Tuesday, March 2, 2010

2.10 The Attic

Summary and spoilers

DeWitt, once a woman who protected the dolls first and asked questions later, has now become a sleazy, self-absorbed, sadistic drunk who was quick to send Echo, Victor, and Sierra to the dreaded Attic. There, they are clothed in white cocoon frocks. They each get their own table where they are covered and sealed in industrial strength Glad wrap. So far, it’s not nearly as bad as I imagined. It is a cleaner place than the name ‘attic’ would imply; I expected dark areas, cobwebs, and rusty nails sticking out of old wood paneling. Although there are no nails poking out to get stuck on, there are needles stuck into your head. These seem to annoy Echo quite a bit, so she fakes her own death, then disables her captors and frees Victor and Sierra. There is a brief tussle with guards, and some gunplay, and then Victor and Sierra are gunned down while Echo watches through bulletproof glass, helpless and devastated. And then she finds herself back on her sterile isolation table, a victim of the nightmares that the Attic will visit on her during her stay. She’s not escaping from here that easily.

Topher says that Ballard’s EKG is so weak it’s more like static. Topher may be able to piece together his brain, but DeWitt isn’t sure she wants the petulant Ballard back. She intimates that it might be better to create a more docile version to replace Victor.

Langton wants to know what happens in the Attic. Topher knows little – there is experimentation, forced nightmares, death. No one comes back from there – that’s what Topher says. No one.

Echo keeps reliving that nightmare, and learning from it. She doesn’t panic when Victor and Sierra are gunned down. She finds herself in the Dollhouse, with snow falling and Langton laughing like a mad scientist. Dominic is there, too, saving Echo from the dark, attacking ‘Arcane’.

DeWitt pulls Ivy aside and broaches the subject of a bloodless coup that would oust Topher. Why? She has discovered Topher’s role in the death of Nolan Kennard.

Echo is not the only one living an attic-induced nightmare. Sierra is being raped by the corpse of Nolan Kennard. Victor is back in Afghanistan, fighting against himself and losing. Echo’s nightmare, however is most bizarre and most real. She has determined, through meetings with a Japanese sushi-eater, that all the Attics worldwide are connected.

As imaginatively frightening as the Attic may be, DeWitt is doing a comparable job of creating an Attic-like hell right here at home. She is threatening every employee, or pitting one against the other. Is she purposely trying to destroy Rossum’s Dollhouse investment? Or does she see an end game that will benefit her? Or both, perhaps? She has Langton drinking too now, and even Topher is sipping, as they commiserate over her path into hell.

This dark, superhero Arcane is really a wavering little guy with a British accent called Clyde, killing people in the Attic because their brains are being used as Rossum’s mainframe. If he fails, the world will descend into chaos (well, more chaos), and he knows this because it was his idea. Clyde was one of the original founders of Rossum, backstabbed by his partner and condemned to the Attic. Clyde believes the way to stop Rossum is to stop that backstabber. His mind has been wiped, but he knows of a woman mistakenly put into the Attic who knows their identities. That woman is Echo’s Caroline.

Ballard wakes up. After a brief unscrambling session, he is able to piece together words and understand what is being said to him. He is very unhappy to find out he is a doll, even though it saved his life and he has been imprinted with his own personality, not someone else’s. He is even less happy to find out who is in the Attic. He grabs Langton’s gun and enters in a gun and finger pointing standoff with DeWitt.

Echo is shot and flat lines as a way of getting out of the Attic. Victor kills Sierra, and Echo revives her in the Attic. Victor finishes the job on himself. Echo emerges and meets with the master planner behind this fa├žade: DeWitt, whose real end game is to take down Rossum with the help of everyone.

DeWitt has assembled what she thinks is the full team, but Echo reminds her that there is one soldier missing: the personality of Caroline, the woman who holds the final secrets that could dismantle Rossum.


