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The PUPPET SHOW (ep 1.09)

(a.k.a. Talentless)

Written by: Dean Batali & Rob Des Hotel
Directed by: Ellen S. Pressman
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
Richard Werner as Morgan Shay
Burke Roberts as Marc
Armin Shimerman as Principal Snyder
Co-Starring: Lenora May as Mrs. Jackson
Chasen Hampton as Elliot
Natasha Pearce as Lisa
Tom Wyner as Voice of Sid
Krissy Carlson as Emily
Michelle Miracle as Locker Girl

Plot Summary

An animated dummy helped Buffy defeat a demon organ thief.

Plot Details

Buffy, Xander, and Willow teased Giles about getting stuck running the Sunnydale High talentless show, which included a tuba player (Lisa), a magician (Marc), a dancer (Emily), a ventriloquist (Morgan) with a dummy (Sid), and a very off-key Cordelia. The new principal (Snyder) overheard the teasing and volunteered the three to put on their own act, much to their horror and Giles's amusement.

The next act to practice was Morgan. The act started out very poorly until Sid started taking over with a new voice and an attitude. Later, Emily changed in a locker room where she was attacked by a demon who wanted to become flesh.

Buffy, Willow, and Xander decided to perform a dramatic scene because doing so requires no real talent. Sid interrupted with a few wolf whistles and suggestive comments aimed toward Willow, provoking a little protectiveness from Xander. This ended with Buffy making references to Duraflame logs.

Emily's body was found without a heart, making her the first casualty of Principal Snyder's reign. Giles mentioned that several demons seek hearts. However, a knife was found at the murder scene, which suggested that the killer lacked claws or flesh-ripping teeth. Giles suspected a human killer, but Buffy still suspected a demon.

Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Giles interviewed various talentless show participants for information on what Emily did before being killed. A couple of them said that she was last seen talking to Morgan. Buffy came across Morgan arguing with Sid. Morgan acted strangely, almost as if he did not see Sid as an inanimate object.

Buffy went to search Morgan's locker, but Principal Snyder interrupted. He made it very clear that he was very suspicious of Buffy and would find out why. The locker turned out to be empty. Even worse, both Morgan and Sid saw her investigating. Sid insisted that Morgan do something that he refused to do. Sid said that he would do whatever it was instead.

At home, Buffy's mother expressed enthusiasm in seeing Buffy's performance, with Buffy expressing equal enthusiasm in keeping her mother as far away as possible. Buffy went to bed with Sid watching from the window. Later that night, Sid entered Buffy's room. Buffy gave out a scream, and her mother responded immediately. Neither of them found anything. Buffy's mother thought that Buffy was just having a nightmare.

Buffy reported that Sid was alive and in her room. Xander thought that it was a cat and Giles and Willow seemed to think that it was a nightmare. Meanwhile, Giles found a reference to demons who take human form who need a heart and brain every seven years to maintain their form. Morgan might be such a demon.

In history class, Cordelia noticed that Sid was checking Buffy out. Sid then started mouthing off to the teacher, which got him banished first to his case and then to a cabinet. However, when Morgan went to fetch Sid, the dummy was missing.

Apparently, Xander saw his chance to swipe Sid, so Buffy could talk with Morgan alone. Willow researched reanimation while Giles researched organ harvesting, much to Willow's relief. Willow found a reference to inanimate objects who wished to become human by harvesting organs. Meanwhile, Xander noticed that Sid disappeared, freaking out everyone still in the library.

Buffy found Morgan backstage, without his brain. Before she could examine the scene further, a chandelier fell on her and Sid tried to attack her with a knife. Despite the chandelier Buffy managed to fight Sid off and free herself. Then each of them accused the other of taking the organs.

Sid told his story to four gaping mouths. He used to be human, but a curse placed him inside a dummy. Sid had been hunting the seven demons who needed one heart and one brain each every seven years to maintain human form. He had already slain six and was hunting the seventh. Killing the seventh would end his curse.

Sid theorized that the real demon would not show up to the talentless show. Therefore, when Giles formed the power circle, he could see who was missing and ID the demon. Unfortunately, everyone showed up. Giles saw Principal Snyder lurking backstage and might have theorized / hoped that Snyder was the real demon.

Meanwhile, Sid confessed to Buffy that being free of the curse meant being returned to his human body, which had died a long time ago. He was accepting his fate, but was not above having Buffy "comfort" him if she were so inclined. Sid disappeared and Buffy did a bit more investigating. She was quite startled to find an unused brain.

Willow investigated Morgan's student file and noticed many absences. He has been seeing a neurologist, which suggested that he might have had a brain tumor. Therefore, the demon needed another brain. Buffy and Xander suspected that Willow had an excellent brain for such purposes, until they remembered that Giles was smart, was with the other talentless show participants, and did not know that a brain was still needed.

Meanwhile, Marc wanted Giles as his assistant for the guillotine trick. Instead of lying prone with the blade aimed at his neck, he was lying supine with the blade aimed at his scalp. The blade was falling just as Xander arrived to catch the rope. Willow worked on getting Giles out as Buffy, with a bit of assistance from Sid, battled Marc, the demon. Eventually, the demon replaced Giles in the guillotine, and Xander let go of the rope, decapitating the demon. Sid finished the job by stabbing the demon in the heart and dying.

The curtains then opened with the audience viewing Xander, Willow, Giles, Buffy (cradling a dummy), and a decapitated demon on a guillotine. Principal Snyder admitted that he did not get the piece. Over the closing credits, we see Xander, Willow, and Buffy performing Sophocles, very poorly.

The Good

This episode did a very good job in establishing Principal Snyder as a character.

The teaser was quite fun.

Sid was an effective red herring. I loved the looks on everyone's faces when Sid told his story. I am glad that he did not continue as a character because he would have gotten old fast, but he was a lot of fun while he lasted.

The Bad

Another demon was defeated. Otherwise, nothing of consequence happened.

Anyone who knows that there was a demon searching for a brain and who enters a guillotine set to scalp rather than decapitate does not have a brain worthy of the demon. Giles is much smarter than this. Admittedly, he might not have known that Buffy found the unused brain, but he still should have been more careful.

Rank: 110

Action: 4

Buffy and Sid had a brief scuffle in the middle of the episode

Willow and Xander fought to save Giles's life as Buffy and Sid battled Marc.

Comedy: 6

Buffy, Xander and Willow teased Giles about running the talentless show and Principal Snyder gave them their comeuppance.

Nearly anything having to do with Sid the Dummy was amusing.

Drama: 3

Sid finished off his last demon knowing that it would mean his death.

Romance: 1

I am not sure that "romance" best describes what Sid wanted from the female characters, but he was looking for something.

Character Development: 4

Willow—has stage fright.

Principal Snyder—is a strong authoritarian. He wants to stamp out disorder in the school and sees Buffy, Xander, and Willow as his first target. He makes his displeasure known to Giles, so he probably does not realize the extent to which Giles is involved with, and even responsible for, Buffy's activities. It remains to be seen if he knows who Buffy is and opposes her because he is evil or if he would appreciate working with her if he knew who she is.

Importance: 2

There is a new principal at Sunnydale High.

Most Valuable Player: Xander

Sid killed the demon, but only after it was immobilized, and Buffy fought the demon. It was Xander, however, who caught the rope, thus saving Giles's life, and let it go in time to immobilize the demon, giving Sid an easy kill.

Sherlock Holmes Award: Giles

This week is tough. Buffy was the first to figure out that the perpetrator was a demon. Giles found the reference to demons that need a heart and a brain every seven years to maintain human form. Xander figured out that Giles would be a target. Giles got the award because he did not suspect Sid as much as the other characters did.

Goat of the Week: Sid

I do not give the goat awards to those who did their best but were defeated by a greater foe. This eliminates the demon. Admittedly, it took the wrong brain when it killed Morgan, but it had no way of knowing that. Instead, the award goes to Sid for suspecting that Buffy was the demon and attacking her rather than working with her to defeat their common foe.

Random Commentary

I wonder how difficult it must be for good actors like Alyson Hannigan, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Nicholas Brendon to act poorly on purpose as they did over the closing credits.


Buffy had already left the library when Willow discovered the text on inanimate objects that collect organs to become human. How did Buffy know about this when she confronted Sid backstage?

Why did Willow waste so much time hacking away at the lock when Xander's grip on the rope was slipping. Giles was merely strapped down. She should have placed the ax between the blade and the block above Giles's head. Then, Xander could have let the blade rest on the ax while Willow loosened the straps and Giles slipped free.

Many sources wondered where the people in the audience and backstage were thinking during the final fight? My guess is that they thought it was all part of the act. Principal Snyder did mention that he did not get it, thinking that it was some avant-garde thing. It is not clear why the curtain raised when it did.

DVD Extras

Joss Whedon on "Angel" and "The Puppet Show"—Joss Whedon talked about the difficulty in filming a dummy and in filming the final scene over the closing credits.

Memorable Quotes

"Our new führer, Mr. Snyder" Giles
"I think they call them 'principals' now." Willow
"He thought it would behoove me to have more contact with the students. I did try to explain that my vocational choice of librarian was a deliberate attempt to minimize said contact." Giles

"Into every generation is born one who must run the annual talentless show. You cannot escape your destiny." Buffy

"I think I'll take on your traditional role and watch." Buffy
"And mock." Xander
"And laugh." Willow

"I know the three of you will come up with a wonderful act for the school to watch, and mock, and laugh." Principal Snyder

"Once you go wood, nothing's as good." Sid the Dummy

"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." Principal Snyder

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

"Oh, I'm sorry. Your hair." Giles
"There's something wrong with my hair? Oh, my God. [runs off]" Cordelia
"Xander was right. It worked like a charm." Giles

"Cordelia, there is an adage that, if you're feeling nervous, then you should imagine the entire audience are in their underwear." Giles
"Ewww, even Mrs. Franklin?" Cordelia
"Perhaps not" Giles

"Don't get sniffly on me, sis. I've lived a lot longer than most demon hunters, or slayers for that matter. Of course, if you want to snuggle up and comfort me." Sid
"So that horny dummy thing really isn't an act, is it?" Buffy

"So the dummy tells us that he's a demon hunter, and we're like fine, la la la la. He takes off, and now there's a brain. Does anybody else feel like they've been Keyser Sozed?" Xander

Whatever's out there still needs a healthy, intelligent brain." Buffy
"In other words, I'm safe." Xander

Characters in Peril


Evil Escaped

Departed Characters Remembered

Police and Guns

Buffy and the Law

Strictly the Caucasian Persuasion

Spoiler Links

This page was last modified on November 1, 2012