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NEW MOON RISING (ep #4.19)

(a.k.a. Subtext Becomes Text)

Written by: Marti Noxon
Directed by: James A. Contner
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris
Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg
Marc Blucas as Riley Finn
James Marsters as Spike
Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles
Guest Starring: Amber Benson as Tara Maclay
Leonard Roberts as Forrest Gates
Bailey Chase as Graham Miller
Robert Patrick Benedict as Jape
Conor O'Farrell as Col. McNamara
George Hertzberg as Adam
Emma Caulfield as Anya
Seth Green as Oz
Co-Starring: James Michael Conner as Scientist #1
Mark Daneri as Scientist #2
Doron Keenan as Commando #2

Plot Summary

Oz returned and forced Willow to choose between him and Tara.

Plot Details

On their was to a meeting, Tara discussed the possibility of getting a cat, but she wanted to make sure that Willow would not have a problem with that first. The meeting itself discussed nothing, almost literally, becasuse Buffy had hardly found any monsters to kill. Giles thought that Adam might have been involved. On the other hand, the Initiative had been very busy. Willow carefully interpreted every remark to Tara even though Tara could pretty much figure everything out.

At the end, Anya complained about having to meet for nothing. Giles started to chew her out, but Oz entered the room and interrupted. He had just returned to town and wanted to talk with Willow that night. After he left, everyone was uncomfortable, especially Tara.

That night, Buffy and Riley discussed Willow and Oz's relationship. After a brief interruption to neutralize a demon, they returned to the conversation. Riley was shocked that Willow had dated a werewolf. Buffy took his concerns a little personal and got upset, which confused Riley.

Oz took Willow for a walk outside. He wanted her to see the full moon and him as a human at the same time. She was happy for him. He said that Xander told him there was no new guy [emphasis added] in her life, which she confirmed. He wanted back into her life. In the morning, he wanted to boost the romance score for the episode (as if it were not already going to be high), but she preferred breakfast.

She left her dorm and and must have turned invisible immediately, because three seconds after she closed the door, there was a knock. Tara was looking for Willow. Seeing Oz there in the morning caused Tara to jump to a reasonable, if incorrect conclusion. She most definitely did not want to go in. Thirteen seconds after Tara left, Willow returned. Oz mentioned that Tara stopped by.

Buffy and Riley woke up. Riley started doing push-ups, which upset Buffy for some reason. Riley realized that it had something to do with his comments on Willow and Oz the previous night. He saw the fight as good vs. evil, whereas she recognized some gray in between. Forrest came in to interrupt their discussion to say that something attacked Graham's patrol.

Buffy returned to the dorm to talk about Oz. She was happy to hear that Oz had controlled his werewolf tendencies but did not understand why Willow seemed more ambivalent. Willow finally decided to remove the subtext and say that Tara made things complicated. It took Buffy only two guesses to figure out what that meant.

Spike was sleeping when a visitor entered. Spike realized that the visitor was not human, so Spike tried to kill him. It was Adam, so Spike was not even close to being successful. Fortunately for Spike, Adam did not want a fight. Instead, he thought that each could help the other with a problem.

Willow went to assure Tara that she and Oz only talked the previous night. Tara was relieved, but was not confident that Willow would choose her over Oz. Tara said that she would accept whatever happened, but Willow was torn.

For some reason, Willow loaned her sweater to Tara or Willow returned Tara's sweater to her. In any case, Tara was wearing the sweater that Willow wore the previous night, so Oz smelled Willow when Tara walked by him at UC Sunnydale. Tara was very uncomfortable from the beginning of their conversation and became even more so when Oz started to get very suspicious of the fact that Tara smelled like Willow. He got very angry and snarled a threat to Tara as he turned into a werewolf.

Tara ran, with a werewolf in full pursuit. For some reason, she did not do the misty confusion spell she used in "Superstar." Instead, she threw a chair at him just as Riley shot him with a tranquilizer. She tried to tell Riley that it was Oz, but Forrest quieted her down.

Adam explained his plan to Spike, mostly off screen. From what we could tell, he did not want humans completely annihilated. Instead he wanted heavy casualties on both sides. He apparently did not think much of the Initiative's leadership, so he wanted Buffy to lead the human side. If Spike did what Adam wanted, Spike would get his chip out.

