Written by Marti Noxon
Directed by David Solomon
Buffy tells the Scoobies what just happened with Walsh trying to get her killed. Giles, as much as he doesn’t like Walsh, is shocked. Spike remarks that Buffy has sucky taste in men (well that doesn’t bode well, then, does it?) because if Walsh orchestrated it, then Riley is probably on her side. Everyone else is silent. They also feel that Riley has been implicated, even if they’re less willing to admit it. Buffy almost admits they have a point, but then she remembers that Walsh pointedly had Riley occupied for the duration of Buffy’s final assignment. They try to puzzle out why Walsh wants Buffy dead, and they figure it must be that she has something to hide, and Buffy was getting too close. Elsewhere, Adam the Frankencyborg has made his way outside the facility.
Buffy wants them all to gear up and go into hiding until they can figure out a plan. Xander’s place is the least likely to get checked by the Initiative, since he is supposedly the least-known member of the group. But wait, didn’t a whole gang of Initiative dudes see Xander hanging out with Willow and Buffy at the Bronze like two days earlier? Either way, we don’t get to find out how terrible that idea was, because Giles vetoes operation Run and Hide. He thinks it’s unlikely that the Initiative will come looking for them at his flat.
Cue Riley bursting in without knocking. Hope those words tasted good, Giles. Riley is very concerned about Buffy after Walsh’s lies and Buffy’s little vid chat. She tells him Walsh tried to kill her. He wants a detailed rundown of it, convinced there’s been a mistake. Xander takes offense at that idea. Riley notices Spike, who he recognizes this time as Hostile 17. Spike whips out his extremely terrible American accent again, then gives up and admits it. Riley is deeply appalled that they’ve been harboring his fugitive monster this whole time. Spike doesn’t care. He leaves to go watch soaps in his crypt.
Riley wants an explanation, but Xander points out that since Buffy is the one who just got tossed in a death trap under false pretenses, she’s the one who gets to ask the questions right now. Riley really doesn’t want Walsh to be the bad guy, since he trusts her and looks up to her. Giles tells him about their suspicions regarding Buffy getting too close to Walsh’s secrets. He keeps grasping for any kind of handhold, but the evidence against Walsh looks pretty solid. They’re pretty much breaking his brain. An hour ago, he was extremely solid in his worldview, his sense of right and wrong, and his own purpose. Now it’s all been thrown out the window. He bails.
A little kid is playing with a cyborg toy in a foresty area behind his neighborhood when Adam comes strolling up. The kid is surprisingly not afraid of him, and he tells him he’s a monster. Adam is curious as to the kid’s inner workings. I’m not optimistic about that kid’s future.
Riley is walking through campus at night, looking pretty dejected. Down in the Initiative, the doctor guy who was wearing scrubs last time has upgraded his outfit to include a lab coat, and he’s looking for Walsh. He doesn’t find her body until he slips in her blood.
Oh hey, it looks like the Scoobies did decide Xander’s place was where they should hunker down after all. They’ve put up a blanket divider so there can be a boys’ room and a girls’ room. The girls are watching Merrie Melodies, and Buffy is trying to apply logic to Wile E. Coyote. Giles has a migraine, so he turns off the TV. He had to spend the night on some kind of inflatable chair thing, which was extremely uncomfortable. Buffy’s a bit annoyed that once again, her boyfriend is at the center of her Plot A issues, when the whole reason she was interested in dating Riley in the first place was that he seemed normal.
Xander comes downstairs with food and a demand for them to turn on the news. Which is a report about the little kid, who was stabbed and then mutilated. Oh hey I guess Adam isn’t a good guy. Who would’ve thought. Buffy gives a big call-to-arms speech about how they can deal with the Polgara demon (which is what she thinks killed the kid, since she doesn’t know about Adam, but does know that she and the squad had to bring the Polgara demon back alive). The speech is good, but it falls ever-so-slightly flat because she delivers it while wearing jammies with pictures of sushi all over them.
Forrest catches up with Riley in their frat house. They go into Riley’s room and Riley tells Forrest what Walsh tried to do to Buffy. Forrest is highly skeptical. And also he’s not on Team Buffy. He thinks it’s more likely that Buffy is up to badness than that Walsh is. He thinks she might be a spy, manipulating Riley. Graham comes in to tell them Walsh is dead. This only seems to confirm Forrest’s suspicions.
Riley heads down into the facility, where a bunch of people are examining the scene of Walsh’s murder. She’s still lying there on the floor. Forrest thinks Buffy staked her. Ugh, you git. Shut up. Riley is super angry that he would suggest something like that, and he also thinks a Polgara demon could have done it with its arm spike. They start fighting and yelling at each other, and then Dr. Scrubs guy breaks it up. A team from Washington is going to do an internal investigation. He tells them that the Polgara escaped, and they’re all on lockdown until the investigation team arrives.
