Written by Scott Murphy
Directed by Bill Norton
Angel is putting coins in a piggy bank, and Cordy is holding Connor. Fred’s on the computer in the office. Apparently Angel is now attempting to save up money for Connor’s future, and he’s starting by raiding the lobby couches for loose change. You might want to aim higher, buddy. Also, what Fred is doing on the computer is making an Angel Investigations website! Nifty. Angel and Cordelia make dorky faces at Connor, and Cordelia wants to make sure Angel isn’t making A.I. about the money now that he’s a father. Wait a second. Cordelia Chase is preemptively lecturing Angel about not focusing on the money side of things? We have now come full circle from where they were at on this issue at the beginning of S1. Gunn has been out putting flyers on people’s cars. The team waits around the phone for cases to start coming in. The awkward silence is filled only by Connor’s stock baby noises.
Outside, in the pouring rain, a man runs desperately from something, but he trips. Luckily, there’s an A.I. flyer right there! He calls the number. Back at the hotel, the phone does not ring. Where it does ring is at a pizza place! That would be because they put the wrong number on the flyers. Whoops! That guy dies horribly. But I’m pretty sure the A.I. team wouldn’t have been able to reach him in the ten seconds between when the phone started ringing and when he got eaten.
The next day, Wes returns to the hotel after putting new fliers with the correct number everywhere. Gunn is fondly watching Fred hold Connor. Wes also admires the adorable sight, but Gunn is much more upfront about his interest in Fred. Lorne is still staying in the hotel, and Angel wants him to put feelers about regarding Holtz. Cordy is psyched because they’ve had hits on their website! The phone starts ringing off the hook! Why didn’t they do this kind of marketing earlier?
Holtz is still putting Justine through her embittered revenge-driven anti-vampire crusade training. Which involves him nailing her hand to a table because she killed two vampires he told her to walk away from. So things are going great.
The lobby is full of potential A.I. clients. Including a group of demons who speak in clicks and pops. Their job will pay bank, and they want to talk to Wesley. Each member of the team (including Lorne) is trying to deal with multiple clients at once. Maybe this would be a good time for Gunn to call Rondell and the crew to come be outside contractors. And Anne! How about Anne, at the very least as a babysitter for Connor? No? The six of you are just gonna handle it all by yourselves? That’s fine too, I guess.
Angel takes a job about an entrepreneur with demon problems, Gunn takes a job about a dead ex-boyfriend stalker, and what the crap is Wesley talking about? “The internet article I’m currently writing posits a formula for the genome mapping of creatures who don’t have genes.” You can’t have a genome if you don’t have genes! Come on! I could’ve told you that before I spent one unpleasant semester as a genetics/biochemistry major.
The demons Wes is talking to want to buy his head. Which Lorne interprets to mean Wesley’s intellectual input on a problem they’re having. Fred walks by while they’re discussing this and casually mentions that their tunics have some kind of mathematical formula on them, in the form of cleverly arranged polygons. The demons freak out and walk away, leaving Fred worried she mortally offended them.
Angel leaves Connor with Cordy so that he can go meet his client, who is...John Winchester.
Okay, yeah, he’s not John Winchester, which is obvious from the lack of scruff (and the fact that Supernatural didn’t premiere until three and a half years after this episode). He is, however, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. And Angel and not-John will be tag-teaming a vamp nest in the sewers. Still the best crossover ever. These particular vampires are basically running a racket on local businessmen: they make regular payments for the privilege of not getting eaten. After Angel leaves the office, some other dude walks in the other door and asks what not-John is doing there. Oh, so not-John was only pretending to be the owner of this business in order to get Angel’s help? Why is that familiar?
OH RIGHT. Because fake identities are second nature to the Winchesters, and they learned it from their dad. Yeah, I’m calling it. This guy is actually John Winchester and he’s running a solo job while Dean is on another case somewhere else with the Impala. This is bad news for Angel, though, because John Winchester is broke, so the ten grand he’s paying him will probably come from one of his many fraudulent credit cards (or fake checks) and not actually make it to Angel’s bank account.
Holtz rips the nail out of Justine’s hand and sends her to find more sad broken people to join his team of embittered vigilantes. She punches him and heads out.
Angel proudly shows Cordy and Fred the $5K check. He has dreams of Connor going to Notre Dame and graduating with the class of 2020. So...either Angel’s math is terrible or he thinks Connor will graduate from college at age 18 or 19, since he was born in late fall of ’01. Gunn and Wes are out dealing with that dead stalker ex case. Lorne comes back with info about Holtz. They now know that Holtz is recruiting humans for his cause. The clicky demons come back. Turns out they weren’t offended by Fred! No, they’ve decided she’s smarter than Wes, so they’d rather have her help. She and Lorne will be going to the barge they live on, and their pay will be $50K. Upfront. Angel enthusiastically accepts.
