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Thursday, July 26, 2012

No Place Like Home

[Updated May 1, 2013]

No Place Like Home introduces the villain of S5. Her name is Glory and it shows up in the transcript, though nobody speaks it in this episode; we’ll learn it soon enough. In Real Me we were introduced to Dawn and I raised the question whether she served as a metaphor, at least for some purposes. The villains almost always serve a metaphorical role, so we now should be asking whether Glory does and, if so, what that role is. There is, I think, a small hint in The Replacement, but it’s pretty obscure except in hindsight. In addition, we’d expect the metaphor to fit within the season themes which I’ve previously identified. I’m hinting, but I don’t want to spoil, so as with Dawn I’ll discuss Glory’s metaphorical role in detail in the finale.

For now, just as I did with Dawn, let’s keep track of what we do know about Glory. She’s almost impossibly self-centered. She’s super strong even though she appears to be human and no bigger than Buffy. She certainly kicked Buffy’s ass. She’s more than a little deranged, and whatever she did to the poor security guard (we’ll find out in a few episodes) involved his brain. I think all these characteristics are very meaningful.
The craziness fits in perfectly with what we’ve seen so far: a crazy man confronted Dawn in Real Me; The Replacement showed us split personalities; Riley and Spike both went a bit crazy in Out Of My Mind. Now Glory shows up. She acts crazy and says to Buffy “Are you crazy?”. There has to be a connection here, and there is. That connection arises directly out of Glory’s metaphorical role in the season.
Spike continues down the crazy path in this episode. He’s now lurking outside Buffy’s house, with one of my favorite lines in the series: “Out. For. A. Walk…. Bitch.” Vampires don’t fall in love with Slayers, so it’s understandable that Spike doesn’t know how to behave in that situation. Besides, it’s unclear if vampires know how to behave when in love anyway. Think Spike and Dru.
I want to keep track of Riley even though we don’t see much of him in NPLH. He reassures Buffy that “I really am ok”, but if he is it’s not for lack of provocation. State of Siege added this in comments: “In this episode, [we see] a tendency of Buffy's—one that has been there since throughout S5, although in a less pronounced form: to use sex (well, kissing) to mask her lack of need for Riley or her general desire to have him be elsewhere. It is a small detail, but I have found it a telling gauge to their relationship.”
I left open Joyce’s situation in my discussion of Out Of My Mind, but now we learn that she is indeed having a problem and that it’s, well, not necessarily “mental” but certainly in her head. This was actually signaled previously – it was easy to miss, but Joyce got a headache in The Replacement:
JOYCE: (sighs, puts hand to her forehead) This must be my "two teenage girls in the house" headache. I thought it felt familiar.
BUFFY: Good work, Dawn. You gave her a headache.
DAWN: I did not! (to Joyce) Did I give you a headache, Mom? I'm sure part of it is Buffy's.

Segueing from Dawn, Glory says the following in her deranged rant: “Not now, Mommy's talking! Wriggling, piling, prowling, crawling, clowning, cavorting, doing it over and over and over and over until someone's gonna sit down on their tuffet and make this birthing stop!” The highlighted phrase is another reference to the Faith/Buffy dream in Graduation Day which prophesied Dawn’s arrival (“Little Miss Muffet”), and what follows relates to the roles Glory and Dawn play in the season. This tells us that Glory and Dawn are connected in some way, as we learn when Buffy rescues the monk.
The question answered in No Place Like Home, at least somewhat cryptically, was actually asked by Joyce in Out Of My Mind:
Joyce turns away from the stove, holding the two plates. Suddenly she stops and blinks as if dizzy. Dawn looks up from unwrapping the prize.
JOYCE: (confused) Oh, what is the... (looks at Dawn) Who are you?

“She is the Key.” Dawn is the Key to the season and Glory wants her. And if it’s all about Buffy, this means that Dawn is the Key to Buffy.
BUFFY I didn't ask for this! I don't even know... what is she?
MONK Human... now human. And helpless. Please... she's an innocent in this.

