Buffy tries out for Sunnydale High's cheerleading squad and discovers that there are strange things happening to the other contestants.
Despite Giles' misgivings, Buffy decides to try out for the cheerleading team in order to reclaim some of the happy, normal social life she enjoyed back in LA. Right before the trials begin, Xander gives Buffy a bracelet that says, "Yours Always" on it. During the trial, the hands of a girl named Amber spontaneously combust. In the Library, the gang discusses what happened and possibility. Xander and Willow try to force their involvement, through research and stuff.
That evening, Buffy returns home and tries to connect with her mom. However, her mom is distracted by work and setting up the gallery’s first major show. They talk about cheerleading and Joyce inadvertently goes on a guilt trip, about Buffy’s past.
Trials continue the next day with group work. During the routine, Amy falls and knocks over Cordelia. Afterwards, Buffy meets her outside the gym, in front of the trophy case and they discuss Amy’s mom, Catherine “the Great.” Amy shows admiration for her mother’s accomplishments and scorn for her absent father. She also is stressed over not being able to compare to her mother’s skill and runs off. Willow shows up and tells Buffy about her and Amy’s friendship during junior high. Willow reveals that Catherine was emotionally abusive towards Amy. Will says Catherine would often bully her Amy over her weight and even withhold food. They then move on to what information Willow had found about Amber, which had nothing of interest. While Amy is changing, Cordelia tries to intimidate and threaten her. At school, Xander eagerly asks Willow if Buffy is wearing the bracelet he gave her before tryouts. Upon discussing Xander's crush on Buffy, Xander tells Willow, "that's why you're so cool. You're like a guy." They see the cheerleading sign being posted. Amy is crushed when she only makes the substitute list as a 3rd alternate. Buffy tries to be kind to Amy, who is still caught up on her mother. That afternoon, an unknown person is shown to be using Barbie dolls dressed as cheerleaders in a voodoo-like ritual over a cauldron, naming Cordelia as its victim.
The next morning before school, Buffy’s eating breakfast when her mom tries to tell her about her own high school experiences with the yearbook staff. Buffy shuts her down and an argument ensues about Buffy living her own life. Xander continues to talk to Willow about his crush on Buffy and finally decides to ask Buffy out; to his dismay, though, Buffy is distracted by a spell-bound Cordelia. Cordelia is struck blind during her Driver’s Ed class under the spell, and is saved from wandering into traffic in the nick of time by Buffy. According to Giles, blinding enemies is a favorite trick amongst witches. Believing Amy to be a witch, Buffy, Xander and Willow collect some of Amy's hair during science class in order to prove that she cast the spells. Amy goes home and orders her mother to do her homework, while she goes upstairs holding Buffy's bracelet from Xander, which she stole from Buffy during class.
The next morning, a slightly manic Buffy blows her chance at the cheerleading squad when she tosses another girl through the room, ceding her slot to none other than Amy. Buffy turns out to have something more than just a mood disorder: a Bloodstone Vengeance Spell has destroyed her immune system, giving her only about three hours to live. The only way to cure her and break the other spells is to get the witch's spell book. The ailing Buffy and Giles go confront Catherine — only to realize that the real Amy is stuck in her mother's middle-aged body, while her mother is reliving her glory days. Giles finds the witch's book and takes Amy and Buffy back to school to break the spells. Buffy is fading fast.
Amy's mother is cheering Sunnydale's school basketball team when she starts getting flashes of what Giles is trying to do. Xander and Willow are unable to stop her from storming into the science lab with an axe, but buy enough time for Giles to break the spells. Amy and her mother switch bodies again, and Buffy feels good enough to fight. However, Catherine's power is too great, and it is only by kicking down a steel vent cowling and reflecting her last spell that Buffy wins the day. Catherine then vanishes.
