Directed by David Fury
Buffy and Dawn remove all possible sources of magical "temptation" they can find from the house, to Dawn's evident annoyance. Buffy finds Spike's Zippo and after holding it a few seconds, tosses it in the collection box. Meanwhile, the Trio use the Illuminata diamond they stole to complete an invisibility ray.
Buffy feels that life is unraveling since Willow's incident involving Dawn, a car, and Willow "high" on magic. Dawn is barely speaking to Willow or Buffy Willow because of her irresponsibility with Dawn, and Buffy because she let it happen by not being around enough, so she is only talking to Xander. Spike arrives under a blanket looking for his lighter and Buffy denies seeing it. Willow is contrite about her misdeeds, and Buffy apologizes for being too self-involved with her own problems to notice Willow hurting. A social worker named Doris Kroeger comes to the Summers residence to check on how Buffy's doing as Dawn's legal guardian, but Buffy thought it was the next day and hadn't prepared for it. It's the worst possible time: as Buffy opens the door, Dawn makes a comment about the car accident; her arm is in a cast; and Xander is taking her late to school. The living room is scattered with Willow's old spell ingredients and objects, making a mess and also looking like drugs. Buffy tries to explain, saying "It's magic weed". Doris sees Spike and gets the impression that Buffy has a punk boyfriend who is sleeping over with her, since he has a blanket, and Spike makes things worse by assuring her Buffy put a stop to Dawn going to his crypt. Doris also appears to disapprove of Buffy living with another woman, one who is sleeping during the daytime. Doris tells Buffy that her case does not look good and she will recommend immediate probation, and Buffy might lose custody of Dawn later on. After she leaves, Spikes gets his lighter back from Buffy who had put it in her pocket and as he leaves he calls Buffy "Goldilocks," a nickname she says she hates, and he tells her how much he likes her hair. In a state of depression, Buffy cuts a lot of her hair off, and then she goes to a hair salon and asks the hairdresser to make her look different.
The Trio are just outside, about to make themselves invisible so they can see naked women. However, when they see Buffy, Andrew and Jonathan panic and start a tug of war over who is going to use it first. They accidentally overload the invisibility ray and the beam hits Buffy, making her waver and vanish (along with a dumpster, traffic cone, and fire hydrant).
Anya and Xander are planning their upcoming wedding at the Magic Box. The door opens but no one enters. Buffy's voice comes out of nowhere she is having fun being invisible. Xander worries about it, assuming it was probably Willow misusing magic, and he goes to talk to her. Buffy goes out to have invisible fun in Sunnydale. "I'm the ghost of fashion victims past," she moans to a woman, wearing an outdated cap. She then drives off with a parking inspector's van.
Buffy drives to Doris's workplace. Using her invisibility to its full advantage, she tricks the social worker into behaving in a bizarre manner and replaces the Summers report with pages consisting entirely of repetitions of "All work and no play makes Doris a dull girl." Doris tells her supervisor that, "There was a voice. It made my coffee dance". The woman's supervisor believes that she is having a mental break with reality and sends her home, saying that he will send someone else to re-inspect the Summers home the next day.
Buffy then heads to Spike's and begins touching and grabbing him, until he realizes who she is. "I told you to stop trying to see me," she finally jokes and then she and Spike go underground for sex. In the meantime, Xander confronts Willow, but she knows nothing about the invisibility and is offended that she is automatically being blamed. She leaves in a huff to try to figure out what happened to Buffy. Xander ends up meeting up with Willow at the site of Buffy becoming invisible. Willow keeps being tempted by magic, but uses her brains and deduction instead of magic, and figures out that the perpetrators are the drivers of the black van they've been seeing around Buffy. She gives Xander a traffic cone that was also made invisible, and he takes it back to the Magic Box. Xander and Anya do research, and discover that the invisibility ray is causing the structure of the traffic cone to break down. Anya is too self-involved to realize the implications, but Xander realizes that the same thing will happen to Buffy if the invisibility isn't reversed.
