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April 25 2009

(SPOILER) Discuss the tenth episode of Dollhouse. The show returns with 'Haunted'. And if you missed it, the episode can now be watched for free at Fox On Demand and Hulu.

I'm a little worried about the reception for this one, as is Joss, actually.

Plus the overnights are going to matter in a huge way, so mega-jitters for me for the next half a day or so.
It's not a great sign that he's using that same scary word "standalone" about this one as he was about the first five. Hopefully the Topher-centric B story will be good!
The week without my Dollhouse fix made me grumpy. I can't wait!
44 minutes. Watching "Spy in the House of Love" again.
The Louisville Kentucky area is not showing it.
What's pre-empting it?
Joss likes his standalone-before-the-finale thing, though, so I will be patient. That said, Go Fish is one of my less-favorite episodes of Buffy. But! This is written by J-Mo and Jane Espenson. How can it not be good?
So jealous right now of all you guys who get to watch it live. Have fun! And: great almost-kick-off to Dollhouse Week.

As for the standalone thing. I'm not that worried. With the added depth of the last few episodes, it's bound to be more enjoyable this time round. But a lot does rest on the quality of this episode, numberswise. But in that regard, a standalone might just actually help. Plus we have Jane writing the script. So, again: not worried :).
Want. Alas, my lack-of-TV prevents me from watching until Saturday morning, as usual. If we get a second season, I may have to buy a TV just for Dollhouse . . . the waiting gets less fun every time. :-)
9 minutes...hurry up!!! (sorry west coasters...I shouldn't complain)
Worst part of Saturday morning is waiting to find the first two torrents are bogus then knowing you'll be asleep by the time you've got the real one. (I'll buy the DVD.)
This is really disturbing.
Is her brother the dude from Firefly?
Sierra gaming. Funny!
Ha! The brother is the sherriff from The Train Job.
I thought so but I couldn't tell for sure. He looks the same, yet kinda different.
The son looks familiar too. Not necessarily from the Whedonverse.
He was on Charmed once.
Really not where I'd know him from.
Victor! And the new handler, whose name escapes me. I knew Boyd couldn't bear to stay away.
Hey, Purple Ones, Enver needs to be the latest hat trick. 'Kay? Seriously...use him in everything.
Yay! Ballard's friend from the FBI is still gonna show up even though he's not working there anymore. Good, I like her.
What the...? Boyd strikes again -- in the FBI database? Or was that leftover Donovan?
Topher, be an asshole...but please don't out-sleaze Adelle. Don't use her for sex. Please, I beg you. She's been through enough.
Oh, dear. To find that you've been so misunderstood, and now it's too late to try to make it better. Very sad.

And also, Topher is very irresponsible, isn't he?
Does Topher know how to have sex?
I guess we'll find out.
He probably knows the basics, the technical stuff. Not so much with the real, human stuff.
Somehow, I don't think this is about sex.
Topher's such a dork, but I'll want him dead dead dead if he has sex with her.
I'm sorry, but Sierra might as well be male for all intents and purposes.
It's not so far, but you don't think he's having a man-reaction? Look at her. I'm a straight woman but I'm not blind.
OTOH, the Paul and Mellie stuff is creepy!
Damn it...was so hoping he wouldn't do this anymore.
Oh I'm sure Topher realizes she's female (and yes she's attractive), but I think this is more about having someone who gets him rather than someone to have sex with. I may get proved wrong later, but that's the way I'm seeing it right now.
But then I kinda had a feeling he would. :(
kira29, me too.
WHAT THE FUCK??!!!!

Sorry, WTF just didn't cut it.
Ruh roh. Is this going to be a woo-woo "I'd know you anywhere" or was the son spying on mom while she went in for her scans?
I think Topher just wants someone to play with. JMO
Yeah, I'm not seeing Topher's thing as a girlfriend thing, but rather a girl friend thing.

And Paul's story just became my favorite in the show. God, what great character building in just 10 episodes.
Oh, snap! Did not see that coming. Did he know it was her before or after he kissed her? Ew.
I'm hoping all that's true regarding Topher, but this show can be pretty disturbing, and you don't always expect it to happen.
Wouldn't Adelle know if Nicky used the Dollhouse? Wouldn't there be some sort of client list?
He said the Manhattan Dollhouse, and I'd think they would guard client confidentiality pretty closely.
Awwww, it's Topher's birthday!
awww, Happy Birthday Topher :)
Ok, I now feel sorry for Topher. Having to "make" someone to spend your birthday with is not good.
That was very sweet, the thing with Topher. Sweet in that, "God he must be lonely" way.

Happy birthday, Topher!
"I found one."

Poor Ballard. And Tahmoh Penikett is amazing.
Yeah, you better shower, Ballard. But you still won't get the dirty out of you. Just ask Lindsey McDonald.
Ok, I just screamed a little during the preview!
Freakin' awesome. Excellent standalone!
Am I the only one who teared up during the last scene?
Oh MY GOD, I can't wait until next Friday...but I'm not ready for it to be so close to the end yet...damn it!!!
Excellent indeed. There were tears at the last bit with Adelle.
Somehow, I have a feeling Alan's not bringing the funny this time.
I freaked out during the previews. Alan finally shows up, looking insanely haggard. Boyd meets Ballard. Fighting ensues. Whoamg.
That was an amazing ep. I really enjoyed it, and I have to say that the guy playing the hubby was very good.

I think the preview for next week looks like a roller coaster ride and is it May 1 yet????
so is topher's birthday april 24???
This show just redefined awesome. Again.
Great episode tonight.Without a doubt,my favorite of the standalone episodes.

The Ballard stuff in this one was really dark while the Topher part was actually pretty cute and sweet.

The main plot raised an interesting concept,that the Dollhouse can basically cheat death.

Next week's episode looks kickass.So nice to have a standalone this good before the you know what hits the fan next episode.

[ edited by Buffyfantic on 2009-04-25 03:07 ]
So then can Echo become Cordelia Chase for an episode? Kidding.
Also my favorite stand alone. By far. I'd even put it ahead of Echoes. Guh. It's going to *really* hurt if this show doesn't make it. Though I'm staying optimistic about that.
Wow. Topher wasn't really working for me up until now, but this... just wow. Fantastic episode.
What a major disappointment. Not because it was stand-alone, but it could have been a Mutant Enemy show instead of a generic anthology story.

I thought the "C" story with Ballard worked. That's got to be torture; he knows Mellie is a victim, but if he doesn't act the part of the boyfriend, he puts her in danger. Now that is a good reason for self-loathing.

"B" story with Topher... meh. If the resolution is that Adelle was okay with Topher creating a friend, then there should have been a conflict leading up to it, instead of *just* scenes of them having fun. For instance, have Boyd interrupting his fun. Not to be a spoil-sport, but because he is worried that Topher will get in trouble when Adelle finds out what he is doing. Then the resolution wraps things up, and in the meanwhile you get the humor of the straight man (Boyd) trying to keep the crazy guy (Topher) in line.

The "A" story was about the murder... should have been about life-after-death. This show is about how the Dolls still have a soul despite having their memories erased. I wanted to see that giving this lady's memories to someone was not the same as bringing back their soul. That was the 800-lb gorilla that was introduced early, by Boyd (life eternal, religion), which was then completely ignored as Echo wrapped up this lady's life in a Hallmark bow.
I didn't have the highest expectations of this episode, but I was surprised to find myself really interested in this story and, for a standalone, that's saying a lot. I very much enjoyed it :) There were a few teary-eyed moments with Topher blowing out the candles and Adelle holding Margaret/Echo's hand at the hand. Plus, the scenes with Ballard and Mellie just break my heart, because he knows she's a doll and only there because oh him investigating the Dollhouse :( Definitely one of the better episodes.

And was I the only one who thought Eliza did a fantastic job acting? I was quite impressed with her this time around.
Somehow, I have a feeling Alan's not bringing the funny this time.

Somehow, I think you are right.

OneTeV, I disagree regarding the "B" story. During every scene with Topher, I was thinking how selfish, irresponsible and untrustworthy he was. Just the fact that he was doing what he was doing was the conflict, to me. And the end completely turned it around, changed it from creepy to sweet and sad.

I also can't WAIT for next week. :D

[ edited by mouse on 2009-04-25 03:19 ]
This is my favourite episode. A nice blend of genre mystery (a genre I like) with that wonderful twist of seeing yourself as others see you.

Then again, it wasn't really her, was it? It was a copy of her.

But the people who beam down on Star Trek are only copies too. The dematerialization kills the original (which is how they ended up with two Rikers.)

I found it easier to relate to Echo when she took the persona of a real person, and one we had met, albeit very briefly.

Ballard hates himself now, doesn't he? All the showers in the world aren't going to help with that one.

I felt for Topher this time. Could be because of seeing Fran Kranz in Shades of Ray, but I think you have to feel for someone who is so lonely the only person he can relate to is himself. Or else feel very creeped out by.

So, what happens to the people they get the imprints from? Didn't Adele mention the process being painful. Thusfar we've been talking about the rights of the Dolls (and rightly so, I think) but what about the rights of the people with the skills the Dollhouse wants?
Huh. I'm glad you all liked it. To me it was a bit fragmented, stiff, and long-winded (family discussions). But I liked the core theme of immortality and the way it wove into the plot. And next week's episode looks really good.
Joss just keeps on bringing the grey. Ballard is turned on by the pathos? Or just trying to keep his cover? Icky. Topher's dream doll is a pal who games with him. Awww. Adele has a friend to whom she is loyal.

Liked the ambiguity of the end where Margaret/Julia gets a chance to make things okay but not perfect. Also liked that they boy-toy husband really liked her. No "love of my life" crap, but "my favorite person". That made me really happy.

[ edited by WomanWhoWeaves on 2009-04-25 03:21 ]
...of course, this being the Whedonverse, the dollhouse employee who abuses his imprinting priveleges the LEAST creepily is Topher. I wonder if Penny would be dead if Billy wanted only this. And I like that they set it up that Topher seemed to not care which active was used...there was no stalker fixation on Sierra or anyone else (oh, sure, the cynics can say "but he really knew who was up next," but unless there's a narrative payoff for that option, that would just be petty snark)...

...If the "diagnostic" started the night before and we assume that the show ends on the "real" date of today, then we can give Topher the 23rd as birthday, not that Joss would ever give a character whose job is to create the characters of the actives for the dollhouse plays the same birthday as, oh, Cervantes or...hey, doesn't Joss kinda like that Shakespeare guy we hear so much about?...

...Nice of the J-Mo and Espenson team to work in the conversation about sexy aliens as just plain "good storytelling" -- presumed BSG shout-out? (Though Echo probably has more in common, narratively, with the McGooghan No. 6 than the Helfer version.)
I'm trying to process the whole Ballard thing. If I got to know and care for someone and then found out they were just an imprint, would I really be able to wrap my mind around that? Or would s/he still be "real" in my mind and heart?
Ahhhh next weeks episode! I'm so excited. This was a good episode, it did present some more pathos towards the Dollhouse workers and I usually have trouble feeling bad for them(due to the nature of their work of course)but even I couldn't help but say 'aw' when Topher got that little birthday cake from Sierra.
mouse: During every scene with Topher, I was thinking how selfish, irresponsible and untrustworthy he was.

But we knew that in the first scene, just after implanting when they sat down to play video games. Then we got several more scenes of them playing football and laser tag, that added nothing. They should have added layers or new information to the storyline, and instead we got generic more-of-the-same. We could have had moments where his playpal made innocent comments about Topher's friends, which he would have had to react to. Or, as my suggestion, have Boyd say what the audience is thinking (irresponsible) and have Topher pretend it is not about his loneliness.

My point is that the idea of the storyline (Topher being alone) may be great, but the execution was hardly up to M.E. standards. There needed to be some tension in the story execution: the most obvious being what would happen when Adelle finds out Topher is abusing his "test" time. We see them play football, laser tag, but absolutely no sense that this was anything out of the ordinary. At the very least, have Boyd comment on the fact that they are playing games out in the open.

[ edited by OneTeV on 2009-04-25 03:34 ]
My assumption (and it seemed obvious to me) was that Topher had implanted Sierra with himself. I found that fascinating.
OneTeV, in this thread there was suspicion that Topher was going to (at least attempt to) have sex with Sierra, yet another violation. And I think we might have seen the show go there again in the hands of less skilled writers. Instead, we got a different twist. That's why I liked it.

ETA: redeem147, exactly!

[ edited by ActualSize on 2009-04-25 03:31 ]

[ edited by ActualSize on 2009-04-25 03:37 ]
I personally would feel like I was taking advantage of them just like everyone else. But I see the point of whoever above said that he's putting her in danger if he stops it. I don't know that it's true, but I understand where he might believe it. I don't think they'd kill her if she could no longer be used to keep an eye on Ballard...I think they'd probably just put her elsewhere and handle him some other way.
Maybe it was left up to the audience to think about why Topher would choose to imprint an active with "best friend-ness" rather than him just going out with actual friends. It was for us to empathize and to understand, not for Topher to realize how lonely he is.

And yes, the twist that Topher doesn't want what every other client wants: he just wants a buddy. Great.
Wow. Just wow. That was a powerful episode. The main story, the mystery was interesting because it wasn't only about life after death or solving her murder, but a story about how others saw her versus how she saw herself.

The Topher story was cute but kind of sad and wistful. But it was nice to see him have a friend, no matter how transient.

Poor Ballard. He's caught between a rock and a hard place. He can't let Mellie know anything is different, for both of their safeties, but it's got to be eating him up inside, knowing she's a Doll. And one of the victims he's supposed to be trying to help. And in a way, he's victimizing her too. Scrub all you want, Paul, it'll never get you completely clean.

And next week's show looks incredible! Alpha, at last!
Now I know why the son seemed familiar - he was in Conviction with J August.

The husband was in an episode of Bones, playing an astronaut. And oh! He was in an Angel episode (according to IMDB)

[ edited by redeem147 on 2009-04-25 03:38 ]
And I am SO glad they did not go there with Topher. I liked it overall, will probably like it more when I watch it again, and don't have that underlying fear of something bad happening.
I personally would feel like I was taking advantage of them just like everyone else.

Yeah, josswhedonaddict, I get that, but I think Ballard still perceives Mellie as a real person, and it has to be hard to make the mental shift. Still processing here.

[ edited by ActualSize on 2009-04-25 03:39 ]
ActualSize: Maybe I think differently, but as soon as he had a playpal in that mode, I did not think for a second that it would go with sex. Secondly, his birthday isn't over yet, so Topher could easily go with the "yuck" directlion five minutes after eating the birthday cake.

Again, if the tension was that it might lead into sex (and an abuse of a Doll privilege), the scenes should have set up that tension (which they didn't). Sierra's implant could have been more affectionate (but still in a platonic way) and arm-grabbing, but instead they kept a discrete distance in most scenes.

[ edited by OneTeV on 2009-04-25 03:40 ]
redeem147: I will have to watch it again with that in mind! Wow!

OneTeV: I don't think it was necessary to 'lead' us in any direction. Just watching him do it led me (and I'm sure others) to ask myself why is he doing this, how often does he do this, is he going to get caught, what is he going to do with her? It was rather sinister, because it seemed that no matter what I could come up with, it was a huge betrayal. Then it twisted, and I saw him in a whole new light. I loved it just the way it was. :D

[ edited by mouse on 2009-04-25 03:41 ]
But you don't need that tension if you have 9 previous episodes of character squick to make you think it can go that way.
Conviction...yep, that's it! Now I don't have to obsess anymore.
Did anyone else start to fear deeply for the future well-being of Loomis as soon as the November pictures vanished from her computer? There's no way she'll get away with having seen that for long.
I thought the same thing, Taaroko. Or photos of 'Polly', as it were.
No, I didn't think of that. Now I am...thanks a lot. :(
pat32082: There is nothing in the previous 9 episodes that made me think that Topher would have sex with a Doll, implant or not. There was nothing in this particular implant that made it seem like his playpal was anything but platonic. He might be a total lech, but would pass-out at the idea of doing what Ballard did. We saw this early on with the Alpha incident: he enjoyed the idea of a Doll being capable of violence as being "cool", but had no stomach for the reality.

[ edited by OneTeV on 2009-04-25 03:48 ]
Well obviously there were several of us who thought differently.
He's mentally raping them already. And probably wouldn't know how to handle a 'real' girl, so it's not much of a stretch (imo) to think he MIGHT at least think about it, if not do it.
Hmm. Loomis might be safe...they clearly know Paul is looking for the dollhouse and are manipulating that, so they know who to expect Loomis to be working with, in which case, no violence required. The twist, of course, is what they expect him to know about Mellie (which depends on who is behind "revealing" Mellie as a doll to Paul).
pat: Yes, but I have given reasons for why I felt this way, and how the story could have been modified to address my concerns. I have not heard any reasons being given from the other side.
On a show where real rape and sexual abuse are a constant subtext when not actual text, probably stretching the figurative use of the rape term (the imprinting process as "mentally raping") is likely to lead to some overly slippery blurring of which crimes are being committed when.
mouse: I don't think it was necessary to 'lead' us in any direction. Just watching him do it led me (and I'm sure others) to ask myself why is he doing this, how often does he do this, is he going to get caught, what is he going to do with her?

I asked myself the same questions, at first. Then we got scene after scene of them playing innocent games out in the open. So we got our answer long before the Adelle scene: it was no big deal, and Topher wasn't going to do anything else then play these games. In that sense, it *was* necessary to "lead" us. The potential of being caught, of him doing something not-innocent had to be present in these scenes, and they weren't.
It wasn't bad for a standalone. In fact, I liked it better than any of the first five. But it wasn't nearly as good as Spy. I like it when they concentrate on the mythology.

