Buffy trains and works on her strength with the help of Giles and some crystals. She practices a handstand on a block of wood, but falls when her sister, Dawn, knocks over the crystals. In the morning, Dawn continues annoying Buffy by emptying the milk carton. Joyce asks Buffy to take Dawn shopping for school supplies, but Riley reminds her they had already made plans. Buffy has to cancel so she can go work with Giles. Giles drives the sisters on their errands, having trouble with the automatic transmission in his new BMW convertible. They spot Willow and Tara heading for the Magic Box, and Buffy tells Willow that she's dropping Drama in favor of more Slayer training.
At the shop, the gang finds the owner dead, killed by vampires. Buffy sends Dawn outside, where she encounters a deranged man. He seems to recognize her, saying, "You don't belong here." She is upset until Tara comes to keep her company.
The gang realizes that a pack of vampires raided the shop for books on how to defeat the Slayer, under Harmony's leadership. Giles admires the shop and its profit potential.
That night, Dawn is happy to have Xander as her babysitter, until she discovers Anya is coming too. Harmony arrives to challenge Buffy, but is disappointed when she's not there.
Xander taunts Harmony and her minions from the safety of the house until Dawn mistakenly invites the vampire inside. After Harmony puts up a fight, Xander literally kicks her out of the house. Harmony later encounters Spike in the graveyard, and the two talk about Harmony's plans to kill the Slayer. While unpacking in their new place, Tara and Willow discuss how Dawn is having a hard time as the outsider of the Scooby Gang. Tara reveals that she has similar feelings as an outsider. On patrol, Buffy is fuming about the lecture she received from her mother about allowing Dawn to see a dead body. Riley tries to talk some sense into her, pointing out she and Dawn resent each other for similar reasons.
When they return home, Xander tells Buffy about Harmony and—after the Slayer stops laughing—she gets angry that Dawn invited Harmony inside, even though it was purely unintentional. Buffy complains to Riley and Xander about the trouble Dawn causes and how she can't always be there to protect her; Dawn listens from the hall and runs outside in tears. Before Anya can bring Dawn back inside, Harmony's vampire minions capture Dawn and attack Anya. Buffy then runs out to find her sister, leaving Xander and Riley to take care of Anya, who requires hospitalization.
Harmony explains to her minions that Dawn is bait, meaning they can't eat her. Harmony complains to Dawn about her problems until her mutinous minions attempt to kill them both. Buffy—who had threatened Spike until he revealed Harmony's location—arrives and easily kills most of the minions as Harmony escapes. Buffy has trouble with one, Mort, but eventually manages to stake him with a hideous wooden unicorn of Harmony's. The Slayer frees her sister and when they get home, they agree not to tell their mother. The next day, Buffy and Giles talk about his decision to take over the Magic Box, while Dawn writes in her journal that Buffy still thinks she's a nobody, but she's going to be in for a surprise...
Tropes in this episode include:
- Accidental Innuendo: In-Universe, one of Harmony's flunkies fails to be specific enough.Cyrus: When are we gonna do it?
Harmony: Eww! That's rude! I barely know you! [Cyrus looks confused] Ugh, and you're a minion!
Mort: He means the plan! When are we gonna do the plan?
- Affectionate Gesture to the Head: Much to Dawn's annoyance, Buffy likes stroking her hair.
- All According to PlanHarmony: Look who's fallen into my— [Buffy massacres her minions] ...trap?
- Annoying Younger Sibling: Dawn goes out of her way to piss Buffy off.
- Answer Cut: "What kind of an unholy creature fancies cheap tasteless statuary?" Cut to Harmony cooing over her new unicorn.
- Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: Out of boredom, Spike's been killing other vampires because he's unable to harm the living. He's beginning to develop a reputation for it.Mort: I know who he is. He kills our kind.
Harmony: Oh yeah. What's up with that?
- Attack Hello: Happens with Spike punching Minion Brad, Dawn being kidnapped by Mort, and Buffy dusting the vampire who pokes Dawn.
- Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Giles keeps getting distracted from investigating the death of the Magic Box's owner, as he realizes the place will now be available.
- Big Bad Wannabe: Harmony's not very good at the evil-vampire-coven-leader thing.Buffy: Harmony, when you tried to be head cheerleader, you were bad. When you tried to chair the homecoming committee, you were really bad. But when you try to be bad... you suck.
- Blatant Lies: Xander was working 'undercover' to stop Dracula.... Right. Dawn, given her Precocious Crush, is oblivious.
- Bond Villain Stupidity: It's lampshaded by Harmony's gang, who point out that they've no reason to keep Dawn alive; it only matters that the Slayer thinks she's still alive.
- Brainwash Residue: Xander starts to refer to Dracula as "The Master" before he stops himself.
- Broken-Window Warning: Harmony dares Buffy to come out and fight by tossing a note, wrapped around a brick, through her living room window. Too bad Buffy's not home.
