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The HARSH LIGHT OF DAY (ep #4.03)

(a.k.a. Love Hurts)

Written by: Jane Espenson
Directed by: James A. Contner
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris
Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg
Seth Green as Oz
Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles
Guest Starring: Emma Caulfield as Anya
Mercedes McNab as Harmony Kendell
Adam Kaufman as Parker Abrams
James Marsters as Spike
Co-Starring: Jason Hall as Devon
Melik as Brian

Plot Summary

Buffy, Anya, and Harmony all learn firsthand of the pain that love brings.

Plot Details

The episode opened with Buffy happy that she could see Parker in a mirror. After all, she was not used to being able to see a boyfriend in the mirror. After they left, Willow helped Oz load his van. Harmony approached her and started small talk. When Willow suggested that Harmony had not changed, Harmony disagreed a little, changed to vamp face, and bit Willow. Fortunately, Oz quickly came to the rescue. An upset Harmony threatened to sic her boyfriend on them.

Xander was helping Giles sort books when Anya walked in. She pulled Xander outside to have the dreaded relationship conversation. After Xander reminded the audience of who Anya was, she decided that she wanted a standing Friday night date. Xander was a bit reluctant.

On their way home, Parker talked about his father dying the previous year and how this made him want to live for the day. When they returned to Buffy's dorm, they were about to kiss when Willow and Oz arrived to patch Willow up. Buffy was amused by the fact that Harmony was a vampire and had a boyfriend.

Her boyfriend was a certain bleached-blonde vampire who was last seen heading off to torture Drusilla into loving him again. He was currently busy tunneling underneath UC Sunnydale. Nobody knew that he was in Sunnydale and he wanted to keep it that way by keeping a low profile. He did relent to taking her to a party that night.

Unfortunately, this party was the same party that Buffy and Parker were attending. They ran into Spike and Harmony trying to carry off a fresh victim. After a bit of small talk, Spike threw the victim into Parker and fled. Buffy followed him outside where they had a half-hearted fight. Harmony arrived to say that Drusilla dumped Spike for a fungus demon. Spike wanted to leave, but Harmony let slip a comment about the Gem of Amara to Spike's great displeasure.

Xander was hanging a mirror ball in his basement room when Anya arrived. Xander went to get a juice box for her, turned around, and saw Anya drop her dress. Apparently, she had been thinking a lot about Xander and believed that having sex with him is the best way to get him out of her mind. Xander gave a meek protest but was no match for her.

Buffy called Giles about Spike's return to Sunnydale and about the Gem of Amara, which is supposed to be a source of great power for vampires. Giles did not believe it existed, but he promised to do research anyway. Buffy returned to Parker and explained that Spike was an old friend who was not supposed to drink. She was very amused when he asked if she dated Spike. The two of them eventually went back to his room where they did what Xander and Anya were also doing at that time.

Buffy woke up to an empty bed. Fortunately, Parker returned soon with both coffee and his soul. She wanted to see him later that day, but he said that his mother was going to visit. He did promise to call her.

Anya very unconvincingly told Xander that she was over him. He responded by agreeing, not realizing that this was exactly the wrong response and having no clue what the right response was. Meanwhile, Harmony was trying to make Spike feel guilty for leaving her in order to work on a tunnel, but Spike did not care.

Buffy returned to her dorm to find Willow and Giles waiting for her. Willow was quite happy to see that Buffy spent the night with Parker, but Giles preferred not to hear any details. He was there to say that the Gem of Amara might really exist and might be located in Sunnydale. Buffy was to try to find Spike before he found the Gem while Willow rounded up Oz and Xander for research. However, once Giles left, Willow was more interested in hearing about what went on the previous night.

Buffy had no luck in finding Spike. Even worse, from her perspective, was the fact that Parker had not called.

That night, Spike finished tunneling into the crypt containing the Gem. He found an amulet and put it around his neck. Meanwhile, Harmony started looting the place, including putting on a tiara, a necklace and a ring. Her babbling about him taking her to France led Spike to stake her. When Harmony failed to turn to dust, he realized that the ring held the Gem and took it from her.

