Written by Stephen DeKnight
Directed by Michael Gershman
The gang is at the Magic Box, and they’re debating whether or not to have a birthday party for Buffy. Buffy votes nay, based on her horrifying track record. Also she wants to focus on fighting Glory. Giles has new exposition! Glory was one of three gods who ruled a particularly nasty hell dimension. Now that she’s on earth and in human form, she’s rather weaker than she would normally be. She keeps her own mind stable by sucking brain energy out of humans. Tara is particularly unsettled by that. (Oh, Tara.) The gang starts dividing up assignments, and they also want to work on the mystery of the Key. Buffy tries to convince them it isn’t important, but they don’t appreciate being kept out of the loop (even if it’s for their protection), so she tells them about Dawn.
The Knights of Byzantium are chanting about the Key when they get attacked by Glory’s minions. The Knights win, but then Glory shows up to fight them herself. She kills most of them and closes in on the last one.
Willow and Tara are pouring some kind of sand on the street when Dawn finds them. It’s a spell to alert them if Glory is heading towards the Magic Box. There’s a similar spell around the Summers’ house. Dawn wants to help, but Willow doesn’t think it’s a good idea. Dawn huffily goes into the shop, and Willow and Tara marvel at the weirdness of Dawn not being real. Or, at least, not having always been real. They finish the spell and it goes all gold and glowy.
Inside, Xander is pretty good at being normal with Dawn, but Anya, no surprise, is terrible at it. Xander whisks her away. Giles thinks it’s time to step up Buffy’s workout. Buffy asks Dawn about school. School is boring. Dawn tries to ask Buffy about Slayer stuff, like their unannounced guest last week, and she’s annoyed (but not surprised) when Buffy doesn’t spill anything. They goad each other in a lighthearted sort of way.
Glory is now torturing the last Knight for information about the Key. He won’t talk, so Glory decides she might as well just brainsuck him so he’ll at least be good for something.
Presents for Buffy! Anya is hilarious in her envy. Willow got Buffy a nice top with Eiffel Towers all over it. Dawn made her a picture frame with seashells on it, and it has a picture of a particularly fun time they visited their dad. Which was before Dawn existed. Everyone gets weird. Buffy hugs Dawn. Later, in the kitchen, Buffy, Joyce, and Giles are talking about Key Dawn when she starts eavesdropping again, but she doesn’t overhear much. She’s definitely noticing the weirdness of everyone, though. When they all deny that they’re talking about her (Anya with an excess of inappropriateness, as is her custom), she flounces off to her room.
Once in her room, she climbs out the window and starts to creep away across the backyard when she runs into Spike. He has brought the box of chocolates he totally trashed that one time he was arguing with a mannequin. What a fitting birthday present for the girl he wants to have hate-sex with. He tries and fails to intimidate Dawn. Dawn recruits his help to go break into the Magic Box to steal stuff.
Spike picks the lock (it takes a while, because normally he’d just kick the door down), and they sneak inside. No alarm system? Bah. Dawn is here to steal Giles’s notebook. Spike pockets a crystal. Once Dawn finds the notebook, they light some candles to read it by. And for some reason, Dawn pronounces “monks” so that it rhymes with “bonks” instead of “bunks.” Weird. Spike messes about in the shop, trying and failing to wield Olaf’s hammer. I have an idea as to why.
Dawn continues reading. The Key can only be perceived by “those outside reality,” which, according to Spike, means psychics and crazy people. Dawn remembers all the crazy people who’ve been weird around her, and she’s very troubled. The notebook also talks about necromanced serpents and canines being able to see the Key, and she remembers the cobra monster. Spike grabs the notebook from her and keeps reading. He gets to the part about the monks turning the Key into the Slayer’s sister.
Buffy didn’t get anything from Riley, not even a message. She’s sure it’s just because of how isolated and secret his mission is. Willow and Tara are sympathetic. Dawn comes in. She cut herself, determined to prove she’s real because she can bleed. Buffy and Joyce rush to her. She’s completely freaking out. Talk about an identity crisis. She doesn’t even know if she’s real.
The Scoobies leave the Summers ladies alone, though Giles offers to stay. Buffy goes to Dawn’s room. Joyce is sitting with her already. Buffy doesn’t have an explanation that will satisfy Dawn as to why she didn’t tell her. Dawn is even more upset to learn that she’s only existed as a human for six months. She doesn’t feel particularly validated by how much Buffy and Joyce love her. She screams for Buffy and Joyce to get out.
The next day at the Magic Box, Buffy is extra determined to learn more about the Key—for Dawn’s sake. Anya finds a cigarette discarded in an item for sale, from which they realize Spike is the one who sponsored Dawn’s little quest for information.
