Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 4, Episode 17
417 Superstar
Air date April 4, 2000
Written by Jane Espenson
Directed by David Grossman
Episode Guide
"Who Are You"
"Where the Wild Things Are"
Sarah Michelle Gellar Buffy
Nicholas Brendon Xander
Alyson Hannigan Willow
Marc Blucas Riley
James Marsters Spike
Anthony Stewart Head Giles
Guest Starring
Danny Strong Jonathan
Amber Benson Tara
Bailey Chase Graham
Robert Patrick Benedict Jape
John Saint Ryan Colonel Haviland
George Hertzberg Adam
Emma Caulfield Anya
Co Starring
Erica Luttrell Karen
Adam Clark Cop
Chanie Costello Inga
Julie Costello Ilsa
Brad Kane Singing Voice
Zach Hudson Demon
Nancy Young Vampire #4

"Superstar" is the seventeenth episode of the fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and is the seventy-third episode altogether. It was written by Jane Espenson and directed by David Grossman. It originally broadcast on April 4, 2000.

Jonathan Levinson is amazing! He created the Internet, writes best-sellers, leads the basketball team into victory after victory, starred in The Matrix - and even fights vampires better than anyone, including Buffy. But something just isn't right.


417 Superstar1

Jonathan: Sounds like you could use my help.

Buffy and the Scooby Gang are hunting vampires in a graveyard. When they discover a nest, they decide there are too many vampires to fight, so they go to Jonathan's mansion to ask for help. Later, at Giles' place, Jonathan checks out weapons and even practices hand-to-hand with Buffy. Willow uses her computer skills to find a floor plan of the vampires' lair, but she can see only one way to enter it. Jonathan quickly finds a better way. With a plan in mind, Jonathan passes out weapons, hands out assignments, and wins a chess game with Giles.

At the crypt, Jonathan slays the majority of the vampires, leaving Buffy to feel inadequate, as she allows one vampire to get by her. Jonathan reassuringly tells Buffy that it's okay, "As long as you do your best." As they leave the crypt, Jonathan is ambushed by paparazzi. He senses Spike hiding in the shadows and calls him out to posture and trade insults. Jonathan wins the verbal battle with Spike, while Buffy is at a loss for words (amusingly, Spike refers to Buffy as "Betty" and does for the rest of the episode).

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, Riley tells Buffy he is feeling better and is no longer taking the drugs that the Initiative was feeding him. His superiors tell him that the food at the Initiative is no longer doctored, but to be sure, Riley no longer eats it. Buffy jokes about her poor basketball skills as a way to cover the fact that any time he tries to touch her, she moves away. She leaves, cutting the conversation short.

Buffy meets Jonathan at the Espresso Pump to get relationship advice. Jonathan thinks Buffy is still angry with Riley for sleeping with Faith while she had swapped bodies with Buffy. Jonathan advises Buffy to forgive Riley for not realizing that he was really sleeping with Faith, instead of her. While they are talking, one of Jonathan's fans, named Karen, asks him to sign a copy of his book for her.

Colonel George Haviland is the new commander at The Initiative, but he yields to Jonathan, who is consulting with the Initiative on how to find and destroy Adam. Jonathan has noticed that Adam never eats. By examining Professor Walsh's diagrams, he has learned that Adam has a uranium-235 derived power source in his chest. Jonathan explains that Adam cannot be killed by decapitation; he must be annihilated completely.

Outside Jonathan's mansion, the fan from the coffee shop, Karen, is trying to get another glimpse of the amazing Jonathan and uses binoculars to peer in his windows. While spying, she is attacked by a grotesque, long-armed monster in the rain, but manages to escape and run away, terrified.

At the Initiative headquarters, Riley seeks advice from Jonathan about his relationship with Buffy. Riley echoes the same concerns that Buffy expressed to Jonathan earlier at the coffee shop. As he tells Riley not to worry, that "people don't always see what's in front of them," Jonathan nonchalantly dons a blindfold and raises a pistol to shoot apples off the heads of three Initiative commandos.

At The Bronze, Jonathan sings on stage, Rat Pack style, while Buffy and Riley take the dance floor. When Jonathan finishes his song and plays his trumpet ("something from the new album!" exclaims Tara), Xander and Anya, very turned on by Jonathan, leave to have sex. Buffy lets Riley know that she forgives him and wants to move on with their relationship. A still terrified Karen goes to The Bronze to find Jonathan, who comforts her and takes her to his mansion for her safety. Buffy and Riley follow.

