As the episode starts off, we see Angel and Buffy fighting in the mansion. She pins him and puts a stake er, loaf of French bread to his heart. An air of uncomfortable sexual tension results. Angel asks if he will see her this weekend, but Buffy has birthday plans. She teases Angel that she has a date, but it is with her father they have a tradition of going to an ice show for her birthday.
Later that night Giles is quizzing Buffy as to the uses of various stones and crystals, and is disappointed in her glib attitude towards the study. Buffy says that she is anxious to patrol, since Faith is on one of her "unannounced walkabouts," but actually it seems that she may still be suffering leftover sexual tension from her workout with Angel. She keeps her hands busy by toying with a crystal, which appears to be a phallic symbol, and claims she has "energy to burn."
Later still, Buffy is at the park fighting a vampire when she appears to get a dizzy spell, and suddenly the vampire is in control. He pins Buffy and takes her stake, pointing it to her chest, but she head butts him and manages to turn the stake around so that he falls on it, dusting him.
The next day, she is in the library throwing knives at a target incredibly badly. Buffy tells Giles how she got the dizzies last night and almost let a vamp stake her. She dislikes Giles' suggestion that she has a flu bug, because she wants so badly to go to the ice show. Claiming she just needs more practice, she throws another knife, breaking some glass.
At lunch, the Scooby gang is talking about the ice show that Buffy and her father go to every year. Willow says that she went backstage at "Snoopy on Ice" as a little girl, and got so scared that she threw up on Woodstock. Xander hopes that they will still have a party for Buffy, but Buffy reminds him how badly parties in her honor go ("monsters crash, people die").
After school, Buffy arrives home and sees flowers, getting excited. But it turns out they are from her father, as an apology he can't make it to the ice show because of work. Buffy is obviously crushed, but nonetheless turns down Joyce's offer to take off work and go with her.
Elsewhere, at the Sunnydale Arms boardinghouse (which is deserted) we see three men. Two of them are covering the windows with bricks, and the third, an older English gentleman, says that "the Slayer's preparation is nearly complete". They are staring at a large, human-sized, padlocked crate.
The next day, as Giles gets out the crystals for their study session, Buffy is telling him about the Ice Show how it's not just cartoon characters, but pieces from operas and ballets as well. She hints quite obviously that she wants him to take her ("If someone were free, they'd take their daughter, or student, or their Slayer."), but Giles pays no heed; he tells Buffy to look at the flaw at the center of the grounding crystal. She becomes mesmerized by it, and while she is in a daze, he takes out a syringe filled with a strange liquid. He injects he, and then brings her out of her trance. They call it a night.
The next day at school, Willow is telling Buffy about the toys she has gotten for Amy the rat she is not having any luck turning her back into a human. They are interrupted by the sight of some guy yelling at Cordelia for standing him up and making him look stupid in front of his "posse." Cordelia tells him he should expect such behavior, as she is on the rebound. He grabs her roughly as she starts to walk away, and Buffy jumps in and grabs him by the arm but she has no effect. He shoves her, knocking her to the ground, and Cordelia beats him on the chest.
Buffy goes to tell Giles what just happened, telling him she has no strength, no coordination, and that she throws knives like she's not the Slayer. Giles again brushes her off, telling her that things will sort themselves out.
Later, we see Giles in the old boardinghouse, with the other English gentleman, Quentin, who is a member of the Watcher's Council. The man says that Cruciamentum is a time-honored rite of passage for the Slayer at her 18th birthday, but Giles insists that it is "an archaic exercise in cruelty" to lock her in there, weakened and defenseless, and unleash "that" on her. The man insists that Buffy will be stronger for it. Giles leaves, and we hear shouting from another room. The three men unlock the crate, and we see that they have a vampire locked and straitjacketed into it. One of them feeds him a pill from a very long spoon, so as not to get too close, then they lock him up again.
Back in the library, the four friends are researching for info on Slayer curses. Xander says that perhaps they should be looking for something along the lines of Slayer Kryptonite. Oz says no, that kills Superman (not weakens him), and they debate the effects of various colors of Kryptonite. Willow asks Buffy what she will do if she doesn't get her powers back, and they are about to come up with the positives when Giles walks in, telling Buffy he still hasn't found out anything.
Back at the Sunnydale Arms, the two workers switch shifts as the vampire starts wailing again. One of them opens the box, then goes for water, and we see that the vampire is managing to tear the seams of his straitjacket. When the worker offers the pills to the vamp, he says that he can't reach it, bringing him close enough to reach out and grab him by the neck, choking him.
Later at the mansion, Angel is giving Buffy her birthday present, a book of poetry. She says that she likes it, but Angel doesn't think she looks too thrilled. She says she's just freaked out about not having her powers. She is worried that she has seen too much, and without her powers she might hide out, helpless, or become pathetic, telling stories of her golden days. Angel says she could never be helpless or boring, but Buffy argues that before she was the Slayer, she was even more shallow than "Spordelia." She asks Angel what she has to offer if she's not the Slayer, why he would like her; he admits that he saw her before she became the Slayer when he saw her called and that he loved her right away.
Cut to Kralik, the vampire, licking his fingers and humming a tune. Blair, the murdered worker, comes to and becomes a vampire, and goes about releasing his sire from the box. Kralik complains that he can't get this tune out of his head. He takes his pills, and tells Blair that "it's a game," and they are going to play, just not by the rules. He suggests that they find Blair's friend Hobson and "discuss it over dinner."
Later, Giles walks into to boardinghouse, calling for Quentin. No answer. He goes further in, looking around, and touches blood on the stairwell. He goes to the box, finding it empty. He opens a nearby door and finds the murdered worker, and runs out.
Buffy is walking home alone, when a construction worker asks her for a lapdance. Because she has no strength, she ignores him. She hears a man humming, then turns and walks right into Kralik. He grabs her but she gets away, leaving her jacket in his hands. She runs into the street, calling for help, where Giles happens to be driving by and she jumps into his car, barely escaping Blair.
In the library, Giles shows Buffy the syringe containing "an organic compound of muscle relaxants and adrenal suppressants," saying the effects are temporary. He tells her about the test ("a Slayer is disabled, and then trapped with a vampire foe whom she must defeat in order to pass the test."). He tells her that Kralik has escaped. Buffy throws the syringe case at him and berates him, crying. She threatens to kill him if he touches her. He promises to take care of Kralik and win back her trust. Cordelia enters, needing to research a paper, but sees their faces and asks if the world is ending. Buffy says to Giles, "I don't know you," prompting Cordy to think that she has amnesia ("He's Giles he hangs out here a lot."). Buffy asks Cordelia for a ride home, and in a moment of kindness and what looks like concern! Cordelia agrees.
At Buffy's house, Joyce hears a noise outside and opens the front door, finding a person under Buffy's jacket. Thinking it's Buffy, she reaches for her, but instead Kralik reveals himself.
Buffy arrives home (entering through the kitchen), throws her flowers in the trash, and sees that the front door is open. Taped to the doorframe is a Polaroid picture of Kralik and Joyce that says "COME" on the back. She gathers a bunch of weapons, including holy water, and puts them into a big bag, which she has a lot of trouble carrying.
Kralik has Joyce bound and gagged and is taking more pictures of her, telling her about his own mother, whom he killed and ate. He tells her that he won't kill Buffy, just make her like him, and that when she wakes up, Joyce will be the first thing she eats.
Buffy enters the boardinghouse and props the door open with a stake. She opens another door, only to find it bricked up. Behind her, Blair quietly grabs the stake, shutting the door.
Giles is at the library, when Quentin comes in. He confesses to having told Buffy, but Quentin tells him that Buffy has entered the field of play. Giles takes off.
Buffy has her not-so-faithful crossbow out, and finds the door has been locked. Blair attacks her, but she manages to push a bookcase on him and knock him out with a fireplace tool. Kralik is whispering "hide and seek," and jumps out of the crate, grabbing Buffy by the neck. She whips out her cross, but he puts it to his stomach, moaning with pleasure as it burns his skin. Buffy runs away and ends up in a room full of Polaroids of Joyce. Kralik catches her, but is hit with a pill craving. Buffy grabs the pills and runs away with them, diving into the laundry chute, where Kralik can't fit. She crashes into the basement, and finds her mom tied up. A few moments later, Kralik comes down, grabs back his pills and swallows them with a nearby glass of water. He starts to tell her something about her place in all this, when suddenly he looks startled. "Oh my...what did you my pills?" Buffy shows him her empty bottle of holy water. He disintegrates. Buffy is trying to get Joyce untied when Giles and Blair burst in, and Giles successfully stakes him.
In the library, Quentin is telling Buffy that she has passed, but she is less than thrilled. Giles, however, was also being tested and is fired on the grounds that he cannot be impartial because he has a father's love for Buffy. Quentin makes it clear that Giles is not to interfere with the new Watcher, and congratulates Buffy again, to which she responds, "Bite me." Giles tends to Buffy's wounds.
At Buffy's house the next day, the gang is discussing the events. Willow can't get over the Giles-was-fired part (she's going to write an angry letter). Buffy reassures her that he's not going anywhere, but she is eager to get her powers back...as she struggles to open a jar of peanut butter. Xander offers to help her out, but he struggles as well, and asks Willow for a hand.