When Amy and Buffy talk in the school hall the next day, they pass by the school’s trophy collection, where the statue to “Catherine the Great” stands. While both girls wonder where Amy’s mother ended up, the camera pulls close to the statue’s face, revealing Catherine’s eyes and a muffled voice pleading for help.
Xander's attraction to Buffy was made clear when he gave her a bracelet. However, it was also implied that Buffy did not share the same feelings for him as she claimed that Xander was not like other boys, but rather like one of the girls, which is how much she was comfortable with him.
Giles is briefly knocked out, for the first of many times to come.
Xander makes a brief reference to being so embarrassed that he wishes someone would drive a railroad spike through his head, an unintentional reference to the favored murder method of future enemy — and even later ally — Spike.
Willow casts her first spell to identify the witch.
This is the first instance of the "black eyes" when strong magic was being used.
Despite failing and quitting with cheerleading, Buffy is sometimes still mentioned as so. Darla references her as "that cheerleader" in "Dear Boy," and Twilight calls her "that goofy little cheerleader" in Last Gleaming, Part One.
Buffy asks her mother if she would like to be sixteen again, and her mother is horrified at the thought; Joyce would, in fact, regress to her teenage years again in the episode "Band Candy."
Trying to prevent Amy to enter into the Science lab room, Willow use stereotype terms against the witch. Ironically, Willow later becomes also a witch and often criticizes the same stereotypes.
Giles: "Yes, the ducking stool! We throw her in the pond. If she floats, she's a witch; if she drowns, she's innocent… [then off their looks] …some of my texts are a bit outdated."
Pop Culture References
When Buffy discovers that Amy (actually Catherine) is a witch she says "she's our Sabrina," referring to Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. Coincidentally, the actress who plays Catherine Madison played another witch in the first season of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. Additionally, Sarah Michelle Gellar was friends with Melissa Joan Hart, who portrayed Sabrina in the series.
Ironically, Gellar was an early choice to play Sabrina for the pilot movie; there were also rumors of her playing the part in a possible reboot after the original series ended.
Xander references the Human Torch when speculating on Amber's combustion.
When Buffy wakes up in bed, she is wearing a t-shirt with a black cat on the front, an animal frequently associated with witchcraft.
While talking about Amy's mother, Buffy says "so Mommie Dearest is really Mommie Dearest," a reference to the book and later movie Mommie Dearest by Joan Crawford's daughter Christina, which claimed Crawford was an abusive mother.
Goofs, Bloopers & Continuity Errors
Giles says that the reversal spell was his "first casting"; this is revealed to be false in "The Dark Age" (Although, given how Giles's past experience with magic turned out, he may have simply been lying to try and distance himself from that past, never believing that anything from that time of his life would return to haunt him).
The sign for the cheerleading tryouts says 1996, but the episode was supposed to take place in 1997.
The pen Willow is holding and talking to Xander about changes position between shots.
In the cauldron scene where Cordelia is named the next victim, the viewer isn't meant to know who the witch is casting the spell. The subtitles on Netflix, though, name the speaker as Amy.
When Cordelia is blinded you can see the white contact lenses which Charisma Carpenter is wearing.
The levels of liquid in the test tube changes.
There is someone seen on the back seat of the car when Cordelia is riding.
2 Unlimited - "Twilight Zone" (Plays when Amber tries out for cheerleading; Plays again later during the basketball game.)
Village People - "Macho Man" (Buffy sings this song in the kitchen after falling prey under the spell.)
Giles - (upset) "This is madness! What can you have been thinking? You are the Slayer! Lives depend upon you!" (begins pacing) "I make allowances for your youth, but I expect a certain amount of responsibility, and instead of which you enslave yourself to this, this... (stops pacing) Cult?"
Buffy - (wearing a cheerleader outfit) "You don't like the color?"
