At Angel Investigations, Cordelia reenacts her commercial audition for Doyle, wondering why she didn't get the role. The phone rings, and the answering machine picks up. As Cordelia's friend Aura leaves a message, Cordelia still doesn't answer the phone, explaining to Doyle that she doesn't want to talk to anybody until after her career takes off and she has a better apartment. Doyle wanders into Angel's office, and Angel reluctantly answers Doyle's questions about Cordelia, reminiscing about her high school reign of terror with the Cordettes. Meanwhile, Cordelia arrives at her rundown apartment, where the key sticks in the front lock, the fluorescent light flickers and buzzes, brown sludge spurts from the kitchen faucet, and roaches scurry across the TV screen and floor. She frantically calls building services, only to be assured that the exterminator sprayed for roaches that day. Upon discovering the multitude of dead roach bodies covering her floor, Cordelia calls Doyle to take him up on his offer of a place to stay. Hearing the phone ring inside, Doyle rushes to let himself into his apartment, but a menacing demonhired to strong-arm Doyle into paying his debtgreets him from the shadows. Doyle eludes the demon and flees his apartment. Meanwhile, Angel finds Cordelia has come to stay, indefinitely.
The next morning, Doyle stops by Angel's apartment, upset to see Cordelia spent the night. Cordelia, unpacking her cheerleading trophies and scorched high school diploma, informs Doyle that she gave his address to somebody from his "part of England." The information worries him, and when Angel calls down that Doyle has company, he bolts out the back. When he reaches the building's foyer, however, Angel is silently waiting there, having tricked Doyle into confessing his secret. He proposes a dealif Doyle will help Cordelia find a new apartment, Angel will deal with Doyle's demon debt collector.
Doyle and Cordelia go apartment hunting. After many failed attempts, Cordelia is ecstatic to be shown into an airy, beautiful, rent-controlled apartment. Telling Doyle that the unsightly wall that needs removing adds to its perfection, Cordelia immediately closes the deal. In the meantime, Angel waits at Doyle's apartment until the demon, Griff, shows up. Griff explains that his boss no longer cares about the money, but needs to make an example of Doyle by ordering him killed. Angel informs Griff that he'll be the next victim unless he convinces his boss to accept Angel's guarantee of payment and to let Doyle live. Later that night, Doyle is unhappy that he has to pay, but concedes that it is better than the alternative. Angel probes for some hint of Doyle's backstory, but retreats when his friend grows uncomfortable. Meanwhile, Cordelia is already asleep at her new apartment, oblivious to the radio turning itself on and bureau drawers opening by themselves. She suddenly wakes when a drawer bangs shut and soon discovers why this apartment was so reasonableit is haunted. She spends the rest of the night huddled in her bed, which floats four feet in the air.
The next morning, after Cordelia's bed thumps to the floor, she attempts to go about her normal routine, until the ghostly activity starts up again in the living room. Desperate to keep her beautiful apartment, Cordelia pretends to be unaffected by the flying objects and cold wind that the ghost conjures, and even manages a few snarky exorcism quips. Angel and Doyle stop by with a housewarming gift and quickly realize the apartment is haunted when the word 'die' starts dripping from the wall in blood. Cordelia, insistent on making the apartment work, refuses to leave. Doyle and Angel carry her out, promising to help her perform an exorcism. At the office, the team researches the building's history for a clue to the ghost's identity, which might give clues on how to get rid of it. The evidence points to Maude Pearson, builder, owner, and first resident of the Pearson Arms building. While Doyle goes to pick up the arcane supplies for the exorcism, Angel finds out from Detective Kate Lockley that Maude Pearson's sudden fatal heart attack appears in the police archives, due to the suspicious disappearance of her son Dennis the same day. Learning that there was friction between Maude and her son's fiancée, Angel agrees with the prevailing theory that Dennis murdered Maude, made it look like natural causes, then skipped town with his girl. At the office, Cordelia gets a call from Angel and goes to meet him at her apartment, but it turns out that Maude's ghostly spirit is imitated his voice, mistaking Cordelia for Dennis' fiancé. Puzzled by the absence of murders in the building, Angel asks Kate to check for reports of suicides in that apartment — there were several — and calls the office to warn Cordelia. Doyle answers and reports that she isn't there. He plays back the answering machine, which recorded the call Cordelia took from Angel. Clutching the payphone receiver, Angel says, "That's not me."
