The Wife:

Eliza Duskhu was right: Dollhouse is officially totally on an awesome streak. “Man on the Street” was a seriously game-changing episode that had exactly the mix of ass-kicking awesomeness and sentimentality that I look for in a Whedon show. We finally got a good picture of the kind of person who might use the Dollhouse for romantic engagements in Patton Oswalt’s Joel Minor, who hires Echo every year on the anniversary of his wife’s death to live out the moment he never got to have with his beloved Rebecca before her life was cut short in a freak accident that very day. And yet, for that sweetness, Joel was dynamic, as well, in his confrontation with Paul Ballard, who finally caught up to Echo in this episode on her engagement with Joel. Joel called Ballard on his bullshit, comparing the agent’s desperation to find a mythical agency to Joel’s own desire to recreate his lost wife. It was all good stuff.

Even better? The excellent reveal that someone inside the Dollhouse is using Echo to communicate with Paul Ballard to lure him to them. Because I didn’t think of this and I like to give credit where credit is due, my friend Magen thinks that Amy Acker’s Claire Saunders is the one co-opting Echo’s body to deliver her messages, citing evidence of Claire’s shifty eyes and familiarity with the imprinting process. I’d add that it isn’t altogether un-possible for it to be Topher’s assistant, either. But Claire seems like a good bet to me.

I even liked Boyd’s plot about finding Sierra’s rapist and going all rogue on him. First of all, it is super fucked up for a handler to abuse his relationship with an Active, especially because the Active-Handler relationship has been conceived of as parent-child in nature. This was all extra-creepy to me because it carried with it all of these incestuous, pedophilic undertones. And frankly, Sierra’s handler got what he deserved. He did something fucked up and died in an equally fucked up way. Yeah, about that . . .

Where the bloody hell are those crisps I was promised?

Where the bloody hell are those crisps I was promised?

The big reveal that Mellie is an Active would have been much cooler for me if the fact that I regularly use IMDB hadn’t totally spoiled it. Way to go, IMDB. Way to change a character’s name halfway through the season. The minute I saw that her name changed from Mellie to November, I was like, that girl is an Active. I suppose for people who hadn’t yet caught on to the whole NATO Phonetic Alphabet naming system for Actives, that wouldn’t have been a spoiler, but I grew up a sailor’s daughter. That was definitely spoiled for me. Nonetheless, the execution of that reveal was pretty awesome in its own right, in which a call to Paul Ballard’s answering machine wakes up the killing portion of November’s brain so that she can murder Sierra’s handler, her own potential murderer. This was a truly ruthless way to do that guy in, and I think it demonstrated a particular ballsyness to Olivia Williams’ character in addition to showing us something super cool.

The show built on the momentum from “Man on the Street” by giving us an episode, “Echoes,” that looks deep into Echo’s past as Caroline. While everyone else from the Dollhouse is out pretending to be the government containing a potentially lethal drug exposure at Fremont College, Echo is off on a romantic engagement with her boy toy from the first episode. In the middle of their light bondage play, she turns on the TV, sees the Rossum Building at Fremont College and feels the instant need to leave. You remember all those other times Reed Diamond thought she was going off task? Well, this time, she really was.

“Man on the Street” utilized an excellent framing device by peppering the story with news interviews of real people’s opinions on the legend of the Dollhouse. “Echoes” builds upon this narrative frame foundation by showing us how Echo wound up at the Dollhouse and the events that lead up to it. Seems that while Caroline was at Fremont College, she discovered that one of the school’s major donors was into some heavy animal testing and she convinced her boyfriend at the time to help her break into the lab and film the abuses there. Once inside, they discovered that Rossum Corporation, the company that owns the Dollhouse, had started experimenting on humans as well. Her boyfriend was killed, and she was captured and presented with a deal over tea: give the Dollhouse five years of her life, and she will walk away scot free.

Seeing the college triggered something in Echo that made her remember and want to reenact the event that ultimately lead her to the Dollhouse, and this leads her into the main plot full of craziness at Fremont College. That drug the other Actives are trying to find is a powerful memory drug that, when administered in large doses, makes people trip balls. With no hippocampus, the Actives should theoretically be immune to it, but as Topher and Olivia Williams realize that it’s administered from person to person by touch, it’s already too late and every single person involved in the mission is tripping balls. For Topher and Olivia Williams, this is really funny, as they too are tripping balls. Some favorite Joss Whedon-y quotes from their drug-trip:

  • “I find lentils completely incomprehensible.” – Miss DeWitt
  • “I’m very British, don’t you think?” – Miss DeWitt
  • “You haven’t seen my drawer of inappropriate starches.” – Topher

Reed Diamond is also affected with the giggles (he tried to pet an invisible cat, for God’s sake) from exposure to the toxin, and when he sees Echo in the hallway of the Rossum building, he confronts her and apologizes for trying to kill her:

“I tried to burn you to death – who does that?”

But for Sierra and Victor, the drug affects them much more slowly, but also much more intensely. Instead of tripping happy fun balls, they both have bad trips, where Sierra flashes back to her recent rape and Victor remembers being a soldier and failing to rescue a woman from a warzone before she died. Back at the Dollhouse, even November starts to glitch, flashing back to her last engagement. You know, that one where she killed a guy all of a sudden.

After all of these shenanigans, it turns out that Echo’s guide through the Rossum building is also the person responsible for the death of the graduate student that started this whole crazy mess. But even after dosing her with the drug, she can’t shake the echoes of her first time in that laboratory and ends up chasing him out of the building the way she chased her dying boyfriend, pinning him to the ground so that Boyd et al can capture him and retrieve the other vial of the drug that he had hoped to sell to a rival company.

Stir of echoes.

Stir of echoes.

Another excellent echo? Drug-Stealer Sam ends this episode where Echo began it: having tea with Miss DeWitt, being propositioned for a stint in the Dollhouse.

Dollhouse delivered what was promised, and I am definitely in it to win it for the rest of the season.

In another Whedonverse-related note, did you guys know that Andy Hallett passed away yesterday after a long battle with congestive heart failure? I’m not even done with season 5 of Angel, but that makes me really sad. Please honor his memory by reading this post from PopWatch’s Mandi Bierly. It made me a little misty earlier.