A day in the life of Buffy's sister Dawn is transcribed into her diary in her point of view. To Dawn, it's tough to live with a Slayer as an older sister. To Buffy, it's tough to live with a sister who's constantly getting in trouble—like when Harmony returns to town with a gang and kidnaps Dawn.
Buffy trains and works on her strength with the help of Giles and some crystals. She practices a handstand on a block of wood but falls when her sister, Dawn, knocks over the crystals. In the morning, Dawn continues annoying Buffy by emptying the milk carton. Joyce asks Buffy to take Dawn shopping for school supplies, but Riley reminds her they had already made plans. Buffy has to cancel so she can go work with Giles. Giles drives the sisters on their errands, having trouble with the automatic transmission in his new BMW convertible. They spot Willow and Tara heading for the Magic Box, and Buffy tells Willow that she's dropping Drama in favor of more Slayer training.
At the shop, the gang finds the owner dead, killed by vampires. Buffy sends Dawn outside, where she encounters a deranged man. He seems to recognize her, saying, "You don't belong here." She is upset until Tara comes to keep her company.
The gang realizes that a pack of vampires raided the shop for books on how to defeat the Slayer, under Harmony's leadership. Giles admires the shop and its profit potential.
That night, Dawn is happy to have Xander as her babysitter, until she discovers Anya is coming too. Harmony arrives to challenge Buffy but is disappointed when she's not there.
Xander taunts Harmony and her minions from the safety of the house until Dawn mistakenly invites the vampire inside. After Harmony puts up a fight, Xander literally kicks her out of the house. Harmony later encounters Spike in the graveyard, and the two talk about Harmony's plans to kill the Slayer. While unpacking in their new place, Tara and Willow discuss how Dawn is having a hard time as an outsider of the Scooby Gang. Tara reveals that she has similar feelings as an outsider. On patrol, Buffy is fuming about the lecture she received from her mother about allowing Dawn to see a dead body. Riley tries to talk some sense into her, pointing out she and Dawn resent each other for similar reasons.
When they return home, Xander tells Buffy about Harmony and - after the Slayer stops laughing - she gets angry that Dawn invited Harmony inside, even though it was purely unintentional. Buffy complains to Riley and Xander about the trouble Dawn causes and how she can't always be there to protect her; Dawn listens from the hall and runs outside in tears. Before Anya can bring Dawn back inside, Harmony's vampire minions capture Dawn and attack Anya. Buffy then runs out to find her sister, leaving Xander and Riley to take care of Anya, who requires hospitalization.
Harmony explains to her minions that Dawn is bait, meaning they can't eat her. Harmony complains to Dawn about her problems until her mutinous minions attempt to kill them both. Buffy - who had threatened Spike until he revealed Harmony's location - arrives and easily kills most of the minions as Harmony escapes. Buffy has trouble with one, Mort, but eventually manages to stake him with a hideous wooden unicorn of Harmony's. The Slayer frees her sister and when they get home, they agree not to tell their mother. The next day, Buffy and Giles talk about his decision to take over the Magic Box, while Dawn writes in her journal that Buffy still thinks she's a nobody, but she's going to be in for a surprise...
The crazy man who scares Dawn outside the Magic Box says, "I know you. Curds and whey." This is a reference to the nursery rhyme Little Miss Muffet, which Faith quotes from in "Graduation Day, Part Two" when she is foreshadowing Dawn's arrival: "Little Ms. Muffet counting down from 7-3-0".
Dawn's crush on Xander is first mentioned in this episode, eventually culminating in a romantic kiss between the two in season 8 and their on-going relationship in season 9.
Buffy professes an attraction for George Clooney, once again demonstrating her preference for older men (something shared by her sister to judge by her crush on Xander).
Mr. Bogarty is the third owner of the Magic Shop to be killed in the series.
Tara still feels like an outsider in the Scooby Gang. That will change with "Family" when the Scoobies stand up for her.
Mr. Bogarty, killed by Harmony's gang
Cyrus, dusted by Buffy
Peaches, dusted by Buffy
Brad, beheaded by Buffy
Mort, dusted by Buffy with a unicorn
Behind the Scenes
Joss Whedon and the writers deliberately dropped the audience into this new situation without explaining where Dawn suddenly came from. As far as Buffy and the other characters know, Dawn has always been there; only the audience is aware that something is amiss. The writers wanted the audience to be curious about this mystery for several episodes. More information about Dawn is learned in "No Place Like Home".
