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DVD Commentary: Cuckoo In the Nest (3/5)

Continued from DVD Commentary: Cuckoo in the Nest, Part 2

Damn. Had to cut the second part in this one for length and move it to the next post.


It’s been almost two weeks since the “wedding.”

Wedding, now there’s a laugh,
Tony bitterly thinks. He figured the kid would take off before the march down the aisle, or failing that, end up a bitter divorced dad with killer alimony and child-support payments. He never in a million would’ve guessed that the kid would jilt bridezilla on the actual wedding day.

He might as well have flushed all that fucking money down the toilet. He and Jessica can’t even get a partial refund on the dough they shelled out because everyone except the groom was present and accounted for. Plus, the lodge had the nerve to present him with a bill for “damages.” Jesus! He didn’t see any of her people getting any bills and they’re the ones who should be paying because they started the brawl. That guy with the tentacles threw the first punch. He doesn’t care what anyone says.

This is a deliberate echo of the earlier “little league” scene where Tony blames the other parent for throwing the first punch. I wanted to show that Tony has a pattern of behavior and never breaks out of it, even mentally.

For the record, I’m not entirely sure who threw the first punch in ‘Hell’s Bells.’ For the purposes of this story, the facts really don’t matter. The only thing that matters is that Tony is again blaming someone else for a fight he started because he was being an drunken ass, regardless of whether he started the physical confrontation part by throwing the first punch.



Naturally, neither the kid nor Anya could be found after the horror show, so all Tony can do is simmer and stew on the unpaid bills. There’s no fucking way he’s going to be the one paying for this. Unh-unh. They couldn’t get their shit together, so they should pay the balance. Even better, he should be reimbursed for all the money he plunked down.

I’m actually on Tony’s side for this one. He’s completely justified in hitting Xander up for the money he shelled out, especially since Xander was the one who cancelled the wedding at the very last second.


Tony had driven by the kid’s apartment several times in the intervening weeks, but there was no car and no sign that anyone was home. He even went to that witch shop Anya owns — excuse me, part owns — to see if he could get some satisfaction. All he got was a ‘closed’ sign and some bitchy regular in desperate need of razorblade for her legs and a man to fuck hanging around in front of the closed storefront complaining that the shop hadn’t been open for more than a week.

He’s ready to give up, but Jessica squealing over the phone with Carol is enough to prompt him to try one more time. It turns out Carol has started dating that Kevin guy, the one with the skin condition and the circus job. Bad enough that the kid almost married into circus geeks, now he’s faced with the prospect of blood kin marrying into the shallow end of the gene pool.

That cousin Carol. She does move fast. I couldn’t find anything stating one way or the other which parent Carol was supposed to be related to, so I just made her related to Xander via Tony to rub salt in Tony’s wounds.

It’s also a deliberate slap at Xander. Xander can marry into “the shallow end of the gene pool” because Tony believes that Xander is not “blood kin,” so it really doesn’t matter to him what Xander does with his life as long as it doesn’t directly inconvenience him. On the other hand, Tony takes it as a personal insult that “blood kin” Carol might eventually contemplate the same course of action.



The way Tony sees it, the kid owes him money just for pain and suffering alone. If it wasn’t for that wedding, Carol wouldn’t have met the circus geek, and he wouldn’t be faced with the prospect of having to look at the guy’s ugly face again. The idea of Carol screwing anyone, let alone a warty loser who looks like he should be in a zoo, is enough to make him want a beer so he could drown the picture out of his head.

When Tony turns the corner, he sees the kid’s car parked in front of his apartment building and lets out a whoop of triumph. Looks like he’s getting his satisfaction after all.

Tony quickly parks the car, runs into the vestibule with his head down on the off chance the kid might be looking out a window, and checks the doorbell tags to find the kid’s apartment number. The last time — the only time — he was here, he had been more than a little drunk already since he started the celebrating early. About all he remembers is that there was some stairs involved to get to the kid’s place, but that’s about it.

He groans when he sees the number on the tag. Figures the fucking kid would pick the very top floor. A quick search tells him that not only does the kid live on the top floor, he lives in a building with no elevator. Jesus, he doesn’t remember it being this involved to get to the kid’s front door. He must’ve been truly wasted the day the kid managed to fuck up his own wedding.

