“Second Power” [PG-13] – 5/8

“SECOND POWER”

PART FIVE

The words reverberated inside Olivia’s mind.

“O eternal Goddess, Maiden, Mother and Crone, I am made from your flesh and you know me better than I know myself.” 

Her eyes firmly shut, Olivia become attuned to the forces surrounding her. Forces that radiated from her body.

“You understand depression, frustration, and anxiety. Please help me to control these emotions, and help me to convert these powerful feelings into love.”

Now other forces captured her attention. They seemed to have originated from another dimension. Filled with magic and wonder.

“O eternal God, King of infinite wisdom and goodness, I am created from your essence, and I thank you for the gift of life.”

A long tunnel appeared before Olivia. At the end, a bright light illuminated. She slowly made her way toward the light, while the chant continued filling her mind.

“Please teach me to be patient and humble, tolerant and gentle, especially when life’s problems become heavy and difficult to bear. So Mote It Be.”

Finally, she reached the end of the tunnel and stepped forward. Olivia emerged into the bright light and found herself in a whole new world. One that seemed filled with wonders and enchantment.

* * * *

Leo and Piper appeared in the hallway, outside Olivia’s apartment. Both heaved sighs of relief. The whitelighter raised his hand and rang the doorbell. Seconds passed and no one answered. Keeping his frustration in check, Leo knocked, this time.

“Maybe Paige was wrong and she’s not home,” Piper commented. She looked eager to leave.

Shaking his head, Leo replied, “No, she’s home. I thought I heard something.”

“Then why doesn’t she . . .?”

Ignoring his wife, Leo knocked once more. When Olivia failed to answer, he and Piper exchanged worried glances. Then the whitelighter closed his eyes in another attempt to sense some kind of presence inside the apartment. “Oh my God,” he murmured.

Piper frowned. “What?”

“Something’s going on in there. I don’t know what. Hold on. I’m going to orb us inside.”

After Piper grabbed Leo’s hand, he orbed out of the hallway. The moment he and Piper appeared inside Olivia’s living room, they were met with a shocking surprise. The couple found everything hovering inches off the floor. Including Olivia, who squatted in Yoga position. Within seconds, both Leo and Piper were also hovering.

“Oh my God!” Piper cried out. “Le-eee-eo-ooo!” While her bulky figure hovered in the air, she waved her arms about. “How in the hell do we get down?”

Unfortunately, Leo was in no position to help his wife. Not while he was floating ten inches off the floor. Even worse, he could not orb. Olivia. He must get through to Olivia. Leo called out his friend’s name. To no avail. The red-haired witch remained in a trance. He tried once more. “Olivia! O-liiv-vee-ah!

* * * *

Something that faintly resembled a voice, echoed in Olivia’s subconscious. It was only a glimmer, but loud enough to interrupt this new spiritual exploration. After a silent pause, Olivia happily resumed her meditation. Then the voice returned. “Olivia.”Was someone calling her? And why was someone trying to pull her from this alternate dimension? Because quite frankly, she had no desire to leave. “Olivia! OLIVIA!” Finally, she recognized the voice’s owner. Leo. Olivia finally snapped out of her trance and returned to her old world.

She slowly opened her eyes and found everything inside her apartment living room, floating in mid-air. Including Leo, Piper and herself. Olivia let out a gasp. Objects started falling toward the floor. And the couple screamed. Using her telekinesis, Olivia again levitated both the objects and the bodies, before slowly lowering them to the floor. She tried to be as gentle as possible with Piper. Once the pair reached the floor, Olivia cast them anxious looks. “God, I’m sorry! Are you guys, okay?”

Leo let out a gust of breath. “Yeah, I’m . . .” He frowned. “I’m fine. What happened? Has your telekinesis developed?” The whitelighter helped his wife to her feet. Then he helped Olivia. “I don’t recall you ever doing that before.”

Olivia shrugged. “It was probably the meditation. Remember, Harry once read one of Phoebe’s premonitions while he was meditating. And they both were miles apart, at the time.”

“Try it again.”

Before Olivia could make the attempt, Piper interrupted. “Uh, before you do, would you mind if I step outside?”

A small smile tugged Olivia’s lips. “Perhaps I should try it another time. So,” her smile disappeared, “what do I owe the pleasure of your company? And what are you doing inside my apartment? Without my permission?”

“Uh, Leo?” Piper shot her husband an uneasy glance. “I think you should answer this.”

The whitelighter squirmed under Olivia’s direct stare. “Uh . . . well, it’s like this. You didn’t answer, when I rang the doorbell.”

“So?”

