The Replacement

Written by Jane Espenson
Directed by

Perri's Review | SunSpeak

Perri's Review

The best Xander episode and years, and, while nothing would have been worth that wait, this comes close.

It's another exciting evening for the Scooby gang, or at least part of it. Xander, Anya, Buffy and Riley sprawl around Xander's apartment, watching a badly-dubbed kung fu movie -- pretty much all the hospitality Xander's place is able to offer, since even the hot plate is, ah, out of commission. And even that is disturbed when Xander's parents arrive home, and the sounds of a vicious fight trail downstairs. Riley is uncomfortable, but Buffy doesn't noticed, too absorbed in studying. Yes, Buffy. Studying. But Riley snaps her out of it for a backrub and an entertaining critique of the fighting; Xander, feeling less than suave, tries to imitate the backrub for Anya, and only succeeds in hurting her arm, still in a sling from last week's adventure. Upstairs, the fight heats up... and across town, a big ugly demon chants over a cauldron and plots the Slayer's death.

The next day, Xander has apparently finally had enough, and is apartment hunting with the rest of the gang (sans Giles) in tow. He finds a gorgeous apartment that Anya loves (Buffy and Riley like the bedroom, since Xander catches them kissing there in seconds), but Xander is stymied by the concept of applications and a credit check. When he tries to explain to Anya that he's pretty sure he won't pass a credit check since his construction job is ending and they can't have the place, she suddenly explodes. "My arm hurts and I'm tired and I don't really feel like taking a tour of beautiful things that I can't have!" she sniffles, before stalking out. Embarrassed, Xander fills out the application while trying to sink through the floor.

Across town, as Giles organizes the magic shop, he get a surprise visitor -- aforementioned big, ugly demon. He goes instantly on the defensive and gets in a few good blows before getting thrown across the room. The demon, with no Slayer in sight, loses interest and stalks out. Giles tells the tale to the Slayerettes, who are unimpressed by his exploits. "Well, I'm not dead or unconscious," Giles defends himself, "so I say bravo for me!" Still, he identifies the demon as Toth, a strong dude who likes weapons and devices, and is very focused -- apparently on the Slayer at the moment. "He mentioned Buffy?" Riley asks, suddenly getting serious. "Where do we find him and how can I kill him?" Giles can't answer either question, except that he knows what the demon smelled like.

Like the city dump apparently, since that's where the gang heads. Sure enough, they run into trouble -- well, they run into Spike, scavenging for stuff to sell or furnish his place. The usually bickering ensues, broken off abruptly by an attack from Toth. In the melee, Xander shoves Buffy aside and takes a hit from Toth's weapon, and energy device of some kind. He is tossed into the garbage, hurting but still in one piece, and Toth disappears. The Slayerettes help Xander to his feet and start the long stumble home -- as a second Xander remains buried in the trash, unconscious.

It's dawn before Xander 1 wakes -- and completely freaks to find himself still at the dump. It's a shaky walk home, but he makes it, although he's unable to get into his apartment since he lost his keys. He makes his way to the window -- and sees himself, doing things like shaving (with no shirt) and getting dressed (with no shirt) and generally wandering around as if he owns the place (with no shirt). Xander 1 freaks again and heads immediately for help, tripping over his feet in the process. Just calling Buffy turns into a production, and when he finally succeeds, he seems himself walk past -- dressed in pressed chinos, a nice shirt and with his hair combed. It's... a change. And an impressive one. Buffy, meanwhile, hangs up the dead phone and continues sorting weapons, taking out a few minutes to reassure Riley, who is not happy at yet another demon gunning for his girl. The round of, ah, comforting is broken up by Dawn gagging from the door to Buffy's room. "My friend Sharon's older brother knows a girl who died 'cause she choked on her boyfriend's tongue," she informs them happily. A sister fight, reluctantly mediated by Joyce, ensues, until Buffy slams the door.

