Angel - Fredless

Summary

The gang are reorganizing the weapons cabinet. Fred keeps asking the time, because she's eager for Angel to get back. And she's curious about Buffy. She wants to know if they will get back together and Wesley, with a look from Cordelia, says not a chance. Cordelia and Wesley start doing a parody of Buffy and Angel. Angel arrives and breaks it up. Of course, he won't tell them anything about his meeting with Buffy. He suggests going out for ice cream and he and Fred head out.

Angel and Fred are in the sewer. They got ice cream, a demon jumped out of the freezer, and they are chasing him. Fred feels she could build a condo in the sewer. Angel says it was a durslar. Fred starts putting herself down, saying she's boring and goofy and mooching off Angel. Then she interrupts herself when she sees crystals on the sewer wall. They hear a roar which is the durslar. Angel tells Fred to go back to the hotel. It takes a lot of convincing, but she does. The durslar attacks Angel.

The gang are still sorting weapons and Gunn is bored. Cordelia bumps into Fred's toy. A weird device which might be a decapitator or possibly a toaster. A couple walk in, introducing themselves as Roger and Trish. They say their daughter is missing. Cordelia wonders if she were kidnapped by fiends. Wesley asks if she engaged in demon worship. Gunn says it may have been a vampire, but they are detectives and can find her. They say they already hired a detective and he said she's living in their hotel. It's Fred. Fred returns, sees them, and runs upstairs. Wesley admits Fred is with them, though out at the moment, and fine. Cordelia tries to cover up the vampire remark. They say Fred was depressed because she had recently relocated and was having trouble adjusting. Roger and Trish say they thought she was dead and after she was missing for 5 years they got a letter from her saying she was fine. It had no return address and they hired a detective who tracked it back to the hotel. Angel comes in carrying the durslar head and talking about what a fight it put up. Cordelia says he's carrying a prop and makes monster movies and introduces Fred's parents. Fred is trying to wipe the writing off her walls without much success.

Angel says he sent Fred home and they all go up to her room. She's gone. Her parents find the writing crazy. Roger whispers that they might have to call them in. Cordelia points out to the gang that Fred never leaves the hotel alone. Wesley wonders what she's running from. Cut to Fred rushing along the street. Cordelia thinks there is something wrong with the parents. They realize Fred must have seen them and fled. And they find it hard to believe she snuck out and mailed them a letter. Gunn wonders whether they should check the taco stands. They remember she worked at the library and Angel says she liked the sewers. Roger asks Trish if it is time and she says not yet. Wesley says they are going to look for Fred and would Roger and Trish come with them. Angel says he'll be going off by himself to check with his industry contacts. Trish worries Fred is making movies (obviously porn) and Angel reassures her. He just says they sometimes know things.

Lorne is in his bathrobe. The bar is still a mess from being shot up. He's smoking. There is a knocking at the door and he lets Fred in. She bursts into 'row, row, row your boat'. She wonders why he hasn't fixed up the place. He asks what she's come about and she says she needs cash and will sing if she has too, bursting into another chorus. He stops her and says he can see her aura. He says he knows she's running from monsters. She says her problem is not being strong enough to face her fear. He says it's not running far enough. Angel is in the sewer. A large insect like creature lurks behind him.

The others are in the library. Cordelia discovers Fred's mother drives a school bus. Roger starts getting assertive. Wesley, Gunn, and Cordelia go off to confer. Cordelia is sure there is something wrong with Roger and Trish. In the sewer, Angel gets a call from Wesley. They all meet up at Caritas. Lorne is still in his robe. He rides Gunn about his friends who shot up the place. When Gunn offers to leave, Lorne takes him up on it. He refuses to play along with Cordelia's monster movie cover story. Angel takes him aside. Roger wonders whether the gang are deliberately stopping them from finding Fred. Lorne tells Angel that his heart is broken, that nobody ever cares about him. Angel realizes he knows where Fred is. Lorne says she doesn't want to see her parents. Angel insists, saying it is best if it happens when they are there to protect her. Lorne says to handle it delicately because it will get messy.

Fred is at the bus station. She's sitting next to a crazy looking homeless man and talking to herself. She starts calculating pi and he gets scared and walks off. She wonders if she could go to Vegas and play blackjack since she could remember all the cards. The gang and her parents walk in. When she sees them, she tries to run away. She starts crying saying that she was lost and horrible things happened to her but it wasn't real, it was something out of a storybook. But if her parents are there and can see her, it must have been real. She breaks down and her mother comforts her and the gang realize she wasn't running from them. As she calms down, a giant insect creature leaps into the room.

