snark squad | where nostalgia comes to die

Buffy the Vampire Slayer S05 E03 – Neither can live while the other survives.

and on June 17, 2013 · 77 comments in Buffy the Vampire Slayer,Season 5,TV

Previously: Dawn spent a lot of time monologuing about how no one understands her and then broke several cardinal rules of the Summers residence, including inviting vampires in and getting kidnapped. Also, Giles bought a midlife crisis car.

The Replacement

Kirsti: I think I’m being punished by Whedon. First I get a Xander-centric episode, and then later today I get a bunch of insane dream sequences in Angel? What the hell did I do to deserve this?! SIGH.

Lorraine: Pfft. No sympathy from me. Get back to me if Whedon ever does an episode about anal lube.

K: Fair.

We open in the Fruit Roll Up Basement, where Xander, Anya, Buffy and Riley are watching kung fu movies. Anya’s arm is in a sling on account of the head wound she incurred in the last episode turned out to be an arm injury instead? IDK. Xander tries to be a good host by offering food, before remembering that he can’t give them any because the cat peed on the hot plate. Unless they want spaghetti-os that have been heated on top of the dryer. Uh, pass. But points for trying, Xan. Doors slam upstairs and there’s some shouting and smashing of things. There’s serious awkwardness on account of Xander’s super shitty home life. Xander mentions that it’s time to look for somewhere that is else to live, and asks Buffy if Hell has one bedrooms.

Lor: And anyone who has ever been apartment hunting says, “yes. Yes it does.”

Sweeney: 

preach

K: Too true.

There’s no reply from Buffy, though, because she’s being Slayer Book Learnin’ Gal, so Riley puts his hands on the pages, which would pretty much make me punch him in the face. But she puts the book aside and starts to judge the fighting in the kung fu movie as Riley massages her shoulders. Riley suggests that maybe she should try and separate her work life from her movie watching, and she points out that he’d be the same about army movies and points out that Willow gets the same about movies involving witches. Xander backs her up, mentioning that Willow gets judgey about witches using cauldrons.

With that, we cut to a big bubbling cauldron and a weird glowy demon in a cloak. He pulls a “flesh of the servant, willingly given” routine in exchange for the death of the Slayer, and screams as he shoves his hand into the cauldron. Roll credits.

After the credits, we head over to a modern apartment building with a “for rent” sign outside. Xander’s there to inspect an apartment, and apparently doing so now involves bringing your girlfriend, your two best friends, and one of their significant others along for the ride? Clearly Xander’s not thought about this, because a) WHY and b) he’s kind of dressed like a hobo.

Sweeney: Scoobies! Help your friend out here! Somebody should have indicated that he might want to clean up a little for this occasion. Still, it’s a good reminder that even though he looks like he’s in his thirties, he’s actually 19 and this bit of ignorance makes sense. (But come on, not even Riley knew better?)

K: Right? You’d think GILES would at least have said something, seeing as he’s Team Surrogate Parenting…

Anya opens the door to the apartment, and is all “I WANT IT GET IT PLEASE” and I don’t blame her because it’s kind of enormous. There’s a moment of awkwardness when the real estate agent walks in and assumes that Riley and his actually looking presentable are there to rent the apartment. Xander makes things worse by wiping his hand on his shirt before he shakes her hand. She looks grossed out, but proceeds to run through her spiel. Xander wanders over to check out the bedroom and finds Buffy and Riley having a little make out moment, because SERIOUSLY? WTF. I can’t even.

Lor: Maybe they had a little meeting in the car and discussed all the ways to help Xander not get the apartment. Yeah.

K: Only possible explanation. Back in the kitchen, the real estate agent hands Xander an application form and says that they’ll run a credit check and contact his references and mentions that he’ll need to fork out a rather large sum before moving in. He looks panicky, but Anya says he’ll take it. He drags her aside and they have a small domestic argument. In summary: Xander’s construction job is nearly over and he can’t really afford the apartment. Anya sulks and stomps off. The real estate agent looks judgey some more as Xander starts filling in the application.

Cut to New New Wiggins, which I’m going to just call The Magic Box because that’s its name and the other is too confusing. (L: SPOIL SPORT.) Giles is unpacking boxes and talking to himself. He picks up a box of miscellaneous charms, and turns around to find the glowy demon behind him. He screams a little and tries to find a suitable charm in the box. Instead, he comes out with a statue of a fertility goddess. The demon gets all “Haha, nice try, puny mortal,” so obviously Giles proceeds to beat the demon over the head with the statue.

Sweeney: Agreed! More Giles fight scenes, of any degree of seriousness.

K: But the demon knocks him down, points a big stick at Giles and says, “You are not the Slayer. You do not concern me.” He turns and billowy cloaks his way out the door.

Later, Giles is recounting the story to the Scoobies as they help him unpack. Buffy belittles his epic victory, and Giles replies, “Well, I’m not dead or unconscious, so I say bravo for me!” BEST. Xander’s up for a round of “we told you so” because the Magic Box isn’t even open yet and Giles is on track to be a statistic. Giles looks characteristically annoyed in response, and promptly locates the demon in the first book he picks up. Said demon is called Toth, and is apparently a fight-with-weapons-not-hands type. And Giles thinks he knows where Toth hangs out, on account of he was stinky.

Cut to the gang walking through the Sunnydale tip. (S: DUMP. Or Landfill.) (K: You ask the Australian to write blog posts, you get Australian English, yo.) Riley gets upset about the number of recyclables he can see, and as much I dislike Riley, it’s kind of great.

