Teleplay by Jane Espenson
Story by Thania St. John and Jane Espenson
Directed by James Whitmore Jr.

Dianne's Synopsis | Perri's Review | SunSpeak

Dianne's Synopsis

Buffy is out on patrol one night-- same old, same old-- when she's surprised by... her mom. Joyce has come out to be supportive-- snack in hand, hoping to spend some quality time, and ready to cheer on her daughter and offer suggestions from ringside when the requisite vampire shows up.

While Buffy is busy chasing down the vampire (who her mom was a bit startled to recognize), Joyce herself is horrified when she stumbles across the bodies of two small children draped upon the playground merry-go-round.

On one of the dead children's hands is marked an odd ritual symbol (a triangle bisected by a wavy line).


The police are all over the playground murder scene, while Buffy attempts to comfort her mother. Joyce is taking it very hard, and can't find it in her to be comforted by Buffy's promise to find whatever's responsible and make it pay.

Buffy, for her part, takes out her distress on Giles the next day in the library. Giles identifies the mark from the children's hands as indicative of a ritual sacrifice, and Buffy is incensed at the thought that "something with a soul" killed these kids.

In the cafeteria, Xander and Oz are (painfully) trying to pretend there's no awkwardness between them. Willow and Amy show up, and the tension increases. Just as they start talking plans for Buffy's birthday next week, Buffy herself appears. But Buffy has no sooner told them what happened the night before, when Joyce shows up as well. Joyce wants to know what Buffy and Giles have discovered about the murders, and latches onto the description of this being a "cult" action. She worries that "witches" are involved, but at Willow's choked reaction admits to that knowing Willow and Amy "just dabble".

Buffy's two worlds are colliding just by virtue of Joyce being in the school, but when she tries to explain this to her mom, she's distracted by Joyce's news. Joyce has called all her friends (and gotten them to call all their friends), effectively mobilizing much of the town to attend a "vigil" for the dead children that night down at city hall.

It being too late to clue Joyce in on the 'secret' part of the 'secret identity' routine, Giles, Willow, and Buffy arrive at the vigil, to find many parents there-- including Sheila Rosenberg, Willow's mom. Picking up on comments Willow made earlier in the cafeteria, it's becoming more and more clear that Mrs. Rosenberg is far more concentrated on the abstract psychological theory of parenting than on the actual day-to-day 'noticing your child' aspects of the deal.

The mayor makes a generic, sympathetic, crowd-pleasing speech. Then, to the shock of Buffy and Giles, rather than leading the 'moment of silence' that was planned, Joyce suddenly decides to come clean at the podium. Speaking out openly to the assembled parents about the "monsters and the witches and the slayers" plaguing Sunnydale, she urges the grown-ups to "take back their town".

At the same time, a group of dark-cloaked figures are conducting a sinister-looking candlelight, incense, and skull ritual in a darkened room. Central to the ceremony is the symbol last seen on the dead children's hands. Conducting the ceremony are Amy and Willow.


The next day at school Amy challenges some bullies who are taking advantage of the mood to rough up a baby-goth, and they back off when Buffy arrives to back her up. Cordelia shows up to report that the mood all over town is getting similarly hostile (and to get in a few slams towards the 'losers' of the Scooby Gang she's no longer hanging with).

The public consensus seems to be leaning towards 'witches' as the culprits in the murders, but when Buffy tries to deny it, Giles is forced to admit to her that it may be true. He has determined that the symbol is associated with "European Wiccan covens", but in order to be specific in its meaning, he needs Buffy to retrieve a book he's leant to Willow.

Looking to do so, Buffy encounters Xander, whose guilt over the "illicit smoochies" situation is sliding almost towards paranoia (He thinks Oz is giving him the silent treatment! :). Reaching for the book Willow has left on the table, she sees the symbol in question doodled on Willow's notebook. When confronted, Willow admits to it being witch-related, but they're interrupted by the sounds of Snyder arriving with police for a surprise locker search.

