Written by Shawn Ryan
Directed by Turi Meyer
The gang is at a fancy restaurant to celebrate Cordelia landing an national commercial. Angel feels somewhat exposed. Also he’s floored by how much more expensive things are than in his day. Cordelia feels slightly bad about bailing on their case to film the commercial, but the guys don’t mind. Wes and Gunn do a fistbump which Angel tries to get in on. Nooo he’s still being a dork. Wes and Gunn then debate the merits of flamethrowers while Angel mistakes another patron’s designer outfit for some mystical battle shroud made from stitching together human skin. A mistake anyone could make. Cordelia talks him out of it. And then she vomits up her dinner.
At the hotel, Wes is on the phone with his mom! And then with his dad, whose birthday it is. He tries to earn his dad’s approval by informing him that he’s now the boss of A.I. That doesn’t go well. It seems that his dad is fond of bringing up Wesley’s failures. Aww, Wes. The phone call ends depressingly. Gunn comes in and Wes pretends nothing’s wrong.
Angel goes to visit Cordy’s film set. He basks in the fake sunlight of the fake beach, which is where Cordy finds him, and she’s not happy to see him there. He has a question about her latest vision, but her director comes up before he can ask it. This guy is a massive jerk. He very snappishly demands that she take off her bathrobe so he can see her “wardrobe.” It’s one of the skimpier bikinis I’ve ever seen, and also one of the ugliest. Was it fashionable in 2001 to wear bikinis with a bunch of seashells glued to them?
You know, this is actually the first time I’ve watched this show in high enough quality to be able to tell that Cordy’s bikini has seashells glued to it. I used to think it just had a bunch of white blobby things protruding from it that resembled oversized pustules.
The director treats Cordelia like a brainless, emotionless object whose only value is in her sex appeal. Are we ever going to get a Hollywood character who isn’t a gross caricature of a human being? Angel doesn’t appreciate the way this jerk is treating Cordy, but his attempt to defend her honor only makes things worse. He almost gets Cordy fired. Then the director walks off and Cordy tries to make Angel leave. But he still needs an answer to his question about the vision. Cordy hates everything.
Gunn wants a breakdown on how to kill these Haklar demons. Wesley promptly starts reciting the encyclopedia entry on the species. That’s not what Gunn meant. It’s going to be a basic hack-and-slash job. Rondell and George from Gunn’s crew (and “The Thin Dead Line”) show up. A nest of vampires have been attacking homeless people in the crew’s territory. They’re just here to borrow Gunn’s truck. Gunn volunteers to go with them, but that will conflict with the Haklar case. Gunn wants Rondell and George to wait for them. Doesn’t seem like they will.
Angel tells Wes and Gunn about the crap that happened on Cordy’s set. He’s particularly baffled that Cordelia just let the director treat her like trash. Then all three guys get slightly distracted when he gets to the part about her ridiculous bikini.
Cut to Caritas, where Lorne is singing. Everyone’s enjoying it. And then a portal opens on the stage behind him. A huge monster jumps out of it! It wreaks some havoc in the bar, then makes its way out into the street.
Cordy is filming the commercial. Maybe it’s just that I haven’t watched many commercials since streaming became a thing, but are sun tan lotion commercials usually this sexist and gross? The director is a snappish jerk again, this time because Cordy had the audacity to get in her co-star’s light. Cordy seems close to tears.
When Angel and Wes get back to the hotel, Cordy is there, back in actual clothes (although I’m not sure a denim catsuit was the best choice). She really didn’t enjoy that acting gig. The guys tell her about saving a bunch of power-walkers from the Haklar. Angel doesn’t get power-walking as a concept and Wesley sports a minor head injury from a power-walker who felt sorry for the Haklar.
Lorne shows up at the hotel. He wants to hire Angel to kill the thing at the club. It’s a Drokken. They won’t have heard of it. They need to kill it soon because it’s going to start eating people. (Cut to a scene of the Drokken eating someone. It’s pretty gross.) Angel starts handing out assignments before Cordy reminds him Wes is the boss now. Wes is fine with Angel’s plan.
Cordy has a vision of a librarian getting sucked into a portal. A portal much like the one at Caritas. Lorne is getting a little anxious now. He doesn’t want anyone investigating any portals, he just wants the Drokken dead.
Gunn shows up at his old crew’s place. They did not wait for him, and now George is dead.
