Buffy the Vampire Slayer S03 E13 – Imaginary internet booze

Previously: The Watchers Council gave Buffy the worst birthday ever. Well, it would have been the worst birthday ever for anybody but Buffy who only has terrible, terrible birthdays. Then they fired Giles.

The Zeppo

Sweeney: We open with some mega weird demons with blueish skin and red eyes underground and it’s really foggy and hard to see, especially with low res video.

K: It’s kind of like when Harry Potter is walking around under his invisibility cloak and everything is filmed through a layer of fabric…

Sweeney: That’s a higher compliment than the BtVS team deserves, but yeah, sort of.

Buffy and Faith are there but not really fighting, as are Giles and Willow, who is doing witchy stuff with candles. Eventually, Buffy goes in for the tackle our slayers slice up our bad guys with swords. They talk about how handy Willow was with her clouding spell, as an explanation for why it was foggy and then suddenly it was not. Is it bad that this blog has caused me to assume sloppy acts of contrivance are everywhere and I often forget to question it? Answer: yes, because I need to question it in order to write this blog. Oops.

K: Faith also uses the phrase “wicked rowdy”, to back up the fact that she’s meant to be from Boston. LOL, OKAY.

Sweeney: Anywho, eventually Xander emerges from under a pile of stuff and he gets lectured on how he’s likely to die soon from trying to get into the fray and he should stop that. Personally, I’m on team Let Him Die, but they are his friends, so it seems they disagree.


Sweeney: Xander is offended by this, and I am just groaning because it’s how the show let’s us know that we’re in for a whole lot of Xander. A round of drinks on me a the Table of Ugh?

K: YES PLEASE. Make mine a double.

Lorraine: Yeah, I’ll be there too, but by the looks of things probably for way different reasons than you two. There is a whole lot of out of character contrivance going on in this episode. Make mine a double, but not Kirsti’s because she gets sleepy after one drink. I’m guessing this is also true for imaginary, Internet booze.

Sweeney: Almost certainly, and yes, this episode is so loaded with contrivance it’s ridiculous, even for Sunnydale.

The girls discuss demon torching, for which Willow has brought marshmallows, because she’s hilarious and adorable. Everyone looks at her funny for this and her response drives home why she’s awesome:

Giles, unsurprisingly, just wants to get back to Wiggins Library to go into research mode to find out what the demons were and whether they can expect more of them. Buffy hopes not, but Xander throws in a “Bring them on!” in an effort to save his manpride after feeling cut down by the girls. There’s a really great explanation of Xander’s masculinity issues and this whole scenario goes nicely with it, but sorry I’m not sorry for my inability to feel bad for him for this. Anyway, Giles adds a comment in support of keeping Xander out of future fights and we roll credits.

After credits, we do more setup for all the masculinity problems we are supposedly exploring in this issue as two guys throw a football around at school. Xander jumps up and down trying to get them to toss it to him. They are annoyed and try to ignore him, but eventually they toss it to him and he fails to catch it. It lands in the lunch/lap of a weird husky-voiced murdery guy sitting by himself. Xander tries to joke with the guy but Murdery Shadow Lurker is not having that and grumbles about how he’ll get some buddies together and murder Xander’s face off. Or something like that.


Lor: I mostly laugh because his name is O’Toole. IT HAS TOOL RIGHT IN HIS NAME.

Sweeney: He then has to go encounter Cordelia and UGH, you guys, I have mostly blocked this episode from my memory so I don’t actually remember what happens but I know it’s a whole lot of Xander problems and while I never thought this day would come, I think I’m actually Team Heartless Cow today. I don’t even know who I am anymore.

K: Team Heartless Cow welcomes you with open arms. We have booze here. And chocolate. 

Sweeney: But really, I just can’t give a shit about Xander’s problems, mostly because of how self-inflicted they tend to be. Cordelia cuts him down to size a little more in very Cordelia fashion and assures Xander that he could not take the Murdery Shadow Lurker and that MSL would definitely murder Xander’s face off. Then she basically lays out the feels Xander will have to work through this episode:

Unlike all those other creatures that you’ve come face to face with, [MSL] actually noticed you were there . . . It must be really hard when all your friends have, like, superpowers – slayer, werewolf, witches, vampires – and  you’re like this little nothing.

He tries to insist that he an integral part of the group, but she snaps that he’s useless – he’s The Zeppo! Hey-o episode title! Cordelia walks off and says, entirely to herself, that there was no part of that (“that” being cutting down her cheating ex-boyfriend) that wasn’t fun.

Lorraine: Here’s where I jump in and say that none of the UGH so far I’ve really placed on Xander. No, I don’t like the character, but I more blame the contrivance they are building up around him. It’s a shame, because this is a valid point Cordelia brings up and it would’ve be amazing to truly go into Xander’s “normalness.” Why? Because as much as I don’t like the character as a person, the fact that Xander has nothing supernatural going for him, but consistently jumps in to helps his friends makes him brave and awesome, not a loser.

This episode makes him a loser.

Also, after her amazing Cordelia moments last episode, this is another a million steps back for her.

Sweeney: I have nothing to add to that except to say that it’s all well stated. My “UGH” is less because of anything Xander has said or done and more my general dislike and that whole rule that once you dislike someone even their breathing is annoying. That said, I agree times infinity that the real problem is all the contrivance.

Also, while this episode involves Cordelia taking a bunch of steps back, I’m not sure I’d say that just yet. One of these comments is kind of fair game, given their history. It’s the nine million more digs she takes at him that make it excessive.

