Prepare yourselves, Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans: The Hellmouth is coming up Xander.
Whether you like him or hate him, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3 Episode 13 is all about the comedy relief. He had his moment to shine in his solo adventure, but was it a good time had by all?
Short answer: No. Let's discuss why by rewatching "The Zeppo."
Xander is a complicated character.
We've discussed in our past rewatches how Xander embodied a lot of the worst traits relating to toxic masculinity. For example, he made sexist comments against his own female friends, he reacted strongly whenever anything alluded against his masculinity or his sexuality, and he demeaned a lot of people to raise himself higher.
Plus, he always treated his romantic relationships terribly. His motives stemmed from a chauvinistic place, and his humor found a way to mask it. In essence, he is the worst.
The problem with "The Zeppo" was that those traits were all brought to the surface and spotlighted since the footage focused mostly on Xander.
One of the reasons could be that the same writer who wrote "The Zeppo" also wrote Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3 Episode 8. That Monster of the Week adventure focused on his bad traits too, like the cheating on Cordelia.
Truthfully, this isn't one I add to my rewatch list because of all the above reasons (and the below). But, I'll power through it because of you awesome Scoobies!
Twenty years may have gone by, but the plot still makes no sense. Why did the Scoobies all of the sudden try to keep Xander sheltered from the supernatural world?
We're three seasons deep into these Big Bad and Monster of the Week adventures. The Scoobies were well-trained in the art of fighting demons by the time of this new apocalypse. Keeping him in the dark would only put his life at risk.
Xander didn't need to be babied or protected like a glass doll. Sure, he had a tough fight in the cave, but the Scoobies dealt with more dangerous creatures in the past.
Why was this the last straw? And, why did they only value his life and not others like Willow or Giles?
The sudden shift didn't fit the tone of the character nor the series.
Xander: Listen, do you guys need any help?
Giles: Hmm? Oh, no, no, thank you. Probably best if you stay out of trouble.
Xander: No chance of that.
Jack: Xander! Motor!
Giles: There's something different about this menace, something in the air. The stench of death.
Xander: Yeah, I think it's Bob.
What did fit the character perfectly was his need to show off.
Every one of Xander's decisions, from renting the big blue car to impressing the woman, served as his way to present a new public image. He cared a lot about what people thought of him, so much so that it drove his motivations for his reckless decisions and bad comments.
"The Zeppo" could be summed up as Xander's revenge hour against Cordelia. (Though, as we've discussed in the past, he was completely at fault for all the bad he did in the relationship.)
Her cutting words egged him on to rent the car, drive off with the woman, and buddy-up with Sunnydale High's resident psycho. And that's quite sad if you think about it.
Xander didn't feel self-confident enough to believe in himself.
Cordelia: 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.
Xander: I was just talking to... hey, mind your own business.
Cordelia: Oh, I struck a nerve. The boy that had no cool.
Xander: I happen to be an integral part of that group. I happen to have a lot to offer.
Cordelia: Oh, please.
Xander: I do.
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 sub-literate that's repeated twelfth grade three times has, and you don't.
[Cordelia walks away]
Cordelia: There was no part of that that wasn't fun.
Speaking of the psycho, Jack O'Toole stole the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
His performance came off as a strange mix of stereotypical "guy from the wrong side of the tracks" and serial killer. Baffling choices were made for the character, like his large over-sized knife and his raspy tone. And he wasn't all that fun to watch, to begin with.
Jack rested a lot on his over-the-top structure.
We knew from the first moment we saw him in the Sunnydale High quad that he was going to be trouble. Giving someone of little significance a backstory is the equivalent of a flashy red sign warning us of an episodic character to watch. Here, that person was Jack.
His criminal intent or his misadventure with Xander didn't matter. We were going to be stuck with him until Xander would undoubtedly save the day and stop him.
The zombie twist, on the other hand, provided an interesting change of pace for the use of undead characters. Their decision to use their resurrection to enact their revenge wasn't something we came to expect from supernatural creatures.
Jack and his goons weren't the first batch of zombies to visit Sunnydale; we'll never forget Buffy's disastrous party on Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3 Episode 2. But, their curse here provided all the senses of being human.
The group could walk, talk, and act like humans. They had nothing to fear since they conquered death. With all these elements at hand, their first thought being about revenge was interesting to analyze from a psychology level.
Being newly risen must've been the driving force to get everything they wanted.
All the time in the world was in their hands; life and death weren't binding them anymore. They reacted with pure pleasure and need to fill the ego.
They hated Sunnydale High when they were alive, and they were going to strike back. Just imagine what else they probably had planned for their second life.
Xander: Yeah, great knife. Although, I think, um, it may, technically, be a sword.
Jack: She's called Katie.
Xander: You gave it a girl's name. How very serial killer of you.
What did you think of Xander losing his virginity to Faith? I'm on the fence.
Their moment of passion merely added another layer to this cliched "hero on the town" plot. Of course, Xander would rescue the damsel in distress and share in a round of victory play. All you need to do is substitute a white horse for his car and call Faith a princess to serve the point.
Xander got metaphorically rewarded for saving the day, even though he barely did anything. (Eyerolling so much at this scene.)
However, the fact that we, later on, get their intense reunion when Faith goes bad makes up for their confusing hook-up. We'll discuss that gem of a scene when it comes up in the rewatch.
Regardless of the elements that were bad, the best parts had to be the nods to the impending apocalypse weaved into Xander's plot. Everything about the Scoobies' side adventure was hilarious to watch!
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the perfect mix of supernatural drama and tongue-in-cheek comedy. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3 Episode 13 was one of those examples where the two worlds met.
While the Scoobies fought for their lives/the world, you had Xander moving in the background with his less-than-interesting adventure.
We could go from something as dramatic as Buffy and Angel having one of their emotionally-fueled chats to Xander awkward interrupting them needing their help. Their plots found ways to interconnect, serving as winks to the viewers instead of the characters.
Willow: And if it opens?
Buffy: Do you remember the demon that almost got out the night I died?
Willow: 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.
Buffy: Well, it'll be the first to come out.
It's a shame that we didn't get to see more of the battle in the library. A lot of the meat to the story was behind those doors and we missed out on a great fight. Which obviously was the intent of the structure, but it was still sad either way.
Xander's story wasn't strong enough to stand on its own.
We needed more of the side adventure. In fact, the apocalypse should've been its own focus instead of Xander.
Mostly whatever he accomplished either happened for him or comically in spite of him.
Out of the four baddies, he only consciously defeated one zombie. Everyone else had been taken out by demons, a werewolf, or a mailbox. The victories were handed to him for the punchline.
You could argue that stopping the bomb was a victory, and absolutely it was a good win. But, Xander left Jack alone with the bomb after deactivating it.
Maybe Jack would've reactivated the bomb and left? Werewolf Oz deserved credit for saving the day and stopping Jack completely.
Xander got handed his own adventure and barely did anything with it. He filled time until the real stories could start up again.
What did you think of "The Zeppo"? Was it negligent of the Scoobies to not tell Xander about the apocalypse? Would you have involved him in the battle? Do you like Xander-centric episodes?
Want to join us in rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer? We'll be posting new rewatch posts on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Come back here and share your thoughts in the comments.
Justin Carreiro is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.