"The Zeppo" is the thirteenth episode of the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the forty-seventh episode in the series. Written by Dan Vebber and directed by James Whitmore Jr., it was originally broadcast on January 26, 1999, on The WB network.
ODD MAN OUT — Xander's lack of slaying superpowers has him feeling painfully expendable, but his quest to prove he's cool leads him to an unforgettable night that finds him consorting with fast women, raising the dead and rolling with a dangerous crowd that could put Sunnydale in a world of hurt. Meanwhile, Buffy, Giles and the rest of the crew engage in a furious battle with an all-female apocalypse cult that intends to reopen the Hellmouth and bring about the end of the world.
While the Scooby Gang slaughters demons in an underground nest, all Xander manages to do is get himself hurt. Buffy suggests he stay out of the fighting from then on. Giles makes a point to tell him to hang back from the fighting from now on. Xander becomes desperate to find his place after his breakup with Cordelia and the alienation from his friends.
The next day at Sunnydale High, when another student throws him a football, Xander misses and it hits Jack O'Toole's lunch, resulting in Jack threatening to beat him up. Cordelia, having witnessed the entire event, relishes in telling Xander he is useless and the only member of the Scooby Gang who brings nothing special to the group, referring to him as the "Zeppo." Meanwhile, Giles informs Buffy that the end of the world is near: an order of demons called the Sisterhood of Jhe is planning to reopen the Hellmouth.
After a discussion with Oz about what makes someone cool, Xander shows up at school driving a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible, borrowed from his uncle Rory. Meeting Buffy and Willow, he says he is now the "car guy" and looks forward to his new role within the group. He soon finds that instead, he's tasked with nothing more than getting donuts for the rest of the Scooby Gang, who are doing research at the school library. While at the Espresso Pump, Xander encounters Cordelia who rubs in the fact that all he does now is simple errands. Just then, Lysette starts to flirt with Xander for his car and wants to go for a ride. Xander, eager to try one-upping Cordelia, agrees once he's dropped the donuts off.
At the library, Buffy, Willow and Giles are researching. Meanwhile, Oz, in full werewolf form, is freaking out in his cage. Willow thinks it's because he can sense trouble. With the Watchers Council refusing to speak to him, Giles leaves to try to contact "the spirit guides who exist out of time," who he hopes will provide information on the Sisterhood of Jhe.
At the Bronze that night, Xander is still entertaining Lysette, though she's far more interested in the car than she is in him. Xander meets Angel, who is looking for Buffy to discuss the Sisterhood of Jhe. Angel dismisses Xander's offer to help, telling him it would be safer for Xander to keep out of the way. As he leaves, Lysette still in tow, Xander drives into a parked car. Jack gets out of the car and threatens Xander with Katie, his knife. Before Jack can do anything Xander, a cop arrives and interrupts. Xander lies to the cop, telling him that the two were just "rasslin'." Surprised yet grateful, Jack offers to let Xander be his "wheel man" and drive him, and later Jack's friends, wherever they need to go. Xander says it sounds great then asks about Jack's car he tells Xander that it isn't his car. Xander asks where they're going as Jack, Lysette and Xander get in the car.
Xander and Lysette are standing by a gravestone Restfield Cemetery while Jack casts a spell to raise his friends from the dead. Big Bob breaks out from the ground, ecstatic to be back. Lysette, at first shocked by the situation, realizes that Big Bob is dead, screams and runs away. Xander cries out that he'll call her while Jack and Bob talk. Bob asks how long he'd been down and Jack tells him it's been eight months. Jack raises one more friend, Dickie, at that cemetery before Xander spots Giles, who unsuccessfully tried to get help from the spirit guides. Desperate to leave Jack and his undead friends behind, he begs to help Giles, but to no avail; Giles tells Xander that he is "better out of the way." Jack raises his last dead friend Parker before they leave.
Buffy visits Willy only to find that the Sisterhood of Jhe has already visited Willy's Bar and thoroughly wrecked it. Willy, who's been beaten up, reveals that the Sisterhood is planning to open the Hellmouth that night. He advises Buffy to find Angel and consider how to spend her last night on Earth. In the library, werewolf Oz is going crazy, and Giles and Willow are forced to move him to a safer location.