Catherine - (as Amy, stirs the green brew in the cauldron a little) "Give me the power. Give me the dark. (She goes to get another doll from her rack) I call on you, the laughing gods. (She yanks one of the dolls off of the rack) Let your blackness crawl beneath my skin. (She wraps Cordelia's scrunchie around the doll's head) Accept this sacrifice... of Cordelia. Feed on her." (She drops the doll into the brew)
Giles - "You have a sacred birthright, Buffy. You were chosen to destroy vampires, not to... wave pompoms at people. And as the Watcher, I forbid it."
Buffy - "And you'll be stopping me how?"
Giles - "Well, I..." (sits on the edge of the table and crosses his arms) "By appealing to your common sense, if such a creature exists."
Buffy - "I will still have time to fight the forces of evil, okay? I just wanna have a life, I wanna do something normal. Something safe."
Willow - "I told Buffy about Amber."
Xander - "Cool! Was she wearin' it? The bracelet, she was wearin' it, right? Pretty much like we're goin' out."
Willow - "Except without the hugging or kissing or her knowing about it."
Xander - "So I'm just a figure of fun." (exhales) "I should ask her out, right?"
Willow - "You won't know till you ask."
Xander - "That's why you're so cool! You're like a guy! You're my guy friend that knows about girl stuff!"
Willow - "Oh, great. I'm a guy."
Xander - "One of those girls hit me really hard! You should test for steroids. Okay, not only did you make the team, but you, Miss Summers, are the first alternate, and Amy's number three." (Amy looks at Buffy, badly disappointed, and leaves)
Xander - "And what a better way to celebrate than with a romantic drive through..."
Willow - "Xander, alternates are the ones who didn't make the team. They only fill in if something happens to the ones who did."
Buffy - "Excuse me." (heads off to console Amy)
Xander - (sounding disappointed) "For I am Xander, King of Cretins. May all lesser cretins bow down before me."
Joyce - "Well, I was thinking. I know the cheerleading thing didn't work out... Maybe you should think about joining the yearbook staff. I did, it was a lot of fun."
Buffy - "Not really my tip, mom." (opens the refrigerator)
Joyce - "I was, uh, photo editor. I got to be on every page, made me look much more popular than I was."
Buffy - "And have you seen the kids that do yearbook? Nerds pick on them." (walks to her bag)
Joyce - (insulted) "Some of the best times I had in school were working on the yearbook!"
Buffy - (faces her mom) "Oh, this just in: I'm not you! I'm into my own thing."
Joyce - "Your own thing, whatever it is, got you kicked out of school, and we had to move here to find a decent school that would take you!" (Buffy is hurt. She takes her bag and starts to go)
Joyce - "Honey, uhhh..." (after Buffy leaves) "Uhhh! Great parenting form! Little shaky on the dismount."
Mr. Pole - "Nice of you to join us, Cordelia. We didn't keep you waiting or anything, did we? It's your turn to drive." (to the others) "Okay, people, let's buckle up."
Cordelia - (goes around the front of the car) "I don't wanna drive today, Mr. Pole."
Mr. Pole - "You've flunked Driver's Ed. twice already. Show me some moves, or you'll be taking the bus to college."
Giles - "Witchcraft. Blinding your enemy to disorient and disable them is, it's classic!"
Xander - "First vampires, now witches. No wonder you can still afford a house in Sunnydale."
Xander - "I laugh in the face of danger. Then I hide until it goes away."
Buffy - "You guys don't have to get involved."
Xander - "What do you mean? We're a team. Aren't we a team?"
Giles - "But that's the thrill of living on the Hellmouth! There's a veritable cornucopia of, of fiends and devils and, and ghouls to engage." (sees their puzzled looks) "Pardon me for finding the glass half full."
Buffy - "Mom, I've accepted that you've had sex. I am not ready to know that you had Farrah hair."
Joyce - "This is Gidget hair. Don't they teach you anything in history?"
Amy - "Her nickname was 'Catherine the Great'. She took that team and made them tri-county champions. Y'know, no one's ever done that before, or since. She and my dad were Homecoming King and Queen. They got married right after graduation."
