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Recap / Buffy the Vampire Slayer S1E9 "The Puppet Show"

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""I hunt demons. Yeah, you wouldn't know it to look at me. Let's just say there was me, there was a really mean demon, there was a curse, and the next thing I know I'm not me anymore. I'm sitting on some guy's knee, with his hand up my shirt."
Sid the Dummy

Directed by Ellen S Pressman

Written by Dean Batali, Rob Des Hotel, Matt Kiene, & Joe Reinkemeyer

A demon watches a ballet dancer called Emily. Cordelia is singing Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Love of All" off key as part of the annual talent show try outs. Giles stops her, obviously due to his ears hurting. Buffy, Xander and Willow mock him as Giles complains about the new principal putting him in charge of the talent show so he could have more contact with the students. As Principal Snyder overhears the Scoobies making fun of Giles, he punishes them by forcing them to enter the talent show. The next try-out is Morgan and his ventriloquist dummy, Sid. Buffy confesses to being freaked out by dummies. Morgan's act starts off as rubbish as the rest but takes a turn for the better when Sid develops a personality, speaking with a sarcastic yet funny manner. The dancer, Emily notices the demon and screams.

The talent show rehearsals continue with an unsuccessful magician named Marc. Buffy, Xander and Willow come up with ideas for what they can do for the show and decide on a dramatic scene as it doesn't require any actual talent. Sid watches and makes rude comments as Morgan explains he's just doing an imitation of his father. Snyder explains to Giles that he plans to run a safer, more disciplined school only to discover Emily's body, whose heart has been cut out. The Scoobies debate on whether the killer is human or demon; with Willow saying a human would be scarier as it could be anyone.

The Scoobies split up and begin interviewing people from the talent show to find the killer. All of their interviews point to Morgan and his dummy, Sid. They decide to check Morgan's locker after school hours. Morgan and Sid are watching with Sid telling him that Buffy is 'the one' due to her strength.

As Buffy sleeps, Sid enters her room and quickly sneaks out when she turns the lights on. Naturally, the Scoobies struggle to believe her the following day when she tries to convince them that Sid broke into her room. Giles suggests that the demon needs a heart and later a brain to continue its human guise, meaning it could still be anyone. When a teacher confiscates Sid from Morgan, Xander steals him so Buffy can speak to Morgan alone. As Buffy searches for Morgan backstage, Snyder catches her and berates her for being somewhere he doesn't think she belongs.

In the library, Willow suggests another possibility; animated dummies harvesting organs in order to become humans. Sid is gone when Xander stops paying attention to him. Buffy finds Morgan's body missing its brain, just as a chandelier falls on her. When she wakes up, Buffy is attacked by Sid. They eventually realise they're both fighting for the same goal; to stop the demon. Sid explains that he is a demon hunter, cursed to be in dummy form until he kills all of the Brotherhood of Seven; the demons who need hearts and brains. He's killed six so far. However as his body is long gone, Sid accepts that when he kills the last demon, he will also die. Realising the demon has what it needs, it'll be moving on.

Later, Sid suggests to Giles to form a power circle to see who's missing but they see that everyone is present. When Sid goes missing again, Buffy finds Morgan's brain when looking for Sid. Buffy, Willow and Xander discover that Morgan had brain cancer which is probably why the demon didn't use it. The demon now must be looking for someone smart, meaning Giles and Willow are in trouble.

At the talent show, Marc the magician straps Giles into his guillotine trap designed to cut off his scalp and leave his brain exposed to take. Just in time, Buffy and the others realise what is happening and rush to the rescue. As Buffy and Sid battle Marc who's now taken on his demon form, Xander keeps Giles from getting hurt as Willow frees him with an axe. Finally, Buffy and Sid manage to decapitate Marc with the guillotine. Sid reveals that to kill Marc, they must stab him in the heart. After declining Buffy's offer to do it, Sid kills Marc and finally dies himself as the curtain falls. Everyone assumes it's part of the show and they receive minimal applause. Buffy, Xander and Willow finish their dramatic scene in front of the audience with Willow running off stage.


