Xander: That's it! I am way past through with you! Hate to break it to you, O Impotent One, but you're not the Big Bad any more. You're not even the Kinda Naughty! You're nothing but a waste of space. My space! And as much as I always got a big laugh watching Buffy kick your shiny, white bum, and as much as I know I can give you a little bum-kicking myself right now, I'm here to tell you something... You're not even worth it.
Buffy and Riley finally talk. As much as Riley wants to tell Buffy who he really is, he can't, but Buffy is able to guess based on the evidence of the past several weeks. Riley is amazed by her talents and abilities, but when she confesses that she's the Slayer, he doesn't know what that is. An earthquake hits; though mild, the memory of the last earthquake in Sunnydale (which was a portent of her death) disturbs Buffy.
As Xander cleans up some of the earthquake damage, he informs Spike that if he's going to live there, he'll have to do some of the housework. Spike gets angry and tries to hit Xander over the head with a wrench while his back is turned, but has to stop due to the pain in his head. Willow checks in with Buffy and informs her of the aftershock party that is taking place in one of the dorm buildings that lost power. Buffy goes to Giles, fearing that the world is going to come to an end, but he dismisses her ideas, telling her that earthquakes are a normal Southern California occurrence. He then changes the subject to tracking down the commandos, telling Buffy that based on their information it seems that the base is below UC Sunnydale and that other students may be involved. Buffy gets very uncomfortable with the topic and tries to discuss the earthquake more, but Giles once again shrugs off her concerns.
Riley pumps Forrest for information on the Slayer, which Forrest thinks is just a myth that monsters made up. In fact, the demons themselves are explained away as being simple animals. A demon goes berserk and attacks Riley and Forrest. They manage to subdue it and wonder at the strange activity their demonic captives have been exhibiting since the earthquake.
At the party, Willow sees Percy, whom she tutored in high school. The girl he is with, Laurie, has a problem with Willow talking to Percy and suggests that they go somewhere else. Meanwhile, a guy mixing drinks in one of the dorm rooms has his throat slit by a large demon. Later, Willow overhears a conversation between Percy and Laurie where Percy calls Willow "captain of the nerd squad" to soothe his girl. Depressed, Willow goes into one of the dorm rooms to lie on a bed, but when the lights come back on, she finds herself next to the body that was mutilated by the demon, who has carved onto the dead boy's chest a pyramid with an eye in the center.
Xander finds Spike wearing Xander's Hawaiian shirt and shorts because he shrunk his own clothes. When Spike tries to get temperamental, Xander quickly loses his temper and tears Spike down verbally, harshly telling him that no one is scared of him anymore and that he's not even worth the effort to pummel, before simply walking away.
Riley shoots baskets with Forrest and broods about Buffy when Graham walks in and tells them about the murder. Riley orders the others to report to Professor Walsh, while he checks the situation out himself.
Willow fills everyone in about the body she found, and about Percy talking bad about her. After she shows everyone the symbol carved into the student's chest, Giles says it is definitely the end of the world again. Buffy hunts down this demon, and finds it at a mausoleum where it's collecting the bones of a small child. She fights with the demon, but it escapes and she runs into Riley. He tries to talk to her, to convince her to give a relationship between them a chance, but because of all the pain in her past, and the problems she's certain it would cause, she tells him no.
Research leads them to find that the demon needs the blood of a man, the bones of a child, and the Word of Valios to perform a ritual called the Sacrifice of Three, which will destroy the world. Riley talks to his team and sends them out to find and kill the demon. Fed up with his pathetic life, Spike tries to kill himself by falling on a stake, but Willow and Xander walk in, distracting him and making him miss the stake. Pitying him, Willow insists that they take him along, and Xander reluctantly agrees, if only to keep Spike from trashing his room any further. Spike, however, is ecstatic over the news that another apocalypse is coming.
Out on patrol, Buffy runs into Riley again and Riley resumes their earlier conversation. He tells Buffy that she needs to be more positive, to not look for the bad in the situation. He tells her he doesn't care about her past and begs her to just take a chance on him, but she continues to refuse. Meanwhile, at the library, Willow and Xander search for the Word of Valios, while an unappreciative Spike cheers himself up by verbally tearing them down, taunting them over Xander's lack of direction and Willow's inability to get Oz to stay, as well as their seeming uselessness to Buffy, insisting that they are merely "groupies" whom Buffy doesn't have the heart to turn away and that Buffy would be a much better Slayer without constantly having to watch out for them. Though Willow and Xander protest his words as being untrue, it's clear that Spike struck a nerve.
Giles discovers that the Word of Valios is actually a talisman that he has in his possession. The demons, however, have already made their way into his apartment and beat him up badly before taking the talisman. The gang find Giles and then head off to the high school after he informs them that the ritual is to open the Hellmouth.
