The Scooby Gang discusses plans for Buffy's birthday and dealing with Glory. Giles tells everyone of the new information they have regarding Glory that the council has provided; she was a hellgod from one of the darker demon dimensions who has somehow found her way into ours. While she is immortal and apparently invulnerable, she is also mostly insane due to being stuck in human form, and needs to suck mental energy from humans, explaining the sudden increase in Sunnydale's mentally ill population. Xander suggests that they try hunting down the Key that Glory is looking for, but as the gang start to discuss this plan Buffy and Giles admit they know where the Key is. Xander and Willow are hurt that information was kept from them, and Buffy decides to tell the gang the truth about Dawn, reasoning that they deserve to know the full story, as their lives will be on the line. Several of the Knights of Byzantium chant around a fire before they are interrupted by Jinx, one of Glory's minions. Glory arrives and kills all of the Knights except Orlando, whom she later tortures for information.
At the Magic Box, everyone is awkward around Dawn given their new knowledge of her origins, which she picks up on. Giles hides a book in a hidden counter drawer, which Dawn also notices. Later, at a gathering for her birthday, Buffy opens presents from her friends. Dawn gives Buffy a photo from a vacation they took to the beach with their dad. As Dawn talks about the vacation, everyone goes quiet picking up on Buffy's sadness, knowing that the vacation is just another false memory. Nevertheless, Buffy is still touched by the thoughtful gift and hugs her sister close. Later, Dawn overhears Buffy, Giles and Joyce talking about her in the kitchen, discussing if her existence poses any kind of danger. When Xander and Anya go quiet when Dawn approaches, she finally lays into everyone for their constant secrecy around her before running to her room.
After sneaking out of the house, Dawn runs into Spike, who was keeping his typical watch outside Buffy's house. After a brief conversation, Dawn tells Spike that she is on her way to the Magic Shop to steal a book. Spike notes the myriad dangers of roaming around alone at night, and then he accepts Dawn's offer to let him tag along. With Spike's assistance, Dawn breaks into the shop and finds the book that she had seen Giles hide earlier. Reading Giles's entries about the Key, she reads that it is outside human perception and can only be seen by psychics and mad-men, causing her to remember being confronted about not being real by crazy people. Although Dawn gets a really bad feeling, she nevertheless keeps reading and finds out that the Key can also be seen by snakes and dogs, and she remembers how Glory's snake seemed to have a special interest in her. Dawn has already realized the truth as Spike takes over the reading and confirms what it now obvious to her—the monks, seeking to make sure the Slayer would protect the Key no matter what, sent it to her transformed into a sister. Spike is surprised, as Dawn's world starts to crumble.
As the gang discuss the fact that Riley hasn't sent so much as a message to Buffy for her birthday, Dawn suddenly emerges, bleeding from a self-inflicted knife wound, tearfully questioning what she is. Buffy and Joyce are horrified that Dawn has found out the truth. The party is brought to an abrupt end and everyone else leaves so they can try to talk to Dawn, but everything has changed for her and she's scared, so she demands that they leave her alone.
The next day at the Magic Box, Buffy walks in demanding from Giles all the information there is about the Key so she can give Dawn some answers. Anya notices some cigarette butts in an urn, and Buffy realizes that Spike had a hand in Dawn finding out the truth the way she did and storms to his crypt, ready to beat the living snot out of him. However, Spike turns the tables on her and blames her for not telling Dawn the truth in the first place. He also notes that Dawn was going with or without him, and that he only went along to protect her from harm, thinking that she would be safer with "Big Bad" looking over her shoulder. Now Buffy is only going after him to make herself feel better. Sensing the truth in Spike's words, Buffy leaves.
At the Summers house, Dawn initially refuses to go to school but when Joyce tries to be there for her daughter, Dawn refuses and decides to head to school anyway.
