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The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch S03E13: “The Zeppo”

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In every generation, there is a chosen one. She alone just now realized she was missing a comma after the introductory phrase in this intro. She will also recap every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with an eye to the following themes:

  1. Sex is the real villain of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe.
  2. Giles is totally in love with Buffy.
  3. Joyce is a fucking terrible parent.
  4. Willow’s magic is utterly useless (this one won’t be an issue until season 2, when she gets a chance to become a witch)
  5. Xander is a textbook Nice Guy.
  6. The show isn’t as feminist as people claim.
  7. All the monsters look like wieners.
  8. If ambivalence to possible danger were an Olympic sport, Team Sunnydale would take the gold.
  9. Angel is a dick.
  10. Harmony is the strongest female character on the show.
  11. Team sports are portrayed in an extremely negative light.
  12. Some of this shit is racist as fuck.
  13. Science and technology are not to be trusted.
  14. Mental illness is stigmatized.
  15. Only Willow can use a computer.
  16. Buffy’s strength is flexible at the plot’s convenience.
  17. Cheap laughs and desperate grabs at plot plausibility are made through Xenophobia.
  18. Oz is the Anti-Xander
  19. Spike is capable of love despite his lack of soul
  20. Don’t freaking tell me the vampires don’t need to breathe because they’re constantly out of frickin’ breath.
  21. The foreshadowing on this show is freaking amazing.
  22. Smoking is evil.
  23. Despite praise for its positive portrayal of non-straight sexualities, some of this shit is homophobic as fuck.
  24. How do these kids know all these outdated references, anyway?
  25. Technology is used inconsistently as per its convenience in the script.
  26. Sunnydale residents are no longer shocked by supernatural attacks.
  27. Casual rape dismissal/victim blaming a-go-go
  28. Snyder believes Buffy is a demon or other evil entity.
  29. The Scoobies kind of help turn Jonathan into a bad guy.
  30. This show caters to the straight/bi female gaze like whoa.
  31. Sunnydale General is the worst hospital in the world.
  32. Faith is hyper-sexualized needlessly.
  33. Slut shame!
  34. The Watchers have no fucking clue what they’re doing.
  35. Vampire bites, even very brief ones, are 99.8% fatal.

Have I missed any that were added in past recaps? Let me know in the comments.  Even though I might forget that you mentioned it.

WARNING: Some people have mentioned they’re watching along with me, and that’s awesome, but I’ve seen the entire series already and I’ll probably mention things that happen in later seasons. So… you know, take that under consideration, if you’re a person who can’t enjoy something if you know future details about it.

You know how I come off as absolutely hating Xander? Well, most of the time I really just loathe Xander. This time, though, I’m so grateful for him, because this episode is one of the highlights of the series.

We open on the Scoobies (and Faith this time!) fighting ugly monsters in a cave. Willow used a spell to make a cloud because low-visibility was somehow necessary for this fight. She mentions that this time it went better because nothing melted. The monsters they were fighting are dead now, but that’s not the end of the problem. Now that he’s fired, Giles is even more out of the loop, so he has no idea why there’s a nest of these beasties hanging out.

Now that Giles is unemployed, he has begun transitioning into the hottest of all of his incarnations: weekend-chores-dad edition:

Giles has ditched his glasses and his tweed, and he's wearing a pilled-up fleece jacket.

How could anyone resist that gray fleece? Casual Giles is proof of #30.

Xander emerges from the pile of trash he’s been hiding in, and his cowardice gives Buffy and Faith some concerns:

Buffy: “Maybe you shouldn’t be leaping into the fray like that. Maybe you should be…fray adjacent.”

Xander: “Excuse me? Who at a crucial moment distracted the lead demon by allowing her to pummel him about the head?”

Faith: “Yeah, that was real manly, the way you shrieked and all.”

Buffy asks if they should burn the bodies, and Willow shocks them all by making a dark joke about marshmallows.

Willow: “Occasionally, I’m callous and strange.”

Giles is less concerned with how to get rid of the dead monsters and more with whether or not there are going to be more of these things. As they leave, Giles pulls Xander aside and suggests he stay in the background during the fighting. When the guy who gets knocked unconscious by a slight breeze thinks you might be in grave peril, maybe it’s time to listen.

The next day at school, Xander pathetically tries to get some varsity-jacketed guys to include him in their casual tossing of a football. When they finally do, he fumbles it and it hits a guy who is clearly too old to be going to high school:

This dude looks like he's at least thirty-five. And not a youthful thirty-five. Like, a guy who sells pills from a trailer in the woods thirty-five.

Like, is this a 21 Jump Street thing? This guy is in his thirties, at least. He was also on Kindred: The Embraced. It was a whole Romeo & Juliet thing. Least interesting storyline of the show.

Anyway, Xander messed up the dude’s lunch, so dude asks if Xander is the r-word. You know, twenty odd years later, I’m surprised by how much this shocks me, when it was a fairly widespread and almost socially acceptable word to use as an insult. So, it doesn’t surprise me when it gets played off as a joke. Xander offers to buy the guy a soda as an apology for hitting him with the football, but the guy is more interested in rounding up his buddies and beating up Xander, who walks away legitimately terrified.

