Dollhouse Mid-Season Recap

Well, we’re eight episodes into the first season of Joss Whedon’s sci-fi series Dollhouse (airing on Fox Friday nights 9/8c), and I guess you could say I’m hooked. Here’s a quick recap of previous episodes (if you’re not caught up on all episodes this season, this will be spoilery):

1.01 “Ghost” (aired 2.13.09):

dollhouse20 by you.

We’re introduced to the Dollhouse and its inhabitants. I liked it okay. 

A flashback shows us that Echo (Eliza Dushku) was forcefully recruited into the Dollhouse’s service by director Adelle Dewitt (Olivia Williams):

echo adelle premiere by you.

We also meet Science Guy Topher Brink (Fran Kranz) and Echo’s handler, Boyd Langton (Harry Lennix):

dollhouse29 by you.

Sensitive and Disfigured  Dr. Claire Saunders (Amy Acker):

claire dollhouse by you.

Serious Business Security Guy Laurence Dominic (Reed Diamond):

dominic by you.

Fellow Doll Sierra (Dichen Lachman):

sierra premiere by you.

FBI Agent and Dollhouse-obsessed Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett):

paul premeire by you.

And his source, Russian muscle Lubov (Enver Gjokaj):


We also hear a little about a mysterious previous Doll named Alpha who seems to be preoccupied with Echo and with causing trouble:

alpha by you.

Echo’s assignment is as a hostage negotiator and it’s tedious and tests the limits of credulity:

echo dad premiere by you.

Nielson ratings 2.8.

1.02 “Target” (aired 2.20.09):

The quality of the show improves immensely! Flashbacks teach us that the mysterious Alpha, when he was still in the Dollhouse, had a “composite event,” meaning he hung onto his memories, and he went on a bloody rampage in the Dollhouse, injuring staff (including Dr. Saunders) and killing several Dolls while leaving Echo to live. Adelle tells Topher, Dr. Saunders and everyone else (except Dominic, the security guy) that Alpha is dead.

Echo’s assignment takes her on a high-adrenaline outdoorsy date with a cute blonde guy who ends up being a sociopath who wants to hunt her:

echo hunter target by you.

We learn that Echo has been programmed to trust Boyd no matter what, and after he gets injured and has to rely on Echo to get them out of the mess, we discover that he trusts her implicitly, as well.

boyd echo topher premiere by you.

Echo kills the douchey hunter and we discover that Alpha was somehow involved in her high-risk assignment (and Dr. Saunders discovers that Alpha is still alive). We learn that Dominic finds Echo dangerously unreliable, and also that Echo is starting to recover some memories of her previous life as college student Caroline.

Agent Paul Ballard is still obsessively following the Dollhouse case and harrassing his source Lubov (while getting himself a big old crush on “Caroline” whose picture and yearbook video were sent to him by Alpha), and he doltishly ignores the Pretty Young Thing who lives across the hall and tries to force feed him Italian food, Mellie (Miracle Laurie):

mellie paul echoes by you.

Nielsen ratings 2.7.

1.03 “Stage Fright” (aired 2.27.09):

The A-plot was really dumb! But we learn some really intriguing mytharc stuff through the B-plot. Lubov pretends to continue helping Ballard on the Dollhouse case, and he sends him to an empty warehouse where there are a bunch of Russian muscley dudes who are there to kill him. But Ballard is baaaaaad-ass, and he totally wins the fight, although he gets shot in the stomach. Lovesick Mellie visits him in the hospital, and we awesomely discover that Lubov is actually a Doll named Victor, sent to screw with Ballard so he won’t get too close to the case.

Back to that stupid A-plot: Echo is “hired” to be a back-up singer to a Beyonce-type with a stalker (and to protect her at all costs).

singer echo stage fright by you.

Eliza sings okay, I guess. The Beyonce-type decides she WANTS to die because she feels trapped in her life, and Echo dangerously goes off book again to convince the singer life’s worth living. Sierra gets to do some fun acting as a nerdy Australian superfan, and Echo eventually saves the day, although in a totally unpredictable and crazy way. Dominic is further convinced that Echo needs to be sent to “The Attic” (surely a euphemism for being put down); Adelle strongly resists, for unclear reasons.

Nielsen ratings 2.7.

