Angel - Spin the Bottle

Summary

Lorne is on stage singing Memories. He starts talking about youth. He says it begins with a kid and we see Connor walking in the street. Then he says it actually starts elsewhere and we see Cordelia and Angel together as they were at the end of Supersymmetry when Cordelia asks if they were in love. He says he doesn't know, that he had feelings for her but he never found out how she felt. She wonders whether the reverse were true and he was harassing her in the workplace. He denies this. He says they were dear friends and he'd like that back at least. She says she wants her memory back. Lorne arrives with a spell he says is foolproof and will bring back her memory with no side effects. Cut to stage Lorne saying he's an idiot.

Cordelia agrees to do the spell and Lorne says all they have to do is gather the six. Wesley is buying a weapon, one he had designed for him. It's a series of blades controlled by a device attached to his wrists and arms. He gets a call from Lorne and says yes. He asks if Fred is ok. Fred and Gunn are in bed, but not sleeping and not talking. Angel comes to the door. They go downstairs and Gunn isn't keen on the idea of another spell. Lorne and Fred talk to each other in Pylean as Wesley enters. He asks Fred if she's alright. She says it's done.

Stage Lorne comments on what happened. He says Gunn was just figuring out what happened between Wesley and Fred in the previous episode. Angel walks in Cordelia's room, she's just coming out of the shower. She says she wanted to clean up, that she and Connor aren't staying at the Mondrian. Angel asks after him and she says he's a mess, that he has a lot of pain, and that having her there helps. She notes that he's comfortable wandering into her room at any time and that fits both the in love and harassment theories.

Gunn talks to Wesley, saying he's the muscle. He says Angel is the leader, Cordelia the champion, and Wesley the brains. That leaves him as the muscle. Wesley asks where that puts Fred and Gunn says that is the question. He says she has brains too and that makes them kindred spirits. He says that's why she went to him for help getting revenge. Wesley says he did what Gunn wasn't prepared to do. Gunn starts to say Wesley has no idea what he has done for Fred, but changes that to what he would do. Wesley wonders whether there is a reason he should know. Gunn says he knows why Wesley keeps coming around and gets in his face. Wesley releases one of the wrist blades and Gunn backs off. Gunn asks what happened to him and Wesley says he got his throat cut and his friends abandoned him.

Lorne begins the spell. Something happens which seems to get them all a little stoned. Lorne crawls behind the desk and passes out. Angel goes into the garden. Fred looks at the plants and vomits. Gunn does martial arts moves. Wesley laughs. Cordelia stumbles about and breaks the bottle with the potion. They all seem to lose their memories. Cordelia remembers who she is, but none of them remember each other or why they are there. They all seem to think they are high school age. Angel thinks he's Liam again and can't understand why he's not in Ireland. Cordelia goes to leave, but Wesley says they are victims of a nefarious scheme. He says they should gather information. Cordelia wants to call the cops. Gunn is against that as is Fred who thinks the police would be involved. She thinks it's a government conspiracy and asks if anyone else has had to take a personality disorder test. Wesley feels his beard and says judging by that they've been unconscious for a month. Cordelia feels her hair and starts screaming that the government gave her bad hair. Angel starts saying they are in hell.

Wesley says they should get the lay of the place and Gunn says not to give him orders, that he runs his own crew. Wesley thinks he's a sailor. Gunn gets in his face and Wesley starts doing karate moves. Wooden stakes pop out of his wrist weapons. Fred tries the moves, but no stakes. Wesley suggests they look for weapons. Fred stumbles over Lorne and screams. Wesley jumps and weapons pop out all over. Angel says Lorne is the devil.

