|Season 1, Episode 14|
|Air date||February 15, 2000|
|Written by||Jeannine Renshaw|
|Directed by||R. D. Price|
|Alexis Denisof|| Wesley |
|Will Kempe||Mr. Anderson|
|Katy Boyer||Mrs. Anderson|
|Anthony Cistaro||Ethros Demon|
|Jesse James|| Ryan |
|Ashley Edner||Stephanie Anderson|
|Jerry Lambert|| Rick the Clerk |
Just as Cordelia Chase succeeds at opening Angel up about Doyle and the events surrounding his death, she suffers a vision about an ancient Ethros demon, which turns out to have been possessing the Anderson's son, Ryan, for years. Angel, Wesley and Cordelia perform an exorcism that expels the demon from the child, but it escapes the trap they set and roams free to possess once more. Even worse, they learn that the mass-murdering Ethros demon does not pose the biggest threat to the Anderson family's well-being
While Wesley shows off the newest addition in his collection of arcane weaponry to Angel, Cordelia's dubious-smelling brownies finish baking. Enjoying the homey spectacle of Cordy and Wes bickering, Angel nevertheless tries to make peace—and achieves total silence by inadvertently calling Wesley 'Doyle.' Elsewhere, real children squabble over toys until their mother tells them it is bedtime. The kids protest until sternly admonished by their father. After the parents tuck their children in, the father stonily bids the heartbroken mother to padlock their daughter's door. Behind them, another door, labeled "Ryan," is already padlocked for the night.
Inviting herself to have a seat in his office that evening, Cordelia insists that Angel talk with her about the friend they both miss so much. Just as Angel begins to express the guilt he carries over the manner of Doyle's death, Cordelia is wracked by a vision. Angel and Wesley stake out the envisioned house in the suburbs, but all seems quiet. The Angel Investigations pair is about to leave, when Wesley spots a young boy walking across the yard in his pajamas. Down the street, a car revs its engine and speeds toward them. Angel leaps from the Plymouth, grabs the boy and rolls onto the grass with him, just as the vehicle rushes by. Noticing the bloody scrape on Angel's shoulder, the boy, who seems completely unconcerned about his near brush with death, asks Angel if he's going to cry. Angel jokingly pretends to consider it, finally deciding that he doesn't think he will. At that moment, the boy's father emerges swiftly from the house and roughly begins to berate the child. The boy's mother also rushes up, near panic, and effusively thanks Angel for saving their son, Ryan. Despite her husband's obvious reluctance, she invites Angel inside with an offer to tend his wound. Of course, he accepts. While her husband, Seth, puts Ryan back to bed, Paige tends to the scrape on Angel's arm. Shocked at one point to notice that it seems to be healing with miraculous rapidity, Paige is distracted when Angel returns to the subject of her family. Paige seems too chronically anxious to be truly forthcoming, and stops talking altogether when Seth returns to the living room. Learning that the Andersons have recently moved to the area, Angel begins to probe more deeply for information, such as how their son got out of his room, as well as where he was likely to be going, and why. Decidedly hostile, Seth sits opposite their guest and pointedly reminds him that he hasn't told them his name. Angel introduces himself as "Angel... Jones, Angel Jones." Seeming not to notice his hesitation, Paige rather too delightedly reveals, again over her husband's muttered objection, that she collects angels. To Angel's discomfort, she is instantly convinced that he has been sent to help them, especially since he refuses all offer of payment or recompense. However, when Paige insists on inviting him to supper the following night to thank him, which Seth openly disapproves, Angel uses her enthusiasm to his advantage. After a dramatic pause, Angel brings a glow to Paige's face by asking her, "What can I bring?" before squarely meeting Seth's furious glare.
While Angel is inside, Wesley pokes around outside and finds glowing goo called "plakticine" (similar to ectoplasm) oozing from the foundation all around the house. Comparing notes back in the Plymouth, Angel and Wesley conclude that someone in the family is possessed by a demon and, though he doesn't express it until later, Angel strongly suspects the father. He might have changed his mind, however, had he noticed the Andersons' daughter, Stephanie, watching expressionlessly from her window as they drive away. Back at the office, Angel and Wes bring Cordelia up to speed. Further research, including a background check on the Anderson family, determines that they are dealing with a powerful, fully developed, mass-murdering Ethros demon. Despite Angel's suspicions about the father, the only way to be sure which family member is possessed is to have each ingest Psylis Eucalipsis Powder, which will force the demon to manifest. They mix the powder with Cordelia's brownies, a plateful of which Angel brings as a hostess gift when he arrives at the Andersons for dinner. After a mildly uncomfortable meal, Paige brings out the brownies for dessert and Seth tells the protesting kids that this will replace their hot cocoa treat tonight. As the Andersons each take a bite, Angel watches Seth so closely that it isn't until Stephanie screams that he sees the demon horrifically manifesting in Ryan. The boy spasms and partially transforms, and his frantic mother accuses Angel of poisoning her son. Unexpectedly, Seth comes to Angel's support, urging Paige to admit that something has been truly wrong with the boy since long before Angel's advent. Eventually, although his face remains disfigured, Ryan grows somnolent and Paige and Seth agree to try an exorcism. Taking an opportunity to speak aside to Angel, Seth expresses his gratitude for this chance at hope and healing for his son and his family.