1.04 “Grey Hour” (aired 3.6.09):

Still riding the Quality Rollercoaster, the show is great again! First, at the Dollhouse, we learn that Echo, Victor and Sierra are spending a lot of quality time together in their “wiped” stages, which is surprising because they shouldn’t remember each other. Echo is hired to be a super-proficient (albeit loudmouthed) art thief obnoxiously named Taffy:

echo gray hour 2 by you. 

She’s leading a team of guys, one who seems like the Nice Guy (r) and one who seems like the Mean Guy (l).

gray hour by you.

After a little snafu that shouldn’t affect their mission too badly, Echo is on the phone with Boyd and then gets wiped remotely from her cell phone, so she’s back in infantile mode, while locked in a safe with security coming in less than an hour. Topher, Adelle and Dominic are wigging, because who did that? How did it happen? It’s supposed to be impossible. And yet!

So Topher imprints Sierra with the same personality (Taffy), and she loudmouthedly-and-proficiently talks to Blank Baby Echo on the phone to get her out of the mess. We soon learn that Nice Guy is actually a total creep and Mean Guy is surprisingly sensitive! Sierra-Taffy is unable to get Blank Baby Echo out in time, but Boyd breaks in to save her just in time. Blank Baby Echo helps out Surprisingly Sensitive Guy because even though she’s a vegetable, she has integrity!

After everything is settled, Topher confirms with Adelle that Alpha must have remote-wiped Echo, and Adelle ups his security clearance.

Also, Ballard and Victor tool around some more. Ballard still doesn’t know (it seems) that Victor is a Doll.

Nielsen ratings 2.2 (ouch).

1.05 “True Believer” (aired 3.13.09):

A smiley-singy cult in Arizona, headed by repeat convict Jonas Sparrow, freaks the feds, particularly after one of the cultists apparently leaves a note scribbled “Save Me” at a local grocery store. A Senator (who evidently occasionally utilizes the Dollhouse’s services) asks Adelle for a Doll to be imprinted as a “true believer,” because they have a warrant allowing 48 hours to find cause to storm the cult grounds. Echo is imprinted as a blind follower of Sparrow’s named Esther, and she quickly convinces the crew of her blindness and faith. Because she really is blind! Topher and Dr. Saunders also turned her eyes into cameras for the feds, and this temporarily blinded her.

echo brian bloom true believer by you.

Everything goes to shit pretty quickly and Boyd, while working with the feds, discovers that it was the main federal agent who left that note at the grocer’s so he could storm the cult’s premises. The feds see, through Echo’s eyes, that Sparrow is hiding an arsenal and they prepare to send in the troops. Boyd asks Dominic’s permission to extract Echo and is DENIED (because Dominic still wants to send Echo to The Attic but Adelle won’t allow him).

echo cult true believer by you.

Sparrow hears the feds coming and slaps Echo, assuming (correctly) that she brought them somehow; the slap knocks the camera loose in her head so she’s no longer blind. Being imprinted with Crazy!Faith, she’s convinced God put her there to save everyone from Sparrow, who prepares to burn the place down with all of his followers inside rather than go back to prison. Echo knocks his ass out and hurries the rest of the cultists out of the burning grounds—yet another example of Echo “adapting” well to resolve a FUBAR situation, but not following the parameters of her imprint. Just as Echo’s about to escape herself, Dominic shows up and knocks her unconscious so she’ll burn there and he won’t have to deal anymore. But awesome awesome Boyd once again shows up to save the day. No one appears to realize that Dominic tried to let Echo die; but Echo, in her blank Doll state, gives Dominic the Manson Lamps, so she’s pretty clearly onto him.

In B-plottery, Ballard’s sent more info about “Caroline” by way of Still Lovestruck and Pitiful Mellie, who runs into a guy who asks her to give a tape to him. We’re meant to assume that Alpha is still feeding Ballard the information. He asks a co-worker to scan the FBI database for Caroline’s picture, and nothing comes up. He then sees news coverage of the cult debacle and catches a glimpse of Caroline/Echo. He wigs.

Finally, Topher and Dr. Saunders discover that Victor has the major hots for Sierra–even in their childlike wiped modes, he experiences some “man reactions” (Topher’s words) whenever they’re in the co-ed shower together.

dollhouse shower by you.

Adelle is DISPLEASED to discover this, and orders Victor re…?wiped and monitored.

Nielsen ratings 2.5.

