Home Featured TV Shows All TV Shows Movie Reviews Book Reviews Articles Frequently Asked Questions About Us

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Witch

Xander: "We're a team. Aren't we a team?"
Willow: "Yeah, you're the Slayer and we're, like, the Slayerettes."

We immediately move to a non-vampire villain, and it's only the third episode.

"Witch" isn't about Wiccans or other real people who identify themselves as witches; it's definitely a broomsticks-and-cauldrons Wicked Witch of the West kind of thing. Which is only the top layer of plot. It's actually about parents living vicariously through their children but taken to supernatural extremes, since most parents don't actually take over their children's bodies and try to kill their cheerleading rivals. Even though there are subtle hints, the mother-daughter reversal fake-out actually did take me by surprise the first time I saw this episode – good writing there.

Buffy wants a normal life (mild spoiler, this is a continuing theme in season one), but nothing is normal in Sunnydale. Whether or not cheerleading is normal is perhaps debatable, but it usually doesn't include spontaneous human combustion. At least, unlike Amy, Buffy has a good mom. Joyce may be waiting for Buffy to screw up again, but at least she has no desire to live Buffy's life vicariously or be sixteen again.

Bits and pieces:

— Amy Madison (Elizabeth Anne Allen) is introduced.

— Catherine Madison has a nice house for a cosmetologist with no alimony, even if the property values in Sunnydale aren't high. (Of course, she is a powerful witch, as someone on my Buffy list pointed out.) She also appears to have kept her maiden name, which is either not in character or is a continuity booboo.

— Xander is the recipient of almost instant karma. He inadvertently hurts Willow by telling her she's like one of the guys; soon after, Buffy foils his romantic intentions by telling him he's like one of the girls.

— The name of the driver's ed teacher is Mr. Pole, as in "driving around the." They should have gone all out and called him Mr. Cone.

— Speaking of cars, this is the first time we see Giles' ancient Citroen.

— While loopy from the spell, Buffy sings "Macho Man" and tells her mother about being a vampire slayer. Joyce doesn't pick up on it.

— Willow matter-of-factly cuts eye of newt right out of the (hopefully) dead newt.

— Cordelia screams again. She is particularly nasty in this episode, the type of character you love to hate; it's difficult to feel sorry for her even when she is blinded.

— The Sunnydale basketball team is called the Razorbacks. The school colors are red and yellow.

— There is no obligatory dog reference. But there's a cat jumping out of a trunk.


Giles: "This is madness. What can you have been thinking? You are the Slayer. Lives depend upon you. I make allowances for your youth, but I expect a certain amount of responsibility, and instead of which you enslave yourself to this, this... cult."
Buffy: (in a cheerleader outfit) "You don't like the color?"

Xander: "Ooo, stretchy. Where was I?"
Willow: "You were pretending that seeing scantily clad girls in revealing postures was a spiritual experience."

Amy: "I train with my mom, three hours in the morning, three at night."
Buffy: "That much quality time with my mom would probably lead to some quality matricide."

Giles: "That's the thrill of living on the Hellmouth. There's a veritable cornucopia of, of fiends and devils and, and ghouls to engage. (everyone looks at him) Pardon me for finding the glass half full."

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

Buffy: "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?"

Joyce: "Great parenting form. A little shaky on the dismount."

Giles: "Why should someone want to harm Cordelia?"
Willow: "Maybe because they met her. Did I say that?"

Xander: "We're right behind you, only further back."

Cordelia: "Hey, I'm really sorry you guys got bumped back to alternate. Hold it, wait. No, I'm not."
Amy: "Well, I know that I'll miss the intellectual thrill of spelling out words with my arms."

Two out of four stakes,

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


  1. I'm so glad I can finally comment! I discovered your reviews sometime during my first re-watch of Buffy/Angel. I am very new to Buffy, having just watched for the first time last fall. I love when Buffy says "You're my Xander-shaped friend." Makes me laugh every time.
    And although this is an early still kind of cheesy/campy episode, I really like the Twilight zone ending- those eyes are creepy!

  2. This is the episode in the first season that hooked me and made me sure I wanted to watch more. I came to Buffy very late, only watching it for the first time a year or so ago. Beginning with the second season I adored it, and it became my favorite show of all time. This was the episode in the first season, though, that made me think it would be worth it to try to get through some of the other episodes I heard might not be so great. I am glad I did. I am now re-watching Buffy.

