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Thread: Dollhouse watch : Season 1

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    Dollhouse episode 1... errr, 6: Man on the Street

    This was certainly an improvement over the past episodes. In fact, except for needing to see the Ballard storyline at a slightly earlier point, this almost could be the pilot episode. It says to the viewer – this is our world and here’s what the show is all about. As Stoney said, it’s a bit on the nose.

    I think a lot of the “on the nose” aspect betrays this episode’s central function as “mission statement” and “course correction”. As Stoney and Aurora have said, it’s well done because Joss Whedon is a great writer. But still this is about repositioning the show for better episodes to come (hopefully).

    The “man on the street” idea is enjoyable. There’s a memorable 1976 episode of the TV series M*A*S*H called “The Interview” which is structured entirely as a period documentary, interviewing the show’s regularly characters. TV shows have often turned to this format – especially the sitcom The Office. (Both British and American versions.) And I’ve seen cutaways to man-on-the-street interviews in many TV shows and movies. Xena’s Lucy Lawless makes a cameo appearance in 2002’s Spider-Man where she offers her opinion of the arachnid hero. (The film was directed by Xena executive producer Sam Raimi.)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXmVr9krlqI

    Neil Gaiman (writer of comic books, novels, short stories, television and movies) used a similar man-on-the-street device for the framing arc of a 1989 special of the Secret Origins comic book that spotlighted Batman’s weird villains.







    It’s a fun device for world-building, but I agree with Aurora that it makes little sense for the level of tech scene in the Dollhouse to be so far ahead of normal society. But then that’s the dichotomy we see in superhero comics, movies and TV shows. The heroes, villains and spy agencies have access to technology far beyond those of mortal men, but elsewhere things appear just as now. We see this probably a bit in Buffy with season four’s Initiative and even more so in the comics once vampires become public knowledge.

    But it’s not quite as effective – either as comedy or drama – as some of the Buffyverse’s world building. I think of that moment in “School Hard” between Principal Snyder and the police chief:

    Chief: So? You want the usual story? Gang-related? PCP?

    Snyder: What'd you have in mind? The truth?

    Chief: (considers) Right. Gang-related. PCP.
    Principal Snyder and the police knew the truth. The sense of denial in Sunnydale wasn’t as strong as we had been led to believe. And this was the first hint that would lead to such adversaries as the Mayor and even the Initiative. On first viewing, it felt like layers were being pulled back and there was something deeper underneath.

    On a more comic note, we have Larry’s remark in “Anne” that shows the other students are aware of the town’s weirdness. “It's all about egg whites. If we can focus, keep discipline, and not have quite as many mysterious deaths, Sunnydale is gonna rule!” This throwaway line would bear fruit in “The Prom”.

    Another “On the Nose” element is Joel Mynor’s speech to Ballard. This is a guy who had his very special memorial fantasy ruined and yet he finds the time to psychoanalyze the “hero cop”. I suppose it might be statement about the rich – that Mynor to get past his private pain to pull someone down. But more importantly, is there anyone in the audience who didn’t already think that Ballard’s quest was a doll-like fantasy?

    Like Aurora said, Paul Ballard doesn’t even seem to belong to a 21st century agency. Replace the computer for a visit to a locked filing cabinet while holding a flashlight, and his investigations are straight out of 1950s TV. I imagine we’ll see even more X-Files machinations from his agency masters, but Ballard doesn’t have the smarts or charm of either Mulder or Scully.

    I’m glad that they appear to finally be moving away from the monster of the week format. Angel vastly improved when they moved past the Saturday Morning TV version of film noir cases and brought in the powerful Darla arc. Echo’s missions up until now have been a bit too commonplace. The plot with Sierra’s rape and the looming threat of Alpha is more intriguing than what we’ve seen from the outside world.

    Now that Dollhouse has had a good scrub-up and polish, I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next.

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    Great post PuckRobin and I *loved* your trademark comic reference using Secret Origins of course.

    I'm hoping to get on to the next episode this week now I've caught up with the BtVS rewatch. I've never been great at juggling!

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    Man on the Street is pretty good. It raises some important questions about what is this organization and what are they using it for. The client using Echo as a semblance of his wife so that he shows the house he never got to show his wife is actually sad because that´s something empty. The wife isn´t there and that part may ease his pain a bit but not for long.

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    When can we expect the next episode review? It's been over a month. These big breaks in rewatches kind of tend to ruin the momentum. I'm afraid you'll end up forgetting half of what happened in the previous episodes.
    You keep waiting for the dust to settle and then you realize it; the dust is your life going on. If happy comes along - that weird unbearable delight that's actual happy - I think you have to grab it while you can. You take what you can get, 'cause it's here, and then...gone.

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    You're right, you're right. I don't seem to be able to keep on top of this or keep up to date with the rewatch easily at the moment. I need to post on All The Way too this week but I can probably work in watching the next episode here and putting up at least some brief thoughts today or tomorrow.

    - - - Updated - - -

    1.07 Echoes

    So I watched this last night and had some mixed reactions to it. I can't say it was a great episode for me, although there was plenty that moved the overall story forwards which was really good. Obviously we had some interesting and significant information given as we found out more about Caroline, a little more about how/why people are manipulated into agreeing to the offer of signing themselves over to the Dollhouse and a bit more too about the organisation and others involved in the research/tech involved. We also had further breaking down of the imprinting process itself with more 'glitches' occurring and more signs that the imprints and original memories aren't ever truly wiped so much as suppressed, as per the inhibitions the drug released. Also on the plus side, seeing more of Caroline allowed us to perhaps start to piece a little together of traits that may be hers which are playing their part in Echo's more off piste behaviour. So, certainly some good stuff in there for sure and lots of questions following.

    So why didn't I love it? Well, as much as I appreciated seeing those on the inside of the organisation having their behaviour and actions affected for once, I didn't find it funny but was clearly supposed to. Despite it not being as comprehensive, they weren't being overwritten, what happens to the dolls is so horrific to me that even just the smallest ability to be able to apply any sense of 'see how you like it' due to the loss of control they suffered made it fail to be a comedy situation for me. The feeling of the shoe being on the foot was just too strong and the attempt at comedy actually was quite jarring and irritatingly goofy sat in the midst of the usual awful truth of the exploitation of the Dollhouse. Incidentally, I thought the 'hard R's' comment was also really weird and when I eventually thought I might have worked out what it meant (I think), I just couldn't see a British person saying it. It sounds like an observation an outsider might make, rather than a Brit of themselves, if you see what I mean. Anyway, the 'funny' fell virtually entirely flat for me. I say virtually only because I did smile at Boyd calling them up to play the piano piece and Topher giving Victor superiority over Dominic.

    In addition to that, there was also a good deal of awkward naivety to Alice as well that I didn't find engaging. Perhaps there was a little bit of a mix of her imprint along with the breakdown somewhat raising a little of her 'blank', more childlike, resting state. That would be interesting, but it is likely that it was just the imprint reacting with uncertainty to the memories flickering and I just found the portrayal of Alice to be a pretty weak, very dilute character. Also, the threat of the drug which the actives were supposed to be containing, in what must have been one of the most expensive operations to date(!), just swung around in the degree of seriousness too much so it all was pretty ridiculous really. So definitely a mixed bag generally for me.

    So, now to more specific thoughts. If Caroline ran at first and they spent two years, I think DeWitt said, chasing her, we can perhaps see why she may have been feeling desperate by then. But clearly there was something about her which, from the start, had the medical staff call DeWitt to say she was a possible candidate. Maybe it was just her frame of mind from losing her boyfriend and fearing for her own safety? But DeWitt referred to them 'doing this dance' for almost two years, so there could well be more to that flashback than appeared on the face of it. Especially when it concluded with the statement that 'nothing is what it appears to be', ha!

    It certainly wasn't clear from the scene how well Caroline understood any links between the woman speaking to her after she had been caught and the Rossum organisation she was running from. Had she and DeWitt already spoken in the past and her memories been altered? It would be surprising if DeWitt's interest in Caroline was entirely prompted by the medical staff, and sustained enough to track her for two years just due to Caroline's potential and without any knowledge of her original break-in to Rossum. So surely if the Rossum Corporation knew she had seen industrial and ethically black secrets they wouldn't be happy with her being freed at all. Of course telling her it would be five years doesn't mean they were being truthful anyway. But if it was seen as a good enough way to contain threats and benefit from exploiting those who could otherwise expose them, similar to how Sam was dealt with at the end after his attempt at industrial espionage, then any fear that the mind wipes are failing would raise the question of whether to just eliminate such dolls, surely? We definitely know murder isn't off the cards for them.

