October 16, 2021

Buffy 1.9, The Puppet Show: Slaying for Dummies

Posted in TV tagged , , at 1:19 pm by Jenn

Sid also gives me the wig

Summary: “I will be whole. I will be new,” vows a deep voice. We’re backstage in Sunnydale High’s auditorium, where rehearsals for a talent show are underway. Cordelia sings “The Greatest Love of All” and makes babies cry across the five nearest counties. The Scoobies arrive to tease Giles for having to run the show. It’s on the orders of the new principal, Snyder, who wants Giles to have more contact with the students instead of hiding in the library. Buffy teases that he can’t escape his destiny. She’s going to watch, like he usually does.

The Scoobies leave, running into Snyder on their way out. He doesn’t appreciate that they’re not taking this seriously. He also knows that they all left campus the previous afternoon. Buffy starts to tell him that they were fighting a demon. Buffy, come on. Xander corrects that they left to avoid fighting. Snyder tells the Scoobies they’re too antisocial and need to be more involved in school activities. He orders them to participate in the talent show. The Scoobies would rather face a vampire than do that, but Snyder isn’t like Flutie. There will be no touchy-feely principaling here.

Up next on stage is a guy named Morgan who does a ventriloquist act. Buffy tells Willow that dummies have given her “the wig” since she was a kid. When Willow asks for details, Buffy says, “I saw a dummy; it gave me the wig.” Morgan isn’t very good, either at the jokes in his “humorous” act or the ventriloquism part. No one’s impressed until the dummy, Sid, starts mocking him.

A girl named Emily is alone in the locker room when she hears someone else in the room. There’s heavy breathing coming from a low height. Whatever’s there attacks her, declaring, “I will be flesh.” The next day, the Scoobies try to rehearse their “talent,” a scene from a play. Xander doesn’t want to do it. He points out that Willow plays the piano, so Buffy suggests that she play while they sing. Willow backs out, since she’s terrified of singing in front of an audience.

From nearby, Sid ogles the girls. Buffy and Willow are impressed with how well Morgan is doing as a ventriloquist. Sid keeps hitting on the girls, asking them out. “You know what they say: Once you go wood, nothing’s as good,” he says. Buffy tells Morgan it’s time to put an end to the sexually harassing part of his routine, or she’ll burn the dummy.

Snyder tells Giles that kids need more discipline than Flutie was willing to give them. Flutie’s belief that kids are humans and need understanding was “the kind of woolly-headed liberal thinking that leads to being eaten.” Snyder knows all about the strange things that have gone on at the school, and he wants to put a stop to them. He’s going to keep an eye on the Scoobies and turn things around.

Too late! Emily’s dead in the locker room. Giles tells the Scoobies that Emily’s heart was removed with a knife. That means the killer is probably a human. Buffy disagrees, since they’re on the Hellmouth and all. Willow’s freaked out because the killer could be anyone, even her. Okay, not her. Giles tells the Scoobies to question the other talent show participants in case they know something.

Buffy questions a tuba player named Lisa, Giles talks to a magician named Marc, Willow chats with a guy named Elliot, and Xander’s stuck with Cordelia. All of them say they didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary with Emily, but that Morgan was acting weird the other day. Elliot thinks he was arguing with Sid. Cordelia’s freaked out about “Emma”‘s death and says she could have been the one who died. “We can dream,” Xander quips.

Buffy goes to see Morgan, who’s talking to Sid in the auditorium. He says he was working on throwing his voice. She asks him if Emily said anything to him yesterday, or if he saw her fighting with someone. Morgan says no, then pauses when his head starts to hurt. Sid tells Buffy to leave him alone. Buffy doesn’t appreciate that, so Morgan puts Sid in his carrying case. He starts to tell Buffy something about the dummy, then leaves.

