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"Gingerbread" is the eleventh episode of the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the forty-fifth episode in the series. Written by Jane Espenson with Thania St. John and directed by James Whitmore Jr., it was originally broadcast on January 12, 1999, on The WB network.


THE SUNNYDALE WITCH HUNT — Picking the worst possible night for a surprise "mother-daughter bonding" visit with Buffy, Joyce is haunted by the discovery of two murdered children and feels compelled to take drastic action. When Giles suggests that the killings appear to be an occult sacrifice, Joyce rallies the entire adult population of Sunnydale behind a Salem-like witch hunt, leading the murderous mob directly to Willow and Buffy.[1]


While on the nightly patrol, Buffy not only encounters a vampire, but also her mother, who is looking for some quality time and a chance to "share" in the slaying experience. As Buffy kills the vampire, Joyce discovers the bodies of two children in the park. The police arrive and, after some questioning, Buffy and Joyce are free to leave. Joyce is visibly disturbed.

At school the next day, Buffy confronts Giles about the situation, desperate to find out what kind of creature would do this. She draws the symbol that was found on the hands of the two children. He says it's probably related to the occult. Buffy can't quite get herself to believe "someone with a soul" could've done this and becomes all the more eager to find those responsible. Willow and Amy sit with Xander and Oz (who exchange a few awkward words) at lunch. Buffy joins them and fills them in on the murders. Joyce shows up at school and informs Buffy that she has spread the word about the murders to other residents and that there will be a vigil at City Hall that night.

Many concerned parents attend the vigil, including Willow's mother and the Mayor. The Mayor says a few words to the crowd before handing the mic over to Mrs. Summers. She gives a speech about how the citizens of Sunnydale need to take back their city from the monsters.

Later, Michael, Amy, and Willow perform a spell in a circle that surrounds the symbol Buffy found on the children's hands.

Michael is shoved up against his locker the next day by another student, Roy, who threatens both him and Amy. Buffy makes a brief appearance next to Amy and gives Roy a seemingly innocent smile; he notices her and thinks better of going any further. Cordelia, having witnessed the whole incident, remarks to Buffy about the outcome of getting involved with losers, believing herself to be the prime example. Buffy goes to find Willow, who has a book Giles needs for researching the symbol.

However, when she finds the book, Buffy also finds the symbol in one of Willow's notebooks. Before Willow can explain, a search of all the school lockers begins in order to find any material that may be witch-related. Students found with anything questionable are sent to the principal's office. Willow tells Buffy that the symbol is harmless and that she was not doing anything wrong, just making a protection spell for Buffy's upcoming birthday. Amy and Willow, who have suspicious materials in their lockers, are taken to Principal Snyder's office. All of Giles' books are confiscated by the police, leaving the Slayer and Watcher without their resources.

Buffy goes home where she finds that her mom, the new founder of MOO (Mothers Opposed to the Occult) does not want Buffy to see Willow anymore. Buffy also discovers that her mom was the one to organize the locker raid. The two argue, and Buffy leaves to patrol, insulted by her mother, who claims her Slaying is not doing Sunnydale any good. The ghosts of the two children appear to Joyce and tell her she has to hurt the "bad girls."

Willow goes home, where her mother calmly tells her she's grounded. Willow flips out, unable to control her anger towards the fact that her mother does not believe that she's a witch.

Buffy meets up with Angel at the park and they talk. He convinces her to keep fighting. He also unintentionally gives her the idea that they do not know anything about the two kids; although pictures of the living children have been provided, there has been no reference to their parents or even any names provided. Buffy heads back to the library to find Giles yelling at a computer, and that Xander and Oz were unable to retrieve any books from City Hall.

After linking up with Willow's laptop over the net, the Scooby Gang find out that the two children died hundreds of years ago. Every fifty years, a demon posed as the children appears in a town to convince residents to kill "bad girls," or witches. Hans and Gretta are an example of fairy tales coming true; in real life, the children inspired the tale of Hansel and Gretel.