We cut from that to Xander talking to Oz about the definition of cool and finding cool and who gets to decide cool and ugh, high schoolers are the worst. I’d really rather go back to analyzing high school feels through the lens of outlandish demon problems. Right on cue, Oz tells Xander that he’s over thinking it and he’s just experiencing identity problems, which are not – SEGUE MAGIC: the end of the world, Giles finishes.

Lor: The segue magics in this episode are THE WORST. Each come with a side of cheese or perhaps a brick in the face.

Sweeney: Buffy asks if these crazy demons can actually do that. As it turns out, there is an apocalypse cult dedicated to bringing about the end of the world. To remind us of this cult’s full-moon-y timing, Oz walks in to lock himself into the cage. The doomsday cult is in Sunnydale to, surprise surprise, open the Hellmouth.

K: I honestly don’t know why anyone in Sunnydale is surprised by this any more. I mean, COME ON, Y’ALL. 

Lor: Contrivance. There is a demon cult determined to bring the end of the world, and Giles didn’t know about them. YEAH HOKAY.

Sweeney: Later, Buffy and Willow discuss this new impending doom. Willow asks what happens if they succeed and when Buffy asks if she remembers the thing that almost came out the last time, to which Willow responds that all of her non-academic-failure related nightmares are about that. I love her. I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve gushed about how much I love Willow. Anyway, for realsies world destruction is coming.

K: I’m gonna take a moment to discuss Buffy’s hair because I’m pretty sure she styled it with an iron. An actual iron, not a hair straightener. And then crimped it a little bit, for that added touch of sadness.  


A little Poodle-esque, no?

Sweeney: Meanwhile, we have to keep jumping out to Xander’s impossibly stupid story. He appears beyond the girls honking the horn on an incredibly nice convertible classic car. Based on the fact that he doesn’t appear to have a job and we know his family isn’t mega rich, I call bullshit on his being able to acquire said car.

K: He acquired said car from his uncle, who’s currently in prison. But I still call bullshit on account of I would never ever give a classic car that nice to a teenage boy. 

Sweeney: Oops. I should pay more attention. Except, not because we still agreed to call bullshit, so it’s whatever.

He babbles about how this is going to make him cool, and Buffy isn’t all that excited due to the impending doom. Xander offers to help, and we segue magic to a donut shop, because that’s just the sort of bullshit his little plot requires.

Lor: BULLSHIT. SINCE WHEN? Since when do they NOT include Xander in research and demon hunting, huh? SINCE THIS STUPID ASS EPISODE.

Sweeney: YUP.

Equally as important to his uninteresting plot is Cordelia’s presence at all his tragic loser scenes. She snarks about how expendable he is and how the shiny new car does not make a new Xander. She’s exceptionally awful in this episode, which is probably the least contrivancey mechanism they use to sledgehammer home Xander’s Man Woes. As Xander leaves the donut shop, still bickering with Cordelia, a pretty blonde starts asking him questions about the car, which allows him to give Cordelia a neener-neener-neener look. He and the blonde drive off.

Cut to them at The Bronze and Contrivance Blonde can’t stop talking about cars. As we learned in the previous scene, Xander doesn’t actually know much of anything about his shiny new car, let alone care enough to have an intense car chat. Xander and I have this in common. Xander sees Angel walk into The Bronze and he’s all, “OH HEY, BUDDY! PAL! WAZZUP!” in order to save him self from this conversation he gives zero fucks about. Angel’s got a “DAFUQ?” look on his face, due to Xander having hated Angel for the entire time they have known each other. Angel’s looking for Buffy and they have a brief little chat about the impending doom.

Lor: BULLSHIT: Wouldn’t Angel would’ve be the first person Buffy would’ve called if the Hellmouth was about to open?

Sweeney: In theory, but all! the! contrivance! makes this so much easier. -_-

Xander tells Angel that Buffy is at the library and offers to go there with him, but Angel tells Xander he should stay out of harm’s way. After Angel leaves, Contrivance Blonde wants to go for another drive, because she’s the most one dimensional character in the history of ever. They go outside and Xander is grumbling about how helpful he has been in the past and as he goes to drive off, he hits the car parked in front of him.

K: Like I said, don’t give a classic car to a teenage boy. 

Sweeney: Naturally, Murdery Shadow Lurker gets out of the car and does some quality growling. Christian Grey would be proud. Back at the Wiggins Library, Willow feels that Werewolf Oz is extra cranky on this particular night. She theorizes something about dogs barking when earthquakes are coming. The research isn’t going well and Giles is majorly distracted. He’s going off somewhere, but he goes to grab a donut first, but zomg! the jellies are all gone and they have a goofy random conversation about how Giles is always the one advocating for jellies. I only bring this up because I watched this week’s How I Met Your Mother right before writing this post and there was also a comment on the rudeness of not saving jelly donuts for others. Television would have me believe that one should just buy boxes of jelly donuts, but fuck all these television characters because I don’t even like jelly donuts. Sorry, this was a tangent.

Lor: One I support. I’m not a fan of jelly doughnuts.

K: This just goes to show that you’ve never had a hot jam doughnut rolled in sugar. Because it kicks the butt of every other doughnut ever. 

Sweeney: Anyway, while everything I just said was useless, the jelly donut chat actually was relevant to the Xander Contrivance Plot. Giles suggests sending Xander for another donut run and Buffy’s not having it because she wants Xander out of this particular demon investigation because he nearly got killed before.


Sweeney: YUP.

Back at The Bronze he is about to be killed by MSL. Xander offers to pay for the damages on MSL’s car but MSL immediately pulls out a giant knife because he’s a psychopath. He named his knife, bee-tee-dubs. She’s called Katie. “How very serial killer of you,” Xander snarks.

