Buffy has found herself and Sheila Martini in Principal Snyder's office. He has decided that the two girls will prepare the school lounge for parent-teacher night on Thursday telling them that whoever does the better job will not be expelled. He also notes that doing a good job may affect what he tells their parents towards the positive. Sheila's continued unconcern puts even more pressure on Buffy, who already has a tough time balancing slaying with a social life. Joyce warns Buffy later that if she gets a bad report then she won't be allowed to spend time with her friends.
That night, a new vampire by the name of Spike arrives in Sunnydale, knocking down the city's welcome sign. In the abandoned factory that is now their lair, the Anointed One has called together the few remaining members of the Order of Aurelius. With the Master dead and all hope of resurrecting him gone, they are now discussing who will serve alongside the Anointed One. As the following Saturday is the Night of Saint Vigeous when a vampire's power is at its peak, it is agreed that whoever kills the Slayer will take the Master's place. As one vampire boasts of his prowess, Spike saunters in and puts him in his place. Spike then offers to kill Buffy for the Anointed One, revealing that he's already killed two Slayers. Suddenly Drusilla, Spike's paramour who has psychic abilities and is more than a little insane, arrives and begins to babble about what Buffy is doing and begs Spike to kill her. The Anointed One agrees to let Spike try.
While the Scoobies are busy preparing for Parents' Night, Giles and Jenny Calendar show up to inform Buffy that Saturday will be the Night of Saint Vigeous, named after the leader of a vampire crusade, and that during that night the natural abilities of vampires will be enhanced. Buffy is unimpressed. Buffy tries to combine school and social life by studying French at the Bronze. Spike is there, too, and sends one of the Anointed One's minions to attack someone, then prompts Buffy to fight and slay the vampire while Spike watches. Spike then steps out of the shadows and tells her that he will kill her on Saturday. He later bumps into Sheila, who is enthralled by his bad boy charm.
Giles does not recognize Spike from Buffy's description. Angel walks in on the meeting and tells them that Spike is a large problem, and then leaves. Later, Giles finds a reference to Spike as "William the Bloody," and discovers that he has indeed killed two Slayers already and that the "Spike" moniker came from his custom of torturing his victims with railroad spikes. Spike and Drusilla settle into their new home, with Drusilla unpacking her collection of dolls. It soon emerges that Drusilla is ill following an altercation with an angry mob in Prague. Spike is hopeful that being so close to the Hellmouth will heal her and encourages her to eat something, indicating the bound Sheila. Drusilla warns Spike that the Anointed One and his followers don't trust him, then sends him up to the surface to feed as she feasts on Sheila.
On Thursday night, the Scoobies are making weapons in the library while Buffy is preparing the buffet. Despite Buffy's best efforts to keep her mother from meeting any teachers or Principal Snyder, Joyce eventually meets the Principal, and then she sternly orders Buffy home just as Spike and the other vampires crash through the window, too impatient to wait for Saturday. In the ensuing fight, Buffy leads the adults to safety in the science room while Xander, Giles, and Ms. Calendar barricade themselves in the library. Willow and Cordelia hide in a utility closet. Xander is sent out to get Angel. Buffy takes command of the incredulous adults, telling them to stay put as she climbs through the air ducts to reach the library and her weapons.
Xander returns to the school with Angel, who pretends to be his former evil self. Though Spike first welcomes Angel as a long-lost friend, he sees through the ruse and Xander and Angel are forced to flee. Xander hears Spike call Angel his "sire" and "Yoda." Buffy and Spike finally meet in the hall, and Buffy is almost bested when her mother shows up and hits Spike over the head with the flat of a fire axe. With the curse "Women!", he retreats. Joyce tells Buffy that she doesn't care about what Snyder said and is proud to have a daughter who knows how to take care of herself and others in a crisis. Snyder tells the police chief to say that the trouble was caused by a gang on PCP. When the chief wonders if people will believe it, Snyder asks if he'd rather tell the truth. Meanwhile, not knowing the vampires are long gone, Willow and Cordelia are still hiding out in the utility closet where Cordelia prays to God to be rescued, while Willow is desperate to be rescued from her company.
Spike returns to the factory and meets with Drusilla, telling her that he's never encountered a Slayer with friends or family but still promises to kill her soon. He then approaches the Anointed One who demands penance for attacking too early. After starting to go through the motions, Spike decides that he won't reduce himself to grovelling for forgiveness from a kid and instead throws the boy in a cage and pulls it into the sun, killing him. From now on, he says, there will be less ritual and more fun in Sunnydale.
