It's episode three of the fifth season, and there's hardly a Dawn in sight. Rather, you can think of this episode as a sequel to season 3's "The Zeppo." And all of season 4, for that matter. Xander has been in the throes of an anxiety crisis ever since his On the Road-trip after graduation didn't make it out of California. Being deemed "the Heart" of the Scoobies seems to have been only a minor reprieve from his major-league inferiority complex. "The Replacement" is the Buffyverse's latest stab at assuaging Xand's tender ego, and also serves as the Buffy guide to making the most of one of your principal lead actors having an identical twin.
|Why there are, for some reason, two identical versions of this particular outfit is left unanswered by the show.|
DO let your Zeppo show his chops. This episode lives and dies with the Brendan brothers. After a demon named Toth zaps Xander in two, each half thinks he is the rightful Harris, and each is, essentially, right. One Xander (I suspect played by Nicholas's twin Kelly, since it's relatively easier) is smooth, confident and competent. The other, is, well, the Snoopy-dancing Xander we all know and love. There are unfortunately no clips available from the show itself, but a quick YouTube search will reveal how often Nicholas Brendan recreates this moment.
|Can't blame him. It's awesome.|
Making both Xanders equally believable, not only to the audience but to the Scoobies who encounter him, is a pleasure to watch.
DO emphasize Xander's appeal through a couple of irritating significant others. First, Anya. It seems to me she's completely unreasonable in this episode up until the moment she expresses her desire to bang both the Xanders. She has her own place? Why then does she constantly bitch about having to hang out in the Harris basement? And where is she getting her money, anyway? Is there some sort of ex-demon hazard pay? And, as my intrepid co-watcher Jenn notes, what the eff is up with the shoulder injury?
|The sling, your newfound fear of mortality, and the Orphan Annie hair afford you no sympathy from me.|
And then there's Riley. He is seriously schizo in this episode. On the one hand, we have Captain Douche bitching about Buffy's sacred calling and birthright and making out with her two seconds after a real estate agent begins showing Xander around his new apartment.
|Who does that? And in such an ill-fitting leather jacket?|
|For purposes of comparison.|
But we also have the Riley who earnestly pledges to Buffy that "there's no part of you I'm not in love with" and describes the intensity of his commitment to Xander, only to acknowledge "she's not in love with me.
|You're not wrong, son.|
Whereas both Xanders are equally appealing, both sides of Riley are equally irritating. Jenn has a slightly more generous take on Riley, and a more articulate commentary on how the two characters are represented in this episode:
"I found myself enjoying unexpected moments of this episode from two of my least favorite characters. Both Riley and Xander would be so much more likeable if their moments of insight were more consistent, you know? They wouldn't seem like such insensitive, self-involved, doofuses if they actually paid closer attention to those supposedly nearest-and-dearest to them and stopped being such sexist neanderthals"
Well said, partner.
DON'T let the season slide while you bring the funny. We've got two portentous developments in the midst of Xander realizing his self-worth.
|Ain't nothing funny down this road.|
and Spike's Buffy-quin.
|What the hell is Buffy wearing?|