Previously: Spike played with people’s feelings to separate the Scoobies, Angel came to town for like five minutes, the Orange Wiggle died, and Riley went to find Adam.
Kirsti: WE’RE NEARLY THERE, YOU GUYS.
We open at Crispydale High and Buffy searching for Riley. LOL, NICE TRY. He’s hanging out in Adam’s cave, being called ‘brother’ and being given a pep talk. “What have you done to me?” Riley asks, and Adam replies that the Evil Bitch Monster [Professor Walsh] gave Riley a behavioural modification chip, just like Spike’s. Except that instead of being in his brain, it’s in his chest and is tied into his central nervous system. LOL, OKAY SHOW. WHATEVER.
Sweeney: Since I’ve already ranked this episode really high on the strength of, quite frankly, one scene, I feel obligated to make it clear how much bullshit I am willing to put up with for certain things. Epic bullshit break #1!
Lorraine: “So that’s what that giant, unexplained surgical scar is from! DAMN IT.”
Apparently the chip was taking a nap until Adam woke it up. Riley’s all “I IS A PEOPLE, STFU”, but when Adam tells him to sit down, the chip kicks in and does it for him. I think Riley’s meant to look pissed, but mostly he just looks wooden… Adam gets all “EMBRACE YOUR FATE AND FEEL THE POWER”, and ugh. Can we just be done with this Abysmal Plot Arc now? Roll credits.
After the credits, Adam is lecturing. It’s boring, so SUMMARY: demons = bad with technology, people = emotional. In short, the Evil Bitch Monster was trying to make a cyberman.
Lor: With a whole lot less style.
K: Truth. The lecture ends when Spike turns up. Adam tells him to GTFO, but Spike says it’s time for some chip removal please and thank you. Adam says that chip removal is contingent on Buffy being WHERE he wants her. And the where is the Abysmal Plot Arc Research Facility [APARF] because she’ll make sure that the demon death toll is similar to the human death toll. And then she’ll die from…being super tired, apparently. Spike points out that the discs will get her there, and Adam’s all “Oh, you mean the disc you gave her friend? The friend she’s now not talking to? NICE GOING, MORON.” Spike heads off to wreak some more havoc.
Over at New Wiggins, a hungover Giles groans in response to a knock on the door and opens it to find Willow and Tara there. There’s general awkwardness, partly thanks to Giles wearing a dressing gown and partly due to the “Tara’s my girlfriend” revelation. Willow says that she only came by to pick up her laptop. I stop to be impressed, because that thing is a total brick that must weigh a good five kilos, and she still manages to stuff it into her shoulder bag. Giles is relieved that no typing will be taking place at New Wiggins on account of the hangover. Willow looks hurt as they leave, on account of Giles isn’t just a surrogate parent to Buffy, he’s a surrogate parent to all of them.
Sweeney: I did not appreciate those feels, scene, but it was a good reminder of the relationship that Willow has with Giles.
Lor: Between Tara’s, “but look at how cute I am!” smiles and Willow’s teary, “can you please just acknowledge this?” eyes, this scene was had a lot of fantastic non-verbal communication.
K: It really did. And I just wanted someone to say something and then for there to be hugging. But no. SIGH.
Cut to the Bigger on the Inside Dorm Room. Buffy’s sitting on the floor as the Tinkly Music of Feels strikes up. She picks up a photo of her, Willow and Xander, and stares at it. She picks up the phone, but has no one to call so puts it down again. Then the music switches to Shit’s Getting Serious Now as she walks over to her weapons chest, and picks up an axe.
Over at the Fruit Roll Up Basement, Xander is lying in bed, moping. Anya is unimpressed by this because he said he was going to go to the unemployment office and look for a job. He says he’s not going, and I don’t blame him, because if I can get through my entire life without setting foot in Centrelink, I will be a happy camper. (ESPECIALLY the Centrelink that was down the road from Brewery Land. Holy drug addicts, Batman…) Xander mopes some more and says that maybe he’ll follow through on that army joining idea. Anya’s response? “Don’t they make you get up really early in the morning?” That alone is sufficient to make Xander cross it off the list of possible career choices. Right there with you, Xan. Anya tells him to get over the fight because it was hours ago, and so what if his friends think he’s a loser? He’s a good person and she’s in love with him and the other stuff shouldn’t matter. He says he agrees, but his face says otherwise.
