Angel - Couplet

Summary

We pick up where Waiting in the Wings left off. Angel and Lorne are looking at Connor. Angel is saying he thinks Groo looks shorter. Lorne jokes about this and tells him Cordelia took him home. Angel pretends disinterest and Lorne notes the perfume on Angel's clothes. Angel says it was a magic spell and there is nothing between him and Cordelia. He hangs up his jacket. When Lorne leaves, he reopens the closet and takes out the jacket, inhaling Cordelia's scent. Cut to Cordelia opening her closet and changing out of her evening gown. Groo is explaining how he was deposed. Cordelia asks if he misses the power and the women. Groo says there was never anyone else. They kiss. She sees him as this really ugly demon.

The next morning, Angel comes down with Connor to find Wesley the only one there. He asks about Cordelia and Wesley says she and Groo were probably up late catching up. Wesley says he wants to talk to Angel. Wesley talks about the sudden appearance of Connor, but at first Angel thinks he's talking about Groo. Wesley says they have to find out more and that they should look for commentaries on the prophecies. Angel says he wants to be completely involved. Cordelia arrives. She has brought Groo. Angel is upset at Groo trying out Angel's weapons. Cordelia explains she didn't have sex with Groo last night because she had a vision. This got her to thinking that she would lose her visions if she had sex (this was part of the prophecy in Pylea). Wesley suggests a paranormal prophylactic, but Angel thinks jogging is better. Cordelia wonders if they could go part way, but Angel says that's a slippery slope.

Fred and Gunn are having a romantic breakfast, staring deeply into each other's eyes. Gunn says that until they kissed, he thought she and Wesley had a thing, but she says they are just friends. She says the kiss makes everything different. They get the bill and Gunn says they'll split it. Fred says he hardly ate anything and she'll be getting more value. He disagrees. They lean in to kiss, but both their pagers go off. It's Wesley. At the office, Wesley explains about the demon in Cordelia's vision. Angel is standing next to Groo, standing up on his toes trying to look taller. Groo recognizes the demon as one from Pylea and says he has slain many. Wesley says he and Angel can track it through the sewer. Angel doesn't want to go with Groo, but Wesley insists. Cordelia gives Groo Angel's favourite broadsword and gives a puny weapon to Angel. She kisses Groo. Groo says he'll present the beast's head to Cordelia as a token.

In the sewer, Groo says he senses Cordelia is sad. Angel says it's not because of Groo, that she's happy he's there. Groo says he feels a distance between him and Cordelia. Angel says she's afraid to get close, afraid of losing something. They hear the demon growl and see blood on the ground. The demon attacks and they fight it. It breaks through the wall and runs into the park. Groo doesn't understand why Angel doesn't pursue it into the sunlight. Groo goes after the demon, which has grabbed a woman. He fights and destroys it. The gang arrive and a crowd gathers. They all admire Groo. Cordelia hugs him. Wesley congratulates him. Wesley sees Angel in the shadows in the sewer.

At the office, Groo is demonstrating his moves to the admiring crowd of Cordelia, Fred, and Gunn. Angel is morosely watching while talking to Ms. Frakes, a client. She is talking about how you think you know someone and then somebody comes and pushes you out of your place in the relationship. She is sure a witch is seducing her boyfriend, they've been engaged for 8 years and she can think of nothing else which would lure him away. Wesley is on the phone inquiring about a rare book and watching Fred who is listening to Groo's narrative. He learns they have the book he wants. Angel asks for information about the supposed witch and all Ms. Frakes has is an email address for hotblonde37159. She got this off Jerry's computer. She suggests he tail Jerry. Wesley comes in and calls Gunn, giving him the assignment. Fred follows, telling Wesley 'we won't let you down'.

Wesley and Angel are at the bookstore. Angel is saying Groo and Cordelia should go ahead and have sex. Wesley says an office romance would complicate things, what if they argue? Angel says they all argue at some time and no one else is having an office romance. Wesley says there is the risk to the visions and Angel says if Groo has the visions, what difference would it make. Wesley asks if he thinks Groo could replace Cordelia and Angel says maybe not her. Wesley realizes Angel feels Groo could replace him. He reassures him, saying there is more than physical heroics involved. That Angel is essential to what they do.

Cordelia is going to cut Groo's hair and get him some new clothes. He asks if this new look will please her more and she says a haircut won't make her like him any more. She tells him she wants to be with him, but can't. He says he realizes she fears to lose part of herself if she is with him.

