"The Harsh Light of Day" is the third episode of the fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer television show, and the fifty-ninth in the series. Written by Jane Espenson and directed by James A. Contner, it originally broadcast on October 19, 1999 on The WB network.
JAMES MARSTERS RETURNS AS SPIKE — The underworld version of Sid Vicious, Spike, returns to Sunnydale in search of the vampire version of the Holy Grail, a mythical relic that supposedly engenders the wearer with unimaginable powers, and it's up to Buffy to stop him. Meanwhile, Buffy is distracted by dating issues as she deals with her feelings for a new boy who happens to not be a blood-sucking vampire, but is equally as difficult to understand. Xander has romance issues of his own when his prom date from last spring, Anya, can't get the X-man out of her mind.
While Dingoes Ate My Baby play at the Bronze, Buffy talks to Willow while also secretively watching Parker play pool. After the Dingoes wrap, Oz gets ready to take Willow home and Parker volunteers to take Buffy back to her dorm. While Willow is waiting for Oz and Devon to return to the van outside the Bronze, Harmony approaches her. The two of them talk and then Harmony reveals she's a vampire and bites Willow. Oz rescues her and Harmony goes away, threatening that her boyfriend is not going to be happy that they were mean to her. Buffy and Parker walk back to the dorm, and Parker discovers her scar from when Angel bit her. She tells him it was an angry puppy that bit her. He then asks her to a party the next night and she accepts.
At Giles' place, Xander is helping him put books away when Anya, having returned to Sunnydale, makes a surprise visit. She wants to know where her relationship with Xander is going, and not aware that they actually had a relationship, Xander is a bit confused. Back at the dorms, Buffy and Parker are just about to kiss when Willow and Oz arrive. While Oz cleans her wound, Willow fills Buffy in on everything, including Harmony's supposed boyfriend. Underground, a group of vampires are digging. Harmony approaches the leader who is also her boyfriend: Spike.
As Spike attempts to play the tough-guy against one of his worker vamps regarding their digging through the floor of a crypt, Harmony asks him to kill Willow, using her nickname for Spike which is "blondie-bear". Spike isn't keen, since killing Buffy's best friend would set her on to them. Harmony then complains that she wants to go out, and after the use of some feminine charm, he agrees to take her out to a party.
The party happens to be the same one Buffy and Parker are attending and the two couples run into each other. A thoroughly amused Buffy teases Spike about being with Harmony and the two vampires flee. Buffy pursues them and she and Spike fight. Harmony reveals that Drusilla left Spike for a fungus demon and that they'll be back as soon as they get the Gem of Amara, to Spike's utter irritation. Anya shows up at Xander's place and after getting her a drink, he turns around to see that she's naked. Buffy calls Giles and informs him about Spike and Harmony. Giles tells Buffy that the Gem of Amara was rumored to contain great power if a vampire was ever to get a hold of it, but was concluded to have never existed when they scoured the Earth looking for it and found nothing. Giles decides to research it in case, Buffy says she's going to sleep but instead, goes back to the party with Parker.
Xander is shell-shocked that Anya is standing in front of him completely naked, as she explains that having sex is the best way for her to rid herself of her feelings for him. Xander attempts to refuse, telling her that having sex is supposed to be about more than that, but in the end can't refuse what he's being offered.
In their bedroom, Harmony and Spike lie together and it quickly becomes clear that he doesn't hold nearly as much affection for her as she does for him, considering her to be nothing but annoying as she drones on about relatively unimportant things. Harmony, however, starts flirting with him, and the two soon start having sex.
After having a nice time at the party, Buffy and Parker discuss Parker's decision to take History and he speaks about making choices. Buffy finds herself enraptured with Parker's deep thoughts, and afterwards decides to make her own choice and sleeps with him.
The next morning, Buffy wakes up to an empty bed, and as she's searching for her clothes, Parker arrives with coffee. He says that he'll call her. Anya tells Xander that she's over him, and when he says he's okay with that, she storms out in anger. Spike wakes up to Harmony drawing on his back with lipstick and then leaves to get back to work, but not before sending some stinging insults her way. Buffy finds Willow and Giles in her dorm room; they tell her that an ancient text was found that places the Gem of Amara in Sunnydale. After they get rid of Giles, Buffy tells Willow about her night with Parker. She then waits for Parker to call her all day, but he never does.
