Written by David Fury
Directed by David Grossman
Buffy is meditating/training with Giles. She does a handstand on a loose block of wood, then slowly removes one hand. There are some shiny crystals nearby. Giles seems fairly impressed with Buffy’s performance. But then Dawn drops another crystal onto the stack and Buffy comes toppling down. Dawn is very bored with this training and wants to leave.
Dawn is in her bedroom writing in her diary. She feels very misunderstood and overlooked because she’s the baby sister of the Chosen One. Her voiceover continues over a scene of Buffy, Joyce, and Dawn moving around each other in the kitchen while they have breakfast, and Dawn uses the bowl, cereal, and milk Buffy was planning to use. Joyce wants Buffy to take Dawn for her school shopping, but neither Buffy nor Dawn want to do that. Dawn earns some points with a Harry Potter reference, which goes over their heads. Buffy doesn’t appreciate Dawn getting in the way of her training time with Giles.
Riley shows up, and Buffy greets him. They kiss. Dawn finds it a bit gross, and she doesn’t appreciate Riley calling her a kid. Buffy feels bad because she accidentally planned training with Giles over top of existing casual hang plans with Riley, but he’s very supportive of her renewed focus on her calling. They kiss again and he leaves.
Giles has a new red convertible and is playing classical music in it. Classical music is not convertible music. Dawn agrees with me, but Giles doesn’t want her touching the dials when she’s supposed to be buckled in the back seat. She gets the impression Giles doesn’t like her, and she blames the generation gap. Buffy is slightly intimidated by the long reading list Giles is giving her for her advanced Slayer studies. Giles is struggling to get used to an automatic transition. He thinks being a Watcher again merits respect, but he also really wants Willow and Tara to admire his new car. *snort*
Willow is Dawn’s favorite. They are chess buddies, and the two biggest nerds of the group (excluding Giles, because of that generation gap). Dawn also likes Tara a lot, but she doesn’t know Willow and Tara are in a relationship.
They all walk from the Espresso Bean to the Magic Box. Buffy fills Willow in on her new training schedule with Giles and how that will fit around college. Alas, it required her to drop drama. Willow is very upset about this, but her diatribe is interrupted by Tara pointing out that the Magic Box appears to be closed. They head inside and find the dead body of Mr. Bogarty, the owner, whom Tara knew well. He was killed by a vampire. Buffy rushes Dawn outside so she won’t be exposed to the grisly sight. A crazy dude comes up to her on the street. She tries to yell for Buffy, and then he starts saying that he knows what she is and she doesn’t belong. She’s terrified.
Tara comes outside and finds Dawn sitting at the base of the wall around a corner. She sits with her. They pass the time while the other three are investigating Mr. Bogarty having a thumb wrestle tournament. Tara is awesome.
Willow goes through the store’s register and finds out that some things were stolen by Mr. Bogarty’s vamp killer. Giles gets sidetracked when he sees just how much money the store tends to bring in. He’s very impressed. The missing items include one of the books on Buffy’s list and...a large ceramic unicorn.
Yeah, we’re dealing with Harmony again. *protracted groan* In her lair, she’s congratulating her minions on the wonderful job they did at the Magic Box, especially the one who got her the unicorn. She has quite the collection of them. The minions are getting pretty impatient to carry out their plan, though. They’ll be doing that tonight. (The plan involves killing Buffy.)
Joyce is not happy that Buffy failed to do the errands she was supposed to do with Dawn because they spent the afternoon at the scene of a murder instead. She also doesn’t like that now Buffy conveniently has to go patrolling for vampires with Riley instead of staying to watch Dawn. Dawn doesn’t think she needs a babysitter, and I agree. Girl’s fourteen! I started babysitting other people’s kids when I was eleven, and my parents were leaving me in charge of my little brothers when I was ten. Buffy and Joyce aren’t even considering the idea of leaving Dawn home alone, though. Buffy has to find a babysitter before Joyce leaves for her gallery showing. She says she’ll get Xander, and Dawn is suddenly okay with it.
When Xander shows up with pizza, Dawn is in a much fancier outfit than she was before. And she’s not happy about Anya coming along. And wait, why does a girl who loves school think Xander’s smarter than Buffy and Willow for not doing college? I guess when you have a crush, it tends to skew your logic about a person.
Tara and Willow are getting things unpacked in their new dorm room. Tara is trying to explain what it’s like for Dawn, being the outsider in such a tight-knit group—a feeling Tara knows from experience. Willow objects to the idea that Tara is an outsider. When Willow insists that Tara’s “one of the good guys,” Tara gets a really uncomfortable expression. Willow thinks a Scooby rite of passage might be in order. Tara passes, but she thinks it’s a good idea for Dawn.
