Episode title: The Puppet Show
Original air date: May 5, 1997
“There are things I will not tolerate. Students loitering on campus after school. Horrible murders with hearts being removed. And also smoking.” – Principle Snyder
Ok this week we get to visit another episode which tends to be way down on the favourites list for most Buffy fans while also the lowest rated episode of the season, but at the same time one I still really enjoyed (not sure what this says about me) as this week someone is stealing the organs of students taking part in the school talent show and Buffy suspects that it might be a ventriloquist’s dummy called Sid.
This week we get one of the first comedy episodes of the series… well at least that’s what I hope they were aiming for, as while we get some creepy dummy moments this episode feels like the focus is on laughs rather than scares as right from the start we get treated to a warbling version of Whitney Houson’s “Greatest Love of All” courtesy of Cordelia who is just one of the host of terrible acts which Giles is being forced to endure after being put in charge of the talent show by the new principle, principle Snyder who Giles has taken to referring to as the “Fuhrer”.
Principle Snyder is equally a great addition to the show and really makes up for the general weakness of his predecessor Principal Flutie whose regime he casually disregards, while showing little concern that Flutie was eaten in his office. The real appeal of his character though is the performance given by Armin Shimerman who until his appearance in the series was best known for playing the Ferengi bartender Quark in “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” so it didn’t dawn on me originally who he was having grown used to him being under heavy make-up. Here though he gives us another equally memorable character as he manages to be evil without any real connection to any of the big evils (for the moment atleast) with his almost monotone voice and creeping presence which often sees him randomly appearing seemingly out of thin air.
Now as for Sid; well the living dummy has long been a horror staple, so it was inevitable that the show would at some point feature one and to that effect the episode works well because like Buffy the show once again plays things against type. This is only heightened by the fact that the show gives you the impression they are going the killer dummy route via a number of fun red herrings such as Sid using the same knife as the demon responsible, let alone his voice sounding very similar to the creepy off screen voice we hear after the opening kill. The main one of course being the fact that he’s a living dummy! Still this being Buffy things are flipped so that Sid turns out to actually be a demon hunter who got turned into a dummy (the “Angel” episode “Smile Time” would reuse this idea with Angel being turned into a puppet) by the demon whose now currently stealing student organs.
As a character though Sid is a great one shot character, even though he would turn up in the Buffy video game “Chaos Bleeds” and as a playable character no less. Here he gets some questionable looking fight scenes including most memorably one were he’s attempting to stab Buffy while she is pinned under a chandelier and which comes off looking like the puppet is being basically shaken about by a random member of the crew. Thankfully questionable action scenes aside Sid has some great moments, even if they mainly involve him being a pervert spitting out lines like
“You know what they say: once you go wood, nothin’s as good!”
There’s also some nice interaction between the cast and Sid, especially between Buffy and Sid as the two find a common ground over their own monster hunting quests, with Sid even dropping information about a 1930’s slayer while the standout scene in which they both realise that neither of them is the demon they are hunting really sells the idea of him being a living puppet.
True for some this episode might have been alittle hokey but I still found it a lot more fun than episodes like “Angel” which got unsurprisingly rated higher. Still for puppet fans there is a lot to enjoy, if only for Xander’s masterful ventriloquism skills.
Next Episode: Nightmares