Prior to the role of Dawn being cast, Sarah Michelle Gellar suggested they take a look at Michelle Trachtenberg. Dawn was originally conceived to be 12 years old, but after Trachtenberg was cast, the writers raised the character's age to 14. However, the first few scripts were still written in the voice of a 12-year-old. Before being cast, Trachtenberg, a fan of the show, had written a letter to Joss Whedon that suggested how she could become a character on Buffy. The character of Dawn was also originally intended to have the power to speak to the dead, or to be able to move objects with her mind. These powers were later dropped.
Writer David Fury says he was "given a lot of freedom to develop Dawn" as her background was completely unknown. He set up her relationships with other characters, such as Willow's status as Dawn's "Favorite Aunt", and provided additional backstory that - although not necessarily appearing in the finished script - "infused her character in future episodes."
Michelle Trachtenberg (Dawn) has been added to the opening credits, marking the shortest period in which an actor goes from a guest credit to a main character (only one episode, with Dawn's debut appearance being at the very end of Buffy vs. Dracula).
This is the second episode in a row to promote a guest star to main cast status (the first was Emma Caulfield). The number of main characters on the show now stands at eight, the record for both Buffy and Angel. This will remain the case until the tenth episode, "Into the Woods", when Marc Blucas leaves the main cast.
The role of Cyrus, one of Harmony's gang, is played by Tom Lenk. This was Lenk's first appearance on the show, but he later portrayed Andrew Wells.
Pop Culture References
Buffy states that "most magic shop owners in Sunnydale have the life expectancy of a Spinal Tap drummer." Spinal Tap is a fictional Heavy Metal Band from the Mockumentary This is Spinal Tap, whose drummers tend to die of various, often strange reasons
Dawn states she doesn't need to go school shopping at the Magic Box since she's not going to Hogwarts, which is the school Harry Potter attends. As indicated by Dawn's admonishing the "crack a book," this Harry Potter reference is based entirely on the book series, as this episode aired more than a year before the first Potter film.
Peaches mentions that Harmony's gang has a (probably deceased) census taker back at their lair. This is likely a reference to The Silence of the Lambs, in which Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) describes a meal he cooked using a census taker's liver.
Goofs, Bloopers and Continuity Errors
In the scene where Tara and Willow are discussing Tara's feelings as an outsider, a microphone can briefly be seen.
In the scene where Buffy and Dawn are riding in Giles' car, at the end of the scene, a man's hand can be seen on the right side of the screen on the car.
When Giles is going through the Magic Shop ledger, his left hand keeps jumping around; nearly every time the shot changes, it suddenly is in a different position.
French: Jalousies (Jealousies)
German: Lieb Schwesterlein mein (Dear sister of mine)
Buffy - "Harmony, when you tried to be head cheerleader, you were bad. When you tried to chair the homecoming committee, you were really bad. But when you try to be bad... you suck."
Dawn - "She and Willow are both witches. They 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 things they do together. And-and then she got really quiet and made me go upstairs."
Giles - "I'm just not used to this automatic transmission. I-I loathe this 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 sporty."
Buffy - "Little two-door tramp."
Giles - "I bet the death rate keeps the rent down."
Anya - (looking for weapons) "You'd think a Slayer's house would have more weapons!"
Xander - (about Harmony's gang) "I just... I just can't picture anyone pathetic enough to be following- Is that Brad Konig? Huh! Hey Brad, who'd have thought when you were beating up kids in gym class, you'd end up Harmony's lapdog?"
Brad - "Screw you, Harris."
Mort - "New plan: we drain the girl and kill you, not necessarily in that order."
Giles - "I was a librarian for years. This is the same, except this time people pay for the things they never return."
Buffy - "How bored were you last year?"
Giles - "I watched Passions with Spike. Let us never speak of it." (Buffy laughs)
Riley - "'I'm here to violate your firstborn'... never really goes over that well with parents. I don't know why..."
Buffy - "We're going to the Magic Shop. No school supplies there."
Dawn - "Yeah, Mom, I'm not going to Hogwarts. Jeez, crack a book sometime."
Dawn - "Touch me and my sister's gonna kill you!" (Cyrus laughs and touches Dawn before suddenly being dusted by Buffy)
Buffy - "Can't say she didn't warn him."
Anya - "Crap, look at this. I'm burdened with a husband and several tiny pink children, and more money than I can reasonably manage."
Xander - "That means you're winning."
Anya - "Really?"
Xander - "Yes, cash equals good."
Anya - "Ohh, I'm so pleased. Can I trade in the children for more cash?"