Written by Jeffrey Bell, Sarah Fain, and Elizabeth Craft
Directed by Michael Grossman
The team is reacting to Cordy’s pregnancy reveal mostly with hanging jaws. Except Angel, who looks troubled. Cordy claims she kept it hidden because of how crazy things were. She didn’t want to add to it. In comes Lorne, who also reacts. He feels like he’s losing his mojo because he didn’t sense it at all. They start talking about how it might be prudent to discover what Cordy’s carrying before they start planning joyous baby showers. Connor hates the way they’re acting and he thinks the reason they’re leery of the baby is that they don’t like him. He is being such a teenager. He storms off. Cordy talks in this dreamy happy way about her and the baby. It’s super creepy. She turns around and we see something pressing up against the skin of her stomach. Like, a lot. Freaky. None of the team is convinced by her argument.
A very nervous dude is standing by a fountain in a long trench coat, watching people pass him. Then Gwen shows up. She is not impressed with his attempt at sneakiness. She explains how subtlety works. Also, she’s dead set on completing her current job. She pays him and he hands her a packet of stuff that will get her into the building. She almost has him convinced that everything is okay, and he even starts flirting with her, but then she gets struck by lightning and he runs away. She gets up, annoyed.
Fred wonders if they were too insensitive with Connor and Cordy about the baby. Gunn doesn’t think so, considering how insane this kid’s gene pool is. They’re trying to figure out if they need to do something. Angel joins them. He says he doesn’t feel guilty for Angelus’s actions (as far as I can remember, he really didn’t do a whole lot besides play head games with the whole team; I’m pretty sure he didn’t kill anyone except the Beast and a vampire). He reveals that it wasn’t Angelus who killed Lilah. Wesley appreciates Angel’s concern. Angel sends Lorne to get in touch with his contacts and try digging something up about the Beast’s master, has Fred and Wes start researching mystical pregnancies, and tells Gunn to just sit tight in case they need muscle. He definitely doesn't feel great about his bit role. Angel himself will be trying to figure things out based on the way the Beast’s master interacted with him.
Except here’s Gwen! And she wants their help rescuing a girl. She needs a suave guy, and she’s thinking Gunn. Gunn is totally down for that, not noticing Fred’s slightly jealous look.
Upstairs, Cordy finds Connor in one of the unused hotel rooms. She thinks he’s being moody over the team (which wouldn’t be exactly out-of-character), but he’s actually being moody about how nothing she told him to convince him to try killing Angelus was true. She tries to smooth it over with an “everything happens for a reason” and “my maternal instincts believed Angelus needed to die” speech. She also says his willingness to do that for her proves she can trust him completely. Creepy music starts up, because she totally has him in her clutches. She tells him she’ll be asking him to do some things.
Gunn picks up a cool little jade tiger at Gwen’s place. She collects souvenirs from everywhere she goes. Gunn collects battle scars. She tells him about this girl they’re supposed to rescue. She’s the daughter of the head of one company, kidnapped by the rival company in an attempt to force them to admit the illegal crap they pulled.
Cut to the mansion where Gunn and Gwen head in for their mission. She’s wearing a very pretty Japanese dress, and he’s wearing a very dapper suit. They make it through security, but her invitation gets flagged at the desk. The electronic imprint on it has apparently been altered. By the lightning. They don’t buy that story. Gwen is ready to do this the hard way, but Gunn saves their cover by ingratiating himself with Morimoto, the Japanese host of the party. He does a pretty impressive Japanese greeting. He tricks the man into thinking they met at a zoo benefit, and he gifts him the jade tiger. Dang, Gunn! He’s definitely not just muscle. He’s a grifter!
Wes and Fred are looking at that demon pregnancy stuff. Much of it is unpleasant, but also irrelevant. Fred is deeply squicked out about the idea of Cordy/Connor. Wes, who has had a scandalous relationship of his own, doesn’t want to be too judgmental, and Fred realizes what he’s talking about. The subject changes to Wes/Lilah for real. Fred doesn’t want to hear if Wes had feelings for Lilah.
Gunn and Gwen make their way through this swanky party. Apparently Gunn learned his Japanese courtesy skills from samurai movies. Also, Gwen stole the jade tiger back. They spot the little girl, who is surrounded by large guards.
Cordy visits Angel, who would rather she not be there. He admits he’s nowhere with figuring out the Beast’s master. All he knows is that this being knew exactly how to get through their defenses. He calls it “insane,” which makes Cordy twitch a bit. He’s confident that someone as arrogant as the Beast’s master is sure to make a mistake sooner or later, and then they’ll strike.
People at the party are talking about the excitement of the past few weeks, with all the supernatural crap going on. Gwen finds Gunn chatting and tells him it’s time to grab the girl. She’ll make a distraction and he’ll get her out. She goes across the room and casually knocks over a drink cart full of rather nice ceramics. Gunn grabs the girl, and Gwen immediately rats him out to a guard. Gunn gets the girl to an outer room before getting attacked by those guards. He fights them (which he greatly enjoys) and wins, looking very slick while doing so. Only when the little girl tells him she already is home and her daddy’s going to kill him for trying to kidnap her does Gunn realize he’s been had.
Gwen used the distraction of Gunn kidnapping the girl so she could go after Morimoto’s safe. He finds her there and tells her how little he appreciates being used. Also, the only reason she picked him instead of Angel was that Angel couldn’t have gotten past the body scans. The thing Gwen is here for is a black ops device that regulates body chemistry, temperature, etc. She won’t say who it’s for. Gunn wants out, but she convinces him to stick around. He can keep the suit, and Morimoto is still a bad guy. What’s the harm? He stays.
