30:01 – The End
The last time we were with our favorite students at Sunnydale High School, Buffy Summers had been stricken with a bloodstone vengeance spell that is going to kill her in two or three hours (according to Giles). Amy Madison, an old friend of Willow’s who wanted to get on the cheerleading squad in the worst possible way, has been confirmed to be a witch. The Scoobies are certain that she’s responsible for Buffy’s current tragic circumstances.
We rejoin our Library scene already in progress.
“How do we reverse the spell?” Xander Harris asks.
Giles tells the students that he’s been researching that. He takes off his glasses and rubs his eyes. “We can reverse all the spells if we can just lay our hands on Amy’s spell book.”
Willow Rosenberg asks what they can do if they can’t get the spell book, and Giles says the other way is to cut the witch’s head off. Xander, for one, is all for this.
The spell-stricken Buffy Summers says, “It’s not Amy’s fault. She only became a witch to survive her mother.”
Buffy then asks Giles where Amy would be casting her spells.
“She needs a sacred space,” Giles responds. “A pentagram. Large pot.”
Buffy, using her Slayer-sense, decides that Amy’s “sacred space” would be in her home. Buffy and Giles are heading for Amy’s house. Buffy asks Willow and Xander to stay and keep an eye on Amy. Giles adds that they should also keep Amy away from the science lab, because they’ll need it to cast their counterspells.
Buffy and Giles pull up in front of Amy’s house in Giles’s old car. Inside, Catherine Madison—Amy’s mom, known in high school as “Catherine the Great”—sits on the couch eating a plate of brownies. Giles knocks on the door, with Buffy at his side, looking very out of it. As Catherine opens the door, Giles rudely forces his way inside, saying that they need to talk to her about her daughter.
Giles leads Buffy into the living room and sits her down on the couch. The Slayer is fading fast.
“Your daughter is meddling with something very dangerous,” Giles says to Mrs. Madison. “Are you aware of that?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Oh, I think you know only too well.”
“You’ve got to go. She’s going to be home soon, and you—”
“This girl is very sick,” Giles says, referring to Buffy. “Now you will shut up and you will listen to me! Your daughter has access to some very powerful magicks, and somehow your obsession with cheerleading has made—”
“I don’t care about cheerleading!” Catherine says. “It’s not my fault she’s doing stuff.”
Buffy sees the plate of brownies and begins to realize something about Catherine.
“Amy?” Buffy says. Giles looks at her, puzzled.
“Are you Amy?” Buffy asks Catherine.
“I don’t understand,” says the perennially befuddled Giles.
“She switched!” Buffy says. “She switched your bodies, didn’t she?”
“Good Lord!” Giles exclaims, as Catherine/Amy realizes that the jig is up.
“She wanted to relive her glory days,” Buffy says.
“She said I was wasting my youth,” Catherine/Amy says. “So she took it.”
This is where Act III flows smoothly into Act IV. Our expectations to this point—well, the first time we watched this episode, at any rate—were that Amy was using witchcraft to get onto the cheerleading squad. This was partially true, except that Amy’s mom Catherine had performed some sort of Freaky Friday spell that caused her to switch bodies with her daughter. It is Catherine, in Amy’s body, who is the real villain of this episode. A subtle plot twist, expectations subverted.
Giles breaks down the door to the attic room. Catherine/Amy follows him into the witch’s sacred space.
“If she finds out I’ve been here, she’ll kill me!” Catherine/Amy says.
Giles steps around the cauldron and approaches the rack where all the dolls are hanging. He tells Catherine/Amy to collect the dolls and any other personal effects. He begins looking for the witch’s spell book. Giles finds a trunk and opens it. The viewer gets an old fashioned horror cat jump scare as a black cat surprises Giles. But, Giles finds the spell book he was searching for.
Downstairs, Giles has to pick the weakened Buffy up and carry her in his arms. He tells Catherine/Amy that they are going to the school, and that she is coming with them.
Meanwhile, at the high school gym, the Sunnydale basketball team is playing their big game against the Bobcats. Amy/Catherine is with the rest of the cheerleading squad, doing that thing that cheerleaders do. Cheering, in other words. She looks happy, too.
Willow and Xander are in the stands, keeping an eye on Amy as they were ordered.
Giles carries Buffy into the science lab, laying her down on a lab table. He uses his sweater as a pillow for her head. There are no creepy sexual overtones here. Giles is very much a paternal figure in Buffy’s life, and that’s what comes across here.
“You just hang on,” Giles tells the weakened Buffy. Catherine/Amy, who did indeed come with them, has set a box of books and things on a nearby bench. Giles gets Amy/Catherine’s spell book from the box.
“How is she?” Catherine/Amy asks, obviously concerned.
“We only have a few minutes left,” Giles says.
Giles recites a spell as he and Catherine/Amy mix ingredients. We cut to the gym again, where Amy/Catherine is still cheering.
Giles says, “The center is dark. Centrum est obscurus. The darkness breathes. Tenebrae respiratis. The listener hears. Hear me!”
In the gym, Amy/Catherine senses Giles’ counterspell. She looks worried.
“Unlock the gate,” Giles continues. “Let the darkness shine. Cover us with holy fear.”
Catherine/Amy is feeling the effects of the counterspell as well. She seems disoriented. The lights go out in the science lab.
