PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS A SPOILER-RICH ZONE. If your diet requires you to dine on television spoiler-free ... good luck with that.


Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Hunk of Hero Sandwich

 Episode 2.09: The Trial. Original Airdate: 11.28.00.

 “In an attempt to save Darla’s life, Angel must undergo three separate challenges that no one has ever survived.”

Daniel’s Thoughts:

  • Cordelia still has her hair…it’s slightly better?
  • She and Wesley are talking about Angel, who is in the cellar, I guess.
  • Wesley is wearing some weird cardigan that I actually like but it seems very casual for him.
  • Angel comes up and he’s all in a weirdly good mood. Everything is weird.
  • I’m mostly distracted by Angel’s neck hair.

  • Gunn runs in.  He’s found Darla. Angel abandons everything to go with Gunn.
  • “WE HAD TEA.”
  • Darla is at a motel. I’m not going to shenanigan how she has the money to afford it.  She’s Darla.  I’m sure she found a way. 
  • Anyway, before Angel & Gunn can get to the motel, Lindsey’s already found her.
  • After the credits, Lindsey has brought Darla in to W&H.
  • Holland shows her some documents but we don’t know what they are yet – but Darla seems upset by them.
  • Meanwhile, Gunn – at the motel – states the obvious: “She ain’t here, bro.”
  • Flashback! 1765! France! Angel’s terrible wig and accent are back.
  • Angel & Darla are being hunted by someone named Holtz. THIS WILL BE IMPORTANT LATER BUT NOT JUST YET.
  • In the present….Darla’s at a bar chatting with a vamp in vampface so this must be a demon-friendly bar.
  • This vampire is called “Shempire” in the IMDB credits – I’m assuming it’s a riff of Shemp from the three stooges.

I can see it.

  • Darla is acting like she’s a human…and has always been a human.  She wants Shempire to turn her back into a vamp.  She teases this guy with eternal couplehood but she’s probably planning on staking him once it’s done.
  • Shempire agrees and takes her into an alley.
  • Angel “saves” her, staking the vamp.  But He’s Saving Her From Herself.
  • You were made in an alley as I recall.” Ooh.
  • Darla reveals what the documents that Holland showed her revealed: She’s dying.  We don’t know of what.  Maybe when they brought her back it was under the condition that it was a limited time. [Nope - 10 minutes later Daniel]
  • Back in 1765, Angel & Darla are trapped in a burning farmhouse.
  • Darla knocks Angel out to get away.  Cold, man.
  • Back in the present - Angel brings Darla back to the Hyperion.
  • “Are you planning on sleeping over?” “I’m dying.” “Just for the one night then.”
  • Angel thinks W&H are lying about Darla dying.
  • Angel tells Darla she’s not a prisoner.  But Cordelia & Wesley tells her she most certainly is.
  • Angel breaks down Lindsey’s door. 
  • He’s got this small apartment but it’s got a full bar and it’s awesome.
  • Lindsey, who obviously cares about Darla, invites Angel in.
  • And omg with the track lighting - this place is right out of a 1960’s bachelor pad.

Hey baby, do you swing?

