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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Puppet Show

Snyder: "There are things I will not tolerate: students loitering on campus after school, horrible murders with hearts being removed. And also smoking."

This is one of the funniest episodes of the series; certainly the funniest in season one. The plot is a clever twist on the old possessed ventriloquist dummy plot, with dummy Sid actually turning out to be a human demon hunter trapped in a wooden body.

We are introduced to Principal ("Kids, I don't like 'em") Snyder, an educator you love to hate, and a much better character for this show than Flutie ("My predecessor, Mr. Flutie, may have gone in for all that touchy-feely relating nonsense, but he was eaten. You're in my world now"). Armin Shimerman is perfect for the part. Even though he's an obvious suspect, he is clearly too good a character to waste on just one episode.

The onstage scenes are particularly funny. I loved the moment when Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Giles are all on stage in various states of disarray after defeating the monster, and the curtain opens. (Snyder says, "I don't get it. What is it, avant-garde?") And Buffy, Willow, and Xander, glassy-eyed with stage fright, are hilarious doing Oedipus Rex in the closing credits.

Bits and pieces:

— The looks on the gang's faces as Sid is telling them his story are priceless. I also really enjoyed Sid describing Buffy lasciviously: "Strong, athletic, limber... nubile..."

— Cordelia doesn't scream, but she does sing Whitney Houston.

— Willow is so unnerved that she turns and runs off stage. Her stage fright is a plot point in the very next episode, "Nightmares," and is also referred to in other future episodes.

— Giles being unable to carry off a "power circle" is delightful.

— Xander saves Giles' life.

— Sid mentions another Slayer, a "Korean chick" in the thirties. The 1930s, we assume.

— Xander makes Sid the dummy say, "Redrum! Redrum!" which is from Stephen King's The Shining. (It's the word "murder" spelled backward.)

— The Oedipus Rex scene in the closing credits was only broadcast once, but it can be seen on the official tapes and DVDs.

— While playing Principal Snyder on BtVS, Armin Shimerman was also playing Quark, the Ferengi bartender, on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.


Snyder: "My predecessor, Mr. Flutie, may have gone in for all that touchy-feely relating nonsense, but he was eaten. You're in my world now."

Willow: "I think dummies are cute. You don't?"
Buffy: "They 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."

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."

Snyder: "This place has quite a reputation. Suicide, missing persons, spontaneous cheerleader combustion... you can't put up with that. You've gotta keep an eye on the bad element."

Willow: "Once again I'm banished to the demon section of the card catalog."

Xander: "So, the dummy tells us that he's a demon hunter. And we're, like, fine, la la la la. He takes off, and now there's a brain. Does anybody else feel like they've been Keyser Soze'd?"

I loved this one. Three out of four stakes,

Billie Doux reviewed all of Buffy and Angel, so she knows the plural of apocalypse.


  1. Not one of my favourites, but I love Snyder as a character. I forgot how early he turns up.

    Also, Giles and Cordelia with the hair. Always makes me laugh out loud.

  2. I love this episode. It might just be my favourite from season 1.

  3. I really like this episode, lots of laughs and I know that the first time I watched it I was a tiny bit scared... dummies scare me okay, how can Willow think they're cute? nobody thinks they're cute do they?

    I like the way the story fits nicely together with the scoobies thinking the dummy did it, Sid thinking Buffy is a demon, the viewer wondering if this new principal Snyder might have something to do with it...and then it turning out to be the magician guy nobody was paying any attention to.

    Snyder - ' Kids, I don't like 'em' It seems to me like he thinks he's the new sheriff come to a lawless town to clean it up. Not really going so well for him so far.

    That its all peppered with Cordy goodness makes it even better.

  4. Still not one of my favorites. This is another I tend to skip on re-watches; but, in honor of this event, I sat through it again today.

    Probably for the last time...

