I don't care what you think is going to happen -- it doesn't. One of the more delightfully twisty episodes.
Giles finds himself trapped into running the school's annual talent show by the new school principal, Mr. Snyder. Buffy and the other Slayerettes are a bit too vocal in their amusement (and a bit too careless in their truancy) and get trapped into performing. But those problems pale next to the dead body of another performer, whose heart has been removed. Buffy suspects demonic activity, and Giles eventually agrees; the focus of their investigation narrows to Morgan, a classmate who has been slipping further and further into weirdness; among other things, he owns a ventriloquist's dummy named Sid, whom he talks to and for. Buffy, spoooked by dummies in general, becomes convinced that Sid is the killer, especially after he sneaks into her room, alone, but the Slayerettes have their doubts. Giles discovers that there are demons who require a healthy heart and brain to be devoured every seven years, to allow them to keep their human form.
Xander steals Sid; Buffy goes on the hunt, finds Morgan's body -- minus the brain -- and winds up fighting with Sid -- who turns out to be a cursed demon hunter who thought Buffy was the demon. Morgan's brain turns up, rejected because he had brain cancer, and Buffy and Sid team up to track the real killer -- Marc, an amateur magician and talent show participant who has settled on Giles as his next victim. Buffy and Sid kill the demon, Sid's curse is broken and he dies, Xander and Willow save Giles -- and the stage curtain opens on them all.
Not much, this is basically a stand-alone story. Principal Snyder makes his first appearance; Xander is spooked by a clown and we discover Willow's intense stage fright (leading into their problems in 'Nightmares').
For the first time since 'Teacher's Pet', the Slayerettes genuinely doubt Buffy; Xander in particular gives her an incredibly hard time about her suspicions that Sid is alive. He's actually rather a jerk about it. Buffy continues on without their support; and they do come around in time to jointly save the day.
On the other hand, the Slayerettes have all gotten quite comfortable with Giles, to the point that they very happily settle in to tease him about having to run the talent show, and Xander can give Giles tips on dealing with Cordelia.
Armin Shimmerman is turning in an excellent performance as Principal Snyder, determined not to repeat his predecessor's mistakes. The gang isn't going to be able to fool him for very long; he's definitely got them pegged as troublemakers.
Damn, I'm sorry Sid is dead. The horny dummy shtick really was funny, and the character was a fantastic twist!
Teasing Giles in the beginning. The three kids are having a lot of fun with Giles's situation, and he's pouting because they won't join him in his torture. Then his poor attempt to hide his amusement when they get trapped into the show with him.
Giles getting rid of Cordelia. The abstracted staring at her hair, her horrified belief that something is wrong and quick departure, followed by Giles's smug smile as Xander's ploy works, is just a beautiful bit.
Sid sneaking into Buffy's room. Really creepy.
Buffy spotting the back-lit Principal Snyder. The light coming through his ears was such a great in-joke to his other role of Quark!
Sid and Buffy realizing neither of them is the demon. Their confused dialogue, followed by the amazed double-takes... ROTFL.
Xander's amazing save. The guillotine plunges towards Giles's head, and Xander's hand somehow grabs it -- nice, very nice. Xander gets to be a hero.
The curtain opening, of course, and the total, shocked silence from both the Slayerettes and the audience. Too funny.
The tag, as the Slayerettes attempt to perform 'Oedipus Rex'. Xander forgets his lines, Willow runs in open-mouthed fright off-stage, and Buffy and Xander try bravely to stick it out while Giles groans and tries to hide. An unexpected surprise to end the episode!
Okay, where did everyone go during the final fight with the demon? All those performers who'd been milling around backstage totally disappeared just in time for the Big Fight Sequence. Which leads to the question, who opened the curtains?
Not really a question, but it's interesting how Buffy and Xander instantly decided the next victim would be Willow, without stopping to think of Giles. Either they'd gotten into the habit of thinking of Giles as not really involved, or they were focused on the victim being a student. It's just interesting.
Rating: 41/2 stars out of 5. One of my favorites; the ending is a bit rushed, but Sid was great, and the episode was relentlessly logical and perfectly unpredictable. Several nice character bits setting up for 'Nightmares'.
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