Connor is fighting two vampires who were about to kill a girl. One runs away and he stakes the other. The girl says she'll give him a reward and comes on to him. Then she asks for $50, she's a hooker. No money, no reward. Cut to stage Lorne commenting on this. Cut to Wesley tying (taping actually) Lorne to a chair. Cordelia wants to know what's with the guy with horns and the wooden stake. Fred and Angel open the weapons cabinet. Fred asks Angel if he has any weed. Wesley starts talking and Gunn jumps in with vampires are real. Angel asks if Lorne is a vampire and Gunn says no. Wesley says he's a demon. Gunn asks how do you kill it. Wesley and Gunn start fighting. Angel won't break it up because he wants the English to get what's coming to him. He says he's rooting for the slave. Fred is examining Lorne. He talks, although he says he's still unconscious. Cordelia breaks up the fight. She says she wants to hear Wesley's theory. He says there are stories at the watcher's academy of a test. You get locked in a house with a vicious vampire and have to kill it. He thinks this is a test. Gunn doesn't buy it. Cordelia asks why none of them leaves. Angel says because they've been changed. Fred says none of them look like teenagers. Cordelia notices that she has filled out. Fred notices that she's not going to. Wesley flexes his muscles. Angel says he feels cold inside. Cordelia is upset at missing prom. Gunn thinks Lorne did this. They decide that if they find and kill the vampire, everything will go back to normal. They split into two groups. Angel and Cordelia go upstairs and the others downstairs. Fred says she'd like to score some weed.

Cordelia and Angel find a radio, which amazes him. They sit and Cordelia comes on to him. Angel gets his vampire face while staring at her neck. She doesn't see this, but he feels something. He dashes into the bathroom and can't see himself in the mirror. He closes the door and starts changing his face back and forth and feeling it. Cordelia comes to the door and asks what's wrong, she hears heavy breathing and Angel says he's almost finished. He realizes he's a vampire and they will kill him.

Stage Lorne comments on the commercials. We see Cordelia and Angel leaving the room and the others in the kitchen. Fred says they shouldn't rule out aliens. She says maybe she was lying naked and helpless on a table while the aliens probed her. Wesley's stake pops out. He tells her it's demons, not aliens. Gunn says there's nothing there. They go back upstairs. They all gather again and Angel says the place is evil. He walks out the doors. Wesley says he may be facing terrible evil out there. Angel is terrified by all the cars. He goes running back in and tells them there are hundreds of shiny demons out there. Wesley says he thinks the vampire is one of them. Angel tries to get them to search the rooms. Wesley whips out a cross and holds it up to Gunn who punches him in the nose. Angel says they need a different theory. Wesley says they should all hold the cross. Cordelia takes it, then tosses it to Fred who give sit to Angel. He holds it. His hand starts burning and he hides it. When Fred starts to smell the smoke he points out Lorne has awakened. They rush to Lorne and Angel tosses aside the cross.

Lorne realizes something went wrong. Wesley demands he tell them who the vampire is. He says there are no vampires. Except for Angel. Angel slugs him. Gunn and Wesley finally agree on something, the need to kill Angel. They attack, but Angel fends them off and puts on his vampire face. He says he'll feed on their corpses, starting with the girls. Cordelia points out Fred is mostly neck. Wesley releases a weapon and tells the girls to run. They do, he attacks, Angel knocks him down. He tracks Cordelia downstairs. She screams. Connor arrives and knocks Angel flying. Wesley comes in shouting to kill him. Connor knocks Angel through a window. Connor asks Cordelia why Angel attacked her. She tells him if he kills Angel he'll get a big reward.

Connor follows Angel and they fight. Fred goes to the unconscious Gunn. Lorne talks to her and says he can fix everything. She's not sure if she can trust him. He says to look into her heart and see if he is evil. Connor and Angel are still at it. Connor realizes Angel doesn't remember anything. Angel says the others are hypocrites, that they attacked him without cause just because he's different. He says they are as bad as his father. Connor says his father is the same. Angel says he doesn't want to fight, he'd rather be with Cordelia. Connor says she's his girl and Angel says she didn't mention it when she was coming on to him. This gets Connor angry and they fight some more.

Lorne has mixed a potion and gives it to Fred. Gunn goes to attack Lorne and Fred shouts. Connor and Angel are fighting and Angel has the best of it. He gets Connor down and walks off. He says he didn't ask for this. He didn't want to be a freak. He didn't ask to be born. Connor calls to him. But before they can talk, Fred shouts at them not to kill each other. The spell is reversed and everyone is back to normal. Stage Lorne narrates that all's well that ends well. We see him giving Cordelia the potion. She looks around and runs away. He says they didn't know it then, but the sequence of events wasn't quite what they thought. We see the scene replayed, only this time when Cordelia looks around we see her vision of a monstrous demon from which she runs. Angel follows Cordelia. She says she remembers everything and she has to be alone. He asks if they were in love. She says they were.