Tara sought out Willow in the library to say that Riley took Oz away. Willow immediately met with Giles, Buffy, Xander and Anya. Riley was not answering his messages, so Buffy decided that they were to go in without him.

In the Initiative, Riley was convinced that Oz was the demon who attacked Graham, until Oz reverted back to human. The scientists were eager to perform experiments on Oz and ordered Riley removed when he protested too much.

Buffy was planning a raid on the Initiative, when Spike entered with an offer of assistance. He said he knew how to get into the Initiative while avoiding alarms and cameras. Meanwhile, Riley brought some clothes to Oz and tried to sneak him out, but other Initiative commandos quickly caught them.

Col. McNamara confronted Riley in the brig. McNamara said that he was going to investigate Riley's involvement with Buffy and her friends. The only way to preserve his military career would be if Riley helped to bring them down.

Spike successfully led Buffy, Xander, and Willow to the Initiative. Meanwhile, Adam hooked into the Initiative's computer and Giles and Anya successfully shut down the power grid for the Initiative. When Buffy et al. burst into Col. McNarama's bedroom, McNamara thought that they were there for Riley and let slip that he was in the brig. Xander decided to get both Riley and Oz.

Buffy, Xander, Willow, Spike, and Riley went to get Riley before going for Oz. Initiative commandos surrounded them, but she threatened to kill Col. McNamara. The commandos cooperated and let Oz out. When they finally left, Riley declared himself to be an anarchist and punched Col. McNamara out.

Riley and Buffy hid out in the ruins of Sunnydale High. They decided to split from the others to be harder to find. Riley apologized for his comments about Oz, but Buffy understood, having just found out herself that Willow was in an unexpected relationship. She did take the moment to confess some things about her past, off screen.

Willow and Oz had a conversation in his van. Oz realized that Willow now caused him to lose control. It is not clear who, but one of them made a decision not to be together and the other accepted it without protest. Oz decided that he needed to leave town again.

Tara sat alone in the dark. Willow arrived with a candle. Tara was convinced that Willow came to say that she chose to be with Oz but was very happy to find that Willow made a much better decision. The episode ended with Tara blowing out the candle, just before she and Willow did some things that WB censors would probably not want to show on television.

The Good

I have already gushed once this season about Alyson Hannigan's acting, but there is no good reason for me not to do so again. Even thought it was obvious to me whom she should choose, I understand that it would be confusing for her. She played her ambivalence perfectly.

Instead of stopping gushing about Alyson Hannigan, I will start gushing about Amber Benson. Most actors are extraverts. Amber Benson, herself, has said that she entered acting after realizing in ballet recitals that she liked being the center of attention more than the dancing. It is very hard to play someone as shy and introverted as Tara. Amber Benson does it so well and so naturally that many reviewers think that it is Benson herself who was nervous and unsure of herself. There are very few shy and introverted characters on television in part because there are very few actors can do what Amber Benson does.

I have to give a lot of credit to Marti Noxon as well. Regardless of their talents, Alyson Hannigan and Amber Benson would not be able to do much with a mediocre script. Noxon gave them a challenging script worthy of their talents and trusted them to succeed. Furthermore, this late in the season, episodes need to advance the season arc. She was able to do so without taking too much time away from the main plot of the Tara-Willow-Oz triangle.

The Bad

The ending appeared to go out of its way not to offend those who wanted Willow to be with Oz. It probably would have been better if it were not so wishy-washy and had Willow clearly choose Tara rather than make it look like she simply accepted his leaving. Still, it was well done given that it was wishy-washy. I will discuss this issue further in Random Commentary.

The Initiative is getting more and more ridiculous.

Overall Rank: 24

Action: 3

Riley and Buffy easily dispatched a demon while on patrol.

Oz, as a werewolf, chased Tara until the Initiative tranquilized him.

Comedy: 1

There was an amusing line or two, and the scene in which Willow came out to Buffy was a little lighter than it could have been.

Drama: 9

Oz's return created a great deal of discomfort, especially for Tara.

Willow realized that she would be forced to choose between Oz and Tara, which would greatly hurt someone she cared about.

Tara was faced with the possibility of losing Willow.

Willow came out of the closet to Buffy.

Riley faced a crisis of conscience and decided to rescue Oz.

Riley eventually rejected the initiative.

Willow said good bye to Oz.

Willow finally chose Tara.

Romance: 9

Oz returned and made it clear that he wanted back in Willow's life.

This set up a triangle between Tara, Willow, and Oz, with Willow eventually choosing Tara.

Character Development: 8

Oz spent the last few months traveling the world looking for ways to control his werewolf side. He found a solution that allowed him to remain human despite a full moon, but not if another woman borrows Willow's clothing.

Willow had felt that she was getting her life back together when Oz arrived. After a fair amount of emotional turmoil, she is now officially with Tara.

Tara was convinced that Willow would choose Oz over her, but was very happy to be wrong.

Riley has finally taken a side and rejected the initiative after seeing what the Initiative did to Oz.

Adam has a plan that requires Buffy to be a champion of the human side in an upcoming battle.

Importance: 7

Willow and Tara are now overtly a couple, although Buffy is the only other character to know that, except possibly for Oz.

Riley has left the Initiative and is now a fugitive.

Most Valuable Player: Tara

Many people accomplished something in this episode. Buffy, Xander and Willow did rescue Oz and Riley, but they were doing Adam's bidding, so they miss out on the MVP for that. The same goes for Giles and Anya for knocking out the power grid. Adam deserves some credit for getting Spike to help the rest rescue Oz, but it is not clear how this fits into any of Adam's goals.

The two main candidates are Willow, who ended up with a great girlfriend who has made her happy this season rather than the boyfriend who made her miserable, and Tara, who successfully managed to hold onto Willow. Willow merely needed to make the right decision, whereas Tara had to defeat competition. Despite an unorthodox strategy (see Random Commentary below), Tara gets her second MVP.

Sherlock Holmes Award: Adam

This was a much worse episode for this award. Oz figured out that he should not have come back. However, Adam is going to get this award for masterminding Oz's escape.

Goat of the Week: Oz

There are two real candidates. Oz botched his plan to control his werewolf tendencies completely and failed to win Willow back. Riley failed to rescue Oz and botched his military career. In the end, Riley did manage to get out of the brig and told off his commanding officer, so Oz gets the Goat. I would give consideration to Buffy, Willow, Xander, Anya, and Giles for doing Adam's bidding, but they were not in a position to refuse Adam's help even if they knew that Adam was helping them.

Random Commentary

I am saving most of my comments on all the inconsistencies regarding the Initiative until the Season 4 Summary, but I do want to comment on the experiments on Oz. It is both illegal and unethical for medical practitioners to perform medical experiments on any subject without that subject's informed consent (or the informed consent of a parent or legal guardian if the subject is a minor or unable to give informed consent). An institutional review board must approve any study that involves federal funds before the study may start. The doctors who experimented on Oz would lose their medical licenses and probably spend time in prison for what they did.

I have to admit that if I were counseling Tara, I would not have advised her to follow the strategy she followed to hold onto Willow. I would have advised her to fight for Willow and make sure that Willow knew exactly how much Tara loved her. However, Tara simply stayed back, promised to support Willow no matter what she did, and waited for Oz to blow it. She had a wonderful opportunity when the Initiative took Oz out of the picture. Rather than take advantage of the situation, she instead told Willow what happened in time for Willow to gather the others around for a rescue attempt.

This is an episode that has grown on me. I have seen the episodes out of order, mostly starting with the sixth season. Therefore, I was spoiled on many plot points and sometimes knew when they would occur. I knew that Oz would return in this episode and that Willow was to end up with Tara. As someone who strongly believes that Tara is much better for Willow than Oz was, I was looking forward to seeing Willow tell Oz where to stick it.

Even when I knew what would happen, I often did not know how it would happen. When I first saw this episode, I was disappointed in the ambiguous ending. My interpretation was that Willow settled for Tara when Oz left rather than choosing Tara. With further viewings, I have grown to appreciate the scene in Oz's van. It is subtle enough to allow an interpretation of Willow accepting Oz's decision to leave her or an interpretation that Oz accepted Willow's decision to choose Tara over him. Even if it was not what I wanted, I still have to admire the subtlety of the scene.

I will discuss why I like the Willow/Tara relationship in the Obituary section for the episode if it ends for good or in the Good Byes section of the final episode of the show if it lasts that long. However, I just want to point out here that every episode since "Wild at Heart" in which Tara did not appear, Willow had been miserable over Oz leaving her. In every episode in which Tara did appear, Willow had been happy or upset over events specific to the episode, such as losing her voice. Oz made Willow miserable; Tara made her happy. To me, the choice between Tara and Oz for Willow is a no-brainer.

