harsens_rob (harsens_rob) wrote,

  • Mood:

BTVS Reviewed: Season 3's "The Zeppo"


BTVS, S03, E13

The Zeppo

Writer: Dan Vebber
DIR: James Whitmore, Jr.

Blurb: While the gang battles creatures from the Hellmouth, Xander has his own adventure when he encounters a group of reanimated corpses (edited)….

My Blurb: Before y’all begin to read through the episode, you should go in knowing that I didn’t find this episode oh-so-engaging during its first run. The concept is interesting… seeing the A-plot through the eyes of somebody stuck in the B-plot and making what should be the B-plot into the actual focus of the episode. I also like the tweaking of the nose toward the overwrought Bangel, as we see Angel-Buffy through Xander’s eyes. But overall, this was never a fave of mine so YMMV.

In addition, I always feel this episode is out of place for all of the “keep Xander away from the danger!!!11!”. It feels too far into the series for everyone in the gang to suddenly be worried about Xander getting hurt, when next episode everything is as usual again. I think I’d have bought this if it had been at the start of season 02 but it feels like too much water has gone under the bridge for the attitudes displayed towards Xan’s fragility here, what with his facing down Angelous with the gang and all.

But there are far worst episodes I’ve covered [Hello Ms. French & Moloch] and others to come [‘Beer Bad’] that I’ll never the less review, so let’s relax and get to it.

Scene 01: We open with quick flashes of scary monsters in a fog, growls and quick motions to and fro.

In a dark corner of some sort of foggy cave, stands Faith with sword ready. Our POV glides over to see Buffy looking a little on edge as she spots the monsters her and Faith are about to fight.

Also in the fogbound cave, and looking a bit soft focused is Rupert Giles… [giving me the impression this is actually a Slayer dream]. He looks intent on their foes.

With a bit more swooping camera, Willow comes from a side passage carrying a lit candle and chanting. She blows out her candle and the fog dissipates away, leaving gnarly faced Orcish ladies behind.

Scene 02: Buffy jumps at our Demon-Orc-Lady, with Giles quickly rushing to her side to help.

[Okay, not a Slayer dream. The ultra-soft focus on Giles was just a “isn’t this creepy?” mood enhancer… which… was really overdone. Like, way way overdone.]

Buffy and Giles get the demon shoved against a wood post, where Giles then gets tossed away right into a wall, as is his continued luck with fisticuffs. Faith comes rushing before Buffy loses her grip and shoves her sword through our Demon Orc’s chest, pinning her to the wood beam.

She lets out a dying growl-yell and falls face first to the dirt floor, just missing falling on Giles. In the background behind Rupert, we see a second Demon-Orc apparently killed quietly before ‘we’ joined the party.

Scene 03:  Willow comes her side tunnel and Buffy asks whether she’s alright, which she assures her that her shaking is just a side effect of the fear. But she’s complimented on her masking fog spell which gave them the edge and Wills is all happy that nothing melted this time out.

Faith complains that these demons were particularly rowdy and asks after their deal, but Rupert isn’t able to give them anything. He informs them that most of his sources have turned their backs on giving out information since his release by the Watchers Council.

Giles apologizes to Buffy and Faith over not having them better prepared beforehand. He also isn’t happy that he allowed Willow and uh… hey… somebody is missing….

Scene 04: From under some junk, somebody painfully starts to pull themselves out from under the pile, and this turns out to be our non-super-powered member, Xander Harris.

Xan assures everyone that he’s just fine… other than looking like he’s about to fall over… and that he isn’t sure that his spine is actually still inside of his body.

Buffy and Faith both opine about his getting himself killed, launching into frays like he does. Xan points out how helpful he was in distracting the bad guys by allowing them to beat him about the head and such.

As everyone is ready to head out, leaving the bodies behind for Giles to revisit if he needs to see them again during research, Rupert also takes a moment to suggest that Xander should stay at the rear of the battles going forward. Xan jokes about Giles trying to Jimmy Olsen him to Clark and Lois, but this is lost on the ex-Watcher.

Commentary: See, it’s here that my problem kinda starts. I don’t mind everyone suggesting that Xander’s rushing into physical battle wasn’t really a wise thing to do. That tracks completely. But the scripting feels really heavy handed about it, with only Willow not specifically suggesting him to stay ‘fray adjacent’. This is to set up pushing Xan into his solo adventure while everybody keeps the world ending fight away from him ‘to protect him’.

Something not a stated concern in any of the other battles thus far, and never this heavily stated again going forward. All of this SUPER-MEGA-CONCERN is to set up the plot structure for this one episode, and that in retrospect is why it doesn’t work for me.

But even within this episode itself, it’s too heavy handed in the dialog. It would’ve been better had Giles made the suggesting, Faith sorta strongly agreeing [maybe while shooting glances at Buffy to see if she’s maybe trespassing into another one of those Scooby matters], and Buffy reluctantly agreeing that maybe Xander could stay toward the rear of the battle and help with finishing off the guys already on the ground. And then leave it at that until the discussions later in the episode about the world ending threat to come [which I’ll then bring up this topic again].

It’s also odd because Rupert Giles is also not superhumanly powerful. And he gets ‘beat about the head’ way, WAY more often than Giles. And spends a third of any random battle unconscious. Despite being the Watcher, there should’ve still been some muttering by Buffy that maybe Giles should avoid direct physical conflict as well.