At the apartment, Cordelia folds under Maude's spate of abuse. When Doyle and Angel burst in, they find Cordelia hanged with an electrical cable. Frantically, Doyle unwraps the cord while Angel lifts her down, and Cordelia coughs back to consciousness. They begin the exorcism without Cordelia, who is an incoherent sobbing wreck from Maude's emotional and physical attacks. A cyclone of flying debris prevents them from completing the ritual. Angel shouts to Doyle that they need to leave, and they carry the distressed Cordelia to the door. Before they can exit, however, it suddenly slams open to reveal the barrels of three enormous guns belonging to Griff and two of his cronies. Angel reminds Griff that he agreed to let Doyle pay, but the demon replies, "I lied." Doyle and Angel brawl with the goons, while Maude pulls Cordelia back into the bedroom to continue tormenting her. However, Maude makes a tactical error by calling Cordelia a "bitch". The remark snaps Cordelia back to reality, and she begins to fight back, finding her inner strength. As Angel snaps Griff's neck, Cordelia exits the bedroom with Blank White Eyes, using a cast iron lamp to knock down the partition, revealing a skeleton disintegrating inside the wall. Maude screams in shock and then, in a mystical flashback, the team learns that Maude Pearson prevented Dennis from leaving with his fiancée by bricking him alive. Upon completion, Maude suffered a heart attack and died. Now Maude's spirit stands in Doyle's binding circle and screams, as the angry ghost of her son Dennis roars to the attack, dispersing and banishing his mother's ghost forever.
As Angel watches Doyle install a new deadbolt on his apartment door, he quietly reminds Doyle that he'll need to reveal his background at some point. Meanwhile, Cordelia is raving about her new apartment to Aura on the phone. She admits she has a roommate, but claims she "never sees him." Hearing himself mentioned, the ghost, whom Cordelia affectionately calls Phantom Dennis, gently makes his presence known.
Tropes in this episode:
- Alpha Bitch: Angel describes the Cordettes as being "like the Soviet Secret Police, if they cared a lot about shoes". Later Cordy is able to rally herself by getting back in touch with her inner bitch.
- The Atoner: Subverted with a Bait-and-Switch CommentAngel: Punished. [Cordy nods] For what?
Cordy: I dont know. For what I was? For everything I said in High School just because I could get away with it? And then it all ended, and I had to pay. Oh, but this apartment—I could be me again. Punishment over—welcome back to your life! Like, like I couldnt be that awful if I get to have a place like that? Its just like you!
Angel: Working for redemption.
Cordy: [confused] Um, I meant because you used to have that mansion.
- Badass Boast: Angel tries out some diplomacy on Doyle's debt-collecting demon friend.Angel: It's a good offer. You should take it. On the other hand you're making me want to fight some more. You get lucky, you might last ten minutes. Really lucky, and you're unconscious for the last five.
- Bad "Bad Acting": Cordelia is holding up a torn white trash bag.Cordy: Ive had it with these cheap trash bags! They leak and break and end up costing us more!
Doyle: I believe it!
Cordy: Yeah, It was a great audition! I was all about things leaking. How could they not pick me?
Doyle: They dont know what they missed.
Cordy: They gave it to a blonde that showed up in a skintight leather cat suit. She is supposed to be a housewife.
- Blank White Eyes: Cordelia's eyes turn white while she's under the control of Phantom Dennis, who directs her to knock a hole in a partition in her apartment, revealing his skeleton moldering behind the wall.
- Break Them by Talking: Maude's words inadvertently play into Cordelia's fears of being an impoverished failure, until she makes the mistake of calling Cordy a bitch.Cordelia: Im not a sniveling whiny little Cry-Buffy. Im the nastiest girl in Sunnydale history. I take crap from no one. You think youre bad? Being all mean and haunty? Picking on poor pathetic Cordy? Well, get ready to haul your wrinkly translucent ass out of this place, because lady, the bitch is back.
- Buffy Speak: Cordelia calls the ghost of Dennis's mother "Haunty".
- Call-Back: Cordelia's scorched Sunnydale High diploma, to "Graduation Day, Part 2".Cordy: It was a rough ceremony.
