"Power Play"
Written by David Fury; directed by James A. Contner

A man with a bag over his head is being beaten in a chamber by robed men. Angel jumps through a fire into the chamber and rescues the man. The man thanks him, and Angel responds by vamping out and biting him. 19 hours earlier, according to the helpful caption, Angel is in bed with Nina, who’s making sure that he’s happy, but not perfectly happy, and also not thinking of Buffy (see “The Girl in Question”). He confides that he has a lot of work-related stuff going on and she tries to convince him to take a vacation. Angel tells her that there are things that have been in motion for a long time that he has to see through. However, he’s spent so long fighting to get to a certain point, and now he doesn’t like who he is. Nina says that he’s her hero, but he says that he might not always be. Downstairs in the firm, Illyria walks down the hallway, virtually ignored. Spike notes that she once commanded worship, and now no one pays attention to her. He confides that he knows how she feels, since he basically used to haunt the firm, and advises her to get out once in awhile. She tells him that Wesley has stopped teaching her the ways of the human world, since he’s mad about the stunt she pulled in “The Girl in Question.” Spike tells her that by looking like Fred, she’s more powerful than she thinks. In the lobby, Hamilton introduces Angel and Gunn to Senator Brucker and her personal aide, a vampire named Ernesto. Angel ticks off Gunn by allowing an exception to the no human blood policy and telling Harmony to get something human for Ernesto. Wesley tells Angel about a death at an amusement park, but he’s not too concerned about one person’s death. Spike offers to go after the demon and asks Illyria if she wants to tag along.

In Angel’s office, he, Gunn, Brucker, and Ernesto watch a campaign video for Brucker’s opponent. She’s upset because he’s taking her female votes; she didn’t climb up from Hell and get installed in a human body to have someone like him beat her. Brucker suggests having Dr. Sparrow brainwash everyone into thinking that her opponent is a pedophile. Gunn refuses, but Angel is onboard. In his office, Wesley tries to research the kind of demon that’s been killing at the amusement park, but when he opens a source book, the left page goes blank, then prints the message, “You’re looking in the wrong place.” The right page goes blank as well and prints a symbol of a circle with eight spurs. Gunn arrives to talk about Angel and when Wesley looks back at the book, the pages are the way they should be. Angel plays racquetball with Izzy, the devilish demon from “You’re Welcome,” and they discuss the Fell Brethren and Amanda’s baby (see “Time Bomb”). He mentions that Angel is becoming very respected and Angel asks how long he has to “wait for an answer.” Spike and Illyria head to the amusement park, where Illyria notes that Angel doesn’t care about finding this demon. She thinks that he’s been corrupted; as he becomes a stronger leader, the distance between him and the MoG will increase. Spike thinks that he would know if Angel were becoming a bad guy, and Illyria says that he’ll know soon enough - sooner or later, he’ll kill one of the MoG. Drogyn (see “Shells”) appears and announces that he already has.

Before Drogyn can explain, the three are ambushed by the demon. Illyria finishes him off and Spike asks Drogyn for some clarification. He starts to collapse and Illyria notes that he’s bleeding. Spike asks who hurt him and Drogyn says that it was Angel. Back at the firm, Wesley draws the symbol from his source book and takes it to Angel’s office. Angel asks him to leave so that he can keep talking to Hamilton instead. In the hallway, Lorne tells Wesley that Angel let a bunch of his employees go without telling him. Gunn joins them and the three go to Wesley’s office, where they wonder why Angel is acting strangely. Wesley gets a call from Spike, and the three go to Spike’s apartment, where he’s taken Illyria and Drogyn. Drogyn explains that he was attacked by a clan of demon assassins the previous night, and after he got the upper hand and tortured one of the demons, he found out that Angel had hired them. Angel was apparently worried that Drogyn would find something in the Deeper Well that would reveal how he was involved in Illyria’s escape. Wesley points out that Illyria’s escape was predestined, but now Drogyn thinks that Angel may have actually planned it instead. The assassin also mentioned something about a sacrifice, and Wesley wonders if Angel was responsible for Fred’s death. The MoG aren’t sure what to believe, and Gunn accuses Drogyn of lying until Spike mentions that he can’t lie. Wesley shows Drogyn the symbol, but he’s not familiar with it. Wesley suspects that someone is dropping clues about something. The MoG discuss Angel’s strange behavior and Illyria says that he’s planning to make a move. Wesley decides to ask him about it, so he, Gunn, Lorne, and Spike head off, leaving Illyria to guard Drogyn and play Crash Bandicoot.

The MoG confront Angel, but he claims not to know anything about what happened to Drogyn. He encourages everyone to get back to work, since they need to make sure they’re on top. Gunn accuses Angel of being Angelus again, but Angel says that if he were, he’d have already killed half of the MoG. Spike points out that Fred already is. Angel says that Lorne is the only person there who’s ever gotten how things work - he doesn’t worry about good and evil. Angel says that he needs to focus on power, because without it, he’s nothing. He may not have to always do good things to get that power, but he wants it, because Wolfram & Hart has been calling the shots from day one, and he wants to go one up on them. Lorne reminds him that power corrupts, but Angel doesn’t want to worry about what might happen. As the MoG leave, Wesley asks Angel if Fred was one of the people he considered part of “the small stuff.” Angel replies that he loved Fred, then acknowledges that he didn’t answer Wesley’s question. Later, Lorne and Wesley stand outside an interrogation room and wonder what Angel is up to. Gunn and Spike drag in a shackled Lindsey, who remarks, “You boys look like you could use a hug.” Angel meets Nina after an art class and gives her plane tickets to get herself, her sister, and her niece out of the country. He assures her that he wants to be with her, but he’s afraid she’ll get hurt, possibly by him, if she stays. He promises that if he gets through everything all right, he’ll come join her. She thinks he’s lying and tells him that she doesn’t have a reason to stay now.

