Television Tourniquet: We Play in the 'Dollhouse' -- Episode 9


Dollhouse Episode 1.9
"A Spy in the House Of Love"
Written By: Andrew Chambliss
Directed By: David Solomon
Original Airdate: 10 April 2009

In This Episode…

This episode is told Rashomon-style, with a singular beginning and end -- and the middle told from four points of view.  DeWitt is called away for a meeting with the higher-ups, leaving Dominic in charge.  Topher discovers a tiny computer chip in the imprint chair, and realizes there is a spy in the Dollhouse.  He takes this to Dominic, who immediately imprints Sierra and sends her undercover to handle the situation.  Echo has witnessed the stress and tempers that have flared up, and wanders in to see Topher.  He vents at her, and she actually empathizes – and offers to help.  "You make people different.  You can make me help."

First point of view is with November.  She is imprinted as Mellie, and sent home after her extended vacation.  When she gets home, Ballard has gone balls-out crazy.  Footsteps in the hall are greeted with a drawn weapon.  Deadbolts line the door.  He even has a "crazy wall," covered in papers and Post-Its, and linked together with lengths of string.  Mellie seduces Ballard, but freezes as he gets her blouse open.  She has a message from the Dollhouse.  November tells Ballard not to let Mellie know that he knows; they are using her to spy on him; he does not get any information he is not supposed to get; then she blinks back to Mellie.  It is a bit unclear as to the source of these messages, and why they are reaching out to Ballard.

Next is Sierra.  She is on a pretty straight-forward spy mission.  A cool one at that.  Posing as an agent, she sneaks into the NSA, steals an odd clear piece of cello-paper, decodes it, and bails.  This "paper" has proof of the identity of the mole.

Then there is Victor, who is imprinted as the dashing Brit, Roger, for his repeat performance with Miss Lonelyhearts (an Engagement they have referenced all through the season).  His handler drops him off at the elderly woman's house, where he kisses her, gives her roses… and heads for her garage, where he hops in her roadster and takes off.  His new destination is a seaside villa, where he meets his real date for the weekend.  Adele DeWitt!  Yeah, I didn't see that one coming, either.  There is a lot of passionate kissing, a lot of fucking, a lot of fencing, and a lot of deep, meaningful pillow talk.

Finally, there is Echo.  We pick up with her being imprinted as a "spy catcher" (in Topher's oh-so-eloquent words).  Dominic begrudgingly lets her help, and she starts interrogating Dollhouse staff: Topher, his assistant Ivy, Boyd, Dr. Saunders.

The storylines begin to converge.  Sierra returns her stolen file, which reveals Ivy to be the spy.  Echo disagrees – Dominic is the spy.  When they heard Sierra had the document, everyone tensed, waiting to hear who the spy was, except Dominic.  He relaxed because he knew the file would point to Ivy.  Dominic is NSA, and he had that file planted for Sierra to nab.  He and Echo battle (with jumbo shards of glass), but Echo eventually wins and takes Dominic to DeWitt's home.  He claims he has been sent there to protect the Dollhouse from themselves, that without him, Ballard would have found out the truth.  DeWitt instructs Echo to get as much info from him as she can, and have Topher prep him for the Attic.  Then DeWitt goes back to Victor, still in bed, and sobs.


DeWitt breaks it off with Victor/Roger – their indiscretion is unwise – but she really seems to be in love with him, or what he represents.  Dominic is given shock treatments, then sent to the Attic, which, as described by Topher, is a complete mental suck.  It is like "having a name on the tip of your tongue all the time, for every thought."  DeWitt blames herself for the Dominic situation, and Topher tells her that Echo sensed the House needed help – she is still evolving.  This brings a smile to DeWitt's face – Echo may be more useful to them than they ever imagined.  DeWitt promotes Boyd to head of security, even though he wants to remain Echo's handler.  Echo gets a new handler, Travis (with a creepy teenagers mustache), but it is clear she misses Boyd.

Dig It Or Bury It?

This was an engrossing episode.  I didn't see the DeWitt/Victor thing coming, though it makes sense that she can only open up and be truly vulnerable with an Active.  And someone help me out here: the messages that the Actives have been sending to Ballard, were those coming from Dominic?  That would make sense, but how would he get it into their programming without Topher or DeWitt knowing?

Persona Non Grata

Besides the imprints described above, Echo opens the show by returning from an Engagement as a dominatrix.  She is reasonably convincing as a dominatrix, but they dressed her in this cheap nylon-disguised-as-leather teddy and garter set that no respectable dominatrix would ever wear.


Only a Whedon project could get away with a character (in this case, Topher) calling someone (Dominic) a "grumpeteer."


I must admit, I'm not sure how the next episode will go.  It could be a stand-alone Engagement like the first few of the season (boring), or it could continue this mythology arc (awesome).  Echo is imprinted with the persona of a dead woman who must solve her own murder.  This murdered woman also happens to have been a good friend of DeWitt's.  I suspect that having to break things off with Victor/Roger is going to send her into something of a tailspin.  Nothing catastrophic, but she has some issues to work out.