While the Scooby Gang slaughters demons in an underground nest, Xander manages to get himself hurt. Buffy Summers suggests he stay out of the fighting. Xander is desperate to find his place after his breakup with Cordelia Chase and the alienation from his friends. When another student throws him a football, he misses and it hits Jack O'Toole's lunch, resulting in Jack calmly threatening to beat him up. Cordelia, having witnessed the entire event, tells Xander he is useless: "You're the Zeppo". Meanwhile, Giles informs Buffy that the end of the world is near. An order of demons called the Sisterhood of Jhe is planning to reopen the Hellmouth.
After a discussion with Oz about what makes someone cool, Xander shows up at school driving a 1957 Chevrolet Belair convertible, borrowed from his uncle Rory. Meeting Buffy and Willow Rosenberg, he says he is now "car guy" and looks forward to his new role within the group... Only to find that he's tasked with nothing more than getting donuts for the rest of the Scooby gang, who are doing research at the library. While at the donut shop, Xander encounters Cordelia who delightfully rubs his nose in the fact that all he does now is simple errands. Just then a girl who likes his car starts to flirt with Xander and wants to go for a ride. Xander, eager to try and get one-up on Cordelia, agrees once he's dropped the donuts off.
At the library, Buffy, Willow and Giles are researching. Meanwhile, Oz is in werewolf mode and is freaking out in his cage. Willow thinks it's because he can sense trouble. With the Watchers Council refusing to speak with him, Giles leaves to try to contact "the Spirit Guides who exist out of time," who he hopes will provide information on the Sisterhood of Jhe.
At the Bronze that night, Xander is still entertaining his new female acquaintance, however it's clear that she's far more interested in the car than she is in him. Xander meets Angel, who is looking for Buffy because he is concerned about the Sisterhood of Jhe, but refuses Xander's offer of help, telling him it would be safer if he keeps out of the way. When leaving, he rear-ends a parked car. Jack O'Toole gets out of it and threatens Xander with a knife. A cop who knows Jack shows up, but Xander covers for Jack. Surprised but grateful, Jack offers to let Xander be their 'wheel-man' due to his having a car, and tells them they need to go and pick up his friends (as the car that Xander rear-ended isn't actually his). Much to Xander's surprise, it turns out that Jack's friends are all dead and they go to the graveyard where Jack raises them. Xander meets Giles, just as the latter is leaving, having failed to secure the help of the Spirit Guides and asks if he needs any help (desperate to extricate himself from the escalating trouble he's found himself in) but Giles repeats the earlier comments that Xander is best out of the way. Jack finishes raising his three friends and they leave with Xander driving.
Buffy visits Willy the Snitch and finds that the Sisterhood of Jhe have been there already, and thoroughly wrecked it. Willy, who's been beaten up, reveals that the Sisterhood are planning to open the hellmouth that very night and advises Buffy that she should find Angel and consider how to spend her last night on earth. In the library, werewolf Oz is going crazy and the gang are forced to tranquilize and move him.
Jack and his zombie friends drive around town with Xander, who is getting more and more worried as they discuss their deadly activities and plans. Eventually they decide to 'bake a cake' and start gathering supplies by robbing a hardware store. While the boys are getting the supplies from a hardware store, Xander spots Willow leaving the magic shop however she quickly runs off after she, thinking the world may end, tells him she loves him. Xander decides enough is enough and tries to run off, however Jack and the others aren't willing to let him do that. They decide that the best way to make him part of the group is to kill him and raise him, since he'll need to be dead to be 'initiated'. Xander points out that Jack isn't dead, only for Jack to lift his shirt to reveal several bullet holes (having been raised within minutes of being killed in a drive-by shooting). Xander then makes a run for it, and encounters Faith, who is fighting off one of the Sisterhood. After rescuing her, the two head to her motel room. When there, the rush of the battle makes her feel horny, and she and Xander end up having sex. She kicks him out, clothes in hand, quickly after. Attempting to process everything that has happened on this very eventful night for him, Xander gets into the car and sees the supplies that Jack and the gang were collecting and realizes that they're building a bomb.
