Wesley and Angel are trapped. They can't get out the front because they'd be spotted. The back exit is blocked. Wesley suggests they yell fire. The camera pulls back to reveal they are in a sparsely peopled theatre. Cordelia is in a play and she is awful. She can't remember her lines. Wesley says it will only be another hour or two. Angel says he thought he knew eternity. Walking from the theatre, they try to be nice to Cordelia without lying. She spots Oliver Simon, the agent who gave Angel his card in City of. He's with Rebecca Lowell who played Raven in a hit tv series. Angel spots a car coming at Rebecca and knocks her to safety and is hit by the car himself. Oliver tries to offer him a reward but he refuses. Rebecca realizes he doesn't even know who she is. Entertainment Tonight shows up. Angel disappears, but Cordelia gives Rebecca his card.
The next morning, Cordelia is thrilled that her elbow is visible in the picture of Rebecca in the paper. But the story doesn't mention Angel. Cordelia says they need to take advantage of the publicity (before Rebecca who hasn't had a series in a season and a half is completely forgotten) and that if he's seen as protector to the stars, they'll be lining up at his door. Rebecca is at the door and has heard this. She talks to Angel alone. She invites him to her place, saying she'll show him an episode of her show, none of which Angel has seen. She shows him a letter from a stalker, apparently written in blood. Angel says it isn't blood. She says he has her private phone number. She won't go to the police, because then the tabloids will have the story. She's up for a new series and wants peace of mind. She wants to hire him. He tells her he ran the plates of the car that almost ran her over, it was stolen. He gives her the information and says he can't take her case. Cordelia, listening in, shouts "are you insane" and then pretends she's just sneezing. Later, Cordelia is incensed at Angel for refusing the case which she sees as her opportunity to make a connection with someone important in the industry. Wesley realizes Angel turned down the case because he likes Rebecca and fears getting close because of his curse. Cordelia says that just knowing a star makes your life better and she would give anything to be Rebecca.
Rebecca is getting a beauty treatment, a painful looking one. The person working on her is telling her about a medical procedure to suck the fat out of her face. She gives a party that night. After the party is over, Angel comes crashing through her window. He rushes at a masked man who was about to attack her. The man escapes and Rebecca sees that Angel has no reflection. Her bodyguards arrive and he vanishes. She assures Oliver she just wants to be alone that night. She calls to Angel, who she realizes is still hiding in the house. She has put things together - the dark office, knowing the letter wasn't written in blood, no reflection - and concluded Angel is a vampire. She's not scared. She asks him to stay.
The next morning, Wesley tells Cordelia Angel has taken the case, was always watching Rebecca despite what he said at first. He wants them to follow up with the car. Cordelia is afraid he might have turned into Angelus again. Wesley doesn't think Angel will find true happiness with an actress. Cordelia goes to Rebecca's, with a cross and coffees. But Rebecca was up before dawn working out and has gone to a lunch. Angel tells her she knows he is a vampire. Cordelia wants to know if she'll set her up with her manager. At lunch, Oliver tells Rebecca she has to read for the part she is up for. Working out again, she complains to Angel about having to read and how she is turning into a nobody. He points out she is still a star in the tabloids but she says the tabloids say Ernest Borgnine is her lover and she's bulimic. She tells him she has to go to a premiere and she has a tux for him so he can come as her bodyguard.
At the premiere, there is a hoard of reporters and fans calling her Raven, the name of the character she played. She leads Angel into the alleyway. She only comes for the photo op and actually doesn't intend to stay for the film. Her stalker is there and takes a shot at her, but Angel saves her and captures him. Rebecca recognizes him. She confronts Oliver, the stalker is a stuntman he represents. Oliver admits he set it up, hoping the publicity would get her the role she wants. He says he did it out of love, she says she doesn't pay him to love her. He says she gets that for free. He admits she didn't get the part, the network thought she was too mature for the role. He says she needs some distance between herself and Raven. She says the show is in syndication and Raven will always be there, 22. He says no one stays young forever and they have to deal with that. She looks at Angel.