MSL says some nonsense about how what makes them different isn’t the fact that MSL is a probable serial killer with a knife, but who has the least fear. He gives the knife to Xander and tells Xander to come at him, and then a cop appears. Xander doesn’t rat out MSL, even though the cop knows MSL is a trouble-maker, by which I mean future mass murderer. Xander doesn’t rat our MSL, however, and the cop goes away. MSL decides that this makes Xander pretty cool and now he wants to make him his BFF, which understandably makes Xander a bit antsy.

K: It certainly made me question MSL’s sanity. 

Sweeney: MSL says that the car Xander hit wasn’t even his, so the two of them and the Contrivance Blonde get into Xander’s car and drive off. They go hang out at the cemetery and MSL performs some cray weird ritual over a grave that involves chanting and cutting his finger with his giant creepy knife, Katie. When he finishes the ritual, there is a pause before a big dead jock dude in a Sunnydale letter jacket crawls out of the grave. Zombie Jock and MSL exchange bro greetings. Contrivance Blonde screams and runs off. MSL introduces Zombie Jock to Xander as their wheel man and then they go around the cemetery raising their other dead bros.

K: My favourite part of this scene? Zombie Jock’s biggest concern is whether MSL has been taping Walker, Texas Ranger for him while he’s been dead. Ain’t nothin’ coming between a boy and his Chuck Norris. 

Sweeney: Elsewhere, Giles is performing a weird ritual involving a candle, subtitles, and a really terrible special effect cloud. The special effect cloud tells Giles to leave it the fuck alone and then Xander appears and asks if they need any help, but that’s a big no. Giles has the feeling that there’s something different about this apocalypse – something in the air. Xander thinks it’s Zombie Jock. LOL. Corpse humor. I love how each apocalypse is a special snowflake and, you know, even more apocalypsey than the last one. Anyway, Giles says that they’ll all be called upon to fight when “it” happens, because we’re too busy with Xander’s story to really flesh out this special snowflake apocalypse. He says he’s optimistic that they might have a few weeks to prepare for it and then runs off. Cut to Willy saying, “Tonight,” to Buffy. (L: BRICK.) He’s cut up and his bar was destroyed. The ambiguous IT will happen by sunrise, he says. They destroyed the bar because they were looking for Angel and Buffy too, because they’re the most likely candidates for stopping the ambiguous it.

Willy advises her and Angel to go somewhere quiet together and think about how they want to spend their last night on earth. BOW CHICKA.

K: Team Heartless Cow says bow chicka EW. 

Sweeney: Glad to have this confirmation of my true team. All this contrivance had me terribly confused.

Xander Wheel Man Harris is driving his car full of Frat Zombies around Sunnydale and they really want beers and also to go beat up people they didn’t like when they were alive. Xander stops at a hardware store, which they smash open. Xander realizes that he’s now using his sweet ride to assist criminal activity. He’s not  fan of that because he’s a tool but not, you know, a criminal. He spots Willow and tries to talk to her, but she won’t tell him anything and this is probably the first time that I genuinely feel bad for him because why the fuck won’t anybody tell him anything?

Lor: BECAUSE OF BULLSHIT. I’ve been trying to tell you.

Sweeney: I get wanting to protect him from his own catastrophic uselessness, but yes, the bullshit factor in this episode has officially set some sort of record. It only continues to get worse from there. Willow hugs him and runs off and just as Xander resolves to force his way into the loop, MSL and the Frat Zombies return. They say it’s clear that he doesn’t feel like part of the group because he hasn’t been initiated. Initiation, of course, is dying. MSL pulls out Katie. Xander points out that MSL isn’t dead, but he pulls up his shirt and reveals bullet wounds from a drive-by. He died three weeks ago, but it turns out that he was raised within ten minutes of dying, which is why he lacks the rotten flesh of the rest of the Frat Zombies. Just as they’re about to kill him, Xander distracts them long enough to run away. They chase him and he jumps in the car and drives off, much to the dismay of the Frat Zombies.

Elsewhere, Faith is fighting another one of the crazy demons from the beginning of the episode. Xander runs into it with his car, which doesn’t kill it, but buys Faith time to hop into the car so they can drive off. They go to her motel to hide out. She has Xander help her fix her dislocated shoulder and all the touching reminds Faith that she just had an intense fight without a kill which is like Slayer blue balls or something. Fortunately, she’s got Xander here, so she can solve that problem. I really don’t want to spend any more time than I have to discussing the EW that is Faith taking Xander’s virginity.

K: As I said to the girls in an email earlier today, the one redeeming factor is that all we have to see is the reflection of it on the screen of Faith’s crappy motel TV. I also feel like this is an appropriate time to break out this gif again:


How could you, Faith?

Sweeney: I always approve of that gif.

The fact that it was Xander’s first time is probably important to remember so that we can appreciate how rough it is when Faith kicks him out as soon as it’s over, apparently before he even has a chance to put his clothes on, because he leaves wrapped up in a towel.

Back at Wiggins library, Werewolf Oz is being relocated and he has to be shot with the tranquilizer gun by Willow and Giles, which is a major bummer for Willow. Xander gets into his car and realizes that the bags the Frat Zombies put in his car (they properly bagged their stolen goods?) were filled with kerosene and he says, “Hey! They’re not making any cakes!” as if this is the first time this thought occurred to him. REALLY XANDER? Fortunately, he recovers from this epic stupid long enough to realize that it’s time to go into Investigate This Problem mode.

