“I Fall to Pieces”
Written by Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt
Directed by Vern Gilum
Cordelia and Doyle are at the Angel Investigations office. Cordelia is concerned that the business isn’t bringing in much income for things like bills and the designer clothing she wants. Doyle says it’s because Angel feels guilty charging people for saving them from monsters. Cordelia is determined to confront Angel about this issue. He strides in and gets coffee. (Wait, doesn’t caffeine make him jittery? Continuity, people!) The coffee is recycled and revolting. Before Cordy and Doyle can even work their way up to the money issue, Angel cuts across them. He doesn’t want to ask people for money. Cordelia doesn’t care. Angel thinks it’s wrong.
Doyle gets hit with a vision, and, I’m sorry, but no amount of overexposed shaky cam can make an ordinary office setting seem intense and ominous.
He writes down the information of a lady named Melissa while drinking Scotch. The Scotch is apparently no better than the coffee. Angel heads out to find the girl in Doyle’s vision.
The girl in the vision is at her office, fixing the frosting of a birthday cake for her coworker. The birthday lady shows up. It’s cute. Then she gets a really elaborate floral arrangement, and her good mood vanishes. It seems she has a stalker. She heads into the bathroom and takes some pills, looking worried.
At the end of the workday, she’s heading to her car in the parking garage, and Angel finds her. It seems she’s expecting to be cornered when she’s alone, but she wasn’t expecting it to be Angel. He tells her he works as private security detail and he thinks she might need services like that. She takes his card and leaves.
Back at the office, Angel frets that he projects an intimidating image. Cordelia suggests that he might try wearing less black. (Don’t listen to her, Angel. Your wardrobe is perfect.) Doyle has found a winning argument in defense of charging people for saving their lives: it keeps it professional! Angel doesn’t want a string of indebted people hero-worshipping him. If they pay him after he finishes the job, then the interaction will have a sense of closure.
Melissa is trying to use an ATM, but her PIN isn’t working. A guy in a suit steps into view to explain that he changed her PIN to the date they first met. Hooooly crap creepy. She is extremely unhappy to see him. Also, he knows she’s losing weight and he knows how many pills she took in the bathroom at work. It seems he’s a doctor who used to be her doctor until she got too creeped out by him and switched. He thinks they’re in love. She thinks he’s insane and terrifying. Fortunately, he gets beeped for a surgery.
The phone rings at Angel Investigations! It’s Melissa, and she’s coming in. Angel changes into a bland off-white shirt. Ew. Melissa explains her history with Dr. Creepypants, who operated on her and saved her sight in one eye. She reluctantly went out for drinks with him one time, just to be polite, and he’s been stalking her ever since. She constantly feels like he’s watching her. She’s starting to lose it, she’s so scared. They assure her they can take care of it, and she leaves. Cordelia is super creeped out, especially because the stalker is a doctor. Angel speculates on possible ways Dr. Creepypants could be watching Melissa at all times. The fact that they were led to her by Doyle’s vision indicates that the answer is likely supernatural. Oh hey that was Angel and Cordelia’s first scene alone together! But they were just talking about the case. Eh. Baby steps.
Melissa is at home, getting ready for bed. Dr. Creepypants is at his own home (or his office?), where there is a photo of Melissa on the desk. Melissa is getting undressed, and Dr. Creepypants appears to be missing an eye. That would be because his eyeball is floating in Melissa’s room, watching her. Aaaand we’ve reached a whole new level of creepy.
Angel goes into the police precinct to find Kate. She’s surprised and kind of happy to see him. He tells her about Melissa.
Doyle comes to work with Melissa just to make sure Dr. Creepypants can’t get too close, and hopefully to find a clue as to how he’s keeping tabs on her. He does a very bad job of instilling confidence in Melissa about Angel’s skills as a detective. Admittedly, it’s only episode four. She tells him a little about how much Dr. Creepypants has affected her life. She’s too stressed to do any of the things she enjoys.
Kate found a police report from Melissa about Dr. Creepypants. His lawyers swept it under the rug. They’re Wolfram & Hart lawyers, who the police hate. Kate agrees to put a cop on Dr. Creepypants for as long as she can. She explains that even if Angel takes care of Dr. Creepypants, Melissa could still live in fear for a long time. There’s a psychological battle she needs to win in order to be okay.