Jinx threatens Ben at the hospital, but Ben responds that Glory can't hurt him, no matter what he does. Joyce talks to Buffy later, telling her that Dawn got herself suspended from school. Buffy explains that as far as Dawn's concerned she's not real and nothing she does matters. Dawn overhears them and misunderstands the conversation as the two agreeing she's not really their family. She then rampages through her room, burns her diaries, and runs away. The smoke alarm alerts Buffy and her mom to Dawn's little fire and departure.
The gang gathers at the Magic Box and then splits up to search for Dawn. Spike does what he can to comfort Buffy, and tells her that they will find her sister before it's too late. Buffy then admits that Spike had been right about Dawn—Buffy should have been honest with her in the first place. Dawn passes through the park, reliving past memories only to be reminded of their falseness, then ends up at the hospital.
She searches for answers in the Psych ward, trying to persuade the mental patients to tell them what they see when they look at her, then runs into Ben. She blurts out to Ben that she's the Key and he freaks out, trying to make her leave before Glory can find her, but it's too late. Ben suddenly changes into Glory, but Glory remembers nothing about Ben's conversation with Dawn, and the young girl pretends to know nothing. Dawn questions Glory about the Key, trying to get more information, and Glory reveals that the Key is very old, then realizes Dawn knows nothing and is wasting her time. Dawn doesn't seem to remember exactly how Glory got into the room.
Buffy shows up in time to stop Glory from draining the energy from Dawn. With some help from the rest of the gang, Buffy gets in a few good hits and takes a few as well before Willow and Tara perform a spell to teleport Glory somewhere else. The godly one ends up high in the sky and falls straight to earth. Buffy shows Dawn that no matter what, they are sisters and bound by blood. Dawn tries to tell Buffy that Ben turned into Glory, but can't seem to recall the information correctly, thinking that Ben was there then left before Glory arrived. The two sisters then head the home, their relationship slowly returning to normal.
Tropes in this episode include:
- Abandoned Playground: Dawn walks through a playground at night and has a memory of Buffy pushing her on a swing.
- All Women Love Shoes: Buffy goes to kick Glory in the face. Glory grabs her ankle and compliments Buffy on her shoes.
- And Your Little Dog, Too!: Glory decides to make good on her threat to Buffy from last episode, and is about to brain-suck Dawn to send her a message; thankfully, Buffy and the Scoobies show up at that very moment.
- Anger Montage: Dawn trashes her room and destroys her diaries.
- Badass Boast:
- When the Knights of Byzantium invoke the will of God, Jinx dismisses Him out of hand.Jinx: I fear your faith is gravely misplaced.
- and then...Orlando: Shall we test your faith now?
- Both subverted when Orlando defeats Jinx and prepares to deliver the killing blow, only to be stopped by Glory.
- When the Knights of Byzantium invoke the will of God, Jinx dismisses Him out of hand.
- Badass Decay: Lampshaded In-Universe.Spike: [leans closer to her, speaks menacingly] Shouldn't you be tucked away in your beddy-bye? All warm and safe where nothing can eat you?
Dawn: [giggles] Is that supposed to scare me?
Spike: [sighs, leans back] Little tremble wouldn't hurt.
Dawn: Sorry, it's just... come on. I'm badder than you.
- Bait-and-Switch Comment: Dawn is trying to string Glory along to find out more about her nature as the Key.Glory: You know what I'm starting to think? I'm thinking that maybe you... [Dawn looks very apprehensive] don't have any idea where my Key is.
- Bare-Handed Blade Block: Glory grabs a sword just as it's about to be stabbed into Jinx.
- Blood Sisters: When Dawn insists she's not Buffy's sister, Buffy takes blood from her shoulder wound, presses it to Dawn's bleeding hand and declares that "Summers blood" runs through their veins. Not a literal version of this trope, but affirming a link that already exists.
- Buffy Speak
- Casual Kink: Anya and Xander's sexual roleplay involves firemen and shepherds.
- Chocolate of Romance: Spike brings a box of chocolates for Buffy's birthday, but Dawn derides the gift as lame and ends up eating them herself, pointing out that big sis would never accept a gift from Spike anyway.
- Comfort Food: Ben fetches a cup of chocolate goodness for Dawn after finding her at the hospital.