Buffy immediately goes to Spike’s crypt to demand an explanation. She thinks he deliberately let Dawn find out the truth in such a cold way because he hates her. He gets all in her face for not telling her in person, and anyway, she should be grateful he was there to make sure Dawn didn’t get in trouble on her little nighttime burglary jaunt. Buffy leaves, and Spike’s annoyed with himself for making her angry.
Joyce tries to get Dawn up for school, but Dawn has lost all motivation to pursue her normal routine. When Joyce tries to be all motherly, Dawn decides she’d rather go to school than be mothered by her fake mom, leaving a very sad Joyce behind.
At the hospital, Ben comes to the psych ward to give everyone their pills. The Knight guy is one of the patients now, and Jinx the minion tries again to persuade Ben to help Glory. Ben still isn’t interested, even if the Knights are in town now.
That evening, Dawn is flipping through all her diaries. Buffy and Joyce still aren’t sure what to do. Buffy thinks Dawn needs time. Joyce is upset because Dawn got suspended for yelling and swearing at her teacher. Dawn overhears the worst of this conversation, including Buffy saying she’s acting out because she’s not real. She goes back into her room and trashes it, culminating in ripping up her diaries and burning them in her trashcan.
Buffy was only talking like that because she was trying to understand how Dawn feels right now. Joyce wants to show Dawn that she’s still part of their family. Buffy thinks it’s also important for Dawn to get real answers. A siren goes off, and Buffy thinks it’s Willow’s alarm spell. It’s just the fire alarm, though. Buffy breaks down Dawn’s door. The diaries are burning, and Dawn has fled out the window again.
The Scoobies (plus Spike) are at the Magic Box, and Buffy is updating them on what Dawn did. Buffy wants everyone to split up and look for Dawn all over town.
Dawn is at a park. She remembers Buffy pushing her on the swings when she was little, but that wasn’t real. She keeps walking.
Xander and Giles are searching together, and Xander’s still trying to get used to the idea of Dawn not being real. He’s also pretty flattered that such a powerful entity has a crush on him. That’s when Giles walks away in exasperation.
Buffy and Spike are searching in a park that may or may not be the same park Dawn was just in. Buffy feels like it’s her fault Dawn ran off, and that she went looking for information like that in the first place. Spike thinks it’s as likely teenage hormones as the fact that she’s a mystical blob of energy, and Buffy will find her before anything happens. Then what, Buffy’d like to know.
Dawn is walking through town now. An ambulance drives by and seems to give her an idea. She makes her way to the hospital, and then to the psych ward. Yes, get answers from crazy people. Fantastic plan. They all start freaking out when she comes in. She tries to ask them questions, but mostly they try to ignore her. Except for the crazy Knight. He starts rambling about the end of the world, and that it’s the will of God that she be destroyed.
Ben finds Dawn, and they end up having hot chocolate in the locker room. Dawn hesitates when telling Ben about the time Buffy told her marshmallows were really monkey brains. That was when she was five. But she was never five. Then she’s all angsty because he asks if he should call her mom or her sister. He tells her about how much of a pain his own sister is. Dawn starts off on a rant about how she’s just a thing the monks made so Glory couldn’t find the Key. Whoops. Ben freaks out. He tells Dawn to run. But then he freaks out even more. Glory is on her way. He grabs Dawn, and then turns into Glory. Holy crap.
Glory sort of recognizes Dawn from that time she visited the Summers house. She changes out of Ben’s scrubs into a red silk dress. Dawn thinks about running, but Glory threatens to rip her spine out if she moves. She wants to know what Dawn was doing with Ben. Glory doesn’t seem to share Ben’s memories. A guard comes in, and Glory snaps his neck. Then she hauls Dawn out of the locker room with her.
Buffy and Spike meet back up with the rest of the gang. Nobody has seen Dawn. Buffy decides she should check the hospital in case Dawn got hurt and was brought there.
Glory and Dawn are now in the hospital’s lab, and Glory wants to know what Buffy knows about the Key. Dawn tricks Glory into telling her what the Key looks like. Before it looked like Dawn, it was a swirly ball of green energy. Also, it’s ancient. And it’s not necessarily an evil thing. Glory gets bored of the conversation after Dawn asks about the lock the Key opens. She thinks Buffy sent Dawn to get information out of Ben or something.
The Scoobies are at reception, and Dawn hasn’t been admitted to the hospital as a patient. But before they can head out, they overhear a janitor and a guard talking about the man killed on the third floor.
