After flu lands Buffy in the hospital, she rescues fevered children from Der Kindestod, a demon that turned out to have killed her cousin when she was younger, and which gave her a phobia of hospitals.
A flu-stricken Buffy, reluctant to stay at home, patrols the cemetery. Xander, Willow and Cordelia surprise her and she nearly stakes Xander. They try to convince her to go home, but the damage that Angelus has done so far continues to fuel her fire. Angelus appears behind her and attacks Cordelia. Buffy and Angelus fight until Angelus pins Buffy down. Willow throws a burlap sack over his head, and he is scared off by crosses that they all carry. Buffy faints and the gang rush her to the hospital. After being stabilized, she is admitted to the hospital for a few days against her will. Her mother reveals that Buffy has always hated hospitals ever since her cousin died in one while Buffy was there with her.
Joyce brings up the topic of Ms. Calendar's death to Giles, and unknowingly brings up a topic Giles would much rather forget. Meanwhile, Xander, Willow and Cordelia wait to protect a very sick Buffy from the harms of Angelus. That night, Buffy has a dream where she sees a small boy standing in her doorway (this is Ryan, whom we see later). He leaves. A strange-looking man, not quite human, follows after him, glancing into Buffy's room as he goes. As she follows the man down the hall, flashbacks of her cousin's time spent in the hospital are brought to mind. She awakes suddenly in the middle of the night and takes a walk down the hall. Two men exit the children's ward with a child that died that night. At the door she overhears a conversation between Dr. Backer and Dr. Wilkinson about the doctors' experimental treatments on the kids. As she begins to leave, she encounters two children that tell her about "Death" and how he comes at night.
That night, Angelus comes to visit Buffy but Xander stands guard. They stand face to face and exchange many harsh words until Angelus finally leaves discouraged by the fact that he may not make it to Buffy's room with all the security. The next morning Buffy's friends visit bearing gifts to cheer her up—all but Cordelia, that is. They all take a walk and Buffy tells them all about the conversation she overheard. The doctor was trying experimental treatments on the kids in the children's ward that Dr. Wilkinson didn't exactly agree with. Since forced to stay at the hospital she plans to find out what the doctor is up to and Xander volunteers everyone's help. Cordelia and Xander sneak into the hospital's record room and search for records on the girl that died that night. Meanwhile, Giles and Willow search for information at the school library. While looking through the records, Cordelia is caught by the security guard. She flirts with him until Xander can escape with the records, then leaves herself. Xander expresses his feelings towards her flirting with him and Cordelia expresses her anger about Xander's behavior around Buffy. Jealously she leaves to take the records to Giles and Xander "watches her back" as she goes.
Buffy takes a walk and finds the little boy. He is drawing a picture of the man she saw in her dream. Willow digs up information on Dr. Backer at the library with Giles. She finds that he has a large past of experimental treatments and investigations into his practices. Meanwhile, Dr. Backer is working on trying to cure the children's illnesses. After finding a solution that he thinks will work, he takes it to the children's ward to try it out. Before he can do anything, the evil creature attacks him and slashes him up. Buffy tries to stop him but is thrown aside unable to see the creature as its invisible.
The next morning Buffy informs everyone that Dr. Backer is not the suspect and shows them the drawing that Ryan drew of the creature. Xander, Giles and Cordelia leave her alone and come up with a plan. Giles and Cordelia head back to the library while Xander stands guard against the threat of Angelus. At the library, Cordelia annoys Giles with constant questions. Finally, she finds a picture of the monster on the cover of a book and they research it. After searching they find that it is called Der Kindestod. After Cordelia squeamishly describes what is going on Giles takes over and then tells Buffy about how it sucks the life out of a child. Buffy flashes back to her time at the hospital as a child again. She sees her cousin freaking out while she helplessly watches. Buffy goes silent over the phone and then after several minutes, Willow takes it from her and hangs up. Buffy then realizes that Der Kindestod was the killer of her cousin.
The two head to Dr. Backer's office in search of answers. They find out that Dr. Backer was giving the children injections of the disease they already have in order to inoculate them against it. Buffy realizes that only sick people can see the demon, so decides to infect her self with the vials of disease the doctor was using on the children. Willow stops her, warning her that the vials are 100% pure and would kill Buffy instantly if she drinks them. Willow then dilutes the disease in some water so Buffy can drink it "safely". Buffy's fever rushes to a near 107 degrees as she stumbles to the children's ward. She finds all the children are gone. They have headed down to the basement in hopes of escaping from the Kindestod. After a few moments, Buffy sees the Kindestod in the room and watches as he heads down to the basement. The door is locked so Buffy and Willow rush to find access to the basement. Dr. Wilkinson tries to stop them, but Buffy shoves her aside. When security guards stop the two, Willow takes on the blame as Buffy makes her escape.
Buffy works her way to Xander, and he helps her down to the basement. The children wait quietly in hopes of not being found, but then the Kindestod picks up Ryan. He screams, along with all the other children. Buffy arrives just in time and fights off the Kindestod. Just as he is about to kill her, she snaps his neck, and then leaves while leaning on Xander. Buffy finishes her rehabilitation at home with her friends. Her mother reluctantly waits on them all. Joyce then hands Buffy a letter from Ryan, which is revealed to be a drawing of her hailing over a dead Kindestod.