A small note about the above paragraphs. In the original version of the story, I spaced on Tony ever visiting Xander’s apartment and had Tony completely clueless about where he should go to corner Xander in his own home. ludditerobot, bless his canon-loving heart, spotted my mistake and pointed it out. I’ve now corrected it, with the added caveat that Tony had only been to Xander’s apartment once (the day of the wedding) and that he was already so drunk that all he can state for certain was that he climbed some stairs to get to it.


On the second floor some nosy old broad marches out of her apartment, takes one look at him, and demands to know who he is and what business he has in the building. Tony tries to ignore her as he brushes past, but she threatens to call the cops, so he’s forced to tell her that he needs to get to the kid’s apartment.

Just like that the old broad smiles and pats his arm. “Such a nice boy,” she says. “Always offering to help me bring in the groceries when he sees me. Always holds open the doors. Such a gentleman. Such a shame what happened.” The broad looks around and leans in, breathing garlic fumes up in his face. “I tell you, it’s that girl of his. Always so rude, never willing to lift a pinky unless there’s something in it for her. Whatever went wrong, she started it. I know it. Never saw what he saw in her at all. Not at all.”

The purpose of the above paragraphs is not to bash Anya. Believe me, it’s not. I wanted to introduce a disinterested outsider’s point of view — specifically an outsider who knows Xander only in passing — that paints a completely different picture of Xander than the one that exists inside Tony’s head. Xander’s the nice, polite neighbor capable of engaging in everyday niceties with the people around him, a sharp contrast to Tony’s vision of Xander as the perpetual screw-up.

Of course, the little ol’ lady’s ideas about Xander are about to look so very wrong considering what happens next.



A few bon mots about how wonderful the kid is later and Tony manages to escape. By the time he makes it to the kid’s door, annoyance has long outrun angry and is now heading into furious. Even though he’s still breathing hard with the stair-climbing effort, he pounds on the door. He hears rustling inside and the sound of something being knocked over.

He pounds again, yelling, “I want to talk to you.”

The door flies open, revealing the bleary-eyed kid himself. It looks like he just threw the jeans on since the top button is unbuttoned and the fly is partially undone. Tony winces at the flabby expanse of pale, exposed flush that passes for the kid’s torso from the waist up. He smells like sweat, dirt, vomit, and booze.

“Perfect.” The kid practically belches the word and Tony’s forced to wave a hand in front his nose because of the smell. He figures if he lit a match and held it in front of the kid’s open mouth, the flame would turn blue.

The kid wobbles a bit before he slumps against the doorframe. As he takes a swig from a beer can, Tony catches a glimpse of the apartment beyond. There’s empties everywhere and it looks like someone has trashed the place.

This obviously takes place just before S6’s ‘Seeing Red’ where it becomes clear that Xander crawled right into a bottle after his confrontation with Anya outside the Magic Box. I actually find it amusing (in a sad sort of way) that most people forget that Xander was drunk off his ass for most of that episode and doesn’t even come close to sobering up until after his confrontation with Warren at the Bronze.



The kid looks at him expectantly with bloodshot hazel eyes for a moment before asking, “Well? Waddya wan’?’

Tony gets straight to the point. “You owe me money.”

“Oh? Dis oughtta be good.”

When I originally wrote Xander’s “drunk talk” for this section, he was slightly more incomprehensible. My lovely betas pointed out that there’s no point to Xander’s half of the conversation if readers needed a decoder ring to figure out what he was saying. They were right, of course.

Thus started a re-write of this section to tone it down. It was actually harder than a usual re-write, because I had to get across that Xander was drunk as a skunk during the scene, but still make what he says easily understood.



“The wedding. I paid for that and now I’m being presented with more bills for damages because of a fight her people started. I want my money back and I want you to take over the rest of the payments.”

The kid leans forward slightly and clutches the doorframe to steady himself. “So file a complaint with the Betta Buzen…Bizen…Bizen…where people get money back.”

“Contracts. They got me dead-to-rights and since my name’s on the credit card slips, I have to pay.” Tony pokes a finger in the kid’s exposed chest. “The way I figure it, you should pay.”

