Television Tourniquet: We Play in the 'Dollhouse' -- Episode 5


Dollhouse Episode 5
"True Believer"
Written By: Tim Minear
Directed By: Allan Kroeker
Original Airdate: 13 March 2009

In This Episode…

A wacky religious cult in the backwoods of Arizona makes their monthly pilgrimage into town for supplies.  One member hands the clerk their shopping list.  As they are leaving, the clerk notices a note scrawled on the back: "Save me."

Senator Boxbaum comes to DeWitt to hire an Active to infiltrate this cult.  DeWitt is not thrilled with the idea, but she agrees because the Senator is an important ally in keeping the Dollhouse secret.  Topher and Doc Saunders turn Echo into a living camera for this Engagement.  It is a cross between Lasik and neurosurgery that will turn Echo's eyes into lenses and transmit everything her eyes "see" back to the ATF.  Of course, this will make Echo blind (temporarily, the Doc insists – or hopes).

When Echo comes to the compound (after "hitching" a ride with Boyd), the cult is understandably wary.  But the Branch Davidian-like sect accept Echo when she tells them that she had a vision of the cult leader, Jonas Sparrow, beckoning her cross country.  After a quick interrogation, Jonas decides Echo is legit.  After all, Echo believes she is legit.

Echo's eyes show the ATF the tremendous stash of weaponry the cult has, and decide to move in.  Boyd desperately wants to pull Echo out, but head ATF Agent Lilly – who is a tremendous douchebag for someone with such a girly last name – won't hear of it.  As far as he is concerned, Echo is "one of them."  As the ATF advance on the compound, they set off tripwires that turn on the floodlights and send Jonas into attack mode.  He blames Echo, and bitchslaps her.  This knocks her lenses out of place – it's a miracle!  The blind shall see!  Of course, the ATF now have lost their view.

Jonas sends one of his lackeys outside to siphon gasoline, dump it on the building, and set it ablaze.   Jonas stays back to beat up on Echo some more, and tell his followers that the flames will protect the righteous.  Echo tries to reason with him, but when that doesn't work, she taps into her inner badass and knocks Jonas unconscious.  She helps the cult members escape the burning house, into the safety of the ATF.  Before she can get out, Jonas comes to and threatens Echo with a gun.  He is shot instead – by Laurence, who proceeds to pistol whip Echo and bail.  But that won't stop Boyd from rescuing her in the nick of time for a nice hero shot – tall man, carrying dainty unconscious woman in silhouette, backed by a raging inferno – much to the chagrin of Agent Douchebag, who decided at some point Echo was in cahoots with Jonas and was perfectly happy to let her die.

Elsewhere: Agent Ballard catches news reports from the cult standoff and sees Echo (Caroline to him) amongst the loyal.  He heads out to the desert to get more info, but Agent Douchebag is less than forthcoming.  Also, Victor has started getting hard-ons in the communal showers...  Doc at first thinks multiple imprints are leaving their marks, but after some research with Topher, decides he just has the hots for Sierra.


All Actives are secure.  DeWitt wants Victor "scrubbed" – I assume to get rid of any lingering threat of manhood he might have.  Agent Douchebag is unwilling to help Ballard identify Echo, despite the fact that he wanted her to die.  And even after she has been wiped, Echo notices Laurence on the other side of the Dollhouse, and cocks her head, oh-so-slightly, like a dog who knows something but isn't quite sure what….

Dig It or Bury It?

Somehow, this episode made crazy cults dull.  I don't know how they did it, but they did.  There was no background info on the cult, other than they splintered off from a larger (and, presumably, slightly less crazy) cult in Texas.  But there was no motive.  Jonas would spout flowery, made-up Old Testament-like diatribes about tending gardens (were they growing weed?).  It doesn't take much for a cult to be interesting.  Some polygamy here, mass suicide there – some even go that extra mile and dress in crazy robes.  This cult didn't have any of that.

I have no idea why Ballard's neighbor, Mellie, keeps showing up.  Can we have a hint, please? 

Persona Non Grata

Echo is Esther Louise Carpenter, a young blind woman who lost her sight at age 9.  She believes God led her cross-country, and she could hear Jonas's heart calling to her.  God also allowed Esther to touch Jonas's face so that she would recognize him when she found him.


My favorite line from this episode is the dumbest joke ever – something a five-year-old would make up – but I love it.  When discussing the viability of turning Echo into a living camera, Doc brings up the risks and concerns, including: "One good sneeze could bring on a seizure."  Topher's response: "Or even worse: a sneezure."


This is it, folks, the episode we have all been waiting for.  The mythical episode 6.  The episode that promises to be a game-changer, that Joss and Eliza have been telling us to hold out for.  It seems to have everything: action, romance, urban legends, confrontations, Patton Oswalt.  Bring it on, Whedon.  Bring it on.