The I in Team

Written by David Fury
Directed by James A. Contner

Perri's Review | SunSpeak

Perri's Review

One of those plot-advancing episodes that will pay off down the line, but right now leaves everyone going, "Aaaand....?". Payoff next week, one presumes.

"Magic at the poker game qualifies as cheating," Xander informs Willow, as they spend another exciting night at home, teaching Anya the fine points of poker and listening to Xander expound on his new line of work -- selling health food bars. Buffy, however, is out with Riley -- again -- while the Slayerettes still have more than a few reservations about the Initiative, especially ex-demon Anya.

Buffy's got no problems, especially since she proves she can kick the Initiatives butts in record time. Not entirely to Prof. Walsh's pleasure, but Riley is psyched and Graham and Forrest are impressed. Buffy expounds on her adventures to a less-than-enthusiastic (and distinctly left-out) Willow the next morning, in between ogling Riley across the room. Meanwhile, Giles visits Spike in his new home-sweet-crypt to pay off last week's debt -- both verbally and monetarily, the $300. Giles floats the idea that Spike might be useful as a Slayerettes, and Spike is completely oblivious, kicking Giles out very thoroughly.

Riley takes an awed and impressed Buffy on her first tour of the Initiative's facilities. Prof. Walsh gives her her very own ID badge, a quick speech on the facility's work in behavior modification, a look at the available techie toys, and her very own pager, then welcomes her to the team. Willow is also getting gifted; Tara tries to give her a crystal that has been passed down in her family, which Willow uncomfortably refuses. Tara invites her over for some spell casting, but Willow regretfully refuses; she's got plans to meet Buffy and Xander at the Bronze for some Slayerette togetherness.

Below campus, Prof. Walsh heads for Room 314, where the resident mad scientist is working on their latest creation -- yup, the supersoldier crowd wins their bets! It's a conglomerate of various demon and human parts that Walsh affectionately refers to as "Adam" and it's ready to wake up.

At the Bronze, Xander, Anya and Willow are struggling to have a good time, but Xander is distracted by trying to peddle his new product, and Willow is distracted by Buffy's lack of thereness. Buffy finally shows -- with Riley and the rest of the Initiative gang, to the Slayerette's collective discomfort. Anya drags Xander away, leaving Willow to point out Buffy's faux pas -- which Buffy really isn't registering anything beyond the coolness of having heavily-armed backup and working with her boyfriend. Willow still has questions -- what's their agenda, what do they want with the vampires -- but Buffy's pager goes off before she has to actually think about the answers.

Turns out there's a shiny new demon on the loose, and Prof. Walsh and Dr. Ingleman (that's Frankenstein to you) want it caught, without hurting its arms. Buffy happily disrupts the proceedings by asking questions, debating the lack of hurting requirement and refusing to change out of her halter into commando gear, before heading out to do damage. Meanwhile, a depresso Willow heads over to Tara's place to take her up on her invitation.

The hunting is less stealthy than it should be, given that Riley is spending most of his attention reassuring an insecure Buffy. And an insecure Forrest gets to lead his own team, but is mostly not happy about not being in his usual position on Riley's team -- now taken by Buffy. While he's complaining to Graham, they spot an old friend -- Hostile 17, aka Spike. He gets shot with a tracer, as the demon in question attacks Buffy and Riley. In a neat intercut of scenes, we see both the fight (Demon:0, Initiative/Slayer: 1) and the aftermath, as adrenaline-jagged Slayer and soldier work it off in bed. With Walsh watching on closed-circuit security cameras. < shudder >

The next morning finds Xander and Anya at Giles', who becomes a victim of Xander's retail scheme. Before Giles can take violent action, they get another visitor -- Spike, desperately running from the Initiative. Giles immediately takes the opportunity to exact revenge for Spike's earlier attitude, forcing Spike not only to ask for help, but to pay for it. Buffy wakes the next morning with the usual unpleasant deja vu, when Riley isn't in sight. Until she rolls over and finds Riley grinning at her. But romance is put on hold as his alarm goes off to remind him to take his vitamins. Which leads Buffy to start asking her first real questions about Riley's training, and the fact that the boy doesn't ask questions about what he's ordered to do. Ever. Before she can pursue the topic, Walsh calls Riley away to help in the search for Spike. He goes -- after being sidetracked by a sudden burst of curiosity to room 314. But it's enough for Walsh and her cronies to decide that Buffy's questioning has become a liability -- one they can't afford. And by the way -- those demon arms they were worried about? One of them was intended for Adam.

Across town, Giles performs emergency surgery on a drunk Spike, trying to get out the projectile he was shot with. It's Xander who dredges up residual soldier knowledge to identify it as a tracer, kicking the panic mode up a notch. Willow and Buffy arrive back at the dorm at the same time -- neither one came home that night. Buffy gets paged out by the Initiative after only a few moments of discomfort; moments later, Willow gets paged back to help the Slayerette crowd. Turns out Walsh has possible HST (or a possible raccoon, they're not sure) and needs someone to do recon, so she sends Buffy out with zap gun and headset camera.

Giles is still doing surgery as Willow casts an ionization spell; aside from standing everyone's hair on end, it blocks the tracer signal for some precious time and confuses the hell out of the DGLCs. In the sewers, Buffy finds the HSTs and also finds herself badly outnumbered by bad guys -- familiar bad guys, last seen in the custody of the Initiative. As a grate slams closed, locking her in, and her shiny new zap gun short-circuits in her hands. Walsh monitors the Slayer's fight, drinking coffee as the demons go after Buffy with blades.... and Buffy's biomonitors suddenly flatline.

The commandos are closing in on their signal when it suddenly races towards them.. and under them; it seems Giles pulled it out and Xander flushed it. Further under them, Buffy is still alive, although the issue is in doubt right up until the end of the fight. But the shorted zap gun combines with water to form demon fritters and Buffy collapses to understand how she was set up. As back at the facility, a tearful Prof. Walsh reports Buffy's death, chasing two escaped hostiles. Riley blinks in complete incomprehension as Walsh spins a version of events that bears no resemblance to reality, never noticing Riley's eyes focusing on the monitors behind her until she hears Buffy's voice. "Professor Walsh? That simple little recon you sent me on? Wasn't a raccoon. Turns out it was me trapped in the sewers with a faulty weapon." The depths of the betrayal sink in for Riley as his girlfriend's words condemn his boss; with saying anything, he stalks past Walsh and out of the facility as she desperately shouts after him.

Against advice, Spike refuses to leave Sunnydale until he gets his head back to normal. Even Buffy agrees now that the Initiative is a serious threat, and tells the gang so. And Walsh goes underground to look at the only thing she's got left, her baby boy Adam. Get rid of Buffy and Riley will come around, she tries to convince herself -- but she'll never have the chance. Something skewers her from behind and she falls in a dying heap to the floor... as Adam stands over her and says his first word. "Mommy."

Buffy's flirtation with the Initiative is quite thoroughly dead, since they set her up to die.

Professor Walsh was playing Mad Scientist with a creation called 'Adam' -- a human/demons/god knows what else hybrid. She is no longer playing mad scientist because, in true monster movie fashion, she was killed by her creation.

Buffy and Riley are getting along very well, or were up until her falling out with the Initiative.

Willow is feeling more than a little on the outside, and filling the space with Tara.

Riley? Grow a brain. Oh come on. who else spent this entire episode yelling at Riley to just think for himself for god's sake?!? The simple farmboy thing has its merits, particularly in dealing with Buffy, Mistress of Complicated, but never asking any questions of the top-secret government facility you're catching demons for crosses the line from 'simple' to 'stupid'. At least he didn't spend any time dithering at the end -- he put the pieces together quite nicely and knew who was lying to him and who was telling the truth. Of course, it helps that Walsh lost the ability to lie her way out of a paper bag. In fact, Walsh was more than a little scary. Until this episode, she was quite sane and almost relentlessly together, but she suddenly turned into Stalker chick who can't lie with a straight face. Very strange. I never liked Walsh, but I respected her until about halfway through this ep. Then she suddenly had her mom-aged mitts all over Riley, was doing the voyeur thing and generally lost her mind -- literally. Too bad; she used to be pretty cool.

Forrest is predictably going through the guy thing of being replaced by his best friend's girlfriend, complicated with the professional 'replacement' too. Much as I love the boy, this is something he's better get over, fast. And Graham gets to be Mr. Reasonable and point out the obvious to everyone -- I'm sorry, a face as gorgeous as Bailey Chase's deserved more and better lines.

And Willow is feeling as replaced as Forrest is, in many of the same ways. Buffy wants to hang with Riley, Xander and Anya are joined at the hip and she's a massive fifth wheel in the relationship department. And now, Buffy has found a whole new set of Slayerettes, or so it seems, so Willow isn't even needed for that anymore. Add Oz missage, and it's no wonder she's drifted closer to Tara, who looks up to her, is interested in the same things, and is willing to make Willow the focus of her attention.

And come to that, I'd actually dearly love for Buffy to grow a brain. It's not just the Initiative stuff, which she took way too lightly, as far as I'm concerned. She just didn't ask any of the questions that Willow, Giles and Xander did, making her almost as bad as Riley. Which, of course, is the problem -- she trusted Riley, Riley trusted the Initiative, therefore, in the wave of new-relationship hormonally-induced bliss, Buffy trusted the Initiative. And, of course, she was jamming on the newly-discovered delights of having heavily armed, trained and supremely competent backup. But I also desperately wanted her to grow a brain regarding the whole 'sleeping with Riley' topic. While I personally have nothing against the concept of sex, Buffy has slept with two guys to this date -- both fairly impulsively, both of whom pulled a virtually instant morning-after Jekyll & Hyde routine, both of which were fairly traumatic (one more than the other, but still....). Yet she still, after being involved Riley seriously for no more than about a month, give or take, she sleeps with him. I'm not sure whether I'm upset with the writers, for leading Buffy to something that, I'm sorry, a 19-year-old with Buffy's horrific romantic bad luck shouldn't be doing, i.e., acting on impulse/hormones with a guy she's known for a relatively short period of time. Or if I blame Buffy for just not paying attention, for not even trying to learn from experience. At the very least, we should have seen her considering it, or talking to Willow about it before she did it, even if post-adrenaline jags were involved. This may be my glitch, I don't know, but it bothered me a lot. Giles mostly just gets the chance to get some of his own back from Spike, forcing him to pay up for help in revenge for Spike's extortion last week. Anya and Xander continue to amuse as they work out their relationship, and Xander's latest job quest is truly frightening. That boy has got to find something resembling a career before one of his jobs kills him. Or gets him killed. Anya's best bit comes from her "I choose to feel threatened" -- which, of course, she has every right to be feeling. You have to wonder how the Initiative would feel about the chance to study a former demon....

Best Moments:
The opening poker game. Giggle on giggle, from Willow's opening 'prayer' to Anya's innocent "Oh, we've enjoyed spanking" and Xander's subsequent 52-card pickup.

Buffy monitoring Riley's eating habits. < snerk > How long have they been married?

Spike and Giles in Spike's new crypt. Spike waxes wonderfully sarcastic and Giles desperately wants to belt him!

"Lose either one of them, there's hell to pay, and down here, we mean that literally." See, Walsh had a sense of humor until halfway in!

Xander explaining the seriousness of working to Anya. < snerk >

Xander talking Giles into buying, and Giles' reaction.

Spike and Giles, reprise. Giles gloats so very nicely.

Buffy onscreen, telling Walsh where to get off.

Questions and Comments:
Xander's soldier training keeps coming and going. A few episodes ago, his training had almost completely faded, yet he can still miraculously identify a tracer. Consistency, people.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5. The .5 is mostly granted thanks to the always lovely James Marsters and the wonderfully snide Tony Head; otherwise, the episode mostly just set everything else up. Not a bad thing, but nothing to sing and dance about.


"Does anyone else want to smack Riley really hard for being this gullible? Mo, you were *so* on the money with that "government" trip you figured out a week or so ago. I can't _believe_ that he fell for this. (Then again, I find it hard to believe that Forrest just says the monsters are animals. Gahhh.) Do you even have two bright shiny brain cells to rub together and get a glow going behind those pretty eyes, Farmboy? Sheesh. I know it's the age, I know it's the type --- naive, impressionable, well-intentioned, a little too disciplined. And still...." -- Chris

"Plus, what was up with Maggie's fixation on Riley? Was that a maternal thing, an I'm-in-charge thing, or an eeeuw-Mom-aged-mitts thing?" -- Chris

"I'm liking Graham a lot, too. The actor's not particularly exciting, but they're giving his character every reasonable, calm, mellow thing to say. He's a nice break from Riley and Forrest, who just get too wound up on themselves sometimes." -- Chris

"Buffy... was a bit disappointing. I have to leave in 5 minutes so I won't try and pin it down. Just... disappointing. It really didn't mesh for me. a) How much of Riley's liking for Buffy as a strong, dominant woman is due to all the brainwashing he's received to follow Walsh (mostly) unquestionably? b) How will his personalilty change after he's off all the drugs? c) I'm pissed off that he didn't even really have to *choose* between the Initiative and Buffy. " -- Dawn

"Slightly disappointed in a dramatic sense by Maggie skewerage. OTOH, it's great if you're Buffy... Brilliant bitka psych prof who's gone past obsessive and well into delusional, with major hardware and personnel at her disposal? Ghaaaaaaaa! Genetically engineered hybrid demon? Piece of cake. And of course, making that little speech to Riley *before* confirming that Buffy was dead rendered her Too Stupid To Live anyway. If she hadn't done that, she might have been able to spin it as a mistake/misunderstanding, and maybe even sold it to Buffy as well as Riley. Cool under pressure she wasn't." -- Valerie

"I was majorly disappointed to see Adam kill Maggie. I so wanted her to get a good whipping by Buffy first. After how she tried to trick Buffy into a brutal death, I really wanted Buffy to get a little payback." -- Debra Ann

"Neat device, intercutting between fight & sex. Riley entirely too cute during sex. The look on his face when she was kissing his chest was priceless! His first time, y'think? Or first "real" one, i.e. with significant emotional component? Post-fight sex = uncomfortable echoes of Faith." -- Valerie

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