Xander drives back to the hardware store to find Jack and his gang long gone, laden with more than enough supplies. He heads to Angel's mansion to find Buffy, and finds the two having yet another argument about their feelings. Realizing it's a bad moment, he leaves. Xander then heads to the library to find Giles only to run into the zombies again. They give chase to the car, with one of them holding on to the side. Xander demands to know where the bomb is, and the zombie reveals its in Sunnydale High's boiler room. Before he reveals how to disarm it, a mailbox takes his head off. Xander then heads for the school, with Jack and his gang in hot pursuit.
In the library, the Hellmouth has been opened and a giant, multi-tentacled monster has emerged. Buffy, Faith, Willow, Giles and Angel prepare to fight it, as Xander and the zombies run past (with only one of them noticing, and exclaiming "Wow"). During the chase, one of the zombies is crushed by a soda machine while the last of Jack's friends is ripped apart by members of the Sisterhood who arrive to attack.
Meanwhile, Buffy and the others fight with all their strength in the library to try and close the Hellmouth and save the world.
Xander heads down to the boiler room where the bomb is, and finds Jack. Jack shows up, and after a fight between the two, Xander asks Jack who is more afraid of death. Jack points out that he's already dead, but Xander points out that "'walking around drinking beer with your buddies'-dead is a lot different from 'being blown up and swept up by a janitor'-dead." When Jack confronts Xander about him dying, Xander merely remarks, "I like the quiet" and stares at him calmly. Jack defuses the bomb with seconds to spare. Xander tells Jack he doesn't want to see Jack around school anymore, then leaves by a side door. Jack promises revenge against Xander the instant his back is turn, as he moves to leave by another door... only for Werewolf Oz to jump out and tear him to pieces.
The next day, the Scoobies are sitting at a bench reminiscing about the previous night's battle in hushed tones. Buffy is wearing a sling. We learn that Angel was knocked out during the fight, and Buffy feared he was dead. Oz isn't eating anything as he feels strangely full for some reason. Xander happens by, but says nothing about his own adventure. Leaving the Scoobies, he meets Cordelia who once again taunts him about being left out of his circle of friends. But instead of lashing back at her, Xander just smiles and quietly walks by the bewildered Cordelia, now a better and more confident person.
- Affectionate Parody: The episode is a parody of the show itself, using strictly Xander's point of view to show loads and loads of out-of-context In Medias Res snippets of Buffy cliches and tropes that any Buffy fan could tell would make sense in context if the full story was ever told, but come across as hilariously random, nonsensical, and melodramatic as shown.
- All Up to You: Xander is the only one available to save the school... because the others are saving the world.
- Anxiety Dreams:
- An Axe to Grind:Zombie!Bob: Good for chopping.
- Armor-Piercing Question: Jack lays out the ways he's planning on torturing Xander. Xander responds by asking him how he's going to do all of it in the time left before the bomb goes off, then blocks the door so he can't escape.
- Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!: An axe-wielding Xander chases Zombie Dickie down a corridor, only for them both to come
- Badass Boast: Xander gets one in the climax when Jack asks him if he's afraid to die. It's all the more powerful for how calm and soft-spoken it is.Xander: I like the quiet.
- Barrier-Busting Blow: Xander relaxes after escaping a zombie, only for the head (one of them at least) of the Hellmouth demon to burst through the wall next to him.
- Batman Gambit: Seeing there's less than a minute left on the bomb's clock, Xander saves the day by blocking Jack's escape route, correctly betting that as much as Jack wants to destroy the school, he's not willing to die in the process.
- Blood Magic: Jack cuts his palm to raise his zombie friends.
- Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: See Anxiety Dreams. Also Xander is advised to stay out when they're fighting monsters because he might get killed, or hurt, or both.
