Written by Jeffrey Bell
Directed by Jeffrey Bell
Jasmine’s episode has clearly spread, because the episode opens with a montage of Los Angeleans (is that what you call them?) being super nice to each other, set to “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by The Beach Boys. Eventually, all this niceness is interrupted by Fred bonking into a car as she flees from Wes and Gunn. She throws them off her trail by giving a random pro-Jasmine brunette her jacket. It’s enough of a delay for her to escape unseen into the sewers (not the worst situation for Fred, who once envisioned building a condo down there). She runs along the tunnel alone.
The hotel is crowded with people waiting to see Jasmine. They’re actually using it as a hotel, and the entire place is booked. A man tries to give Lorne his house so he can stay. But they’re not taking money or things in exchange for rooms. Jasmine comes downstairs and everyone oohs and ahhs. She is again flanked by Angel and Connor. She speaks Mandarin to a Chinese woman there. (A nod to Firefly, perhaps? Maybe Caleb will do that too. And Hamilton next season.) Angel is so impressed by how she always knows the right thing to say to people. Next, she compliments (in Spanish) a Mexican man’s mustache.
Gunn and Wes come back without Fred, and Angel and Connor meet them in the office. They’re still hoping to capture her alive and re-convert her instead of killing her. They head out to go attempt that. In the lobby, Jasmine picks several people to accompany her upstairs. Wes and Gunn wish she’d pick them.
Fred is in a mystical bookshop that actually looks like a mystical bookshop, unlike the sets in “Release.” She asks the proprietor (a super geeky conspiracy theorist type dude) if he has anything on mass hypnosis. He’s lost all his business since Jasmine took over, since most of his books are a bit too morbid for ultra happy people, but he’s okay with that because he’s under the spell too. He’s not at all bothered that he might be mind-controlled, even though he used to be completely paranoid about that. For a second, it seems like he might be onto Fred, especially when he pulls out a revolver, but then he pulls out a book about using mind control to your benefit, because he thinks Fred’s agenda is to further Jasmine’s. Nice Chekov’s Gun there.
Angel and Connor are tracking Fred, and they chat a bit about Connor’s childhood. Connor’s been tracking by scent since he was five or six, back when Holtz would play a fun game where he’d tie Connor to a tree and run off. Yeah, I’m not sure he wanted Connor to find him. I think he was trying to ditch him. Angel and Connor both go into this tranquil trance-like state. Jasmine is summoning them back to the hotel.
At the hotel, Jasmine is watching the footage of her own news spot. She feels like she came across a tad Tolkien-esque—not that she isn’t a fan of movies. She does plan on eventually going global, but first there are many things for her to learn. Angel and Connor return. She wants to test her connection to the A.I. team by using all of their help to find Fred. They join hands and think of Fred. Out in the city, at a grungy hotel, all the Jasmine-connected people near Fred basically turn into Jasmine’s surveillance cameras, pinpointing her location immediately. She realizes what’s happening quickly enough not to get cornered, but it’s close. A dude tries to run her down in his car, and placidly lets the ensuing fire consume him. Yikes. The fire burns Jasmine, and she has to detach from her network.
As Jasmine and the team discuss Fred and the work they need to do, they realize they’re all becoming connected through Jasmine. They can sense problems that need attention, solutions for those problems, and can sort of read each other’s minds. Jasmine has them send a few more people up to see her.
Fred is walking alone on the outskirts of the city. A car drives past, then screeches to a halt and reverses towards her. She backs away and trips over a railing, which sends her careening down a steep hill, then crashing down into a demon’s underground lair. They struggle for a moment, until Fred gets hold of a hatchet sitting there. He claims to be a vegetarian so she won’t kill him. His mustache looks like it’s made of two actual asparagus stalks.
Back at the hotel, Wesley is briefing everyone in the hotel on the dangers of Fred the heretic. Then he turns the time over to Lorne for a Jasmine report and then open mike night for talking about why they love Jasmine. A little boy starts, then a woman who does nothing but sob, then a deaf woman who signs about wanting to bash Fred’s skull in for not liking Jasmine, etc. Unfortunately, Angel and Connor do a duet “Mandy” adaptation (called “Jasmine”).
