Ruby Rose sits forlornly at a table before her thoughts are interrupted by Weiss Schnee. Weiss presents Ruby with two seemingly identical table cloths to choose from for the Beacon Dance. Ruby is indifferent, much to her teammate's dismay, being preoccupied with her worries about Blake Belladonna, who has not been sleeping lately due to her obsession with Roman Torchwick and the White Fang. However, Yang Xiao Long reassures Ruby and Weiss that Blake will definitely be going to the dance, which takes place on the following day.
Blake, still in her sleep-deprived state, is seen sitting in the library, working at a holographic display. However, a red laser pointer catches her attention, much to her irritation. She gets up and follows the laser pointer to its source - Yang, who quickly grabs her and tells her that they need to talk. Concurrently, Lie Ren is seen contentedly exiting the shower clad only in a towel, before being yanked away by Jaune Arc, who claims that they too need to talk.
Back at the JNPR dorm rooms, Jaune speaks with Ren, someone he considers one of his best friends and "the brother he never had", about his trouble with girls, and asks for advice in getting Weiss to return his affections. Pyrrha Nikos enters the room and tells Jaune to drop the gimmicks, pickup-lines and his whole act, and simply be honest with Weiss. Jaune, buoyed by this advice, thanks Ren and Pyrrha and rushes off to talk with Weiss.
Nora Valkyrie, who had overheard the conversation, tells a downcast Pyrrha to "practice what you preach." That night, Jaune goes to ask Weiss to the dance, but he is crestfallen when he sees Weiss already asking Neptune Vasilias to accompany her. He leaves, dejected.
Meanwhile, Yang and Blake talk alone in an empty classroom. Blake is still unwilling to stop her efforts in finding and stopping Torchwick and the White Fang, despite the protestations of her teammates. Yang tells her that she does not need to stop, merely slow down, and not let her obsession take over her life. Yang then speaks about her youth.
Yang and Ruby grew up in Patch, an island off the coast of Vale, while their father was a teacher at Signal Academy and their mother, a Huntress, would take on missions. One day, though, Summer did not return from a mission, leaving Yang, Ruby and their father utterly heartbroken. However, Yang then reveals that Ruby and Yang's father had in fact lost another lover once before: Yang's actual biological mother, who had left shortly after her birth under mysterious circumstances. Yang became obsessed with finding her mother, to the extent that it took over her life entirely. One day, as a child, intent to follow a possible lead, Yang journeyed out with Ruby to a remote area, where they are unexpectedly attacked by Grimm. Exhausted from the journey, Yang was powerless to fight back, and both sisters would have died if not for the timely intervention of their uncle Qrow Branwen, who killed the beasts and saved the pair.
Yang confides that she still continues her search, but does not recklessly let her obsession drive her life, and urges Blake to do the same and calm down for just one night. Blake still resists, causing Yang to become angered. Yang claims that in her current state, Blake would not be able to fight her, let alone Torchwick. Yang hugs Blake and asks her to slow down, not just for herself, but for the people she cares about. Yang then promises her a dance. Blake softens and agrees to slow down, following up on her partner's proposition.
On the day of the dance, Yang, Weiss and Ruby are overjoyed to see that Blake has decided to attend. Blake and Yang share a dance before she hands her over to her date, Sun Wukong. Satisfied that their mission has been accomplished, Yang and Weiss dash off to "have fun", leaving Ruby alone until Ozpin approaches her. Ruby declares to him that she does not like dancing, but Ozpin notes the similarities between dancing and fighting, before concluding that events like this help to keep the bonds between friends strong.
The opening ends to the view of a glum Ruby resting her head on her hand and staring into the distance before she is startled by someone slamming their palms on the table she is at.
Weiss: (smiling) I need you to pick a tablecloth. (slides two squares over to Ruby, both seeming to be similar shades of white)
Ruby: (confused) Aren't they both the same?
Weiss: (sighs in frustration) I don't even know why I asked!
