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Recap / Buffy the Vampire Slayer S5E3 "The Replacement"

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"Maybe it's time to start looking for a new place. Buffy, you've been to Hell. They had one-bedrooms, right?"

Directed by James A Contner

Written by Jane Espenson

Xander and Anya watch a movie with Buffy and Riley while listening to the background noise of Xander's drunken parents fighting and yelling upstairs. The next day, the gang looks at a potential new apartment for Xander. He doesn't think he can afford it and this upsets Anya. Giles receives a visit from a demon searching for the Slayer. He later identifies the demon as Toth, only survivor of the Tothric Clan.

The Scoobies check out the city dump in search of the demon and find Spike collecting. The demon hits Xander with light from a rod and knocks him to the ground. He gets to his feet and walks off with the rest of the gang, but there is another Xander still lying in a pile of trash. The next morning, one Xander awakens at the city dump and then discovers his double upon returning to his house. Meanwhile, Spike has put together a Buffy doll from mannequin parts which he uses to practice beating up on.

One of the Xanders is very ambitious and gets a promotion at work, signs a lease for the apartment, and sets up a date with Anya. The other, insecure Xander watches as all this happens and finally confronts his double. After the two Xanders see each other, the confident Xander talks to Buffy and she makes this a matter of Slayer business.

Soaked by the rain, weak Xander goes to Willow and tries to explain that this double is taking over his life. He tells Willow that the double is doing a better job of living his life than he has been, but suddenly realizes that his double is going after Anya—and that is one thing he won't allow.

Anya and the Xander double discuss their future and Anya expresses her fears about not living forever. Giles discovers that the rod Toth used split Xander into two real Xanders, one with weak qualities and the other with strong qualities. They're still connected, however; killing one will destroy them both. Toth had intended to split Buffy into her human and Slayer halves, then destroy the Slayer by killing the normal girl. The weak Xander crashes the date between strong Xander and Anya. Both think that the other is a demon and the weak Xander pulls out a handgun he got from Anya's apartment.

Buffy tells the doubles the truth about their situation and tries to convince them not to kill each other. Toth appears at the apartment; Buffy and Riley fight and kill him. The Xanders eventually begin to get along, and their actions become so similar to each other that the comment is made that Xander is a "bad influence" on himself. Giles and Willow research and come up with a way to reunite the two Xanders, but Anya expresses disappointment over this as she wants both to stick around for some sexual shenanigans, much to the disturbance of the others. Willow ends the spell (literally—she simply says "let the spell be ended") on the Xanders and makes them one again. While moving Xander into his new apartment, he and Riley talk. Riley confesses that despite how much he loves Buffy, he realizes that she doesn't feel the same.

Tropes in this episode include:

