A young woman, Rachel, runs down a dark alley, looking frantically over her shoulder for signs of pursuit, but no one is there. Puzzled, she stops and hides, then stands, looking back the way she came. Suddenly, a man, Lenny, grabs her from behind, threatens her, and slaps her to the ground. Telling her he can't take it anymore, Rachel's strung-out boyfriend Lenny points a gun at her head and starts to pull the trigger. Appearing out of nowhere, Angel grabs Lenny's gun hand, knocking his arm up and sending the shot high. Angel effortlessly disarms Lenny, then knocks him unconscious with one brutal punch. Standing on the rooftop of a neighboring building, Spike watches Rachel thank Angel in the alley below and improvises a cheesy narration for their gestures.
Listening to an L.A. radio station, Oz parks his van in front of Angel's building. Inside, Cordelia gleefully prints up an invoice for Rachel, their first paying customer. When Oz opens the door and walks in, Cordelia is thrilled to see her old Sunnydale friend. After Angel and Oz's laconic greetings, Oz holds a ring out to Angel. He recognizes it as the Gem of Amara. Doyle explains that the ring is a priceless talisman which "renders the wearer one hundred percent unkillable, if he's a vampire" meaning Angel could, among other things, go out into daylight. Oz tells Angel that Buffy wanted him to have it. He also says that she's doing good, "just being Buffy." As the others leave to go to a pub, Angel stays behind to hide the ring under a loose brick in one of the sewer tunnels.
The next morning at the Angel Investigations offices, a tearful Rachel phones during Angel's tai chi practice to say that Lenny has been released on a technicality. Angel promises to be right over. Before he can get into his car, Spike springs an ambush in the parking garage and the two vampires exchange a flurry of words and blows. Angel defeats Spike before Cordelia and Doyle rush in to back their friend up. Spike recognizes and greets a flustered Cordelia, then threatens Angel one last time before taking off. Worried about his friends, Angel tells Cordelia she must stay with Doyle in case Spike decides to make her a target. Angel meets Rachel at her apartment, where he listens to her story, then encourages her to leave Lenny permanently.
On a tip from one of Doyle's unsavory contacts, Angel chases and corners Spike in a dead end blocked by a chain link fence. Hands locked behind his head, Spike turns and surrenders himself. Suddenly, a white-shirted figure whirling a long chain overhead appears from around the corner. Angel finds himself, abruptly, on his back on the ground, with the end of the heavy chain tightly wound around his neck, completely at the mercy of Spike's smiling henchman.
Cordelia and Doyle worry that Angel hasn't checked in. Meanwhile, he is suspended by long, manacled chains from the ceiling of a large warehouse. Spike introduces him to his captor, Marcus, a master torturer with a taste for children. With classical musical playing, the reserved vampire prepares his instruments while Spike recites highlights from Marcus's gruesome curriculum vitae. To begin, Marcus inspects Angel, inside and out, then asks what does he want. When Angel is defiant, Marcus steps over to the brazier and returns with a red-hot poker, which he abruptly rams through Angel's bared abdomen. Time passes as Marcus works into a rhythm of hurting Angel, then asking what he wants, then hurting him again.
Breaking off a stake, Spike threatens to dust Angel then and there if he doesn't talk, until Marcus points out that, knowing Spike won't kill him before learning the ring's location, Angel therefore also knows that Spike is bluffing. Spike tosses the stake to the floor. Angel takes advantage of the reprieve to tell Spike he's an idiot for believing that Marcus, a vampire, has no interest in obtaining the Gem of Amara for himself. Spike answers dismissing Marcus as a threat, deeming him too single-mindedly obsessed with the art of torture to care about anything else. In the sudden silence of the symphony coming to an end, Spike then taunts Angel about his own obsession with Buffy, recounting news of her recent rebound disaster, which causes Angel to look pained. Marcus begins the record again and Spike, rolling his eyes, leaves "to get some air." Marcus plunges another hot poker into his captive. Listening to Angel's strangled screams, Spike smiles and says, "Now that's music." Marcus shoots holes in the building's ceiling so that Angel, agonized by any movement, must stretch and hold himself at the limit of his chains to avoid the beams of sunlight.