    Even if we take what we saw of the scene as the time Caroline chooses to become a doll, there was no real indication of whether she truly knew what she would be passing herself over for still. So coupled with the idea of people being preyed on in times of desperation, it certainly doesn't make the idea of what is happening to the dolls feel more of a real choice. DeWitt actually referred to making choices in the face of forces you can't control, and we also heard Sam when referencing his mum talk about not having choice because of the reliance between them. Manipulating people by using the importance of other people to them or the urgency of a situation against them, just emphasises the sense of some lack of control despite the appearance of choice.

    Did Boyd ever report that the callback for a treatment didn't work on Echo at first or will it just be assumed to have related to the effects of the drugs? It seems by the question of whether she should be sent to the Attic yet again at the end that they are in fact aware of her individually glitching again, presumably having had confirmation from the client that she had walked out during the assignment. Having Echo refuse to go in for a treatment and run away from Boyd on campus was then shown to change when she agreed to go in after she had relived her original memories. This seemed intended to reflect what had happened originally and emphasise the idea of people becoming willing to sign themselves over to escape something, to be relieved of a terrible situation. But I do still assume it doesn't involve honest disclosure about the assignments. I don't think many people would feel casual enough about some of the risks and uses that we have seen happening to them or be desperate enough to agree. Perhaps we are just supposed to think that this is what is involved in finding just the right candidates, locating people so on the edge of an abyss that anything sounds better than falling. Making choices and living with the consequences of them, as in fact DeWitt and all the rest involved in this system also have to do too. But a level of desperation wasn't conveyed to me by the examples of Caroline and Sam that made the 'anything you like' attitude of becoming a doll willingly, with their eyes totally wide open to the reality of it, seem likely.

    Of course we also had again the uncomfortable aspect of how the dolls are being used kept front and centre in our minds even after Echo had walked out on the client, due to the ridiculous outfit she was in through the episode. Of course it was intentional to have ED kitted out in such a clichéd 'fantasy' outfit which nodded the head to a naughty schoolgirl look, alongside the client who wanted to introduce her, to 'teach' her, lots of new things. I assumed we were seeing the same client as the first episode, due to the link with the motorcycle. But whereas last time he seemed to want someone daring/confident, this time he is looking for someone more innocent to share his interests with. And this exploitation is a very real part of this organisation that we've seen over and over, being shaped to someone's requirements and prostituted to satisfy their whims/fantasies. This time the visual reminder remained beyond the assignment. Maybe this is an intentional comment about an actor/actress who is a complex individual, has a real life with relationships they are passionate about, different interests they care deeply about like Caroline's drive to expose the Rossum organisation, being reduced to a fantasy performing sex symbol. So much so that even when they aren't performing any longer, they are still perceived to be, still seen to be to some extent, whatever character it was they played which connected to the audience member??

    We were given some (probably dodgy) science around repressed memories and inhibitors as we were introduced to Rossum, a corporation involved in the background of the Dollhouse working on memory affecting drugs. Other purposes/applications for the research Rossum are undertaking wasn't raised yet but it seems likely they exist.

    The idea that our personalities are constructed from our memories has obviously been running through the series so far. This then has the potential to be applied both to the experiences gained during being a doll as well as from the person's original memories as the question of whether they can truly be cleared continues to be key. We have certainly seen a variety of memories breaking through for Echo. As the dolls were all glitching due to the drugs, they appeared to be experiencing varying flashbacks that weren't all restricted to their assignments. I may be forgetting something but it could be possible that Victor was actually reliving events that he sought to escape in becoming a doll in the first place, the same as Echo was, and we saw Sierra experiencing again the assault she endured whilst in her resting state too.

    And there was a further dangerous side revealed as we nearly saw the result of a subconscious trigger being activated during this glitching. Mellie started to repeat the trigger phrase that DeWitt had telephoned through to her. As she has now packed up to leave her apartment, is it possible that this breach could have resulted in her winning a special place in the 'Attic' but they didn't want a sudden disappearance creating questions? Possible, or they may not be willing to lose their connection to Ballard and still be hoping to use Mellie to spy on him and distract him further. It is possible Ballard may decide to try and find her, although I'd have thought it is unlikely when really she was only a salve for his deeper wish to find and rescue Caroline.

    The little we saw of Ballard had him continuing to be single minded and it was a bit dull to be honest. In contrast, the little glimpse of a weaker side of Dominic was interesting. With his inhibitions down we see that the hard image is perhaps somewhat constructed by himself, a nice contrast against the dolls' stories and their decision to hide themselves under a false front (to whatever degree it is an informed choice). Although it has to be said that the tough guy exterior as a constructed tool to hide a more sensitive side is a bit on the clichéd side!

    Despite liking that I could see traits starting to link Echo to Caroline I'm not sure the episode succeeded significantly in making me care about Caroline more. And that is despite having very strong opinions which married well to the passions of the person we were being presented with through her revealed memories. This in itself raised an interesting thought as I wondered why it didn't make a huge impact from seeing details of her background. I think it is because seeing some of her 'original self' felt just a little bit too like seeing her playing another, new, constructed role. Maybe that is the point (and the benefit) of having left it so long before showing us some of the real Caroline. It is easier to dismiss who is really beneath the surface if we are used to someone wearing masks and performing constantly? Perhaps that also makes it easy for those in the organisation that are fundamental to the exploitations as they stay more distanced from the dolls as 'real' people. Shown in Dominic's discomfort/apology perhaps. If we, as an audience, are forming views and forming loyalties to people that we don't truly know at all but based on the enjoyment we have of performances where they are presenting a constructed persona again and again, is it too easy to dismiss the truth of that person and them not truly be seen as 'real' at all? If so, when audiences seek to 'know' the real person behind the camera, how much like Ballard are they just bringing their own wants into the mix of how they then interpret what they see?

    So there was plenty to chew on from this episode, even if it didn't all work well for me. Heading on I hope that we learn more about the Rossum organisation and how it ties with Dollhouse. I'm assuming the brain scan that was seen by Caroline/Leo (was it Leo?) was similar to the scans Topher was looking at and was related to Dollhouse and/or the memory experimentation generally. The deliberately sinister babies in jars seemed a bit over the top, but may relate to something more specific. It would be interesting to also see a little more of whether Echo is the only one having glitches which expose her original memories rather than her assignments/resting state not being fully removed/overwritten. There also seemed to be a question to raise in how much the connections, the strength/intensity of memories, plays a part in what is retained. If the traumatic memories were all ones which surfaced first (considering Sierra's/Mellie's/Victor's/Echo's memories which were shown), what does this say of how 'safe' it is to constantly push people into these extreme scenarios if you can't then remove all the lingering memory/effects? Will this relate to what eventually pushed Alpha over?

    Perhaps we will meet some more people who recognise Caroline. You would have thought they would have dolls operate far from the place they come from. But anyway, it would be nice to get some more detail/consistency bound back with Caroline now, some more to build up the sense of the 'real' character beneath so that I can start to really care about her more as a real individual and give some weight/importance to those glimpses of her, to the glitches that imply she can break free, and not remain the doll they have spent so many episodes establishing she is.

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    Yay, it's good to see another episode review!

    I didn't find anything in the episode laugh out loud funny, but I didn't mind the humorous moments, either. I don't have a problem with dark humor or deliberate mood dissonance. Dollhouse is in general not a show with many laughs - I can think of maybe a couple more episodes with some funny moments, but those episodes are otherwise very dark. Out of all Joss-created shows, Dollhouse is by far the one with the least amount of humor in it (barely any).

    That said, I also found Adelle's "I am so British" lines very badly written. Not only are those the things that don't sound like an actual British person would say, they sound like something written by someone who knows very little about British people. The "hard R" comment also is factually incorrect. I'm guessing they were trying to refer to the "posh" RP (Received Pronunciation) accent, because apparently, the writers of this episode are among those people who think that all British people talk like that, and are completely unaware that large portions of Britain speak a variety of accents that sound nothing like that. But it still doesn't make sense, because Americans, to the best of my knowledge, don't pronounce hard Rs either. If there's any American accent with a hard R, someone please correct me. I'm guessing that the writers of this episode also don't know what a hard R is, and that they were trying to refer to the fact that, in most American accents, soft Rs are pronounced, while people who speak RP don't pronounce Rs at all. But what makes the line especially absurd is that it's actually in some of the British accents - such as Scottish and Northern accents - that hard Rs are pronounced. So, if anything, it's the opposite - it's the Americans who don't pronounce hard Rs, while some of the British do (and other British people pronounce soft Rs, while others, like Adelle, don't pronounce Rs at all).