The kid is so busy staring at where Tony poked him, that for a second Tony isn’t sure that anything he’s said has even registered.

The kid starts giggling and waving a finger at him. “Ah nah. I don’ need this right now. Tony, Tony, Tony, you are soooooo far down on my lischt of problems that you? You not even in tha same area code. You not on tha planet. You not even in tha universe. Jus’ sayin’.”

Tony clenches his fists so hard that he can feel the nails biting into the palms of his hands.

“See?” the kid waves a hand around him as he unsteadily turns and weaves deeper into the apartment. He tosses the beer can in the direction of the kitchen. “Ahn-ya a’ready got herself a li’l orgasm buddy.” He spins around to face Tony and momentarily loses his balance. He catches himself before he topples over. “Body not even cold. Nothin’. Goes right fer tha evil undead. You think screwing a corpse woul’ be…I dunno…yuck? But you guess wrong!”

Tony could not have heard right. Anya was into screwing the dead? Just how bad was the kid in bed? And where do you go to screw dead people? The morgue?

“’Cause it turns out bleachie is screwing ’nother friend. Of mine. I think.” The kid gives Tony a puzzled look. “Why you here ’gain?”

“Money. That you owe me,” Tony growls.

“So he’s screwin’ Ahn-ya. He’s screwin’ Buf-fy. Only reason he’s not screwin’ Willow is ’cause she’s gay now. Which she tells me. All tha time. I get it! I get it! I heard ya tha firs’ tree thousan’ times. Jeez.” The kid frowns. “Or maybe that why she gay now. Took him fer a spin an’ he put her offa men.” He nods sagely, like he’s finally figured out the secret of the universe. “Coul’ be. Coul’ be.”

“About that money—” Tony begins.

“He’s a pervert,” the kid declares like he’s received a truth from on high. “Make sense. Prob’ly checkin’ me out, too. All that, ‘You a nummy treat.’ Oh. Wait. I said that. He said I was…was…not a nummy treat. I think I’m perfectly nummy.” The kid takes an unsteady bow. “His loss.”

Great. Now the kid is going to spill about his fag boyfriends. Jesus, why did these two even think getting close to a preacher was a good idea? He’s into cock; she’s into the dead. Tony just doesn’t want to hear any more.

How much do I love writing Tony jumping to such out-there conclusions whenever Xander slips about his activities and life as a super-secret-squirrel Scoob? An ocean’s worth of very, very much.

Even though this massive misunderstanding on Tony’s part amuses me greatly, the whole point is to show that Xander is so emotionally lost and physically wasted that he isn’t even paying attention to what he’s saying, let alone who he’s saying it to.

The other reason was to show yet another parallel between Tony and Xander: they’re both very bad drunks who have a tendency to shoot their mouths off about whatever is pissing them off right at that moment.



“Stop. Just stop right there. I don’t care about your fucked-up life. I want my money.”

The kid sneers. “Tough. I don’ got it. Ahn-ya cleaned out tha bank,” he waves a hand as he searches for the word, “stuff. Bank stuff. Where tha money is. You want it? You talk to her. Me? I’m done.”

When later Tony accuses Xander of trying to avoid responsibility by not only refusing to pay, but laying the blame at Anya’s feet for his refusal to do so, he’s actually being dead on. To give Xander a little wiggle room here, he doesn’t actually remember having this conversation.


Tony charges the kid with fist raised, fully intent on beating the money out of him. As drunk as the kid is, he still manages to move fast enough to get out of the way. Tony stumbles over something and next thing he knows he’s pinned to the couch with the kid on top of him.

“I don’ need dis,” the kid wearily breathes, causing Tony to wince from the sour smell of stale booze and vomit. “I think you betta go now befo’ things get really outta control.”

Out of control? Tony wonders as the kid hauls him to his feet. This is already out of control. The conversation is not going as he planned. He figured the kid would hand over the money with no argument, because it’s clear who the injured party is here. What he got was too much information about the kid’s perverted sex life and physically attacked.

The kid pulls Tony’s right arm so far up behind his back that Tony yelps from the pain. The kid’s left hand is clamped so hard around the back of Tony’s neck, that he’s pretty sure there’ll be a hand-shaped bruise there when the kid lets go. He wonders when the hell the kid got so strong as he’s marched out the apartment door. What makes it even more unbelievable is that the kid is managing to physically throw Tony out of the apartment despite the fact the kid’s barely standing upright.