Hey, so did Mellie murder her own child?? Is that why she was arrested? Or did she murder the person who killed her child?
I got the feeling that Topher not being upfront with Boyd about the "diagnostic tests", even though he was later out in the open with the laser tag and such, was mostly about him not wanting Boyd to know how pathetic he was. On a less analytical note, his game announcer voice at the beginning of the laser tag made me giggle hysterically. That was *excellent*.
Because where the primary use of a female doll by a male is sex, Topher's general-lechness, that I could see a gamer-girl being his ideal, and the show being the show it is overall, it pretty much was the first thought I had, and I kept waiting for the other shoe.

That it was exactly what it was presented to be was a nice twist, and revealed another piece of Topher to me.

But what we're saying doesn't matter, because you didn't like the episode, OneTev. So, I'm excusing myself.

[ edited by pat32082 on 2009-04-25 04:07 ]
That was pretty disheartening. The main story was predictable from the get go and not especially well acted. Topher's story was supposed to be fun, but was also predictable in the sense that you knew Olivia had to know and sanction it. Only Ballard's story was really compelling, in that he has to act like he does not know about Mellie, when he does. But then, I think he is a doll anyway, so it is all moot in the end. I hate that for the moment Boyd is neutralized. Topher not having sex makes him an Andrew doppleganger, and increases my dislike of the character. The fanboy thing is enough, already.
So you would have liked him better if he had had sex with Sierra?
Dana, why the heck do you keep watching a show you haven't liked since the start and see coming story-wise every week, apparently? Okay, now I'm excusing myself.
Yeah, I hated when Topher didn't torture kittens and didn't forget to recycle. He just gets more and more predictable and evil.
I enjoyed the episoded thoroughly. It was creepy and fun. I don't see any reason for their to be tension regarding Topher and his birthday diagnostic. He didn't tell Boyd because to say it out loud is what would make it sad. But being able to do it makes it cool. That's Topher. And I never for a moment thought he made Sierra into whatever she was so he could sleep with her. Ballard made me sad when he stopped seeing Mellie as a person. And sadder that he hates himself for giving in to it. And the Echo/Margaret storyline was creepy because it was a stand alone about a completely terrifying prospect. If anyone but Adelle was running the Dollhouse, the rich would be using the bodies of the young as their personal computers. Get done with one body, just swap it for another. But Margaret didn't want that. As she said, she had her turn. But you know that there are those that wouldn't be happy with that. I think the fact that Adelle was using Echo for a one time engagement like this and it isn't something the Dollhouse does regularly says a bit more about what the purpose behind the Dollhouse might really be and maybe why Adelle believes in it so much. But what it could be, I have no freaking idea.
pat32082: But what we're saying doesn't matter

Whoa, whoa, whoa... don't go there. This isn't about which of us is right, but having a meaningful back and forth dialogue. I am interested in appreciating a perspective that I didn't have, but I won't gain that with only "I thought differently".

I am trying to make a case that this particular episode, in its current incarnation, should have hinted that another shoe was going to drop, and it didn't. The football scene was fun, but would anything have been lost if the scene was shortened to 10 seconds instead of its current length? Or if the scene was dropped entirely (but leave in laser tag, for example)?

At the very least during the fun scenes, have Topher mention being excited for later in the evening. Then I would have thought "sex", and later we would have found out he meant "cake". Or have Sierra ask "should we do it now?" (cake candles), and have Topher say "later". I could not get a sense of affection or arousal when they are 20 ft apart!
I have to ask this again. Why was Mellie (was her real name bethany b.?) arrested?? I must know!!
I don't get it...I LOVE Topher. I enjoy his scenes a lot, and because they're not as frequent as Echo's scenes, I'm much more inclined to look forward to them. I like Topher. I think he can be a weasel, but at least he's being honest about what he does. And lets face it...as far as "villains" go, Topher isn't nearly as villainous as some others we've seen. I doubt Mal would've kicked him into an engine.

I never considered for one moment that Adelle would let him have sex with Sierra, especially considering the lengths she took to keep her meetings with Victor a secret. Clearly, it's not allowed, and if she knew it happened, and condoned it, she wouldn't be able to protect Topher or the Dollhouse from being wrested from her control if upper management decided her violation of the rules was especially significant.

That said, Topher's story line really, really got to me because anyone who has been lonely has had those feelings. Just wanting a friend who is your absolute best friend, someone who just wants to be around you, and doesn't care that you have flaws. Didn't we all have those feelings? Didn't we all wish we had that friend? For Topher, he lives his life inside the Dollhouse - a house full of ideals, of imagined fantasies and dreams. And despite being on the inside, he's still an outsider looking in precisely because he can never have what he gives to others. And his immense loneliness just gets to me, because I've been there. And I think it really furthered his story. And I like him even more now.
I am trying to make a case that this particular episode, in its current incarnation, should have hinted that another shoe was going to drop, and it didn't.

It didn't for you. If you look upthread, you'll see it did for other viewers. Just because their suspicions were based on the show's subtext rather than the episode's text doesn't make their perspective less valid than yours.
I get what you thought, OneTev. But since I didn't think that way, that anything was missing, and since there was nothing specifically in the episode that made me think he was going to have sex with her, how am I supposed to give you a different perspective?

The show, as a whole, to this point made me think it could go that way at any time. That there was an other shoe. You didn't. Fair enough. :-)
Although I agree that I don't think Adelle would have let Topher created himself a sex kitten, I'm not sure the reason she kept her trysts with Victor a secret is because that it's against the rules of the Dollhouse. I think it was just a matter of her wanting her privacy and not wanting it to be anyone else's business what she did.
I was very glad to see Dollhouse back this week, it really sucked last week without it. I had to get my fix on Hulu. I really liked the Topher story, and the fact that Adelle allows him to do such for his birthday. The life-after-death story was kinda cool too. Probably my favorite stand-alone episode. Fox has gotta pick this up for another season. I'll be so disgusted if it gets canceled, as I'm sure all of you will too. Maybe if Fox doesn't pick it up, somewhere else will. As long as I get more Joss, I don't care where it comes from.
NYPinTA: Get done with one body, just swap it for another. But Margaret didn't want that. As she said, she had her turn.

Yes, but I wanted the story to address that. Was there anything to suggest that Margaret was tempted (other than her brief "I thought about it" while sitting in the chair)? Joss is all about the character arc. Margaret's character was so forceful and straightforward for the entire story, I don't think she ever thought meaningfully about the issue. That was what I wanted, for her being in that chair at the end to be a choice instead of an inevitability. A brave person is someone who can act despite their fear. If you don't show the fear, then there is no bravery.
Squishy, it looked to me like 'Mellie' had four or five different names and at least two mug shots. Maybe she was a con artist, changing names and changing cities after getting arrested for whatever-she-did? I hope we'll find out her backstory.
I see your point, but I think her actions also speak to the immense loneliness that the Dollhouse produces, and my interpretation was that it was a matter of violating the rules.

I forgot to mention though...Topher called Adelle "Adelle" and not "Ms. DeWitt" when he was talking to Boyd. He called her "Ms. DeWitt" once and the second time was "Adelle"...I thought that was a little exciting, and I was thinking they'd be the oddest pairing, but kind of hilarious.

OneTev, I agree about Margaret. If it were me, and I knew I had been murdered, hell yeah I would want to keep living! I wonder why Margaret was so..accepting. There should be stages of grief for one's own death, in this case being that someone was "alive" to mourn themselves.

[ edited by The Ninja Report on 2009-04-25 04:39 ]
Whoever Sierra's identity was this week...

I want someone like that. But fo rillz.
I think OneTev has a valid point. But I honestly liked the Topher story anyway. I liked Topher as a character before, but I like him even better now.

I'm fascinated that Ballard found Mellie's secret identity. Doesn't anyone want to talk about that with me?

ETA, hey thanks Mouse! I didn't catch all those details.

ETA Again. I meant OneTEV's first point about Topher not the one about Margaret. I like that she accepted things gracefully and courageously. Besides, wanting to stick around - that wasn't really her issue. Her issue was getting closure with everyone and finding her killer. It would have confused things to have her futz around about returning her body to Adelle. And I bought it that she knew she'd never escape. Anyway, Adelle probably could have pushed a button and made her fall asleep, just like what happened in Needs.

[ edited by Squishy on 2009-04-25 04:48 ]
Maybe she was a con artist, changing names and changing cities after getting arrested for whatever-she-did?

Or maybe while imprinted November has been arrested and then bailed out by the Dollhouse? Maybe all these names were just imprints that had somehow made their way to the FBI database.
OneTev, of course she thought about it, but knew it wasn't a choice because Adelle would never allow it. So why even think about something you can't have? She had a purpose in mind while she was getting the brain scans and I'm sure that also left an impression on the personality that Echo was implanted with. The Margaret walking around in Echo's body had one goal, to figure out who killed her. She did that. And it wouldn't surprise me if Adelled had Topher program in a little passivity when it came to that particular thought- of keeping Echo's body and living a new life. But the idea that the show went there is enough for me to think about the consequences of such technology and the mind shivers it gives me is enough. Not sure it would play out on the screen as horrifying as it does in thought no matter who is writing it, so why bother with the scenes you know are inevitable of the body snatching persona begging to live a littel while longer? That's actually been done.
OneTeV,

I think The "A" story was about family.

How you should get to know them when you are alive because you can't after you are dead.

Reconcile before it is too late.

Find out what is important to them...i.e. photography.

Tell them you love them and whatever before it is too late.


The "B" story was about friends and much fun it is to have them.


Maybe The "C" story was about lovers ... and how it is not real good when it is fake.

Funny that Castle had a laser tag scene too.
Squishy, I'm suspicious. Were those pictures real, or were they a Dollhouse plant? And if they were planted, why? The Dollhouse PTB don't know Paul knows Mellie's a doll. Is there a reason they would want him to think she's a criminal? If they wanted to hide her identity, seems they would have wiped it out of the database rather than have what appears to be a trigger that gave him a quick look before the record disappeared.

Now I'm just confused. :)
ActualSize: It didn't for you. If you look upthread, you'll see it did for other viewers. Just because their suspicions were based on the show's subtext rather than the episode's text doesn't make their perspective less valid than yours.

I'm not trying to argue that other people's perspectives are invalid. I am making the argument that it was poor storytelling to leave it this ambiguous. If the "B" storyline was meant for the viewer to think that Topher might have sex, might get punished, might do something else, then we should have all been on the same page. As "pat" pointed out, there was nothing specific in this episode. While we can all *imagine* that Topher would want to have sex with a Doll, I think the scenes should have made us *suspect* that Topher was trying to do that. It could have been very subtle: playful pushing/shoving by Sierra, suggestions of "better games" later. Or less subtle: have them play Twister. Having them play football and laser tag from across the room, out in the open, is very innocent, and tells the viewer that, regardless of what we think of Topher, no one had a problem with what he was doing. (When Boyd talks about the "Topher situation" to Adelle, that should have been present in the earlier scenes!)
I was just thinking about the laser tag scene. I think Barney Stinson is really making laser tag hip again.
The main story was predictable from the get go and not especially well acted. Topher's story was supposed to be fun, but was also predictable in the sense that you knew Olivia had to know and sanction it. Only Ballard's story was really compelling, in that he has to act like he does not know about Mellie, when he does.


All stories are predictable, its what they make us feel and whow well executed they are that matters. I hope to your dear and fluffy Lord that you aren't watching In Treatment because it's unpredictable (hint: its not unpredictable). I thought it was well written and paced and wonderfully acted. I felt that Ballard's story was the least compelling and enjoyed the questions raised and in some cases directly addressed by the 'A' story. Tonight's ep falls squarely into 'exceeded expectations' for my money.
Okay, I'm only halfway through the episode, but I've been distracted by this description of Victor's character:

"A breeder with a naturally curious streak."

I'm sorry, but that's sentence sounds like a Craigslist ad. :)
To me, all the story lines were predictable in some way precisely because there were only a few ways it could have gone. Paul could have acknowledged November or acknowledged Mellie. He could have shut her out or delude himself with Mellie. He chose to shut her out, but became the very thing he despised when he used her. That to me was extremely creepy, and made me dislike Paul very much. And I think that was tonight's episode's greatest achievement...that it shifted the balance of what was good, and showed that even heroes are susceptible to the same unethical acts they decry.
Yes, I'm more interested in Mellie's backstory now than caroline's. Echoes really kind of turned me off of Caroline. But I think it would be cool if Mellie turned out not to be the passive, kind of annoying, pushover she is with Ballard. Like what if she was a duplicitous manipulative criminal. I think I would like that.

yea, actualsize I don't get why it disappeared from the database when they opened it. It would have been easier and safer for the DH to just delete it BEFORE anyone saw it right? The idea that they planted it there though doesn't seem plausible to me. But I've been wrong before...
I wasn't really ever concerned about the idea that Topher might try to have sex with Sierra just for the simple fact that it was Boyd, not Topher, who suggested Sierra be used for the "diagnostic test". He could have easily suggested Mike or one of the many other male dolls in the house instead of Sierra. So as soon as Sierra started spouting video game questions, I was pretty secure with the idea that Topher was just after a buddy for the night.
cyridel, that is a very good point. Topher didn't ask for a female active, he simply asked for an active. And Boyd suggested Sierra. Very, very good point, and it was right in our face.
I'm from the Louisville, Kentucky area and it's getting pre-empted for something for the Great Balloon Race, which kicks off the Kentucky Derby week.

Which pisses me off.
The idea that they planted it there though doesn't seem plausible to me. But I've been wrong before...

Yeah, I can't think of a good reason why they'd do it, but nothing is what it seems, right? We'll see how it plays out. I hope.
Very, very good point, and it was right in our face.

Indeed. And I didn't get a "sex" vibe either, but the Whedonverse is known for its ability to lull me into a sense of safety and then knock me upside the head. I'm very glad that didn't happen this time.
The Topher story is not ambiguous. It is what it is. Topher made a best friend. It was fun and funny, but we ask, "Why did he do that?" Then we get an answer.

I, and others, reading into it a possible sexual component because that friend is a female is what we brought to it. It's not the writing's fault it didn't play up something our own brains conjured out of nothing.
Topher's use of the Sierra was fairly innocent. But what about Adelle's use of Victor? It seems arguable that was just as evil as when that handler was raping Sierra. Is Adelle more easily forgiven because for her it wasn't JUST about sex? Or is it because Victor's a male and our preconceived notions of rape generally involve male perpetrators? Or do some of you think Adelle is in fact just as guilty as the rapist handler?
The Dollhouse doesn't know Ballard knows Mellie is a doll. Also, I'm subscribing to Jobo's theory about the nature of those pictures. When the first identity popped up on the screen, I thought it was November's real one, but when all the others followed, I figured they had to be various personas that had been tagged by some law enforcement agency during engagements (though one of them could easily have been the real thing). So, because the Dollhouse doesn't know that Ballard knows about Mellie, it would be harder for them to connect him to everything that popped up on Loomis's screen, and since it was her security code that authorized the fingerprint analysis, she's the one who'll be labeled first as being dangerously knowledgeable. We can't be sure that anyone else, within the FBI or without, knows that Loomis has been helping Ballard with his Dollhouse leads. Either way, it looks to me like Loomis is screwed, but if they do know she's been helping Ballard, November might be pulling the green flower on him in the near future.
Jobo, that didn't occur to me, and that's probably it. So they'd be no closer to her real identity.
In a way that is less tangible because of our accepted definition of rape, Adelle's use of Victor is not rape because it wasn't against his will and there was no coercion - presumably Victor knew what he was getting into when he signed onto the program.

But does it make it any less wrong for Adelle to use him like that? He obviously won't remember, and Adelle knows it would be foolish to hang onto their time together as anything but what it is - a client/active relationship.

The reason why Sierra's rape so much more disturbing is because Sierra was not under a guise of any kind - in her dormant stage, she is as children are...innocent and ill-equipped to handle trauma in such a way. The handler took advantage of that. Adelle, in a roundabout way, did the same - but since Victor was under the guise of programming, it doesn't quite seem as wrong. But I think it's just another manipulation, just ...not as brutal.
Topher's use of the Sierra was fairly innocent. But what about Adelle's use of Victor? It seems arguable that was just as evil as when that handler was raping Sierra. Is Adelle more easily forgiven because for her it wasn't JUST about sex? Or is it because Victor's a male and our preconceived notions of rape generally involve male perpetrators? Or do some of you think Adelle is in fact just as guilty as the rapist handler?


I think it's probably better to compare Mynor to Adelle, since in both of those cases, it wasn't just about sex.

I'd say that both of them were clearly lonely and had needs(both emotional and physical) that they needed to fulfill... but they defintely didn't have consent, so I guess it was rape.
What's with all the laser tag on TV all of a sudden? It was on CASTLE a few weeks back (with much cooler blinky outfits, I might add.)

I'm not a fan of the Topher character- but I thought this week's ep added some depth to his persona and made me a bit more sympathetic towards him as a character.

With regards to Sierra being imprinted as his best buddy for the weekend- I really enjoyed their interaction. My first thought was creepy dread... but I was relieved to see how it played out. Everyone should have a best buddy like that.

It seriously never occurred to me what a previous poster said here about Topher imprinting Sierra with a copy of his own personality... that's a brilliant observation.

Topher is just narcissistic enough to want make a copy of himself in order to hang out and/or admire his own abilities from afar (or near.)
I don't know, Ninja. Sierra also knew what she was getting into when she signed onto the program no? (Put aside for now, that there is a specific question as to whether her particular recruitment was voluntary - let's just assume it is.) Are you suggesting that Victor's exploitation is easier to accept simply because Adelle was acting as a paying customer? If so, I'm not sure that makes much of a difference to me.