    So, all this was pretty annoying to me as a philologist, and I had to get it off my chest, but aside from that, the episode was OK with me.

    This episode, together with A Man in the Street and the next episode, Needs, makes up something like a trilogy of episodes that deliver information and backstory that was missing from the first 5 episodes. You made some very good observations about what we see here in terms of the dolls' memories and how their brains work. The first episode started, IIRC, with a conversation between Caroline and Adelle, where Adelle talked about "wiping the slate clean", promising a new start with all the traumatic and bad things forgotten, and Caroline retorted that the slate is never actually fully clean. We see that she's right and that the Dollhouse people have overestimated their ability to 'wipe' people's minds clean. Echo is supposed to be something of an outlier with her ability to retain some remnants of the memories and skills from past assignments, but we see here that all dolls had memories come back to them, memories that they were not supposed to have retained - in some cases, traumatic memories from their 'real lives', in others, from things that happened to them in doll state, and in others, from their assignments, or even moments when their sleeper programming was triggered. We're starting to see that, perhaps, it is impossible to completely control and manipulate people's minds. This seems to be a surprise to Topher, Adelle and others - and this is probably why the Rossum Corporation people believed that they don't need to kill people who knew too much, if they could use them as dolls. They believe that they are able to erase certain memories and that this is it, but we see that memories sometimes have a habit of still resurfacing.

    Caroline's personality is pretty relevant and informs who Echo is. We've seen Echo act to protect others in both her assignments, and in her blank doll state (with her almost motherly/big-sisterly concern for Sierra and Victor). It makes sense that she was an activist and idealist who wanted to fight evil powerful corporations and had an instinct to protect those who are enslaved and exploited and not given any rights. At the same time it's ironic that she ended up signing her life over to be enslaved and exploited the same way that those animals were. But maybe Rossum should be more worried about Echo..

    Adelle wants to believe that the Dollhouse is really giving people a choice and an attempt to escape their past, and no doubt it helps her justify her actions (we saw with her reaction to Sierra's handler that she likes to think she has certain moral boundaries she will not go beyond), but as we see, they are really using people's desperation and trauma to convince them to agree to a 5 year long slavery, with a "choice" that is barely a real choice (since other alternatives are also really bad). It makes me think of the Ancient Rome type of slavery where, aside from conquered and imprisoned foreigners who were forced into slavery, there were also Roman citizens who sold themselves into slavery because of their debts that they couldn't otherwise repay, and hoped to eventually regain their freedom.

    One of the things that seems to make the Dollhouse offer appealing is that they can wipe your traumatic memories and make you forget them. Caroline's guilt over her boyfriend's death must have tormented her a lot (and it's seen in this episode when she's yelling at Sam that he's responsible for his friend's death even if he didn't mean for him to die - obviously she's also talking to herself), otherwise I don't see her agreeing to sign the deal with the Dollhouse instead of going to prison.

    It would be interesting to know how the Dollhouse managed to placate that client that Echo walked out on in the middle of the assignment (and left him tied up to a bed, no less... pretty unpleasant situation). And yeah, that's the same guy from the first episode.

    I think you're going to like the next episode. IIRC it has a lot more backstory info and the things you've said you want to see.
    You keep waiting for the dust to settle and then you realize it; the dust is your life going on. If happy comes along - that weird unbearable delight that's actual happy - I think you have to grab it while you can. You take what you can get, 'cause it's here, and then...gone.

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    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_ZFS6_Ow7U

    Apparently, it was originally going to air after 24 .

    If the DVR numbers were counted, it wouldn't have been cancelled.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeB View Post
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_ZFS6_Ow7U

    Apparently, it was originally going to air after 24 .

    If the DVR numbers were counted, it wouldn't have been cancelled.
    24? Well, that would be an odd pairing.

    Wow, the last episode review on this thread was a month and a half ago.
    You keep waiting for the dust to settle and then you realize it; the dust is your life going on. If happy comes along - that weird unbearable delight that's actual happy - I think you have to grab it while you can. You take what you can get, 'cause it's here, and then...gone.

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    I know, I've been waiting to see if others who had been watching were going to come back to it. There is so little traffic on the site these days it seems a shame to move on without people who were actively watching/posting and interested in participating before. I know that Aurora has real life hold ups at the moment for example, which is why the rewatch is currently paused too. Hard to know what to do.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stoney View Post
    I know, I've been waiting to see if others who had been watching were going to come back to it. There is so little traffic on the site these days it seems a shame to move on without people who were actively watching/posting and interested in participating before. I know that Aurora has real life hold ups at the moment for example, which is why the rewatch is currently paused too. Hard to know what to do.
    But maybe there's a lack of traffic because no one is posting anything regularly? I guess it's a chicken and egg situation. But as soon as I bumped that Rank S3 episodes thread and opened another, a few people have posted.
    On my part, I used to check if there was a new post in this thread, and get disappointed when there was nothing, but I didn't feel like asking when the next one will be. Maybe you just don't have the time, or in addition, aren't that interested in continuing. Which would be a shame, since the show gets so good.
    In any case, I don't think it's a good idea to make such big breaks between episodes in your first time watch of a show, it ruins the flow, and you may end up needing to rewatch the episodes you've already seen because you'll forget what happened in them.
    You keep waiting for the dust to settle and then you realize it; the dust is your life going on. If happy comes along - that weird unbearable delight that's actual happy - I think you have to grab it while you can. You take what you can get, 'cause it's here, and then...gone.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TimeTravellingBunny View Post
    In any case, I don't think it's a good idea to make such big breaks between episodes in your first time watch of a show, it ruins the flow, and you may end up needing to rewatch the episodes you've already seen because you'll forget what happened in them.
    OK, I'm going to rewatch the first seven episodes during this coming week and then watch/post on the eighth by next weekend. I'll then stick to watching them every 1-2 weeks and hope that others are able to do the same or that they will still post themselves when they get to the different episodes too. I know you can't see it, but I've got full-on resolve face going on here.

    Hopefully I'll see you/others back here next week for Needs.

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    Yes, it´s a bit sad when we think about how people, some people, commission the dolls just because they wanna feel a connection. And which is something they feel they´re not getting in the real world.

    Stage Fright is weak but not terrible. I kinda like the conversation between Echo and Rayna about being someone real.

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    Recapping binge-watch eps 1-7

    I did find that I enjoyed the episodes still, or even more when I rewatched them, but then I love binge-watching. I think perhaps having found something more specific out about Caroline, and through having seen a build up of moments where she is somewhat breaking out of the expectations of the Dollhouse already, I feel more invested in her when watching the earlier episodes this time. I also struggled to 'click' to some of the other characters well early on before, to remember their names even. But as I know them a little better now, have seen their interactions/dynamics with each other a little too, I got to enjoy them in the earlier episodes more on this rewatch. And Victor! He hadn't stood out to me at all before and I really loved his character a surprising amount this time.

    It is a difficult one because, as much as I do think they dropped the ball in not making me feel invested in Caroline in particular far sooner, I do see that having focus on what the Dollhouse does is needed too. Balancing introducing Caroline and introducing Echo's current life/routine/interactions, as well as starting to show details of the problems the company are having, alongside giving understanding of how it is supposed to work is difficult. So the start of the season is a bit of a mess in many ways because of information needs overload, creating this troublesome balancing act they seem to have floundered with somewhat. It definitely watches better a second time, when you've already got through the shambled mix and benefited from it all once already.

    So I'm up to speed again and raring to find out more. I am most interested in the in-between time for Caroline, from when she first started running from the organisation to when she capitulated to the Dollhouse two years later. It's great to have seen something of her background, even if it was a little clichéd (a principled and determined activist finds out a terrible secret), but it is what changed her mind that I really want to know. The Caroline that became Echo isn't the same Caroline that originally broke into that lab. What happened to her between the two occasions we have seen flashbacks to conversations between her and DeWitt??

    And I want to see more about Alpha. I hadn't realised that I had lost track of how many links/references there were to him which had been flung up (or where his background interference could be suspected) within the first few episodes. I really want to know why he is singling out Echo and what he is wanting to achieve. And how aware is Echo really? There are hints that she remembers being hit by Dominic, that she was communicating with Sierra not to approach her at one point too and then there was the 'imprinted' message she gave Ballard. If there is another person in play within the organisation, who is it?

    There is still a big question mark there for me too on why/how the people who work there come to do so. Why do these people get involved in this organisation if there is such disquiet at what they are a part of? Boyd and the Dr are pretty open about their discomfort often too. As I've said before, wouldn't the Dollhouse avoid people who had any morality issues with what they do? It seems like every turn - the dolls, the imprints, the employees - raises questions of coercion and consent.