  • So it turns out Darla is dying of Syphilis which is what she was dying from before the Master made her.
  • Angel asks Lindsey if he loves Darla.  
  • “I was with her for 150 years.” “But you didn’t love her.” Ouch.  Truthful, but ouch.
  • Cordy & Wesley are gossiping about Darla when they see Angel.
  • The thing is, I really like this storyline with Darla & Angel.  Unfortunately what it does is relegates Cordelia & Wesley to background players – they’re there only to help the main storyline along instead of having their own respective character & plot developments.
  • Angel takes Darla to Caritas!  She’s a better singer than Angel, definitely – but she sings like she talks – in a weird Betty Boopish type voice.
  • “Hunk of Hero Sandwich”. What even.
  • Lorne is reading both Darla & Angel watching Darla which is interesting.
  • “it’s a bit of a quest, it’ll probably kill ya.” Lorne gives Angel a mysterious address and tells him “we’ll see if you’re really ready to take the plunge.”
  • Angel takes it literally. He thinks it’s a leap of faith.  Darla disagrees.  
  • She asks him why he’s doing this.  He doesn’t answer.
  • Angel dives into the empty swimming pool and ends up in some underground something, so he was right. It was a leap of faith.
  • There’s a “man”, identified as “The Valet” on IMDb. He describes the trials: There are three and if he completes it, Darla will “become whole”.  If he fails, she’ll die instantly.  All these challenges, treks, etc that our heroes in the Whedonverse have to do are always so damn vague & no one asks any questions.
  • To complete the challenges, Angel needs to take his shoes and….shirt off.   Of course he does.
  • OK Trial #1 – Angel has to fight a demon who looks like an ogre in order to go through a gate.
  • The Valet lets Darla psychically see what’s happening.
  • OMG! The demon gets sliced in half.  Angel thinks he’s defeated it but he wakes up…and puts himself back together!
  • Angel slices him in half again but this time chains him up in two separate areas so that he can’t be put back together.  Trial #1: done!
  • Next, Angel runs through a hallway of crosses.  Of course every cross he steps on burns him.  So this is a trial only for vampires?
  • The key is in an urn of holy water.  Lots o’ burns for Angel, but he gets through.
  • Final trial, Angel is now strapped into cuffs with a wall of stakes coming towards him.   The third test is apparently about death.  The Valet explains that in order for Darla to live, Angel has to die.  
  • Again, with the wall of stakes, these trials seem to be tailored towards vampires in particular.  I’d call a shenanigan on this but maybe they change the trials slightly depending on who takes it… [That's my headcanon and I'm sticking to it. - Z]
  • Angel considers it and chooses death, like the martyr that he is.
  • But all he had to do was choose death….not actually die.  Angel is back in the room with Darla and fully clothed for some reason.
  • The Valet only then realizes he can’t give Darla a second chance for life because she’s already been given one.  Wish they knew that before the trials.  Woulda saved a need for lots of aloe.
  • Angel gets pissed and trashes the room, and beats up a couple of guard demons in the process.
  • Angel & Darla are back at her motel which is apparently from the 1960s with that décor.
  • Angel considers biting Darla.  He thinks maybe if he turns her while having a soul, she’ll retain hers, too.
  • It’s an interesting theory, but Darla dismisses the idea even though it’s originally what she wanted.
  • Angel tells her he’ll take care of her but oops, Lindsey arrives with some meatheads who tase Angel and keep him down.  
  • It’s a nice use of Lawyer-Ex-Machina here. Darla becomes a vampire again, but Angel doesn’t have to feel guilty of turning her.

Zelda’s Thoughts:
  • Hyperion: Cordy and Wes are worried Angel’s hiding in the cellar for too long.
  • Oh lord, he was doing laundry. And he’s oddly chipper. Cordelia, suspicious, “You seem all calm and homey. Are you on drugs?”
  • Cordelia’s hair, still dark and shorter, less alarmingly big.
  • Angel’s reached some emotional peace about the whole Darla thing, or so he says, but then Gunn comes in with Darla’s location.
  • C: “You lied to us!” // A: “I did. I know.” // W: “Why?” // A: “I figured you’d nag.”
  • As Angel leaves, ignoring their objections, Wes: “Didn’t we learn anything from the tea?”
  • Darla, troubled by her own reflection.
  • And Lindsey found her, slightly ahead of Gunn and Angel. Not surprised. He may not be as obsessive as Angel (though he’s pretty obsessive) but he can afford an expensive investigator.
  • They’re telegraphing what we’re about to find out – that Darla’s terminal – by having her face look chalky, her eyes shadowed.
  • Holland Manners says Darla is their “moral responsibility” and wow I’m amazed he could say those words without flinching.
  • Darla, seeing her diagnosis, looks to Lindsey asking if he knew about this. He doesn’t reply.
  • Oooh flashback triggered by Angel saying “when you’re desperate, you do what you have to do,” so we then see Darla and Angelus hiding in a barn, somewhere in France.
  • Angelus “I hate the French. We should go someplace like Romania.”
  • I wonder where Dru and Spike are.
  • Ohhhhhhhh this is when they plant Holtz the Vampire Hunter.
  • Back to the present: Darla, chatting up a random vamp (credited as Shempire, snort), hoping to be sired because she knows Angel won’t do it.
  • We still don’t officially know Darla is terminal, but we will in a bit, and anyway I know the future blah blah.
  • Wow, rando vamp doesn’t want to turn her because he’s afraid of commitment.
  • And then he admits he’s never turned anyone and it’s kinda an interesting twist on the virgin trope. Darla “I’ll walk you through it.”
  • But Angel stakes him before he can do it.
  • “Just because we had a thing for a hundred and fifty years, don’t presume you know me.”
  • And here it is. As Angel tries to persuade her to give being human more time, she tells him “I’m dying.” She’s got only a few months left.
  • It’s interesting. She was on the edge of death when she was turned by the Master. Which means they resurrected her not precisely as she was in her last moments of humanity, but close to.
  • Welp, Flashback Darla conks Angelus on the head and rides the horse away, leaving him in the burning barn with the offscreen Holtz.
  • Anyway, Angel doesn’t believe Darla’s dying and thinks it’s another trick by W&H, which, fair.
  • D: “I don’t trust them, but I know a thing or two about mind games. So do you. We played them together for over a century.” // C: “Yes, but you were just soulless bloodsucking demons. They’re lawyers.” // A: “She’s right. We were amateurs.” Yeah but that’s just because you’ve literally always been bad at planning Angel. How much time did you randomly kick around not killing Buffy after you turned evil three season ago?
  • Angel, like Holland, tells Darla she’s not a prisoner at the Hyperion. But once he’s out the door, Cordelia says “So first up: You’re a prisoner.”
  • Oh hey Angel’s visiting our buddy Lindsey and he invites him right in.
  •  Lindsey’s sitting in the dark, depressed and drinking. “Yes, she’s dying. Yes, those medical reports she saw are real. You want a second opinion? Here. How about a third? Hmm? How about a tenth?”
  • Syphilitic heart condition. Welp.
  • Oh. I just noticed Lindsey got his hair cut.
Maybe he and Cordelia had a salon date!

