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Angel 5x05 Life Of The Party - Soulful Spike Society Review

Friday 31 October 2003, by Webmaster

5.5 Life of the Party—The Drama Queen Within written by Ben Edlund; directed by Bill Norton

Horned, red-eyed and green skinned, Lorne, the Empath Demon and compulsive entertainer, self-exiled from his native Demon Dimension of Pylea, once proprietor and Host of Caritas (an all-species karaoke bar where a magically imposed peace was strictly enforced), destiny reader, and head of Wolfram & Hart’s Entertainment and Public Relations Division since Angel’s accession as CEO, lives his life to a disco beat. It’s always showtime. Relentlessly cheerful in a show-biz, Liberace fashion, shrewd in his insight into others, resplendent in his My eyes! My eyes! wildly clashing Technicolor wardrobe, he’s both a walking cliché and legitimately larger than life. He definitely has layers. And it’s not easy….

In a trope similar to the premise of the classic SF film Forbidden Planet, even the most intelligent and evolved of creatures harbors a beast within: the subconscious, the Id—the dreaming, primitive part of the mind that processes conflicts: the socially unacceptable feelings and impulses intolerable to the waking consciousness. And to better serve Angel in the impossibly demanding supercharged 24/7 pace of Entertainment Law and PR at W & H, Lorne reveals to Gunn that he’s had his sleep (and implicitly his dreaming) removed. No downtime. No processing of the unmentionable, unendurable, and unacceptable. The whole chaotic range of destructive emotions completely bottled…until, on pressure built up by their imprisonment, they eventually explode. Hmmm: we are still talking about Lorne here, aren’t we? The one whose Monster from the Id resembles a cross between the Jolly Green Giant and the Incredible Hulk in a three piece electric blue suit?

Not…Angel, for instance? Who confesses he now has no idea whether he’s doing well or badly in running W & H, so intent is he on not doing what the Senior Partners want, whatever that may be? Who has now gotten himself a reputation, not undeserved, for exercising summary vigilante justice and killing whoever opposes or resists him in L.A.’s evil business community—to the point that none will risk attending that bash of bashes, W & H’s annual big-blast Halloween party? Whom Eve, liaison with the malevolent Senior Partners, accuses of being "bottled" in a childish yes-no spat in an elevator? Certainly principled, souled Angel has no monstrous, ruthless Beast within. Oh, wait….

Eve didn’t need Lorne’s inadvertent "my will be done" suggestion/compulsion to try to get into Angel’s pants or interpose herself before he’s had a chance to put them on. That’s her aim from the start, barging into Angel’s penthouse when he’s showering, coolly viewing him naked. No least subtlety about the implication that his showers are prolonged by "gentleman’s time," given his "hands on" management style, referring to what Xander Harris used to call "the sock puppet of love." The way to free Angelus is through "a moment of perfect happiness," defined in this series as extraordinarily good sex with a beloved partner. Although that result would presumably be desirable, the Senior Partners know not even Darla could bring that off, and Eve is no Darla. Eve is pragmatically prepared to settle for less: like Angel, Eve is responsible for seeing that the bottom line is served, and a cranky, bottled-up CEO is a bad businessman. It would also be desirable to have a pleasure/pain, reward/punishment handle on said CEO to influence or control him. Eve contends that Angel needs some physical release, that she’s entirely willing to provide on a perfectly emotionless, businesslike basis. Merely another of the perks of being CEO, like opaquing office windows. After all, Eve attended U C Santa Cruz (which, I’m reliably informed, is the most "laid back" of the campuses and glories in having, as its sports team, the Fighting Banana Slugs): it wouldn’t be her first time having sex under a mystical influence, after all.

The immediate problem is Angel’s total lack of interest in the Halloween bash Lorne has been given responsibility for bringing off. The bash serves a number of corporate purposes in terms of client relations and employee morale (which Harmony bluntly says "stinks" and employees think Angel "sucks" because of the mass firings and public killings). But Angel is not supporting it, preferring lone patrols to meetings. Over the years, it’s become clear that Angel’s enjoyment of any social event is in inverse proportion to the number attending. Trying to do his best for the FG and for the firm, Lorne is frantic that the party isn’t "working": movers and shakers of L.A.’s evil business community think it’s a trap, a means of getting them all together for Godfather-style mass execution. However, if Angel will accompany Lorne in personally inviting demon nobleman Archduke Sebassis, A-lister and crown jewel of the jet set, and persuading him to attend, the lesser glitterati will follow. With ill grace, Angel agrees.

During the drive, Angel realizes why this party means so much, personally, to Lorne. Unequipped by physique and by temperament for violence, no good at research, law, or mystical science, Lorne considers this the contribution he can make to the overall effort. He believes it’s of value, whether or not Angel appreciates it. But as Lorne later says, it’s a job almost impossible to do even if one spends every minute of every day on it for a sleepless month.

