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Season 1, episode 03
Season 103
1st release (U.S.): 03/17/97
Production number: 4V03
Last update: 02/26/05

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SYNOPSIS by Sally Dye

Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy Summers)
Nicholas Brendan (Xander Harris)
Alyson Hannigan (Willow Rosenberg)
Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia Chase)
Anthony Stewart Head (Rupert Giles)

Kristine Sutherland (Joyce Summers)
Elizabeth Anne Allen (Amy Madison)
Robin Riker (Catherine the Great)
Jim Doughan (Mr. Pole)
Nicole Prescott (Lishanne)
Amanda Wilmshurst (Senior Cheerleader)
William Monaghan (Dr. Gregory)

Writer: Dana Reston
Director: Stephen Cragg

WB, Monday, 9pm


When several cheerleaders are involved in strange accidents that cause them to spontaneously combust or leave them without eyes or a mouth, Buffy and the gang suspect that one of the cheerleader wannabes is practicing witchcraft and is trying to eliminate her competition. TVTome


This synopsis is by Sally Dye.

Giles is exasperated with Buffy because she is going out for cheerleading. Giles: "You were chosen to slay vampires, not wave pompoms at people!" Buffy reassures him that she will still have time to fight the forces of evil.

Willow and Xander accompany Buffy to the cheerleading tryouts. Willow greets a friend, Amy, and introduces her to Buffy. Amy asks Buffy if she has a coach -- she says she trains several hours a day with her mother. They watch as a girl named Amber tries out. She is very good, but suddenly her pompoms -- and her hands -- catch on fire. Buffy smothers the flame with a school banner, and tells a stunned Amber that she will be okay.

The gang goes to Giles to find out what could have caused Amber to spontaneously combust. Giles says very often rage is involved. Buffy decides to find out more about Amber. Willow: "That means hacking illegally into the school's computer system. At last -- something I can do!" Buffy is reluctant for Willow and Xander to be involved, but they are excited to be part of the team.

Buffy tells her mom about the tryouts. Joyce is distracted, though, because her gallery is having its first major show soon. She is only concerned that Buffy stay out of trouble at her new school.

The next day, they have group performance in cheerleading tryouts. Amy trips during her cartwheel and knocks Cordelia down. Afterward, Buffy commiserates with Amy, who shows her the trophy her mom -- known as Catherine the Great -- won for cheerleading. Amy is depressed because she's not doing as well as her mom did.

Willow confirms that Amy's mom has always pushed Amy to excel. She also reports that Amber's file showed nothing unusual. Buffy says they will just wait to see what happens next.

In the locker room, Cordelia confronts Amy. She tells Amy that if her clutziness costs Cordelia a spot on the squad, she will be "so very beyond sorry."

When the cheerleading list is posted, Cordelia's name is on it, but Buffy and Amy are alternates. Amy is distraught, saying that this never would have happened to her mother.

At Amy's house, she chants over a bubbling cauldron. Then she drops a doll -- representing Cordelia -- into it.

At school the next day, Cordelia seems oblivious to everything around her. Xander tries to ask Buffy out, but she is distracted by how strangely Cordelia is acting and follows her. Cordelia goes to the parking lot and gets into the Driver's Ed car. She drives wildly all over the driving course and finally crashes through a chain link fence and into the street. When she gets out of the car, she steps right in front of a bus. Buffy leaps over a car and tackles Cordelia out of the way. Buffy is shocked to see that Cordelia is now completely blind.

The gang tells Giles what happened. Giles: "Why would someone want to harm Cordelia?" Willow: "Because they met her?" They realize the connection is that both Amber and Cordelia were cheerleaders, and deduce that Amy is the most likely suspect. Giles says that various ingredients -- including some of Amy's hair -- will be needed to create a potion whereby they can determine if Amy has cast any spells lately.

In science class, Willow extracts some eye of newt (Xander was too squeamish to do it) while Buffy manages to get some of Amy's hair from her hairbrush. Willow mixes the ingredients and Buffy spills some on Amy, confirming that she is the witch when a patch of her skin turns blue. Just then another student -- Lishanne, also a cheerleader -- tries to scream, and they are all shocked to see that her mouth is gone.

Amy goes home and calls out "Where are you?" Her mother rushes out from where she was watching TV. Amy throws down some books: "I've got a history report due tomorrow -- write it!" She says she should be on the squad by now, but Buffy and her friends are in her way. She holds up Buffy's id bracelet: "I'll be upstairs."

The next day at cheerleading practice, Buffy is hyperactive, throwing the other girls across the gym as they try to do their mounts. Willow and Xander realize that something is wrong and try to get Buffy away, but it's too late -- the senior cheerleader kicks her off the squad. They see that now Amy is next in line. Willow and Xander get Buffy to Giles and he determines that she is under a vengeance spell. He says they must have Amy's spell book. Giles and Buffy head for Amy's house, leaving Willow and Xander to keep an eye on Amy.

Amy's mom answers the door and Giles and Buffy, who is getting progressively weaker, push their way in. Giles tells her that her daughter is casting magic spells because she, her mother, is obsessed with cheerleading. Amy's mom protests that it's not her fault that Amy is doing stuff. Buffy sees a plate of brownies, not in keeping with the image she has been given of Amy's ultra-strict mom, and realizes that it's really Amy they're talking to -- Amy's mom has switched their bodies.

They find "Amy's" sacred place in the attic. They collect all of her paraphernalia and her spell book and set out for the school. Meanwhile at the basketball game, Willow and Xander watch "Amy", who is cheering with the squad.

Giles carries Buffy into the science lab. She is growing weaker and weaker. Giles begins casting the spell to reverse all of "Amy's" magic. At the gym, "Amy" realizes something is wrong. She falls from a mount and runs unsteadily out of the gym. Willow and Xander try to stop her, but she casts a choking spell on Xander and knocks Willow out of the way. She gets an ax and starts hacking her way into the science lab. Giles' spell works just as she is about to strike Buffy with the ax. Buffy is released from her spell and Amy and Catherine switch back to their right bodies. Catherine starts to chant another spell, but Buffy throws a mirror in front of her and the spell rebounds back on Catherine, banishing her in a burst of light. Willow and Xander rush in, ready to cut Amy's head off, but Giles and Buffy reassure them that all is well.

Buffy asks her mother if she would like to be 16 again. Joyce: "Not even if it would help me understand you."

Amy and Buffy talk about Amy's life now that she is living with her dad. Cordelia comes along and says she's sorry Buffy and Amy got bumped back to alternates because of her recovery. Cordelia: "No, wait, I'm not!" Amy says that she will definitely miss the intellectual thrill of spelling out words with her arms, and Cordelia leaves in a huff. Amy and Buffy stop by the trophy case and the statuette of Catherine. Amy says she hasn't been seen since their bodies were switched back. As they walk away, no one notices that the statuette's eyes are alive and there are muffled screams coming from it.


The sign at cheerleader tryouts says it's 1996, setting this episode in 1996, even though it first aired in 1997. Whedon had the idea for "The Witch" when he wanted to let us (the viewers) know that they won't be always dealing with Vampires, as the show calls it "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Ironically enough for a show titled 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer', half of the first season episodes do not even have a vampire appear: The Witch, The Pack, I Robot - You Jane, The Puppet Show, Nightmares (only the Master and the Anointed One) and Out of Mind, Out of Sight (not counting Angel). Many fans must have noticed this because many of the non vampire-centered season 2 and 3 episodes show Buffy at least at one point on patrol.

Elizabeth Anne Allen (Amy) originally auditioned for the part of Buffy.

Although not mentioned until season 2's Some Assembly Required the head cheerleader's name is Joy

This episode has the first instance of "black eyes", where a witch's eyes go completely black when she is drawing on some particularly strong magic. The trait will recur throughout the duration of the show.

When Willow is telling Xander that he looks like a chewed-up pen to Buffy, he tells her that she doesn't have to "drive it through his head like a railroad spike" this is later revealed to be the torture method that Spike used to get his nickname.

Fast National Rating: 3.2, Rank: 3/12 Wb shows.

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