Dawn has changed into a little dress and cardigan and is better accessorized than I would have been at fourteen -- or even twenty-five. She answers the door to admit Xander. As she preens, he greets her and makes a "cheese on round bread" pizza joke. Dawn voice-overs about how cute Xander is as we get an adoring camera shot from a low angle up at Nick Brendan. She crushes on about Xander's "deep" job in construction and how he "went undercover" to fight Dracula. Under the cover of Dracula's thrall, perhaps. I wonder if that spin is Dawn's or Xander's. Joyce leaves and Dawn muses that Xander never looks down on people -- enter Anya with an armful of board games -- even when he should. Anya cheerily states, "Look, I've got Monopoly, Clue and ooh, the game of Life!" Dawn rolls her eyes, but I giggle.
Tara and Willow are in what the shooting script identifies as her "new single dorm room," unpacking boxes and hanging pictures. Does this mean Buffy is living at home this year? That seems odd. Tara is sympathizing with how Dawn felt earlier at the magic shop, and says "that outsider feeling" and not being allowed to help is hard. Willow assures her that she's not an outsider, but Tara protests that she is. They have a little conversation about whether anyone is making Tara uncomfortable (Tara calls Xander a "sweetie," which earns her points in my book), but Tara assures Willow she's just referring to the "tight bond" the Scoobies have that's "hard to break into." Willow wraps her arms around Tara from behind and snuggles her, telling her she's one of the gang now. "You're one of the good guys," she enthuses, but at that Tara stiffens, pulls away, and goes back to unpacking a box. Oblivious, Willow suggests an initiation for Tara into the Scoobies. Tara declines for herself but says, "Maybe something like that would be good for Dawn. I worry about her sometimes." Okay. Starting right now I'm taking up a collection to buy these two a chemistry set. I'm just not seeing a spark. Or even flammable material of any kind.
Buffy and Riley patrol in a cemetery while Buffy rants about her mother's need to shield Dawn, while no one shields her. Riley attempts to be patient with the complaining and then tells her she seems tense "domestically" and is very hard on Dawn. Buffy admits she is and explains, "I know it's always been this way. She's the baby. But for some reason lately, it's really getting to me." I've got my theories about Dawn, one of which is that her appearance and acceptance is some sort of spell. Everyone around Dawn seems more accepting of her than Buffy does, which could be simple sibling rivalry, but could also be that the spell isn't sitting as easy with Buffy, perhaps due to her Slayer powers. Riley suggests that Buffy is Dawn's idol, and Buffy snots, "I don't think so, unless you like to spill things on your idol's new leather pants." One -- total MBTV shout-out. And two -- which pair of leather pants, Buffy? At this point half the bovine population of the US has died to supplement your wardrobe. The scene continues with Buffy complaining about wishing she herself could sometimes be a kid and be protected.