Friday, October 30, 2009

2.04 Belonging

Summary and spoilers

There’s a moral dilemma for DeWitt, and, surprisingly, for the normally conscience-challenged Topher as well. Nolan Kinnard, a high-ranking Rossum VP, has been stalking Pria (now Sierra) since she was a teen. When he rejected his lavishly staged advances (using all of the money and dolls available through his company), he did something truly evil. He drugged Pria into a state of schizophrenia, then convinced Topher and the Dollhouse to ‘save her’ and take her in. He then paid for her services as a lover. On a deeper, almost buried level, Sierra knows she is being violated, and she is able to relay that message via paintings to Echo, who passes it on to Topher. Topher investigates and discovers the client relationship. But when DeWitt tells Kinnard that he must stop, Kinnard threatens to remove DeWitt unless she has Sierra permanently implanted and given to him as a slave. DeWitt tasks Topher to do the imprint; on the surface, Topher agrees. But he implants Sierra with the awareness of what Kinnard has done. A violent confrontation ensues at Kinnard’s apartment, ending when Sierra stabs him to death.

Langton intercepts Pria’s call to Topher and goes into action. Kinnard’s body is disposed of completely, and his death is changed to look like a disappearance. Sierra returns to the house and asks Topher to remove her memories of the horrible events she endured and created, leaving Topher to deal with these secrets. Her mind wiped and her smile returned, Sierra renews her friendship with Victor – a friendship that is growing into love.

Comments

Halfway through the show, as I watched Sierra getting smacked around, I reflected on the robust and diverse performance of Dichen Lachman. She got to play four different characters: herself (Pria) before she was tampered with (when she was an Australian artist); Pria after she had been given drugs to split her personality (should I count this as two characters?); Sierra as Sierra; and Pria, with no memory of her experiences as ‘doll’ Pria, but with an awareness of the evil that had been done to her. And as I watched, I hoped this was not going to be the last time we see her on the show. Survive, Sierra, survive!

Conversely, Echo’s role is small but highly important. She has a great subtle conversation with Langton about just how aware she has become.

This episode was directed by Star Trek: Next Generation alumni Jonathan Frakes.

Dollhouse Quotes

"Look. This is a brain – a normal, boring brain – like your brain."
- Topher to Langton

 "Given that you’re a raping scumbag one tick short of a murderer – do you take sugar?"
- DeWitt to Kinnard

Langton: Echo – when did you learn how to lie?
Echo: Am I in trouble?
Langton: Not from me – but there are people who would be very upset if they knew what you were doing.
Echo: Reading?

"They even programmed me to think it was endearing how quick you were."
- Pria to Kinnard

Saturday, October 10, 2009

2.03 Belle Chose

Summary and spoilers

A psychopath with a Crispin Glover hairstyle is playing with live dolls – women with fashion model looks that he has drugged heavily, then posed and dressed as living statues. When one tries to escape, he clubs – or croquets, more accurately - her to death. While looking for a quick replacement, he is hit by a vehicle. His name is Terry Carrens – and why does he end up being treated by Topher in the Dollhouse? It’s because his uncle Bradley is a valued client and a major Dollhouse shareholder. It turns out also that Bradley and the Carrens family knew – and covered up – many of his nephew’s indiscretions. DeWitt agrees to allow the comatose Terry to be questioned safely. This is done by dumping Terry’s mind into Victor and then assigning Ballard to do the FBI-style profiling. Ballard exposes Terry as a abductor, torturer, and killer, but soon after, the plan backfires when Bradley grabs Victor and escapes. As they drive away, Bradley thinks he can have a little chat with his nephew to find out the still-secret location of the surviving women, but Victor unceremoniously snaps Bradley’s head against the steering wheel and crashes the car.

Meanwhile, Echo has an ‘R’ (Romance) assignment as an amorous student of a college professor. As ditzy Kiki, she is outfitted as a sex kitten and sent in to play out a porn movie type fantasy: sexy girl gets an ‘F’ and wants to know what she can do to improve that grade.

With Victor now imprinted as a serial killer and poised to take in another abductee, DeWitt tasks Topher with finding a way to do a remote mind wipe. The attempted wipe knocks out the Actives monitoring system and transfers Terry’s diseased mind from Victor to Echo – turning her into the killer.  Echo quickly incapacitates the professor with a quick letter-opener to the neck. She returns to her captives and lashes out at them, but is able to stop herself just short of killing them by using her growing ability to become aware of her implant.

Victor receives Kiki and goes on a flamboyant dancing spree. Ballard, who was glad earlier to dump Kiki with Langton, is once again united with her when he retrieves Victor.

A full mind-wipe later, Echo appears back to normal in the Dollhouse, but the episode ends with her viewing the still comatose body of the real Terry Carrens as she exclaims, "Goodness gracious!" – a lingering Terry-ism.

Comments

Fox said there would be changes for season two. One of these possibly Fox-driven changes is to focus more on the relationship/love between two characters, rather than having a true Joss-style ensemble show. I just realized that this seems to be the case, and the two characters are, of course, Ballard and Echo. Although their relationship is now the anchor, the other roles are still important and substantial.

Enver Gjokaj (Victor) is brilliant as psychopath Terry Carrens.

The tension in this episode slowly builds. Victor is looking for another woman to abduct, and Echo is seducing the professor. The two separate stories seem strikingly unlinked, unless…Victor abducts Echo! Okay, it didn’t exactly happen like that…

Dollhouse Quotes

Ballard: Would you like a towel?
Echo: [naked after a shower] Yes, thank you. I’m wet.

DeWitt: Any progress on locating our troubled missing employee?
Langton: She’s not really missing, is she? She left.
DeWitt: Well, I call that missing.
Langton: I call that leaving.

Kiki: Don’t you just feel like dancin’?
Ballard: Not overly.

DeWitt: You’re quite certain of this [that Carrens is a serial killer]
Topher: Certain enough that I have serious ethical problems trying to wake him up.
Langton: Topher has ethical problems. Topher!
Topher: [laughs] Way to land it.

Kiki: Okay, so, I probably never should have taken this course to begin with, I figured it was Medieval Lit, not Advanced Evil – how hard could it be. So I skipped Intro to Evil, or whatever, but, how is it that I got an ‘F’ when this guy that we’re reading – Chauncey - can’t even spell?
Professor: It’s Chaucer. It’s Middle English.
Kiki: Right, like, Hobbits or something.
Professor: Yeah, as I said, my office is open if you’d…care to discuss it.
Kiki: Yeah, I’d care to discuss it. I’m like the Scarlet Lady with the ‘F’ on her chest.
Professor: ‘A’.
Kiki: If only!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

2.02 Instinct

Summary and spoilers

In addition to programming Echo’s brain, Topher has also reprogrammed her body to produce a glandular reaction - in this case, allowing her to assume the role of a breast-feeding new mom. The possibilities, he says, are endless – and he can duplicate this basic concept for any active. Echo’s nightly feeds are going well, but not so much her marriage to a workaholic. Nate holds baby Jack like it has an infectious disease. He works late or stays locked in his home office to avoid baby – and wife – contact. Fortunately, Echo’s girlfriend Kelly (Sierra) is there to reassure her that things will work out. Echo resolves to be patient and give Nate his space, but this vow lasts for mere minutes. Soon, she is breaking into Nate’s office. She finds what appears to be proof of infidelity: photos of Nate and another woman. When she confronts Nate, he claims that the woman was a past lover who died. There are apologies all around, and Nate soothingly asks Echo to go to bed and rest. Later, Echo wakes up and hears Nate having an angry argument on the phone that ends with a promise to ‘get rid of the baby’.

The real story is that Nate has hired Echo to be the mother of his baby, to take the place of the wife who died in childbirth. Echo truly believes that she carried the child, birthed it, and nursed it. When she incorrectly suspects that Nate is up to no good, she flees with the child before Ballard can stop her. Echo eventually tells her story to the police. While at the station, she is confronted by Nate and Ballard. Echo is separated from the baby and dragged away screaming for her child.

DeWitt visits Mellie aka November aka Madeline, to check up on her and insist that she come in for her scheduled diagnostic. Madeline agrees. While receiving her diagnostic in Topher’s office, Echo is brought in kicking and screaming. The sight of Echo living through the pain of a ‘make-believe’ situation makes Madeline realize how tormented the life of an active can be.

Echo’s treatment does nothing to wipe her mind or relieve her pain; instead, she knocks out Topher and, with nothing functioning in her mind except the mothering instinct, heads for Nate and Jack. Echo is ready to take the baby at knifepoint, but Nate is able somehow to explain to her that she was hired to believe the baby was hers – but that it is not true. Enough of that message gets through, and Echo’s sentience about her role as an active allows her to give the baby back to Nate without being forced to do so.

Ballard offers to take down the Dollhouse without her help, and to have Topher fully wipe her mind and take away the pain, confusion and conflict of being aware of her role-playing, but Echo refuses, preferring to ‘stay awake’.

Comments

I’m not sure if it’s such a good idea for the Dollhouse to pursue Echo and the baby in that big hard-to-hide black van.

Is I just me, or is Topher looking more and more like Bruno this season?

Someone has leaked detailed and damning information about the Dollhouse to Senator Perrin, the politician who is intent on exposing the wrongs of the Rossum Corporation. We don’t find out who this person is, but Perrin knows (their name is in the report).

Memorable Moments

  • Echo unexpectedly snapping out of Stepford wife mode after a treatment and knocking out Topher.

Dollhouse Quotes

"I don’t want to use the word ‘genius’, but I’d be okay if you wanted to."
- Topher (about himself)

DeWitt: For your own well-being, come and have your diagnostic. I won’t take no for an answer.
Madeline: No. [pause] I don’t imagine you will.

