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THE ZEPPO (ep #3.13)

Written by: Dan Vebber
Directed by: James Whitmore Jr.
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris
Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg
Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia Chase
David Boreanaz as Angel
Seth Green as Oz
Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles
Guest Starring: Saverio Guerra as Willy
Channon Roe as Jack O'Toole
Michael Cudlitz as Bob
Eliza Dushku as Faith
Co-Starring: Darin Heames as Parker
Scott Torrence as Dickie
Whitney Dylan as Lysette
Vaughn Armstrong as Cop

Plot Summary

Xander helped defuse a bomb while the other characters averted another apocalypse.

Plot Details

In a misty cavern, Buffy, Faith, and Giles waited in ambush until Willow's candle blew out. They then attacked a demon with Faith running it through with a sword. In the aftermath, they found Xander buried under some rubble and suggested that he avoid fighting from now on.

At school, Xander was desperately trying to be included in a game of catch between Doug and Les. Eventually, Doug threw a football at him, but it went a little long and hit Jack O'Toole, the latest in a long series of worst students at Sunnydale High School. Despite Xander's attempts to defuse the situation, Jack did a good job at intimidating Xander.

Cordelia witnessed Xander's humiliation and saw the opportunity to inflict further pain. She pointed out that he was the useless part of the group, the only one without any superpowers. She walked away very proud of herself.

A bit later, Xander quizzed Oz on what it meant to be cool. It became very clear to both Oz and the audience that Xander had no clue. A bit later, Giles told Buffy that the demons they fought (The Sisters of Jhe) were trying to bring about the end of the world by opening the Hellmouth.

The next day, Willow and Buffy discussed the Hellmouth opening when Xander pulled in a classic car. If I knew anything about classic cars, I could probably say which one. Apparently, Xander was renting it from an uncle with too many DUIs. Buffy and Willow were not as impressed as Xander had hoped.

Xander's car came in use when he was sent on a doughnut run. However, Cordelia saw him and quickly deduced that he was on the doughnut run because he was not good for anything else. She also said that the car was a desperate attempt to feel special, until a very impressed blonde (Lysette) started admiring it. Fortunately, she noted that it was a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, so I did not have to look it up. Cordelia was not pleased to have her insult undercut, especially when Lysette agreed to go on a drive with Xander.

That night, at the Bronze, Xander had to listen to Lysette's painfully boring stories about her ex-boyfriend's cars. He was very grateful when Angel came by. Unfortunately, rather than sitting down and distracting him from her stories, Angel told Xander to stay while he went to the library.

Meanwhile, Giles, Buffy, and Willow were not getting anywhere in their research. Giles was even considering trying to contact spirit guides that have knowledge of the future. However, he was distracted by the lack of jelly doughnuts. He wanted Xander to make another doughnut run, but Buffy was adamant that he not be involved.

Xander and Lysette tried to leave the Bronze, when he accidentally ran into another car. Unfortunately, Jack stepped out of the car. Xander tried to reason with Jack, but Jack pulled out a very large knife, named Katie. The encounter ended when a police officer interrupted as Jack about to stab Xander. Jack claimed that they were just "rasslin'." When Xander neglected to dispute this claim, Jack decided that Xander could drive while Jack rounds up "the boys." After all, it was not as if it were his car that Xander hit.

Xander, Jack, and Lysette ended up at a cemetery where Jack resurrected one of his friends, Bob. Lysette fled, but Xander was not nearly so smart. He followed as Jack resurrected two other friends, in various states of decomposition. In the process, Xander ran into Giles just after the spirit guides refused to help. Despite Xander's pleas, Giles had nothing for Xander to do.

Buffy found a badly injured Willy. Apparently the Sisters of Jhe had beaten him nearly to death while searching for her and Angel. The Sisters wanted them out of the way when they opened the Hellmouth that very night. Willy suggested that Buffy enjoy what little time she had left.

Jack, Bob, and two friends discussed what they should do. They eventually agreed on Jack's idea, to "bake a cake," which meant breaking into a hardware store. While there, Xander saw Willow walking out of the magic store. She would not say much other than that something was happening that night.

Xander wanted to leave, but Jack was against it. Jack and Bob decided that the problem was that Xander did not feel like part of the group because he was still alive. Jack was going to rectify that problem, but Xander fled in the car.

As Xander drove away, he saw a Sister of Jhe beating on Faith. He drove the car straight into the Sister and fled with Faith. The only problem was that Faith got worked up from the fight without any release from a kill. Faith decided that she wanted release of a different sort and threw him onto the bed. She kicked him out soon after they were done.

Xander went back to his car and examined the stolen goods from the hardware store. He realized that Jack and his friends were going to build a bomb. Xander did not know what to do, so he went looking for Buffy, who was having an intense conversation with Angel. Xander interrupted but realized that it was a bad time and left.

Giles felt the need to move the Oz werewolf from the book cage. After a couple of shots from the tranquilizer gun, Willow managed to down Oz and drag him to another place in the school. She then returned to help Giles with a binding spell.

