In every generation, there is a chosen one. No, shit. Wrong show. What am I supposed to do, now? I guess I’ll just have to recap every episode Angel with an eye to the following themes:
- Angel is still a dick.
- Cordelia is smarter than everyone.
- Sex is still evil.
- Sunlight isn’t nearly as dangerous as it was in Sunnydale…
- …but its danger is certainly inconsistent.
- Vampire/demon rules aren’t consistent with the Buffyverse.
- Xenophobia and cultural stereotypes abound.
- Women are disposable and unrealistic.
- Vampires still @#$%ing breathe.
- Some of this stuff is still homophobic as fuck.
- Blondes, blondes everywhere
- Smoking is still evil.
- A lot of this shit is really misogynistic.
- Some of this stuff is ableist as fuck.
- Some of this shit is still racist as fuck.
The Big Damn Angel Damsel In Distress Counter: 8
Have I missed any that were added in past recaps? Let me know in the comments. Even though I might forget that you mentioned it.
WARNING: Just like with the Buffy recaps, I’ve seen (most) of this series already, so I’ll probably mention things that happen in later seasons. So a blanket spoiler warning is in effect.
We open on Cordelia unconvincingly complaining about the quality of some trash bags. She’s reenacting an audition she went on. A blonde wearing skin-tight leather got the part. Maybe I’m in a grumpy mood, but I just feel like that’s a lazy joke. And to be honest, some of the jokes on this show about actresses and what they’ll do for a part strike me in a super gross place now that we know Joss Whedon was using his shows as an extramarital dating service.
Doyle unconditionally supports Cordelia in her acting efforts but suggests she should answer the ringing phone. As does Angel. Because it’s her job. The answering machine picks up to reveal it’s just someone calling Cordelia to chat about how things are going in her life. Cordelia is fine with letting the machine take it because she isn’t interested in a long conversation about how nothing has changed and she’s still not successful.
Doyle is really into Cordelia. He clumsily tries to pick her up by offering to let her “get a night away” from her shitty apartment by staying with him. She (rightfully) rejects him with trademark Cordelia brutality (that’s my girl) and leaves the office. Dejected (because for as much as I love Doyle, he’s the Nice Guy™ in this show), he goes into Angel’s office to get intel on her. Angel is, of course, brooding. This time, he’s brooding over an old book, though, so that’s a nice change. Doyle asks about the woman who called and left the phone message, and Angel says:
Angel: “I think she’s one of Cordelia’s group. People called them the Cordettes. A bunch of girls from wealthy families. They ruled the high school. Decided what was in, who was popular. It was like the Soviet secret police if they cared a lot about shoes.”
Ha ha, get it? Because teen girls are vapid harpies who only care about shoes! (#13)
Also, I don’t remember anyone ever referring to Cordelia and her friends as the Cordettes. Where the hell is that coming from? And while I’m sure some of this knowledge came from Buffy complaining about them, the fact that Angel knows this much about the goings-on at Sunnydale High is pretty creepy. In two ways. The first one is obvious: why does he have and retain this much knowledge about teen girls and what they’re doing in high school?
The second is a little more unsettling: in scenes between Angel and Buffy on the original show, the relationship between the two of them didn’t seem…statutory rape-ish. Angel came across as an early twenty-something and Buffy, though a teenager, came across as a mature partner most of the time because we saw them interacting in life-or-death situations in which they were equals in a world that isolated both of them from other people. Buffy’s teen vulnerability was expressed to her friends and Watcher, but when we saw her with Angel, she was the Slayer, even when she let her guard down emotionally. Now, we look at this scene, with a noticeably older David Boreanaz, in a show with a more mature tone, mocking the teen society he learned about from…his teen girlfriend. This tiny little throwaway exposition about Cordelia casts the Buffy/Angel relationship in a totally different light. We saw Angel get freaked by Buffy’s notebook doodles in one Buffy episode, but that was because it seemed to jar him into the realization that she wasn’t aware that their love was doomed. But that was a plot point that was explored and somewhat resolved. Here, it’s just like, “Oh yeah, I remember all this stuff about Cordelia in high school because I was dating a high schooler and I was fully aware that she was a normal high school girl even though she was also the Slayer.”
