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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Initiative

Spike: "And they are...? The government? Nazis? A major cosmetics company?"

Episodes like this one are the reason I've become such a big fan of this show.

We found out a lot more about the Commando Vampire Testing Lab and who is involved (I knew there was more going on with Professor Walsh than academics) and even though they're doing a lot of what Buffy does, i.e., saving the world from demons and monsters, there's something really off about the "latest in fall fascism." What are their motives? What's really going on?

Riley made some serious points with me when he punched out Parker and even more points when he befriended Willow, but let's face it, Angel is a tough act to follow. Plus how deep is Riley's involvement with The Initiative, and is he really a not-so-nice guy deep, deep down?

Sarah Michelle Gellar was so cute in this episode. Certainly she's a superhero, but she's also so endearingly vulnerable. "Ballpoints can be tricky." And she so obviously didn't know what "teutonic" meant.

But my absolute favorite bit in this episode was the Spike/Willow scene in the dorm room. It may have been one of the funniest scenes in the entire series. I was wondering how they were going to make Spike more sympathetic without giving him a soul and what a great way to do it — it's still Spike, but slightly defanged. "This doesn't make you any less terrifying." "Don't patronize me!"

Bits and pieces:

— James Marsters is finally in the cast! Which was of course a major clue that he wasn't going to die in this episode.

— The Xander/Harmony fight scene was simply adorable. Xander does put the simper in semper fi in his own Xander-like way.

— Willow is just a tad bitter, isn't she? At least she's not hiding her feelings.

— Spike is 126? Wrong.

— Oz's real name is Daniel Osbourne? Did we know that?


Riley: "There's definitely something off about her."
Graham: "Maybe she's Canadian."
I don't know why I found this one so funny, but I did.

Giles: "Well, based on Buffy's description, I believe the men that we're after look something like this."
Xander: "The latest in fall fascism."

Spike: "I always worried what would happen when that bitch got some funding."

Xander: "Might as well face it. Right now, I don't have the technical skills to join the Swiss army. And all those guys ask you to do is uncork a couple of sassy cabernets."

Willow: "Okay, say that I help, and you start a conversation. It goes great. You like Buffy, she likes you. You spend time together, feelings grow deeper, and one day, without even realizing it, you find you're in love. Time stops. It feels like the whole world's made for you two, and you two alone. Until the day one of you leaves, and rips the still-beating heart from the other, who's now a broken, hollow mockery of the human condition."
Riley: "Yep, that's the plan."
Willow: "I figured it was."

Xander: "Every man faces this moment. Here. Now. Watching. Waiting for an unseen enemy that has no face. Nerve endings screaming in silence. Never knowing which thought might be your last."
Giles: "Oh, shut up."

Riley: "I can't dance."
Willow: "Then talk. Keep eye contact. Funny is good, but don't be glib. And remember, if you hurt her, I will beat you to death with a shovel. A vague disclaimer is nobody's friend. Have fun."

Buffy: "You know, I don't want you taking this the wrong way... It's just, um... I need a little alone time now... Alone."
Riley: "Why?"
Buffy: "I need space."
Riley: "We're outdoors."
Buffy: "Emotionally."

Four out of four stakes, no question about it,

Billie Doux reviewed all of Buffy and Angel, so she knows the plural of apocalypse.


  1. I never much liked Riley or the Initiative storyline in general. But, on the positive side, it did lead to Blondie Bear interacting with the Scooby Gang more. The Spike/Willow scene was terrific, trumped only by that hilarious fight between Xander and Harmony.

  2. The fight between Xander and Harmony had me in stitches! And of course the scene between Willow and Spike was great as well. Even when Willow is bitter and jaded, she is simply adorable. I loved all of her scenes this episode.

    I had forgotten how much Giles becomes sidelined when the gang starts college. So far I'm liking season four more than I remember, but the lack of Giles makes me sad. He needs to get involved again. In fact, I miss everybody getting together to fight evil. Buffy has been doing a lot of the fighting on her own this season. Which now that I'm thinking back, I think these were my issues with the majority of season four. Oh bother. This was definitely a four star episode though. Lots of fun.

