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The REPLACEMENT (ep #5.03)

(a.k.a. Good Xander/Bad Xander)

Written by: Jane Espenson
Directed by: James A. Contner
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris
Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg
Marc Blucas as Riley Finn
Emma Caulfield as Anya
Michelle Trachtenberg as Dawn Summers
James Marsters as Spike
Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles
Guest Starring: Michael Bailey Smith as Toth
Kristine Sutherland as Joyce Summers
Co-Starring: Kelly Donovan as Xander Double
Cathy Cohen as Building Manager
David Reivers as Foreman
Fritz Greve as Construction Worker

Plot Summary

A demon split Xander into strong and weak halves, confusing everyone.

Plot Details

Xander, Anya, Buffy, and Riley watched a kung fu film in Xander's basement. Xander saw Riley give Buffy a back rub and decided to do the same for Anya. However he forgot that Jane Espenson remembered that Anya was injured in the previous episode, or he remembered and Jane Espenson forgot that Anya suffered a head injury, not a dislocated shoulder. Buffy was fairly critical of the fighting techniques in the film. Meanwhile, Xander's parents were fighting upstairs, which made Riley a bit uncomfortable and Anya supportive.

In another part of town a demon (Toth) with glow-in-the-dark veins was preparing a cauldron. He stuck his hand in it with the idea that his pain would lead to Buffy's death.

Xander toured an apartment with Anya, Willow, Buffy, and Riley. Willow was very enthusiastic. Riley and Buffy simply wanted to try out the bedroom. Xander was worried about whether he could even afford it or pass the credit check, which really upset Anya who desperately wanted it.

Meanwhile, Giles had yet to open his magic shop and already had his first attacker when Toth entered looking for Buffy. Giles tried to beat him off with a fertility goddess statue, but he made little damage. Toth was interested only in Buffy, so he left anyway.

Buffy, Xander, Willow, Riley, and Giles discussed the attack. Most were not very surprised that Giles was already attacked. Giles found a description of Toth in one of his books and remembered that Toth smelled like the dump. Therefore, all, except for Anya, visited that lovely tourist spot in the evening. There, Toth shot something out of a magic rod. One shot nearly hit Buffy, but Xander took the blow instead. Riley and Giles helped him up not realizing that there was another Xander (Xander1) still lying there.

The next morning, the Xander1 woke up and realized that he was there all night. He tried to return to his basement only to see the other version of him (Xander2) getting dressed for work. Xander1 went to a pay phone to call Buffy, but saw Xander2 again. He decided to follow the Xander2 instead of talk to Buffy.

At Xander's construction site, his boss called Xander2 into a trailer. The boss liked his work and wanted to keep him full time, with a promotion. Xander2 decided to celebrate by taking the apartment that Anya desperately wanted. He not only got it, but the apartment manager even hit on him. Xander1 spied on both events convinced that Xander2 had a magic charm.

Xander2 called Anya to invite her to the apartment later that night. As he walked out, Xander1 ambushed him. Xander2 easily fought him off. Later that night, Xander1 went to Giles's apartment only to find Xander2 already there talking about a double to Giles, Buffy, and Riley. After Xander1 left, Buffy came to the conclusion that the double was Toth.

Xander went to visit Willow in her enormous dorm room. He desperately tried to convince her that he was the real Xander, but she had no reason to doubt him. Xander thought that the double was an evil robot, but Willow thought that it was Toth. Xander1 realized that Xander2 was doing a better job at living his life than he did. In fact, Xander1 was ready to give up everything in his life, except for Anya.

Xander1 went to warn Anya. He did not find her but found a message from Xander2. Meanwhile, Xander2 was with Anya at the apartment. She was happy that he got it. She realized that she had only 50 years left to live and wanted to get going with her life. Xander2 realized that Anya was feeling this way because she was injured in the last episode and may have seriously thought about mortality for the first time.

Willow burst into Giles's apartment. She was quickly able to convince Buffy and Riley that they talked to the wrong Xander. Meanwhile Giles figured out that neither Xander was a demon. Toth intended to split Buffy into the slayer and the human. Instead, it split Xander.

Xander1 burst into the room where Xander2 and Anya were. Each Xander insisted that he was the real one. Anya could not tell who was right. Eventually, Xander2 decided that he wanted a fight and Xander1 pulled out a gun.

