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"Tough Love" is the nineteenth episode of the fifth season of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television show and the 97th episode in the series. Written by Rebecca Rand Kirshner and directed by David Grossman, it originally broadcast on May 1, 2001 on The WB.


A MEMBER OF THE SCOOBY GANG IS SACRIFICED — Buffy must step up as the authority figure for Dawn now that their mom is gone, all the while fearful that Glory is closer to discovering the Key when a member of the Scooby gang is her latest victim.[1]


Following recent events, Buffy has decided to drop out of college, notifying one of her professors about the decision. Although she regrets it, she feels that she has more important priorities at the moment. Ben finds himself fired from his job at the hospital because Glory has been monopolizing the form they share and he has been away from his job for two weeks. Glory takes a bath while she demands that her blindfolded minions tell her everything they know about the Key. Dawn and Buffy are called into Dawn's principal's office where Dawn's poor grades are discussed, as well as the fact that she has been skipping school since their mother's death. At the Magic Box, Anya talks about patriotism and how money ties into that.

Buffy seeks Giles's advice about being Dawn's mother figure, then takes her sister home, attempting an authoritative role with Dawn. Glory's minions provide her with enough information to conclude who the Key is and she leads the way to gather it. Tara and Willow discuss their relationship and Willow's powers as a witch, but the discussion ends up angering Willow when Tara says "it frightens me how powerful you are becoming," and then Willow accuses Tara of fearing that Willow's lesbianism is just an experimental phase.

Buffy talks with Dawn about how Dawn's situation needs to improve in school or Buffy could possibly lose guardianship of her. Saddened over her first major fight with Willow, Tara goes to a cultural fair, but finds herself sitting next to Glory on a park bench. Giles finds one of Glory's minions at the shop and questions him about Glory's plans; the minion reveals that, as Tara is the newest member of the group, Glory believes that she is the key. Willow goes after Tara. Glory discovers that Tara isn't the Key, but she offers to let her go if she reveals the key's identity. Tara refuses and Willow witnesses Glory draining Tara's mind of sanity.

At the hospital, doctors look after Tara while Willow plans her vengeance against Glory. Buffy arranges for Dawn to be kept safe by Spike in some underground caves while she takes care of the issues involving Tara. Buffy seemingly manages to convince Willow to abandon her revenge plans, telling her that attacking Glory would be potentially suicidal, but Willow goes to the magic shop to gather dangerous magic supplies.

Back at the caves, Spike, still heavily bruised and limping from his torture by Glory, talks to Dawn about what has happened. Dawn tearfully blames herself for all of the harm that Glory has caused to the citizens of Sunnydale (particularly Tara and Spike), and believes herself to be evil and a "lightning rod for pain." Spike tries to comfort her and convince her otherwise. Buffy soon accompanies them, believing that she has managed to convince Willow not to attack Glory. However, a skeptical Spike tells her that an angered witch, especially one as powerful as Willow, is not so easily reasoned with, and he would have done the same thing if Glory had done that to his loved one. Dawn then asks what Buffy would have done if she had been the one to get drained. Buffy quickly leaves to stop her friend.

At Glory's apartment, as the hell goddess makes plans to rip through Buffy's friends until she finally finds the Key, Willow makes a sudden appearance, casting various spells in attempts to attack and destroy Glory. Although she causes Glory some pain, she is quickly defeated. At Glory's mercy, Willow spits in the goddess' face, which leads to her nearly being killed, but Buffy shows up in time to stop it. Buffy and Glory fight until one of Willow's force fields allows Willow and Buffy to escape, as Glory swears revenge.

The next day, Willow, Tara, Buffy, and Dawn eat, with Willow and Dawn spoon-feeding applesauce to Tara, while discussing the responsibilities that Willow and Buffy have now to "their" girls. Glory makes a surprise appearance, tearing out an entire wall, ready to make Willow pay for attacking her. Tara, distressed, unwittingly reveals that Dawn is the Key.


  • Buffy struggles with being Dawn's authority figure and essentially depends upon Giles to encourage and indeed force her to act, a theme which will lead to Giles's eventual departure in "Tabula Rasa."
  • Dawn asks: "Who cares if a key gets an education anyway?" She already said "Blobs of energy don't need an education" in "Blood Ties."
  • Cordelia first mentioned the Twinkie defense in "Out of Mind, Out of Sight."
  • Buffy arranges for Spike to watch over Dawn after Glory's attack on Tara, when she had made it clear in "Crush" that he was to stay away from her and the Scoobies from then on.
  • Tara is brain-sucked by Glory, causing her to lose her mind. This will not be rectified until "The Gift."
  • This is the first time that Glory is hurt by a member of the Scooby Gang; Willow's accomplishment in causing Glory pain is later remarked upon by Buffy as the first injury the Hellgoddess has received, and becomes important in the final battle against her in "The Gift."
  • Tara knows the Key's identity since "Blood Ties."
  • Willow mentions that she took Psych 101 from an "evil government scientist" (Maggie Walsh) and that she was "skewered by her Frankenstein-like creation" (Adam in "The I in Team").