- Breaking Speech: Cordelia does this to Xander and loves it. At the end of the episode Xander just smiles and walks off, having gained the required coolness to ignore her.
- Buffy Speak: Buffy suggests Xander be "fray-adjacent."
- Came Back Strong: Jack considers being resurrected as a zombie "a rush".
- Chekhov's Boomerang: Xander saves the day with his car so many times in this episode that it ought to be considered an honorary Scooby gang member.
- Conflict Ball: Despite having risked his life to fight demons for over two years, Xander is arbitrarily kept out of events by Buffy who's worried he'll get hurt.
- Cool Car: Xander tries to make himself cool by borrowing his uncle's light blue 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible.
- Darkest Hour: The gang's battle with the Beast and the Sisterhood of Jhe. Angel almost died and Willow even kissed Xander because she thought she wouldn't get another chance.
- A Day in the Limelight: Xander Harris' moment in the sun. (Well, it mostly happens at night, but y'know.)
- Delicious Distraction: In the middle of preparing for the apocalypse, Giles gets miffed when Buffy eats all the jelly donuts.
- Description Cut: Loads of them.
- Dialogue Reversal: Xander's gambit at the end mirrors the "Who has less fear?" dialogue from his earlier confrontation with "Katie".
- Dude, Where's My Reward?: Averted because Xander, having proved something to himself, doesn't feel the need to tell the other Scoobies about his adventures.
- Easily Forgiven: Despite everything that happened with Xander's and Willow's brief affair, Oz is totally fine being around Xander, having a conversation about "cool" with him. Then again, that's Oz for you.
- The End of the World as We Know It: The Sisterhood of Jhe wants to open the Hellmouth.
- Establishing Character Moment: From the second Jack opens his mouth you want him dead. Thank you, Oz.Oz: Oddly full today.
- Evil Smells Bad: Giles is seeking supernatural aid in a graveyard; Xander spots him and tries to join in the apocalypse-fighting to get away from new 'friend' Jack and his dead pal Bob.Giles: There's something different about this menace. In the air, I can feel it. The stench of death.Xander: Yeah, I think that's Bob.
- Exit, Pursued by a Bear: Jack is making a speech about how he will be coming back to seek revenge, when he opens a door on Werewolf Oz. He is not seen again, and in the next scene Human Oz remarks that he feels full for some reason.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: The world as we know it is different when Buffy's hair is different. In this case, it means that she's not the protagonist of this story.
- Face Death with Dignity: Xander does this. Jack doesn't.Xander: (calmly) I like the quiet.
- Failed Attempt at Drama
- "He should have known that if you're gonna play with fire... (zombie runs away) I wasn't finished!"
- Also Jack threatening vengeance on Xander, only to open a door and be killed by werewolf Oz.
- Foreshadowing: A minor one: After Xander leaves the library pondering what Jack and pals are going to bomb, the very next shot is an exterior view of Sunnydale High.
- Freud Was Right: Xander pulls up in his Cool Car.Buffy: Is this a penis metaphor?
- Gay Moment: Xander is in a struggle with knife-wielding class psycho Jack — a policeman shows up and asks what's going on; Xander tells him "Nothing! Just blowing off steam. Two guys rasslin'...but not in a gay way!"
- Geeky Turn-On: Cordelia is smirking over Xander's belief that his Cool Car will somehow make him cool when a hot blonde suddenly expresses an interest. Triumphant!Xander takes her for a ride, only to end up at the Bronze bored out of his skull listening to her rave on about engines — he's even happy to see Angel in the hope that Angel will call him away on some important Scooby business.
- Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: Xander rescues Faith from an apocalypse demon and she rescues him from any more praying mantis teachers by taking his virginity once they get back to her motel room.
- Gory Discretion Shot/Sound-Only Death: Dickie is killed by the Sisterhood behind venetian blinds.
