"Lies My Parents Told Me" is the 17th episode in the seventh and final season of the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was originally intended to air on March 18, 2003, a day before the Angel episode "Orpheus", but was postponed due to the start of the Iraq War. The gang investigates Spike's trigger; Principal Wood and Giles team up without Buffy.
New York, 1977: Spike is fighting Nikki Wood, a Slayer whom he kills, seen in the fifth season episode "Fool for Love", in a park at night in pouring rain while her son watches from his hiding place behind a bench. Spike has the opportunity to kill her but the kid distracts him and he lets her go with the promise that they'll meet again. "Love the coat," he adds with a smile, before he leaves. When he's gone, a clearly troubled Nikki finds her son and calms his fears by telling him, "The mission is what matters."
The scene switches to an alley in present-day Sunnydale. Buffy, Principal Robin Wood, and Spike are fighting a bunch of vampires. Buffy and Spike manage to kill their quarry, but a vampire has knocked Wood to the ground, and is about to kill him. Spike saves Wood by killing the vampire from behind, then helps him up. Wood thanks him, but the camera zooms in on the stake he's holding, and we see blood dripping.
Previously, the First Evil had programmed Spike with a post-hypnotic suggestion in his mind that allows it to turn Spike violent using an old song, "Early One Morning", as a trigger. This way the First was able to command him to kill again. Buffy wants to find out how to turn it off so that she can fully trust Spike against the First, but Giles opposes Buffy. In his opinion, Spike is dangerous and must be contained or disposed of.
At the same time, the Scoobies go to the basement of Buffy's house, where Willow makes a spell with the Prokaryote stone, a magical artifact that penetrates Spike's mind and makes him more conscious of how the trigger works. During this process information about Spike's human past is revealed, including how he turned his sick mother into a vampire only to be rejected by her newly vampiric self. The song that his mother used to sing makes him relive the whole episode and switch into his evil, soulless self. He unwittingly hurts Dawn in the process and scares them all, except Buffy. Meanwhile, Willow receives a phone call from a girl named Fred and quickly leaves for Los Angeles. She apologizes to Buffy for her quick departure, but promises to be back as soon as she can.
After the previous incident, Wood privately convinces Giles that Spike must die. Giles learns that Wood is the son of Nikki, now dead, and that Spike murdered her. The two plan for Giles to distract Buffy while Wood takes care of Spike.
Giles takes Buffy on patrol and begins asking her indirect questions and making obscure references to her role against the First. In the meantime, Wood takes Spike to his hideout with the promise to protect him, but upon arrival Wood reveals to Spike that he knows Spike murdered his mother and that he's going to kill the monster inside him. Spike says he has no remorse over killing Wood's mother, and that it was "all part of the game". Wood then plays the song "Early One Morning", which triggers Spike's violent, monstrous self and the two fight. As the fight progresses, Spike continues to relive the events that transpired between him and his mother, due to the Prokaryote Stone. Wood takes advantage of Spike's flashbacks, and using weapons, knocks Spike around until he cannot stand and he then attempts to stake him. Spike regains control of his own mind, having faced his own anger and regret on turning his mother into a vampire and then being forced to kill her. Spike defeats Wood and demonstrates that the song has no more power over him, and tells Wood that the difference between his mother and Spike's mother, is that Spike's mother actually loved him back.
While Giles and Buffy are talking in the cemetery, they become involved in a fight with another vampire. Buffy realizes that Giles has been trying to distract her while Wood kills Spike. She kills the vampire, leaves Giles and rushes to Wood's place. Buffy finds Spike at Wood's place, with Wood badly beaten, but alive. Spike tells her that he spared Wood because of what he did to his mother, but if he tries anything again, he'll kill him. Buffy goes inside and tells Wood that she needs Spike alive, and that she has no time for personal vendettas. She promises him that if he tries anything like this again, she'll let Spike kill him. As she walks away, she says she has a mission to win this war - "The mission is what matters" - echoing Robin's mother's words when he was a child.
Once at home, Buffy tells Giles that his and Wood's plan failed, and shuts the door on him, saying "I think you've taught me everything I need to know."In the episode commentary David Fury notes that a major reason Caroline Lagerfelt was cast as Anne was due to her notable physical resemblance to Sarah Michelle Gellar. Also the name Anne was used because it is Buffy's middle name, although the name is never mentioned onscreen during the episode.
This marks the final time Juliet Landau plays "Drusilla" on the series. She appeared in seasons 2, 5, and 7.
In the DVD commentary, it is said that during the teaser, before Spike kills a vampire, he twirls the shovel he's using. He twirls it exactly like he did in the season 5 episode, "Fool For Love." This action is a direct homage to that episode.
In arguing against Buffy's preferential treatment of Spike, Anya says, "[Spike] could slaughter a hundred frat boys," referencing the episode "Selfless" in which Buffy tries to kill Anya after she summons a demon to kill several frat boys.
In the cemetery, Giles and Buffy discuss Buffy's refusal to consider allowing Dawn to die to save the world in the season 5 finale, "The Gift". Buffy states that she would now allow Dawn to die if necessary, which is a major deviation from Buffy's previous devotion to Dawn. This also adds to the storyline of Buffy's separation from the Scooby Gang.
Crossover with Angel: During this episode Willow receives a telephone call from Winifred Burkle, causing her to go to Los Angeles in "Orpheus".
The title, "Lies My Parents Told Me", also refers to the lies that Giles tells to arrange for Robin Wood to kill Spike.
It is revealed that the fight between Spike and Nikki Wood depicted in "Fool for Love" was not their first meeting.
Spike's trigger is "deactivated" due to the events in this episode.
This episode gives insight into what Spike was seeing every time he was triggered by the First.