    I still have questions buzzing around the 'hows' of the personality imprints generally. Not just regarding the person that the dolls were originally themselves, the flashbacks to their real lives woven in and the recall of previous engagements or incidents from their blank state, but where the imprints used come from too. How/when are they taken from a person and what agreement, if any, is there for how they are then kept and used? Do they get permission to take these personalities/memories and does that often involve coercion too? As one of the imprints they used on Echo in the first episode came from a woman who had killed herself the previous year, when/how did they get hers? As it included revelations surrounding her kidnapping/abuse, those couldn't have come from anyone else who simply knew her. Was the imprint of the wife the guy wanted to show the house off to just formed from his memory of her? Or did they somehow take her memories posthumously, as they may have for the negotiator imprint too? I've a feeling there's a chance this kind of thing won't be addressed, but I hope it is.

    Also, do they wipe out but then return the personality of the person who agreed to become a doll? Is the theory that they return to their old life or are they given a new one after the five years? If they can take all these personalities to upload them into dolls then surely there is no reason why they can't return the one they originally removed? But regardless, as we can be sure they wouldn't be able to erase properly all that they have experienced since becoming dolls anyway, even if the theory is that they could just be returned to who they were before, in truth they won't truly be the same again. And this is before you weigh into consideration that they have been 'stored' digitally and does that immediately change, limit, affect, who they were?

    I still find the level of suspension of disbelief required for their technological accomplishments tough to give, and I want to know more about what they are saying they can/can't do and why they aren't more aware of the problems. I'm happy to run with the fantastical idea of it, but when it is also being questioned and seen to fail at the same time, I need to see them questioning it more too. Clearly the technology/theory is pretty flawed, as the glitches just keep on coming. The memory drug in Echoes at least shows it to be a current research area, so some degree of 'discovering' the problems with all these ideas whilst they are already in use does make sense. But how long have these organisations been running? Are there dolls whose time has been completed already? With numerous Dollhouses around the world and so many issues and identifiable 'blips' in just the one we're watching, the idea that they aren't more aware of the weaknesses of the technology seems odd to me. Is their 'Alpha' situation really unique? It seems somewhat unlikely.

    OK, enough recapping, I'm ready to head on. I'll watch/post on Needs either tonight or tomorrow.

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    1.08 Needs

    I didn't think I had very much to say about this episode, but then, as so often happens, I started writing and discovered I was very wrong, ha. Apologies, as always, for my verbosity.

    This was a really interesting episode and one that just made everything even more disturbing really. In many ways this episode didn't raise anything that wasn't already in the pot, but where it did go certainly didn't settle or improve any of my problems with what they are doing. Generally, the tone of the episode felt a little odd, but probably just due to the focus being inside the organisation but greatly from the uninformed points of view of the real people within the dolls. People that we don't know so well (or in some cases haven't even met before). As I've commented previously, these periods of seeing the 'real' people underneath feels somewhat like we're just seeing yet another persona. In part this is because the mix of scene-setting needs the show tried to cater to early on delayed us getting to know the 'real person' underneath Echo. More consistency in concentrating on who the dolls were before will probably just make this sense of another persona fade and give a greater feeling of cohesion for the overall character arcs within the season.

    Time and Protection
    A sense of time was used repeatedly in the episode and works really well alongside the 'need' people had to become dolls to escape their lives. Mellie remarked in Paul's dream on what has happened in the time she has been gone, that she has taken too long to get back. Time outside continues. The notion of tides was used, something inherently tied to time, rising but not going back as they naturally should. Victor talked of putting 'alien guy' back in the box, which would have been containing him, quietening his voice and concerns again (as had in all likelihood been the situation driving him to become a doll). Caroline asked Topher how long she has been there, drawing attention to the importance of the passing of time and being outside natural progression. Then there is Sierra, talking of going back home as something she hopes is easy. The implication of course being that moving onwards, and in doing so facing the return of their pasts/their memories, isn't necessarily going to be so.

    Alongside this the episode also considered protection, and this works well with this notion of avoiding the past and also facing the future, again working with and against the 'need' to become dolls. An overall awareness of 'sequence' was often within this, tying the direction of progress. On one hand it is halted in protection of the past and to serve a corporation. Or they escape and progress to the potential of healing, serving the potential of a future free of their issues, their pasts and the corporation. But in fact the reveal shows that this was also again to protect the interests of the corporation, to smooth their glitches and return them.

    Systems required back ups to protect the information through a period of change, but tests that can solve a problem can also backfire and have repercussions that cause further or worse consequences to be dealt with. The latter called to mind all that they are experiencing through their engagements, the repeated violations and the abuse of Sierra. All potentially leaving a trace of something else, some more trauma within them. The reality of the varying outfits speaking of repeated uses as Caroline suspects. Return, wipe, repeat again.

    Hiding from the progression of life as a doll or accepting and facing the difficulties head on was a choice. But decisions can be ill advised, the truth obscured or hidden and if reality was only known, things could be seen very differently. Sierra trusted her handler when she shouldn't have but she obviously doesn't realise she was in fact programmed to. Both Boyd's and Dr Saunders' sense of their role in protecting the actives was considered. Paul's desire to save Caroline, to not let her be hurt any more, linked to failing before when Mellie was attacked. The containing/cocooning pods become suffocating traps. The mention of the roles/dynamics taken with children/pets and looking after the actives was given limitations and parameters, all in consideration of protecting the business. This tied alongside the image of the 'house', a place that offers protection from the outside world. But this is meaningfully different in emotional security to the later reference of returning 'home'.

    The possibility/intention for the dolls to regain their memories eventually highlights this time as a stasis for their problems. DeWitt claimed to be protecting the memories, protecting the dolls from unbearable truths and how this honoured the promise made to the person. But we know that her priorities in truth lie with building sandbags to protect the house. When Victor offers his support to back up Sierra it is in trying to help her get out, to move forwards to be free and to be themselves again. In contrast Caroline needs to go back in, to return before she can move forwards successfully. Both approaches achieve closure, but not through being inactive. Closure can't be reached through avoidance. It can't be reached whilst remaining a doll.

    Choice, Coercion, Consent and Capacity
    Despite seeing they were in an environment built for calm, where their needs were catered to and they were seemingly looked after, all the actives who woke together categorically wanted out and didn't want to pause to find out more. They felt trapped and yearned for freedom. But then Caroline chose to potentially put herself at risk to return, to try to confirm the truth and help the others she saw as still being trapped underground. It was very much in line with what we saw of her in Echoes and was presented as her basic personality, as being truly 'her' and recognisably so to DeWitt. She just lacked her memories that led to her eventually signing herself over to the Dollhouse. Whatever emotional contexts got them into being there, without those memories they were instantly, instinctively uncomfortable with the reality they found themselves in.

    Now whilst you can argue that the Dollhouse simply offered them the opportunity to escape from their problems, it is only a temporary salve through avoidance and hiding. It doesn't take away the issues if they are going to have their memories returned at the end. But by preying on moments of extreme weakness, the Dollhouse elicits consent to taking over their lives. It is still unclear how much disclosure is given to the nature of the lives they will lead as an active, the risks that may be deemed acceptable and the uses that will be made of them time after time. DeWitt tells Caroline that their basic human rights, their free will and memories were relinquished to Dollhouse's "care and discretion". But this is incredibly ambiguous as it ignores the conflicting interests influencing their determination of what is 'acceptable', and thus the truth of what governs the level of 'care' the actives receive. We have seen Echo repeatedly being put in mortal danger just for an extra price, as well as being repeatedly exploited as standard. The point was made to the handlers that in the field they prioritise the actives but otherwise they prioritise the organisation, the house. The care and regard of pets it seems is a somewhat generous comparison to me as they focus on the expectations of behaviour and not a matter of care and affection. And is the attic merely euthanasia in the best interests of those 'pets'? I'm thinking not.

    Sierra notes that they have choice now once they are out and Mellie goes to find her daughter. But we know that most of them in theory had made the choice to be there already. But it isn't that straightforward. Their consent is in question because of the uncertainty of what is disclosed to them, what is presented to the potential dolls of what will happen to them for five years and what emotional pressures are pushed to try to manipulate them and steer their choice to agree. It took two years before Caroline agreed.