K: Course, then this happens: 

Sweeney: I mean he just lost his virginity. To a megahot vampire slayer. Being a tad distracted seems fair to me.

He goes back to the hardware store but that’s not helpful, so he decides Buffy will know what to do. “I don’t know what to do!” shouts Buffy, to Angel, in the Brooding Bungalow as a whole orchestra of sadness plays in the background. (Lor: CHEESE.) This wholly undeveloped apocalypse plot has a weirdly soap opera feel, especially when juxtaposed against Xander’s antics. They go back and forth about how Angel will face the ambiguous evil and buy them enough time for Willow’s spell to work, but Buffy doesn’t want to watch him die again. To be fair, I think it’s assumed that she wouldn’t actually be watching said death.


Sweeney: It is, but I’ll also pull one of Lor’s BULLSHIT cards on the absurdity of the scene.

Their big intense fight about how they’re in love and Angel can’t die and whatever is interrupted by Xander showing up to ask for help. He quickly decides it’s a bad time, but, really Xander, zombies with bombs probably counts as an interruption-worthy dilemma. Back at Wiggins, Giles and Willow are doing a crazy spell with black dust all over the place and candles and just, you know, lots of witch props to make sure that we get that this is a way serious apocalypse. Cut to the Zombie Frat assembling a bomb. Xander is driving around and his new plan is to go to Giles. He encounters the Zombie Frat, who think that their wheels have come for them, but Xander doesn’t stop. One of them manages to grab onto the car and Xander uses this opportunity to interrogate him. He learns that the bomb is in the boiler room of the high school, but Frat Zombie’s head gets knocked off by a mailbox before Xander learns how to disable it.

Back in the library, the rest of the gang stands around as lightning effects go off and the giant snakey thing starts to emerge from the middle of the floor. Standing around watching the apocalypse has never really been their thing, especially not when they’re together, making this the millionth “BECAUSE OF REASONS” in this ridiculously contrived episode. Resume Scooby Doo-esque music as the Frat Zombies chase Xander through the high school. One stops long enough to look into the window of Wiggins Library and observe the gnarly thing coming out of the Hellmouth. They split up to find Xander, allowing his fights to occur one-on-one.

K: So kind of them to make things easy on him.

Sweeney: Xander tries to do the Buffy banter pre-battle quip thing, but it just buys the low-fight zombies a chance to run off. Then they’re both being chased back by the major demons. This episode is super campy which I would normally love, but I can’t appreciate because of all the Xander. Xander goes into the boiler room (K: Which, I want to point out, is in the Basement of Don’t Go In There. How is it possible that Xander’s the only human to ever escape it alive?!) and tries to figure out what to do with the bomb. MSL shows up and fighting ensues. Xander points out that the clock is ticking which is likely to kill them both and uses it to callback to the fear comment earlier. Xander points out that explosion dead is a very different thing than the Frat Zombie dead he’s been up to lately. It’s an opportunity for Xander to be very calm and collected in the face of actual danger, to show us that he’s really awesome or something. I don’t care; I’m over it.


Just before the clock blows, MSL disables the bomb. Xander walks off and tells MSL to GTFO. Murdery Shadow Lurker starts to say something threatening, but when he opens a door and out pops and untranquilized Werewolf Oz to remurder his face off.

Lor: I can’t imagine three week old dead flesh tastes very good. Ew.

Sweeney: The next day there is a lot of really serious, ominous music, as Willow talks about how traumatized she is. Willow, Buffy, Giles, and Oz are sitting around a table having a mini group grief counseling session. The three that weren’t werewolves last night are covered in cuts and bruises. Willow adds that no one will ever know how close it got. Just then, Xander walks up and Willow tells him he’s lucky he wasn’t at school last night. He just says something about preferring the quiet life, and asks if anyone wants a snack, which they do not, due to their PTSD. Oz is “oddly full today.” LOL. Ew.

Xander walks off, full of his major personal growth or whatever. Just to drive home that not gloating about his Frat Zombie episode is a sign of how he’s a much better person now, he encounters Cordelia. She tries to belittle him some more, but he doesn’t take the bait. He just gives her a funny look, laughs, and walks away, with his triumphant I’m-a-better-person-now-that-I’ve-saved-the-world-with-my-words music in the background. Meh.

Lor: Yeah, this sucked, and sorry, but it wasn’t because of Xander. Everyone acted out of character for not including him. The apocalypse stuff was not the kind of thing you stick in the background in order to prop up a Zombie Frat story. It wasn’t campy enough to be hilarious but it wasn’t serious enough to be a true feels reflection. Plus, I love how “I was a soldier once and I have soldier things in my head” is only used for Xander when there aren’t contrivance holes to dig.

K: When I was trying to find pictures for this episode, I actually discovered a couple of people who refer to this as their favourite episode. I hope for the sake of all concerned that I never have to meet these people. Because UGH. Speaking of Team UGH, who’s for another round?

Sweeney: I NOTICED THAT TOO. WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? There is very little to appreciate here. I’m glad it’s over. Drinks for everyone.


Next time: The new watcher comes to town. Guess how Buffy and Faith feel about that? Just guess. Or you can find out in Buffy the Vampire Slayer S03 E14 –  Bad Girls

Sweeney (all posts)

I collect elaborate false eyelashes, panda gifs, and passport stamps. I spend too much time on YouTube. Reconciling my aversion to leaving the house/wearing pants with my deep desire to explore everything is my life's great struggle.

