“Double or Nothing”
Written by David Goodman
Directed by David Grossman
Gunn is again struggling with Cordy’s file system. He and Fred are still bummed and/or angry about Wesley’s betrayal. Lorne joins them. They’re all still really sad for Angel, but a little anxious about actually talking to him after what he tried to do to Wes. Cordy and Groo have returned! And what the crap is Cordy’s shirt, and why is she blonde now?
Angel is in his burned room, once again staring at Connor’s empty crib. Cordy joins him and hugs him, but doesn’t try to talk to him.
Cut to a...demon casino? Huh. The owner spots a guy cheating, so he sends a goon to chop off his hand. Also, it’s time to collect the soul of someone from the A.I. team.
After the intro credits, Angel is still in his miserable father-who’s-lost-his-son (why isn’t there a word for that?) funk, and Cordy is still being quietly there for him. Downstairs, Groo is telling Lorne about all the stuff he’s doing to make sure Cordy can get through this hard time, and Lorne is warning Groo to be careful about mentioning Wesley’s name in the hotel.
Two people who definitely aren’t shy about mentioning Wesley’s name are an elderly demon couple who are surprisingly adorable in their bickering (they’ve been married 300 years, and apparently before that, they were a single organism). They have a demon squatter in their lair. Gunn and Fred discuss the case with them and make arrangements to take care of the demon, and once the couple leave, Gunn and Fred are all cute with each other. Groo would like to help with this demon, but Gunn thinks he can handle it on his own. Lorne leaves too to go do a reading for someone. Fred is definitely very upset about Wesley’s absence.
So she brings him a box of his things at the hospital! He can’t really talk right now because of the damage to his throat. She tells him she gets why he did what he did and that she doesn’t approve of what Angel did, but she wishes he’d come to them with his concerns instead of going to Holtz. She tells him not to come back to the hotel because Angel will probably kill him. And then, finally, she tells him the prophecy was fake, and she leaves him with that.
The goon from the demon casino shows up at the hotel, and Groo thinks he’s a client, so he’s very helpful. The guy assumes he’s Angel.
Gunn is on his way to the old couple’s lair, where he finds that the squatter demon is rather bigger and more muscular than he was expecting. It gives him a pretty rough fight, but he wins and manages not to get covered in slime. At that point, the goon finds him.
Flashback! Set to a fascinating rap version of the Lord’s Prayer. Teenage Gunn goes into that demon casino and makes a deal with the owner. We don’t find out what Gunn got out of that deal yet, but he paid for it with his soul. At the time, Gunn didn’t think it was a big deal, because he didn’t think he had a future. They shake on the deal, the demon wearing a spiked ring so that Gunn can sign the contract in blood.
In the present, the goon is there because Gunn’s relationship with Fred is risking his boss’s property. The goon gives him one day to get his affairs in order before he shows up at the casino to pay up. If not, they’ll take Fred’s soul instead (or also).
Gunn goes back to the hotel and looks sadly at Fred. Cordy finds him and can tell he’s not okay. She thinks he’s feeling guilty because he has it so good when Angel and Wesley are both miserable. Cordy has jumped ship from Fred/Wes onto Fred/Gunn, but her enthusiasm isn’t helping, because she doesn’t actually know what’s wrong with him. She gives him the idea to make the most of his last day, by spending it with Fred.
Fred gets woken up the next morning to a call from Gunn. She guesses what he’s wearing. This is a game they regularly play, and she always guesses right by the second try. He comes in with breakfast in bed for her, which is an elegant platter of Styrofoam containers of diner food.
A doctor checks on Wesley. Good news! He should recover just fine, and he can go home later that day. Bad news: Wesley now has no friends who can come pick him up.
Angel is still sitting in his room staring at Connor’s crib. He thinks Connor was going to be left-handed. Ooh! I’ll check for that. Angel is sort of used to losing people he cares about, since he tends to outlive all of them, but he didn’t expect that to happen so soon with Connor. Cordy listens sadly to all of this.
Fred is starting to get funned out on this super fun date day. For one thing, she’s actually full, which doesn’t usually happen. She’s exhausted. He’s worried he ruined it, and then his reaction to something she says makes her realize something’s wrong. She thinks he’s dying. From a disease. He laughs and says he’s not. She still thinks there’s a problem, and she’s not going anywhere until he tells her what’s wrong. He puts on his best jerk mask and breaks up with her as harshly as he can, then storms off. Or starts to. She tries to go after him, so he puts some icing on the jerk cake, then leaves her there crying.
Cordy gives Angel a depressing pep talk. He’s never going to get over losing Connor, and he doesn't have to. He’ll find a way to go on living in spite of that. The mission will make that possible. Fred comes to the door, a sobbing wreck. She thinks Gunn is in serious trouble.
The demon casino owner sucks out a dude’s soul by STICKING HIS FINGER IN HIS EYES. *full-body shudder* That is not okay. Gunn is there to pay up.
Fred is explaining why she’s sure Gunn is in trouble. Everyone else is confused because they think Gunn just broke up with her, but she knows he was doing it to spare her from hurting whenever this unknown bad thing happened to him. While Cordy and Groo are trying to make sense of this non-breakup thing, Angel is still waaaay back at just now becoming aware that Fred and Gunn are a couple. I completely forgot about that, and it made me laugh so hard. They all eventually get on board with Fred’s theory.
Wesley returns home, all by himself. Aww.
But that’s all the screentime he’s going to get, because it’s back to the hotel where the team tries to come up with a plan to find Gunn. Groo seems very bewildered by their detective process, but unwittingly provides the best lead, since he’s the one who met the goon from the casino. He actually has a business card for that casino.
