The Initiative

Written by Douglas Petrie
Directed by James A. Contner

Jeff's Synopsis | Perri's Review | SunSpeak

Jeff's Synopsis

Coming soon!

Perri's Review

All right!!!! Now this is the Buffy I've been waiting all season to see. Jam-packed, hilariously funny, angst occuring but not the centerpoint -- wahoo! We're finally back!

Jeff's doing it, hold on.

Daniel Osbourne!!!!! Oz has a name!

Riley and his friends are, big surprise, Commando Boys -- agents working for an operation (presumably government) called The Initiative. Their boss is Professor Walsh; their mission is to capture and study vampires and, presumably, other creatures of the night. They've got the entire campus wired and lots of vamps in custody.

Spike is wandering around with an implant, courtesy of TI, which keeps him from biting anyone and, according to Riley, cuts his strength.

Commando Crew is aware of Buffy's existance, but they can't identify her -- and they think she's an accomplice of Spike.

Riley's got it bad for Buffy but, at the moment, she thinks he's a doof. The courtship promises to be interesting. What is it with Buffy and guys that are a foot taller than she is?

Willow is still in the Pit of Dispair over Oz leaving.

This is Riley and Spike's episode, and they make the most of it. Ya know, if Riley is really a fairly highly-trained government type, being a TA and grading 200+ freshman papers a week must really make him nuts. Even more than working for Maggie the Bitch, that makes me feel sorry for him. And, of course, it's adorable that he can't figure out why he's doing things like bragging on her standing up to Walsh to his friends and decking Parker Abrams for trashing her (for which I would eternally love him even if he wasn't a total babe), and that, once he realizes it, he instantly starts stuttering. He wins more points for going from Stutter Boy (such a doof!) to supremely competent Commando Boy and back without missing a beat. And he's a babe.

Okay, before the Angel/Buffy shippers crawl all over me -- I miss the coupleness too, folks. But the angst was getting real damn thick, he's not coming back any time soon and, from what we've seen, Riley is exactly the kind of guy Buffy needs, and that Angel wants for her. He seems to be quite stable, quite gallant, deeply intelligent, he uses words like "court" and goes to Willow for advice, then listens (while making sure she's okay in her depresso stage). He can take care of himself and anyone else who comes along, he already understands about the demon fighting thing and, perhaps most importantly, there can be sex without homicide or deep pits of despair. He's a good guy -- and, oh yeah, he's a babe! < g > Okay, so I think with my hormones, but Joss and Company are still doing an awesome of giving us a chance to grow and like Riley for his own sake, insted of hating him on sight. And I do like him, and will continue to until given reason not to. And not being Angel isn't really reason enough.

I love Spike. I know, I know, evil psychopathic killer with serious impulse control problems but... < giggle >. Wow, those Initiative types had no clue what they were getting into when they nabbed Spike! The funny thing is, he's so classically nuts; I think he's as in love with Buffy as he is in hate with her -- he just doesn't bother to seperate the two emotions. On the other hand, he also has a crush on Willow, when he stops to think about it. On the other hand, he likes to kill people, so what the hell. < giggling > Poor baby, can't get the fangs in action... Oh, wow, this is going to be entertaining.

I'm feeling for Willow. She has every right to be curled up into a tiny ball of pain, but isn't. In fact, she's working on her friends' love life, helping Riley "court" Buffy. It's vintage Willow, of course; when confronted with personal pain, find someone else to help. Sometimes self-preservational, sometimes the precise opposite, like when she tries to give therapy to a defanged vampire in her room! She just gets trapped in these helpful spirals and it takes hearing herself say something like "wait half an hour and try again" to a vampire, to snap out of it and hit Spike over the head with a lamp. And, sweetie? Make sure who's on the other side before you invite them in.

Walsh... I still dislike her, but there's bit of sympathy for her, now. Major scientist in charge of supersecret, crucial project -- and freshman Psych professor to maintain her cover. That's gotta suck. I'm also impressed that, rather than getting into a lather when Buffy quite accurately tells her off, she actually starts respecting Buffy for doing it. That's called style, my children; she wins points for it. I still don't like her, though and I'm sure she so wouldn't care.

At least Xander and Giles got some good screentime this week, although I can't say I'm happy with direction Xander is going in. While some people are happy to see the soldier thing fade, I'm still rather peeved that they didn't play that card more often. Xander's training only seemed to resurrect itself when the plot required it; the rest of the time, he was a klutz with no fighting abilities so that Buffy could rescue him. I don't mind losing the plot device, I just wish it had never become a plot device to begin with. And I wish there was something for Xander to do besides be comic relief in the background.

