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Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 3, Episode 11
Gingerbread main hand
Air date January 12, 1999
Written by Thania St. John
Jane Espenson (story)
Jane Espenson (teleplay)
Directed by James Whitmore, Jr.
Episode Guide
Sarah Michelle Gellar Buffy
Nicholas Brendon Xander
Alyson Hannigan Willow
Charisma Carpenter Cordelia
David Boreanaz Angel
Seth Green Oz
Anthony Stewart Head Giles
Guest Starring
Kristine Sutherland Joyce
Elizabeth Anne Allen Amy
Harry Groener Mayor Wilkins
Jordan Baker Mrs. Rosenberg
Armin Shimerman Principal Snyder
Co Starring
Lindsay Taylor Little Girl
Shawn Pyfrom Little Boy
Blake Swendson Michael
Grant Garrison Roy
Roger Morrissey Demon
Daniel Tamm MOOster
Jerome Scott Stoner

"Gingerbread" is the eleventh episode of the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and is the forty-fifth episode altogether.


While on the nightly patrol, Buffy not only encounters a vampire, but also her mother, who is looking for some quality time and a chance to "share" in the slaying experience. As Buffy kills the vampire, Joyce discovers the bodies of two children, dead in the park. The police arrive and after some questioning Buffy and Joyce are free to leave. Joyce is really disturbed by the murders.

At school the next day, Buffy confronts Giles about the situation, desperate to find out what kind of creature would do this. She draws the symbol that was found on the hands of the two children. He says it's probably related to the occult. Buffy can't quite get herself to believe "someone with a soul" could've done this and becomes all the more eager to find those responsible. Willow and Amy sit with Xander and Oz (who exchange a few awkward words) at lunch. Buffy joins them and fills them in on the murders. Joyce shows up at school and informs Buffy that she has spread the word about the murders to all her friends and that there will be a vigil at City Hall that night.

Many concerned parents attend the vigil, including Willow's mother and the Mayor. The Mayor says a few words to the crowd before handing the mic over to Mrs. Summers. She gives a speech about how Sunnydale has got to take back their city from the monsters, and witches, and Slayers.


Willow, Amy and Michael performing the protection spell.

Later, Michael (a warlock), Amy, and Willow (both witches) are shown performing a spell in a circle that surrounds the symbol Buffy found on the children's hands.

Michael is shoved up against his locker the next day by another student, who threatens both him and Amy. Buffy makes a brief appearance next to Amy and gives Roy a seemingly innocent smile; he notices her and thinks better of going any further. Cordelia, having witnessed the whole incident, remarks to Buffy about the outcome of getting involved with losers, believing herself to be the prime example of the misfortune that can befall someone. Buffy goes to find Willow, who has a book Giles needs for researching the symbol.

However, when she finds the book, Buffy also finds the witch symbol in one of Willow's notebooks. Before Willow can explain, a search of all the school lockers begins in order to find any material that may be witch-related, with students found with anything questionable being taken away. Willow tells Buffy that the symbol is harmless and that she was not doing anything wrong, just making a protection spell for Buffy's upcoming birthday. Amy and Willow are taken to Principal Snyder's office for questioning. Also, all of Giles' books are confiscated by the police, which leaves the Slayer and Watcher without their resources.


Joyce heads the MOO.

Buffy goes home where she finds out her mom, the new founder of MOO (Mothers Opposed to the Occult) does not want Buffy to see Willow anymore and is the one responsible for the raid on the lockers. The two argue, and Buffy leaves to patrol, insulted by her mother, who claims her Slaying is not doing Sunnydale any good. The ghosts of the two children appear to Joyce and tell her she has to hurt the "bad girls".

Willow goes home, where her mother calmly tells her she's grounded. Willow flips out, unable to control her anger towards the fact that her mother does not believe that she's a witch.

Buffy meets up with Angel at the park and they talk. He convinces her to keep fighting. He also unintentionally gives her the idea that they do not know anything about the two kids; although pictures of the living children have been provided, there has been no reference to their parents or even any names provided. Buffy heads back to the library to find Giles yelling at a computer while Xander and Oz were unable to retrieve any books from City Hall. After hooking up with Willow over the net, the Scooby Gang find out that the two children died hundreds of years ago. A demon returns disguised as them every fifty years to persuade a town to kill what they call "bad girls" (witches). They are an example that fairy tales are true; in real life, the children inspired the tale of Hansel and Gretel.

