Recap: Buffy The Vampire Slayer S 3 E 11 Gingerbread

Prince of Night, I summon you. Come fill me with your black, naughty evil!

Buffy and Joyce find the corpses of two children bearing what seems to be marks related to witchcraft. Sunnydale's parents vow to root out witchcraft in the town. Except the symbols on their hands belong to a protection spell. And furthermore, they don't seem to have any kind of history. No one knows their names, who their parents are, or where they come from. And then Joyce and her new anti-occult organization, MOO, start taking things entirely too far...

  • Abandoned Playground: Except there's a couple of dead bodies on it.
  • Absentee Actor: Where's Faith when Buffy needs her?
  • Absence of Evidence: Willow tries to convince her mother she's a bad witch. "Do you see any goats around? No, because I sacrificed them!"
  • Adults Are Useless: Subverted; now that they actually take an interest, it becomes a case of Adults Are Harmful.
  • Accidental Misnaming: Shiela re Willow's friend — Bunny the Vampire Slayer.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Subverted; Xander and Oz fit into the vents, but have no idea where they're going and only reach the rest of the cast after the demon is already dead. "We're here to rescue you..."
  • All Myths Are True: Whereupon Xander suggests buying some magic beans.
  • All's Well That Ends Well: Averted when Buffy and Willow can't change Amy back into a person.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking
    Willow: Mom, I'm not acting out. I'm a witch! I-I can make pencils float. And I can summon the four elements. Okay, two, but four soon. (her mother doesn't react) A-and I'm dating a musician.
    Sheila: (disgusted now) Oh, Willow!
    • After ranting at her own mother over MOO's actions and then stalking off, Buffy can't resist popping back to snark, "Oh, and great acronym!"
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: We hear what is supposedly the testimony of the first person to encounter Hansel and Gretel (it makes sense in context). The German in it is... let's say, erratic.
    Ich, eine Geistlicher von nahe die Schwarz Wälder, tat finden das körper von das kinder meine selbst. eine wurde von die junge, die anderen von und mädchen. darauf meine eigene erforschen ich lernte... ("I, a male female priest from vicinity them Black Forests, made to find the one bodies of the childs myselves. One became from the girlboy, the others from and girl. Thereupon my own to perform research I learned...")
  • Baleful Polymorph: After seeing Amy turn herself into a rat, Willow and Buffy try to frighten the mob into letting them go.
    Buffy: Yes! You will all be turned into vermin. And some of you will be fish! Yeah, you in the back will be fish!
  • Bench Breaker: Buffy is bound to a stake so tightly she can't snap the ropes even with her Super Strength. When the demon charges her, she breaks the stake and leans forward, impaling it on the tip.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Buffy and Willow are exchanging Famous Last Words when Giles and Cordelia burst in to save them. Averted with Xander and Oz, who only arrive after it's all over.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: Amy before she transforms.
  • Book Burning: Giles' Tome of Eldritch Lore are confiscated and used for the pyre to Burn the Witch!.
  • Brick Joke: Willow says she can make pencils float. Later when she tries to scare the mob into releasing them, Buffy snaps at her, "What are you gonna do, float a pencil at 'em?" This becomes a Chekhov's Gag in "Choices" when Willow levitates a pencil to stake a vampire.
  • Bully Hunter: When a group of Jerk Jocks pick on a kid because he's a witch Amy tries to intervene. When they start on her Buffy steps in, all smiles. At the very least she's known to have burnt down the gym at her previous school, nearly killed Cordelia, has a known history of violence and been arrested for murder on more than one occasion, so the group quickly scampers.
  • Burn the Witch! / Witch Hunt
  • Call Back: To "The Wish" with Buffy wondering if she's making any difference in Sunnydale. In turn Angel reminds her of what she said in "Amends", of the need to keep fighting regardless of the prospects of victory.
  • Children Are Innocent / Think of the Children! (In-Universe): What the Monster of the Week plays upon.
  • Creepy Children: The demon's form.
  • Continuity Nod: Amy uses the same spell that she used to turn Buffy into a rat in "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered".
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Concerned parents blame a murder on some trend among youth, and lash out against that trend.
    • More disturbingly, as Willow lampshades, a specific minority being targeted for their non-standard practices, especially the "killing of children", which is a lot like the "blood libel" of the Middle Ages. No wonder she's so scared.
