Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Season 4 Episode 3

The Harsh Light of Day

Aired Tuesday 8:00 PM Oct 19, 1999 on The WB
out of 10
User Rating
538 votes

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Episode Summary

Spike returns to Sunnydale with his new girlfriend, the now vampire Harmony. Spike is searching for the Gem of Amara - a stone which makes vampires immune to crosses, stakes, and sunlight - and he believes that it is buried somewhere under Sunnydale. Buffy is preoccupied with her budding relationship with Parker and eventually sleeps with him, but she is devastated when he grows distant the next day. Meanwhile Anya returns and throws herself at a flabbergasted Xander.moreless

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  • Wow, "The Harsh Light of Day" is a loaded episode with a comparatively irrelevant stand-alone plot on the side.

    There's a big difference between the stand-alone style of "Living Conditions", where there's very little character insight, to this one though. Spike's back, Harmony's a vampire, Buffy and Parker have sex, Xander and Anya have sex, and more. There's a lot to talk about, so let's begin!

    While we get some interesting material involving Anya and Harmony, the focus here is squarely on Buffy. She goes through quite the emotional roller coaster and it's all perfectly woven into the main story. The episode begins at the Bronze with Buffy lusting over Parker through his reflection, which in retrospect turns out to be a telling metaphor. Willow gets Buffy to admit that she is "having lusty wrong feelings" towards Parker and adds that it's not wrong to have those feelings because they're both Unfortunately, I think Willow is being a bit too short-sided and aggressive here. Some people have sex just for the sex, like Parker, but to others sex means something more, like Buffy. So jumping into sex based purely on "lusty wrong feelings" isn't a very smart move for Buffy -- it will only set her up for being hurt.

    The big problem with Parker is that he doesn't just come out and say he just wants sex. He manipulates Buffy into thinking he's a considerate nice guy who genuinely wants to learn more about her, and not just enough so he can get her into the sack. Normally I'd say that Buffy's too smart to be duped by this routine, but I've got to admit that Parker's got his game down perfectly. When I first watched him talk with her I, like Buffy, thought he was what he seemed. He snags sympathy points from fake stories about his dad dying and says stuff like "I'm not doing the deep, get sympathy Yet he is doing the deep, get sympathy routine and it is really tough to tell whether or not he's geniune. He takes a chance when telling Buffy "It made me think about, you know, living for now," but she buys it and Parker knows he's got a ripe one.

    All of that leads to the party where Buffy decides to "make a choice" and have sex with Parker. With Angel gone, life in a dorm, and her strong desire to move past Angel, I do understand where she's coming from. The following morning Parker outright lies to her and says he'll call her later. At this point Buffy feels really good about her decision and is absolutely excited about developing what she shared with him into something more. Gellar acted the hell out of this episode, from the early scenes with Parker to the decision to make "a choice" to the nervous excitement afterwards with Willow to the anticipation, heartbreak, and confusion that follows. Willow keeps pointing out how everything's a discovery. While that is more or less true for what the characters are experiencing, I personally never felt there was much to discover in college aside from how to get my ass kicked by exams in a whole new way. Of course I'm a pretty atypical college student in more ways than one, so maybe imparting my own experiences aren't that useful in this case.

    Buffy's personal woes are wonderfully weaved into the search for Spike, which has become a higher priority. While Buffy is searching she is constantly checking her messages, anxiously awaiting Parker's promised call. The call, of course, never comes and Buffy collapses on her bed in pain. She's able to eventually track Parker down and finds him using his sympathy speech on another girl already. Parker says he "had fun," and Buffy replies, "You had fun? Was that all it was?" In Buffy's mind sex is an intimate experience that is indicative of something more. Parker says, "I'm starting to feel like you felt what? Some kind of commitment? Are you sure that's what you want right now?" The truth is, yes, that is what she wants right now. She wants a boyfriend, a lover, and a companion. It pains me tremendously to see Buffy think that Parker's cold reaction is her fault and to see her even apologize to him. I really feel for her and am right there with her. No one likes to be used, and that's what Parker did here.

