Episode Title: The Zeppo
Original Air Date: January 26, 1999
“You know, it’s not like I haven’t helped before. I’ve done some quality violence for these people.” – Xander
Time for another underrated episode this week aswell one of the more creative pieces of writing on the show as we are given one plotline only for the real focus to be on the B plotline as the episode uses the same kind of misdirection we got with “Big Trouble In Little China” were the viewer is lead to believe they are following the hero only to in fact discover it’s the sidekick they’ve been following. This episode also being noted as key inspiration for not only the “Doctor Who” episode “Love and Monsters” while Joss Wheldon would go on to refer to “Agents of Shield” as being “The Zeppo Tv Show” which is probably a nicer description than the one I would give for that show.
Opening to Buffy and the Scoobies battling a group of demons in an underground nest which results in Xander being hurt after he is buried by rubble leaving Buffy to fear for the safety of her friend and suggesting that he stays out of the fighting and in turn leaving Xander struggling to find his place within the group especially as he is the only member of the group with any disenable power outside of his ability to collect a donut order and crack wise with the puns.
As I mentioned already the episode is split into two very distinct plotline with the first seeing a group of demons called the “Sisterhood of Jhe” planning to reopen the Hellmouth bringing about the apocalypse seemingly one of thirteen the group will face in the series… but can anyone name them all? Meanwhile Xander in his attempts to find his place finds himself caught up with the shady student Jack O’Toole who it turns out is planning on raising his dead friend to help him blow up Sunnydale High. The fact that we are following Xander throughout the episode is really where the genius of this episode lies as we get all the major moments of what you’d consider to be the main plotline as fun asides to Xander’s story.
Once more the credit really has to be given to Nicholas Brendon who truly carries this episode especially when he is able to make a character like Xander such an entertaining character to watch while credit also has to also be given to Charisma Carpenter whose sole purpose in this episode seems to be to suddenly turn up whenever Xander is at his lowest and give his self-esteem another kick with one of her cutting barbs. The episode though despite the looming threat of the apocalypse happening in the background is a surprisingly light hearted affair thanks largely to Xander’s bumbling heroics as he finds himself caught up with the zombie rebels whose antics really brought to mind the Stephen King story “Sometimes They Come Back” while fans of “The Walking Dead” will no doubt be overjoyed with the early role of Michael Cudltz who appears as the gang member Bob.
While Xander might be the focus we still get some great moments with Buffy and the other Scoobies including Giles griping over the donut selection and watching Buffy get blown through the library doors while battling the same multi headed beast that we saw in the season 1 finale but it’s when the two plotlines cross that episode really pulls out some memorable moments, including Faith claiming Xander’s virginity post world saving heroics which it seems is her way of cooling off, especially when she shortly after kicks him to the curb….not that he really cares as this is just another thing on a truly memorable adventure for him.
It’s unclear why this episode never seems to be mentioned amongst the best episodes especially when it embodies the Buffy formula for humour and tension perfectly while reminding the audience that unlike many other long running shows that the writers were never afraid to experiment with the writing and in this case manage to give us two great storylines wrapped in one fun package.
Next Episode: Bad Girls