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BuffyGuide.com — The Complete Buffy Episode Guide
The Witch
March 17, 1997
4V03

 
Credits

Writer:
Dana Reston


Director:
Stephen Cragg


Regulars:
Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris
Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg
Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia Chase
Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles
Guest Star:
Kristine Sutherland as Joyce Summers
Cast:
Elizabeth Anne Allen as Amy
Robin Riker as Catherine
Jim Doughan as Mr. Pole
Nicole Prescott as Lishanne
Amanda Wilmshurst as Senior cheerleader
William Monaghan as Dr. Gregory

 
Synopsis

Buffy tries to retain some normality in her life by trying out for Sunnydale High's Cheerleading squad, but tryouts are canceled when one of the girls spontaneously combusts. A few days later, after the squad has been chosen, strange things begin happening to its members, and Giles suspects that a witch is responsible. The chief suspect is Amy Madison, 3rd alternate on the squad, who seems to be getting a lot of pressure from her Cheer Queen Mother to be part of the team. Buffy is then hit by a deadly draining spell and she and Giles go to Amy's home to confront her mother and reverse the spell. They discover that Mrs. Madison is the actual witch — she's switched bodies with her daughter in order to relive her glory days. With Amy's help and her mother's spell book, Giles manages to reverse the spells, returning Buffy to health just in time to defeat Mrs. Madison with one of her own spells. — Short synopsis by angel_star.

For the full, detailed synopsis, click here.

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Monstervision

The witch in this episode is not a modern witch, a practitioner of Wicca or other Earth-magic religions, nor is it the Wicked Witch of the West. No, Catherine Madison is a Chaos-worshiping, agent-of-Satan witch of the sort seen in Arthur Miller's The Crucible or John Updike's The Witches of Eastwick.

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Dialogue to Die For

Xander: "I laugh in the face of danger. Then I hide until it goes away."

Buffy looking at her mother's high school yearbook: "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?"

Buffy: "I'm inscrutable, huh?"
Joyce: "You're sixteen."

More quotes from this episode...

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References

  • "Just look at that Amber. Who does she think she is, a Laker Girl?"  The Laker Girls are the cheerleaders for the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team. Charisma Carpenter was a San Diego Chargers Girl cheerleader in 1991.

  • "Oh, how I hate this, let me count the ways."  Amy is misquoting the most famous of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese, a collection of love poems she wrote for her husband Robert, a fellow poet. It is number 43:
    How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
    I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
    My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
    For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
    I love thee to the level of every day's
    Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
    I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
    I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
    I love thee with the passion put to use
    In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
    I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
    With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
    Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
    I shall but love thee better after death.

  • "It's like the Human Torch... only it hurts."  The Human Torch is one of Marvel Comics' The Fantastic Four. Johnny Storm, one of four astronauts caught in a cosmic ray storm, returned to Earth to find he had gained the superhuman power to burst into flame and fly with no harm to himself.

  • "So mommie dearest is really... Mommie Dearest."  Mommie Dearest was a 1981 film version of Christina Crawford's autobiography, which detailed the harrowing abuse she suffered as a child at the hands of her mother, the famous movie actress Joan Crawford. Faye Dunaway starred as Joan Crawford, and Diana Scarwid played the young Christina.

  • Farrah Fawcett Buffy (looking at her mother's high school yearbook): "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?"  "Farrah hair" and "Gidget hair" refer to the trend-setting hairstyles sported by 70's model-actress Farrah Fawcett and by Sandra Dee in the 1959 surf movie Gidget.

  • "The test was positive. She's our Sabrina."  Sabrina is the name of a teenage witch who has appeared in Archie comics since the 1960s. A sitcom series about the character, without the references to the rest of the Archie comics universe, premiered on September 27, 1996, starring Melissa Joan Hart as Sabrina.

  • "Macho Man"  The morning the bloodstone vengeance spell takes effect, Buffy bops into the kitchen singing "Macho Man," the first U.S. hit for the Village People in 1978.

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Goofs and Gaffes

  • The whiteboard in the first tryout scene reads "1996 Cheerleading Tryouts." This, put together with the fact that it's the high school basketball season, would seem to imply that the action of the series is taking place in early 1996... a full year earlier than the show's actual airing.

  • Amy's mom's trophy has her name on it as "Catherine Madison," which seems to convince Buffy that it's really Amy's mom, implying that Amy's last name is Madison. This is further borne out by Giles, who addresses Amy's mother as "Mrs. Madison." But Amy says that her parents got married right after high school graduation, which means that when her mother won the cheerleading trophy she would still have gone by her maiden name.

  • After Catherine Madison is defeated, Giles says, "It was my first casting," but that is later proven to be a false statement by the events of "The Dark Age."

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Notes

  • This episode was released on 20th Century Fox Home Video on September 15, 1998, as part of the first Buffy the Vampire Slayer Box Set.

  • Buffy's mother says that Buffy "stopped cheerleading just before the trouble," another reference to their life in L.A. which seems to correlate to events in Buffy the motion picture.

  • Willow's comment, "Yeah, you're the Slayer, we're, like, the Slayerettes," has led to fans and writers of Buffy fan fiction consistently referring to Buffy's sidekicks as Slayerettes, although the term wasn't repeated again on the show until "The I in Team" in season four.

  • Buffy's mother owns an art gallery.

  • In the scene where Willow uncovers Xander's embarrassing reading habits, we learn that his full name is Alexander Harris.

  • Giles' aging Citroën makes its first appearance in this episode.

  • The trophy, with Amy's mom trapped in it, makes a return appearance in the second season episode "Phases," in preparation for the return of Elizabeth Anne Allen as Amy in the following episode, "Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered."

  • William Monaghan would return to play a pivotal role as kindly biology teacher Dr. Gregory in the next episode, "Teacher's Pet."

  • Jim Doughan, who appears in this episode as driver's ed teacher Mr. Pole, had a small role as a party guest in the 1988 film My Stepmother Is An Alien, which featured both Alyson Hannigan and Seth Green.

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Comments

Brian:
A very promising second episode. "The Witch" presents the series with its first non-vampire adversary, and it works. Also welcome is the way in which the plot springs from Buffy's desire to be a "normal teenage girl;" it is a dichotomy that bears examination and repeated visits. The plot twists are fun, and the regular characters continue their nice development from the pilot. All in all, this episode shows that Buffy the Vampire Slayer, like the series' namesake, is a survivor, with hidden strengths that belie its deceptively goofy facade. (8/10)
Will:
The high quality of Buffy the Vampire Slayer continues in this installment. Suspense plays a part in this episode...who is disposing of all the cheerleader applicants? Just when you think you've got it...WRONG!! It seems that a bit of inspiration for this episode came from the original movie, in which Buffy was a cheerleader. Of course, we still have that lovable innocence and wit, but it seems to come from the supporting cast in greater amounts. Xander "laughs in the face of danger," then "hides until it goes away." Willow dubs Xander and herself as Buffy's sidekicks, the "Slayerettes." This episode shows us that Buffy will be slaying more than just vampires, and the quality and intelligence of the show will continue. (8/10)
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Nielsens
Air Date Rating Ranking
March 17, 1997 3.2 102 of 112 (tie)
April 21, 1997 2.3 101 of 106 (tie)
July 13, 1997 NA NA
June 15, 1998 2.6 94 of 114 (tie)

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