The Zeppo

Written by Dan Vebber
Directed by James Whitmore Jr.

Perri's Review | SunSpeak

Perri's Review

A wonderful, silly-season ride through the Hellmouth, courtesy of Xander.

Mist drifts around monsters and Slayerettes in a dream-like fashion. Willow strides in with a lit candle -- and Buffy suddenly leaps in to attack. It takes both Slayers and Giles, but the white-faced Monster of the Week falls dead, with its compatriots. Willow assures them she's fine, and that her spell to make the clouds worked -- this time. Giles apologizes for not preparing them better for the fight, but his sources have dried up. As they count heads, Xander appears from where he was apparently tossed in the middle of the fight. The Slayerettes are united in their belief that Xander should stay on the back lines of the fighting -- only Xander disagrees.

Which leaves Xander feeling like a second-class sidekick --- not helped when he embarrasses himself in the courtyard the next morning, more-or-less cowering from an accidental encounter with one of the school tough-guys, Jack O'Toole. Cordelia rubs it in, taunting him about being the only non-superpowered type in the Slayerettes; Xander retreats in humiliation to contemplate the meaning of 'cool' with Oz. Oz, coolness personified, is singularly useless, but Xander comes up with his own answers, god help us.

Giles and Buffy have bigger problems -- the mob they fought the night before is another of the fun 'bring about the end of the world' type of monsters. In fact, Giles reveals, as Oz arrives for his monthly locking-up-the-werewolf thing, they're the type that wants to open the Hellmouth -- the one located in the middle of the library. If they succeed, Buffy tells Willow the next day, the Beastie from 'Prophecy Girl' will be the first to emerge.

Before conversations can become too dark, Xander arrives -- behind the wheel of a sea green '57 Chevy Bel Aire, loaned to him by his uncle. He's convinced the car will make him cool, but the girls are less than impressed, since they have bigger problems. But, determined to keep Xander safe, they refuse his help. Cordy, on the other hand, sees the car as a new attack zone -- but is neatly cut off when a stacked blonde picks up the car and, not incidentally, Xander. But his good fortune isn't. Xander finds himself stuck at the Bronze listening to the blonde drone on about cars and ex-girlfriends, so bored that even Angel's arrival is a blessing. Angel, looking for Buffy and as freaked as the others, tells Xander to stay out of the line of fire and disappears. Xander, feeling very unappreciated, complains about it to the blonde -- and is so busy complaining, he rear-ends the car in front of him. From which appears O'Toole.

Willow and Buffy research, as a restless were-Oz paces his cage, wigging the others. As usual, the Slayerettes are meeting a severe lack of luck, and Giles isn't doing much better -- the Watcher Council won't even return his calls. He leaves the library to try to get help from the 'spirit guides', which he admits is a last-ditch attempt, stopping only long enough to pout about all of the jelly donuts being stolen. Xander is seeing more action -- O'Toole is far from happy about the damage to the car, and expresses it at the tip of his knife, Katie. The blonde is bored, O'Toole is homicidal, and Xander is terrified, as O'Toole taunts him about 'who has the least fear' until a cop shows up. But, in the spirit of manly solidarity, Xander doesn't turn O'Toole in and O'Toole decides this makes him cool. He drafts Xander as his 'wheelman' (since the car Xander hit isn't actually O'Toole's), and the two, with the blonde, depart to get the rest of O'Toole's 'boys'.

The boys, apparently, hang out in graveyards -- and O'Toole immediately sets to work raising them through some sort of voodoo. The first one, a no-neck football player named Bob, emerges, and he and O'Toole exchange macho greetings. The blonde, showing the first sign of brains so far, screams and runs for it. Xander, having lost all sign of brains, does not run for it. Insted, he tags haplessly along as they go to raise the other two (victims of gunshots, being dropped of a bridge, and something else disgusting). On their way out, Xander sees possible salvation -- Giles calling to a colored cloud that is the spirit guides. They refuse to help and disappear (nobody is returning Giles' calls!). Xander offers his own assistance, desperate to escape from O'Toole's bunch, but Giles, tired and distracted, brushes Xander off and tells him to stay out of trouble.

Buffy is also looking for information; her source is Willie, sprawled on the floor of his destroyed bar and bleeding from a serious beating. The Bad Guys were looking for Angel and Buffy apparently, to keep them from interfering with their plans. Willy advises Buffy and Angel to go to ground, and think about how to spend their last night on earth. Meanwhile, Xander is still Wheelman to the Walking Dead, who are not really distinguishable from their male adolescent counterparts except in degree of decomposition. They have a plan in mind, apparently, one that involves breaking into a hardware store as Xander watches in in shock.