Below ground, as Spike starts breaking into the crypt, Harmony balks when she's told she can't go back outside and complains. As a result, Spike puts her in her place with some harsh verbal abuse. When he finally breaks into the crypt, Harmony tags along. An irritated Spike tells her to take anything else she wants, and looks for the Gem of Amara. Seeing an elaborate pendant, he assumes that to be the gem and puts it on but feels nothing. When he tries to pick up a cross it burns him as it normally would. Harmony prattles on, and Spike finally loses all his patience and stakes her with a jagged piece of wood… however instead of turning to dust, nothing happens to Harmony and the wound instantly heals itself. Spike realizes the ring Harmony picked up randomly is the Gem of Amara and tries to force it off her. Upset, Harmony just gives him it and Spike, knowing that the ring will render him invincible to all vampire weaknesses, including daylight, decides to go outside.
At Giles' place, while they search for answers, Xander finds a TV and turns it on. They watch the news and see that there was a sinkhole caused by the erosion of dirt beneath it. They come to the conclusion that it was Spike's underground digging that caused it. Giles sends Xander to find Buffy while the others will head to the sinkhole. As Xander looks for Buffy, he runs into Anya who tries to talk to him about the previous evening and her feelings, but he's distracted and blows her off. In the crypt Giles, Willow and Oz confront a crying Harmony who confirms Spike has the ring.
Buffy tracks down Parker, but she finds him putting the same moves he used on her on another girl. She asks him if everything is okay, and Parker, completely casual, tells her it is. She asks if he wants to do something, but Parker refuses citing earlier plans and attempts to rush off. Buffy asks if she did something wrong, but Parker assures her she didn't and he had a lot of fun. Buffy realizes that, while their night together meant a lot to her, for him it was nothing more than casual sex. He reminds her that it was her that put the moves on him, and claims that he thought they were on the same level. He then quickly leaves, telling Buffy that he'll call her when he clearly has no intention of doing so. As Buffy reels, she turns around when she hears a familiar voice and Spike hits her.
Buffy and Spike have a huge fight outside. She tries to stake him, to no avail and he reveals the ring that is protecting him. Xander shows up, but Spike quickly knocks him out of the way and continues to beat up Buffy. As he does, he notes that Buffy and Parker didn't seem to know each other that well and that she fell for his trick of playing a sensitive side and getting her to seduce him. He then mocks her by telling her that she must not be worth a second go, and jokes that Angel told him as much An enraged Buffy pummels Spike and takes the ring from him. Smoking from exposure to the sun, he dives down into the sewers. Later, Buffy and the gang sit around at Giles' place and Buffy decides that she wants Angel to have the ring. Oz volunteers to take it when he goes to L.A. for a gig.
Buffy talks to Willow about what happened with Parker, wondering if every guy she sleeps with will end up evil the next morning. Willow assures her that she just made a mistake, but despite how badly he's treated her Buffy is still hung up on him and wonders if it was something about her that put him off despite Willow insisting it isn't. Buffy decides to take a walk and as she does, so do Anya and Harmony. They all walk separately around UC Sunnydale campus, their minds very much on the men in the lives and their conflicting feelings about them.
- Parker notices Buffy's scar from being bitten by both the Master ("Prophecy Girl") and Angel ("Graduation Day, Part One").
- Buffy explains she was bitten by an "angry puppy"; Willow's vampire double also referred to Angel as "the puppy" in "The Wish".
- Buffy waking up in Parker's bedroom is reminiscent of when she woke up in Angel's room after they sleep together in "Surprise". Both times Buffy woke up alone, wrapped in red sheets. Buffy seemed to sense this and worried that Parker was gone, as happened with Angel, until he walked in with coffee. A similar circumstance would later occur with Riley in "The I in Team".
- Buffy's reaction when she finds Parker after days of no contact is similar to her reaction when she confronts Angel (not knowing he's Angelus) in "Innocence". Both times the men she slept with act flippant about their night together, leaving Buffy confused and even to blame herself.