This being Sunnydale and all, the cops are finding a lot of interesting stuff in those lockers. Amy is hauled off to Snyder's office right away. Willow, seeing them close in on her locker, turns and confesses all to Buffy: the symbol is part of a protective spell she and Amy were working on as a birthday present for her. As Snyder summons Willow, Buffy palms the necessary book and heads for the library, while Oz escorts Willow to Snyder's office.

In the library, Giles is barely restraining himself as the cops raid his stacks, confiscating anything of possible Watcherly value. Buffy again hides the hopefully-critical book when Snyder arrives for a face-off. But it turns out that Snyder is backed by a powerful new force-- Mothers Opposed to the Occult (MOO), a new activist group founded by... Joyce.

Willow arrives home to find her mother examining her occult paraphernalia with detached scientific interest. Snyder has already spoken to Mrs. Rosenberg, and she's concerned that, while Willow's "identification with mythical icons" is quite appropriate for her age and developmental group, she's becoming somewhat concerned by Willow's 'delusions' that she actually has some sort of power.

Willow tries to explain, but Mrs. Rosenberg is too busy analyzing the situation (and grounding Willow) to listen. Desperate to get through to her mother, Willow proudly admits to her witchcraft... and when that doesn't work, escalates her admissions (rebellion, dating a musician ), until she is claiming to worship and serve Beelzebub and is (frighteningly) ready to prove it. But her mother not only insists on the grounding and sends Willow to her room, she insists Willow not hang out with that 'Bunny' Summers anymore.

Back at the Summers home, HQ for MOO, Joyce doesn't want Buffy hanging with Willow either. In trying to explain her reasons and concerns to Buffy, Joyce ends up pointing out that without a plan, Buffy's slaying is ultimately fruitless because it merely maintains the status quo rather than making real change. Buffy is hurt and leaves, while Joyce repeats that she's only trying to make things better. Once Buffy has left, we see that Joyce is addressing the dead children, sitting pale and ghost-like before her. They insist they cannot rest until the "bad people" who killed them are made to pay. Joyce obediently agrees.


The merry-go-round has become a shrine to the murdered children, and Angel finds Buffy standing there mid-patrol. They discuss why these particular murders have caught the attention of the town, and then Buffy repeats Joyce's contention that her slaying is ultimately futile. Angel assures Buffy that even if they don't ultimately win, it's important that they fight-- for both the children and the parents.

And that sparks a thought for Buffy....

Giles, left with no other choice, is trying to wrestle the library computer for information (and losing). Oz and Xander arrive to help, followed quickly by Buffy who has a question for everyone: Who are these children? Suddenly everyone realizes that she's right, these kids that have mobilized the town in death have no known lives-- no names, no parents, no history.

Oz gets on the computer and connects up via modem to the grounded Willow. She works her magic and feeds back to them a series of news stories-- every fifty years since 1649 these same two children have shown up brutally murdered, hands marked, in the middle of a community. Suspicion, paranoia, and witchhunts have then torn the community apart. The 1649 reference gives them names-- Hans and Grueten Strauss.

At this point Willow's mother finds her on the laptop and takes it, to prevent her from communicating with her 'cyber coven'. After talking with Joyce, Mrs. Rosenburg now believes Willow has powers-- and locks Willow in her room, ominously admitting that there is no more she can do for her daughter than to "let her go with love."

Meanwhile Giles has managed to put the pieces together-- some folklorists are apparently right in believing that fairytales are based in past, real-life occurrences. Some demons feed on the hatred of people turned against each other, and apparently little "Hansel and Gretel" here are such-- arriving on the scene in their guise as dead children to provoke the witchhunts, suspicion, and mob violence they thrive on.

Just then the baby-goth arrives, having been beaten badly by his father and his father's friends, and reporting that people in the town are being dragged from their homes by mobs.

