“The Bachelor Party”
Written by Tracey Stern
Directed by David Straiton
It’s another night in L.A., and Angel is reading in his office. Doyle comes in to goad him into doing something less asocial with his free time. Mostly, Doyle just doesn’t want to go to a sports bar by himself, especially while Cordelia is on a date with a super rich guy. One detail I love here is that when Cordelia enters, both guys jump to their feet. Such gentlemen! She has big plans for this date.
The guy, Pearce, comes to get Cordelia, and Angel and Doyle come out to get an introduction. Cordelia doesn’t want to linger, but Angel’s protective older brother tendencies will not be forestalled. Nor will Doyle’s jealous anxiety. Doyle’s hopes of ever having a shot with Cordelia are dwindling, and he’s particularly pessimistic about how she’d react if she found out he’s half demon.
Doyle’s flipping through Angel’s book, and a cute photo of Buffy falls out of it. Apparently when he got the Angel’s backstory vision, it never showed Buffy’s face, because he doesn’t recognize her by sight. He figures it out by the way Angel instantly becomes even quieter than usual, though. Then he gets slammed with a vision of a human guy held captive in a vamp nest, so it’s time to go do some rescuing.
At her date, Cordelia is trying very hard to seem interested in the guy’s endless yammering about stock trading or something, but she’s bored out of her mind. Meanwhile, Angel and Doyle are battling their way through a vamp nest. Doyle shifts into his demon form briefly when he gets attacked, but Angel does most of the fighting. It seems Doyle isn’t comfortable enough with his demon side to fight that way. Angel helps the human guy make it home, and Doyle heads back to the office. And oh no! They missed one of the vampires!
The vampire follows Doyle, who makes it to the office about the same time that Cordelia’s date drops her off there. It seems he’s so dull that it’s a deal-breaker for her, even though he’s wealthy, influential, and willing to go out with someone who is neither of those things. He gets out to walk her to the door. At least he’s a gentlem—they get attacked by the vampire who was following Doyle, and Pearce goes running for his car and floors it out of there, leaving Cordelia behind. So…he’s only a gentleman when his own safety isn’t in jeopardy, then. Cordelia screams for help, and Doyle comes outside with a crossbow and a seriously awesome line. He and the vampire struggle, and after taking a beating, he manages to stake him with a crossbow bolt. Then he asks Cordy if she’s okay. She’s almost irritated by how heroic he just was, but she isn’t unaffected. It’s a really nice moment.
The next day, Cordelia is telling Angel the story of her evening. She’s bemoaning the fact that her standards for guys now apparently include “brave enough to face down a monster even if he might die,” which is more important to her than how rich he is. She blames Angel, but Angel suggests that she might be experiencing some character growth. She very much hopes she’s not. Then she tells him about Doyle saving her, and there’s fondness in her tone and expression. Angel listens with a smile. He ships it. And maybe Cordelia ships it a little bit now, but she’s worried it would be like dating another Xander. (It wouldn’t. Go for it, Cordy.) She leaves Angel to watch the phones because she has to go buy Doyle a mochaccino for saving her life. Angel lets her go, slightly confused about how his own secretary just handed off her job responsibilities to him.
Doyle is replaying his moment of awesome, which is when Cordelia walks in on him. She’s about to ask him to go get coffee, in her own blunt way that sounds insulting first. But before she finishes, a lady walks in. A lady who knows Doyle, and who Doyle knows. Because they’re married. Her name is Harry. But they haven’t seen each other in months (or longer). She’s been traveling the world. And hey look, Doyle’s wearing a Celtic cross necklace! Nifty.
Before we can start worrying that Doyle has a whole secret domestic life he’s been hiding from Angel and Cordelia, they reveal that they’re just a couple of signed documents away from divorce. Doyle pretends he’s the boss at Angel Investigations, and Angel elbows Cordelia so she doesn’t blow the ruse. Then a total goober pokes his head in. He’s Harry’s fiancé, Richard. Richard assumes that Angel is Doyle, and extreme awkwardness ensues. He also mentions that he and Harry will be getting married in a few days. Angel drags Cordelia away so Doyle and Harry can talk, and Richard leaves.
