Buffy: Could I have a little support here? I'm not just some crazy person. I'm the slayer!
Xander: The dummy slayer? (awkard silence) There's nothing funny about that.
Okay, let's say this up front. Buffy is right: Ventriloquist dummies are creepy. Any episode with a live puppet who has some kind of control over its master is already several steps ahead in the spooky stakes. Poor old Morgan does such a good job or portraying the fear and confusion created by Sid's life, it's impossible not to feel the freakiness.
This isn't just a scary episode, it's also one of the funniest so far. Any episode that opens with Cordelia singing The Greatest Love of All is gonna have to work hard to top that, but there are some classic lines in this episode. My favourite:
Willow: It could be anyone! It could be me. It's not, though.
And Giles's facial expressions during the auditions alone are worth watching the entire episode for.
We also meet Principal Snyder for the first time, and what a fantastic first episode he gets, describing his predecessor's attitude as "The kind of wooly-headed liberal thinking that leads to being eaten". This is just one of many awesome lines that Snyder gets. There is also something undeniably sinister about him here. He is set up quite clearly as a fearsome and unpleasant force at the school, and a thorn in Buffy's side.
There are a few clever twists, and we get to see Giles in danger again, which always raises the stakes (Giles or Willow in danger = Ben on edge of seat). And Sarah Michelle Gellar manages to create poignancy out of a scene with a plastic doll... I am actually realising more so this time around than the first time I watched, what a fantastic actress she is.
And I love the ending. "I don't get it. What is it, avant garde?" followed by a very funny rendition of Oedipus the King.
What's not to like about this episode really?
I give it four spooky dummies.