Wesley has the forensic report, the bullets were blanks. Angel already knows. Rebecca has asked Cordelia to lunch and shopping, she says she needs advice on getting a gift for Angel. Cordelia is thrilled at spending time with a star. That night, Rebecca visits Angel. She brings champagne as the thank you gift. She tells him she knows the stalker was fake and she didn't get the part. She spills champagne on Angel's shirt. When he goes to change, she drugs his drink. Wesley comes to Cordelia's in response to her page. She tells him that she is now suspicious of her day with Rebecca and wonders whether Rebecca wasn't trying to find out how to become a vampire so she could be eternally young and beautiful and save her career. Meanwhile, Angel seems to be a bit drunk, telling Rebecca how evil he used to be and why he has to help people now. Rebecca makes it clear she wants to become a vampire. She points out she wasn't frightened when she didn't see his reflection in the mirror. He says that was because all she sees is herself. That she thinks she wants to remain the same, but actually she wants her reflection - corrupted by time and fame - to disappear. She asks him to help her. He drags her to the refrigerator and forces her to drink from one of his blood packets. It revolts her. He's taken aback by his own cruelty and realizes she drugged him. She says she gave him a happy pill. He bites her and puts on his vampire face, saying he is perfectly happy.
Angelus tells Rebecca he's never killed a famous person before. He says he'll kill her and keep her head on a pike as evidence. He throws her to the ground. He says he'll torture her for a few hours and she can see if she likes the lifestyle. He chases her and she manages to get into the elevator. Wesley and Cordelia arrive to rescue her. She tells them about the drug and Wesley says it simulates bliss, that Angel hasn't really become evil and will change back when the drug wears off. Meanwhile, Angelus cuts the power and the phone. He comes in and insults Wesley, saying he doesn't have an inferiority complex, he's just inferior. He tosses him aside. He then starts mocking Cordelia's performance in the play, saying hell was better than sitting through that. She picks up the water on her desk and threatens him with it. She says she keeps a stake in her desk, a cross in her purse, and has the drinking water blessed. She hurls it at him, of course it really isn't holy water. But Angelus is distracted and Wesley pushes him into the elevator shaft. The fall knocks him out.
Angel wakes to find himself chained to his bed, with Wesley and Cordelia watching. They realize he is good again. Rebecca has left. Wesley says that the drugs were responsible and Angel is not to blame for what happened or what was said and that it is best not to speak of it. He tells Angel that he walks a fine line and he doesn't envy him. Angel compliments him on his moves the night before. Angel tries to apologize to Cordelia, but she tells him Wesley is right, to forget about it. He says he didn't mean what he said, but she says he did. She says Angelus was honest and she expects the same from Angel. She also says she's too big a person to hold such a petty thing against him and that they are ok. He asks if she's going to unchain him, she makes a noise and leaves. He calls to Wesley and Cordelia, but neither answers.
There was a Buffy episode in which a friend of hers, with a fatal illness, deliberately became a vampire. I could understand the temptation of immediate death versus eternal life as a soulless demon. In this episode, the temptation is of aging and finding it harder to get tv or movie roles versus eternal youth and beauty as a soulless demon. I guess this says something about the difference between the Buffy and Angel series, or maybe about the difference between Sunnydale and LA. In Buffy/Sunnydale it's life and death. In Angel/LA it's vanity and aging. I guess that's life and death in Hollywood and maybe this episode was just a metaphor for the destructive nature of the dream factory where everyone is always young and beautiful and where pictures of your even younger more beautiful self are always out there, making you feel even older and uglier than you are.
I liked the way the sadness of Rebecca's life was slowly revealed through the episode. She tells Angel that people care for her because she pays them to. The only person who really does seem to love her, Oliver, terrifies her in an effort to keep her in the headlines. Her success, a mere season and a half away, is fading into nothingness. In her 20s, she's already considered old. She's getting advice on cosmetic surgery and the need to be proactive with deterioration. She goes to premieres not to see the film, but for the photo op. Her fans call her by her character's name, knowing the character better than the person. It's no surprise that she's ready to trade her soul for eternal youth and beauty and the wealth and success it will bring her. As Angelus points out, she's already corrupted, a soulless creature living in hell. Becoming a vampire isn't much of a change for her.