Having asked Seth to arrange care for Stephanie, Angel takes the rest of the Anderson family to his place, where his team has made preparations. Wesley carries the still-sleeping Ryan and gently deposits him in Angel's bed. Cordelia establishes a magic circle of protection around the bed with a granular mixture she pours from a large flask. Stressing that Ryan is not himself anymore, Angel warns Seth and Paige, particularly Paige, that they risk being killed if they break the barrier or go anywhere near the boy. Leaving Cordelia in charge, Angel and Wesley try to make contact with the priest reputed to be professionally trained to perform exorcisms. Upon arriving at his parish, an aged nun, wise and discerning, informs them that Father Fredericks died during his last exorcism attempt. She warns that an Ethros, more powerful than the demon that killed the Father, is even more dangerous than Angel. As Wesley dips holy water from the font, Angel argues that the former Watcher is physically, emotionally and spiritually unprepared to conduct Ryan's exorcism. Wesley makes his own case by the simple expedient of tossing a cross at Angel, who reflexively catches it, then, just as reflexively, drops it. Shaking scorched fingers, Angel pronounces Wes vulgar, but concedes the point. Meanwhile, Ryan has seemingly regained consciousness and commences tormenting Paige with guilt at leaving him abandoned and alone in the dark. Just as Paige's resolve breaks and she rushes to her son's side, Angel and Wesley return. The demon telekinetically prevents them from coming to Paige's rescue while he tries to throttle her with Ryan's small hands.
After a tense few minutes, Wesley and Angel rush into the bedroom and manage to pull Paige from Ryan's choke hold, but their efforts send the demon deeper, and the boy again lapses into unconsciousness. Angel emphatically repeats his warnings to Paige, and she and Seth sit recovering on the sofa while Wesley prepares himself for the coming ordeal. Angel checks on Cordelia's progress with further research and learns that once the Ethros is expelled, it will automatically possess the nearest "warm body." The only way to prevent this is by obtaining a rare and singularly constructed Ethros Box. Angel gives Cordelia the address of a shop he knows downtown, Rick's Magick & Stuff, and she leaves immediately. Angel stays behind to keep an eye on things and help Wesley prepare for the ritual. Rick's, however, does not have an Ethros Box carved by "blind Tibetan monks," so Cordy instead buys a box made by "mute Chinese nuns." This box is intended for another type of demon, and Rick warns her it might be "tight across the shoulders" for the larger Ethros. While Cordelia shops, Wesley begins the exorcism. He manages to raise the demon far enough to animate the boy once more, and intones the opening lines of the Latinate ritual. Sturdily enduring the Ethros' cruel taunts about his inadequacies as a youth and as a Watcher, Wesley nevertheless grows visibly more distracted and vulnerable as the exchange continues. When Angel intervenes, the Ethros viciously twists Wesley's new-found devotion toward the vampire and Wesley's control abruptly breaks. He furiously blasts the demon in Ryan, focusing his righteous wrath through the cross he brandishes. The Ethros, using Wesley's own fury against him, suddenly forces Wes to stab himself in the neck with the heavy cross. Angel rushes to Wesley's side, extracts the cross and presses a cloth to the wound, then helps him from the room. Cordelia returns and the five adults regroup in the kitchen while Wesley rests. Suddenly, the room begins to tremble and shake, and everyone backs away as the disturbance localizes at the kitchen table. Amidst the other toys being rattled and moved telekinetically, all the marbles spill from their bag and arrange themselves into words on the tabletop. Someone has written the pleading message, "Save me."
The Ethros, who has made Ryan sit up again, continues to taunt Angel. When the demon seems to channel Doyle, playing on Angel's deep sense of (misplaced) guilt about letting his friend die, Angel resolves to have an end to the proceedings. Wrapping his hand with a length of cloth, Angel grabs the cross, grabs Wesley's small volume of incantations, and strides into the bedroom. Holding the cross pressed to Ryan's chest, Angel ignores the pain of his hand sizzling through the protective layers and begins to chant. Ryan twists and convulses as the Ethros struggles inside him. Angel's voice grows louder and more commanding as he repeats the ritual phrases until, finally, he shouts, "Now get the hell out!" With an invisible rush, the demon is expelled from the boy, but the Ethros Box, held at the ready by Cordelia and Wesley standing in the bedroom doorway, is wholly unable to contain the demon's energy, and shatters into shards. With a roar, the Ethros, still in invisible energy form, flees the basement, leaving everyone staring at each other in stunned shock. Some time later, after sending the Andersons home, the AI team tries to determine the demon's current whereabouts. Although there is a fair amount of plakticine to be found in the building, Wesley concurs with Angel's guess that the demon is long gone and will need to take corporeal form to recharge itself after expending so much energy to escape. Leaving Cordelia behind, the two demon hunters soon track the Ethros to primordial basalt sea caves nearby. As they penetrate deeper into the rocky blackness, Wesley takes a moment to try to assure Angel of his loyalty, no matter the Ethros' earlier taunts. Angel, trying to keep it light, reassures Wes, in turn, that he knows the former Watcher isn't planning to kill him. Also aware, however, that Wesley is willing to kill him should it become necessary, Angel concludes, "And that's good. Now, come on." With nothing more needing to be said, Wesley, deeply gratified, follows Angel into the dark. Shortly, they hear quiet moaning from up ahead, and come face to face with the terrifying Ethros demon. Oddly calm, the Ethros explains that in millennia of tormenting innocent souls, he has never before encountered a being that frightened him as much as did the Andersons' son, Ryan. He reveals that the boy is not pure or innocent, but totally chaotic, amoral and soulless inside. The boy had been the true Box imprisoning Ethros, and the demon sought escape at any cost, even that of his own existence. Angel realizes that the message, "Save me" was, in fact, the demon's plea, and that the Ethros, on the first night he encountered the Anderson family, was actually the one sleep-walking Ryan into the street to effect his own fatal escape from bondage. Angel and Wesley now understand that the Andersons, believing themselves safe at last, are still in mortal danger from the monster undetected in their midst. With pitiless swiftness, Angel dispatches the ancient evil.