- It's revealed Harmony was sired during the graduation day battle ("Graduation Day, Part Two").
- When questioned by Parker if Spike was an ex-boyfriend of hers, Buffy laughed hysterically at the idea. Ironically, two years later, she entered a sexual relationship with him ("Smashed"), eventually becoming a couple in Season Ten.
- While Anya tried to seduce Xander into having sex, he referred to her being blunt as "still more romantic than Faith," referring to when he slept with her in "The Zeppo".
- Willow is bitten by Harmony, becoming the third Scoobie to be bitten by a vampire, after Buffy ("Prophecy Girl") and Angel ("Becoming, Part One").
- This is the last appearance of Devon MacLeish in the series.
- The victim chained to the wall is actually "Asian Joe", a recurring extra in the series who features in the background at Sunnydale High, notably in "Earshot" when Buffy overhears him thinking about becoming a "software jillionaire". Harmony acknowledges this, saying she had a class with him a year previously.
- Joe also appears to be wearing a green shirt (like the military fatigues worn by Initiative agents), could indicate he is an Initiative agent or recruit. Supporting this is the fact Harmony says he tastes funny, which as revealed in "Goodbye Iowa" Initiative agents are given drugs which could alter the taste of their blood.
- This episode is a crossover with the Angel episode "In the Dark" where Spike follows Oz to Los Angeles and tries to get the ring from Angel with the help of sadistic vampire Marcus. Angel gets the ring in the end, but destroys it as he feels having it will isolate him from the people he needs to save at night.
- Buffy comments that, as a vampire, Harmony "must be dying without a reflection". We see in "Harm's Way" how Harmony eventually copes without a reflection.
- It's revealed Spike wasn't able to resume his relationship with Drusilla after his last appearance in "Lovers Walk".
- Parker Abrams
- Angel (Only mentioned)
- Drusilla (Only mentioned)
- Rupert Giles
- Alexander Harris
- Anya Jenkins
- Harmony Kendall
- Faith Lehane (Only mentioned)
- Katie Loomis
- Daniel Osbourne
- Willow Rosenberg
- Buffy Summers
Organizations and titles
- Los Angeles (Only mentioned)
Weapons and objects
Behind the scenes
- Joss Whedon has mentioned in various interviews that Sarah Michelle Gellar disagreed with Buffy sleeping with Parker. She thought that it was too soon after Angel had left her, and she didn't think that Buffy would do something like that. Whedon told Sarah that when you "go to college, you do stupid things."
- This episode set up a crossover with the Angel episode "In the Dark", broadcast the same evening, in which Oz guest stars. Spike and Oz are the only characters to appear in both episodes.
- An exchange between Willow and Buffy:
- Willow: "You know what else I love about college? How when the professor comes in, the class gets all quiet."
- Buffy: "Oh, I hate that. I'm always like, what? Did something scary come in? Do I have to kill it?"
- When they see Harmony again:
- Devon: "Man, that looked like Harmony. Weird. I saw her get bit at graduation. I didn't tell you?"
- Buffy tells Parker, she drowned:
- Parker: "Wow, I mean, you hear about stuff like that."
- Buffy: "Yeah, well, pool safety, important. Anyway…"
- Another reference to her drowning:
- Parker: "Buffy? When you… drowned, whoever brought you back? They're getting a big kiss from me."
- Buffy: "Xander will be so happy."
- Anya talks to Xander:
- Xander: "This is just, I'd say out of nowhere, but that doesn't really capture the amount of nowhere which it's out of."
- Buffy sees Spike again:
- Buffy: "I think you two should go."
- Spike: "But the fun's just starting: old friends, lots to drink…"
- Anya visits Xander:
- Xander: "So… you're my first guest at Casa del Xander — not the final name, still working on it."
- Buffy and Giles discuss Spike and Harmony's relationship:
- Buffy: "I mean, I thought Spike and Dru were a forever kind of deal, didn't you? Where's the commitment?"
- Giles: "I'm disillusioned. I shall never love again."
- Parker and Buffy discuss that everyone has a choice:
- Buffy: "It doesn't feel like it. To me, a lot of the time, it feels like stuff's just coming at me, you know, and I'm reacting as fast as I can, just trying to keep going. Just - just trying to be on my feet before the next thing hits."