Marines (all posts)

I'm a 20-something south Floridan who loves the beach but cannot swim. Such is my life, full of small contradictions and little trivialities. My main life goals are never to take life too seriously, but to do everything I attempt seriously well. After that, my life goals devolve into things like not wearing pants and eating all of the Zebra Cakes in the world. THE WORLD.

Did you like this? Share it:

  • I’m commenting on our own post because I realize how much not fun I was in this episode. SORRY EVERYONE.

    • Meh. No apologies; there wasn’t much fun to be had in this episode.

      • I love when you use semicolons.

        • Semicolons are my favorite.

          • Jojo

            I love the fact that you have a favorite punctuation!


          • Jojo


    • Danna

      Maybe reading comments will affect how you experience future episodes, or maybe not. But regardless, you should just say what you think, always.

  • Polge Clément

    Despite all of the contrivance, I actually like this episode… The fact that the whole apocalypse happens in the background makes me laugh, and it’s a nice reflection on Xander’s character. Yes he’s often an ass, and very vocal about his opinion which are sometimes hard to defend, but still, he always watch his friend’s back, and is really selfless.

    Also, at the risk of sounding a little bit Captain Obvious, Lor said “The apocalypse stuff was not the kind of thing you stick in the background in order to prop up a Zombie Frat story.”, but that’s exactly the point… While Buffy&co are actually doing their whole epic stuff, Xander still have his own worth, even without superpowers… The contrast is also what makes it funny.

    • I think the grievance, though, is that the Xander story is hurt by the fact that everyone had to act so OOC to make it happen. I agree that the idea — the apocalypse becomes background noise while we focus on Xander — was good, but it doesn’t really feel like it did much for Xander as a character when nobody around was behaving true to the way the behave alloftherestofthetime.

      In any event, it was a lot easier to snark, so at least there’s that.


      • SnazzyO

        I think not having him along for the fight is OOC. But them not seeing what it did to Xander’s ego — I think they put down Xander all the time and never consider his ego. He’s turned into the comic relief. So him being doughnut boy as his #1 job is par. I think that’s pretty much how they think of him.

        • To me, this mixes up some elements here. I wouldn’t say so much that that’s the way his friends see him, as comic relief guy, but rather that that’s the way he is. He is making jokes all of the inappropriate time. And we could turn around and “blame” that on the writing but that’s a whole other topic. He’s always been comic relief man, but I’m not sure that translates to doughnut run man. He’s always there, falling asleep on top of books with them.

          • SnazzyO

            You’re right. Comic relief does not equal doughnut guy. And inappropriate comedy as stress relief is his trademark. I think it’s the shift in S3 to lower on the totem pole of usefulness.

            I think he became #1 doughnut guy when Faith was added to Angel for backup to Buffy on patrol and Willow became wicca gal. When there was no Angel and no Faith, Xander did more direct support. Angel was iffy support in S1 and the Big Bad for half of S2. Now in S3, when you have two more ‘supers’ in the mix, Xander goes to fourth in line for “violence”, Neither he nor Buffy have ever excelled at research (although he certainly pitches in) but if you were to pick one person to be the errand person — it’s Xander. And who are you going to send to walk to the doughnut shop, or the bus station, or the pizza place at night? Oz would do some of that but he’s either supporting Willow or doing a band thing. Which leaves Xander.

            So, my earlier statements were more pejorative to the rest of the Scoobies. I think the point I’m trying to make is that Xander is low man on the totem pole and he gets “support” jobs. The team knows that and it doesn’t occur to them that this is a problem. My sense is that it’s featured in the Xander POV episode because it DOES bug him.

    • Man, I’m really excited to get everyone else’s take on this because maybe it was just us! My main gripe is that I didn’t feel this was a reflection of his character because of all the contrivance. Xander would be there, at the end of the world, with his friends, because as you said, he has his friends back. And for someone who never knows how to shut up, for better or worse, him just scuffing his shoes and walking away and pouting? Nope. Not buying it. And because I got hung up on the “not buying it” aspect of it all, I just didn’t see the funny. “/

      I think they overstepped with “the hellmouth re-opens.” There could’ve be any other number of grave dangers in the background. I guess since I feel so close to S1, and remembering what a BFD that was then? Again, I didn’t buy putting it in the background here.

      I find that so many times BtVS is amazing at mixing parts apocalypse with parts humor. This just wasn’t one of those times for me.

  • Ugh and Meh. I didn’t even remember this episode, which says a lot about the greatness of the plot. It’s just so weird how everyone is treating Xander. Sure, he usually is not the most helpful camper but he has his moments and never shies away from stepping up when he is needed.

    And my god, Faith must have been horny that she slept with Xander (ew) after all the crap that came out of his mouth right before it. Ew, ew, ew, eeeeewww.

    Oh, sure, the Hellmouth is opening and that’s just a subplot you know. Usually Hellmouth openings and real apocalypses are reserved for season finales not subplots but whatever. I’m all for character growth but when it’s built on the base of ridiculousness then I do not approve. Bullshit episode.

    • It’s true. I couldn’t even feel bad about all of his struggles because THEY NEVER DO THIS. Especially not with an impending apocalypse. When, you know, EVERYONE WILL DIE. They would absolutely include him, at the very least in all the researchy stuff. In general, an apocalypse is an ALL HANDS ON DECK scenario.

      • EXACTLY!

        And I forgot to add: Xander’s uncle went to prison? Because over here just had to turn in his drivers license for a couple of weeks because he was arrested while driving with too much alcohol in his blood. I will forever be amazed by what the people writing the translations deem necessary of change and what not. Ok, done now.

