Directed by Michael Gershman
Marching into his apartment, Xander lays out the ground rules for living in his house as Buffy and Dawn walk in behind him. He turns to an exasperated, uninvited Spike, who's standing at the doorway. Xander then reluctantly, halfheartedly invites him in, and it is revealed that Buffy has insisted that Spike needs to leave the basement of Sunnydale High because of his deteriorating mental state, and he has to stay with Xander, at least for the short term, because he has nowhere else to go, a plan that Xander makes no effort to hide his disgust with. Buffy is certain that the events that occurred between the two in "Seeing Red" will not repeat themselves, now that Spike has a soul, though Xander and Dawn remain somewhat skeptical, and Buffy even briefly recoils in shock when Spike grabs her arm while trying to talk to her. Though both Spike and Xander are certain that the arrangement will not work, Buffy is certain that it already is working because, aside from one episode, Spike has "stopped talking to invisible people".
The next day, Dawn questions the very definition of love to Buffy, who shortly leaves for work, obviously also confused with that concept. But, as Dawn continues her rant, she notices a guy in a letterman jacket, having just finished a game, and falls in love.
Later, Buffy saves Anya from an assassin sent by D'Hoffryn, who has obviously decided the former vengeance demon can't be allowed to live. Buffy asks Anya to re-join the Scooby Gang, telling her that something very evil is coming and she'd rather none of her friends be alone. Anya tries to hide her keenness by agreeing hesitantly.
Meanwhile, Dawn practices conversation pieces with herself before then approaching the guy she had seen before, who is named R.J. Brooks. Her plan goes awry, as he keeps reluctantly ignoring her, talking with his friends and girlfriend (a cheerleader) instead. It is established that R.J. is the team quarterback, and that the cheerleading team is now in need of one extra member. After hearing this, Dawn lays out another plan to catch R.J.'s attention, which involves going into the attic in search of her sister's old cheerleading outfit.
Dawn takes part in the cheerleading tryouts held the next day. Her over-exuberant and horrible cheer (which includes the line "We've got a secret weapon and his name is R.J.!") causes her to humiliate and embarrass herself in front of the school, after her attempted cartwheel goes horridly wrong. That night, Buffy tries to comfort her sister through the locked bathroom door as Dawn start weeping about R.J. Buffy is unsuccessful, particularly after her trying to convince Dawn that her "unrequited love" is actually just a teenage crush causes Dawn to whip the door open and scream angrily at her sister.
Buffy further tries to console her sister, but Dawn coldly states that she doesn't need love advice from a dysfunction queen, before asking her sister to leave. Meanwhile, R.J. is confronted and informed that his fellow teammate, O'Donnell, has been promoted to team quarterback by the coach. Dawn witnesses this, and decides that it is not fair for R.J. She takes matters into her own hands as she pushes O'Donnell down a flight of stairs.
Dawn is sent to the principal's office, with Buffy present, as they talk about the situation. Dawn denies that she had anything to do with O'Donnell's fall, but Buffy realizes something is amiss. In the school corridor, R.J. catches up with Dawn, and begins a more friendly conversation with her. After the brief talk, he asks her if she wants to hang out after school, and Dawn wholeheartedly agrees.
That night at The Bronze, Buffy, Willow, and Xander notice R.J. dancing with a racily-clad girl. But the group jumps in horror after realizing that the girl is actually Dawn. Buffy confronts her, telling Dawn off about lying to her, and also scolds her for the way she is dressed, asserting that "Anna Nicole Smith thinks you look tacky". Buffy asks her to leave, and Dawn angrily complies. Outside The Bronze, she is then encountered by R.J.'s girlfriend, Lori. Buffy breaks up a minor cat fight, before Lori leaves, warning Dawn to stay away from R.J.