At Giles's apartment, Oz was more interested in Giles's record collection than in research, and Xander was amused to discover that Giles had a television. The latter discovery proved useful as a news report discussed a sinkhole that might have been caused by tunneling. Xander went to find Buffy while Giles, Willow, and Oz went to investigate the possible tunnel.

Buffy was wandering around campus when she heard Parker give a line to another woman. Buffy suggested doing something with him, but he was noncommittal. In fact, commitment was the last thing that he wanted. To add to her humiliation, Spike came up and commented on the situation.

Anya caught up to Xander when he tried to find Buffy in her dorm. Anya wanted to talk, but Xander was far too distracted. Meanwhile, Willow, Oz, and Giles found Harmony near the sinkhole. She confirmed that Spike had the Gem of Amara and quickly fled.

Spike was getting the better of Buffy. Xander tried to intervene but accomplished very little. For some reason, Spike thought that it would be a good idea to gloat and rub in Buffy's humiliation. He made the mistake of mentioning Angel, which led a reinvigorated Buffy to beat him up and take the ring. Spike quickly fled underground.

Xander, Willow, Oz, Giles, and Buffy examined the ring. Giles wanted to destroy it, but Buffy wanted to give it to her ex. Oz offered to bring it to Angel when Oz's band played in Los Angeles.

That night a very despondent Buffy talked with a very supportive Willow about Parker. Buffy still wanted him to like her, but Willow dismissed him as a poophead. Eventually, Buffy went ahead and coincidentally walked around the same group of trees as equally despondent Anya and Harmony.

The Good

Writer Jane Espenson came from a sitcom background and is often viewed as the funny writer on the show. However, in this episode and in "Earshot," she showed that she can combine both the funny and the pain in one episode and make the mixture work.

The Bad

The final shot was very good. However, it seemed to hint that Buffy, Anya, and Harmony experienced equal hurt and deserve equal sympathy even though I suspect the purpose was to show that they were experiencing equal pain.

Overall Rank: 47

Action: 3

Spike and Buffy had a pathetic fight outside the frat party.

They had a better fight toward the end of the episode.

Comedy: 8

Both Anya and Harmony provided much comic relief.

The scene in which Anya seduced Xander was very funny, particularly the visual image of the juice box squirting once Anya dropped her dress.

Willow's reaction to Buffy spending the night with Parker was very amusing.

Drama: 7

Parker blew off Buffy after sleeping with her, causing a lot of pain.

Spike tried to stake Harmony, which hurt her feelings.

Xander was not available to talk when Anya wanted to discuss what had happened, which hurt her feelings as well.

Romance: 9

Anya has returned to town wanting to form a relationship with Xander, or at least, have sex with him.

Buffy and Parker's relationship moved quickly to pain.

Harmony and Spike are now involved.

Character Development: 6

Buffy had a whirlwind relationship with Parker and was very hurt when he did not want it to continue.

Giles is shallow like the rest of us.

Anya has been thinking of Xander a lot since she left Sunnydale in "Graduation Day, Part 1." She somehow got the idea that having sex with him would get him out of her mind. It did not seem to work.

Parker is a poophead.

Spike has broken up with Drusilla again and is on the rebound with Harmony.

Harmony is now a vampire and is dating Spike. She is still as annoying as ever.

Importance: 6

Anya is still attracted to Xander and appears to want a relationship with him.

Buffy's relationship with Parker looks like it is over.

Spike is now with Harmony.

Most Valuable Player: Parker

Parker is the one character in this episode who got what he wanted. He wanted to bang Buffy and did so. Buffy gets a bit of credit for getting the Gem of Amara off of Spike but loses some for failing in her relationship with Parker. Oz gets credit for saving Willow from Harmony.