At the mansion, Karen describes the monster, "it was ugly... big... ugly!" She draws a picture of a triangular symbol on its forehead. Jonathan recognizes the symbol, but underplays its significance. He says the monster is little more than an animal and not harmful, and promises to take care of the matter. As Jonathan leaves to take Karen home, Buffy looks puzzled, noticing his evasiveness.

417 Superstar3

Jonathan sings "Serenade in Blue".

Adam sits in front of several television sets at his lair. When he sees Jonathan on the screens, he knows at once that "these are lies" and that Jonathan has cast a spell. Adam claims to be "more awake and alive" than any human or demon has ever been. He sees no need to do anything about Jonathan because "these magics are unstable."

At Jonathan's mansion, twin blond Swedish girls, Inga and Ilsa, call for Jonathan to come back to bed. He drops his robe to reveal a triangular symbol on his shoulder, just like the one on the monster that Karen had described.

Buffy, Willow and Tara are walking on campus. Buffy says that Jonathan seemed scared when he recognized the symbol. Willow protests that Jonathan is never scared. To prove his bravery, Willow reminds Buffy that Buffy had presented Jonathan with a class protector award at their senior prom. Tara then leaves Buffy and Willow to go her dorm room. On the way to her room, Tara is attacked by the same monster that had attacked Karen. She confuses it with a spell and hides in a supply closet. The next morning, Tara identifies the demon by the symbol on its head, and Buffy has even more reasons to question Jonathan.

Buffy stops by Xander's place. He is not there, but Anya lets her in. Xander has a collection of Jonathan comic books and trading cards. Buffy questions how Jonathan could be so perfect. She asks Anya if a person could wish that the whole world would be different. Based on her experience as a vengeance demon, Anya answers yes. Anya then illustrates her point to Buffy by describing how an entire world could exist without shrimp, "...even entire worlds with nothing but shrimp!"

Buffy calls a Scooby meeting at Giles' place, where she expresses doubts about Jonathan. She does not know how he starred in "The Matrix" without ever leaving Sunnydale, or how he graduated from medical school when he's only 18 ("...effective time management," Xander proclaims to defend his idol). She asks the group if Jonathan might not be too perfect, but none of them can see her point. Even Riley thinks her ideas sound like nonsense, but "having learned to trust her," he encourages everyone to follow her lead, in spite of the scoobie's lack of trust in her abilities compared to Jonathan's. They look at Giles' copy of Jonathan's swimsuit calendar to see the monster's mark on his shoulder. Jonathan arrives and explains that he does have a history with the monster and becomes confused every time he faces it. He says that he had the monster's mark tattooed on him so that he "would not underestimate it next time."

417 Superstar4

Jonathan: What you have is really complicated but it's worth it. I think that's what I said.

Buffy suggests that the two of them go after the monster. Jonathan says it has probably left town, but agrees to try to find it with Buffy. While searching a cemetery, Jonathan and Buffy meet Spike. Buffy threatens Spike, telling him that the butchers in town respect Jonathan, and Spike might get "kinda thirsty" if he doesn't give them some information. Spike tells them several vampires have been kicked out of a cave by something "probably pretty big."

Back at Giles' place, Willow finds the mark in a book and learns that Jonathan did an Augmentation spell to make himself a paragon of all that is ideal and great. The downside is that the spell must create an opposing force of evil to balance the new force of good. Giles concludes that if Jonathan's monster were killed, the spell would be broken and the world, including Jonathan, would revert to "whatever he was before." Anya says that Jonathan will not want Buffy to "get very far."

Jonathan and Buffy go to the cave mentioned by Spike. They see a deep pit. Jonathan reaches for Buffy's hand, and for a moment it appears he may intend to push her into the pit. Instead, he grasps her wrist and reminds her that they are hunting a monster. The monster appears and knocks Jonathan out.

At Giles' place, the gang considers what the world would be like if the spell were broken. Willow can't believe that Buffy was actually right, and Xander dislikes the idea. Giles says the world will be "pretty much the same" except that "our Jonathan" won't be in it, making them all sad. Riley is afraid that if Buffy can't kill the monster, they will be stuck "in this wrong world" forever.

