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Join Comixology Unlimited to read BtVS comics — The Complete Buffy Episode Guide
Tough Love
May 01, 2001


Rebecca Rand Kirshner

David Grossman

Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris
Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg
Emma Caulfield as Anya
Michelle Trachtenberg as Dawn
James Marsters as Spike
Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles
Guest Stars:
Amber Benson as Tara
Clare Kramer as Glory
Charlie Weber as Ben
Troy T. Blendell as Jinx
Anne Betancourt as Principal Stevens
Leland Crooke as Professor Lillian
Todd Duffey as Murk
Alan Heitz as Slook

Credits submitted by Paul Clement.


Buffy has to withdraw from college to take care of Dawn, who it turns out has been skipping school. Dawn's school principal warns Buffy that she might not be found fit to be Dawn's legal guardian, so Buffy resolves to be more like a mother than a sister now. Willow and Tara have their first fight as Tara admits she's frightened by how powerful Willow is becoming. Willow feels that Tara doubts Willow's love for her and storms out. Glory, after discovering that Tara is the newest member of the Scooby Gang, believes her to be the Key. She finds Tara alone but, realizing that Tara isn't the Key after crushing her hand and tasting the blood, demands to know who is. Tara refuses to talk, so Glory drains her mind instead. Giles, Anya and Willow capture one of Glory's minions, who reveals that Glory thinks Tara is the Key. Willow rushes off to save her, but is too late. After taking Tara to the hospital, Willow goes after Glory alone and although she is able to hurt the god briefly with some dark magic, Glory soon overpowers her. Buffy, realizing what Willow was going to do, turns up at Glory's apartment and helps Willow escape. Back at Willow and Tara's dorm room, the witches, Buffy and Dawn are having a snack when Glory appears, tearing down the dorm wall. When Tara, out of her mind, looks at Dawn and talks of the pure green energy she sees, Glory smiles, finally realizing who the Key is.

For the full, detailed synopsis, click here.

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Dialogue to Die For

Xander: "A watched customer never buys."
Anya: "They would if they were patriotic."
Xander (to Willow): "Okay, I'm going in." (Then to Anya) "Patriotic?"
Anya: "Yes. I've recently come to realize there's more to me than just being human. I'm also an American."
Giles: "Yes, I suppose you are, in a matter of speaking. You were born here — your mortal self."
Anya: "Well, that's right, foreigner. So I've been reading a lot about the good ol' us of a, embracing the extraordinarily precious ideology that's helped to shape and define it."
Willow: "Democracy?"
Anya: "Capitalism. A free market dependent on the profitable exchange of goods for currency. A system of symbiotic beauty apparently lost on these old people. Look at 'em — perusing the shelves, undressing the merchandise with their eyeballs. All ogle, no cash. It's not just annoying, it's un-American."
Giles: "Appalling. Almost as if they no longer think money can buy happiness."
Anya: "Totally un-American. Oh, and you know what else is un-American? French people."

Xander (about the hospital): "Man, words cannot express how much I hate this place."
Giles: "It's dreadful."
Anya: "It's like communism."

Dawn: "You wanna know what I'm scared of, Spike? Me. Right now, Glory thinks Tara's the Key. But I'm the Key, Spike. I am. And anything that happens to Tara... is 'cause of me. Your bruises, your limp... that's all me, too. I'm like a lightning rod for pain, and hurt... and everyone around me suffers and dies. I must be something so horrible to cause so much pain and evil."
Spike: "Rot."
Dawn: "What do you know?"
Spike: "I'm a vampire. I know something about evil. You're not evil."
Dawn: "Maybe I'm not evil. But I don't think I can be good."
Spike (after a pause): "Well, I'm not good, and I'm okay."

More quotes from this episode...

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Dialogue to Bury

Xander (to Buffy): "Good on you."
    I hate that phrase.
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  • Professor Lillian: "Haiku?"
  • Haiku is one of the most important forms of traditional Japanese poetry. It is a 17-syllable verse consisting of three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables. More information here.

  • Doctor: "Or maybe eating Twinkies made you do it."
  • Hostess Twinkies are sweet snacks consisting of cake with a creamy vanilla flavoured filling, invented in 1931 by James Dewar in Chicago. The doctor's comment is inspired by the urban myth regarding Twinkies being used as a defense for murder — more information on that can be found here.