On the way to Xander's new apartment, Buffy started to ask if Riley would prefer a split Buffy. Riley said no before Buffy could even finish the question. At Xander's apartment, Buffy and Riley managed to convince the two Xanders not to kill each other and that they were both part of Xander. They were about to go back to Giles's apartment when Toth arrived. After Toth did a bit of damage to the carpet, Riley and then Buffy took Toth on as Xander1 and Anya hid behind Xander2. Eventually, Buffy killed Toth with a sword.

At the magic shop, the characters admired the two Xanders. Both Riley and Anya thought of things they wanted to do with the two of them before putting them back together, but nobody else liked either of their ideas. Eventually, Willow cast a very simple spell to merge the two Xanders into one. Anya was a bit disappointed.

Buffy, Riley, and Anya helped Xander move out of his basement. As Anya and Buffy carried boxes upstairs, Riley and Xander mentioned how lucky the other was. Riley then went on to say that he did not think that Buffy loved him.

The Good

This episode is enjoyable fluff.

The final scene leaves some food for thought.

The Bad

Enjoyable fluff is still fluff.

I think that we were supposed to read this episode as saying that both Xanders were equally real. However, the episode does not do a good job at that. After the Xanders split, we followed Xander1, the weaker, less confident, more easily flustered version. When both Xanders were on screen, Nicholas Brendon, the actor who plays the real Xander in every other episode, played Xander1. When Willow burst into Giles's apartment, Buffy and Riley quickly realized that Xander2 was not like the Xander they knew. The episode told us that they were both Xander, but it showed otherwise.

Overall Rank: 96

Action: 4

Toth shot some visual effects at the group in the dump.

Xander1 ambushed Xander2 and had a brief fight.

Riley and Buffy fought Toth in Xander's apartment.

Comedy: 5

Xander did the Snoopy dance.

Giles pointed out that he said "Oh dear Lord."

This episode did not take advantage of the mistaken identity comedy nearly as much as it could have.

Drama: 4

Anya had faced her mortality for the first time.

Riley does not think that Buffy loves him.

Romance: 7

Buffy and Riley decided to try out Xander's future bedroom.

What started as a romantic scene between Buffy and Riley ended with Dawn making gagging sounds.

Xander1 realized—perhaps later than he should have—that Anya was the best thing in his life.

Xander2 and Anya started another romantic scene when Xander1 showed up.

Anya had an interesting idea of what to do before the Xanders were reintegrated.

Riley believed that Buffy did not love him.

Character Development: 7

Xander had not liked how his life was going and considered Anya to be the one good thing in his life. However, it took him a long time to figure that out. He also claims that he is no longer into Buffy.

Willow is skeptical over the extent to which Anya is that important to Xander.

Anya is starting to face her mortality.

Riley does not think that Buffy loves him.

Importance: 5

Like "The Zeppo," this episode is supposed to show that Xander has changed and matured. It remains to be seen if this episode will be any more accurate than the other was. At very least, Xander has a new apartment and a steady job.

Riley has serious doubts about Buffy's feelings for him.

Most Valuable Player: Willow

Buffy gets a bit of credit for killing Toth, but, with five words, Willow was able to solve the central crisis of the episode and get a cheap MVP. Xander gets credit for shoving Buffy out of the path of Toth's spell, although things might have been better if they were able to sic the pure slayer on Toth.

Sherlock Holmes Award: Giles

Giles identified Toth from one of his books and realized that he lived in the dump based on his smell. Later, he figured out that the two Xanders were both real. He gets a clear win.

Goat of the Week: Toth

It is great that Toth is sophisticated and that he had a device that could shoot Buffy, but, as a future character will learn to his deep peril, he still needed good aim. His device did him no good because he could not hit her.

Random Commentary

When I first saw this episode, when Buffy asked Riley whether he would want her to be split into two Buffys, I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I was thinking the same thing that Anya later realized. OK, I was more thinking that Riley might secretly be thinking that. I suppose that it made more sense to give that thought to Anya.

