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BuffyGuide.com — The Complete Buffy Episode Guide
The Initiative
November 16, 1999
4ABB07

 
Credits

Writer:
Douglas Petrie


Director:
James A. Contner


Regulars:
Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris
Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg
James Marsters as Spike
Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles
Guest Stars:
Marc Blucas as Riley Finn
Mercedes McNab as Harmony Kendall
Adam Kaufman as Parker Abrams
Bailey Chase as Graham
Leonard Roberts as Forrest
Lindsay Crouse as Professor Maggie Walsh
Cast:
Mace Lombard as Tom, the Lab Rat Vamp
Scott Becker as Lost Freshman

 
Synopsis

Spike, who was captured last week by the commandos, is being held hostage by them in a hi-tech facility underneath the University. Riley, who has a crush on Buffy, is a member of this military-like demon hunting crusade (called the Initiative, hence the episode title). It also turns out that Professor Maggie Walsh is in charge of the unit, which performs experiments on the demons the commandos capture. Spike manages to escape and heads to find Buffy, who he assumes is behind this. Instead, he finds Willow, but is unable to bite her — the Initiative has put a chip in his head that renders him unable to hurt anyone; if he tries, he experiences severe neurological pain. Riley and his commandos, undercover, find Spike at Willow's dorm and attack, but Buffy shows up, and they all fight. However, circumstances have led to everyone being unable to see, so Buffy and Riley don't recognize each other, and Spike gets away.

For the full, detailed synopsis, click here.

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Monstervision

"The Initiative" Headquarters reminds us of many other secret labs seen in TV and movies, such as "The X-Files" or the James Bond movies. The music upon seeing the Headquarters the first time (wonderful score music by Chris Beck, by the way), also seemed heavily influenced by these types of movies, as well as something from "Batman" or "Superman."

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Body Count

Tom, the Lab Rat Vamp
Staked by an Initiative Operative in the headquarters.
Total: One
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Dialogue to Die For

Spike (about Buffy): "I always worried what would happen when that bitch got some funding."

Buffy: "You know for someone who teaches human behavior, you might try showing some."
Prof. Walsh:"It's not my job to coddle my students."
Buffy: "You're right. A human being in pain has nothing to do with your job." (walks away)
Prof. Walsh (to Riley): "I like her."

The whole impotence discussion was hilarious, but too long to include here.

More quotes from this episode...

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References

  • Xander: "How about this? We whip out the Ouija board..."
  • A Ouija board is a board marked with letters of the alphabet, numbers, and a few words. People rest their fingers on the planchette, ask the board a question, and the planchette will supposedly move around, pointing to letters and such, to indicate the answer (participants are not supposed to push the planchette). It is thought by many to be obtaining answers from spirits and other-worldly powers.

  • Buffy: "It's my late night stormtrooper pal."
  • Stormtroopers (Sturmtruppen in German) were an elite World War I assault infantry, known for speed and surprise. (George Lucas borrowed the term for Star Wars.)

  • Xander: "I put the Semper in Semper Fi."
  • Semper Fi is an abbreviation for the Latin semper fidelis, which is the motto for the U.S. Marine Corps meaning "always faithful."

  • Xander: "Might as well face it. Right now I don't have the technical skills to join the Swiss Army. And all those guys ask you to do is uncork a couple of sassy cabernets."
  • Because of Switzerland's position of neutrality, Xander jokes that all the Swiss Army does is to use their Swiss Army Knives to uncork bottles of wine.

  • Riley: "I'm thinking that 'How about them Broncos?' won't really cut it."
  • The Denver Broncos are a football team of the NFL. A clichèd opening line when talking to someone is "How about them [INSERT SPORTS TEAM HERE]."

  • Willow: "Loves Ice Capades, without the irony."
  • The Ice Capades put on a variety of shows on ice, with titles like "The Magic of MGM." The production has been around for many decades.

  • Harmony: "Like I'd listen to the Sex Pistols."
  • The Sex Pistols is a British punk rock band, led by Johnny Rotten and originated in the 1970s (though they're still putting out albums). Spike was listening to one of their songs (sung by Gary Oldman from the soundtrack of Sid and Nancy) in "Lovers Walk."

  • Buffy: "Who died and made you John Wayne?"
  • John Wayne was the stage name of Marion Michael Morrison (1907-1979), who starred in nearly 200 movies in his fifty-year career, and who came to be seen as a typical American cowboy.

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Continuity

  • Wild at Heart

    Buffy's comment about Willow having been in a black hole of despair since Oz left refers all the way back to last week's episode, in which — you guessed it — Oz left.

  • The Freshman

    Spike's neighboring Lab Rat Vamp (credited as Tom) is the one from Sunday's gang who got zapped at the end of "The Freshman" (our first introduction to the commando guys).

  • Halloween

    Xander and Giles make reference to Xander's military experience — that is, when he was turned into his Halloween costume (a soldier) in "Halloween."

  • What's My Line, Part One

    Willow mentions Mr. Gordo, Buffy's stuffed pig, whom we were first introduced to in Part One of "What's My Line."

  • The Harsh Light of Day

    Harmony berates Spike for staking her and leaving her, which he did in "The Harsh Light of Day."

  • Lovers Walk

    Spike says that he wanted to bite Willow last year, when she was wearing the fuzzy pink number with the lilac underneath. This seems to describe her outfit when he kidnapped her in "Lovers Walk."

