“I’ve Got You under My Skin”
Written by David Greenwalt and Jeannine Renshaw
Directed by R.D. Price
Wesley got Angel a spiffy knife, which is the only weapon that can kill a Kek demon. A lovely gesture, except that Kek demons are extinct. Cordelia is making brownies, and she is a terrible cook. Wesley is the only one who has to—gets to—try the brownies, since Angel conveniently doesn’t eat. They get into a squabble over the quality of the cooking and whether or not Cordelia is allowed to use the spiffy knife to cut the brownies. Angel tries to break up the argument, but he accidentally says Doyle instead of Wesley, and then it’s a sad, painful moment mixed with awkwardness. But hey, they stopped squabbling! He leaves.
Elsewhere, a couple of siblings are fighting in a rather similar way to Cordy and Wes. Their mom breaks it up, sort of, and when their dad walks in, they go quiet, and spooky music starts. The mom puts the kids to bed, and then asks if they really have to put padlocks on the kids’ doors. Yes, says the dad’s super stern face.
Cordelia comes into Angel’s office, where he’s reading. She wants to talk about the slip with Doyle’s name. She’s not concerned with how that affected Wesley, but how Doyle’s death has affected Angel. Angel admits that he misses Doyle and he blames himself for Doyle’s death. Before they can get much farther into it, Cordy gets a vision. It’s of that family.
Angel and Wesley pull up in front of the house in time to see the little boy walking out into the road. Angel grabs him before he can get hit by a car, and he gets a little scuffed up. He’s surprisingly good with kids. Then the dad comes running out, super angry. The mom comes out too, very upset. Their names are Paige and Seth, and the boy’s name is Ryan. Paige invites Angel in so she can patch up his shoulder. The family just barely moved in. Seth seems very unpleasant, and Paige seems frightened.
Outside, Wesley is poking around. He finds some yellowish goo on the stones around their flower beds.
Angel and Seth (who is smoking) are sitting rather uncomfortably in the living room while Paige goes to get bandages. When she comes back, Angel’s wound is almost entirely healed. She’s really confused. He tells them his name, and Paige whips out her collection of angel figurines. She seems slightly unbalanced. She invites Angel to dinner, and he accepts, even though Seth clearly doesn’t agree with the invitation. Back in the car, Angel tells Wesley his suspicions, and Wesley shows him the green glowy goop he found, which apparently means someone in the family is possessed.
Back at the office, Cordelia has found out that the family has moved multiple times in the last few years, and unpleasant things have happened around them, like a family friend going missing. According to Angel and Wesley, Lizzie Borden was possessed by the same kind of demon, but just an adolescent one. Someone in the house is possessed by an adult one. Angel’s money is on the dad being the one possessed, and Wesley lets slip something that suggests he didn’t have a very happy childhood.
Angel goes to dinner, and he brought brownies (hopefully not the ones Cordelia made). It’s super awkward, at least until Paige and Seth leave the room and Angel can talk to the kids. It’s time for the brownies. Everyone tries them. I think he might have used Cordelia’s brownies after all, because the kids are rather upset when Seth tells them this is their only dessert for the night. Seth finally takes a bite of his brownie, and Angel seems to be waiting for something to happen. Seth starts choking on his brownie, so is he the demon? No wait, Ryan’s face is all demony. Stephanie says that Ryan is bad, and then Seth sends her to her room. Paige is extremely upset that Angel would put something in their food. She seems to be missing the point that Ryan is possessed in all her motherly concern. She wants to be able to blame Angel for what’s wrong with Ryan, but Seth reminds her that this has been going on for a long time, and he’ll take Angel’s help if Angel can do something for Ryan.
Angel calls the office. Wes and Cordy are still trying to find a priest who can exorcise the demon, and they also need to get ingredients for the exorcism. Paige, Ryan, Seth, and Angel come back to Angel’s apartment. Ryan is asleep, and his face is still all demony. Cordelia pours a circle of binding powder around the bed where Ryan is. Paige is still having some trouble with the idea that Ryan is possessed. Wesley and Angel leave to go recruit a priest and get ingredients. Seth and Paige are not supposed to break the binding circle in the meantime.
