Blood Ties

Written by Steven S. DeKnight.
Directed by Michael Gershman

Perri's Review | SunSpeak

Perri's Review

Dawn's secret is finally revealed to, well, Dawn, and havoc ensues. Like we expected anything else?

It's birthday time for Buffy again, and she's not happy about the party thing -- not surprising, considering how much her previous birthdays have gone. But the gang is firm; they want the party Joyce is throwing, mostly to distract them from the prospect of fighting a god named Glory. Apaprently, according to the Watch Council, Glory and two of her siblings ruled over one of the nastier demon dimensions, and Glory found a way into the human world. But no one knows how or why; they can only assume that being in human form is limiting her powers -- and affecting her mental state, leading to the energy extraction from brains. The Gang is happy to line up for planning and strategy, but Xander points out that they need to track down the Key. Buffy concludes, with Giles' agreement, that it's time to bring them in on The Secret. "There's something that you need to know," she starts. "About Dawn."

As she begins the story, a gang of Knights of Byzantium stand around a fire, chanting their deep desire to find and destroy the Key. "The Key is the link. The link must be severed. Such is the will of God."

"You really think He is going to help you?" Glory's minion says from behind them. "I fear your faith is gravely misplaced." He and his gang instantly get into it with the knights and come out on the losing end. As the head knight advances and lifts his sword -- another hand suddenly intercepts it. "Never send a minion to do a god's work," Glory gloats, and swiftly wipes out the knights.

Dawn wanders up the Magic Shop looking for some fun, and finds Willow and Tara outside tracing a circle around the shop, as they've apparently already done around the Summers house. "We're doing an early-warning incantation," Willow explains. "If anything hellgod-ishly powerful comes within a hundred feet of the shop, then screechy siren things will, you know, screech." Dawn wants to help but the Wiccan duo awkwardly turn her down. She heads into the shop, disgusted, but things don't get any better. Xander is attempting normality, but Anya is visibly (and audibly) completely out of her league. Giles and Buffy have had more practice and handle her better, but Dawn still isn't happy. Especially since she saw Giles hide a book. She takes it out on her sister. "I just think you're freaking out 'cause you have to fight someone prettier than you. That is the case, right?" Buffy advances on her, all Big Sister seriousness. "Glory is evil and powerful... and in no way prettier than me."

She's also across town torturing a Knight of Byzantium who, to his credit, isn't giving her a thing (not that he knows anything, but still). He winds up a brain-suckee as the Gang gathers for Buffy's birthday. Prezzies are the order of the night, including a homemade picture frame from Dawn, holding a picture of her and Buffy from a few summers earlier. Everyone looks away and Buffy sniffles, then hugs her sister gratefully -- exchanging a look with Joyce over her sister's shoulder. Later, Giles, Joyce and Buffy continue their usual stupid habit of discussing the situation when Dawn is in earshot, but break off when she returns. "Why does everyone start acting all weird when I'm around?" the frustrated girl finally yells. Everyone denies talking about her, until she blows. "I'm just going to bed. That way, I won't accidentally get exposed to anything like, words." With that, she pounds upstairs and into her room--

--And out the window and down the tree, following her sister's example. She lands on the sidewalk in true Buffy form and backs into a lurking Spike. Excuse me, a "standing about" Spike; it's apparently a whole different vibe. He's carrying the battered chocolates and trying to be cool; naturally, Dawn razzes him about bringing Buffy a birthday present. "Shouldn't you be tucked away in your beddy-bye?" Spike retaliates threateningly. "All warm and safe where nothing can eat you?" Dawn giggles. "Is that supposed to scare me?" It's Spike's turn to be disgusted. "Little tremble wouldn't hurt."