Trivia notes: (1) The episode title is a reference to The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy says it when she returns to Kansas. It seems clearly intended to apply to Dawn. (2) NPLH aired on October 24, 2000. The events in the teaser took place two months previously, i.e., at the end of August 2000. (3) State of Siege provided an important trivia note: “the untranslated word [the monks] repeat is "cloveka" (with haceks, the little upside down hats, on the c and the e), which is the vocative for "human" in Czech, meaning that they are calling the living energy into human form.” (4)  To make money “hand over fist” (Buffy’s comment to Giles) is to make it very quickly. (5) Ben’s suggestion to Buffy of a radioactive spider bite is a reference to how Spiderman got his powers. (6) Willow teasingly called Giles a “capitalist running dog”, which is a literal translation of a Chinese communist insult meaning “lapdog”. (7) Note Joyce’s words to Buffy just before Buffy discovers through her trance that Dawn isn’t really her sister: “You’re so grown up.”


  1. This is a beautiful episode of television that often gets overlooked, I think, because in a lot of ways its more plot-driven than some of the better-liked stand alones.

    But it does such a wonderful job of advancing plot, character, and seasonal themes. And in giving a "reason" (as it is so far) for Dawn's existence, it adds another building block to one of the most audacious moves in TV history (imho) - the creation of Dawn as, at first, a seeming retcon, then . . . well, the key. Phenomenal.

    (By the way, I've got a feeling you've got an idea this - any thoughts on when in the Buffy timeline Dawn actually showed up? I've read some things that say she showed up at the exact moment at the end of BvD when we all first see her, but some that say earlier. I haven't the patience to work it out for myself.)

    1. I agree. I think it's an excellent episode and often overlooked.

      My interpretation would be that Dawn showed up immediately after the monks finished their spell. Since Glory was breaking down the door as they chanted, I assume it had to take effect right then.


      In Blood Ties Buffy tells Dawn that she's been alive for 6 months, which, given the air date, would mean Aug. 6. The teaser here gives Aug. 24. Assuming some rounding each time, that's pretty consistent with the idea that she appeared about a month before S5 began.

    2. She had to appear on whatever day the end of BvD takes place, because there are explicit references to Buffy STILL being an only child, like Joyce commenting on the place being empty again when Buffy returns to school.

      So its not like BvD was a misdirect, that Dawn was there and we just didn't see her, she did not exist at one point in the episode, and then BOOM she did.

      And even the scene with the Dawn reveal, Buffy is initially completely unaware of who Dawn is, until Joyce tells her to do something with her sister.

    3. Joyce doesn't quite say "empty". The line is "You know, I'm gonna have to get used to this place without you again. It gets so quiet." I think we all interpreted that as Buffy being an only child because we "knew" that was true.

      I'm inclined to read Buffy's "What are *you* doing here?" at the end as ambiguous enough to account for either possibility.

      That's not to say I think either answer is definitive. I think we can interpret it either way.

    4. Yes, this all is what I'm curious about. I think it would be very cool if all the dreams from previous seasons, the action of the monks in "No Place Like Home" and the final scene of BvD all lined up to make it irrefutable that Dawn actually showed up right at the moment Buffy says "what are you doing here?" (is that the line?). But I'm willing to accept that that may be misplaced hope on my part . . .

    5. I, too, find this episode beautiful—the look on Buffy's face as she learns that Dawn is "human, now human, and helpless, and an innocent in this... [who] needs [her]"—and who "doesn't know"—I find that look unspeakably poignant.

      As for the other question: I think Dawn definitely comes into being at the moment the monks are chanting in the teaser, for the untranslated word they repeat is "cloveka" (with haceks, the little upside down hats, on the c and the e), which is the vocative for "human" in Czech, meaning that they are calling the living energy into human form. That is two months before the events in NPLH, so if NPLH is exactly two months before the end of BvD... This is perfectly possible, so I have always assumed, retrospectively from this episode, that Dawn came into human form at the moment we first saw her.

      I do read the "What are you doing here" in BvD as directed at her in a big sisterly tone of annoyance, not a shocked who are you tone—the emphasis just seems more the former than the latter to me. Buffy seems more shocked that Dawn is there at that moment than that she exists as such.

