Buffy 4×17: Superstar

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: Jane Espenson | Director: David Grossman | Aired: 04/04/2000]

This is an occasionally fun, but nearly completely inconsequential episode that simply doesn’t have a lot else going for it. Why isn’t this an arc episode anyway? This just tells me that the writers probably knew they didn’t have much of anything to do with Adam and the Initiative at this point. Jonathan somehow manages to alter all of reality so that he’s the big hero that everyone loves. Buffy and Riley mend their wounds over the Faith issue and Jonathan learns a couple lessons. That’s about all that happens. It’s also got the whole James Bond-type music going for it. The demon that was summoned as a side-effect to Jonathan’s spell is incredibly hokey, annoying, and certainly not the sum of everyone’s worst nightmares. I’m not a big fan of this episode, but I admit there’s some worthwhile stuff mixed in here.

I really enjoyed the altered opening credits along with how, right from the beginning of the episode, everything is already changed. Being thrown into something while it’s happening is a technique I’m quite fond of, the best example of which I’ve seen used is in the movie Dark City. Early on it is obvious that this Buffy has not gone through nearly as much as the Buffy in the real reality. Here she dresses in a way that makes her look frivolous and we can see she doesn’t have a lot of confidence because, as Giles puts it, “she’s never stood alone against something like this before.” This is what Buffy would be like at this age had she not killed the Master, defeated Angelus, fought Faith, and dealt with all the daily fighting she’s had to endure mostly by herself. In this reality, Jonathan did all that. This means that Buffy never trained, got little fighting practice, and didn’t have to go through all that pain, which made her able to take more both physically and emotionally.

Buffy’s conversations with Riley reveal a lot more. When she’s with him, she’s very much like the Buffy in the real reality. Certain characteristics, such as caring for and loving (and I mean this not in the romantic way) others, are a part of who Buffy is, regardless of memory. Her instincts are still extremely sharp as well. While borderline frivolous, we can still see that there’s some depth to Buffy. Riley tells her, “If they’d just put a little trust in me I know I could get the job done.” She replies, “I’ve felt that way my entire life.” This Buffy is untrained, underdeveloped, and just itching to blossom but is always superceded by Jonathan who is able to do everything better. That makes it all the much warmer when Riley sticks up for and supports Buffy when no one else will after she questions the perfectness of Jonathan.

That brings us to Jonathan who is, as Buffy puts it, “trying to make everything work out with some big gesture all at once.” He did that in “Earshot” [3×18] when he was going to commit suicide, and he’s definitely done it again here. At the end Buffy tells him that “things are complicated. They take time and work.” Through this fantasy Jonathan gets everything he wants. His album addresses his lack of popularity, the slaying addresses his lack of power and self confidence, the Swedish girls address his lack of a love life, and the Scoobies address his lack of companionship. While obviously envious of Buffy, he still very much likes her and who she is. That’s why when he gives her good advice on her relationship with Riley, it’s completely genuine. What’s also genuine is when he decides to help Buffy fight the demon, even though it means he will lose his fantasy. He does something very similar in “Seeing Red” [6×19] when he tells her how to drain Warren of his power, even though it means he’ll likely end up in prison for what he’s been a part of. This is something that is a part of who Jonathan is, and a good something at that. He should be, at the very least, proud of that.

One last thing to point out is the second scene between Buffy and Spike (when only Jonathan is with her). Spike says, as he caresses her hair, “Someday sweet slayer. I would love to take you on. See you face the evil alone for once.” Spike seems a bit infatuated with her already, and Buffy doesn’t do anything to deter him from continuing. Anyway, this episode has some humor, a decent amount of cheese, and a little bit of character insight. Overall, though, it’s simply mediocre.


