The Yoko Factor
Written by: Doug Petrie
Directed by: David Grossman
Air Date: May 9, 2000

420_YokoFactor1

After this, Adam only has one more episode to go, so it is about damn time he got some dedicated screen time and development. After episodes of hearing about his exploits, he finally has a plan and we get to start hearing about it. Hot damn. And, on top of that, everyone else’s season-long development is starting to come to a head, and in a positive way. We’ll see how I feel about that, specifically, at the penultimate review for the season, but as it stands, now, this is all very pleasing and feels natural. And, above all else, its brought to the forefront by Spike as part of his devious plan to help Adam kill his enemies. Let’s tackle these in no particular order.

First up, Spike drops in to tell Giles that he wants to see Buffy; he knows where he can get his hands on some important data and wants her go-ahead because “vamp got to get paid, son!” – and he does this by reminding Giles that he hasn’t acted like a Watcher in a long time and has been less and less hands-on these days because Buffy doesn’t need him any more. Over the course of the episode, we see the effect on this bit of truth has on him, as he hits the bottle more and more, resulting in some of his best comedy moments in a long time (“Fort Dix?!”). This results in Xander and Anya supplying Spike with military fatigues so he can “sneak in” to the Initiative, and here he lays into Xander. He suggests everyone has been talking behind his back, saying he can’t hold down a steady job and that he is likely to join the army to become useful. Anya doesn’t like hearing this, but Xander likes it even less.

Riley_the_yoko_factor_2

Next, Spike gives Willow and Tara a disc that is encrypted and asks them to quickly decode it. Willow says it will take some time, since it is a huge military encryption code and she’s got a laptop from the year 2000. Spike points out that Buffy and Xander said she hasn’t kept up on her hacking skills now that she’s into being a witch, but he does so through heavy allusions to them actually commenting about her relationship with Tara. He says something akin to it “being a phase” and Willow gets huffy. All of this is done so effortlessly, it harkens back his ability to read people like a book, shown back in “Lover’s Walk” – he knows how to dig at people and is quite good at making it hurt if he needs to. This all comes to a head during a confrontation near the end of the episode, but we’ll get there in a moment.

On the other side of the episode, you have Buffy and Riley – remember, she went to L.A. to help Angel deal with Faith in “Sanctuary” and it didn’t go the way she intended. She shows up unannounced, doesn’t tell Riley she’s back. During this time, Xander has had more than enough opportunities to be a real dick-monger and tell Riley that Angel goes back due to a heaping dose of Buffy-sex. By the time he catches up to her, she doesn’t have the time or energy to deal with it and sends him packing. This leaves an angry, confused, and suspicious Riley to act impulsively and go help some of his former team-members take on some monster in the shadows. It turns out? Its Angel. He doesn’t like Riley, and Riley sure as hell doesn’t like him. So, they brawl. And I want to stress, they brawl hard. Riley gets some good hits in, but I enjoy that Angel pretty much dominates him. This leads to a tense but comical show-down in Buffy’s room where Riley thinks Angel is evil, again.

tara-anya

Buffy is mad that Angel shows up, but understands that they need to talk so she asks for privacy. Riley says “no” – more accurately, he says he won’t move a muscle. So Buffy and Angel leave (the latter smirks so well I smirked with him). Riley stands his ground and waits, holding to his word through sheer stubbornness, alone. Buffy and Angel have an awesome and deeply honest conversation in the hallway about forgiveness and understanding and it is at once both extremely heartfelt but also kinda lame. It undercuts more than a little bit of the punch their last conversation had by bringing resolution too swiftly. I understand that it is a TV show, but I think they could have left that stuff to simmer before cooling down a bit. After he leaves, though, Buffy explains to Riley that nothing happened between them but, whoops, Forrest is dead. Yeeeaaah, she and Forrest met up in… the… forest… earlier and ran afoul of a wild Adam, who proceeded to kill Forrest and, well, no better time to share that new than after a huge fight, huh? Riley is understandably upset and vanishes, but it is revealed that he tracks Adam to that cave, where he will remain until the following episode.

Back at Giles’ place, everyone’s previous situations, as well as their entire years together (and, more importantly, apart) come to a head. Spike’s subterfuge worked wonders, with everyone at each other’s throats, accusing each other of saying and thinking negative things and causing the rift that has been growing since the start of college. Buffy attempts to get to the bottom of this hostility as Tara and Anya head to the bathroom to hide out until its over. No one allows anyone any space to argue because everyone is, unfortunately, right. And truths comes out, like how Xander didn’t know Tara and Willow were dating or that Giles might be an alcoholic. And it all boils up to a killer line about how the prophecy is about the Slayer and not “the Slayer and her friends” and everyone is left feeling gutted in the final minute of the episode. Everyone’s drifted apart in a time where they need each other and it is all exactly as Adam planned. What will happen? Likely they all die and Adam takes over the planet.

Episode Rating: 90

Additional Notes:
-Adam likes “Helter Skelter”
-More time with Giles playing and singing
-Also more time with Spike just walking into Giles’ home unannounced
-Adam tears Forrest and Buffy apart like nothing. Nice to see him wreck it up and actually be something to worry about, for a change
-Drunk Giles is hilarious
-As is anything Anya says. When does she become a series regular?
-Mr. Kitty-Fantastico!

Advertisements