Fred and Asparagus Mustache are still in a stand-off. He’s offended that she thinks he actually lives in a hole in the ground. He says he was an executive demon before Jasmine and her followers drove him underground. He doesn’t want to team up just because she’s also anti-Jasmine, though. He wants to sleep first. But he makes the mistake of uncovering a pile of severed human hands when he picks up his blanket, thereby outing himself as not a vegetarian. He eats a finger, then attacks her. She kills him with the hatchet, but not until after he takes a good chunk out of her upper arm. Ow. Luckily, this gives her an epiphany.
Fred goes back to that bookshop and lets all the Jasminites see her. It works. She’s clearly scared, but she has a plan. The weirdo proprietor assures her that Jasmine is on her way to get Fred. He’d like Fred’s autograph. And here’s Jasmine, along with Angel and Connor. Jasmine rewards the proprietor by telling him the Kennedy assassination was the sole work of Oswald. Then she rounds on Fred. She tries to tell Fred she’ll always love her. Fred apologizes, but she’s talking to Angel, not Jasmine. Then she shoots that gun from earlier. It goes through Jasmine’s shoulder and into Angel’s. He vamps out and leaps over to Fred, grabs the gun and points it at her throat. Fred tells him to look at Jasmine. He does. She’s all rotten and wormy. The spell is broken. He’s completely horrified, and he doesn’t hide it. Jasmine realizes that her blood is what breaks her thrall. Connor is upset, but Jasmine says Angel is dead to them. Fred empties the gun into Jasmine’s torso. Connor beats up Angel and Fred before tending to Jasmine. Angel and Fred flee, and Jasmine has the proprietor burn his shop to the ground (so that her blood won’t cure anyone else).
At the hotel, everyone’s having a banquet and chatting happily. Lorne, Wes, and Gunn are impatient for Jasmine to come back. They can tell something’s wrong, and they’re not having as much fun at this dinner as they would if she were there. She and Connor return. The three of them head up to her room. She tells them about Angel. She’s changed her mind about trying to save Fred because it cost her Angel. She wants them dead now. She summons a few more of the smiling zealots from the lobby.
Angel has brought Fred to a deserted alley somewhere. He’s deep in brood mode because it feels really sucky in the immediate aftermath of coming down off the Jasmine high. Fred still isn’t over it a week later. She explains how she snapped him out of it. He’s proud of her, and he understands how hard this must have been. She starts crying. She’s been alone and terrified for a week, and she still doesn’t feel like she’s champion material. He disagrees. She wants to help the rest of the team, but it’s going to be impossible to get near them. Angel might have an idea, but someone’s coming. Fred grabs him and kisses him in hopes of avoiding detection. It fails, but not before being highly amusing. (Does that ever actually work? Aside from in Winter Soldier?) Angel and Fred have to fight their way out.
Jasmine leads the people she chose from the lobby into her room. She has Connor stand guard. Inside the room, she has the three people take their clothes off. She takes off the blanket hiding her bloody wounds. Those heal as she concentrates.
Cut to Cordelia’s room. A couple of randos are watching over her, but they leave. Then Angel and Fred sneak in through her window. Angel trips over something on the windowsill and falls inside very noisily. Whoops. They feel horrible about this, even though Cordy is in a coma and probably won’t come out of it, but they’re going to take her blood and try using that on the rest of the team. Angel kisses Cordy’s forehead and apologizes. Before he can cut her with his dagger, she grabs his hand. He gets really excited, but she isn’t awake. Fred gets him back on track.
Green light spills out through the crack of the door to Jasmine’s room. Connor goes all placid and trancelike outside. In Cordy’s room, Fred and Angel have gotten Cordy’s blood. Lorne comes in to pay Cordy a visit. They keep their backs to him so he won’t recognize them, but he notices the blood spilling from Cordy’s wrist. (Wait, seriously? That’s where they cut her? That’s super unsafe!