    Back in "Surprise" I proposed the idea that Buffy simply wasn't emotionally mature enough to have sex yet. That isn't a problem anymore though. The mistake she makes here is that she jumped in the sack with a guy she only knew for a week. This is thankfully an experience she learns from. For now she has to deal with the consequences of her hasty rush to move past Angel, and nobody knows how to force Buffy into seeing these consequences better than Spike. In their fight outside he gets some really truthful jabs in and jumps right to the heart of the matter. He says, "So, you let Parker take a poke, eh? Didn't seem like you knew each other that well. ... 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 While these comments are blunt and pouring salt in a wound, Spike is completely correct in his analysis of the situation. He also gets her stirred up enough to gain her focus back and snatch the gem from him.

    This whole ordeal is succinctly captured by Willow's helpful "he's a poophead" speech. Buffy still wishes that she can make it work with Parker. Even after Parker and Spike's comments she still has trouble believing that someone actually just used her for sex. Buffy still feels that it's her fault he doesn't want anything to do with her beyond that. In time she'll fully realize the only thing she was at fault for was falling for it. I have to say I am extremely impressed with how carefully, naturally, maturely, and in-character all of this was dealt with. Kudos to the writers for having Buffy's second sexual experience be an important event that's not washed over. I also like the ripples we see from this in the next couple episodes.

    Buffy's not the only one encountering problems with a second sexual encounter. Anya's back in town and is very confused about how relationships develop. She's spent a thousand years inflicting vengeance on the unfaithful, so she knows how to deal with the end of relationships, but the beginning of them is completely new territory for her. She takes her usual direct approach and succeeds in confusing the hell out of Xander. She comes on strong and he can only respond with "Anya. Slow down there. In fact, come to a screeching halt. See these things kind of have to develop on their She then understandably asks, "Okay. How?" Xander then proves he doesn't have any answers: "I don't know. I just - Later on she stops by his room in the basement and, in a hilarious scene, drops all her clothes and proposes to have "sexual intercourse" with him. His response is to squeeze a juicebox empty and shake. Awesome. To his credit he attempts to resist her nude physical advancement by saying that they aren't ready for this yet, but he quickly gives in. Afterwards they don't look particularly satisfied and appear to be even more confused.

    We find out that Spike's new girlfriend is Harmony of all people. At first it seems ludicrous that a vampire like Spike would allow himself to be with someone like her, but once we begin to see how their relationship functions things begin to make more sense. The only way that Harmony can gain Spike's affections is through sex, and we can see that Spike's not satisfied by it at all. He's nice enough to take her out to a party, but after a while his limit is reached and he just stakes her. Fortunately for her she was wearing the invulnerability gem at the time. Spike's noticeably different now that Drusilla isn't in the picture anymore; he's a lot harsher. Listening to Harmony run on about France all day is likely a large part of why he's acting this way, because in "The Initiative" we see his swagger briefly returned to him when he escapes an Initiative holding cell. Even though Harmony is incredibly annoying, I can't help but feel sorry for her when she remains loyal to Spike and doesn't tell the Scoobies where he is.

    It all ends on a really fitting note. We have Buffy, Anya, and Harmony all walking outside physically near each other, but emotionally isolated. They all seem to realize that sex isn't the key to lasting happiness and that it often leads to much confusion. All in all this is a superb and probing episode which really focuses on the characters. My only complaint lies with the main plot of Spike trying to retrieve the gem -- it's just not very interesting. Also, we know Spike isn't going to get to keep something that makes him invincible, so no real tension is generated. Although that fact slights the episode a notch, it's still close to top notch. All the characters are in a really new, uncomfortable, and unexplored state. "The Harsh Light of Day" successfully reflects that feeling and does it in vivid style.moreless
  • Hooray for Spike!

    The Good;

    Spike's back and the series is better off with him in it. Our first sign that Harmony survived graduation and is now a vamp. Great fight and some excellent comedy, especially love Spike's workers groaning when Harmony starts bleating on about France again. Also like Parker's complaining about guys who are so 'Dark and brooding, give me love'. Nice reveal of Spike

    The Bad;

    None, good ep, best of season 4 so far

    Best line;

    Buffy; 'Spike, with Harmony. What you lose a bet?'

    but I also like Willow (on Harmony being a vamp) 'She must be dying without a reflection'

    Character death;

    nope, the guy Spike and Harmony bite at the party survives and we see Asian Joe again in 'Pangs' so the Scoobs obviously rescue him.