    The Mental Capacity Act here in the UK looks to protect people who may have problems making decisions when their mind is affected by illness, disability, or addiction. It does make the point that, "You must also remember that if a person makes a decision which you consider eccentric or unwise, this does not necessarily mean that the person lacks the capacity to make the decision." It is judged that a person is unable to make their own decision if they are unable to do any one of the following four things:
    1. Understand information given to them.
    2. Retain that information long enough to be able to make the decision.
    3. Weigh up the information available to make the decision.
    4. Communicate their decision.
    Without hearing that the Dollhouse clearly and honestly lays out the life that will be theirs, the risks and the potential consequences of becoming a doll, how can they be considered to understand and weigh up the situation? There may not be outright coercion, force or threats, but if emotional manipulation is used and the situation is misrepresented to deliberately block the ability to make an informed choice this is unquestionably preying on people. Finding or making people desperate enough to hand over their lives does not make it morally defensible.

    And it isn't as if this shadow of consent is even shown to be true for everyone anyway. We've also now had the example with Sierra of someone who didn't opt for this but was stripped of their life for petty revenge and to be violated against their will repeatedly. It's horrific.

    The idea that (at least most of) the dolls choose this for themselves and are better off forgetting and avoiding their issues is clearly flawed in the long-term. It is at best distancing and hiding from their problems, especially if they are intending to go back to their lives afterwards. Only wealth is 'fixed' through this it seems, and this benefit is without considering the negative weight of any psychological damage sustained en route to financial security. Dr Saunders even specified that some of the needs they were correcting here could have been induced through repeated experiences as dolls. But others were flaring from the original person and seemed tied to their reasons for consenting. Her test did not necessarily meaningfully 'fix' anything but eased, quieted the underlying distresses, burying them within again.

    Caroline's underlying self was providing the symbolic image of a haven she needed in the mountains, perhaps built from a true memory, placing freedom and peace as something attainable. That there can be these needs that are causing glitches that have to be salved by them feeling a sense of successful closure just underlines that these things need dealing with. In fact the method used to fix the glitching promotes the possibility for self-healing and the benefit of proactively addressing these issues rather than avoiding doing so.

    Attitudes and Compliance
    Another interesting aspect in the episode came from looking at the attitudes of the workers in the Dollhouse. The varied reactions, distancing and justification is fascinating. Different levels of disassociation from the actives were raised in the initial meeting and the analogy voiced of them as pets you can care for but want to behave within set boundaries. We saw callous handlers who don't really consider the dolls as people at all, Dominic who wants them to operate in clearly defined parameters, Topher who is so lost in his ego and what he can do that he doesn't seem to like thinking about it much at all (the sales pitch isn't his area), to Boyd who sees Echo more as a person and wants to celebrate in her successes. But Boyd still chooses to work there and I wondered if he understood exactly why Sierra wanted closure against Nolan.

    But it was Dr Saunders who surprised me in this episode. Her disquiet at the way the others view and treat the actives has been clear from the start. The regard that she holds for them as people had her angry with Topher's suggestion he could tinker with the science and see what would occur. She outright states to Boyd that she is protecting them all, that they couldn't cope in the world. But this is the situation that made them turn to the Dollhouse in the first place and it isn't a 'fix'. It doesn't remove these problems if they are returned to their old lives, or if it is possible that triggers can have these problems resurface even when they have theoretically been wiped. Plus they are then returned to active service, potentially taking on additional trauma and a host of memories that could also rise and disturb them for years to come. Just like the others Dr Saunders is still distancing herself from what they are doing and is performing within the parameters of her job. She is caring for them all, but she is doing so as the Dr on site who is ultimately protecting the house. Where she feels the primary weight of her decision-making lies is unknown. The tactic she suggested was presented as both a test and as a game within the episode, and, ultimately, was to return them to being docile, scrubbed of individuality and re-contained, clothed in a notion of protection.

    Other thoughts...
    The end message from Caroline to Paul, presumably hidden due to occurring when the cameras failed during the power cut, obviously plays in to his shining knight issues and will have him even more determined to dig deeper and find the Dollhouse. His dream fantasy around her wasn't surprising but it was interesting that he gave voice to his own concerns through Mellie too, and with the worry of what harm came to her whilst he was distracted with Echo/Caroline. It will be interesting to see if he is able to alter his approach at all, to take the warnings that the message delivered by Echo and with the level of technology in the surveillance on him have given. Or will he just continue to try and smash and strong-arm his way through? Obviously during all this we saw that Mellie's triggering glitch didn't consign her to the attic but she has just been put back in the barrel, deemed 'fixed' now. I wonder if there is any realistic risk of Ballard trying to track her or incidentally seeing her again.

    It is also worth noting that Alpha's continuing survival is now being openly acknowledged. At the meeting DeWitt confirmed his whereabouts was unknown, so what Topher gained in knowledge surrounding Alpha from his increased security clearance is I think yet to be confirmed.

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    Before rewatching this episode, I was remembering some parts of it - the fact that Echo, Sierra, Victor, November and someone else briefly retain their memories/personalities and break out, and that Sierra confronts Nolan (and that we find out the awful truth about how she got into the Dollhouse) and that November goes to her daughter's grave - but did not remember the details how and why it came to be. Actices awakening in a non-doll state with their original personalities, all at the same time, freaking out and trying to understand what's going on, was something that I had not remembered and that came as a bit of a surprise. But since I already knew they weren't going to permanently break out or remain that way, it was easy to guess that this was all orchestrated by the Dollhouse. Presumably, Mike was added for no reason, except maybe to scare the other Actives once they saw what happened to him? Or to make the reasons behind what happened harder to guess? In any case, this was very meta - he was a minor character we haven't seen before, so of course he was a redshirt in the orchestrated narrative just as he was in the episode itself. (BTW, it's funny that he happened to be the only one with a 'normal' name - even though it's actually a NATO phonetic alphabet symbol, same as the others. A couple of those sound like ordinary names.)

    But now that I've been reminded of the full plot of this episode, it's made me confused about some aspects of the Dollhouse mythology that I hadn't thought before. The concept of returning the Actives their personalities, but without any of their personal memories, is confusing and poses more questions about how the technology is supposed to work. Of course, it only makes sense that Dollhouse is supposed to be able to do that: it's a crucial part of their "pitch" to the potential Actives. Dollhouse doesn't just offer them money and release from prosecution (for those who were in trouble with the law), they also offer to erase their most painful memories, which seems to be the main draw for at least some of them. Like November, with the pain of her daughter's death; or Echo/Caroline - she wouldn't have agreed to it just because she could have gone to prison, it had to have been more, and I think it had a lot to do with her feeling responsible for her boyfriend's death, and possibly other people who got hurt while she was running away from Rossum Corp. in the next few years. Caroline (and it seems, by extension, Echo) has a strong need to protect and save everyone, especially those who are helpless and victimized, people or animals - so I think that getting people hurt would weigh on her conscience a lot and would make her want to forget.
    So, it would seem that the part of the deal is that, after 5 years of slavery... er, service, they would get their personalities and most of their memories back, but not the most painful ones that they wanted to forget.

    Now, of course, there's also the question, if it's really possible to selectively erase a memory permanently, or just to erase a memory permanently in general. It's hard to say based on this episode, since the Actives may have been intentionally allowed to remember their painful memories (?) in order to overcome them.

    I'm confused, however, about what exactly was done to them in this episode. At the beginning, they did not remember almost anything, none of their personal experiences (while knowing general information and having general knowledge and skills). It wasn't just one or two memories erased, it seemed like it was most of their lives. Then, slowly, some of them started to remember some of those memories, but only those they needed to get 'closure' for. So, how exactly did Topher return their 'personalities' to them? I've often thought that Dollhouse is largely based on the idea that our memories largely form who we are. But then how can Topher return their personalities to them, without giving them their memories back? Aren't those memories what had largely shaped them into people they have become? What does Topher put back into their brains to let them be those same people they used to be pre-Dollhouse?
    You keep waiting for the dust to settle and then you realize it; the dust is your life going on. If happy comes along - that weird unbearable delight that's actual happy - I think you have to grab it while you can. You take what you can get, 'cause it's here, and then...gone.

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    It is confusing and obviously I don't have a clue where it is going to try and help me figure it out. I didn't think it was clear that they were saying that they would be able to return the person's memories but without any/whichever were the ones that they were trying to escape from. It seemed to always be referred to as a complete package, that they would be returned in full and so it seemed ridiculous to me that they didn't see the temporary nature to their 'escape' from life. And if they were returning to their real lives and getting all their other memories back, save the upsetting ones, then what are the chances that they wouldn't find out what had happened that they hadn't had returned to them? November wasn't going to be able to return to her previous life and not discover the truth of a missing child. The logic is missing and is why I feel so focussed on what exactly they are told will happen, what is disclosed to them about the truth of how the deal with the Dollhouse works? Maybe it won't be settled/revealed.

