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On TV Today's Date:

original air-date: 01-28-04

Poor Dana. When the Scoobies threw the worldwide "on switch" for the would-be slayers, some got the chance to fight against Ubervamps in Sunnydale, while many others no doubt had the chance to break all manner of high school athletic records. All poor Dana got was an order for daily thorazine on top of her existing medications.

And whereas other young women might carry the baggage of a failed relationship or a teenage eating disorder, Dana struggles with dreams about dead Slayers. Not to mention memories of being abducted and tortured. Poor Dana.

So it may not come as much surprise that when a medical mix-up affords her the opportunity, she lashes out with a bone saw while escaping from the psychiatric prison (for better or worse, the director spares the audience from a CSI-like blood spray). Afterall, excusing murder because of childhood trauma has become somewhat of an American legal tradition.

Those concerned about poor Dana's well being or, for that matter, innocent LA bystanders (if such a thing is possible) need not worry. Once Angel learns of the situation, he wisely consults with Rupert Giles (off screen, natch), who dispatches his "top man."

Now perhaps the destruction of the Watcher's Council and the abundance of new Slayers has led to a human resource shortage. Plus the Watcher's Council doesn't exactly have a good track record for sending staff members to retrieve Slayers. And certainly Giles has never been much of an Angel fan, soul or no soul.

But Andrew?!

Would Giles entrust the safe "capture" of a psychotic, saw-wielding Slayer to Andrew after less than a year of training? Then again, he does perform under pressure, i.e., fires a dart with a steady hand and weathers a nasty kick to the face (all that new hair provides cushioning).

And many fans are likely to forgive any plot stretch for the chance to savor Andrew's buffoonery yet again. In a way similar to Harmony, Andrew is a welcome bit of levity to the dour tedium that has become the Fang Gang's "did we do the right thing" Wolfram & Hart experience.

Perhaps no one exemplifies this situation more than Gunn. Tiresome legalese and confused loyalties aside, just contrast the dull suit he wears here vs. the stylish threads he donned when accompanying Gwen to a power party (courtesy of recent TBS re-run magic). So when Angel notes "I think I liked you better when you just wanted to hit people with a stick" many fans are probably nodding in agreement. Meanwhile, Wes continues to be about as prominent as wallpaper. At least the writers toss Lorne a small bone in having him figure out the way to unravel Dana's past.

As with his work on Buffy, Tom Lenk is a lot of fun to watch as the former would be bad boy turned would be Watcher. One quibble is that Mr. Lenk is clearly amusing himself as well and visibly struggles to keep a straight face in several scenes. Those slips detract somewhat. Andrew was always the most amusing when he delivered his Fanboy observations with complete earnestness.

Amusing Andrew antics aside, there are also some excellent scenes between Angel and Spike. Whether they want to or not, they are developing an interesting friendship. That makes sense, really. After all, both dated Buffy, and both must deal with the consequences of their pre-soul existence. The closing hospital scene is particular well-done (thank goodness the end wasn't the rather cheesy "Slayer posse" scene). It is an antidote to the infamous "Dawson's Creek" ending that left many fans gagging earlier in the season.

In addition to providing good dialogue, the writers deserve special credit for two scenes. Both are minor. But poor handling might have otherwise resulted in clichéd or sloppy story telling.

The first comes when Angel explains that capturing Dana is a real "finesse job." The cliché would be an immediate cut to Angel or another character using brute force. But instead the writers show in a very different way why things may not proceed so smoothly.

The second involves the nurse at the psychiatric hospital. Viewers might initially wonder why she is so willing to help Angel. But a simple scene explains not only her motivation but also clears up how Wolfram & Hart heard about the situation at all.

What the writers fail to clear-up, though, are the consequences of Eve's actions last week. The sudden drop of the Eve-Lindsey storyline is a bit disappointing (if not unbelievable). Given that the Dana story did drag a bit in middle, one wonders if the writers could have included a B story that continued last week's key events.

No doubt next week's episode with the long awaited return of Cordelia (at least a conscious, unpossessed Cordelia) will address the main story arc. If nothing else, Cordy's hair finally looks good again!

Chris Crotty


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