Jack and his friends drive around town with Xander, who worries even more as they discuss their mischievous plans. Eventually, they decide to "bake a cake," which involves gathering supplies by robbing the Decker Hardware store. While Xander waits for them to get their supplies, he spots Willow leaving Uncle Bob's Magic Cabinet shop. He tries to talk to her, but her mind is elsewhere as she prepares for the upcoming apocalypse. Before she leaves, though, she tells him she loves him. Xander decides it's enough and tries to run off, though Jack and his friends decide to "initiate" him into their group by killing him. Xander points out that Jack isn't dead, only for Jack to lift his shirt and reveal several bullet holes in his chest. It turns out that Jack's grandfather "raised" him minutes after Jack was killed in a drive-by shooting. Xander runs and distracts them before jumping in his car and taking off. Jack and his friends lament about the fact that, not only do they no longer have "wheels," but Xander also took off with their supplies as well.
Xander is driving when he comes across Faith, who is fighting off a demon of the Sisterhood. After he rescues her, the two head to her motel room. The rush of the battle has Faith riled up, so she seduces Xander and they have sex. After it, she kicks him out, clothes in hand, telling him it was great but she's gotta shower. Back in the car, he discovers gunpowder, kerosene, and wire, and realizes that Jack and his friends' "cake" is actually a bomb.
Xander drives back to the hardware store to find Jack and his gang long gone, laden with supplies. He heads to Angel's mansion to find Buffy, where the couple is arguing about their feelings and sacrifice. Realizing it's a bad moment, Xander leaves. His next move is to head for the library to find Giles, but instead, he finds the zombies. As Xander drives by he grabs Parker, holding him and demanding to know where the bomb is located. Parker reveals it's in Sunnydale High's boiler room. Xander tells him he has one more question and that he better answer it honestly or he'll be sorry. He starts to ask Parker how to defuse the bomb but Parker's head suddenly collides with a mailbox, leaving Xander holding onto his corpse body. Xander screams and lets the body go saying he probably should have left out that last part of his speech before speeding up to get to the school. Jack and his remaining gang pursue after Xander's car.
In the library, the Hellmouth has been opened and its multi-tentacled spawn has emerged. Buffy, Faith, Willow, Giles, and Angel prepare to fight it, as Xander and the zombies run past in the corridor. During the chase, Xander manages to crush Big Bob with a soda machine, and Dickie is ripped apart by the Sisterhood.
Xander heads down to the boiler room after the bomb, where he finds Jack. After a brief fight, Xander asks Jack who is more afraid of death. Jack points out that he's already dead, but Xander notes that "walking around drinking beer with your buddies" dead is a lot different from "being blown up and swept up by a janitor" dead. When Jack confronts Xander about the possibility of death, he responds: "I like the quiet." With seconds to spare, Jack finally defuses the bomb. Xander tells Jack he doesn't want to see him around school anymore, and leaves. Jack promises revenge against Xander the instant his back is turned and opens a different door to leave, from where werewolf Oz jumps and attacks him.
The next day, the Scoobies are sitting on a bench and discussing the previous night's battle. They're all bruised and cut up, Buffy is wearing a sling on her arm and Giles has a cast on his left wrist. They mention that Angel was knocked out during the fight and Buffy feared he was dead. When Xander stops by, Willow comments that he should be glad he wasn't at school last night. He offers the group a snack, and Oz, feeling "strangely full," declines. As Xander walks away, he runs into Cordelia, who taunts him again. He smiles and continues past his now-confused ex-girlfriend.
- This episode is the third apocalypse the Scoobies face directly, after "Prophecy Girl" and "Becoming, Part Two."
- The multi-headed demon is the same one that appeared in the library when the Master's ascension opened the Hellmouth in "Prophecy Girl," as Buffy and Willow recall.
- Giles is still reluctant to involve Willow in dangerous magic. At this point, she has made a potion in "Witch," performed a revoke invitation ritual in "Passion," and the Ritual of Restoration in "Becoming, Part Two."
- Xander asks Oz if it is hard to play guitar. In his dream in "Teacher's Pet," he was playing a guitar solo on stage at the the Bronze. In "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered," he has an acoustic guitar in his room.
