Janes (a True Stan) and Nerdy Spice (a New Fan) are watching all of Buffy together and comparing notes. Warning: May contain spoilers for later episodes.
Season 4, Episode 19
Oz is back!
He returns just as Willow is awkwardly incorporating Tara into Scooby meetings. Not only that, but–as he reveals when they meet up later–he’s cured himself of being a werewolf. He’s out in the full moon, totally human! They talk all night, but something–quite possibly the sight of Tara being totally broken-hearted by his return–is holding Willow back. Finally she admits to Buffy that there’s something between her and Tara. As they said so many times on Dawson’s, subtext is becoming text!
When Oz figures this out–by smelling Willow on Tara, which, awkward–he totally turns back into a werewolf again, because his cure wasn’t quite complete, and his primal instincts can still turn him into a demon. He chases Tara around campus and she’s only rescued by the Initiative, who tranq Oz and bring him back to their subterranean prison.
Tara, who has maintained a very sympathetic attitude to both Oz and Willow this whole time, immediately tells Willow what happened. Unfortunately, Buffy and Riley are on the outs because Riley let slip that he thinks it’s stupid to fall in love with a demon. (He still doesn’t know that Buffy’s first love was a vampire, so all he knows is that she got very snippy and called him a “bigot.”) So the Scoobs can’t enlist Riley to help them rescue Oz. However, once Riley sees the werewolf transform back into a terrified Oz, he has a change of heart all on his own and tries to help Oz escape. Unfortunately, they’re both caught and Riley is placed in jail by the Colonel, who I guess is in charge now that Professor Walsh is gonzo.
Luckily, Buffy, with the help of Willow, Xander, and a duplicitous Spike (more on that later), breaks into the Initiative. There, she takes the Colonel hostage and uses him to free Oz. Buffy and Riley end up going into hiding at the high school, where Buffy finally tells Riley about her vampire ex-boyfriend.
Meanwhile, Willow and Oz have a talk. Willow says that she missed him but that she picks Tara, basically. He manages to not turn into a werewolf this time. And Willow shows up at Tara’s door with a candle, which Tara sexily blows out right before (presumably) they start to make out.
As for Spike’s B-plot, he and Adam team up: Adam needs Spike’s help with his plot, and in return, he’ll take Spike’s chip out. It’s not entirely clear what the plan is, but Adam says he needs “heavy casualties on both sides.” I’m guessing we’ll find out more going into the last episodes before the season finale!
Notes from a New Fan:
- I have come to the conclusion that Tara is a pretty well-written character–I like how she’s both shy and yet secure in herself to be generous with others, and how her intuition and ability to sense when things aren’t quite right, add a new dimension to the multi-talented Scooby gang. But I do not think she’s a particularly well-acted character. Is that a horrible thing to say? I’m rooting for Willow and Tara, but I don’t really feel their chemistry. It certainly doesn’t help that the show doesn’t even show the two girls kissing when they finally get their relationship going! Tara blowing out the candle is totally hot, but come on, I bet the Willow/Tara fans were SUPER PISSED that they didn’t get to see that big first kiss. (Unless maybe it’s coming in the next episode? But, knowing network TV back then, seems likely they just elided it completely.) [Yeah unfortunately it’s hard to feel the chemistry between them because the network wouldn’t allow much on-screen physical contact–supposedly Joss fought for them to kiss but didn’t succeed until next season. Although I’m not sure that the characters themselves have all that much chemistry either? –Janes]
- I laughed so hard when Spike tried to fake-out Adam and punch him in the gut, only to totally bruise his hand. So embarrassing for Spike.
- I kind of felt like, “Oh, it’s not that bad if Oz gets taken by the Initiative, they’ll put a little chip in him to make him harmless and that’s pretty much his goal anyway.” But then they keep threatening to “put him down,” and they’re torturing him with medical experiments, so… fine, I guess it’s pretty bad.
- I love how Buffy gets all mad when Riley says that demons are dangerous, and calls him a “bigot.” Like… his entire job is that he’s in an extra-legal militia that hunts down demons and holds them captive. Speaking of which, it’s also Buffy’s job to hunt demons, and I’m pretty sure her philosophy is “kill first, ask if they have a soul later, and only if they’re majorly hunky.” That’s not exactly a solid philosophical approach. Not sure she has a leg to stand on here.
- OK, Buffy tells Willow that she and Xander are going in to the Initiative and it’s too dangerous for Willow, but like… if Xander can handle it, how in the world is it too dangerous for Willow? Xander can’t handle anything! His special talent is to get knocked out in the first five minutes of every fight!
- Spike and Buffy are still flirting like it’s their job the minute Spike shows up to Giles’s. “Oh, now, none of that,” he practically coos at her when she insults him. I love it.
Notes from a True Stan:
- Buffy calling Riley a “bigot” because he thinks they should kill all demons is… a little bizarre? Buffy has only given like, three demons the benefit of the doubt, and otherwise indiscriminately kills them all, so does that make her a “bigot” too?
- Buffy when she sees Riley doing push-ups in the morning. “And then you can eat a balanced breakfast, and then you can call your mother.” Yes! Buffy’s finally seeing the light.
- Aw, I missed Oz.
- Buffy’s palpable discomfort when Willow comes out is somewhat realistic for the early aughts, but so cringey. Yikes.
- Oz went all the way to “somewhere in Tibet” to get his werewolfism under control, and instead he basically just made it impossible to make sure he’s locked up when he turns. So he made the problem worse?
- Speaking of making problems worse, has Oz’s werewolf suit somehow gotten cheesier?
- Every time Adam comes on screen I’ve forgotten he exists.
- When Anya makes a comment about the Initiative eviscerating Oz, Xander responds, “An, you can help by making this a quiet time.” Why are they together.
- Heh, I like that the Initiative is wrong about literally everything: “I always suspected that werewolves being controlled by the lunar cycle was campfire talk.”
- I also like that Xander gets to hold a gun while they storm the Initiative, presumably because he was GI Joe for one night in season two. They’re still milking that.
- Buffy threatens to “go all William Burroughs” on the Initiative leader, which is a dark joke. When the dumb Initiative guys are flummoxed, Xander responds, “You’ll… bore them to death with free prose?”, which is a GREAT joke.
- Riley’s conflict with the Initiative has been brewing for so long, but it all comes to a head over Oz, whom he’s only met once? The plotting this season is so weird.
- Also weird that Buffy’s reasoning for forgiving Riley’s “bigotry” is based on her own bigotry towards Willow. They can be bigots together!
- I want Willow to be with Tara and everything, but the goodbye scene with Oz is super sad! (And also, where is Oz going to go? Aren’t his friends and family all in Sunnydale? Is he going back to “somewhere in Tibet”?)
- It’s still insane that Buffy has never told Riley about Angel. What have they been talking about all this time??
Season 4, Episode 20 “The Yoko Factor”
Previously on Angel, Buffy found out Faith was in LA and ran to help Angel/punish Faith for stealing her life. When she gets there, Faith is in the middle of a redemption arc, but Buffy understandably isn’t having any of it. She tries to turn Faith in to the police, even though Angel is trying to “save [her] soul”, and ultimately Faith turns herself in. Buffy and Angel get into a blowout fight where she tells him that she has someone new in her life whom she can actually trust. He lashes out that she doesn’t know him anymore and orders her out of “his city.” (Even though she lived there for the first sixteen years of her life, but whatever.)
Buffy comes back to Sunnydale, sad and shaken after her encounter with Angel. Before she has a chance to get back in contact with Riley, Xander talks to him, which is never good. They bond over their mutual hatred of Angel (God, Xander, get over yourself already) and Xander lets it slip that Angel’s trigger for losing his soul was having sex with Buffy. This is sort of framed as an accident, which I will talk more about in my notes, but even so, WTF Xander?? Even if Riley had known about it already, why are you talking about your friend’s sex life with her new boyfriend? Fucking weirdo.
Anyway, Riley gets all jealous that Buffy had a life before she met him, so he finds her in her dorm room. She’s clearly upset about what happened with Angel, but doesn’t want to talk about it. Which is totally legitimate, but Riley’s ego is wounded, so he gets all passive-aggressive and leaves. Gross. Buffy leaves to do important things, like stopping Adam. She runs into Forrest while investigating a cave that Adam might be in, and they actually find him. Buffy tries to get Forrest to run away, but he runs straight into Adam’s skewer. Buffy runs away, then trips and falls on her way out of the cave and hits her head on a rock. Gee, it’s pretty lucky that Adam doesn’t want to kill her, huh?
Riley still has jealous energy to burn, so when he hears on his comms that a demon is getting the upper hand on some Initiative guys nearby, he runs to help. (Even though he just established that he was listening in on their comms so he could avoid them? Because he’s a fugitive?) He finds Angel there, whaling on the army guys. Angel somehow knows who Riley is (how? Did he stalk Buffy on Facebook?) [Ha, I made basically the same joke below –Nerdy Spice], and once Riley figures out Angel’s identity, he assumes that Angel is evil again, which makes him jump straight to the conclusion that Buffy cheated on him in LA. Yeah, this relationship is going great. Riley and Angel trash talk each other a bit–Angel calls Riley “boy” at one point–and they come to blows. Riley holds his own for a bit, but eventually Angel throws him like a rag doll, because vampire, and scampers away.
Angel finds Buffy in her dorm room, but before he can apologize, Riley catches up with them and points a gun at Angel. They start their pissing contest again, culminating in another fistfight, which Buffy easily breaks up. “I see one more display of testosterone poisoning and I will personally put you both in the hospital,” she hisses. Heh. Buffy gently tells Riley that she needs to talk to Angel for a minute, and Riley says he’s “not leaving this room,” so she gestures for Angel to join her in the hallway. Riley just stands there, insisting that he “won’t move a muscle.” Hee! Buffy yells at Angel for throwing her out of LA and treating her like just “an ex,” but then Angel apologizes for yelling at her and she softens. Buffy acknowledges that they “don’t live in each other’s worlds anymore” and apologizes for barging in and passing judgment. Angel offers to help, but she says nicely that the best thing he can do is leave.
After Angel leaves, she talks to Riley, who gets super dramatic and says, “All I ask is if you’re gonna break my heart–do it fast.” What?? He thinks she’s just going to immediately dump him because her far more interesting ex is in town? (Actually, that’s kind of legit, but still–trust issues galore.) Buffy calmly asks him if she’s given him a reason not to trust her, and he says, “I’m so in love with you I can’t think straight.” She says, “Tell me about it,” and we’re supposed to think it’s cute, but for an “I love you” it’s entirely anticlimactic. Then she gets around to telling Riley that Forrest is dead, and he gets very upset, leaves, and goes straight to Adam’s lair to confront him. Whatever.
Meanwhile, Adam’s evil plan is starting to take shape, and it’s–convoluted, to say the least. He wants a showdown between demons and humans in the Initiative, and he wants Buffy there because he wants heavy casualties on both sides. And yes, I know Adam explained that to Spike in the previous episode, but they still pretend that Spike doesn’t understand [To be fair, I didn’t entirely understand and I appreciated the exposition! -Nerdy Spice] so Adam can give a bunch more exposition about it. Adam also wants Buffy to come to the fight alone, because they’ve decided that if her friends come with her, she’ll be too strong, and might foil the plan altogether.
Sidebar: I know that “Buffy is stronger with her friends” is the big theme of the season but like… I don’t totally buy it? Of course they have helped her in many ways, but they usually help in a non-fighting capacity, and they’re certainly not as strong as the Initiative army guys. Why would it really matter to Adam if they came to the Initiative or not? It all seems like a contrivance to wrap a bow on a fun but thematically scattered season. [Yeah, while I was invested in the fights qua fights, I was not in any way worried that Buffy would have trouble defeating a villain just because Xander wasn’t there to get his lights punched out thirty seconds in. The thing just didn’t quite hang together. –Nerdy Spice]
Anyway, Spike hatches a plan to break up the Scooby gang by playing on the already-present cracks in their friendships. He goes to Giles and promises intel about Adam’s master plan, but refuses to deal with Giles directly, because he’s no longer a Watcher and Buffy treats him like a “retired librarian.” He tells Xander that the girls were talking about how he should just join the army because he’s not doing anything else with his life. Then, when he catches wind that Buffy and Tara are together, he tells Willow that he overheard Buffy and Xander talking about her “magic,” saying that she was being “trendy” and that it was “just a phase.” He’s diabolical! Very Cady Heron. But of course, Mean Girls hadn’t come out yet, so Spike dubs it the “Yoko factor” to Adam. But not because Yoko actually broke up the Beatles–she was just a minor catalyst to the group breaking itself apart. (I like this interpretation! Justice for Yoko, who was an amazing artist in her own right.)
This all comes to a head when the gang gets together to plan an offensive against Adam using the disks Spike gave them. Buffy insists that she go alone, so they don’t get hurt, which stirs up all the resentments among the group. Xander goes off about how they think he’s useless, so they want to ship him off to the army. Willow thinks their friendship has been going wrong since Buffy found out Tara’s her girlfriend. Which Buffy sort of justifies with the snide comment, “If I were any more open-minded about the choices you two were making, my whole brain would fall out.” Yikes. (Xander, predictably, doesn’t react much better to the news, and exclaims, “Tara’s your girlfriend??” with a completely horrified look on his face. He’s the worst.) Meanwhile, Giles is getting blackout drunk in the background and slurring about how Buffy never trains with him anymore, or when Xander compares him to Alfred, he says, “No, I’m no Alfred. You forget, Alfred had a job.” Ha! In the end, Buffy reminds them that this all started because they wanted to help, and asks them, harshly, “How can you possibly help?” When they don’t answer, she says, “I guess I’m starting to understand why there’s no ancient prophecy about a Chosen One and her friends.” Ouch.
