Written by David Fury
Directed by James Contner
Angel is sitting at his desk in his darkened office until Doyle shows up to give him crap about his tendency towards brooding alone in the dark. Angel is unabashed. He doesn’t want to go to some bar, and he knows that the only reason Doyle wants him to is so that he can be his wingman with Cordelia. He’s not interested. Cordelia arrives, and she has business cards! They have a very abstract logo image of an angel on them. Doyle and Angel can’t figure out what the image is supposed to be, and Cordelia is offended. Then Doyle has a vision of some bar. So now Angel will have to go to a bar for Plot A reasons even if he won’t do it for Plot B reasons.
Except for the light rigs, the bar looks like it’s in the lobby of a nice hotel, and pulsing music plays. A fairly attractive dude hits on a super awkward 20-something girl, and there’s something sinister about him. Their flirting continues over to a table, where the guy scores points by talking about how much he hates coming to these types of bars and how you can’t waste opportunities in case it makes you miss “the one.”
Our heroes arrive, and they split up, each with a stack of business cards, looking for signs of trouble. The bartender thinks Angel’s just looking for a hot date, and Cordelia is perkily handing out business cards to everyone she sees with micro sales pitches (what else should we have expected after the way she handled interrogations in “Earshot”?). Doyle points out that they need to stay subtle with their whole supernatural detective agency thing, because they could easily be mistaken for vigilantes. Cordelia thinks she can tell who people are just at a glance, because she is an actress. One of the people she assesses is the awkward girl from earlier, who is now leaving with the creepy guy.
Angel might be a good investigator, but the people skills are still a work in progress. A blonde at the bar asks if he’s doing okay, and they make some awkward small talk. Her name is Kate. I guess he doesn’t have his private investigator license yet, because he tells her he’s a veterinarian.
Cordelia and Doyle are still chatting while keeping an eye out for weirdness. She thinks his visions are pretty lame, since they’re both super vague and super painful. Some jerk comes over, thinking Cordelia was handing out business cards because she’s a prostitute. (Do prostitutes have business cards?)
Angel and Kate are still talking. She admits to having trust issues. She obviously thinks he’s flirting with her. She invites him to leave with her, and he turns her down but does not explain (since he’s already told her he’s a vet) that the reason he has to stay at the bar is that he’s trying to make sure nobody’s in danger. But since that danger probably involves monsters, he wouldn’t really be able to explain it anyway.
Doyle punches the guy who thinks Cordy is a prostitute, and Angel comes over to help. The bartender kicks out the dude and his friend, and a pretty redhead passes by Doyle to see if Angel’s okay. Kate sees Angel attempting to find out if the redhead is in danger and thinks he’s flirting with her, and she clearly regrets opening up to him even a little bit. He sees her leaving and realizes what it looks like.
Elsewhere, the awkward girl and the creepy guy are now stiffly lying naked next to each other on a bed, avoiding eye contact. She’s about to leave, when he asks if she’ll stay with him for some spooning. Weird.
Angel consults with Cordy and Doyle. None of them found out anything, and Angel is even less fond of socializing than he was before they started. He doesn’t get why it’s so hard; it wasn’t when he was alive. The bartender comes to tell them it’s closing time. Cordelia thinks it’s just hard for him because of his curse that doesn’t allow him to find happiness without turning evil. Once again, her tactlessness makes everyone uncomfortable.
During the day, awkward girl is getting dressed, and the creepy guy is dead on the bed, covered in blood. Oh. Huh. So I guess it was a misdirect along the lines of Darla at the beginning of “Welcome to the Hellmouth.”
That evening, Angel has Doyle looking for any articles about weird stuff happening at that bar in the newspaper, and he has Cordelia using some search engine on the computer. For some reason, she feels qualified to be a secretary even though her typing speed is roughly six words per minute. It doesn’t help that Angel himself must be new to the concept of internet searches, because he thinks it matters whether or not you capitalize proper nouns in a search bar. *facepalm* What happened to his computer researching skills from “City Of”? Does he just think that because he has employees now, he has to delegate everything? Is he trying to make Cordelia feel useful but regretting it because she has zero computer skills? Doyle takes over and finds the info they need. (Augh, seriously? Angel knows how to use computers! Let him!) There have been at least two deaths connected to that bar recently. Bingo.
