Written by Jane Espenson
Directed by James A. Contner
Xander, Anya, Buffy, and Riley are having a double movie date in Xander’s basement. Buffy is studying her Slayer textbooks. She’s reading about the Crusades for some reason. I...can’t actually tell if that’s Slayer studies or if she’s just in a history class this semester. Anya, who received a terrible head injury last week, is now wearing a sling on her right arm. Wait, what?
Xander’s parents get home, and they’re having a loud fight that involves things breaking and dust falling from the ceiling. Xander decides it’s time to move out. Riley starts giving Buffy a neck massage, which she quite enjoys. When Xander tries to imitate Riley with Anya, it backfires. Apparently Anya dislocated her shoulder in that struggle against the vampires. Uh, yeah, I rewatched that footage, and there’s no reason for Anya to have anything other than a concussion. *eye roll* Buffy starts pointing out the flaws in the kung-fu of the kung-fu movie they’re watching. Xander’s parents’ argument gets steadily louder.
Elsewhere, a demon with skin that looks like cracked desert ground with neon green glowstick fluid in the bottom of the cracks is plotting against the Slayer in an extremely melodramatic fashion.
Xander, accompanied by Buffy, Willow, Riley, and Anya, meets with an apartment manager about a nice apartment, and he is wearing just the worst outfit. I’m pretty sure there’s nothing anyone could wear with that button-up to make it look okay, but a somewhat ratty yellow long-sleeved tee underneath it was definitely not the best choice.
It’s a pretty spacious apartment. The apartment manager thinks Riley is Xander, and she’s not happy when Riley points out the real Xander. (Also, Xander invented a fictional man named Albert as his reference, for when she calls to do a background check on him. Really? He couldn’t have put Giles down for his reference? Does Giles just not like Xander at all?) For some reason, Buffy and Riley think it’s appropriate to make out in Xander’s new bedroom before he’s even been in it. (I’m not 100% clear on make-out protocol, but I sort of doubt it’s ever appropriate to make out in your friend’s bedroom without their permission.) Xander isn’t sure he can afford this place. Anya hates having to go to in the basement in order to spend time with him. Also she’s generally having a crappy time ever since her injury. Yeah, if I hit my head so hard I thought my arm was the part that got injured, I’d be in a crappy mood too.
At the Magic Box, Giles is sorting through crates of merchandise when the melodramatic demon from before shows up. Giles whacks him with a fertility statue right when he’s in the middle of insulting him. Then the demon knocks him into the front counter and sweeps away regally with his stick and his ridiculous flowing cape.
Giles relives this encounter (particularly his moves with the fertility statue) for the Scoobies. They think Giles getting attacked before he even opens up shop is a bad omen. Giles finds the demon in one of his books. His name is Toth, and he’s the type to use fancy tools when he fights. Giles also noted during their encounter that he smells like a dump.
So they go to the dump! Where they find Spike. He’s scavenging new knickknacks for his crypt. He hasn’t seen Toth, but that’s okay, because Toth is right behind them. Spike cheers him on as he attacks the Scoobies with his stick, which shoots blasts of energy—until one blast catches Spike’s knickknack. Xander pushes Buffy out of the way of a blast and takes it in the chest. The others pull Xander out of the pile he landed in. He seems to be okay, if a bit sore. Toth is already gone.
And back in the junk pile, Xander is still lying there, asleep. *dramatic chord* He wakes up the next morning and heads to the basement. It’s locked. He tries to see inside the window. The other Xander is in there, getting dressed and ready for the day. This Xander is a rather snappier dresser than Xander usually is. Not that that’s saying much. I’m going to call this Xander “Sharp Xander.” Garbage Xander, horrified at the sight of this impostor, trips over his own feet trying to head to find Buffy. He has some trouble calling her on a payphone. Isn’t Sunnydale small enough that he can just walk to the dorms or to Buffy’s house? He finally succeeds in reaching Buffy, but he hangs up when Sharp Xander walks past him.
Buffy seems to have absorbed some of Xander’s horrible dress sense. Color-coordination isn’t everything! You also have to be careful about mixing patterns! Stripy, sparkly halter-tops do not go with brown tie-dyed cotton pants. And pink bathrobes are not the finishing touch to any outfit. Come on, people!
She’s gearing up for a rematch against Toth. Maybe these are just clothes she was planning on getting rid of anyway, so it doesn’t matter if they get ruined in a fight. She starts snogging Riley, and then Dawn starts gagging in the doorway. They have one of those pointless sibling arguments that annoys Joyce, and then Buffy finally shuts the door in Dawn’s face, which was the obvious solution to the argument all along.
Spike is setting up his new stuff in his crypt, including a gross old mannequin. He puts a blonde wig on it, then roundhouse kicks it to pieces. It represents what he wants to do to Buffy.
Sharp Xander arrives at the construction site. Okay, while he does look fairly nice in those clothes, I’m not sure they’re the right attire for construction work. All the other guys are wearing t-shirts and jeans. The foreman wants a word. Garbage Xander lurks ineptly, trying to eavesdrop. He continues to be extremely accident-prone. The foreman impressed with Xander’s work and wants to hire him full-time in interior carpentry! Sharp Xander keeps playing with a shiny thing and flashing the reflection in the foreman’s face. (How the foreman doesn’t find that super annoying, I don’t know.)