The preliminaries over, Dawn informs Spike that she's off to break into the magic shop, to find out what Buffy et al are hiding. Spike points out the large number of nasties between home and the shop; Dawn asserts that she can take of herself, wavers, then gives in. "You want to come steal some stuff?" Spike shrugs. "Yeah, all right." And off goes the most frightening duo since Bonny and Clyde. Breaking in easier said than done, but Spike can pick a lock; Dawn goes right for the secret drawer and the book Giles hid -- his notes. She finds it quickly, and settles down with her accomplice to read. Spike gets distracted easily as Dawn finds the notes on the Key. "Only those outside reality can see the Key's true nature," she reads out loud. "Second sight blokes, mostly," Spike translates obligingly. "Or just your run-of-the-mill lunatics." Dawn nods, the first pangs of unease hitting she remembers recent encounters. "The Key is also suspectible to necromanced animal detection. Particularly those of human or serpent construct." Another flash, as Dawn gets steadily more afraid. Spike takes over reading about the monks' hiding of the Key. "They had to be sure the Slayer would protect it with her life, so they sent the Key to her in human form. In the form of a sister." The penny drops; as Dawn's eyes widen and her face pales, Spike eyes his companion with new speculation. "I guess that's you, niblet."

Riley didn't send a birthday card, and Buffy, Willow and Tara hang around dissing men -- until Tara sees something behind Buffy. "Oh my god." Buffy jumps to her feet and freezes in horror at the sight of her little sister, standing int he living room holding a knife, her arms slashed and bloody. "Is this blood?" she asks in a terrible voice, as the gang races to her. "This is blood, isn't it? It can't be me. I'm not a Key. I'm not a *thing*. What am I?" she demands, crying, as Joyce hugs her. "Am I real? Am I anything?"

The gang takes their cue to leave, and Dawn faces her mother and sister. They try to make her believe they were going to tell her, but that's almost as hard as convincing her she's real. Buffy admits that she came into existence six months earlier, and Dawn focuses on that. She doesn't believe her family can care about her; finally she starts screaming at them to get out. They comply unhappily. Buffy stalks around the magic shop the next morning, demanding answers for her sister. The only answers they find are how Dawn found out -- and who was with her when she did, since Spike left cigarette butts in the Urn of Ishtar.

Buffy stalks off in a righteous fury to beat the hell out of Spike. For his part, Spike has no intention of letting her convince him he did anything wrong, no matter how much Buffy wants to blame him for her life. "News flash, Blondie. If kid sis wants to grab a midnight stroll, she'll find a way sooner or later. I just thought she'd be safer with Big Bad looking over her shoulder."

"She shouldn't have found out like that, "Buffy says bitterly.

"You didn't think you could keep the truth from her forever, did you?" Spike shoots back. "Maybe if you had been more honest with her in the first place, you wuldn't be trying to make yourself feel better with a round of kick-the-Spike!" Unable to refute that, Buffy turns on her heel and leaves.

Dawn is having a bad morning -- she doesn't want to go to school, she doesn't want to be taken care of. "You're not my mother!" she informs Joyce, before heading out for school; apparently she'd rather be there than at home. Intern Ben's morning isn't much better; he wanders into the psycho ward to find a new resident, with a familiar forehead tattoo. "The Knights of Byzantium," he realizes out loud. "Their numbers are few for the moment," the ever-present Minion says from behind him, "but they'll grow." It means trouble, he tells Ben, and it's time for Ben to hook back up with Glory, whether he wants to or not. Ben is unimpressed with the implied threat. "What's dhe going to do, send a six-pack of minions to bore me to death? You can't lay a finger on me; you know it, I know it, and she knows it."

As night falls, Dwn sits in her room, reading through her old journals as her mother and sister sit below, worrying. Joyce wants to reassure Dawn as to her palce in the family; Buffy wants to leave her alone, give her time and some real answers, even though she was suspended from school for yelling at a teacher. "She's not real," Buffy tells Joyce. "We're not her family, we don't even know what she is." Dawn overhears her from the steps, unfortunately missing the part where Buffy is explaining what Dawn feel, not what they feel. Dawn begins screaming, tearing down posters and otherwise destroying her room in helpless rage. She winds up the destruction with a bonfire in the wastebasket, burning her journals. That sets off the smoke alarm, interrupting the continuing fight between Mom and Slayer, and bringing them both upstairs on the run. Dawn is already gone out the window again.

