Directed by David Fury
New York, July, 1977: Spike is fighting Nikki Wood in Central Park at night in pouring rain while her son watches from his hiding place behind a bench. Spike has the opportunity to kill her but the kid distracts him and he lets her go with the promise that they'll meet again. "Love the coat," he adds before he leaves. When he's gone, Nikki finds her son and tells him he's taking him to Crowley. Robin says he wants to stay with her, so Nikki calms his fears by telling him: "The mission is what matters."
In an alley in present-day Sunnydale, Buffy, Robin Wood, and Spike are fighting a group of vampires. Buffy and Spike manage to kill their quarry, but a vampire has knocked Wood to the ground, and is about to kill him. Spike saves Wood by staking the vampire from behind, then helps him up. Wood thanks him, while blood drips from his hand as he holds tightly a stake.
In Sunnydale High School, Buffy, Giles, and Robin discuss what they know about Spike's trigger. The First Evil had programmed Spike with a post-hypnotic suggestion in his mind that allows it to turn Spike violent using an old song, "Early One Morning", as a trigger. This way the First was able to command him to kill again. Buffy wants to find out how to turn it off so that she can fully count on Spike against the First, but Giles opposes it. In his opinion, Spike is dangerous and must be contained.
With all that happening the Scoobies go to the basement in Buffy's home, where Willow performs a spell with the Prokaryote Stone, a magical artifact that penetrates Spike's mind and makes him more conscious of how the trigger works. In this way, he revives his past, his sick mother, and how he turned her into a vampire only to be rejected by her newly vampiric self. The song that his mother used to sing makes him relive the whole episode and switch into blind violence. He unwillingly hurts Dawn in the process and scares them all, except Buffy. Meanwhile, Willow receives a phone call from someone named Fred and leaves for Los Angeles. She apologizes to Buffy for her quick departure, but promises to be back as soon as she can, and she may even return with good news.
Wood privately convinces Giles that Spike must die. Giles learns that Wood is the son of the Slayer Nikki, and that Spike murdered her. After a brief chat they make a plan: Giles is to distract Buffy while Wood takes care of Spike. Giles takes Buffy on patrol and begins asking her indirect questions and making obscure references to her role against the First. In the meantime, Wood takes Spike to his garage with the promise to protect him, but as soon as they enter Spike notices its walls are covered with crosses. Wood reveals to Spike that he knows he murdered his mother and that he's going to kill the monster inside him. Spike says he has no remorse over killing his mother, and that it was "all part of the game". Wood then goes to his computer and starts the old song that triggers Spike, allowing them to begin their fight.
As the fight progresses, Spike continues to relive the events that transpired between himself and his mother. Wood takes advantage of Spike's flashbacks, and using weapons, knocks Spike around until he cannot stand, when he then attempts to stake him. Spike regains control of his own mind, having faced his own anger and regret on turning his mother into a vampire and then being forced to kill her. Spike then easily defeats Wood, and demonstrates that the song has no more power over him. He tells Wood that the difference between his mother and Wood's is that Spike's mother actually loved him back, while Nikki did not love him enough to give up her Slayer duties. Spike then tells Wood that he's going to kill him and moves to bite him.
Meanwhile, Buffy and Giles use the cemetery to engage in some back-to-basics Slayer/Watcher instruction. Buffy fights a fledgling vampire named Richard, who she could easily kill, but Giles asks her not to. When Giles talks about having to make hard decisions about who lives or dies Buffy realizes that Giles is trying to distract from Spike. She slays Richard, leaves Giles, and rushes to Wood's place. Buffy finds Spike just leaving Wood's workroom. Wood is badly beaten, but alive. Spike informs him that he spared Wood because he owed him for killing Nikki, but makes it clear that he will kill Wood without a second thought if he so much as looks at him the wrong way again. Buffy goes inside, and tells him that she needs Spike alive and that she has no time for personal vendettas. She promises him that if he tries anything like this again, she'll let Spike kill him. "The mission is what matters," she tells him.
Once at home, Buffy tells Giles that his and Wood's plan failed. In spite of that, he tries to pick up from where they left off earlier, and continue the interrupted lesson. But Buffy says that she already knows everything he can teach her. And with that, she closes the door.
