SABRINA, THE TEENAGE WITCH (1996-2000)
Episode: A Halloween Story (1×05)
Director: Gary Halvorson
Teleplay: Nell Scovell
Cast: Melissa Joan Hart, Caroline Rhea, Beth Broderick, Nick Bakay, Nate Richert, Jenna Leigh Green, Michelle Beaudoin, Paul Fieg
Guest Stars: Sally Jessy Raphael, Emily Hart, Robin Riker, Diane McBain, Linda Kash, Jay Kogen, Phillip Glasser
Original Air Date: October 25, 1996
Hilda and Zelda are giddily duetting on “Halloween, O Happy Day,” when Sabrina comes downstairs to the kitchen, asking why Salem was yowling. Hilda says that he doesn’t like their Halloween caroling, and asks Sabrina if she is excited about the holiday. Sabrina’s excitement level is not high enough, so the Aunts start in on “Have a Jolly Hallo-hallo-halloween.” Sabrina insists that she’s attempting to get into the spirit, and demonstrates her Sally Jessy Raphael costume. The Aunts aren’t impressed, as the “costume” merely consists of a pair of red-framed glasses, so Sabrina challenges them to improve the costume. The Aunts use their magic, and the part of Sabrina is now being played by Sally Jessy Raphael. Sabrina-as-Sally Jessy Raphael checks her appearance out in the mirror. In character, she announces, “Next up, we are going to talk to a teenage witch and her aunts who take things too far!” The Aunts carol their way into the opening credits.
Claudia: I’d say that a Sally Jessy Raphael cameo places this show firmly in the 90s era, because I don’t think her red glasses have been seen much of anywhere lately.
Geoffrey: The last thing I heard about was when she stepped in for Dick Cavett in the revival of Rocky Horror. I miss trashy daytime TV with a heart. Also, SJR has great gams.
A late-Victorian dress, complete with bustle. “Does this make my butt look big?”
Claudia: Sabrina, hon, what exactly did you think a bustle was for when you strapped it on?
Geoffrey: It’s technically Edwardian, I believe…and more Parisian than British.
Harvey flags down Sabrina in the school hallway to hand her a Halloween party invitation. He explains that his parents are forcing him to have one, so his dad can use up all of his bulk-purchased food before it expires in November. Harvey’s going as James Dean, as he thinks it’s an easy costume, and asks Sabrina if she’ll come to the party early to help with preparations. But Sabrina can’t because of family obligations, which provides the cue for Libby to swoop in, wearing too many zippers, and offer to help Harvey.
Geoffrey: That is one fashion trend from the 90s I never really got. What on earth did we need with soooo many zippers on things? I think I had a Performance Fleece Pull Over from Old Navy that had a zipper pocket on both forearms, two zipper pockets and a zipper neck. WHY DID ONE PERFORMANCE FLEECE PULL OVER FROM OLD NAVY NEED 5 ZIPPERS? I WAS 13!!!
Claudia: I know, right? My Performance Fleece Pull Overs didn’t have zipper pockets on the arms, but they definitely had too many zippers.
Back at home, Sabrina begs the Aunts to let her out of the family stuff, and tries to bargain that she’ll commit Thanksgiving to family stuff. Hilda reminds her that witches don’t like Thanksgiving because the Puritans were into that holiday. Sabrina says she doesn’t see the big deal about the holiday on which kids dress as superheroes, which causes Zelda to lecture her on the importance of remembering the dead on All Hallow’s Eve. Sabrina complains that she won’t have a good time, and Hilda agrees that family gatherings aren’t the most fun, as she gripes that Cousin Marigold keeps bragging about her married state to single Hilda. But tradition trumps all, so they all must go, although Zelda promises that if they’re finished in time, Sabrina can attend the party. Sabrina sulkily goes to her room, since if Libby is there from the beginning of the party, there’s no point for Sabrina to be present for any of it.
Geoffrey: This isn’t the first appearance of Puritans.
Claudia: The cat’s name is Salem, so I would hope so.