With a final shove from behind, Tony stumbles into the hall. He spins around with a snarl and sees the kid giving him an idiot stare.

Again, this was to illustrate just how over-the-edge and drunk Xander really is.

Aside Xander’s initial rebellion during the discussion about Jesse near the beginning of the story, Xander has not once done anything to defend himself against Tony. For the first and only time in the entire story, Xander not only physically defends himself, but turns the tables on Tony so fast that the guy doesn’t even know what hit him. I wanted to show that, physically speaking, Xander could done this at any time, but for whatever reason — lack of self-confidence, a built-in moral switch that said hitting his father was bad, fill in your reasons here — he never does. The fact that Xander actually does it in this section shows that his usual mental stumbling blocks on this issue are gone and he’s running on pure, drunken instinct.

I’ve always maintained in my fanon that even though Xander can’t be as good a fighter as a vampire or a Slayer, in a one-on-one situation he could put one hell of a hurt an unarmed normal human in a fight without even realizing it. This is an illustration of that idea. Xander’s so drunk he can barely stand, yet he easily avoids Tony’s attack and throws him out of the apartment. He also accidentally hurts Tony while he’s doing it because he is a lot stronger than Tony, thanks to his years as a Scoob and fighting things a hell of a lot stronger and fast than he is.


“Buh-bye,” the kid waves.

As the kid closes the door, Tony charges again. He isn’t fast enough and he slams right into the unyielding wood. Tony’s shaking with rage as he starts beating and kicking at the door. “Open up you little fucker! Open up! Face me like a man, you fuckwit.”

“Go’way!” a muffled voice yells through the door.

Tony beats harder on the door.

“Dailin’ 911!” the muffled voice announces. “So jus’ keep on bangin’! I gotchyer bangin’ righ’ here.”

O noes! Xander is changing the usual script in the Tony-Xander dynamic by threatening Tony.



Tony backs off. The last thing he needs is a scene. He definitely doesn’t want the police involved. He throws a final punch at the door and yells when his knuckles feel the pain of contact. Tony makes good his escape after that, cradling his injured hand as he double-times his way down the stairs, past the old broad who’s now glaring daggers at him, and out the door to his car.

This time Tony’s the one who’s forced to retreat. He’s been forced, albeit it temporarily, into Xander’s role as both supplicant (he wants his money) and as the party who’s forced to back off. Sadly, this happens because Xander has completely occupied Tony’s role as the drunken bully-boy through the whole scene.



After he gets in the car and locks all the doors, it takes Tony a good ten minutes before he feels steady enough to drive. The kid probably did Anya a favor by taking off. Even if he isn’t a fag and she isn’t into screwing the dead, the kid is obviously a violent drunk. God knows what Anya had to put up with. In fact, Tony’s now surprised that Anya didn’t leave the kid instead of the other way around.

Glass houses, Tony. Easy to see the sliver in Xander’s eye, but you fail to feel the beam shoved right up your ass.


Jesus. He needs a drink to steady his nerves before he gets home. He’s not sure what’s going to piss Jessica off more: the fact he tried to get her precious baby to pay for his mistake or the fact that the kid refused to pay.

***

Tony’s riding the blurry edge between buzzed and drunk as he considers his situation. The earthquake didn’t just take his home and everything he owned, it also managed to suck down a town’s worth of memories and a good chunk of his destroyed life.

Welcome to the immediate aftermath of S7’s ‘Chosen’ and the point in this story where I move from having to at least try to follow canon into the realm of pure speculation about what happens next.



Tony drinks the dregs from his beer can. True, most of the memories weren’t good ones, but that’s hardly the point. Not that he can figure out what the point is.

Jessica pulls a beer from the case and Tony snarls at her. Jessica shoots him a glare and defiantly pops the can open.

“Slow down,” Tony says with exaggerated care. “We gotta make this last. We don’t wanna be buying a case a day. Gotta make the emergency money last.”

“It’s just a beer,” Jessica pouts.

“You’ve had four already,” Tony points out.