- Xander loses his virginity to Faith in this episode. He will reveal it to the Scoobies in "Consequences," believing to have a connection to Faith, and compare it to Anya's "more romantic" approach in "The Harsh Light of Day." Faith will tease him about it in "Who Are You?" and "Empty Places."
- Xander is the penultimate member of the current Scooby Gang formation to have sex. While Giles is overall implied, Oz is established as already having had sex ("Amends"), Cordelia implies it as well in "Bad Eggs," and Buffy lost her virginity in "Surprise." Willow will lose her virginity in "Graduation Day, Part One."
- Cordelia Chase
- Rupert Giles
- Grandpappy (Only mentioned)
- Alexander Harris
- Rory Harris (Only mentioned)
- Doug Jeffries
- Faith Lehane
- Mike with the Mercedes (Only mentioned)
- Mike with the Mustang (Only mentioned)
- Jack O'Toole
- Daniel Osbourne
- Dave Peck (Only mentioned)
- Willow Rosenberg
- Robert Schroeder
- Buffy Summers
- Lysette Torchio
- Uurthu (Only mentioned)
- "Demon Mama"
- Hellmouth spawn
Organizations and titles
- Dingoes Ate My Baby (Only mentioned)
- Jackals (Only mentioned)
- Scooby Gang
- Sisterhood of Jhe
- Spirit guide
- Sunnydale High cheerleading squad
- Sunnydale Police Department
- Apocalypse (Only mentioned)
- Crawford Street
- Hellmouth (Only mentioned)
- Maple Court
- Restfield Cemetery
- Sunnydale High School
- Sunnydale Motor Inn
- Willy's Place
Rituals and spells
- Two unidentified Jhe sisters killed shortly before Willow's clouding spell.
- Unidentified Jhe sister, impaled by Faith.
- Parker, beheaded by a mailbox that Xander drives past.
- Dickie, killed by the Sisterhood of Jhe.
- Big Bob, crushed by a vending machine pushed by Xander.
- "Demon Mama" and two unidentified Jhe sisters, killed shortly after the Hellmouth opened.
- Jack O'Toole, devoured by Oz in werewolf form.
Behind the scenes
- Whitney Dylan, who portrays Lysette in this episode, returns as Marelda in the Angel episode "There's No Place Like Plrtz Glrb."
- "The Zeppo" had an audience of 4.1 million households upon its original airing.
- This comment was cut:
- Jack: "That's it. No way am I bringing him back after I kill him."
Pop culture references
- Both Xander and Cordelia compare Xander to Jimmy Olsen, the photographer for the Daily Planet, who often tags along with Lois Lane and Clark Kent in the Superman Universe. Like Jimmy Olsen, Xander relates to being an unappreciated sidekick without any special powers.
- Xander mentions Michael Jackson's song "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" (1982) when Jack coincidentally says the title.
- Cordelia calls Xander "the Zeppo" in reference to Zeppo Marx, the "straight man" among the Marx Brothers and long considered to be the most unexceptional member of the act.
- When Buffy realizes that the Sisterhood of Jhe celebrate victory in battle by eating their foes, she comments in disgust: "They couldn't just pour Gatorade on each other?" referencing the tradition in athletic competitions to celebrate by pouring buckets of the beverage over the coach.
- Jack assures Bob that he taped every episode of Walker, Texas Ranger during the eight months Bob was dead.
- Parker suggests his friends to hang out at a Taco Bell fast food restaurant.
- When Faith is coming on to Xander in the hotel room, in addition to referring to himself as being "up" (sexually aroused), he says that he's "never been up with people before," meaning that he's a virgin. Up with People is a Christian musical performance group founded in 1968.
- Upon seeing the bomb in the boiler room, Xander says, "Hello nasty," which was the name of the Beastie Boys' recently released album of the same name.
- In the cafeteria scene while Xander can be heard talking to Oz, the camera pans up from the food being served to momentarily show Xander, Willow and Buffy sitting together. The food and their seating arrangement are from the episode "I Only Have Eyes for You."
- In the showdown scene with Xander and Jack, the bomb's timer fluctuates. When the camera pans down from Jack's face to the timer, it has counted down to 10 seconds. In the following cut, the timer then reads 13 seconds. In the next cut, the timer is counting down normally, now at 7 seconds.