        • SnazzyO

          Ah dear Uncle Rory. I think we’ve already learned he was a quick taxidermist who had a wild child side with drinking and ladies of the evening (“The Dark Age”). I presume he needed what rental cash Xander had to support those habits sans driver’s license.

  • 3hours

    Yeeeeah, Xander fans seem to list this one really high. Needless to say, I don’t. Heh 😛

    Beyond that, I wholeheartedly agree with the OOC. I think Willow’s awesome marshmallow comments, Buffy & Angel’s ~tragic maudlin romance of woe~ moment and Faith fucking Xander were the only in-character parts here.

    “Back at Wiggins library, Werewolf Oz is being relocated and he has to be shot with the tranquilizer gun by Willow and Oz, which is a major bummer for Willow.” – Psst, I don’t think Oz helped shoot himself, as handy as that would be!

    • WOMP. MY BAD. Fixed it 🙂

      • 3hours


        • I don’t know. Oz did conveniently run into that dart…. 😀

  • Laura

    I actually kind of like this episode. I love it when shows step back and take the opportunity to make fun of their own soap-opera-esque tendencies. I feel like at least part of the OOC feel could be that we’re seeing it FROM Xander’s perspective, which says a lot for the reasons the characters seem like caricatures of themselves, because that is totally the way Xander and his Tooly Guy Brain would see them. (Especially that Cordy is way bitchier than normal).

    • I tend to agree with you, and I’ve loved some of the other campy episodes of BtVS. Like I said, one of the reasons I love about show is the blend of FEELS and LOLz. Even when things are going badly, you have a line like, “I may be dead, but at least I’m still pretty!” and BAM, you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Buffy is rarely guilty of taking itself too seriously. My biggest problem with episodes like these tend to be when they come at the cost of character development OR when they are placed in the middle of really! big! things! Like previously: Giles is fired and Buffy lost her powers! Next: A new watcher! In between: this. “/

      I would like the idea of it being from Xander’s perspective but this is an incomplete idea because we saw plenty of things happen when Xander wasn’t there. We cut away from him to get other pieces of the story, which takes away from the Xander-lens.

      I don’t know man. I guess I can see why people would like it. It’s more on the fun side, if you don’t mind what had to be contrived to get there.

      Mostly thought I like “Tooly Guy Brain.” 🙂

  • SnazzyO

    Ah the Zeppo. So while I TOTALLY AGREE that the shunting of Xander to the side was a contrivance, I read a comment once where this episode was from Xander’s POV. Subsequently, the rejections are amplified more than if they had been seen from Buffy’s POV. Having said that, I agree that they wouldn’t have had Xander fray-adjacent on a true apocalypse.

    The other point, mentioned above, is that this is a High Concept episode. As such, Joss feels inclined to be over the top and more liberal with his contrivances. Case in point, he is directly mocking Bangel with their melodramatic speech. He’s having a bit of fun with — look how silly and bizarre our story is sometimes. They have the usual schtick in the apocalypse plot (unbeatable enemy, Bangel drama & personal sacrifice, celestial timing, flashy lights and smoke) being even more …cheesy … than usual. So this and Star Trek’s “Below Decks” are often cited by critics as brilliant episodes because they push the A-plot into the background and see the world from a supporting player’s perspective. Of course to do that, they had to contrive Xander to fray adjacent. So… if you just put on “high concept episode” filters and enjoy the ride (as the story does not logically hold together that well) then it’s a better episode.

    On Cordelia: Dear Team Heartless Cow — there’s payback and then there’s cruelty for fun. Cordy had plenty of payback already (“sleep outside to avoid your families’ drunken fights” comes to mind but she’s been in snark mode A LOT). To me she’s over the top in the episode (see comment about Xander POV though… is this the only conversations that he remembers?).

    Finally Xander – well if you can’t stand the way he breathes, then really there’s not much room to have a dialog. Although this:
    “But really, I just can’t give a shit about Xander’s problems, mostly because of how self-inflicted they tend to be.”

    I just don’t understand. How are Xander’s drunken parents, being beat up every day for 5 years by Rodney I-got-life-sucked-by-the-mummy, best friend Jesse dies, Willow/Buffy are leaving him in the dust academically and supernatural wise, Goodwill clothes, apparently barely passing the test so he doesn’t have to take the short bus, and a demon magnet something that is self-inflicted by Xander? He’s earned his neurosis fair and square I’d say. Is he a moronic teenage boy? Yes, that’s the character we have. But Giles says he’ll grown out of it.

    IMO Xander is a walking bag of insecurity who is actually a pretty brave and loyal guy. I was pleased that he said he had done some quality violence for the team (because he had) and wanted him to stand up for himself a little. I was a little disturbed how prepared he was to die. I don’t think he was bluffing. But it was a comedy episode so I’m not sure if we were supposed to get that point. From a meta perspective, I think at the time they were writing this episode there was a great deal of Xander hate out there so they tried to throw his character a bone. It was too little too late for most I suspect. Plus… I think Joss wanted to continue his tradition of horrible first times so he had Xander’s first time be as a living stress reliever for Faith as opposed to something nice. I imagine there were plenty of writer’s room stories about horrible first times and they wanted to trot that one out there.

    ***flounces off to give an imaginary hug to Xander the woobie****

    • Let me start with this: I love you.

      I’m really bad about getting into the larger arguments about fandom things, mostly because I find I don’t care enough to argue about it. Like, someone says something that I disagree with and my instinct is just to say, “Yeah. Sure. I guess you’re right.” Except that I don’t actually agree. That being said, I love love love reading everyone else’s thoughts and comments and it’s my favorite part of covering these shows because it gives me all sorts of new things to consider. For what it’s worth, your thoughts/feels HAVE made me more sympathetic to Xander. Mostly because I’m a sucker for feels.