  • An Aesop: Xander realises his inner potential. Again.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Toth's "creepy stick thing", the ferula-gemina. "It splits one person in half, distilling personality traits into two separate bodies."
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: Averted; Xander unloads the revolver before handing it to Buffy.
  • Artistic License – Martial Arts: Buffy complains about the unrealistic fight scenes in the Chop Sockey movie.
  • Badass Long Robe: Toth
    Buffy: He ran away, huh?
    Giles: Um, sort of more... uh... turned and swept out majestically.
  • Boom Stick: The ferula-gemina.
  • Butt-Monkey: Scruffy!Xander. Also Giles to some extent—he can't get anyone to take him seriously, whether the Scoobies when he gives a Big "OMG!" or a demon whom he's futilely clobbering with a fertility statue.
  • Call-Back:
    • Willow, to the events of "Doppelgangland," relating to the similarities and contrasts with the current episode.
      Willow: Xander. You already knew that he was taking over your life, and you didn't think of Anya until just now?
      Xander: Hey, you wait until you have an evil twin. Let's see how you handle it. [exits]
      Willow: [bemused, to herself] I think I handled it fine.
    • Buffy's "bad ice-skating movie obsession" is from "What's My Line?", when she mentioned being a fan of Dorothy Hamill.
    • Willow mentioned Xander doing the Snoopy Dance in "Passion".
  • Captain Obvious
    Buffy: If Xander kills himself, he's dead. [frowns] You know what I mean.
  • Continuity Cavalcade: Riley is helping Xander leave his parents' basement forever.
    Riley: Getting nostalgic?
    Xander: I don't know. At first it's just a place, then you start to make memories, and... then you're like, [pointing] that's where Spike slept, and [pointing] there, that's where Anya and I drowned the Separvo demon. Oh! [points] and, and right there, that's where I got my heart all ripped out. [shakes head] I really hate this place.
  • Continuity Nod: Anya's shoulder is still injured from getting clobbered by Harmony's minion in the previous episode.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: Willow, when Xander complains about always being a Distressed Dude.
    Xander: But I never help. I get in trouble and Buffy saves me.
    Willow: That's not true! Sometimes we all helped save you. [realizes that was unhelpful] And sometimes you're not in trouble.
  • A Day in the Limelight: This applies to Xander twice over!
  • Deadpan Snarker: Joyce shows that It Runs in the Family.
    Joyce: [sighs, puts hand to her forehead] This must be my "two teenage girls in the house" headache. I thought it felt familiar.
    Buffy: Good work, Dawn. You gave her a headache.
    Dawn: I did not! [to Joyce] Did I give you a headache, Mom? I'm sure part of it is Buffy's.
    Buffy: But part of it is Dawn's.
    Joyce: It's so nice you've learned to share.
  • Description Cut: Willow (according to Xander) re. witch clichés. "Who uses a cauldron any more?" Cut to the demon using a bubbling cauldron for his incantation.
  • Did Not Do the Bloody Research: In-Universe—Buffy assumes that "Toth" is British for "moron".
  • Double Consciousness: Buffy asks Riley if he wishes he could be rid of Slayer Buffy and just have Buffy Buffy. His reply is comforting but not convincing to her: "I have Buffy Buffy... There's no part of you I'm not in love with."
  • Down in the Dumps: Where Toth demons lurk and neutered vampires scavenge.
  • Empathic Environment: It rains on Xander when he goes to get Buffy's help, only to find his other self has gotten there first and Buffy is fixing to kill him.
  • Evil Twin: Subverted. Both twins are Xander, but they received different aspects of the original when they split off.
  • Eyes Never Lie: Averted; Anya can't tell the difference between the two Xanders, despite Scruffy!Xander's plea.
  • Foreshadowing: Sure, it's just a "two teenage girls in the house" headache...
  • For Science!: As a psychology major and former Initiative boy, Riley asks if anyone else wants to separate the Xanders and do experiments on them. "Just me, then."
  • Felony Misdemeanor: One look at the dump and Riley continues to lose faith in humanity.
    Riley: People say they're recycling. They're not recycling.
  • Get a Room!: Xander opens a door in his new apartment to find Buffy and Riley making out. He tells them to go find a bedroom, then realises they're already in one.
  • Headache of Doom: Joyce has a headache that she mostly shrugs off; it's easy to do the same on first viewing, but it's going to get a lot more serious.
  • Hollywood Healing: Averted; Anya is still recovering from a dislocated shoulder, after being knocked down by Mort in the previous episode.
  • Hypocrite: both Xanders are appalled that Anya wants to have a threesome with them but were the biggest fan of magically enhanced Jonathon ('Superstar'), not least because he had a pair of twin sister blonde Swedish mistresses.
  • Hypno Trinket: Xander notices his Evil Twin carries a shiny coin that appears to change everyone's attitude towards him. Subverted—it's just a nickel that fell on some tracks and got flattened by a train; Suave!Xander thought it was cool.
  • Improvised Weapon: Giles rummages in a box for something to ward off Toth. He finds a rabbit's foot, then a wooden statue.