- Couldn't Find a Pen: The word DIE appears on the wall in blood; Cordelia unsuccessfully tries to convince Doyle and Angel that a T will soon appear at the end.
- Dramatic Shattering
- Exact Words: Cordy telling Aura that she never sees her roommate.
- Eyeless Face: Actually a clue that another ghost is trapped behind the wall.
- Fanservice: Angel comes to the door of his apartment wearing a Modesty Towel and nothing else. In the episode commentary by writer Jane Espenson, she notes, "I put that scene in there because, frankly, I knew there wouldn't be a woman on the planet who wouldn't enjoy seeing David Boreanaz shirtless and dripping wet."
- Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Maude wants to forbid Dennis from leaving with his girlfriend, so she traps him inside a wall as a consequence for it.
- Flechette Storm: The 'ole drawer full of knives trick.
- Forehead of Doom: The first of a Running Gag of forehead comments for this series.Doyle: Man, you know I was crazy about her, and I was wearing her down, too. But no, handsome, brooding vampire guy has to swoop in, all sensitive mouth and overhanging forehead. [Angel feels his frowning forehead]
- Friendly Ghost: Cordelia moves into an apartment that is haunted by Dennis Pearson and his psychotic mother. Once Dennis' body is uncovered and he banishes the mother's ghost, he remains as Cordelia's friendly roommate.
- Ghostly Chill: Cordelia is unimpressed when a ghost sends cold winds rushing through her apartment.Cordelia: Uh, cold wind, scary! What are you going to do? Chap me to death? What else have you got?
- Ghostly Goals: Maude wants to keep killing her son's girlfriend. Phantom Dennis however seems perfectly content to share the apartment with Cordelia without causing trouble. Well, maybe he'll try to steal her soda or flip on the TV when she's on the phone, but he's easy to talk down.
- Global Ignorance:Cordelia: Oh, yesterday your cousin called, with one of those names from your part of England.
Doyle: ... My part of England?
- Haunted House: Cordelia's apartment was originally owned by a mother and her son, but when the son tried to get married and move away, his mother instead buried him alive by bricking him up into the wall, only to promptly drop dead of a heart attack. Their spirits continue to haunt the apartment, such that the mother attempted to kill Cordelia or convince her to commit suicide, treating her like Dennis's fiancé, whom she hated in life. Dennis himself was much more benevolent and helped Cordelia and continued to cohabitate after his mother's spirit is exorcised.
- Haunted Headquarters: What Cordelia's apartment turns out to be. After exorcising the evil ghost, however, another not-so-evil ghost who'd helped defeat it became her roommate.
- I'm Not Afraid of You: Cordelia is renting an apartment that is haunted, and the ghost of the resident mother is about to get her to commit suicide when she insults Cordelia. This triggers her self confidence, and she virtually exorcises the mother ghost by claiming the apartment as hers.Cordelia: I'm not a bitch. I'm the bitch.
- I Lied: Griff agrees to give Doyle more time to pay him back, then shows up at Cordy's apartment with a pair of armed henchmen anyway.
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Angel slams Griff's head against a doorframe a few times while asking questions.
- Loan Shark: Doyle runs up against a trio of debt collectors—he explains it's not so much a matter of clearing his debt (he can't) as performing favors for people until they owe him—a sophisticated system of checks and balances.Doyle: Well, I doun't have the money! You can't get blood from a stone, man.
Angel: They can get blood out of you.
- Make It Look Like an Accident: All Maude's murders are made to look like suicides.
- Mirror Scare: Subverted; we see the ghost in the mirror but Cordy isn't looking at it.
- Monster Roommate: Cordelia for Angel, helping herself to his bed, shower, and mousse. She also cuts up his kitchen floor to see if there's a better floor underneath.
- Must Be Invited: Angel is able to just stroll into Cordy's new apartment because she said earlier that he was invited over as soon as she found a decent place.
- Naked People Are Funny: Angel is naked after a shower when Cordelia comes in after her apartment becomes unusable. He grabs a book to hide it.
- Neck Snap: Angel kills Griff this way.
- Not Distracted by the Sexy: Cordelia, bursting in on Angel before he has had any opportunity to get dressed after a shower. She seems totally oblivious of this, ranting away on her own distress, leaving Angel totally befuddled. Doubly hilarious when we consider the two of them hitting it off three seasons later.