Analysis

In an episode about finding Cordelia, on the surface, we got an awful lot of information about Wesley and Gunn and Angel and Connor. It'll be interesting to see how that plays out. This was also a great example of how a drama can mix in some humour and make it work.

Usually, I'm pretty critical of attempts to mix humour with drama. This works in dramedies (like the late and unlamented Ally McBeal which actually was good in its first season), but it usually fails in outright dramas. Trek has always been particularly bad at this, usually making a whole episode comedic (a la tribbles) rather than just have some moments. Buffy has always done this superbly while Angel hasn't been quite so successful. The lighter episodes of Angel tend to be too light. And the dark knight just isn't the right subject for lightness. But this episode got the balance right. The humour didn't intrude, it simply served to ratchet down the tension a little before the drama ratcheted it up again. That's the way comic relief is supposed to work. It doesn't replace the drama, it makes it more intense.

Just as importantly, the funny bits really were funny. It was nice to see Wesley the way he was before, the way we saw him years ago on Buffy. Pompous and timid and rather annoying. His attempts at covering up his ignorance (like naming the kind of demon Lorne was or using his weapons) were great. And his physical humour (the kind of humour I like the least) was terrific. It was interesting to see the actor shift from the cold, calculating and unafraid Wesley to the old timid, terrified Wesley. His flailing about with pathetic karate moves (later humourously copied by Fred) was great and worked all the more because moments earlier we'd seen him calmly face down Gunn in a parallel situation. Near the end, when Wesley tries to save the girls from Angel, he seems to return to his old self. He releases his sword weapon and runs to attack Angel looking like the old (new) Wesley. But he flops like the new (old) Wesley.

Cordelia was also back to the high school queen we once knew and loved. Again, this was a treat for long time Buffy fans. Her self centeredness was just the way I remembered it. Everything was about Cordelia - whether it was a government conspiracy about her hair or a terrified Angel returning because of her allure. She simply couldn't see the world from any other perspective. Nor could she take any threat really seriously. She masks her fear with sarcasm and with her inflated sense of self. She treats Fred much in the way she treated Willow in early Buffy episodes and she treats the guys the way she always treated guys - as sometimes useful but often beneath notice.

Fred is the most interesting character in some ways and certainly the one hardest to do something with. We never saw her in her high school years, so we have no preset vision of Fred to work with. We've got Wesley the geek and Cordelia the princess, but all we know of Fred we know from her time on Angel. So it was fun to see her as something completely different from the highly intelligent, physics whiz kid we know her as today. The idea of Fred as pothead was terrific. Her constant whispered questions about weed were hysterical. They were made funnier by the fact she asked the people least likely to even understand what she meant: Angel and Wesley. Her references to alien abduction and probing were also funny. They gave us an insight into a teenage Fred with an active imagination and a disregard for drug laws. The probing scene was particularly funny because of Wesley's spike popping response. While Cordelia is outwardly sexy and knows the power of her attractiveness, Fred has the power of a sexual innocence. The fact that she seems oblivious to the impact of her description of herself naked and being probed by aliens makes it all the more sexually exciting. She doesn't realize her affect on Wesley and that makes the scene intense and funny.

Gunn says he's the muscle, not the one with the brains. Well, he may not have the kind of brains Wesley and Fred have, but he's sure quick to figure things out. From a brief conversation between Wesley and Fred he figures out most of what happened and he understands the motivation behind it. It's interesting looking at this Gunn and the young Gunn. The young Gunn lacks the subtlety of today's Gunn. He shoots from the hip and doesn't think very much. He gets into confrontations and relies on his muscle to get him out of them. The new Gunn is much more thoughtful. While both versions get in Wesley's face, the new Gunn ultimately reacts with a question, wondering how Wesley changed. The old Gunn ultimately reacts with violence, getting into a fight with Wesley once and bopping him on the nose another time. The new Gunn does some thinking. He tries to understand motivations and he's spot on with Wesley's.

