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Recap / Buffy the Vampire Slayer S4E19 "New Moon Rising"

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Oz: "It was stupid to think that you'd just be... Waiting."
Willow: "I was waiting. I feel like some part of me will always be waiting for you. Like if I'm old and blue-haired, and I turn the corner in Istanbul and there you are, I won't be surprised. Because... You're with me, you know?"

Directed by James A Contner

Written by Marti Noxon & Douglas Petrie

Willow and Tara talk about Tara getting a cat as a pet. At the Scooby Gang meeting, Buffy explains that there is little going on, but as usual, Giles knows that means trouble. As the meeting ends, Oz shows up in the doorway, shocking everyone into silence. Oz arranges to talk with Willow later, and after Oz leaves, Tara also leaves the incredibly uncomfortable situation.

Buffy and Riley talk about how bad Willow and Oz's break-up really was, and Buffy accidentally mentions that Oz is a werewolf. Buffy goes off on him when he negatively comments on Willow dating a werewolf (he says that Willow seems smarter than to date a dangerous guy, unknowingly drawing a parallel between Willow and Oz and Buffy and Angel).

Oz takes Willow for a walk outside during a full moon, showing her that he's not in werewolf mode. While in Tibet, with the help of herbs, charms, chanting, and meditation, he's learned to control the wolf inside. Oz wants to get back together with Willow, but she is reluctant. Graham Miller patrols with a team and they are all attacked by a four-legged demon, closely resembling a werewolf. Willow and Oz talk all night about their lives while they were apart. Tara comes by while Willow is away, and upon having Oz answer the door she gets nervous and leaves.

Buffy wakes up at Riley's but she's very distant from him. They talk about the night before in the graveyard and Riley's reaction to Oz, then Riley leaves after hearing news about Graham getting hurt. Willow shocks Buffy with the news about Oz being able to control the wolf. Buffy is even more shocked as Willow subtly explains that her relationship with Tara is now serious and that complicates things with Oz. Adam goes to Spike for his help in exchange for getting the chip out of Spike's head.

Willow tells Tara that she and Oz only talked the night before, and then they hug. Oz and Tara have a confrontation and after smelling Willow on Tara, Oz concludes that the two are romantically involved. He loses control, and starts to change into a werewolf. Werewolf Oz chases Tara into a classroom, and then Riley and the Initiative commandos take Oz away. The gang meets up and makes a plan to free Oz. Oz is kept caged at the Initiative, mistaken for the bestial demon that attacked the soldiers earlier, and just as Riley is about to shoot him dead, he changes back into his human form.

Despite Riley's attempts to help, the scientists start performing tests on Oz. Spike shows up at Giles' place and offers to lead Buffy and the gang into the Initiative. Riley sneaks in, gives Oz some clothes and tries to help him escape. On the way out, they get caught. Colonel McNamara lectures Riley about betraying the Initiative on so many levels and how he will be court-martialed.

Dressed as commandos and scientists, Spike and the gang sneak into the Initiative through a back door. Adam secretly helps them by running operations through a computer and helping them shut down the power for most of the city.

Holding the Colonel hostage, Buffy gets Riley and Oz free, Riley leaving the Initiative for good. Now that his life is in danger, Riley camps out underground with Buffy at his side. He confesses that he was wrong about Oz, and then Buffy volunteers to tell him about her past, and hopes that it won't destroy their relationship. In Oz's van, Willow and Oz say their sad goodbyes and then Oz leaves town again to escape the Initiative and Willow, who unintentionally is the cause of him turning into a werewolf.

Willow goes to Tara's, bringing her a candle. Tara tells Willow that she should be with the person she loves, and Willow replies that she is. Tara blows out the candle.

Tropes in this episode:

