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Recap / Buffy the Vampire Slayer S4E20 "The Yoko Factor"

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"I guess I'm starting to understand why there's no ancient prophecy about a Chosen One and her friends."

"They were once a real powerful group. It's not a stretch to say they ruled the world. And when they broke up everyone blamed Yoko, but the fact is the group split itself apart, she just happened to be there."

Directed by David Grossman

Written by Douglas Petrie

Colonel McNamara talks with Mr. Ward about plans for The Initiative, getting Riley back and dealing with Buffy. Spike tells Adam that Buffy is going to be a difficult challenge to defeat and he shouldn't underestimate her. Spike talks about killing two Slayers and not being able to kill Buffy, especially because of the chip now in his head. The two plan to separate Buffy from her friends.

Still upset about Angel, Buffy returns from L.A. to her empty dorm room. Xander brings Riley some rather colorful clothes to wear, and they talk about their mutual distaste for Angel. Not realizing that he didn't know, Xander accidentally tells Riley about how pure happiness with Buffy is the trigger that removed Angel's curse.

Giles is singing Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird", when Spike surprises him by showing up in his apartment. Spike talks with Giles about files inside The Initiative that he might be able to get for a very large price. Spike tells Giles that Buffy doesn't respect her former Watcher anymore, and that upsets Giles.

Willow and Tara play with their new kitten while planning their class schedule for next year. They also talk about future housing plans, but Willow hasn't talked with Buffy yet and isn't sure what she wants to do now that things have changed so much.

Riley goes to Buffy in the funny clown pants Xander gave him to wear. Using a radio, he's tapped into The Initiative and is making sure he's aware of everything going on with the operation. She mentions that Angel upset her, but she doesn't want to talk about it and Riley leaves. Xander and Anya bring Spike fatigues to wear and among them is a gun, which Spike is amused to find and is apparently ready to shoot Xander only for the chip to go off as soon as he aims it. Xander is amused that Spike can't even aim weapons anymore, especially considering the gun is fake. Recovering, Spike continues to tear apart the Scooby Gang by making Xander feel unwanted by convincing him that the rest of the gang doesn't feel he's useful.

Buffy goes patrolling and runs into Forrest, who is also looking for Adam. They argue as they go into a cave and find Adam. The three of them fight, Adam skewers Forrest and Buffy makes a run for it. Limping, she falls and slides down a hill, hitting her head on a rock. Pretending to have sneaked into The Initiative and retrieved some disks with information, Spike charges into Giles' place. Giles continues to get drunk while Willow tries to decrypt the disks. Spike notices Willow and Tara's behaviour towards each other and, realizing they're in a relationship, decides to use it and talks to Willow about her new 'Wicca' interests and how Buffy and Xander don't seem to support it. Willow thinks that means that their friends aren't accepting their romantic relationship.

Riley hears that there is trouble on the streets through his radio and goes to check it out. He finds that it is Angel fighting off the commandos, and Riley refuses to let Angel go see Buffy. The two have a brutal fight, of which Angel is clearly the victor. Since the fight is personal for both combatants, no punches are pulled. Angel, who normally refrains from using his superior physical strength against a human, is still stinging from Buffy's recent comments in LA and holds nothing back in the fight. Similarly, Riley, having just learned what makes Angel lose his soul, uses every weapon (literally) on him - his tazer, a bottle, and his baton.

The fight violently ends when Riley, having momentarily stunned Angel with his taser, is lifted by Angel and thrown into several trash cans. Angel then picks him up again and throws him once again into the side of a building. Finally, both run off when a military truck comes down the street. Buffy returns to her dorm room and Angel shows up. As Angel tries to talk to Buffy, Riley barges in and points a gun at Angel. Angel taunts Riley and the two come to blows again. Buffy separates them and wants to talk to Angel alone. Riley refuses to leave the room, so Buffy and Angel depart to the hallway, though not before Angel taunts Riley with a superior smirk.

