Belly of the Beast Review: Slouching Towards Bethlehem

beast916 Ė October 28, 2002

Synopsis

We open on a man working on his car. The streets of Los Angeles are extremely deserted. It too must be a one Starbucks town. The man has his wife try to start the car, while his surly teenage son whines. The son is your standard archetype from horror movies of the 1980s and early 1990s. I only wish he would get laid, so I could be assured he would die quickly. Connor comes up to his window and asks if heís okay, although heís really wondering why <I>Dawsonís Creek</I> is sending over its casting rejects. Hat-boy calls for his daddy, who asks what Connor wants. Connor tells him heís in trouble, and Dad looks suitably scared, although Connor pretty much looks like heís offered to give Pops what his wife canít, for the low cost of five dollars. Dad says help is already on the way, and at the same time a tow truck comes noisily down the road, swerving. Dad smiles assuredly, because he feels very comfortable with tow truck drivers high on PCP. He turns around, but Connor is no longer there. Of course the tow truck guy is a vampire, which is apropos, because who hasnít been sucked dry by them? Okay, moving on. Driver vamp attacks Dad, while sidekick vamp attacks the fam. Dad gets pounded on top of the car hood for a while and Mom is being shaken, until Connor decided he has watched them be abused enough, and stakes the sidekick. He reaches into the car and pushes the cigarette lighter in, because thereís nothing like a smoke after a little vampire action. He attacks the other vamp, who knocks him into the back of the truck. Connor grabs a can of gasoline and pours it over the vamp. Are you crazy? Do you know how much gas costs? Connor disappears when the vamp gets back up, and, as I always do when somebody disappears who was kicking my ass, he goes right back to attacking the Dad. Connor says, "hey", which is to "act dumb and turn around", as "Fluffy" is to international "Iíve been kidnapped". He throws the cigarette lighter at the vamp, who catches it, gets an "oh, caca" look on his face, and bursts into flames immediately. Back in my day, vampires used to burn longer. Connor picks the dad up and asks if the people in the car are his family, just to remind us Connor is without his. Awwww. Dad ignores him and goes back to the car and hugs his wife. The kid whines about not being on <I>Dawsonís Creek</I>.

Connor sneaks into the Hyperion. Listen, kid, the way theyíre running things now, you could just walk in the front door. Everybody else does. He walks down the hall, as sad music lingers in the air like soft regret. He looks down into the lobby and sees Cordelia, and remembers to smack the lighting guy around for highlighting his pimple. In a scene which continues from last week (and when did they start using continuity?), she asks the AI crew who they are. Angel runs down to greet her, not worried she might have a bomb stuffed in her robe or have been sent by the powers that be to stake him. She backs up. Angel says his name, because he felt they werenít talking about him enough. He asks Fred and Gunn if they see her. They do, but they havenít proven very reliable recently. The three of them skulk up on Cordy and say theyíre friends. Yeah, that will work. Cordelia asks if they know each other, because higher beings. . .former! are quick on the uptake. Angel says they do know each other, and Cordy asks who she is. Jeez, they just said your name, Cordy. Donít you listen?

Angel asks what Cordy remembers. She says she remembers numbers, animals, flossing. But not us, Angel asks. How can you not remember a vampire with a soul? With this jacket? And the hair? Oh, wait, not about Angel. Back to Cordy. Angel reminds her sheís Cordelia Chase and she works there. . .for, uh, $3.25 an hour. . .and she never takes vacation. And that sheís safe now. Angel apparently has a different dictionary definition for safe. Angel says theyíre there to help her, and Cordy notices something in the corner of her eye, and we catch a glimpse of Connor moving away. Angel, who has super-duper special hearing, doesnít notice anything. Fred pops in that Cordelia might have amnesia. I would say "duh", but she probably enlightened the others there. Gunn whispers to Angel they may need to take her to a hospital. Apparently, Cordelia now has Angelís hearing, because she says no to the hospital. Maybe later. She seems to remember HMOs, too. Fred says she doesnít think a doctor will solve any problems, and if anybody knows about nutty, itís Fred. Angel sees Lorne coming in from outside. Are their bathrooms in an outhouse now? Lorne said he was going to the bathroom last episode, which was about four minutes before the current action. No wonder all the plants are dying. Angel pushes Gunn forward and tells him to check for Cordeliaís things in the garden. No, Angel, it was Dru who liked her things in the garden. Fred and Angel go into his office to check.

