Buffy 3×13: The Zeppo

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: Dan Vebber | Director: James Whitmore, Jr. | Aired: 01/26/1999]

In one of the most unique episodes of the entire series things that are normally important to the show are made meaningless. Most episodes of BtVS and television in general adopt a standard A-B plot scheme (sometimes it’s A-B-C). The A plot is always the focus of the episode; the most important thing. The B plot is usually some small character issue that’s relegated to the background. It seems obvious that the A plot of this episode is going to be this pending apocalypse, but very quickly we start to notice that something is very wrong and it appears to be the fault of the director. The apocalypse thread isn’t getting the screen time it would normally warrant and instead the entire episode is about Xander! It turns out the A plot is Xander’s journey for self confidence and the B plot is an apocalypse via the hellmouth. This is weird and twisted stuff which will make for a different review. Instead of hitting on specifics I think I’m just going to let my thoughts flow as they come and see what happens.

There’s one scene in particular which sums up the entire episode, and I’m not sure yet if it sums it up in a positive or a negative way. This moment is when we jump in the middle of a melodramatic moment between Buffy and Angel crying about death and impending doom. Then Xander walks in, asks if he can help, then walks off and lets the melodrama continue. I think the intent is to let the audience mock and laugh at all the Buffy and Angel angst we’ve had to endure this season. While this is amusing to me on some level I kind of feel awkward about mocking what the show’s like some of the time.

I think there’s an important distinction I must make between this kind of Buffy and Angel angst and the bunch we usually see. In this episode, we come into the middle of the melodrama. We don’t know what’s going on, we don’t understand their motivation for feeling as dire as they do, so there’s no way we can sympathise with them. This gives the viewers of the show a chance to stand back from the usual fare and get a genuine chuckle at their angst. I don’t think I need to feel bad about laughing at Buffy and Angel here. If I dropped into the middle of a big sequence of Romeo and Juliet without any explanation of their motivations, I can be assured that I’d probably find it equally ridiculous and laughable.

So I think with that distinction better laid out I can appreciate this episode more. We somehow are able to ‘mock’ the series without actually mocking it. That takes some careful writing and directing to pull off, so kudos to writer Dan Vebber and director James Whitmore Jr. Fortunately, the fun ‘mocking’ ploy isn’t even the core of the episode. What we also get is so much character development for Xander that the impact won’t fully sink in for many years to come.

While I really enjoyed seeing Xander’s personal adventure I think it still could have been done a lot better. Having reanimated corpses be the catalyst for this ride is ultimately too corny to work. There are some genuinely amusing lines, sure, but the added corniness is not necessary to get the point across. I like what happened with Jack before the corpse stuff started and the ending bomb scene could have still been pulled off had Jack been human. This is the biggest mistake of the episode.

Early on Xander tries to convince Buffy and the gang that he’s useful in their weekly demon skirmishes. He obviously doesn’t do a very good job because everyone agrees to keep Xander out of the fighting for a while. The next day Cordelia amusingly lets her fury loose on him in a way that reminds us of her S1 days. She obviously has personal motivation to be snarky with him for what he did to her. Buffy later sends Xander to buy donuts for the group and that doesn’t help matters either.

All of this leads Xander on a mission to discover what the “essence of cool” is. His first subject is Oz, who as Xander points out, is “more or less ‘cool’.” Oz doesn’t seem to be able to provide Xander with any concrete answers, but Xander does come to the proposal that being cool means having a ‘thing;’ something that people can identify you with. Fast forward a bit and now we see “car guy” Xander. He thinks that maybe this stylish old car will make him ‘cool.’ Well, in some ways it does. Right away an attractive blond girl comes onto him and wants to go riding around in the car. He ends up taking her to the Bronze where he then sits there bored out of his mind. Xander gets a taste of being ‘cool’ and discovers he doesn’t like it at all. He is so bored of hanging out with a ‘cool’ person that he even jumps up in excitement when Angel walks in and wants his company!

After some crazy antics with some reanimated corpses Xander eventually picks Faith up after a fight and they head off to her apartment. This is where Faith’s logic kicks in: fight with no kill leads to sex. So she comes onto Xander and he doesn’t do much to resist. I must admit that I’m a bit surprised Xander would have sex with someone he doesn’t know very well. Sure he got excited about her stories about being nude and rassling aligators in “Faith, Hope, and Trick” [3×03] , but this is a big jump from that. We saw Oz show sexual restraint with Willow in “Amends” [3×10] , but I guess Xander’s the type who will have sex with just about any girl who jumps on his lap and isn’t under a spell. I can’t say I respect him for that but it does make for some amusing future storylines (Anya in S4 for example).

Xander learns things about himself and he has a growing confidence within, but it takes him a long while to fully seize that confidence and lets it rise to the forefront. We see this again and again from this episode to “The Replacement” [5×03] to “Hell’s Bells” [6×16] . Xander shows a moment of self confidence here when he confronts Jack in the basement of the school and gets him to defuse the bomb. He shows even more maturity when he doesn’t feel the need to tell the Scooby Gang what he did and again when he lets Cordelia’s snarky comments go without a response. It’s important to realize that this is just a temporary attitude, at least in this episode. People don’t change overnight, it takes time and many reminders before we finally “get it.” This is what happens to Xander throughout the series as he slowly does ‘get it.’ I feel that by S7 he finally begins to grab a hold of his life and lets that confidence he’s always had inside him finally play a more prominent role in his personality. Lets not forget that by series end he’s still only in his early twenties. Buffy’s cookie dough speech in “Chosen” [7×22] applies not just to her but to all the main characters.

This is a unique episode that dances on some very fine lines and comes out mostly successful. I’m not a fan of the reanimated corpses plot thread but everything else ranging from the A and B plot swap and Xander’s moments of self confidence all sit well with me. On top of all that there are some fantastic lines given to Xander which constitute some of his best in the entire series.


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Willow doing spells to help the gang fight.
+ The episode essentially pushes the apocalypse storyline to the background.
+ Oz eating Jack at the end and then being “oddly full” the next morning.
+ The werewolf howl.


[Score]

85/100

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65 thoughts on “Buffy 3×13: The Zeppo”

  1. [Note: robgnow posted this comment on April 15, 2007.]

