Synopsis: Xander is sent on a doughnut run and ends up getting mixed up with an undead gang. He ends up saving the school and the lives of Buffy and the gang. Oh, and Buffy and the gang saved the world again.
Review: If the previous episode, Helpless, is the quintessential Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, The Zeppo is the antithesis of a typical Buffy episode. The Zeppo is intentionally the antithesis of the typical episode. It takes the elements of Buffy and reorganizes them to create the most creative episode of Buffy. It takes the typical formula of an A-plot involving Buffy and gang saving the world and a B-plot giving us character insight and inverts it. Buffy faces the biggest monster of the entire series, and we simply do not care. We are more interested in Xander.
Viewers either really liked this episode or really disliked this episode. If for some reason this episode did not entertain you, it does not make it a bad episode. You probably just missed the purpose of the episode. The purpose of this episode was to mock itself and the genre. This episode was penned by Dan Vebber, who unfortunately only wrote two episodes for Buffy. Both episodes were excellent. In my review of his other episode, Loverís Walk, I stated the episode was the Buffy the Vampire Slayer chick flick. Vebber offers another genre-bender with The Zeppo: the Buffy the Vampire Slayer soap opera. The romantic scenes between Angel and Buffy could have been ripped straight from a daytime soap. The B-plot was melodramatic as can be.
The bulk of this episode follows the misadventures of Xander Harris. This episode is a turning point for Xander's character and that is where we find the theme of this episode. This episode is named after Zeppo Marx, one of the Marx brothers. The Marx brothers were a family of entertainers in the early days of film. Zeppo's brothers are remembered for their comedic stylings, but his role as the straight man of the group is downplayed. Some reviewers say he was just extra baggage. The turning point in this episode is not Xander becoming cool. Xander was already cool. The turning point is Xander discovering that he is cool.
A fundamental question everyone asks themselves is, "Who am I?" Xander is asking this question. He thinks he can find himself in a cool car or by being accepted into a gang. The gang he is accepted into is a gang of undead trouble makers planning to blow up the school. By being courageous, Xander ends up foiling their plan. Some viewers disliked this episode because they felt the important plot of the world being saved (again) was downplayed. Xander plays just as an important role in saving the world. If the school had exploded, Buffy and gang would have died resulting in the end of the world. Xander did not just discover he had the ability within himself to be a hero, he actually was a hero.
A tried-and-true cinematic technique is having one character responsible for a good outcome while allowing the other characters to believe they were responsible. At the end of this episode, Buffy, Giles, and Willow are nursing their wounds and telling Xander he should be glad he was not there. Xander was there and saved the school, but he just responds in Desi Arnaz-like style that he likes the quiet life. Xander truly is cool, and this episode earns a cool 9 out of 10.
Objectionable Content: Xander and Faith are seen having sex in a reflection on her motel room television screen. Xander is presumedly losing his virginity, and Faith, well, not. The scene was unnecessary and, frankly, broke the flow of the story.
Xander: My Thing. (referring to his cool car)
Buffy: Is that some kind of penis metaphor?
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Reviewed by: Matthew Miller)