Angel complains about the possibility of her seeing a green demon. Oh, sure, when you need him, heís your friend, but otherwise just a green demon. Fred says Cordelia is bound to find out, but Angel says he wants her to remember him first. Wow. Shocking. Fred asks if he is curious why sheís even back. Angel says he hadnít even thought of it and was just glad Cordy was back. Well, Iím glad the person who sees the big picture is in charge. Cordelia looks around the hotel, and sees Fred and Angel talking in conspiring stances. They look at her and give her the "uh oh, weíre hiding something" wave. Cordelia thinks thatís creepy. Iím with ya, sista. Then she sees a knife and upgrades the creepy comment. Angel pretends he had actually been doing something, and then the phone rings. Cordelia wonders if anybody is going to answer it. Cordy, theyíre just so stunned somebody is coming to them for business, rather than Wesley, and theyíve forgotten how to use the phone. Angel says the machine will get it. Angel says she doesnít have to be afraid. Cordelia tells him itís easy for him to say. And then Jason shoots them with a harpoon. No, wait. . .sorry, movie flashback. Cordy says she doesnít know him or this place, then she hears her voice on the answering machine. Damn. . .she almost got away. She recognizes her voice, and then we hear some guy named Murray talking about a demon broad. Hmm, arenít they the same? Fred picks up the phone quickly and talks to Murray. Cordelia asks if the guy said "demon broad", because she thinks itís redundant, too. What do you mean, you think I have women issues? Fred tries to cover by saying itís a nasty divorce case, and then pantomimes pregnancy. Angel! You bastard. Oh, wait, itís not Fred thatís pregnant, but apparently the demon broad, and it appears to be quite a litter. Cordelia would probably be useful in this case, actually. Fred says she and Gunn will take care of the problem. Angel says he will stay there and help Cordy settle, because that is the issue more suited to an incredibly powerful vampire. Angel starts to say something, and Cordy says she wants to go home. Oh, burned again.

Angel brings her into one of the hotel rooms, where all her stuff has been carefully, well, scattered. Cordy asks if this is everything. Angel says Fred and Gunn moved everything after she. . .hmm, and what was all that stuff still in her apartment before? So itís not everything, is it? And whereís Phantom Dennis? Cordy picks up a shoe, and Angel says she wore it when they went to the ballet. Angel has a shoe fetish. He stole that from Wesley! Cordy asks if they went together, and Angel truthfully tells her it was a bunch of them. Treasure these moments of truthfulnessótheyíre few and far between in this episode. Angel says he thought she would remember, because. . .what, youíre so special, Angel? Poor guy, heís had two chicks forgetting some action with him. Cordelia says she wishes she could remember. Angel agrees. He wants to help her get those memories back. She says, not tonight, honey. Angel indicates he understands and starts to back out, sadly, looking at another night in the Brooding Room. He lets her know she really is among friends.

And the moment I have waited for. Hallelujah! Cordy changes her clothes. Things are right in the universe. This will last for about four minutes or so. She practices saying her name in the mirror, and gives me a Sunnydale wiggins. She starts to look through a Sunnydale yearbook, sees herself as a cheerleader, and surmises she was popular, and that it was no surprise. Sigh, the Cordelia I love is back. No doubt ME will pull her away quickly. She reads some signatures in her yearbook, including such comments as it being too bad homeroom burned down or how about that snake or thanks for the flaming arrows. Sheís a little confused. Hey, at least nobody told her to have a great summer. She looks through some of her pictures and comments on some of her hairdos, something many viewers wish they had some input on. She wonders if she was a spy. Hee. She sees a picture of her with Angel and baby Connor.

Cordelia walks down the hallway, and I realize despite what they did to her hair and the horrible robes they put her in, Charisma Carpenter is a very attractive woman. We get an overhead "things are gonna get bad" shot, as we can hear singing. The song is "Candy Girl" by the Four Seasons, which is a bit humorous once we realize the nature of the creature singing. Cordelia comes to the room, which is Lorneís, and decides she really is a spy, which gives her the right to eavesdrop. Lorne is advising somebody on his addiction. He senses something and opens the door, but Cordelia had already run off. Angel sure is doing a good job of keeping an eye on her. Lorne doesnít see anything and turns back to his client, who is sniffing and drooling. I think I saw him in the gym shower the other day.

