Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Yoko Factor   Rewatch 
September 30, 2015 9:08 PM - Season 4, Episode 20 - Subscribe

As Adam prepares his plan, he enlists Spike to fracture the Scoobies. Not a difficult task given their diverging paths this year. Riley learns the full truth of Buffy's relationship with Angel, then comes face to face with him.
posted by yellowbinder (25 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
McNamara calling Buffy "Just a girl" is another one for the "Just a girl" theme bank. Then of course, we cut to Spike saying "she's a lot more than that," and trying to qualify that with that he means she's dangerous, but we all know where that foreshadowing really leads ("You're the one...you're a hell of a woman").

Spike: "You're like Tony Robbins. If he was a big scary...Frankenstein looking...You're exactly like Tony Robbins." Oh, Spike, never change.

It's been tough to see the Scoobies fracture and separate this year (and bringing Oz back to remind us of that sort of loss in the previous episode reinforces this), and this episode reminds us that the reason Buffy survives is that she doesn't go it alone - she has friends (a Slayer with friends and a mother...that wasn't in the brochure, as Spike realizes the first time they go head-to-head, which is why he has this particular idea).

I only recently saw the Angel crossover part of this, so the reasons Buffy was so upset at Angel, and why Angel was such an asshole on his return were a bit of a mystery to me the first few times I saw this one. There's really no better argument for keeping Angel on his own series (as the show makes very clear by the conversation between him and Buffy) than how ridiculous and petty he (and Riley) are this episode, though I do like Riley's "not moving a muscle" as the others avoid him by leaving the room. At least things lighten up a bit when they talk (which, the episode implies, is what everyone in this episode should have been doing honestly with each other for a long time).

More Giles singing! The writers know what we want. Giles singing, and also kittens.

(Kind of silly) foreshadowing: Willow saying, in a dramatic voice, "You cannot have more catnip! You have a catnip problem!"

The Initiative parallels the Scoobies in that they're both families that are fracturing or tearing apart, as Forrest admits to Buffy when they go to search the cave (nice reuse of the blaster Walsh sent her on the deathtrap mission with).

More Giles drinking when he feels useless. More Spike being extremely perceptive. Xander is the deadest man in Deadonia. Angel is Mr. Billowy Coat King of Pain. Tara and Anya hide in the bathroom.
posted by ilana at 11:44 PM on September 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


This episode would be a hell of a lot better if Angel wasn't in it. He is a vehicle for an artificial and pointless conflict, and this marks the worst cross over the shows ever do (well, the one in 7 is bad for other reasons, but we'll get there). Other than the stupid testosterone conflict (the not moving a muscle moment is indeed very funny), it also undermines what should be a really key point: Forrest gets stabbed. This should matter more! But instead Riley ends up being more concerned about Angel being evil/muscling in on his territory. Riley in this episode is a hint of things to come in Season 5, where he becomes absolutely the worst person.

The other running plot is a lot more fun. Spike sowing discord, unveiling problems which are already there, is terrific, and we finally get the simmering resentments come boiling out all at once, to Buffy's total surprise. Everyone has a point: Giles and Xander feel useless and scorned, Willow disconnected; Buffy is overly dismissive, as she often is, of people's emotional weight.

I think Buffy often has this problem, and I mean that in a good writing way rather than a bad one, that because she regularly shoulders a massive burden she basically expects everyone else to support her, rather than visa versa. In some ways that's almost valid, she's the slayer after all, but this inability to notice when her friends need her support will come back and bite her again and again. I think 4 is actually probably the most ensembley the show will ever get actually, as 5 will be utterly about Buffy, 6 will be about her and Willow, and 7 will again be all Buffy all the time.

I will note how little the writers tended to plot out their show, as if you listen to the commentary for this episode, the problem they end up with where Willow has the data but won't want to give it to Buffy, is a mistake they made, which they then mock Spike for.

Oh, and yet again, how bad are the Initiative in this episode. Buffy goes home. No-one arrests her. Riley leaves hiding and comes to Buffy's home. No-one arrests him!

-Giles playing the guitar again
-"He's a viking in the sack."
-Xander got fired from a phone sex line
-Buffy doesn't say she loves Riley back
-I am no Alfred sir. Alfred has a job. Is Giles just really rich? How has he been living in the US unemployed for a year.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:22 AM on October 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


-I am no Alfred sir. Alfred has a job. Is Giles just really rich? How has he been living in the US unemployed for a year.

