In a deserted, suburban high school, two teenagers are breaking in. A good-looking young guy leads his blonde, innocent looking date in through the window. The two walk hand in hand down the empty hallway, heading for the top of the gym. "I don't want to go up there," the blonde says nervously. He leers at her seductively. Clearly, the two are looking for a place to make out. Just as they are about to kiss, she pulls away nervously. "I heard a noise," she says, fearfully. Reluctantly, he goes to investigate and finds nothing. He reassures her there's nothing there. "Okay," she says and turns back. Suddenly, her lovely face transforms into a monster! With a growl, she leaps forward and bites into her shocked date's neck.
Somewhere else, a teenage girl sleeps fitfully; visions of cemeteries, monsters, and rivers of blood interrupting her rest. She jerks awake just in time to hear her mother call her name. This is Buffy Summers, the Vampire Slayer. Her room is like any other teenagers, except that unpacked boxes litter the carpet. Apparently, Buffy is new in town.
On the sidewalk outside of Sunnydale High, Xander Harris is menacing schoolmates on his skateboard. This is not out of any particular malice, so much as inability to control the board. He looks over to see Buffy walking into the school and promptly falls off his board. Seconds later, Willow appears smiling over him. They walk into school together, talking about schoolwork and tutoring. She tells him to get a book from the library for their study session. These two are obviously good friends. Inside the school, they find their friend Jesse, who has also noticed the new girl. Xander presses for details, but Jesse just says, "New girl!" Xander is annoyed. "Well, you're certainly a font of nothing," he complains.
Meanwhile, Buffy is sitting in the principal's office, preparing for her first day of school. Principal Flutie tears up her colorful school record only to tape it back together when he notices that it says she burned down the school gymnasium. She starts to explain that the gym was full of vampires, but stops when she realizes that explanation probably isn't going to make him feel better. Outside his office, she bumps into another student, spilling the contents of her backpack all over the floor. Xander sees this, and seizes the opportunity to introduce himself to the new girl. As they gather her things, he stumbles over his words, clearly enamored with this pretty, new student. As Buffy leaves, he notices she left something behind and calls out to her to stop. "Oh, hey! You forgot your… stake." Oblivious, Buffy continues walking down the hall. Xander is confused.
In history, Buffy meets Cordelia, a pretty and popular student. Cordelia quickly befriends her and offers to direct her to the library. Along the way, Cordelia tests Buffy's coolness factor, and decides Buffy will fit in just fine. The two seem to be on their way to becoming fast friends, when they run into Willow at the water fountain. Cordelia's sweet tone immediately becomes vicious as she tears into Willow, mocking her choice of clothing. Buffy is silent and stares after Willow, as she walks away.
Buffy heads into the school's cavernous library to pick up some textbooks. There she meets Giles, the school librarian. She starts to ask him for her textbooks, when he suddenly whips out a book titled Vampyr – the same book that appeared in her nightmares. "That's not what I'm looking for," she says quietly, and backs away slowly. Giles is confused. He puts the book away and starts to ask Buffy another question, but she has already left the room, the door swinging shut behind her.
In the girl's locker room, two girls are gossiping about Buffy. "The chatter in the cafeteria is that she was starting fights," one of them snipes. As they continue to dish the dirt on Buffy's past, one of the girls opens her locker. Suddenly, a dead body falls out!
Outside, it's lunch time. Willow is sitting on a bench opening her lunch bag when Buffy approaches. The two chat but Willow is uncertain why Buffy, who clearly could be popular, is choosing to sit with her. But Buffy's sweet persona disarms her and the two quickly hit it off. Soon, Xander and Jesse appear, both of them competing for the attention of the new girl. Their banter is interrupted however, when Cordelia appears with the news that gym is cancelled "due to the extreme dead guy in the locker." Buffy is totally freaked out to hear the news and immediately rushes off to investigate. She finds the body of the dead boy, and it's revealed to be the same boy that broke into the school. She sees two bite marks on his neck. "Oh, great," she snarls.