Weiss walks out of the scene as Yang comes in carrying a massive sound speaker on her shoulder, which bounces her sister and the table she's moping on again to jump in the air when she drops it on the ground.
Yang: (brushing her hands as she approaches Ruby) So, have you picked out a dress yet?
Ruby: What's the point? Who cares about the dance if Blake isn't going?
Yang: Oh, don't worry; she's going. (looks over off-screen, exasperated) Weiss! I thought we agreed: No doilies!
Weiss: (walks up to Yang, pointing in her face) If I don't get doilies, you don't get fog machines!
The girls are interrupted by the sound of doors opening.
Neptune: (walking in with Sun) Your dance is gonna have fog machines?
Weiss: (stepping up to him, becoming sweet) We were thinking about it...
Neptune: That's pretty cool.
Sun: (coming into the scene, acting suave to Weiss' ire) You ladies all excited for dress-up?
Ruby: Pfft... Yeah, right!
Yang: Laugh all you want. I'll be turning heads tomorrow night!
Weiss: (addressing Sun and Neptune) What are you two wearing?
Sun: Uuhhh... this? (gestures to his current shirtless outfit)
Neptune: (steps up and holds a hand in front of his friend's face.) Ignore him for he knows not what he says.
Yang: (mirroring Ruby's and Weiss' looks of being told something extremely obvious) Yeah, we noticed.
Sun: (rubbing the back of his head, preparing to ask:) Soooo... what does Blake think of all this? She still being all, y'know... Blake-y?
Weiss: Obviously. (turns and crosses her arms in disapproval)
Ruby: I still can't think of a way to change her mind.
Yang: Guys. (everyone looks at her as she starts walking out) Trust me; Blake will be at the dance tomorrow.
The Faunus herself is sitting at one of the library tables with a holographic screen in front of her. She is obviously more sleep-deprived than ever, barely focusing on what she's seeing... until a small, bright red light appears on the screen. Moving up and down, Blake's eyes follow it down to her hand, then disappears entirely. She looks behind herself, obviously irritated, but no one walking among the tables is her culprit.
Turning back to the computer, she starts typing on the beeping keyboard before the laser dot appears on her hand briefly, prompting her to look around again and still find no one. The red point shows up on the screen, moving around in circles until Blake scowls and pounds her fists on the table. She stands up from her chair and finds the light on the floor, following it blindly through shelves of books until both the dot and its pursuer turn the corner, only for Blake to bump, shocked and shaken out of her more "animal" instincts, into...
Yang: (waving with her left hand as her right holds the laser pointer, in a sing-song voice:) He-lloooo!
Blake: What are you...?
Yang: (grabs Blake's arm) We need to talk.
And with that, amid Blake's single cry of surprise, Yang whisks her partner out of the scene.
Emerging from the steaming bathroom in nothing but a pink towel wrapped around his lower body, Ren sighs in contentedness and starts walking away, only to be stopped by Jaune suddenly appearing in front of him.
Jaune: We need to talk!
And with that, amid Ren's single cry of surprise, Jaune pulls his teammate away, leaving his bottle of "Samurai Shampoo" to spin in the air before dropping to the ground.
Jaune: (sitting on his bed in the dorm room, talking to Ren off-screen) Ren... I'm just gonna say it. You are one of my best friends. These past few months, I feel like we've really bonded, even though you don't say much. I mean, you're really quiet. To be perfectly honest, I don't know that much about you, personally, but darnit, I consider you to be the brother I never had!
Ren: (camera pans out enough to see that he is still only wearing his towel and looking extremely uncomfortable, but he still nods and smiles to Jaune when he's done) And I you. (tries to be attentive from then on, but keeps glancing at his usual outfit hanging by the door)
Jaune: Which is why I wanted to get your advice on... girls.
Ren: Girls? (sounds surprised, but starts reaching out for his clothes while Jaune is looking away)
Jaune: (trying to find the right words) I just... don't know... how to... girls. Um, I-I guess what I'm asking is... Well, how did you and Nora... y'know...