CREDITS Do Their Thing

Scene 05: The following day, we join Sunnydale High, where students go about their random activities waiting for the episode to actually start, where their numbers will drastically dwindle.

[And Holy Crap, another African-American! Whoo-Hooo! And he has a scene with Xander! In which he’s a jerk… ohhhh, so close Sunnydale.]

Xan comes up to school, where an African-American student is tossing around a football. Xander yells to be tossed in, but he gets a flat look, a turned back and then ignored completely. Xan doesn’t take this as too much of a hint and keeps yelling that he’s open [because Xan’s ‘bout of unconsciousness made him forget he’s one of the school outcasts??].

Cordelia is in the background with some of the cheer squad noting Xander’s humiliation. Xander is forced to beg ‘please’, and Doug finally goes ahead and gives him a pity toss of the football. Which Xan totally botches in catching.

Scene 06: But not only did he botch the catch, he also fumbled the ball right into the baggie-o’-snacks being held by Jack O’Toole, who will be one of those guys who are default asshats.

[And Channon Roe is another one of those guys who I just love seeing, and I can’t explain why.]

Xan apologizes, makes a joke about Doug’s arm, and doesn’t notice at first that Jack is giving him the Staredown-Of-Violence. He’s also retrieved that football, which he’s not in a hurry to return now that he has the man who ruined his quiet time in front of him.

So, Xander tries to placate the clearly annoyed man but Jack’s response is “I oughta cut your face open” to Xan’s look of what-the-hell? Jack takes this as a challenge, and Xan goes into a full blown geek meltdown, which isn’t helping this situation. Meanwhile, Doug is standing around with his original football-friend not helping, and Cordelia has wandered up to get the close-up view of Xander making a fool of himself and getting nowhere with the creeper, Jack.

Jack returns the football, but only after warning Xander that when he gets his buddies together, they’re going to kick Xan’s ass until it’s a brand new shape [which I can’t decide if this is a really good threat, or a really silly threat].

Xan swallows hard, looks disturbed and embarrassed some more and turns away dejected.

Scene 07: Doug demands the ball back, which Xan tosses over the waiting Cordelia’s head so that she can point out, in case it wasn’t clear, that Xan has just been publicly humiliated and she got to witness it.

Xan laments that after vampires, demons, etc. he can still be so intimidated by a simple bully. Cordy offers that unlike those monsters, Jack O’Toole - school psycho [I suppose now that Pete Clarner’s mad experiments are gone] - actually notices he’s there.

Cordelia further explicates how she imagines it must be so hard for him, being surrounded by super friends, when he’s just nuthin’. She brings up his being like Jimmy Olsen.

She further cuts Xander down by calling him The Zeppo of the Scooby Gang and when Xander objects that he’s a integral part of the Gang, further explicates to him that he is the Zeppo of the group. She further explicates for Xander that even the school holdback (Jack has been kept behind three times through his schooling career) manages to have more cool than he. She spins away with a self-satisfied grin and tells herself out loud that there wasn’t any part of that which wasn’t fun. And Xander is left standing there feeling like the biggest loser in Loserton.

Commentary: And at first, this annoyed me - because again it struck me as Just Too Much of Cordy being a bitch to get back at him. But I’ve softened on that viewpoint quite a bit because A) Xander was a cheating bastard, so her lingering anger is justified and B) We have to remember that starting with the end of the credits, our story is being told -when we’re with him- from within Xander’s POV.

To him, I’m sure that Cordy’s words were ‘over the top’ and unnecessarily kicking him when he was already reeling from the Jack encounter. There is no doubt that Cordelia was cutting in her remarks, but we really have to take any overblown scenes as being a perception of Xander’s in that moment, which makes some of her more snotty sneers acceptable - where in a normal episode, I would’ve been complaining that they needed to dial it back some.

Scene 08: Later, Xan is sitting in lunch with a quiet Oz and complaining that he doesn’t understand this “cool” thing, or how one goes about getting it. He tries to analyze why Oz himself is considered on the cool end, which Oz doesn’t seem to have noticed. His non-committal, few words responses also don’t provide Xan a lot of clarity. However, Xander does hit on the fact that Oz, in addition to being a man of few words, is also in a band which is like an automatic cool bestower. And this leads Xan to believing his ticket to Coolstown is to “find a thing”.

Scene 09: Xander and Oz’ convo is interrupted by our cut over to the library where, unshockingly, Giles and Buffy are discussing the end of the world out in the open, but nobody else ever needs the library so it’s okay.

Giles has found that our demon women belong to an apocalypse cult who desires to bring about the end of the world. Rupert promises Buffy they haven’t seen the last of them.

Oz comes in because we’ve also leaped ahead to the late afternoon and Oz is going to be wolfing out when the moon comes up. He goes to the Variable Strength Book Cage and locks himself in.

Giles and Buffy get back to discussion where Rupert tells her that the Sisterhood of Jhe intend to open the Hellmouth. The one that nearly killed them all in Prophecy Girl, giving Buffy a revisit of the dread she felt dying and all.

With the dread-tones playing, Oz-wolf suddenly leaps at the cage door and gives a howl.

Commentary: This part also isn’t quite working for me, and it’s really because of the way we swap Xan’s POV for a slightly off, but still other characters discussing things that Xander isn’t aware of.