Sweeney: Anya’s inability to understand feelings gets a little grating and telling him to just get over it was one of those times, but she made a nice recovery there.
Lor: I’ll even give her not being able to understand the feelings, but the follow-up of, “so what if you are lame and directionless?” is what grates. She may be brash and she may not be socially assimilated, but she isn’t DUMB. Clearly he’s moping because of the belief of those things, so I don’t buy her not having at least enough brains to not go there with him.
But fine, nice recovery, though a little weird that Xander has zero reaction to the “I’m in love with you,” part.
K: True. Cut to Buffy wandering around Adam’s cave system carrying her axe. She finds his Lair o’ Computers, but Adam’s not there. Instead, he’s showing Riley a secret underground entrance into the APARF. They’re in some kind of morgue/hospital bay thing, and apparently this is where the Great Cyberman Transformation will happen, all as the Evil Bitch Monster planned it. With that, the camera pans across, and we see a Zombified Evil Bitch Monster wandering around doing menial tasks. Riley’s all “Uh, EW???” and I agree with him:
Sweeney: Epic Bullshit Break #2 because what in the actual fuck.
K: SRSLY. Brain Chip Scientist is zombified too, but he’s less fall-y apart-y on account of not having died as recently.
Lor: But! But! YOUGUISE. Now she’s an actual Evil Bitch Monster! SEE?
K: Bonus points for using a Castiel gif. One of these days, we should really cover Supernatural (she said, hopefully). Riley’s all “Please don’t zombify me!!” but apparently Adam has bigger plans for him. With that, the zombie doctors step back from the gurney and Adam 2.0 sits up – Forrest has now been assimilated. (That’s “demonified” to the non-Whovians among you) Fade to black.
Sweeney: So soon after the last one! EBB #3, though less for a lack of sense-making than because I just really don’t like this.
Lor: So, as the only person watching this for the first time, let me add the requisite, “WHAT. THE. EFF.” I’m taking my RIP back, Forrest.
K: After the Not Commercial Break, Buffy and her axe are on a mission, marching through the caves. Spike pops up, and she’s all “UGH, WHAT NOW?” She tells Spike that Adam’s been using the caves and he makes a totally lame “OH MY GOD, I HAD NO IDEA!” face. He then brings up the discs, and Buffy says that they haven’t been any use on account of Willow has them. “Can’t ignore valuable information just ’cause you two birds fell out, can you?” he says, and Buffy gets joining-the-dots face because how the hell did Spike know they’d fought.
Sweeney: And a fun reminder of the annoying fact that not a single member of the Scooby gang questioned that evil Spike’s malicious comments came from a place of evil! Yay!
K: Scoobies be dumb sometimes, yo.
Lor: As a fun aside, there were a ton of “but Spike is clever!!” comments in the last recap that were supposed to be a counterpoint to the Scoobies not questioning him. (1) – I’mma say no. No matter how clever, someone should’ve stopped and been all, “…but this is Spike.” (2) – LOL at this episode doing tons to make Spike appear less than clever. Sorry, guys.
K: (1) Agreed. I think it was less cleverness and more he lived with various Scoobies for months, so knew what buttons to push to get a reaction. (2) He really does look like a doofus for most of this episode. Cut to Tara’s Dorm Room of Seriously This Is Getting Ridiculous Now. Willow’s still trying to crack the security on the discs when all of a sudden they decrypt themselves. She gets cranky because RUDE, but quickly moves to yay. The phone rings, and Tara answers it. It’s Buffy. Back at the APARF Assimilation Suite, Riley’s tied to a chair. He tries to hold a conversation with the Zombified Evil Bitch Monster [ZEBM], and Demon!Forrest is all “LOL, SHE’S DEAD BRO.” He then wibbles on about how being a cyberman is awesome on account of you’re super strong and don’t have pesky emotions to deal with. Riley paraphrases William Wallace and says they can’t take his will/freedom. ZEBM tells him to STFU and behave, and then gives him an injection.