This episode is the first appearance of Spike, who will figure heavily both in this series and the final season of Angel. The episode also marks the first appearance of Drusilla, who was also a constant threat and influence in both series.
Spike pronounces Angel's vampire name "AN-ge-lus" (similar to the pronunciation of the city of Los Angeles); throughout the remainder of the series, the pronunciation "an-GE-lus" is more often used.
Spike calls Angel his sire, an intentional misdirection to make fans believe that Angel was the vampire who sired him. When Spike uses sire he also mentions "Yoda," indicating that he thought of Angel as his mentor – the father figure who taught him after he became a vampire. In interviews, Joss Whedon has stated that a "sire" can mean any vampire ancestor. So Spike can consider Drusilla, Angel, Darla, and the Master to all be his sires, even though he was sired by Dru.
In this episode Spike seems quite happy to see Angel, although they have had a very rocky relationship even when Angel had no soul. This animosity will remain through both the Buffy and Angel series.
This episode establishes that Principal Snyder and the police are aware that there are supernatural happenings in Sunnydale. This foreshadows the development of Mayor Richard Wilkins as the "big bad" of season 3.
At the end of the episode, Spike complains about "A Slayer with family and friends." Buffy's rejection of the typical "lone wolf" style of Slaying will come up frequently in the series, usually in the context of people questioning her competence.
This is the first episode to reveal that Buffy's mother's name is Joyce.
Spike tells Buffy that the last Slayer he killed begged for her life. The last Slayer Spike killed was Nikki Wood. In the episode "Fool for Love" we see Spike murder her, but we do not witness the exchange as the story unfolds, only through the Spike of the 1970s addressing Buffy in the present, and as such could be missing Nikki's pleas. Later in the Angel episode "Damage" we hear from deranged Slayer Dana that Nikki's plea was "Please, I have to get home to my son Robin."
Despite, or because of, Joyce's attack on him in this episode, Spike later has a deep respect for Joyce Summers, developing somewhat of a friendship with her.
Joyce and Snyder meet for the first time in this episode, developing their mutual disdain into Season 3.
Spike's rather dramatic arrival in Sunnydale (running over the "Welcome to Sunnydale" sign) is later recreated in "Lovers Walk," the only difference him being drunk.
This episode marks the first time a vampire, The Anointed One, is killed by immolation in sunlight, though it occurs off screen. It will occur on screen for the first time in "Becoming, Part One."
The yo-yo Xander pulls out of Buffy's purse (while looking for a stake) is the same one she was playing with in the beginning of "Some Assembly Required."
In this episode we have Cordelia joining the other characters making stakes in the library without any specific backstory as to why she is there, marking her as a full Scooby for the first time.
A possible clue as to Willow's future character development is found in the final scene where she and Cordelia are 'in the closet' together.
This episode established that Spike killed two Slayers, an exception among vampires. Later, Drusilla will achieve this status by killing Kendra and Marianne.
When Sheila asks Buffy if she really burnt down a building one time, Buffy replies "Not exactly one time," referencing the previous episode where Buffy was involved in the burning down of an abandoned science building.
Drusilla and Spike being attacked by an angry mob in Prague and her weakening is shown in the story The Problem with Vampires.
Show creators have stated in interviews included on the DVDs that Spike kills The Anointed One in this episode because Andrew J. Ferchland, who plays The Anointed One, had grown significantly over the summer hiatus, which contradicted the established doctrine that vampires do not age. Because of Ferchland's growth spurt, he remains seated for most of his scenes in season two.
When Buffy first encounters "Big Ugly" outside the Bronze, she tells Xander to go get a stake. The script reads "Xander races to the table. Opens Buffy's purse, claws through lipstick, make-up, hair brush, a tampon! XANDER - Ahhh! He drops it like a hot tampon, finally finds a stake, runs."
"School Hard" had an audience of 3.4 million households.
Spike's line was cut from the original script for length:
Spike: "Would it kill ya, a little mouthwash every couple hundred years?"
Xander's line was cut from the original script for length:
Xander: "The important thing in punch is the ratio of vodka to schnapps.... That was obviously far too sophisticated a joke for this crowd."
An exchange between Buffy and Giles was cut from the original script for length:
Buffy: "I don't suppose this is something about happy squirrels?"
Buffy: "That was my next guess."
Pop Culture References
The title and some plot elements of this episode are reminiscent of the action film Die Hard.
Willow is wearing a Scooby-Doo shirt at the PTA night.
Giles comments that the name Spike is "a little unorthodox" for a vampire, to which Buffy replies: "maybe he's Reform."
Spike calls Angel an "Uncle Tom," a term that refers to a black person who is overly submissive towards a white person.
