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|Episode no.||Season 3
|Directed by||David Greenwalt|
|Written by||David Greenwalt|
|Original air date||September 24, 2001|
"Heartthrob" is the first episode of season three in the television show Angel. Written and directed by David Greenwalt, it was originally broadcast on September 24, 2001 on the WB network. In this episode, Angel's former traveling companion James seeks revenge against Angel for staking his lover.
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Wesley, Cordelia and Gunn discuss their recent addition at the Hyperion Hotel, Winifred "Fred" Burkle, who has spent the last three months in her room (except when she enters the lobby for a few seconds before scurrying back). They note her bravery at surviving five years in Pylea. Also cause for concern is Angel, who has also spent the summer away from the group by spending time at a monastery in Sri Lanka since learning of Buffy's death. Wesley notes that all Angel needs is peace and quiet. Angel's mourning, however, is anything but peaceful as the monks turn out to be demons and Angel must kill them all.
Angel returns to Los Angeles and is eagerly greeted by his friends. He gives Cordelia a necklace, Wesley an historical dagger and Gunn a shrunken head (all three gifts are greatly appreciated). Angel asks after Fred, and despite Cordelia's attempt to cover, Angel guesses she hasn't left her room. He decides to go and talk to her; upon hearing a knock on the door, Fred tries to get rid of whoever is on the other side until she hears it's Angel, then she trips over herself to see him. Invited into Fred's room, Angel finds the walls covered in writing, similar to Fred's cave in Pylea, mostly filled with arcane mathematical formulae. Upon seeing a section with the words "LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN", Angel asks what she's listening for, and Fred responds, "The click in my head when everything makes sense." Angel invites her downstairs, but a scream from Cordelia shatters her sense of security. Cordelia's vision (which have grown increasingly painful over the last few months) sends the guys after a party crashed by vampires. At the party, Angel stakes the female vampire, and at the last second recognizes her by her locket as Elisabeth. Meanwhile, Cordelia recovers from her vision with the help of Dennis, a relaxing bath and some powerful painkillers.
A flashback to Marseille, France, in 1767 reveals that Darla and Angelus once traveled with Elisabeth and James. Angelus is annoyed with the loving relationship between the other couple, as James steals a locket from a store window for Elisabeth. He is also concerned with escaping the vampire hunter, Daniel Holtz, who has been tracking him since Angelus killed the man's entire family.
In the present, James learns about Elisabeth's death, and that Angel was responsible. He charges into the office of a special demon doctor, demanding the ultimate "cure" for vampirism. The demon, a skin-molting creature named Dr. Gregson, questions James's ability to accept the consequences, but agrees. At Caritas, Lorne sings, while Wesley and Gunn grill Merl for information. Merl reveals James visited Dr. Gregson earlier.
At the Hyperion Hotel, James emerges from the basement and attacks Angel, demanding to know why he took Elisabeth from him. Fred chooses that moment to emerge, and Angel yells at her to stay in her room, causing the girl to lose what little confidence she had gained. The two continue to fight, and Cordelia manages a good hit to James with a fire extinguisher then tosses Angel a stake. Angel manages to stake James, but he is unaffected; Angel throws him outside, but he doesn't set on fire. Realising he has been made invincible, Angel and Cordelia run for the sewers. A call from Wesley reveals that James is now invincible after having his heart removed, but it's not permanent and he will die when it wears off. Angel tries to throw James off temporarily with the scent of his blood, but James eventually finds them in a subway train. As they fight inside the train, James questions Angel's knowledge of true love. Angel assures him he understands what it is like to lose someone he loves. Soon, the effects of the cure wear off, and James crumbles into dust. Angel allows James' comments about not being able to exist after losing the person he loved to upset him, but Cordelia convinces him that he honors Buffy by going on.
At a cantina in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, a man presents contact information for a shaman to Darla and proceeds to flirt with her, offering her a drink and saying he sees her as a woman with a surprise or two. Darla retorts by showing him surprise #1: sinking her fangs into him. As he falls to the floor, Darla leaves the bar, revealing surprise #2: her incredibly pregnant belly.
Amy Acker joins the regular cast and opening credits as of this episode, and returning actress Julie Benz is billed as a special guest star again.
- David Boreanaz as Angel
- Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia Chase
- Alexis Denisof as Wesley Wyndam-Pryce
- J. August Richards as Charles Gunn
- Amy Acker as Winifred Burkle
Special guest star
- Andy Hallett as Lorne
- Ron Melendez as James
- Kate Norby as Elisabeth
- Keith Szarabajka as Daniel Holtz
- Matthew James as Merl
- Koji Kataoka as Pilgrim
- Sam Littlefield as Young Man Hostage
- Dalila Brown-Geiger as Sandy
- Christian Hastings as Vamp #1
- Bob Fimiani as Codger Demon
- Robert Madrid as Rough Man
- Bob Morrisey as Dr. Gregson
The WB began broadcasting Angel in letterbox format from this episode forward. However, the film crew didn't begin shooting for a letterbox format until "That Old Gang of Mine"; this episode was originally filmed with a shorter aspect ratio and had to be re-transferred to the wider format before being aired. Adam Ward, the first assistant/focus puller, says the show has always framed for letterboxing so the transfer process went smoothly. "We were really happy to do it because it made everything a lot more cinematic," he says.
The outside shots of the Buddhist monastery in Sri Lanka is actually footage of a castle in Austria called Castle Hohenwerfen. Production designer Stuart Blatt says the Angel location department extensively researched monasteries from all over Asia before settling on a design for the set for the inside scenes; it was "one of the most fun things so far this year" to create.
- Angel's retreat destination, Sri Lanka, was previously mentioned in the Buffy episode "Phases", when werewolf hunter Cain revealed Sri Lanka has a profitable market for werewolf pelts.
- This episode marks the first appearance of Holtz, who will become a major villain for the rest of the season.
- In the flashbacks, Darla and Angel reminisce on the events of the flashback from season two's "The Trial", where Darla left Angel to fend for himself in a burning barn after Holtz cornered them in France.
- Darla is revealed to be pregnant and in Central America.
Julie Benz says that "the pregnancy was probably the most exciting development" for the character of Darla and the actress herself. "Finding out about that was the most 'wow!' moment I had with her. We'd always joke around that maybe she would get pregnant, but it was always a joke!"
- DiLullo, Tara, Through the Lens: An Exclusive Interview with Adam Ward, CityOfAngel.com, archived from the original on 2007-11-05, retrieved 2007-09-20
- Interview with Stuart Blatt: Backdrop for bad monks, BBC, retrieved 2007-09-20
- Simpson, Paul, "Darla Departed", Angel Magazine (4)
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