I’m not sure why DeWitt told Ivy that she could take Topher’s place, or why she insisted on playing everybody against each other. Was there some purpose in this, or did she just want to create a more dramatic moment when she revealed her real purpose? Perhaps this was the safest way to do what she did – make it look like she was out for herself. I know Kirk did something similar as a way of infiltrating a Romulan ship. This made it look like it was all Kirk’s idea, and others were freed of any blame.

Dollhouse Quotes

Dominic: I chase Arcane, and I try to stop him from killing. The reality changes, but the enemy stays the same. I’ll never rest, and I’ll never catch him.
Echo: That’s pretty cool and all, and I don’t want to ruin your whole Highlander vibe, but I’m pretty positive that this is my mind. I think you just saved my life – for real.

Sierra: In mine, I was constantly making love to you.
Victor: Oh?
Sierra: - and then you’d turn into the rotting corpse of a rapist I’d killed.
Victor: Oh!

Ballard: I’m not afraid to lose my life to take you down.
DeWitt: I’m not afraid to die.
Ballard: Then only one of us is gonna be disappointed.

Echo: Nobody’s ever gotten out of the Attic.
DeWitt: Nobody else is you.

Monday, March 1, 2010

2.09 Stop-Loss

Summary and spoilers

DeWitt is shocked to find that her rendezvous with Roger (Victor) is cut short when Roger sincerely believes that he is in love with another woman. DeWitt, who was just using Victor for one last fling before he is released from his contract, thinks she is the victim of a practical joke, and she confronts Topher. Little does she know that the dolls are starting to retain bits of their life, no matter what character they are currently playing.

Topher examines Ballard and finds, sadly, that Ballard’s head is completely empty and incapable of repair. Langton shoots off to bring the news to Echo.

Echo is upset at not being able to see Ballard. She’s also not thrilled that Victor is leaving – she was planning on using him to get everyone out. Langton promises to speak to DeWitt about the Ballard situation. DeWitt has no intention of letting Echo see Ballard – she blames Echo for Ballard’s condition through a roundabout of convoluted logic.

Victor sits in the chair one final time. When he wakes up, he remembers nothing of the past five years. He is given money, job opportunities, and a hotel room, and he’ll be back to the dollhouse bi-weekly for checkups. He walks right by Sierra and does not remember her. He’s a free man – but if so, why is he under observation as soon as he hits the streets?

Alone in his room: able to remember again his tour in Afghanistan, Victor feels that something is not quite right. He grabs a pillow and sleeps in the bathtub, for it reminds him of his dollhouse pod. Echo explains to Sierra why Victor is not coming back. Sierra says that Victor is not ready to be by himself.

When Echo finds that Ballard is no longer in the house, she confronts DeWitt. They are engaged in a power struggle for house control. DeWitt talks big, but she knows deep down that she is outclassed.

Victor is abducted by five ninja from Prank Patrol. Actually, they are not from Prank Patrol – they are ex-military who want Victor to join them – and Victor is willing to do so. They inject him with a mind link device. Now he is part of a hive mind, controlled by no other than the evil Rossum Corporation.

Topher has been monitoring his vital signs and lets Langton know that something bad has happened. Langton heads out, taking Echo to check the hotel room. Quickly they trace Rossum to the abduction. A program called Mindwhisper uses recent Dollhouse graduates to build an army.

Topher says if Victor is not rescued before he is fully absorbed, he will be lost forever. Langton and Echo spring into action, but Miss Lonelyhearts DeWitt just has a few more drinks and slurs a few more words. Echo loads up with an egg carton of useful personalities, from bomb dismantler to acrobat, and then grabs Sierra – as Pria – because she loved Victor as Pria before she became a doll. Echo and Pria head out together (Langton always get left back at base camp).

Echo and Pria purposely get captured to get inside, then Echo knocks off guards until Victor meets Pria. Initially, the hive mind dominates and he is going to kill her, but by sheer force of will, and with Pria’s presence, he is able to gain control.