Sharp Xander has as much success with the apartment manager as he did with the foreman. Or, more, actually. She starts hitting on him. Garbage Xander doesn’t appreciate how much better Sharp Xander is at his life than he is. Sharp Xander then calls Anya and invites her over to the apartment. She doesn’t pick up, but she’s listening (which he guesses). He heads out, and Garbage Xander tackles him. Garbage Xander loses, but Sharp Xander runs away.
Now it’s pouring rain. Garbage Xander makes it to Giles’s flat, but he’s too late! Sharp Xander is already there, and he’s telling Giles, Buffy, and Riley about the thing that stole his face, which they have to track down and kill. Garbage Xander hopes the power of friendship will make Buffy immune to Sharp Xander’s tricks. Yeah, he should’ve gone inside and made his case in person, because the power of friendship doesn’t come through for him at all.
Garbage Xander leaves. Inside, Sharp Xander and the others are discussing battle plans. Sharp Xander wants them to just go kill Garbage Xander without doing research. Riley agrees. Buffy, however, thinks the imposter might be Toth. She thinks he might’ve used his blasting stick to take the form of the person he hit with it. Sharp Xander sees merit in this idea. Sharp Xander plans to lie low with Anya while Buffy hunts “Toth”/Garbage Xander.
Garbage Xander goes to the dorms to find Willow. He first convinces her he’s Xander, then explains why he was worried she wouldn’t think he was Xander. She’s very confused, but she’s his last hope. Now he’s sitting on the bed in his sopping wet, garbage-y clothes, and Willow isn’t saying a word about it, so I guess she’s on his side. He has a theory that it must be a plot by evil robots! Willow’s pretty sure it’s Toth. Garbage Xander doesn’t think he’ll be much use in solving the problem, and he’s pretty bummed now about Sharp Xander doing so much better at being him. Maybe he should just be the new Xander for good. Willow doesn’t like this line of thinking, but it’s not until Garbage Xander remembers that Anya could be in danger that he gets the motivation to do something about Sharp Xander. Willow isn’t very impressed a) that Xander places such value on Anya and b) that it took him so long to think of her. He leaves. The scene ends on a great reference to “Doppelgängland.”
Garbage Xander looks for Anya in her apartment, which looks really cool. Her decoration style involves lots of tapestry things and dark woods. I approve.
At the new apartment, Anya is very skeptical that Xander is actually the new tenant. Sharp Xander tells her he got it for her. She kisses him. He asks if she’s seen him already to day. Nope! He’s glad. She wants to know about the next step in their relationship, like cars or puppies. Wait, this isn’t their apartment. Why would they get a car or a puppy? Ugh, everyone’s logic (and dress sense) is on the fritz in this episode. It seems Anya is having trouble with the concept of her mortality now that her injury has shown her how breakable she is. She doesn’t want to waste any time, and she hates the idea of growing old. Sharp Xander is very nice and supportive. If this is Toth, then he’s clearly going for the Oscar.
Sharp Xander and Anya are kissing when Garbage Xander bursts in to rescue her. She is very confused. Both Xanders make their cases (Garbage Xander’s mostly consists of imploring looks). She sides with Sharp Xander. Willow comes rushing into Giles’s flat. She’s convinced her Xander is the real one, and Buffy is convinced her Xander is the real one. Giles has just found out that both Xanders are real, because the device Toth used on Xander was a thing that splits a person into two: one with all the strengths, the other with all the weaknesses. He meant to use it on Buffy so that he could kill the weak half, because killing either half kills both.
Meanwhile, Garbage Xander is still losing the argument. Sharp Xander would be glad to settle it with a fight. So would Garbage Xander, because he brought a gun (apparently it’s the thing he retrieved from Anya’s apartment). Oh dear. All three of them start fighting over the gun.
Buffy and Riley are rushing to the apartment in Riley’s car. Buffy wonders if he wishes she’d been the one who got hit by the rod instead of Xander. She worries that all her gung-ho Slayerness has been getting on his nerves, and maybe he’d like to just have all the girly normal parts of Buffy and not any of the Slayer parts. He tells her that’s nonsense. He loves all of her. She smiles, reassured.
Sharp Xander is the one who ends up with the gun, but then Buffy and Riley arrive. Sharp Xander hands over the gun with unnecessary flair. Buffy stops them from resuming their fight and informs them that they’re both real. She and Riley do a really fumbly job of trying to prove this to them. And then they try not to hurt Garbage Xander’s feelings by telling him he got stuck with all the weak qualities. Their explanation still doesn’t account for Sharp Xander’s shiny thing. Confused, he pulls it out. It’s just a flattened nickel. He thought it was neat. Now that Garbage Xander gets a better look at it, he agrees. They’re about to head for Giles’s flat when Toth attacks with his usual melodrama. He certainly took his time. They fight, the apartment suffers some damage, and Buffy ultimately wins thanks to Riley tossing her a sword at the right moment.