This is happening to Willow at that very moment-- as she is dragged off by a mob lead by her own mother. Buffy and Giles arrive at the Summers house to warn Joyce what 'MOO' has snowballed into, only to be grabbed themselves. Joyce turns obediently to the ghost-children afterwards for approval and instruction. The children are "still scared of the bad girls", and remind Joyce that she must make said "bad girls" go away forever.


Oz and Xander arrive at Willow's to find her gone and her room trashed. At city hall, Amy, Willow, and an unconscious Buffy are being tied to stakes. Meanwhile, Cordelia is over at Buffy's house, where she's found Giles unconscious on the floor. After slapping him awake, she follows him out the door.

Xander and Oz meet up with a mob of 'grown-up' men guarding the door to the city hall meeting room, and lead them off.

Buffy finally wakes up to find her mother grabbing a torch and ready to set it to the books piled at the foot of the stakes. We see Joyce and Mrs. Rosenberg surreally comforting each other in this trying time and promising to "stay close" and "do lunch", as they light the torches.

With the stakes lit, Amy decides to give the crowd what they came for and turns herself into a rat-- handily escaping. Willow and Buffy almost succeed in parlaying the mob's awe and fear of that into threats that they be let loose, but the ghost-children interfere again, insisting that they be burned.

Cordelia and Giles are driving to the rescue, Cordelia mixing herbs at Giles' direction, while Giles himself tries to remember the proper German for an incantation to reveal demons in true form.

Xander and Oz take to the city hall air ducts to get to Willow and Buffy, meanwhile the flames are getting closer and the girls are begging their mothers for their lives... ineffectually, in light of the ghost-children's power over the mob.

Rescue arrives, and Cordelia takes a firehose to the crowd as Giles casts the revealing spell. Buffy gets Cordy to turn the firehose on the flames as well < g >, and they are saved-- just in time to see the two little ghost-children revealed as one big, ugly, scary demon.

As the mob flees in terror, the demon attacks Buffy, who manages to stake it with the stake she's still tied to. The crisis is averted, the evil is slain, and everyone's safe.

And the guys fall through the ceiling, ready to rescue. :)


Willow and Buffy are chatting later while setting up spell paraphernalia in Willow's room. Per Willow, Mrs. Rosenberg has gone into Sunnydale Denial Syndrome(TM) over the entire incident (although she's apparently remembered the 'Mom, I'm dating a musician' part).

All prepared, Buffy and Willow try their spell again... but when they're done and the smoke clears, the Amy-rat is still a rat.

Perri's Review

The Mistress of Wig for VR.5 (with the writer of 'Band Candy') takes a swing at Buffy -- and hits a home run. And on behalf of all the witches in the audience, can I just say, < shudder >.

Dianne did it.

Not much, really, except that Joyce continues to flounder about looking for a place in Buffy's life as a Slayer. It's doubtful that anyone in town (outside of the Slayerettes, possibly Joyce and almost certainly Snyder and the Mayor) is going to remember anything about the demons, the witches, or anything else. Oh, and Willow's mother is a nightmare of modern-day psychoanalysis.

Cordelia is still not hanging with the Slayerettes, and Xander is still doing penance for smoochies with Willow, althoughs he and Oz appear to be fine.

Angel and Buffy seem to have reached some kind of balance in their relationship -- they are comfortable with each other, and even hug.

Giles and Joyce are still massively uncomfortable around each other -- time to lock them in closet, I think.

Probably Joyce's best episode to date (not counting Band Candy, most of which she was enchanted for anyway). Unfortunately, she's also under the influence for large portions of this one. The question is, which parts? Her initial actions -- the clueless, but well-intentioned attempt at bonding, and her reaction to the 'children's deaths -- are all very Joyce. The 'Never Again' is a bit extreme, but she is a mother who's been feeling very helpless; she sees the opportunity to do something and does it. Even standing up in front of the meeting, given that Joyce has been dealing with this more or less alone -- the only other person who could possibly understand is Giles, who she's avoiding -- isn't entirely out of character. She hasn't been as indoctrinated into secrecy as the Slayerettes, and she doesn't understand the need for it on the same level that the kids do. And she might even be right; getting it out in the open and convincing Sunnydale there's a real problem might actually be the first step to really beating the vampires -- but sparking off a witchhunt wasn't the way to do it. I'm fairly sure we can count her firmly under demonic influence by the time to locker searches started, and Buffy got ordered to stay away from Willow. Joyce in her right mind *would* understand how important Giles' books are to the Slayer thing, and would have known better than to turn on Willow.

So, Joyce gets points for trying to help in a situation she's massively not equipped for. Buffy's next move should maybe be to involve her mother with the Slaeyrettes instead of trying to keep her out of it, since it's becoming apparent that Joyce isn't going to be kept out of it. While Buffy wants to protect Joyce, and keep her out of that part of the Slayer's life, ignorance is the biggest danger in Sunnydale.

Willow is definitely starting to push the witchcraft thing by actively spellcasting -- in a group, no less -- with no supervision. And it has finally come around to smack her; unfortunately, she's learned about the danger, not of magic, but of people confronted with magic, or anything strange and scary. A harsh lesson in reality, and not a pleasant one. But Willow? Worshiping Beezlebub, calling on the Prince of Night -- these are not ways to make a point, kiddo.

Cordelia is, verbally at least, back to her old self -- bitchy as hell and attacking Buffy and the rest of the Slayerettes at any opportunity. But she can't go back to what she was -- when the chips are down, Cordelia gets involved and helps save everyone's bacon. Again. She's another one who wins major points.

A few things are explained about Willow -- her terminal shyness, the fact that she used to be far more comfortable with computers than people -- once one has met her Sheila Rosenberg. So involved in analyzing and oversciencing parenting that she forgets to simply be a mother; not a pretty picture. I really wonder how much of this she's going to remember -- and if it will make any difference. Making Oz come to dinner is a positive sign, at least.

Angel is definitely coming back to normal. He's worked past what the First Evil did to him, enough to give Buffy hope -- and the missing piece. Glad to have you back, dude.

Finally we remember that Oz is more than jsut a cute (and sometimes hairy) face -- he takes over the computer to get Willow into the game, he translates the Giles-speak for Buffy and Xander, and he and Xander work together to try to save the girls. Way cool. they succeed, by the way, depsite the falling through the ceiling thing. If Oz and Xander hadn't drawn off the door guards, Cordelia and Giles would not have been able to get inside the room to put out the fire and reveal the demons.

Wish Amy had had a bigger part, but at least they didn't try to have an episode about witches without her.

Best Moments:
Joyce finding the bodies. That playground just has bad assoications to begin with and the scene -- the carousel and the children's bodies -- is carefully calculated for maximum wig, and the stark black and white police photos make it even worse. Even on the second viewing, when you know what's up, this is creepsome.

Buffy comforting Joyce after she finds the 'bodies'. The parent/child role reversal, with Buffy helplessly promising the weeping Joyce that she'll fix everything, is heartwrenching.

Xander massively overcompensating at the drop of a possible innuendo. < g > He's so cute when he's guilty.

Joyce's speech at the meeting.Amsuing becuase of what she says, serious because of how she says it. She takes a stand -- it's the wrong move, and probably even demonically inspired, but you still have to give her credit for giving it a shot. And besides, the expressions on Buffy's and Giles' faces are priceless.

Buffy and Cordelia's confrontation in the hallway -- Cordy is back to her usual bitchy self. How fun!

The locker search. Another one of those 'reality scarier than horror' things -- when the kids -- people -- lose all privacy and all rights under a wave of fear.

Giles' books being confiscated. Giles is freaking, then getting grim, Snyder is smug, and we really start getting scared.

Buffy's confrontation with her mother over the books. Both Joyce and Buffy are sure that they're right -- and both of them are. Then when the demons suddenly pop up -- < shudder >. Very nice.

Angel and Buffy's scene by the carousel. The setting is wonderfully grim -- the details on the carousel memorial are really well done, but Angel and Buffy's conversation about the Hellmouth and the role of Slayers is very sweet and very... inspiring is too strong, but you get the idea. It's nice to have a scene between these two again that doesn't involved major angst and/or guilt.

Giles on the computer. < snicker > And Oz subsequently taking over is cool.

Xander and Oz simultaneously heading off to save Willow. Reminds me of the good old days, when a threat to Buffy was the only thing that could get Xander and Angel to work together.

The turning of the parents. From Michael's apperance to Sheila's attack on Willow to Joyce's assualt on Giles and Buffy -- absolutely chilling.

Everything about the burning at the stake scenes. Terrifying on an absolutely visceral level for anyone who's ever been involved in Wicca or paganism, for just how easy it ws for everyone, even the ones Amy and Willow and Buffy thought loved them, to turn on the outsiders. And I loved that they used books as kindling -- quite the statement.

Cordelia waking up Giles. "How many times have you been knocked out, anyway?" ROTFL!! Actually, Cordelia and Giles are utterly hysterical throughout; wonderful interaction.

Amy's transformation. Probably not the best way to convince everyone not to burn the witches, but I can't blame her for getting mad.

Cordy with the fire hose. Buffy's "Did I get it?!". The guys falling through the ceiling. The aborted change-Amy-back spell. A rapid-fire, hilarious way to recover from the tension or the rest of the episode.

Questions and Comments:
Loved the casual mention of Buffy's birthday, setting up next week's episode.

This is not the impression I ever got before of Willow's home life. Unlike Xander, who we know for a fact is badly neglected (and the reference to the drunken arguements gives a lot away), Wilow's parents have never really been mentioned; Ira Rosenberg is very Jewish, and her mother once yelled up the stairs for her to go to bed ('Lie to Me', look it up.), and that's about all we had. So the sudden emphasis on the Rosenberg's neglect comes out of the blue, espeically given that Willow is, except for the terminal shyness, fairly well-centered. There's no evidence against it, but not much for it -- I expect better character continuity from Buffy.

What was up with mickey mouse ears on Buffy's head? Very weird hair day for her.

So, what did the mayor think of all this? Good or bad? Snyder was certainly having a field day, but he'd been looking or an excuse to go after Giles's books and all of the kids for a long time.

Whee! Amy appears and brings with her fire paraphernalia! No fire axe this time, but the hose counts!

Gah. While the episode overall was pretty positive for witches, the 'protection ceremony' Willow, Amy and Michael conducted was needlessly 'black', for the sole purpose of wigging everyone. Skulls? Black candles? Jeeez....

Gotta love the results of that locker search, though... Looks like the kids in Sunnydale aren't quite as clueless about the supernatural as we've been lead to believe.

My fandoms are colliding again -- I know and admire James Whitmore Jr. from his work through all three seasons on 'The Pretender'; he delivers just as well here.

Rating: 41/2 stars out of 5. Some beautiful commentary on everything from censorship, to parental involvement, to kid's civil rights, to witch hunts, all blended together into a powerful, completely unpreachy episode. It loses a few points for the not-quite-believable writing on Willow's mom, but a great return for Jane Espenson, and an equally strong opening from Thania St. John.


"So many ideas explored in one hour.... so many themes tied together into one episode. Masterful, I think. Not a second or a character wasted, I think. Even if they got short screen time, what they got was magic." -- Mary Beth

"The raiding of the lockers was most disturbing and I thought Whitmore's direction was superb here... he kept it kind of dark and off kilter. Good job." -- Mary Beth

"They did a good job of hitting every witchhunt metaphor squarely on the nose, as well as the details, like that memorial for Hansel and Gretel on the merry-go-round. Mrs. Rosenberg was mouthing every psychobabble platitude I've ever read about D&D, Goth, or Heavy Metal interests, the locker search was authentically outrageous, and the grabbing of Giles's "good" books along with the bad was typical." -- Chris

"Short comment: I liked that Cordelia and Giles got to save the day. I'm surprised the parents didn't try to burn Giles, though, as the warlock or whatever. I guess they really were following just what the kids said and not using their own "logic" to follow up. " -- Betsy

"This was a good, scarey episode; with the fright coming from all too human actions. I don't think anything scarier than group think. That seems to be a recurring theme in this series, doesn't it?" -- Karen

"Angel: He actually made a joke! "People are talking. People are talking to me." Do you think it hurt? :-) Wonderful moment between him and Buffy. Him doing the comforting. Sorta like the old days. *sniffle*sob* I hate Joss."
"I was back to going "It's the David-gets-paid-this-week scene." Although, giving Joss credit, whenever they do one of these they always have a point; this time, it was the comment about the parents that made Buffy realize they'd heard *nothing* about those kids' families. " -- Mary Beth and Chris

"Joyce did have one pointypoint in her discussion of the futility of what Buffy does: the Watchers and Slayers don't have a plan. Okay, maybe even *having* a plan would be futile, but as far as we know, no one has tried to rid the world of all vampires, through a spell or other strategy, since the dawn of time. It's just one Slayer dies, the next one is called. This *is* futile. Someone *should* be trying for a better plan. Maybe Buffy's spectacular successes and ability to come back from the dead will hopefully give the Council some ideas for the new millenia." -- Chris

"Obviously her mom cares, but she's over-intellectualized her parenting to the point where it's pretty damn ineffective. (And not realizing your child cut her hair four months ago is a stretch even for the Hellmouth.) " -- Chris

"Giles is *not* someone who should be playing with technology, his frustration level is just too low..." -- Chris

"That's the only problem with this episode: the lines between what Joyce does for the right reasons, what she does for the wrong reasons, and what she does under the influence of the demon aren't very well defined. I don't think they explained the influence of the Hellmouth to her very well. Not if she was standing up there and publically trying to rip the happy blanket of Denial off everyone's shoulders. She wouldn't have set fire to Buffy for any reason other than demonic influence, but some of the other things she did --- starting MOO < g >, condemning all witchcraft, approving the seizure of Giles's books -- was just barely explained enough to make me think that she could have done it on her own. It's hard to tell; I'd *hope* that Buffy explaining that Giles needed those texts would have talked her out of getting someone to burn them, but the way they wrote it, she might (like so many other well-intentioned, narrowly-focused parents) have thought it was the right thing to do. It worked for the episode, but Joyce comes off as even more clueless than usual in some ways." -- Chris

"Actually, I found myself saying, "Oohhhh! Okay, that makes sense..." while I was watching last night, despite having always assumed that Willow's home life was perfectly normal. Consider: she's been best friends with Xander since kindergarden. You know, Xander, the poster-boy for disfunctional families? From my own experience with grade-school and high-school clique dynamics, birds of a feather flock together (i.e., my high school lunch table, which consisted of the assorted outcasts - too tall, too fat, too bookish, etc.). Consider: until Buffy showed up and helped pump up Willow's self-esteem, Willow was painfully shy and massively lacking in self-esteem and assertiveness, which could have happened because she wasn't getting the emotional support she needed from her family....Granted, this whole disfunctional-family thing was thrown at us with *no* prior warning. We've had hints that Xander's home life leaves something to be desired, but we've heard nothing like this from Willow, and now all of a sudden she's saying things like, "Your mom would actually take the time to do that with you?" Considering that Buffy's mom has done things with Buffy before, that kind of surprise on Willow's part was a bit off." -- Maureen

"I should first explain that the shoes tied to the stoplight wire in the Christmas episode bugged me. How I got from there to here, I have no clue. Hans and Greta (or whatever their names were) were originally Dutch. Their parents moved them to Germany when they were very little. They were already in town at Christmas, and in their dead demon state of confusion, they got the Dutch tradition of putting out shoes at Christmas confused with Santa Claus and thought they had to put their shoes up really high to get Christmas presents. So they tied them to the stoplight wire." -- Beth

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