Sweeney: This moment was interesting mostly because on the previous episode of Angel, Gunn and his sister had a similar conversation after she had been turned, about how totes amazeballs being a vampire is.
K: Oh yeah. Good point! Over on campus, the four original Scoobies meet at a crossroads. It’s all very dramatic, and they all look a little awkward and embarrassed.
Buffy points out that Spike’s been playing them all, and there’s a group decision to move on. Except that then there’s more awkward because everyone’s still hurt by the things that were said, even though Spike was the cause of it all. Willow wants to know why Spike would do that, and Buffy says that she thinks he’s working for Adam. Xander tries and fails to act surprised. Willow mentions what she found on the discs, and Buffy joins the dots on the super-easy-to-catch demons that have been filling up the APARF cells recently – total Trojan horse, with two sides of massacre.
Lor: You mean that all those demons the Initiative caught and proceeded to tell us about 10939809 times were significant?!?!
K: I was going to say that it’s a toss up between the Scoobies and the Initiative as to who was dumber. But LOL – it’s the Initiative times one million for all eternity. “Does anybody else miss the Mayor?” Xander asks, and YES. SO MUCH. (S: A+ for Xander.) He then wants to know why Adam wants Buffy there, because isn’t he worried that Buffy will kill him? “No. He’s really not“, Buffy replies.
Down in the APARF Assimilation Suite, Adam gets all excited because apparently he can sense that Buffy’s on her way?? IDK. (S: EBB #4!) Spike asks for his chip-ectomy, and Adam refuses because Buffy’s not actually there yet. See, Spike, this is why you get things written down. Cut to New Wiggins. The gang stare at their possible supplies, and Buffy reminds us that Adam’s power source is a big blob of uranium. The problem, though, is to get him to stand super-still for long enough to take it out. Giles consults his spellbooks, and while he can read the spells, he doesn’t have the witchy power to make them work. “So no problem, all we need is combo Buffy–her with Slayer strength, Giles’ multi-lingual know how, and Willow’s witchy power,” Xander says. Giles stares at him, and Xander’s all “Yeah yeah, I know. Not helping.” Except that apparently he is.
The gang head over to the APARF Frat House, which is oddly abandoned. There’s an Opening-Doors-In-A-BAMFy-Way moment that ends up in the credits for the rest of forever, and then Buffy sidekicks her way through the giant mirror in the hallway and into the elevator shaft. While abseiling down the shaft, Willow and Buffy have a “Sorry freshman year turned me into a sucky friend” bonding session that culminates in an “I’m okay with you liking girls and you can tell me anything” hug fest. It’s adorable and also THANK GOD. Because we’ve already established that we hate it when the Scoobies are asshats to each other. When Xander reaches the bottom of the elevator shaft, they start hugging him too, and his response is “Oh God, we’re going to die, aren’t we?” But no. They just missed him.
Sweeney: IT’S ABOUT TIME, YOU GUYS.
Lor: It’s a good thing K had this episode because I would’ve spent about 1000 words on Buffy and Willow apologizing to each other. I JUST LOVE THEM.
K: I KNOW OMG. After the hug-fest, they break open the elevator doors to find themselves confronted by a bunch of Initiative soldiers, with their blasters at the ready. Womp womp.
Adam and Spike watch on the CCTV monitors as the Scoobies are marched down a hallway. Spike requests some chip removal surgery, but Adam’s pissed because Buffy’s not alone. Spike tries to run for it, but Demon!Forrest grabs him by the neck. Spike says that he tried, and doesn’t that count for something? Adam agrees that it does, and tells Spike that he’ll remove the chip. Along with his head. Demon!Forrest and Spike struggle, and then Spike sticks his burning cigarette into Demon!Forrest’s eyeball, which makes me throw up in my mouth a little because I have eyeball phobia and NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE.
