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3x12: "Provider"
Review by Ryan Bovay (Ryan-R.B.)
Posted on May 7, 2007
Writer: Scott Murphy | Director: Bill Norton | Air Date: 01/21/2002

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Spoiler Warning!
This is a retrospective review and may contain spoilers from anywhere in the series. Read at your own peril.

I love this show dearly. I truly do. Since I began writing these reviews I've discovered depths to this amazing program most will never even be aware of to appreciate and I owe my desire to professionally write to Joss Whedon and his emissaries of awesomeness throughout the 'verse: Buffy, Angel and Firefly, the last of which I saw first; it was the show that gave me faith in TV's potential to be an art form. So as I begin my review of "Provider" I find myself pained to have to write what I'm about to, what I couldn't even write for the thematically top-heavy and plot-choppy "She" [1x13]: I hated this episode. I hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated it. Oh, good God did I frakking hate it.

And having to review it only made me hate it more. At best, "Provider" is shallow, bearable pop entertainment, and trying to analyze it further is like pulling screws out of your ear by going through the other side of your skull. This is a painful statement to make about any episode of my beloved show, but here it applies. Because even when Angel is mediocre ( "Over the Rainbow" [2x20]) or bad ("She" [1x13]), it is rarely inept like the worst episodes of Buffy often were. Even the cheesy, poorly-plotted "Dad" [3x10] and the talky, disingenuous "Quickening" [3x08] had worthy themes and social considerations that make AtS the quality program that it is. Even when it lacks visceral power, it's never dumb.

Except today. This episode's worst attribute is that it's just stupid, even to the point of being insulting. The theme is this: money is not everything. No, there is nothing more to the theme than that. When we could've, with the same type of plot, explored the idea of duty versus love, the ends vs the means and the power of the abstract over the practical, the episode aims as low as possible; evidently, so it can hit us in the balls. The message here is that friends and family are more important than money, and that providing for a family is more than simply paying bills. But even going into that much detail is doing the theme a favour.

The writers have gone to great lengths since "Epiphany" [2x16] reunited the Gang to show what a family they are, most especially now with Connor in the mix (and Cordy taking the role of de facto mother for him).

So the message of this episode is not only bluntly simple, it is mindless repetition by this point in the season. And that both the A and B plots have uninteresting character developments, little lasting impact, stupid (although well-done, makeup wise) monsters and are extensions of a theme that is painfully inept makes the episode a dry, worthless experience. What often aids AtS and BtVS in overcoming the common perception of them being lame monster shows are their ideas and compelling characters, and there are neither of those things in this episode; Angel seems terribly shallow and downright goofy in his out-of-character quest to make money for the baby. At least in "Dad" [3x10] the out of character actions were part of a (however lame) ruse.

If anyone were to see this episode without context they'd never watch the show again, and I couldn't honestly blame them. Writer Scott Murphy does at least sprinkle a few funny lines of dialogue in where he can, and I did enjoy the scene with Holtz and Justine. It's very telling of what their entire dynamic will be: Justine needs Holtz' companionship; a substitute for the family she's lost. Holtz only needs her skills, and is willing to sacrifice any part of her to accomplish what he needs to. Here, he tells her to start building an army of soldiers just like her: people who have lost those close to them to vampires.

This aside, there is nothing redeeming about this installment of S3 as a piece of the season or of the series. The quicker we move on the better.

Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+The teaser with the guy and the flyer. Poor guy.
+Cordy and Angel cuddling with the baby.
-Pretty much everything else.
  • Gunn and Wesley's competitive affections for Fred become important to their characters later on. Losing Fred to Gunn makes it easier for Wesley to betray Angel Investigations in "Sleep Tight" [3x16], and in S4, Fred is a major point of conflict between the two.
  • Cordelia starts being a mother for Connor, and this bond of family is what ultimately makes her choose Angel over the Groosalug in "Tomorrow" [3x22].




ANGEL:There, beautiful. We're online. We got flyers, we got yellow pages. Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to a new area of Angel Investigations. All we have to do now is wait - for that phone to start ringing and the money to start rolling in. (To Baby) Because someone's got to clothe and feed and educate this little guy, yeah? (Connor yawns) Yep - all we have to do is wait. - Just a matter of time. (Connor fusses) Don't you worry, this town is full of people who have problems.
:(A man is running, looks back over his shoulder at some looming shadows following him and runs right into a pile of trashcans. As he picks himself back up, he sees one of Angel's new flyers. He goes to a phone and dials the number.)
GUY:(picking up the phone on the other end) Fabrizio's pizza.
FRED:(back at Angel Investigations) Is this the right phone number?

HARLAN:You have much experience dealing with vampires?
HARLAN:Yeah, well, not like these. They're not out for blood. They want money.
HARLAN:Yeah. I know. Whoever heard of a vampire out to make a buck, right?

ANGEL:(to Lorne) You'll have to go with her to translate. Tell 'em it won't be cheap. They're getting two of our top employees. That's salary, per diem, overtime...
LORNE:Okay, okay. (talks to the demons) They apologize for their paltry offering and hope you'll accept (the Nahdrah opens the case revealing bundles of cash) Fifty thousand dollars!?!

