Season 1 Episode 4

I Fall to Pieces

Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Oct 26, 1999 on The WB
out of 10
User Rating
497 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

As Cordelia and Angel continue the debate over whether or not to charge their clients, Doyle receives a vision of yet another woman in distress. Angel pays a visit to her workplace and learns that the woman is being terrorized by her neurosurgeon who is somehow mysteriously able to watch her every move.moreless

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  • One of the few slight dents in S1's almost perfect quality consistency is "I Fall to

    It's no doubt a solid episode all around and has more entertainment value than an episode like "She", but is kind of a sag in the overall scheme when compared to the preceding episodes. In fact, it's probably the only episode from "City of" to "Expecting" that doesn't really enthrall me. But, there is still some fun to be had so let's look at it.

    First and foremost there's some pretty good dialogue here with Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt behind the writer's pen, and the actual concept of the Ronald Meltzer character shows that a good deal of thought went into this episode. What I liked most about it is how Meltzer's psyche gets the episode to tap into the bigger theme of the entire series: Redemption. And since redemption deals with consequences and the past the parallel drawn between the protagonist and the antagonist hits home both for Angel and the viewer.

    It hit me biggest and best in how Kate described the psychology of a stalker's victim to Angel: "Then you better help her get mad, because that is the only way she'll be able to fight himthis guy could go to jail tomorrow, Angel, and still kill her in her dreams every night. I've put a few of these creeps away and the hardest thing is to know that he is still winning. She's still afraid. He took her power away and no one can get it back for her but My suspicions were confirmed when Angel expertly impersonated a wealthy client at Meltzer's office, asking him: "Do you know what it's like to be so much a part of someone that you don't know where they end and you begin?" And a yes to this can reflect pure, unadulterated love when the sentiment is shared by two people, but when harbored by only one reflects a dangerous obsession. The context in which Angel confronted Meltzer with this statement, and how he responded about his 'love' for Melissa solidified the point of parallel the writers were trying to get across: He is like Angelus.

    Granted; it's no real secret the way it's presented, though if you've never watched BtVS and simply started watching AtS on its own you probably won't get it. But what we have in the character of the good doctor is a man obsessed, his small pool of affection magnified by time and a self-encouraged fantasy. Now, at this time we don't have any of Angel's real back story except for what we've seen in BtVS': Becoming, Part I and: Becoming, Part II. AtS itself doesn't really begin to explore the past all that deeply until later this season with "Somnambulist" and "The Prodigal". So the parallel here is to the Angelus of Buffy S2, a man who was even more obsessed with a girl.

    The similarities are there between Melissa and Buffy as well. These men changed their lives in a big way; destroying them on the inside, filling them with fear. They fear even doing what they used to love, and their trust in people is shattered. Angelus' character, like Meltzer's, was created as a supernatural, metaphorically-based extension of an every day kind of creep, so the existing comparison is fairly easy to see. It's Angel's realization of their similarity that brings it some relevance. "I know how this guy thinks; I just don't know how he's doing

    It's in this understanding that Angel learns how to fight his enemy; it's not about powers. He has to take Kate's advice and teach Melissa to be brave. And much in the same way Buffy could only heal herself by letting go of Angel, removing her fear of destroying Angelus, Melissa too realized that her strength was her stalker's weakness. Watching her stand up to her stalker, and seeing him literally fall apart as a result was a well earned climax to the story, and gave the metaphor some relevance too.

    But, one of the episode's better aspects is also a big weak point. The parallel between the two villains doesn't entirely work. I understand and appreciate the basic concept and the idea of the consequences of Angel's past visiting him in the present, as it usually leads to something interesting on the show. But here, with no personal tie to Angelus, any real impact that could've existed never occurred, in fact, and it seemed almost pointless because it didn't do as much to advance any of the main characters in the way that the previous three episodes did, save for Angel continuing to learn how to save a soul. Melissa's ascension from victim to victor was a bright spot in all this.