  • Lindsey wants Angel to save Darla’s life by turning her.
  • Angel points out that once Darla turns she’ll probably kill Lindsey. It’s kinda funny that he ends up being wrong about that.
  • Darla’s out in the garden. “Jasmine. It blooms at night. I remember what that was like.” Aww a premonition of her granddaughter.
  • *snort* And off to Caritas for Darla to sing! Hey she actually sounds all right, and they even give her a concert-y treatment. This isn’t meant to be a funny gag like when Angel tries to sing.

  • Yay Lorne! “you’re a big hunk of hero sandwich.”
  • Lorne evokes one of the best lines of poetry, “Things fall apart. Not everything can be put back together, no matter how much you want it.” Angel’s angrily desperate to give her a real second chance. And Lorne tells him there’s one way he might be able to save her. “It’s a bit of a quest. It’ll probably kill ya.” // “I’ll take it.”
  • “You’re about to face the hell and the high water.” I just … I love the way Lorne phrases things. He’s my favorite.
  • The challenge starts with Angel diving into a drained pool—a leap of faith. “I’m either comin’ back with a cure, or you’re about to see something kinda funny.”
  • Darla’s here in the trial land too, as the collateral. If Angel completes the three trials, he saves her life. If he fails (which would kill him), it will kill her too.
  • The trial emcee says he needs Angel’s shirt and shoes and that’s gratuitous but who’s gonna complain? He looks good.
  • Emcee  says he can’t tell Angel about the last two tests because he’s never seen anyone survive the first one. Really? I mean fine, but really? And then he says Angel’s already lasted twice as long as anyone else, at only 17 seconds.
  • Anyway big ol lime green demon is beating on Angel but I ain’t worried.
  • Angel slices him in twain!
  • Aaaaand that’s insufficient, as limey reassembles himself. Well then. I’d forgotten about that.
  • Angel, not dicking around, slices him again and chains the two halves away from each other so he can’t do that again and it’s kind of hilarious.
  • And so trial one is completed.
  • Trial two? A corridor lined with crucifixes, including the floor. Angel, shoeless, must run across it like a bed of coals. Emcee: “In this place, the journey is all.”
  • Oh damn and the key is in a bowl of holy water.
  • Well, that was painful but he got through it.
  • Angel, limping, covered in red rashes from burning, walks toward the third trial: and his arms are magically shackled and raised over his head. He’s facing a wall of stakes—even with his tiny tiny Angel heart, one of them is bound to hit his heart.
  • Emcee: “This third test has no catch, as you put it. Death is the final challenge. We can’t restore one life without taking another. You see? In order for Darla to live, you must die.”
  • Y’all Angel waxes his pits.
  • Either that or they tried to photoshop blur the hair out.
  • Emcee gives him an out: Angel can walk away now, he can leave. Darla will die, but Angel will live.
  • “No deal.” // “I expected as much. A pity. I’m beginning to like you.” // “Spare me.” // “I’d very much like to. Do you mind if I ask you a question? Isn’t the world a better place with you in it? You can save so many people. It seems she can barely save herself.”
  • “How long will it be before she stumbles, before she falls?” But Angel, showing why (even if I don’t like him a lot of the time) he is our hero, won’t be swayed. He’s here to save innocent lives, even at the cost of his own.
  • And hey … it didn’t kill him after all. It was accepting the death that was passing it, not the death itself at all.
  • Emcee puts his hands on Darla’s head to save her and then … stops. “She’s been given new life once before, by supernatural means … I can’t help you.”
  • “We had a bargain. She’s earned her second chance.” // “She’s living her second chance.”
  • We could say then this episode was a waste of time, since the meat of it is Angel undergoing these three trials, all for naught. But I think it’s actually pretty emotionally important. We’re going through the stages of grief here, grieving the life that Darla could have but will never live, that Angel never could and never will. We had denial (assuming W&H lied), we had bargaining (Darla seeking a vamp to turn her; Lorne and the trials), and now as Angel smashes the temple, we have anger. We had to go through this so we can get to this: Darla’s acceptance of her fate.
  • Now, sitting quietly, she doesn’t want Angel to turn her anymore. “I’ve seen it now … I’ve felt how you care. The way no one’s ever cared before. Not for me. That’s all I need from you.”
  • Darla finally sees this is her second chance, to die as she was supposed to, but dying knowing someone cares.
  • Angel promises to stay with her, so she won’t be alone when she goes, and she cries on his shoulder, and fuck now I’m crying.
  • So of course it’s time to ruin it all. Goons crash the room, tase and bind Angel, and Lindsey strides in – with Drusilla, all in red. “How did you think this would end?”