  3. One of the better episodes of the first season. The writing is beginning to settle down a bit and the humour is beginning to shine through.

    This is the episode that I knew I would always harbor a not-so-secret crush on Giles. I just love the initial exchange with Buffy that you quote above. It always makes me laugh.

  4. I've always liked this one. It's not in my top tier or anything, but I liked that they explored the cheerleading thing for Buffy, and I enjoyed the twists and turns. (I was also surprised by the Amy/Mom switch thing the first time through, Billie.) I especially loved that Twilight Zone/X-Files ending. What a fitting punishment!

    Willow's gleeful smile when Buffy started telling Xander he was just "one of the girls" was delightful. I'm not really a fan of Willow pining for Xander, while he moons over Buffy, but I did love this little moment.

    The way they played out Cordelia's blindness was kind of silly. I would have expected her to say something about her vision troubles way before she became a Driver's Ed nightmare. Sure things were just fuzzy at that point, but come on! It's Cordelia! If she gets a hangnail or a run in her pantyhose she's letting everyone know about it.

    I'm with Joyce: I would NEVER want to be 16 again. The horror!

  5. I'm with Jess. This is one of my favorite episodes of season one for no particular reason. And I also love Willow's smile when Buffy calls Xander one of the girls. Alyson Hannigan is just the most adorable human being ever. Except maybe for her kidlings. http://perezhilton.com/perezitos/2013-03-14-alyson-hannigan-alexis-denisof-kids-daughters-satyana-keeva-learning

    Caught the maiden name goof and the too-expensive house (although, remember, property values in Sunnydale have never been competitive).

    This makes the second episode in a row that finds Cordelia in peril. That's a bit of a recurring theme...Charisma Carpenter does scream exceptionally well, which can be difficult for actors. Btw, Cordy refers to Laker Girls. Charisma Carpenter played a former Laker Girl in Veronica Mars and in real life was a cheerleader for the San Diego Chargers.

    Giles conveniently gets knocked out in the middle of the big fight scene for the first time. Not that that EVER happens again...

    The line "heat ingredients and apply to witch" always makes me laugh.

    Also the shot of the cheerleaders' feet where Buffy is wearing different shoes is one of my favorites of the first season. It says so much about the show and the 'I don't fit in' feeling of high school the show works with for the first few seasons.

  6. I noticed my comment above from a couple of years ago captures the same feeling I had this time. I really like this episode, and it got me hooked in a way the pilot didn't the first time I saw the series. My favorite parts of this episode involve Giles. I love the admonishment he gives Buffy about joining the "cult" of cheerleading. His glee ove the "cornucopia" of monsters at the hellmouth is great, too.

    Some of my other favorite aspects of the episode is the way that Xander and Willow commit to being a part of Buffy's team so fully and without hesitation; the scenes between Buffy and Joyce, especially the way they both seem to want to connect, but just keep missing each other's signals; the parallel between Buffy/Joyce and Amy/her mom; and the delicious ironic twist at the end.

  7. the ending is brilliant, but my goodness it creeps me out! The horror, the horror...

  8. I enjoyed this episode and the many connections to future episodes. I agree with the settling in comment. There are still cheesy bits and I don't particularly like the portrayal of witches but it is an indication that vampires are not the only problem in Sunnydale. Zander is so painfully bumbling that it reminded me how much I wouldn't want to relive 16 either. I am much happier knowing and owning all that I am and that takes a while for most people. Still thoroughly enjoying the re-watch!

  9. It is difficult to re watch objectively as you know what is to come. Like several others, the 1st time I watched Buffy it didn't exactly bowl me over initially, however persistence paid off.
    One thing I find really interesting about this episode is looking at the body shape of the cheerleaders compared to what you see in TV shows made today eg. Vampire Diaries. Some of the cheerleaders in Buffy are quite solid girls, unlike most of the stick thin ones in Mystic Falls. Not that I would actually know what a real cheerleader looks like, only ever having seen them on TV and in movies.
    Interesting episode though with the introduction of other supernatural baddies, and the gang becoming closer. Love Giles in this episode trying to exert his authority with no real idea how to do so.

  10. I'm with Suzanne on this one. A very important episode that made sure I wanted to see more. We've already established that the Master is kinda lame, and I truly believe if the first season was only about him, I wouldn't have managed to get through it.

