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Recap / Buffy the Vampire Slayer S5E19 "Tough Love"

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"Did anybody order an apocalypse?"

Directed by David Grossman

Written by Rebecca Kirshner

Following recent events, Buffy has decided to drop out of college, notifying one of her professors about the decision. Although she regrets it, she feels that she has more important priorities at the moment. Ben finds himself fired from his job at the hospital because Glory has been monopolizing the human form they share, and he has been away from his job for two weeks. Glory takes a bath while she demands that her blindfolded minions tell her everything they know about the Key. Dawn and Buffy are called into Dawn's principal's office, where Dawn's poor grades are discussed, as well as the fact that Dawn has been skipping school since their mother's death. At the Magic Box, Anya talks about patriotism, equating it with capitalism and calling window shoppers "un-American."


Buffy seeks Giles's advice about being Dawn's mother figure, then takes her sister home, attempting an authoritative role with Dawn. Glory's minions provide her with enough information to conclude who the Key is, and Glory leads the way to gather it. Tara and Willow discuss their relationship and Willow's powers as a witch, but the discussion ends up angering Willow when Tara says, "it frightens me how powerful you are becoming," and then Willow accuses Tara of fearing that Willow's lesbianism is just an experimental phase.

Buffy talks with Dawn about how Dawn's situation needs to improve in school or Buffy could possibly lose guardianship of Dawn. Depressed over her first major fight with Willow, Tara goes to a cultural fair, but finds herself sitting next to Glory on a park bench. Giles finds one of Glory's minions at the shop and questions him about Glory's plans, and the minion reveals that, as Tara is the newest member of the group, Glory believes that she is the Key. Willow goes after Tara, who is in Glory's grasp, but can't get to Tara before it's too late. Glory discovers that Tara isn't the Key, and offers to let her go if she reveals the Key's identity. Protecting Dawn, Tara refuses, and Glory drains Tara's mind of sanity.


At the hospital, doctors look after Tara while Willow plans her vengeance against the evil god. Buffy arranges for Dawn to be kept safe by Spike in some underground caves while she takes care of the issues involving Tara. Buffy seemingly manages to convince Willow to abandon her revenge plans, telling her that attacking Glory would be potentially suicidal, but Willow goes to the magic shop to gather dangerous magic supplies in preparation for her attack on Glory.

Back at the caves, Spike (heavily bruised and limping as a result of Glory's torture of him in "Intervention") and Dawn talk. Dawn tearfully blames herself for all of the harm that Glory has caused to the citizens of Sunnydale (particularly Tara and Spike), and believes herself to be evil and a "lightning rod for pain," while Spike tries to comfort her and convince her otherwise.

Buffy soon joins them, believing that she has managed to convince Willow not to attack Glory; however, a skeptical Spike tells her that an angered witch, especially one as powerful as Willow, is not so easily reasoned with, and he would have done the same thing if Glory had done that to his loved one. Dawn then asks Buffy what she would have done if she (Dawn) had been the one to get drained. Buffy realizes that the two are right and Willow is going after Glory, and quickly leaves to stop her friend from being killed by the hell-god...

At Glory's place, Willow makes an unexpected, but grand appearance, casting spells wildly, all in attempts to attack and destroy Glory. Although she causes Glory some pain (something no one else, not even Buffy, has been able to do), she is quickly defeated. Even at Glory's mercy, Willow cannot resist spitting right in the god's face in a show of pure spite, which leads to her nearly being killed. Luckily, Buffy shows up in time to stop it. Buffy and Glory battle ferociously, until one of Willow's force fields allows Willow and Buffy to escape.

The next day, Willow, Tara, Buffy, and Dawn eat, with Willow and Dawn spoon-feeding applesauce to Tara, while discussing the responsibilities that Willow and Buffy have now to 'their' girls. Glory makes a surprise appearance, tearing out an entire wall. Tara, distressed, unwittingly reveals that Dawn is the Key.