  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: Subverted; Tara brushes away Willow's tears while saying that her lover should do what makes her h-h-happy.
  • All Witches Have Cats: Subverted; Tara suggests she and Willow get themselves a cat. Willow assumes she means a familiar, but Tara just wants a pet.
  • Anti Climax Cut: Willow invites Tara to a Scooby meeting, saying it's probably just your garden-variety disaster. Cut to Buffy saying she's got zippo.
  • Apologetic Attacker: When Oz realizes he is about to transform into a werewolf, he urges Tara to run despite having been angry at her mere moments before.
  • Artistic License Religion: Oz says that Willow must have lost track of the phases of the moon after he left, even though that's something she would do normally as a Wiccan. However even though Willow is referred to as a Wiccan by others, we saw in "Hush" she was just hanging around them to try and find other witches, so it's likely she doesn't take the religious aspects seriously, only paying attention to the moon's phases in relation to the effect it may have on a spell.
  • Battle Couple: Buffy and Riley patrol and work together to take down a demon.
  • Big Blackout: The Scoobies cut the power in the city grid to help their infiltration of the Initiative.
  • Brain/Computer Interface: Adam does some Hollywood Hacking with a cable plugged into his head.
  • Buffy Speak: Willow's "extra flame-y" candle.
  • The Bus Came Back: Oz, briefly. He thinks he's ready to stay, but events prove otherwise.
  • Captain Obvious: Riley is busted out of his cell where he's awaiting court martial.
    Riley: Buffy, if I leave now I can't ever come back. [Buffy gives him a "Well, duh?" look] I just wanted to hear that out loud.
  • Chairman of the Brawl: Trapped in a lecture room with a werewolf, Tara throws a chair at Oz, which appears to knock him out, but he turns out to have been hit by an Initiative Tranquilizer Dart instead.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: One of the hairy hell-hound-like demons that appear during this episode will show up again in "Primeval".
  • Colonel Badass: Colonel McNamara.
  • Coming-Out Story: Although there's a Fantastic Aesop twist, in that many of the standard plot points are applied to Oz (as a werewolf) rather than Willow (as a "coming out" lesbian).
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Oz.
  • Distressed Dude: Oz gets captured and experimented on by the Initiative.
  • Double Aesop: Buffy doesn't understand Riley's alarm at the idea of Willow dating someone who turns into a monster at the full moon. Then she gets thrown by the idea of Willow dating another girl.
    Buffy: You realized that Willow was in a... less than conventional relationship, and it gave you momentary wiggins. It happens.
  • Dramatic Stutter: Tara does this a lot as she faces the prospect of losing her girlfriend. It becomes a problem when Riley darts Oz, and Tara can't coherently explain who he is before they drag him away.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: To infiltrate the Initiative, Buffy and Willow wear the Labcoat of Science and Medicine, while Xander and Spike wear army greens.
    Buffy: I've mentioned how much I'm gonna kill you if this is a scam, right?
    Spike: Look, would I wear this if I wasn't on the up-and-up?
    Willow: You do sorta look like an evil olive.
  • Enemy Mine: Adam proposes an alliance with Spike.
    Adam: Come. You're going to help me with my problem.
    Spike: Why?
    Adam: Because I am going to help you with yours.
  • Exact Words: When Oz asks if Willow is seeing anyone...
    Oz: So, I talked to Xander, and he says you don't have a new guy...
    Willow: No, no new guy.
  • False Reassurance: When Oz comes back from Tibet, he hopes to rekindle his relationship with Willow. From Xander, he's heard she isn't seeing a new guy. Willow hesitantly confirms this: "No. No new... guy."
  • Fantastic Racism: Riley still sees all demons and monsters as subhuman, regardless of their individual personalities, and reacts badly to the idea of Willow dating a werewolf, even though Oz is only monstrous three nights per month. However, he's horrified when the Initiative plan to experiment on Oz, and tries to help him escape. Having learned his lesson by the end of the episode, Buffy decides he's ready to learn more about Angel.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The Initiative is capturing large numbers of demons, despite there being less demons prowling around in general. Buffy and Riley take down a demon and Buffy complains about how easy that was.
    • Buffy wakes up wearing Riley's shirt, as a prelude to Tara wearing Willow's sweater, tipping off Oz they're having a relationship.
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: Averted when Oz finds out about Willow and Tara. Instead of thinking it's hot, he's furious and attacks Tara. This has more to do with Willow dating someone at all than it has with her dating a girl, because through lying by omission she had given him the impression they could get back together.
