Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | October 8, 2012

Cordia’s Review: S5, E03 – The Replacement

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.

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