Willow's fear of frogs is brought up when she pretends to have frogs crawling over her to permit Buffy to escape.
The book on the cover of which Cordelia finds the image of Der Kindestod also contains the passage on an unnamed demon belonging to the Brotherhood of Seven that Buffy and Sid defeated in "The Puppet Show".
We have our first glimpse of a younger Buffy played by Mimi Paley.
It is established that Buffy had a cousin called Celia who died when she was young, meaning that Buffy and Dawn have at least one aunt or uncle.
It has been conjectured that Der Kindestod may have been inspired by Freddy Krueger, the antagonist of A Nightmare on Elm Street. However, Joss Whedon says that this character was "based on a 'this thing creeped me out as a kid' thing," as did many of the monsters on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In general, the monsters were suggested by the vague bogeyman figures that bedevil many children.
This script was originally planned as a first season episode, and then an episode before Angel became evil, it evolved into its aired form.
Pop Culture References
After Buffy says the kids called the monster they saw "death", Xander warned her not to play chess with him if he asks her to, because he's a whiz at it. This is a reference to the Swedish Ingmar Bergman movie The Seventh Seal, in which a medieval knight plays chess with death for his life.
In a dream-flashback (about 13:25 into the episode) Little Buffy plays at being Power Girl, pretending to rescue her cousin Celia. Power Girl is a DC Comics superhero who first appeared in 1976.
During the teaser Xander says, "Buffy, this is not the time to challenge Angel for the Ultimate Fighting Championship." Likely a reference to the sports organization that has been staging MMA fights since 1993.
Goofs, Bloopers & Continuity Errors
"Der Kinderstod" literally means "the children's death" in German, but Giles is the only one to pronounce it with the correct accent. Cordelia is mistaken when she claims it means "child death."
The phone that Giles takes Joyce to when Buffy falls asleep in the Hospital is unplugged/has no cord. You can easily see the empty jack on the lower left side of the phone.
Samples of this episode's score is used as the background music in the Buffy Season 2 DVD collection. The sound of Der Kindestod gasping is even heard in the episode menus.
Buffy - "I'm still the Slayer. And as long as I am, Angel's not gonna kill anybody else."
Angelus - (appears behind her) "Aw, c'mon. Just one more."
Cordelia - "So, this isn't you being afraid of hospitals' cause your friend died and you wanna conjure up a monster that you can fight so you can save everybody and not feel so helpless?"
Giles - "Cordelia, have you ever actually heard of tact?"
Cordelia - "Tact is just not saying true stuff. I'll pass."
Xander - "Finding out who this thing is takes priority. Cordy, you should go with Giles.
Giles - "Why do I have to have... Uh, good thinking. I-I-I could do with a research assistant."
Cordelia - "Let's go, tact-guy."
Xander - "Man, Buffy! My whole life just flashed before my eyes! I gotta get me a life!"
Xander - (about Buffy) "Do you think she's gonna be okay in here?"
Cordelia - "I don't know, Lysette got her nose done here, and she came in looking for the Gwyneth Paltrow, and it looked more like the Mr. Potatohead."
Xander - "Cordy..."
Willow - "Buffy's not here for cosmetic surgery."
Cordelia - "No, but while she's in here, she might as well get that thing done."
Cordelia - "You know, that thing on her face? You know that thing."
Willow - (to Xander) "Do you think Angel will attack Buffy in here?"
Xander - "He can come in, it's a public building."
Willow - (worried) "That's true."
Cordelia - "Am I the only one that's noticed that thing?"
Buffy - "Homework!"
Willow - "It's my way of saying, 'get well soon'."
Buffy - "You know, chocolate says that even better."
Willow - "I did all your assignments. All you have to do is sign your name."
Buffy - "Chocolate means nothing to me."
Xander - "Flowers for milady."
Buffy - "I think they call those balloons."
Xander - "Yeah, stick 'em in water, maybe they'll grow."
Cordelia - "What does this do?"
Giles - "Uh, it, uh, extracts vital organs to replenish its own mutating cells."
Cordelia - "Wow! What does this one do?
Giles - "Um, i-it elongates its mouth to, uh, engulf its victim's head with its incisors."
Cordelia - "Ouch. Wait, what does this one do?"
Giles - (sarcastically) "It asks endless questions of those with whom it's supposed to be working so that nothing is getting done."
Cordelia - "Boy, there's a demon for everything."
Willow - "I'm good at medical stuff since Xander and I used to play doctor all the time."
Xander - (chuckles) "No, she's being literal. (gets a look from Cordelia) She used to have all these medical volumes, uh, and diagnosed me with stuff. I didn't have the heart to tell her she was playing it wrong."
Willow - (to Xander) "Wrong? Why? (to Buffy) How did you play doctor?"
Buffy - (evasively) "I never have."
Buffy - "It's too bad Angel didn't put me in the hospital sooner. There's something I never thought I'd hear myself say."
Willow - (frantically as a distraction) "Frogs! Frogs! Get 'em off of me! Oh, my God, frogs! Get them off of me! Please, help! Get 'em off! FROGS! Frogs! Oh, my God, horrible frogs! Get 'em..."