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October 03 2009

(SPOILER) Discuss the second episode of Dollhouse season 2. It's called 'Instinct' and it's written by the Reaper creators Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters. If you missed it, the episode is now available to watch for free at Fox On Demand and Hulu and can be purchased at iTunes.

Originally intended as the third episode to be broadcast but for whatever reason it's now the second.

Looking forward to seeing what role Miracle takes in the new season.
Is the network changing episodes order again?!
I feel like having a whiskey.
Speaking of which, how late in the process did they start reordering season one episodes? Just because I was always impressed by how connected they were, despite being the "crappy standalones." Editing magic, or did they know during the writing process?
Oh SteveP, now I feel like it too.
Jobo, I think it was a little bit of both but I'm not sure. But with Dollhouse I think there was some continuity so they probably had it all figured out long before they aired.
Only about 45 minutes to go! The excitement builds, the margaritas pour... I love Friday nights.
I think, like, all the season one episodes aired out of order. Some were deliberately/knowingly shot out of order.

In this case, not so much, but it doesn't matter as episode 3 is entirely stand alone.
And of course my cable is dead. I only actually tune in on Monday and Friday nights, so nice job, Brighthouse. Grumble grumble...
gossi, I think from episode 6 to the end they all aired in the right order.

But most of the continuity in the first five come form Ballard's investigation, so I think they only switched some of his scenes from one episode to the next.

[ edited by danielgm86 on 2009-10-03 01:37 ]
I think gossi means out of production order. Joss has said they didn't shoot any of the episodes at the right time in the series. But they knew the order they'd be in, they just weren't shooting in that order. But indeed, I meant more about when the intended airing order changed.
Yeah, production order to aired order basically didn't match for shit. But that's fine. Story wise it all made sense regardless, and that's all that matters. As far as I know only 2 and 3 have been reordered with season two. 3's a bit weird.
Weird usually means awesome for a Joss Whedon show haha
Exactly, Daniel. Ten minutes!
The human mind is like Van Halen. *snerk*
It's not just me, right? This is a particularly creepy assignment for Echo?
It's not just you, Canonical. Definitely not just you.
Have they ever not been creepy?
This is creepy on a whole other level. Yikes.
Yeah. There's creepy and then there's creepy.
Where did they get the baby?
Am I the only one not really enjoying this episode so far?
It's fun, as a West Coaster, to try to extrapolate meaning from the discussion threads. Also, I can figure out roughly how long the ad breaks are, and where in the show they occur. Kinda' neat.

benboy, I'm also not digging it thus far. For obvious reasons.
Well, it's not a barrel of laughs, but I'm enjoying the drama of it. Viewing the experience through Echo's eyes.
I prefer the arc stories. This is all engagement which -- so far -- meh.
For me, the emotional power of the scenes are gutwrenching. And it's a fascinating commentary on the mother/child bond.
Echo's reaction when her baby was taken away from her felt so real.
I thought so too. It was powerful.
I'm thinking the wipe isn't gonna work here.
You're happy now? I'm not sad. -- striking distinction, enjoying her story
I felt the first 30 minutes of Echo's stuff was not for me, it was ehhh at best, but the past 15 minutes of the episode have been really good. Echo in the police station, and her losing her child. I felt so bad for her. And is she wiped and just freaking out, or was she not wiped at all? Now I'm liking it. And the Madeline stuff is great.
OK, more interested now. Engagement = vehicle to advance the arc.
It's like Echo said earlier in Vows, she remembers everything. So even in her wiped, doll-state, she remembers her baby. And it's so basic, so instinctual, that its still guiding her. The baby is still the priority.
Virtual echo commercial. Maybe some people on the internet/phones will check it out and then checkout dollhouse.

[ edited by Anonymous1 on 2009-10-03 02:48 ]
"Go, please." Oh Echo!
Why can't I get into this show? I try, and I've watched every episode. But there's something missing. I think I'm watching out of loyalty to Whedon at this point. There's a lot of stand alone stories. If I want that I'll watch every other show on TV like CSI. I want arcs and strong mysteries. And there's no real family or friendships on this show to me. Characters don't hang out or do anything together. It's all business. But I'll continue watching.
I love the switch up. Transformations. Echo was at first the victimized mother, now she's the crazed murderous villain obsessed with a child that's not her own. So interesting.
I'm actually really digging this episode. I think the commentary on the bond between a mother and her child has been impressively presented and, of course, more Alexis is always a plus! The Madeline stuff was also well-crafted (and I'm getting most of this from subtitles-I was stuck on the phone for the first 3/4 of the episode). And I think it goes without saying that Miracle is ultra fabulous!
"So can I be his mommy?" Oh, god. Her face when she asked. My heart just twisted inside. That was so perfect.
"I'm awake now."

WHOA!!!!!
Echo feels sad at losing her baby. Madeline is "not sad" anymore from losing her baby. Interesting parallel. One remembers, the other doesn't.
I thought this ep was superb. The dynamics of it were spot on.
Eliza killed me in that scene. "So can I be his mommy?". Her face nearly made me cry. She's improved so much and I think this is her best work to date on the show.
WOW. That was really good.
That was a really boring episode, and it featured Topher being more insufferable than ever. Next week looks better, though.
Actually, that comment on "I'm not sad" worries the crap out of me. Is it possible that the Madeline they woke up at the end of the contract was subtly different from the Madeline that went to sleep?
I thought the first half bordered on being weak, but once Echo "woke up," it improved tremendously. This is Eliza's best acting on the show.
That last speech on the park bench didn't do anything for me. It felt clunky although Ballard was certainly interesting.
Nice way to expand what actives can do though, in this episode.
Maratanos, I thought so too. It's wrong that she doesn't feel sad. She should remember. In Needs, she felt so badly that she went to her daughter's grave to cry. How can that grief just be gone? I think we're seeing the beginnings of Madeline's arc here.

