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SUPERSTAR (ep #4.17)

(a.k.a. Jonathan the Vampire Slayer Etc.)

Written by: Jane Espenson
Directed by: David Grossman
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris
Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg
Marc Blucas as Riley Finn
James Marsters as Spike
Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles
Guest Starring: Danny Strong as Jonathan Levinson
Amber Benson as Tara
Bailey Chase as Graham Miller
Robert Patrick Benedict as Jape
John Saint Ryan as Col. George Haviland
George Hertzberg as Adam
Emma Caulfield as Anya
Co-Starring: Erica Luttrell as Karen
Adam Clark as Cop
Chanie Costello as Inga
Julie Costello as Ilsa

Plot Summary

Jonathan's spell caused all of Sunnydale to worship him as a hero.

Plot Details

The episode opened with Buffy doing battle with yet another vampire. A second one arrived, but—despite backup from Willow, Xander, and Anya—Buffy was unable to defeat the second one. The group followed it to a nest of five vampires. This was too much for the four of them, so they went to the one person who could help, Jonathan.

Giles and Willow helped Jonathan learn more about the nest. Giles realized that the nest was not performing any rituals and Willow located the schematics of the crypt. Jonathan, Buffy, Xander, Willow, and Anya raided the nest and dusted all five vampires in short order.

Buffy was a little concerned that one almost got away, but Jonathan reassured her that she did her best. On their way out, Jonathan posed for paparazzi. Later, Willow and Tara created a collage of Jonathan pictures while discussing Willow's recent adventure and concerns about Buffy and Riley.

Buffy had yet to get over Riley having slept with Faith even though he thought that he was with Buffy. She discussed her concerns with Jonathan at the Espresso Pump, in between interruptions from autograph seekers. He realized that she was angry at Riley as well as at Faith and suggested that Buffy needed to forgive Riley.

Col. Haviland, the new Initiative commander, brought in Jonathan as tactical consultant to provide information about Adam. Jonathan noticed that Adam did not eat and figured out that Adam got his energy from uranium. Afterward, Jonathan counseled Riley. He believed that Buffy thought that Riley was comparing her to Faith.

Karen, one of the autograph seekers, was stalking Jonathan at his mansion when she was attacked by a demon. She caught up to him while he was performing at the Bronze. At his mansion, she described the demon and described a mark on its forehead. Jonathan claimed that it was nothing to worry about.

Adam talked with a vampire minion. Adam realized that the world was wrong and that Jonathan was not who everyone thought he was. Adam did not think that he needed to do anything about it because the magic that created the current situation would fall apart.

Buffy, Willow, and Tara walked home from the Bronze. When Tara entered her dorm, the monster burst out and attacked her. Tara was able to shoot out enough mist from her wrists to confuse the monster and hide in a closet (visual pun probably intended).

Tara apparently spent all night in the closet. After someone found her and alerted Willow, Willow called Buffy to Tara's room. Tara was still terrified, but she managed to get enough of a description out that Buffy was able to guess that it was the same monster that attacked Karen. Willow was shocked that Jonathan could be wrong about it being nothing to worry about.

Buffy went to visit Xander, but only Anya was there. Anya made little attempt to make her feel welcome. Eventually, Buffy got to the point. She thought that Jonathan might have altered the world. Anya spoke hypothetically about the possibility of alternate realities, mostly involving the preponderance or complete absence of shrimp.

Buffy called a meeting with Xander, Willow, Giles, Anya, and Riley. She believed that Jonathan might have altered the world to make him a superhero. The other characters were very skeptical, but Riley was willing to give Buffy the benefit of the doubt.

Buffy thumbed through Giles's Jonathan Swimsuit Calendar and found a shot in which Jonathan had the same mark as the monster. Jonathan arrived and said that Buffy was right about how he was wrong about the monster. He admitted that he was vulnerable to the monster and gave himself the mark as a reminder. After a bit of hesitation, he agreed to go patrolling for it with Buffy.

The others did some research. Well, Xander just set his book on fire. In any case, Willow discovered the augmentation spell that Jonathan used to create the alternate reality. The monster was tied to that reality. If it were killed, Jonathan would revert to what he was before the spell. Anya was worried that Jonathan would not let Buffy find it.

Meanwhile, Buffy managed to convince Spike to give up a bit of information about where the monster might be hiding. She and Jonathan entered the cave that Spike talked about, and the monster soon attacked. Jonathan said that Buffy had to fight it alone and that she could. She started to remember how to fight like she used to when the monster nearly tossed her into an abyss. Jonathan saw that she was in danger and bull rushed the monster into the pit. He almost fell in himself, but Buffy caught him.

All across Sunnydale, the Jonathan related paraphernalia faded from view. Buffy, Riley, Willow, Tara, Xander, and Anya talked about how weird everything was. Buffy noticed Jonathan watching them and approached him. He explained that a kid in counseling gave him the spell without mentioning the monster. Buffy said that they did not like being puppets, but he saw them as friends.

The Good

This episode was a lot of fun. In my review of "The Zeppo," I commented that it should have been Jonathan-centered. The only problem with doing that is that it might have preempted this episode and the clock tower scene in "Earshot."

Like Marti Noxon in "The Wish," Jane Espenson does a good job at creating a new universe in this episode.

The Bad

This episode did not push the conceit as far as it could have.

Overall Rank: 51

Action: 4

Buffy fought two vampires during the teaser.

Jonathan and Buffy quickly dusted five more in the nest.

Jonathan's monster attacked Tara.

Buffy and Jonathan attacked the monster.

Comedy: 8

The whole concept of Super-Jonathan contributed to the comedy.