The gang head back to Sunnydale High School, now nothing more than a burnt-out shell. After walking through the black corridors (and stepping around piles of charred "Mayor meat"), the gang makes it to the crater that used to be the library where three demons are performing the ritual. A fight breaks out, and then one of the demons jumps into the Hellmouth, revealing that the demons themselves are the sacrifice for the ritual.
Another demon attacks Spike, and after several hits, he finally hits back. There's no pain in his head, and he realizes he can hurt demons. Ecstatic over this revelation, Spike promptly beats the demon senseless and, caught up in the excitement, throws it into the Hellmouth before being knocked out by falling debris. While the rest of the gang escape the soon-to-be-falling building, Riley shows up to help Buffy fight. The third demon makes its way into the Hellmouth and Buffy goes in after it. Thanks to a cable and hook Riley attached to her belt, Buffy is pulled out of the Hellmouth along with the third demon. The world is saved again.
Afterwards, Riley tries to keep up his secret identity, but Buffy's friends pretty much know who he is by his clothes, while Spike conceals his identity by posing as a "friend of Xander's" with a bad American accent. The next day, Buffy goes to Riley's dorm, where he says how upset he is at himself for allowing her and her friends to find out about him. Telling him that everything will be okay, she kisses him.
Back at Xander's basement, Spike, eager for another brawl, tries to convince Willow and Xander to go out demon hunting rather than sit and watch television, but they are too disturbed by his overly-excited attitude.
Tropes in this episode:
- All Myths Are True (In-Universe): Forrest mocks Riley when he asks about the Slayer, saying she's just the demon version of the bogeyman.
- All Is Well That Ends Well: After Buffy and Riley work together to stop the apocalypse, Buffy decides their relationship might not be doomed after all.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:Willow: There was so much blood. And there was a symbol [carved into his chest]. And Percy said I was a nerd!Buffy: Percy said you were a nerd!?
- Bait-and-Switch Comment: After Spike tries and fails to stake himself due to Xander and Willow's timely interruption, Xander angrily takes the stake away from him, saying that they've shared a lot, and that Spike should have trusted him... to do it for him.
- Bedmate Reveal: Willow, suffering a hit to her self-esteem, finds a quiet room during a blackout to lie down in. The lights come back on to reveal a corpse in bed next to her.
- Blood Knight/"Join the Army", They Said: Riley Finn (apparently a Special Forces soldier) says, referring to demon-hunting, "It's not just a job—" Buffy interrupted: "Right, it's an adventure." (That's actually the Navy's slogan, but I doubt Buffy bothers to discriminate.) Riley doesn't deny that he thinks that way.
- Broken Bird:Riley: I dont know whats happened in your past—
- Buffy Speak:
- Even covert ops soldiers use it, with Riley impressed with the "flippy-thing" Buffy did.
- Buffy describes mausoleums as a "big cereal boxes of death".
- Classified Information: Riley says he can't tell Buffy anything more than she already knows about him. Buffy then lists all the information she's found out about the Initiative so far, leaving Riley rather disturbed.
- Code Name: Buffy is bemused to find that Riley's callsign is Lilac One.
- Continuity Nod: Angel and Faith are both referred to (though not by name) when Buffy is trying to explain why she doesn't want a relationship with someone in the demon-hunting business. Percy mentions how Willow used to tutor him in Sunnydale High. The Scoobies visit the ruins of Sunnydale High library and find themselves stepping on "Mayor meat"—the remains of last year's Ascended Big Bad.
- Crush. Kill. Destroy!: Not recognizing the Signs of the End Times, Riley briefs his team that the demon appears to be "on a basic crush-kill-destroy" pattern.
- Despair Event Horizon: Spike's badass clothes shrink in the laundry and he can't threaten anyone, even Xander.Spike: I mean, am I even remotely scary any more?
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Played Straight with Spike, who was rendered unable to hurt humans due to the chip in his head and was on the verge of suicide. When Willow and Xander bring him along to stop him from staking himself, Spike manages to cheer himself up by taunting and insulting them, stating that they are "even more useless than he is" and he doesn't want their pity.
- Double-Meaning Title/Doomy Dooms of Doom: a) Buffy and Riley's budding relationship may be doomed, and b) the world may soon be doomed.
- Down on the Farm: Buffy naturally assumes Riley's Iowa farm boy image is a front. Riley says it's actually true, and it's not like Buffy hasn't been hiding things.
- Driven to Suicide: Spike tries to spike himself. He misses.Spike: Good bye, Dru. See You in Hell.
- The End of the World as We Know It: Apocalypse of the Week
- Entertainingly Wrong: Spike's speech about Xander and Willow being even more useless than him can ring particularly hollow for viewers after "The Wish" showed just how worse off she was without their influence.
