the periphery of the stories as opposed to being a major part of them and frequently says the most terrible things to the characters that we love and adore.

However, without giving too much away she is one of several characters in the Buffyverse who would go on to have such a massive (and I sometimes hate to use the word) journey across their time in both Buffy and (especially) Angel that it must surely rank as one of the best pieces of character development in pop cultural history.

Until the rot set in, but that’s a story for another time.

‘Out of Mind, Out of Sight’, sometimes referred to as ‘Invisible Girl’, peels back the layers of the head of Buffy’s resident version of the Heathers clique and does so with one of the first season’s best scripts.

Charisma Carpenter has made for an entertaining presence throughout the first season, delivering those snide remarks with hilarious venom, but if the series has shown anything it’s that appearance can be a little deceptive, and there is more to things than meet the eye.

Gentle subversion of character and plot has been a major element hardwired into the writing of the show from its ‘Pilot‘ episode onwards, and while Cordelia has very much played the role expected of her, it’s here that the series shows us layers that we’ve otherwise missed or that haven’t been previously explored. It gives Charisma Carpenter her first chance to make a dramatic mark on the series that it will grasp with both hands going forward.

One of the very best scenes of the episode involves both Cordelia and Buffy having a heart-to-heart in which Cordelia talks about how alone she feels despite her popular status. There is a self-awareness to the character here that is incredibly welcome, but also deeply poignant which always makes revisiting so many of her scenes throughout this season a different experience upon a rewatch.

The scene is a great one for not only Carpenter, but Sarah Michelle Geller as well, the episode confronting the character and the audience with the idea that once upon a time, Buffy herself was a Cordelia, a popular girl, who we assume may not have been the nicest of people, whose concerns were of school dances and May Queen competitions.

Not that the episode doesn’t have fun with the vacuous nature of Cordelia; after her boyfriend Mitch is attached by an invisible assailant with a baseball bat, the first thing she worries about is not his well-being but how he’ll look in their May Queen photographs.

It’s darkly funny, but it once again gets at the heart of what makes this show tick so well even this early on in a part of its seven season run that isn’t as highly regarded, but then again the second half of Buffy’s first season is perhaps amongst its most underrated run of episodes because there is some gold in them hills and the one with Clea DuVall is among them.

Allegedly inspired by a daydream Joss Whedon had when he was a teenager in which he slowly turned invisible while sitting in class, there is a wonderful flexibility to tone going on here that makes it somewhat of an underrated episode.

There is funny dialogue dotted throughout and brilliant exchanges amongst the core cast, but there is also a dark sense of tragedy that Ashley Gable and Thomas A. Swyden’s teleplay never shies away from, nor the responsibility of the lead characters for having caused the situation in the first place.

For a series that has thrown in so much in the way of genre based scares and a high body count (which is actually commented on by Principal Snyder in one of the most brilliantly subtle jokes of the episode and the series’ first acknowledgment of how dangerous Sunnydale and its high school are), the revelation that even Xander and Willow have contributed to Marcie’s invisible status is sobering stuff, with the idea that even good people like our sympathetic protagonists can contribute to the emotional hardship of others, even if they aren’t aware of it.

It’s perhaps the best thing about the episode; it’s ability to be unafraid to commit to some of those darker ideas. Hell, even when we get to the final act, the episode even has Cordelia having her anaesthetised face being cut with a scalpel which must surely rank as one of the most vicious scenes in the show so far.

It’s a moment that has a whiff of the more nastier episodes of The X-Files, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that the final scene itself feels like something from the files of Mulder and Scully with the inclusion of government agents and Marcie being recruited into the realm of what appears to be a career as a  government sanctioned assassin, which feels like a cool spin-off idea in itself come to think of it and is a wonderful epilogue to a really good episode.

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