Lorne accompanies the team (minus Gunn) to the library. Lorne pretends to be in costume to read for a bunch of kids to explain the whole green skin/red eyes/horns thing. They ask about the girl in Cordy’s vision, and the librarian there thinks they must be talking about Winifred “Fred” Burkle, a physics grad student who went missing five years earlier. They check out the spot where she disappeared. Lorne is considering actually showing up to read for kids the next morning, and his book choice is Harry Potter! A demon of fine taste.
Cordy finds the book Fred was reading when she vanished. It doesn’t have any vowels. Cordy starts reading from it, and another portal opens. Wow, yeah, maybe don’t just read aloud from strange books. This time, Lorne’s cousin Landok comes out of the portal. This is the first time we actually hear Lorne’s name in the show: Krevlorneswath of the Deathwok Clan. Landok is very surprised to see Lorne. He arrived on Earth through a portal, and he has no intention of going back. Landok is keen to help them kill the Drokken. He can track it with his species’ empath powers! Those are what Lorne uses to read people at Caritas.
Gunn and his crew—perhaps it’s Rondell’s crew now—set up a funeral pyre for George. Gunn is very upset that they didn’t wait for him, but why would they when he’s been spending all his time with the A.I. team?
The Drokken hunt continues. Lorne explains what his home world was like. Angel thinks it sounds pretty nice, since it’s a simple world of warriors and fighting. Lorne and Landok insult each other a bit, and then they head off in pursuit of the Drokken. It’s kidnapped a woman to eat later, and it’s at a big shipping yard stacked high with pallets. Landok dashes off to fight the Drokken, and Angel follows. Wesley would have preferred taking a moment to strategize. The Drokken bites Landok on the arm. The poison will kill him soon, but he still wants to fight.
Lorne tries to draw the Drokken out with “here, kitty kitty” while Wesley tries to find the woman so he can get her out. Unfortunately, the Drokken is more interested in his bright flare than Angel’s call, but Angel finds them before Wesley can get torn to shreds, and he sticks his sword through the Drokken’s head.
Landok tries to insist that Lorne perform certain rituals if he dies. Lorne doesn’t want to. Also, the plan is to get Landok home in time for him to get the antidote. The way he gets home is by them using the vowel-less book to create a new portal for him to travel through. Cordy is very confident that this will work. They head to Caritas.
Rondell lights George’s pyre, and the whole crew stands by to watch it burn, Gunn a little farther off than the rest.
Landok reads the book to create a portal, and he promptly gets sucked through it. But...so does Cordy. Whoops! She wakes up in the middle of a forest in a world with two suns. There are lots of creature noises, and Landok is nowhere in sight.
I’ve always felt “Belonging” was a pretty decent episode but I probably couldn’t have explained why. Now I figured it out! It’s because everyone’s stories are connected so nicely, and the clue is in the title (I could say the same about “Tough Love,” but that one didn’t seem to gel quite as effectively, somehow). The characters all feel out of place in various ways. Angel struggles to relate to people so much younger than him. Cordelia struggles to reconcile her dream of becoming an actress with the unpleasant realities of being an actress. Gunn is torn between his two teams. Wesley struggles to retain his leadership role. Lorne spent his whole life feeling like a freak in his home dimension. It’s definitely another Act I in a cluster of episodes that form an arc, like “The Thin Dead Line” was.
Angel is still being a dork, but now it’s part of the “Belonging” theme: he can’t quite seem to interact comfortably with the team anymore. They’re all still closer to each other than they are to him. And even when he tries to be a good friend, it blows up in his face, like when he confronts the director on Cordy’s behalf. No wonder a world of warriors and no emotions sounds appealing right now.
Cordelia finally gets a break in her acting career! Except that it’s a completely horrible experience. Her visions are becoming increasingly debilitating, which makes her Plot A life also suck, even though it can be very fulfilling. She’s in a pretty bad spot.
Wesley has never had approval from his father, but he clearly wants it very badly. He tries to prove his father wrong, if only for the sake of his own sense of self-worth, by being an effective leader of Angel Investigations, but Angel just possesses so much more of a commanding presence, and Wesley isn’t quite assertive enough to overcome that.
Gunn continues to be torn between his old crew and Angel Investigations. Unlike Cordelia, his choices aren’t between Plot B and Plot A—they’re both combinations of the two, and they’re both very important to him. If he’s not around to help his crew, they’ll be reckless and get themselves killed. If he’s not around to help A.I., they might get in trouble on their cases and people could get killed. What’s Gunn supposed to do here?
“More food...? Oh, you mean people? ...Oh, you mean people?!”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.