The I in Team
Written by: David Fury
Directed by: James A. Contner
Air Date: Feb. 8, 2000

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If there is anything that can be said about “BtVS”, its that there are constantly moments of hilarity during dire situations. Unlike “Angel”, in which moments of comedy result in sometimes grating experiences (check Wesley’s reaction to “attractive” women during a daring rescue), here we have legit comedy for the sake of comedy. But while there are gloriously hilarious moments watching Anya learn how to play poker or Spike have to get stuff dug out of his back, there are also great character and season development moments throughout the episode, as well as some action (and some action if you catch my meaning). Its also the episode where Buffy and Riley do it for the first time, a fact I’d forgotten and was immediately embarrassed about when I thought any second my girlfriend’s dad might walk in on me watching it. The slow-motion fight sequence paired with PG-13 nudity was not how I wanted to bond.

Buffy is allowed into the Initiative faster than lightning and is even allowed on patrol and hunts, despite the fact that she wears girly tops and refuses to use high tech gizmos to help her fight. This pisses off the black guy, Forrest, because he wanted to be Riley’s girlfriend, too, but now he can’t be. Sorry, Forrest. Sucks, I know. She pokes around, looks at stuff funny, and asks too many questions. Prof Walsh and some new jackhole scientist/doctor that we’ve never seen before comment that she is trouble and Walsh is like “uh, ok. Guess we’ll kill her” and sends Buffy into a trap while everyone else hunts Hostile 17: Spike. It leads to an intense brawl with two demons Buffy saw the Initiative holding in captivity previously in the episode and showcases her ability to think on her feet, using the defective shock gun to electrocute one in a puddle. It leads to an awesome moment where Buffy catches Walsh in a lie, thus destroying Riley’s faith in the organization and his mentor immediately.

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While all of this is going on and being overly straightforward, the interesting stuff is what is happening with the other characters, their development. In “A New Man”, we saw how Giles was dealing with being left out of the loop, but here we really get to see Willow trying to deal with making the best of a more-and-more Buffyless world. She is spending more time with Tara, her magical friend, and relenting how she is wasting her time waiting around for Buffy to need her. She knows she is useful, but she isn’t allowed an opportunity to show off her skills, and it depresses her. She is feeling lost and alone, too, because everyone else is starting interesting new phases in their lives: Xander has Anya, Buffy has Riley, and even Giles has Spike… err…

Speaking of Giles, his attempt to convince Spike to help the good guys from now on comically fails, but is so expertly played upon later in the episode when Spike reminds him how much he’d helped him previously. Giles directly quotes him, asking him if Spike had helped him “out of the evilness” of his heart. Spike, quick to laugh at his own genius, freely admits that, no, of course he’d made Giles pay him for the help. Damn. Caught in his own trap. I like this because its slowly developing Spike as a different character than what we’ve seen. Prior to this he’s been the ‘Big Bad’, a monster with no remorse, no pity, and the only comic nature he had was deceptive and cruel. Now that he’s neutered, he has to show a bit more of his humanity, and its charmingly played to a T by James Marsters who knows his craft.

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This episode also signals the death of a major character and the very first reveal of the main behind-the-scenes plot of the Initiative. The aforementioned “314” that is scaring off demons, somehow, is revealed to be Adam, a mish-mash of monster and human parts that Walsh seems to have motherly feelings for (though Riley also calls Walsh “Mother” so, its all a bit too weird for me, anyhow). The demon she’d sent Buffy and the crew after had an arm she wanted to affix to her creation, but after her murder attempt fails, Walsh toys around with idea of activating Adam to hunt her down. Whoops, spike in your gut! And Walsh is out of here, too soon for my book. She was an interesting bad buy, someone who we won’t see developed fully.

So now we have our “Big Bad” of the season in place, and the tone shifts from set up to follow-through. From here its development of these themes, narrative choices, and character developments. We’ll see everyone age and grow, everyone in pain and living through suffering, and… well, OK so this is the same as any back half of a “BtVS” season, I suppose. But while other seasons, like S2’s “Innocence”, for example, changed the stage forever, this episode merely changes things for the “now” – by next episode, some of the things said will be taken back, some of the questions answered will be re-asked, and some of the answers given will stop making sense. Its OK, no one watches S4 because they think it is the best of the bunch. They watch it because it is fun and usually pretty decent. This is no different.

Episode Rating: 80

Additional Notes:
-Buffy lives Faith’s manta of Slaying making you hungry or horny by boning Riley after their first hunt together
-When did Walsh have time to set that trap? That iron gate?
-The mounted camera was a huge Chekov’s gun
-The Initiative, in civies, are like “no one will mind us” but then Riley’s shouting, like all “GET OUT YOUR GUNS”
-Xander continues to attempt to have a job, any job, by selling gross looking candy/energy/health bar things… gross
-Anya’s materialistic self comes through more and more
-The look on Giles’ face when he traps Spike is glorious
-The stupid moment after the ionization spell takes effect is less glorious

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