  • Don't Explain the Joke
    Cordelia: If you're gonna hang with them, expect badness. 'Cause that's what you get when you hang with freaks and losers. Believe me, I know. (goes to leave, then turns back to Buffy) That was a pointed comment about me hanging with you guys.
  • Elephant in the Living Room: Joyce's speech to MOO.
    "This is not a good town. How many of us have, have lost someone who, who just disappeared? Or, or got skinned? Or suffered neck rupture? And how many of us have been too afraid to speak out?"
  • Emergency Transformation: Amy turns herself into a rat to escape the pyre. It's several years before Willow develops the skill to turn her back into a human.
  • Eureka Moment: Buffy realises the dead children had no parents, and their names have never been mentioned.
  • Evil Makeover / Paint It Black: Amy as a Red Herring.
  • Failed Attempt at Drama: A Running Gag whenever Willow tries to act like a Wicked Witch.
    • When her mother downplays her practicing magic, Willow tries to show how rebellious she is by calling on the Prince of Darkness to fill her with "black, naughty evil!"
    • Buffy and Willow are tied to stakes. After Amy escapes with her magic...
    Willow: You've seen what we can do! Another step and you will all feel my power!
    Buffy: (muttering) What are you gonna do, float a pencil at 'em?
    Willow: It's a really big power!
    • At the end of the episode, Buffy and Willow do a spell to turn Amy back into a human. There's a puff of colored smoke...and nothing happens.
    Buffy: Maybe we should get her one of those wheel thingies?
  • Fake Defector: Confronted by MOO guards outside City Hall where Buffy, Willow and Amy are being held, Xander and Oz try to convince them they've come to join the hate. It doesn't work (but they do inadvertently help Giles by drawing their pursuers away from the door).
  • Felony Misdemeanor: A Running Gag with Willow in this episode.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Co-operating to save Willow ends the awkwardness between Xander and Oz.
  • Foreshadowing: Also counts as a "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: Cordelia comments to Giles that he was going to "wake up in a coma" on account of all the head traumas he has received. At the end of season 4 of Angel, Cordelia is left in a coma; she dies after 'waking up' to give a last message for Angel from the Powers That Be.
    • Buffy is shocked to hear her mother talking about the town belonging to "the monsters and the witches and the Slayers" showing how she'll eventually be lumped in with those categories.
    • The reminder that Slayers are not supposed to kill people, an issue in the upcoming "Bad Girls".
    • Willow's ability to float pencils is a Chekhov's Gun for "Choices".
    • Michael, the Ambiguously Gay male 'witch'. Witchcraft will be used as a metaphor for homosexuality from Season 4 onwards.
  • A Friend in Need: When Willow is taken to the Principal's office for having magic items in her locker, Oz goes with her without being asked.
    • Despite no longer being a member of the Scooby Gang, Cordelia wakes up Giles and helps him rescue Buffy.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Mothers Opposed to the Occult, or MOO.
  • Glamour Failure: Giles reveals the demon with his incantation.
    Demon: Protect us! Kill the bad girls!
    Buffy: You know what? Not as convincing in that outfit.
  • Gratuitous German: The newspaper article the gang looks up, and the incantation by Giles.
  • Hairpin Lockpick: Giles borrows one of Cordelia's hairpins to pick a lock.
  • Hansel and Gretel
  • Hate Plague
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Begins with Buffy's mom finding two young children after what looks like a magical rite. She responds by organizing the other parents in Sunnydale into an organization to go after witches (and Slayers.) The episode ends with them all trying to burn their own children at the stake.
  • Hopeless War: Buffy takes a hit when her own mother points out that her efforts are fruitless — she keeps killing vampires to no effect. "No fruit for Buffy." Angel reminds her of what she said in the previous episode, that it's important to keep fighting regardless.
  • Hollywood Fire: Even though the 'witches' are being burnt indoors, the room doesn't fill with smoke.
  • Hollywood Torches: But no pitchforks.
  • Hypocritical Humor: When Shiela dismisses Willow's witchcraft as an age-appropriate fantasy, Willow fumes that she's not an age group. Then when she's grounded, Willow objects that as a teenager she's supposed to act up.
  • I See Dead People: Joyce just appears to have been caught up in a moral panic until The Reveal that the two murdered children are telling her what to do.
    Buffy: Mom, dead people are talking to you. Do the math!
  • I Believe That You Believe It: Sheila's response to her daughter saying she really can do magic.