The Scooby Gang mobilizes to find the missing teenager; Buffy sends them all out, bringing Spike along with her, as Dawn wanders through the park and the playground, remembering playing on the swings with Buffy. Buffy and Spike bicker as they search through that same park, until Buffy finally admits to Spike that he was right; this is her fault. Spike blinks, then finds himself trying to comfort Buffy. "She probably would have skippd off anyway," he points out sympathetically, "even if she never found out. She's not just a blob of energy, she's also a 14-year-old hormone bomb. Which one's screwing her up more right now? Spin the bloody wheel. You'll find her," he assures the subdued Slayer, who looks up at him. "And then what?" she asks helplessly.

Dawn finds herself wander, presumably from forc eof habit, back to the hospital where they'd spent so much time with Joyce. Everyone's too busy to notice a teenage girl wandering through the halls like a ghost, so she makes it to the mental ward unchallenged. "Please, you can see me right?" she asks one of the patients. "Look at me. You know what I am, don't you? You all know. Tell me. What *am* I?"

"The Key," the now-insane knight tells her; Dawn pounces. "Where did I come from? Who made me? What am I?" She's asking the wrong guy; he goes off on the spinal "destroy the key" riff and Dawn backs away in terror -- right into Ben.

He responds to a distraught kid with admirable sweetness, hustling her off to the locker room and setting her up with hot chocolate and sympathy while he tries to figure out what's going on. "Is there anybody I can call? Your sister?"

"I don't have a sister," Dawn says through her teeth.

"Oh. You two have a fight? It's okay, I know that goes. I have a sister, too; they can be real pains sometimes," Ben commiserates (and 'ping' goes any audience member who's been paying attention). "I tell you, sometimes I wish she didn't exist either."

Dawn shakes her head. "No, it's me. I'm the one who doesn't exist." Ben's attempt to deal with this statment as teenage angst derails, as Dawn begins ranting. "I'm nothing! I'm just a thing the monks made so Glory couldn't find me."

And the penny drops. Ben's eyes go wide and he staggers up out of his chair. "You're the Key," he says hollowly, thn begins yelling at Dawn to run, to get away before Glory comes and hurts her. But it's already too late, he realizes. "Oh god she's coming, you've got to get out. Oh no, she's here!" he yells, grabbing Dawn's shoulders. His face is an inch from hers when it begins to change -- and Dawn shrieks as she finds herself face to face with Glory. "Hey, don't I know you?" the confused god frowns.

Dawn huddles in the corner as Glory goes on a fashion rampage, stripping off Ben's scrubs and finding a replacement red dress in her brother's locker. "What I'm trying to do is, what is the world is the Slayer's little sister doing with Gentle Ben?" She pauses only to absently kill a security guard who comes into the locker rom, then turns back on Dawn.

"You don't remember," Dawn realizes. Glory shrugs. "Remember what? You were talking to him, not to me." It's a weakness and a potential rescue, one Dawn is immediately ready to exploit, even if she doesn't understand it. But she may not her the chance; as the Scooby Gang gets more frustrated when their search turns up empty, and Buffy finally starts freaking and decides to check the hospital for news, Glory takes the chance for a little interrogation about the location of the Key, dragging Dawn to an unused X-Ray room. Dawn plays her for as long as possible, innocently asking for more information. "Maybe if you told me more about it, I'd know if I'd seen it." Glory contemplates, then, "Okay."

The discovery of the guard's body tells Buffy what's happening, as Dwn continues her reverse interrogation. "Has this Key been around a long time?"