Meanwhile, Warren is trying to fix the invisibility ray but says that Buffy will die from the overload of radiation she is getting while she continues to be invisible. He finds no problem with that, but Andrew and Jonathan are upset and do not want to kill her, and so Warren grudgingly agrees to fix her. Xander then runs to Spike's crypt in search of Buffy, where he finds Spike in bed. He's actually having sex with Buffy, but to Xander's eyes, Spike looks naked and alone, and Spike explains that he's "doing push-ups". Xander has a chat with Spike, wanting to know where Buffy is, and Spike honestly says that he hasn't "seen" her. Throughout the conversation, invisible Buffy gropes and physically teases Spike. Spike tries to act normal, somewhat unsuccessfully. Xander finally leaves, disgusted by Spike's odd behavior, telling Spike that he really needs to get a girlfriend.
Buffy wants to continue their physical activities, but Spike tells her that he is tired of being with her and not really having her. He says the only reason she came to see him is that she thinks she's not really there, because she's invisible. He asks her to leave if she isn't really going to be with him. He is frustrated with her carefree attitude and doesn't appreciate the way she seems to be using the invisibility as an excuse to escape her real life. She protests, but eventually leaves. She doesn't do too well at home when she scares Dawn, who has the same frustrations as Spike, combined with extreme worry for her sister. The bad stuff keeps on coming when she gets the message from Xander and Anya on the answering machine about the effects of the invisibility ray. Meanwhile, Willow has looked up the van by hacking into the DMV records, and has figured out who owns it. She goes into their lair in Warren's mother's basement, but is captured by the Trio, who have made themselves invisible. Jonathan then calls Buffy (disguising his voice so she can't identify him) and tells her that The Trio has kidnapped Willow and tells her to meet them at the arcade.
Buffy does so. However, Jonathan, Andrew, and Warren have also made themselves invisible, and Warren is holding Willow hostage. Warren lies to Buffy, telling her that he is going to reverse the mechanism into making her visible. But Willow points out that he's put it on a setting that is going to kill her. Warren knocks her to the ground and aims the gun at Buffy, telling her that she can't see them. However, what he didn't count on was Buffy's Slayer training and experience, providing her with some ability to sense the invisible villains. A scuffle ensues. Warren ends up in the ball-pit, Andrew ends up in the pinball machine, and Buffy ends up holding Jonathan. Willow, who has changed the frequency, aims at Buffy, Jonathan, Andrew, and Warren, making all four visible again.
"So, you three have what? Banded together to be pains in my ass?" Buffy asks. Warren stands firm, proclaiming himself and the others to be Buffy's "archnemesises-ses." After a smoke-bomb goes off and after scuffling to open the door, The Trio escape. Buffy and Willow sit on the curb outside and talk about their struggles today: Willow explains that while she found the Trio without magic, she was tempted to use it while Buffy admits that, while she's still struggling with being alive, when she learned the full effects of the invisibility ray she realized she doesn't want to die. The two friends sit and reflect on their small but significant steps to overcoming their problems.
- Acceptable Hobby Targets: In-Universe. After making a girl with a studded cap freak out, the invisble Buffy comes across a couple of joggers. She immediately dismisses them as "too easy" and moves on.
- Accidental Pervert: Xander cops a feel of Buffy's invisible breasts.
- Answer Cut: Willow asks where Buffy is. Cut to Spike in his crypt, about to be pounced on by an invisible Buffy.
- Applied Phlebotinum: The diamond stolen by the Trio in "Smashed" is used for their Invisibility Ray. According to Willow it has "quasi-mystical quantum properties".
- Black Comedy Rape: Buffy sneaking into Spike's crypt, throwing him against a wall and ripping his clothes off without even revealing who she is beforehand is Played for Laughs.
- Blatant Lies: Spike turns up at Buffy's house because he's "taking a stroll" — in daylight. Buffy says she doesn't know where Spike's lighter is — it's actually in the pocket of her jeans. Xander catches Spike doing 'naked push-ups' in bed. There's also a Brick Joke from S5 when Spike tried to hide his Stalker with a Crush obsession with a Lame Comeback; "I never liked you anyway, and you have stupid hair." Now we see that's not true as Spike gushes over Buffy's goldilocks (Buffy responds by getting a bobcut).