Wes and Angel get to a church, where Angel is very uncomfortable. There’s an old nun praying there, and she recognizes Angel for what he is immediately. Also, the priest they’re looking for is dead. He died exorcising a girl six months before. Her prayers go with them.
Ryan is crying for Paige, and Paige is not holding out very well. She wants to just keep going like they are, but Seth reminds her of what happened to their friend in Ohio.
Wesley wants to do the exorcism himself. Angel’s not sure he can pull it off, because it takes a kind of mental fortitude he’s not sure Wesley (who apparently owns two thighmasters) possesses. Wesley thinks that’s just fine, and he tosses Angel a cross so he can do it instead. Point well taken.
Paige comes to the doorway of Angel’s room so she can see Ryan. Then Ryan starts thrashing around, and Paige fights against Seth and Cordy to try and get to him. Angel and Wes are on their way down, and they’ve just learned that an Ethros demon will kill its next host if it gets exorcised, which is how the priest died. Then they hear yelling from the apartment, and they pick up the pace. Alas, their arrival distracts Cordy and Seth long enough for Paige to run into the circle, and the doors slam shut behind her. Come on, guys, this is an exorcism! Never drop your guard during an exorcism! Ryan starts strangling Paige.
They manage to get the door open, and Angel succeeds in pulling Paige away from Ryan. Wesley brandishes a cross and starts a Latin exorcism incantation (which sounds rather a lot like the one they use in Supernatural…I wonder if the writers of the two shows have a common source for that). Paige is now okay with the plan to not approach Ryan. Angel leaves Wesley in the room with Ryan. What they need before they do the exorcism is a box specifically designed to draw an exorcised Ethros demon. Cordelia goes to check a magic shop for one.
Wesley is doing more Latin stuff and splashing holy water on Ryan. The demon is not impressed with Wesley’s efforts. Also, the voice filter they put on Ryan makes him almost unintelligible. The demon starts taunting Wesley about how he’s not good enough for anyone—not his dad, not the Council. It’s definitely getting to him. Angel comes in, and he has Wesley’s back. He does want Wesley there. The demon tells Angel that Wesley is planning to kill him. Wesley denies it, and then he lunges at the demon, breaking the circle. Dangit, Wesley! This frees the demon to use telekinesis on him, and he makes him shank himself in the throat with the cross. Angel rushes over and rips the cross back out. Great! I’m sure Wesley’s carotid artery will be just fine!
Wesley’s checking out all the magical boxes at the magic shop. The proprietor doesn’t have an Ethros box. He has a similar box, intended for a smaller variety of demon. Cordelia thinks it’ll probably work, and he seems like the type who’ll tell her anything that gets him paid.
Paige is patching Wesley up, and apparently he doesn’t need hospitalization even though the cross was so far in his neck that he didn’t have to touch it for it to stay there. Marbles roll across the kitchen table to spell out “SAVE ME.” The demon opens the doors and uses Doyle’s voice. Well he just pushed Angel’s berserk button. Angel wraps his hand in cloth and grabs the cross. He’s going to do this exorcism right now, dang it. The demon mocks Angel for Doyle’s death and mocks Seth about Ryan’s safety. Angel says the Latin and Wesley translates it. Angel vamps out at the end of the exorcism, and it works! The Ethros demon heads straight for Cordy’s new box…and breaks it in half! It gets all the way out of the building, though. It iddn’t possess anyone there. Angel wants to track it. He thinks it’ll need time to recharge before it can possess someone else—or possess Ryan again.
He and Wesley find the demon in a sea cave. Wesley wants to address the demon’s accusations. Angel’s okay with Wesley being willing to kill him, so he’s not upset about that. Wesley’s a bit surprised, but he keeps following Angel into the cave. They find the demon. It’s possessed tens of thousands of people. Then it says something rather troubling when Wesley says it didn’t get Ryan’s soul: “What soul?”