    Perhaps in this episode we can assume that Topher could return them to their pre-doll state and then remove the memories, the connection that gives them recall, and this leaves their personality still in situ. The sense that they were having aspects rise and were slowly remembering details of their lives seemed to me more like a gradual healing after shock, that as their bodies recovered they were starting to be able to access details more and those issues that were already causing glitches and breaking through were the ones to rise up faster?? I don't know. The science of it all is obviously fantastical and does seem to lack logic often.

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    I'm intending to watch/post on the next ep by the end of the coming weekend, it could be sooner. I'm a little unsure because I've got a bunch of family commitments dotted over the next week that I'm trying to work around. If anyone else gets to it first, feel free to start the episode discussion.

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    Sorry for the tiny delay in timescale from what I was aiming for. The comments below are a bit rough/hurried because I didn't want to delay any further. I'm conscious that I'm likely to have an internet access interruption soon due to moving house, possibly even a couple of weeks of very limited or even *gasps* non-existent(!) access. As I want to try and fit in another episode before that time too if I possibly can, I wanted to get something on this one done and up. Looking forward to hearing what others think on this, it was a very eventful ep.


    1.09 A Spy in the House of Love

    Well I can't say I was delighted about the thread through the episode on the use of the dolls for sex yet again. But I'm going to take Echo talking to Boyd at the start about a surface level interpretation, or hidden truth, the constant discussion and references to need through the episode and the message November delivered to Ballard about the true purpose of the Dollhouse all to heart and try to ignore the surface level/fantasy aspects of the episode and focus on the purposes of the actives' roles within it, the needs they are really serving.

    Mellie [November] - Ballard
    So Mellie returned, was sent back to spy on Ballard further but the person within the organisation that has been altering the imprints struck again and she delivered another tip/warning to Ballard. The fact that some dolls are set with triggers was confirmed and so the willingness to kill Ballard if he gets too close was underlined by Mellie's presence in his life.

    The only thing I couldn't decide by the episode end was whether these hidden messages were part of the same thing that Dominic got wiped for. I don't think they were. The message Mellie delivered said that 'if' their person inside had been captured then this would be the last time he'd hear. I doubt very much that Dominic has anything to do with Alpha's behaviour/plans and so it feels that there are multiple agencies/parties interested in what is happening in the Dollhouse organisations. All with their own needs/agendas to serve.

    And this raised in my mind something Aurora I think said a while back. How many people could turn out to not be 'real' but be programmed dolls? How many people are indeed knowingly spies even? Plus, the implication in the conversation between Dominic and Echo in the van at the end was that Echo is there to pull down the organisation, or will be. Does he know more about where she came from and the way she is being used, or was he talking more about her 'evolving', her being allowed to, and how he feels this means she poses a danger like Alpha did? He wasn't there to pull the Dollhouse down he claimed but make sure they didn't do it themselves. So many layers here because of the multiple interests in the technology no doubt and whatever the true purpose is of the Dollhouse that November was imprinted to steer Ballard into considering.

    Ballard having to maintain the fake relationship is tough, particularly when it is something that he is trying to fight against. When the other person interacting with the doll is creating a persona to be able to have that interaction, does that make them like a conscious doll in some ways too? This leads me to...

    Roger [Victor] - DeWitt
    I wish I had connected better with DeWitt here. I'm sure that getting this insight into her needs and wishes, her loneliness and the side of her which isn't hard/clinical would have had more impact if I hadn't found the scenes so fake. This is the downside to having all these created people around, everything feels performed all the time and when it is a 'real' side to someone it can feel unnatural, and even be tainted in some ways by knowing that the person they are interacting with is programmed and isn't genuine too but performing what they want and they know this. Is she being someone she wishes she were? That she imagines being? Or is it like Saunders was saying to Boyd that it's a need that she wants to release/meet in private, that she is getting the opportunity to do because she can't otherwise?

    But even though I didn't feel emotionally connected to the character through the insight we gained from her relationship with Roger, I do think that it added depth to her. Not only in considering the truth of how she was affected by Dominic's betrayal, but also in how she is accepting the risks in allowing Echo to continue developing and stepping outside of her programming. Hearing she knew Dominic had tried to kill Echo previously was interesting because DeWitt didn't respond openly to that before now and yet was surprised by his betrayal. Does DeWitt really believe in her own sales pitch and what the Dollhouse does when she questions who they hurt, or is it the hidden purpose that has her working there and supporting the organisation?

    Is it DeWitt Echo is talking to Sierra about at the start when we see the final scene from their viewpoint on the main floor of Dominic's wiping?.. "She made a mistake. Now she's sad." If it is, what is it that DeWitt now feels was a mistake, that she has been saddened to realise was wrong (assuming Echo is right)? It is a pretty huge thing for Echo to be intuitively noticing, such subtle shifts in someone if it was DeWitt she was talking about. It could work in line with DeWitt describing her time with Roger as unwise. It could have been because of Dominic's betrayal. Of course it could also all relate to the technological developments and the whys of the organisation that are yet unrevealed. That could also tie in to the choice to not wipe Echo. It is hard to define the boundaries around the comment and insight. It could be any/all of the above.

    Topher and, well, Topher
    What Topher told Echo about himself and how he loves to brag is hardly news. No it has been quite clear that he is in love with his own genius for quite some time. It is what holds him there and draws him to the work that he does. But how much is his acceptance of what he does forced to get to do what he does? Is there an unease that he buries, usually smothered by detachment and disinterest in the people that the dolls were? He showed the potential this episode to contradict somewhat who he presents as being most of the time when he chose to talk to Boyd before going to call DeWitt. His reason for being there is so fixed on the need/want he has to do what he does and in wanting to exercise his mind. But he interacts with Boyd as a person, he can't not, and so he sees him as one. Instinctively, Topher tried to protect him, to warn him.

    He was also picking himself up for talking to a doll when Echo goes in to him, but then she offered to help and his conversation with DeWitt showed that he is seeing Echo as developing her individuality. Perhaps she too is going to break that defensive perimeter. Topher and DeWitt were totally accepting that Echo may have been building up a distrust of Dominic and an underlying wish to pick him out, to take him out as a threat. The whole purpose of letting the actives run through scenarios to satisfy their underlying needs last episode hasn't worked with her and yet they are just going to sit back and watch what happens, to see if she becomes useful 'in ways [they] haven't yet realised'. And all this makes me wonder again, what is the additional information that Topher gained in that extra security clearance for Alpha that DeWitt gave him?? Did it include another need, another want by the organisation in what is happening and being developed which Topher understands is leading DeWitt's choice with Echo?

    Of course, that Topher agreed to do what he does to Dominic is awful. It may be that he is still seeing the dolls with as much detachment, that Boyd was a slip in concern for a real person, but that he really is a pretty clinical/cold person within. It doesn't feel right though for the character, perhaps he is just not as devoid of emotional impact from his actions as he has often seemed so far. I'd definitely love to see his character probed a bit more, he is by far one of the most interesting.

    Boyd and Echo
    Okay, not love in the sex doll kind of way, but still, there is a surface level and more here too. We start the episode with Boyd and Echo discussing trust and putting yourself in the hands of another and we end the episode with Boyd having to watch Echo doing that with someone else when he wants to be protecting her. But of course we also wonder if she really is too, were her eyes and mind on Boyd still when she gave the scripted response. If the house of love is the surface level presentation of the activities of the Dollhouse, Boyd's shift in role can just make him another 'spy' within as he hasn't shown the temperament to let go of something that he cares about seeing done 'right'. I have to note if it hasn't been said before, the similarities between Boyd/Echo and Giles/Buffy dynamics.

    And still the consent issue is there, what the actives know about the activities they will be part of. Dr Saunders believes the system is flawed but is seeing the benefit that the provision of their service offers to some people, how it allows a need that can't otherwise be exposed to be provided. But what do the actives think will be happening with their bodies? Whether they are same sex or not, the sexual assignments are a physical violation if permission and knowledge of them was not openly there beforehand. Anyway, *I remind myself*, it is the needs being met and the purpose of the assignment that I'm focussing on. Although the thought did occur during this episode, with all the spying within it too, that it could turn out that Caroline deliberately agreed to accept the Dollhouse offer in order to be in there to help bring them down, and despite already knowing what activities she would be used for. This could link her with Alpha even. And it works with the choice to work in the entertainment industry despite knowing the nature of the business somewhat too. Time will tell.