- Always Save the Girl: Averted — Buffy admits she'd now be willing to sacrifice Dawn to save the world.
- Artistic License – Biology: They have the Prokaryote Stone crawl into Spike's eye because it will reach his brain, "via the optic nerve". But it actually appears to crawl under his eyelid and while under his skin it continues across his forehead. It's a wonder Spike can see with such a misaligned optic nerve.
- Bait-and-Switch: Spike doesn't kill Wood.Spike: I gave him a pass. Let him live. On account of I killed his mum. But that's all he gets. He so much as even looks at me funny again, I'll kill him.
- Blatant Lies: Spike insists there's nothing more to the history with his mother and the song that triggers him.
- But for Me, It Was Tuesday: A variation where the murdered family member actually isn't just another victim.Robin Wood: Oh, I know more about you than you think, Spike. See, I've been searching for you for a very, very long time. Ever since you killed my mother.
Spike: I've killed a lot of people's mothers.
Robin Wood: Yeah. You'd remember mine. She was a Slayer.
- Call-Back: To "Helpless" (Giles betraying Buffy), and "The Gift" (Giles being willing to kill people that Buffy isn't, for the greater good).
- Call-Forward: Spike telling Nikki he loves her Badass Longcoat.
- Came Back Wrong: A flashback shows Spike trying to save his dying mother by turning her into a vampire. To his horror, the vampire version of his mother taunts him cruelly and makes incestuous advances toward him. He immediately stakes her.
- Casual Danger Dialogue: Buffy fights Richard the Fanged while being 'mentored' by Giles.
- Continuity Cavalcade / Chain of Corrections: Buffy and Giles attempt to explain Spike's various Restraining Bolts to newcomer Robin Wood.Giles: Well, uh, it's a ... long story.Buffy: The military put a chip in Spike's head so he couldn't hurt anyone.Giles: And that would be the abridged version.Buffy: But he wouldn't hurt anyone anymore because he has a soul now.Giles: Unless the First triggers him again.Robin: Triggers the chip?Buffy: No, the trigger's a post-hypnotic thing. The First put it in his head. It was ... made him ... He was killing again.Robin: So, he has a trigger, a soul, and a chip?Giles: Not anymore!Buffy: It was killing him, Giles!Robin: The trigger?Buffy: No, the chip. The trigger's not active anymore.
- Continuity Nod:
- Spike finding Nikki Wood attractive, which he mentioned to Buffy in "Fool for Love". Spike also twirls his shovel in the alley fight, as he did when pole-fighting Nikki on the subway train.
- William refers to his mother as "glowing" and reads her (bad) poetry he's dedicated to Cecily (also from "Fool for Love").
- Giles mentions how Buffy wasn't willing to sacrifice Dawn to save the world ("The Gift"), and Angel deciding to leave Buffy for her own good ("The Prom").
- Xander gripes about the chains not being there a week earlier.
- Giles complaining about there being more computers than books in the library harks back to his Season 2 arguments with computer teacher Jenny Calender.
- Spike calling Dawn "niblet" and expressing concern for her refers to their Morality Pet relationship in Season 5.
- Comically Missing the Point: Drusilla can't understand why Spike wants to bring his mother with them as they rampage across Europe.Drusilla: To eat, you mean?
- Buffy is fighting with a vampire called Richard while arguing with Giles.Buffy: (re the First) I'm in the fight of my life here!Richard: (pleased) Really?Buffy: Not you, Richard.
- Buffy is fighting with a vampire called Richard while arguing with Giles.
- Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind: Spike saving Wood in the alley fight in The Teaser.
- Crossover: Willow receives a call from someone called Fred and tells Buffy she has to go to Los Angeles. She shows up in the Angel episode "Orpheus", where the Fang Gang use her magic skills to restore Angel's soul. Willow is vague as to her reasons for leaving, indicating that Buffy is being kept in the dark about the return of Angelus.
- Curbstomp Battle: When Spike overcomes his trigger and regains control of himself, Robin is BADLY out of his league.
- Deadly Hug: William turning his mother.