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Willow and Tara sticking Jonathan pictures to their wall.
+ Jonathan finding a document that reveals Adam’s power supply. Plus, he’s so amusingly short (sorry Danny)!
+ Buffy betting on Anya should a fist fight between her and Xander break out.
+ Anya being obvious that looking at Jonathan makes her want to have sex.
+ Adam being aware that everything’s been altered. Cool.
+ All the Jonathan props, especially the Jonathan.com and basketball posters.
+ Riley saying “Did anyone else feel way too tall? I felt way too tall.”

– Anya doesn’t react in any way to Xander using the word “bunny.”
– The demon’s attack of Tara is painfully hokey.


* While Jonathan is done with the “big gestures,” he’s found a new hobby in magic, which will play a huge role in S6.




49 thoughts on “Buffy 4×17: Superstar”

  1. [Note: Grounded posted this comment on March 22, 2006.]

    “Spike seems a bit infatuated with her already, and Buffy doesn’t do anything to deter him from continuing.”

    Personally, I took this to mean Buffy was half-scared of him, which fits perfectly with her ‘character’ in this ep.

    While it’s not arc-heavy, Superstar does actually have an important role to play in the arc – superJonathan revealing how to kill Adam. I see you mentioned it in pros/cons, but considering you seem to dislike the standalone nature of this ep I thought it was a bit more important.

    The other thing I think you’ve overlooked is how original this ep is. I honestly can’t recall ever seeing an episode of any TV show where, let’s face it, a bit part character is treated almost as part of the regular cast. I would have loved to have seen Danny Strong’s name actually appear in the credits (and I wouldn’t be surprised if Joss had lobbied for it) but I suspect the network wouldn’t have allowed it.


  2. [Note: fryrish posted this comment on March 22, 2006.]

    Lowest ranking for the season for this one. It would be among my favourites for season 4. Although, I assume the next one will be lower.


  3. [Note: cayayofm posted this comment on March 22, 2006.]

    Personally, I preffer ‘Where the wild things are’ over ‘Superstar’, but that is just my pick. Superstar just doesn’t hold my attention, I had tried to rewatch withouth luck.


  4. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 22, 2006.]

    Well, “Beer Bad” also got a 65. Although I think BB actually has more importance when it comes to character development than “Superstar.”

    Grounded, the way you see Spike there is definately also a possibility. Spike still looks mighty interested in her though (which follows from him being tantalized by Faith in Buffy’s body in “Who Are You?”). Maybe it’s a combination of both?

    The episode doesn’t feel particularly original to me. I’m not sure why. I know I’ve seen the Star Trek series’ do some similar stuff to this.

    WTWA will get a much lower score than “Superstar.” I barely have anything to talk about that.


  5. [Note: Grounded posted this comment on March 22, 2006.]

    I meant from Buffy’s point of view, not Spike. I think they’d already figured out where they were going with him at this point… 😉


  6. [Note: Dingdong posted this comment on May 1, 2006.]

    You’re probably thinking of one of the Barclay episodes. I didn’t think the concept was that original when looking at it, but I thought the way they presented the material was. The reason I liked “Superstar” so much was because it really felt like the writers understood what its like to be in a guy like Jonathan’s position, and how people like him will fall back and “create” their own fantasy world. And then they allowed themselves to have a lot of fun by turning it into a reality for an episode. In a way its similar to “Storyteller”, but I prefer Superstar, simply because its more fun, and Jonathan seems more convincing than Andrew.


  7. [Note: Dingdong posted this comment on June 9, 2006.]

    Well, “Beer Bad” also got a 65. Although I think BB actually has more importance when it comes to character development than “Superstar.”

    I really disagree with this. If you look closely enough at Superstar, it manages to have lots of developments of the smaller character details, that are the same as the real world. For instance, look at Willow and Tara in this episode, how close they’re growing, and the amount of affection they show. I was honestly surprised no-one in the gang had noticed, although everyone in it was generaly more light-hearted, and Buffy had her own issues she was worrying about. The episodes also full of a lot of other subtle character insights, that you only catch if you’re watching closely. It’s actually quite surprising, because this isn’t usually something I find all that often in Epenson’s episodes, barring Afterlife.