And in his crypt, Spike carefully sets up the results of his scavenging -- a broken mannequin, attired in a halter top and a blonde wig -- and proceeds to kick the crap out of it. "Oh, Slayer," he muses on the now-disembodied head, "One of these days..." Methinks someone is not happy.

Xander 1 continues trailing his double across town and to work -- and takes a certain amount of glee in watching the double be called into the foreman's trailer. "You take my life, you can get my being fired absolutely free!" he gloats, trying to find a place to watch from. He achieves windowness at last -- in time to see his double being asked to stay on with the company at the next site, and to take over supervising a carpentry crew, since his work has been first rate. Xander's double accepts happily, playing with something shiny that keeps flicking light into the foreman's face. And Xander 1 falls off his perch to the ground.

Life with the Xander's continues; the next stop, after work that night, is the apartment -- where he's been accepted and can move in whenever he wants. And gets called Mr. Harris and hit on by the real estate lady. Xander 2 uses the phone immediately to call Anya and ask her to meet him at the apartment, leaving a message on her machine which he knows she's listening to. And as the double leaves the apartment, Xander 1 finally loses it and assaults his double. His double throws him off, then heads for the hills. Well, no... actually, he heads for Giles' place, to tell them about the demon who stole his face, a demon they have to find and kill, the silver thing flickering in his fingers the whole time. Xander 1 eavesdrops from the outside, panicking more and more, as Buffy vows to deal with the problem.

Rain pours down on Sunnydale as Willow wanders into her dorm room, and finds an unexpected visitor -- a sopping wet Xander intent on improving who he is. She pays attention as he recites childhood memories and (bless him) does the Snoopy Dance, but finally confesses that she has absolutely no doubt who he is -- and thinks he's nuts. He fills her in on his body-snatching experience. "There's a double out there! Some... *thing* has stolen my face and it's wandering around pretending to be me, hypnotizing people!" Willow tries to calm him and figure out the situation -- as the rest of the Scoobies do the same across town. Everyone comes to the Toth solution fairly quickly, theorizing that he has stolen Xander's face. "A demon has taken my life from me," Xander 1 moans, "and he's living it better than I do." Buffy heads out on the hunt, while Xander 2 heads off to meet Anya. Willow soothes Xander 1,w ho can't get over how his double is being treated... who is starting to believe that maybe he should just let him have the life, since he's doing so much better with it. Until he remembers the Anya part of that life and freaks out yet again. "He can have anything, but he can't have her! I need her!" he declares as he's racing out the door to save her.

Anya isn't at home, of course, but Xander 1 finds the answering machine message, and heads for the new apartment -- making a brief stop to search through one of Anya's drawers. An incredulous Anya is already at the apartment, unable to believe that the new apartment is for real. "It's all for you," Xander 2 tells her, puppy dog eyes sincere and sweet. "What happens next?" Anya asks, wanting to know when they get a car or a puppy or a child... she has a list somewhere. "What are you talking about?" asks the baffled Xander 2. "I don't have time just to let these things happen!" Anya wails. "I'm dying!

"I may have as few as fifty years left!" she continues, fortunately for Xander 2's heart, which just stopped. With unusual perception, he realizes what the problem is -- Anya's injury is her first serious one, and the reality of mortality has hit home in a big way. "You don't know what it's like," Anya tells him, freaking about the prospect of getting old. "Being suddenly human?" he asks. "I think I can get what that's like. And we'll get through it together." Soothed, Anya leans into his embrace -- as Xander 1, still soaked, disheveled and shaking, bursts through the door. The two Xanders confront each other, each claiming the other is the demon. Anya makes her choice, sticking with Xander 2, as Willow bursts into Giles' apartment and shares the story. Giles suddenly puts the pieces together and realizes what Toth's plan was -- his device didn't duplicate Xander, it split him. The intent was to split the Slayer into weak, mortal Buffy and the strong Slayer -- then kill them both by killing the weak half, since they can't exist without each other. Unfortunately, the Xander's aren't up on this development -- as Xander 1 pulls out a gun and levels it at... himself.

