The episode begins with the last few moments of the previous episode, as Buffy comes home to find her mother Joyce lying on the couch, unresponsive. A quick flashback scene is shown featuring all of the Scoobies at the Summers' household for Christmas dinner. We rejoin the shocking events of the present as Buffy calls 911, and eventually proceeds to perform CPR on her mother, despite noticing that the body is cold. The paramedics are equally unsuccessful in their attempts at reviving her, calling the time of death shortly afterwards. Buffy calls Giles, who is the closest thing she now has to a living parent. She asks him to come over but doesn't tell him why. The paramedics inform Buffy that the coroner has been contacted and she should try not to disturb the body, and then they leave on another call. Buffy wanders the house aimlessly for a few moments. She collapses and vomits on the rug in the dining room and starts to clean it up just before Giles arrives. Giles asks what's happening, thinking it may be Glory, but then he sees Joyce and runs to her side, but stops when Buffy cries out, "We're not supposed to move the body!" The scene ends as she realizes what she has said and covers her mouth in horror.
Dawn is at school, in the middle of her art class drawing a silhouette of a body. She is nervously talking to a boy whom she obviously likes. As soon as Buffy comes into the class to ask Dawn to come into the hallway, Dawn draws a line down her picture with surprise at seeing Buffy. Dawn doesn't want to go but Buffy makes it clear that she is serious. Once in the hall, Dawn becomes upset, starting to realize that Buffy may have taken her out of class to tell her the news that she is most afraid of hearing, as her mother had been ill, but she was allegedly cured. As Dawn demands to be told what is happening, a group of kids in the hall all look while the entire class watches through the large interior windows, unable to hear the conversation. Dawn cries "no" repeatedly and collapses to the floor while the class watches. The scene ends with a shot of the silhouette drawing of a body she'd been working on.
Willow and Tara are distressed as well, and Willow reacts by becoming hysterically worried about what would be appropriate to wear to the hospital, because all her clothes have "stupid things on them." She begins to think that she can't "act like a grownup" and begins to hyperventilate. Tara comforts her with a kiss and some gentle words. Xander and Anya soon arrive at Willow's place. Xander attempts to place the blame for Joyce's death on Glory since she said she'd attack Buffy through her family and may have covered her tracks, but the others point out that Glory would want them to know she'd done it. Xander then tries blaming the doctors, and he is clearly having trouble dealing with something that revenge can't be exacted on. Anya, still struggling with the concept of being a mortal human, asks inappropriate questions regarding Joyce's death, which upset Willow further. Anya responds with a short monologue expressing her complete lack of experience with death, and her discomfort and confusion over the whole situation. After a short and uncomfortable silence, Xander punches his fist into the wall, injuring himself slightly and surprising everyone in the room. All four leave the room to go to Xander's car. Just a few moments after the door closes, Willow runs back in to quickly change her shirt for the fifth or sixth time. The scene ends with a shot of a police officer ticketing Xander's car.
At the hospital, the doctor informs Buffy that Joyce died from an aneurysm, probably almost instantly. Giles decides to help out with all the paperwork. Dawn wanders off to the washroom while the rest of the Scoobies go to fetch snacks. For a short while, Buffy and Tara are alone, and Tara tries to tell Buffy she understands her situation, since she too lost her mother.
After leaving the washroom, Dawn, in denial, decides to go to the morgue to see her mother's body. As she approaches, she hesitates when attempting to lift the sheet placed on top of her. Just then, another body arises and it turns out to be a vampire. Buffy, looking for her sister, arrives just in time and kills the vampire. Dawn then gets to see her dead mother, having accidentally pulled the sheet away in the scuffle. Buffy tells her sister not to touch their mother, saying, "It's not her." Dawn asks, mechanically, "Where did she go?" She reaches out to touch Joyce's cheek, and the episode ends just before she does so.