The Wife:

This episode had a couple of good twists tossed in, starting with the female moaning at the beginning, which I think led all of us to believe that Echo had been hired to perform some very amazing oral sex on this lady. However, it turns out that those are birth moans and, inexplicably, this couple has hired an Active from the Dollhouse to serve as midwife for their home birth. I have never questioned the premise of hiring an Active instead of an actual expert until I saw this opening. If you want to get a call girl who won’t remember she was with you, or, say, a hostage negotiator or a thief, then I get that, but why would you hire an Active to be your midwife? I get that it serves as a visual metaphor for what will later happen to Echo in this episode (essentially being reborn into the world due to a serious, terrible mistake), but really? Who would do this? If you’re going to hire a midwife, why not just hire someone who has actually trained his or her whole life for it and who will remember birthing your child and will probably go on to help birth your other children, too? That’s the kind of relationship people want to develop with the person who helps ease their children into this world. I just . . . I don’t understand.

Back at the Dollhouse, Topher notices that Sierra, Victor and Echo always have lunch together at the same table. He worries that they are forming instinctual herding bonds, and he doesn’t know how that will affect his work or theirs. Then F. Murray Abraham shows up to hire Echo to do a very high risk job.

(Husband Note: My bad. I actually did think it was F. Murray Abraham, then told my wife to write that down, only to find it’s lookalike Tony Amendola. I guess I thought that if F. could show up in the shitty Star Trek: Insurrection, he might be genre-nerdy enough to jump into a Whedonverse. Once again, my bad.)

Cut to her dressed as a hooker, but slipping something secret and thief-esque into her boot, which makes me go, “Oh, okay. She’s a thief posing as a hooker.” But then, after Echo-as-Taffy and her male companions go up to their room, she runs screaming down the hallway with a busted lip, into the arms of a security guard. And I go, “Okay . . . maybe she’s just a hooker?” The security guard takes her to his office and offers her $10K in hush money if she doesn’t propose any legal action on her assailants or the hotel. And then she beats him up and calls in her posse. I should have stuck with thief. I appreciate the twisty-turnyness in this very elaborate set-up, because it was really cool, but one of the main reasons I suspected she was a thief all along is that Echo’s hooker outfit was very similar to everything Alexa Davalos ever wore as Gwen, the electrically charged jewel thief, on Angel. You know who wrote this episode? Sarah Fain and Elizabeth Craft, two Angel writers who penned a bunch of the Gwen-heavy episodes in Season 4. Am I surprised to see a sexy lady thief who’s very dangerous come out of these two ladies? No. I am not. Especially when you put her in PVC boots and a red top . . . just like Gwen.

Taffy don't take shit from no one.

Taffy don't take shit from no one.

Like Gwen, Taffy is very good at breaking into stuff. She knows a lot about security systems, and how the best time to rob them is during the grey hour – the one hour when everything is shut down so that the system can be upgraded. Taffy and her crew break into a museum vault during this time in order to steal some pieces of the Parthenon, stolen by Ottoman Turks. Only the antiquities expert makes off with the loot and locks Taffy and her two other companions in the vault. She calls Boyd to help get her out and stop the thieving thief, but their call gets interrupted by a remote wiper, erasing Taffy entirely and leaving only Echo, newborn in this cold world and very confused. She keeps asking if she can go now, scared that there’s no Topher to tell her she can do so if she’d like.

At the Dollhouse, Topher realizes something’s when he sees Echo’s vitals spike. He, Reed Diamond and Olivia Williams play back her call to Boyd and Topher realizes that the worst possible thing that he thought was previously impossible has occurred: Echo hass been wiped. Remotely. This means that there’s someone out there who not only knew about their technology, but got Echo’s cell phone number and hacked into their radio frequency. This is not only bad for Echo, but bad for the Dollhouse.

While Topher programs the Taffy personality into Sierra in order to help get Echo and her team out of the vault, Echo’s team members try to break her out of her crazy-person amnesia. One of the guys, ready to give up on life, teaches her about art, and how it reflects who we are. Echo reacts strangely to a Picasso painting, saying how broken it looks. Her other companion explains to her that she can either be broken, or she can be the one who does the breaking. Sierra-as-Taffy calls in and instructs Echo to bust out of the safe using some resin she’s stowed in her bra and boot, along with a drill. The crucial step is that Echo cannot move her hand while running the drill, but she’s not precise enough to do this and sets off the alarm, leading her more militant companion to drag her into helping him shoot his way out. Deciding not to be broken, she stabs him in the neck and helps her wounded, arty companion out, managing to escape just in time to be met by Boyd, who ran off on his own to save her the minute Topher called and said something was wrong.

Topher manages to fix everything and wipe Echo clean of the memories she formed while operating as herself on that job. (Of course, she seems to still remember that Picasso, drawing a fragmented version of herself in the steam on her mirror and then wiping it away.) He goes to Olivia Williams and tells her that the only person he thinks capable of perpetrating that remote wipe would be Alpha, so she ups his security clearance so she can tell him everything they know about Alpha (whom everyone in the Dollhouse has been told is dead, apparently), and he can tell her how to stop him.

Meanwhile, Victor’s been running around as Lubov, telling Paul Ballard that he needs his help in disappearing from the world so that the Russians don’t kill him. Paul threatens to put Victor on the FBI’s Most Wanted list so that he’ll be an easy target. Ballard is tired of being jerked around by this man he does not know is an Active, and he believes it will be easier to get information about Victor’s dead body. That’s probably true, in that a lack of information will be a wealth of information.

Overall, I’d weigh this episode more on the side of good, as Craft & Fain were able to supply us with some good twisties, as well as supply an engagement that furthered the mytharc of the show. The metaphors about birth and art were both a little heavy-handed, but overall, this was one of Dollhouse’s better episodes. We’re two and two so far, for those who are keeping score.

The Husband:

While I feel that it was a cheap trick to set most of the episode in one location – come on, even the bargain-basement cheap WB budget for Angel didn’t limit the show’s imagination that much – I thought this episode is definitely the best overall one so far, with most of its elements rising up to a certain standard. It was zippier, it was funnier – I think Topher is turning out to be one of Whedon’s better characters, and he in turn is making Olivia Williams act her ass off – and it was far better written. I didn’t even mind the art metaphors that somewhat plagued my wife’s brain, or that Amy Acker didn’t make an appearance, because for once the mission was of actual interest.

I also think that turning Sierra into another Taffy was the coolest thing the show has done so far, even if she was relegated to stay at the Main Office at the Dollhouse and simply bark orders into the phone. It was the concept that was cool, and when all else fails, that’s a good place to start.

Besides, it’s entirely understandable that they didn’t send Sierra-As-Taffy into the vault, because if Echo somehow became Taffy again (or, at least, had little bits of Taffy still in her brizain), then the best that could happen if the two Taffys interacted would be some major “who am I and what is this life?” personality conflicts that would end in bloodshot, and the worst that could happen would be that thing they warn you about in the Back To The Future series, what with the whole space-time continuum fabric being ripped and whatnot.

So Dollhouse, just open up your world a bit more and we could be looking at darn good season. At least, if this episode is of any indication.

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