Eliza was superb in this. Any criticism of her acting just got seriously PWNd.
Madeline had to be a bit different as part of the contract, no? She'd still be mourning her child since waking up from active state is like having no time pass. It bugged me before, but now I'm thinking it was part of the deal.
It seemed though that the motherly bond was so strong that if it was maintained in Echo, and it was maintained within November (we saw this in Needs when she had no memory), then it presumably is something that shouldn't be able to be so easily removed. Nor is it something Topher would know how to remove since he'd only just realized that the motherly bond could go that deep once Echo glitched. How could they remove something that they didn't know needed more than a normal wipe?
This one kicked me in the gut. E.D. was heartbreaking in that scene... I wasn't too sure about the Mother Engagement but the emotion was so real when she went back for the baby... just amazing!
Aside from the terribly cheesy and convenient lightning, pretty solid episode. Loved how Echo is affected by the imprints. I'm finally starting to (almost) care about her. Also, Eliza did a fantastic job tonight. Keep it up lady.

However, can't see this being recieved too well, especially following last week. The standalone was far too central and I think that probably turned off alot of people.
Wow. This is probably my favorite one, as far as Echo-related story goes. Very heart-wrenching, very intriguing. Also, more Alexis! *squee* My dread that his character will be killed off is now exponentially higher than it was last week. He definitely knows too much, and he's far too influential to be left alive with that knowledge. So, technically, I guess, they could mindwipe him instead...which would be much less conspicuous. And Miracle! Yay! I didn't like Madeline very much when she was in her fancy apartment with Adelle, but she made up for it when she was talking to Ballard. Awesome parallelism between her and Echo with the motherhood and loss themes. Topher was very entertaining, as usual, and I'm pretty sure it's not possible for him to get any more full of himself. Why, though, were Victor and Boyd absent from the proceedings? Did I blink and miss them or something?
Topher offered Madeline some "apps"--maybe she already got hers. Maybe her deal wasn't just 5 years of service in exchange for a ton of money. Maybe it included some editing of her emotional status--which Original Madeline wanted & Current Madeline doesn't really remember. She knows the facts of her daughter's death but the pain has faded. And she's feeling just fine now.

Except that we know these things sometimes glitch. Would witnessing Echo's grief over losing "her baby" affect Madeline?

And I can see Ballard still has feelings for her. His bond with Echo/Caroline is strong but I've never thought it was romantic.
Anyone else wanna take Ballard by the shoulders and shake him real hard in that last scene ? It's no surprise given his arc so far, but it pissed me off just how much he wasn't hearing Echo (and I like him, but it's fun to see him so set on his mission that he's thick to most other things). It's either gonna be one of the show's biggest emotional breakthroughs or one mother of a tragedy--Ballard might realize that Echo is her own being, or at least is developing into one, with her own valid wants, and attempt to find a way to save her or at least grieve for her when it's time to plug Caroline back in...or he'll totally just discard her without a second thought when the time comes, despite the care we see him taking for her now and possible bonding in the future (not the same style as Boyd's though). Given that Caroline is in control of her body in the "Epitaph 1" future scenes, I'm guessing Echo's toast.

Heh, knowing how Actives behave now, especially Echo, was anyone else internally cringing when the father/client didn't handle some of what he said to lactating-Echo so well ? He didn't lie the way a handler, Dollhouse employee, or TV viewer with foresight would. Echo's glitched enough at this point that I'd almost be prepping all her clients with some safety precautions, although I can see how that wouldn't exactly instill confidence in their business or encourage the closing of a deal or repeat customers.

I figured they would had to have altered the base/original personalities of those who volunteered for this to fix something in their lives. Madeline's grief was probably brain-magicked away by Topher, or at least lessened considerably. I dunno if he's merely sped up the grieving process somehow or removed something from the recording of Madeline's thoughts to make that happen, but yeah--doesn't seem like any of these Actives, at the conclusion of their contract, are coming back intact.

So, essentially, they all sorta do die during that first wipe and all that comes back after the 5 year contract is a copy (although maybe it can be likened to a coma/brain injured patient who makes an amazing recovery and maybe some of the essentials of who the person is are engraved into the physical matter of the brain, regardless of what science says otherwise. Guess we'll have to wait and see if we get some technobabble on that in the future).
I still don't see how Topher could offer to remove a mother bond for Madeline/November last season when he only learned it could go that deep in this episode. He didn't know that it could be retained beneath the wipe.
Great episode tonight.With "Echo "remembering/feeling" now,it makes the whole situation she's in just cruel.The scene between her and Ballard at the end of the episode brought it home.

Loved seeing Miracle Laurie back and getting back story on Madeline.I know we learned last season that she lost her child but it was good to get more of the details.Loved Ballard's reactions and scenes with her this week.

Alexis's first full appearance as Senator Perrin was one I was really looking forward to and has me excited for this storyline.So now he knows what Rosssum is really doing and the existence of The Dollhouse.Big question though is who sent him the info in the episode?
Overall, it was a pretty good episode. I'm really enjoying season 2.
My favorite part was watching them run through all the horror film cliches with Echo as the 'bad guy'. Nice inversion. And there was good stuff with the fake mother having real feelings for her kid while the real mother (Madeline) had her feelings for her kid muted or altered. What's real, what's not real? I love that Echo was willing to suffer, in contrast to the price Madeline paid to avoid suffering.

Negatives: a lot of clunky exposition scenes that just sounded real flat to me. Also, not sure these longer assignments make sense to me. How much does it cost to have an active for months on end? Or two as seems to be the case in this assignment. Finally, Echo-centric. Not good for people like me for whom Echo is dull and/or annoying. Not a slam on Eliza who did well here. It's a slam on the way her character is being written.