Really, this isn’t a Xan-POV episode, it’s just that his story is taking the priority over the end-of-the-world tale, but I can’t help but feel like it would’ve all worked so much better if everything HAD been told strictly from Xan’s POV. Everything would’ve been more humorous as it is all filtered through his skewed, incomplete knowledge of the situation coming.

And we could’ve gotten just the barest of skeletons to make out what Buffy and the gang were facing while Xan is continually just outside of grasping the significance of another disaster on the horizon, while he’s completely lost in his upcoming confrontation with Jack O’Toole. We really only should get any details at all about the Sisterhood through half-snippets that Xander catches as he’s wandering through/being redirected from the action by the ‘protecting’ Scoobies.

I think the very ridiculousness of Sunnydale would’ve come out in much sharper relief and allowed a more skewering sense of playful mocking if the focus had stayed on Xan’s perceptions from start to finish.

Scene 10: The next morning, Buffy is updating Wills on the projected return visit by the Hellmouth beast. But worse, it’ll only be the vanguard for the even worse beasties looking to make Earth their new home.

Buffy and Wills get geared up for heavy duty research later, when Xan comes up with a honk of a classic car horn. He’s apparently found his thing… the guy with the cool car to give him his cool mojo.

Noting Buffy and Willow’s less-than-enthused reaction to the excitement of finding his thing [which Buffy can’t help but wonder if this is all about his penis metaphoring itself], the girls bring up the Biggest Evil coming. Buffy worries she can’t handle this one, but Xander assures her that they’ll handle it together.

He tells her to just tell him what he can do to help.

Scene 11: And ‘help’ was apparently using his brand new, temporary-by-the-way, Uncle Rory’s Classic Car to go grab the Scooby Gang donuts for research fuel.

Naturally Cordelia finds him there. Naturally she snarks more about Xan’s brave role in the evil fighting.

Cordelia is just telling him how his bumming a car doesn’t change who he is, or give him any cool, when she’s interrupted by a hot blonde who would beg to differ. The girl knows her Classic Beauties, and is very much impressed with Xander having one to Cordelia’s bewilderedness.

Car Enthusiast Girl accepts Xan’s offer of a little ride around town, with a smirk of satisfaction in Cordy’s face.

Commentary: Which, I have to say, I did give a “Yay!” to. Cordelia really is pushing her luck in keeping my sympathy post-breakup now. Even if we remember that, once again, Xander is an unreliable POV to see her from. This scene doesn’t feel all that off of the mark from how Cordelia would’ve played this out, so we’re not getting the skewed OTT thing going on that we can explain away by being in Xan’s POV.

Which actually is another problem. Even when we’re with Xander, we’re not really in his POV consistently enough to make this all fun.

This episode really needed to go all out in viewing everything through this ultra-skewed viewpoint and keep the ridiculous OTT reactions around Xan coming. But it doesn’t.

Scene 12: That night, in the Bronze, Xander has scored a date with Ms. Car Enthusiast… and finds himself desperately bored to tears over her tales of dating men with cool cars. Her endless romantic history with cool cars [because let’s face it, the guys were the car-hangers-on only].

He’s so desperately bored of the car talk, in fact, that when Angel unexpectedly wanders in - Xan interrupts his own date to waylay him… and not with violence or hateful rhetoric in mind. Angel shares in a near panic that he’s spotted portents recently and is looking for Buffy.

Xan tells him they know of the apocalypse coming and the gang is on it at the library. He suggests they both go there immediately with whatever Angel has to share. But Angel leaves Xan behind with the admonition that he should stay out of harm’s way.

[This scene too could’ve been funny if it had been reworked a little to make it less about Angel keeping Xander out of harm’s way, and more obviously about Angel not relishing being stuck with Xan as a traveling and research companion all night. *SIGH* This episode could’ve really been a funny laugh riot, with the dressings of the serious apocalypse if it had been approached differently, darn it.]

Xan watches sadly as Angel makes his dramatic exit and he’s still stuck with Car Girl blabbing on about V-8 engines. She suggests another drive.

Scene 13: Outside The Bronze, Xander is complaining to Car Girl who is completely and utterly in thrall to the Classic Beauty and not listening a whit. Which, with lines like “I mean, I’ve done some quality violence for those people…” is probably a good thing.

But clearly this double date is between Car Girl and the Bel Air & Xander and his inferiority complex. But as Xan is complaining that his friends are acting like he’s some sort of klutz, he does a klutzy thing and drives right into Jack O’Toole’s car.

Because of course it would be the psycho’s car.

Scene 14: Back at the library, Oz is still growling and rumbling his way through the evening in the Variable Strength Book Cage.

Willow comments on Oz seeming extra cranky and generally takes this as another sign of impending badness on the horizon. Buffy finds a few more tidbits about the Sisterhood, but nothing that tells them where and when they need to stop the Hellmouth opening.

From his office Giles enters muttering angrily to himself about how the Council are idiots and won’t even take his calls, despite an apocalypse in the offing.

Buffy tells Giles she can’t sit for much longer and may take a run out to Willy’s Bar to see if maybe she can scare up a lead there. Meanwhile Rupert is going to attempt to contact the spirits that exist outside of time and can foresee the future. Although he’s not overly hopeful, it is obvs he’s becoming a bit desperate to find anything that will shed light on what is about to happen and when.

