Buffy struggles with life back in Sunnydale. Her problems with Angel, combined with the anger and distance of her friends and mother, only make things more difficult. However, everyone is eventually brought back together when a Nigerian mask that Joyce has acquired causes an army of zombies to rise up all over Sunnydale.
Joyce is hanging up a Nigerian mask given to her by a friend at the gallery while Buffy finishes unpacking. She reluctantly allows Buffy to go to find her friends, who are coordinating a vampire hunt via walkie-talkies. Buffy stumbles upon the Scoobies and assists them in staking. They're shocked at her sudden and unannounced return. Everyone heads to Giles' apartment, where he puts on the usual 'stiff upper lip' when he sees that Buffy has returned. Later, everyone discusses the news that Buffy is no longer wanted for Kendra's murder and also speculate on where Buffy went during the summer while, unseen by the others, in the kitchen Giles nearly cries from the relief that Buffy has returned safely.
The next day, Joyce takes Buffy to see Principal Snyder, who takes vindictive pleasure in keeping Buffy from re-entering Sunnydale High despite the fact she no longer has criminal charges against her. Joyce then discusses the idea of sending Buffy away to school (with the obvious intent of getting her out out of harm's way in Sunnydale) before dropping her off at a coffee shop for a scheduled meeting with Willow, who does not show up. Buffy goes home and meets Pat, a book club member of Joyce's who does not hesitate to comment about Buffy's recent behavior and its impact on Joyce. While fetching fancy "company" plates for a dinner with her friends that Joyce arranges, Buffy finds a dead cat in the basement. Buffy and Joyce bury it, but later that night, the Nigerian mask's eyes glow red, and the dead cat crawls its way out of its grave.
Buffy has another nightmare involving Angel. The next morning, while she and Joyce are discussing her schooling options in the kitchen, Joyce suggests that Buffy should not be so secretive and tell a few people such as Principal Snyder and the police that she is the Slayer. The dead cat surprises them. Giles comes over to remove it in a cage. Buffy waves him in and says, "Welcome to the Hellmouth Petting Zoo." He notices the mask before leaving for the library, and Buffy gets ready to head there with him, but Giles stops her, as she is no longer allowed on school grounds. Later in the library, the gang are discussing various "welcome back" dinner scenarios for Buffy ("Is it a gathering, or a shindig, or a hootenanny?"), but convince themselves that a big party would be more appropriate. Giles, who is doing research on Buffy's reanimated cat, is distracted by the discussion and overlooks a page in his book showing Joyce's Nigerian mask.
Dingoes Ate My Baby soon arrives at Buffy's house without notice, along with many "guests" from school that Buffy barely knows.
Overwhelmed by all of the partygoers, Buffy tries to talk to Willow, who pretends to be distracted so that she doesn't have to talk to her. Buffy then tries to talk with Xander and Cordelia Chase, but finds that they're too busy kissing each other to be bothered. Meanwhile, Joyce is telling Pat in the kitchen how much it means to her to have Buffy back, though it has been harder on her than expected. Overhearing only the end of Joyce's statements and misinterpreting them, Buffy goes upstairs and decides to pack her things again.
At the library, Giles is horrified by what he finally uncovers about the mask. He tries to phone Buffy's house, but the partygoers who answer the phone fail to properly relay his message, or even understand it, with Dingos Ate My Baby playing at full volume ("There's no 'Buddy' here! You've got the wrong house, 'Mr. Belvedere!'").
Willow, having decided to try and make things up with her friend, finds Buffy in the bedroom and is visibly angry that her best friend is thinking about leaving again. The two then get into an argument, as Willow accuses Buffy of just giving up on Sunnydale and for not being there for her during a summer when she needed her help as Willow's life developed (due to dating Oz and dabbling in magic). Willow also accuses Buffy of being so worried about people being angry with her that she didn't bother to ask anyone else how they were doing.
