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"Blood Ties" is the thirteenth episode of the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the ninety-first episode in the series. Written by Steven S. DeKnight and directed by Michael Gershman, it was originally broadcast on February 6, 2001, on The WB network.


DAWN IS UNVEILED AS THE KEY — As Buffy and friends celebrate her 20th birthday, Dawn is traumatized to learn she is the Key and runs away but Buffy and the Scooby gang must find her before Glory does.[1]


The Scooby Gang discusses plans for Buffy's birthday and dealing with Glory. Giles tells everyone of the new information they have regarding Glory that the Watchers Council has provided; she was a god from a demon dimension who has somehow found her way into theirs. While she is immortal and apparently invulnerable due to being stuck in human form, she is also mostly insane and needs to suck mental energy from humans, thus explaining the sudden increase of people going crazy in Sunnydale. Xander suggests that they try hunting down the Key that Glory is looking for, but as the gang start to discuss this plan Buffy and Giles admit they know where the Key is. Xander and Willow are hurt that information was kept from them, and Buffy decides to tell the gang the truth about Dawn, reasoning that they deserve to know the full story as their lives will be on the line.

Several of the Knights of Byzantium chant around a fire before they are interrupted by Jinx, one of Glory's minions. Glory arrives and kills all of the Knights except Orlando, whom she later tortures for information.

At the Magic Box, everyone is awkward around Dawn given their new knowledge of her origins, which she picks up on. Giles hides a book in a hidden counter drawer, which Dawn also notices. Later, at a gathering for her birthday, Buffy opens presents from her friends. Soon it is time for Dawn's gift, and she gives Buffy a photo from a vacation they took to the beach with their father. As Dawn talks about the trip, everyone goes quiet, picking up on Buffy's sadness, knowing that the vacation is just another false memory. Nevertheless, Buffy is still touched by the thoughtful gift and hugs her sister close. Later, Dawn overhears Buffy, Giles, and Joyce talking about her in kitchen, discussing if her existence poses any kind of danger. When Xander and Anya go quiet when Dawn approaches, she finally lays into everyone for their constant secrecy around her before running to her room.

After sneaking out of the house, Dawn runs into Spike, who is hanging around outside Buffy's house with a battered box of chocolates he wants to give her as a birthday present. After a brief conversation, Dawn tells Spike that she is on her way to the Magic Shop to steal a book. Spike notes the myriad dangers of roaming around alone at night, and then he accepts Dawn's offer to let him tag along. With Spike's assistance, Dawn breaks into the shop and finds the book that she had seen Giles hide earlier. Reading Giles's entries about the Key, she reads that it is outside human perception and can only be seen by psychics and madmen, causing her to remember being confronted about not being real by crazy people. Although Dawn gets a really bad feeling, she nevertheless keeps reading and finds out that the Key can also be seen by snakes and dogs, and she remembers how Glory's snake reacted to her. Dawn has already realized the truth as Spike takes over the reading and confirms what it now obvious to her: the monks, seeking to make sure the Slayer would protect the Key no matter what, sent it to her transformed into a sister. Spike is surprised as Dawn's world starts to crumble.

As the gang discusses the fact that Riley hasn't sent so much as a message to Buffy for her birthday, Dawn suddenly emerges, bleeding from a self-inflicted knife wound, tearfully questioning what she is. Buffy and Joyce are horrified that Dawn has found out the truth, the party is brought to an abrupt end, and everyone else leaves so Joyce and Buffy can try to talk to Dawn, but everything has changed for her and she's scared, so she demands that they leave her alone.

The next day at the Magic Box, Buffy walks in demanding from Giles all the information there is about the Key so she can give Dawn some answers. Anya notices some cigarette butts in an urn, and Buffy realizes that Spike was there when Dawn found out she was the Key. Buffy then storms into his crypt ready to beat him up. She is furious with him for letting Dawn find out she was the Key through a way she didn't want her to find out. However, Spike turns the tables on her and blames her for not telling Dawn the truth in the first place. He also notes that Dawn was going with or without him and that he only went along to protect her from harm, thinking that she would be safer with "Big Bad" looking over her shoulder. Now Buffy's only going after him to make herself feel better. Sensing the truth in Spike's words, Buffy leaves. After she departs, Spike closes his eyes in resignation; he clearly doesn't relish driving a deep wedge between the Summers sisters the way he inadvertently did when he accompanied Dawn last night. 