And then his night takes a turn for the even worse when he realizes that the girls ate all of the jelly donuts on him! Yes, surely, Hell has come.

Wills sells out bestie Buffy by telling Giles she ate three of them. He swallows his disappointment, since he won’t be swallowing a jelly donut and suggests Xander can make another donut run. But Buffy objects, telling Giles that the last time they faced the Sisterhood, he nearly got himself killed. This time she wants Xan way, way out of the mix… where he’s safe.

Commentary: This scene was unusually dour, so I really liked the touch of humor with Giles’ utter disappointment over the donuts. It was a small thing, but it was a welcome thing.

I also like that there are some very real consequences being referred to when it comes to Giles’ firing.

Scene 15: Back with Xan’s “oops”, he’s trying to deal with the situation by offering to cover the damages to Jack’s car. Mr. O’Toole responds by pulling a cartoonishly large knife and issuing more surly threats.

Xan tries to get back to his date, but Jack isn’t done threatening extreme violence and caresses Xander’s face with his knife, while the gathering crowd doesn’t do anything sensible but watch [well, Sunnydale… so okay…].

Jack asks if Xan is afraid, and Xan offers if it would make Jack happy….

O’Toole goes on to tells Xan that he’s looking pretty pathetic and it all comes down to fear: Xander has it, Jack doesn’t. And that makes Jack the superior… [oh, blah-blah-yadda].

Xan tries to insist, it isn’t about the fear, but about the huge freakin’ blade at his throat but Jack shoves the knife into Xander’s hand and offers him the chance to be the attacker, just to show how much fear Jack does not have. But then Car Girl interrupts to point out she’s bored and wants to go for that drive again, much to Xander’s annoyance considering the crazy that just happened right in front of her face [… which even for Sunnydale…].

While Xander is berating Car Girl for not noticing the excitement of his life and death choices, Jack shoves Xan onto the Classic Beauty and once again grabs control of the knife. But before anything else can happen, Sunnydale PD makes the scene [presumably SOMEBODY decided to call the police].

Xander has the chance to tell the officer’s that Jack is a psycho, but doesn’t. Instead he tells the copper that nuthin’ is going on but some male roughhousing. Jack is a known entity but without Xander selling him out, the officer can’t really invite Jack down to the station.

Xander geekily tells the cop that they were just wrasslin’, using Jack’s lame excuse to cover… “but not in a gay way”. The cop sneers and tells them to move on.

Well, this solid now has Jack being Xander’s new friend. And he decides they’ll all go out and get the boys and have a night of it. Car Girl is down as long as all of this fun involves driving around in Classic Beauty, while Xander is less than overjoyed by the thought of spending an evening cruising around with Local Psycho & The Gang. He asks after Jack’s car, and finds out that Jack was hot wiring it, and the past several minutes was never about the fender bender anyway.

Xan reluctantly asks where to, only to for Jack to repeat they need to go get the boys.

Commentary: *sigh* Really, Xander? You and Jack wrasslin’ “in a not gay way”… c’mon… not even a tiny bit? For me?

Anyway, this scene was pretty amusing if only for the reactions of Xander stuck in the middle of being bored out of his skull with the utterly vacuous Car Girl and being threatened with a slicing and dicing from Jack. I also liked the chemistry between Nicky and Channon in this scene.

Scene 16: “Getting the boys” turns out to mean going to the cemetery and reanimating them, since they were killed several months previously. Jack has some talent for necromancy as it turns out [He has layers, after all! Isn’t that sweet…].

Raising the dead is enough for Car Girl and she rushes off with lots of screaming never to be seen again. Meanwhile, Bob and Jack are greeting each other with Bro-hugs and lots of raucous laughing.

Xan makes one weak attempt to back out on the rest of the evening, but he’s the wheelman… so… and Bob is only the first of Jack’s dead friends that need to be raised for some partying.

Commentary: Another fun scene, but mostly for the actors’ exuberance. Michael Cudlitz and Channon Roe again have an excellent rapport, and “Bob” is a lot of fun just for the OTT Bro-moments throughout this one.

And again, Nicholas is doing some quality bewildered face acting that is very amusing.

It’s really these moments though that lead me to what I really would’ve liked out of this episode. A full-on madcap romp, without the heavy and leaden scenes of the apocalypse stuff, would’ve made this one so much more entertaining, I think.

Again, this really should’ve been an entirely in Xan-POV episode.

Scene 17: Next up is Dude-Bro.

Who gives us a happy, “Duuuuude…” on rising.

Scene 18: Meanwhile, meanwhile, Rupert is doing his own incantations in a cemetery, where he’s trying to communicate with the spirit guides for some direction.

The spirits are not in agreement about Giles’ request to risk Earth’s integrity to gain their knowledge in order to fight the immediate threat. They order him to stop seeking their council in this matter and to depart, leaving him no better off than he was before he attempted the summoning… but at least, he’s no worse of either.

Suddenly from off-screen comes Xander’s called out greeting. In the background waits Jack, Bob and Dude-Bro [who is Parker].

Xander tries to hint to Giles that he desperately would like to escape the situation with Jack and his buddies, without actually going into the details of what they’re all doing with this zombie raisening, but Rupert is too wrapped up in thinking about the Sisterhood problem to twig onto this fact.