    And just like in "Lonely Hearts", we're confronted with a unique type of villain that could not have existed in Buffy's simpler world, but only here in Angel's One who is not a mindless killing automaton, but a flawed and self-conscious being that's capable of feeling its own insufficiency. But, that's where the comparison itself falls apart, as Angelus was a killing automaton, no matter how 'artistic' he was, as he certainly wasn't mindless; but he existed only for pain and death, rather than giving into it as a result of his 'relationship' problems. The only line to be drawn between them is that they were both psychotic, supernatural stalkers.

    I suppose that here the writers were still getting comfortable in a new kind of skin, and as a throwaway episode this isn't all that bad. And it's not as though they didn't learn to get it right, as some of the best episodes in the series feature a scenario like this; "Somnambulist" and "Destiny" are both very good episodes wherein the tortured hero's past and present are explored through his reflection in another. But it just doesn't work that well here.

    However, I did say there were a few positives. The music was pretty good; blended nicely with the epic theme that follows Angel's character into the night was some appropriately shady detective/investigation type sound that suited the creepy atmosphere well. Much of S1 has this musical tone, but since Angel doesn't stay a show permanently focused on the 'detective' concept, this is the only season you're going to really hear it. The plot itself was pretty standard, but once again, the dialogue was sharp and relevant. Both the writing and directing give this episode a very eerie atmosphere and the doctor himself, in his stalking and his disgusting molestation of Melissa was skin-crawlingly creepy, and the maximum effect was well reaped.

    All in all, this episode was good, even if inconsequential, with the possible exception of the further development of the Fang Gang as a close-knit unit; their interactions here were very enjoyable.moreless


    The Good;

    Great horror concept, you could almost imagine a feature film based upon it, some excellent emotional stuff too and as always Cordy brings the funny. My favourite scene is where Meltzer throws his teeth at Angel and then recoils in pain as Angel smashes them against the wall.

    The Bad;

    The severed limbs scenes don't really convince, when you see Thing in The Adams Family it's much better

    Best line:

    Cordy; "Here's this poor girl, she hooks up with a doctor. That's supposed to be a good thing!"

    Jeez, how did they get away with that?

    Virtually all of the Beast with Five Fingers stuff

    Apocalypses: 4

    Angel Cliches

    Damsel in distress; yep, making 2. However, Doyle says there's 4 in total and 3 very much alive, Presumably the girl from City of Angels is the dead one and the girl from In the Dark is another making 2 more we don't see.

    Inverting the Hollywood cliche;

    In disguise; 1. Angel poses as a successful businessman but no disguise

    DB get's his shirt off; not this ep so still 1

    Fang Gang in bondage: no

    Cordy: 5

    Angel: 4

    Wes: 1

    Fang gang knocked out: all of them

    Cordy: 7

    Angel: 7

    Wes: 1

    Doyle; 1


    Cordy: none this ep. 3 vamps, a demon from her time in Sunnydale

    Angel: 1 human for Angel. So that gives Angel 8 vamps, 2 demons, 2 humans.

    Fang Gang go evil:

    Cordy: 1

    Angel: 1

    Alternate Fang Gang:

    Cordy: 1

    Angel: 3

    Characters killed: the poor cop Kate sends to guard the building


    Total number of Angel Investigations:

    3, Angel, Doyle and Cordy

    Angel Investigations shot: Angel with the tranquiliser gun (as with Dopplegangland in Buffy why not use that to knock vamps out then cut their heads off?)

    Angel: 5,

    Notches on Fang Gang bedpost:

    Cordy: 1?

    Angel: 1;Buffy

    Kinky dinky:

    What the heck do Meltzer's hands do under the sheets?

    Captain Subtext;

    Doyle admits that Angel holds a certain attraction to him

    Know the face, different character; 1

    Andy Umberger who plays Dr Meltzer is also D'Hoffryn on Buffy.

