Angel is turned into a puppet while investigating a cursed children's TV show.
- And I Must Scream: The human creator of Smile Time is being controlled as a People Puppet by Polo.
Framkin: Please, let me...
Polo: Someone say you could join in?
Framkin: Let me die...
Are you sayin' you wanna talk to the hand? Oh, I think he does. Come on, fat boy. Why don't you talk-to-THE HAND!
(Polo shoves his hand into a puppet hole in Framkin's lower back; he screams and sits bolt upright)
Groofus: Heh heh! Make him swallow his tongue again!
- Animated Actors: In a DVD special on the making of "Smile Time", Puppet!Angel talks of how he got the role due to his uncanny resemblance to David Boreanaz.
- Badass Adorable: The wee little Puppet!Angel, what with the little hands and the hair. And his nose comes off.
- Bait-and-Switch Comment: Fred discovers the boss has turned into a puppet.
Fred: Oh my God! Angel, you're...you're...cute!
- Battle Discretion Shot: Puppet!Angel fighting Spike in the elevator.
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: The demons were responsible for Happy Days Jumping the Shark.
- Berserker Rage: Angel is not happy about being a puppet. When Spike addresses this, Angel flies into an absolute rage.
- The fact that Puppet!Angel thrashes Spike (unlike his much larger normal self in "Destiny") shows just how angry he is. Mind you, at the start Spike is too busy giggling to fight properly.
- Black Comedy: Plenty of it thanks to the combination of horror and puppets.
- Bookcase Passage: A low-rent version where a filing cabinet hides a hole cut in the wall to where the Nest Egg is.
- Breather Episode: The second previews reveal Angel will become a puppet the reviewers of Television Without Pity gave it an A. For the next thirty minutes after it happens they treated it as the funniest thing in the series, then give it an A+ when Puppet!Angel vamps out.
- Bridal Carry: A nice Ho Yay moment with a distraught Lorne carrying his injured puppet prince.
- Broken Record
Framkin: I wrote a song about courage and pluck. It's called Courage and Pluck. It goes like this: Courage and pluck, courage and pluck...
- Buffy Speak: Gunn when he forgets his legalese.
Gunn: OK, Framkin, enough. We're onto you, understand? We're gonna shut you down.
Framkin: Oh, my. On what grounds?
Gunn: Well, for starters, violations of the provisions of section 5— (stutters) 5... 6-8-C... set forth in chapter 15 of the children's... (frustrated) TV thing!
- Call Back: Nina asking Angel out for breakfast is regarded the same as asking him out for dinner; the implications of the time difference for a creature of the night were also lampshaded in BtVS "Surprise" when Buffy realised that her wanting to see Angel in the morning sounded like a sexual come-on.
- Can't Have Sex, Ever vs. You Need to Get Laid: Wesley points out that "perfect happiness" is very rare and most relationships are formed from "acceptable happiness" instead, which is why Angel can have sex with Nina without his soul being endangered.
- Cardboard Boxes: After being zapped by the Nest Egg, Angel goes flying in a pile of conveniently placed empty cardboard boxes. Given that the Nest Egg is tucked away in a storeroom, there's at least a plausible reason for them being there.
- Chair Reveal: Puppet!Angel showing the Fang Gang what he's turned into.
- Chekhov's Gun: The illicit cargo Dr. Sparrow wants brought through Customs — Gunn will severely regret doing him this 'favour' in the episodes to come.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Nina from "Unleashed", and Dr. Sparrow from "Conviction".
- Cheshire Cat Grin: The victims of Smile Time. Lampshaded when Knox quips that The Joker might be responsible.
- The Chew Toy: Literally when Angel gets chewed up by Nina, just to cap the rest of his Humiliation Conga.
- Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: The WB had already announced that the series would not be renewed for another season, hence the rushed pair-up of Fred and Wesley.
- The Comically Serious
Puppet!Angel: I do not have puppet cancer! Come on guys, this is a serious situation!
- Continuity Nod: Wes says "the girls in transcription" have all noticed that Nina is dressing up to make herself attractive to Angel. This fits with "Harm's Way" where we saw the lower ranks of Wolfram and Hart gossiping over the private lives of Team Angel.
