Despite Giles' misgivings, Buffy decides to try out for the Sunnydale High Cheerleading Team. During trials, the hands of a girl named Amber spontaneously combust, but she is saved by Buffy. Amy seems to be under strong pressure from her winning mother Catherine, a star cheerleader in her day, and is crushed when she only makes the substitute list after Cordelia and Buffy. We see a brief glimpse of somebody bewitching Barbie dolls over a kettle. Next thing, Cordelia cannot see, which she proves the hard way during driving instruction, and is just saved in the nick of time by Buffy.
After these events, Giles come to the conclusion that a witch is to blame. The gang starts to realize that Amy may very well be causing all the damage, but have no way of doing so without arousing suspicion. Giles then points out that there is a certain spell that could identify a witch *which is the first spell the gang has ever done*. To prove that Amy is a witch, Buffy, Xander and Willow collect eye of newt, quicksilver (mercury), aqua fortis (nitric acid) and some of Amy's hair during science class, and prove that she has cast a spell. Amy comes home and tells her mother to get with her homework — while she goes upstairs with Buffy's bracelet (which she stole while Buffy was collecting her hair).
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.
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.
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 synonymous with witchcraft.
Buffy and Joyce reference the actress Farrah Fawcett and Sally Field's "Gidget" character, who were known in the 60's and 70's, when discussing hairstyles.
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.
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.
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 - "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?"
Giles - "Why would anyone want to harm Cordelia?"
Willow - "Maybe because they met her? (off their looks) Did I say that?"
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?"
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."