Following Xander and Willow's kiss in "Lovers Walk", Oz has called a time-out on his relationship with Willow and Cordelia is decidedly avoiding any contact with Xander. Cordelia returns to school, only to be rejected and taunted by Harmony and her former clique as being "Xander's castoff". Cordelia goes to the Bronze that night and Buffy accidentally humiliates Cordelia further by knocking her into a pile of trash in front of her friends while fighting a vampire. Cordelia later determines Buffy is to blame for her predicament as she never would have dated Xander if Buffy hadn't hung out with him and made him cooler. The next day, Anya - a new girl who has been trying to befriend Cordelia - gives Cordelia an amulet while goading Cordelia into making a wish to hurt Xander. Cordelia wishes that Buffy Summers had never come to Sunnydale. Anya immediately switches to demon form, that of Anyanka, and grants it.
Cordelia finds herself in a town overrun by The Master, where most of the student body are either dead or vampires, there is now a monthly memorial at the school, dances are held during the day and there is a nighttime curfew. Students wear dull colors in order to make them less conspicuous to the vampires who have taken over Sunnydale. Cordy finds that she is back in with her former group, but quickly loses her cool when she finds out that Willow and Xander are undead. Walking through the streets at night she is stopped by Xander and Willow, whom she realizes are vampires (and are also a couple in this reality). Cordy is saved by the "White Hats", a group of human vampire-hunters led by Giles and including Oz and Larry.
Cordelia tries to explain to Giles what happened and asks to have Buffy back so that things could be the way they were. Giles realises Cordelia could be telling the truth due to her knowledge that he is a Watcher (something he hadn't told anyone else in Sunnydale) but, before she can elaborate further, she is killed by Xander and Willow, whom the Master had sent as assassins, fearing that Cordelia would summon the Slayer to Sunnydale. Giles calls Buffy's Watcher in Cleveland intending to summon her to Sunnydale, but finds out that she doesn't often check in with her Watcher who, as a result, doesn't know where she is. Giving up, Giles turns to research and discovers that the amulet that Cordelia was wearing was that of Anyanka, the patron saint of scorned women.
At the same time, the Master has created a human blood processing factory, where he plans to industrialize blood removal from humans through assembly lines, thereby eliminating the predatory aspect of the vampire's nature. Hearing of Xander and Willow's success in killing Cordelia, he allows them to go into the back and 'play' with Angel (referred to as 'puppy' by Willow), who is kept locked up in a cage and suffers regular torture at their hands.
On his way home, Giles encounters vampires who are herding humans for the plant, and, an extremely "different", war-worn Buffy rescues him when he is nearly captured himself. This Buffy is only interested in the kill and is emotionally shut down. She is cynical about Giles's prospects of reversing Anya's spell, but does offer to kill the Master while she is in town.
Buffy finds Angel in his jail cell and agrees to take him along despite her misgivings about allying herself with a vampire, after Angel relates his desire to stop the Master after the torture that was inflicted on him.
The Master starts up the plant with the first human victim before a cage of prisoners. Giles summons Anyanka, who confirms Cordelia's story. Buffy and Angel attack the vampires, but most of the characters die in the fight: Angel is staked by Xander, Xander is killed by Buffy and Willow is killed by Oz. Finally, Buffy takes on the Master but the fight doesn't last very long and she is killed when her neck is broken by the Master. As Buffy's lifeless body falls to the ground, Giles realizes that Anyanka's amulet contains her powers and tears it from her neck. To distract Giles, she asks how he can be sure the real world is a better one. Giles replies "Because it has to be" and destroys her amulet...
With a flash, Anya is back at Sunnydale High attempting to grant Cordelia's wish but finds herself unable to. As Cordelia walks off wishing horrors on her former friends, Anya tries desperately to grant them, while Buffy, Xander and Willow enjoy each other's company, as usual.
This episode marks the first appearance of Anya. At the start of the episode after Buffy slays the demon, Willow asks "is anyone else waiting for it to go poof?" she would say the same line on Xander and Anya's wedding day in "Hell's Bells" as a tribute to her first episode.
Jesse McNally, Darla and Luke did not appear in the Wishverse. While it's entirely feasible that Jesse was killed prior to the events of this episode, it is unknown what happened to Darla and Luke, considering they were the main disciples of the Master.
There is no mention of Jenny Calendar, who would have never been killed by Angelus. Her main duty was to watch over Angel and keep him from the Slayer, which is presumably unnecessary with them so far apart and Angel imprisoned and tortured by the Order of Aurelius.
Even in the alternate reality, the prophecy of the Pergamum Codex still comes to pass as the Master kills Buffy in both realities (although, unlike the Buffy of our reality who was drowned then revived, this Buffy has her neck snapped by the Master, meaning reviving her would be impossible).
The Buffy from the alternate reality has a scar above her lip, like Melaka Fray.
This is the first mention of Cleveland, Ohio as another Hellmouth and center of demon activity.
Anya's first arrival happens to serve revenge on Xander, whom she later ends up falling in love with. Although Cordelia ironically wishes Xander will never feel the touch of a woman he eventually will from Anya.
Vampires are attracted to bright colors.
Angel does not appear in the scenes taking place in the main reality, as he is keeping his distance from Buffy after the events of "Lovers Walk".