  8. [Note: dingdong posted this comment on August 5, 2006.]

    In your review, you’ve criticised the episode because it isn’t an arc episode and is rather inconcequental. Fair enough, but that’s the reason I love it. By this point, I’d given up on a satisfactorary arc and didn’t really care anyway, so I was pleased when the focus was off it. That’s
    not to say that before seeing this I thought the idea would work, I actually thought it was a rubbish idea and doomed to fail. I was really surprised at how well it was done, and also how the regulars stay in character and the small term themes, like Willow and Tara’s growing attraction and Buffy’s distance from Riley from the previous episode, are carried on. Although I wouldn’t call it standout, I still like it because like most of the other S4 standalones, it’s great fun and also well characterised.


  9. [Note: Chebonne posted this comment on November 28, 2006.]

    I really liked your review, especially that you mentioned the music and the opening credits. Plus, the Spike thing. Me likey. This episode had one biiig minus in the “Swedish” girls, though. Why can they never get it right? Remember in inca Mummy Girl they had a Swdish exchange student named Sven. Please. No one under the age of forty is named Sven these days. Which brings me back to the twins – Ilsa and Inga? What are they? Dutch?
    The reason this annoys me is because it is fairly simple to just go check something like that up. There are still names in Swedish that sounds fairly exotic, like Malin or Ida or Johanna, which are three very usual Swdish names.
    Anyway, I really enjoyed your review. Thank you!


  10. [Note: Austin posted this comment on August 26, 2007.]

    I like the attention to detail, like when they mention that Buffy gave Johnathan the class protector award.


  11. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on November 7, 2007.]

    I kind of feel sorry for Jonathan in the end. They know he´s miserable in his life but they don´t do anything to help. They could have joined with the Scoobies, could have talked some more with him. If something was done by their part, maybe Jonathan wouldn´t fall back in the black arts and with the bad guys. Just a thought.


  12. [Note: Plain Simple posted this comment on February 14, 2008.]

    I like your comment about Anya not reacting to the word ‘bunny’. I noticed that too and was a bit disappointed at a wasted opportunity.

    The Adam scene puzzled me a bit, but got me thinking: why put that one in. The rest of the Adam arc has nothing to do with altered realities, so why establish that he has the power to recognise them? And then it hit me. Back in the opening dream sequence of ‘This year’s girl’ Faith or Buffy says something like “so much to do before little sis’ comes”. Why does Adam need to die before Dawn comes? There are so many demons still running around, what makes Adam a special threat to Dawn? He can recognise her true nature! He would have been able to sense that reality was changed when Dawn was created. This is why he had to go!

    Re Chebonne: Ilsa and Inga, were they the names of the twins? If so, then why would you think they’re Dutch. In all my years as a Dutchman I don’t think I ever met or heard of someone named Ilsa or Inga. I’m not saying they don’t exist, but it’s definitely not a common Dutch name.


  13. [Note: Tonny posted this comment on July 21, 2008.]

    Very clever Plain Simple, I never thought of that before with Adam having been able to tell about Dawn if he stayed alive.


  14. [Note: Jaden posted this comment on August 22, 2008.]

    i find this episode incredibly upsetting because if jonathan had actually taken in what he was like in the altered reality he could have learned what he can be like with self confidence instead of resorting to a hobby of magic and even lamer friends. its one of the reasons that i wish season 5 had been the end of the series so jonathan could have actually become his ideal version of himself.

    also in this episode we get to see jonathan at a better stage in life than pathetic xander whos stuck in his parents basement while jonathan is in college. its nice to see this as xander seems to get very cocky to jonathan later in the series while he was in a worse position not long before.


  15. [Note: Paula posted this comment on September 1, 2008.]

    Like Tobias above, I think there’s one big thing going for this episode: it’s a hilarious take on fanfic.