    Tied up;

    Asian Joe chained to the wall.

    Knocked out;

    Xander in the fight with Spike

    Women good/men bad;

    The final scene with a broken hearted Buffy, Anya and Harmony all miserable having been dumped. Xander remarks that he's 'Actually turning into a woman as he's saying this' when hesitating before the offer of casual sex with a beautiful girl. But as he says 'Still more romantic than Faith'. Spike and Harmony have an abusive relationship but in fairness to Spike she seems just as bad as he is and even more manipulative.


    Spike's 'trash-talk' with Buffy whilst fighting her (he should know better!)

    Kinky dinky;

    Harmony may be dumb but she knows how to get what she wants. She hints that she and Spike have bondage, S&M and exhibitionist sex. Anya does a striptease for Xander (cue juice gag!) and brings black condoms for their coitus. Parker and Buffy have sex but he dumps her afterwards. Harmony seems to have a thing for Antonio Banderas. Spike comments that he loves syphilis more than he does Harmony. Xander dreams of being naked at the Walmart. Willow seems to want to know the details of Buffy and Parker's night of passion, not graphically but as a 'blurry watercolour'.

    Calling Captain Subtext;

    Harmony wants to bite Willow. Maybe there was an underlying attraction between the 2 all these years? Parker suggests Buffy and Spike used to go out and she laughs.

    Guantanamo Bay;

    The gang threaten Harmony to try and find Spike.

    Scoobies to the ER;

    Xander is hurt in the final fight but not too badly. Willow needs a band-aid.

    Questions and observations;

    Where season 4 kicks into gear really, quite marvellous. Willow becomes the 3rd Scooby to be bitten by a vampire (Buffy twice by Angel and the Master, Angel and Joyce by Darla although the latter is not a Scooby). Buffy still has the scar from where she was bitten but is that from The Master or Angel? Personally I never know what to make of Parker, Buffy seems to think their sex is the beginning of a relationship whilst it's casual to him. I don't think he's a bad guy really. Giles never locks his door and owns a TV which disappoints Oz who nevertheless seems to appreciate his vinyl albums just as Joyce did in Band Candy. Good music, especially like 'Lucky' (for the Buffy/Parker sex scene) and the interestingly titled 'Faith in love'. Asian Joe, the guy who is chained to Spike's wall is a recurring extra as a Sunnydale High School student (Harmony comments she used to have a class with him), you can see him in many eps but most prominently in Earshot where Buffy hears him thinking about being a 'software gillionaire'. Unfortunately the last appearance of Devon in the series although he's mentioned in Something Blue

    Marks out of 10; 8/10, very good

  • Love hurts for all walks of life (and nonlife)

    You know, I am genuinely surprised to see this episode rated below a 9. Spike's return (with ditzy Harmony at his side) really brings back the witty bad guy we know and love. Spike seeks the Gem of Amara, a powerfully cool item that makes vampires impervious to stakes, crosses, and sunlight. In addition to this action, we are introduced to new romance on the Buffy front as well as the awesomely dysfunctional relationships of Xander & Anya and Spike & Harmony. The interactions between these couples were very entertaining, while the Buffy and Parker storyline was mildly heart-wrenching. Overall, I was impressed with the combined humor and drama of this episode.moreless
  • Loving you is wrong

    So, Spike returns, and not alone- he brings the annoying Harmony with him. We see a couple of romantic moments and then everything turnes to a nightmare. All three girls (Buffy, Harmony and Anya) are dumped. Buffy's heart is broken again, like it was after Angel made love to her and then dissapeared - he turned into a bad demon. Now that Scoobies got the Gem of Amara, Buffy sends it to Angel in L.A. Spike really did wake up the whole serie when he returned. I'm looking forward to see the upcoming episodes! Interesting episode, a-must-watch! I'm glad Spike came back!moreless
  • Spike and Harmony.

