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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Buffy the Vampire Slayer- The I in Team

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Season 4
Episode "The I in Team"
Broadcast February 8, 2000

Buffy: Sarah Michelle Gellar
Willow: Alyson Hannigan
Xander: Nicholas Brendan
Giles: Anthony Stewart Head
Riley: Marc Blucas
Spike: James Marsters
Maggie Walsh: Lindsay Crouse


Willow tries to use magic to cheat at cards against Xander and Anya. (They have no money; in fact Xander has decided to start selling grainy, tastelessly multi-flavored "Boost" Bars. They gossip that they’re not sure they can trust Buffy’s new commando pals, the Initiative. Meanwhile, Buffy shows the Initiative what she’s made of, keeping them tracking her for forty-two minutes before wiping out the whole team in twenty-eight seconds.

Act 1
Buffy and Willow make plans to catch up at the Bronze. (“I miss you guys.”) Buffy’s been too busy with new boyfriend Riley.
Giles visits Spike’s new crypt to hand over the $300 he owes Spike. The vampire takes the money and says he wants no more to do with the Slayer Gang.
Buffy gets the official tour of the Initiative, which stretches across a complex the size of your average Galleria below UC Sunnydale. Initiative boss Professor Walsh issues her a badge, a pager, and lots of reading material. On the tour she learns that the Initiative has various methods of “bringing under control” the demons and subterrestrials they capture. They meet Dr. Angleman, a xenomorphic behavior modification leader.
Willow disappoints her terribly sensitive new friend Tara-- not only does she refuse an extravagant gift, but she turns down an invitation to hangout because she has plans with the Slayer Gang. (“It’s a specific crowd; you might feel out of place.”)
Professor Walsh, meanwhile, confers with Doctor X about the dangers that Buffy poses, and we get to see what frightens the demons about Initiative Room 314: a jigsaw-like Frankenstein monster called Adam that Walsh intends to wake soon enough.

Act 2
The Bronze is a bust until Buffy shows up an hour late with about six Initiative guys, which defeats Willow’s idea that this was an intimate, catch-up event. Ex-demon Anya avoids the commandoes and Buffy lamely apologizes. Willow warns Buffy about joining or working with a group she knows little about just because her boyfriend works for them.
The Initiative guys and Buffy get beeped away and Willow wanders back to campus to Tara’s dorm room. She sheepishly tells Tara her plans didn’t work out and she’d love to still do something.
Buffy gets her first taste of working for the Initiative-- they’re going to take down a demon with spikes in its arms, and she’s confused that she’s not allowed to break the spikes in its arms. “Zap and tap, people,” Walsh says, “Capture, not a kill.”
In the field, the Initiative spot Spike and shoot him with a tracer. Riley and Buffy take down the demon they’re chasing, and afterwards go to bed. We pull back from Riley’s bed to reveal Professor Walsh, watching them on a spy camera.

Act 3
Spike comes running to Giles’ place (this after his speech about “don’t come running to me”) because “they’re the goody-goods” and he can’t seem to lose the Initiative. Giles takes his money back and sets about trying to dig the tracer out of Spike’s back.
Buffy and Riley wake up to Riley’s alarm, which reminds him to take his vitamins. Turns out Riley asks no questions and liked the Initiative because removing the subterrestrial threat is “work worth doing.” Walsh calls Riley away when Buffy asks about Initiative Room 314. Walsh sends Riley to chase after Spike.
Next, Walsh decides its time to get rid of Buffy before she asks too many questions. (She could have been a powerful ally,” says Dr. Angleman, “and [Riley] Finn will take it hard.”)
Giles steps up the operation when Xander’s pseudo-military memory kicks in and tells him that’s a tracer in Spike’s back.
Buffy gets back to the dorm in time to see that Willow never made it home either, before Walsh calls Buffy in and Giles calls Willow in.
Buffy is to go on a simple reconnaissance job in a tunnel across town. Buffy has questions: “When you get back,” Walsh lies, “we can have a talk.”
Willow, meanwhile, has to use magic to ionize the air around Giles’ house and disrupt the tracer signal.

When Buffy reaches the tunnel she finds not a low-level demon but two axe-bearing super-demons she immediately recognizes from the Initiative demon-alteration Pit. As Walsh watches through the camera on Buffy’s headset, Buffy’s Initiative TASER gun shorts out and triggers an iron gate that falls and traps her in the tunnel.

Act 4
Walsh watches Buffy fight for her life until the Slayer’s headset falls and her heart monitor flatlines.
Giles removes the tracer just in time to let Xander flush it, losing the Initiative. Buffy, meanwhile, takes down both demons.
While Walsh lies bald-faced to Riley, Buffy comes back on the comlink. They watch Buffy as she tells Walsh, “You really don’t know what a Slayer is. Trust me when I say you’re going to find out.” Feeling betrayed, Riley walks away.
Buffy runs to Giles’ place and announces they have new enemies. Meanwhile, Walsh retires to Room 314 to talks to herself like a Republic villain until her Frankenstein monster “Adam” spikes her through the back with the word, “Mommy.”


And so an excellent guest character becomes, in one episode, a stilted and remarkably short-lived villain. I was sorry to see Lindsay Crouse, one of the most unusual actresses I've seen, raving to herself in this episode. There's a hint of this in the beginning, when Walsh stops the training session and yells “lights” like the SPECTRE leader in the prologue to FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE. I was rather hoping we'd see at least a few months of rivalry between her and Giles for influence over Buffy before Professor Walsh turned bad. Instead we find out here that Walsh was merely a long setup for Adam, the monster she created.

Apparently Adam is something the demons have feared for some time, but you'd think a genius like Walsh would have made him a little more discriminating in whom he spears through the back. If you're going to make a jigsaw man out of the best demon parts you can find, it has to answer to someone. But I guess that's how these things go. They just usually go a lot slower before the mad scientist loses control. At least now we know why the Initiative is chasing demons; essentially to recruit them or cannibalize them, which indicates that in the Buffy Universe, the greatest evil turns out to be the government.

Looking back, if calling the creature Adam is homage to FRANKENSTEIN, then there is some precedent for the creature waking up and running off immediately, but even the Shelley Monster didn't bother to kill anyone right away. (In that book, Frankenstein's creature awakens and the doctor is so revolted he runs off, leaving the creature to wander off and brood like a romantic poet.) It would be nice to see Adam recite bad poetry before Buffy kills him.

A few minor notes:

Cornfed Iowa government agent Riley is so well adjusted he just aches to be killed in another episode or two. He beams with pride because his girlfriend can kick his ass, he has the decency and honesty to tell Buffy to stop talking while they're on patrol because, “I don't have your reflexes, so I need to pay attention.”

I also liked the lovemaking between Buffy and Riley, which here is directed like the love scene between Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie in Nicholas Roeg's moody DON'T LOOK NOW, transitioning back and forth in time with the violent and skillful capture of a demon. Buffy usually slays; here, she captures, saving energy to be released in afterwards. It's a fine scene.

I also love this handy plot device involving Xander’s "military memory," which comes and goes as needed. One of the things I've always respected about BUFFY is the unabashed use of silly plot devices to keep it all rolling. I also wonder, is Xander is busy selling Boost Bars, will these silly bars play a part in the plot? They're fairly minor comic relief if not, and BUFFY rarely wastes time unless the detail is going to matter later on.

Last but not least, Willow's courtship with Tara, shy and pensive, rolls along poignantly. It's a nice romance, full of blushes and awkward apologies. I presume the powers that be will keep it going at least until they bring Oz back.

“And I don’t want you comin’ back here begging me for help the moment teen witch’s magic goes all wonky or little Xander cuts a new tooth, got it?”
-- Spike, who just doesn't grasp that he's become a main character

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