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Angel 5x14 Smile Time - Carpenoctem Review

By Betsy

Monday 23 February 2004, by Webmaster

Episode 5:14

Episode 5:14
Smile Time:  Self-Esteem

By:  Keturah Jenkins
Written By:   Joss Whedon & Ben Edlund
Directed By:  Ben Edlund
Original Air Date:  February 18, 2004

I came to this episode defiant that I didn't want to laugh dammit!  I didn't want my last few Angel episodes, possibly forever, to be funny.  I wanted deep, dark, sad and sinister.  I'm just that kind of girl.  Boy, was I in for a surprise.  This episode came out swinging with much needed character development, some deep, dark, sad and yes sinister moments.  It was also funny as hell!  Let's face it, we all need to laugh and smile and no one needs that more than Angel.


"You're on Smile Time.”


Did the WB actually see this episode before it aired?  Maybe they were talking to the hand at screening time because this entire episode was Joss' take on the television industry.  Where everything is about the bottom-line, ratings, control and censorship.  Obviously someone feels he made a deal with the devil and, in the process, gave up control of his creation.  Oh Joss, you are a funny, funny man.  What a novel way to shed light on the industry and the people who work in it.  Let's count some of the ways Joss made his point.


         Angel walks into an eerily quiet studio and is immediately assailed by a spell trying to control him.  Individuality is not allowed.

         All the people in the studio are drones, only doing what they are told.

         Money rules the world of television - “No one messes with the nest egg!”

         Over used talk show phrases - “Oh are you saying you wanna talk to the hand?”

         David Fury played Gregor Framkin.  Polo throws his empty cup and hits Woofus in the face.  Is someone a bit of a control freak on the set?  Wonder who Polo could possible be?  Guess Joss' ego is not that big he can't make fun of himself.

         Actors are puppets.

         The seductive nature of children's television.  Those scenes in the beginning were almost pornographic.

         TV really does rot your mind, especially children's edu-tainment.  This on a network known for its appeal to children.

         The FCC is asleep at the wheel when it comes to explicit content on television.

         In the span of two minutes Polo and his puppet friends said or did the following:

         Short-bus bastards. 






         Polo the puppet was drinking Jack Daniels out of a cup with a smiling sun.


I guess this is how Joss really feels about the WB executives making him change his show.  No story arcs; you have to bring characters over from the other show or we'll cancel your current show; we need you to change the setting of the series to attract new viewers; don't make the show too dark blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.


It is only with one's heart that one can see clearly.


What is essential is invisible to the eye.


The Little Prince


We all know that this season, more than any other, Angel is having tremendous doubts about himself and the job he is doing as champion.  Angel is suffering from low self-esteem.  How he views himself is nothing like how others see him.  Angel is an untouchable wall that won't allow anything out or anyone in.  From the outside Angel wants for nothing, but that's not how things really are.  This whole season has been about truths, what we truly see as opposed to what we want to see.  Angel doesn't allow himself to see what's around him because he doesn't know how to deal with any of it, that is until he's turned into a puppet.  He needed to become someone else in order to view who he is.  Who would have thought becoming a puppet would bring Angel closer to being whole?


Angel has spent so much time doubting his heart and himself.  It pained me listening to him make excuses of why Nina shouldn't be attracted to him.  "Because I'm not that guy.  That guy is charming and fun and emotionally useful."  He doesn't feel he has the right to be loved.   Right then someone needed to slap him or give him a hug or both!  Wesley chose the slap.  Wesley had every right to be upset with Angel.  The other king of pain has spent so much time on the sidelines waiting for Fred to notice him, he knows a thing or two about missed opportunities.  Angel is missing the point and the opportunity again.  He waited to tell Cordelia how he felt for her and she slipped through his hands right into Groo's.  Then when he got a second chance, she was taken away, never to return to pick up where they left off.  There is no going back once something is done.  Some decisions and choices are final, but if you don't allow yourself the opportunity to decide, then life becomes a series of "what ifs."


