Sunday, March 15, 2009

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.


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.


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.


  1. Am I the only one who felt the perfect answer for the "Can you see okay?" question would have been "Five by five"?

  2. I had faith someone would come up with that...I must be a true believer...