Buffyverse Wiki
Buffyverse Wiki

"Primeval" is the twenty-first episode of the fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer television show, and is the seventy-seventh episode in the series. Written by David Fury and directed by James A. Contner, it was originally broadcast on May 16, 2000, on The WB network.


DEMONS ALL 'ROUND — Buffy's estrangement from her friends and Giles threatens to keep the group from stopping Adam's plan to design a master race of human/demon hybrids. Elsewhere, Riley is captured by Adam and learns that before Professor Walsh's death, she had implanted Riley with a chip that could destroy his power and bond him to Adam forever.[1]


Buffy searches for Riley at the Sunnydale High School ruins, not realizing that he has paid a visit to Adam's lair against his wishes. While referring to Riley as his brother, Adam explains that Professor Walsh implanted a behavior modifier chip in Riley's chest, and that he has activated it. When Riley professes his intent to stop him, Adam tells Riley to sit, and he dutifully obeys. Adam continues to explain that Professor Walsh planned for them to be part of a master race that is better than both demons and humans.

Spike enters uninvited, demanding that his chip be removed. Adam tells him that he must draw Buffy into the Initiative before he has met his part of the bargain. His plan is to have Buffy kill as many demons as possible before he kills her. Spike boasts that he has Buffy separated from her friends, now it's just a case of waiting until Willow decodes the disks and passes on the information to her. Just then a flaw in the plan is pointed out by Adam: how is Willow going to pass on the information when she and Buffy aren't talking? Spike, knowing that this mistake could cost him the chance to get the chip out of his head, quickly leaves to fix the hole in his plan.

Willow and Tara stop by Giles' house to pick up her laptop and the disks, and Willow shares an awkward moment with a hung-over Giles after the group-wide spat the night before. Buffy sits alone in her dorm room, looking at an old picture of Willow, Xander, and herself back in high school, and has a quiet moment of reflection before assembling her weapons for the battle to come. Over in Xander's basement, Anya arrives to find Xander still lying in bed, depressed about last night's argument. She tells Xander that it doesn't matter what his friends think, as she believes him to be a good person, and declares her love for him.

Buffy returns to the cave where Adam killed Forrest and finds Adam's lair, but Adam is not there. Adam, meanwhile, leads Riley into a secret area of the Initiative. Riley is shocked to see a re-animated Professor Walsh and Dr. Angleman operate on a body in the corner of the vast underground space. Just as Adam assures Riley that his fate is much greater than Walsh's and Angleman's, Forrest sits up from the operating table, brought back to life with the body of a yellow demon; only his human face remains. Forrest is now completely loyal to Adam, and declares that he's looking forward to using his new powers against Buffy.

Still patrolling the caves, Buffy runs into Spike, who inquires about the information on the disks that he gave to Willow. When Buffy tells him that they haven't been decoded, Spike tells her that even though they have had a falling out, they should still concentrate on decoding the disks. Knowing that Spike wasn't around to see their "falling out," Buffy begins to put things together. Meanwhile, Willow is getting closer to decoding the disks in Tara's dorm room when the disks begin decoding themselves, spitting out information about the 314 Project.

Soon after, Buffy, Willow, Giles, and Xander meet in the middle of UC Sunnydale campus. Anya and Tara, after the previous argument, decide to stay out of the way. Buffy explains to them that Spike instigated their battle of words by spreading rumors to each one of them individually. The gang agree to put it behind them, but there are clearly still bad feelings in the air. Buffy figures out that Adam was planning on releasing demons in the Initiative to kill the soldiers, then using Spike to lure her in to kill the demons, leaving him with hundreds of parts with which to build his new race of human-demon hybrids. When Xander asks if Adam is worried that Buffy will get in the way of his plan, Buffy realizes for the first time that Adam may be too powerful to fear her.

Back in the secret Initiative lab, Riley sits bound in a chair, while Professor Walsh prepares him for his 'operation.' When he tries to talk to her, Forrest informs Riley that she is merely a walking corpse, but that he is more alive than he has ever been, and that Riley will be joining them soon. As Riley tries to tell him that they will never control him, Professor Walsh injects him with a clear liquid.

Back at Giles' house, the Scoobies try to figure out how to defeat Adam. Buffy tells everyone that Adam is powered by his uranium 235 core, however no one is sure how this information can help. Willow suggests casting a spell to paralyze Adam, but it must be recited in Sumerian by an accomplished witch in close proximity to the subject. Xander sarcastically surmises that they need to combine with Buffy, that she'd have the Slayer strength and speed, the magic expertise of Willow, and the linguistic skills of Giles. Much to Xander's surprise, Giles tells him that's actually a very good idea. While they break into Lowell House, Giles explains to Buffy, Xander, and Willow that while the enjoining spell is powerful enough to defeat Adam, it is also very dangerous. Buffy tells everyone to get ready, however this time she isn't intending to sneak into the Initiative quietly and kicks in the mirror hiding the elevator shaft.