Organizations and titles[]




Rituals and spells[]

Behind the scenes[]

Deleted scenes[]

  • Willow defends her use of magic in this line, there was cut due to length:
Willow: "But it's good-witch power, not bad-witch power. You know, Glenda-in-a-bubble power, not Margaret Hamilton-on-a-bicycle power."

Pop culture references[]

  • When Dawn and Buffy enter the Magic Box early in the episode, Xander is reading an X-Men comic book. The issue, X-Men #109, is the last in that series before the death of Colossus — an event which later became pivotal to Joss Whedon's run on Astonishing X-Men.
  • Glory makes a reference to Cool Hand Luke with her line "So, what I think we have here is a failure for you to do your frickin' jobs!"
  • Xander makes a little wordplay on Mozart's opera Don Giovanni saying "It's Dawn Giovanni."
  • Willow makes a reference to A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett saying "Yeah, but not in a 'Miss Minchin's Select Seminary for Girls' way."
  • In the scene where Ben gets fired, his boss makes a reference to the infamous Twinkie defense.


  • As soon as Glory hits Willow with the end table, and the camera cuts to Glory, you can see someone in white/beige pants move back on the right side of the camera.
  • Right after some of the minions arrive to spy on Buffy and Dawn, they have a discussion where Dawn declares herself the Key and makes numerous reference to her being it, yet somehow the minions listening either don't pick up on it or never get around to telling Glory who the key actually is.
  • When Glory holds and breaks Tara's hand, blood runs down onto the bench and gets all over their joined hands. However, in every shot after the blood runs down onto the bench, there is no blood visible on the bench or their hands, except when Glory raises their joined hands and licks some of the blood off. Even when she feeds off of Tara's sanity, her hands remain blood free.


  • Thomas Wanker — "Previously"
  • Thomas Wanker — "Tara and Willow Argue"
  • Thomas Wanker — "They'll Take Dawn Away"
  • Thomas Wanker — "Glory Brainsucks Tara"
  • Thomas Wanker — "Spike Talks to Dawn"
  • Thomas Wanker — "Darkest Magick"
  • Thomas Wanker — "Willow Attacks Glory"

International titles[]

  • Armenian: "Դժվար սեր" (Tough Love)
  • Czech: "Oběti pro lásku" (Sacrifices for Love)
  • Finnish "Rakkauden polte" (Burning Love)
  • French: "Magie noire" (Black Magic)
  • German: "Götterdämmerung" (Ragnarök)
  • Hungarian: "Kitartó szerelem" (Persistent Love)
  • Italian: "Contrasti d'amore" (Contrasts of Love)
  • Japanese: "タフな恋" (Tough Love)
  • Polish: "Trudna miłość" (Tough Love)
  • Portuguese (Brazil): "Amor Violento" (Violent Love)
  • Romanian: "Iubire dificilă" (Difficult Love)
  • Russian: "Трудная любовь" (Tough Love)
  • Spanish (Latin America): "Fuerte amor" (Strong Love)
  • Spanish (Spain): "Amor salvaje" (Wild Love)



Xander: "Honey, old saying: 'A watched customer, never buys.'"
Anya: "They would if they were patriotic."
Xander: "Okay, I'm going in. Patriotic?"
Buffy: "You lied to me?"
Dawn: "I didn't... lie... exactly."
Buffy: "Really? What about all the times I asked you how school was and you said 'fine'?"
Dawn: "Well, it was! You didn't ask if I was in it when it was fine."
Xander: "Man, words cannot express how much I hate this place."
Giles: "It's dreadful."
Anya: "It's like communism."
Dawn: "How's Willow?"
Buffy: "She was looking to go all payback-y on Glory for a minute. But I cooled her down a little. Actually, a lot."
Spike: "So, she's not gonna do anything rash then?"
Buffy: "No. I explained that there was no point."
Spike: (skeptically) "Mm-hmm."
Buffy: "What?"
Spike: "You — so you're saying that a... powerful and mightily pissed-off witch... was plannin' on going and spillin' herself a few pints of god blood until you, what, 'explained'?"
Buffy: "You think she'd... no. I told Willow it would be like suicide!"
Spike: "I'd do it. Right person, person I loved. I'd do it."
Dawn: "Think, Buffy. If Glory had done that to me..."
Glory: "You know what they used to do to witches, lover? Crucify 'em!"
Buffy: "They used to bow down to gods. Things change!"


  1. "The Mortuary". Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Archived from the original on June 9, 2001.