“Yeah?” Jessica sneers. “Well you’ve had six.”

Tony sighs. Jessica is an idiot when it comes to finances, as evidenced by the fact that she always spends more money than they have in the budget. Since appealing to frugality is out, Tony decides to employ logic. “I earned the money to buy the beer, I’m bigger than you, so I should get more beer.”

Drunk logic is the best logic. Provided, of course, you’re not the one who’s the beneficiary of such logic.


Jessica opens her mouth, but whatever she’s about to say is interrupted by a knock on the door. The two of them freeze and exchange looks. Without so much as a word, Jessica shoves what’s left of the case under the bed while Tony gathers up the empties and throws them in a wastebasket under the desk. They’ve already had to endure sermons from some folks in the Salvation Army and other assorted holy-rollers bearing emergency care packages. True, it may be some Red Cross worker who doesn’t give a shit, but then again neither he nor Jessica needs some Christian soldier lecturing them about the evils of demon rum.

“Coming!” Jessica yells. “Hold on for one minute!”

She opens the door and with a cry throws herself at the person on the other side.

Ahhhh, shit. It’s the kid,
Tony sourly thinks. This is positively the last thing he needs right now. He knew Jessica was worried about the kid, but Tony had a feeling they’d see him again. The kid has always turned up in his life at the worst possible time and there is no worse time than when the old hometown gets swallowed by an earthquake. Frankly, the fact that the kid showed up right at this very moment makes perfect, logical sense. Hell, Tony is almost willing to bet that the kid is somehow involved with his and Jessica’s predicament.

Jessica may have worried, but once more she follows Tony’s lead and crawls into a bottle instead of trying to find out if Xander survived Sunnydale’s collapse.

The ultimate irony in this paragraph is that Xander is at least partially responsible for Tony’s and Jessica’s current predicament. He was involved up to his eyeballs in that fight over the Hellmouth.



Tony fishes the case from under the bed as he quickly tries to come up for reasons why the kid should just leave them in peace. He’s willing to bet the kid’s about to hit them up for a loan to help him back on his feet or some such bullshit. Well, the kid can just forget it. He doesn’t care what Jessica says. After that little fiasco last year, Tony ain’t giving the kid squat. The problem is Jessica might disagree and he really doesn’t need that kind of fight right now.

As the kid carefully disentangles himself from Jessica, Tony realizes that he’s sporting an eye patch.

“Can I come in?” the kid says.

I feel bad for Xander here. He’s trying to reach out and make peace with his parents. He’s about to get smacked down pretty hard for making the attempt
.


Before Tony can answer that, Jessica clutches the kid’s arm and escorts him to one of the hotel chairs. The kid looks around him and there seems to be a trace of distaste on his lips.

“Well, someone sure as hell looks like they don’t want to be here,” Tony remarks as he fishes a can out of the box.

The kid ignores him. “Sorry that it took me almost two weeks to get here. I was looking to see if you got out alive, but it turns out I was looking at the wrong list.”

“What happened to your eye?” Jessica reaches out to caress the kid’s face.

The kid shies away from her touch. “Injured it. On the way out of town. It’s nothing. I just have to keep it covered.”

Xander’s getting off to a bad start. He’s already falling back into his habit of lying to his parents about what’s really happening in his life. Lying about something that’s so blindingly obvious and relatively minor is not exactly something you want to do if you’re trying to make a last, desperate connection to your estranged parents.


“You look like a pirate,” Tony comments as he pops the can. “All you need is the frigging parrot and the puffy shirt and you’ll be all set for all the kids’ birthday parties.”

“That beer can’t be helping you,” the kid says.

“Didn’t ask you,” Tony responds with a surly air.

“Please, not right now,” Jessica says. Tony’s not sure if she’s talking to him or the kid.

“I ain’t lending you money. We got our own problems,” Tony declares.

Aaaaaand like clockwork Tony and Jessica fall right into line and start repeating their bad habits.


“I’m…I’m not…” The kid gives his head a hard shake. “I just wanted to see if you were okay.”

Tony snorts. Even Jessica doesn’t look like she believes the kid.

The kid is clearly uncomfortable with the resounding vote of no confidence. “I’m actually okay. Financially, I mean. Ahn…a friend put a huge cash deposit in my savings account a few weeks ago, which I didn’t know about until three days ago. So, I’m good to go for awhile.”