      HOWEVER, I don’t think we’ve done much of anything with them YET. With the exception of the HORRIBLE HORRIBLE thing that he does in a later season, Whedon does a MUCH better job of handling Xander once they get out of high school. All of his “What do I do now?” stuff in S4 does wonders for getting across the point that this episode was trying to convey.

      SO: to the self-inflicted issue. In short: he is, at present, still pretty much just a self-centered high school boy. And while you’re right that he has some legitimate issues, those aren’t the ones that are dealt with here (his family problems are another example of something that gets much better treatment later on). I agree with you and Giles that he will grow out of being a moronic teenage boy, but for now, that’s most of what we get to see, so I have a hard time getting emotionally invested in his story.

      That being said, I’m glad you’re here to give him imaginary hugs because he clearly needs them, especially with us trying to get him kicked off the island.

      • SnazzyO

        ***sends hugs your way***

        Thank you for feeling for my feels. It’s hard for many to have any Xander Tolerance so I appreciate the greater insight into what sets people off. I forgive moronic behavior if I feel people are good at heart (but just socially inept) and they have the desire to improve (ability is a different topic) — not everyone sees Xander as having a good heart so I suspect that contributes to many viewpoints.

    • Shea Foley

      I agree with you totally, and Xander is one of my favorite characters (who am I kidding? They’re pretty much all my favorite!) because he doesn’t have shit handed to him all the time. He’s like the anti-Mary Sue, to borrow a term from fiction. He’s a constant in the group even if some find that constant annoying. By the end of the series, he’s an amazing contributor, and it’s because he’s not supernatural. (Don’t get me started on how I feel about the character changes in the season 8 graphic novels, though… ugh)

      I think it’s really important that Xander acts as the every man in this group. Sure he’s annoying, innapropriate, acts like an asshat, but he’s a TEENAGE BOY. I knew a lot more teenage boys who acted like Xander, and worse, than I did super cool Oz-like teenagers.

      • SnazzyO

        You know, I think Joss really wanted people to understand the inappropriate ways that a normal teenage boy, who is EXTREMELY insecure but good at heart, acts out. And I think some accepted the moronic behavior as part of growing up and some were just like “ugh, go away”. This doesn’t make the second group wrong IMO. Pimples are a normal part of growing up …. do I want to watch a show about pimples? Not remotely. And Xander is written unapologetically gross. Since Joss says Xander is the character he most identifies with, I think he intentionally MAKES Xander that way.**

        As for “The Zeppo”, it’s definitely got that Afterschool Special MESSAGE vibe. When I look at the history of Whedon work, this seems to be a bad habit of his. When he decides to do a direct “Message” episode (as opposed to metaphor), he REALLY lays it on thick. And contrivances are obvious. As the series progresses, it pops up on a couple of occasions but it’s also evident in other shows and media (the comics). He tried to hide the “Message” in this episode with comedy hijinx and the high concept of a view from the sidelines but it’s jarring to be sure.

        As for Xander’s contributions to the team, I’ll have to say that I think his contributions IMO were stronger in S1 & S2 than in S3 (after Faith arrived). I dislike “the Zeppo” in that it recasts all his previous efforts as “expendable” when I think it was a recent development in the series, vice always there. So I was glad to see the Snark Squad give a WTF? on this rewrite of history.

        ** On a related note; I think Joss was surprised at how rapidly Angel and Bangel were (at the time of airing) causing quite a surge in popularity. If you think about it… it’s JUST the “Anne Rice” routine that he constantly mocks (Spike calls Angel out on it, Lie to Me makes fun of those who romanticize vampires, etc…). He makes Angelus BRUTAL when he kills Jenny. So OF COURSE he mocks Bangel in this episode. But Joss is also savvy enough to plumb something that is currently “working” — and Bangel was working at the time. And so was Angel (hence the spinoff). So… I’ve always suspected while he did run with the dark/handsome/brooding vampire HERO he also likes to come up with ways of subverting the genre while he uses it.

  • lev36

    Aw, I was hoping this episode might actually lead to a li’l Xander love (or at least some respect). I found it funny, feeling the contrivance was part of the joke, but yeah, I can see how it could bug you.

    Mind you, there are many things the Xan-man has done (and will do) that are quite hateworthy, but he does throw all in when the chips are down.

    • If it makes you feel better, I didn’t blame Xander in this episode! It was more the construction of the episode itself. And while I don’t like the character much, it’s a personality thing. It’s because of the way he’s either the bravest of them all, or the most selfish and there is rarely middle ground for him.

      I feel like this episode was a long joke and at the end, the three of us didn’t laugh and now it’s kind of awkward and people are asking, “do you get it?” But really if you have to explain a joke, it’s dead anyways.


      • SnazzyO

        Looking at this episode and going WTFO is a common response as far as I know. It’s not the most divisive of episodes or contain any real controversy but it’s also neither universally loved nor universally “meh’d”. I’d guess it would be a distribution with two humps — look! fun with stats!

  • Jojo

    You know, everyone has always said this is one of the best episodes but it leaves me cold. I think it’s the contrivances go way beyond my willing suspension of disbelief. I do like the whole idea that while everyone is off doing the world saving bit they all think Xander must be doing something boring. Just the sledge hammer technique is not one I enjoy. And this show really beats it all into your cranium.

