Written by Mere Smith
Directed by Marita Grabiak
Wes is reprimanding Cordy for her weapons sorting system. Gunn is annoyed with both of them. Fred is anxiously waiting for Angel to return from his rendez-vous with Buffy, because apparently that’s not something we get to actually see onscreen. Boo. Fred wonders if Angel and Buffy will get back together. Wes gives her a categorical no. She’s still a shipper, so Cordy and Wes do a (melo)dramatic reenactment of Buffy and Angel’s relationship. Gunn is amused, but Fred seems to think they’re huge dorks. I would agree with Fred. And that’s when Angel gets back. How embarrassing!
Angel isn’t sharing his story about meeting with Buffy, no matter how deeply Cordy wants good gossip. He would like ice cream. Fred is once again the only one who wants to go with him, and the way he smiles at her is freaking adorable.
Later, they’re in the sewers, Fred still enjoying her ice cream cone and gushing about how awesome their evening was, including the part where they’re now trailing a monster into the sewers. The gushing turns into a babble fest. She’s worried she’s a burden to Angel. Also she notices some crystals on the tunnel wall. Angel sends Fred back to the hotel by herself, because she’s a genius and remembers exactly how many meters between every turn they’ve taken. Holy crap. She’s pretty reluctant to leave him alone, but eventually goes.
At the hotel, Wes and Cordy are still sorting weapons. Gunn is bored out of his mind. Cordy trips over a strange contraption Fred made. They’re not sure what it’s for. In come a middle-aged Texan couple, Roger and Trish. Wes invites them into his office and introduces Gunn and Cordy. They’re here because their daughter went missing. But they’re not trying to hire Angel Investigations to find her; they hired a different detective already, and he sent them to A.I. They’re the Burkles. Fred’s parents. The guys are shocked.
Fred makes her way in, finishing off her ice cream cone. When she sees her parents sitting in the office, she looks scared and runs upstairs to her room.
Roger and Trish want to know if Fred’s okay, and Cordy tries to backpedal over their supernatural detective agency sales pitch from before. Fred’s been missing for five years, and they’re understandably very concerned. The story the team gives them is that Fred extremely depressed when they found her. The reason they started looking for again after all this time was that they got a letter from her.
Angel strides in, very pleased with how his fight against the demon went. He’s holding its head. He wants to make it into a trophy. Cordy covers up this obvious example of supernatural stuff by claiming the head is a prop for one of Angel’s monster movies.
In her room, Fred is desperately trying to wipe off some of the writing from her walls. Downstairs, Angel is awkwardly meeting Roger and Trish. Bahahaha. Gunn is still hung up on the apparent skill of this other private investigator, who tracked Fred to the Hyperion from an unaddressed envelope. Angel invites Roger and Trish up to Fred’s room. By the time they get there, she’s gone. They recognize her handwriting on the walls, and they’re very concerned for her mental well-being. Also, they’re possibly a little shady. The A.I. team are all a bit wary now.
Fred is out on the street by herself with a backpack, and she still looks scared. Back in the office, the team is discussing the situation. They wonder if there’s a dark reason for her not wanting her parents to look for her. They need to track Fred down, but they’re sort of at a loss. Angel decides to check the sewers, since she liked them, and Wes will check the library where she worked. Or...well, they can’t just leave the Burkles behind. So the new plan is Angel will go to the sewers, code-named “his movie industry contacts,” while the rest check out some other spots she might be. The Burkles are briefly mortified by Angel’s accidental implication that Fred has been making pornos.
Fred is at Caritas, which is still a huge mess. She’s desperate for Lorne’s help. She starts singing at him, and her emotions are overwhelming for him. She’s upset that Caritas is still a wreck, but he’d rather focus on her problems. But she just wants cash so she can get out of town. She’s been running from monsters, and she’d better keep running fast.
Angel is looking for Fred in the sewers, talking in case she’s near enough to hear him. Something sure is near enough, but it’s not Fred. It’s a giant insect.
The rest of the team and the Burkles are at the library now. Cordy makes very awkward conversation with them. Trish is a school bus driver. Roger doesn’t understand why Fred’s working with a detective agency, since she’s a physicist. Nobody has seen Fred at the library. Gunn thinks they ought to take more seriously his suggestion to check all the taco stands. They and the Burkles are growing increasingly suspicious of each other.
Angel’s cell phone rings, making him jump. The whole team feels very stupid for not thinking of Lorne already. Caritas is their next stop. Lorne, they explain, is in costume for one of Angel’s monster movies. He doesn’t appreciate that. Gunn steps outside because Lorne is still really pissed at him for what his friends did to his place.
