Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 4, Episode “The Yoko Factor”
Broadcast Tuesday, May 9, 2000
Buffy: Sarah Michelle Gellar
Willow: Alyson Hannigan
Xander: Nicholas Brendan
Giles: Anthony Stewart Head
Riley: Marc Blucas
Spike: James Marsters
Anya: Emma Caulfield
Tara: Amber Benson
Adam: George Hertzberg
Colonel McNamara speaks to an unnamed, suited John McCain lookalike, who urges the Colonel to get the Initiative under control and get Riley back in their hands. They’ve invested too much in him. Meanwhile, Spike tries to convince new playmate Adam not to underestimate the Slayer.
Spike tells Adam he’s killed two (!) Slayers already, but Buffy’s been a sticking point. The real trick is in getting rid of Buffy’s circle of friends, who Spike will take responsibility for eliminating. (It’ll be a challenge, since the chip in Spike’s head won’t let him hurt anyone directly.)
Xander and Riley, meanwhile, commiserate about Buffy, who left for LA and hasn’t reported back yet. Xander explains the curse of Angel, who's an okay guy unless he experiences true happiness (sex with Buffy, in the eager overestimation of the Buffy universe) at which point he becomes a killer. Riley’s not happy to hear the details.
Giles, meanwhile, has moved from The Who to Lynyrd Skynyrd, giving us an acoustic rendition of “Freebird” until Spike sneaks into his house. Spike’s deal: he’ll deliver highly classified Initiative files on Adam in exchange for a year’s protection and free packets of blood. Giles says he can make the deal happen, but Spike’s only going to take a yes from Buffy, who the vampire thinks doesn’t respect Giles anymore.
Meanwhile, back in the land of Willow and Tara, the new cat provides hours of entertainment and Willow’s thinking of signing up for drama. Her transformation is well on its way.
Once Buffy is back, Riley comes to see her. But the Slayer is mopey and vague about her trip to see Angel, and Riley slumps away.
Wile Spike plants seed in Xander’s head that his friends are talking about him behind his back, Buffy trades barbs with Riley’s Initiative friend Forrest before the two run headlong into Adam in a cave.
Just like that, Adam runs Forrest through, killing him, and nearly fries Buffy with an Initiative gun before Buffy falls and hits her head on a rock.
Spike’s seeds of discord drop unabated as he delivers his “stolen files” to Giles, Willow and Tara, and this time convinces Willow that her friends are talking behind her back. Giles has taken to drinking.
While the Initiative tries to figure out how to respond to the record-breaking overcrowding of their monster containment cells, a new distress call rings out from an embattled Initiative unit. Riley overhears this call on his specially designed walky-talky and decides to help out, hurrying from the barn he’s been living in.
The monster Riley finds is none other than vampire Angel, who’s just knocked out a tam of Initiative Agents who attacked him.
Riley, quite the jealous Iowa farmsoldier, thinks that because Angel is pissy he must have slept with Buffy and lost his soul. Between Angel’s vampire strength and Riley’s super-solder-serum enhancements, they throw one another around pretty well, only interrupted by arriving trucks. Angel disappears.
The vampire turns up at Buffy’s place just in time for Riley to show up. Buffy, super-hero that she is, separates them by throwing them across the room. She and Angel retire to make up from the nasty things they said to one another when she visited LA. They simply come from different worlds now. Angel leaves once more.
Spike checks in with Adam to explain his Very Clever Plan, the Yoko Factor, by which he will sow the disintegration of the Scooby Gang with distrust and innuendo. Now he’d like Adam to come through and remove the chip the Initiative planted in Spike’s brain. But not yet, Adam says-- there remains one more task.
Riley and Buffy kiss and make up, professing their Love. But news that Riley's friend Forrest is dead sends the ex-agent away in sadness.
Buffy goes to Giles, but by now the group has completely devolved. Xander thinks everybody considers him stupid, Willow thinks everyone judges her lifestyle and thinks her mind is going downhill, and Giles is feeling under-appreciated and, now, drunk. Buffy refuses their help in facing Adam. "What can you possibly do? I've been wondering why there’s no ancient prophesy about the chosen one and her friends.”
We close with another visitor to Adam: Riley Finn, this time.
Cyborg Adam is rather like Tony Robbins, as Spike calls him. He's remarkably eloquent and charismatic. In a sense, of course, he really is the Frankenstein monster, who was just as poetic. The difference is that Adam is a villain from head to toe, whereas the monster was just a blunderer into his sins. This is the fault of the Initiative, who built Adam from demon parts for reasons that may remain forever unclear.
This episode returns Spike, finally, to his place as a Buffy villain after a long period in which he was sort of a declawed hanger-on to the Scooby Gang. But you can hand it to the writers: despite the viewer's attempt to make a friend of Spike, Spike himself has never ceased to insist he does not wish the Scooby Gang well, and would be glad to see them all killed. In this episode, unable to inflict physical harm in any way, Spike becomes Iago, whispering hateful lies in each characters ear, hitting their weak points expertly.
The scene in which the gang tears itself apart in Giles' living room plays as broad farce, but it's hurtful and ends with Buffy taking the upper hand: she's the one who's supposed to protect the earth, and she has no use for them. The scene starts out funny and ends with Willow and Xander hurt. It's unfortunate that Buffy ahs a good point: she is the Slayer, after all. She doesn't particularly need a support network, although having one is useful.
Also in this episode-- a minor event as far as story goes-- Angel shows up to tie up some loose ends from Buffy's recent appearance on Angel. That episode ended with Buffy and Angel saying fairly nasty and hurtful things to one another, so this time around, Angel shows up to apologize. In character, Buffy assumes Angel is going to say more hurtful things, a misplaced fear since by far the nastier comments came from the Slayer before. But after all, the universe revolves around her.
And it really does seem to.
“Little Miss Tiny’s got in the habit of bolloxing up the plans of every would-be-unstoppable badasss who sets foot in this town.”
“You’re like Tony Robbins, if he was a big, scary, Frankenstein-lookin’... you’re exactly like Tony Robbins.”
“You know what college is? It’s High School, only without the actual going to class.”
Riley: “See? There you go. Even when he’s good he’s all Mr. Billow Coat and King of Pain, and girls really...”
Buffy: “Riley, stop.”