So, Angel fills Doyle in on how Cordelia was rich but she’s not anymore, and he says she’s doing okay just as we cut to Cordelia arriving home to her apartment with flickering electricity and sputtering brown water from the taps. Oh, and enough roaches to film a reboot of the final fight scene from The Craft. In desperation, she calls Doyle, who can’t answer the phone because there’s a demon lurking in his apartment.
After the credits, we learn that Doyle owes the demon money. Doyle tells the guy, yeah, I’ve got your money and ends up clocking the demon in the face with a dresser drawer before he runs out of his apartment.
Back at Angel’s place, classical music is playing on a gramophone. I call bullshit on Angel’s musical tastes here. Unless he’s trying to be a stereotypical spooky TV vampire, why would he be listening to “Ode to Joy”? It doesn’t really go with his character; the Angel we saw as a human was into bawdy songs in taverns and stuff. But whatever. The better to brood to, I guess.
Angel is in the shower, and he rushes out to get the door.
I guess I never really thought about it, but would vampires have to shower? Do they get B.O.? Oily hair? How were they showering at the factory on Buffy? Or later, how is Spike showering when he lives in the crypt? Also, how is Angel going to get his hair just right after his shower? He can’t see in a mirror. I have so many hygiene-related questions.
Anyway, he opens the door and is immediately trampled by Cordelia, who has all her stuff packed up and ready to move in.
Cordelia: “My apartment! It’s like the barrio or the projects or whatever! And I live there! I am a girl from the projects!”
We’re going to add another number to our list here: #15: Some of this shit is still racist as fuck. Because here’s the thing: Cordelia could have easily said, “My apartment is full of roaches.” But she didn’t. She said her apartment is like living where Latinx and Black people live, and it’s unthinkable that she should have to live like Latinx and Black people. And this line was written for a character we’re supposed to like. We’re supposed to shake our heads and go, “Oh, that Cordelia! So dramatic, but we love her!” and just ignore the fact that she just flat-out stated that it’s unacceptable for her to have to live like working-class minority populations.
She goes on about the roaches and the water quality and demands that Angel smell her B.O. while he stands there, naked, wet, and confused. Then she announces that she’s just going to have to live with him indefinitely until she finds an apartment. She tells him to bring her stuff inside and that he can either give her the couch or the bed depending on which he “feels good about,” then heads directly to the bathroom for a shower. The master manipulation here is incredible.
So, here’s another weird time skip issue. Cordelia left the office while the sun was up. By the time she got home, it was dark. When she called Doyle, it was dark at his house, too. Then, she goes to Angel’s house after not being able to reach Doyle. In this next scene, Doyle arrives at the office during the day. He even checks his watch, so that we can see the big bruise he got fighting with the demon:
As you can see, it’s ten in the morning. So, when he goes downstairs and finds Cordelia fresh from her shower, in a robe, hair completely wet…
How long was her freaking shower?!
Anyway, as I said, Doyle has just walked into Angel’s apartment to find Cordelia fresh from a shower, and Angel wearing boxers and an open robe. And the dialogue doesn’t help:
Cordelia: “You ever get that feeling like you just can’t shower enough, like something’s happened and you’ll never be clean?”
Angel: “You got peanut butter on the bed.”
Oh, okay. So maybe Cordelia took more than one shower? But she doesn’t seem like the type who would dry out her skin like that.
Cordelia goes to check up on the peanut butter situation, and Doyle confronts Angel about “swooping in” on the girl he was “wearing down.” Doyle, you’re not winning a lot of points with Jenny in this episode, just to warn you. He also inadvertently describes Cordelia as “scraps” when he suggests Angel should refrain from romantic entanglements to give ugly guys a chance.
Honestly, only in Hollywood could a character look like Doyle and be considered the ugly guy.
But it’s the implication that because Doyle likes Cordelia, he deserves to have her regardless of the numerous times she’s rejected him is just…ugh, it’s so Nice Guy™. I would give Doyle a number of his own, like I did with Xander, but sadly he’s only in like the next five episodes or something. So, we’re going to slap this with another #13.