- Evil Is Petty: After nearly staking himself, Willow and Xander take him along out of pity. Spike doesn't want their pity and gives them a The Reason You Suck Speech, showing he can still inflict damage even with the chip in his head, and smirks evilly to himself once his back is turned.
- Famed In-Story: Averted; even though he's in the demon-fighting business, Riley hasn't even heard of the Slayer. When he asks Forrest, he's told that she's a myth; the demon-equivalent of the Bogeyman.
- The First Cut Is the Deepest: Riley doesn't believe It's Not You, It's My Enemies is the only reason Buffy is backing off from their relationship. "I'm sure that there's some good looking guy that done you wrong in there, too."
- Foreshadowing: Riley calling Buffy a fry cook. When he meets her in Season 6, that exactly what she's doing.
- Funny Background Event: Spike trying to Wrench Whack Xander—he keels over in pain without Xander even noticing.
- Grail in the Garbage: Giles once bought a magical talisman from a sorcerer, convinced it was a knock-off. Not only is it real, but it's also used as part of the demons' apocalyptic ritual.
- He's Back: Spike's sudden outburst of enthusiasm for "fighting the good fight" after he realizes that the implanted behavioral modification chip doesn't punish him for killing demons.Spike: That's right! I'm back, and I'm a BLOODY ANIMAL!
- How's Your British Accent?: Spike puts on an unconvincing American accent when he thinks Riley might know who he is. When you add the later reveal that as a human Spike was an Upper-Class Twit, we're watching an American actor pretending to be an upper-class Brit pretending to be a punk pretending to be American.
- Human Sacrifice: Subverted; the demons sacrifice themselves to open the Hellmouth.
- Hypocrite: Buffy is extremely angry when she starts talking to Riley, apparently convinced everything he's told her is a lie. Riley immediately counters she's been lying too.
- Immediate Sequel: The plot continues on from the end of "Hush" with Buffy and Riley's conversation in her dorm.
- Internal Reveal: Continuing immediately where Hush left off, Buffy and Riley discuss their encounter from the previous night. She spells out what she knows about the Initiative (which freaks Riley out, she knows so much), then that she's the Slayer (which leaves him mystified).
- Interrupted Suicide: Xander gets fed up with Spike and gives him a blistering The Reason You Suck Speech, pointing out how pathetic he is now that he can't fight anyone. This prompts Spike to give up and try to stake himself, but Willow and Xander return to the basement just in time to break his concentration and cause him to miss the stake he was trying to throw himself on.
- Ironic Juxtaposition: The Contrast Montage between the Scoobies' poetic description of the demon to Riley's Spock Speak Mission Briefing.Buffy: [reading] Limbs with talons, eyes like knives, bane to the blameless, thief of lives.
[Cut to] Riley: [briefing his patrol team] Three meters tall, approximately 100120 kilograms, based on my visual analysis.
- It's Not You, It's My Enemies: Buffy is unwilling to get involved with someone in the demon-hunting business, but Riley won't take no for an answer just because Buffy is worried something might go wrong.Buffy: You don't know what my life is like.Riley: But I'm dying to find out.Buffy: Dying being the operative word here.
- It Sucks to Be the Chosen One: Lampshaded in the difference between Buffy and Riley's attitude to their work. Riley is a special forces volunteer hunting demons because he likes it, Buffy only does it Because Destiny Says So.Buffy: Do you know what a Hellmouth is? Do you have a fancy term for it? Because I went to high school on it, for three years. We do not have that much in common. This is a job to you...Riley: Its not just a job.Buffy: Its an adventure, great. But for me, its destiny. It is something that I cant change, something that I cant escape. Im stuck!
- I Warned You: When an earthquake strikes, Buffy is paranoid and convinced the world is going to end, especially since the last time an earthquake hit Sunnydale, it led to her Disney Death at the hands of the Master; when she tells Giles, however, he dismisses her concerns, reminding her that earthquakes are a common Southern California occurrence. When Willow later comes across a body with an arcane symbol carved into its chest, Giles does some research and discovers that it is indeed the end of the world again; Buffy does not let him live it down.Buffy: I told you. I-I said end of the world and youre like "poo-poo southern California, poo-poo!"Giles: I am so sorry. My contrition completely dwarfs the impending apocalypse.
- Let's Dance: Spike smirks at Xander's "Let's rock and roll" comment.
- Nice Job Breaking It Anti-Hero: Spike throws one of the demon sacrifices into the Hellmouth.
- No Sympathy: Buffy and Xander's attitude toward Spike. Xander is pissed that Spike was Driven to Suicide simply because he wanted to do it himself, and Buffy's line when they go to the high school says it all for her:Buffy: Why is he even here? It's not like he can fight.
