If you were to ask a casual viewer to sum up the plot of this episode no doubt they'd focus on the Ovu Mobani mask and the zombies that gatecrash Buffy's welcome home party. But, as is often the case with Buffy, appearances can be deceptive and this episode has perhaps the most superficial veneer of any to date.
The first clue as to what lies at the heart of Dead Man's Party is that the action follows straight on from the end of the previous episode, Anne, with Buffy unpacking her clothes after returning home. Dead Man's Party deals primarily with Buffy's reintegration into Sunnydale life and healing the rifts caused by her time away.
Marti Noxon wisely concentrates on making the viewers empathise with Buffy's disorientating feelings of alienation. The zombies are a distraction; a lazy sop to viewers expecting a fix of thrills and spills.
This is really a "taking care of business" episode that ties up most of the loose ends left over at the end of Season Two, notably the problem of how to get Buffy back into school. It presents the perfect excuse to reintroduce Snyder, who appears in a couple of nice scenes and is the target of a few choice barbs even when he's not on screen.