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"Into the Woods" is the tenth episode of the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the 88th episode in the series. Written and directed by Marti Noxon, it was originally broadcast on December 19, 2000, on The WB network.


ONCE BITTEN — Spike disrupts Buffy's one moment of peace after her mom's successful operation to expose Riley's late nights spent in the arms of a vampire, sending an upset and bewildered Buffy into a tailspin and putting their relationship in turmoil.[1]


At the hospital, the Scooby Gang awaits news from Dr. Aaron Kriegel about Joyce's surgery, and they are all relieved when the surgery is a success. Dawn spends the night with Xander and Anya so that Buffy and Riley can have some private time.

With the house to themselves, Buffy and Riley spend a romantic evening together, and Riley commends her on how she remained calm and didn't cry. Buffy tells him she cried a lot, and Riley is once again upset that she refused to open up towards him. As Buffy lies asleep after some lovemaking, Riley sneaks out of the house. Spike, having been on his typical nightly vigil, secretly follows Riley to an old building.

Buffy spends the day with her mother in the hospital, when they discuss Joyce's wig options and Buffy's relationship with Riley. At night, Spike enters Buffy's bedroom and wakes her up to show her what Riley has been doing. Buffy is shocked to find him in the arms of a vampire, being fed upon. Riley sees her and Buffy runs away.  

As Riley arrives his apartment, where he finds Graham and Major Ellis waiting for him. They offer Riley a position in the army's new anti-demon organization, assuring him that they are nothing like the governmental Initiative and exist only to stop demons, not study them. They tell him they'll ship out to Central America in the next day, at midnight.  

At the Magic Box, Buffy storms in and demands information about humans paying vampires to bite them. Giles and Anya confirms the existence of vampire dens, where humans get off on the rush of the experience and the danger the vampire might go too far. Buffy is angry that Giles didn't tell her about this kind of place, but Giles explains he didn't know this was going on in Sunnydale and, even if he did, he may not have told her because the "victims" are willing and she should remain focused on more imminent threats, like Glory. Buffy refuses to back down and gets even more agitated when Xander suggests waiting for Riley. Arriving at the nest, Buffy and the others find the building empty, the vampires worried that Buffy would return. Giles suggests the vampires will now be lying low, but Buffy is determined to find them and sets the building on fire, leaving everyone certain something is wrong.  

Riley arrives at Spike's crypt furious that he allowed Buffy to see the truth and, after throwing the vampire around a bit, he stakes him. Riley then reveals that the stake is plastic and his actions were only a warning. Spike maintains that Riley has no future with Buffy, and the two rivals eventually share a drink, discussing how they both love her, but she doesn't return the feelings for either of them. Spike tells Riley that he is generally jealous of his position of intimacy with Buffy, although sometimes he wonders if Riley's situation is worse, being so close to Buffy while not actually having her. However, he ultimately declares that Riley has the better deal. Riley asks Spike if he really thinks he has a shot with Buffy. Spike responds in the negative, but says that a fellow's got to try — he's got to do what he can.

Buffy releases her aggression on a punching bag in the Magic Box's training room, until Riley shows up determined to talk to her. He tells her he started his late-night vamp activities because he wanted to know what Buffy felt when she was bitten by Dracula. Riley tells her that the vampires needed him and Buffy didn't, reminding her that she didn't ask for his help when her mother was ill and she chose to shoulder the whole burden herself, instead of letting him share it with her like he is supposed to. After Buffy tries to convince him that she's given him everything she has, Riley says that he doesn't believe her, and tells her about the offer to return to the government. He is going to leave Sunnydale unless she can give him a reason to stay.

The vampires from the nest surround a distraught Buffy as she leaves the shop alone. She stakes all eight of them, including the vampire she had seen drinking from Riley.

Xander witnesses the slaying and confronts Buffy, not willing to let her hide from her problems. He shows her the truth that she's been ignoring: that Riley has given her everything, and risked everything for her, while she has treated him as a rebound after Angel's departure, and how she's treated him as "convenient," expecting him to be there when she needs him and to disappear when she doesn't. She tries to change the subject by accusing Xander of treating Anya as a mere convenience, but Xander stays on point, telling her that Riley is the kind of guy that comes around once in a lifetime and that she has to decide if she's really willing to lose him for good. Xander gets through to Buffy, and she takes off.

Although she runs as fast as she can, Buffy is unable to get to the heliport in time to stop Riley from leaving. The helicopter takes off with Buffy on the landing pad, calling after Riley. He stares in the other direction, leaving without knowing that she had tried to reach him.

After his talk with Buffy, Xander goes to Anya and declares to her how much he loves her.

Still shocked, Buffy returns home, while Riley leaves Sunnydale without looking back.