Cordelia heads downstairs and calls out for anybody. Angel is hurrying to hide his supply of blood. Iíve been there, brother. Cordelia comes to the desk and notices a drop of blood. She heads into the office and Angel whizzes by in front of the camera. Cordelia starts to freak and heads toward the door, but Fred and Gunn come in at that moment. Cordy hides behind the desk. Theyíre covered in blood, and complaining about the job of killing babies. I sense a misunderstanding in the works. Jack, Janet, and Chrissie live. Gunn places an ax on top of the desk above Cordyís head. Fred worries about washing brains out of her hair, and Gunn goes all Barry White as he removes something from her hair. They wonder when Angel is going to come clean with Cordelia, while she wonders if that purple goo from the axe is going to drip on her. It does and she books, gets a better look at them, and then runs into the weapons cabinet. Hilarity ensues. She runs into Angel, who says he can explain. She thinks otherwise and heads outside. Right into some black-clad punching bags. She and Angel kick their asses rather easily. Higher being, huh? So much for turning the other cheek. Cordy thinks she really is a spy, that all of them are spies. If she knew what we knew, she would be laughing her ass off. She thinks theyíre Russians. Gunn, in about the only line of his tonight that doesnít make me want to slap him around and take his woman from him, asks if he looks like a Russian. Black Russian, Cordy says. Thatís a drink, Angel says, and I sure would like it if somebody could toss some vodka my way, that would be nice. Angel says the two guys were lawyers, which doesnít make any sense. I would think they were just hired thugs. Donít lawyers, I donít know, practice law, even if they do it illegally? Angel says Wolfram and Hart must know sheís back, so she should stay at the hotel to be safe. See, he doesnít understand what that word means. She says Fred and Gunn were killing children, and there was singing. Angel says he knows everything is weird and scary, but that they will do anything they can to help her get through this difficult time. What the hell? Are the Fisher brothers moving in with them? He says she is safe and among friends who only want the best for her. And she believes him. Well, hell, if I knew lines like that would work. . .

In the hotel room, Cordelia finally clues into the fact she isnít a spy. She asks Angel if sheís a mom. She explains about the picture. Angel explains Connor is his son, but not hers. She realizes they werenít a happy family, and Angel says not like that. She wonders about her and Angel, and Angel catches the clue itís time to make his move. They start to move closer, closer, closer, she sure got over the whole Gunn and Fred killing babies thing quickly, closer, closer, and then she asks if she was a nun. She wondered if they werenít a happy family because she was a nun. She then pulls out a bunch of rosaries, giving me nightmares of Catholic school, and drops them in Angelís hands. He vamps out. And Cordy screams. Yeah, I donít think heís gonna get that kiss.

Cordelia runs down the hall, not so much like a warrior, and then runs into Lorne. They both scream together. And then she starts hitting at him in a completely different way than the person who just kicked two Wolfram & Hart employeesí asses. Angel explains Lorne is with them. Lorne says if itís about the missing lingerie it was for a friend. Uh huh. Iím sure that explains that extra little wiggle when you walk, Lorne. Fred and Gunn come up and defend Lorne. Fred puts her hand on Lorneís chest, and Gunn asks if Cordelia wants to know why they call him Lorne. Gunn, that was so two years ago. Cordelia wants the truth, now! Good luck with this crew. Fredís hand is still on Lorneís chest. Gunn has competition. And he can sing! Angel admits maybe itís time to tell the truth.

They told her. All in all, I think sheís taking it reasonably well. She didnít run out. She recounts her entire history, and it sounds as unbelievable to her as it did to me for the last year or so. She realizes why she doesnít remember any of it, because hey, who would want to. Lorne knows how to handle the problem and offers some alcohol. Cordelia talks about the vampire with a soul and his wacky sidekicks. Gunn says heís not a sidekick. Sure. . .just be glad youíre still on the show. Angel figures out the best way to sort it out is for Cordy to sing a song. Gee, why donít you just say the best way is to poke me in the eye with a hot poker? Cordy wonders if sheís even musical (youíre not! Please donít do this), and Gunn opens his big stupid mouth and says she is. She starts singing "The Greatest Love of All", and I wish there was a mannequin around to shut her up. Lorne looks horrified and I donít even think itís because of the singing. Fred asks if Lorne looks greenÖer than usual. He makes Cordelia stop singing, and gets up to leave, stammering as he goes, then closes the door before he has to say anymore. Angel follow after him, and stammers it wasnít her, it was the song, then closes the door mid-stammer, as Lorne did. Cordy decides to go off, and Gunn tries to lay down the law. Yeah, that keeps working. Cordy threatens to turn him into a rat. Gunn wonders if that is possible. We can only wish. Gunn and Fred follow her, trying to bribe her with cookies and sandwiches. She says she just wants to talk to Angel, sans sidekicks. Well, she certainly found Gunnís button, didnít she?

