|This article is about the episode. For the magic practitioner, see witch.|
"Witch" is the third episode of the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the third episode in the series. Written by Dana Reston and directed by Stephen Cragg, it was originally broadcast on March 17, 1997, on The WB network.
CHEERLEADER FROM HELL — When students start dropping out of cheerleading tryouts by spontaneously combusting, going blind and losing the power of speech, Buffy and her posse suspect a powerful witch is in their midst. Buffy herself soon becomes the target of a deadly spell as they discover the witch's true identity. Meanwhile, Xander finally musters up the nerve to ask Buffy out on a date but in the throes of a witch's spell, Buffy's response isn't exactly as he'd hoped.
Despite Giles's misgivings, Buffy decides to try out for the Sunnydale High cheerleading squad in order to reclaim some of the happy, normal social life she enjoyed back in Los Angeles. Right before the trials begin, Xander gives Buffy a bracelet with "Yours Always" engraved on it. During the trial, the hands of a girl named Amber spontaneously combust. In the library, the gang discusses what happened and possibility. Xander and Willow try to force their involvement, through research and stuff.
That evening, Buffy returns home and tries to connect with her mom. However, Joyce is distracted by work and setting up the gallery's first major show. They talk about cheerleading and Joyce inadvertently goes on a guilt trip about Buffy's past.
Trials continue the next day with group work. During the routine, Amy falls and knocks over Cordelia. Afterwards, Buffy meets her outside the gym, in front of the trophy case and they discuss Amy's mom, Catherine "the Great." Amy shows admiration for her mother's accomplishments and scorn for her absent father. She also is stressed over not being able to compare to her mother's skill and runs off. Willow shows up and tells Buffy about her and Amy's friendship during junior high. Willow reveals that Catherine was emotionally abusive towards Amy. Will says Catherine would often bully Amy over her weight and even withhold food. They then move on to what information Willow had found about Amber, which had nothing of interest. While Amy is changing, Cordelia tries to intimidate and threaten her.
At school, Xander eagerly asks Willow if Buffy is wearing the bracelet he gave her before tryouts. Upon discussing Xander's crush on Buffy, Xander tells Willow, "that's why you're so cool. You're like a guy." They see the cheerleading sign being posted. Amy is crushed when she only makes the substitute list as a 3rd alternate. Buffy tries to be kind to Amy, who is still caught up on her mother. That afternoon, an unknown person is shown to be using Barbie dolls dressed as cheerleaders in a magic ritual over a cauldron, naming Cordelia as its victim.
The next morning before school, Buffy's eating breakfast when her mom tries to tell her about her own high school experiences with the yearbook staff. Buffy shuts her down and an argument ensues about Buffy living her own life. Xander continues to talk to Willow about his crush on Buffy and finally decides to ask Buffy out; to his dismay, though, Buffy is distracted by a spellbound Cordelia. Cordelia is struck blind during her Driver's Ed class under the spell, and is saved from wandering into traffic in the nick of time by Buffy.
According to Giles, blinding enemies is a favorite trick amongst witches. Believing Amy to be a witch, Buffy, Xander and Willow collect some of Amy's hair during science class in order to prove that she cast the spells. However, just as Amy notices the test they did on her, another cheerleader, Lishanne Davis, suddenly starts screaming, but her screams are muffled as her mouth has disappeared. Amy goes home and orders her mother to do her homework, while she goes upstairs holding Buffy's bracelet from Xander, which she stole from Buffy during class.
The next morning, a slightly manic Buffy blows her chance at the cheerleading squad when she tosses the Squad Captain, Joy, through the room, ceding her slot to none other than Amy. Buffy turns out to have something more than just a mood disorder: a Bloodstone vengeance spell has destroyed her immune system, giving her only about three hours to live. The only way to cure her and break the other spells is to get the witch's spell book. The ailing Buffy and Giles go confront Catherine — only to realize that the real Amy is stuck in her mother's middle-aged body, while her mother is reliving her glory days. Giles finds the witch's book and takes Amy and Buffy back to school to break the spells. Buffy is fading fast.
