FEATURE: Buffy the Vampire Slayer - The Replacement
Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy now has a little sister that everyone thinks has been around forever. Xander's dissatisfied with his lot in life as a result of still living in his parents' basement.
A big, veiny luminescent demon comes gunning for Buffy, but instead whacks Xander with his very own glowstick of destiny at the city dump. Initially, it seems as if our boy's ok and is taken away by the gang, but then, what we believe to be the actual Xander wakes up still in the dump. He's not particularly good at, well, everything, whilst a considerably suaver lookalike inserts himself into Xander's life. Schlubby Xander turns to his oldest friend Willow as Suave Xander gets the Slayer onside. Eventually they figure out that Suave Xander isn't a demonic replacement, but Xander's other half.
It's a Buffy classic storytelling device in this one; whenever any character needs to go through some kind of affirmation from the rest of the Scoobs, they have to go through some kind of transformation first. Think Giles turning into a demon in A New Man, Buffy when she turns invisible or Willow transforming everyone else. It's Xander's turn in this one as the two halves of himself battle it out for surpremacy without knowing they're two sides of the same coin rather than two distinct people. It's not quite Kirk in The Enemy Within but it does make for some good, concentrated Xander hijinks (also, they reference Star Trek together, which is just lovely).
It follows on from his desire to no longer be everyone's butt monkey, a rant seen in Buffy vs. Dracula. Xander's often the Buffy damsel-in-distress and frequently feels he is completely useless to the gang's efforts. It's Schlubby Xander's chief fear in this episode, that everyone's much more taken with Suave Xander and that he's of more use to the general scheme of things. Like The Zeppo, The Replacement is quick to demonstrate that, actually, that's really not the same. The promotion given to Suave Xander is earned by regular old Xander before the events of the episode, same with the credit check that lands him the apartment. As Giles says, everything in both Xanders already exists before the split. He is both Schlubby and Suave.
Also, the fact that the Scoobies keep saving Xander has got to count for something. As Primeval illustrated, he functions as the heart of the group and they'd quickly fall apart without him. His final scene with Riley, in which soldier boy admits he knows Buffy doesn't love him, is a clear indication of that; he's the one that people trust and he's the one that "sees" everything. It's something that will be more explored as the series continues, particularly in the seventh season where his sort-of outsider status helps with keeping Dawn on track.
The Replacement is nowhere near as good as The Zeppo nor does it really say anything we don't already know, but it works as a solid reminder of Xander's strengths as well as building his confidence back up.
Quote of the Week:
Schlubby Xander: [Anya] entirely wants us to have sex together! Which would be wrong and very confusing...
Giles: We just, um, need to arrange the candles. Also, we should continue to pretend we heard none of the disturbing sex talk now.
Willow: Check. Candles and pretense.
Demonology 101: Jane Espenson revealed that Toth was so named, just so she could include the 'toth' is British slang gag.
Sunnydale Who's Who: Kelly Donovan, Nicholas Brendon's twin, plays the body double for Xander and gets to speak in the scenes where both Xanders have lines. Identical twins sure come in handy.
You can check out Becky's look at the previous episode, Real Me, here.