Giles decides to drive to the party, angrily talking to himself about how dumb Joyce was to hang a cursed mask as decoration ("Do you like my mask? Isn't it pretty? It raises the dead"). On the way, Giles accidentally hits a man standing in the road. He gets out of his car and discovers that the man is a reanimated corpse. Giles barely escapes oncoming zombies as other dead bodies rise all over Sunnydale.
Joyce walks in on Buffy packing to run away again, finds out what's happening and, regardless of the fact that people are watching, decides to have it out with Buffy, furious that her daughter is willing to put her through the misery of not knowing where she is again. As party guests quickly leave the awkward situation, Xander also decides to vent at Buffy about how selfish her running away was, while Cordelia takes Buffy's side and Oz tries to keep everyone calm. Just as Buffy is about to completely break down, the newly reanimated zombies crash through the windows and doors, causing the Scoobies to immediately drop their argument and band together to combat the threat. Several guests are killed. Oz and Cordelia hide in a downstairs closet, while Buffy and others rush upstairs with a gravely-injured Pat. In the bedroom, Willow checks Pat's pulse, only to find that she is dead.
Giles arrives to tell Oz and Cordelia about the mask containing the powers of the zombie demon Ovu Mobani, which means "Evil Eye." Whichever zombie puts it on becomes the demon incarnate, which Pat does. Other zombies cower down while Buffy soon realizes that the demon's gaze hypnotizes whoever is looking at it when its eyes flash (like a camera flash). Buffy pushes the newly demonized Pat out of the window shortly before it could kill Willow. Oz tries to tell Buffy about how to kill it, when he is hypnotized. Buffy uses this opening to plunge a shovel into the Pat demon's eyes, depowering and killing it. It vanishes along with all the other zombies.
With the demon's defeat, Joyce and the Scoobies are unable to bring themselves to spite Buffy any longer, and the entire group embraces.
The next day, Giles tries to convince Snyder to let Buffy return. When Snyder refuses, Giles warns him that he will take things up with the state supreme court and make life very difficult for him, professionally. When Snyder still resists, Giles physically intimidates him into giving in. Meanwhile in the coffee shop, Willow tells Buffy about her dabbling in magic and the two, once again best friends, bond by trading playful insults.
Buffy has reconciled with her friends. She now must deal with herself.
This is the first episode where we see downtown Sunnydale, a street with several shops, most notably the Espresso Pump. In Season 5 it's revealed that the name of the street is Maple Court.
When Buffy meets Xander in the alley while out patrolling, he is holding a stake. Buffy jokes that it is all fun and games until someone loses an eye. In season seven Xander does in fact lose an eye in a fight against Caleb.
It's revealed that despite what Snyder believed about the police's competence, they did in fact clear Buffy of Kendra's murder in "Becoming, Part One", but he still refuses to let Buffy back into school. However, Joyce gets the school board to overrule him in the next episode.
The scene with Giles hot wiring his car is censored in British releases because it's an "imitatible act."
This episode hints again about Principal Snyder's connections with The Mayor (when Joyce and Buffy are in his office). The Mayor will eventually become the Big Bad of this season.
Willow makes references to her dabbling in magic since she restored Angel's soul. She eventually grows into an extremely powerful witch.
Snyder recommends Buffy apply to Hot Dog on a Stick as an alternative to her education after he refuses to re-admit her to Sunnydale High. Buffy later worked a dead-end job as a fry cook in a local fast food chain.
The concept of reanimated people being controlled by magic is revisited in the Angel episode "The Thin Dead Line" where zombified policemen are controlled by an idol. Both episodes feature a zombie assault on the stronghold of the heroes. Unlike this episode, however, the zombies in a "The Thin Dead Line" are capable of speech and their bodies' decay has been undone. It also features Anne Steele, aka Lily Houston from the previous episode.
At the beginning of the zombie invasion of the Summers' residence, the zombie who grabs Willow looks very similar to the character of Daryl Epps, a reanimated football player seen in "Some Assembly Required".
This is the first time zombies appear like monsters-of-day in the Buffyverse. Zombies appears also in Nightmares only in background at the hospital just before the Scooby-Gang eliminates the Ugly Man and wake Billy Palmer.
