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Note: This article is about the episode. For other uses, see Smile Time.

"Smile Time" is the fourteenth episode of the fifth season of Angel and is the 102nd episode in the series. Written by Ben Edlund with Joss Whedon and directed by Ben Edlund, it was originally broadcast on February 18, 2004, on The WB network.


THE GREAT PUPPET CAPER – When a popular children's show begins to steal the life forces of children by hypnotizing them, Angel goes directly to the studio to uncover the evil doings. Upon entering the building, Angel triggers a spell that transforms him into a puppet. In a race against time, puppet-Angel and company must find a way to reverse the spell, save the lives of hundreds of children and return Angel to his normal vampire state. Meanwhile, Nina, the werewolf Angel befriended, returns to declare her romantic intentions, but puppet-Angel is too embarrassed to reciprocate.[1]


As a little boy watches a TV show called Smile Time, featuring puppets singing songs about learning, one of the puppets, Polo, tells the boy to put his hands on the TV. The boy's mother enters the room, horrified to see that the boy has collapsed and is lying, catatonic and with his face frozen in a smile.

In the science lab at Wolfram & Hart, Knox brings Fred files on children in Los Angeles who have been hospitalized in the same condition as the little boy. Knox also gives Fred a valentine and tries to get her to discuss their potential relationship, but she gently declines his advances. Harmony tells Gunn he filed the wrong papers with the judge for a particular case, he tries to hide how worried he is about his mistake. Werewolf Nina Ash arrives to spend the three nights of the full moon in a cage at the offices of Wolfram & Hart. She flirts with a clueless Angel as he leads her to her cell, and an uncomfortable Angel then leaves. He heads to Wesley's office, saying he's not sure how he feels about their platonic friendship turning into something else. Wesley tells him that Nina has been sending him signals, and Angel is apparently the only person in the entire firm who hasn't noticed them. When Angel says that he can't pursue a relationship because he'll achieve pure happiness and turn back into Angelus, Wesley says most people have to settle for "acceptable" happiness, and there is no reason Angel can't do the same.

Fred arrives with the new case. Angel notes that all of the kids were watching TV at the same time of day when they became ill and Lorne says Smile Time is on at that time and in "the right demographic." Angel heads to Smile Time's studio, and, ignoring a "DON'T" sign, enters a hidden room where a man with a towel over his head sits under a large egg. The egg opens, forming a glowing smile that fires a beam that tosses Angel across the room. Angel pulls himself up, only now he's a puppet.

When Puppet Angel explains to the group what happened, Fred tells the lab to start recording Smile Time so she can analyze it. Angel orders Lorne and Gunn to talk to the show's creator, Gregor Framkin, at the studio. Nina arrives and Puppet Angel ducks under his desk so she won't see him. She tries to ask him if everything's okay, but he kicks her out. Spike arrives, and is shocked and amused to see that Angel is "a wee little puppet man." Angel pummels a giggling Spike.

Gunn and Lorne meet with Framkin at the studio. Gunn tries to tell him the laws he's violated, he can't come up with the right statute, and Framkin says he thinks he would be more likely to win than Wolfram & Hart in court. After Gunn and Lorne leave, we see that Framkin has a hole in his back and is being controlled by Polo. After he makes Framkin collapse, Polo summons the other puppets — Groofus the dog, Flora, and Ratio Hornblower — with the news that Angel messed with the Nest Egg. Fiona suggests that they remove the zombifying spell on some of the employees so that they can see future intruders, but Polo announces that since their "system" has now been perfected, they'll drain the life from all of their viewers the next day, instead of one kid at a time (planning to use their souls as currency back down in Hell). Framkin begs the puppets to kill him, but they continue torturing him instead.

Back at Wolfram & Hart, Nina is preparing for her second werewolf night when Puppet Angel pays her a visit to apologize for the way he treated her earlier. She's shocked to see that he's a puppet and he notes, "I'm made of felt. And my nose comes off." She tells him that he shouldn't care what people think of him, since he's a hero. Angel tells her that he's always worrying about his past and future that he doesn't always pay attention to what is happening there and then and is trying to do better, only to have failed to notice Nina has already transformed and the wolf grabs Angel and pulls him into the cage. Upstairs, Lorne comes across a tattered Puppet Angel and yells, "Is there a Geppetto in the house?"