Lor: In that case, have a gif:
K: Thanks a lot, Lor……. Demon!Forrest lets go of Spike, who runs off. Adam lets him leave because of contrivance.
Elsewhere in the APARF, Colonel Whateverthefuck is giving Buffy an earful about breaking into his secret demon-filled facility. He’s going through their bag of weapons as he does so and stops in confusion when he pulls out this:
Willow informs him that it’s a gourd, and Giles adds in that it’s magic. Neither of these endear the Scoobies to Colonel Whateverthefuck. “What kind of freaks are you people?” he responds. Buffy explains the Demon Horse situation, but he’s not listening. Until Willow mentions the secret lab, and then he’s all “Uhhhhhhh. Whut?” Giles asks what their plan is for taking Adam down, and it’s basically “LOTS OF TASERS.” Which is great, seeing as how electricity apparently makes Adam stronger. Buffy BAMFs that the Initiative have no idea what they’re getting themselves into, and they’re on her turf and GTFO please. Colonel Whateverthefuck LOL NOPEs her, and then Adam cuts the power, locking everyone in.
Lor: Somewhere in here, Buffy says “primeval” and… ah, fuck it. It’s almost the end of the season.
K: Plus, when the episode title is a single word, it feels like cheating to give away sparkly stars. Down in his Lair o’ Computers, Adam watches on a screen as a bunch of scientists enter the cells. He then flips a switch, opening the cell doors. Chaos and blood spatter ensue. Colonel Whateverthefuck decides to ignore the one person with years of demon killing experience, and announces that the Scoobies are under arrest and that he and a bunch of soldiers are going to retake the cells. They head out, and Giles gives them “JFC, how stupid are you?” face as they do so. The minute they’re gone, Buffy knocks out the remaining two soldier-guards and Willow hops on the computer to find out where Adam is. Yes, he cut the power and the computers are still working. I’m guessing there’s some kind of unacknowledged back up generator.
Anyway, Giles says that they need somewhere super-quiet to do the spell, and Xander points out that such a thing might be a little hard to come by, given that it’s total mayhem out there. With that, we cut to the room containing the foil lined pit. Demons are throwing soldiers all over the place, and there are some very unlikely explosions going off. Spike is there because
the writers didn’t know what else to do with him contrivance, and starts fighting demons.
Back in the control room, Willow has pulled up the electrical plans for the APARF, and has worked out where Adam’s secret lab is. It’s right behind 314, so of course they have to get through the demon carnage in order to access it.
Lor: Woah, woah, woah, woah. You mean the super secret lab that is tied to project 314 IS RIGHT BEHIND ROOM 314?!
K: WHO KNEW?!?!?!?! Of course, they make it through without incident as Whedon blows the rest of season 4’s budget on stunt men and explosions in the background.
Sweeney: Maybe things would have been different of that money had gone to the writers’ salaries. Were they all just really angry with him this year?
K: Clearly! In 314, Buffy finds the secret door as the gang set up for the ritual. Apparently it’ll take five minutes to kick in. “Buffy, I still don’t like you going in alone,” Xander says. “I won’t be,” she replies with a smile. Then she turns and heads into the tunnel to the secret lab. The gang barricade the door behind her. In the secret lab, Buffy finds Riley still sitting in his chair. She’s all “DUDE. RUN.” But all he can do is gesture with his eyeballs. He gestures at the Zombified Scientists, and then at Adam. Adam tells Buffy that Riley can’t talk because “he hasn’t been programmed to” (I like Riley better already!), and that he’s part of the Great Cyberman Plot, just like she is. She sasses that she’s never been any good at taking orders, and Adam gives the order to kill her. Demon!Forrest grabs her from behind and holds her still as Zombified Evil Bitch Monster walks towards her with a…IDK, bonesaw?
After the Not Commercial Break, the flaws in this plan prove to be many, because Buffy kicks ZEBM with both legs, sending her flying across the room. This, and the subsequent fight with Demon!Forrest, sends glass crashing onto Riley’s chair. He does some eyeball gesturing again and stares at it in a way that’s meant to be meaningful.