Notes from a New Fan:
- FAITH IS IN THE PREVIOUSLIES! Does this mean Faith is back?!?!
- Spike warns Adam about how talented and great Buffy is at defeating everyone. I love it.
- But I also love how Spike has a wee bit of a crush on Adam. His heaving sigh after Adam promises to make him “savage” again? Even Willow and Tara can hardly match that level of homoeroticism.
- Xander claims to only hate “the guts” of Angel. Remember in the 90s when you never just hated someone, you always hated their guts? I’d forgotten about that.
- So Xander is a giant fool who reveals to Riley that Buffy made Angel evil by providing him one second of pure happiness if you know what I mean, and just in case you don’t, Xander adds, “It’s not creme brulee.” Uh, gross! Creme brulee should only be used in wonderful metaphors about being fancier than Jello. It should not be used in weird euphemisms that are honestly grosser than even Dawson’s Creek could come up with. Ew.
- OK, I laughed out loud when Willow and Tara turned out to have gotten a kitten together one episode after their first kiss. I admit it!
- Also this kitten is hella cute.
- Wait, is Willow also hinting at moving in with Tara? This is even more of a lesbian stereotype! Ha.
- Anya has the right idea: the Scoobs may hate her but they don’t hate her and look down on her like they do on Xander. True story.
- Buffy and Forrest also have better chemistry than Buffy and Riley while they’re fighting in the cave. Forrest is a dick but at least he can hold his own in a conversation!
- Spike’s strategy is to neg everyone so that they’re all invested in his plan. It works really well.
- How does Angel recognize Riley without the internet?
- I lol’ed when Riley got all jealous and Angel called him “boy.” Their smack talk is, as Buffy would say, not so much with the smack.
- Here are my play-by-play notes on Buffy breaking up Angel and Riley’s silly fight:
- I love how on this show when the male characters fight you’re not super invested because you know that they’re evenly matched and only when Buffy comes along will anything truly be settled.
- Me: [tries to formulate witty thought about toxic masculinity]
Buffy: I see one more display of testosterone poisoning, I’m putting you both in the hospital.
- Then Riley says he wanted to make sure that Buffy was safe even though she just told him she could put them both in the hospital, and it’s true!
- THEN Riley says he’s not leaving the room and Buffy just raises an eyebrow at him and takes Angel into the hall.
- Buffy 1000, men 0.
- I laughed when Angel said he didn’t like Riley. He really does do goofy better than Dark and Brooding.
- I like that Buffy seriously asks Riley if he has any reason to not trust her, and it’s true, but also, Riley probably can sense that Buffy doesn’t love him the way she loved Angel.
- Buffy says there’s no prophecy about a chosen one “and her friends.” Um, rude! Then she says she’ll go to someone she can count on. I dread this being either Riley or Angel.
Notes from a True Stan:
- The mean Initiative boss who replaced Walsh says that Riley was never a great soldier because he “thinks too much.”
- Okay, let’s break down this scene between Riley and Xander. Xander is being careful about what he says about Angel, and asks Riley what Buffy told him in their heart-to-heart last episode. So far so good. Riley says she told him “everything” and “more than [he] wanted to know sometimes.” If he had just left it there, then I might have understood why Xander thought he was referring to the whole sex thing. But Riley then summarizes what he knows, and it’s pretty general: Buffy loved Angel, Angel went evil and killed people. It does not sound like he knows about the gory details (and he doesn’t need to! Buffy’s entitled to keep some things private). Xander then mentions the “one moment of true happiness” thing, and Riley clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Instead of realizing he put his foot in his mouth, shutting up, and telling him to ask Buffy about it, he offers a detailed explanation unprompted, complete with a gross creme brulee comparison, and then still tries to pretend this was all an honest mistake. Hatred!
- Also, I really don’t understand what Riley is so upset about. That she had a life before him? That she didn’t tell him every detail about her sex life? Considering how he reacted when he did find out, can he blame her?
- Yay, Giles is singing again! This time it’s Spike who catches him crooning, which is just delightful.
- Angel’s entrance is kind of hilarious. The loud, dramatic music, the swish of his dark jacket like Batman’s cape. So dramatic.
- I’m mostly reformed from my Bangel shipping, but I love the little moment where Angel turns to Buffy before he leaves and says, “And Riley? I don’t like him,” and Buffy smiles ironically and says, “Thank you.” They actually have more natural chemistry as exes than they ever did while he was on the show–they feel more like real people now.
- My favorite thing about this four-way fight is that everyone’s sins are essentially made up by Spike, except for Xander, who betrayed Buffy’s confidence to Riley all on his own. Sigh.
- Or maybe it’s poor Anya and Tara, who hide in the bathroom and awkwardly talk about the tiles.