For the first time, the opening credits contribute to the tone of a specific episode.

There was visual humor as "big gun" Jonathan made a presentation to Initiative soldiers a foot taller than he was.

Anya's shrimp obsession was amusing.

Drama: 5

Buffy is still upset about Faith having slept with Riley.

Romance: 5

There is tension in the Buffy / Riley relationship that Jonathan helped to resolve.

Anya may or may not have said Jonathan's name while having sex with Xander.

Character Development: 7

Jonathan spent some time in therapy after the incident in "Earshot." He came across a spell that would make him into the ideal person without really knowing the consequences. When the seriousness of the consequences became too obvious, he did the right thing and reversed the spell.

Xander, more than the other regular characters, seemed to prefer the alternate reality to the normal one. It seems that when Buffy was the big hero, she did not make Xander feel as special as Jonathan did when he was the big hero.

Riley has reached the point with Buffy that he trusts her even when she says something that seems ridiculous.

Importance: 5

Buffy and Riley are largely reconciled after his encounter with Faith.

Jonathan presented useful information about Adam.

Most Valuable Player: Jonathan

This may be a surprise choice, but nearly everything in the episode occurred because of him. He got the attention and the adulation that he craved. However, when it became clear that this was putting people in danger, he did the right thing and defeated the monster, at the cost of all that he gained. In the process, he provided valuable information about Adam and helped Buffy and Riley to reconcile. He is the clear MVP of the episode.

Sherlock Holmes Award: Buffy

This was a good episode for figuring out things, but Jonathan and Buffy were the strongest contenders for this award. Jonathan deserves a lot of consideration for figuring out Adam's power supply and for his advice for Buffy and Riley. However, Buffy gets the award for figuring out that there was something wrong with the Jonathan-centered universe. Riley gets a bit of credit for figuring out that Buffy was usually right about these things. Adam gets credit for also figuring out that the world was not like normal. Finally, Willow discovered the spell that Jonathan cast.

Goat of the Week: Nobody

This episode lacked a traditional antagonist, save for an unintelligent monster. Jonathan lost his powers, but, as Adam pointed out, the spell was unstable and was destined to fall apart anyway. Therefore there were no real losers in this episode.

Random Commentary

In a twist on recent subtext, Xander and Giles (the swimsuit calendar) were more gay than Willow and Tara (the collage) in this episode.


Many people have been wondering how Anya gets the money to support herself when she has no apparent job and her human parents probably died around eleven centuries ago. I think the answer was in this episode. My guess: her comment about excreting gold coins not being fun came from personal experience.

DVD Extras

Commentary by Writer Jane Espenson does more explaining of what was happening on screen than she normally does. It contains minor spoilers into the sixth season. Insights include:

Memorable Dialogue

"I bet I could do it. I mean, I know I could take at least two." Buffy
"Yes, and then we could run for help while the other three suck your heart out through your neck." Anya

"Hey, don't worry about it. Nest full of vampires, you come get me, OK. Box full of puppies, that's more of a judgment call." Jonathan

"We knocked 'em dead, which they already were." Xander
"We knocked 'em deader." Willow
"Well, they weren't very well organized. If they had all rushed at Buffy, they could have killed her right away." Anya

"At the one moment that matters the most, he looks into your eyes and he doesn't even see that it's not you looking back at him." Jonathan
"There's no way he could know. I mean, you don't just look at someone and say, 'Hey, that's not your body. Get out of that body with your hands up!'" Buffy
"I know you know that, but you have to believe it. Buffy, if there's any part of you that's blaming Riley for what happened, well, then it seems like there's a part of you that needs to forgive him." Jonathan

"It's not gonna be easy, Buffy, but you guys are very special together. That's worth a little hard work." Jonathan

"Hey, I was just at the part where he invents the Internet." Anya

"Vengeance wishes on ex-boyfriends. I'd wish he was a dog or ugly or in love with President McKinley or something." Anya
"But someone could wish the whole world to be different, right? That's possible?" Buffy
"Sure, alternate realities. You could have, like, a world without shrimp, or with, you know, nothing but shrimp. You could even make, like, a freaky world where Jonathan's like some kind of not perfect mouth-breather, if that's what's blowing up your skirt these days. Just don't ask me to live there." Anya

"He's just perfect enough. He crushed the bones of the Master, he blew up a big snake made out of Mayor, and he coached the U.S. Women's Soccer Team to a stunning World Cup victory." Xander

"Anya, tell them about the alternate universes." Buffy
"Oh, OK, say you really like shrimp a lot, or we could say you don't like shrimp at all. 'Blah, I wish there weren't any shrimp,' you'd say to yourself." Anya

"Giles, do you have a Jonathan swimsuit calendar?" Buffy
"No. Yes, it was a gift." Giles

"Hi, Buffy was just saying how you had a monster cut up Willow's friend." Anya

"These spells, these really work? I mean, can you really turn your enemies inside out or learn to excrete gold coins?" Riley
"That one's not so much fun." Anya
"They work, Riley, but they take concentration. Being attuned with the forces of the universe." Willow
"Right, you can't just go 'Librum incendere' and expect... [book catches on fire]" Xander
"Xander, don't speak Latin in front of the books." Giles

"So we're saying he did a spell just to make us think he was cool?" Xander
"Yes." Giles
"That is so cool!" Xander

"Buffy was right. Buffy was right." Willow
"Doesn't sound very likely, does it?" Anya

"You know what I'll always remember?" Xander
"Well, the swimsuit calendar's sticking in my mind. Not in a good way." Riley

"Did anyone else feel way too tall? I felt way too tall." Riley

Characters in Peril


Departed Characters Remembered

Police and Guns

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 23, 2012