The Scoobies meet up in the library, agreeing that Morgan is a person of interest here. Buffy cautions them not to jump from “Morgan is weird” straight to “Morgan killed Emily.” There could still be a demon element here. Giles hasn’t had time to look into that, thanks to his responsibilities with the talent show. The Scoobies think the investigation should be a priority, but Giles warns that Snyder is keeping a close eye on them, so “the show must go on.” He sends Buffy to check out Morgan’s locker for anything suspicious.

Buffy breaks into Morgan’s locker, but Snyder catches her before she can do much looking around. He tells her there are some things he won’t tolerate on school grounds: “Students loitering on campus after school. Horrible murders with hearts being removed. And also smoking.” He knows there’s something going on with her, and sooner or later, he’ll figure it out.

Buffy says she’s just there to get Sid, but he’s not in his case. That’s because he’s with Morgan, watching Buffy and Snyder talk. They return to the auditorium, where Sid tries to convince Morgan that Buffy is “the one.” Morgan declines to do whatever Sid wants him to do. Sid says she’s the last; after this one, he’ll be free.

Over at Buffy’s house, Joyce is eager to see whatever the Scoobies decide to do in the talent show. She wants to be supportive. Buffy would like her to show her support by staying away. Joyce asks if something’s bothering her, but Buffy just says there’s a lot going on in her life. She goes to bed, not noticing that Sid is lurking outside her window. Sometime later that night, Sid opens the window and jumps onto Buffy’s bed. Joyce hears her scream and comes in, but there’s nothing there. She guesses that Buffy had a nightmare. Buffy agrees, though she notices that the window that was closed when she went to bed is now open.

At school the next day, Marc practices his magic routine. He’s not very good. Cordelia complains about her slot in the show, not wanting to follow a rock band since no one will be in a sappy mood for her sappy song. Giles gets rid of her by making a vague comment about her hair that makes her run off to find a mirror. (He credits Xander with that tip.)

Buffy tells the Scoobies that she thinks Sid came into her room last night – alone and alive. Xander thinks it was a cat, and Giles thinks it was a nightmare. Willow allows that Morgan could have been involved. Buffy wishes she could separate him from Sid and have a real conversation with him. Giles has made some progress with his research, finding information on a brotherhood of seven demons that steal human organs every seven years so they can maintain their human forms. Maybe Morgan is one of those demons. The only thing is that those demons are really strong, while Morgan seems to be getting weaker every day.

In history class, Buffy stares at Morgan instead of listening to a lecture on the Monroe Doctrine. Sid turns his head around to look at her. It’s pretty creepy. Cordelia teases that someone has a crush on Buffy. Sid whispers something to Morgan, so the teacher confiscates him and puts him in a cupboard. Sid says he’s still watching. Buffy is, too.

After school, Morgan goes to get his dummy back, but first the teacher wants to talk about how he’s seemed off lately. Morgan is completely focused on getting Sid. Too bad he’s not there. Morgan is distressed – Sid knew to wait for him. Xander has nabbed Sid so Buffy can have a conversation with Morgan alone. He creeps Buffy out with the dummy, then bangs its head on a table to remind Buffy that it’s not real.

Buffy goes to the auditorium to find Morgan but instead encounters Snyder. He tells her that with everything going on, a girl might not be safe there alone. Buffy says she knows how to take care of herself. Back in the library, Willow finds something that says dolls and mannequins with consciousness have been known to harvest organs in an attempt to become human. Maybe Sid had something to do with Emily’s murder. While Xander’s back is turned, Sid disappears.

Buffy finally finds Morgan backstage, but he’s not going to be any help: His brain has been removed. A chandelier falls on Buffy, knocking her out, and even her Slayer strength won’t help her lift it. Sid ambushes her and tries to stab her, but her Slayer strength finally kicks in and gives her an advantage (as do her opposable thumbs). He admits defeat and tells her to go ahead and move on with Emily’s heart and Morgan’s brain. Buffy tells him he lost and will never be human. He says she won’t, either. They’re both confused.

