Nov 19 2012 2:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Bye Bye Mister Yankee Pie

Buffy the Vampire Slayer rewatch on Goodbye, Iowa

Plot plot plotty plotty plot! Get your plot here. We got your fresh steaming season four plot! That’s the name of the game in “Goodbye, Iowa,” which picks up right where “The I in Team” left off, with the Scoobies debriefing after the assassination attempt on Buffy.

The gang is, quite sensibly, unnerved. Operation Slay has never really taken on serious government folks before, the type with limousines and power to detain and their own account at Rocket Launchers R Us, and I think it’s fair to say even Buffy’s encounters with your ordinary, Hellmouth-variety police have never been occasions of joy. How much trouble are they in? Probably lots.

(It turns out Buffy’s giving the government a bit too much credit on that score, but that’s beside the point.)

The Scoobies debate whether Riley was in on the failed murder—Spike kicks off the speculation by gleefully taunting Buffy about her taste in men, and as usual there’s a lot of right mixed in with the bile. Then everyone starts wondering if they need to to retreat to Xander’s Subterranean Hideaway, for safety. Giles is just bombasting about how they’ll never track down his hidden lair when we reach that awkward moment where Mister Teen Iowa himself shows up...

...and discovers they’re harboring Hostile Seventeen.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer rewatch on Goodbye, Iowa

Recriminations fly, everyone’s twitterpated and in time Riley goes off in search of a pout, or at the very least a cry on the cold hard shoulder of his not-so-supportive BFF, Forrest.

All of this seems pretty bad until Adam wanders up to a little boy and treats us all to the true meaning of upsetting, the bracing perspective that can only arise from the horrifying collision of a sweet looking child and a transplanted Polgara demon spike.

And while we’re talking about Adam, I thought it would be fun to take a look at George Hertzberg’s face, without all that Frankenmakeup:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer rewatch on Goodbye, Iowa

Crazy, huh?

The Initiative, in the person of Doctor Francis Angleman (bet you didn’t know his name, right? I thought it was Dour Minion One) is only just discovering that the Initiative’s kazillion dollar science project has gone AWOL. He falls into a gaping plot hole in room 314’s floor, you see, and there he finds a pile of Shredded Scientist Maggie and zero Adam.

This is one of those things that strains credulity if you think about it too much. Or at all. No cameras in Room 314? No tracker injected into a difficult-to-reach corner of Adam’s presumably well-toned hiney? How many hours elapsed between when he skewered Maggie, donned a pair of spectacles to disguise himself and sauntered off-base and when he commenced dissection on a lamentably adorable California youngster?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer rewatch on Goodbye, Iowa

Okay, you might say, they didn’t miss Maggie because they thought she was on her food lady rounds upstairs, secretly mixing super-soldier formula into the Initiatrio’s early morning servings of Weetabix, beer, and apple pie. And Adam was supposed to still be charging up. Fair enough.

(This episode may be best enjoyed with your all critical faculties disengaged, is all I’m saying. I recommend single malt for this. Maybe tequila.)

Since Riley used his crack detective skills to locate them all in five minutes flat—the clue was he’d been to your house, Giles!—the Scoobies put up some curtains in Xander’s basement and bunk down for the night. I found the gender segregation strangely adorable. Scoobies go to camp! The Scoobies really should have gone to camp. This gets us some cute in-the-morning interaction: Buffy ends up telling Anya and Giles to stop re-enacting her parents’ marriage. I laughed.

Then she and Willow settle down on the pink side of the privacy curtain for romance-themed girl talk, whose content on this occasion boils down to:

“OMG, Riley! Wow, what a mess this is turning into!”

“Worse than Angel?”

“Not quite. Not yet.”

All with Anya heckling from the sidelines, reminding Buffy, just in case, that Xander’s unavailable.