“Well, fer once yer not crying poverty,” Tony mumbles into his beer.

The kid’s visible eye blinks at him. “Outside of when I lived in the basement, I don’t remember ever crying—”

“Oh, please,” Tony laughs. “Every time your mother and I turned around you were there with a hand out. Wouldn’t even reimburse us for the wedding.”

The kid winces.

“Hell, you told me you were dead broke when I presented you with the bill after you ran away from your responsibilities,” Tony says.

“That is true,” Jessica agrees.

Tony feels like the ground has shifted. Jessica taking his side? He thought it would never happen while he drew breath.

Except for all the other times that Jessica ultimately follows Tony’s lead, like in the case of the deal that let Xander move back home. Tony’s got quite the persecution complex.


The kid looks confused. “I don’t remember this. When did you present me with a bill? I’m pretty sure I would’ve at least paid something if I—”

I wanted to show that, yeah, Xander did abdicate on his responsibility to pay his parents back for the failed wedding and that he is aware that he did that. At the same time, I also wanted to show that if Tony had caught Xander after he sobered up and confronted him, Xander most likely would have paid up.

 

“You informed me that your ex, the one who likes to screw the dead, cleaned out the bank accounts,” Tony says.

The kid chokes a bit on that before a sickly grin takes over. “Why don’t I remember having this conversation? Because if I said that to you, I’m pretty sure I would’ve remembered.”

“Don’t make excuses,” Tony spits. “You were piss-drunk and going on and on how you didn’t have time to listen to me. Well, I had a legitimate—”

“That explains it,” the kid softly interrupts. He at least has the decency to look ashamed. “I said a lot of crazy stuff at the time since I was living in a bottle. A lot of things that happened right after…right after…well, they’re pretty much fuzzy or blank.”

Those drunken blackouts are a real bitch, especially when they come back and bite you in the ass in a nerve-wracking way and under difficult circumstances.



Tony can feel his eyes roll. Once more the kid’s avoiding responsibility, just like he always does.

“I said a lot of bad things about Ahn…Ahn…sorry,” the kid swallows hard. “Anya didn’t make it out. A mutual fr— I mean someone we both know saw her get killed at the high school.”

“You two still talked? Despite everything?” Jessica asks.

The kid blinks dumbly at her and does that hard swallow again. “Unh, yeah.”

The idea of the kid and Anya even being in the same room after the fucked-up affair makes Tony giggle.

I did this deliberately to repeat the earlier Jesse scenario. Once more Xander confesses that someone close to him is gone from his life for good, and once more Tony reacts in a totally inappropriate manner.
 

The kid shoots him a glare. “Thing is we both said a lot of brutal things to and about each other after…after…” The kid shakes his head. “But accusing Ahn…I mean…accusing her of having sex with the undead? I mean, dead? That’s a new one on me.” The kid nervously taps on the table. “Plus, she had her own checking account and she didn’t touch mine, so I don’t know where I got she cleaned out the bank accounts.”

“Oh, I just bet I can guess,” Tony snarls. “You didn’t want to pay.”

“You did leave us in a bind,” Jessica softly adds.

Tony blinks. Jessica is taking his side again.

“And I’m here to fix that,” the kid says as he starts fishing around his pants pockets. “I, unh, have some temporary checks from my bank. And since I don’t think you take Visa or MasterCard, I’ll just write one for what I owe you.”

The disappointed look on the kid’s face as he finally finds his checkbook and asks Jessica for the total is enough to make Tony roll his eyes for the second time in as many minutes. He wonders what the hell the kid expected between his series of screw-ups last year and the fact that the kid didn’t even bother to contact them until now.

Right about here, I wanted to show that Xander’s beginning to clue in that his mission to reconnect with his parents is futile.

Xander honestly is making an effort, and he’s getting static about owing his parents money for the wedding. At the same time, Tony has a damn good point. Xander’s avoided contact with his parents since he fled the altar, so of course they’re just a little bit upset and suspicious about Xander’s reasons for showing up out of the blue.