The whole gang is at the Magic Box, including both Xanders. They’re looking at how amazingly identical the Xanders are, which is funny, because it’s actually really easy to tell Nicky and Kelly apart every time they’re in a shot together. Anya would like to have a threesome with her boyfriend. Xanders object on grounds of it being too confusing. Everyone else finds that really gross. Xanders are getting along now. They do the spell, which is anticlimactically simple, and he’s just one Xander again. Anya is disappointed.
Riley and Buffy are helping Xander move out of the basement. Xander reminisces all the good times. Which were actually super sucky times. He’s very ready to leave. Anya wants to just be a spectator in this moving process, but Xander thinks she could help with some boxes. Wait, what? All of a sudden she’s healed enough to lift heavy things? This is the most bullcrap injury ever! Riley thinks their relationship is good. Xander, on the other hand, envies Riley. Riley is very happy to be with Buffy, but he’s very certain that she doesn’t love him. Wha? How can he say that so calmly? Then Buffy comes back in and kisses him, and Xander watches with a similar expression to the one on my face. Utter bemusement.
As fun as it is when an actor has a twin identical enough to pull off stuff like this, I do not like “The Replacement.” It’s just riddled with problems. It feels like they approached it with the idea of wanting to find a way to use Nicky’s twin instead of having a good episode idea and being like “oh hey, we can totally make this better with the help of Nicky’s twin!” The continuity fail with Anya’s injury is extremely obnoxious, the horrendous outfits are distracting (in most episodes they merely amuse me), and Toth loses all credibility as a villain when he conveniently fails to show up and disprove everyone’s theory that one of the Xanders is actually Toth until everyone knows both Xanders are real. I like the idea of Anya having an arc where she has to deal with her mortality, and it was definitely time for Xander to move out of that basement. I also like the idea of Buffy feeling insecure about her relationship because she worries Riley isn’t fully on board with her as the Slayer. But I really feel like many of the things this episode achieves could have been done better with a different main plot. I read somewhere that one of the main writers for both shows got his job by submitting a script in which Xander somehow ends up the Slayer for an episode. He saves the day, but then the Slayer power starts to screw him up, because it’s not something he was chosen for. Buffy was. If they’d actually made that episode, they could have explored Xander’s insecurities and Buffy’s insecurities with a much stronger Plot A.
Real cracks are starting to appear in Buffy’s relationship with Riley now. They seem all smiley and snog-happy most of the time, but she’s worrying more and more that she’s not his ideal. And even though she seems so happy with him in general, he’s clearly perceived some kind of emotional distance. I’m not sure this was the best place to drop that reveal, because Buffy hasn’t displayed any symptoms of emotional distance that I could see, but I know that’s coming soon.
This is an episode so Xander-centric that there are actually two of him, so you’d think it’d be easier for me to talk about what it says about his character. It seems that the objective of the episode was to show Xander that he isn’t just an assemblage of crappy qualities that people only like having around because he also happens to be funny. He can be competent and confident as well. He didn’t get the promotion because suddenly he had no weak qualities, he got it because the foreman was impressed with his work over the course of the whole project, particularly considering his lack of previous experience. Likewise, he didn’t get the apartment because he was Sharp Xander, he got it because his credit checked out and he actually went back to follow up. The power to be a successful adult was in him all along! I wonder if the reason “Albert” was his reference is that he was just that used to seeing himself as worthless that it didn’t even occur to him to ask Giles to vouch for him.
I like the way Willow handles the situation once she knows that both Xanders are real. It really does seem like a problem in which the “spirit” character would be most on top of things, since Xander’s being was essentially ripped in half.
Riley is head over heels in love with Buffy and convinced that she’s “the one,” and yet he doesn’t see her not being in love with him (he believes—and I actually agree, but I still am not sure why he believes that) as a deal-breaker? He didn’t say it as if it was a circumstance he hoped to change in the future. He said it like he was resigned to a long-term relationship of unequal affections and trying his hardest to be content in it. What the heck?
Great, so now Anya has dealt with the fact that she’s mortal and has a normal human lifespan. How about next she deals with the fact that she spent eleven centuries inflicting heinously disproportionate revenges on people? (I do actually feel that her arc is one of the stronger elements of the episode, but it would be much easier to sympathize with her if her attitude about her demon days was remorseful rather than wistful.)
Dawn is basically just here to be the obnoxious little sister. She does it very convincingly. Props.
Spike seems to be channeling most of his resentment towards the situation created by the chip into anger at Buffy. Which, yes, she is the one who punched him several times last episode, but why not channel anger about what a creepy military organization did to you at an actual former member of that organization? (That was a rhetorical question. I’m very aware we’ll be getting an answer to it at the end of the next episode.)
I’m not sure if Giles’s determination to pursue ownership of the Magic Box even after getting attacked while setting up shop indicates perseverance or just a deep-seated hatred of being unemployed. Is he so desperate to have a purpose in the community again that he’s willing to risk death, or does he just not want to be cowed? *shrug*
“He ran away, huh?”
“Sort of more...turned and swept out majestically, I suppose.”
“Yes, he’s clearly a bad influence on himself.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.