AKA: Don’t Be a Dummy

I fell in love with the girl at the Puppet Show

We open on a PoV shot backstage during a talent and puppet show rehearsal as a creepy voiceover says, “I will be whole.”  On stage, we have one very off-key Cordelia Chase singing The Greatest Love of All and an exasperated Giles dismissing her. Kind of rude of him, because she hadn’t even gotten to the sparkler portion yet.

Our trio walks in to rib Giles about his assignment as Talent Show Coordinator.  Mr. Snyder, the new principal (RIP Mr. Flutie) wants him to interact with students more.  Snyder overhears this student-teacher interaction and decides that Buffy, Willow, and Xander also need to be more integrated with the school.  As such, they will be required to participate in the talent show. He explains that Principal Flutie was too touchy-feely for his liking, and Sunnydale will neither touch nor feel on his watch.

We also learn that Buffy is wigged by puppets as Sid, our titular puppet, takes stage for his rehearsal slot.  He is actually talking, much to the shock of the puppeteer Morgan.  The rest of the rehearsing students believe this to be an actual ventriloquist act.

In the locker room, we get the creepy voiceover once more as he attacks a student: “I will be flesh.”

Leave your heart on the stage

Chaos abounds at an additional rehearsal.  Willow has decided that a dramatic scene is the easiest talent they could do.  Sid the puppet starts sexually harassing Buffy and Willow, and he allows Morgan to take the fall.  Or, at least, he partially takes the fall.  Buffy does threaten to turn Sid into a Dura-Flame log.

Principal Snyder and Giles talk about all the misfortunes Sunnydale High has endured recently.  While he would prefer to blame our Scoobies for it all, his current plan is to run a tight ship.  Then a scream comes from the locker room.

Emily, the dancer seen at rehearsal, was found dead with her heart removed.  Giles says some demons will remove hearts, but typically with their claws and teeth.  Emily’s heart was neatly cut out.  All but Buffy assume a simple human murder, until our Slayer reminds them of the Hellmouth of it all.

The Scoobies interview everyone in the talent show in an attempt to trace her last steps.  Everyone says they saw Morgan with her last.  They also describe Morgan as “always rubbing his head and moaning.”  Our sweet Cordy is devastated, because “Emma” was her best friend and the murder could’ve been her.  Never short on an existential crisis, that one.

Buffy talks to Morgan.  He rubs his head a lot. She eventually yells at him after Sid tries to end the conversation.  Morgan makes a half-hearted attempt to explain before giving up and leaving.

The Slayerettes are all too willing to blame Morgan, but Buffy says being a weirdo doesn’t necessarily correlate with being a murderer.  Giles cautions everyone not to rock the boat with Principal Snyder.  They cannot afford additional scrutiny.

It’s the Puppet Show, not Puppet Tell

Buffy artfully breaks into Morgan’s locker by slamming the lock out of the door.  It is after hours, though, and Principal Snyder does not condone loitering, heart-removing murders, and smoking.  Before Buffy is forced to leave, she sees Sid the puppet’s case is empty.

Backstage, Morgan and Sid are arguing.  Morgan does not want to “do it.”  Sid says he must, because Buffy is clearly the one.  She will be the last one before he is free.

That night Joyce tells Buffy she is excited to support her at the talent show.  Buffy tries to direct her away from doing so.  Her mom tries to dig deeper at what’s bothering her, but eventually encourages her to get some sleep.

And sleep Buffy does – until she wakes to something in her covers.  Joyce rushes to check her room, only to find the bed empty.  Buffy is clearly stressed, and her mom tries to calm her.  Joyce also recommends she not go to sleep with the window open.  Buffy murmurs that she didn’t.

Cordelia is arguing with Giles about her placement in the talent show.  Her song is sad and sappy, but a rock band is before her.  The mood will be all wrong. Giles stares at her for a moment before saying something about her hair, prompting her to run off in horror to check for herself.  Apparently Xander gave him this tip.

Buffy tells the rest of the gang that she thinks Sid was in her room last night.  Xander assumes it was a cat, and Giles and Willow are inclined to agree because Buffy has admitted to a fear of puppets.  

