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(Transcript): BtVS 4.07 'The Initiative' Audio Commentary by Doug P.

25th August 2009 (23:22)

It's a while since I last posted one of the DVD commentaries, and I know my plan was to only do the ones Joss did, at least to start with. But thios one was specially requested, and I had some spare time, so this is Doug Petrie talking about 'The Initiative'. And referring to Riley, Graham and Forrest as the "homoerotic fashion-spread patrol", which is a phrase I feel doesn't get nearly enough usage in fandom.

Enjoy.

 


Commentary on BtVS 4.07 'The Initiative'


Hi, I'm Doug Petrie and I wrote the episode titled 'The Initiative' which you are about to see and enjoy.

[Previously on 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer']

These are cuts from previous episodes, the first six episodes of Season 4, showing how Riley has entered Buffy's life; and Maggie Walsh is obviously going to be very, very evil; and Spike got in trouble, as he often is. And there's commandoes on campus! Scary commandoes. What are they doing? Nobody knows, but we're going to find out in this episode.

This episode is called 'The Initiative'. It was originally called 'Secret Agent Man' but we thought that was a giveaway.

[An attractive female UCS student carries a tray of food across the cafeteria]

She actually worked in the 'Buffy' office and, I guess, they cast her because she has a really nice body. But she's gone, now, and she actually has a small part in 'Jerry Maguire'. If you watch  'Jerry Maguire', when Tom Cruise gets fired, she laughs. So everybody liked that girl.

[Riley and Forrest are sitting in the cafeteria. Riley is grading papers.]

And here's Marc Blucas as Riley. He's really the Jimmy Stewart of the 'Buffy' universe, he's this big square doof. And I love that he's correcting papers and he's ignoring Buffy.

[Buffy has an accident with the drinks machine.]

This was hard too, getting the physical comedy of Buffy being a big spaz - because she's got Slayer reflexes. But we just went with the broad comedy of the yoghurt machine and the soda machine all kind of overflowing on her.

And here's Riley's best friend Forrest saying "Come on, tell me you don't like this girl", and he's like "Gosh, she's peculiar." Which, you know, the biggest giveaway in romantic comedies ever.

I always wanted to do Buffy kind of like John Belushi in 'Animal House', just eating Jell-Os and eating pizzas and eating hamburgers and stuff, and putting Jell-O and pizzas *on* hamburgers and eating those, just because the Slayer would have that kind of appetite. But not gonna happen. So we had the yoghurt machine overflow.

[Graham joins Riley and Forrest at their table]

This guy's named Graham Miller. Graham Miller was a really good friend of mine in college. And originally I wanted him to be as large as the real Graham Miller, who was this huge Canadian football player. And these are Riley and his two guys, kind of the comic relief. And right now as far as we know all they are is they're frat boys, they're fraternity boys. And the big question is "What is Riley really?" because everybody's got a secret in the ''Buffy' universe. And we're going to find out what his secret is.

Originally the title of this episode was 'Secret Agent Man' but we might as well have called the episode, "Oh My God, Buffy's New Boyfriend Is Actually A Secret Agent', so we changed it to 'The Initiative'.

[Cut to Spike lying in his cell in the Initiative]

And here we have James as Spike in an environment we've never seen. And what I like about this is that 'Buffy' has always been dark and magical and supernatural. This is our first foray into 'The Prisoner' or 'Star Trek' or science fiction. We've never done straight up sci-fi on the show before. Or sky-fi as I would call it. And here it is. Where is he? Big mystery. And Carey Meyer, our set design guy, did an awesome job with this. And here's a little 'Star Trek':

[Spike touches the glass door of his cell and receives an electric shock]

Touch the gate and 'Bzzt!". You know, that's straight out of 'Star Trek'. I loved when you were in the brig in 'Star Trek' there was no door keeping you there. There was just electric bolts.

[Wide view of the Initiative cells]

And here we see a bunch of vampires in this long corridor. Now if you look on the right-hand side of the screen you'll see... well, if you rewind and go back you'll see that it's actually, literally done with mirrors. You know, people give a wise-guy answer in Hollywood, they way "Oh, it's done with mirrors." That was literally done with mirrors, that set was half as big as it looked.

[Opening credits]

You know what I love about the opening credits? Faith and Buffy dance together even though Faith has been off the show for a while. Wait, it's coming, it's coming...

[Alyson's credits]

Alyson Hannigan, who is a doll...

[Scene from 'Bad Girls' of Faith and Buffy dancing]

There we go! That's just fun. And it's over now.

