"Macho macho man!"
Poor Buffy was the big woman on campus at her old high school, and all she wants to do is regain some of her glory through the cheerleading squad. Giles/Joss Whedon says: "Buffy! You may not have a normal life, but perhaps you should sassily remind everyone that it's all you want for the entirety of this season!" Anyhow, within the first five minutes of this episode a cheerleader spontaneously combusts, leading to this delightful exchange:
Willow: That girl's on fire!
Cordelia: Enough with the hyperbole.
God I love this show.
This episode is also the birth of the Scooby Gang--Willow and Xander are Officially On Board to have many research sessions with Giles in the library and fight vampires by proxy! We also establish that Joyce Summers, Buffy's mama, is too busy in the fast-paced world of collecting masks from many world cultures to pay attention to Buffy, which would explain why she doesn't find it curious that Buffy apparently never sleeps and why she will spend the next two seasons confusing vampires with "PCP gangs."
So it goes: members of the cheerleading squad each suffer horrible fates, such as the aforementioned combustion, going blind, mouths disappearing, you know.
Creepy stuff like that.
The gang suspect fellow cheerleader-in-waiting Amy, and dump on her arm a magical witch-identifying potion concocted by Willow in chem lab. Survey says: she's a witch, and she REALLY wants a spot on the cheerleading squad! But after many hilarious shots of a creepy attic and Barbie dolls being thrown into vats of green potion (all of which will make your entire being yearn for the 90s), we discover the culprit: Amy's mama, who is, of course, inhabiting Amy's body in order to regain some of HER glory from high school through the cheerleading squad. Geez, maybe Giles was right.
Amy's-mama-in-Amy's-body comes after Buffy with a hatchet, and when all else fails, tries to cast a spell to send her into a hell dimension. But her spell backfires and hits her instead, trapping her inside of the cheerleading trophy she won for Sunnydale High so many years ago.
Favorite moment: A dear, dear friend of mine despises when Buffy turns "stupid," because Buffy is not stupid and it is disconcerting to watch. And yes, throughout the series she'll randomly get cursed and become...a blithering idiot. But when Amy's mama curses Buffy with excess pep, well...this happens:
And it's incredible.