Buffy heads off to the library to confront Giles. She tells him that she has retired from slaying. He argues with her, perplexed by her attitude. She tells him if he's so keen on slaying, then why doesn't he do it. Because, he explains, he's the Watcher, not the Slayer. Buffy is frustrated. "Why can't you people just leave me alone," she cries. "Because you are the Slayer," Giles begins, his speech memorized. "Into each generation, a Slayer is born. One girl in all the world, a Chosen One, one born with the strength and skill to hunt the vampires, to stop the spread of their evil." She cuts him off, telling him she's both been there and done that. He tells her that her arrival in Sunnydale is no coincidence; that Sunnydale sits atop a center of mystical convergence, otherwise known as the hellmouth. It's a place that attracts the most evil of evils, the vilest of the vile. There is reason the Slayer is there, and there is a reason that she is there now. Buffy refuses to listen and stomps from the library. Giles rushes after her. And upstairs, stands Xander, who has heard their entire conversation. "What?!" he says, mystified.
Deep underground, a lair comes into view. It is lit entirely by candles. People are scattered around, some holding torches, others cowering on the ground. A small pool of blood appears – this is the lair from Buffy's dream. A vampire is praying over the blood. "The sleeper will wake, and the world will bleed," he intones.
At the Summers' home, Buffy is preparing to go to The Bronze. She goes through her outfits, not pleased with any of her choices. Her mother comes in to ask about her plans and Buffy tells her she's going to a club. "Oh. Will there be boys there?" she asks. "No Mom. It's a nun club," Buffy jokes.
Finally having chosen an outfit, Buffy heads out for The Bronze. Along the way, she senses someone behind her. She heads down an alleyway. When the person follows, she swings down from her hiding place, knocking him over and pinning him with her foot. The stranger tells her not to worry. "I don't bite," he says. She lets him up, but stays in her fighting stance, not sure that she trusts this handsome stranger. He tells her she has to be ready for The Harvest… but he doesn't explain what that means. Just before he leaves, he gives her something. She opens the velvet box, and sees the silver cross necklace that appeared in her nightmare.
Buffy heads into The Bronze, dancing for a minute to the Seattle grunge music, so popular in the late nineties. She sees Willow sitting at a table and heads over to join her. They talk about boys and dating. Willow tells Buffy that she can't really talk to boys she likes. Buffy offers her philosophy on life. "Seize the moment," she says brightly, "cause tomorrow you might be dead!" Willow mulls over the words thoughtfully, taking them in. Buffy sees Giles standing on the second floor and heads off, promising to return.
Upstairs, Buffy teases Giles for partying with the students. He is indignant, and tells her he'd much rather be home with a cup of tea and a good book. They talk and Buffy tells Giles about her encounter with the handsome stranger. He is very interested to hear more about The Harvest and the mouth of hell that Angel mentioned, but Buffy has no more information. Giles digests her words, and then tells her to look at the crowd of dancing, partying kids, who are "completely unaware of the danger that surrounds them." "Lucky them," Buffy mutters.
Downstairs, Cordelia is gossiping with her friends. Jesse approaches and asks her to dance. She blows him off and walks off into the crowd. Burned, Jesse tries to recover, looking around for his next conquest.
Back on the landing, Buffy is telling Giles that sure, if she runs into a vampire, she'll kill him. She just isn't planning to get "way extracurricular" with it. Giles ignores this statement, and tells her that she hasn't honed her Slayer senses properly. He encourages her to try and sniff out a vampire in the room. "There's one," she points. Giles is skeptical, not believing her. "Trust me," she says. "Only someone living underground for ten years would think that was still the look." Suddenly, the vampire moves and reveals his date: it's Willow. Buffy is worried, and rushes off to save her. Unfortunately, she loses her in the crowd.
In the back of the club, she finds some old chairs. She breaks off the leg to use as a stake and moves deeper into the shadows. Suddenly, someone moves up behind her. Buffy whirls, grabs the person by the neck and throws her against the wall. With the stake pointed at her chest, she is just ready to dust the vampire, when she sees she has mistakenly grabbed. Mortified, she lowers Cordelia to the ground. "God, what is your childhood trauma?" Cordelia rages. Buffy asks her if she's seen Willow but Cordelia just tosses off a snotty remark. Buffy rushes off to find Willow, too busy and too embarrassed to try to explain. She runs into Giles, who is shocked when Buffy tells him she hasn't found Willow. He offers to come with her to find Willow but Buffy tells him to stay put. "One vampire I can handle," she says.
But, unbeknownst to Buffy, it's not just one vampire. Because Jesse, still looking for a dance partner, has found an all too willing and very pretty dance partner; it's Darla, the innocent looking blonde vampire. And Buffy, busy saving Willow, doesn't know a thing about it.
In the underground lair, a slender figure rises from a pool of blood. The praying vampire smiles and bows to the ground, as the other vampire rises. The risen vampire reaches for the hand of his kneeling follower. "Master," the follower, Luke, says with reverence. Luke's plan has worked—his Master has risen, but is still weak. The Master waves his hand over the air, and hits an invisible barrier. Luke promises The Master that he will be restored and free at the coming Harvest.
Back above ground, Willow has left the Bronze with the attractive vampire. Unaware of his true nature, Willow suggests they go to an ice cream shop. The vampire suggests a shortcut and leads her into a dark cemetery. Meanwhile, Buffy sees Xander outside the Bronze. He makes a pointed comment about slaying vampires. Buffy is startled. "Is there anyone in this town who doesn't know I'm the Slayer?" Xander is skeptical, but Buffy's serious air finally convinces him she isn't joking.
Willow is nervous as they walk deeper into the cemetery. The vampire stops outside a crypt and tries to entice Willow to go in. When she declines, he pushes her inside. Willow's nervousness turns to raw fear as the vampire stares at her hungrily. She starts to rush for the stairs, but suddenly Darla is there, blocking her way. Confused and afraid, Willow backs up farther, not sure what is happening. Suddenly, Jesse appears in the doorway, bleeding from his throat. Willow is shocked to see him and tries to rally him into leaving. "Oh, you're not going anywhere," Darla drawls. "You're not going anywhere… until we've fed!" Her face transforms into the visage of a vampire and Willow screams, terrified.
Just then, Buffy and Xander appear at the door of the crypt and as Buffy walks in, completely unafraid, throwing insults at the two vampires. Game face on, the two vampires circle the Slayer, unsure what to make of this new arrival. Darla and Buffy talk, while the other vampire tries to sneak up behind Buffy. But Buffy is ready, and thrusts a stake into his chest, without even turning to look. He falls and turns to dust in seconds. Darla is stunned. "See what happens when you roughhouse," Buffy jeers. She tells Xander to go. As Buffy and Darla fight, Xander and Willow grab the weakened Jesse, and help him from the crypt.
Buffy gets the upper hand in the fight, pinning Darla to the ground with her foot. Suddenly, the vampire Luke grabs Buffy from behind, holding her in the air by her neck. He throws her across the crypt and into a cement wall, where she falls to the ground; momentarily stunned by the blow. Luke is irritated with Darla for dallying with the Slayer, while she was supposed to be finding food for The Master. Darla warns him that Buffy is strong: she still doesn't know that Buffy is the Slayer. Luke instructs Darla to go back to the lair, while he sees if he can "handle the little girl." Darla rushes out of the crypt.
Buffy stands up a bit unsteadily as Luke advances on her. She recovers quickly and throws a series of punches and kicks to his torso. Luke, despite himself, is impressed. "You're strong," he acknowledges. "I'm stronger," he says, and delivers a strong blow to her jaw.
In the cemetery, Willow, Xander, and Jesse are running to safety. "We'll get the police," Willow suggests, "it's just a few blocks up." But the three come to a dead stop when several leering vampires surround them.
Buffy leaps across the room, kicking Luke into the wall. He falls. She grabs a stake and is just about to drive it into his heart, when his hand reaches up and stops her in midair. He grabs the stake, breaking it with his bare hand. Buffy stares at him wide-eyed. He tosses her across the room and leaning over her menacingly, begins to recite a passage from one of Giles's books. "And like a plague of boils, the race of man covered the Earth. But on the third day of the newest light would come the Harvest. And the blood of men will flow as wine," intones Luke reverently, "When the Master will walk among them once more!" As he recites, a montage of images appear; Giles, reading in the library; The Master, on his throne; Willow, Jesse, and Xander surrounded by vampires, as Darla joins the fray. "The Earth will belong to the old ones," Luke continues, "and Hell itself will come to town." He throws Buffy into the open coffin. Finally frightened, she stares up at the ceiling, looking for Luke. Seeing and hearing nothing, she cautiously starts to sit up. But then, Luke leaps into the coffin, landing catlike on top of her. She gasps. "Amen," he finishes. He lowers his mouth down to her neck, fangs stretched wide.