    Here’s my only problem with this episode, but its a big one. I just can’t buy the premise that Buffy would push Xander in fray-adjacent territory this late in the series. If this episode had happened in S1 or better yet (since there was better writing then) the beginning of S2, I’d be fully on board.

    Rob

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  2. [Note: Ausitn posted this comment on August 23, 2007.]

    Yes but then it would have been akward because willow wasn’t a witch, oz wasn’t part of the gang yet, but by placing the episode here, we are left with only xander being powerless, which is a big part of his confidence issues he has to work out in this ep. This is really the only time this worked because soon anya comes into his life and he is not as alone anymore.

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  3. [Note: AeC posted this comment on September 14, 2007.]

    I just rewatched this the other night, and about midway through, I thought, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in Sunnydale” (perhaps “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead” would have been more apt). It doesn’t remotely parallel Stoppard’s play, but I do wonder if the “minor character in the A role” aspect was in some part an inspiration.

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  4. [Note: Austin posted this comment on October 5, 2007.]

    My Favorite Quote from this ep and one of my all time favs is this:

    Xander: But gee Mr. White if Clark and Lois get all the good stories, I never be a good reporter!

    Giles: Huh?

    Xander: Jimmy Olson Joke sir, pretty much gonna be lost on you.

    Giles: Sorry

    Xander: It’s OK

    and then later

    Cordelia: You must feel like Jimmy Olson

    Xander: Yeah, I was just talkin’ to Gi-Hey!

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  5. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on October 24, 2007.]

    This is a very unique episode and that´s one of the reasons I find this so amusing. Everything in this episode is seen through Xander´s perspective and I like it. Everything is so exaggerated like the apocalypse stuff or the scene between Buffy and Angel. Very funny.

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  6. [Note: Plain Simple posted this comment on November 29, 2007.]

    I also didn’t like the raising of the dead part very much. It also creates some continuity issues with later parts of the series.

    The mask at the beginning of S3 resurrects the dead, but only as brainless zombies and also in S5, when Dawn resurrects Joyce she comes back as a zombie who is not really her anymore. The only time I think someone was succesfully resurrected except for in this episode, was Buffy in S6, but that costed a lot of effort and knowledge of magic. So much even that when Willow later tries to resurrect Tara it fails. But in this episode everything seems so simple!

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  7. [Note: Kyarorin posted this comment on March 16, 2008.]

    I think that the difference between what Jack did here and what Willow does later in the season is because Willow actually cares about the state of Buffy and Tara (meaning that she wants to ressurect them as human). Jack and his gang don’t care about that, so they don’t bother to do it the formal way. And about the brainless part, well, Jack raised a bunch of undead frat guys. Is there really much of a difference? XD

    And the reason Willow couldn’t ressurect Tara was because it was part of natural human events, while Buffy’s was the result of a mystical hell-portal thingy. Also, Osiris’s urn got broken, which technically means that Osiris can no longer be properly invoked in raising the dead.

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  8. [Note: Ianu posted this comment on March 18, 2008.]

    About the mocking that you mentionned earlier on in this review, one thing that I’ve always liked about this series is its ability to make fun of itself. There are things the writers stick into this series that is purely for that function, which is why I didn’t even think of feeling bad when I watched this. My favourite example of this is the Xander (I think) and Anya dialogue in Potential:

    Xander: A slayer. Makes sense, I guess. Remember that thing about they share the same blood or whatever?

    Anya: Yeah, I never got that.

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  9. [Note: Llinnae posted this comment on June 12, 2008.]

    This is a higly amusing episode (like others I love it when the writers mock themselves!)but my only complaint would be that since the episode is based mainly on Xander’s search for self-confidence (as with other episodes ex. “the Replacement”) i think that it would be made all the more better if Xander actually did get more confortable in his own skin as the series progresses. On the whole I see a slight change in character, but does Xander ever build much more confidence?

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  10. [Note: Nix posted this comment on June 30, 2008.]

    Hang on. Something doesn’t make sense here.

    The Hellmouth is directly under the library, right?

    But… the bomb in the basement was directly under the library.

    So is the basement part of the Hellmouth? It didn’t look terribly Hellmouthy, if you ignore the menacing bastard with a bomb and the werewolf. (And boyoboy can he ever project menace.)

    (I suppose the other interpretation is that the Hellmouth’s depth in realspace is tiny; that it wanders off into a hell dimension almost at once. Or perhaps I am, yet again, overanalyzing this.)

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  11. [Note: Rekidk posted this comment on November 23, 2008.]

    What I found most interesting about this episode was the feeling it created. It’s hard to describe, but it’s something like this:

    People live DIFFERENT lives – as one person does one thing and has one experience, another person is doing another thing and is having an entirely different experience. An event which majorly impacts one person’s life might be unimportant in another’s life.

    Seeing the Hellmouth storyline from an outside perspective (in which the pending apocalypse is, frankly, unimportant) is fascinating to me, and the ‘different people have different experiences’ thing is summed up in the closing scene where Xander chooses not to share his adventures with the Scoobies.

    I know this is sort of echoing the statements everyone else has made, but I thought I’d just throw my two cents in. =)

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  12. [Note: Sanjuro posted this comment on November 30, 2008.]

    This might be the most quotable Buffy episode there is, because none of it relies on context. There’s the Jimmy Olsen, the “Is this a penis metaphor?”, “I’ll call ya!” as the girl runs away terrified, “There was no part of that that wasn’t fun,” and my personal favorite:

    Jack: You didn’t squeal. That was decent of you. I like you.
    Xander:…Yay?

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  13. [Note: Paula posted this comment on December 15, 2008.]

    Is the bit with Xander (nearly) being forced to join a gang a nod at the movie American Graffiti, I wonder? For all I know the plot device has been in more generic use, but there are a lot of similarities between this episode and Curt’s adventures in the movie – which also covers the goings-on of one night, as it happens.

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  14. [Note: Emily posted this comment on March 21, 2009.]

    How come it took only a few seconds for Bob to rise in this episode but it takes Buffy hours to claw her way out of the grave?

    I really don’t like this episode.

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  15. [Note: Christian posted this comment on June 30, 2009.]

    I agree with Nix, I also noticed that flaw with the bomb being right under the library. I supposed the hell mouth demon was emerging…. well, from the hell mouth… so shouldn’t that mean that its lower half went through the basement?

    Still, all in all a good episode. Xander isn’t my favorite character but I think this was entertaining. The scene between Faith and him was pretty hot lol.

