"The House Always Wins"
Written by David Fury; directed by Marita Grabiak

Connor fights a vampire in an alley as Angel watches from a nearby rooftop and Cordelia watches both of them from her higher plane. After Connor’s done, he takes off and Angel tells Fred and Gunn that he knows they were watching him. Angel decides that the three of them need to go “on a little retreat” and Gunn asks if he means like the one he took in “Heartthrob.” Angel says that it’ll be the same, but the three of them wind up in Las Vegas. They note that they’re there to find Lorne, but they also want to catch a show. Angel talks about the way Vegas used to look, mentioning that he knew Bugsy Segal. Gunn and Angel are shocked to learn from Fred that Lorne is singing at the Tropicana; Angel wonders how Lorne can get by with looking like a demon. They spot a sign calling Lorne “The Green Velvet Fog” and noting that he’s been there for seventeen weeks. They head to Lorne’s show, which consists of showgirls, and hear him sing “It’s Not Easy Being Green.” Fred says that everyone must think he’s wearing makeup, like the guys in the Blue Man Group. (Angel confirms that only two members of the Blue Man Group are demons.) When he’s done with his song, Lorne thanks his audience, brings out his showgirls (the Lornettes), and sings “Lady Marmalade.” He moves through the audience, having various people sing some of the lines. Fred says that Lorne will be excited to see them and Gunn says that Lorne better not try to make him sing. Lorne passes by the MoG and Gunn pretends that he’s not disappointed about not having to sing. Lorne talks to a young woman in the audience named Vivian, learning that she’s heading to culinary school in Paris. After the show, the MoG stand with the rest of the crowd, waiting for Lorne to show up backstage. Angel talks about his encounters with the Rat Pack and Fred asks him if he knows what he’s going to sing so that Lorne can read him. Angel is reluctant to sing and thinks about playing blackjack instead.

Lorne emerges and Fred tries to get his attention, soon realizing that he doesn’t see them. Angel tries to go after him but is stopped by a security guard. Lorne heads to his dressing room, lying to a bodyguard that the MoG are some old fans but not friends of his. A Lornette brings Lorne a drink in his dressing room, where he’s joined by the owner of the casino, Lee. (Not to be confused with Wolfram & Hart’s Lee.) Lee tries to get Lorne to tell him something, but Lorne wants to wait until later. Lee punches him in the stomach and threatens to fire a Lornette if Lorne doesn’t cooperate. Lorne hands over information about the bright futures of the people he had sing during his show, including Vivian. As Lee leaves, he triggers bars that keep Lorne in his dressing room. Wesley’s in his apartment, telling Lilah over the phone that they might not be able to meet up that night. He deals with some business, then starts to get friendly with Lilah over the phone. Back in Vegas, Gunn and Fred play some blackjack while Angel stresses over the fact that Lorne knows they’re there and hasn’t tried to get in touch with them. Gunn thinks he’s gotten so famous that he doesn’t care about the little people anymore. Angel watches a Lornette approach Vivian and give her a green “Spin to Win” chip. Vivian is informed that she’s received a chance to play Spin to Win, a promotional game in which she could win a million dollars. Vivian heads to the Spin to Win game and Angel catches the attention of the Lornette. He asks her to get a note to Lorne and she reluctantly agrees to try. From her higher plane, Cordelia watches and tries to tell Angel that he’s right for sensing that things in the casino aren’t completely normal. Back at the blackjack table, Fred is winning (thanks to her ability to count cards) but feeling strange about Lorne’s behavior. She and Gunn discuss Angel; Gunn thinks that the trip is going to be good for him. They don’t notice a couple of security guards pulling Angel out of the casino.