However, I do think you make a good point that Sierra was less well equipped to handle it in her wiped state. I hadn't thought of that. Also, presumably she will presumably remember more of her experience, at least when she's wiped, than will Victor...

[ edited by Squishy on 2009-04-25 05:20 ]
The main story was predictable from the get go and not especially well acted. Topher's story was supposed to be fun, but was also predictable

I predicted this post...
Well...presumably no one signs on to be raped by their handler. To some degree, when you sign yourself away, you have to wonder how your body may be used...but I doubt anyone thinks about how others may violate your body in such a way...without your consent. Even in her dormant state, Sierra did not consent - so these are not blank slates that will agree to anything. They do have a degree of self-sufficiency, and you can't wipe instinct, and you can't delete self-preservation, and the underlying pain and feeling of "this is wrong."

I think Victor's exploitation is easier to accept, or at least more comfortable to handle. Sierra's was rape, plain and simple, and because of the brutality of it, and its depiction, I think the audience can really grasp that emotion much more than they can accept Adelle using Victor as rape.
First, let me say that I hope I'm not upsetting anyone. I do believe what I am writing, but I am not trying to convince anyone that they are "wrong". I am just enjoying a lively discussion/debate. I enjoy the fact the zeitgeist and I are completely opposite on which storylines we liked.

Let me try a different approach. In "Writing Fiction" by Janet Burroway, she points out that a perfect picnic in the park may be fun to live, but is not a story. But a picnic involving anthills, a rainstorm, and an irritated bull, which would suck to experience, becomes a compelling story. There needs to be conflict, crisis, and resolution. With the "B" storyline resolution being "Topher deals with his loneliness in an innocent manner", then we should have had a crisis with that as the payoff. (As it is, we got the perfect picnic.) With the "A" storyline, we started with Boyd talking about life-after-death and religion, and then that particular conflict was dropped. That got my mind thinking about: Is Echo really "Margaret" because she had her brain patterns? (Adelle acts like it.) Even if the answer would have been ambiguous (depending on your perspective), it was a question that needed to be addressed.

I just looked back and read "pat"'s comment that the "B" storyline conflict was, "Why did Topher create a friend?" I agree with that, but it still made the football and laser tag scenes unnecessary to the story. (It was fun, but provided no additional information or insight to the viewer that wasn't presented in the initial implant/video-game scene.)
MikeTMC: Topher is just narcissistic enough to want make a copy of himself in order to hang out and/or admire his own abilities from afar (or near.)

That would have been hilarious, especially if they accused each other of cheating, gloating when one wins over the other, etc. Yes, I am thinking of "Calvin & Hobbes", when Calvin gets upset with his clones.
It's past my bedtime. Goodnight, all.
OneTev, I think for me, what the laser tag and football scenes did was build up the notion that Topher was having fun having a friend...and then for me, it became incredibly tragic when it was revealed that it was his birthday, and that the one person he wanted to spend his birthday with ....isn't even real. It went from being something kind of just fun, to being something very tangible and an insight into Topher.
About the consent thing...

If they signed up to be Actives, haven't they given consent? Much like joining the military, once you join your body no longer really belongs to you, especially in the more covert forces.

This does not, of course, apply to Sierra, and her continued status as an Active even after we know that the Dollhouse people are aware of the false pretenses under which she came to them is, ot me, the single most heinous thing they've shown yet.
I think Topher makes a perfect friend one day every year because it would be too hard for him to have a real friendship every day of the year. He tends to see everyone's flaws and if he knows he can make someone the way he wants them to be, even if it is only for one day, he is the type to do that. He seems to have problems relating to people; he thinks he is superior and likes to point it out. A lot. Just about everyone other than Boyd finds him irritating in some way. Topher also doesn't seem to want to be very open about himself. Having just the one day, with the perfect friend, that doesn't really have to come up. They can just act like kids and have a good time and not worry about real life. And then the next day, everything goes back to normal. The fact that it's his birthday and he has to create someone to spend it with points to him not having real relationships with people outside the Dollhouse.
Hey, did anybody notice that the FBI keeps it's fingerprint database inside Adobe Audition? Apparently, Mellie's record is 129BPM in 4/4.
Military service is very different from joining the Dollhouse. You give over your life for duty, but you have a decision in how you treat your body. You can choose to run or fight, you can choose to hide or attack. But for actives, their programming is what it is. Certainly if one was very cruel, they could program an active to never say no, to never consider their own sense of self-preservation.
Don't you have to follow orders in the military?

[ edited by mortimer on 2009-04-25 05:46 ]
I have to agree with CA Bridges. If they signed up for this, they've given their consent, so the "rape" analogy has never really worked for me. Nor has the "murder" analogy, i.e., that these people are "killed" because their essence is destroyed. The closest analogy I see is "prostitution."

I don't get what happened with Sierra. How did that guy trick her into going into the DH? Did I miss that line of dialogue?
The Ninja Report, I could see the storyline going in that direction, but with that emphasis the scenes could (should?) have played out differently. Topher could have blustered to Boyd that he had to run the tests instead of hanging out with his buds playing a MMORPG (which would have been a blatant lie). We could have had Adelle watch the laser-tag from the shadows, which would have diffused the "shouldn't he be in trouble?" question and raised "why is Adelle okay with this?" question. Do you see what I mean? I like the plot, but the storytelling wasn't very focused. If the viewer is misdirected to thinking that Topher was doing this out of sexual need, or that he might get in trouble, then we should be purposefully misdirected, not accidentally.
That was in "Needs." Sierra
great stuff. i think this is the real way to make the dollhouse concept work. like, we get it, they can be programmed to do sleazy stuff, but both the sierra imprint and the reincarnation imprint really show how versatile this idea is.
I have a dumb question: Why is C.A.'s explanation all blacked out? Surely it's not considered a spoiler??
Just saying this sounds soooooo good and sucky Australia tv is not showing it!! our tv stations bite and not in good way!!!!!
"Sierra never signed up, she was placed in the Dollhouse by an abusive and powerful man who pulled strings and paid a lot of cash to make it happen, apparently solely because she said no to him".- Huh, that makes the story more manipulative than I was deluding myself into thinking it was.
OneTeV, I feel like the extra scenes mainly built up the tension. We know something's gotta happen with his story, because it's TV. So we're waiting, and waiting, and each scene with him adds to the tension because it seems perfectly innocent and pointless, but we know something's going on... and then the something that's going on is a lonely guy celebrating his birthday. I like it. I think the conflict arose from what the average viewer expects to happen.

Which may not be good enough for you, and that's fair. But it did the trick for me. I heart Topher.

And I'm just gonna throw this out there: if Dollhouse gets a couple more seasons, I think Ballard will become as complex and interesting as Wesley, provided they keep him on the path he's currently following.
RCM, So she was taken to them by force? Or was she tricked? Or do we just not know the details?
I don't know, I was quoting C. A. Bridges who said it was covered in the episode titled "Needs". The episode is long past so I didn't think it was necessary to black out the comment.
That to me was extremely creepy, and made me dislike Paul very much. And I think that was tonight's episode's greatest achievement...that it shifted the balance of what was good, and showed that even heroes are susceptible to the same unethical acts they decry.


And, in fact, you get the 'hero' doing the 'evil' thing and you get Topher acting very innocently when normally a lot of folks would (and did) suspect Topher of some creepier motivation. I don't think of the Topher stuff as unfocused, though it definitely is a bit more free-form by comparison and maybe that's another counterpoint that it gets to be. Free-form vs. the structure of the other storylines as well as Topher as innocent evil-doer vs. Ballard corrupted do-gooder.
I really liked this episode tonight. I hope Dollhouse returns for another season, because I will definitely miss it if it goes.
Yes, let's have a second season please. I want to have that.
zeitgeist: you get Topher acting very innocently when normally a lot of folks would (and did) suspect Topher of some creepier motivation

Okay, that might explain why I was so "meh" about the Topher storyline. Through the episodes so far, we have seen that Topher is a lot of talk (and lech), but no action. A "lot of folks" expect the worst of Topher, but we haven't seen him do anything (other than working at the Dollhouse). Between that and the innocent play just after the implant, I did not suspect Topher of anything more sinister than being an overgrown kid. The football and laser-tag scenes are more waiting for something creepier (like Jobo mentioned), but since I wasn't waiting for that, it was a momentum killer for me. Can you understand why I wanted at least the shadow of something creepier to be brought up? (I've given a few possibilities that I dont think would have harmed the scenes.)

[ edited by OneTeV on 2009-04-25 07:01 ]
My first thought when we saw the pictures of Mellie was that these were from a missing person file, not a criminal file. Was I the only one to think this way?

I do understand why C. A. Bridges chose to mark some text as a spoiler. I, for one, have not seen all the episodes to date and so it could have been something I had not seen. I do read this thread, however, recognising that it may contain information from those episodes.
Incredible, as usual. I'll post more thoughtful things later, but for now, there it is.
I do understand, OneTeV, but I didn't expect anything creepy from Topher and I still didn't feel like it was a momentum killer.
Okay tonight was awesome! I loved Eliza's performance... and the concept of someone downloading their memories/personality/whatever so they could 'come back' in a new body (you know if that technology is possible then someone in one of the many Dollhouses is using it!). Oh and how awesome was Victor! He walked just exactly like someone who rode horses all of their life!

I found Paul Ballard very dark, his self loathing and taking it out on Mellie is very disturbing.

But Topher totally cracked me up, I haven't noticed anyone else saying this: but he totally imprinted Sierra with himself! She moved like him, and talked like him, and could beat him 1/2 the time at all the games they played! She was probably no more capable of being a sexual object as he was capable of making a move on her! They were perfect playmates because there was a perfect meeting of the minds!

So Margaret put herself into Echo, and Topher put part (most?) of himself into Sierra, and what was Paul putting into Mellie (his disgust, anger, frustration?). This was great!
OneTev, I'd like to address your discussion.

she points out that a perfect picnic in the park may be fun to live, but is not a story.

Maybe this is the point. Here we are, watching a television show, expecting a story. Where's the drama? Why isn't Topher raping Sierra? Why isn't anyone stopping him from being irresponsible? Where is everyone? Why is Topher doing this?

Perhaps the point is that the story doesn't matter here. This is the one day that Topher does not have to tell a story; this is his life.

There is no heightened drama, no twists, no foils... which we were all expecting after Dominic was put in the attic (who can we trust??). It was just it, sorta bland, maybe not all of our cups of tea, but it made him happy. My evidence for this is with the final scene of Adelle & Boyd. Boyd asks her if she is aware of the Topher situation, and she's watching it on the television. She doesn't look riveted as if a new "Topher layer" has just been discovered, but watches on just like every other day in the office. It becomes clear to us (& Boyd) that she's done this several times with Topher... watching a kid play with his toys or an imaginary friend (just for one day). What hit most of us (& Boyd), was the awful truth- we were expecting a story, and instead we got a life.

I think that's why we're so effected by it. We expected more from Topher, but that is just who he really is (while the business Topher is the story). And we felt bad for him (just as we felt bad for Dr. Saunders because the Dollhouse has also become her life).

Hope my take helps you.

ETA: Of course, while I babble, zeitgeist could swoop in a say pretty much the same thing in less words:

I don't think of the Topher stuff as unfocused, though it definitely is a bit more free-form by comparison and maybe that's another counterpoint that it gets to be. Free-form vs. the structure of the other storylines as well as Topher as innocent evil-doer vs. Ballard corrupted do-gooder.

[ edited by korkster on 2009-04-25 07:23 ]
I'm not sure if this has been mentioned above or not, but did anyone else only count three candles on the cake?

It made me wonder if maybe this was the third year Topher had used this particular imprint. Maybe it wasn't his birthday, but more of a "third year anniversary" thing. And I don't necessarily mean that to be romantic.

Also, it was obviously the first time he used this particular Sierra since she has not yet been at the Dollhouse for more than a year.
So by the time I get here, there are 170+ comments. Scrolling through them, I'm struck by the creative goldmine the entire concept has become. The show is provocative, polarizing, and unsettling. It's also alternately thrilling, hilarious, and surprising. It may borrow from other shows, but has grown into something unique and valuable. It's fascinating to read the different interpretations this group brings to each episode.

Light bulb time: It had never occurred to me that the imprinting process might be used as a form of immortality (should have thought of it, though), but now that that genie is out of the bottle, the possibilities are endless. And mind-boggling. Mountains would be moved, fortunes expended, and anything sacrificed, to make this happen.

OneTeV wrote: "a perfect picnic in the park may be fun to live, but is not a story. But a picnic involving anthills, a rainstorm, and an irritated bull, which would suck to experience, becomes a compelling story."

But in this instance, the conflict is front-loaded: Sierra comes out of The Chair, and we have no idea what Topher has in mind for her. Many of us--myself included--got a sick feeling in our gut, fully expecting Topher to bring the sleaze. Tension. And then it turns out he just wants a geek bud to share his birthday. Release. That made it plenty compelling for me. Touching, even.
Is Topher aware that Sierra is in the dollhouse against her will?
Aw, great. Did everyone go to sleep? I hate it when I do that.

But Topher totally cracked me up, I haven't noticed anyone else saying this: but he totally imprinted Sierra with himself! She moved like him, and talked like him, and could beat him 1/2 the time at all the games they played! She was probably no more capable of being a sexual object as he was capable of making a move on her! They were perfect playmates because there was a perfect meeting of the minds!

Great point! They even plop on the couch the same way! That was neat. I loved their interactions.

And not only do we have the mirror of Topher, but we have the mirror of Adelle as well (in a sense). The frosty lady who died kept saying "you & I are much the same" or some such. Maybe that's why it was important to Adelle to let this play out because only she could understand what it meant to her friend, one hard woman to another.

Not only do you have that, but you also have the mirrored "self" of the lady who died- the impression she has of her self & that Adelle has of her, and then the impression she has from her friends & family. Interestingly, it seems that while in life your self-reflections from your loved ones is a positive out-look, but your death actually sheds the "lies" you told yourself & others... to reveal your "true self". Very "outside looking in".

And of course I guess an argument could be made that her truest reflection came from the one she loved the most- her horse. And strangely enough, seemed to join her fate in poison/steroids.

That said, I couldn't stop myself from yelling out "Bad Horse"! :D
I haven't noticed anyone else saying this: but he totally imprinted Sierra with himself!


Scroll back, grasshopper :).

"Bad Horse"!


DOBBER!
Oh wise cricket.
It's hard to say who is aware of what has happened regarding each of the Dolls' original identities. Boyd and Saunders discussed how Sierra needed to confront the man that "took away her power," and it would be assumed that Adelle knows the circumstances since we have seen her as being the only one over recruiting new Actives.

But Topher? It's hard to say. But one thing I did just realize is that he had to know who she was originally in some capacity, because we saw Echo walk in on Sierra's first treatment/wipe in the first episode. And now that we know she was brought in against her will, the expression on her face when she looks at Echo is pretty heartbreaking.
Wise cricket! Wise cricket! Wise Cricket! He's wise!
He hops and/or chirps across the nation, the Gryllidae of insight!
He got the ---

That is just not working :).
Well I didn't see any bugs in the Dollhouse. Oh wait, I did. Hmuh huh he. (*that was a snicker*)

You can go check out my comment z (the first one here) and see if we're floating in the same boat. Might spark more conversation (since OneTev has rudely gone to sleep I guess).
Poignance, laughter, mystery, and a romance that's twisted almost to the level of Hitchcock's Vertigo. Quite a lot poured into one episode. Liked it quite a bit, and I was worried because JMo's previous ep was weak, and I attributed that to their being novice writers. Maybe Jane helped, or maybe I underestimated them.

I think the suggestions OneTev made on how the Topher B- story could have been done probably would have been an improvement, but I was perfectly fine with it as it was. And Dichen did a great job as his birthday buddy. Probably my favorite of her Dolls.

Liked Adelle and Margaret together. They reminded me of Adelle and Roger, and Adelle and the pop singer manager, too. All those conversations were intelligent, amusing, and sophisticated, with an easy familiarity that's just fun to watch. And Adelle's fondly amused/slightly appalled reactions to Margaret's plan to investigate her own death alternating with flashes of pain that her friend was dead were wonderful. A beautiful piece of work from Olivia Williams.

I think the eternal life angle will be back and will be a major part of the Dollhouse's true purpose, if we get another season.

Enver was good as always, but it wasn't a substantial part and didn't go anywhere particularly interesting.

I enjoyed Margaret's kids and brother talking about her, and her defensive reactions. I was afraid that she was going to be portrayed as just a monster for a little, but behind the put-downs, there was some genuine love. Well, except from Nicholas. The husband was portrayed well too and I believed his affection for Margaret. One strength of this show has been that a lot of the one-off characters have been brought to life very well, sometimes in only a couple of brief scenes. I figure that's due both to smart casting of the guest actors and the dialog they've been given. For example, the sheriff and the shop-keeper in True Believer and Caroline's activist buddies gave real texture to the episodes they were in. And this episode felt the same way.

One of Eliza's better characterizations, although I had a hard time buying in to the conceit that Margaret would be so cavalier about her own death. Once it got going though, I liked her interactions with the family and about died over her gag reflex when her son kissed her. Up there with "Porn!" No, funnier. Eliza's comic chops are actually the biggest and most impressive surprise in her acting for me.