Madeline: Is it always like that?
Ballard: Like what?
Madeline: She really believed someone took her child, heart and soul.
Ballard: Like I said, it wasn’t real.
Madeline: But it was for her – all that emotion, all that pain.

Topher: Hello Echo. How are you feeling?
Echo: Did I fall asleep?
Topher: For a little while.
Echo: [punches Topher, knocking him out] Should I go now?

Ballard: Think we’re looking at a genius.
Topher: I’m not as comfy with you saying that as I thought I’d be.
Ballard: Think about it: you changed her on a glandular level. Maybe her body was stronger than her brain.

"I’m awake now; I don’t wanna go back to sleep."
- Echo (closing line)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

2.01 Vows

Summary and spoilers

Echo is back in the chair to have her 39 personalities wiped, and to be sent out as a bride in someone’s fantasy wedding. Ballard has reason to be worried. Echo’s assignment is no ordinary ‘safe’ fantasy – the man she is to wed is Martin Klar, a leading arms dealer, and her mission is to become his confidante and bring him down. Topher also is worried, but for different reasons: he is being harassed by Dr. Saunders. Saunders is still angry at the discovery that she is an active; she is virusing Topher’s computer with clips from Bride of Frankenstein, and stocking his cupboard with phobia-inducing white rats.

Langton, as the head of security, watches as DeWitt’s touch lingers too long on Victor’s scarred and healing face.

DeWitt tries her best to convince Ballard to become Echo’s handler. I suppose this is another way of ensuring that Ballard takes more ownership of the Dollhouse and stops trying to bring it down. But the job of Echo Handler may not be around too long. As associate of Klar is looking at photos of Echo and Ballard – her mission has been compromised.

Despite being trapped, Echo uses her guile to convince Klar that she is innocent. But her own mind betrays her; she forgets the names and situations of her current mission. Ballard purposely gets captured so he can reach Echo and whack her around enough to make her go medieval on Klar and his men. This ridiculous plan somehow works.

Ballard does not tell DeWitt about Echo’s multiple personality issues, knowing that this could send her to the attic. Instead, he vows to help Echo find Caroline, and he accepts the role as her handler.

Langton discovers a goodbye note from Saunders. She has triumphed over her programmed fear of everything outside her office and has left the Dollhouse.

Comments

Echo’s sentience continues to grow. She recognizes Dr. Saunders as Whiskey and remembers that Whiskey was ‘number one’. Saunders adds to this active memory by briefing her on the Alpha origin of her scars.

Saunders and Topher eventually resolve their conflict, to a degree. Topher created Saunders from the personality of the real Dr. Saunders, then added checks and balances to ensure that she would not be attracted to him. Saunders cannot live with the thought of being fabricated, and yet is not willing to give up her rented body and die.

We were told that Dollhouse season two would have some changes. I think the exploding vehicle and what I suspect may be an obligatory fight sequence each week may be a sign that every show is going to have more requisite action and fireballs. Fox may have insisted that Dollhouse adopt the Lost ‘one explosion per episode’ credo.

Memorable Moments

  • Ballard’s pushups coordinated with Echo’s wedding night boogie

Dollhouse Quotes

"My entire existence was constructed by a sociopath in a sweater vest."
- Dr. Saunders

Topher: What the hell! Are you drunk?
Saunders: Just…trying to be my best.
Topher: Oh, whoa, whoa, whoa, I don’t want your best.
Saunders: [looks down] I think you do.
Topher: Okay, that is – the – minority vote.

Topher: You’re human!
Saunders: Don’t flatter yourself.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

1.13 Epitaph One

Summary and spoilers

There are three immediate surprises as Epitaph One begins: we are viewing the future, or a possible future (the year is 2019); the future is apocalyptic; and Felicia Day is Meg - a gun and walkie-wielding operative. From what we can ascertain from snippets of dialogue, her gang of fugitives is trying to avoid capture and identification in a world where tyranny and Big Brother reign. It’s difficult to tell exactly what is going on; these fugitives speak in a new language laced with words designed for their survival in this hell.

As the team searches for escape from the city, they descend into a seemingly deserted Dollhouse. Insulated from the probes that would wipe their minds, this seems like a safe haven. They examine Topher’s imprinting chair; There is dissent with the group; they are avowed tech-haters, yet team leader Griff wants to test the chair on an older mind-wiped man whom they are escorting (because they also are escorting his daughter). Through this blank slate, we flashback to various scenes from ‘Dollhouse past’:

The Dollhouse powers-that-be became horribly corrupted; they sold the use of the operatives bodies to the highest bidder, denying the operatives from ever having their bodies returned to them, and effectively killing them. DeWitt and Topher are appalled by this, but they also have a narrow choice; either go along with it, or be killed.

The apocalyptic future is one where innocent people are wiped and used as vessels by an immortal class of the very rich. It’s all so believable; is it the natural evolution of Capitalism? But in the Dollhouse universe, at least, there is hope. Caroline has a cure – a block – that can stop the mind-wipe. It has been successfully used to maintain the personalities of Caroline, Victor, and Sierra. She leads the actives toward this Safe Haven – and we are left up in the air about her decision regarding the fate of DeWitt – will Caroline kill her or save her?

Topher reveals a future where remote imprinting (which he invented) was used to convert entire cities into armies of drones programmed to kill anyone who was not programmed to kill. Topher’s mind is gone – and seemingly well past being saved by Caroline, even if she was inclined to try.

Back To The Present:

This seemingly empty Dollhouse of the present is not completely so. One member of the team is attacked and bludgeoned to death by a mystery assailant. Soon, Whiskey shows up with blood-stained hands, but she is not the murderer. She shares useful information on where to find food (the kitchen, of course) and how to get to the fabled Safe Haven (by using the chair to tap memories).

Iris, that little innocent girl, shoots Griff, then makes it seem like her father did it. Zone dispatches the dad and, believing the girl’s innocence, outfits her with her own gun. Zone knew more than he let on; the gun he gave her was empty. When she tries to use it, she reveals that her mind was wiped and she is just another of those programmed killers. Zone tackles her and puts her in the chair to straighten all that out.

Iris is implanted with Caroline’s memories, and Caroline leads Zone and Meg toward Safe Haven.

Comments

Ah…it is great to see Felicia Day again – I fell in love with her (her acting, singing, and overbite, that is) in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.

I’m impressed by the production values and ambitious scripting of this episode. As seanax stated, this was treated as what would be the last ever episode of Dollhouse. At that time, the odds that it would be renewed were extremely low. Everything was poured into this. Did they leave enough ends open to continue the series? Not a problem – the open-ended Dollhouse concept could branch off almost infinitesimally and still not seem contrived.

Dollhouse Quotes

"Keep your eyes open and your weapons cocked. Paradise wasn’t built to take in strays."
- Griff

Dominic: What if their brains turn to jelly?
Topher: Well, with the obvious exception of yours, the human brain is a massively powerful creature. Underestimating it is usually the last mistake any culture makes.

DeWitt: Mr. Dominic is my eyes and ears.
Topher: Can I be nose and throat?

"Let’s blow this bitch back to the Bush years!"
- Zone

"Millions programmed to kill anyone who’s not programmed to kill anyone."
- Topher

Caroline: Thank you, Whiskey, for helping them find me.
Whiskey: Was I my best?
Caroline: Better.

"I hope we find me alive."
- Caroline as Iris

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Dollhouse Renewed for Second Season

As reported by the website End Of Show, against all odds, Dollhouse has been renewed for a second season! The show's budget has been slashed (part of this will be handled by a shorter per-episode running time, cut from 50 to 42 minutes.

I wonder if FOX's experience with Firefly had any influence on their decision to renew Dollhouse. Perhaps, on some level, they realized that Firefly was cancelled 'prematurely'. Despite a shrinking audience for Dollhouse, FOX has seen something that it likes. Maybe this is an attempt to skew its product line and gain brand allegiance from previously disgrunted viewers.

Read the full article at End Of Show

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Joss Whedon Pitching Season Two Dollhouse

Dollverse reports that FOX has asked Joss Whedon to come in and pitch season two of Dollhouse! While this guarantees nothing, it certainly makes renewal a possibility. The rumors are swinging back and forth daily, with SaveTheDollhouse reporting that renewal was a longshot just yesterday.

Click here to read the Joss Whedon Dollhouse Pitch story at Dollverse

Adam Turl on Why Dollhouse Should Be Renewed

Adam Turl's literate article on why Dollhouse should be allowed to grace our screens for another season offers no new news - just an in-depth, well-written look at why Joss Whedon's work needs to be aired, despite the ratings.

Click here to read Adam Turl's Dollhouse article Escaping the Dollhouse

FOX's Dollhouse: Renew or Cancel? FOX to Tell Soon

The word is that FOX will announce the fate of Dollhouse on Monday May 18th. We'll be posting here as soon as we find out the news. So far, there are only unsubstantiated rumors each way, so there's no way to tell. If anything leaks beforehand, we'll try to get that to you.

While we wait, here are some things you can do:

1. Go to http://www.savethedollhouse.com/ and send a doll to Kevin Reilly at FOX.

2. Pre-order the Dollhouse DVD from Amazon:


3. Pray to your God, god, or Gods/gods...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

1.12 Omega


Summary and spoilers

Alpha and Echo have escaped from the Dollhouse. Echo should have been traceable, but Alpha removed her ‘tag’, so she’s gone. Topher is unable to read what personality Alpha imprinted on Echo, either, but DeWitt urges him to correct that.

Out on the road, Alpha has named himself ‘Bobby’ and is sounding like a southern punk. His custom Echo is a dedicated girlfriend who worships him, partially because she believes he has twice rescued her from institutions. But Alpha isn’t completely satisfied with this game; he purposely begins to tell her the truth amid the lies – that he isn’t Bobby, and that he didn’t know and rescue her when she was 13.