Roger and Trish are starting to think A.I. are either sucky detectives or deliberately hiding Fred from them. Angel tries to get information out of Lorne. Lorne tries a couple of conversational red herrings, but that fails to distract Angel for long. He knows Lorne knows where Fred is. Very reluctantly, Lorne tells Angel where to find Fred.
Fred is babbling to herself on a bench at the bus stop. By the time she starts reciting pi, a hobo on the bench next to her gets up and leaves, weirded out. Bahaha. She thinks she could make a living for herself cheating at blackjack. Roger and Trish show up with the team just as she talks her way up the card deck to king and queen. She’s horrified. She tries to run away from them. They run up to her and try to have a happy reunion, but she breaks down. She doesn’t want to see them because somehow that will make everything she went through in Pylea more real, and okay I’m bawling now. They hug her and there are tears all around, while the team watches with somber faces.
Just when Roger is assuring Fred that she’s safe now, that giant insect from the sewers attacks, because every demon in the Buffyverse is endowed with an acute sense of ironic timing. The team stops pretending all this supernatural-seeming stuff is monster movie props. Angel stays to fight it while everyone else runs, but the next thing they know, Angel’s getting thrown through the doors to the station, and the bug monster is still coming.
They unload their weapons and start fighting the bug monster. A golf club slides towards Fred. She whacks the bug monster just as it’s doing something that looks super painful to Angel, and then Roger hits it with a trash can when it goes after Fred. Then Trish kills it by hitting it with a bus! The Burkles are officially awesome.
Back at the hotel, Cordy is bandaging up Fred’s arm. The head of the monster Angel killed earlier is sitting on top of that cone-shaped couch. It has crystals on it. Roger and Trish are getting filled in on the truth about Angel Investigations. Gunn picks up the head and twirls it around, thinking it’s actually fake. Why would he think that? When Angel corrects that impression, Gunn immediately runs to wash his hands with bleach.
Angel and Wesley look fondly at the Burkles. Then it’s Angel’s turn to get bandaged, and he’s adorkably excited about it. Fred explains to her mom what everyone’s role is at A.I. Angel is the champion, Wes is the brains, Cordy is the heart, and Gunn is the muscle. She trails off at the end, not sure where she fits into that. Roger and Angel are hitting it off very well. It’s great. Fred says she wants to go home. She doesn’t think she’s cut out for A.I. Everyone gets really quiet, but her parents would be thrilled to bring her home. The A.I. team is a bit wistful, but they don’t object.
Fred’s in her room. Angel comes to visit. She invites him in again, since she probably won’t get another chance to invite him in. She feels a lot of confused feelings about going home. She tells him what the writing on her walls means. It’s the story of a girl who was all alone in a cave and she couldn’t escape, but then a handsome man came and saved her from the monsters. But that’s not the end of the story. She ended up making a new cave inside the hero’s castle. This time, she’s the one who has to save herself.
Cordy and Trish are having a nice conversation about how wild it is that monsters are real. Then they, Gunn, Wes, and Roger marvel at Fred’s strange contraption. Angel and Fred come down. The Burkles are about to head out. Fred hugs the team, starting with Gunn. The hug with Wes is incredibly awkward. Cordy says she’s a bit jealous that Fred can go home with her parents. Then Fred thanks Angel. HUG. HUGS FOR ANGEL. Don’t you walk out without hugging Angel too! Dangit she’s walking out without hugging Angel too. There are just never enough hugs!
The Burkles are in a cab. Apparently Roger and Trish rented out Fred’s room, but the tenant will be gone in a month. Fred notices that her shirt that had bug guts on it now has purple crystals growing out of it. She realizes what that means and orders the cab driver to turn around.
The A.I. team are sitting around in the office, a bit mopey. Cordy misses Roger and Trish. The others agree. It was nice to spend time with parents who are actually nice and supportive. Wes goes off on a tangent about why they were good parents that is mostly about why his own dad was the worst.
The severed head starts pulsing all of a sudden. Uh oh. Angel misses Fred. She was a soothing kind of crazy. Cordy is indignant at the (imagined) implication that she isn’t soothing, and Angel gives her the funniest look.
Cordy starts talking about how it’s a relief that Fred’s gone, but before anyone can get too angry at her, she switches to hoping Fred will at least visit. And there’s a giant bug lurking outside the hotel. Actually, there are a couple dozen of them. Uh oh. The team scrambles for weapons. Before things can get too crazy, Fred comes rushing back in, and she activates her contraption, which is a spring-loaded axe. It lands on the demon head, which erupts with cockroach things. Apparently those are the baby versions of the giant bugs, which all leave peacefully now that they’ve retrieved the larvae.
