Superstar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode
Episode no. Season 4
Episode 17
Directed by David Grossman
Written by Jane Espenson
Production code 4ABB17
Original air date April 4, 2000
Guest actors
Episode chronology
← Previous
"Who Are You"
Next →
"Where the Wild Things Are"
List of Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes

"Superstar" is the 17th episode of season four of the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Plot summary[edit]

When Buffy and the gang discover a nest of vampires, they go to Jonathan for help. At Giles' apartment, Jonathan checks out weapons and practices hand-to-hand with Buffy. Willow uses her computer to find a way to attack the vampire nest, but Jonathan finds a better way. He slays the majority of the vampires, leaving Buffy to feel inadequate, as she allows one vampire to get by her.

As they leave the crypt, Jonathan poses for some pictures. He senses Spike hiding in the shadows and the two go face-to-face. Buffy's at a loss for her usual puns, but Jonathan steps in to knock Spike's confidence down. While putting pictures of Jonathan up on a wall, Willow and Tara talk about the fight earlier that night and Buffy's relationship with Riley. At Riley's dorm room, Buffy tries to play basketball, but she is too uncomfortable around him to let him get close.

Jonathan comforts Buffy and he tells her that she's mad at Riley because he doesn't know her as well as she'd like him to. He tries to convince her to forgive Riley because her expectations are too high. All the while, Jonathan signs autographs for overzealous fans. Colonel George Haviland is the new commander at the Initiative, but Jonathan takes over and explains the plans to find and destroy Adam. One fan, Karen is spying on Jonathan's house, but is attacked by a demon and manages to run away.

Jonathan talks to Riley about his relationship with Buffy, then shoots at apples atop of the heads of Initiative operatives, while blindfolded. When Jonathan takes center stage singing at the Bronze, Buffy and Riley take the dance floor. Xander and Anya are inspired to go somewhere to have sex when he plays the trumpet. Buffy tells Riley that she wants to move on with their relationship. Karen goes to the Bronze for Jonathan, and when she is taken back to his place, describes the demon's appearance. Jonathan acts strangely when she draws a symbol she saw on the demon, but he dismisses it as a harmless monster.

Adam realizes that something is wrong with the world, and that Jonathan isn't supposed to be this popular, but decides to see how the situation develops. When twin blond girls call for Jonathan to come to bed, he drops his robe to reveal a symbol on his shoulder that is like the symbol Karen drew. On her way to her dorm room, the demon attacks Tara. She chants a spell and escapes with her life. The next morning, Tara identifies the demon by the symbol on its head, and Buffy has even more reason to question Jonathan.

Buffy stops by Xander's, and finds Anya and plenty of things on Jonathan. Buffy questions how Jonathan could be so perfect. He is credited for all the great things that have happened in the world (starring in The Matrix, inventing the internet etc.). Riley encourages everyone to follow Buffy's lead. They look at Jonathan's swimsuit calendar to see the monster's mark on Jonathan's shoulder. Jonathan arrives and explains that he has a history with the monster and every time he faces it, he is overcome by confusion.

Buffy and Jonathan get information on the demon's location from Spike. Willow discovers that Jonathan did an augmentation spell that would make everyone adore him but also created a demon. If it is destroyed, the spell is reversed. The gang has a hard time dealing with the prospect of a world without Jonathan.

In a cave, Jonathan tries to prevent Buffy from falling into a pit, but the demon interrupts them. Jonathan leaves it to Buffy to fight the demon. Jonathan pushes the demon into the pit and his life is saved by Buffy.

After the demon falls into the pit, everything goes back to normal, and Jonathan is back to being ignored. Jonathan explains that, at counseling after his attempted suicide, another guy informed him about the augmentation spell. However, he skipped the demon part.

Buffy and Riley are kissing on his bed, until she moans, "Jonathan".


"Superstar" can be seen as a spoof on Mary Sue fanfiction,[1] in which an idealized version of the writer is inserted into a fictional universe and upstages the established characters. Jonathan, a peripheral character, becomes nearly omnipotent, universally adored and admired, and even takes Buffy's place in the opening credits.

Buffy's character is severely affected by Jonathan's augmented universe: most or all of her previous slayer feats are now credited to Jonathan, and Buffy's position and persona are demoted from confident leader to nervous sidekick. Throughout the episode, Buffy quickly gains confidence in her abilities as a slayer, and through her actions also gains that confidence from the others.

Production details[edit]

The title sequence is generally constant throughout each season, except when the regular cast changes. This episode has a specially modified title sequence that contains about 10 shots of Jonathan performing heroic acts such as defusing a bomb. The end of the sequence is a shot of Jonathan with a flowing coat, similar to that worn by Angel, replacing the usual shot of Buffy triumphant. In spite of Jonathan's prominence in the sequence, Danny Strong is not featured as a regular cast member.

Jonathan-related merchandise seen in the episode includes a number of Jonathan comic books published by Dark Horse Comics, the real company that publishes comic books based on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.


Danny Strong lip-syncs the song that he sings at The Bronze ("Hey Sonny / Serenade in Blue / Trapped" by Royal Crown Revue). Brad Kane, who played Tucker Wells in "The Prom," provided the vocals. While playing the trumpet at the Bronze, however, Strong was actually synching the notes, fingering it as instructed by a family member.


  • The immediate prequel to this episode is Jane Espenson's Buffy comic, Jonathan.
  • Some time has passed between the previous episode and this one, Tara has been introduced to the rest of the gang, and she now associates with them socially; although the romantic nature of her relationship with Willow is still secret.
  • This episode introduces Jonathan's dabbling in magic, which will play a major role in season 6.
  • Jonathan helps Buffy and Riley overcome issues raised in "Who Are You".
  • Jonathan reveals Adam's weakness (his uranium power source), although this is not mentioned again until later in the season, well after Jonathan's spell is ended.
  • Jonathan's spell establishes how easily reality can be bent to an extreme degree, setting a precedent for the sudden integration of Dawn in Season 5.
  • This episode introduces the world without shrimp and the world entirely of shrimp. The former will be referenced again in "Triangle", and the latter by Illyria in the season 5 Angel episode "Underneath".
  • This is also the first time that Xander performs a spell by himself, showing how easy it is.
  • A comment made by Riley about a spell allowing the caster to "turn an enemy inside-out" is a possible allusion to the fate of "Trio" member and friend of Jonathan's, Warren Mears, in season 6.

External links[edit]