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Stew’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer Retrospective: Season 4, Episodes 12 – 13

February 9, 2024 | Posted by Rob Stewart
Buffy the Vampire Slayer 4-13 Image Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

Everything Is Penises: A BTVS Retrospective, S4 E12-13


Episode 12

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

We open up in Buffy’s dorm, with her and Riley making out in bed, and I swear to god the music overlay is some kind of instrumental cover of “Circle Of Life” from The Lion King, and I HATE IT. Go watch this scene, it’s just for a second or two, but it’s there.

Willow bounds in with an emergency: there is a fire-breathing monster in the library! Buffy and Riley follow, but what actually awaits them is a surprise party for Buffy’s 19th birthday.

At the party, Giles is trying to talk to Anya and Xander, but Anya is openly bored and dismissive of him. She drags Xander off to get some food. Buffy introduces Giles to Riley, and Giles reports he is still between jobs at the moment. Buffy mentioned Professor Walsh and says she is the smartest person she has ever met, clearly stinging Giles. Buffy also says Walsh is at least 40 and has better things to do than hang around kids.

The day after the party, we see Spike moving out of Xander’s basement to set himself up in a nice crypt.

Buffy and Professor Walsh finally get to talk now that all of the cards are on the table, with Buffy admitting she is The Slayer, and Walsh insulting her methods (using a pointy stick). The teacher of the one and only class Buffy has (although she should be in her second semester now, right? So maybe she just has NO classes) is working on getting Buffy clearance to join The Initiative. It comes up that Buffy has killed a lot–A LOT–more monsters than Riley, and he recoils at this.

Giles is at home dusting when he picks up a book and starts reading then. He dashes off to call Willow and alert her that a demon prince is going to rise tonight!

We cut back to Buffy and Riley, and as expected, this whole thing about monster differential is flooring Riley. It’s played off as sexual insecurity because EVERYTHING in this show is actually about penises. How did I not see it? Stabbing things with erect pieced of wood. It’s so obvious.

Buffy notes that “there are different amounts of experience”, and that’s funny given the context of what this talk is allegorical to because Buffy has had sex two (2) times. Riley has probably slept with more people than the number of monsters he has killed. SO TAKE THAT, BUFFY. He is going to criticize your technique!

Why am I like this? Shake it off, Stewart.

Giles, looking for Buffy, gies to Prof Walsh’s office for… reasons. But he doesn’t know about The Initiative, so they don’t talk freely. They disagree on how to raise young people, and Walsh notes she believes Buffy has not had a strong, male role model. Slings and arrows from all directions at our boy Giles today!

Giles, Willow, and Xander wait around in a mausoleum, but no demon rises. Meanwhile, they get a chance to catch up, whereupon the info that Riley is one of the Army Guys comes out. They tell Giles all about The Initiative. He is devastated to learn that Anya and SPIKE (of all people) knew before him.

HEY GUY. Remember Episode One this season when you were like “Time to work out your own shit, kid”? Yeah, maybe that’s why.

Giles leaves the crypt, and from the shadows emerges Ethan, doing a monologue that Giles walks back in on and catches him in the middle of. Would be hilarious, if the show hadn’t pulled almost the same exact joke a few episodes ago with Spike and The Initiative. This season is all about replaying the few things it is doing well. Interrupted villainous soliloquies and non-threat baddies.

Ethan and Giles go out to get drinks, and Giles is quickly drunk while Ethan is clearly not. Ethan mentions something about “314”, and how all of the demons are scared and angry about it. He says “one hell of a fight” is coming. This guy should have been the villain at graduation day, damn it!

Riley and Buffy are sparring, and Riley insists on going all-out. Buffy does, too, and she fucking knocks him across the room. Take that, you sexual Einstein, you! Buffy’s technique is just fine, thank you!

(I have no idea what is happening)

Tara is just a thing that is happening now, so we move on to her working on witchcraft with Willow; they are going to float a rose and pluck it’s petals.

Okay, first of all, what did that rose ever do to you?

And secondly, they do float the rose. BOY, do they float it. In a show with terrible SXF from the word “go”, this rose might be the worst yet, as it’s clearly just awkwardly lifted by a string. Jesus. Why even air that?!

Anyway, the rose then goes berserk, zipping around the room like a bullet.

Elsewhere, Giles wakes up in a demon’s body! He breaks a bunch of his own shit because he suddenly doesn’t know his own strength.

Back at school, Willow and Buffy meet up in the morning. Willow explains the rose incident and says she thinks somebody is screwing with magical barriers or something. Buffy, who ALWAYS ignores her supposed best friend, doesn’t care and wants to talk about beating Riley’s sexual dynamo ass. She was even still holding back, even though she said she wasn’t.