Xander decided to find Giles to figure out what to do when he ran into Jack and his dead buddies. Xander grabbed one of them and got him to admit that the bomb was in the school boiler room. Unfortunately, Xander accidentally decapitated the dead guy before he could say how to defuse the bomb.

Even though he had a car, Xander barely made it to the school before the Jack, Bob, and the last dead guy. They ran by the library as Buffy, Faith, Willow, Angel, and Giles faced off against the Hellmouth beast.

Bob caught up to Xander first. He tried to attack Xander with an ax, but Xander knocked a vending machine over, crushing Bob. The last unnamed dead guy arrived, saw Xander with the ax, and fled. Xander and some Sisters of Jhe followed him, with the Sisters killing him as soon as they had him cornered.

Xander made his way to the boiler room where he found a bomb, complete with red countdown clock, and Jack. This time, Xander intimidated Jack into defusing the bomb. Xander turned and left. Jack tried to go out another door and ran into the Oz werewolf, who made quick work of Jack.

The next day, Willow, Oz, Buffy, and Giles discussed the events from the previous night that they knew about. Buffy's right arm was in a sling and Angel was unconscious for a few minutes, but everybody made it out OK. Xander said hello and went off for snacks. Cordelia saw him and decided to hurl more insults his way, but Xander just walked on. She seemed upset that she failed to hurt him.

The Good

The dialogue was very well-written. This is a very quotable episode. Most of the problems were with the plot.

The Bad

The plot, however was horrid. Those who like this episode say that those who do not like the episode do not understand that the point was to focus on Xander's relatively mundane adventures rather than on the battle to save the world. I do understand that this was the point. However, those who like this episode do not seem to understand that (1) Xander's adventures were not that interesting, and (2) Xander's adventures occurred only because everyone behaved out of character just to further the plot.

Xander was unconscious during the teaser. It is not unusual for a character to be unconscious. There is a reason why a semiregular category for these reviews is "Giles Unconscious." Willow spent part of "Becoming" in a coma. Buffy "died" in "Prophecy Girl." This has never before stopped them from participating in battles when necessary. Now that Xander was unconscious, everyone seemed to say that he should not participate in battles.

Furthermore, I did not find Xander's adventures to be particularly interesting. I could not take them particularly seriously, but they were not that funny either. Much of what happened occurred due to Xander's weakness and/or stupidity. Had he simply told the police officer what happened or ran off when Lysette ran off, his adventures would have been much shorter.

I understand that the point was to show events from the perspective of someone on the outside. Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Babylon 5 each did an episode that focused on characters who would ordinarily be extras. These episodes did not push a regular character to the outside of the group. If the real purpose was to show an outside perspective of a show's events, then the episode should have used someone who was truly outside.

The problem with Buffy episodes that focus on outside characters is that they tend to be, as I have complained before, about characters we have not seen before, will not see again, and do not care about. The Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Babylon 5 episodes got around this by making the episodes about the regular characters, just from a different perspective. This episode could have done the same. Another option would be to use a character that we have seen before and will see again who is outside the main group. In other words, instead of using Xander, this episode should have used Jonathan.

Overall Rank: 121

Action: 7

Buffy, Giles, and Faith fought a Sister of Jhe demon during the teaser.

Jack and Xander had a brief fight until a police officer arrived

Faith was fighting a Sister of Jhe when Xander intervened.

Faith and Xander followed up with "action" of a different sort.

Buffy, Faith, Angel, Giles, and Willow faced the Hellmouth beast.

Xander fought Bob, eventually dumping a vending machine on him.

Xander and Jack fought in the boiler room.

Comedy: 5

Nearly every Cordelia line was comic, albeit with a nasty tone.

Many scenes that may sound serious were played for laughs.

Drama: 3

Xander faced feelings of worthlessness as he was excluded from fighting the apocalypse.

Xander's constant intimidation from Jack was not helping his feelings of self-worth either.

Romance: 4

A young woman was impressed with Xander's car.

Faith and Xander had an encounter that was semiromantic.

Character Development: 6

Xander, for some inexplicable reason, is now excluded from participating in any activities other than doughnut runs, which used to be Buffy's job. He was not even allowed to research. This, along with Cordelia's daily assaults on his self-esteem, caused him to go on a search for find something special about himself. In the process, he is cured of his virginity.

Importance: 1

Xander is cured of his virginity.

Most Valuable Player: Giles

Apparently, Giles did something brave and heroic that saved the day, not that we got to see it. Xander deserves some credit for intimidating Jack into defusing the bomb, but he was partly to blame for the bomb being there in the first place.

Sherlock Holmes Award: Xander

Giles figured out what the demon cult was trying to do. Beyond that, most of his attempts to learn anything failed. Xander figured out that "baking a cake" meant "building a bomb" and came up with a plan to diffuse the bomb. Giles got the MVP, so I will let Xander get this award.

Goat of the Week: Jack O'Toole

Jack resurrected his friends, but they were alive for only a short time. He tried to build a bomb, but he let Xander intimidate him into defusing it. When Xander walked away, rather than resetting the bomb, Jack walked into Oz, and his final death.