Tropes in this episode include:

  • Action Dress Rip: Glory tears off her dress after it gets sliced by a shattering mirror.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: Buffy stroking Dawn's hair. Spike starts to do this, then stops lest he be perceived as a nice guy.
  • All Men Are Perverts:
    Xander: Whatever you choose, you've got my support. Just think of me as... [nervous laugh] as your... [frowns; Buffy looks curiously at him] You know, I'm searching for supportive things, and I'm comin' up all bras...
  • Bait-and-Switch: It appears Glory has worked out Dawn is the Key, but she actually assumes it's Tara, because Tara is new to the Scoobies. It also would make sense for it be Tara because she's probably very pure of heart.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Giles and Willow both show their sinister sides.
  • Bath Kick: Glory admires her legs in her bubble bath, while her minions stand blindfolded, denied the show.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: We get the first appearance of what would turn out to be a common sight over the next two seasons, that being Willow with eyes of pain and power.
  • Buffy Speak
    Buffy: Me, the grown-up. The authority figure. The strong guiding hand and the stompy foot that is me.
  • Call-Back:
    Willow: I took Psych 101. I mean, I took it from an evil government scientist who was skewered by her Frankenstein-like creation before the final, but I know what a Freudian Slip is.
  • Cliffhanger: Glory smashes down the wall into the midst of the Scoobies, then discovers Dawn is the Key.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Sadface!Willow is upset over her first domestic quarrel. Giles seeks to comfort her by saying it's over now.
    Willow: [very upset] Over? How can it be over? I just found her!
    Giles: The quarrel is over.
    Willow: [quieter] Oh. Yeah.
  • Conflict Ball: Willow and Tara suddenly get into a fight that comes out of nowhere so Tara can conveniently go out alone to get attacked by Glory.
  • Continuity Nod: Spike is still healing from Glory's Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique of him in "Intervention," covered in bruises and limping.
  • Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind: Glory shoves Willow against the wall.
    Glory: Know what they used to do to witches? [brings up her other hand with a dagger] Crucify 'em.
    Buffy: [grabbing Glory's wrist] They used to bow down to gods. [punches her] Things change.
  • Corner of Woe: After their fight Willow sits alone on a pile of pillows in a corner of the Magic Shop. Tara sits alone on a bench at the Culture Fair.
  • Curb-Stomp Cushion: Willow joins the growing number of Scoobies (alongside Spike and Buffy) who are a credible threat to Glory, by actually causing her pain. This foreshadows the coming episodes, where Glory becomes weaker as she and Ben merge, and more of the heroes can actually fight back against her in their own ways.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Buffy begs Giles to take over the parentage of Dawn. "She needs an authority figure, someone she'll listen to." Giles responds with deliberate irony, "Yes, like you always have."
  • Defiant to the End: Glory says she'll let Tara go if Tara will just tell her the real identity of the Key. Tara very deliberately clamps her mouth shut.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Tara's sanity gets sucked out, but despite being attended to by Dawn for some time, waits until Glory punches a hole in her wall to start babbling about how Dawn's the glowing green energy girl.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Giles interrogating Slook.
  • Distinction Without a Difference:
    Tara: Do... I act like... the Big Knowledge Woman?
    Willow: [weakly] No.
    Tara: Is that "no" spelled Y-E-S?
    Willow: S-O-R-T of.
    • Buffy: It's not like I don't have a life. I do. I have Dawn's life.
  • Don't Split Us Up: Buffy is at risk of losing Dawn if the latter's grades don't improve.
  • Door Judo: Giles suddenly yanks open the door to the Magic Shop, then slams it into the face of Glory's minion Slook as he falls inside.