This show really wants to be Dragon Ball sometimes, guys. Buffy wasn’t even at 100% power!

Giles heads to Xander’s house and tries to ask him for help, but it turns out Giles’ body isn’t speaking English, so Xander flips out and just starts throwing plates at the seemingly dangerous demon. Giles flees.

Xander has apparently called everyone else, as he, Buffy, Willow, and Anya head to Giles’ pad for info on this demon Xander saw. They see the wreckage Giles wrought and are worried the demon attacked / ate him.

A dejected Giles comes upon Spike who, it turns out, CAN understand him because he speaks demon. Giles asks for help; Spike asks for $200.

After a quick scene of Riley showing up at Giles’, we are back to Spike and Giles driving around, and Spike can’t drive a stick shift, which is a character moment we might as well have. He tells Giles that his kind of demon body has paralyzing mucus, but this never comes into play. It’s supposed to be a joke when Giles asks if his demon body has heat vision or something useful. But still! Paralyzing mucus! I’d take that.

They see Professor Walsh, and Giles gets out of the car to chase her down the street for laughs. Walsh calls Riley to report in on this, and the team finds the kind of demon that is out there in one of Giles’ books. Its weakness is silver.

Buffy and Riley break into Ye Olde Magic Shop and find a receipt from Ethan, which allows Riley to call into The Initiative and get his location. At the same time, Giles and Spike also work out his location. Riley says he isn’t allowed to take Buffy on this mission, and she takes that about as well as you expect. So she goes anyway.

Everyone (minus Spike because he and Giles split up when The Initiative started tailing them) coalesces at Ethan’s motel room. This leads to Riley whooping Ethan’s ass while Buffy fights Giles. She stabs him, but looks in his eyes and realizes it is him!

In the aftermath, Giles is cured and Riley arrests Ethan right when he is taunting Buffy that she won’t kill him. Riley mentions that Buffy is strong like Spider-Man, and I give my wife more side-eye for always arguing against my point that Buffy is just Spider-Man for girls.

In the last scene, we see Walsh entering a room labeled “314”…

Episode 13

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

Episode 13 starts off irrelevantly, with Xander and Willow teaching Anya poker, and Xander hocking (hawking?) energy bars. Xander notes he is sus of The Initiative. He must have seen them venting in the Cafeteria.

THAT’S RIGHT. WE GOT AMONG US JOKES. Like it’s 2020 up in here.

At school, we see Buffy sparring with The Initiative in the woods, and she decimates them. Walsh is extremely disappointed in her men. Riley tells Buffy not to get too sad about it because everyone loves her, which then leaves us with a chilling stare from Walsh.

I love when this show reveals someone is a baddie, they remove ANY trace of doubt or nuance. Like they might as well put a big sign over her head: SEASON 4 BIG BAD IS HERE!

Giles heads to Spike’s mausoleum to pay him the $300 he owes him for helping him out last epiosde. Spike is a dick to him and says he never wants to see Giles or Buffy’s friends ever again.

We cut to Buffy and Riley who are seemingly about to bang, but the innuendo is actually all about his letting her into The Initiative lair. “You never said it was so huge”. “I don’t like to brag”.


in this show

is about


Walsh gives Buffy a pass and some forms to go over, then she shows Buffy some monsters in “The Pit” getting reprogrammed. After a full tour, she gives Buffy a pager and oficially welcomes her aboard.

I love how much my wife HATES Tara. Everytime she shows up, my wife goes “Ugh, I hate Tara! They just made a character with no personality whatsoever”. Anyway, we get Willow and Tara hanging out. Tara wants to spend time with her, but Willow has a playdate with Buffy at The Bronze since they haven’t seen much of each other as of late.

Back at the lair, Walsh heads into the 314 Restricted Area where she and a scientist guy are making a monster they have christened “Adam”. Well that’s religious imagery with no reason to be, I guess.

At The Bronze, Xander is hard at work selling his energy bars, which pleases Anya because then he can buy her things. Buffy shows up over and hour late and brings basically the whole Initiative with her, much to Willow’s chagrin. Anya, scared of the demon-hunters, drags Xander off to dance. Before Buffy and Willow can catch up at all, the beepers go off. Buffy and her new teammates run off to do their duty.

Walsh and the scientist fill the team in on a monster called Polagra, which is basically Baraka, or X-Men Origins: Wolverine Deadpool. Also, there was a screen with his name on it, which makes spelling a cinch, so I’m not even guessing on this one! I love The Initiative, and I look forward to Buffy being a part of them and their informative monitors forever.

