"Lies My Parents Told Me" is the seventeenth episode of the seventh season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the 139th episode in the series. Written by David Fury with Drew Goddard and directed by David Fury, it originally broadcast on March 25, 2003 on the UPN network.
WAITING FOR MY MOMENT — Giles returns to Sunnydale with a possible solution to the trigger in Spike used by the First. Unfortunately, Spike is not overly willing to revisit his memories in order to find the trigger's origin and why it affects him so much, leaving Giles and Wood to come up with an alternative plan of their own. While Giles distracts Buffy, Wood takes on Spike and prepares to revenge the death of his mother.
New York, July, 1977: Spike is fighting Nikki Wood 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 before he leaves. When he's gone, Nikki finds her son and tells him he's taking him to Crowley. Robin says he wants to stay with her, so Nikki calms his fears by telling him: "The mission is what matters."
In an alley in present-day Sunnydale, Buffy, Robin Wood, and Spike are fighting a group 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 staking the vampire from behind, then helps him up. Wood thanks him, while blood drips from his hand as he tightly holds a stake.
In Sunnydale High School, Buffy, Giles, and Robin discuss what they know about Spike's trigger. 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 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 count on Spike against the First, but Giles opposes it. In his opinion, Spike is dangerous and must be contained.
With all that happening, the Scoobies go to the basement in Buffy's home, where Willow performs 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, he relives his past, his sick mother, and how he turned her into a vampire only to be rejected by her newly vampiric self. The song that his mother used to sing makes him relive the whole episode and violently lose control. He unwillingly hurts Dawn in the process and scares them all, except Buffy. Meanwhile, Willow receives a phone call from someone named Fred and 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.
Wood privately convinces Giles that Spike must die. Giles learns that Wood is the son of the Slayer Nikki, 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 garage with the promise to protect him, but, as soon as they enter, Spike notices its 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 the old song that triggers Spike, allowing them to begin their fight.
As the fight progresses, Spike continues to relive the events that transpired between himself and his mother. 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 trigger has been broken and the song has no more power over him. He tells Wood that the difference between his mother and Wood's is that Spike's mother actually loved him back, while Nikki 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 from Spike. She slays Richard, 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 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. As Buffy leaves, she adds: "The mission is what matters."
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, hurt over his betrayal, makes it clear she has no intention of learning anything else from him.
- In the flashback, Spike tells Nikki he loves her coat. It's the duster he eventually takes from her corpse, as seen in "Fool for Love."
- Buffy tells Robin that apocalypses she averts without dying are the easy ones, in reference to her death preventing the Master to open a hellmouth in "Prophecy Girl," as well as her sacrifice to close a portal that would cause all dimensions to bleed together in "The Gift."
- Giles mentions that knowledge comes from books, not computers. This is the same argument he had with Jenny in "I Robot, You Jane."
- Buffy and Giles mention the Initiative putting a chip on Spike ("The Initiative"), him gaining his soul ("Grave"), the First using a trigger on him ("Sleeper"), and Buffy's choice of removing his chip ("The Killer in Me").
- Buffy identifies Spike's trigger as a song; despite being present during its activation in "Sleeper," she only heard and noticed it in "Never Leave Me."
- 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 for doing so in "Selfless."
- In I Wish, Part One, Spike is trapped in the illusion of a Hamelin demon and experiences his ideal childhood of reciting poems to his mother forever, like he did in this episode. However, the trauma of his mother as vampire that makes him attack the demon and free himself.
- Spike later refers to the traumatic events with his mother when attempting to comfort Wesley after he shoots a cyborg that appeared to be his father, in "Lineage."
- During this episode Willow receives a telephone call from Winifred Burkle, causing her to go to Los Angeles in "Orpheus."
- Willow leaves expecting to return with good news; in "Dirty Girls," she returns to Sunnydale bringing Faith Lehane back.
- Spike tells Robin that Nikki didn't love him enough to walk away from being a Slayer. In On Your Own, Part One, Robin concludes she wasn't strong enough, as it's revealed that Nikki attempted to leave with him with Crowley's help.
- Buffy tells Robin about losing her own mother months earlier, in the episode "The Body."