- Carpet of Virility: Buffy grabs one of the Invisible Trio, who complains of her grabbing his chest hair. When he's turned visible...Buffy: Jonathan? [beat] You have chest hair?
- Coitus Uninterruptus: Buffy is turned invisible and is having sex with Spike when Xander walks in looking for her—Spike pretends he was doing push-ups. Naked. In his bed. Buffy, invisible at the time, had no problem trying to keep the sex going while Xander was still standing there.
- Continuity Nod:
- References to Marcie the invisible girl.
- To "Once More With Feeling". Buffy whistles the "Going Through the Motions" song, and steals the buggy of a parking enforcer, the same one Marti Noxon serenaded in that episode.
- Cringe Comedy: This episode is particularly full of it. The two prime examples are Buffy's entire first meeting with Mrs. Kroeger, and Xander walking in on Spike and Invisible Buffy having sex. Made worse by Spike's excuse of doing pushups, which he then demonstrates—punctuated by Buffy gasping.
- Curse Cut Short: Depending on what word Spike was going to use; "fight" or...Spike: I love this hair; the way it flips around when you-- (Buffy goes to hit him with a spatula; he grabs her wrist) Ah-ah-ah! This flapjack's not ready to be flipped.
- Death Seeker: Averted — after hearing Xander's message that she will eventually dissolve into pudding, Buffy realises she is still afraid of dying.
- Description Cut
- Jonathan says, "In my book an invisible Slayer means a whole world of trouble." Cut to an invisible Buffy playing practical jokes in the park.
- The trope happens in reverse when Buffy gets turned invisible, then the scene cuts to Xander saying, "What happened to Buffy? She's gone." It turns out Xander and Anya are planning where everyone's going to sit for their wedding, and Anya has moved her position to another table.
- Digging Yourself Deeper: Buffy's meeting with the woman from social services goes from bad to worse to hellmouth.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Buffy getting herself assigned a new social worker by making Doris and Doris's boss think Doris is having a nervous breakdown has been called this by fans, since Doris was largely just legitimately doing her job reporting that Buffy's living situation looked like a mess, although she did seem prejudiced about Willow living with Buffy and being gay, given the tone in which she said, "You live with another woman?".
- Double Meaning: Dawn saying to invisible Buffy, "How can I talk to you when I can't see you?"
- Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: Buffy, while invisible, breaks into Spike's crypt unannounced, throws him against a wall, restrains his limbs and rips off his clothes all before revealing who she is to him. Later, she ignores his withdrawal of consent and preforms oral sex on him after he's directly asked her to leave. Buffy's rant in the following scene reveal he ended up having to throw her out of his home because she wouldn't stop pushing for sex. All of these things are entirely Played for Laughs, but by the end of the season, Spike will attack Buffy in a very similar manner (although, in that case, no actual sex took place) and the scenario will be treated extremely seriously.
- Duct Tape for Everything: Like gagging your first hostage.
- Dude, Not Funny! (In-Universe): Dawn's reaction to her invisible sister joking around.
- Dynamic Entry: Spike bursts into Buffy's home under yet another smouldering blanket, unwilling to wait till dark to visit her again.
- Everybody Lives: This is one of handful of episodes where nobody dies.
- Exact Words: When Xander says he's looking for Buffy (who is invisible), Spike all-too-quickly replies that he hasn't seen her.
- Failed Attempt at Drama: Invisible Warren warns Invisible Buffy that his men are all around her. Willow butts in that she thinks there's only three of them.Invisible Warren: More than enough to cause some serious carnage, right guys? ... Guys? Guys! (pan to a video game that's apparently playing itself)
Invisible Jonathan: Kick! Use the kick!
Invisible Andrew: I tried that, he keeps blocking it with his Drunken Monkey fist!
Invisible Buffy: Ooh, scary video carnage.
- Failed Dramatic Exit: See Smoke Out.
- False Reassurance: Warren points the Invisibility Ray at Buffy to 'cure' her."Okay, now hold still, and all your troubles will soon be gone."
- Fantastic Drug: Candles are like bongs to a witch. And to think we thought Willow and Tara were just having rampant lesbian sex during their spellcasting sessions. They were, but still.