Ryan and Stephanie are having their hot chocolate, and Ryan is very annoyed that she has more marshmallows than him. In the cave, the demon keeps explaining about Ryan. Who apparently had no soul when the demon first possessed him. The demon was trapped inside the void where Ryan’s soul should have been, watching while Ryan destroyed everything around him. He only managed to manifest when Angel used the brownies to find the demon. He made the marbles spell “SAVE ME” because he was hoping they’d free him from inside Ryan. He made him sleepwalk in front of the car because he wanted to kill him, even if it killed the demon too. Angel kills the demon, and then they hurry back to Ryan’s house.
Once everyone’s asleep, Ryan grabs Seth’s matchbook, blocks his parent’s door with a wedge-shaped block, unhooks the phone, and pours gasoline all over Stephanie’s room. Then he sets her room on fire, starting with the drawings he hated. Stephanie wakes up and screams. Ryan just watches, dead-eyed. Seth and Paige finally break out of their room. Angel comes in through the window and gets Stephanie out, and Wesley hurries Paige, Seth, and Ryan out the other way.
The fire department and the police—Kate, specifically—have arrived. Ryan is in the back of Kate’s cruiser. He’s going to be evaluated by a psychologist working for Social Services. Kate tries to thank Kate, but she’s still icing him out. Seth knows he won’t be able to protect Ryan anymore, and he feels like he failed to keep his family together. Angel disagrees, and there’s some clear parallelism between Seth’s family and Angel Investigations.
I think “I’ve Got You under My Skin” might actually be one of the first Angel episodes I saw. I’ve always considered it a pretty strong one-shot episode, and I still do. The twists are excellent, as are the connections to the characters. When it seems that Seth is the villain, it brings out Wesley’s own issues with his father. When it becomes clear that Seth is only trying to protect his family, the parallel switches to Angel, who feels like he failed his “family” by not keeping Doyle alive. I also really love that old nun. The Buffyverse tends to keep its distance from religion, and wards it off with a stick if it tries to get too close, but that nun is a wonderful exception. Heck, this whole episode is an exception. They do a Catholic exorcism! Or an approximation of one, with crosses and holy water and everything. And I love that the nun recognizes vampires when she sees them. Why can’t there be more characters like that?
The idea that Angel considers the Angel Investigations team to be his family isn’t outright stated in this episode, but it’s heavily implied through the parallel between Angel and Seth. Angel couldn’t save Doyle, and there’s nothing Seth can do to save Ryan. All Angel can do now is hold on to Cordy and Wes and push forward, which is what Seth has to do with Paige and Stephanie.
Cordelia is astonishingly tactless with the family, but she’s getting better and better at reading Angel and helping him open up about what’s bothering him. As much as I think Angel’s tendency for brooding is fine, it’s also a good way to let things fester. Cordelia doesn’t want to let him do that. And while she does seem to trust Angel with her life and genuinely care about him now, I think her trust in Wesley is a work in progress. Not because he’s not trustworthy, but because he doesn’t exactly radiate competence.
After so many episodes now of seeing Wesley be spastic and egotistical, we finally get a peek beneath the surface. We can gather from the little bits we learn about his relationship with his father that he’s spent his whole life struggling to earn approval and acceptance, which his father never gave him. Getting fired from the Council only made his inferiority complex worse, and now he’s terrified that Angel and Cordelia will treat him the same way if he makes the tiniest mistake. Angel mistakenly calling him Doyle wasn’t a rejection of him, but I think that’s how Wesley might have taken it. Is he just a replacement for the friend they lost, or is he a valued member of the team in his own right? Oh, Wesley. Now I wish Angel hadn’t rejected his hug last time, because Wesley needs hugs just as much as Angel does!
“What’s your secret, Angel?”
“I use…chocolate. That’s why they’re brown. Which gives them their name. Brownies.”
“How many crosses am I holding up?”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.