Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 7, Episode 17
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Air date March 25, 2003
Written by David Fury
Drew Goddard
Directed by David Fury
Episode Guide
"Dirty Girls"
Sarah Michelle Gellar Buffy
Nicholas Brendon Xander
Emma Caulfield Anya
Michelle Trachtenberg Dawn
James Marsters Spike
Alyson Hannigan Willow
Special Guest Starring
Anthony Stewart Head Giles
Guest Starring
Tom Lenk Andrew
Iyari Limon Kennedy
Indigo Rona
Caroline Lagerfelt Anne
K. D. Aubert Nikki
Juliet Landau Drusilla
D. B. Woodside Principal Wood
Co Starring
Damani Roberts Young Robin
Ira Steck New Vamp
Clara Bryant Molly
Thom Williams Vampire

"Lies My Parents Told Me" is the seventeenth episode of the seventh season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and is the one hundred thirty-ninth episode altogether. It was written by David Fury and Drew Goddard and directed by David Fury. It originally broadcast on March 25, 2003.

The Scooby Gang investigates Spike's trigger. Robin Wood and Giles team up behind Buffy's back.


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Spike: I spent a long time trying to track you down. Don't want the dance to end so soon, do you, Nikki?

New York, July, 1977: Spike is fighting Nikki Wood (a Slayer also seen in the fifth season episode "Fool for Love") in Central Park at night in pouring rain while her son watches from his hiding place behind a bench. Spike has the opportunity to kill her but the kid distracts him and he lets her go with the promise that they'll meet again. "Love the coat," he adds with a smile, before he leaves. When he's gone, a clearly troubled Nikki finds her son and calms his fears by telling him, "The mission is what matters."

The scene switches to an alley in present-day Sunnydale. Buffy, Robin Wood, and Spike are fighting a bunch of vampires. Buffy and Spike manage to kill their quarry, but a vampire has knocked Wood to the ground, and is about to kill him. Spike saves Wood by killing the vampire from behind, then helps him up. Wood thanks him, but the camera zooms in on the stake he's holding and we see blood dripping from his hand. He still seems determined to have his revenge, only not just now....

Previously, the First Evil had programmed Spike with a post-hypnotic suggestion in his mind that allows it to turn Spike violent using an old song, "Early One Morning", as a trigger. This way the First was able to command him to kill again. Buffy wants to find out how to turn it off so that she can fully trust Spike against the First, but Giles opposes Buffy. In his opinion, Spike is dangerous and must be contained – that is, killed.

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The Prokaryote stone enters Spike's head.

With all that happening the Scoobies go to the basement of Buffy's house, where Willow makes a spell with the Prokaryote Stone, a magical artifact that penetrates Spike's mind and makes him more conscious of how the trigger works. In this way, we learn about his past, his sick mother, and how he turned her into a vampire only to be cruelly rejected by her newly vampiric self. The song that his mother used to sing makes him relive the whole episode and switch into his evil, soulless self. He unwillingly hurts Dawn in the process and scares them all, except Buffy. Meanwhile, Willow receives a phone call from a girl named Fred and quickly leaves for Los Angeles. She apologizes to Buffy for her quick departure, but promises to be back as soon as she can, and she may even return with good news.

After the previous incident, Wood privately convinces Giles that Spike must die. Giles learns that Wood is the son of Nikki, a Slayer now dead, and that Spike murdered her. After a brief chat they make a plan. Giles is to distract Buffy while Wood takes care of Spike. Giles takes Buffy on patrol and begins asking her indirect questions and making obscure references to her role against the First.

In the meantime, Wood takes Spike to his hideout with the promise to protect him, but this feeling is clearly undermined as soon as they enter and it is revealed that the walls are covered with crosses. Wood reveals to Spike that he knows he murdered his mother and that he's going to kill the monster inside him. Spike says he has no remorse over killing his mother, and that it was "all part of the game". Wood then goes to his computer and starts "Early One Morning". This triggers Spike's violent, monstrous self and the two fight.

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Spike: Thanks, doc. You cured me after all.