- Seems like Buffy was comparing candles to drugs because Willow was addicted to magic, though, rather than because she got high off them.
- Flashback Cut: Buffy finds Spike's lighter behind the sofa and has an instant flashback to having sex with him. No wonder the lighter ended up in her pants.
- Ms Kroeger questions whether an 'unemployed' young woman can properly support Dawn. Buffy will get a job in the next episode.
- Warren makes his first attempt to kill Buffy. It won't be the last.
- Friendly Tickle Torture: Invisible Buffy tickles Spike and gnaws on his earlobe while he's talking to Xander. As Xander has already walked in on him doing 'naked pushups' in bed, Spike twitching and giggling for no apparent reason convinces Xander that Spike needs to get a girlfriend pronto.
- Gag Echo: "I told you — stop trying to see me."
- Gaslighting: An accidentally invisible Buffy does this to a social worker (moving her coffee mug and whispering, "kill, kill...") who was probably about to have Dawn taken away. Kind of mean, since the social worker wasn't being unreasonable, she just happened to visit the Summerses' house on a really bad day... which is probably every day around there...
- Gender-Inverted Trope: Buffy just wants to use Spike for sex, while Spike wants to discuss their relationship.
- Get Out!: Buffy collapses against the door after Ms Kroeger leaves, only to find Spike is standing before her offering sympathy and support. As Buffy regards Spike as yet another reason why her life is screwed up, she yells at him to get out. Spike slams his hand next to Buffy's head and uses the other to rummage in her jeans (causing Buffy to moan in anticipation), grabs his lighter from her pocket and storms off.
- Growling Gut: Spike is watching a horror movie on TV, when a woman screams "Oh the blood! The blood!" This naturally starts the vampire's tummy growling and he goes for the fridge. Until Invisible Buffy enters and he quickly becomes hungry for something else.
- Hearing Voices: The murderous mug of Ms. Kroeger.
- He Is Not My Boyfriend:Ms. Kroeger: Um, Miss Summers, if you and your boyfriend would like to—
Buffy: He is NOT— (Spike looks over with a scowl; Buffy clears throat) ... not my, my boyfriend, he's, um, just... a... (Spike waits to hear what she'll say) Spike ... this nice woman is, uh, (meaningfully) from Social Services?
- Hollywood Hacking: Willow breaks into the Department of Motor Vehicles database to find the mysterious Van in Black.
- Hypocritical Humor: Buffy shoving aside some pedestrians while griping about Spike being insensitive.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Third episode out of three in a row named after an euphemism for being drunk or high.
- Idiot Ball: Buffy is made invisible, and goes to have kinky sex with Spike. Xander walks in and unquestioningly accepts that Spike was doing push-ups, despite that Buffy still makes audible noises throughout the whole scene, and Xander already knows about the invisibility.
- Important Haircut: After Spike gushes over her long hair, Buffy tries to regain some control of her life by hacking it off with scissors — Smash Cut to Buffy in a hair salon because she made a mess of things. Also subverted in that her new look marks no change in her life or behaviour — she quickly ends up in Spike's arms for round two, and her life continues to suck.
- Instant ExpertWillow: The gun, it's not set for reversing the particle ionization. It'll accelerate her molecular dissolution. I saw the plans!
- Interrupted Intimacy: Xander does this twice — and fails to realise what's happening both times.
- Invisible Jerkass: Buffy herself. The point was that she had so much stress and depression going on at the time that she felt trapped and powerless. The invisibility let her get away with doing the things she wanted to do anyway, without having to take any responsibility for her actions—as Spike points out, she's pretending that she isn't really "there" as she does it.
- Invisible Main Character: Naturally, it's Buffy, who finds the experience incredibly freeing.
- Invisible Streaker: Averted, as Buffy was wearing clothes when she was zapped.
- Lighter and Softer: The only time in the entire sixth season where we get to see Buffy having fun, and it's of course at Spike's expense.
- Malaproper: Xander's use of "blinvisible".
- Master of the Mixed Message: After declaring in the previous episode that she's not going to have sex with Spike again, Buffy quickly decides otherwise after turning invisible.
