Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Zeppo   Rewatch 
June 24, 2015 9:22 PM - Season 3, Episode 13 - Subscribe

A sidelined Xander's search for purpose and identity takes centre stage while the rest of the gang fends off yet another apocalypse in the background.
posted by yellowbinder (12 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is a fun episode, and marks the show finally trying to get a handle on who they want Xander to be. Along the way to this, it has fun mocking and deflating several recent tropes the show has pandered to without winking too much. Xander awkwardly interrupting yet another of Buffy and Angel's heartfelt speeches is really fun (this is similar to storyteller in season 7, an episode which actually has a lot of similarities to the Zeppo).

We get to see Xander here leveraging what advantages he does have (bravery and heart) against some villains who might not give Buffy pause, but are definitely difficult for a mortal to deal with. But even as he does this, the show is willing to deflate him a little, with the very amusing beheading of a zombie Xander is trying to tough talk into submission.

This also marks the second main cast member having sex (well, I guess if you count Giles and Joyce, fourth!), with Xander and Faith having sex. I like this scene, because Xander is quite uncomfortable about it all. He's a teenage boy, and isn't going to turn it down, but wants it to count for more than Faith assigns to it, as we will find out soon.

-Cordelia uses a Marx brothers based put down. That girl has deep cuts
-"It it hard to play guitar?" "Not the way I play it."
-"Mostly I feel Katie"
-"Two guys rasslin', but not in a gay way!"
-"Eight months, you been taping Texas Ranger?"
-Oz is oddly full at the end of the episode...
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:00 AM on June 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

This one takes on a slyly different tone after Storyteller -- even though we know that this all happened, I feel like we don't really know that this all happened. You know?
posted by Etrigan at 1:30 AM on June 25, 2015

I haven't seen Storyteller since it was new. How is this one like that one? I remember Andrew telling the story with his camera and interviewing everybody. Is Storyteller similar in the sense that Andrew questions his usefulness, or is there something more?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:46 AM on June 25, 2015

I haven't seen Storyteller since it was new. How is this one like that one? I remember Andrew telling the story with his camera and interviewing everybody. Is Storyteller similar in the sense that Andrew questions his usefulness, or is there something more?

Essentially that it is story adjacent. Both this episode and Storyteller deliberately follow a character who has been seperated from the "main plot" of the episode, often for comic effect. So in storyteller we see Buffy's speeches mocked and (sigh, spoiler I guess) Willow and Kennedy reunite. In the Zeppo we have yet another Buffy Angel tirade, but it's not the focus for once.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 3:18 AM on June 25, 2015

I haven't seen Storyteller since it was new. How is this one like that one? I remember Andrew telling the story with his camera and interviewing everybody. Is Storyteller similar in the sense that Andrew questions his usefulness, or is there something more?

Essentially that it is story adjacent.

Not just that -- it's that most of the things we see in Storyteller (and, now that I think of it, I was conflating it a bit with Superstar) aren't happening that way at all, but the "main" character is lying to himself, making himself a Gary Stu. So yeah, technically speaking, The Zeppo is canon -- Xander really did all those things in-universe -- but given that Normal Again shows us that maybe even canon isn't canon, did he really?
posted by Etrigan at 3:35 AM on June 25, 2015

I don't really remember S7 much so won't comment except to say that, despite all the faults I have been finding with Xander throughout this re-watch, I still love this episode and think he is awesome in it. So many little good moments. Brilliantly done.
posted by Athanassiel at 6:18 AM on June 25, 2015

I say “occasionally I’m callous and strange” more often than I care to admit. I love that line (I brought marshmallows)!

It’s nice to see, immediately after Helpless, that scene in the opening where Buffy helps Giles up after he’s been whacked by the demon, and he thanks her. I think that’s probably a nod to “relationship mostly repaired,” as well as that line about Giles doing the bravest thing Buffy has ever seen at the end (I always really wanted to know what that was, which I suppose is the point. Probably a lot of fanfiction out there covering it). He took away her powers, she ate his jelly doughnut, now they’re even.