Amy, Willow, and Buffy are then taken by force to City Hall, where they are tied to wooden posts atop piles of books for a combined book-/witch-burning. As Buffy regains consciousness, her mother lights the books on fire, sentencing the three girls to death by burning at the stake. Amy, however, avoids her fate by casting her famous "rat" spell and scurrying. Cordelia finds Giles unconscious at the Summers' home and wakes him in time for them to head off and save the others. Xander and Oz find Willow's room in shambles.


Buffy impales the demon.

Giles practices a German incantation while Cordelia prepares a concoction to force the demon to show its true form. Oz and Xander climb through the air vents in the hope of saving their friends. Giles and Cordelia break into the room, which is now partially on fire with the parents watching. Cordelia uses a fire hose to put out the fire while Giles casts the revealing spell at the children. As the demon (now in its true, ugly form) goes for Buffy, she breaks the stake she was tied to and stakes the creature. Everyone is safe, and the demon is dead.

The next day, none of the parents remember much of anything regarding the recent events and everything is back to normal... except Amy is still a rat. Buffy and Willow try performing the reversal spell to restore her to human form, but it doesn't work. Buffy suggests getting Amy "one of those wheel thingies".


  • Buffy asked Angel, "Is Sunnydale any better than when I first came here?" Buffy is unaware of the events in the alternate reality, where Sunnydale is indeed much worse off without her.[1]
  • Joyce and Giles are still awkward around each other since they slept together a few weeks before.[2]
  • Amy turns herself into a rat and remains that way for some time until "Something Blue", where she is turned back into a human but only very briefly. She would not turn back as a human completely until "Smashed".
  • Cordelia told Giles that one day he might "wake up in a coma", which she actually did later.[3]
  • Cordelia asked Giles rhetorically, "How many times have you been knocked out, anyway?" Giles has been rendered unconscious on an almost regular basis.
  • This was not the first time in history that a Slayer was burned at a stake under the accusation of witchcraft.[4]
  • This is the first and only episode where Willow's mother appears, which meshes with Willow's descriptions of her as an absentee mother who cares little for her daughter's life.
  • Snyder paraphrases Apocalypse Now, which he will appear in a parody of in season 4.
  • Ironically, in an episode that criticizes censorship, the BBC censored the scene when Buffy stakes the demon through the throat.
  • This marks the beginning of Cordelia's gradual return to the Scooby-gang.
  • Angel's speech to Buffy about purposes for fighting evil is reminiscent to the speech he gives Kate Lockley in the Angel episode "Epiphany".

Body Count

  • Sanderson, dusted by Buffy
  • A demon, impaled by Buffy

Behind the Scenes


  • The opening credits on this episode finished a half-second earlier than usual, slightly trimming the end of theme's final note. Presumably, this was done for reasons of time.
  • When the camera pans out of Willow and Amy's coven, first revealing the symbol they were gathered around, the faint laugh of Kakistos can be heard in the background. It's the laugh he uttered after telling Buffy she needed a bigger stake in "Faith, Hope & Trick".

Deleted Scenes

  • Amy and Willow have something in common in this exchange cut due to length:
Amy: "Oh, God, and Mr. Nyman that thing he does with his face..."
Willow: "The thing with the face! When he makes a point, the - I always think he's going to sneeze!"
Amy: "I thought I was the only one who saw it."