At the Summers house, Dawn initially refuses to go to school. Joyce then tries to be there for her daughter, but Dawn refuses and decides to head to school anyway.

Jinx threatens Ben at the hospital, but Ben reveals that Glory can't hurt him, no matter what he does. Joyce talks to Buffy later, telling her that Dawn got herself suspended from school. Buffy explains that as far as Dawn's concerned, she's not real and nothing she does matters. Dawn overhears them and misunderstands the conversation as the two agreeing she's not really their daughter/sister. She then rampages through her room, burns her diaries and runs away. The smoke alarm alerts Buffy and her mom to Dawn's little fire and departure.

The gang gathers at the Magic Box and then splits up to search for Dawn. Spike does what he can to comfort the near-frantic Buffy, and tells her that they will find her sister before it's too late. Buffy then admits that Spike had been right about Dawn — Buffy should have been honest with her in the first place. Dawn passes through the park, reliving past memories only to be reminded of their falseness, then ends up at the Sunnydale Memorial.

She searches for answers in the psych ward, trying to persuade the mental patients to tell them what they see when they look at her, then runs into Ben. She blurts out to Ben that she's the Key and he freaks out trying to make her leave before Glory can find her, but it's too late. Ben suddenly transforms into Glory, but Glory remembers nothing about Ben's conversation with Dawn, and the young girl pretends to know nothing. Dawn questions Glory about the Key, trying to get more information, and Glory reveals that The Key is very old, then realizes Dawn knows nothing and is wasting her time. Dawn doesn't seem to remember exactly how Glory got into the room.

Buffy shows up in time to stop Glory from draining the energy from Dawn. With some help from the rest of the gang, Buffy gets in a few good hits and takes a few as well before Willow and Tara perform a spell to teleport Glory somewhere else. The goddess ends up high in the sky and falls straight to earth.

Buffy shows Dawn that no matter what, they are sisters and bound by blood. Dawn tries to tell Buffy that Ben turned into Glory, but can't seem to recall the information correctly, thinking that Ben was there then left before Glory arrived. The two sisters then head home — their relationship slowly returning to normal.


  • The rest of the Scooby Gang, as well as Dawn herself, learn that Dawn is the Key. Buffy discovered in "No Place Like Home" and told Giles in "Family," then Joyce noticed it in "Listening to Fear."
  • The 12th or 13th episode of each season is traditionally when Buffy celebrates her birthday; her birthday takes place in episode 13 of season 2 ("Surprise"), episode 12 of season 3 ("Helpless"), episode 12 of season 4 ("A New Man"), and episode 14 of season 6 ("Older and Far Away").
  • Spike's intended gift for Buffy is the same box of chocolates with which he practiced his lines on (and bludgeoned) the Buffy mannequin in "Triangle."
  • Six years later, when Dawn starts disappearing and losing her memories, Spike will keep her company telling her about the time the two invaded the Magic Box and discovered she was the Key (The Core, Part Two).
  • As Dawn put the pieces together about her identity as the Key, it flashes archive footage from episodes "Listening to Fear," "Real Me," and "Shadow."
  • Dawn's self-harm incident will become a rumor in her school of attempted suicide, as mentioned in episode "The Body."
  • When Dawn gets upset with Joyce and Buffy in her bedroom, she shouts, "Get out. Get out! Get out! Get out!" She shouts the same thing, in the same place, in the episode "Older and Far Away," during Buffy's 21st birthday.
  • Although a link between Ben and Glory had been previously suggested ("Listening to Fear"), this is the first time we see that Ben and Glory share a body, although neither retains memories of the other's activities.
  • It is also noteworthy that Dawn does not remember Ben changing into Glory; this memory glitch will be a recurring phenomenon in "The Weight of the World," affecting everyone who witnesses the shift (except Spike).
  • In her fight with Glory, while Buffy is unable to defeat the hellgod, she puts up a much better fight, lasting a bit longer and even landing a few good blows, unlike the last time they fought ("No Place Like Home"). This occurs in their later fights until Buffy gains the upper hand in "The Gift." This shows Buffy's adaptability to fighting stronger opponents, something she shows in her later fights with Caleb in season 7.
  • Buffy assures Dawn she is family as she has "Summers blood," which will have greater meaning in the season finale "The Gift."
  • Dawn eventually comes to terms with her condition as the Key, as herself reveals in Old Demons, Part Two. Nonetheless, Dawn's fear of not being real still manifests when she visits the Dimension of Darkest Fear, in Own It, Part Three.



