"The Ring"
Written by Tim Minear; directed by Nick Marck

Cordelia and Wesley are at Angel Investigations, using a demon database called “Demons, Demons, Demons” to look up the Vigories of Oden Tal (see “She”). Cordelia says that someone should create a dating base for demons, then mocks Wesley for having a non-existent social life. Angel arrives in the middle of their bickering and asks if they need a counselor. A guy named Darin MacNamara enters and almost collapses. He tells the others that his brother Jack was kidnapped the previous night and Darin discovered his finger in his mailbox. Darin is sure that the people who took his brother weren’t exactly people. Angel looks at photos of Jack while Darin tells him that they weren’t very close, since Jack wasn’t as successful as Darin. Jack had a gambling problem and, though Darin had paid off bookies for him in the past, had recently refused to help him again. He felt guilty afterwards and went to Jack’s place in time to see the non-people taking him away. Angel goes to find Ernie, the bookie Darin wouldn’t pay off, and interrupts his poker game to try to get information. He promises that Darin will pay off Jack’s debts, but Ernie says it’s not up to him anymore, since it’s no longer about money, but about making an example out of Jack. Angel offers him some money and learns that Jack may be somewhere under Beechwood Canyon. Cordelia and Wesley search the demon database with the information Darin gave them about the demon who took Jack. Wesley argues that by the time Cordelia finds the demon on the computer he could find it in his book, but Cordelia proves him wrong, coming up with a Howler demon.

Angel heads into a sewer under Beechwood Canyon and is attacked by a couple of Howler demons. He asks one of them where Jack is and is told that he was sold. A number of people in fancy clothes gather in a run-down neighborhood and head into a building. Angel sneaks in through the basement and looks at a ticket one of the women has. In another room, two demons are fighting each other in a pit. One of the demons is knocked down and the crowd chants, “Killing blow!” A man nearby tosses a knife to the other demon, who slits the throat of the one he knocked down. The crowd cheers and the demon, Tom Cribb, is pronounced the winner. The next demon up, Val Trepkos, is announced as Angel spots Jack being led through the crowd by some men. He follows them down a corridor, where they meet up with Darin. Darin warns Jack to be wary of Angel, since he managed to defeat the Howler demons. Angel realizes that he was set up and tries to fight off the guys, who are attempting to check him over. Someone of them get him with cattle prods and render him unconscious. Jack announces that Angel will be “a crowd-pleaser.” Angel awakens later to find himself in a cage, surrounded by other demons in cages. He has a silver bracelet on his wrist that reads “XXI.” He tries to converse with his fellow captives but they don’t appear to speak English. Jack tells the “slaves” that the only rule is that they stay inside the red area marked off around the cages. (The wristbands ensure that they do.) They can only get out of the red area when their bracelets are removed, and that only happens after their 21st kill. Angel refuses to kill anyone and Jack replies that in that case, he’ll be the one killed.

The next day, Wesley calls Kate and is disappointed to learn that she doesn’t know where Angel is. Cordelia is also worried that they can’t reach Darin. Wesley tells her to keep trying to get in touch with him while he follows Angel’s trail. Angel’s fellow slaves are served food (though he isn’t) and they all engage in a little macho prison-guy talk. Later, one of the demons warns Angel not to disturb things too much or he’ll get himself killed. Jack and Darin announce that evening’s lineup, pitting demons against each other who shouldn’t be matched up. One of the demons tries to escape, but when he crosses the red line, he disintegrates, leaving only his bracelet behind. Angel is chosen as his replacement for a fight. Wesley interrupts Ernie while he’s beating someone up, but Ernie won’t give him any information without being paid. Ernie draws a gun but Wesley, actually proving useful for once, shoots the gun out of his hand with a crossbow bolt. This intimidates Ernie’s goons into dropping their own guns and allows Wesley to ask Ernie where Angel is. While the fights are starting up that night, the woman whose ticket Angel looked at the night before talks to Darin about Angel. She mentions that he has a soul and wonders if this will give him an advantage in the ring. One of the demons tries to give Angel pointers for his fight, but Angel says that he’s not going to kill him. The other demon tells him that he doesn’t have a choice. Angel and his opponent, Baker, enter the ring, and Cribb, the demon who fought the previous night, notes that Angel isn’t even fighting. Cordelia and Wesley arrive at the arena, dressed up in fancy clothes. They realize too late that they’ve forgotten their (assumedly fake) police badge, but Cordelia approaches a couple anyway, introducing herself as Detective Andrews and Wesley as Detective Yelsew (Wesley backwards). Wesley flashes his wallet instead of a badge and Cordelia tells him to take down the couple’s license plate number. She checks the couple’s tickets and tells them that they’re for an unlicensed event. Wesley warns that something is going to happen there tonight, possibly a raid, so the couple decides to leave, leaving Cordelia and Wesley their tickets.