    • It should also be noted in Oz's defense that this was an instance of the werewolf side coming out to defend a claim on its "mate". He was visibly horrified when he realized what was about to happen, and urged Tara to run because he couldn't stop it. As a rule Oz's character was pretty accepting of Willow and Tara's relationship, and notably respectful enough not to reduce it to this trope. His reaction when he figures it out, in a near aversion, isn't even "Are you sleeping with her"; it's "Is she in love with you?"
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Subbing Black Eyes of Evil for green; Oz thinks he's in control of his wolf side, but Willow can still bring it out in him.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Buffy wears the Green Leather Pants of Relationship Issues, which we saw Willow wearing in the last Oz episode, "Wild at Heart".
  • Hide Your Lesbians: This episode is notable for just how hard it tries to make the point that Willow and Tara are a romantic couple, without being able to actually say it or show them kissing, likely due to Executive Meddling. This made sense in the 90s but sounds very awkward thirty years later.
  • Holding Hands: Tara being Willow-friendly.
  • Hollywood Hacking: The Initiative network appears to have Swiss-Cheese Security, but Adam is actually doing all the work for them.
  • Hulk Out: Oz no longer turns into a werewolf with the full moon. Now he transforms when he's extremely panicked or angered.
  • Human Shield: Buffy holds a crossbow to Colonel McNamara's head, and shows she's not completely Book Dumb.
    Buffy: Stay back or I'll do a William Burroughs on your leader here! [everyone looks blank]
    Xander: You'll... bore him to death with free prose?
    Buffy: Was I the only one awake in English class that day? I'll. Kill. Him.
  • I Just Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Tara, though it has more to do with her lack of self-confidence. Oz, too, who asks Willow if she's happy before he leaves town.
  • I'll Kill You!: Colonel McNamara makes sure to threaten Riley for his mutiny.
    McNamara: You're a dead man.
    Riley: No sir, I'm an anarchist. [punches McNamara]
  • It's a Long Story: Played straight regarding Oz's adventures since leaving. The telling of them lasts until dawn.
  • It's Personal: Assuming Oz is the demon who killed Willis, Riley doesn't bother waiting for DNA confirmation and is about to put a bullet in Oz when he transforms back.
  • Layman's Terms: Willow translating Scooby Speak for Tara. When Buffy says her "kill-count is way down", that means that there's less bad-guy activity. When that happens, it means something extra evil is brewing. And when Riley says the Initiative has demons coming out of their ears, that's a metaphor.
    Tara: I got that, thanks.
    Willow: I'm overhelping, aren't I?
  • Long Bus Trip: Oz, having discovered that the wolf is not in as much control as he thought (and that Willow has moved on), leaves again, never to return onscreen (except in a dream sequence in "Restless"). He reappears in the Season 8 comics.
  • Look What I Can Do Now!: Oz gains near-total mastery over his werewolf side by the time he returns, able to stand directly under a full moon without transforming. Jealousy, and presumably other strong emotions, can still send him over the edge, though.
  • Love Confession: Tara thinks that Willow has decided to go back to Oz.
    Tara: No, I—I understand. You have to be with the person you l-love.
    Willow: [smiles] I am.
  • The Missus and the Ex: Willow is just starting to slide into relationship territory with Tara Oz comes back into town. Things simmer for a good chunk of the episode since Oz, having missed Willow's coming out, doesn't realise that he's in one of these situations. When he finally gets wise, he freaks out and kinda tries to eat Tara.
  • Mix-and-Match Man: Lampshaded re. Adam.
    Spike: So you help me and you get this chip out of my head?
    Adam: Scout's honor.
    Spike: You were a boy scout?
    Adam: Parts of me.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Averted by having Buffy wear Riley's shirt in bed.
  • The Mole: Spike, for Adam.
  • Monster of the Aesop: Oz provides a convenient metaphor for the Gay Aesop; Buffy realizes that Riley's difficulty isn't so different from her own.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: Tara actually does this to herself; upset that Willow's ex has turned up she leaves the Scooby meeting, telling her "You need to be with your friends."
  • My Instincts Are Showing: Oz attacking Tara makes sense per his wolf side, where he'd fight a rival for mating rights.
  • The Nose Knows: Oz still has his wolf nose, mistaking Tara for Willow when she walks up behind him because she has Willow's Signature Scent on her.
  • No Time to Explain: Buffy is breaking Riley out of the brig.
    Riley: How'd you get in?
    Buffy: Talk later. Stealthy escape now.
  • Not That There's Anything Wrong with That: Buffy is visibly nervous when her Heterosexual Life-Partner suddenly comes out as a lesbian. It surprises her, coming out of left field for her, but once she takes a breath, she's fine with it.
    Buffy: Well, there you go, I mean, you know, you have to—you have to follow your heart, Will. And that's what's important, Will.
    Willow: Why do you keep saying my name like that?
    Buffy: [with false cheer] Like what, Will?
    Willow: Are you freaked?
  • Oblivious Mockery: Riley starts talking about how Willow seems too smart to be into dangerous guys, and how weird it is a girl would date someone who might eat her—post-Angel Buffy does not respond well.