Lor: He’s been a lot less hateable this season so far, so it’s kind of a shame that he had all last season to dig himself in a deep hate hole.

K: Agreed. Some noises in a rubbish pile put the gang on guard, but it turns out to be Spike. He’s scavenging in the tip because of contrivance. Giles asks if Spike’s seen the demon, and Spike’s all “Oh, the one that’s right behind you?” They all spin around just as Toth points his big stick, which fires some kind of energy bolt thing. He fires and misses several times before eventually hitting Xander, who’s just pushed Buffy out of the way. He lands in a pile of rubbish, and Toth disappears.

Riley and Giles help Xander up and the gang head out of the tip. The camera pans back to the pile of rubbish to show a SECOND Xander lying there unconscious.

Lor: Two Xanders just for Kirsti!

K: You’re the worst.

After the Not Commercial Break, we’re at the tip the following morning. Xander wakes up in confusion and heads back to the Fruit Roll Up Basement. The door’s locked and there’s no answer to his knock. He tries to kick the door in and instead hurts his foot. He runs around the side of the house and looks in the basement window to see another version of himself in there getting dressed. He decides that he should find Buffy, but then trips on a paving stone and face plants. As a result, I’m gonna go ahead and call him Awkward!Xander. At a pay phone, Awkward!Xander calls Buffy but just as it connects he sees Well-Dressed!Xander walk past. He hangs up and follows him.

In Buffy’s bedroom, she tells Riley that whoever it was on the phone has hung up and good GOD, what is she wearing?? Brown tie dyed pants that look rather like she’d wet herself, and a stripey halter top made of that itchy looking metallic thread. And no bra, because OBVS. She packs weapons into a bag, and tells Riley not to worry before they eat each other’s faces again. Gagging noises come from off screen, and Dawn says this:

BEST.

Lor: Also best is her rocking early-2000′s hairstyle which is kind of like little baby mushrooms on the crown of her head. You go girl.

K: People talk constantly about how bad fashion was in the 90s, but the early 2000s were really no improvement. She and Buffy bicker as a pissed off looking Joyce appears. She has a headache, and Buffy and Dawn immediately blame the other one. Joyce tells them to sort out their shit, and leaves. Buffy slams the door in Dawn’s face.

Sweeney: Dawny, come on now. You had to know how that was going to end.

K: Over at Spike’s TARDIS crypt, he’s used his tip scroungings to make a mannequin in a halter top with a blonde wig. We all know how this is going to end:

Spike turns and kicks the mannequin across the room before picking up its head. He strokes its cheek as he says “Oh, Slayer. One of these days…

Lor: Where’s Riley to come threaten our totally harmless little Spike-y Wike-y now, eh?

K: Sudden thought: now that the Initiative has moved out of town, what the hell is Riley doing with his time? I don’t think the show ever addresses this, and now it’s going to bug me…

The dramatic music dramatics in the background as we head over to a construction site. Well-Dressed!Xander grabs his labelled hard hat and gets to work. The boss comes over and asks to see him in his office. Awkward!Xander lurks behind a porta-loo (really, Xan? You couldn’t find anywhere better to hide?) and says “Welcome to payback, mister evil-plan-face-stealer. You take my life, you get my being fired absolutely free.” Obviously, the door to the porta-loo opens and smacks Awkward!Xander in the face. And then he gets told off for not wearing his hard hat.

Sweeney: Struggles. I doubt, “The guy who stole my face has it!” would have helped.

K: Probably not. Awkward!Xander heads over to the boss’ office and sets up a really half-arsed table to let him see in the window. Inside, Well-Dressed!Xander is playing with a shiny metal thing and the reflection of it plays across the boss’ face. Instead of the firing that Awkward!Xander expected, the boss offers Well-Dressed!Xander a promotion on their new job site. Awkward!Xander falls off his table as Well-Dressed!Xander accepts the job. The boss tells W-D!X to take Anya out to celebrate, and W-D!X says he knows exactly how to do that.

Cut to the nice apartment from earlier. W-D!X signs a lease agreement as the real estate agent tells him that his credit rating checked out. He makes a joke about Star Trek, and she giggles as the reflection of the shiny metal thing plays over her face. Awkward!Xander listens in shock from outside the door as the real estate agent gives W-D!X her home number in case he has any sexy times emergencies. She leaves, causing Awkward!Xander to scurry around the corner, and inside the apartment, W-D!X calls Anya and tells her to meet him. He then leaves the apartment, and Awkward!Xander jumps on his back. W-D!X knocks him down, and stares at him in horror. He then punches Awkward!Xander in the nose and runs off as Awkward!Xander yells that he won’t let W-D!X get away with stealing his face before deciding that he needs help from Buffy. You know, that plan he came up with like 12 hours ago.

Lor: He’s awkward Xander for a reason.

K: Truth. We get a shot over the town, where it’s pissing with rain, before heading to Giles’ apartment. Awkward!Xander, now soaking wet, stares in the window in horror as W-D!X tells Buffy, Riley and Giles that something stole his face and can they please kill it now? Awkward!Xander hopes that Buffy will see through the illusion, but NOPE. She’s all “Let’s get Slaying, yo.” So Awkward!Xander heads over to the Bigger on the Inside Dorm Room (can we keep calling Willow and Tara’s room that, or is it too confusing??) and tells Willow that he can prove he’s really him. This includes doing the Snoopy Dance:

Sweeney: It’s so delightful! He looks so precious! Snoopy-dancing Xander might be my favorite Xander of all.