Until Willow emerges from Uncle Bob's Magic Shop across the street. Scared and worried, she babbles about something happening that night, then heads off -- then returns long enough to hug Xander and tell him she loves him. Xander takes this as a sign to get the hell out of O'Toole's group and to the library, but the boys don't like the idea of being abandoned. They decide to make Xander part of the goup -- by killing him. Turns out even O'Toole is a zombie, killed in a drive-by shooting three weeks earlier and raised from the dead by his grandpappy. Xander finds his spine long enough to, finally, run. He makes it to his car and squeals away.

Xander feels he's had enough excitement for the evening, but Sunnydale has other ideas. Faith is fighting one of the baddies, and losing, until Xander intervenes by running it over. Faith jumps in and they run for the safety of Faith's hotel. But Xander's not safe yet -- adrenalized by her fight, but without the outlet of a staking, Faith first uses Xander to fix her dislocated shoulder. Then she jumps him. Xander makes it through his first time with what would appear to be a certain amount of style -- until Faith, apparently not into post-coital cuddling, shoves him out the door in his skivvies. He's not the only male having an interesting night -- Oz is completely losing it. It takes both Willow and Giles, along with two tranq darts, to put him out, so they can move him from the vicinity of the Hellmouth.

Xander gets dressed again, then finally thinks to look in the back seat at what O'Toole's boys stole -- and finds the makings of a bomb. He manages to focus past the concept of just having had sex to think to go find Buffy. Who is in the middle of a serious confrontation with Angel, who is, as usual, apparently willing to sacrifice himself to give the others a chance to stop whatever is coming. Also as usual, Buffy won't listen to anything that involves Angel dying. They fight intensely... and Xander clears his throat behind them. He tries to speak, realizes something is happening, and slinks away -- and Buffy and Angel go back to fighting. Giles is casting a binding spell over the Hellmouth. Willow is returning from moving Oz somewhere else. Below them, O'Toole's boys are putting the finishing touches on a rather large, if crude, bomb. Xander is driving around panicking.

Pretty much your typical night in Sunnydale.

Xander finally generates a plan -- by driving by and grabbing one of the zombie, interrogating him literally on the fly. He finds out where the bomb is, but loses the zombie before he can find out how to disarm the bomb. Everyone heads for the school -- where Giles, both Slayers, Angel and Willow are facing the Hellhound -- which has grown. But Xander and the others are too busy to really notice, since they have a bomb to deal with. Xander runs into Bob in the cafeteria and actually manages to get him to the ground long enough to dump a soda machine on his head. Xander faces down the third zombie with a fire ax, but loses his prey before finishing his speech.

The Hellhound throws Buffy through the library doors -- she screams for Faith and races back into the fight. The third zombie, Xander in hot pursuit, runs down the halls -- right into a pack of the Bad Guys, who have zombie boy for lunch. Xander heads for the boiler room -- after a necessary detour from the Hellhound, who shoves its head through the wall. He finds the bomb -- but also finds O'Toole and Katie. Xander is helpless at knifepoint -- until he points out that O'Toole has run out of time. He does not have neough time to get past Xander and out of the school before the bomb goes off. O'Toole points out that Xander will die also, but Xander hits him with his own line -- "The question is, who has the most fear?" Xander holds his ground as the timer ticks down in the dead silent boiler room (and the noisy, screaming battle for the library rages above them).

O'Toole breaks first, disarming the bomb. Xander remembers how to breathe, and casually tells O'Toole not to be seen around campus anymore. Then, equally casually, he makes it out the door. O'Toole vows revenge on Xander and opens his own escape door -- to be pounced on by the were-Oz he just freed.

The next morning is bright and shiny. Buffy, Oz, Giles and Willow discuss their fight of the night before, comparing stories and comparing injuries, brooding that no one will ever know what they did. Xander appears, and Willow tells him he's lucky he wasn't at school last night. To his credit, Xander says nothing about his own adventures, but offers to go get snacks. Cordelia shows up to taunt him about lack of cool -- and Xander looks at her, smiles, and strolls confidently -- and coolly -- away.

Courtesy of Faith, Xander is no longer praying mantis cleptis virgus bait. < snerk >

Xander and Faith -- wow, now there's an even worse couple than Xander and Cordy. Given how badly his breakup with Cordy is going (she's still determined to give him absolute hell at every available opportunity) you'd think he'd be a little more cautious with his hormones. But, then, it's not like Faith gave him much of a chance to think with anything else.