    Other thoughts...There was also a clear acknowledgment of downloading a whole person, their personality like 'the unabridged Laurence Dominic' about to be lost in the archives. So possibly people do agree to having their personalities taken before they die, although it isn't clear that they could be lifted without wiping the person, probably not. If it does require lifting it out entirely some of the personalities we have seen created, such as the wife Echo played who was getting to see the house, may have just been 'made' from the instructions of the husband. But the other imprints (such as the negotiator who we know had killed herself but who revealed a memory of her abductor someone else couldn't have known) are more confusing. Unless they can all be lifted from the brain posthumously. But this is probably how they can 'remove' the original person a doll was and retain it for loading back on later after completion of their five years. Although we know too that they aren't truly fully removed as much as the Dollhouse intend, as the flashes of their past memories appear from time-to-time and from past assignments.

    But in consideration of what TTB raised after the last episode, if they have control over the full imprint then presumably Topher can pick/choose aspects to return to them like he does when creating an imprint from a mix of personalities, leaving out their original trauma if that was part of the agreement as TTB suggested. Although I still don't see how they could easily return to part of their lives and not find out eventually about whatever significant event had caused them to want to run away so badly in the first place. Anyway, the attic is just another way of 'killing' people that the company uses, no shock there, but it is hardly untraceable if those memory files are kept.

    These 'people files' also support what I'd pondered on a while back as to whether they could download what the dolls see/experience in their assignments. So Mellie doesn't have to be able to recall everything competently if they are able to pull out what she, her brain, factually recorded seeing/hearing. Although I do wonder how objectively even a programmed mind would 'store' that information. Surely she is always interpreting what she sees/hears and that would be what they download.

    Totally unrelated, she may not be a doll, but we heard that Dr Saunders is hiding from real life inside the Dollhouse too. Perhaps it is just tied to the trauma of the Alpha incident as the security logs suggested, or perhaps it relates to whatever need got her into the job in the first place too.

    Not knowing what NSA was threw me a little during the episode. Abbreviations that are just the norm are stumbling blocks at times to non-native viewers, especially when you are such a hermit like me.

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    This is one of my favorite season 1 episodes of Dollhouse. I remember the time when Andrew Chambliss was announced as Buffy season 9 writer, and it was this episode that made many people on this forum hopeful that he'd be great. Eh. We know how that worked out. But what we didn't know at the time is that, just like so many times on BtVS, Joss wrote big portions of the episode - he was apparently writing most of DeWitt's dialogue on the show.

    The title is taken from an Anais Nin novel, but it makes me think of one of my favorite songs by The Doors. The spy part is certainly fitting, since this episode deals with espionage, which we hadn't really seen on the show before to any significant extent. The parts with Sierra infiltrating NSA* felt like a scene from a typical spy TV show or movie (pretty much Alias kind of stuff, with a sexy female spy, wigs and all), and that was clearly intentional - but she was, in fact, the only fake spy in the episode (both because Sierra is a doll, and because the whole thing was an NSA ruse to frame someone and let Dominic off the hook. Which probably explains why no one there took a good look at her face and saw that she looked nothing like the real Sato, other than the hair and clothes). Dominic is the real spy, and November/Mellie is a doll imprinted to be an unwitting sleeper spy/assassin sent to seduce and spy on Ballard, and possibly kill him if necessary - without her knowledge. She's not just as a sleeper spy for Dollhouse, even a sleeper double agent for the mole inside the Dollhouse.

    * I have known what NSA is for a long time, mostly because of all the US shows I've watched. It's very rarely the focus of a movie or TV show, and most frequently tends to be an antagonist/rival agency to our protagonists, who tend to be from FBI or, less commonly, CIA (CIA is more frequently the semi-antagonist/rival organization to FBI, which takes the cake in how often it gets the heroic/protagonist treatment in US movies and shows).

    Incidentally, the montage of Echo as the an interrogator posing the same questions to various characters to find out who is the mole (with us hearing some of the answers intercut) is a good way to do some character development (and it was also used, to an even better effect, in a somewhat similar scene in season 1 of Agents of SHIELD).

    Quote Originally Posted by Stoney View Post
    The only thing I couldn't decide by the episode end was whether these hidden messages were part of the same thing that Dominic got wiped for. I don't think they were. The message Mellie delivered said that 'if' their person inside had been captured then this would be the last time he'd hear. I doubt very much that Dominic has anything to do with Alpha's behaviour/plans and so it feels that there are multiple agencies/parties interested in what is happening in the Dollhouse organisations. All with their own needs/agendas to serve.
    So you are assuming that the mole sending Ballard messages through November/Mellie has something to do with Alpha? Why do you think that's the case?

    Anyway, while the "spy" in the title is obviously fitting, the "house of love" part feels almost sarcastic, because the "love" that Dollhouse provides is, of course, fake (but it's so well faked that it is almost indistinguishable from the real thing, which is the point - the "realness", i.e. the fact that dolls are not consciously faking anything, is a big part of the sales pitch). You may as well use it for Ballard's and Mellie's homes and their love or "love".

    The theme of "real" and "fake" is also running through the episode. Adelle tells "Roger" that he may be the most real person in her life, noting the irony - which he doesn't understand (obviously, since he is not aware that he is a fake person!), saying that this is not an example of irony. (It is). It says a lot about her life and the people she is surrounded by, the fakeness in her life and her view of people she works with - and it is confirmed later when she finds out that Dominic, who had been her right hand for three years, had really been deceiving her all along. We get a glimpse of DeWitt's secret desires, which are actually nothing shocking (apart from the fact that she's using a doll to satisfy them - and I'm pretty sure that using dolls for own ends is against the rules of the job!) - he just wants a loving, romantic relationship with a man she can openly tell her secrets to. Note that has been able to disguise the real identity of "Catherine" by appealing to the stereotype that only a really old woman would need to resort to hiring a doll to be her lover, which people were so quick to believe, though they should have known better, being employees of the Dollhouse themselves. DeWitt resorts to creating herself a fake lover, a perfect man of her dreams, because she feels she can't be vulnerable and open with anyone else, any of the real people in her life. She seems almost as focused on and trapped by her job as Dr Saunders, who never leaves the Dollhouse.

    As Boyd notices in the opening scene, letting go, trusting other person completely, is always dangerous. Boyd was certainly noticing the obvious and intentional irony of Echo in her dominatrix persona telling him that he should let himself go and put his trust in her, by being her Submissive for a while - when in fact, we know that it's Echo who's placing her full trust in Boyd (because she has been programmed to do so), who is facilitating and handling her continuous exploitation.

    I have to say, I did roll my eyes a bit because that opening scene seemed like the show was using the opportunity to show Eliza Dushku in a skimpy Dominatrix outfit. It's one of those moments when the lines between the show critiquing exploitation and engaging in it get blurred. But on the other hand, I can't say it's gratuitous - as the conversation does work well with the themes of trust and people's fantasies - or that it's unrealistic. While watching dolls in sexual assignments may be unpleasant, of course they would be hired very often for such assignments. Also, there is still a lot of shame and guilt, and shaming, surrounding sexuality even in the most progressive of today's societies, especially if it's about anything that goes outside of the mainstream, vanilla and heteronormative idea of sexuality and that's considered 'kinky' - like BDSM (but also, as noted in the episode, same-sex relationships). Furthermore, according to some researches/polling of people within the BDSM society that have been published in recent years, while about 30-40% men who are into BDSM like to be Submissive, only something like 5-8% of women who are into BDSM like to be Dominant - and while those polls lack info on how many of the men and women polled were gay/bi or what the overall numbers of either sex were, there's an obvious discrepancy in numbers there that indicates why Dominatrixes may be particularly sought after when it comes to paid sex. And if something is sought after in regular prostitution, it makes sense it also would be when it comes to the clientele of Dollhouse. So it is really only realistic that the female dolls would get a lot of Dominatrix imprints/assignments, as the number of women who like to be a Dom in real life seems really low (only 5 to 8% in the BDSM community must translate to a really low number in the total female population).

    Echo and Victor in their sex doll personas get to have a little conversation about fantasies, with some deep irony (again!) as Echo - imprinted to satisfy a common fantasy of many men where they pay to playact being 'submissive' while really being in control all the time - is talking about people placing her trust in her and giving themselves to her, and Victor is teasing his handler that she likes bodice-ripping erotica/romance novels where heroines are being kidnapped by dashing pirates and such scenarios - the female versions of that type of fantasy, the illusion of submission and giving yourself away. Two exploited dolls used as sex toys are discussing fulfilling the "submissive" fantasies of the people who are controlling and exploiting them, talking about trust to people they have been programmed to trust (but really shouldn't).

