- Giles: 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, instead of which you enslave yourself to this, this... (stops pacing) Cult?Buffy: (wearing a cheerleader outfit) You don't like the color?
Directed by Stephen Cragg
Buffy wants to be a cheerleader at Sunnydale High, just like she was in LA. Giles forbids it, claiming that as the Slayer she doesn't have time to be peppy. She points out that he has no way of stopping her and says she just wants to do something normal and safe.
Elsewhere, in a dark space with dolls and dried flowers hanging from the ceiling, a robed figure dangles a medallion over a cauldron of bubbling green liquid and yanks a cheerleader-shaped Voodoo Doll off a hook. Ominous music plays.
At the tryouts, Buffy and Willow discuss Giles while Xander admires the stretching girls. Xander gives Buffy a good luck bracelet bearing the legend "Yours Always, which he insists came that way. Cordelia arrives to complain about Amber Grove, who is demonstrating her exceptional ability by standing on the toes of one foot while raising the other above her head. Willow greets her friend Amy Madison, expressing surprise that she's trying out for the squad and noting that shes lost a lot of weight.
Amber performs an extended, impressive routine. Amy tells Buffy about her mother, who she says coaches her for 6 hours each day. As they watch, something strange begins to happen to Amber. Smoke pours from her pompoms, and then her arms catch fire. Buffy rushes to smother the flames with a banner while the others look on in horror.
Back in the library, Giles tells the gang that this incident was not caused by vampires, though it's certainly abnormal. He explains that Spontaneous Human Combustion has been occurring for centuries. As combustion is usually caused by extreme rage, Willow volunteers to hack into Amber's school records and Xander offers to goes to ask around. Buffy asks them to be careful.
At home, Buffy finds her mother unpacking crates of artwork for her gallery. Buffy tries to get her mother interested in tryouts, but she is distracted. She expresses hope that cheering will keep Buffy out of trouble, points out that shes too busy to help her train, and leaves.
At tryouts the next day Amy bungles a cartwheel, landing on Cordelia. Amy shows Buffy her mother's cheerleading trophies, and paints a glowing picture of Catherine Madison: she carried a cheering team to a championship, became homecoming queen, weathered a bad marriage to Amys lazy, philandering father, paid her way through cosmetology school, raised Amy comfortably, and always maintained her figure. Buffy tries to tell Amy that she doesn't have to become her mother, but Amy still leaves upset.
Willow fills in some details from when she and Amy used to hang out in middle school. Catherine is strict and obsessive about her looks. When she was on a diet, Amy used to head to Willows house for brownies. Buffy inquires about Amber, but Willow hasnt found anything. Meanwhile, Cordelia corners Amy in the locker room and threatens retribution if Amys mistake costs Cordelia her spot.
Ultimately, Cordelia makes the squad, while Buffy and Amy are relegated to first and third alternate. Back in the room with the cauldron, however, another doll is prepared by covering its head with a rag. This one is for Cordelia.
The next day, Buffys mother brings her old high school yearbook to breakfast and tries to convince her to join the yearbook club. When Buffy protests that she wants to do her own thing, not her mothers, she replies that her own thing got her kicked out of school.
At school, Xander notices that Cordelia hasnt insulted him all day. Talking to Willow, Xander diagnoses himself with invisible man syndrome and prepares to ask Buffy out. He never gets the chance because Buffy is distracted by Cordelia's confused behavior. Cordelia wanders outside to her driver's ed class. She seems to be having trouble seeing. She tries to avoid getting behind the wheel but is put there anyway. She ends up crashing through the school fence into traffic, narrowly avoiding hurting anyone. Buffy tackles her out of the street just before a van mows her down, revealing that her eyes have gone completely blank. Another cheerleader is off the squad.
In the library, Giles identifies sudden blindness as a classic sign of witchcraft. Buffy notes that cheering is all the victims have in common. Giles infers that someone hates cheerleading, but Buffy thinks that someone likes it too much. Their new suspect is Amy. Giles is able to find a potion recipe for detecting witches.