Abandoning his fruitless search of Angel's apartment, Spike is confronted by Cordelia and Doyle, armed and waiting behind the door. Spike tells them that if they want Angel to live, they must find the ring and turn it over before sundown. Angel, meanwhile, endures the abrupt removal of two pokers and makes Marcus believe he's about to break. He lures his tormentor closer by whispering that what he most wants is forgiveness. Marcus draws near enough for Angel to make his move. Holding Spike's discarded stake between his booted feet, Angel brings his legs up high enough to plunge the jagged wooden point into Marcus's heart. Suddenly reappearing, Spike grabs Angel's feet and disarms him. Marcus punches Angel before Spike moves him out of Angel's reach. Selecting a pair of needle nose pliers, Spike chips in as Marcus resumes his interrupted torture session.
Having no more success than Spike had, Cordelia and Doyle conduct their own search for the Gem of Amara in Angel's apartment. When Cordelia complains to Doyle that her list of cliched hiding places has inexplicably failed to yield results, it finally occurs to them both to search the sewers. Cordelia is dismayed that the two seemingly have a long search ahead of them with little time. However, Doyle, letting Cordy turn into the next tunnel ahead of him, quickly and surreptitiously uses his demon senses and immediately locates the ring under the brick where Angel hid it, claiming it to be pure good luck. Now all they need is a plan.
Before sundown, they meet with Spike at the appointed spot and demand to see Angel before they reveal where they've stashed the ring. Spike reluctantly agrees and takes them to where he and Marcus are holding the now barely-conscious Angel. When Spike gloatingly admits he has no intention of going through with the trade, Doyle pulls the ring out of his pocket and throws it across the warehouse floor. Just as Spike reaches for it, he is forced to duck and roll when Oz smashes his van through the warehouse wall. From the driver's side window, Oz holds Spike and Marcus at bay with two crossbows until Cordy and Doyle can get Angel into the back of the van. Once they're safely inside, Oz floors it in reverse and the van peels away. Spike then looks for the ring only to find it has disappeared and so has Marcus. Outside, Marcus walks out onto the street and into direct sunlight without injury. Spike angrily smashes apart Marcus's record player. He declares that, from now on, he's going to work alone, just as a small ray of sunlight sets his hair on fire. After putting the small blaze out, Spike only hopes that Angel and Marcus somehow manage to kill each other.
Doyle and Cordelia are trying to tend to Angel's injuries, however he just wants to track Marcus down and, knowing his predilection for children, believes the vampire won't have gone far. In fact, Marcus makes his way along the boardwalk until he spots a cub scout troop clustered around a vending cart. While Marcus focuses on the children, Oz drives straight down the middle of the boardwalk, using the van's speed and bulk to knock the invincible vampire flying. Cordelia shoots Marcus with a crossbow, however the ring protects him. Doyle then tries beating him back but is quickly swatted aside. Angel leaps out of the van, bursting into flame the moment sunlight touches him, and tackles Marcus off the pier, falling with him to the water below. In the shade under the boardwalk, the two vampires fight. Angel impales Marcus on a beam, but the Gem of Amara protects him until Angel yanks the ring off his finger and Marcus crumbles to dust. Angel slides the ring onto his own hand, then steps out into the sunlight.
That evening, Angel watches the sun set. To Doyle's dismay, Angel has decided not to keep the ring. Angel tries to explain his feeling that the Gem of Amara only appears to be the redemption he seeks, and that keeping it would somehow make him forget about the many people forced to live in the darkness, needing a champion to defend them from what seeks to hurt them. Doyle is unconvinced, but sees that Angel is determined to do what he believes to be the right thing. When the last sliver of sun disappears, Angel removes the Gem of Amara and smashes it flat with a chunk of brick. Doyle then remembers that Rachel called to say "thanks, and that she found a little faith." Angel tells him he had "a pretty good day." He adds: "You know except for the bulk of it, where I was nearly tortured to death." Together, they leave the rooftop and head down the stairs.