DeWitt emerges from her drunken stupor to phone call from Harding, informing her that two of her operatives have infiltrated a Rossum training facility. After a quick slap in the face confrontation with Langton, she joins the actives on the dollhouse floor for a much needed cold shower.

Echo has figured out the best way to fully infiltrate the Rossum army: she implants herself with a mind link, and disables the army. Echo is about to release Victor and Pria when the mobile doll disabling device strikes, and all three are recaptured by DeWitt. Langton is detailed, and Echo is sent to the Attic, soon to be joined by Victor and Sierra.

Dollhouse Quotes

"I don’t believe for a second you’d ever stoop to the level of those pathetic souls who have to hire your programmable love dolls to get what they need."
- Roger/Victor to DeWitt

"Now you can be on my side, or you can be on Rossum’s, but the time for playing both is over."
- Echo to DeWitt

Langton: DeWitt’s out cold. We got at least half the day.
Topher: Ooh! After we’re done here, can I go to her office with a Sharpie?

"You really think we’ll be able to pull this off without Cruela DeWitt finding out?"
- Topher to Langton

Pria: Anthony! I’m so glad it’s you!
Victor: [holds Pria by her throat] Anthony’s gone.

"We may not have agreed in the past, but at least we put this house and the actives first. What happened to that woman?"
- Langton to DeWitt

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

2.08 A Love Supreme

Summary and spoilers

Somewhere out west, Alpha is back, wielding his knife to ‘sucker-slash’ an unwitting man.

In Echo’s isolation cell, she chooses to endure intense headaches rather than tell why she has returned. We see now that DeWitt suspects espionage, and her plan is to torture Echo for information. Her bigger plan is to get Ballard to talk by forcing him to watch Echo’s torture. When that doesn’t work, DeWitt tries jealousy: she sends Echo back into the field for a romantic engagement. Echo doesn’t need to be programmed; she just retrieves the required personality (this is a return engagement), rendering Topher obsolete.

The return engagement is short, as the client (Frank) has been killed by Alpha as a gift to Echo. Alpha has arranged a number of recent engagements, and has killed off a series of Echo’s former love-related clients. The latest client is blown up in full view of Boyd and Ballard, while Alpha stands by, making humorous and sick quips.

Ballard tracks down the final living love client, dumpy computer whiz Joel Miner (as seen in episode 1.6 - Man On The Street). Miner is taken back to the Dollhouse for safekeeping.

DeWitt is getting more brazen about confronting the Langton, Ballard, and Echo ‘cabal’. The cabal is getting more brazen about disobeying her.

Just after Topher clumsily assures Minor that he is safe from Alpha in the Dollhouse, Alpha breaks in and enters DeWitt’s office. He presents her with an envelope filled with photographs of…something. Just don’t assume like I did that they are snaps of his killings. Alpha activates a device that sets all the dolls as attack dogs against their handlers. Then he captures Joel Minor. But this is only a ruse for him to get the real lover of Echo, Ballard. That envelope mentioned earlier contained photos of Echo and Ballard from when they were co-habitating, and Alpha is convinved that Echo loves Ballard.

In his quest to discover what in Ballard’s brain caused him to be chosen by Echo, Alpha kills Ballard. Echo arrives too late to save Ballard, but not too late to beat the crap out of Alpha.


Boyd and Ballard explain to Topher that Echo has retained every personality that was ever implanted on her (including all the ones that Alpha dumped into her). A wipe pushes them back down, but they return. What’s more, Echo can re-surface them as needed.

Dollhouse Quotes

I don’t like seeing her in pain. I looked into her eyes and swore to protect her, same as you, before you. Today, protecting her means not reacting while DeWitt tortures her. So man up!"
- Boyd to Ballard

Topher: [to Boyd] Does she still trust you with her life? And is that because she’s programmed to, or just because you’re a swell guy with a trustworthy brow.
Echo: I’d like to think both.