The gang prepare the spell in the biology lab. The solution turns blue when it hits Amys skin, confirming that shes been casting spells. At the same time, however, the class panics as a girls mouth disappears from her face. Amy looks just as shocked as everyone else.
Amy arrives at home, at the house with the cauldron, and seeks out her mother. She demands that her mother write her history report and complains about not being on the team yet. She reveals that she has Buffy's bracelet and heads up to the attic.
Next morning Buffy bounces into the kitchen, singing and acting stereotypically blonde. She lets slip that she's the Slayer (which is fortunately ignored) and bounces out the door, leaving her mother confused. At practice she continues to behave erratically. When she accidentally throws the cheer captain into a wall, Amy makes the team. Willow and Xander stop Buffy from blurting out that Amy's a witch and drag her from the room. As they carry her through the hallway she suddenly collapses.
Giles informs the gang that this is a bloodstone vengeance spell, which causes intoxication before shutting down the immune system. The witch wants Buffy dead, not just off the squad. She only has a few hours. Fortunately, Giles has found a way to reverse all the spells if they can get to the witch's Spell Book. Xander and Willow keep an eye on Amy while Buffy and Giles go to search her home.
At the Madison house they confront Catherine, who is sitting on the couch eating brownies. She tries to get them to leave, but they barge in. From the brownies and a few verbal gaffes, Buffy realizes that Catherine is really Amy; her mother switched their bodies. Amy-as-Catherine explains the way that her mother used to treat her and that she didn't know about her powers until a few months ago, when she woke up in her mother's bed. Although her energy is fading, Buffy reassures Amy that everything will be fine. After Giles searches the Madison attic and finds the spellbook, all three head back to the school.
The basketball game has begun and Catherine-as-Amy is with the rest of the cheerleaders at the gym. Giles carries Buffy into the science lab and gently lays her on a table, using his suit jacket as a pillow. They only have a few minutes. Giles prepares a potion and starts an incantation. As it begins to work, Amy and Catherine get short glimpses through each others eyes. These flashes disorient Catherine-as-Amy, but also tip her off to the spell taking place in the biology lab. Willow and Xander attempt to stall or stop her, but she chokes Xander with a spell and punches Willow. Unable to open the lab door, she grabs a fire-axe and breaks it down. As she raises the ax to kill Buffy, Giles' counterspell finally work and all of Catherine's spells are reversed. Amy is back in her own body.
As Buffy gets off the table and greets Amy, Catherine tackles her to the floor. Using magic, she pins Giles against a wall with a table and snags the axe from Amy. She tells Amy how much she despises her and threatens to send her where she won't cause any more trouble. Buffy stands, informs Catherine that she's feeling better, and punches her across the room. Catherine returns the favor with a spell. Her eyes go black as she prepares her next attack. At the last second, Buffy drops a large mirror from the ceiling, reflecting Catherine's spell back to her. She disappears with a wail in a flare of purple light. After a few moments Xander and Willow burst in to help, only to learn that Amy was her mother and everything is fine now.
Back at home, Buffys mother sits down to talk with her. She has concluded that she simply doesnt understand Buffy, because Buffy is sixteen and she isnt. When Buffy asks if she ever wishes she could be sixteen again, she says no: "Not even if it helped me understand you." A grateful Buffy kisses her and leaves. "I don't get it," she repeats.
At school the next day, Amy gleefully complains about life with her father, who is smothering her with caution and love and brownies. They stop by her mother's trophy case one last time to speculate. As they walk away the eyes on the trophy begin to move and Catherine squeals helplessly.
- Abusive Parent: Catherine treats Amy like a genuine inconvenience, being emotionally and verbally abusive toward her. She goes so far as to steal her daughter's body so she can relive her glory days.
- The Ace: Amber is this for cheerleading, putting on an audition that makes it easy to understand why Catherine went after her first. Apparently, she turned the Lakers down.
- All Guys Want Cheerleaders: Except Giles.Xander: People scoff at things like school spirit, but look at these girls giving their all like this! (He notices Amber doing the splits between two chairs) Ooo, stretchy! Where was I?