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  16. [Note: Selene posted this comment on July 8, 2009.]

    Several flaws with this episode. Buffy doesn’t want Xander near the fights because he might get hurt, but doesn’t care about whether Willow gets hurt? Yes, she’s learning magick but she’s far from proficient as she herself admits, so shouldn’t Buffy worry a little about her, too?

    Also, not only the having sex with Faith thing that Xander does, but have what appears to be unprotected sex? Very bad message to send there.

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  17. [Note: Freud posted this comment on April 30, 2010.]

    @Selene: Faith has had quite a few casual one-night-stands, and she out of all people doesn’t want to get ‘up the spout’, so you assume she is on the pill or has a box of protection. It’s like how Rory’s uniform in Gilmore Girls doesn’t change. That’s because it distracts from the story if you include these things. e.g. a summer and winter uniform.

    But I do agree with you, it is a stupid message, and assuming things can have dire consequences. So actually, thanks for pointing that out.

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  18. [Note: fray-adjacent posted this comment on May 24, 2010.]

    Love this episode, and I totally think of it as BtVS’s nod to “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.” In that story, the epic drama of Hamlet, in which his choices have dire consequences, is contrasted with the tale of “ordinary” Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, whose lives seem largely subject to random events and are well beyond their control. The absurdist storytelling and ridiculous (and very funny) dialogue in R&G are Dead illustrates this. What happens when you apply this absurdism to the Hellmouth? Xander ends up running around with an undead ne’er do well, who was previously threatening to kill him, who raises his dead buddies to bomb the school and catch up on Walker Texas Ranger. But at the end, Xander reclaims his ability to shape events — he might be Jimmy Olsen, but he can still make a difference.

    @ Selene: I agree, my only problem with this episode is that Xander has put himself in danger numerous times. He’s stakes tons of vampires, why does he all of a sudden need to be “fray-adjacent”? They do this with Willow a few episodes later in “Bad Girls”; suddenly Willow, who fought an open hellmouth, can’t face a few vamp minions and one gross demon?

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  19. [Note: Han posted this comment on July 11, 2010.]

    I have to say that I really did enjoy this episode. I like it when BtVS doesn’t take itself too seriously. One thing I wanted to add was about your interpretation of the Buffy Angel scenes. I actually thought this was very clever as it shows us Xander’s perspective of the relationship. We don’t know what’s happening in these scenes and so they appear ridiculous and over-dramatic. If this is Xander’s perspective all the time (especially as Buffy doesn’t confide in Xander when it comes to Angel) then it helps us understand his attitude towards Angel. OK, he is definitely jealous of Angel and so doesn’t like him (that’s basically a given!)but I think this episode shows us that he doesn’t really understand their relationship and so he finds it hard to empathise with Buffy in the way the viewer can. I think this is also the case with the original very short ‘previously on’ at the start. We are only shown what has affected Xander or at least the only important development he has noticed. His outsider status helps to build sympathy for him or at least gives some context for his more mis-guided actions, because at times he can’t understand the behaviour and attitudes of his friends.

    Apologies, I didn’t mean to go on for quite that long and if you are still reading this then congrats!

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  20. [Note: Steph posted this comment on August 6, 2010.]

    I completely agree with Han. Those were my thoughts exactly about Xander seeing the Angel/Buffy relationship. Not only was the melodrama good for humor purposes, but it’s a brilliant way to see what Xander probably sees.

    LOVE this episode. In fact, any episode dedicated to character development is fun to watch in my book. The only thing I didn’t like was Xander suddenly sleeping with Faith. Maybe it was the fact that Oz was showing restraint in sleeping with Willow in their relationship so much so that it made Xander seem kind of slutty (imo). I don’t know. Early season Xander kind of gets on my nerves. At some point, he was acting jealous of Angel because of his semi-crush on Buffy while he was flirting and kissing with Willow behind Cordelia’s back. It seemed like he was attaching himself to every core female that showed up. Once he finally got into a more or less established relationship with Anya, I found myself liking his character a LOT more for some reason.

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  21. [Note: Andrea posted this comment on August 10, 2010.]

    Okay, LMFAO @ Xander walking in on what would have been a mayjah Buffy/Angel scene on any other night!! Angel is CRYING for goodness sakes! The writers are totally poking fun at the B/A melodrama here.

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  22. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on August 21, 2010.]

    The Good:

    “Giles, I don’t need to see the math.”

    “Just two guys rassling…but not in a gay way.”

    The make-up is fantastic, especially on the guy who was thrown off the bridge.

    Xander and Faith do ‘it’ in a very romantic scene. I found it romantic enough. Go Xander.

    The Buffy/Angel scene. So funny it hurt to watch.

    Xander the tough, together guy who saves the day. He probably saved Buffy and the gang.

    Not caring what Cordy thinks.

    The Bad:

    Again the incredibly small crucifix necklace that she has had for a while now.

    The Hollywood bomb timer that counts slower than real time.

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  23. [Note: dr. horrible posted this comment on August 26, 2010.]

    I love this episode. From Xander’s point of view pretty much every episode is like this (minus the bomb plot.) The grave digging part was silly but I was ok with it and the, “hey, you raised me man,” scene was hilarious.

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  24. [Note: John Roberts posted this comment on October 7, 2010.]

    I adored this episode. Making Xander the A plot and the Apocalypse to End All Apocalypses the B plot was brilliant. It threw me utterly — always a good thing, and quite tricky to do now that I’ve seen 45 episodes or such. Plus, frankly I couldn’t stand yet another Apocalpyse. BtVS has already had one too many of those already thanks much. OK about three too many.

    Even more, it was an episode starring Xander and I quite enjoyed what I was watching. Let me repeat: It was an episode starring Xander and I quite enjoyed what I was watching.

    Because … I loathe that guy. I don’t like the actor, I don’t like the clothes, I don’t like the character (whiny, self-centered, selfish, dull), I don’t even like the name. Xander makes me wince. For good reasons, petty reasons, and no reasons at all. He’s my peeve. But dang it, Xander was genuinely funny in this episode. Even at times intelligent. I had fun watching the young lad.

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  25. [Note: Jason posted this comment on October 7, 2010.]

    I agree, this was a very tricky episode, and they really pulled it off.

