September 4, 2021

Buffy 1.3, Witch: I’ve Heard of Living Vicariously Through Your Child, But This Is Too Much

Posted in TV tagged , , at 1:14 pm by Jenn

Amy will be back

Summary: Giles is upset with Buffy for putting aside her Slayer responsibilities for something else. That something else is the cheerleading squad. He doesn’t want her to set aside her “sacred birthright” to try out for the squad. As her Watcher, he forbids it. Buffy promises that she’ll have time to cheer and slay vampires. She just wants to do something normal and safe. Elsewhere, someone’s doing something witchy with a cauldron and a doll.

Buffy heads to tryouts with Willow and Xander, noting that she hasn’t seen a vampire in a week, so this isn’t as irresponsible as Giles thinks it is. Xander appreciates the cheerleaders’ commitment to school spirit. Keep your eyes in your head, buddy. He gives Buffy a bracelet as a good-luck present. It’s engraved “yours, always,” which Xander claims is standard for all bracelets of that design.

Cordelia complains to Willow (probably not realizing that’s who she’s talking to, since she wouldn’t normally talk to Willow voluntarily) about a girl named Amber who seems to be taking this too seriously. Willow catches up with a friend named Amy, who’s also trying out. Willow notes that Amy recently lost a lot of weight. Amy says she had to. Amber does the first tryout, and Buffy’s intimidated. Amy tells her that Amber trains with a coach named Benson, one of the best. Amy herself trains with her mom for hours every day.

As Amber finishes her routine, smoke starts coming out of her pompoms. Willow yells out that she’s on fire. “Enough with the hyperbole,” says Cordelia, who’s turned away and doesn’t realize that Amber is literally going up in flames. As Amber’s hands light up, Buffy grabs a banner to smother the flames. Looks like even with vampires on temporary hiatus, Buffy can’t escape the supernatural in her everyday life.

The teens go to the library to fill Giles in. He says spontaneous human combustion is rare, but it’s been documented for centuries. He’s a little too happy that there’s so much supernatural stuff to learn about so close to the Hellmouth. In most cases of human combustion, the victim was feeling rage. Xander says that means Amber has a superpower: “It’s like the Human Torch, only it hurts.”

Buffy wants to find out if Amber has had any experiences like this before. Willow and Xander immediately offer to help. They’re a team now. Willow says Buffy’s the Slayer and they’re the Slayerettes. I prefer “Scoobies,” but thanks anyway. Buffy’s worried that her new friends will put themselves in danger. “I laugh in the face of danger,” Xander replies. “Then I hide till it goes away.” Buffy notes that Amber might not have been the cause of what happened.

At home, Joyce is opening a shipment of tribal art for her gallery. Buffy tells her there was an accident at tryouts, so she didn’t get to have a turn yet. Joyce gives her some vague encouragement, though Buffy can tell she doesn’t know what Buffy was trying out for. Still, Joyce was supportive, so that’s nice. She’s struggling to open a crate, but thanks to her Slayer strength, Buffy easily gets the lid off. Joyce is happy that Buffy wants to be a cheerleader again, since it’ll keep her out of trouble. Buffy brings up Amy and how she trains with her mother, angling for Joyce to offer to work with her. Joyce is too busy, though.

The next day, the tryouts continue, because they can’t let a little fire ruin things for the other girls. This time the girls do a group routine. Amy falls over at the end, bumping into Cordelia, who desperately hopes that doesn’t count against her. Afterward, Buffy finds Amy looking at a cheerleading trophy in a case. Her mother, Catherine, was a Sunnydale cheerleader and led the squad to a championship. Amy’s father left a few years ago, and Catherine did an amazing job of raising Amy on her own while going to cosmetology school.

Buffy tells Amy that she doesn’t have to be as devoted to cheerleading as her mother was. Amy says that Catherine was the best, but Amy can’t get herself to the same level. She runs off to change clothes as Willow approaches. She tells Buffy that Catherine is really strict about her weight, which explains why Amy “had to” lose her extra pounds. In middle school, when Catherine got serious about dieting, Willow would bring Amy to her house and they would eat brownies together,

Willow doesn’t have much of an update on Amber – she’s a regular student who’s only been in trouble once, when she got detention for smoking (cigarette smoking, not being on fire). Buffy says they’ll have to wait and see if something else happens. Maybe nothing will. In the locker room, Cordelia corners Amy to make it clear that she’s not going to let Amy’s clumsiness keep Cordelia from making the squad. If Amy messes things up for Cordelia again, she’ll be sorry.

Xander asks Willow if Buffy’s wearing the bracelet he gave her. He thinks they’re basically going out. You know, without all the stuff that comes with going out, or Buffy’s knowledge that they’re going out. Xander says Willow’s a great friend – like a guy who knows about girl stuff. Yay? The list is up announcing who made the squad, and Amy’s lucky because Cordelia’s on it. Buffy is the first alternate, and Amy is third.