Willow: You were pretending that seeing scantily clad girls in revealing postures was a spiritual experience.
Xander: Who said I was pretending?
- All Men Are Perverts: Assuming a witch might get out books on witchcraft, the Scoobies look up the library computer.Willow: 'Witches: Historic Roots to Modern Practice.' Checked out by Alexander Harris.
Buffy: (reads also) 'The Pagan Rites', checked out by Alexander...
Xander: Alright, alright, it's not what you think.
Willow: You like to look at the semi-nude engravings?
Xander: Oh, well, uh, I-I guess it is what you think.
- The Alleged Car: Giles' beat up Citroën makes its first appearance.
- And I Must Scream:
- Catherine has one of her spells turned back on her and seemingly vanishes. At the end of the episode, it turns out she's been trapped in one of her old cheerleading trophies. The audience can hear muffled screams, but no one else can, though the Scoobies note the eyes follow you where you go. She presumably died when they blew the school up at the end of season three, but fans speculate that this somehow released Catherine to possess her daughter Amy again, explaining Amy's otherwise inexplicable FaceHeel Turn in Season 6 — although the in-continuity comic series disproved this.
- During biology class, one of the cheerleader's mouths is missing through a spell inflicted upon her, leaving her with inaudible screams and in a state of panic.
- Anti-Climax Cut: Giles' long rant at the beginning of the episode. He makes it sound like Buffy's signed up with a cult and abandoning her duties as the Slayer — and then it turns out she's just trying out for cheer squad.
- Attack Backfire: Catherine's spell rebounds on her.
- Badass Boast: Hilariously subverted:Xander: I laugh in the face of danger. Then I hide until it goes away.
- Big "OMG!": British variant; Giles gives a "Good Lord!" when Buffy figures out that Catherine switched bodies with her daughter.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Catherine can pose as a model daughter or the ideal parent if she needs to put on an act. In the climax, however, she is terrifying and violent regardless of the body she's occupying.
- Black Eyes of Evil: When Catherine's casting her final spell on Buffy. This is the future indicator of a dark magic practitioner.
- Blank White Eyes: Blinded Cordelia.
- Blatant Lies: Xander, regarding the bracelet he gave Buffy.Buffy: How sweet! [Beat] "Yours always"...Xander: It came that way. Really. They all said that.
- Bullying a Dragon: Giles forbids Buffy from joining the cheerleading squad. Buffy asks, "And you'll be stopping me how?" Unlike many examples of this trope, Giles is smart enough not to protest.
- Burn the Witch!: A deleted line in the shooting script had Giles consulting his books on the best way to find a witch, only to come up with the drowning test. He admits that his texts are somewhat outdated.
But He Sounds Handsome: While in her daughter's body, Catherine can't stop telling everyone how wonderful she is.Catherine: [in Amy's body] She put herself through cosmetology school. Bought me everything I ever wanted. And never once gained a single pound.
- Captain Obvious:Giles: So someone doesn't like cheerleading.Buffy: Or someone likes it too much.Willow: Amy!Buffy: Amy.Xander: So you guys are leaning towards Amy.
- Cat Scare: Naturally since All Witches Have Cats.
- Characterization Marches On: Buffy's spell-induced ditziness makes her let slip that she's a Slayer to Joyce, who apparently accepts the brush-off Buffy gives her. In the sixth season, Buffy claims she was institutionalized after Dawn read her diaries about being a Slayer, which means Joyce's reaction should have been one of contained, abject horror at her daughter's massive change in behavior coupled with an apparent relapse into delusion. What muddies it is that technically that event didn't happen, but was inserted into Buffy's memories.
- Chekhov's Gun: Several.
- Amy's Sweet Tooth. Buffy makes note of it at the beginning and sees a plate of brownies hidden discreetly at Amy's house. This helps her figure out that Amy is in Catherine's body, and vice-versa.