    So, a whole new world of possible mysteries opens up in this one. Still, there was a lot of teenage silliness going on, and cheerleading? I just consider that to be an insult to all females.

    And Giles' counter spell reading was a bit OTT as well.

    I liked Amy though. I remember that I read somewhere a long time ago that Elizabeth Anne Allen was originally auditioning for the role of Buffy.

    And isn't Joyce just adorable?? And no, I wouldn't want to be 16 yo again either.

    Love the ending.

  11. Yes, I'm pretty sure Elizabeth Anne Allen and Julie Benz auditioned for the part of Buffy and didn't get it, and were cast in other parts later because Whedon liked them. Sarah Michelle Gellar was originally cast as Cordelia, but kept campaigning for the part of Buffy. And of course, eventually, she got it.

  12. And more casting info

    Charisma Carpenter also auditioned for the role of Buffy. But got the Cordelia part, due to Bianca Lawson had to turn it down due to contractual obligations. And who is Bianca Lawson? I guess we'll talk about that later...

  13. I did not know that Bianca Lawson was going to be Cordelia! I can't imagine that. Charisma seems so right for Cordelia.

    Nathan as Angel? That's such a weird idea. Would David have been Mal then? Bizarro whedonverse...

  14. I can't imagine anyone besides SMG as Buffy! So glad she campaigned for the part.

  15. “I think you’re underestimating the amount of pressure a parent can lay on you. If you’re not a picture perfect carbon copy, they tend to wig.”

    One of the things that Buffy does so well is to examine the rites of adolescence. In this episode, the kids begin to learn that adults are flawed and that they will not always do the right things to get what they want.

    Catherine is an example taken to the extreme. So desperate to recapture her youth, she resorts to witchcraft to achieve her ends. Unable to see her daughter as anything except a young body to covet, Catherine is the ultimate example of bad parenting.

    What Joyce wants is peace. She has had to uproot her life once and she desperately does not want to do it again. She wants Buffy to stay out of trouble and to get involved in a school project that Joyce perceives as safe. Joyce is trying to be a good mother and to understand Buffy, but her fear that Buffy may go off the rails again causes her to say things that hurt her daughter. To her credit, Joyce is aware of her failures and does try to atone for them.

    Giles wants a Slayer in the traditional sense. He wants someone who is as committed to the cause as he, someone who is not interested in the trappings of high school. I love how he tries to forbid Buffy from trying out for the squad, as though even as he is saying it, he knows how futile a gesture it is.

    Buffy is lucky. While the two primary adults in her life may be flawed, they both deeply love her, respect her and want to protect her. This knowledge, along with her growing friendships with the Slayerettes, will only make her stronger.

    As so many of you say, thank God 16 is behind me!

  16. I think this episode does a good job of using a supernatural twist to showcase an age old problem. Some people in life feel like they peaked in high school and once they become parents, they feel the compulsion to live through those years again vicariously through their children. I feel sorry for kids with parents like that. Of course, this being Buffy, it takes it to a whole new level. How many people would honestly like to do what Amy's mother did?

    Overall, it was a good episode. Not as chessy as most season one episodes, but it did have it's moments. And it did introduce the concept of witchcraft...

  17. I agree with the aspects of parenting, ChrisB. I'm a librarian and read lots of young adult books. One of my pet peeves is the absence of parents in almost all of the books (the other is falling in love and NOT getting over it when needed). If parents are involved, they are usually bad or negligent. Buffy has two strong role models in her life, her mother and Giles. This episode gives us a starting point with these relationships. They mature so much throughout the rest of the series.

  18. "That much quality time with my mom would probably lead to some quality matricide." I love this line.

    Miss Courtney, I'd argue that absent/negligent parents are necessary for mot children's books. With the parents gone, the kids are on their own--and that's where the plot comes from!

    Freo Fan: yes, the emphasis on (sometimes extreme) thinness got started later in the 90s--like 98 or so with Kate Moss, Calvin Klein, and the tail end of "heroin chic." We can see its effect on Buffy by Season Three (I think) when SMG loses noticeable amounts of weight.

  19. This was a perfect episode for me to watch on Mother's Day!

    Josie, I first misread your comment about "heroin chic" and thought of it as "heroine chic." It's too bad role models for young girls couldn't be kickass intelligent super heroes, heroines, slayers, detectives and the like--instead they have to be the super thin models of the world...hopefully the pendulum will start to swing back the other way soon!