But notice the poster on the wall behind the guy in the screencap? It’s another anti-smoking poster! We know this guy is a bad dude, because we’re getting a #22 clue right in the frame!

Luckily for Xander, his ex-girlfriend saw everything:

Cordelia: “Boy, of all the humiliations you’ve had that I’ve witness…that was the latest.”

She doesn’t stop there with the hatefest:

Cordelia: “It must be really hard when all your friends have like, super powers. Slayer, werewolf, witches, vampires, and you’re like this little nothing.”

When Xander argues that he’s an integral part of the group, Cordelia tells him he’s the Zeppo. THEY SAID THE NAME OF THE THING IN THE THING! Hey, how does Cordelia have even a passing acquaintance with the Marx Brothers? She seems like the kind of person who would get Groucho Marx and Charlie Chaplin mixed up, so I’m calling #24.

Cordelia also says that Jack, the terrifying bully guy, repeated 12th grade three times, so maybe that’s why he looks so old.

In the cafeteria, Xander interrogates Oz about what makes a person cool. Realizing that Oz is cool because he’s in a band, Xander decides he needs to learn to play an instrument.

Xander: “Is it hard to play guitar?’

Oz: “Not the way I play it.”

Dan Vebber, who wrote this episode, has a flair for some Marx Brothers-style jokes, I see. Xander is pretty sure he can be cool, if he just figures out how.

In the library, Giles is back in the tweed and glasses. Enjoy it while it lasts. He thinks the monsters they killed at the beginning of the episode are going to open the Hellmouth.

Buffy: “The Hellmouth? The one that opens…”

Giles: “About twenty feet from where you’re standing.”

From his cage, werewolfed-out Oz howls mournfully. But when we cut to the next scene, it’s still clearly daytime out, so I’m not sure what’s up with the werewolfing?

Outside, Buffy explains to Willow that the if they don’t stop the Hellmouth from opening, the world is going to be flooded with demons. This time, things are really bad, and they have to get their butts in gear on the research front. Just as they approach the school building, Xander pulls up in a classic convertible. It looks to be a 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air, but I have to admit I’m not as good with visual identification of ’50s Chevy convertibles as I am with ’70s Chevy convertibles, which are by far the cooler cars that will get you maximum trim.

Xander is not only driving this aqua-blue and white convertible with the top down on a day where other students are wearing coats, but he's also chosen some unfortunate sunglasses and a weird paisley shirt to go with his "trying too hard" ensemble.

Buffy: “What is this?”

Xander: “What do you mean, what is it? It’s my thing.”

Willow: “Your thing?”

Xander: “My thing.”

Buffy: “Is this a penis metaphor?”

Xander: “It’s my thing that makes me cool. You know, that makes me unique. I’m car guy. Guy with a car.”

Xander’s uncle got too many DUIs to drive anymore, so he loaned his classic convertible that has clearly been lovingly cared for to a newly licensed driver. I’m guessing Uncle Rory was not sober when he made this decision, either.

Buffy and Willow aren’t as enthusiastic about his new car as Xander is, but they explain that a really big evil is coming:

Buffy: “Biggest. Maybe more than I can handle.”

Xander: “We’ll handle it together. You know I’m here for you. Just tell me what I can do.”

Cut to Xander at the Espresso Pump–wait, is this the first time we’re seeing the Espresso Pump in the series?! Xander is picking up donuts for his evil-fighting friends when Cordelia wanders in and points out yet again that he’s just the errand boy while everyone else is doing the hard work. She tells Xander that even though he has a new car, he’s not a whole new person, and nobody cares about him. Just then, a hot blonde walks up and asks Xander if the car belongs to him. She says it’s a ’57 Chevy Bel Air, so I was only off by a year and some more exaggerated tail fins.

This girl is really into cars, which Xander learns later when he’s bored out of his gord at the Bronze. She’s giving him a detailed list of all the classic cars owned by the guys she’s dated before when Angel comes in. Xander desperately tries to get Angel to give him an out, but Angel is kind of busy with the apocalypse. He tells Xander to stay out of harm’s way. When that doesn’t work, the girl asks Xander to take her for another drive. But Xander is  so distracted by getting the brush off from Angel and the rest of the gang that he isn’t paying attention when he pulls out of his parking space, and he crashes into the car in front of him. Unfortunately, that car is owned by the possibly-undercover-cop-posing-as-a-high-school-student-even-though-he’s-pushing-forty guy from the beginning of the episode.

In the library, Oz-the-werewolf is freaking out. So are the humans. Despite the end of the world being at hand, the council still won’t talk to Giles. He’s going to have to take other measures:

Willow: “Where are you going?”

Giles: “Um, to try and contact the spirit guides. They exist out of time, but have knowledge of the future. I have no idea if they’ll respond to my efforts, but I have to try. All we know is that the fate of the entire world rests on it. Did you eat all the jellies?”

Buffy: “Did you want a jelly?”

Giles: “I always have a jelly. I’m always the one that says ‘let’s have a jelly in the mix.'”

Willow: “We’re sorry. Buffy had three.”

Giles starts to say something about Xander making another donut run, but Buffy stops him. She doesn’t want him involved in anything, for his own safety. So at this point, Xander can’t be trusted to stay safe on a donut run.