Angel tries to open Lorneís door. Lorne tells him to go away. Angel is getting rejected by everyone tonight. Angel says he has to know if itís bad. Lorne opens the door, tells him it is, and then tries to close the door. Lorne finally gives him the hint of "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" and despair, torment, etc., and not all of it was about the song choice. He tells Angel evil is coming and itís planning on staying. And it never pays rent, and it leaves a stain on your couch that no matter how much you scrub, youíll never get out.

Wesís Love Shack and Womenís Prison. Wes and Lilah engage in post-coital pillow talk. She likes harder ones, but he prefers feather. Lilah lets Wes know the firm knows about them. He expected they would. Then she shares that Angel also knows. Wes says he doesnít care, and nobody is protesting too much, are they? Lilah calls him a big faker. Guys donít fake it, Lilah. Weíre practical that way. We just get the job done. Wes says rescuing Angel from his watery grave was different, and that itís no big deal if Angel knows about their relationship. Lilah crawls on top of him. . .hold on. . .sorry, I needed a moment to recover there. She says he owes her a dollar for bringing up "relationship". Now if we could just start charging for every time somebody says "champion". Wes pulls out a dollar while she mocks him in a cute voice that makes me wish I had my own evil boss-beheading lawyer. She wants him to sign the dollar as proof.

Cordelia walks down a hall, wondering how big the dump is. We all wish we knew. She calls out for Mr. Bumpy Face. She hears a noise behind her, and tells whoever is there she doesnít want cookies or juice. Lorneís client comes out of the darkness the way he once saw Anthony Hopkins do in a movie. Lorne bemoans the fact he lost yet another people-eating client. The client tells Cordelia she smells good as his face practically eats itself. Of course she smells good. Sheís Heaven Scent.

Angel, in another part of the hotel, hears the sound of Saliva Boy, so I guess he got that ability back. Drooly chases Cordelia down the stairs. She asks what he wants. A snack, he says. Quick, offer him cookies and juice. Connor jumps down on top of Splay Face, and pushes him away. He tells Cordy sheís not safe there. Before I can, she says, "you think?" Connor kills Drippy. I hope he paid Lorne beforehand. Cordelia asks the boy she has no recognition of if he can get her out of there. Connor takes her hand and they run off, la la la.

Fred, Gunn, and Angel look at the body in the lobby, and Angel wants to know how Fred and Gunn could let Cordy go off on her own. Yeah, so, Angel, whereís your teenage son? Fred reminds him Cordy is a grown woman. Gunn still wonders if Cordy could turn him into a rat. As long as itís a silent rat, Iím all for it. Angel starts freaking out about maybe the dead guy being part of Lorneís reading. I am reminded of the old David Boreanaz, and it ainít pretty. Lorne explains the guy was a client. If Lorne can call in clients that quickly after getting into town, you just know Wes is gonna pull him to his side. Angel chastises Lorne for letting it in around Cordy. Because there arenít any other humans in the Hyperion, are there, Angel? Fred wonders if thatís why Lorne ran out. Apparently, ran out and flee donít mean the same thing. Lorne suggests everybody read the Book of Revelations to see what might be coming. I think the Book of Revelations is a little hard on anybody named Beast. Lorne explains how bad it might get, as Angel goes to the weapon cabinet. Who had the time to put that back up? Angel says they have to find Cordelia, since sheís out there alone and with no memory. Yes, because we wouldnít want our loved ones to be on the streets alone.