Actually, I wish the same thing for Giles. He got some good screen time in 'Fear Itself', but he and Xander are both resorted to skulking in the background this time around. I do feel for them, really; both of them are accustomed to being right in the middle of Buffy's life, even essential to it, and both of them find themselves relegated to living on the fringes, trying to make themselves essential as it's proven every day that they are not. Both of them need lives in the worst possible way. More importantly, both of them need to be needed in the worst way, and the situation is still getting worse.

Oddly enough, Buffy is also screentime challenged this week. She's concentrating more on helping Willow and catching Spike than anything else. Actually, in that she's very much like Willow; nothing distracts her from her own 22 episodes-worth of unremitting angst like dealing with someone else's. Or inflicting it on someone else, whichever works. < g >

The most points Harmony has ever won was for slapping Spike. Then she lost them all by falling for his (albeit deeply cute) lines. I know the chick had no brain as a human, but leave it to her to get such a very blonde demon when she was brought across.

Forrest is a sexist pig, but an adorable and highly entertaining sexist pig, and Graham is a sweetie -- not to mention cute. Both of them have high potential, both as Riley's team and as his friends -- this counts in Riley's favor.

Best Moments:
Xander enthusiastically recommending creating an evil to be fought. Wow, these two are bored.

Sarah's delivery on "Ergo, party." and "I have to find something slutty." Too funny.

Buffy taking on Maggie. "A human being in pain has nothing to do with your job." was the perfect comeback, delivered perfectly. And Maggie's reaction was outstanding -- the first time I've liked that woman.

Riley punching Parker. Had to rewind and watch many times, for the sheer satisfaction value. And Riley in faded jeans and T-shirt is nothing to sneeze at, either. Have I mentioned he's a babe?

Riley realizing he has a thing for Buffy. The only thing cuter than Riley was his friends being amused at him.

Riley showing the bag under the bed, totally too preoccupied with Buffy to notice the Slaying stuff. Then going on to be so perfect dealing with Willow in a funk.

Giles telling Xander to shut up. < giggle > Exactly in synch with the audience, I might add.

Willow and Riley, the conspirators. < giggle > Fun watching Willow threaten, fun watching Riley stutter, even better watching him cut off the Dingoes song to make Willow feel better.

Harmony and Xander's cheeck fight. Geez. Excuse me while I kill myself giggling. The music and the slo-mo were particularly hysterical.

Our first sight of the initiative. As if they whole sequence of the guys heading down isn't enough, the facility itself is truly impressive.

Foresst's shocked and amused "Did you just pull rank?". Don't ask me why, but I giggled a lot.

Buffy and Riley refighting the battle of the sexes, trying to get each other out of the line of fire. Wow, it's going to be amusing when secrets start coming out.

The entire Willow/Spike scene. Hands up, everyone who once again had to rewind multiple times because you were laughing too hard to hear that utterly brilliant and hysterically funny riff on impotence? Takes over the lead spot as the most hilarious scene in Buffy history, which is saying something! "You know, this doesn't make you any less terrifying." ROTFL!

Buffy's "You're a little peculiar." < g > I'm having so much fun with this! And did I mention Riley's a... oh, never mind.

Questions and Comments:
Am I the only person who takes three tries to correctly type initiative? this is gonna be fun. :P

The vamp in the cage next to Spike's is the one the Initiative captured in 'The Freshman' and one of the escaped sea monsters from 'Go Fish' is on a lab table. < giggle > Love continuity.

Check out the list of residents in Buffy's hall when Spike is paging through it -- Jeff Pruitt is on there along with David Solomon.

So, now Spike needs an invitation to come into the dorm room? The other lot didn't. And, in the infrared of Willow's room, two figures are shown standing, Willow on the right, Spike on the left. Flip back to the room and both are sitting.

I don't think Riley could see well enough to identify Buffy, but I think he supects things are not as they appear -- which would be why he was letting his team get away with that 'really bit guy' routine they were feeding Walsh.

It worries me that Lowell House is so highly integrated into the facility, with the retinal scanner, the elevators, the voice sensors... It worries me more that the Initiative seems to be integrated throughout the entire college -- enough to be able to lock down Buffy's dorm at will and, presumably, every other building in the place. That would, however, explain why a one-Starbucks town like Sunnydale has a major university campus -- if it's all a cover for the Initiative, and always has been. Which forces me to upgrade my opinion of the intelligence of the people running things. It may only be the everyday citizens of Sunnydale who are oblivious -- we've seen it proven that the cops, and certainly the Mayor's office, are clueful; apparently lots of other people are, too.

Rating: 5 stars out of five. A consistently funny and occasionally scary episode that moves fast, delivers the goods, is soaked with continuity and contains some of the most brillant bits in Buffy history. The best episode since 'Dopplegangland' and one of the best ever.