[James's credits]

And James really grew on the show. This is where... I love working with James. I think he's just a great, great guy and a terrific actor. Just can do anything we throw at him. This was the first time that I really got to know James and it was really my pleasure. I was around on set when they were filming the scene with Spike and Willow later in the episode, which became a fan favourite.

Act One

[Giles and Xander are bored]

Here we've got Giles and Xander kind of sitting around bored because there's no action. Which I really like. And Nick is just funny, and these two are just funny together, and we got to give them some scenes together later in the episode. I just love the monster fighters are bored, and they miss Buffy.

And I think Contner directed this. Contner was like kind of our James Bond guy, he did great big action-packed episodes extremely well, and this is one of them. This was our first James Bond episode of 'Buffy', so that made me very happy. It's part 'James Bond', part 'Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.'

[Buffy comes in and sees the picture of a commando Giles has been sketching]

We're also trying to point out this guy is just a guy. It's not part of Buffy's world. She turns down the assignment of going to look for this guy because it's not supernatural. And that really sets up the whole season; these guys are just human beings delving in the supernatural world. And that's not part of Buffy's world and not part of Buffy's responsibility. And that's the tension throughout the season. The Initiative are a well-funded secret agent op.

[Doug Petrie's writing credit comes up on screen]

This is my favourite part, the 'Written by Douglas Petrie' part. I keep pressing the producers to make that in neon and have the letters jump around on screen and play John Philip Sousa music. But they promised they'll get back to me on that.

And Sarah's very cute here talking about going out to find something slutty to wear.

[Back to Spike in his cell]

And here we are. I was a big fan - and Joss was as well - of the TV show 'The Prisoner' as a kid. It was a very creepy 60s science fiction, very Existential show. And a lot of 'The Prisoner' shows up in this. Who are your captors, what's it all about, the mystery of it. The creepiness of it.

[Spike gets delivered lunch]

It's hard to deal with blood on the show. This is one of the few times that we actually had a packet of blood that you see it. Well, actually, when Angel was getting fed at the warehouse, we did that a lot too. But it's always creepy to see actual packets of blood. It reminds you how horrible these guys are.

And this is one of the first times we've seen vampires as victims. Which I like; you kind of see that something's worse than vampires here. Whoever's keeping them is worse. So there's a lot of mystery - I hope - in this episode. "Who's keeping us here? The Nazis, a major cosmetics company?" We were just taking a gratuitous slam at cosmetics companies because they were testing on bunnies at the time this episode was written. Bastards.

Also we had a big argument - not really an argument, but a discussion - about how heroic Spike should be. And I was dead wrong, because I was saying Spike was going to escape from this later in the episode, and I thought, "Well, this is hard to do because it makes him seem heroic." And Jane Espenson at the time was saying "No, no, he should seem heroic!" and I was like, "No, Spike's the villain, he shouldn't seem heroic." And Joss Whedon came in and said "Newsflash: he's heroic in this scene. He's gigantically heroic. He's James Bond escaping from Blofeld."

[Buffy and Willow are in class]

Buffy with her stupid pen. She's supposed to be the most brilliant tactician on the show and she's just barely struggling through her freshman year in college.

[Willow asks Riley why he didn't read out Oz's name in class]

And here we've got Aly dealing with missing Oz, the way we all missed Seth Green. It was sad, Seth Green left the show. We really liked him, he was a great, great character, Oz. But now he's gone, and we had to deal with that. She says he's going to be back soon, but she knows she's wrong.

And here we've got Lindsey Crouse, who was a big coup to get. It was our first big name, I think... well, John Ritter. So it was our second big name on the show. Lindsey Crouse did a bunch of David Mamet movies, and was married to him for a while. She did 'House of Games'. She's a major actress, so getting her was a big deal.

And I liked writing her dialogue. Every condescending professor I ever had, I got revenge on by writing this thing about being "Neither a freshman nor a narcissist". What a bitch.

["You know, for someone who teaches human behaviour you might try showing some"]

And Buffy sets her straight. Which is kind of fun too; Buffy's standing up to her, Riley looking on. So you get... what's fun about writing for this show is that you get to do a bunch of things at once. So here you get to show that Buffy's heroic, you get to show that Maggie Walsh is very strict and could go either way; and then you get this kind of mom and son relationship here. Where Maggie is...

[The camera focuses on Riley's floppy hair]

God, he needs a haircut. ...But Maggie's kind of a Mom figure to Blucas, and he likes Buffy.