    Harmony is really funny in this episode from when she bites Willow and threatens to send Spike to beat her up to the sad pathetic girl she becomes after Spike tries to stake her for the gem. Willow and Oz are so cute together in this episode and I love the mentions of the angry puppy. I feel so bad for Buffy in this episode too, because Parker is clearly just using lines and she just falls for all of them, I love when Spike calls her out on it the next day. Xander and Anya are also great, I love how she demands that they sleep together and then is still not over he by the end. Spike is so great in this episode and him and Harmony are so funny together, all the relationship things that play out are really interesting and when Parker thinks that Buffy and him used to date it is really funny and a bit of foreshadwoing.moreless



Guest Star

Jason Hall

Jason Hall


Recurring Role

Emma Caulfield

Emma Caulfield


Recurring Role

Mercedes McNab

Mercedes McNab


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (9)

    • The Greek word "amara" means "eternal" so the "Gem of Amara" means "The Gem of Eternity".

    • We see in Buffy's yearbook that Harmony's last name is Kendall. Interestingly, the character Sarah Michelle Gellar played on All My Children was named Kendall — perhaps this is an inside joke.

    • Buffy and Willow's dorm room is number 214. We have seen glimpses of the number in previous episodes, but this is the first time that we have seen it clearly.

    • We see that Buffy has a scar from when Angel fed from her. But before this there has never been any mention of The Master feeding from her and as far as we can tell she has no scar from that encounter.

      The scar that Parker is looking at is also where The Master bit her. The Master, Angel, and the third person to bite her all bite on the same side and acoording to the scar in the same spots.

    • Parker's comment about casual sex mirrors Angel's comments to Buffy when he lost his soul after they made love.

    • When Spike shows Buffy the Gem of Amara at the end when they fight, it appears that he is showing her a silver skull ring.

    • Nitpick: When Buffy is talking to Parker on the college campus, there are students everywhere. All of a sudden, Spike shows up to fight Buffy and there are no more students in sight.

    • Goof: While Spike has on the Gem of Amara, Buffy stakes him, but a few scenes later we see a full body shot of Spike and he doesn't have any hole in his shirt.

    • Goof: The necklace that Spike thinks is the Gem of Amara reappears around his neck after he throws it off.

  • QUOTES (26)

    • Parker: I mean, 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.
      Buffy: Also a valid life choice.

    • Spike: 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.

    • Xander: I'm not enjoying this.
      Giles: Well, shelve them correctly and we can finish.
      Xander: I just don't get your crazy system.
      Giles: My system? It's called the alphabet.

    • Xander: So, the crux of this plan is...
      Anya: Sexual intercourse. I've said it, like, a dozen times.
      Xander: Uh huh. Just working through a little hysterical deafness here.
      Anya: 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: So, where's our relationship going?
      Xander: Our what? Our who?

    • Spike: So, you let Parker take a poke, eh? Didn't seem like you knew each other that well. What did it take to pry apart the Slayer's dimpled knees?
      Buffy: You're a pig, Spike.
      Spike: 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 went wrong. Were you too strong? Did you bruise the boy? I guess it doesn't matter. You were never worth a second go. Come to think of it, someone told me as much. Who was that? Oh yeah... Angel.

    • Willow: Did it happen with Parker?
      Buffy: Yeah, it happened.
      Willow: Well, and? Details! I mean, not details, I don't need a diagram. But, you know, like maybe a blurry watercolor.

    • Willow: He's a poop head.
      Buffy: You're right. He's manipulative and shallow... and why doesn't he want me? Am I so repulsive? If there was something repulsive about me, you'd tell me, right?
      Willow: I'm your friend. I would call you repulsive in a second.
      Buffy: Maybe Parker and I could still work it out. Do you think we could still work it out?
      Willow: I think you're missing something about this whole "poop head" principal.

    • Oz: Okay, either I'm borrowing all your albums, or I'm moving in.
      Giles: Oz, there are more important things than records right now.
      Oz: More important than this one?
      Giles: Um, I suppose an argument could be made for...
      Xander: Whoa, Giles has a TV. Everybody, Giles has a TV! He's shallow like us.
      Oz: I got to admit, I'm a little disappointed.
      Giles: I-I-I...
      Willow: Well, maybe it doesn't work. It's like art.

    • Spike: The Gem of Amara. Official sponsor of my killing you.

    • Parker: You think I could get a dance with the prettiest girl at the party?
      Buffy: And what do I do, just stand here and watch?

