Spike is tied to a chair and sitting next to Willow at the dining table


Title: Buffy S4.E07 “The Initiative” + S4.E08 “Pangs”
Released: 1999

Drinks Taken: 17
Vamps Dusted: 1


Follow the whole rewatch here!

Welcome back, Buffy fans! In last week’s very special episode, we learned that beer is bad. (Gotta agree with that one. Everyone knows wine is far superior.) Oz and Willow broke up and he left town, and I’m still not really ready to talk about it. This week, we finally learn what’s up with those weird soldier guys you probably weren’t worried about, and the gang celebrates Thanksgiving the only way they know how. 

Buffy eagerly watching a pitcher of beer being poured into her glass.

The Buffy Season Four Drinking Game Rules

Drink once every time:

A vamp is dusted

A scene takes place in a cemetery

You see the “University of California Sunnydale” sign

You actually see a class in session

Oz is ridiculously low-key cool

Spike has mad swagger

Willow and/or Tara get witchy with it

The Initiative makes you go, “Bored now”

Riley’s a drag

Things get funcomfortable between Anya and Xander

Drink twice every time:

Giles drinks tea

There’s an extremely outdated pop culture reference

A vampire is invited into a house

There’s a callback to previous season shenanigans

Harmony says something dumb

Someone uses a payphone

Now on to the episode! If we have to learn more about the Initiative, at least my boyfriend, Spike, is back!

Riley, dressed as a soldier, stands and addresses armed soldiers with Professor Walsh, who wears a lab coat

4.07 “The Initiative”

Riley is in the cafeteria grading papers while his friend Forrest checks out the nubile young hotties. He zeroes in on Buffy and is excited that Riley has “established first contact” but Riley has formed no opinion about Buffy, other than that she’s peculiar. Forrest and I agree this makes zero sense. When their friend Graham arrives, Forrest demands to know if he thinks Buffy is “mattressable”. Unfortunately, this isn’t even our first indication that this conversation is gross. Somehow, Forrest also knows that Buffy briefly went out with Parker, which Riley sarcastically remarks is a sign of good taste. Riley and I agreeing that Parker is a douchebag may be the only thing we’ll ever agree on.

Spike wakes up in a sterile cell, where the fluorescent lighting does nothing for his coloring, mumbling about how he’s going to kill the slayer. When he touches the barrier, he gets an electric zap and then notices that he’s in a long hallway with dozens of other demons locked in their own cells.

Giles has drawn a sketch of the military men they’re now looking for, based on Buffy’s description. Xander refers to their look as “the latest in fall fascism” and it’s going to take me a while to adjust to this new likable Xander. Since they’re human, Giles doesn’t believe research is necessary and that, yet again, they won’t be needed to help Buffy. Buffy disagrees when she stops by just long enough to let them know that she will not be patrolling tonight because Willow is in a dark pit of despair since Oz left and Buffy is taking her to a party to cheer her up.

Spike paces in his cell until a blood bag drops from the ceiling. Just as he’s about to sink his teeth in, the vampire in the next cell warns him that it’s drugged, and that they’re just lab rats who will be experimented on as soon as they drink it and pass out. When the other guy mentions that he was running from the slayer when he got caught, Spike decides that she’s the one who set them up and says he always worried what would happen when she got some funding. Like, you’ve met the Scoobies, dude. Does this really seem like an operation they could pull off?

After psych class, Willow goes to ask Riley about Oz’s name being left off the roll call, but he tells her that Oz is no longer in the class and the word is that he dropped out. Willow assures him that’s not true, Oz just left to work out some things, but he’ll be back. For some reason, Professor Walsh decides to drop a lecture on Willow about how her exception is not exceptional and if Oz can’t respect her class rules, he shouldn’t bother coming back. After Willow leaves, Buffy awesomely tells the Professor that for someone who teaches human behavior, she might want to try showing some. After Buffy leaves with a kickass parting shot, Walsh tells Riley “I like her.” Dumbass Riley is still hung up on Buffy being “peculiar.”

Xander gathers some “requisitioned” military gear in his basement from when he was army guy (drink!) so that he and Giles can go patrolling in disguise. The manly weapons prep is interrupted by Xander’s mom wanting to know if the “boys” would like some fruit punch. Giles is only in if it’s the raspberry kind.