Everything grinds to a halt, as it should, when the horrifying child death hits the news. Buffy channels the spirit of Henry the Fifth, rallying the troops, declaring they will fight to the last man, and then realizes she’s wearing yummy sushi pyjamas. This too is very cute. I am all over the gang moving into a shared house together after they reduce Sunnydale to a smoking hole. They could have wacky spinoff sitcom hijinx. Sort of a Friends meets The Office thing, but with demons? I confess I’m not up on my sitcoms, so feel free to improve on my mashup....

Buffy the Vampire Slayer rewatch on Goodbye, Iowa

Forrest, meanwhile, has been taking lessons from Spike on being a tuff love confidante. Does he sympathize with Riley’s woes? Oh, no. He’s all “Maybe Buffy needed killing,” and “That girl Graham and I encouraged you to date is a big pain, dude.”

This is just beginning to get sticky, in bromance terms, when Graham shows up to tell them Maggie’s dead.

“Staked?” Forrest breaks out the roving finger of blame indecently fast. Some people will do anything to win an argument.

“Obviously Maggie got herself demon-spiked!” Riley ripostes. “That Polgara guy’s to blame! Let’s fight!”

Doctor Angleman isn’t about to tell them about Adam. He agrees, it’s the Polgara—which, I’m thinking, is ancient Sumerian for falsely accused—and tells all the Initiative guys they’re supposed to hang around until various Washington pencil pushers can show up to look at the crime scene, wave their badges, and say “Hmmmm.” He doesn’t tell them to go upstairs, take their vitamins and have a complete nutritious breakfast spiked with weird Maggie love and super-soldier-serum. There’s an oversight for you.

And then he just roams off, as if he expects them to listen and obey. Seriously, it’s like he wants them all sweaty, irrational, and bombing around town with their brains fried and their guns drawn.

So instead of going off to class or the gym or a nice bistro, the Initiative guys  break out the weapons and go a-hunting. Graham and Forrest raid the Tomb of Spike, but fail to find him.

Our heroes are looking for the kid-killing-culprit, too, of course. Willow heads off to Chez Tara so they can try a spell that will display all the demons in Sunnydale on a screen-sized square of carpet. (What? All? I can’t help thinking—that will tell you what? The town’s infested, remember? I don’t care if the goddess Thespia tags them, it’s still like looking for one spider in a house full of cockroaches and silverfish.)

But it doesn’t really matter, because Tara doesn’t want to. She tries to just say we’re not ready, but Willow replies that the spell is beneath them. Adorable little Tara qualm there—she’s too moony over Willow to stand up to her, yet, but already she’s not loving the arrogance.

Buffy is going the private investigator route, by grilling Willy the snitch. Alas, Riley shows up mid-interrogation and freaks out. Not only is she saving Spike from the government, she’s also hanging out in the local demon bar? Wow, maybe Forrest was right. Or maybe he’s just in superserum withdrawal. Why isn’t Adam in superserum withdrawal? Either way, Riley almost shoots a scared looking woman-type who may or may not be a demon.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer rewatch on Goodbye, Iowa

“Maybe I’m the bad guy,” he says. Those are always really sucky days, even when your mentor hasn’t gotten eviscerated. Poor Riley.

Buffy takes him to the basement—thus screwing up another hide-out—tucks him in, wraps her head-scarf around his massive, scratched up paw and says she’s taking Xander to the Initiative to hunt up data on what’s wrong with her honey. Anya is deeply unimpressed and attempts to expand the original parameters of her earlier “You can’t have Xander!” declaration, but of course Xander’s going on the mission. He will always go on the mission, Anya.

And speaking of Scooby girlfriends working at cross-purposes to the goal, Tara tosses the magic potion when Willow’s got her eyes closed. Gosh! What could that be about?

Also this: when a girl shows up and says she just kinda wants you to help her find all the demons in the city, don’t you at least say, “How come?”

