Buffy 5×04: Out of My Mind

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: Rebecca Rand Kirshner | Director: David Grossman | Aired: 10/17/2000]

Here lies an interesting yet uneven episode. On one side, there’s enormously wonderful insight into Riley and his relationship with Buffy. On the other hand, the main plot is excessively contrived. The thing is, I once again can’t help but not caring a lot because of the perfect character material at work. I know most people hate Riley, but I’ve always found him fascinating in his relationship with Buffy. This episode deals directly with that, which makes it fascinating as well. Spike gets a lot of important attention here and Harmony hangs around doing what she’s best at: second-hand comedy. This is also when Joyce’s illness first pops up.

Everything begins with yet another awesome trailer, which immediately brings up two important characer-based threads: Spike’s ‘frustrations’ and the Buffy/Riley relationship. Buffy’s ‘hunting’ skills continue to improve and both Riley and Spike join in the fun early on. As both Riley and Spike each stake a vamp, Buffy’s “why do I even bother” is perfect. Spike immediately notices a glace from Buffy to Riley after Riley tells Spike that he shouldn’t be out there while Buffy’s patrolling. He jumps on the opportunity to make Riley look like a weak fool. Riley wants to be a part of Buffy’s life. He’s always said that he sees demon hunting as kind of an adventure, and Buffy doesn’t want him to be a part of that because she has a radically different view on the subject. This is a problem that goes all the way back to “Doomed” [4×11] and why this relationship was “doomed” from the start.

The main focus here, besides the forgettable plot, is the Buffy/Riley relationship, and it is something I’m going to dive right into. First I’ll say that if there’s one problem here it’s the plot, which also centers around Riley. His apprehension to get government help for his heart problem is understandable, but to outright refuse it and claim the government’s still out to get him is a little overkill and a bit immature. His other reason for not wanting the operation, the Buffy reason, makes a lot more sense. The fact this problem just popped up in the span of the last couple weeks is a pretty contrived, being that it’s a result of what Professor Walsh did to him nearly a year before. At the very least I can say that the plot is still used to service the characters.

Anyway, I’m glad to see Buffy’s gracious gratitude over her new training area and I love how Giles and Xander helped build it for her together. Particularly of interest is how when Riley’s all buzzing to spar with her, she just walks right past him. Ignoring Riley is really the thing for Buffy to do over the next group of episodes. However, later in this episode their problems explode to the surface and are initially addressed. Riley wants to be strong enough so that he can fight by Buffy’s side — be at least close to her in strength. This feeling isn’t entirely Riley’s fault. Buffy’s comment at the beginning of the episode about not wanting Riley to patrol alone is very much proof that his strength isn’t enough for her either. He also brings up Angel and how he could never fit in that mold for her. He doesn’t have that vampiric nature that does attract Buffy and he doesn’t have any kind of powers to keep up with her. I really sympathize with Riley, but Buffy explained all of this to him before they began their relationship, and he claimed he still wanted it. I think now he’s finally realizing he isn’t the right guy for Buffy, something that, after watching “Doomed” [4×11] , is obvious to the viewers but not to the characters.

When Buffy counters that she’s opened up to Riley in ways she hasn’t before, she’s very much telling the truth, but that’s not because she didn’t want to open up that way before. She couldn’t give herself physically to Angel, so Riley’s the first relationship she’s had quite like this. The fact of the matter is, though, that Buffy does keep Riley at an arm’s length and doesn’t fully trust his heart for her. She does very much care for him, but based on the evidence in their relationship, I just can’t say that she loves him. He’s been a great boyfriend for her, but nothing more. Listening carefully to Buffy’s words when convincing Riley to see the doctor is important. She says, “Riley, I need you. I need you with me … and I need you healthy.” Notice how she never says ‘I love you’? One would think in a situation like this, if she loved him she’d tell it to him. This cannot be explained other than the simple fact that he’s not ‘the one’ for her. This is sad but, as we can clearly see here, true.

Riley says, “loving you is the scariest thing I’ve ever done.” I can see his point, because his love for her is what lost him his purpose in life and is what leaves him uncertain about his future. At the end of the episode Graham says it like it is: “Okay, right, there’s her. And? You used to have a mission, and now you’re what? The mission’s boyfriend? Mission’s true love? You belong with us.” I think it’s telling of Buffy’s naivete to respond, “I don’t know why,” to answer Riley’s statement. All this just adds up to more growing up for Buffy.

After Joyce collapses in the kitchen there is a great scene at the hospital which introduces us to three issues, two of which introduce season-long plot elements. First is the plot of this episode: Riley’s heart condition. Second is the abruptness of Joyce’s collapse and upcoming tumor problems which lead to her death. Third is the introduction of Ben who, of course, is kind of sharing a body with Glory. It’s really neat how they managed to have so much going on in what initially seems like a pretty throw-away scene.

While Riley does get quite a bit of attention here, Spike gets almost as much as well. Buffy’s visit to Spike when she’s looking for Riley really begins to bring out Spike’s growing frustration, which is something the writers really, but still subtly, hit on hard here. She charges in, offers him money to help her find Riley, slaps him when he mocks the situation (“Oh, dear, is the enormous hall monitor sick? Tell me, is he gonna die?”), rips the down payment in half, and then charges off. Spike’s extreme frustration is palpable thanks to James Masters’ usual awesome facial expressions. Spike is incredibly smart here though. He immediately takes advantage of an opportunity to rid himself of the chip. I don’t fault Buffy for giving him the information, because she was in a hurry to find Riley and didn’t think things all the way through.