Buffy goes off on Angel and then they laugh when Angel confesses he came to make up. Angel admits that he had no right to talk to Buffy like he had before, and explains that he had been attacked by the Initiative soldiers and Riley only waded into the middle of it and immediately accused him. Accepting, Buffy also admits that Angel was not entirely wrong; the two are no longer a part of the other's worlds, and she had no right to barge in on his. Having concluded his business, Angel leaves, stating that he doesn't like Riley, and Buffy thanks him, amused and grateful towards his jealousy.

Spike reports back to Adam, happy to have split up the Scooby Gang. Riley is worried that Buffy has reunited with Angel, and confesses that he already knows about how Angel can lose his soul, which set him off. They profess their love to each other and then Buffy brings him bad news. She tells him that Forrest is dead and he leaves quickly.

Everyone meets at Giles's house, and Buffy intends to go back to the cave believing that Adam wouldn't have been there for no reason. As Giles gets more drunk and more bitter about the fact that Buffy doesn't need him anymore, Buffy declares she's going to the cave alone. Both Willow and Xander (with Spike's words ringing in their minds) take exception at this; Xander believing that Buffy only needs him around for menial tasks and accuses her of this. Buffy defends herself, and gets angry at Xander for telling Riley the full details about her relationship with Angel. Tara and Anya, feeling very uncomfortable as the quarrel quickly descends into a huge argument, sneak into the bathroom and hide. Soon personal feelings start to come up, as Willow makes her dislike of Xander and Anya's relationship vocal (particularly, the fact she and Xander are hardly apart) and accuses Buffy of not taking her seriously and being uneasy with her since discovering Tara was her girlfriend. Xander begins to argue that Buffy and Willow forgot about him when they went off to college... Then realizes what Willow has just said and is shocked (with a "bloody hell" coming from Giles who has gone upstairs).

By now, Buffy has had enough of her supposed friends attacking her, and angrily asks how they could possibly help her? Xander and Willow are stunned into silence by these hurtful words, and Buffy declares she's on her own and can see why the prophecies never mention a Chosen One having friends. As she leaves, she tells everyone she's going to someone she can count on.

In Adam's lair, Riley shows up as an expected guest.

Tropes in this episode:

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Riley is worried about Buffy's "bad boy" ex-boyfriend.
    Riley: Even when he's good he's all Mister... Billowy Coat, King of Pain and girls really—
  • Anti-Advice: Angel telling Buffy that he doesn't like Riley, possibly.
  • Apple of Discord: Spike's idle conversations nearly tear apart the Scoobies entirely—by design.
  • Attack Backfire: Forrest shoots Adam with his taser blaster. Adam absorbs the energy and says, "Thank you."
  • Awesome by Analysis: Spike deduces, from subtle hints how Willow and Tara act around each other, that they're a couple, and immediately figures out what to say to spark maximum discomfort and discord between them and the rest of the gang.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: Angel is about to leave, when he turns for a final word.
    Angel: Oh, and... Riley.
    Buffy: Yeah?
    Angel: I don't like him.
  • Batman Gambit: Spike uses this to good effect. Knowing the personalities and temperament of each character, he casually plants information with each of them to turn them on each other. He does it in a way that's particularly ingenious: he relies on their own expectations of him to lead the characters into "discovering" the false rumors for themselves... so that each of them thinks it was their own idea.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted with a noticeable cut and bruise on Buffy's forehead from when she rolled down the hill escaping Adam.
  • Blunt "Yes":
    Buffy: Are you drunk?!
    Giles: I should think so, yes.
  • Bond Breaker: Spike hits a few preexisting sore spots and then stands back.
    Adam: You can't hurt them. What can you do to make sure they're out of the picture?
    Spike: Not a blessed thing. They're gonna do it for me.
  • Break Them by Talking: A time-delayed version; a few innocuous comments from Spike, passed off as stuff he's heard the Scoobies say about each other, have them at each others' throats by the end of the episode.
  • Brick Joke: When Angel punched Buffy in "Sanctuary" he said, "Not to go all schoolyard on you, but you hit me first." When Buffy gets pissed about him beating up Riley, Angel begins to whine "He started it!" before Buffy's Death Glare shuts him up.
  • Ceiling Cling: One of the demons in an Initiative cell; his equivalent of "climbing the walls."
  • Cock Fight: Riley vs. Angel.
  • Conflict Ball: Spike deliberately passes it around, by casually making insinuating and subversive comments to make the Scoobies turn on each other and vent repressed feelings of anger and resentment that had been bottled up. He even lampshades the trope, pointing out that people latch onto one specific event or situation as a cause of strife, but that what really happens is that the event or situation is just an excuse to bring to the forefront issues that were there all along.
  • Cute Kitten: Miss Kitty Fantastico.
    Willow: I keep thinking, okay, that's the cutest thing ever, and then she does something cuter and completely resets the whole scale.
  • Department of Redundancy Department
    Willow: And besides, when is there any "us two"? You two are the two who are the two!
  • Description Cut: Buffy storms out on her friends, declaring that she's going to get the help of someone she trusts. Cut to Riley meeting with Adam.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • The 'kids' (Tara and Anya) hide in the bathroom while the 'family' argues.
    • Also done In-Universe when Spike figures out Willow and Tara's relationship and decides to hang a lampshade on the whole magic = lesbianism metaphor.
      Spike: Your mates said you weren't playing with computers so much. Into the new thing.
      Willow: What new thing?
      Spike: You know, you two. The whole Wicca thing.
      Willow: They—they were talking about that?
      Spike: Can we get back to business here? I've got a deal at stake.
      Willow: What did they say?
      Spike: Talking about, you know, it's a phase. You'll get over it.
      Willow: What? Who said that? Was it Buffy? [to Tara] 'Cause . . . you know what she means by that.
      Spike: No, she was defending you, 'cause Xander said you were just being trendy.
      Willow: "Trendy"?
      Spike: I don't know what they were going on about. Person wants to be a witch, that's their business.
  • The Dog Bites Back: A more subtle example; after a season of being treated like a neutered Butt-Monkey by the Scooby Gang, Spike gets his revenge by exploiting the tensions that have arisen between all of them throughout the season to drive a wedge between them.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Riley being as melodramatic as Angel.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Spike borrows Xander's army greens again so he can pretend to infiltrate the Initiative (actually Adam has just given him the files).
  • Drowning My Sorrows: A few comments from Spike about how useless Giles is, and he stops merely playing Suspiciously Apropos Music and gets far too drunk to be of any help for the rest of the episode.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Spike shows that he is very good at reading and manipulating people, but he still doesn't understand The Power of Friendship. He identifies Buffy's friends as strong assets... but is absurdly confident that he can cause a permanent falling out between Buffy and the Scoobies, just like that. Friends fight, but friends apologize and make up too. Adam, being evil, also considers it a simple thing to get rid of her friends.
  • Evil Is Petty: Spike's plan will also make Buffy miserable, which he never gets tired of doing.
  • Extreme Graphical Representation: The encrypted files on Willow's laptop. Random gibberish and meaningless characters scroll by both horizontally and as Matrix Raining Code.
  • Failed Attempt at Drama: Buffy asks Riley to leave the room so she can have a heart-to-heart with Angel. Riley does a Badass Arm-Fold and declares he's not budging. Buffy just looks at Angel and the two walk out the door.
    Riley: [alone in the room] Not moving a muscle.
  • Feud Episode: Invoked by Spike between Giles and the Power Trio.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The cells are becoming overcrowded with demons, while the Initiative is spread thin capturing them. It turns out they're Play-Along Prisoners.
    • Xander and Riley bonding over a mutual dislike of Angel; Xander becomes a Buffy/Riley Shipper on Deck in Season 5.
  • Gayngst: Willow's main insecurity.
  • Good is Not Nice: Riley is dumbfounded when Buffy informs him that Angel hasn't turned evil. "That's him on a good day?"
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Riley hits Angel with a bottle during their fight.
  • Guns Are Worthless: The taser blaster Buffy went to such trouble to repair only increases Adam's strength.
  • Heh Heh, You Said "X"
    Xander: Maybe that all changes when I'm off doin' sit-ups in Fort Dix!
    Giles: [quite drunk] Fort Dix? [begins to giggle hysterically]
  • Heel Realization: When Angel apologises to Buffy for how they left things the last time they saw each other, Buffy acknowledges that it wasn't entirely his fault, and that she had no right to barge back into his life and throw her weight around making moral judgements (particularly given that her own motives were less than pure to begin with).
  • A House Divided: Adam has deduced that Buffy is far less effective without her Scoobies. Spike sets out to make it happen.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Forrest getting killed by Adam.
  • In the End, You Are on Your Own: Faced with bickering friends and a plastered mentor, Buffy starts to believe she's better off by herself.
    Buffy: I guess I'm starting to understand why there's no ancient prophecy about a Chosen One... and her friends.
  • I Work Alone: Buffy picks the worst time to become over-protective of her friends; they assume she means they're superfluous.
  • Jerkass Victim: Forrest, who never warmed up to Buffy even before she drove Riley out of the Initiative, gets stabbed by Adam, not that Buffy is in any way pleased.
  • List of Transgressions: When Angel reappears, having gotten into a brawl with the Initiative on his way to see Buffy.
    Buffy: [angry] Okay. I come to see you, to help you, and you treat me like I'm just... your ex.
    Angel: Well, technically—
    Buffy: Shut up! And then you order me out of your city and then you come here and start pounding on my boyfriend?! I would really like to know what the HELL are you trying to do?!
    Angel: I was trying to make things better.
    [Buffy stares at him, then bursts out laughing]
  • Love Triangle: Buffy/Riley/Angel, in Riley's mind anyway.
  • The Missus and the Ex: A male example - Riley and Angel meet and come to blows. It really ends up like a dick-waving competition.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Angel suspects Riley of trying to do this when Initiative soldiers jump him.
  • Must Be Invited: Angel reveals that he needs a clear invitation to enter; Buffy saying "I guess so" isn't enough.
  • Not Helping Your Case:
    • Angel travels all the way to Sunnydale to apologize to Buffy, only to get into a fight with her new boyfriend.
    • Buffy says she doesn't think Xander is stupid, then immediately tells him to stop acting like an idiot.
  • Not Himself: Masked by the fact that Buffy has just told Riley about the death of his friend, so she assumes he's in shock when he walks out of the room with a blank look on his face.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Riley Finn is a human on supplements to make him peak human, some weapons, military training, and some experience against the supernatural. However, he ends up beaten by the way more skilled Angel, a legendary vampire known for his martial prowess, superior strength, centuries plus combat experience.
  • Phallic Weapon: Spike's 'impotence' chip stops him from even aiming a gun, let alone firing it. He responds by demanding a bigger gun.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: Helped along by Spike.
  • Poor Communication Kills: When Angel meets Riley he goes straight to the macho posturing and not-so-veiled threats, making Riley think he's lost his soul again, and Angel does nothing to set him straight.
  • Pop-Cultured Badass: Adam likes the Beatles song "Helter Skelter". Spike responds dryly, "What a surprise," as that means he shares musical taste with Charles Manson, another charismatic figure who hoped to start an apocalyptic race war.
  • Pun: Willow can't help herself sometimes.