Loved Paul/Mellie. He's getting so twisted, so Wesley, and all this moral border-crossing and self-disgust has just vaulted him up to the top of my favorite characters. And he bored the hell out of me just a few weeks ago!

And I feel so sorry for Mellie, trying to be loving, feeling that it's all off somehow and telling him that it's okay if it's meaningless for him. Man, the pain that's coming is going to be hard to take.

So, much better one-off than I was expecting and comparable in quality to what we've been getting, although I liked the last couple slightly more.

[ edited by shambleau on 2009-04-25 07:58 ]

[ edited by shambleau on 2009-04-25 08:16 ]
korkster: There is no heightened drama, no twists, no foils...

It was not just "here is Topher's life", there was a basic question: why is Topher acting this way? That is the story. The fact that it wasn't a big deal (to Adelle or others) should have been shown ahead of time, so we could wonder why she was okay with it, instead of wondering *if* she would be okay with it. I think the current storytelling is introducing the false drama that you think unnecessary. ("Will Topher do something creepy?")

I'm not talking about heightened or spectacular drama. In that same book, Burroway mentions: "In fact, all of us know that the profoundest impediments to our desire most often lie close to home, in our own bodies, personalities, friends, lovers, and families... More passion is destroyed at the breakfast table than in a time warp."

Let me try one more time about what I feel was missing. A couple of people have suggested that the story did not need to specifically mention the core ideas in advance. The episode does work on some level, but I think that is one of the basic strengths of Joss's writing, he always mention the ideas to the viewer ahead of the twist/reveal. But usually in a way we don't suspect. For example, in "Our Mrs. Reynolds", Mal asks Inara if Companions wash their clients feet, and she says it is her speciality. Although we don't realize it at the time, Joss has already planted the idea that Saffron has Companion training. In Angel S3, Connor says "You'll have to kill me first" before he could accept Angel as a father, and that gets paid off in the S4 finale.

Now look at this episode. The "B" storyline involved this being a special day (birthday) of innocent play with a made-up friend. Any of these points could have been raised, indirectly, in Topher's conversation with Boyd, and were not. (Topher trying to unconvincingly hide how important the "tests" are. Have him make a few remarks about Boyd hanging around with his buddies outside work, or asking if he lost Handler friends after the promotion. Have him say that it is a special day, then cover it by saying "annual test day".) For the "A" storyline, when "Margaret" has breakfast with Adelle, nothing about family or closure (other than "solve murder"). Not saying it had to have a neon sign with "story moral" flashing, but it should have at least been an innocent comment during the conversation.

(Yes, I realize now that I'm being overly harsh with a good episode, but IMHO it could have been magical.)

[ edited by OneTeV on 2009-04-25 08:01 ]
I cried during the last scene. The Ballard stuff was very, very disturbing - especially Mellie saying that he could "take from her and not give anything back" or something like that. The look on his face was really sinister.

I loved the Topher and Sierra bit, and was also saddened for both of them. I never got a creepy vibe from those scenes. Just friendship (albeit a false one, of course).

I liked the episode! But next week looks totally awesome.
Once it got going though, I liked her interactions with the family and about died over her gag reflex when her son kissed her. Up there with "Porn!" No, funnier. Eliza's comic chops are actually the biggest and most impressive surprise in her acting for me.

You & me both, shambleau. I busted out laughing at that gag reflex. That was terrific!

It was not just "here is Topher's life", there was a basic question: why is Topher acting this way? That is the story.

Maybe you don't understand me. My point is that there isn't a story. You say that Boyd should have asked the questions, or that Topher should have inquired about Boyd's Handler-friends... but Boyd & Topher aren't friends, they're co-workers. Yes, Topher refers to Boyd as "man-friend" and tries to give him a head's up when he thinks Boyd is the spy... but that was all during work hours, dealing with work projects. If anything, you could say that Joss hinted that this "friendship/loneliness" thing was Topher was coming from as far back as Episode 2.

The fact that it wasn't a big deal (to Adelle or others) should have been shown ahead of time, so we could wonder why she was okay with it, instead of wondering *if* she would be okay with it.

I thought the numerous scenes (football, gaming, running around the Dollhouse playing laser tag) with NO intervention would have been a head's up that they're going to let him be. It's not like all of these scenes happened at the end. They happened all throughout the show. At first you might think "what's going on? is he going to get caught??" but after the laser tag scene started asking "WHY is the Dollhouse okay with him running around?". I reached that question and had plenty of time to ponder without having it dialogued to me. Topher's intentions were clear to me, and after a couple of games became evident that he has Adelle's blessing to do so.

I think the current storytelling is introducing the false drama that you think unnecessary. ("Will Topher do something creepy?")

See, this is where our thinking differs. I did NOT see false drama. I never saw Topher as being "creepy". I saw no drama. I didn't need the drama. I also didn't need the tension (what I call drama) or the dialogue between him & Boyd. I think if it had the tension/dialogue, that would have been seen as false. My thinking is that people brought in their expectations of what will happen & who Topher is. And they were subverted by the truth (that the Dollhouse provides). And Topher's truth is that there is no need for words or explanations; he only needs someone to hang out with.

(Topher trying to unconvincingly hide how important the "tests" are. Have him make a few remarks about Boyd hanging around with his buddies outside work, or asking if he lost Handler friends after the promotion. Have him say that it is a special day, then cover it by saying "annual test day".)

I think this would have been untrue for the characters. As I said, they're NOT friends, just co-workers. None of the people that work at the Dollhouse seem to have many friends, if any. I think it was more telling of Topher to not have the attention on himself. He is always bragging about his work, grabbing attention when possible. But he keeps this particular thing private... even to his "man-friend". I think that speaks volumes. From past discussions on how this show sometimes "hits it too much on the head" with spoon-feeding the audience, people would want to be fed this too. I just find it unnecessary.

To me, all the stories are about "what's not said". The love Margaret failed to convey to her family. The loneliness & lack of friendship that Topher chooses not to share with his Dollhouse "family". The truth of the problems with trust that Paul can't tell Mellie.
I busted out laughing at that gag reflex. That was terrific!

I giggled at that, but I howled at the way she ran away....maybe it was a necessity so that Eliza didn't kill herself in those shoes, but still...

Also, I liked the way the episode was structured in terms of there was just a little teaser, the credits, then jumping right back into the ep, first time it's been presented like that, and I think it made the ep. flow much better.

I love Enver, but that accent coming from that mouth just wasn't doing it for me
I liked the way the episode was structured in terms of there was just a little teaser, the credits, then jumping right back into the ep


Cool. Cause it seemed like it took forever to get to the opening credits on previous episodes.
I thought this was a good episode. The Topher plot did seem to drag on a little, but it did fit in with a theme of the episode, which was stated during the funeral conversation:

Adelle:
Illusions aren't worthless. They're at the heart of most relationships.

Adelle seems to believe sincerely that the Dollhouse is doing a helpful service, but...to what end I do not know.

I also felt that this episode humanised Topher for me (and others I see)...how appropriate that it was a "fake" friendship that accomplished this. ;) (I always liked him as a character though!)

The scene with Ballard & Mellie also made me uncomfortable.


A second season of this show is something that I really want.
The biggest thing for me this episode was the Ballard storyline. He has gone on a dark little journey, hasn't he? To feel all of that hurt and anger at the position he's found himself in and the people he's fighting against, then throwing all that at Mellie. It reminds me of Joss' faith in humanity quote, and how Ballard kind of just gave up finding that in himself.

The other storylines were very watchable but I thought that OneTev's thoughts for improvement were also fair.
9 minutes...hurry up!!! (sorry west coasters...I shouldn't complain)
josswhedonaddict | April 25, 01:52 CET


Hello ..... here in Hawaii, I get it three hours after the West Coast. ;) So when I finally check in, there are 191 comments already!
Commenting before reading any farther - I loved it. It reminded me of one of the things I love most about Joss and his merry (and always uber-talented) band of writers .... variety.

Loved Tophers storyline. I've loved the character from the beginning, but as comic relief and at times, the guy you love to hate. Now I'm feeling much more sympathetic toward him (which probably wont last long).

Tahmon just gets better, the more time he's given (kinda like as Helo on BSG, the guy can really nail it, every chance he gets). That was twisted and shocking and sad all at once, and with all that moral ambiguity about the one character you'd think would have the least problem in those gray areas (so Joss). And the question is, for how long can he keep this up, and how is he going to get out of it?
So Mellie has a police record (how dark is this character going to get, I wonder?). My only problem is that I don't share the Miracle Laurie love. I don't think she handles her transitions between different personas nearly as well as any of the other actives.
I even liked the main story, really a lot. Jane's touch is so identifiable (in the best way possible) and she and Jeb and Maurissa worked together like an ensemble made of awesome. Funny and a good mystery with some great twists and actually sad, at the end.
And Eliza is so perfect every time out, I almost forget to comment on her amazing performance.

I realize more every week just how much I tried to not fall hopelessly in love with this show, and how totally I've failed. They *will* give it at least another season and hopefully, a good run, I can't bear thinking otherwise.

How can anyone not love this show? (rhetorical question made of frustration). :(
I am trying to make a case that this particular episode, in its current incarnation, should have hinted that another shoe was going to drop, and it didn't.

At the very least during the fun scenes, have Topher mention being excited for later in the evening. Then I would have thought "sex", and later we would have found out he meant "cake". Or have Sierra ask "should we do it now?" (cake candles), and have Topher say "later". I could not get a sense of affection or arousal when they are 20 ft apart!

OneTeV | April 25, 04:24 CET


After following the back and forth (up to this comment), I'll just say that, I like the way the writers wrote it much better than the way you think it should have been written.
And I'm just gonna throw this out there: if Dollhouse gets a couple more seasons, I think Ballard will become as complex and interesting as Wesley, provided they keep him on the path he's currently following.

Jobo | April 25, 06:10 CET


Yes! definite Wesley vibe here. That's been on the edge of my brain for a while, and really kicked in with this ep. One more reason to hope and pray or burn candles and chant or make dollies or whatever you do, to get this show picked up. ;)
One thing I don't believe anybody else has mentioned yet - in Topher and Sierra's back and forth with the rugby ball, talking about classic sci-fi cliches, she brings up "flaming explosions and sound in a vacuum". Anybody else think that 7 years after Firefly this is still irking Joss?
He he. Nice catch, jamesthegill. And I say "yeah" to that. That and the "speaking Mandarin but should be speaking Cantonese" which was already brought up in "True Believer". ;)
"Topher-bot"

That's what I'm dubbing Topher's programming of himself into Sierra... in the rich tradition of Warren, Spike's Buffy-bot, and Mr. Universe's doll.
You guys may actually be on to a pattern there.
It was a like a more cerebral take on 17 Again :) I thought it was a bit slow to get going but had way too many interesting bits to be lumped with some of the more lacklustre standalone stories.
Wonderful episode
Loved teh gagging reflex.

This was a good standalone. Loved Topher and Sierra stuff; funny, light and it highlighted how lonely he is and poor guy only gets that companionship once a year.

The Ballar/Mellie stuff was creepy, definite Wesley-vibe. the look on Paul's face was scary. Interesting, and disturbing how Paul is becoming a sort of client (as in take from Mellie and not give back) for the Dollhouse whilst still being against it.

I really liked Eliza's portyrayal of Margaret here, and the storyline. It was pretty simple but still touching.
I liked the Topher storyline, mostly I think because the woman who plays Sierra is such a fabulous actress. It was like flipping a switch, she WAS the person that Topher wanted her to be.

The Paul/Mellie stuff for some reason I find really tedious, and I tend to drift off during it.
I was actually pretty happy that it wasn't the husband that killed Margaret, now THAT would have been trite.

Some interesting ideas there with the eternal life questions. Bottom line is Echo wasn't really Margaret at all, even though she thought she was.
If you believe in an afterlife then Margaret is somewhere else.

[ edited by Xane on 2009-04-25 15:49 ]
Wow, only 200 comments before I weigh in. I think that is half as many as last time.

First I want to say that I adore Jane E's writing. I may not always adore the episode but I always enjoy her loving approach to the characters. Whenever JE is writing I feel the love eminating out of my TV. I know JE, Jed W. and MT were a team on it, and I give the group credit. It is just that whenever JE is part of it, that is somethign that is always there. This episode was no exception.

On a related note, I disagree with OneTev. Sure they could have added the angst and the creepy and all that to the Topher story line, but the part of drama you haven't mentioned is variation. The whole series has been about shades of creepy and horrible. (my opinion) As my Shakespeare teacher used to say, "Don't you think if Shakespeare had wanted to he could have found a way to add or subtract a couple syllables to make ALL his lines scan in iambic pentameter? If he didn't, there is a reason and you need to take notice."

Joss has used the line you don't follow a banjo act with a banjo act. Topher is a plenty creepy little man already. I personally didn't think it was about sex from the moment Sierra woke up in the chair, (I did not think of him imprinting her with himself, however. Good catch, people.) but I found it a relief...much like let's say, comic relief. ;-)

I find what these people are doing inherently horrible so a story line that does not have added creepiness is welcome. The fact they have a set of B story lines going with how each of the employees of the Dollhouse is using or abusing the actives by exploiting their positions makes it a varition within the overall structure of the series as well as a variation in the much more complex stories also being told in the episode. It is said you can tell a lot about powerful people by watching how they treat "the help." IMO that is one of the things these story lines are for. That is also what they probably wanted focus to be on, not extra made-up angst that would probably just play as a cheap attempt at audience manipulation anyway.

The thing that bothered me rather than the Topher story, was how easily Adelle's dead friend (I'm terrible with names) dealt both with her first death and her impending second death. People brought up good points about why that might be, and I would add that I understand that they wanted to tell a different story. Even so, although I was able to accept the "I've been expecting someone to kill me all my life." line and use it to reconcile her attitude about having her life taken from her, it seemed like she gave up her second life too easily. She just seemed to casual about it. I don't think it had to be in the dialogue, but I do think it should have been in the acting. The layering just was not there from ED. Admittedly, she is in a tough place because she has to create new characters all the time and it is difficult to find the depth in them over a short shooting schedule, whereas the actors playing the non-active characters have much more time to build an understanding of who their characters are.

Regarding Paul and Mellie, I really think Adelle is sending those messages and it is all a set-up. Paul is now in a corrupting situation that could be perfect for Adelle's purposes. It would be interesting if this is one of the ways they recruit handlers.

Anyway, though I am to the point where I can find the stories watchable and interesting, I cannot say I love the show. I am also not sure I can recommend that people who hated the first episodes should watch the later ones. I actually wonder if I have just become desensitized or whether it has gotten balanced enough for my friends to be able to enjoy it.
I was completely ready to accept this as a temporary glitch in second-half-of-season awesomeness, given what people were saying, but this was one of the best episodes of the season in my opinion.

I suppose this is how the standalone episodes are meant to be done, given they didn't have to worry about introducing the premise and characters. And when you don't have to make Echo glitch, you can use that time to go deeper into the issues raised by the standalone concept.

Re the handling of Topher's subplot: everything does not have to have an agenda. This was simply an opportunity for us to get to know Topher a little better, and have some fun while we were at it. And the "common flaws in sci-fi shows" bit was so laden with Firefly references that I couldn't help but rewatch it a couple of times with a massive grin on my face before continuing.

Bravo, Whedons and Espenson. Now bring on next week.
korkster: To me, all the stories are about "what's not said". The love Margaret failed to convey to her family. The loneliness & lack of friendship that Topher chooses not to share with his Dollhouse "family". The truth of the problems with trust that Paul can't tell Mellie.

That does not contradict what I said. If Topher talks about friends, or doesn't talk about friends, there should be a reason for it either way. (Shey, I'm not a writer, and I was throwing out vague ideas within a few hours of the show, of course it isn't going to match polished scriptwriting.)

Let's put it this way. Everyone (myself included) is assuming that Topher is a lonely person who created a friend for his birthday. Is that the case? Let's say that the next episode shows that, in fact, Topher is the life of the party outside of work. He eats birthday cake every week. That one week a year, his apartment is being fumigated, so rather than doing work, he pretends it is his birthday and goofs off with a Doll (and gets paid). That would be emotionally outrageous, but it wouldn't contradict anything established in the episodes so far. We think this day has meaning to Topher because we imagine what it would be like to be in his shoes. But it could just as easily mean nothing to Topher. I wanted some indication of what it meant to him, either by what he said or what he deliberately didn't say (but you still have to hint at the elephant in the room).

You still seem to be confused when I am talking about tension. I don't mean that Topher should have been stressed out, but that the viewer has questions. The "story" should acknowledge that the question exists, even if it doesn't for any of the characters. In this storyline, we got a "resolution" without setting up the "conflict". (Why would Boyd talk about the "Topher situation" when there was no situation?)

If, as you suggest, there was no story, then by definition that is bad storytelling. Which I suppose isn't a bad thing in itself, except you would need to explain why people should watch "no story" on TV instead of something else, or taking a walk outside.

ThorpeWithoutShrimp: Yes, everything does have to be part of an agenda. The show is only 50 minutes long. We don't have scenes of the characters walking to the bathroom, because they don't contribute to the narrative.

I guess this does boil down to the "perfect picnic" reference I made earlier. A lot of people seem to enjoy watching Topher scenes where he is having fun. I wanted a little more, some insight into his past, what he was thinking, what he was feeling; some reason why these specific scenes were there. What did the football and laser tag scenes show us that we didn't already know from the video game scene, or that couldn't have been recapped in a 10 second conversation, or couldn't have been going on in the background while some other necessary bit of exposition was going on?