  3. This episode is a treat, I love so much about it, so many great scenes.

    Xander and Giles are fantastic.
    Xander and Harmony are fantastic - best fight scene.
    Spike and Willow are fantastic, the scene starts out really threatening and evolves into strangely touching comedy.

    I really love the link when Spike says 'I don't care how brilliant she is...' and we cut to Buffy struggling with a leaking pen 'stoopid pen'

    I had a loooooong day at work today so was happy to come home to this episode in the re-watch... it cheered me right up.

  4. I enjoyed this one more than the last few, I'm hoping it's the turning point of the season for me.

    So here are my newbie thoughts as I watched:

    I’m not liking Riley much so far, but his annoying conversation with his friend while Buffy disassembles the cafeteria line is a mundane contrast to the futuristic vampire jail that Spike wakes up in I guess.

    I really don’t get the point of the nasty psych professor – I hope there’s a payoff for her later.

    Yes, Riley is kind of like a moron! Well said, friend of Riley.

    Oh Willow, sad and bitter monologue yet still so cute.

    Harmony and Spike are still fun to watch and kind of disturbing.

    Willow with Riley at the party might actually make me like him. “A vague disclaimer is nobody’s friend.” Hee!

    Riley and his buddies are demon hunters and the prof is their Giles? This could be epic or ridiculous. Also, how do all these people find time for these double lives?

    Spike & Willow – I can’t help but like them together. Oh, she comforts him over his performance issue and he saves her from friendly fire from the demon hunters.

    The implant to control the vampires is interesting. Lots of ways they could go with this story. I'm hopeful anyway.

  5. Like Mark, I'm not a huge fan of the season 4 arc, so when I watch episodes from this season I usually stick to standalones (I swear, this season had the best standalones). I forgot how great this episode was.

    Riley and Buffy trying to get rid of each other so that they could catch Spike separately. Spike trying to bite Willow but having performance issues. Willow helping Riley out on his Buffy quest. It was all totally awesome. :D

  6. I enjoy this episode, too, and like all of the aspects if it that everyone else likes. Xander and Harmony, Xander and Giles, Willow and Spike,and even Willow and Riley.

    I never disliked Riley as much as some do, but I have to say thatnwatchingnthis again after so many times, his antiquated language started to grate on me - "court" -- seriously, who says that in recent times?

    I do find Riley and Willow to be a fun pairing, though. He seems more suited to Willow than to Buffy.

  7. Suzanne - THANK YOU! That always bugged me too. I think it was meant to show that he was charming and old-fashioned, but for me, Riley is old-fashioned in the wrong way...

  8. Finally! Spike is in the cast and we can all breathe a happy sigh.

    One of the funnier episodes, for the two scenes mentioned by so many. Harmony/Xander is laugh out loud funny, but Spike/Willow is one of the great exchanges in the entire series. While I am not often a fan of the double entendre, it works here.

    I'm a Riley fan. While I agree that some of his language and his actions are old fashioned, they charm me rather than annoy me.

  9. I remember watching this on live television: the Willow / Spike scene first made my heart leaped out of my chest, then after commercial break, made me double over laughing. I cant remember too many TV shows that do this.

  10. What everyone else said - I loved this episode. Riley isn't my favourite but he's okay and he is a stand up guy and Buffy deserves at least one of those.

  11. Ugh. Season four is almost my least favorite season...I didn't like Riley when the show originally aired and while I like him more on the re-watch, I'm still not a fan. I didn't mind the Initiative, but the military stuff and Professor Walshe got old fast. It's interesting to compare the Initiative to Joss' The Cabin in the Woods movie though - very similar concept.

  12. I had guessed that the strange paramilitary guys prowling the campus were some sort of monster patrol, since lord knows they'd need that in Sunnydale. And given that it's a university, capturing the monsters and studying them experimentally makes perfect sense. Though wouldn't it be more interesting for biology/medicine than psychology? Certainly didn't see Riley's involvement with them coming.

    I'm just glad to see Buffy shed the post-Parker blues and regain enough self-confidence to talk back to Walsh. But am I the only one bothered by the ethics of a T.A. wanting to date a student in the class?


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