Buffy the Vampire Slayer - The Yoko Factor

Summary

The colonel is reporting, via video conference, to his superior. They discuss the problems with all the HSTs they've captured and the escape of Riley. They want him back and there is a reference to an investment in him. They begin to discuss Buffy when we cut to Adam and Spike discussing Buffy. Spike points out he has killed two slayers, but couldn't defeat Buffy. He starts complaining about his chip and Adam says he knows how Spike feels. He then does an analysis of Spike's feelings that impresses him. Spike says he knows why the demons follow Adam, that he's like Tony Robbins. Spike points out that Buffy's friends are a variable they have to deal with and Adam says they need to be removed. Spike says he can do it, even though he can't harm them physically.

Buffy returns to her room to find Willow absent. Xander is bringing clothes to Riley, so he can get his stuff washed. Riley makes fun of the clothes which are clearly Xander's. Then they start talking about Angel (Buffy has been off visiting Angel in Sanctuary) and Xander lets it slip about what causes the curse to activate. A detail Buffy hadn't given Riley. This upsets Riley.

Giles is at home playing the guitar and singing. Spike comes in. He says he can supply them with secret files from the Initiative. He wants a year's supply of blood, protection, cash, and a guarantee he will not be slain. Giles agrees but Spike says that's not enough. He says he needs agreement from Buffy, that he doesn't believe Giles has enough influence on her to make such an agreement. Giles starts drinking.

Willow is at Tara's place, playing with the cat which they have temporarily named Miss Kitty Fantastico. They are talking about next year and Willow is thinking of taking drama. She also wonders whether she will still be rooming with Buffy and wonders whether she and Tara might share an off campus place. She thinks she and Buffy are growing further apart. Riley shows up at Buffy's room, wearing the clown pants from Xander. He tells her he has modified a receiver so he can listen in on the Initiative broadcasts and feels safe wandering around because of this, they can't sneak up on him. She tells him she's upset over something that happened with Angel but won't go in to details. He leaves.

Xander and Anya deliver a commando outfit to Spike, so he can sneak into the Initiative. Xander isn't happy as the clothing delivery guy. There's a gun with the clothes and Spike points it at them only to have the chip start working. Then Xander tells him it's just a fake gun. Spike asks how he is to defend himself and Xander says he doesn't care. Spike warns him that attitude won't get him far in boot camp. He says he heard Buffy and Willow joking about Xander joining the army and being all he could be. Xander is really mad and says he's good at lots of things. Spike pretends to ignore this and complains about the clothes being dirty and too small. Xander starts complaining about how just because they are going to college they feel they are better than him. He says they look down on him and hate Anya.

Buffy encounters Forrest in the woods, both are going to investigate a cave. Forrest is obviously angry at Buffy, believing she is responsible for all that is going wrong with the Initiative. They enter the cave together. They argue and are about to fight when Adam arrives. Buffy attacks Adam but can't harm him. She's tossed aside. Forrest shoots him with one of those electric charge guns and Adam seems to enjoy it. He uses that pike in his arm to kill Forrest. He fires the gun at Buffy, but she takes a shot without being knocked out. Still, she flees the cave. She trips and falls, hitting her head and knocking herself out.

That night, Spike goes to Giles' pretending he has just gotten the disks. Giles is drinking. Willow and Tara are there. Willow is trying to read the disks on her computer. Spike notices Tara playing with Willow's hair. He walks over to Giles and says he could have gone straight to Buffy but cut Giles in, letting him pretend he was still in charge. Willow says the files are encrypted. Spike goes to her and says she's not a computer whiz anymore. He says he heard her friends talking about her being into the new thing with Tara, which he claims to believe was a reference to Wicca. He claims Buffy said it was just a phase she was going through while Xander said she was just being trendy. Willow is really upset. Tara says she should talk to Buffy and Spike quickly intervenes telling Willow to get back to work on the disk.

At the Initiative, the cells are maxed out and the demons are going crazy. A call comes in from a team which is losing a battle with demons. Riley also hears this and rushes to their rescue. When he gets there, all the Initiative members are incapacitated and Angel is standing there. They recognize each other. Riley thinks Angel has lost his soul (from having sex with Buffy again). Angel says he's going to see Buffy and Riley tries to stop him. They fight and Riley uses his taser on Angel. It gets rough enough that Angel puts on his demon face. The fight ends when an Initiative vehicle arrives and they both flee.

Buffy is back at her dorm room. There is a big cut above her eye where she hit a rock when she fell. Angel arrives and asks to be let in. She thinks he's there to say something hurtful, but realizes something else is up. He starts to say something but Riley rushes in. Buffy realizes they have been fighting. Angel says it was an accident, but Buffy finds that hard to believe. Riley and Angel start trash talking each other and when Angel says "you actually sleep with this guy" they start fighting again. Buffy breaks it up. She threatens to put them both in the hospital. She tells Riley she needs to talk to Angel. He refuses to leave the room, so Buffy and Angel go into the hall to talk. She wants to know why he has come and he says he came to make things better. They laugh at that. He says he couldn't leave things the way they were the last time they spoke when she was in LA in Sanctuary. He tells her he came to apologize. He explains what happened with Riley. She says she's sorry too, that they no longer live in each other's worlds and she had no right to go to LA the way she did. He tells her next time he'll apologize by phone. She says the best thing he can do now is just leave. He does, but tells her he doesn't like Riley as he walks off. She thanks him. She goes back to Riley.