“C’mon Olivia! I thought something was happening to you!” Leo protested. “I could sense your presence inside and you didn’t answer. So . . . we . . .” He glanced at Piper, “I thought it was best to orb in right away. Just in case.”

Nodding, Olivia said. “Okay. I guess you had every right. Next question. Why are the Elders so interested in my relationship with Cole? Has this something to do with my new power?”

This time, the whitelighter hesitated. “Well, as a matter of fact . . .”

A long dry sigh escaped Olivia’s mouth. “Awwww, I knew it! Good grief! I should have known they wouldn’t be able to keep their damn noses out of my business!”

“Olivia! They’re very concerned, and quite frankly, I don’t blame them! You now have a strong firepower. And a powerful – almost invincible – demon is helping you control it. That’s a pretty dangerous combination!”

Olivia rolled her eyes. “Really? And what exactly do you think Cole is going to do? Lure me to the demonic world? Into evil? Hell, I don’t need his help to do that! And neither would anyone else!”

“I don’t know about that,” Piper commented coolly. “My sisters and I aren’t exactly inclined toward . . . the dark side.”

Shooting a contemptuous look at the Charmed One, Olivia coolly retorted, “I wouldn’t sell myself short if I were you, honey.” Piper’s face turned red.

“Look Olivia,” Leo continued, “I realize that you consider Cole . . .” He paused, as another frown flitted across his face. “Wait a minute! Why are you letting Cole train you in the first place? Paige told us that you two were not spea . . .”

The doorbell rang, interrupting Leo. Olivia strode toward the door. A quick glance through the peephole revealed Cole standing in the hallway. Speak of the devil. She opened the door and drawled, “Well, look who’s here. Cole.”

The half-daemon greeted her coolly. “Olivia. Are you ready for . . .?” His eyes fell upon the two visitors inside the apartment. Cole paused. “Oh. Leo. Piper. What are you two doing here?”

“Actually, we should be asking you that question,” Leo shot back, hostility brimming in his voice. “Since Olivia is my charge and I’m her whitelighter, I couldn’t help but wonder why ‘you’ are helping her with this new power.”

The combination of a sneer and a smirk marred Cole’s handsome face. “One, she’s your former charge. And if you had been around more often, instead of meeting every half hour with your masters, maybe you would have found the time to help Olivia.”

Leo’s face turned red with anger. Even Piper seemed upset by Cole’s remark. “Hey!” she protested. “Leo is only doing his job!”

“And what exactly is that?”

The whitelighter made a threatening step toward the half-daemon, before either Olivia or Piper could stop him. “And what are you doing here?” Leo accused. “Last I heard, Olivia had been avoiding you for nearly two weeks! And now you decided to pop back into her life, the moment her second power manifested!”

Olivia began uneasily, “Uh, Leo . . .”

“What?” Leo rounded on his former charge. “Are you telling me that you never found it odd that Cole suddenly became interested in helping you with your new power, after you two spent two weeks not speaking to each? And what happened to the witch who was supposed to help you?”

The uneasy memory of Margot Palmer’s flight, flashed in Olivia’s mind. “Well, about Margot . . .”

“What about her? What happened to her? Did Cole frightened her away? Suddenly offered to help you in her place? I wonder why?” Leo glared at Cole. “Maybe the Elders have a right to be . . .”

Cole waved his hand at Leo. Who immediately transformed into a mini tape recorder. The half-daemon picked it – Leo – from the floor and pushed the STOP button.

“What the hell?” Piper cried out.

Olivia shot her neighbor a warning glance. “Cole . . .”

“He wouldn’t stop talking,” Cole protested with a shrug. “I had to shut him up some way.”

Piper demanded angrily, “TURN HIM BACK! NOW!!”

“I will,” Cole replied casually. “If you promise to keep him quiet.”

The Charmed One raised her hands in a threatening manner. “Turn him back now, Cole! Or I will . . .”

“You’ll do what?”

Dark eyes slitted dangerously, Piper hissed through clenched teetch, “I’ll make you wish you had never returned from the Wasteland! Don’t forget that I’m carrying a very powerful baby!”

“Powerful enough to hurt me?” Cole’s blue eyes flashed in a challenging manner. “Wanna give it a shot?”

Piper made a threatening move forward. At that moment, Olivia decided to step between the two hostiles. “That’s enough!” she bellowed. “I’m not in the mood for a supernatural smackdown! Not in my place!” She faced Cole. “Will you please do as Piper asked and transform Leo back to his normal self?”

Cole let out a sigh. Then he dropped the recorder on the floor with a casual thud, garnering a cold glare from said recorder’s wife. With a wave of his hand, he transformed Leo back into the latter’s original form. The whitelighter opened his mouth to speak and the rest were greeted with silence.