A dejected Willow heads to Tara’s to see if she still wants to hang out, and the answer is a resounding yes.

The Initiative head out after Polagra, and Shelton Benjamin is unhappy about being a Beta. I mean: he wasn’t on Riley’s Alpha Squad with Riley and Buffy. They don’t find Polagra, but his team DOES find Spike! They tag him with a tracker as he runs off into the night.

OH GOD, OH GOD, OH GOD. We next get a scene that is… this crazy and awful but mostly crazy but MOSTLY awful montage of Riley and Buffy fighting Polagra juxtaposed with Riley and Buffy having sex, and I can’t even deal with this right now.

You can tell–you can JUST TELL–that there was some writer or director who was so fucking proud of themselves for this. “So yeah, I made the setpiece where they are fighting the monster with the giant erect poles and whose name rhymes with Viagara, and at the same time, they are fucking. It’s really artsy shit, you know. Like it shows the duality of man, you know? Fighting AND fucking, but like… TOGETHER, man. It’s my Sistine Chapel”.

Fuck off, dude.

At Giles’, Xander is pitching the energy bars to him when Spike barges in asking for help. Giles LOVES this and reminds Spike of how dismissive he was earlier when he said he never wanted to see them again. He reminds Spike that when Spike helped him, it was only after promise of payment. Spike gives him back what is left of the $300 dollars.

Buffy, who has trauma over these kinds of things, wakes up the next day, but Riley is still in bed with her. We see for the first time that he takes some kind of pills, but this is really kind of downplayed for a show not known for its subtlety, so it MIGHT actually be nothing. Buffy asks him what 314 is, but he is interrupted by a phone call; Walsh is calling him to come in.

OH! I forgot to mention in my rant: Walsh WATCHED Buffy and Riley bang because she has everyone under surveillance.

Anyway, she calls him in. Buffy asks why, but he did not ask her. Buffy notes he really doesn’t ask any questions. He says its what you learn in the military.

In the lair, Riley is suddenly curious of the Restriced Area that he never thought much of before. Walsh notices this and sends him out before telling science guy that Buffy has become a liability. It’s time for the Contingency Scenario!

Holy crap, guys; Walsh is going to end up being in love with Riley, right? Were they previously a thing? Or does she just want them to be? Oh I just can’t wait to find out.

Buffy and Willow meet up in the dorm and *mrrrow!* is it cold in here. Buffy notes that Willow was out all night, and Willow is all “YEAH I WAS. You, too”. But before we can get any further or cattier, Buffy’s beeper goes off! No! I need to know if Willow and Tara banged (I mean, presumably they banged). As soon as Buffy leaves, the phone rings, and Giles needs Willow’s help.

Buffy is sent into the sewers on a low-threat mission by Walsh, but she is given a very big gun.

At Giles’, Willow casts a spell to scramble the tracker so the team has time to pull it out of Spike. The spell causes a an electrical burst that fries all their hair. They eventually get the tracking device out before Riley and his team can make it to the house, and Xander flushes it down the toilet.

Buffy is in the sewer and DOESN’T come across the tracker. What a waste! Haha! “Waste”. Cause she is in a sewer. But she does come across the monsters she saw getting reprogrammed earlier… and they have axes. Why wouldn’t Walsh give them, like, bazookas?

Buffy’s gun misfires, and the gate behind her locks. Walsh monitors the action from a heart rate video feed, and Buffy seems to die (but clearly the feed just gets loosed from her).

Riley comes back to the lair, where Walsh tells him that Buffy died. She makes up an elaborate story about Buffy insisting on going on a mission above her weight class, but Buffy, after having defeated the twin peril, picks up the feed and calls out Walsh for tricking her. Riley sees all of this and storms off. What will Haas and Benjamin do?!

Buffy heads to Giles’, where everyone is still gathered, and tells them none of them are safe while The Initiative is still out there.

And finally, we get Walsh waking up Adam and ordering him to kill Buffy. She seems really pissed that Riley left, and she really must be in love with HOLY SHIT, ADAM JUST KILLED WALSH WHAT THE FUCK?!


Not gonna lie: Adam killing Walsh with his Baraka-arm blew me away! I was convinced Walsh was the big bad, and then the show offs her out of nowhere! We need more moments like this.

That ending left me gutted, and for the first time ever, BTVS actually full-on GOT ME. I did not see even a hint of that coming. Now what happens? Is the stupid scientist guy the villain? A fractured, directionless Initiative? Adam? The guy that sounds like Shelton Benjamin? What is even going on now; I have no idea!