1.06 “Man on the Street” (aired 3.20.09):

Things get totally awesome! Firstly, the plot is interspersed with some cable news man-on-the-street interviews with regular citizens who all have various opinions on the legendary Dollhouse, which honestly doesn’t appear to be nearly so secretive as Adelle would like. Ballard figures out (with some co-worker help, natch, as we’re all starting to realize that Paul’s kind of a tard) that a rich Internet mogul pays money to a mysterious corporation (a front for the Dollhouse) every year on the same day. Through that paperwork, Ballard tracks down the mogul (WHO IS PATTON OSWALD HOLLA!), and finds him currently ensconced in a mission with none other than Echo!

patton echo man on street by you.

After taking a moment to scribble “OMG MR. PAUL ECHO! BALLARD+CAROLINE=TRUE LOVE 4EVS!” on his notebook, Paul disposes of Patton’s security; during which, Boyd, as per usual, discreetly extracts Echo before Paul notices.

Ballard starts righteously schooling Patton for being an infantile robot rapist, and Patton tells a truly heartbreaking story of his wife dying the day he was going to show her their new home, so every year he hires a Doll to be imprinted with his late wife’s personality so he can show her the home she never got to see. And then he bones her. So, as Ballard points out, it’s still totally infantile robot rape. But it’s complex, and Patton does an awesome job with the role.

Paul, still reeling from seeing Echo at the house, goes back to his place and finally gets it together to make out with Still Lovestruck and Pitiful Mellie and her gigantic rack. Mellie knows it’s mostly because he’s thinking about Echo/Caroline, but she still allows it. B/c of the whole Lovestruck and Pitiful thing.

mellie 2 by you.

He also blabs to her way too much information about the Dollhouse, because obvs he’s secretly hoping to get her killed? Or more likely because, you know, Paul’s a tard. We find out that Adelle and Dominic have been listening in on Ballard and Mellie’s conversations. Paul and Mellie also make with the loooooove and it seems like a nice romance is brewing.

So Adelle and Dominic are getting tired of Ballard’s preoccupation with the Dollhouse, so they send an Imprinted-With-Ass-Kicking Echo to kill him. They have an intensely cool fight:

echo paul fight man on street by you.

and just as Echo’s about to get the best of Ballard, she reveals a secret message with which she was coded, obviously not part of Adelle’s or Dominic’s plan (at least as far as we know). She said Ballard has a friend in the Dollhouse (not just Alpha?), and that Ballard can’t bring down the Dollhouse by himself because the one he knows about is just one in a global network of Dollhouses, and Ballard has to appear to let the Dollhouse “win” so that he can get the upper hand.

On the just-as-important-and-more-disturbing end, Sierra has been acting out and loses it when Victor touches her. Dr. Saunders discovers that she’s been raped while in her vacuous state and everyone blames Victor (due to his prior “man reactions”), but Always Awesome Boyd investigates and learns the atrocious truth–that Sierra’s handler, Hearne, has been raping her. Adelle is furious and we get all excited, thinking Hearne is about to get his ass dead, but she says he can redeem himself by taking care of a little problem–Mellie, who’s learned too much from Ballard. Adelle obviously can’t have Ballard killed, as he’s an FBI agent, but we get really nervous that Hearne is going to kill Mellie instead.

So Hearne’s inside Paul’s apartment, where Mellie is waiting alone, and he starts to assault her and it’s horrific and awful, and then the phone rings and the answering machine picks up, and Hearne looks like he’s about to boot when he hears Adelle’s voice: “There are three flowers in a vase. The third flower is green.” Hearing this, Mellie switches to her own Imprinted-With-Ass-Kicking mode, and she neatly kills Hearne in a way that could easily look like he fell and broke his neck. MELLIE’S A DOLL, Y’ALL! (Although we all called it, no?) Adelle then says over the machine, “There are three flowers in a vase. The third flower is yellow.” and Mellie’s back to her Lovesick Although Slightly Less Pitiful state.

As this all happens in Ballard’s apartment and plus he’s always screwing up and being a tard, he gets suspended from the agency, which is presumably what Echo’s message meant about letting the Dollhouse “win.”