Amy runs off, upset. Buffy follows her, noting that on the bright side, tryouts are over. She invites Amy over to hang out after school and eat brownies. Amy says she can’t do any more than she’s already done to make the squad. This would never happen to Catherine. Someone uses the cauldron and dolls again, this time naming a doll Cordelia, wrapping a band around the doll’s eyes, and asking something or another to “feed on her.”

The next day, Joyce shows Buffy her high school yearbook and suggests that she join the yearbook staff. Joyce was photo editor of hers and got to be on every page. Buffy tells her that’s for nerds. Joyce enjoyed it, but Buffy says she’s into other things. Joyce notes that those things got her kicked out of her old school. They had to move all the way to Sunnydale to find a decent school that would let her attend. That’s too far, and Buffy has hurt feelings now. Joyce beats herself up for that.

At school, Xander and Willow notice Cordelia wandering down the hall, not stopping to insult them. It’s like they’re invisible – kind of how Xander is to Buffy. He blends into the scenery when they’re together. He decides to stop being subtle and just ask her out. As Buffy approaches and Xander psychs himself up, Buffy sees that Cordelia is acting weird. She ditches her friends to follow Cordelia.

It’s Cordelia’s turn to drive in driver’s ed, though she doesn’t want to. The teacher makes her, and she takes the car on a bit of a joyride before crashing. Cordelia gets out of the car and ends up in the middle of the road. Buffy runs over to push her out of the way just before a truck runs her over. Cordelia’s eyes have turned white, and she can’t see anything.

In the library, Giles says this is classic witchcraft. He just doesn’t know why someone would want to hurt Cordelia. “Maybe because they met her?” Willow quips. Since this is the second cheerleader who’s been harmed, they’re probably dealing with someone who doesn’t like cheerleading…or someone who likes it too much. Willow and Buffy both suggest Amy. Maybe she’s turned to witchcraft to get a spot on the squad.

Giles thinks that’s crazy, but Buffy gets it – if you’re not a “picture-perfect carbon copy” of a parent, that parent might not be happy. Xander thinks they should just grab Amy and get to the bottom of things. Giles notes that if they’re right about her being a witch, that’s too dangerous. Willow checks the computer to see if Amy’s checked out books on witchcraft, as Xander protests. That’s just because he’s checked out books on witchcraft. (He just likes to look at the semi-nude engravings.)

Giles says they need to do a test involving Amy’s hair and a couple other ingredients available in the science lab. If Amy’s skin turns blue when it comes in contact with the ingredients, they’ll know that she’s cast a spell in the past 48 hours. They’ll also need some eye of newt, though the closest the teens can get is the eye of a dissected frog. Buffy is able to pull some of Amy’s hair out of her hairbrush without Amy noticing.

She slips it to Willow, who mixes everything up instead of doing whatever experiment their chemistry class is supposed to be doing. Buffy then spills the concoction on Amy, and her skin immediately turns blue. Amy’s confused, of course, but luckily, there’s a distraction. Unfortunately, that distraction is a cheerleader named Lishanne whose mouth has suddenly disappeared. Amy looks as surprised as Buffy does.

After class, Buffy tells Amy and Willow that the test was positive, so maybe Amy doesn’t realize she’s been doing witchcraft. She thinks they should talk to Catherine. Maybe she’s created a monster. Meanwhile, Amy goes home to the house where the cauldron and dolls are being used. Catherine is there, and she’s clearly nervous around Amy. Amy complains that she’s not on the squad yet, and that Buffy and her friends are doing weird things. She shows Catherine that she’s snagged Buffy’s bracelet.

The next morning, Buffy is in a great mood. She’s excited to take Lishanne’s place on the cheerleading squad. Joyce apologizes for what she said the day before, but Buffy says it’s fine. After all, she did get kicked out of school. Joyce doesn’t get it and wouldn’t want to. Buffy mentions that she’s a Slayer, so Joyce asks if she’s okay. Buffy says everything’s great! She’s going to school and cheer practice, and she’s going to sing “Macho Man” the whole time.

At practice, Buffy is a little too energetic. Willow and Xander notice but are unable to get her out of there before she accidentally flips a girl across the room. This gets her removed from the squad, with Amy taking her spot. (No, I don’t know who the second alternate was. Don’t worry about it!) Xander and Willow rush Buffy out of the gym before she can announce that Amy’s a witch.

Buffy gushes over Xander in the hallway, like she’s had too much to drink and wants her friend to know how good a friend he is. She says he’s not like other boys. He’s one of the girls. Suddenly, whatever’s happening to her starts wearing off, and she passes out. Willow and Xander take her to the library, where Giles recognizes that Buffy’s the victim of a vengeance spell. Amy is obviously on to them. They’ll need to reverse the spell in the next few hours to save Buffy.

This will require either getting Amy’s spell book or cutting off her head. Xander’s fine with that second option, but Buffy has sympathy for Amy. She only became a witch to survive her mother. Buffy says she and Giles will go to Amy’s house and get her book while Xander and Willow stay at school and keep an eye on Amy.