I liked the way this episode started, in the theatre watching Cordelia act. I've been to plays like that, I also have friends in the theatre, and they can be excruciatingly painful. It was nice to see this normal moment with a casual and friendly interaction among the characters. Obviously, they must do things other than fight demons. It was also good to see that Cordelia really is trying to become an actress. I just hope this was a rehearsal and that she didn't actually forget her line in a real performance. I'm guessing the play was Ibsen (I see others have identified this as A Doll's House). That fits with the bit of dialogue we heard and with Cordelia's comment about the play being a century old. Choosing Ibsen works well because his plays always seem to deal with people coming to grips with mistakes they made in the past and striving, usually unsuccessfully, to set things to rights. I also liked the two good lines Angel had about the play. The first, when Cordelia asking him if he liked it, his saying that he wouldn't say he liked it if he didn't mean it. Of course, he didn't say it. The second, as evil Angelus, saying that hell was better than sitting through that performance. And this, of course, led to Cordelia's comment that if she could get honesty from Angelus, she should expect at least that much from her friend Angel. Once again, Cordelia, for all her shallowness, is the one who makes the profound point.
Honesty and dishonesty seem central to this episode. Angel and Wesley lie to Cordelia about her performance. Angel says he won't take Rebecca's case, but actually is working it. Oliver hires a fake stalker to attack Rebecca. She pretends to go to the premiere but really sneaks out the back. Oliver lies about her chance to get the part. Rebecca lies about her age. There are references to the lies in the tabloids. She's nice to Cordelia merely to get information from her. She drugs Angel. Cordelia lies about the holy water. Angel temporarily becomes Angelus because of a false happiness, not the true happiness which would permanently change him. This is a world of false images and Angel's absence of image is, in a way, refreshing. This captivates Rebecca who sees the absence of falseness as a substitute for the truth. Cordelia's point, that honesty is what is expected and required from friends, is lost on Rebecca. She wants to preserve the illusion of herself as Raven, the young 22 year old who will be eternally in syndication.
It's interesting that Rebecca is initially captivated by Angel because he has never seen her show and doesn't know who she is. She hopes that not having seen the illusion of Raven, Angel will be able to see the real Rebecca. She's searching, or at least she thinks she is, for the same honesty Cordelia wants. But when Cordelia gets the truth from Angelus, she stays. When Rebecca hears the truth from Angelus, that she's shallow and cares only for herself (and even could stand to lose some weight - all that exercise morning, noon, and night indicates a real concern there), she flees. Rebecca rejects the truth of Angelus, the concern of Angel, and the love of Oliver. Rebecca can't accept the love or care of others, because all she can feel is love for herself.
It seems that every time Angel meets a woman, he falls in love or fears falling in love. This certainly happened with Buffy (and that seems to have been love at first sight), Kate, Jhiera, and now Rebecca. Is this love or lust? In City of, Doyle told Angel that by isolating himself from human companionship, he was creating a situation where he would eventually break down and give in to his blood lust. Is Angel's isolation from female companionship leading to a similar break down, with plain ordinary lust the result? Maybe Angel should find someone he really doesn't like to have sex with. Then he could calm down some.
Some quick final thoughts. I liked the reuse of the agent. This was the fellow who wanted Angel to be an actor in the first episode of the series (and who assured him it wasn't a come on). Not only was it nice to reuse a character and create a certain continuity, it was also nice that this character was developed. He actually seemed to care about Rebecca and it was nice to see a human element injected here. Rebecca gets tossed around a lot in this episode. First when Angel shoves her out of the way of the car, again when he pushes her aside when she is being attacked in her house and later in the alley, and finally when Angelus tosses her around. She sure didn't get many bruises or cuts considering how much much punishment she took. It's interesting that Wesley has so much insight in this episode. He realizes why Angel doesn't want to take Rebecca's case and he understands the incredible pressure which Angel lives with always.
Lines of the week:"It was a seminal show. Cancelled by the idiot network." - Cordelia reciting the mantra of every fan.
"Just knowing a star makes your life better." - Cordelia actually believing it.
"You have to be proactive with deterioration." - Rebecca getting advice on cosmetic surgery.
"Frank Langella was the only performance I believed." - Angel on rating actors who played vampires.
"Do you realize how rare that is? True happiness. And what are the odds he'd find that with an actress." - Wesley scoffing at Cordelia's fears and digging himself a hole.
"Angelus may not be the most relaxing company, but at least he's honest. Shouldn't I expect the same from the not evil version of my friends?" - Cordelia on Angel apologizing for telling her the truth about her performance.
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