"Gingerbread"
Written by Jane Espenson and Thania St. John; directed by James Whitmore, Jr.

Buffy patrols by herself in the park but is soon joined by Joyce, who thinks that she should get to see what Buffy does firsthand. A vampire attacks Buffy and Joyce acts as cheerleader, encouraging Buffy to kill him. Buffy heads off after the vamp and Joyce goes into the small playground area. She spots a toy truck on the ground, then spots something else nearby. Buffy dusts the vamp as Joyce heads towards the small merry-go-round, where she sees two young children, a boy and a girl, dead. They both have a triangular symbol on their hands. Later, the police arrive and take pictures of the kids, then question Joyce. Joyce is shaken up by her discovery and wonders who would kill innocent children. Buffy promises to find out, but Joyce says that she can’t make things better. The next day, Buffy vents to Giles that her mother is traumatized and two kids are dead. She draws the symbol from their hands and Giles says that it might be from a cult. Buffy is horrified to think that humans might have killed the kids and asks Giles to “find a loophole in that ‘Slayers don’t kill people’ rule.” He tells her that she shouldn’t let her personal feelings interfere with what they’re dealing with, but Buffy doesn’t think she can ignore them.

Xander and Oz share awkward conversation in the cafeteria before sitting down with Willow and Amy (last seen in “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered”). They discuss Buffy’s upcoming birthday (see “Helpless”) but have to stop when Buffy herself shows up. She tells them about the kids’ murder and mentions that Joyce was the person who found them. Joyce arrives and Buffy lets her know that a cult may have been behind the murders. “Like witches,” Joyce says, causing Willow to almost choke. Joyce tells Willow that she knows she “dabbles” in witchcraft but that whoever committed the murders must be cold-blooded. Buffy pulls Joyce aside to talk to her alone and the Scoobies lament the fact that Joyce was just starting to get used to Buffy being a Slayer, but now has to deal with weird stuff. Willow says that she’s suddenly grateful that her own mother isn’t interested in her extracurricular activities - “or my curricular activities.” In the hallway, Buffy tells Joyce that she likes to keep her school and home lives separate and isn’t thrilled that Joyce dropped by the school. Joyce says that she called a bunch of people in town and organized a vigil at City Hall that night. Buffy says that they usually like to keep Slayer-related stuff quiet, and Joyce replies that a lot of people might not show up.

Of course, a ton of people show up at City Hall that night with candles and signs reading, “Never again!” Buffy complains that things aren’t being kept quiet and Willow points out that Joyce is at least expressing an interest in Buffy’s life. She’s surprised, however, when her own mother, Sheila, appears. Sheila is obviously out of touch with Willow’s life - she calls Buffy “Bunny” and compliments Willow’s haircut, which she’s had for five months. The three of them are joined by Joyce and Giles, who are awkward around each other (see “Band Candy”) and don’t want to talk about the last time they saw each other. Sheila mentions that there’s a rumor going around (and Giles first thinks it’s a rumor about him and Joyce) that witches killed the two kids. She mentions that she recently co-wrote a paper about adolescents’ interest in the occult, but she’s interrupted when the Mayor steps up to speak to the crowd. He announces that Sunnydale is a good town and that they must find out who the murderers are and make sure nothing that horrible ever happens again. Joyce takes over and states that Sunnydale isn’t a good town - a number of horrific things have happened there, and no one says anything about them. “This isn’t our town anymore,” she says. “It belongs to the monsters and, and the witches and the Slayers. I say it’s time for the grownups to take Sunnydale back.” Buffy, Willow, and Giles are surprised to hear her saying these things and gaining the crowd’s support. Later that night, a student named Michael drops a string of beads into a skull. He hands the skull to Amy, who hands a cup of powder to a third person. As we see that the third person is Willow, she pours the powder into a cauldron. We also see that the three are seated around a rug with the symbol seen on the dead children’s hands.

