"The Puppet Show" is the ninth episode of the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer television show, and the ninth episode in the series. Written by Rob Des Hotel and Dean Batali, and directed by Ellen S. Pressman, it originally broadcast on May 5, 1997 on The WB network.
IF I ONLY HAD A BRAIN — Sunnydale High School's annual talent show serves as a backdrop for murder when Buffy must catch a knife-wielding stealer of human organs. Meanwhile, the new principal is a discipline-loving brute who forces Giles to run the talent show and orders Buffy, Xander, and Willow to perform.
A demon watches a ballet dancer, Emily. Cordelia is singing Whitney Houston's song Greatest Love of All off key, as part of the try outs for the Sunnydale Talent Show. Giles stops her, obviously to stop his ears from hurting. Buffy, Xander, and Willow join Giles, and mock him as he complains that Snyder, the school's new Principal, made him in charge of the talent show, despite his wishes, so he could have more contact with the students. As Snyder overhears the Scoobies making fun of Giles, he punishes them by forcing them to participate in the talent show making it clear that he's far different from Mr. Flutie in that he's not interested in making friends with his students but making them suffer. The next try-out is Morgan and his dummy, Sid, and Buffy confesses to being freaked out by dummies. Morgan's act takes a sudden turn for the better when Sid suddenly develops a personality and starts making sarcastic comments about the act. Emily notices the demon and screams.
The talent show rehearsals continue with Marc, an unsuccessful magician. Buffy, Willow, and Xander debate what to do for the talent show, and settle on a dramatic scene, since it does not require any actual talent. Sid watches and makes rude comments as Morgan explains the voice is an imitation of his father. Snyder explains to Giles that he will run a safer, more disciplined school, only to be interrupted by the discovery of Emily's body, whose heart has been cut out with a knife. The Scoobies debate whether the killer is a demon or a human, eliciting Willow's comment that a human murderer is scarier since it could be anyone; even her.
The Scoobies split up and begin interviewing people from the talent show to find the killer. All of their interviews point in the direction of Morgan and his dummy, Sid. They decide to check Morgan's locker after school hours. As Buffy is busy breaking into Morgan's locker and finds nothing, Snyder finds her almost red-handed and admonishes her for being in the school after hours. Morgan and Sid turn out to be hiding, watching Buffy. Sid tells Morgan that Buffy is "the one," saying that her strength is evidence of it.
As Buffy goes to sleep, Sid waits until the lights are off and sneaks into her room. When she wakes up, he quickly scampers out. Naturally, Buffy has a hard time convincing the Scoobies that Sid broke into her room. Giles, on his part, suggests that the demon responsible might be needing the heart (and later, a brain) to keep a human guise, which means the demon could be anyone, once again. When a teacher confiscates Sid, Xander steals him so that Buffy can talk to Morgan alone. As Buffy searches for Morgan backstage, Snyder is again displeased with her being where he does not think she belongs. In the library, just as Willow finds references to another possible explanation – animated dummies might harvest organs to become humans – Sid is gone when Xander stops paying any attention to him. Buffy finds Morgan's body, missing a brain, just as a chandelier falls on her. When she wakes up, Sid attacks her, and during their fight, they realize they are both working for the same goal: to stop the demon.
Sid explains he is a demon hunter, cursed to dummy form until he kills the last of the Brotherhood of Seven, those demons which harvest a heart and a brain. He's killed six and there's only one left. However, as his body is long gone, Sid will die when the curse breaks, something he accepts. Realizing the demon has what it needs, they theorize it will be moving on, and so it will be whoever is missing from the show. Sid suggests to Giles to form a "power circle" to find out who is missing, but Giles sees everyone there. When Sid is again missing, Buffy finds Morgan's brain when she looks for him. Buffy, Willow, and Xander discover Morgan had brain cancer — which is probably the reason the demon did not use his brain and is now looking for someone smart. This means that Giles and Willow are in danger.