Unidentified girl, drained by a vampire in front of The Bronze (alternate reality)
Unidentified girl, drained by Willow (alternate reality)
Cordelia Chase, drained by Willow and Xander (alternate reality)
Nancy, killed by vampire (only mentioned in alternate reality)
Three vampires, dusted by Buffy (alternate reality)
Unidentified Cordette, drained with a machine by The Master (alternate reality)
Angel, dusted by Xander (alternate reality)
Xander, dusted by Buffy (alternate reality)
Willow, dusted by Oz and Larry (alternate reality)
Buffy, neck snapped by The Master (alternate reality)
Behind the Scenes
Giles's exposition was changed:
Giles: "Anyanka raised a demon to ruin her unfaithful lover. The demon did her bidding - but then cursed her and turned her into a sort of patron saint for scorned women. Apparently the cry of a wronged woman is like a siren's call to Anyanka."
Because of this alteration to Giles' dialogue, the first direct mention of Anya having been human before she was a vengeance demon comes in "Something Blue". However, the aired "The Wish" does still have Giles say that destroying Anyanka's power center will make her an ordinary woman "again", implying that she had been one before.
This version of events is different from what would eventually be established in "Something Blue", "Triangle" and "Selfless" (though the tome Giles is reading from might not be 100% accurate): Anya cursed her unfaithful lover Olaf herself, attracting the attention of the demon D'Hoffryn, and accepted D'Hoffryn's offer to "elevate" her to demon status.
Two lines were cut from Giles' conversation with Anyanka:
(Giles: "Cordelia Chase, what did she wish for?")
(Anyanka: "I had no idea her wish would be so exciting. Brave new world. I hope she likes it.")
Giles: "She's dead."
Anyanka: "It happens."
Pop Culture References
When the Master sits down at the Bronze and asks for news from Xander, he says: "Now, what news on the Rialto?" This is a quote from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, at least the third time this play has been mentioned on Buffy.
Goofs, Bloopers & Continuity Errors
Giles claims that destroying Anyanka's power center would reverse all of the wishes she fulfilled. However, later episodes clearly contradict this, including "Selfless", where we learn that she was partly responsible for the Russian Revolution, and "Hell's Bells", where one of her former victims returns to ruin her wedding.
After Cordelia obliviously asks the Cordettes if they want to go to the Bronze, you can clearly see a microphone above Harmony as she exclaims, "is that a joke?"
The Spies - "Tired of Being Alone" (Plays at The Bronze when Xander and Cordelia are trying to make each other jealous.)
Music House - "Get Out of My Way" (Plays as Buffy follows Cordelia out of The Bronze.)
Plastic - "Dedicated to Pain" (Plays as vampires Xander and Willow enter The Bronze in Cordelia's wish.)
Gingersol - "Never Noticed" (Plays at the end of the episode, after reality returns and Cordelia's wish is revoked.)
Joss Whedon ranked this episode as his sixth favourite of the entire series in The Last Sundown featurette of the Buffy Season 7 DVD, and is notable for being the only episode on the list that was not at least partially written by him (although he was uncredited for his writing contribution for 'Conversations with Dead People' which ranked ninth on the list)
Some viewers have claimed that Faith is visible in the background, being bitten by a vampire in the Wishverse. In actuality, the woman is simply a background extra with a similar hairstyle to Eliza Dushku.
This is the only episode where Cordelia and Anya having direct interaction. Although they both play primary love interests to Xander. The two outspoken women only speak to one another in this episode. As Charisma Carpenter moved to Angel, leaving Emma Caulfield to fill the "Blunt Void" on Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
This is a Cordelia-centric episode.
Cordelia - "It's all my fault! I wasn't... I made this stupid wish..."
Cordelia - "I wish Buffy Summers had never come to Sunnydale."
Anya - (Turns into a monstorous demon) "Done."
Larry - "Okay, the entire world sucks because some dead ditz made a wish? I just want to be clear."
Xander - "But you know what really bugs me? Okay, we kissed. It was a mistake, but I know that was positively the last time we were ever gonna kiss."
Willow - "Darn tootin'."
Xander - "And they burst in rescuing us, without even knocking? I mean this is really all their fault."
Buffy - "Your logic does not resemble our Earth logic."
Xander - "Mine is much more advanced."
Buffy - "Why don't I just put a stake through her heart?"
Giles - "She's not a vampire."
Buffy - "Yeah, well, you'd be surprised how many things that'll kill."
Anya - "You trusting fool! How do you know the other world is any better than this?!"
Giles - "Because it has to be."
Cordelia - "I wish Buffy Summers had never come to Sunnydale."
Anya - "Done."
Cordelia - "That would be cool. No wait, I wish Buffy Summers had never been born."
Anya - "Done."
Cordelia - "And I wish that Xander Harris never again knows the touch of a woman. And that Willow wakes up tomorrow covered in monkey hair."
Anya - "Done."
Cordelia - "In fact, I wish all men, except maybe the dumb and the really agreeable kind, disappear off the face of the Earth. That would be so cool."
Buffy - "World is what it is. We fight, we die. Wishing doesn't change that."
Giles - "I have to believe in a better world."
Buffy - "Go ahead. I have to live in this one."
Harmony - "Ted Chervin just totally went for third with Ginger in front of everybody."