- Continuity Nod: Spike's birthday gift for Buffy is the box of chocolates he crumpled in "Triangle", and he tries playing around with the troll hammer.
- "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: As Spike points out to Buffy, if she had just told Dawn the truth in the first place, the entire mess that occurs in this episode could have been avoided. Buffy even admits he's right.
- Curse Cut Short: When she's teleported into mid-air above Sunnydale, Glory has time to say "Oh sh—" before gravity beats godhood.
- Description Cut: Dawn teases Buffy that she should have defeated Glory; "She didn't look that tough." Cut to Glory torturing her prisoner.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Dawn's angst over discovering she's the Key is played similar to a child finding out they were adopted.
- Elephant in the Living Room: The Scoobies aren't good at acting normal around Dawn once they know she's the Key.
- Enter Stage Window: Dawn climbs down the trellis after supposedly storming off to her room in a huff.
- Exact Eavesdropping: Dawn runs off when she hears Buffy say she isn't real. Security guards rush past discussing the man Glory murdered, letting Buffy know Glory is in the hospital.
- Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Dawn breaks into the Magic Box at night with Spike in an attempt to figure out what the Key that Buffy and the rest of the Scooby Gang have been talking about is. Reading Giles' journal, she starts to realize that all of the signs of the Key correspond to things that she's experienced in the last few months... even before she gets to the part explicitly stating that the Key's makers gave it the form of a sister for the Slayer. Cue Heroic BSoD.
- Exact WordsBuffy: How was school today?
Dawn: Um, the usual. Big square building filled with boredom and despair.
Buffy: Just how I remember it.
- False Memories: Dawn gives Buffy a photograph of when the two of them went to the beach. Before she came into existence. Cue awkward silence from the Scoobies.
- Fate Worse than Death: Orlando says he'll die a thousand deaths before telling Glory anything.Glory: Well, you won't need a thousand, sweetie. I'll make the first one last. Long time. [sucks out his mind]
- Foe Romance Subtext: Glory has loads of this with Orlando and Dawn.
- Tara is alarmed over the idea of Glory draining someone's mind.
- Spike offers a sympathetic ear when Buffy is blaming herself for Dawn running away, pre-empting his role as Buffy's confidant at the beginning of Season 6.
- Dawn steals for the first time; her kleptomania becomes a serious problem in Season 6.
- Buffy telling Dawn that they share the same blood. This becomes important in the Season Finale.
- The troll hammer is also used in the season finale, hence the reminder to the audience that it's there.
- Flashback Cut: Dawn starts remembering all the odd events with mental patients, Crazy Homeless People, and giant snake-demons while Spike is reading out what kind of people/creatures can detect the Key.
- Flash Step: Dawn turns her head away from Glory (who's standing across the room) then jumps as Glory is suddenly in front of her.
- Flipping the Table: Spike does this with the stone lid of his sarcophagus while arguing with Buffy.
- Friendly Tickle Torture: Xander playfully tickles Dawn's stomach when trying to act "normal" around her.
- Get-Out-Get-Out-GET OUT!
- Girls Love Stuffed Animals: Dawn has a bed full of them after finding out the truth.
- Glamor Failure: People "outside reality" (seers and the insane) see the Key's true nature.
- He Is Not My Boyfriend: And it won't be the last time Buffy will deny this about Spike.Glory: When he wakes up, tell your boyfriend to watch his mouth.
Buffy: He is NOT my boyfriend!
- Heroic BSoD: Poor Dawn.
- Holding Hands: Buffy and Dawn at the end.
- Homoerotic Subtext: Glory changing in front of Dawn, playing with her hair, accusing her of "trying to get a peek at [my] unmentionables?"
- Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: It's Buffy's birthday again. Violence ensues.
- Immune to Bullets: Giles' crossbow bolt just bounces off Glory's stomach.
- Ineffectual Death Threat: Jinx passes on a threat from Glory, but Ben points out that Glory can't harm him without harming herself.
