Written by Scott Murphy
Directed by James A. Contner
In the lobby of the Hyperion, Gunn is playing a GameBoy, Wes is looking at books and papers, and Cordelia is sitting on one of those funny cone-shaped couches looking at magazines. Fred comes downstairs and startles Cordelia so badly that her scream spooks Wes and Gunn too. (Incidentally, is there a word for cone-shaped couches? Because I have been trying to find that out for about ten years now, thanks to this show, with no success.)
Fred makes awkward small talk (awkward for everyone besides her), but what she really wants to know is where Angel is, because she has a crush on him. She imagines he’s probably reading some deep literature, but then he comes downstairs fanboying about Charlton Heston movies. Nobody cares, except Fred, who is happy to hang out with Angel in any context.
Elsewhere, a very overly muscled dude has just finished having a threesome with two pretty ladies. They’re very worn out now, but he isn’t. He gets up to have a martini and check himself out in the mirror. Then he seizes up; something’s wrong. The girls are alarmed. He says some kind of spell, and then red light goes out of him. After that, he sort of melts into a steaming pile of goo.
Fred is gushing to Wes about her night with Angel at the movies. Wes is not enjoying this conversation. Out in the lobby, Cordelia informs Angel that Fred is under the impression that last night was a date. Angel doesn’t think it’s a big deal, but Cordy feels he needs to have a conversation about Fred before this puppy love of hers gets any stronger. Angel would like Cordy to be the one to have that conversation, but she drags him into the office to talk to Fred. He sidesteps by pointing out a newspaper article about the pile of goo guy. Wes remembers a similar story from the previous week, and he and Angel agree it’s worth investigating. Fred is swoony. Cordy is annoyed.
Gavin Park catches up with Lilah at W&H. His building code violations angle against Angel hasn’t yielded anything yet, but now he thinks he can go after him because he doesn’t legally exist. Lilah finds Gavin very annoying. After he leaves, she has her secretary get hold of a forger. What’s this about?
Turns out, there have been four pile of goo deaths recently. Wes will be meeting a coroner’s office contact, Gunn will be interviewing hotel staff from where the men died, and Cordy has discovered that all four victims were members of the same health club. She and Cordy head to the gym to check that out. That leaves Fred awkwardly alone at the hotel.
At the health club, Cordy gives Angel crap about avoiding Fred and how it’s bad to mix work with pleasure, and then she immediately heads over to talk to a particularly muscular guy, ostensibly for reasons pertaining to the case and nothing else. Angel interviews the manager, which is very entertaining. He implies that the club has been implicated in the deaths because of steroid use, and the manager goes white and lets him do whatever he needs to do with their files. Cordy’s approach is less subtle. It reminds me of “Earshot.” Fun times.
Angel keeps checking out the club. He notices that someone in the neighboring building is watching the club with binoculars. It’s a retirement home. He tells Cordy he’s going to check it out. She’s now “interviewing” about five muscular guys who all look very interested in her. Angel reminds her that she’s here for work, then leaves.
He makes his way to the room of the man with binoculars, one Marcus Roscoe. He thinks this guy might’ve seen something useful while spying on the health club. Marcus mostly spies on the ladies, so maybe he won’t be able to help. Angel notices the shady occult stuff Marcus has on his shelf, as well as the extreme sports magazines. Well, looks like this is our guy. He says the same spell from before while Angel watches with an amused expression, but then he and Angel swap bodies, and Marcus knocks out Angel, now in the old man’s body.
Marcus strolls out of the retirement home, where Cordy is waiting in the car. He walks right past her until she calls out to him. He plays along while she tells him about her lack of success at the club. Marcus seems to think that “going back to the hotel” means they will be having sex soon, and he is psyched.
When they arrive, he rings a bell for service, but then he notices the business cards and realizes this is where they work, and that their team includes a Wes and a Gunn. He figures out Cordy’s name from the set of cards with her name on them, and he starts hitting on her. She thinks Angel’s just being weird in an attempt to get out of talking to Fred. Who Marcus assumes is a man, because Cordy doesn’t use helpful pronouns. Now Marcus thinks Angel is gay. Cordy leaves, and Marcus is bummed.
Angel wakes up at the retirement home and struggles to stand up in his old man body. He looks in the mirror. His vision is terrible without glasses. He makes his way down to the reception desk and calls the hotel. Unfortunately, Marcus is the only one there, so when Angel leaves a message, Marcus picks up and gloats about all the fun he’s having in Angel’s body. Then one of the nurses at the retirement home catches Angel and tells him he’s lost his phone privileges for a month. At the hotel, Marcus smashes the tape from the answering machine. Angel does a much better job pretending to be Marcus for the nurse than Marcus does at pretending to be Angel.