    I remember starting to watch this episode and going all “what the hell?!” at first. Then I suddenly realized that the writers had simply, and very much on purpose, turned Jonathan into the ultimate Gary Stu character. After that, I couldn’t stop howling with laughter at practically everything in this episode.

    Re: what Jaden says above, one of the neat things about Buffy for me is that just because we’d very much like a character to overcome their problems and get everything right in their life, it doesn’t necessarily happen. That’s reality for you.


  16. [Note: laciemn posted this comment on September 21, 2008.]

    IT’s not bad but I simply can’t stomach this much Jonathan. I really really have a thing against him! It just ruins it every time someone compliments him or shows his face..


  17. [Note: donn posted this comment on November 1, 2008.]

    can anyone please please send me the complete buffy quote about not trying to change things with one big gesture…things needing lots of work, effort or something like that. would really appreciate it! -donnegaba@yahoo.com


  18. [Note: Stilicho posted this comment on May 15, 2009.]

    Though I see that this episode may not be outstanding in plot or caracter development, it’s simply bloody funny! Generally it’s awkward that in this season the Initiative plot is that weak that the writers had to produce many stand-alone episodes, but this one is really great. Appreciating the tons of humor of season four, I’d at least rate it with 75-80, IMO.


  19. [Note: Johnny posted this comment on June 18, 2009.]

    Just finished watching this one, entertaining episode, from the opening credits through it had some great laughs. When he stops jammin with the band and jumps off the stage to see to Karen with a K. Or that Giles had the Jonathan calendar stashed under the mat atop his desk…good laughs.


  20. [Note: Craig posted this comment on August 13, 2009.]

    I actually think this does play a fairly major role in what’s to come — it sets up the whole “Altering people’s perception of reality” as a major possibility. Jonathan didn’t change it to an alternate universe, like Cordelia’s wish from s3, he just changed the way people saw it.

    It’s a huge spell, with a huge impact, but they deal with it in an inconsequential way, so the very ridiculousness of it becomes the center of the episode.

    Why is that important?
    If this kind of thing hadn’t happened in this episode, I think Dawn’s sudden appearance and explanation would have been much harder to swallow. By dealing with it in a frivolous way first, they set themselves up for the serious implications of a more permanent change to reality.


  21. [Note: jarppu posted this comment on August 21, 2009.]

    “Why isn’t this an arc episode anyway?”
    I have to agree with the other comments on this. Why does it have to be an arc episode? Especially since the arc is what it is. Just go with it.

    I love this episode. There is just so much hilarious stuff going on here: Jonathan practising blind target shooting, singing songs, being a ‘technical advisor’ to the Initiative (while being a foot shorter than anyone else) and of course the swimsuit calender that Giles has (“It was a gift!”). This is the kind of episode you watch when you just want to watch a single episode without the burden of the arc.

    The thing that makes this better than a simple alternate reality story is that the episode is still heavily connected to the ‘real world’. It actually move some stuff along for example the Buffy/Riley situation.

    I’d rate this the same as ‘Pangs’ and ‘Something Blue’ as they are quite similar: so outrageously funny you just don’t care if it isn’t an arc episode. So something in the range of 85-90.


  22. [Note: Chris posted this comment on August 21, 2009.]

    I’d agree with many other that this should be 85 .
    Whilst it may not be an arc episode not episode has to be and many of the best are not.
    The episode needs aclaim in my opinion for 4 reasons.
    1) Introducing the kind of spell to bring in dawn
    2) The amount of prop detail ( the cereal,the cards,the posters etc)
    3) Showing how buffy still figured things out without her experience
    4) Being so hilarious and rediculous

    And in responce to a previous critisism it has been said (i think in commentry)
    that anya did not react to bunny on purpose because it was an alternate universe.


  23. [Note: Trayce posted this comment on January 27, 2010.]