After all the action in the operating room, where Spike was repressed from drinking Buffy’s blood again, he starts losing it. He gives off more hints that his feelings of anger are really beginning to mix with sexual attraction. His rant is particularly telling, “Buffy, Buffy, Buffy! Everywhere I turn, she’s there! That nasty little face, that … bouncing shampoo-commercial hair, that whole sodding holier-than-thou attitude … I can’t get rid of her. She’s everywhere. She’s haunting me.” All of this, of course, perfectly leads to Spike’s sexualized dream expressing love for Buffy. This is an awesome shock, yet it makes complete sense and was very much led up to. Frankly, just remember the scene where Spike hunts Buffy for the first time in “School Hard” [2×03] . His reaction to this dream is perfect as well: “Oh God no. Please, no.”

Moving on to another topic, I need to mention how much I enjoyed seeing Xander using his new job skills to help Giles put together stuff at the Magic Box. This is great continuity and continued character growth. It’s amusing how incredibly useful this skill is for the Scooby Gang. With stuff constantly breaking, they now have someone to repair it all for free! Xander’s comments about seeing a parallel between him being rejected by Buffy way back in “Prophecy Girl” [1×12] and Buffy, in a roundabout way, rejecting Riley here (see Riley’s episode ending speech in “The Replacement” [5×03] ) is very cool. I respect this kind of continuity like you woudn’t (or maybe you would) believe. Xander is trying to subtly help Riley out here, but of course no one has any idea what he’s talking about. It’s especially funny how Anya confuses what he says and thinks he is talking about her!

One little thing that bothered me a bit was Buffy’s comment about the government in her room. While it’s somewhat true that they listen to you when you don’t want them to and ignore you when you want them to hear you, I still feel it’s far fetched that the remnants of the Initiative have been listening in on Riley this entire time. It’s not like Professor Walsh is still around. Although, Graham does say that they’ve been bugging him for weeks about this, so maybe they didn’t hear Buffy’s ‘message’ in the phone after all.

Regardless of my complaints, which stem from, surprise, the plot, I think this is a very solid outing with wonderful continuity and continued character development. We get huge movement for the Buffy/Riley relationship and Spike’s destiny. Future plot threads are also introduced including Joyce’s illness and the subtle introduction of Ben. Overall, I’d call this mostly successful, with only the contrived plot bringing it down a level.


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Spike’s speech, “I will drink deep.” Then he trips and falls into an open grave.
+ Willow’s excitement over having an intellectual debate with Buffy on schoolwork. Willow proves that she’s still got the smarts though. Their conversation here is adorable!
+ The fact that Buffy even knows about Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation is completely awesome. I love this girl!
+ Spike getting frustrated over watching Passions. Hahaha.
+ Spike’s extreme amusement over Harmony’s panic of thinking Buffy’s after her even though he knows she’s obviously not.
+ The girl chat about Riley between Buffy, Dawn, and Willow. Dawn’s Castro comments are hilarious.
+ Buffy saying Spike is bugging her in “that special way.” I love the cut from her saying he’s “hanging out in his crypt all day. You know he’s doing something nasty” to Spike playing Twenty Questions with Harmony.
+ Willow’s cool ball of light spell.
+ Buffy being suitably kind and gentle to Riley after his operation.

– Spike’s head doesn’t look bloody after the brain surgery.
– Spike pinning Buffy down so easily when he thinks he is chipless feels contrived.
– The doctor telling Riley, “all patched up.” Is it just me, or does he recover awfully quickly from something so suddenly life threatening?
– Why doesn’t Buffy kill Spike after what he did here? I could buy the excuses before, but this time no good explanation is given and it’s later forgotten about. :/


* Willow uses magic again for small convenience: to light a room in this case. It is obvious that Tara was surprised and not all too excited of the thought that her natural spell was messed with to create something else.
* Buffy tells Riley, ” Do you think that I spent the last year with you because you had super powers? If that’s what I wanted, then I’d be dating Spike.” Wow, Buffy, wow. You’re going to be eating those words in a year’s time.
* The tombstone Spike smashes when he’s angry in the cemetery has “Mama” printed on it. This possibly hints at Joyce’s upcoming death (see “The Body” [5×16] ).




59 thoughts on “Buffy 5×04: Out of My Mind”

  1. [Note: cayayofm posted this comment on July 28, 2006.]

    I agree a lot, I find the plot like you mentioned contrived and I used to not like this episode, dont know why, now I love it. I find Riley and Buffy´s argument in the cave great.


  2. [Note: Dingdong posted this comment on July 29, 2006.]

    I just about find this episode worthwhile, but for me it’s a letdown in character writing from the previous episode. For me, Krishner’s writing of Riley’s character lacks the talent and depth of Epenson’s in “The Replacement”. I suppose this is why the episode always struck me as somewhat of a letdown in terms of Riley’s character, as the issue and how he reacts seems rather stupid, even for Riley.


  3. [Note: cayayofm posted this comment on July 29, 2006.]

    Dingdong, I have to say that I desagree. I don’t think that the issues and reaction of Riley are stupid. We see really early on the relationship(A new Man) that Riley is going to have trouble adapting to Buffy’s strenght. He comes from a military background and traditional american values where men are the ones that save the day and the strongest. This is an issue and reactions that a lot of men would had in the same situation.


  4. [Note: tommy posted this comment on July 30, 2006.]

    well, the only part I don’t like aboutthe episode is the fact that it sorto focus on Riley, and I just never liked the guy other than that it was just great stuff all over the place: Joyce’s illness started to show, we learned about Ben even tho we wouldn’t know how important he was just yet, we had great character moments as always, very amusing Spike moments and the dream that started it all, hahaha


  5. [Note: Ari posted this comment on August 14, 2006.]