In the morning, Cordelia finds “Angel” asleep on the desk. He claims he’s been working on the case all night. She reminds him to talk to Fred, and then in comes Wesley talking about tea leaves versus teabags, so Marcus assumes he’s Fred. Cordy departs after one more stern reminder, and Marcus sits down to talk to Wes. He’s super grossed out by the idea of this conversation. He keeps edging away from Wes. Wes is extremely confused. They end up shaking hands, and then Marcus hugs him. Then Cordy calls Wes in for food, which means this guy isn’t Fred! Also, Fred is up in her room. Marcus is deeply relieved. Gunn’s the one who brought the food. Marcus gives him a tip. *winces* Marcus also eats one of the breakfast burritos, which everyone else thinks is rather odd. Gunn has found a new lead, which involves escorts. He and Wes fight over who gets to follow up on that one, but Cordy decides she’ll be the one taking it. Wes and Gunn head out to meet with the coroner’s office guy again.
Angel is sitting in the lobby of the retirement home, and he tries to escape, but then another resident comes up and introduces him to his new baby granddaughter. Aww. This makes him miss his window with the guard leaving his table.
Marcus has just finished shredding all of their papers on this case and is enjoying a martini when Fred finds him in the office. He starts hitting on her. He tells her to go put on something nice so they can go out. She is beyond delighted, and scampers off to do as instructed. Marcus’s next visitor is Lilah. Evidently the reason she wanted a forger was so that she could get Angel all the documents he needed to get past Gavin’s building code violations thing, because screw Gavin. Bahaha. Marcus pours two martinis and starts hitting on Lilah. And wow, he really only has the one line: “have I ever told you you’re a very beautiful woman?”
Angel pulls the fire alarm at the retirement home, then tries to get out, but he has a heart attack! Oh no!
Marcus and Lilah are well on their way to being drunk. Then he starts coming onto her a lot more heavily. Lilah is reluctant at first, but then very enthusiastically starts making out with him. Which is when Fred comes down to meet Angel for their date. Ouch. She sees them and flees, crushed. Back in the office, Marcus discovers he’s in the body of a vampire when in the process of giving Lilah a hickey, he vamps out and bites her. She freaks off and shoves him away, warding him off with a cross. Marcus feels his weird forehead bumps and his fangs, then checks a mirror, in which he has no reflection.
Angel is hooked up to a heart rate monitor. The heart attack didn’t kill him, but the nurse dude is pretty sure the next one will (because that was number four for Marcus’s heart). Angel is mostly just amazed that his heart is beating, since usually it doesn’t.
Cordy gets back to the hotel, having not enjoyed interviewing the escorts. She finds Fred curled up and crying in the elevator. Fred talks incoherently about Angel. Cordy thinks this is the result of the talk she insisted he have with Fred, but then Fred tells her about him making out with some lady on the desk.
Marcus is at a club. Before he came here, he must’ve found Angel’s wardrobe—specifically the drawer of Angelus pants. He picks up a chick at the club, and they head out onto a balcony to make out. It seems she has a boyfriend. He vamps out and bites her. Then her boyfriend and his buddies come out and find them. They try to attack him, but they’re no match for vamp strength. Marcus is having a blast. In this body, he gets to be young forever! He jumps over the balcony and runs off down the street. There’s something he has to do.
Wes, Gunn, Cordy, and Fred are all in the office trying to make sense of Angel’s behavior. Cordy thinks this is typical of Angel (Wait, why? He’s not a callous womanizer.), until Fred drops the detail that Angel’s make-out partner was brunette, not blonde. Cordy and Gunn think maybe Angel is now Angelus, and they fill Fred in a bit about Angelus. Wesley’s the first one to realize that it wasn’t really Angel at all, because Marcus left a bunch of books on vampire lore strewn around the office (along with several martini glasses). He also connects this to their case. Cordy tells him about Angel going to the retirement home. A lead! Wesley is confident that the culprit in the case is a body-swapper. They head out.
Angel is making another bid for freedom. The same old guy who showed him his granddaughter spots him and can’t believe he’s still trying to get out. Also, he informs him that his son was just at reception. Wait, son? That would be Marcus in Angel’s body. Uh oh. Angel tries to get away, but Marcus has already figured out how to track by scent. Angel hits him over the head with a broom, but that barely stuns Marcus. Angel knows Marcus must be here to kill his original body so that he can keep the new, immortal one. Marcus has fully accepted the vampire lifestyle, and he thinks Angel was a moron for being such a do-gooder. (Ooh, fascinating. This supports a theory of mine. More on that here in a bit.)