Sherlock Holmes Award: Xander

Giles discovered the fact that the Gem of Amara might be in Sunnydale. Xander gets credit for discovering the location when he turned on the television. Xander's discovery was more useful, so he gets this award.

Goat of the Week: Spike

Buffy fell for the wrong guy. Anya failed to get Xander behind her, but that might not be a bad thing. The biggest failure was Spike's inability to hold onto the Gem of Amara. Once he had it, he should have left town before anyone could stop him. Instead, he decided to attack Buffy. Then, when he had an advantage over Buffy, he stopped to taunt her. This just gave her the motivation needed to beat him.

Random Commentary

I have a minor quibble with the juxtaposition of Buffy's, Anya's and Harmony's pain in terms of what was done to them and in terms of who they were. Spike tried to kill Harmony. This was much worse than Parker merely loving and leaving Buffy, which was much worse than Xander not knowing the right thing to say to Anya and being genuinely too busy to talk to her afterward.

This is somewhat countered by the sympathy that we should have for each of them. Harmony is an evil, if pathetic, vampire. Buffy has staked many already and many of these deserve no less sympathy than Harmony does. Anya, despite currently being powerless, has inflicted much evil across the past eleven centuries. Furthermore, she was the one who said that she just wanted to get over Xander. Finally, Buffy, as the central character, would merit much sympathy.

It was very clear that this was a rebound relationship for Buffy. She tried to make the relationship too intimate far too quickly. This played into Parker's hand because he wanted intimacy, albeit only of the physical variety. However, Buffy tried to make the relationship emotionally intimate as well despite not knowing Parker's character very well. Unfortunately, given Parker's character, this led to much pain for Buffy.

I doubt that it would have lasted long even if Parker were not a poophead. Buffy did not know Parker well enough to have strong feelings for him. Instead, she had strong feelings for an idealized man that she believed he was. Even if he were a nice guy instead of a poophead, he most likely would be different from her idealized image. If this relationship proceeded like most rebound relationships, it would have ended fairly quickly, most likely with a great deal of pain on his part.

This leads to a very unfortunate lesson. The fact that Parker was a poophead saved him from future pain. If Buffy hooks up with a nice guy soon, he had better hope that she has worked out everything she needed to in this relationship and can go on with an open mind.

What "Assume" Means: Assigning Blame for the Buffy/Parker Fallout

Buffy is the title character of the show and the one we are supposed to care about, so we are meant to sympathize with her and dismiss Parker as a "poophead." I do believe that Parker deserves more of the blame than Buffy does, but she is not completely blameless.

Why Both Deserve Some Blame Parker assumed that they were to have a short, intense relationship that would end the morning after it was consummated. Buffy assumed that they were in the early stages of what would have been a long-term relationship. Both Buffy and Parker assumed that the other implicitly understood what she or he wanted, so it was unnecessary to say explicitly what they wanted. Both Buffy and Parker were wrong.

Parker wanted relationships with the fantasy of being in a serious relationship without actual commitment. Fantasy is OK as long as both parties agree to the fantasy and set up the boundaries. For example, people other than Faith who engage in fantasies involving lack of consent use safety words. Parker needed to be clear about his expectations before going into fantasy mode and he needed to include Buffy in the planning.

Buffy was looking for a long-term relationship, probably like the one she had with Angel but without having to worry about Parker losing his soul and going on a killing spree. A committed relationship can be a good thing and it is very appropriate for Buffy to desire one. However, both parties must agree to the commitment rather than an assumption that it occurred. Furthermore, it would not be a good idea for Buffy to make much of a commitment with someone she had known for only a week.

Why I Still Blame Parker More Both Buffy and Parker made assumptions about what the other desired in the relationship, and both were wrong. However, there is one important difference between them that leads me to believe that Parker deserves the majority of the blame, experience.

Parker appears to be far more experienced romantically and sexually than Buffy is. He has gone through his routine before and will many times again. I would be very surprised if Buffy were the first woman he has hurt or if she were the first to confront him on it. He had every reason to believe that Buffy might misinterpret his intentions as an interest in a committed relationship.