    Forget Buffy having to eat her words, I think it’s pretty telling that Buffy unintentionally admits to thinking Spike dateable. It’s subtle but still signals that the sexual attraction between Buffy and Spike is very much a mutual affliction. Note in Spike’s dream sequence: I love you/I want you. That sums up their future relationship in a nutshell.

    I disagree that it’s Buffy’s strength that’s a problem for Riley. At the heart of it it’s that she doesn’t love him that tears him up inside. It’s only as a consequence of Buffy’s perceived lack of feeling for him, that her strength becomes an issue for him — he thinks that maybe if he had a darker personality and superpowers, she would love him as she did Angel. If only Buffy had just loved him as he is, then even though he might not ever be thrilled about not measuring up to her, he’d still be able to live with just being mission’s true love. It’s that he knows he’s not The One for her that he decides to leave.


  6. [Note: Carey posted this comment on September 2, 2006.]

    Wow, to me, your reviews are completely accurate. I love this website, and I’ve been looking for good Buffy reviews for a long time. However, I think this episode deserves a little bit more than a B, like maybe a B+, because the ending was so good, and Spike is SO amazing.<3 But I still love your site and I think you're doing a great job. I can't wait to hear you inputs on episodes like The Gift and Chosen. =]


  7. [Note: Tony posted this comment on January 14, 2007.]

    Great Review… One quibble though, I don’t think Spike was watching Passions. He says “Pacey, you sod…”, which makes me think he was watching Dawson’s Creek. Yes, I have no life.


  8. [Note: gabrielleabelle posted this comment on November 11, 2007.]

    Shirtless Spike. Overshadows any inadequacies in the episode, itself.

    Sorry, the ending is quite distracting, but in a good way. I tend to forget the entire episode once I watch the dream scene.

    I also wondered why Buffy didn’t stake Spike bigtime after this. I’m gonna chalk it up to her immense relief that Riley’s okay and the fact that her mother’s ill that she just decides not to waste her time on a still-chipped vamp.


  9. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on November 20, 2007.]

    I also agree that the plot is contrived, but I just love this episode because of the amazing character interaction and dialogue. And I´m a big fan of Spike/Harmony dynamic. Realy great stuff.


  10. [Note: Andrea posted this comment on August 4, 2008.]

    LOL re: Spike is actually watching Dawson’s Creek! Almost more hilarious than his love for Passions.

    Obviously Buffy doesn’t stake Spike because shesecretlyloveshimandandalwayshasandthey’resoulmatesandthey’retotallymeanttobe!!!!!!!! …Ahem. I mean, yeah, wtf. There’s no explanation for it.

    The ending of this episode is one of my favourite Buffy moments (for it’s comic attributes as well as the… more obvious ones). “God, no. Please, no.” Hilarious!


  11. [Note: Andrea posted this comment on August 4, 2008.]

    PS – Speaking of the last scene, how shocked was everyone the first time you saw it?! That was a truly, truly awesome fake out – one of the best on the show. I thought 100% that that scene was actually happening. (And then, moments later, sodisappointed.) Just the way she was wearing the same outfit and she had said in the scene beforehand that she was going to stake him…

    (I guess maybe she gets distracted from it in real life when she goes home to see her mom and all that? It would go along with the whole ignoring Riley theme that she actually forgets to avenge him, lol!)


  12. [Note: Tony posted this comment on August 12, 2008.]

    Spike and Harmony together is awsome. After the twenty question genious game, Buffy bangs on the door, only to have Harmony panic and say “She found me!”


  13. [Note: HarFang posted this comment on August 31, 2008.]

    Hello! First I want to mention that even though this is my first post, I have been reading these reviews for some time now, and they make me love the show even more, which is no mean feat.

    About Buffy not getting rid of Spike at the end of the episode, it may be illogical but I think it fits in with what we know about the characters. Poor Spike has clearly gone from Enemy Number 2 (second to Angelus) to Annoying Pest, and for all that he can still hurt Buffy indirectly, I think he doesn’t even feature on her list of priorities at the end of the episode. In a way, he is Beneath Her even as an enemy right now. And maybe, just maybe, the Spike problem slips “out of her mind” because she doesn’t really want him dead in her heart of hearts.
    As for the dream sequence, that was a (yummy and) jaw-dropping moment! But I seem to remember overcoming the shock rather quickly, so there had been enough hints and foreshadowing for the fantasy to have some credibility. (Btw, I think Ari has some really good points about that dream). Still, my favourite part is Spike’s reaction. He is understandably horrified but also, strangely enough, terrified. He probably knows himself well enough to be afraid of what being in love with the Slayer might do to him. But the best part? True to himself, he (almost) never looks back. Even though the realization shocks him to the core, by next episode, he has not only come to terms with his feelings, he’s taken the next logical step (if you’re evil) and begun stalking Buffy. Don’t you just love that guy?


  14. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on May 8, 2009.]

    When Buffy tells Riley that he “has to live” he says that she probably says that to all the guys and I remembered Angel right away. In Graduation pt 2, she says to Angel that “he has to live”. Just a funny observation.


  15. [Note: Emily posted this comment on May 23, 2009.]

    I really don’t like that “Close Your Eyes” (or a variation of it) was playing during Buffy and Riley’s scene in the caves. Which, by the way, was so mushy that *I* was going to throw up, and I *thrive* on mushiness. It also seemed like both actors were trying way too hard in that scene, even SMG. Which, I know, is blasphemy, but I’ve seen this episode a few times and it’s never changed.