Angel reassures Doyle that nothing happened and all is forgiven, etc. Doyle asks Cordelia if anyone has called recently looking for him, and she’s like, yeah, some guy from “your part of England” called and I gave him your address. Which leads to a spat between them when Doyle suggests Cordelia dropped the ball by not telling him who called about him. His excuse is that he didn’t have time to straighten up his apartment, but Angel points out the busted up hand.
There’s a passage of time cross-fade, which is a little odd, and Doyle finds Cordelia in Angel’s kitchen, ripping up the linoleum because she wants to see if there are hardwood floors under it. You know. Like you do in someone else’s house without permission. And not in a corner or somewhere it’ll be hidden by an appliance. Just carve up a section right in the middle of the floor, Cordelia.
As for basically moving in, Cordelia has already set out her trophies and tiaras from high school, as well as her diploma, which is a nifty little callback:
That’s a nice touch.
Doyle: “It’s good, though, you can look back. I never look back.”
Cordelia: “Look back at what?”
So, Cordelia is very much still thinking that the stuff she did in high school is still her life. Which explains why her inability to impress at the level she used to is such a blow to her ego. Now, I’m not saying that she’s egotistical for not wanting to live in a roach-infested apartment. It’s the fact that she’s isolating herself from people she used to care about so they don’t know she’s living in a roach-infested apartment that’s egotistical.
Angel comes downstairs and tells Doyle that a “big guy” is waiting upstairs for him, so Doyle tries to flee out the back. The “big guy” is a ruse and Angel is waiting to catch Doyle. Reluctantly, Doyle explains to Angel that he owes money to people and he’s not getting paid money he’s owed, so he can’t pay the people he owes. Angel suggests a trade: if Doyle gets Cordelia the hell out of Angel’s apartment, Angel will take care of Doyle’s demon problem.
Cut to Doyle and Cordelia touring a tiny, moldy apartment, a cult-housing scenario with mandatory changing and no bathroom walls, and a nice place with a sweating, leering landlord who reassures her that he’s the only person with a key to the apartment. Cordelia finally relents and asks Doyle to get her an apartment through one of his connections.
Meanwhile, at Doyle’s apartment, a demon attacks Angel and we cut away. So. That’s an interesting choice.
A rental agent shows Cordelia and Doyle a beautifully furnished, sunny apartment that Cordelia loves. There’s lots of space and even a formal dining room. Which leads Cordelia to ask what’s wrong with the place. Fair question, considering how nice it is and it’s apparently in Cordelia’s price range. The rental agent tells her there’s nothing wrong with it, but the old tenant broke their lease the week before and the place is a bargain. Doyle says Cordelia will take the apartment and she immediately talks about removing a wall.
California people, seriously, are apartment rental agreements that liberal? Will they let you remove whole walls? Because here in Michigan, you hang a picture and the landlords are like, “THAT THUMBTACK IS DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY EVICTED AND WE WILL SEE YOU IN COURT!”
Well, not my landlords. My landlords are awesome. But in apartment buildings, remodels would not fly. I was stunned when a friend’s complex allowed her to paint the walls.
Anyway, I support the “get rid of the wall” plan because this looks like a building code violation:
After the commercial, we’re back to Angel beating up that demon. Coincidentally, back during the PNR/UF boom in the 00’s, I read a book where the first line was about the hero and a monster crashing through the heroine’s skylight, and the phrase, “and began to beat off the demon” was in there and I laughed so hard I couldn’t finish the book. Like, there was no way I would take anything seriously now that I had this image in my head of a demon hunter hero or whatever tumbling into the heroine’s apartment and then vigorously jacking off a demon right in front of her. It holds the record for the fastest I’ve ever DNFed a book.
Anyway, the demon tells Angel he works for a dude named Griff and that since Doyle hasn’t paid up money, he’s just going to kill him. Angel points out a pretty big flaw in that logic since if Doyle is dead, Griff still doesn’t have the money. He promises he can get Doyle to pay up.
In Cordelia’s new apartment, poltergeist activity is going on. A radio comes on and plays “You Always Hurt The One You Love” (I think it’s the Eddy Arnold version). Drawers in her dresser open and an invisible force rummages through Cordelia’s clothes. Then, a shadow stands over her bed and a woman’s scratchy voice demands to know why Cordelia is there and says it’s better if she’d never come. Cordelia startles awake with the radio still playing.