Glory starts to slip into less-than-lucid territory, so she thinks she’ll brainsuck Dawn to send Buffy a message. That’s when Buffy and the Scoobies arrive. Buffy and glory fight. Spike helps. Spike gets knocked out in short order. Glory isn’t impressed with Buffy’s “boyfriend,” and Buffy is so annoyed by her mislabeling Spike as her boyfriend that she fights even harder. Willow and Tara are working on some kind of spell. Giles shoots Glory with a crossbow—the bolt just bounces off her stomach. Xander whacks her over the head with a crowbar. Doesn’t slow her down at all. She’s about to start killing people, and she’d like to begin with Dawn. She throws the crowbar at her, and Buffy dives in the way. It nails her in the chest, but not very deeply. Willow and Tara throw a bunch of glittery dust stuff on her, and then Willow says an incantation, and Glory vanishes. Willow collapses, blood coming out of her nose.
Buffy and Dawn hug. It’s over! Willow’s spell teleported Glory...somewhere? She still needs to refine that one a bit. Glory materializes a few hundred feet above Sunnydale, then plummets back to earth. Not fun. Buffy tries to make sure Dawn’s okay, and Dawn doesn’t understand why she cares so much. Buffy shows her she’s really her sister by pressing her hand, covered in blood from her own wound, into Dawn’s hand, which is bloody from getting cut by some glass in all the chaos. No matter where Dawn came from, she’s Buffy’s sister now, and that’s what matters to Buffy. Dawn finally hugs Buffy back and starts crying. Then Dawn tries to explain about Ben, but it seems that she can’t remember how he’s connected to Glory. They head out.
“Blood Ties” is another one of season five’s very strong arc episodes. Michelle Trachtenberg does a fabulous job portraying Dawn as she goes through such a devastating and confusing experience. Right when we’ve just started to learn some things about Glory that are both daunting and potentially useful, the truth about Dawn gets out to the rest of the group, including Dawn herself. In a very surprising and unusual twist, we finally learn exactly how Ben and Glory are connected. They’re siblings! I particularly love the way everyone’s memories of Dawn from long before she actually existed are woven through the episode, constantly making the characters do mental double-takes.
There’s been a distinct shift in the way Buffy deals with Spike. It started in “Checkpoint,” but it’s here too. Instead of only thinking about him when he’s causing problems or she actually needs information from him (and can’t get it anywhere else), now she’s kind of making use of his strange willingness to help out. Even if she finds it gross and annoying that he keeps trying to earn points, she might as well put him to good use while that attitude lasts; he is, after all, her only sort-of ally with superstrength in the area. Also, now that Spike knows Dawn is the Key, Buffy’s only options are to stake him to keep the secret limited to people she trusts or to include him so he’ll be less likely to betray them.
Xander was probably the best one after Tara at acting normal around Dawn after learning the truth. But really? He’s flattered that an extradimensional glowy enery ball spun into a teenage girl has a crush on him? Why is that flattering? It doesn’t exactly break the pattern of him being a demon magnet.
Willow’s magic in this episode is pretty fantastic. Warning spells, teleportation spells. Dang, girl! When was the last time her spells were genuinely useful? She’s been talking about a ball of sunshine spell for vampire slaying, but that hasn’t actually happened yet. I suppose putting Olaf in the land of trolls was a useful spell, but a botched spell was what unleashed him in the first place, so I’m not sure that counts.
Why anyone thought Anya was capable of enough subtlety to not be weird around Dawn, I have no idea. Nobody else really seemed that much more awkward, but Anya made it incredibly obvious that something was up.
When Buffy fans say they find Dawn extremely annoying (and they often cite “get out, get out GET OUT” as the strongest example of that), I’m not sure they’re being fair. On top of the madness of teenage hormones and going through her parents’ divorce as a little girl, her big sister is a superhero (which isn’t something any actual teenager has ever had to deal with, though it’s a metaphor for the pressures younger siblings feel to live up to the example set by older siblings) and she just found out that about 96% of the life she remembers living didn’t actually happen (which is even farther removed from what actual teenagers have to deal with—I suppose it’s like a supernatural version of finding out you were adopted). I think she does a remarkable job of adjusting to her insane reality, and I find her incredibly sympathetic.
Spike keeps sabotaging his own efforts with Buffy. It’s much more amusing to watch than him being a horrifying stalker. Which probably means he’ll go back to being a horrifying stalker next time.
Giles mostly just provides quiet support for Buffy in this one. It’s lovely. But it’s also fun to see him interacting with Xander, finding him just as tiresome as always.
“I wasn’t lurking, I was standing about. It’s a whole different vibe.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.