Crumbs: Reviews » Dramas » Buffy the Vampire Slayer » Season 5 » The Replacement
Critical reviews of U.S. TV shows
and analysis of what makes them
good, bad, irritating and enlightening.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a drama about a young girl who inherits the powers to fight the demons that threaten the Earth. She lives in Sunnydale, California which happens to be the Hellmouth and must learn to master her powers while also trying to have some semblance of a normal life. The WB 1997 - 2001. UPN 2002-03.


Episode 3 - The Replacement

27 December 2012

Synopsis: Toth, a powerful and sophisticated demon is hunting Buffy. He uses a device (like a gun) and fires at her but hits Xander. The gang take Xander home and he seems fine. But the next morning another Xander wakes up in the same spot where he was shot. This other Xander is anxious and follows the first Xander around all day amazed at his ability to get a job, an apartment and charm people. The second Xander seeks out Willow’s help and eventually Giles works out that they are the same Xander just split into strong and weak parts. The two are put back together and Xander moves out of the basement. As he does Riley admits that he doesn’t think Buffy loves him.Xander and Xander

The Good: Riley’s surprising statement (that Buffy doesn’t love him) was the highlight of the episode. It was quite a shock, even on Rewatch. Considering how many times Buffy and Riley have had epic discussions about their love this wasn’t something I was expecting him to say. Yet there is an underlying plausibility to it, whether it be his insecurity or reality. His frustration at not being able to protect her and her preoccupation with her calling could both be undermining his belief in her commitment to him. Last episodes scene where she forgot about the plans they’d made now has a whole different slant when seen through his eyes. It’s one of the few times when Riley has been given something with depth to play and he delivered.

I was also impressed that Buffy and Riley did discuss something of that tension in their relationship. She senses that he might wish for a less super-powered girlfriend but he reassures her that he doesn’t. He probably doesn’t but he clearly can’t handle what they have.

We got a nice brief Spike scene where we were reminded that his frustration is still bubbling under the surface.

The Xander story had its moments but actually served Anya slightly better than him. I appreciated the continuity of her dislocated shoulder (from the attack by Harmony’s gang) and how that got her thinking about her mortality. Xander’s affection for her was sweet and it was good to see him move out of his parents’ basement and find a job that he likes.

There were plenty of fun lines throughout the episode. I laughed at Giles hitting Toth with the fertility statue and Anya suggesting they load Buffy up with moving boxes like “one of those little horses.” Even Riley got to be fun when he suggested they split the two Xander’s up and experiment on them. And of course I liked Willow recalling her own brush with an evil twin from “Doppelgangland” (316).

The Bad: However the way all of that was achieved was clunky and disappointing. The doubles story was clearly designed to remind us of the stronger qualities he possesses which have been lost amidst his aimless wanderings in season four. However I didn’t think this worked particularly well either as a metaphor or as an episode of Buffy. The episode was too neutral. I never believed that Xander was a demon (or robot) nor did I get the sense that he could achieve great things if he just got out of his own way.

The demon angle suffered from a lack of tension. Weak Xander never seemed in actual jeopardy even when he pulled the gun out. His discussion with Willow was played for laughs (which didn’t come) and it never seemed likely that Buffy would slay first and ask questions later. The differences between the two versions weren’t extreme enough either to suggest that one might be a demon, so we spent twenty five minutes waiting around to hear the obvious – that neither of them was.

The wider point being made about Xander’s personality was only achieved through shortcuts. The argument the writers were making was that Xander’s goofiness holds him back when it doesn’t have to. But since when does Xander have carpentry skills? We’ve never been told that and so it was a cheat to use Xander’s promotion to try and create confusion about whether the strong Xander was real or not. Similarly before Toth showed up Xander seemed concerned about his credit check. But when strong Xander takes the apartment the credit check comes back fine. So did normal Xander not understand the process or did strong Xander just not care or what? Finally the woman who rents the apartment to Xander clearly sees him on their first meeting as a less than ideal tenant with a girlfriend. On their second meeting she comes to him as if he is James Bond. Again it was a clumsy attempt to make it seem that a) there might be some kind of mind control going on and b) that Xander could attract women easily if he got out of his own way.