Outside, the guards rough Angel up, but he starts fighting back and knocks them out. He runs into Vivian and saves her from being hit by a taxi; he notes that she’s acting almost like a robot. Fred and Gunn peek around the corner near Lorne’s dressing room, trying to figure out how to get in to see him. Fred winds up dressing up like a Lornette and heading to the dressing room to deliver a drink. She nervously makes it past the guards, but inside the room, Lorne almost knocks her out with a bottle, thinking she was someone else. He soon realizes that it’s Fred and tells her he’s happy to see her. He complains that the MoG took long enough to rescue him and she replies that they didn’t realize he needed rescuing. He reminds her that he told her to look after Fluffy (see “Deep Down”); this was supposedly “the universally recognized code for ‘I’m being held prisoner. Send help!’” He explains that Lee is basically holding him hostage and using him to get players for the Spin to Win game. Angel forces his way into the Spin to Win room and Lee tells a guard to let him stay and play. He gives Angel a chip and Angel tosses it onto the table, saying that he doesn’t want to play. He doesn’t notice the chip moving itself into a circle. Angel asks for information on Vivian and Lee stalls until the dealer announces that the house wins. Angel suddenly becomes expressionless, much like Vivian was, and heads off with a cup of quarters to play the slots. Fred runs out of Lorne’s dressing room, screaming that he attacked her and then ran off. She sends the security guards into the dressing room as Gunn approaches and Lorne sneaks out wearing a trench coat and hat. They tie something through the door handles to trap the guards in the room and take off, wondering where Angel is.

Lee keeps an eye on the casino from the control room and receives a report that Angel is a vampire with a soul, as well as supposedly a major player in the coming apocalypse. Lee tells a guard to place a call to Wolfram & Hart. Gunn, Fred, and Lorne find Angel at a slot machine and ask him to stall the security guards while they get Lorne out of the casino. Angel easily accepts, obviously not really listening. Fred, Gunn, and Lorne head outside to the Strip and find themselves surrounded by guards. As they run, Lorne explains that Lee has been using him to read members of the audience; their destinies are imprinted on the chips in the Spin to Win game, and when the house wins them (which is always), the futures are turned over to Lee. The futures are then traded in the black market for a lot of money. Most of the people wind up staying in the casino, since they no longer have futures. Gunn realizes that Angel has fall victim to the future-trading scheme, but before they can do anything, they have to get away from the guards. Lorne grabs a nearby microphone and sings a high note, breaking some lights and causing a good distraction so that the MoG can get away. Once they’re safely gone, Gunn blasts Lorne for selling Angel out to Lee. Lorne replies that he didn’t want to go along with the plan, but Lee killed a girl and told Lorne he would kill more if he didn’t play along. The MoG return to the Tropicana and Gunn heads inside to find Angel. When he catches up with him, he confirms that Angel knows who he is and tries to tell him that he needs to leave. “Have to play to win,” Angel replies. Gunn tries to pull him out, but security guards arrive with Fred and Lorne. They take the MoG away, leaving Angel back at his slot machine.

The guards escort the MoG to the control room, where Lorne tells Lee that he won’t play along if Lee hurts anyone else. Lee says he’ll kill the MoG so quickly that he won’t technically hurt them. On her higher plane, Cordelia tries to come up with a way to get Angel into the control room. Angel continues playing on his slot machine, coming close to getting three diamonds. Cordelia moves a wheel so that Angel wins. Lee orders Fred and Gunn killed, but before they leave, a guard tells Lee that there’s a winner. Angel is brought into the control room (which he seems to recognize) and Lee asks him how he won. “I put a quarter in the slot, and I pulled that little lever,” Angel explains. Lee says that the win was a fluke and tells someone to pay Angel in quarters, then kill the others. The fighting begins and Lorne spots Lee’s mystical future-controller. Lee tries to make a deal with him, but Lorne smashes the mystical thing, sending everyone’s futures back. The MoG leave the control room and Angel says that he knows why it seemed familiar - it was where Elvis and Priscilla had their wedding reception. (“It’s not that I was, you know, really invited. They just put me near the dais. I think somebody thought I was in the band. Probably because I was all drunk and surly.”) The MoG return to L.A., and on their way into the Hyperion, Angel wonders why he won at the slot machine. He also doesn’t understand how he could fight back when he didn’t have a reason to, since his destiny was gone. Lorne heads off to use the bathroom as Angel, Fred, and Gunn enter the lobby. They stop in shock when they see Cordelia inside. “Who are you people?” she asks.

MORAL, or CRAMMING COMPLEX ISSUES INTO A NUTSHELL: Vegas isn’t as much fun as Gunn thought it would be.

GRADE: B+ Field trip!

MEMORABLE QUOTES: Gunn: “Something’s starting to seem a lot not right about this.”
Fred: “That’s what I’ve been saying, only with better grammar.”

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