Cordelia is throwing a party. Wesley is stuffing his face and dancing, bizarrely and badly. Angel is standing around looking unhappy. He doesn't know anyone there. Wesley comes over and suggests they chat up some of the girls. A very pretty girl comes over and talks to Wesley, but he fumbles and bumbles and drives her away. Later, a girl is talking to Angel and asks him to dance. He has a mental of image of himself dancing even more bizarrely than Wesley and turns her down. He walks into the other room where ghost Dennis keeps him company.
A man, drinking beer, is in a room with a bunch of ice covered crates. One of them starts making noise and shaking. He breaks it open and we see his face astounded by the contents. The next morning, Cordelia has ordered unground coffee beans for the office and tries to get Angel to grind them by mushing the bag with his vampire strength. She also points out how boring he was at the party. He says he talked to Laura (presumably the girl he wouldn't dance with) and Cordelia says Laura thought he hated her. He says he has two modes with people, bite and avoid. He asks if his approach doesn't make him cool. Wesley enters and Cordelia says he was cooler than Angel. This really depresses Angel. Angel realizes Wesley is broke and offers him a job. Wesley is thrilled to accept. Cordelia has a vision, seeing the man who broke in to the crate being burnt. She sends them to the ice factory to find the dead man.
In the factory, Angel finds the body and the crates empty of everything except ice. He takes the man's business card from his wallet. He also finds Tay, a stranger from another dimension who claims he has come in pursuit of the being that killed the man. He says it is the bringer of chaos and warns Angel to stay away. Angel sketches Tay and gives the sketch to Wesley to research. Cordelia looks for similar deaths by incineration. And Angel goes to the victim's office, it turns out he was in private security. As he goes through the desk, a strange looking woman comes in and attacks him, shooting a bolt of heat energy at him. She claims he's working for the people who hunt her. He thinks she killed the man. She knocks him down, but then her cell phone rings. She leaves and drives off. Angel follows her.
In his car, he tries to call the office on his cell phone. First he misdials. Then the battery is low. He plugs it in to the car but reception is poor as he tries to talk to Cordelia. She tells him they have found four other cases of similar deaths. He describes the woman (facial ridges, violet eyes, and good looking for a demon). But it is hard to speak over the phone and he hangs up in disgust. The woman stops at an art gallery and enters. She tells the guard Angel is following her and describes him as a man in a black coat. The guards start looking for him and he removes his coat. He sees her enter a room, but a group of guards approach him and he pretends to be a tour guide, talking about a work by Manet. She goes into a back room where restorations are done. Angel points out an image of Baudelaire in the painting and quotes from his story Le Vampyr. It's implied that he actually knew the poet.
Wesley finds the information on the other dimension travellers, identifying them as the Vigories of Oden Tal. He says that is the name of the men and that the women live enslaved to them. He also says they are herbivores eating a stew made from rotting plants and must consume half their body weight per day. So they start looking for the biggest compost heap in town. Meanwhile, Angel finds the woman and tries to question her. She realizes he is a vampire. A dimensional portal opens and another woman comes through it. Then the vigories arrive and Angel and the first woman fight them. They refer to both women as it. They get away with the second woman. They take her to their hideout and talk about restoring her while the other woman tells Angel she will be unmade. She has these ridges on her spine, and they cut them off.
Angel has brought the woman to his place. She explains that the women of her world, when they come of age, have those ridges, called the Ko, cut off. The ridges are where their personality resides. By cutting them off, they are made subservient and easily controlled. The ridges are the centre of passion and also reveal when they are aroused. She says she is Jhiera, a member of the family which rules the dimension. Back home, they claim she is dead. But girls come to her to be saved. When they first mature, they cannot control the Ko and they arrive in a fevered state, hence the ice. Jhiera says that some men are overwhelmed by the Ko and try to force themselves on the women. Hence, the incinerated victims. As she talks to Angel, her Ko starts glowing brightly and she is clearly attracted to him. He says he will help her, but she mustn't hurt any of his people. She says she doesn't need his help. She leaves, but not before touching him and making clear the heat of her passion.