The guy who got his soul sucked out through his eyes gets dragged off, and he looks dead. (Wait, now is he dead because his soul is gone or because Jenoff stuck his fingers halfway into his skull to get it? Because we’ve seen Buffy mostly soulless but very much alive and that little kid Ryan apparently entirely soulless and very much alive.) Jenoff is impressed that Gunn walked back in to pay up without having to get dragged in. Jenoff is about to start his thing when the A.I. team comes bursting in, and pandemonium erupts. Angel and Groo fight through the demon guards, but they end up surrounded. Angel offers Jenoff a deal: let Gunn go, and Angel lets Jenoff live! That doesn’t work. So he offers double or nothing: they play a game. If Angel wins, he and Gunn get to leave. If he loses, Jenoff gets Angel’s soul too.
Angel feels pretty confident. Fred thinks he’s insane. Jenoff is pretty sure he’ll win. Angel gives Cordy a stake to use on him if he loses and becomes Angelus. Angel and Jenoff sit down for their game. Angel decides that instead of playing a game, they’ll just cut the deck and the one with the high card wins. They do. Jenoff gets a 9. Angel gets...a 3. Cordy stabs Jenoff’s hand with the stake, and Angel lops his head off with an axe. However, Jenoff can regrow his head, which is one of the more revolting things I’ve seen on this show. Angel has the presence of mind to ask if anyone else owes Jenoff, which results in a swarm of angry demons attacking him before his new head can finish developing. Hahahaha.
Fred and Gunn are sitting in his truck, and he is profusely apologizing for breaking up with her. They’re okay. Fred wants to know what Gunn got out of his deal with Jenoff, though. She thinks it was a girl, but it was the very truck they’re sitting in. They’re all cute for the rest of the scene.
We end on Angel back in his room. He starts taking apart Connor’s crib, with Cordy watching from the doorway. She leaves him to it.
Well “Double or Nothing” is certainly a dip in quality after the last few. After the intensity of the Connor abduction arc, a one-shot was going to have to be pretty dang awesome to keep it going, but the momentum suddenly ground to a halt. I think that has something to do with the way the previous episode ended on Angel trying to kill Wesley, but this one began with Gunn and Fred looking at files while Angel sits morosely in his room. Maybe if we’d picked up right where we left off and actually dealt with the immediate aftermath of that, it would’ve been better, and they still could’ve gone with this Gunn soul contract plot. Also, instead of staring despondently at Connor’s crib for most of the episode, Angel should have been buried in books, his hope vanishing as he finds nothing to help him get Connor back, and then he has to make a choice between chasing very insubstantial leads and saving Gunn, who is still in this dimension and in immediate but thwartable danger. It's not a terrible episode, though. I love Fred's spastic attempts to explain why Gunn dumping her is a massive indicator of Plot A badness, the old demon couple are hilarious, and it's always a joy to have Groo around (he's seriously the Drax of Angel, and there is not nearly enough of him).
Yeah, I’m not letting this go yet. You can’t just have Angel suddenly and violently attempt to murder his former best friend at the end of one episode and then sitting around being sad for most of the next episode. It’s too radical of a shift in his behavior. He definitely has not checked every possible place for leads on ways to get into Quor’Toth yet (I mean, I can think of two: if there are no portals to Quor’Toth, is that just Sahjhan saying that to prevent them going after Connor because he wants Connor dead? Or does “no portals to Quor’Toth” only mean portals specifically from Earth? What if they went to Pylea and then to Quor’Toth?), and why isn’t he still angry about Wesley? It’s just all very jarring.
Cordelia is back, and so is her overconfidence in her perceptions of people’s issues and her mixed bag of advice. Gunn does not need to spend his last day doing ALL THE FUN THINGS with Fred; he needs to tell the team he’s in trouble so that they can help get him out of it. I wish there was a scene of Cordelia asking Lorne, Fred, and/or Gunn for information about what Wesley did. She and Wesley have been friends just as long as Wes and Angel; shouldn’t she feel shocked and betrayed too? She only focuses on Angel’s loss, not the fact that she, too, has lost a friend. Admittedly, she’s very comforting and tactful with Angel, so that’s something.
Wesley is miserable and alone, and now he knows that everything he put himself through hell for was actually pointless. I understand why Fred is so upset with him, but he desperately needs a friend to help him get through this. Now he has no one. And this isn’t like getting fired from the Council or kicked out of the Scoobies. He loved everyone in A.I. and they loved him. It was a better family than his actual family, and the most fulfilling career he could have imagined. That’s all gone now, and it’s at least 90% his own fault.
So I guess this means Gunn is 24 in S3, since those flashbacks were 7 years old and he was 17 in them. Nice. I want to know more about what led him to think his soul/future were meaningless, though. Had he and Alonna just lost the parent or relative who was taking care of them? Did he not have his crew yet? I think this would’ve been a stronger bit of backstory for him if he’d said something about how even though he doesn’t think he has a future, he’ll do anything to make sure his sister will. Maybe he and that goon could’ve talked about how after Alonna died, they were sure he was going to come in and pay up, but ever since he found a new family, that’s been looking less and less likely. With his relationship with Fred, they were officially getting cheated on the deal.
We see a lot of sides of Fred in this one. She’s extremely perceptive and sympathetic with Gunn, awkward and avoid-y with Angel, flustered and ridiculous with the group as a whole, and a bit harsh with Wesley. I like that she’s not so insensitive about Angel and Wes that she can just have a blast with Gunn all day without thinking about them, but I really want an Angel/Fred hug. Is that too much to ask?
“Sid has a phobia about phlegm.”
“I do not! I have a phobia about spewdom!”
“Hello. We welcome your telephonic plea to Angel Investigations. In what way may I service you?”
“Your soul wasn’t worth air conditioning?”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.