In the gym, Amy/Catherine falls from the pyramid of cheerleaders, and then runs from the gym. Willow and Xander see everything from the stands.
Back in the science lab, Catherine/Amy says, “She’s coming!”
Willow stops Amy/Catherine in the hall. Willow tells her that she can help her.
“With what?” Amy/Catherine asks.
“You know,” Willow says. “With all your witchcraft. I know this really good cauldron.”
While Willow attempts to distract Amy/Catherine, Xander is sneaking up behind the witch. Amy/Catherine turns and uses a Force chokehold on Xander, causing him to collapse to the floor.
“Xander!” Willow exclaims, right before Amy/Catherine punches her hard in the face, decking her with a fierce right hook. Then the witch continues to head for the science lab.
Giles is now holding up his arms and chanting, “Corsheth and Gilail! The gate is closed! Receive the dark! Release the unworthy! Take of mine energy and be sated!”
He plunges his hands into the bubbling concoction in front of him.
As this scene continues, Amy/Catherine discovers that the science lab door is locked. She breaks a glass case in the hall and retrieves a fire axe, which she then begins to use on the door.
Inside, still on the lab table, Buffy struggles to keep her eyes open. She’s fading fast.
Amy/Catherine gets the door open and immediately marches towards Buffy, axe in hand. She’s going to use it, too, until there is a sudden flash of light as all the spells are broken. Buffy sits up. Amy is standing there with the axe, looking confused.
Catherine, back in her own body (which Amy has been stuffing full of brownies), tackles Buffy to the floor. She uses her witchy powers to force Giles back and pushes a table against him. She holds out her hand towards her daughter, and the axe flies from Amy’s hand into Catherine’s.
Catherine, practicing her acceptance speech for Mother-of-the-Year, says, “How dare you raise your hand to your mother! I gave you birth. I gave up my life so you could drag that worthless carcass around and call it living? You’ve never been anything but trouble. I’m going to put you where you can’t make trouble again!”
Which is Buffy’s cue to jump up behind Catherine.
“Guess what?” Buffy says. “I feel better.” Then, she punches Catherine Madison so hard that she flies through the air, striking a shelf full of bottles. The witch has super recuperative powers as well, though, and quickly bounces back up.
“That body was mine! Mine!”
Catherine uses her powers to throw Buffy into a wall, momentarily stunning the teenager. Catherine’s eyes turn black as she attempts to cast another spell. For some reason, there is a mirror overhead supported by a long pole. Buffy executes one of her advanced martial arts kicks to knock away the pole. Catherine’s new spell leaves her hands and reflects from the mirror that suddenly drops in her path. It is sent back at Catherine, who screams as the spell envelops her, causing her to vanish.
Giles, who was knocked unconscious—again—comes to on the floor. “Well, that was interesting,” he says, in his typically understated way.
After Buffy helps Giles to his feet, he says, “I assume all the spells are reversed. It was my first casting, so I may have got it wrong.”
Do any of us believe this was Giles’s first spell casting? I think later events prove this to be a lie. But, why would Rupert Giles lie about this?
Xander rushes in and grabs Amy, telling the others to cut her head off. The others fill him in on everything he missed since Amy/Catherine did the Darth Vader thing to him in the hall. Then, Willow barges in, brandishing a baseball bat. Xander tells her that he took care of everything.
We get a two-part outro to our story. This was an episode that dealt with—at least in part—the relationship between mothers and daughters. This scene in Buffy’s bedroom shows Joyce Summers, Buffy’s mom, trying to make amends with her Slayer daughter, apologizing for not always understanding her.
Buffy asks her mom if she ever wanted to be sixteen again. “No way,” Joyce says, and then Buffy says that she loves her. Aww.
Second outro, Buffy and Amy walk together down a Sunnydale High hallway. Amy is talking about her father being overprotective. She says that on Saturday they’re staying in and making brownies.
Cordelia Chase comes by and makes the expected mean-girl remarks about Buffy and Amy being bumped back to alternates on the cheerleading squad.
The girls stop by the trophy case in the hallway. They look at Catherine the Great’s photo.
“And there’s been no sign of her?” Buffy asks.
“That last spell,” Amy says, “She said I’d never make trouble again. Wherever she is, I don’t think we’ll have to worry.”
As the girls walk away from the trophy case, the camera pushes in on the cheerleading trophy. Catherine’s eyes are looking out from the trophy’s figurine and she’s making muffled noises.
I get it. Catherine’s spell, reflected from the mirror, turned her into the trophy. It’s like that old Medusa story, turning herself into a statue. Quite droll, as Giles might say.
As the first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that demonstrates how non-vampire stories could be told, this one was okay. It established that the horror trope of witches and witchcraft is also a thing in this fictional universe. In many ways, the first witch we’ve seen in the series is quite traditional. No pointy hats or flying broomsticks, but all-aboard with the bubbling cauldron and the eye-of-newt.
The episode also serves as an introduction to Amy Madison, who may or may not become a recurring character. While this may be a case of hindsight being 20/20, it also presages Willow’s own future dabblings with witchcraft.
Season 1, Episode 3 “Witch” earns a 15-Minute Hellmouth score of 3-out-of-5 stars.