Episode # 106
Original Air Date: April 21, 2004
Review by: Anne
A couple arrives at Wolfram & Hart looking for help: a speeding van slammed into their son - and he is perfectly fine. A police officer told them that W&H handles unusual cases. Stunned to learn that Connor is their son, Angel quickly tells the family that he can't help. They leave and Angel angrily questions Marcus who says that the Senior Partners aren't responsible, but someone is trying to send Angel a message through his son. Angel goes after the family and brings them back to W&H. Wesley tells Angel that he's found the one who ordered the attack on Connor: a warlock named Cyvus Vail. After Angel insists on going to see Vail alone, Wesley searches for more information and discovers that Vail did an extensive reality-shifting spell on the day they took over W&H. Angel finds Vail, who says that he built Connor's memories. Vail shows Angel a glowing glass cube called an Orlon Window and explains that if it broke around someone whose memories had been altered, the old memories would return. Elsewhere, Marcus interrupts Gunn's torture in the holding dimension to offer him a way out, but Gunn opts to stay without even letting Marcus finish his sentence. Angel returns to W&H and explains that Vail wants Connor to kill a demon: Sahjhan. Connor says that he will, if Vail will leave his family alone. Angel and Connor go to Vail's place. Connor is trapped in a room, and he opens the urn that holds Sahjhan. Sahjhan appears, as talkative as ever until he realizes who Connor is, and then the fight begins. Since Connor has no memory of his former fighting skills, Sahjhan quickly gets the upper hand. Watching, Angel turns to order Vail to open the door, but Illyria and Wesley are there. Wesley is holding the Orlon Window. He found the contract detailing the deal that Angel made, and he accuses Angel of selling them out. Wes moves to smash the Window, hoping it will undo everything that's happened. Angel pleads for Wes to trust him, but Wes says that he can't. He smashes the cube and Wesley rapidly remembers everything that happened with Connor. In the adjacent room, Connor suddenly seems like his old self and attacks Sahjhan, beheading him in seconds. Angel rushes in, but Connor appears "normal" again. Back at W&H Connor stops at Angel's office to say goodbye: he's taking his parents home. He says that you do what you can to protect your family, and with a meaningful glance at Angel, he adds, "I learned that from my father."
Watching this episode, I was reminded of some bumper-sticker logic that I once read: "Our mind creates the world we see." In real life, I suspect that line is challenging us to check our attitudes; in the Buffy-verse, magic permits the mind to literally change the world. It can trap someone in a vicious cycle, as it did Gunn, or it can turn a raging psychopath into a supremely well-adjusted young man.
Connor's remarkable transformation is a strong argument to support Illyria's claim that we are a summation of recollections. Change the memories and you change the person - okay, we get that. However, my one disappointment with this episode was that the effects of the reality shift on Fred and Wesley were not given more explanation. Losing the memory of Connor didn't appear to change them at all, but Illyria insisted that Fred changed the moment her memory did; that is a rather startling revelation to let slip by. Perhaps now that Illyria and Wesley (?) have both sets of memories, we'll see how the alternate reality affected them. (Or perhaps the conflicting memories will drive them both insane...)
Wesley claimed that the false memories were created so that they could endure the truth. Is that the reason for the necklace that Gunn wears? Does it erase the memory of the previous torture sessions, thereby enabling him to survive until the next one? Perhaps, but if that's the case Gunn, like Connor, is not so much "enduring the truth" as he is forgetting it. One thing is certain: the real Gunn is still strong enough to do the right thing. The same could be said of Connor where hiding the past, however painful it was for him, almost resulted in his death at Sahjhan's hands. Connor needed the strength he had gained from his previous struggles to prepare him for the present battle.
Despite Gunn's continuing torture and Wesley's re-acquaintance with a particularly bad part of his past, the tone of this episode was the most positive of any in recent memory. I wasn't exactly surprised at Connor's "learned that from my father" line, but I'm glad to know that Connor isn't simply oblivious to his past: he's fully aware, and he's coping with it. I'm also proud to see that the old Gunn is back; under the spell, he pleaded with the torture monster that he'd do anything to make it stop, but that wasn't the real Gunn talking. If the point here is that bad times make us stronger, then perhaps Wesley's pain will also serve a purpose.
* Steven Seagal did that break-the-guy-on-his-knee move in one of his movies.
* A policeman recommended W&H: in an earlier ep, Angel learned that they own the police.
* Connor doesn't like people touching his neck: Angel cut his throat to send him into that alternate reality.
* I and the jaw bit are carried over from her previous quote.
* "The world is as it is" - didn't Buffy say something similar in the alternate world in The Wish?