Harry needs Doyle to sign the divorce papers, and she’s being incredibly kind and sympathetic about the situation, but Doyle has put up an emotional barrier. Downstairs, Angel pours drinks for him and Doyle, but Doyle turns his down. Harry’s right about him drinking too much. He tells Angel what happened between them. They got married before they were twenty, and when she found out he was half-demon (which was the same time he found out—the first time he transformed), she freaked out. He’s convinced himself that she’s better off without him. However, he doesn't like Richard. Angel’s willing to follow Richard around to make sure he’s an okay guy. Doyle drinks the whiskey after all.
Richard is walking down the street, and Angel is following via the adjacent rooftops. Awesome. Richard collects a package from a car, which seems suspicious. Angel follows him to a restaurant, which is closed. He stashes the package in a fridge. Then Harry comes in with a bunch of wedding things. Richard pours some wine , then morphs into demon face! His demon form is rather scarier-looking than Doyle’s. He grabs a knife, and Angel breaks through the window and attacks him. Harry stops him, because she already knows he’s a demon. All the seemingly suspicious stuff Richard was doing was actually perfectly innocent. And now Doyle’s plan to have Richard tailed is out. Oops. Harry is not happy. She’s an ethnodemonologist, and she trusts Richard and his family completely.
Angel is confused. If Harry’s about to marry a demon, then why did she freak out when Doyle transformed? Well, she did, initially. But then she got really excited about what his demon half could mean and tried to encourage him to embrace it. He didn’t want to embrace it, and that was where the rift between them really started.
Angel has filled Doyle in, and he’s found Richard’s species of demon in one of his books. They’re peaceful. Doyle is still anti-Richard. He feels like a heel for how he reacted to Harry’s support. He thought she was just pitying him, but she meant it. He signs the divorce papers. The next day, he gives them back to Harry. Richard invites him to his bachelor party.
Harry and Cordy chat while Harry makes a copy of the divorce papers. She invites Cordy to the bachelorette party.
Richard and his family talk about bachelor party plans. They think he’s a dork for inviting Doyle to the party. One of the items on the bachelor party schedule is ritually eating the brains of Harry’s first husband. Also charades. They’re iffy on the charades.
Doyle arrives at the bar where the party’s happening. He is not comfortable at all, but Angel came with him, so that’s a little better. (Also much safer.) Doyle and Richard drink to Harry. Richard wants to hear all about what Harry was like when she was with Doyle.
Harry is telling Cordelia what it was like being married to Doyle. Apparently he used to teach third grade. I’m guessing that only lasted a couple of years, because they got married before they were twenty and separated four years later. Gah, what? Now Harry’s saying that Doyle already had his teaching credentials before they met. That’s not possible! You can’t be an elementary school teacher without a bachelor’s degree, and there’s no way he got that before he was twenty.
Angel is having almost as awkward of a time at the bachelor party as Doyle. A couple of Richard’s brothers or cousins or whatever keep giving him weird looks. Richard admits to Doyle that he’s worried he won’t be able to get out of Doyle’s shadow. He asks for Doyle’s blessing. Then the other guys drag him over to a chair for the part with the stripper. Angel asks Doyle how he’s doing. He’s mostly okay. Angel notices the two guys who kept looking at him heading outside, and he follows.
When he gets to the back, he finds one of Richard’s relatives (his uncle, I think?) doing a weird ritual. He calls Cordelia, who has a cell phone. (Yes, I’m keeping track of which characters have cell phones.) He asks to speak to Harry, and he repeats back some of the words from the demon guy’s ritual so that she can translate for him. After he hangs up, the guy he followed bonks into him and picks a fight, and two other guys join in. It takes four guys to chuck Angel outside into the alley, having possibly knocked him out.
The stripper leaves, and Doyle tells Richard he’ll give him his blessing. He was under the impression that that was a private conversation between him and Richard, but Richard announces it to the rest of the guys, who crowd around Doyle and push him into this weird chair that closes around him and covers everything but his head. Doyle finally realizes what giving Richard his “blessing” means. They all morph into demon form and someone gives him a local anesthetic for his head. How…thoughtful.
Cordelia and Harry have found info about the brain-eating ritual in the books owned by the demon family. Harry asks the ladies about that ritual, and one of them accidentally spills the vital tidbit. Well that party’s over!