    This is probably completely irrelevant but I’ve been watching both the Buffy and Angel series lately and I’ve noticed that the “world without shrimp” has been mentioned several times! Here with Anya: “Sure, alternate realities. You could uh, could have like a world without shrimp. Or with, you know, nothing but shrimp.” and in Angel with Ilyria!


  24. [Note: KatieJ posted this comment on February 17, 2010.]

    Again, I rate poignant humor higher and the humor of shorty-short Jonathan being all he can be and then some, is just awesome. This funny magical tool offers the audience a question: power, leadership, authority….where do these things come from? Since Jonathan is a character that many of us can relate to, the scenario of the episode forces us to think, hey, Jonathan has it in him to be a leader. Do I? What is missing?

    Apart from touching humor, the arc is forwarded profoundly by this episode. It is a subtle push, dealing with leadership and authority in two ways. Here we see Jonathan, albeit magically, embodying good leadership. He gives everyone a chance to shine, lets everyone contribute, creates paths of success for even Xander, Spike and Giles, who are feeling like losers all season. This is true leadership (my only critique is that between Danny Strong’s acting and the script, his encouragement comes off a bit condescending sometimes).

    This model provides a foil to the model of authority in the Initiative- without empowerment, blind obedience. Secondly, Buffy, against all odds, revolts against Jonathan’s authority, similar to the way she overturns the military/professor Walsh’s authority. Who gets to lead….when should these systems be questioned? It’s all there in a delightful, quirky, and personal package. Season and series arc importance.


  25. [Note: Jason posted this comment on August 27, 2010.]

    I find it useful to make a big distinction between the first 30 minutes of this episode and the last 10 minutes. I thought the premise was consistently funny and interesting, and if indeed this reality had “unraveled” as Adam predicted, the way we’ve seen chaos descend in the show before (“Nightmares”, “Halloween”), this might have been a really good episode.

    Instead, in the last 10 minutes, everything simplifies instead of complexifies– the fatal flaw in the new reality is a single (dumb) monster, and the gang realizes (too easily) exactly what’s happened by reading a spell description. A weak conclusion to what could have been a mind-bending episode denouement– and therefore fair-to-middling overall for this viewer.


  26. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on September 5, 2010.]

    Trivia: As has been partly mentioned above. The spell changes everyones memory as the Monks do in Season 5, Willow does to Tara in Season 6 and Connor on “Angel”.

    I really liked how the intro was changed to feature Jonathan in most of it.

    Jonathan and Buffy. Finally Sarah is taller than someone……just.

    Jonathan’s ‘Storyteller’. A better all round character than Andy.

    The talk of shrimp. Hilarious.


  27. [Note: dr. horrible posted this comment on October 2, 2010.]

    Anyone else think this whole thing was a joke on fanfic? A new character is randomly inserted into the story and becomes the hero. (I kind of stole this theory from an article by Justine Larbalestier.) I liked this episode alot. t was silly but fun. And I loved the credits.


  28. [Note: John posted this comment on January 5, 2011.]

    I absolutely love this episode. It is pretty much inconsequential, but it is completely hilarious. Jonathan doing James Bond complete with the music is too perfect. I’d more or less lost interest in the Initiative/Adam storyline at this point, so this episode was a VERY welcome departure. Cracks me up every time.

    And yes, it does seem like a particularly bad fanfiction author with a strange obsession with Jonathan crafted this episode.


  29. [Note: JustJenna posted this comment on April 1, 2012.]

    Seems like everytime I think I have a fresh idea, I come here and someone already said it years ago.


    BTW I don’t think it’s Danny Strong’s acting that comes off as condescending. Thats just the way he actually is in person. Ive met him more than once and he’s very VERY patronizing. I sorta feel like he was playing himself in this episode – condescending and self important.


  30. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on April 1, 2012.]