  • Dramatic Wind: Willow breaks the lock on Darkest Magick with an axe, and a wind instantly springs up inside the Magic Box, rapidly flipping the pages of the book.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: After Glory attacks and Mind Rapes Tara, Willow is furious and planning to take revenge on Glory, but Buffy seemingly manages to talk her down, insisting that doing so would be potentially suicidal. Later, when talking to Dawn and Spike about it, Spike, understandably skeptical, points out that an angered witch, especially one as strong as Willow, is not so easily reasoned with, and if Glory had attacked his loved one, he would have reacted the same; then Dawn asks Buffy how she would react if Glory had attacked and Mind Raped her. Cue realization on Buffy's end.
  • False Reassurance: Buffy finds Dawn has been playing hooky.
    Buffy: What about all those times I asked you how school was, and you said fine?
    Dawn: Well, it was. You didn’t ask me if I was in it when it was fine.
  • Fate Worse than Death:
    • Spike tries to comfort Dawn while they hide.
      Spike: Hey, chin up, Platelet. Don’t get scared. Maybe Glory doesn’t want to kill you. Maybe it’s something—
      Dawn: Worse?
    • Glory's description of the effect of her brain-sucking.
  • Finger-Lickin' Evil: Glory licks the blood off Tara's fingers.
  • Fingertip Drug Analysis: Glory instantly realises Tara isn't the Key when she tastes her blood.
  • Flechette Storm: Willow breaks a mirror with telekinesis and sends the shards flying at Glory. When that doesn't work, she breaks out the little black bag.
    Glory: What's this, bag of tricks?
    Willow: Bag of knives. [a dozen daggers lift out of the bag and fly at Glory]
  • Foe Romance Subtext: Glory (naturally) to Tara.
    Glory: Oh, this is nice. Just hanging out, just us girls. You like that sort of thing, don't you?
  • Foreshadowing:
    • For Dark Willow at the end of Season 6. Tara is attacked by the Big Bad, so Willow downloads the Black Magic and goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge despite Buffy's attempts to stop her.
    • Also for Season 6—Buffy does a lousy job of supervising Dawn, and tries to foist the job off on Giles.
    • For "The Gift". Buffy says taking on Glory would be like suicide, but Spike says he'd do it for someone he loved. Also counts as a Bait-and-Switch, implying that Spike will give his life for Buffy, but it's Buffy who makes the Heroic Sacrifice to save Dawn.
    • A significant one: Willow's accomplishment of causing Glory pain ends up being called upon for the final battle, with Willow briefly confronting Glory long enough to both weaken her and heal Tara.
  • Freudian Slip
    Tara: Oh, but you're way beyond me there! In just a few— I mean... it frightens me how powerful you're getting.
    Willow: [frowns] That's a weird word.
    Tara: [nervous smile] "Getting"?
    Willow: It frightens you? I frighten you?
    Tara: That is so not what I meant. I meant i-impresses... impressive.
    Willow: Well, I took Psych 101. I mean, I took it from an evil government scientist who was skewered by her Frankenstein-like creation before the final, but I know what a Freudian slip is.
  • Gayngst:
    Tara: I trust you. I just... [looks down] I don't know where I'm gonna fit in... in your life when...
    Willow: When... I change back? Yeah, this is a college thing, just a, a little experimentation before I get over the thrill and head back to boys' town. [pause] You think that?
    Tara: ... Should I?
    Willow: I'm really sorry that I didn't establish my lesbo street cred before I got into this relationship. You're the only woman I've ever fallen in love with, so... how on Earth could you ever take me seriously?
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Giles does something in the instant the girls turn away that reduces Slook to quivering terror. All we hear is a Sickening "Crunch!"
  • The Hedonist: Glory enjoys a bubblebath, with blindfolded minions holding chocolates and mimosa.
  • Incest Subtext: Especially given that a doctor earlier assumed Tara was Willow's sister.
    Willow: I have to look after her [Tara]. She's my girl.
    Buffy: [stroking Dawn's hair] I know what you mean.
  • Intertwined Fingers: Subverted—Tara has had a fight with Willow and is sitting alone on her bench when a woman entwines fingers with hers. Tara turns with a big smile... only to find herself facing Glory, who proceeds to torture her for information by crushing Tara's fingers until they bleed.