Angel sends them all out. The insect hurls him through the window out onto the street. They run to the car thinking they may have weapons in the trunk. Roger notices Angel's vampire face and Wesley explains he's a vampire with a soul. Wesley and Cordelia find some golf clubs and take them as weapons. The insect does pretty well against Angel, Cordelia,Wesley, and Gunn. Fred tries taking a four iron to it and is tossed aside. Roger attacks it. Angel tries to grab it but is hurled back. A bus, driven by Trish, smashes into it destroying it and splattering Fred with bug guts.

At the hotel, Cordelia bandages Fred. Her parents are asking questions about demons and how they track them. Fred notices crystals on the durslar head like the kind she found in the sewer. Trish, despite smashing a giant bug with a bus, turns out to be squeamish and doesn't like looking at the head. Gunn takes it, claiming it is papier-mache. When Angel points out it's not, Gunn rushes to wash with bleach. Fred says Angel is the champion, Wesley the brains, Gunn the muscle, and Cordelia the heart. She can't think what she is. Roger says he feels badly about thinking of calling the police on a bunch of superheroes. He and Angel realize they both like golf. Fred says she wants to go home.

Angel goes to see Fred in her room. She has packed and is ready to leave. He asks if she will remember all she wrote on the walls. She says it's a story. A girl lived in a horrible cave. She tried to escape but couldn't. Then a handsome man came and rescued her and took her to his castle. But when they got there, the handsome man went away again. And the girl built herself another cave in the castle, hoping he would save her again. She says he can't, though. Downstairs, Trish is telling Cordelia that Roger always loved the Alien movies (except the last one) with all the gore and slime. He and Gunn come in with Fred's device to show it to Trish. Although no one knows what it is. Fred and Angel come in and Trish asks, hopefully, if she threw away the shirt with the bug guts. Fred says she kept it as a souvenir, making Roger proud. She hugs them all goodbye, except Angel. Cordelia whispers that she's almost a little jealous. They leave.

In the cab, Fred discovers her parents rented out her room after she was gone for 4 years. She looks in her bag and sees her shirt has the crystals on it she saw in the sewer and on the durslar head. She tells the cab to turn around. Cordelia is telling the others that she misses Fred's parents. They agree they were nice and acted like parents. Wesley starts talking about how they were supportive rather than constantly berating you and grinding you down. He stops when he sees everyone staring at him. Cordelia says she thinks Fred has a chance at a normal life and things are never normal for them. Cut to the durslar head with something weird happening to it.

Angel says he found her soothing. Cordelia says she can be soothing, too. Cordelia says she's glad Fred is gone so they don't have to worry about her. Angel says she'll come back to visit and Cordelia clearly is hoping she will. We see a giant insect looking in the window. Cordelia says she's going home to eat some comfort food and have a good cry. As she walks into the next room, she sees the giant bug and screams. The gang run in and see a whole hive of the insects outside. They rush to the weapons and the bug attacks Angel. The bug is getting the best of him when Fred and her parents rush in. Fred takes her machine and moves it near the durslar head. She triggers it and it sends an ax flying into the head - breaking it open and revealing a whole bunch of little bugs inside. The giant bug stops fighting Angel, picks up the head with the little bugs, and leaves. Fred says that seeing the crystals on her clothes made her realize they came from the bugs. And since they were on the durslar head, she figured the bug had laid its eggs there thus explaining why the durslar had gone crazy. Then the bugs came looking for the eggs when Angel took the head. Wesley is impressed at her logic and Gunn at the ax throwing device. She says she built it so you could fight with your arms cut off. She says she's had a stunning revelation of her path in life. She says she misses her parents, but belongs with the gang in LA. The gang quickly agree. Her mother says she was hoping Fred wouldn't realize that. Her father says they'll stick around for a few days to get reacquainted.

The gang, including Roger and Trish, are painting Fred's room. Roger confirms with Angel his belief that Spiro Agnew was a demon. Wesley and Gunn argue about how to paint the walls, but Trish breaks it up. Cordelia arrives with pizza. Fred paints over a drawing of two characters (a man and a woman) on a horse.