Olivia glared at the half-daemon. “Cole! His voice!”

“Oh. Right.” Cole waved his hand once more and restored Leo’s voice.

The angry-looking whitelighter opened his mouth, but Olivia spoke first. “Leo, don’t. You’re back to normal. And I suggest you accept that and move on. As for Cole training me – well, he did offer his help. But only after Harry had talked him into it. Besides, Margot wasn’t really doing much for me.”

“But Olivia! You could have summoned me,” Leo protested. “I am your whitelighter . . . okay, your former whitelighter! And a close friend.”

Olivia sighed. “Oh Leo! Cole came to me before I could summon you. And let’s face it, you’re rather hard to get hold of.” She glanced away. “You always have – especially during the last four years or so. Just be glad that Cole has been very helpful.”

“Yeah, I’m really glad,” Leo muttered darkly.

“Leo . .”

But the whitelighter would not be appeased. He grabbed Piper’s hand and added, “I’ll see you later, Olivia. Both Leo and Piper shot one last glare at Cole, before they orbed out of the apartment.

An uneasy silence settled between the remaining couple. Cole opened his mouth to speak. “Don’t say anything, Cole,” Olivia retorted first. “Don’t say another damn word!”

“What? Look, I’m sorry,” the half-daemon began. “I just . . .”

“I understand perfectly what was going through your mind,” was Olivia’s acid reply. “I realize that you’re still pissed at what the Halliwells did to you nearly a year ago, Cole. But you really need to get over it. You can’t bear a grudge forever.”

Cole’s mouth formed a moue. “What do you want me to do? Apologize to Leo?”

“I’d say it’s a bit late for that. At least now.”

A frustrated sigh left Cole’s mouth. “Oh well. Even if I had offered an apology, I doubt that Leo would have accepted it.”

“Hmmph,” Olivia grunted. “Can’t say that I blame him.”

Again, Cole sighed. “Oh God! Olivia, if this is about what happened at that New Year’s party . . .”

“I really don’t want to talk about it, Cole,” Olivia shot back, interrupting him. Vivid blue eyes pleaded with her. She glanced away. “Not now.”

Cole responded with a nervous cough. “Of course. Um, ready for more training?”

Olivia nodded. She allowed Cole to gently take her arm and the pair disappeared.

* * * *

The entire Elders Council stared at Leo with disbelief. Shock. Elder Sylvester leaned forward. “Do you mean to say that you’ve allowed Belthazor to . . . you allowed that demon to train the witch on her new firepower?”

Leo stifled a frustrated sigh. Barely maintaining his composure, he corrected the elder. “I didn’t . . . I never suggested that Cole help Olivia control her power. In fact, I’ve been trying to get hold of her all week. Only . . .”

“Only what?” Sylvester demanded in a chilly voice.

“It was Harry McNeill who talked Cole into helping Olivia,” Leo continued. “Before I found out about it. And I’ve been in Boston, helping another charge.” The whitelighter paused momentarily, as he considered his next words. “I’ve also discovered that Cole has been taking Olivia to another dimension. Which one, I don’t know.”

Elder MacKenzie’s face turned red. “WHAT???”

“I don’t think it was a demonic dimension,” Leo assured the council members.

Her eyes expressing despair, Elder Mathilda muttered, “Oh no.”

Leo quickly added, “I don’t think that Cole would chance taking Olivia to a demonic dimension. And Beltha . . . uh, Cole seems to be doing a good job in hel . . .”

Elder Sylvester’s face hardened. “This is not good, Leo. It’s bad enough that witches like the McNeills are willing to consort with warlocks and demons like Belthazor. But to have him train a powerful witch like the middle child, control her firepower . . .” He sighed heavily. “Clean up this mess, Leo. Now! The two of them together might prove to be a dangerous threat to us all.”

“But why?” Leo demanded. “How? Olivia hasn’t been my charge in years! I can understand Cole being a threat. But he and Olivia – together? Why?”

All of the Elders gave him a stern look. MacKenzie added pointedly, “You have your orders, Leo. I suggest that you carry them out.”

* * * *

Seconds later, Leo shuffled out of the Elders’ chamber, his mind in a daze. How on earth did they expect him to break up Olivia and Cole’s relationship? Order her to stay away from the half-demon? Olivia would only laugh in his face. Or sneer.

Leo recalled Paige’s words about some estrangement between the couple. Something to do with a New Year’s party. His last encounter with Olivia and Cole had not hinted any estrangement. Well, there had been a touch of coolness between the two. Leo wondered if they had reconciled their differences. Or merely putting it aside in face of Olivia’s current crisis. If it was the latter . . .