[Giles and Xander are preparing to go out monster hunting]

Xander... I almost forgot Xander used to be a commando guy. We had to deal with the fact that he, two Halloweens ago, became a commando by virtue of the fact that he was dressed up as a soldier, and he inherited all military knowledge of a soldier of that degree. And we didn't know if we wanted to keep Xander that super-powered for that long. And here... I think it was David Fury came up with the idea, "It's been two years, shouldn't the spell be wearing off by now?" And the answer is yes.

And Xander's living in his basement. We knew he wasn't going to stay in his basement forever, but this was him at the height of his most pathetic and lost. He's living in his basement, he's living in 'Waynes' World', and he's not even a commando anymore. He's protesting too much, he's saying he knows how to do this, but he really doesn't.

[Xander's mother shouts down to him]

"Yes Mom!" (*laughs*) I lived in the basement for a long time, I lived in a basement throughout my senior year in high school. And - haha- Giles wants the fruit punch.

[Riley and Forrest are discussing Buffy's scolding of Professor Walsh]

This was a scene that Joss really had in mind from the beginning. He knew that - and here, spoiler alert! - he knew that Riley was going to punch somebody. And we wanted to have him do that, and I like that.

[Forrest asks Parker about Buffy]

And here we have Parker, whom everybody hated. Everybody just hated this guy, because he slept with Buffy and then he blew her off. And we put it in a little bit casually, but man! The fans responded to that. That's just something you do not do. And this guy's good at playing just a total creep. He looks like he's surrounded already. You know he's going to get punched. And here Jimmy Stewart gets pissed.

[Riley knocks Parker to the ground]

And there it is. He didn't like the way he was talking about Buffy. But we'll find out later that for Riley to punch a guy is wrong, not just for the reason that punching people is wrong - which it is - but also because he's got a secret and he can't be... he can't have his cover blown. So it's extra-dumb for Riley to be drawing attention to himself and punching people. Which we'll find out later.

And here he's figuring out he loves Buffy. You big dope. It's classic romantic comedy stuff. And these guys are like the Shakespearian characters who help you figure out what your heart really means when you can't figure it out yourself. You know, we do Shakespeare with rayguns in the show. Can I say that? Okay. I'm checking to see if I can say dirty words on this, so yahoo! I can. I'll be cursing like a sailor.

[Spike starts his escape from the Initiative]

And here's where we go into full-blown sci-fi again, which I really enjoy. This is really well-shot, I have to say. I love the colour scheme. We've never seen the 'Buffy' world look this sterile before, and I think that the director and the set designer and the lighting guys just did a brilliant job. As they always do. This was just a little bit new for them.

Ah, Spike's faking it. He's got to see a girl.

Act Two

[Fight! Fight! Spike hitting people!]

Now this is the first time... this is a little tricky. This is the first time that we establish - and we don't know yet - that when Spike hits somebody he gets into serious searing pain. This was a very difficult thing to sell the concept of, and we don't really get into it specifically until the beginning of Act Four. This is the beginning of Act Two, for those of you at home who like to know what act is when. This is the top of Act Two, as we say in the business. The 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' writing business.

See, that punch should have hurt Spike a lot. If he hits a human being he gets hurt. This was - you know, we 'Clockwork Oranged' Spike.

[Spike frees another vampire, and they dive under the closing doors to get out]

And that guy who's running out - he was part of Sunday's gang. Here's the big heroic moment. That's total James Bond stuff. And again, anybody who knows 'The Prisoner' will know this... oh, gasmasks. There he goes again. So yeah, he had a big heroic moment. I really like that Spike got that. Again, one of the fun things about writing for 'Buffy' is that you get to do all these different things. It's not a comedy, it's not a romance, it's not an action show, it's not a horror show, it's not a sci-fi show, it's not a soap opera, it's not a coming -of-age story; it's all of those things.

[Riley comes to talk to mopey!Willow in her room]

And this is Joss Whedon's vision adding yet another layer, where here you've got heartbroken Willow, because Oz has left her. (*laughs, then puts on silly voice*) The chocolate poster in the background. It's so girly. And Riley's such a man. (*normal voice again*) Riley's really lost in the world of girly empowerment.

I'm going to get in trouble for saying "girly empowerment", I think. I don't think it's a phrase that's going to catch on.

I like this. Buffy's bag of weapons is lying there; and will Riley see them, will he not? And Willow's doing this... she's heartbroken, and she's not sure about this guy, and she's hiding Buffy's secret identity at the same time. Everybody's got a secret on this show. And he's such a gent. He helps move the bag of weapons without looking to see that it's a bag of weapons.