It seems like a season of feeling lost is being written off with the forced discovery of an aptitude for carpentry. I think it’s a shame that Xander’s whole story is being reduced to that. He confesses to Willow that maybe he has wasted his life and is always getting in the way. But he was saving Buffy when he got hit by Toth’s weapon. It felt like he would realise his own worth through an act of heroism the way he did in “The Zeppo” (313). Instead we were just told that he’s grown and asked to accept it. Sadly it feels like this was a response to a season of ignoring his character and we probably won’t get any more soon given all the new characters to write for.

I also had to laugh at Xander hitting play on Anya’s answering machine and it helpfully playing only the last line of the message.

In the same episode as Riley got one of his best lines he also uttered one of his worst. Giles believes Toth is focussed on Buffy to which Riley responds sincerely “Where do we find him and how hard can I kill him?” It was a groan-worthy macho line but it also betrayed a foolish thought process. Every demon wants the Slayer dead; to respond as if this was somehow a more grave threat than usual was naive.

The Unknown: I hope we get some mention of Xander studying carpentry or learning on the job without mentioning it to the gang. Otherwise it’s a plot contrivance from a show that has been good at avoiding them.

Best Moment: Riley’s revelation was a shock but one which fit the character.

The Bottom Line: This was largely a failure but there was plenty going on to entertain.


Cordia's Second Look
The Replacement
Season 5, Episode 3
Original airing: 10/10/2000

My Rating: 57

The Good: While the episode focused on Xander, it didn’t give us anything new about him. Mostly, this was a rehash of Xander’s inadequacies and the person he could be, which we’ve seen in both The Zeppo (S3E13) and Restless (S4E22). What this episode did well was give us some insight into Anya and Riley.

Anya was injured in the last episode (Real Me) and is now dealing with that fallout. She was an immortal demon for goodness only knows how long, so she’s having some trouble handling the idea that she will die someday. This forces her to have a real moment and a real conversation about it with the suave version of Xander.

I also really liked two moments with Riley. The conversation he has in the car with Buffy is a good moment of affirmation, but is also a little annoying. He’s always trying to step up and protect Buffy, but here he acknowledges that he knows she can look after herself. It’s part of being the Slayer and he loves that about her.

But the show stealer is definitely the monologue at the end when he tells Xander just how much he loves Buffy. And then states that he knows Buffy doesn’t love him. It’s a powerful moment underlined by a slightly changed Xander’s quiet non-response. I really appreciated that Xander doesn’t make a joke or even really look uncomfortable. He just listens.

The Bad: Unfortunately, the rest of this episode (and the main chunk of it) came across very poorly. This is supposed to be an episode about Xander and the person he could be if he just got it together a little bit. But it comes across as very lazy because the responses to the two different Xanders are so exaggerated. Especially with how everyone treats Suave Xander.

The two moments that really stood out for me were Xander’s conversation with his boss and with the property manager. He treats the boss like he’s unimportant. Xander doesn’t seem to be listening and is just like “Promotion? Yeah, whatever. No big deal.” The attitude really doesn’t fit with the episode’s conceit that he’s all the confident characteristics of Xander’s personality.

The property manager’s response is the worst, though. She goes from obviously viewing him as dirt to really blatantly throwing herself at him, despite knowing he has a girlfriend. And there is no concept presented for the change in her behavior. It just happens because he’s Suave Xander.

This felt like cheating, to me. Not only is there no explanation for anyone else’s behavior, no one who knows Xander well even questions his new attitude or clothes. Buffy and Giles both accept these changes instantly. Willow’s the one to point out later that an aggressive Xander is not their Xander.

But what really bothered me was how Suave Xander was presented as being evil. The attitude I mentioned with the boss and the flirting with the project manager combined with the red herring of the silver coin were obviously designed to make the audience think he was an evil version. When it’s revealed that he’s just a more confident Xander, his prior behavior doesn’t make sense.

Aside from the story issues, there were several moments in this episode that just made me shake my head incredulously. Giles manages to open and look at the perfect book to answer everyone’s questions not once, but twice, in this episode. I’ve been annoyed by the speed researching since the end of season three, but this really takes the cake.

In similar fashion, Xander goes to Anya’s apartment, hits the answering machine button, and manages to hear just the one sentence relevant to the story instead of the whole message. Very convenient.

Finally, I was annoyed yet again by Riley’s attempt to be macho and protect Buffy when she’s threatened by a demon. It just doesn’t fit and it makes him look even stupider than he’s already presented.

Favorite Moment: As I mentioned in the Good, I really like the final scene, when Riley admits he knows Buffy doesn’t love him. This could lead to some really fascinating developments.