At the talent show, Marc the magician tricks Giles into strapping himself into a guillotine, ostensibly a magic prop, so that he can take his scalp off and get his brain as he is actually the demon. Just in time, Buffy and the others realize what is happening and rush to his rescue. As Buffy and Sid battle Marc who takes on his demon form, Xander keeps Giles from getting his scalp cut off while Willow frees him with an axe. Finally, Buffy and Xander manage to decapitate Marc with the guillotine, defeating him. Sid reveals that to kill Marc he has to be stabbed in the heart and gently rejects Buffy's offer to do it and kills Marc himself. With Marc dead, Sid's curse finally breaks and he dies just as the curtain opens. Everyone assumes it is part of the show though there is only minimal clapping.
Buffy, Xander, and Willow then perform a scene from Oedipus Rex with a remarkable lack of talent. After Xander forgets his line, Willow run away from the stage.
- Principal Snyder now heads Sunnydale High.
- Principal Snyder claims that Principal Flutie's "woolly-headed, liberal thinking, led him to get eaten," in reference to his death by students possessed by hyenas in episode "The Pack". Despite Snyder's more disciplined approach to education, he eventually gets eaten as well ("Graduation Day, Part Two").
- This episode reveals some fears of the Scooby Gang, which will be featured in the next episode, "Nightmares": Buffy is afraid of dummies, Xander is frightened by a mime with clown makeup, and Willow is afraid to introduce herself in front of an audience.
- The idea of a demon hunter being turned into a live puppet is later repeated in season 5's Angel episode "Smile Time".
- The pen that Willow uses in History class, where Morgan gets Sid taken away from him, is the same pen that Buffy drops when she needs to steal hair from Amy in "Witch".
- Principal Snyder claims that Sunnydale High has a reputation for "Suicide, missing persons, spontaneous cheerleader combustion…", referencing the events of "Witch" and "I Robot, You Jane".
- The book with the picture of the Brotherhood of Seven demon will reappear in "Killed by Death" where it also contains an entry about Der Kindestod.
- In the non-canon video game Chaos Bleeds, it is revealed that Sid did not go on to his final rest after his curse broke but was instead trapped in a duplicate dummy body in First Evil's dimension.
- Brett (Only mentioned)
- Lisa Campiti
- Cordelia Chase
- Emily Djiemanowicz
- Robert Flutie (Only mentioned)
- Mrs. Franklin (Only mentioned)
- Rupert Giles
- Alexander Harris
- Mrs. Jackson
- Dale Leggett (Only mentioned)
- Willow Rosenberg
- Morgan Shay
- Buffy Summers
- Joyce Summers
- Elliot Terhune
- Unidentified Korean Slayer (Only mentioned)
Organizations and titles
- Korea (Only mentioned)
- Sunnydale, USA
Rituals and spells
- Emily Djemanowicz, beheaded by Marc.
- Morgan Shay, brain removed by Marc.
- Marc, beheaded by Xander Harris and heart destroyed by Sid to prevent his resurrection.
- Sid, passed away after slaying Marc.
Behind the scenes
- Numerous ad-libs were included in the final cut. Such unscripted bits are when Willow runs off the stage terrified and when Xander cries "Redrum! Redrum!"
- This is the fourth episode of the series without any vampires. ("Witch", "The Pack", and "I Robot, You Jane" are the first three).
- In this episode, the ending credits roll alongside Buffy, Willow and Xander's play. This is the only time in the Buffyverse that a scene is played as the credits roll. This is also the only time in the show where the ending credits are not in Slayer font.
- This is the lowest-rated episode of the entire series, pulling in an audience of 1.7 million households.
- On the original airing of the episode, the closing credit sequence was split-screened with a scene in which Buffy, Willow, and Xander perform a scene from the play Oedipus Rex. This scene was excluded in repeat airings until the series left The WB network. It is included in the DVD collections, and in present television reruns.
- An exchange from the original script was cut due to length:
- Buffy - "And I don't think we'll be featuring Xander's special gift..."
- Xander - "Okay, some people are jealous that they can't burp the alphabet."
- Buffy - "...so we're back to drama. We'll just do it quickly. Get in, get out. Nobody gets hurt."