Alpha and Echo are on a crime/exposition of Dollhouse spree that has started with stealing some clothes and taking the gagged shop clerk hostage. In their second act, Echo dances in bright light while music plays and Alpha abuses a Dollhouse minder named Lars. But this is not now – this is in the past, the first time Alpha went crazy. And the dancing girl that emerges from bright light is not Alpha – it is the one we know as Dr. Saunders. Alpha calls her Crystal, but when Dollhouse operatives burst in, they call her Whiskey. Later in the show, Dr. Saunders will hack into Topher’s computer and discover her true identity as well.

When Ballard finds out that Alpha has Echo/Caroline, he is drawn toward helping DeWitt find her, despite his disdain of all that the Dollhouse stands for.

In flashback, we see a time when Alpha was a controllable active who was just starting to become aware of the world he was in. He also became aware – and fell in love with – Caroline/Echo. He shows his love by hacking away at Whiskey’s popular, top-ranking Doll face.

In the present, Alpha implants the shop clerk with Caroline’s original personality, setting up a strange confrontation between Caroline in the wrong body looking at a stranger in her right body. Part two of his evil plan is to program Echo to kill Caroline, whom Alpha considers the only person who is a threat. To do so, he does to Echo what was done to him; he implants her with all of the personalities that she has owned in her Dollhouse career. The result is not what Alpha expected; Omega attacks him, knocking him down with one blow from a pipe. In the ensuing battle of pipes and words, Alpha kills the woman who he implanted with Caroline; he then disappears. Langton and Ballard arrive just in time for Ballard to salvage Caroline’s personality 'wedge'.

Ballard has been contracted to hunt down Alpha. In exchange, he has arranged for the freedom of a ‘young lady’. I assumed this was Caroline; in a final twist, it is Mellie whom he has freed.

Comments

This is an excellent episode, surely because it was written and directed by longtime Whedon collaborator Tim Minnear. When it came time to glean the best Dollhouse quotes section, I could almost have included the entire script!

Yes, Dr. Saunders is an active! So many viewers suspected this, and so many others got spoiled, then claimed to have suspected this :). And she is one extraordinarily sexy extrovert as Crystal. More flashbacks of her, please!

When Alpha says "Alpha, meet Omega" and flips the switch, he grins and stiffly tilts his head upward in what appears to be a homage to crazed scientists everywhere in general, and the film Bride of Frankenstein in particular.

At times, Alpha sounds a little like Topher (in his phrasing, and in the way his lines are written).

This is the final season one episode of Dollhouse that will air. There is one more episode (called Epitaph One) that will be included on the season one DVD.

As I’ve said before, those who managed to stick with this show while it established itself have now been blessed with an intense, painstakingly structured story. Each week is an improvement in character development, with Eliza Dushku giving a powerful performance in this episode. There is so much more that could be told; so pre-order the DVD from Amazon and tell FOX that they would be making a huge mistake to cancel it.

Memorable Moments

  • Extra awkwardness as Ballard stands next to November/Mellie in the imprint room

Dollhouse Quotes

Dr. Saunders: He asked me if I always wanted to be a doctor.
Topher: Ha! Well…who can fathom the mind of a crazy person?
Dr. Saunders: The one who made him crazy, maybe.

"Lars, it’s sad, it’s sad how you lie – I can smell it!"
- Alpha

Victor: How can I be my best, please?
Dr. Saunders: You can’t, Victor! You can’t be your best. Your best is past – your past you can’t even remember. You’re ugly now. You’re disgusting. All you can look for now is pity. And for that, you’re gonna have to look somewhere else.

"Why is there a tall, morally judgmental man in my imprint room [gestures at Langton] besides him?"
- Topher

"Look, you can’t profile Alpha. He’s not a person, he’s – he’s like Soylent Green: he’s people."
- Topher to Ballard

Alpha: What do you feel?
Caroline: I’m confused.
Echo: I’m with her.
Alpha: You ARE her!

"New life…from death. The ancients had it right. The old gods are back. Alpha, meet Omega."
- Alpha

DeWitt: Carl William Kraft.
Ballard: Three names – always ominous.

"We’re not just humans anymore. We’re not multiple personalities; we’re many personalities. One of my personalities happens to be a multiple personality, but that doesn’t make me a multiple personality – I’m looking for a little nuance here."
- Alpha to Echo

"We’re not new. We’re not anything. We’re not anybody because we’re everybody!"
- Echo to Alpha

"I have 38 brains. Not one of them thinks you can sign a contract to be a slave – especially now that we have a black president."
- Echo to Caroline

Alpha: Lay back in the chair.
Echo: You lay back in the chair. I’m done laying back in the chair. I’m ready to rinse and spit.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Dollhouse Ratings Sink Slightly

I suppose the nice way to put it would be to say that the Dollhouse audience has stabilized. The mean way to say it is: according to TV By The Numbers, the audience is down to just over 3.09 million. Based on these numbers, renewal is unlikely, although there is no official word yet, so keep your hopes up.

Click here for the full article at TVByTheNumbers

1.11 Briar Rose


Summary and spoilers

The show opens with what looks to be a homeless man digging through a dumpster and finding a human arm. When he inspects more closely, the arm reaches out and grabs him.

Echo’s assignment, devised by Topher, places her in a home for troubled children. She is there to help a particularly troubled and victimized young teen girl whom Topher has identified as being a version of Caroline as a teen. And Topher is right, too; Echo is able to speak to the girl and get closer to her than anyone else has.

Ballard’s on the move. He breaks up with Mellie, hoping that he doesn’t alert her Dollhouse personality that he’s onto her. After the Dollhouse stayed hidden for a long time (years?), Ballard finds the entrance - it looks like an underground parking garage - simply by following the van that picks up the emotionally distraught Mellie. To help him get in, Ballard visits Loomis and identifies the man who helped design the Dollhouse - one Steven Kepler, an environmental specialist. Ballard visits Kepler at his cannabis-plant-filled apartment. Despite the fact that Kepler is paranoid and mad, for the most part he appears harmless. At gunpoint, Ballard takes Kepler away to as his new partner in getting inside the Dollhouse. Although Kepler is annoying, he has the knowledge. They not only get inside, but Ballard gets to taser Topher (hmm, taser Topher - that has a nice sing-songy feel to it). Kepler shuts down the security systems from Saunders’ workstation, while Ballard opens Echo’s pod and tries to convince her to come with him. But Langton gets there at the same time. Showing some sympathy, Langton offers Ballard a chance to just leave, no questions asked, but Ballard decides to fight instead. They bash each other around for quite some time, until Echo aligns with Langton (whom she still trusts).

Sierra, on assignment as a forensics expert, has been sent to examine the body of the dumpster man, who was killed by that dumpster arm. While Langton and Dewitt are talking to Ballard, Sierra calls in to say that the dead man was one Steven Kepler, and he was killed by Alpha. Too late we know that it was Alpha who accompanied Ballard into the Dollhouse, and is now slashing Victor’s face and threatening to slash Saunders up again. Instead, Alpha puts Echo in the chair; when she emerges, she and Alpha kiss passionately. She calls him her prince, and together, they commence their escape.

Comments

This episode parallels the fairy tale of Briar Rose, the young woman who pricked her finger on a spindle, sending her into a spell-induced sleep, until she was rescued by a prince.

It’s difficult to comprehend all the events that occur in this episode’s running time of just over 48 minutes.

It was great to See Alan Tudyk (Firefly) get a meaty role as Alpha. I would have enjoyed his appearance so much more had I not been spoiled with the info on who he would be playing.

Memorable Moments

  • Ballard standing in the Dollhouse

Quotable Quotes

“I was in the building you can see; I’ve got to get in the other one, the one…that’s invisible.”
- Ballard to Loomis

Topher [after seeing Dominic in Victor’s body]: Oh, god, that was -
Dewitt: Necessary.

Steven: You know, I’m not comfortable having people in my home that aren’t delivering me Thai food…and I’m not talking about past clients.
Ballard: Tell me about the Dollhouse.

Steven: Alright, would you look at this place! I mean, first of all, Feng Shui up the ying yang - also, I designed parts of it, but I did not design the  stone-cold foxes in the small clothes…and the ample massage facilities. I mean, don’t get me wrong - I heart my porn, but this is cool!
Ballard: This is a bad place.
Steven: Bad people maybe - good place.

Ballard: Oh god…I know that guy - Lubov! My whole life - my whole life isn’t real.
Steven: It’s a small world, right - I went to grade school with Jenna Elfman.

“Sorry, Agent Ballard - you don’t get the girl.”
- Langton

Saunders: Victor, what happened?
Victor: People were fighting on me.

“I don’t even care that these people sign themselves over to you; there is no provision for - for consentual slavery!”
- Ballard

Alpha: I told you I’d come rescue you.
Echo: My prince!

Monday, April 27, 2009

1.10 Haunted


Summary and spoilers

Echo and Dewitt’s story: The Dollhouse is on idle in its post-Dominic regrouping phase, but one client, Margaret (a good friend of DeWitt) has been transplanted into Echo. It seems that Margaret, suspecting her life was in danger, had brain scans captured by the Dollhouse for a year and a half prior to her death; now, she has been implanted within Echo to attend her own funeral and try to find out who murdered her.

Taking the identity of Margaret’s backpacking friend Julia, she infiltrates the household. None of her surviving family (son, daughter, husband, and brother) seems particularly brokenhearted that Margaret is gone, and yet none are ideal suspects. The husband, Jack, was younger and was considered a philandering gold-digger by some of the others, but he seems truly heartbroken. When Julia test-seduces him, Jack is uninterested ᾦquot; and angry that the others are spying on him. He directs suspicion toward Margaret’s brother, William. William claims to have reconciled with Margaret the day before her death and points Julia toward Nicolas and his gambling problems.