K: There’s not really been a lot of competition so far, so…yeah. Willow’s all “Cool story bro, but why are you telling me this? Who the hell else would you be?” He explains about the double, and says that it’s with the rest of the Scoobies, who have no idea about it. Back at New Wiggins, Giles is in favour of finding out what the double is while Riley and W-D!X are Team Kill First Ask Questions Never. Buffy suggests that maybe Toth is involved on account of the big stick o’ energy bolts, and Giles agrees that maybe shape shifting is involved. Bigger on the Inside Dorm Room: Xander wrings out his clothes while ranting about how the double is probably an evil robot made of evil robot parts. Willow: “Uh huh. OR it’s Toth.” New Wiggins: Buffy heads out to hunt, and W-D!X heads out to find Anya.

Back to the Bigger on the Inside Dorm Room. Awkward!Xander is pissed that W-D!X is living his life better than he does. Willow says she’ll look for a spell to unhypnotise Buffy. Awkward!Xander has some serious self worth issues, and Willow tries to make it better but fails. Then he realises that Anya might be in danger, and when Willow’s like “Really? It took you until now to realise that?” he says “Hey! Wait until you have an evil twin. See how you handle it!” and leaves. “I handled it fine,” Willow replies. Which I mention only because DOPPELGANGLAND!!! <3

Sweeney: And because it was also supremely adorable.

K: Also because of that, yes.

Awkward!Xander heads to Anya’s apartment where W-D!X’s message is conveniently cued up on the answering machine to the part about meeting him at the apartment. Awkward!Xander rummages through Anya’s chest of drawers. Cut to the new apartment where W-D!X has champagne and a picnic ready for Anya. He got the apartment for her, apparently, because he knew how much she wanted it. They kiss, and then Anya wants to know when the next life goal happens, because she’d like a car now please. I can’t help but think that teaching Anya to play The Game of Life in the last episode was a terrible mistake. He says there’s no hurry, and she’s all “Uh, YUH HUH,” and says that she’s dying. He looks horrified, and then she says that she “may have as few as fifty years left.” W-D!X astutely works out that Anya’s feeling her morality on account of the dislocated shoulder. He reassures her, and they kiss some more.

Suddenly, Awkward!Xander bursts in the door. He tells W-D!X to get away from Anya, and she looks between them in confusion. After a minute, she decides that W-D!X is the real one, and tells him to make the other one go away. Awkward!Xander looks hurt. Over at New Wiggins, Willow bursts in and informs the gang that their Xander was a demon replica while hers was the real one on account of he knew about the Snoopy Dance. Giles, reading a book in the background, says “Oh dear Lord,” and is ignored. Buffy’s all “Nuh uh, our Xander was the real one, yours was the demon,” and Giles says “I SAID OH DEAR LORD!!” in the background. Oh, Giles. Don’t ever change.

He tells them that the big stick was a device that can split a personality in two. Toth’s plan was to split Buffy into two – her Buffy parts in one body, and her Slayer parts in the other. Then he could kill the Buffy body, and the Slayer body would die as a result. Instead, he hit Xander. Back at the new apartment, Awkward!Xander is begging Anya to realise that he’s the real one and Well-Dressed!Xander is the demon on account of he’s clean and suave and says all the right things. When Well-Dressed!Xander tells Anya he’ll take care of it, Awkward!Xander pulls out a hand gun and points it at Well-Dressed!Xander. Dun dun duuuuuuuun.

After the Not Commercial Break, Anya jumps in between the two Xanders. W-D!X grabs Awkward!Xander’s arm, and they struggle over the gun. Meanwhile, Buffy and Riley are speeding over there in the midlife crisis BMW. Buffy asks Riley if he wishes she’d been split in two, if he wants Slayer Buffy as well as Normal Buffy. He tells her that there’s “no part of you I’m not in love with.” She half-smiles and then says that they need to hurry up before Xander kills himself accidentally.

Lor: Riley: I love you Buffy. Buffy: How about these traffic lights, am I right?

LOL.

K: Not even remotely awkward. Nope. Not at all.

Back at the new apartment that I have yet to think of a name for (S: The Gift Suite, on account of it being a present from The Powers That Be Contriving, a gift that seems to be the primary reason this episode is happening) (K: YES), Awkward!Xander drops the gun and W-D!Xander grabs it. Buffy and Riley arrive and Buffy demands that W-D!X hand over the gun. Which, it turns out, is Anya’s. Riley’s shocked that Anya owns a gun because apparently he missed the memo that, despite being an ex-demon, Anya’s one giant American stereotype. Buffy separates the Xanders and informs them that no one is a demon and that they can’t kill each other. Awkward!Xander wants to know what the shiny metal thing is that W-D!X’s been using to mind control everyone. W-D!X’s all “Oh, you mean this nickel that’s been squished by a train that I found on the construction site? Cool, huh?!”

Just as everyone’s starting to come to terms with things, Toth bursts through the door. He explodes a chunk of carpet, which makes W-D!X irate about the bond he just paid. Buffy and Toth fight, and it culminates in her running him through with a sword. W-D!X kisses his bond goodbye, and Awkward!Xander says that he was just thinking the same thing, so clearly they’re both Xander.

Sweeney: Xander, you had to know that your new apartment wouldn’t be spared the demony mayhem that has been inflicted on every other Scooby residence. (The Bigger on the Inside Dorm Room fared the best thus far, but even that room saw some action.)

Lor: Demon action was definitely in the fine print of The Gift.

K: I just got horribly confused because “The Gift” is the name of the season 5 finale, and we’re not even close to that yet. But yes. Xander Harris: Demon Magnet is pretty much a constant.