Organizations and titles[]





Rituals and spells[]

Death count[]

  • Dreg, killed by the Knights of Byzantium.
  • Three unidentified minions of Glory, killed by the Knights of Byzantium
  • Three Knights of Byzantium, killed by Glory with a sword.
  • One security guard, had his neck snapped by Glory.

Behind the scenes[]


  • This is the first Buffyverse episode written by Steven S. DeKnight.


  • "Blood Ties" had an audience of 3.3 million households upon its original airing.[2]

Pop culture references[]


International titles[]

  • Armenian: "Արյունական կապեր" (Blood Ties)
  • Czech: "Krevní Pouta" (Blood Ties)
  • Finnish: "Verisiteet" (Blood Ties)
  • French: "La Clé" (The Key)
  • German: "Blutsbande" (Blood Ties)
  • Hungarian: "Véres nyakkendők" (Blood Ties)
  • Italian: "Legami di Sangue" (Blood Ties)
  • Japanese: "血の絆" (Blood Ties)
  • Polish: "Więzy krwi" (Blood Ties)
  • Portuguese (Brazil): "Laços de Sangue" (Blood Ties)
  • Romanian: "Legături de Sânge" (Blood Ties)
  • Russian: "Кровные узы" (Blood Ties)
  • Spanish (Latin America): "Lazos de Sangre" (Blood Ties)
  • Spanish (Spain): "Lazos Sangíneos" (Blood Ties)



Promotional stills[]

Behind the scenes[]



Buffy: "How was school today?"
Dawn: "Um, the usual, big square building filled with boredom and despair."
Buffy: "Just how I remember it."
Buffy: "I have some stuff I have to do first."
Dawn: "Is it about that weird girl that came to the house?"
Buffy: "Glory. And no it's not."
Dawn: "Like you'd tell me anyway. Dawn's too young and Dawn's too delicate."
Buffy: "Right. A young delicate pain in my butt."
Dawn: "I just think you're freaking out 'cause you have to fight someone prettier than you. That is the case, right?"
Buffy: "Glory is evil. And powerful. And in no way prettier than me."
Anya: "Oh, it's just so lovely! Ooh, I wish it was mine! Oh, like you weren't all thinking the same thing!"
Giles: "I'm fairly certain I wasn't. I've got one just like it."
Spike: "The nibblet scampered off to get away from you. She hears you bellowing, she's gonna pack it in the opposite direction. Can't say I blame her."
Buffy: "You were right. This is my fault. I should have told her."
Spike: "Look, she probably would have skipped off anyway, even if she never found out. She's not just a blob of energy, she's also a fourteen-year-old hormone bomb. Which one's screwing her up more right now? Spin the bloody wheel. You'll find her, just in the nick of time, that's what you hero types do."
Buffy: "Are you okay? Did she hurt you?"
Dawn: "Why do you care?"
Buffy: "Because I love you. You're my sister."
Dawn: "No, I'm not."
Buffy: "Yes, you are. Look, it's blood. It's Summers blood. It's just like mine. It doesn't matter where you came from, or, or how you got here. You are my sister. There's no way you could annoy me so much if you weren't."
Dawn: "I was so scared."
Buffy: "Me too."


  1. "The Mortuary." Buffy.com. Archived from the original on June 9, 2001.
  2. "Nielsen Ratings for Buffy's Fifth Season." Nielsen Ratings for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, & Firefly. Archived from the original on July 8, 2008.