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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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"Helpless"
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"Bad Girls"
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 in the series. It was written by Dan Vebber and directed by James Whitmore, Jr. It was originally broadcast on January 26, 1999.

Feeling left out by the gang, Xander 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 suggests he stay out of the fighting. Xander is desperate to find his place after his breakup with Cordelia 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, he says he is now the "car guy" and looks forward to his new role within the group. He soon finds that instead, 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 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, in full werewolf form, is freaking out in his cage. Willow thinks it's because he can sense trouble. With the Watchers Council refusing to speak toto 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, though 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 to discuss the Sisterhood of Jhe. He dismisses Xander's offer to help, telling him it would be safer if he keeps out of the way. When leaving, "car girl" still in tow, he drives into a parked car. Jack gets out of it and threatens Xander with a knife. Before Jack can seriously injure Xander, a cop arrives and interrupts. Xander lies and tells the cop that the two were just "rasslin'." Surprised yet grateful, Jack offers to let Xander be the "wheel man" and drive him, and later Jack's friends, wherever they need to go. It turns out that Jack's friends are no longer alive, and the two go to to the graveyard so Jack can "raise" his friends from the dead. Xander spots Giles, who was unsuccessfully trying to get help from the Spirit Guides. Desperate to leave Jack and his undead friends behind, he begs to help Giles, but to no avail. As was said earlier, the gang thinks that Xander is "better out of the way." Jack finishes raising his three friends and they leave with their "wheel man."

313 Zeppo

Xander gets into trouble with Jack.

Buffy visits Willy the Snitch only to find that the Sisterhood of Jhe has already visited his bar and thoroughly wrecked it. Willy, who's been beaten up, reveals that the Sisterhood are planning to open the Hellmouth that night. He 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 Giles and Willow are forced to move him to a safer location.

Jack and his friends drive around town with Xander, who is getting more and more worried as they discuss their mischievous plans. Eventually, they decide to "bake a cake", which involves gathering supplies by robbing a hardware store. While Xander waits while they get their supplies, he spots Willow leaving the magic shop. He tries to talk to her, but her mind is elsewhere in preparation of the upcoming apocalypse. Before she leaves, though, she tells him she loves him. Xander decides enough is enough and tries to run off, though Jack and his friends have other plans. They decide to "initiate" him by killing him. Xander points out that Jack isn't dead, only for Jack to lift his shirt to reveal several bullet holes. It turns out that his grandfather "raised" him minutes after being shot 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. The rush of the battle gets her riled up, so she seduces Xander. After sex, she kicks him out, clothes in hand. Back in the car, he discovers gun powder, kerosene, and wire, and realizes that Jack and his friends' "cake" is actually 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's next move is to the library to find Giles, but instead, he finds the zombies. As Xander tries to drive away, one of the zombies manages to grab onto his car. He demands to know where the bomb is, and the zombie reveals its in Sunnydale High's boiler room. Before he's able to tell Xander how to disarm it, a mailbox takes his head off. Xander then heads for the school, with Jack and his remaining 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, too busy to notice the ongoing chaos. During the chase, one of the zombies is crushed by a soda machine, and the other is ripped apart by the Sisterhood.

Xander heads down to the boiler room where the bomb is, and finds Jack. After a brief fight, Xander asks Jack who is more afraid of death. Jack points out that he's already dead, but Xander notes 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 the possibility of death, he simply says, "I like the quiet." Jack defuses the bomb with seconds to spare. Xander tells Jack he doesn't want to see him around school anymore, and leaves. Jack promises revenge against Xander the instant his back is turned, but as he opens a different door to leave, werewolf Oz attacks him.

The next day, the Scoobies are sitting on a bench and discussing the previous night's battle. Buffy is wearing a sling on her arm. We learn that Angel was knocked out during the fight, and Buffy feared he was dead. When Xander stops by, Willow comments that he should be glad he wasn't at school last night. The gang has no idea of his wild night, and he decides to keep it to himself. He offers the group a snack, and Oz, strangely full, declines. As he walks away, he runs into Cordelia, who is more than happy to taunt him. However, instead of firing back, he smiles and continues past his now-confused ex-girlfriend.

Continuity

  • This episode is one of the thirteen apocalypses the gang will face. 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 a precaution, Willow places Oz in a basement storeroom while in werewolf form. This is the first time that he is shown in a place other than 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 bumping into Jack's car and hitting at least one demon.

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 opened
  • Jack O'Toole, devoured by Oz in werewolf form

Behind the Scenes

Production

Buffy The Zeppo Promo00:21

Buffy The Zeppo Promo

Original WB Promo

  • 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. Cordelia refers to the Marx Brothers when she calls Xander "the Zeppo."
  • When Buffy is reading about the Sisterhood of Jhe, she realizes that 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 by pouring buckets of Gatorade over the coach.
  • Both Xander and Cordelia compare Xander to Jimmy Olsen, the photographer for the Daily Planet. He 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, the bomb's timer is off. Next, when the camera pans down from Jack's face to the timer, it counts down to 10 seconds. In the following 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."
  • This episode is Xander-centric.
  • The executive producer of Doctor Who, Russell T. Davies, mentions this episode as a possible influence on the episode "Love and Monsters".
  • This episode is the basis for the writing style of Joss Whedon's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.". He mentions this in several 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."
Xander - "Well, I'm gonna grab a snack. Anyone want? Oz?"
Oz - "No. I'm oddly full today."

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