We also liked the very real-life application here that what Riley is doing is kind of... it's a little Machiavellian. He's not a dope. He's going after Buffy through the best friend. If you can get the best friend you have a better shot at getting the girl, is the idea. I don't know if that works with girls too, if they get the guy's best friend to be interested. Because if girls do it with guys, then the guy's best friend will just want to sleep with her. Guys are disgusting. As Willow is talking about here.

This was a fun monologue to write. And then you see Riley's got a little bit of a sense of humour.  He says "Yep, that's the plan!" You know, he's self-aware. I don't think we've ever done just a straight-up square before on the show. What I liked about working with the character Riley and the actor Marc Blucas is that we started him out as just such a cornbread Iowa square, and then what we came to is that he just got darker and darker and darker, and the world he's in gets darker. He was this big highfalutin' American metaphor where he realises the government he works for is dirty and he has to question his own team. There were a lot of big political metaphors going on there. Is the Initiative getting into its own Vietnam, and that sort of thing.

And he's still just a college guy who wants a girlfriend. So. But he's genuinely liking Willow. We had to be careful with these scenes because the chemistry between these two was so good, a lot o the fans thought "Oh! This is going to be the twist, it's going to be a Riley/Willow romance. Which would have been an interesting way to go. And then Buffy could have been all jealous that Willow got the guy that was intended for her. But the chemistry between these two was great, and there's a party scene later on where they really click.

But I think I could watch Alyson Hannigan read the phone book and be charmed. We should try that. We should give her a scene where she just gets a phone book and see if it works.

Ah, this was shot... this was a set that we built on just the...

[Harmony puts up a poster of a unicorn on the wall of her lair]

Poor little Harmony with her unicorn poster. ... You know, it was just a standalone set, a regular set that we built, a dorm room for Buffy that is ten times the size of any freshman's dorm room ever.

Now, Mercedes who plays Harmony is an incredible actress. And the thing that she does so beautifully is that we write these scenes for her that are strictly comedy, and we're kind of making fun of the character because she's such a boob. But when she plays the scenes she brings the real pathos to it, and you find yourself really caring about her getting her feelings hurt. She's a brilliant actress, she really brings these nice, nice layers to it. And Harmony and Spike and their romance - or whatever you want to call it - is just hilarious. And they really nailed it.

It's just such a weird pairing; these two do not belong together. But it gives the actors a lot to play. And she's so in love with him, and he's just the worst boyfriend ever. He was a lousy boyfriend to Drusilla and he loved her; and this is just kind of so beneath him. But the sex is great, so he sticks around. He's a bad guy. And I love the way he gave Harmony a dirty side. "She's just going to slap you around; I could do that!"

[Giles and Xander are out hunting for commandoes]

This scene got cut way short, which I'm very happy with, there was a long, long scene here. And this was originally supposed to be Martin Sheen's narration from 'Apocalypse Now'. We just literally quoted him talking about "Somewhere out in the bush, Charlie is waiting". And the scene went on forever, but we just ended it with Giles saying "Oh, shut up!" and it got a huge laugh.

[Buffy and Willow arrive at a frat party]

And here's the big party scene. When we shoot these party scenes the extras have to dance to the same song for like seven hours straight. I don't know how they don't go completely insane.

Yeah, I wish we had some pretty actresses on the show. And Sarah, in case you're watching this DVD that was sarcasm. You are very, very pretty.

[Willow gives Riley his final target briefing]

I love these two together. I actually had that shirt for a while. It was very weird, I was wearing that shirt and then I saw Blucas wearing the shirt when they were filming it. I thought, "Wow, I'm just like Riley!" And then the writers, producers, cast and crew all reminded me that no, in fact, I'm not. They were right, of course. He's just cooler. But I love watching these two together.

["I will beat you to death with a shovel"]

Alyson can do just about anything. And I love that she's... even though her own heart is broken, she's protective of Buffy. And there's a moment here... look, she's so sad, and she's alone, and she's at a party even though her boyfriend left her, and she's just great. There's a moment later too where...

[Riley comes over to chat Buffy up. Badly.]

Okay, here he's just being a big doof, which I love. 'Buffy likes cheese' is the big piece of information he has. The only time you can get a punch line involving cheese. Big funny. Big fat funny.

[Xander on patrol finds Harmony setting fire to Spike's things]

This, the fight scene that's about to come, is one of my favourite all-time moments on the show. And again, Xander regained his dignity in a huge way later on, but he did have to lose his dignity first. And here's where we realise that he has lost all his commando fighting skills. And I love their tough-guy dialogue, and the way it's shot like it's going to be the fight of the century. They're both so cool.