I think he might be. There's a tradition of the aristocracy going into public service because it's the right thing to do (granted there's also a tradition of them being totally unqualified and messing everything up), not because they need the money.
posted by Mogur at 5:26 AM on October 1, 2015


IIRC, in one of the Buffy comics written by Whedon, there's a flashback where a little rich English girl refers to a young Giles as "the butcher's son". So assuming that's canon, Giles doesn't come from money.

I remember wondering how he was making a living when this episode was new... but at one point or another everybody has weird money situations going on in this show, where they have no visible means of support but somehow they still have homes and working lights. Money is one of those things that you just can't think about if you're going to enjoy this show. (That and the surreal disappearance of Buffy's dad. It's hardly impossible he'd be an asshole and vanish on his kids like that, but it is kind of impossible that he'd do it and his kids would deal with it by casually mentioning him once every three years or so. Given all the angst on this show, it's kind of amazing that we never got even one scene of Dawn sobbing about how Dad never gave a crap about them. I'm guessing the writers kicked around what to do about it and couldn't figure it out so they shrugged and went, "Well, Dad's just gone.")

Somebody kindly refresh my memory: was Giles totally on the outs with the Watcher's Council at this point? Is there any way he was still getting money from them? I suppose it's possible being a watcher paid very well and at this point he's living off his savings. (Of course, if the Council pays well why don't they PAY THE SLAYER?)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:06 AM on October 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


When the council comes to town with info about Glory and Buffy puts them in their place one of the things she demands is back-pay for Giles. So they haven't paid him since they fired him.
posted by wabbittwax at 6:47 AM on October 1, 2015


Little-known legal trivia -- in Southern California, it is against the law to evict an Englishman.
posted by Etrigan at 6:49 AM on October 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


(Of course, if the Council pays well why don't they PAY THE SLAYER?)

I assume they expect a Slayer's Watcher to cover her expenses, but to do it as sparingly as possible. Note that Kendra came to Sunnydale on official business, and was not exactly traveling in style, or even with a full briefing.

(As for why, see basically everything Quentin Travers ever said. They really regarded Slayers as expendable property, not soldiers. The Cruciamentum challenge seems designed to cull ones smart or strong enough to survive the natural rigors of the job, just to prevent them from getting someone old enough to buck the system in the manner Buffy does.)
posted by mordax at 9:28 AM on October 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


When the council comes to town with info about Glory and Buffy puts them in their place one of the things she demands is back-pay for Giles. So they haven't paid him since they fired him.

And before that back-pay is reinstated, Giles buys a BMW convertible. So he absolutely has to be wealthy, whereever that money comes from.

(And then there's the horse that he has in England, which gives him a from-a-wealthy-family vibe to me.)
posted by creepygirl at 10:12 AM on October 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also, I loathe the Riley/Angel fight so much, because it goes on long enough to clearly be fanservice for the kind of people who think that a woman isn't worth anything unless two guys are fighting over her. Buffy (the character) may have no use for that kind of crap, but Buffy (the TV show) clearly does.

I think Buffy often has this problem, and I mean that in a good writing way rather than a bad one, that because she regularly shoulders a massive burden she basically expects everyone else to support her, rather than visa versa. In some ways that's almost valid, she's the slayer after all, but this inability to notice when her friends need her support will come back and bite her again and again.

I agree with this. On tumblr there seems to be a consensus that Buffy is a perfect friend and the Scoobies (except for Tara) are uniformly awful friends and people. Buffy's friends do let her down (especially in Season 6), but I think Buffy does have moments of empathy fail as well (bringing Faith back after the assault on Xander, without ever talking to Xander about it, for example).
posted by creepygirl at 10:49 AM on October 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Funny, I feel like the general opinion was the exact opposite when the show was airing. But I'm sure it's backlash against that idea (Buffy sucks and the other characters are great) that got us where we are today.
posted by chaiminda at 4:25 AM on October 2, 2015


Funny, I feel like the general opinion was the exact opposite when the show was airing

I was a member, and eventually a moderator, at a large fan community during S1-S4 and can attest to that within that group. I mean, we all did see When She Was Bad. Anne. Her recurring inability to kill Angelus in S2, or disclose his return later. At the time, if there'd been a poll over Bestest Scooby Friend, Willow would've taken it by a landslide. Xander was looked at as sorta pathetic, although nobody had really put together just how bad his behavior was as a recurring pattern.