During the audience with Sebassis, Angel glowers while Lorne fawns and sucks up like the practiced sycophant he is. Despite the usual demon contempt for vampires, Sebassis finally accepts the invitation. However, after Angel and Lorne have left, he directs his aide, Artode, to see that all members of his entourage are armed.

The main complication is that as final preparations are ramped up and Lorne does the rounds of the Fang Gang, bullying them into agreeing to attend, he makes certain suggestions. Wes and Fred are working too hard, he judges. Their current project, determining why an aerosol stun grenade that failed and let Angel’s opponent cover him with slime, can be handed off to Fred’s assistant, Knox, who readily agrees to miss the party to work on it. Lorne suggests to Gunn that he needs to define his expanding role with W & H: mark his territory. As the party begins, Lorne tells two employees who complain this is their night off that this is their night ON and they must mingle—immediately! He asks Spike, disgusted at a party on the holiday all proper demons ignore (Bah! Humbug!), to be more positive. Encountering wallflowers Wes and Fred, Lorne feels they’re not in the spirit of things: they should already be "three sheets to the wind." When Sebassis and his entourage arrive, Lorne begs, as a personal favor, that Angel "treat him nice," and Angel’s hyper-effusive greeting to the nobleman is in marked contrast to his earlier glowering. That’s the first sign. Later, passing between Angel and Eve who are bitching at one another with frigid stares, Lorne sarcastically claims to detect rampant sexual tension between them and snarks, "Get a room!"

And next thing we know, Wes and Fred are wandering around in a drunken haze, Spike is grinning and enthusing about the techno-pop music, Gunn has begun marking his territory dog style, with urine, and Angel and Eve are in fervent liplock mode in his office.

And very shortly thereafter Sebassis’ aide, Artode, resplendent in a green leather sports jacket made of Pylean hide (for which Lorne has barely been able to conceal his furious distaste), gets messily dead in the bathroom.

It’s begun slowly to dawn on Wes and Fred that something’s a bit off. It’s seeing party animal Spike that connects current uncharacteristic behavior with a directive of Lorne’s. So they grab Lorne and drag him off to Angel’s office where they interrupt Angel and Eve getting even more friendly on the couch in the altogether, to the startlement and consternation of everyone except Spike, who gleefully approves. They quickly figure out that the problem is a side-effect of Lorne’s month-long sleep deprivation, and Wes and Fred are sent to retrieve and restore the missing sleep.

Meanwhile, Artode’s body has been discovered. Sure his worst suspicions have been confirmed, Sebassis wants Angel’s blood—along with that of everyone else present. But another corpse is sprawled on the buffet: that of Devlin, a demonic W & H employee who came in human costume…literally.

In the Psyche Component Storage Facility, Fred finds Lorne’s sleep (conveniently bottled), and Wesley’s research reveals that Empath Demons, when deprived of sleep, start making destinies instead of merely reading them. In the most severe cases, the Subconscious actually can manifest itself, acting out the empath’s suppressed emotions. And of course, in a trice, that’s exactly what happens.

Lorne’s extra large economy-sized Subconscious proceeds to wipe the floor with everyone within reach. Saving the day, Fred shoots the missed sleep into Lorne’s head, and Lorne’s Subconscious explodes into what appears to be brightly-colored party confetti, complete with tinkling sound effects. Lorne sleeps.

Sorting through the aftermath, Fred decides she wants a drink. Eve is unimpressed with Angel’s suggestion that they discuss what happened: to her, there’s nothing to discuss, and her face is stiff and unfriendly as she leaves. Wesley is on top of things, explaining the hostility of Lorne’s Subconscious as representing the suppressed reactions Lorne has to people around him (apparently Lorne has a lot of buried resentment toward Angel, going by the Subconscious’ enthusiastic roaring attack on him). Gunn reports that Sebassis rather enjoys blood sport at social functions, so there will be neither a lawsuit nor a demon war over Artode’s death now that Sebassis realizes Angel wasn’t responsible.

Almost everyone judges the party to have been a roaring success by W & H standards (disquieting in itself). But Angel has a new source of concern: he realizes that in concentrating on the dangers without, they’ve ignored the possibility of dangers within. Implicit here is that if non-violent, sociable Lorne has buried feelings sufficient to produce death and destruction when unleashed, what might Angel himself, far more stressed and uncertain than Lorne, wreak if his inner monster—Angelus—ever were freed? Or what might Angel himself do, were he to lose control and act on his desires? And is it possible to keep those desires bottled indefinitely?

Angel treats sleeping Lorne with kind solicitude. And he seems to take more or less philosophically Gunn’s warning to wait awhile before sitting in his chair.

Nan Dibble 10/30/03 Acknowledgement: As always, I am indebted for the gladly shared insights, wit, and general snarkiness of my fellow S’cubies: the members of the Soulful Spike Society.