    John, I hope you come to warm to Xander, despite everything that makes you wince. He has no special powers; he’s always off to the side– but he watches, and he knows things, and he has a great heart.

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  26. [Note: John Roberts posted this comment on October 8, 2010.]

    I may well warm to the character, sure. He’s gotta get better from here than the one who lectures Buffy 24×7 for her alleged faults. (She should have let the Praying Mantis eat you, ungrateful boy.)

    As a side note, I think Whedon should have used a younger actor. Nicholas Brendon was 26 years old when the series began and muscled like no 16 year old (except those on steroids) is muscled. Thus, he doesn’t strike me as a scrawny unpopular teenager who might someday grow literally and figuratively into his body — which seems to be how the character is written. More like, a guy whom the impressionable HS girls would be swooning over.

    Now Oz, he looks the part.

    No big deal, just saying.

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  27. [Note: Osiris posted this comment on January 1, 2011.]

    Hey, John Roberts, Xander was 16 in Season 1. So he’d be 18, or close to turning 18, in The Zeppo. It’s not uncommon for 18 year olds to be as muscled as Xander is in this episode.

    It’s not a jump to conclude that Xander, in all his non-superpowered glory, would start working out after becoming a member of the Scooby squad.

    If you take how muscled he is in Season One’s ‘Nightmares’, however, then you have a good point. We see in Nightmares that Xander at 16 was already buff – which, I agree, takes some believability out of his situation.

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  28. [Note: RebeccaAnn posted this comment on January 3, 2011.]

    I noticed after Xander & Faith have sex, Eliza looks remarkably like Charisma Carpenter, the hair, the eyes, the make-up. I have no idea if this is intentional or not, but it seems as though, if you include the moment of post-coital affection between them, Xander wishes he was doing that with Cordelia yet Faith is the next best thing to it.

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  29. [Note: Buffy Lover posted this comment on June 14, 2011.]

    I find the ambivalence expressed about this episode in this review odd. I think “The Zeppo” is a fantastic episode that totally shakes things up with a brilliant narrative trick. It’s one of the best of the series.

    Why so concerned with whether the scene where Xander interrupts Buffy and Angel is “mocking” the show? The angst between Buffy and Angel can be good and powerful, but it also gets tiring at times, and it’s OK to laugh at it occasionally. In fact, that makes it all the better. One of the show’s greatest strengths is that it never takes itself too seriously.

    I think Xander as a character is definitely deserving of some of the criticism expressed in other comments, and it makes perfect sense to be annoyed at him. Regardless, what this episode does for him and it’s structure are just downright brilliant and wonderful to behold.

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  30. [Note: The Audacity posted this comment on September 5, 2011.]

    I think it’s great that people have noticed Buffy’s tendancy to hide her boyfriends from the group. They dont see or hear about the emotional moments like we do so they dont have as much information to form balanced opinions of them. I think this is the first episode that really highlights that and it’s a running theme throughout the series. Xander is not usually there to witness tender moments like the one he saw in this episode and thus has developed negative feelings toward Angel. (Well that and he’s jealous of anyone dating Buffy for more personal reasons of course.)She hid her relationship with Spike from everyone for such a long time, in fairness because they wouldve judged her for it, and then got repeatedly upset when people didnt understand her tolerance towards him. It seems people tend to forget that the characters in the show dont automatically know what we know. This is, I think, why so many people were mad at Giles for helping Wood try to kill Spike but if you take into account only what Giles has seen, Spike becomes a much less forgiveable character.

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  31. [Note: R Martin posted this comment on October 13, 2011.]

    Such a fun episode. besides being mainly about xander there is a lot going on in the writing of other characters and how they feature. I loved Xanders odyssey and any guy who watches it may see some kind of paralel to losing one’s virginity in such an unexpected adventure of a night. i’m sure the audience is having as much fun as Xander.

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  32. [Note: meh posted this comment on October 23, 2011.]

    One of my favourite episodes in the series. I like how it does things differently than most episodes, even on this series. Xander losing his virginity is dealth with exceptionally well here, in the fact that it’s done, it’s over, and unlike Buffy’s experience, there’s no swooning or mad love or tears. In that respect, Faith is the perfect person for Xander to lose his virginity to.

    One thing that did bother me though, is that they tack the end of the world to so many plots, that, while I admit that here it was effective, it gets kind of tiresome as the series progresses. It makes you wonder why there’s a world at all, if it’s so easy to destroy it week after week. On the other hand, it works wonderfully in this episode where by the very raising of an apocalypse, the show is laughing at itself for raising so many apocalypses (apocali? apocalypsy?) that it becomes mundane, and even conversations like the one at the end where Buffy tells Giles that what he did was the bravest thing she had ever seen are kind of, well, for lack of a better word, meh.

    Also, yay for Xander, he saved the world again! by diffusing the bomb, he gave the other Scoobies a chance to fight the monster, saving the world with the power of his mouth!

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  33. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on January 10, 2012.]

    At last something that is Xander centric. There have been a few; The Pack, Inca Mummy Girl, Go Fish (maybe) Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered (which was awesome) but this is something different, like you pointed out Mike; Xander is the A plot.

    Xander has also been a favourite of mine in the inner scoobies; more so than Willow but less so than Buffy and Giles. I love this episode because it speaks about identity and trying to assert one self and trying to do the most difficult think of all; fitting in.

    I know that Xander doesn’t have any super powers but his being pushed out by Buffy and the others is a little of bass; harsh in some respects. He saved Buffy’s life in season one, he has fought along side her and stood up to Angelus, he even went under cover as a Go Fish! So poor Xander!

    It has some funny scenes which is why i love it so much, the above point is my only ‘issue’ with it

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  34. [Note: Odon posted this comment on February 6, 2012.]

    Why is it so surprising that Xander would sleep with Faith? He’s an incredibly horny 18 year-old male (as has been pointed out more than once), and Faith is drop-dead gorgeous and a Slayer to boot, surely the next best thing to Buffy. Oz turns down Willow because of his self-confidence (the elusive ‘cool’ factor that Xander was trying to identify); that and the fact that he already has sexual experience means Oz doesn’t have to prove anything. Xander turns down Buffy and Willow because they’re under a spell, but we can hardly blame the guy when, after years of fantasizing, the opportunity finally arrives.

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  35. [Note: Zed posted this comment on March 18, 2012.]