Jasmine steps out of her room, glowing green. The glow fades. Connor tells her she’s beautiful, then asks about those people. She casually says she ate them, and he doesn’t seem to mind. Angel and Fred check to see if the coast is clear. The plan is to send Lorne (who is now back to normal) down to get Wes and Gunn. He’s miserable, but he can fake it until he’s got them. He almost blows it when they notice his bandaged wrist, but manages to convince them to come upstairs with him. Success! Wes and Gunn are back to normal. Fred explains how she and Angel figured out that Jasmine’s blood breaks the spell and Cordy’s works the same way. They’re all super bummed. And not just because they’re crashing. They have no idea how they’re supposed to break Jasmine’s hold on the rest of the city, and that’s assuming she doesn’t go global soon. Cordy’s blood won’t stretch nearly that far. Angel doesn’t have any ideas, but he wants to save Connor before they leave and try to figure this out. Wes volunteers.
Wes leads a smiling Connor into a room where the rest of the team is waiting. They slice his chest and rub Cordy’s blood on the wound. It seems to work. Connor stops struggling. Angel lets him go and they all start talking to him about how he’ll get over his Jasmine crash eventually. They have a moment of group misery before Connor unexpectedly goes out into the hall and yells for people to come help him capture the team. Whoops.
I like “The Magic Bullet” too. This kind of setup is just excellent for suspense and gives the good guys really unique opportunities to shine. I love the Beach Boys intro; it’s hilarious how incongruous that is with the tone of the rest of the show. I love Fred’s solo adventures. I love Fred and Angel’s teamwork. I love the gradual buildup of Jasmine’s creepiness factor, even as it’s clear that some of the things she’s doing are good. I love that people who get free of her thrall don’t really just snap back to normal; it hurts for a while. It reminds me of the part in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when the fake Moody is teaching Harry how to throw off the Imperius Curse. He gets a few injuries in the process, and they always seem to hurt much more once he recovers his free will. I’m trying to think about what makes S4 so unsatisfactory on the whole, despite the Angelus arc being awesome and the Jasmine arc being intriguing. It’s really down to the Cordelia character assassination, Connor/Cordy, and the ineffective buildup/foreshadowing for Jasmine. I would put Angel/Cordy on that list, except that it really seems to be part of Cordy’s bad characterization, and it was more S3’s problem.
I really liked that bit at the beginning, when Angel was so fascinated by Jasmine’s intuition about people’s needs. I think that might actually be some of his real personality shining through the brainwashing. His mission for the last four years (or seven if you include him helping Buffy) has been to help people, so understanding their needs would be something he’d really want to get the hang of doing. Once Fred snaps him out of Jasmine’s thrall, his reaction to her distraction kiss is pretty funny. I don’t think he has any nonplatonic feelings for Fred, but that was definitely an intense kiss, so I don’t blame him for being a bit staggered by it.
Gunn is back to being the least-utilized of all the characters. Shame.
Fred kicks so much butt in this one. The experience of being a lone fugitive in a city of millions must’ve been horribly familiar to her. It’s a lot like how things were for her in Pylea. Can’t trust anyone, danger at every turn. It probably made her feel like a powerless victim again, which explains why she didn’t realize how badass she was being. Her plan to get Angel was a good one, but one that was perhaps a wild gamble. She couldn’t have known for sure that Jasmine’s blood would be the solution, but it was her only chance.
Even though it points to Holtz having super questionable parenting strategies, I liked the tidbit about Connor’s childhood. It sort of validates a lot of my theories about him based on his upbringing. It’s also a subtle hint towards why he isn’t affected the same way as everyone else by Jasmine’s real face, because it keeps it fresh in our minds that he grew up in a hell dimension.
Wesley’s grim acknowledgement of kidnapping baby Connor is a lovely punch in the gut. In the wake of losing the Jasmine euphoria, he’s feeling extra crappy about all the things he doesn’t like about himself. I hope that doesn’t last long. He’d been making such wonderful progress.
“Wow. Amazing. Two beings dissimilar as you and me discovering a shared link against a common foe. Huh. The irony. My feelings for you are changing. I feel...warmth. Wait. No, I don't. That's just me wetting myself because you wouldn't let me pee! Thanks for nothing.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.