  • The episode begins just after Joyce's surgery for her brain tumor, having begun at the end of the previous episode, "Listening to Fear."
  • Anya suggests Dawn that they play Life again, but Dawn says Anya always wins, as they first played in "Real Me."
  • Riley is bothered when Buffy corrects him saying that she cried a lot because of her mother; in the night Buffy first heard about Joyce's possible health problems, Spike was the one who kept her company while she cried, in "Fool for Love."
  • Spike continues his nightly vigil outside the Summers' house, as he was first seen doing in "No Place Like Home."
  • Riley briefly leaves Buffy's side on her bed to be with vampires at the den; similarly, in "Buffy vs. Dracula," Buffy left Riley's side on her bed to slay vampires at a cemetery.
  • Buffy tells Joyce she and Riley would have some Bible study; Riley is seen attending church in "Who Are You?" while Buffy told a Christian pamphleteer in "The Freshman" that she "meant to" accept Jesus but she got "really busy."
  • Riley joins the demon-hunting military organization, returning to Sunnydale in "As You Were" during a mission for them.
  • The banner Giles hangs above the counter of the Magic Box reads: "Don't Forget Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa & Gurnenthar's Ascendance Are Coming!" The Scoobies' holiday festivities will be seen in a flashback in the episode "The Body."
  • In "Doppelgängland," Willow becomes upset when she finds out Anya's plans and takes back her chicken's feet. In this episode, Anya and Willow have a fight that starts out over chicken's feet.
  • Willow and Anya bicker about their differences, which will culminate into their misadventure during Giles' absence, in "Triangle."
  • Giles mentions knowing about vampire dens from his "Ripper" days, in reference to his nickname from his youth, as revealed in "The Dark Age." More recently, Giles had an encounter of sexual nature with the Three Sisters in "Buffy vs. Dracula."
  • Riley is the first person to whom Spike confesses that he's attracted to Buffy, declaring his love for her only in "Crush."
  • Spike tells Riley that Buffy "needs some monster in her man." In "As You Were," when Riley catches Buffy in bed with Spike, Spike tells him: "What can I say? The girl just needs a little monster in her, man."
  • Spike tells Riley he's envious of being this close to Buffy and not have her. From "Wrecked" to "As You Were," Spike and Buffy will have a sexual relationship without her loving him back. This changes only in Love Dares You, Part Two, when they give themselves a second chance.
  • Riley tells Buffy about him seeking and craving vampires to bite him, something he first did in "Shadow."
  • Riley tells Buffy he immaturely wanted to even the score with her after she was bitten by Dracula, as he already displayed jealousy at the time in "Buffy vs. Dracula."
  • After Buffy tells Riley she gave him her heart, body, and soul, he argues that he doesn't feel it; in "The Replacement," Riley confesses to Xander about his certainty that Buffy doesn't love him.
  • Xander accuses Buffy of seeing Riley as "convenient," one of the key words Buffy will use when rejecting Spike after their first night together, in "Wrecked."
  • In Turbulence, Xander will say he was always in favor of Riley, as opposed to Angel, and Buffy will recall the discussion they have in this episode.
  • Although projecting from her own situation at the time, Willow inadvertently foreshadowed, in "The Initiative," how Riley indeed breaks up with Buffy and leaves town.
  • With the end of her relationship with Riley, Buffy will use these circumstances as a pattern when rejecting future partners that she believes she would doom them, such as Satsu in A Beautiful Sunset and Robert Dowling in New Rules, Part Two.
  • Graham will appear only once again, as a supernatural analyst in In Pieces on the Ground, Part One.



Organizations and titles[]



  • Christmas (Only mentioned)
  • Gurnenthar's Ascendance (Only mentioned)
  • Hanukkah (Only mentioned)
  • Kwanzaa (Only mentioned)
  • Winter Solstice (Only mentioned)



Death count[]

  • Whip and his six minions, staked by Buffy.

Behind the scenes[]


  • The message "In Memory of D.C. Gustafson" at the end of the episode refers to Gustav Gustafson, who was the leadman for most of the first four seasons of the show.
  • This was the first Buffy episode directed by executive producer Marti Noxon. Of the experience, she says: "It was incredibly exciting, it was very difficult, and I discovered a lot of things that I need to learn to do better. Ultimately, I was pretty happy with the results. I thought that the most important thing as a director is to tell the story, not to get caught up in being all fancy just for fanciness sake, so I tried to do that."[2] She will do the same again for "Forever."
  • Marc Blucas leaves the main cast in this episode. He was promoted to series regular in "Doomed," therefore being a main character for exactly one season. He returns for one guest appearance in the episode "As You Were."
  • When asked why they chose to have Riley leave Sunnydale, Joss Whedon says he tried to give Buffy a "healthy relationship," but "people didn't want it. They did some great work together. But at the same time, when they were happy, it made people crazy."[3] Marti Noxon adds: "Sunnydale romance just rarely goes well. Buffy with a boyfriend is not as interesting as Buffy in some kind of romantic strife. Riley, by his nature, was such a good and constant character that we were at risk of things getting a little dull."[2]


