Dollhouse 2.0: Whedon Strikes Back continued to build on the 'verse it expanded on big time last week. Revelatory flashbacks told the story of Caroline's path to "volunteering" while the entire staff from the Dollhouse was given a long overdue chance to shine. The episode was Grade-A Mutant Enemy: Smart, funny and bursting with twists.
Welcome back to TVGuide.com's Dollhouse blog. I was glad to see that the readers were so impressed by the show's turn in quality last week that we hit a record number of posts for a Dollhouse board. While I expected there to be a great number of disappointed reactions, I couldn't be happier to say I was wrong. With few exceptions, readers seem to be on the same page.
This is the show we expected from Joss and Co. I think it now seems obvious that while the earlier episodes were entertaining and Fox-ified to the max, they just didn't scream "Whedon." I'm not so sure any of his previous programs have ever felt as episodic as the first four episodes of Dollhouse. I'm excluding episode five, "True Believer," as I think it delivered the goods. However, with "Man on the Street" the Dollhouse cast, crew and production staff kicked things in to high gear.
This week's episode, "Echoes," continues that trend and, to jump ahead for a moment, you're not going to want to miss next week's suspense-filled and twisted installment, "Needs." More on that later.
"Echoes" began with a payoff I've been waiting for since scene one of episode one - more of Caroline's recruitment by Adelle DeWitt. It's here that we learned Adelle and anyone else at the Dollhouse, really, works for The Rossum Company, an organization for which Caroline obviously has disdain. Many questions about this scene were answered by episode's end, but what did Adelle mean by, "You and I have been doing this dance for two years"? Caroline was (is?) obviously someone who felt like she had to make a difference in life. She was involved in anti-war and animal rights causes. Did her crusade against The Rossum Company begin long before this set of flashbacks would lead you to believe? Did she know Adelle before crossing paths with her professional? If you'll remember, in the pilot Caroline says, "You're just loving this, aren't you?" To me, that definitely alludes to a personal history between these women.
Watch out, TV world! First The Hanso Foundation, then Massive Dynamic and now, The Rossum Company. Corporations aren't just the villains on the news anymore. There's a whole world of corrupt, secretive, connected and extremely profitable businesses in the world of television drama these days.
It's a good thing The Rossum Company has such a close connection to the Dollhouse because they'll be needing their services. Company co-chair Clive Ambrose tells Adelle he doesn't need just one active but an army for the situation he's dealing with. An experimental memory drug the company's been working on caused the death of a lab tech at the Rossum Building on the campus of Freemont College. The drug causes a brief period of giddiness followed by an even more brief period of violent, suicidal rages. These symptoms are starting to spread from person to person and one of two known vials of the substance is still unaccounted for.
Topher quickly realizes that Dolls are the perfect candidates to solve the problem, as they will be unaffected by the memory drug due to, well, a lack of memory. Victor will play the part of an NSA agent while Sierra is imprinted with the personality of a doctor from the CDC. November, aka. Mellie, will stay behind to act as guinea pig while Topher develops an antidote. Echo's sitting this one out as she's currently imprinted as Alice and on a fantasy engagement with Matt, last seen in the pilot's teaser.
But you know you can't keep a good Doll down. Alice stumbles across a story on the news about the outbreak, feels that she's needed at the college and leaves the client tied to a bed. I'm guessing Matt will need a refund after this. Hell, in that position, let's just hope he gets a meal.
Finally, Olivia Williams was given something to really sink her teeth into while playing Adelle in this episode. Her interactions with Topher while they were affected by the drug are some of funniest exchanges on the show yet. It was such a refreshing change to see Adelle, who up until now has been cold (I mean, British) and used mainly as a mouthpiece for exposition, being giddy. I couldn't help but be reminded of Giles wearing a sombrero in the episode "Hallowen" from Buffy's second season.
Adelle also had a very telling line before going all giddy: "I believe in the work we're funding."
So, while the Dollhouse is a science all its own, has The Rossum Company been using the exorbitant fees associated with an engagement to fund research into other sciences?
While under the influence, Adelle also subtly set up an intriguing mystery concerning Victor. Proclaiming, "I have a good story about him," Adelle alluded to Victor's as-of-yet unknown past.
While Alice wanders around the campus, she can't help but know her way around. That's because Freemont was the school Caroline attended before being brought to work for the Dollhouse.
Through flashbacks, we learned that Caroline talked her boyfriend Leo into helping her try and publicly shame the Rossum Company into changing its policy on animal testing. Her plan involved sneaking into the Rossum Building on campus, filming the animals in cages and posting the footage online for millions to see.
However once in the lab, the two found signs that company was experimenting not just on animals but humans as well. They didn't have long to investigate before security found them and the chase was on.
Leo took a bullet and collapsed in the middle of campus. Afterwards, Caroline was taken to a hospital where Adelle DeWitt has been called to meet her. While we aren't actually told, I assume it was Rossum Building security who informs Miss DeWitt that Caroline "fits the profile." However, Caroline flees her room before Adelle has the chance to meet her. But no worries, she's very confident that Caroline won't get far.
Great Lines and Moments
Boyd: Would you like to have a treatment?
Boyd: Hey. Wow. Did not maintain control of that situation.
Laurence: Sure. Now you're experts. Four hours ago you were discussing your love for applesauce.
Laurence falling under the influence and lamenting how heavy his gun is; "It's so heavy!"
Topher: There's no way Dom would consciously have fun.
Adelle's self analysis: "Sarcastic? Unfeeling? British?" "I am very British." "I don't say hard R's."
Topher: You haven't seen my drawer of inappropriate starches?
Adelle and Topher enjoying Boyd's performance on the piano.
November glitching back to Adelle's code phrase.
Alice: We're not gonna have to fight, are we? 'Cause I don't even know how to make a fist!"
Laurence: I tried to burn you to death. Who does that?
Adelle: We were drugged. We acted like idiot children. It happens.
I know. I'm a bit short on summarization this week. Maybe some of you will find that to be a refreshing change. While I excluded heavy summarization due to an unexpectedly busy weekend, please express your opinions about what you'd like out of the recaps in the message boards. I try to provide what's desired. I can promise next week's recap will be more in-depth and available on Friday night.
More importantly, however, what did you think about this week's episode? Do you continue to like what you see? Were you missing Ballard and the physical altercations he tends to attract?
There were so many terrific lines of dialogue going by that I couldn't catch them all. Please share your favorites.
Next week's episode, "Needs," is also being touted as Dollhouse: The Awakening. Having seen the episode, I would avoid the commercials - but that is coming from someone who hasn't watched a Lost promo since '06. What I wouldn't avoid is the episode itself. While the episode doesn't contain a piece of info that blows the series wide open, it's a welcome addition to Dollhouse 2.0 and gives the Dolls as much to work with as the Dollhouse staff was given this week. I'll say one more thing about it. Originally I was all set to compare "Echoes" to Buffy's "Tabula Rasa" and Angel's "Spin the Bottle," but I didn't because "Needs" is much more comparable to those episodes.