[ edited by OneTeV on 2009-04-25 16:20 ]
Also, why is Miracle Laurie still only a guest star? I can understand Amy Acker, given that she's not in every episode, but November's been in every one except a couple at the beginning, right? And she's getting equal screentime at least to Victor and Sierra...
Good point, ThorpeWithoutShrimp: they did let Miracle Laurie come on stage at Paley's Dollhouse panel, which is usually a distinction for regulars, not guest stars.
Considering how long Andy Hallett spend as a guest star on Angel, I've stopped thinking about what the correlation between screentime and regular/guest position is. 'Cause I don't think there is any.

That said, if we get S2, I'd be surprised if she didn't make it into the credits there. Maybe the same for Saunders, too. Provided they both live through the season.
newcj: I wasn't suggesting that creepy elements be added. I was saying, *IF* the point is that he acts innocently when we suspect creepiness, *THEN* those elements should have been present in the scenes. *IF* the point is that Topher is just having fun, *THEN* we should have seen that Adelle was aware and accepted what he was doing earlier, even if we don't get the reason why until later, so that we know the point isn't about the "Topher situation".

I've figured out what fundamental issue is bugging me about the "A" storyline. Everyone is talking about Echo as if she was Margaret in disguise. That wasn't Margaret; that was Memorex. The real Margaret lived for three weeks after the recording was made, and died a few days earlier. How can we talk about Margaret getting closure with her life, when the Dollhouse can churn out a dozen "Margaret"s with three week old memories who haven't dealt with her family, all of whom are just as real (or unreal) as Echo-Margaret? I didn't get emotionally involved because of this.

"Needs" established that there are some primal desires or purpose in a person that are not captured by wiping/implanting. And that implanting a personality with a desire, and resolving the desire, does not accomplish anything. Caroline's memories + Echo = Caroline. Caroline's memories + Sierra = fake person (Doll). Margaret implanted into Echo is still a false personality, not the real thing. "Haunted" needed to show that this implant was different or unique. (One time special transfer just before death, for example, not a routine exam 3-weeks ago.) Give me a reason to hope/want/believe that whatever made Margaret a person (instead of a collection of thoughts) was transferred into Echo.

We saw in "Spy" that Adelle was painfully aware that Victor was not a "real" person. Why was she so casually treating this Doll as if she were Margaret? Again, the episode would not had to answer the question of if this was Margaret or not, but it should have at least acknowledged that it existed (even if Adelle decides it doesn't matter and that this is her friend).
I had missed the part about Boyd being the one to suggest Sierra or I maybe wouldn't have had the fear about the sex. I was having severe eye allergy problems last night so was off and on distracted, so while I didn't miss any key scenes, I did miss some lines here and there.

I wondered the same thing about Amber Benson, who was in the majority of episodes from Season 4-6, yet was only made a regular during her final episode.
We saw in "Spy" that Adelle was painfully aware that Victor was not a "real" person. Why was she so casually treating this Doll as if she were Margaret?

Not sure why I'm still trying, but we've been told more than once that the active's imprints are composites of various personalities/talents/skills. "Roger" was a program designed (by Adelle?) to be the perfect man for her, and she has always known that is all he is, even if she might wish otherwise. Margaret, OTOH, was the essence of Adelle's friend. She wasn't a composite. Of course Adelle would react differently to her.
ActualSize, I thought about this as well. But I think about Wesley in the Angel conclusion, where he talks about lies and illusions. Just because Echo is acting like her friend, shouldn't she at least wonder if it was really her friend after death ?

What if Echo-Margaret would have been activated while the real Margaret was alive? Or another 3-week old memory Doll was implanted before Echo-Margaret sat in the chair? That's why I wanted something unique about this implant, so I could believe that the essence (to use your word) was transferred.

I am influenced by the Star Trek episode "What Are Little Girls Made Of?", both for Roger Korby and the Kirk android. And ActualSize, I'm tired of your half-breed interference! :-)

[ edited by OneTeV on 2009-04-25 17:18 ]
I'm just tired. We can what-if the episode to death. This was a short-term assignment. Adelle knew Margaret wasn't going to stick around. She helped her accomplish what she wanted to accomplish, and there really wasn't time in this episode for her to reflect. Maybe that will come later.

OneTeV, if the episode had actually contained all the exposition and reflection you say you wanted, it would have been at least two hours long, and Joss & co. don't have that luxury here. Not to mention all the bruises we'd have from the repeated anvils dropped on our heads.
Did anyone else find it strange how Boyd suggested that without religion there is no morality?... I really don't agree with this point of view, and I know that Joss wouldn't either, since he's an Athiest.

I understand that Joss is allowed to create characters who disagree with his views on religion (shephard Book is a good example), but they just seemed to have Boyd toss this view out there as if it is a fact, and never had any of the other characters question it. and they didn't really explore this idea again in any deep way throughout the episode.
ActualSize: I didn't say it had to resolve anything. It just had acknowledge the existence of the question (and leave the resolution for later), or diffuse the question. Would it really have stretched the episode to 2 hours to have Adelle say it was a one-time special transfer (instead of a three-week old recording)?

Think about Buffy. Those stories show that things are NEVER as simple as you first imagine, that there are always unwanted consequences.

Re: Topher (and my claim that the storyline was unfocused)

Consider the following alteration to the script. Apologies to Shey. ;-)
Topher asks Boyd to pick a convenient Doll. Topher mentions that he is running tests, but does not need head of security signature, and he mentions that Adelle knows about this annual test. Everything else plays the same.

We have retained the vital questions in the viewer mind (ex. "What sort of tests involve laser tag?"), and can enjoy the silliness of Topher playing. We have discarded the possibility that this is illicit, or that Topher might be caught, both of which were distractions from the purpose of the scenes. And the resolution no longer becomes Boyd asking "What about the Topher situation?", and instead he asks Adelle what sort of tests Topher is running.

[ edited by OneTeV on 2009-04-25 17:51 ]
Would it really have stretched the episode to 2 hours to have Adelle say it was a one-time special transfer (instead of a three-week old recording)?

Nice dodge, but what I said was "...if the episode had actually contained all the exposition and reflection you say you wanted, it would have been at least two hours long..." Feel free to review the thread for all of your proposed script revisions.

EDITED b/c I was unnecessarily harsh. OneTeV, you keep saying you want to engage in dialogue about the episode. But each time someone here has told you why it worked as is for him/her, you have dismissed that out of hand and come back with yet more suggested revisions. That's not dialogue.

Okay, now I'm done.

[ edited by ActualSize on 2009-04-25 17:58 ]
I thought this was fantastic. Up there with "Man on the Street" and "Spy". Also, this show is increasingly turning into something that could be used a teaching aid for a course on philosophy of mind. I like.

The scene where Mellie/November effectively subjugates herself to Paul was one of the most masterfully icky pieces of moral greyness that I've seen from an American network television show. I actually said "damn" out loud to myself. Bravo.

If this gets cancelled now I will be approaching Firefly levels of angry.

Oh, and I think Topher's character is fantastic specifically because he's so often unlikable.
I thought this was fantastic. Up there with "Man on the Street" and "Spy". Also, this show is increasingly turning into something that could be used a teaching aid for a course on philosophy of mind. I like.


Ha! Yes, it could be... If I was teaching Philosophy I would just intermitently play episodes of Dollhouse, and Northern Exposure during lectures... both are basically philosophy lectures in show form (in a good way).
Give me a reason to hope/want/believe that whatever made Margaret a person (instead of a collection of thoughts) was transferred into Echo.

Isn't that all we are?

And I'd argue that Margaret, the original, did get some closure from the process. If we assume that she collapsed terribly ill while riding her horse we can assume that she at least had a few seconds to think "I was right, someone has killed me. At least I know that my copy will find out who did it."

Though if I were a billionaire who thought someone was trying to kill me I'd spend more time either trying to stop that happening or arrange for my mind to be permanently implanted in a Doll (who would be my sole beneficiary) so I can live on. Find out who killed me? Big deal! I'm still dead!

And on the "Acceptance" point, how Echo/Margaret sat in the chair knowing that she was going to "die", just as the Dolls are programmed to return to the Dollhouse maybe Topher added a tiny tweek to Margaret?
I don't think the idea of multiple Margarets is that far fetched. There are mentally ill people who believe they are someone important/historical, it seems that if you had all the memories and personality then your own ego would 'own' them and make you feel that you were that person. Margaret's soul died with her, but if her personality & ego is downloaded into a new body then that body believes it is her. Whether that is true and whether it means anything is entirely open to debate, but I buy that Echo completely believed she was Margaret and Adelle either believed it or was willing to play along.
ActualSize: Feel free to review the thread for all of your proposed script revisions.

I just did. I raised a lot of questions, which are only raised because of the current condition of the script. To use a Star Wars metaphor, introducing mitochlorians added a lot more problems than it solved. Most of these questions I asked could have been avoided/diffused, while leaving the vast majority of the scenes unchanged, if the script made different initial choices. I'm not saying the script should be the way I suggested (which as others have pointed out would not be as pleasing), I'm am trying to point out that things didn't have to be this way, that there are alternatives which might have better serviced the plot.

I just saw your edited note. I have acknowledged the opposing viewpoint and said I agree with points, in some some posts, but I see how other posts could be interpreted as dismissive. That was not my intention. When I give revised suggestions, it is to try to give a different example of what I see as the core issue, rather than trying to change the core issue itself. Not always successful, but that is my goal. So my apologies if my posts have seemed like a shell game, I was trying to identify the elephant by describing the parts (trunk, tusk, leg, tail, and body).

You are right that I am getting too invested in this discussion, and it seems like almost all people like the feel-good episode as a break from the espionage and identity philosophy. I was trying to articulate what felt wrong to me, in the off-chance that there was someone else dissatisfied with something or another but couldn't come up with a specific reason why.
And one more thing, ground glass? Not in the slightest bit fatal.

Don't know if it was a deliberate mistake by the writer or a suggestion that Margaret was paranoid, but it's just one of those long held fallacies, beloved of Agatha Christie.
I liked this episode. I got a big kick out of the "can we play with the Sleepies?" scene. And I like how Adelle knows about things like Topher's "diagnostics" and watches from afar without intervening, since she realizes he has a need he can't meet elsewhere. Keeping close tabs on something like that and letting it play out since it's useful to the Dollhouse's needs is so very Adelle.

ETA: Meant to also comment that Paul and Mellie's sex scene was pretty damn disturbing, given the context. Ack.

[ edited by Sunfire on 2009-04-25 19:24 ]
zz9: just as the Dolls are programmed to return to the Dollhouse maybe Topher added a tiny tweek to Margaret?

I wondered that as well. And then: If Topher tweaks, does "Margaret" change from true essence to a manufactured program?

embers: Adelle either believed it or was willing to play along

I can well believe that, but what about Adelle? I've mentioned before that my great love of Whedon characters are when you can tell they are self-aware. I was hoping for something obvious that Adelle was considering that question, or that she was deliberately not considering the question. (The third option is that the writer is not treating the character as self-aware, and instead as a plot device.) And by obvious, I mean a strange look, a moment's hesitation, or an odd question during normal conversation, something to indicate that the wheels in the mind are turning.

(For example, I think Ballard's face while talking to Mellie is a pretty good indication that something is up. Err... no pun intended.)
This was a pretty good episode, but very much filler. The concept was fascinating, but the execution was too much of a predictable thriller. Great things could've been done; they weren't.

Still, I liked the stuff with Topher, and the scene with Boyd and Adelle in her office was great, and more like what the rest of the episode should have been.
OneTeV said: "I can well believe that, but what about Adelle? I've mentioned before that my great love of Whedon characters are when you can tell they are self-aware. I was hoping for something obvious that Adelle was considering that question, or that she was deliberately not considering the question. "

I disagree, I think that opening scene when Adelle is having tea with Echo/Margaret and seems down, Echo/Margaret asks her what is wrong and Adelle says "my best friend just died". To me that says that Adelle does not believe her friend lives again in Echo; Adelle can relate to Echo (and even enjoy her company) in much the same way she did her friend's but it doesn't make it the same thing. Of course they don't let us know ALL of Adelle's thoughts on the subject, and I don't think that that is because the writers don't think that Adelle has thoughts, I think it is because all people are capable of believing more than one thing at the same time.

The real difference (I think) is that you are looking for things you didn't like, while I'm finding this episode very satisfying on every level.
Judging from most comments here, I'm going to be WAY in the minority, but I was fairly disappointed. Not that this episode didn't have some strong elements--the dialogue was pretty good (props to Jed, Maurissa, et al), as were the performances. And the whole Topher-Sierra subplot was a blast.

My biggest problem isn't from a creative standpoint but a "show survival" one: this was clearly a leftover of the "we need standalones to bring in outside viewers" concept. But we all know standalones don't play to Dollhouse's strengths at all. (IMHO, X-Files remains the only character-driven sci-fi drama where standalones constantly outshined mythology episodes.)

When you're trying to generate viewers, an episode like this fails on both counts: A) It's too separated from the main Dollhouse storylines to do much for regular watchers, while B) a first-time viewer is going to be too confused by the main Dollhouse concept to get into the "solving my own murder" storyline.

Again, it wasn't the worst episode by a longshot, but not the best (and just as far as standalones go, I don't think it was the best either). With so few episodes of Dollhouse likely remaining, I'm just hoping for great stuff week in, week out. Next week looks much more interesting, thank goodness.
OneTeV: it seems like almost all people like the feel-good episode as a break from the espionage and identity philosophy. I was trying to articulate what felt wrong to me, in the off-chance that there was someone else dissatisfied with something or another but couldn't come up with a specific reason why.

I do see what you're saying there, but I don't agree in this case. It didn't work for you, but I think it's overboard to say 'Bad Storytelling' (or, my personally least prefered cliche, Lazy Writing) as if there was a magical checklist to tick off to achieve the fabled Story.

Here you've got three story threads intertwined and if they're all about suspicion and intrigue it's exhausting for the viewer (Though BSG did do this a lot, that was a style choice that grated with many). Topher's Happy-then-bittersweet thread (bittersweet because he's so trapped in the world of the dollhouse he has to imprint a doll with a near-topher to enjoy basic human interaction) counterbalanced the bleakness of Pauls and the sad-then-bittersweetness of Margeret's, while all dealt thematically with personal relations (BF-GF/Family/Friends) and some degree of entrapment. You might have preferred the extra bit of intrigue, but I was glad we got an extra helping of whedonesque geek-dialogue :-)

I was a bit worried by the first half when it seemed just a lot of talking heads in Margeret's thread, but by the time it was over I was marvelling at how well all those threads had fit together. This is certainly my fave amonst the standalones as I really think they got the balance just right.

[ edited by giles (yes, it is my real name) on 2009-04-25 20:11 ]

[ edited by giles (yes, it is my real name) on 2009-04-25 20:12 ]
Personally, I felt that Adelle was relating to Echo like an interactive photograph or video of her dead friend. She would let herself enjoy it and then come back to the reality that her friend was dead. I saw a woman in mourning throughout the episode.

As for the suggested revisions, OneTev, they seem to be in the mode of making things clearer and therefore not as much open to interpretation and complexity, yet you are saying you want it more like Buffy, where one of the joys was leaving things open to interpretation and complexity. It is a strange position for me to be in, defending Dollhouse, a show for which I have taken lumps when trying to explain my early dislike of the show and my current ambivalence, but I do get into these weird positions sometimes. (shrug)

For me the Topher storyline as presented worked because there were questions raised by the actions we saw with out us being beaten over the head by characters voicing them and then those questions were answered. Information about Adelle and Boyd was given to us in the reveal at the end. As far as I'm concerned, that was part of the whole point of the story line. I see no value in letting everyone know any of the things you wanted told up front. It would just flatten an already fairly simple story line.

For me it went something like: Topher is up to something. What is he up to? Oh, he made himself a Doll. He indulges in this just like the others. That makes sense. He created someone to play with him. They are having a lot of fun but won't someone notice? Science fiction fan references! What did they say?(rewind, play) Funny. Interesting that his fantasy friend wins the game. Ah, Boyd noticed. Good, it would have been stupid for no one to notice. The understated reaction works. Oh, so Adelle knew all along and is willing to give her valuable yet tightly wound employee the same kind of release she gives herself. Oh, its his birthday. Hmmm. Its Adelle's birthday present to Topher. They're a sad bunch of people.

It wasn't the most complex thing going, but as I said, it is part of the complete picture of who these people are. The fact that some people were worried about Topher getting sexual with Sierra and others weren't does not mess up the story, it just gives each individual their own experience. That is usually considered a good thing. (scratches head)

Oh, and I just read what giles (yes, it is my real name) wrote about the balance. That isa what I was trying to say earlier.
BTW, I don't consider this a "feel-good" episode.

It's certainly a standalone. Topher has joined Adelle in Pathetic City. After those 2, who is left on staff to make use of the dolls as personal playthings? The kitchen crew???



[ edited by falina on 2009-04-25 21:04 ]

[ edited by falina on 2009-04-25 21:05 ]

[ edited by falina on 2009-04-25 21:07 ]
I loved this episode. Eliza reacting to the kiss from the son cracked me up.

Topher...for the first time i love this character. it was so depressing and just pulled at my heart.

I wasn't loving dollhouse in the beginning but "haunted" just sold me on the show
The scene where Mellie/November effectively subjugates herself to Paul was one of the most masterfully icky pieces of moral greyness that I've seen from an American network television show.


I agree, now Paul can casually use a doll like Matt and Joel Mynor. Creepy, creepy, creepy.

I think the disappearing faces of Mellie are booby-trapped. I don't know if they are Mellie or November, but I bet someone noticed who looked for those fingerprints. Unfortunately for her, it will come up as Loomis(?) and not Paul.