As Buffy and Willow rappel down the elevator shaft into the Initiative compound, Buffy apologizes to Willow for what she had said. Willow reminds her that Spike was the one who caused the fight, but Buffy knows that Spike simply stirred up feelings that were already there. Willow tells Buffy that these sort of things happen; when you start college, the old high school gang tends to drift apart. Buffy tells Willow she doesn't want to drift apart, and apologizes for getting so caught up in her relationship with Riley. Willow apologizes for keeping Tara a secret from Buffy and everybody else, and the two friends tell of their love for the other. The two descend to the bottom of the elevator shaft, and no sooner are they down than they begin hugging. Xander follows them down, and when he lands, they gleefully embrace Xander, and tell him that they love him. For the first time in a long while Buffy, Willow and Xander are happy to be together, and the three reaffirm their close friendship.

When the gang pry open the doors, they are greeted by a bevy of soldiers wielding guns. Adam and Spike watch Buffy and the gang being escorted through the halls by Initiative soldiers on closed circuit TV. While Spike thinks that he's mere seconds from getting the chip removed, Adam is angry to see that Buffy's friends are still with her. Spike realizes that he's completely botched up his plan and tries to make a run for it, only to be caught by Forrest. Spike protests that he tried his best, so Adam decides to honor his agreement with Spike to remove the chip by ordering Forrest to tear off his head. Spike puts his cigarette out in Forrest's eye and manages to escape his grip and flee. Adam decides to let him go, since there's nowhere to escape to.

In the Initiative control room, Buffy tries to tell Colonel McNamara that Adam is planning an attack from within his own compound, from a secret lab built for the 314 Project. However, the presence of a magic gourd in their bag, along with his unawareness of these activities, only convinces the Colonel that the Scoobies are crazy. The power goes out and a soldier at the controls informs everyone that backup generators are not responding, locking them all in the compound. From his secret control room, Adam opens the containment units. Buffy urges the Colonel to let her go and escape with his men, but he orders his men to help him take the armory and orders another soldier to keep Buffy and the Scooby Gang under arrest. Buffy immediately dispenses with the soldiers and Willow sits down at the control console.

As they look into the monitor, they see the fierce battle going on throughout the compound. Blood and carnage are everywhere as the demons massacre the doctors and soldiers. Willow finds a system of air ducts that supposedly lead to nowhere. Buffy speculates that the air ducts must lead to Adam's secret lab. In order to perform the enjoining spell, the gang will need to be somewhere quiet and closer to Adam. Therefore the next task is to make it through the war zone outside without being killed.

Buffy, Xander, Willow and Giles make a run through the Initiative trying to get to Room 314. After narrowly avoiding being shot or attacked by demons, they finally make it and find a secret door that leads to Adam's secret lab. Buffy pauses at the door and tells Willow to barricade the door behind her. Xander tells Buffy that he is still uneasy about Buffy going in alone, but Buffy assures him that with the spell, she will not be going in alone. With that, Buffy goes in, and Willow barricades the door. When Buffy enters the secret lab, she finds Riley bound in his chair. She asks Riley to tell her what is going on, but he is unable to speak. Adam comes out from the shadows and orders Forrest, Professor Walsh and Dr. Angleman to kill Buffy. Forrest and Buffy fight; however, she struggles against his sheer strength. During the melee, a beaker smashes near Riley, leaving shards of glass behind. Buffy is eventually grabbed from behind by Forrest as Walsh approaches with a medical saw.

In the other room, Willow, Xander and Giles perform the enjoining spell as Buffy breaks free from Forrest and sends Professor Walsh to the floor with a swift kick.

As Buffy fights Forrest, Riley manages to fight against his body enough to grab a piece of the glass and cut into his chest, painfully beginning to remove the behavior modification chip. He finally rips the chip from his body before getting up and tearing the life-giving tubes from Walsh and Angleman, sending them to the floor, dead once again.

Riley takes over the fight with Forrest as Buffy runs off to find Adam sitting at his system of closed circuit monitors. The two fight, and Buffy manages to break off Adam's Polgara skewer. But, much to her surprise, his right arm transmutes into a Gatling gun and he opens fire in the small room. As Buffy dives behind one of the consoles, Willow, Xander and Giles complete the spell, and their powers rush into Buffy.

