Charlie's Angels investigates a hostile takeover of a company that involves the suspicious deaths of several company board members. Kelly (Jaclyn Smith) and Kris (Cheryl Ladd) are sent undercover to the company to investigate while Julie Rogers (Tanya Roberts) attempts to infiltrate Reardon Associates, which had supplied many of the company's staff. What they find is a conspiracy combining hypnosis and murder
Description: Reardon Associates, a professional employment and staffing agency, is a front for a criminal enterprise which hypnotizes and programs its female employees into committing espionage, murder and suicide. The head of the company, John Reardon (Eric Braeden) was employed by unscrupulous financers to murder the board members to help promote a hostile takeover of the company. At his command, the board members were murdered by the hypnotized staff members, who would seemingly to anything for him.
To demonstrate his power over his employees to his employers, Reardon first orders the three women servants (employees) at his little party for his employers to forget everything they see and hear that evening, which they blithely agree to; then, taking a lit candle, he holds it before one of the women, instructing her to pass her hand over it. The flame is cold, she is told, as the flickering candle flame completes the post-hypnotic suggestion that puts her into a deep trance. She is then told to open the window, which is guarded with a lethal electric charge, which she would have done had not one of the employers fretfully stopped the demonstration.
Julie's infiltration is discovered when she says she was an old friend of one of the agencies' late employees, which was part of the fake background prepared for the employee. She is put through a series of secretarial exams: the last is a typing test, where she is seated in a featureless white room with two strobe lights surrounding her. The words of the test she hears from Reardon are actually the induction, as she is told to breathe deeply, to think only of the words, to follow the lights, to relax more and more.
She falls into a trance, then is led deeper in trance using the same candle flame fixation (which appears to be a trademark: it gets used again later, too, as a post-hypnotic suggestion to have the employees repeat the induction, strengthening the trance suggestions).
The trance and programming is deepened through the use of a oxygen deprivation chamber: a clear plastic tank of warm water, in which Julie is seated wearing only a swimsuit. The programming is so successful that Julie will make an "all-clear" report to Charlie later that evening while still being deeply hypnotized. The programming also included individual reinforcement, which Julie performs in her apartment later that night.
The assassination plot will be revealed when the murder of another board member, a poisoning, is averted by the swift action of the Angels. The woman programmed to perform the murder is then terribly confused and suffers a breakdown: when her desk is searched the Angels find the same candlestick as they had seen Julie have, and they suspect Julie may also have been affected. Reardon will try to use Julie to perform the final assassination, but will be stopped by Kris, and she will return Reardon, who will try to kill her by putting her in the deprivation chamber and leaving her there.
Commentary: This episode got a lot of flack when it first aired because of the way it treated hypnosis; much of the criticism is justified, except for the typing test induction: I remember Erickson writing on how he used a similar technique once with a stenographer.
- 'Attack Angels' was the the first of the last four episodes of the last season: the series had been steadily losing viewers and was in danger of cancellation. Plus, the only remaining original Angel, Jaclyn Smith, was in the last year of her contract and did not want to continue (she would go on to have a major career in MFTV movies.) The series was finally put on hold and the last four episodes were broadcast during the summer.
- Eric Braeden also played a sinister hypnotist in an episode of "Hawaii 5-0" with largely the same modus operandi.
- Popular psychologist Dr. Joyce Brothers has a cameo part as Doctor Lantry, whom the Angels call for advice on hypnosis and who later de-programs Julie.