At the home of the girl with the dead stalker ex, Gunn and Wes learn for the first time that they both have a crush on Fred. Let the petty competitiveness begin. Hopefully their friendship will survive. It seems the dead ex is a zombie. Fun!
Fred and Lorne arrive at the demons’ place. The demons take a picture of them, then show Fred the puzzle they want her to solve. She immediately gets started. The way she talks, it’s an insanely complicated math/physics thing, but it looks like a pretty basic 3-D puzzle.
Angel shows up at the place where the vamp racketeers have their headquarters and pokes around until a vamp shows up. Then they fight until Angel stakes him. More show up. After finishing up the rest of them, Angel goes back to that office, where he finds the guy who actually works there, rather than John Winchester. (No, I’m not letting that go.) Sure enough, the check is worthless. The guy informs Angel that he’s looking for Sam Ryan, a former employee. (Really, John, using your son’s first name in your alias?) This case might not be a complete bust for Angel, though, because those vampires were sitting on a hoard of wealth they stole. (Wait, so he’ll be giving that back to the rightful owners, right? It’s not like gold doubloons. The rightful owners are still alive.)
Fred keeps working on the puzzle. Lorne, who is still hungover from whatever he did to get information out of his contacts about Holtz, goes to find somewhere to throw up. Instead, he finds more of the demons, and he realizes that he was right the first time when he said the demons wanted Wesley’s head. Only now it’s Fred’s head they want. The puzzle is just a way for them to test her brainpower before they can amputate her head and transplant it onto the body of their dying prince. But he doesn’t make it back to Fred with that information, because another demon clobbers him from behind.
At the hotel, Cordy is attempting to entertain Connor by levitating again. It seems she can’t turn that off and on when she wants. She hasn’t had any other side effects of her new part-demon-ness (that she knows of). While she changes Connor’s diaper, she tells him about his dad and how he fights evil for money.
Cut to the lair of the vamp racketeers, which John Winchester is already hitting up for valuables. Well, one item, and its value is more of the sentimental kind. A watch that he gave his best friend before these vampires killed him. Angel shows up and demands payment, but it turns out there are four unaccounted for vampires.
Cordy has a vision of what will happen to Fred if the team doesn’t get to the demons’ barge in time. And Fred has almost finished solving the puzzle!
Gunn and Wes have barricaded the entire house of the girl with the zombie ex, but he manages to break in through the skylight. Consequently, Cordy can’t get either of the guys on the phone, so she picks up Connor and the briefcase of $50K and heads out to save Fred herself. Oh boy. Meanwhile, Wes and Gunn’s zombie problem solves itself when the girl decides to take her zombie ex back. Ew. Also, she’s the one who killed him. This is a very weird relationship.
Angel is refusing to help John Winchester until he pays him. He’ll help him hold the door shut against the vampires for free, but he’d still like some kind of payment for the rest.
Fred solves the puzzle! And it’s all glowy and pretty now. Cool. The demons usher Fred to where Lorne is barely conscious and the dying prince is waiting for his new head. They strap her into a chair so they can do the head transplant. But Cordy is here to save the day! She has Lorne tell the demons that they misunderstood; she’ll give their money back if they return Fred and don’t cut her head off. Unfortunately, Lorne added a threat, thinking Angel, Gunn, and Wes were about to jump in and attack. Now the demons are angry.
Angel offers to let John Winchester escape so he can deal with the vampires, but John, being John, refuses to run away from a fight against monsters. So instead, they end up fighting the four vampires together.
Cordy tries kicking one of the demons in the groin, but there’s something metal there instead of vulnerable dangly bits, so that doesn’t work. But Gunn and Wes are here to save the day after all! And they’re huge dorks about it because of their crushes on her. They save her and behead the prince. The other demons just sort of stand there sadly...for about five seconds. Then they attack. And now Angel is here too! He finishes off the rest of the demons. Fred makes an offhand remark about how she could kiss Gunn and Wes both for saving her. They both eagerly move in like idiots before Lorne reminds them he’s still tied up.
Angel gives a speech about how money isn’t everything and he’s sorry for getting his priorities all screwed up. He loses his train of thought because of the spilled money lying within sight, but his top priorities are officially family (meaning all of them, not just Connor) and the mission. Cordy points out that since those demons tries to cut Fred’s head off, the $50K is A.I.’s rightful loot. Which they start stuffing in their pockets instead of putting back in the briefcase it’s spilling out of. Wow.
Angel and Cordy, both exhausted, are falling asleep on Angel’s bed with Connor between them, Cordy feeding him his bottle. They talk incoherently about how to spend the money, and there’s a nice continuity nod to Cordy’s fondness for skiing in Aspen (which is what she spent her Christmas break doing in Buffy S3).