That might be an accurate assessment of the situation, however, because he’s currently confronting scary bully guy, who has a freaking bowie knife. That he’s named “Katie.” They’re about to get in a real bad fight when a cop comes up and recognizes the bully. He calls him O’Toole, so now I have a name to put to him. I think his name got mentioned before, but I spaced out on it. Anyway, Xander tells the cop that he and O’Toole were just messing around. This impresses O’Toole, who suggests they go “pick up the boys” and “cruise,” which is apparently a thing people say. Xander, car girl, and O’Toole pile into the convertible and drive off.

Cut to one of Sunnydale’s many cemeteries, where O’Toole is doing some kind of ritual around a grave.  Then an honest-to-god Zombie in a varsity jacket climbs out of the ground. He’s Big Bob, and he’s psyched to see O’Toole. Car girl, however, is less psyched to see Bob. She runs away screaming while the undead celebrates with his friend.

Big Bob: “How long I been down?”

O’Toole: “Eight months. I had to wait ’til the stars aligned.”

Big Bob: “Oh, eight months, I got some catching up to do. Whoa, Walker Texas Ranger. You been taping ’em?”

O’Toole: “Every ep.”

They’re going to pick up the other guys. Who are also dead and psyched to be raised.

Speaking of raising the dead, Giles is doing some spooky magic in the cemetery as well. He argues with the spirit guide in Latin. They’re not inclined to do any guiding, which makes their name seem a bit counterintuitive. That’s when Xander stumbles upon Giles and asks him if he needs any help. Of course Giles doesn’t, and of course Xander couldn’t help talk to spirit guides, anyway, but he wants an excuse to get away from the dangerous bully and the dead guys waiting to hang out with him. Giles sends Xander away with a dire warning about everyone being called to fight or something like that.

At Willy’s, Buffy sits behind the bar with him as he bleeds all over himself. The place is trashed; someone was there looking for Angel. The battered barkeep tells her that the Hellmouth is going to open that very night, and that she should spend her last night on earth with Angel.

Xander is spending his last night on earth with zombies who want girls, Taco Bell, and revenge. One of them was thrown off a bridge by what sounds like a rival gang. Another was shot while trying to rob a liquor store. They tell Xander that they’re going to “bake a cake,” then take him to break into a hardware store. As he sits behind the wheel of the car, panicking about the fact that he’s now an accessory to a break-in, he sees Willow leave the Magic Box. She tells him that the big scary is happening tonight, but he doesn’t know what it is and she doesn’t have time to explain. She has to get back to Buffy and do a protection spell. She leaves Xander there with his new gang. They want to initiate him…by killing him.

See, the whole thing with this gang is that they’re all dead. O’Toole raises them. He’s been dead for three weeks, he just looks a lot better than the other guys because he was raised within ten minutes of dying. Xander runs away (and sprints right through the Espresso Pump, which is a business I’ve never really understood. It doesn’t have any doors or windows? No grates or shutters? They just stretch a chain over the entrance and hope it’s all going to work out?

Faith is in a park, fighting a demon like the one from the beginning of the episode. Xander sees that Faith definitely doesn’t have the upper hand, so he drives his car into the demon and tells Faith to get in. They speed back to the motel.

Faith: “She got me really wound up. A fight like that and no kill…I’m about ready to pop.”

“Pop” gets used a lot to mean something sexual in Buffy lingo, doesn’t it? Or is it just two instances I can think of, both of them Faith? Actually, yeah. Maybe it was two times and both times were Faith.

But that doesn’t matter right now, because Xander is about to lose his virginity, and we witness the tender moment via a reflection in the TV screen, complete with some softcore Cinemax music. Then she kicks him out the door naked when they’re all done.

In the library, Oz is getting too rowdy to handle. Giles is going to open the cage for some reason, though. Willow is there with the tranqulizer gun. She shoots Oz, but it doesn’t take effect, and Giles has to physically restrain him so Willow can get another shot off. Wait, Giles is strong enough to physically restrain a furious, rampaging werewolf? I’ll be in my bunk.

Back at the car, Xander finally gets around to looking in the bags of stuff the zombies put in it. Surprise! It’s bomb supplies.

Xander: “Hey. They’re not baking any cake.”

He drives back to the hardware store:

Xander: “Long gone. Probably loaded with supplies. Gotta think. I can’t believe I had sex. Okay, bombs.”

I love this part, because I so identify with the “I can’t believe I had sex” thing. After I had sex for the first time, I walked around for like a day thinking that. It seemed so out of the realm of the possible for a teenager.

Xander decides that Buffy will know what to do, but when we cut to Buffy, she’s telling Angel that she doesn’t know what to do. Everything is super dramatic. Angel is going to sacrifice himself to stop the evil that we have no idea about. There’s all this I can’t lose you, I can’t watch you die going on, with the romantic sadness music and everything. It all grinds to a halt when Xander clears his throat. He stands awkwardly in the door and tries to explain that there’s this bomb-making zombie plot happening, but he realizes it’s not so big in the grand scheme of what Buffy has going on, so he leaves.

At the school, Giles is doing some kind of dangerous spell over the hell mouth. Willow comes in and says she moved Oz and hopes he’s somewhere secure. In the school basement, the zombies are building their bomb.