- 2 + Torture = 5: After valiantly fending off Marcus's torture, Angel casually admits to Doyle that he was an inch away from spilling everything.Angel: I mean, one more hot poker, and I was giving him the ring, Your Mom, everything. — How is your mom?
- Armor-Piercing Question: Marcus deliberately and repeatedly asks Angel, "What do you want?" while torturing him with sunlight and hot pokers. Because he is a Living Lie Detector, Marcus is unfazed by Angel's false answers. (The real answer, of course, turns out to be forgiveness.)
- Attack Hello: Spike makes his presence known to Angel via a wooden plank to the face.
- Bald of Evil: Marcus is bald, in addition to being a pedophile and torturer.
- Big Damn Heroes: Angel stops Rachel from being shot by her abusive boyfriend in the teaser. Oz and his van get to save the day twice, first when he smashes into the warehouse where Angel is being tortured, then when he initially refuses to go after Marcus, but Angel says he has a thing for children. One Not So Stoic look later and Oz races to the beach to stop him.
- Break Them by Talking: Part of Marcus's torture involves this. Angel responds with an attempted staking.
- While filling in Doyle on Spike, Cordelia references the Judge's "arm in a box" from the Buffy episode "Surprise".
- As established in "School Hard", Spike can come up with brilliant plans, but he blows them by getting bored and making his move too soon.
- As in "The Harsh Light of Day" the Mundane Solution to an invulnerable opponent is just to yank the ring off their finger.
- Captain Obvious: Oz sees Angel in the daylight.Oz: You're incredibly pale.
- Car Fu: Oz rescues Angel by driving through the wall of the villain's hideout and squashing him with his band's van.
- Car Meets House: Oz uses his band's tour van as a battering ram in Spike's lair. He later uses it to knock down Marcus.
- Chain-Link Fence: Subverted when Spike, in a rare demonstration of competence and careful planning, pretends to accidentally run down a blind alley — when really, it's Angel who's just been trapped.
- Chain Pain: Marcus captures Angel this way.
- Character Overlap: Oz visits L.A. for a gig with his band, and stops by Angel's place to drop off the Gem.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Marcus shoves hot pokers through Angel's body and shoots holes in the ceiling to let sunlight burn him.
- Daywalking Vampire: Courtesy of the Gem of Amarra. Marcus heads straight to a beach to better indulge his pedophiliac tendencies, while Angel simply enjoys his first sunset in 200 years.
- Domestic Abuse: Lenny, Rachel's boyfriend.
- Fake Static: Calling his old contacts in order to locate Angel has the added consequence of stirring up Doyle's creditors. Eventually, Doyle starts resorting to the 'wrong number' trick.Doyle: [nasally accent] House of Pies...
- Faux Affably Evil: He might be a repulsive sadist, but damn if Marcus isn't impeccably polite at all times.
- First Time in the Sun: Angel gets to watch his first sunset in about two centuries.
- Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Marcus makes a point of donning his spectacles before he gets to work.
- Gag Dub: Spike's Funny Moment of an introduction: he spies on Angel from a rooftop and dubs the conversation between Angel and the woman he just saved from a domestic abuser. Spike's narration is pretty spot-on.
- Guns Akimbo: Oz does Crossbows Akimbo. Now that's cool.
- Hangover Sensitivity: Doyle starts wishing for one of those head-cracking, brain-splitting visions to hit him... because it would pale in comparison to his hangover.
- Homoerotic Subtext: Marcus is complimenting a bare-chested Angel on the lack of damage to his skin over 200 years.Spike: Do you two need to be alone, or can we go on to the ouchy part?
- Hostage for MacGuffin: Spike tells Cordelia and Doyle he'll exchange Angel's life for the Gem.
- Hyper-Awareness: Marcus, like some other vampires, can sense Angel's soul.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Angel battles Marcus beneath the shade of an overhanging pier. Angel impales him on a large beam, but the Gem of Amarra renders Marcus invincible — until Angel yanks it off his finger.
