March 4, 2023

Buffy 5.3, The Replacement: Xander 2.0

Posted in TV tagged , , at 1:17 pm by Jenn

I can’t believe no one was suspicious when Xander dressed like an adult

Summary: Xander, Anya, Buffy, and Riley are watching a kung-fu movie in Xander’s basement room, which isn’t exactly a great place for entertaining guests. There aren’t a lot of places to sit, he doesn’t have snacks, and when his parents get home, they immediately start yelling at each other. Everyone’s uncomfortable except Buffy, who’s studying. Xander says it’s time to find a nicer place to live. He notes that Buffy’s been to Hell and asks if they had one-bedroom apartments.

Riley tries to get his girlfriend to stop studying, something she’s come to enjoy. She takes a break, trading the violence of the Crusades for the violence of the movie. Riley rubs her shoulders, which inspires Xander to do the same to Anya. Unfortunately, she doesn’t want that, since her run-in with Harmony’s minions left her with a dislocated shoulder.

Buffy critiques a fight scene in the movie, and Riley advises her to leave her work at work. She notes that he would have the same reaction to a poorly researched military movie. As the fighting upstairs continues, Buffy tries to distract everyone by saying that Willow critiques movies they watch that feature witches. Xander agrees, saying that she comments that no one uses cauldrons anymore. Cut to a demon using a cauldron for a ritual he hopes will help him kill Buffy.

The next day, The Scoobies go with Xander to check out an apartment. He doesn’t want them to get their hopes up, since the rent is high and his only reference is himself doing a British accent. The apartment is big and nice, and Anya immediately loves it. The woman showing the apartment thinks Riley is Xander. She’s kind of disappointed that the person who would be renting the place is a little schlubbier than that.

Buffy and Riley slip into the bedroom as the others admire all the features of the apartment. Xander will have to pay a bunch of money up front and have a credit check, and he tries to explain to Anya that this isn’t a good time. His construction job is about to end, and he doesn’t have anything else lined up. Also, Anya has her own place. They’ll need to wait a little while.

Anya objects to having to wait for her boyfriend to have a quiet, private home. She’s cranky because her arm hurts and she’s tired and she doesn’t appreciate visiting a nice place she can’t have. As she storms off, Xander decides to fill out the application for the place he just explained is unaffordable and he probably doesn’t think he’ll be qualified to rent anyway.

Giles is organizing things at the Magic Box when the cauldron demon lets himself in. Giles searches for something he can use to repel the demon, but all he can come up with is a statue of a fertility god. At least it packs a bit of a punch. The demon doesn’t sustain any injuries, but he also doesn’t inflict any, since he’s only after Buffy.

Later, Giles shows the Scoobies how he fought off the demon. “So a mythic triumph over a completely indifferent foe,” Buffy summarizes. “Well, I’m not dead or unconscious, so I say bravo for me,” Giles replies. Willow gives him a book to look through to see if he can ID the demon. Xander comments that Giles bought the magic shop and was attacked before it even opened. He should’ve seen that coming.

Riley agrees that Giles’ new job doesn’t seem safe. “Toth,” Giles replies. Buffy thinks he’s using British slang to call Riley an idiot. Nope, it’s the name of the demon. He’s the last member of his clan and is, for a demon, very sophisticated. Buffy asks if that means she should discuss fashion with him before she kills him. Giles clarifies that he uses tools and devices to fight. He’s also focused, and from his mention of Buffy, it’s easy to guess what he’s focused on.

Giles thinks he knows where Toth has been hanging out, since he had a distinct smell. That smell was garbage, unfortunately, so the Scoobies take a field trip to the city dump. Willow says she found a spell that will keep them from smelling anything, but it involves removing their noses, so they should probably just suck it up. They don’t find Toth, but they do find Spike, who’s scavenging decorations for his crypt. Giles asks if he’s seen a tall demon in a robe. Spike says he’s right behind them.

Toth fires some kind of weapon at Buffy, who dodges it. Spike cheers him on, them complains when the next blast from the weapon breaks a lamp he just scavenged. Toth aims at Buffy again, and Xander shoves her out of the way and takes the hit himself. Toth disappears as the Scoobies go to Xander, who seems okay. But as they leave, they don’t realize that there’s still a Xander lying unconscious in a pile of trash.

In the morning, that Xander wakes up and goes home but can’t get into the locked basement. He looks through the window, hoping Anya’s there, and is shocked to see…well, himself. A second version of him – we’ll call him X2 – is in Xander’s room, putting on his clothes. Xander rushes to find a pay phone so he can call Buffy. X2, who looks very put-together and confident, walks by, distracting Xander. He hangs up just as Buffy answers her phone.

She’s gathering weapons for an inevitable second showdown with Toth, which she can tell Riley is worried about. Dawn pretends to gag when she sees them making out. Buffy tells her to go away, but Dawn argues that since she’s in the hallway instead of Buffy’s room, she doesn’t have to leave. Joyce appears and Dawn tries to confirm that she can stand in the hallway. Joyce tells her daughters that their fighting is giving her a headache. (Everyone who’s seen the rest of the season whimpers.) They bicker over which of them is more responsible for it. “It’s so nice you’ve learned to share,” Joyce comments. Buffy finally just slams the door in Dawn’s face.