Spike is back to report to Adam. He says he succeeded in his mission and calls it the Yoko factor. He says now that Adam has everything he needs, it's time to take out the chip. But Adam says he needs one more thing.

Riley makes it clear he thinks Buffy and Angel are back together. Buffy is shocked that he would think such a thing and is really mad at Xander when Riley reveals Xander explained about Angel. Riley still thinks Angel has turned evil and is shocked to learn he hasn't. She asks why he doesn't trust her and he says he's so in love he can't think straight. They hug. She tells him Forrest is dead. He's devastated. He leaves.

The gang, except Riley, are gathered at Giles' place. Willow still hasn't cracked the code. Buffy wants to go back to the cave, but Willow says it's too dangerous. Xander wants to go with her, but she says no. She also turns down Willow. Giles is getting increasingly drunk. They start fighting and Anya and Tara leave the room. All the things Spike told them come up now and they fight in circles since no one really knows what the others are upset about. Xander realizes from Willow's comments that Tara is her girlfriend. Anya and Tara are in the bathroom admiring the tile. Giles is totally drunk and goes to bed. Buffy keeps saying she needs them to help her. But the bickering just continues. She says she understands why there is no prophecy of a chosen one and her friends. She says if she needs help she'll go to someone she can trust and leaves. We cut to Adam, someone walks in, Adam says he's been waiting for him. It's Riley.

Analysis

If you saw The Zeppo, Dopplegangland, Fear, Itself, and A New Man; you're probably thinking didn't we do this before. And you're thinking right. Which, I guess, makes the way the gang suddenly falls apart somewhat credible if also somewhat boring. And it was in the second season when Spike first appeared that he noted the slayer was different in that she had family and friends. But it took this long before separating her from that support group became a stratagem.

I guess there are three major components in this episode worth talking about: the splintering of the scoobies, the Riley/Buffy/Angel triangle, and the Adam/Spike relationship. There are a couple of minor points (like the Initiative, the death of Forrest, and the Adam/Riley scene) worth covering as well, although not nearly as developed.

The major focus of the episode was on the splintering of the scoobies. It's a plan perfectly suited to Spike. He understands the psychology of the gang members very well and he takes a certain pleasure in undermining their self confidence. Of course, he's done this before and you'd think they'd pay less attention to him. But Spike's success comes from his fertilizing already existing seeds of self doubt rather than planting new ones. He doesn't have to convince them that they are worthless, he just has to convince them that others have noticed it. This is easiest to achieve with Giles who is unemployed (both as librarian and watcher) and presumably already feels somewhat unneeded and valueless. In A New Man, he expressed those feelings - but that's merely one example of many. Even in last week's New Moon Rising we got his sudden outburst at Anya - motivated in part by his feeling that she was merely expressing a boredom all the others felt but were too polite to articulate. But Giles is the most mature of the group and you have to wonder why he gives in to despair so easily. There is evidence that the gang appreciate him. For instance, in Something Blue Buffy wants him to give her away at her wedding. Admittedly she's under a spell which makes her fall in love with Spike, but it doesn't change the way she feels about Giles. And getting sloshed, while he has been known to drink before, seems out of character. Especially with the clear and present danger of Adam still not dealt with.

Since Xander really is stuck delivering clothes and has been going through a series of Macjobs, it wasn't much of a stretch for Spike to get to him. And Xander has been feeling left out from his college crowd friends pretty much since he got back to town. He's even made that comment before. Anya does a pretty good job of undermining his confidence and constantly getting fired hasn't helped. He's further removed from the gang than ever before - physically they are at the university and he's still in town. Willow and Buffy have Tara and Riley and Xander, while he has Anya, has to feel cut out of their lives. After all, Willow and Buffy are living together while he's isolated in his parent's basement. But in The Zeppo Xander learnt something about himself and developed self confidence which seems to have disappeared. In Graduation Part 2, Buffy called him a key figure in her plan to defeat the mayor. In Goodbye, Iowa, Buffy asks Xander to come with her to infiltrate the Initiative. Xander really has been an important part of the gang and really does contribute something. But his failure to get into college, his essential unemployment, his increased distance from the others make it easy for him to forget all this and focus only on his insecurities.

