Synopsis by Brian J. Dillard
Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) abruptly drops out of college when she learns that her sister, Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg), has been cutting class and acting up. In order to keep the budding delinquent out of foster care, the Slayer steels herself to become more of a parent than a sibling. Unfortunately, though, Buffy succeeds only in further alienating Dawn, whose typical teenaged rebellion has been bolstered by the recent death of her mother and the revelation that she is actually the human incarnation of an ancient mystical energy. Meanwhile, mad hell-god Glory (Clare Kramer) continues her search for that very same magical force. Glory becomes convinced that it must be Tara (Amber Benson), the newest member of Buffy's gang. A quarrel between Tara and her lover, Willow (Alyson Hannigan), over Willow's growing mastery of the dark arts leaves Tara vulnerable to Glory's attack. Cornering the shy Wiccan, Glory quickly realizes that Tara isn't The Key, then demands that she reveal who actually is. Tara refuses, so Glory feeds on her mind and leaves her a gibbering madwoman. A grief-stricken Willow sets out for vengeance, but Buffy intervenes in the ensuing battle. Later, Glory catches up with the Scooby gang and finally learns from the brain-drained Tara that Dawn is The Key. Originally broadcast May 1, 2001, on the WB network, "Tough Love" marked episode 97 of the cult-favorite series. The repercussions of this episode would lead directly to the climactic season finale (see "The Gift"), while Willow's reliance on the dark arts and the resulting conflict with Tara would reverberate throughout subsequent seasons.