At the stables one night, Nicolas confronts Julia, recognizing that she is indeed his mother (he’s a Dollhouse client as well). Nicolas apologizes for not telling her about his gambling debts the first time around. At that moment, in a nearby part of the stable, Victor (who was sent in by Boyd to spy under the cover of a prospective horse buyer) confronts Jack with proof that the racehorse Jack was trying to sell is drugged up and worth much less than he appears. After Victor leaves, Jack goes nuts and starts wielding a shovel around. Nicolas stabs Jack with a farm implement, and he and Julia flee to the house. Nicolas convinces Julia/Margaret/Echo to write a pre-dated letter implicating supposed killer Jack, then loads up a lethal syringe and tries to kill her (again). Jack arrives just in time; he and Julia are able to knock Nicolas out.

Julia writes that letter, but this time it implicates Nicolas. She also gets a chance to re-write her will, and to write heartfelt letters to her daughter, husband, and brother, letting them know how much she loved them.

Topher’s story: Under the pretense of needing to run tests, Topher gains Langton’s permission to implant an active. Langton gives him Sierra. But Topher is really looking for a buddy for a long night of video games and laser tag. What starts out to be another example of Topher being a jerk has a touching wind-up, when we find that this is Topher’s birthday, and he only does this once a year. Dewitt, having also (until recently) used Victor as her own personal play toy, is sympathetic toward Topher, and advises Langton to take no action against him.

Ballard and Mellie’s story: Ballard makes a romantic dinner for Mellie, then, under cover of doing the washing up, bags her wine glass and, later, sneaks into Loomis’ office. Reluctantly, Loomis agrees to run the prints on the computer. Ballard and Loomis briefly view results: Mellie was a woman named Polly Keller (and a handful of other names). Then, suddenly, the results disappear, and the search reports no matches.

Ballard is torn between his feelings for Mellie, her feelings for him, and his knowledge that she is wired as a spy but with no knowledge of her subterfuge. Ballard takes the lead and their lovemaking becomes more intense, perhaps partially in an elaborate ruse to hide his awareness of the situation.

Comments

Early on in the first season of Dollhouse, I mentioned that the basic concept of the show was extremely open-ended, with almost limitless possibilities for storytelling. This clever idea (implanting a dead woman to investigate her own death and reconcile with her family) is a good example of this.

Quotable Quotes

“Margaret, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you…you’re dead.”
- DeWitt to Echo

Nicolas: Well…I mean, it seemed like you wanted to -
Echo/Margaret: No.
Nicolas: Subconsciously?
Echo/Margaret: No!
Nicolas: You said you wanted to comfort me.
Echo/Margaret: Not with my tongue.

“Illusions aren’t worthless. They’re at the heart of most relationships.”
- DeWitt to Echo/Margaret

Langton: You know that you’re asking her to voluntarily die when the time comes.
DeWitt: Well, if she resists, I have a new head of security who handles that kind of thing.

Ballard: What just happened?
Loomis: I just started to believe you.

“Well, I guess Topher can make friends.”
- Langton to Dewitt

Sunday, April 12, 2009

1.9 Spy in the House of Love


Summary and spoilers

Dewitt is off to an ominous meeting with the Rossum corporation, where she will probably be asked to explain all the recent problems in the Dollhouse. Dominic is left in charge. Not long after DeWitt leaves, Topher discovers a security breach that could allow anyone to reprogram Dolls to their whim. Topher alerts Langton and Dominic. Dominic locks down the house and programs Sierra as an NSA agent to break into the NSA and find the file on the spy. Meanwhile, Echo, who has been exposed to a lot of secondhand knowledge of the situation by careless Dollhouse employees like Topher and Langton, walks into Topher’s lab and suggests that he program her to find the spy. Seeing this as a perverse opportunity to both catch the spy and experiment on the Dolls, Topher gives Echo a high level of interrogation skills, and a heightened ability to read people and body language. Echo immediately accuses Topher of either being the spy or of being highly incompetent. This amuses Dominic enough that he agrees to let Echo loose.

Sierra breaks into the NSA, steals the file, and is extracted by helicopter. Upon her return, she says that Ivy is the spy. Dominic is poised to arrest Ivy and send her to the attic when Echo states that Dominic must be the spy (based on her reading of body language). Confronted with some hard facts, Dominic admits guilt and then starts about covering all his tracks by killing Echo, Topher, and Ivy. Echo is able to best him in a fight and apprehend him.

Upon returning, DeWitt is swift and hard with her punishment of Dominic; he is placed in the chair, forcibly wiped (during which time he steals a gun and wounds DeWitt) and is sent to the attic.

With Dominic gone, Langton is promoted to Head of Security, even though he would have preferred to protect Echo. Echo is given a new, green handler. He is there after her treatment, and while both of their responses are by the book, it’s obvious that Echo’s are directed at Langton, not her new handler.

We find out that DeWitt did not go to a Rossum meeting; for some time, and unknown to anyone (as far as we know anyway), she has been hiring out Victor as ‘Roger’ for romantic sexual encounters. By the end of the episode, she has finally decided to terminate these encounters.

Over at Ballard’s apartment, his on-edge state is startled by a sound in the hallway. Gun drawn, he finds Mellie returning to her apartment. He tells her it is not safe there; she willingly follows him in, and then suggests that her purpose is to distract him from his obsession with the Dollhouse and keep him ‘grounded’. She kisses him (a worthy distraction); when he tries to take things further, she suddenly switches to the persona of November and tells him he is on the right track – that there is a Dollhouse, that he needs to find out why it exists. November warns him that Mellie is a spy and that if he tells Mellie that he knows this, he will be killed. She suddenly switches back to her Mellie persona, and they resume making love.

Comments

This episode was written by Andrew Chambliss. As with last week, the dialogue is sharp and witty; such beautiful prose. Those who have stuck with Dollhouse are now being treated to some of the better written episodes of the series. There are some clever moments of irony, such as when Echo as a dominatrix discusses with Langton how beautiful it is to hand oneself over to another human being with complete trust – and Langton argues, of course, that the opposite is true. I also enjoyed – and think it was almost necessary – when Echo attacked Topher for his incompetency.

Eliza Dushku IS just now becoming Echo. It’s helping that she is gaining sentience and awareness; this is giving her a distinct personality that she can emote at all times, rather than having to play a blank slate. Yes, I’m going to miss Dollhouse; all that it could have been and all that it has become.

This episode uses a cool technique; a number of scenes are filmed from two different perspectives; for example, when Topher and Langton are arguing, we first see it from alongside, on the Dollhouse floor. Later, we see this scene from November’s perspective, looking down from the balcony.

For DeWitt, the pressure at the top must be relentless, so I have some sympathy for her motivations in using Victor as a sex slave. But this is surely a perverse abuse of power. She could be influenced to make decisions in the house that would favor Victor. And what about Victor’s rights? The morality of her actions makes us question the morality of the entire Dollhouse concept; despite their willingness/agreement to the terms, surely it is still wrong to use people as dolls in this way.

DeWitt’s actions with Victor reminded me of the actions of Captain Janeway of the Star Trek series Voyager. In the episode Fair Haven, she took a fantasy computer-generated holodeck lover named Michael and ‘tweaked’ his parameters to make him more compatible and desirable to her. I have less of a problem with what Janeway did, since she was using a computer program (without sentience). What DeWitt did seems much more ick.

Sierra is extracted with a rooftop helicopter, but because of budget restrictions, we never get to see the actual extraction.

Memorable Moments

  • Echo as a dominatrix

Quotable Quotes

Echo: Everyone thinks it’s about the pain; it’s not about the pain. It’s about trust – handing yourself over fully and completely to another human being – there’s nothing more beautiful than letting go like that. Langton: In my experience, that kind of trust always leads to pain.
Echo: Then maybe you need a session in my dungeon so I can show you otherwise.
Langton: Thanks, I think I’ll pass.
Echo: Don’t be so ‘vanilla’. You can trust me. I’ve already shown that I trust you – I got in the van, didn’t I?
Langton: You sure that was a wise decision?
Echo: I have a good feeling about you…and I’ve got the whip.

Echo: Everyone’s unhappy today.
Topher: Somebody put her tiny little thinking cap on!
Echo: He was mean to you. Were you not your best?
Topher: If it hadn’t been for me, there would still be a security breach. You’d think the security head would recognize that! Typical middle management hack. He’s mad at me for not discovering it before it happened. But I’m not a counter-intelligence agent, so I can’t catch a spy. And you have no idea what I’m talking about.
Echo: I can help you.
Topher: Why would you want to?
Echo: Why wouldn’t I?
Topher: Did I just lose an argument to a Doll? Okay – um, thanks, but you can’t – help.
Echo: You make people different. You can make me help.

"Wow! Guess the neighborhood went to crap while I was gone."
- Mellie

Ballard: I’m giving you an out. You can walk out that door.
Mellie: I’m pretty sure I can’t even unlock it.

Sierra: Can I borrow a pen?
[woman reaches for pen]
Sierra: Never mind. [injects woman with pen] Found one.

Roger: You are perfection. If I could make a woman, I’d make you.
DeWitt: Really?
Roger: Um, yes. In fact, if I were one of your clients, I would order one of you with a spare for when you’re in the shop.

DeWitt: Everyone has their first date, and the object is to hide your flaws, and then your in a relationship, and it’s all about hiding your disappointment. Then once you’re married, it’s about hiding your sins.
Roger: Catherine…mistress of the dark observation.
DeWitt: But with you, there’s no reason to hide anything real.

Echo: [looks at Topher] I want to start with him.
Topher: Uh [laughs] I’m not the spy. I discovered the spy. Remember? The spy was operating under my nose!
Echo: Which means you’re either dangerously incompetent, or you’re trying to throw us off your trail.
Dominic: [to Topher] I’m sorry I ever doubted your programming skills.

Echo: I’m not trying to incriminate you. I’m just trying to nail down your feelings about the Dollhouse.
Langton: We’re pimps and killers…but in a philanthropic way. [pause] Can I go now?
Echo: I don’t know why I trust you, but I do.
Langton: I must have one of those faces.

Dominic: That’s it, Miss DeWitt? You’re signing my death warrant like it was a business transaction?
DeWitt: It is.
Dominic: The agency will figure it out, and they’ll come looking for me.
DeWitt: And when they do, you’ll tell them everything’s fine, and then we’ll put you back in your box. [pause] What? Did you think I’d show you mercy? Or rage? Three years by my side – I’d think you’d know me better than that.
Dominic: Piece of work.
DeWitt: So they tell me. Goodbye.

Echo: What’s in store for you…you don’t have much to smile about.
Dominic: After you beat me to a pulp, they’re gonna erase me. But first they’re gonna erase you.
Echo: I can take care of myself.
Dominic: I know, that’s why I’m smiling. ‘Cause one day you’ll be erasing them, and even after all this, they still won’t see it coming.

DeWitt: How did I not see this coming?
Topher: No one did.
DeWitt: Yes, you saw enough to imprint Echo as an investigator.
Topher: Yeah, about that: unless you’re about to give me a better parking space, I can’t take all the credit for that.
DeWitt: Ivy?
Topher: Echo! She came to me and asked me to imprint her.
DeWitt: Dominic had her in his crosshairs for months. She took out her biggest threat.

Saunders: It’s okay to feel something.
DeWitt: That would imply I lost something.
Saunders: Didn’t you?
DeWitt: [watches Victor walk by] Nothing I can’t live without.

Travis: Everything’s going to be alright.
Echo: Now that you’re here.
Travis: Do you trust me? [pause] Do you trust me?
Echo: [looks at Langton] With my life.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Dollhouse Aftermath: Why (probably) No Season Two?

It appears almost inevitable that Dollhouse will not be renewed for a second season, so I’d like to take a moment to examine the possible reasons why. Before I start, its important that all dedicated Dollhouse lovers understand that the opinions here do not reflect negatively on your love and support of the show. In fact, in some cases, the opinions below do not even represent my opinions, but are instead canvassed from blog posts and comments I have read in reaction to Dollhouse. So here are some of the reasons:

  • The ‘slow buildup’ is risky: Joss Whedon likes to slowly build a show, rather than try to ensure that the first few episodes are audience grabbers. With network executives coming and going at an alarming rate, this can spell trouble. Often, as happened with Dollhouse, the executives that supported it have now fallen out of favor and may be on their way out. If the show doesn’t rate highly from the start, these executives cannot continue to support it, and sometimes they are not even around anymore to do so. On the other hand, if the show scores big audience numbers, it becomes immune from executive favoritism. It’s hard to validate the cancellation of a show while it is rating highly. With Dollhouse, it is generally agreed that it built slowly and found its groove in episode six. But by this time, the viewer numbers were already below what FOX wanted, and this was only enough to stabilize the remaining viewers.
  • The concept is flawed: Some viewers have expressed problems with getting emotionally involved with a show where the stars have different personalities every week. This has not been a problem for me: I have focused on other strong personalities among the Dollhouse staff and handlers, like DeWitt, Boyd, and Dominic.
  • Eliza Dushku is not right for the role: Eliza is well-respected in Whedon land from her roles on Buffy and Angel, but many have expressed reservations about whether she has the diversity to play the demanding, always shifting roles of Echo/Caroline. It is an extremely demanding or impossible assignment: to make her character a consistent personality, even while taking on multiple personalities. It demands an actor with an powerful and consistent core presence, no matter what role they are playing. I think Eliza is growing and improving every episode. But again, there is no leeway for the slow improvement in the role – not in the world of snap, cutthroat decisions on whether a show lives or dies.
  • Why Dollhouse? The reason it was made: There are some question marks about where the motivation for Dollhouse came from. Apparently, Joss and Eliza sat down and worked out a starring vehicle for her. If their goal was to create that, then they have succeeded. But perhaps Dollhouse’s reason for existence should have been someone with a burning passion for telling the story. There’s only a slight skewed difference between those two approaches, but its still an important distinction.
  • Joss Whedon is spread too thin: Why isn’t Joss writing and directing every episode? I believe this show demanded that, at least until it had solidified in the ratings. Apparently, he’s got a few other projects going at the same time.
  • This isn’t typical Whedon: I love and respect a lot about Joss Whedon’s work, especially the way he combines original humor and sharp wit as part of serious drama. Dollhouse has the serious drama, but it is missing enough of the trademark Whedon humor. When it is injected (usually by Topher) it seems out of place within the context of the heavy seriousness of the storylines. I loved the way action, drama, and wit swirled together in Firefly; I long for more of it here.

Summary: There are so many wonderful positives about Dollhouse – certainly enough to keep me watching. There’s the trademark Whedon ensemble cast, each with a fully fleshed out personality brimming with gray areas. There are the wonderful sets, the stylish direction, the intense situations peppered with occasional wit. There’s a base concept that is open to almost limitless directions for storytelling. If Dollhouse is not renewed, it will still not be a failure. The ideas will no doubt be used as a stepping stone for other shows that may achieve more success and longevity.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Dollhouse Future: Episode Airings, DVD News, and Cancellations

Previously, we reported that all 13 Dollhouse episodes would air. We also reported that there was no guarantee of this; FOX could alter those plans when they saw fit. Well...they saw fit. FOX now plans to make episode 12 (Omega) the final episode to air. Omega, written by Firefly and Angel vet Tim Minnear, will have to serve as our live finale. Read the full Dollverse article here

For a more satisfying finale, TV Shows on DVD reports that the Dollhouse DVD, due to be released on July 28th, will include the unaired 13th episode, Epitaph One. Epitaph, written by Jed and Maurissa, and directed by Joss Whedon, ties up some loose ends, while still leaving some questions unanswered. The DVD will also include the unaired pilot episode. Read the full article here

Will Dollhouse have a second season? Not decided yet, but, obviously, highly unlikely. Was the decision to can the final episode made by FOX or Joss Whedon? Unknown, but perhaps it was mutual - DVD sales will be boosted by the inclusion of this episode.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

1.8 Needs


Summary and spoilers

Ballard’s dreams are haunted – well maybe ‘haunted’ isn’t the right word when your dream is about Eliza Dushku begging you to make love to her. The haunted part comes later, when Mellie shows up and catches them in the act, then starts bleeding from the head. That’s haunted, as is what happens to Echo that turns Ballard into a necrophiliac.

In the waking world, Ballard has found a tracking device in his apartment. He brings it to an electronics expert, who grudingly identifies the device as being futuristic, untraceable, and possible unable to mask.

At the Dollhouse, DeWitt is leading a meeting for all staff about the sentience glitches that multiple actives have been experiencing. DeWitt senses the wave of a bigger problem, and warns all staff and handlers to be on the lookout for any unusual behavior, and to report it. Topher is going to try getting new equipment to do better wipes, and will mess with the drug cocktail used on the actives when they sleep.

Later that night, Echo freaks out in her pod. Other actives wake up around her with awareness of their surroundings but no understanding of why they are there. There are five actives with sentience; one of them, Mike, drops out after being given a treatment, leaving four (November, Echo, Victor, and Sierra). The four decide to attempt an escape. We learn soon after that they have been programmed this way, as a test of the security system. Only limited staff members are aware of this.

Observed by DeWitt and Dominic, Sierra, Victor, and November are allowed to escape. Echo returns to fight from the inside.

Sierra remembers being taken away by men with guns, and that a man named Nolan put her away. November has also remembered details of her past life, including that she had a daughter named Katie. She heads off on her own to rejoin he previous life, but her discovery is that Katie is dead (and, we assume, November was at least partially responsible for this).

Sierra and Victor go to meet this Nolan character. How decrepit is this: Nolan’s sexual advances were spurned by Sierra, so he had her put in the Dollhouse as punishment. He then hires her out as a willing sex slave. He admits as much, so Victor punishes him with a few punches and smacks before security arrives and the actives flee.

While hiding, Victor reveals that he is haunted by the memory of Sierra being hurt in the house while he was powerless to help her. About to be captured, Sierra and Victor promise to look after each other.

At gunpoint, Echo grills Topher. She is about to force him to have a treatment when DeWitt arrives. At gunpoint, Echo forces DeWitt to release all the actives. As the actives walk out en masse, Echo suddenly collapses, as do Sierra, Victor, and November. It is revealed that this was Dr. Saunders plan for provide closure for the troubled actives. Sierra needed to confront the man who put her in the house; Victor needed to get the girl he is in love with; November needed to deal with the death of her daughter; and Echo needed to lead everyone to safety. When this was achieved, the actives self-released a sedative.

And although Echo wasn’t able to lead anyone to safety, she was able to do one thing that was undetected: she sent a phone message to Ballard, telling him that she was attempting a rescue.

Comments

At times, the dialogue bristles in this episode, in particular when Echo and DeWitt go head to head. At other times, such as when Victor and Sierra promise to look after each other, it is beautiful and poetic. I thought this episode was an improvement, simply because of the fluent script written by Tracy Bellomo. Tracy is a staff writer for Dollhouse who has also written for Angel, Alias, and Smallville.

Nits

The electronics expert looks at Ballard’s tracking device for all of 8 seconds, then gives way more information about it than should have been possible, especially when he says that it hasn’t even been invented yet. If it hasn’t been invented yet, then he’s never seen it before – so how does he know so much about it?

Memorable Moments

  • Victor suppressing his shower arousal by reciting names and positions of New York Mets baseball players (eg: Mookie Wilson)

Quotable Quotes

Mellie: Oh, my god!
Ballard: Mellie!
Mellie: I guess I took too long getting back. You’re already with…her!
Ballard: I know this is confusing – f-for all of us.

