Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The I in Team   Rewatch 
September 9, 2015 11:07 PM - Season 4, Episode 13 - Subscribe

Buffy is psyched to join up with The Initiative and spend time with Riley in the field and in bed. Professor Walsh is not as psyched about these developments, and tries to take the Slayer out of the picture. Willow grows closer to Tara, Riley tries to recapture Hostile 17, and the secret of Room 314 is revealed.
posted by yellowbinder (16 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
This is a weird episode. I had actually (despite having watched the show several times through!) remembered this arc as being spread out, but nope, Buffy joins the initiative, asks a few questions, and Walsh immediately decides to kill her! It's... I mean... given that Buffy was clearly not suited for initiative work, she could have kicked her out? Rather than go for a super lame kill Buffy plan (why not just have a grenade go off in her pocket or something?). It's like the writers are in a bit of a rush to move the plot along, so much so that they then go ahead and kill Walsh! It's nuts, and I think a huge mistake. Walsh is just more interesting than Adam manages to be, and getting rid of her so soon kills a lot of potential dramatic tension. Simply put, contrasting Riley's loyalty between Walsh and Buffy is a lot more interesting than his loyalty between shouty dude and Buffy.

The Willow stuff going on in the background is good. Willow actually makes time for Buffy, only for Buffy to completely fail her, causing her to spend more time with her girlfriend (which, you know, is fair enough!). What's kind of interesting about this plot line is that I don't think either of them are terribly at fault. Sure, Buffy could act a bit better, but this kind of behaviour is a natural thing that might happen at university.

We also have the sex fight. It's nice that Buffy finally gets to have sex with someone and then not be immediately punished by the universe, although the scene is framed in short in a way that skeeves me out for some reason. I think maybe it's meant to be sexy? Just didn't quite work for me.

-Walsh drinks coffee while contemplating her evil plan
-"Everyone's getting spanked but me."
-OK, Spike literally stands next to a window in his crypt in the middle of the day. They're not even trying anymore.
-I'm not convinced that Adam has the best attachments. Is a poky skewer really a better weapon than, say, a knife? The borg in star trek also seem to have this problem, I guess there's a limit to what the prop department can manage.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:16 AM on September 10, 2015


In one of the DVD commentaries (can't remember which, off-hand, sorry!) one of the writers/production team mentions that they had to write the character of Maggie Walsh out earlier than anticipated because the actress wanted to leave. She was originally intended to be the main antagonist throughout the season.
posted by Coaticass at 3:12 AM on September 10, 2015


In one of the DVD commentaries (can't remember which, off-hand, sorry!) one of the writers/production team mentions that they had to write the character of Maggie Walsh out earlier than anticipated because the actress wanted to leave. She was originally intended to be the main antagonist throughout the season.

Really? Wow that makes a massive amount of sense!
posted by Cannon Fodder at 3:29 AM on September 10, 2015


She was originally intended to be the main antagonist throughout the season.

That would definitely track with the Little Bad-Big Bad pattern of most of the other seasons -- Adam was a singularly underwhelming BB, and really should have been the LB, leading to a much better confrontation with a Prof. Walsh BB.
posted by Etrigan at 6:26 AM on September 10, 2015


Huh, that does really make a lot more sense. I always found it a bit surprising that Lindsay Crouse took that role in the first place.
posted by something something at 6:46 AM on September 10, 2015


Now I can't stop thinking about this: how fucking frustrating must it be for a writer to have a season-long arc planned out (and you can't tell me that every season of BTVS at least after the third one didn't have the arc more or less locked down before day one of shooting, with room for tweaks here and there if shit just isn't working) and a major character just decide, "Nah, not feelin' it. I'm out."
posted by Etrigan at 7:51 AM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Now I'm even more mad at Maggie Walsh than the episode normally makes me!

Buffy asking questions was one thing, but surely it was sleeping with Riley that really pushed Walsh into kill mode. There's some serious mommy issues there, and it's unfortunate they were only explored posthumously through Adam.
posted by yellowbinder at 9:54 AM on September 10, 2015


Hmm, that explanation for Walsh's sudden death and weirdo behaviour does make the arc more understandable. Walsh always seemed reasonably supportive of and interested in Buffy, so the abrupt about-face seemed really dumb. Also because of the asking questions - Walsh has a scientific background rather than a military one, so should actually be a lot more sympathetic to the asking of questions; and as a psychologist she should also understand how to defuse Buffy's questions without arousing animosity or suspicion. So it is much more satisfying to have a reason why this all got handled not terribly well.

That Buffy/Riley fight/sex mashup was really weird and really didn't work for me. I understand the correspondence between heightened arousal for fighting and heightened arousal for sex, really. I just didn't like the way they did it. Also, can I say, Walsh watching Riley and Buffy have sex? EWWWWWW.

So, awkward and icky bits aside, I just get this gooey happy glow when I see the developing relationship between Willow and Tara. Tara's painful shyness and tentative invitation and Willow trying to let her down so gently. And then the look on Tara's face when Willow shows up after all, inviting her in... mmmm... It's just really well-done and lovely.