Fred and Gunn are on stake out, watching Jerry who is standing in a park waiting for his date with the blonde. But instead of watching him (they do set up a video camera), they talk to each other and make out. While they aren't looking, Jerry disappears. Wesley and Angel return to the hotel with the book which Wesley intends to start translating. They walk in to find Groo, with a haircut like Angel's, wearing Angel's clothes, and looking remarkably like him. Angel goes to see Cordelia who says she needs his help to have sex with Groo. She says she realizes the visions were an excuse, it was her. She's tired of being lonely. She remembered what Wesley said about a paranormal prophylactic and she found one. She gives Angel money and asks him to go with Groo to a demon brothel where the proprietor will sell him the potion. She feels she can't send Groo there alone and Angel is safe because no woman will tempt him.

Fred and Gunn are at the spot where Jerry was standing. They look at what the camera recorded and it shows Jerry being pulled underground. Something grabs them and pulls them under. Angel and Groo are at the brothel. The proprietor is taking them to the potion. Angel goes to pains to point out he is not with Groo. They pass an enchanted room where all passions are maximized. Then they enter a room with a man chained to the wall. Groo goes to save him, but Angel explains he's actually happy there. They buy the potion and the woman asks why Angel is there. Before he can answer, his cell phone rings. It's Gunn asking for help. He and Fred are under the park, trapped by a demon tree type thing. It has a connection to the Internet and lures victims there through lonely hearts postings. It pulls them underground, sticks a trunk like appendage in them, and sucks the life out of them. Angel asks if they called Wesley and they say they didn't want to bother him. Angel and Groo go to their rescue. They get near the demon and Groo is eager to rush into battle. Angel tells him to be careful and Groo gives him the potion to look after. Then he rushes at the tree demon and is captured, a trunk stuck in his chest and sucking the life out of him.

The tree demon is getting even stronger sucking energy from Groo. Angel asks if he really is so great and the demon says he's magnificent. Angel starts mocking Groo. Saying he's stupid. Saying he's tired of the Groo worship. He starts beating Groo up, saying he's tired of hearing about how he's emotionally available and can walk in the sunlight. Angel says he's smarter and stronger and picks out his own clothes. The demon pulls the trunk out of Groo and sticks it into Angel. Only Angel is dead. His heart won't work as a battery for the demon and the demon begins weakening. Gunn and Fred escape and Gunn destroys the demon with the sword Groo dropped. Fred says Groo is beaten, but alive thanks to Angel.

Fred and Gunn are at the office, reporting to Wesley. He's on the phone to Ms. Frakes who is happy they saved Jerry's life. Wesley tells them good job and to get cleaned up. But he asks for a word with Gunn. Fred leaves. Wesley says Gunn should have told him about his relationship with Fred. Gunn says it's none of his business. Wesley agrees, but says he doesn't want Fred to get hurt. Gunn asks if he's her brother and Wesley says apparently. Gunn realizes Wesley was interested in her. He tries to speak, but Wesley stops him, saying she chose. He says he just wants her to be safe and Gunn says she will be. Wesley goes back to his work and Gunn walks out. After he leaves, Wesley looks up.

Cordelia is patching up Groo. Angel seems mostly upset at the damage done to his shirt. Groo says he has a confession to make. Angel tries to stop him, saying he was very brave and saved everyone. Groo says it's not true, he was reckless and endangered them and Angel was the true champion. Cordelia is touched by his nobility in giving up the credit. She asks for the potion and grabs Groo. Angel calls her back. He gives her money and tells her not to come in for a couple of weeks and to take Groo somewhere there is sun. She asks if he needs patching up, but he says it's fine, it didn't hurt a bit.

Lorne is putting Connor to sleep. Angel comes in and in reply to the question says he's ok. Wesley is working on his translation. Angel comes in with Connor. Wesley says he thought he was alone. Playing with Connor, Angel says so did he. He leaves. We see the translation which says 'The father will kill the son'.

Analysis

Two love triangles and a heck of a cliffhanger are the substance of a good but not great episode. In both cases, we have two men in love with the same woman. In both cases, one of the men steps aside for the other. In both cases, the woman makes a choice without realizing the other man has feelings for her. In both cases, the other man was slow to reveal his feelings and is now suffering in silence. But there are differences, too. Wesley is handling it all far more maturely than Angel and Cordelia seems intent on making Groo into Angel while Fred loves Gunn for what he is.