The Echo/Margaret thing? Whatever.

[ edited by falina on 2009-04-25 21:03 ]

[ edited by Simon on 2009-04-26 00:19 ]
Haunted was an adorable episode. Topher's whole day-with-himself thing was priceless, and Echo being imprinted with a dead woman is something I definitely hadn't considered being a possibility for the Dolls before this. What an episode! And oh how I can't wait for the next ep! Looks so great :)


I've been trying to get The Earl of Slander's quote about "one of the most masterfully icky pieces of moral greyness" in here.

With which I agree. Now Paul makes use of a doll just like Matt and Joel. Creepy, creepy, creepy.

I think the many disappearing faces of Mellie/November were booby-trapped. The DH or whatever knows who was running those fingerprints. Lock your doors, Loomis.

[ edited by falina on 2009-04-25 22:21 ]

[ edited by falina on 2009-04-25 22:22 ]

[ edited by falina on 2009-04-25 22:24 ]

[ edited by falina on 2009-04-25 22:26 ]
I thought this episode was great. There were laugh out loud moments, sweet moments, icky moments and ones that made you think - exactly what I want from a show, and what Joss's shows usually give me. I watched with a group of Browncoats and there were several shouts of laughter at the Firefly reference - and whispers of "Isn't he...?" when Gregg Henry appeared on screen.

Because I find (and have found from the beginning) episodes of Dollhouse to be intense, compelling and even mesmerising, I don't speak through the entire show amd don't like people to speak to me (which they are finally getting! ;-)). Of course, I come home and rewatch the episode again! It's especially interesting to watch again after reading all the comments.

OneTeV, you keep saying that the Margaret imprint was a three-week old recording, but that was not what was said in the show. Margaret said she'd been coming to have 'painful brain scans' over a period of time (a year and a half comes to mind, but I'm not sure if she actually said that or not). The three-weeks mentioned by Adelle was the period of time that she and Margaret had not spoken. Adelle said something about it might have been easier to discover who had killed her if they had talked in the past three weeks, so actually, it was all Margaret's memories and characteristics and personality UP TO three weeks ago.
I don't think this has been mentioned yet, but I'm liking the way the structure and format of the last few episodes has been varied and unique in one way or another.

"Echoes" wasn't all that different from the first half of the season, but the episode provided a lot more humor than most episodes.

"Needs" was presented in a retcon fashion, where Saunders' suggestion wasn't revealed to the audience until after the entire process had taken place.

"Spy..." was shown in four installments, one from the perspective of each of our core Actives. This was, after all, the episode originally titled "Four Engagements."

And now "Haunted" did something I don't think any other episode has done yet. It began with Margaret, only showed Echo on-screen while she was imprinted as Margaret, and finished up the episode during the wipe before Echo could "return." We never once saw our main character as herself during the entire episode. Just something to think about.
As to the issue of Margaret being dead and Echo being a copy, there are a lot of things to consider so far a philosophy is concerned (personhood, identity over time, ETC), but I kind of assumed that we were supposed to consider the “real” Margaret dead and the Margaret we saw as, well, an Echo. Because I saw it this way, I took DeWitt’s responses to Margaret/Echo as stemming from a deeply fought battle not to view the copy as her real friend.

In fact, this reading of things coloured all the scenes with Echo/Margaret, lending them a very “Dollhousian” air of melancholy, because in a way I saw it as the Margaret copy being the only person who still thought she was the “real” Margaret. To DeWitt at least, Margaret was dead, and this thing that was walking around was a terrible reminder of her lost friend, specifically because she couldn’t help but be drawn into her relation with her (as seen at the funeral). After all, she was still a very convincing copy of her friend.

Thinking about this, I actually see a theme for the episode here. Each of the plots covers a different character's emotional reaction to someone who they know to be a Doll. Paul struggles with his relation to someone who he feels he is taking advantage of because he knows them to be “fake”, but who he still can’t help but feel a connection with. DeWitt fights to avoid emotional connection with a copy of her dead friend. In both these cases, they fail. Paul gives into his urges (physical and emeotional), and as evidenced by the final scene, a part of DeWitt cannot help but make that connection, even though she knows it to be fake. And in both cases, this failure causes great emotional pain. Meanwhile, in the C plot, Topher, perhaps the loneliest of all the characters in this episode, is able to gain some solace from the Doll he interacts with, specifically because he doesn’t try to fight it. He wants to be fooled. I need think about the implications of all this, but it’s certainly an interesting episode psychologically and philosophically speaking.

Also, this was an episode where, in 50 minutes, a woman is killed by her son, almost twice, another woman tries and fails to avoid emotional connection with a mocking fake of her dead friend, someone is revealed to be so lonely and devoid of friendship that they must invent a single companion for their birthday, and another character is forced to maintain a soul-crushing façade with a lover who doesn’t even exist in order to keep delving into an investigation that threatens to destroy him, with the result that he effectively threatens an irreversible slide into total self loathing, and people keep complaining it’s too much of a “feel good episode”? What the hell? What is needed to constitute a “feel bad episode”? Dead kittens?
Had a thought: what if there's no one helping Ballard on the inside? What if Alpha's the one putting messages into Echo and November?
That has crossed my mind too, but there seem to be some real practical difficulties with it as a theory. I mean Echo was sent to attack Ballard by the Adelle on pretty short notice, so how would Alpha have known about it in time to program her? And if Alpha is messing with the Doll's programming when they're outside of the Dollhouse, when/how would he get to them with the handlers watching them all time?

[ edited by The Earl Of Slander on 2009-04-26 02:07 ]

[ edited by The Earl Of Slander on 2009-04-26 02:19 ]
Remember, Alpha wiped Echo remotely while she was on a job. I think he's got his eye on the Dollhouse at all times.

[ edited by pat32082 on 2009-04-26 02:10 ]
Yes, but he still had to have contact with the doll (via phone). In the case of Echo being sent out to make contact with Paul, surely someone would have noticed her accepting a call for no reason? I'm not saying that it isn't Alpha, just saying that there are some difficulties with that thoery. Really, the only way I can see it working is if Alpha acutally has some acces to the dolls from inside the Dollhouse. Which is entirely possible. Only 6 days until we find out I guess!
And then we can finally put to rest the Ballard-is-Alpha theories.

I hope.
I don't see how seeing Alpha post a letter to Ballars in 'Ghost' isn't enough to put that theory to rest.

And what about Dominic and Adelle discussing possibly killing Ballard?

And how has Ballard had his long-running job in the FBI if he was an active?

The theory makes no sense
By the time I finish reading these monster episode threads I'm too exhausted to think of much to comment on myself! But that won't stop me from yapping away...

I really liked it. The standalone mystery wasn't a particularly brilliant plot, but it felt very whedon-y to me... in that the plot-lines are often clunky but they're just sets, in a way, for the really compelling character stuff to happen on.

I loved Eliza's performance in this episode. I've been enjoying her from the start, and there have been some real high points, but for me, this was the episode where she completely "became" an imprinted character. I thought she was fantastic.

I love Adelle.

Ballard and Mellie, very dark. Great writing, great performances.

And Topher. It was funny, and sort of sad, until you got the cake at the end with Adelle's commentary... and then it was really sad.

So, a big yay from me!
Oh my god oh my god oh my god! I loved that episode! I was worried at first about this being a stand alone and not adding to the arc, but I should have known better.
Topher....he's a hit or miss with me and this was most certainly a hit. Even before I knew it was his birthday I was a little sad for him, loved the geeky, sci-fi shoot outs.
Paul Ballard....Joss is an evil evil man. His and Mellie's scenes are becoming more and more painful. Poor Mellie/November/frequent law breaker.
Echo's storyline....meeh. The actual story didn't work for me for a few reasons, one being I ride horses and the talk about his race readiness was annoying. The other being that it was boring, I didn't care about the mystery. I do however, think Eliza's acting is getting fabulous!
reviewing the files Ballard and Loomis (briefly) see at the FBI, the names are:

annabeth b
polly keller
amanda james
heather b
jane h
michelle s

The names with full last names are the two mugshots, and the others are candid/surveillance-style shots. This suggests that someone was following this case before Ballard, someone who found/surveilled at least four people he/she was able to print (probably covertly as Ballard does) but who do not have mugshots (so were never busted for a crime that the FBI could connect to prints). There does not appear to be date information, so cannot say which, if any, of these might be Mellie's real identity...presumably the "surveillance" shots are post-imprinting because why the hell else be surveilling her, short of the "real" Mellie being a CIA agent or something. Also can't definitively say whether the mug shots suggest the real Mellie was or was not a criminal from the info we're given. One hypothesis: if the dollhouse were playing cautious and smart, it might choose to try to make "sleeper" killers out of recruits who are already guilty of same, so as to avoid complications at the end of the contract if something comes to light for the retiring active (yes, I realize this assumes the dollhouse intending to honor the contract, which remains my supposition because the reverse assumption, to me, leads to stayed, BORING BORING BORING narrative, imaginative, and philosophical possibilities for the show, as do most of the reductive "the dollhouse/actions of (character of choice) is definitly (fill in the blank: good/evil/responsible for kitten viral illnesses)" assumptions it is so comforting to make).

Separate subject: noted above by others that this is pretty much the first episode where we never "see" the Echo character. True. But one speculative possibility: wouldn't Echo, in her burgeoning selfhood be the one active most likely to return to the dollhouse to make sure her temporary i.d. as rich horse lady gets wiped? Sure, if the client made a run for the airport, as the client remarks, the dollhouse would catch her anyway, but I kinda like the idea that not only the extreme willingness of the client to return to the dollhouse, but also something of the character of the final exchange with Adelle might be reflective of the ongoing build of the Echo persona: "will I see my life flash before my eyes?." Further, people have remarked before how one constant of Echo seems to be her desire to care for others, even when it pushes the limits of her programming (looking out for Sierra, wanting to return to finish the dead wife scenario in MOTS, etc.) In this episode, the most notable accomplishment of the client starts with solving her murder but ends with her rather unselfishly making sure that she gives closure/reassurance/the ability to "move on" (as she remarks in the final exchange) to the client's loved ones, which is a rather Echo-like way to interpret the mission of this engagement. (ETA: and she even does this kindness, it seems, for Adelle, by giving her a moment of closure with her lost friend.)

[ edited by doubtful guest on 2009-04-26 04:26 ]
doudtful guest:
I like your thoughts about Echo's need to help others to the point of pushing her programing. It reflects a little bit of Caroline and her global/political agenda. Echo seems to be more people centered in her need to help, making people feel better.
Also, I REALLY want to know Adelle's connection with Echo/Caroline. Out of all the dolls in the DH she picked Echo to embody her friend.
I really loved this episode- it was the perfect kind of whedonverse "standalone" epi- the kind that isn't really a standalone at all b/c even though the plot is self contained, the characters are being fleshed out in such a great way.

And I think this from Curlymynci is spot on: "The biggest thing for me this episode was the Ballard storyline. He has gone on a dark little journey, hasn't he? To feel all of that hurt and anger at the position he's found himself in and the people he's fighting against, then throwing all that at Mellie. It reminds me of Joss' faith in humanity quote, and how Ballard kind of just gave up finding that in himself."

I thought the Ballard/Mellie stuff was heartbreaking and awesome. In the beginning I found Mellie sort of irritating b/c she seemed so emotionally broken and clingy. But, actually, I think that is sort of perfect, b/c from everything we know about Ballard and his obsession with saving Caroline, his fantasy is to rescue the damsel in distress. So I love that the fantasy girl who the dollhouse created for him is totally a damsel in distress. Only Mellie (at least as Ballard new it in the beginning) isn't in physical distress, she's in emotional distress and he can "save" her by treating her well and not walking out on her. Which is exactly what he did.

Only now he knows that November is as trapped as Caroline. But instead of saving November who is in actual physical distress, he is the one victimizing her by screwing Mellie. And he has to do that or a)he can't get any more info on the dollhouse so he can't save anyone, b) might get killed, and c) will (emotionally) hurt Mellie who has no idea that she is actually November and in physical distress.

You know that this is going to frak him up big time (and already is).

It's so good. And I can't wait to see how November ultimately understands this situation. Dude, do I need a season 2!

[ edited by maybebaby78 on 2009-04-26 05:10 ]
Did anyone else think the odd tone of Echo/Margaret's letter ("That means more for everybody else. Yay.") was Echo breaking through? I'm not really sure it's something she'd say, but it's certainly uncharacteristic for Margaret too. Caroline?
At first I wasn't particularly enamoured with this episode but its MUCH better on a second viewing.

And not being ridiculously drunk this time added to the overall experience somewhat.

While I wouldve preferred an arc-related A plot, as a standalone it was a really intriguing premise that Ive wanted to see explored since knowing that Echo's Ms.Penn imprint was from a dead woman.

Tophers cakey-reveal was just too cute. And sad. I can relate to that well and it added some dimensions to Topher that a lot of people were waiting to see.

The best part of the episode though was the Paul/Mellie plot. The utter grossness of her 'It doesnt have to mean anything' speech was only surpassed by Paul seemingly getting off on it and from that I can understand even more both the appeal of the Dolls and at the same time just how disturbing their roles really are.
Some ideas in hindsight just seems obvious but it never crossed my mind that the 'we build people company' could also be the 'we transfer your mind to a new body company', how I'd loved to see the story arc of a billionaire deciding he/she didn't want to die, picking the new body, the plotting required to make the Dollhouse perform the mind transfer and the high tension conclusion ...

Bonus points for the A plot idea, the B plot of Tophers drags the show down, personally I have no need to watch the softer side of our beloved mindwipers and slave traders I just need them to put up a good professional fight before they get kicked downstairs into their own reserved ringside seats in hell.
I miss Dominic :)

I do like the C plot with Ballard and Mellie for the no-win aspect, though if they where to try to write themselves an out and show that the 'real' Mellie would have had feelings for Paul I'd scream bloody murder.
Overall, I found the episode great, and much better than I expected from a "Go Fish"-like stand-alone-before-the-big-finish. Emotionally on par with "Man on the Street" (just a notch behind "A Spy in the House of Love"), and the sadness of all storylines was just stunning. I'm not finished going through all comments here, but some stuff I found noteworthy.

He didn't tell Boyd because to say it out loud is what would make it sad. But being able to do it makes it cool. That's Topher.


NYPinTA, I think this is not only the best summary of Topher's character I've read so far, but also a very good description of what the whole show is about. Dollhouse spells out very sad things, "Haunted" is a great episode to emphasize that. Paul's "I found one" cracked me up. Margaret asking about the pictures of her life flashing before her eyes and getting a true answer in a literal way no other show could provide did that too.

So Margaret put herself into Echo, and Topher put part (most?) of himself into Sierra, and what was Paul putting into Mellie (his disgust, anger, frustration?). This was great!


Thank you very much, embers! That's an awesome observation!

The thing that bothered me rather than the Topher story, was how easily Adelle's dead friend (I'm terrible with names) dealt both with her first death and her impending second death. People brought up good points about why that might be, and I would add that I understand that they wanted to tell a different story. Even so, although I was able to accept the "I've been expecting someone to kill me all my life." line and use it to reconcile her attitude about having her life taken from her, it seemed like she gave up her second life too easily. She just seemed to casual about it. I don't think it had to be in the dialogue, but I do think it should have been in the acting. The layering just was not there from ED.


I have to disagree, newcj. While I adore the show on almost all levels, Eliza's acting was never particulary impressive to me. (That may be connected to the fact, that I don't think it has to be for Dollhouse to work.) And I am not the one to cry in front of the TV, but that last scene nearly had me there. It was the first time where Eliza's acting really took me to a place I couldn't feel before. That scene was anything but easy for me. The conflicts and painful realizations were right there to see. It was a very twisted ending for me, emotionally even more gut wrenching than the one from "A Spy in the House of Love", altough that was all about ongoing arc and established character love, and this one was about the client of the week. While Eliza's face in "A Spy..." was great and deliverd the point of the scene nicely, this one here actually took a (potentially weak) final scene, and made it the conclusion it was meant to be. Now I'm a fan of Eliza's acting. (Funny conincidence, just as I'm typing this my girlfriend zaps to "The New Guy" on TV by accident...)

Did anyone else find it strange how Boyd suggested that without religion there is no morality?... I really don't agree with this point of view, and I know that Joss wouldn't either, since he's an Athiest.


I don't think he said that there's no morality without religion, mortimer. He said that without the fear of death there's no morality.

Everyone (myself included) is assuming that Topher is a lonely person who created a friend for his birthday. Is that the case? Let's say that the next episode shows that, in fact, Topher is the life of the party outside of work. He eats birthday cake every week. That one week a year, his apartment is being fumigated, so rather than doing work, he pretends it is his birthday and goofs off with a Doll (and gets paid). That would be emotionally outrageous, but it wouldn't contradict anything established in the episodes so far. We think this day has meaning to Topher because we imagine what it would be like to be in his shoes. But it could just as easily mean nothing to Topher. I wanted some indication of what it meant to him, either by what he said or what he deliberately didn't say (but you still have to hint at the elephant in the room).


But isn't that always the case, OneTev? I mean you can take the actions at face value (like his happy smile when he blows out the candles), or speculate about what-ifs. Of course there are possible reveals coming up, that could shed this episode in a new light, but that is the case with every single character and plot. Does Paul's arc lack any meaning or set an example of bad storytelling because he could turn out to be a doll? I simply don't feel that way.

this was clearly a leftover of the "we need standalones to bring in outside viewers" concept.