Anya interferes and the two Xander's wrestle over the gun, as the Slayerettes speed to the rescue. Buffy takes the opportunity to ask Riley an important question, which he answers instantly: "No." No, he wouldn't want the non-Slayer Buffy; it's part of who she is and he loves the whole package, Slaying, craziness bad ice skating movies and all. "There's no part of you I'm not in love with."

Xander 2 wins the fight for the gun (Anya's, by the way) and levels it at... himself, as Buffy makes it into the apartment. She talks Xander 2 out of the gun (which he unloads and hands over with one flick of the wrist), then throws them both across the room to get their attention so she can explain things. Everyone is dubious, until the Xanders start coming out with sentences together. Xander 1 is still inclined to freak, even after the shiny thing Xander 2 has been flashing around turns out to be a flattened nickel from the railroad racks. But freaking is preempted by attacking, as Toth joins the party. Riley and Buffy (mostly Buffy) take him down after a brief, messy and anticlimactic fight and everyone gets calmed down and adjourns to the magic shop.

Dressed alike, groomed alike, and having far too much fun impressing the girls with their identicalness, the boys prepare to be turned back into one entity. And none too soon for Giles, as they seem to getting more and more Xanderlike the longer they're together -- pop culture references they are aflyin'. (Anya is in favor of leaving them double long enough for some fun and interesting sex, which get firmly vetoed by everyone else in the room except the intrigued Xanders.) Xander 1 take a last few seconds to demand of Xander 2: "If you weren't putting the whammy on people with the shiny thing, how did you do it? How did you get the promotion?" Xander 2 shrugs, answering simply, "Well, I'm good at that stuff." On that note (and after a few more giggles), Willow leads them into the pentacle and breaks the spell, leaving Xander in one piece, but with a lot to think about. " like it the other way," Anya pouts. "Put him back."

It's moving day for Xander Harris, and everyone is around to help. Anya, much more cheerful with her sling off, needs a little encouragement to help carry but finally gives in, lugging the last of the boxes out. "I do envy you sometimes," Xander tells Riley wistfully, "for the sanity."

"Hey, I'm well aware of how lucky I am," Riley agrees. "Like, lottery lucky. Buffy's like nobody else in the world. When I'm with her, it's like... 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," he finishes matter-of-factly, almost serenely. As Buffy reappears, exchanging a quick, couple-type kiss with her boyfriend, Xander is left to stare at Riley in silent, thoughtful sympathy.

Xander now officially has a real job and a real place to live, outside of his parents' basement.

Anya and Xander seem to be starting to do some real thinking about their relationship, and the grown-up Xander was making some pretty long-term promises. Pretty cool.

Riley is deeply in love with Buffy, but believes she doesn't love him. more on that below.

Well, Xander finally got the big wake-up call we've been waiting for for, oh, two seasons now. Yes, Xander is fully capable of being a grown-up; it was that Xander who went and rounded up Angel and saved Buffy's life in 'Prophecy Girl', who faced down Angelus's goons in 'Becoming', among other things. But somewhere along the line, Xander stopped believing that -- given his household, I can understand a certain problem with self-confidence. Not to mention the latest problem of having the World's Most Perfect Man around as a comparison; Riley's a hard act to live up to. The spaz half of Xander took over, the half that makes the jokes and never aspires to be anything other than the sidekick and the loser, because he knows he can't mess that up. He needed a nice, clear look at himself, and the half of him that saw someone else running his life, and doing a better job of it, is hopefully going to remember that. It will be interesting to see what he does with that new self-image, not to mention the new paycheck.

And Anya finally gets little depth of her own! We've seen little hints of the person Anya is before, almost always in relation to Xander. But her sudden confrontation with her own mortality may finally actually give her some real humanity, instead of the surface that is that Xander has managed to teach her. Of course she's going to feel the urgency of life now; a 1,200-year-old woman suddenly limited to only 50 years more wants it all and she wants it now. So far, that 'all' is still focusing on Xander -- what the hell else does this girl have in her life (although that apartment may be small, but those were pretty expensive furnishings. What is Anya living on?)?

