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The WITCH (ep 1.03)

(a.k.a. The Positively True Adventures of the California Cheerleader Body-Switching Mom)

Written by: Dana Reston
Directed by: Stephen Cragg
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris
Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg
Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia Chase
Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles
Guest Starring: Kristine Sutherland as Joyce Summers
Elizabeth Anne Allen as Amy/Catherine Madison
Robin Riker as Catherine/Amy Madison
Co-Starring: Jim Doughan as Mr. Poll
Nicole Prescott as Lishanne
Amanda Wilmshurst as Senior Cheerleader (Joy)
William Monaghan as Dr. Gregory

Plot Summary

Buffy and her friends stopped a mother who switched bodies with her daughter in order to relive her cheerleading glory days.

Plot Details

The episode started with Giles and Buffy discussing her trying out for the cheerleading squad. She was for it; he was against it. After a brief view of a stereotypical witch's den (including cauldron), we saw the tryouts themselves. Xander was spiritually moved to see all sorts of young women in revealing skirts, tight sweaters, and interesting poses. Willow was less than impressed. Xander also took the opportunity to give Buffy a bracelet as a good luck charm, much to Willow's displeasure.

Cheerleader candidates included Amy Madison, a friend of Willow's who trained six hours per day with her mother; Amber Grove, who had her own coach; and Cordelia. Amber's tryout was very impressive until her hands mysteriously caught fire. Fortunately, Buffy acted quickly enough to smother the flames.

Later, Buffy, Giles, Willow, and Xander discussed the flaming hands. Willow and Xander both volunteered to find more information about Amber. Buffy, however, got the idea that Amber might not be to blame for her burning hands.

Joyce was pleased to hear that Buffy was taking up cheerleading because it would keep her out of trouble. Buffy was not pleased with the implication.

The tryouts resumed the next day with group performance. Most of the candidates did OK, but Amy cartwheeled into Cordelia, who was quick to place the blame on Amy.

Afterward, Amy pointed out her mother's picture in the trophy case. Apparently, her mother, Catherine, led Sunnydale High to some championship. Amy reminisced about how her mother married soon after graduation to a man who eventually left her for another woman. It appeared that she was under some pressure to match her mother's success.

Willow later confirmed that Catherine Madison can be a perfectionist. She would even go on a broth diet if she gained a pound. Amy, on the other hand, was less perfectionistic and used to have brownie feasts with Willow during the broth diets.

Xander liked to think that giving the bracelet to Buffy means that they are going out. Willow pointed out that this is going out without hugging, kissing, or one party even aware of the relationship. Xander noticed the list of the cheerleader selections and muscled his way to the board. He congratulated Buffy on making first alternate and Amy on making third alternate. Willow had to remind him that alternates are people who did not make the team. Amy was especially disappointed.

Back in the witch's den, we again saw the cauldron with green, bubbling liquid. A pair of hands added a blindfolded Cordelia voodoo doll to the pot.

Joyce decided to comfort Buffy by pointing out Joyce's glory days as a photo editor for her yearbook. Buffy was not comforted and said that she needed to do her own thing. Joyce pointed out that her own thing got her kicked out of school, but Joyce instantly regretted saying so.

At school, Xander worked up the courage to ask Buffy out. Unfortunately, Buffy was distracted by Cordelia acting strangely. Among other things Cordelia took a driving test while blinded. The test resulted in Cordelia driving the car through a fence into oncoming traffic. She then stood in the street for 15 seconds while a truck was driving straight towards her without swerving or slowing down. Cordelia was blinded, but I wonder what the truck driver's excuse was. In any case Buffy rescued her only to be freaked out by the white contact lenses that Cordelia was wearing.

Giles, Buffy, Xander, and Willow discussed recent events. They collectively concluded that the main link between Amber and Cordelia was cheerleading and that a witch was most likely involved, probably Amy. Willow wanted to investigate who was checking out books on witchcraft to Xander's strong opposition. It appears that he liked looking an semi-nude engravings.

Giles found a spell involving several ingredients that can be used to identify a witch. Most of the ingredients were easy to obtain, but Buffy had to use a very weak excuse to get some of Amy's hair. Buffy not so surreptitiously spilled some of the potion on Amy and watched it turn blue. Another student, Lishanne, who suddenly developed a patch over her mouth that almost matched her skin tone, distracted everyone else in the class. Lishanne was rather freaked out.

Amy returned home and complained about Buffy and friends interfering with her plans. Amy did appear to have swiped the bracelet that Xander gave Buffy. She looked like she had some sinister purpose.

The next morning, Buffy woke up feeling very uncoordinated. Even stranger was the fact that she slept all night on a lace-covered pillow with no marks on her face. Buffy dressed in her cheerleader outfit and seemed pleased to be on the team. She even let slip that she was a vampire slayer. Buffy was not very good in practice. She was out of step with the rest of the squad and threw the head cheerleader into a wall. Needless to say, her time on the squad was very short, making room for Amy.

Xander and Willow dragged Buffy into the hall. Buffy noted that she saw Xander as one of the girls, much to Willow's pleasure. Buffy liked that Xander did not apparently view the bracelet as him saying he wanted to date her. Giles discovered that Buffy had been hit with a spell that is the equivalent of a quart of alcohol. The only way to save Buffy's life was to obtain Amy's spell book or cut off Amy's head. Xander had no problem with either option.

Giles and Buffy interrupted Catherine's brownie pig-out. Buffy saw the brownies and recognized that Amy was in Catherine's body. Amy confessed that that Catherine was hard on her after her father left. One day, she woke up in Catherine's body. She did agree to show Giles where Catherine had been casting her spells, where he found Catherine's spell book.