- Sound Stage Music Library — "Dodgems"
- Supergrass — "G Song"
- Tricky Woo — "Easy"
- Christophe Beck — "Dead Guys with Bombs"
- Extreme Music Library — "For the Glory"
- Armenian: "Անօգուտը" (Useless)
- Czech: "Outsider" (Outsider)
- Finnish: "Piru irti" (Devil Loose)
- French: "Zéro pointé" (Nought)
- German: "Die Nacht der lebenden Leichen" (Night of the Living Corpses)
- Hungarian: "A Zeppo" (The Zeppo)
- Italian: "Il giorno dell'Apocalisse" (The Day of the Apocalypse)
- Japanese: "ツェッポ" (Zeppo)
- Polish: "Fajny gość" (Cool Dude)
- Portuguese (Brazil): "Um Zé Ninguém" (A Nobody)
- Romanian: "Zeppo-ul" (Zeppo's)
- Russian: "Бесполезный" (Useless)
- Spanish (Latin America): "Falta de Carácter" (Lack of Character)
- Spanish (Spain): "Zepo" (Zeppo)
- This episode's original soundtrack is featured in the albums Original Music from Season Three and Buffy the Vampire Slayer Soundtrack Collection.
- The book The Xander Years, Volume 2 includes a novelization of this episode.
- The episode script is included in The Script Book: Season Three, Volume 2.
- This episode is included in The Slayer Collection: Xander DVD.
- The Buffy the Vampire Slayer Adult Coloring Book features an illustrated based on this episode.
- The comic issue Buffy the Vampire Slayer #11 has a tribute variant cover to this episode.
- This episode is the basis for Joss Whedon's writing style in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. He described: "This is basically a TV series of 'The Zeppo', which was a very deliberate deconstruction of a Buffy episode in order to star the person who mattered the least. The people who are ignored are the people I've been writing as my heroes from day one."
- Doctor Who executive producer Russell T. Davies was inspired by "The Zeppo" when writing the 2006 episode "Love & Monsters," which started an annual tradition for an episode with little involvement of the lead cast.
|Buffy: "What should we do with the trio here? Should we burn them?"|
|Willow: "I brought marshmallows! ...Occasionally I am callous and strange."|
|Xander: "But... It's just that it's buggin' me, this 'cool' thing. I mean, what is it? How do you get it? Who doesn't have it? And who decides who doesn't have it? 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."|
|Faith: "She got me really wound up. A fight like that and, no kill. I'm about ready to pop!"|
|Xander: "Really? Pop?!"|
|Faith: "You up for it?"|
|Xander: "Oh, I'm up. I'm suddenly very up. It's just, um, I've never been up with people before."|
|Faith: "Just relax. And take your pants off."|
|Xander: "Those two... concepts are... antithetical."|
|Faith: "Don't worry. I'll steer you around the curves."|
|Xander: "Did I mention that I'm having a very strange night?"|
|Giles: "There's something... different about this... menace, something in the air... The stench of death."|
|Xander: "Yeah, I think it's Bob."|
|Xander: "I know what you're thinking. Can I get by him? Get up the stairs, out of the building? Seconds ticking away... I don't love your chances."|
|Jack: "Then you'll die, too."|
|Xander: "Yeah, looks like. So I guess the question really is... who has less fear?"|
|Jack: "I'm not afraid to die. I'm already dead."|
|Xander: "Yeah, but this is different. Being blowed up isn't walking around and drinking with your buddies dead. It's little bits being swept up by a janitor dead, and I don't think you're ready for that."|
|Jack: "Are you?"|
|Xander: "I like the quiet."|
- "The Mortuary." Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Archived from the original February 15, 2001.
- "Nielsen Ratings for Buffy's Third Season." Nielsen Ratings for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, & Firefly. Archived from the original on July 5, 2008.
- Dan Vebber et al., The Script Book: Season Three, Volume 2. Simon & Schuster, September 2003.
- "This Week's Cover: Joss Whedon and his 'Agents of SHIELD.'" EW.com, August 21, 2013.
- Rob Buckley, "Review: Doctor Who – 2×10 – Love and Monsters." The Medium is Not Enough, June 19, 2006.