The next day at school, Buffy watches as Principal Wood lectures R.J. about not doing his own homework and then she herself catches him for another lecture. She confronts him about he way he is treating girls, but quickly, something comes over Buffy after she starts to stammeringly swoon after him. She leaves him off with a "mild warning," and returns home to talk to Dawn. She lies to her sister, telling Dawn that she has "checked him out" and finds R.J. to be a good, solid guy. However, she does advise Dawn to back off a little, and wait for a guy to sweep her off her feet.
Buffy quickly pulls R.J. out of class the next day and leads him into an empty classroom. As she adoringly watch him talk about football, she starts to seduce him and they kiss. Meanwhile, despite Buffy's earlier advice, Dawn looks for R.J.and finds him. She runs out, bursting into tears, and is comforted by Xander. He goes in to look for Buffy, and finds her half naked and straddling R.J on the desk. They return home, where Buffy and Dawn fight over R.J.
Xander and Spike head out to meet with Lance Brooks, while Willow and Anya research love spells. Despite the fact that he was quite popular in high school, Xander and Spike find Lance has become a loser. After some chatting, the guys realize that the source of the problem is R.J.'s letterman jacket (adding some irony to Xander's earlier sarcastic remark about that jacket being the source of the seduction effect). In the meantime, R.J. shows up at the Summers' home, and after seeing him, Anya and Willow (despite her being a lesbian) also fall in love. Eventually, the four girls fight over who loves R.J. the most, and decide to have a contest to see which of them is more ready, willing and able for R.J. As the three other girls head off, a depressed Dawn finds herself out-shadowed.
The girls then go out of their way to prove their respective loves. Willow starts a spell to turn R.J. into a woman (to fulfill her sexual orientation), Anya takes off to rob a bank, Buffy prepares to blow Principal Wood away with her old rocket launcher, and, finally, Dawn lays herself across railroad tracks.
Xander and Spike return home just in time to stop Willow from completing her spell. They then head off to the high school to prevent Buffy from killing Principal Wood. After successfully distracting Buffy, the gang casts a locator's spell to find Dawn. They reach the train tracks just in time before a speeding train flattens the younger Summers. Buffy outruns the train and rescues her sister. Apparently, Dawn's attempted suicide knocks some sense into her, and in turn, Buffy tries to assure Dawn that no guy is worth her life. Dawn begins to see sense, and they return home that night. This time they try to hatch a plan to destroy R.J.'s letterman jacket. Without any trouble, Xander and Spike manage to take the letterman's jacket off R.J., before the Scoobies witness its burning in the Summers' fireplace.
Buffy and Dawn reconcile, the love spell is broken, and everything is back to normal. Dawn apologizes for how she acted and talked to Buffy, and how stupid she felt that she "did it over a spell". Buffy forgives Dawn and tells her to "be prepared to feel even stupider when it isn't" over a spell. The girls lament about what they all 'almost' did. However, as they ask Anya what she almost did, she stalls. Then comes a news report about a wanted bank robber. Anya instantly takes the opportunity to switch off the radio and calls out "OK! Great! Ice cream! My treat?
- Actor Allusion: The song "Warning Sign" is used on the soundtrack to Cruel Intentions, which also starred Sarah Michelle Gellar. The costume she wears and her persona in the scene closely resembles that of her character Kathryn in the film.
- Age-Inappropriate Dress: Buffy dresses in a plaid skirt to make herself look younger when molesting RJ.
- All Guys Want Cheerleaders / All Men Are Perverts:
Buffy: You shredded my outfit.
- RJ's friend hears about the cheerleader tryouts and asks if the girls are going to be jumping up and down a lot.
- And later:
Dawn: I'll buy you a new one.
Buffy: That's not the point. I don't want a new cheerleading outfit.
Xander: Now, now, let's not be hasty
- Always Second Best: Dawn tries to kill herself in the belief that she can't compete with Buffy."You're older and hotter and have sex that's rough and kill people. I don't have any of that stuff!"
- An Axe to Grind: Buffy vs. the demon that D'Hoffryn sent to kill Anya.
- Bare Your Midriff / Painted-On Pants: Dawn, the Pushy Queen of Slut Town.
- Blatant Lies: Anya claiming she wrote an epic poem for RJ, when actually she robbed several banks to get him money.
- Brain Bleach: Both Xander and Willow need some when they realize Dawn is the one dancing with RJ.
- Buffy Speak:
- Soul-having. Rant Girl. No more with the talky.
- Xander re Spike: "Crazy-Basement-Guy is better than Stalking-Buffy-Guy."
- Breather Episode: Sandwiched right between Anya's day in the limelight and a cast-wide Drama Bomb.
- Call-Back / History Repeats
- Dawn asks Buffy if she loves Spike, just as Tara did in "Dead Things". This time Buffy is able to answer the question — no, but she does have feelings for him (the same answer she gave Spike in "Seeing Red").
- Dawn fears she can't compete with her cooler, more assertive, and sexually-experienced sister, just as a teenaged Buffy once worried about losing Angel to girls like Cordelia or Faith.
- Xander walking in on Buffy straddling RJ is like when he came across the Buffybot straddling Spike in "Intervention".
- Spike turning the angel statuettes so they couldn't face him, like Drusilla bandaging the eyes of her dolls.
- Spike moving in with Xander, and Lance living in his mother's basement and working dead-end jobs, is a call back to Xander in Season 4.
- Willow trying to sort out a relationship problem by immediately resorting to magic.
- Cat Fight: Dawn and Lori (RJ's girlfriend) get into a hair-pulling contest outside the Bronze.
- Chekhov's Bazooka: The rocket launcher Buffy used to dust The Judge in "Innocence" is used again to try and kill Wood.
- Also the cheerleader outfit that Buffy last wore in "The Witch").
- Chick Magnet: RJ, due to the effects of his magic jacket, is one unintentionally.
- Closet Sublet: Spike ignominiously moves into a 'spare room' in Xander's apartment."I know it looks like a closet but it's a room now."
- Coincidental Broadcast: Quickly turned off by Anya when the radio starts talking about the masked gunman who held up a number of businesses—
- Continuity Nod:
- Buffy follows up on her insistence that Spike move out of the Sunnydale High basement, making him room with a reluctant Xander.
- Buffy is startled when Spike touches her unexpectedly — his attempted rape still leaves its scars.
- Buffy's poor driving skills in her mother's SUV, as seen in "Band Candy".
- Buffy insisting everyone but her is affected by the spell, as she did in "Something Blue".
- Dawn brings up Buffy's taste for rough sex — according to a deleted line on the shooting script, she found this out from Anya who would have got the information during her drinking session with Spike in "Entropy".
- Spike glaring at Lance when he puts down poetry is a reference to Spike's human past as a (bad) poet, shown in "Fool For Love".
- Xander identifying the effects of a love spell is due to his experiences in "Something Blue" and "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" — the latter also showed how the spell can affect a person's sense of right and wrong, with the affected girls all trying to murder Xander as shown in the flashback.
- And oddly enough, given all of those, the ending of "Selfless" is immediately forgotten. Anya is now a full time member of the Scoobies again after ending the last episode going off to find herself, and D'Hoffryn is sending demons to kill her when he was previously content to wait for her to be killed by someone else.
- Anya only joined the Scoobies after they discovered the love spell (she wasn't with them at the Bronze). She was probably only called to help, as she has the greatest knowledge of magic theory.
- Department of Redundancy Department:Willow: Damn love spell. I have tried every anti-love spell spell I could find.
Anya: Even if you find the right one, the guy would probably just do an anti-anti-love spell spell spell. (Willow looks confused)
- Did They or Didn't They?: Fandom is actually somewhat divided over whether Buffy actually slept with RJ or was merely seconds away from it when Xander found them. The chief argument that they did not is that it's hard to believe the series would let Buffy actually seduce a minor, while the argument that they did suggests that when you combine the amount of time Buffy was left alone with RJ, the fact that her clothes are nearly off (and he seems to be doing up his fly) and that she refers to RJ as "her lover" (albeit she's Brainwashed and Crazy at this point), it's not impossible to believe Xander interrupted them in the middle of the act, rather than just before they began. The novelization of the season openly depicts them having sex.
