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On TV Today's Date:

original air-date: 11-12-03

This week's lackluster episode is a big letdown from last week's snappy masterpiece. Perhaps because the plot focuses on two British characters the writers thought it would be appropriate to have an overall dry stiff feel to the script.

The beginning might fool the unsuspecting audience member into believing he is getting more John Woo than Merchant Ivory. The action gets going with a warehouse meeting between Wes and someone who is either a Nigerian e-mail spammer or arms runner. Things go awry when a masked ninja (think black Power Ranger gone bad) shows up. There is then a nauseatingly cliché slow motion shot of Wes diving with two guns blazing. Guns have never worked well on Angel. And neither has ripping off famous action films.

Things go even more awry --- and a-dry --- when Wes' father Roger shows up. The elder Wyndham-Price reports that the Watcher's Council has re-formed, and he's here to evaluate his son for reinstatement.

In the meantime Roger handily helps out by disarming a bomb inside the ninja, which is really a cyborg (maybe Angel can watch tapes of the Six Million Dollar Man to see how Steve Austin tackled the Fembots...). Hmm...can you smell coincidence? At least Roger does the audience a favor through a conversation that reveals the subtle complexities of the mind wipe, i.e., Wes does remember Lilah and Evil Cordy.

Much less subtle is the expositional exchange between Angel and Eve about the mindwipe. One almost expects one of the them to turn to the camera with a "Got that everyone?"

And why is Eve such a busybody this week when she's conspicuously absent at other times? At least she's fun to look at (if you like'em sassy), and her elevator scene with Spike is one of the episode's brighter spots (though by far Spike's best moment is his Buffy inspired comments on human robot interaction).

A lot of the episode feels forced: The difficult father-son relationship, Angel chewing out Wes, Lorne's pleasantries, and some fourth quarter cyborg fight scenes that seem, well, pointless. Wes seems too out of sort, and the episode improves significantly about two-third of the way in when he reverts to normal. And as we know, normal for Wes includes a deep love for Fred (for God sakes why?!) despite his detour into Lilah-bia. This love sets up both a startling climax followed by a cheesy revelation.

The story leaves open the question of who sent the cyborgs. Given their past idiot actions, one would be reasonable to suspect a re-formed Watcher's Council. But technology, like guns, doesn't fit well in the Whedonverse. Sure, the Buffybot and the "50's Dad From Hell" robot (pure fun from John Ritter) were notable exceptions. Even a few of Warren's toys had humorous effects, e.g., invisible Buffy. But the writers, who are apparently now obsessed with masks (Mexican wrestlers, ninja cyborgs), need to tread very carefully.

Maybe it's better if we don't find out who sent the cyborgs and just mindwipe this episode.

Chris Crotty


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