I find it interesting that many reviewers seem to praise Oz for telling Tara to run during their conversation. The reviewers seem to view this as concern for Tara's safety. To me, Oz was not warning Tara; he was threatening Tara. He was in the middle of a transformation into a werewolf, so I do not hold Oz completely responsible, but he was not acting in Tara's interest in the way that Tara acted in Oz's interest by immediately alerting Willow to Oz's capture.

If I had to choose my favorite line of dialogue across all seven seasons of the show, I would probably choose Willow's "I am" in the final scene. In just two words (and just three letters), Willow was able to communicate everything that was in her heart.


Why has Giles not cast a spell to uninvite Spike into his apartment?

Good Byes

Oz primarily filled the role as a love interest for Willow. This meant that he was underused in another role, that of a male friend for Xander. Xander did have one male friend in Jesse, but he died back in the beginning of the first season. Since then, the only males who have been around very much were Giles and Angel, both of whom were much older. It might have been interesting to see more of Xander and Oz together.

Memorable Dialogue

"We've been busy at the Initiative. Our squads are pulling a lot more captures. We've got demons coming out of our ears." Riley
"That's a metaphor." Willow
"I got it, thanks." Tara

"I'll have the less confusing waffles right now." Willow

"Last night was a wolf moon, right?" Buffy
"Yup." Willow
"Either you're about to tell me something incredibly kinky or..." Buffy

"OK, I'm all with the woo-hoo here and you're not." Buffy
"No, there's 'woo' and 'hoo,' but there's 'uh-oh' and 'why now?,' and it's complicated." Willow
"Why complicated." Buffy
"It's complicated because of Tara." Willow
"You mean that Tara has a crush on Oz? No, you... [eyes grow large] Oh." Buffy

"No matter what, somebody's gonna get hurt, and the important thing is you just have to be honest, or it's gonna be a lot worse." Buffy

"Whatever, you know, happens, I'll still be here. I'll still be your friend." Tara
"Of course we'll be friends. That's not even a question." Willow
"But I'm saying I know what Oz means to you." Tara
"How can you when I'm not even sure? I mean, I know what he meant to me, but he left and everything changed. I changed, and then we..." Willow
"What?" Tara
"I don't know. I just... Life was starting to get so good again, and you're a big part of that, and here comes the thing I wanted most of all, and I don't know what to do. I want to know, but I don't." Willow
"Do what makes you happy." Tara

"The thing about the Slayer is she is a whiny little thing, but when it comes to the fighting, she does have a slight tendency to win." Spike

"You were a boy scout?" Spike
"Parts of me." Adam

"Tara said they took him right before she found me." Willow
"So that's good, right? I mean they probably haven't had time to eviscerate him yet." Anya

"The door was unlocked. You might want to watch that, Rupert. Someone dangerous could get in." Spike
"Or someone formerly dangerous and currently annoying." Buffy
"Now, now, none of that or I won't help you get Red's mongrel back. Bad news travels fast with us demons. We all like a good laugh." Spike

"Buffy, I leave now; I can't ever come back. I just wanted to hear that out loud." Riley

"Stay back, or I'll pull a William Burroughs on your leader here." Buffy
"You'll bore him to death with free prose?" Xander
"Was I the only one awake in English that day?" Buffy.

"You're a dead man, Finn." Col. McNamara
"No, sir, I'm an anarchist." Riley

"I mean, it turns out the one thing that brings it out of me is you, which falls under the heading of ironic in my book." Oz

"No candles? Well, I brought one. It's extra flamey. Tara, I have to tell you..." Willow
"No, I understand. You have to be with the person you love." Tara
"I am." Willow
"You mean?" Tara
"I mean. OK?" Willow
"Oh, yes!" Tara
"I feel horrible about everything I put you through, and I'm gonna make it up to you, starting right now." Willow
"Right now?" Tara

Characters in Peril


Evil Escaped

Police and Guns

Buffy and the Law

Strictly the Caucasian Persuasion

Unusual Pairings

Spoiler Questions

Highlight the space after each question to find the answer. It is strongly recommended that you do not do so if you have not seen episodes through the episode indicated.

This page was last modified on November 25, 2012