“Ah! Leo! There you are!” A voice cried out, interrupting Leo’s thoughts. He immediately recognized one of his fellow whitelighters, a Russian woman named Natalia Stepanova. Born into a wealthy St. Petersburg family in the 19th century, she had been killed during one of those revolutionary outbreaks that had plagued Russian cities during the latter half of that century.

The Russian-born whitelighter appeared at Leo’s side, grabbing one of his arms. “Natalia! What are you . . .?”

“I heard about your friend,” Natalia continued, “and her new power.”

Leo rolled his eyes. “Good grief! I bet that the entire realm knows! ‘There goes Leo! Not only does one of his former charges have a firepower, but she’s also cavorting with a demon. The same demon who had once been his brother-in-law!’

“Ah, yes. Olivia McNeill.” The dark-haired whitelighter nodded. “I am familiar with her distant cousin.” She added sadly, “Or should I say, I was familiar with him.”

Leo frowned. “Was?”

Natalia continued, “Keith McNeill. The Laird of Dunleith. He died about a week or two ago, of pneumonia. Like your Olivia, he was a powerful fire witch.” She sighed wistfully. “I miss him already. Did you know that he had introduced me to Scotch malt whiskey. Such a charming man!”

“Wait, he was a fire witch?”

The Russian-born woman nodded. “Yes, very powerful. He was not exactly on friendly terms with most of the whitelighters. Too much of a non-conformist. And he believed that we did not have the right to have authority over witches.”

Leo muttered, “Sounds like a true McNeill.”

“Oh yes. Keith did not share the Elders’ view on good, evil, daemons and such,” Natalia added. “It was one of the reasons the Elders considered him a threat.”

The young whitelighter’s eyes grew wide with shock. “They considered him a threat?”

“Yes. For that reason. And . . .” Natalia glanced around surreptiously. “Have you ever heard of the Staff of Aingeal?”

Leo frowned. “The what? What are you talking about?”

Natalia began, “It is the . . .”

“Natalia!” A third whitelighter strode toward the pair. “You are wanted in the chamber.”

Sighing, the Russian whitelighter waved at her other colleague. “I am coming.” She turned to Leo. “I think you better ask the McNeills about it.” She patted his arm. “They could probably tell you everything.” Then she walked away.

END OF CHAPTER FIVE

“ANGEL” RETROSPECTIVE: (5.15) “A Hole in the World”

Below is a look into (5.15) “A Hole in the World”, a Season Five episode from “ANGEL” 

“ANGEL” RETROSPECTIVE: (5.15) “A Hole in the World”

Written and directed by Joss Whedon, the Season Five episode, (5.15) “A Hole in the World”, centered on the death of one of the series’ regulars, Winifred “Fred” Burkle. The slow road to her death began when a Wolfram and Hart employee named Knox accepts the delivery of a sarcophagus. When Fred touches one of the crystals that cover the lid, a puff of dusty air is released, making her cough. Later, she eventually starts coughing up blood before collapsing.

It turns out that by touching one of the sarcophagus’ crystals, Fred becomes infected by the spirit of an ancient demon named Illyria. The entire crew searches for a cure, but give up hope when Spike and Angel discover that the only way to save Fred’s life would kill thousands of people. Wesley Wyndham-Pryce tries to comfort Fred as she dies and eventually witnesses the emergence of Illyria.

”A Hole in the World” was a very interesting episode that replayed the same issue from various ”BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” episodes like (3.19)”Choices” and 5.22)”The Gift” and ”ANGEL” episodes like (3.16)”Sleep Tight” – namely the task of making a choice for the need of the few or the many. And the choice that Angel had to make was whether to save Fred from death and the growing influences of a demon that had infected her body, or to ensure that the world would remain safe. Angel chose the world over his friend. And judging from the reactions on the forums when the episode first aired, not many agreed with his choice. I did not condemn Angel’s choice. I believe that he had made the right one . . . just as Buffy had made the right choice for her in ”The Gift”. It did not really matter if the needs of the many were more important than the needs of the few, or vice versa. What mattered was that each person had to make the choice that was more important to his or her heart. For Buffy, Dawn was more important to her; and for Angel, sparing the world from destruction. Or perhaps being a champion was more important to Angel. However, if the choice had been between . . . say . . . Connor and the world; I suspect that Angel would have chosen Connor.