- Internal Reveal: Dawn finally discovers she's the Key.
- It's All About Me: A subtle, quick example; when laying into Spike for letting Dawn find out that she was the key from the book in the magic store, Buffy accuses Spike of helping her just because he hates and wanted to hurt Buffy herself rather than bringing up the effects it had on Dawn.
- Jekyll & Hyde: Ben and Glory.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Spike gets such a moment when Buffy storms into his crypt, furious that he played a part in Dawn finding out she's the Key. Spike quickly turns the tables on her, correctly pointing out that no one bothered to inform him of Dawn's true identity, that Dawn would have snuck into the Magic Box anyway and he honestly felt she would be safer with him looking over her shoulder. He finishes up by telling Buffy point-blank that if she had simply told Dawn the truth in the first place, none of this would be happening and the only reason she is picking a fight with him now is to feel better about her own mistakes. Buffy later admits he's right.Buffy: How could you let her find out like that?! From books and papers?! You hate me that much?!Spike: I was just along for the ride. Not like I knew she was mystical glowy key thing, nobody keeps me in the bloody loop, do they?!Buffy: You could have stopped her.Spike: [laughing humorlessly] Oh, yeah. Here it comes. Something goes wrong in your life, blame Spike. [furious] Newsflash, Blondie! If kid sis wants to grab a midnight stroll, she'll find a way sooner or later. I just thought she'd be safer with Big Bad lookin' over her shoulder.Buffy: She shouldn't have found out like that.Spike: You didn't think you could keep the truth from her forever, did you?! Maybe if you had been more honest with her in the first place, you wouldn't be trying to make yourself feel better with a round of "Kick The Spike"!
- Killed Off for Real: Dreg is cut down by the Knights of Byzantium before Glory intervenes, and Jinx takes his place as chief minion.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: Dawn doesn't remember that Ben is Glory. We later discover this is due to a spell.
- The first moment after the change from Ben to Glory, Dawn comments on it: "You´re Ben!" to which Glory replies: "It´s a little more complicated than that." Then the amnesia sets in - a subtle giveaway that Dawn is not entirely human (Spike, being a vampire, sees through it later without any amnesia at all).
- Locked Out of the Loop: Spike brings this up when Buffy storms into his crypt, pointing out that nobody bothered to inform him Dawn was the Key.
- Madness Mantra: The Knights' prayer becomes this once Orlando goes mad.
- Make an Example of Them: Glory decides to kill Dawn, following up her threat to Buffy in "Checkpoint".
- Major Injury Underreaction: Xander whacks Glory over the head with a crowbar, causing her to gripe, "Hey! Watch the hair!"
- Neck Snap: Glory kills a security guard who walks in on her and Dawn.Glory: Rude! I was talking!
- Never My Fault: Buffy's immediate reaction upon finding out that Spike helped Dawn break into the Magic Box is to storm off to his crypt and start to beat the crap out of him, blaming him for Dawn finding out about being the Key in the worst possible way. However, Spike quickly turns the tables on her, pointing out that not only did he not know that Dawn was the Key before then, but Buffy was the one who kept it from her in the first place. When Dawn later runs away, Buffy admits that he was right and the whole mess is her fault.
- The Nicknamer: The Knights of Hack and Slash.
- No-Sell: Ben throws back Jinx's demand that he help Glory find the Key back in his and her faces, pointing out there is nothing Glory can do to make him.Jinx: If you persist in your defiance, she'll be forced to-
- Oblivious Mockery: Dawn asks Glory if the Key is evil. She replies, "Totally! Well, it depends on your point of view."
- Oh, Crap!: Ben when Dawn reveals she's the Key. He begs her to run, only to morph into Glory. He also has a brief one when he sees Orlando in the mental wing and realises the Knights of Byzantium have shown up in Sunnydale.
- Tara and then the entire Scoobies reaction to seeing Dawn with a self-inflicted knife wound, freaked out by the discovery she's the Key.
- Percussive Therapy / The Scapegoat: Kick the Spike.