Buffy is patrolling with Riley now, and she’s ranting about Joyce’s overreaction earlier. Riley thinks Buffy might be overreacting herself. Buffy feels a little guilty. For some reason, her role as the big sister has been really hard lately. Riley points out that Dawn looks up to Buffy, with many good reasons, like her superpowers, status as a college student, and possession of a hunky boyfriend (if he does say so himself). Buffy doesn’t consider her life all that enviable. What drives Buffy crazy about Dawn is that she treats her normal kid life as something huge and awful, where Buffy would’ve been happy to trade.
Dawn has pretty much the same feelings about Buffy. She thinks Buffy’s the one who gets all this special treatment. Xander tries to convince her she’s wrong. Together, they explain how LIFE works to Anya, who is already winning by accident. Then a rock comes through the window, with the following message tied to it:
Harmony and her gang are waiting outside to fight Buffy. Harmony is indignant when Xander informs her Buffy isn’t home. Xander finds the idea of Harmony having minions hilarious. I agree. Also, he recognizes Brad, the kiss-up minion who brought Harmony the unicorn. Apparently he used to be a bullying jock. Harmony mocks Xander for being Dracula’s mind slave. Dawn, angry on his behalf, starts mouthing off from the safe location of hiding behind Anya. Then she dares Harmony to come inside and try those insults again. ...Which constitutes an invitation. Oops!
Harmony vamps out and tackles Xander into the entrance hall. Dawn flees upstairs. Fortunately, the minions can’t get in. Harmony is a slightly better fighter than she was last season. Anya can’t believe there aren’t any weapons lying within reach in the Slayer’s own house. Xander manages to kick Harmony back outside. She and her minions leave.
Buffy dissolves into a hilarious fit of laughter when Xander tells her about Harmony’s minions. Seems like the appropriate response to me.
More peals of laughter follow the revelation that Harmony came to her house to kill her. But she’s less amused when she finds out Dawn accidentally invited Harmony in.
Harmony is bummed her attack didn’t work. Now that the element of surprise is lost, she wants to rethink. Then Spike lays out Brad with one punch. He’d like to liven up his own evening by killing the lot of them. But then Harmony steps into view. They greet each other with pet names, then catch up a little. The big lunky minion, Mort, isn’t impressed by Spike. Spike isn’t terribly impressed by Harmony’s minions, and he thinks it’s laughable that she thinks she stands a chance against Buffy when he hasn’t been able to kill her for three years. She’s very confident in her plan. Spike guesses the plan involves kidnapping a Scooby and using him or her as bait. That wasn’t actually the plan, but now it is!
Buffy is gearing up to go dust out Harmony’s nest, and she’s still super pissed at Dawn for inviting Harmony in. Xander tries to come to Dawn’s defense by pointing out that Joyce invited Dracula in last week. Buffy fumbles a bit trying to deal with that argument, but she still won’t be persuaded that Dawn is being inexcusably un-genre-savvy for her age.
Also, Dawn has been listening at the door to all of this, and she’s very hurt now. She of course stops eavesdropping right before Buffy’s rant turns into concern, because that’s how eavesdropping always works in fiction. She runs downstairs and out onto the back lawn. Anya tries to pull her back inside, but they get jumped by Mort before they make it. Mort and the other minions grab Dawn and leave Anya dazed on the kitchen floor.
Riley takes Anya to the hospital for her fun new head wound. Before they go, she tells Buffy enough to know Dawn has been captured by Harmony’s minions.
Harmony is giving her minions another pep talk about their great work. They aren’t feeling super motivated, though. They think they should just kill Dawn now, since all that matters is that Buffy thinks Dawn is still alive for Harmony’s plan to work. They don’t want to wait to kill her just because Harmony says so.
Buffy barges into Spike’s crypt to beat the location of Harmony’s lair out of him. She punches him an extra time just for good measure, then heads out.
Harmony complains to Dawn about how much it sucks that her minions don’t respect her. Dawn recognizes some of what Harmony’s feeling. Mort and the others come in. They’ve decided they’d rather dust Harmony and kill Dawn than stick to Harmony’s plan. Harmony tries to order Mort’s execution, but nobody reacts. She knows she’s officially lost alpha status. Mort grabs her by the throat. One of the other minions (the one played by Tom Lenk) approaches Dawn, who tries to keep him at bay with threats of retribution from Buffy. He doesn’t believe her, and for that, he’s the first one who gets dusted.
Buffy’s here! She tells Dawn to close her eyes, then kills two of the other minions handily. Mort gives her a little more trouble, and Harmony skeddadles while they fight. Eventually, she stakes him with the horn of one of Harmony’s unicorns. What an embarrassing way to go. She cuts Dawn free of her manacles, still annoyed with her for getting herself in this situation. They’re planning on ratting each other out to Joyce.
They get home, and then so does Joyce. They don’t rat each other out. Aww. Dawn goes to bed. The next day at the Magic Box, she’s still writing in her diary. Giles has bought the Magic Box. He thinks it’ll be similar to being a librarian, with the added bonus of giving the Scoobies somewhere besides his flat to meet up all the time. Also, he has an awesome training room in the back. Buffy seems to think Dawn will break anything she touches. Dawn doesn’t appreciate that. Also Dawn’s shirt is super cute.