"I am obsolete! This must be what old people feel like…and Blockbuster."
- Topher, after seeing the new improved Echo

Boyd: Alpha! Do not do this! There’s a part of you that knows this is wrong.
Alpha: There are many parts of me that know that this is wrong – none the care, and six… [laughs] that just find it funny.

"Well..Tally Ho then! In fact, what say we tally your ho’s. How many you got down there these days? A couple of hundred? More? Less?"
- Alpha to DeWitt

"Boyfriend’s dead. You want to snuggle? Too soon?"
- Alpha to Echo

2.07 Meet Jane Doe

Summary and spoilers

Echo is still loose and free, wandering about, attempting to eat apples from a dumpster in Texas. She needs money to buy food but doesn’t know how to get any. When she steals some food to help a starving Hispanic woman, a cop tries to arrest her. He gets a beating for his trouble. The Hispanic woman is arrested.

DeWitt keeps asking Boyd to find Ballard and Echo, but this exchange always seems to be taking place in DeWitt’s office. I think Boyd needs to look outside the Dollhouse, maybe get out into the world and start exploring America state by state.

Flash-forward three months later, and Echo is working as a nurse in a hospital, using knowledge gained from the many personalities she has housed. She has infiltrated the prison as part of her job, and is now treating Galena, the Hispanic woman who was jailed for stealing food. Galena is getting beaten in prison, and Echo plans to find out who is doing it.

Surprisingly, Echo is living with Ballard. Their idea of fun is to have Ballard hide and try to attack Echo. It’s all part of a training plan to re-enter the Dollhouse (and, I assume, liberate the dolls). Ballard is all business, but Echo is attracted to him, and isn’t afraid to tell him about it – and to make her move. The circle of intrigue is completed by the inside man – Boyd – who is also in on the plan. Of course, now Boyd’s nesting at the Dollhouse makes more sense: an inside man has to stay inside. The entire plan could crash if it not done expediently, as Echo’s headaches are increasing; she is deteriorating.

DeWitt, meanwhile, has been demoted to a more basic role of ‘doll pimp’. She is no longer in control of her house and can no longer protect the Dolls.

Echo has an impressive plan to break Galena out of the hospital. She injects her with an agent to slow her heartbeat dramatically, then blames the guards beatings for her death. Echo agrees to ‘dispose’ of the body at the hospital. The plan goes awry when it takes too long to get out and Galena resurrects. Echo then has to call on all of her embedded knowledge to beat up guards and pick a lock with the underwire from her bra. Ballard shows up to ensure that the women get away cleanly.

Topher has created a device that can remotely treat an active from with 50 yards. In his spare time, he has figured out Rossum’s bigger plan: to create a technology that can remotely program anyone – even if they do not have the Doll architecture. (You may recall that we had a glimpse of this future in Epitaph One). Topher has figured out how to do it. He shows the plans to DeWitt. She makes him promise never to show the plans to anyone. Then she steals them and gives them to Harding. She does it to get her house back – and it works.


Olivia Williams (Adele DeWitt) is strikingly effective in this episode. I love the way she played the role of the demoted one – and the way she immediately snapped back into ‘power bitch’ mode when the opportunity presented itself. It was a nice touch that while she was demoted, her posture drooped, her shoulders sagged, and she wore a pale shade of lipstick – but when she was back in control, she strutted like a Queen, and her signature lip gloss was back in place.

Ballard and Echo are back in the Dollhouse, and there is about to be a battle for control between DeWitt and Echo. It starts immediately, with DeWitt denying Echo her necessary treatment, and instead putting her in isolation to see how much more she can take.

Memorable Moments

After Echo propositions Ballard, in the next scene, Ballard removes his shirt and walks up to her – and they start fight training!

Dollhouse Quotes

Ballard: The Dollhouse made you fall in love over and over – you told me that.
Echo: They also made me aggressively sexual, and phenomenally creative in bed.
Ballard: Now that’s just cruel.