- Chained to a Rock: Dawn is restrained in Harmony's lair with a wall and chain so she can't escape, even though it would be less trouble to just bite her.
- Characterization Marches On: Dawn was originally intended to be a preteen, until Joss was so impressed with Michelle Trachtenberg's audition that he decided to make her a teenager. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time to edit this episode's script to reflect that, meaning Dawn comes off as absurdly childish and Joyce's insistence that she can't be home alone doesn't make much sense.
- Circling Monologue: Giles hypnotizing Buffy as part of her training involves circling her while talking instead of eye-contact.
- Comically Missing the Point:
- Anya playing The Game of Life.Anya: Can I trade the children in for more money?
- Mort is as smart as a minion.Harmony: I trust you made our guest comfortable?
Mort: You told me to chain her to a wall.
Harmony: Yeah I know, I was being... sarcastic or whatever...
- Anya playing The Game of Life.
- Continuity Nod:
- The "curds and whey" comment by the Crazy Homeless Person is a reference to the prophetic dream in "Graduation Day, Part 2" where Faith says, "Little Miss Muffet counting down from 7-3-0."
- Giles uses crystals to hypnotize Buffy, as in "Helpless".
- Xander says he doesn't want another "hair-pulling contest" with Harmony, referring to their comical Wimp Fight in "The Initiative".
- The Cowl: Dawn gripes that this is what she'd be like if she had superpowers. Unfortunately Sunnydale Syndrome makes disguises unnecessary.Dawn: If this town wasn't so lame everyone would completely know what [Buffy] does.
- Damsel in Distress: Dawn's debut sees her kidnapped and chained in a villain's lair so her big sister can rescue her. Must be Tuesday.
- A Day in the Limelight: Dawn gets the focus in this, her debut episode, not counting a short scene in the last one.
- Diary: Writing her thoughts down is a device used to give Dawn the role of The Narrator.
- Double EntendreSpike: You look good.
Harmony: I feel good.
Spike: [leering] I remember.
- Evil Plan: Harmony plans to kill the Slayer and then everyone in Sunnydale who was ever mean to her. Mort's plan is a lot more simple. "We're gonna feed on the girl [Dawn] and kill you [Harmony]. Maybe not in that order."
- Failed Attempt at Drama: Harmony's note saying, "Buffy, come out and die." The "I" is dotted with a smiley face.
- Tara's expression when Willow tells her, "You're one of the good guys," as she believes she's part demon.
- Buffy finding Dawn's presence more aggravating recently—because Dawn has only just appeared, and subconsciously Buffy is not used to her being around.Buffy: I know it's always been this way. She's the baby. But for some reason lately, it's just really getting to me.
- "She just thinks I'm her dumb little sister. Boy is she in for a surprise." Double points because it's a surprise for Dawn as well.
- Anya playing the Game of Life ("Can I trade the children in for more money?") is the start of her obsession with money.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: The theme of "magic=lesbianism" continues unabated.Dawn: She [Tara] and Willow are both witches. They do spells and stuff, which is so much cooler than slaying. I told Mom one time I wished they'd teach me some of the things they do together. A-and then she got really quiet and made me go upstairs.
- Giant Mook: Hulking Mort is the only one of Harmony's minions to give Buffy any trouble at all.
- Gilligan CutXander: Buffy is not going to be happy about this.
[Cut to Buffy laughing hysterically]
Buffy: Har-Har-Harmony has minions?
- The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Buffy and Dawn have a lot of tension in their relationship as sisters. As far as anyone knows, they've always been this way, but it's gotten worse recently.
- Hey, That's My Line!: Harmony is taunting Xander over his recent brainwashing by Dracula.Dawn: Shut up!
Xander: Dawn, I'm handling this. Shut up, Harmony!
- Hypocritical Humor:
- Giles is still getting back into the swing of his "wise, unflappable mentor" shtick.Giles: You can't allow personal concerns to distract you—Dawn will you stop fiddling with the radio and sit down!
- Giles is talking about his Mid-Life Crisis Car.Giles: There's going to be far less time for the sort of flighty, frivolous—
Dawn: Hey, there's Willow and Tara.
Giles: Oh! They haven't seen my new car.
- Giles is still getting back into the swing of his "wise, unflappable mentor" shtick.
- I Have Your Wife: Harmony claims to have the perfect plan to defeat Buffy, but when Spike outlines this cliched plan (subbing Dawn for the wife) as a guess, she steals the idea.
- Improvised Weapon: Buffy kills Mort with a merry-go-round unicorn.
- Insane Troll Logic: Buffy's desires regarding Joyce are completely contradictory, as ably pointed out by Riley.Riley: So you want your mother to give you space to be a Slayer, and shield you from it at the same time.
Buffy: Thank you, Logic Boy. Did I mention this is a rant? Sense really has no place in it.