Riley is also getting some badly-needed depth these days, thank goodness. His quick "Where do I find him and how much can I kill him?" when Buffy is threatened is completely sweet in a homicidal sort of way; his instant "Hi, I'm a psych grad student" reaction to the two Xander was priceless (and proof that yeah, that cover was for real; good to know he has a life outside of slaying). But it was that final scene with Xander that was truly compelling. We knew he was in love with Buffy in a very serious way; he's open about that. He's wrong in believing that Buffy doesn't love him, of course, because she does. But he's probably right when he thinks that she doesn't love him the way he loves her. Buffy is his one and only, a fantasy that he's lucky enough to live -- and one that he is absolutely sure will end. Buffy needs him right now, very much, because he is normal, and steady and reliable. But she's 19 and she's going to grow beyond that eventually; her life is the kind that resists normality. She's the Slayer, with a short lifespan and the same need Anya has discovered to live every second of life as intensely as she can. So Riley can see into the future, can see himself walking away eventually, leaving the fantasy when she doesn't need him anymore. It's not a tragedy; he'll just have to go back to Normal, and live a normal life. But he's going to grab all of the fantasy he can while he can -- and it makes him a much more compelling person to watch. For one thing, we had no idea he was that perceptive, even about himself.

Buffy is obviously starting to take this whole Slayer-research thing seriously, if it's even spilling over into studying for classes. This is not a bad thing at all, obviously, as long as it doesn't spill over into 'ignore my life in favor of Slayage' again. Willow was darling, taking care of Xander in a way that, again, we haven't seen in a few years. Her faith in him is still limitless, if occasionally hampered by reality.

Best Moments:
Anya's subtle move to comfort Xander while his parents fight. The entire scene was great, actually, with the little bits of business from everyone concerned. Buffy critiquing the kung fu was hilarious.

Anya's "Beautiful things" explosion. Her tact is still terrible, but Emma's delivery was awesome and very easy to sympathize with.

"I'm not dead or unconscious, so I say bravo for me." < snicker >

Riley's sudden, intense interest in killing Toth when Buffy is mentioned. He's so easygoing, you forget that he's been trained to do the killing thing, and he's good at it. Then, suddenly, you remember.

Joyce mediating Buffy and Dawn's fight. The other great thing about Dawn is that she's given Joyce a whole new lease on life -- she has something to do besides be Buffy's rather hapless mother.

Suave Xander and the realtor. The crack about the Klingon costume was priceless, and Spaz Xander's reaction to the realator hitting on him was awesome. It's about time the women in Sunnydale woke up!

Xander 'convincing' Willow. Need I say anything more than 'Snoopy dance'? Actually, yes, I do -- Xander's despairing moan and hopelessness about giving up his life to some who is doing a better job was very touching; I wanted to hug him. Which is cool, considering I usually want to smack him.

Xander and Anya's entire conversation in the apartment. Xander was incredible dealing with Anya's sudden worries about her mortality, and her eventual old age. Just way too sweet.

Suave Xander casually unloading the gun with one flick of his wrist. Yes, the military training is still in there!

Any scene with both of the Xanders. Kelly Donovan did an awesome job pretending to be his brother pretending to be Xander. By the end, I was rolling on the floor laughing at both of them.

Anya wanting both Xanders for a night. Oh come on, if you're female, you were thinking the same thing!!!

Giles valiantly trying to ignore Anya wanting both Xanders for a night. < g >

Riley's final speech. < sniffle > Poor guy. Marc Blucas turns in an incredible performance. Questions and Comments:
The continuity through this episode was awesome, thank you, Jane. References to things we haven't heard of in years, like Buffy's skating fixation, Xander's run-down of the ickiness that has happened in his apartment and, of course, the eternal questions regarding the Snoopy dance finally answered! This is why we love this show....

Did Willow go through locked door to get in Giles'? Way to use those powers for good...

