“The House Always Wins”
Written by David Fury
Directed by Marita Grabiak
A guy staggers out of a building, wounded, to be confronted by Connor. This guy is a vampire. Angel is watching Connor fight from the rooftop next door. Cordy is also watching from up in floaty higher power land. She’s getting increasingly annoyed about Angel’s policy of leaving her there because he thinks she’s happier. Connor wins his fight, but when he looks up at the roof, Angel is gone. Or at least just out of sight. Angel knows Gunn and Fred are checking up on him. They’re worried about how distracted he’s been lately, because it makes them feel like they’re floundering. So Angel decides they should all go on a trip! To Vegas.
They drive along the strip in the Plymouth. The main reason they’re in town is to check in with Lorne, but Angel wants to emphasize that they’re on vacation. Angel reminisces about hanging out in Vegas with Bugsy Siegel, and then they pull up to the Tropicana, where they’re shocked to see a huge billboard featuring Lorne. It seems he can play off his Pylean features as stage makeup. They get seats at the next show. Also, the Blue Man Group are at least 2/3 demonic, according to Angel. Lorne has a bunch of stage girls decked out in green skin and red horns (the Lornettes). The crowd loves him. He starts up another song, “Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi” (I’m gonna throw up in my mouth). He gets some input from various crowd members.
Fred gets excited when Lorne comes closer to their table, but he passes them without noticing them at all. He gets a girl to sing for him who’s celebrating getting accepted to a culinary school in Paris. He finishes up the show, and Angel, Fred, and Gunn squish in with the crowd of fans to meet Lorne. He continues to ignore them. Angel tries to get through and guards push him back. Something is not right. Lorne denies any affiliation with the team.
Lorne goes back to his room. A guy comes in to compliment his performance. Lorne doesn’t seem thrilled. The guy is here for the readings Lorne got in the show. Lorne tries to brush him off, and the big guard with him punches him in the stomach. Lorne has refused to do this before, and they had one of the Lornettes murdered in front of him. He reluctantly tells the guy about the promising people in the audience, and he and the guard leave, closing an iron gate behind them.
Wesley is at his apartment. One of his new crew is there with him. He’s on the phone with Lilah, then gets a call from someone else about taking Angel’s clients because he’s out of town. He dismisses the guy from his apartment and starts having...phone sex with Lilah? Who is in the middle of a meeting.
Fred and Gunn are debating why Lorne would’ve been so rude to them. A Lornette offers a special gambling chip to Vivian, the future Parisian chef. The chip flashes strangely when she touches it, and she heads off to play the game. Angel charms the Lornette into taking a message to Lorne. He notices that there are a whole bunch of rather lifeless people playing slot machines, all with cups labeled the same as Vivian’s chip. Up in floaty land, Cordy yells at Angel some more for failing to help her. Angel possibly hears something when she yells his name.
Fred thinks there’s something wrong with Lorne, though Gunn is ready to write him off as a jerk celebrity. Fred’s also worried about Angel, since Cordy is gone and he kicked Connor out. Behind them, guards grab Angel and haul him away. Gunn votes they go find out Lorne’s deal.
The guards take Angel outside and beat him up. He vamps out knocks them both out. He liked Vegas better when it was under Mafia control. He notices Vivian walking out of the casino in a rather zombie-like way. She walks right in front of a car. He saves her. She seems to have no other thought now but to keep playing to win.
Fred and Gunn see the security outside Lorne’s suite. They think they should get Angel’s help, but then a Lornette walks out of the dressing room, and they get an idea. Fred dresses up like a Lornette and heads to Lorne’s suite with a martini. She pretends to be incredibly ditzy, and they let her inside, thinking she’s there to be Lorne’s pre-show entertainment. Gross. He doesn’t recognize Fred at first, but then he’s super relieved she’s there. He’s been trying to get them to rescue him all summer, with all that “give Fluffy my love” talk. Which is apparently an SOS code the A.I. team weren’t familiar with. Lorne explains what’s happening. The guy holding him prisoner uses Lorne’s readings for nefarious purposes.
Angel is breaking into said game as Lorne is explaining this. The owner guy tosses him a chip instead of kicking him out. Angel tosses the chip down, not interested in playing. It’s too late, though. He already touched the chip. The house wins, and Angel suddenly forgets that he was there to ask about Vivian. He heads off zombie-like to play the slot machines.
Inside Lorne’s suite, Fred screams and comes running out, telling the guards that Lorne went super freaky and escaped with a gross transformation. They run in to check, giving Lorne the chance to run out. Fred, Lorne, and Gunn barricade the door and flee.
The boos guy gets a report about Angel’s destiny. Vampire with a soul who’s destined to be a major player in the apocalypse. He’s psyched about the money he could make off this. He has his guy call W&H too, because they’d probably pay a particularly huge amount.
Fred, Lorne, and Gunn find Angel, playing the slot machines. They ask him to slow the guards down. Gunn will get the car. They leave, and all Angel does is move to the next slot machine. Fred, Gunn, and Lorne aren’t sure where the exit is, and they’re being pursued by guards. Lorne finishes explaining about what the boss man is doing. He’s stealing people’s destinies using that game, which is rigged so the house always wins. Then he sells them on the black market. The people whose destinies get stolen just stay in the casino forever. Gunn realizes that’s what happened to Angel. Also, the guards have caught up to them. Lorne belts out a demonic high note. Which blows out lots of lightbulbs nearby. Under the cover of sheer pandemonium, they get away from the casino.
