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Recap / Angel S 05 E 14 Smile Time

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Angel auditions for Sesame Street in a bid to win back Buffy.

You're a bloody puppet!

As a little boy watches a TV show called Smile Time, featuring puppets singing songs about learning, one of the puppets, Polo, tells the boy to put his hands on the TV. The boy's mother enters the room, horrified to see that the boy has collapsed and is lying, catatonic and with his face frozen in a rictus smile.

In the science lab at Wolfram & Hart, Knox brings Fred files on children in Los Angeles who have been hospitalized in the same condition as the little boy. Knox also gives Fred a valentine and tries to get her to discuss their potential relationship, but she gently declines his advances. Harmony tells Gunn he filed the wrong papers with the judge for a particular case, he tries to hide how worried he is about his mistake. Werewolf Nina Ash arrives to spend the three nights of the full moon in a cage at the offices of Wolfram & Hart. She flirts with a clueless Angel as he leads her to her cell, and an uncomfortable Angel then leaves. He heads to Wesley's office, saying he's not sure how he feels about their platonic friendship turning into something else. Wesley tells him that Nina has been sending him signals, and Angel is apparently the only person in the entire firm who hasn't noticed them. When Angel says that he can't pursue a relationship because he'll achieve pure happiness and turn back into Angelus, Wesley says most people have to settle for acceptable happiness, and there is no reason Angel can't do the same.


Fred arrives with the new case. Angel notes that all of the kids were watching TV at the same time of day when they became ill and Lorne says Smile Time is on at that time and in "the right demographic". Angel heads to Smile Time's studio, and, ignoring a "DON'T" sign, enters a hidden room where a man with a towel over his head sits under a large egg. The egg opens, forming a glowing smile that fires a beam that tosses Angel across the room. Angel pulls himself up, only now he's a puppet.

When Puppet Angel explains to the group what happened, Fred tells the lab to start recording Smile Time so she can analyze it. Angel orders Lorne and Gunn to talk to the show's creator, Gregor Framkin, at the studio. Nina arrives and Puppet Angel ducks under his desk so she won't see him. She tries to ask him if everything's okay, but he kicks her out. Spike arrives, and is shocked and amused to see that Angel is "a wee little puppet man". Angel pummels a giggling Spike.


Gunn and Lorne meet with Framkin at the studio. Gunn tries to tell him the laws he's violated, he can't come up with the right statute, and Framkin says he thinks he would be more likely to win than Wolfram & Hart in court. After Gunn and Lorne leave, we see that Framkin has a hole in his back and is being controlled by Polo. After he makes Framkin collapse, Polo summons the other puppets — Groofus the dog, Flora, and Ratio Hornblower — with the news that Angel messed with the Nest Egg. Fiona suggests that they remove the zombifying spell on some of the employees so that they can see future intruders, but Polo announces that since their "system" has now been perfected, they'll drain the life from all of their viewers the next day, instead of one kid at a time (planning to use their souls as currency back down in Hell). Framkin begs the puppets to kill him, but they continue torturing him instead.

Back at Wolfram & Hart, Nina is preparing for her second werewolf night when Puppet Angel pays her a visit to apologize for the way he treated her earlier. She's shocked to see that he's a puppet and he notes, "I'm made of felt. And my nose comes off." She tells him that he shouldn't care what people think of him, since he's a hero. Angel tells her that he's always worrying about his past and future that he doesn't always pay attention to what is happening there and then and is trying to do better, only to have failed to notice Nina has already transformed and the wolf grabs Angel and pulls him into the cage. Upstairs, Lorne comes across a tattered Puppet Angel and yells, "Is there a Geppetto in the house?"

Gunn heads to the medical wing to see Dr. Sparrow, explaining that he's losing his law knowledge. Sparrow examines him and tells him that the implant is failing in an acute "Flowers for Algernon" Syndrome; the Senior Partners gave it to him originally because they wanted him to have it, and if it's fading, they must have wanted that as well. Gunn says that he doesn't want to go back to the person he was, so Sparrow makes a deal with him — he'll give him a "permanent upgrade" if Gunn signs something for him that is stuck in Customs. In the science lab, Fred and Wesley agree they're starting to really like Smile Time though that may be because they are sleep deprived. Knox brings Fred coffee, but she orders him to go home. After he leaves, Fred confesses that she decided Knox wasn't right for her. While the sound is muted, Wesley notices Polo seems to be talking to the audience.