Angel and Buffy continue to be tormented. < sigh > All the angst, none of the kissage -- whose good idea was this? When does Angel's spin-off start, again?

Only three characters get to have any real fun this ep (aside from Cordelia, who just isn't having any new fun).

And does sleeping with Xander count as fun? Faith worries me, she really does. We have the set-up of slaying making her horny (all that build-up with no, so to speak, climax, I guess), but that level of casual sex is still a little scary, considering Faith's age. Admittedly, she knows with reasonable certainty that Xander is safe in every sense of the word, but "wham, bam, thank you dude" in a 16-year-old is more than a little disturbing, especially given her previously stated views on men. Faith has somehow gotten a large part of her interpersonal relationships screwed up, and I want to know why and how.

Channon Roe of 'Kindred: The Embraced' recognition (only six episodes, you can't call it fame) does a lovely job with the Thug-of-the-Week, chewing the scenery nicely. O'Toole is nicely psycho, but also very guy-like -- when it comes down to walking the walk, he suddenly discovers a sprained ankle. < g > Nice to see him working fairly steadily, although this is turning into a 'Kindred' reuinion show (not to mention 'The Pretender').

Xander. Xander, Xander, Xander.... He's sent so much of the last 20-some episodes regressing that it's way cool to see him turning back into a human being. he took his first steps in 'Amends', but he might have made real,s erious progress here. His attempts to be cool are pathetically teenage guy -- what is with the cars? do they haul guys into locker rooms and give slide shows to start the car obsession? -- but he has his reasons. Cordy is bagging on him and the girls, who can normally be counted on to reassure him that they love and depend on him, are instead kicking him out of all the action, depriving him of any claims to self-worth (gods, I'm sounding like a pop psych text this week, aren't I?). While I would like to dismiss his actions with O'Toole (why didn't you floor it when they broke into the hardware store? For that matter, why didn't you go running for Giles/immediately available Slayer the second the dead started to be raised?), I can also see them happening. First, he wants to be one of the guys, then he wants to handle the situation himself because everyone from Angel down is telling him he can't. And he does come through in the end -- both by stopping the bomb and facing down O'Toole -- and by proceeding to keep his mouth shut about it later. I would hope everyone found out some of the details later -- at the very least, there is considerable collateral damage and not a few bodies lying around with no good explanation.

Best Moments:
Cordy having too much fun dissing Xander. Okay, I feel for him, but it's not like he doesn't deserve it.

Oz and Xander's discussion on 'cool'. Xander is intense, Oz is laid-back, it's all a little too funny.

Cordy's dissing getting destroyed by the cute blonde. < g > Mostly just for the expression on her face!

Xander lunging for Angel's help at the Bronze. You know he's desperate to escape when....

The whole 'Katie' conversation with O'Toole.

Giles pouting about the jelly donuts. < g > A nice little touch.

Xander breaking up Angel and Buffy's confrontation. ROTFL! The traumatic musci swelling, face-to-face "I love you"s exchanged, everyone getting all intense and emotional... and the music stops as Xander clears his throat. Easily the funniest moment in Buffy history (thus far, I should say; they do seem to keep getting topped), especially as he beats his retreat and the music promptly swells again.

Xander's 'interrogation' -- I admire the boy's style, but he does have to learn the proper "plunder, then pillage" order of these things.

Xander almost running into the Hellhound. < snerk > The quick, afterthought interweaving of the A and B plots were what made the humor in this ep.

Xander facing down O'Toole. You go, dude!

O'Toole opening the door swearing revenge and promptly getting eaten.

Xander strolling away from Cordelia. As I've said before, after most of a season disliking Xander, it is sooo wonderful to be able to adore him again.

Questions and Comments:
This episode has the oddest blend of tight writing and utterly sloppy writing in history. Little things like Oz being moved have enormous impact when he winds up unexpectedly eating O'Toole, yet Xander is absolutely shunned from the Slayerettes for no other apparent reason other than "The plot required it" (a major qualification for an automatic dismissal as 'BadFic'). As in 'Bad Eggs', the overall humor of the script (including drop-dead funny moments like Xander interrupting Angel and Buffy's fight, and the hilarious intersection with the Hellhound) more than makes up for the gaping plot holes; but one does usually expect better from this lot.

Still the compeltely inexplicable 'Let's keep Xander out of this' was majorly annoying. He's been an active Slayerettes from the beginning, proven his ability to emerge more or less unscathed from danger, and is so not the Zeppo of anything. There was no reason for everyone to decide to kick him out. Very annoying. Rule #1 of Playing in Someone Else's Universe: if you can't do it without screwing with the character dynamics, don't do it.

Lovely, lovely, lovely directing on the Xander/Faith scene -- the camera angle of the reflection off the TV was an excellent way to go, cool and tasteful. There are just some things we do not need to see in detail, thanks.

What crawled onto Sarah's head and died? Or does hair that bad traditionally accompany the end of the world?

The entire fight and run sequence in the school was a wonderful example of the kind of slapstick, split-second timing that makes Marx Brothers movies hysterical. I so would not have wanted to be either the director or the editor, but it works. The close encounter with the Hellmouth, chasing down one hall to be chased back along it by the bad guys we forgot, crossing and recrossing the Hellmouth plot without ever quite getting involved in it, O'Toole's last minute 'death by wolf' -- some beautifully comic timing happening here. Kudos. Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5. Hilarious, if not brain-heavy, episode, with a very cool concept, some wonderful moments, and a stand-out performance from Nick Brendan.


"I liked the premise: Show me the Jimmy Olsen side of things, show me that life (or undeath) goes on even when the end is nigh, show me that even the meek and weak can beat the baddies and have their moments in the sun.... all behind the scenes and "noone ever knowing that it happened." I hated the execution of it... I do think this episode suffered from an identity crisis. If they wanted to do straight comedy and even parody, then they should have .... from moment one to the closing second. They didn't. It was played for too many serious moments for me to buy that I was supposed to be laughing and snickering. And if the fact that they might be trying to have fun with themselves doesn't even dawn on me until the 3rd act, then they've really missed the mark. The pacing was slow. The dialogue, while hilarious in some parts, was weak and silly in others." -- Mary Beth

"Otherwise, the gang's shunning of him and his help was just unrealistic. Yes, they want to keep him safe. But, hello? Giles has mystical knowledge... otherwise, he's a guy who can't stay conscious most of the time. He's just as vulnerable as Xander. So I didn't buy that one bit. Which, of course, meant accepting the rest of the ep was difficult. And Xander, while occasionally the fool and funny, is not stupid. I can't accept that he was feeling so left out that he wouldn't have gotten himself out of the situation with the zombie guys asap. Or that he would have even *let* the gang shut him out so much. Let Angel? Shut him out? I think not. " -- Mary Beth

"And as much as I love Channon Roe he and his cronies were just painfully unfunny to watch. I *get* most of the "jokes." I just thought they were stupid. Walker Texas Ranger? Ha. Giles and the jelly donut scene *could* have been funny... but it was just off. As was most of the ep, pacing wise. I wasn't even too happy with the music. I know Chris Beck was seriously rushed with this one (getting only 4 days rather than his usual week) ... and it showed. Too many themes repeated from BBB. Too many times the music could have saved some awkward moments... and it didn't. But then, neither did the editing. I don't have a problem with Xander and Faith. In fact, I don't much care at all. I'd heard about it coming. I expected it. It's about time. It fit with what they said in FHT about Faith and her horniness. The whole thing still seemed contrived. Whatever." -- Mary Beth, on a roll

"This was my dream Chaos ep! I seriously doubt anyone there has ever heard of the concept, but they're getting bored, so the writers decided to invert the A and B plots and took it up a level of silliness I never *dreamed* of, and we got this! COOL. :> I love the way they worked the serious bits around Xander's Horrible Into-the-Night experience --- first the hug from Willow, then Faith fighting demons, leading up to the Hellmouth icky breaking through the wall. Perfect!" -- Chris

"The best bits, of course, were the Angel-Buffy scene---where the music kicked in *right* after he left (I couldn't stop laughing --- which is *wonderful*, because God knows I've seen them play that "gonna die, we must live, I love you, oh, no, what do we do?" enough by now. ) and the tiny bit of a clue he got about what was going on when the Hellmouth Puppy broke the wall. Hard to take it seriously with Xander running around with a fire axe." -- Chris

"The fact that the B plot dominated instead of the A plot kinda left me feeling like I'd missed more than the tease but once I realized that I hadn't, and saw everything, I found I was cool with it. It definitely made the entire episode seem surreal but the ep would have been completely yawner if they'd made that A plot over yet again." -- Jennie

"I have been annoyed at Xander's complete and total lack of anything remotely resembling maturity a lot in the past year, so having him grow up overnight made me happy. Hopefully he'll keep some of that and I won't have the urge to send someone to beat up on him anymore. Some people *do* kind of figure out that all those clues they are holding in their hands actually fit together rather suddenly, so from a 'would a real person grow up this quickly' standpoint, it's believable even if it's not the norm for the majority of the population. He definitely has had tons of clues that he's not been using, and for quite awhile." -- Jennie

"I *didn't* want to see Buffy and Angel rehash the "Angel must die" angst. Been there, was traumatized by that, have moved on." -- Amparo (this ep is *really* bringing SunS out of the woodwork!)

"Someone messed up and filmed some bad fanfic instead of the real episode... right??? Please tell me that was a mistake?!?"
"I don't know about "bad" fanfic, but yeah, it was fanfic. Some of it was fun, some of it was way off the mark (since when do the others shut out Xander and treat him like a civilian?). Gee, sounds like fanfic." -- Abby and Betsy

"They re-used footage from IOHEFY. The shot of the cafeteria food is directly from that ep. And if you look closely, they didn't cut it quickly enough -- you can see Xander and Willow and Buffy sitting at the cafeteria table as they were in IOHEFY." -- Mary Beth

" first reaction to Giles saying they were opening the Hellmouth was "< *groan* > not *again*!!!"-- they used a scenario so overused already that having it be fully explored _again_ would have put us all to sleep (well _me_ to sleep at least :) Which means they could technically "shortchange" the A plot without us missing anything (been there, done that! :) The last scene ("We could still hear them screaming" "longest few minutes of my life" "that was so brave") was just sadistic, though... just hints to make you think there had been something worth seeing you missed. (Bad writer! Don't taunt the fans! No cookie! :)" -- Dianne

"Chaos I can handle. But I spent the whole frigin episode waiting for MarySue the silver haired witch to come save the day." --- Abby

"I normally love parody. When X-files and Hercules do it I can't stop laughing. This one had me wishing Elaine had written it so it could have at least had a throbbing tool and a coma or two. At least Oz still looks lie Zathras." -- Abby

"I had less trouble with the "shunning" of Xander; I think it was a temporary reaction to how badly he was hurt in the teaser, which should have been played up *way* more to make the logic work." -- Valerie

"Celli pointed out that this episode did what Buffy rarely did: regress a character for plot purposes. I disagree. Xander's character has been regressing for over a year now, ever since he hit his high point in When She Was Bad. I have been angry and disgusted for that long about what they have been doing with him. The Gang's behavior in this episode is no different than in a lot of others, (What's My Line comes to mind, when Xander is mostly there to be Annoying Boy) and I really, really hate it. Everyone here knows how much I adore Angel, but I'm going to be very happy to see him leave Sunnydale, because I think Xander's character development was strangled at birth by having Angel around." -- Lizbet

"I'm going to be interested to see what the Faith-Xander reactions are the next time they see each other --- I'm hoping we don't get cheated out of that. I'm not betting we won't, since neither of them thought it was love, but let's not forget: this is how the whole thing with Cordelia started. One overwhelming moment of hormones tends to lead to more.... And if this is Faith's usual modus operandi, I want more detail about *why*, too. She's pretty damn young to be such a get-some-get-gone kinda chick, even if all her previous boyfriends were the losers she described to Buffy in Revelations." -- Chris

"I don't know why (maybe the lack of any mention of contraceptives or condoms in either Buffy's or Faith's sex scenes), but I wonder if perhaps Slayers *can't* become pregnant? There's no indication that Slayers beget other Slayers, and I would imagine that a pregnancy would be a _major_ detriment to slayage, so the same mystical force that creates Slayers might prevent those Slayers from getting pregnant. Just a thought... and I'd prefer to think that the Slayers know that they can't get preggers (knowledge passed on to them by their Watchers [and isn't *that* a Buffy/Giles conversation that you'd want to listen in on? ]), than that they're being that negligent about birth control." -- Maureen

"I agree, I do a happy dance. I *bounce* at a few Mercs just for fun. I cannot *express* how happy I am that they finally tried a little grease to get Xander out of that drain he's been stuck in for so long!!!!! (He was *really* getting kinda icky down there, y'know?)" -- Jennie

"Yes. I *did* like it. I also don't confuse it with high art, and acknowledge that there are some *major* plotholes in this one. Having Xander mature even a *little* bit made it worthwhile for me. ;-)" -- Dawn

"If they don't get to a "consequences" discussion with Xander and Faith within a few weeks, I'm probably going to be forced to scare the living hell out of the boy in fanfic. " -- Chris

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