(*laughs*) You know, you never deal with the way people actually fight, and this is kind of how I think any of us would actually fight if we got into a fight. And what the director did that was brilliant is that it's this stupidest fight ever, and then he goes to slow motion. And when we saw this we just lost it. It's the greatest worst fight ever. We never had people fighting badly ever. I love this giant spastic stalemate. "Let's both just stop! Let's both just stop!" "Okay!"

Yeah. Real fights, in real life, never look as cool as fights on TV or in movies. I think that was the most realistic fight we've ever done. Aww, poor Xander. But again, you get to do a lot of things on this show. Nothing is done randomly. It wasn't just a comedy scene, he gets this vital piece of information that Spike is back.

The other thing we learned about Mercedes is that we always played Harmony as kind of a joke, but she's really beautiful, and she really can play this kind of sexy part really, really well. So she's bringing all these levels to it. She's hurt, she's sexy, she's lonely, she's sad, she's dangerous... she's alone.

[Back at the party, Riley is moping next to Willow on the sofa]

And here I love watching these two after we've struck out. This was... I stole this from... Joss is very ambitious, as we all know, and he said something about he went home to his wife and said "I failed", and she said "But honey, you failed the most!" And here I have Willow saying "But you failed really, really well!" Riley's not used to failing in anything. He's kind of this golden boy, and now he's losing Buffy.

And this was the scene where we had to be a little bit careful, because we thought it looked like these two were going to get together.

So this was Blucas at his most pristine. And remember, we still think he's just this frat boy, he's just this college guy. There's a moment her that I love, where Willow hates the song. Now watch where Riley brings his finger across his throat, and he instantly gets results. And that little moment, that's what I love about Blucas and what he does so well, is that when he's the guy in charge it's just boom! He's in charge. He's just this great big all-American star. Which is a great thing to be.

We're thinking of bringing him back in Season 6. Let's see... it is now Halloween 2001. Hopefully we will be bringing him back very soon. We don't know. For a single episode. But we just don't know.

[Riley tries to talk to Buffy again]

And here he gets back into it, and we all know this feeling. He's trying to get the girl's attention, just can't. Buffy doesn't know what to make of this guy. Also, he's a big guy, he's like 6'1", 6'2", and Sarah is, you know, is a little person. Littler person. Again, Sarah, if you're listening to this, you're very pretty. The size difference was just great.

[Xander comes in to tell Buffy about Spike being back]

And here we love playing the misunderstanding. You know, it's classic romantic comedy stuff, the misunderstanding. He thinks that Xander's the boyfriend. And again you get these two Shakespearian characters: "you blew it. We know what your heart wants. You don't know what your heart wants, and we know that we can see the bigger picture. But he's determined.

[Riley, Graham and Forrest get into the elevator to the Initiative HQ]

Now this was straight out of 'True Lies'. This was the big moment that the whole episode was built around and my favourite part. This is where we see what's really going on with these guys. And 'True Lies' has a scene like this where Tom Arnold and Arnold Schwarzenegger are talking abut domestic issues while they go into this giant secret chamber. And I love the casual stuff that these guys have. The big elevator, we've never seen a set like this before. And they never say, "Hey, we're secret agents!". They're not talking about secret agent stuff. That's the fun part.

'One girl' is his voice identification words, which I really like, because that's what's on his mind.

[They enter the Initiative]

This was filmed at Skunkworks, about an hour, I think, south of LA. This was where they actually built the Stealth Bombers. So if this looks like a giant James Bond government installation set, it's because it's filmed in a giant James Bond government installation set. They weren't really practicing on demons. And I love the giant white ball in the background, it's straight out of 'The Prisoner'. And here we see these guys are experimenting on demons, and these big wide shots of the whole scope of the place. And this is where the place really looks huge. And we've never seen anything like this on 'Buffy' before.

And again, those giant white balls in the background are not only an homage to 'The Prisoner'... Ah! Maggie Walsh! Look! She's so evil! Evil mom. You know, we've done evil parent figures before; she's like the evil mom. ... Oh, those giant white balls are not only a 'Prisoner' homage but also they're used for lighting. They shoot those up in the sky, they float those up in the sky and light them, and you get this beautiful moonlight at night. So. Now there you go, a little Hollywood inside stuff.

You know, and we've never seen people with Kevlar vests and commandoes and science. This is really... Season 4 is all about Science versus Magic. And the Scooby Gang is all about magic and these guys are all about science. And the way you'll see the season progress...