    Parking garages; seemingly a staple of the series, one here and in COA


    Questions and observations;

    This is the 4th ep of the series and we're told that Cordy has been working for him for a month so this suggests the series is in real time, one ep per week. Angel drinks coffee now, presumably to keep him up for his cases as he told Joyce he didn't drink it in The Prom. Isn't it a bit unpatriotic for Doyle to drink Scotch, shouldn't he drink whiskey with an e? Cordy gives the Angel Investigations motto 'We help the hopeless'. Oddly here Cordy 'Scullys' Angel, suggesting a non-supernatural solution. He's actually open to the suggestion but points out correctly that Doyle has a vision. Angel just appears to be able to walk into Kate's police station no problem at all. Meltzer actually shows a lot of compassion for Angel's story of his wife. I don't know if it's deliberate but Scrubs has a character called Dr Zeltzer who's also a major weirdo and even looks quite like Dr Meltzer.

    It's noticeable that at this stage of Angel the supernatural underworld is just that, it's not out in the open as it will be later, we're still dealing with the everyday clashing with the incredible.

    Marks out of 5; 4/5 one of the classic eps of season 1

  • Aaahh!!! Real Teeth Monsters!

    One of the most loathed episodes by fans, I actually really like I Fall to Pieces.

    Many fans and critics criticized the first season as they were mostly demon-of-the-week stories with more emphasis being put on the guest stars than on the actual main cast.

    I actually loved the first season and loved how the series was essentially a supernatural take on the detective show, with Angel Investigations protecting damsels in distress from inventive bad guys.

    I Fall to Pieces centers around a young woman, Melissa Burns, who is being stalked by her ex, the sinister Dr Meltzer. Unknown to Melissa, Dr Meltzer has the ability to remove his limbs at will, leading him to detach his eye to watch her constantly and to detach his hands to crawl into her bed.

    The episode is quite voyeuristic and the scene where Dr Meltzer's detatched hands pleasure Melissa whilst she is sleeping is just plain disturbing.

    However, the episode takes a sudden detour toward the end, with I Fall to Pieces becoming unintentionally hilarious due to the "killer detatched teeth" scene. I mean, c'mon, what was that?

    The rest of the final scene is excellent though, with Doyle getting dragged into the basement by Dr Meltzer's hand and Dr Meltzer, literally, falling to pieces before having his head sliced off.

    Andy Umberger gives an underplayed, sinister performance as the creepy Dr Meltzer and Tushka Bergen is also excellent as this episode's victim-of-the-week. There is also some wonderful interplay between Cordelia and Doyle and the former gets most of the best lines.

    Ignore the fans who hate this episode, it's a fun, creepy and effective hour which is guaranteed to freak you out.

    Director: Vern Gillum

    Teleplay: David Greenwalt

    Story: Joss Whedon, David Greenwalt

    Rating: Amoreless
  • The one with the floating eyeball.

    Beyond the fact that this is perhaps my second least favorite episode, I don't honestly know what to say. The girl is genuine, it was a good save, she was a walk-in so no help from the Powers, and yet the doctor was working some mojo so it had a nice little mystical edge.

    I think I reacted badly to Doyle hitting on Melissa, since he's full-on for Cordelia in the next episode, and I'm not entirely certain he isn't also on some level crushing on Angel, so make up your *mind*, dude.

    Cordy's getting the office fixed up a little, so that's pleasant.

    The thing I really cannot get over about hating this episode is that damn' floating *eye*.

    Sure he's mystical. Sure he may have learned the power of levitation -- [doubtfully] I guess [/doubtfully]. I mean, Willow could levitate stuff almost right away, so I guess it's *sort* of possible.

    But I really don't like it. He's a surgeon. Even if he'd trained in the discipline of disassembling himself, that *alone* feels like something he'd never have the courage to do. Surgeons treat their hands like Stradivari. He'd always have some nagging suspicion that the hand wouldn't reattach. I don't see him pursuing this discipline to begin with.

    And to use this power to stalk this woman and invade her home. I mean, once you subsume ego to the extent you must in order to get very far with Eastern mysticism, you really don't become a stalker.