- The Greatest Story Never Told: How Xander stopped a zombie gang from blowing up the school. He decides not to tell Cordelia (and the rest of the group) that did it, feeling that knowing he did it is enough defense against Cordelia's Alpha Bitch What Measure Is a Non-Badass? ribbing.
- Hero of Another Story: The Scooby Gang are completely unaware that Xander not only stopped the school from blowing up but saved their lives in the process. At the same time once Xander goes on his own way for the night we only see very quick glimpses of the apocalypse the rest of the Gang is trying to stop — and without forty-plus minutes of additional footage to provide context, it's nothing but a hilarious barrage of cliches.
- I Call It "Vera": Jack has a very large Bowie knife he calls "Katie".
- Idealized Sex: When Xander loses his virginity with Faith. After some romantic snuggling in bed we Smash Cut to Faith booting him out the door now she's finished making use of him.
- Idiot Ball/Lowered Monster Difficulty: Youre on the ground and someone tries to drop a heavy soda machine on you, what do you do? You just stare at it until it crushes your head of course.
- Improvised Weapon: Xander topples a soda machine on Zombie!Bob, though why he didn't just use the axe in his hand...
- Incredibly Obvious Bomb: It's a big bunch of dynamite with a beeping digital timer strapped to it — it could only be more obvious if it had the word "BOMB" written on it.
- Initiation Ceremony: You just have to die.
- Ironic Echo Cut:Xander: Oh man, I'm out of my league. I gotta find Buffy. She'll know what to do.Buffy: (To Angel) I don't know what to do!
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Xander grabs Zombie!Parker and drags him alongside his moving car until he reveals where the bomb is.Parker: It's in the...it's in the boiler room!
Xander: Alright. Now I'm gonna ask you this once, and you better pray you get the answer right.
Parker: Okay, okay!
Xander: How do I defuse... (Xander drives too close to a mailbox which knocks Parker's head off) I probably should've left out that whole middle part.
- Knife Nut: The class psycho/revived corpse Jack O'Toole.Xander: You gave your knife a girl's name. How very serial killer of you!
- The Last Dance: Willy suggests Buffy and Angel get together as the world's going to end anyway, so what have they got to lose?
- Last-Second Word Swap: Xander comes across Giles (making an unsuccessful attempt to commune with the spirits) in the graveyard. "We were just raising some err...some heck!"
- Late to the Punchline: Xander finally gets round to looking at what the zombie gang looted from the hardware store — finding kerosene, electric wire and dynamite.Xander: Hey! They're not baking any cakes!
- Let's Split Up, Gang: Jack's gang in the school.
- The Load: Xander worries that he is this, and the other characters agree and treat him that way. Buffy then excludes him from the group's activities against the threat of the week. He spends the rest of the episode saving the school, and the world, from a completely separate threat, while the rest of the characters deal with what they think is the main threat in the background. Of course, in most episodes Xander was actually very effective at contributing to the group, making his sudden "uselessness" in this episode pretty incongruous.
- Magic Countdown: Xander is having a Circling Monologue with Jack as a nearby bomb timer is counting down. It switches between them and the bomb, and the timer seems to jump around at random, gaining and losing time, until it is of course stopped at 1 second left.
- If you count the audible ticks, the bomb is being disarmed at -3rd second.
- Meaningful Background Event: The whole episode comes across as this, with the apocalypse and Hellmouth opening serving as one for Xander's story. Or rather, Xander's story is the background event, but it's the one we see.
- Melodrama: Spoofed when the usual romantic wangst of a distraught Buffy arguing with Angel who's determined to make a Heroic Sacrifice, with mutual Love Confessions and It's the Only Way and "Close Your Eyes" playing, is interrupted by Xander bursting in on them. After making a half-hearted attempt to bring up his own problems Xander leaves, and the romantic music commences again as Buffy and Angel start up exactly where they left off.