  • Glory: "So, what I think we have here is a failure for you to do your frickin' jobs!"
  • This is likely a take-off of the famous line, "What we have here is a failure to communicate," from the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke. (Actually, the line was "What we've got here is a failure to communicate," but the slighly misquoted version is the one that's entered into the American lexicon.)

  • Glory (demanding a drink from her minions): "Mimosa."
  • A drink of equal parts champagne and orange juice. Glory mentions vitamins, no doubt from the orange juice, which is considered a great source of vitamin C.

  • Xander is reading an X-Men comic.
  • In the Magic Box, Xander reads issue #109 of The X-Men. The X-Men are Marvel Comics' superheros created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee in 1963. The story Xander is reading is titled "Ceremonies," written by Chris Claremont and pencilled by Thomas Derenick.

  • Xander: "It's Dawn Giovanni and the Buffster."
  • Xander is playing on the words Dawn and Don, making a reference to Don Giovanni, the opera composed by Mozart and first performed in Prague on 29th October 1787. The complete opera can be found here.

  • Willow: "Yeah, but not in a 'Miss Minchin's Select Seminary for Girls' way."
  • In the children's book A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Miss Minchin's Select Seminary for Young Ladies is a Victorian school strictly ruled by Miss Minchin. The novel has been adapted for the big screen several times.

  • Willow: "I mean, I took [Psych 101] from an evil government scientist who was skewered by her Frankenstein-like creation before the final, but I know what a Freudian slip is."
  • Frankenstein is, of course, the 1818 novel by Mary Shelley. The title character was a doctor who created a monster out of human corpses. People commonly (and incorrectly) refer to the monster as Frankenstein.

    Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was an Austrian doctor who came up with the original insight that would form the basis of psychoanalysis: the idea that neurotic behavior is motivated by unconscious desires that can be revealed through such things as dreams or slips of the tongue. In Freud's theory, a slip is the involuntary substitution of a word by another and would be indicative of the real opinion and feeling of the person who makes the mistake.

  • Willow: "Kali, Hera, Kronos, Tonic / Air like nector / Thick as onyx / Cassiel by your second star..."
  • Kali is the Hindu goddess of destruction and death, often portrayed as malevolent. Hera is the Queen of the Greek gods, as she is the wife (and sister) of Zeus, the king of the Greek gods. Kronos is the father of Zeus, and was the previous king of the gods. He swallowed his children in an attempt to avoid being deposed, but after he was tricked into not swallowing Zeus, Zeus deposed him. Tonic doesn't appear to mean anything, although it's possible they meant chthonic (pronounced 'thonic') which refers, in Greek mythology, to things relating to the underworld. "Tonic" is what appears in the shooting script. Cassiel is the angel of temperence and good fortune, among other things.

Some references submitted by Guillaume Alexandre, dionne, and Francesco Spreafico.

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  • Intervention

    Glory reminds her minions that instead of bringing her the Key last week, they brought her a vampire (Spike). This is also how Spike got the severe bruises that Dawn comments on (Glory tried to beat the desired information out of him).

  • Season Five

    Buffy says that the past few months have been hard for Dawn. This refers firstly to Joyce's illness, which was a running plot-line this season, beginning with "Out of My Mind" and culminating with her death in "The Body." Secondly, although the principal couldn't have known this, it probably also refers to Dawn's discovery that she was only created about a year ago and is not exactly real, which she found out in "Blood Ties."

  • Family
  • Tara mentions that she had to take care of her brother after her mother died; that her mother is dead was first indicated in "Family" (and confirmed in "The Body").

  • Season Four

    Willow says that she took Psych 101 from an evil government scientist (Professor Maggie Walsh, first seen in "The Freshman") who was skewered by her Frankenstein-like creation (Adam, first seen in "The I In Team," which is also the episode in which he skewered Walsh).

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Goofs and Gaffes

  • In the interrogation scene between Giles and Slook (Glory's minion), you can quite clearly see a line on Slook's forehead which gives away the fact that he's wearing a mask.

  • When Glory crushes Tara's hand, blood drips onto the bench, but later shots show a clean bench.
          Spotted by Simon Etheridge.

  • When Willow finds Tara at the fair (after her hand has apparently been horrifically crushed by Glory), her hand doesn't look very wounded, and she moves her fingers, which you wouldn't really expect. Also, the x-rays on the wall in the hospital room make her hand look fine, at least to an untrained eye, yet they put a huge cast on her hand.

  • It doesn't seem quite right that Willow apparently bursts into the Magic Box without a key; surely they wouldn't leave it unlocked, regardless of leaving in a hurry. Anya, at least, would protect her goods from being stolen. The only feasible justification is that she used magic to unlock it, but if that were the case, she would have probably used it to open the door as well, rather than opening it manually.

  • In Glory's apartment, after Willow spits a substantial glob of saliva onto Glory's face, the spot is alternately dry and wet where the spit should be.

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  • Buffy has officially dropped out of all her college classes so that she can take care of Dawn. She says that she hopes to be back next semester.

  • Dawn is apparently in 9th grade, as she says: "Those monks put grades K-8 in my head. Can't we just wait and see if they drop nine in there, too?" This would seem to conflict with "Checkpoint," when Willow said that Dawn was in Junior High, but perhaps Dawn attends a school in which Junior High extends through 9th grade. Though that's fairly uncommon, the fact that the original Sunnydale High School was blown up makes it perhaps more feasible.

  • Dawn likes salami and peanut butter sandwiches.

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Related Merchandise

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The two very important scenes in this episode highlight two issues I have with the show at this point 1) Willow doesn't do defensive well at all, and 2) Tara is under used. The first important scene: The fight scene. It wasn't very believable at all, especially on repeated viewings. Willow has too guilty a conscience to be effectively defensive. Tara's disbelief was the only organic thing in the scene. The second important scene: Glory and Tara on the bench. It's snippets like this that make me adore this character, Tara is tough, loyal and Amber Benson should get more screen time. Especially when other characters are lacking. Having said that, I loved the Willow revenge scene. A bag of knives will earn lots of points for an otherwise unbalanced episode, as will having the villain learn your secret at the end of the hour. (8/10)
I like this episode a lot, although I think the ending propels it up into a higher category than it might otherwise belong. The beginning story with Dawn and Buffy is a bit dull; I'm not really one of these people who watches Buffy for the soap aspects, I'm here for the supernatural! Willow and Tara's fight was laughably tame, in my opinion, especially given how upset Willow got about it, but then you'd expect that from two such...I don't want to say bland characters, but it's really all that I'm coming up with. What kind of relationship do they have where they only have one fight in a year? Is it my relationship that's dysfunctional? wink I liked the scene with Glory and Tara. Who'd have thought Tara would progress to the point where she could hold out under conditions like that? Willow's revenge scene was great fun too. She's probably hurt Glory more than anyone else has so far; perhaps Buffy will realise that she's not always going to be safe assuming that she's the strongest member of the gang anymore. Spike did his usual 'tell it how it is' bit. Lots of people seem to like those; not me, I find them trite in the extreme. Oh, I liked Anya's speech on capitalism. Fact is, capitalism probably is the primary thing that America as given the world, not democracy. It was good to see a return of hard-Giles too, with the minion interegation. ASH does the stone faced thing so well, it's a crime not to make use of it. Glory is deliciously evil; I think she's one of my favourite big bads, and I liked that this episode (and Intervention) gives her a chance to show her true maliciousness. I suppose I should mention the ending — Glory finally knows who the Key is, so we're finally underway for the finale, and this was a good episode to start us off on that. (8/10)
Jamie Marie:
Firstly, I loved the blindfolded bath-minions. Where can I get some of my own? Aside from that comment (oh, and that I hated Dawn's shiny turquoise jacket), this is yet another one of those episodes about which I find myself with very little to say. (That happens to me a lot. Poor me.) Tara getting brain-drained was a nice Jossian surprise; we all know that on most shows, Willow would have gotten there in time to save her, because on most shows, major characters don't have Very Bad Things happen to them. It's an interesting twist, however, I can't say I'm looking forward to much inane cooing and incoherent babbling. I was bored of it within seconds. Anyway, felt bad for the Buffster, felt bad for the Dawnster, dug the ending. And that's about that. (7/10)
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Air Date Rating Ranking
May 01, 2001 3.0 87 of 131 (tie)
July 29, 2001 1.1 120 of 140 (tie)

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