Angel goes back to the bar and bonks into Kate on the way in. She’s not happy to see him again. He apologizes, and she warms up slightly. He tries to warn her off going into the bar because there might be something dangerous going on. His warnings are undercut somewhat by the fact that he’s still heading into the bar. She goes in and ends up sitting right next to awkward monster girl, who is suddenly very smooth and chatting up a painfully awkward guy. *squints suspiciously* Some dude comes in to ask about the dead guy.
Doyle and Cordelia are researching demons that eviscerate people. Cordelia is not having fun, and what she says implies that she would not be okay with Doyle if she found out he was half-demon.
Angel manages to find out the name of the girl the dead guy left with (Sharon), who is the one chatting up the awkward guy, but they’ve already left together. He goes to look up her address in the phone book. Kate sees him doing this and seems suspicious.
Sharon and the awkward guy are enjoying super awkward post-sex silence, much like how it was the previous night with her and the first guy. This time, she wants to be the big spoon.
Angel is running towards her apartment, but before he gets there, a horrifying monster parasite bursts out of the girl’s chest and into the guy’s back. By the time Angel arrives, the monster’s tail is disappearing into the guy’s skin and the girl is an empty husk on the bed. That parasite seems to be the cure for awkwardness. It’s been jumping bodies for a long time, and they always burn out on it. The parasite seems to give its human body extra strength, because it and Angel are pretty evenly matched when they fight. It might even be stronger. Yeah, looks like it’s stronger. It runs out after hurling Angel across the room, and then Kate comes in. She’s a cop! And Angel is looking extremely suspicious right now.
Kate’s about to arrest Angel. He tries to convince her he’s a good guy, but it’s kind of difficult to do that when he can’t exactly explain who (or, more to the point, what) the bad guy is. She starts to cuff him, and he kicks her out of the way and dives through the open window. The apartment was on at least the second floor, maybe higher. Parasite guy is sitting on a ledge just outside the window.
Doyle and Cordelia go to Cordelia’s apartment, which is messy and shabby. Doyle pretends not to find it off-putting until he steps on a dirty cereal bowl. Angel shows up. Cordelia invites him in. He tells them about Kate the cop. Then he adds his commentary about Cordelia’s apartment. She’s annoyed. He fills them in on what he learned about the parasite, then heads out to try and track it down.
Montage! Kate comes poking around at Angel’s office and in his apartment. She even checks in his fridge, but he anticipated that, because it’s empty of containers of blood. The parasite makes its way from the nerdy guy to a pretty Asian lady. Angel goes back to Cordelia’s apartment to find her asleep against Doyle, open books everywhere. He didn’t have much luck, but they did better. They know what it is and that it’s vulnerable to fire.
Angel calls Kate. She still thinks he’s the killer. He asks her for just five minutes, and he doesn’t care if she brings reinforcements. When she gets to the bar, she shows the bartender her badge and recruits him to keep an eye out for Angel. A guy who might be attractive if he didn’t have such stupid-looking hair starts hitting on her in exactly the same way that the people controlled by the parasite have been. She’s not interested. Then the bartender tells her Angel’s out in the alley. She goes with him to check.
When they get to the back room, the bartender hits her over the head with a wine bottle. Whoops! Looks like bad hairdo isn’t the parasite’s latest host after all. He grabs unconscious Kate, rips the back of her shirt open, and prepares to make the transfer when Angel whops the bartender over the head. His body is already starting to decay. They fight while Kate watches. Parasite bartender chucks both of them down the back stairs of the bar into the storage room. He tries to put his peeling skin back in place so that he’ll be able to chat up his next victim. But a torn, bloody shirt and what looks like the beginnings of leprosy are seriously damaging his game.
The back door is too solid for Angel to break down, so he whips out a grappling hook to get them through the high window instead. Kate is incredulous. And the grappling hook is a no go because the beam he attaches it to is rotten. Kate rolls her eyes and uses her gun to blast the lock on the door. They run back into the bar.