Nielsen ratings 2.6

1.07 “Echoes” (aired 3.27.09):

We have a Big Bad! And an absolutely HYSTERICAL episode that had me chuckling in remembrance for days. So, through a series of flashbacks, we gain a lot of information about Echo’s former life as Caroline and how she ended up at the Dollhouse. Turns out that she was a PETA-type activist in her college days, and she had reason to believe that the Big Bad Rossum Corporation, who owns a lab on her campus at Fremont College, is experimenting on animals. She and her boyfriend break into the lab to expose Rossum’s animal cruelty ways, but they discover a lot more including jarred fetuses and Dollhouse info, and then security finds them because they weren’t even a little bit quiet. They run and almost escape, but Caroline’s boyfriend gets shot in the stomach and he dies. Caroline is then on the run for two more years before Adelle finally catches her and we’re treated again to the scene from the pilot where Caroline “volunteers” (through some serious strong-armming on Adelle’s part) to become a Doll.

echo adelle premiere by you.

So back at the Rossum Lab at Fremont College, in present day, kids start massive-tripping on a mysterious substance that originated from the lab, and it’s spreading by touch all over campus. The first student to exhibit symptoms died. Due to the Dolls’ wiped-mindedness, they’re immune, so a CEO from the Rossum Corporation (the sure-to-be-back Clive Ambrose, played by Philip Casnoff) tells Adelle to imprint all the Dolls as government agents and send them to Fremont to handle the sitch. Adelle is discreetly relieved that Echo is already on engagement (with the motorcycle-and-bondage-loving tool from the pilot), but Victor, Sierra and the others suit up. Victor is soooo awesome in this episode as a qualified and decisive hottie agent whom Topher hilariously imprinted as a superior to Dominic, to Dominic’s chagrin. Sierra’s imprinted as a medic.

victor echoes by you.

sierra dominic echoes by you.

Also in present day, November-as-Mellie and Paul fight because he’s unwilling to give up his search for the Dollhouse even though he’s been suspended. Mellie’s pissed because she thinks his search almost got her killed and also because she realizes his moony crush on Caroline is the true root of his obsession. She decides to spend some time away for a few weeks, which means she’s headed back to the Dollhouse (although Paul of course doesn’t know that. Because remember? Tard.)

So no one realizes at first that the drug effects spread by touch, so Dominic and Boyd, along with the rest of Fremont college, start tripping too. Topher and Adelle are back at the Dollhouse, using Mellie (now we know her name is November) as a guinea pig to figure out how the drug works. Topher and Adelle WITH ASTONISHINGLY HIGH LEVELS OF HILARITY begin to feel the effects of the drug, as well, and it’s the most uproariously fantastic scene the show has ever had. I love Olivia Williams and always have, but I am astounded to discover that I apparently also love Fran Kranz.

adelle topher echoes by you.

Mellie wakes up and begins to have a composite episode regarding stupid Paul being a stupid terrible boyfriend who’s in love with Caroline (and then she begins to ominously repeat the “three flowers in a vase” code phrase that caused her to kill Hearne), and Topher and Adelle, while addled, realize that the Dolls aren’t immune to the effects, they just feel them in other ways (retaining memories they should no longer have). They also realize that the effects of the drug normally wear off on their own, so the student who died from the drug was probably murdered.

Back on Fremont College, Dominic is turning out to be insanely awesome and hysterical (and feels really guilty about trying to get Echo burned to death), and Boyd plays the piano beautifully! Things we never would  have learned without this mysterious drug! Thanks, drugs! Victor remembers some scary stuff from his previous life as an apparent SWAT team member, and Sierra remembers more of her horrible sexual assault by her handler. Meanwhile, Echo is tying up Motorcycle And Bondage Tool when a news report comes on the TV about the happenings at Fremont College. Although she’s had no contact with the drug, the name Fremont College triggers her own composite event, and she leaves the Bondage Tool tied up to go “save him” (presumably her boyfriend) at the campus.

She runs into Victor and she’s befuddled because her brain is acting against her imprint, but Victor assumes she’s reacting from the drug and sends her in with the rest of the student patients. There she meets Sam, a good-looking guy who works at the lab, and he offers to help her break into the lab. Once inside, she remembers what happened to her boyfriend and she realizes that Sam is to blame for all of this. He and his friend wanted to sell the drug to the highest bidder, but his friend got spooked that the Rossum Corporation would find out (as well he should have been), so Sam killed him. Sam tries to escape but Echo tackles him, and later, Adelle offers him the same spiel she gave Echo. We don’t hear Sam’s answer, but hopefully he’s going to become a Doll, because I really liked this actor. I also really, really hated Echo’s hosiery.

echo sam tights echoes by you.