Out on the road, Xander spots the zombies. He grabs one of them and drags it alongside the car as he speeds away. He demands to know where the bomb is, and the zombie tells him it’s at the high school. Then Xander accidentally decapitates the zombie by running into a mailbox. Screaming like he’s just seen a mouse in the kitchen, he drives away to the school. Once there, he finds the basement locked and the remaining zombies in hot pursuit.

In the library, the Hellmouth has opened, and this has come out:

The group (sans Xander) stands ready at the library doors as a monster of many, phallic tentacles rises over their heads.

You probably can’t tell from the screencap, but the monsters fulfill our #7.

Xander runs from the zombies through the school. He crushes Big Bob under a vending machine, and another runs away only to be intercepted by the demons everyone was fighting in the first scene of the episode. Xander is still oblivious to the peril in the library, until a big tentacle weiner monster busts through the wall at him. He runs to boiler room, where he finds the bomb:

Xander: “Less than two minutes. Dumb guy, little bomb. How hard can it be?”

I’m so bummed, because my internet just crapped out so I can’t get a picture of it, but on the back of the boiler room door there’s a poster that says “First Aid and Choking”. Like, who the fuck is going to choke in the boiler room? Why is that poster there?

Before Xander can disable the bomb, O’Toole attacks him. He talks a tough game, but Xander reminds him that their time is kind of running out. Xander manages to get between O’Toole and the door, then has one of the most badass Xander moments of all time:

Xander: “I know what you’re thinking. ‘Can I get by him? Get up the stairs, out of the building? Seconds ticking away? I dont’ love your chances.”

O’Toole: “Then you’ll die, too.”

Xander: “Yeah, looks like. So I guess the question really is… who has less fear?”

O’Toole: “I’m not afraid to die. I’m already dead.”

Xander: “Yeah, but this is different. Being blowed up isn’t walking around and drinking with your buddies dead. It’s little bits being swept up by a janitor dead, and I don’t think you’re ready for that.”

O’Toole: “Are you?”

Xander: “I like the quiet.”

WTF, Xander just comes out of nowhere with the action hero ambivalence to death. Where has he been hiding that one?

In the library, everyone is still fighting the monster, unaware that a bomb is going to go off in eleven seconds. As the clock ticks down, O’Toole disables the bomb. Xander tells him that he doesn’t want to see him at the high school again, and leaves. Alone in the boiler room, O’Toole begins to monologue:

O’Toole: “I’m not going anywhere, Harris. The first time you turn your back–”

And then he opens the door and Oz jumps in. There is much screaming and wet tearing sounds.

The next day, everyone is bruised and beaten up, struggling with the aftermath of the violence they experienced and wrought. There’s a brief reconciliation moment between Buffy and Giles that I assume is supposed to gloss over the shit from the last episode, but it’s only two lines and it kind of doesn’t satisfy:

Buffy: “I don’t know how you managed. It was the bravest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Giles: “Stupidest. But the world continues to turn.”

Meh. I mean, I’ll grudgingly acknowledge that there’s a little basis for #2 in the way he reacts to the praise, but it doesn’t fix all that betrayal from the last episode. There wasn’t room to deal with it in this episode, but maybe there should have been something in between that one and this one, just so we could have seen some believable forgiveness with our own eyes?

Xander comes up to the table and Willow tells him he’s lucky not to have been there the night before. Xander doesn’t mention what happened to him, and pretends everything was just peaceful and fine.

Xander: “Well, uh, give me the quiet life. I’m gonna grab a snack, anyone want?”

Giles: “No, thank you.”

Xander: “Oz?”

Oz: “No. Oddly full today.”

As Xander walks away, he runs into Cordelia, and she tries her best to cut him down. He just smiles at her and walks away, while she stands there confused as to why she hasn’t been able to shake him.

So, in addition to the aforementioned I-need-more-than-just-these-two-lines lack of resolution from the previous episode, there’s just one other thing that rubs me the wrong way, and that’s Willow sitting at the picnic table and congratulating them all for saving the world, how no one will ever know they did it, etc. Yes, they were worried about Xander’s safety, and that’s why they kept him away, but I feel left out on his behalf. This episode actually gives me a lot of sympathy for Xander, in terms of being the only person in the group who doesn’t have much to offer. When the chips are down, he can do amazing stuff (see also: season six), but this episode drives home just how little recognition he gets. We often see him depicted as cowardly and useless, but this episode is really good at reminding you that even though he really is the odd man out, he has more courage than the rest of them. He’s willing to be there on the front lines, even though he doesn’t have any special power or strength to protect himself. This was the point in the series where I really started to soften toward Xander, even though he continues to be dickish and annoying through the rest of the show, right up until mid-season seven.

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  1. Casey

    As someone who loves Xander for all the reasons illustrated in this episode and a bunch of S7, but has to cringingly acknowledge his Nice-Guyness, I’ve been looking forward to this episode recap so much! It’s one of my favorites, and I’m wondering who the writer is, and if (s)he did some of the other excellent ones. Plus, while I adore Angel/Buffy drama, it was great to see it pointed out that it’s . . . pretty damn melodramatic.