"This house is out of balance."
- DeWitt

Topher: Echo?
Echo: Not anymore.

Echo: What the hell is wrong with you people?
Topher: We’re good people! Nice people! We – help people become better people by giving them what they need. I don’t usually do the sales pitch.

Topher: I have your memories. You can have them back.
Echo: You can do that?
Topher: Totally.
Echo: [points to chair] But I have to go in there.
Topher: Well, yeah, but -
Echo: Okay…you first.

Sierra: Who are they?
Victor: Maybe Nolan’s guys.
Sierra: What do they want?
Victor: Take us back, probably.
[shots are fired at them]
Victor: Or kill us.

Echo: You’re letting us all go.
DeWitt: You’re free to leave. Who are you to decide for the others?
Echo: Something you should have been asking yourself.

Sierra: What have they done to us? I don’t know which to hope for; it feels like dieing either way.
Victor: No. We’ll look for each other like we always do. And we’ll finish this; we will.

Monday, March 30, 2009

March 27th: Dollhouse Audience Drops (slightly)


An audience of 3.87 million viewers tuned in Friday night, March 27th, to watch Episode 7 (Echoes) of Dollhouse. These numbers are down from last week by about 250,000 viewers. Dollhouse also dropped 1/5th of a percentage point among adults 18-49.

This is not good news, with Dollhouse probably needing to hold an audience of at least 4 million viewers, and to trend upwards as the season progresses, in order to be renewed.

Read the full TvByTheNumbers article here

Saturday, March 28, 2009

1.7 Echoes


Summary and spoilers

In the present:

Two college students enter the lab at Fremont College and find their friend Owen Johnson almost naked on the floor, talking to flies. When they approach, he bangs his head on the window glass until he bleeds and it shatters. The two students first try to stop him, but then cannot stop laughing.

Clive Ambrose, chairman of the Rossum Corporation, visits DeWitt. He needs to recover a missing vial of a promising memory drug. This is the drug that Owen Johnson was on before he killed himself. Topher interrupts the meeting to salivate at meeting Ambrose, whom he adores for being one the richest and most powerful men in the world. Ambrose wants Topher to create an antidote for the drug while an army of immune actives track down the missing vial.

While Paul makes breakfast, Mellie does her best to convince him that he should drop the case. It’s unclear if this is how Mellie feels, or if this is another manifestation of her hidden active.

Victor takes over operations at Fremont as the highest ranking NSA officer, which elicits a chuckle from the outranked Dominic, who quickly curses Topher for setting him up.

Echo is just tieing up her date Matt and getting a video camera working when she accidentally sees vision from the news story about Owen Johnson, whose tragic death happened in the Rossum Building on Fremont College. When Echo sees the building on-screen, she flashes back to an unpleasant memory that took place there. Immediately, she tells Matt that she has to go to help some mysterious ‘him’. She goes, leaving Matt still tied up.

Topher injects Mellie with the memory drug. He says she is immune; he is attempting to create an antidote. DeWitt prods Topher to find an antidote quickly.

Echo arrives on campus at Fremont College, wandering around in a daze, and is picked up and escorted by Victor and his agents. Boyd has tracked Echo there; he alerts DeWitt, who tells Boyd to get her out of there.

Echo has been escorted to a secure area and is assumed to be effected by the memory drug. Sierra (as an active doctor) wants to give her another drug to negate the effects, but Echo refuses. Sam, one of the laughing students who in the lab earlier with Owen, is recovering there. Echo tells him she needs to save someone; Sam agrees to help her get into the lab. Boyd tries to intercept Echo, but he has been affected by the drug and is losing his grasp on reality.

Having found and sedated 14 infected students, Victor has the situation under control until the heavily armed Dominic is affected. A brief standoff ends when Dominic drops his too heavy gun and meekly allows himself to be escorted to the sedation area.

Back at the Dollhouse, Topher is unaware that he has been infected. A touch of DeWitt and she becomes infected as well, and together they babble incoherently about lentils, brown sauce, and being British.

Mellie suddenly begins flashing back to her relationship with Ballard, her attacker. She recites part of the trigger phrase that will turn her into a killer, which terrifies Topher and DeWitt.

Echo has remembered a way into the lab through a storm drain. She and Sam are proceeding toward the lab but are intercepted by Dominic, still under the influence and professing his apologies to Echo for trying to kill her in the episode True Believer. They get past him, but others are not so lucky: Sierra glitches and remember her rape, and shoots Victor.

Sam and Echo enter the lab. Sam immediately finds the drug and uses it on Echo before she realizes that he is the one she is supposed to stop. Sam plans to sell the drug for billions of dollars to a Swiss company. Prompted by the memories of her first break-in to the lab, when Liam was shot and killed, Echo wills herself to reject the drug. Memories of past and present blur, but Boyd arrives in time to take out Sam. Echo is finally ready for her treatment.

Mellie moves out of her apartment for awhile; Ballard decides it is better/safer if he does not know where she is going.

Sam complains to DeWitt that she has no right to hold him. DeWitt offers Sam the opportunity for a new life that will ensure that his mother is well looked after. All he has to do is agree to work for the Dollhouse for five years.

In the flashbacks:

Through flashbacks, we finally get to know more about Echo before she became an active. She was a concerned animal rights / anti-war activist, a bright girl with a social conscience. Appalled by animal testing being conducted by the Rossum Corporation, she led a raid on their labs in the hopes of videotaping the animals and causing shame to Rossum. Caroline bribes a government clerk and gets plans that allow her and her boyfriend Liam to enter the lab. They find caged monkeys and rabbits that have been operated on, and other evidence of mind experiments. Caroline and Liam are discovered by a guard; Liam is shot and killed in the ensuing chase. Later, DeWitt visits the injured Caroline in the hospital, but Caroline escapes before DeWitt can talk to her. Eventually, Caroline is caught; DeWitt tries to convince her to dedicate 5 years of her life to her new role for the Rossum Corporation (Dollhouse); in exchange for this service, DeWitt says she will be free to have the rest of her life to herself.

Comments

Any episodes written by Joss Whedon are going to be clearly better than the ones that are not. This one...is not. It feels overplotted, like the writers used a checklist to sure that their script had all of the elements that needed to be in Dollhouse.

The basic concept of this episode (a substance that makes the entire cast simulate intoxication) reminded me of the Star Trek (the original series) episode <em><strong>The Naked Time</strong></em> and the Star Trek Next Generation episode <em><strong>The Naked Now</strong></em>. Homage?

It’s about time that we began to get some of Echo’s pre-Dollhouse backstory. I’m a little surprised that this information was withheld for 6 episodes, when it could help viewers to gain more empathy for her character.

The monkeys and rabbits in the Rossum lab were probably used for prototype experiments in the type of mind control and imprinting that is being used on the dolls in the present.

Memorable Moments

  • I love Olivia Williams / DeWitt, so it was wonderful to watch her get out of character and loosen up for awhile. We might never see that happen again. Conversely, it was difficult to tell that Topher was drugged at all!

Quotable Quotes

"As long as we keep the place locked down and don’t have any more X-factors, then…here I come to save the day. [pause] Can you get me a juice box?"
- Topher to DeWitt

"Sure, now you’re experts. Four hours ago you were discussing your love for apple sauce."
- Dominic dissing the actives

DeWitt: We need to know what it is.
Topher: Yes, well…we will – when I figure it out.
DeWitt: And, reverse the effect – are you making any progress?
Topher: I’m working! What are you doing, besides…being –
DeWitt: Being what?
Topher: Wait a minute -
DeWitt: Sarcastic? Unfeeling? British?
Topher: It’s an animal.
DeWitt: Where?

Dominic: I am so sorry I tried to kill you.
Echo: It’s okay.
Dominic: No, it isn’t. I tried to burn you to death. Who does that?

Friday, March 27, 2009

FOX Says All 13 Dollhouse Episodes Will Air


FOX has confirmed to Dollhouse portal site Dollverse that they will air all 13 episodes of Dollhouse. The season will end on May 15th with the episode Epitaph One.

In a sense, this is not 'new news'; FOX had already said it would air the episodes. This is more of a confirmation and a way for FOX to assure viewers that they can invest their time in following character arcs with less chance that they will be aborted. Is it a guarantee? No way, not in the world of serial television. If rating numbers were to drop substantially, FOX could do anything they want. Personally, I don't think the numbers will drop, so we should be safe.

For the full story, read the Dollverse article here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cast Away: Fran Kranz (Topher)

Dollverse recently ran a story about Fran Kranz (Topher) and his guest-appearance in episode 5 of the web series My Two Fans. This is a great opportunity to see Kranz in a very different role (although, again, he gets to show his comic strength). Kranz is good, but this is not the strongest episode of My Two Fans; check out the initial episode at The Night Googler if you find yourself wanting more of Kate and her buddies.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Viewer numbers for Dollhouse Episode 6: Man on the Street


According to TV By The Numbers, Dollhouse episode 6 (Man on the Street) aired Friday night, Mar 20, 2009, basically held its viewer share from the previous week. It totalled 4.13 million and a 1.5/5 (rating/share) with adults 18-49, very similar to the previous week. This is good news, as Dollhouse was up against NSCAA basketball AND the finale of Battlestar Galactica.

These numbers indicate to me that the show now has established a very strong core base of dedicated fans. Viewer levels are probably high enough already for FOX to consider renewal. Hopefully, next week's numbers will rise for a couple of reasons:

1- competing specialty shows should not be as strong
2- buzz around the internet is that this episode was the best yet. This should bring in some curious viewers and bring back some who may have left after a couple of episodes.

Dollhouse Episode 1x07 Promo (Trailer)

This is the first promo/trailer I have watched. Previously, I have just watched episodes without any spoilers (and there are plenty in this promo, so don't watch if you don't want them)! It looks like it could be a very good episode, filled with the kind of internal conflicts that make Dollhouse interesting.