    So there's this deep mind-body-spirit power that feels grafted onto a spiritual lout, and let's be honest with ourselves, obsession is one thing, but I'm pretty sure he'd be able to find someone who would love him back. The "one thing you can't have" angle is solid enough as a cliche, as is the arrogant "but of course you want me, my sensibilities are offended by the mere possibility that you do not" but it's deeply childish.

    So this is a difficult character to get my head around and he feels like a villian someone made up for a television program. And frankly, once you get past the initial horror of realizing there's a spare part in bed with you, it's easy enough to put a knife through it, or to catch it in a net.

    Very little love for this episode.

    P.S. -- Oh btw, Angel shouldn't be able to be poisoned. He just shouldn't. I didn't like it in Buffy, and I don't like it here. He has no functioning circulatory system, and standard neurotoxins shouldn't do anything to him since he's already a walking corpse, and I disapprove of his having any reaction at all to the injection.

    Also, a *doctor* developed something, for working with animals, that will "slow your heart until it stops altogether"? *Puppy!* :omoreless
  • 'What is stalking nowadays, like, the third most popular sport among men?'

    ‘I Fall To Pieces’ is a very well written episodes with some creep factors, good storylines and hilarious character interactions (mostly between Doyle and Cordelia).

    It begins with Doyle and Cordelia talking about Angel and about starting with charging people, they are both going to stand up to Angel and make him charge people. Doyle then dozes off when he talks about Angel, he obviously has a little crush on him. Then comes Angel but they can’t stand up, Doyle then has a vision and Angel goes to save the girl and has a good exit. Doyle then admits to be a little attracted.

    Melissa is the victim in this episode, a girl who is being stalked by a doctor and he can see every move she makes. He knows what she does and everything. He also changes her pin number and after that, she goes to meet up Angel for help. Nobody understands how he sees her, turns out he can take out his body parts and an eyeball watches her change and take off her clothes (naughty doctor!)

    While Doyle keeps a watch on Melissa and tells her that she will be jumping off a bridge after being helped by Angel in no time, Angel visits Kate for help and she says that Melissa has to do the fighting, because Ronald took her power away and now the only thing a woman like her can feel is helpless.

    Angel goes to the doctor and he wants him to help him, Angel says he has a wife who needs help with an operation that nobody could do. After that, Angel steels a book of a man who used to talk about this and he visits him, the guy says that Ronald was different and that he stopped teaching after he completely believed what he was telling.

    When a cop is guarding Melissa’s house, he sees Ronald and makes him put his hands up but he doesn’t have hands. The hands are under Melissa’s covers and she begins to scream. The cop goes to help her but he gets attacked from behind and chocked to death by the hands. Angel comes to help her and Ronald sees them together and is furious.

    Doyle is afraid that Ronald may want to kill them because they are standing in the way. But Angel takes Melissa over to his place and he tells her that she has to be strong and that Ronald needs her to be stronger, without her she’s nothing so she has all the power to beat him. When Angel goes to Ronald, he gets shot by something that would kill an animal but since Angel is already dead it doesn’t affect him much.

    Ronald goes to Angel’s place where he knocks Doyle and Cordy unconscious. When he tries to take Melissa’s power away she says that he needs her and that she would never want to be with him because he’s a freak/ Ronald begins to fall apart and when Angel arrives, he beats Ronald into little pieces and puts them in different boxes. He saved Melissa, the next day she comes for the bill and gives him money and hopes to never see him again. Cordelia wants more money so she wants Doyle to have another vision.

    ‘I Fall To Pieces’ was a great episode, it had a lot of comedy but also horror. Yet another reason why this show is so powerful and well done.