- Mistaken for Gay: Buffy receives a visit from a social worker about Dawn. Buffy's forgetfulness of a certain redhead leads to the following exchange. Worth noting is that it's hard to say if Ms. Kroeger really believed Buffy.Buffy: That's Willow. She, uh, she kind of lives here too, actually.Ms. Kroeger: Oh, so you live with another woman.Buffy: Oh! Oh, it's not a, a gay thing, you know, I mean, well... she's gay, but, but we don't...gay.
- Moral Myopia: Buffy's behaviour towards Spike in this episode being Played for Laughs is often cited by modern fans to be a pretty egregious example of Double Standard Rape: Female on Male. On paper, what Buffy does is really disturbingly similar (and in some ways worse) to what Spike will do to her in "Seeing Red"; she breaks into his home unannounced, violently restrains him and rips his clothing off. Later, she ignores him retracting his consent to preform oral sex on him, culminating in him getting fed up and throwing her out of his crypt—which makes it clear that he was serious and sincerely did not want to have sex, making the fact that she disregarded his complaints and continued forcing sex upon him all the more uncomfortable.
- Mundane Utility: Averted; Willow tracks down the Trio's van without magic.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Buffy half-heartedly suggests chasing after the Trio, then lets a security guard and Willow distract her from doing so. Her failure to take the Big Bad Wannabes seriously will have fatal consequences down the line.
- Not Helping Your Case: Everything that Ms Kroeger from Social Services sees when she turns up for an inspection — Dawn's arm in a sling, the house in a mess from packing Willow's stuff, baggies of "magic weed", and Buffy's odd not-boyfriend who dresses like Billy Idol.
- Not Me This Time: Willow defends herself from Xander's implications that she's responsible for Buffy's invisibility, given that she's caused inadvertent magical mayhem before, some of it very recently.
- Not so Dire: The Trio appear to be going to commit another robbery, but they actually intend to perv on a bikini waxing.
- Not That There's Anything Wrong with That: Buffy insists she's not gay with Willow, though Willow is gay, not that there's anything wrong with NO! That's not what it looks like, it's magic weed!
- Not What It Looks Like: Mrs Kroeger finding a baggie of sage.
- Oblivious Mockery: Xander tells Spike that only a complete loser would sleep with him — in the presence of Buffy who's done just that the night before. The comment gives Buffy an added incentive not to confess what's happened to her friends and forestall her Destructive Romance.
- Or Are You Just Happy to See Me?: That is Spike's lighter in Buffy's pocket, which means she's definitely glad to see him.
- Perplexing Plurals: Warren declares to Buffy that "We are your arch-nemesises...ses." When they fail to open their escape door, Buffy mockingly says to Willow: "I give you my arch-nemesis...ses...ses." This becomes a Brick Joke in Season 7's "Conversations With Dead People" when Buffy is informed that "nemeses" is the correct form.
- Person as Verb: Anya and Xander are 'Muldering' out the problem of how Buffy turned invisible.
- Power at a Price: Due to the Ray Gun being discharged on the wrong setting, Buffy will eventually disintegrate if she's left invisible.
- Power Perversion Potential: The Trio plan to use their invisible ray to spy on a bikini wax. When Buffy turns invisible, she sneaks into Spike's crypt, throws him against the wall and rips off his shirt before he guesses who she is.
- Pre Ass Kicking One LinerWarren: You haven't won yet, Slayer.
Buffy: No, that part comes after I beat the snot out of you.
Warren: I go down, we all go down!
- Warren is trying to rally his reluctant troops.
Buffy: And I promise, you're all going down.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: Ms. Kroeger sees legitimately suspicious activity. Buffy, who has turned invisible, sets things up to make it look like the social worker is insane in a way that could easily get her fired or sent to a mental institution. This is portrayed as a comedy routine and we are apparently supposed to feel sympathy with Buffy harassing an innocent person merely because she's frustrating a main character.
- Rage Against the Reflection: A subtle version when Buffy stares in the mirror and starts hacking off her hair.
- Rage-Breaking Point: Buffy griping about Spike throwing her out. It's supposed to be the other way round!
- Reckless Gun Usage: The Trio panic when they see Buffy walking across the road and try to turn themselves invisible; while fighting over the ray gun it goes off, zapping Buffy.