We know from a recent interview with Joss that it was his idea to have a stand-alone episode near the end, because he didn't think that the show should be all about its own mythology, Eric Rick Gershman.
Wow. Just seen this episode and it's possibly my favourite so far. I'm a sucker for character stuff and this was just one scene after another loaded with it.

Haven't had a chance to read all the comments so no doubt I'm restating some stuff but I loved Ballard's scenes, particularly his self-loathing shower (heh) - I feel like finally I've gotten a handle on the character. Topher's birthday (presumably?) was awesome, Dichen was brilliant, and yet it had that perfect sad little twist at the end. Adelle in mourning for her friend and Boyd worrying about Echo were also both nice. I found Echo's imprint sympathetic and Margaret's family well cast.

On top of that all the story elements seemed to work together and the idea of this new role for the Dollhouse both creepy and intriguing. MotS, SitHOL, Needs and this episode are my top four so far.
This is my third favourite I think. To pointlessly rank the episodes: Spy > MotS > Haunted > Needs > Ghost > Echoes = Stage Fright > Gray Hour > True Believer > The Target
Did anyone else find it strange how Boyd suggested that without religion there is no morality?... I really don't agree with this point of view, and I know that Joss wouldn't either, since he's an Athiest.


I don't think he said that there's no morality without religion, mortimer. He said that without the fear of death there's no morality.


But isn't that a religious based argument?... ie: "If I commit sins in this life I will be punished in the afterlife by the big man"

Why does morality have to be linked to fear? does that mean that Boyd is saying that we are only coerced into being moral?

[ edited by mortimer on 2009-04-26 14:44 ]
I thought he was saying that if you just can get re-booted, no matter what you do, then you'd feel like you could do anything.
I didn't think that Boyd's comment was necessarily religious. I took it more like a restatement of Adelle's "What if they didn't?" comment. Death is the ultimate consequence. If you don't fear it, then you can no longer have a morality based on fear of it (for yourself OR for others).

(Yes, of course, there are other bases for morality.)
It's morality without fear that is the tricky one. A person can fear lots of things besides absolute extinction via death as a result of her behavior....pain, isolation, karmic payback. I would certainly prefer to contemplate a morality based on say, empathy, but dunno...
Thought this episode was rather average personally but it did have a few good moments. I also liked the reference to the Star Wars Death star run when Topher was imprinting Sierra, him saying "almost there, almost there" whilst the machine was beeping exactly like Luke Skywalkers targeting computer :)
I've been thinking about the imprinting dead people thing. If that was possible then it would be a tiny step to rich folk buying themselves new bodies, to life trafficking, and even to near immortal minds being housed over and over again in new bodies that were born, grew, aged, and were cast off. There would be the potential for children to have ancient minds a la Dune - a whole new "abomination".

Plus, I've decided that the original explanation for why people would want dolls is silly. It's not that people want the perfect person, or a precise role; it's because we're lazy and never want to have to face the consequences of our actions. We want a person to do something for us, but we don't want to have to find them, earn them, keep them and then deal with them afterwards. We want to take but not have to give, just like Paul did. That's why this negates evolution. Why it finishes us. How can a social animal continue to survive when reciprocation is null and void? It can't.

Hmmmm. Must go blog...
wiesengrund: But isn't that always the case, OneTev? I mean you can take the actions at face value (like his happy smile when he blows out the candles), or speculate about what-ifs.

That is mostly the case, but not always. The audience can expect an honest reaction if the character is under pressure ("War Stories"), if it appears to be subconscious (especially if there is a conscious cover-up right after), or if the character doesn't think they are being observed. "Pressure" would have been a distraction to this storyline, but one of the others would have fit smoothly into the storyline. All the scenes had Topher interacting with someone else (Sierra, Boyd).

I think it is that Topher has been giddy, playful, and child-like in the past. Playing with Sierra is not an abberation from his normal behavior. (If someone offered to play laser-tag with Topher in previous episodes, I wouldn't be surprised if he said yes.)

I do think it had meaning to him, but it would have been nice to get confirmation on the TV. Topher either needed (a) an alternative action which he would normally want to do that he chose not to do (Batman putting flowers in an alley instead of crime-fighting), (b) a change in behavior (Tara being outspoken when she is around Willow), or (c) a gleeful reaction when no one is looking (Kaylee sitting with the cotton candy dress). I don't see that we got that.
" I also liked the reference to the Star Wars Death star run when Topher was imprinting Sierra, him saying "almost there, almost there" whilst the machine was beeping exactly like Luke Skywalkers targeting computer :) "

Just realised it wasn't Luke Skywalker it was the other chap that did the run!
I had strong negative reactions to parts of this episode, as I posted above, but have always seen Haunted as part of the whole story. It adds texture to some, as Paul is shown not to be the shiny Dudley Do-Right through-and-through. Topher, however, is still just the juvenile one-trick-pony savant.

Adelle I don't care about, but Boyd seems to be evolving. I saw nothing wrong with Margaret's easy acceptance of her second death. She learned how her family interpreted her actions, way different from what she intended, and starting over again would have been hellish. She (Echo's body) made what amends she could.

I don't speculate about the inside source as I think it's too early and I like to enjoy the journey. We know almost nothing about Saunders, for example. Next week's episode look GREAT, though.
It's not that people want the perfect person, or a precise role; it's because we're lazy and never want to have to face the consequences of our actions. We want a person to do something for us, but we don't want to have to find them, earn them, keep them and then deal with them afterwards.

It's the old saying about hookers. You're not paying them for sex, you're paying them to go away afterwards, no complications.

So yes, the could be a very big attraction, the guarantee that the Active will have their memory wiped and that they'll never talk to the press, your friends, you'll never bump into them awkwardly in the future, they'll never go bunny-boiling crazy or ask you for money and so on.

Though I'd assume with the Actives doing so much business with the wealthy of Los Angeles they would bump into clients many times, they'd just not remember them.
****It's not that...and then deal with them afterwards.****

How insightful. This sure says (imo) disgusting things about human beings, however. Although it may refer only those rich and powerful enough to afford the dolls, therefore leaving the rest of us as more decent if we want to be. I'm going with that.
Watched the episode, found it somewhat on the dull side. Tried to like the issues being raised but they really didn't engross me that much. And the family and the husband* just screamed "caricature" to me. Most of it felt like run of the mill fodder. Would it have made a difference had it not been aired? Probably not. I did like the Ballard/November scenes though. Tahmoh and Miracle knocked their scenes out of the park.

*Though he was in Angel.
I think you are all missing the one important key to understanding the importance of the Topher plot.

The cake is a lie.

It wasn't cake. It was a twinkie.

(Or, to metaphorize that little point, the Topher plot was not meant to be wholesome, good-for-you, conflict-rich narrative. It was a packaged confection: tasty and fun, with a slightly odd aftertaste.)
The cake is a lie.


Perhaps something along the lines of "Would you kindly?" I'm still waiting to read a good Dollhouse/Bioshock essay.
newcj: they seem to be in the mode of making things clearer and therefore not as much open to interpretation and complexity, yet you are saying you want it more like Buffy, where one of the joys was leaving things open to interpretation and complexity.

Hmm... I had to think about this a bit, especially what Buffy is doing that Dollhouse *might* be not. (The Bulls-Celtics overtime game isn't helping.)

I think it should be clearer which issues are being discussed, then discuss them deeply (with complexity and all interpretations). So, thank you newcj, you've helped me isolate what was bugging me about this episode (and simplify my argument).

There was one of the reviews that mentioned the "A" story could have dropped the murder story. It wouldn't have changed the set up or the payoff (or a majority of the scenes), and would have given more time for what people did find interesting about the "A" story (family/Adelle/Margaret-persona dealing with the funeral). This would be a case of simplifying the story so that it can be more complex. :-)
Septimus: The cake is a lie.
It wasn't cake. It was a twinkie.


It was back in the 70s/80s, but from classic literature we know that Twinkies are "delicious golden sponge cake (with creamed filling too)". So that cake is no lie!
I don't know if I agree with you that "it should be clearer which issues are being discussed," OneTeV. But, it does seem that it is not at all clear.

For instance you and a few others bemoaned the fact that more was not made of the fact that "Margaret" was not Margaret because she lacked her "soul." I don't see that as a problem. In fact, I thought it was a strength. Just because Echo is glitching or remembering or something, does not mean that there is some ineffable "something" out there that makes Caroline more than a collection of memories and impulses (nor does it exclude that possibility). I think the show has avoided (in a way that Buffy did not) the relatively easy deus ex machina-style explanation of a soul. The concept didn't hold together very well on Buffy, and I like that they haven't tried to latch onto it in Dollhouse.

ETA: Oh sure, you accept the inherent "cake-iness" of a Twinkie, just as you accept the inherent "soul-iness" of the Actives! But, I think Dollhouse is asking us to question those kinds of assumptions!

[ edited by Septimus on 2009-04-26 21:24 ]
Hi Septimus. This is how I viewed the episode "A" storyline, in a nutshell. Setup: Margaret-Echo dealing with her family. Payoff: holding hands with Adelle in the chair.

This all works fine if Echo is in some sense Margaret, because we see she gets closure to her life. If Margaret is the focal point and she is only a recording, that severely undercuts the emotional payoff. I threw out the possibility of the "soul" as a way to get myself emotionally involved. It didn't have to be a "soul", but then I'd need a different reason to care.

Some people have argued that Adelle is the focal point, which would fit in with the payoff but not the setup. That would have been different if the relationship with Adelle (one breakfast, one phone call) was moved forward/expanded, and the many family scenes served to resonate that relationship.

Or the focus could have been the family. But then the "A" storyline should end at the reading of the will, as the chair scene really didn't make an explanation point to the family scenes. (The episode could have ended with the "B" storyline, Adelle watching Topher's twinkie.)

If there were two focii, then the set-up and payoff should be able to service them both. I don't think that was the case. (The "Sixth Sense" works because the scenes work equally well, whether you think it is about the kid or the psychiatrist.)

If you want to argue that there isn't a focal point to the storyline, I've already had complaints from others when I said that the storytelling was unfocused.

If I think about individual scenes, this is a fine episode, which I probably should have mentioned more in this discussion. It is as a whole, with scenes setting up or paying off other scenes, where I see discordance.
Fun presumed deliberate meta bit that I only caught on the second viewing.
Echo/Margaret: A Spy? No, no, Addy. I'm a Ghost.

"This is not a full on arc episode. It's a stand-alone."
For me, even if Margaret is only a recording, it doesn't undercut the emotional payoff any more than it did with April, Warren's sexbot. Different strokes, I guess.
shambleau, very interesting observation.

At least for me, it was different. I felt sorry for April because Buffy was our emotional "in". Buffy was the one exploring April's past, relating it to her own life, and sitting with the robot as it was "dying".

Hmm (again)... How about this scenario. We replace Echo with an actor impersonating Margaret, someone who has done enough study to know everything about her past. The events of the episode proceed normally, and at the end, the actor stops the impersonation (instead of the chair-wipe). I wouldn't feel sorry for "Margaret". Replace that with the ghost of Margaret possessing the actor, and "moving toward the light" at the end, then I do feel emotion.

For me, "Margaret" as recording is like an actor breaking the fourth wall, it took me out of the illusion. And I couldn't help thinking about that because the story took us there. Adelle and Margaret talk about life after death. Boyd talks about life eternal, mortality and religion. The story raised the point of "can implanting be life after death?" and then ignored it.

[ edited by OneTeV on 2009-04-27 00:24 ]
So, are you equating the Dollhouse-y programming of Echo with the actor rather than with the ghost possessing her?

Because, short of some sort of "soul" or attributing a lot of value to the missing three weeks of Margaret's experience, it seems a lot more like the latter than the former.

[ edited by Septimus on 2009-04-27 00:28 ]
I attribute it to the former (actor). The Dollhouse could have churned out a dozen "Margaret"s, during the three weeks while Margaret was still alive, so it makes a big difference if you think there are 13 Margarets or only one.

I mentioned in an earlier post being influenced by "What Are Little Girls Made Of?", which posited that an android with Roger Korby's thoughts and mannerisms is not the same as the original.

BTW, I'm not trying to imply that this is the "right" or "only" way to think. But it is the way I do look at it. (My earlier posts were probably more "righteous" because I couldn't figure out what other people were seeing that I wasn't, and vice versa.) And I'm trying to explore if there were ways of tweaking the story to make me happy that wouldn't have diminished the happiness of people who already like it.

More editing: I wouldn't feel this strongly if "Needs" didn't exist. That episode established that there is a difference between live actions and implanting a memory of the same action.

[ edited by OneTeV on 2009-04-27 00:48 ]
Well, I have to say that I'm really questioning that assumption on your part. How does the fact that they could have made 12 Margarets before she died, or after, make them any less real?

I think, at least within what we are given to understand about the Dollhouse world, there could very well be 13 Margarets. That's one of the challenging things the show presents to us: what if there is nothing special or unique about human beings beyond their accumulated experiences and memories? (And then, of course, what if those can be copied and manipulated?)

(I realize that my reading is just as willful as yours, and the show has been somewhat ambiguous about this question (is the "Real" Caroline surfacing in Echo, or what?). But I think that the narrative force in this episode was clearly to say that "Margaret" as embodied in Echo was really Margaret. so, it seems a bit odd of you to suggest that they should have addressed or resolved an issue that I think really wasn't there.
Having 12 Margarets makes them less real (compared to the original) in the same way that the Topher-created personalities are less real than organic-farmed originals. (Of course, that might not be true for Dollhouse, but there are a lot posts so far that feel differently.) "Needs" has established that experience is not the same as memory of an experience, otherwise Topher's plan to solve the glitches would have worked.

one of the challenging things... the narrative force in this episode was clearly

Are you saying that one of the challenging issues raised by this series is resolved by a simple "yes" in this episode, without any deeper exploration? As you pointed out, it has been ambiguous up to this point, so that does make it an issue if the narrative force in this episode makes up a "clear answer" out of the blue. That's why I was trying to make suggestions that both support the narrative force of this episode and maintain the ambiguity. (Person can believe that something unique was transferred, or believe that there was nothing unique to be transferred.)
How did "Needs" establish that something the Active did and something the Active was programmed to remember doing are different?

Also I don't think the show answered whether an Active programmed with a dead person's memories is really life after death because what it's really doing is asking that question. It wasn't an attempt to answer the question any more than it's telling us whether or not Adelle is a moral person if she does bad things for what she sees as good reasons.
"Needs" has established that experience is not the same as memory of an experience, otherwise Topher's plan to solve the glitches would have worked.

I don't understand how this establishes that the two are different for Actives. Topher never implemented his plan, did he? Adelle chose Dr. Saunders' idea instead.
Well, I do think that the narrative force of the episode was, as I said, to suggest that "Margaret" was Margaret reincarnated. And I didn't see anything in the episode to suggest otherwise. That does not necessarily apply to the whole series, of course; different episodes can explore different themes.

Personally, I don't think that understanding contradicts or answers the challenging thing I mentioned earlier, which is not the question of whether human subjectivity is something unique (which this episode is implying is answered by "no"), but rather the challenge posed by the implication that it is not.

(Oh, and what do you mean about "Needs?" I don't remember that being established, but could have very well missed something. Also, it's also possible that "real" memories are "more real" in some sense than Topher's cobbled-together ones; isn't it?)
Sunfire: You are correct, Topher's plan was to resort to pharmaceuticals. I misremembered the episode. I did get the impression that he tried everything short of drastic drugs.

That episode established that the Dolls had needs regardless of mind wiping, and the "closure" survived wiping. Hence, experience was not the same as memory of the experience, otherwise both the need (and later the closure) would have been erased with the memory.

Septimus, I'm glad we are on the same page. I agree with you about what this episode is suggesting and that there is nothing in there to suggest otherwise. Hence, why I (personally) have a problem with it. :-) I think it just dropped an ethical and philosophical bombshell, and then ignored it. And expected us to ignore it so we could enjoy the emotional ending. (As long as it remains ambigious, it doesn't have to be dealt with.)

If Margaret is reincarnated, that does imply something unique, as it is this Margaret who died, and is now living on in this shell and achieving closure. But the episode also is implying that human subjectivity is not unique (as you stated), so how can we talk about Margaret achieving closure when we could have a dozen "Margaret"s tomorrow who haven't had closure?

Also, it's also possible that "real" memories are "more real" in some sense than Topher's cobbled-together ones; isn't it?

Could be, but then I need to ask: How? Why? (Yes, I am a scientist.) If we posit that "real" means the person who created the memories, then Margaret is real and Echo is "Margaret", a fake, given the circumstances of this story. If the creator of the memories is not what makes it real, then we need to ask why Topher's cobbled ones are any different than "real". Maybe its not, but I think that is bringing up the ethical and moral issues of Artificial Intelligence, which Dollhouse has not hinted at being a target. (Boyd is kind-of our moral center so far, and does not treat implants as "real".)
Overall, I liked the episode, even more as I think about it. With the "A" story, for the first time, we get some inkling of why Adelle sometimes talks about the good that the dollhouse does -- maybe we'd say the means don't justify the end (solving a murder), and maybe there are better means, but it's just not on the same level as "rent a dominatrix". With Ballard's story, we see the very dark side of a man who is (allegedly) good.