Angel goes to Dr. Creepypants’ office and stealthily breaks in, then looks around. He notices an odd book on his shelf. Then Dr. Creepypants comes in, and Angel pretends to be a man who needs a surgeon to operate on his wife, willing to pay a crazy amount of money for the surgery to be off the books. He’s clearly drawing a bit on his feelings for Buffy to give this performance. Dr. Creepypants possibly falls for it.
Cordelia is trying to get dirt on Dr. Creepypants from other doctors who work with him by pretending to be a journalist. She’s not very good at pretending to know anything about medicine, but she does get the doctor lady she’s interviewing to tell her some crazy stuff about him. Cordelia doesn’t get why Dr. Creepypants would be so fixated on Melissa. Angel explains about rage and constructing a false ideal, then punishing the person who fails to live up to it and holy crap is he talking about what Angelus was doing with Buffy? I think he is! He knows what Dr. Creepypants is thinking, but not how he’s following Melissa.
They discover that the author of Dr. Creepypants’ weird book (which has his personalized signature in it) lives in L.A. He emails him. Next scene, Angel’s at the guy’s place. The guy seems very anxious. Dr. Creepypants is the reason he stopped giving lectures and became a recluse. He took the author’s theories to such a crazy level that the author could no longer just see it as theory anymore, and that terrified him.
Dr. Creepypants is standing in the bushes outside Melissa’s building. Kate’s police officer buddy comes up to see what he’s doing. He has no hands! And that would be because his hands are crawling their way up onto Melissa’s bed and under the covers. Holy crap that is the most disturbing thing ever. Melissa wakes up and screams. The officer comes rushing to her aid. He checks her room, but the hands are gone. Until they’re NOT! Now they’re on the officer’s neck, strangling him. Melissa runs away and collides with Angel on her way out of the building. Melissa is so beyond terrified.
The disembodied hands crawl back and reattach to Dr. Creepypants, who’s glaring over at Angel hugging Melissa. The police (and coroner) arrive to investigate her apartment. Kate doesn’t understand how the doctor could have done it, but she’s still willing to check for matching fingerprints.
Doyle finds Dr. Creepypants extremely horrifying, but Angel thinks he’s starting to lose control. Also, he’s convinced that no matter how much weird mystical surgery Dr. Creepypants has mastered, his body parts will still die if they can keep them detached for long enough.
The whole team and Melissa are barricading themselves inside Angel’s apartment, and Angel is explaining to Melissa that what she saw actually is possible. Melissa really wants this to be over, and she wants to be strong. Angel tells her that she clearly is the strong one, because he’s the one who’s losing it (and literally falling apart). Cordelia pulls Angel aside.
Cordelia is worried about Angel going to fight Dr. Creepypants while she and Doyle watch over Melissa at his apartment. Her protests don’t even slow Angel down. He’s looking for steel boxes to keep the good doctor’s parts separate. The office phone rings, and Cordelia grudgingly pretends to be the secretary of Angel’s fake identity guy from Dr. Creepypants’ office. She transfers him to Angel. He says he’s willing to do the surgery Angel asked for, and they arrange to meet.
Angel arrives at Dr. Creepypants’ office with a steel box that looks big enough for a human head. Little does Angel know, Dr. Creepypants already made him five scenes earlier. Angel barely has time to feel his spidey sense tingling when Dr. Creepypants shoots him in the neck with a poisoned dart. The doctor explains about how it’s a paralytic that will stop Angel’s heart. So…that’s okay, then, since Angel’s heart already doesn’t beat. His smug villain monologue turns into an “if I can’t have her, no one can” calm/angry monologue while he plays with a scalpel. Uh oh. Shake it off, Angel! Melissa needs you!
Melissa is sleeping thanks to the Irish tea Doyle fixed her. Cordelia is feeling a little bummed about the whole concept of dating. To her, it looks like the odds are you’re either going to suffer unrequited love, or you’re going to suffer from someone else’s unrequited love. Doyle, who falls into the latter category (if much less horrifyingly than Dr. Creepypants), sheepishly gives her more space. Elsewhere, fingers are poking through one of the duct taped grates. Um. Why didn’t you brace heavy objects over all the openings, or actually board things up?