    Any weirdness or inconsistencies with the episode could be attributed to the narrative being focused around Xander and his perspective. My key example: The melodramatic love scene between Buffy and Angel. Yes, I agree with the reviewer that this made things awkward for the show since it was mocking what the show is like most of the time. I even found that it gave me an excuse to get ‘over’ Buffy…she is cool but I can’t relate to her much and find her kind of a drag most of the time. I think it’s because SMGeller is a weird actress who flits between great emotional expression and line readings and incredibly stilted and jarring ones that constantly have me on the fence on whether I should take the acting seriously or chalk it up to lower budget UPN/WB production…

    anyway this scene is cheesy, but Xander probably finds all of buffy’s relationship with Angel to be incredibly over dramatic and silly. If this was Xander’s show and the main characters were shifted to more supporting roles, we would definitely see this kind of shift in characterization…the kinds of things that are important to Xander (like Cordelia’s digs at him which come up quite a few times and begin and end this episode) and the things he doesn’t take too seriously or understand due to his inability to completely take part or influence (Angel/Buffy, end of the world sequences..)

    I actually think that this would have been a great example for the series to follow if the writers really wanted to stretch the possibilities and expression of their characters. Imagine similarly done episodes in which Giles, Oz, or Willow not only get central billing plot wise but the tone actually fits their character–the chance to see what a show called “Willow:burgeoning witch and key friend/helper to the Slayer with subconscious homoerotic undertones” or “Oz: He’s a werewolf, not a fighter” or “Giles:Badass Brit watcher who slowly assimilates to American Culture.” This could be done poorly, as in certain episodes with too distinct of a tone so that we start to dislike certain ones or too predictable motifs that annoy us…what would be more effective is a subtle in and out that gives us not just the plot but also perspectives that keep us guessing and thinking…like a good character novel like Anna Karenina. Of course this would be much too difficult and hindsight is 20/20.

    Anyway I think this episode is great and definitely worthy of at least a 90/100. Xander gets to do it! And Faith is so hot in this episode. Her name is just great sounding and cool too.

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  36. [Note: Rob W posted this comment on September 4, 2012.]

    “…I guess Xander’s the type who will have sex with just about any girl who jumps on his lap and isn’t under a spell.”No, I think you go too far with this conclusion. I don’t think Xander would have sex with Amy, say, or Harmony, or at least not without some more deliberation than happens here. Xander’s had a rough go by the time he reaches Faith’s motel. He’s:1. Cheated on and lost his girlfriend, who now mocks him constantly2. Been subsequently rejected by the girl he cheated with, who has chosen to stay true to Oz3. Effectively told by the Scoobies that he’s superfluous4. Narrowly escaped death moments before5. Been informed that something possibly world-ending is going down that very eveningThen, add that:6. Faith is hot7. Faith is obviously going to do the driving, so he needn’t embarrass himself making awkward movesHe’s basically come to a nothing-left-to-lose state, which we see later as he faces off against Jake and the bomb. Sleep with Faith? Why not at this point?

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  37. [Note: John Roberts posted this comment on December 11, 2012.]

    “Sleep with Faith? Why not at this point?”Exactly.Plus, you don’t really want to be judging Xander’s character from this episode. Does he really not care about dying, as with the bomb? It’s a surreal evening. Be like Xander and float with the wave. It won’t come around again.

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  38. [Note: John Roberts posted this comment on December 11, 2012.]

    “He’s basically come to a nothing-left-to-lose state, which we see later as he faces off against Jake and the bomb. Sleep with Faith? Why not at this point?”Yep exactly. It’s a night of the surreal. Roll with it and don’t think too hard about its character implications. Alright, don’t think at all.Although it’s not exactly a stretch to think that an 18 year old virgin with no girlfriend might say yes to a bombshell who propositions him. A teeny, tiny bit more likely than being indifferent about death. If we’re analyzing. Which we shouldn’t.

    Like

  39. [Note: Summer posted this comment on December 22, 2012.]

    My dad: “Faith! Xander’s virginity is important to him!”Me: “Not that much.”Too bad he didn’t get it in with Cordelia. I like this episode. I think in this episode we start to get a feel for Xander’s appreciation of the quiet. Most of the time he’s talking so much you don’t think he’s really listening, but he is. And hr takes satisfaction from things that people think are insignificant but they do matter. It’s the knowing part of Xander.It’ll always bother me that we never know what went on that night. And I think it’s kinda weird Xander didn’t press for more details. Buffy had a broken arm! But I guess that goes with the quiet theme. The only real problem I have is that Xander wouldn’t force his way into the fight. But maybe this is him pulling away from Buffy a bit.

    Like

  40. [Note: declan4 posted this comment on June 25, 2013.]

    I watched this episode and loved it- BtVS isn’t afraid to mix things up or poke fun at itself occasionally.
    Although i did have one thought- at the very end everyones sitting around, having just survived this harrowing Apocolyptic event, that sounded really scary. And i’m thinking ‘Where’s Faith?’
    Her first brush with the Hellmouth and she’s not invited to the after morning comfort-fest. I just feel sorry for her stuck alone in her motel room after going through all that.
    No wonder she went evil.

    Like

  41. [Note: Josh Man posted this comment on August 26, 2013.]

    Joss Whedon on his new show, Agents of Shield –

    “This is basically a TV series of The Zeppo, which was a very deliberate deconstruction of a Buffy episode in order to star the person who mattered the least. The people who are ignored are the people I’ve been writing as my heroes from day one. There’s a world of superheroes and superstars, they’re celebrities, and that’s a complicated world – particularly complicated for people who don’t have the superpowers, the disenfranchised. Now obviously there’s going to be hijinks and hilarity and sex and gadgets and all the things that made people buy the comics. But that’s what the show really is about to me, and that’s what Clark Gregg embodies: the Everyman.”

    Read more: http://www.denofgeek.com/tv/marvels-agents-of-shield/26995/joss-whedon-on-marvels-agents-of-shield-and-buffys-the-zeppo#ixzz2d89HBSn4

    Like

  42. [Note: mwsc042 posted this comment on September 1, 2013.]