Spike dresses up a mannequin he got from the dump, putting a blond wig on it. It’s not for companionship, though – it’s his stand-in for Buffy, so he can beat up on it and imagine it’s her. X2 goes to Xander’s job on a construction site, though he’s dressed a lot nicer than most construction workers are. The foreman asks to talk to him in a trailer, since the job is ending. Xander spies on him, excited that his replacement will be the one who gets fired instead of him.

X2 plays around with a small, shiny disk as the foreman gives him news that surprises Xander: He’s done great work on the site, and they’d like to hire him full-time. In fact, they want him to head up a crew, which would give him both more responsibility and more money. Xander thinks the disk X2 is playing with has influenced the foreman to make this decision.

That night, X2 goes back to the apartment he was interested in and learns that his credit check came back fine. He’s been approved for the apartment. He plays with the disk again as the woman who showed the apartment tells him he can call her anytime for anything he needs. She’s even going to give him her home number. Xander grumbles about her being interested in the fake him, who’s too clean and whose socks are too matchy.

X2 leaves Anya a message (though she’s listening as he leaves it) to meet him at the apartment later. As he leaves, Xander jumps on him. X2 seems surprised to have a double, and he punches Xander and runs off. Xander yells after him that he won’t let X2 do this to him. He runs to Giles’ to get some help, but X2 beats him there. He tells the Scoobies that they have to find and kill the double. Xander prays that Buffy realizes she’s talking to an imposter. No such luck, and Xander is about to have the Slayer on his trail.

He turns to Willow next, ambushing her at her and Tara’s place. She wasn’t at Giles’, so she doesn’t get why he wants to prove that he’s himself. He starts by saying that he was disappointed not to get a toy firetruck for his seventh birthday, and she was really nice about it. Then there was a fire at the house next door and Xander got to see real firetrucks. For years, he thought Willow set the fire for him. Also, Xander thought he was lactose intolerant last year, but it was just bad brie. Also also, every year they watch A Charlie Brown Christmas and he does Snoopy’s dance, which he demonstrates for her.

Willow assures Xander that she knows who he is. He explains that he woke up in the dump after the previous night’s encounter with Toth. Confused, Willow says they walked him home last night. He asks if he did anything weird or waved around anything shiny. He explains that he has a double who’s pretending to be him and is hypnotizing people. Buffy, Giles, and Riley have no idea.

The Scoobies aren’t sure what they’re dealing with, but X2 and Riley don’t think it matters – they just need to kill it. Buffy realizes that Toth must be responsible. Xander thinks they’re dealing with an evil robot version of him that was made from evil parts and was designed to do evil. “Uh-huh. Or it’s Toth,” Willow says. “Or…it’s Toth,” Xander agrees.

Buffy was going to go after Toth anyway, so now she’s just going to look for Xander. She tells X2 that he’s free to go meet up with Anya. It’s probably better if he’s not around when she finds the double, in case she gets them mixed up and kills the wrong one. Xander complains that a demon has taken his life and is living it better than Xander does. Willow promises to find a spell to unhypnotize Buffy and get her on their side.

Xander’s not really enthusiastic about this, since he doesn’t think he can help. Normally, he gets in trouble and Buffy saves him. “That’s not true!” Willow protests. “Sometimes we all help to save you.” Also, sometimes he’s not in trouble. Xander calls this “another great humiliation.” X2 took his life and everyone’s treating him like an adult. Xander’s feeling inferior to the imposter and thinks maybe he should let the imposter have his life for good.

Willow encourages him not to give up, but Xander doesn’t feel like he’s been doing anything worth fighting for. Then he realizes that he has someone he doesn’t want to lose: Anya. He refuses to let X2 take the one thing Xander needs. He tells Willow to find a spell to reveal X2’s real nature while he goes to make sure Anya’s okay. Willow notes that Xander is just now thinking about Anya after spending the whole day knowing that someone was taking his place. “Hey, wait till you have an evil twin. See how you handle it,” he says as he leaves. “I handled it fine,” Willow replies to herself.

Xander goes to Anya’s place and hears the message X2 left her about meeting at the apartment. As he searches Anya’s dresser for something, X2 tells Anya that he got the apartment because he knew she wanted it. He asks if she saw him or talked to him today. She has no idea what he’s talking about. She asks what happens next for them – a car? A puppy? A child? She has a list of things she wants. They need to get moving, since she doesn’t have time to just let life happen.

X2 doesn’t think they’re in any hurry, but Anya disagrees: She’s dying. She might have as few as 50 years left! He realizes she’s having an existential crisis because her injuries have made her realize how vulnerable she is now that she’s human. She was going to live for thousands of years, and now she’s going to age and die like everyone else. She must be scared. He promises that they’ll get through it together.