Gunn heads to the medical wing to see Dr. Sparrow, explaining that he's losing his law knowledge. Sparrow examines him and tells him that the implant is failing in an acute "Flowers for Algernon" Syndrome; the Senior Partners gave it to him originally because they wanted him to have it, and if it's fading, they must have wanted that as well. Gunn says that he doesn't want to go back to the person he was, so Sparrow makes a deal with him — he'll give him a "permanent upgrade" if Gunn signs something for him that is stuck in Customs. In the science lab, Fred and Wesley agree they're starting to really like Smile Time though that may be because they are sleep deprived. Knox brings Fred coffee, but she orders him to go home. As he leaves, he glimpses Fred sharing the coffee with Wesley, who drinks from the same cup. Fred confesses that she decided Knox wasn't right for her. While the sound is muted, Wesley notices Polo seems to be talking to the audience.

Puppet Angel is trying to sew himself up in his office when Wesley and Fred arrive to tell him the puppets' singing acts as a cloaking device, allowing Framkin to address the children directly. Wesley says the "nest egg" holds the life forces of the kids, so if they can break the magic on it, they'll save the kids and turn Angel human again. Gunn, who's regained his law knowledge, announces the puppets are actually running the show — Framkin made a deal with some demons to improve his ratings. Elsewhere in Los Angeles, a little girl watches Smile Time and gets the message from Polo that all of the kids in the audience should put their hands on the TV.

Puppet Angel and the gang interrupt and the fighting begins, with Gunn decapitating Groofus and subsequently fighting Flora while Angel goes puppet-to-puppet with Polo. Fred and Wesley rush to the room with the nest egg, where Ratio fights Wesley while Fred reads the spell to break the nest egg, destroying the egg and saving the kids after Wesley defeats Ratio. In the main studio, Gunn defeats Flora and Angel defeats Polo by throwing him onto the tree house (During which he transforms to "vamp puppet face"). The next day, Nina wakes up in her cage with fabric around her and fears she ate Puppet Angel, until he tells her he's okay and will be back to normal in a few days. They agree to have breakfast together, with Nina jokingly wondering what puppets eat. In Wesley's office, Fred tells him she's been trying to subtly indicate her interest in him. She grabs him and kisses him; he happily returns the gesture as the puppets sing their self-esteem song again.


  • Nina mentions being a werewolf for four months, which happened in the episode "Unleashed."
  • Gunn and Dr. Sparrow discuss the legal upgrade they performed in "Conviction."
  • The deal Gunn makes with Sparrow has repercussions in the following episode "A Hole in the World," when the thing stuck in Customs that he authorizes causes Fred's death and Illyria's freedom.
  • This is the second time Gunn makes a deal with bad consequences. In "Double or Nothing," the Angel Investigations team dealt with Jenoff, to whom Gunn had sold his soul in exchange for his truck.
  • Angel and Nina begin a relationship, to end when he attempts to send her away in "Power Play."
  • The date between Angel and Nina is depicted in the non-canon story "Mystery Date."
  • Spike will face the Japanese version of Smile Time in the dubious canon miniseries Spike: Shadow Puppets.



Organizations and titles[]




Rituals and spells[]

Death count[]

  • Groofus, beheaded by Gunn.
  • Flora, smashed to pieces against a camera by Gunn.
  • Polo, impaled on a broken fence post after being thrown through it by Angel.
  • Ratio Hornblower, stabbed through the head with his own horn by Wesley.

Behind the scenes[]


  • Producer David Fury says the writers talked about doing an evil Sesame Street show before season 5 aired, but "it wasn't until Joss came around going, 'I figured out how to do it — Angel gets turned into a Muppet,' that we kind of went, 'Hallelujah, that's brilliant.'"[2]
  • Joss Whedon is the son of former Muppet writer Tom Whedon; several puppeteers from The Jim Henson Company were involved in the episode, including Alice Dinnean (as Angel's hands), Leslie Carrara-Rudolph, Victor Yerrid (as Polo), Julianne Buescher (as Flora), Tim Blaney (as Groofus), and Drew Massey, who designed and supervised the construction of the puppet characters, and performed the puppet Angel;[3] Scott Johnson also served as the puppet coordinator.
  • Actor James Marsters confessed: "The puppeteers were so good that it was easy to believe that Angel was actually trying to kick my butt. I blew takes by laughing too much, actually."[4]
  • Series produces David Fury portrays the puppeteer Framkin, having previously portrayed the Mustard Man in Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Once More, with Feeling."
  • Abigail Mavity, who portrays Hannah in this episode, has also portrayed Sara Harris in Buffy episode "Hell's Bells."
  • Joss Whedon was originally set to write and direct this episode, but he came up with "A Hole in the World" and entrusted this one to Ben Edlund.[citation needed]
  • According to Amy Acker, there was a puppeteer who was hidden in the scenes and even when they cut, he would use the Angel puppet to talk to the cast. "He was under a desk and he had the dirtiest mouth...We would all keep talking to the puppet like it was a real person."[5]

Deleted scenes[]

  • A line of dialogue was cut, added back to the story in Smile Time, Part Two:
    Gunn: "Think about the headlines: 'Big Bad Wolfram and Hart Drops Iron Heel on Fraggle Rock.'"