"Well, not as long as me," Glory shrugs, "but yeah. Just this side of forever."

"Is it evil?" "Totally!" Glory grins. Dawn's entire body sags, until Glory amends, "Well no, not really. I guess it depends on your point of view."

"What's it for? I mean, if it's a key, there's gotta be a lock, right? So what does it open?"

That question pushes it too far, and Glory realizes she's being played. For a horrible second, Dawn thinks Glory has figured it out, but all she's 'realized' is that Dawn seems to have no clue where the Key is. It's enough to send Glory on a going-insane rant -- with one brain nearby to fix the symptoms, one that will send a great message to the Slayer. "Two birds, one stone, and boom. You have yummy dead birds." But before she can do anything, the Slayer in question breaks to door open. The fight begins, with all of the Scoobies diving into the fray. Spike makes a credible effort, but gets knocked out early; Xander, armed with a crowbar, doesn't do much better; he gets in a solid shot, but it bounces off just like the crossbow bolt Giles gets off. And in all the mess, Glory doesn't hear Willow and Tara quietly chanting as she retrieves th crowbar and throw it at Dawn. Buffy throws herself between the missile and her little sister, and winds up with it planted deep in her shoulder. Glory is unimpressed -- until she finds herself flanked by Tara and Willow, both of whom toss handfuls of glittery powder on her. "Discade!" Willow shouts, and Glory abruptly disappears.

Willow collapses and Buffy grabs her sister. It was a teleportation spell, WIllow explains blearily. "We're still working out the kinks." "Where did you send her?" Buffy asks. Willow shrugs. "I don't know. It's one of the kinks." And in the sky over Sunnydale, Glory materializes. She has only enough time to start to swear, before she drops like a meteor towards the ground.

The Slayerettes pick themselves up, Giles reflexively giving Willow hell for using such a difficult spell. Buffy checks on Dawn. "Are you okay?"

"Why do you care?" Dawn demands bitterly.

"Because I love you. You're my sister."

No, I'm not." "Yes, you are. Looks, it's blood," Buffy says, grabbing the reopened slash on Dawn's arm. "It's Summers blood." Then she presses a hand to her own wound, mixing her blood with Dawn's. "It's just like mine. It doesn't matter where you came from or how you got here. You are my sister. There's no way you could annoy me so much if you weren't." Dawn thinks about that, then falls into her big sister's arms. After a moment of bonding, the separate and get tot heir feet, but Dawn stops halfway to the door. "Wait," she remembers suddenly. "Ben, he was here, he was trying to help me." she stops confused. "I think he might have left before Glory came. I can't... I can't remember." Buffy blows that it off, more interested in taking her traumatized sister home to their mother

Xanders arm is still broken. Wow, I love this show. It's the little things that make all the difference in a relationship...< g >

Dawn knows what she is, even if the who she is, is still a little fuzzy. After a rough transition, she seems to be coping.

The Knights of Byzantium have run into Glory, and she wiped the floor with them. Understandable, since she and her siblings used to rule over a demon dimension before she found her way here.

Ben and Glory are sharing a body, although neither of them remembers what happens when the other is in control. They are (from all indications, though it wasn't explicitely stated) brother and sister.

Nothing romantic to speak of. The Summers woman have some serious remedial bonding in store for them, though.

This is Dawn's episode, and Michelle Tractenberg runs with it. Take any teenager's identity crisis, multiply it by about 3,000 and you've got what Dawn puts herself through. You have to respect the kid: faced with a conspiracy of silence, she limits the temper tantrums and instead goes off and figures it out on her own (mostly). Definitely related to Buffy, man. Her reaction to the secret (and I'm with Spike; if Buffy was going to fill in the Scooby Gang, Dawn sure as hell had just as much right to know. I've never been a big fan of protection through ignorance) was right on target; the cuts on her arm were particularly chilling, and the destruction of her room, as she tried frantically to sort through her head and figure out what was real and what wasn't, was outstanding. Hopefully, knowing her sister and her mother's love doesn't depend on the state of her reality will help her adjust a bit. She's already settling down -- it took real courage to play it cool and turn Glory's questioning back on her. The kid has style, guts and class; gotta love her.