I'm not a big fan of an Angel/Nina romance, but I do like what she brings to his life - hope.  He did, in the end, take her hand just like that charming guy he said he wasn't, so there's hope yet.  Nina gets brownie points from me because she was able to accept Angel's current situation and move on (much to Angel's surprise). All that and still want a piece of Angel cake, not bad.  She is willing to see him as he truly is now.  Nina is the only person to ask puppet-Angel how he was feeling. "I'm made of felt and my nose comes off."  In other words he feels vulnerable, soft and detached.  Yes, that's exactly how he's been feeling, but he hasn't been able to express that to anyone until that moment.  That one line made me smile sadly.  Everyone accuses Angel of being dense and not sharing, but whenever he tries to open up there's no one there to listen.   For the first time Angel opens up and shares what he's feeling and how he views himself.  Yes, I'm hopeful.


Being turned into a puppet allows the others to connect with Angel as a person, because he is starting to connect to himself.  The first thing Fred does is touch him.   No one but Cordy and Lorne ever touch Angel.  Fred also tells him "Angel you're cute."  She says it almost like she never realized it before.  I know that's how I felt.  I would never use the word cute to describe Angel; sexy, mysterious, and handsome yes, but never cute.  We've never been allowed to see that side of him until now.  This is the true secret he's kept hidden from everyone, his softer side.  We know all about the horrible deeds he committed as Angelus, the killing and maiming, but never this.  Now he has the chance to see things of consequence; allowing himself to see what he has lost in growing old and rigid, instead of just growing.  I love puppet-Angel; I hope his spirit never goes away.  


"Acute Flowers for Algernon Syndrome.  It must be sheer torture."


In Flowers for Algernon, Charlie Gordon is a retarded man who because he wants his co-workers to accept him, allows a scientist to experiment on him increasing his IQ to genius status.  As his IQ rises to genius level and beyond, he finds himself once again intellectually alone, only this time he's painfully aware of his circumstances.  Only at the end as his intellect deteriorates, does he learn to accept that the retarded Charlie is an important and enduring part of him.  


Which brings me to the other person who is having a major crisis of faith and has lost his self-esteem.  I never thought I would admit this, but I miss the old stereotype that was Gunn; I don't know who this wannabe is.  There seems to be nothing left of the doo-rag wearing, street-smart, straight shooting, thug that we met in Season 1.  I miss that Gunn.  For me this Gunn was real and had meaning, the Gunn we see now is a joke.   Everyone desires to fit in; to be smart; to have friends, to love, but not everyone would go to the extremes that Gunn has gone.  Did he stop to think this through before he agreed to the permanent upgrade?   Gunn has always been reckless, stubborn and passionate but he was never dumb.  Simply because someone doesn't express themselves the same as others doesn't mean that person doesn't know how.  I understand why he wanted to be smarter; Angel does view Gunn as muscle.  Angel sends Gunn and Lorne to the studio to apply pressure on Framkin, while Fred and Wes work on a cure.  Angel doesn't take into consideration that Gunn might be able to help because of his upgrade.  Angel still sees Gunn as he was.  There have been other instances where Gunn is treated as the muscle and nothing more, which always made me feel sad.   No wonder he feels so insecure and vulnerable; but no one is willing to acknowledge that Gunn is lost. They'll distrust him, but who's willing to love him? 


"I'm always on my own." (War Zone)


When we first meet Gunn, he's raw, filled with passion and making a difference.  He's a leader and a provider for his crew.  In fact he reminded me a lot of Angel, stubborn and noble, but underneath, darkness.


"We were on the right track - just on the wrong team.  All that rage and hatred we got?  We get to keep all that, only on this side there is no guilt, no grief - just the hunt and the kill - and the fun!  And come on, how often did we go out in the daylight anyway?" "You were made for this." - Alonna (War Zone)


Gunn didn't take Alonna up on her offer to turn him, and instead he killed her.   Where is that Gunn now?  The one who knew how to make the hard decisions. The one who pleaded with Fred not to kill Professor Siedel. "We help people. Fred, if you do this, the demons you'll be living with won't be the horned, fangy kind. They'll be the kind you can't get rid of." (Supersymmetry)   The one that Gwen was able to see something special in - “Don't knock the muscle, buddy. Makes the girls go all knocky in the knees. But if that's all you were, we never could've gotten into that party tonight.” (Players)   The Gunn who realized that letting something go is not the same as giving up - “I've never felt so much for anyone. I would do anything for you, but it's not enough, is it?  I can't do this anymore, Fred. I'm tired of you looking everywhere but at me. (Wes walks through the front door, Fred turns to look) Like that.” (Calvary)   That Gunn I would gladly accept with open arms, but he's falling away and there's no one there to catch him.


