Buffy the Vampire Slayer/The Puppet Show

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The Puppet Show
Season 1, Episode 9
Airdate May 5, 1997
Production Number 4V09
Written by Dean Batali &
Rob des Hotel
Directed by Ellen S. Pressman
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Buffy the Vampire SlayerSeason One

The Puppet Show is the ninth episode of the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Someone or something is killing the school's talent show contestants for their organs, and all eyes are on a spooky ventriloquist dummy named Sid.

Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy Summers), Nicholas Brendon (Xander Harris), Alyson Hannigan (Willow Rosenberg), Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia Chase)

and Anthony Stewart Head (Giles)

Guest Starring: Kristine Sutherland (Joyce Summers), Richard Werner (Morgan Shay), Burke Roberts (Marc)

and Armin Shimerman (Principal Snyder)

Co-Starring: Lenora May (Mrs. Jackson), Chasen Hampton (Elliot), Natasha Pearce (Lisa), Tom Wyner (Voice of Sid), Krissy Carlson (Emily (Dancer)) Michelle Miracle (Locker Girl)


Plot Overview

Buffy, Xander, and Willow get roped into doing a talent show, where they discover that a demon is on the loose and a ventriloquist's dummy is actually a demon hunter put under a curse.


Monster of the Week

  • Brotherhood of Seven: The actual killer behind taking Emily's heart and Morgan's brain is one of seven demons who must harvest human organs every seven years in order to retain their human forms. Sid has killed six of the demons and the final one is lurking around Sunnydale, killing students. It turns out to be Marc, a magician who was questioned earlier in the episode. In order completely dispose of the demon, its heart must be removed.
  • Sid: Morgan's dummy is initially thought to be the demon harvesting organs, but it turns out that he is actually hunting the demon and believed that Buffy was the culprit. According to his story, he was cursed by a demon and his essence was thrown into the body of a dummy. The idea of the possessed doll is a horror standard which has popularly been used in the "Living Doll" episode of The Twilight Zone and in Child's Play. Of course, the twist in this episode is that the doll is actually good and not evil.

Body Count

# Whom By Whom How Where
1 Emily "Marc" Heart Removed Locker Room
2 Morgan "Marc" Brain Removed Auditorium
3 "Marc" Sid Heart Removed Auditorium

Arc Advancement


  • Sunnydale High: After Principal Robert Flutie was eaten alive by a pack of Hyena possessed teenagers, the school was put into the position of needing to hire a new principal for the school. Snyder, whose first name is not revealed, is appointed to the position and starts beginning with this episode. He, as he says in the pre-credits tease, is much harsher than his predecessor.
  • Slayer History: Sid mentions that he knew a slayer in the 1930s, but he doesn't say much other than that she was Korean and they had a romantic tryst.




The Show

  • The closing credits play beside the scene of Buffy, Willow, and Xander acting in the school talent show. This marks the only time the closing credits are accompanied by a scene.

Behind the Scenes

  • Ratings: This episode has the dubious honor of being the lowest rated episode in all seven seasons of the series. It scored a 1.9 national rating, netting a total of about 1.7 million households.

Allusions and References

  • The Usual Suspects: Xander refers to the shadowy villain of the movie The Usual Suspects, Keyser Söze, when he believes that they're being bamboozled. In the movie, Keyser Söze's face is not shown but someone identified as Söze is fingered as the man who killed several people on a ship before setting it ablaze in the harbor. The entire story is told to police by Verbal Kint, a con man with cerebral palsy, who [SPOILER - hover to reveal] turns out to have made up the entire story framed around objects in the officer's office and was the true "Keyser Söze."
Xander: Does anyone like they've been Keyser Sözed?
  • Redrum: Murder spelled backwards, it was a plot device used in the Stephen King book, The Shining.
Xander: (imitating Sid) Redrum! Redrum!
  • "Greatest Love of All," performed by Charisma Carpenter: The song that Cordelia auditions with is "Greatest Love of All," popularly performed by Whitney Houston. The song appeared on her self-titled album, but was first written for the Muhammad Ali film The Greatest and performed by George Benson to moderate acclaim.


  • When Giles tells Cordelia to picture the audience in their underwear, she stops him verbally, but in the immediate next shot, she has him by the arm.

Memorable Moments

  • As the credits roll for this episode Xander, Willow and Buffy act out a scene from Oedipus for the talent show in front of the audience.


  • Giles: Our new Fuhrer, Mr Snyder.
Willow: I think they call them "principals" now.
  • Buffy: Giles, into every generation is born one who must run the annual talentless show. You cannot escape your destiny.
Giles: If you had any shred of decency you would have participated, or at least, um, helped.
Buffy: Nah. I think I'll take on your traditional role... and watch.
Xander: And mock.
Willow: And laugh.
  • Snyder: My predecessor, Mr. Flutie, may have gone in for all that touchy-feely relating nonsense, but he was eaten. You're in my world now. And Sunnydale has touched and felt for the last time.
  • Xander: Can I just mention, that detention is a time-honoured form of punishment?
Principal Snyder: I know the three of you will come up with a wonderful act for the school to watch. And mock. And laugh... at.
  • Xander: 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.
  • Xander: But we have talent. We can do stuff. Buffy, uh...
Buffy: What am I gonna do? Slay vampires on stage?
Willow: Maybe in a funny way!
  • Xander: Whatever happened to corporal punishment?
  • Principal Snyder: Kids today need discipline. It's not a popular word these days, "discipline". I know Principal Flutie would have said, "Kids need understanding. Kids are human beings." That's the kind of woolly-headed, liberal thinking that leads to being eaten.
  • Xander: Did I mention that I hate this school?
  • Willow: (discussing who the killer might be) The creep factor is also heightened. It could be anyone. It could be me! (everyone turns to look at her) It's not, though.
  • Cordelia: (about Emily being murdered) All I could 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.
  • 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 stares at Cordelia)
Cordelia: What?
Giles: Oh, I'm sorry. Um, your hair, uh...
Cordelia: There's something wrong with my hair? (tries to adjust it) Oh, my God!
(Cordelia runs off)
Giles: Xander was right. It worked like a charm.
  • Willow: Once again I'm banished to the demon section of the card catalogue.
  • Giles: Cordelia, there, uh, there-there's, uh, uh, an adage, uh, that, uh, if you're feeling nervous then, uh, you should imagine the entire audience are in their underwear.
Cordelia: Eww! Even Mrs. Franklin?
Giles: Perhaps not.
  • Buffy: This means that whatever's out there still needs a healthy, intelligent brain.
Xander: In other words, I'm safe!