|Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode|
Newly confident after his secret adventure, Xander is untouched by Cordelia's insults
|Episode no.||Season 3
|Directed by||James Whitmore, Jr.|
|Written by||Dan Vebber|
|Original air date||January 26, 1999|
"The Zeppo" is episode thirteen of season three of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was written by Dan Vebber, directed by James Whitmore, Jr., and first broadcast on January 26, 1999. Feeling left out by the gang, Xander ends up accompanying a student named Jack O'Toole. Meanwhile, the rest of the gang are trying to stop an apocalypse.
When a student throws Xander a football, he drops it onto Jack O'Toole's lunch, resulting in Jack threatening to beat him up. Cordelia, having witnessed the event, tells Xander he is useless and extraneous, since all of his friends are slayers, werewolves, witches, and watchers, while he is nothing. Meanwhile, Giles informs Buffy that the end of the world is near. The Sisterhood of Jhe, a group of fierce demons, is planning to reopen the Hellmouth.
Xander gets himself a car in the hope it will make him useful and cool. At the Bronze, Xander rear-ends Jack who is sitting in a parked car. Jack threatens Xander with a knife, but when a cop shows up, Xander covers for Jack and gains his respect. They go to get the rest of Jack's friends who, being dead, need to be raised from their graves.
At the library, Buffy, Willow and Giles are researching. Giles leaves to try and contact some spirits and hopefully get their help with stopping the sisterhood.
Xander takes Jack and his group of friends to get supplies. He spots Willow leaving the magic shop and tries to talk to her. She tells Xander that she loves him before hurrying off to help Buffy. When Jack and friends decide to initiate Xander into their group, he flees. He rescues Faith from a member of the sisterhood by hitting it with his car. He takes Faith to her motel room where she seduces him. Afterwards, she kicks him out, clothes in hand.
Meanwhile, back at the library, Willow and Giles struggle to get Oz (in werewolf form) away from the Hellmouth. They sedate him and lock him in the basement.
Xander realizes that Jack and his group have built a bomb. He seeks help from Buffy, but she is too busy having an emotional encounter with Angel. On his way to see Giles he encounters the group and drags one of them with his car until he confesses the location of the bomb. Xander finds the bomb in the school basement, but Jack shows up and they fight. Xander positions himself between Jack and the exit door so that Jack has no hope of escaping before the bomb explodes. Jack defuses the bomb with seconds to spare and turns to leave, swearing revenge. He opens the door releasing Oz, who immediately attacks him. Meanwhile, Buffy, Angel, Faith, Giles and Willow are at the library fending off the giant multi-headed monster and the members of the Sisterhood of Jhe. They succeed in closing the Hellmouth.
The next day, the bruised Buffy, Willow, Giles, and Oz sit at a table discussing how they saved the world from destruction. Xander, not knowing anything of their battle and vice versa, comes by to chat with them. After a few seconds of talk, Xander decides to keep his harrowing night to himself (aware that his friends will never believe such a story no matter how he tells it). As he walks away, Cordelia once again taunts him, but Xander (quietly confident with handling himself in a fight, and despite the fact that everyone still looks upon him as the hapless and bumbling sidekick to the group) merely smiles and walks by.
Dan Vebber wrote two scripts for the show: "Lovers Walk" and "The Zeppo". Although there are earlier episodes where Xander is central to the plot (e.g. "The Pack"), this episode is unusual in that the story is largely told from Xander's point of view. The world-saving activities of the main cast are portrayed as secondary until the plot lines eventually converge. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, series creator Joss Whedon said "The Zeppo" was "a very deliberate deconstruction of a Buffy episode in order to star the person who mattered the least".
Reception and influence
Noel Murray of The A.V. Club wrote that "The Zeppo" had become a favorite episode of his, saying, "What I loved about 'The Zeppo' is how Xander's feelings of abandonment pervade the structure of the episode, which is filled with moments that are (intentionally) dramatically unsatisfying." In Entertainment Weekly's list of the 25 best Whedonverse episodes—including episodes from Buffy, as well as Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse—"The Zeppo" placed at No. 23. TV Squad's Keith McDuffee listed "The Zeppo" as the fifth best episode of the series. The episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Makeup in a Series.
The episode has proved influential on later television writers. In his "Production Notes: Doodles in the Margins of Time", Doctor Who executive producer Russell T Davies said that he was inspired by "The Zeppo", along with the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Lower Decks", when writing the 2006 "Doctor-lite" episode "Love & Monsters", which started an annual tradition for an episode with little involvement of the lead cast.
- Rhonda V. Wilcox (August 26, 2005). Why Buffy Matters: The Art of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I.B.Tauris. pp. 130–131. ISBN 978-0-85773-038-1.
- "Joss Whedon on his past, present, and future". Entertainment Weekly. August 21, 2013. Retrieved October 16, 2016.
- Murray, Noel (26 June 2009). ""The Zeppo", etc". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 7 June 2013.
- Bernardin, Marc; Vary, Adam B. (24 September 2009). "25 Best Whedonverse Episodes". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 7 June 2013.
- McDuffee, Keith (24 October 2005). "The Five (by Five): Best episodes of Buffy". TV Squad. Retrieved 7 June 2013.
- "Past Winners Database: 1998-1999 51st Emmy Awards". The Envelope: The Ultimate Awards Site. Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2008-02-09. Retrieved 2007-09-13.
- "Review: Doctor Who 2x10 - Love and Monsters". The Medium is Not Enough. 2006-06-19. Retrieved 2010-07-24.
- "'Doctor-Light': The Doctorless 'Who' Stories". Digital Spy. 2008-06-22. Retrieved 2010-07-24.
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