Tough Love (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

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"Tough Love"
Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode
Glory "feeds" on Tara's mind, rendering her mentally unstable
Episode no.Season 5
Episode 19
Directed byDavid Grossman
Written byRebecca Rand Kirshner
Production code5ABB19
Original air dateMay 1, 2001
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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Buffy the Vampire Slayer (season 5)
List of Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes

"Tough Love" is the 19th episode of season 5 of the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy withdraws from school in order to better look after Dawn, who has been skipping school and shirking her responsibilities since her mother's death. Buffy assumes a new role as head of household. Willow and Tara quarrel, and while they are separated Glory "feeds" on Tara's mind, rendering her mentally unstable. In a vengeful rage, Willow storms after Glory, but fails to defeat her.

Plot synopsis[edit]

Buffy notifies her poetry professor that she is dropping out of college so that she may take care of Dawn. Ben is fired from his job at the hospital, as Glory has been monopolizing the human form they share and he has not shown up for work in two weeks. Glory takes a bath while she demands that her blindfolded minions tell her everything they know about the Key. Dawn and Buffy are called into Dawn's principal's office where Buffy is informed that Dawn has been skipping school. At the magic shop, Anya expresses new found patriotism and how money ties into that.

Buffy seeks Giles's advice about being Dawn's mother figure then takes her sister home, attempting an authoritative role with Dawn. Glory's minions provide her with enough information to conclude who the Key is and Glory leads the way to gather it. Meanwhile, Tara and Willow discuss their relationship and Willow's powers as a witch, but the discussion ends up angering Willow when Tara expresses first her concern about Willow's "frightening" power. Tara also reveals her fear that Willow may not be satisfied with dating a woman and go back to dating men.

Buffy talks with Dawn about how Dawn's situation needs to improve in school or Buffy could possibly lose guardianship of Dawn. Depressed over her first major fight with Willow, Tara goes to a cultural fair, but finds herself sitting next to Glory on a park bench. Giles finds one of Glory's minions at the shop and questions him about Glory's plans. Willow goes after Tara who is in Glory's grasp, but can't get to Tara before it's too late. Glory discovers that Tara isn't the Key, and offers to let her go if she reveals the key's identity. Protecting Dawn, Tara refuses, and Glory drains Tara's mind of sanity.

At the hospital, doctors look after Tara while Willow plans her vengeance against the evil god, Glory. Buffy arranges for Dawn to be kept safe by Spike in some caves while she takes care of the issues involving Tara. Blaming herself for all of the harm that Glory has caused the people of Sunnydale, particularly Spike and Tara, Dawn tearfully expresses a belief that she is evil and a "lightning rod for pain," while Spike comforts her and tries to convince her otherwise. Willow rages, going to the magic shop to gather dangerous magic supplies in preparation for her attack on Glory. Buffy thinks she's talked Willow out of any attempts to go after Glory, but Spike convinces her that one can't be talked out of something like that.

At Glory's place, Willow makes an unexpected, but grand appearance, casting spells wildly, all in attempts to attack and destroy Glory. Although she causes Glory some pain (something no one else, not even Buffy, was able to do) the goddess is far more powerful than the witch, and Willow is almost seriously wounded. Luckily, Buffy shows up in time to stop her from getting hurt. Buffy and Glory battle ferociously, until one of Willow's force fields allows Willow and Buffy to escape. The next day, Willow, Tara, Buffy, and Dawn sit down to eat. Willow spoon-feeds applesauce to Tara, who is still unstable after Glory's attack, while discussing the responsibilities she has to undertake in order to take care of Tara. When all seems peaceful, Glory makes a surprise appearance, tearing out an entire wall. Tara, distressed, describes Dawn as having "pure" energy, revealing that Dawn is the key.


  • Xander is shown reading an X-Men comic book. The issue, X-Men #109.
  • During their argument, Willow mentions that Tara has been "out" longer than Willow. In The Body, Tara tells Buffy she underwent serious emotional problems following her mother's death, with the implication that it may have been during this interval that she came to terms with her sexual orientation.
  • When firing Ben, his boss makes a reference to the Twinkie defense.
  • This episode marks the last appearance of Glory's affectionate minion Jinx.


  • Willow references the Initiative from Season 4 by mentioning having taken Psych 101, albeit from "an evil government scientist who was skewered by her Frankenstein-like creation before the final."

Arc significance[edit]

  • Tara and Willow have their most serious fight yet in this episode, related to Tara's unease at Willow's magic use, effectively setting up some of the next season's chief conflicts.
  • Glory drains Tara's mind, putting her into a psychotic state for the rest of the season. Tara's insanity and Willow's pledge to get her back plays a central role in the season's finale.
  • Buffy's growing trust and lessening animosity towards Spike is evident when she arranges for him to protect Dawn after Glory attacks Tara.
  • This episode is most notable for Willow's first blatantly violent, "dark" use of magic for personal reasons, complete with "Dark Willow's" trademark black eyes. Willow goes after Glory not because it's the "right" thing to do, but for revenge. This foreshadows her turn to evil in Season Six, when she again abuses magic for vengeance for Tara, with more destructive results.
  • Willow lies to her friends, leading them to believe she won't go after Glory on her own, marking the first time Willow has felt the need to lie to her friends about her magic use, which will be a recurring theme in Season Six.
  • Buffy withdraws from UC Sunnydale in this episode, so that she might better be able to take care of her sister (which includes both raising her and protecting her from Glory).
  • Buffy struggles with being Dawn's authority figure (her mother, in a sense), and essentially depends upon Giles to encourage and indeed force her to act, a theme which will lead to Giles' eventual departure in Season Six.
  • Glory learns that Dawn is "The Key".

External links[edit]