    This is one of the most unique, oddball, and brilliant episodes of the whole series. I find it oddly amusing how some of the commentary here takes serious issue with it when this was designed (and IMHO very obviously) to fall somewhere between parody and satire (with a good bit of straight comedy thrown in). Its design is brilliant – play against viewer expectations, turn the paradigm on its head, and give Xander some of his best and most endearing (and hilarious) moments since BB&B. Who didn’t cheer at the end when the newly confident pre-“Replacement” Xander talked Jack-the-psycho out of blowing up the school by pulling a very fake-it-till-you-make-it Clint Eastwood cool talkdown, then very genuinely afterwards coolly blowing off Cordelia with nothing more than a sideways glance and a smirk? And then there’s the whole Faith encounter which always has me rolling from its (intended!) surreal absurdity.

    We don’t see an untraditional narrative paradigm shift like this until Season 5 (Dawn), though you could make a case for Superstar. In some ways its a precursor in style to JW’s Cabin in the Woods, which was also a masterful “deconstruction” of an entire genre. (Kudos to Josh Man for finding that JW quote).

    Like

  43. [Note: Spuffy4eva posted this comment on January 13, 2014.]

    I really like this ep and actually I think the impending apocalypse being pushed to the back is actually really clever and funny because it makes the focus on Xander and his character development that much more hilarious as he, the Zeppo, embarks on his own minor(comparatively-only in Sunnydale could that be minor)adventure that is less prominent and yet so much more important for him and his character later. I do like how they mislead you into thinking that the main plot will be this hideous Hellmouth thing. I just can’t really explain why I like Xander’s story being major but I know that it is comical and embodies what the show is about-growing up!

    Like

  44. [Note: HippoDignity posted this comment on March 3, 2014.]

    I just re-watched this episode. This was the 3rd time I have seen it. While I am still not a fan, I have a bit more appreciation for it. Xander is my least favorite main character in the show (although some lines he has are hilarious) so an episode that is centered on him doesn’t really work for me. But I do feel that he deserves props for how he handled himself at the end, with regards to Jack and the bomb.
    Also, I love how the whole apocalypse issue is a back burner storyline. It’s clever and interesting. Yet another example of how Buffy differs from so many other shows.

    Like

  45. [Note: Boscalyn posted this comment on May 12, 2014.]

    “My life happens to, on occasion, suck beyond the telling of it. Sometimes more than I can handle. And it’s not just mine. Every single person down there is ignoring your pain because they’re too busy with their own.
    Buffy to Jonathan, “Earshot”

    I don’t think people quite understand just how GOOD of a character piece this is for Xander. Oh sure, it’s a clever Rosencrantz and Guildenstern homage where the B-plot becomes the A-plot and vice versa. But Buffy is never just about gimmicky plot structure for gimmicky plot structure’s sake. The entire structure of the episode services Xander’s character in a way that lets us FEEL what he’s going through.

    We know going into this episode that Xander is pretty callous w/r/t Bangel. Intellectually, we know why he doesn’t have the proper perspective to understand why Buffy feels so strongly about Angel. But because the show is told from Buffy’s POV, we never feel why Xander doesn’t get Bangel. But this episode shifts the show towards an outsider’s perspective and lets us see what Bangel looks like to the unqualified observer: a melodramatic angstfest between emotionally immature teenagers.

    When you understand that the episode’s format is structured around Xander’s view of the world, everything makes sense– Giles is cryptic spirit guy, completely inscrutable and babbling about spirits or whatever; Willow used to be real close with him, but now her thoughts have turned to Buffy; Faith is a cocky sex god who’ll sleep with anyone. The episode is structured so that we understand just how Xander’s mind works.

    Oh, and some foreshadowing for good measure: this isn’t the last time Xander’s going to be pushed into attending a ritual to raise the dead.

    Like

  46. [Note: Lydia posted this comment on May 27, 2014.]

    Honestly, I don’t see why everyone is making such a big deal about the Angel/Buffy scene. Sure, the show is pulling it’s own leg, but it’s done pretty well.
    To the people who are saying that they’re ‘mocking with the show is like all the time’, ARE YOU KIDDING ME? It’s like we aren’t even watching the same show. The reason the Bangel scene was made so melodramatic was because A. To add humor in a wonderful role reversal where we are laughing at the usual angst that usual makes us want to cry. And B, because this is all from Xander’s point of view, he is immature and does not understand the Bangel relationship, also there is the jealously factor. Thus, this little scene implies what the Bangel angst is from Xander’s perspective so we have better knowledge of the character. To be honest, that scene didn’t seem to me as about Angel and Buffy at all, it was about Xander, and the way he views his friends and their current relationships right now.

    Anyway, this is a brilliant episode. I gotta agree to what Spuffy4eva and mwsc042 said above. And I don’t think anybody should disregard an episode based on their like and dislike of the character that its centered on. I’ve noticed this often with fans, if an episode is centric on a character that they don’t like, they wave it off completely. Which is really only proving that you are missing out! Now, I’m only talking about the episodes that are truly good and centric and a particular character for example, Selfless, Fool for Love and of course, The Zeppo. This episode turns the tables on the viewer and it’s something that is so difficult to pull off but done so smoothly here that it’s commendable. Most TV shows don’t take such risks. Whether or not you dislike Xander, you can’t disagree that this is a great hour of television. There are some truly hilarious, brilliant and outspoken scenes. Talk about thinking out of the box! It’s another work of art from Whedon.

    Scenes that I adored most were when Xander showed true bravery when he was trying to get that dead dude to shut off the bomb, Xander smirking and then walking away from an astounded Cordy, the Penis joke xD and the Oz and Xander talk about the essence of cool. He raises some good questions about that.

    I feel kinda sad for Xander here even though he isn’t my favorite character. I mean I find it a little stupid and disrespectful of Buffy and the gang to keep Xander out of everything. He’s already in too deep, and if he’s well and willing, then I don’t see the harm that he would do. It’s interesting how Xander meets all our protagonists multiple times throughout his little adventure and they all basically have it written in permanent marker on their foreheads that ‘YOU’RE NOT NEEDED’. Except for Willow, I guess. Am I the only one who found the Willow/Xander hug and ‘I love you’ absolutely adorbs??
    I love their friendship, and I’m glad they’re back to that. For some reason, never could digest them as a couple, grossed me out.

    Anyway, anybody who takes this episode too serious (especially the minor stuff) clearly cannot take a joke. I think I would give this an A. The only thing it suffers from is the hokey raising the dead plot, but then I guess, a lot of episodes suffer plot-wise so it should be put in the minor cons section.