Nielsen ratings 2.4

1.08 “Needs” (aired 4.3.09):

Last Friday’s ep opens with a staff meeting between all the handlers, Dr. Saunders, Topher and Adelle at the Dollhouse. Adelle, it seems, has FINALLY become wise to the fact that the Dolls are consistently retaining their memories and she asks the staff to brainstorm what is to be done. Dr. Saunders suggests giving the primary cases (Echo, Victor, Sierra, November/Mellie, and a couple of new-to-us faces) their personalities back temporarily so they can resolve whatever issues are festering and causing the composite episodes. To give them closure, basically. So Adelle does that, and the Dolls wake up with their original personalities, but not their memories, and they totally panic.

victor echo needs by you.

They stage an escape, mostly organized by Echo and Victor, and just as the primary four are about to escape, Echo decides she has to go back inside and help the rest of the Dolls out. November/Mellie, Sierra and Victor continue with their original plan. November leaves to cry at the grave of her daughter. Victor helps Sierra confront the piece of shit who put her in the Dollhouse because she wouldn’t have sex with him. Then they kiss, and since Victor’s apparently only issue is loving Sierra, he gets closure that way.

Echo confronts Topher with a gun and almost wipes his mind, which would have been beautiful poetic justice, but Adelle intervenes.

topher echo needs by you.

Then Echo uses her gun to lead out all of the Dolls, and at first we’re like, “Where’s security?!” but then we remember this is all part of Adelle/Dr. Saunder’s plan. Echo receives closure by, in her mind, beating the Dollhouse, and then all four Dolls are again wiped and brought back in where they will allegedly no longer “suffer” the retained memories. Boyd accuses Dr. Saunders of playing a game with the Dolls, and her feelings are hurt because she thought she was just saving Echo from being sent to The Attic.

In Ballard news, he discovers the seriously high-tech surveillance equipment the Dollhouse has hidden in his apartment, and he also has some INTENSELY CREEPY AND DISGUSTING dreams where he has sex with Caroline who keeps asking him to “save her” while Mellie watches. It’s repulsive!

Nielsen ratings TBD.

So there we have it! You’re all caught up if you missed an episode. The past five episodes are also available on Hulu. The season’s finally starting to get its legs and I’m definitely into it. Problems: Dushku is still fair-to-middling as Echo, but she’s improving.  Paul Ballard is a moronic and two-dimensional character, but a hot and often-shirtless one. November/Mellie is apparently Lovestruck And Pitiful no matter what imprint she’s sporting. But! I’m finding myself fiercely loving Adelle Dewitt, Laurence Dominic, Dr. Claire Saunders, Topher Brink and especially Boyd Langton. And I really adore the romance brewing between Victor and Sierra. I’m seriously intrigued by the Rossum Corporation and I can’t wait to find out what happened between the two years where Caroline’s boyfriend was shot and she was apprehended by Adelle. The A-plot Doll missions are starting to make more sense and get more interesting. And I’m DYING to find out who the mole in the Dollhouse is! FINALLY, WHEN ARE WE GOING TO MEET ALPHA? I really hope the show manages to finish out the season with some good numbers so we can see what Joss would bring to a second season.

5 Responses to “Dollhouse Mid-Season Recap”

  1. Is FUBAR like SNAFU?

  2. those same questions are driving me crazy as well!! and it’s the superfun, juicy kinda crazy. which means that, finally, i am really enjoying this show.

    it’s taken FOREVS but ever since that patton ep, i’ve been committed to seeing this through– for however long that lasts.

    most excellent recaps! you actually reminded me of a few things i’d forgotten, ha ha (you know, cos that never happens).

  3. I don’t know, it’s a love/hate relationship with Dollhouse. Some parts drive me crazy but some parts are really cool and make watching it worth it. One of my favorite scenes is between Topher and Adelle when they are tripping and being weird. Tohper’s reference to his drawer of “inappropriate starches” cracked me up. The show’s got definite potential. It’s hard to say if they will be able to pull it off long term.

  4. btw, that wasn’t matt g, that was me, sarah pants!

  5. phytobella Reviews

    Dollhouse Mid-Season Recap | Danny Isn’t Here, Mrs. Torrance

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