(I can't speak for anything much past Earshot - the ensuing Columbine discussion was as nasty as anything in Metatalk, and I both buttoned and swore off modding after.)

After the fact, I still would've liked to be pals with Giles, Tara and, amusingly, Cordelia. Not so much the core trio, for various reasons.
posted by mordax at 9:53 AM on October 2, 2015


Spike: "You're like Tony Robbins. If he was a big scary...Frankenstein looking...You're exactly like Tony Robbins."

Heh, in The End Has Come, Tony Robbins makes an undead appearance, this time as a zombie. Poor guy.
posted by ftm at 10:30 AM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Fans often seem to turn against the lead character in a franchise. It happened to Buffy, it happened to Harry Potter, it happened to Jack from Lost. I don't think that sort of thing happened much before the web, you probably didn't have Trekkies in 1972 moaning about how much they despised James T. Kirk. I think people get together online and they talk and talk about a show and certain ideas get repeated and distorted and built on and distorted again, until a kind of warped consensus emerges that the lead character is the worst part of their own show.

Buffy, Harry and Jack are all good, interesting characters with a lot of courage, cunning and moxie. They are also faced with bizarre, frightening circumstances with potentially apocalyptic consequences and sometimes they buckle under the strain of it and feel angry, frustrated, hopeless and alone. They have human flaws, in other words. I think the idea that any of these characters are "the worst" is mostly just fan echo chamber nonsense that will fade as time goes on.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:34 PM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


You had me until Jack, Ursula. Just a horrible human being all around, and I think the writers knew that as well and gave up on trying to redeem him.
posted by Etrigan at 5:48 PM on October 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


If I had been watching Buffy as it was airing, I would have been watching it as a shy, nerdy high schooler who derived a lot of self-definition from being a big nerd who loved to read and did well in school. So, I think I probably would have felt more of an affinity for Willow and Giles, and less for Buffy and Xander.
posted by esker at 2:25 PM on October 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Following on from why some demons are okay to trust because we know them, Spike does a really good job of demonstrating why it's actually a lot more complicated than that. I actually really like how easily he manipulates them in this episode, using some basic observational skills and knowledge of their group dynamic - particularly their lack of communication - to set them all against each other. He does it quite cleverly, deducing Willow and Tara's relationship simply from noticing Tara playing with Willow's hair (big contrast to the obliviousness of Xander, who not only hasn't twigged but doesn't even register the revelation at first). They are all so wrapped up in their own little worlds, increasingly fractured from the others, that Spike has a lot to work with. And this is not the last time the show will exploit that particular theme, either - just as its flip side - what can't we face if we're together? - is also a recurring theme. This is both their strength and their weakness: together, they can and do achieve greatness. And yet they all chafe against each other, they all keep things from each other, they are all, at times, indifferent to each other's feelings and so sow the seeds for dissension and miscommunication and fracturing again.

This is the fault that I have with Buffy: she doesn't learn. She is quick to castigate others for their faults but rarely devotes much time to considering her own. The others go through much bigger journeys in their own way (which isn't to say I don't have issues with those journeys, particularly Willow's) but Buffy doesn't really change very much from start to finish. And call me old-fashioned, but I like a story in which the hero changes, particularly if it doesn't come in the neatly-packaged "I've learned something today". I mean real change. And stuff happens to Buffy, sure, but she doesn't change much. I find that baffling, and ultimately I have a hard time understanding or empathising with her as a result.

Others have already covered the grossness of the Angel/Riley conflict here, so I will just add two things: my ire for Xander's eagerness to spill all the dirt on exactly why he hates Angel so much, which oddly Riley doesn't seem to hold against him even though it makes it clear that Xander still has more than a bit of that testosterone-laden jealousy/possessiveness going on himself. Also, Buffy's dorm is like the quietest dorm ever. Her argument with Angel in the hallway doesn't result in anyone telling them to piss off and be quiet, isn't interrupted by anyone going to the loo or to brush their teeth and is overall completely improbable. Even if it is beautiful that they leave Riley alone in the room.

All that aside, my favourite moment in this episode is the argument at Giles's place. From Tara quickly slipping out and then Anya joining her (nice tile) to Giles drunkenly stripping off his jumper as he staggers upstairs, it is a lovely, hilarious scene.
posted by Athanassiel at 5:05 AM on October 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


My husband and I just watched this one and had a great time making fun of the Buffy/Riley love confession scene.