    I also love how Xander’s courage is actually a fairly consistent trait (thinking of the last ep. of S6), and how when shit actually gets real, he’s a good guy. Weirdly, I feel like he’s a selfish, cowardly douchebag when he feels like he can “afford” to be, because the others are there to take care of him and laugh at him. When he’s the cheese standing alone, he always rises to the occasion.

    Speaking of rising to the occasion, I still don’t totally understand the point of the Faith sex scene. I mean, was it really just to enforce her slutty slutness? Because that’s . . . icky. Though I can never truly dislike a scene with her in it, because she’s amazing.

    November 18, 2016
    • Alisha

      I always took it as another layer of Xander having this atypical night and keeping his mouth shut about it. But of course it was with Faith, because she’s such a terrible whore …

      November 18, 2016
    • AltoFronto

      I think the point of the Faith sex scene is that by taking his virginity, she makes a man out of him, or whatever, so that he can do the heroics.

      A lot of Xander’s insecurity revolves around his sense of masculinity and lack of sexual experience, so I guess this was the show’s way of giving him a quick confidence boost so that he could turn to face the situation head-on.
      If he can find a girl willing to have sex with him, he can do anything, basically.

      It’s still pretty gross to equate random sexual encounters as a measure of self-esteem, especially when Xander gains a huge boost from it, and presumably Faith just satisfies the urge and then reverts to feeling angsty about her life choices, if I understand her characterisation in this series.
      Faith kind of acts really empowered around her sexual choices, whilst being quite an unhappy and insecure person, but Xander is actually empowered by it, so… 1 and 6.

      November 19, 2016
      • Alora Pendrak
        Alora Pendrak

        I think Faith Xander sex was the setup for down the line. For Consequences Xander because he had sex with Faith and she was his first think they have this connection. (Also because there are hints they both had abusive childhoods). Ironically its Xander who puts the deeper meaning to their sexual encounter and when Buffy finds out later on she tells Xander faith is about casual sex and dismisses the idea. He’s very hurt of the idea that he was used for sex. Though it is a bit icky because its another instance of Joss Whedon punishing one of the main characters for sex by having the person they had sex with hurt them.

        March 15, 2022
    • Catch

      Racist on what planet. Am native american, part Asian, part white and irish, u lost me on that on babe

      November 19, 2016
  2. Melodie

    Confession time, I had a huge crush on Xander when I first watched this show. While everyone else was going on about Angel, I was always rooting for Xander. It shocked me to learn that people didn’t like him and I’m only now seeing why that was the case. I don’t know how I missed all of his horrible behaviour before but I guess I was just young and dark haired, silly guys were/are my type so I overlooked the dickish things.

    I still adore this episode though and that moment, where he just half smiles in the face of death is still really hot to me. This remains probably my favourite episode. In the top 5 for me.

    Even though Xander can definitely be a prick, I still like him better than Angel and Spike. I hate those two creepers.

    November 18, 2016
  3. Atrista

    This episode is one of those clever ones that places the audience in the shoes of one of the characters. Throughout the entire episode we are left out of what is going on with Buffy and the hellmouth, just like Xander was. We never know who those demons were, we weren’t around for the fight in the hellmouth, we weren’t part of it at all! I felt so excluded and isolated watching this. It gives you an appreciation of what it feels like to be the one person in the group who can’t understand all the supernatural things going on.

    However, at the same time Xander is dealing with his own problems (which are presented as extremely mild compared to the hellmouth opening but they are not). Even though he is dealing with bombing zombies, his predicament is a metaphor for the dangers of getting involved with the “bad kids” while trying to fit in and be cool. He experiences the fear of being brought along to a crime and not being able to run away. Since he is going through a very relatable teen problem, I think the audience sympathizes with the fear and anguish he feels. In this episode, I really felt that Xander was going through something harder than Buffy and the others were. Buffy, Willow, and Giles fight monsters all the time, that is what they do. At the end of the day it leaves them practically unchanged, just another day by the hellmouth. But for Xander, what he goes through changes him. He grows up, he comes to terms with the fact that he is the odd one out and he’ll always have to struggle to keep up in silence because nobody notices. So heartbreaking.

    November 18, 2016
  4. Vivacia K. Ahwen
    Vivacia K. Ahwen

    Having recently re-watched the series, I was surprised at the level of my utter dislike at Xander. Though I had noticed on my original viewing of BTVS that he was a bit prick-ish and completely unfunny, his utter dislike of women hadn’t hit me so hard until round two. (Think I was just too busy loving the show.) But both times, this was one of two episodes that I found myself begrudgingly being okay with him.

    We all know the other one was in Season 7, and exactly which episode it was. For the sake of first-time viewers, I’ll leave it at that.

    My sole complaint with what was possibly one of the funniest BTVS episodes was the idea of the Hellmouth being opened again, Apocalypse Now, etc…events usually saved up/building up to the season finale. The idea that the open Hellmouth’s shit could just get shut down like THAT *snaps fingers* takes away from other end-of-the-worldy events, and negates the urgency of Season 1.

    Also, I was still so mad at Giles, and wanted him far away from Buffy. The Awful Episode needed far more addressing, and I’d like to have seen an entire episode focused specifically on G&B’s relationship healing (or lack of), after his abusive behavior. Just like Xander’s attempt to rape Buffy when “he was a hyena,” — you know, the one he had full recollection of, which was passed off as a joke — should have been treated very seriously. Or at least Buffy should have thrown it in his face in Season 5.