FRED:(after killing the Nahdrah's leader) Well, I guess you cut off the snake's head….
WESLEY:(the Nadrah's click furiously and start forward) You piss all the other snakes off.

Comments (26)
All Comments | Link1 | RickMay 8, 2007
I have nothing to do but agree. This is the only episode of the Buffyverse that actually insults me. I have grown to love a character who understands the 'means' as everything, and here in this episode the 'ends' becomes the sole objective, but in an unfortunately contrived and unintelligent manner. The way Angel treats the man at the end is quite despicable; yes, he had lied about his ability to pay, but more importantly, he had his life shattered by vampires. Yet Angel is suddenly willing to taunt him with death, since the money hadn't come through. Not believable. Not amusing. Not impressive.
More shockingly, the writers smack the simple theme so hard into our faces that we vomit from the resultant protrusion in the back of our skulls. Everything happens so close to the hollywood cliche of moral pandering that I'm left to ask: how did Joss let this episode happen? How did Tim? What we have here is a simple boy-wants-somthing......boy-acts-rashly-to-get-it......great-turmoil......boy-realizes something-obvious-about-himself-and-about-the-mission. .................YUCK.
All Comments | Link2 | MezMay 8, 2007
Hate to admit it, but I love this episode!

Sure, it's light-hearted fluff, but in a season which includes Darla's pregnancy AND Wes's betrayal, some fluff was what I needed. Just a chance to sit there and laugh at zombie romances, incorrect phone numbers, and the most hokey computer graphic in the universe... It's a lot of fun.
All Comments | Link3 | Ryan-R.B. | WRITERMay 8, 2007
Honestly, I didn't hate hate HATE it until I had to rewatch it for review. It was then that I realized just why this episode was so reviled.

THough I admit, when inebriated or in need of background noise, this could be an ok episode. But it's so intellectually insulting and implausible in its characterization that I just can't LIKE it.
All Comments | Link4 | rickMay 9, 2007
I hate it. Just wanted to clear that up. And did you change the score from a 40 to 30?Dingdongalistic
All Comments | Link5 | DingdongalisticJul 24, 2007
Oh, you didn't like it then? ;)

Pity. I think this episode's a DCC (Dumb comedy classic). Yes, it's lame in places. Yes, it basically says 'The theme is this: money is not everything. No, there is nothing more to the theme than that.' It even makes fun of it. But as a comedy it has an imagination and craziness that works.

If you were talking about Couplet, on the other hand...
All Comments | Link6 | DingdongalisticJul 24, 2007
But boy, if you hated this one, I can't wait to see you unleash yourself on gems like Couplet or Double or Nothing.

If there's one thing you shouldn't do in life, guys, its sell your soul for a big Truck. Now, any questions about how to cheat at card games...
All Comments | Link7 | buffyholicMar 10, 2008
I have to agree with the score. This is a terrible episode. And I thought She was bad!

The only thing I like is Holtz and Justine, nothing more.
All Comments | Link8 | MrTrickOct 23, 2008
This is the one where Lorne actually uses the word "cheesemonkey", right?

Yeah, I don't think anything else really needs to be said about that...
All Comments | Link9 | TaraMar 23, 2009
It's when you have former Material Girl Cordelia Chase telling Angel that money isn't everything that you know something is wrong. One of Season 3's weaknesses is just how out of character Angel sometimes appears, and it's never more apparent than in this episode. His shallow, uncaring and downright selfishness made this episode unplesant to watch, and the storyline about the briefcase was just dull. Only two things saved the episode for me:

1) The Holtz-Justine scenes

2) The last shot of Angel and Cordelia lying on the bed with Connor
All Comments | Link10 | DaleJun 22, 2009
I... kinda like it. It's stupid, trite, and entirely shallow, but all the weird zaniness is quite fun, and everybody's interactions with the baby are adorable. Damn, I like Connor so much better as a baby.
All Comments | Link11 | ShelbySep 23, 2009
I actually didn't think this was that bad of an episode. I hate the general Conner arc, so I found this to be a nice tangent from it. Sure, the message was lame, but it was nice seeing Fred finding more of a purpose with the team.
All Comments | Link12 | Nathan.TaurusFeb 2, 2010 @ 7:48pm
Connor yawns and Angel and Cordelia lay with Connor talking about chipmuncks ice skating - The only good in this episode.
It was funny that the demons didn't know english and yet could understand most of what Fred was saying. Good makeup for the faces, except the main one.

Also I have to disagree. Even the worst episodes of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' were still usually a fair bit better than the worst episodes of 'Angel'.

I wouldn't rate any episode of 'BtVS' or 'Angel' under 50.
All Comments | Link13 | Nathan.TaurusFeb 2, 2010 @ 7:49pm
Connor yawns and Angel and Cordelia lay with Connor talking about chipmuncks ice skating - The only good in this episode.
It was funny that the demons didn't know english and yet could understand most of what Fred was saying. Good makeup for the faces, except the main one.

Also I have to disagree. Even the worst episodes of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' were still usually a fair bit better than the worst episodes of 'Angel'.

I wouldn't rate any episode of 'BtVS' or 'Angel' under 50.
All Comments | Link14 | ElizabethAug 30, 2010 @ 6:30pm
Don't hate me... but I didn't hate this one either. I realize it is completely worthless in terms of story arc and character development, but I miss the lighthearted stuff. Also, I really enjoy the baby Connor days, before he turns into a little prick. I generally despise that plotline as a whole anyways.
All Comments | Link15 | wattstaxNov 5, 2010 @ 12:48pm
I currently (re)watching bot Buffy and Angel and just saw the episode The Provider. But after seeing it for the first time, I really can't see what is so wrong with it. Granted, it had no deep plot or even important characterization, but I didn't mind the goofiness and it at least got some new material regarding Holtz/Justine.
Actually after watching the episode, I thought that the main critical point would be: 1. sending the No-Fighters Fred and Lorne to a mission without checking up on the demons beforehand and 2. Cordelia even visiting these demons alone, after knowing they are dangerous, and taking baby Connor with her. But non of that was mentioned in the review.
All Comments | Link16 | JaredApr 28, 2011 @ 7:22am
As painful and uncharacteristic of the show as Angel' speech towards the end was, I honestly couldn't give this a failing grade. The dialogue did admittedly often fall a bit flat, but I got a kick out of some of Lorne's lines, Fred is always cute, the Holtz/Justine segment was interesting, and I absolutely loved the closing scene with Angel and Cordelia with the baby. That alone makes me not want to give it a 'fail'. I'd still consider 'She' to have less redeeming qualities than this one did.
All Comments | Link17 | fray-adjacentApr 28, 2011 @ 9:24am
Jared, I agree. There's a lot of Angel episodes I dislike more than this one.
All Comments | Link18 | Morpheus91Jul 7, 2011 @ 4:09am
While certainly not intellectually stimulating at all, at least this was never painful to watch, like some of the worst Buffy episodes were (Beer Bad, for example).
All Comments | Link19 | KeatonOct 4, 2011 @ 5:33am
Yep, very goofy episode and a little bit too goofy for my taste. I wouldn't mind any of it and still enjoy it but Angels behavior bugged me. Normally I don't care about Angel anyway but here his constant whining about money for his son was just too much for me.
But it was still entertaining, especially liked the icky zombie love story and Fred of course.
All Comments | Link20 | KeatonOct 4, 2011 @ 5:39am
And about the message of the episode:
It wasn't really meant seriously, as Dingdongalistic already wrote.
While giving his awkward speech Angel constantly stared at the briefcase and even lost the thread so they indeed just made fun of giving speeches and didn't try to implement some intellectually insulting message for the viewers.
All Comments | Link21 | OzzieOct 10, 2011 @ 5:50am
I do believe that this episode was not that much of a piece of excellence from Season 3 but i still believe it doesn't deserve a F .. because i found the episode i bit funny and "happy" as it was nice to see the Angel Crew in a different setting.. It was in my opinion a C or C-
All Comments | Link22 | RobJan 17, 2012 @ 7:52pm
I agree with Nathan.Taurus about Connor's yawn: exceptional. And I'm not really a baby kind of guy.
All Comments | Link23 | OdonApr 26, 2012 @ 5:50am
1. sending the No-Fighters Fred and Lorne to a mission without checking up on the demons beforehand and 2. Cordelia even visiting these demons alone, after knowing they are dangerous, and taking baby Connor with her.

Regarding Cordy taking the baby with her to save Fred, she didn't have any choice given the amount of people trying to get their hands on it. You can't just call a babysitter. And properly investigating every client - how can they do that without allocating time and resources they don't have?
All Comments | Link24 | SarahNov 26, 2013 @ 6:24pm
Is it sad that this episode has one of my favorite scenes of the entire show in it? I love the scene with Angel and Cordy cuddling with the baby. The rest of the episode was just plain terrible. I wish that scene was in a different episode so I can hate this episode more.
All Comments | Link25 | thebuffsterMar 11, 2015 @ 10:09pm
There's no way that end scene with Angel, Cordy, and Connor on the bed that Angel isn't perfectly happy. Not that I wanted him to lose his soul or anything but that is perfect happiness right there for him.
All Comments | Link26 | KrssvenSep 3, 2015 @ 10:32am
It's been so long, I've forgotten everything about this episode save it has Fred solving a puzzle and one of my favourite scenes with Angel and Cordelia at the end. I don't think Angel is perfectly happy though. Besides the fact that he clearly isn't (or Angelus would've been chomping Cordelia happily instead), in 'Innocence' Jenny's gypsy uncle describes how the curse works: Angel must always suffer, in one sense or another, with the guilt of his crimes. Even when Angel is laughing and joking, he never forgets. I think there's an episode of Angel (it might be 'Apocalypse, Nowish' or another S4 ep) where he mentions that there isn't a moment that goes by that he isn't aware of his guilt in some way. It took falling in love with his soul mate and making love to her to make him achieve a state of pure happiness, trigger the 'clause' in the curse and lose his soul.
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