Back at his dorm, Riley is telling Forrest about Buffy telling off the Professor which Forrest thinks is gutsy, and Riley thinks is nuts. When Parker comes in, Forrest wants to know the Buffy details. Parker is definitely the kind of asshole who kisses and tells AND complains that the girl was clingy afterwards. When he tells a “joke” comparing freshmen girls to toilet seats, Riley decks him. Go, Riley! (That is the last time I will ever say that.) After, he freaks out to Forrest and Graham that he can’t believe he did that. It takes a few minutes, but his dumb ass finally realizes that he reacted that way because he likes Buffy. Once again, Forrest is the Greek chorus. “You’re kind of like a moron.” They ask what he’s going to do and the cheesy dork says “I guess I’m gonna go see a girl.”

In the sterile white prison, two guys in lab coats load an unconscious Spike onto a gurney, but since he didn’t actually drink the drugged blood, he fights them off, telling them “sorry, gotta go see about a girl.” His cell neighbor convinces him to let him out since he knows where the exit is. Every hallway they turn down gets shut off and soldiers come after them. Spike uses the other guy as a distraction and gets away. He heads back to his old lair in the sewers, where Harmony is hanging up a new unicorn poster and still pissed at Spike from that time he dumped her, staked her, and disappeared. But he’s able to talk his way back into her good graces pretty quickly.

Riley stops by Buffy’s room, looking for Willow’s advice on asking Buffy out since he doesn’t know much about Buffy, other than that she likes Willow. It takes him a while to convince a mopey Willow who no longer believes in happy endings to give him some tips on winning Buffy. Armed with the knowledge that Buffy likes cheese, ice capades without the irony, and that she’s going to the party at his house that night, Riley feels like he has a fighting chance. Once they arrive at the party, Willow sneaks off to let Riley know “Okay, she’s wearing the halter top with sensible shoes. That means mostly dancing, light contact, but don’t push your luck. Heavy conversation is out of the question.” It’s almost cute how nervous he is when he remembers he can’t dance. She tells him to just go talk to her, but with a caveat.

It’s my favorite Willow moment. Once he goes over to chat with Buffy, you learn how right he was to be nervous. The poor boy has no game whatsoever.

Xander and Giles are out patrolling campus when Xander runs into Harmony. They trade insults, then get into a fight that mostly involves slapping at each other and hair-pulling. Once Harmony lets it slip that Spike’s back, he skedaddles.

Riley mopes on the couch while Buffy dances with some rando and Willow praises his spectacular failure. When a Dingoes song comes on the sound system, Riley notices Willow’s mood drops and he has the deejay cut it off. She’s grateful and sends him to tell Buffy that she went home but not to worry, so that at least he’ll have an excuse to talk to her. Just as Riley is about to ask her out, Xander shows up to drag Buffy off to talk about “unfinished business.” Forrest and Graham tease Riley about getting shut down and take him off down a hallway and into an elevator with a retinal scanner. They continue talking about Buffy while the elevator vocal code match addresses him as Special Agent Finn. Riley wants to know who would want to date a guy who’s Joe Regular by day and a demon hunter by night. Graham thinks maybe a peculiar one. The guys exit the elevator in a giant facility, complete with people in lab coats working on various demons, and they report to Professor Walsh who informs them that they have a code red because Hostile 17 has escaped. Riley is put in charge of the mission and she warns him that failure to recapture the creature endangers the entire Initiative.

Buffy heads out to lure Spike to her, determined to end this once and for all. She insists on going alone, so Xander gives her a flare gun to signal for help. She decides to just sit on a campus park bench and wait, which seems pretty lame as far as plans go. Riley and his team spot her and Forest wants to use her for bait, but Riley pulls rank and denies him. He quickly shucks his gear and goes over to try and convince Buffy to leave the area, while she tries to convince him to do the same. They’re getting nowhere when they hear a woman scream and both later days it out of there in opposite directions.