I love that, you know? You can't go wrong with a bunch of commandoes on a moving cart with their big machine guns. It's all wonderfully phallic. This is straight out of 'The Spy Who Loves Me'-- '...Who Loved Me'. That's nuts. 'The Spy Who Shagged Me'. And here we see... this is where I loved Blucas. Riley giving commands, he's so good at it, and he just looks so good in that outfit. He's cool.

But the science versus magic thing is what the whole season's about, and what's great about this is that these guys really look like they have their act together, and that they know what they're doing and that they're on top of things. And the Scooby Gang, who uses magic, are falling apart, and will continue to fall apart throughout the season. But at the very end of the season magic wins, which I think is kind of fun. The science doesn't work, the magic does. Because that's what our show's really all about.

[The Initiative commandoes go out looking for Hostile 17]

It's almost like we're taking a field trip to another TV show. This is very different for 'Buffy'.

[Buffy, Xander and Giles discuss the Spike situation]

And this is more what we're used to. Putting together Scooby Gang scenes in Giles's apartment. And I love it... I never noticed at the time but Nick is kind of dressed up in his pseudo-commando gear. It's almost like he wants to be one of the Initiative guys but he hasn't found his place in the world yet. But do not worry, fans. When Xander does find his place in the world he's going to do a lot better than any of the Initiative guys ever did. They just think they have their act together, but they don't.

I love that he gives her a flare gun. Like it's the most useless thing in the world, but again - it could be exposition! That flare gun could show up later. I'm bettin'.

That's a great dress. And I love that all the other guys are wearing Kevlar and stuff and Buffy's in this slinky dress.

[Spike looks at the university computer records system]

We kept going "How does Spike find Buffy, if he can't hurt anybody?" Well, he can hurt property. He can do property damage. And here's the bit - oh, these are all people who work on the show, by the way. These are all crew members. And here's the Barbra Streisand line:

["Hello, gorgeous"]

There's my little homage to Babs.

[The Initiative commandoes are still looking for Hostile 17]

And again here we're in an episode of 'Secret Agent Man' or something. And these guys have their, like, tricorders and... I think we have a close-up somewhere here of the gear that these guys get, the hardware.

And here again we're trying to do classic screwball romantic comedy. Buffy is sending herself out there as bait because she knows that Spike is around, so she's just waiting for the badness. And then you get these guys having their conversation. And this is very Clark Kent/Lois Lane stuff in the scene that's coming, this is one of my favourite scenes in the episode, where basically you've got two people, each of whom have a secret, trying to get the other to leave without blowing their own secret. And not knowing that the other person has a secret that's equally large.

And here we want to establish that Riley's the guy. "Did you just pull rank on me?" "You got a problem with that?" He's the boss. And we've even got the costume changes of Superman and Clark Kent. He's got to get into his civilian gear. Everybody's got a secret.

And here's where he comes off as like this sexist doof. And Buffy gets pissed. But she seems weird too, because she's protecting her own secret. This was a fun scene to watch get filmed. He's a very tall man. (*laughs*) When she tells him to "Shoo!"

I know that Blucas since the show has gone on to a lot of things - there's the tricorder! - He's in a John Sayles movie, he was in a Kevin Smith movie. I think that a lot of people saw him on 'Buffy' and liked what they saw.

[Willow's alone in her dorm room - but not for long]

Now there were a lot of rumours on the Internet that Willow was going to be killed, and so we played with that. And the point of this scene  - this is the end of Act Three for you act structure freaks - the point of this scene at the end of Act Three is that you really think this is going to happen. And we played it out and gave it the time and space it needed. And it's really horrible. We had to go really dark. But don't worry, we will be comedic after the act break.

But I was saying - if we really were going to kill Willow, how would we do this scene? And this is how we did it. This is what we would do if we really were killing Willow.

Here we go hand-held, and it just gets more violent. And there's a rape metaphor here too that's... it's very disturbing. This is horrible.

[Spike goes to bite Willow, and we cut to the corridor outside]

And this shot was very important, to really establish 'Willow's been killed'.

Act Four

[Spike's had a little performance problem]

And this is my favourite scene in the episode, where we learn what's wrong with Spike. The metaphor is obvious. It's his first bout of sexual dysfunction and he just can't handle it. And we thought, "How far can we go with this?" You know, the "I can't get it up" metaphor. And the answer is, "About as far as we can possible go."

So he tries again, it doesn't work. And you actually wind up feeling kind of sorry for the guy. And Willow kind of winds up feeling sorry for the guy. And trying to help him with his dysfunction, until she realises that the thing he's dysfunctional with is killing her, so she just clocks him on the head with a lamp.