- Xander, Willow, and Buffy prepare the witch-detecting spell in the biology lab, which is where Giles will prepare his counterspell later. We're also treated to a disorienting pan that begins on a great big mirror hanging over the teacher's lab table. That won't be important later.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Keep an eye on the biology teacher. He'll be showing up again in "Teacher's Pet."
- Daddy's Girl: Apparently Amy, who talks about wishing that her father had let her come with him after the divorce. She gets her wish at the end of the episode, and she's happily talking about making brownies with him.
- Damn You, Muscle Memory!: Catherine can't make her daughter's body move like her own, and so fails the tryouts.
- Death Glare: Catherine on the other cheerleaders.
- Did I Just Say That Out Loud?:Giles: But why would someone want to hurt Cordelia?Willow: Maybe 'cause they met her? [Beat] Did I say that?
- Didn't Think This Through: No one thinks to tie up Catherine's body so she couldn't do anything after putting Catherine's mind back into it.
- Dissimile: "So maybe Amber has this power to make herself be on fire. It's like the Human Torch. Only it hurts."
- The Ditz: Buffy is turned into one to get her off the team — after which, it will kill her.
- Does Not Know Her Own Strength: Buffy accidentally throws one of her classmates across the gym during cheerleading practice.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?:
- Parents trying to live through their children.
- The bloodstone vengeance spell is explicitly likened to alcohol. First Buffy acts increasingly drunk, then she acts wicked hungover.
- Everyone Has Standards: Giles is preparing to chew out Amy's mother for her daughter endangering students. When Buffy figures out that Amy is in Catherine's body, however, Giles stops and is horrified, realizing This Is Wrong on So Many Levels! and that he was berating the wrong person.
- Everybody Lives: The absence of death is notable: Buffy saves Amber and Cordelia and technically the villain does not die. Justified, since otherwise Amy and Buffy would still be cheerleaders unless the other girls survived.
- Eye of Newt: Though apparently frogs eyes will do. They're still difficult to remove.
- Eye Scream: Cordelia is blinded by one of Amy's spells, which causes her to fail her driver's Ed test and nearly crash.
- Failed Audition Plot: Buffy and Catherine fail to make it on the cheerleading team. However, Catherine, who is desperate to relive her glory days, won't take it lying down...
- Amy recounts her mother's glory days, rags on her father, and brags that her mother "never gained a single pound." She also complains that she can't "get my body to move like hers." All this foreshadows the Grand Theft Me revealed later.
- Giles says in this episode that he had never used magic before. He was lying because he doesn't want to think about his past as a demon summoning youth as revealed in season 2 — or perhaps that part of his character hadn't been established yet.
- When Willow and Xander are discussing the fact that his feelings for Buffy are unrequited, he says "You've made your point, no need to drive it into my head like a railroad spike." Little did they know that in season 2, they would meet a vampire famous for doing exactly that.
- "Freaky Friday" Flip: Catherine swaps bodies with Amy so she can relive her high school glory days.
- Free the Frogs: Averted as Willow has no problem dissecting a frog — even though, as we learn in Season 2, she has a frog phobia.
- From Bad to Worse: It's bad enough that a controlling mother might drive her daughter to do bad things. It's worse that the mother would steal her daughter's life. The horror on Giles's and Buffy's faces really sells it.
- Gilligan Cut: Buffy wants to join the cheerleaders to do something normal. Something safe. Cut to a creepy voodoo witch's den where someone's doing something unpleasant to a voodoo cheerleader doll.
- Grand Theft Me: Catherine steals her daughter's body, switching places so she can relive her life as a teenager. She still makes Amy do homework, though.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Giles gives part of his life force during a spell to cure Buffy of her illness.
- Heroic Self-Deprecation: Xander's hilariously awful attempt at a Badass Boast (see that trope).
- Impairment Shot: Cordelia's vision as she slowly goes blind.
- Imperfect Ritual: The episode has Willow using the eye of a frog dissected in science class in a potion that calls for eye of newt. Apparently "eye of amphibian" was good enough, because it works just fine.
