Television Tourniquet: We Play in the 'Dollhouse' -- Episode 4


Dollhouse Episode 4
"Grey Hour"
Written by: Sarah Fain and Liz Craft
Directed by: Rod Hardy
Original Airdate: 6 March 2009

In This Episode…

Echo is heading up a team of three guys for an antiquities heist.  This is not Ocean's Eleven scale.  The vault is in the sub-basement of a hotel, of all places.  They have one hour, the "Grey Hour," in which security systems are pulled off-line for maintenance.

They make it into the vault with no problem – but you know that can't last.  The antiquities expert gets a hard-on when he discovers what they have been hired to steal – a piece of the Parthenon.  He steals the piece for himself and shoots one of the two remaining guys before locking them all in.  Echo calls up to Boyd to have him intercept the rogue professor (which he does with ease) while she gets the two guys out of the vault.

As Echo is finishing up her conversation with Boyd, there is a loud high-pitched tone.  And Echo goes blank.  Somehow, she has been wiped remotely.  Topher gets the data and immediately brings it to DeWitt's attention.  He's freaked out, and adamant that it is not his fault.  He's also worried about Echo – being wiped would bring her to a childlike state.  It is like a rebirth.  The sensory overload could send her into a coma or turn her into "Carrie at the prom."

DeWitt's solution is to give Sierra the exact same programming.  By now, there are only about ten minutes left of the Grey Hour – not enough time to get to the hotel, so Sierra is going to have to talk Echo through breaking out of the vault.  Echo takes direction well until her second course of drilling.  The freshly armed alarms are set off, and the guards come running.  Heist guy #1 – Non-Injured Guy – tries to get childlike Echo to shoot at the guards.  She is scared, and instead stabs him with a suicide hypodermic from their bag o' tricks.  He goes down shooting.  Heist guy #2 – Injured Guy Who Was Nice To Echo – sets off a smoke bomb so that Echo can escape.  She helps him out, and is met by Boyd, who whisks them away to safety. 


The job was completed successfully.  The client gets his stolen artifact.  Echo is wiped back to her clean slate state.  Topher figures out that the only one sophisticated enough to hack into their security setup and program a frequency capable of a remote wipe is Alpha.  DeWitt finally caves and admits that Alpha is, indeed, alive and psychopathic.  DeWitt will tell Topher all she knows about Alpha; Topher will tell DeWitt how to prevent this from happening again.

Dig It Or Bury It?

I'm very pleased that each episode is stronger than the last.   I loved seeing what would happen if an Active was wiped mid-mission.  I really like that we are getting to see more about the other Actives.  In this episode, Sierra had her best, most fleshed-out mission yet.  I am back to being annoyed with the whole Ballard/Victor thing, even though we did get confirmation in this episode that DeWitt is using Victor to set up Ballard.  It is a good plot point that is just being poorly executed.  It's as if the episodes are in the can, and the Ballard stuff is shot and added in as an afterthought, so the viewers don't forget him.

Persona Non Grata

This week Echo plays Taffy, who has her own double identity.  She starts out all slutted-up as a bachelor party squeeze toy.  She cries rape and runs to the hotel manager for help.  He takes her into the basement security office and tries to buy her silence (which he apparently does on a regular basis).  Taffy in turn knocks the manager unconscious, calls her two "attackers" to join her, and busts into the vault.

When Echo gets wiped, Sierra is coded with the exact same Taffy identity.  Taffy Two has the same skills and personality as Taffy One, but she is told she is being brought in to clean up the mistakes of their "first operative."

The episode also opens with a brief scene of Echo playing a midwife, delivering a baby to a woman in her lush, remote home atop a snowy mountain.  This is an obnoxious hint towards Echo's own "rebirth" in the vault, and has virtually no relevance to the plot.


This episode finally had a substantial dose of that ol' Whedon wit.  Topher is finally getting more screen time and brings plenty of geeky, spastic energy to the role.  The downside to these Whedonisms?  When Sierra takes on the personality of Taffy, she uses phrases like "whatevs" and "here's the deelio."  That was cute in high school, and Buffy did a good job delivering slang like that, but it just doesn't work in the semi-adult world of Dollhouse.


Next week, the ATF hires Echo to infiltrate a fundamentalist religious cult.  Religious cults are always fun.  As if that weren't cool enough, they make Echo blind and install cameras behind her eyes so they can monitor the going-ons inside the compound.