At the office, Doyle is complaining because he’s still going to have to pay the money he owes Griff. Hello, Angel got this demon to stop tracking you to murder you. But okay.
Doyle: “I mean, I don’t have the money. And you can’t get blood out of a stone.”
Angel: “They can get blood out of you. There’s a price on your head, Doyle. They weren’t even looking for money anymore.”
Finally, Doyle thanks Angel for saving his life, and Angel is like, okay, it’s intervention time. He asks Doyle why he chooses to live the way he does, and Doyle explains that it stops him from getting his expectations up. But he won’t divulge what happened in the past to make him not want better for himself.
He also says that Cordelia is a bright spot in life (awww) and her happiness over the apartment is a bright spot, too (aww) and she’s going to be grateful to him for a long time (…uuuuuugh). So, apparently, Doyle found the apartment for Cordelia to get her to sleep with him.
I was almost 100% sure that Joss Whedon must have written this episode himself, but this was Jane Espenson’s doing. Why did you make Doyle an even worse Nice Guy™ than usual, Jane? Like, he’s almost OOC in this. Doyle in any other episode would have stopped at her being a bright spot.
We cut to Cordelia’s apartment right from his line about being grateful. Her glass of water on the bedside table is boiling, her bed is levitating, and even though she keeps yelling about not being scared, she’s petrified. Morning comes and she tries to convince herself that everything is hunk-dory, but…
When Cordelia moves a chair in the living room, the chair moves back. When she tries again, it slams into the wall and smashes, and a phone cord and a blinds pull snake around her arm and leg. Angry and frightened, she shouts at the ghost:
Cordelia: “You know what? I get it! You’re a ghost! You’re dead! Big accomplishment! Move on! Do you see a light anywhere? Go toward it!”
Wind starts to blow packing material around and Cordelia has had it. She challenges the ghost to do its worst, but a knock at the door causes all activity to cease.
Angel and Doyle are standing outside her door…because #4. Seriously, it’s sunny as hell. How did he make it from the sewers or tunnels or whatever and up to her covered entryway? Anyway, they’ve brought her a cactus as a housewarming present. She doesn’t want to let them in…despite Angel being a vampire standing out there in broad daylight. But since she told him before she got the apartment that he could come over, he’s invited into her house now.
Cordelia: “What? I didn’t even have a place then. These rules are getting all screwed up!”
Thank you! That’s what I’ve been saying!
While Doyle and Angel poke around the apartment, Cordelia desperately tries to hide evidence of poltergeist activity happening all around them. They’re so impressed with how great the place is, they’re totally oblivious. But the ghost is set on them knowing she’s there. After throwing a trophy to finally get their attention, she makes the word “DIE” appear in dripping blood on the wall. Cordelia argues with Doyle and Angel as they hustle her out:
Cordelia: “I am not giving up this apartment!”
Angel: “It’s haunted.”
Cordelia: “It’s rent controlled!”
Doyle: “Cordy, it says ‘die’!”
They tell her they can talk about cleansing the apartment and laying the ghost to rest, and finally manage to wrestle Cordelia out of the house while she shouts at the ghost.
Cordelia: I’ll die before I give up this apartment! I’ll die!”
And the ghost responds in a sickly sweet mom voice:
Ghost: “All right, dear. If that’s what you think is best.”
Back at the ranch, Doyle is researching property records on the internet, trying to find information on why the apartment could be haunted. Angel tries another approach.
Angel: “You know, this really is just a place to live.
Cordelia: “No, it’s more! It’s beautiful. And if it goes away, it’s like…”
Angel: “Like what?”
Cordelia: “Like I’m still getting punished.”
Angel: “Punished? For what?”
Cordelia: “I don’t know. For how I was. For everything that I said in high school just because I could get away with it. And then it all ended and I had to pay. But this apartment, I can be me again. Punishment over! Welcome back to your life. Like, like I couldn’t be that awful, if I could have a place like that. It’s just like you.”
