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The Zeppo

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 3, Episode 13
Zeppo Main
Air date January 26, 1999
Written by Dan Vebber
Directed by James Whitmore Jr.
Episode Guide
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Cast
Starring
Sarah Michelle Gellar Buffy
Nicholas Brendon Xander
Alyson Hannigan Willow
Charisma Carpenter Cordelia
David Boreanaz Angel
Seth Green Oz
Anthony Stewart Head Giles
Guest Starring
Saverio Guerra Willy
Channon Roe Jack
Michael Cudlitz Bob
Eliza Dushku Faith
Co Starring
Darin Heames Parker
Scott Torrence Dickie
Whitney Dylan Lysette
Vaughn Armstrong Cop

"The Zeppo" is the thirteenth episode of the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and is the forty-seventh episode altogether.

Feeling left out by the gang, Xander Harris befriends a villainous student named Jack O'Toole. Meanwhile, the rest of the gang are trying to stop the apocalypse.

Synopsis

While the Scooby Gang slaughters demons in an underground nest, Xander manages to get himself hurt. Buffy Summers suggests he stay out of the fighting. Xander is desperate to find his place after his breakup with Cordelia Chase and the alienation from his friends. When another student throws him a football, he misses and it hits Jack O'Toole's lunch, resulting in Jack calmly threatening to beat him up. Cordelia, having witnessed the entire event, tells Xander he is useless: "You're the Zeppo". Meanwhile, Giles informs Buffy that the end of the world is near. An order of demons called the Sisterhood of Jhe is planning to reopen the Hellmouth.

After a discussion with Oz about what makes someone cool, Xander shows up at school driving a 1957 Chevrolet Belair convertible, borrowed from his uncle Rory. Meeting Buffy and Willow Rosenberg, he says he is now "car guy" and looks forward to his new role within the group... Only to find that he's tasked with nothing more than getting donuts for the rest of the Scooby gang, who are doing research at the library. While at the donut shop, Xander encounters Cordelia who delightfully rubs his nose in the fact that all he does now is simple errands. Just then a girl who likes his car starts to flirt with Xander and wants to go for a ride. Xander, eager to try and get one-up on Cordelia, agrees once he's dropped the donuts off.

At the library, Buffy, Willow and Giles are researching. Meanwhile, Oz is in werewolf mode and is freaking out in his cage. Willow thinks it's because he can sense trouble. With the Watchers Council refusing to speak with him, Giles leaves to try to contact "the Spirit Guides who exist out of time," who he hopes will provide information on the Sisterhood of Jhe.

At the Bronze that night, Xander is still entertaining his new female acquaintance, however it's clear that she's far more interested in the car than she is in him. Xander meets Angel, who is looking for Buffy because he is concerned about the Sisterhood of Jhe, but refuses Xander's offer of help. telling him it would be safer if he keeps out of the way. When leaving, he rear-ends a parked car. Jack O'Toole gets out of it and threatens Xander with a knife. A cop who knows Jack shows up, but Xander covers for Jack. Surprised but grateful, Jack offers to let Xander be their 'wheel-man' due to his having a car, and tells them they need to go and pick up his friends (as the car that Xander rear-ended isn't actually his). Much to Xander's surprise, it turns out that Jack's friends are all dead and they go to the graveyard where Jack raises them. Xander meets Giles, just as the latter is leaving, having failed to secure the help of the Spirit Guides and asks if he needs any help (desperate to extricate himself from the escalting trouble he's found himself in) but Giles repeats the earlier comments that Xander is best out of the way. Jack finishes raising his three friends and they leave with Xander driving.

313 Zeppo

Xander gets bullied

Buffy visits Willy the Snitch and and finds that the Sisterhood of Jhe have been there already, and thoroughly wrecked it. Willy, who's been beaten up, reveals that the Sisterhood are planning to open the hellmouth that very night and advises Buffy that she should find Angel and consider how to spend her last night on earth. In the library, werewolf Oz is going crazy and the gang are forced to tranquilize and move him.

