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The Puppet Show

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 1, Episode 9
Sid and Buffy Main
Air date May 5, 1997 (USA)
Written by Rob Des Hotel
Dean Batali
Directed by Ellen S. Pressman
Episode Guide
previous
"I Robot, You Jane"
next
"Nightmares"
Cast
Starring
Sarah Michelle Gellar Buffy
Nicholas Brendon Xander
Alyson Hannigan Willow
Charisma Carpenter Cordelia
Anthony Stewart Head Giles
Guest Starring
Kristine Sutherland Joyce
Rich Werner Morgan
Burke Roberts Marc
Armin Shimerman Principal Snyder
Co Starring
Lenora May Mrs. Jackson
Chase Hampton Elliot
Natasha Pearce Lisa
Tom Wyner Voice of Sid
Krissy Carlson Emily (Dancer)
Michelle Miracle Locker Girl

"The Puppet Show" is the ninth episode of the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the ninth episode overall. It was directed by Ellen S. Pressman and written by Rob Des Hotel and Dean Batali. It was originally broadcasted on May 5, 1997.

Buffy Summers suspects a ventriloquist's dummy may be harvesting organs from classmates who are participating in the school talent show.

Synopsis

A demon watches a ballet dancer, Emily. Cordelia is singing Whitney Houston's Greatest Love Of All off key, as part of the try outs for the talent show. Giles stops her, obviously to stop his ears from hurting. Buffy, Xander and Willow join Giles, and mock him as he complains that the new Principal (which he refers to as the Führer) made him in charge of the talent show, despite his wishes, so he could have more contact with the students. As Snyder overhears the Scoobies making fun of Giles, he punishes them by forcing them to participate in the talent show. The next try-out is Morgan and his dummy, Sid, and Buffy confesses to being freaked out by dummies. Morgan's act takes a sudden turn for the better when Sid suddenly develops a personality and starts making sarcastic comments about the act. Emily notices the demon and screams.

The talent show rehearsals continue with Marc, an unsuccessful magician. Buffy, Willow and Xander debate what to do for the talent show, and settle on a dramatic scene, since it does not require any actual talent. Sid watches, and makes rude comments as Morgan explains the voice is an imitation of his father. Snyder explains to Giles that he will run a safer, more disciplined school, only to be interrupted by the discovery of Emily's body, whose heart has been cut out with a knife. The Scoobies debate whether the killer is a demon or a human, eliciting Willow's comment that a human murderer is scarier since it could be anyone; even her.

Puppetshow

Morgan with his puppet Sid.

The Scoobies split up and begin interviewing people from the talent show to find the killer. All of their interviews point in the direction of Morgan and his dummy, Sid. They decide to check Morgan's locker after school hours. As Buffy is busy breaking into Morgan's locker, and finding nothing, Snyder finds her almost red-handed, and admonishes her for being in the school after hours. Morgan and Sid turn out to be hiding, watching Buffy. Sid tells Morgan that Buffy is "the one", saying that her strength is evidence of it.

As Buffy goes to sleep, Sid waits until the lights are off and sneaks into her room. When she wakes up, he quickly scampers out. Naturally, Buffy has a hard time convincing the Scoobies that Sid broke into her room. Giles, on his part, suggests that the demon responsible might be needing the heart (and later, a brain) to keep a human guise, which means the demon could be anyone, once again. When a teacher confiscates Sid, Xander steals him so that Buffy can talk to Morgan alone. As Buffy searches for Morgan back-stage, Snyder is again displeased with her being where he does not think she belongs. In the library, just as Willow finds references to another possible explanation — animated dummies might harvest organs to become humans — Sid is gone when Xander stops paying any attention to him. Buffy finds Morgan's body, missing a brain, just as a chandelier falls on her. When she wakes up, Sid attacks her, and during their fight they realize they are both working for the same goal: to stop the demon.

Puppetshow1

"Oedipus oh Oedipus..."

Sid explains he is a demon hunter, cursed to dummy form until he kills the last of the Brotherhood of Seven, those demons which harvest a heart and a brain. Realizing the demon has what it needs, they theorize it will be moving on, and so it will be whomever is missing from the show. Sid suggests to Giles to form a "power circle" to find out who is missing, but Giles sees everyone there. When Sid is again missing, Buffy finds Morgan's brain when she looks for him. Buffy, Willow and Xander discover Morgan had brain cancer — which is probably the reason the demon did not use his brain, and is now looking for someone smart. This means that Giles and Willow are in danger.

At the talent show, Marc the magician tricks Giles into strapping himself into a guillotine, ostensibly a magic prop, so that he can take his scalp off and get his brain. Buffy, Xander and Willow rush to rescue Giles, and with Sid's help they manage to kill Marc — who was the demon all along — and save Giles just as the curtain goes up. Everyone assumes it is part of the show, though there is only minimal clapping. Buffy, Xander, and Willow then performed a scene from Oedipus Rex with remarkable lack of talent, and with Willow running away from the stage.

Continuity

  • Principal Snyder now heads Sunnydale High.
  • Principal Snyder claims that Principal Flutie's "woolly-headed, liberal thinking,  led him to get eaten". Despite Snyder's more disciplined approach to education, he eventually gets eaten as well.[1]
  • This episode reveals some fears of the Scooby Gang, which will be featured in the next episode, Nightmares: Buffy Summers is afraid of dummies, Xander Harris is frightened by a mime with clown makeup, and Willow Rosenberg is afraid to introduce herself in front of an audience.
  • The idea of a demon slayer being turned into a live puppet is later repeated in season 5's Angel: "Smile Time".
  • The pen that Willow used in History class, where Morgan gets Sid taken away from him, is the same pen that Buffy drops when she needs to steal hair from Amy in "Witch". 
  • Principal Snyder claims that Sunnydale High has a reputation for "Suicide, missing persons, spontaneous cheerleader combustion...", referencing the events of "Witch" and "I Robot, You Jane". 
  • The book with the picture of the Brotherhood of Seven demon will reappear in "Killed by Death" where it also contains an entry about Der Kindestod.

Appearances

Individuals

Organizations and Titles

Species

Locations

Body Count

Behind the Scenes

Production

  • Numerous ad-libs were included in the final cut. Such unscripted bits are when Willow runs off the stage terrified and when Xander cries “Redrum! Redrum!”[2]
  • This is the fourth episode of the series without any vampires. ("Witch" "The Pack" and "I Robot, You Jane" are the first three). 
  • In this episode, the ending credits role alongside Buffy, Willow and Xander's play. This is the only time in the Buffyverse that a scene is played as the credits role. This is also the only time in the show where the ending credits are not in Slayer font.
  • Xander plays Oedipus, Buffy plays Jocasta and Willow plays the priest of Zeus.

Broadcast

  • This is the lowest-rated episode of the entire series, pulling in an audience of 1.7 million households.[3]
  • On the original airing of the episode, the closing credit sequence was split-screened with a scene in which Buffy, Willow, and Xander perform a scene from the play Oedipus Rex. This scene was excluded in repeat airings until the series left The WB Network. It is included in the DVD Collections, and in present television reruns.

Deleted Scenes

  • An exchange from the original script was cut due to length:[2]
Buffy - "And I don’t think we’ll be featuring Xander's special gift ..."
Xander - "Okay, some people are jealous that they can’t burp the alphabet."
Buffy - "... so we’re back to drama. We’ll just do it quickly. Get in, get out. Nobody gets hurt."
  • Another exchange from the original script was cut due to length:[2]
Buffy - "Pretty good. I never heard ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ on the tuba before."
Lisa - "Most people aren’t up to it."

Pop Culture References

  • When Xander was goofing around with Sid, he referenced The Shining by shouting, "Redrum! Redrum!"

Goofs, Bloopers & Continuity Errors

  • When Buffy is breaking into Morgan's locker, she says, "Two to the left, three to the right...", but she actually turns the dial first to the right, then to the left.
  • When Xander is trying to remember his lines in the talent show scene, Nicholas Brendon briefly breaks character when he tries not to laugh.
  • A few crew members can be heard laughing when Willow runs offstage.
  • While Buffy is searching around in the backstage area, there is a mirror in the background of the shot. For a brief second, you can see the reflection of a crew member.
  • As Giles is announcing 5 minutes until the power circle, the violin player behind him is very obviously 'playing' the violin with the bow 2 inches from the strings.

Music

International Titles

  • French: La Marionnette (The Puppet)
  • Portuguese: O Show de bonecos (The Puppet Show)
  • Finnish: Kahlenukke (Puppet in chains)
  • German: Buffy lässt die Puppen tanzen (Buffy lets the Puppets dance)

Other

  • Sarah Michelle Gellar admitted having nightmares about puppets after filming this episode.

Quotes

Buffy - "The school talent show. How ever did you finagle such a primo assignment?"
Giles - "Our new Führer, Mr. Snyder."
Willow - "I think they call 'em 'principals' now."
Giles - "Mm. He thought it would behoove me to have more contact with the students. I did try to explain that my vocational choice of librarian was a deliberate attempt to minimize said contact, but, uh, he would have none of it."
Buffy - "Giles, unto every generation is born one who must run the annual talentless show. You cannot escape your destiny."

References

  1. "Graduation Day, Part Two"
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Golden, Christopher, and Nancy Holder. The Watcher's Guide, Vol. 1. New York: Pocket Books, 1998.
  3. "Nielsen Ratings for Buffy's First Season." <http://home.insightbb.com/~wahoskem/buffy1.html>

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