    November 18, 2016
    • Yup, totally agree with this. I watched Buffy for the first when I was long long past my teens and I hated Xander, still do. Which is also why I didn’t like this episode as much as everyone else does. But reading it here in the recap, it sounds hilarious. I just still don’t like Xander. And yes, this episode brushes over the events of the previous one way too easily.

      November 18, 2016
  5. Ilex

    Woo hoo, another Buffy recap! Only Buffy can save us from obsessing over the horrors of the Trump presidency!

    November 18, 2016
  6. Laina

    Yeah, I still hate Xander, but I love this episode. Playing around with structure in storytelling and going off model is one of my favourite things for TV shows to do. *shrugs*

    November 18, 2016
    • Laina

      (Ignore this, I just forgot to do the thing.)

      November 18, 2016
  7. Hiela

    THE BUTTS. I’ve been wondering what the hell that poster was about for years and NEVER realized that was a cigarette butt. I thought it was, like, worm ass or something. I’m so embarrassed right now.

    November 18, 2016
  8. Mel

    Firstly, Jenny your comment: “Wait, Giles is strong enough to physically restrain a furious, rampaging werewolf? I’ll be in my bunk.” totally reminded me of another of Joss Whedon’s best series, Firefly. Have you seen it? In one episode, Jane sees Inara go off with a female client and gets all hot and bothered, telling the others ‘I’ll be in my bunk.’ LOL Not saying that’s where you got it from, that’s just what it reminded me of. Also -totally with you there. Giles is hot. Strong Giles… well, I’ll be in my bunk …

    Secondly, I get so tired of the way the series portrays Faith as being slutty. Men can get all the sex they want – hasn’t Spike been with quite a few women (Dru, Buffy, Harmony, even Anya at one point, and that chick he brought to Xander and Anya’s wedding, presumably) – and no one’s calling him a slut. Yet Faith is treated like she’s less valuable as a person because she’s a female who happens to like sex. Not happy, Joss. I really like the fact that Xander didn’t crow about having had sex with Faith (well, not until later, anyway). I had more respect for him after this episode.

    Thirdly, I get that what Giles did in The Episode That Shall Not Be Named was horrible and amounted to huge betrayal but maybe the writers were trying to be realistic in not having Buffy forgive Giles straight away, or not giving them The Conversation that leads to forgiveness right away. In real life, people work up to these things. It’s not like Buffy brushed what Giles did under the carpet. It’s just that sometimes it takes time and actions rather than words that lead to forgiveness. That’s how I see it, anyway.

    November 18, 2016
  9. Jemmy

    This is one of my favourites, I like Xander despite his many many flaws. I like him a lot more than I like Angel.

    The end of the world being peripheral to the plot was a nice change. It showed Xander’s character in a way that can never usually happen because he is surrounded by people who have skills and abilities he’ll never have.

    November 19, 2016
  10. Alyissa

    1. Yes
    2. Ewww gross no, he is in love with Buffy the same as a parent is in love with their children, he admires her and wants her to grow to her full potential even when he dreams about her she is portrayed as his child(restless)
    3.No argument there but nobody’s parents in the show were great parents
    4. Willows magic had one ultimate use in the end so not completely useless
    5. Xander is usually a dick and sometimes is the typical nice guy
    6. True but it is feminist in the way that it takes the females feelings and their flaws into account and they are still badass
    7. I don’t see it
    8. A lot of people die in the show, the main characters are never really in danger but its about the fight against evil not the fight for survival
    9. Totally, so much evidence to support this
    10. No wtf.
    11. Yeah
    12. I need some examples
    13. Why?
    14. Sort of
    15. I think willow is the only one that can hack with computers but other people have been seen using them
    16. I need examples for this one too
    17. A little
    18. Oz and xander have sarcasm in common
    19. True
    20. Huge plot hole, like what was the purpose of the first drowning spike as a form of torture, when Angel was able to survive under water
    22. Spike smoked and rode motorcycles and wore black, all of those things were considered cool at the time
    23.Every other show in the 90’s was a bit homophobic
    24. Yeah they have a lot of really old references
    26. Well it makes sense, they are used to it
    27. No one in the show ever actually got raped
    28. Possibly
    29. Johnathan was never really a “bad” guy and i think thats because of the scoobies
    31. The hospital should have been aware of what kind of things happened in sunnydale and how to help the victims but they somehow were in the dark
    32. Faith uses her sexuality to her advantage
    33. I want some examples of this
    34. True
    35. Its explained that vampires know the amount they can drink before their victims die

    November 19, 2016
    • Casey

      Um . . . maybe you were just trying to be snarky and funny, but some of your points seem kind of rude. Like, you’re kinda treating this blog like it’s a personal affront to you and to the show; you should be aware that a) Jenny loves the show, and came by these theories by watching it over and over, and b) this is a list that’s been built over the course of watching 2.5 seasons; if you want examples, go through the older recaps. She gives examples when she decides to add another number to the list, so you won’t hurt for evidence.