Adam blows up the console, but Buffy rises from the rubble with yellow eyes, speaking Sumerian. Adam is intrigued, and sends a long burst of machine-gun fire at Buffy, but the bullets dissolve just inches from her, causing Adam to begin to show concern. Riley and Forrest continue their fierce battle. Forrest grabs a hydrogen tank and raises it over his head near a broken power line to hit Riley, who ducks behind one of the operating tables. As he swings forward, the hydrogen gas ignites, and Forrest is blown into tiny chunks of burning flesh. Back in Adam's control room, Buffy uses the combined powers of the Scoobies to ward off Adam's attacks and Adam finally starts to fear her. Buffy collapses Adam's weaponry telepathically, then in a blistering display of power, gives Adam a swift beating and forces him against a wall. She tells him that he can never grasp the source of her power, but she can grasp his as she pierces Adam's chest with her hand, and pulls his Uranium power supply from his chest. Riley arrives as Adam finally dies, and watches as Buffy levitates Adam's power supply from her hand and dissolves it into thin air.

With their work done, the spell wears off and all Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Giles collapse with fatigue. A demon crashes through the barricaded door and almost gets to Willow, Xander and Giles, but Spike comes up from behind and snaps its neck. Though unhappy that he tried to help Adam, Willow, Giles and Xander decide to spare Spike out of fatigue and the fact that he just saved them. Buffy and Riley arrive, and the gang prepare to head into the battleground outside and save as many lives as possible. Willow asks if Buffy is up for it, and she confirms that she couldn't be more ready as they head out.

In a largely unseen battle, Buffy, Riley, Xander, Giles, Willow and Spike then join with the Initiative's soldiers to stop the demon attacks, saving most of them with only 40% casualties amongst the Initiative. Graham survives while the Colonel is killed.

In an internal debriefing, the government decides to shut down the Initiative for good and remove any paper trail of its existence. They praise Professor Walsh's vision of harnessing demons as a powerful military weapon, but conclude that demonkind cannot be harnessed and controlled in such a manner.


  • In the Angel episode "Blind Date," Cordelia converses over the phone with Willow over breaking encrypted computer files; Cordelia is trying to break into Wolfram & Hart's while Willow is trying to break into the Initiative's during this episode.
  • While this episode takes place less than a day after Angel left Sunnydale, Angel had returned to L.A. before the beginning of "War Zone," which spanned at least four days.
  • Riley receives a scar after removing the behavior modifier, which is visible in "Buffy vs. Dracula" but will soon disappear ("Out of My Mind").
  • Jonathan identified Adam's power source in "Superstar."
  • The invocation of Sineya has serious consequences in the next episode "Restless" and in subsequent seasons.
  • Adam, this season's Big Bad, is defeated and killed in this episode. In a variation unique to season 4, the Big Bad is defeated in the penultimate episode rather than the season finale.
  • Despite Mr. Ward's description, the Initiative was not in fact "filled in with concrete" as Buffy discovers in the episode "The Killer in Me," when she takes Spike there to finally get his chip removed.



Organizations and titles[]





Rituals and spells[]

Death count[]

  • 40% Initiative casualties, killed by the demon prisoners freed by Adam (only mentioned).
    • One scientist and a soldier, killed by demons.
    • One soldier, bitten by a vampire.
    • One scientist, neck snapped by a demon.
    • One scientist, killed by a tentacled demon.
    • McNamara, killed by a demon.
  • One demon, shot by a soldier with a fire weapon.
  • One demon, shot by Graham with a fire weapon.
  • Maggie Walsh and Francis Angleman (reanimated), life-giving tubes torn out by Riley Finn.
  • One demon, shot by McNamara.
  • Forrest (reanimated), exploded with a gas canister by Riley.
  • Adam, uranium 235 core torn from his chest by Buffy (possessed by the combined power of the Scoobies).
  • One demon, neck snapped by Spike.

Behind the scenes[]


  • The line "See what you get for taking French instead of Sumerian?" was changed from "See what you get for taking Spanish..." after Nicholas Brendon remembered established continuity.[2]
  • The "super-Buffy" was inspired by the comic book heroine Promethea.[2]
  • Bob Fimiani, who portrays Mr. Ward in this episode, also appears on Angel as the unidentified groundskeeper in the episode "The Prodigal" and as Glith-roo in "Heartthrob."
  • Douglas Petrie describes the style of the episode as a mix of the secret agent James Bond series and the science fiction action film The Matrix.[3] Buffy's performance of the spell that protects her from Adam's bullets is particularly reminiscent of Neo stopping bullets coming in his direction in the 1999 film.
  • In "This Year's Girl," Buffy compared Adam to The Terminator (1984). The film features the titular cyborg making its first kill by punching through the chest of a punk (Brian Thompson) and ripping his heart out. Here, Buffy kills Adam using exactly the same method.


  • "Primeval" had an audience of 3.4 million households upon its original airing.[4]

Deleted scenes[]

  • Willow and Tara discuss Willow's computer hacking skills:[5]
    Willow: "I'm scaring you now, huh?"
    Tara: "A little. In a good way. It's like a different kind of magic."