I like this episode a whole lot. It’s so fun to see tropes and patterns exposed and spun in a new way. (Having a degree in Dramaturgy, I think, makes me delight in it even more than I used to.) This entire episode is, as Buffy puts it, “fray-adjacent.” Even though Xander is a main character in the show, it’s a nice reminder that everyone is fighting his or her own battle (literally or figuratively) and is the hero of his or her own story, not just the actual superheroes. It’s basically a coming-of-age story compressed into one evening. I think all the stories that deal with Xander the best are the ones where he admits he’s just a normal guy in the heart of this supernaturally gifted gang, but he’s still going to try to help the best that he can. After all, it’s not bravery when it’s easy. The gang keeping him so totally out of the loop is kind of dickish, but does work in a comedic sense.

As much as we harp on Xander for sometimes saying shitty things about women (and make no mistake, he definitely does and it’s out of line and terrible), there’s a lot of crap being flung around about manliness in this episode (Faith making fun of him for shrieking while being beaten, Cordelia saying that being a psycho is cooler than being a wuss – trying to defuse a situation where absolutely no fighting is required is apparently “unmanly”). The patriarchy is just hurting everyone here, basically.

The fact that Cordelia makes the same Jimmy Olsen reference as Xander makes me think that either his references have rubbed off on her a bit, or that they have more in common than they care to admit. It would have been really interesting to see what would have happened to them in a longer-term relationship (oh, hell, this is Joss, what would have happened is one of them would have actually died).

Xander, you know what Oz thinks is cool. Ice. It’s water, but it’s not. They play up the contrast between the two guys well in that scene. (Protip: Oz is cool because he respects both women and himself.) The episode also points out that, if you rely on one “thing” to make you “cool,” it will attract people who are only into that one thing, and therefore are boring.

My heart melts a little when Buffy says “I need my Willow.” Awwwwww.

I feel like they could have an entire episode about the Adventures of Xander’s Uncle Rory.

The Council are a pack of seriously petty Mean Girls.

“You big, hideous corpse…come here!” (Also, catching up on Walker: Texas Ranger)
“But they’re always open for crime.” (Lots of theft in the two episodes this week)

That scene where Xander interrupts a big melodramatic talk between Buffy and Angel is so great. I was never a “Bangel” fan at all (again, my first episode was “Passion”) so I loved the show skewering itself that way.

Every time Xander tries a “cool guy” line, something bad happens (the guy he’s talking to runs off or loses his head). “I like the quiet,” on the other hand, is the opposite of his overblown, macho lines, and it works so well. Very Oz-like; as Xander says, “next time, less talk”.

Zeppo may never have been cool, but hey, sometimes the crazies need a straight man to bounce off of.
posted by ilana at 11:25 AM on June 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

I was never a “Bangel” fan at all (again, my first episode was “Passion”) so I loved the show skewering itself that way.

I'm not a Marvel Universe girl (not a hater, just not intrigued enough to make the deep dive into all those movies) so I've kind of lost touch with Joss Whedon while he's been doing that stuff. I saw the first episode for Agents of Shield but never came back, and I've wondered if that show is Whedon-y in that self-aware, tragicomic Buffy-verse way, or if it's more straightforward superhero stuff. On Buffy or Angel they could mix truly heartbreaking or scary scenes with out-of-nowhere gags and cutaways. Does AOS feature that kind of mix? Does the show ever feature unforgettably goofy stuff like, for instance, Numfar's dance of joy?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:40 PM on June 25, 2015

This episode had my second favorite Oz line, after being asked if playing guitar is hard: "Not the way I play it." (Best Oz line of course was singled out when we talked about the gift, but bears repeating. After being asked by Willow to talk more about what happened between them "Look...I'm sorry this is hard for you. But I told you what I need. So I can't help feeling like the reason you want to talk is so you can feel better about yourself. That's not my problem." Devestating.