Giles drops a few hints about the big battle to come, but Jack keeps interrupting Xander by shouting to him they need to motor, and Rupert is too wound up with worry to even notice that Xan is hanging out with two guys who are clearly ripened.

Scene 19: Over with Buffy, she finally gave up on the library thing to stop in at Willy’s, where she finds the barkeep bloody but alive. He has just shared that the Sisterhood of Jhe’s plans are for that very night, in point of fact, and they’re all lookin’ at a really bad time.

Obvs, Buffy is more than a bit shocked that everything is happening so soon and her and the Scooby Gang aren’t prepared.

Buffy assures Willy that the ambulance is on its way, but he tells her that the Sisterhood is looking to hunt down Angel to kill before the ritual and that they’re gunning for her too. Buffy offers that she’ll stop them, but Willy is pessimistic of her chances. He tells her to go find Angel, slip of somewhere quiet, and enjoy their last night on Earth together.

Scene 20: While Buffy is lookin’ at the end of the world, Xander is trying to understand how he became wheelman for a psycho and his zombie friends.

They’ve managed in the intervening scene to pick up Dickie, who is even more degraded… barely any skin left on his face and are now driving around Sunnydale.

There is some discussion about what to do with the rest of the night, and mysteriously, Dickie suggests baking a cake, which Jack is down for. Xan tries to suggest dropping them off now, but he won’t be allowed to slip out of this since Jack and totally taken Xan under his wing… despite Xander’s obvious reluctance and considers him their 5th.

[How’s that “cool” workin’ out for you, Xan?]

Scene 21: Xan is ordered to stop in front of a hardware store, where he tries to point out that nothing is likely to be open that time of night. But since Jack and his bros are all thugs [SHS version, anyway], they just smash out the windows and start grabbing up “baking supplies”.

Yeah, baking a cake doesn’t exactly mean what you’d think. There is no Betty Crocker involvement.

In the car, Xander is having a “I’m part of the criminal element now…!” freak out.

From behind him, he hears the bell of a store. This turns out to be Willow, who has become such a regular at the local magic store that she can intrude on the store owner’s evening for emergency supplies.

Xan rushes to meet Wills to find out what she’s up to and if there is any way he can get some help with the looters he’s wagonned himself to unintentionally. Willow is getting a protection spell all ready to go for Buffy for that night’s “big thing”, which she refuses to share, leaving Xander both feeling like he’s missing something and without help for dealing with the mess he’s stumbled himself into.

He’s not feeling any better when Willow, her face full of anguish, gives him a clearly goodbye hug.

Scene 22: With this, Xander decides he has to force his friends to tell him what the big thing is so he can help, but as he spins around to get in the car, Jack is there asking him what he’s doing, not being behind the wheel.

Zombie Bros come out carrying bags of supplies and start loading up, when Jack tells them that Xander is looking at ditching them. Oh, the betrayal! From this person none of them know, and Jack only roped him into driving around a few hours ago… how could this happen?!

Xander finds himself surrounded by dead guys and Jack. He tries to explain that something big has come up, but the boys think that he’s just trying to ditch them because he hasn’t been made to feel a part of this close knit group. Bob brings up with reproach how Jack hasn’t initiated Xander to make him feel included.

Parker offers that Xander has more than earned his stripes to join them. Xan plays along with wanting to be part of the gang and asks what he needs to do. Well, the answer of course is to meet Jack’s knife again. Seemingly only Jack’s initiation doesn’t involve zombiedom.

Xander looks less than excited, as we cut to black.

Commentary: It’s about here on the original viewing that I could tell this would be a YMMV type episode. There are going to be folks who love that the entire Plot A/Plot B structure has been flipped, and those who are going to find this all hilarious.

And then there’s me. It’s not that I dislike the episode, it’s just that I find it ‘meh’. I do like the character growth for Xan by the end, and especially how nobody will know what Xander has been through, or how he saved the day [oh, spoiler -- Xander doesn’t die and get turned into a zombie criminal] and more importantly… he doesn’t need anyone to know. I love that.

But getting from here to there is what I’m having issues with. Madcap… gimme more mad cap. Everything should be OTT… EVERYTHING.

Scene 23: Upon coming back from our not-commercial break, Xan is very hesitant on being murdered and resurrected. Despite the ‘cool gang’ trying to make him a part of the team.

Pretty ungrateful, really.

Bob takes exception to Xan thinking he’s too good to be dead. Xander brings up Jack not being dead, but then Jack raises his shirt and lo and behold, he’s been dead this whole time after all… several gun shots to the torso. Jack mentions his grand dad was able to resurrect him a bit faster than Jack could his buds.

Everyone is now on board fully with killing Xander. Except Xan.

He breaks free to run for it. But doesn’t appear that he’s going to get far, being outnumbered.

Thankfully, Uncle Rory’s car comes through and doesn’t play the “car won’t start for no reason” card, as expected in these scenarios. He’s able to rush off into the night, leaving an angry and disappointed zombie gang behind him.

Our crew gets back to grabbing more supplies to get to their “bake a cake” plans.

Commentary: Again, I’m just gonna throw out a kudo to all of our actors here. This scene is elevated tremendously just by the acting and the crazy eyes of Channon and Nicky’s complete panic. All of it is great work by all of our zombie crewman.