- Ironic Echo Cut: Harmony demanding Buffy come out and die.Harmony: I know you're in there! [cut to her talking to Xander] What do you mean she's not in there?
- Living in a Furniture Store: While desperately searching for something to hit Harmony with, Anya demands to know why there aren't any weapons lying around in a Slayer's house.
- Let Us Never Speak of This Again: Buffy is surprised at Giles' enthusiasm for his new magic shop.
- The Load: Tara and Dawn both feel like they just get in the way of the others.
- Mad Oracle: A Crazy Homeless Person accosts Dawn and provides the first hints towards her true nature.
- Mid-Life Crisis Car: Giles has replaced The Alleged Car with a red BMW M3 convertible. He's having trouble getting used to the automatic transmission.Buffy: Giles, are you breaking up with your car?
Giles: Well, it did seduce me, all red and sporty!
Buffy: Little two-door tramp.
[Giles gives her a sour look]
Giles: I-I-I don't know, I just—I was so at loose ends, I-I found myself searching for... some way of feeling more...
- Mooks: Harmony's "minions".
- Must Be Invited: Played for Laughs when Xander taunts Harmony into attacking him and Harmony can't get inside, but Dawn then accidentally invites Harmony in for real.Dawn: Oh yeah? Come inside and say that! [Oh, Crap!]
- Not-So-Harmless Villain: Buffy laughs her ass off at the reveal that Harmony has minions—only to go Oh, Crap! once Xander informs her that Dawn accidentally invited Harmony in. Shortly after, she's stockpiling weapons in preparation:Riley: That's a lot of weapons for someone you weren't sweating twenty minutes ago.
Buffy: Yeah, well, that was before I found out that my sister gave Harmony a backstage pass to kill us all in our sleep.
- Oh, Crap!:
- Xander and Anya's reactions when in the midst of taunting Harmony, Dawn dares her to come inside so Xander will kick her butt. This counts as an invitation, and Xander knows he can't beat Harmony in a fight.
- After Buffy's laughing fit over Harmony, this is her first reaction to learning she can enter her house. Her second is to want to kill Dawn.
- Parodies for DummiesHarmony: I'm not gonna make the same mistakes you did. I've been doing my homework, reading books and stuff.Spike: What, Evil for Dummies?
- Precocious Crush: Dawn is infatuated with one of her big sister's friends, Xander. She's totally okay with having a babysitter if he's going to be taking on the job, but is bummed to find that Anya invited herself along as well.
- Punctuated Pounding: Buffy lists Dawn's transgressions while hacking at her chains with an axe.
- Ransacked Room: The local magic shop, the Magic Box, is found completely trashed—several books regarding the Slayer are later found to be missing. Oh, and the owner is lying drained to death on the floor.
- Remember the New Guy?: Dawn, and everyone else, act completely like she's always been around, growing up with Buffy and simply never having an impact on previous plotlines. Later episodes reveal the mystery behind this dissonance.
- Rule #1Buffy: It's not like Dawn hasn't grown up in this house knowing all the rules. Especially the biggie, Numero Uno: Do not invite blood-sucking dead people into our home!
- Scare Chord: While patrolling in the graveyard, Buffy suddenly catches sight of... a trash can.
- Shaped Like Itself: Harmony's Chains of Commanding.Harmony: I have to make all the hard decisions around here, and it's hard!
- Sibling Rivalry: Buffy and Dawn's sisterly rivalry forms the plot of the episode, and while it involves demon busting Dawn would rather be a spell-caster like her Parental Substitute then a stake-wielder like Buffy.
- The Starscream: Mort the Minionator, in addition to being a Giant Mook, is also the smartest of Harmony's gang, and the first to realize that killing her and going it alone might be a good idea.
- Surrounded by Idiots: Inverted; Harmony's minions are smarter than her, which isn't saying much.
- Tempting Fate
- Title Drop: "The real me" is said by both Dawn and Harmony.
- Torture for Fun and Information: Buffy strides into Spike's crypt and immediately starts beating him for information on the location of Harmony's lair. After Spike tells her she punches him one more time.Spike: I was telling you the truth!
Buffy: [cheerfully] I know.
- Twisted Echo Cut: Buffy and Dawn griping about each other.Buffy: She gets to be a kid, and she acts like it's the biggest burden in the world. Sometimes I would like to just curl up in Mom's lap and not worry about the fate of the world. I'd like to be the one who's protected, who's waited on—
[Cut to Joyce's house]
Dawn: —hand and foot, getting her own way. Always the favorite.
- Villain: Exit, Stage Left: The only smart thing Harmony does is run away while Buffy is distracted by Mort.
- We Meet AgainHarmony: So, Slayer. At last we meet.
Buffy: We've met, Harmony, you half-wit!
- Your Vampires Suck: Or should that be our vampires suck?Dawn: Ooh, scary vampires—they die from a splinter.