The death of the Anointed bears a resemblance to the death of Claudia, who was also a child vampire, in Interview with the Vampire.
Woodstock, which Spike attended, was a musical festival held in a farmer's field in Woodstock, NY, the weekend of August 15–17, 1969. Featuring such acts as Jimi Hendrix, Ravi Shankar, and the Grateful Dead, the event immediately came to symbolize the bohemian atmosphere and hippie culture of the free-love late 1960s.
Goofs, Bloopers & Continuity Errors
When Cordelia is talking to Buffy the position in which her arms are change significantly throughout the scene.
Buffy turning her head when Big Ugly says "Spike, give me a hand" and her turning her head when Spike starts clapping are the same exact shot used twice.
Finnish: Kovaa Koulua (Tough School)
French: Attaque à Sunnydale (Attack in Sunnydale)
German: Elternabend mit Hindernissen (Parent-Teacher Conference with Obstacles)
Portuguese (Brazil): A Escola da Pesada (The School of Tough)
Spanish (Latin America): Terror en el instituto (Terror at school)
Spanish (Spain): Santrictos
Nickel - "1000 Nights" (Plays as Willow tutors Buffy in French at The Bronze)
Nickel - "Stupid Thing" (Plays as Xander coaxes Willow and Buffy out to the dance floor)
Buffy - (learning French with Willow) "La vache… doit me… touche… de la… jeudi. (looks at Willow) Was it wrong? Should I use the plural?"
Willow - "No. But you said ‘The cow should touch me from Thursday’."
Buffy - "Maybe that’s what I was feeling."
Willow - "And you said it wrong."
Buffy - "Oh, je stink."
Joyce - "So, what do you think your teachers are gonna tell me about you?"
Buffy - "Well, I think they'll all agree that I always bring a pen to class, ready to absorb the knowledge."
Joyce - "And, uh, this absorption rate? How is it reflected in your homework and test scores?"
Buffy - "What can you really tell about a person from a test score?"
Joyce - "Whether or not she's ever going out with her friends again."
Spike - "If every vampire who said he was at the Crucifixion was actually there, it would've been like Woodstock."
Giles - "For three nights, the unholy ones scourge themselves into a fury, um, culminating in a savage attack on the Night of St. Vigeous."
Xander - "Does anybody remember when Saturday night meant date night?"
Cordelia - "You sure don't."
Willow - "She was already smoking in fifth grade. Once I was lookout for her."
Xander - "You're bad to the bone."
Willow - "I'm a rebel."
Spike - "You were my sire, man! You were my... YODA!"
Xander - "As long as nothing really bad happens between now and then, you'll be fine."
Buffy - "Are you crazy? What did you say that for? Now something bad is gonna happen."
Xander - "What do you mean? Nothing's gonna happen."
Willow - "Not until some dummy says 'As long as nothing bad happens'."
Buffy - "It's the ultimate jinx."
Willow - "What were you thinking? Or were you even thinking at all?"
Buffy - "Who are you?"
Spike - "You'll find out on Saturday."
Buffy - "What happens on Saturday?"
Spike - "I kill you."
Cordelia - (about Snyder and Joyce) "When they're done talking..."
Buffy - (worried) "What?"
Cordelia - "My guess? Tenth high school reunion, you'll still be grounded."
Spike - (after coming two days early) "What can I say? I couldn't wait."
Cordelia - "And if you get me out of this, I swear I'll never be mean to anyone ever again. Unless they really deserve it or if it's that time of the month, in which case I don't think you or anyone else can hold me responsible..."
Willow - (bored to death) "Ask for some aspirin."
Cordelia - "And can you please send some asp- Hey."
Buffy - "So, what did you and Principal Snyder talk about, anyway?"
Joyce - "Principal Snyder said you were a troublemaker." (Buffy looks down in shame) "And I could care less." (Buffy looks back up) "I have a daughter who can take care of herself — who’s brave and resourceful and thinks of others in a crisis. No matter who you hang out with or what dumb teenage stuff you think you need to do, I’m gonna sleep better knowing all that."
Buffy - "About how long ’til this wears off and you start ragging on me again?"
Joyce - "Oh, at least a week and a half."
Buffy - "Very cool!"
Xander - "So, when you gave him my neck to chew on, why didn't you clock him before he had a chance to clock you?"
Angel - "I told you. I couldn't make the first move. I had to see if he was buying it or not."
Xander - "A-and if he bit me, what then?"
Angel - "We would've known he bought it."
Spike - "A Slayer with family and friends. That sure as hell wasn’t in the brochure."
Spike - "From now on, there’s going to be a little less ritual and a little more fun around here!"