  • "Into the Woods" had an audience of 3.2 million households upon its original airing.[4]

Pop culture references[]

  • Xander describes a film about a "chimp playing hockey," a likely reference to MVP: Most Valuable Primate (2000).
  • Xander jokes about the movie being based on the work by classic playwright Anton Chekhov.
  • Buffy asks: "Are you planning to seduce me, Mr. Finn?", a likely reference to the famous line from The Graduate (1967): "Are you trying to seduce me, Mrs. Robinson?"
  • Xander describes Anya bathing him "in an erotic, Penthouse-y way," referring to the pornographic magazine.
  • Xander describes that Buffy "got all Rambo and torched the place," in reference to the main character of the action movie franchise Rambo.
  • Xander questions Buffy use of the word "dependable" comparing it to the insurance company State Farm.


  • Right after the opening credits roll, when the doctor is giving Buffy and the gang the news, the lighting equipment is visible to the left of the screen.
  • Riley stabs Spike with the plastic stake, but there is no hole or blood on his shirt afterward.
  • When Spike and Riley are in Spike's crypt, the camera pans out at the end of the scene, when the filming equipment become visible on the left and right of the screen.
  • Buffy explains to Xander that Riley will leave at midnight unless she stops him, but Riley never told Buffy he was leaving at midnight, just that he was leaving "tonight"; only the audience knows it's midnight from the earlier conversation between Riley and the Colonel. Nor did he tell her he was leaving by helicopter (he just said "transport"), and from where, but she seemed to know the spot to run to try to stop him.


International titles[]

  • Armenian: "Թափառել խավարի մեջ" (Wander in Darkness)
  • Czech: "Do lesů" (Into the Woods)
  • Finnish: "Lähtö" (Departure)
  • French: "Par amour" (Out of Love)
  • German: "Das Ultimatum" (The Ultimatum)
  • Hungarian: "A tanya" (The Farm)
  • Italian: "Ultimatum" (Ultimatum)
  • Japanese: "森の中へ" (Into the Woods)
  • Polish: "W lesie" (In the Woods)
  • Portuguese (Brazil): "Na Floresta" (In the Woods)
  • Romanian: "În pădure" (In the Woods)
  • Russian: "Блуждая в потёмках" (Wandering in the Dark)
  • Spanish (Latin America): "En lo profundo del Bosque" (In the Depths of the Woods)
  • Spanish (Spain): "En el bosque" (In the Woods)



Behind the scenes[]



Buffy: "Are you planning to seduce me, Mr. Finn?"
Anya: "I'm sorry, Willow. Thank you for making time in your busy life to come in here and get in the way of mine."
Xander: "Anya, play nice."
Anya: "You know, fine, take her side instead of mine even though I'm the one who sleeps with you, and feeds you, bathes you..."
Willow: "She bathes you?"
Xander: "Only in an erotic, Penthouse-y way. Not in a sponge-bath-y, geriatric sort of..."
Giles: "Please. Stop, I beg of you."
Spike: "Sometimes I envy you so much it chokes me. And sometimes I think I got the better deal. To be that close to her and not have her. To be all alone even when you're holding her. Feeling her, feeling her beneath you. Surrounding you. The scent... No, you got the better deal."
Xander: "You missed the point. You shut down, Buffy. And you've been treating Riley like the rebound guy. When he's the one that comes along once in a lifetime. He's never held back with you. He's risked everything. And you're about to let him fly because you don't like ultimatums? If he's not the guy, if what he needs from you just isn't there, let him go. Break his heart, and make it a clean break. But if you really think you can love this guy... I'm talking scary, messy, no-emotions-barred need... If you're ready for that... Then think about what you're about to lose."
Buffy: "Xander..."
Xander: "Run."
Xander: "I've gotta say something, 'cause I don't think I've made it clear. I'm in love with you. Powerfully, painfully in love. The things you do, the way you think, the way you move... I get excited every time I'm about to see you. You make me feel like I've never felt before in my life. Like a man. I just thought you might wanna know."


  1. "The Mortuary." Buffy.com. Archived from the original on June 9, 2001.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Marti Noxon Online Chat - A change of direction." BBC Online, November 8, 2001.
  3. Laura Miller, "The man behind the Slayer." Salon, May 20, 2003.
  4. "Nielsen Ratings for Buffy's Fifth Season." Nielsen Ratings for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, & Firefly. Archived from the original on July 8, 2008.