The Puppet Show S1 E9

Buffy and the Art of Story Podcast CoverThis week on Buffy and the Art of Story: The Puppet Show. (Season 1, Episode 9 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.)

In addition to plot turns, we’ll talk about (1) how characters on the protagonist’s side can still push against her and create conflict; (2) the excellent use of hints and red herrings while still playing fair; (3) a new character opposed to Buffy who might or might not be evil (Principal Snyder!), a replacement character who is very different from his predecessor (also Snyder).

As always, the discussion is spoiler-free, except at the end (with plenty of warning).

Story Elements in The Puppet Show

In this podcast episode we’ll look at:

  • Strong, clear plot turns  
  • Using red herrings and hints without misleading the audience
  • Why the protagonist’s friends sometimes must be against her
  • New and replacement characters

Also: Season 1 DVD commentary from Joss Whedon about his aim in creating The Puppet Show is discussed, as well as the post-credit sequence you may never have seen.

Next Up: Nightmares S1 E10 

Last Week: I, Robot…You, Jane S1 E8

Plotting Your Story

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Episodes will include Buffy-adjacent stories (such as key Angel episodes). Plus films or TV episodes that are intriguing from a story, theme, or character perspective.

Episode Transcript

Hello, and welcome to Buffy and the Art of Story. If you love Buffy the Vampire Slayer and you love creating stories, or just taking them apart to see how they work, you’re in the right place.

I am Lisa M. Lilly, author of The Awakening supernatural thriller series, the Q.C. Davis mysteries, and the founder of

This Week: The Puppet Show

Today will be talking about Season One, Episode Nine, The Puppet Show, written by Rob DesHotel and Dean Batali and directed by Ellen S. Pressman. In particular, we’ll look at the very clear structure in this episode, the plot turns, how the characters on the protagonist’s side still push against her and the excellent use of hints and red herrings while still playing fair.

We have an intriguing new character introduction Principal Snyder and a replacement character who is very, very different from his predecessor, again Principal Snyder. As always, there will be no spoilers except at the end. But I’ll give you plenty of warning.

Okay, let’s dive into the Hellmouth.

Opening Conflict

We start right in with our opening conflict. There’s no prologue. Instead we have a voiceover that says, “I will be whole. I will be new.” And we see the students either rehearsing for the talent show or practicing for trying out.

We see Cordelia singing ‘The Greatest Love of All’ and she’s terrible. And we see Giles looking horrified. Then we get a tuba player struggling through his number.

Then Buffy, Xander, and Willow come in the back of the auditorium to make fun of Giles, who got roped into heading the talent show. He says, ‘Our new Fuhrer, Mr. Snyder insisted he do this.” That line of dialogue is such a great way to give a one-sentence summing up of the new principal before we see him.

Giles says if Buffy had any shred of decency she would participate or at least help. And Buffy says, “I’ll take your traditional role and watch.”

A very nice way of quickly setting up some of the dynamic between these two characters if you have an audience member who isn’t yet familiar with them.

Character Development in The Puppet Show: Principal Snyder

Principal Snyder comes in and because the three are mocking Giles, he tells them they must participate in the talent show. He also says he’s been watching them, he knows they left campus early, and they’re always in one scrape or another.

So right away we have Principal Snyder at odds with our three characters. And we see the contrast between him and Principal Flutie’s first interaction with Buffy, where Principal Flutie tried so hard to be on Buffy’s side while still taking care of his other students.

In case we weren’t sure about that contrast, we now have the three begging Snyder not to make them participate in the talent show. Xander extols the merits of detention and Snyder says right out, “My predecessor, Mr. Flutie, may have gone in for all that touchy-feely relating nonsense, but he was eaten. You’re in my world now.”

At about four minutes in we have yet another student practicing. It is Morgan with his ventriloquist dummy. And Buffy says right away that dummies give her the wiggens ever since she was little. There’s no particular story there.

Morgan’s act is really bad at the start. He moves his lips, he’s not funny. But Sid, the dummy, says “All right, timeout!” And he takes over, making fun of Morgan. His jokes are a little racy. Everyone claps. And the students and Giles don’t know that it is truly Sid talking at this point.

Being the audience members and knowing what kind of show that we’re watching, we right away suspect something.

On the DVD Joss Whedon commented that he knew early on he wanted to do a classic evil ventriloquist dummy story. But he wanted to put a spin on it. Which he definitely does.