Random Commentary

Writer Dan Vebber may or may not realize that Zeppo Marx was hardly the least talented of the Marx Brothers. During their vaudeville days, Zeppo would fill in for Groucho whenever Groucho was not available. Some people claimed that Zeppo was even funnier than Groucho. This supposedly made his brothers jealous, so they relegated Zeppo to romantic lead roles, which made some sense as he was the youngest and handsomest of the Marx Brothers.

Memorable Dialogue

"I'm fine. The shaking is a side effect of the fear." Willow

"Who, at a crucial moment, distracted the lead demon by allowing her to pummel him about the head?" Xander

"What should we do with the trio here? Should we burn them?" Buffy
"I brought marshmallows! Occasionally, I'm callous and strange." Willow

"But, gee, Mr. White, if Clark and Lois get all the good stories, I'll never be a good reporter. Jimmy Olsen joke, pretty much gonna be lost on you." Xander

"What are you, retarded?" Jack
"No, no, I had to take that test when I was seven. A little slow in some stuff, mostly math and spatial relations, but certainly not challenged or anything." Xander

"Boy, of all the humiliations you've had I've witnessed. That was the latest" Cordelia

"Why is it that I've come face-to-face with vampires, demons, the most hideous creatures Hell ever spit out, and I'm still afraid of a little bully like Jack O'Toole." Xander
"Because, unlike those other creatures you've come face-to-face with, Jack actually noticed you were there." Cordelia
"Why am I surprised by how comforting you're not?" Xander
"It must be really hard when all your friends have, like, superpowers—slayer, werewolf, witches, vampires—and you're like this little nothing. You must feel like Jimmy Olsen." Cordelia

"Integral part of the group? Xander, you're the useless part of the group. You're the Zeppo. 'Cool,' look it up. It's something that a subliterate that's repeated 12th grade three times has and you don't. [turns away] There was no part of that that wasn't fun." Cordelia

"But, it's just that it's bugging me, this 'cool' thing. I mean, what is it? How do you get it? Who doesn't have it, and who decides who doesn't have it? What is the essence of cool?" Xander
"Not sure." Oz
"I mean, you, yourself, Oz are considered more or less cool. Why is that?" Xander
"Am I?" Oz
"Is it about the talking? You know, the way you tend to express yourself in short, noncommital phrases?" Xander
"Could be." Oz

"Is it hard to play guitar?" Xander
"Not the way I play it." Oz
"OK, but on the other hand, eighth grade, I'm taking the flugelhorn and getting zero trim, so the whole instrument thing could be a mislead. You need a thing, one thing nobody else has. What do I have?" Xander
"An exciting new obsession, which I feel makes you very special." Oz

"Every nightmare I have that doesn't revolve around academic failure or public nudity is about that thing. In fact, once I dreamt that it attacked me while I was late for a test and naked." Willow

"It's my thing." Xander
"Your thing?" Willow
"My thing." Xander
"Is this a penis metaphor?" Buffy

"'Sisterhood of Jhe—Race of female demons, fierce warriors.' Eww, 'celebrate victory in battle by eating their foes.' They couldn't just pour Gatorade on each other?" Buffy

"I have no idea if they will respond to my efforts, but I have to try. All we know is that the fate of the entire world rests on... Did you eat all the jellies?" Giles

"Great knife, although I think it may technically be a sword." Xander
"She's called Katie." Jack
"You gave it a girl's name, how very serial killer of you. Listen, I think we should be going." Xander
"Are you scared?" Jack
"Would that make you happy?" Xander
"Your woman looking on, you can't stand up to me? Don't you feel pathetic?" Jack
"Mostly, I feel Katie." Xander
"You know what the difference between you and me is?" Jack
"Again, Katie's springing to mind." Xander

"I'm up. Suddenly, I'm very up. It's just I've never been up with people before." Xander
"Just relax and take your pants off." Faith
"Those two concepts are antithetical." Xander
"Don't worry, "I'll steer you around the curves." Faith

"All right, now I'm going to ask you this once, and you better pray you get the answer right..." Xander
"OK, OK" Dead Guy
"How do I defuse... [Splat] I probably should've left out that whole middle part." Xander

"Shoulda learned by now, if you're gonna play with fire, you gotta expect sooner or later [dead guy flees] I wasn't finished! Note to self: less talk." Xander

"I know what you're thinking. 'Can I get by him, get up the stairs, out of the building? Seconds ticking away.' I don't love your chances." Xander
"Then you'll die too." Jack
"Yeah, looks like, so I guess the question really is 'Who has less fear?'" Xander
"I'm not afraid to die. I'm already dead." Jack
"Yeah, but this is different. Being blowed up isn't waking around and drinking with your buddies dead. It's little bits beind swept up by a janitor dead, and I don't think you're ready for that." Xander

Characters in Peril


Police and Guns

Buffy and the Law

Strictly the Caucasian Persuasion

Unusual Pairings

Spoiler Questions

Highlight the space after each question to find the answer. It is strongly recommended that you do not do so if you have not seen episodes through the episode indicated.

This page was last modified on November 14, 2012