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.


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.

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