Analysis

You have to love the way this episode started, clearly poking fun at the no cross over rule. As in the Buffy episode Life Serial, we never learn what happened when Angel and Buffy met but we get lots of talk around the subject. I loved the act Cordelia and Wesley do, a great parody of the Buffy/Angel relationship. Particularly Wesley's line "I love you so much I almost forgot to brood". You also have to love the way you kept expecting the parents to be some kind of monster, but they weren't. And there is a lot to be said for the change in Lorne. But these bits and pieces don't make for a great episode, merely an acceptable one.

Fred is unusual in the gang because she had a happy childhood with nice parents who are very understanding. Wesley had a miserable childhood, his remarks about having the confidence beaten out of you are clearly meant to be about his own parents and his relationship with them. Gunn seems to have been without parents for most of his life. Cordelia's parents cared more about money than her and then failed to deliver the money. And Angel's parents never understood him and drove him to vampirism. But Fred's folks are great. When they discover their daughter is fighting demons, they are proud of her. They are happy to take her home, but just as happy to leave her in a place where she is content.

I guess there is supposed to be a parallel between the insects and Fred's parents. Both are looking for their children. Both appear ominous, but have perfectly reasonable desires. Both seem dangerous to the gang, but only in so far as the gang appears to be keeping them from their children.

Lorne looks pretty awful and he acts that way. His fashion sense seems to be completely gone and he has let everything fall apart. Not at all like him. His advice to Fred, to run, wasn't very good. He tells Angel why force confrontation when you can avoid it and you have to wonder whether this is his problem. Is there some underlying frustration Lorne is not dealing with because he doesn't want the mess? Fred was running not from a confrontation with her parents, but from a recognition of the reality of her experiences. The experiences which have shaped her and made her the strong, albeit strange, person she is. Is Lorne running from the same thing? Was the destruction of his club the last straw? The recognition that he could not escape the violence of the real world and he has to come to accept it.

When Fred analyzes the relationships in the gang she does so in a Wizard of Oz fashion (brains, heart, courage, strength) and this is reminiscent of the Pylean arc. She cannot see where she fits in. Neither can Lorne, now. They are adjuncts to the gang, not integral to it. But that doesn't make their roles less significant. They provide valuable pieces of the puzzle no one else can. Lorne's empathy allows him to help the others find their way. Fred's lateral logic lets her leap over the sequential logic of the others, coming to rapid and astounding conclusions. That logical leap led to her saving them in this episode. Lorne has saved them in episodes past. Fred has recognized that she does have a valuable function and Lorne has to come to that recognition. Like Fred, he is depressed. While he's not hiding in his room and writing on the walls, he is wondering around in his bathrobe, drinking, and smoking. And, like Fred, he is likely to have some pivotal experience which will move him in the right (or possibly wrong) direction. Until he does, he won't become a fully functioning member of the group.

For Fred, the pivotal experience was rescuing the gang with her realization of what the problem was and the machine she invented. In her story, she talks about building a cave and hoping to be rescued by Angel. She has realized he can't rescue her from the cave of her thoughts, her insecurities, her fears. But when she rescues him, she conquers those thoughts, insecurities, and fears. She goes from being the helpless fairy princess, waiting for someone to rescue her, to a modern amazon ready to deal out justice.

Some quick final thoughts. You've got to love the way Wesley pronounces Fred after she calls Buffy a goofy name. Angel gets ice cream and Buffy gets fried chicken in Life Serial, comfort foods which suggests their meeting really did end unhappily. You have to love Gunn's obsession with the private eye who found Fred through an unmarked envelope. I wonder if they'll ever track him down and get some investigative tips. Fred's small town parents remind me of the way Lindsey described his folks. In That Old Gang of Mine, Gunn admitted he wasn't Angel's friend and Angel admitted he didn't really know if he could trust Gunn. In this episode, Lorne drives Gunn out. Gunn is already marginalized and you have to wonder whether he won't find himself driven away from the gang if this kind of thing continues. Does Roger tell Fred about renting her room to help convince her she should stay in LA? He is a great father and maybe this was his subtle way of helping his daughter realize what she really wanted to do.

Lines of the week:

"I love you so much I almost forgot to brood." - Wesley getting to the core of the Angel/Buffy relationship.

"You think I'm fat." - Angel demonstrating you can be brooding and self centered and a hero.

"I am." - Fred letting Angel know she's there to help him.

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