Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Season 3 Episode 11


Aired Tuesday 8:00 PM Jan 12, 1999 on The WB
out of 10
User Rating
581 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

Picking the wrong night for mother-daughter bonding, Joyce discovers the bodies of two children in the park, apparently sacrificed in an occult ritual. Deeply disturbed by what she has seen, Joyce rallies the adults of Sunnydale, convincing them to rid the town of all magical and occult influences. Soon, however, it becomes apparent that Buffy, Willow, and Amy are themselves considered a part of the occult threat to Sunnydale.moreless

Who was the Episode MVP ?

  • Gingerbread

    This is not a great episode, but as is Buffy tradition the dialog and occasional character insights keep it from floundering. It's still very entertaining and, as a bonus, Amy turns herself into a rat and stays that way until "Smashed" (6x09, aside from that brief moment in "Something Blue" [4x09]). Buffy says, "Maybe we should get her one of those wheel thingies." Kind of like "Go Fish" (2x20), this is a lot of fun if you're in the mood for it.

    The episode begins with Joyce finally going out with Buffy to see what she's been doing every night for the last three years. It's sweet that Joyce brings food and drinks for her. While she gets distracted by a vampire, Joyce wanders off and finds some dead kids in the playground. This brings up something that's always annoyed me. People somehow rationalize that a child's death is so much worse than any other person's death. If the person is innocent then it's only slightly more tragic when a child dies (because of age). It should still be extremely tragic when innocent older people die as well. Buffy points this out when talking with Angel.

    Later on, after tons of people begin acting strange, Joyce and Buffy have an important conversation about the work Buffy does. Yes, Joyce is under the influence of a demon, but some of her points are still interesting to consider. She tells Buffy that her work is fruitless. On a certain level it can appear fruitless because of the nature of evil -- it will always exist. The fact that she stopped the world from being overrun by demons in "Prophecy Girl" (1x12) and prevented the world from being sucked into hell in "Becoming Pt. 2" (2x22), proves otherwise though. As Buffy said to Angel in "Amends" (3x10, and he reminds her of here), it's not about winning or losing, it's about fighting.

    The ending battle scene is hilarious. The way Buffy breaks the wooden pole, bends over, and puts it through the demon's neck, even though she can't see it, is wildly fun. She asks, "Did I get it!?" I also loved how Oz and Xander crash through the vent after all the action is already over. Oz says, "we're here to save you."

    There's unfortunately a handful of problems that need to be addressed. The entire episode is simply too inconsequential and irrelevant to the main arc of the season. The fact that the town is just "under a spell" takes the punch out of the story. I would have really enjoyed seeing an episode that really dealt with the way the town's populace looked at Sunnydale, and for some of them to make a genuine attempt at exposing the supernatural threat. Yes, a lot of people turn a blind eye to things they don't understand (or don't want to understand), but not everyone is like this. Some people would be open to and search for the truth.

    Overall, though, this is a pretty solid stand-alone which ends up with Amy being stuck as a rat. Combine that with a good number of great lines along with some interesting themes and you have a respectable, but very unnecessary episode in the same arena of "Go Fish" (2x20). Yet another thing I love about BtVS is how only a few of these type of episodes are in each season. That fact makes me able to enjoy them as a one-shot break from the season's primary arc.moreless
  • The more Joyce the better


    The Good;

    Host of good stuff, the hysteria, the fiery climax, the mislead with Willow, Amy! The Buffy/Joyce scenes are superb, great to meet Will's mum. Love the Mayor's very careful tiptoeing around MOO and Principle Snyder is a joy to behold

    The Bad;

    A tv cliche but surely the police would take longer than 5 minutes to get a statement from Joyce and Buffy and wouldn't leave them hanging around the crime scene. Also the demon at the end with the stake through it's throat is very obviously a perspective gag.

    Best line;

    Joyce; "Oh my god it's mister Sanderson from the bank!" just pipping Willow's; "You do doodle"

    Shot; no but Giles is intimidated by a security guard with a gun

    Tied up; Willow, Amy and Buffy

    Knocked out; Buffy and Giles by Joyce using chloroform. Cordy asks how many times Giles has been knocked out, I figure it must be a dozen or more. Love her line about 'waking up in a coma' although it's rather ironic given the events of 'You're Welcome'.

    Women good/men bad; in this case it's the women who lead the crusade/lynch-mob

    Kinky dinky; Giles and Joyce are at least talking to one another now but still awkward. Willow implores the dark forces to 'fill her with their black naughtiness' which one day they will. Xander has Playboys in his locker which is suprisingly classy porn considering what we know about him. As I recall it was actually the story of the little Dutch boy with his fist in the dyke but that's probably too kinky even for Joss. Giles logs into the 'Frisky watchers chatroom' which I'm sure someone launched at some time

    Calling Captain Subtext;

    The not so subtle implication is a rant against those who wish to censor Buffy or criticize it for it's occult features. But really it's against bigotry and mob rule anywhere. Ironically I remember this ep being censored on the BBC at the point where Buffy stakes the demon at the end.

    . Buffy seems unaware that 'dyke' is another word for dam which makes her expression when Angel refers to having "a finger in the dyke" all the more hilarious.

    Guantanamo Bay;

    SDH has it's civil liberties suspended, Snyder glorying in his power

    Questions and observations;

    This ep marks the beginning of Cordy's eventual reintegration into the Scooby gang as she helps Giles save Buff&co and Oz and Xander reconcile. The first appearance of rat Amy. Someone should tell Michael that the New Romantic era is over. When Joyce and Buffy have their talk at SDH they're standing under a poster saying 'Blood required again'. You rather wonder that no one has thought to form a vigiliante group to counter the Hellmouth evil before? Joyce refers to 'neck rupture', presumably the authorities term for vampire killings. Snyder misquotes Apocalypse Now which he will appear in a parody of at the end of season 4. Once again Buffy's status as the Slayer seems common knowledge to judge by the boys reaction to her at the school. Willow claims that she's sacrificed the local goats, one day she will sacrifice Bambi.

    So lovely that Joyce comes along to Buffy's Slaying patrol. You have to agree with Snyder that it's rather weird for Giles to have such a wide selection of books dedicated to the supernatural in the library. It's a great turnaround that Joyce the parent relies on Buffy the child to console her from the evils she's seen. She has a point that Sunnydale isn't getting any better, they're not running out of vampires. But as 'The Wish' and 'Dopplegangland' prove Buffy&co make a huge difference.

    One wonders what Dawn makes of all this? Love Giles struggling with the computer, can't he call the Council for help?

    Angel and Buffy's talk is interesting especially in light of his crisis of faith in season 2 of his own show. No Faith which is a shame, love to see where she would stand in all of this. Xander and Oz in the air ducts speaks of every cliche in every action film ever. A hint of Amy's true colours as Buffy observes "She couldn't do us first". Lovely fanfic called 'The Mayoress' based on this one where The Mayor falls in love with Joyce and gives up evil to marry her and become Buffy, Faith and Dawn's stepfather.

    8/10 again, very good but not truly great

  • Absolutely terrible, heavy-handed, poorly-written episode.

    Despite being an overall great show Buffy has had some really bad episodes over the years. Sometimes they're uninspired, sometimes they're overly melodramatic, and sometimes they're just all-around bad.

    This is definitely the latter. This episode was so terrible that it actually turned me off Buffy for almost a decade. It was the first episode I watched when it first aired and due to the overall horrible nature of this show alone I dismissed Buffy entirely until 2006 when, in the wake of how great Joss' Firefly was, I finally decided to re-evaluate the show and found that it was actually really great.

    Essentially the biggest problem is that it's built around a message more than it is around a plot. In trying to push that forward it's incredibly heavy-handed and rarely interesting. It also suffers rather strongly from the affliction of introducing new characters without any explanation and pretending that they've been there all along (Amy and the other, male, witch). For Willow's mother it serves the plot and makes sense (she's an inattentive mother... even if that seems a tad out-of-character given Willow's nature), but in the case of Amy she just happens to be sitting there at lunch without any prior mention.

    Things proceed in a linear and predictable manner until a quick, pointless ending is reached more to end the show than to reach any sort of real conclusion.

    Many episodes of Buffy fail because they try too hard to function as an analogy for some sort of mythic ideal of what it's like to be a teenager. When they push to serve their narrow-minded ends in delivering a message the story and characters suffer.

    Since nothing plot-centric happens in this episode it is very, very missable and I strongly advise everyone to skip it. Who knows, maybe if I hadn't seen it all those years ago I'd have been enjoying Buffy for a lot longer.moreless
  • Gingerbread

    Gingerbread was a great episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer because it blends Folk and Fairy Tales into the stories so well. Buffy was out patroling when her mom shows up with a snack for her, but she just might be the snack for vampires! Joyce finds two dead children in the park, and they start influencing her which eventually leads to a witch hunt. The town goes crazy, and they try to burn Amy, Buffy and Willow at the stakes. Amy turns into a rat and gets away, but Buffy and Willow are rescued by the rest of the Gang and Giles unmasks the true form of the creature responsible.moreless
  • Season 3, Episode 11.

    After Joyce decides to bond with Buffy during her patrol, she discovers two dead children with witch symbols on their arms. She then forms a vigil and a group of protesters that plan to burn all the witches at the stake. However, is it their option, or are they being possessed?

    I liked this episode. It was a little twisted with the dead kids, but I liked it nonetheless. It was very entertaining and I remember the scene where Buffy and Willow are about to be burned. I didn't remember that it was in this episode or what happened though. I liked it though. Hehe, poor Amy is a witch. Cool episode.moreless
Lindsay Taylor

Lindsay Taylor

Little Girl

Guest Star

Shawn Pyfrom

Shawn Pyfrom

Little Boy

Guest Star

Blake Sennett

Blake Sennett


Guest Star

Kristine Sutherland

Kristine Sutherland

Joyce Summers

Recurring Role

Elizabeth Anne Allen

Elizabeth Anne Allen

Amy Madison

Recurring Role

Harry Groener

Harry Groener

Mayor Richard Wilkins III

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (7)

    • Nitpick: For industrial applications, the size of the ventilation shaft that Xander and Oz are crawling through seems to be right, but in reality they are far too big for an office building.

    • Nitpick: Ventilation screens are fastened in place, usually with several screws, yet Oz lightly hits the screen with the palm of his hand and the screen simply falls into the shaft. Must be that werewolf strength coming to the fore.

    • Goof: When we first see Buffy tied to the post talking to Joyce look at her arms. When the camera looks at Buffy her arms are free of the ropes from the elbows down, but when the camera is on Joyce Buffy's arms are restrained down to the elbows.

    • Actress Elizabeth Anne Allen who plays Amy Madison on the show (girl turned rat turned girl) is allergic to cheese.

    • Goof: When Willow enters her house where her mother wants to talk to her, she has long hair and different clothes for the exterior shot, the shot was taken from Season 1's "I Robot, You Jane".

    • Nitpick: When the lockers are being searched Xander is worried that they'll find the Playboys he has in his locker, implying that his locker hasn't been opened yet, when in fact it may very well have been. One of the cops is seen taking a red voodoo doll from one of the lockers, and in "I Only Have Eyes For You" that same doll could be seen hanging in Xander's locker when the "locker-monster" attacked him.

    • Nitpick: During the locker search, a cop is looking through a coin purse in the background. Later, we still see the same cop looking through the same coin purse.

  • QUOTES (20)

    • Willow: Prince of night, I summon you, come fill me with your black naughty evil!

    • Giles: I just wonder if we're looking for a thing, the use of a symbol on a victim like this suggests a ritual murder and a cult sacrifice by a group.
      Buffy: A group of.. human beings? Someone with a soul did this?
      Giles: Yes, I'm afraid so.
      Buffy: Okay, then while you're looking for the meaning of that symbol thingy, could you also find a loophole in that "Slayers don't kill people" rule?

    • Sheila: Willow, you cut off your hair. Huh, that's a new look!
      Willow: Yeah, it's just a sudden whim I had - in August!

    • Buffy: Hey is Willow around?
      Xander: How can I convince you people that it's over? You assume that because I'm here, she's here. That I mysteriously know where she is.
      Buffy: Those her books?
      Xander: Yeah. She's in the bathroom.

    • Willow: You've seen what we can do! Another step and you will all feel my power!
      Buffy: (quietly) What are you going to do, float a pencil at them?

    • Xander: Wait, Hansel and Gretel? Breadcrumbs, ovens, gingerbread house?
      Giles: Of course. It makes perfect sense.
      Buffy: Yeah, it's all falling into place. Of course that place is nowhere near this place.

    • Cordelia: 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 going to 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.

    • Giles: There is a fringe theory, held by a few folklorists, that some regional stories have actual, very literal antecedents.
      Buffy: And in some language that's English?
      Oz: Fairy tales are real...

    • Buffy: (to Joyce) Maybe next time that the world is getting sucked into hell, I won't be able to stop it because the anti-hell-sucking book isn't on the approved reading list.

    • 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.

    • Snyder: Just how is, um, "Blood Rites and Sacrifices" appropriate material for a public school library? Chess Club branching out?

    • Giles: Ordinarily, I would say let's widen our research.
      Buffy: Using what? A dictionary and "My Friend Flicka"?

    • Cordelia: You're going to be one busy little Slayer, baby-sitting them.
      Buffy: I doubt they'll have any more trouble.
      Cordelia: I doubt your doubt. Everyone knows that witches killed those kids, and Amy is a witch. And Michael is whatever the boy of witch is, plus being the poster child for yuch. If you're going to hang with them, expect badness. 'Cause that's what you get when you hang with freaks and losers. Believe me, I know.... That was a pointed comment about me hanging with you guys.

    • Joyce: Are you embarrassed to be hanging out with your mother? I didn't hug you.
      Buffy: No, it's just... this hall is about school, and you're about home. Mix them, my world dissolves.

    • Xander: Oh, man, it's Nazi Germany, and I've got Playboys in my locker.

    • Joyce Summers: Mr. Mayor, you're dead wrong. This is not a good town. How many of us have lost someone who just disappeared? Or, or got skinned? Or suffered a neck rupture?

    • Amy: Alright. You wanna fry a witch? I'll give you a witch! Goddess Hecate, work thy will!
      Buffy: Uh-oh.
      Amy: Before thee let the unclean thing crawl!
      (Amy turns into a rat)
      Buffy: She couldn't do us first?

    • Willow: It's a doodle, I do doodle. You too, you do doodle too.

    • Oz: So what do we do?
      Xander: I don't know about you, but I'm gonna go trade my cow in for some beans.

    • 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. It's another word for dam.
      Buffy: Oh. Okay, that story makes a lot more sense now.

  • NOTES (5)

    • When Joyce mentions "skinning" in her speech, she is referring to the skins that were left after the fish-men had "hatched" in "Go Fish".

    • As stated below, Giles calls Snyder's people that are taking the books away 'Marauders'. Armin plays Quark on DS9 and played the first Ferengi on "The Last Outpost" (TNG). The only known Ferengi ship is called a Marauder.

    • Giles speaking German: He says "Ich beschwöre die Macht der Hekate, sie mag den Weg bereiten. Das Böse soll das Gesicht des Bösen tragen!" Which translates to "I call the power of Hecate, it may clear the path. Evil shall wear the face of evil." Before he unmasks the demon: "Verbergt Euch nicht hinter falschen Gesichtern" [do not hide behind false faces (literally translated)]. In the German dubbed version Giles uses a German (pseudo) dialect called 'Althochdeutsch' ['Old German'].

    • After two and a half seasons, we finally get to see Willow's mother Sheila (played by Jordan Baker).

    • Jordan Baker worked with Alyson Hannigan before in an episode of Picket Fences called "To Forgive Is Divine".


    • Xander: What's with the grim?
      While he might have just meant the serious looks on the men's faces, Xander might also have been making a pun on Grimm. "Hansel and Gretel" is one of the fairy tales recorded by the Brothers Grimm.

    • Buffy: Is Sunnydale any better than when I first came here?
      This may be an allusion to the episode "The Wish", in which we saw exactly how Sunnydale would be if Buffy had never come there.

    • Giles: It happened in Salem, not surprisingly.
      Giles refers to the Salem Witch Trials in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, where almost every man or woman who did something out of the ordinary was accused of being a witch.
      Nineteen men and women were eventually convicted of witchcraft and were hanged while hundreds of others awaited trial in prison until the panic subsided.

    • Snyder: I love the smell of desperate librarian in the morning!
      Robert Duvall's character in Apocalypse Now (a marine commander) says "I love the smell of napalm in the morning". The film is frequently referenced in other episodes (e.g. Xander's dream sequence in "Restless", in which Snyder also appears).

    • Xander: I don't know about you but I'm gonna go trade my cow in for some beans.
      Xander makes a reference to another fairytale Jack and the Beanstalk in which the title character trades a cow for some magic beans which grow into the title beanstalk.

    • Xander: Wait, Hansel and Gretel? Breadcrumbs, ovens, gingerbread house?
      Breadcrumbs, ovens and a gingerbread house all feature prominently in the German folktale Hansel and Gretel.

    • Buffy: I'm like the kid in the story. The boy who stuck his finger in the duck.
      Angel explains that it's a dike (dam) not a duck. In the story a Dutch boy uses his finger to stop a leak in the dike and saves the town from a flood.

    • Willow: The last time we had a conversation over three minutes it was about the patriarchal bias of the Mr. Rogers' show.
      Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood was a television show aimed at young children.

    • Buffy: Using what a dictionary and My Friend Flicka?
      My Friend Flicka is a children's story about a boy and his horse written in 1941 by Mary O'Hara.