Angel - Blood Money

Summary

Wesley and Gunn are at Cordelia's and she is trying to get them to leave. Having them there all the time is too much for her. They complain that they haven't an office or a plan or business cards. They mock the cards Cordelia designed, angering her. She has a vision of a gigantic, fire breathing, two headed demon in the sewers. Gunn and Wesley dash after it. Angel is walking down the street and bumps into a woman carrying a box. He helps her pick up her stuff and they make casual conversation. She runs a shelter for kids. When he gets home we see he has a series of photos of the woman and he stole her wallet when they bumped into each other. Her name is Anne Steele.

In the sewers, Wesley and Gunn find the demon. It is huge and really scary. Angel goes to see Merl, the demon squealer Wesley told him about in Judgement. He's also the demon Angel tortured in Redefinition. He's been getting information about Anne, who he says has changed her name a few times but is legitimate as is her shelter. Wolfram & Hart came along and saved the shelter from bankruptcy. Why he doesn't know. Angel goes to the shelter with some clothes - it looks like stuff Cordelia may have left behind. Anne is happy to see him and shows him around. She tells him Wolfram & Hart are planning the big hold up - a charity event. Celebrities dress as robbers and steal donations from the guests.

A demon shows up at Merl's. He questions him about Angel and learns about Wolfram & Hart. Lilah gets into her car and Angel is hiding in the back seat. He tells her he understands the game now and he intends to pay her back. At the office, she tells Lindsey about the confrontation. An uninvited Boone shows up - the demon who was at Merl's. He tells them he has a grudge against Angel. He tells them about Merl. He says he knows Angel will be coming for them and he intends to be there when he shows up and fight him. Lindsey likes the idea but Lilah points out their bosses don't want Angel killed. Lindsey doesn't care.

Gunn and Wesley are talking about how they defeated the demon together. Cordelia tells them she has started looking for an office. They go to look at it and start arguing about what to call the agency, each wants to use his/her name. Angel is looking at the photos of Anne and starts taking them down. Merl arrives home only to be hit again - this time by some muscle from Wolfram & Hart who are there with Lilah. He tells them about Anne. Angel shows up at the shelter that night. He tells Anne he has been following her and says he's after Wolfram & Hart who he believes will actually take most of the money from the charity event. Lindsey shows up with Boone who fights with and drives off Angel. Lindsey pretends his concern is for Anne's safety and Angel is unbalanced. Anne is not at all surprised to see a demon and a vampire. She tells Lindsey what Angel said and his claim to have proof of what they are plotting. Lindsey says there can be no proof since they aren't plotting anything. Later he and Lilah are trying to figure out how Angel got the proof. They accuse each other. Lindsey thinks Angel will try something at the charity ball and has security increased and a vampire detector brought there.

Angel returns to the shelter and Anne tells him what Lindsey said. She says even getting a little money is worth it for her. He warns her about the evil she will be cooperating with and this seems to bother her a little. He asks her to get him into the party and shows her a tape he says will expose Wolfram & Hart. She says no.

At the party, a giant monitor is playing a tape of Holland talking about helping kids. Lilah introduces her boss to Anne. Lindsey checks the security. Lilah makes a speech and starts the action - tv stars dressed as bandits starts robbing the guests. We see Angel disguised as the vampire detector. Boone confronts him. The money has all been gathered and Lilah is speaking again. Boone and Angel start fighting and all attention turns to them. Lindsey's men capture Angel, but he doesn't have the tape on him. Boone walks over and it becomes clear they were working together - Boone helped him get in. Anne has the tape and is about to display it on the giant monitor. Lindsey and Lilah rush to her, but don't get there in time. The tape plays and it's just Wesley and Cordelia fooling around with the video camera. Some of the people in the audience recognize Wesley from his relationship with Virginia. Angel admits he has no evidence - but he has humiliated them. Boone has stolen the money. Anne is angry at Angel, but he tells her the money was tainted and he knows she cares too much to really accept it.

At the office, Lilah and Lindsey are reprimanded by their boss for being humiliated, losing the money, and hiring someone to kill Angel which is against corporate policy. He tells them he thinks Holland had a blind spot when it came to them and he won't be so forgiving. Lindsey says they are handicapped by not being able to kill Angel. They are told Angel is a major player in the coming apocalypse, but the prophecies are unsure which side he is on. The firm wants him on their side. If he kills them, it might be a sign he is. And they are expendable while Angel is not.

Boone shows up at the hotel. He needs the show down with Angel. He has the money. Angel takes the money to Anne, warning her to hide how she got it. There is blood on it and Angel looks badly beaten. She says it'll wash.

Analysis

For the first half of this season, Wolfram & Hart - through Holland, Lindsey, and Lilah and with the help of Dru and Darla - have been messing with Angel's mind, his friends, and his business. Now he's returning the favour - completing changing his method of attack. He's gone from direct confrontation, to a battle of wits. He's taken the war to their turf and he's won the first battle. For the first half of this season, Cordelia, Wesley, and Gunn perceived themselves and their worth in terms of their relationship to Angel. Now they are finding value in their relationship with each other - building something stronger and more independent.