Click here if you cannot view the video above

Saturday, March 21, 2009

1.6 Man On The Street


Summary and spoilers

The show starts with a news report and vox pops about the urban legend of the Dollhouse (additional vox pops are shown from time to time throughout the episode). We pan back to see it is Ballard watching. He is visited by another agent who once again derides his case. When the agent calls Echo a mindless whore, Ballard almost snaps the guy’s arm off.

Victor and Echo are sitting together when Sierra enters the room and sits alone at a different table. Victor walks over to ask her to join them, but he only gets as far as touching her shoulder. She screams in fear, then later tells Dr. Saunders that Victor likes to pretend they are married. Dr. Saunders’ examination of Sierra reveals that she has had sex. Victor is the likely partner. Mr. Hearn, Sierra’s handler, wants to check the videotape to prove it is Victor and put him in the attic if found guilty. Echo pops in from nowhere to say that when they go to sleep in the pods, she can hear Sierra crying.

Ballard has traced large payments from various accounts to form a proposed trail of possible Dollhouse clients, including an internet mogul named Joel Miner, a billionaire with commitment issues who always has a beautiful anonymous ‘doll’ on his arm when he shows up at charity engagements.

Back at his apartment, Ballard and Mellie are sharing Chinese takeaway and talking about the case and Mellie’s personal life.

Joel Miner has readied his house for a romantic encounter and has hired Echo to fulfill his needs. Ballard is there as well, and he infiltrates the kitchen and, gun drawn, comes face to face with Miner…and Echo! Ballard is just about ready to take Echo (whom he calls by her pre-doll name Caroline) into custody when he is attacked by numerous Miner bodyguards. Eventually Ballard has all those guards writhing or unconscious, but in the meantime, Boyd grabs Echo and they get away. Before being taken away, Echo yells out her accusatory "Porn!" one more time (she somehow believes the Miner is her husband and that he is involved in making porn).

Ballard’s questioning of Miner gets turned around. Miner accuses Ballard of being in love with Caroline, then tells his own story – how his wife Rebecca died just before she got to see her new house (the one they are in now). Now, each year, Miner hires a doll to play the part of his wife, and he recreates the moment the way it should have been.

Dr. Saunders and Topher question Victor about his feelings toward Sierra. No one has been able to find any incriminating evidence against Victor. Boyd realizes that all the dolls are broken. He rings Dominic and tells him he must take Victor and his handler off the floor. Dr. Saunders takes Victor away, and Victor’s normal handler is dragged away while protesting. Boyd assures an inquisitive Echo that it is all being done to protect Sierra.

Ballard and Mellie are back in his apartment. Shirtless, he is being patched up by her while he debriefs as well, but he stops to suddenly kiss her. They decide to make believe that kiss did not happen, although they are both pretty sure it did.

Back at the Dollhouse, Boyd has done nothing to catch the true perp; his earlier actions were all a setup to make Hearn try to rape Sierra again, and this time, Boyd catches him and punches him through a glass panel. DeWitt chides Boyd for taking action on his own, but also tells him a bonus has been wired to his account.

After Boyd leaves, Dominic and DeWitt watch wiretap footage of Ballard discussing the case with Mellie. Dominic warns DeWitt that if word of this and of Hearn gets out, she will be in trouble with higher ups. DeWitt tells Dominic to bring Hearn to her, and to prep Echo for a ‘second date’ with Ballard.

Boyd tells Topher he is upset that Echo has been sent out on assignment but without him. He’s been put on hold. Topher says this is the standard penalty for plate-glassing someone. Topher says Echo is on a nothing ‘life coach’ assignment and not to worry about it. Boyd leaves and Topher returns to his office, where he has a surprise – Echo shows up to be imprinted.

Hearn has arrived at DeWitt’s office to get his punishment. But he’s not really being punished, just reassigned. His next job: kill Mellie and make it messy.

Apparently, Ballard and Mellie didn’t forget about that kiss, as we join them just after they have made love. Ballard leaves to get some Chinese takeaway. While at the restaurant, he sees Echo in the kitchen. When he pursues her, she grabs his gun and flattens him. After a long fight that continues out into the alleyway, Echo tells Ballard that she represents someone inside the Dollhouse that wants to bring it down – it and the 20 other Dollhouses around the world. She instructs Ballard to stop trying to find the Dollhouse, and rather to find out what their real purpose is – because it is something much more sinister and important than pure fantasy fulfillment. She also warns Ballard that while they want him alive, they will kill those around him. She shoots a cop with Ballard’s gun, then gets away.

Ballard realizes that Mellie is under threat, and he takes off. Meanwhile, Hearn has arrived at Ballard’s apartment and begins attacking and killing Mellie. Ballard is running, trying to get there, dialing the phone. The phone rings inside his apartment, but it is not Ballard – it is Dewitt delivering an encoded message. Upon hearing it, Mellie becomes a lethal assassin, and she dispenses with Hearn – and there we see what DeWitt really had in mind for him. Another message from DeWitt, and Mellie returns to her normal self, just in time for  Ballard to return.

Dominic tells DeWitt that Ballard was suspended for shooting a cop and beating up bodyguards. DeWitt says to bring Mellie in for a Topher diagnostic, but not to pull her off the case, as Ballard probably won’t let something like suspension stop him from his pursuit of the Dollhouse.

Life inside the Dollhouse has returned to normal, but Echo tells DeWitt that her painting of a happy couple in front of their house is ‘not finished.’ In response, DeWitt sends Echo back to Joel Miner, to complete the fantasy that has somehow become meaningful to both of them.

Comments

My first thought about who Sierra’s partner/rapist might be: Dominic!

Just when I thought DeWitt had a shred of morals and good will, she tells Hearn to kill Mellie! Of course, we find out later that she had something very different in mind for Hearn.

So Mellie is an active!

There’s something strangely touching – and creepy – about a man who would want to recreate a lost moment in his life with the degree of realism that Joel Miner does. I can’t decide if it’s beautiful or sick.

Nits

I’m sure at one point when Ballard is talking to Miner, he calls him ‘Wyler’.

Memorable Moments

It was painfully sad as I watched Hearn brutally assaulting Mellie and knowing that there was nothing that could stop him from killing her. She was such a beautiful character – did they have to kill her off? The phone began to ring, but we knew that Ballard was dialing his phone, so we assumed that this would be who would leave a message. When that message came from DeWitt and turned Mellie into a lethal assassin who not only saved her own life but delivered fitting justice by ending the life of Hearn, the flood of emotions that filled me were unique. Thanks, Joss Whedon, for doing that to me!

I love the natural, unforced chemistry between Ballard and Mellie.

Quotable Quotes

Agent: What, you’d come to my house, dig through my garbage, too?
Ballard: You’re out of hand cream again.
Agent: This the alleged victim? Guys said you had a face. Damn – no wonder you’re foraging for hand cream.

Ballard: Weren’t you…seeing someone?
Mellie: Uh huh.
Ballard: Rick.
Mellie: Dick.
Ballard: Really. I thought it was Rick.
Mellie: Oh, his name is Rick.
Ballard: Ooh.
Mellie: Uh, huh. He said he didn’t see me as a long-term investment. He said he wanted to…dump the stock before it went public. He talks like that. He works at a donut shop.
Ballard: What a Rick!

[after making love]
Ballard: So…can I borrow a cup of sugar?
Mellie: I don’t think I’ve got any sugar left!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Eliza Dushku All Dressed Up for Saturday Night


Eliza Dushku has donned a series of slinky outfits for her interview about life, career and Dollhouse for Saturday Night Magazine online. She explains how she and Joss Whedon sat down and made a basic plan for the show they would make together.
Click here to read and view the full article

Monday, March 16, 2009

Season One Full Episode List


1.1 Ghost
1.2 The Target
1.3 Stage Fright
1.4 Gray Hour
1.5 True Believer
1.6 Man On The Street
1.7 Echoes
1.8 Needs
1.9 Haunted
1.10 Four Engagements
1.11 Briar Rose
1.12 Omega
1.13 Epitaph One

Thanks to Dollverse for leaking the latest episode titles!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Discovering the true reaction to Dollhouse

It's difficult to gauge overall what viewers think about Dollhouse. Searching for news and reviews on the web, I often come across either blatant promotion such as this article for Channel News Asia (they are trying to sell subscriptions to a cable channel that shows Dollhouse) or this article, a real review, but sadly lacking in substance, and, even sadder, near the top of the Google search results.

Regarding the second article...there's no explanation of why the audience will find Dollhouse too confusing. Is it even too confusing to explain why it is too confusing? I suppose it must be.

My feeling is that, yes, the initial concept is unclear, but if the shows are exciting and accessible, there is no need to fully understand and accept the concept. That can happen over time.

Viewer ratings for Friday March 13th


Friday the 13th didn't bring bad luck to Dollhouse or its fans, with the news that viewer numbers were slightly up from the previous week. With an audience of 4.3 million, and an 1.6/5 viewer share in the 18-49 demographic, the slight rise from last week should push FOX to put the axe away for awhile anyway.

As mentioned before, Dollhouse is supposed to improve starting with the next episode (ep 6). We'll wait and see if we agree and if that improvement is reflected in viewer numbers and/or FOX satisfaction.

A link to the full article is here

1.5 True Believer


Summary and spoilers

In Arizona, a singing cult encounters trouble from at least one local when they visit town for supplies. One of their members has scrawled ‘Save me’ on a piece of paper.

A senator asks DeWitt for an active to infiltrate the cult. DeWitt is initially appalled, as this would mean putting an active to work for a federal agency, the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms). The senator insists that only an active can get in undetected in this situation.

