Corona, Italy. 1418. In a castle, a young Italian man named Carlo looks at a lizard-looking demon named Moloch. Moloch promises Carlo to give him everything he wants as long as Carlo gives him his love. As Carlos promises this very thing, Moloch kills him. In a church not far, a group of priests form the sacred Circles of Kayless to trap Moloch in a book. The book is sealed in a box with the head priest expressing his hope that the box will never be opened or Moloch will walk the Earth again.
The scene cuts to present day with Buffy opening the very box the book was sealed in at the Sunnydale Library. She's told by Giles to put the book in the pile. Ms. Calendar and Giles trade jibes about the need for modern technology: Giles preferring the older fashioned method of book research whilst Ms. Calendar opts for the use of the internet. As the class leaves, Willow tries to convince Xander to stay and help her scan. He declines and as he leaves, Willow scans the book Moloch is trapped in. As she leaves, the words 'Where am I?' come up on the computer screen.
A week later, Buffy questions Willow about her skipping a few classes as this was out of Willow's character. Willow confides that she is in an online relationship with boy named Malcolm. Buffy warns Willow of the dangers of getting into relationships with people she's never met before. As she does so, Fritz, one of the class computer geeks, is instructed to keep a watch on Buffy by Moloch, who is talking to him via his computer. Ms. Calendar questions Fritz and one of his friends about the abnormal amount of time they have been spending on the computers and receives an ambigious response. Later, when Xander asks Willow if she'd like to go to the Bronze with him, she declines as she wishes to talk to Malcolm online.
Buffy accuses Xander of being jealous which he adamantly denies, stating he's just worried for Willow. The scene cuts to Fritz who says 'I'm jacked in' and scars himself with the letter M.Willow is late to her classes the following day and Buffy assumes it's because she's been up late talking to 'Malcolm'. When Buffy asks another computer classmate, Dave if he can help her find out Malcolm's real identity, he angrily blows her off. This causes Buffy to think Dave is actually Malcolm. When Buffy goes to Giles for help, he admits that he can't be much use as he finds technology intimidating. His only idea is for Buffy to follow Dave. As Buffy is following Dave around the CRD building, a security camera follows her. A message appears on a computer screen. Fritz is sat in front of it and reads 'Kill her'.
When Buffy goes back to Xander and Giles with her findings, Xander unexpectedly knows that CRD stands for Calax Research and Development, a hi-tech company which had shut down. When Xander assures Buffy that he'd know if CDR had re-opened and is therefore suspicious. They decide to break in. When Ms. Calendar interrupt them, Xander and Buffy leave. Willow becomes suspicious of Malcolm after she learns that he's aware of her expulsion from her previous school and logs out of the conversation. Back at the library, Giles and Ms Calendar's verbal sparring leads them to discover that Moloch's book is empty.
Outside of school, Dave tells Buffy that Willow wishes to speak with her in the girl's locker room as a plot to electrocute Buffy. At the last moment, he changes his mind and along with Buffy's Slayer reflexes, his warning saves her. When Moloch hears of Dave's change of heart, he begins writing Dave's suicide note on the computer and gets Fritz to kill Dave.Buffy, Xander and Giles meet up again in the library. Giles informs them of the times when demons were trapped inside books and were only set free if someone read the book. Together, they realise that Moloch has been set free into the internet; scanning being close enough to being 'read'. When Buffy tries to delete the 'Moloch' file, his face appears on the screen and tells her to stay away from Willow. It then clicks that Malcolm is actually Moloch.
Giles explains that with the demon in the internet, there's no limit to the damage it could do. They decide to get Ms Calendar's help and believe that her knowledge in technology and Giles' in demons, they can work together to re-imprison Moloch. After finding Dave's body, Buffy and Xander go to Willow's house where they discover she's been kidnapped by Fritz.At the library, Giles is surprised to learn that Ms Calendar understands the demonic side of the Hellmouth and that she identifies as a 'techno-Pagan'. Buffy and Xander rush to the CRD as they believe Moloch had Willow kidnapped. Buffy calls Giles to co-ordinate plans.Inside the CRD, Moloch's robotic body is assembled and he is happy to see Willow. Moloch kills Fritz as a demonstration of his power. Buffy and Xander break into the CRD as Giles and Ms Calendar prepare a binding spell. The binding spell doesn't complete but it's enough to bring Moloch out of the internet and trap him inside his robotic body. Moloch crashes through a wall and backhands Xander. Willow hits him with a fire extinguisher. As Moloch tries to kill Buffy, he punches through an electrical power line and dies.
The next day, Buffy, Willow and Xander joke about how the Hellmouth is screwing with their love lives and laugh about how none of them will ever find true happiness. They then look decidedly unenthusiastic about the prospect.
- Absentee Actor: Charisma Carpenter is credited, but doesn't appear.