  • Is That the Best You Can Do?: Though Willow's Shock and Awe attack causes Glory some pain, she's not actually slowed down at all, and the tables quickly turn—seems that is the best Willow can do.
  • It's All My Fault: Dawn over how Tara and Spike have been injured protecting her.
    You wanna know what I'm scared of, Spike?...Me. Right now, Glory thinks Tara's the key. But I'm the key, Spike. I am. And anything that happens to 'cause of me. Your bruises, your limp...that's all me too. I'm like a lightning rod for pain and hurt. And everyone around me suffers and dies. I...must be something so cause so much pain...and evil.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique:
    • Glory puts Tara through this, crushing Tara's fingers with her bare hand until she draws blood.
    • When Slook is caught in the Magic Box, he defiantly refuses to talk. Giles asks Willow and Anya to get twine, the camera follows them, and a Sickening "Crunch!" is heard. Slook sings like a canary, with Giles answering Willow's question about what happened with a very casual, "He changed his mind." Exactly what he did is unclear.
  • Money Fetish: Anya complains about customers "undressing the merchandise with their eyeballs" without paying for it.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Willow's attack on Glory provides the clue that leads Glory right to the Key.
  • The Nicknamer: Xander greets "Dawn Giovanni and the Buffster."
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Buffy blows up at Willow when she gets giggly with Dawn instead of studying, then stands over her little sister watching her do the homework. Eventually Buffy reveals that the principal has warned that Dawn will be taken away from her if Buffy doesn't show she's a suitable guardian.
  • Oblivious Mockery: Ben is fired for not turning up for work for two weeks, a fact that Ben wasn't even aware of until then.
    Ben: There's an explanation for this. Which I can't exactly give you. I... Can I just tell you it's not my fault?
    Doctor: Sure. You can also tell me that the dog ate your homework, or maybe eating Twinkies made you do it, or... maybe yeah, that there's really a wicked demonic creature living inside you that takes control of your body and forces you to do its bidding. Take responsibility for your actions, Ben!
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Buffy's reaction when she realizes that she was wrong and Willow did go after Glory.
    • Buffy, Willow, and Dawn's reactions when Glory tears down Tara's dorm room wall—and then even more so when Tara accidentally tells Glory who the Key is.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Giles, Willow, and Anya capture one of Glory's minions and are about to interrogate him for information. Giles tells Willow and Anya to get some rope to tie him up, and the minute they turn around, the camera focuses on them, and we hear a Sickening "Crunch!" and the minion painfully and frantically agrees to tell them everything. Giles' response to their questions?
  • Parental Substitute: Averted; Giles makes it clear that taking care of Dawn is Buffy's responsibility, not his.
  • Pet the Dog: After reeling from Tara’s insanity because of Glory, Dawn confesses her guilt to Spike over all the terrible things that were happening and that she sees herself as evil. He denies this is true, comforting her by saying he wasn’t good, but he was fine. He reaches out to stroke her hair, but quickly pulls his hand away when she turns to face him.
  • Promotion to Parent: Buffy has to take over this role for Dawn, despite her desperate attempt to foist the task off onto Giles.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: I... OWE YOU PAIN!
  • Pun: The Scoobies explaining triangles to Dawn. Buffy is not in the mood to see the joke.
    Willow: So we made a triangle with our bodies, and that's when I called Xander "obtuse," and he got really grumpy and then Dawn said we were "acute" triangle, and, well, hilarity ensued.
  • Puppy-Dog Eyes: Buffy cranks them Up to Eleven with Giles, but to no effect.
  • Reality Ensues: Ben has been absent from his job as a medical intern for over two weeks. When he finally shows up at the hospital again, he doesn't have a job anymore.