- Pet the Dog: Spike, of all people, does this to Buffy when she blames herself for Dawn running away.Buffy: (quietly, staring at the ground) You were right. (Spike looks surprised) This is my fault. I should have told her.
Spike: (sighs) Look, she probably would have skipped off anyway, even if she never found out. She's not just a blob of energy, she's also a fourteen-year-old hormone bomb. Which one's screwing her up more right now, spin the bloody wheel. You'll find her, just in the nick of time. That's what you hero types do.(Buffy looks at Spike with a degree of uncertainty on her face.)Spike: (firmly) You'll find her.
- Poor Communication Kills:
- Lampshaded by Spike, who points out that it's Buffy's fault—not his—that Dawn found out about being the Key in the worse possible way.
- Subverted when Buffy and Giles decide to tell the Scoobies that Dawn is the Key because otherwise they'll risk wasting time and effort searching for it. But the Scoobies' change in behaviour gives the game away to Dawn, who hasn't been informed.
- Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: Glory is about to brain-suck Dawn to send the Slayer a message when Buffy enters.Glory: Hey, we were just talking about you.
Buffy: Conversation's over, hell-bitch.
- Psychic Nosebleed: Willow after she uses the teleportation spell.
- Real Men Wear Pink: When Buffy storms in on him, Spike is mostly annoyed that she's putting his still-wet black nail polish in danger.
- Red Shirt ArmyJinx: The Knights of Byzantium are like ants. First you see one, then two, then the picnic's ruined. No matter how many we kill, they'll keep coming... wave after wave.
- Self-Harm: After discovering the truth, Dawn cuts herself with a knife and asks the others, "Is this blood?"
- Shout-Out: One of the insane people at the hospital mumbles "what's the frequency," alluding to a real-life incident where news anchor Dan Rather was attacked by a mentally ill person.
- Spider-Sense: Glory is changing her clothes with her back to Dawn, who looks at the door, clearly thinking of making a run for it.Glory: [still with her back to Dawn] You'd never make it. I'd rip out your spine before you got half a step. And those little legs? [smiles over her shoulder at Dawn] They wouldn't be much good without one of those.
- Taking the Bullet: Glory throws a crowbar at Dawn and Buffy leaps in its path.Glory: [seeing Buffy impaled on the crowbar] Nice catch.
- Talk About That Thing: Xander trying to get Anya out of the room, as she's acting strange even for her around Dawn.Xander: Anya, you wanna help me with that thing?
Anya: Xander needs help with his thing!
- Tempting Fate: Loads in the battle with Glory at the end.Spike: I thought you said this skank was tough. [Glory beats up Spike and tosses him across the room]
Glory: [Giles' crossbow bolt bounces off Glory] Oh please! Like that's— [Xander whacks her over the head with a crowbar]
Glory: Is that the best you little crap-gnats can muster? [Willow and Tara teleport Glory several hundred feet above Sunnydale]
- The Reveal: Ben is Glory, and Glory is Ben.
- There Was a Door:
- Lampshaded when Dawn is complaining about how long Spike is taking to pick the lock of the Magic Shop; Spike says that normally he just kicks open the door.
- Buffy kicks open Dawn's door when the fire alarm goes off.
- Tomato in the Mirror: When Dawn finds out who she is.
- Toplessness from the Back: Glory changing into her red dress.
- The TripleBuffy: Glory is evil. And powerful. And in no way prettier than me.
- Walk-In Chime-InOrlando: The link will be severed. Such is the will of God.
Jinx: You really think he is going to help you?
- You're Not My Mother: Dawn, in her Heroic BSoD, says this to Joyce, who looks positively crushed from it.
- You Know What They SayWillow: Well, you know what they say: The bigger they are...
Anya: The faster they stomp you into nothing.
- You Need to Get Laid: Glory is torturing Orlando.Glory: What is it with you religious types? It's intimacy, isn't it? Oh! You're just scared of letting someone in! [circles around him, hugging him and rubbing his chest] Shh, shh, shh. It's okay. I know how difficult the first time can be.