A lot of people have complained to me about the Angel/Cordelia relationship and argue that this invalidates the Buffy/Angel relationship. They seem to ignore that Buffy has been involved with three men since Angel. No one seems all that upset about that. More significantly, I don't think considering another relationship is betrayal of the former. They say happily married people, widowed, remarry quickly. Because their experience of marriage was such a successful one. Angel is a relationship type guy. As a vampire, he was with Darla. Then when she spurned him because of his soul, he fell for Buffy. When they realized their relationship could not work, he left and he's been lonely and miserable ever since. Lorne is telling him it's time to take another chance. With Darla he didn't have a soul and couldn't really love. With Buffy, he had a soul but didn't understand the nature of the curse and what would happen. Now he has a soul, understands the curse, and has a potential partner who is equally understanding. It's a weird relationship, but so is Buffy/Spike. Doyle brought Cordelia into their group because he knew Angel couldn't function cut off from others. Lorne is just continuing that work and letting Angel know that he can have a relationship.

I think Angel significantly underestimates Cordelia. He believes that the physical part of the relationship is paramount to her. He keeps thinking of the things he cannot do - like go into the sun and have sex. Groo's pursuit of the demon into the sunlight is a metaphor for his sexual availability. It's no mistake that Angel defeats a demon not only in the dark, but underground. A demon which disguises itself as a lover and then lures the unwary to death and destruction feeding off their passion. Angel's cold heart, his sexual unavailability, kills the demon. But first the demon feasts off the the strong and sexually available Groo. So when Angel gets the prophylactic for Cordelia and gives her money to take Groo into the sunshine, he's giving her carte blanche to have sex. He's defining her relationship with Groo, and any other potential relationship, purely in sexual terms.

Angel forgets that Cordelia is far deeper than she lets on. He forgets how their relationship has developed. He forgets how easily they fell into the roles of the lovers in Waiting in the Wings. Most significantly, he forgets that Groo is merely a fairy tale prince. He's the handsome prince who saved the princess from the evil demons. But fairy tales aren't real. Cordelia realizes that. She knows that her time with Groo is a vacation from reality. She left Pylea and she's not about to go back. Not physically, mentally, or emotionally. And she knows what direction she wants to go in. She transforms Groo into an Angellike character. Cutting his hair and dressing him like Angel. And when Groo asks if that will change her feelings, she realizes it won't.

Angel acts immaturely through much of the episode. He argues that Groo is shorter (presumably all around). Standing next to Groo, you see him bouncing up and trying to look taller. He's reluctant to work with Groo. He doesn't like Groo handling his weapons. He's upset when they give Groo one of his weapons. He gets angry at Groo wearing his clothes. He vents his rage at Groo in the mock fight he stages for the tree demon. But he does have moments of maturity. He reassures Groo that Cordelia does care for him. He does get the prophylactic and he sends Cordelia off with Groo. His immaturity, his fear that he can be replaced, is paralleled with his intrinsically good nature, his desire to do what he thinks is best for the others (even if it means sending Cordelia off with another man). That's the kind of self sacrifice and interest in others which makes him a hero.

I know some people find it odd that Cordelia, who has demonstrated such insight and thoughtfulness in the recent past, can be so oblivious to Angel's real feelings and so self centered. They would argue Cordelia has regressed to her Sunnydale self. I'd argue people never stop being what they are. Cordelia has grown, has come to understand the sufferings of others and wants to do something about them. She has become altruistic. But that's a growth on top of the self centered, often mean (intentionally and unintentionally) Cordelia. She still has those characteristics, she boasts of them in Billy, and sometimes they dominate. She has sacrificed a lot and now she has a selfish moment. That's not regression or unrealistic, it's a natural response to the situation. My guess is that Cordelia will, in retrospect, realize what is happening with Angel. My guess is she already senses it and simply hasn't worked out what to do about it. She has seen how dangerous a relationship with Angel is and she's going to be really careful before jumping into one. But, as attracted as she is to the fairy tale prince that is Groo, her greatest moments of intimacy (like lying with Connor and Angel in Provider) have been with Angel. Lorne and Fred are right. They are heroes and they are inexorably drawn together. Only they can understand each other. Groo can sense Cordelia's feelings, but Angel can explicate them. And nobody can see into Angel's mind better than Cordelia.