Joyce: "Have you ever noticed his teeth? They're like tiny rodent teeth - horrible gnashing little teeth. You just want to pull them out with pliers."
Goofs, Bloopers & Continuity Errors
When the zombies break into the house, Buffy wasn't sure if they were vampires, but she knew already that vampires can't enter a home without permission. Anyway, though being strong and heroic and a Slayer, it was and it will be stated that she's not the most clever person in the World, or in the Scoobies, to say the least.
At the Bronze the sign behind the band says "Darling Violetta" referring to the band.
Even thought Buffy was no longer wanted for the murder of Kendra, she had still committed other crimes that the police should have arrested her for, such as resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer.
French: Le masque de Cordolfo (Cordolfo's mask)
German: Die Nacht der lebenden Toten (Night of the living Dead)
Portuguese: A Festa dos Mortos (The Party of the Dead)
During the scene where the zombies shuffle through the playground, a zombified Sunnydale High cheerleader can be seen in the background.
In 2002 Kristine Sutherland starred in the English language version of the Japanese animated film 'The Cat Returns'. She played the single mother of a teenage schoolgirl who has a series of wild adventures after discovering she has magical powers (albeit the ability to speak to cats rather than martial arts).
Buffy - (after catching Xander with a stake) "Didn't anyone ever warn you about playing with pointy sticks? It's all fun and games until somebody loses an eye."
Xander - "You can't just bury stuff, Buffy! It'll come right back up to get you..."
Buffy - "I got in a few hours ago, but, I went to go see my mom first."
Giles - "Yes. Yes, of course. H-How did you find her?"
Buffy - "Well, I pretty much remembered the address."
Willow - "Y'know, I'm having all sorts of... I'm dating, I..I'm having serious dating with a werewolf. A.. And I'm studying witchcraft and killing vampires, and I didn't have anyone to talk to about all this scary life stuff."
Giles - "Would you like me to convince you?"
Giles - "Unbelievable! 'Do you like my mask? Isn't it pretty? It raises the dead!' Americans!"
Giles - (hotwiring a car) "Like riding a bloody bicycle."
Joyce - "You know what? I don't care. I don't care what your friends think of me, or you for that matter, because you put me through the wringer, Buffy. I mean it. And I've had schnapps. Do you have any idea what it's been like?"
Buffy - "Mom, this isn't the time—"
Joyce - "You can't imagine months of not knowing. Not knowing whether you're lying dead in a ditch somewhere or, I don't know, living it up—"
Buffy - "But you told me! You're the one who said I should go! You said if I leave this house, don't come back! You found out who I really was, and you couldn't deal! Don't you remember?!"
Xander - "So where were you? Did you go to Belgium?"
Buffy - "Why would I go to Belgium?"
Xander - "I think the relevant question is why wouldn't ya? Belgium."
Joyce - (about the zombies) "What do we do if they get in?"
Xander - "I kinda think we die!"
Xander - (to Joyce) "Generally speaking, when scary things get scared: not a good thing."
Oz - (comes out to tell Buffy how to defeat the demon) "Buffy!" (Ovu Mobani stuns him)
Buffy - "Hey, Pat!" (the demon turns and Buffy impales it through the eyes with a shovel) "Made you look!" (the demon and zombies disappear)
Oz - "Never mind."
Joyce - (after a zombie invasion) "So, is this a normal day at the office?"
Buffy - "No, this was nothing."
Buffy - "Fine. Okay. I'm the bad. I can take my lumps... for a while."
Willow - "Alright. I'll stop giving you a hard time... runaway."
Buffy - "Will!"
Willow - "I'm sorry...quitter."
Buffy - "Whiner."
Willow - "Bailer."
Buffy - "Harpy."
Willow - "Delinquent."
Buffy - "Tramp."
Willow - "Bad seed."
Buffy - "Witch."
Willow - "Freak."
Willow - "No, Let 'em go Oz. Talking about it isn't helping, we may as well try some violence!" (Zombies crash in through window) "I was being sarcastic!"