Up in 314, the Scoobies are lighting candles as Willow gets her chant on:
“The power of the Slayer and all who yield it. Last to ancient first, we invoke thee. Grant us thy domain and primal strength. Accept us in the power we possess. Make us mind and heart and spirit joy. Let the hand encompass us. Do thy will.”
Cut back to the secret lab. Buffy keeps fighting Demon!Forrest. When he knocks her to the ground, Riley becomes a real boy and yells out her name. Demon!Forrest tells him to shut up. But apparently now Riley can move his right hand. He reaches out, grabs a broken flask, and then starts cutting into his chest/shoulder to gross me out.
Back to 314. The gang place tarot-y cards on the ground corresponding to their parts in the Super!Buffy spell – Willow’s the spirit, Xander’s the heart, Giles is the mind, and Buffy’s the hand.
Sweeney: This, right here, is what I do love about this episode. We can talk about the whole of it after it’s done, but I have to pause to comment on this, specifically. I love this because part of why the Scoobies have been so faily this season is that they’ve all been off doing their own thing and it has changed them all in ways that leave them unsure of how they fit into the whole. In the comments on Angel, there was discussion of how cohesive the Fang Gang is, and how enjoyable it is to see everyone having a clear purpose. The big fight in the last episode, however annoyingly contrived, was about everyone feeling unsure of how the fit together. But here it is. They do all have particular, important places in this group. Willow is the spirit. Xander is the heart. Giles is the mind. Buffy is the hand. It’s not particularly subtle symbolism, but I still love it all the same. This dynamic is the best part of the show, and we’ve seen, all season, how much weaker it is without it.
K: A+ and 1430 to you for explaining things much better than I could.
Secret Lab: the fight between Buffy and Forrest continues, and Riley digs around in his self inflicted wound for the chip. Ew. Demon!Forrest and the two Zombified Scientists pin Buffy to a gurney as Riley pulls the chip out with squelchy sound effects.
Lor: He manages to remove the chip connected to his central nervous system by poking around his chest. HAHAHAHAHA. OKAY.
K: With the one hand that he can move. Yeah. Okay, show. Whatever. “Is that all you got?” Forrest asks Buffy as he presses his arm into her neck. “No. She’s got me,” Riley says as he pulls out the tubes on the front of the Zombified Scientists. Buffy runs off in search of Adam while Riley takes over fighting Demon!Forrest. Riley gets thrown around a lot, and I totally didn’t clap my hands with glee. Nope. Didn’t happen.
Lor: Give Riley a break, man. He just chip-ectomied his own central nervous system.
K: He was dumb enough to say that he could take on Demon!Forrest, therefore no breaks will be given. Up in the Foil Pit area, Colonel Whateverthefuck and his soldiers are in the fight for all of two seconds before he sounds a retreat. Adam watches the mayhem on the monitor, but is interrupted by Buffy. They start to fight, and when he tries to skewer her with his toothpick arm thing, she snaps it in half. That’s okay though, because he’s a Fembot and has upgraded his other arm into a machine gun. Because OBVIOUSLY. *eye roll*
Buffy runs for it and does a pretty badass dive behind a console.
In 314, this are getting insanely spinny. Willow finishes the spell with “We implore thee, admit us, bring us to the vessel, take us now.” Just as Adam blows up the console (because his machine gun arm also comes with a rocket launcher??), Buffy looks up at the ceiling and gets a serious case of glowy eyes.
She stands up from behind the console. Adam says that she can’t last much longer, and when she replies, it’s with the voices of all four Scoobies. “We can. We are forever,” she/they say, and then breaks into Sumerian. Adam fires at her, but a force field springs up around her.
Over in the secret lab, Riley is basically getting the shit beaten out of him by Demon!Forrest. Then D!F conveniently throws Riley into a whole bunch of gas cylinders. Riley attacks him with one, then runs like hell because apparently the sparks from a broken electrical cable were enough to set off the flammable gas? IDK. There’s a big implausible explosion, and bits of Forrest go everywhere.