Gunn thinks Lorne sold Angel out. He thinks Lorne’s been doing all of this on purpose. Lorne explains about how the boss killed that Lornette when he tried to refuse. It’s the same threat he’s made every single time. Gunn apologizes. They make it to the car, and Gunn goes back in to rescue Angel while they wait.
Gunn finds Angel, who is still at the slot machines. Angel responds to Gunn’s questions, but when Gunn tries to explain the seriousness of the situation, Angel just wants to keep playing slots. Guards show up...with Lorne and Fred. They grab Gunn too and leave Angel at the slots.
The boss is furious at Lorne for missing his show, forcing him to refund everyone’s money and put them in hotels for their trouble. Lorne tries to stop the boss from hurting anyone by threatening not to keep working, but that’s not going to cut it. Fred and Gunn are in serious, immediate danger of violent death. Up in floaty land, Cordelia is extremely frustrated that she can’t interfere. Well...maybe that’s not so much a “can’t” as a “shouldn’t.” She’s particularly upset about what happened to Angel. If she can get him in the same room as the rest of the team, then maybe he’d be able to fix it. She tweaks the slot machine so Angel wins.
In the boss’s main room, his goon reports that Angel won. Which is supposed to be impossible. He orders Angel brought to him immediately, thereby postponing Fred and Gunn getting dragged to the desert and shot. The boss demands to know how Angel won. Angel tells him very honestly. The boss realizes Angel’s still destiny-free, so he thinks it’s just a fluke. He has him paid his winnings in quarters so that he can resume the killing of Fred and Gunn. When Fred gets a gun in her face, Angel vamps out and starts fighting. Gunn and Fred fight too. Lorne smashes the crystal ball of destiny thievery. It explodes, and lights rush into everyone whose destinies were stolen. They all leave their slot machines. Angel is back to normal too. Angel recognizes that room from Elvis’s wedding reception.
The team, including Lorne, make it back to the hotel. Angel doesn’t understand how he won on that machine. Lorne thinks it was just Lady Luck. As to destiny-free Angel saving Fred and Gunn, Lorne explains that he still cared about them and was able to fight for their destinies, which they still had. Gunn and Fred want to go have a bath together, but when they all get inside the lobby, they find Cordelia standing there. Without her memories.
I like “The House Always Wins” much better than “Double or Nothing,” but it’s still not anywhere near being one of my favorites. Fred going undercover is always hilarious. Angel reminiscing about his extensive past and Gunn reacting to the stories with disbelieving excitement are adorable. It’s good to see Lorne again. He’s wonderful. And the destiny-stealing plot is kind of intriguing. I like to compare this episode directly with “Lineage,” in which Angel’s free will is stolen. He’s much less incapacitated by losing his destiny than by losing his free will, which implies that free will is the more important of the two to have. While Lorne and Cordelia are both back, Cordy has no memories and Connor and Wesley are still estranged from the team, so we still aren’t back to normal.
I’m trying to figure out what the overall message of the episode is, as far as Angel’s concerned, because it seems like there is one. In the beginning, Fred and Gunn were worried at how directionless he seemed, and then Fred kept prodding him to get a reading from Lorne. Then he actually got his destiny stolen, but still managed to save the day in the end. What does it mean? He wants to wait for Connor to come to him and he doesn’t think Cordelia wants or needs to be rescued. He failed to get Wesley to come back with that olive branch last time. Does he feel like his mission has gotten harder to hold onto because so many of the people he loves are? Was the point of the episode to show him that he was wrong about that? The mission doesn’t have to end when people go their separate ways? Bah. I’m not sure. I think it’s something like that, but either it’s over my head or it’s just not a very coherent message.
Seriously, what was the point of Cordelia moving up to a higher plane if she spends all her time spying on the A.I. team because she has nothing better to do? I really wish there was some evidence of that fight Skip mentioned. Her higher being arc would’ve been much more satisfying if the reason she got kicked back down to Earth was that she kept ditching her responsibilities to go check up on the A.I. team, and tweaking Angel’s slot machine results was merely the final straw.
Gunn definitely hasn’t shaken his anti-demon prejudices from back when he was running his crew of semi-homeless street warriors. He suspected Connor of being evil because he’s the kid of two vampires before he knew what he did to Angel, and now he thinks Lorne willingly started selling out people’s destinies for a bit of fame and glamour? Dang, Gunn, that’s cold. For now, though, things are going well between him and Fred, and he has a chance to be the leader when he tries to rescue Angel on his own.
I hope Fred has many more opportunities to go undercover, because that was amazing. I like how dogged she is about making sure Angel isn’t sinking into some kind of depressed funk over Connor and Cordelia, but it seems weird that she wouldn’t say anything about cases. They clearly have cases if Wesley is able to steal them while they’re gone, but none of the A.I. team mentions them at all. I think maybe if there had been a line or two about how Angel wants to go to Las Vegas right now, even though they just got a case, it would’ve helped tighten up the episode and connect to Wesley’s scene better.
Connor isn’t just homeless, he’s a homeless demon fighter! Wouldn’t it be funny if he ran into Rondell and the rest of Gunn’s old crew and teamed up with them? Also, I get that Angel wants him to learn from his mistakes and have some space and stuff, but isn’t it important for Connor to make up for all the years he spent not getting a normal education? He knows how to read, how to fight, how to take care of himself, and whatever else Holtz taught him, but he probably knows jack about math, literature, history, science, economics, and all that other stuff every kid his age would’ve learned.
Wesley seems to be almost happy in his life away from A.I. He’s running an effective private investigations business, and Lilah is seeming more and more like his girlfriend. All that’s missing is actual friends, because he clearly isn’t close with any of his new crew.
“That was brilliant, Lorne. I may never hear my upper registers again, but nice work!”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.