Amy's mother is cheering the Sunnydale High basketball team when she starts getting visions of what Giles is trying to do. Xander and Willow are unable to stop her from storming into the science lab with an axe, but buy enough time for Giles to break the spells. Amy and her mother switch bodies again, and Buffy feels good enough to fight. However, Catherine's power is too great, and it is only by kicking down a steel vent cowling and reflecting her last spell that Buffy wins the day. Catherine then vanishes.
When Amy and Buffy talk in the school hall the next day, they pass by the school's trophy cabinet, where the trophy to Catherine the Great stands. While both girls wonder where Amy's mother ended up, the trophies face reveals Catherine's eyes and a muffled voice.
- This is the first human enemy fought by the Scoobies, after dealing exclusively with vampires ("Welcome to the Hellmouth" and "The Harvest").
- Xander's attraction to Buffy is made clear when he gives her a bracelet. However, it is implied that Buffy does not share the same feelings for him, claiming that Xander is like one of the girls. The two only come clean about this in "Prophecy Girl," when she rejects his feelings.
- Giles is briefly knocked out for the first of many times to come, as he'll note in "The Replacement."
- Xander makes a brief reference to being so embarrassed that he wishes someone would drive a railroad spike through his head, an unintentional reference to the favored murder method of Spike ("School Hard").
- Years later, Dawn Summers takes Buffy's cheerleader uniform for her own trial, then destroys it when she fails it ("Him").
- Willow coins the term "Slayerettes," which Spike will also use in "The I in Team" and "The Yoko Factor." However, the group of friends and allies will be more commonly known as the Scooby Gang, after Xander's use of that term in "What's My Line? Part One."
- Willow casts her first spell to identify the witch; she eventually develops her magic skills and becomes a powerful witch ("Chosen").
- Despite quitting cheerleading after just one day, Buffy is often mentioned as such, as she also was one at Hemery High School (The Origin, Part One). Darla references her as "that cheerleader" in "Dear Boy," the masked Twilight calls her "that goofy little cheerleader" in Last Gleaming, Part One, and Clem introduces her as "the cheerleader of carnage" in In Pieces on the Ground, Part One.
- Trying to prevent Amy from entering the science lab, Willow uses stereotype terms against the witch. Ironically, Willow later becomes also a witch and often criticizes the same stereotypes ("All the Way").
- Giles says that the reversal spell was his "first casting," which is revealed to be false in "The Dark Age" and Death and Consequences, Part Two.
- This is the first instance of blackened eyes when strong magic is being used. It'll also be seen with Amy in "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered," Willow in "Tough Love," Roden in No Future for You, Part Four, etc.
- Buffy asks her mother if she would like to be sixteen again, and her mother is horrified at the thought; Joyce would, in fact, regress to her teenage years again in the episode "Band Candy."
- Benson (Only mentioned)
- Cordelia Chase
- Corsheth (Only mentioned)
- Lishanne Davis
- Gilail (Only mentioned)
- Rupert Giles
- Stephen Gregory
- Amber Grove
- Alexander Harris
- Amy Madison
- Catherine Madison
- Willow Rosenberg
- Buffy Summers
- Joyce Summers
- Amy Madison's father (Only mentioned)
- "Miss Trailer Trash" (Only mentioned)
- Catherine Madison's cat
Organizations and titles
- Cheerleading trophy
- The Pagan Rites (Only mentioned)
- Witches: Historic Roots to Modern Practice (Only mentioned)
Rituals and spells
Behind the scenes
- "Witch" reached a Nielsen rating of 3.2 on its original airing.
- The German language version of the episode was censored to remove the Nazi references in an exchange between Buffy and Willow. The original English exchange (DVD edition):
- Willow: Her mom's kinda...
- Buffy: Nazi-like?
- Willow: Heil.
- is translated as:
- Willow: Ihre Mom ist eine echte...
- Buffy: Superfrau?
- Willow: So in der Art.
- which translated back to English would roughly be:
- Willow: Her mom is a real…
- Buffy: Superwoman?
- Willow: Something like that.