- The Informant: Manny the Pig and Frankie the Tripod.
- Invincible Hero: After the preceding Buffy episode ended on Buffy sending the Gem of Amarra to Angel, this episode is required to devote itself to averting this trope so the show can retain some sense of tension.
- I Surrender, Suckers: Angel chases and corners Spike in an alley blocked by a Chain-Link Fence. Spike doesn't even attempt to leap the fence, instead turning around and surrendering with an air of smugness. Angel takes the bait, and is garroted by Spike's henchman, Marcus. Whoops.Spike: Caught me fair and square, white hat! Guess there's nothin' to do now but go along quietly and pay my debt to society.
- Lean and Mean: Marcus has a very slender, creepy look to him.
- Leeroy Jenkins:Angel: We duke it out, huh? Is this your big strategy to get the ring back?
Spike: Hey, I had a plan!
Angel: You? A plan?
Spike: A good plan. Smart. Carefully laid out. But I got bored.
- Light Is Not Good: Marcus, a torturer vampire with pedophiliac tendencies, wears a white shirt.
- Living Lie Detector: Part of what makes Marcus's torture effective is that he knows when someone is lying, even if they just give up false information to make the pain stop.
- Loves the Sound of Screaming: Spike has been griping about Marcus constantly playing "that bleedin' Brahms!" (Marcus corrects it's actually Mozart), but smiles when he makes Angel scream."Now that is music!
- Luck-Based Search Technique: Spike makes a half-hearted attempt to search Angel's quarters, runs into Doyle and Cordelia, and figures it's more effective to just threaten Angel's life so they'll find the Gem for him.
- Mineral MacGuffin
- Mood Dissonance: Marcus plays a gramophone of Mozart's Symphony #41 while torturing Angel.
- Must Be Invited: Cordelia wants to hide from Spike at her place, as Spike hasn't been invited inside. Doyle points out that Spike can get round this problem just by burning down the building.
- Nobody Touches the Hair: Also mocked by Spike re: the Spiky Hair.
- No MacGuffin, No Winner: Angel destroys the Gem because it's too dangerous in the wrong hands (including his own, should he lose his soul again), and because being able to follow a human-like existence would tempt him away from his path of redemption.
- The Nose Knows: Doyle, while in Game Face, can smell the Gem of Amarra, presumably perceiving the materials the gem is made of or its mystical power.
- Not So Stoic: Although usually eerily calm with a placid expression, Marcus shows much more emotion when he gets the Gem of Amara.
- ...Or So I Heard: After Angel receives the Gem, Doyle suggests they go check out a few strip clubs which offer a fabulous luncheon buffet... or so he's been told.
- Pædo Hunt: Marcus is all but outright-stated to be a paedophile.Spike: You like kids, don't you, Marcus? Well, likes to eat. And other nasty things.
- Perp Sweating: A quick perp sweating montage as Angel beats his way to Spike.
- Psycho for Hire: Spike hires Marcus explicitly because he has no interest in the Gem of Amara; his only desire is to hurt people. Unfortunately, he also realizes that the Gem gives him more opportunity to hurt people.Angel: You hired a vampire. What do you think he'll do with it when he finds it? Hand it to you?Spike: Oh, good lord, why didn't I think--? Oh, half a mo. I did! I hired a guy who doesn't care about the ring or anything else except taking blokes apart one piece at a time. It's called addiction. We all have them.
- Put on a Bus: Spike won't return to the series until Season 5 (except for flashbacks in the episode "Darla"), becoming a regular character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer instead.
- Required Spinoff Crossover: Spike finding the Gem of Amarra is shown in the Buffy episode "The Harsh Light of Day".
- Rescue Sex: Spoofed by Spike's Gag Dub.
- Ring of Power: The Gem of Amarra, which grants invulnerability to staking, fire, and sunlight.