- Deadpan Snarker:Spike: All the rubbish people keep sticking in my head, there's a wonder there's any room for my brain.Giles: I don't think it takes up that much room, do you?
- Description Cut: From Buffy saying Dawn is tough, to Dawn wincing as Willow patches her up.
- Distant Prologue: Before their fatal confrontation in the New York City Subway, Spike had a Battle in the Rain with Nikki Wood in Central Park, watched by a four year-old Robin Wood.
- Distressed Dude: Averted — Buffy runs to save Spike, but he's already got the situation under control. Buffy isn't even needed to save Wood.
- Door-Closes Ending: The episode ends on Buffy shutting her bedroom door in Giles' face after his attempt to have Spike killed behind her back.
- Double Entendre: Buckets of Foe Romance Subtext rain down as Spike fights Nikki.Spike: (exhilarated) Well, all right! Got the moves, don't you? I'm gonna ride you hard before I put you away, luv.
- Downer Ending: Giles tries to justify the death of Spike — Buffy informs him the attempt failed, then shuts her door in the face of the man who's been her mentor and Parental Substitute for the past seven years.
- Dramatic Irony: Giles says that Spike (unlike Angel) lacks the responsibility to leave Sunnydale because he endangers everyone. Spike however had offered to do just that in "First Date", staying only because Buffy asked him to.
- Dying as Yourself: Spike's Mum, with particular reference to the moment of grateful self-recovery.
- Epiphany Therapy: Facing his memories of the past enable Spike to throw off the First's conditioning.
- Et Tu, Brute?: Giles tries to arrange Spike's death, causing a breach between him and Buffy that carries over into the comic series.
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Spike wanted to save his mother from tuberculosis; too bad she Came Back Wrong.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Spike is horrified when his vampirised mother suggests they have sex.
- Eye Scream: Relatively brief example with the Prokaryote Stone.
- Fool for Love: Lampshaded re William, and finally averted by Spike, who accepts the fact that Buffy will not put him first in her life.
- Foe Romance Subtext: Nikki and Spike exchange pretty sexually-charged barbs during their fights, very similarly to how Buffy and Spike used to—one almost has to wonder if Spike wouldn't have fallen in love with Nikki if he'd been chipped in the 70's instead.
- Willow talks of bringing back good news from her trip to Los Angeles; that would be another Slayer to fight alongside them (given Buffy's long-standing grudge against Faith, it's hardly surprising that Willow keeps that news to herself for now).
- Scoobies and Potentials complain that Spike is getting a free pass from Buffy because of his not-a-relationship with her. This is another sign of the increasing tension that erupts in "Empty Places".
- Buffy correctly tells Wood that Spike is one of the strongest fighters for their side and that they'll need him to survive. She's proven right in the final episode, although not in the way anyone, least of all herself or Spike, expect.
- Freudian Excuse: Spike's trauma from his mother set him off on the deep end right from the start.
- Gender-Blender Name:Andrew: (holding the phone) Uh, Willow...call for you from L.A. Somebody named Fred. The guy sounds kind of effeminate.
- Half-Truth: Wood doesn't try to hide from Giles that he's motivated by revenge, but neither does he say that the First is the one who tipped him off about Spike. This would cause Giles to realise that the First wants Spike dead, rather than an undead Manchurian Agent.
- Once she's been turned into a vampire, William's mother throws all his weaknesses in his face — it's Spike realisation that the demon left out the things that his mother loved about him that allows Spike to get past it.
- He's Back!: Applies even more than "Get It Done" because Spike doesn't just go back to being pre-souled Spike, he finally becomes comfortable with Ensouled!Spike.
- Hidden Disdain Reveal: Being turned into a soulless vampire allows Spike's mom to reveal that she's always hated his smothering attention and awful poetry.
- Hypocritical Humor
- I Hate You, Vampire Dad: Spike turned his mother (to save her from tuberculosis), then killed her almost immediately - her vampire version had nothing but contempt for him (and was also coming on to him), and was a sick piece of work generally.
- I'll Kill You! / Good Is Not Nice: Spike makes it clear that he'll kill Robin if he tries anything again; Buffy tells Robin that she'll let him.