Harding: Well…this is a great occasion. Shall we celebrate?
DeWitt: There’s no smoking in my office.

Topher: You are the coldest bitch on this planet.
DeWitt: [slaps Topher] That is the last time you will ever speak to me like that – or at all until you are spoken to.

2.06 The Left Hand

Summary and spoilers

Bennett resumes her torture of Echo. When Echo asks why, Bennett responds with more neural treatments – but she also promises that when they get to the ‘why’, "…that’s when things get really bad." Bennett says Echo damaged her arm – she still wears it in a dark sling – and she makes Echo relive Bennett’s memory of the incident.

Cindy explains very carefully to Perrin how they took a spoiled brat with no ambition and no future – in fact, with a whole lot of ‘no’ except for his pedigree - and created a righteous, successful senator. She also takes the opportunity to tell him exactly how much she despises him.

Meanwhile, DeWitt and Topher have arrived. The plan is to examine Echo and, more importantly, do a brain scan of Perrin to get info on Rossum’s plan. Bennett drugs Echo, so Topher is unable to ascertain what she has been experiencing. Bennett’s boss tries to turn DeWitt away, but DeWitt manhandles him into submission.

Bennett lets Perrin and Echo go, then self-inflicts to make it look like she was bashed. Echo and Perrin takes turns cutting into their necks with a steak knife to remove their embedded GPS tags.

Working together in their web of mutual admiration, Topher and Bennett come up with a way to remotely put Perrin and Echo to sleep. With his eyes on the original prize, Topher manages to convince them that he needs Perrin’s brain map to do this. But Bennett is smarter – and more evil – than that. She discovers Topher’s hacking, then programs Perrin as an assassin to exact revenge on Echo (Echo as Caroline supposedly left Bennett trapped under a pillar during a raid).

Topher knocks Bennett out, then works with Topher/Victor to shut down Perrin before he kills Echo. They are too late to save Cindy; Perrin strangles her.

Perrin’s full purpose now becomes clear. He completely exonerates Rossum and implicates other, unrelated companies in his wife’s death and in a plot to vilify Rossum. Now Perrin can make laws specifically to protect Rossum.

Meanwhile, Madeline has been recaptured by Bennett’s ‘Dollhouse’, and she is about to undergo some Bennett-supervised ‘treatments’.

Echo is still out there, uncaptured, with DeWitt very interested in finding her and bringing her back.

Memorable Moments

Victor’s hilarious imitation of Topher

Dollhouse Quotes

"I can’t stand you – having to be your wife. Letting your touch me. Pretending that when it doesn’t disgust me, it doesn’t bore me. That has been…really hard."
- Cindy Perrin to Daniel Perrin, just before his treatment

Bennett: How do you work it – the disrupter?
Topher: How did you know it was called that?
Bennett: What else would you call it?

Topher 1: Dude, she has a dead arm.
Topher/Victor: Like dead, like in a sling with a glove?
Topher 1: Imagine John Cassavettes in The Fury as a hot chick.
Topher/Victor: Which you know I often have!

Bennett: You hacked into my system…stole Perrin’s brain map.
Topher: You tried to kill Echo.
Bennett: So we’re even?

Topher: Shut up and work.
Topher/Victor: I’m already working! I wouldn’t hold your breath on the shutting up.

Monday, January 11, 2010

2.05 The Public Eye

Summary and spoilers

Abetted by Senator Perrin, Madeline Costly (November/Mellie) is testifying that the Dollhouse stole three years of her life. Externally, Rossum is in major spin mode. Behind the scenes, Rossum will do whatever is takes to silence Madeline. DeWitt also wants to silence Madeline, but not using the same methods. The Dollhouse teams up to discover why Madeline is testifying against them. The first clue is Perrin’s too perfect wife Cindy, identified as an active by the observant Echo.