Fred explains how she figured out what was going on with the bugs. She has a lot of theories about the giant bug species. Wes is very impressed with her deductions, and Gunn is very impressed with her axe contraption. All this has made Fred realize that she does belong with A.I. after all. She’s not normal anymore, and she doesn’t think she could pretend to be. The team is ecstatic. Roger and Trish are a bit sad, but supportive. They’ll hang around for a couple of days to catch up with her, though.
Cut to the next day. Angel and Roger are still working on becoming BFFs while everyone works on painting over Fred’s walls. Wes and Gunn argue about the best painting strategy while Trish makes sure they aren’t squabbling. Cordy brings pizza. Fred paints over her drawing of her and Angel on the horse. She can move on now!
I like “Fredless” a lot, and not just because it’s full of Texans. It’s like Angel’s version of “Family,” except that Fred’s family is absolutely wonderful instead of being a bunch of bigoted, controlling jerks. It’s full of happy family feels and that stuff turns me to mush every time I see it. And isn’t it interesting how effective the trick is, that Roger and Trish are horrible? By this point, as Buffyverse viewers, we’ve become so jaded that we wouldn’t question the idea of the Burkles being just the worst. Buffy’s dad is a deadbeat, Willow’s parents are emotionally distant, Xander’s whole family is scary and awful, Cordy’s parents are in prison, Tara’s family should be in prison, Wes clearly has a very bad relationship with his dad, and Gunn has probably been an orphan for quite a few years. Healthy family relationships are very few and far between in this universe. Roger and Trish, partly by contrast but mostly on their own merits, are delightful. The plot of the episode does a good job of first making it appear as if Fred doesn’t belong with the team, then proving that she actually does—following her own thought progression in that way. When Fred explains what everyone’s roles are, it’s also a lot like the end of Buffy S4, where Buffy was the hand, Giles was the mind, Willow was the spirit, and Xander was the heart. As the protagonist, Angel is the one on whom the story mostly hinges, and the other characters connect to him in different ways (after connecting to the mission). Wesley and Angel are connected via intellect, since they’re both very smart and interested in demonology. Cordy and Angel are connected by emotion. She’s the best at noticing when something’s up with him. Gunn and Angel are connected by shared enjoyment of fighting evil. And I think Angel and Fred are connected by being just a little weird. He can relate a lot to Fred in her post-Pylea trauma because of the literal demon inside him.
I like that Angel’s just as wistful as the rest of the team about the concept of good parents. When he was human, he didn’t get along with his father, but there’s nothing to suggest his mother wasn’t wonderful, and it mostly seems like his dad was only difficult to live with because Liam was difficult to live with. Then Angelus killed them. I think with all the time that’s passed since then, Angel has gained a lot of perspective on parents. I’m sure he misses his own, even his father. Also, Angel and Fred’s friendship continues to be the most adorable thing ever. He’s very good at being a big brother figure, as I’ve mentioned, but I sort of get the impression that Fred might actually remind him of Kathy a little.
Cordelia definitely still thinks Fred is extremely weird, but she’s clearly still fond of her in spite of that. And her reaction to Roger and Trish suggests that her home life before her parents went to prison was not a very affectionate one, which is sort of depressing.
Like with Cordy, we haven’t seen a whole lot yet from Wesley to indicate that he likes Fred, but he’s the most enthusiastic one about welcoming her back to the team. Also, I think it’s fascinating (and definitely depressing) how we only ever find out small snippets about his relationship with his father. There’s a lot of bitterness and feelings of inadequacy there, and occasionally some of it slips out.
I really like how subtle and slow the progress is with Gunn’s crush on Fred. He’s not begging her to stay or anything, but having her around makes him happy. I also like the continuity with Gunn and Lorne, but I hope they won’t be on the outs for long.
Fred is so fascinating in this episode. After that huge arc that centered around each character figuring out where they belonged, it’s only fitting that Fred would get an episode where she gets to go through that arc herself, and last episode was the first time it started to seem odd that she was still hanging around so long after being rescued. It was just the right time to figure out what Fred’s role was going to be, or if she was just going to go home. I adore the scene where she tells Angel the fairy tale of him saving her, and how the episode ends with her painting over it, because she succeeded in rescuing herself from her new cave. And now I want to go watch Tangled because that scene where Fred and her parents are first reunited is so very much like the end of that movie. I mean, just look at the screencaps from them both!
“And then we get to chase it down into the sewers, which are just so bleak and oppressive and...homey! I could build a condo down here!”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.