“The I in Team”
Written by David Fury
Directed by James A. Contner
Willow is doing some kind of spell. …Or she’s just trying to get an edge in her poker game. Xander doesn’t approve. They’re not playing for money, though. Xander is excited about his new job, which is selling nutrition bars. Anya wins the round because she has three K cards. Hahaha. Xander feels the game would’ve been more fun if Buffy had been there, but she’s been spending all her time with Riley. Aaand Anya is still overly open about her and Xander’s sex life, which he finds mortifying. Xander is a little suspicious of the Initiative.
And seemingly with good reason, because a whole squad of them is attacking Buffy. She takes them down with ease, and then floodlights go on. It was a training session. Walsh is deeply impressed with Buffy’s performance, but Buffy acts all modest about it. Forrest and Graham (in pain), congratulate Buffy.
Buffy is regaling Willow with tales of her adventures with the Initiative. Willow seems less than excited. That evening is supposed to be the Scoobies hanging at the Bronze, and Buffy promises she’s coming. Riley comes in, and Buffy fondly watches him pick out his lunch—until he chooses a Twinkie. Willow is growing less enthused with her two best friends and their love lives.
Giles enters a crypt, which is apparently Spike’s crypt. He’s here to pay Spike for helping him when he was a Fyarl demon. Giles thinks Spike might be of more regular use to the gang, seeing as how he can only harm demons, but Spike is too busy counting his money to pay attention, and then he tells Giles to sod off. He says it rather a lot, actually. It savors a little of “the lady doth protest too much.”
Buffy and Riley are…about to have sex? Oh, no, Riley’s just about to bring her down into the Initiative facility for the first time. She’s even in their system, with a retinal scan and everything. She’s very impressed, and Walsh walks up in time to prevent her from conveying that with a kiss. Oh hey, apparently they do actually have semesters at UC Sunnydale, because Buffy makes a joke about how she thought she was done getting homework from Walsh. So what classes are she taking now?
Walsh leads Buffy’s tour, starting with the pit, where they do vivisections, dissections, and behavior modifications on demons. Buffy accidentally lets slip that she’s seen the behavior modification at work, and she awkwardly covers by pretending she was just talking about a Discovery Channel special. Unsubtle Buffy yay! Then Walsh shows Buffy the armory and scolds her for playing with a super expensive camera headset, called a “com cam.” Buffy gets a pager and a security card, but she’s not allowed in the classified research area (which is where 314 is).
Willow is hanging out with Tara, who has a dolls-eye crystal that used to be her grandma’s, and now she’s giving it to Willow. Willow can’t accept, but she will happily do some spells with it with Tara. Tara is down for that, tonight maybe? Willow can’t, because tonight is for hanging with the gang at the Bronze. Tara seems surprisingly upset, though she tries to play it cool (which the stutter makes impossible). Willow thinks Tara might feel awkward with the group, but Tara’s just feeling rejected, and she gets her stuff and leaves.
Walsh goes into the restricted research area, then into 314. We finally get to see what’s in there. A dude in scrubs asks how Buffy’s tour went. Walsh isn’t sure it’s wise to have Buffy all up in their business. She may be on their side, but she’s not a soldier. Walsh came to this room to check on her “baby,” which is a Frankenstein’s monster type creation, with human bits, demon bits, and robot bits. Well that can’t be good.
Willow, Anya, and Xander are at the Bronze, and Willow is anxiously waiting for Buffy to show up. Anya is indignant that Xander has been focusing on selling the health food bars instead of on her, but he points out that selling the bars makes him money that he can then spend on her. They want to head out, but Willow insists that they stay until Buffy shows up. Dang, how long have they been there without her? Oh. Almost an hour. And there she is! But she brought Riley, Forrest, Graham, and a couple of extras. Willow is rather upset, particularly because she snubbed Tara for this when apparently there was no reason to. Buffy didn’t mean to bring all the toy soldiers with her, but she couldn’t figure out how to get away without inviting them. Anya grabs Xander to go dance because she’s nervous about the Initiative guys and their anti-demon attitudes. When Buffy asks who Willow wanted to invite, Willow hedges and pretends the person is only hypothetical. Also Willow isn’t very impressed about Buffy being sort of affiliated with the Initiative now. She’s starting to feel like Buffy is moving on from needing the Scoobies—and also she’s worried that the Initiative might not be as wonderful as they seem.
Buffy and the Initiative guys all get paged before Willow can finish her argument, and Buffy leaves with them, excited, while Willow stays, bummed.
Buffy and all the soldiers get briefed on the night’s mission, which is to capture a Polgara demon without damaging its arms. Buffy has questions, but these briefings aren’t usually Q&As. Also she declines to get suited up in camo. Everyone present is either uncomfortable or annoyed by now.
Willow shows up at Tara’s dorm, to Tara’s surprise and delight. Willow think sit might be awkward because Tara was kind of her backup plan for the evening, but Tara doesn’t seem to mind.