The Story Spark

We have now reached our Story Spark, also known as the Inciting Incident. It’s what kicks off our main story arc. Usually it comes right about 10% into any story. So any movie — if it’s 120 minutes long — look for it about 12 minutes in.

Here it is slightly later than 10%. Unless we consider it as the moment that Sid first starts talking. But I think it actually comes a little later. Because we could have a ventriloquist dummy that talks by itself, and that might not be a story arc here.

What we have is some creepy music, a girl in the dimly lit locker room — because nobody ever seems to replace light bulbs in the locker room in Sunnydale. It is always dark in there. At six minutes, 10 seconds we hear again the slow creepy voice.

It’s a voiceover that says, “I will be flesh.”

This is a great hook because we and cut to the credits and probably a commercial after that. And we of course are wondering, you know, “What happens?” We know it’s nothing good.

Unseen Spark

So we don’t actually see the Story Spark here.

We find out later that one of the dancers was killed. That is what sets our main plot in motion because Buffy decides to investigate. When we come back from the credits and commercial, rather than finding out immediately what happened in the locker room, we are back with the students.

Who are all inept.

Another thing in the DVD commentary that Joss Whedon said is that he had fun with this because the students are forced to do a talent show. And what we discover is all the students are talentless. That includes a magician, and he can’t find the rabbit for his hat which has apparently jumped away. We get several other students, similarly struggling through out this episode.

Talent Show Plans

Buffy, Xander and Willow talk about trying to do a dramatic scene because it’s the easiest way to get through the talent show. Willow and Buffy are talking about, “Well, you must have other talents.” And Buffy says, “What am I going to do? Slay vampires on stage?”

Willow says, “Maybe in a funny way.” And that is a little bit of foreshadowing for our Climax because that is almost what happens.

Afterwards, we have Morgan and Sid, the ventriloquist dummy. Sid comes on to Buffy. And Buffy says, “Horny dummy, ha-ha,” but threatens that if he doesn’t find a new shtick he’ll become a Duraflame log.

This is part of why this sort of gross humor works in this episode. Because the show recognizes it’s not appropriate. Buffy calls it out each time one way or another.

So the show is not saying that, ‘Hey, these kinds of jokes are okay.’

Snyder Character Development

We also get throughout the beginning of this episode, back and forth between Giles and Snyder. One thing I like about the way this is done is that it is broken up. So we don’t have one long scene with the two of them talking. We get it interspersed with other action and with the tryouts.

We have Mr. Snyder saying that, ‘Schools have no discipline these days. Flutie would say kids need understanding, kids are human beings.’ Giles tries to argue with him, but Snyder says, “Sunnydale high has quite a reputation: suicide, spontaneous combustions,”

We find out that, yes, the authorities are very aware of what is going on here. They may not know what’s causing it. But they know that evil things are happening.

Snyder thinks the problem is Buffy, Willow and Xander. He says he has to keep an eye on those three. This escalates our conflict.

Initially we have Snyder and Buffy and her friends clashing. But now we know specifically that he sees them as perhaps the cause of these incidents. Or maybe he’s evil and that’s why he’s keeping his eye on them.

He says he “runs a tight ship: clean and quiet,” so of course we get a scream.

The One-Quarter Twist

This is about nine minutes in. And this is where we find out that the dancer was killed. We see everyone filing out of the locker room. There’s a twist here because maybe this wasn’t a demon, according to Giles. A large knife was found, suggesting it was a human, because demons have nails and claws.

So this is our One-Quarter Twist in the story that spins it in a new direction here. Because everyone thinks, ‘This is really a human.” And so not something that is really in Buffy’s mandate to investigate. They all agree she should check into it, just in case. Buffy, though, is the only one who really thinks that this was, in fact, a demon.

But maybe she just doesn’t want to believe that a human being could do it.

The Interviews

We then get the different characters talking to other students to find out what happened. Giles talks to the magician. He’s practicing a card trick and he’s terrible at that too, because he actually tells Giles which card to pick.

Xander interviews Cordelia. We get some humor. She’s saying, “This is such a tragedy for me! Emma was like my best friend!” And Xander says, “Emily,” which was dancer’s actual name.

When the four regroup, they discover that almost everyone they have talked to has mentioned Morgan and his ventriloquist dummy. Who of course we already were a bit suspicious of.

