Scared Willow singing opera

About:

Title: Buffy S1.E09 “The Puppet Show” + S1.E10 “Nightmares”
Released: 1997

Drinks Taken: 22
Vamps Dusted: 0

 

Follow the whole rewatch here!

Last week, Kandis walked us through the episode that inspired a thousand gasps and swoons: “Angel.” This week, stuff gets REAL silly (I’m talking apocalyptically silly here, people), before we’re treated to another first season classic. 

But first! Our drinking game rules:

Buffy eagerly watching a pitcher of beer being poured into her glass.

The Buffy Season One Drinking Game Rules

Drink once every time:

A vamp is dusted
Giles cleans his glasses
Cordelia says something cutting but true
Xander pines for Buffy
Willow pines for Xander
Sparks fly between Buffy and Angel

Drink twice every time:

We see the entrance to Sunnydale High
We see a scene from the credits
There’s an extremely outdated pop culture reference
A scene takes place in a cemetery
A vampire is invited into a house

Now let’s take a trip to Puppet Town!

1.9 “The Puppet Show”

It’s talent show week at Sunnydale High, and the new principal (RIP Flutie) has roped Giles into running the production. You can guess how much our favorite student-despising librarian loves that! Principal Snyder is also all about transforming perceived delinquents into joiners, so Buffy, Xander and Willow are all forced to participate. No one is less pleased at this prospect than Willow (more on that in the next ep). We open with the mysterious and seemingly diminutive POV of some weirdo navigating talent show auditions and creep-breathing, “I will be whole, I will be new,” so get ready for a red herring!

Said herring: Sid the puppet, apparently manned by Morgan the misfit. Morgan’s all angsty and nerdy and Sid’s a stone-cold pervert, so it makes for a weird dynamic. Cut to a student being murdered in the locker room, her heart removed, and all clues point to Morgan/Sid. The Scoobs get their investigation on, and become convinced that Sid is actually a demon in puppet form or something of the sort. Fair enough! But TWIST! It turns out Sid’s a demon HUNTER and has one of those curses that are so popular in the Buffyverse, and he just has to kill one more demon to pay his dues and be free forever (via death).

The heart-stealing demon is now looking for a brain, the best brain at Sunnydale High, and Willow’s so cute and humble when she doesn’t understand why that makes Xander and Buffy SUPER protective of her. But they forgot about our witty Watcher, and it turns out Giles is the one in the crosshairs (or magician’s guillotine, thanks to the talent show). Buffy saves the day, Sid slays the demon and dies, and Buffy gets over her puppet phobia – just in time for “Nightmares”! Although I’d be kind of curious to see that one come to life. 

Oh yeah, and we close with the credits scrolling over Buffy, Willow and Xander’s truly heinous dramatic reading of Oedipus Rex

How many times do I have to take a drink? 

8

Vamps Dusted

0

Cameo

Sunnydale High student Elliott is played by MMCer Chasen Hampton!

A man with long curly red hair sits by a window

Meet Principal Snyder

These are the things he will not tolerate:

Snyder threatening Buffy
Snyder: “Students loitering on campus after school, horrible murders with hearts being removed — and also smoking.”

Stylish Yet Affordable Boots

All three Scoobs are ’90s-style crushing it here. 

Xander standing on stage in a bad sweater

Giles For Life

During an endless Cordelia discussion about her talent show solo, Giles finally makes his escape by staring with concern at her head and murmuring something about her hair, causing her to run off in horror. He looks so pleased with himself at the result.

Girls looking excited
Giles: “Xander was right; it worked like a charm.”

Xander’s Caesar Cut

It’s somehow… an improvement?

The Truest Thing Anybody Said This Week

Upon learning than an organ-stealing demon is offing their classmates, Xander sighs, “I hate this school.”

The Second Truest Thing Anybody Said This Week

When an especially flustered Giles asks what a pre-production power circle is supposed to be, Sid snorts, “How’d he ever get that gig?”

Buffy and Billy looking scared

1.10 “Nightmares”

We open, appropriately enough, on a nightmare, and suddenly we’re supposed to believe Buffy’s super scared of The Master? I’m not just saying this because I know what happens: she does NOT need to be scared of The Master.

Also scaring Buffy this week: her dad is supposed to pick her up from school for a custody weekend, and it’s clear that she’s feeling anxious about it – whether he’ll change his mind, what their vibe will be. She confides in Willow that she thinks her gym-burning Slayer shenanigans contributed to her parents’ divorce, and listen, that probably didn’t help, but having now met Buffy’s dad, allow me to say that Joyce can do better.

The Scoobs are in class when a classmate named Wendell opens his textbook to find dozens of tarantulas, which crawl all over him as he screams in horror. Meanwhile, a mournful little kid that only Buffy seems to see appears in the doorway and murmurs, “Sorry about that.” CREDITS!