"They've defanged Spike! Now he can't make fun of Angel--he's just like him."
"Except that Angel can bite people, he just *chooses* not to. It's kinda like the difference between a eunuch and a monk." -- Mary Beth and Beth

"Poor Spike. I can't decide whether to be upset that they've defanged him or not. I mean, he's manageable this way. And will be better able to integrate into the gang. And let's face it, he's going to be pretty danged *pissed* about this, so he'll still be funny and all... but... but.... he's not threatening.... it's ... it's.... not *Spike*. I do know that Angel's gonna laugh his ASS off at him if he gets the chance. :-) -- Mary Beth

Buffy! Funny Buffy! Clumsy Buffy! STRONG Kick ASS Buffy! Whoo hoo! Now *this* is how to show that Buffy, while still a superstrong superheroine type, is only human. Have her do silly things, clutzy things, break-the-handle-off-the-yogurt things. This is what I expected earlier in the season when they said they would lighten Buffy up. THIS Buffy rocks!"
"Definitely. This was the kind of preoccupied-with-other-things accidental demonstration of her strength that she hasn't done in a LONG time, like since first season I think. And much more what I expected in terms of symptoms of anxiety at new environment...ironically enough, happening just as she's really getting into the groove of her new environment." -- Mary Beth and Valerie

"Loved the juxtaposition of Riley and Buffy's views on each other. And... and... and... dangit. This is so hard. I like Riley. I always have. And HUGE points for punching Parker. And he's cute being all awkward and stuff. (Riley: "Cheese?" Me: "Why yes, you are.") I just haven't liked the actor. Now I do. But... but.... ::whimper:: You can't expect me to let go easily. I want to be open-minded fan. I want to like the stories that Joss tells. But... but... ::whimper:: I must say. He does military very well. Very very well. Mmmm.... Yum. And he's *SO* different, so confident." -- Mary Beth

"My curiosity is seriously piqued about the Initiative. I mean, no real surprises for me here, just suspicions confirmed. Just lots of questions raised. Just what are they up to? How did it get started? How long has it been going on? And on the surface, it seems that Buffy and the Initiative (and dammit that's hard to type!) are on the same side, just not connecting. So.... why am I certain that they will continue to be at cross-purposes?"
"Because they're military, or at least paramilitary, and organized and hierarchically-disciplined within an inch of their lives. The girl who told the Watchers' Council to shove it up their collective derrieres is not going to click with them, nor they with her." -- Mary Beth and Valerie

"Spike and Willow. Oh...My...God! My favorite screen team since...well, I don't know when. They are so great!"
"Anybody have a visual of Willow-Spike shippers somewhere out there jumping up and down on their couches making monkey noises? -- Deb and Rastro

"And if Maggie's implant really works, and is at all cost-effective, it has the potential to render the Slayer almost obsolete. An idea that Buffy might not hate all that much...until, of course, the vamps find a way around it. And shame on Maggie--a psych prof, no less--if she doesn't realize that preventing the behavior doesn't remove the impulse, which will then be channeled into motivation for them to find a way to neutralize the thing. Actually, with Spike as guinea pig, that'll probably happen all the sooner. Then again, if she's a straight behaviorist...well, time for an object lesson in the hazards of wearing academic blinders." -- Valerie

"Another Riley comment: He said "court"... he hasn't "courted a girl".... that's so archaically adorable!"
"It's not just adorable, it's really really curiosity-piquing. I don't expect that word to come out of the mouth of a guy his age unless it's maybe in a Southern accent. *What* is his background???" -- Mary Beth and Valerie

"I wanna say a few things about Riley. Yea! I was yelling for him to slug the worm & he did! Yea! Am very happy to see how 'foot-in-mouth' he is in a complete turn around to the first ep where Buffy was all tounge-tied & he was oblivious. They need better time management. *g* And Riley as military guy. Ooo. Very nice. Like Buffy, bad with relationships, but very confident in the demon hunting. This is gonna be interesting. Riley & the guys getting dressed-down by Maggie. I loved how the guy said how much bigger the unknown assailant's the guy rule: the guy who kicks your a$$ is always bigger. I did a lot of laughing. And I really like that Riley has good morals. His duty is to bring back anyone possible 'contaminated,' but axed that when he realized it was Willow. Good guy. I like him." -- Julie

"As for Riley... okay, he's grown on me. He had an almost Benton-Fraser-esque kind of doofy charm this episode. Soooo clueless ("I guess I like her" -- DUH!) and awkward once he was aware that he wanted to make a good impression, and that big happy-puppy grin on his face when he saw Buffy in the tag was really, really sweet. As for "peculiar" --- clearly unconscious-guy-code for "I'm totally fascinated by her and I have no idea why." I loved his friends giving him a hard time about it once he clued in. I also liked them for themselves; Forrest was amusing, if a bit ruthless, and while Graham was more of a cipher, at least he was backing Riley up on the "you have a prayer with her" thing. And while Jane & Co. may tell us Riley *didn't* see Buffy, clearly he was rattled and thought he saw *something* --- just didn't believe what it was he thought he saw. ("I tought I taw a puddy tat. I deed! I deed see a puddy tat!")" -- Chris