Parasite bartender is looking seriously gross now, and he’s out on the street making his last desperate attempts to wrangle a date. He finally gives up on pickup lines and just grabs a girl. Kate and Angel split up in their pursuit once they reach the street. Angel’s the one who finds him first. They fight, and Angel manages to launch him into a barrel fire. Covered in flames, he’s still coming for Angel when Kate shoots him several times, and he finally goes down.
Kate’s making her report while the body gets carted off. She feels like a sucky undercover cop, not realizing that the bartender was the culprit all along. She thanks Angel for saving her, and she tells him she illegally searched his place. She wants to start over with him, because they might be able to work together (and he’s hot). He gives her one of the business cards and disappears into the night when she turns around.
Back at the office, he offers to go out and have fun somewhere in town. Cordelia and Doyle decline, and Angel is deeply relieved. He sits in his chair as they leave and smiles contentedly as the lights go out.
“Lonely Hearts” gets points for pulling off a few unexpected twists (the girl is the villain, the villain is actually a body-jumping parasite, and Kate is a cop), but I’ve never found it a very satisfying episode on the whole. I guess there’s an overall theme of how difficult it can be to make meaningful connections with people. Angel struggles to do so with pretty much anyone he meets. Doyle struggles to do so with Cordelia. Most of the people at that bar are lonely losers. The parasite needs connections, but in a horrifying monster way. I think they probably should’ve waited a little longer than the second episode before trying such a gross monster-of-the-week. Also, I’m not sure what the overall point was supposed to be, because Angel ends the episode exactly where he started it, and he’s even happier to be brooding alone in the dark than he was before. Was the point that Doyle and Cordelia learned to respect his introverted nature? Was the point to introduce Kate? Possibly a bit of both. Kate seems like someone who has just as much trouble as Angel on the social side of things, so maybe they’re setting her up as a way for Angel to hone his social skills as he tries to get past her own barriers. Angel Investigations is also much more of a team than they were at any point in “City Of.”
I kind of love that Angel is only willing to socialize if it’s for a case. Like Angel, I am the type who would much rather spend Friday night alone with a book or something than going someplace loud and packed with drunk, sweaty strangers. The life of an introvert with mostly extrovert friends can be hard. It’s kind of funny, though. Why was Angel so much smoother when he was approaching Buffy than when he tries to talk to almost anyone else? Is it easier to feign aloofness with someone he likes than it is to feign friendliness with someone he doesn’t? Is it that Buffy was already in the supernatural world, but he has to figure out how to deal with these people without revealing anything about Plot A? Is he just feeling particularly unsociable in the aftermath of his relationship with Buffy?
Doyle wants Angel to get out more, but he’s too nervous to apply his own advice to Cordelia. At least he succeeds in getting to know her a little better. It’s interesting that even though he wants her to like him, he doesn’t seem to be trying very hard to conceal that he’s a bit of a lout. He wants Angel to put in a good word for him, but he doesn’t try to be fake about who he is. While genuineness is appreciated, maybe he should try to do some self-improvement? Still, I like his tactics better than Xander’s. He banters with her, but he never gets petty, and when someone insinuates that she’s a whore, he’s ready to defend her honor, even against a bigger, more muscular opponent. Also, this is the first time we actually get to witness one of his visions. They do not look fun. I wonder if the pain adds to or subtracts from his sense of urgency about addressing what he sees.
Cordelia, despite going through a ton of crap in the last year of her life alone, still manages to be remarkably confident in herself. It’s actually kind of astonishing, especially because she doesn’t seem to have many actual skills. She thinks she can figure people out at a glance, but the monster-of-the-week passes right under her nose. She essentially hired herself as Angel’s secretary, but she has no idea how to do any of it. Her greatest value currently seems to lie in the sheer force of her optimism. She’s the reason Angel investigations is an actual business, with business cards and a sign on the door. It’s hard to tell if she’s doing this because she likes Angel at all, or if it’s just what’s familiar to her after spending so much time with the Scoobies in Sunnydale. She’s spent most of her screentime so far time either with Angel and Doyle or just with Doyle, so it doesn’t look like she considers Angel to be anything more than the only familiar person she’s found in L.A.
“Just tell her what a great guy I am!”
“I barely know you.”
“Perfect! That should make it easier for you, then.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.