Props to roder, mirocek, and Polter-Cow.
You know, one of the many reasons I was glad that I recapped this show and not Buffy was that I figured the big stunt episodes they used to do must be hell to recap. Turns out I was right. And now, a little timeline....
A month or two ago: Spoilers surface about Angel turning into a puppet. For some reason, I assume that they'll just give David Boreanaz some kind of freaky makeup job to make him look like a puppet.
Early February: Stills from the episode, revealing the puppet, are online. I show them to Johanna when I realize that they'll be in the promos anyway. And I email them to people who respond with various degrees of astonishment and/or disbelief.
Noon, February 18th: Johanna comes by my office for lunch, and I greet her by saying, "It's puppet day!" Johanna says that while she was getting ready for work that morning, she thought, "Only twelve hours till the puppet!"
8:50 PM: I cue up the VCR while we watch the end of Smallville. Upon seeing Clark race off to the rescue, Johanna observes, "Oooh, he's fast." Okay, it's not relevant, but it amused me.
9:00 PM: Yay! We open with the infectious, xylophonic theme to a children's show called Smile Time. "In our secret backyard/ we can make your day more fun and less hard. No more frowning, let's get learning/ ABCs and 1-2-3-4s./ Everything from words to weather --/ we'll discoooover them togeeeether. (Woof!)" A little boy is watching the show at home, sitting on a couch in his pajamas with a thermometer in his mouth. For the benefit of anyone slow on the uptake, his mother passes through, talking on the phone about how the kid is sick. She takes the thermometer and heads back into the kitchen. As soon as she leaves the room, a puppet named Polo -- a boy with red hair wearing a baseball cap -- steps closer to the camera. Polo holds his hands up as if they're pressing against the TV screen, and peers out as if he's watching the mother, and I'll stop saying "as if" now, because that's exactly what's happening. In a low, gravelly voice, Polo says, "Good, she's gone." Then he turns to the kid, and in a more puppety high-pitched voice, says, "Okay, Tommy, you know what to do!" Tommy hesitates, and Polo accuses him of being a "bad apple" and says that Smile Time isn't free. He suddenly frowns and says, "Now get over here and touch it!" Johanna starts giggling, because she's a pervert. Tommy obediently gets up and walks to the TV. Polo's voice sounds more and more adult as Tommy finally presses his hands on the screen. A glow spreads out from his hands, and Polo moans, er, ecstatically. Tommy's eyes flicker and he collapses. Polo hears the mother approaching and quickly runs back to join his place in the puppet chorus line. Mom returns, and there's a disturbing shot of Tommy lying on the floor with his legs twisted one way and his arms thrown back and his head turned uncomfortably. On his face is a big grin, and his eyes are rolled back so he's looking upward. Yikes.
Credits. I begin to worry that nothing could possibly live up to my expectations at this point. Then I remember that I don't really care if there's a plot or anything, so really, as long as there are plenty of puppet scenes, I'm fine. Then I worry that Angel won't be transformed until near the end of the episode. I tell Johanna, "If he turns into a puppet before the end of the first act, and stays that way for most of the show, I'm giving this an 'A' no matter what else happens."