Television Tourniquet: We Play in the 'Dollhouse' -- Episode 6


Dollhouse Episode 1.6
"Man on the Street"
Written by: Joss Whedon
Directed by: David Straiton
Original Airdate: 20 March 2009

In This Episode…

Victor and Echo are having lunch.  Sierra comes in and sits by herself.  Victor goes to invite Sierra to their table, and she begins screaming hysterically.  Dr. Saunders gives Sierra an exam, and discovers that she has had sex – and it wasn't during a romantic Engagement.  She says that sometimes she and Victor pretend they are married.  Warning bells go off, especially when Boyd discovers there is one small portion of a hallway not covered by security cameras.  Boyd demands that Victor and his handler be pulled off the floor.  This turns out to be a ruse to shake out the real rapist: Sierra's own handler.

Ballard finally gets a lead on a Dollhouse client – an internet billionaire named Joel Miner.  He stakes out Joel's house and surprises him in the kitchen – with Echo.  All hell breaks loose.  Echo thinks that the FBI is in her home because her husband is involved in porn.  Two of Joel's security goons tazer Ballard, then they brawl.  Boyd slips in and steals Echo away for her treatment.  The goons give Ballard and Joel some privacy and Ballard finally gets confirmation of the Dollhouse.

Ballard and Mellie are hanging out at his apartment.  DeWitt has an audio/video tap on his place, and is discussing the situation with Laurence.  She tells him to have Topher prep Echo.  It is then time to discipline Sierra's handler, Hearn.  DeWitt sends him to kill Mellie. 

Meanwhile, Ballard finally beds Mellie.  He tells her he will go pick up some Chinese food, and when he returns, they will look over his Dollhouse files and she can give him her take.  At the Chinese place, Ballard encounters Echo.  A terrific fight ensues (harkening back to the awesome choreography from Buffy).  When they get tired of fighting, Echo gives Ballard a whole bunch of info.  She confirms the existence of the Dollhouse, that there are over 20 around the world.  She tells him that she is essentially a messenger, that there is an agent embedded already.  He must let the Dollhouse win – he is going about "liberation" the wrong way.  He must trust Echo, and he must wait for another message, which will be delivered by the same "body."  She also assures him that "they" do not want him dead, but they will kill to protect the information.  She then grabs his hand, forcing him to shoot an approaching cop before she urges him to leave.  Worried about Mellie, he bolts.

Back at Ballard's apartment, Hearn breaks in – dressed as a ninja!  He beats Mellie savagely.  The phone rings, and DeWitt can be heard over the answering machine.  She is giving some secret code, something about the color of the flower in a vase.  Mellie's eyes change, she turns into a ninja herself, and kills Hearn in seconds.  DeWitt gives another command and Mellie goes back to her sweet, innocent self, crying in a corner at her near-death experience.  Ballard comes in to find the mess and comfort the seemingly normal Mellie.


Ballard is on suspension for shooting the cop and having paranoid delusions.  Mellie is a "sleep active" – it seems we will find out more about that next episode.  DeWitt has Laurence contact his counterparts at the other Dollhouses to warn them about the possibility of handlers taking advantage of their Actives.  And Victor joins Sierra on a very comfy-looking couch, where they serenely look at a picture book together.

Dig It Or Bury It?

Wow, this episode totally lived up to the hype.  There were a few scenes where some of the dialogue felt strained, like Joss was forcing some hipper-than-thou dialogue into characters that it didn't work for.  This was most noticeable with Patton Oswalt's scenes (he played Joel Miner).  But overall, this was easily the best episode of the season so far.  I was totally engrossed.  There was a lot going on, a lot of layers both added and exposed – and a lot of action.  Good action.  Before this, I was pretty indifferent about the series – it was a decent hour of television, but I didn't think about it much once the credits rolled.  Now, I am actually excited for next week's episode.

Persona Non Grata

Echo has two Engagements this week.  Her main Engagement is as Rebecca Miner, the wife of Joel.  She was a nurse and he was a "basket case" when they met and married.  He had a number of near-misses with internet properties, and when he finally struck it really, really big, he did not tell his wife.  He did take some of the money and bought an upper-middle class house in suburbia so they could move out of the tiny apartment they shared.  It was a surprise for his beloved bride, but she never got to see it – she was side swiped by a garbage truck three blocks away and died.  Every year since, on their anniversary, Joel would hire Echo to be his Rebecca, every year "surprising" her with her brand new home.  It is quite touching.

Echo also has a brief stint as the nameless ass-kicking messenger, carefully assembled by Topher, who beats the crap out of Ballard.


A lot of humor in this episode – most of it works, some does not.  The best part was that the show opens with a news report on the legend of the Dollhouse.  The news crew conducts man-on-the-street interviews about people's thoughts on the Dollhouse, which open each act.  My favorite is a big, burly biker guy, arm slung around his girlfriend, talking about how cool it would be to hire someone for a little bit of "male experimenting" that one person wouldn't even remember.  You know, "nothing queeny," he says.  The look on his girl's face is priceless.


Next week, some sort of secret mind-altering drug gets leaked on a college campus (could this maybe be something they use to wipe the Actives?)  Basically the entire Dollhouse (Los Angeles branch) goes undercover to clean up the mess.  Along the way, we see Mellie start to glitch, more hints at Echo's past, and the possibility that all the Actives could get their memories back.