  5. I didn't enjoy this episode as much as you seemed to, Billie, but there was some great humor. On top of the things you've already mentioned, I really liked the way the tuba solo fit in with Buffy's emotions as she learned they were all going to have to participate in the talent show. It was like the sad trombone sound but better:)

    Snyder was totally creepy, and I was suspicious, but I'm glad he'll be around for more episodes. He definitely seems like a good foil, even if a horrible principal.

  6. I really love this one. It has such a good balance of humor and creepiness. (Ventriloquist dummies are so freaking unnerving! They give me the wig, too. No, there's no story there.) Between the introduction of Principal Snyder, the twist with the dummy being a cursed demon hunter, and the delightful awkwardness of the talent show, just great stuff all around. Kudos to Charisma Carpenter for the truly awful singing. I just laughed myself silly at the final, avant-garde moment, and I love the Oedipus Rex capper with the credits.

    It's interesting to see such a range of reactions to this one. This was certainly the most enjoyable S1 episode for me to revisit thus far, and it may be my favorite from the season.

  7. I'm not as crazy about the dummy plot as some of you are. It's fine, but far from their best. BUT! This episode is hilarious, definitely one of their funniest ever. The tag always gets me howling. People who are watching on Netflix, did you see it or do they cut it off?

    Snyder is such a great character. You would expect the principal on this kind of show to never believe Buffy and friends and to be constantly admonishing them for the crazy situations they get themselves into. Instead, Snyder openly detests all students, the Scoobies in particular. I love Snyder he's one of my favorite recurring characters (I'll be saying this a lot). "That's the kind of woolly-headed liberal thinking that leads to being eaten."

    Seriously, though, does anyone think dummies are cute? They're just sort of inherently creepy, right?

    Is the dancer/band rivalry a reference to something?

  8. I really enjoyed this one, especially the witty dialogue. Giles explaining to the kids how he got assigned to the talent show since Snider wanted him more involved with students and his retort that he backed a librarian to avoid contact with kids was priceless. I also loved when Snider punished Buffy, Xander, and Willow by making them perform in the talent show and Xander responded with a comment about detention being the time-honored punishment and then, "whatever happened to corporal punishment."

    Did anyone else think of Dean Winchester when the puppet explained hp his demon hunting days and his luck with the women! He reminded me of what Dean might become as an older man! ;)

    I keep noticing tha Xander certainly seems to have a hand in saving people in this first season fairly often.

  9. The hilarious end credit is on Netflix. The dummie character is also on the PlayStation game of Buffy, so you have to play a level as him. It gave me some empathy as it's hard to kick butt when you're three feet tall.

  10. A few people have already highlighted it, and of course it's in the review, but I think it bears repeating: "That's the kind of woolly-headed, liberal thinking that leads to being eaten."

  11. Newbie report:

    (I actually posted this before, but, like Principal Flutie, it seems to have gotten eaten)

    Five minutes in and I'm googling for the old Love Americal Style episode /Love for Dummies/ with Paul Winchell and Shari Lewis. It's not on Youtube, but believe me, it was great.

    But no. The puppet didn't do it.

    Well then, it was new Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor - er - Principal Ferengi! (Who besides me thought the backlit shot with the sun shining through Armin Shimerman's ears was awesome? Oh, Armin, you are such a good sport.)

    Wrong again.

    When a story can fool me twice, that is something to sit up and take notice!

    Ok, then it has to be the girl playing the tuba. I can't be wrong three times. (For the person who asked about the joke about band versus dance? It's because those two groups are picked on at school for being lame. It would be like a war between the nerds and the dweebs.)

    I was wrong three times.

    That's why this was a great episode! A deduction for no vampires, but great.

    Um, reading posts - it seems the uberfans don't like this one much. I guess I'm trangential again. The best episodes so far are the one with the hyenas, the tribute to 2001 and this one. (The ones with the least amount of Buffy, who I still don't like) But what do I know. I'm a newbie.

  12. I teach adults, and I'll admit I've used the expression "That's the kind of woolly-headed, liberal thinking that leads to being eaten" in a lecture or two. :)

  13. Snyder rocks! He makes every episode he’s in better. The look on Giles face when he is watching all the “talent” teachers everywhere can surely relate.


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