With Cindy a threat to go all sleeper mode and assassinate Madeline, and with Cindy and Madeline sharing a safe house, Ballard grabs a Topher-created Doll-disabling device and goes on a rescue mission.

Echo is also on a mission: to drug, seduce, and videotape Senator Perrin, and to deliver a message that he should back off. Perrin wakes up embarrassed but also aware that Echo is a Doll. He takes her to the safe house as well. They all gather as Ballard arrives. When activates his disrupter, Madeline and Echo collapse as expected. Somewhat unexpectedly, Cindy does not. She watches as Ballard is overpowered by two security agents. But most surprising: Perrin also collapses, marking him as the Doll and Cindy as his handler. Why would Rossum program Perrin to expose the Dollhouse?

Echo speeds away with Perrin. In her disrupted state, she flashes back and realizes she is a Doll, as does Perrin. Cindy tracks them down; a violent confrontation ensues, with Echo beating the bejesus out of Cindy. Echo takes Perrin back to the Dollhouse, but Cindy gets within range and uses the disrupter to stop them.

Ballard beats up his two would-be executioners and tracks Madeline to the airport. There, he confronts her with the story of how they knew each other during her Doll life. Ballard tries to convince her not to testify (since Rossum wants her to for some reason) but Madeline insists on making her own decision, even if it possibly a mistake.

Although I don’t fully understand the plan, Rossum will control Perrin, who will implicate the Dollhouse (just the one), make Perrin a hero, and control the damage.

Back at Dollhouse East, Bennett (Summer Glau) is sort the evil sibling of Topher. She programs actives but gives this task her own sadistic twist. After prepping Perrin for his mind-wipe, she visits Echo, addresses her as Caroline, expresses sarcastic joy at seeing her again, and then begins to torture her by performing what looks like an extremely painful treatment.


I’m not sure if this is Joss’s doing or because of network influence, but Dollhouse has certainly changed. In the first season, there were grayer areas of morality. The Dollhouse was bad. Rossum was bad. Maybe not all bad, but still bad. Now, however, Rossum is becoming the bad guy and the people in the Dollhouse are becoming white knights. This approach probably has more broad appeal, but I kind of preferred the darker, more generally negative first season. Except it’s not so simple. Rossum wants to stop Madeline because it threatens them. DeWitt wants to stop Madeline because it threatens DeWitt.

It’s shocking to find out that although Madeline was supposedly released from the Dollhouse, she still has what Ballard calls the Dollhouse ‘architecture’ in her head. If this is the case, one would surmise that she can still be controlled if required.

Ah…and Summer Glau is finally in the House as Bennett, a migraine sufferer who wants to share her pain with the actives that she reprograms. It’s kind of unclear exactly who she is and who she is so twisted, but her quirky character and screwed up facial expressions are a perverse joy to watch.

Memorable Moments

  • Bennett torturing Echo; the episode ends as Bennett shuts off the security camera that was monitoring this transgression

Dollhouse Quotes

Ballard: So just how much danger is she in?
DeWitt: A former active once made a passing reference to us in his Blog. That was his last entry.
Ballard: So going before the United States Senate - that would be worse.
DeWitt: Considerably.

DeWitt: Any sympathy for Mr. Han would be misplaced. He was a serial rapist.
Ballard: I wasn’t thinking about him.

Ballard: What is it?
Topher: It’s the thing that if it doesn’t work exactly like it should won’t get me in trouble. I call it a disrupter. That’s not too Star Trek, is it? TOS? Hmm?

Bree/Echo: C’mon. I think I know where you can get some help.
Perrin: You want to take me to them? They’re all bad guys, Bree.
Bree/Echo: I think her bad guys are badder than my bad guys.

"I assumed we’d fill him with travel memories: a layover in Milwaukee; some turbulence; and something to explain any dehydration or disorientation: bad shrimp – or…or a film with a dog."
- Bennett