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'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' recap: Riley takes some 'initiative'

Season 4 | Episode 7 | “The Initiative” | Aired Nov 16, 1999

For the first time ever, Buffy starts from Riley’s point of view. In the UC Sunnydale cafeteria, Riley grades papers while his friend, Forrest, watches Buffy break the yogurt machine. He remarks how hot Buffy is as she trips and drops her lunch tray. Riley agrees she’s easy on the eyes while she sheepishly picks up her food. “But would you really want to go out with her?” Riley asks. Forrest says yes. Riley calls Buffy peculiar.

If you recall, Spike appeared in the previous episode, only to be tasered by the mysterious commandos and removed from campus. He wakes up in a sterile, white facility, in a small room with an electric window. The camera zooms out to reveal Spike isn’t the only monster being held in a cell. What is this place? The government? A cosmetics company? Spike wonders.

Meanwhile, a very bored, grumpy Giles sketches one of the commandos, and assumes they’re human. He tells Xander that once again, Buffy won’t need their help. Buffy arrives and though Giles tells her to patrol that night, she says she’s going to bring Willow to a party. After Oz cheated on her, nearly killed her, then left her, Willow needs some cheering up.

Back at the facility, a packet of blood drops from the ceiling into Spike’s cell. Before he drinks it, a vampire in the next cell yells out to stop. He warns him that doctors starve the vampires and then feed them drugged blood before doing experiments on them. Both Spike and the other vampire realize they were both running from Buffy when they were captured, and Spike throws a tantrum.

“I always worried what would happen when that bitch got some funding,” Spike yelled. He vows to destroy her.

In class, Willow notices Oz’s name, Daniel Osbourne, left off the class roster. After Willow tries to convince Riley (and seemingly, herself) Oz will be back in class soon, Professor Walsh interrupts to say Oz shouldn’t come back if he can’t respect the class schedule. Hurt, Willow leaves quickly, and Buffy immediately tells Walsh off for being cold. After a tense confrontation, Buffy leaves and Walsh tells Riley, “I like her.”

Later, while Riley tells Forrest about Buffy’s nerve to stand up to Walsh, Forrest flags down Parker to ask what Buffy’s like in bed. Like the crude jerk he is, Parker puffs up and starts bragging about their one night together, but quickly shows his ugly side.

“Definitely a bunny in the sack, but later on, well, you know the difference between a freshman girl and toilet seat?” He asks Forrest. Riley’s eyes flash. “A toilet seat doesn’t follow you around after you use it.”

And boom goes the dynamite.

Riley punches Parker in the face without hesitation.

Happily, Parker goes down like a brick and that’s his last appearance on the show. Now we can all take a deep breath. Riley obviously likes the Slayer, and so far, he seems like a thoughtful, decent guy. He visits Willow and asks for advice on “courting” (seriously, that’s what he called it) Buffy.

Willow, still depressed over Oz, accuses Riley of planning to fall in love then rip out Buffy’s heart. But Riley persists, charming and not at all pushy. Eventually Willow shares a few of Buffy’s favorite things, like Ice Capades without the irony and cheese. Riley finds out they’re going to a party at Lowell House that night, and plans his first attempt to flirt with Buffy. That, to me, is the real “Initiative” of the episode’s name.

Meanwhile, Spike drains the blood pack and lies motionless in his cell, pretending to be drugged. When doctors open his cell, he attacks them and escapes, returning to Harmony’s lair. He promises Harmony he’s back for good, but he’s just trolling her place for weapons to kill the Slayer.

Out in the graveyard, Xander finds Harmony burning a pile of Spike’s things. They start to fight, but neither can do much more than slap and kick. After a humiliating hair-pulling stalemate, they mutually agree to stop. Xander finds out Spike is in town and he goes to warn Buffy.

At the Lowell House party, Willow tries to help Riley flirt with Buffy, but he chokes and resorts to offering her cheese. He manages to grab her attention when Willow leaves, but Xander swoops in and steals Buffy away to go after Spike. They leave the party together, discouraging Riley’s romantic efforts. Forrest calls Riley away from the party with Graham.

At first it looks like Forrest just wants to taunt Riley for getting shut down, but then they start passing increasingly mysterious checkpoints. The trio heads down a secret elevator to the Initiative, revealed to be the underground facility where Spike was held. Riley ponders aloud his chances with Buffy after the night. What girl’s going to go out with a guy who’s acting all Joe Regular by day and turns all demon hunter by night?”

Oh, snap. They’re perfect for each other.

Professor Walsh (!) meets the guys and tells them to suit up because Hostile 17 (Spike, of course) has escaped. They’re the commandos! Riley is revealed to be a commanding special agent in the Initiative, with the goal of finding Spike.

At Giles’ house, Buffy complains about being disturbed on her night off. She vows to finally kill Spike. Useless to help, Giles allows Buffy to head back to campus and wait for Spike to show up.

The agents find Buffy sitting outside, alone, compromising their scouting area. Riley shuts down Forrest’s idea to use Buffy as bait. Instead, he takes off his commando suits and tries walk her home. Buffy, trying to attract Spike to the area, tries to shoo Riley away. They argue, Buffy calls Riley Teutonic, but both of them scatter when they hear a scream.

Spike finds Buffy’s dorm through the school computer system. Willow, still moping in the room, hears a knock and invites Spike in without thinking. He goes to bite Willow, but falls over due to a sharp pain in his head. “This has never happened to me before. … Why don’t we wait half an hour and try again?” After a brilliantly metaphorical exchange between Spike and Willow about his newfound vamp impotence (vampotence?), Willow hits him with a lamp and runs out just as the agents try to rescue her.

After catching Spike, the agents consider whether to take Willow, a possible bite victim. Spike tries to bite an agent but again experiences the sharp head pain. Buffy arrives and attacks Riley, allowing Spike to break free and escape. Vision compromised by smoke and Buffy’s flare gun, Riley aborts the mission.

Back at the Initiative, Professor Walsh angrily dismisses Riley for coming back empty-handed and being unable to identify their attackers. Riley can confirm, however, that Walsh’s neurological implant in Spike’s brain works well. He explains how Spike can’t hurt humans without feeling intense pain. This is a big deal, as it sets Spike up to be an ally with Buffy. You can tell he’s about to get more play on the show, because James Marsters replaces Seth Green in the opening credits.

The next day, Riley catches up with Buffy on campus and they both apologize for their weird behavior the night before. Riley brings up cheese again and Buffy tells him he’s a little peculiar. It’s a good sign.

Big bad of the week: Spike, until he’s neutered like a puppy. His exchange with Willow about how he would bite her if he could? Mark that in the books as one of Buffy‘s great writing moments.

Quote of the week: “You’re right. A human being in pain has nothing to do with your job.” —Buffy to Professor Walsh, after Walsh says it’s not her job to coddle students.

Heinous ’90s fashion of the week: Graham is one cute commando. But in the scene where Riley punches Parker, is he really wearing a Hawaiian flower polo? College in the 1990s must have been nice, with Frisbees instead of books. Also, I don’t know if this counts as fashion, but Harmony’s unicorn poster definitely reminds me of Lisa Frank.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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