    For me Superstar is very much a fanfic, i would go as far as to say its a nod to a people and their need to imagine, to dream. Jonathan uses the spell to make him the central figure of Sunnydale. Its interesting to see the effect this has on Buffy.

    In previous seasons she has asserted herself as the poignant figure in the group, the go to woman. She has earned her much deserved title as kick ass slayer and influential hero. This world has made her the preppy sidekick, taken her triumphs away from her and with it all the confidence they have given her, in a way we are given a glimpse of what maybe Buffy would be like if she wasn’t the slayer? Unsure or her abilities?


  31. [Note: Summer posted this comment on December 26, 2012.]

    I love this episode. One of my faves for sure. I love how it’s an alternate reality and it also moves the overall storyline forward. And it’s hilarious and cute. Seeing Jonathan in the credits and then all the Jonathan details and posters and all of that. Buffy never stays helpless for long. It’s amusing to see the Scoobies doubting her as a leader. Identity for everyone is all askew.My dad picked up on some foreshadowing when Riley says “These spells…these really work? I mean, can you really turn your enemies inside out?” Of course it works and it’s gonna happen.How in the world is Jonathan so short tho? All around hilarity really. I give it a solid B-plus!


  32. [Note: Caleb posted this comment on August 8, 2013.]

    Just to throw this out there, there’s a bit of foreshadowing toward the end, in the scene when they figure out Jonathan used the perception-altering spell… Riley is listing off all these different spells there are, and one just happens to be “a spell to turn your enemies inside out.” I just thought it made a little connection to when Willow kills Warren. Maybe I’m stretching a little?


  33. [Note: Josh Man posted this comment on September 13, 2013.]

    Couldn’t disagree with you more on this one, Mike. I think this episode, as many others have intimated, is incredibly important to the series and what is to come, primarily Dawn.

    It also adds important information they wouldn’t have otherwise had regarding Adam and how to stop him.

    Plus, it is one of the funniest episodes of Buffy ever and one of this season’s (which I’m not a big fan of) most watchable.

    Deserves an A in my opinion.


  34. [Note: Monica posted this comment on September 13, 2013.]

    I just rewatched this episode a few days ago and was shocked a that it wasn’t as bad as I remembered.

    I loved that we were just sprung into this complete bizarro situation, as well as it’s focus on such a random, recurring character. It had some pretty funny moments, and the scenes between Anya and Buffy…well…basically any scene where Anya spoke…was just amazing. How bothered she was when Buffy was spending time with her in Xander’s basement and questioning the brilliance of Jonathan was absolutely hilarious. I also laughed at loud once she started going off about the alternate realities, never quite reaching the point and going on about shrimp — and I rarely laugh out loud due to television.

    However, I do get it’s irrelevance and weaknesses. I wouldn’t rate it much higher (maybe I’d give it a 70 or 75) or think of it too highly, but I did realize that it does indeed have it’s moments (not that you said it didn’t).


  35. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on October 4, 2013.]

    There is an unintentional poke at Kristen Stewart in this episode. Anya is talking about spells and how Buffy could make Jonathan some “non-perfect mouth breather if that’s what’s blowing up your skirt these days”. Kristen has been joked at for her constant open-mouthed acting style.

    They saw the future of vampires and didn’t like it.


  36. [Note: Sam L posted this comment on October 5, 2013.]

    Uh, Kristen Stewart was 9 years old when this episode aired. So, as much as we all want to take a swipe at Twilight, this one’s a really big stretch. 😉


  37. [Note: Sam L posted this comment on October 8, 2013.]

    It wasn’t unintentional. It was non-existent. This is clearly wishful thinking.
    However, I admit to my own bias because I think K-Stew’s non-Twilight work displays evidence of talent.


  38. [Note: Lydia posted this comment on July 1, 2014.]