She starts complaining about the injustice of it all to Salem, who won’t hear any of it because he got turned into a cat. He advises that she check her spellbook for a duplication spell that would create a physically and behaviorally identical double. Salem plothole-closes that the Aunts would notice if real!Sabrina wasn’t present for the family gathering, so the double would have be the one going to Harvey’s party. Sabrina recites the spell: “Double double, toil and trouble.” Salem wryly acknowledges Shakespeare’s plagiarism. Sabrina thinks that the spell didn’t work, but Salem tells her to take a step over. In her original spot, a double appears.
Geoffrey: I love the not-so-subtle implication that Fakespeare didn’t write his own stuff. I totally support this belief.
Claudia: You too?
Geoffrey: Yes I do. If anyone wants more info, please see me privately. I also have theories on Ophelia’s death in Hamlet and Lady Macbeth’s insanity.
Salem explains that the double can’t speak until Sabrina gives her something to say, and that the double is limited to 3 sentences. Sabrina decides that her double should be a positive person, so she chooses “I’d love to.” She thinks that the double should be a good listener, so she chooses, “That is sooo true!” Finally, she thinks she needs some universal statement, so she chooses, “Mr. Pool can be sooo annoying!” Satisfied, she uses her magic to change the double’s outfit to a witch’s costume.
Sabrina and her double hide in the bushes outside of Harvey’s house. Sabrina points Double towards the door, where Libby, dressed as Jacqueline Kennedy, is ringing the doorbell. Libby unhappily says Sabrina’s not supposed to be at the party, and Double says, “That is sooo true.” Harvey, in James Dean costume, opens the door and says Sabrina looks good as a witch. Libby points out that she is dressed as “Jackie O,” and Harvey also admires her costume and asks her to fill up the bathtub with Cheez-its.
Claudia: In the dress/hair era Libby was wearing, Jackie O was still Jackie Kennedy. Also, there is some serious hair-hiding-face-The-Parent-Trap-stand-in action going on in this scene.
Geoffrey: This is probably the only time that Libby looks bad in any episode. I don’t get why they made her look like a frumpy Jackie K. Also, a bathtub full of Cheez-its seems like a pain to clean up.
Geoffrey: I think the body double for MJH might actually be a man.
Back at home, Zelda frets that they will be late for the family gathering. She says Salem looks cute in his bow-tie, and he groans that he looks like a Chippendale’s cat. Sabrina comes out of her room, wearing the same outfit she’s worn all episode. Zelda chides her for not dressing appropriately, and uses her magic to change Sabrina’s outfit to an all-pastel pink satin outfit. Sabrina says that now that Granny has passed on, she doesn’t need to wear that dress anymore. Hilda briskly walks out of her room towards the closet portal, spouting off “Let’s get this show on the road,” “Pass the potatoes,” and “Happy Halloween.” Zelda tells Hilda that the double trick won’t work, so Hilda reunifies with her double, and they all walk through the closet portal.
Claudia: Was the dress-related foreshadowing in this scene supposed to be subtle?
Geoffrey: Maybe? I mean it can be very tricky to pull of foreshadowing in a sitcom, especially one aimed at kids and young adults. And us.
They take the elevator to a venue that’s so high up that Earth can be seen from the window. Cousin Marigold runs to hug them, and compliments Hilda that her outfit always looks nice on her. Cousin Marigold asks if they have brought dates, and gets faux-weepy when they say that they are single. She turns her attention to Sabrina, who says she’s happy that she has come to live with them. Cousin Marigold comments that it is nearly like having a daughter. Cousin Marigold indicates her own daughter, Amanda, who is sitting at a “children’s table” which she will share with Sabrina. She informs the Aunts that they will sit next to her, Salem will sit with the cats, and that she must check on the consommé, as she observes that Hilda refers to it as simply “soup.”
Geoffrey: I’m with Hilda.
Claudia: And who wouldn’t be, other than pretentious people and/or legitimate foodies?
Geoffrey: Legitimate foodie and pretentious people is redundant.