- Shout-Out to Shakespeare: In the third sequence showing Angel's torture, Marcus quotes Hamlet: "There is nothing either bad or good but thinking makes it so."
- Soft-Spoken Sadist: Marcus has a very calm, even voice that is oddly disarming. He's also a merciless torturer.
- Spiky Hair: "And I'm almost out of that nancy boy hairgel I like so much."
- Status Quo Is God: Of course the ring had to be destroyed by the end of the episode.
- Stealth Insult: Spike to Cordelia.Spike: Cordelia! You look smashing; did you lose weight?Cordedlia: Yes, there is this great gym at... hey!
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: "Manny the Pig" told Doyle he didn't know anything about a vampire named Spike... before Doyle said anything about Spike.
- Tantrum Throwing/Failed Attempt at DramaSpike: Son of a bitch! I do the work, I do the digging, fight off a Slayer, drive to LA, hire the help, and what do I get? ROYALLY SCREWED, is what! Well that cinches it. No more partners. From now on Im my own man. A lone wolf. Sole survivor. Look out, here comes Spike! The baddest mother— [a beam of sunlight hits the back of his head and his hair ignites] ARRGH!
- The very next thing he does is return to Sunnydale, get interrupted in mid-gloat and captured by the Initiative.
- Tempting Fate: Spike mocks Angel for being "defanged" by love and a pesky curse. On returning to Sunnydale, the Initiative will implant Spike with a Restraining Bolt that prevents him from killing, and he eventually falls in love with the same woman that Angel did.
- Terse Talker: Oz vs. Angel.Angel: Oz.
Angel: Nice surprise.
Angel: Staying long?
Oz: Few days.
Doyle: Are they always like this?
Oz: No, were usually laconic.
- Think Nothing of It: Angel's tendancy to do this is much-ridiculed by Spike, who sees it as a cheap act to impress women.
- To the Batnoun!: Spoofed by Spike. "Quickly, to the Angelmobile! Away!"
- To the Pain: Marcus is enamored of pain, and waxes poetic about it to his literally captive audience.''"It's through the pain that we find the truth of who we are. It strips us of our defenses. We are made innocent again, like children. I like children, Angel. I'm here to help you find that innocence here with the light.
- Torture Technician: Marcus's entire thing is torture. It's his job, his hobby and his passion. He's legendary for it.Spike: Marcus is an expert. Some say "artist" but I've never been comfortable with labels. He's a bloody king of torture, he is. Humans, demons, politicians, makes no difference. Some say he invented several of the classics but he won't tell me which ones.
- The Triple: From his rooftop vantage point, Spike tells Angel to enjoy playing the hero while he can, as he's got an eventful time coming up. "The Gem of Amarra, a visit from your old pal Spike and oh yeah, your gruesome horrible death."
- Vampire Detective Series: Lampshaded and spoofed by Spike.Angel: Might as well go home, Spike. The Gem of Amarra stays with me.Spike: Why? Because you're "Angel: Vamp Detective" now? Whats next? Vampire cowboy? Vampire fireman? Oh, vampire ballerina.Angel: I do like to work with my legs. [kicks Spike in the face]
- Villain Ball: Spike thinks he's averted the Chronic Backstabbing Disorder problem by selecting an accomplice who's only interested in torture and molesting children. It doesn't occur to him that Marcus - a vampire - could do those things more effectively given the immunity of the Gem.
- We Will Meet Again: Spike to Angel.Spike: Ill get that ring. This isnt over until one of us is a pile of dust, mate.
- What Did I Do Last Night?: According to Cordelia, Doyle drunkenly apparently quoted Angela's Ashes and began to weep. He was also under the impression that the main characters were named Bam-Bam, Barney and Betty Rubble.
- Wicked Cultured: Marcus likes to play classical music (specifically Mozart's Symphony #41) during his torture session.
- Wife-Basher Basher: The Cold Open follows Angel saving a woman from her drug addict boyfriend, who Angel proceeds to pound unconscious. Ouch.
- Would Hurt a Child: Children are Marcus's preferred targets.