The Bottom Line: This episode was a bit of a failure as a Xander-centric episode, but it allowed some of the other characters to have some really interesting development.



Add your comments on this episode below. They may be included in the weekly podcasts.

Post your comment


  • After watching this episode, I learned that Xander’s ‘double’ was played by Nicholas Brendon’s twin brother, Kelly Donovan…
    I had heard about this but didn’t actually believe it until I looked it up. I had always thought it was done by green screen.
    Apparently, Nicholas Brendan played both the parts of the suave Xander and the weaker one, while his brother, Kelly Donovan played the double parts with the non-speaking role –and only spoke in scenes where both Xanders had speaking lines.
    So far, I have found Xander-centric episodes to be very good- (think ‘The Zeppo’)
    There was a bit of misdirection which leads the ‘weak’ Xander to believe that the ‘Confident’ Xander is evil- and therefore I found myself on ‘weak’ Xander’s side.
    Even during the re-watch, I found myself feeling uncertain as to which side the Xander double was on. (even though I’ve seen this episode at least four times) I mainly re-watch this episode for the snoopy dance :P

    Riley reveals to Xander that he believes Buffy doesn’t love him. Hmmm …foreshadowing??? Also, Joyce puts her hands on her head and says she has a ‘two teenagers in the house’ headache which could foreshadow further problems she has in future episodes. I’m not sure if you wanted to mention this in the podcast or not, but I just can’t help myself with it comes to foreshadowing!

    I liked the fear that Anya brings out about dying. She says she has to carry on and live her life as fast as she can because she has as few as 50 years left- which gives us a bit of perspective as to how she is coping with being human. –She’s lived for thousands of years, so to her, 50 years would feel extremely short- and by hearing her saying all of this, the audience understands her ‘need’ to live out all of her plans.

    This episode also made me realize what a huge Buffy-nerd I am. I re-watched this with my friend who didn’t watch Buffy at all.
    -When Xander says ‘wait till you have an evil twin see how you handle it” and willow says, ‘ I handled it fine’ – Right then and there, I yelled out ‘DOPPELGANGLAND!” …a reaction that completely weirded my friend out. Until I explained it to him, of course.

    Another good line: What should we do if it doesn’t work? -“Kill us both, Spock!” -Although that line might be taken as kind of cheesy- I can’t say it didn’t have me laughing out loud :)

    I also noticed, while Spike was with the Buffy mannequin… did he have a tan line? Or was that just me?… it just made me laugh a bit when I saw a vamp with a tan line :)

    Lastly, I definitely agree with Derek. Dawn brings a lot of attention back to family this season, and it will be a very important focus in future episodes.

    Viewer score: 61 / 100

    Posted by Virginia James, 18/09/2012 4:57pm (7 years ago)

  • I love when Xander gets his own story because I think Xander is one of the most interesting characters on the show. Obviously being vice president of Xander's a Douche Club he is a aggravating character for me. However while Replacement is not a bad episode it didn't work for me on Rewatch. The way serious Xander is presented in the episode makes it seem too much like he is evil rather than part of Xander. I do really like the message and where this episode takes Xander. Nicholas Brendon (and in their scenes together his twin brother Kelly) do a great acting job(s). It's just the story of this episode just didn't capture me on Rewatch.

    I find Anya so entertaining and for that reason alone she is one of my favorite Whedon character. I do recognize Robin's criticism that she hasn't been given a story to develop her. The development she gets here is pretty basic but I think it's a step in the right direction.

    Now I've reached the defend Dawn part of my comments. Since season five is my favorite season of one of my favorite shows I've thought about Dawn a lot. So I'm taking a stab at what Dawn brings to the show. Buffy is responsible. Her job is saving the world so someone with that resume undoubtedly gets a gold star in the responsiblity section of her personality report card. However Buffy has pretty ignored her family. Dawn not only focuses the attention back on Buffy's family for the audience but for Buffy herself. I'll say more later in the season but I love Dawn for how she changes the show and Buffy even if she's annoying at times. Although I still maintain that Dawn is supposed to be annoying in the same way Xander was supposed to be a bit of ass in the earlier season. Unlike Riley who was annoying because he was(is?) a poorly exceuted character.

    Viewer score: 65 / 100

    Posted by Derek, 18/09/2012 12:42am (7 years ago)

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments