Previously on Buffy: Buffy has been hitting the hunting vampires thing hard and tells Giles that she needs to know more about where Slayers come from. Didn't Joyce ever have that little talk with Buffy, or at least give her an illustrated book? Xander vows to not be a butt-monkey anymore, and little sister Dawn shows up in Buffy's room.
In a soft voice, Giles tells Buffy, "There is nothing but you. You are the center." I spent an uncomfortable second afraid that all those Buffy/Giles 'shippers were gonna get their wish come true, but the breathy bamboo flutes and the ambient light tip me off that this is some sort of meditation scenario. Still, I don't think there's any call for Giles to tell Little Miss All-About-Me that, well, there's nothing but her. Anyway, Buffy and Giles are in a space we've never seen before with opaque glass windows and gymnastic equipment scattered around. He continues to intone meditative things to the Slayer as she leans over, hands propped on a block and eyes closed. As he tells her to "let the world fall away," Buffy takes a deep breath and executes a handstand on the slightly wobbly block. She holds the position. Random shot of three clear rock-crystals stacked together. Then she slo-mo lifts a hand so that only one arm supports her. So I guess Giles is all Mr. Miyagi and Buffy is executing the Standing Crane kick, but, like, upside down. The bamboo flutes give way to wordless atmospheric singing and nauseating twinkly keyboards. I hate to say it, but the new composer really is a wanker. Buffy holds her position, but then we see a hand drop a fourth crystal onto the others. Buffy loses her concentration and falls; Giles removes his glasses with great exasperation, and Dawn stands over Buffy and brats, "Can we go now?"
Dawn is in her room in the Summers' house, writing in her diary. We hear her entry aloud in voice-over, and it's typical teen angst, but with an "Ooh, double meaning!" edge. "Nobody knows who I am -- not the real me. It's like nobody cares enough to find out." And thus the episode title is born. As she writes, she actually speaks the punctuation out loud, "Underline. Exclamation point! Exclamation point!" Sigh. This could get old, fast. Her voice-over continues bitching about having an older sister who is a Slayer and what a bummer that is and how Dawn could totally save the world if someone "handed [her] superpowers." As this teen blather goes on, we see a wordless scene of Buffy preparing her breakfast; she gets out milk (which seems close to empty), a bowl, and cereal. When she turns her back, Joyce uses some of the milk and Dawn snakes her bowl. Buffy notices her bowl is missing and Dawn tries to look nonchalant. When Buffy turns to get another bowl, Dawn uses the last of the milk. Over more gag-inducing sparkly keyboards, Dawn finishes her whining: "If this town wasn't so lame everyone would completely know what she does. And then I bet they wouldn't even be that impressed, because like, killing things with wood? Oooh, scary vampires -- they die from a splinter." Dawn, annoying little whiner that she is, does have a good point about the denizens of Sunnydale. Joyce asks Buffy what her plans for the day are, and when Buffy replies that she and Giles are headed to the magic shop, Joyce tells her she can take Dawn along for school shopping. Neither Dawn nor Buffy is very happy with this plan, and I myself am appalled by each and every single thing the Summers women are wearing. Buffy is in a moth-eaten T-shirt cut down to a halter top that reveals entire side of her breasts, huge-ass gold hoops, and low-slung metallic disco belt. I blame Sex and the City for this entirely unwelcome Gloria Vanderbilt/Diane von Furstenberg seventies sleaze-wear revival. Joyce is in a long-sleeved animal print blouse buttoned primly all the way up to her neck, with a bizarre and terrifying tiny brown vest over it. Well, it's not even a vest -- it looks more like a left-over scrap of fabric with arm holes poked into it. It closes with a giant diaper pin. Poor, poor Joyce. Dawn has been let off relatively easily, perhaps because the Fashion Nazi hasn't hit her stride with this new character, in a blue and black belly-baring shirt and black pants with a white belt. They should all be sent to their rooms and not allowed to come out until sensibly and aesthetically dressed. Joyce explains that she has an opening at the gallery and thus can't supervise Dawn, and I hope someone increased absent Hank's child-support check to cover this sudden extra daughter.