The issue I wanted to present is that Xander is at least making the effort, or at least felt obligated to make sure his parents were alive and to physically check on them once he found out that they survived. His parents, by contrast, crawled into the bottle and didn’t even bother trying to find out if Xander got out of Sunnydale alive.

This was also meant to be an echo of when Xander shows up out of the blue again later on in the story, although in that later instance a suspicious Tony is right to believe that Xander showed up with an agenda of his own and not out of any altruistic or familial feeling.



The kid rips the check off and silently hands it to Jessica.

“But…this…this is too much!” Jessica declares.

“I threw some extra in. To help you get back on your feet,” the kid says.

“We don’t need your charity,” Tony growls.

“Thank you,” Jessica says as she clutches the check to her chest.

“Just make sure you show ID when you cash it. I included my cell phone number on the memo line in case you have any problems,” the kid says. “Oh, that reminds me. Make sure you cash it as fast as possible. I’m, unh, going to be leaving California in a few days.”

Tony’s eyebrows rise in surprise at the news.

“Where are you going?” Jessica asks.

“I got a job from one of my Sunnydale contacts. It’s a pretty good one and one I definitely think is out of my league, but it seems everyone in the company thinks I can really make a contribution,” the kid says.

Figures the kid would roll right out the shit and land in a field of flowers. Tony swears the kid steals all his good luck away and uses it for himself.

Let’s see. Xander not only has enough money to pay off his monetary debt to his parents, he already has a job lined up. No wonder why Tony believes that Xander’s “lucky.” It also is a call-back to Tony’s belief that Xander’s his personal black cat that sucks up all of Tony’s luck and uses it for himself.

It’s also a repeat of the red herring that when Xander’s around, Tony’s life is firmly in the suck.



“That doesn’t exactly answer my question,” Jessica says as she looks at the check again. Tony wonders if Jessica is considering running off with her precious baby and leaving him to rot in this hotel room. Good riddance to bad rubbish if that’s the case.

“I know we’re going to Cleveland first, but I don’t know from there,” the kid says. “Since I’m getting in on the ground floor of this company—”

“Oooooo, key words. ‘Ground floor,’” Tony chuckles. “Figures. In two years they’ll toss you out on your ass the second they get someone more qualified or with an actual college degree. Or it’ll go bankrupt. Been there, done that.”

The kid’s body posture stiffens, but Tony swears he can see a flash of something resembling doubt cross the kid’s face.

Tony’s an expert at playing on Xander’s insecurities. Nothing like reminding Xander of “his place” in Tony’s world, which is somewhere at the bottom of the food chain. It’s also a way to show that, despite everything, Tony can still get under Xander’s skin in a way no one else can.


“Somehow I don’t think either one will happen,” the kid finally says.

“You tryin’ to tell me, or are you tryin’ to tell you,” Tony snickers. Whatever the kid’s heading into, it’s pretty clear the kid knows he’s woefully under-qualified for the job.

Yet another fine example of the famous Harris powers of observation and how it can be used as a weapon.


“Anyway, I pretty much have my choice of assignments,” the kid tells Jessica. “I’m kind of torn between southeast Asia, Africa, or the Pacific Rim.”

“You’ll blend right in with the chinks, spear-chuckers, and the cannibals,” Tony waves his nearly empty beer at the kid. “You’re the whitest white boy on the planet. You won’t last a day.”

Yet another taste of Tony’s casual racism.


“Wow. You’ve managed to insult a good portion of the earth’s population as well as get a dig in at me. That’s got to be a record,” the kid says tightly.

“Watch your tone with me,” Tony snaps.

The kid shakes his head and looks away.

Once more, Tony and Xander repeat the pattern. Tony says something hurtful. Xander protests. Tony threatens. Xander backs down. They’re still locked in this cycle.


“But…but those places are dangerous!” Jessica wails as the kid’s itinerary finally sinks through to her alcohol-addled brain.

“Not if you know what you’re doing,” the kid assures her.

“Oh, and Mr. D-Average knows what he’s doing,” Tony says.

“Look, they’re all places I never even thought of going to because I never thought I’d get the chance to go. Well, now I have the chance to go and I want to go because I can go,” the words come spilling out of the kid and his face lights up so bright, bright, bright that Tony wants to fling his beer in the kid’s face. “It’s something so completely different than, well, anything I’ve ever had or seen and I just…I need to do this. I need to just break away awhile and see what I can do when I’m out there on my own in an unfamiliar part of the world. I’ll never get a chance like this again.”