    Riley looks a little upset at the end, when Buffy says she has to go be with her mother. Which really bothers me- it’s her mother, for the love of God!!! He’s so insecure! I actually don’t blame Buffy for pulling back. I have a friend who is extremely clingy- always needs to know that we’re hanging out, doing something together- and it drives me crazy!!! And I’ve distanced myself from her. So, yeah, it’s really annoying when people are insecure and very attach-y.


  16. [Note: Selene posted this comment on July 23, 2009.]

    I can buy Riley being a little leery of the government helping him, but at the risk of his own life? That I have trouble with. As for his relationship issues with Buffy, I think he does realize that doesn’t love him in that special ‘you’re the one and only for me’ way, but I think the inequities in their relative strengths plays a factor. Not only is Riley a product of the military (as am I)but he’s also demonstrated he’s very much an old-fashioned guy (remember him telling Willow he’s never ‘courted’ someone like Buffy? I couldn’t believe my ears when he used the word courted.) He wants to be the stronger of the two; the he-man who takes care of his weaker mate and has difficulties adapting to the idea that that will never happen. That is a large part of his problems.

    The Spike/Harmony scenes were amusing enoigh, but the whole operating room sequence was a step too far away from reality. The doctor can just cut open Spike’s skull with the few instruments there in that OR? And there’s no blood, nor does he even have to shave a part of Spike’s head to make the incision? Please.

    The scene at the hospital where Buffy says she has to go to her mother and Riley is upset ticked me off pretty good. Come one, Rilet! This is her MOTHER! The woman who carried her for 9 months, gave her birth, and loved and nurtured her for 20 years. She should go to her mother. And if you are so spoiled you can’t see that then maybe you need to do a little growing up yourself.

    The Spike/Buffy dream sequence was a terrific fake-out. Until he actually woke up I was like “Oh my God Buffy! What are you doing???!!!”


  17. [Note: Lucy posted this comment on August 25, 2009.]

    I totally agree with Ari about why Riley left. It’s not that he’s jealous of her strength, it’s that she doesn’t love him. Did anyone else notice that Buffy NEVER ONCE told Riley that she loved him? The closest she came was in season 4 when he said he loved her and she responded with : “tell me about it” but that’s not quite the same, is it?

    Oh, and in the crossover Angel episode she told Angel that “I have someone in my life now, that I love” but that doesn’t really count, either. She never said it to Riley at all.

    I never noticed “close your eyes” being played in the background and I watched the episode last night. I think you might be mistaken, Emily. I’m pretty sure it’s the Riley Buffy love theme that’s playing.


  18. [Note: Sunburn posted this comment on October 28, 2009.]

    Weird, I seem to be the only one who thought Buffy was extremely harsh to just desert Riley the second his surgery was over. If I were Riley and in that situation, I would have *at least* expected Buffy to take me home and THEN go to her mother. Sunnydale’s not a big place; it’d take what, half an hour? Instead, after he’s been far closer to death than Joyce, he just gets dumped and left to fend for himself.

    Joyce is rightly more important to Buffy than he is, but I can’t see why Buffy was in such a hurry to leave. As I said, I would have been incredibly hurt if that were me. Although maybe I’m just selfish. 🙂

    Re. Buffy not staking Spike, I think it’s entirely plausible that she didn’t have time to go after him at first, and then allowed it to slip from her mind later. I don’t think she wanted him dead in her heart of hearts. I also don’t think they were meant to be together, blahblahblah, but I think (I know, in fact!) that it’s possible to be intensely irritated by and even despise someone and still have kind of a soft spot for them. Say what you like, Spike is one of the sexiest characters ever to walk the screen, and Buffy is hardly immune to that.


  19. [Note: Cirrus posted this comment on November 3, 2009.]

    Ah, I totally agree with all this. To be honest, this episode is probably my most rewatched (bear in mind I’m only up to 5×12 though). It seems flawlessly amusing, is expertly plotted (apart from the all-too-quick-stitching) and is when I first started seriously liking Buffy/Spike.

    I can imagine why Buffy didn’t kill Spike — she really had no time to deal with him, it was like she had to just deal with the mess he’d made and deal with him when the time came. I think this episode was when he first started changing from ‘nuisance’ to ‘threat’, and maybe that was too over-whelming to deal with at the moment? She was still seeing Spike as annoying but slightly amusing and all-in-all, harmless, so maybe she just thought she’d worry about it later. After all, the doctor was someone she needed very much for Riley, so she probably just had too much going on.

    I felt so sorry for Spike when that chip was removed, and he couldn’t do anything but just flee in rage. I actually thought he’d do the whole preparing a shotgun to get it over with right then, because getting his chip out was clearly extremely important for him.


  20. [Note: Shannon posted this comment on November 3, 2009.]

    @Sunburn, I actually totally agree – the guy almost died, had his chest cut open, and is sitting there drained and messed up, and Buffy just says “k, talk to ya later, bye!” and bails. I would be pretty hurt/pissed off if the person who supposedly cared about me didn’t even bother to make sure I made it home ok after a major surgery.


  21. [Note: Cirrus posted this comment on November 20, 2009.]

    But really, Buffy isn’t the ‘tending at the bedside’ kind of girl. I think it was a little harsh, but ultimately very in character and similar to some behaviour she exhibits later in season 7. She just takes care of someone as little as necessary and then moves on. Not in a bad way, I don’t think, it’s quite efficient — she just helped Riley enough so that she knew he’d be okay, and then moved on to her mother. It’s very rational behaviour from her, just not particularly sensitive. I’ve always seen her as quite a mind over heart sort of person though, even though she can be quite emotional. It’s like she sometimes forgets people have feelings, or that people have to deal with having to do what they need to do rather than what they feel they WANT to do.