Connor and Cordelia are staring at a giant stuffed polar bear in a warehouse. Connor thinks itís beautiful, and he wished he had killed it. Cordy says thatís an interesting view of something you find beautiful. Well, he is his fatherís son. Cordy wonders why he was at the hotel. He says he saw she was back. Considering how happy she is later about his truthfulness, she would be disappointed to know he just lied. He didnít know she was back until he was in the hotel. She asks if heís friends with the others, and he sidesteps the question. Fatherís son. Cordy asks for his name, and he tells her. She realizes he is Angelís Connor. Connor says he had no choice in that. Somebodyís bitter! They are in an upstairs part of the warehouse. Connor grabs a take-out bag off the bed, so Dad kicking him out has either taught him to steal from businesses or take up mugging. She asks why he doesnít live with Angel. He is amazed they didnít tell her. He explains how he sent Dad on a cruise and also tried to kill her once. Cordy is happy about people being honest about trying to kill her and thanks him.

Lilahís phone rings, and she gets up and goes to another room to talk to the person. I rewind this scene many, many times. As soon as she gets out of the room, Wesís eye opens and stares at us. Lilah hears that Cordy is back and with the kid, and Wes hears by proxy. Lilah turns around to look at Wes, but he has settled back into bed by that time. That sneaky devil. Wes gets up and says sheís leaving. No rest for the wicked, she says. He asks if she really has to go, and she gives him a kiss. She grabs her purse and the dollar falls to the floor. The dollar falls to the floor! Herman Melville whaps me in the back of the head with a copy of <I>Moby Dick</I>, and tells me, "thatís symbolism, bitch". Screw you, Hermie. Iím glad Billy Budd died.

Above the warehouse, Cordy is laying down, and Connor is sitting in the window sill. He gets up, and she pleas for him not to leave. He says he is just locking the door. With a wire loop. Wow, that will hold back the forces of evil. He tells her sheís safe. These people just never learn. She wonders why she is so scared. She says she is trying to remember little things, such as whether or not she had siblings, what her favorite food was, who was her first kiss. Not knowing makes her very lonely. Connor tells her she likes shoes and doughnuts. Wow, thatís deep. And, yet, perfectly Cordelia. He tells her she was brave. When, she wants to know. Now, he says. Connor wants to get a little uh uh. He says sheís still strong despite everything. She tells him, "I have this horrible feeling that something bad is gonna happen", which, coincidentally, was the proposed title for this show. She doesnít know who to trust. Except him. Because people who let you know they almost killed youóvery trustworthy. She wonders why she has the feeling heís lost everything, too. Connor scowls and says he had nothing to lose. Holtz lies with the worms, and thinks, hey, 16 years, pal. Connor goes to stand by the window, in typical Angelesque brooding posture, and Cordy tells him not to go too far.

Fred is mapping out search radii, and Gunn pretends he knows what the hell sheís doing. Angel says they need to widen the search, because Cordy couldnít have just disappeared. Off Gunn and Fredís looks, he amends it to disappearing again. He says somebody has to know where Cordelia is. From behind him, on the stairs, and how the hell did he get there, I mean, did Connor put out a map for everybody, Wes says he knows, then chastises them for losing her in the first place. Angel explains she showed up with no idea who or where she was. Wes seems to relish the idea of a fresh start. Fred lowers her eyes, and Gunn scowls. Gunn scowls some more. Wes lets them know Wolfram and Hart is planning to extract her. Gunn scowls they already tried. Wes says theyíll try again. Wes lets them know Wolfram and Hart will keep trying, and Angelís "boy" will be unlikely to stop them. Angel figures out sheís with Connor. Wes gives him a look, which basically says thanks for joining the game; would you like to take the home prize and give up while you can? Angel asks if Wes has it on good authority, and he figures the best time to smirk at Wes is while two of his loved ones are targeted by a evil law firm. Wes notes Angel doesnít seem too concerned. Angel says Connor is his son, and is probably taking excellent care of her. Like he did for you, Angel? By the way, Gunn is still scowling.

Meanwhile, son has gotten further with Cordelia than dad has in the last six months or so. Both he and Cordelia are lying down, and his hand is own her breast. Acting must be the best job in the world. Cordelia rolls over and realizes where the hand is, but before she can react, Connor covers her mouth. He whispers that someone is here. So the sound of somebody tiptoeing along will wake him, but not the feel of Cordeliaís ample bosom? That is a sad, sad boy. One of the black-clad boys come in, trips a wire, and is pulled up in the air. If these are really lawyers, how the hell are they still in business? Connor plays piñata with him for a while, then asks if Cordy remembers how to fight. What, wasnít he at the hotel earlier? He gives her a sword, and says they will have to find out, while black-clad number two jumps through a window. And probably cut his feet on the glass.