Angel is coming to in the alley, but he’s going to have to hurry. Inside, the guys are marking Doyle’s forehead with hash marks to indicate where to cut his skull open. They argue over which utensil Richard should use to eat Doyle’s brain. It’s been so long since one of these demons married a divorcée that they’re rusty on the etiquette of it. Doyle retracts his blessing, and Richard is so offended that he doesn’t really want to eat his brain anymore. But his uncle talks him out of his huffy attitude. Richard’s about to cut into Doyle’s head when…
That’s pretty much my favorite example of the “hero breaks down the door” trope. Angel starts fighting with all the demons while Doyle rolls around in his weird chair trap until the clasp pops open. He morphs and starts fighting in demon form. Is he going to head-butt someone with those spikes? YES. Good.
Harry and Cordelia show up and the fighting stops. Doyle, still in demon form, groans and sits up, only for Cordelia to bash him around the head with a silver tray until he collapses. Oops. Angel pulls her off him. Then Doyle pops back up in human form, and Cordelia offers her sympathy about how banged up he is. Hahaha.
Harry confronts Richard about his plan to eat Doyle’s brain. She’s upset that he would do something like that, particularly because he was going to hide it from her. Harry thinks it’s ridiculous that they would do this because the “ancient teachings” say so, when they don’t really follow any of their species’ other religious traditions. This offends them. They think she’s being racist, and they refuse to consent to the marriage if Richard doesn’t complete the ritual. Harry looks at Doyle, then gives Richard the engagement ring back and walks away.
Later, at the office, Angel and Cordy are watching Doyle, who’s in kind of a mopey mood. Cordelia thinks he needs some cheering up. Angel reluctantly gets up to go see to that, but she stops him and goes herself, so he merely stands back and watches. She tells Doyle she hopes he’s not about to become another guy who pines around the office over his lost love, since Angel does that already. Angel and Doyle both take offense. She does actually manage to cheer him up a little, but then he gets a vision, and it’s of Buffy! Crossover time! Yeah!
A Doyle-centric episode! “The Bachelor Party” is one that might be a bit unexpected, but I like it. Cordelia starts reciprocating Doyle’s interest and starts being slightly introspective, we learn a lot more about Doyle, he makes significant progress with his issues, and there’s plenty of wacky fun to be had with Richard’s demon family. I guess Plot B is Doyle dealing with his ex-wife and her new guy, and Plot A is demons be crazy. It was a pretty entertaining way of putting a supernatural twist on in-laws having weird traditions. One thing I particularly like about this episode is the way the arrival of Doyle’s not-quite-ex-wife didn’t destroy the fragile foundation of Cordelia/Doyle. I feel like that sort of thing happens a lot in shows, but Cordelia pretty much just rolled with it and used it as an opportunity to learn more about Doyle.
I love how willing Angel is to tail Richard for the sake of his and Doyle’s friendship. It’s both adorable and hilarious, and I think it’s a sign of how much friendship means to him. And the way he acts a bit like he’s Cordelia’s older brother is equally endearing. Her ways are incredibly strange to him, but he’s still very protective of her and he wants to be included in her life. He gives her advice and takes advice from her.
Now that Cordelia has had and lost wealth and comfort, she’s starting to realize what’s truly valuable. She still has a ways to go. Right now, she dislikes that she values actual substance in people (particularly guys she might date), but she’ll get used to that. I particularly like the way she trusts Angel enough to talk to him about this stuff, and to actually think about his advice. If you can’t already tell, I’m really rooting for this friendship. Angel really hasn’t ever had a friend before (since Buffy sort of bypassed “friend” status and went straight for “soulmate”), and Cordelia’s never had a friend who wasn’t shallow and fawning. They both need this. And yeah, Doyle is Angel’s friend too, but he’s going to be getting killed off soon. *goes off into a corner to cry*
The main emotional arc of the episode is Doyle learning to accept his demon half. He thought it was the source of all of his problems, but that's not true. Some of his problems are ones he can solve just by changing his behavior and attitude a bit. By the end of the episode, he’s embraced his demon side enough to take advantage of it during a fight, which he was unwilling to do before. That was a great way of showing his progress, rather than explaining it. I love the bit where he saves Cordelia from the vampire. None of that was calculated to impress; his instincts are simply to protect the people he cares about. And maybe some of his loutishness is just a defense mechanism so that nobody expects too much of him. He married young and was a third grade teacher, so this “streetwise slacker guy” air he puts on isn’t all of who he is. It seems more like he’s a broken idealist whose problems largely center around hating himself. But now he’s starting to get over that.
“I know what you’re up to, Richard Howard Strailey!”
“The stripper wasn’t my idea, Pook! I swear!”
“Not the stripper, Richard—there was a stripper?!”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.