At the end of Redefinition, I was shocked by Angel's casual violence. Clearly his intention is to continue to be shocking. Wolfram & Hart have been successful because he is predictable. Understanding what he will do in a given situation allows them to plan for it. And planning is their forte. His successes against them in the past have been the result of wild cards not truly in his control and not easily planned for on their part. Now he plans on being the wild card, the unpredictable. He uses dupes and indirection (common Wolfram & Hart techniques) and he undermines their ally turning her against them.

Previously, Angel's allies have always been in on things. He hasn't risked people's lives without telling them what is happening. This week he uses two dupes: Merl and Anne. Neither understands his game plan and both are put at considerable risk. Merl gets beaten up several times and now has come to the attention of Wolfram & Hart - which has to be dangerous. Anne risks not only her own safety, but the future of the shelter she runs. And, in both cases, money is the reward. Anne gets a small fortune - enough to keep her shelter running for some time. Merl is promised $100 - enough to buy some new furniture as Angel suggests. Angel isn't building friendships here (remember how reticent he was to even offer Gunn money), but is simply engaging in commerce - using people. He doesn't want a relationship, he just wants to achieve his goal. He tells Anne she still cares about things while he no longer does. I don't think he is as uncaring as he claims, but it is what he is aiming for.

Angel's motives and goals have always been very clear before. He has wanted to save some innocent or foil some evil plan. This time he conceals his real scheme - laying a number of false leads for Lilah and Lindsey to get caught up in. He leads them to Merl (as Merl himself points out Angel was able to find out about Anne himself - why hire Merl except for him to spill the beans to Wolfram & Hart) so they think his interest is in the charity ball and their scheme. He sends in Boone, giving them a tool they think they can use against him. He makes contact with Anne, so they think his interest is in turning her against them. But, ultimately, all he wants to do is humiliate them in front of their bosses. Oddly, Lindsey understands this but thinks it is only part of the plan - not the whole plan.

Angel turns two of the allies Lindsey and Lilah think they have. Boone, who is never truly working for them, and Anne who was willing to accept their evil if she thought it would allow her to do some good. The loss of Boone caused Lindsey some further embarrassment (his boss does point out he hired an assassin secretly in league with Angel) but the loss of Anne is more serious. At first, even knowing and suspecting pretty much everything, Anne is not ready to help Angel. When she does publicly help him, she discovers he lied to her and she's angry. But ultimately, she accepts his blood money. When Angel first tried to turn her against Wolfram & Hart he warned her there would be blood on the money they would give her. She claimed she didn't care and he claimed she still did. Ultimately, he gives her that money - now literally rather than figuratively bloody - and she accepts it. The real blood will wash out, as she says. The figurative blood would not have. Taking the money from Angel doesn't taint her and Anne realizes this. By agreeing to hide the money from Wolfram & Hart she enters fully into his agenda.

As Angel reduces his relationships to cash exchanges with people who are in no way friends (and distances himself from his friends by giving away their things - Cordelia's clothes), Wesley, Gunn, and Cordelia further cement their friendship. The battle with the two headed demon is a bonding experience for Gunn and Wesley. They realize that they make a good team and that they don't need Angel to battle evil - even really big and scary evil. They celebrate not only their victory, but their sense of team. And while they are still arguing, it's in a jocular way. They are talking about their agency and their victory and their work - not about Angel.

I appreciate the way Anne was introduced in this episode without any reference to her previous adventures with Buffy. She is, clearly, the Anne from the Buffy episode Anne plus a previous episode under a different name. She assumed Buffy's Anne persona and we see that her encounter with the slayer gave her the strength to turn her life around. Her identity was indicated by two subtle clues: Merl saying she had changed her name several times and Anne saying she had once thought vampires were cool. Both of these are direct references to those earlier episodes. I like this reuse of a character and the subtle way she was introduced.

Some quick final thoughts. I'm glad to see Gunn, like everybody else, thought the drawing of an angel was really a lobster. I also loved Wesley saying "We'll catch you when you fall" as Cordelia fell and they failed to catch her. You've got to love Merl who is clearly working off some very bad karma. Everybody beats him up and apparently everybody knows where he lives. The guest who asks the actor/bandit about making her character gay was clearly a jibe at Willow on Buffy. Why were there big bundles of cash. Wouldn't it be cheques? And what happened to the jewelry that was being handed over? The logistics of the event seemed quite strange to me. I liked the way Lilah moves away from Lindsey when he complains about the idiot rules to their boss. Surely news of the tape will get back to Wesley and the others. Using that particular tape was a way for Angel to further remove himself from his friends.

Lines of the week:

"Vampires, demons, even lawyers pretty much don't impress me." - Anne letting Angel know how tough she is.

"There's blood on that money." - Angel warning Anne against dealing with Wolfram & Hart.

"I'm going to kill my agent." - One of the actors from Life Lessons revealing how much he enjoys charity events.

"That's the difference between us. You still care." - Angel telling Anne something about what he has become or is trying to become.

"It'll wash." - Anne's response to the blood money Angel brings her.

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