Pop culture references[]

  • Spike describes Buffy entering the Initiative as "Alice heads back down the rabbit hole," a reference to the story of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
  • Spike refers to Buffy as "Nancy Drew," the fictional sleuth character from mystery novels.
  • Giles compares Adam's plan to the Trojan Horse, the device Greeks used to infiltrate Troy and win the war, around the 12th century.
  • Spike describes watching the Scoobies on security cameras as "Must See TV," a slogan used by the NBC for its primetime blocks since 1993.
  • Spike says to Adam "Let's not quibble over who failed who," a reference to the quote "Let's not bicker over who killed who" from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975).
  • Xander criticizes Colonel McNamara's plan to incapacitate Adam by comparing it to Duck and Cover, a Cold War era film and slogan regarding how to respond to a nuclear attack.


  • During the scene where Xander is lying in bed naked, the length of the sheet covering him changes between shots throughout the scene.
  • In the fighting scene between Forrest and Riley, Riley gets thrown over a table. In the next shot, you can see the chest-belt under his shirt (the thing with a wire to pull him back in the next shot).
  • When rappelling down the elevator shaft, the close-up shots on Willow show that the rope isn't moving, revealing that the two actors are actually being lowered from above on fixed rigs; true abseiling involves traveling down past the rope (so you would see the rope move through their hands as they travel down its length).
  • When Buffy and Willow group-hug Xander, one camera angle shows Willow's right arm outside Buffy's left, while the opposite angle shows it inside, so as the view switches back and forth, so does Willow's arm.
  • As the Scoobies are trying to make their way through the fighting on the main floor, a man is flung into the center opening; you can see him land on a large, inflated mat.


International titles[]

  • Armenian: "Հնադարություն" (Invention)
  • Czech: "Prvotní" (Primeval)
  • Finnish: "Alkusumu" (Initial Fog)
  • French: "Phase finale" (Final Phase)
  • German: "Das letzte Gefecht" (The Last Stand)
  • Hungarian: "Őserő" (Ancient Force)
  • Italian: "Forza primordiale" (Primordial Force)
  • Japanese: "原始時代" (Primitive Era)
  • Polish: "Pradawny" (Primeval)
  • Portuguese (Brazil): "Primitivo" (Primeval)
  • Romanian: "Primitiv" (Primeval)
  • Russian: "Изначальность" (Primacy)
  • Spanish (Latin America): "Primitivo" (Primeval)
  • Spanish (Spain): "Primigenio" (Primeval)


  • David Fury and James A. Contner provided the audio commentaries for the episode.
  • A Buffy the Vampire Slayer action figure was produced based on Buffy in this episode.
  • The scene where Adam releases all the demons in the Initiative from their cells in order to fight the soldiers is similar to a scene in Joss Whedon's later work The Cabin in the Woods, where two of the main characters release all of the monsters in an underground complex in order to cause a battle between the complex's security forces and the monsters.


Promotional stills[]

Behind the scenes[]



Buffy: "This isn't your business. It's mine. You, the Initiative, the suits in the Pentagon... You're all messing with primeval forces you can't begin to understand. I'm the Slayer. And you're playing on my turf."
Xander: "Spike's working for Adam? After all we've done — Nah. I can't even act surprised."
Spike: "What's with him?"
Adam: "I activated his chip."
Spike: "Oh. So it's chips all around, is it? Someone must've bought the party pack."
Willow: "Must be programmed to self-decrypt at a certain point. That is so annoying! It's like somebody blurting out the answer to a riddle just when you've... I mean, yippee! We have the information."
Ward: "Maggie Walsh's vision... was brilliant, but ultimately unsupportable. The demons cannot be harnessed, cannot be controlled. It is therefore our recommendation that this project be terminated and all records concerning it expunged. Our soldiers'll be debriefed. Standard confidentiality clause. We will monitor the civilians and usual measures prepared should they try to go public. I don't think they will. The Initiative itself will be filled in with concrete. Burn it down, gentlemen. Burn it down, and salt the Earth."


  1. "The Mortuary." Buffy.com. Archived from the original June 9, 2001.
  2. 2.0 2.1 David Fury and James A. Contner. The Complete Fourth Season on DVD; audio commentaries for the episode "Primeval." [DVD]. 20th Century Studios, June 10, 2003.
  3. "Doug Petrie, Buffy producer's inside guide." BBC. Retrieved on October 1, 2022.
  4. "Nielsen Ratings for Buffy's Fourth Season." Nielsen Ratings for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, & Firefly. Archived from the original on July 6, 2008.
  5. "Primeval Script." BuffyWorld. Archived from the original on July 25, 2019.