Cordelia and Wesley are at a flower depot where they find the vigories. They spy on them and learn that they are returning the mutilated girl to their dimension and they want to capture Jhiera. Jhiera is at Palm Ridge spa, where her girls are kept on ice. She has a human helping her. She says they must move, but the girls still cannot control their Ko. He suggests going to his shaman who lives in the desert. She agrees saying they will move the next day. Wesley tries to call Angel, but he isn't answering his cell phone. They overhear the vigories discovering the location of Jhiera's hideout, the spa, by tracing the ice shipments. They return to Angel's to discover him just out of the shower. He realizes that a paper he picked up at the security guard's office has the address of Jhiera's hideaway. They go there.
Angel tells Jhiera the vigories are coming. Wesley and Cordelia help get the girls out and into crates in a waiting vehicle. The vigories arrive and Angel and Jhiera fight them. Wesley is strongly attracted to the girls, but Cordelia manages to get them packed away and stop Wesley from getting incinerated. They go back to help in the fight, but both are caught and Tay threatens to kill them if Jhiera doesn't surrender herself and the girls. She refuses and walks out. Cordelia and Wesley break free and overcome their captors. But Jhiera is taken by the vigories outside. They are going to cut off her Ko, but Angel saves her. She escapes with the girls. Angel tells the vigories he doesn't want them fighting their war on his turf and reveals that he isn't human.
Angel, desperate for coffee, tries mushing the bag. But he only spills beans all over the floor. Wesley and Cordelia come in and Wesley slips and falls because of the beans. Wesley grovels, fearing Angel will fire him because he was taken hostage in the fight. But Angel doesn't and Cordelia observes he has made groveling an art form. Jhiera comes in. She tells them the girls are safe. Angel says that if she harms or endangers humans, he will do what he has to. She leaves, her Ko glowing bright and Angel seeing it.
I have to admit, I came to this episode with very low expectations. And they were not exceeded. What was the point of this episode? What makes Angel an interesting character is the curse and his unfulfilled and unfulfillable love for Buffy. Now we've got him involved with Kate and getting hot (literally and figuratively) over Jhiera. This is just too much, especially since Jhiera is rumoured to be another recurring character.
There was one interesting idea here and it was the analogy between the Ko and chakra, basically the Ko is the chakra metaphor made flesh. And that's the basis of good science fiction/fantasy. But virtually nothing was done with it here. We didn't get much insight into why the vigories mutilated their females this way or how Jhiera managed to escape. Yes, it does make the women easier to deal with and you can see an analogy to certain religious practices - and if that analogy offends you please write to your local station not me. Social methods of restraining female sexuality are pretty popular topics for discussion in anthropology/sociology courses. But while all the material is there, I don't think this episode did anything with it.
Meanwhile, there was a lot of bad stuff here. The opening party scene added nothing to the episode. And while Wesley may very well be a bad dancer and rather pathetic at talking to women, I expect a lot more from Angel. This really wasn't in character for him, though it was funny. And the bumbling and fumbling of Wesley through this episode - at the party, loading the girls in to the truck, groveling before Angel - were just too much. A little of Wesley goes a long way. Having so many scenes where he is obviously incompetent undermines those scenes where he is supposed to be efficient. For example, when he beats up the vigorie at the spa. How can I believe someone portrayed as so incompetent could do this and that Angel would actually leave him alone while rushing out to save Jhiera - who has a far better chance of taking care of herself.
I liked the scene in the art gallery. But why did Angel know he should take off his coat? And was that enough of a disguise to throw the guards off his scent? Plus, I really don't want Angel turning into another Forever Knight, where the hero is constantly encountering reminders of his past and was linked to every famous person and event in history. The connection to Manet and Baudelaire was fun, but let's hope it doesn't recur.
Some quick final thoughts. Where does Cordelia make all these friends? Between work and auditions and the occasional kidnapping or demonic impregnation, I just don't see her having a lot of spare time to get out and meet people. I did enjoy Angel's problems with the cell phone. I took this as a joke at the expense of the X-Files, a show where cell phones work perfectly all the time. How does Jhiera recognize Angel as a vampire. It's not like they are that common. Finally, I loved the closing credits with Angel dancing up a storm. Almost made the episode for me.
Lines of the week:
"Actually, in Hell, you tend to know a lot of the people." - Angel on the difference between Hell and Cordelia's party.
"Gypsies have a strange sense of humor." - Angel on the oddness of his curse.
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