Riley doesn’t care about Dr. Scrubs’s orders; he’s Walsh’s second-in-command, and if Walsh is dead, that means he gives the orders. He wants to take a squad, suit up, and hunt the demon. He’s seeming a little off. I can’t tell if it’s just how intensely angry and frustrated he is, or if it’s something else. They move out and start searching cemeteries for the Polgara demon. Forrest and Graham search Spike’s crypt. He has a TV in there, and it’s still warm. Oops. They check inside a big cement tomb, but there’s just a skeleton in there. They leave, but Forrest smashes the TV on his way out. Turns out Spike was in the tomb, hiding underneath the skeleton’s burial shroud thing. He’s a bit shaken from the narrow escape.
Buffy is checking out the scene of the little boy’s murder from a distance, and Riley comes up. She tries to apologize for how hard everyone was on him, but he doesn’t seem to be paying attention. That would be because he’s too preoccupied with Walsh’s death. He drops that information in a rather rude way, even if he’s not accusing her of anything. He doesn’t want to tell her anything, but she figures out it was probably the Polgara demon. She promises to kill it and successfully makes him feel like a heel for his attitude.
Willow goes to Tara’s dorm room, which she seems to have all to herself. That must be nice. Willow feels bad because she mostly hangs out with Tara when it’s about doing spells, so she prefaces her current request for help with a spell with assurances that spells aren’t the only reason she likes spending time with her. (Wait, the way she said that seems to imply that nothing nonplatonic has happened yet.) Tara is happy to help.
Buffy goes to Willy’s bar! YAY! It’s been so long since we saw Willy! Some clients start leaving as soon as they recognize her. He insists that he’s cleaning up his act and being more respectable, but that means he isn’t willing to just give her information. So she has to punch him in front of all his clients before he tells her anything, just so he can (figuratively) save face. She’s happy to oblige, and he starts yelling in pain before she’s even wound up the punch yet. He hasn’t heard anything about a Polgara demon since before she and the Initiative subdued it. She asks him about 314.
That’s when Riley walks in, and okay yeah, it wasn’t just anger and frustration messing with his head earlier. He is not well. He’s all sweaty and grayish. He jumps to the wrong conclusion when he sees Buffy there, accusing her of socializing with demons instead of hunting them. Really, dude? He’s getting less and less rational. Willy tries to keep things light and friendly, and he gets shouted at for his trouble. Buffy starts noticing Riley’s troubling symptoms, such as that he’s shaking. He grabs Buffy rather roughly, demanding the truth. Buffy throws his arms away. A scared patron (who appears to be an ordinary middle-aged woman) tries to leave, and Riley pulls a gun on her. Holy crap! He is really not handling things well. The patron starts sobbing. Riley eventually drops the gun and just smashes a bunch of stuff on the bar. The lady runs away. Buffy approaches Riley cautiously. He finally seems to have realized that he’s not okay.
Buffy has brought Riley to Xander’s basement. He’s shaking very badly now, and he’s been compulsively scratching the back of his hand so badly that he’s shredded most of the skin. Buffy uses her headband to bandage it and tries to convince him to get some rest. He’s so scared that he’s been on the wrong team this whole time. He was so sure that he was one of the good guys. Maybe he’s even so bad that Buffy should kill him. She’s very gentle with him, and he eventually lies down. That’s all very sweet, but I think you should take him to the hospital, Buffy. These are not symptoms of emotional distress, they are symptoms of illness.
And apparently she knows this! When she goes through the blanket barrier, she tells the others about it. She wants to go find Walsh’s files and see what she was up to, and she wants Xander’s help, and why the heck does Xander’s shirt say “I <3 dirt” seven times?
Anya is indignant. She’s just as not cool with Buffy putting Xander’s life in danger as she is with the idea of Buffy dating him. Buffy thinks Xander is the best man for the job, considering his Private Harris experience. And okay, that’s the second time in recent episodes that they’ve cited his Private Harris experience. Did the writers forget that they made it pretty clear in “The Initiative” that Xander had basically forgotten all of it?
Giles hasn’t turned up much about the Polgara, but she wants him and Anya to keep looking while Buffy and Xander do their recon at the Initiative.
Willow and Tara are getting the spell set up. They close their eyes and start the incantation, but instead of doing her part of the spell, Tara dumps the potion under her bed. Willow keeps going, not knowing anything’s wrong. Tara pretends she has no idea why it didn’t work. Hmm, what’s up with Tara?