Okay, as much fun as I had watching Angel team up with John Winchester, like with “Birthday,” I feel like “Provider” was a bit of a fumble. The main message (if you put money first, it could cost you the things that matter most) is incredibly on the nose and everyone’s characterization is a bit off. And the setup itself is rather jarring. In a show where the protagonists have traditionally struggled to scrape a living solving cases (because even non-supernatural private investigations work will barely earn you a living wage, and that’s when you’re competent), it’s weird to suddenly have an episode where the clients are pouring in. Is that going to be the new norm? Is Gunn going to struggle with the idea that a lot of their new clients are demons? Or will none of this stuff get mentioned again? Episodes like this one can make an entire series seem dumber. Why, if this many cases were out there for the solving, has the team been content with barely scraping by for two and a half seasons? Why didn’t Cordy, Wes, and Gunn get this kind of response when they put flyers up everywhere in “Happy Anniversary”? It just seems like they could’ve tackled the money problems issue a lot more gracefully, without compromising the continuity of the whole show. Maybe they could’ve solved a case that didn’t pay well, which would’ve made Angel extremely frustrated and a bit less than gracious to the client he just saved. They could’ve dealt with the issue of whether Angel or Wes is the one actually in charge of A.I. Instead of getting flooded with clients, they could’ve just had two: one who could pay but turned out to be super shady, and one who couldn’t pay much but was desperately in need of help. Angel could’ve wanted to focus on the former client, perhaps resulting in the latter dying or nearly dying. Then the lesson could’ve been that they can’t choose clients based on the size of their bank accounts. It would’ve been subtler and a better fit with the rest of the show.
Angel is inexplicably obsessed with money for the first time ever on this show. I get that he’s a dad now, so he’s tied to a dependent and therefore must take worldly concerns into greater consideration than when he was a free-wheelin’ reclusive bachelor, but the way it’s presented is just so...crass. It doesn’t feel genuine. He should’ve been feeling really guilty about his sudden focus on money but unable to immediately conquer his greed. On a separate but closely related subject, I think I’ve figured out why Angel turns into a dork (in a more pervasive way than just the occasional human interaction fail moment). He’s a dad! So he must suddenly become a caricature of hapless incompetence like every sitcom dad in the last couple of decades. Which is a huge shame, because, as proven by John Winchester (the actual John Winchester, not this Sam Ryan dude I’m enjoying pretending is him), dads aren’t always dorks. They can also be badasses.
Cordelia suddenly not caring about money is something I’m going to file away under “evidence that she’s under Jasmine’s influence from the moment Skip makes her part-demon.” Cordelia has always cared about money to a sometimes uncomfortable degree. Other characters have made jokes about hiding money in the office and watching her sniff it out. She has gone to great lengths to make sure they get paid by their clients. So it feels very out of character that she would be the one disapproving of Angel’s sudden focus on money. That attitude would’ve made more sense coming from Wesley or Lorne. Also, in general it’s getting harder and harder to remember that Cordelia is supposed to be twenty-one. Like, that’s how old she just barely turned in the previous episode. She’s acting more like someone the age of her actress, who was thirty at the time.
Wesley still seems to have no problem with Angel being effectively in charge! This is so weird! They even mention that he’s the one whose name is still officially down as boss, but everyone acts like that’s a formality, including Wes! Why haven’t they actually talked about this? This is important!
This appears to be the beginning of the end of Gunn’s friendship with Wesley. Which is very disappointing. They were so awesome as unlikely bros! Why do they have to be such dorks about having a crush on the same girl? They need to talk about this. It could be a very manly, brief conversation: “So, I gather you have feelings for Fred.” “Yeah. You too?” “Er, well. Yes. Quite.” “But we’re still tight, right?” “Of course. We’re mature, rational adults. This shouldn’t have to compromise our friendship or our ability to work together. All it really means is that we both have excellent taste in women.” “Damn straight, English.” *secret bro high five* See? Easy!
It just occurred to me that Cordelia only started asking for combat training after Fred joined the team. Is that because Fred, as a much more petite and vulnerable-looking woman, can more effectively occupy the role of damsel in distress? But Fred does make a very effective damsel in distress. She’s extremely clever, but not so much perceptive about danger. She gets right up in those demons’ personal space to geek out over the geometry of their tunics, and she trots off to solve a puzzle for them without batting an eye. Someone with that much intelligence and curiosity and that little awareness of danger is bound to end up in a whole load of trouble.
“We don’t know that he’s a zombie. And besides, flesh-eating is a myth. Zombies merely mangle, mutilate, and occasionally wear human flesh, so there’s no reason to be frightened.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.