AKA: I will live vicariously through you one way or another

Warm up your cold open with some fire

Witch starts off with some heavy emotional labor.  Buffy and Giles are helping Willow and Xander move through the grieving process for their good pal Jesse.

JUST KIDDING.  We’re only on episode three, baby.  There’ll be plenty of time for that feelings nonsense later (I’m looking at you, seasons 5 and 6). No, today we’re going to listen to Giles liken cheerleading to a cult.  He attempts to forbid it, but Buffy forbids his forbiddance.  She says she just needs something safe and normal in her life.  The quick cut to a bubbling cauldron clues us into the irony.

Willow and Xander accompany Buffy to tryouts, where the latter gives her a bracelet.  It says “Yours Always,” which Xander insists was pre-engraved on all of them.  Yuck.  Cordelia tries talking shit to Willow and Buffy, but Willow is more interested in catching up with Amy.  Amy and Willow used to have brownie-eating sleepovers, but more recently Amy lost a bunch of weight training several hours a day with her mom.  That’s enough backstory for the cold open, though, because would-be cheerleader Amber is on fire and Buffy has to put it out.

Dreams

The gang reconvenes in the library to speculate about spontaneous combustion, which is often tied to rage. Willow offers to hack school records to see if Amber has a history of outbursts while Xander asks around.  Buffy says they don’t need to help, but they’ve decided they’re the Slayerettes. These leads end up going nowhere.

Back at the Summers house Joyce is muttering dismissively as Buffy describes her day.  She doesn’t actually know what Buffy was auditioning for.  Buffy not-so-subtly remarks that Amy and her mom train together, but Joyce points out that she has a gallery to run.  Single-parenting in SoCal ain’t cheap.

At the next day of tryouts, Amy runs into Cordelia.  Literally – she knocks her over.  Cordy gives Amy this long spiel about her dreams of being a cheerleader and what that would entail.  She makes vague threats about what will happen if she didn’t make the team.

To make the team you need to be a) peppy, and b) a witch
“You’ll tell me about more of your dreams?” Image: IMDb

Amy is unsurprisingly bummed, and because you can’t spell “Buffy Summers” without “Bummer” our favorite Slayer is here to commiserate.  It turns out they each find themselves living with single mothers as the result of divorce.  Amy feels like she needs to live up to her mom’s cheerleading legacy and the pressure has been mounting since her parents’ split.

Meanwhile Xander is going on and on about Buffy to Willow and I am already so sick of this subplot.  He is asking Willow for advice on how to ask Buffy out and calling her “one of the guys” all in one breath.

If you’re not first…

The results have been posted:  Cordelia is on the team, Buffy is first alternate, and Amy is third alternate.  Despite the term “alternate” Xander assumes this means they made it-made it and is a bit too cheery when delivering the news.

We see the bubbling cauldron again, this time with a voice cursing Cordelia.  (Amazon’s closed captions completely ruined the mystery of who the titular witch is.)

Joyce has been briefed on this episode’s theme, so upon hearing Buffy didn’t make the squad she encourages her daughter to join Yearbook like she did in high school.  Joyce just wants Buffy to stay out of trouble, and Buffy just wants her mom’s support.

Xander tries to ask Buffy out, but THANK GOD Cordy is acting weird enough for Buffy to need to cut him off and follow her.  At her driver’s ed course, the instructor insists Cordelia drive – even though Cordelia says she isn’t feeling well and has apparently failed three times.  Seriously, dude, you’re going to have her drive you and two other students when she is vocally expressing her inability to drive safely?

We get a blurry PoV shot and, shock of shocks, Cordelia crashes the car.  She winds up standing in the street, completely blind.  She is only saved from being hit by an oncoming truck (whose driver was all too willing to hit a pedestrian) by Buffy.

Witchunt

Back in the library Giles theorizes witchcraft is the source of the trouble.  The Scoobies deduce it must be Amy since the prior two victims – and Amy’s mom –  were cheerleaders.  Buffy doesn’t blame her since she knows the pressure Amy’s mom is putting on her.  This is especially nice of her considering she is no longer an alternate due to Cordelia’s untimely blinding. Buffy is officially in the target pool.

Giles explains how they can determine if Amy recently cast a spell.  The ingredients will all be conveniently located in their combo chemistry-biology class.  Buffy spills the potion on Amy during a chaotic sequence where another cheerleader is also being cursed (her mouth just disappears.  It’s just gone.  I’d say this is one of the more disturbing shots of the episode.).  The potion turns blue, which means Amy is the witch.  Unfortunately, Amy realizes what is happening and steals Buffy’s bracelet for her next concoction.  Back at her house, she takes out a lot of her pent up aggression on her mom and makes her mom do her homework.

The next morning Buffy is beyond peppy.  She breaks her alarm, half apologizes/half argues with Joyce, says something about being the Slayer to Joyce, and sings “Macho Man” a lot.  This translates to her literally throwing another cheerleader across the gym during pre-game practice.  Of course, this means her stint as leader of Sunnydale cheers is over before it really began.

Willow and Xander carry Buffy to the library, and she’s basically the drunk friend on the precipice between very happy and very sad.  In a nice callback to Xander and Willow’s earlier conversation, Buffy says Xander is like one of the girls.

Giles diagnoses Buffy with a nasty case of Bloodstone Vengeance.  They’ve got about 3 hours to either reverse the spell or cut off Amy’s head.  Buffy votes for the former, because she still doesn’t blame Amy for all of this.

Which witch is which?

Buffy and Giles go to Amy’s house.  They find Amy’s mom.  Giles gives her this really intense dressing down before Buffy sees… a plate of half-eaten brownies?!!  That’s right:  the single characteristic we know about Amy is how we know she and her mom have swapped bodies.  Amy’s mom told her she was wasting her youth which is just sad.  I’m sad that all we know about Amy is that she likes brownies and her mom doesn’t like her.

They grab her mom’s spellbooks and head back to the school.  Willow and Xander are at the game keeping an eye on who they still think is Amy.  We get some more PoV shots from her perspective: flashes of Giles, Buffy, and the real Amy in the chemistry lab attempting to reverse the spells.  She runs out of the game to stop them, and Willow and Xander follow her.  There is a brief fight in the hall, which includes Amy(‘s mom) doing a Darth Vader choke out to Xander and a Jack Torrence to the chem lab door.

Giles has finished reversing the spell in time, but Amy’s mom is still crazed.  She and Buffy throw each other around a bit. It’s witch versus slayer. Buffy deflects a spell meant for her with the reflective surface of a dissection plate.  Amy’s mom is magicked away to live in her old cheerleading trophy forever.  Amy gets to live with her dad now.  And guess what:  they’re making brownies this Saturday.  Buffy and Joyce get a nice reconciliation as well.

Trav’s single sentence review of Witch:  No wonder Amy’s dad left.

I really like this episode.  It’s our first true monster of the week, but we also get some real-world storylines to parallel the supernatural ones.  It also introduced us to Amy, the first of several recurring minor characters.  (Don’t worry, we won’t talk about brownies anymore.) We also get a better sense of Buffy’s moral compass and how she differentiates good and evil at this point in time. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Where to watch Witch (sponsored links!)