Anya’s real worry is that Xander might not want to be with her when she’s old and wrinkly. X2 admits that he can’t promise they’ll always be together, but aging with her doesn’t sound horrible. And pretty soon, she won’t be thinking about getting older. They start making out, but they’re interrupted by Xander. Yep, I don’t think Anya’s thinking about aging or dying anymore. X2 tells Xander to get out – he doesn’t belong there. Xander tries to convince Anya that X2 is a demon who stole his face and is trying to trick her. Anya, however, thinks X2 is the real Xander.

Willow goes to Giles’ to tell the Scoobies that Toth is impersonating Xander. They already know, but they think they’ve been dealing with the real Xander. Giles finds something enlightening in a book and announces that neither Xander is a demon. And no, Willow, neither of them is a robot, either. The device Toth used splits people in half, separating their personality traits. Toth was probably trying to split Buffy into two people so he could kill her non-Slayer half. Instead, he separated Xander into a strong version and a weak version. They’re both the real Xander.

Riley doesn’t get the plan – why make a super-strong, Slayer-only Buffy? Giles notes that the two halves can’t exist without each other. If Toth killed the weaker Buffy, the Slayer half would die, too. That means they need to find and protect both Xanders or they’ll risk losing both of them.

Xander continues trying to convince Anya that he’s the real deal. She isn’t sure. X2 is ready to fight…uh, himself, but Xander has something he doesn’t: Anya’s gun. They fight over it as Buffy and Riley speed to the apartment. She starts to ask if he wishes that she were two different people so he could be with just her non-Slayer self. He says no before she can finish. Being the Slayer is part of who she is. Buffy acknowledges that it’s hard to date her, but Riley likes her the way she is. “There’s no part of you I’m not in love with,” he tells her.

X2 ends up with the gun as Buffy and Riley arrive at the apartment. Buffy asks for the gun, and X2 removes the bullets before giving it to her. Buffy explains that both Xanders are real and they can’t kill each other. They don’t believe her, so Riley says they can prove it. He’s not sure how, though. Buffy asks them what number she’s thinking of. They both answer 11 and a half. They’re wrong, but Buffy has proven that they think the same.

Riley explains that different properties went into each Xander. Buffy tries to clarify without insulting the one who got all the less desirable qualities. Xander brings up the disk X2 has been playing with, but it’s just a nickel that got flattened on a railroad track. X2 found it at the construction site and thought it was cool. There’s nothing magical about it. Xander agrees that it’s cool.

The group is about to go back to Giles’ when Toth bursts through the door. Aw, man, Xander just put down a security deposit! He’s never going to get that back now! Xander and Anya both hide behind X2. Toth fires his blaster thing, making a hole in the carpet that X2 complains about, since he made a cleaning deposit. Eh, my joke was better. Riley fights Toth until Buffy takes over and stabs him with a sword. X2 says the cleaning deposit is definitely gone. Xander gasps that he was thinking the same thing. “Hey, do you suppose we’re both Xander?” he asks.

Everyone gathers at the Magic Box, intrigued by how identical the two Xanders are. Riley kind of wants to do psych experiments on them. Anya’s interested in doing something a little more intimate with them. Xander only says that it would be “very confusing.” He asks X2 how he landed the promotion if he wasn’t hypnotizing people. X2 just says he’s good at that stuff.

Willow’s ready to do some spell to unite the two Xanders. Anya asks what they should do if it doesn’t work. “Kill us both, Spock,” the Xanders say, laughing in unison. Buffy notes that they’re pretty much the same now. “Yes, he’s clearly a bad influence on himself,” Giles says. Willow tells the guys that their natural state is to be together, so she just has to break Toth’s spell to unite them. It’s pretty simple – all she has to do is say, “Let the spell be ended.” Anya objects, wanting two Xanders again.

The Scoobies help Xander pack up the basement so he can move to his new apartment. He gets a little nostalgic, remembering the spot where Spike slept and the spot where Xander and Anya drowned a demon and the spot where he got his heart ripped out. “I really hate this place,” he says.

Anya’s doing better, both physically and emotionally, and is looking forward to many years of life, assuming she doesn’t die in a car accident. Xander asks her to carry a box or two, but she notes that Buffy has super-strength and should do more of the work. Xander comments to Riley that Anya has a way of making him feel like his suave self has gone away.

Riley knows that despite their struggles, they’re a good match. Xander admits to envying Riley sometimes, though not because he’s in love with Buffy. Riley says that when he’s with her, he feels like he’s split in two. Half of him is on fire and half is content. He knows she’s the one. “But she doesn’t love me,” he says. Xander’s stunned, and when Buffy comes in to get more of his stuff, he doesn’t know what to say.

Thoughts: Nicholas Brendon’s (Xander) stand-in/body double for this episode was his twin brother Kelly.

I spent a lot of this episode thinking about how bad Xander must smell, since he never changes clothes after the dump.

Where did Anya get money to pay for her own place?

Riley at the dump: “People say they’re recycling. They’re not recycling.” You can practically hear him shaking his head in disappointment.

Xander’s Snoopy dance is a must-watch.

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