One thing I don't understand: where was Echo's handler when sonny was trying to kill her? why wasn't she "extracted"? Did they ever say?
I skimmed this thread, but I didn't see anyone else mention this: I'd think Ballard would have more experience with undercover work. The more he has sex with November, the more compromised he is. He could come up with many different excuses for not having sex with her, while still maintaining contact with her. "Damn, my herpes is acting up again!" "I'm sorry Mellie, but I think we rushed into this relationship, and I'd like to get to know you better as a person now." "I'm sorry Mellie, but do you have a brother? I'm feeling really confused about my sexual identity right now." Instead, he takes his anger and frustration with the situation out on one of the victims? I don't want him in law enforcement.
He just found out his girlfriend is actually a program created by the secret human trafficking organization he is investigating just to spy on him. Moreover she's programmed to kill him if he figures out she's not real. It's not really anything at all like undercover work, since rather than infiltrate an organization they've infiltrated his life in the most appalling of ways. Mellie isn't working for the other side, they made her. Just for him. Is he right to keep sleeping with her? I don't really think so, it's a pretty twisted thing. But does it make sense? Yeah, in a lot of ways. He's kind of trapped, both by his own obsession and by Adelle. Not to mention, I think he's very lonely. Adelle's sent the perfect spy to exploit his weaknesses. It's just that someone sent him a message so now he knows about Mellie and is to some degree now a willing participant.

It's several layers of twisted, and yes the sex makes it more awful, but pushing her away seems to carry its own risks too. There's not really a clean way out of this that doesn't put him on the run or dead. It is very disturbing, especially the last sex scene, but it's hardly due to his undercover skills. This is his real life.
"The scene where Mellie/November effectively subjugates herself to Paul was one of the most masterfully icky pieces of moral greyness that I've seen from an American network television show."

That scene was a rip of ...er, homage to Blade Runner if I ever saw one. The detective and the woman with implanted memories -- the detective forcing the woman to live out the feelings that she has, even though the detective knows that her entire personality was written by some other author. He still needs to believe that there is something real about her -- and taps into his own primal nature to try to elicit it. Or some have theorized.
I like that observation about "Needs" etsablishing that experience doesn't equal the memory of the experience. It's been lingering in the back of my mind for weeks now, but finally someone spelled it out for me. It ties-in well with the original pilot "Echo" where .
Found the A story boring. Murder She Wrote, dull rich people, horses, don't care. Not bad overall episode but preferred Grey Hour as a standalone because of more interesting minor characters. The Topher stuff was obvious. Nothing more to say about it. Now expect the series to be cancelled.
Didn't love the ep. Thought the Echo/dead woman storyline was a bit boring though I did get their overall themes: loneliness, trust, etc.
I thought Eliza's acting in this one was terribly weak. I was never a big Eliza fan - never much cared for Faith either- and have been surprised at certain moments in Dollhouse. But usually I just don't think of her as a strong actress and this episode I have to go with "terrible". :(
The Paul/Mellie stuff is just sad. He has to act normal and the sex was very understandable but... :(
More Victor please and as a southerner, more southern accents please. :)
I felt for Topher for the first time. The Topher/Sierra scenes weren't extremely engaging but I did feel a bit sorry for him for feeling so lonely.
Boyd - still don't care about.
Adelle - love her. Hate Dominic is gone though.

[ edited by CrystalSC on 2009-04-27 20:30 ]
Did his accent work for you, ChrystalSC? I've seen some criticism of his Roger accent, which I couldn't find fault with. This one seemed, I don't know, a little generic, but not cringeworthy at all. I 'm not up on the subtleties of different regional southern accents though.

I'm all for more Victor too.
I find it odd, disturbing, and almost downright offensive that everyone here is still intent on hating Topher for "mind-raping them already", and not giving him credit for not sleeping with Sierra, yet everyone is actually sympathizing with Paul in this episode, saying "aww, he has to have sex with her to save her blah blah blah."

I love the Paul character, and Topher has issues. That being said, this was the first episode where Paul raped Mellie. The other times they had sex he was unaware she was a doll. Technically, he was raped by the Dollhouse in that respect. They have been systematically taking his power away. He was not begrudgingly having sex with her. He gave in to the power play, and took his power back the only way he could -- by intentionally having sex with a doll. The roughness of it was a part of his reclaiming dominance for a moment. The shower scene is him regretting his actions. Sure, he has to keep up the charade -- he can't let the Dollhouse know he knows Mellie is an active, but he, in essence, found a way to get off on it, thus becoming a client.

The interesting question is, how many of us have done the real life equivalent of this, taking advantage of someone's feelings for us (real in their own heads in the moment at least), to re-establish our own sense of control, or to ease the pressure so to speak? Is that rape? I think it is. I'm starting to think the whole (amazing) point of this show is to show us just how much we're "raping" or "programming" or "using" each other every day, all the time.

Meanwhile, Topher makes a friend to spend his birthday with, and it just happens to be Sierra, so that the extreme lack of rape is pointed.

Just saying.
and i just watched that trailer for the next episode, and I need new pants.
Shambleau
at first I wasn't sure it was a southern accent, I had to listen again. It was very subtle, like perhaps he'd been out of the south for awhile.
Weird, people thought he was going to have sex with Sierra? I just thought he'd made another him to play with.
So maybe this just goes to show that I expect the obvious, but when Topher was programming Sierra, I expected it to be the reveal that he was the insider sending messages to Ballard. So the playpal was a big surprise.

Following the Ballard-Mellie plotline, I'm now wondering if there is an insider contacting Ballard. I'm thinking that maybe those messages are actually part of Adelle's strategy for confusing the hell out of Ballard and compromising him even more. After all, whoever "they" are, they've now got Ballard out of the FBI, so he no longer has access to that technology and has even less credibility with the agency, plus he's completely torn in shreds emotionally over the Mellie situation.

And I really love the possibility that in her real life Mellie/November may have been a career criminal. It's just a wonderful Jossian twist if the sweet, dear Mellie, whose tragic secret is supposedly mourning her child, is actually a hardened criminal who might have joined the Dollhouse to escape prosecution.
at first I wasn't sure it was a southern accent, I had to listen again. It was very subtle, like perhaps he'd been out of the south for awhile.

I thought he did a good job with it, making it clearly there without going for the usual full-on drawl of tv actors pretending to be southern.

How did his British accent last week sound to native speakers?
"How did his British accent last week sound to native speakers?"

Odd but not disagreeably bad to my ears.
The comments I read elsewhere from native speakers fell into two camps. A few thought it was a bad accent. Others thought it sounded okay, or odd, as per Moley75, but more as if he'd been out of England for a while, like his southern character.

The only truly bad accent I've heard was the doll speaking French in the parking garage in Needs. That was painful and unnecessary. She was a one-off. Why not hire someone who's an excellent French speaker?

[ edited by shambleau on 2009-04-28 17:09 ]
He sounded like he was from Kentucky. It's subtle compared to a lot of southern accents. Since he was looking to buy a racehorse, a Kentucky accent is probably what he was going for. My grandma's family is from Kentucky, and it sounded good to me.
...... Just saying.

PuppetDoug | April 28, 04:37 CET


Really excellent post, PupperDoug.
This thread is the best argument I could imagine for keeping this show on the air, nothing else on TV comes close to being as thought provoking as Dollhouse.

ETA: 303 comments .... wow. ;)

[ edited by Shey on 2009-04-29 10:24 ]
I wonder which ep had the most comments. Probably "Ghost".
Whoah, ASITHOL actually beats MOTS in Whedonesque-comments:

Episode 1 "Ghost": 643 comments
Episode 2 "The Target": 453 comments
Episode 3 "Stage Fright": 333 comments
Episode 4 "Gray Hour": 316 comments
Episode 5 "True Believer": 353 comments
Episode 6 "Man on the Street": 494 comments
Episode 7 "Echoes": 328 comments
Episode 8 "Needs": 336 comments
Episode 9 "A Spy in the House of Love": 556 comments
Episode 10 "Haunted": 305 comments and counting
that's because ASIHOL had two weeks when it was the most current episode
...... Just saying.

PuppetDoug | April 28, 04:37 CET


Really excellent post, PupperDoug.
This thread is the best argument I could imagine for keeping this show on the air, nothing else on TV comes close to being as thought provoking as Dollhouse.

Shey | April 29, 10:22 CET


See and I thought Pupperdoug's comment made very little sense. Besides the fact that people HAVE been commenting sympathetically towards Topher and favorably to his not using Sierra sexually, and HAVE been commenting on Ballard's corruption, the idea that someone is offended because so few people are giving Topher credit for not doing something especially heinous in the course of his actual heinous act of using a human being as a toy for his own amusement seems a bit ludicrous.

Just saying.
Adelle used Victor as a sex toy. Topher used Sierra as a video game partner. Notice the same verb, "used"? Adelle and Topher are pathetic losers.
Well, it must be nice to be so confident that one has never, ever used another person for anything in one's life.

(Not to be snippy, but I think that one of the big questions the show presents us with is how much we each use one another all of the time. What if Mellie, for instance, were not a doll and were just a woman who gave the same "use me for whatever you want" speech to Paul. Would what he did be much different from what Topher did?)
He sounded like he was from Kentucky.

Yeah, to me too.
Mellie's speech coming from anybody would make me sad and depressed. Someone taking advantage of it would make me disgusted.

Someone said on one of these threads that people use each other all the time so none of this is a big deal. That was one of the comments that depressed me and here we are headed into the same territory. Human relations should be an exchange, not one person trying to use the other in any way they can get away with.

[ edited by newcj on 2009-04-29 17:40 ]
I agree that Mellie's speech and Pauls' use of her were sad, absolutely (in a Vertigo-y "it can't matter to you" kind of way). I also agree that human relations SHOULD be better than that. I'm just not sure that they ARE, even if they are less explicit than mindwiping.
"Well, it must be nice...in one's life."

Septimus, your comment is both snarky and stupidly simplistic. It's like saying that clergy sexually molesting their congregants "are just humans with biological needs." The point isn't biology, it's power and abuse.

The staff at the Dollhouse put up this grand facade about their higher purpose and great benefit to humankind, when in fact they use the dolls to serve their own purposes. In my opinion.
Sorry, I really didn't mean to be snarky about it.

And, I didn't think the point was actually that simplistic. I think the ways we all use people (directly and indirectly) -- which is all about power and abuse, I agree -- are a complicated and troubling topic. From my perspective, a lot of this show is holding up a mirror to human relations. And while the sci-fi elements amplify the picture of human nature, I don't think that the characters depicted are any more "pathetic losers" than all of us are.
I think the point of the man on the street segments (and, indeed, the point of the whole show) is to show exactly that - a lot of ordinary people would do exactly this sort of thing if they had the opportunity. That's why Joss said about this show before it aired that the whole point was to look at what is good about human beings and what is bad about us.
Septimus - I won't argue with you about everyone using others to some extent. What enrages me is the hypocrisy of Adelle (and the clergy).

I think people generally have lies or excuses or even reasons for getting what they want from others, but it often goes both ways - not so with the dolls. I also don't think most of us set ourselves up as being better or more knowledgeable or more worthy. I see daily discourse as being between mostly equals.

That's why I feel the "pathetic losers" label is appropriate.

Let Down, the first part of your comment is probably true but it makes my head hurt.
I think that the whole part of let down's comment is true.
Reading the comments I'm struck that no one is interpreting Ballard forcefully taking Mellie as a kindness to her after her pathetic speech, effectively telling her he isn't just using her but that he really wants her. That's how I saw it.
Doublemeat - Interesting interpretation. Is there some reason he couldn't have verbally assured her also?? Rather than just going caveman, and being (apparently) only interested in her body???
Actions are far more convincing. Lying in words is easy. If you were Mellie, knowing Paul was obsessed with Caroline, what would it take to persuade you? He's not so simple that he'd use her and then feel disgusted with himself like a common schmuck. He's tough, he'd suck it up and do what he had to.

[ edited by doublemeat on 2009-04-30 15:39 ]
My reading of Ballard's actions in that scene is that he was trying to reassure her that he was still interested because if she, and therefore the Dollhouse, started thinking he wasn't it would get him killed; and that the roughness initially was due to revulsion at having to play that out - a combination of overcompensating and anger. Bear in mind that unlike Tahmoh Penikett, Paul Ballard is not an actor and is reacting not as an actor playing a role, but as a person forced into a role that he despises. And that, once it's started he genuinely gets into it, but now as a way of drowning his other feelings - much as Buffy got into rough sex with Spike as a way of drowning out the numbness she feels in season 6.
Season 6 is far beyond Buffy and Spike first meeting. They had years of interacting - not a few weeks. Oh, and Spike's a VAMPIRE.
Yeah, but that in no way contradicts the point.
Season 6 is far beyond Buffy and Spike first meeting. They had years of interacting - not a few weeks. Oh, and Spike's a VAMPIRE.

My point being that people sometimes use sex as a way of dealing with other difficult emotions. I'm not getting what Spike's being a vampire, or that he and Buffy had known each other previously, has to do with that.
I've gotta say I'm wholly unconvinced by the 'he was trying to reassure Mellie that he's into her' suggestion. What we know is that she basically offered herself up to him saying he could have her without it meaning anything to him and then suddenly he's passionately and aggressively on her and then the next day he's ashamed. If he really was trying to reassure her that has got to be up there with the worst ways of doing it - why not tell her that before starting to kiss her? Why be so forceful (as opposed to just passionate)? It seems to me that the text is very, very strongly pushing us to think he was using her (him calling himself a client the next day, for example) and I'd call the 'it was an act of kindness' thing a radical interpretation of the text
I've gotta say I'm wholly unconvinced by the 'he was trying to reassure Mellie that he's into her' suggestion.


I don't see that, either. But this:

Paul Ballard is not an actor and is reacting not as an actor playing a role, but as a person forced into a role that he despises. And that, once it's started he genuinely gets into it, but now as a way of drowning his other feelings - much as Buffy got into rough sex with Spike as a way of drowning out the numbness she feels in season 6.


...and this:

...people sometimes use sex as a way of dealing with other difficult emotions.


...I think are valid points. After all this time chasing a phantom, Ballard not only finds himself with indisputable evidence that the Dollhouse is real, he finds himself in the same position as the customers he despises.
It kind of reminds me of when Angel slept with Darla, in that both he and Ballard were clearly in a tough place emotionally, and just seemed to have an "I don't care about right and wrong anymore, or consequences, everything sucks" sort of attitude
It's very late here, and I probably shouldn't be posting, but ... let's say an FBI agent was investigating a child prostitution ring, and he believes that young women have been forced into prostitution. He finds out that his girlfriend actually is one of them, and her job is to try to get him to love her and give her information. Oh, and he discovers she's 12. Does he then go ahead and have rough sex with her to reassure her or to maintain his own safety or to assuage his feelings? Does he say, "Damn, I've been sleeping with a child, and I'm so disgusted and demoralized that I'll just have rough sex with her."

November/Mellie has been brainwashed. Whoever the real woman is, she hasn't given informed consent. This isn't the same as Angel & Darla or Buffy & Spike, when you had two consenting adults.
Exactly, Suzie.

[ edited by falina on 2009-05-01 14:10 ]
My reading of Ballard's actions in that scene is that he was trying to reassure her that he was still interested because if she, and therefore the Dollhouse, started thinking he wasn't it would get him killed; and that the roughness initially was due to revulsion at having to play that out - a combination of overcompensating and anger.
barboo | April 30, 17:42 CET


I've been trying to figure out a way to express the same thought. I don't understand why so many people seem to be missing the fact that, letting on that he knows that Mellie is in fact an active, could very well get Balladr killed. I think that was made extremely clear in the scenes both leading up to and following (the morning after) the sexual encounter in question, as "Mellie" continued to grill him about how his Dollhouse investigation was proceeding.
Another gray area here is the balance between using Mellie/November sexually, once Ballard realizes what she is, and the potential for bringing down the Dollhouse, by continuing to play dumb with her. Does the end justify the means? how many other people could he potentially save, by continuong this charade with one of the victims of the very operation he's trying to bring down?

What I definitely believe is, these are the kinds of morally and ethically gray areas Joss is purposefully exploring with this show. And the fact that it's producing so much debate and analysis here, says that he's doing a good job of it.
(And really, who would have expected less). ;)
Why let's say an FBI agent was investigating a child prostitution ring, and he believes that young women have been forced into prostitution. He finds out that his girlfriend actually is one of them, and her job is to try to get him to love her and give her information. Oh, and he discovers she's 12.


Can't put my finger on it but I don't think that's the same.
It's not the same at all. We wouldn't be discussing it for so long it it was so clear-cut and directly analogous to that. I could say it's morally equivalent to some other awful sexual thing, but that doesn't make it so. If that was true I think we'd all have retched upon viewing and this would be a "Paul is a real piece of work, I hope he dies soon" thread all the way down. Instead some of us are just saying "whoa, this Paul thing's pretty messed up and holy shit he's now part of the thing he's trying to stop even as he tries to stop it, that's very creepy."
Maybe I'm misinterpreting but it seems to me that people are taking two kinds of approaches to looking at this scene. One group wants to condemn what Ballard did. The other is trying to understand why he acted the way he did. I'm in the latter camp. Given that he is a fictional being in an extremely unreal situation, I'm not so much interested in the "should he or shouldn't he have behaved the way he did" (he had no choice - the writers made him do it), as I am in the fact that the behavior portrayed rang true emotionally to me. And so I am interested in analyzing it to try to understand the emotional reality within the fiction.

One other thing - Ballard doesn't have the luxury of knowing, as we do, that he only has to pretend with Mellie for two more episodes until the season end, and so he could come up with excuses for avoiding her for a short period of time ("Oh no, Mellie, I just discovered that my entire poker group has come down with swine flu, we better not see each other for the next two weeks 'til I know I'm past the incubation period.") He's just a man with a pretty troubled soul who's been pushed to an emotional precipice.
Exactly. In real life everyone does things for reasons. In most fiction people do extreme things for stupid reasons, but Dollhouse has people doing extreme things for real reasons. Cool.

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