I disagree with Riley in his last statement of the episode. I believe that the situation is more complicated. Buffy does love him, but they are in different stages of their lives. Riley is older and more mature. He might be seriously thinking of Buffy as a long-term partner and perhaps as a wife, although he has never mentioned the M-word yet ("marriage"). Other than Riley, Buffy has had only one serious relationship since we first saw her in "Welcome to the Hellmouth." She probably does not yet know what she wants in life or what she needs and wants in a long-term partner. She is not ready to be the partner that Riley wants her to be.

As a psychologist, I should appreciate Riley's comments on wanting to experiment on the Xanders. However, the two Xanders were not identical, so this would not work so well. It would have been much better to experiment on the two John Crichtons from season three of Farscape who were identical.

Focusing on Xander1 during the spell probably saved the show a lot of money in special effects.


Fans of one genre show tend to like other genre shows as well (c.f. my Farscape comment above). Therefore, I should not be surprised at how many commentators noted that Xander's Babylon 5 commemorative plates do not exist, even though some were planned.

DVD Extras

Original Script would be of interest to those who like to read Buffy.

Memorable Dialogue

"If you get the apartment, this'll be your hallway. We'll walk down this hall and we'll say, 'La, la I'm on my way to Xander's'" Willow
"Just warning you, Xander, I probably won't be doing that." Buffy
"Really? I will." Riley

"We can have the Scooby meetings in the living room, and Giles can explain the boring things over there." Anya
"Ooo, there's a microwave! It would be like having hot and cold running popcorn." Willow

"He's been living in his drunken parents' basement where something urinated on the hot plate." Anya

"We like the ceiling fan." Riley
"Very, you know, kind of Old South." Willow
"But without the unpleasant slavery associations." Buffy

"How badly did you hurt him?" Buffy
"Well, hurt, maybe not hurt." Giles
"Well, I'm sure he was startled." Willow
"Yes, I'd imagine it gave him rather a turn." Giles
"He ran away, huh?" Buffy
"Sort of more, turned and swept out majestically, I suppose. He said I didn't concern him." Giles
"So, a mythic triumph over a completely indifferent foe." Buffy
"Well, I'm not dead or unconscious, so I say bravo for me." Giles

"My friend Sharon's older brother knows a girl who died 'cause she choked on her boyfriend's tongue." Dawn

"There comes a point where you either have to move on or just buy yourself a Klingon costume and go with it." Xander2

"I figure you're probably sittin' there pretending you're not home but listening anyway." Xander2
"Am not." Anya

"On my seventh birthday, I wanted a toy fire truck, and I didn't get it, and you were real nice about it, and then the house next door burnt down, and then real fire trucks came, and for years I thought you set the fire for me, and if you did, you can tell me." Xander1

"I never help. I get in trouble, and Buffy saves me." Xander1
"That's not true. Sometimes we all help to save you." Willow

"Wait till you have an evil twin. See how you handle it." Xander
"I handled it fine." Willow

"Oh, dear Lord." Giles
"Buffy, our Xander, did he seem a little..." Riley
"He seemed kind of forceful and confident." Buffy
"That's not Xander." Willow
"I said, 'Oh, dear Lord.'" Giles

"Buffy, if you led a perfectly normal life, you wouldn't be half as crazy as you are. I gotta have that. I gotta have it all. We're talkin' toes, elbows, the whole bad ice-skating movie obsession, everything. There's no part of you I'm not in love with." Riley

"We better get there soon. If Xander kills himself, he's dead." Buffy

"Psychologically, this is fascinating. Doesn't it make everyone want to lock them in separate rooms and do experiments on them? Just me then." Riley

"Maybe we shouldn't do this reintegration thing right away. See, I can take the boys home, and, you know, we can all have sex together and then, you know, just slap 'em back together in the morning." Anya

"We just need to arrange the candles. Also, we should continue to pretend we heard none of the disturbing sex talk." Giles
"Check, candles and pretense." Willow

"What do we do if it doesn't work?" Anya
"Kill us both, Spock!" Xanders 1 and 2
"They're kinda the same now." Buffy
"Yes, he's clearly a bad influence on himself." Giles

"At first, it's just a place. Then you start to make memories, and then you're like, that's where Spike slept, and there, that's where Anya and I drowned the separvo demon. Oh, and right there, that's where I got my heart all ripped out. I really hate this place." Xander

"Buffy has super strength. Why don't we just load her up like one of those little horses?" Anya

"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 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." Riley

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 28, 2012