"The Zeppo"
Written by Dan Vebber; directed by James Whitmore, Jr.

An angry demon in a cave of other more-dead-than-angry demons looks around to find out who killed its friends. It was the Scoobies, of course - Buffy, Willow, Giles, and Faith are all there, hiding out and watching the demon. Willow performs a quick spell to remove the fog from the cave, which allows the others to attack it and kill it. Faith wonders what kind of demons they were battling, but Giles isn’t sure because he no longer has access to the resources he was in touch with while he was still in the Watchers Council. He suddenly realizes that they’re missing someone, and it turns out that Xander spent the whole fight under some rubble. Buffy suggests that he not get involved in dangerous situations anymore - instead of “leaping into the fray,” he should be “fray-adjacent.” On the way out of the cave, Giles echoes Buffy’s sentiments, telling Xander that he might want to stay away from the front lines from now on. Xander tries to disguise his disappointment, but he’s actually tired of playing Jimmy Olsen to the other Scoobies’ Lois Lane and Clark Kent.

At school the next day, Xander looks on as a couple of jocks toss a football around. He gets them to let him join in, only to humiliate himself by fumbling the ball. The ball hits a guy named Jack O’Toole, who isn’t happy about the intrusion and threatens Xander. He lets Xander go, but promises to get his friends together and go after him again. Cordelia is thrilled to witness the whole thing and get a jab in at Xander. She tells him that being a psycho is “still a lot cooler than being a wuss.” He wonders why he’s more intimidated by Jack than by anything he’s encountered on the Hellmouth, and she points out that Jack actually acknowledged his existence. She unknowingly echoes his self-comparison to Jimmy Olsen and shoots down his denial that he’s not cool. In the cafeteria, Xander tries to drill Oz on what “cool” is, using Oz as an example because he’s a laconic musician. Xander decides that he needs a “thing” that makes him cool and tries to brainstorm what it might be. Later, in the library, Giles has a more pressing concern - another coming apocalypse. The demons they killed earlier are part of the Sisterhood of Jhe, an apocalypse cult, and there presence in Sunnydale indicates that more will come and try to bring about the end of the world. Oz enters and proceeds to lock himself in the book cage for the duration of the full moon. Giles tells Buffy that if the Sisterhood of Jhe succeeds, they’ll open up the Hellmouth in the library.

Buffy and Willow discuss the apocalypse and what one might expect from it - mostly, a lot of demons. Buffy expresses how glad she is that Willow’s going to do some research and help out with the anti-apocalypse brigade. A ‘57 Chevy pulls up outside the school and Buffy and Willow are surprised to see Xander behind the wheel. He tells them that the car is his “thing” which makes him cool (though Buffy first worries that a “thing” is a metaphor for manliness). He learns of the impending apocalypse and assures the girls that he’ll help them with the fight. Instead, he’s sent to a bakery to buy donuts. Cordelia enters and mocks him for being sent on errands while the other Scoobies battle evil. She tells him that having a nice car won’t make him a different person. Her point is somewhat disproved when a girl named Lysette approaches Xander and begins to chat with him about the car. Cordelia is surprised when Xander and Lysette leave together to go for a drive. Later that day, the two go to the Bronze, where Lysette can’t stop talking about the cars her exes drove. A bored Xander is thrilled to see Angel, who’s looking for Buffy, and tries to tag along with him. Angel tells him that he should stay out of danger, and Xander is stuck going for another drive with Lysette. Outside the Bronze, Xander accidentally hits another car, then is jolted even more when he realizes the car belongs to Jack.

At the library, Buffy and Willow try to research while wolfy Oz makes noise in his cage, most likely freaking out about the apocalypse. Giles complains that the Council won’t talk to him, and without enough information from books, Buffy decides to go out to the demon world, starting with Willy. Giles decides to attempt to contact some spirit guides, who can see into the future, but first has to complain that all of the jelly donuts are gone. Buffy announces that Xander can’t go get more because she doesn’t want him involved in what’s happening. At the Bronze, Xander’s about to run into a different kind of trouble in the form of Jack. He begs for forgiveness and offers to cover any damages, mostly just wanting to get out of there intact, but Jack intimidates him with a hunting knife. He mentions that the knife’s name is Katie, which doesn’t make Xander feel any more comforted. Jack tells him that the difference between them is their amounts of fear - Xander has it and Jack doesn’t. Jack hands him the knife and tries to provoke him to fight. Lysette announces that she’s bored and tries to get Xander to leave, but Xander is a little more concerned with not getting beaten up. Suddenly a police officer arrives and the two guys pretend that they were just “rasslin’.” Jack is impressed that Xander didn’t rat him out and invites him and Lysette to go with him to “get the boys.” He decides that they’ll take Xander’s car, since the one Xander hit wasn’t really his.