In comes the A.I. team. They dogpile Marcus, and Cordy ultimately tases him unconscious. Then they go to Marcus’s room and tie Angel’s body to a chair. They find Marcus’s bodyswapping gear, and Angel says the spell to switch back. I like that Angel’s soul is blue, while Marcus’s is red. Angel has a Light Side soul! Angel crushes Marcus’s conjuring stone so he can’t keep pulling this crap. Marcus is furious. Angel tells him he’s wasting his human life. Marcus starts having another heart attack in the middle of yelling insults at them as they leave.
In the courtyard at the hotel, Angel comes to chat with Fred. He starts trying to talk to her, but it seems Cordelia eventually had the talk with her instead. Fred’s a bit downcast about it, but she understands. And she thinks maybe Angel is better off if he’s barred from love, because he doesn’t have to deal with the downsides. About that? Cordy just heard from Willow that Buffy’s alive! Angel immediately jumps up to learn more.
I’m a fan of bodyswap episodes. I think it’s a really fun concept. And while “Carpe Noctem” is definitely no “Who Are You?”, there is still fun to be had. One reason “Who Are You?” was such a fantastic bodyswap episode was that we knew both of the characters involved quite well. “Carpe Noctem” essentially forfeits half of its potential by using Marcus, a random villain-of-the-week, instead of using someone we’re more familiar with. I don’t care about Marcus or his life at the retirement home, and there’s no threat that Angel will be stuck in the wrong body for an extended period because we instinctively know that’s never going to happen with a character we just met. I think this episode would’ve been much better if, for some reason, Angel had ended up swapping bodies with Gunn. Thanks to Gunn’s crush on Fred, the subplot about Fred’s crush on Angel would still have fit. And the episode before this was all about Gunn struggling with the idea of choosing Angel over his crew even though Angel is a vampire, and Gio even accused Gunn of wishing he could be a demon. How perfect would it have been as a follow-up story if Gunn had actually been forced to spend some time as a vampire? But as I said before, “Carpe Noctem” only forfeited half its potential by swapping Angel with Marcus. I do think Angel’s experience in Marcus’s body is kind of interesting. He gets to be human for a couple of days, and despite the fact that this particular human is all elderly and infirm with the constant heart attacks, it’s kind of beautiful how much Angel still appreciates the feeling of his heart beating. The theme here is the same one in most bodyswap stories: learn to appreciate what you have. I’m not sure it actually does well with that, though, again because of the way they used a one-shot character for it. Angel and Marcus mostly just appreciate their loaner bodies.
Now, about that theory I mentioned earlier: Marcus’s behavior while in Angel’s body proves that possession of a soul is not enough to make a vampire good. What’s interesting is that Marcus seems like he’s not too far off from being the old man version of Liam, Angel’s human self. Liam, too, was a womanizing drunkard. Would he have been a good vampire if he’d had his soul from the beginning? I think not. He needed powerful motivation to give him the power to fight against his vampire instincts, and 150 years’ worth of first-person memories of death and destruction certainly fits the bill. Marcus, on the other hand, has no horrible associations with the vampire instincts, so they can hammer against his conscience in full force, easily convincing him that giving into them is the more appealing option. More on this theory, if I remember, in “Spin the Bottle” and again in “Why We Fight.”
Angel is so adorable when he’s hanging out with Fred. I want this to happen more. Of all the friends he’s made since the series began, Fred is the one who has trusted him the most quickly and completely, so it makes sense that he would be more lighthearted around her than anyone else. But he’s still not a fan of having remotely difficult conversations about emotions, so can Cordelia be the one to discuss why he can’t date her? I also love the way he reacts to the news that Buffy’s alive. Not a word, he’s just up and charging for the phone.
The Buffyverse may have its occasional plot holes and logic fails, but the character writing is reliably consistent, and I particularly enjoy the way Cordelia’s detective skills, despite having worked for/with Angel for over two years, are still as terrible as they were in “Earshot.”
Points to Wesley for being the first one to realize Angel wasn’t Angel. Admittedly, he was the one who had the weirdest interaction with not-Angel, and he realized it more because of Marcus’s reading material than his behavior anyway, but still. Also, it continues to feel like Wesley and Angel are co-bosses.
Gunn doesn’t really do much in this one compared to everyone else, but it’s cute that he’s the only one who isn’t startled when Fred comes out of nowhere in the opening scene.
The scene where Fred is the only one left in the lobby after everyone else heads out to pursue leads really highlights that, while she may be living in the hotel, she isn’t actually a part of Angel Investigations. That’s going to have to change soon. Her crush on Angel is very sweet, and I felt so bad for her when Marcus raised her hopes and then completely shattered them like that. Part of me wishes she’d been the one to figure out what was wrong first, but I suppose just because she’s a genius, that doesn’t preclude the possibility of her being people-dumb, particularly when it’s only been a few months since Pylea.
“I’m not a eunuch!”
“It’s just a figure of speech.”
“Find a better one.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.