At the Magic Box sometime later, the two Xanders are dressed identically again. Giles draws a pentagram on the floor while Anya, Buffy and Willow marvel at how the two Xanders are identical. Riley says that it’s fascinating from a psychological perspective, and wonders if anyone else wants to lock the Xanders in separate rooms and conduct experiments. Everyone turns to stare at him, because GOD RILEY, WE MADE A PACT TO NEVER TALK ABOUT SEASON 4 EVER AGAIN.

Anya, meanwhile, wants to know why they can’t wait until tomorrow to fix the Xanders because she’s missing out on a prime opportunity for a threesome. Giles is grossed out and begs that they hurry up and do the spell. The gang agree. Xander, meanwhile, is being a bad influence on himself and they’re now both pretty much the same person.

Willow says that they’re ready and that the spell’s pretty easy because their natural state is to be one person. The Xanders stand in the pentagram, and close their eyes as requested. “Let the spell be ended,” Willow says, and we’re back to only having one Xander again. Anya sulks.

An unspecified time later at the Fruit Roll Up Basement, Riley and Buffy are helping Xander carry boxes as Anya reads a magazine. Buffy heads outside as Xander asks Anya to please help carry stuff, because it’s part of being human or something. She reluctantly agrees, and heads outside with a box. Riley tells Xander that he can tell Anya really loves him, and Xander says that sometimes he envies Riley for having a girlfriend who lives in sanity land. And as much as we like to hate on Riley, his response makes me feel for him:

“Hey, I’m well aware of how lucky I am. Like, lottery lucky. Buffy’s like nobody else in the world. When I’m with her it’s like … it’s like I’m split in two. Half of me is just…on fire, going crazy if I’m not touching her. The other half…is so still and peaceful… just perfectly content. Just knows: this is the one. But she doesn’t love me.”

Xander stares at him in shock as Buffy walks back in and head over to help Riley pack some more as we fade to black.

I’m not a huge fan of this episode. Not because it’s Xander-centric, but because it’s a little too heavy handed. We pretty much get beaten over the head with Xander’s self-worth issues, and the ending is a big dose of “SEE XANDER, YOUR LIFE COULD SUCK MORE THAN IT DOES.” Although on the plus side, it lets us play the “Is that Nicholas or Kelly?” game, so…there’s that.

 

Next time on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy meets a cute doctor, Riley has an encounter with some old friends, and Spike tries to get himself de-chip-ified again. Find out all the details in S05 E04 – Out of my Mind.

 

Kirsti (all posts)

I'm a 30-something under-employed librarian and I still live with my parents because I'm super broke. Leader of Team Heartless Cow. I have an inexplicable love for 90s television, eat too much chocolate, and tweet about the random crap that happens to me on public transport more than I should.





Lorraine (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.





Sweeney (all posts)

I collect elaborate false eyelashes, panda gifs, and passport stamps. I earned my MA in Global Communications and watching too many YouTube videos. Reconciling my aversion to leaving the house/wearing pants with my deep desire to explore everything is my life's great struggle.





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  • Wilhelmina Upton

    Joyce. Headaches. I’m just gonna leave this here because I already see my emotional well-being running away into another dimension.

    The episode is okay. Not great but no rubbish either so I don’t have much to say. I like that we get to see a bit more into Xander’s character. He is not all clumsy and stupid, a part of him is also a bit more put together and maybe this will help the re-unified Xander to trust his abilities a little bit more. He just has to channel the right part of himself.

    • http://www.sweeneysays.com Sweeney

      I’m going to disregard the first part of your comment for the sake of my own emotional well-being. As to the second, INDEED. Hopefully. It’s hard because Xander is one of several characters who makes a decision in the upcoming three seasons that taints the way I see him across all seasons. I’ve been watching with a lot, “I HATE YOU FOR THE DECISION YOU HAVEN’T YET MADE.” (5-7 are interesting in part for the fact that every single character makes these kind of defining fuck ups. Some are more forgivable than others, but the importance of forgiveness is, itself, a major show theme.)

      So, uh, HOPEFULLY! But I don’t remember the future well enough to know if he actually does or not.

      • Wilhelmina Upton

        Me neither and I don’t even know to which decision you’re referring but I guess I’ll find out sooner or later. The upcoming seasons are interesting for all characters, there’s just so much happening. Trying times for the Scoobies.

        • http://www.sweeneysays.com Sweeney

          I’ll only say this: my 5-7 memory is largely restricted to BIG plots. There’s the occasional small moment, but mostly I remember big stuff. This is a decision with major consequences for another character. (Who, in turn, makes a decision that I have very complicated feelings about.)

          • Wilhelmina Upton

            I mostly remember the big stuff as well. Still have no idea but don’t worry. My memory is just very fuzzy on a lot of things as it’s been too long since I last watched it all.

          • SnazzyO

            I RARELY use the Contrivance Wand for Xander stuff. I accept that as Joss’ avatar he fills a role and sometimes it makes it more shitty. And you know, that’s the character so— okay, it’s his role and I can see it serving a purpose. I won’t claim OOC when he’s an ass in general because sacrificial dogs raised by drunken mongrels apparently fight that way. But that bad thing your thinking about? It’s only logical answer IMO is Joss felt the need to have an emotionally destructive moment so he, like Toth, whipped up the Contrivance Wand after selling his flesh/soul/litterofpuppies and pulled that particularly BAD moment (which causes your hate) out of his ass.