    This is a cute one. I have a soft spot for episodes that play with the notion of reality, or change it completely, such as the brilliant “The Wish”. This is no “The Wish”, but it’s a fine episode all on its own.Even though we never get a full explanation on how the logistics of the spell worked, I liked how the Jonathan-is-awesome reality blended with what has been happening so far this season. The scenes of Jonathan counseling Buffy and Riley on their relationship were great, because the dialogues were written in such a “life lesson” style, one that is, thankfully, not used on this show and was inserted for parody and exaggeration’s sake. Buffy seemed much more relaxed and sweet on the Jonathan-is-awesome reality. Maybe that was because by having Jonathan as the ultimate hero she didn’t feel the burden of slayerness? She did love having her slayer confidence back, though, and I thought that there was a little message there that living your real life, no matter how much it brings you pain, is better than living a fake rainbowy version of it.

    What I liked the most, though, were the several group scenes we got, with lots of character interaction. We actually got a scene with this season’s three new couples at the Bronze, and it was a great way to notice how much Buffy’s, Xander’s and Willow’s lives have changed. Season four might not be the greatest, but it certainly has a lot of new dynamics and conflicts, and that’s what makes it a good season overall, in spite of an arc story that’s not flying. Speaking of it, Adam is an interesting character in small doses, but he’s still not convincing as the Big Bad. Does he even know that Buffy, the hero he’s supposed to be the antagonist of, exists?I like everyone’s take on this being a parody of ‘bad fanfiction’. I hate fanfiction that features random characters like daughters, cousins, twin sisters just popping up and changing the game. I kind of like this episode as well as it gives us an insight into a young man’s fantasy life. Many people can actually relate to poor Johnathon’s situation, it’s normal for people to create their own little fantasy lives. Aren’t we all the stars of the universe in our heads? I know I am. I’ve got everything I’ve ever dreamed of and more in my head but reality is a whole other story. Of course, this is the Hellmouth, so Johnathon actually gets to have his shot at the spotlight for a little bit. The thing that struck me this time through was how did Jonathan know about the slaying, the Initiative, and everything else that is meant to be top secret. Did the spell make him all knowing as well?

    I assume the spell seems to be a reality warp, meaning Jonathan actually lived his entire life as if he was the most successful person in the world. In such a world, Jonathan would be desirable for any job, and he would be good at them all. Everything seemed to be affected, except Adam. And to some extent Buffy. Jonathan would not be able to defeat him, but he was most helpful in finding his weaknesses. Also, I was pleased that the Faith story wasn’t just blown past and that the repercussions of some of her actions are still being felt. It was also a nice touch that at least one thing Jonathan did was right and helped those he wanted to befriend.

    Other small touches I enjoyed were the mention of the world without shrimp and the world with nothing but shrimp, ‘Wonder Johnathon and his Fluffy Battle-Kitten’, Giles saying, “Xander, don’t speak Latin in front of the books’, and the oddly sensual-ish scene between Spike and Buffy when he caresses her hair. Overall, I’d give it a solid B.


  39. [Note: Jonas3333 posted this comment on June 9, 2015.]

    I have to raise the grade to B for this one as well. Just had the urge to watch it tonight and while it’s not the caliber of the truly masterful episodes in the way that it pans out a little too quickly and has some poor plot aspects like the monster, it has an out-of-the-box shine to it that stands out from the tired “It’s a Wonderful Life” styled episodes we see in a lot of shows. (The Wish is included in that, but takes that premise and pwns the hell out of it)

    The most important thing about this episode is that it’s funny. It’s a sort of tribute to fanfiction and is filled with a lot of enjoyable tidbits and subtleties as we see our cast reduced to star-crushed fans. Notice that while they were all enamored with Jonathan, Xander has a particular vulnerability to this control that echoes his Renfield-y character in Buffy vs. Dracula.

    Anya’s diatribe on the World without Shrimp is so enjoyable as is her scene with Buffy in the apartment in general. Giles’ devotion adds additional humor and weight to the lie as we see him as an very level-headed authority figure.