ETA: Emmie, all mothers who lose children have to get to a place where they can deal with it. Presumably that's the modification that was made to Madeline. With Echo there was no modification, there was a failed attempt to erase.

[ edited by Maggie on 2009-10-03 03:25 ]
Yes. The inversion was brilliant. Yes, I loved how Echo wanted the pain because it made her "awake" and more real.

The motivation for the father to seek an active!mother was also really interesting and while he initially escaped his responsibility to live in his grief, he finally owned up. Just as Echo owned up. Just as Madeline failed to own up and is now living what appears to be a meaningless life of leisure without attachments - was it worth it Madeline, really?
I thought that this was a really interesting and important episode: I agree w/Emmie about the aspects of Echo remembering 'her' baby but Madeline forgetting her RL baby was very telling and points to how screwing w/memory leaves kind of a mess behind. Also Topher moving forward into the whole altering people permanently thing.... I think we'll see more and more of these points pay off in future episodes. This episode was very dramatic and really got into why the Dollhouse isn't all fun and games, it is messing up people's lives at the most basic emotional level.

I thought it was pretty awesome. The final scene really showed how helpless Ballard is, how he doesn't have a clue about how to fix things and save the girl.
The imagery of the final scene is telling - Ballard is sitting on a park bench with Echo looking at a dark, empty playground. Impotent, unable to do anything but watch the empty playground antics.
Too bad Madeline didn't know about the good deals at Lacuna inc, she wouldn't have had to go to the Dollhouse.

It seems like these actives are being hired out on longer missions now. In the first season it was one or two day missions, but now we have Echo seducing and marrying an arm's dealer, and then becoming a mother. How long was she going to be a mother for? I think that guy would have been better off getting a nanny.
Rhodey said:
"Aside from the terribly cheesy and convenient lightning, pretty solid episode."

Heh, yeah I'm kinda sick of conveniently-timed thunderstorms as well...have been for a while, come to think of it, but I've kinda just gotten to the point where I allow the writers their obsession with that "pathetic fallacy" device we learned about back in highschool English class. Geez, they don't have to follow it as a rule though.

Re: Echo vs. Madeline mother/child bond, re: Topher's knowledge

This is the best stab I can take at it right now, other than this I've got nothing, but maybe it has to do with Echo being physically in a state of early childhood rearing (Topher altering her right down to her glands) and Madeline not being at that early stage of motherhood. So maybe Madeline's grief was more manageable because it was moreso emotional and less primally physical because her daughter wasn't a baby when she died ? Also, Topher would've known specifically what to go in and fix with Madeline because Adelle and the Dollhouse's records would provide him with that info. Whereas with the regular still-under-contract Actives he's just doing his wipe and assuming everything's a-okay after that and...from what we've seen in Season 1 and so far Season 2, he might need to come at wiping from a different angle. Start getting a lot more thorough about it, or possibly develop a different process. 'Cause it ain't working properly anymore (assuming it ever was).

Edited to add: Woops, Maggie got there first and said the above in fewer sentences.

I forgot to mention...Echo's assertion about feeling anything, even if it meant being sad, rather than having those painful memories taken away and going back to sleep (being dead?)...powerful stuff (and true, IMO, a huge part of my non-theist convictions and blah blah blah this paragraph sucks but I wanted to throw it out there anyway).

As others have mentioned, this episode might not be all that well-received (and I was a little bit worried about it until we got the Madeline/Adelle scene, so I was feeling better about it way before the halfway mark), but there's a ton of good stuff in there. A great Echo/Eliza Dushku showcase, return of a character we really needed to know more about (and hope to learn more of), and some nice Ballard parts as well. And I was satisfied with not feeling sure over whether Echo would stab the father or not (I'd think if she did that though, or if she took a life, she'd be headed to The Attic for sure).

Aww, new doctor to replace Claire Saunders.

shnoods, is "Lacuna, Inc" a Vanilla Sky reference ? Been many years since I saw it, can't remember.

Hands up who else is suspicious that something might've happened to the Senator's wife when she went to answer the door ? The beginning of remote-wiping/programming non-Actives ? If nothing happened, and that scene was merely for a bit of suspense when Alexis Denisof looked concern over the lack of noise coming from his front door, then is the file maybe from Alpha and this is how they reintroduce him to the story ?

[ edited by Kris on 2009-10-03 03:41 ]
Re: The cheesy lighting. I'm thinking they did that deliberately as they inverted the horror movie motifs. They just used the lightning to take you there to that memory of 'lightning = horror movie' reaction. It was done to invoke that cheesy scene in your memory that you've seen so many times before but there's meaning underneath the surface.

ETA: Maggie, I'm still wondering if it's not Madeline who's doing it. The way the father ran away from his own son, isn't that what Madeline is doing? She's shown as living a life with very little meaning and she says she's "not sad" but that doesn't mean she's happy. Not being sad can be achieved by avoiding the problem, too. Couldn't she still just be running? Wasn't her going into the Dollhouse in the first place her avoiding her grief? I think it might be that she's just gotten very good at avoiding what she's actually feeling.

I'm more inclined to think that it's Madeline than Topher. For Topher, it requires him actually doing his job right and the technology not malfunctioning. That would make the Dollhouse actually effective in removing grief. Something that I don't think is possible to remove completely. I'm with Ballard in expecting the technology to malfunction time and again because you can't program people without breaking pieces. So either Madeline is broken because she feels nothing for her lost child (something that haunts a parent for the rest of their lives) or she's just not acknowledging her feelings. I rather thought the 5 year plan for Madeline was with the promise that 'time heals all wounds' and not that they could remove her grief from her core identity. Echo keeps showing us that what is a part of your identity is in you. November in Needs showed us that too.

[ edited by Emmie on 2009-10-03 03:49 ]
Eliza is really feeling it this year. Everyone else expresses themselves so much better on here in depth than I do, but I was really fascinated with Madeline's devil may care attitude, wasn't expecting that.