As the fight progresses, Spike continues to relive the events that transpired between himself and his mother on a more conscious level, due to the Prokaryote Stone. Wood takes advantage of Spike's flashbacks, and using weapons, knocks Spike around until he cannot stand, when he then attempts to stake him. Spike regains control of his own mind, having faced his own anger and regret on turning his mother into a vampire and then being forced to kill her. Spike then easily defeats Wood, and demonstrates that the song has no more power over him, and tells Wood that the difference between his mother and Wood's mother, is that Spike's mother actually loved him back (referring to a previous comment he made that Wood's mother did not love him enough to give up her Slayer duties.) Spike then tells Wood that he's going to kill him and moves to bite him.

Meanwhile, Buffy and Giles use the cemetery to engage in some back-to-basics Slayer/Watcher instruction. Buffy fights a fledgling vampire named Richard, who she could easily kill, but Giles asks her not to. When Giles talks about having to make hard decisions about who lives or dies Buffy realizes that Giles is trying to distract her while Wood kills Spike. She kills the vampire, leaves Giles and rushes to Wood's place. Buffy finds Spike just leaving Wood's workroom. Wood is badly beaten, but alive. Spike informs him that he spared Wood because he owed him for killing Nikki, but makes it very clear that he will kill Wood without a second thought if he so much as looks at him the wrong way again. Buffy goes inside, and tells him that she needs Spike alive and that she has no time for personal vendettas. She promises him that if he tries anything like this again, she'll let Spike kill him. "The mission is what matters," she says firmly, and Wood winces to hear his mother's words repeated all over again, by a different Slayer.

Once at home, Buffy tells Giles that his and Wood's plan failed. In spite of that, he tries to pick up from where they left off earlier, and continue the interrupted lesson. But Buffy says icily that she already knows everything he can teach her. And with that, she closes the door in his face.


  • Giles mentions that knowledge comes from books, not computers. This is the same argument he had with Jenny in "I Robot, You Jane". Having being mentored by both, Willow uses massively both sources of information and knowledge, inspiring Dawn to do the same.
  • Xander cracked a joke about re-installing the chains for Spike, referencing a comment he made to Anya that it was too bad Buffy had the chains removed so they couldn't use them while they had sex.
  • In arguing against Buffy's preferential treatment of Spike, Anya said, "[Spike] could slaughter a hundred frat boys," referencing the time that Buffy tried to kill Anya after she summoned a demon to kill several frat boys.[1]
  • The title, "Lies My Parents Told Me", also refers to the lies that Giles tells to arrange for Robin Wood to kill Spike. This episode ends, once and for all, any deference Buffy gave to Giles as a mentor and parental figure. She stops in to check on Dawn, stroking her hair, before closing the door on Giles, choosing her literal and metaphorical sister(s) over her father figure. Later, in Season Eight's "No Future for You," Buffy and Giles will fall out of speaking terms with one another due to Giles's alliance with Faith, but will eventually reconcile in the face of the anti-Slayer vampire craze.
  • Spike later refers to the events of the flashbacks shown here in Lineage when attempting to 'comfort' Wesley after shooting a cyborg that appeared to be his father, telling Wesley "I killed my mum. Well, actually I'd already killed her, and then she tried to shag me, so-" only for Wesley to cut him off before he can go any further.
  • Crossover with Angel: During this episode Willow receives a telephone call from Winifred Burkle, causing her to go to Los Angeles in "Orpheus". There, Willow restores Angel's soul after he was deliberately turned back into Angelus. Fred had called Willow because their planned re-ensoulment method did not work so they thought that Willow, as the only living person to ever restore it, might be able to do so again.
    • However, the episode was postponed due to the start of the Iraq War and only aired six days after the Angel episode, breaking continuity.[2]
  • In the flashback, William the new vampire was able to enter his house without an invitation, which may indicate that he was the owner and his mother just staying with him. In the earlier "Heartthrob", it was established that vampires do not automatically have invitation rights to their former human residence. If human William owned the Pratt residence, vampire William would have inherited this ownership.
  • Angel continued to feel remorse for his vampiric activity prior to regaining his soul. Spike, on the other hand, does not, indicating a key difference in their personalities and outlooks. Angelus is sadistic and cruel, while Angel (with a soul) is moody and sensitive, Spike is violent and wrangler, even after regaining his soul; not meaning he is not sensitive: though being caught in a trap and almost killed by Wood he finally wins, then he apologizes for having killed his mother, leaving him alive.
  • In previous episodes, Buffy had opposed any killing of regular humans (with the exception of the ten members of the Brotherhood whom she killed); now she tells Wood that she will let Spike kill him, if he interferes with her mission again. She also admits that she would sacrifice Dawn if she felt it were necessary.