- Not What It Looks Like: Doyle is upset to find a post-shower Cordy and Angel bickering about who left the peanut butter in the bed (given what Angel gets up to with the peanut butter three episodes later, he's right to be concerned).
- Offing the Offspring: Cordelia's "roommate," a ghost named Dennis, was killed by his mother for dating a girl she didn't approve of. She trapped him in a brick wall of their house so he wouldn't leave her.
- Offscreen Teleportation: Upon noticing that Doyle has an injury on his hand and is acting twitchy, Angel calls for him downstairs, saying there's a "big guy" asking for him. Doyle yells back that he'll be there in a minute. A split-second later, he bolts for the back exit—running straight into Angel, who somehow teleported there before him. Angel correctly guessed that Doyle's in deep with loan sharks.Doyle: You know, it's not nice to trick people!
- Ominous Latin Chanting:Angel: [handing Doyle a spellbook] Doyle, chant.
Doyle: Oh, man, Latin. One of those dead languages you always mean to learn.
- Only One Name/Undead Tax ExemptionKate Lockley: Well, see, the thing about detectives is they have resumes and business licenses and last names. Pop stars and Popes, those are the one-name guys.
Angel: You got me. I'm a pope.
- Power Floats: Cordy spends the night sitting on the bed, which is floating in the air. Next morning when Doyle knocks on the door it drops to the floor with a thump.
- "Psycho" Strings: Cordy finding her previous crappy apartment is full of dead cockroaches.
- Pun: Cordelia is no cry-Buffy.
- The Reveal: Of absolutely horrifying And I Must Scream material, as Maude killed her own son by leaving him to suffocate.
- Scary Black Man: Griff, the debt collector. Technically a Scary Black Demon, but you get the idea.
- Sealed Room in the Middle of Nowhere: Dennis Pearson's mother walled him up to keep him from running off with his girlfriend. She was planning to let him out after a while, but had a heart attack and died just after finishing the wall.
- Shirtless Scene: Angel comes to the door of his apartment wearing a towel and nothing else. In the DVD Commentary by Jane Espenson, she notes, "I put that scene in there because, frankly, I knew there wouldn't be a woman on the planet who wouldn't enjoy seeing David [Boreanaz] shirtless and dripping wet".
- Skewed Priorities: Cordelia is willing to risk death from an evil ghost to live in an expensive apartment at a cheap rate.
- Spiky Hair: Angel comes out of the shower with it! Cordelia asks if he has mousse, then corrects herself. "Of course you do."
- Staring Down Cthulhu: You think a ghost is going to make Cordelia leave a rent-controlled apartment? Ha!
- Survival Mantra:Cordelia: Im from Sunnydale, youre not scaring me, you know. No. Youre not scaring me. Youre not scaring me. Not one bit.
- Tempting Fate: Angel and Doyle are dragging Cordy out of the apartment.Cordelia: Listen good, Casper, you havent won a thing here! Ill die before I give up the apartment, you hear me? Ill die![Angel and Doyle get her out and the door shuts.]Maude: All right dear, if that is what you think is best.
- The Thing That Would Not Leave: Cordy flees her crappy apartment and goes to Angel to stay the night. Within a few hours, Angel's basement is covered wall-to-wall with Cordelia's trophies, there's peanut butter on his bed, his leather chair is ruined, and Cordelia is busily cutting up his linoleum floor to examine the hardwood. By morning, Angel is begging Doyle to help find Cordy a place to stay.
- There Is Only One Bed: Hilariously averted when Cordy turns up at the apartment of a shirtless, dripping wet Angel desperate for a place to stay she talks right over Angel's objections and states he'll be the one sleeping on the sofa. The next day Angel is so desperate to get her out he agrees to fight a demon loan shark stalking Doyle if he finds Cordy a new apartment.Cordelia: Hey, you can just dump my stuff on the couchor let me have the bed. What ever you feel good about.
- Voice Changeling: Dennis's mother as a ghostly spirit mimicks Angel's voice to lure Cordelia inside the haunted apartment she built.
- We Help the Helpless/Subverted Catchphrase:
- Doyle picks up the phone: "Ah—Angel Investigations. We hope you're helpless. No, wait, that's..."
- Cordelia's greeting on the answering machine, "We help the hopeless. If that's you, leave a message" might not be regarded as complimentary either.