Television Tourniquet: We Play in the 'Dollhouse' -- Episode 8



Dollhouse Episode 1.8
Written By: Tracy Bellomo
Directed By: Felix Acala
Original Airdate: 3 April 2009

In This Episode…

In the middle of the night, our main Dolls start glitching – bad.  Echo wakes up and forces her way out of her pod.  Her roommates follow suit – Sierra, Victor, Mellie (whose Doll name is November, so for consistency's sake, I will refer to her as such), and a new guy, Mike (who is basically the equivalent to a Red Shirt Guy in Star Trek – he is quickly reprogrammed and taken out of the equation).  All the Dolls have their original personalities but none of their original memories, other than vague flickers they are desperately trying to sort out.


The other Dolls are walking around in their zombie state, as normal.  Our quartet do their best to fit in while still trying to figure out where they are and what is going on.  When Dr. Saunders gives Echo a vague warning ("They are watching us.  I am not your friend in here, Echo") Echo realizes they have to get out.  The four of them band together to get out.  They find street clothes and make it to the garage.  Before Victor can pull the car out, Echo sees another active -- in the guise of a French Bob Fosse dancer -- and feels compelled to go back in and rescue everyone.

Back inside she goes, where she fights a female handler, breaks into the ammo closet (located in -- I kid you not -- the handlers' break room), peeks at her file, and shuts off power to the Dollhouse -- all while DeWitt watches from her command center.  Echo takes Topher hostage, demanding answers and release.  DeWitt steps in at this time, and agrees.

Meanwhile, November is off to find her daughter Katie.  Katie is dead, and Mellie weeps over her grave.  Victor takes Sierra (real name = Rhea) to confront the man who forced her into the Dollhouse.  The guy, Nolan, is like a poor man's Patrick Bateman, and Victor -- who remembers nothing of his own life, but knows that he and Sierra were meant to be together -- beats him soundly.  Security chases them out of the building.  While hiding, they kiss passionately.

Echo has won with DeWitt.  She is leading the Dolls out of the House, into the sunlight.  It is very Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  Suddenly, Echo passes out.  Cut to Victor, November, and Sierra -- they have passed out as well.  Dollhouse security scoop them up, return them to the safety of the House, and wipe them back to blank slates. 


We learn that the entire thing was an experiment.  Dr. Saunders hypothesized that the reason the Actives have been glitching was that they had unresolved conflicts from their former lives.  If they were allowed some closure, they could put that part of them to rest.  Echo needed to free herself.  November needed to grieve.  Sierra needed to regain power from the man who stole it from her.  Victor (who we still have no back story on) needed to explore his feelings of love for Sierra.  We also learn more about the Dolls' contract.  DeWitt brings in people who have memories they can't live with.  They give five years to the Dollhouse, and at the end of their contract they get all their memories back, sans the painful ones they can't bear to remember.  They also get a "truckload" of money.

We also find out that, while Echo was in her semi-Caroline stage and peeking at her file, she finds Ballard's name, calls him, and leaves a desperate message for him to save her.  Of course, Ballard pops wood immediately.

Dig It Or Bury It?

It was a really interesting episode that, sadly, was poorly executed.  I am still so fascinated by the psychology behind the Dollhouse, what would drive people to willingly hand their lives over to others, and what happens in that grey area.  But this episode was just so slow.  The one fight scene, with Echo and a miscellaneous handler, was poorly directed and thoroughly unengaging.  All in all, the episode just dragged.  It should have been far more interesting than it actually was.

Plus, it really annoyed me that the ads for this episode billed it as "The Awakening" but the actual title was "Needs."

Persona Non Grata

Technically none of the Dolls had Engagements this week.  They were all in a zone that was greyer than being an Active -- they were as they were before arriving at the Dollhouse, but with no memories.


The whole episode had this really sensitive, touchy-feely aspect to it, which is a very common aspect of all Joss's projects.  Which is kind of a bummer, because he does dry humor and ass-kicking so well.  My favorite line had more to do with delivery.  When Echo, November, Sierra, and Victor are first exploring the Dollhouse, they can't decide if it is bad that all the inhabitants were zombies, or good because it was peaceful and they all looked content.  When a staff member greets them and informs them that banana pancakes are on the breakfast menu, Victor has made up his mind: "We're all going to die."  Yeah, you had to be there.


Topher finds a tiny computer chip in The Chair – seems like there is a spy in the house of Dolls.  Echo goes undercover in the House, while Sierra infiltrates the CIA, looking for clues.