    Like I said, she’s like this in season 7, and I think is one of the reasons why she eventually got kicked out of her own home. She was acting too much like a determined, but unemotional, war general.


  22. [Note: Randy posted this comment on December 17, 2009.]

    What a great episode, and I love reading your reviews, Mike — along with the comments of other mature fans, which is a rarity on the net. I agree that the whole surgery plot was ridiculous, but the character development was pure awesome. And shirtless Spike dream sequence… 😀

    I don’t know if I’m reading to much into this, but did anyone else notice in the hospital scene when Ben first appears that he didn’t seem to have a heartbeat when Dawn holds the stethoscope to his chest? She doesn’t hear anything, then moves on to try it on Buffy and Riley. They don’t really play this up, but subtle foreshadowing maybe?


  23. [Note: Luz posted this comment on February 11, 2010.]

    “oh Percy you blind idiot! don’t you see she doesn’t love you?”


    from this episode on just replace “Percy” by “Spike”!!!


  24. [Note: Yffub posted this comment on February 11, 2010.]

    Love this ep’ but i really don’t like how the chip surgery is handled out also…..

    and then if you compare with Riley’s own removal of his chip, just gimme a bit of broken glass, the job is done…. you can think that these points, in both cases, were not well thought through…. dommage!


  25. [Note: Beth posted this comment on May 13, 2010.]

    Agree that there were plot contrivances galore, but this was a great episode for Riley and Spike. James Marsters was fabulous in this, as he got to display a huge range of emotions (loathing, amusement, fear, rage, boredom, exasperation, lust, helplessness, and indignance). His objection to the idea that he can’t pick flowers is so incredibly awesome I cannot watch without cracking up.


  26. [Note: Elbie posted this comment on July 11, 2010.]

    I will also try my best to address the Buffy-not-killing-Spike thing. Spike is still a great danger as he demonstrated by this episode (almost getting Riley killed) and helping Adam (by manipulating the Scoobies – far more dangerous than your run-of-the-mill demons). However, he can’t fight back if Buffy decided to kill him, and I don’t think that Buffy could do that. Imagine if the dream sequence was real and started out the same but Buffy just went ahead and staked Spike. How weird it would feel for her to have just done that without the build-up of a fight. In season 3, Buffy decided that she needed to kill Faith. Faith was laying on her bed with the music blaring and Buffy had the perfect opportunity. But that’s not Buffy’s style so she gave Faith a fighting chance.


  27. [Note: sarah posted this comment on August 13, 2010.]

    again, I love your analysis but I have to disagree with a few things concerning Riley

    “his strength isn’t enough for her either”

    I don´t think that Buffy personally needs his strength to be content. I will say it in a very hard way: Riley is not a real help if they have to face a perilous enemy who is more dangerous than the usual “newborn” vampires. If they were in such a situation every intelligent enemy whould see Riley as easy prey thus Buffy always had to look after Riley and fight the demon synchronous. In a nutshell she was more in danger with Riley than without his help. In addition to this rational argument I also can see Buffy trying to protect her boyfriend. She knows that he is a better fighter than the Scoobies but not a real challenge for a strong demon. As slayer she already had to face the death of friends like Kendra or Ms Calendar and I guess she does not want to repeat that sad experience with a beloved person like Riley. Thus strength is not something she craves by her boyfriends but something she sees as life assurance. On the other I always had the feeling that “manliness” and fighting capabilities are things that are linked closely for Riley.

    “Ignoring Riley is really the thing for Buffy”

    I did not perceive it as ignoring. I think that Gilles and Xander sacrified a lot of time and presumably money to create a “real” training place for Buffy. If i remember it right she used to train in the former school library which was a rather crowded place. Thus i assume that it was only naturally for her (and a sign of good manners)to show great gratitude and to admire the room at length. It was Gille´s and Xander´s moment and I thought it was a bit unpolite of Riley that he did not caught this feeling and tried so desperately to gain her attention.


  28. [Note: Dan posted this comment on February 19, 2011.]

    “Why doesn’t Buffy kill Spike after what he did here? I could buy the excuses before, but this time no good explanation is given and it’s later forgotten about. :/”

    And after the events of later in the season (e.g. “Intervention”) it’s understandable that Spike’s no longer on the Kill List. But yeah, it always bothered me that Buffy wasn’t hunting Spike down after this episode. What he did here was truly detestable and villainous, and nearly killed Riley. Andrea makes a great point though, that maybe it just plays into the theme of Buffy ignoring Riley in the early part of this season.

    This episode has too many other flaws, though. It’s obvious why Riley’s Initiative buddy wasn’t featured as much in Season 4; he’s a terrible actor. Even worse than the guy who played Forrest, which is saying something. Riley and Buffy’s conversation is way too melodramatic and Gellar’s overacting is unbearable. I agree that Riley’s behavior is dumb, and yes, he was written much better an episode ago in “The Replacement.” I’m sorry, the surgery scene killed this episode for me. The lack of a proper operating room, blood, and surgery scar-hell, even a shaved part of his head-is just too much. I’d probably give this episode a 70 at most.


  29. [Note: Dan posted this comment on February 19, 2011.]

    Although to be fair, the ending is great. I think it’s one of those endings that’s so great and memorable it makes the flaws of the episode easy to overlook. There’s a reason writers always talk about endings being really important.


  30. [Note: Neil posted this comment on February 27, 2011.]