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5. Nick's performance cannot be beaten, Emma Caulfield does a wonderful job with Anya, and everyone else backs them up with style and humor.


"The Brenden boys don't come in any other flavor than cute. I'm not wrong!" -- Chris

"He did the Snoopy Dance! He did the Snoopy Dance! He did the Snoopy Dance!!! I died laughing. Okay, but, um, that was about the only thing I died laughing it. I was disappointed in it. :-( I didn't want to be. And the two Xanders (Nick and Kelly)did a great job and I like the general idea of the episode, but just as I was with The Zeppo, I found the execution of it lacking. I am sad. But I will watch again to see if I change my mind." -- Mary Beth

"BUT I did find that last Xander & Riley conversation to be a bit of a stunner. Of course Riley, Mr. Pychology Major, is perceptive, but we're not always that honest with ourselves. Ouch. And Buffy has NEVER said "I love you" to him. And that was made even more painfully obvious in that painfully obvious scene in the car (which is one of the moments that just felt contrived to me. . . ) And I've wondered since last season if that was deliberate or not. Poor Riley. Of course, the point could be that she proves him wrong next week. And I found it interesting that he made that confession to Xander, the one person who would know best what it feels like not to have Buffy's heart. Again with the perceptiveness. Did I mention ouch?" -- Mary Beth

"Okay, I liked it better the 2nd time through. But knowing the hook gave me more to pay attention to and assimilate and think about. I still think it got off to a slow start, but I'll accept that and enjoy the last half and the amazing character development all the more." -- Mary Beth

"I loved every moment from when the two Xander's finally came together. Maybe that was it, it felt like it wasn't complete until Xander was? Dunno. I liked that suave Xander protected not-suave Xander and Anya. And when Anya wanted both of them, much to Giles' appall. Hee! And when both Xander's did the Spock quote and Giles muttered that he was a bad influence on himself? Hee! Hee!" -- Mary Beth

"It's interesting that, to Willow especially, the not-suave Xander was the more familiar, but it was only half of him. I love the idea that Xander has such hidden depths to explore. But many of those things have always been there -- he saved Buffy just before he got hit with the bolt. He's been plan guy, he's come through, and he's been brave. He just forgets those things, especially after spending a year stuck in the basement. [Oh, and notice that they weren't exiting up the stairs to where the evil family lives? "That's not hte way out." They left the back door. :-)][And how creepy was the family fighting while they watched the Kung Fu movie? Poor Xander.] It was fun to watch them again and see their differences -- not-suave Xander just couldn't look kempt if he tried, and he was the klutz, and he wasn't quick on the uptake. But suave Xander dressed so well and ducked under construction equipment with ease and was right with Buffy and the others on the demon postulation. It bothered me at first that non-suave Xander seemed clueless about some things, but in rewatching, you can explain his not responding to his name on the machine he was working and the other moments are explainable too." -- Mary Beth

" I guess now we know why he's seemed so antsy the last couple weeks. He's been Riley-on-speed, in a vaguely uncomfortable way. I've been sort of puzzling over it in the back of my head; now I realize it translates as "I gotta enjoy this because it's going to end any minute." I also think he's wrong. Buffy may still love Angel, and she may have more of her awareness wrapped up in slayage at the moment than certainly *she* wants, and she may be holding on very tightly to the *idea* of him as The Normal Guy; but none of those necessarily means she doesn't love him. Maybe I'll be proven wrong. I just hope he doesn't decide to head fate off at the pass and not give Buffy a chance to prove me *right*." -- Valerie

"You may be proven right. But . . . this being Buffy and all things being angsty (or at least, promised angsty), I think he is the one who's right. And I don't think this has very much to do with Angel, really. It has more to do with the fact that she loved the idea of Riley and jumped into a relationship with him at his insistence (and not exactly arguing because he *is* a good guy and she *does* care and she *can* have sex with him . . ), but I think she's going to come to a realization that she needs to live her life without a man in it. That she's not ready to love at the level that Riley wants her to. That she may never be. That whole "one person loving more than the other" thing SUCKS." -- Mary Beth