Giles brought Buffy and Amy brought Catherine's spell book to a science lab on campus. Giles started his spell to cure Buffy and switch Amy and Catherine into their proper bodies. Catherine was not pleased and went to confront Giles. Willow and Xander managed to delay her just long enough for Giles to finish. They then realized that it was not a good idea to take with them the body that Catherine would eventually return to. After a brief scuffle, Buffy reflected Catherine's spell back on her, causing Catherine to disappear. Xander and Willow both came to the rescue, just after their help was no longer needed.

Amy returned to her father. Cordelia expressed mock disappointment that neither Amy nor Buffy would be on the squad anymore. Buffy expressed some concern about where Catherine was at the moment, but Amy was unconcerned. After all, there was a certain cheerleading trophy with moving eyes.

The Good

Drunk Buffy was quite fun.

The mother switching bodies with her daughter is a good metaphor for parents who want to relive their youth through their children.

The Bad

Not much. This episode was more bland than bad. It is hard to get worked up over the troubles of characters that we have not seen before and have not had a chance to get attached to. Still, this is one of the better episodes in the first season and the best in the early season because it does provoke some thought. This is enough to give this episode a mediocre rank.

Rank: 95

Action: 1

Catherine put up a little fight against Xander, Willow, and Buffy. Otherwise, there is no action.

Comedy: 3

Giles and Buffy debated the merits of cheerleading.
Buffy was quite amusing when she is in a spell induced drunken state.

Drama: 2

We hear about rather than see most of the drama in this episode. At first, it looks like it is about a daughter trying to live up to her mother's expectations. We then find out that it is about a mother trying to relive her life through her daughter. In both cases, guest characters and not regular characters experience the drama.

Romance: 1

Xander gave a bracelet to Buffy but did not get the intended response. A little time was spent on Willow's unrequited love for Xander and Xander's unrequited love for Buffy.

Character Development: 2

Joyce—has a tendency to put her foot in her mouth

Giles—has the ability to speak quite firmly when the situation demands.

Importance: 2

This episode established that humans can be villains too and introduced a recurring character.

Most Valuable Player: Giles

This one is largely a no-brainer. By casting the spell that (1) saved Buffy's life, (2) put Catherine and Amy back in their proper bodies, and (3) healed the other stricken cheerleaders; Giles scored his first MVP award.

Sherlock Holmes Award: Buffy

The four core characters each fought for this award. Giles recognized that a witch blinded Cordelia, Buffy recognized that cheerleading was the main link between Amber and Cordelia, Willow first suspected Amy, and Xander recognized that Buffy would be the next target. Buffy won the tiebreaker by figuring out that Amy and Catherine switched bodies.

Goat of the Week: Catherine Madison

Catherine earned the Goat mostly for actions described in the Random Commentary below. The fact that she managed to get herself trapped in a trophy did not help her case either.

Random Commentary

Catherine saw her cheerleading career as being the high point of a life that has gone considerably downhill. Ironically, it might have been the cause of the downfall. If she put in the same training hours when she was legitimately in high school as she did when she was in Amy's body, she would have very little time for schoolwork or other activities to develop a career. Had she not been a cheerleader, she might have been able to go to college instead of marrying directly after high school. She might have eventually married a better man, or, at least, she might have been more able to take care of herself when her alternate husband left her.


Many wonder why Catherine was listed with the name Catherine Madison rather than by her maiden name. It is possible that she kept her maiden name and passed it to Amy. It is also possible that she went back to her maiden name after the divorce and that Amy took it as well. Finally, if she were engaged during the cheerleading championships, she might have asked that the name reflect her future name in anticipation of being married.

Unless Joyce is about a decade older than Kristine Sutherland, why would she have Gidget hair in high school? Was this supposed to be an indication of how out of date she was in high school?

Students have easy access to mercury and nitric acid in science lab? When I was in high school, we had access to nitric acid only when the experiment required it. We never used mercury.

Many people wonder how Catherine obtained Buffy's bracelet. Catherine is a witch. She easily could have used magic to conjure it.

The spell to identify Amy as the witch was supposed to turn her skin blue. Instead, the potion turned blue. This may be because Willow substituted eye of frog for eye of newt. One should not expect identical results with nonidentical spells.

DVD Extras

Joss Whedon on "Witch" and "Never Kill a Boy on the First Date"—Joss Whedon discussed some of the characters, especially how the characters resemble him. He also discussed the episode's theme of mother-daughter relationships.

Memorable Quotes

"I laugh in the face of danger. Then I hide until it goes away." Xander

"You're my guy friend that knows about girl stuff." Xander

"For I am Xander, King of Cretins. May all lesser Cretins bow before me." Xander

"Why should someone want to harm Cordelia?" Giles
"Maybe because they met her? Did I say that?" Willow

"This witch is casting horrible and disfiguring spells so that she can become a cheerleader?" Giles

"All right, it's not what you think." Xander
"You like to look at the semi-nude engravings?" Willow
"Oh, well, I guess it is what you think." Xander

"You're my Xander-shaped friend. ... You're not like other boys at all. You are totally and completely one of the girls." Buffy

Characters in Peril

Buffy and the Law

Strictly the Caucasian Persuasion

Giles Unconscious

Spoiler Questions

Highlight the space after each question to find the answer. It is strongly recommended that you do not do so if you have not seen episodes through the episode indicated.

This page was last modified on October 31, 2012