Zelda walks off to talk to Uncle Nunny, while Salem scopes out Cousin Marigold’s cat, M’lady, who thinks her litter smells like roses. Sabrina joins Amanda at the kiddie table, who immediately threatens her that she’ll trap her in a jar with everyone else who wasn’t nice to her. Amanda pulls out a jar with Mr. Daughtry, her math teacher. She poses a math question: 5 air holes – 1 air hole = how many? Mr. Daughtry pleads for his life. Sabrina says her Aunts taught her not to use magic to be mean to others, and Amanda responds that her parents let her use magic freely.
Geoffrey: Cause that’s a good idea.
Meanwhile, Hilda complains about the empty seat which isolates her from the rest of the party, but Cousin Marigold says she’s saving it for her husband, who is late because he must “bring home the prosciutto.” Hilda mutters that she doesn’t know why she doesn’t call it “bacon.” Sabrina approaches their table and begs to leave immediately, but Amanda’s right behind her, demanding to braid her hair.
At Harvey’s party, a quick survey of the room shows that… every male is dressed like “James Dean.” Harvey asks Libby and Double if any of the partygoers had eaten anything. Libby replies that one had had a handful of pretzels, so Harvey refills from his comically large bulk pretzel bag. Libby wonders if the music is too loud, and Harvey says the neighbors haven’t said anything yet… just as police sirens begin to wail.
Harvey goes to see about those, so Libby walks away from the snack table. Double is on Libby’s heels with every step, so Libby tells her to scram. Undeterred, Double continues following her. Libby calls her a goody two-shoes for constantly smiling, and Double responds, “That is sooo true!” Libby says that she’d get along with Sabrina better if she’d only make fun of people. Double says, “Mr. Pool can be sooo annoying.” Libby is intrigued.
Back at the dinner, Amanda’s got a massive ice cream sundae, even though her nanny (who now resides in a jar) said that they would rot her teeth. Sabrina suggests that she find other ways to deal with others. Amanda says her (now-jarred) psychologist says the same thing. Sabrina calls her a brat under her breath, but Amanda hears her.
Salem and M’lady are enjoying their dinner. He advises that she slow her eating rate, but she says she can deal with it.
Cousin Marigold shows pictures of her husband, Harold, and herself at their villa. She recommends that everyone take their honeymoons in southern France, but that in the case of the Aunts, they shouldn’t wait to make the trip a honeymoon. Zelda defends Hilda’s single status, in that she doesn’t want to marry any of the jerks she’s dated. Cousin Marigold asks Zelda what her excuse is. Hilda steps in and says that Zelda’s focused on academics, so she doesn’t need a man. Amanda comes up to the table, holding Sabrina in a jar, explaining that Sabrina wouldn’t color with her. Cousin Marigold says that she’s being adorable, as the Aunts merely stare at Sabrina’s jar.
At the party, Libby explains to Double that she decided to go as Jackie Kennedy because she views her role at Westbridge High as being First Lady. Double concurs, “That is sooo true!” Harvey reenters the living room, worried that the party atmosphere is waning, and discovers that the onion dip is producing bubbles. As he runs off with it, Libby tries to think of a way to liven the party. She decides that somebody should streak. “I’d love to,” says Double. Libby’s legitimately surprised, then admiring.
Claudia: Admittedly, I didn’t go to parties in high school. Was streaking a thing at those?
Geoffrey: Not to my knowledge, but the parties I went to were always on school property and chaperoned. Now, in college…well, let’s just say, I got naked a lot.
Ok so this is from 1999, but it was the only good quality talking Barbie commercial available.
Geoffrey: I totally have this set. And the Emerald City playset (not featured) and two of the three Munchkins…I still need the darn Lullabye League Girl.
Libby informs Harvey that Sabrina is going to wake the party up by streaking. Harvey pulls Double aside, warning her that it will ruin her high school reputation. Double answers, “That is sooo true.” He asks why she wants to do it, then. “Mr. Pool can be sooo annoying.” He tells her not to change the subject, and asks why she is acting strangely. Unsure of how to respond, Double says, “I…That…Mr.!” Harvey says he feels alienated, and walks away mopily.
