The characterization for Xander has been really off this year. I don't know if it's intentional, but the writers have constantly struggled between making him the lovable, nerdy humor monkey, and the calculating, immature asshole. It's difficult to like him, at least for me personally. The Zeppo is an interesting episode, told almost entirely from his perspective and interested in exploring how he sees himself and how others treat him. There are obviously a ton of funny moments, but in general it's not one of my favorites. The fact that I'm not a Xander fan is one of the problems, but even on its own merits the episode isn't exactly a masterpiece.
Xander's road to some kind of inner peace is enjoyable to watch. He starts off desperately trying to be 'cool', with the rented car and the brief dating with a auto-obsessed nightmare. But it's the unexpected events that occur that help him become, in want of a better word, a 'man'. He runs into Faith and immediately loses his virginity before being casually tossed out right after the event. He again runs into the school bully who just so happens to be a zombie about to raise his fellow cronies from the dead. There's also some hoodoo about a bomb in the school, and Xander has to save the day. It's an interesting character arc, one that's frequently silly but most of the time a lot of the fun. There are some great moments, like Xander picking up donuts and his various attempts to be kick-ass (the punnery, the interrupted interrogation).
But the pace is really slow, the plot too thin to really sustain a whole hour. It also bugged that Cordelia has been reduced to basically floating around being mean to people. Meh. Parts are a lot of fun, but mostly the story drags.
The subplot is suitably vague and hollow, which is perfect for the ambition the script has. The fun part is that this apocalypse just isn't important. The bad guys are flat, the worry of the Scoobies hilariously knowing. There's even a melodramatic Buffy and Angel shriek-fest that is enjoyably interrupted by a visiting Xander.
Maybe I'm a little harsh on this, but I didn't love it, even though I admire the episode's ambition and some of the individual moments. Maybe I just don't like Xander, and I'm projecting. Meh. It's fine. C+
Guest stars Saverio Guerra (Willy); Channon Roe (Jack O'Toole); Michael Cudlitz (Bob); Eliza Dushku (Faith)
Writer Dan Vebber Director James Whitmore Jr.