I think the highest compliment I could possibly get was when Aly read this script Joss came down to the set, and she said to Joss, "This is great, you did a great job writing it." And Joss said "Thank you." And he told me about it, laughing, later, and I ran down to the set. "No! I wrote the scene, I wrote the scene!" Joss writes or re-writes just about everything, he's absolutely brilliant. But having him say thank you for something, three words that I actually wrote; highest compliment I know. I remember getting a laugh out of Aly that day.

And her we get her self-loathing coming out. Again, there's just layers upon layers. And you have these two great actors doing the scene. You really can't go wrong with James and Aly in a scene together. And he admits that he was attracted to her, as a victim, for a while. And when he talks about the outfit that she wore I actually had to go back and find an outfit.

The stage direction there is "He gives her a knowing look", and James really nails it. You know, for a big... (*laughs*) he's so funny!... for a big, broad comedy scene there's actually a lot of subtlety in this. And these two actors are just knocking it out of the park. And could she possibly be more adorable? And the answer of course is no.

[The commandoes are outside using their scanners to find Spike]

We were trying to figure out too for these guys how their technology works; and one of the things was that everybody has a body temperature. And he says something about "We got a cold one". You know, Spike is room temperature. Spike is not 98.6 degrees.

Now this was tough too, because they have to maintain that they have these secret identities, and that their secret identities are preserved throughout the episode. So we had to put Riley in this commando gear so Buffy couldn't see him; and then how he doesn't see Buffy is another issue.

[Willow hits Spike with a lamp]

And here Willow figures it out, and gets the hell out of there. But there's an automatic lockdown on all the dorm doors. UC Sunnydale is rigged by the Initiative, so they can lock all the doors at once.

[The commandoes enter the blacked-out dorm]

You know, here we were highly influenced by a movie that had come out recently. I won't say it was 'The Matrix' but... it was a foreign film called 'The Flatrix'. This was a very, very, very Matrix-influenced fight scene. We don't do the stop-motion stuff but there's one line in particular that's an homage - or as I like to call it, a rip-off. And this was a nightmare to film. This was before I knew as much about production as I came to learn. And you have a giant gas canister explode and the hallway fills with gas - really hard to film. Don't write that! But they did it. There's a fire extinguisher about to go off.

And even here it's planted where Riley is breaking away from the others. And you know, you can't keep Spike. This is a very complicated fight scene too because you've got your commandoes, you've got a vampire... I love this stunt here. But having a hallway filled with smoke, it is easy to write - and in comic books, easy to draw. But very, very difficult.

[Buffy fires the flare gun]

And here this, you know, "Contain this!" That was a CGI effect, by the way. That was the big 'Flatrix' rip-off. I hope the producers of 'The Flatrix' are not watching this. This is a very complicated fight because you've got three players. You've got Spike, you've got Buffy, you've got a vampire - oh, Spike is the vampire. You've got Spike, you've got Buffy, you've got the commandoes.

And this is also what I like about 'Buffy'. It's classic romantic comedy - I love the way he pushes the smoke away as he goes out - classic romantic comedy where in a classic screwball romantic comedy from the 30s when they fight at the end, they're like verbally sparring. And in our show when they fight, they're slamming each others' heads into telephone racks and breaking chairs over each others' heads.

So he can't see her, she can't see him. They don't know who they were fighting. Lights back on. And later on in the episode when the commandoes are debriefing, one of them says, "Whoever this guy was, he was big." Which I really like, because it's Buffy.

[Maggie debriefs the commandoes]

So we kind of really are planting... I mean, come on. How cool does Blucas look with his hair slicked back and his shirt sweaty? He's just cool. So all the stuff is planted. These guys are in over their heads, and Buffy is cooler than they are. But who's in charge of this situation? Who's controlling the situation? All this stuff is... these are the seeds for Season 4, all laid out here.

And here at the end you've got Maggie Walsh talking down to the homoerotic fashion-spread patrol. There they go. Evil Mom! Something bad's going to happen to her. I can just feel it.

[Riley meets Buffy next day]

And here you've got - they don't know. They're still lying to each other, and their lies will continue until episode 10, when they find out about each other. Episode 10, a little number we like to call 'Hush'.

And here's the big pay-off, where he finally gets to break through to the girl he finds peculiar. You know, a little victory for Jimmy Stewart. Nothing wrong with that.

[Executive Producer: Joss Whedon]

And that's our episode. Hope you liked it.