Like I said, I disagreee with Buffy's decision to keep Dawn in the dark as long as she did, although I can sympathize with her motives. Buffy is a serious control freak trapped in several situations -- her mom's illness, her sister's existence, Glory's threat -- that are completely out of her control. It's not surprising that she responds by tightening the leash, but it was a damned dumb way to handle the situation. You never lie to a kid, and that goes double for a teenager, who is going to be volatile and distrusting even if you're telling the truth. Hopefully Buffy's got that now, but since it took forever for her to get the hang of full disclosure with the Scooby Gang, I'm not holding my breath.

Meanwhile, Joyce's instincts are right on -- hold onto Dawn so tightly she'll have no reason to believe they don't want her. She lets her perfectly correct maternal instincts get pushed aside by Buffy's control freak tendencies, though; they both forget for a while that Dawn may be a supernatural thingy (Buffy's turf) but the manifestation they have to deal with is a teenager -- mostly definitely Joyce's turf. Joyce rocks, she really does.

And can I just say that the criminal team of Spike and Dawn is the funniest thing ever? Spike is so willing to go along for the ride -- he gets to do something that would piss Buffy off, while simultaneously doing something that she should be grateful for. He misjudges Buffy's need to blame someone else for the problem, but at least he responds appropriately by kicking her ass. See, this is what we've been missing since Angel left; he was occasionally willing to tell Buffy when she was being totally unreasonable. Xander's done it once this year, but Spike's the only one you can really rely on to give her that much-needed realiy check. And once he does... Well, he just can't help but try to comfort her (quite accurately, too. He makes a very good point about teenagers; ssomeone's been paying attention for the last 100-some years). He's so sweet sometimes. This is so gonna get ugly...

As for our favorite pair of body-sharing sibs... Yeesh. I am so not ashamed to admit that I jumped three feet and started shrieking when Ben changed into Glory; I had not been expecting that, thank you! Yet, it makes perfect sense, and Joss and company played completely fair; we never actually saw them onscreen together, not even in the infamous locker room scene (hey, if you're female, it was infamous -- that shirt was off!). Glory continues to be worrisome, but you have to admire Willow and Tara's style in dealing with her. < g >

The rest of the Scooby Gang was largely background, aside from their joint entry into the fight against Glory; amusingly enough, Xander's still the only one who can lie with a straight face, although Giles doesn't do too badly.

Best Moments:
"Never send a minion to do a god's work." < snerk > You gotta love Glory's style.

Dawn hassling Buffy about Glory. The best defense is a good offense, and Dawn's got it down perfectly.

The entire birthday segment. Anya was amusing as hell, Giles snarking in the background was just fun, and Buffy was this close to having a non-traumatic b-day. (Since that fact that trauma happened was largely her own fault, I'm not having much sympathy.)

Anytime Dawn and Spike are on-screen together. The whole lurking versus standing about routine was hilarious, and Dawn's reluctant request for Spike's company was equally hysterical. These two are far too funny.

Spike giving Buffy hell. See above re: Slayer-sized reality checks.

Spike and Buffy in the park. He's so cute when he's trying to be soothing, and the expression on Buffy's face is just priceless. plus, the whole "14-year-old hormone bomb" observation was perfect.

Ben taking care of Dawn. He is such a darling; what the hell is the story with him and Glory?!?

Dawn interrogating Glory -- far too cool. The kid keeps a cool head and gets it done. The fight against Glory. Everyone got in on it, even Spike, and Willow and Tara got to be very useful and saved the day. Very, very well done.