Fight, fight, fight. Itís sort of dark and hard to see. Cordy punches somebody. One of the guys trips a booby trap and gets hit in the back. More Wolfram and Hart crew come in, and one of them sticks a camera on the wall. Lilah watches on a rooftop. What is it with her and rooftops? One of the guys knocks the sword out of Cordyís hands and hits her. Connor yells, "forsooth, yon varlet, unhand that maiden". He is kicking major booty, until somebody clips him. Dad and crew wait until the opportune time to come and save everybody. Lilah says, "arenít you the stud?" If she means a small knob, I could see it. Another of her men comes up to her and tells her itís done. He says to tell the boys itís 4th and 10. And he relays that they should punt. Football? Baseball is so much better for metaphors. The black-clad fellows let their asses get kicked a little longer and run out. Gunn tells them not to mess with the big dog. The big dog apparently got neutered, then. Angel helps Cordy up, and Connor says he didnít expect so many. Angel says that Connor tried. Thanks, Pop. Angel drops a half-assed compliment on the décor, feels he spent enough time on his son, and says they should get Cordy back home. She says she would rather stay there. Angel says he doesnít think thatís a good idea, even though Connor is a great fighter. He knows, because he helped train him. Sure, you helped train him as much as you spent time not brooding. Cordy says she would rather be around somebody who didnít lie to her. Gunn feels irony smack him on the back of the head. Connor moves forward, laughing with his eyes at his dad. AI members start to leave, and Angel tells Connor to keep her safe. Connor nods. Next week, Angel is gonna put Gunn behind the wheel of a Benz in Beverly Hills, drop Fred back into Pylea, and send Wes back to England to spend quality time with his dad.

In his apartment, Wes stands with a drink, musing over the events of the night. He sees the dollar bill with his signature on it, and begins to realize he wasnít quite as smart as he should have been.

Back at the Hyperion, Fred tries to make Angel feel better by saying she would have chosen him. Angel, thinking about Fredís choice in men, isnít consoled. Angel says maybe they should have told Cordy in the truth. Gunn says, no, truth is bad, bad, bad. {Authorís note: okay, Iím trying to be fair, but Gunn really ticked me off this episode. Everybody who wants to tell me Iím being unfair, I already know. Iíll punish myself severely, believe me}. Fred says in time Cordelia will see who the real champion is. No! Damn it, we went so far. We were almost out of the episode, and she had to ruin it for us. No! No!

Sigh. Okay. Anyway, Gunn starts to say something not terribly interesting, but is interrupted by some noise. They go check it out. They find Lorne tied up, with a small hole in his head. Angel asks who did it. Lorne clearly says, "wolÖ", and Gunn says, "Wesley?" Wesley must have done it. Wesley is the cause of everything. . .unless Gunn needs a favor, then Wes should shut the hell up and bend over for him. Angel realizes it was Wolfram and Hart. Gunn is disappointed it wasnít Wesley, and wonders what they wanted. Gee, I donít know, Gunn. Considering theyíve spent three years constantly interfering with Angel, what do you think? Everybody realizes the fight at Connorís was a decoy. They realize the reading was sucked out of Lorneís head. If the reading was sucked out of his head, why didnít they just suck the sucking out of his head, too? No sucking of the suck sucks. Lorne tells them it was all taken out. Fred says they tricked them. Gunn asks if it was Wolfram and Hart or Wesley, because Wesley is the one who gave them the big tip. Okay, this is getting ridiculous. Yes, Gunn, Wes rescued Angel, gave him the way to find Cordelia, and then pulled a prank on you. Wes is a bad, bad man, and you should continue to have your unhealthy obsession with him. Methinks Gunn is just trying to hide the fact he wants to cast spells with Wesley. Angel, uncharacteristically practical, realizes the problem is Wolfram and Hart know more than they do.