The Initiative and Buffy are now on the hunt, and Buffy is fretting about whether or not Walsh likes her. Riley assures her that she does, but this isn’t the time to discuss it. Forrest is kind of annoyed that he’s not Riley’s second-in-command on this mission. Graham points out that he’s a team leader, so he’s actually in a higher position than usual. Forrest just doesn’t like getting displaced by a girl. Then Graham spots Spike with his night vision scope thing. The team goes after him. He gets away, but they manage to tag him with a tracking device.
Riley’s team gets a call from Graham about Spike. Then they get attacked by the Polgara demon, and all of a sudden, the fight is in slow motion and intercut with Buffy and Riley’s post-battle activities. (Sex. They have sex after they complete the mission.) And Walsh has cameras in Riley’s room, and she’s sitting there watching the show. Ew.
Xander is trying to peddle his health bars to Giles. Giles isn’t interested. And for good reason. One of the main flavors is almond licorice. Gross. Anya thinks his sales pitch should be less about the bars and more about his goal of buying her things. Hilariously, Giles caves. He tries a maple walnut bar, and this happens:
Spike comes bursting in under a tarp. He’s been on the run from the Initiative all night. Giles reminds Spike that he said he wanted nothing more to do with the Scoobies, so Spike takes a bite of humble pie and admits he needs help. Hey, if Graham shot him with that tracker through his coat, then wouldn’t there be a hole in it? Does that coat heal from damage or something?
Giles isn’t convinced that it’s their responsibility to help him. It takes a moment for Spike to realize that Giles is only going to help if he gives him his money back. He hands over what’s left after buying blood and cigarettes, all of which he had to abandon when the toy soldiers started chasing him.
Buffy wakes up, and for the first time, the guy is still there with her. This is a new and pleasant experience for her. They kiss, but it’s interrupted by an alarm, which is for Riley to take his vitamins. He needs an alarm for vitamins? He tells her a little about how he got recruited for the Initiative. She doesn’t understand how he can just follow orders without getting curious about what else is going on there. He’s content in the knowledge that he’s working for a good cause. He doesn’t need anything else. Buffy asks him about 314, but since the room is bugged, that means Walsh now knows Buffy knows something about her secret research. The phone rings before Riley can even attempt to answer, if he knew anything about 314 at all. It’s Walsh. Mission time.
Down in the facility, Riley notices the classified research door, and he wanders over and peeks inside, spotting the 314 door. Then Walsh finds him. They’ve been waiting to keep chasing Spike until Riley showed up. Walsh seems particularly fond of Riley, and it’s mutual. Walsh talks to the scrubs guy in 314, who was at the briefing earlier. Because Buffy knows about 314, she feels she’s a liability. So it’s time to do something about her. Scrubs guy thinks that’s a shame, because Buffy could have been a great ally, and Riley’s not going to handle this well. Also, he’s working on amputating the Polgara demon’s arm and transplanting it onto Project Frankenstein (that’s not actually what he’s called, but he totally should be).
Giles is working on removing the thing the Initiative shot into Spike. Giles wants to use booze as an anesthetic, but Xander has figured out that the blinky light thing in Spike’s shoulder is a tracking device, so they need to get rid of it pronto. Anya gives Spike the booze to drink instead.
Buffy and Willow return to the dorm within a few seconds of each other. Neither has been there all night. Willow is clearly still a little resentful about Buffy bringing a bunch of extra guests to the Bronze and then leaving, but she pretends she’s not, and Buffy believes the pretense. Then she gets paged again. She heads out. The phone rings. It’s Giles. He needs Willow’s help, which she finds gratifying.
Walsh wants to send Buffy out for a “small reconnaissance job” since all her soldier boys are out on missions. She gives Buffy a taser gun thing and one of those com cams. Buffy is still very awkward with all this protocol stuff, but she’s happy to go on this mission as long as Walsh will answer her big questions about the Initiative when she gets back.
Enough time has passed at Giles’s apartment that Spike is now drunk. Willow is doing a spell to fuzz out the tracer’s signal. This makes all of Giles’s appliances short out and everyone’s hair stand up. Hahaha.
The only one whose hair is unaffected is Spike, but that’s because he has Ramen noodles growing out of his head, and those are more resistant to static electricity.
Riley and his team are still following Spike’s signal. They have to delay for a few minutes so they can change into street clothes before they head into populated areas.
Buffy is in the sewers, wearing the com cam. The alleged “small reconnaissance job” proves to be an actual situation with armed demons. The same demons, in fact, who were getting examined in the pit at the facility. Buffy recognizes them, but she’s not in full on “it’s a trap!” mode until the taser gun malfunctions and grates crash down over all the exits.
After all Walsh has seen of Buffy’s abilities, she really should have sent more than two. Buffy doesn’t have an easy time slaying them, but she’s faced worse. Walsh is watching the com cam’s feed, which makes it look like Buffy just got beheaded. The heart rate monitor flatlines. Maybe Walsh shouldn’t have that feed coming in through a terminal that faces the entire facility.