- Another exchange from the original script was cut due to length:
- Buffy - "Pretty good. I never heard 'Flight of the Bumblebee' on the tuba before."
- Lisa - "Most people aren't up to it."
Pop culture references
- Xander asks: "Does anyone else feel like they've been Keyser Soze'd?", referencing the film The Usual Suspects.
- While goofing around with Sid, Xander references The Shining by shouting "Redrum! Redrum!"
- Buffy, Willow, and Xander perform a scene from the play Oedipus Rex. Xander plays Oedipus, Buffy plays Jocasta, and Willow plays the priest of Zeus.
Goofs, bloopers & continuity errors
- When Buffy is breaking into Morgan's locker, she says, "Two to the left, three to the right...", but she actually turns the dial first to the right, then to the left.
- When Xander is trying to remember his lines in the talent show scene, Nicholas Brendon briefly breaks character when he tries not to laugh.
- A few crew members can be heard laughing when Willow runs offstage.
- While Buffy is searching around in the backstage area, there is a mirror in the background of the shot. For a brief second, you can see the reflection of a crew member.
- As Giles is announcing 5 minutes until the power circle, the violin player behind him is very obviously "playing" the violin with the bow 2 inches from the strings.
- Buffy gets pinned by a falling chandelier and is unable to budge it, though her strength should be more than enough to shove it off her.
- Whitney Houston — "Greatest Love of All" (Sung by Cordelia as her audition song for the talent show.)
- Walter Murphy — original score
- Armenian: "Տիկնիկային ներկայացում" (Puppet Show)
- Czech: "Loutkohra" (Puppets)
- Finnish: "Kahlenukke" (Puppet in Chains)
- French: "La Marionnette" (The Puppet)
- German: "Buffy lässt die Puppen tanzen" (Buffy Lets the Puppets Dance)
- Hungarian: "Démoni Bábu" (Demonic Puppet)
- Italian: "Il Teatro dei Burattini" (The Puppet Theater)
- Japanese: "人形劇" (Puppet Show)
- Polish: "Teatrzyk Kukiełkowy" (Puppet Show)
- Portuguese (Brazil): "O Show de Bonecos" (The Dolls Show)
- Romanian: "Spectacolul de Păpuși" (Puppet Show)
- Russian: "Кукольное представление" (Puppet Show)
- Spanish (Latin America): "El Guiñol" (The Puppet)
- Spanish (Spain): "El Ventrílocuo" (The Ventriloquist)
- The episode was included in the VHS collection The Slayer Pack.
- A illustration of the scene of the Scoobies fighting Marc was included in the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Adult Coloring Book".
- Sarah Michelle Gellar admitted having nightmares about puppets after filming this episode.
|Buffy - "The school talent show. How ever did you finagle such a primo assignment?"|
|Giles - "Our new Führer, Mr. Snyder."|
|Willow - "I think they call 'em 'principals' now."|
|Giles - "Mm. He thought it would behoove me to have more contact with the students. I did try to explain that my vocational choice of librarian was a deliberate attempt to minimize said contact, but, uh, he would have none of it."|
|Buffy - "Giles, unto every generation is born one who must run the annual talentless show. You cannot escape your destiny."|
|Cordelia - "All I can think about is how it could've been me."|
|Xander - "We can only dream."|
|Xander - "Next time we split up, one of you two talk to Cordelia. Five more minutes with her and we'd have had another organ donor."|
|Sid - "You win. Now you can take your heart and your brain and move on."|
|Buffy - "I'm sure they would've made nice trophies for your case."|
|Sid - "That would've been justice."|
|Buffy - "Yeah, except for one thing: you lost and now you'll never be human."|
|Sid - "Yeah, well, neither will you."|
|Buffy and Sid - "What?"|
|Sid - "I hunt demons. Yeah, you wouldn't know it to look at me. Let's just say there was me, there was a really mean demon, there was a curse, and the next thing I know I'm not me anymore. I'm sitting on some guy's knee, with his hand up my shirt."|