- Conveniently Timed Attack From Behind: Flora attacks Gunn just as he's about to hack off Polo's head. Fred shoots Ratio Hornblower as the puppet is about to crush Wesley's skull with a fire extinguisher.
- Corpsing: James Marsters blew several takes because he was laughing too much during the scene where he fights Puppet!Angel.
- Creator Cameo: The man under the towel (presumably Gregor Framkin) is actually played by producer David Fury.
- Credits Gag: The "self esteem" song plays over Fred and Wes kissing as we cut to the credits.
- Deal with the Devil: Gregor Framkin made a deal with some demons in exchange for success for his puppet show, but ended up getting trapped by some tricky legalese. Gunn makes a deal with Dr. Sparrow in exchange for fixing his brain upgrade.
- Death Glare: Puppet!Angel gives out a few, emphasized by his Big Ol' Eyebrows. Unfortunately those on the receiving end find it difficult to take them seriously.
- Defictionalization: Diamond Select Toys created a plush doll for Puppet Angel; after rapidly selling their entire production run of 5,000 pieces they produced a second and a third Angel puppet replica, followed by Puppet Spike.
- Depraved Kids' Show Host
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The scene where Polo convinces the little boy to come up and touch the screen has some very...child-predator-y undertones. He guilts/manipulates the boy ("you don't want to be a bad apple, do you?") and when the boy touches the screen, Polo's groans sound very sexual.
- The Doll Episode
- Dutch Angle: The camera tilts as Angel struggles under the spell that's controlling the Smile Time employees.
- Everyone Hates Mathematics: Averted with Fred, who loves the Maths Song.
- Evil Plan: The puppets plan to drain the energy of their entire audience and flee before Wolfram & Hart can take revenge for turning their CEO into a puppet. The accumulated Life Energy will make them rich enough to buy their own hell dimension.
- Eye Scream: Flora tries to do this to Gunn.
"Gimme those pretty eyes!"
- Everyone Can See It: Angel/Nina; especially Fred, Harmony, and the girls in Transcription.
- Face Palm: Having little felt hands doesn't impede Puppet!Angel's ability to do this.
- Famous Last Words / Bond One-Liner
Groofus: Hey, man! You're ruinin' the show!
Gunn: We're workin' on it.
- Fantastic Drug: The demons talk about the 'street value' of the childrens' innocence down in Hell.
- Flowers for Algernon Syndrome: Dr Sparrow diagnoses Gunn's degrading brain upgrade as 'acute "Flowers for Algernon" Syndrome.'
- Game Face / Cute Little Fangs: Generally agreed to be a Crowning Moment of Funny and a Crowning Moment of Awesome!
(Puppet!Angel has Polo on the ground and is choking him)
Polo: So... you got a little demon in you.
Puppet!Angel: I got a lot of demon in me.
(Polo gets an Oh, Crap look as Puppet!Angel vamps out)
Puppet!Angel: Now come on.
(Picks up Polo and tosses him into the treehouse, impaling the demon puppet on the wreckage)
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
- Nina wakes up naked with white Angel-stuffing in her mouth and cries, "I ate him!"
- Polo makes orgasmic noises while absorbing a child's energy. After encouraging the reluctant kid to "Come over here and touch it."
- Gibbering Genius: The morning after being transformed, Puppet!Angel calls Fred on the internal phone.
Fred: Oh, hi, Angel. Listen, about the epidemic, it might not be mystical after all.
Angel: (voice only) Do you think you could—
Fred: Knox found a systematic endocrine dysfunction common with all the children similar to the effects of an obscure rain-forest pathogen—
Fred: (continues to talk over Angel) ...So I put a call in to the C.D.C., And—
Angel: FRED! Believe me, it's mystical.
- Giggling Villain / Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Dr. Sparrow
- The Glomp: Puppet!Angel rushes up to Fred and hugs her when she says taking out the Nest Egg will cure him. "I love you guys!"
- Gory Discretion Shot: Puppet!Angel being shredded by Nina.
- Gosh Dang It to Heck!