Spike uses a computer (in the school library?) to look up Buffy’s dorm room and pops by for a visit while Willow is having another mopey music wallowing session. She jumps up and wants to know what he wants. She says if it’s a spell, she can do that. He gives her two choices, though not about killing her, that’s happening either way. But he can leave her dead or bring her back to be like him. She threatens to scream, but he likes that a little too much and jumps on her, going in for the bite. Their dorm insulation must be incredible, because nobody out in the hallway seems to hear her. We then cut back to Spike sitting on the end of the bed saying this has never happened to him before. An unbitten Willow suggests maybe he was just nervous. He tries to bite her a couple more times, but it gives him intense head pain. Willow suggests that this must happen to every vampire, but he assures her it doesn’t to him. Willow starts to worry that it must be her, that she’s the kind of girl that guys want to be friends with, not bite. But he comforts her that he’d bite her in a heartbeat and thought about it before, when she was wearing some fuzzy pink number. She suggests waiting a half hour and trying again, because they can’t let this erectile dysfunction joke go. Then she hits him with a lamp and makes a run for it just as the now-masked Initiative guys have tracked Spike to the building and shut off the power. Willow runs out the door and straight into them. They’re able to contain Spike and Forrest insists they need to also take “the civilian” as she might have been turned and they can’t neglect quarantine (which is dumb, since you can tell pretty easily that she hasn’t been bitten), but Riley refuses. While they’re arguing Spike gets away, and Buffy shows up to save Willow by shooting off a flare gun and fighting the soldiers while they’re blinded. Buffy fights with Riley, with neither of them realizing who the other is, since he still can’t see well. He calls for the mission to be aborted and the soldiers run off.

Back at Initiative HQ, Professor Walsh is pissed that they didn’t retrieve Spike and that he seems to have an organized accomplice who fought off three of her men but defies description, other than that “he” is big and strong. But she’s at least pleased to hear that her implant works and Hostile 17 can’t harm any living creature without experiencing intense neurological pain and that they’ll get him next time. The next day, Riley is moping along on campus when he sees Buffy and rushes over to apologize for the previous night and ask how Willow is doing. The dorm invasion is being explained away as a fraternity prank gone too far. Riley still doesn’t work up the courage to ask her out, but he does say enough weird stuff to get called peculiar, which he says he can live with.

How many times do I have to take a drink?


Vamps Dusted


The Truest Thing Anybody Said This Week

“Riley’s a doof. He’s not teutonic.” – Buffy

Is Amy Still a Rat?

Who’s Amy?

Buffy kneels while tying Spike to a chair

4.08 “Pangs”

We open on a bland college-age-looking dude walking after dark. He looks creeped out when he hears something rustling behind him, but it’s just Buffy, who then punches him immediately to bring out his fangs. He asks “why don’t you just go back where you came from?” What does that even mean? Buffy has been slaying in this town for like four years. Anyway, she gets off one of her trademark quips while dusting him. But then she also seems to hear a creepy rustling nearby, and we see he’s being spied on – by Angel!

The next day, the girls are listening to the university dean and anthropology professor at the groundbreaking event for the new Cultural Center. It seems a bit outside their usual entertainment, but it turns out that Xander is on the construction crew and Anya is just there to talk about how manly and sexy he is and make everyone uncomfortable. Drink ’em if you got ’em.

The professor talks about how glad she is that this event is taking place right before Thanksgiving since the holiday is also about the blending of cultures. Willow immediately takes issue with this and goes off on a tirade about how Thanksgiving is actually about wiping out indigenous people. Buffy is a little bummed to not be getting a Thanksgiving celebration this year since her mom is off visiting an aunt. Anya can commiserate since she too loves a ritual sacrifice. Xander finally gets to the hotly anticipated digging portion of the event, and promptly falls down into a hole, where he finds mysterious drawings on the walls.

Xander wears a tight tank top, jeans, and a hard hat while working on the construction site

But hey, we haven’t gotten to objectify Xander since that time he joined the swim team!

Later, Willow tells Buffy that Xander fell into an old mission, lost in the big earthquake in 1812, kind of like the old church the Master lived in. Buffy is less interested in old ruins and more interested in pouting about missing Thanksgiving. She comes to the decision that she should have her own, since Giles probably doesn’t have any plans, and Xander avoids family gatherings, and Willow’s hippie mom refuses to celebrate the holiday.