- References to Hitler, Nazis, and the Holocaust in U.S. films and TV series are routinely cut out by German translators. Another example of this is "Phases."
- Xander's take:
- Xander: "Hey, we've fought vampires. Anything else'll be a walk in the park."
- Insight from Giles:
- Giles: "If I had the power of the black mass, I'd set my sights a little higher than making the pep squad."
- An exchange between Xander and Willow:
- Xander: "Wow, you've got a killer streak I've never seen before. Hope I never cross you."
- Willow: "I do, too. Then I'd have to carve you up into little pieces."
- An oldie but a goodie from Giles:
- Giles: "Yes, the ducking stool! We throw her in the pond. If she floats, she's a witch; if she drowns, she's innocent… [then off their looks] …some of my texts are a bit outdated."
Pop culture references
- When Buffy discovers that Amy (actually Catherine) is a witch she says "she's our Sabrina," referring to Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.
- Xander references the Human Torch when speculating on Amber's combustion.
- Buffy and Joyce reference the actress Farrah Fawcett and Sally Field's Gidget character, who were popular in the 1960s and 1970s, when discussing hairstyles.
- While talking about Amy's mother, Buffy references the book and later movie Mommie Dearest by Joan Crawford's daughter Christina, which claimed Crawford was an abusive mother.
- After throwing another cheerleader across the room, Buffy says, "Did I do that," Steve Urkel's catchphrase from the sitcom Family Matters.
- The pen Willow is holding and talking to Xander about changes position between shots.
- In the cauldron scene where Cordelia is named the next victim, the viewer isn't meant to know who the witch is casting the spell. The subtitles on Netflix, though, name the speaker as Amy.
- The levels of liquid in the test tube changes.
- The credits list the band Nerf Herder as "Nerfherder."
- 2 Unlimited — "Twilight Zone"
- Sarah Michelle Gellar — "Macho Man"
- Humbucker — "Count the Time"
- Walter Murphy — original score
- Armenian: "Կախարդուհին"
- Czech: "Čarodějnice" (Witch)
- Finnish: "Noitatemppuja" (Witch Tricks)
- French: "Sortilèges" (Spells)
- German: "Verhext" (Bewitched)
- Hungarian: "Anyai szigor" (Maternal Rigor)
- Italian: "La Strega" (The Witch)
- Japanese: "魔女" (Witch)
- Polish: "Wiedźma" (Witch)
- Portuguese (Brazil): "Bruxa" (Witch)
- Romanian: "Vrăjitoarea" (Witch)
- Russian: "Колдунья" (Witch)
- Spanish (Latin America): "La Bruja" (The Witch)
- Spanish (Spain): "La Bruja" (The Witch)
- Swedish: "Häxa" (Witch)
- The episode was included in the VHS collection The Slayer Pack.
- The episode script was included in The Script Book: Season One, Volume 1.
- Two Buffy the Vampire Slayer action figures were produced based on Buffy in this episode.
Behind the scenes
|Giles: "This is madness! What can you have been thinking? You are the Slayer! Lives depend upon you! I make allowances for your youth, but I expect a certain amount of responsibility, and instead of which you enslave yourself to this, this... cult?"|
|Buffy: "You don't like the color?"|
|Xander: "I laugh in the face of danger. Then I hide until it goes away."|
|Buffy: "You guys don't have to get involved."|
|Xander: "What do you mean? We're a team. Aren't we a team?"|
|Willow: "Yeah, you're the Slayer, and we're, like, the Slayerettes."|
|Giles: "Why would anyone want to harm Cordelia?"|
|Willow: "Maybe because they met her? ...Did I say that?"|
|Amy: "Catherine the Great."|
|Buffy: "And there's been no sign of her?"|
|Amy: "That last spell... She said I'd never make trouble again. Wherever she is, I don't think we'll have to worry."|
- "The Mortuary." Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Archived from the original on June 9, 2001. Retrieved on June 27, 2019.
- "Nielsen Ratings for Buffy's First Season." Nielsen Ratings for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, & Firefly. Archived from the original on July 5, 2008.
- Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder, The Watcher's Guide, Volume 1. Pocket Books, October 1998.