Fred and Wes are waiting for Angel to finish his sketch. He’s attempting to recreate the relevant pages from Lilah’s copy of that book with info on the Beast from memory. Cordy is sneakily about to pour coffee on the sketch, but Wesley’s translation indicates that Angel probably got it wrong. Even if he hadn’t, couldn’t he have just sketched it again? What was one ruined sketch going to achieve? He’s trying again anyway. They all leave him to it.
Gwen finishes opening the safe, but there’s another lock inside the first. She can fry that one with her electrokinesis. She grabs what’s inside, and now it’s time to get out. That’s going to be hard. Several men, including Morimoto, have caught them.
Angel hands Wes another attempt at recreating that passage. Wait, if Angelus is the one who stole the book and all of their other research materials, then wouldn’t Angel know where he put them so he can just get them back? It’s not like he and Faith burned that bookstore to the ground or anything. Those materials should still exist. Angel should try to retrieve them and fail because Cordy already found them, or something. In any case, this attempt at sketching the passage wasn’t any more useful.
Lorne joins them with good news. He might know nothing about the baby or the Beast’s master, but he does have a spell to get his own empath mojo back! He’ll be doing a ritual by himself and by morning, he’ll be back to normal! Cordy is just thrilled.
Morimoto demands that Gwen put LISA (the black ops device) back in the safe. She declines. Morimoto’s guards pull out guns, and Gunn votes they give up and leave. Gwen refuses. She electrocutes all five of the men. She wants LISA bad. Gunn knows she wants it for herself, and he guesses she wants it to cure her of the electrokinesis.
Lorne heads into his dark empty warehouse to do his ritual. He lights some candles and does some other stuff to set up. Cordy is standing on the catwalk overhead, holding a dagger.
Gunn and Gwen go back to her place. He returns her jade tiger to its original place. Gwen points out that if he really was just muscle, they would’ve failed to get LISA and get out alive. He doesn’t mind sticking around at A.I. as the muscle, because he does like to fight. Gwen had fun too, but she was willing to die for the chance to be a little more normal. Gunn wants to see how it works, so they go to her bedroom, and she lies down on her stomach, having bared her back. He touches her skin and gets a zap, then sets LISA on her. It digs itself in via spikes and screws, and loads of data runs across the screen. She can’t tell if it worked, so Gunn touches her back again. No zap. She really enjoys that. It occurs to him that if she couldn’t touch anyone without electrocuting them, then that means she’s never had any physical contact of any kind. Things get more and more heated between them. She’s nervous, but he thinks if LISA stops working and she kills him again, she can just zap him back to life. They sleep together.
Lorne is still working on his ritual, which involves incense and sprinkling dirt over his hands and singing. Cordy comes down the stairs while he sings. She’s still a few feet away with the dagger when the lights all go on, and Angel is there. So are Wes and Fred, who both have guns pointed at her. The game is up.
“Players” is a surprisingly satisfying episode for being the first one after the Angelus arc ended and Faith and Willow left. I think Gwen’s presence helped a bit with that, but mostly it’s just really nice to see the good guys get one up on evil Cordy at long last. It's also a plus that Connor's role is minimal, and it's good that Lorne's ineffectiveness at reading people is finally being addressed. I love the way the episode ended, with Cordy caught and Lorne kinda snarking about it with a magic 8-ball. Gwen and Gunn make a fun team, and Gwen got some intriguing character development (so it's a shame this is her last episode). Previously, it has seemed like she owns being a freak and has made a very enjoyable life for herself, but clearly much of that is just her trying to make the best of a situation she wishes wasn't hers.
We don’t find out until next time, really, but Angel definitely proved this time that he’s just as clever as Angelus. He successfully lured an evil mastermind into a trap and caught her. Major kudos. I particularly love the way Angel can mouth off to evil Cordy in a bland, non-pointed way, even though he has to be just seething with anger about how his best friend has clearly been bodyjacked by some kind of evil entity.
We see some more flaws in evil Cordy. She not only isn’t omniscient, but she’s also increasingly awful at pretending to be the same old Cordy. Most fatally, she’s arrogant. Which is an unfortunate quality for an evil mastermind to have when she isn’t omniscient. Angel’s taunts about how the Beast’s master is obviously insane and overconfident should’ve tipped her off that they were onto her, but no.
Gunn is at least as good as Angel at grifting. Why isn’t this a skill A.I. has been putting to use on a regular basis? That was awesome. And boy does he look amazing in a suit. It's nice for him to get his own plotline for the first time in quite a while, particularly one that doesn't revolve around his issues with Fred.
Fred is clearly struggling to come to terms with Wesley/Lilah, and she’s also not entirely over Gunn. I like that she’s basically the voice of the audience regarding the grossness of Connor/Cordy, but just because said grossness is being acknowledged doesn’t mean it’s okay for the writers to have included it in the first place.
Connor is finally starting to have serious doubts about Cordy, but every time he gets closer to that, she manages to pull him in deeper. Poor kid.
I think Wesley really has benefitted from his conversation with Willow. Before, he was all “no one knows what I’ve been through,” but now he’s drawing parallels between his own experiences and those of others. Also, it’s interesting that he’s not trying to pursue something with Fred even though she and Gunn are over. He was trying much harder when they were still together. Maybe it’s just because the breakup coincided with Angelus spilling the beans on him and Lilah.
“Thanks for turning me...off.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.