Willow: If we leave him alone, he'll stake himself.
Buffy: And that's bad because...?
- Not So DireSpike: Don't turn around. [Scare Chord]Xander: Spike, what is it? What happened?Spike: Don't look at me.[Xander turns around to see Spike dressed like a Hawaiian-Shirted Tourist.]
- And Willow saying that it made her feel like she was back in high school. She's referring to Percy dismissing her as a nerd, not dead students.
- Not Worth Killing: While dishing out his The Reason You Suck Speech to Spike, Xander remarks that, while he knows that he could easily kick Spike's ass as a result of his Restraining Bolt, he's so pathetic right now that he's not even worth the effort.
- Oh, Crap!:Giles: Oh (as usual) dear.
- Oh, No... Not Again!Giles: It's the end of the world.Buffy, Willow, and Xander: Again?!
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Riley trying to excuse his combat greens as a paintball outfit. He moans about how stupid that was later on.
- Physical Scars, Psychological ScarsRiley: I have bruises. I don't see a scratch on you.Buffy: Youre not looking hard enough.
- The Reason You Suck Speech:
- Spike gives one to Willow and Xander.Willow: We help people. We fight the forces of evil.
Spike: Buffy fights the forces of evil. You're her groupies. She'd do just as well without you—better, I'd wager, since she wouldn't have to go around saving your hides all the time.
Xander: That is so not true! We're part of the team. She needs us.
Spike: Or you're the same tenth-grade losers you've always been, and she's too soft to cut you loose. [smirks evilly the moment his back is turned]
- No doubt revenge for an earlier one Xander gave to Spike:Xander: I hate to break it to you, oh Impotent One, but youre not the Big Bad anymore. You're not even the kinda naughty! You're nothing but a waste of space. My space! And as much as I always got a big laugh watching Buffy kick your shiny white bum, and as much as I know I could give you a little bum-kicking myself right now, I'm here to tell you something: you're not even worth it.
- Spike gives one to Willow and Xander.
- Rebuilt Set: A variation. The gang revisit the ruins of the original Sunnydale High, and although they are shown in a state of disrepair, the floor plan is recognisably the same as that from seasons 1 to 3. So, the set needed to be rebuilt... but in a trashed state.
- Rock Bottom: William the Waste of Space.
- Rousing Speech For Great Justice: Spoofed with helpless silent protestation from Xander and Willow that, after a long exhausting night of monster-slaying, Spike is blocking their view of the TV. The irony of course lies in the fact that Spike is a vampire, and used to be Buffy's enemy until this point.Spike: What's this? Sittin' around watching the telly while there's evil still afoot? It's not very industrious of you. I say we go out there and kick a little demon ass! What? Can't go without your Buffy, is that it? Too chicken? Let's find her. She is the Chosen One, after all. Come on! Vampires! Grrr! Nasty! Let's annihilate them, for justice, and for... the safety of puppies... and Christmas, right? Let's fight that evil! Let's kill something! [Credits start running] Oh, come on!
- Saying Too Much: Riley is bemoaning his big mouth with the Scoobies.Riley: I should have just given them my security code and rank!
Buffy: You have a security code and rank?
Riley: No. Did I just say...? [sinks down on the end of his bed] This is so not good. Everybody knows about me. Im finished. Its the end of the world.
- Slashed Throat: The frat party victim is killed for his Blood Magic.
- Sympathy for the Devil: Willow's attitude toward Spike, to the extent she refuses to let him stake himself. A stark contrast to Buffy and Xander, who have absolutely No Sympathy for Spike and actively enjoy taunting him; Buffy even asks Willow why Spike staking himself would be a bad thing.
- Title Drop: Buffy to Riley on their relationship. "It's just doomed. And I can't do doomed again just now."
- That Came Out Wrong:
- To Make a Long Story Short
- Twisted Echo CutGiles: Vigilance is all very good, but I feel there's a much more pressing question.[Cut to] Riley: What's a Slayer?
- What the Hell Are You?Riley: What are you?Buffy: [Death Glare] Capricorn on the cusp of Aquarius. You?Riley: Sorry. That came out a little blunter than I intended. It's just... you are amazing! Your speed, your strength...
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Hostile SubterrestrialsForrest: Theyre just animals, man, plain and simple. Granted theyre a little rarer than the ones you grew up with on that little farm in Smallville...
- The World Is Always DoomedBuffy: I've seen this somewhere before. I just can't remember where. I mean, it's like...Giles: It's the end of the world.Willow and Xander (in unison): Again?!
- Variable Terminal Velocity: A particularly egregious example where Buffy jumps into the Hellmouth after a demon and catches up to it while falling, even though Riley stops her long enough to attach a rope from his Utility Belt before she jumps in.