The Zeppo (Dan Vebber)
My word, this is the second stinker of season three. Many fans rate this Xander centric episode quite highly but for me it is a demonstration of how badly wrong an episode can go if characters’ fail to behave in a consistent and believable manner. I don’t think it is unreasonable to compare this with Doppelgangland. Both are standalone, quirky, humorous in tone and deal with a character developing in self-awareness (Xander by the end of the episode knows he can handle himself in a crisis and that he isn’t any of the things Cordelia accused him of (and anyway, just what does a werewolf offer? He’s useless three nights a lunar month. Oh wait, he has a heightened sense of smell but that may just be Willow’s scent.)). However, Doppelgangland is brilliant while The Zeppo is appalling. One of my problems is that we (the viewer) know how brave he is and to see Xander humiliated as he is in the first scene and then throughout as his friends behave totally out of character (giving him the brush-off and patronising him) just to demonstrate his lack of self-belief is annoying. Then we have scenes where Xander behaves in such insanely stupid ways so he can keep on staying in trouble e.g. he doesn’t run away like Lysette in the cemetery and doesn’t take his opportunities to drive off outside the hardware store. Then we have Cordelia just being so bitchy and cruel that my teeth hurt listening to it (“‘Integral part’ of the group? Xander, you’re useless part of the group. You’re the Zeppo”). The apocalypse story is presumably played for laughs (I had to tell Andy that as we sat stony faced through it all) but it just clunks along (I guess the writers didn’t want to waste a good world ending story on this dreck) with wince-inducing scenes like Angel and Buffy’s angsty scene (the real ones we saw in Amends are bad enough). Finally, the finale of Xander’s own story doesn’t really make sense. I should say that I did laugh when werewolf Oz, like many dogs, ate some rotting meat.
The only thing that would induce me to watch this again would be to see the scene when Faith seduces (if seduces is quite the right word) Xander.
“A fight like that and…no kill…I’m about ready to pop.” “You up for it?” “Oh, I’m up. I’m suddenly very up. It’s just, um…I’ve never been up with people before.” “Don’t worry. I’ll steer you around the curves.” (later) “That was great. I gotta shower.”