- Parker: "That sounds exhausting."
- Buffy: "It really is."
- Buffy confronts Parker:
- Parker: "Okay, I'm a little confused now. I mean, I definitely got the idea you'd done it before. You were the one who was all over me. It was fun."
- When Buffy and Willow talk about sleeping with a guy and then he turns evil:
- Willow: "Well, from what I understand, pretty much. But it won't always be like that. You've just had some really bad luck."
- Buffy: "I don't know, Will. Bad luck just happens. I made this happen."
- Willow: "Well, why shouldn't you, if it's what you want? I mean, as long as it's safe. Oh, Buffy, it was safe, wasn't it?
- Buffy: "It was safe. It's not that. It's that the whole time, I kept thinking, hey, look at me with someone who isn't Angel. Look how much I'm not hung up with Angel anymore. Look how this is not all about Angel. God, how come I didn't see it?"
Pop culture references
- The album that Oz asked Giles about was Loaded by The Velvet Underground.
- Harmony asks Spike if Antonio Banderas is a vampire. This may be a reference to the 1994 film adaptation of Anne Rice's novel Interview with the Vampire, in which Antonio Banderas plays the vampire Armand.
Goofs, bloopers & continuity errors
- When Spike takes the Gem of Amara from Harmony, he takes the necklace off. In the next shot, he's wearing it again, but when we see him leave, it's gone again.
- Bif Naked — "Anything"
- Bif Naked — "Lucky"
- Bif Naked — "Moment of Weakness"
- Devil Doll — "Faith in Love"
- Dollshead — "It's Over, It's Under"
- Four Star Mary — "Dilate"
- Psychic Rain — "Take Me Down"
- Christophe Beck — original score
- Armenian: "Օրվա կոպիտ լույսը" (Harsh Light of Day)
- Czech: "Nelítostné denní světlo" (Fierce Daylight)
- Finnish: "Ärsyttävä päivänsäde" (Irritating Daylight)
- French: "Désillusions" (Disillusion)
- German: "Der Stein von Amara" (The Stone of Amara)
- Hungarian: "Amara ékköve" (Amara's Jewel)
- Italian: "L'accecante luce del giorno" (The Blinding Light of Day)
- Japanese: "残酷な日の光" (Cruel Light of Day)
- Polish: "Brutalny świt" (Brutal Daylight)
- Portuguese (Brazil): "A Cruel Luz do Dia" (The Cruel Light of the Day)
- Romanian: "Lumina crudă a zilei" (Cruel Light of Day)
- Russian: "Резкий свет дня" (Harsh Light of Day)
- Spanish (Latin America): "La Hiriente Luz del Día" (The Hurtful Light of the Day)
- Spanish (Spain): "La Áspera Luz del Día" (The Rough Light of the Day)
|Anya - "I can't stop thinking about you. Sometimes, in my dreams, you're all naked."|
|Xander - "Really? You know, if I'm in the checkout lane at the Wal-Mart, I've had that same one."|
|Anya - "I like you. You're funny and you're nicely shaped. And, frankly, it's ludicrous to have these interlocking bodies and not... interlock. Please remove your clothing now."|
|Xander - "And the amazing thing... still more romantic than Faith."|
|Spike - "I've got to get back to work."|
|Harmony - "You love that tunnel more than me."|
|Spike - "I love syphilis more than you."|
|Willow - "He's a poophead."|
|Buffy - "You're right. He's manipulative and shallow, and why doesn't he want me? Am I repulsive? If there was something repulsive about me, you'd tell me, right?"|
|Willow - "I'm your friend. I would call you repulsive in a second."|
|Buffy - "Maybe Parker and I could still work it out. Do you think that we could still work it out?"|
|Willow - "I think you're missing something about the whole poophead principle."|
|Oz - "Okay, either I'm borrowing all your albums or I'm moving in."|
|Giles - "Oz there are more important things than records right now."|
|Oz - "More important than this one?"|
|Giles - "Well I suppose an argument could be made for..."|
|Xander - "Whoa, Giles has a TV. Everybody, Giles has a TV. He's shallow like us."|
|Oz - "I got to admit, I'm a little disappointed."|