Also, was that Mike Massa making a cameo as the guy who sedated Echo?
Kris, that was an Eternal Sunshine reference. I would like to see a cross-over between that movie and this show... maybe a Mark Ruffalo cameo, or Elijah Wood could steal Echo's undergarments.
I really missed the rest of the cast this episode.

When are we going to consistently see them all in an episode with signifigant screentime? :(

[ edited by Rhodey on 2009-10-03 04:02 ]
All I have to say is after this episode, anyone who still questions Eliza's acting skills is crazy. Definitely her best work of the series so far.
edcsLover9, sure looked like Massa, didn't it ? (stunt coordinator and/or stunt double for Dr. Horrible, part of Angel's run, and Firefly, among dozens and dozens of high-profile films & TV shows).

Ah, Eternal Sunshine, thanks shnoods.
All I have to say is after this episode, anyone who still questions Eliza's acting skills is crazy. Definitely her best work of the series so far.

I'm not aware of anyone seriously questioning her skills as an actor.
I've seen comments even from fans of the show who worry that Eliza doesn't have the chops to carry the role and would rather see more Enver, Dichen, Acker, etc. who presumably surpass her. I think this episode puts down the claim that Eliza can't go 'there'. To that place of emotional truth in the scene. She nailed it.

[ edited by Emmie on 2009-10-03 04:09 ]
GhostsWatcher said:
"I want arcs and strong mysteries. And there's no real family or friendships on this show to me. Characters don't hang out or do anything together. It's all business."

I see arcs and mysteries (whether they are strong ones kinda depends on the end results/further clues, I suppose, but personally I'm pretty intrigued so far). We don't know what Rossum's end game is (unless that Rossum higher-up who had possessed Victor in "Epitaph 1" is some indication, that it's all about semi-immortality to the highest bidders--creating a fairly horrific class system worse than the ones already in existence for real). We don't know Whiskey, Sierra, or Victor's origins, nor Boyd's, nor why Adelle got into this...heck, the character backgrounds/mysteries are probably more compelling than the shadowy-business/Big-Pharma/government conspiracies.

As for family/friendships, valid complaint, but I guess it's just a can't-please-everyone situation. I watched and couldn't get into the first three episodes of Veronica Mars, but by all accounts it's a fantastic series. If it's not your thing, that sucks, but that's okay. If you don't see hints of it developing into a show you'd like better, might not be worth an hour of your time each week to stick around. But for what it's worth, it looks like we're headed in that direction. "Epitaph 1" showed that Victor and Sierra (or their original personalities/true selves) will grow close and many in the Dollhouse will depend on eachother after the implied initial catastrophe hits. Adelle takes care of Topher. Paul and Caroline might be best buds/partners, or perhaps lovers, and Dr. Saunders and Boyd might have something. Dollhouse is just making us wait a bit for it, that's all. It's too easy and happy if we start out with it. It's not a comforting show, we don't get Buffy, Xander, Willow, and Giles hanging out at the library or Magic Box, there's not even an Angel Investigations starting out (less connected/close-feeling from the outset of that series, but eventually developing into more than a working relationship and friendships). I don't think Dollhouse will ever reach Firefly levels of found family...at least, I don't expect it to (and it's not really what I want from this series anyway).

But it definitely hasn't just been "all business". Paul/Mellie in Season 1, plus Boyd having more than just a handler's care for Echo. Victor/Sierra, despite being blank, showing the beginnings of feelings, and Echo and those two gravitating toward one another. Peripheral characters added emotional resonance/depth to the relationships on the show too. IMO.

[ edited by Kris on 2009-10-03 04:16 ]
Eliza delivered another superior acting performance.

And the story helped define what exactly Echo is that makes her partially unwipeable -- she's a being whose strongest memories are stored bodily. Dollhouse, after initially setting up the concept that there is nothing to a person's reality other than the chemical/electrical connections in the brain, is now approaching the idea - through Echo - that there's more to the self than that. An emotional body of some sort, outside the brain. Maybe outside the body too, because although they did connect it to glands in this episode, the implication is that she's storing memories of experiences somewhere else all the time, on all missions. They're starting to hint at the energetic body (think chakras), or maybe they're going to head for the concept of the soul, or some sort of concept that could be consider parts of either.
Hey, also a quick shout out to the actor who played the father. When he was emotionally numb, he could have been any actor-of-the-week, but for his last scene, he nailed it. Totally believable.
I decided I would only say positive things on the feedback posts...

....

....

Okay, it's great to see Miracle again and the baby was really cute.
I've seen comments even from fans of the show who worry that Eliza doesn't have the chops to carry the role and would rather see more Enver, Dichen, Acker, etc. who presumably surpass her. I think this episode puts down the claim that Eliza can't go 'there'. To that place of emotional truth in the scene. She nailed it.

...comments questioning whether she possesses adequate range as an actor for the character as originally envisioned I've seen (and even made myself) - but none questioning her level of skill (chops.)
Having range is equivalent to chops. Having the chops to do this role requires range. They go hand in hand.
Having range is equivalent to chops. Having the chops to do this role requires range. They go hand in hand.

It's the difference between breadth and depth - closely related, but not equivalent.
Emmie: the problem with Madeline doing it herself is that effectively *no* Madeline time passes when she's a doll. If she was stricken with grief when she entered, she should still be stricken with grief when she wakes up. This has bugged me all summer, but something in this episode was said that made me think that part of the deal was the alteration in her feelings about the kid. Kris above made an additional point which I think is relevant and that's that Madeline wasn't breast-feeding any more and that's where Echo's physical memory trigger thingy was.

I do think a contrast was intended -- but I think it's more the contrasting choices of Madeline (to forget) and Echo (to remember) along with the usual weirdness of what's real and what's not. Eliza can't bear to lose her fake son; Madeline in essence has allowed part of her feelings for her real daughter to be erased. Echo's willingness to suffer is part of her becoming more real. Madeline's desire to not suffer is part of what's making her fake. I love that.

ETA: A story line about Madeline being broken could totally be in the works. She did come back into the story to get "diagnostics" after all. And she's to be the poster child for how well this works! Of course there's going to be a problem.

[ edited by Maggie on 2009-10-03 04:44 ]
Three best scenes that stick in my mind:
1. Echo/Emily freaking out when her baby is ripped from her arms, and fighting like a wildcat. Every cop in that station and Ballard is damn lucky Echo didn't do a Ninja flashback at that point or they all would have been in some deep doo-doo. Kudos to Eliza, she nailed the distraught mother to a "T"
2. Madelaine telling Paul she felt pain after losing her child but after a stint in the Dollhouse years she felt better. And then watching Paul's flabbergasted realization of how Madelaine's memories of her child's death and the pain that helps us cherish a departed loved one were scrubbed to the point that it didn't matter to Madelaine any longer. Superb storytelling.
3. Echo: "Did I fall asleep?" Topher: "For a little while..THUD! (Topher gets a knuckle sandwich from Echo) "May I..GO...now?" For all of us who kvetched about the trite standard Active deprogram patter, obviously Joss and the writers heard us. I stood up and cheered! The lights are definitely on in Echo's noggin!
Does the mother bond only come alive with the physical memory trigger, though? Madeline had the physical memory trigger and years of raising her child. That should only make it stronger than Echo's, though granted she doesn't have the postpartem hormones going through her system. I think we haven't been shown enough yet. I think there's a line that's always being crossed between what's imposed by tech and what's real. Just like how Echo's trust in Boyd in early Season 1 was both built on their own experiences and then built by the Handler bonding ritual. I can't escape the feeling that Madeline wanted to escape her grief, she ran away to the Dollhouse and was wiped, then once restored, she just kept acting like her baby's death didn't matter. Her memory of her dead child was more than memory - that's why it guided her in Needs. I see that as equating to Echo's physical triggering of the motherly bond. I don't think we can say that since Madeline was no longer breast feeding that she would somehow be easier to make forget about her child. That doesn't really quite work for me. Again because Topher wasn't aware of the power of the motherly bond until this episode, so how could he knowingly wipe it away?

As the episode title says, the motherly bond is instinct. Can Topher ever wipe it away? He was able to trigger it in Echo, but once awoken, can he take it away without breaking apart the Van Halen band? And that instinctual bond really wasn't created by him. He jumpstarted her engine, so to speak, to get her lactating and the act of caring for the child solidified and awakened that instinct. Similar to a woman adopting a child and bonding, or hysterical pregnancies where a woman starts lactating for wont of a child. I think the instinct exists outside of what Topher is able to wipe away for good and still retain a functioning human being.

[ edited by Emmie on 2009-10-03 05:03 ]
Random Observation: I'm pretty sure Mike Massa was one of the Dollhouse staff that drugged Echo.

I was not particularly fond of this episode. The Van Halen line was pretty funny, and the baby was very cute. Otherwise kinda meh.
I'm not aware of anyone seriously questioning her skills as an actor.



Maybe not on this site, but you obviously haven't seen some of the unnecesarily harsh, bordering on downright vicious things written about her skills or supposed lack thereof elsewhere online.
We've had articles linked on this site that also question it. And many intense reactions to it. I think it's safe to say the criticism does exist out there.
I really enjoyed this ep from top to bottom. The directing and the writing was engaging. The entire cast, from Eliza and the regular cast to the guests and the baby or babies, did the best acting in the series so far. Well... the baby's acting was probably fixed up in editing. But everybody else? Really great!

Each show is better than the one before, and that makes me very hopeful.
I'm with you, Animal Mother. Many of the performances in this episode seemed off to me. Aside from a few nice moments, the acting felt forced, and the writing and direction seemed kinda obvious. I'd rank this episode among my least favorite, along with "Stage Fright." Looking forward to an upswing in the next ep.
I honestly don't know yet how I feel about this episode. I saw it while rather tipsy, which can get in the way. Tipsiness aside, parts of the episode really got to me. I deeply felt Echo's pain as a mother over the loss of her child. I though Eliza Dushku did a great job with that. However, Dushku's great performance aside, I was even more riveted by the short bits we got with Madeleine. I wanted more of that. Like others, I can't believe that she's all fine now about losing her child. No sir. There's a serious story brewing there.
Iím in two minds about this episode. On the one hand the engagement went on way too long but I absolutely loved Echoís growth and all of Madelineís scenes.

Eliza was terrific in this episode! I find it really funny that she said in an interview this was her most difficult personality to play because it was one of her best performances EVER. She was so raw and intense and seeing Echo being confused over the baby gave me shivers.

I think the problem with the engagement this episode was that they didnít cut back to the DH enough and I think the scenes need to be broken up more if theyíre going to be so pivotal to the episode.

Iím in the minority and was never really that impressed with Maurissa in season 1. She seems like a lovely lady but her screen presence didnít have that ďoomph.Ē Iím starting to think it was just Mellie and November because she excelled as Madeline and brought the intensity to the screen that I felt was missing last season. I think she was brilliant in this more confidant role and loved seeing her spar with Adelle. That was definitely one of the best moments of the episode for me, I love them both to death!

I agree with everybody else here who were impressed with the Echo/Madeline parallels. I too was extremely happy that Echo insisted that sheíd rather feeling the pain then nothing at all. It shows how much sheís evolving and it also shows how unnatural Madelineís behaviour is. I was always sightly confused about why people would sign away their life under Madelineís circumstances. Theoretically shouldnít it only feel like it was yesterday her baby died when given back her personality? I see now that Topher must fiddle with the personalities a little and in doing so, Maggie is right that Madeline has in a way become ďless human.Ē Sheís numb and she didnít grieve naturally and that canít end well.