Buffy - "That's kinda romantic."
Amy - "Well, he was a big loser. Never made any money. Ran off with Miss Trailer Trash when I was twelve."
Buffy - "Okay, that part's less romantic. My folks split up, too."
Amy - "Drag, huh? Uh, he left my mom with nothing."
Xander - "Nah, I gotta be a man and ask her out. Y'know, I gotta stop giving her ID bracelets, uh, subtle innuendoes, taking Polaroids outside of her bedroom window late at night, that last part is a joke to relieve the tension because here she comes." (Buffy comes out of a classroom and walks toward them) "Okay, into battle I go." (quickly turns to Willow) "Would you ask her out for me?"
Giles - "Why would anyone want to harm Cordelia?"
Willow - "Maybe because they met her? (off their looks) Did I say that?"
Catherine - (interrupts, incredulous) "I don't care about cheerleading! It's not my fault she's doing stuff." (Buffy sees the brownies and begins to realize who Catherine really is)
Giles - "As her mother you should assume some responsibility for her actions."
Catherine - (laughs) "Well, you know, these kids today! I..." (calms down a bit) "She's out of her mind. Ever since dad, her dad... left I can't control her." (Buffy slowly gets up)
Giles - "You're afraid of her?"
Buffy - "Amy?" (Catherine looks at Buffy and realizes she's been found out; Giles looks at Buffy, still puzzled) "Are you Amy?"
Giles - (looks back at Catherine) "I don't understand."
Buffy - "She switched! She switched your bodies, didn't she?" (Catherine looks down, defeated)
Giles - (the meaning of Buffy's words dawns on him) "Good Lord!"
Buffy - "She wanted to relive her glory days."
Catherine - (looks back up) "She said I was wasting my youth. So she took it."
Amy - (as Catherine, to Buffy, sounding distraught) "I didn't know anything about her powers. I mean, when dad was here they would fight and yell and he would... call her a witch and... I mean, I would, just thought he meant... Oh, God, when he left I wanted to go with him. But she wouldn't even let me call. She went crazy. I mean, she'd lock herself upstairs for days, and she was always coming down on me, telling me I didn't deserve to have it so easy, and that I didn't know… how hard it was to be her, and... I guess she showed me, huh?"
Buffy - (takes Catherine's hand in a comforting gesture) "Amy, it's gonna be okay."
Catherine - (confronts Amy, who is now back in her own body and holding the fire axe in both hands) "You! You little brat!"
Amy - (holds up the axe threateningly) "Mom! Please!" (Catherine holds out her hand, and the axe flies from Amy's hands to hers.)
Catherine - "How dare you raise your hand to your mother! I gave you birth. I gave up my life so you could drag that worthless carcass around and call it living?" (She slams the axe onto a lab table, making Amy jump a little) "You've never been anything but trouble. I'm going to put you where you can't make trouble again!"
Amy - "My dad is so impossible. He doesn't ever want me going anywhere! He wants to spend total quantity time together. And I'm like, 'Dad, I can go out, it's perfectly safe!' But he's got all this guilt about leaving me with my mom. And he's being a total pain."
Buffy - (smiles at Amy) "You're loving it."
Amy - (grinning as though in agreement with Buffy) "Every single minute. This Saturday night he wants to stay in and make brownies. Well, the brownies were my idea." (Cordelia comes in)
Cordelia - "Hey, I'm really sorry you guys got bumped back to alternate. Hold it, wait. No, I'm not."
Amy - "Well, I know that I'll miss the intellectual thrill of spelling out words with my arms."
Cordelia - "Ooo, these grapes are sour."
Amy - "Catherine the Great."
Buffy - "And there's been no sign of her?"
Amy - "That last spell... she said I'd never make trouble again. Wherever she is, I don't think we'll have to worry." (They both look at Catherine's cheerleading trophy.)