- Distracted by the Sexy: Dawn slides along the bleachers to keep RJ in sight until she falls off the end.
- Eating the Eye Candy: Xander and Willow are checking out Dawn at The Bronze, before they realize who she is.
- Enemy Mine: Spike and Xander are forced to work together to stop the girls of the group from doing something crazy under the influence.
- Face-Revealing Turn: Played for Laughs.(RJ is dirty dancing with a beautiful scantily-dressed girl, seen only from the back)
Willow: (ogling the girl) Check out his fan club.
Xander: (ogling likewise) Ooo, daddy like.
Buffy: (rolls her eyes) What is that shirt made of? Paint?
Willow: (dawning realization) Buffy
Buffy: Glad Dawnie isn't here to see her precious boyfriend getting all thrusty with some slut-bag hussy—
(the girl turns around, and everybody's jaws drop when they see that she is Dawn)
Xander: (horrified) Oh oh no! Daddy no I wasn't when I was lookin' I wasn't oh God!
Willow: (ashamed) Right there with ya.
- Felony Misdemeanor: Xander says that as Spike has a soul, shouldn't he be picking up his wet towels? Willow suggest that maybe it means he feels bad about not picking them up.
- Foreshadowing: Anya discusses the feelings a gay Willow has for RJ.Anya: His physical form has a penis!Willow: I can work around that!
- Don't Sneak Up On Me Like That: After saying Spike is OK now he's got a soul, Buffy jumps when he touches her unexpectedly.
- Double Standard: Rape, Sci-Fi: Sure, the episode seems like a nice breather episode after the last episode where Buffy might have to kill Anya and the next one where the First begins to put his plan into motion
until you realize that RJ is essentially using his magic jacket to manipulate the feelings of other woman against their will. What also increases the Squick factor is that if Xander hadn't stopped Buffy when she did she would have had sex with him which means Buffy has almost been raped twice in less then six months.
- In fairness to RJ and Lance, they seem unaware of the jacket's magical power (especially seeing how RJ made no significant effort to get the jacket back after it had been stolen by Xander and Spike), though their father apparently does as he insisted they wear it.
- Driven to Suicide: Dawn lies across the railway tracks so that the train will run over her, in order to prove her "love" for RJ, and is only saved at the last minute by her sister.
- Eating the Eye Candy: Xander and Willow checking out Dawn, before they realise who she is.
- Flashback Cut: "People forget how dangerous love spells can be." Xander immediately flashes back to a scene from "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" with a mob of girls trying to murder him and Cordelia.Xander: (smiling) Good times
- Funny Background Event: Buffy tries to kill Principal Woods, who'd been giving R.J. a hard time. While he's working in his office, we see Buffy through his window about to blast him with a rocket launcher. Spike tackles her, then she tackles him, then he runs away with the launcher.
- Gender Bender: Willow's solution to RJ is to turn him into a girl, thus eliminating her competition so she can him...err, her all to herself. It's the less extreme of the bids for his attention.
- Hand Gagging: Xander to Willow just as she's about to complete her spell.
- Hot for Teacher: A magic jacket casts love spells on half the female cast, making Buffy, Willow, Anya, and Dawn chase after the high school football hero, R.J. Anya is hundreds of years older than the guy, but it's Buffy who follows this trope: she's a counselor at the school now, and before she tries to kill the principal for her beloved, she gets him up on a desk with naughty things in mind...in time for her lovesick little sister to walk in and catch them (and for Xander to scold Buffy).RJ: (after Buffy's "Shut Up" Kiss) You're like a teacher.
Buffy: Not really. (sweetly) But, I mean, does it bother you?
RJ: (smiling) Not so much.
- I Believe That You Believe It: Buffy trying to convince Dawn that her crush on RJ isn't real.