“Self-esteem is for everybody.  Self-esteem is for everyone.

You can dream and be anybody but self-esteem is how you get it done.”


In the end everyone regained their self-esteem, but not all did it the way the song says. Things are looking better for Angel who I think is on the road to embracing himself, warts and all.  Wesley is finally being embraced by the woman “who represents every part of what you think makes the world worth fighting for.”  But Gunn, he's obviously still dreaming.



Questions and Tidbits:


         This was the best use of Lorne since Life of the Party.  He has been sorely underused, but not this time.  Of all the Fang Gang Lorne is not afraid to love Angel, to show love for Angel, to touch Angel.  Lorne is all about the Angel Cakes.  I loved how Angel reaches out to Lorne after Nina mauls him.  Lorne's line of "My little prince!" was hysterical.

         I wonder, will the ancient curio that the doctor wants Gunn to get into the country have anything to do with next week's episode?  This isn't a spoiler, just speculation.

         Wes and Fred together at last.  Took a long time for Fred to get it together regarding Wes, but she finally did.  I actually wasn't very happy about this.  I want Wesley to move on!  He pined and waited for three years, while she took her time getting around to him.  She's liked/loved every male in the group except for Lorne!  Angel's not the only one who's dense.  Wesley's feelings for Fred have always been a bit idealized, he was so accustomed to seeing her the way he wanted he didn't recognize that she had changed and was now looking at him.  So that look two weeks ago did mean something.

         The good thing about Fred and Wes being together - no more talk of Knoxie!  Yay! I wasn't a big fan of the Knoxie, more like the Knoxious!  When he walks out and his shadow is shown on the wall, I was waiting to see horns or something.  I don't trust him at all.  What if he tries to get revenge and hurt Fred?  Again only speculation

         Yummy Wes in the tight black turtleneck!

         Interesting Knox should call Wesley Merlin.  Merlin was a prophet, magician, and advisor all things. Wesley, he reads prophecy, knows how to practice magic and advises Angel.  See Knox is not completely useless after all!

         Puppet-Angel had a cut in his eyebrow just like Spike.  He also only had four fingers.

         Speaking of Spike - he got beat up by a puppet!  Did anyone notice the look on his face as he was pulling himself off the elevator floor?  I was embarrassed for him, but damn it was funny.

         The man with the towel over his head guarding the nest egg looked like Tony Soprano.  What was that about?  Was he a human guard?  Interesting he wasn't there when Fred and Wes came in.

         Did anyone notice during the cut scenes a shot of someone's head on Angel's desk?  I thought that's what I saw.

         The slow-mo shot of the Fang Gang and puppet-Angel carrying the sword slung over his shoulders. Priceless!

Favorite lines:


Nina:  “What are you doing for breakfast tomorrow?”

Angel:  “Oh, you know drinking blood.”


Nina:  “Oh god. I ate him.”  Back to that theme again of being consumed.


Angel:  “I ignored it completely, changed the subject and locked her in a cage.  Nina's down there right now turning into a werewolf and liking me.”  His delivery was perfect.


Angel:  “I'm the guy in the dark corner with the blood habit and 200 years of psychic baggage.”


Fred:  “Angel you're ... cute!  Oh but the little hands ... (goes to pat his hair) and the hair.”

Angel:  (pointing his finger) “You're fired!”  No one touches the hair.


Angel:  “I do NOT have puppet cancer!”


Lorne:  “My little Prince.”  “Is there a Gepetto in the house?!”


Spike:  “You're a bloody puppet!” “You're a wee little puppet man!”


Angel:  “Yes I'm a puppet --- doesn't mean you don't have work to do.”


Gunn:  “You turned my boss into a frickin' puppet!”


Polo:  “Which one of you short-bus bastards turned the C.E.O of W&H into a puppet?”


Polo:  “I'm going to tear you a new puppet hole, bitch.”


Doctor:  “Believe me Charles I don't make deals with people like you.  Not the person you really are.  The ignorant street muscle ... the high-school drop-out.”


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