Television Tourniquet: We Play in the 'Dollhouse' -- Episode 7


Dollhouse Episode 1.7
Written by: Elizabeth Craft & Sarah Fain
Directed by: James Contner
Original Airdate: 27 March 2009

In This Episode…

A couple of grad students enter a campus lab to find their buddy and partner, Owen, in the middle of a psychotic breakdown.  He is naked and rambling incoherently.  He tries to jump out the window, but finding tempered glass in the way, he just bashes his head against the window until his brains are mush.  His friends are powerless to help, as they are overcome with giggles.

The lab owner goes to the Dollhouse.  One of two vials of a very rare experimental brain-altering drug that causes giddiness, hallucinations, and loss of inhibitions has gone missing.  He wants an army of Actives on the case.  Because of their brain structure, the drug won't affect them.  While the Actives are securing the campus and seeking the missing vial, Topher is to reverse-engineer the remaining drugs in order to come up with an antidote.

Echo is out on an engagement, and DeWitt insist she not be called back.  Unfortunately, during her engagement, Echo sees a TV news report at the campus and feels inexplicably compelled to go and help out.  On campus, she meets Sam, one of the students who found Owen, and they work together to break into the lab.  Through flashbacks, we get little pieces of Caroline's life, and discover why she was drawn to the lab and why she signed on to be a Doll.  Back when she was Caroline, she was an activist.  She and her boyfriend Leo broke into that very same laboratory to video the animals being tested on, and expose the lab for inhumane actions.  While there, security busts in on them.  Caroline and Leo run, but Leo is fatally shot.  Caroline is taken to the hospital, where she is later collected by DeWitt.

But back to Echo's adventure.  Boyd tracks her down and tries to get her to go for a treatment.  She says no, but Boyd succumbs to the drug.  Sam and Echo make it into the lab, where Sam drugs Echo.  He was responsible for overdosing Owen with the drug – he didn't mean to kill him, just get him out of the way so Sam could sell the drug to a rival drug company for billions.  Echo confuses Sam's escape run with her memories of Leo's escape run, and follows.

It turns out that the actives are susceptible to the drug, just in a different way.   It takes longer for them to be affected, but when they are, it leads to them glitching and flashing back on old memories.  Meanwhile, Topher and DeWitt – who have both been dosed by the drug they are studying – figure out that a small dose is not in and of itself lethal, and that it will wear off in a few hours.


Sam is apprehended, as is the drug.  All of the Actives are "debriefed" and seem fine.  Laurence and DeWitt are embarrassed about their inane behavior while on the drug, and are very awkward around one another.  DeWitt offers Sam a Dollhouse contract (which we learn lasts only five years – after that, the Dolls are given a new life to keep).  Mellie has decided to leave town for a while.  She likes Ballard but he won't give up his Dollhouse investigation and she is in danger if he doesn't.

Dig It or Bury It?

Dig it, with some reservations.  This was an intriguing episode, but it feels like a two-hour episode that was crammed into one hour.  Suddenly act four is coming to a close and there are a lot of loose ends that need to be tied up.  We don't see any of the fallout from having a campus full of tripping kids (though I suppose you could argue that a college campus is already full of tripping kids).  Glitches in Victor and Sierra are hinted at but never expanded upon.  But we got a lot more background info on Echo/Caroline and another piece of the Dollhouse origins puzzle,

Persona Non Grata

Echo is Alice, a sweet, na├»ve girl on a "fantasy" engagement with the guy from the pilot episode (he is obviously a repeat client).  He is introducing her to all sorts of things she has never experienced (motorcycles, bondage, homemade porn) before she sees the news report and is compelled to leave (leaving her date tied to the bed).

Victor is an NSA agent who is trying to contain the "outbreak" at the campus, while Sierra is a doctor with the CDC.


Topher and DeWitt play very well off each other when they are exposed to the mystery drug.  It is hilarious, especially watching DeWitt devolve (pardon the pun) from a stern, no-nonsense headmistress into a giggling schoolgirl.  Plus the accent certainly adds to the charm.  Favorite moments include DeWitt bouncing endlessly on a trampoline and Topher introducing her to his "inappropriate drawer of starches" when she asks for a "crisp."


You know next week is going to be a doozy when the promo has to give it a title.  "Dollhouse: The Awakening."  It seems that the Dolls wake up in the middle of the night, remembering their original lives, and must "act" like nothing has changed until they can find a way out.  And you'd think an organization like the Dollhouse would be immune to little snafus like this...