    Not mentioned in the foreshadowing section but we see Joyce’s Brain Tumour allowing her to briefly see through the Monks’ spell whch created Dawn. “Who are you?” Little touches like this put Joss’ programes above the norm.


  31. [Note: deadlego posted this comment on May 5, 2011.]

    This episode has some fantastic bits including the ending but I had to suspend my disbelief too much with the plot. And oh my god yes that actor that plays Graham, Riley’s friend, is a horrendous actor and has been since we first saw him. I coudn’t give this more than a C+.


  32. [Note: Lelio posted this comment on September 24, 2011.]

    @Cirrus: “But really, Buffy isn’t the ‘tending at the bedside’ kind of girl.”

    She always was when it came to Angel. Remember how she took care of him in S2 after the ritual that almost killed him and restored Drusilla’s health? She also kinda played nurse in S3, after he came back from Hell.


  33. [Note: keekey posted this comment on December 12, 2011.]

    A couple of random thoughts:

    I always took Riley’s more irrational behavior in this episode (e.g., refusing to stay for observation at the hospital, punching his Initiative buddy, thinking the government is out to get him) to be partly the result of some kind of manic high brought on by his deteriorating physical condition. His Initiative buddy tells Buffy that, in short, Riley is “way stronger than he should be right now and feeling no pain,” and I figured that Riley’s mental state probably also was somewhat out of whack. Riley’s emotions all seem to be very heightened here and I think that’s why he finally expresses openly to Buffy a lot of the fears and insecurities that he’s been hiding from her regarding their relationship. Significantly, after this episode (once the Initiative has fixed his problem), Riley goes back to concealing his concerns from Buffy until Into the Woods.

    I also was surprised that Buffy didn’t throw down with Spike after the incident with the doctor. As those scenes unfolded, I kept thinking “Oh, Buffy’s going to make Spike pay for this” (which is why the fake-out with Spike’s dream sequence totally sucked me in–I already was anticipating that the episode would end with Buffy bursting into Spike’s crypt to confront him). As to why Buffy didn’t just finally stake Spike, in addition to the many good explanations that others have offered, I think Spike’s value as an informant (and occasional ally) might have played some role in Buffy’s decision. One of Buffy’s strengths as a Slayer has been her resourcefulness and willingness to use unconventional means to accomplish things. Having Spike, a highly experienced and well-connected but currently neutered and cash-short vampire, around to pummel and/or bribe for information has been helpful to the Scooby gang and will continue to be going forward (in Fool for Love, for instance) so it may be that Buffy simply decides that it’s still worth it to keep him around for while longer.


  34. [Note: x factor posted this comment on December 23, 2011.]

    Yes, in the real world, Buffy would have had Spike killed off already. Chip in his head doesnt mean a thing when Spike can just hire others to kill Buffy, her sister, her mom. He’s still a soulless psychopath. But obviously his fanbase and the undeniable chemistry between SMG and JM precluded this rational plot development.

    But this episode features an unbelievable performance by SMG in the cave scene where she confronts Riley.

    Amidst the dregs of season 5 (Dawn, Glory) and the soap operaish Joyce storyline, the one convincing, engaging storyline is Riley’s fall from grace. Writers did a nice job with it, and the emotions felt real – All the way until the emotional payoff which felt out of character (Into the Woods). Despite that, the Riley storyline worked, whereas the three other main storylines failed.


  35. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on February 6, 2012.]

    Spike, has been and has always been considered an alley for Buffy and the others, Season 2 Becoming, Series 4 Spike did offer information, he aided Giles albeit for money, he then did sort of save Xander, Giles and WIllow’s lives when they were performing the spell to make Buffy a super Buffy. Plus Buffy has a problem with killing humans and doing harm to those weaker, Spike in his chip state is just that. She knows it would be cruel in some way i guess t stake him but she was always aware that if he got the chip removed she would have to kill him.


  36. [Note: Less newt posted this comment on August 18, 2012.]

    Oops! I was wrong last episode: Buffy and Riley do start to talk about their issues in this episode. But then they stop.

    Part of this is Buffy is distracted with worry about her mother.

    Part of it is the writers setting up Riley leaving, so they won’t let Buffy speak the words “I love you.” This seems like a silly misdirect to me, since her every action, SMG’s every facial expression, screams that Buffy loves Riley (she wouldn’t care whether Graham patrolled alone; she doesn’t love him. But she won’t let Xander or Willow or Giles, so why should she let Riley? Alternatively, why is Riley patrolling alone? In Doomed he said that one doesn’t go after large demons without weapons or backup; why does he think it’s okay now?).

    The place the relationship starts to pitch over the edge is when Riley doesn’t say, “No, I won’t be okay,” at the end, and lets Buffy walk away thinking everything is okay, and then doesn’t bring it up later. Framed in the opposite direction, it’s when Buffy doesn’t go to Riley later and say, “Is everything okay?”


  37. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on November 10, 2012.]

    I completely agree with keekee on why Riley was acting so irrational here. I think one of the things that was elevated with his heart rate was his adrenaline, which caused a flight or fight instinct. Riley isn’t really a flight person, so he fought against the one thing there was to fight against.This episode is rightly a B. I do like Riley, and think it is unfortunate that Buffy doesn’t feel as strongly about him as he does of her. That said, he isn’t an interesting enough character that you can ever centre an episode around him and have it be great. He was a necessary character, as Buffy needed the “normal” boyfriend as a recovery from Angel, but it is difficult to make normal fascinating.


  38. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on November 10, 2012.]