Buffy and Dawn follow Joyce out into the living room and AHHHH! My eyes! Ooops, sorry, I just saw the bottom of Buffy's outfit, which I can't even find the words to describe. It's a skirt, I suppose. Yes, we'll all sleep easier if we just classify it as a "skirt." The clothes weren't this bad in last week's episode, were they? Damn you, Ace! Anyway, Buffy says there are no school supplies at the magic shop, and Dawn quips, "Yeah Mom, I'm not going to Hogwarts!" Oh, okay -- heh. Buffy rolls her the stink-eye, Dawn tells her to "crack a book sometime," and they begin to bicker. My siblings are considerably older than I am, but my research suggests (okay. Ace told me) that this sort of behavior, although clichéd and trite, is rather realistic between siblings separated by four or five years. Joyce tells Buffy she needs her help and goes to answer the front door. It's Riley, who declares Joyce looks great. I'm really beginning to worry about this little lying problem Riley has developed. First he claims that the Initiative would have information on Dracula and now, even worse, he claims that Joyce's sartorial monstrosity is a "nice outfit." Buffy teases him for brown-nosing and he protests, "'I'm here to violate your first-born' never goes over with parents. I'm not sure why." He beams at Buffy and leans down to give her a kiss, and I start to experience a very strange feeling, a feeling I've never had before. It's -- it's hard to describe but it feels like -- well, it feels like thinking Riley is kinda cute and tall and sweet. Hey! What the hell is going on here? This must be an alternate universe or something. Well, I have a reputation to maintain, so I'll move on. Buffy and Riley smooch in the front hall and Dawn looks on and voice-overs, "Riley, my sister's boyfriend, is so into her. They're always kissing, and groping. I bet they've had sex!" She flicks a speculative eyebrow. Riley tears himself away from Buffy and greets Dawn: "Hey kid." Dawn protests that she's not a kid, but you know she really is, and she looks so genuinely fourteen years old that she's making the Buffster look about thirty. If all those stories we've heard about SMG are true, I'm surprised she let them cast a younger woman on the show. You know, there's only so much Maybelline can do for you. Buffy and Riley settle on the couch, where it's revealed that Riley thought they had plans to hang out but Buffy forgot. Riley is very relaxed about getting the brush-off in favor of "Slayer-shopping," but Buffy has to ruin the moment and attempt to hand him her spine by whining, "Are you mad at me?" Riley replies, "No, not at all. I'm plotting your death, but in a happy way." Ha! And I repeat, what the hell is going on here? What Buffyverse is this with its little sisters and appealing Rileys? Spooky. Riley and his Boyzone haircut depart.
A red convertible BMW drives down a sunny street. Giles is driving and telling Buffy that Riley most likely understands her need to train. As he talks, a hand darts from the back seat to change the radio station, and Giles interrupts himself to chide Dawn to "stop fiddling with the radio and sit down!" Dawn voice-overs that Giles doesn't seem to like her much, most likely because (and here I predict to myself: "old") he's old. Like, ha ha. Not. Buffy looks over a list and inquires if any of the books on it "come on tape." Giles asks if she's truly committed, and Buffy replies she was just kidding, which was pretty damn obvious. Did that stick up your butt come with the car, Giles? The car makes a grinding noise; apparently Giles is used to a standard transmission and has put the car into neutral. He complains about it, and Buffy asks, "Giles, are you breaking up with your car?" "Well, it did seduce me -- all red and sporty," protests Giles, to which Buffy replies, "Little two-door tramp!" Then Buffy refers to Giles's car choice as "shallow," and he attempts to tell her that she needs to treat him with respect since he is again her Watcher. Honestly, what has Giles been smoking in all his lonely hours? Buffy has never respected him! She's not going to start now. But we all know she truly loves him. Awww, group hug. Ahem, back to the snark.