  • Oh, Crap!: Spike is giving a Badass Boast while lying in his crypt when he opens his eyes and sees Adam towering over him.
  • Oh, Wait!: Xander States the Simple Solution.
    Xander: Wouldn't it be great if one of us were dating a man on the inside, someone with connections... oh, wait!
  • Permission to Speak Freely: Asked and denied; McNamara makes it clear he's not interested in any explanation Riley might have for freeing an HST from confinement.
  • The Paragon Always Rebels: Riley, who finally comes to terms with his loyalties and chooses Buffy.
  • Poor Communication Kills: In an entire night of talking, Willow doesn't mention Tara to Oz at all. When he realizes their relationship, it goes poorly.
  • Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...: Spike's initial reaction to Adam's intrusion is violence. No-Sell.
    Adam: Spike. I want you to come with me.
    Spike: Do you? Let's go, then. [punch] Ow.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The Scoobies are referred to as "anarchists" and "a band of freaks" by McNamara.
  • Reaction Shot: Shown on the Scoobies, before we cut to the door to show The Bus Came Back.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Colonel McNamara tells Riley he's lost the plot since meeting the Slayer, and if he wants to save his career he must help take down the Scooby Gang.
  • Relationship Reveal: Willow admits her feelings towards Tara to Buffy. Oz finds out on his own.
  • Revealing Hug: Oz/Willow (showing Oz's UST) and Willow/Tara (showing Tara's Dull Eyes of Unhappiness). For the Rule of Three, the third hug, between Oz and Willow before Oz departs, is the genuine mutual article.
  • Saying Too Much: Colonel McNamara tells Buffy that Riley is in the brig, thinking she's come to rescue him instead of Oz.
  • Secret Path: Spike claims to know how to get into the Initiative, based on information he got from other demons who managed to escape.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Tara blowing out the candle.
  • Sexy Shirt Switch: Played straight when Buffy wakes up wearing Riley's shirt, then used as a plot point when Oz realizes Tara is Willow's lover when he sees her wearing Willow's sweater.
  • Ship Sinking: Averted. Even if there are No Bisexuals in the Whedonverse, Willow makes it clear she will always love Oz.
    Willow: I feel like some part of me will always be waiting for you. Like if I'm old and blue-haired, and I turn the corner in Istanbul and there you are, I won't be surprised. Because... you're with me, you know?
  • Shout-Out: Buffy says she'll "pull a William Burroughs on your leader", referring to the accidental shooting death of Joan Vollmer in 1951.
  • Smash to Black: Tara blowing out the candle kills all the other lights and starts the credits rolling.
  • Strapped to an Operating Table: Oz is experimented upon (including Electric Torture) by the Initiative scientists.
  • The Shangri-La: Oz learned to control his wolf side in Tibet.
  • The Stoic: After months of being away, Oz greets everyone with a "Hey."
  • They Would Cut You Up: They try; the Scoobies get there first.
    Willow: Tara said they took him right before she found me.
    Anya: So that's good, right? I mean, they probably haven't had time to eviscerate him yet.
    [Willow does a Dramatic Sit-Down]
    Xander: Anya, you can help by making this a quiet time.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Spike, who this time actually is helping the Scoobies out of the evilness of his heart.
  • Troubled Fetal Position: Oz in his cell sans clothes after being experimented on by the Initiative. Tara is in a similar position as she waits in her darkened dorm, assuming that Willow won't come back to her.
  • UST: Oz and Willow show they still have some sparkage whenever they hug or touch.
  • Verbal Backspace: Willow assures Oz that she wasn't literally cursing his name.
  • Walking the Earth: Oz seeking his inner cool. He spent the most time in Tibet. At the end of the episode, he begins another journey.
  • Walk-In Chime-In: Spike, as befits a vampire. He walks in to the Scoobies meeting (as Your Door Was Open) to say he's got a way of infiltrating the Initiative covertly.
  • We Need a Distraction: Buffy drops a stake when walking past a guard, then knees him when he bends down to pick it up for her.
  • Wham Line: One of the shortest in television history.
    Oz: Hey.
    • And then there's the one that knocks Buffy sideways.
      Willow: It's complicated... because of Tara.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The werewolf-like demon that attacked Graham Miller's squad never comes up again.
  • Your Door Was Open: Played straight when Spike enters Giles's house, and subverted when he pretends the door to the Initiative base is unlocked (actually Adam has opened it electronically). He notes that, "For a nasty town like Sunnydale, nobody seems to mind their locks."
    Giles: How did you get in?
    Spike: Door was unlocked. You might wanna watch that, Rupert. Someone dangerous could get in.
    Buffy: Or someone formerly dangerous and currently annoying.
  • Zipping Up the Bodybag: Oz is tranked and bagged by the Initiative, so he can be smuggled out of the dorm.