- Incest Is Relative: Willow and Xander ogling a girl, who turns out to be their surrogate little sister Dawn.
- Insane Troll Logic: Plenty of this as each love-struck Scooby tries to explain why their love is the real deal.
- Interrupted Intimacy: Xander walks in on a half-(un)dressed Buffy making out with RJ on a school desk.
- Kill It with Fire: The letterman jacket is burned at the end of the episode.
- Kissing Under the Influence: Buffy makes out with RJ while under the jacket's influence.
- Klingon Promotion: Downplayed Trope, Dawn pushes the new quarterback down a flight of stairs so that RJ can have the position
- Lampshaded Double Entendre: Buffy tells RJ that she's pretty much the same age as him, "but with the sexual experience and stuff."RJ: I think I hear what you're saying.
- Laugh of Love: Dawn and RJ are laughing while dirty-dancing together at a party. Buffy also giggles when she first falls under the spell.
- Leitmotif: "Theme From A Summer Place" by Percy Faith is heard every time someone falls in love with RJ.
- Love Makes You Dumb: At the end Dawn is moaning how stupid she acted over a love spell. Buffy tells her to prepare to feel even stupider when it's the real thing.
- Love Makes You Evil: When another jock gets RJ's position on the football team, Dawn pushes him down the stairs.
- Love Spell: R.J. is found to own, unknowingly, a letterman jacket that caused women to find him irresistibly attractive. This prompted the female cast to, respectively, pull off a heist, attempt murder, suicide, and a sex-changing spell. Their competition dissolves into insane violence so fast that it makes one wonder why no one noticed a bunch of (apparently) criminally insane girls trying to win the boy's love before.
- Manipulative Bitch: Buffy tells Dawn that RJ likes her, but thought she was coming on too strong. Buffy then swoops in on RJ while little sis is taking it slow.
- Mr. Fanservice: In universe example: RJ, while played by the quite attractive Thad Luckinbill, (unknowingly) relies on his jacket to woo girls.
- Mating Dance: Dawn does this while under the influence of a Love Spell, causing Willow and Xander (who'd been eyeing her rather lasciviously, not realizing who she was at first) to have a Brain Bleach reaction.
- Meaningful Echo: When Willow and Anya fall in love with RJ too, they start mimicking the words of the Dawn/Buffy spat.
- Mood Whiplash: Buffy is Twerp Sweating RJ when he slips into his jacket — suddenly it's The Return of Puppy-Dog Eyes!
- Mundane Solution: Xander and Spike's "plan" consists of them running up to RJ, ripping off his letterman jacket and fleeing with it.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Dawn is ashamed of what's she's done while under the influence.Dawn: I'm just so...the way I acted, the way I talked to you. I feel so stupid. All over a spell.Buffy: Get ready to feel even stupider when it's not.
- Never Say That Again: Dawn is crying after seeing RJ making out with her sister:Xander: Dawn? What's wrong? Is this Did that guy in the jacket—
Dawn: I don't even want to hear his name anymore!
Xander: I just called him "that guy in the jacket".
Dawn: That's what I used to call him in my head before I knew his real name!
- Non-Answer:Dawn: Last night, you said you weren't helping Spike out of pity. What is it [if not that]?
Buffy: It's a good question. (sips her drink through a straw)
Dawn: Is sitting there drinking soda some kind of a Zen non-answer?
- Oblivious Mockery: Spike gives Lance a dirty look when he starts ragging RJ's poetry-writing.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Spike's accent slips up when he apologizes to Buffy after inadvertently touching her.
- Painted-On Pants: Buffy makes snide comments about a girl doing a Mating Dance in a really tight shirt and jeans, only to realise it's her little sister, Dawn.
- Questionable Consent: Buffy and RJ's makeout session that was very clearly on its way to something much more intense if Xander hadn't interrupted, on both ends. Buffy, obviously because she was under a potent love spell and RJ, because he's likely a minor and Buffy is an authority-figure who works at his school.