Sweeney: Another Epic Bullshit Break for how long and how well Riley was able to fight against Demon!Forrest, particularly after the serious wound he gave himself.
Lor: Demon Forrest in general was a big bag of stupid. Rest in pieces. (#punny)
K: I KNOW, RIGHT?!?!?! Adam gives up on bullets and switches to rockets. But Buffy turns them into doves because she’s now Jesus. Or something. Maybe she’s Criss Angel. Adam tries to fire again, and she forces his gun arm back inside him, which sounds far dirtier than it is. He tries to attack her, but Super!Buffy is too fast. She beats him across the room, then grabs him by the neck. “How…can you??” he says. “You could never hope to grasp the source of our power,” the Scoobies reply. (L: EPIC FRIENDSHIP POWER!) She then does an awesome Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon style running kick to force Adam across the room, then shoves her hand into his stomach. She rips out his uranium core and it’s gross.
Sweeney: Gross, you say? Here’s a present:
K: Perhaps I should mention that if I’m eating a steak and notice that there’s fat/gristle/bone/some kind of weird tube looking thing in it, I will freak out and basically start retching. Because I don’t ever want to know about the inside parts of things. And Adam is no exception. Adam falls to the ground, and Riley runs into the room in time to see Super!Buffy make the Uranium Core of Grossness hover in the air and then blink out of existence. Riley reaches out and touches her face, and Buffy sags in his arms as the spell breaks. In 314, the Scoobies all look a little dazed. A demon (that’s totally not a werewolf but which is wearing Oz’s werewolf costume on account of they had it sitting around doing nothing) breaks through the door, but Spike jumps in after it and snaps its neck. Because he’s Spike, he’s all “YOU’RE WELCOME,” and Giles points out that “your heroism has been slightly muted by the fact that you were helping Adam to start a war that would kill us all.” Because of contrivance-y reasons, they decide not to stake him.
Buffy and Riley come back from the secret lab. There are hugs all around before Buffy gives orders to save the soldiers and kill the demons. Willow asks if she’s up for it, and Buffy’s response is to get her fight on.
Cut to a clandestine government meeting room, and a guy in a suit telling other men in suits about the outcome. We cut between a bunch of fight scenes as he voice overs that the project was an attempt at harnessing the power of the otherworldy, and that it was only through the actions of the Scoobies and Riley that only(!) 40% of the soldiers died. Suit Man recommends destroying all the records and filling the APARF with concrete. I may have cheered a little at that last bit. “Burn it down and salt the earth,” he finishes, and we fade to black.
Sweeney: So, a few more comments on the thing that I loved in this episode that I clearly mostly did not love: In many ways it was the antithesis of the rest of this season, or at least of all the things I disliked about the rest of this season. It brought the team back together to show how incredibly powerful they can all be when they work together and play to their strengths. They are all stronger together — that’s a pretty constant theme on this show. Also, we revisit the Slayer mythology and, saying as little as I can because of spoilers, this episode does a wonderfully subtle job of setting up so. much. of what’s to come, basically across the next three seasons. As such, as much as I dislike most of this episode, I have to give it its due for that. Mostly, I just really, really love the manner in which the Scoobies come together to defeat the season’s Big Bad.
K: Exactly. It was SO FREAKING AWESOME to have the Scoobies back together and working as a single unit, just the four of them. Don’t get me wrong, I love Anya and Tara. But I love reminders of the way things started out – just the four of them together, saving the world. Because it’s awesome.
This episode was about going out with a bang. Everything that was wrong with the Initiative for the entire MF season was still wrong with it in this episode, but how could we not at least be entertained by watching it all blow up? It was quick moving and shallow, but did we mention that it got rid of the Initiative?
That said, I had to double check and make sure I watched the right episode, because this ISN’T the season finale? Guys? Guys? WTF?
K: Welcome to BtVS, where Whedon sits back and laughs at your confusion/tears.