    Spike: You're not exactly the whiz these days either.
    Willow: I am a whiz.
    Tara: She is a whiz.
  • Relationship Reveal: Buffy clearly hasn't passed on the news to the rest of the Scoobies.
    Willow: We have to face it, you can't handle Tara being my girlfriend...
    Xander: No, it was back before that, since you two went off to college and forgot about me. Just left me in the basement to— Tara's your girlfriend?!
    Giles: [from upstairs, still drunk] Bloody hell!
  • Required Spinoff Crossover: This episode has the only Previously on… segment to include a clip from Angel, namely Buffy and Angel's fight at the end of "Sanctuary". Buffy is seen returning from L.A. at the beginning of this episode. The fallout from said fight is explored in this episode, as Angel stops by to apologize for his harsh words to Buffy.
  • Rousing Speech: Adam to Spike.
    Adam: You feel smothered. Trapped like an animal. Pure in its ferocity, unable to actualize the urges within. Clinging to one truth. Like a flame struggling to burn within an enclosed glass. That a beast this powerful cannot be contained. Inevitably it will break free and savage the land again. I will make you whole again. Make you savage.
    Spike: Wow. I mean, yeah. I get why the demons all fall in line with you. You're like Tony Robbins. If he was a big scary, Frankenstein-looking... you're exactly like Tony Robbins.
  • Saying Too Much: Xander tells Riley about what removes Angel's Restraining Bolt, sending him into Green-Eyed Monster mode.
  • Smug Smiler: Angel doesn't bother to hide his smirk when he and Buffy leave Riley behind in the dorm room.
  • Standing Between the Enemies: Angel and Riley come to blows, so Buffy physically tosses them apart and threatens to put them in the hospital. Literally.
  • Stock Phrases: Angel says that fighting Riley was an accident.
    Buffy: Running a car into a tree is an accident! Running your fist into somebody's face is a plan!
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: Giles is at home singing "Freebird" before he's interrupted by Spike. At this point, Giles is feeling useless and is preparing to leave: "I must be traveling on soon."
  • Talk to the Fist: "You actually sleep with this guy?" Whack!
  • Tension-Cutting Laughter: Angel comes to town to apologize to Buffy after their falling out in "Sanctuary." Instead, he ends up in a fight with Riley and the Initiative before getting to her. When Buffy asks what he was trying to do, he replies "I was trying to make things better", and after a minute, both crack up.
    Angel: Well, it's... going pretty good, don't you think?
    Buffy: Swell.
  • Testosterone Poisoning: Angel vs. Riley.
    Buffy: Okay, that's enough! I see one more display of testosterone poisoning and I will personally put you both in the hospital!
  • Thought They Knew Already: Assuming Buffy had already told him as such, Xander casually tells Riley full details on Buffy's relationship with Angel, including his Curse Escape Clause and how sleeping with Buffy turned him evil. It's only once he finishes the story that Xander realizes Buffy left those parts out.
    Xander: She... kind of left that part out, huh?
    Riley: Yeah, she did. That explains a lot of things that... I wish weren't explained.
  • Too Much Information: Buffy doesn't like hearing about Riley's previous conquests from Forrest.
  • Twisted Echo Cut
    McNamara: [re Buffy] She's just a girl.
    Spike: [to Adam] She's a lot more than that!
  • Two-Part Episode: With "Primeval."
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: The entire mess between Riley and Angel is kick-started because Xander, not realizing Buffy didn't already tell him herself, tells him everything... including his Curse Escape Clause and how it was sleeping with Buffy that turned him evil.
  • Walk-In Chime-In: Forrest and Buffy are getting in each other's faces.
    Buffy: [angry] Touch me and you'll find out what Slayer strength is like.
    Forrest: [gamely] I think it's about time you showed me then.
    Adam: Yes. I think that would be interesting.
  • What Were You Thinking?: Buffy to Angel, regarding why he came back after how they left things in LA.
  • Yoko Oh No: The Yoko, in this case, is an actively malicious one — Spike, who can see a conflict brewing among the Scoobies and pushes just the right buttons to set it off. Notably, Spike himself notes to Adam during the episode that Yoko, for all she got blamed, didn't break up the Beatles, but rather internal strife; similarly, he wasn't the cause of the Scoobies' breakup, just the catalyst that (deliberately) brought their grievances into plain view. Spike didn't even have to talk to Buffy or Riley; their problems and Buffy's dismissiveness of her friends are purely her own, and will come up again throughout the show.
    • In that same arc, Forrest views Buffy as the Yoko (with the Beatles represented by the Initiative).
  • You Can Barely Stand: Angel tells Riley this during their stand-off. Riley replies that his trigger finger feels okay. An incredulous Angel cannot believe that Buffy actually sleeps with him.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Buffy when she finds Angel has been in a fight with her boyfriend.
  • Your Door Was Open: Again.