- All According to Plan: Buffy kicks in the door. Cut to Moloch saying, "Here they come."
- Arbitrary Skepticism: Averted. Giles—worried about how he's going to convince Jenny that there are such things as demons, let alone one on the internet—finds out she already knows all about the supernatural.
- Arson, Murder, and Admiration:Robo-Moloch: Don't you see? I can give you everything! I can control the world! Right now a man in Beijing is transferring money to a Swiss bank account for a contract on his mother's life. [Beat] Good on him!
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The show pokes fun at the concept when Moloch is unleashed on the internet, the group surmises on the type of damage he can inflict:
- Xander: "He's in a computer! What can he do?"
Buffy: "You mean besides convince a perfectly nice kid to try and kill me? I don't know. How 'bout mess up all the medical equipment in the world?"
Giles: "Randomize traffic signals."
Buffy: "Access launch codes for our nuclear missiles."
Giles: "Destroy the world's economy."
Buffy: "I think I pretty much capped it with that nuclear missile thing."
Giles: "Right, yours was best."
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Who didn't think Jenny Calender was meant to be Giles' future Love Interest the moment you see them engaging in Snark-to-Snark Combat?
- Blank Book: Moloch's prison-book is blank after he escapes because he's not in it anymore.
- Carved Mark: Fritz carves an "M" in his arm while saying his madness mantra.
- Computer = Monitor: Willow becomes annoyed with "Malcolm" (aka the demon Moloch) and appears to turn off the computer just by punching the monitor's off button.
- Conspicuous Trenchcoat: When Giles suggests Buffy tail Dave, she sarcastically replies, "What, in dark glasses and a trenchcoat?" Gilligan Cut to Buffy following Dave in a trendy short trenchcoat and pink-framed sunglasses.
- Continuity Nod: To cheer up Willow, Buffy mentions that she likes a vampire and Xander brings his date with a mantis.
- The Corrupter: Moloch has this as a title because it twists the minds of mortals to serve it.
- Creator Cameo: Joss is the radio broadcaster who reads news detailing Moloch's internet doings.
- Date My Avatar: Willow setting up a date with her nice charming chat-buddy Malcolm...who is actually an incorporeal murderous demon possessing the computer system.
- Deadly Dodging: Buffy stands in front of an electrical junction box and taunts Moloch into putting his fist through it, frying himself.
- Deadly Gas: The halogen gas system used against Buffy and Xander.
- Deadpan Snarker / Historical Longevity Joke:
- Plenty of jibes at Giles being Born in the Wrong Century.Jenny: Oh, I know, our ways are strange to you, but soon you will join us in the 20th century. With three whole years to spare!
- Giles heads into the library to do some research.Giles: I'll be back in the Middle Ages.Jenny: Did you ever leave?
- Plenty of jibes at Giles being Born in the Wrong Century.
- Defensive "What?":Xander: What, I can't have information sometimes?
Giles: It's just somewhat unprecedented.
- Distant Prologue: Cortona, Italy, 1418.
- Digitized Hacker:Xander: He's in a computer! What can he [Moloch] do?Buffy: You mean besides convince a perfectly nice kid to try and kill me? I don't know. How 'bout mess up all the medical equipment in the world?Giles: Randomize traffic signals.Buffy: Access launch codes for our nuclear missiles.Giles: Destroy the world's economy.Giles: Right, yours was best.
- Electrified Bathtub: Buffy is set up to shut off the water in a locker room shower just as the puddle reaches a live wire. She is warned at the last second about the trap and jumps out just in time, with only static-frazzled hair to show for it—much to her annoyance.
- Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!:Giles: I don't know. And I don't know who could've read that book. It wasn't even in English.Buffy: Where was it?Giles: Uh, in a pile with others that were, um...uh....scanned.[Everyone looks at the computer]
- Everybody Laughs Ending: Xander and Buffy tell Willow not to be too upset that her dream guy turned out to be a demon because Xander's crush turned out to be a giant praying mantis and Buffy fell in love with Angel, who turned out to be a vampire. The three conclude that they have no chance of having a normal relationship, ever, and then start laughing...and then descend into awkward silence when they realize the sadly accurate significance of this conclusion. Cue credits.
- Everything Is Online: Moloch is scanned out of the pages of an ancient book and into a file on a school computer. For the rest of the episode, he's considered "on the web," and bad things happen around the world because of "computer error." Giles and Buffy worry that the demon's presence on the web will give him the opportunity to meddle with traffic signals, destabilize the world's economies, and launch nuclear missiles.
- Foreshadowing: See above. Buffy, Willow and Xander laugh, then look dismayed, about how it's likely none of them will ever have a happy, normal relationship. They won't.
- Funny Background Event: Much of Moloch's tampering on the internet can be found with characters being confused at what's happening in the episode, such as a student whose research on Nazi Germany was derailed because Moloch said it was an example of "well-ordered society" or criminal records being downloaded.