      Apologies for the double post—I just wanted to put this where it belongs (Mark, feel free to remove the one below—I would do it if I could.)

    6. Thanks for the detail on the Czech. Mine's a bit rusty. :) Usually they give a translation, but not for this.


    i never comment, because i never have the energy (i have been very ill), but i have been watching, reading along and appreciating, which means that i watched NPLH last night...

    but today i had to say: who is to say that buffy does not matter in the real world???:

    this episode and my reading of the season (that dawn is buffy's innocent essential self, whom she must protect from the hardening pains of the world*) played a major role in my daily analysis session (as I said, i have been very ill), making it very productive (i have recently been stuck, and it was unsticky). and i think my analyst was impressed, again, by the sophistication of BtVS as a whole...

    *i don't know, mark, if this is your reading, but i suspect that we agree to at least some degree, but no need to comment on that now, for fear of more spoilers...

    1. I'm very glad to hear that you're well enough to comment. I hope that continues.

      And yes, your spoiler point is essentially where I'm going.

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  4. After this and (SPOILER redacted) when I saw The Avengers, I said, O hai thar evil god! It must be a Thing in the Jossverse, like tactless people and barefoot young women with dance training.

  5. Something I forgot to mention above—

    In this episode, a tendency of Buffy's—one that has been there since throughout S5, although in a less pronounced form: to use sex (well, kissing) to mask her lack of need for Riley or her general desire to have him be elsewhere. It is a small detail, but I have found it a telling gauge to their relationship.

    1. This makes sense. It's clear that Riley feels the lack of any emotional connection despite her physical demonstrations of affection.

  6. I'm from a generation that grew up much more likely to associate "There's no place like home" with the early 19th century song, "Home, Sweet Home": "Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home." All other uses of the phrase originated there, including L. Frank Baum's. :-)

    1. Fair enough. I immediately thought of The Wizard of Oz because the episode began with Dawn's creation in swirling light (kinda sorta similar to a tornado).

  7. Wow. I'm still reeling from the revels in these last two episodes. I guess we should have seen Spike's infatuation coming, he has been obsessing over Buffy for a while now and its not all that ridiculous that it would come to love at some point. I foresee some coming difficulties with Buffy and Riley's relationship with this new variable. I don't necissarily think Buff is going to love Spike back, but the tougher more dangerous Spike is definitely going to feed Riley's insecurities if and when he does find out.

    Secondary note on Spike: I thought the standing out there smoking at her window thing was pretty funny, if not a little cliche, and his 5 word answer to Buffy is comedic gold, but I really hope that this doesn't turn into a kind of endearing stalker kind of thing. I think media has a tendency to make some of these habits (like watching a girl in the dead of night) kind threatening? I don't know, I just really hope we don't see that.

    And FINALLY we find out what Dawn is. I love this. Honestly, I just love the character of Dawn. She's a little annoying and does some seriously stupid stuff, but I like the idea of Buffy having a sister which is a whole other sort of bond to the world than her other friends. Frankly, I'd be a little upset about monks messing with my mind too, I'm really happy Dawn has turned out to be, as he states, someone who is innocent. I imagine its going to be just as difficult for her when (if) she discovers what she is as it is for Buffy and I'm really intrigued as to how everyone handles it.

    And now Glory! Favorite villain. I can already tell. The actress portraying her does a fantastic job too, but I just loved watching her kick Buffy's ass.

    Quite possibly one of my favorite episodes of the series, especially the final 20 minutes of it. The near physical abuse Buffy extols to her sister who truly has no idea what's going on to her apology when she realizes her mistake, that all made me feel in a lot of ways which great television should do.

    1. I agree that NPLH is an excellent episode, and your thoughts on it are all spot on. And if you're intrigued by Spike's story now, I think you'll be very happy with what comes in the episode after next.

  8. I always thought the title referred mostly to Glory. She's the one who is trying to get home. She's even wearing red shoes!

    1. Fair points. I decided it was Dawn because she actually IS home, while Glory is simply trying to get there. But it probably was intended to apply to both of them.