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: Glory wears a red dress, then tears it off to reveal a black nightie underneath.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Willow is furious that Glory Mind Raped Tara and attacks her with everything she's got, ignoring Buffy's warnings and reminders that Glory is a Physical God and she stands no chance against her. While Willow does manage to cause Glory pain and weaken her somewhat, she ultimately goes down and is only saved from certain death when Buffy shows up Just in Time.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Willow goes all payback-y after Tara is Mind Raped.
  • Saying Too Much: An insane Tara recognizes Dawn as the Key. Right in front of Glory.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: Glory's minions flee when Willow bursts into the room with Black Eyes of Evil.
  • Shaped Like Itself: "She's messing up, I'm messing up... It's a mess."
  • Shout-Out:
So, what I think we have here is a failure for you to do your frickin' jobs!
Yeah, but not in a 'Miss Minchin's Select Seminary for Girls' way.
  • Some Kind of Force Field: "Thicken!" Willow uses a spell to slow down Glory.
  • Spiteful Spit: After all Willow's efforts to kill Glory fail, she resorts to hawking a huge glob of spittle in the face of a Physical God.
  • Supernaturally Delicious and Nutritious: After draining Tara, Glory is noticeably giddy and talks of how great that witch's mind tasted.
  • Survival Mantra: Ben feels himself start to change and begins repeating "I'm Ben! I'm Ben! I'm Ben!" over and over until he morphs.
    Glory: I'm hungry.
  • Tempting Fate: Buffy says she'll go back to college next year when she's more herself again.
  • That Came Out Wrong: Tara is being held at the psych ward overnight for observation.
    Willow: It's a whole night. I don't think I can sleep without her.
    Anya: You can sleep with me! [everyone looks at her] Well, now that came out a lot more lesbian than it sounded in my head.
  • There Was a Door: Glory enters Tara's dorm by blasting away the entire wall.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: Darkest Magick. It even has its own lock.
  • Black Bug Room: Glory describes to Tara what being Mind Raped will be like.
    Glory: Think about it. You think your hand hurts? Imagine what you'd feel with my fingers wiggling in your brain. [Tara looks very scared] It doesn't kill you. What it does... is make you feel like you're in a noisy little dark room... [Glory frowns and fidgets uncomfortably] naked and ashamed... and there are things in the dark that need to hurt you because you're bad... little pinching things that go in your ears... [Tara begins to cry] and crawl on the inside of your skull. And you know... that if the noise and the crawling would stop... that you could remember how to get out. But you never, ever will.
  • The Triple:
    • Glory re last episode: "Now, I asked for the Key, and you brought me a vampire. A pulseless, impure, follicly-fried vampire!"
    • Glory's Evil Gloating to Willow: "You think I care about all this, the apartment, the clothes? Now, sucking on your girlfriend's mind; that was something to treasure!"
  • Vehicle Vanish: Willow runs through the crowd towards Tara and Glory while trying to remember a protection spell. A Chinese dragon passes between them and Glory vanishes, leaving an insane Tara on the bench.
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend: Willow gets Wicca on Glory's ass.
  • Walk-In Chime-In: Buffy's Big Damn Heroes moment as Glory is about to kill Willow.
    Glory: You know what they used to do to witches, lover? Crucify 'em.
    Buffy: They used to bow down to gods. Things change.
  • Warrior Poet: Buffy likes poetry. Unfortunately she no longer has the time to attend her college classes on the subject.
    Professor: Well, maybe short poems.
    Buffy: Yeah! Like those Japanese ones that, um, sound like a sneeze?
  • We Will Meet Again: After Willow slows Glory down long enough for her and Buffy to escape. Glory makes good on her word and attacks the college.
    Glory: This isn't over, you hear me? IT ISN'T OVER!
  • Wham Episode: Tara has her sanity drained by Glory and Glory learns that Dawn is the Key.
  • You Taste Delicious: Subverted: Glory laps up some of the blood from Tara's maimed hand in the belief she's the Key, only to then spit it out in disgust when she realises Tara's just a human.
    Glory: You're not the Key! You're nothing! Just another worthless human!


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