Ballard also went through some pretty interesting developments this episode. Is it just me or was he convinced by Madeline that wiping away the pain really is beneficial to these people? When he suggested to Echo that he could speak to Topher I was pretty taken back. Heís far more compromised than he could ever realise. Naughty Ballard! I love that Echo, the broken doll, has a stronger grasp on whatís right then he does.

Just a couple of other points;

- I missed Boyd and Victor this episode

- I love the idea that the Senatorís wife was remote wiped at the door! I found that scene very odd and think something else might be going on as well

- I think I may have worked out why Adelle chose to work for the DH. All this talk about Rossumís technology being able to cure diseases like cancer sounds exactly like something a stem cell researcher would be interested in yeah? Me thinks Rossum poached Adelle with the proposition that she could help cure diseases. Adelle needs to believe that what the DH does helps people and I think we havenít heard the fully story yet.

- Is it just me or does Ballard seem more and more curious about the DH technology? Sitting in the chair? A possible foreshadowing to his character being wiped at the end of the season or some point in the series? I can see two possible scenarios with this. Either heíll be wiped by Adelle when she finds out heís trying to take down the DH, or heíll choose to be wiped at some point when he realises how corrupted heís become and he canít handle it anymore.

Overall I think they needed to cut back on the time spent on the engagement but it was still an enjoyable episode with some great moments.
The only thing that bothered me was the breastfeeding scene...first off, the baby wasn't anywhere near where he should've been, and two...um...got milk?

Other than that, this was a really great episode. And seeing Madeline so...cold. Awesomeness.

So the package that was sent to Perrin - is that being sent by the same mole from season one...if so, who is this person? Interesting how they are really stretching this storyline out.

Also, someone mentioned about Adelle thinking she could help people cure diseases by entering the Dollhouse. What if she's diseased and that's her actual motivation for being there? Honestly, I could see something like this being the case. She does come across as being rather tired in scenes I've noticed from the very beginning. That'd make an interesting storyline and a great reason to continue to keep the Dollhouse running and having some empathy for the dolls.
Last week's TJ Hooker moment and this week's oh-so-convient Lightning were both so incongruous with the rest of their repsective episodes that they stood out as truly aweful moments. Both ruined perfectly good episodes by being used close enough to the end of their episodes to leave an indelible and unfortunately negative taint on the audience's experience.

I expect More, Better, Faster from my Dollhouse episodes, NOT Cheesy-Trope-Of-The-Week.
"Instinct" gets a positive from me, mainly because (1) the engagement was actually about an actual human need/dynamic, not "we need a bodyguard" or "I want to teach a hot chick to ride a motorcycle"; and (2) the engagement fed into ongoing character development in a more intimate way than they tended to do in season one.

People are going to have to accept that engagements aren't going away. They're what the Dollhouse does. Better to have them be about something, as this was, then just be cut-outs.

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2009-10-03 06:11 ]
All the insights above about the inversion of Echo's and Madeleine's respective responses to losing "their" children -- it is all really brilliant stuff. I wonder if I don't think that the ideas behind this episode aren't more brilliant than the execution? I guess I'll decide after a second (or third) viewing.

Also: Perrin's wife disappearing on her way to the door. Surely something went on there. It felt weird. One more thing: Am I nuts for thinking that Perrin's wife reminded me of the Georgette character on the Mary Tyler Moore show? Anyone else have that impression?
What b!X said.

Also, more Alexis please?
I really liked it!
GhostsWatcher said:
"I want arcs and strong mysteries. And there's no real family or friendships on this show to me. Characters don't hang out or do anything together. It's all business."

I also agree with this. While there may have been previous moments where people outside (meaning the non-dolls) of the DH have hung out/etc. it lacks that camaraderie between characters that makes them appealing and relatable. Sure, we realize that almost every single employee is lonely, but to me that kind of seems almost one-dimensional.

Buffy, Angel, and Firefly had a sense of unity and family to it. While I understand Dollhouse isn't about that, the ensemble isn't really working as an ensemble but more of a collection of different parts that at some point may or may not be used.

Give me more Victor/Sierra, Adele and a somewhat steady love interest (who may at some point be killed off-- this is a Whedon show afterall), Topher developing some kind of friend... I just think the show and the characters need to be fleshed out even more. The engagements take away far too much from that time.

But maybe that's only me thinking that and I could be completely way off.

Otherwise, I agree with the comments Re: Eliza's acting, the Echo scene at the end.
BlindHawkeyes, I think and feel that Dollhouse is a brilliant show, but what you wrote resonates with me, at least to some extent. Like you, I get that Dollhouse is not about the kind of warmth and unity that Buffy, Angel, and Firefly had, but I admit that I do miss that special feeling of found family that previous Whedon shows have so beautifully exuded. Of course, not that all Joss Whedon shows should have to have that. Dollhouse is its own beast.

Yes, b!X. Georgette. By gum, I can't shake the resemblance now. I'm not sure I want that in my head.
I had kind of the opposite reaction of some people here--I really liked the beginning of the engagement, the horrifying idea that they would program her to love a child who she was obviously going to lose & the fact that the engagement went wrong for completely "non-glitch" reasons (her perfectly natural suspicions and desire to protect her child). For me that was pretty suspenseful. And then the horror-trope scene just seemed silly-- until Eliza's "so can I be his mommy? :(. She was great, but I think she's mostly been pretty great.
And love Madeline--more interesting than Mellie. (Though I do like lasagne.)
In Epitaph One we so many close relationships. Echo/Paul, Boyd/Claire, Adelle/Topher, Sierra/Victor so it does happen. It just needs time for the characters to grow into that place. Of course the show could be cancelled by then and then it never will, but Iím confident itís where Joss plans for the story to go. We have to have the characters claw back their humanity first. In DH those relationships have to be earned.