Jack and his zombie friends drive around town with Xander, who is getting more and more worried as they discuss their deadly activities and plans. Eventually they decide to 'bake a cake' and start gathering supplies by robbing a hardware store. While the boys are getting the supplies from a hardware store, Xander spots Willow leaving the magic shop however she quickly runs off after she, thinking the world may end, tells him she loves him. Xander decides enough is enough and tries to run off, however Jack and the others aren't willing to let him do that. They decide that the best way to make him part of the group is to kill him and raise him, since he'll need to be dead to be 'initiated'. Xander points out that Jack isn't dead, only for Jack to lift his shirt to reveal several bullet holes (having been raised within minutes of being killed in a drive-by shooting). Xander then makes a run for it, and encounters Faith, who is fighting off one of the Sisterhood. After rescuing her, the two head to her motel room. When there, the rush of the battle makes her feel horny, and she and Xander end up having sex. She kicks him out, clothes in hand, quickly after. Attempting to process everything that has happened on this very eventful night for him, Xander gets into the car and sees the supplies that Jack and the gang were collecting and realizes that they're building a bomb.

Xander drives back to the hardware store to find Jack and his gang long gone, laden with more than enough supplies. He heads to Angel's mansion to find Buffy, and finds the two having yet another argument about their feelings. Realizing it's a bad moment, he leaves. Xander then heads to the library to find Giles only to run into the zombies again. They give chase to the car, with one of them holding on to the side. Xander demands to know where the bomb is, and the zombie reveals its in Sunnydale High's boiler room. Before he reveals how to disarm it, a mailbox takes his head off. Xander then heads for the school, with Jack and his gang in hot pursuit.

In the library, the Hellmouth has been opened and a giant, multi-tentacled monster has emerged. Buffy, Faith, Willow, Giles and Angel prepare to fight it, as Xander and the zombies run past (with only one of them noticing, and exclaiming "Wow"). During the chase, one of the zombies is crushed by a soda machine while the last of Jack's friends is ripped apart by members of the Sisterhood who arrive to attack.

Meanwhile, Buffy and the others fight with all their strength in the library to try and close the Hellmouth and save the world.

Xander heads down to the boiler room where the bomb is, and finds Jack . Jack shows up, and after a fight between the two, Xander asks Jack who is more afraid of death. Jack points out that he's already dead, but Xander points out that "'walking around drinking beer with your buddies'-dead is a lot different from 'being blown up and swept up by a janitor'-dead." When Jack confronts Xander about him dying, Xander merely remarks, "I like the quiet" and stares at him calmly. Jack defuses the bomb with seconds to spare. Xander tells Jack he doesn't want to see Jack around school anymore, then leaves by a side door. Jack promises revenge against Xander the instant his back is turn, as he moves to leave by another door... only to Werewolf Oz to jump out and tear him to pieces.

The next day, the Scoobies are sitting at a bench reminiscing about the previous night's battle in hushed tones. Buffy is wearing a sling. We learn that Angel was knocked out during the fight, and Buffy feared he was dead. Oz isn't eating anything as he feels strangely full for some reason. Xander happens by, but says nothing about his own adventure. Leaving the Scoobies, he meets Cordelia who once again taunts him about being left out of his circle of friends. But instead of lashing back at her, Xander just smiles and quietly walks by the bewildered Cordelia, now a better and more confident person.

Continuity

  • This episode is one of the thirteen apocalypses the gang faced. It is also the second and final time the Hellmouth monster appears.
  • The multi-headed demon is the same one that attacked Giles, Willow, Cordelia and Jenny in the library when the Master's ascension opened the Hellmouth in "Prophecy Girl." The Master's death caused the demon to retreat back into the Hellmouth as the portal closed.
  • Oz is placed in a basement storeroom while a werewolf, this is the first time since his condition was revealed that he is not in the book cage.
  • Giles is still reluctant to involve Willow in dangerous magic, demanding she stay back while he casts the binding spell on the Hellmouth, telling her he wants her to be safe.
  • Xander's car seems to stay in perfect condition throughout the episode, despite his hitting at least one demon with it.
  • Xander asks Oz if it is hard to play guitar. In his dream in the opening of "Teacher's Pet", he was playing a guitar solo on stage at the Bronze. He may have started to learn as in the episode "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered", Xander has an acoustic guitar in his room.

Body Count

  • Two unidentified Jhe sisters killed momentarily before Willow's clouding spell
  • Unidentified Jhe sister, impaled by Faith
  • Parker, beheaded by Xander's driving
  • Dickie, killed by the Sisterhood of Jhe
  • Big Bob, crushed by a vending machine pushed by Xander
  • Three unidentified Jhe sisters killed momentarily after the Hellmouth was open
  • Jack O'Toole, devoured by Oz in werewolf form

Behind the Scenes

Production

  • This episode is a change to the usual story structure in that the character development story is the A story and the apocalypse storyline is the B story. Although given very little on-screen coverage, the B story is explicitly epic (a quintessential melodrama scene between Buffy and Angel, the barely-shown battle and subsequent injuries, etc.) making its lack of focus - and Xander's unsung heroism - all the more ironic.

Deleted Scenes

  • This comment was cut for length:
Jack: "That's it. No way am I bringing him back after I kill him."

Pop Culture References

  • Zeppo Marx was the straight man among the Marx Brothers and long considered to be the most unexceptional member of the act. Xander is treated in the same way in this episode.
  • When Buffy is reading about the Sisterhood of Jhe and how they celebrate victory in battle by eating their foes, she comments in disgust, "They couldn't just pour Gatorade on each other?" referencing the tradition in athletic competitions to celebrate a victory by pouring buckets of the sports drink over the coach.
  • Both Xander and Cordelia compare Xander to Jimmy Olsen, the photographer for the Daily Planet who often tags along with Lois Lane and Clark Kent in the Superman Universe. Like Jimmy Olsen, Xander relates to being an unappreciated sidekick without any special powers.
  • Jack's friend Bob is a fan of Walker, Texas Ranger. Jack assures Bob that he taped every episode during the eight months Bob was dead.
  • Xander mentioned Michael Jackson's song "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" when Jack coincidentally said the title.

Goofs, Bloopers & Continuity Errors

  • In the showdown scene with Xander and Jack O'Toole when the bomb is ticking down, the timer is off. In the close up scene where the camera pans down from Jack's face to the timer, it counts down to 10 seconds. In the very next cut, the timer then reads 13 seconds. In the next cut, the timer is counting down normally, now at 7 seconds.

International Titles

  • French: Zéro pointé (Nought)
  • German: Die Nacht der lebenden Leichen (Night of the living Corpses)
  • Portugese: Um Zé Ninguém (A Zeppo)

Music

  • Sound Stage Music Library - "Dodgems" (Plays as Xander throws the football.)
  • Supergrass - "G Song" (Plays when Xander talks to Lysette.)
  • Tricky Woo - "Easy" (Plays while Xander drives around Sunnydale.)
  • Extreme Music Library - "For the Glory" (Plays at the end of the episode, when Xander walks away from Cordelia, smiling.)
  • Christophe Beck - "Dead Guys with Bombs" (Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Radio Sunnydale)

Other

  • Nicholas Brendon cried when he read the script for this episode because he was "so delighted with it, and its meaning for his character."
  • The Executive Producer of Doctor Who; Russell T Davies, mentions the Buffy episode "The Zeppo" as a possible influence on the Doctor Who episode "Love and Monsters". It also inspired Marvel's Agents of Shield, Joss referring to it in an interview with Entertainment Weekly as 'a TV series of The Zeppo'.
  • This episode is Xander-centric.
  • This episode (its "unsung hero in the background") is the basis for the writing style of another Joss Whedon TV series, "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." (mentioned in several Whedon interviews)

Quotes

Buffy - "What should we do with the trio here? Should we burn them?"
Willow - "I brought marshmallows! Occasionally I am callous and strange."
Faith - "She got me really wound up. A fight like that and, no kill. I'm about ready to pop!"
Xander - "Really? Pop?!"
Faith - "You up for it?"
Xander - "Oh, I'm up. I'm suddenly very up. It's just, um, I've never been up with people before."
Faith - "Just relax. And take your pants off."
Xander - "Those two ... concepts are... antithetical."
Faith - "Don't worry. I'll steer you around the curves."
Xander - "Did I mention that I'm having a very strange night?"
Giles - "There's something ... different about this ... menace, something in the air ... The stench of death."
Xander - "Yeah, I think it's Bob."
Xander - "But... It's just that it's buggin' me, this 'cool' thing. I mean, what is it? How do you get it? Who doesn't have it? And who decides who doesn't have it? What is the essence of cool?"
Oz - "Not sure."
Xander - "I mean, you yourself, Oz, are considered more or less cool. Why is that?"
Oz - "Am I?"
Xander - "Is it about the talking? You know, the way you tend to express yourself in short, noncommittal phrases?"
Oz - "Could be."
Xander - "I know! You're in a band! That's like a business-class ticket to cool with complementary mojo after takeoff! I gotta learn an instrument. Is it hard to play guitar?"
Oz - "Not the way I play it."
Xander - "Okay, but on the other hand: eighth grade. I'm taking the flügelhorn and gettin' zero trim. So the whole instrument thing could be a mislead. But you need a thing, one thing nobody else has. What do I have?"
Oz - "An exciting new obsession. Which I feel makes you very special."

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