Salem’s lady friend tipsily says that only he understands her. Salem agrees, but it doesn’t mean he cares.
Sabrina, who was apparently freed off-camera, runs up to the Aunts and again asks to leave. Zelda chides her that they freed her from the jar, so she shouldn’t complain. Cousin Marigold calls for everyone’s attention so they can exchange presents. She tells Amanda to go first, and her daughter receives a solid-gold doll from her parents. The Aunts give Sabrina a gift certificate redeemable for 30 minutes spent with a deceased person of her choice. Cousin Marigold comments on the expense of this particular gift, prompting Amanda to throw a Veruca Salt tantrum, necessitating her mother dragging her away. Sabrina asks the Aunts how she should use her gift, and Zelda tells her she can use it as she chooses, but it must be used on All Hallow’s Eve. Sabrina offers the gift back to her Aunts, because she’d rather see Harvey dressed as James Dean. Hilda points out that she could use the gift certificate to meet the real James Dean. Sabrina is intrigued.
The Aunts take Sabrina into a side room, where they instruct her to write the name on the gift certificate of whoever she wants to summon, and to put the gift certificate through the mail slot in the wall. Sabrina wants to make sure that she ends up with the actual James Dean and not Sausage King Jimmy Dean. Hilda points out that Jimmy Dean is still living, but advises Sabrina to write “star of Rebel without a Cause” next to his name. Sabrina begins writing, but then she says she’s thought of someone better to summon. She slides the gift certificate through the mail slot, and the Aunts leave her to experience this alone. The lights fade in and out, then the door opens to reveal… Granny. She and Sabrina hug.
Claudia: As of 2010, Jimmy Dean’s remains are in a mausoleum shaped like a piano. I don’t even know what to think about that.
Geoffrey: Is the sausage guy still living? I used to get soooo confused by that as a kid.
Claudia: No, silly, that’s the Jimmy Dean who died in 2010 and is in a piano-shaped mausoleum. And I never made the connection before that Jimmy Dean the sausage guy = Jimmy Dean of The Jimmy Dean Show. I wonder what Miss Piggy thinks about that.
Geoffrey: Well, I notice she wasn’t at the funeral…
Back at dinner, Cousin Marigold shows off the necklace that her husband gave her. The Aunts exchange their gifts and discover that they have given each other identical butterfly scarves. Zelda says they’ve been living together for too long. As Cousin Marigold heads offscreen to deal with intoxicated M’lady, Salem shares a juicy bit of gossip with the Aunts. Inebriated M’lady told him that Cousin Marigold and Harold were divorcing.
In the side room, Sabrina is telling Granny about how things in her life are going, with living with the Aunts, with Mr. Pool being sooo annoying, and with Harvey being her current crush. Then, Sabrina turns serious and confesses to Granny that she is a witch. Granny tries to cover her shock by saying, “As long as you’re happy!”
At Harvey’s party, Libby pushes Double out the door and tells her to disrobe there. Libby calls for the partygoers’ attention, and instructs them to look outside the windows so they can see a “full moon.”
Salem delivers more Cousin Marigold gossip, as she went to southern France alone, and the “Harold” in her vacation pictures were a cardboard cutout. Sabrina returns and thanks the Aunts for the gift certificate. The Aunts say they can leave the party, finally.
Meanwhile, Cousin Marigold is reminding Amanda that she should be gracious when receiving a gift. Amanda slams her present to the ground, shattering its contents. Zelda thanks Cousin Marigold for the party, and Hilda says she hopes it wasn’t too much stress on her having to plan the party and get divorced. Zelda faux-sweetly says she’ll enjoy single life. Hilda lists the perks of singlehood: Trashy novels, Lean Cuisine, and chat rooms. Cousin Marigold bawls that she’ll turn into the Aunts. Barely pretending to care, the Aunts leave.
Geoffrey: Oh dear Lord, I’m a divorced woman.
Claudia: Me too. Which is why we’re here watching old Sabrina reruns.
Geoffrey: That said, Marigold does have a nice wardrobe.
In the elevator, Sabrina comments on the enjoyable evening. Zelda I-told-you-sos regarding family events.
At the party, Cousin Marigold says to M’lady that it surely must be better to be a divorcee than an old maid. M’lady’s tells her to shut it. Amanda demands a hamburger. Cousin Marigold says it’s a bad time. Amanda begins throwing a tantrum, so Cousin Marigold puts her in a jar. Amanda threatens to tell her father where Cousin Marigold hid the silver.
Geoffrey: That’s the best Amanda can do? What a wimp.
Back at Sabrina’s bedroom, Salem asks why she isn’t at Harvey’s. Sabrina decided to stay home and read Granny’s old letters. He reminds her that Double is still at the party. She uses her magic to transport herself outside the door.
Libby takes Double’s clothes, instructs her to streak, then runs back inside. Double is discreetly hidden by the bushes. Meanwhile, Sabrina arrives at the door, dresses herself in the witch’s costume (plus domino mask).
Sabrina asks the partygoers what they’re looking for outside the window, and a James Dean extra tells her Sabrina’s going to streak. Double streaks outside, as Sabrina looks on, shocked. Harvey expresses his disbelief, but then Sabrina takes off her hat and domino. Harvey is relieved that Libby didn’t con her into streaking. He wonders who it was outside. Flustered, Sabrina says that since Libby’s not inside, she must have been the streaker. Harvey tells everyone that Libby was the streaker. Fully clothed Libby comes back to the party and asks everyone if they enjoyed the streaker. She sees Sabrina standing there and asks her how she got back inside so fast. The partygoers just think that she’s trying to throw them off the trail. Harvey asks Sabrina to stay to help with party cleanup. She agrees, but says she must get some fresh air first. Harvey concurs with this statement, as expiration dates are dead-on. He fans the air in the general vicinity of the snacks table.
Outside, Double has put on her dress backwards, and is covered in leaves. They reintegrate, and Sabrina lets out one last “That is sooo true” before returning to the party.
In her bedroom, Sabrina tells her studio audience that she’d like to discuss “The True Meaning of Halloween.” She says it’s about family, not costumes and candy. She concludes with “The true meaning of Halloween is inside you.” Salem merely says that 1 lb of candy corn is inside him.
Claudia: Ahhh, the 90s bratty child type! Emily Hart did a pretty good job embodying this type in this episode, in spite of the blatantly blatant nepotism that resulted in her casting. I also like how this episode is chock full of special effects common to 1950s and 60s movies! Actually, come to think of it, I can recall watching a 1931 Edward Everett Horton movie that employed a The Parent Trap effect, and the effect is probably even older than that.
As for the Sabrina episode’s plot, I was glad to see Sabrina’s extended family fleshed out beyond the Aunts and Salem. I don’t know how I feel about Sabrina/Double going to the party as a witch, though. It seems like it’s a bit too cutesy of a thing to do. Since the costuming theme seemed to be 1950s/1960s pop culture, if she must go as a witch, why not Samantha Stevens?
Geoffrey: Ahhh, the first appearance of Emily Hart as the bratty cousin! If it wasn’t for the blatant nepotism, I’d probably be more entertained by her. For me the aunts once again steal the episode. Hilda and Zelda are where it’s at yo.
For some bizarre reason, Jenny was missing from this episode. Given her kooky nature, you’d have thought she’d be involved in Halloween…however that would have made it too weird that nobody realized Double was not actually Sabrina.
Halloween episodes on the first three episodes of Sabrina are quite the treat, and I can’t wait for the next two, and wish they were now. Particularly Season 3 when we get a Laugh-In reunion (in keeping with the 1960s pop culture theme). That said, had she gone as Samantha Stevens, she would have been forced to have her Double say who she was, thus removing one of the three vital phrase she learned.
Overall, a fun episode. Stay tuned for our next one 🙂