Buffy and Giles arrive at the Summers' home to try to talk some sense into Joyce. However, MOO tricks the duo, as Giles is hit in the head and Buffy is smothered with chloroform. They are subsequently knocked unconscious. Amy, Willow, and Buffy are taken by force to City Hall, where they are tied to wooden posts atop piles of books for a combined book/witch-burning. As Buffy regains consciousness, her mother lights the books on fire, sentencing the three girls to death, burning them alive. Amy, however, avoids her fate by transforming into a rat and scurrying out of the building. Cordelia finds Giles unconscious at the Summers' home and wakes him in time for them to head off and save the others. Xander and Oz find Willow's room in shambles, prompting them to also head to City Hall.

In the car, Giles practices a German incantation while Cordelia prepares a concoction to force the demon to show its true form. Oz and Xander climb through the air vents in the hope of saving their friends. Giles and Cordelia break into the room, which is now partially on fire with the parents watching. Cordelia uses a fire hose to put out the fire and spray down the parents while Giles casts the revealing spell at the children. As the demon, now in its true, ugly form, goes for Buffy, she breaks the stake she was tied to and stabs the creature. Everyone is safe, and the demon is dead.

The next day, none of the parents remember much of anything, and everything is back to normal. However, Amy is still a rat. Buffy and Willow try performing the reversal spell to restore her to human form, but it doesn't work. Buffy suggests getting Amy "one of those wheel thingies."


  • Joyce and Giles are still awkward around each other since they had sex a few weeks before ("Band Candy").
  • Buffy asks Angel: "Is Sunnydale any better than when I first came here?" She is unaware of the events in the alternative reality, where Sunnydale is indeed much worse off without her ("The Wish").
  • Angel's speech to Buffy about purposes for fighting evil is similar to the speech he later gives Kate Lockley in the episode "Epiphany."
  • The layout of Willow's room is completely different from her room shown in "Lie to Me."
  • Amy turns herself into a rat and remains that way for some time until "Something Blue," when she is briefly turned back into a human. She won't turn back as a human permanently until "Smashed."
  • Cordelia tells Giles that one day he might "wake up in a coma," which she would actually do in "You're Welcome."
  • Cordelia asks Giles rhetorically: "How many times have you been knocked out, anyway?" Giles has been rendered unconscious on an almost regular basis ("Witch," "Never Kill a Boy on the First Date," "The Pack," "Prophecy Girl," "When She Was Bad," "Inca Mummy Girl," "Bad Eggs," "Revelations," and New Rules, Part Three). In "A New Man," Giles will describe himself as having "a tendency to get knocked on the head."
  • Buffy is almost burned at a stake under the accusation of witchcraft, which happened to a Slayer in "Righteous."
  • Snyder paraphrases a line from the film Apocalypse Now, which he will appear in a parody of in "Restless."



Organizations and titles[]





Rituals and spells[]

Death count[]

  • Mr. Sanderson, staked by Buffy.
  • Hans and Gretta Strauss, impaled by Buffy.

Behind the scenes[]


  • The opening credits of this episode finished a half-second earlier than usual, slightly trimming the end theme's final note.
  • When the camera pans out of Willow and Amy's coven, first revealing the symbol they are gathered around, the faint laugh of Kakistos can be heard in the background. It's the laugh he uttered after telling Buffy she needed a bigger stake in "Faith, Hope & Trick."
  • MOO (Mothers Opposed to the Occult), which Joyce Summers founds, is probably a reference to MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving).
  • The German story Giles looks up on the computer is a word-by-word mistranslation of the English original text: "A.D. 1649: me, a clergyman from near the Black Forests did find the bodies of the children [on] my own. one was of the boy, the other of and girl. thereafter [through] my own research I learnt..."
  • Despite this episode having originally aired in 1999, the copyright credit reads "1998," the year it was filmed.
  • Roger Morrissey, here portraying the Hans and Gretta Strauss demon, also portrays Taparrich in "Living Conditions."