[ edited by vampmogs on 2009-10-03 06:39 ]
I was hoping at the end they would reveal that the baby was actually a doll.
After browsing this whole thread (long! kudos to me!) it seems I'm in the majority when I think that this was a pretty awesome episode, and also that Eliza Dushku gave a wicked performance. I've always been annoyed when people criticize her range on this show. It's a difficult part! However, to give the devil its due, I still have a hard time feeling anything for her as "burgeoning Echo," but that's because the persona's a blank that's slowly being filled, and not because she can't play "a blank that's slowly being filled" well enough. You try it.

This episode really gave me faith in the future of Dollhouse, for the first time since the Britney Spears-esque episode. To me, it seemed like Mutant Enemy produced the Britney Spears-esque episode, and then felt dirty, and that's when Joss decided, "ok, something's gotta change." It felt like, in the second half of last season, they were just throwing all the eggs they could think of in one basket and then putting on their Halloween masks and running around the neighbourhood splattering everyone with as many mind-eggs as possible. To me, it felt like a beautiful flame-out. So when the show got renewed, I was worried that they wouldn't know what to do with it. The first episode of this season was awesome, obviously. Or maybe not obviously, I didn't read the thread on this site for that episode, but in my opinion it was awesome. But this one....

As I said before, this one restored my faith in Dollhouse's future. Because last week's episode could've been a fluke, a freak of chance. But it wasn't. And not only that, this week we have a rock-solid performance by Eliza to anchor the episode.

It's not perfect by any means. As I was watching it, I was also watching all the many ways it could play out as they sprouted and branched from the gobstopper lodged between the hemispheres of my brain, and I observed a few ways which are, in my not-so-humble opinion, better. But I'm not under the pressure of writing a TV script. It was really heartening to see that even though I could obviously do everything better because I'm so f'ing perfect, the writers seem committed to maintaining the idea of Dollhouse: The Show which existed by the end of last season, and not the Fox-shat idea which begat it. In other words, they're not reverting, devolving, whatever.

I think we should all feel hopeful for the future of this show. Because even if it gets canceled, NOW it's worth getting angry about. Now it has serious potential.
My thoughts on this episode have mostly been covered by others. But after watching it, I can't say I didn't get a little extra enjoyment realizing that Eliza just made quite a few critics look foolish. I enjoy the range versus depth distinction, but since I haven't yet read a story that actually logically picks apart how her range is deficient (simply insisting I take the statement at face value) I guess I just have to say I can't agree with the point. The only thing I see her "not doing" is using foreign accents, which I hate to say seems like a very cliche reason that people often use to laud actors' ranges. I hear her varying her speaking rhythms and I can see her changing mannerisms. It's also not particularly fair since she hasn't been written any foreign parts yet except for the Russian Doll which was certainly passable.

Some things that struck me:

Ballard and Madeline are immediately paired up again. There seems to be something very instinctual there.

Topher seems to have shrugged off the Whiskey fiasco fairly quickly. This may be the first episode where I've truly disliked Topher. Before, I could subscribe to Fran's interpretation that he was a wunderkind and was so socially disengaged that morality didn't come into it. Post-Whiskey, his free-wheeling experimentation and approbation seeking comes off twice as reckless and far more easy to condemn.

I agree with the broken Madeline interpretation. However, another thought I had was... "this person is completely overcompensating." Maybe it wasn't part of the deal, rather she is repeating a lie so she'll believe it herself.

- Edited... please excuse the random punctuation and spelling errors. I'm too tired for writing apparently.

[ edited by azzers on 2009-10-03 07:31 ]
I suspect that throwing himself headlong into "free-wheeling experimentation and approbation seeking" is his coping mechanism.
Huh. I guess I'm the only one who read something else into the motherly instinct bit besides the obvious. Adelle asked Ballard if Echo was having a composite event, which really, she was and has been. Ballard is the only one Echo has confided in about remembering, and if Adelle realizes what's going on, it would seriously screw up Echo and Ballard's plan to take down the 'house. I thought I almost saw a look of panic on Ballard's face when Adelle mentioned the 'c' word. If that's the case, I can see why Ballard would use the conversation he had with Topher, as well as Topher's ego, to explain away what happened with Echo. IDK, it's just my dumb theory. Keep in mind that I'm no good at observing the little details. Of course, it would explain why Topher couldn't wipe away Echo's motherly instinct-unlike November, Echo remembers.

I'm not sure if anything I've said makes any sense, and I think I need to retire to bed for the night.
Regarding why the Active contract worked for Madeline, I think that in grieving (and, really, in everything else) there are multiple layers of one's self that must each reach a state of acceptance, and that the Dollhouse technology only changes some of them.

Specifically, Printy can change the top few layers of the mind, the rational overlay we have over our primeval, reptile brains. Coping with grief at those highest layers is a very fast process, because at that level we have the ability to reason, and we can actually take comfort from such aphorisms as "He lives on, as long as we remember him."

The deeper grief, though, exists on a layer that is impervious to reason, and that's when another saying comes into effect: "Time heals all wounds." (As Emmie said above.) The only way Madeline was going to get over her grief on that layer was to wait the tortuous years that it took for the wound to scab over.

But Adelle appeared, and offered her a shortcut by which she could avoid having to live through the grief: her rational self would be held in suspended animation, while her body went through the grieving process under the care of a temporary person, created to serve Madeline by feeling the grief she couldn't, and to serve Adelle by going on profitable engagements.

That's why, in 'Needs', November still had her grief to deal with - on the layer that the Dollhouse doesn't know how to erase, the loss was still too recent. And similarly, in this episode, Echo couldn't be made to forget her baby in the course of a few seconds, not even with the aid of blue light. Her bond may not have had as long to develop, but it had a couple of years less time to dissolve, and that was too short a time.