Buffy, on the other hand, is not that experienced. As far as we know, she has had only one relationship that ever got as intense as her relationship with Parker, and that relationship was with someone who was not even human at the time. There is good reason for her not to realize that commitments cannot be assumed, that commitments need to be made by both parties, and that commitments should not be made until the two people have known each other for longer than a week.

According to the saying, "assume" makes an "ass" of "u" and "me." As a result, the share of blame for the fallout between Parker and Buffy is not as one sided as the episode makes it out to be. Both Buffy and Parker assumed so both made asses out of themselves and each other. However, Parker was in a better position than Buffy to foresee what happened. Therefore, he still deserves more blame than Buffy.


In "Living Conditions," Parker told Buffy how to hoard food from the dining hall. Why did he have nothing in his dorm other than warm soda and breath mints?

Memorable Dialogue

"Don't you just hate guys who are all 'I'm dark and brooding, so give me love.'" Parker
"I don't think I've ever met that type." Buffy

"Everybody says they get it. 'Oh, man, me too. Live for today.' But what they really want is an excuse to goof off and not study for finals." Parker

"Harmony's a vampire? She must be dying without a reflection." Buffy

"Can we eat a doctor so I can get a stethoscope and hear my heart not beating?" Harmony

"At which point, the matter is brought to a conclusion with both parties satisfied and able to move on with their separate lives and interests. To sum up, I think it's a workable plan." Anya
"So, the crux of this plan is?" Xander
"Sexual intercourse, I've said it, like, a dozen times." Anya
"Uh-huh, just working through a little hysterical deafness." Xander
"I think it's the secret to getting you out of my mind, putting you behind me. Behind me figuratively, I'm thinking face-to-face for the event itself." Anya
"Ah, right, it's just we hardly know each other. I mean, I like you, and you have a certain directness that I admire, but sexual interc... What you're talking about, well, and I'm actually turning into a woman as I say this, but it's about expressing something and accepting consequences." Xander

"Oh, I have condoms. Some are black." Anya
"That's... that's very considerate." Xander
"I like you. You're funny, and you're nicely shaped, and, frankly, it ludicrous to have these interlocking bodies and not interlock. Please remove your clothing now." Anya
"And the amazing thing, still more romantic than Faith." Xander

"You love that tunnel more than me." Harmony
"I love syphilis more than you." Spike

"I was studying, at the library, all Saturday night. You know what? I'm an adult, and it's none of your business where I was." Buffy
"I'm sincerely relieved to hear it." Giles

"Listen to me, you stupid bint. This gem is everything. I came back to Sunnydale for it, a place which has witnessed some truly spectacular kickings of my ass." Spike

"OK, either I'm borrowing all your albums or I'm moving in." Oz
"Oz, there are more important things than records right now." Giles
"[Holds up Velvet Underground's Loaded] More important than this one?" Oz
"I suppose an argument could be made for..." Giles
"Whoa, Giles has a TV! Everybody, Giles has a TV! He's shallow like the rest of us." Xander
"I got to admit I'm a little disappointed." Oz
"Well, maybe it doesn't work. It's like art." Willow

"The Gem of Amara, official sponsor of my killing you." Spike

"Being a vampire sucks." Harmony

"So, you let Parker take a poke, eh? Didn't seem like you knew each other that well. What exactly did it take to pry apart the Slayer's dimpled knees?" Spike
"You're a pig, Spike." Buffy
"Did he play the sensitive lad and get you to seduce him? That's a good trick, if the girl's thick enough to buy it. I wonder what you did wrong. Too strong? Did you bruise the boy? Whatever, guess you're not worth a second go. Come to think of it, seems like someone told me as much. Who was that? Oh, yeah, Angel." Spike

"I think you're missing something about the whole poophead principle." Willow

Characters in Peril

Evil Escaped

Departed Characters Remembered

Strictly the Caucasian Persuasion

Spoiler Questions

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This page was last modified on November 19, 2012