Buffy and Xander don ingenious disguises and zip down to the Initiative in the Elevator of Death. She’s rocking the Clark Kent look, bigtime, barely recognizable under those glasses. After some inept sneaking about, they manage to overhear some stuff about the Initiadudes and how they go into withdrawal when they’re off their meds. (After less than a day? Bad design, I say.)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer rewatch on Goodbye, Iowa

Riley has by now awakened in the basement, given Willow a healthy but ultimately non-injurious shove, and made his way back to the base. And Adam is sick of playing hide and seek with people who simply can’t find him, so he comes too, bringing with him a massive amount of exposition.

The scene that follows is just plain weird. Adam eats lumpy, so-very-dated 3.5 inch floppy disks and spits out top secret explanations about what’s up. He calls Riley brother and says Maggie was Mommy to them both. Riley is not so very happy about this. (It does double his exposure on Mother’s Day, maternal birthdays, and Christmas.)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer rewatch on Goodbye, Iowa

All of this explaining gets very long-winded. Violence breaks out just in the nick. Xander bravely jumps on Adam and does not die! Angleman runs away and does get skewered. Lesson there? Don’t be the guest star. Riley gets a Polgara spike in the gut and Buffy’s obliged to let the Initiative take him for patching and light reindoctrination.

Back at Willy’s, far away from the main storyline, Spike has gone to drown his sorrows about having his crypt trashed again, only to discover he’s not welcome among demonkind anymore. It’s a sad day in the unlife of William. He really ought to be able to thrash a couple of barcrawling monsters. But he’s still a little bummed about having been chipped, I guess, and everyone has an off day.

Buffy is sad, too, because Riley is now incarcerated in a secret government hospital with every good reason to have a massive identity crisis on the go. But he’s got her head scarf, and that seems to be easing the pain.

Next: You Gotta Have Faith

A.M. Dellamonica has three novelettes up here on Her “baby werewolf has two mommies,” story, “The Cage,” made the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2010. There’s also “Among the Silvering Herd,” the first of a series of stories called The Gales, and her latest novelette, “Wild Things,” that ties into the world of her award winning novel Indigo Springs and its sequel, Blue Magic.

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Jack Flynn
1. JackofMidworld
I knew that the guy playing Adam wouldn't look like, well, "Adam" under all that make-up but but jeez!

I guess they had to get the exposition in there somehow, right?
Alyx Dellamonica
2. AMDellamonica
Yeah, sometimes you just need a long-winded villain monologue to bring you up to speed.
Gardner Dozois
3. Gardner Dozois
You're right, this episode doesn't really make much sense if you squint at it, and neither does the rest of the season, really, including, as I've pointed out before, Adam's Master Plan (of course, it's a Master Plan dreamed up by somebody who'd never been out of a little room until today, so maybe he can be excused for it being totally unrealistic). I suspect that even if Maggie had stayed around to the end of the season, it still wouldn't have made much more sense, but it might have been more entertaining.

Faith, and, of all people, Jonathan are really all that saves the last half of the season--all the Initative/Adam stuff is pretty lame.

I suppose you could argue that Maggie wouldn't have allowed a camera in Room 314 because it's her Super Top Secret Secret (on top of all the other secrets, like the existence of the Initative and the supersauce), but it's harder to believe that she wouldn't have chipped Adam. Christ, she would probably have chipped her CAT. And yes, something that you go into wild withdrawal symptoms from after having not taken it for less than a day is pretty damn inefficient. Of course, this is the government we're talking about.

Xander was willing to go to Hell to save Buffy, so going to a hidden Army base shouldn't phase him all that much.
Rob Rater
4. Quasarmodo
Adam hadn't been activated yet, right? (At least not on purpose.) So maybe chipping was on Maggie's "to do" list.
Ilan Lerman
5. Ilan
George Hertzberg gets to appear without makeup in the final episode of the season, "Restless" (which is one of my absolute favourite of all Buffy episodes).
Chris Nelly
6. Aeryl
Took me forever to figure out that it was the SAME GUY, because it does that flash to inform Buffy that he was that he was the "human base" of Adam's physiology. He always looks like another actor who's name escapes me, B movie guy like the guy who plays Luke and the Judge, so thats who I figured it was.