- Just Keep Driving: As Cordelia stands in the road after crashing the Driver's Ed car through the fence, a UPS delivery van is coming towards her. Its driver makes no attempt to slow down or stop and doesn't even bother to blow the horn. He doesn't even stop after hitting the Driver's Ed car!
- Kill It with Fire: How the witch deals with Amber Grove in the cold open. Though she survives, her cheerleading career probably doesn't.
- Large Ham: Apparently a big chunk of pork is an unlisted ingredient in any magic spell.
- Last-Second Word Swap: Amy gets substituted for Buffy.Ditzy Buffy: You don't want her! She's a w—mmm-mmmm!Xander: [Hand Gagging Buffy] Wise choice indeed!
- Laser-Guided Karma: Catherine wanted to relive her glory days so she steals her own daughter's body. When the spell is reversed, she tries to blast Buffy with a magic spell but it gets deflected back at her and she disappears. The Scoobies don't know what happened to her but we find out that a conscious Catherine is now stuck in her old cheerleading trophy i.e "reliving her glory days."
- Lost Aesop: The episode starts off seeming to be about parental pressure, presenting us with a shy, sympathetic girl who has been bullied by her mother into joining the cheerleading squad and is so desperate not to fail she has been using witchcraft to injure and disfigure the other candidates. Then, it seems that the girl is just psychotic and her mother is actually living in fear of her. Then, it turns out that the mother has actually swapped bodies with her daughter and she's the one who's been off cheerleading and disfiguring while the daughter has been left trapped in her body. Which takes the initial theme of parents reliving their teenage years vicariously through their children to extremes but completely loses the theme of teenagers going to extreme lengths to satisfy overbearing parents.
- Love Triangle: This episode begins to play it up. Willow adores Xander who has a big ol' puppy crush on Buffy, who is completely oblivious to his feelings, but ardently ships Wander...Xillow?
- Meaningful Name:
- Mirrors Reflect Everything: Buffy uses a lab mirror to deflect Catherine's spell back at her.
- Nightmare Fetishist:Giles: But that's the thrill of living on the Hellmouth! There's a veritable cornucopia of fiends and devils and ghouls to engage! (beat) ...Well, excuse me for finding the glass half-full.
- Never My Fault: When it comes to Catherine, everything is everyone else's fault.
- No OSHA Compliance: Keeping a fire ax in a school hallway? Really? (On the other hand, this is Sunnydale. The fire axe will come in useful in future episodes.)
- Not Herself:
- Xander realizes something is wrong with Cordelia because she hasn't insulted him all day.
- Buffy twigs to the Grand Theft Me when she sees Amy's 'mother' is eating chocolate cookies.
- Not so Dire: Giles' reaction to Buffy's desire to be a cheerleader. He reads the riot act to her, calling it a cult that she's enslaved herself to. Buffy is nonplussed.
- Oblivious to Love: Xander asks Willow (unaware that she's pining for him) for advise on asking out Buffy.Xander: You're like a guy! You're my guy friend that knows about girl stuff!(Later on...)Buffy: Do you have any idea why I love you so, Xander?
Willow: We gotta to get her to a...
Xander: Let her speak!
Buffy: I'll tell you! You're not like other boys at all.
Buffy: You are totally, and completely one of the girls! [to Willow] I'm that comfy with him.
Willow smiles widely.
Xander: That's great.
Buffy: Any other guy who'd give me a bracelet, they'd wanna date me.
- Oh, Crap!: Giles goes "Good lord!" when he realizes that the person he's not confronting is a scared mother but a scared child in her mother's body.
- Papa Wolf: Our first occasion of Giles getting angry over someone harming Buffy.
- Parental Sexuality Squick: Turns out there are worse things, like '80s Hair.Buffy: Mom, I'm old enough to know that you've had sex. I'm not old enough to know that you had Farrah hair.
- Pet the Dog: While the previous two episodes established that Cordelia rarely talks to Willow except to insult/pick on her, here they have an (admittedly brief) civil conversation commenting about Amber's pre-tryouts work-out.