In Spike’s apartment, Drogyn and Illyria try to figure out the point of Crash Bandicoot. He tells her that she belongs back in the Deeper Well, and she says that she wishes she’d stayed. Hamilton suddenly busts into the apartment and tells Drogyn, who he knows from long ago, that he’s never going back to the Deeper Well. He starts fighting Drogyn, and Illyria tries to stop him, but Hamilton is a lot more powerful than her and knocks her out. In the interrogation room, the guys ask Lindsey about Angel, but Lindsey doesn’t know why Angel did what he did in “Time Bomb.” He spots Wesley’s drawing of the symbol and says that it’s from the Circle of the Black Thorn, which Lorne says “sounds like a little sewing club for pirates.” Lindsey explains that they’re a secret society with connections that the MoG can’t even comprehend. They’re more about power than the fact that they’re evil, and they’re to blame for the coming apocalypse. Wesley notes that Lindsey came to L.A. to kill Angel and join the Black Thorns; Lindsey says that being part of the Black Thorns would mean being an instrument of the Senior Partners, which is as good as it gets. Gunn taunts that Angel is succeeding where Lindsey failed, but Lindsey doesn’t think Angel has it in him to join the Black Thorns. He’d have to stop helping the helpless and kill “one of his lieutenants.” Lorne notes that the Senior Partners and the Black Thorns are slowly killing Angel as the MoG watched. Wesley thinks that there’s still time to save Angel, but Lorne worries that he’s “skipped too far down that evil brick road.” In a replay of the first scene of the episode, Angel jumps through the fire into the chamber and rescues the man who’s being beaten, then bites him. This time, however, we see that the man is Drogyn.

In the chamber, Angel is branded by a demon, who chants with the rest of the Circle of the Black Thorn, inducting him into the group. The lights go on in the room and we see that some of the Black Thorns are Senator Brucker, Vail (see “Origin”), Sebassis (see “Life of the Party”), and Izzy. Angel chats with some of the members, assuring Vail that he has no hard feelings for what happened with Connor. Later, He heads back to Wolfram & Hart and is again confronted by the MoG, this time violently. They all hold weapons on him and tell him that they’ve figured out what he’s up to. They fight a little until Angel grabs Lorne as a hostage and says, “Let’s finish this.” He pulls a crystal out of his pocket which sends a force through the room. Angel lets Lorne go and tells the others that they have six minutes to talk until the glamour he just put on the room collapses - for six minutes, anyone watching from outside the room will think that they’re still fighting. Angel announces that everything the MoG think they’ve heard is a lie. He sent Wesley the symbol in the book and hired the assassins to go after Drogyn, wanting him to send Drogyn to the MoG. He also wanted the Circle of the Black Thorn to think that he had something to do with Fred’s death so that they would believe the MoG couldn’t trust him anymore.

Angel continues that his master plan kicked off in “You’re Welcome,” when Cordelia kissed him. That night, he had a vision of the Black Thorns’ symbol and the apocalypse. He says that Cordelia showed him “where the real powers are,” though he didn’t know who they were. After Fred died, he wanted to use her death to make it matter, and it worked - he now knows who the main players in the apocalypse are. Angel tells the MoG that they’re weak, and the only thing they have control over is their will to choose. “Look, Lindsey’s a pathetic halfwit,” he says, “but he was right about one thing: heroes don’t accept the way the world is. The senior partners may be eternal, but we can make their existence painful.” He wants to try to stop the machine the Black Thorns run, even if they can only do it briefly. They will have to kill every member, and they won’t walk away from that - the Senior Partners will make an example out of them and make them pay. He wants the MoG to be sure of what they’re getting into before they agree to anything. “Power endures,” he continues. “We can’t bring down the senior partners, but for one bright, shining moment, we can show them that they don't own us. You need to decide for yourselves if that’s worth dying for. I can’t order you to do this. I can’t do it without you. So we’ll vote. As a team.” As all of the MoG slowly raise their hands to band with Angel, Hamilton stands outside the room, watching the glamour of the MoG battling Angel.

MORAL, or CRAMMING COMPLEX ISSUES INTO A NUTSHELL: Always trust your boss.

R.I.P.: Drogyn

GRADE: B+ Angel’s so smart.

MEMORABLE QUOTES: Nina: “You should get away. Vacation? You know that word? Go to Cabo, drink margaritas, midnight skinny-dipping, making love on the beach. Did you catch how I subtly included myself in your vacation package?”
Angel: “Nina….”
Nina: “Too pushy, too needy, I never even said it. You should make love on the beach all by yourself.”

“That’s typical. You sleep with a guy and he sends your entire family out of the country. No, wait, that’s actually not that typical at all. You couldn’t just not call?” - Nina to Angel


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