“Real Me” is a very effective introduction for Dawn Summers. She fits into the group dynamic in a convincingly organic way, with just a couple of minor hints that something more is going on in the story than a random gigantic retcon. I really like these hints, because they leave open the possibility that Dawn is evil. And as much as I can’t stand Harmony, any more formidable villain than her (so basically, any other villain ever) would have been too much Plot A for an episode whose primary purpose was to establish a new major character who is only new in the eyes of the audience. An extremely incompetent villain who is looked down on by other villains is a great parallel for the way Dawn thinks the Scoobies see her. I just wish Buffy had actually staked Harmony at the end. (Or that she had staked her at the beginning of S4.)
Like Buffy (from now on), I’m the oldest in my family. Younger siblings can be a major pain in the butt. They always want to hang out with you when you want to be doing something else, your friends never seem to find them as irritating as you do, and sometimes it seems like they actually have nothing better to do than be obnoxious. To cap it off, your parents tend to be more lenient with them than with you, because you’re the one who’s supposed to set an example. So I sympathize a lot with Buffy when it comes to Dawn, and yet it seems to me that Buffy might be taking her exasperation a little too far. But I have a theory on that. As far as Buffy remembers, she’s been a big sister for fourteen years. In reality, she’s only been a big sister for a week. She doesn’t actually know how to do it, so there’s going to have to be a learning curve as she acclimates to the new status quo. And I think the way Buffy and Joyce don’t think Dawn can be left alone even though she’s fourteen is also part of the magic. The whole point of the memory-altering spell was to protect Dawn, and that purpose wouldn’t be very well served if Buffy and Joyce let Dawn be as independent as she wants.
Xander is very good with Dawn. Granted, Dawn has a crush on him, so he doesn’t have to try very hard, but his particular brand of easy-going charisma, while not effective on people like Giles, works quite well on anyone who wants attention, acceptance, and to be treated as an equal. (This doesn’t work on Giles because he—correctly—considers himself Xander’s superior.)
Willow shouldn’t really be surprised that Tara still feels like an outsider, considering that it took her several months after they met to introduce Tara to the group. Maybe she could do more to help Tara feel included? It’s possible that one of the reasons Tara doesn’t feel like part of the group is that Willow already fills the “witch” spot, so she thinks she’s superfluous. But Tara is much more experienced at witchcraft than Willow, and technically Willow fills the “computer genius” spot. She could move over and let Tara take point on the witchcraft stuff. That way they’d both be indispensable.
Riley seems especially keen to be on the good side of Buffy’s family members, and keen for Buffy to be on the good side of Buffy’s family members. Which just reminds me that we know next to nothing about Riley’s own family. Just that they own dogs and live in Iowa. Does Riley have siblings? Extended family he’s close to? What do his parents do? He’s trying so hard to be involved in Buffy’s family life that I can’t help noticing how absent his side of the picture is. Is that because the writers were lazy about fleshing out his backstory, or is it because Buffy isn’t as invested in the relationship as him?
That game of LIFE might be the thing that sparked Anya’s love of capitalism more than anything else she’s experienced so far as a human. Up until now, it seems like she’s mostly liked money as the stuff Xander uses to buy her things. But that’s about to change.
If it wasn’t for the fact that she appeared out of nowhere in the story and all the characters are acting like she’s always been there, then Dawn would be completely ordinary. She’s a fourteen-year-old who loves school, wants to be treated with the same respect as her big sister, has a crush on her big sister’s guy friend, thinks her big sister’s other friends are all pretty cool, and spends most of her time writing in her diary.
We get proof in this one that Spike does attack vampires and demons in his downtime, not just when he’s working with the Scoobies. I’m not sure that’s much different from what we already assumed, especially after the way he reacted when he first saw demon Giles in “A New Man.” He doesn’t appreciate being treated like crap by Buffy, and it seems like he wouldn’t be above hooking up with Harmony again, even though he still finds her ridiculous.
As soon as Giles finds renewed purpose as a Watcher, he also revitalizes his Plot B by becoming a small business owner. Maybe he only has the motivation to make things happen in his life once an outside source has injected some purpose into it. Giles becoming the owner of the Magic Box is such a perfect fit that it’s a little disappointing it didn’t occur to him in S4. The way Giles acts towards Dawn kind of surprises me. I didn’t remember him being that impatient with her from my previous viewings. He was stern to the point of harshness. Did she do something to earn that somewhere in her vague fake backstory? Has she broken priceless artifacts of his? Has she interfered with Buffy’s Slayer work? Why isn’t he a fan of Dawn?
“Giles, are you breaking up with your car?”
“Well it did seduce me! All red and sporty.”
“The hell with Giles!”
“I can hear you, Willow.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.