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

    • Spike: We've got an extra set of chains.
      Harmony: Ew. Just because Dorkus went in for that...
      Spike: Drusilla.
      Harmony: Whatever.
      Spike: Say her name.
      Harmony: Dorkus.
      Spike: Bite your tongue.
      Harmony: Do it for me.

    • Harmony: Hey, I don't have a pulse. Cool! Can we eat a doctor so I can get a stethoscope and hear my heart not beating?

    • Harmony: Is Antonio Bandaras a vampire?
      Spike: No.
      Harmony: Oh. Can I make him a vampire?
      Spike: No. Wait. On second thought, yeah. Go do that. Take your time. Do Melanie and the kids as well.

    • Bufffy: What's the matter, Spike? Dru dump you again?
      Spike: Maybe I dumped her!
      Harmony: She left him for a fungus demon. That's all he talks about most days.

    • Buffy: This is it. My door. Wood. Maybe some kind of wood veneer.

    • Oz: Devon dated her for a while, but she was too flaky for him, which, stop and marvel at the concept.
      Buffy: Guy dating Harmony dead. Must be, like, the most tolerant guy in the world.

    • Anya: I can't stop thinking about you. Sometimes, in my dreams, you're all naked.
      Xander: Really? You know, if I'm in the check-out line at Wal-Mart, I've had that same one.
      Anya: So I can assume a standing Friday night date, and a mutual recognition of prom night as our dating anniversary?
      Xander: Anya, slow down. In fact, come to a screeching halt.

    • Parker: I'm not doing the deep "get sympathy" routine. I mean, don't you just hate guys who are all, "I'm dark and brooding, so give me love."
      Buffy: I don't think I've ever met that type.

    • Devon: That was, like, the best set ever. We'll do great in LA. We're gonna have them glued to their seats.
      Willow: Uh, Devon? Aren't they supposed to dance?
      Oz: Well, we can glue them to the dance floor.
      Devon: I don't mean with real glue. You got that, right?
      Oz: I got that.

    • Willow: Buffy's looking at Parker, who, it turns out, has a reflection, so big plus there. Buffy's having lusty wrong feelings.
      Buffy: No, I'm not.
      Willow: No, you're not.
      Buffy: Oh, I so am.

    • Harmony: Being a vampire sucks!

    • Anya: You should lock your door.
      Giles: Believe me, I am kicking myself.

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

    • Buffy: Harmony is a vampire? She must be dying without a reflection.

  • NOTES (9)


    • Spike: I love Syphilis more than you.

      Syphilis is a cronic infectious disease that is transmitted primarily by sexual intercourse.
      The disease is generally characterized by skin lesions and ulcerous skin eruptions. If untreated it can cause widespread damage to the heart, brain, eyes, nervous system, bones, and joints. Late stages of syphilis can result in mental illness, blindness, severe damage to the heart and aorta, and death.

    • Xander: Really? You know, if I'm in the checkout lane at the Wal-Mart I've had the same one.

      Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. is a worldwide chain of retail stores founded by Sam Walton in 1962. Based on revenue, Wal-Mart is the largest retailer and largest company in the world. It is also the largest private employer in the United States, Mexico and Canada. $8.90 out of every $100 spent in U.S. retail stores is spent at Wal-Mart.

    • Harmony: Is Antonio Banderas a vampire?
      Antonio Banderas is a Spanish born actor who is considered to be quite the hunk. He also played the vampire Armand in the 1994 film Interview with the Vampire. Presumably this is why Harmony is asking the question.

    • Spike: Do Melanie and the kids too.
      Continuing with the idea of turning Antonio Banderas into a vampire, Spike is suggesting that Harmony also bite Melanie Griffith (Antonio's wife) and their children.

    • Giles: It's the vampire equivalent of the Holy Grail.
      Legend has it that the Holy Grail is the cup that Jesus drank from during the Last Supper, and that it was also used to catch some of his blood when he was dying on the cross. This cup became an object of great reverence, but was lost in the very early days of the Christian Church. For centuries people have spent lifetimes searching for the Grail including, most famously, the knights of King Arthur's round table. The term "Grail" or "Holy Grail" are now used to mean something that is searched for but is not real or, at least, is never found.

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