    However it is the precursor of the introduction next episode of the wonderful comic foil of WWP – sadly not as wonderful as the badassery of WWP in Angel. Is that a spoiler – telling that a character eventually is on a related show? And I get to be the one to announce that Alex Denisoff (WWP) is married to Allyson Hannigan (Willow) and they have two kids so keep an eye on them for longing or lustful gazes.

    Yes, I have moved on from the Zeppo in a state of supressed glee!

    • *high five*

      I like a little opinion support.

      Admission: Mine is the next episode so after I was introduce to the new watcher, I looked into the actor a little and there found out he’s married to Allyson (little ginger kids! They are so cute) and that he goes on to AtS. Hmmm.

      • Jojo

        He really is a great comedic actor – has one helluva a character arc if you include the spinoff – but in BTVS he’s a perfect foil for….well, everyone.

    • XXm0rt

      -Sigh- Seeing as this has always been one of my favorite episodes, I’m ashamed to call you my mother.That’s it, I’m disowning you now.

      • Jojo

        At least I called you everyone – I tried to include all your personalities!

  • Jojo

    It occurs to me that a few gallons of super glue would solve the Hellmouth problem once and for all – but that would be bad in the Watsonian sense – even if it would work wonderfully in the Doylist sense.

  • Izzygirl

    What? No feels for the poor mother whose son died tragically in his teenage years and was later found exhumed and decapitated by the side of the road? 😉
    The best Xander moment in this ep for me was his interrupting the Buffy/Angel soap opera scene. Without him, we would have had to endure at least another 3 minutes of melodrama.

    • Worst day ever for that mom. I wonder if she has an old MOO button she can dig up.

  • Danna

    So… I agree with almost everything you said in your review. I mean about Xander. I think he is mostly unevolved, uninspired, and a coward in his relationships. I did like that moment when he was playing chicken with the psycho killer when the bomb was about to go off. Just for a moment.

    You’ve probably noticed a lot of people are really passionate about this show. And a lot of people REALLY love Xander. I know, I don’t get it either. Spike/Xander is a super popular pairing. So there is probably some sadness going on about the Xander hate. I was following another reviewer, and he totally didn’t get Spike – Actually felt total disgust for Spike. I had to take a Xanax.

    But I love your reviews, and you should keep saying whatever pops into your brilliant little minds. But I have to just disagree with you a little about the level of annoyance with the contrivances. This episode
    was obviously a one-off. A comedy. A farce. Like the Keystone cops. I think the contrivances in this situation were part of the joke. I try to watch the episodes right before you review them, and I was not
    looking forward to this one because I always thought it was boring. But this time I was pleasantly amused. Maybe because I had no expectations.

    Keep up the good work, girls!

    • I think when we started recapping we didn’t really think about how many people are passionate about this show! Well, at least I didn’t. Or, what’s more, I really, really didn’t expect passionate, wonderful established fans of the show to join in on what we were doing. I truly, truly love getting to share my opinion every time because I know there will be at least one person to tell me I’m wrong. 😉

      That said, there is always a little bit of hesitation on my end. I always wonder how everyone else regards an episode and it’s daunting to throw my voice into the crowd of so many people who came to conclusions way before I did. Then I get over and press post have some chocolate!

      I really can’t pin point why this missed the comedic mark for me, but it totally did. It’s interesting about approaching the episode with no expectations. I feel like I set myself up with a OH NO. XANDER. expectation and maybe that was why I didn’t let myself be amused.

      Thank you! We’re having fun so it hardly feels like work at all 🙂
      Keep up the commenting and, you know, feel free to disagree with us any time you’d like!

      • Danna

        As many fans as there still are – that’s how many different opinions there are about each episode. So let it rip. I think the reviews are hysterical. It always brings a smile to my face.

  • Pingback: Buffy the Vampire Slayer S03 E14 – Honey badger don’t care.()

  • Melodie Hatley

    This is one of my favorite episodes, and I think others have put it much more eloquently as to why. Just to keep it simple and short, I love that it’s from Xander’s point of view, and that it’s a glimpse into how he sees himself, though not necessarily who he really is. Plus, it was funny. PLUS, your Murdery Shadow Lurker is an actor I started to like on the v. bad Vampire: the Masquerade TV show, and thus, he’s always “Cash, the Scruffy Gangrel” to me.

  • SonicRulez

    Aw, I’m sad to see you guys really didn’t like The Zeppo. I’m nowhere near a Xander fan, but I love a good parody. The Zeppo is just an episode dedicated to taking the piss out of Buffy from the perspective of a guy that most of us do not care to have. I think that’s why it works. That’s why all of the characters are exaggerated to their worst points. Buffy and Angel are at their soap opera worst and all Xander can do is say “Well….this is awkward, I’mma go.” Oz howls after an ominous line at one point. It’s a total joke. Faith sleeping with Xander doesn’t bother me too much because Faith has always been a girl who is very in control of her own sexuality and “hungry & horny” and all that.

    Honestly though, what recovers The Zeppo for me is that it’s a snapshot of the Xander that I think Joss wanted me to see when I watch Buffy. This Xander is a teenage boy with insecurities, yes. However, he’s also incredibly brave and selfless here. This is the Xander who chanced dying alone in a fiery explosion just because he didn’t want to inconvenience any of his friends while they seemed busy. The Xander I hate would’ve been all up in their faces about how he saved the day and nobody helped. He would’ve rubbed how great he was in Cordy’s face. He would’ve snarked about how wrong they all were for ignoring him. That he passes on all of that to go quietly back into being “The Zeppo” is a pretty big moment for him. If THIS Xander was the one who was around more often with occasional moments of being insufferable instead of the other way around, I’d probably have a lot of love for him.