The story comes out in the library: Sid is a demon hunter. Well, he was before he was cursed and turned into a dummy. Morgan wanted Sid to team up with Buffy, but Sid thought she was the demon who killed Emily. He hits on her again, like, she’s 16, dude. Gross. Anyway, the demon has a heart and brain now, which means he gets to keep his human form for seven more years. Giles remarks that it’s nice to have someone else do all this explaining for once.

Sid has killed seven of the brotherhood of the demons. Once he kills the seventh, he’ll be free of his dummy form. He’s sure the seventh is involved in the talent show, so they’ll just need to see who’s missing that night to figure out who the demon is. Giles suddenly remembers that the show is supposed to be starting…well, now. Sid tells him to gather all the participants for a power circle so they can see who’s missing. Giles has no idea what a power circle is. I guess Sunnydale High School has no drama department. Just put everyone in a circle and tell them to have a good show.

Cordelia has state fright, which is probably good, because no one’s going to want to hear her sing. Giles advises her to picture the audience in their underwear. She thinks that’s a horrible idea. Up on a catwalk, Buffy tells Sid she’s the Slayer. He knew one in the ’30s, a hot Korean woman. It sounds like they hooked up. Buffy confirms that when Sid is released from his dummy form, he won’t return to his body. But Sid’s lived a full life, and he’s ready to die.

The power circle gathers, but Giles doesn’t provide them much motivation. Once they all leave to get ready for the show, Buffy jumps down to tell Giles that everyone was present and accounted for. Sid disappears from the catwalk as Giles runs into Snyder, who’s lurking backstage. While looking for Sid, Buffy feels something dripping down on her. It’s some sort of grossness coming off of a brain.

In the library, Xander suggests that Sid lied to them. Buffy thinks the demon just rejected Morgan’s brain, though she can’t figure out why, since Morgan’s super-smart. Willow finds the answer in his school file: He’s missed a bunch of school and his emergency contact is an oncologist. Morgan must have had a tumor that made his brain unusable. Buffy says the demon will now go looking for the smartest person around.

While Marc asks Giles to help him with something backstage, Buffy and Xander worry that Willow is the demon’s next target. Buffy promises to protect her. Yeah, that won’t be a problem. Marc needs Giles to help him with a trick involving a guillotine that will most definitely cut off Giles’ head. The Scoobies realize that the demon was there for the power circle, and that Giles is the next target.

They run to the auditorium, where Marc is locking Giles in for his skull to be cut open. As he chops at the rope keeping the blade up, Buffy tackles him. The rope snaps and the blade falls, but Xander grabs the rope before it can hit Giles. Willow then chops the lock off to free Giles. Buffy tries to trap Marc inside the box attached, but he almost overpowers her. Fortunately, Sid’s there with a knife to help her out.

They get Marc under the blade and use it to kill him. Sid says he’ll come back unless they stab him in the heart. Once Sid does, he dies, finally free. Buffy cradles him in her arms and says it’s over. Just then, the curtains open and everyone there for the talent show gets a good look at the aftermath of the demon fight. “I don’t get it,” Snyder says. “What is it, avant-garde?”

Over the credits, Buffy, Xander, and Willow do a scene from Oedipus Rex. Willow and Xander are nervous, while Buffy can’t hide that she’d rather be anywhere else. Willow runs off, leaving Buffy and Xander alone on the stage. Still, it’s better than Cordelia’s singing.

Thoughts: Snyder is a great “love to hate him” villain, and Armin Shimerman plays him perfectly.

I can’t tell if it’s because of Snyder’s leadership style or because there are so many deaths in Sunnydale, but after Emily dies, there’s no offer of grief counseling and really, no one seems to care that one of their classmates was murdered. The school would be a great place for a psychologist to do a study on the effects of multiple traumas. Okay, that’s enough nerdery from me.

It would have been funny if, after Buffy said to “watch the dummy” while she talked to Morgan, Willow had said, “Okay, I’ll keep an eye on Xander.”

I love that when Xander realizes that Sid is gone, he jumps up on a table like Sid’s a snake he doesn’t want near his feet.

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