    Toth: That is a fertility god. [Giles looks at it in dismay] Feeble man, you are not going to distract me— [Giles hits him with the statue]
  • I Say What I Say: After the Xanders find out they're not each others' Evil Twin, they each start to regain some aspects of the other, including their snarkiness.
    Anya: What do we do if it doesn't work?
    Xanders: Kill us both, Spock!
    Buffy: They're kind of the same now.
    Giles: Yes, he's clearly a bad influence on himself.
  • Literal Split Personality: Toth's weapon was meant to split Buffy into her human and Slayer sides—he would then kill the weaker human version, causing the other to die. Instead it seperates Xander into an "aggressive" Xander (charming, well-groomed, and confident, but hot-headed and impetuous) and a "passive" Xander (awkward, paranoid, and insecure, but with Xander's trademark sense of humor).
  • Moment Killer: Dawn on the Buffy/Riley snog.
    Dawn: My friend Sharon's older brother knows a girl who died because she choked on her boyfriend's tongue.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Very explicitly played straight: Xander has been split into two halves by Toth's spell, and Willow explains that there's not much to rejoining them — their natural state is to be together and the spell is doing the work of keeping them apart, so all she has to do is end it.
  • No-Sell: Toth really isn't very impressed with Giles's attempts to fight him off, and simply walks away from him.
    Buffy: So, a mythic triumph over a completely indifferent foe?
    Giles: (insulted) Well, I'm not dead or unconscious, so I say bravo for me.
  • Oh, Crap!
    Giles: Oh dear Lord. [Scoobies keep talking among themselves] I said, "Oh, dear lord."
    Buffy: You always say that.
    Giles: Well, it's always important!
  • Other Me Annoys Me: The Xander who seems to the audience to be regular Xander is annoyed at the suave, confident Xander, but it is ultimately revealed that they are both the "real" Xander, just split into two distinct forms. One Xander is assertive, self-confident and suave, the other is panicky and self-critical. Each is convinced that the other is Toth in disguise, and each is annoyed at the antics of the other.
    • Averted in the end: Once the two Xanders are together and have interacted for a while, they actually get along really well.
  • Red Herring: The shiny coin the other Xander carries isn't used to hypnotize people, it's just a trinket. Also, Spike's dummy appears to be about him plotting to kill Buffy, but it's actually foreshadowing his obsession with her.
  • Shaped Like Itself: "It's an evil robot, constructed from evil parts that look like me designed to do evil!"
  • Shirtless Scene: Our first sight of Suave!Xander.
  • Shout-Out: When they try to put the two Xanders back together.
    Anya: What do we do if this doesn't work?
    Both Xanders: Kill us both, Spock!
  • Spanner in the Works: Toth's spell was intended to split Buffy into her human side and her Slayer side. This would allow him to kill the human Buffy, causing the Slayer Buffy to die as well. Xander ruins the entire scheme when he pushes Buffy out of the way and gets struck by the spell instead. This not only splits Xander into two distinct beings, it also exposes Toth's plan to the Scooby Gang and gives them an opportunity to kill him when he attempts to cast the spell again.
  • Spot the Imposter: Xander does the Snoopy dance to prove he's the real Xander. Willow is rather confused, as she doesn't even know there's two Xanders walking around.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Not that Xander is still into Buffy—not that he ever was.
  • Taking the Bullet: Xander gets hit by Toth's magical blast when he shoves Buffy aside.
  • The Triple: Riley loves all of Buffy. "I'm talkin' toes, elbows, the whole bad ice-skating-movie obsession..."
  • Transformation Ray: The ferula-gemina's splitting spell takes the form of an orange ray-blast.
  • Twin Threesome Fantasy:
    Anya: So... you Xanders really do have all the same memories, all the same... [looking downward] physical attributes?
    Suave Xander: We're completely identical.
    Scruffy Xander: Yeah, we checked out some stuff in the car on the way over... [off Anya's look] Fingerprints!
    Anya: Well, maybe we shouldn't do this reintegration thing right away. See, I can take the boys home, and... we can all have sex together, and... you know, just slap 'em back together in the morning.
    Suave Xander: She's joking.
    Scruffy Xander: No she's not! She entirely wants to have sex with us together. Which is... wrong, and, and it would be very confusing.
    Anya: It's not like it'd be cheating. They're both Xander.
  • Wham Line: "But she doesn't love me."
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: It's revealed that without his self-doubt Xander is actually a lot more capable than he first appears, as his aggressive side tells his weak side.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: Toth splits Xander into two separate beings, one having his strong traits and the other with his weak ones. Weak Xander believes he is the "real" Xander, and tells Willow there is an imposter and recounts things from their childhood and does the Snoopy Dance. It turns out to be unnecessary, as Willow quickly figures out what is going on.
  • Your Door Was Open: Lampshaded when Willow bursts into Giles's place.
    Giles: I swear, this time I know I had that locked.