      There are, however, some points that I personally would like to comment on:

      2. It’s not very nice to say “ew no” to someone’s opinion. Buffy’s an adult when any romantic overtures begin to appear, and it’s not like older man/younger woman is an unheard of relationship. I’m more on the side of him being a father figure as well, but I look forward to seeing her theory play out as the show does.
      6. It bothers me that the show tends to equate “badass” with “able to kick things a lot.” While Buffy and the other women in the show are both physically and emotionally strong, they’re also in many ways stereotypical, and it always skeeved me out how much Joss loves to have his heroines cry. Like, they usually have reasons to cry, but it’s always so lovingly — almost fetishistically — shot and never for the guys. I think almost a 5th of the show is just long shots of Buffy crying. (Also this is a really good resource:
      7. Let me help you out: Snakes. Lots of veiny, wormy snakey things.
      10. I don’t know either, but we’re barely into Season 3 and Harmony hasn’t been in the show much yet. Give her a chance.
      12. Go check out the other recaps: there’s evidence aplenty. It’s not intentionally racist — how many things are, now that I think of it? — but there’s a fair amount of “ignorant white people bulldozing into/over issues they don’t really understand and/or don’t think through.” Cringey, possibly offensive, but not evil.
      13. Season 1: computers are evil and contain a literal demon. Season 4: the Big Bad is a scientific and technical organization. I’d argue it’s more that authority is not to be trusted (see: watchers), but authority tends to frequently be embodied in scientific organizations.
      16. I’m going to start skipping the “I need examples” ones because even I’m starting to think my comment is petty, but seriously, read the recaps. Not only are they hilarious, but they have a lot of the support you’re looking for.
      27. While no one technically gets raped, there is a lot of sexual assault in this show played for cheap drama (Spike, why?) or laughs (Xander, why?). Maybe the concept of consent was less well-developed in the 90s, but it’s still pretty squicky on rewatch.
      32. Does she really? In what way is her sexuality ever an advantage? And isn’t it a little weird that someone who has basically every advantage on earth — super-strength, super-speed, she’s pretty smart albeit hotheaded — has to rely more on her body than her foil and counterpart, Buffy (who is the “good girl” to Faith’s “bad”)? Why wouldn’t a woman just enjoy her sexuality, rather than having to use it?
      33. Check out how Xander talks to Cordelia when they don’t like each other. There are plenty of other examples, but that’s the most heinous I can think of.
      35. Actually, I’d appreciate some examples of this, because I don’t remember ever hearing that . . .

      November 21, 2016
  11. candy apple
    candy apple

    35. Vampire bites, even very brief ones, are 99.8% fatal.

    I move that the percentage be changed to “98.6% fatal,” as that is the average human body temperature.

    November 20, 2016
    • Sunniegreen

      Seconded. 98.6 is undeniable.

      November 20, 2016
  12. Siobhan


    I last rewatched Buffy 2-3 years ago, so I might be misremembering, but I thought the Season 5 episode The Replacement also showed us Xander’s courage and competence (in an admittedly heavy-handed way). I liked that one even better than this one, because it really showed us (heavy-handedly) the two Xanders — the Whiny Nice Guy and the decent, competent guy who coexists with the WNG. And aside from the Season 6 finale, I thought The Replacement showed Xander in the best light of all the episodes. So it’s been confusing me to hear you mention The Zeppo so often prior to this, and yet nothing about The Replacement.

    November 21, 2016
    • Casey

      Totally agree: I always thought there was a decent person hiding under Xander’s douchiness, but he needed to grow up a bit to unleash it, and The Replacement is a great example of that. It just would’ve been nicer if the show acknowledged his shittiness more openly in the show, rather than just playing it off for laughs.

      November 21, 2016
  13. Quint&Jessel

    “Xander emerges from the pile of trash he’s been hiding in, and his cowardice gives Buffy and Faith some concerns:” Actually, Jenny, from his own words, he was knocked into the pile of trash. He’s the only “human” there besides Giles, and we all know know Giles is capable of casting spells and fighting like a beast.

    November 21, 2016
  14. Quint&Jessel

    Further thoughts: Yes, Xander is a Nice Guy, blah blah, and wouldn’t it be wonderful if he was a constantly brave feminist hero. Except this is Whedon, so everyone has terrible or silly flaws. Willow’s an insecure mess with abandonment issues, Buffy can be a pain in the ass, Giles–well, look at the previous ep–Cordy’s a bitch (but I love her)…Xander’s pretty much the typical high school boy who has alcoholic parents (and his Uncle’s DUIs suggest it’s a real hereditary problem for Xander’s family) and a crap social life except for the Buffettes. And his heroics in the basement–under the building the Scoobs are fighting the Hellmouth thingy in–ensure that they, too, are not blown up by the Zombie Bad Boy gang. If the Scoobs beat the Hellmouth thing but are blown up by a bomb…that’s how important the issue Xander’s facing it.

    Also, I can’t see why Faith having sex with Xander is considered slutty by everyone here. She has sex with him. So? I’m not seeing the slut factor at all. Faith’s character is very in the moment; yes, issues (father issues, certainly, with the Mayor relationship) but I don’t see this sluttiness at all.