And on the amusement side: the Initiative's pagers (!) all going off at once in the Bronze - so covert! No one will ever suspect! Just like Spike running through Sunnydale with a tarp over his head apparently occasions no notice. Pretty funny.
posted by Athanassiel at 5:29 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


And on the amusement side: the Initiative's pagers (!) all going off at once in the Bronze - so covert! No one will ever suspect! Just like Spike running through Sunnydale with a tarp over his head apparently occasions no notice. Pretty funny.

If there's one consistent thing about this show, it's that the people of Sunnydale are really, REALLY bad at noticing things.
posted by ilana at 7:50 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


There was a throwaway bit with the Mayor last season about how much time and effort he spends covering all this stuff up. After a while, I guess the inertia of not-noticing keeps on.
posted by Etrigan at 8:15 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah, I know. But every so often it just becomes particularly ludicrous.
posted by Athanassiel at 9:45 PM on September 10, 2015


As the show went on it seemed like everyone in Sunnydale did know things were weird but just sort of chose not to think about it too hard.
posted by something something at 7:11 AM on September 11, 2015


This episode may be worth it even just for Giles’ “Please leave my home now” when he bites into the Boost bar Xander gives him. I want that on a cross-stitch.

Willow: Well, they do seem to fall into the 'good guy' camp. I mean they are anti-demon. Probably pro ex-demon.
Anya: Maybe. I choose to feel threatened.

It’s interesting how Anya has this uneasy place in the group as an ex-demon (considering how fairly indiscriminately the gang kills vampires, demons, etc. with some extreme exceptions). Over the series, we start to see the line between good/evil get more and more blurred with demons. Oz is a werewolf, but the separation between werewolf time and human time is almost total (no memory) even if it starts to bleed through a little. Anya was a demon, but no longer (but she’s had a similar personality throughout, and how much does she really change when she changes back and then gives it up again). Angel/Angelus is the show trying to make a large distinction between souled and unsouled Angel. But then we get fairly inoffensive demons just trying to make a living, the fine line Spike starts to walk between not having a soul and doing good things, and someone like Clem, who is probably the (at least superficially) sweetest character on the show. (Sure, kitten poker is vile, but we eat baby cows.)

Villains have gone from a twisted, ancient evil that’s as non-humanlike as possible (the Master) to people with souls (the Mayor started out as a person, Maggie was supposed to be the Big Bad, the Trio in S6 has Warren doing some pretty appalling things), Willow flays him alive and tries to destroy the world, changed by dark magic but still having a soul. Magic turns out to have both good and bad properties (which are highlighted by hair colour). Then when Angel the series happens, so much of the evil is essentially human (symbolized by the central law firm). Even the Slayer is part demon. One of the things I think this season really starts developing is that good guys/bad guys rarely if ever works or is so clean cut, which is at the root of Riley’s disillusionment (well, also that his mentor figure watched him having sex, pumped him full of drugs, tried to kill his girlfriend and was then skewered by her own monstrous creation, but whatever). It’s like going from just trying to survive high school by following the rules, to developing more, actually critical thought in university (well, I can dream, anyway).

I kind of wish they had given Graham a character more than “generic nice-ish guy,” but his reaction to Buffy neutralizing the team (“awesome, Buffy”) is a nice contrast with Forrest’s bruised sexist manly dickishness, which sets the wheels in motion for the rest of the season. For a psychology TA, Riley’s not so great at reading people. Of course, he’s also a psychology grad student who doesn’t ask questions. At least it looks like Buffy passed Walsh’s class and he’s no longer her TA (bleh).

Oh, pagers.

I understand Buffy’s behaviour, but I don’t think she quite realizes that Willow basically gave up the best schools in the world to help Buffy on her mission and is now being told she largely doesn’t get to be part of that mission because, ooh, new shiny organization with resources. No wonder she works to develop her magic on her own, chooses someone who looks up to her (as she’s sick of being a sidekick) and keeps her life to herself. It’s a natural reaction to being kept out.

I like that they don’t even try to show us Spike’s hair in the ionizing shot because what on earth would they have done with it.
posted by ilana at 10:59 AM on September 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


I kind of wish they had given Graham a character more than “generic nice-ish guy,” but his reaction to Buffy neutralizing the team (“awesome, Buffy”) is a nice contrast with Forrest’s bruised sexist manly dickishness, which sets the wheels in motion for the rest of the season.

Yeah for a character with incredibly little screen time, Graham is pretty likeable.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 2:38 PM on September 14, 2015


To add to the "alternate universe version of Buffy I'd like to be able to see": I'd like to see an AU version where Lindsay Crouse stuck around for the full season as the Big Bad. She'd be the only non-supernaturally-enhanced BB, and the season finale would involve the Scoobies engaging in a battle of wits with her along with the supernatural fighting stuff. It would have been way more interesting than "Walsh suddenly turns into an idiot after watching Buffy and Riley having sex (ew)."
posted by creepygirl at 3:45 PM on September 14, 2015


Huh, the fight/sex scene actually worked for me (in a non-squicky way) I think because it reminded me of the similarly cut sequence in Out of Sight.It certainly works better than anything in "Where The Wild Things Are," which is just such a nadir.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:51 PM on September 22, 2018


« Older America's Next Top Model: The ...   |  Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Good... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments

poster