The three head to a cemetery, where Jack performs a spell to resurrect a guy named Bob. Lysette panics and runs off, Xander yelling after her, “I’ll call you!” Jack introduces Bob to Xander, their “wheel man,” and they head off to resurrect some more dead friends. As they head off, Bob asks Jack if he’s been taping Walker, Texas Ranger for him. While the guys do some more zombie-raising, Giles contacts the spirit guides in the cemetery but doesn’t receive any help. Xander arrives and asks Giles if the Scoobies need his help, but Giles tells him to stay out of trouble and sends him off with the others. He says that they just need a few weeks to figure out how to fight the coming demons. However, in the meantime, Buffy is learning from Willy that the world is going to end that night. He’s been beaten up by demons who were looking for Angel and Buffy in order to stop them from preventing the apocalypse. Xander and his new zombie friends cruise through Sunnydale on a quest for some beer and try to decide what else they want to do that night. One guy suggests that they “bake a cake” while the others discuss their causes of death (they were all shot). Xander tries to get out of playing chauffer but Jack tells him that he’s a part of the group now and has to help them bake a cake.

The guys head to a hardware store for “ingredients,” leaving Xander in the car with the motor running. Willow approaches on her way out of a nearby magic shop and hints that something’s going to happen that night. She tells Xander that she loves him before rushing back to the library. Xander decides to bail on the guys, but tell him that he just needs to do something to feel like a part of the group. Bob says that he hasn’t been “initiated,” so Xander asks what that entails. “You gotta die,” Jack replies. Xander is, understandably, not thrilled with this idea, but Bob takes his reluctance as prejudice against dead people. Xander points out that Jack isn’t dead, but it turns out that he is - he was killed in a drive-by shooting but his grandfather was able to resurrect him immediately. Xander makes a break for it and the guys complain that their “cake” ingredients are in the car. Jack says that they’ll just have to get more. Xander drives by the park, where he spots Faith battling some of the Sisterhood of Jhe and rescues her. They head to Faith’s hotel room and are soon confronted by the latter half of Faith’s post-slayage feelings of being “hungry and horny” (see “Faith, Hope, and Trick”). Things turn friendly and Xander admits that he’s never had sex before. “Don’t worry,” Faith tells him. “I’ll steer you around the curves.” “Did I mention that I’m having a very strange night?” Xander asks. Things get even weirder when, post-coitus, Faith throws Xander out, saying only, “That was great. I gotta shower.”

At the library, the other Scoobies worry about Oz, who has grown more agitated as the opening of the Hellmouth draws closer. Willow takes the tranquilizer gun as Giles opens the book cage. Willow is forced to tranq Oz, who they then move to another location. Xander looks at the zombies’ ingredients and realizes for the first time that they’re not exactly for baking a cake - they’re for making a bomb. He heads back to the hardware store, but the zombies aren’t there. He tries to figure out where they might be, taking a brief moment to think about how he can’t believe he had sex, and decides that he should go to Buffy because she’ll know what to do. Unfortunately, Buffy is complaining to Angel that she has no idea what to do. Angel tells her that he wants to help, but she doesn’t want him to be in danger. They express their love for each other as Xander arrives. He realizes that they’re a little too preoccupied to help him with his problem, so he leaves. On his way out, he tries to think of where the zombies might want to put a bomb. Back at school, Giles begins a binding spell around the Hellmouth. In the school basement, the zombies hook up their bomb and set the timer to go off in an hour.

Xander drives towards the school, spotting the zombies coming in the opposite direction. He grabs one of them and takes off, demanding to know where the bomb is. The zombie reveals that it’s in the school’s boiler room. Xander tries to ask how to disarm it, but he puts in too much preamble. The zombie is decapitated by a mailbox before Xander can get the information he needs. “I probably should’ve left out that whole middle part,” he decides. The zombies realize that Xander’s headed for the school and follow him. Xander arrives and rushes towards the boiler room with the zombies in pursuit. Meanwhile, the other Scoobies are all in the library (including Faith and Angel) and preparing to face the Hellmouth monster, which has grown. The zombies pass the library, spot the Hellmouth monster, and go back to their chase. Bob fights Xander with an axe but is eventually defeated by a vending machine. Xander runs after another zombie as the Scoobies continue their battle. Xander and another zombie are chased by Sisterhood of Jhe demons, which kill the zombie but aren’t able to catch up to Xander. Xander finally makes it to the basement, where he greets the bomb with, “Hello, nasty.”

Xander notes that there are only two minutes left on the timer and says, “Dumb guy. Little bomb. How hard can it be?” Jack suddenly arrives and begins to fight him, telling him that he’s not leaving the room before the bomb goes off. Jack realizes that there isn’t much time yet and debates leaving the room, but finds Xander in his way. Xander refuses to move and Jack tells him that he’ll die too. Xander asks him which of them seems to have less fear. They both study each other and the bomb until Jack asks Xander if he’s afraid to die. “I like the quiet,” Xander replies. In the library, the Scoobies keep fighting the demons and the Hellmouth monster. As the timer counts down, Jack decides that it’s not worth it and disarms the bomb. He tells Xander that he’s going to see a lot more of him, but before Jack can get out of the basement, he’s attacked by wolfy Oz. The next day, the injured Scoobies discuss the previous night and the horrors of the battle. Xander arrives and the Scoobies tell him that he’s lucky he wasn’t at school the night before. He heads off for some food (Oz declines to tag along because he’s “oddly full”) and runs into Cordelia. She taunts him again, but this time he just smiles and ignores her. “What?!” she insists as he walks away.

MORAL, or CRAMMING COMPLEX ISSUES INTO A NUTSHELL: Someone who’s useless can also be (somewhat) entertaining.

GRADE: B- “A day in the life of Xander” must have looked better on paper.

MEMORABLE QUOTES - “If anyone sees my spine laying around, just try not to step on it.” - Xander

Xander: “Who, at a crucial moment, distracted the lead demon by allowing her to pummel him about the head?”
Faith: “Yeah. That was real manly how you shrieked and all.”

Buffy: “Uh, what do we do with the trio here? Should we burn them?”
Willow: “I brought marshmallows. (everyone is surprised) Occasionally I am callous and strange.”

Giles: “Uh, Xander, I think in the future perhaps it would be best if you, you, uh, h-hung back to the rear of the battle, you know, for your own sake.”
Xander: “But, gee, Mr. White, if Clark and Lois get all the good stories, I’ll never be a good reporter.”
Giles: “Hmm?”
Xander: “Jimmy Olsen joke, sir. Pretty much gonna be lost on you, huh?”

“Boy, of all the humiliations you’ve had I’ve witnessed, that was the latest.” - Cordelia to Xander

Cordelia: “You must feel like Jimmy Olsen.”
Xander: “I was just talking to…. Hey, mind your own business!”
Cordelia: “Ooo, I struck a nerve. The boy that had no cool.”
Xander: “I happen to be an integral part of that group. I happen to have a lot to offer.”
Cordelia: “Oh, please.”
Xander: “I do!”
Cordelia: “‘Integral part’ of the group? Xander, you’re the - the useless part of the group. You’re the Zeppo. ‘Cool.’ Look it up. It’s something that a sub-literate that’s repeated twelfth grade three times has, and you don’t. (she walks away) There was no part of that that wasn’t fun.”

Xander: “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: “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.”

Giles: “Buffy, this is no laughing matter.”
Buffy: “Hence my no laughing.”

Buffy: “Do you remember the demon that almost got out the night I died?”
Willow: “Every nightmare I have that doesn’t revolve around academic failure or public nudity is about that thing. In fact, once I dreamt that it attacked me while I was late for a test and naked.”

Xander: “Great knife. Although I think, uh, it may technically be a, a sword.”
Jack: “She’s called ‘Katie.’”
Xander: “You gave it a girl’s name. How very serial killer of you.”

Jack: “Your woman looking on, you can’t stand up to me? Don’t you feel pathetic?”
Xander: “Mostly I feel Katie.”
Jack: “You know what the difference between you and me is?”
Xander: “Again…Katie’s springing to mind.”

Giles: “There’s something…different about this…menace, something in the air…. The stench of death.”
Xander: “Yeah, I think it’s Bob.”

Faith: “Just relax. And take your pants off.”
Xander: “Those two concepts are antithetical.”

“Should’ve learned by now. If you’re gonna play with fire, you gotta expect sooner or later….” (the zombie runs off) “I wasn’t finished! Note to self: less talk.” - Xander

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