Angel: “Looking for redemption.”
Cordelia: “Um, I meant because you used to have that big mansion.”
Doyle finds a record of a Maude Pearson who died in the home. And Angel is like, “How did you get that?” because the writers are determined to make him seem just like your granddad trying to figure out the AOL.
Angel says it doesn’t make sense for Maude to haunt the house because she died of a heart attack, not from something violent. But Cordelia insists that the old lady smell in the apartment is proof that it’s Maude who’s tormenting her. Angel warns that a cleansing spell isn’t easy and there are some ingredients–like bile–that they probably can’t get their hands on. But of course, Doyle has a bile guy.
Angel decides to go to Kate for advice and tells Cordelia to stick around until he gets back.
Next, on: Jokes That Haven’t Aged Well…
Cordelia: “Little old lady ghost. How come Patrick Swayze’s never dead when you need him?”
After a passage of time, Cordelia gets a call from Angel, who tells her to meet him at the apartment because he’s found a solution to the haunting problem. When she gets home, it seems like there’s no one there. Then Angel calls her to the bedroom. And he’s not in there. Ghost Maude is, though, and she’s been imitating Angel’s voice to lure Cordelia into her trap. Because apparently, Ghost Maude is a Yautja. She’s also protective of her son, and warns Cordelia that she should have stayed away.
At Kate’s office, two actors with zero chemistry try to telegraph the fact that they’re going to be love interests later and it doesn’t work at all. But Kate is able to get a file on Maude Pearson’s death because it was investigated as suspicious. Maude lived with her son and didn’t like his fiance. When Maude died, both her son and his fiance skipped town and were never heard from again. They realize that Maude’s murder has gone unavenged and look in the police database for suicides connected to the address. There have been several, all of them women.
Angel calls the office and gets Doyle, who’s just come back with the bile. He tells Angel that Cordelia isn’t there and plays the answering machine message with Ghost Maude’s Angel impression on it. Angel tells Doyle that he wasn’t the one who made the call and they spring into action.
In the apartment, Ghost Maude verbally abuses Cordelia:
Maude: “You’re not good enough for my boy. This will never be your home.”
Cordelia: “This is my home. My friends will come here–”
Maude: “You don’t have friends. Why would anyone care about you? Nobody really cares. You don’t deserve to live here. You don’t deserve anything.”
So, she can strike right at the heart of her victims’ insecurities. That’s something.
As Doyle and Angel race to the apartment, Angel explains that because Maude’s murder is unsolved, she’s attacking innocent people as vengeance and making it appear as though they committed suicide.
Sure enough, Ghost Maude continues to taunt Cordelia about how no one cares about her while hanging her with a noose made from electrical wire. She nearly dies, but Angel and Doyle burst in and get her down. Cordelia is (understandably) traumatized beyond helpfulness at this point, so it’s up to Angel and Doyle to do the spell on their own. As they begin, the poltergeist activity gets worse and Ghost Maude keeps verbally abusing Cordelia to keep her helpless.
And wow. She is helpless.
I feel like Cordelia was done dirty in a lot of ways by this show, but this part is just flat out inconsistent with her character. She sobs hysterically, babbles incoherently, and mumbles that she can’t help with the spell over and over. And I guess if this was like, an evil ghost possession power or something, but it’s literally just a dead woman saying mean things to her. She has come back from so much worse than mean words in the past. And yes she feels low. But the Cordy the audience knows isn’t going to just give up and die.
Luckily, Angel is there to save her. Good thing she’s already been added to the damsel in distress counter. Angel grabs her and tells her she has to toughen up and fight the ghost, and he drags her into the magic circle. She’s so inconsolable and useless that they decide to abandon the spell altogether and run. But when they open the door, three demons are waiting for them with guns drawn.
Thanks a lot, Doyle.
After the commercial break, Angel reminds the head demon that he’d agreed to let Doyle pay the money back. The demon is like, well, I changed my mind without any clear motive or indication that this might happen in the course of the story. Ghost Maude is pissed off and appears behind them, shouting that she doesn’t want any more people in the apartment. The demons try to ignore her because she’s just a ghost and therefore not scary to them, just kind of obnoxious. But one of them tries to fire a gun at her, which is like…you guys. You’re demons. You should know better.