Thereís a knock on Lilahís door, and we see her shoes head towards the door. Wes may not have a shoe fetish, but the cameraman apparently does. She opens the door to reveal Wesley. Lilah says itís a surprise him just dropping by. It sounds like a lie, and Wes calls her on it. She says the surprise is it took him so long. He accuses her of playing him, and she points out he played himself. . .which is not as kinky as it seems written out. Lilah says she was just doing her job, and Wes was the one who decided to give it to the Good ĎNí Plentys. Now Iím having a vision of Gunn, Fred, and Angel all stuck together in a box, and some kid banging it against the table to shake them loose. Wes realizes he stepped into it himself, and the fact Lilah is able to hold that smirk back proves it must be love. He asks what the real plan was. She says she kept Lorneís brain in his head rather than a jar because she knows heís a friend. Wes asks if thatís supposed to lull him into trusting her again. She says if she thought he would ever trust her, she would never have played him. Wolfram and Hart have interesting hiring slogans. "Itís never simple, is it?" Wes asks, as they fight and screw each other with their eyes.

Cordelia lies on the bed in Connorís place, as he watches her from the window sill. Angel, in the Hyperion, stands in the balcony doorway, and looks at his bed, where he never got any action with Cordy, and wonders if he should wash the sheets. He hadnít washed them since before that one night with Darla, when he had his epiphany all over her, and theyíre starting to smell a little ripe.

Review

After a fantastic season opener, I had to watch one so-so episode and a fairly bad one. Luckily, it seems Angel is back on track after this week's installment. Jeffrey Bell took elements from oft-told stories and some hack dialogue, and somehow fashioned a compelling episode around them. I don't recall ever looking forward to a Mr. Bell episode, but he did write or co-write some of last season's more interesting episodes. Except for "That Vision-Thing", which I pretty much despised, all of his episodes were good to excellent, including "Billy", co-written with Tim Minear, which, despite a haphazard view of male-female relationships, started Wes's slide away from AI.
"Slouching Toward Bethlehem" did not break any new conventional ground. A pretty girl shows up with amnesia. Friends try to hide something from her, for her own protection. A young man rescues her, possibly with ulterior motives. Work conflicts cause havoc in a relationship. All of these are variations of stories we have seen time and again in television, movies, and books, but what makes it work for the writers of Mutant Enemy is how they add twists to the familiar. The mystical and apocalyptic, along with a simple beauty of language ("It's never simple, is it?"), birth new from the old.
Some of the dialogue did not work for me, recycled from grade-B gangster movies, and some of Angel's words, in particular, seemed lifted directly from an Al-Anon sponsor's guidebook. The action was not much to speak of. I still cannot fully conceive of Cordelia as a warrior princess. Frankly, it doesn't seem earned. There are people who work hour after hour honing their skills, who do not display Cordelia's ability. Could I buy she would eventually be able to display these skills? Sure. But not after only a year of training, some of which was cut short by trips to the higher realms (but maybe Bruce Lee was there, instructing her), vacations, or trying to care for the child of two vampires. Connor's fighting ability has seemed to lessen since his first appearance. He handled the two vampires easily, but not as easily as somebody who took Angel down should have.
Unfortunately, we saw the return of Goofy Angel, also. And along with Goofy Angel came Not-Too-Bright Angel. Angel has never been portrayed a big-picture thinker, which has been fine, because he has physical skills to make up for lack of planning, and people around him to take up that slack. However, the Angel in this episode went from undisciplined to downright stupid. Wolfram & Hart proved they could easily gain access to Connor and Cordelia. Unless Angel planned on keeping watch on them forever, Lilah and company could easily get to his two loved ones. And if he thinks physical threats will stop her, I think he is in for an even ruder awakening than Wesley got. Lilah gives into Angel, because it suits the purpose of her law firm. From what little I have seen of the senior partners (or heard of, at least), I would be a little more willing to piss Angel off than them. Recently, I have praised the improved acting of David Boreanaz, but much of
that improvement seemed to escape him this episode. The scenes in which Angel worried about Cordelia and where she was threw me out of the episode. He was, however, able to show Angel's conflicts well in the scene with Wesley and the final scene of the episode. It's interesting Angel has not shared all he knows about Wesley, and that along with his semi-forgiveness for Wesley, suggests Lilah and Wesley might not be the only ones trying to play other people. This part of the character constantly intrigues me-the "hero" who is willing to use others for his own gain (although his gain might be that of many). I am not saying Angel is not heroic, but he is not the "helping the helpless" guy of Season 1 or the "screw everybody; I'm out for vengeance" one of Season 2, but somewhere in between, which makes him a much more appealing character.
Fred played the voice of reason this episode. After her small breakdown in episode 2, she must have realized nobody else is going to step up to the plate, so she tried to keep everybody on track. Nothing particularly worked out that way, but none of it was her fault. Amy Acker not only is a good dramatic actress, but is a wonderful physical comedienne (watching her mimicry of pregnancy behind Cordelia's back), a role which needed filling since we have likely seen the last of bumbling Wes (something I am both happy and sad is no longer with us). Her relationship with Gunn has settled down from the cutesy-wootsy stuff of last season, so I am able to stand it a little bit more, even if I can no longer stomach the character of Gunn.
J. August Richards should ask for a raise if he is going to be put through this. His character seems to serve no purpose. He can fight, but there seem to be plenty of people on the show who can fight better than him (Angel, Connor, Cordelia, possibly Wes); he shows no great flair for planning or leadership; his character does not have much comedic flair. He doesn't even have the Xander Harris heart or undying loyalty. What he does have is an uncommon willingness to suspect Wes of practically everything.

