Television Tourniquet: We Play in the 'Dollhouse' -- Episode 3


Dollhouse Episode 3
"Stage Fright"
Written by Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon
Directed by David Solomon
Original Airdate: 27 February 2009

In This Episode…

A music manager, Biz, comes to the Dollhouse.  His meal ticket – I mean, pop diva -  Rayna, is receiving death threats.  In fact, one of her backup singers was burned to a crisp by an errant pyrotechnic who was gunning for Rayna.  Biz is looking for protection for Rayna.  Special protection.

Echo is sent on the job, as the new backup singer.  Sierra is sent as well, as Rayna's number 1 fan (she won a contest).  Both have  no conscious idea that they are there to protect Rayna.  Echo and Rayna quickly become BFFs.  Until, of course, Echo finds some of the stalker's creepy, childish letters to Rayna in her dressing room.  Rayna has been communicating with the freak who wants to kill her.  Echo tries to warn Rayna, but she blows Echo off.  Echo then realizes that Rayna wants the psycho to kill her.  Preferably on stage, in front of her fans, so she can go down a legend.

Echo, of course, is not going to let that happen.  While Rayna is on stage shaking it, Echo is trying to find help.  When she can't find any, she runs on stage, commandeers a spotlight, and swings it to the rafters.  She finds the psycho, who gets a couple shots off.  Echo tackles Rayna, and all hell breaks loose as security clears the venue.

Backstage, Rayna is furious.  She wanted to give her fans a spectacular finish – she can't handle being everyone's fantasy.  Knowing that she could die at any second is the ultimate rush.  Rayna takes her anger out on Echo and fires her. 

Sierra, meanwhile, is kidnapped by the stalker.  He sends a webcast to Rayna and Biz, holding a gun to Sierra's head. "I kill for you, you die for me.  That was the deal.  You have my number.  Call me," he says.  Biz is pissed, now knowing that Rayna was in on this plot.  Biz bitch-slaps Rayna but good, and she runs off.  Echo still feels obligated to help, and finds Rayna practicing her dance moves mindlessly.  Echo has reached the end of her rope, unable to talk any sense into Rayna – so she hits her over the head with a folding chair, Wrestlemania-style.  She arranges a meeting with Stalker, in the rafters of the venue.  He turns over Sierra, and she turns over Rayna, and can do with her what he will.  Echo pushes Rayna off the catwalk – but she is attached to a rope, and bungees off, without the bungee-ing part.  Stalker panics and lets go of Sierra.  Echo beats the crap out of him.  She looks down at Rayna, who says she wants to live, and rescues her.

Mixed feelings abound in the Dollhouse.  DeWitt is pleased with Echo's skill.  She was sent in to protect Rayna from the person trying to kill her – that person happened to be herself.  Echo's methods were unconventional, but Rayna will never try to kill herself.  Lawrence, the well-dressed head of security, thinks that Echo is a danger to herself and others, and wants her retired to the Attic. Boyd is mystified that Echo can "think outside the box."  Doc Saunders knows that, around here, being special isn't a good thing.

We also discover that the Russian guy that Agent Ballard has been in contact with, Victor, is an Active.  We don't know a hell of a lot else about it.

Dig It Or Bury It?

I am hesitant to say it, but I feel like the show is slowly starting to come into its own. This episode was very message-y ("love yourself, don't take any guff from anyone, don't let anyone else run your life, and oh yeah, don't kill yourself") and there were a few lulls in the episode (there were at least three scenes where Echo tries to talk some sense into Rayna, but it's like she's talking to a wall).  I feel, however, like Ballard and Victor finally have a reason to be in this show.  Sierra, too.  I am still waiting to find out why Ballard's neighbor is always skulking around (besides wanting to bed Ballard).

Some nitpicky things that bugged me:  Eliza Dushku is not a great singer.  Not terrible, but I don't think Simon Cowell would invite her to Hollywood.  She is also terrible at accents.  Towards the end of the episode, my husband and I decided that her character was supposed to be from Boston, which would explain the occasional odd pronunciation. Also, Rayna wore this mini-mini-skirt covered in little mirrors that tinkled whenever she moved.  That was just unnecessary.

Persona Non Grata

Echo played Jordan, an aspiring singer who may or may not be from Boston.  She is programmed with a parameter – protect Rayna.  This is not a conscious personality trait.  It is there to kick in when instinct tells her to.

Sierra also has a larger role in this episode.  She plays Audra, an Australian girl who wins a "Rayna's Number 1 Fan Contest," which grants her the right to go to Rayna's concert and party with her after.  It also gives her the right to be kidnapped, apparently.  Like Echo, she is programmed with the instinct to protect, but she never pulls it out, even with a gun to her head.


I have to say, there was very little in this episode to mark it as a "Grr! Argh!" production.  Topher, who is the stereotypical Whedon loveable-funny geek, was scarcely in this episode.  And there weren't any clever lines to laugh at.  Whedon, you get a pass this week.  Don't make a habit of this.


Next week looks good.  Echo is sent with a team to pull off a fine art heist – and if Ocean's Eleven has taught us anything, it's that heist movies rock.  To top it off, Echo somehow gets wiped in the middle of the Engagement – an intriguing wrench in the works.  Plus, I think that Victor is being deployed by the Dollhouse to keep Ballard off the scent.