At school the next day, Michael is bullied by a guy who won’t back off when Amy tries to intimidate him. The bully only leaves when Buffy arrives and chases him away. Cordelia tells Buffy that everyone knows the kids were killed by witches, so Amy and Michael are in for a lot of harassment. Buffy denies that witches are responsible for the murders, but Giles arrives and tells her that they actually might be. He says that there’s more information in a book that Willow borrowed and asks Buffy to find her and get it. Buffy encounters Xander in the student lounge and asks if he’s seen Willow. He quickly jumps to defend himself, stating that he hasn’t seen her and complaining that no one believes they’re actually over (see “Lovers Walk”). Buffy reminds him that they did do something wrong and can’t just pretend that nothing happened. Buffy looks through Willow’s things and is shocked to find a notebook on which Willow has drawn the symbol from the kids’ hands. Willow arrives and Buffy confronts her about the symbol, but before Willow can respond, they hear a commotion from the hallway - Snyder has brought the police in to search all of the students’ lockers.

Buffy, Xander, and Willow join up with Oz and Amy, who explain that the cops are looking for witch stuff and have already taken some of Amy’s spells. Cordelia tries to stop a cop from taking her imported hairspray (no idea why that might be considered a tool of the occult). Willow quickly tells Buffy that the symbol is harmless - she was using it in a protection spell for Buffy’s birthday. Snyder finds a number of witchcraft-related items in Willow’s locker and sends her to his office. Buffy secretly takes Giles’ book and heads to the library, which is being searched for magic-related books, much to Giles and Buffy’s dismay. Buffy fills Giles in on the harmlessness of the symbol and wonders why it would appear at the scene of a ritual sacrifice. Snyder enters with, “I love the smell of desperate librarian in the morning” and Giles blasts him for taking things too far. Snyder challenges that they can fight him all they want, but they’ll have to “answer to MOO.” Buffy is confused about that statement and Snyder explains that a new group called Mothers Opposed to the Occult has formed. Buffy mocks the name of the group and is surprised to hear that Joyce is in charge of it.

Willow goes home and is greeted by her mother, who wants to have a conversation for one of the first times in Willow’s life. Sheila tells her that “identification with mythical icons” is normal for a person her age, she just wishes that Willow “could’ve identified with something a little less icky.” Willow tells her that she’s not just experimenting with witchcraft, she can actually do things. Sheila accuses her of being delusional and tells her she’s grounded. Willow is astonished that she’s being grounded for doing one thing that her mother doesn’t approve of and announces that she’s a rebel and “having a rebellion.” She announces all of the things she can do and things become heated before Sheila finally tells her to go to her room. She says that things will be changing and that her friends are off-limits, especially “Bunny Summers.” Buffy heads home and sees that her mother has turned their house into MOO headquarters. Joyce tells Buffy that she wants her to stay away from Willow and Buffy realizes that Joyce was behind the police raid on the school. She begs Joyce to let her handle things, but Joyce replies that Buffy doesn’t know what she’s doing - she reacts to things and her actions are “bound to be kind of fruitless.” Buffy shoots back that, the next time the world is ending, she might not be able to stop it because she won’t have the right books. “And nice acronym, Mom,” she adds before leaving the house to patrol. Joyce says that she’s just trying to make things better, and it turns out that she’s talking to the murdered boy and girl. The kids say that they can’t rest until Joyce takes care of the “bad people” for them.

Buffy goes to the park, where the carousel has been turned into a memorial for the kids, and runs into Angel. She says that these murders are being treated differently than others, and he notes that it’s because they were innocent children. She complains that her mother called slaying fruitless (“no fruit for Buffy”) and wonders if she might be right. “Is Sunnydale any better than when I first came here?” she asks, comparing the buildup of badness to the story of “the boy that stuck his finger in the duck.” Angel corrects that he was actually protecting a dam. He reminds her of what she told him about fighting (see “Amends,” if you must) and says that they don’t do it to win, they do it because there are things to fight for. He mentions the kids’ parents, which gets Buffy thinking. In the library, Giles runs into trouble with a computer and winds up yelling at it as Xander and Oz return. They tell him that his books are at City Hall but they can’t get them. Buffy arrives and asks for details about the murdered kids, which no one can supply. She points out that no one even knows their names or who their parents are. They decide to take a look on the Internet for more information.

Willow receives an IM from the Scoobies and joins in the research session. The group finds an article about two children murdered in 1949 and is about to move on when they see a picture and realize that the kids are the same. They find two more articles, one from 1899 and one from 1649, both with pictures of the same kids. The 1649 article reveals that the kids’ names were Hans and Greta Strauss. Sheila discovers that Willow is online and takes her computer away so that she can’t chat with her “cyber-coven.” Willow is surprised that her mother no longer thinks she’s delusional and Sheila replies, “Now all I can do is let you go with love.” She leaves, locking Willow in her bedroom. Giles explains to the others that some people hold a theory about regional stories having roots in reality - in other words, that “fairy tales are real.” Buffy notes that Hans and Greta could really be Hansel and Gretel. Giles says that some demons create chaos in order to let people destroy each other, which Buffy clarifies to mean that Hansel and Gretel turn the community against a witch. She suggests that she and Giles go talk to Joyce and try to get her to disband MOO before they do any damage. Michael runs in and announces that his dad and his friends attacked him and are taking people, including Amy, to City Hall for a “trial.” Oz realizes that Willow could be in danger and heads to her house with Xander while Buffy and Giles head to the Summers’ home.

Sheila returns to Willow’s room and tells her to get her coat. Willow quickly closes the door and tries to keep Sheila and some other adults out of her room. Buffy and Giles arrive at her house and pull Joyce aside from a group of MOO volunteers. Suddenly, Joyce chloroforms Buffy and two men knock Giles out. Before she passes out, Buffy spots Hansel and Gretel on the stairs. Gretel tells Joyce that she’s “still scared of the bad girls” and Hansel encourages Joyce to “make them go away. Forever.” Xander and Oz arrive at Willow’s house but find it empty and run out again. At City Hall, Willow, Buffy (who’s still unconscious), and Amy are tied to stakes and surrounded by a pile of books. “There’s no cure but the fire,” Sheila announces as Amy begs Buffy to wake up. At the Summers’ house, Cordelia slaps Giles awake and tells him that things have gone too far. He replies that they “need to save Buffy from Hansel and Gretel.” “Now, let’s be clear,” she says. “The brain damage happened before I hit you.” Xander and Oz force their way into City Hall and are met by a few angry members of MOO. They pretend that they’re there to join the festivities, then take off to find the girls with the MOO guys in pursuit.

Buffy finally wakes up and tries to convince Joyce that she’s not doing the right thing. Joyce replies that she wanted a normal child but wound up with a Slayer instead. Joyce and Sheila bond as they set fire to the books. Amy decides that it’s the right time to announce that she really is a witch, then chants the same spell she did in “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered.” She turns herself into a rat and scampers away. “She couldn’t do us first?” Buffy asks Willow. Willow warns the crowd that they should fear her, since she has a “really big power” and will turn everyone into vermin and fish. Hansel and Gretel appear and remind Joyce that she promised to take care of the “bad girls” for them. Giles and Cordelia drive towards City Hall, Giles trying to remember a German incantation and Cordelia preparing something for a spell that will reveal the true form of the demon. She notes that a toadstone in her hand doesn’t look like a toad and Giles tells her it’s from inside the toad. “I hate you,” she replies. Xander and Oz try to get into the main hall but find that the doors are all locked. They hear Willow through a vent and decide to climb through it. Buffy points out to Joyce, “Dead people are talking to you. Do the math!” Joyce replies that she has to be punished for messing with the dark arts. Giles and Cordelia arrive and Giles grabs one of Cordelia’s hairpins and uses it to pick a lock on the door to the main hall.

Giles and Cordelia make it into the room and Cordelia gets her hands on a fire hose, which she uses to spray the crowd. “You like that?” she asks. “Huh? How ‘bout some more?” Buffy has to remind her that she should actually be putting out the fire. Giles performs his spell and Hansel and Gretel morph into a large demon, which scares most of the crowd away. Buffy is unable to get free of the ropes tying her to a stake, but she manages to break the stake from the ground. She bends over and the demon is quickly impaled on the stake. “Did I get it?” she asks. Xander and Oz fall through the ceiling and see that everything is now under control. “We’re here to save you,” Oz announces. Later, Buffy and Willow prepare a spell in Willow’s room while they discuss the fact that Sheila has forgotten most of what Willow told her - she only remembers the fact that Willow is dating a musician. They perform a spell, but find it unsuccessful when Amy doesn’t turn back into a human. “Maybe we should get her one of those wheel thingies,” Buffy suggests.

MORAL, or CRAMMING COMPLEX ISSUES INTO A NUTSHELL: Rats are people, too.

GRADE: A- It’s the entire fourth act that really makes it work.

MEMORABLE QUOTES - “…Your mom would actually take the time to do that with you? That really wasn’t the point of the story, was it?” - Willow to Buffy

“Everyone knows that witches killed those kids, and Amy is a witch. And Michael is whatever the boy of witch is, plus being the poster child for yuck.” - Cordelia to Buffy

Xander: “Look, everyone expects me to mess up again. Like Oz. I see how he is around me. You know, that steely gaze…that pointed silence.”
Buffy: “‘Cause he’s usually such a chatterbox.”
Xander: “No, but it’s different now. It’s more a verbal nonverbal. He speaks volumes with his eyes.”

Buffy: “What is this?”
Willow: “A doodle. I do doodle. You, too. You do doodle, too.”

“Oh, man, it’s Nazi Germany and I’ve got Playboys in my locker.” - Xander

Buffy: “Giles, we need those books.”
Giles: “Believe me, I tried to tell that to the nice man with the big gun.”

Giles: “Ordinarily, I would say, ‘Let’s widen our research.’”
Buffy: “Using what? A-a dictionary and My Friend Flicka?”

“Did that sentence just make some sense that I’m not in on?” - Buffy

“Mom, I’m not an age group. I’m me. Willow group.” - Willow

Willow: “Mom, how would you know what I can do? I mean, the last time we had a conversation over three minutes, it was about the patriarchal bias of the Mr. Rogers show.”
Sheila: “Well, with King Friday lording it over all the lesser puppets….”

Sheila: “Willow, honey, you don't need to act out like this to prove your specialness.”
Willow: “Mom, I’m not acting out. I’m a witch! I-I can make pencils float. And I can summon the four elements. Okay, two, but four soon. A-and I’m dating a musician.”
Sheila: (disgusted) “Oh, Willow!”
Willow: “I worship Beelzebub. I do his biddings. Do you see any goats around? No, because I sacrificed them.”
Sheila: “Willow, please!”
Willow: “All bow before Satan!”
Sheila: “I’m not listening to this.”
Willow: “Prince of Night, I summon you. Come fill me with your black, naughty evil.”

“Session interrupted? Who said you could interrupt, you stupid, useless fad! No, I said fad. And I’ll say it again.” - Giles to computer

“‘Frisky Watchers’ Chatroom.’ Why, Giles.” - Xander

Giles: “Well, it makes sense now.”
Buffy: “Yeah, it’s all falling into place. Of course, that place is nowhere near this place.”

Oz: “So, what do we do?”
Xander: “I don’t know about you, but I’m gonna go trade my cow in for some beans.”

Cordelia: “Took you long enough to wake up. My hand hurts.”
Giles: “Pity.”

“I came over here to tell Buffy to stop this craziness and found you all unconscious…again. How many times have you been knocked out, anyway? I swear, one of these times, you’re gonna wake up in a coma.” - Cordelia to Giles

Xander: (to MOO guys) “What’s with the grim? We’re here to join you guys. No, really. Why should you guys have all the fun? We wanna be part of the hate.”
Oz: “Just so we’re clear, you guys know you’re nuts, right?”

Willow: “Another step and you will all feel my power!”
Buffy: “What are you gonna do, float a pencil at ‘em?”

“…You really were the little youthful offender, weren’t you? You must just look back on that and cringe.” - Cordelia to Giles

“Okay, I think I liked the two little ones more than the one big one.” - Cordelia, after Hansel and Gretel morph into a bigger demon


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