    Xander never brags about having sex–he does say that he thinks he has a connection with her and could talk with her when they’re all worrying about what she’ll do (and Willow’s weeping about it–the hell? Willow, you don’t own his dick). The sex is just part of this insane night of his, when he’d probably have been safer stumbling around the Hellmouth thing–but of course they’d have all been blown up. I don’t see he’s “empowered” to be brave by having the sex. After all, he went after vampires, including the Master, in the first shows. He’s always been willing to help, no matter the kind of help, and the summer Buffy was gone, he patrolled. I mean–this ep’s sex wasn’t a magical boost of power and courage.

    November 21, 2016
    • Courtney

      I was always really touched by the scene where Willow cries in the bathroom. To me, Willow’s been on this journey away from Xander since Oz first showed up in “What’s My Line?” in season 2. She’s had a lot of emotional maturing to do and letting go of the Dream Of Xander is really hard for her. She’s got issues with abandonment, like you pointed out. She tried to have her cake and eat it too when she hooked up with him early in Season 3 but she immediately rushes to Oz when they’re caught. She knows her and Xander don’t work together and that Oz is better for her, and she does love Oz.

      But we always save a piece of our heart for our first love, and hearing that Xander lost his virginity to someone else killed that part of hers. I bet she’d pictured them losing their Vs to each other a million times, you know? So when that didn’t happen she had to mourn a bit.

      …or at least that’s what happens in this fanfic I’ve written in my head. lol

      November 22, 2016
  15. Quint&Jessel

    Oh, I believe this ep’s writer also wrote “Lover’s Walk,” which was funny and brutal.

    November 21, 2016
  16. In the second season Xander says:
    Cavalry’s here. Cavalry’s a frightened guy with a rock, but it’s here.

    He has nice moments sometimes.

    November 22, 2016
    • Courtney

      lol I hear what you’re saying, but it’s funny you use this as an example of Xander being ok sometimes, when immediately after this he does the most turd-gobliny thing of the whole series where he lies to Buffy about Willow wanting Angel dead, instead of telling Buffy about the second attempt to do the soul spell.

      I never hated him more and I HATE that it pretty much never came up again.

      November 22, 2016
  17. Rhiannon

    It’s been so long since I’ve heard it that I totally couldn’t think what you meant by the “r-word”. (I’ve remembered now). I was wondering if redhead was somehow a big insult in the U.S. but then that didn’t work because it’s the redhead who said it. I’m glad I haven’t heard the actual word for years, though.

    November 22, 2016
    • Laina

      If you watch the Great British Bake-Off, they use it a lot talking about yeast, and I jump every time I hear it. It’s startling.

      November 22, 2016
      • Rhiannon

        Ah well I don’t watch that 😉 I didn’t know that baking term either. My husband trained as a baker but he’s German.

        November 22, 2016
        • Laina

          Yeah, it’s used sometimes when referring to, say, cold or salt killing or slowing the yeast and it does kinda make sense since like… actual original meaning of the word. Like they say it (blanks) the yeast, not the yeast is a (blank), to be specific. But it’s SO startling when you’re from North America especially, and honestly uncomfortable. And it’s a BBC program!

          November 22, 2016
  18. Aurelia

    This is a really great re-cap of a really great episode, but as a British fan, I have one quite huge, enormous, problem with it:

    “Did you eat all the jellies?” … I always have a jelly. I’m always the one that says ‘let’s have a jelly in the mix.’”

    I BEG your pardon?? Now I know that Giles has been on the wrong side of the pond for at least 3 years at this point, but this is still entirely unacceptable.

    As any british person knows, an american ‘jelly doughnut’ is what we would call ‘a doughnut’ (or, if you’re being very specific, ‘a jam doughnut’).
    To us ‘jellies’ are either a particularly hideous sort of plastic beach sandal, or a moulded gelatin dessert (i.e. jello).

    It’s a little thing, but I really can’t see Giles having integrated american slang that far into his vocabulary.

    This sort of thing is a pet peeve of mine: I hate it when they do it to FitzSimmons in S.H.I.E.L.D too (‘fourth grade’, your fine scottish arse!)

    May 21, 2017
  19. SosaLola

    I think Xander’s bravery was always a constant thing. I don’t remember the show showing us that he’s a coward. Xander *says* he’s a coward, but Xander has a very low opinion of himself.

    I mean, look back at The Harvest, the first time ever that Xander and Willow were told that vampires are real. Willow was scared out of her mind – “I need to sit down” “You are sitting down” – but vampires existing didn’t faze Xander because all he cared about at the time was rescuing Jesse. He followed Buffy into the sewers to save his friend and was very courageous throughout the episode.

    Prophecy Girl also comes to mind: Xander was the one who had to talk Angel into taking him to The Master to help Buffy. He didn’t care for Angel’s threats about how scary and powerful The Master was. His one and only priority was to save Buffy. That’s just one damn brave kid, and as you said, gets little to no recognition for it from neither his friends nor the audience.

    July 28, 2017
  20. Nichol DeCastra
    Nichol DeCastra

    Anyone else wondering why Xander, Willow, Cordy and anyone else who runs around with Buffy and them never takes up any form of weapons training or martial arts/self defense? Because that seems like it would be useful thing to know when helping protect the world.

    January 23, 2020

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