- Remember the New Guy?: Spoofed — As Willow turns the Trio visible again, Buffy is surprised to see Jonathan, Warren, and... "Who are you?" Andrew says he's the guy who sent the flying monkeys to attack the school play. As that incident was never shown onscreen Buffy and Willow still don't remember him until they're told he's Tucker Wells's brother.
- Rule of Cool (In-Universe): When Warren finishes building his Ray Gun, Andrew gripes that he expected something cool-looking — more ILM than Ed Wood. Warren snaps, "I'll show you cool!" and promptly vanishes a chair with an impressive-looking light beam.
- Running Gag: The female Scoobies all love Buffy's new haircut. Whether or not they can see it.
- Scenery Censor / Fanservice: Spike's groin always manages to be behind the bed or just off camera range.
- Security Blanket: How Buffy tries to explain to Ms Kroeger the blanket Spike uses to shield himself from the sun.
- Shirtless Scene: More Ho Yay between Spike and Xander.
- Shout-Out: To The Shining. "All work and no play make Doris a dull girl."
- Smoke Out: Spoofed — the Trio throw down a smoke bomb to escape, but when the smoke clears they're pressed up against a locked door trying to get out.
- Sound Only Fight: Buffy vs. the Trio due to all parties involved being invisible.
- Spot the Imposter: Spoofed when Andrew comments that Invisible Buffy could be anywhere, even right there among them. "For all we know, she could even be one of us!" The Trio look at each other in alarm until they realise how ridiculous that sounds.
- Talk About That Thing: Buffy getting Spike away from Ms Kroeger."Uh, Spike, didn't you have to go now, you know, because of that thing?"
- That Came Out Wrong: The possibility of Buffy losing guardianship of Dawn is discussed several times, but it comes to a head when a social worker comes at absolutely the worst time, everyone says absolutely the wrong things, and ends up with the following:Ms. Kroeger: I think I've seen enough.Buffy: No, actually, I really don't think that you have. It's just...it's been kind of, kind of a, a bad time.Ms. Kroeger: It's been a bad time now for a while, hasn't it, Ms. Summers? [...]Buffy: But therethere are good reasons.Ms. Kroeger: Oh, I'm sure there are. But my interest is in Dawn's welfare. And the stability of her home life, something I'm just not convinced that an unemployed young woman like yourself can provide.Buffy: I can. I, I do!Ms. Kroeger: Well, we'll just have to see about that then, won't we? Oh, and I'm, uh, going to recommend immediate probation in my report.Buffy: What does that mean?Ms. Kroeger: It means that I'll be monitoring you very closely, Ms. Summers. And if I don't see that things are improving, well, I'll be forced to recommend that you be stripped of your sister's guardianship.Buffy: You can't do that.Ms. Kroeger: I do what is in Dawn's best interest ... as should you. Have a nice day.
- Thou Shalt Not KillJonathan: Wait a minute! We're not killing anybody. Especially not Buffy!Warren: You guys are so immature! (angrily) We're villains! When are you gonna get that through your thick skulls?
- Unusual Euphemism: "You penis!" An averted trope?
- Visible Invisibility: Buffy has fun communicating via talking skulls and ball 'eyes'.
- We Will Meet Again / Failed Attempt at Drama:Buffy: So you three have, what; banded together to be pains in my ass?
Warren: We're your arch-nemesises ... ses. (Buffy and Willow look confused) You may have beaten us this time, Slayer, but next time...um...uh, next time...
Jonathan: Maybe not! (throws down smoke bomb)
- What the Hell, Hero? / Where Were You Last Night?: Dawn gives Buffy the cold shoulder, given that Buffy's lack of supervision is as much at fault for her broken arm as Willow's addiction.
- Who Would Be Stupid Enough?: Anya suggests that Buffy might have been turned invisible by a spell that backfired. Xander asks who'd be messing with that kind of power, then we have an Answer Cut to Willow in her room.
- You Remind Me of X: Spike notes that Buffy isn't bothered much by being turned invisible.Buffy: No. Maybe because for the first time since... I'm free. Free of rules and reports...Free of this life.Spike: Free of life. Got another name for that — dead.