Pop Culture References

  • When Principal Snyder walked into the library as it is being emptied of books by the police he said "I love the smell of desperate librarian in the morning" to Giles. This paraphrased the famous line from Apocalypse Now, "I love the smell of napalm in the morning."
  • MOO (Mothers Opposed to the Occult), which Joyce Summers founded, was probably a reference to MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving).
  • Willow and her mother have a discussion about the Mister Rogers show.
  • Xander wonders if he can trade his cow to a couple of beans, referring to the fairy tale "Jack and the Beanstalk".
  • Buffy is telling Angel about the little Dutch boy who plugs a dike (coming from the Dutch word dijk, which means dam) with his finger. She first mentions a duck, but Angel corrects her that it was a dike. The story makes more sense to her now. The story is featured in the novel Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates by American author Mary Mapes Dodge.
  • Buffy: "Using what, a dictionary and My Friend Flicka?" My Friend Flicka is a 1941 book for young adults by Mary O'Hara about a boy and his horse. It was also made into a 1943 movie and a 1956 TV series.
  • Giles: "It happened in Salem." This is a reference to the Salem witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692.
  • The final book (and witch) burning scene is reminiscent of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, in which firemen burn books in order to stop the spread of knowledge, free-thinking, and ideas.
  • Xander reveals that he "reads" Playboy magazine. His Buffyverse co-stars Charisma Carpenter and Mercedes McNab would later go on to pose for the magazine, as would Kristy Swanson, who played Buffy in the 1992 film. Playmates Daphne Duplaix (Miss July 1997) and Jamie Bergman (Miss January 1999) would both appear on Angel, with Bergman later marrying David Boreanaz.

Goofs, Bloopers & Continuity Errors

  • The German story Giles looks up on the computer is very badly translated (25 or more mistakes in 33 words) and thus nearly incomprehensible if read in German. It is a word-by-word mistranslation of the English original text: "A.D. 1649: me, a clergyman from near the Black Forests did find the bodies of the children [on] my own. one was of the boy, the other of and girl. thereafter [through] my own research I learnt..." Note the geographical blurriness, a local priest would have stated the town and/or principality he lived in. "Somewhere around the Bay Area" would be a similarly precise location in California.
  • Buffy's line "Hansel and Gretel run home to tell everyone about the mean old witch," contradicts the actual fairy tale. In the Grimm story, Gretel herself killed the witch by pushing her into her oven, rather than her and her brother being rescued by outside forces. However, this could be read retroactively.
  • The layout of Willow's room is completely different from her room shown in "Lie to Me". This, however, could possibly be a room change between the two episodes spanning a year apart.

International Titles

  • French: Intolérance (Intolerance)
  • German: Hänsel und Gretel (Hansel and Gretel)



  • This episode carries with it a moral warning against the dangers of mob mentality, as well as the prejudice held in some small communities (despite Sunnydale's ever-expanding borders) towards alternative lifestyles and belief systems. In the same vein, it explores the easy excitability of people living in Sunnydale (and by extension, over the Hellmouth), especially when "civilians", such as Joyce Summers, are exposed firsthand to the aftermath of supernatural violence or danger.


Joyce - "This is not a good town. How many of us have lost someone who just... disappeared, or got skinned, or suffered 'neck rupture'? And how many of us have been afraid to speak out? I was supposed to lead us in a moment of silence. But silence is this town's disease. For too long it's been plagued by unnatural evils. It's not our town any more. It belongs to the monsters, to the witches and Slayers."
Buffy - "Hey. Where's Willow?"
Xander - "How can I convince you people see that it's over?! You assume because I'm here, she's here. That I somehow mysteriously know where she is!"
Buffy - "Those her books?"
Xander - "Yeah, she's in the bathroom. But the fact that I know that doesn't change that I have a serious complaint here."
Xander - "Excuse me. Playboys. Can we turn the situation this way?"
Giles[to computer] - "So it's interrupted, is it? Who said you can interrupt, you stupid, useless fad! Yes, I said 'fad'. And I'll say it again."
Xander - "At that point, I will be frightened."
Cordelia - "Wake up!"
Giles - "Cordelia?"
Cordelia - "Took you long enough to wake up. My hand hurts."
Giles - "Pity. Oh... why are you here?"
Cordelia - "Things are way out of control, Giles. First the thing at school, and then my mom confiscates all of my black clothes and scented candles. I came over here to tell Buffy to stop this craziness and found you all unconscious... again. How many times have you been knocked out, anyway? I swear, one of these times, you're gonna wake up in a coma."
Giles - "Wake up in a... oh, never mind. We need to save Buffy from Hansel and Gretel."
Cordelia - "Now, let's be clear. The brain damage happened before I hit you."
Angel - "Buffy, you know I'm still figuring things out. There's a lot I don't understand... I do know it's important to keep fighting. I learned that from you."
Buffy - "But we never--"
Angel - "We never win."
Buffy - "Not completely."
Angel - "Never will. That's not why we fight. We do it 'cause there's things worth fighting for. Those kids, their parents."


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