- Cecily Addams (Only mentioned)
- Angel (Only mentioned)
- Winifred Burkle (Only mentioned)
- Bernard Crowley (Only mentioned)
- Drusilla (Only in flashbacks)
- First Evil (Only mentioned)
- Rupert Giles
- Glorificus (Only mentioned)
- Gull (Only mentioned)
- Alexander Harris
- Anya Jenkins
- Anne Pratt (Only in flashbacks)
- Willow Rosenberg
- Buffy Summers
- Dawn Summers
- Cecily Underwood (Only mentioned)
- Andrew Wells
- Nikki Wood (Only in flashbacks)
- Robin Wood
Organizations and titles
- Demon hunter
- Scooby Gang
- Potential Slayer
- United States Armed Forces (Only mentioned)
- Apocalypse (Only mentioned)
- London, England (Only in flashbacks)
- Los Angeles, USA (Only mentioned)
- New York City, USA (Only in flashbacks)
- Sunnydale, USA
- Behavior-modification circuitry (Only mentioned)
- Prokaryote Stone
- Soul (Only mentioned)
- Spike's duster
- "Yet her smell, it doth linger" (Only in flashbacks)
- Two vampires, dusted by Spike.
- Anne Pratt, sired and dusted by Spike (in flashback).
- Richard, dusted by Buffy.
Behind the scenes
- In the DVD commentaries for this episode, David Fury says the episode was originally titled "Mother and Son" until Drew Goddard pointed out that it was also about Buffy breaking ties with her father figure.
- Fury notes in the commentaries 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.
- 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.
- Clara Bryant (Molly) was originally intended to be in this episode according to the shooting scripts, although her lines were cut.
- The episode was originally intended to air on March 18, 2003, a day before the Angel crossover episode "Orpheus," but was postponed due to the start of the Iraq War, invaded in March 19, 2003.
- This exchange was cut:
- 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."
- Giles would have revealed to Buffy that he killed Ben:
- Giles: "Yes, and The First seems to be exploiting it to his advantage."
- Buffy: "Exactly. The First's doing this. Spike's innocent."
- Giles: "So was Ben."
- Buffy: (Buffy stops cold. The vamp launches at her and she whip-stakes him to dust.) "Ben?"
- Giles: "He was a human being, after all. Forced, his whole life, to share his mortal form with a demi-god from a hell-dimension."
- Buffy: "Glory. I know. What does that have to do—"
- Giles: "Ben was oblivious to the atrocities Glory committed. No more responsible for her crimes than Spike is to his, when triggered. Glory was invincible, impossible to kill... Ben was not. So after you defeated her. After you left Ben lying there. Alive. I made a decision. One that you couldn't."
- Buffy: "Giles..."
- Giles: "I put my hand over his mouth. And as he struggled, weakly... I smothered him. Because it had to be done." (looks at Buffy) "He was a liability."
- Buffy: "Oh god... You've been stalling me. Keeping me away—"
Pop culture references
- Buffy quotes the chorus to the dance song "Get the Party Started" (2001).
- Buffy mentions Russian-American actor Yul Brynner (1920–1985).
- Anya compares Buffy's treatment of Spike with the "Get Out of Jail Free" card, from the game Monopoly.
- Armenian: "Սուտը, որը ինձ պատմնել են ծնողներս" (The Lie, which My Parents Told Me)
- Czech: "Lži mých rodičů" (Lies of My Parents)
- Finnish: "Valheiden verkossa" (Web of Lies)
- French: "Un Lourd Passé" (A Heavy Past)
- German: "Mütter und Söhne" (Mothers and Sons)
- Hungarian: "A szüleim hazugságai" (My Parents' Lies)
- Italian: "Le Bugie dei Miei Genitori" (The Lies of My Parents)
- Japanese: "母の嘘" (Mother's Lie)
- Polish: "Wspomnienia z dzieciństwa" (Memories of Childhood)
- Portuguese (Brazil): "Mentiras que os Meus Pais Contaram" (Lies That My Parents Told)
- Romanian: "Minciuni spuse de părinți" (Lies Told by Parents)
- Russian: "Ложь, которую мне рассказали родители" (Lie, which Parents Told Me)
- Spanish (Latin America): "Las Mentiras que Mis Padres Me Contaron" (The Lies that My Parents Told Me)
- Spanish (Spain): "Mentiras que Me Contaron Mis Padres" (Lies that My Parents Told Me)
- Swedish: Lögner mina föräldrar sa mig” (Lies My Parents Told Me)
- This episode is included in The Slayer Collection: Giles DVD.
- 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'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.
Behind the scenes
|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 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?"|
|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..."|
|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?"|
|Buffy: "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. I have a mission to win this war, to save the world. I don't have time for vendettas. The mission is what matters."|