- Improvised Weapon / Off with His Head!: Spike puts a shovel to good use in the alley fight.
- Incurable Cough of Death / Blood from the Mouth: William's mother is dying, hence his decision to turn her into a vampire.
- I Work Alone: Lampshaded by Spike.Spike: I know Slayers. No matter how many people they've got around them, they fight alone. Life of The Chosen One. The rest of us be damned. Your mother was no different.Robin: No, she loved me.Spike: But not enough to quit, though, was it? Not enough to walk away...for you.
- Last-Second Word Swap: Giles asks Buffy about the song that Spike kept singing.Buffy: It was boring, old, and English. Just like you (Death Glare from Giles) ...ul. Yul Brynner. A British Yul Brynner.
- Let's Dance:Spike: I spent a long time trying to track you down. Don't want the dance to end so soon, do you, Nikki? The music's just starting, isn't it?
- Macho Masochism: Wood squeezing his stake until his hand bleeds after Spike saves his life.
- Matricide: Spike turned his mother into a vampire to prevent her natural death due to terminal illness, but losing her soul made her become a vile, contemptuous monster. After she tells Spike how much she hates him and tries to seduce him, the horrified Spike stakes her to kill her for good.
- Meaningful Echo:
- "The mission is what matters." Nikki's words to Robin are repeated to him by Buffy at the end of the episode.
- Nikki Wood objecting to Spike calling her "luv", just as Buffy did in Season 6.
- Mind-Control Music: Wood plays "Early One Morning" on his computer so Spike will revert to his murderous vampire self.
- Mind Probe: Giles puts a Prokaryote stone inside Spike's head to try and discover how the First is controlling him. Spike is not pleased, seeing as this involves the stone liquifying and crawling into his head via the optic nerve.
- Momma's Boy: William before and after he was turned. Wood, who's basically built his life around avenging his mother.
- My Friends... and Zoidberg:Buffy: Have you seen me with those girls? The way I treated my friends, and my family...and Andrew.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
- Buffy's split with Wood and Giles culminates in their lack of support in "Empty Places".
- Wood leaving out the detail that The First had been the one to tip him off to Spike being his mother's killer, meaning Giles didn't realize that Spike's death would play directly into its hands and was also it's "plans" for him.
- Giles forces Buffy to act like a General.
- Nothing Personal:Spike: I didn't give a piss about your mum. She was a Slayer. I was a vampire. That's the way the game is played.
- Not so Dire / Good Old Ways: Robin is telling Buffy that shutting down the Hellmouth might have averted the apocalypse.Buffy: Maybe you're right. Maybe everything is fine.Giles: (barges in the door) Everything's terrible. Total catastrophe.Buffy: Giles, what's wrong?Giles: Have you seen the new library? There's nothing but computers. There's not a book to be seen. I—I don't know where to begin!
- Origins Episode: We learn what happened before the night William met Drusilla, and after she sired him.
- Pet the Dawn: After saying that she'd be willing to sacrifice Dawn to save the world, Buffy comes home and strokes the hair of her sleeping little sister.
- Power Fist / Holy Burns Evil: Robin has a glove with crosses on it to fight Spike.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:Spike: Get these sodding things off me! I'm fine!Buffy: (arms crossed) Don't you think you should take a little time, calm down?Spike: "I-AM-CALM!"
"Is this what it felt like (punches Spike) when you beat the life out of her, (punches Spike) toyed with her, (punches Spike, then screams) when you snapped her neck!"
- And Robin pounding on Spike.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Spike's vamp!mother delivers a long, nasty one to him.William: Tell me, what's your pleasure?Mother: Pleasure? To take my leave of you, of course. "The lark hath spake from twixt its wee beak?" You honestly thought I could bear an eternity listening to that twaddle? I feel extraordinary. It's as though I've been given new eyes. I see everything. Understand...everything.William: Mother...Mother: I hate to be cruel — No, I don't. I used to hate to be cruel in life. Now, I find it rather freeing. Nothing less will pry your greedy little fingers off my apron strings, will it?William: Stop. Please.Mother: Ever since the day you first slithered from me like a parasite...William: What're you s—Mother: Had I known better, I could have spared myself a lifetime of tedium and just — Dashed your brains out when I first saw you. God, I prayed you'd find a woman to release me, but you scarcely showed an interest. Who could compare to your doddering housebound mum? A captive audience for your witless prattle.William: Whatever I was, that's not who I am anymore.Mother: Darling, it's who you'll always be. A limp...sentimental fool.