Inside, Baker beats on Angel, who still won’t fight back. Cordelia and Wesley enter, spotting Darin, who’s holding a bracelet. Wesley notes that these demon matches have been revived from the Roman Empire and that the bracelets kill people if they’re wearing them when they cross the red line. Darin puts the bracelet down and gestures for a guard to drop a knife into the pit. Baker picks the knife up, cutting Angel’s arm with it. Angel morphs into vamp face and the crowd chants, “Killing blow!” Angel defends himself from a few more hits, then stabs Baker in the chest with the knife. Once Baker is dead, the announcer says that Angel has made his first career kill. Angel heads back to join the other demons as Jack announces that it’s time for a match between Trepkos and a demon named Malish (who’s expected to be the victor). Angel tells Trepkos that if he and Malish don’t fight, neither of them will die. Cribb tells Angel that he’s not an expert just because he’s made one kill; Angel replies that that wasn’t his first kill. Angel tells Trepkos that they can fight their captors if they stop killing each other. Trepkos instead says that he’ll kill Malish quickly, a decision which pleases Jack. Once they’re in the ring, Trepkos fulfills his promise. Outside the building, Cordelia tells Wesley that they need to call the police, but he thinks that Darin will destroy the evidence before anything can happen. Cordelia realizes that he would kill the demons and says that they need to get Angel out, which entails getting his bracelet off. Wesley thinks that, if he can get a bracelet, he’ll be able to figure out how to forge a magical key to release other bracelets. Cordelia reveals that she swiped a bracelet when he wasn’t looking.

At dinner in the slaves’ quarters, Jack congratulates Angel on his victory, saying that he’s a demon like the other fighters. Angel, who’s standing right by the red line, grabs Jack and holds him near it. He asks Jack how to remove the bracelet and tries to get the demons to check Jack’s pockets for a key; they won’t help him. Darin enters with guards and cattle prods and Angel agrees to let Jack go when Darin lets him and the other demons go. Angel and Darin face off for a little while before Darin pulls out a gun and shoots Jack. The guards run to Angel and knock him out with cattle prods again. He wakes up in an office with Lilah Morgan (Stephanie Romanov), the woman he and Darin both talked to, nearby. She introduces herself and he realizes that a) he’s in her office, b) she’s a lawyer, and c) she works for Wolfram & Hart. She says that she got Darin to sell his contract to “the partners” because it would be too much trouble to keep him around the ring. She tells him that he’s free to go and he guesses that he has to pretend the fighting never happened. Lilah points out that there are a lot of people for him to help in L.A.; she says that they have to compromise and pick battles. She thinks that they can work together, but Angel isn’t interested. Some guards arrive to zap him with cattle prods again, but Angel tells them he’s going back willingly. Wesley messes around with the bracelet, trying to find something that will conduct electricity. Angel returns to the arena, where the other demons think he’s crazy for coming back when he was freed. Darin puts Angel’s bracelet back on and tells him that he’s fighting Trepkos next; if Trepkos wins, Angel will be his 21st kill. Cordelia provides Wesley with a horsehair bracelet (“from Keanu, my palomino, before the IRS took him away”) which does exactly what he needs it to do to the silver bracelet. Back at the arena, Lilah places a $10,000 bet on Trepkos.

Angel and Trepkos enter the ring, where Angel tells Trepkos that he can’t become free by killing 21 demons and will always be a slave. Trepkos says that he’ll kill him quickly and Angel replies that he won’t let him. The fight begins and, again, Angel just defends himself. Cordelia distracts a guard so that Wesley can get to the slaves’ quarters. He asks Cribb where Angel is and is told that he’ll be dead soon. Wesley announces that he has a key to open all of the demon’s bracelets and Cribb grabs it from him. A guard drops wooden staffs into the pit and Trepkos charges Angel with one of them. Wesley returns to Cordelia and tells her that someone took his key. The fighting continues and Angel gets part of Trepkos’ staff, holding it to his throat. Cribb unlocks his bracelet, watching as Angel starts to walk away from the fight, then get overtaken by Trepkos. The crowd encourages Trepkos to kill Angel, but Trepkos decides not to. Darin sends guards after both of them, but Wesley pulls out a gun and tells Darin to stop the guards. Cribb and the other demons storm the arena and Wesley and Darin start fighting over the gun. The demons and guards face off and Cribb unlocks Angel’s bracelet, calling him a loser. The spectators all leave the arena, Lilah going with them. Darin is about to shoot Wesley when Cordelia pushes him into the pit. Darin points the gun at Trepkos and blasts him for not killing Angel when it would have set him free. Angel keeps Darin from shooting Trepkos and Cribb puts a bracelet on Darin’s wrist. Darin is thrown out of the red circle and disintegrates. Cribb unlocks Trepkos’ bracelet and Angel and Trepkos congratulate each other on a good fight. “I could have taken you,” Angel claims. Cordelia and Wesley help Angel out of the building and he thanks them for finding him before it was too late. Cordelia says that Wesley was the one who figured out how to make the key, and Wesley says that she was the one who figured out that horsehair would work. Angel says that they did good work, even though, as Cordelia points out, they released a bunch of demons.

MORAL, or CRAMMING COMPLEX ISSUES INTO A NUTSHELL: Slavery is bad, in case you didn’t know.

GRADE: B- What is this, the WWE?


MEMORABLE QUOTES: Cordelia: “Demons, Demons, Demons. Wow! They put a lot of thought into that title.”
Wesley: “It’s a demon database. What would you call it?”
Cordelia: “I don’t know. How about Demon Database?”
Wesley: “Ahh! A name rife with single entendre.”

“Okay, first I say ‘yuck’ and then I hit search.” - Cordelia

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