Buffy, looking very librarianly in glasses and a tight bun, and Xander in a rather cheaper-looking version of the kind of uniform the Initiative guys wear, try to sneak their way through the frat house to the secret elevator leading down to the facility. They actually make it, and Buffy shoves him out of the way before the retinal scanner beam comes down. He misunderstands, thinking she said “rectal scan” or something, and is horrified. It seems her clearance still hasn’t been revoked. They get in okay, and they make it out at the bottom okay. Buffy has now added a lab coat to her disguise. Xander feels he has never been in a cooler place than this. A couple of soldier guys walk past, and Xander thinks they will look less suspicious if they start snogging like in the movies. Buffy disagrees, and they do not do that.
Willow is back at Xander’s basement with Anya and Giles, and she’s still pretty miffed about the spell being a total dud. Riley is still asleep, and they haven’t made much headway with the research. The kid’s death doesn’t match a Polgara’s usual M.O., and a Polgara wouldn’t usually be able to stay hidden effectively, because they’re very stupid and very ravenous. Willow pushes aside a blanket to check on Riley, and he is RIGHT THERE.
Sheesh. That wasn’t creepy at all. He wants to know where Buffy is. He’s extremely testy, twitchy, and irrational. Willow tries to stop him from leaving, and he shoves her to the floor. Dude! Even for a sick guy, that is not okay.
Buffy and Xander hear Dr. Scrubs coming, and Buffy knows he’ll recognize her, so she gets herself and Xander hidden as he goes past. He and another labcoat are talking about how the soldier boys are all in trouble because their medicine schedule has been thrown off by all the crap that’s happened. The soldiers could become extremely dangerous while suffering withdrawal. They’re trying to track down the last few guys so that they can treat them. The longer they go without treatment, the more dangerous it is. Riley needs help fast, and Dr. Scrubs is particularly concerned about him.
Spike shows up at Willy’s and buys some blood. Then he gets punched out by a demon. At the Initiative, Buffy follows Dr. Scrubs through a high security door and starts threatening him. She wants to know how to help Riley, or else. Conveniently, Riley shows up, having disabled all the security feeds—or maybe they just crashed. The dialogue doesn't make it super clear. Dr. Scrubs tries to give Riley orders, and he swears that the plan to kill Buffy was only Walsh’s idea, not an objective of the entire organization. He finally starts talking about Project 314, but Riley doesn’t want to hear bad things about Walsh. He’s feeling like everything is Buffy’s fault. UGH I do not like crazy withdrawals Riley.
Buffy and Riley’s argument is broken up by Adam, when he tosses down a human corpse on the ground next to them. He’s Project 314. He delivers his first ever villain speech, in the course of which he confesses to killing the little kid. It seems like he was hoping he’d find some great cosmic truth in the kid’s innards, but got nothing. He’s on a quest of self-awareness or something, but those tend to be a problem when the villains are the ones doing them. Also he has a floppy disk drive in his chest. Wow. That’s some seriously advanced technology you’ve got there. It’s going to take him a really long time to learn everything he wants to know about the world and himself if he has to do it in 1.44 megabyte chunks.
Weren’t CDs already a thing in 2000? I’m pretty sure I remember already having CDs in 2000. Dr. Scrubs tries to get Adam to stand down, but Adam is slightly more in control of his own actions than Walsh planned, it seems. He’s spouting the information about himself he’s learning from his floppy disk. Riley takes issue with his claim that Walsh loved him. Xander and I agree that he’s sort of focusing on the wrong details here. Adam pulls out another floppy with files on Riley and sticks it in. Wait, so does his chest drive just eat the floppies or something? Because he didn’t eject the first one.
He starts talking about the stuff he’s learning about Riley from the floppy. Like that he was another of Walsh’s “creations.” Oh crap! What does that mean? Huh. Mostly it just means military conditioning and secret chemical enhancements in his food. Walsh did see Riley as her son, and he sort of saw her as a mother figure, but he’s not happy to learn this new stuff. Adam sees Riley as a brother, and because Riley is currently in crazy withdrawals mode, he doesn’t take advantage of Adam’s perspective to try and get him under control. Instead he makes threats and gets all irrational again. Dangit, Adam is offering to tell you Walsh’s endgame! That’s important information, and you just pull a gun on him instead? Gah! Time for a fight! Adam wipes the floor with all of them, including Buffy, and he shanks Dr. Scrubs just like he did Walsh. Hmm. For all his calm words and his fascination with his own existence, it really doesn’t seem like he likes his creators, does it?
Some other soldier guys break down the door and get in. Xander points them towards where Adam escaped. Forrest is among them, and he’s still in Accuse Buffy mode. Buffy doesn’t want to leave Riley’s side, but Forrest is done putting up with her. A couple of soldiers even point guns at her. Seriously? Forrest and Graham take Riley away, and Buffy and Xander are escorted off the premises.
Spike, very beat up, gets tossed into the alley outside Willy’s. He’s made a lot of enemies in the demon community for killing demons and working with the Slayer. Apparently that’s a serious taboo. He’s officially persona non grata with them.