In the auditorium, we see Sid alone on stage saying that he and Morgan have to be on the lookout and figure out who’s going to be next. Buffy walks in and hears this.

Morgan comes out and claims he was rehearsing. Buffy asked some questions about Emily. Morgan is rubbing his head, seeming distressed. Sid tells her to get lost. Buffy apologizes, assuming that it is Morgan talking through Sid. She says she doesn’t want to make Morgan mad.

Morgan says, “It’s him! He’s…” and then he trails off.

And we’re in the next scene, where once again and even more so, everybody thinks that Morgan is behind this. Except for Buffy. She says, “All they know is he’s weird, not that he’s a murderer.” This is something we will see throughout the episode.

Buffy has one idea and her friends — although they remain her allies — overall are pushing back against her. Including Giles.

Creating Conflict

This is a great example of if you are writing a mystery you need multiple people, or forces, pushing back against your protagonist. Not just the antagonist. Because usually we don’t know who the antagonist is in the bulk of the episode. So we need multiple sources of conflict.

If we follow the antagonist all the time and show the antagonist all the time, that would give away who it is.

Also, usually we are seeing mysteries primarily through the point of view of the sleuth who is trying to solve them. While Buffy is not solely a mystery show, that is a strong element of certain episodes. Including this one where we don’t know who the villain is.

The Protagonist’s Friends

Because of this need for conflict often it has to be the protagonist’s friends and allies who are pushing against her. That works best when friends have really good reasons.

We don’t want them to be unsupportive just because they are difficult people. That makes them people that, as an audience member or reader, we don’t really want to hang around. So we want to like the friends for the most part, but understand why they are disagreeing.

And here we’ve got that. Everybody has mentioned Morgan and he is acting strangely. So there are reasons to suspect him.

Also, Buffy is mainly responding based on her instincts and feelings. While usually that would mean a lot for a Slayer, in the very beginning, she immediately admitted that she had this general fear of ventriloquist dummies. They have always spooked her. So it’s understandable that her friends think that she might be being influenced by that.

Giles, who might be digging into this more, is hampered because he has to oversee the talent show. Buffy argues with him a bit on this. Because a murder is more important. But Giles makes a really good point.

He has to stick with the talent show because Snyder is watching all of them.

So that was a very nice set up in the beginning. Not only do we have the conflict between Snyder and our core group, but it is a driving force in keeping Giles occupied. So that he can’t be as much help as he normally is.

He does tell Buffy to check Morgan’s locker. Morgan and Sid see her breaking into it. Snyder catches her. She acts very innocent, but he says he knows there’s something going on with her. We also hear Sid saying to Morgan, “She’s the one. The last. And I’ll be free.”

Joyce and Buffy

We now have a nice scene with Joyce and Buffy. Joyce wants to know, “Is everything okay?”

Buffy definitely does not want her mom to come to the talent show. Joyce tells her to get some sleep, she’ll feel better. And we see Sid out the window when Buffy shuts the lights off. This is another great hook and we cut to a commercial.

I think I mentioned in a previous episode. These cuts for commercial breaks are very much like our chapter ending. I love to watch network television to see how that is done so purposefully.

Now we see Sid attack Buffy in her room. She screams. Joyce comes in, and sees nothing, but notices the window is open. Buffy is sure she closed it.

At 20 minutes in, we have the magician again with a trick. He’s struggling with his assistant, who is in a box, but she doesn’t disappear. We have Cordelia and Giles arguing about when Cordelia will sing. He pretends there’s something wrong with her hair to distract her. It’s something that Xander told him about.

The Midpoint

We’re approaching our Midpoint, where typically our main character suffers a major reversal or makes a commitment to her quest, or both. Here we have a pretty strong reversal for Buffy. At 21 minutes 16 seconds in, so halfway through this 42 minute episode, nobody believes Buffy that Sid was in her room.

And I see this as a major reversal. Because normally if Buffy relates something that happened to her, everyone is going to believe her and be right in there to fight with her. This time they don’t. They double down on the idea that she is nervous about ventriloquist dummies and afraid of them.

Like a Cat

Xander keeps pointing out how much what Buffy is saying sounds like a cat getting in the window. And if we hadn’t seen it — he’s not wrong. Even Giles says, “You know, it could be a dream.” She has been thinking about dummies.

When Buffy says she’s the Slayer, why won’t they listen to her, Xander says, “The Dummy Slayer?” So this is very frustrating for Buffy. It does not deter her though. So in that sense she does make a commitment because she believes in herself.

We also see, almost at that Midpoint, what looks like a commitment by the antagonist, who we think must be Sid. It’s a commitment for him, a going-all-in, when he goes into Buffy’s room, because he risks exposing himself and getting chopped to pieces. Although he doesn’t know yet she’s the Slayer, but he is really revealing himself to her.

Now it’s clear that Sid can move around on his own. Although it’s possible Morgan is controlling him. Giles does say there could be a demon, not a human, behind this. He tells us there’s a demon that each seven years needs a brain and heart to retain its humanity.

Morgan as Suspect

They consider Morgan for this, but Giles is less sure about Morgan now because a demon and is strong and Morgan seems to be weak. And when we later find out that Morgan has brain cancer, part of why that doesn’t come completely from left field is Giles made that observation, and also we saw Morgan rubbing his head earlier. So it is one of those turns that it surprises us a bit and yet it is expected.

Buffy has another encounter with Sid in class when he spins his head around to stare at her. Sid is also causing conflict for Morgan by making jokes. And talking back to the teacher, who of course assumes it is Morgan doing it. After class she shows a lot of compassion for Morgan, asking if he’s okay, saying she’s worried about him. So again, we do have that sense that something is wrong with him.

But it could be that he’s evil, we don’t know yet. Eventually we will find out that is not so.

And he’s upset and impatient, and he wants Sid back. When Sid is not in the cabinet, Morgan is clearly very worried. He’s saying, “Where could he have gone? He knew to wait for me.”

This underscores for the audience that Morgan probably isn’t a demon and isn’t going after Buffy. Because he is worried about what Sid is doing or, well yeah, what Sid is doing. Sid has moved independently of Morgan.

However, at the moment, Sid is not doing anything nefarious. He is in the library because Xander swiped him.

Surprise  Sid

I like this moment of a small surprise. We’re thinking that Sid is gonna be out stalking somebody and instead Xander is having a bit of fun with him. Xander teases Buffy about her fear of Sid. But Buffy says, “Keep an eye on Sid.” She leaves to go talk to Morgan. Xander did have a purpose here, not just to plague Buffy. He knew Buffy wanted to talk to Morgan alone.

Notice that all of this is coming out of that reversal at the Midpoint. Everything is focusing on Sid, despite that the others aren’t quite convinced by Buffy. Buffy goes looking for Morgan in the auditorium which, like the locker room, is very dark.

Snyder Character Development

She encounters Snyder. They have a conversation that is ominous and makes us wonder whether Snyder could be the demon. He’s already been set up as an opposing force to Buffy and her friends. Now he says he’s not sure how safe it is for a girl like her to be there alone. She tells him she can take care of herself.

The other reason we suspect Snyder is he is the only new character.

We don’t know if he’s going to be continuing on the show. That is yet another reason to suspect him from an audience member perspective. And even from Buffy’s perspective. Because it’s logical to think that it could be somebody new to the school.

However about 29 minutes in, Willow finds a reference in a book about man-made objects that can become human by harvesting organs. So we have this switching suspicion between Sid the dummy, who maybe needs organs to become flesh, which we heard in the very beginning, “I will be flesh,” and this potential demon who could be Mr. Snyder, who needs that brain and that heart.

Moving Towrd Three-Quarter Turn

So were moving toward that Three-Quarter Turn in the story, which will again spin the story in a new direction, but it should come from the protagonist’s actions and grow out of the Midpoint.

As we’re leading up to that, Xander realizes that Sid the dummy is gone. Buffy is still backstage. When we hear creaking, we are nervous for her. She finds Morgan’s body, but we don’t quite see it. The chandelier above falls on her and, once again, we break for commercial.

The Fight

When we’re back, we’re deep in Buffy’s point of view, looking through her eyes. Everything looks fuzzy and out of whack, and we think she might have a head injury. She’s struggling to get the chandelier off of her.

This is a really nice way to immobilize Buffy. Normally, we’d figure she could lift that chandelier right off of her. But because she seems to have hit her head, and not be seeing right, and be weakened, it makes sense that she’s pinned.

In the interview on the DVD, Joss commented that they had to have something like the chandelier because you gotta have a fair fight between Buffy and the dummy.

So 32 minutes in, Sid attacks her, they fight to a standoff, and they taunt each other.

The Three-Quarter Turn

Here is where we get to the Three-Quarter Turn. This dialogue, Sid says something like, “You win, you can take your heart and brain move on.”

Buffy is saying, “Those would’ve been great trophies for you. You lost, you’ll never be human.” Sid says, “Neither will you.”

And then they both say, “What?” Because they’ve mostly been focusing on what they’re saying and not listening. And suddenly it hits them both that they are both hunting for this demon.

A New Direction

This takes the story in an entirely new direction.

We no longer think Sid is the villain, Buffy no longer thinks he’s the villain. And he explains that he was a demon hunter and was cursed. He became a dummy, or was trapped inside this dummy, and has been hunting the last of seven demons. If he kills the last one he will be free.

And he confirms what Giles found: that this demon needs heart and brain every seven years to stay human. Everybody figures this human/demon will move on now because it has its heart and its brain. So to figure out which person it was they assume it will be whoever is missing from the talent show line up. They’re certain it’s someone in the talent show because of where the murders occurred.

Sid and Buffy Talk

Sid and Buffy watch from up above while Giles gathers the cast and everyone together.

And they have a conversation where Sid says he’s surprised she’s a Slayer and explains that the curse being lifted means that he will die because his body is long gone. There’s nowhere for his spirit to return to.

They’re both surprised when no one is missing from the talent show cast. Buffy jumps down to talk to Giles, and Sid disappears. When Buffy goes backstage, there’s something dripping. Morgan’s brain falls into her hands, which completely grosses Buffy out. She washes her hands many times.

Back to Sid

And once again everyone thinks, or at least Willow and Xander think, that it’s Sid. They’re once again pushing against Buffy because she disagrees. She had that conversation with Sid, she feels sure he really is a demon hunter.

So we figure it is probably Mr. Snyder.

The puzzle of the brain is solved when they figure out, by Willow looking into school records, that Morgan had brain cancer. So the demon rejected this brain. They assume that the demon will be looking for a good brain, a smart person. They’re a little worried about Willow, because she is one of the smartest people there.

We cut from that to Giles. He’s talking to magician. I’m pretty sure this is the first time that we get the magician’s name, which is Mark.

Giles is talking about calibration and calculations for this guillotine that Mark is using in his act, which he’s demonstrating by chopping a cantaloupe in half. Mark says his assistant is sick — he needs Giles to help. As we realize what’s going on, Xander, Willow, and Buffy realize that Giles could be the target because of how smart he is. They run for the auditorium.

Giles is already lying in the guillotine and Mark locks him in.

Giles asks how the trick works. Mark admits there is no trick: he will get Giles’ brain. Now I like to think Giles was a little slow on the uptake here because he was so distracted by the presence of Mr. Snyder, and what that is going to mean for Buffy and for him, and the need to run the talent show while also helping Buffy. Because I’d like to think he might’ve figured it out before Mark locks him into that guillotine otherwise.

The Climax

This brings us to our Climax.

From the Three-Quarter Point to the Climax generally is fast-moving, not too much exposition. There’s a little bit of an exception here because we do get a bit of exposition from Sid when he and Buffy are talking.

But I feel like that worked and didn’t slow the story. Because we still have that tension of waiting to see who the villain was, and because we need that moment for Buffy to be convinced that Sid is not the villain, even when he disappears on her.

So other than that, we’ve been driving towards the Climax with almost all action and people figuring things out and moving forward. Once we hit the Climax, it is very quick. We have moment after moment after moment, and each one escalates the conflict further.

So we have Mark using a small hand axe to hack at the rope that’s holding the blade up. We have literally Giles’s life hanging by a thread here. Buffy tackles Mark and they fight.

The problem is that rope is so frayed that it snaps. Now, Buffy can’t be fighting Mark and stop the rope, so Xander catches it and he holds onto it.

But they need the key to the lock to free Giles, and it’s really hard for Xander to hang on. Mark has the key and he is fighting Buffy. There’s no way Xander or Willow are going to be able to get that key. So Xander kicks the axe to Willow. He’s still hanging onto the rope. She’s chopping at the lock. And Buffy forces Mark into the box that he used earlier for his assistant.

Things Get Worse

But it still gets worse, because he turns into a demon, is now super strong, and is fighting his way out. Now we have seen along the way as he was locking up Giles, that the demon flesh was starting to come through his skin. So he has become a full-on demon again.

But just in time, Giles is freed, Willow gets the lock open, and Buffy and Sid, who has joined the fight, wrestle the demon onto the guillotine in place of Giles and chop off its brain.

So we have this moment that is almost our Climax. But Sid tells Buffy he needs to stab the demon to end this or the demon will come back. This is needed to truly end this story arc.

Buffy offers to do this, but Sid says he will. He stabs the demon and falls onto the demon, just a wooden dummy again. So his spirit is gone,

Buffy holds the ventriloquist dummy in her arms and says “It’s over.”

Falling Action

Now we have the Falling Action, which is going to wrap up our plot with the talent show and Giles and Snyder.

The curtain goes up and we have Buffy holding, cradling this wooden dummy in her arms. We have this demon lying on the guillotine, its brain chopped off. Willow, Xander, Giles, Buffy, they are all just frozen in shock and complete silence. It looks so much like a staged scene.

And Snyder, in the audience, says, “I don’t get it. What is it? Avant Garde?” and we click to the credits.

After the Credits

And now we have one of the most fun scenes in all of Buffy, because when we click to the credits we just get one quick screen and then we get a post-credit sequence. I believe this is the only one in Buffy and you may never have seen it. On the DVD commentary, Joss said he only got to run it once, I’m assuming that was because of the run time because it added to the run time.

It is Xander, Willow, and Buffy doing their dramatic scene for the talent show.

And they are so awful. Buffy is completely wooden in how she delivers the lines. She looks bored and irritated. When she has to move from one part of the stage to the other, she just kind of stomps around Xander.

Xander is trying to be dramatic but he forgets his lines. Willow freezes and runs off stage. All of this is intercut with Snyder and Giles sitting next to each other in the audience, Giles looking very pained at watching this.

Joss said that this scene took longer than any other one to film because no one could stop laughing. That by itself is worth ordering the Season One DVD set, in my opinion.

Red Herrings and Hints

One of the things I mentioned in the beginning of today’s episode is the use of red herrings and hints while still playing fair with the reader. Now that I’ve gone through the whole episode I want to highlight a few things there.

First off, we have Mark the Magician. I like the way he’s brought in, because although we don’t have a reason to suspect his motives, he is very much in the episode. We don’t get his name right away but he is the first student we see when we come back from the credits. And we know that it’s someone — eventually we know that the villain is somebody involved in the talent show.

But we discount him because every time we see him he is very inept. He loses his rabbit, he’s no good at the card tricks, his assistant doesn’t disappear. So we don’t suspect him.

At the same time, we don’t really notice that he is the student that we keep seeing.

Like, yes, we see Cordelia, but she’s a regular on the show so we know she’s not it. Otherwise we see various different students throughout, whose names we don’t learn, and who don’t return. So he is the one new character, other than Mr. Snyder, who we see again, and again, and again.

Now I will say, if Buffy were a sleuth, follow-the-clues, type of mystery, I feel like you would need a little bit more with Mark. You would need some sort of hint that he was up to something so that there would be a reason the audience member might look at him. But because Buffy is more overall thriller and horror than straight out solve-the-mystery, I think that Mark works very well here.

Because while we’re a little surprised, we’re not completely, because we have seen him quite a bit on screen.

Sid the Red Herring

Sid is a fantastic red herring villain.

It starts out with Buffy being creeped out by him, which focuses us on him. And yet she immediately tells us she’s just always been creeped out by dummies. So we get a double message there, like, yes, he’s the first creepy thing we really see. Yet we know that there’s a reason why Buffy feels weird about him that might have nothing to do with him being evil.

Sid’s storyline is also so good because it plays fair with the audience. If you rewatch every conversation, everything Sid says fits with either him being the demon or him being the demon hunter.

Playing Fair

And when he is sitting there in the library while Giles, Willow, and Xander are researching, if you listen to their dialogue, there’s nothing in it and nothing Buffy says before she leaves that would tell Sid that Buffy is the Slayer, that she’s on the side of the forces of good, and that she could be an ally.

He still has every reason to think that she is the demon working against him.

So this is what I mean by playing fair. Yes, we are surprised by the twist that Sid is not the villain; he’s a demon hunter. But it has been set up so that it works both ways. So if we go back and watch, there is nothing that is out and out lying to us that wouldn’t make sense given what we now know.

Principal Snyder

Snyder also works great as a red hearing for the same reason. Everything he says that’s menacing or disturbing fits with the actual reason that he gave, that he knows there’s a lot of strange things in Sunnydale.

He’s noticed that Buffy and Xander and Willow are always getting into what he calls, ‘scrapes.’ They left early the day before, which I have no doubt they did.

So, he is suspicious of them and everything he says fits that and also fits his general view of students, which he expresses to Mr. Giles, that he doesn’t like students. And he thinks they’re disorderly. He wants to change the way the school runs.

All of that, too, could fit with him being the villain of the piece or being this new law and order principal. It also sets him up nicely as maybe a season-long, villain. Or maybe a future villain because we don’t know if Snyder is just law and order or if there’s something more ominous about him.

Favorite Quotes from The Puppet Show

My favorite quote of this episode comes from Principal Snyder. He is talking to Giles about Principal Flutie and how Flutie would’ve said the students need understanding. Snyder says “That’s the kind of woolly-headed liberal thinking that leads to being eaten.”

My next favorite quote of the episode is when Sid is explaining the demon hunting and how he got to be a ventriloquist dummy, and how the demon becomes human. Giles says, “I must say, it’s a welcome change to have someone else explain these things.”

Contact Info and Help With Your Story

If you would like to let me know what your favorite quote of this episode or any episode is, you can tweet me. I’m on Twitter @LisaMLilly or you can email me [email protected].

Also, if you want to try walking through the plot points that I talked about on the podcast with your own story, you can head over to my Patreon page. There’s a link in the show notes, and there you will find a free story structure template that you can download.

You don’t need to be a patron to do it. And you can try that out with your own story, novel, screenplay, whatever you’re working on, and see if that helps you create your plot. Or perhaps if you’re rewriting, figure out what’s working and what’s not.

Next Week

Other than spoilers, that is it for this episode of Buffy and the Art of Story. If you don’t want to hear spoilers, thank you so much for listening and I hope you’ll come back next week for Season One, Episode Ten, Nightmares.

The Puppet  Show Spoilers

And we’re back. Most of the spoilers here relate to Nightmares. Willow reveals, when she and Buffy are talking about what they can do, Willow says she plays piano, Buffy suggests Willow can play and sing and Willow looks absolutely petrified and shakes her head ‘No.’ And then we see in the dramatic scene at the end how she runs off stage. All of this will come back next week when she experiences her worst nightmare of being on stage, singing in front of everybody.

We will also see echoes of some of those fears in Season Four, the very last episode, which is mainly dream sequences. Where again, Willow, she’s late for play. She doesn’t even know what’s going on. And she’s very nervous about it. Although a lot of that has more to do with Willow feeling like she’s never really gotten past who she is in high school, that she has been playing a part the whole time.

But it does play a bit on her stage fright.

Likewise, we see in this episode Cordelia’s obsession with how her hair looks. In this episode, it’s perfect and she’s worried about it. Giles is able to use it to distract her. In the next episode we’ll see her hair just in this mess that she cannot even get a comb through.

I see it as sort of Raggedy Ann hair. So that’s kind of fun.

Xander Knows Cordelia

Also interesting is that, and perhaps more subtle, is Xander knowing exactly what Giles should say to distract Cordelia. So that is a spoiler for much later in the series, where we start seeing this chemistry between Xander and Cordelia.

On this watch, I have noticed how often they’re interacting. Also in this episode he is the one who questions Cordelia. And we are building this, maybe not a relationship, but the fact that they are getting to know each other and Xander is so aware of her.

End of Spoilers

So that is it for spoilers for the Puppet Show. I hope that you enjoyed, if you rewatch, I hope you enjoyed watching it is much as I did. I found it to be a lot of fun to watch again, and I was really struck by how well structured story it is.

Remember you can email me your thoughts [email protected] or tweet me @LisaMLilly Thank you again for listening and I hope to see you next Monday for Nightmares.

P.S. For more on plotting, you can check out Super Simple Story Structure: A Quick Guide To Plotting And Writing Your Novel (Book 1 in the Writing As A Second Career series).

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