"And Riley grew on just about everyone in that moment -- tenfold. He said it in such matter of fact "this is how it is and I've known it a while" voice that it was even more tragic." -- Mary Beth

[RE: Xander] "And can I tell you how much I'm *adoring* this? Sure, there will probably still be some missteps. But once he really processes that *he*, and not some demon, knows how to live his life better than he was, that *he* got the promotion, that *he* got the apartment--and to top it all off, now that he's out of the bowels of his parents' pathetic excuse for a home, where every second conspired to tell him how worthless he was!--I'm betting we're going to see a New and Improved Xander. And ABOUT FRELLING TIME!! Even before I figured out that Xander had been split rather than copied (which I did embarrasingly late in the game...*bad* from-the-cradle-Trekker, bad, bad!) I was watching Clumsy Xander watch Suave Xander, and saying, "Ah, this is where Xander learns the value of self-confidence!" I just kept waiting for the light bulb to go off when he said "She's treating him like a grownup!" And wanting to grab him by the shirt and shake him, screaming "You ARE a grownup!!!" But of course that would only work if he *had* been copied rather than split; Clumsy Xander would never have believed that on his own." -- Valerie

"Also like that it was a great big PSA for the validity of the skilled-labor career path...yes, people who are not cut out for college, and/or who lack the means to go right away, *can* have meaningful and fulfilling lives!!! About time we had a regular on a show with high-school-to-college transitions who falls into that category--as opposed to Party of Five and now 7th Heaven, where they have the family brain suddenly decide to have a Big Rebellion and refuse to go to college, and her life becomes a living hell, thus proving that her family was Right All Along. Well, of course that's the case for Julia Salinger or Mary Camden...but Xander Harris might just turn out to be a damn good construction foreman. Which is nothing to sneeze at in either the money or the job security departments, especially in the current state of the economy. At least around here, skilled-labor types can name their price right now almost as freely as Java programmers. If his newly-recognized grownup smarts extend to savings and retirement investment (and if he can teach same to Anya), he's going to be in a pretty nice position a few years down the road, where he can afford to start taking a class or three on the side, or even decide to go part-time on the next contract to make a more serious go at it. He wouldn't be the first, say, architect to go that route, and blow away their lacking-in-practical skills classmates in the process." -- Valerie

Anya's crisis of mortality. Genuinely felt and expressed terror, just as genuinely *poof* when the sling came off. That's our girl! *giggle* And the potential double-meanings of Suave Xander's comment about "Suddenly becoming human...yeah, I think I know what that's like." If you still thought he was Toth in disguise (which I did), the reference is obvious. But actually coming from Xander, it's another realization of grownuphood, and of his need to take action to define himself on his own terms. Scary, but ultimately *way* better and more real. Yup, he and Anya definitely have something in common there." -- Valerie

"Can I say that I'm liking Riley more as he stresses on Buffy's behalf? He really hates this Slayer stuff, doesn't he? It's finally sunk in that she goes out to get killed every night. She's very *good* at not being killed, but for Riley, it's sheer torture that he can't just make it stop. Ever."
"And this is what makes me afraid he seems a bit too willing to believe that she doesn't love him. Subconsiously giving himself a face-saving way out of the relationship?" -- Kiki and Valerie

"Anya, by the way, I like for saying what I often say: "I don't want to look at pretty things I can never have!" I still want to know exactly how she's getting by, but I think my first guess is correct: she created fake-parents for fake-Anya, who became real when she did. They were probably already as wealthy as Cordy's and used to giving fake-Anya her own way all the time. So she's either living at home still, or she's living in an apartment they're paying for." -- Kiki

"I love Willow. :> We should all have such cool best friends, who'll let us completely freak at them without telling us to chill until we can do it on our own." -- Kiki

"And the Goddess Uff-Da!!!! *gigglesnortchoke* The Horsechick battle cry as a fertility goddess?????" -- Valerie

Back to Episodes.