In the Andersons' suburban home, Paige gives Ryan and Stephanie their accustomed hot cocoa before bed, but Ryan is dissatisfied when he counts two fewer mini-marshmallows in his cup than in his sister's. That night after everyone is asleep, Ryan, unsecured for the first time in a long time, steals matches from Seth's bedstand, then locks his parents' door shut with a toy box. Entering Stephanie's room, the boy sloshes gasoline over his sister's toys and furniture, then lights a match and tosses it down. The room ignites with a whoosh and Stephanie, cut off from the door by a wall of flame, wakes up screaming. As her brother stares entranced at the roaring flames, Angel suddenly crashes through the window opposite and scoops Stephanie into his arms. Despite the open flame, he pauses a split second to see Wesley hustle Ryan and his parents down the hall to safety, then leaps back through the window with his small burden. A little while later, Angel and Seth stand in the strobing dark, while firemen contain the blaze, and other emergency vehicles stand at the ready around the yard. Behind Seth, Paige and Stephanie huddle together near the front door. Detective Kate Lockley comes over to inform Seth that Social Services is taking custody of Ryan, and that they can see him in the morning, but that there won't be anything to report until after the evaluation. Angel catches her glance and says, "Thanks for coming by, Kate." Staring at him for a moment, Kate merely nods, then turns away and climbs in the squad car that drives Ryan away. Angel redirects Seth's attention from the son he cannot save to the wife and daughter he has already protected. Almost imperceptibly nodding his thanks, Seth turns to embrace his welcoming family. Angel makes his own way out to the sidewalk, where Cordelia and Wesley stand near the Plymouth, waiting for him.
- Wesley points out that "A father doesn't have to be possessed to terrorize his children." This one of the earliest hints at Wesley's issues with his own father.
- The title of this episode is similar to Jenny Calendar's line in The Dark Age when she is possessed by a demon and says to Giles "You've got me under your skin."
- an Ethros demon, slain by Angel
Behind the Scenes
- This was "one of the very early scripts that we wrote before Doyle was killed," says writer Tim Minear. He struggled with the story until coming up with the idea that Angel should accidentally call Wesley "Doyle", which gave the script a cohesive theme about the pain of losing a family member. At the end of the episode Seth Anderson loses his son, and at the beginning Angel has lost someone like a son; Minear says both are "desperately trying to keep their family together, and through no fault of their own, they can't."
- Joss Whedon came up with the twist that Ryan Anderson was more evil than the demon who possessed him. He also cut the priest who, in the first draft of the script, performed the exorcism. Whedon questioned why Wesley couldn't perform the ritual, and Minear says, "Suddenly it makes perfect sense, because Angel's problem at the beginning of the story is, 'I let Doyle die... because he did something that I couldn't do.' Now you have Wesley saying, 'I can perform this exorcism; you can't.'" When Angel later saves Wesley's life, Minear says "he's sort of atoning for the Doyle thing.
Pop Culture References
- I've Got You Under My Skin: This episode shares its title with a song that became a signature of Frank Sinatra.
- Lizzie Borden: When Wesley mentions the famous Massachusetts woman accused of murdering her parents with an axe, Angel explains that the Ethros demon possessing her was only an adolescent.
- The Exorcist: During the discussion about how to determine which Anderson family member is possessed, Cordelia asks if the demon will manifest by spinning its host's head around. Later, she asks whether Angel wants to protect his bedroom floor, in case there's "any big vomiting." These phrases both refer to the film The Exorcist.
- Thighmaster: When Angel cites Wesley's lack of resistance even to sales suggestion, Wesley protests that his second Thighmaster was a free gift.
- The nun at the church seems to immediately know that Angel is a vampire. This is the only time we see anyone of the church to be aware of vampires (other than Caleb) and possess this ability.
- Doyle's voice is mimicryed by the demon, this could be considered the first appearance of Doyle since his death in Hero.