Scene 24: Xander tells himself he’s had enough excitement for one evening.

Scene 25: Which is a hint that his night isn’t complete, yet.

Nearby, Faith has been jumped by one of the Sisterhood of Jhe and with Buffy at the library working with Giles and Wills, she’s on her own… and having a really rough go of it.

Xander comes around the corner in time for Faith to kick the demoness in front of his car so he can slam into her. But this doesn’t do anything more than piss the demon off. Xander tells Faith to get in, and they both rush away while the getting is good.

Scene 26: They rush to Faith’s motel room, where Xan is worried that they’ve been chased down. Faith isn’t too concerned with that, but she has more immediate problems in her shoulder being dislocated.

Faith asks Xan to hold her, and he takes it for her having a moment of vulnerability. She grabs his hand though and puts it on her shoulder, so she can brace herself and shove her arm back in its socket.

But now that Xan is standing so close to her, and his shirt’s top buttons are undone, and she’s been in a battle without a satisfying kill…?!?

Oh. Okay! Faith straight up tells Xander that she has energy to burn [and apparently a “no fat muffin” isn’t going to solve this one, Buffy] and asks him for sex. This is another swerve in a very swervy-night of Xander’s incredible bizarre life. He makes it clear that he’s still a virgin and not quite sure what to do, but Faith assures him that she can steer him around her curves.

Hot Sexing happens via television screen reflection… [which actually seemed really unnecessary -- the intent and meaning was clear without the PG sex].

Scene 27: Afterward, Xan is cuddly. There are tender looks between Xan and Faith.

And then he’s summarily tossed out the door with his clothes so she can shower with a casual, “That was great”.

Xander is left without his virginity but still in utter confusion over his entire life.

Commentary: And this is … interesting, as far as storytelling goes. It’s a bit of a weird choice, and yet still appropriate somehow that this big moment in Xan’s life would happen on this night and with Faith, of all people who would then shrug it all off while he’s reeling.

I liked that this would be the off-kilter episode used to give Xan his first experience [and answering just how far he and Cordy went previously], and I liked that Faith - in an unusual reversal role for the time - is the one who isn’t caught up in any emotions about it.

And the thought of Xan and Faith is so odd that I support it just on that basis alone.

Scene 28: In the library, Oz-wolf is going crazy in the Variable Strength Book Cage, which Giles attributes to his sensing the Hellmouth’s impending opening. He hands Willow the tranq rifle.

Giles opens the book cage to allow Willow to tranq the wolf, but this time it takes to clean shots to finally put Oz out, he’s so out of control.

Wills apologizes to the sleeping Oz-wolf.

Scene 29: Back at Faith’s motel, Xan has gotten into his clothing and is still in a daze as he returns to his rented car. He notices the supplies left behind by Jack’s Gang in the backseat and checking them out in curiosity, suddenly comes upon the realization that “baking a cake” was a pseudonym for “making a bomb” which he didn’t put together with the raid on a hardware store for baking supplies… oh, Xander.

Scene 30: He races back to the hardware store, but of course Jack is long gone and probably loaded up with new supplies. Xander, in between being distracted by this re-realization that he’s now had sex with another person, decides he’s now way out of his league and needs to inform Buffy.

Scene 31: Buffy meanwhile is having a freak out over the opening of the Hellmouth and is angsting hard with Angel. He’s trying to convince her that he needs to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to give Willow enough time to bind the Hellmouth, but Buffy can’t bring herself to consider that she’ll have to watch him die again.

They express their undying love [miserable as it is for both of them].

Buffy rages that this is her fight, and if Angel won’t do it her way, then … a clearing throat interrupts their High Drama Moment. It’s Xander with his own problem.

He realizes though that zombie bombers probably aren’t in the same league as whatever soul-searing bullshit is going on between Angel and Buffy this time. He tells them it was probably a bad time to interrupt and after assuring himself that he can’t do anything to help them, wanders back out.

Angel and Buffy continue with their interrupted High Drama Moment With An Especially Intense Angel Soul-Eyed Tearful Gaze On Buffy.

Commentary: The true winning moment in this episode. I loved the Angst being interrupted by Xan’s throat clearing and the entire way that Buffy and Angel stare at him in confusion. And I loved how they both try to get back to the moment the second that Xander walks away.

This was just … neat.

Scene 32: So, now Xan is still stuck with a gang of undead with bombing plans and everybody else is too wrapped up in this vague Big Deal to help him resolve it. What’s a Zeppo to do?

Xan tells himself he can work this out, he just has to figure out what a group of malcontent high schoolers might like to bomb.

Scene 33: Unshockingly, we skip over to SHS.

Where Rupert is busy trying to bind the Hellmouth shut, since there isn’t another plan on how to stop the Sisterhood.

[Presumably, there is only a very slim chance of this doing anything or surely this would’ve been attempted in the first season as one of Giles’ first objectives. And as fiction has well taught us, a plan may only be attempted once before it is abandoned completely.]

Willow comes in, having moved Ozwolf [yeah… right…] to the basement for safe keeping while they’re gearing up for a battle with the Sisterhood, who surely won’t stop their attack even if Giles manages to bind the portal shut.

She offers to step in and help, but Rupert declines, stating that this level of magic is far too dangerous for her.