            So… you don’t HAVE to accept this as rationale but I just want you to potentially consider that the OOC Contrivance Moment should at least get a Mulligan until it happens. YMMV.

            Note: Unless your BAD thing is not the BAD thing I’m thinking of.

      • lev36

        I know what decision you’re referring to, and WORD. That’s some of the major power of the show for me, though, because it shows good friends making sometimes terrible mistakes, and how they can recover from that with friendships intact. Often with much difficulty, of course.

        • Clément Polge

          Isn’t Xander worst decision back in S2 though ? When Buffy’s about to fight Angel, and Willow ask him to draw it out so she can re-ensoul him, and he decides to keep the message to himself ?

          But to be fair, I can’t see what decision you’re referring to. I can only think of one thing for later-season Xander, and it’s a good one, so…

          • lev36

            That was a very bad decision as well, but I think that yrnivat Naln ng gur nygne was arguably worse. Hm, maybe not in all respects. But anyway, in both instances, I hated Xander quite a bit.

          • Clément Polge

            OH RIGHT. THAT. Can’t believe I forgot. I guess I kinda understand though, but we’ll get there when we get there.

          • Wilhelmina Upton

            So that’s the big bad thing he did that I didn’t even remember? Umm, okay. I apparently forgot more than I should have…

          • Clément Polge

            I know, right ? You’d think you remember something like that, it’s kinda HUGE.

            (to be honest, at this point I’m mostly adding drama to tease Lor who can’t read our spoilers)

          • http://www.sweeneysays.com Sweeney

            To be clear, yes, that is the Xander thing that I am referring to. It’s a toss-up for me, on which moment made me hate Xander the most. They are about equal.

          • Melbourne on my Mind

            Don’t you just love it when you can translate rot13 without actually needing to run it through the converter? OH WAIT. Not in this case I don’t.

          • Danna

            You can translate rot13?!

          • Melbourne on my Mind

            Only that little bit up there. Which wasn’t particularly difficult given the ongoing discussion!

          • Disa

            I can straight up read rot13. /sigh/

          • Jojo

            You scare me! Are you employed by the CIA?

          • Disa

            There could be quite a few blogs in my life…

          • Jojo

            ah….NSA.

          • http://www.sweeneysays.com Sweeney

            I know! I haven’t translated stuff in a while because it takes a lot of effort, but that one I knew, because of the the letter count / capitalization. (Granted, I had the advantage of it being a guess at my own comment, but still.)

          • lev36

            Oh, sorry! You know, I found myself wondering if anyone could read rot13 as I posted that bit. Looking for a better solution…

          • http://www.sweeneysays.com Sweeney

            Nah, I really don’t think it matters. The level of rot13 proficiency seems to be pretty directly related to knowledge of the future/spoilers. In that particular instance, it helped that she could probably venture a guess as to what it said based on the preceding conversation, you know?

            In any event, I don’t think it’s a big deal.

  • lev36

    All I can say is, Xander’s promotion must have come with an insanely huge raise for him to be able to afford an apartment like that in southern California. That, and thank goodness we’re done with the Fruit Roll Up Basement.

    • http://www.sweeneysays.com Sweeney

      INDEED. We didn’t go into it too much, but that’s part of why I suggested the nickname. Xander’s apartment is such a giant pile of contrivance it’s ridiculous. I can only assume that The Powers That Be Contriving felt bad for making him Xander Harris demon-magnet and for all the general character assassination that has taken place in the last four years. “Sorry about all that! Here’s an apartment you can’t possibly afford! This is also a down payment on future demon-magnetism and character assassination! Enjoy!”

    • Melbourne on my Mind

      Truth. Although I *did* have to wonder if maybe the rent in Sunnydale is hella low on account of Everyone Dies Here. Also, I neglected to mention it at the time, but there’s a moment in Sanctuary (the one where Faith comes to LA) where a news report says that she escaped from hospital in a town called Sunnydale which is “up north”. Which I find interesting, because I’ve always assumed that Sunnydale was, as you say, in southern California. Unless “up north” just means “somewhere to the north of Los Angeles and we don’t care to narrow it down any further”…

      • http://geekgirltravels.wordpress.com/ Fox MacLir

        Yeah, I’d say it’s a safe bet to assume “up north” probably just means north of LA, and Sunnydale really is still in southern California. That’s pretty much in line my general experience of Americans taking about a region.

      • Danna

        I’ve read several times that Sunnydale was a take on Santa Barbara. It’s supposedly about an hour north of LA. (Sunnydale, that is. I don’t know exactly how far Santa Barbara is)

        • http://www.sweeneysays.com Sweeney

          Yeah, about an hour. I suppose that’s probably the northern-most point that could reasonably call itself Southern California (along the coast, that is…and inland California isn’t even real California) though in my head it’s central California. I’m not really sure which one people from SB consider themselves. My cousin just graduated from UCSB; I’ll have to ask her when I see her this weekend… not that anybody else cares, but now I’m curious.

        • lev36

          I went to UCSB, and always pictured Sunnydale to be an alternate Santa Barbara. Probably not too far from Santa Carla.

          • Clément Polge

            That’s the good thing with being a foreigner, I can barely put California on a US map, so if they told me that Sunnydale was south of Miami and north of New York, I’d be ok with it.

            Or maybe on the border between Alaska and Russia.

          • http://geekgirltravels.wordpress.com/ Fox MacLir

            A+
            Santa Carla/Sunnydale headcanon accepted.

          • http://www.sweeneysays.com Sweeney

            WAIT. So I can ask you: where do you consider SB — southern or central?

          • lev36

            I consider it the northern end of southern California.

  • Democracy Diva

    I call this episode Dueling Xanders, and Snoopy!Xander is DEFINITELY the best Xander. Not as good as Vamp!Willow [DOPPELGANGLAND4LYFE], but awesome.

    • http://www.sweeneysays.com Sweeney

      Vamp!Willow is in a category all her own.

      • http://geekgirltravels.wordpress.com/ Fox MacLir

        A+ and +1
        Vamp!Willow is always the best forever.

  • Clément Polge

    I like this episode ! It’s fun, and it gets to show us some nice Xander growth, which started with the “I’m done being a butt monkey!!” with Dracula.

    And yeah, that Riley line at the end is giving me feels too, just as he’s starting to become likeable as a character !

    • Wilhelmina Upton

      Xander as a character has grown since he first appeared in season 4 and I like that. It’s nice to see him not being a useless third wheel all the time. And unless other Xander-centric episodes this one didn’t blow.

      • http://www.sweeneysays.com Sweeney

        It’s true! There’s an established precedent of Xander episodes sucking that makes Kirsti’s initial complaint fair (especially since she has gotten the bulk of those episodes) but this one was actually kind of fun, albeit with a heavy dose of SENSE: THIS DOESN’T MAKE ANY.

    • http://www.sweeneysays.com Sweeney

      It’s hard not to feel for Riley at the end there. I also feel like that was a bit of the writers saying, “We get it. We tried to make Biley happen and it’s clearly not going to happen.”

      • geff

        I always liked that Riley/Xander moment at the end. It’s unexpected but it comes about naturally, and considering how much we complain about annoying character obliviousness, it’s nice to see Riley be more aware. Unfortunately he never does anything constructive with this revelation, but whatever. I think part of the reason Buffy and Riley never bothered me that much (except a certain episode later this season >_>) is that, at least to me, it made sense that these characters were trying to make this clearly doomed relationship work – Riley wants to think he can handle having a very powerful, independent, and often isolated Slayer for a girlfriend, and Buffy wants to think she can handle having this fairly ‘normal’ boyfriend (though I do think Buffy CAN be with someone more ‘normal,’ just not Riley). So it wasn’t just the show trying, and failing, to make them happen, it was also the characters.

        • Clément Polge

          To be fair, what could Riley do with that information ? If he goes to Buffy with it, he’ll just come as needy, and get some empty reassurance of the opposite, but he wouldn’t believe it anyway…

          And I think that, in retrospect, it get much easier to understand Riley’s jealousy when it comes to Buffy. He is hers, but she never feel his, so he must always feel as someone ready to get dumped as soon as anything better comes along, even if Buffy doesn’t realise it herself. Which kinda make the whole “talking to her” sort of irrelevant.

          But I don’t want to get too ahead of myself, and I remember all this being wonderfully put by one character at some point.

          • geff

            I can’t really reply to this without getting into a spoilery ramble (rfcrpvnyyl vs gur punenpgre lbh’er gnyxvat nobhg ng gur raq bs lbhe pbzzrag vf Knaqre, orpnhfr V unir irel zvkrq srryvatf nobhg uvf vaibyirzrag va Vagb Gur Jbbqf. V whfg qryrgrq n jubyr enzoyr nobhg gung rcvfbqr npghnyyl, ohg jr unir njuvyr gvyy gura naq V’q engure abg unir n ybat oybpx bs ebg13 grkg. V’yy whfg fnl gung V nterr jvgu n ybg bs jung ur fnlf, qvfnterr jvgu fbzr bs vg, naq trarenyyl ERNYYL qba’g yvxr ubj gur fubj unaqyrq gur Ohssl/Evyrl oernxhc, sbe znal ernfbaf V’z fher V’yy enzoyr nobhg jura jr trg gb Vagb Gur Jbbqf.).

            Vague spoilers aside, I get what you’re saying. Riley can’t help what he feels, and I don’t think Buffy loves him the way he loves her, so it’s just an unfortunate situation. When I said he doesn’t do anything constructive with that revelation I don’t just mean communication, though that’s a big part of it too (it’s also not Buffy’s fault if Riley doesn’t accept her reassurances, and I wouldn’t call them empty). Kristi pointed out in the recap that with the Initiative gone we don’t know what Riley is doing with his time. Why does his entire life have to revolve around Buffy? Why isn’t he finding something else to do?

          • Clément Polge

            Frevbhfyl, jub pna yvxr gur jnl gur fubj unaqyr gur oernx-hc ? V zrna, gur jubyr Evyrl-tbvat-gb-trg-uvf-oybbq-fhpxrq-ol-inzcver, htu. V trg gung vg’f fhccbfrq gb gevttre gur “ORPNHFR GURL ARRQ ZR NAQ LBH QBA’G” qvfphffvba, naq znlor gurl qvqa’g jnag gb unir nabgure nssnve orpnhfr vg nyernql unccrarq jvgu Bm/Irehpn, ohg vg frrzrq fhcre BBP sbe zr, naq v ungr vg jvgu n svrel cnffvba.

            We don’t really see Riley POV, but I guess he can feel a little bit lost, and he’s trying to use Buffy as his anchor. She is the one who got him out of the initiative and showed him the error of their ways, after all.

          • geff

            Funnily enough the part that bugs you is not really what bugs me, but I get your frustration. Really the whole thing is ridiculous xD

            She may have showed him the error of their ways but it was his decision to play double agent and then eventually get out altogether. I’m just saying I wonder why we never see him think about what he wants to do with his life now.

          • Jojo

            Or get a job, or a place to live….or have any sort of life outside of being Buffy’s boytoy. I think it may have helped if the writers had dome some of that. All the other characters are fleshed out – Riley exists to moon over Buffy and get in her way all in the name of unrequited love….taking whatever scraps he can find and pretending they are enough. Except they aren’t – not for me at least.

          • Clément Polge

            Isn’t that a bit adressed in next weeks episode though ?

            They did save the world a few month back, and Riley kinda lost everything he believed in. I’m ready to cut him some slack.

          • Jojo

            I’m assuming he may have done at least part of that – just that it’s never shown or talked about. Yes, this is as pro-Riley as I get. Giles has the apt and the Magic Wiggins Box and the best snark. Willow has Tara and the Tardis dorm. Xander has the entire episode, job, apt and Anya, Spike has the crypt and his chip. Riley has…..nothing now that the Initiative, the TA job, and the frat have closed down. That’s part of why he is paper thin – it’s obvious that he has not been fleshed out as anything other than Buffy’s tragic and unloved BF.

    • Melbourne on my Mind

      It’s just a shame that just as Riley’s starting to become likeable, he goes and makes stupid decisions from this point on. SIGH.

      • Jojo

        I am over with Team Heartless Cow on this – anything that will get him off the show is a go!

  • Anagnorisis

    I like that this episode first makes you believe awkward!Xander is the real Xander and the other is an evil demon thing, when actually both are different aspects of Xander. However, I’m always left wondering how they would have managed if the demon had hit Buffy instead, I imagine that would have been an interesting episode too.
    It’s true that Xander episodes tend to focus on the same thing but at least looks like there’s some improvement. Also, they had the twin, it was too good to miss the opportunity.
    BTW, omg they are 19! I tend to forget that since they look older but… 19! I didn’t know anything about life when I was 19. Which reminds me, Willow and Tara are living together at college, at 19? U-Haul much? I tend to not comment on them since I have an unpopular opinion but girls, you just started dating and you are 19, slow down.
    …Well, there’s also the Hellmouth and apocalypses happen every few days… yeah… IDK
    Giles was amazing here!
    Squeee for the next one!

    • http://www.sweeneysays.com Sweeney

      Xander looking too old for his part has ALWAYS bothered me. A lot of the dopey teenage boy stuff is just hard to swallow coming from a 30-year-old man. It’s not that Nicholas Brendon has done a bad job of playing the part — he’s done lovely with it — but he just looks too old, and I think I would have appreciated high school Xander a lot more with a younger-looking actor.

      Because YEAH, 19! I had originally ranted about the stupidity of this apartment-interview thing without that qualifier, but then I thought about it and realized that it makes a lot of sense that a 19 year old trying to move out of his parents’ basement would be way out of his depth.

    • Clément Polge

      I hope I’m not too spoilery, but separating Buffy-slayer and Buffy-regular has actually sort of been done in the comics… For those who don’t mind some slight spoiler, rot13:

      Ng fbzr cbvag, Ohssl trgf ercynprq oh n ohsslobg, juvyr Ohssl urefrys vf fbeg bs oenvajnfurq naq fgneg yvivat n abezny yvsr. Va guvf fvghngvba, gur Fynlre ovg qbrf fbeg bs nevfr sebz ure fhopbafpvbhf, ohg gung’f fgvyy n avpr “jung vs” va zl bcvavba.

      • Anagnorisis

        Regarding the rot13, yes I knew that plot, but since I haven’t read the comics I never thought about it that way. Sounds interesting.

        • Clément Polge

          That plot mostly made some noise for some other aspect, but in the comic it’s actually there, so I don’t think I’m stretching too much :) It’s obivously not the same as the clear cut made by magic in this episode though.

    • JEL

      But I think most of us thought we knew about life at 19. Only in hindsight do we realize how much we didn’t know.

  • SnazzyO

    Another Xander feels ep for me which includes a permanent add to my own lexicon (“aggressively bad day”….I think it speaks to everyone whose had one)

    First, as a devoted member of the XDF I give Riley mad props for trying to cough over the drunken domestic squabble. Plus when Xander pathetically attempts to replicated the shoulder rub and Anya crabs, Riley stops and Buffy is completely unaware. As an XDF member I like that because it sort of shows that an outsider picks up this shit while those closest to Xander just sort of ignore crap. So, Riley gets mad props in this episode for this scene, telling Buffy he likes her bad ice skating movie addiction, revealing his inner psyche major geek with wanting to run experiments, and the way he expresses himself about how he feels in the last scene. In short, this was probably the best Riley episode for me.

    Second, I love all Willow/Xander childhood callback moments. And I also love how she just goes with it when Xander insists on proving he’s the real Xander. This is par for the Scoobies. Also she got one of the best lines: “Check. Candle and pretense.”

    Third, I liked Anya’s little crisis of life and Xander knowing what was driving it. I also thought it was pretty funny (and slightly disturbing) that Xander KNEW she wasn’t joking about the threesome with himself. I like Xanya, plain and simple. Some complain that he corrects her too much or that she shouldn’t be so blatantly stupid. Eh… I figure it’s the schtick (both sides) Whedon wants and just take it at that level. So, I love little Xanya moments when they show they really know each other.

    I’m pleased to be out of the basement!!! I recommend the following (feel free to ignore but I thought maybe some options might be something you’d entertain):
    - The Wiggins Box: makes it Scoobie central if you have Wiggins in the title
    - PresentPad: the apartment gifted to Xander by TPTB to offset his butt monkey existence and we can’t use the word Gift because reasons. Of course that shortens to PP and then we remember the cat/hotplate incident so… your call.

