Television Tourniquet: We Play in the 'Dollhouse' -- Episode 11


Dollhouse Episode 1.11 "Briar Rose"
Written By: Jane Epensen
Directed By: Dwight Little
Original Airdate: 1 May 2009

In This Episode…

A mysterious hard drive shows up, addressed to Laurence Dominic.  Thinking it is some crazy NSA secret that only Dominic can unlock, they pull him out of the Attic – or more specifically, they imprint Dominic into Victor's body.  Dominic is pissed off, but thanks to some handy-dandy drugs supplied by Dr. Saunders, he talks.  The drive is not from the NSA, it's from Alpha.  He supplies them with the password, the Greek letter alpha (that is a terrible password), and up pops photos and news clippings about murders in Tucson.

Ballard is packing up his apartment, and Mellie is there, begging him to stay, to talk to her, to work it out, anything.  When he refuses, she wanders around Downtown Los Angeles until she comes to an overpass overlooking the 101 freeway.  As she contemplates jumping, her handler rolls up and brings her in.

Ballard doesn't actually leave town.  With the help of his one remaining friend at the Bureau, he gets some info on the guy who designed the Dollhouse, a nut by the name of Stephen Kepler.  Kepler specializes in designing completely self-sustainable buildings.  His structures recycle their own heat, water, oxygen, everything  -  they can be completely modern yet still exist "off the grid."  Ballard finds Kepler, a whacked-out druggie whose apartment consists entirely of a hydroponic farm.  At gunpoint, Ballard forces Kepler to show him how to break into the Dollhouse.  The only way in is a 10-story drop through a sidewalk vent.

Once in the Dollhouse, Ballard lures a Doll over and steals his clothes, making Kepler put them on.  Ballard tries to pose as a handler and his Active, but that lasts all of eight seconds.  Topher spots them, Ballard tasers him, and sets Kepler up at a computer to override the Dollhouse security.  Kepler starts by unlocking the sleeping pods, one by one.  Ballard nearly cries when he finds Mellie's pod.  But he hits pay dirt on pod #2: Echo.  He wakens her by calling her Caroline, but papa bear Boyd shows up, gun to Ballard's head.  The two fight, and Echo doesn't really know who to believe.  She flashes on the time that she was sent to "warn" Ballard and they end up fighting; she also flashes on the time when she saved Boyd from the guy who was hunting humans.  She decides to trust Boyd, and listens to him when he tells her to run and hide.  Boyd eventually gets the upper hand, cuffs Ballard, and brings him to DeWitt.

Victor had been caught in the middle of the Boyd/Ballard fight when the two crashed in on Victor's pod.  Dr. Saunders is fixing him up when they are surprised by Kepler – or rather, Alpha.  Alpha had stolen Kepler's identity, though I am not really sure why.  Anyway, he slashes Victor deeply so he can get to Saunders, who is visibly terrified.  He forces Saunders to call Echo into the room.  She arrives, and upon seeing Alpha, she remembers something about him.  He imprints Echo with another personality.  She kisses him passionately, he whispers, "I told you I would rescue you," and the two of them leave the Dollhouse.

Dig It Or Bury It?

From the description, it sounds like a pretty engrossing episode, right?  Wrong.  I'm just sparing you all the boring, flowery bullshit that made up the good first half of the episode.  The episode is called "Briar Rose" and draws all sorts of connections between the story of Sleeping Beauty and this episode.  For example, the first half of the episode is Echo reading Sleeping Beauty to foster kids, and one especially troubled girl freaks out because she hates the book.  Echo relates all different aspects of the story to the girl's own life.  Things like that continue throughout, but I started to tune them out.  Also, Ballard spends far too much time dealing with "Kepler," who is vaguely amusing at first, but quickly turns into Jar-Jar Binks.  After about fourteen seconds of his nonsense, I wanted to punch him in the face.

Persona Non Grata

Echo opens up the show as Susan, a woman who is reading to foster kids, and was "sent" there to work with one in particular, also named Susan.  It is never made clear if echo is a counselor, a social worker, a therapist, or what.  Anyway, Topher later reveals that the personality Echo has been imprinted with is actually the adult version of troubled orphan Susan.  Grown-up Susan is an example of what little Susan could grow into with the proper care and nurturing.  Again, more touchy-feely shit.

Sierra is Special Agent Gerhardt, a talkative forensic expert sent to examine the body found in Tucson.  She is the one who figures out that the body belonged to the real Stephen Kepler, and was definitely killed by Alpha.  Victor, as mentioned earlier, was briefly imprinted with Dominic's personality.


Alan Tudyk, who played Alpha in this episode, played Wash in Firefly and Serenity.

Also, when Alpha and the freshly imprinted Echo are leaving the Dollhouse, their resemblance to Spike and Drusilla from Buffy the Vampire Slayer was uncanny.  Not nearly as cool as Spike and Dru, but creepily similar.


Next week is the season finale, and the promo for it certainly looks good.  Echo and Alpha seem to be going on a Natural Born Killers-style road trip, Ballard seems to do little other than whine and annoy, and Alpha – who has apparently stolen most, if not all, of the personalities in the Dollhouse, puts Caroline's personality into a battered blonde, while Echo/the real Caroline watches.