Here’s my second repeat of the “bright, bright, bright,” this time to show Xander’s happiness that there’s still a place for him in a post-‘Chosen’ world. And just like the first time this phrase was stated to show Xander’s happiness, Tony has the urge to do something violent to make it go away.


“You sound like a woman.” Tony falls over laughing. “If you start talking about how this is your big chance to find yourself, I will puke.”

The kid opens his mouth, but Jessica interrupts with, “You do sound like Carol ever since she started dating Kevin.”

Jessica agreeing with him three times in one conversation? Tony just doesn’t know what to make of it.

The kid mouths “Kevin?” as if he’s trying place the name. He brightens. “You mean Krelvin? No kidding! Good for her.” His face darkens. “Did she get—”

“She moved to La Jolla a few months ago.” Jessica pats the kid’s knee. “I just don’t know. Since she’s moved in with Kevin—”

“Krelvin,” the kid corrects.

Heh. I enjoyed writing how Xander keeps trying to correct his parents about the identity of Carol’s significant other, and how his parents keep insisting on normalizing Krelvin’s name to Kevin despite his best efforts.


“She’s gone on this diet, and she’s gone back to school, and she’s getting involved with his circus life.” Jessica shakes her head. “I just don’t know her anymore. I worry about her daughter.”

“As long as they’re happy,” the kid says.

“She’s being brainwashed by the circus folk and I blame you,” Tony says. “If it wasn’t for you, she wouldn’t have hooked up with wart-face and think she won the lottery.”

The kid glances at his watch. “Oh, gee. Look at the time. I have to head back. I’m staying just up the road, but I have a…ummm…thing. Meeting thing. With my new boss. To plan. And plot. And stuff.”

This is the point where Xander finally gives up on his parents.


“Will we be able to reach you?” Jessica plaintively asks.

The kid wavers a moment, as if he’s actually considering not turning over the contact information. Tony finds himself fervently hoping the kid won’t.

Jessica’s little-girl-lost look wins out and the kid tears a piece of scrap paper from the back of his checks. “I don’t know where I’ll be, like I said, but you have to reach me for any reason or…or if you want to tell me where you end up, call this number.”

Jessica takes it and frowns. “These numbers don’t look right.”

“Oh. That’s because it’s to the cov— I mean, contractors who work with my company. They’re in England,” the kid explains.

“Not exactly a cheap call,” Tony remarks.

“They’ll be able to find me if you need me, or at least they’ll be able to find people who can find me,” the kid says as he stands up. “I’m sorry I can’t do anything more, but—”

“No you’re not,” Tony interrupts. He gets some mean satisfaction when the kid betrays himself by wincing.

I’m not entirely sure why Xander reacts the way he does here. Tony either hit the bull’s-eye and Xander’s reaction is one of guilt, or Xander honestly does wish he could do more and Tony’s barb stings because Tony doesn’t believe him. I’m actually kind of torn between the two motivations.


“We’ll be fine. Now,” Jessica says as she clutches the check.

The kid’s eye scans the motel room, resting briefly on Tony and Jessica. “Is there anything else? Anything you want to say to me?” His voice sounds so tired as he asks.

“Bon voyage,” Tony waves as he reaches into the case for another beer. “Try not to get VD when you screw the locals. Those people aren’t big on the cleanliness.”

The kid looks vaguely horrified, like the thought hadn’t occurred to him.

“No, I think everything’s settled,” Jessica says as she holds the kid’s contact number up and studies it.

“I guess that’s it then.” The kid ducks his head. “Good luck and, unh,” he huffs a breath, “good-bye, I guess.”

This exchange is the nail in the coffin, so to speak. Xander not only didn’t get whatever he was looking for, he’s also forgotten what it is he expected from his parents in the first place. Xander’s reaction is one of “I should’ve known better.” The sad thing is that his parents completely miss it because they scored a “victory” in getting Xander to pay off his legitimate monetary debt.


Continued in DVD Commentary: Cuckoo In the Nest, Part 4.
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