  • I Love the Smell of X in the Morning: Giles fumes helplessly as the police confiscate his Tome of Eldritch Lore. Snyder struts in wearing a big smirk. "I love the smell of desperate librarian in the morning."
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice
  • Improvised Weapon: Cordelia knocks down MOO with a fire hose, though she has to be told to spray the flames as well. Buffy and her big stake.
  • Instant Sedation: Joyce knocks out Buffy with chloroform.
  • Ironic Echo Cut: Buffy asking her mother to calm down after she finds the dead children. Cut to Buffy telling Giles, "Don't tell me to calm down!"
  • It Gets Easier: After knocking out Buffy, Joyce says to the Hansel & Gretel kids, "You were right. It was easy." They reply, "I told you." / "It gets even easier." This is not good.
  • It Has Only Just Begun: Giles vs. Snyder.
  • It's What I Do: Buffy to mom re the Slaying.
  • It's Personal: The fact that Joyce finds the dead children makes Buffy eager to slay those responsible.
  • I Work Alone
    • Buffy's not enthusiastic about her mother offering to help, describing Slaying as "an alone thing".
    • Also riffed on with Angel: "People are talking...they're even talking to me!"
  • Loophole Abuse: Willow isn't allowed to use the phone, so the Scoobies contact her via the internet.
  • Malaproper
    Buffy: Like that kid in the story, (gestures) the boy that stuck his finger in the duck.
    Angel: Dike.
    Buffy gives him a confused look. Angel smiles.
    Angel: It's another word for dam.
    Buffy: Oh. Okay, that story makes a lot more sense now.
  • Magical Incantation / In the Hood: The witch coven, shown to have Amy, Michael and finally (gasp) Willow!
  • The Masquerade: Buffy is flummoxed when her mother invites half of Sunnydale for a meeting over the deaths. Joyce assures her there won't be many turning up.
  • Meddling Parents: Joyce turns up with a thermos and snacks while Buffy is patrolling. She just wants to support her daughter at work. Then she decides to rally the other parents in defiance of Sunnydale Syndrome.
  • Mood Dissonance: As they're about to burn their daughters alive, Joyce casually discusses getting together for lunch with Shiela.
  • Monster of the Aesop
  • Moral Guardians: What the people of Sunnydale become as a result of a demon's influence.
  • More Than Mind Control
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Principal Snyder, of course.
    Xander: Aw, man, it's Nazi Germany, and I've got Playboys in my locker!
    Snyder: (smugly) This is a glorious day for principals everywhere. No pathetic whining about students' rights. Just a long row of lockers and a man with a key.
  • New Media Are Evil: Inverted when Giles has to resort to the internet because all his books have been confiscated.
  • No Ontological Inertia / Reset Button: By the next episode the library seems to have recovered from all the burned and confiscated books. Maybe A Witch Did It?
  • Oh Crap!: The Mayor gives Joyce a very wary look when she warns of dark forces in Sunnydale, before she lays the blame for the dead children at the feet of the witches in the town.
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging
    • Xander as a Running Gag, as he's convinced that everyone thinks he's still carrying on with Willow.
    • Willow has a sudden coughing fit when Joyce starts blaming witches for the crime.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: When Joyce arrives at Buffy’s nightshift scene, Buffy doesn’t try to send Joyce home despite the potential danger.
  • Parental Neglect: Willow's mother Shiela, to the point of not noticing a new haircut for four months.
  • Parental Betrayal: Buffy is almost burned at the stake by her own mother. In the next episode, her father-substitute betrays her as well. In "Bad Girls" she starts acting out accordingly. Likewise Amy and Willow's witchcraft is a response to their own parental issues, which also leads them down a dark path in Season 6.
  • Porn Stash: While Snyder and the police are checking everybody's lockers, Willow is worried because she has witch stuff in hers. Xander, on the other hand, is indignant because he has Playboy magazines in his.
  • Put On A Wheel-Thingy: Amy turns herself into a rat and stays that way for 3 years.
  • Ransacked Room: Oz and Xander find Willow's room ransacked and empty after she's dragged off by a MOO lynch mob.
  • Red Herring: Willow, Amy and Michael are shown performing a ritual that uses the symbol of the episode. 5-10 minutes later Willow explains that it’s only a protection spell.
  • Regularly Scheduled Evil: The demon’s “installation” is introduced to the public every 50 years or so.