    • Jojo

      I like PTBPP – cuz it sounds childish and it makes me giggle a bit.

      • SnazzyO

        It certainly is appropriate for Xander’s not-so-inner-12-year-old.

  • SnazzyO

    On the Nicholas/Kelly game, it’s my understanding …if it talks it’s definitely Nicholas. He did all the “acting” and they reserved Kelly for when they had two in one scene and no talking.

  • JEL

    “K: Sudden thought: now that the Initiative has moved out of town, what the hell is Riley doing with his time? I don’t think the show ever addresses this, and now it’s going to bug me…”

    I think Riley *doesn’t* have anything to do with his time. I guess we’ll see if that is made clearer later. Naq guvf vf bar bs gur guvatf gung qevir uvf & gur eryngvbafuvc vffhrf va gur hcpbzvat rcvfbqrf.

    • Melbourne on my Mind

      Valid point. Part of it was me wondering where he’s even living now. Because presumably he’s not living in the frat house any more now that the Initiative have left town and kicked him out of the military for insubordination?? You know? I feel like it’s something they could have addressed in two seconds in one of Dawn’s diary voiceovers: “Now that the Initiative are gone, Riley’s living [insert place here]“.

      • Clément Polge

        According to last season’s episode 18, he’s living in Buffy’s magic vagina.

        LOL. CAN’T BE UNSEEN.

        • Melbourne on my Mind

          OH GOD, WHY WOULD YOU SAY THAT.

        • Jojo

          Which is why I do not read the comics – in fact, I do not even admit they exist. Though I understand that Giles is a 12 year old boy, Buffy was a pregnant robot, and Spike is traveling through space with giant cockroaches.

      • JEL

        I remember one scene in particular where they show him in some sort of apartment in one of the episodes. (I don’t think that spoils anything.) There might be other occasions I don’t remember. So they do address that eventually. I don’t think they ever address where he is getting the money to live on, but that is common in the post high school seasons.

  • darkalter2000

    I for one am glad we have forever gotten Xander out of his parents basement. I think a few people claim/think that Xander’s realtionship with his parents isn’t an abusive one. I would say there MAY not have been physical abuse, but there is definitely verbal abuse. I hate his parents. They remind me of mine way to much for me not to.

    Big foreshadowing thing going on with Riley this episode. Riley totally told Buffy he loved her and got nothing back. Like, nothing at all. I think that he probably has had these feelings for a while but they were spotlighted by their talk in the car on the way to Xanders. And then flat out exposited when he gives the reveal to Xander. Ouch.

    Minor Points and Quotes.

    “People say they are recycling. *looks around at dump* They aren’t recycling.” Love, love this line.

    Giles – “We just, uh, need to arrange the candles. Also, we should continue to pretend we heard none of the disturbing sex talk.”
    Willow – “Check. Candles and pretense.” Oh Willow, you are married, stop making me love you.

    How the hell did Toth know that Buffy was associated with the Magic Box? It hasn’t even opened yet. Seriously.

    • Melbourne on my Mind

      In regards to the last – because of contrivance. Have we taught you nothing?! ;)

  • Jojo

    **Lor: Where’s Riley to come threaten our totally harmless little Spike-y Wike-y now, eh?** Hah – I say at you! I can tell when you are teasing back at me, Lor! So…..hah.

    Personal I think that Spike scavenging in the tip in the middle of the night is far more likely than the entire Scooby crowd deciding they have to go find Toth in the tip in the middle of the night. Though I tend to like the tea shop idea, too. Spike and the mannequin – maybe he’s getting a bit too obsessed….or maybe he’s really bored.

    I,ve always been a little meh about this episode unless I am watching it at which point I become very meh. It is fun to try and decide which twin is which Xander. Giles, as always is perfect. Riley’s line about Buffy not loving him is enough to warrant a wide eyed look of sorrow. As for the rest….meh.

    • http://thelatepartygirls.com Lorraine

      NGL, Sweeney and I had a good laugh when I put that line in the recap. Then Sweeney emailed me kind of bummed because no one mentioned it. But I told her, “NO. HAVE FAITH. Jojo will say something.”

      AND YOU DID. :)

      This wasn’t terrible. It had it’s entertaining moments but we are still at the beginning of the season. I have a lot of, “WHAT NEXT?” feelings and this felt filler-y.

      • Jojo

        Tail twisting is always spoken of. I hope you heard the disdain in my ‘hah’ because I couldn’t come up with a quip so I disdained myself….I mean you!

        It was seriously fillery, but even in fillery episodes there are bits and pieces scattered through. Like Joyce’s migraines that make her an even more absent mother figure. And Spike’s mannequin kick – things are heating up in the crypt of despair. And Riley’s comment – which makes me wonder why he keeps trying because he knows it ain’t gonna happen. Buffy needs to give him the ‘it’s not you – it’s me” speech. But that would make sense and Buff is big on the melodrama. And Willow’s immediate recognition of goofy!Xander because of the famous Snoopy dance. And Anya being horny – which kinda happens in every episode. Even in the fillery eps, Joss is planting seeds of pain and despair…..or maybe he retcons but who cares.

        • Jojo

          Ha, bloody ha!
          Weak, and it took over 6 hours…..I am deeply ashamed.

  • Deborah Wiseman

    if you had to put all the Xander centric episodes together, at least it’s not the Zeppo.

    • Melbourne on my Mind

      Or Go Fish… *shudder*

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