This season is kinda "meh" arcwise, because its trying to do so much. It's the first post high school one, and hints they are moving on to college, Saved by the Bell" style, and sets up for all those temptations to follow now that you're parents aren't watching.

It's also trying to tell a standard Magic vs Science tale, with Magic winning as epitomized by Willow(Buffy's spirit)'s seduction away from Science(male) for Magic(female). Some people don't like that tale, or disagree with the victor, and it colors judgement.

Some people feel like this expanded exploration of the superscience of this universe goes against the grain of the story, which is about a magic girl that fights demons. But the science has been there all along, from Moloch and Ted, and it makes sense, especially knowing where the story will go, to give Superscience a big intro into the story.

I think there is a lot more going on underneath the surface of Adam's hokey makeup and dated appliances. And season four produces some of the best episodes of Buffy(Pangs, Hush, Something Blue, this year's Buffy bday ep featuring the Ethan and Ripper show, This Years Girl, Who Are You, Yoko Factor, Primeval and Restless are always in my rewatch, while I will skip most of Season Five, yet Glory is my favorite villain), plus I love Beer Bad(and I know, it's JUST me).

As far as Riley goes, Joss & Co don't do jocks well(Ballard so flat, when he turns sideways he disappears from the plot), and part of me has to wonder if that's intentional. In the genres that are being twisted and played with, a good looking strong jawed well built guy would BE the LEAD of the show, not the lead's boyfriend, and I think the attention shown is reflective of the attention typically given to the women who fill that same role.
Constance Sublette
7. Zorra
However, science and technology have always been a part of the Buffy show: Willow, see: Computer girl without peer, science nerd without peer, etc. Recruited by every tech and science program in the Big University Scholarship Race, etc.

Love, C.
Gardner Dozois
8. a1ay
You're right, this episode doesn't really make much sense if you squint
at it, and neither does the rest of the season, really, including, as
I've pointed out before, Adam's Master Plan (of course, it's a Master
Plan dreamed up by somebody who'd never been out of a little room until today, so maybe he can be excused for it being totally unrealistic).

It's in reaction to this (admittedly bizarre, grotesque and convoluted) plan that we get the best line of the entire show: "Does anyone else really miss the Mayor? You know, 'I just wanna be a big snake'?"
Rob Rater
9. Quasarmodo
What was Adam's crazy plan again? All I remember is he got a bunch of vampires to work for him to, what, take over everything?
Gardner Dozois
10. Gardner Dozois
Basically, he was going to get the Inititave soldiers and the captured demons in Inititive headquarters to kill each other, with Buffy thrown into the mix, and then he was going to take the corpses and slice them up and recombine the parts and reanimate the bodies to make an army of creatures like himself, which he was then going to use to exterminate and replace the human race AND the demons of the Underworld. Considering that he could probably make up maybe, what, a hundred creatures from the corpses in the Inititive headquarters, and there are billions of people spread over the globe, and who knows how many demons in the Underworld, this never seemed to me like all that practical a plan.
Rob Rater
11. Quasarmodo
Well, Adam WAS a badass. I'm only finishing up S5 of Buffy now, but Adam comes across to me as one of the toughest foes Buffy ever fought. She never scored a single harmful blow on him over several encounters until she went all Matrix-y at season's end. So if Adam was able to create a hundred more like him, that would be a considerable force. And as they warred, they would add to their forces. It'd take some time, but I'm assuming Adam's plans were long term. He seemed to have the patience for a plan that spanned years or decades.
Alyx Dellamonica
12. AMDellamonica
It's not hard to imagine a Buffyverse overrun with Adam-Terminators. But it's fun to imagine what the forces of good and evil would have found to throw at them.
Gardner Dozois
13. Gardner Dozois
I still don't think they'd have been a credible threat to the human population of the entire world, let alone all the demons too. Sure, there'd have been heavy local casualties, and they might have been able to take over Sunnydale easily enough--but unlike villains like Glory and the Beast, the Adam Army wouldn't have had vast supernatural powers. They're basically just zombies. And as I said before, they're made of mixed human and demon flesh, in addition to the robotic bits, and the flesh bits ought to be easily vulnerable to modern weapons--a flamethrower would toast off the flesh bits, leaving only the metal parts behind, and they're not going to be too efficient as fighters with their arms and legs missing. A heavy caliber machine gun or even an automatic weapon ought to easily be able to tear large chunks of their flesh away, to say nothing of what bazookas and rocket launchers could do to them, basically blowing them back into the various disassembled parts they were assembled from. Look at what a rocket launcher did to The Judge.