  • The Resenter: Buffy wakes up tied to a stake above a pyre.
    Buffy: (imploringly) Mom, you don't want this!
    Joyce: Since when does it matter what I want? I wanted a normal, happy daughter. Instead I got a Slayer.
  • Reveal Shot: Buffy leans forward to stake the demon, but she's still tied to the stake so she cries out, "Did I get it? Did I get it?" She did.
  • Right Behind Me: Another Running Gag. Xander starts talking about Buffy's birthday gift, only for Willow to shush him because Buffy has turned up. Buffy then talks about her mother wigging out, only for Joyce appear. Giles is fuming about that "twisted little homunculus" confiscating his books, when Speak of the Devil; Snyder turns up for some Evil Gloating. Willow is griping about her absentee mother at the MOO meeting.
    Willow: (to Buffy re Joyce) At least your mom's making an effort. My mom's probably...standing right in front of me right this second.
  • Running Gag: Giles' tendency to get a Tap on the Head is lampshaded by Cordelia.
  • Sarcasm Failure
    Cordelia: I swear, one of these times, you're gonna wake up in a coma.
    Giles: Wake up in a—?! Oh, never mind.
  • Sarcasm Mode: Buffy finds out her mother was behind the raid on the school.
    "Okay, maybe I don't have a plan. Lord knows I don't have lapel buttons, and maybe next time that the world is getting sucked into Hell, I won't be able to stop it because the Anti-Hell-Sucking Book isn't on the approved reading list!"
  • Scare Chord: Shiela telling her daughter she intends to "let you go with love".
  • Sublime Rhyme: Buffy finds the magical mark sketched in Willow's book and demands an explanation. Willow babbles, "A doodle. I do doodle. You, too. You do doodle, too."
  • Sunnydale Syndrome: "Silence is this town's disease."
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Xander accidentally invokes this even though he's telling the truth.
    Oz: I haven't seen you [Willow] all day. Where you been?
    Xander: Not with me. No sir. Ask anyone.
    • Giles meets Joyce and both are feeling awkward after the events of "Band Candy"
    Joyce: Oh, well, it's, it's not just me, but thank you. Well, it's, uh, it's been a while.
    Giles: (uneasy) Right. Not since, um... Not since... Not for a while.
    Sheila: There's a rumor going around, Mr. Giles.
    Giles: (suddenly worried) R-rumor, about us?
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill Muggles: When Giles first assumes the children were killed in a ritual sacrifice, Buffy is shocked at the idea that humans with souls could do this, and asks if they can put aside the "don't kill humans" rule for once.
  • Too Much Information: Toadstones.
  • Twisted Echo Cut: From Shiela telling Willow she's not allowed to see Buffy again, to Joyce telling Buffy she's not allowed to talk to her Heterosexual Life Partner.
  • Wait Here: Buffy tells her mother to stay while she runs down the vampire. She goes to sit on a park bench at the playground and finds the dead children.
  • Weirdness Censor: Averted and highlighted in the beginning. Buffy’s mother gives an organising speech about all the strange murders that Sunnydale’s population tends to ignore, school administration confiscates witchcraft-related materials from students’ lockers and School Library.
    • Played straight at the end of the episode:
    Willow: She's doing that selective memory thing your mom used to be so good at.
    Buffy: She forgot everything?
    Willow: (ruefully) No. She remembered the part where I said I was dating a musician.
  • Who Would Be Stupid Enough?: Buffy finds out about MOO and asks, "Who came up with that lame name?" Snyder smirks and says, "Its founder — I believe you call her Mom."
  • With My Hands Tied: Buffy kills the demon by snapping the stake she's tied to and bending forward so the demon gets Impaled with Extreme Prejudice.
  • Why We Can't Have Nice Things: Buffy grabs some paper to draw the mark she saw on the dead boy's hand. As it's a valuable parchment from the 12th Century, Giles quickly removes it and hands Buffy a notebook.
  • You Are Grounded: Willow, much to her annoyance as it's the first time she's done something bad (that her parents noticed).
  • You Have to Believe Me: Willow gets frantic after Buffy finds the sign she's been looking for in her notebook and the police start searching lockers.
    Willow: The-the symbol is harmless. I used it to make a protection spell for you, for your birthday. With Michael and Amy. Only, now it's broken, because you know about it, so happy birthday, and please, you have to believe me!
  • You Can Panic Now