Angel - The House Always Wins [Bloodlust]

Summary

Connor is fighting a vampire. Angel watches from a nearby rooftop. Cordelia watches both of them. She's trying to get Angel to help her, but he's unaware of her. With a little secret help from Angel, Connor slays the vampire. Fred and Gunn have been secretly watching Angel. They are worried about him skulking around and ask him what he wants. He says they should go on a retreat and takes them to Vegas.

Fred keeps emphasizing that they have to see Lorne so he can read Angel and put him back on his path. Angel reveals he has been to Vegas before and knew Bugsy Siegel. Fred says Lorne is at the Tropicana. They find it hard to believe he'd be in so high profile a place, but then they see a huge ad for him. At the Tropicana, they see Lorne, backed by the Lornettes - women painted green and with horns. Fred actually screams with excitement. Lorne moves into the audience, giving the microphone to audience members to sing a few words. They expect he'll come to them (Gunn pretends he doesn't want to sing), but he just passes them by and acts as if he doesn't even recognize them. He stops and talks to a girl named Vivian who says she's going away to a culinary school in Paris.

The gang are at the stage door, with a crowd, waiting for Lorne. Gunn is still upset about what he considers Lorne dissing them. Angel makes a reference to knowing the rat pack. Fred asks if he knows what he's going to sing and he says there's no need to do that right away. When Lorne comes out, he doesn't talk to them. The guards keep them back. As he goes to his dressing room, Lorne tells the guard with him that they were just some old fans of his. The casino manager enters and tells Lorne how terrific he was. Lorne says he'd like to do this later. The guard punches Lorne, doubling him over. The casino owner says he thinks now is a good time and threatens the girls in the act. Lorne looks at a seating plan and tells him the futures he read from the people who sang - a guy who will be a senator, a guy who will win a Pulitzer, and Vivian who will have 3 five star restaurants. The manager leaves, locking Lorne in.

Wesley is in his office on the phone to Lilah. They are both working late. He puts her on hold and talks to a man in his office saying he's needs a package put together - he's told it won't be cheap. He talks to the other caller saying he'll take Angel's client if Angel is out of town and to get back to him with the details. He starts having phone sex and tells the guy in his office to leave.

Gunn and Fred are playing blackjack. Angel is wondering why Lorne hasn't contacted them and Gunn thinks Lorne has become too good for them. One of the Lornettes comes over and tells Vivian she's been given a free chance at the million dollar jackpot. Vivian goes off to play and Angel approaches the Lornette and asks her to give a note to Lorne. He looks around and senses something is wrong. Cordelia also sees this and doesn't understand why he can sense that and not her. Fred is winning at blackjack while Gunn has lost all his chips. She's worried about Angel. Two guards come and hustle Angel out of the casino without Fred or Gunn noticing. Gunn says they should go find out what's up with Lorne. They look around for Angel and Gunn assumes he's off somewhere having fun.

Outside, the guards are beating up Angel and warning him not to return to the casino. He puts on his demon face and beats them up. As he walks back, he sees Vivian walking as if in a trance. She almost gets run over and he saves her. She says she was out of quarters and needs more, that you have to play to win. Fred and Gunn have made it to Lorne's dressing room, but there are guards at the door. They realize something isn't right. They see a Lornette leave the nearby dressing room and get an idea. Fred dresses as a Lornette and takes a drink to Lorne's room. The guards say he already has his drink, but then they assume she's there to have sex with him. They tease her, but let her in. Inside, Lorne almost attacks her. Then he realizes who it is and is thrilled to see her and hugs her. He explains that his references to Fluffy in his phone calls was a code calling for help. He says he's being held prisoner by the casino manager/owner, DeMarco, who was a lounge magician but got his hands on a genuine mystical item.

As Lorne explains, Angel enters the room where the special million dollar spin to win is. DeMarco says he can play and tosses him a chip. Angel tosses it aside, it lands on the playing table, and says he hasn't come to play but to find out what is happening. The house wins and Angel suddenly goes blank, like Vivian. DeMarco gives him a cup of quarters and Angel goes out. Fred comes running out of Lorne's room screaming and claiming he escaped. The guards call in a code green and enter the room. Lorne runs out and they lock the door on the guards, then flee. DeMarco finds out about Angel and his destiny and says to get the word out and to call Wolfram & Hart. He gets the call about Lorne's escape.