To say nothing of whatever the rest of the demons in the world might come up with to throw against them.
Gardner Dozois
14. Dianthus
This made me LOL many times as I was reading along. Thank you. Bad RL stuff makes laughter critical.
Aeryl, it's NOT just you. Beer Bad is one of my favorite BtVS eps, and it doesn't even have Spike in it. Watching Buffy bonk poopy Parker over the head with a stick (twice!) makes me insanely happy.
Gardner Dozois
15. Gardner Dozois
I liked "Beer Bad" too. If you look back at the rewatch that was done for that episode, the general reaction to it was pretty good.
Rob Rater
16. Quasarmodo
The Adam-Terminators (thanks AMDellamonica!) do have a military component to them, and so I would assume that includes military strategy. I can see them targeting major military bases/personnel long before they could get their head around the idea of a supernatural threat. I doubt the ATs plan on marching across open fields, presenting themselves as easy targets. Adam's not going to stand there like the Judge facing a rocket launcher saying "Uh, duh, uh, what's that?"

Anyway, I know I won't convince you, but I guess my point is I can buy Adam's plan as legitimate. Peace out!
Gardner Dozois
17. Dianthus
I think the reason Joss & Co. don't do jocks is b/c, to them, jocks are the enemy. They're big, dumb guys who get all the hot chicks despite being insensitive jerks, or they're the big, dumb guys who only lusted after the hot chicks, and couldn't see past your glasses/orthedontia to appreciate your inner beauty.
Buffy isn't really channeling Faith here. She's just being herself. Asking questions, finding answers...these things are important. Giles taught her that. Forewarned is forearmed, and the more you know about your opponent before you face off, the better. Hell, even Spike knows that.
Plus, the scene with Sore Thumb Buffy serves to underscore not only the difference in approach, but just how different Buffy is, full stop. Even now, if we could see Buffy in a room full of other slayers, she'd be different from the rest. She's the last Chosen One after all, and she rewrote the rules fairly early on. First she had Angel as Cryptic Messenger Guy, and The Scoobies, then Kendra, then Faith, then Spike (the unlikliest of allies), then all the rest.
Alyx Dellamonica
18. AMDellamonica
Gardner--yes. Even more so than the flamethrowers, I can't see the Hellmouth's tougher denizens letting a human-built upstart like Adam get very far, especially when he starts preying upon them.

Dianthus, I'm glad you LOLed. I have to confess the weaker episodes are easier to mock. And yeah, your points about jocks are excellent!
Leslie Arai
19. creepygirl
Re: the demon-detecting spell. Tara may not have liked Willow's arrogance, but I suspect her main reason for not doing it was that at this point, Tara still thinks she's part demon (the lie that her abusive family has told her, which doesn't get exposed till mid-season 5) and the spell would reveal that to Willow.

It's interesting how long Tara keeps that secret from Willow, even after she knows that Willow's dated a werewolf and might not be all that averse to dating a demon.
Gardner Dozois
20. Gardner Dozois
Yes, creepygirl is right. Tara ruins the spell because she's afraid that it will reveal her to Willow as being one of the demons it finds. At this point, she's convinced that she's part demon, and probably afraid that Willow will dump her if she finds out.

Yes, we shouldn't forget that Adam's plan involves wiping out all the demons AS WELL AS all the humans on Earth, one of the many things that makes it not terribly realistic. Bad enough to tackle one, but to tackle BOTH at once...

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