The rest of the day (week? Time moves so confusingly on this show) provides an escalating series of weirdness – Giles suddenly can’t read, Buffy loses time during a history test she’s utterly unprepared for, Cordelia’s now a frizzy-haired nerd, Xander’s chased by a murderous clown and also his clothes disappear in the middle of class. Willow’s pretty stoked about that last one.

Willow and Xander talking.
Xander: “It was really…”
Willow: “…bad. It was a bad thing.”

Oh and meanwhile, an enormous monster keeps storming around assaulting folks and growling, “LUCKY 19!” Willow’s big brains make the connection that this is all the stuff of nightmares, and Buffy recognizes the spooky little boy from a picture in the paper. He’s in a coma after an accident, and Giles posits astral projection as the reason everyone’s nightmares are coming to life. Sure, we’ll go with that!

Two of the nightmares are especially notable: Willow’s fear of attention, established the first time we meet her and confirmed in “The Puppet Show,” results in her being pushed on stage in full costume and makeup to a packed house to perform Madame Butterfly. Suddenly she’s standing in the spotlight next to an operatic virtuoso, but she doesn’t know the damn words, and only croaks come out when she tries to sing. It’s SO upsetting, poor Willow.

But even more poor Buffy. Her living nightmare has her dad showing up to school to tell her, in no uncertain terms, that her parents’ divorce is completely her fault. Sarah Michelle Gellar’s performance is so heartbreaking in this scene – tears just pour down her face as she stares in shock, while her dad heaps ugly criticism on her, ending by telling her, “I don’t really get anything out of these weekends with you. So what do you say we just don’t do them anymore?” GAH.

Buffy tracks down the kid, Billy, and he admits he’s Lucky 19, and the monster is his nightmare. As they’re running from him, suddenly it’s nighttime (in that mysterious way of dream-time, not the confusing way of Buffy-time), and suddenly they’re in the cemetery (drink!). The Master shows up and fights Buffy, and when Xander, Willow and Giles follow her there, they discover her grave – and that she’s now a vampire. Ultimate Buffy nightmare! (Though, may I say, she looks bitchin’, and SMG wears the fangs better than most.)

So they go to the hospital to see if they can’t wake Billy, and the monster shows up, and Vamp-Buffy beats the crap out of him, but has Billy finish him off to conquer his fear. Billy wakes up and everything goes back to normal (even the giant flying ants that appear near the end!) – and his Little League coach shows up and calls Billy Lucky 19, and we realize that this punk is at best a child abuser and at worse… well, let’s just go with child abuser. So anyway he’s in jail now.

Oh and later, Buffy’s dad arrives to pick her up for their weekend, and he seems very nice and thrilled to see her (though still not good enough for Joyce Summers).

How many times do I have to take a drink?

14

Vamps Dusted

0

Giles For Life

When Xander, Willow and Giles find Buffy’s grave, Xander asks, “Whose nightmare is this?” and full of sorrow, Giles replies, “Mine.” He gives this gorgeous speech about how he failed Buffy by not preparing her enough before allowing her freedom to slay: “But you were so gifted, and the evil was so great.” I mean, SOB, but also SWOON.

Buffy's headstone she sees in her nightmare

Cordelia’s Hair

Just so you know, you know?

Cordelia with bad hair, upset.

The Truest Thing Anybody Said This Week

When Xander and Giles agree that “it’ll be faster” if they split up to find Buffy and then immediately bail on Willow, I very much feel her response.

Willow looking around, alone, worried.
Willow: “Faster, but not really…safer.”

Haha, Horrifying

I always crack up when the stage manager pushes Willow onstage, telling her, “I hope you warmed up. It’s an ugly crowd out there tonight.” What an upsetting sentence for a performer to hear!

Oh Right, This Is A Horror Show

Xander’s clown nightmare is the first time Buffy the Vampire Slayer feels legitimately horrific (but certainly not the last).

A creepy clown rips open plastic with a knife and walks through it.

Best Grrrl Power Moment

#sorrynotsorry, I love Vamp Buffy.

Buffy as a vampire.
Buffy: “There are a lot of scarier things than you.”

That’s it for this week! Readers, a question: do you agree that “Nightmares” is the best episode of Buffy’s first season, or do you have another? Do you further agree that “The Puppet Show” is its worst episode? Interested to hear your candidates!

Meet Stephanie here next week as she wraps up Season One (wow, that was fast!) with “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” and “Prophecy Girl.”

Meredith Borders is formerly the Texas-based editor of Fangoria and Birth.Movies.Death., now living and writing (and reading) in Germany. She’s been known to pop by Forever Young Adult since its inception, and she loves YA TV most ardently.