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"I Fall to Pieces" is the fourth episode of the first season of Angel and the fourth episode in the series. Written by David Greenwalt with Joss Whedon and directed by Vern Gillum, it was originally broadcast on October 26, 1999, on The WB network.


MOM, I MET A DOCTOR — Angel is called into action when Doyle's visions lead them to a young woman who is being stalked by a demonic neurosurgeon who uses his bizarre ability to manipulate the human body to terrorize others. Back at the office, gal Friday Cordelia goes undercover to help Angel research his prey.[1]


At Angel Investigations, Cordelia and Doyle are discussing the need for actual income to match the outgo from their business when Angel comes upstairs and tries a sip of the week-old coffee. Cordelia relentlessly reopens the subject of fees with a stubbornly resisting Angel. They both appeal to Doyle, who starts to weigh in with his moderate and wise view that paying for their rescue would actually give some clients a sense of closure. However, before he can make his point, Doyle is wracked by a vision about a woman named Melissa Burns. At the office where Melissa works, she and her co-worker fiddle with a cake so they can wish a happy birthday to their supervisor, Penny. As Penny blows out the candles, another co-worker arrives with a flower delivery, but instead of being for their boss' birthday, the bouquet is addressed to Melissa. The message from "Ronald" disturbs her so much that she retreats to the bathroom to take tranquilizer pills, then leaves the office. Down in the parking garage, Melissa is startled by a dark-clad figure waiting near her car. Oddly, she seems relieved to see Angel, even though he is a stranger to her. Angel awkwardly tells Melissa that he knows she's in trouble, and he wants to help her. Not very reassured, she declines his services, but does take his business card.

At the ATM, Melissa is having trouble getting access. Ronald approaches and informs her that he changed the PIN on her bank account. He seems unaware of his arrogance, as well as of the inappropriateness (verging on delusion) of speaking to her as if they were in a lasting relationship. He also reveals that he knows she took tranquilizer pills earlier. This encounter scares Melissa enough that she calls Angel Investigations for an appointment. During their meeting, Melissa informs the team that Dr. Ronald Meltzer is an acclaimed neurosurgeon who performed critical surgery on an infected nerve behind her eye. He's also been stalking her for nearly seven months, ever since she allowed him to take her out once because she felt obligated to thank him. Moreover, Melissa swears that even when he's not around, she can feel Meltzer watching her. She adds that the doctor knew she'd taken the tranquilizers despite there being no possible way he could have seen her. At home that night, Melissa gets ready for bed. Meanwhile, Meltzer sips a drink in his study and seems to be watching a framed photo of Melissa on his desk. When we finally see Meltzer's face, there is an empty socket where his right eye should be. Back in Melissa's bedroom, a disembodied eyeball floats behind her, following her every move.

Angel goes to ask Kate, his "friend at the police department," whether Melissa ever filed a complaint. Kate tells him that a report was indeed filed with Meltzer's lawyers, Wolfram & Hart. The law firm took strong measures to protect their client, even going so far as to take out a restraining order against the plaintiff. Unaware of his dark past, Kate also tries to give Angel some insight into a stalker victim's mindset. She believes that even when Melissa is physically safe, fear will continue to haunt her unless she can get angry and start to fight back mentally and emotionally. Kate offers to detail a uniform to watch Melissa's place for a night or two, and Angel accepts. While Doyle plays bodyguard and accompanies Melissa to work, Angel breaks into Meltzer's office, looking for leads. One of the books from Meltzer's shelf disappears swiftly into Angel's jacket. When his unauthorized presence is discovered, Angel plays on Meltzer's megalomania, pretending to have a beloved wife needing emergency eye surgery from a top-notch neurosurgeon — price being no object. Angel gives Meltzer his undercover name and phone number as he leaves. In another part of the clinic, Cordelia interviews a colleague of Meltzer's who reports he has a well-deserved reputation for very difficult work with severed nerves and near-miraculous success in reattaching limbs. However, she goes on to tell Cordy that Meltzer never shares his techniques and findings with the medical community at large.

Back at Angel Investigations, Angel searches for information about Vinpur Natpudian, the author of Anything's Possible, the book he stole from Meltzer's office. Afterwards, he sends an email to the author, requesting a meeting. The author, who is a doctor himself, tells Angel that Meltzer attended many retreats with famous yogis. Meltzer was able to master a combination of psychological and physical techniques that make the neurosurgeon an expert in "psychic surgery." In the evening, Melissa is asleep in her bed when suddenly Meltzer's hands begin to crawl across her apartment floor and under her covers. When the cop on patrol spots a man lurking in front of Melissa's building, he confronts Meltzer. However, he backs off when the seemingly harmless man reveals that he has no hands. Hearing screams a few minutes later, the cop rushes into the building and searches Melissa's room, but finds her apparently alone. Just as he lets down his guard, Meltzer's hands attack from behind and strangle the cop to death.

A frantic Melissa runs outside, only to be caught and held before she can reach the street. Her panic slightly subsides when she discovers herself in Angel's concerned embrace, and she begins to sob in reaction. Neither Melissa nor Angel see Meltzer watching secretly from behind the bushes. The police arrive on the scene, and Kate comes over to ask Angel how, given the lack of evidence, he thinks the stalker could possibly be the perp. Doyle also shows up and confesses to being deeply unnerved by the idea of a stalker-turned-murderer, as well as by the crawling hands. Angel and Doyle take Melissa back to Angel's apartment, and, while Doyle starts taping up every vent and doorjamb, Angel counsels a newly-resolute Melissa over tea in the kitchen. As they take the elevator upstairs, Cordelia tells Angel what she thinks of his plan to go after Meltzer alone. As Angel searches the phone book for a place to get steel boxes to keep various body parts separate, Cordelia answers a call from Meltzer himself on the special line. Meltzer instructs "Mr. Jensen" to bring $100,000 for his "wife's" operation. Unaware that his cover has been blown, Angel shows up with a safety deposit box without money. Remaining seated, Meltzer feints subtly to his left, then shoots Angel in the neck with a hand-held dart gun. Meltzer explains that he developed the injector device while working with wild animals and that the dart carries a paralytic drug designed to stop the heart. Picking up a scalpel, Meltzer stands as Angel convulses and falls to the floor.

Meanwhile, Cordelia and Doyle look after Melissa as she sleeps, their traumatized client finally able to relax thanks to Doyle's special mixture of whiskey and tea. Despite the duct tape all over Angel's place, Meltzer arrives and sends an eyeball to watch from the landing as one hand sneaks in to open the door. Once inside, he pauses while both eye and hands reattach themselves. Meanwhile, Meltzer's left hand creates a diversion by loudly rattling the sewer grate in an apparent attempt to jimmy Doyle's security. When there's a sudden silence, Doyle opens the grate to look, and the hand pulls him down into the sewers. Simultaneously, Meltzer grabs Cordelia from behind and wrestles her into a closet.

Awake, Melissa watches as Meltzer waits for his left hand to crawl back to him and reattach to his wrist, but this time she doesn't scream. Meltzer rails at her, accusing her of leaving him for a "vacuous L.A. pretty boy." Melissa tries to run, but Meltzer blocks her path. Tired of dealing with his psychosis, she stands up to him, saying he is the one who's afraid and that he gave up on love a long time ago. She tells him she is done being afraid of him; he can torture or even kill her, but it won't change the fact that he's a loser. As Melissa berates him, his body starts rippling.

At that moment, Angel shows up, alive despite Meltzer's drugged dart. Controlling his shock, Meltzer spits his teeth at Angel, who blocks the bite and tries to close with his opponent. When Angel comes within reach, Meltzer attacks him with his scalpel, but Angel twists, and the blade is embedded in his shoulder. As Angel backs up a few steps, Meltzer throws his hand at Angel's throat, but Angel breaks its grip and flings the hand away. Seeing it try and scuttle back to its owner, Angel reaches up to his shoulder, yanks out the scalpel, and pins the wriggling hand to the floor. Meltzer's ears start to fall off, and he tells Melissa that they could have been so happy. At that, Angel rushes up behind him and knocks his head off.

The next day, the Angel Investigations team finishes discussing the fate of Ronald Meltzer's parts being buried in twelve steel boxes under concrete. Melissa drops by the office to thank everyone and gifts them a houseplant. The conversation quickly winds down until, at Cordelia's insistent signal, Angel reluctantly brings up the matter of payment. To Angel's relief, Melissa seems sincerely grateful for his reminder of the other reason for stopping by. She matter-of-factly takes an already-prepared check from her purse and happily hands it over to a very eager Cordelia. Melissa earnestly tells Angel that she hopes never to see him again. Bemused, Angel concurs.


  • This episode marks the first time the agency's name and slogan are mentioned. In "Parting Gifts," Barney will attempt to quote the Angel Investigation slogan by saying "help the helpless" instead of "help the hopeless."
  • This is Kate's second meeting with Angel, whom she still doesn't know is a vampire. She is also unaware of the mystical component to the LAPD cop's death and won't learn about L.A.'s supernatural side for several more weeks ("Somnambulist").
  • This is not the first time that Cordelia finds herself locked in a basement while her companion duct tapes around the door to prevent pieces of the bad guy from crawling underneath. In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "What's My Line? Part One," Cordy and Xander barricaded themselves in the Summers' basement to escape an assassin composed of thousands of worms.
  • Cordy mentions that she has been working for Angel for a month, suggestings that at least part of this episode takes place a month after "City Of."
  • Doyle has his first vision since "Lonely Heart"; this is confirmed by Cordy when she refers to the events of that episode as the result of his previous vision.
  • Angel now drinks coffee, presumably having taken it up after the episode "The Prom," when he told Joyce he doesn't.



Organizations and titles[]




Death count[]

  • An unidentified cop, killed by Ronald Meltzer.
  • Meltzer, killed by oxygen deprivation caused by Angel.

Behind the scenes[]



  • "I Fall to Pieces" had an audience of 3.6 million households upon its original airing.[2]

Deleted scenes[]

  • This dialogue was cut from the original script:[3]
    Penny: "I sent my husband a bouquet the day the divorce was final."
    John: "And they say there’s no romance left in the world."


  • At the end of the scene where Angel and Cordelia talk about Dr. Natpudian and his book, during a shot of the book with Cordelia's hand holding it open, her nails are painted. In the rest of the scene, or the episode in general, she does not wear nail polish.

Pop culture references[]

  • Kate remarks that Wolfram & Hart is "the firm that Johnnie Cochran is too ethical to join," referring to the famously inventive lawyer who defended O. J. Simpson at his murder trial.
  • Cordelia asks, "What is it about Melissa that's got him going all O.J. on her?" referring to the famous football star and accused murderer O.J. Simpson.
  • Cordelia wonders aloud what is the point of dating, and Doyle responds by speaking some of the lyrics from the 1964 song "People."


International titles[]

  • Czech: "Kus po kuse" (Piece by Piece)
  • Finnish: "Palapeliä" (Puzzle)
  • French: "L'étrange Docteur Meltzer" (The Strange Doctor Meltzer)
  • German: "Die Maschen des Dr. Meltzer" (The Stitches of Dr. Meltzer)
  • Hungarian: "Darabokba" (In Pieces)
  • Italian: "Il chirurgo medianico" (The Mediumistic Surgeon)
  • Portuguese (Brazil): "Eu Me Desmancho Todo" (I Fall Apart Completely)
  • Russian: "Я распадаюсь на части" (I'm Falling Apart)
  • Spanish (Latin America): "En pedazos" (In Pieces)
  • Spanish (Spain): "Hecho pedazos" (Torn to Pieces)
  • Turkish: "Parçalara Ayrılmak" (Falling to Pieces)


Doyle: "He likes playin' the hero. Walkin' off into the dark, his long coat flowin' behind him in that mysterious and attractive way."
Cordelia: "Is this a private moment? 'Cause, I could leave you alone."
Doyle: "No, I'm not sayin' I'm attracted... Okay, maybe I'm a little bit attracted."
Melissa: "I do feel better having you all on the case. 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 quite so many. But protecting young women such as yourself? Yeah, there's been — ah — 4. And 3 of them are very much alive."
Cordelia: "What did you put in her tea?"
Doyle: "Enough whiskey to drop my Aunt Judy. That woman had some girth."
Cordelia: "What's the point?"
Doyle: "Well, it tastes good, and it relaxes ya."
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 gonna hover around and never go away."
Doyle: "Uh, I hate guys like that."
Cordelia: "It's just so unfair. I mean, this poor girl, she hooks up with a doctor. That should be a good thing. You should be able to call home and say, 'Mom, guess what? I met a doctor.' Not, 'Guess what? I met a psycho. He's stalking me and, oh, by the way, his hands and feet come off and he's not even in the circus.'"
Cordelia: "We need more of these."
Doyle: "Eh, we'll have more soon enough."
Cordelia: "Well, we need them now. Have a vision."
Doyle: "I just can't perform on demand."
Cordelia: "We need the clients. Have a vision."
Doyle: "That money's corrupted you."
Cordelia: "If I hit you in the head, would you have a vision?"
Doyle: "Get away from me. You're insane."


  1. "Angel- Season 1 Episode Guide." Lol's Site. Retrieved on June 23, 2023.
  2. "Nielsen Ratings for Angel's First Season." Nielsen Ratings for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, & Firefly. Archived from the original on July 18, 2008.
  3. Nancy Holder, Jeff Mariotte, and Maryelizabeth Hart. The Casefiles, Volume 1. Simon Pulse, June 2002.