"That Xander-Harmony chick-fight was *wonderful*, too. I'll bet money that they've fought with each other on the playground before. Maybe ten years ago, but still.... :> Another point at which they forget they're vamp and hunter (like Spike & Willow), but become just two people interacting and hating each other's guts." -- Chris

"In the category of new train wrecks I *want* to see... I am so looking forward to Giles meeting Maggie. Not because I think they'll like each other, or because I think she's scheduled to be any kind of love interest; but because the clash is going to be so very much hate-at-first-sight. She has better toys, more back-up, more authority, and the scientific approach; he's got the better research materials (probably), more hands-on magic & field experience, and some influence over Buffy. They'll blame each other for whatever goes wrong and not sharing information and being "amateurs" at what they're doing. It's going to be *ugly*. Wheeee! I'm ordering my Orville Redenbacher's now." -- Chris

"Actually one senario I see is if the Initiative discovers that she is the Slayer. I could just see them wanting to find out _why_ she is, why she is stronger, etc. than everyone else. I can see them wanting to put her in a cell next to Spike for study. And later, experimenting. Ooo. Bad idea. The Council hands her over to them. Bad idea. Bad, evil, _awful_ idea. Go away. Go sic Joss." -- Julie

"Was I the only one who thought when they showed the immenseness of the underground base, heard the music and thought 'oh, geeze, more Batman jokes.'"
"Actually, I started humming the Star Wars theme. Loudly." -- Julie and Jeff

"I do have a problem with it tho - this thing is HUGE and obviously well-funded (as Spike noticed), so it's probably government or Bill Gates, so how come there's still all these vampires everywhere? The place is right on the campus and yet there's a whole house full of vampires that have been eating people for years? (First episode.) Okay, I can see that being the reason they'd set up there in the first place, but wouldn't the numbers of vampires and other beasties be noticeably lower now than in the past?" -- Rastro

"I kept rooting for Willow to do something 'witchy'--levitate a spinning pencil into his chest, or something. Turn him into a vamp rat? No? But her concentration seemed completely shot, and it just didn't occur to her, or she couldn't seem to muster the wherewithall, anything magical--or did she? What if the reason Spike couldn't get the fangs up had nothing to do with an implant at all, but were rather a reaction to something in Willow that she hasn't realized yet?" -- Jeff

"I wonder if he lost it, or if he just _thinks_ he did due to his bottomed-out self-esteem problem. I just think he lost it pretty fast from the end of last season."
"I'm hoping it was more of a low self-confidence mental block, and that it hasn't just suddenly gone *poof*. While he was still awkward in Season 3, I liked the stronger personality he had, and the willingness to put aside his fear of looking ridiculous to jump in to help." -- Julie and Jeff

"I don't want to like this guy. Really, I don't. OK, I didn't. But... < sigh > I mean, I have enough invested in the Buffy/Angel relationship by now that I should be able to start drawing a pension. And then they throw Riley into the mix. How am I supposed to fight that?" -- Lizbet

"Not _on_ campus - _under_ the campus. Just a teensy bit too close to the Hellmouth for comfort, one would think. And did they excavate that big open space (that the experiments were being held in), or did they just build their own stuff into an existing cavern? That would be one hell of a lot of dirt to get rid of if they excavated it all! On the other hand, any existing caverns in Sunnydale would probably have, um, "tenants" who would need to be evicted. (Or incorporated into the experiments, as the case may be. :>) My mind is just boggling at the idea of all the constuction work that went into that lab... in secret?!? I work at a university that seems to be _constantly_ under construction - there is no way in *hell* that the construction workers who put all that together could be successfully hidden from the rest of the campus! I can just see it - a sudden influx of men in hardhats and steeltoed boots stopping at the campus coffee shop for coffee and doughnuts in the morning, and then just... disappearing. Suuuuuure!"
"Yeah, cuz, you know, Sunnydale is well-known for it's highly observant community members. It's only logical that the university employees and students would be just as astute." -- Maureen and Mary Beth

"I just had a random neural firing regarding the Initiative. I don't know if anyone else has brought this up yet, but what if it's the *military* behind these experiments. They may not be trying to neutralize demons, but control them. Think what someone unscrupulous could do with even a small army of vamps--remorseless, superhuman killing machines. " -- Jen

"*This* is what I was missing! I was SO much more into this ep than last week's. Much giggliness was had by all, while still having some angsy moments -- moments that had more impact to me for the contrast. Yipee!" -- Julie

Back to Episodes.