- Modesty Bedsheet: Xander and Faith after they have sex. Moments later, when she kicks him out of her room, she's still wrapped up in it.
- Mood Whiplash: Whenever the overly-dramatic events of The End of the World as We Know It cut to Xander's antics with the zombie gang, culminating when a battle with a shrieking Multiple Head Case Smash Cuts to Xander and Jack's quiet face-down over the Time Bomb.
- My Girl Is a Slut: Xander runs down a demon Faith is fighting. They flee to her motel room and, frustrated over not being able to kill, she has Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex with Xander. Cue romantic music and snuggles under the bedsheets, then a Musicalis Interruptus Smash Cut to Faith booting Xander out the door now that she's finished making use of him.
- Nightmare Fetishist:Buffy: What do we do with the trio (of dead demons) here? Should we burn them?Willow: I brought marshmallows. (off others' looks) Occasionally, I'm callous and strange.
- Not Afraid to Die: How Xander wins the Time Bomb face-off; as Jack doesn't have time to fight his way past Xander and escape, he's forced to defuse the bomb.
- Not Big Enough for the Two of Us: After Xander has successfully faced down Jack into defusing the bomb.Xander: I don't think I wanna be seeing you on campus anymore, Jack.
- Noodle Incident: Angel almost died, Giles did the bravest thing Buffy had ever seen ("Stupidest," he corrects), and Willow saw the Hellmouth beast's "real" face.
- Our Zombies Are Different: They're conscious after dying, for one thing. They still need some brains however...
- Paper Tiger: Despite being a zombie, Jack's very afraid of dying, and incapable of holding his own against anyone who's not significantly weaker than him...and when Xander points this out to him, he crumples like a leaf in a gale, swearing revenge.
- Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: When Xander jokingly addresses Giles as "Mr. White" and mentions Clark and Lois, Giles is confused by the reference.Xander: Jimmy Olsen jokes are pretty much gonna be lost on you, huh?
- Pre-Climax Climax: Willy points out that as the world is going to end, Buffy and Angel have nothing to lose by having sex. They're not amused by the suggestion.
- Xander and Faith.
- Previously On : The shortest one ever in the series, consisting only of Giles being told he's fired.
- Raging Stiffie:Faith: A fight like that and... no kill... I'm about ready to pop. (her hand reaches down for Xander's groin) You up for it?
Xander: Oh, I'm up. I'm suddenly very up. It's just, um... (grins sheepishly) I've never been up with people before.
- Reset Button: No damage from the emerged hellmouth is shown in the next episodes.
- Rise from Your Grave:"The blood of the earth shall restore him, and he shall rise!"(zombie sticks his head out of the earth) "Dude!"
- Screams Like a Little GirlXander: Who, at a crucial moment, distracted the lead demon by allowing her to pummel him about the head?
Faith: Yeah. That was real manly how you shrieked and all.
- Security Cling: Exploited when Xander helps Faith escape a demon — she's a little banged up, says "Hold me" to him, and as he goes to comfort her she positions his hands so she can snap back her dislocated shoulder.
- Self-Deprecation: Desperate for coolness, Xander asks Oz if it is hard to play the guitar.
- Self-Parody: Whedon is poking fun at his own work here.
- Sexy Discretion Shot: Xander and Faith sex is shown reflected in her TV screen.
- Shaped Like ItselfGiles: Buffy, this is no laughing matter.Buffy: Hence my no laughing.
- Staking the Loved One: Willow has to shoot Werewolf!Oz twice with Tranquilizer Darts because he's become uncontrollable due to the Hellmouth activity.
- Stock Footage: The shot of the cafeteria food - sauerkraut, hot dogs, and spaghetti - is the same clip used in "I Only Have Eyes For You". In that episode, the food turns into snakes.
- Strange Minds Think Alike: Xander makes a sarcastic remark about feeling like Jimmy Olsen to Giles. Later, Cordelia mocks him by saying that, with everyone he knows having superpowers, he must feel like...Jimmy Olsen. Xander starts lampshading this, but then cuts himself off with "Mind your own business!"