Puppet Angel is trying to sew himself up in his office when Wesley and Fred arrive to tell him the puppets' singing acts as a cloaking device, allowing Framkin to address the children directly. Wesley says the "nest egg" holds the life forces of the kids, so if they can break the magic on it, they'll save the kids and turn Angel human again. Gunn, who's regained his law knowledge, announces the puppets are actually running the show — Framkin made a deal with some demons to improve his ratings. Elsewhere in Los Angeles, a little girl watches Smile Time and gets the message from Polo that all of the kids in the audience should put their hands on the TV.

Puppet Angel and the gang interrupt and the fighting begins, with Gunn decapitating Groofus and subsequently fighting Flora while Angel goes puppet-to-puppet with Polo. Fred and Wesley rush to the room with the nest egg, where Ratio fights Wesley while Fred reads the spell to break the nest egg, destroying the egg and saving the kids after Wesley defeats Ratio. In the main studio, Gunn defeats Flora and Angel defeats Polo by throwing him onto the treehouse (during which he transforms to "vamp puppet face"). The next day, Nina wakes up in her cage with fabric around her and fears she ate Puppet Angel, until he tells her he's okay and will be back to normal in a few days. They agree to have breakfast together, with Nina jokingly wondering what puppets eat. In Wesley's office, Fred tells him she's been trying to subtly indicate her interest in him. She grabs him and kisses him; he happily returns the gesture as the puppets sing their self-esteem song again.


  • 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...
    Polo: 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 the episode, 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...cute!
    Puppet!Angel: You're fired.
  • 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. With all Angel has experienced these years: the deaths of Doyle and Cordelia, giving up his son and messing around with the memories of his friends to give him a better life, compromising his ideals on a daily basis to get to W&H to do at least some good, and as we'll learn in "Power Play" having learned of the Circle of the Black Thorn, it is clear sex won't be enough for him to experience "perfect happiness."
  • 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: Gregor Framkin is played by producer David Fury, who previously played the Mustard Man in "Once More, With Feeling".
  • 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.
  • Depraved Kids' Show Host: Polo in particular
  • 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.
  • Dutch Angle: The camera tilts as Angel struggles under the spell that's controlling the Smile Time employees.
  • Everyone Can See It: Angel/Nina; especially Fred, Harmony, and the girls in Transcription.
  • Everyone Hates Mathematics: Averted with Fred, who loves the Maths Song. Possibly ironically, considering it's 4 AM and she's very tired.
  • 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!"
  • 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 lops off his head with an axe)
    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 Funny and a 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—
    Angel: Fred...
    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.
  • 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?
  • Muppets
  • 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 nose comes off..."
  • Pun
    Lorne: Nina definitely wants a piece of Angel cake.
  • Punny Name: The puppet "Ratio Hornblower".
  • Puppet Permutation: Angel is turned into a puppet, driving the plot of the episode.
  • 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 coat, 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 gets sunk. Next episode, it gets even worse...
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: Inverted; Fred is babbling on trying to get Wes to realize 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 Continuity Nod 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 realizes 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. Long-time fans immediately place wagers on how bad it's gonna get.
  • Subverted Kids Show
  • Take That!: Nina says that it's cliché 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 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
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Mr. Frampton points out that an infamously unethical law firm trying to sue a highly popular children's show won't end well for the lawyers.
  • 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's not... (Polo turns to see a sword-wielding Puppet!Angel on the set)'s time to kick your ass all the way back to Hell!
    Polo: You!
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to Framkin after the puppets are defeated and the nest egg destroyed is never brought up in any way. Did he remain a People Puppet? Did he die? Or was he returned to normal like everyone else effected?
  • 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.
    Lorne: Deformi-whats?
    Framkin: 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


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