- Gilligan Cut:Buffy: Follow Dave? What, in dark glasses and a trench coat? Please. I can work this out myself.
(cut to Buffy dressed in a Conspicuous Trenchcoat and sunglasses, lurking behind Dave)
- Good Shepherd: In the prologue, a group of monks seal Moloch into the book. They're the reason he hasn't corrupted someone in centuries.
- Haunted Technology: The Internet has been possessed by a demon.
- HeelFace Door-Slam: After nearly having Buffy killed, Dave tells Moloch that he isn't going to be a part of his plan anymore...and is promptly murdered by Fritz.
- High-Voltage Death: Moloch tries to kill Buffy this way, only to end up self-zapped later on.
- I, Noun: "I, Robot".
- I Never Said It Was Poison: Willow realizes Malcolm is not who he says he is after he mentions Buffy had burned her old school down—something he had no reason to know.
- In a Single Bound: Buffy jumps the chain-link fence; Xander falls off it trying to climb over.
- It's a Small Net After All: Buffy consults a computer geek who informs her that anytime you have an e-mail address to start from, "you can pull up someone's profile based on their user name." Although this may have been slightly more likely to be true in 1997 than it is today. Using e-mail instead of username also appears to be gaining on popularity (with or without another screen name). The Internet changes fast.
- It Won't Turn Off: Willow's computer monitor because Moloch won't let it.
- Killer Robot: When Moloch becomes confined to his robot body, he is not pleased.
- Kubrick Stare: Fritz has this often because he's a nut and Moloch's brute.
- Last-Second Word Swap: "You're a computer geek...genius."
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall:Buffy: He's gone binary on us.
Xander: Okay, for those of us in our studio audience who are me—you guys are saying that Moloch is in this computer?
- Literary Allusion Title: To I, Robot on the one hand and to Tarzan on the other.
- Madness Mantra: Fritz's loonyness can be seen by him repeating "I'm jacked in. I'm jacked in. I'm jacked in."
- Make It Look Like an Accident: When Dave won't go through with Buffy's murder, Moloch prints out a suicide note and has Fritz kill him. Buffy finds him hanging from the roof of the computer lab with the note attached to his chest.
- Mailer Daemon: Moloch uses the internet's chat rooms to bring Willow over to his side.
- More Than Mind Control: Technically speaking, Moloch doesn't use magical mind control—he uses a mundane variety based on a twisted notion of "love".
- Mother Nature, Father Science: Inverted with Giles and Miss Calendar the techno-pagan, if paper books count as "nature".
- Neck Snap: Moloch's modus operandi when killing people.
- Never Suicide: Moloch sends Dave's parents a fake suicide e-mail to deflect any suspicions after Fritz kills him.
- New Media Are Evil: Played with. On one hand, Giles doesn't like computers and Jenny goes to great lengths to convince him otherwise. There's nothing dangerous about the internet per se except that a demon has possessed it.
- Post-Modern Magik: Techno-pagan.Jenny: You think the realm of the mystical is limited to ancient texts and relics? That bad old science made the magic go away? The divine exists in cyberspace same as out here.
Giles: Are you a witch?
Jenny: Mm. I don't have that kinda power. "Techno-pagan" is the term.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: Moloch the murderous demon has these in both his true form and robot form.
- Remote Body: Before the spell is cast, Moloch is not truly in the robot form but in the internet as a whole.
- Rewriting Reality: Jenny types in the evocation that Giles is reading aloud.
- Saintly Church: The prologue includes a group of heroic monks sealing Moloch into a book, thus keeping the world safe from him for hundreds of years.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: in a book, in this case. The monks had a lot more of those on hand when sealing Moloch.
- Self-Harm: Fritz carves an "M" for Moloch into his arm out of devotion/obsession.
- Sinister Surveillance: By possessing the internet, Moloch can survey all over the world.
- Speak of the Devil: Moloch appears when spoken of; scanning him also applies.
- Spot of Tea: Giles' cure-all for recovering from near-electrocution is tea.
- Spider-Sense: Lampshaded.Buffy: I can just tell something's wrong—my spider sense is tingling.
Giles: Your spider sense?
Buffy: Pop culture reference...sorry.
- Skyward Scream: Moloch when he's originally bound into the book.
- There Was a Door: Robo-Moloch doesn't care about doors.
- Took a Level in Badass: Both Xander and Willow get physical in this episode; Xander even lampshades it.Xander: Hey! I got to hit someone!
- Who Are You?: Giles, re: Ms. Calender's blasé response to the supernatural."You don't seem particularly surprised by...who are you?"
- You Have Failed Me: Moloch has Fritz kill him because Dave refuses to kill Buffy. He later kills Fritz after he stops being relevant, just to experience what it's like to kill again.
- You Watch Too Much X: When Giles suggests they upload a Computer Virus.