The turning point for Angel occurs in the book store when he reveals to Wesley that he feels he can be replaced by Groo. In fact, he feels Groo would be better since he is a hero who can go into the sunlight. Just as he made the mistake of believing Cordelia was simply interested in a physical relationship, he makes the mistake of believing fighting is all there is to his heroism. He continues to over simplify things. Wesley lets him know that his role is not simply to fight, but to unify. That he brought the group together and gave them a mission, a reason to fight evil. He says he's unique like the rare books around them. At this point, the book dealer comes in saying he has three copies of the book. But Wesley's point is still valid. The volumes are copies, not different books. Groo is a different volume. And if the book of Angel is the story you most like, the tale of Groo won't be a satisfactory substitute. Not even if you bind it the same way (as Cordelia has done by cutting his hair and dressing him like Angel and she explicitly notes that the externals cannot change the way she feels about him). The number of volumes is a metaphorical references to the aspects of Angel: hero, lover, father. And none of those roles can be exactly replaced by another.

Groo talks of Cordelia being less herself if she gives herself to him. She sees this in terms of the loss of her visions, the loss of her special powers which make her a prime contributor to the group. But that's not what Groo is talking about. He sees it as a loss of identity and individuality. A becoming we instead of I. It's classic commitment fear and there is some of that here. By focusing on Groo, where the attraction is really just physical and where any long term relationship is unlikely, Cordelia makes it easier on herself. The harder, scarier relationship is the one with Angel. The one which would be deeper and long term. She is afraid of losing herself and that's why she has stayed clear of Angel, ignoring all the signs of his interest. A bit of magic can prevent the loss of her powers, but nothing can prevent the loss of herself in her love for Angel. Groo can't really fulfill her needs. She doesn't want sex, she wants not to be lonely.

There are two really good scenes which get to the heart of the Wesley, Fred, Gunn triangle. The first occurs when Wesley is on the phone and Fred and the others are listening to Groo tell of his adventures. He moves so that Gunn is blocked from his sight and he can just see Fred, happy and laughing. Then he moves back and Gunn is in the picture again. He then tries to really remove Gunn from the picture, by giving him the Frakes assignment. But Fred sticks with him using the 'we' word. It's at this moment that Wesley realizes Gunn and Fred really are a couple and he shouldn't be trying to break them up.

The second is Wesley's conversation with Gunn after he and Fred have returned from the Frakes case. All he does is express concern for Fred. But the subtext is incredible. Gunn realizes the depth of Wesley's feelings for Fred. He realizes how hurt he is at her inability to return those feelings. And he realizes how Wesley has decided to be a good friend since that is all she will allow him to be. All this happens without any real direct conversation between the two men. It's a wonderful scene between the victor and the loser in the battle for the woman. They both know where they stand and they both respect the other. They are simultaneously brought together and kept apart by their love of the same woman.

In the end, this is the story of two men who are in love with women who appear unattainable. Ultimately, they deal with their grief and their chief concern is the happiness and safety of the women they love. Even if that means sending them into the arms of another.

Some quick final thoughts. I just love that scene where Angel hops up and down trying to look taller than Groo. Groo says he'll give the beast's head to Cordelia. But when he slays it, it vanishes. So, does the beast function differently on Earth than on Pylea? Is this a different creature which only resembles the beast on Pylea? Was Groo merely being metaphorical? Or did the writers mess up? I assume Ms. Frakes is a Star Trek reference, Jonathan Frakes played Riker on ST:TNG. I did like the way her description of her relationship problems so nicely paralleled what Angel was feeling. It's interesting that Angel is so caught up in his own emotional life that he completely misses out on what is happening with Gunn, Fred, and Wesley. There is a nice parallel between Angel coming down in the morning with Connor to find Wesley there alone and then him coming down at the end of the episode to find Wesley alone again.

Lines of the week:

"The place was starting to turn into a hotel." - Angel with some probably conscious irony.

"I like being alone." - Angel with the big lie.

"We won't let you down." - Fred saying the last thing Wesley wants to hear.

"You're the reason we've all come together. It's your mission which animates us." - Wesley on Angel's true role.

"Groo, it's a haircut. It's not gonna make me like you any better." - Cordelia on her feelings for Groo.

"You are afraid that with me, you will be less than what you were." - Groo on why Cordelia can't commit.

"I need you to help me have sex, with Groo." - Cordelia asking Angel for a favour he'd rather not do.

"I am tired of being lonely." - Cordelia saying what they all feel.

"That's my shirt." - Angel with an odd set of priorities.

"Apparently." - The most emotionally charged single word Wesley has ever uttered.

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