Body Count

  • Two vampires, dusted by Spike
  • Anne Pratt, sired and dusted by Spike (in flashback)
  • Richard, dusted by Buffy



  • Sunnydale, CA
  • London, UK (1880, in flashbacks)
  • New York City (1977, in a flashback)

Behind the Scenes


  • In the episode commentary David Fury notes that a major reason Caroline Lagerfelt was cast as Anne was due to her notable physical resemblance to Sarah Michelle Gellar. Also, the name Anne was used because it is Buffy's middle name, although the name is never mentioned onscreen during the episode. 
  • This is the last episode written or directed by David Fury.
  • In the original version of this episode, Giles revealed to Buffy in the graveyard that he murdered Ben to stop Glory resurfacing, however this was cut just before broadcast.[3]
  • This was the final appearance of Juliet Landau in the series. She later appeared in flashbacks on Angel.

Deleted Scenes

  • This exchange was cut due to length:
Spike: "It's still me Mother. Your William. Though Dru here seems determined to give me a pet name..."
Drusilla: "Yes. Like Willy. Or Bill. Or Lucien, Prince of Lies."

Pop Culture References

  • Buffy mentions the chorus to the song Get the Party Started by Pink when talking about Spike's trigger to Principal Wood and Giles.
  • In the same conversation, she mentions actor Yul Brynner.
  • Spike's brainwashing trigger, based on a troubled relationship with his mother, is reminiscent of the brainwashing trigger used in The Manchurian Candidate. In the John Frankenheimer film, Raymond Shaw is triggered to kill by the Queen of Diamonds, when he plays Solitaire, which he associates with his mother. Both "Lies My Parents Told Me" and The Manchurian Candidate hinted at mother-son incestuous desires.
  • Spike asks his mother if he should call for Dr. Gull. This appears to be a reference to Sir William Gull, a physician who tended the family of Queen Victoria and who was one of several prominent Jack the Ripper suspects.
  • Spike's flashback also bears some resemblance to the story of The Vampire Lestat. Lestat's mother, suffering from tuberculosis, becomes the first vampire to be sired by Lestat.
  • The English folk song played to trigger Spike, "Early One Morning" (presented here in the recording by Nana Mouskouri), is familiar to Canadians. It was used as theme song to the Canadian children's show "The Friendly Giant".


International titles

  • German: Mütter und Söhne (Mothers and Sons)
  • French: Un lourd passé (A heavy past)

Goofs, Bloopers & Continuity Errors

  • The DVD commentary notes that they totally messed up on William's wig since it doesn't match his hairstyle in "Fool For Love".
  • When Robin and Giles are talking in the basement, Robin says he knows that The First slipped, saying it wasn't time for Spike. However, during the time that Andrew mentioned this, Giles was there and Robin was having dinner with Buffy.


  • This episode is the last of many Spike-centric episodes and is the last episode to be non-Buffy-centric.
  • This episode is included in The Slayer Collection: Giles DVD.


Buffy - "Hey, any apocalypse I avert without dying. Yeah, those are the good ones."
Giles - "Everything’s terrible. Total catastrophe."
Buffy - "Giles, what’s wrong?"
Giles - "Have you seen the new library? There’s-there’s-there’s nothing but computers. There’s not a book to be seen."
Spike - "Oh, you have got to be joking. What now?"
Giles - "It has to access the cerebral cortex via the optic nerve."
Spike - "Oh, bollocks. All the rubbish people keep sticking in my head, it’s a wonder there’s any room for my brain."
Giles - "I don’t think it takes up that much space, do you?"
Buffy - (to Wood) "Spike is the strongest warrior we have. And we are gonna need him if we’re gonna come out of this thing alive. If you try anything again, he’ll kill you. More importantly, I’ll let him."
Spike - "Dru, we’ll bring this world to its knees."
Drusilla - "It’s ripe and ready, my darling — waiting for us to devour its fruit."
Spike - "We’ll ravage this city together, my pet. Lay waste to all of Europe. The three of us will teach the snobs and elites with their federal just what..."
Drusilla - "Three?"
Spike - "You, me and mother. We’ll open up their veins and bathe in their blood as they scream our names across the... What?"
Drusilla - "You. You want to bring your mum with us?"
Spike - "Well, yeah. You’ll like her."
Drusilla - "Hmm. To eat, you mean?"


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