- Quizzical Tilt: Anya and Willow seeing RJ in the jacket.
- Sexy Man, Instant Harem: R.J. has this effect on any woman who he speaks to, to include his classmate Dawn, Dawn's older sister (and school counselor) Buffy, and lesbian Willow. Also a case of magic in this case (though different magic from Xander's situation), and heading towards similar results as the first case. This time, however, the kid had no idea what was going on.
- Songs of Solace: After her cheerleader tryout disaster Dawn lies on her bed listening to "School Blood" by King Black Acid.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Light music plays on a CD in Wood's office as Buffy tries to murder him in the background.
- Split Screen: Used to show what the female Scoobies are doing to prove their love — as cheezy action movie music plays Willow is casting a spell, Buffy drives up to the school and climbs out holding a rocket launcher, Anya is shown pulling a ski mask over her head outside a bank, and Dawn lies across the railroad tracks.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial:
Xander: I refuse to answer that on the grounds that it didn't fit.
- Xander: "Something about the big letter on the chest - makes girls get swoony and crushy. I saw it all the time in school. And you couldn't just pin any old felt letter to your coat and get play. Not that I tried."
- Anya: "It was a spell. We're not responsible for anything we did morally or, you know, legally "
- Buffy asks Xander if he thought of trying on the jacket.
- Relative Button: Dawn trying to kill herself shocks Buffy out of the effects of the spell. Mostly.
- Riddle for the Ages: Where did RJ's father get the magic jacket?Anya: Man, this tool gets his jacket from his brother, who got it from their father, and we'll never know where he got it. That bites.
- Rule of Three:
- Xander walking in on Buffy's make-out session has happened twice before in the series (in "Intervention" with the Buffybot, and "Gone" with Spike bonking an invisible Buffy).
- This is the third time Buffy is hit with a love spell and the first time she's ever admitted it.
- Running Gag: Buffy insisting she's just slightly older than RJ.
- Sanity Strengthening: Barring one episode in the car, Spike has largely returned to his former self and stopped "talking to invisible people."
- She's All Grown Up: Xander and Willow come to the simultaneous realization that the girl they've both been ogling is Buffy's kid sister Dawn.
- Sick and Wrong: Xander lasciviously eyes a gyrating nymphet on the dance floor ("Daddy like!"), only for her to turn around and reveal herself as Dawn. Cue facepalm.
- It wasn't just Xander: Willow has a much more subdued disgust for ogling: "Right there with ya."
- Slow Motion: RJ whenever a girl falls for him.
- Tantrum Throwing: Dawn shredding the cheerleader outfit after her disastrous tryout.
- That Came Out Wrong:
"Now go to your closet." [flees the room]
- Spike says he doesn't want Buffy's molly-coddling. She assures him it's not coddling, and winces at the Double Entendre.
- After the cheerleading disaster, Dawn moans that RJ will never notice her now. Buffy assures him that he did, what with the falling down and all. Dawn squeals in horror and slams the door.
- This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!:Lori: I'll never let you have him, bitch. RJ is mine. I mean it! Stay away from him!
Buffy: (to Dawn) Well, at least someone agrees you shouldn't be dating this guy.
- The Triple:Buffy: (to Slut!Dawn) Where do I start with the bad? First, you told me you were going to the library. Second, you do not go out on a date without informing me first. Third, Anna Nicole Smith thinks you look tacky.
- Variable Terminal Velocity: Occurs during the train rescue scene.
- Verbal Backspace:Buffy: You've been out of the basement for half an hour, and you've already stopped talking to invisible people.
Buffy: OK, so there was that one episode in the car
- What the Hell, Hero?: Dawn is incredulous that Buffy is telling her off for being irresponsible in her relationships:"You know what? Maybe I don't want advice from the Dysfunction Queen."
- You're Just Jealous: Naturally. To be precise, Dawn says this to Buffy, accusing her of not being able to handle that she doesn't have all of the attention for once.