Tushka Bergen

Tushka Bergen

Melissa Burns

Guest Star

Andy Umberger

Andy Umberger

Doctor Ronald Meltzer

Guest Star

Carlos Carrasco

Carlos Carrasco

Doctor Vinpur Narpudan

Guest Star

Elisabeth Rohm

Elisabeth Rohm

Detective Kate Lockley

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (4)

    • Dr Meltzer may have perfected some way of being able to detach and reattach his body parts, but it's all based on some medical technology and a little psychic surgery that he's perfected. Nothing in his research would allow his eyes to float around unattached. He's not supposed to be supernatural, just a nasty piece of work with a skill he's refined.

    • In the opening scene the invoice Cordelia is holding switches hands between shots.

    • Angel drinks coffee despite a comment he made to Joyce Summers in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "The Prom" that he didn't drink it because it makes him jittery.

    • When the doctor enters Angel's apartment and rejoins with his floating eye, the floating eye is clearly a different color than his other eye. After he blinks both eyes are the same.

  • QUOTES (29)

    • Angel: He's killing now.
      Doyle: Anyone that stands between him and his obsession. Don't we stand between him and his obsession?

    • Angel: I'm not comfortable asking people for money.
      Cordelia: Then get over it!

    • (Cordelia and Doyle cough)
      Angel: Uh, um, it's...
      Melissa: What?
      Angel: There's, uh, a bill.
      Melissa: Bill who?
      Angel: A bill... for my services.

    • Cordelia: See? You can save a damsel and make decent money. Is this a great country or what!?

    • Cordelia: Oh goody, recycled coffee. My personal favorite.

    • Melissa: Angel was right. You're weak.
      Ronald: I'm weak? Then how was it I killed him?
      (door slides open to reveal Angel)
      Angel: Inefficiently.
      Ronald: (to Angel) You can't be alive. You-You're not human!
      Melissa: You should talk.

    • Cordelia: What if Angel doesn't come back?
      Doyle: Ah, he'll be back.
      Cordelia: What if Dr. Chopped Salad shows up before he does?

    • Cordelia: Steel boxes? Why would you want.... oh. For packing up people parts. You know, this job. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful to have it, god knows it's educational and all, but sometimes.

    • Melissa: Thanks. You guys have been really kind, listening to me, and ... (drinks) It's terrible.
      Doyle: We're gonna take care of that.
      Melissa: No, I mean the coffee.

    • Angel: You don't have to be afraid.
      Melissa: You're just duct taping me in for fun?

    • Doyle: Whoa!
      Cordelia: I was just trying to fix your collar.
      Doyle: What say we leave it crooked until this thing is resolved.

    • Doyle: Not a lot of things make me shudder. But this guy? Crawling around under the covers? At least it was just his hands down there... I wish I hadn't even thought that.

    • Kate: This guy could go to jail tomorrow, Angel, and still kill her in her dreams every night. I've put a few of these creeps away, and the hardest part is knowing that he's still winning. She's still afraid. He took this girl's power away, and nobody can get it back for her but her.

    • Doyle: (looks at a picture) Is that you?
      Melissa: Uh... yeah. Bungee jumping.
      Doyle: Ah, I've always meant to do that, but I intensely don't want to so... I haven't gotten around to it... yet.

    • Cordelia: Okay, flesh. Anytime you want to stop crawling is okay with me.

    • Melissa: I said Penny! I was very clear on the phone. I spelled it with letters!

    • Cordelia: What am I missing?
      Doyle: Not a thing I can see.

    • Angel: What is this?
      Cordelia: Last week's coffee. Think of it as... espresso!
      Angel: (drinks) I think my esophagus is melting.

    • Melissa: I guess Angel has handled a lot of cases like this.
      Doyle: Dozens. Hundreds. Dozens of hundreds.
      Melissa: Wow, it happens that often?
      Doyle: Well, exactly like yours? Not so many. But protecting young women such as yourself? Yeah, they've been...four. And three of them are very much alive!