Angel’s decision proved to be some of an irony for Wesley. His reaction to Fred’s death in the following episode, (5.16) “Shells” certainly proved this. After all, I am talking about the ”King of Tough Choices”. This was the same man who felt it was more important to prevent Mayor Wilkins from getting his hands on the Book of Ascension than saving Willow’s life in the”BUFFY” episode, ”Choices”. He was also willing to risk the lives of rebellious Pyleans for a successful revolution in the”ANGEL” episode (2.22) “There’s No Place Like Plrtz Glrb”. And in ”Sleep Tight”, he risked his friendship with Angel and the others in order to prevent said vampire from killing his infant son, because of a prophecy. Considering his past history, one can only ponder over his reactions to the circumstances that led to Fred’s death.

And speaking of Fred, what about her choices? One has to admit that many of her choices have led her to this point – a slow death and demonic possession. Fred chose to leave her home in San Antonio in order to attend college in Southern California. This decision put her in the path of Professor Siedel. And her curiosity caused her to open a book that led to five years of bondage in Pylea. After being rescued by Angel Investigations, she made the decision not to follow her parents back to Texas. Instead, she bound her fate with the souled vampire and his companions. This, in turn, led to her employment with Wolfram and Hart . . . and her death by the end of this episode. I have one question – why did Fred open the sarcophagus without first doing any research on it? I must have missed the scene. If so, this only proves to me that Fred never really had a healthy respect for the spiritual and the supernatural, despite her five years in Pylea and three years with Angel Investigations. She has always had a tendency to treat anything supernatural as a science experiment. And in doing so, she may have paid the price for her attitude. It is not surprising that Wesley angrily cursed her curiosity.

I also wanted to touch upon a few other points about this episode:

*While Eve was trying to hide from the Senior Partners, I bet she must have been wondering what kind of situation her love for Lindsey had brought her.

*I could not help but wonder if Fred upchucking blood over Wes was a metaphor or sign of the tragic death that overtook Wesley in the series finale.

*Angel and Spike were quickly becoming quite the screen team by this episode. I enjoyed watching our favorite vamps’ relationship progress from polite antagonism to mutual grief over Angel’s decision. I also enjoyed Spike’s “hole-in-the-world” speech. Very poignant.

*There is an old saying that if you do not have anything nice to say about something or someone, say nothing at all. Considering my opinionated nature, I could not hold back my opinion on the Wesley/Fred romance of Season Five. Watching them share a kiss following their victory over a demon around the beginning of this episode, reminded me of the early stages of Buffy and Riley’s romance in the middle of Season 4 for ”BUFFY”. Wesley and Fred led me to conclude that watching a 30-something man and a 20-something woman act like teenagers in love seemed a little sad . . . and very saccharine.

Does anyone remember the Season Four episode, (4.16) “Players” and the conversation between Wesley and Fred in that episode? I do. In it, Fred had expressed her disgust over the Connor/Cordelia affair. When Wesley tried to make her to understand what would lead those two to have an affair, the conversation eventually drifted toward Wesley’s affair with Wolfram and Hart attorney, Lilah Morgan. Not only did Fred failed to understand Wesley’s lack of disgust over Connor and Cordelia, she could not understand how he could have become involved with Lilah in the first place. And that is how the conversation (and scene) ended . . . with Fred at a loss over Wesley’s attitude. I cannot say what was going through Wes’ head at the time. But judging from the look on his face and his eventual silence, I got the impression that he realized Fred would never really understand “the real him”. Considering that this conversation began with the topic of Cordelia and Connor, I could not help but wonder if Wesley and Fred had lost their memories of this discussion, due to the erasure of their memories of Connor, at the end of Season Four. Also, Wesley’s kidnapping of Connor proved to be one of the catalysts for his relationship with Lilah in Season Four.

I also cannot help but wonder if they would have ever gotten involved in the first place, due to the mindwipe. I realize that many Jossverse fans tend to view Wesley and Fred’s romance as idealized, I never could accept that prevailing view. I simply found their relationship boring and somewhat infantile. It had an uneasy mixture of a high school romance and incest, due to Wesley’s habit of treating Fred as part-lover and part-daughter. It was not surprising to me that a dying Fred had expressed confusion at the reasons behind Wesley’s feelings for her.

*Fred’s Death Scene was one of the most unbearable I have ever experienced on television. In fact, I found it so excruciating . . . and slow that I was unable to experience any compassion or sadness over her death. I simply felt relieved when she finally died.

I must admit that A Hole in the World” was never a favorite episode of mine. In fact, I have never been that fond of the second half of Season Five. But I must admit that Whedon had written a first-rate episode. Yes, I found the Wesley/Fred romance a bit nauseating to endure. And Fred’s death seemed to go on forever. But Whedon’s handling of theme regarding hard choices and the introduction of the Illryia character made this one of the more memorable episodes of the series.