- The Reveal: It's revealed that the source of Spike's trigger is his guilt over vamping his mother and the resulting emotional devastation. When Spike realized it was the demon talking and not his mother, the trigger was disabled.
- Revenge Before Reason: Wood with regards to Spike; it either never occurs to him or he doesn't care that he's playing right into The First's hands by acting on the knowledge that Spike killed his mother.
- Room Full of Crazy: A different version in the Room Full of Crosses built by Wood to trap Spike, hinting at his obsession with revenge.
- Rousing Speech: Lampshaded when Giles accuses Buffy of not seeing "the big picture".Buffy: Hello! All I do is look at the big picture. The other day, I gave an inspirational speech to the telephone repair man.
Giles: It takes more than rousing speeches to lead, Buffy.
- Rule of Symbolism: Spike and Buffy both cut loose their parents.
- Sanity Has Advantages: Spike struggles against Wood while forced into a trigger-induced frenzy. But when clarity returns, he's able to quickly turn the tables around.
- Saying Too Much: Anya on Spike having a Get Out of Jail Free card."He could slaughter a hundred frat boys, and..." Xander, Willow, Dawn, Kennedy and Rona stare at her all, Oh yes? You don't say? "...forgiveness makes us human."
- She's Okay: Lampshaded when Willow patches Dawn up.Willow: It doesn't look like anything's broken.Dawn: Did you use some sort of magic x-ray?Willow: No, that's... just what people usually say.
- Shoo Out the Clowns: Willow heads to L.A to help the Fang Gang, Xander has two scenes and three lines, Anya and Andrew have only one scene.
- Shoot the Dog: Giles confronts Buffy about whether she would make the same choice again (Dawn vs. Saving the World) and she admits that life has taught her some dogs have to be shot and now she would sacrifice even Dawn if she had to in order to prevent the Apocalypse. She even outright tells Principal Wood she would be willing to let Spike kill him if Wood forces the issue, because Spike is the more useful soldier in the coming battle and she has to make the tough decisions if the world is going to survive.
- Single Tear: Wood after Spike points out how Nikki hadn't prioritized him over slaying.
- Staking the Loved One: Spike had to stake his newly-sired mother after it was made clear that she was a completely different person. And evil. And trying to shag him.
- Stealth Pun: Spike is "not much for self-reflection".
- Stylistic Suck: William's ode to Cecily.Vampire!Anne: The lark hath spake from twixt its wee beak? You honestly thought I could bear an eternity listening to that twaddle?
- Surpassed the Teacher: Buffy makes it clear she has no further need for Giles' training or advice. "You've taught me everything I need to know."
- Stake Catch: Spike catches a stake hurled at him by Nikki.
- There Are No Therapists: Finally averted, but with a Hellmouth twist. Spike investigates the trigger using a magic rock that crawls into his brain. Then he gets into a knockdown dragout with Robin in a room wallpapered with crosses. And he's okay at the end.
- Verbal Backspace
- Spike: "You need a place to cut loose, let your hair down. (realises Wood is bald) So to speak."
- Anne, Spike's mom, after she's been turned into a vampire: "I hate to be cruel...no, I don't. I used to hate to be cruel in life. Now, I find it rather freeing."
- We Need a Distraction: Robin Wood as a child, knocking over the trash bin to save his mother from Spike. Giles taking Buffy out for some training so Robin can kill Spike.
- Wham Line: "The mission is all that matters." Said by Buffy to a beaten, bitten, bleeding, Robin.
- You Killed My Mother: Robin to Spike
- You Fight Like a Cow: Once again this appears to be an innate trait of Slayers, even back in The '70s.
- You Remind Me of X: Wood says Buffy reminds him of his mother.Buffy: Got to tell you, not a line every girl likes to hear, but - in this case — (smiles) compliment taken.