"I like the quiet" is also a really good line, given with uncharacteristic gravitas by Xander, especially in contrast to his previous attempts to display action-hero tendencies.

I've never really loved this episode, because I feel like the attempt to link it to last episode's massive, massive betrayal by Giles is too half-hearted. Really, I can't even get over that episode for the rest of the series. I love Giles, so I just do my own retcon where I pretend that episode never happened, or that his betrayal was more like moving her car keys while Buffy wasn't looking.
posted by skewed at 9:06 PM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Finally watched, busy week and honestly I was dreading this one given how unfailingly awful Xander has been so far. I always thought this was a great one and I was worried either Xander would do something awful here, or that I'd feel that it didn't earn its Xander triumphant attitude.

But it still holds up and does depict Xander at his ideal, full of inner strength and heart as the series often insists he is but doesn't always show. I've mentioned a few times that he's the point of entry character for a lot of male viewers and this episode speaks to that well. The quest for cool is a little blunt early on, but it's familiar for a lot of young awkward guys who don't feel special or needed. Xander finds peace in his own self here, and I'm really hoping it carries forward in the series.

I love the background melodrama here as everyone else has noticed. Buffy and Angel's scene is great, and I also quite enjoyed Giles and the spirit or whatever it is yelling at each other in latin. It reminded me of Wesley and the giant hamburger. [Speaking of, we are drawing close to Angel. I'll throw up a FF Talk in a week or two to see what people's thoughts are. I don't love early Angel enough to commit to or post a weekly rewatch, but I would love to read and watch and chime in where I can. I do hope someone will pick it up!]

Lastly, tranq the werewolf *before* you open the cage folks. Jeez.
posted by yellowbinder at 3:08 PM on June 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

God I love this episode, which is so full of the reasons I defend Xander even though I fully agree about how awful he is so much of the time.

1.) I love that Faith hurts him. It was almost revolutionary that this show (in its funniest episode to date, no less!) could have Xander, the loser always talking about sex and wanting it, finally punch his V-card and be uncomfortable about it and feel justifiably used afterwards. A million more points that this truth really lands in subsequent episodes. Between this and Oz's gentle rebuke of Willow in "Amends," it shows that, yes, guys can want sex and want it to be meaningful at the same time just as much as the gals can. Oz is cool, and can handle that in his own way. Xander is decidedly uncool and cannot, and it hurts, and it ends with him just feeling that much more insignificant.

2.) When up against a wall, Xander will attempt pacifism. This can appear like cowardice, but look at how assertive he is about the football catch being a mistake and nothing worth fighting over. We're used to his smug moral assertions being in the strange world of Angel's-true-nature-etc, but in the real world, they carry more weight.

3.) Xander finds a weird strength in his own feelings of worthlessness. When it's up to him, he goes to being willing to lose his life if that's what it takes, and clearly finds solace in being willing to do so. "Grace" is the big example of this, to be sure, but here, his"I like the quiet" line is a soft threat that his life is worth less to him than the bully's unlife is to the bully. And then he stands by the threat. That is both stone-cold and tragic.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:17 PM on October 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

So, just watched this again, and yeah, still one of the best episodes of the series. The tone is such a diversion from the other episodes, sort of heightening Xander's general Jughead-ness by using the frat guys, Lysette, the Bel-Air, the Motel setting, and so much else to create a real Archie Comics vibe to the visuals, but in this insane Into-the-Night storyline that also finds humor in poking fun at the show's normal melodramatic tropes by not giving us necessary info or context for the big moments they drop us into the middle of (and take us out of with no resolution.)

And of course, it wouldn't work without giving us premium, almost 100% good Xander (aside from the wholly unnecessary "No Homo" moment) in maybe the zaniest, quickest-paced episode of the series and with Xander basically stepping into The Doctor's shoes at the end in both talking his way out of a situation he can't solve with violence (both through physical inadequacy and because he couldn't defuse the bomb himself) and in realizing he can keep that victory for himself at the end.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:11 PM on July 9, 2018

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