Back at the cave, Jonathan recovers and attacks the monster, but with little effect. He tells Buffy that she will have to do the fighting; he explains that the more she hurts the monster, the more Jonathan will succumb to his true nature. Buffy's fighting skills suddenly improve. The monster almost knocks her into the pit, but Jonathan tackles it from behind and both of them fall in. Buffy grabs Jonathan's ankle, saving him, while the monster falls.

A band of white light passes through Sunnydale, erasing all the signs of Jonathan's celebrity. The next day, under a tree on the UC Sunnydale campus, the Scoobies reflect on how things are changed. Xander misses the way Jonathan made him feel about himself. Riley says that, in the alternate reality, he felt "way too tall." Buffy sees Jonathan standing alone at a distance and walks over to join him. Jonathan explains that he learned the spell from a boy he met during counseling after his attempted suicide. "He glossed right over the monster," Jonathan says. Buffy warns him not to "try to make everything work out with some big gesture all at once." She says "things are complicated; they take time and work." She basically gives him back the advice he gave to her earlier about mending her relationship with Riley.

Buffy and Riley are kissing on his bed, both happy that things are better between them. Buffy jokingly moans, "Jonathan."


  • Anya mentioned a world without shrimp and a world entirely of shrimp. This would be referenced again later.[1][2]
  • Jonathan revealed Adam's uranium power source as his weakness, which was later exploited by the Scooby Gang to defeat him.[3]
  • Anya's quote, "Vengeance wishes on ex-boyfriends. I'd wish he was a dog, or ugly, or in love with President McKinley or something," was a reference to Leon Czolgosz [4]
  • Although it was not mentioned by name, this was the first instance of thaumogenesis.
  • While Jonathan is done with the "big gestures," he's found a new hobby in magic, which will play a huge role later.

Body Count

  • Three vampires, dusted by Buffy
  • Unidentified guy, drained by a vampire nest
  • A vampire nest, all dusted by Jonathan
  • Unidentified librarian woman, killed by Adam
  • The Thaumogensis monster, pushed in a hole by Jonathan

Behind the Scenes


  • When Jonathan is playing the trumpet in The Bronze, he is actually syncing the notes, fingering it as instructed by a family member.
  • Jonathan's singing voice is supplied by Brad Kane, who played Tucker Wells in the episode "The Prom" and who is also known for providing the singing voice of Aladdin in the Disney animated film of the same name.
  • The opening credits have been modified to center on Jonathan performing several heroic acts (such as defusing a bomb). The end of the sequence is a shot of Jonathan with a flowing cape, similar to the last shot of the opening sequence from the Angel series (but taken from the opposite angle), rather than the usual power shot of Buffy.

Deleted Scenes

  • One of Spike's lines were cut due to length:
Spike: "You're a bleeding idiot, you are, Jonathan. 'Cuz you'll be the first victim and you'll be stone dead before you hit the ground. [proudly to himself] The worst kind of scum."

Goofs, Bloopers & Continuity Errors

  • When the comment "scampered away like a bunny" was made, Anya doesn't react. Jane Espenson notes that it is because at this point they hadn't decided to make Anya's fear of rabbits a running gag.


  • Royal Crown Revue - "Hey Sonny", "Serenade in Blue" and "Trapped" - performed by Jonathan


  • This is the only Jonathan-centric episode.
  • An oft-touched-upon theme in many of Whedon's works, this episode addresses the correlation between memory and identity.


Willow - "Buffy was right. Buffy was right."
Anya - "Doesn't sound very likely, does it?"
Buffy - "Giles, do you have a Jonathan swimsuit calendar?"
Giles - "No ... Yes .... It-it was a gift."
Riley - "These spells, they really work? I mean, can you really turn your enemies inside out? Or...learn to excrete gold coins."
Anya - "That one's not so much fun."
Willow - "They work, Riley, but they take concentration. Being attuned with the forces of the universe."
Xander - "Right, you can't just go librum incendere and expect ..." [The book catches on fire; Xander closes it rapidly.]
Giles - "Xander, don't speak Latin in front of the books."
Xander - [about Jonathan] "So, we're saying he did a spell just to make us think he was cool?"
Giles - "Yes."
Xander - "That is so cool."
Buffy - "Anya, when you were a demon, you granted wishes, right?"
Anya - "Vengeance wishes on ex-boyfriends. I'd wish he was a dog, or ugly, or in love with President McKinley or something."


  1. "Triangle"
  2. "Underneath"
  3. "Primeval"
  4. "Lessons"
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