Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Season 1 Episode 9

The Puppet Show

Aired Tuesday 8:00 PM May 05, 1997 on The WB
out of 10
User Rating
855 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary


The new principal forces Giles to run Sunnydale High's annual talent show, and Buffy, Willow and Xander have to perform against their will. As if this isn't bad enough, things go further awry when one of the talent show participants is found with her heart removed. Buffy and the gang race against the clock to find the killer, and all the clues point to Morgan and his ventriloquist dummy.


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  • Puppet Meets Slayer

    The Puppet Show episode shows that everything is not as it seems. A puppet can be magical being. A boy could be a demon. The trio are forced to be in the Talent show by the principal Snyder. Who already is watching them because of trouble they are.
  • Absolutely incredibly good

  • "Into every generation is born one who must run the annual talentless show".

    I'm not dummies' fan -- they don't give me the wig ;), but... guess, I'd like the episode more if there was the talking table or some other talking thing. though, it is still good -- OMG, "Buffy" is such a great comedy (at least, in its early seasons). and again, till certain moment I had no clue that Sid was not a murderer, and especially that Marc -- the guy that we can see just in few short kinda pointless moments -- was a demon!.. well, no more words 'coz I have nothing to add here.

    FAVE SCENE: Scoobies perform the play (after credits).

    FAVE QUOTE: Buffy (about why dummies give her the wig): I saw a dummy. It gave me the wig. There really wasn't a story there.moreless
  • "Puppet Show"

    This episode, on the other hand, I give a little latitude to, because while it too lacks depth and while it too is corny, it doesn't really have the tone trouble that "I Robot, You Jane" does. In fact, as a standalone episode, "The Puppet Show" is a reasonably entertaining, better-than-average piece of horror-comedy, even as it recycles the hoary old "killer dummy" routine.

    Ah, but there's a twist: This ventriloquist's dummy, "Sid," only appears to be possessed by a evil demon. In actually, he's a demon hunter, consigned to a dummy body until he completes his task of slaying seven key demons known for their organ-harvesting inclinations. Making the killer dummy a good guy doesn't make Sid's interactions with the non-wooden cast members any less awkward or silly-looking, but it's a neat twist regardless.

    Also neat? The comic business in "Puppet Show," much of which revolves around Giles being forced by the new principal to take a more active role in Sunnydale High's campus life by commandeering the talent show. So we get Cordelia mangling "The Gretest Love Of All," Buffy and her gang razzing Giles relentlessly, and the great stinger scene in which Giles near-decapitation takes place in front of a stunned, full Sunnydale High auditorium. The good vibe of the talent show material spills over to Xander goofing around with Sid, and Buffy admitting that she's scared of dummies, but for no good reason.

    You know,, there's a reason why "Puppet Show" was included on the very first Buffy VHS collection. It's not Buffy at its best, but it's a fun 45 minutes, and a glimpse at the kind of show Buffy might've become if the writers had chosen to make it a more conventional monster-of-the-week genre send-up.moreless
  • The Puppet Show

    Well that was kind of pointless. All of the episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer so far have been about something. Whether they were good episodes or poor episodes, they all had something they were trying to say about, if not the characters, life in high school through the lens of the Hellmouth. "The Puppet Show," alas, does not have anything to say. There is absolutely nothing substantive to analyze in a slow-paced all-plot outing where the only character relevance involves the introduction of Principal Snyder.

    With none of the reasons I actually love Buffy so much for present, what's there left to say? Well, unlike "I Robot, You Jane" [1x08], "The Puppet Show" is reasonably pleasant to watch. This is mostly thanks to a good number of amusing scenes involving fun, albeit inconsequential, character interaction. This characteristic of the episode in conjunction with that hilarious end credits scene single-handedly keep this one out of 'F' territory, but not by a lot.

    The first time I saw "The Puppet Show" the plot struck me as a mildly fun murder mystery in which a lot of characters are implicated and the perpetrator turns out to thankfully not be the possessed dummy. The problem with all-we-have-is-plot episodes -- like nearly every procedural out there is that once you've experienced it once, maybe twice, there's nothing more to do with it. Episodes like this simply offer no reason to ever revisit them. Lasting relevance is a problem a number of S1 episodes have, but I think "The Puppet Show" might just take the cake. With any possible surprise removed from the plot, all that's left are a lot of shots of Sid staring insidiously next to the one-off one-note Morgan.

    In the end, there's just not much else to talk about here. I found "The Puppet Show" to offer relatively inoffensive fun, but that fun has its limits. It is completely lacking in all the things that I'm looking for in a quality episode of television: lasting relevance and resonance in story, theme, and characterization along with symbolism, subtext, and a dash of subtlety. If all you want in an episode of television is campy horror with a twist along with some fun quotes, then "The Puppet Show" will satisfy. If you expect more -- as I do -- it will not.moreless
Lenora May

Lenora May

Mrs. Jackson

Guest Star

Natasha Pearce

Natasha Pearce


Guest Star

Krissy Carlson

Krissy Carlson


Guest Star

Kristine Sutherland

Kristine Sutherland

Joyce Summers

Recurring Role

Armin Shimerman

Armin Shimerman

Principal Snyder

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (12)

    • Goof: In the scene in the library after Emily has been murdered, where Xander is trying to convince Giles that the murder means they are too distraught to appear in the talent show, the reflection of a sound boom can clearly be seen in the office door window in a number of shots.

    • Goof: 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.

    • Goof: The knife that Sid drives into the demon's heart is there at one moment, but when the camera turns back it's gone.

    • Goof: The demon needs a healthy brain. This would imply that the brain must be intact. When Giles is strapped onto the guillotine, his head is positioned so that the blade will slice through his head at approximately the middle of the forehead. This guarantees that the brain will be cut apart and will be made useless to the demon.

    • Nitpick: Buffy seems to have a difficult time getting out from under the chandelier. Granted, she is a bit dazed, but Slayers are supposed to recover quickly. Buffy has demonstrated feats of strength and resilience in other episodes that indicate that she should have been able to free herself more easily and quickly than she did.

    • Nitpick: Just after Buffy breaks into Morgan's locker and Snyder catches her, he just tells her to go home and then walks away. As suspiciously minded as Snyder is, it's extremely strange that he didn't notice the broken lock.

    • According to Sid, he knew a Slayer in the 1930s who was Korean. It is not clear whether she operated in Korea, the U.S. or some other country.

    • We learn that Willow can play the piano- just not in front of people.

    • Goof: You can see the violinist over Giles' shoulder rocking her bow three inches above the strings of her violin, but you can hear her playing.

    • Right after the chandelier is dropped on Buffy, a sound effect is played that sounds rather like the ones used in The Six Million Dollar Man / The Bionic Woman shows.

    • Nitpick: It seems odd that Buffy would smash Morgan's locker in, considering that she not only had the combination, but was also warned by Giles to fly under Snyder's radar.

    • Goof: After the demon is decapitated, Sid stabs him with a knife. When he pulls the knife out to to stab him again, the knife is clean, though it should be bloody.

  • QUOTES (25)

    • Snyder: (After catching Buffy in the prop room looking for Morgan) You know, with everything that's been going on recently I'm not sure how safe it is for a girl like yourself to be here. Alone.
      Buffy: Well I was just leaving. And I know how to take care of myself.

    • 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.

    • Willow: I think dummies are cute. You don't?
      Buffy: They give me the wig. Ever since I was little.
      Willow: What happened?
      Buffy: I saw a dummy. It gave me the wig. There really wasn't a story there.

    • Cordelia: It's just such a tragedy for me. Emma was, like, my best friend.
      Xander: Emily.

    • Cordelia: I can't go out there. All those people staring at me and judging me like I'm some kind of... Buffy! What if I mess up?
      Giles: Cordelia, there's an adage that if you're feeling nervous then you should imagine the entire audience are in their underwear.
      Cordelia: Eww! Even Mrs. Franklin? Uhhh!
      Giles: Perhaps not.

    • Snyder: My predecessor, Mr. Flutie, may have gone it for all that touchy-feely relating nonsense, but he was eaten. Your in my world now and Sunnydale has touched and felt for the last time.

    • Sid: You know what they say. Once you go wood, nothing's as good!
      Buffy: Okay, Morgan. We get the joke. Horny dummy. Ha ha. It's very funny. But you might want to consider getting some new shtick. Unless you want your prop ending up as a Duraflame Log!

    • Xander: Okay, next time we split up someone else is on Cordy detail. Five more minutes with her and we would have had another organ donor.

    • Willow: The creep factor is also heightened. It could be anyone. It could be me! (they all turn to look at her) It's not, though.

    • Cordelia: (After seeing Sid staring at Buffy) Looks like someone digs you. That's adorable. You and the dummy could tour in the freak show!

    • Cordelia: I don't understand why I have to follow Brett and his stupid band.
      Giles: Because we have to clear their equipment before the finale. I told you.
      Cordelia: But the mood! It'll be all wrong! My song is about dignity and human feelings and personal... hygiene or something. Anyway, it's sappy, and no one is gonna be feeling sappy after all that rock and roll.
      (Giles doesn't want to hear it. He gives Cordelia a look like something's wrong.) Uhhh, what?
      Giles: Oh! I'm sorry. Um, your hair, uh...
      Cordelia: There's something wrong with my hair? (Giles remains silent, but continues to stare.) Ohmigod! (quickly leaves)
      Giles: Xander was right. It worked like a charm.

    • Joyce: Hi, hon. How's it going with the talent show?
      Buffy: It'll be over soon.
      Joyce: It can't be that bad! I, for one, am looking forward to seeing your act.
      Buffy: Seeing? In the sense of actually attending?
      Joyce: Of course!
      Buffy: Uh-uh! No, Mom, you can't! And, I mean, if I know you're out there watching, I'll freeze up, stage fright.
      Joyce: But I wanna support what you're doing!
      Buffy: Look, Mom, if you really love me, and wanna show your support, you'll stay away. Far away.
      Joyce: Honey, is there something bothering you? I mean, besides your fabulous debut.
      Buffy: Nothing. There's just a lot going on right now.

    • Buffy: Well, yeah, but what about the whole "it's a demon" theory?
      Giles: I'm looking into that, but my investigation is somewhat... hampered by our life in the theater.
      Buffy: Uh, priority check, Giles? (weighs the two with her hands) Talent show, murder.
      Xander: Yeah, we can't do the talent show, it's unthinkable. I'm not able to think it!
      Giles: Principal Snyder is watching us all very closely. Now, if he chooses, he can make all our lives extremely difficult. A Slayer cannot afford that! We will find this murderer, but in the meantime... the show must go on.
      Buffy: This is so unfair.

    • Xander: Well, what do we do? We don't slay him, right? We wanna bring him to justice.
      Willow: We could set up a complex sting operation where we get him to confess!
      Xander: Uh, I should wear a wire!
      Buffy: Whoa, hey, you guys, all we know is that Morgan is a grade A large weirdo. That doesn't lead directly to murderer.

    • Xander: I can't do this!
      Buffy: Xander, come on.
      Xander: I, I can't! I have my pride! Okay, I don't have a lot of my pride, but I have enough so that I can't do this!
      Willow: A dramatic scene is the easiest way to get through the talent show, because it doesn't require an actual talent.

    • Xander: Can I just mention, that detention is a time-honored form of punishment?
      Snyder: I know the three of you will come up with a wonderful act for the school to watch. And mock. And laugh. At.

    • Buffy: This means whatever's out there still needs a healthy, intelligent brain.
      Xander: In other words, I'm safe!

    • Sid: Lets 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 any more. I'm sitting on some guy's knee, with his hand up my shirt.

    • Buffy: What am I gonna do, slay vampires on stage?
      Willow: Maybe in a funny way.

    • Giles: If you had any shred of decency, you would have participated, or at least... helped.
      Buffy: Nah! I think I'll take on your traditional role... and watch.
      Xander: And mock.
      Willow: And laugh.

    • Buffy: Giles, unto every generation is born one who must run the annual talentless show. You cannot escape your destiny.

    • Cordelia: (About Emily being killed) All I can think is, it could have been me!
      Xander: We can dream.

    • Principal Snyder: There are things I will not tolerate: students loitering on campus after school, horrible murders with hearts being removed... and also smoking.

    • Principal Snyder: I know Principal Flutie would have said, "Kids need understanding. Kids are human beings." That's the kind of wooly-headed liberal thinking that leads to being eaten.

    • Buffy: So that horny dummy thing really isn't an act.
      Sid: Nope.
      Buffy: Yuck.

  • NOTES (6)


    • Xander: Does anybody else feel like they've been Keyser Soze'd?
      The movie The Usual Suspects contains complicated trickery involving the mysterious character Keyser Soze where a supposed good guy turns out to be the bad guy.

    • Xander: (as Sid) Redrum! Redruuum!
      A reference to the classic Stephen King horror novel and movie The Shining. The clairvoyant son of the now crazed Jack Torrance writes and chants the word "Redrum! Redrum". When the mother sees the word in the mirror she realizes it is murder spelled backwards. (note: this line wasn't actually in the script, Nick Brendon was playing with the dummy and made it say 'Redrum' to get a laugh out of the cast and crew. Fortunately the cameras were still rolling at the time).

    • Buffy: I'd like to see Morgan without his better half for a few minutes.

      Ordinarily the phrase better half refers to a man's wife (or girlfriend). Possibly because of the amount of time Morgan spends with Sid or possibly because Sid has a better personality, Buffy refers to the dummy as his better half.

    • Buffy: Whoa, hey, you guys, all we know is that Morgan is a grade A large weirdo.

      Eggs (among other things) are graded according to quality and size.

    • Xander: Whatever happened to corporal punishment?

      Xander would prefer corporal punishment (physical punishment) to being in the talent show. Once common, corporal punishment is now almost entirely unheard of in public schools. It is still practiced in southern Mississippi, but only if the parent approves; and generally only used on elementary students.

    • Giles: Our new Führer, Mr. Snyder.

      Giles compares principal Snyder to Adolf Hitler who's title the Führer mean the headman or leader.