    Speaking of trust, why doesn't the Dollhouse let their Actives be sent on sex assignments as Submissives? I don't believe that any of the employees would think that being imprinted as Dominant somehow makes them less exploited, which would be silly. The only reason I can see is that they simply don't trust their clients and suspect that at least some of them may be total creeps that could take the opportunity to injure or kill an Active that was placed in a physically vulnerable position where they may not be able to immediately defend themselves, and the Handlers could not immediately intervene. Is it just that the Dollhouse would not like their dolls to get broken and lose all the investment they've put in them? But they could probably request huge monetary compensation from a client for a killed or severely injured or disfigured doll. Or maybe it's just a rule that DeWitt tries to uphold, as a part of her attempts to be humane, or 'humane', and caring to the Actives. She is deeply morally compromised, but not amoral, and genuinely seem to think she should set some boundaries - as I discussed before, she was shocked and angered by Sierra being sexually abused by her Handler, for instance. How much of her beliefs are hypocrisy or self-delusion that she keeps up to try to make herself feel better, is an interesting question and a matter for discussion, but she certainly has some level of caring, and some rules, and I'm sure she would want to keep her Actives at least physically safe until they serve their 5 years of slavery and fulfill their contractual obligations.

    I wonder how DeWitt decided to work for the Dollhouse. We find out that her old job was about edgy science but with the purpose of genuinely helping people, and she clearly feels some dissatisfaction that she can't now even tell people about what she really does (which must be driving a wedge between her and anyone she can't discuss her job with). Possibly some shame, too. She wants to tell herself that the Dollhouse is helping people, too, but I don't think she's fully buying her own sales pitch.

    "She's made a mistake, and now she's sad" can't really be about Roger - because there is no direct correlation between Victor's Lonely Hearts assignments and Dominic's betrayal. She's made a mistake of trusting Dominic, obviously. How does that link to Roger? It only does on some level if DeWitt had some repressed feelings for Dominic (which is clearly suggested in her conversation with Dr Saunders). This would then link into her deciding to completely get rid of any 'indiscretion' and vulnerability, even a secret one with a fake person. If that is the case, then it's interesting that Roger, DeWitt's idealized fantasy man, seems like a James Bond type, dashing and proactive and bold, passionate and impulsive, but also warm and caring and fun - while Dominic (and it just struck me as funny that this is his name, with all the talk of BDSM in this episode) is an actual security guy/action type, but, well, far less pleasant to be around.

    I couldn't wait for you to do this episode so I can finally link to this great (and darkly funny) Dollhouse fanvideo - about Adelle De Witt in this episode, set to just the perfect song "Coin Operated Boy" by Dresden Dolls.

    You keep waiting for the dust to settle and then you realize it; the dust is your life going on. If happy comes along - that weird unbearable delight that's actual happy - I think you have to grab it while you can. You take what you can get, 'cause it's here, and then...gone.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TimeTravellingBunny View Post
    The parts with Sierra infiltrating NSA* felt like a scene from a typical spy TV show or movie (pretty much Alias kind of stuff, with a sexy female spy, wigs and all), and that was clearly intentional - but she was, in fact, the only fake spy in the episode (both because Sierra is a doll, and because the whole thing was an NSA ruse to frame someone and let Dominic off the hook.
    It reminded me of Sunday afternoons watching Mission Impossible. Good point about Sierra managing to get through security too easily at points, which I had been surprised by, obviously being explained in due course with the reveal the NSA were wanting her to succeed. I watch lots of US shows but I'm rubbish for retaining details like organisation abbreviations. It definitely isn't one I've clearly heard enough times for it to sink in.

    So you are assuming that the mole sending Ballard messages through November/Mellie has something to do with Alpha? Why do you think that's the case?
    I'm not assuming the mole sending Ballard the messages is linked to Alpha, just that they could be. It is totally believable that there would be many different parties interested in this kind of technology and I'm surprised at them for thinking any infiltration was solved by Dominic's discovery to be honest. Did he ever show any indication that he could have been capable of interfering with the technology enough to be able to do this?? Nope.

    But as a show they have to limit the number of players and we are pretty far into S1 now. So if Dominic was working with the NSA as one party, Alpha as an escaped doll is another, and Ballard is receiving messages from someone too. But Caroline is our main point of interest and Alpha has singled her out by not killing her, Ballard has singled her out by focusing on her. It could be that they are separate plotlines, but it is also reasonably possible that they will all tie together rather than two separate further parties/agendas being brought into it all and explained. Although I appreciate some of this could hang over into S2 so I definitely wouldn't rule out them being separate either.

    The constant reveals of unexpected spies/dolls etc also leads me to think that the person who has been altering the imprints may not even know they are doing it. Ivy made it clear that she is capable of messing around with the tech but she doesn't have to personally be able to do it, just imprintable to do it. Many employees go off site far more readily than Saunders, so they could be affected outside of the facility. Although there aren't many employees that they have spent time introducing, so any further likely moles are somewhat limited without them pulling a random character off backstage. And anyway, if dolls can be imprinted remotely then it doesn't even require someone to have created their own chair to be able to affect inside the organisation by capturing/creating their own doll. Basically it has been a point that Alpha has shown great tech savvy, and because people can be unknowingly programmed to do anything, noone is definitely not doing what someone else wants. Because the hidden reveals are such a big part of it all and programming whatever is wanted is the premise of what they do, nothing really feels out of bounds.

    I agree with you that the themes in the episode work really well with the overall premise of the show and there is that aspect of exploitation by the show of ED running in there still. But it is also interesting if what we are truly seeing is the industry affecting what the show is doing, whilst simultaneously the show is looking at examining and exposing the exploitation through what they are producing.

    The theme of "real" and "fake" is also running through the episode.
    Whedon seems to really like these opposites in exploring characters and their influences and motivations. Truth/lies, real/fake/substitutions, reality and differing perceptions etc.

    Speaking of trust, why doesn't the Dollhouse let their Actives be sent on sex assignments as Submissives?
    I agree that it is possibly because of the risk factor. They have been shown to be willing to put the actives into dangerous situations but they get the increased fee dealt with beforehand. I'm sure trying to insist on getting recompense for damage/death when you are running an organisation you are wanting to keep under the radar is probably too troublesome and is why the costs are covered before the assignment in such cases. An interesting point about DeWitt's boundaries though and I can see this playing a factor possibly too. But I think if someone was upfront and willing to pay additional that she wouldn't have a problem with it. As you say, she is fascinating on these issues because she does seem openly appalled at times when things step over her lines and perhaps it is that those lines are defences against what she is doing, either consciously or not.

    I wonder how DeWitt decided to work for the Dollhouse. We find out that her old job was about edgy science but with the purpose of genuinely helping people, and she clearly feels some dissatisfaction that she can't now even tell people about what she really does (which must be driving a wedge between her and anyone she can't discuss her job with). Possibly some shame, too. She wants to tell herself that the Dollhouse is helping people, too, but I don't think she's fully buying her own sales pitch.
    How the employees of the Dollhouse come to choose their jobs and live with what they are doing is one of the most interesting aspects to me. Topher seems in theory quite straight forward compared to many of them, but why did DeWitt join, or Saunders or Boyd. Who is there because they have an agenda against the organisation, if any of them, and would they even necessarily know if they did? They could all be dolls.

    "She's made a mistake, and now she's sad" can't really be about Roger - because there is no direct correlation between Victor's Lonely Hearts assignments and Dominic's betrayal. She's made a mistake of trusting Dominic, obviously. How does that link to Roger?
    I'm not saying that the Dominic and Roger of the episode are linked, just that there are multiple reasons why DeWitt may be feeling she made a mistake from what we see in the episode. She says that the Lonely Hearts imprint can be shelved, that the client realised the indiscretion was unwise. With the problems the repeated imprints can create on top of just the emotional crutch, and as you say undoubtedly the risk to her job of what she was doing, using Roger/Victor was something that she came to feel was an error of judgement as well. Not linked other than Echo could have been picking up on the same overall vibe of regret/pain from DeWitt, just from multiple causes. I had totally missed any suggestion that DeWitt has repressed feelings for Dominic outside of their work relationship, but I can see that now you say it. And yes, this could have heightened the desire to cut out the indiscretion of Roger after all that happened.

    I couldn't wait for you to do this episode so I can finally link to this great (and darkly funny) Dollhouse fanvideo - about Adelle De Witt in this episode, set to just the perfect song "Coin Operated Boy" by Dresden Dolls.
    That's great.

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