    I enjoyed this episode well enough, and based on my limited experience with the series, it seems to have done a good job of showing what an average BTVS episode will be like.

  20. I love the idea of "heroine chic." Much better than the current obsession with Disney princesses that many little girls seem to have!

  21. Me too, Josie!

    Anybody got any Disney connections and want to make this happen? I mean some of you live in LA, right? :)

  22. Now, now. Not all the Disney princesses are that bad. Some of the newer ones have a lot more agency, and dreams that don't center around meeting and being rescued by their perfect prince. And, I sort of think it's the pretty dresses that most little girls are obsessed with (or possibly the hair), and I don't think Buffy would object to girls wanting to look pretty. :)

  23. Jess, you're right. Not all of the princesses are bad. Brave is a great story--but I don't include that in the princess canon because it's a Pixar story. Tangled also pushed the limits a little. Plus, I've always loved that Belle loved books so much. And, it should be said, that at least so far Buffy herself has been wearing some short skirts and belly shirts. But, at least as of right now, she's not spending all day thinking about getting a date and she's definitely not one to wait around for a boy to save her. I could definitely stand to see more little girls dressed as girls who kickass rather than girls who twirl and prance...twirling and prancing have their place but I hate that they are the end goal for so many girls these days...and seeing the elementary kids I work with already obsessed with "beauty" and being skinny is just sad. So let's bring on the heroine chic!!

  24. I loved this episode. God, I had no idea season one was this much fun. Or am I having this much fun because I’m already a fan and the Scoobies are too darn adorable? No, I won’t praise and take it away: the writers did get a lot of things right on this one.

    Giles and Buffy’s interaction was my favorite part of the episode. I loved when she gleefully opened her arms while telling him she was “trying out for the cheerleading squad”. And his concern for Buffy while she was dying melted my heart. Giles, I love you.

    I loved our three kids together too. When Buffy was “high” and told her buds she loved them, I believed her. It’s only episode three, and you can tell these newly formed bonds are already strong. “You’re the slayer, and we’re like the slayerettes.” Yes, you are, Will.

    The witch plot is better executed than the Master plot, and it’s much less hokey, but it’s still hokey when compared to latter seasons. A cauldron? Liquid turns blue and witch is caught? Another thing that bugged me was Giles dealing with the supernatural occurrences as if they were new territory for him. Oh, well, the show was still building its mythology. On the positive side, I was onboard and liked how the story developed. Like everyone said, the body switch is a good twist and was well executed.

    Also, Joyce. I didn’t remember she was such a struggling mom. Another moment I liked was Buffy saying at the end “I love you, mom”, and Joyce going all “I don’t get it”. Oh, these two.

    Damn it, I do love this show.

    Favorite lines:

    “You were chosen to destroy vampires, Buffy, not to wave pompoms at people.” What a great comedic line! I laughed out loud with this one.

    “Have you seen the kids that do yearbook? Nerds pick on them.” Not a huge fan of the line itself, but SMG’s delivery was spot on.

    “You’re totally and completely one of the girls.” Again, SMG nailed it, but what makes the line awesome is Willow’s smile right after it.

  25. I broke down and got a Hulu subscription so my daughter and I could continue watching Buffy. I've only watches the series once through, so I'm enjoying it a lot. This episode was a little cheesy with bubbling cauldron and all that, but we both enjoyed it because of the twist (which was also a surprise to me the first time I watched it, and my daughter was surprised). Also, the best parts, as usual, were the relationships with the slayerettes. my daughter especially enjoyed the scenes with Buffy and her mom.
    For context: My daughter is 11, so she's starting to try and figure out what this teenager thing is she's about to embark on and how it will affect her relationship with her dad and I. Earlier in the day, she said to me in complete seriousness (after she found out I'd saved her the last of the strawberry yogurt) "Parents are awesome. Mom, you're awesome. Just remember I said that and you can ignore anything I say against you when I'm a teenager (well, you know, most of it anyway). Remember it for when I think all parents are good for is as an ATM and to embarrass me in front of my friends. "
    Lol! To be fair... it was really good yogurt!

  26. This episode was really fun, Buffy was great when she was ‘drugged’ and I really liked Amy. Hopefully we see her more in the future.


We love comments! We moderate because of spam and trolls, but don't let that stop you! It’s never too late to comment on an old show, but please don’t spoil future episodes for newbies.