    Like

  47. [Note: T.G. posted this comment on May 28, 2014.]

    I can’t do nothing but agree with you about the melodramatic scene. I think a quirky show like buffy warrants a few hilarious scenes like this ounce in a while. People forget that buffy is not just a gut-wrenching drama, its a mixture of different genres. Comedy is one of them, and if other comedies can sometimes poke fun of themselves, then why can’t buffy?

    I also have the same major problems as you do, except I think these are the faults of the writers. I find the Scooby gang extremely Out-of-character. Maybe I just missed a few things, but them leaving xander out never happened before, and never happened again in season 3. I don’t know about other people but buffy, willow, etc. were ticking me off. They were just being stupid.

    Anyway, I also think the comedy in this episode is gold. Its a weird mixture of subtle comedy and gut punching comedy, great stuff.

    Like

  48. [Note: Lydia posted this comment on May 28, 2014.]

    I totally agree! It IS the writers fault. Xander has been through a lot with them, he’s kicked some vampire ass a few times too. It doesn’t make sense that all of a sudden the Scoobies get this whim to keep Xander out of the loop. Despite popular belief, Xander does supply something or the other to the group. (He provides much needed sarcasm! ;)) No, but on a serious note, he helps them with researching stuff and even comes up with viable plans a few times. Despite this, I think that the Excluding Xander thing was all just to drive the character’s issues home. And they did succeed in getting that done. We now see Xander as he sees himself; the useless outsider who doesn’t contribute anything to the group, the average Joe. I think that’s done pretty well.

    I think The Zeppo being done in any other season during any other period of time wouldn’t have worked as well as it did here. Somehow, even though the writers messed up a little with the OOC Scoobies, I think it’s placement in the season just works somehow. I can’t put a finger on why, but it does. 🙂

    Like

  49. [Note: Seele posted this comment on May 28, 2014.]

    In the writers’ defense, maybe Xander’s starting to stand out as “not a fighter” more than he had been?

    In Seasons 1-2, Buffy was the superhero and Giles, Willow, Xander, Cordelia, Jenny, Oz were the sidekicks.

    At this point in Season 3, Faith is a superhero, Willow is training to be a superhero, and even “diapers of tweed” is taking a more active role as a fighter, leaving only Xander, Oz, and Cordy as still being primarily sidekicks, and even Cordy isn’t as strong a presence in the Scoobies anymore.

    Plus, wasn’t it kind of the point that Xander was an unreliable almost-narrator in this episode?

    Like

  50. [Note: T.G. posted this comment on May 28, 2014.]

    My problem is that it didn’t feel natural. What you say makes sense, but I still can buy it because tere was nothing before it that established worry for xander.

    Like

  51. [Note: Nebula Nox posted this comment on July 5, 2014.]

    Very enjoyable episode! Nice to see events from the POV of someone who is not the hero and who never gets credit for being the hero. Life is full of too much credit being given to some, and practically none being given to others.

    Love Xander’s dialogue when with Faith: I’ve never been up with people before.

    Like

  52. [Note: Poppy royal posted this comment on December 13, 2014.]

    When I first saw this episode I wondered if Its legal for Faith to have sex with xander I thought she was a minor but I guess it is or I don’t think xander would have had sex with her,that is if he knows how old she is.

    Like

  53. [Note: Boscalyn posted this comment on December 13, 2014.]

    Well, official material gives her DOB as December 14 1980, which makes her about a month older than Buff. (Going off her gravestone in “The Gift”, anyway.)

    Like

  54. [Note: Jenny posted this comment on January 4, 2015.]

    Not sure I agree with you there. The show has established Xander as kind of a comic relief, barging in/being unhelpful at several stages. One of the must humourous one I can think of is when the village go crazy and want to burn Amy, Willow and Buffy, and Oz and Xander fall through the roof after everything is done (Giles has revealed the demon behind it for all to see, Cordelia has extinguished the flames, Buffy has killed the demon) saying “We’re here to save you”. In a lot of cases he’s knocked out or thrown aside instantly in fights. I think the group has thought about it quite a bit even if they haven’t expressed it to Xander. He sometimes throws himself into fights without thinking where other characters (Willow, sometimes Oz and Cordy) try to think of a plan and try to avoid fighting one-on-one as they know they’ll have their asses kicked.

    When it comes to the Xander/Willow hug, I also found it adorable, and I agree with Lydia about their friendship (they never worked for me as a couple, they were basically siblings in my eyes). Here you could see that Willow understood the “need” to keep Xander out of the loop this time, but you could also see how reluctant she did it and that she wanted to spend her last night (possibly) on earth with him.

    When it comes to the Angel/Buffy-drama, I thought this satire was perfect. Their relationship is way too angsty and dramatic, it’s nice to show how absurd it can seem in the eyes of an outsider. I feel like Xander did now a lot of time when they talk/argue/whatever you call it in the series, their level of drama seems absurd even for someone who has followed their story. You’d think Angel was more mature about all this after more than 250 years as a vampire.

    When it comes to Faith and Xander: 1) I don’t see the criticism here. Honestly, I think there’s too much moralization when it comes to casual sex, there is no harm in it (at least if you use protection). It’s good that a show can do it like this, no strings attached and no moralizing. I loved how Faith just shoved him out instantly, it was mean but it was so very typically Faith, and his facial expression (as if he couldn’t really understand what was going on) was priceless. 2) I always assumed Faith was OLDER than Xander, unlike Poppy royal, she mentioned something earlier about dropping out of high school and the way she was acting/the experience she had when it came to relationships etc. made me think she was older than the others. Didn’t notice her birth date on the tombstone, but that makes them roughly the same age. And when it comes to whether it was “legal” or not, those laws are there mainly to protect the very young from older predators, not to prevent two teens at roughly the same age to sleep together. 3) I was honestly a bit surprised Cordelia and Xander hadn’t had sex. The way they were acting all lusty/passionate when they were together, the jokes they cracked etc. made me think so. In addition Cordelia strikes me a sexually experienced girl, but it could of course just be the image she wants to project. It surprised me she would date a guy for this long without sleeping with him. So when he said he was a virgin I was surprised.

    Like

  55. [Note: Jenny posted this comment on January 4, 2015.]