    And Jonathan himself just does a great job. I’ve always liked the character and Danny really showed his acting abilities with a variety of scenes that call for a variety of skills. And he and everyone involved really pulled off the smoke and mirrors necessary to make a man of smaller stature the lead no one like that would ever be cast in. It was believable in a light-hearted context.

    And the opening theme being scattered with Jonathan’s power lead scenes is just television gold!


  40. [Note: Big Time James posted this comment on December 14, 2015.]

    Would give this episode an A, one of my favorites. Superfun, superfunny, superclever. Jane Espenson is one of the greatest TV writers of all time, and this episode is one more piece of evidence to that fact.


  41. [Note: jun posted this comment on January 8, 2016.]

    I just rewatched this last night. Jonathan’s the first person we heard mention how to take out Adam, something he never gets any credit for.

    But I’m also struck by those twins. Weren’t they, by virtue of this spell, turned into his willing sex partners? And how is that different than what Warren tried to do to Katrina in “Dead Things,” to which Jonathan objected? True, we never actually saw Jonathan sleep with these girls, but still… It’s pretty damned creepy, all the same.


  42. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on January 8, 2016.]

    The episode isn’t given the credit it’s due imo. I’ve said this several times but it truly sets up Johnathan’s reasoning for his actions in season six. Him appreciating the fact that forcing will onto others is not only wrong but also tends to backfire – something he’s reluctant to do in season six as you reference and is a point of emphasis when contrasting him to Warren – stems from his experience here.

    As we all know, he’s not the brightest when it comes to common sense but he does learn from his mistakes. It may seem obviously wrong to you or I but he didn’t see it clearly until afterward just as he did not see the error of his actions in season six until near its conclusion.


  43. [Note: Krssven posted this comment on March 23, 2016.]

    Totally agree – this is yet another horribly underrated S4 episode. The pattern here is unmistakeable. I think it’s a bit rich that it’s pointed out early in the review that this isn’t an arc episode, yet in terms of importance it actually is – we get a lot more insight into Adam’s nature and his power source is identified. Since the Scoobies have to default to magic in order to defeat Adam (get near him for long enough to pull his power source out), this is actually a vital revelation.

    The demon isn’t ‘hokey’. It’s a demon. What are you expecting from this series? Freddie Krueger-horror and gore every episode? I’ve read ‘the demon was really hokey’ so many times I’ve taken to discarding it as a criticism immediately now. Please elaborate if you can – simple one-word justification does not count as analysis.

    This episode is actually a wry and telling look at what was at the time a developing trend: online fan fiction. I’m not surprised BtVS took a look at this, given that Buffy was one of (not the first, one of) the first series to develop a vibrant online fan community. And where you get fans online, you get fanfic. Jonathan is the perfect Gary Stu character for this type of story – and who wouldn’t want to be the superstar after seeing Buffy and co in action? I also admire the nuance of performance as Jonathan realises he is expected to fight the demon his spell created, knowing full well if he kills it his superstar world will change back.

    Another thing the episode highlights is the never-discussed side of Buffy’s world – following up with those that need more than simple saving. Jonathan eventually falls in with Warrn because nobody is really there to steer him away from that – it would’ve been interesting to see his character direction had Buffy and co actually cares about his wellbeing and state of mind, instead of lecturing him about right and wrong. Jonathan is actuall a perceptive individual when he wants to be, and points out a few telling truths about Buffy in both Earshot and Superstar that she doesn’t fully take to heart. In Earshot especially he points out how frustrating it is to see beautiful, clever people whine and complain about their difficult lives without ever having had the true high school pain (bullying). One thing Buffy never got right was bullying, which they touched on with Cordelia but only in a sanitised TV manner. You never saw for example a glimpse of Xander and Willow’s bullying by Cordelia and her friends. As Willow says at the end of S3, she hates Harmony with a fiery passion for picking on her for ten years. Unfortunately the series never really had the bottle to do those kind of stories.


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