Questions and Comments:
So, why couldn't Dawn remember seeing Ben change into Glory? Is it a Key thing? Or is it a Ben and Glory thing? And if there are three sibling, according to the Council, where's number 3? Was he/she/it turned into the key?

Rating: 4 out of 5. A good expository episode, with a stand-out performance from Michelle Tractenberg.


"So, who's with me in thinking Glory/Ben is a just a single MPD god? Hmmmm?"
"I'm thinking that Glory is from a different dimention, and she has to have a physical body in this one. And since matter cannot be destroyed or created, she jumped into her counterpart in this dimention... who happens to be her "brother" Ben. And she can make him look like her. Then again, theories can abound for, like, ever on this one. Let the games begin!" -- Dianne and Lizbet

"But if Glory is in control of the shift, why does neither she nor Ben appear to be *aware* of the fact that they share a body? Why do neither of them appear to have memories of what the other has been doing right before the transformation? Glory didn't know Dawn had told Ben she was the key. Ben didn't know Glory was coming from "inside" him--he was looking around like she'd be coming around a corner. Glory and Ben have to use minions to give each other messages--so the two consciousnesses appear to be largely separate."
"Yeah, I think you're right. And you gotta wonder what the minions think of having Ben hating their guts, while they're happily lustingly worshipping Glory. Very odd gods they've got..."
"If Glory were running the show entirely, then she'd make sure she knew what Ben saw and heard when the body was in his form."
"Yeah, I think Ben said it right; they're both stuck. She can't get to him, he can't get to her. He can beat up her minions, she can ditch his clothes, but otherwise, they're utterly out of each other's reach. (Now why am I hearing 'forever together, forever apart' in the back of my brain? I don't need a Ladyhawke flashback now...)" -- Gina and Kiki

"I got the strong impression that Glory was the one controlling the change -- Ben could tell she was coming, but didn't seem to have the power to keep her from taking over the body. So, crazy hellbitch or no, Glory seems to have more power than her brother. (And wouldn't it be funny if Glory decided to decamp during her plummet to Earth so that Ben would take the impact instead of her? < snerk >) Someone said that Ben wasn't invulnerable like Glory, but, y'know, we really don't _know_ that for a fact, do we? We haven't seen Ben in any situations where he would have demonstrated whether he could be hurt or not, so he could have similar strengths to Glory's." -- Maureen

"I'm thinking that these two are two sides of the same god...only displaying different aspects...such as the Destroyer/Creator ....Life/Death....that sort of thing.....Maybe the key is the way to bring them together as a whole being.... " -- Betsy K.

"I'm thinking that Ben (short for what? Beneficient, was Mir's guess elsewhere) is one of the other three demon gods that ruled over 'one of the more unpleasant demon dimensions' with Glory however many millenia it was ago. I think after they got exiled from Earth (along with whatever else was in our dimension and got pushed out, way long time ago), Ben either came back early and accepted the limitations of human form (lack of super-strength, vulnerability, etc.), or when Glory came through this time, he got dragged along for the ride, because they're part of the same god-entity.Which begs the question... where's number three? Could Hellgod number three be the Key? Was the Key removed from the three of them, disintegrating them from some kind of triad-god a couple million years ago? Is that why Glory wants it? So they can be stable and powerful and god-like in this dimension? Which would explain why Dawn couldn't remember Ben changing into Glory when it happened right in front of her, and when she seemed to process it ("you're Ben!"... "Well, it's not that simple. But then, family never is.") at the time. If she's a part of them, and they're a part of her, then some of her consciousness would be tied into them, and be blocked the same way Ben and Glory aren't ever present at the same time, or aware of the same things, even if they are sharing body-space." -- Kiki

"Michelle Trachtenburg did an awesome job of falling apart last night, too. Completely convincing breakdown, and tantrum, and teen-age resentment and fear, all the way through. And SMG wasn't the one with the waterworks last night, even though she did a good job portraying how much this was hurting Buffy." -- Kiki

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