I just want everyone to know: It's a hoot to see everyone share their shameful Buffy loves. You've got me giggling and nodding along. We all have some sekrit shames. YAY!
This one will probably have you looking at me a little weird, because "The Replacement" is actually a well-liked episode. But a guilty pleasure is kind of a personal thing. "The Replacement" is a guilty pleasure for me because I actually don't like it as much as many people do. You might say I like it despite itself.
See, I loved this episode when the show was called Red Dwarf and the episode was called "Confidence and Paranoia." "The Replacement," while good, is a very pale immitation of true comedic genius.
ETA: To see a 10-minute clip from Confidence and Paranoia, check out this post.
So, for now, I'll just have to give you a taste with this little earworm from YouTube. It's a little number called Tongue Tied:
I blame janedavitt for planting this earworm in me earlier today and I also thank her for pointing me to software that let me rip "Confidence and Paranoia."
Anyway, on to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode
S5: The Replacement
I hate to say it, but the second I saw rubber-Xander waking up in the dump, I immediately figured out that it was more a case of Lister's Mutated Germs and less a case of Good!Kirk and Bad!Kirk. In fact, whenever they focused on Confident Xander, I would yell at the television screen in my best Rimmer voice, "Where's Paranoia?"
I so wanted Confident Xander to declare somewhere near the end, "Oxygen is for losers!" It would've made the whole episode for me.
As a result, I had and still have a hard time dealing with the episode on its own merits, despite the fact that everyone is on their comedic game.
NB in his dual role (with help from his not-exactly-identical twin Kelly) acquited himself pretty well. He pulled off Paranoia Xander to a T — which is not surprising since up until S6 he did play the "funny one" in the Scooby gang. What I had a hard time dealing with is that Paranoia Xander acted so much like an anime cartoon for so much of the episode that when the pathos started coming in, I had a pretty difficult time actually buying it.
NB was was also proficient at playing Confident Xander with a touch of creepy, obviously so the audience would either think he was Toth or that Xander had been split into good and evil. Well, it sort of worked, but I don't think in the way it was intented. Confident Xander apparantly doesn't have much of humor, and what there is of it is kind of on the mean side. That, more than anything, is what what creeped me out about him.
What's also interesting (to me) about this episode is that there's a lot in here that's actually very sad, but you wouldn't know it if you didn't have the character of Riley reacting to or commenting on it. MB actually pulls off a subtle job for most of the episode, until his closing confession to Xander which sounded like he was reading off cue cards. For example, in the opening scene in the basement when Xander's parents come home and have a drunken fight, Xander covers up with bitter jokes, Anya looks uncomfortable, and Buffy is engrossed in the kung fu movie. Only Riley keeps looking up and then at Xander with this expression of both horror and sympathy, like he has no idea what to do. Then later when he's with the gang while Xander scouts apartments, Riley is being a buddy and joking around.
I still like Spike in this episode while he struggles with his crush on Buffy by setting up and beating up a blonde mannequin. Ahhh, Spike. Back when you still had your balls and were bad. I miss you, man.
Even Willow is not-annoying and, in fact, raises yet another red flag of Xander-and-Anya-are-doomed by pointing out that Paranoia Xander had just spent the day watching Confident Xander take away his life and doesn't even think of Anya (in fact, she's the last thing Paranoia Xander worries about) until after dark. Worse, the first words out of Xander's mouth isn't that he loves her, but that he "needs" her. I hate to say it, but I'm on Willow's side here.
However, I have to say the Scooby scenes are great and full of banter. Riley gets in a few really good lines and pulls them off well enough that he made me laugh at least three times in the episode. Buffy is at her healthiest and Slayer best, even though the fight scenes can't hold a candle to earlier seasons. We get a brief glimpse of how Xander and Willow used to be best friends. And Xander gets an apartment that I'd take in a heartbeat.
The disappointments: MB's ability to play serious or pathos falls flat when compared to his better skills at either playing the straight man or coming out with the witty bon mot. Once more, we have evidence that Buffy's boyfriends have better chemistry with her friends than with her. And finally, this is the episode that pretty much convinced me that while NB can do comedy, he needs to be put on a pretty tight leash to keep him from stepping a little bit too much into cartoonville. IMHO, he's better with the quick line when he's grounded in drama. Hell, he's better at drama, period.
The Interesting: Is it me? Or does Confident Xander actually have some of Xander's worst traits? His tendency toward being controlling was definitely brought to the fore in this version. I also thought he was slightly condescending when he dealt with other people, which is generally not a Xander trait.
The Hunh: This is the episode that does mark a slight change in Xander's characterization, too. In seasons 1 through 4, he was more "pop culture sponge" who could pretty much regurgitate everything from Freud to movie lines at a moment's notice. In this episode, Xander is subtly turned into SciFi geek with the comic book collection (beievable) and the Babylon 5 commemorative plates (not so much, especially since such plates did not and do not exist).
However, the biggest problem of all I had with this episode, like I said above, was that I never for a second thought that Confident Xander was Toth (which is what the characters thought, but I don't think the audience bought it even when the episode was in the middle of airing) nor did I think for one second that Confident Xander was Evil Xander. I'm not sure if it's because something Red Dwarf-y about the whole set-up pinged off my skull almost from the start. I'm just kind of curious what you thought at the time, since I wasn't all that involved in the online portion of Buffy fandom yet beyond the Televison Without Pity (then called Mighty Big TV) recaps.
And now it's time to play...spot the plot hole!
So, Xander's been at his construction job for three months. He's pretty sure he's going to get laid off, but instead he's offered a permanent position. That's fine as far as that goes. However, we are told in the episode that his employers figured out that he had lied on his resume. In the real world, especially a job like construction where there's potential safety issues, it's not very likely that day laborer Xander would be offered a full-time position. Worse, in the episode he's offered a position of straw boss for the interior carpentry crew, despite the fact that his experience in construction is limited and he lied on his resume.
Say it with me, "Bwuh?"
The ME writers apparently know as much about the building trades as they do the military. There's a training, licensing, and insurance track that needs to be followed. They've also never worked in a union shop. Someone like Xander who is so new to the trades would never be promoted over someone who'd been there longer. Can you say union grievance, boys and girls? And know what? The union would be right here.
The only way this could possibly be fanwanked is if Xander was preternaturally good at carpentry (possible), if Xander kept outliving all the other viable candidates (this is Sunnydale, so possible), if the construction company was hiring him for that position because he was cheaper than someone with more experience (less likely, but still possible), and if he wasn't working in a union shop (not at all possible, especially since Xander mentions the union on his worksite in S6).
I'll be over here in the corner. Grinding my teeth.
And what have we learned from today's episode? There are better ways to play with yourself.
What, you don't think I'm done with these, right? Because this is actually a lot of fun.