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: Xander finds himself the wheelman outside the store the zombie gang are looting when Willow walks by.Willow: Xander, what are you doing here?Xander: Nothing! Certainly not crime.
- Talking Is a Free Action: The time bomb takes longer than it should to count down.
- Subverted in an earlier scene: Xander is grilling a zombie he's dragging along with his car for information concerning the bomb... only to drive past a mailbox and decapitate the guy before he learns how to disarm it.Xander: I probably should've left out that whole middle part.
- Subverted in an earlier scene: Xander is grilling a zombie he's dragging along with his car for information concerning the bomb... only to drive past a mailbox and decapitate the guy before he learns how to disarm it.
- Taking You with Me: Exploited in the climax, when Xander gets Jack to defuse the bomb by pointing out that Jack's not brave enough to do this to the school, but Xander is more than willing to pull this on Jack. He's right.
- Tempting Fate: Xander is faced with a ticking Time Bomb.Xander: (breathing hard) Less than two minutes. Dumb guy. Little bomb. How hard can it be?
(Jack jumps him from behind)
Jack: And it just got harder.
- Giles is preparing magic defenses against the expected Eldritch Abomination. "Who knows what's going to come up from beneath us." Cut to the bomb being prepared in the floor underneath.
- Their First Time: As Xander puts it to Faith later on, "It was nice. It was great. It was kind of a blur."
- Terse TalkerXander: What is it? How do you get it? Who doesn't have it, and who decides who doesn't have it? What is the essence of 'cool'?
Oz: Not sure.
Xander: I mean, you yourself, Oz, are considered more or less 'cool'. Why is that?
Oz: Am I?
Xander: Is it about the talking? You know, the-the way you tend to express yourself in short, non-committal phrases?
Oz: Could be.
- There Was a Door: Lampshaded when Xander is stopped by a locked door, the kind that Buffy kicks open as a Running Gag. "Where's a Slayer when you need one?"
- To the Pain:
- Took a Level in Badass: Xander. Also, the Beast.Giles: "Oh, my god. It's grown."
- Toplessness from the Back: Faith briefly when she takes her shirt off to have sex with Xander.
- Two Lines, No Waiting: Inverted with the B Plot becoming the focus.
- Vapor Wear: When Faith sleeps with Xander, she takes off her shirt to reveal that she is not wearing anything underneath.
- What Measure Is a Non-Badass?: Explored throughout the episode. Most of the drama at the beginning happens because Cordelia (and most if not all of the rest of the Gang, it seems) don't believe that Xander is badass enough to be helpful in their upcoming fight. Xander manages to do enough badass things throughout the night (including saving their friends from a threat that was totally unknown to them) that he doesn't thinks telling Cordelia is worth it.
- What You Are in the Dark: Played subtly straight and strongly backwards. While the rest of the Scooby Gang is busy taking care of a huge, horrific, wide-scale, apocalyptic, personally heartwrenching catastrophe, an undead delinquent jock who runs into Xander decides to blow up the high school for kicks. This would kill the Scooby Gang, and leave the Hellmouth open, ending the world. Xander, not wanting to risk getting the world destroyed by distracting his more powerful friends from their own disaster, decides to take care of the problem instead, after Faith screws his brains out he singlehandedly chases down and corners the jock; and by refusing to be swayed in the face of near-certain death, intimidates him into backing down. Afterwards, even though most of the episode revolved around Xander's feelings of inferiority, he feels no need to mention the escapade to his friends or stand up to Cordelia to prove his badassery, as it's enough that he knows what he did.
- The World Is Always Doomed: The Sisterhood of Jhe is just one more demon cult trying to open the Hellmouth.
- You, Get Me Coffee: The apocalypse is coming, so Xander asks how he can help. Buffy sends him to get donuts.