Seriously, you love someone, so you think they will probably cheat on you? You love someone, and think their judgement is so poor that they would intentionally unleash a psychotic demon? You love someone, so you attack their friends? GROSS.
posted by chaiminda at 5:28 AM on October 4, 2015


'love makes you do the wacky' is a persistent buffy theme.
posted by Sebmojo at 9:20 PM on October 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is the fault that I have with Buffy: she doesn't learn. She is quick to castigate others for their faults but rarely devotes much time to considering her own. The others go through much bigger journeys in their own way (which isn't to say I don't have issues with those journeys, particularly Willow's) but Buffy doesn't really change very much from start to finish. And call me old-fashioned, but I like a story in which the hero changes, particularly if it doesn't come in the neatly-packaged "I've learned something today". I mean real change. And stuff happens to Buffy, sure, but she doesn't change much. I find that baffling, and ultimately I have a hard time understanding or empathising with her as a result.

I disagree with that. I think she sometimes learns the wrong lessons, and sometimes the writers make her regress because lazy writers are always doing that, but sure, she learns and changes. She learns heroic responsibility in one, she learns personal responsibility in two, and an ability to sacrifice. In three she makes a decision about the kind of person she needs to be, and the actions she is willing/unwilling to take. She doesn't seem to change much in 4, I'll grant you, and I think that's 4's biggest flaw, but 5 is all about Buffy, and her decision that there are some lines she absolutely will never cross.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 10:37 AM on October 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Total side point, in Men in Black when they show the big board of aliens Tony Robbins is on there. He must have a good sense of humor about himself.
posted by miss-lapin at 6:52 PM on October 6, 2015


Cannon Fodder, I think we have to agree to disagree on this one. I don't think Buffy is completely unchanged from the start to finish. Of course she grows up and has experiences, learns some lessons. But she doesn't really face up to herself at any stage. She is a hero at the start and a hero at the finish and a hero all the way through. The closest she gets really is running away to avoid being a hero, and even in that episode she's a hero. I guess we don't see the time she's spent not being heroic, but it seems pretty clear that she was just pretending she wasn't a hero anymore and really she was all along. Silly Buffy.

Meanwhile she is consistently portrayed as the person who knows what to do, is always right even when everyone else thinks she's wrong, doesn't need to question any of her instincts or dreams or assumptions because of course she makes the right decisions (well, except for those wacky love/lust digressions, but she gets over them in the end). Pretty much like the bit where Fuffy stands in front of the mirror and practices the self-righteous "because it's WRONG" speech. She goes through some tough times, sure; she makes some tough decisions, sure. But there's not really a lot of tension behind them because she is so much and so unquestioningly heroic.

*shrug* I don't hate her; her role as a hero serves a useful purpose. She does have her struggles and her dilemmas. She puts her life on the line. She kills her lover. She dabbles with being irresponsible but goes back to being a hero. She sacrifices herself (heroically), she is reborn and still keeps fighting even though in an existential depression, because that's what heroes do. She trains up other potential heroes to be heroes just like her, because she is so good at being heroic. She's not unappealing, that kind of single-mindedness is a useful steady point and touchstone to play off of throughout the series. I just find the complex variations more interesting than the theme.
posted by Athanassiel at 9:08 PM on October 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I guess I get where you're coming from Athanassiel, I just think that Buffy being a hero is the point of the program, but the type of hero she is varies greatly. Obviously if the hero type rubs you up the wrong way, then Buffy will rub you up the wrong way too [Aside, it's super confusing to talk about Buffy the character and Buffy the show in the same paragraph :)]
posted by Cannon Fodder at 1:16 AM on October 7, 2015


[Aside, it's super confusing to talk about Buffy the character and Buffy the show in the same paragraph :)]

I try to use "Buffy" and "BTVS" to differentiate.
posted by Etrigan at 5:54 AM on October 7, 2015


Why not just italicize Buffy when you're referring to the show? (Maybe asking "why not" sounds a little snarky, but I don't mean it that way.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:38 PM on October 7, 2015


So as not to lose the italics while quoting or emphasizing. Also to make it even more apparent.
posted by Etrigan at 4:56 PM on October 7, 2015


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