Buffy is updating Willow on the situation with Riley. I love Willow’s outfit and hate Buffy’s, which involves the most weirdly-shaped turtleneck ever and a skirt that appears to have been made out of particularly ugly ‘70s wallpaper.
Buffy’s rather upset that she can’t get close to Riley and help him, since he’s still in the facility where she is now no longer allowed. She’s also worried about Adam, who she couldn’t even hurt, let alone kill. She doubts that Riley is coping any better than he has so far with the abrupt shift in his reality.
In the facility, Riley is lying in a hospital-type bed, all bandaged up, and he’s still got Buffy’s headband on his hand.
We’re still continuing full-speed ahead with “Goodbye Iowa.” This stuff definitely could have been more spread out too. Adam escapes and reveals himself in a single episode, all within a day or too of even waking up for the first time. I think he could have been more threatening if he’d set a few things in motion before making his presence known. The rushed pacing might not have been such a problem if there had been enough stuff to do with the Initiative plotline to keep that pace going through the end of the season, but the next three episodes will be a Faith-centric two-parter and a Jonathan-centric episode, followed by “Where the Wild Things Are,” an episode even less relevant to the main arc (and just generally awful), then the Oz closure episode, an Angel crossover episode, and then a final showdown episode that isn’t even the season finale. I’ll revisit my critique of the pacing once I’m on the other end of the arc, but from here, it looks like it’s been seriously truncated, which is a shame after how patient they were with the initial buildup. I’ve heard rumors that the actress who plays Walsh couldn’t stick around for the rest of the season, for whatever reason, and that that’s why the Big Bad switch from her to Adam is so awkward and rushed. If that’s true, then that sucks, but I guess they tried to make the best of it.
Buffy is remarkably patient with Riley considering how very unpleasant he becomes while suffering withdrawals. She understands that she just shattered his reality, and she’s willing to let him handle it badly for a while. I also like how much she trusts in Riley’s honesty and good nature. Buffy’s instincts have always been excellent, and that applies to discerning the good guys as well as the bad ones.
There’s a moment towards the end of the episode, during the showdown against Adam in the Initiative, where Adam has just knocked Riley flying and smacked Buffy to the ground, and Xander just lunges at him, even though he has no weapons and is leagues below Buffy and Riley in terms of fighting ability. That’s why he’s the Gryffindor of the team (I argue that Buffy is a Hufflepuff because of her compassion and her loyalty to her friends). Even when he has no chance of winning, he doesn’t back down in the face of evil. Has that been true ever since “Nightmares,” when he punched his evil clown nightmare in the face? I think it might have been. I think this is the trait that, more than anything else, makes him worthy to be a part of the team. His indomitable, suicidally stupid courage in the face of terrifying foes.
Since Willow is the one who made the first friendly contact with Riley of any of the characters, I was glad to see her siding with Buffy on the subject of his trustworthiness. I think it was most difficult to watch Riley’s craziness when Willow was the target of it. Buffy’s strength more than offsets Riley’s towering stature; Willow’s does not. And then there’s Tara. Willow is still hiding Tara from everyone, even as she and Tara get closer. Tara herself suddenly gets some intriguing character development. Why would she sabotage the spell like that?
I feel like this is the first episode that gives me some legitimate reasons to not like Riley. I know he’s having withdrawal systems from a pretty messed up cocktail of secret drugs, but I guess I’m not as compassionate as Buffy. Yes, it must be pretty horrifying to have so many things you took for granted as truth to be ripped away from you in the space of a couple of hours, and withdrawal was definitely not helping matters, but the intense rage he’s capable of is still kind of alarming. Pulling a gun on a middle-aged lady isn’t okay, and neither is shoving a petite young woman aside, nor treating his own girlfriend like the source of everything wrong with his life. A few episodes ago on Angel, we got the powerful line “You never know your strength until you’re tested.” This episode was a test for Riley, and while it may not have been fair because of the drugs he didn’t know he’s been taking, he didn’t do so well. Hopefully he’ll be able to make up for it. Am I being too harsh? Should he get a free pass for not being in his right mind?
Spike has burned too many bridges to go back to the demons. It’s kind of surprising they have a cohesive enough culture (the ones in Sunnydale, anyway, who tend to be of the “kill, crush, destroy” variety) to oust someone in the first place, but I guess that’s a thing. He's not happy to find himself an outcast.
Giles spends much of the episode as the diplomatic voice of reason in the midst of a lot of uncertainty. Also he’s not a terribly gracious guest if he isn’t afforded decent sleeping arrangements, which is hilarious. I love it when Giles is grumpy.
“You really should get yourself a boring boyfriend. Like Xander! …You can’t have Xander.”
“…That probably would’ve sounded more commanding if I wasn’t wearing my yummy sushi pajamas.”
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The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.