Scene 34: What Rupert and Willow don’t know is that even if the Hellmouth is rendered a non-threat, and even if the Sisterhood is defeated, in the basement - presumably not on top of Oz - Jack and the Stenches are preparing the cake.

They set the timer for 60 minutes and laugh maniacally and their diabolical plan.

Scene 35: In his car, Xan has decided that Giles will know what to do, because he’s way more calm than basketcase-Buffy. But as he’s headed toward the library or Giles’ apartment, he sees the Zombie Bombers walking down the middle of the street all aglow in happiness.

[Whoa… Nicky, what’s up with your ears in this shot?? I never noticed how large they are… and that the right one seems like a quarter inch larger than the left… which is quite the difference. Oh, this close up shot is awful.]

The gang take Xan’s return as his coming back to the fold, having reconsidered being a member of the gang. But Xander isn’t there for that. He snatches up Parker as he drives by and drags him along the street, instead.

He interrogates Parker about what they’ve been up to, as the rest chase on foot behind.

Parker folds immediately, and reveals that the bomb is in the high school. He tells him it’s in the boiler room with some prompting. Xander tells him he has one more question, and Parker better get the answer right… how does he defeat the bomb… But before the entire question is out, Xan accidentally runs Parker’s head into a mailbox and decapitates him. Ooops.

After a scream, Xan heads toward the high school with Bob and Dickie on this trail and Jack stopping momentarily to grieve for Parker’s re-death.

Commentary: This was another one of those moments that I wanted to see much more of in this episode. Parker’s sudden beheading and Xander’s horrified scream were hilarious, and I loved the “I should’ve left that middle part out” line of Xan’s as he rushes away.

That was pretty great.

Scene 36: At the school, Xan realizes the basement is probably where the bomb is, but the Zombie Crew minus Parker now, are too hot on his trail for him to get there immediately. He leads a chase through the high school.

Scene 37: Meanwhile, the Hellmouth is opened and the Guardian Beast [last seen in Prophecy Girl] is threatening to kill Rupert, Wills, Buffy, Faith and Angel and allow all of the demons waiting to cross over.

But… it’s grown much larger since it was last seen, to Giles’ dull horror.

In the meantime, unnoticed, Xander rushes by with the Zombie Bombers shouting to get and kill him. Only Dickie notices what is going on in the library, but he’s quickly called away to focus on killing Xander before he can interfere with their bomb.

Commentary: This struck my funny bone too. What with this giant, roaring demon and flashing strobe lights going on in the library and nobody notices but Dickie. And even he’s too busy worrying about a little plot to blow up the school to tell everybody about the huge demon bursting up through floors in the library. It’s all so absurd, that it’s wonderful.

Scene 38: Leaving the mess in the library, we follow as Jack, Dickie and Bob split up to track down Xander, wherever he’s hidden.

Bob finds Xan first, and comes after him with a fire axe.

But Xander proves to have learned a thing or two while fighting with Buffy -- though it’s easy to forget that sometimes -- and he manages to stun Bob by introducing his head to a table. Grabbing up the axe, Xander - no doesn’t chop his head off, and that’s a nice touch considering his horrified reaction to decapitating Parker - uses it for leverage to knock over the soda machine. Bob has his zombie head smashed.

Scene 39: Dickie comes rushing into the lounge, only to find Bob lying with his head under the soda machine. Before he can react, Xander steps out of the shadows with his axe.

Xander starts to give a non-sequitur about playing with fire, but Dickie chooses to turn and run rather than fight… or listen to Xan’s attempt at tough guy Bond one liners.

He has to give chase to the zombie dude.

Scene 40: Meanwhile, Buffy gets clobbered out into the hallway. She shakes off this body-flying blow and shouts to Faith to go for the heart as she returns to the library.

Scene 41: While the fight for the world is going on, Xan chases Dickie into a side hallway, only to rush back out a moment later followed by Dickie, and now with both of them being chased by the Sisterhood of Jhe eager to help the Hellmouth stay opened.

Scene 42: Dickie gets himself trapped in what may be the nurse’s office, and to his screams is dismembered by the Jhe.

That leaves Jack and the bomb for Xan to deal with. He just manages to decide on the boiler room, when the Scoobies’ battle with the Hellmouth intrudes with a beast head through the wall and nearly taking him out.

Commentary: And there has been some real improvement on the Hellbeast prop with this revisit, which was nice. He really looks pretty monstrous now, rather than kinda lame.

Scene 43: Xander makes it to the basement with his axe ready for Jack.

He finds a barrel bomb waiting and counting down. He’s about to take a stab at pulling the correct wire, because with only 90 seconds left, why not try something. But Jack leaps onto him and starts fisticuffs instead while the timer continues downward.

Jack pulls out his blade and tough talks. He tells Xan that first he’s going to take out his eyes, then his tongue and then break every finger. But Xander asks if he can do all that in 49 seconds, distracting Jack into looking at the bomb in the room. This leaves Xander an opening to fight off Jack’s attempt to hold him at knife point/stab him in the face.

And Xander again shows that he has, in fact, picked up a bit of fighter prowess with the Slayer despite his general avoidance of fisticuffs. He and Jack end up staring one another down over the bomb.

Xan notices Jack’s focus on the exit and points out his chances of getting by him, up the stairs and out of the building in the seconds remaining aren’t so great. Jack points out that Xan is about to die too, but Xander is okay with that to make sure Jack doesn’t escape the consequences.