- Pilot: Whedon's philosophy is that the first six episodes are the pilot of a show. Thus they spend more time explaining the premises and showcasing Buffy's and the gang's abilities than they would otherwise. This particular episode also establishes that Buffy, despite her title, actually faces all sorts of supernatural threats aside from vampires, who don't even make an appearance.
- Poor Man's Porn: Xander regularly checks out rare occult books on witches — not because he has any interest in witchcraft, you understand, but because the engravings feature half-naked women (the depths teenage boys would sink to before the rise of the internet).
- Preass Kicking One Liner: A revived Buffy says "I feel better" before decking out Catherine with one punch.
- Reset Button: Giles is able to reverse all the spells.
- Rewatch Bonus: For "Amy's" behavior after The Reveal, of course. Likewise, Catherine coming off as scared and nervous in Amy's presence becomes this when you realize she's in the wrong body.
- Scare Chord: Cordelia confronting Amy in the locker room.
- Shaped Like Itself: Buffy describes Xander thus. "You're my friend. You're my Xander-shaped friend!"
- Shout-Out: Buffy refers to Amy as a "Sabrina".
- Skewed Priorities: Perhaps Giles said it best.Giles: Let me make sure I have this right. This witch is casting horrible and disfiguring spells so that she can become a cheerleader?
- Something Only They Would Say: Buffy realizes that Amy is in Catherine's body when she says, "Since Dad...Her dad left..." though the brownies also helped.
- Spontaneous Human Combustion: Amber's hands catch on fire at the cheerleader tryouts as the result of a curse placed by Amy's mother.
- Stage Mom: Initially, Catherine seems to be this and she likely is, but she's taken it to a whole new level. Stage parents want to live vicariously through their children; Catherine wants to live quite literally through Amy.
- Standard Female Grab Area: Xander tries to drag Buffy out of the library to distract them from looking into who's been checking out books on witchcraft. It doesn't work.
- Super Loser: Catherine might be a powerful witch, but she's an emotionally stunted narcissist obsessed with her High School fame, during which she peaked.
- Super Strength: Buffy's strength is showcased at home when she casually opens with one hand a crate her mother had been struggling to open with a crowbar.
- Technicolor Toxin: The expected bubbling green cauldron.
- Tempting FateBuffy: I just want to have a life, do something normal. Something safe.
- This Is Wrong on So Many Levels!: Buffy and Giles have this reaction when they realize that Catherine switched bodies with her teenage daughter to become a high school student again.
- Vain Sorceress: Catherine stole her own daughter's body to relive her high school glory days.
- Voices Are Not Mental: Both Amy and Catherine's voices stay with their bodies after Catherine conducts the switch. It's why no one realizes something is wrong at first.
- The Voiceless: Despite her notable role in the episode, the only sound to come out of Amber's mouth is a scream when she's set on fire.
- Voodoo Doll: Done with Barbie dolls.
- Wham Line: An ill Buffy notices a plate of nibbled brownies at Amy's house, and her "mother" is acting nervous and stumbling over her words when Giles confronts her, saying "Since Dad...her dad left..." Buffy then asks, "Are you Amy?" and has her "Eureka!" Moment. Both the bodyswapped Amy and Giles are in Stunned Silence, before Giles goes Oh, Crap!
- Wicked Stepmother: Possible inversion with Amy; her mother is a real witch, literally, and her stepmother is presumably nicer to her since Amy is shown to be much happier in her father's house, although this is never elaborated on. In fact, Amy even having a possible stepmother is only mentioned in an off-hand comment that Amy's father left Catherine for another woman.
- Wicked Witch: Catherine may not physically resemble the classic witch archetype, but she was certainly wicked (bodyswapping with Amy to relive her youth). Later seasons proved that Amy was also leaning toward the wicked side.
- Wipe That Smile Off Your Face: Lishanne finds her mouth missing.
- Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Giles immediately stops berating the person he thinks is Amy's mother when Buffy realizes that she is Amy.
- You Need to Get Laid: Buffy says Giles needs to get himself a girlfriend "if he wasn't so old."