    Oh, I think ‘normal’ is plenty fascinating because the flaws are likely going to be that much more based on subtle details and personality differences. If what you mean is that watching a more normal relationship isn’t as thrilling for the viewer, then that I would agree with. With Riley, I’m not all that emotionally invested in the relationship, but I am very fascinated by it (or, to put it another way: intellectually curious).


  39. [Note: Summer posted this comment on December 29, 2012.]

    My poor Riles. I liked this episode. He’s trying to hard to keep up that it’s all getting buried. I often wonder why Buffy didn’t kill Spike a long long long long time ago but that’s neither here nor there. I really liked the scene with Xander trying to hint to Buffy how Riley feels. He’s feeling out his seeing and knowing role. Great review! A solid B is about right.


  40. [Note: Nida posted this comment on July 23, 2013.]

    You mean Riley should be more important to Buffy than her mom. Anyone arguing that she didnt take him home should put themselves in her shoes.


  41. [Note: Jen posted this comment on September 13, 2013.]

    Oh yeah! I remember that I had always liked the idea of Buffy and Spike together, but never in a million years had believed the show would take that route. I thought it was too “fanfiction-y.” And I although thought that Season 4’s “Something Blue” had been the writers’ answer to fans who wanted Buffy to get together with Spike.

    But then at the beginning of Season 5, I felt like something was off about Spike in regards to his behavior towards Buffy. Nevertheless, I still didn’t believe the show would every put them together in any way, shape, or form. I thought I was imagining things. Anyway, I missed this episode and my VCR (ah, VCRs) had failed to tape it. So I was like, oh whatever. It was a Riley-centric episode so I didn’t care. But the next week Spike and Buffy were kissing in the “Previously on Buffy . . .” recap, and I was just like, “Wha . . . what?”

    It was one of the best “Oh my God” moments I had while watching this show. I’m so glad I became a fan while it was still airing. Five years of TV bliss (didn’t start watching until Season 3).


  42. [Note: Hubert posted this comment on September 13, 2013.]

    “The tombstone Spike smashes when he’s angry in the cemetery has “Mama” printed on it. This possibly hints at Joyce’s upcoming death (see “The Body” [5×16]).”

    And he has psychological issues related to his dead mother. One of those things that I’m sure is completely accidental, but still works delightfully in the mind of the (obsessed) viewer. Like me.


  43. [Note: Nebula Nox posted this comment on November 25, 2013.]

    I want to point out that Riley’s behavior has created his own difficulties. The military had been trying to get him into surgery for weeks. Not only did he leave it until the last minute, he would have never gone in at all if it were not for Buffy – and he did not even share his problem with her. Because of Riley’s behavior, Buffy was forced to drop everything and spend many hours taking care of him when her mother is having a crisis – and in this case it’s not just her mother, but her sister who needs her.


  44. [Note: Anne posted this comment on March 25, 2014.]

    Yeah, I totally don’t get all the people who dislike Riley’s character. Riley was sort of the normal guy, someone who would find the kind of things Buffy and her friends dealing with overwhelming and insane. Although he isn’t THAT normal (considering the Initiative and all that) but I guess you know what I mean. He did what any other normal guy in his situation would do, and in fact, considering everything he knew about her, he still chose to stick around, which a lot of ‘normal’ guys wouldn’t have been able to do.

    For one thing, he knows about Buffy’s Do-Gooder-Vampire Ex Boyfriend, that’s hard to compete with, and it puts Riley in a very tough position, and then being able to stick around even after the whole Dracula incident is also remarkable, also, Riley knew it, somewhere in his subconscious that Buffy did not love him, not in that way, not the kind of love that he wanted and frankly deserved, yet, he still stuck by her side. It’s true, as someone else mentioned above, Riley is pretty strong himself, it wouldn’t be common to see a woman, especially a woman who he’s in such a serious relationship with, be stronger than him. Men always want at least a little control over their girl in certain areas, they want to be wanted, needed. In Riley’s case, he knew that he was just the boyfriend, the outsider, and that’s what he’d always be, he didn’t have that vampiric charm that Buffy subconsciously craves in her men, Buffy has so many friends who are there for her to fill in most of the voids in her life at this point, and then, she’s The Slayer, she clearly doesn’t NEED him, not in the way that he needs her to need him. So yeah, even though his character could be a snooze at times, I can totally see where Riley’s coming from, and I’m no Buffy-Riley fan.


  45. [Note: Nebula Nox posted this comment on May 22, 2014.]

    I think, given what we know now about the NSA, it is very likely that the government would have been listening to Riley. Not far-fetched at all.


  46. [Note: Lydia posted this comment on July 9, 2014.]

    I feel terrible for Riley in this episode. I’ve always remembered this one as a Riley-centric one but was presently surprised by all the Spike in it. I could feel for Riley, but unfortunetely he just isn’t fascinating enough to hold an entire episode, and Spike kinda steals the show.. I was so shocked that Riley chose to stick with Buffy when she didn’t even tell him that she loved him when he was practically on his death bed, it proves that Riley’s character really did deserve to be loved, so I’m glad he got a happy ending after he left Sunnyhell.

    I think Buffy was very unsure when it came to Riley. I always thought that she felt like she loved him but actually didn’t, this episode proved me wrong. Buffy clearly knows she doesn’t love him in that way that she loved Angel. She was always coddling Angel, even when he got a tiny little scratch. Maybe she felt like Riley was dragging her down, he wasn’t able to give her the space that she needed. Buffy needs to fight alone, without having to worry about Riley getting himself killed or worse. I’d like to believe that BuffyandSpikearemadeforeachotherandeventuallyenduptogether but truly, I think she’s someone who’s just supposed to be alone at this point in her life, the cookie dough speech from S7 sums it up. I think a boyfriend at this point in her life would just weigh her down and be a cause of distraction.