He asks the psycho which of them has the less fear right now?

Jack points out he’s already dead, but Xan counters that this’ll be different. This’ll be the “tiny bits” dead, and he doesn’t think that Jack is really ready for that.

This is apparently correct, as the zombie makes to run for the exit, but Xander makes clear he’ll never make it that far and they’ll both die rolling around on the floor.

Scene 44: Upstairs, the battle continues on against the Hellmouth Beast. It’s all noise and shouting and roars.

Scene 45: In the basement by contrast, it’s nearly silent as Xan and Jack’s stand-ins [oops… freeze framed at the wrong moment], stare down one another over who will blink and whether they’ll run for it, or die together, or Jack will disarm the bomb.

Jack breaks at 2 seconds and pulls the plug.

Xan walks up to Jack and warns him not to return to campus again, having finally won this war of wills with the psycho. Yay, Xan.

Commentary: What I really liked about this scene was how it contrasted the chaotic battle against the Hellbeast with the quiet calm of Xan’s facing his death. This really was a power moment for the Xander character that is even more brave to me then when he faced down Angelus in the hospital hallway and I’m really pleased that they centered an episode on Xander being shown his mettle and coming out stronger for it.

I have those issues with how we got here, but I loved this moment.

Scene 46: Jack insists to Xander’s back that he’s not going anywhere after Xan has slammed the boiler room door shut. He warns that this battle between them isn’t over.

But alas, he foolishly opens a generator room door for some odd reasoning. And that happens to be where Willow stowed the passed out Oz-Wolf. An Oz-Wolf who has managed to wear out the double dose of sleep drugs because of that Hellmouth business super charging him up.

And a super charged up Oz-Wolf is more than capable of devouring a zombie psycho would-be bomber any day of the week. G’bye Jack.

Sorry Oz… you’re next trip to the bathroom is going to be really unpleasant.

Scene 47: The next day, Buffy, Willow, Rupert and Oz are sitting around a picnic table at SHS. Buffy is in a sling, Angel is mentioned to have been injured badly enough that he was out for a few minutes but is recovering. Willow mentions the screaming of the Hellbeast still in her ears.

She’s sporting a bruise along her jaw line.

Willow mentions seeing the face behind the Hellbeast’s multiple heads that she’ll never be able to forget. And Buffy tells Giles that his defeating the monster was the bravest thing that she’s ever seen.

Giles smiles that it was the stupidest… and he has the marks on his face to show it, as well. But he’s relieved that the world is continuing to turn.

Wills notes that nobody will ever know what they did, or how close it all came. Including Xander who now wanders up with his own secret about how close the Gang came to ending up bloody bits buried in rubble.

Scene 48: Xan wanders away to hunt down a snack, when he spots Cordy heading his way with no-doubt something acidic on her tongue.

She tries to insult him and wound his ego some more, of course, but this time nothing fazes him. He’s proved to himself his own worth, after all. And what’s Cordy’s rude attitude next to a bomb counting down and zombies who want to cut him apart?

He just looks at Cordelia after her barrage of insults and smiles before walking away leaving her confused by her inability to wound him any more.

The Good: I liked the general idea of swapping the A-Plot/B-Plot to focus on the B-character's storyline over the big A-plot.

I loved the work done in the scenes between Nicholas Brendon and Channon Roe. They worked off of one another well.

I also liked the ott enthusiasm of Michael Cudlitz' scenes.

All of the Xander scenes from the time he grabs Parker from the car, until his staredown with Jack over the counting down bomb timer are winners. I had a good time with the last quarter of the episode.

I adore the moment when Bangel's HIGH ANGSTY DECLARATIONS OF INTENSITY are interrupted by Xan's clearing his throat, and Buffy and Angel looking confused at the interruption.

I also loved going out with Xander not telling anyone about saving the school single handedly, especially his not bragging to Cordy to put her in her place.

The Bad: Despite my basic issues with the episode's construction, I'll not place anything here.

Other Thoughts: I do have my issues with this episode that keeps me from loving it. Though it does grow on me the later into the ep we get. I just don't quite buy the "keep Xander ignorant of the danger" thing going on this late into the series. And I wanted us to stay only in Xan's POV and for his night to be far more wacky than it turned out to be.

I don't think the tone between the ultra-serious end of the world plot is gelling with Xan's more humorous plot and I really wish this had been far more farcical in nature.

I find it interesting that Xan's loss of virginity would take place in this episode, and that it would be Faith who'd take it. But I like that scene skip from Xander being all cuddly and serene afterward to his being unceremoniously escorted to Faith's door and all but shoved out with a casual 'Yeah. Great. Thanks'.

I also liked the improvement to the Hellmouth Beast puppet heads. But I wish we'd seen even less of it, like only catching glimpses of it as Xan rushes past the library and then the full head breaking through the wall and that's it. But again, I'm stuck on how this episode should've been all Xan-POV all the time.

The Score: I want to love this episode. But, I just don't. I like certain moments A LOT, and yet over all I just don't look forward to re-watching it, and it took forever [as you can tell] to work up the gumption to get through reviewing it. I don't think I really warm up to it until the last quarter where everything is racing toward conclusion.

3.25 out of 5 stars

Tags: buffy season 3 reviews

  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened