Season 5, Episode “The Real Me”
Broadcast October 3, 2000
Sarah Michelle Gellar …. Buffy Summers
Nicholas Brendon …. Alexander ‘Xander’ Harris
Alyson Hannigan …. Willow Rosenberg
Marc Blucas …. Riley Finn
Michelle Trachtenberg …. Dawn Summers
Amber Benson …. Tara
Anthony Head …. Rupert Giles
James Marsters …. Spike/William the Bloody
Kristine Sutherland …. Joyce Summers
Mercedes McNab …. Harmony Kendall
Emma Caulfield …. Anya Emerson
Giles leads Buffy in her meditation (real Yoda-Luke balancing stuff,) but sister Dawn makes such a racket that Buffy can’t concentrate.
“Nobody knows who I am,” complains Dawn to her diary, “not the real me,” by which she means “no one has an older sister who’s a Slayer.” Dawn is so weary of her perfect super-hero sister.
Neither sister is thrilled when Mrs. Summers tells Buffy to take Dawn with her when she and Giles go pick up material at the Magic Shop. Buffy’s boyfriend Riley (he calls her “kid”) irritates Dawn, but she gets along with Dawn and Willow, who seem to identify with her awkwardness.
When the whole gang get to the magic shop, they find the latest owner dead, and Buffy makes Dawn wait outside while they investigate. Outside, an insane man approaches Dawn, raving about the voices in his head. Then he points at Dawn: “I know what you are. You don’t belong here.”
Tara comes out to keep Dawn company on the magic shop stoop while Buffy, Willow and Giles investigate the owner’s death. The vampires who killed him apparently stole a book on vampire slayers, but Giles is more impressed by the owner’s records, which reveal that the shop would be a great investment. “I’ll be the death rate keeps the rent down.”
The one clue they have is that the vampires stole a $13 unicorn statue. “What kind of vampire enjoys cheap, tasteless statuary?”
In a below ground crypt, Harmony the Vampire addresses her “minions,” loser vampires she has convinced or created to follow her. They will destroy the Slayer, the ditzy vampire announces.
That night, Xander arrives to baby-sit Dawn (she’s thrilled) with girlfriend Anya in tow (a definite minus.) Meanwhile, Tara feels like she may never chip her way into the Scooby Gang.
On patrol, Buffy tells Riley she thinks Dawn is to coddled when Buffy has to deal with all the difficult stuff. “She doesn’t get the sacrifices [you make,]” Riley says. “She’s a kid.” Dawn, meanwhile, thinks Buffy gets more love and respect.
When Harmony arrives to kill Buffy (her brilliant plan is to call Buffy out of the house and beat her.) But Buffy’s not home, so Harmony and Xander trade insults instead (she can’t come in without an invitation) until Dawn reacts to an insult by saying, “Oh yeah? Come inside and say that!”
Luckily the invitation was only for one, and Xander is able to kick Harmony back out.
Buffy is furious that her little sister has given a vampire an invitation, even by accident. (They’ll have to cast a spell to reverse the invitation.)
Harmony .licks her wounds and runs into Spike, who is amused that she has minions now. Inadvertently, Spike gives Harmony the idea of kidnapping someone close to Buffy and luring the Slayer into a trap. He advises her to “leave Slayer-slaying to the professionals.”
Buffy says they’re all turning Dawn into in idiot by coddling her: “I was just a kid when I met my first vampire… I can’t protect her twenty-four hours a day.” When Dawn runs from the house in shame, pursued by Anya, vampires knock Anya out and kidnap Dawn.
While Harmony’s gang lose faith in their boss’ capabilities, Buffy learns of her hideout by beating Spike. By the time Buffy is headed for her lair, the vampires have all turned on her.
“Touch me and my sister’s gonna kill you,” Dawn tells a vampire– and it’s true. Buffy finishes off the whole Harmony gang and they make it home before their Mom gets back from a late work night at the Gallery. The sisters cover for one another.
Giles, who says he was so bored last year he watched “Passions” with Spike, has decided to buy the magic shop.
Dawn, meanwhile, promises that there’s more to her than “a dumb little sister.”
“The Real Me” is the first full <I>Buffy</I> episode with “Dawn,” who suddenly appeared at the end of the season 5 Premiere. Dawn is Buffy’s suddenly present and retroactively effective little sister. Everyone knows her and everyone’s known her for years. She’s a pain in the neck, too, as far as Buffy is concerned, and the Slayer is getting sick of her little sister cramping her style and making fourteen-year-old mistakes.
What the Heck is going on here, you ask? Only the single most ambitious trick Joss Whedon has tried yet with <I>Buffy, the Vampire Slayer</I>. When Whedon announced that he was adding a little sister to the cast for the fifth season, the caterwauling among fans and critics alike rose to a fever pitch. It was, to judge by commentator’s estimates, an astonishing, cynical, misguided misstep serious enough to threaten the viability of the show, borne of the kind of late-season desperation that often leads shows to add children to the cast. Mind you, all of this was before the Premiere even aired. Little did we know that Whedon had something else up his sleeve: the <I>coup de gras</I> of post-modern TV, in which such a character is, in fact, awkwardly added to the story, but the very addition becomes part of the story. Dawn’s addition is thus directly in line with every other self-aware move <I>Buffy</I> has ever made.
And besides all that, I like Dawn. She’s refreshing, telling us that if <I>she</I> were a superhero, she’d wear a mask and have a secret identity to protect her loved ones. She’s geeky and awkward, a chess player and an avid reader, a glutton for attention and a messy eater. We can totally believe she’s made Buffy’s life hell, as only siblings can do, for her full fourteen-year tenure on the earth.
And her relationship with Buffy is interesting, bringing attention for the moment away from college, which was last season’s focus, to the Scooby Gang and Buffy’s home life. Dawn secretly idolizes Buffy and adores her friends, especially Willow, with whom she shares a great deal, and Willow’s even-more awkward girlfriend Tara. And she has a sweet crush on Xander, fantasizing that he “sees her as a woman.” Dawn is bratty mainly because she wants people to take an interest in her, and she’s charming when they do. Michelle Trachtenberg has created a character we can instantly recognize and enjoy.
Question: at fourteen, isn’t Dawn old enough to baby-sit other kids, much less watch herself? Someone clue me in because, as a guy, I have no idea.
In other notes, when Tara comes out of the shop to tell Dawn, “At times like these, it’s best non-scoobies like you and me stay out of their way,” I wondered, when exactly will Tara qualify? Does dating a Scooby instantly exclude you as a member? Up until now I thought the Scoobies were utterly informal, anyway, but Tara seems to be right that she’s not quite “one of them.” The real answer, of course, is <I>Buffy</I> self-referentialism, as the script reflects reality: the show revolves around Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Giles.
Meanwhile, toe-headed Harmony has returned as the ditziest vampire super-villain ever, a development Spike finds “adorable.” I’m getting tired of Spike as the sassy, weak vampire he’s become– think how far he’s fallen since he first appeared, boasting of having killed the last two Slayers and having his own minions videotape her moves so he could study them. (“The last Slayer I killed begged for her life.”) Oh, Spike, how art the mighty fallen.
Giles and Buffy, on Giles’ hot ride:
Giles: “I’m just not used to this automatic transmission. Just sitting here not contributing. No, no, no, it’s not working out.”
Buffy: “Giles, are you breaking up with your car?”
Giles: “Well, it did seduce me. All red and <I>sporty.</I>”
Buffy: “Little two-door tramp.”
Dawn Summers, on the Goddesses that are Tara and Willow:
Dawn: “Tara and Willow… do spells and stuff, which is so much cooler than slaying. I told Mom one time I wish they’d teach me some of the stuff they do together, then she got real quiet and made me go upstairs. I guess her generation isn’t cool with witchcraft.”
Dawn Summers, on the Glory that is Xander:
“He totally skipped college and got a job working construction… which is so <I>deep</I>, you know?”
Harmony the Wise:
Harmony: “So, Slayer. At last we meet.”
Buffy: “We’ve met, Harmony, you half-wit.”