The gang find Angel, who is playing the slots. They tell him to hold back security while they get the car and meet him out back. But he just keeps playing as they leave. As they avoid the guards, Lorne explains that DeMarco steals people's destinies using the fake game. He then sells them on the black market. The people who lose their destinies don't do anything. Mostly, they stay in the casino and play the slots. We see Angel playing the slots. Gunn realizes they got to Angel. They are surrounded. Lorne grabs a nearby microphone and hits a high note, shattering lights all over the place and leading to a stampede of people allowing them to escape. Gunn accuses him of selling out Angel. Lorne says he didn't, that he worked for DeMarco because when he refused DeMarco killed one of the Lornettes and threatened to kill more if Lorne didn't cooperate.

They drive up to the casino and Gunn goes in to get Angel. Fred asks Lorne about Angel's destiny and he says in Vegas when you lose you don't get it back. Gunn finds Angel, but he's unresponsive. The guards show up with Fred and Lorne in tow and take Gunn away leaving a mindless Angel behind still playing the slots. They are brought to DeMarco. Lorne asks him not to hurt the others and DeMarco says only Lorne will be hurting. The others will die quickly. Cordelia sees this and is frustrated at not being able to do anything. She sees Angel and realizes she has to get him in the room. It seems she makes the slot pay off. DeMarco tells his goons to take Fred and Gunn into the desert and kill them. His assistant tells him they have a winner and they see Angel on a monitor. He's won $300,000 and a car. DeMarco has him brought in and demands answers. Angel looks around blankly and says he knows the room. The assistant punches him. DeMarco asks again. He realizes Angel is still blank and thinks it must have been a glitch. He tells them to kill the others. Gunn tries to break free, but is knocked down. One of the goons holds a gun to Fred. Angel sees this and puts on his demon face and attacks. One of the goons shoots and hits the assistant. Lorne smashes the mystical device and the destinies return to their rightful possessors. Angel looks around again and says the room looks familiar. As they leave, he remembers it was where they held Elvis and Priscilla's wedding reception.

The gang are back at the hotel. Angel can't figure out how he won at the slots or how he managed to fight. Lorne says he was fighting for his friends' futures and nothing can take away the ones we love. They enter the hotel and Cordelia is standing there, only she doesn't remember them.

Analysis

I'm glad the trip to Vegas finally happened, boring as it was. At least we've got it out of the way. But this episode came across as a lame attempt to disguise plot necessities. They had to get Lorne and Cordelia back and a poorly developed story was the only way they could figure out how to do it. The only redeeming factor was the continuing joke of Angel's past adventures in Vegas. You have to wonder why he left. It's a city without windows where everyone stays indoors all the time and where half the population lives at night. It's paradise for a vampire, the town ought to be crawling with them.

On a thematic level, pretty well nothing happens in this episode. There is no real life changing event nor do we get any great insight into any of the characters. The characters who have been most interesting so far this season, Lilah and Wesley, are barely there. The plot of stealing destinies just isn't all that interesting and doesn't have anything deep behind it. And I doubt we'll see the DeMarco villain again.

It's been 5 days since I first saw this episode, and I really can't think of anything more to say about it. Which makes this the least interesting Angel episode ever. It really seems to have been designed to move the plot on two levels, the return of Lorne and Cordelia, and to give Lorne a chance for a big musical number and Fred a chance to wear a showgirl outfit. If this were Ally McBeal, that might be enough. But it's not and it isn't.

Okay, there was one thing which might be considered deep. The multiple levels of secret watching. You've got Angel watching Connor while Fred and Gunn watch him and Cordelia watches them all. While this was cute in the opening scene, I don't think it meant much. It just seemed to be there because it was cute.

Some quick final thoughts. Who'd have thought Wesley would turn into such a take charge, phone sex guy. Is this the guy who was afraid to ask Cordelia to dance in The Prom. Is there a connection between whatever Wesley was buying and Cordelia's sudden, amnesiac return? I hope Angel got the $300,000. The gang could use the money.

Lines of the week:

"It's because you're out of chips, isn't it." - Fred understanding what makes Vegas work.

"This place was so much friendlier when the mob ran it." - Angel on the good old days.

"Have to play to win." - Vivian with the gambler's credo.

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