Investigation isn’t for dummies

Buffy wants to get Morgan away from Sid so she can talk to him.  Giles has found information about demons that collect body parts to take a human form.  Morgan doesn’t quite fit this theory, though, because he keeps getting weaker while this particular brotherhood of demons are preternaturally strong.

Sid is with Morgan in class, and he is staring at Buffy.  He is also answering the teacher’s questions and causing class disruption.  The teacher puts the puppet in a closet, but he is still talking.  She believes Morgan to be a very talented ventriloquist.  After class she tries to check on Morgan, because he has been acting off lately.  When she opens to closet to retrieve Sid, he is gone.  Morgan said Sid knew to wait for him.

Xander reveals he took Sid so Buffy could talk to Morgan alone.  Xander beats Sid against a desk to prove he isn’t real to a still-wigged Buffy.  While she looks for Morgan, Willow and Giles research re-animation and organ harvesting, respectively. Xander babysits the dummy.

The dressing room is creepy and mostly abandoned, except for Principal Snyder.  He does a harbinger-esque bit about Buffy not being safe on her own with everything going on lately.  She assures him she can take care of herself.

Willow finds some information on possessed toys that harvest human organs.  Now they want to believe Buffy.  This is unfortunate timing, because Xander stopped watching Sid long enough to do some homework.  When he realizes the puppet is gone, he yelps and jumps on a table.  Willow and Giles do some yelping as well once they learn of the situation.

Buffy, meanwhile, has found Morgan… without his brain.  As she reels back in horror, a chandelier drops on her and pins her down.  Overhead we see the scurrying of tiny, wooden feet.  Buffy works on getting free while defending herself from a knife-wielding Sid. 

Pulling Strings

She escapes and manages to pin Sid against the wall. Then they each accuse the other of harvesting organs in order to become human.  It turns out Sid is a demon hunter.  He got turned into a puppet years ago.  The demon he is hunting only needs a heart and a brain to remain human for another seven years.  It is the last in a line of seven demons; Sid has already killed six.

The group figures if they can find out who is missing from the show they will know who the demon is.  Sid has a plan: Giles will form the Power Circle to hype up the talent show participants while Buffy observes to see who is not there.  Sid comes with Buffy to harass her some more.  What is with these ageless dudes hitting on a fifteen year old? Sid also reveals that he will die once the last demon is dead, and he is relieved by this. 

Cordelia is not relieved, because she is hit with stage fright.  Giles suggests she picture the audience in their underwear, though they both agree it might be best to leave Mrs. Franklin out of that.

No one (who is still alive, anyway) is missing from the Power Circle.  While Giles gets the show started, Buffy tries to find Willow and Xander.  Sid has disappeared while she was gone, so she must find him as well.  She feels a mysterious dripping when backstage and upon investigation discovers Morgan’s brain.  The demon body rejected it.

Take a bow

Willow searches Morgan’s file.  Though he was one of the smartest kids in the school, his attendance record was shoddy.  It turns out he had brain cancer (hence the headaches).  They believe the demon will go for the next smartest kid in school – Willow Rosenburg.

Marc the magician asks Giles for some pre-show help.  His assistant is a no-show, and he needs Giles to pose in his guillotine.

Our trio determines that the demon could still be in the talent show, since it still needs a brain.  They also realize Giles is a very intelligent person.

They arrive backstage to see Giles strapped in to the guillotine.  Marc has his head positioned so his “brain can just fall right out.”  Giles asked what the trick is, and Marc says there isn’t one.  Buffy tries to fight Marc the demon while Xander frees Giles.  Sid reappears and helps everyone get the demon strapped into the guillotine and cut off its head.

Sid says the heart needs to be taken out as well to truly end things.  He stabs the demon’s chest then slumps over.  Buffy picks up the dummy with some reverence just as the curtains rise.  Principal Snyder looks at the scene and asks if the puppet show is avant-garde.

In our only concurrent-with-credits scene of the series we see Buffy, Willow, and Xander struggle with their Oedipus recitations, to a smattering of laughter in the audience.  Willow runs off frightened.

“All I could think of was Mr. Marbles.” – Trav’s one sentence review of this episode.

I have a lot of fun with The Puppet Show.  It’s a monster of the week with a huge ick factor and some fun plot twists.  We also get the introduction of Principal Snyder, who is a fantastic side character. 

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)