Yea! A Lorne-centric episode! Yea! More screen time for Wesley! Wes seems to have lost last year’s character development. He’s nearly back to the clueless, ineffectual "Rogue Demon Hunter" of Season 1, except he’s now more successful and slightly less wimpy. A side effect of the "dawning" of Connor? Wes’ kidnapping, his affair with Lilah, his determined rescue of Angel, having his throat cut by Justine and then his subsequent imprisonment of her, Angel’s attack on him in the hospital…all wiped from everybody’s memory except Angel’s, it would seem. And so the effects of these events on Wesley’s character are (nearly) all lost, too. Perhaps as a result of losing last year, Wes still really likes Fred, it seems. And she hasn’t a clue. She’s sweet on Knox. The aerosol stun canister failed, Knox determines, because of a faulty trigger mechanism…that Fred designed and he machined. Deliberate sabotage on Knox’ part, to endanger Angel and/or set Fred and Wes against one another (which is what happens as they try to allocate blame for the failure, since Wesley’s department contributed the grenade’s magical components)? Sure, Knox is cute (at least Fred obviously thinks so), but can he be trusted? I wonder about that now, more than before. Besides Artode, another significant member of Sebassis’ entourage is his near-naked unnamed slave-snack whose blood is unplugged on demand: a walking bottle. We were talking about bottles, weren’t we? We learn that W & H parties traditionally begin with a ritual sacrifice—presumably to get everybody in the mood. Press 1 for goat. Considerable near full-frontal Angel nudity in this episode. We don’t see his knees or feet, though. So maybe the Angel nudity now and the Spike nudity from last week more or less evens out…. Angel’s in better lighting, though, so he’s more visible and has therefore a bit more exposure, which is only fair, since he’s the star. Although Spike refuses to dance with Harmony, he’s not abusive about it. And though later forced by Lorne’s request to be absurdly positive about things he normally hates, that still doesn’t extend to dancing with Harmony. Sleep can be bottled. In an extraction apparently similar to Lorne’s, Madeline in Accounting had her ennui removed. Through the episode, Spike doesn’t vanish once, nor interpenetrate anything. He enters and leaves through doors. He does a little "After you!/No, after you!" dance with Lorne as they attempt to move past one another in Angel’s office. Overall, he behaves and is treated as though he were solid. So far, it seems as though the "being sucked into hell" scenario has vanished with Pavayne’s disempowerment. And Spike sits in, without anyone’s complaint, on all the Fang Gang meetings. Also without contributing much of anything besides snark, either. But he no longer seems to be treated as a disliked outsider. Variously drunk, obsessive-compulsive, lust-blinded, sleep-deprived, and maniacally cheerful, the Fang Gang (including Spike) operate quite effectively in this episode. Maybe they should do this more often. In this episode, Angel punches out a huge Mardi-Gras style skull-head. Where is the masked mail guy? This is the first episode he’s missed.

Memorable lines:

Gunn: You had your sleep removed? (Lorne nods.) Lorne, that’s great!

Harmony (to Angel): Morale around here stinks. Everybody thinks you suck. Come on! They’re all out there sweating through their Matsutas worrying if you’re going to axe them or, you know, axe them! (NOTE: Per AskJeeves, Matsuta is a Japanese manufacturer of inductors, transformers, and coils. Now aren’t you glad to know that?)

Wes (to Gunn): Charles, you just peed on my shoes.

Spike (as Angel and Eve are discovered naked on Angels couch): Angel’s getting some! Good on you, mate!

Angel: Lorne told you to pee all over the office? Gunn: Lord, I hope so!

Spike (to Angel): You know, I really love your desk!

Spike (noting Sebassis & Co. bursting in armed): What a fantastic entrance!

Lorne: Angel, we’ve still got a party going on. Somebody has to make sure there’s ice in the drinks. Spike (hopping and waving): Oh! Oh! Me! Me! I’m your people person!

Angel (giving marching orders): And Eve, you stay here with me. We’ll have more sex. Eve: I’m on it! Spike (displaying thumbs-up): Brilliant plan! Excellent!

Fred (confiding in Wes): What do you think of Knox?

Spike (of Lorne’s massive Subconscious): That’s one bitchin’ big suit!

Lorne (belted by his Subconscious): Wow. I must really hate myself. (Clearly, the man has issues….)

Harmony: Oh my God, they shot Lorney-Tunes!

Knox (to Fred): I fixed our baby. The stun grenade.

Gunn (to Angel): Oh, and your chair: don’t sit in it. Spike: You pissed in the big man’s chair? That’s fantastic! Gunn: Spike, can you please turn off the warm fuzzy? Spike: What, Lorne thing? Wore off. I just think that’s bloody fabulous.

Angel (to Spike): Out. Spike: All right. Just this once.

Angel: We’re not OK. We’ve been so focused on the dangers outside that we didn’t see the ones within. This place is trying to change us, Gunn. We can’t ever forget that.