While playing with Tara's cat (I toss that in for subtext fans) Willow ponders her growing estrangement from Buffy. Buffy is involved with Riley, Willow with Tara. They aren't spending as much time with each other as they have in the past and they don't know each other as well as they did in the past. Both are keeping secrets, especially Willow who kept Tara a secret for a very long time. Willow is obviously concerned about her friendship with Buffy and worried that her relationship with Tara is part of what is diminishing that friendship. Which makes her an easy target for Spike. And Spike shows his perceptiveness when he notices Tara playing with Willow's hair and makes the big leap to lesbians from that. Willow's concern is not so much with her personal isolation (she never really seems to fear that although she talks to Tara about this) but about how people perceive her commitment to her life choices. In Dopplegangland and Fear, Itself Willow was upset because she felt her interest in Wicca was not taken seriously and that her friends didn't perceive her as capable of working spells. Dopplegangland, of course, was also the episode in which Willow suspected her alter ego was a lesbian - making her rather nervous. Now she fears her friends don't believe her commitment to Tara is a serious one. And she's probably worried about that to. After all, she seemed uncomfortable with the thought of herself as a lesbian in Dopplegangland. And in New Moon Rising both Oz and Buffy freaked when they discovered the truth. The lack of strong support from her friends (Buffy recovers quickly but not quickly enough for Willow not to notice) and her own lack of certainty make her easy prey for Spike.

So despite all her talk about honesty, Buffy still omitted a key element of her relationship with Angel when talking with Riley. And Riley, who knew about Parker, seems really upset when he learns she slept with Angel. Presumably because with Angel it meant something to both of them. It's interesting that Forrest tries to hurt Buffy with a similar revelation, that she's not Riley's first girlfriend. But he follows that up with the admission that she is the first one to really matter.

Riley is very quick to assume Angel and Buffy had sex. Which suggests he isn't very secure in his relationship with her. Of course, she's just gotten over his having sex with Faith and when she visited Angel she suspected Angel was having sex with Faith. So a belief in fidelity is not a strong point of any of these characters. It is interesting that Angel doesn't even try to explain himself to Riley, he just starts fighting with him. Angel was angry, in Sanctuary, when Buffy told him about her love for Riley. I think he wants to beat Riley up just to work off some of his anger at Buffy. And he's honest enough to admit to Buffy that he doesn't like Riley. And Buffy realizes he doesn't like him because he realizes Riley and Buffy have something genuine together.

It's interesting that Buffy deals with Angel first and only after that is settled goes back to placate Riley. And it's interesting that Riley, despite the peaceful way in which Angel leaves, still thinks he's turned bad. Buffy turns the situation into one of trust and Riley admits he isn't thinking straight but it overcome by what he calls love and what could be seen as jealousy.

I'm not sure if Spike was quite as impressed with Adam's analysis of his feelings as he let on. But he surely was impressed at Adam's ability to be that sensitive. This, after all, is one of Spike's strengths and one he shows off in this episode. But he is definitely pushing to get that chip out and once it is out I'm sure all bets are off. Even when he's warning Adam about Buffy, he brings up the chip no doubt hoping that Adam will take it out right away. When Adam says they should remove Buffy's friends from the equation, Spike is quick to take the job. But as much because he enjoys sowing the seeds of discord as because he is following Adam. When he returns he once again eagerly asks to have the chip removed. And Adam, who does understand Spike, says there is still more Spike must do.

I've always assumed there was some civilian authority controlling the Initiative and we seem to have encountered it this week. At least the colonel is reporting to someone. And there was a hint at some investment in Riley, an investment presumably greater than the drugs that all the Initiative members were given. Since Adam has always claimed Riley was his brother, you have to wonder whether he, too, is not an artificial construct with Walsh his effective mother. Yes, there is the family in Iowa, but that could be part of an elaborate ruse. It's also interesting that there isn't much information about Buffy in their database. But clearly some.

I was really surprised to see Forrest killed and I have to assume Adam has some additional use for that body. Was Forrest a temptation to Riley, part of what he used to get him to show up. Or is there something special about Forrest that Adam wants to examine in an autopsy. I was half expecting Adam to revive Forrest in some way and use him to sow further discord between Buffy and the Initiative or Buffy and Riley. When Buffy tells Riley about Forrest he's clearly devastated. But he also immediately says he has to leave. Was this some sort of trigger for Riley, not unlike sex with Buffy was a trigger for Angel.

Which leads us to the Adam/Riley scene. Okay, it lasted all of 5 seconds, but it was important. Ever since Adam said he and Riley were brothers in Goodbye, Iowa, a confrontation between the two has been inevitable. Does Adam need Riley to make himself complete. Is Riley simply a tool to attack the slayer with - presumably when Buffy talked of getting help from someone she could trust she meant Riley.

Some quick final thoughts. What happens when the cat meets Amy the rat? The fight sequence between Angel and Riley struck me as one of the best such sequences this season. I really liked the choreography in this one. I liked the way Spike quickly interrupted Tara when she was advising Willow to talk to Buffy. He definitely doesn't want this group talking to one another. An episode in which Angel had to ask to be let in and Riley was always wearing a shirt - how rare is that? Who's Yoko: Anya, Tara, or Riley. Anyone of them is a better fit than Spike.

Lines of the week:

"You're like Tony Robbins." - Spike with a description of Adam somewhat less flattering than the Martin Luther King analogy Willow and Tara made last week.

"Plus it'll make her miserable and I never get tired of that." - Spike on why he'll mess up the scooby friendships.

"He's a viking in the sack." - Anya helping Xander's self esteem.

"You actually sleep with this guy?" - Angel letting his real feelings out.

"I like Helter Skelter." - Adam living up to his reputation.

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