Ren: (puts his hand down after almost touching the green robe, but looks even more awkward now) Uh... uh... uh...
Nora: (clears her throat to get the boys' attention on her, wearing nothing but her emblazoned headphones, a "BOOP" T-shirt, and pink lightning bolt shorts as she reads a book resting on her knees, before she laughs nervously) We're actually not "together-together..."
Jaune: NORA I SAID HEADPHONES ON!
Nora does so quickly under her leader's command.
Ren: (focusing on his friend fully) Jaune, what is this all about?
Jaune: (sighs deeply before speaking, obviously depressed by staring at the floor as he talks) It's Weiss. I'm completely head-over-heels for her, and she won't even give me a chance. She's cold, but she's also incredible. She's smart, and graceful, and talented. I mean, have you heard her sing? I-I just wish she's take me seriously, y'know? I wish I could tell her how I feel without messing it all up.
Pyrrha: (off-screen) Then do it.
Jaune: (looks up to see Pyrrha in the doorway, with Ren and Nora doing the same) Uh, wha?
Pyrrha: (walking into the room) Tell her exactly what you said. No ridiculous schemes, no pick-up lines. Just... be honest.
Jaune: But what if I-
Pyrrha: Jaune. (smiles) You can't get it wrong if it's the truth.
Jaune: (looks up with a new confidence) You're right. (stands up) Thanks, Pyrrha! (looks back to his bed as he goes out) Good talk, Ren!
Ren smiles and waves his thanks while Jaune closes the door. Upon doing so, Pyrrha becomes noticeably less cheerful as she walks over to her desk, with a concerned Nora watching her with sad eyes.
Nora: (sighs) Practice what you preach, Pyrrha.
Blake: Yang, if you're going to tell me to stop, you may as well save your breath.
Yang: (sitting cross-legged on the central desk of the empty classroom they're in, orange light shining across her calm features) I don't want you to stop; I want you to slow down.
Blake: (continuing to pace with arms crossed, still irritated) I don't have the luxury to slow down.
Yang: It's not a luxury; it's a necessity.
Blake: The "necessity" is stopping Torchwick.
Yang: And we're going to. But first you have to sit down and listen to what I have to say. (pats the part of the desk across from her)
Blake: (looks away for a moment until she relents and drapes her legs over the desk's edge) Fine.
Yang: Ruby and I grew up in Patch, an island off the coast of Vale. Our parents were Huntsmen. Our dad taught at Signal, and our mom took on missions around the kingdom. Her name was Summer Rose, and she was, like... Super-Mom: Baker of cookies and slayer of giant monsters. And then... one day she left for a mission and never came back. (looks down as she says this, and Blake looks sorry for her) It was tough. Ruby was really torn up, but... I think she was still too young to really get what was going on, y'know? And my dad just kind of... shut down. It wasn't long before I learned why. Summer wasn't the first love he lost; she was the second. The first... was my mom. (Blake looks amazed at this information as Yang keeps talking) He wouldn't tell me everything, but I learned that the two of them had been on a team together with Summer and Qrow, and that she'd left me with him right after I was born. No one had seen her since.
Blake: Why did she leave you?
Yang: (sighs, then turns to the chalkboard) That question... Why? (gets off the desk and walks to the chalkboard, picking up a piece of chalk) I didn't know an answer, but I was determined to find out. It was all I thought about. I would ask anyone I could about what they knew about her.
As the reminiscent blonde starts drawing on the board, the scene shifts to a flat-painted flashback of a young Yang, with orange bows holding her brunette pigtails, looking at the photo found in a smashed picture frame.
Yang: (off-screen) Then, one day, I found something. What I thought was a clue that could lead me to answers, or maybe even my mother.
The next shot shows Yang walking down a long winding path through the towering trees shedding their leaves with a little creaking wagon pulled right behind her, a little sister in a crimson hood sleeping soundly inside.