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Goofs and Gaffes

  • In the close-up shot of Spike waking up on the floor of his cell, his red shirt is completely open, but when the camera switches to a farther shot, the shirt is closed over the lower half of his stomach.

  • When Harmony strikes the match it seems to burn out, or at least fade down to almost nothing. But in a quick camera cut right before she tosses it, it's suddenly a large flame again.
          Spotted by Mathew.

  • The fact that Walsh says Spike escaped at 2:47 p.m. is odd for two reasons: one, it's daylight at that time; and two, for being in such an awful hurry to find him, she sure waited quite a while to notify Riley and send the guys after him.

  • Graham refers to Spike's 62.3 degree body temperature as room temperature. Standard room temperature is considered to be between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit, and it wouldn't be very nice of UC Sunnydale to keep the dorms at 62 degrees.

  • Spike says that he's only 126, but in "School Hard," Giles stated that he was "barely 200." Sure, Giles got his information from a book, which could be wrong, but just because we can attempt to justify it doesn't mean that the writers didn't make a mistake.

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Notes

  • James Marsters has been added to the opening credits.

  • Seth Green's name has been taken out of the opening credits.

  • We finally find out that Oz's real name is Daniel Osbourne.

  • Other demons besides vampires are held at the Initiative.

  • We hear the voice of Xander's mother for the first time, calling down to him from upstairs, though we still do not see her.

  • It looks like Buffy and Willow kept Kathy's CD player (shown prominently in "Living Conditions").

  • The Initiative Headquarters is under Lowell House, which is the house where Riley lives (and probably at least some of the other commando guys); the house is presumably on campus.

  • Riley says that Dingoes Ate My Baby played at a Lowell House party last year.

  • It seems that all of the names in the list of Stevenson Hall residents which Spike looks at are real — most of them have listings at IMDb, and some of them work for Buffy, including Jeff Pruitt (Stunt Coordinator), David Solomon (Co-Producer), and Lisa Rosenberg (Hair Stylist).

  • Spike says that he is 126 years old. If he's counting his human years, then he must have been born in late 1872 or in 1873; if he's referring only to his years as a vampire, then he must have been vamped at that time.

  • It is confirmed that vampires do not generate body heat (the Initiative's heat sensor clocked Spike in at 62.3 degrees Fahrenheit).

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Music

  • Jake Lee Rau - "Welcome" (From Joy, Keltone, 1999)
      Willow is listening to this song both when Riley visits the dorm and when Spike arrives (it's the song that Spike turns up to drown out Willow's screaming).

  • Moby - "Bodyrock" (From Play, BMG, 1999)
      This is the song playing when Buffy and Willow arrive at the party.

  • That Dog - "Never Say Never" (From Retreat from the Sun, Geffen, 1997)
      This is the song playing when we first see Willow and Riley on the couch.

  • Four Star Mary - "Fate" (From Four Star Mary, Four Star Mary Music, 1997)
      This is the Dingoes Ate My Baby song that threw Willow for a loop when she was talking to Riley at the party. The song was also featured in "Inca Mummy Girl."
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  •  
    Comments

    Jeremy:
    This was my kind of Buffy episode. It has action. It has suspense. It has romance. And it has Spike. I am really starting to like the way Riley's character is starting to develop. He is the penultimate regular guy. Some of you may argue that Xander fills that role, but admit it, none of us are actually that funny, even if we think we are. I think this story arc will become one of my favorites. We finally have an episode which doesn't heat up other episodes in the microwave to serve as today's dinner. Chef Douglas Petrie has cooked us up an exquisite gourmet meal. Bam! (10/10)
    Jamie Marie:
    Wow, two excellent episodes in a row! They're really trying to make up for the first few episodes, aren't they? Well, keep 'em coming, because this is fun. Finally we find out about the commando guys ("The Initiative"), but Buffy doesn't. Well, she probably figured out that they were after Spike, but that's about it. They tricked us about Professor Walsh, though — after the "wild dog" incident, I thought she wasn't in on it, but she was. This Initiative has great potential. Who's bankrolling this? Is Walsh the mastermind, or does she just work for someone else? How do these guys get recruited? What's Buffy gonna think about all this? Why does Spike always wear the same outfit? Anyhow, we also learn more about Riley, and I approve of him — with Buffy. I can see how it might be tempting to think he's a good match for Willow, and in real life, he might be. But this is TV, and on TV, that relationship would be painfully boring. Also, Spike is finally in the opening credits, which means more Spike, which means more fun. I've noticed some people complaining that the ep. left too many loose ends — that's the point. This is where we start to set up major seasonal story arc, and if they wrapped it up for us already, then where's the arc? This was the first episode in a long time that caused me, at about 50 minutes into the hour, to really wish it wasn't almost over, mainly because I wanted more and more information, which means I look forward to the future episodes (except next week). Any little things that I normally would use as an excuse to lower my score (like the body temperature thing, or the 2:47 p.m. thing), I am able to brush off. That's right, I am not complaining. Oh sure, I'm sure in time these little things will loom larger and larger in my head, and I may end up regretting this, but for right now I'm in a good mood, so there. (10/10)
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    Nielsens
    Air Date Rating Ranking
    November 16, 1999 3.5 97 of 139
    January 11, 2000 2.8 95 of 138

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