Ballard convinces a woman named Lumis – with super clearance – to run Echo’s photo through her databases. Some time later, Lumis tells Ballard she has found nothing, but that she will leave it live to see if any more hits occur.

Dominic expresses misgivings about Echo’s dependability, but Dewitt is not going to heed him. She checks on Echo’s preparation, which consists of surgery to make her a blind camera. She will not see anything, but her eyes will be lenses sending signals back to the feds. Saunders expresses minor misgivings about the risks, but these risks area deemed within acceptable levels by DeWitt. Topher just find the whole situation fun and amusing.

The ‘Save me’ note has granted the ATF just 48 hours to infiltrate the cult compound and find further reason to pursue the case. Langton drives Echo to the compound. She infiltrates with ease, but their leader, Jonas Sparrow, warns his second in command that she may not be who she says she is, and if she is not, she should be eliminated.

Topher observes that Victor is aroused by Sierra in the shower. This was not supposed to happen, at least according to him, but when he tells Saunders, she says she is not surprised. Victor has had the same memory – a gigolo – implanted eight times, and she had warned in many (unread) reports that this could cause residual effects. Saunders tasks Topher to look through three months of shower scenes to find more ‘man reactions’.

Jonas questions and examines Echo. He is momentarily convinced that she believes her story is true, and he allowed her to stay, although it is obvious from his gun-pointing that he could change his mind at any time. The ATF is excited and appalled to see that Echo’s interrogation takes place in a room filled from top to bottom with high-tech automatic weapons.

Mellie arrives at Ballard’s office with his medication, a huge platter of manicotti, and a mystery package. Lumis confirms that the writing on the package is the same as that which accompanied the photo of Echo that Ballard has already received. Inside, there is a DVD with the movie of Echo at college saying goodbye to her friends and making jokes about venereal disease.

Topher and Saunders have determined that the source of Victor’s arousal is not residual memories, but Sierra – he is attracted to her only.

The arsenal has enabled the ATF to invade the compound – all they are waiting on is the warrant from the judge. Langton strongly objects and wants to extract Echo safely first, but Lilly, the ATF leader, is more interested in getting his man – he has pursued him for years. Langton calls Dominic to request a forced extraction. Dominic is wrong man to ask – he denies the request, probably seeing it as an easy way to eliminate Echo and the problems she creates in his eyes.

Even as Echo is being initiated and fully accepted into the cult, ATF agents are stalking the perimeter, ready to invade. Floodlights are tripped, and the invasion is stalled, but Jonas now accuses Echo of bringing this on. He starts slapping her around, but suddenly, just as the feedback images to the ATF end, Echo regains her sight, and stops Jonas’ next slap. Now even Jonas believes he has witnessed a miracle, and, for all intents and purposes, he has. He reads this as a sign to set them aflame, believing only the unrighteous will perish.

Outside, Lilly says he will treat Echo no differently than the other cult members. Langton wants to try to identify the person on the inside who wrote ‘Save me’ but Lilly is not interested in his ideas. TV vans show up at an inopportune time and feed back images of the cult members being shepherded from building to building. Ballard watches the report on television and sees Echo.

Langton does some poking around in town and discovers video footage proving that Lilly wrote the ‘Save me’ note and planted it in the convenience store. He confronts Lilly and basically writes his own terms for rescuing Echo – that or let everyone know about Lilly’s penmanship.

In a final scene filled with twists and turns, Langton creeps outside the building, just about to rescue Echo. Inside, Echo knocks out Jonas and saves everyone by urging them to leave the building. Jonas comes to and is just about to shoot Echo when Dominic shows up masquerading as an ATF agent, shoots Jonas, then knocks out Echo and disappears. Langton shows up just in time to extract her.

Ballard shows up the next day, pumping Lilly for information, but gets nothing.

DeWitt has discovered that Dominic was in Arizona last night. She asks why. He says he was protecting her interests, but she seems more threatened by this than assured. She threatens him subtly as well to let him know that he had better stay in line.

Comments

There are great similarities between the Arizona cult and the Dollhouse cult.

I expressed some disappointment in Eliza Dushku’s abilities when she played a slick wise-cracking safecracker in Gray Hour, but here, as a blind religious woman who wants in to a cult, she is excellent. And as Echo goes, so goes the episode. It is very solid, filled with conflict both internal and external to the Dollhouse.

Observant viewers will notice that after Echo’s wipe, her words are the same as always, but they are delivered with a slight difference in tone. Something is there to indicate past memories and awareness. But it is so subtle as to be unnoticed, even by her and certainly by Topher and Saunders, both of whom seem suspicious but clueless.

Nits

I think it’s a little out of line that a doctor (Dr. Saunders) would ask Echo for her opinion on her own vision, giving that a wiped doll might not really have the perspective to answer that question meaningfully. Perhaps an eye test would be a more accurate gauge?

Quotable Quotes

DeWitt: You don’t like Echo, do you, Mr. Dominic.
Dominic: It’s not that I don’t like her – it’s – sometimes I worry you do.

"I gotta go. Something…came up."
- Topher, abruptly ending his phone call when he sees Victor is ‘aroused’ by Sierra

Dr. Saunders: Victor had an erection?
Topher: I prefer ‘man reaction’.

DeWitt: So tell me, Mr. Dominic, how was Arizona? I understand it’s a dry heat. You requisitioned a company jet last night.
Dominic: Echo was glitching on a government job. I thought I should be on site in case measures were called for.
DeWitt: I see.
Dominic: As always, just trying to protect your interests.
DeWitt: I’m touched.
Dominic: If I may – Echo has been exhibiting the same signs that Alpha did before his composite event. Now if you’re not willing to send her to the attic –
DeWitt: Don’t gamble on what I’d be willing to do, Mr. Dominic. Take the stairs.

Dr. Saunders: Echo, how’s your vision? Can you see okay?
Echo: (Looking down at Dollhouse level 1 and seeing Dominic) I see perfectly.

Monday, March 9, 2009

1.4 Gray Hour


Echo is a mid-wife at a mountaintop mansion, delivering a baby for a young couple. The birth appears to spark memories of her birth.

Back at the dollhouse, Topher is excited that Echo, Sierra and Victor are eating together at the same table like Bison. He tells Langton that this is not caused by memories, but rather by an instinctual herd or school survival instinct.

DeWitt has a new client – a man hiring Echo as an escort for his son’s bachelor party, or at least it seems. When the party turns sour and she is getting roughed around, she flees and is taken in by the hotel security guard. He offers her a lump-sum payment from the hotel if she will sign a paper agreeing that she will forget the incident and not litigate. Her response? She knocks the guy out. She wasn’t roughed up – it was all a ruse so she could get past security and facilitate a break-in for the same guys who made believe they were roughing her up. With Echo’s assuming the persona of ‘Taffy’, and expert in explosives and safe-cracking, they break into a vault filled with rare and priceless art treasures. All is going smoothly when, suddenly, one member of the team, the art-expert ‘professor’, steals what they came for and locks them in the vault. Echo still has everything under control; she says she can get them out. She phones Langton and asks him to catch the professor, but as she completes the call, a high-pitched sound emanates from the phone, and, suddenly, she is wiped and back to a blank state.

Langton is able to trap the professor and recapture the priceless Parthenon tile that was the focus of the crime, but he is unable to help Echo. DeWitt enlists Sierra, also encoded as Taffy, to attempt a rescue. With time running out, Sierra give Echo phone instructions, but Echo doesn’t follow them to the letter, and alarms go off in the vault. As guards approach, one of her fellow thieves wants to shoot his way out, and wants Echo to do the firing, but Echo manages to avoid that, and instead escapes with the other thief.

Ballard has spent this episode recovering from his gunshot wound and harboring Anton Lubov (Victor) who broke into his apartment and appealed for protection. Ballard initially says he will protect him, but instead, he basically tells everyone he can that Anton is the snitch, then releases him into the world to be killed. I don’t think Ballard is that cruel – he probably does suspect that Lubov is somehow linked to the Dollhouse and is playing him.

DeWitt ups Topher’s security level so she can tell him that Alpha is still alive. She confirms Topher’s fear that Alpha was the one that performed the remote wipe.

The episode ends as a clean slate Echo recreates something slightly resembling a Picasso painting of her face in the mist-covered mirror of her apre-shower.

Comments

Eliza Dushku does a wonderful job of portraying the innocent, serene side of Echo, but, at least so far, she’s not quite as good as making a character like Taffy seem completely believable. There’s an element to her portrayal that comes across as too lightweight. All the lines are there – it’s just the way she delivers them. Her multi-personality role on this show is the gig of a lifetime, and it is also extremely challenging for any actor – I just hope she has the versatility to grow into it and make it work.

Other than this, the episode is fantastic – the pacing, tension, and production values are all top-notch again.

A worrying sign for the future of the show are the viewer numbers. For this episode, they are down to 3.5 million, which is well below the 5 million that FOX seems to want to keep a show running. There are other factors involved – like the general low ratings for sci-fi shows like this, and the premiere this week of Watchmen – but anyone with a love of the show and a knowledge of the previous behavior of FOX would be plenty worried at the moment. The show’s future is not helped by my perception from reading blog and forum entries that indicate many people are only lukewarm about it, and are watching in allegiance to Joss and in the hopes that will improve. The latest rumor is that FOX released the reins around episode six, so expect things to liven up then.

Nits

I don’t understand how Echo could assume that if she fleed a sexual assault in a hotel, that she could be assured that the hotel security guard would let her inside his office, yet this is the whole key to facilitating the crime. And I have no idea how she was able to escape from the vault just by using the cover of one smoke bomb.

Memorable Moments

  • Echo’s remote mind-wipe while locked in a high-security vault – get out of this one, girl!

Quotable Quotes

"You drop it, I shoot you. Then you don’t get paid, or breathe."
- Langton to the professor

Professor: You shot me!
Langton: Barely.