    • Cordelia: What did you put in her tea?
      Doyle: Enough whiskey to drop my Aunt Judy. And that woman had some girth.
      Cordelia: What's the point?
      Doyle: Well, it tastes good, and it relaxes you.
      Cordelia: No, I mean of ever going out with anyone.
      Doyle: Well, people need people. And people who need people...are the luckiest p...
      Cordelia: Either you like them, and they don't like you. Or you can't stand them, which just guarantees that they're going to hover around and never go away.
      Doyle: I hate guys like that.

    • Cordelia: I mean, it is just so unfair! This poor girl, she hooks up with a doctor — that's supposed to be a good thing. I mean, you should be able to call home and say, "Hey, Mom, guess what? I met a doctor!" Not, "Guess what? I met a psycho and he's stalking me and oh, by the way, his hands and feet come off and he's not even in the circus!"

    • Cordelia: I know Angel's been working day and night to help people fight their personal demons, but I need a raise.
      Doyle: A raise? You've been working for him for what, like twenty minutes?
      Cordelia: A month. And I have needs.
      Doyle: Needs.
      Cordelia: A person needs certain...designer...things.
      Doyle: Personally, I don't think you need much in the way of clothes.

    • Kate: Wolfram and Hart. You know the name?
      Angel: I've heard it.
      Kate: Yeah. They're the law firm that Johnnie Cochran is too ethical to join.

    • Cordelia: What is stalking nowadays, like the third most popular sport among men?
      Angel: Fourth, after luge.

    • Cordelia: (to Doyle) Well, you're smarter than you look. Of course, you look like a retard.

    • Cordelia: We need more of these now. Have a vision.
      Doyle: I can't just perform on demand.
      Cordelia: We need the clients. Have a vision.
      Doyle: That money has corrupted you.
      Cordelia: If I hit you on the head, will you have a vision?
      Doyle: Get away from me. You're insane.
      Cordelia: Am not. Now will you have a vision?

    • Doyle: Let's march down to the bank right now and deposit this beauty.
      Angel: You guys go on. I think I'll stay here and not burst into flames.
      Doyle: Oh, right, you're pretty much the night deposit guy.

    • Angel: Am I intimidating? I mean, do I put people off?
      Cordelia: Well, as vampires go, you're pretty cuddly. Maybe you might want to think about mixing up the black-on-black look.

    • (talking about Angel)
      Doyle: He likes playing the hero. Walking off into the dark, his long coat flowing behind him in that mysterious and attractive way.
      Cordelia: Is this a private moment? 'Cuz I could leave you alone.
      Doyle: I'm not saying I'm attracted...
      (later, as Angel leaves the building, walking off into the dark, his long coat flowing behind him)
      Maybe I'm a little attracted.

  • NOTES (6)

    • The courtyard of Melissa's apartment building will later be used for the courtyard of the Hyperion Hotel starting with Season 2.

    • In this episode, Christopher Hart plays the disembodied hand. It's basically his way of life - he also played the role of "Thing" (the disembodied hand) in The Addams Family movies and the evil hand in the movie Idle Hands.

    • This episode was originally a BtVS script, but the producers decided it was more fitting to Angel's style.

    • This is one of the first accounts of Angel murdering a human (Dr. Meltzer) in order to help someone, establishing that the moral line between good and evil on Angel is not as defined as the one on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

    • The title "I Fall To Pieces" was a hit song by Patsy Cline in 1962.
      In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Prophecy Girl" (1x12), Xander listened to this song in his room after Buffy refused to go to a dance with him.

    • Andy Umberger, who played Ronald, is one of the few actors who Joss Whedon refers to as "hat trick" actors (meaning that they've appeared on all three of his TV series). Mr. Umberger also played the demon D'Hoffryn in four episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the captain of the Dortmunder in the pilot episode of Firefly.


    • Doyle: Well, people need people, and people who need people are the luckiest...
      This is a line from the song "People" from the 1968 movie Funny Girl.

    • Ronald: I mean your name is not really Jensen. You don't have a wife. What a tangled web, eh?
      "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive" is from the poem "Marmion: a Tale of Flodden Field," written by Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832).