    Just a sorta btw: The reason Buffy didn’t want Willow to come with wasn’t because she thought it was really too dangerous, but because she and Faith were having so much fun pretending to be delinquents/”bad girls”, and she knew Willow was too good of a girl to be okay with it, and especially to join them.

    Like

  56. [Note: Vinz posted this comment on February 18, 2015.]

    I read every review here since I’ve started watching Buffy (I had never really seen it carefully) but normally, I wait until I have watched it. This time, I was like “What the f*** ?” all the episode long so I had to come here before the end to make SURE that it was a parodic episode. And I have to say I’m relieved. If this episode was made to be taken seriously, it would probably have been the WORST episode ever. Anyway, I think it would have been better to make the parody more EVIDENT ; we have to guess it’s a comic episode and there is no hint. I’m sure some people thought it was just a lame and lazy episode with a missed plot.
    They could have used special coulours, an other opening, something visual to show us that all of this is really special. Because it’s confusing…

    Like

  57. [Note: OhPointyBird posted this comment on May 14, 2015.]

    Has anyone mentioned the best part about the Buffy/Angel scene? THE MUSIC!!! Before Xander’s interrupting them, the strings swell to melodramatic heaven. The strings stop while Xander is there, and then up they go again! Underscores (that’s a pun) the contrived nature of the melodrama.

    LBB

    Like

  58. [Note: Krssven posted this comment on November 18, 2015.]

    This is most likely my least favourite episode of the series so far. Rewatching it a few days ago after having not watched S3 for a very long time, I still have the same feelings about it. It’s just not a good episode and in my opinion tries (or appears to try) to mock the very things that make the Buffyverse what it is. It is certainly not worth an 85/B+ score, but then a lot of S3 episodes are overrated in my opinion.

    The Good:

    – ‘Xander’s POV’ approach. Not for the humour, but for a window into what being a normal, non-superpowered person means when you’re surrounded by people who have speed/strength (Buffy/Angel) or magic/knowledge (Willow/Giles).
    – The Sisterhood of Jhe, they really feel like a level above the non-character villains (anyone who isn’t Angelus, Spike etc) who usually get torn through like wet cardboard. Everyone was terrified of them, even the demon underground.
    – The real sense of unease and horror everyone seems to have whenever anyone mentions the Hellmouth reopening and the beast that lurks at its mouth returning. As Giles says ‘Oh God! It’s grown!’
    – Oz eating Jack. I love how he languidly complains the day after of being oddly full.

    The Bad

    – I don’t care about Xander. I don’t care whether he has confidence issues. His character up to this point has largely been to be as big a jerk as possible, especially about Angel. The character gets away with a lot in the early seasons, but thankfully Angel gets to break his face later in S3.
    – If Xander had opened up a little more to Oz, he could’ve realised that not everyone in the gang has useful abilities. Oz turns into a killing machine every month for three nights…not especially of any use. Yet Oz never develops hangups about it. I’d rather have seen Xander and Oz explore that together – an unlikely duo that we saw a glimpse of in ‘Gingerbread’.
    – The zombie gang isn’t particularly interesting. Jack is, but like someone mentioned above, his being dead didn’t add to the character. Also, the reanimations come across as being a little too easy. This part of the plot should’ve been rewritten and made more interesting, or not used as an A plot against such a strong B plot.
    – The B plot is far more interesting. Since watching Xander run around isn’t interesting, I found myself being more interested in what the gang were preparing for. This episode could’ve been quite a grand ‘stop the apocalypse’ plot. If you’re going to have Xander running around being a Zeppo, do it against a different backdrop. I wanted to see the battle the rest of the Scoobies were having, not Xander running around with contrived ‘isn’t this zany?!’ string music in the background.
    – Who are the Sisterhood of Jhe? I want more backstory on them, or at least more of what we got. Why are some of them running around in the school and NOT trying to kill the Scoobies as they battle the Hellmouth Spawn? Having them kill off the last of the zombies is annoying, because they’re an apocalypse cult – shouldn’t they be trying to kill the people stopping their apocalypse?
    – We see very little of the battle at the Hellmouth. What glimpses we get look and sound awesome. Again, I don’t care what Xander is doing, I want to see the battle.
    – The gang act somewhat out of character in this episode. Say what you like, Xander has been fighting alongside them for a couple of years now, through all of the Angelus saga and the last time the Hellmouth opened in ‘Prophecy Girl’. All of a sudden in this episode, Buffy, Giles, Willow, Angel etc all act like Xander is in more mortal danger than them. It just doesn’t resonate that Xander wouldn’t be there with them as always, as USUAL. This sudden concern for his safety disappears in the very next episode. In the teaser, he isn’t even injured, he just gets knocked about a bit and falls under some wreckage. The scoobies all suddenly look like superheroes compared to him. This just doesn’t happen in other episodes, and is possibly more to do with the writers trying to show how Xander sees them rather than the way they see him.
    – No Scooby Gang meetings onscreen. This a departure for Buffy – at no point do they all sit together and discuss what’s going on. Xander has to try and work it out for himself. Even when he sees Willow, she’s so concerned with the Impending Doom that she doesn’t even mention what it is, nor say ‘hey, we might need some help, come to the library!’ Xander is intentionally kept with the zombies and that uninteresting plot.
    – Faith and Xander acting, sadly, entirely in character. I think these two hooking up is horrible and is a severe emotional blow to Willow when she finds out. Faith uses men and it’s sad that Xander doesn’t have the willpower to turn her down once she gives him both barrels, as it were.
    – Why does Jack want to blow up the school, considering that relatively recently he was AT said school (otherwise Xander couldn’t have knocked his lunch onto the ground). Cordelia clearly knows him and his rep. No backstory, again, just a thumbnail sketch character that we’ve never seen before killed off in the same episode (reminding me of another not-so-great Xander episode, ‘The Pack’, which also featured disposable-bully characters).
    – Cordelia’s character in recent episodes regressing a couple of years to her S1 persona. I agree that she has a reason to hate Xander now, but why does she hate everyone else too? It makes moments like that in ‘Restless’ when she agrees with no question to take Buffy home very jarring, because we can see how much the character has grown. Once she gets given more to do, Carpenter really makes the character more sympathetic on Angel.

    Overall, this deserves a grade in the C region, no higher. I think this ep’s placing in S3 alongside some generally very good episodes does it more favours than it deserves, but that’s true of a lot of S3 episodes.

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