Oh, you mean the camo and stuff. I thought about it, but on me it’s gonna look all Private Benjamin. Don’t worry, I’ve patrolled in this halter many times.
In which Buffy has a shorter military career than Xander.
Most of the Buffy seasons follow a specific storytelling arc ““ in the first half of the season, we have our Monsters of the Week and the introduction of a villain that seems to dominate the storyline. We assume, right or wrong, that this will be our enemy for the next 22 episodes, but midway through the year, our Small Bad is eclipsed or conquered, and we get introduced to the real Big Bad. In season 2, Spike/Dru is our Small Bad. Angelus’s introduction in “Surprise”/”Innocence” is our Big Bad. Ditto Mr. Trick/The Mayor in season 3. Season 1 doesn’t count because it’s only 12 episodes long and, well, it was only 12 episodes long. But here in season 4, we have now crossed the equator. It’s time for the Big Bad reveal.
Somewhere along the line, Buffy decided that her secret identity was shot and allowed Riley to share her Slayer-ness with his boss, Professor Walsh. I’m gonna guess that there was some ego involved in this; a team of monster hunters should totally know who The Slayer is, and when they didn’t, Buffy just had to make sure they were clued in. So Buffy’s once kinda-secret identity is now a matter of record with the US military, because in this episode, “The “˜I’ in Team,” Buffy joins the Initiative. This is a bad idea. This is a bad idea that Giles should have shot down, but didn’t, because Buffy forgot to consult him on the matter, as we discovered last week in “A New Man,” and is hammered in this week when Willow continually asks, “Are you sure this is a good idea?”
No, Willow, it’s a terrible idea. Not in the least because Buffy isn’t a committee monster hunter. She’s The Slayer, singular (except for the times there’s more than one). She is, in fact, the “I” in team.
One of BVTS’s overriding themes is feminism vs. the patriarchy. This is sometimes done subtly, like in the progression of Giles (and eventually Wesley) from stuffy patriarchal stools to progressives who align themselves with Buffy and all she represents. We are in a not-subtle cycle, with the army as our hyper-masculine patriarchal overlords, seeking to control the wild things and enlisting a corps of young men who unquestioningly follow orders to do so. Into this strolls Buffy, who has already broken The Watchers Council and our evil father-figure, Giant Snake Mayor. If the military had done a little research on her first, they might have been able to figure out which way this storyline was going to finish.
Riley introduces Buffy to the commando underground lair, showing her their torture (research) pit, the high tech gear they use to fight the monsters with, the scientists who are studying the hostiles because they don’t shop down at the magic box where all this stuff is already documented, and talk about needing clearances and orders to get their job done. Buffy sticks out like a sore thumb ““ the only young girl we see on screen, the tiny blond in a camisole amid a sea of green uniforms, and the only one who dares ask “why” on mission briefings. Even so, she’s a star to the men ““ she evades a whole unit easily during a training exercise, whoops most of their soldiers in minutes, and then takes down a demon that overwhelmed a whole team. The guys seem impressed with her, welcoming her with (mostly) easy comradery ““ except for Forrest, but that dude is kind of an asshole.
What Buffy fails to recognize is Maggie’s growing resentment of her intrusion into the Initiative. Not only is Buffy not easily controlled, she competes with Maggie for Riley’s devotion. Maggie has a certain proprietary interest in her boys. Like any good mother-substitute, she gives them vitamins, makes sure they have coats on when they go out to play, bugs their bedrooms so she can watch them having sex, and chooses creepy and obvious code names like “Mother” for them to refer to her by. She does not do these things so the first little blonde bimbo that comes along can threaten all her hard work. In the period of roughly 24 hours, Buffy goes from new recruit to personae non gratis in Maggie’s book.
Much like every other super villian on the show, Maggie decides that offing Buffy is the way to go. She sends Riley and his team out to track good ole Hostile 17, our pal Spike, who is seeking asylum with the Scooby Gang. (Which he gets, for the same amount of cash Giles had to pay him for Spike’s help during “A New Man.”) With Stupid Riley out of the way, Maggie summons Buffy via her new military beeper and asks her to go check out the nearby sewers. Probably a raccoon, Maggie says, giving Buffy a malfunctioning weapon and a huge ear bud/camera/heart monitor that probably was state of the art in 2000 but looks really huge and ungainly in 2013. I can get a wrist band that tracks my calories, my sleep patterns, how many steps I took in a day, and my heart rate for less than a hundred bucks at Best Buy these days. Just saying.
We understand, of course, that Maggie didn’t believe any of Buffy’s stories about saving the world or blowing up giant snakes or that time she died and came back. That’s not science! That’s just mystical mumbo jumbo and the bragging of a young girl. Because if Maggie believed her, she wouldn’t have sent only two demons up against a Slayer and think she solved her problem.
Buffy beats the snot out of her two assassins but loses her heart rate monitor in the process, leading Maggie to believe that Buffy is dead. A fact she sadly informs Riley of when he returns from his unsuccessful scouting mission and then is proven a liar when Buffy picks up the camera and coolly calls Maggie out on the assassination attempt. Buffy is gonna show them what a Slayer is.
Professor Walsh? That simple little recon you sent me on – wasn’t a raccoon. Turns out it was me, trapped in the sewers with a faulty weapon and two of your pet demons. If you think that’s enough to kill me, you really don’t know what a Slayer is. Trust me when I say you’re gonna find out.
This is where we would normally say, “Oh, gurl, you better run” to Maggie, because Buffy is gonna trash her. But the Slayer doesn’t get the chance. While Maggie is visiting her science project and giving her defeated villain evil-will-rise-again speech, Adam (said project) stabs her dead.
That’ll learn you for messing with the laws of nature, Maggie Walsh!
This is the first time we see Buffy and Riley doing the horizontal mambo. Unfortunately it will not be the last. Notable, it’s the first time we see Buffy use patrolling/fighting as foreplay, which will come up again in season 6. See, season 6 man! It’s the thematic companion to season 4!
In the scene with Buffy and Willow meeting up in their room after both being out all night, we know that Buffy didn’t come home because it was the first time she and Riley have sex. Given that Willow slinks in in much the same fashion and is as evasive in her answers about where she spent the night, it’s a solid bet that she and Tara also had sex for the first time.
The disruptor spell scene, where Willow fries the tracking beacon shot into Spike’s back, is the most slapstick thing they’ve done all season. And it ages poorly. Really poorly.
The commando tracking scene, where they’re trying to find Spike via a homing signal, is a direct homage to the movie Aliens, where the Marines can’t understand how the tracking device is showing aliens inside their parameter.
Images curtesy of Broken Innocence Screencaps and Goodbye Piccadilly Circus Farewell Leicester Bloody Square and property of 21st Century Fox.
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