Riley and his team are getting close. Willow’s spell is wearing off, but Giles finally got the tracer out of Spike. Xander flushes it. The soldiers briefly think Spike must be on the move, but then they realize the tracer got flushed. Also, how the heck were they tracking him using this featureless grid?
Buffy has not been beheaded! She kills one demon, then uses the malfunctioning taser to electrocute the other demon when it jumps in some standing water to retrieve its axe.
Riley reports back to Walsh about failing to capture Spike, and she tells Riley that Buffy was just killed when she unwisely went after two escaped demons without backup. She tells him this right in front of the terminal with Buffy’s com cam feed, and before Riley can get too devastated by the news that Buffy’s dead, Buffy picks up the com cam and tells Walsh how much she appreciates Walsh trying to get her killed and how much fun Walsh is going to have being on her bad side. Then she breaks the com cam. Walsh knows she just lost Riley. He walks away, ignoring her desperate orders.
Giles thinks Spike should probably leave Sunnydale, but Spike doesn’t want to until after the Initiative fixes him. Yeah, because they’ll totally do that. Buffy arrives to tell them none of them is safe as long as the Initiative is in operation.
Walsh, still very upset about losing Riley, isn’t going to give up on taking Buffy down just yet. She’s got her secret weapon, which even Riley doesn’t know about. Project Frankenstein, or Adam, should definitely be strong enough to defeat Buffy. Halfway through her evil rant, Adam shanks her with his nifty new Polgara arm spike. It’s alive! (Walsh, less so.)
“The I in Team” is a pretty good episode if you happen to enjoy all the stuff with the Initiative. It’s a little rushed, though. It took us half a season to learn that the Initiative has some shady operations (or at least its leaders do), but now Buffy gets a tour, joins up, goes on missions, and is nearly assassinated in the space of a single episode? And in the same episode, the corrupt mastermind of all this gets killed? With enough time left over for a subplot about the Scoobies removing a tracking device from Spike? All of that definitely could have been stretched out across at least one more episode. This one could have been all the good things about the Initiative (which still put a strain on Buffy’s older friendships), and the next one could have been it going downhill, kind of like what happened with “Bad Girls” and “Consequences.” Spreading it out also would’ve helped make Buffy’s slow switch to spending most of her time with Riley and the Initiative have a stronger impact, so that Willow’s poutiness over it would feel more justified. So I guess, all of the developments in this episode are great ones, but the pacing of them decreases their value a bit.
Buffy has her first sexual experience that doesn’t end in badness, and she seems both surprised (which is super depressing) and happy. Riley may not be very interesting, but you really can’t say he’s a bad boyfriend (at this point). It’s perhaps a little red flag-esque on Buffy’s part that she doesn’t confide in him what it means to her that he’s still there. She’s more interested in learning about him, but I do think it might be the beginning of a pattern that leads to serious trouble for their relationship. Riley is the only one fully engaged in it on an emotional level. It’s kind of surprising that Buffy isn’t picking up on some of Willow’s issues. She’s usually more perceptive about Willow, but maybe she’s just so swept up in the first good thing to happen in her life in a long time that she won’t push as hard as usual to figure out what’s going on with her best friend.
Xander is taking Buffy’s increasing absence from the group much better than Willow. He’s content to just go spend time with Anya whenever his friends aren’t available, and he’s not getting all bent out of shape about it. He's also on the next in his string of very short-lived jobs. I kind of wish he could've been a knife salesman just once. I did that a few summers ago, and the only good thing about it was that it made me realize I never want to work a sales job ever again.
Willow being upset with Buffy for hanging out with Riley so much is kind of irritating when she’s the one who helped set them up together in the first place, and when she’s been spending a lot of time with her own secret person and lying about it. Does she want to be able to tell Buffy about Tara, but she feels like she can’t because there’s a distance growing between them? Because her unhappiness seems to be much more about jealousy than it is about being suspicious of the Initiative.
I definitely noticed that there was a mother/son thing with Walsh and Riley, but I never thought to connect the dots with the other pseudo-familial relationships on the show. Giles and Buffy have a father/daughter thing, and so did the Mayor and Faith. It’s like the writers are setting up Walsh and Riley to be the next round of evil parent/child duo, except that Riley, despite his soldier mindset of not asking questions, isn’t as easy to manipulate as Faith.
Spike learns an important lesson: if he wants help when he’s in trouble, he has to be willing to give it. I’m still not buying that the Scoobies wouldn’t just stake him or that he wouldn’t be trying harder to get rid of the chip.
It is deeply satisfying to watch Giles reverse-extort Spike. When it comes to mental and verbal chess, Giles is leagues better than Spike.
“Those things usually taste kinda tasteless, and then leave a bad aftertastelessness.”
“You can’t take that home, that’s classified material, highly sensitive. When you’re through reading those pages, you’ll have to eat them.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.