Yang: (off-screen) I waited for Dad to leave the house, put Ruby in a wagon, and headed out. I must've walked for hours. I had cuts and bruises, I was totally exhausted, but I wasn't gonna let anything stop me. When we finally got there, I could barely stand, but I didn't care; I had made it. And then I saw them. Those burning red eyes...
In the shadows of the worn-down house the siblings had arrived at, beastly red shapes glow from the darkness.
Yang: (off-screen, while her younger self looks petrified) There we were: A toddler sleeping in the back of a wagon and a stupid girl too exhausted to even cry for help. We might as well have been served on a silver platter. But, as luck would have it, our uncle showed up just in time.
As the Beowolves leap into the air to devour their young prey, the familiar sound of a gun-scythe follows the sight of them all being cut into pieces by a caped warrior. His bird-haired silhouette fades away to present day, where Yang has just finished drawing a clockwork eye.
Yang: My stubbornness should've gotten us killed that night.
Blake: Yang... I'm sorry that happened to you, and I understand what you're trying to tell me, but this is different. I'm not a child, and this isn't just a search for answers! I can't just-
Yang: (still facing the board, fists clenching) I told you: I'm not telling you to stop! I haven't! To this day, I still want to know what happened to my mother and why she left me, but I will never let that search control me. We're going to find the answers we're looking for, Blake. But if we destroy ourselves in the process, what good are we?
Blake: You don't understand! I'm the only one who can do this!
Yang: No, you don't understand! (turns around sharply to reveal red eyes and the sound of flames) If Roman Torchwick walked through that door, what would you do?
Blake: I'd fight him!
Yang: You'd lose! (pushes Blake away)
Blake: I can stop him! (tiredly tries to do the same to Yang, but she doesn't even budge)
Yang: You can't even stop me!
She pushes Blake again, knocking her to land on the desk. Yang, still angry-eyed, walks toward Blake as she gets up, but then does the unexpected and embraces her in a hug, her eyes going back to their normal purple.
Yang: I'm not asking you to stop. Just please, get some rest. (pulls back to look at her partner) Not just for you, but for the people you care about. (steps away and starts walking past the startled Blake, who turns when she says over her shoulder:) And if you feel like coming out tomorrow, I'll save you a dance.
Yang winks down at Blake, and Blake stares at Yang as she leaves before sighing heavily and walking away, leaving the all-seeing eye on the board.
The white rose in Jaune's hand bounces up and down as its smiling owner walks through Beacon Academy until he stops at the entrance of a hallway with the sound of a certain voice, causing him to duck behind the columns outside.
Weiss: Neptune! (she walks past Jaune as he peeks around the corner and goes up to Neptune)
Neptune: Oh, uh, hey, what's up?
Weiss: I know this is a little unorthodox, but... I wanted to ask you something. (she puts her hands behind her back trying to look innocent as Jaune drops his smile and recoils at the oncoming words) Would you... like to accompany me to the dance tomorrow?
While Neptune rubs the back of his head and smiles with raised eyebrows, Jaune loses all of his confidence and drops the rose on the ground before walking back from where he came from.
The sight of the lonely, abandoned rose turns into a large collection of the same flowers, one dropping outward, in a large vase behind Yang, now in a short white dress with black heels as she stands at a podium. The doors in front of her open and she flips out upon seeing who walks in.
Yang: Ooohh, you look beautiful!
Ruby: (groans as she looks distressed in her red dress with black lace, belt, and pumps) Can we have a serious talk about how Weiss fights in these? (tries to maintain her balance as she walks to the podium, much to her laughing sister's amusement)
Meanwhile outside, Sun is seen walking around and wearing a new black jacket (now closed up) with a white tie hung around his neck, which he proceeds to fight with before going inside.
Sun: Stupid... dumb... neck trap!
Blake: (off-screen) I knew you'd look better in a tie.
Sun stops his struggling and stares at the dark purple dress worn by Blake, now looking like she traded her dark bags for violet eyeshadow, as she steps forward and takes him by the arm.