Pop culture references[]

  • Knox suggests the cause of the epidemic could be the Joker, the villain who uses a venom that forces his victims to smile.
  • Lorne calls Gregor Framkin "Papa Smurf."
  • Lorne calls Angel his Little Prince, referring to the title character of the 1943 novella The Little Prince.
  • Lorne asks for a Geppetto, the maker of Pinocchio.
  • Dr. Sparrow mentions Flowers for Algernon Syndrome, a reference to the 1958 story Flowers for Algernon, in which a mentally-handicapped man is given increased intelligence that fades over time. Sparrow also mentions the actor Cliff Robertson, who starred its 1968 film adaptation Charly.
  • Knox addresses Wesley as the mythical mage Merlin.
  • Gunn implies the devils involved in Smile Time were also involved in the later seasons of the 1974–1984 sitcom Happy Days.



  • "Smile Time" was nominated to the Hugo Awards for "Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form" in 2005.[6]

International titles[]

  • Czech: "Čas úsměvů" (Time of Smiles)
  • Finnish: "Hymyä huuleen" (Smiles on the Lips)
  • French: "Les marionnettes maléfiques" (The Evil Puppets)
  • German: "Angriff der Mörderpuppen" (Attack of the Killerpuppets)
  • Hungarian: "Átváltozás" (Transfiguration)
  • Italian: "L'Ora del Sorriso" (The Smile Time)
  • Portuguese (Brazil): "Tempo de Sorrir" (Time to Smile)
  • Russian: "Время для улыбки" (Time for Smiles)
  • Spanish (Latin America): "Tiempo de Sonreír (Time to Smile)
  • Spanish (Spain): "La Sonrisa" (The Smile)
  • Turkish: "Gülümseme Zamanı" (Smile Time)


  • The episode script was published in the illustrated Scriptbook: Smile Time.
  • The episode was adapted into the comic book miniseries Smile Time.
  • Diamond Select Toys created four plush toys based on this episode: puppet Angel, vampire puppet Angel, battle damaged puppet Angel, and a puppet Spike.


Promotional stills[]

Behind the scenes[]



Angel: "Wes, put the Special Ops team on red alert!"
Wesley: "Red alert?"
Angel: "I want helicopters and tear gas!"
Gunn: "Angel, we..."
Angel: "This is war!"
Lorne: "Angel, baby, muppet, pumpkin, um... This show is number one in its time slot. Tykes love it all across the southland. We can't just toss a Jihad at their studio."
Angel: "Oh, right."
Angel: "What are you people looking at? Well?"
Spike: "They're looking at the wee little puppet man."
Angel: "I didn't mean to upset you this morning. I just didn't want anyone... Well, I didn't want you to see me this way. It's a little... Embarrassing, I guess."
Nina: "I'd call it a little insane. But... What do you care what people think, anyway? Angel, you're you, you know? You're this— I mean, God, you're an actual hero. And, I don't know, this may sound cliché coming from an art school chick, but... The vampire thing is kinda sexy."
Angel: "It all sounds good. But that's not how I feel."
Nina: "I know. That's what I like about you."
Angel: "I'm not very good at any of this. I spent so much time worrying about the past and the future and my very complicated life. It's been a while since I looked up and really saw what was goin' on around me. It's not my strong suit, you know, but I'm workin' on it. I'm paying better attention to... Oh! Geez! No! No, Nina! Bad Nina!"
Lorne: "Is there a Gepetto in the house?"


  1. "angel: Smile Time." TheWB.com. Archived from the original on October 9, 2004.
  2. Mike Jozic, "MEANWHILE Interviews... Buffy Port Mortem." Meanwhile..., September 2004. Archived from the original on July 14, 2011.
  3. Matt Partney, "The Puppet Summit." Angel Magazine: Yearbook 2004, Titan Magazines.
  4. "Wish You'd Been There 2 — Fangoria Convention Report — Pt. 1." Whedonopolis, July 8, 2007.
  5. AmyAckerFanGuyChannel, "'Angel' Cast Reunites at NYCC 2019 for the Show's 20th Anniversary." YouTube, October 5, 2019.
  6. "2005 Hugo Awards." The Hugo Awards. Retrieved on October 7, 2019.