In the old mission hole that Xander fell in, an ominous green smoke floats out the top and heads for the anthropology professor’s office where it circles a knife artifact. A Native American man materializes in front of her and uses the knife to slit her throat. Buffy and Willow sneak in later to investigate the crime scene. Apparently, an ear was found, but no body. They discover that the artifact missing from the display case was a Chumash knife from the early 1800’s, which Buffy is convinced was the murder weapon.

As she unpacks groceries at Giles’ place, she’s far more interested in telling him about the near bloodbath at the Ralph’s than the murder of the professor. When she expresses horror at the possibility that he doesn’t have a turkey roasting pan, he’d like to know why they’re not doing this at her house. She believes that he needs to acclimate to American traditions and since he’s the patriarch of their group, he’s obligated to host the festivities. Buffy heads out to pick up more things and once she’s gone, Giles asks an unseen person what they think. Angel comes out from a back room and said she sounds fine, though a little intense about Thanksgiving. Giles says that he thinks she’s a bit lonely, but he was actually asking what Angel thinks about the murder. Angel agrees this must be the danger that he’s come to town about. Giles reminds him that Buffy isn’t helpless and it’s not his job to look out for her anymore, and Angel reminds Giles that it’s not his either, but is he going to walk away? Angel prefers his presence be kept a secret to avoid distracting Buffy and getting her hurt. He suggests Giles contact Father Gabriel who is an expert on history of the area, while he goes back out to watch Buffy. 

Spike stumbles around in the forest for a while, wrapped in a blanket, like a pathetic refugee, while the Initiative guys continue to hunt him. Forest thinks it’s pointless, since he’s “neutered” by the chip. But Riley says as long as Spike knows about the Initiative, he’s a threat. Does that mean the chipping program isn’t about catch & release? It’s about catch, neuter, and keep in their creepy underground bunker forever? I have a lot of questions. Spike heads back to the one place he’s always welcome, Harmony’s bedroom. But unbeknownst to him, she’s been doing some reading and is all about reclaiming her own power. She threatens him with a stake until he gets out. Dude can’t even get a bite to eat on his way out.

Buffy and Willow walk down the only street in Sunnydale talking Thanksgiving and murder when Riley runs over. Willow seems delighted to see Riley still chasing after Buffy and very unsubtly makes an excuse to head into the coffee shop to give them privacy. She’s grabbed from behind by Angel and given that he also puts his hand over her mouth, she assumes he’s evil again. But he tells her he’s there to help Buffy because his friend had a vision she was in danger, but he doesn’t want her to know he’s there because it’ll make it harder. Willow goes off on how that’s all garbage but then reels it in when she realizes she’s talking more about her own issues. She’s dying to know if Cordelia is really working for him in L.A. but he doesn’t really have time for personal stuff except for who that guy is that Buffy is talking to. Buffy is excitedly telling Riley about her Thanksgiving plan and invites him to join, but he’s about to board a flight to Iowa to spend the holiday with his family.

Buffy goes to the newer mission, looking for Father Gabriel, and finds the Native American guy killing the priest. Buffy fights him and he says “you slaughtered my people and now you kill their spirit.” He then backs away from her and turns into a flock of crows that fly away. Back at Giles’ place, he says they’re clearly dealing with some kind of spirit warrior intent on killing innocent people. Buffy feels guilty and would like to find a non-slaying way to solve this problem. Willow arrives with a pile of books about the Chumash war, including all the atrocities committed against them that the spirit warrior seems intent on serving back up to others. While the gang talks, a coyote listens outside at the window. Back off feral dog, that’s Angel’s job! Giles and Willow have a loud disagreement about how best to handle the situation, with Willow firmly on team spirit warrior. They’re stressing Buffy out and she goes to baste the turkey. They quickly whisper about knowing Buffy is in danger, thanks to a less than stealthy Angel, and are back to bickering when they’re interrupted by Anya arriving at the door with the feverish walking corpse that is Xander.

