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.
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."
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.
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.)
There are no vampires in this episode. This is the first episode in which no vampires appear.
This is the first episode with no deaths, as Catherine technically did not die.
Of the first five episodes of the series, this is the only one in which Angel does not appear.
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 - "By appealing to your common sense, if such a creature exists."
Xander - (in a disappointed tone, after Willow tells him what the alternates for the cheerleading team do) "For I am Xander, King of Cretins. May all lesser cretins bow down before me."
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?"
Giles - "Why would anyone want to harm Cordelia?"
Willow - "Maybe because they met her? (off their looks) Did I say that?"
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 the axe threateningly) "Mom! Please!"
Catherine - (holds out her hand, and the axe flies from Amy's hands to hers) "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 along 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.)