  • All Part of the Show: The Scoobies fight a demon on the stage of the school talent show, only to have the curtains open just after they finish. Buffy is holding a ventriloquist's dummy. Willow is holding a hatchet. Giles and Xander are standing next to a guillotine with a decapitated demon.
    Principal Snyder: I don't get it. What is it, avant garde?
  • Amazon Chaser: Sid had a relationship with a Korean Slayer in the 1930's, and is definitely turned on by Buffy.
    Look at you — you're strong, athletic, limber, nnnnubile....(twigs out for a moment) I'm back!
  • Answer Cut: Morgan demands to know who took Sid. Cut to Xander holding the dummy.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    Snyder: There are things I will not tolerate. Students loitering around campus after school, horrible murders with hearts being removed, and also smoking.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: With all of the supernatural stuff that the Buffy gang encounters on a daily basis, is it really so far-fetched to think that a dummy might be animate?
  • Bad "Bad Acting": The painful rendition of Oedipus Rex by the main characters for a mandatory talent show. They go for three different bad-acting styles: Buffy is wooden and expressionless, Xander is over-the-top and hammy, and Willow is terrified into muteness until she runs offstage.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Buffy tackles the demon as it's hacking at the rope holding the guillotine blade over Giles' head; the rope breaks, but Xander grabs it as the blade is falling. Sid appears to attack the demon as it's getting the better of Buffy.
    Giles: I must say, all of you, your timing is impeccable.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick:
    Snyder: This place has quite a reputation. Suicide, missing persons, spontaneous cheerleader combustion. You can't put up with that.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The dummy is actually a cursed demon hunter, who believes that Buffy is the demon after seeing her Slayer strength.
  • Continuity Nod: The principal mentions his predecessor's death, a suicide and a spontaneous cheerleader combustion
  • Credits Gag: The Scoobies 'talent' performance is shown during the credits.
  • Death Seeker: Sid has long since made his peace with the fact killing the last of the Seven will mean his own death. Life as a ventriloquist dummy kind of sucks, so he's ready to move on to whatever's waiting on the other side.
  • Demonic Dummy: Subverted; the dummy is in fact hunting the demon himself.
  • Double Entendre: Sid has plenty in his act. It turns out Sid isn't acting though, he really is horny.
    Sid: (to Willow) How about you and I do a little rehearsing on our own, honey? You know what they say: once you go wood, nothing's as good!
  • Everyone Hates Mimes: Xander yelps at the sight of a mime on stage.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!:
    Buffy: So it probably is one of them, and Giles doesn't know! He's with them all right now!
    Xander: Giles can handle himself. I mean, he is
    (Cut to Buffy running out of the library)
  • Facial Horror: Buffy kicks the demon in the face, tearing away his skin.
    Buffy: Ewww! (demon hits her back)
  • Falling Chandelier of Doom: Buffy gets trapped under a wrought iron chandelier (rather unconvincingly, as it looks like something an ordinary cheerleader could lift, let alone Buffy).
  • Faux Horrific: The Scoobies horror at being forced to take part in the Talent Show.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: Poor Morgan is Sid's initial ally, showing tremendous concern when Sid vanishes and seems like a shy, sweet guy who at least Willow seems to be friends with. After his death he is never so much as mentioned again by Sid and even our regular heroes only bring him up as a plot point (his illness making his brain unsuitable for the demon.)
  • For the Evulz: Giles observes that the distinction between demons and humans is that demons are driven to kill pure and simple, whereas with humans the drive to kill is more complex.
  • Gilligan Cut:
    Snyder: From now on you're gonna see a very different Sunnydale High. Tight ship; clean, orderly...and quiet.
    (Cut to Screaming Woman who's just found Emily with her heart cut out)
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Morgan sans brain — his head is hidden behind a strategic prop.
  • Good All Along: Sid.
  • Headache of Doom: Morgan is shown suffering from severe migraines; when he's killed later for his brain, it turns out the demon likely rejected it because he was suffering from a tumor.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • The demon gets decapitated with the guillotine it was going to use on Giles.
    • When Giles complains about having to run the school talent show, Buffy parodies his declaration to her of her obligation toward the world—basically the 'Into every generation…' rubric used to open most of the early episodes of the show—that he gave her when they first met: "Giles, into every generation is born one who must run the annual talentless show. You cannot escape your destiny." This is a parody of this very television programme's 'Slayer Prophecy' with which Giles first greeted her in the first episode (or, if you prefer, the pilot), a version of which is non-diegetically repeated at the beginnings of most early episodes, including this one.
  • Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Cordelia's utter butchering of Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Love of All."
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    Cordelia: It's just such a tragedy for me. Emma was, like, my best friend.
    Xander: Emily.
  • Imagine the Audience Naked:
    Cordelia: I, I can't go out there. All those people staring at me and judging me like I'm some kind of... Buffy! What if I mess up?
    Giles: Cordelia, there, uh, there-there's, uh, uh, an adage, uh, that, uh, if you're feeling nervous then, uh, you should imagine the entire audience are in their underwear.
    Cordelia: Eww! Even Mrs. Franklin? Uhhh!
    Giles: Perhaps not.
    Cordelia: Yeah.
  • Ironic Echo: When forcing the trio to participate in the talent show, Principal Snyder throws back the words they used when they refused to help Giles out.
    Buffy: I think I'll take on your traditional role and watch.
    Xander: And mock.
    Willow: And laugh.
    Snyder: I know the three of you will come up with a wonderful act for the school to watch, and mock, and laugh... at.
  • It's a Long Story:
    Buffy: [Dummies] give me the wig. Ever since I was little.
    Willow: What happened?
    Buffy: I saw a dummy. It gave me the wig. There...really wasn't a story there.
  • "Jaws" First-Person Perspective: Emily's death.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Buffy, Xander and Willow tease Giles for being forced to supervise the school's talent show by Principal Snyder. Moments later, the principal appears and tells all three to participate themselves. Giles fails to suppress a smirk in the background.
  • Messy Hair: Cordy is bending Giles' ear about the talent quest.
    Giles: Oh! I'm sorry. Um, your hair, uh...
    Cordelia: There's something wrong with my hair? (pulls it behind her ears. Giles remains silent, but continues to stare.)
    Cordelia: Ohmigod! (quickly leaves)
    Giles: (to himself) Xander was right. It worked like a charm.
  • Monster of the Week: A demon is killing people for their organs.
  • Mood Whiplash: An in-universe example. In the talent show, Cordelia's song about 'dignity, and human feeling, and personal... hygiene, or something like that' is set up to occur just after a band's rock song. She says something along the lines of, "The point is, my song is sappy, and no-one is going to feel sappy after all that rock and roll?" Giles quickly makes her go away by mentioning her hair.
  • Mr. Exposition:
    Giles: Well it's a welcome relief to have someone else explain these things.
  • Off with His Head!: The fate of the episode's villain.
  • "Open!" Says Me: Buffy spends a second or two trying to open a school locker whose lock's combination Willow has pulled for her, then just smashes the lock through the door.
    • Buffy shoves the demon into the Disappearing Cabinet. "How do you lock this thing?" The demon promptly smashes its way out.
  • Person as Verb:
    Xander: The dummy tells us he's a demon hunter.... He takes off, and now there's a brain. Does anybody else feel like they've been Keyser Sözed?
  • Pietà Plagiarism: Buffy holding Sid after his "death".
  • Red Herring: Both Sid and Principal Snyder are implied to be the demon.
  • Right Behind Me: The Scoobies and Snyder.
  • Slippery Slope Fallacy: Played for laughs with the new principal.
    Snyder: Kids today need discipline. That's an unpopular word these days, "discipline". I know Principal Flutie would have said, "Kids need understanding. Kids are human beings." That's the kind of woolly-headed liberal thinking that leads to being eaten.
  • Speak in Unison: Sid and Buffy simultaneously realising the other is a demon hunter, not a demon.
  • The Tag: This episode uniquely has one: as the end credits roll, we get treated to a horrible performance of a scene from Oedipus Rex by Buffy, Xander, and Willow.
  • Tempting Fate: Buffy says that as long as Willow stays with them, there's no way the demon is getting what he wants. Cut to the demon setting up Giles as his next victim.
  • The Triple:
    Cordelia: "My song is about dignity, and human feelings, and personal...hygiene or something."
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Sid finishes off the demon to end the curse, even though it will mean the end of his own existence.
    Don't get sniffley on me sis. I've lived a lot longer than most demon hunters, or vampire slayers for that matter.
  • Why Are You Looking at Me Like That?: The demon is looking for an intelligent brain, but the smartest guy in the school just happened to be suffering from tumors. It's still hunting...
    Buffy: And it's gonna be looking for the smartest person around.
    Willow: What?
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Buffy's fear of dummies.