  • Angel can only watch, helpless and heartbroken, as a terrified Darla is turned once more.
  • Fuck this is good TV.
  • Dru even turns Darla the same way Angel was turned, slicing herself above the breast. We won’t even mention (much) that her nail is nowhere near the line of red.
  • Fuck fuck fuck. That was really good. Heartbreaking, upsetting, perfect. Fuck.


Favorite Lines:
Daniel: "Yes, but you were just soulless bloodsucking demons, they're lawyers.” - Cordelia
Zelda: “Things fall apart. Not everything can be put back together, no matter how much you want it.” – Lorne



First Mention: Holtz
Recurring: Lindsey McDonald, Lorne, Holland Manners, Darla, Drusilla, Angel’s “Irish” “accent” and stupid wig
Generally Known TV Face: Jim Piddock, Evan Arnold
Whedonverse Hat Trick: Jim Piddock (The Valet here, Biz in Dollhouse)
Lorne’s Nicknames: Hunk of Hero Sandwich (Angel)


Angel! In! History!

In 1765 Darla and Angelus were on the run from Holtz in France (Spike and Dru presumably elsewhere), though Angelus wants to go to Romania next (le gasp!). And when he was in Italy he wanted to go to France. [Note to self: Angelus is Rum Tum Tugger. – Z] Also Darla leaves him in a burning barn to face the horde alone, but promising to meet him in Vienna if he survives.

Caritas Song List

“Ill Wind”



Cordelia’s Hair – shoulder length, dark, no bumpit
Dead Humans – 1 (Darla! *weeping*)
Dead Undeads – 1
Dead Flashbacks – 0
Dead Lawyers – 0
Cordelia Has a Vision – 0
Wesley Prat-falls – 0
Lawyered Ex Machina – 1 (Lindsey bringing Dru to kill Darla; he didn’t wield the law, but he’s still a Lawyer who’s Ex Machinaing shit)
Evil Reveal – 0
Unevil Reveal – 0
Shenanigans Called – 0
Apocalypse Called – 0
Prophecy Called – 0


  1. They really thought they were doing something epic with the Jasmine story to tease it out this early, huh? Or was that just coincidence?

    1. Considering Jasmine happened in large part because of Charisma's pregnancy, no I don't think they were planning for her this early. However, I wouldn't be surprised if, when they were writing Jasmine later, they then thought to harken back to this (or perhaps just remembered that canonically jasmine blooms on the patio of the Hyperion?)

  2. "We could say then this episode was a waste of time, since the meat of it is Angel undergoing these three trials, all for naught."

    This episode was actually pretty pivotal to the rest of the series. Aside from laying the foundation of Holtz being Angel's nemesis, the life Angel won is how Connor came to be. They mention later how it's impossible for two vampires to have a child otherwise.

    Also, as mentioned above, it's interesting that they make reference to Jasmine, because even if they hadn't planned for her this far in advance, they retconned that she had been manipulating events all along in order to bring about her birth. If I remember correctly, she says this was one of those events she manipulated because it brought her "father" into existence.