The Lilah and Wes dynamic is an interesting one. As I watched them, I realized it wouldnít be out of the realm of possibility for their conversations to appear in an episode of <I>Once and Again</I> (perhaps sans the part about brains in jars). I could almost picture a scene of Lilah sitting on a stool, in black and white, talking about how her father was always married to his job, and she swore when she was older, she would never be like him. "And now here I am," she says. She looks off into the distance, as Tori Amosí "Winter" plays softly. End scene. These are two people who are different sides of an issue. But somehow they do have feelings for each other. Their feelings are not likely to prevent them from doing their jobs, which are in direct conflict with each other most of the time. Wes made the mistake of believing he could trust her, when both of them had been up front about not trusting each other. Many people think Lilah is just using Wes, which I do agree with, but there is some genuine emotion there. She is nowhere as conflicted as Lindsey was, but she is capable of love, as we have seen with her mother. The love may be severely limited, but it is something she is capable of. Sadly, that small amount of love is likely enough to destroy her, or Wes, or both of them. Wes may have made a small request to be taken back into the fold (at least, to me, based on Fredís reaction), but it seems that is not Angelís priority, and Gunn seems dead set against it. If Wes does end up working for the wrong side, I donít think it will be because Lilah is pulling him, but because his friends are pushing him. Even when he tries to do the right thing, it works against him. Although I know it will not end well, I do hope the relationship does last longer, because it is simply fascinating to watch.

Connor still doesnít know who he is, but Angel knows his son is slowly taking over. Angel is not able to care for the ones he loves, yet Connor is. Connor, like Wes, hasnít necessarily picked a side in the upcoming battle, but right now he seems to be on the side of good, even if heís not working with Angel. He seems to understand Angel is not the enemy, yet he still cannot find himself willing to trust him. Angel still stirs deep feelings inside Connor, and Connor seems unable to realize if itís hate or love. He does realize what Cordelia means to Angel, and might take some satisfaction in keeping her away from Angel. However, it seems Connor is simply happy to find somebody who, like him, no matter what he says, is lost. At least, he isnít alone. And he obviously has a crush on her. It may end up being reciprocated, although I find it unlikely. I canít find the Ďewí factor if it does, though. His old man slept with a girl who would have been 16 on the other side of the International Date Line. Neither Connor nor Cordelia remember her caring for him as an infant, so all the queasiness about it is in the mind of the viewers. I know it will bother some people, but I am not one of them. However, I am a pretty twisted person, so I can see how it is different.

Cordelia is back. The Cordelia in this episode is better than any previous Cordelias Iíve seen before. Her mixture of Sunnydale bitchiness and fright put all the bad dreams of Higher Being Cordy out of my mind. Charisma Carpenter reminds everybody she can act when she is given material to work with. Besides the Wes/Lilah interaction, Ms. Carpenterís performance was the highlight of the show for me. She was able to carry off the weakest lines, and amaze me with lines like "Was I a nun?" I am not a big fan about the possible love triangle that might come up, but with the acting abilities of all involved, I am willing to watch it.

This episode set forth the rest of the season. We know something is coming, and we know it is bad. We see in this episode everybody moving to the greyóall the good guys are not necessarily fully good or wise, and the bad guys arenít completely evil. Each character (except for Gunn) has so many layers it is hard to tell who will end up where when things fall apart.

Note: Congratulations go out to Jody, SMPP, Sehkmet, Jenny, and Littleone, who correctly said it would be Fred who used the word "champion". These are all people of hearty mind and rapier wit.


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