A massive fight breaks out between Doyle, Angel, and the demons (though one runs away). Ghost Maude is furious at the way her home is getting wrecked up, so she shoots knives through the air at them and pushes Cordelia into her bedroom so they can have a nice little demoralizing chat away from the silly menfolk. Cordelia promises she’ll leave the apartment, but ultimately ends up on the floor sobbing again.
Maude: “I knew you were trouble from the start. I’m surprised that my son didn’t smell the stench of poverty and failure on you. I can.”
Cordelia: “I’m sorry.”
Maude: “You better be sorry. You stupid little bitch.”
And then Cordelia looks up like, okay, that is the last straw.
Cordelia: “I’m a bitch.”
Ghost Maude tells Cordelia to hang herself with the bedsheets, but Cordelia is like:
Cordelia: “I’m not a snivelling, whiny little cry Buffy. I’m the nastiest girl in Sunnydale history. I take crap from no one.”
Maude: “You’re going to make yourself a noose and put it around–”
Cordelia: “Back off, Polygrip! You think you’re bad? All mean and haunty? Picking on poor, pathetic Cordy? Well get ready to haul your wrinkly, translucent ass out of this place because lady…the bitch is back.”
So, IDK if it’s so great to have Cordelia fall back on insulting Buffy to build herself up. I mean, Buffy got emotional and stuff, but it’s not like she never got anything done. And Cordelia was just unable to stand up because she was so sad about being poor, so…
While the fight rages in the other room and Doyle and Angel get rid of the demons, Cordy tells Ghost Maude to get the hell out of her house, and her anger causes Ghost Maude to suck backward into the void. Or something. Cordy emerges from her bedroom and Angel and Doyle are both like, yay, the ghost problem is over. But Cordy is possessed. Her eyes are all milky blue. She grabs a lamp and starts chopping away at that wall she didn’t like, pounding right through the masonry underneath to reveal…
The episode flashes back to Alive Maude bricking her tied-up son, Dennis, into the wall while he begs for his life and “You Always Hurt The One You Love” plays in the background. She tells him he’ll never be able to leave her now. Satisfied with her work, Living Maude says:
Maude: “This hurts me more than it hurts you.”
And she’s kind of right because she clutches her chest in agony and doubles over and dies on the floor, leaving Dennis trapped and suffocating
Back in the present day, Cordelia, Angel, and Doyle watch as beams of ghostly light form around Dennis’s skeleton and become a big skull. While Ghost Maude begs for mercy, the Dennis ghost blasts his mother presumably into hell.
Cordelia: “I knew I didn’t like that wall.”
Later, at Doyle’s place, he’s fitting three shiny new deadbolts to his door. Angel asks if he’s really going to live the way he does. Angel offers his help, but only if Doyle eventually shares the truth about his life. Doyle promises that he will, someday.
With the ugly wall gone and replaced with fancy Roman columns, Cordelia is finally confident enough to call her high school friends. She’s on the phone boasting about her great apartment…and her roommate, whom she never sees. Her can of rootbeer slides across the table and she pauses to scold “Phantom Dennis”, who pushes the can back. Then he turns on the TV and has to be reprimanded again so Cordelia can continue her mean gossip about the people in Sunnydale.
I really love this episode, despite the flaw in the demon’s motivation for killing Doyle. It’s awfully convenient that the demon or Griff or whoever decided to change his mind for no stated reason just so demons could show up at a place they’ve never been before and which isn’t technically connected to Doyle in order to maintain the at-least-two-fights-per-episode quota. But I like Phantom Dennis. I’m glad he’s there. And I’m glad to see Cordelia feeling like she’s been un-punished and then immediately forgetting whatever life lesson she was learning. I don’t know why, but that brings me comfort. It feels like the old days.
But the biggest question from this episode is: if Dennis’s fiance disappeared…what happened to her? Did Maude kill her? Is that something we’re just supposed to accept without any mention in the dialogue? The holes in the plots are starting to make this season resemble Swiss cheese. And not any Swiss. Like, Lorraine cheese.
I think it eventually gets better though. I hope.