The old Wesley was full of self deception. He pretended he knew more and was stronger and smarter than he really was. There are lots of examples of this, like his pretending to be able to identify the kind of demon Lorne is. But the new Wesley isn't very different. He knows a lot more and is stronger and braver and smarter than the old Wesley. He wouldn't be as pompous as the old Wesley or as ineffectual. But he still deceives himself. When Gunn confronts him about how he has changed he paints himself as a victim: he got his throat cut and his friends abandoned him. He doesn't mention that he betrayed his best friend, kidnapping his child and causing him untold anguish. Nor does he mention that when said friend forgave him, he rejected his friendship. He doesn't even address his yearning for Fred and his dislike of Gunn because she has chosen him. He rejects those emotions as motivations for his actions, especially in Supersymmetry. And he never addresses his relationship with Lilah. He pretends it doesn't matter, but he's hurt when he discovers Lilah has played him in Slouching Towards Bethlehem. He pretends to a coldness which seems only to conceal an inner burning. Wesley is all about denial and Gunn may be the only one to have spotted that, albeit only partially.

If Wesley and Gunn don't know themselves (Gunn underestimating his intellect and Wesley denying his motivations) Connor and Angel don't know each other. This episode was an opportunity for Connor to understand his father better. To see that they are in many ways the same man. They both fight evil, they both resent their fathers, they both desire Cordelia, they both find themselves rejected (although not in a harsh or hateful way), and they both bemoan a fate which was thrust upon them and never asked for. It's unfortunate that Fred intervenes just as Connor is about to respond to Angel's speech about not asking for any of this. Presumably, he was going to note the parallels in his own life. And you have to assume that Angel will remember what happened and will begin to put those parallels together himself and better understand Connor's feelings for him.

Two things were barely touched upon in this episode but promise a lot for the future. One is the monstrous evil - which looked like a traditional image of the devil making Angel's comments about the devil in this episode a good example of foreshadowing, and the other is Connor's sexual coming of age. He's a teenager without a girl friend and with a lot of yearning. Years of built up yearning. He's taking it out in violence against demons. But he's obviously continuously frustrated. Last week he was rejected by Cordelia. This week he's rejected by a hooker and loses a chance with Cordelia. Eventually, something's got to give. There's often a parallel between demonic forces and sexual desire (take poltergeists for example which are supposed to be linked to teens in puberty). I'm expecting a connection here. Not a direct one, in the sense of Connor's desire for sex raising a demon, but an indirect one in the sense that Connor's sexual desire makes it easier to lead him astray. After all, he was willing to kill Angel this episode for a shot at Cordelia.

I did not like the use of stage Lorne as a narrator. I especially didn't like the way stage Lorne sometimes became part of the action and the line between the narration and the action disappeared. The bit where stage Lorne comments on the commercials I found particularly annoying. If the conceit is that he's performing to a live crowd, then the commercial reference breaks both the normal suspension of belief for the show and the conceit of the stage performance. I did wonder whether this was a slam at advertisers since apparently they complained about the Doublemeat Palace storyline in Buffy.

Some quick final thoughts. When Angel asks Cordelia about Connor it sounds as if she says "he's 18" but the closed captions read "he's a teen". So she could be saying either and both make sense. It was nice to see the reference to the test we saw in Helpless (Eighteen). I'm pretty sure when Liam was a boy they didn't have modern bathrooms with mirrors. So why does he dash in there and look for a mirror? When Cordelia goes to the door and asks what's wrong, she hears grunting and heavy breathing and Angel saying he's almost finished. So we can only guess at what she thought he was doing.

Lines of the week:

"So, I'm an idiot." - Lorne on being stupid enough to believe there are no side effects from a magic spell.

"Lorne, I said yes." - Wesley surprising Lorne.

"I was just wondering if everything was alright with Fred." - Wesley wondering about the fallout from Fred's evil act.

"I did what you weren't prepared to do." - Wesley being horribly wrong about Gunn.

"I'm glad to see you have such faith in your relationship." - Wesley pushing Gunn's buttons.

"Not all of us have muscle to fall back on." - Wesley showing he has the brains.

"I had my throat cut and all my friends abandoned me." - Wesley on what happened to him.

"Hello, salty goodness." - Cordelia upon meeting Angel for the first time.

"Have you got any weed." - Fred revealing something about her past.

"They're as bad as my father." - Angel letting Connor know he's not the only one with paternal issues.

"I didn't ask for this." - Angel on the unfairness of life.

"We were." - Cordelia with an interesting use of the past tense.

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