Gunn: Come on, Lorne. We're through talking to this hump of garbage.
Framkin: Uh, no name-calling at Smile Time.
Lorne: Bad person!
- Grievous Harm with a Body: Wesley yanks out Ratio's Hornblower's horn and stabs him with it.
- The Guards Must Be Crazy: Justified as all the humans working at Smile Time have been turned into mindless automatons by a curse, so none of them do anything about Angel prowling around after hours.
Flora: Well, maybe we should take the spell off a couple of our workers you know, so they could actually see an intruder?
- Hand or Object Underwear: Nina wakes up after her werewolf transformation naked, with her naughty bits covered by her arm or bits of puppet stuffing.
- Happy Fun Ball: The "Nest Egg", a giant smiling egg containing the souls of Smile Time's young viewers. Angel is transformed into a puppet by the Egg's energy discharge.
- Hero with Bad Publicity: When Lorne and Gunn threaten to shut down Smile Time, the producer points out that he's running a popular TV show, whereas Wolfram & Hart are just known for being Amoral Attorneys.
- Hugo Award: Nominated for a 2005 Hugo Award in the category of "Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form".
- Humiliation Conga
- Hypocritical Humor
- Angel says he's paying more attention to what goes on around him, only to be savaged by Nina who's just morphed into a werewolf.
- Wesley jibes Angel for not noticing the "ask me out for a date" signals Nina is sending, only to spend the entire episode missing Fred's hints.
- Groofus insists that although their show is evil and hospitalizes small children, they still have to maintain a high standard of "quality edutainment!"
- I'm Not a Hero, I'm...: Nina points out to Angel that he is in fact a genuine hero who's a sexy vampire to boot. Angel mutters, "It all sounds good, but that's not how I feel."
- Inadvertent Entrance Cue: Angel notes the fervor with which Wesley is pitching Nina/Angel. "Who are we talking about here?" Wesley looks past him. "Fred!" (who's just entered the room)
- Is There a Doctor in the House?: Spoofed when Lorne comes across Puppet!Angel after Werewolf!Nina shreds him. "Is there a Geppetto in the house?"
- Kimono Fanservice: Nina puts on a kimono that's been left for her after she shredded her clothes, and makes a half-hearted effort to cover her cleavage when Angel walks in.
- Kind Restraints: Nina comes to Wolfram & Hart every month to be locked up.
- Life Energy
- Light Is Not Good: Wes warns Fred not to look at the light given out by the Nest Egg.
- Mathematician's Answer: Puppet!Angel dives under his desk in a panic when Nina knocks on the door and refuses to come out — naturally Nina thinks he's avoiding her for other reasons.
Nina: Um... is there a reason why you won't look at me?
Puppet!Angel: 'Cause I'm under my desk?
- Mood Whiplash: In-Universe thanks to Puppet!Angel having the "proportionate excitability of a puppet".
- Neck Snap: Gunn nearly falls victim to this; fortunately his attacker is a puppet whose grip isn't as good as a real demon, and it just spins him to the ground.
- Nobody Touches the Hair: Puppet!Angel fires Fred for ruffling his Spiky Hair.
- Noodle Incident: How Spike crashed his car into the drink.
- No Ontological Inertia: Destroying the Nest Egg makes all the children recover and will cause Angel's spell to wear off (in a few days, long enough to give us a charming scene where Puppet!Angel walks off hand-in-hand with Nina to have breakfast).
- Oblivious to Love: Wesley informs Angel that Nina obviously has feelings for him, all while ignoring the hints that Fred loves him, given that he's been pining after her for years with no result. It takes a Forceful Kiss from Fred for Wesley to notice, but he reciprocates quickly.
- Perpetual Frowner: Enhanced by those big puppet eyebrows, and lampshaded pre-puppet when Angel says he's too broody to make a good date for Nina.
- Perverse Puppet: The puppet demons drink booze, swear like sailors, and suck the lives from children.
- Power Walk: Parodied when the double doors to Angel's office open and Wesley, Gunn, and Fred walk out in slow-mo... and then the camera pans downward, revealing a sword-wielding Puppet!Angel walking in front of them.
- Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: Plenty from all concerned.
- "It's time to kick your ass all the way back to Hell!"
- Angel takes a sword off his Wall of Weapons: "Let's go take out some puppets!"
- Polo fighting Angel: "I'm going to rip you a new puppet-hole, bitch!"
- Preemptive "Shut Up": Angel trying (in vain) to get his staff to avoid mentioning the P word.
- Pulling Themselves Together: "I'm made of felt, and my noth comes off..."
Lorne: Nina definitely wants a piece of Angel cake.
- Punny Name: 'Ratio' Hornblower
- Puppet Permutation
- Rescue Romance: Fred and Wes exchange a hot look after she saves his life. He still doesn't make a move!
- Running Gag: Angel cannot control his anger when turned into a puppet. He first fails to work a remote and reacts with, "Stupid plastic piece of crap!" Then when fighting Spike in an elevator he goes, "Stupid...limey...piece of crap!" Then when trying to sew up his Badass Longcoat it's "Stupid fingers...stupid string!"
- Sealed with a Kiss: Fred and Wesley.
- Self Stitching: Played for Laughs when Puppet!Angel tries to stitch himself up after being mauled by Nina, but can't due to his puppet hands.
- Schmuck Bait: Angel sees a sign on a door that says only "DON'T". Needless to say he enters and gets turned into a puppet by the Nest Egg inside.
Polo: Stupid jackass! Might as well walk into a nuclear reactor and lick the core! I mean, anything could've happened to him! To us, to... (pounds his fist on the desk) You just don't mess around with the Nest Egg!
- Ship Sinking: Fred/Knox
- "Shut Up" Kiss: Inverted; Fred is babbling on trying to get Wes to realise she's attracted to him, then decides "screw it" and just kisses him.
- Sitting on the Roof: Puppet!Angel does his Walk In Chime In from the roof of Groofus' doghouse, presumably a Mythology Gag to Angel's Roof Hopping.
- Sliding Scale of Living Toys: Level Four.
- Smash Cut: "YOU'RE A BLOODY PUPPET!" Cut to Spike being hurled through the doors of Angel's office.
- Socially-Awkward Hero: Angel panics when he realises Nina has the hots for him.
Wesley: Right. How did you respond?
Angel: Well... of course, I—ahem— ignored it completely, changed the subject, and locked her in a cage.
- Later in the conversation...
Angel: Because I'm not that guy! That guy is charming and funny and... emotionally useful! I'm the guy in a dark corner with the blood habit and the 200 years of psychic baggage!
- So Happy Together: Fred and Wesley finally get together. Angel finally gets a date. On a Joss Whedon show, this cannot be good.
- Subverted Kids Show
- Take That: Nina says that it's cliche for an art student to be attracted to a vampire.
- The Television Talks Back: The puppets use a glamour in their singing to hide the fact that Polo is talking directly to the kids in the audience. Wes and Fred only detect this after they hit the mute button to talk to each other.
- This Means War!: After hearing the Self-Esteem Song, Angel demands the Wolfram & Hart Spec Ops team take out Smile Time.
- Toplessness from the Back: Averted — as night falls, Nina reluctantly turns her back and starts to slip off her blouse, then she hears Angel at the door and quickly yanks down the blouse again.
- Transformation Ray
- The Unintelligible: Ratio Hornblower communicates through toots on his horn — the other demons understand him perfectly.
- Verbal Backspace
Wes: Hiding behind your gypsy curse when there's a beautiful, engaging—all right, occasionally hirsute—young woman who actually wants you?
- Walk In Chime In: Combined with a Pre Ass Kicking One Liner.
Polo: It's Smile Time!
Angel: No, it' not... (Polo turns to see a sword-wielding Puppet!Angel on the set) ...it's time to kick your ass all the way back to Hell!
- You Are a Credit to Your Race: Lorne is pleased when Framkin says he's heard of him, until...
Framkin: Made quite an impression in our little industry. So much accomplishment despite your unfortunate deformities.
We have a song here at Smile Time that reminds me of your courage and pluck. It's called, uh, "Courage and Pluck
- Your Soul Is Mine