Sun: Sooo, does this mean we're going... together?
Blake: Technically, though my first dance is spoken for.
Inside the ballroom, streamers are hung through glass chandeliers, pink and blue balloons are everywhere, and students in dark suits and bright dresses are stepping with each other to the music between the white-clothed tables. Blake is spun around by Yang before they curtsey to one another, and Sun comes up and takes his date's hands as Yang gestures for him to do so. She goes to hang with Ruby and Weiss (in a similar white dress as Yang's) in the back of the room, watching Blake laugh and enjoy herself before smiling at her team.
Yang: I told you she would come.
Weiss: Mission accomplished.
Ruby: (turning to her teammates) Soooo, what do we do now?
Yang: Just have fun! (she proceeds to walk away and do so, with Weiss going the opposite direction and leaving Ruby behind)
Ruby: (Shouting after Yang:) Does that mean I can change out of these stupid things and into my hood now? (upon receiving no answer, she waddles around in her painful footwear) Stupid lady stilts!
Ozpin: Not enjoying yourself?
Ruby: (surprised to see the headmaster step up by her side, but shakes her head and laughs) Oh, no, everything's fine! I'm just not much of a fancy pantsy... dancey girl.
Ozpin: Well, you can't spend your whole life on the battlefield, even if you may want to.
Ruby: (crossing her arms, looking annoyed) Yeah, that lesson's been floating around a lot lately.
Ozpin: (staring out at the dancing couples) If you think about it, fighting and dancing aren't so different. Two partners interlocked, although one wrong move on the ballroom merely leads to a swollen foot.
Ruby: (looking down at her own feet) Or a twisted ankle.
Ozpin: It's not every day that friends are able to come together like this. Time has a way of testing our bonds, but it's nights like these that can help keep them stronger than ever. Nights like these are ones we'll never forget.
Ruby smiles at the words of wisdom, but turns her head at the sound of the doors opening. Yang is back behind the podium, and smiles at the new arrivals.
Yang: You guys are just in time!
Mercury: (as he and Emerald step in with their ballroom best on before the screen goes black and the credits roll:) Wouldn't miss it for the world.
- The name of the episode is a shortened version of the phrase "burning the candle at both ends", which means to harshly exhaust oneself, usually working with very minimal sleep or rest.
- This episode was the first episode announced that Monty himself did not animate.
- The shampoo that Ren holds, Samurai Shampoo, is a reference to the anime Samurai Champloo.
- During the dance, a pair of DJs wearing helmets can be seen. They appear to be modeled after French electronic music duo Daft Punk.
- When Mercury and Emerald arrive in their formal attire, their outfits' colors resemble the colors of the Red vs. Blue antagonists Locus and Felix.
- Blake's feline side is further explored with the laser pointer (cats are intrigued and attracted by lasers).
- Younger Yang's pigtails in the flashback sequence are a reference to her voice actor, Barbara Dunkelman, who also had pigtails when she was younger.
- The song Nora is listening to on her headphones is the track "Gold" from the RWBY: Volume 1 Soundtrack.
- The text on the chalkboard at 6:10 (enlarged) is an extract from a poem about Huginn and Muninn, two ravens from Norse mythology. The text supposedly reads:
- Hugin and Munin fly each day over the spacious earth.
- I fear for Hugin, that he not come back, yet more anxious am I for Munin.
- The symbol that Yang draws on the chalkboard is her uncle Qrow's emblem, but reversed. His emblem is seen during the flashback sequence behind Qrow's shadow as he saves Yang and Ruby.
- The incident recounted in this episode, where a young Ruby and Yang were almost killed by Beowolves, appears multiple times in flashbacks in the RWBY manga.
- Blake's "I knew you'd look better in a tie." line is a callback to Sun's "I knew you'd look better without the bow" line in "The Stray".
- The events of "Burning the Candle" are re-told in Chapter 13 of RWBY: The Official Manga.
- Main article: Burning the Candle/Image Gallery