At Amy’s, Buffy and Giles meet Catherine, who tries to resist talking to them about Amy. Giles gets stern, telling Catherine that Amy is accessing some very powerful magic and using it to hurt people. Catherine’s obsession with cheerleading is to blame. Catherine says she doesn’t care about cheerleading, and it’s not her fault that Amy is using witchcraft. As they bicker, Buffy notices the plate of brownies Catherine was eating. That plus Catherine’s fear of Amy and her reference to “Dad” instead of “Amy’s dad” makes Buffy realize that Catherine and Amy switched bodies.

Catherine – really Amy – confirms this. Her mother said she was wasting her youth, so she took it. Amy didn’t know that Catherine was a witch. She wanted to go with her father when he left, but Catherine kept them separated. She would rant about how easy Amy had it and how she didn’t know how hard it was to be Catherine. Buffy promises that things will be okay. Amy says she woke up in her mother’s bed a few months ago and didn’t know what had happened.

She shows Giles to the attic, where Catherine does her spells. He finds all the dolls Catherine has used as voodoo dolls to harm the cheerleaders. He’s pretty sure they can reverse her spells if they can find her spell book. He finds it in a chest, being guarded by a black cat. They head back to school as the first basketball game of the season starts, attended by all the cheerleaders.

Giles puts Buffy down on a table in the science lab and promises that he’ll fix this. They only have a few minutes left before the vengeance spell kills Buffy. As Catherine cheers at the game, happy to be back to her teenage self, Amy helps Giles reverse her mother’s spells. Catherine and Amy both feel the effects. Catherine screws up a stunt, then glares at all the other cheerleaders before running out of the gym. Amy warns Giles that she’s coming.

Willow tries to delay Catherine, offering to help her. She knows of a really great cauldron. Also, does Catherine ride a broom? Xander tries to sneak up behind Catherine, but she magically chokes him into unconsciousness, then knocks Willow out with a punch. Giles continues the spell-reversal as Catherine grabs an axe, chops down the door to the lab, and goes after Buffy. The spell finishes just before she can swing the axe, so instead of a vengeful witch, Buffy just has a confused teenager standing over her.

Catherine tackles Buffy, then faces her daughter. She magically makes the axe fly into her own hand and rants about how ungrateful Amy is. Buffy has recovered, so she’s able to fight Catherine and keep her from hurting Amy. Catherine tries a spell that will send Buffy to a dark place, but Buffy kicks down the mirrored cover of a lab table so the witchcraft reflects off of it. It goes into Catherine, making her disappear.

Giles, who’s been knocked unconscious for the first of many times in this series, wakes up hoping everything worked. Buffy assures him that he reversed the spell and saved her. Xander runs in and grabs Amy to save Buffy. Buffy and Giles tell him Amy wasn’t the bad one here, and also, they fixed everything. Willow runs in next, ready to hurt anyone who wants to hurt her friends. Xander tells her he already took care of things.

At home, Joyce tells Buffy she’s been trying to figure out how to relate to her. Maybe there’s a biological imperative that says a parent can’t understand a teen because the parent isn’t a teen anymore. Buffy asks if Joyce ever wishes she could be 16 again. Joyce says she wouldn’t go through all that angst again even if it made her understand Buffy. (People who have seen season 3’s “Band Candy” start giggling.)

At school the next day (I guess), Amy tells Buffy how protective her dad is being now that she’s living with him. He feels guilty for all the time they spent apart, and how horrible her mother was. Of course, Amy secretly loves it. Cordelia taunts the girls for being knocked back to their alternate slots, so everything’s back to normal there, too. Amy doesn’t actually want to be a cheerleader, and Buffy has decided to leave that behind, too. Amy hasn’t heard from her mother and doesn’t think she’ll cause any more trouble. They don’t realize that the eyes of Catherine’s cheerleading trophy are now human, and there’s a muffled scream coming from inside it.

Thoughts: An okay show would have had the twist be that Amy was the witch. A good show would have had it be that Catherine was the witch. Buffy is a great show because it had the double twist of Catherine being the witch and switching bodies with Amy.

I giggled at the discussion about Amber training with a coach named Benson because later in the series, actress Amber Benson joins the cast.

I like how friendly Buffy is to Amy. She could have made an excuse that she’s too busy with slaying and cheering to care about someone else, but she really wants to cheer Amy up.

We couldn’t put on Grease at my high school but Sunnydale’s library is allowed to have books on witchcraft? Even more ridiculous, no one complains about that until season 3.


  1. Myriam said,

    I always thought this ep was needlessly confusing. For the longest time, I thought Amy’s mom had taken over her body mid-episode. Then I realized that Amy (in her mom’s body) specifies it has been a few months. So if that’s the case, why was Amy’s mom (in Amy’s body) so clumsy during the trial? Her mom has been training for months, in Amy’s body at this point! Also, if her mom was really in Amy’s body during the entire episode (except the very end), why was her mom (in Amy’s body) surprised/shocked at the cheerleader losing her mouth in chemistry class?

    Are driving lessons really given in high school in the US? Or is this just a TV show/movie trope?

    • Jenn said,

      I think driving lessons vary by state and by school. My school didn’t do behind-the-wheel lessons, just the classroom stuff where you learned all the regulations.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: