"This is madness," lectures Giles as he paces back and forth in the library. "I make allowances for your youth, but I expect a certain amount of responsibility and instead you enslave yourself to th-th-this cult?" The shot switches to show Buffy in the saddest cheerleader "outfit" I've seen outside of a Toys R Us aisle. She's standing with raised pom-poms in a completely unnatural pose. She bounces up to him and tells him that she's trying out for the squad. Giles reminds her that she was "chosen to destroy vampires, not to wave pom-poms at people, and as a Watcher I forbid it." Buffy asks how he plans to stop her, thereby throwing her first cog in the wheel known as The Council. Buffy assures Giles that she won't neglect her duties, but she wants to do "something normal. Something safe." Hey, this is before Joss learned to be subtle with the foreshadowing, isn't it?
The camera pans around a room bearing a cauldron with boiling green tempera paint and other witchy accessories. An unidentified hand drops a necklace into the goo and then grabs a Barbie-sized doll dressed as a cheerleader.
In the gym, girls are warming up in preparation for cheerleader try-outs, although it looks more like tryouts from the gymnastics team from the amount of cartwheels and such. Buffy and the gang enter the gym as Buffy is telling them about Giles's reaction to her after-school activity. Xander ogles the candidates, and Buffy rolls her eyes and walks off. Willow teases Xander about "pretending that seeing scantily clad girls in revealing postures was a religious experience." Xander replies that he wasn't pretending, and then remembers that he has a gift for Buffy. It's an ID bracelet with "Yours always" engraved on it. Xander assures her that they all came that way. Willow, still in her full-on Xander crush mode, is disturbed. Cordelia stalks up to the gang and snits, "Just look at that Amber. Who does she think she is, a Laker girl?" Inside joke time. Charisma Carpenter is a former Laker girl. Another girl calls all the girls to attention and tells Amber to go first. Willow spots Amy and introduces her to Buffy. Willow comments on the weight that Amy has lost, and Amy replies that she "had to." Some generic hip-hop song begins and Amber starts her routine. It's pretty athletic, which causes Buffy and Amy look worried. Amy tells Buffy that Amber trains with one of the best cheerleading coaches available. Buffy is surprised to learn that there are cheerleading coaches, but Amy is more surprised that Buffy isn't aware of this. Me too. I mean, wouldn't Buffy have seen that rash of TV movies about the Texas cheerleader mom who took out a hit on her daughter's closest rival? Amy says that her mother coaches her six hours a day, and Buffy quips that if she spent that much "quality" time with her mom it would lead to some "quality matricide." Cordelia, having seen enough of Amber's performance, pointedly turns her back on her. Amber starts smoking, causing Willow to exclaim, "That girl's on fire!" "Enough with the hyperbole," dictates Cordelia as Amber throws down her pom-poms and spouts fire from her palms. I used to do that same trick with rubber cement when I was a teenager. A quick-thinking Buffy grabs a banner hanging above the bleachers and tackles Amber to smother the blaze, since her cheerleading routine has pushed out any memory of those "Stop! Drop! And roll!" public service announcements. Buffy reassures Amber that everything is going to be okay.
Back in the library, the gang is discussing the recent events, and Giles mentions that spontaneous combustion is very rare and unexplainable. Xander is disturbed that Giles doesn't know the cause, but Giles tells Xander that it's part of the "thrill of living on the Hellmouth; it's a veritable cornucopia of fiends and devils and ghouls to engage." At least we know why Giles didn't try to get a job as a travel agent this past season. Buffy asks if there are any "common denominators" in human combustion cases, and Giles replies that usually the victim is very upset. Buffy takes off to go gather information about Amber, but before she can leave, Willow and Xander offer to help. Buffy says that she doesn't like putting them in danger and Xander scoffs that he "laugh[s] in the face of danger. And then [he] hide[s] until it goes away." Willow says they are like a team, in that Buffy is The Slayer and they're "the Slayerettes." Buffy agrees to accept their help but reminds them to be cautious.