 

Comments

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 26th August 2009 01:19 (UTC)

It was the really defensive way he said it that got me. :-)

I wonder if Sarah (at that age) was over-sensitive or easily hurt by criticism?

Posted by: The One Who Isn't Chosen (gabrielleabelle)
Posted at: 26th August 2009 00:13 (UTC)

And here we see... this is where I loved Blucas. Riley giving commands, he's so good at it, and he just looks so good in that outfit. He's cool.

I ship Doug/Riley. Yep.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 26th August 2009 01:19 (UTC)
riley-unliked

You read the bit where he even admits to dressing in the same shirt as Riley?
:-)

Posted by: The One Who Isn't Chosen (gabrielleabelle)
Posted at: 26th August 2009 01:40 (UTC)

Oh, even better, I laughed openly at that bit when I watched the commentary for the first time.

Oh, the great Doug/Riley love affair. It just wasn't to be.

Posted by: Going through the motions (rowanda380)
Posted at: 26th August 2009 18:15 (UTC)
not so random commenter

I haven't seen you use this icon, it made me laugh out loud.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 26th August 2009 18:44 (UTC)
Re: not so random commenter
initiative

:-)

It's not really an icon I get many opportunities to use...

Posted by: eowyn_315 (eowyn_315)
Posted at: 26th August 2009 00:14 (UTC)

God, if you did a shot every time Petrie gushes about Riley and/or Marc Blucas, you'd be smashed by the end of the episode, lol.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 26th August 2009 01:25 (UTC)
riley-unliked

I actually think you'd be even drunker if you took one whenever he gushes about Alyson.

But then again, everybody loves Aly, so it's not so noticeable. People being enthusiastic about Marc/Riley are thinner on the ground...

Posted by: eowyn_315 (eowyn_315)
Posted at: 26th August 2009 15:11 (UTC)
pompous

You know there's only one way to resolve this, right? One person takes Aly, the other takes Marc, and we see which one's drunker by the end of the commentary. :)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 26th August 2009 16:04 (UTC)

Next time I'm in Washington DC I'll make sure to bring a copy of the transcript. ;-)

Posted by: eowyn_315 (eowyn_315)
Posted at: 26th August 2009 16:08 (UTC)

No need - we can just watch the DVD. :)

Posted by: Denita (menomegirl)
Posted at: 26th August 2009 00:40 (UTC)
Smile: Marc 5 Riley 2

Thank you for posting this. The Intiative is one of my favorite episodes! I never got to hear any of these commentaries and it was nice reading about someone who appreciated Marc Blucas and the character of Riley as much as I did.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 26th August 2009 01:26 (UTC)
cordelia-yourewelcome

Even I liked Riley's character arc in S4. :-)

Posted by: lusciousxander (lusciousxander)
Posted at: 26th August 2009 05:02 (UTC)

I'm glad one of the writers actually likes Riley. I mean no one complains when most of the writing cast gush over Willow and Spike.

Thank you for doing this! I have the S4 DVD, but I don't remember having the commentary for this episode.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 26th August 2009 12:00 (UTC)
initiative

I'd heard people commenting before on how ... enthusiastic Doug gets about Riley, so I was actually quite surprised when he spent most of the commentary being enthusiastic about Willow, and Buffy, and Faith, and Spike, oh, and Riley too. Like you say, I think it's just that all the commentaries gush about the other actors, but it's rare for anyone to do that about Marc Blucas...

Posted by: Emmie (angearia)
Posted at: 26th August 2009 21:25 (UTC)

He was a lousy boyfriend to Drusilla and he loved her

He was a lousy boyfriend to Drusilla? Never heard that complaint before. Comments? Reactions? That surprised me.

Oh, Doug. Your love for Riley will go on and on and on.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 27th August 2009 00:50 (UTC)

Well, Spike did torture Drusilla.

Also, he clearly couldn't satisfy her sexually in Season 2, because she turned to Angel first chance she got. ;-)

Posted by: Denita (menomegirl)
Posted at: 27th August 2009 03:15 (UTC)

That comment sort of bugged me because that's not how I percieved the Spike/Drusilla relationship at all.

Also, he clearly couldn't satisfy her sexually in Season 2, because she turned to Angel first chance she got.

Well, to be fair, Spike *was* in a wheelchair at the time.

Posted by: sueworld2003 (sueworld2003)
Posted at: 27th August 2009 10:28 (UTC)

"That comment sort of bugged me because that's not how I perceived the Spike/Drusilla relationship at all."

You and me both love. *g*

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