  • "Gingerbread" had an audience of 4.2 million households upon its original airing.[2]

Deleted scenes[]

  • Amy and Willow have something in common in this exchange cut due to length:[3]
    Amy: "Oh, God, and Mr. Nyman that thing he does with his face..."
    Willow: "The thing with the face! When he makes a point, the— I always think he's going to sneeze!"
    Amy: "I thought I was the only one who saw it."

Pop culture references[]


  • The German story Giles looks up on the computer is badly translated (25 or more mistakes in 33 words) and thus nearly incomprehensible if read in German.


International titles[]

  • Armenian: "Թխվածքե տնակը" (Cake House)
  • Czech: "Perníková chaloupka" (Gingerbread House)
  • Finnish: "Sunnydalen noidat" (Sunnydale Witches)
  • French: "Intolérance" (Intolerance)
  • German: "Hänsel und Gretel" (Hansel and Gretel)
  • Hungarian: "Mézeskalács" (Gingerbread)
  • Italian: "Le streghe di Sunnydale" (The Witches of Sunnydale)
  • Japanese: "ジンジャーブレッド" (Gingerbread)
  • Polish: "Po nitce do kłębka" (Follow the Thread to the Ball)
  • Portuguese (Brazil): "Pão de Gengibre" (Gingerbread)
  • Romanian: "Turtă dulce" (Gingerbread)
  • Russian: "Пряничный домик" (Gingerbread House)
  • Spanish (Latin America): "Hansel & Gretel"
  • Spanish (Spain): "Pan de jengibre" (Gingerbread)



Behind the scenes[]



Buffy: "Hey. Where's Willow?"
Xander: "How can I convince you people see that it's over?! You assume because I'm here, she's here. That I somehow mysteriously know where she is!"
Buffy: "Those her books?"
Xander: "Yeah, she's in the bathroom. But the fact that I know that doesn't change that I have a serious complaint here."
Joyce: "This is not a good town. How many of us have lost someone who just... disappeared, or got skinned, or suffered 'neck rupture'? And how many of us have been afraid to speak out? I was supposed to lead us in a moment of silence. But silence is this town's disease. For too long it's been plagued by unnatural evils. It's not our town any more. It belongs to the monsters, to the witches and Slayers."
Willow: "Mom, I'm not acting out. I'm a witch! I can make pencils float. And I can summon the four elements. Okay, two, but four soon. And I'm dating a musician."
Sheila: "Oh, Willow!"
Willow: "I worship Beelzebub. I do his biddings. Do you see any goats around? No, because I sacrificed them."
Sheila: "Willow, please!"
Willow: "All bow before Satan!"
Sheila: "I'm not listening to this."
Willow: "Prince of Night, I summon you. Come fill me with your black, naughty evil!"
Buffy: "My mom said some things to me about being the Slayer. That it's fruitless. No fruit for Buffy."
Angel: "She's wrong."
Buffy: "Is she? Is Sunnydale any better than when I first came here? Okay, so I battle evil. But I don't really win. The bad keeps coming back and getting stronger. Like that kid in the story, the boy that stuck his finger in the duck."
Angel: "Dike." (Buffy gives him a confused look.) "It's another word for dam."
Buffy: "Oh. Okay, that story makes a lot more sense now."
Cordelia: "Wake up!"
Giles: "Cordelia?"
Cordelia: "Took you long enough to wake up. My hand hurts."
Giles: "Pity. Oh... why are you here?"
Cordelia: "Things are way out of control, Giles. First the thing at school, and then my mom confiscates all of my black clothes and scented candles. I came over here to tell Buffy to stop this craziness and found you all unconscious... again. How many times have you been knocked out, anyway? I swear, one of these times, you're gonna wake up in a coma."
Giles: "Wake up in a... Oh, never mind. We need to save Buffy from Hansel and Gretel."
Cordelia: "Now, let's be clear. The brain damage happened before I hit you."


  1. "The Mortuary." Buffy.com. Archived from the original on February 15, 2001.
  2. "Nielsen Ratings for Buffy's Third Season." Nielsen Ratings for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, & Firefly. Archived from the original on July 5, 2008.
  3. Jane Espenson, Thania St. John, et al., The Script Book: Season Three, Volume 2. Simon & Schuster, September 2003.