Xander tells them the doctor couldn’t figure out what’s wrong with him because he has a lot of different symptoms that don’t add up. Buffy thinks maybe they do since Willow mentioned the Chumash were ravaged by diseases while holed up in the mission. Xander is understandably a bit alarmed about his mystical malaria, smallpox, and syphilis and says their enemy isn’t a spirit warrior, he’s a vengeance demon and should be killed. Anya takes offense at that and Giles and Willow go back to yelling at each other about how to handle this situation and Buffy anxiously goes about continuing the Thanksgiving meal prep. A knock at the door turns out to be a blanket-wrapped Spike, desperate to be invited in out of the sun and promising that he’s harmless now, which Willow testifies to, and offering up information about the soldiers who did it. They tie Spike to a chair in the living room, where he gets a ringside seat to the ongoing argument about whether they can find a nice, guilt-free way to end the threat posed by the spirit warrior.

The spirit warrior breaks into a display case at the cultural center to take items to use in performing a ritual to summon more warriors. Willow, Xander, and Anya, go out to warn the dean, since they’ve theorized that the spirit warrior has been attacking authority figures. They run into Angel, who Xander also assumes is evil. Willow quickly explains the situation and Angel tells them the Chumash weapons are missing from the cultural center and he and his raiding party must have headed for Buffy, since he’d recognize her as the warrior leader. Sure enough, Giles’ apartment is currently under attack and Spike already has multiple arrows sticking out of him, though none of them fatal. Buffy and Giles fight off the warriors inside, while Xander, Anya, and Willow quickly arrive and fight off the ones in the courtyard. Unfortunately, the spirits don’t seem to stay dead. At some point in the fight, Buffy gets ahold of the Chumash knife and is able to cut the warrior with it, indicating there is something that can kill him. With that revelation, the warrior then turns into a roaring black bear. After more fighting, Buffy is finally able to stab him with the knife, and he, along with the other warriors, evaporates. Angel, who had been fighting warriors out in the courtyard, takes one last look at Buffy through the window and leaves.

The gang enjoy their Thanksgiving feast, with Xander’s syphilis clearing up and all, but Willow still feels guilty about turning into “General Custer” in the heat of battle, and Buffy is sad that it wasn’t a perfect Thanksgiving. But they tell her it was pretty par for the course for them, and at least they all survived. Xander thinks it was just like old times, especially with Angel being there. Whoops.


How many times do I have to take a drink?


Vamps Dusted


Stylish Yet Affordable Boots

Honestly, I can’t decide who’s the worst offender here. Anya’s pants or Buffy’s hat?

Anya, Buffy, and Willow stand outside in assorted strange outfits

Bloody Good Snark

“To commemorate a past event, you kill and eat an animal. It’s a ritual sacrifice… with pie.” – Anya

“The thing is, I like my evil like I like my men. Evil. You know, straight up, black hat, tie you to the train tracks, soon my electro-ray I will destroy Metropolis, bad.”  – Buffy

“So, this is Angel. He’s large and glowery, isn’t he?” – Anya

Buffy: “They’re gonna be mushy.” 
Willow: “They won’t be mushy.” 
Giles: “I like mushy peas.” 
Buffy: “You’re the reason we had to have pilgrims in the first place.” 

Well, it’s sort of a cameo. This was the first crossover event since Angel moved to L.A. (and his own series). And if you really want to have your heart ripped out, go watch part two, the season one Angel episode, “I Will Remember You.”

Did you find the original Initiative reveal cool or has that entire plot been a snooze from day one for everyone? When did Riley lose you? Was it when he busted out the word “courted” in 1999 in all seriousness? ME TOO.

How great is “Pangs”? It’s full of so many classics! Ritual sacrifice with pie, a yam sham, Spike’s bear reaction, and my personal favorite, that evil little smile at the end as Spike anticipates the drama that’s about to unfold. Join us in the comments and tell us your fave!

And hurry back next week, when Meredith will be covering two of the greatest episodes of all time, “Something Blue” (don’t @ me) and “Hush”!

Kandis (she/her) is a proud member of the Austin FYA book club chapter who loves vampires, romance novels, live tweeting CW shows, and Jonah Griggs. She’s not like a regular mom. She’s a cool mom.