A floaty eyeball is spying on them, and they make pointed casual conversation so hopefully the doctor won’t know they’re onto him. One of the hands makes distracting noises while the other lets the rest of Dr. Creepypants into the apartment. Dr. Creepypants knocks Cordy out and shoves her in a closet, and the disembodied hand throws Doyle through the trapdoor into the basement. Then he confronts Melissa, telling her she led him on. Even though she’s in more danger than she ever has been, she’s not afraid anymore. She makes a few well-chosen remarks about how he’s creepy and unlovable. It seems to be literally touching some nerves, because he’s not looking all that physically stable.
Enter Angel! Dr. Creepypants is shocked that he’s still alive. Well. He’s not, but… They fight. Dr. Creepypants launches a hand and his teeth at Angel, then stabs him with a scalpel. Angel squashes his teeth and uses the scalpel to impale the hand, then he knocks his head off. Time for those steel boxes! He hugs Melissa, who’s still reeling a bit, but she knows it’s over now.
The next day, Cordy is making more recycled coffee, and Angel is just back from burying Dr. Creepypants in twenty separate boxes. Melissa drops by to bring them a potted plant and a check! Angel is very uncomfortable (and Cordy and Doyle are very thrilled) about the money, but Melissa assures him that he earned it, and then she leaves. Cordy and Doyle head out to go cash the check, bantering cutely, and Angel heads for his apartment.
As I understand it, “I Fall to Pieces” isn’t a terribly popular episode, but I like it. There are some great thematic connections to Angel(us)’s character arcs back on Buffy, the A.I. team is becoming an increasingly cohesive unit, and Melissa did actually manage to make me care about her, even though she’s a one-shot character. I think Angel’s attitude towards his clients helps with that a lot. He’s deeply invested in making sure Melissa doesn’t become his next Tina, so I also end up rooting for her. Maybe a lot of people find Dr. Other Pieces Sold Separately too cheesy and weird of a villain, but I thought it was a pretty strong metaphor for the fractured psyche of an obsessive stalker. They think they’ve become superior to their victims, but they’re actually inferior to the point of being repulsive. Their only power comes from fear, and once that’s gone, there’s nothing left.
Angel doesn’t want to ask his clients for money, and he’s so determined not to frighten them that he wears an off-white sweater. That just makes me smile. He really wants to do a great job, and he’s painfully aware that his people skills are far below his investigating skills. It’s so freaking cute. Angel’s ability to both be the hero and to identify with the villain is fascinating. It adds another layer to his determination to help people. He isn’t just trying to make up for his own past; he knows what the monsters are thinking, and he’s gotten to the point where sitting around while those monsters are carrying out their sadistic plans would feel too much like sitting back and letting his own demon take control.
Cordelia is directly interacting with Angel now! Finally! That hasn’t really happened since they discussed the upholstery of Barbie’s car in “Halloween” two whole years ago. She’s comfortable enough around him to tell him what she thinks, but since she does that with anyone, it’s hard to tell if it’s a measure of their burgeoning friendship. Sometimes, she wants Doyle’s help when she’s confronting Angel about something, though, like with the whole issue of asking their clients to pay them. Maybe she actually does find him intimidating, or maybe she’s still testing the waters, trying to figure out how far she can safely push him. There are definitely signs that she’s starting to care about him, though. She’s afraid for him when he’s planning to go charging off to fight the doctor all by himself.
I seriously love Doyle’s argument in favor of charging the people they help. It’s genius, and very pragmatic. He manages to construct the perfect bridge between Cordelia’s understandable desire for money and Angel’s sense of selfless nobility. He turns the bill into a kindness for the clients, which was pretty much the only way Angel was going to feel okay with it. It’s interesting how often Doyle will talk like he’s a coward, but he never actually runs away when other people are in danger and he has a chance of doing something about it.
“Ugh, what is this?”
“Last week’s coffee. Think of it as espresso.”
“I think my esophagus is melting.”
“Yeah, bungee jumping.”
“Oh. I always meant to do that, but I intensely don’t want to, so I haven’t gotten around to it yet.”
“Did you steal this book?”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.