    Still! Poor Riley! He’s a duck out of water (okay, a fish out of water, but I like ducks), his career is gone, and he has no idea what the government did to his body. What’s worse is that he loves Buffy, but he’s threatened by being Mr. Buffy Summers and he believes she doesn’t love him back — and I think he’s right. Buffy didn’t like having Riley show up spontaneously to help her slay, but she loved tag-team slaying with Angel, didn’t she? Buffy may believe that Joe Normal is what she really wants, but I think she’s just fighting the part of herself — perhaps the darker part — that likes the bad boys.

    I love Harmony! Didn’t you hear? I’m totally her archnemesis!” “I am a villain, Spike. Hellloooo…” Loved the twenty questions scene with Spike. “Harmony, is it a soddin’ breadbox?” “Someone’s blondie bear is a twenty question genius!” BWAHAHAH.
    And her smoking and kibbitzing during the brain surgery scene was great.

    The dream sequence that started it all. It. Was. So. Hot. *sighs dreamily and dreams fangirl dreams*. The final scene of this episode is one of my all time favorites. Of course Spike would be attracted to Buffy and I love the way they are together. I remember the first time I saw it just being shocked to my core and then laughing out loud at the reveal. Anyway, this episode manages to cover a whole lot of ground in simply 43 minutes. This is truly gold. I would have given it at least an A- simply for all the awesome writing and continuity!


  47. [Note: Nebula Nox posted this comment on July 9, 2014.]

    I feel terrible for Riley, too – but even though he won’t end up being happy with Buffy in the end, his relationship with her is important for his arc. He never asked questions and he was far too trusting of the government, which was poisoning him and manipulating him.

    Even though Buffy does not love him, she does care. And she is sleeping with him in a way that she never could with Angel. Perhaps because she is giving her body, she doesn’t feel that it is necessary to give anything more.


  48. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on December 30, 2015.]

    Riley seeing Buffy and Spike together in As You Were must have been a real slap to the face after Buffy’s comment about him in this episode. Either that or it was one of those “knew it was gonna happen” or “”weren’t interested in super powers huh” moments.


  49. [Note: Danica posted this comment on February 12, 2016.]

    Excellent Lydia,thank you! I agree with literally every single thing you’ve said!

    And Mike, I want to say thank you so much for writing such amazing and detailed reviews. I worried that I had really missed the boat by not watching Buffy and Angel when they were originally on the air. I just started watching Buffy a couple years ago and Angel this past year and I don’t know what I would do without your reviews! I have searched far and wide for people to debate and discuss the nuances of each episode with and it has been such a challenge to find anyone who cares nowadays, but your reviews and the comments of the other fans is exactly what I was looking for! Thank you so much for this excellent forum!


  50. [Note: Krssven posted this comment on May 1, 2016.]

    I like this episode a lot, and manage to not pull it apart into character = good plot = bad. They’re both part of the same story. I’ve always liked Riley as a character, and think his relationship with Buffy was tragic simply because Buffy never feels for him what he does for her. Having by this episode realised this, it’s just drawing out the agony for him. Buffy never shows any concern for him, even bailing so she can check on her mother (yes, it’s her mother, but anyone in any meaningful real-life relationship would know that it isn’t cut and dry like that – she should care about BOTH of them, and noticeably so).

    Buffy simply liked having Riley around, and acted like an annoyed superhero with a useless sidekick whenever he was around. He is far, far more capable than Xander or Giles in a fight, yet you get the impression Buffy would rather they were helping her than Riley. Put simply, she treats the guy who loves her like utter crap, then blows up when he starts pushing back having realised her feelings are far ahalllower than his.

    This all links in to Buffy’s psychology – by this point, Buffy has completely bought into her ‘chosen one’ title and believes herself correct in any and all decisions. At least before, she treated it as a calling or career – now, she’s just The Slayer. From this point onward you’ll see a lot more of her ‘I’m the Slayer, and therefore in charge’ mindset which is carried on into the end of season 7


  51. [Note: TheDoThatGirl posted this comment on August 2, 2016.]

    So, I’m rewatching this episode and I must say I LOVE the bit of foreshadowing in the magic shop where Tara is holding the deck of tarot cards and at the bottom of the deck you can clearly see The Tower card. This is a card about anything we believe to be true, but later learn is false. (Memories of Dawn and the upheaval of finding out what she really is) Then of course there’s the imagery of the card: a tower that’s hit by lightening and someone falling to the ground while the madness abounds. The Gift anyone? Especially when you look at the positive meaning of the card being that the worst is over now and there’s nowhere to go but up… Which Buffy does after dying… for a few months at least.


  52. [Note: za posted this comment on August 24, 2016.]

    It´s true she really took care of Angel, and i think that after their relationship she shelter herself, there were wounds that never heal (also there´s Parker situation)and after that she doesn´t allow to connect with anybody else.

    Intervention S5 x 18
    GILES: Turning you into stone? Buffy-
    BUFFY: Just … think about it. (gets up, paces) I was never there for Riley, not like I was for Angel. I was terrible to Dawn.
    GILES: At a time like this-
    BUFFY: No.
    GILES: You’re bound to feel emotionally numb.
    BUFFY: Before that. Riley left because I was shut down. He’s gone. And now my mom is gone … and I loved her more than anything … and … I don’t know if she knew.

    Touched S7 X 20
    BUFFY: (cont’d) You know what? I’m still making excuses. I’ve always cut myself off, I’ve always… Being the slayer made me different, but it’s my fault I stayed that way. People try to connect to me but I just… I slip away.


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