Edited to add a comma.

[ edited by Mercenary on 2009-10-03 10:44 ]
"I suspect that throwing himself headlong into "free-wheeling experimentation and approbation seeking" is his coping mechanism."
- The One True b!x, quoting azzers

I agree with b!x. Having Topher return to his default-mode actually deepened the character for me, because it kinda showed how everything he's been up to this point - barring the first episode of season two - has been the milky, scummy residue over a much stronger cup of something not entirely awful. That's why I loved the conversation between Ballard and Topher at the beginning of this episode, because by this point they're both morally compromised, and they both know it, and that's what allows them to meet in the middle. Even if neither of them wants to meet there.
Agree that that was a good performance from Eliza. She seems to be good with the heavily emotional stuff.

Tamoh Penikett on the other hand... has he ever even made a different facial expression? I notice that once in a while he kind of purses his lips, that's a start. Also sometimes he raises his voice. It's still the same flat drone that he always uses, just you know, louder, but hey, it's a start!
While I agree with a lot of the points that have been made (interesting ideas, strong acting from Eliza, awesome Miracle scenes), it was still the weakest ep for me overall since Haunted.

There was nothing that seemed especially odd or bad or anything, it was just too engagement of the week for my taste. It felt like a pretty good ep of Law and Order with a sci-fi twist.

I wanted more character stuff, more like the incredible Topher/Saunders scenes last week, or more with Boyd, or Alpha, or Dom, or any of that stuff. Maybe I'm just impatient.

And man, I want to like Tahmoh. He's seems so smart and charming off camera. But I've come to the conclusion that the dude just can't act. His line readings kill so many otherwise good scenes.

Speaking of acting, I feel like Olivia has really come into her own lately. She's a great actress but she seemed a little stiff in the early eps last season. The first two eps of this season she is absolutely on fire, so tough and funny and full of life. Just through the force of her acting, she makes any scene she's in compelling, even when it's just her doing reams of exposition.

I will say I thought the direction was very solid overall. I noticed it was Marita Grabiak, who I always thought was a cut above the standard TV director. She directed some of the most stylish (and best) episodes of Angel.
This is really frustrating. We've been in the middle of a series of passing storms for the last few days, and I lost satellite reception off and on throughout the ep. I checked and it's not up on hulu yet. But Vows is, so maybe soon.

I don't think I missed too much and most of it seems to have been the Madeline parts. Although I caught the very key, I think, exchange where Ballard asks her "So you're happy now?" and she replies "I'm not sad".

Eliza just knocked this one out of the park. But then I've thought she's been amazing, from the beginning.

I don't understand the "too much engagement, not enough arc" criticism, voiced by some about this ep. My feeling is that we've gotten to a place with the show's overall structure, that every engagement carries with it aspects of the arc - and not just Echo's arc.
It's gotten past the point, for me, where they have to cut back to the Dollhouse, to something unrelated to the engagement, in order to move the arc forward. Which is one hallmark of a Joss show, IMO - the show is becoming an organic entity, the sum of which is now exceeding the parts. (Have at that with the sub-texty analogy, if you will).
;)

Of course I want to see more back and forth between the engagement and what's happening back at the DH, most weeks. Partly because that's where we get to see most of the other actors do their excellent stuff. But the structure of this ep called for "more engagement". and we did get to see a good deal of both Dichen and Paul, during the engagement parts.

Remember, it may be "season 2", but season 1 was just thirteen eps. (counting Epitaph 1). So we're fifteen eps. in (with one being a total anomaly, timeline-wise) and it's already at that point where the organic connectedness has kicked in.

I loved this one (and expect to love it even more, once I can see it uninterrupted by weather-related satellite glitches).

I have no problem forgiving the conveniently placed thunder storm. Some tropes are classics - if they're done well, it's all good. Of course I was trying to hear the dialog over the deluge going on around me in R/L, so maybe that made a difference. :)

Best line of the show: "I'm awake now". That one was chill inducing, in the best possible way. And so very full of meaning, placed in exactly the right context and delivered to perfection by Eliza.

Yay team, I'm already dreading the baseball game break.
Illyira, your comment made perfect sense to me. I think you're a lot more insightful than you give yourself credit for.
Shey you don't have to watch it on Hulu, it's now online at Fox on Demand.

http://www.fox.com/fod/play.php?sh=dollhouse&ep=7731

It's also on sale at iTunes.
There were a few things that bothered me about this episode.

The first is, as always, WHY? I guess the biggest problem about this show is that I can't go along for the ride. I was able to suspend my disbelief for vampires, mantis people, and zombies, as long as there was an explanation. But you really expect me to believe that some dude whose wife died in labor hired a DOLL to take care of his kid? I mean this wasn't just a weekend gig, we are talking some serious commitment time on the part of the doll and her handlers. And on top of that, ANOTHER doll plus handlers just to keep the first one believing the story?

Wow. He must REALLY hate nannies. Or was this another pro bono gig to see what they could do? It still seems like it could have resulted in an awful time commitment for Echo.

Convenient thunderstorm was bugging too.

And finally, Alexis. His whole character, his everything, I'm just like "uh huh, Ballard, last season, already ahead of you." I am just not on his journey, and I'm not even sure why he's around. His scenes feel dropped in and completely disconnected with everything else going on in the episode. And I love Alexis Denisof, do not get me wrong, his acting is perfect. It's all the character.

I did like that little baby. Sort of looked like baby Connor to me! I thought Eliza's acting was very genuine in most of the scenes, although a few times things seemed a little forced or trite.

I'm not sure where they are taking this Echo remembers thing, but that I am really interested in. I feel bad for her, but at the same time I look at her and think that it was her decision, she chose this, what did she think, it would be fun and awesome? Nothing is ever as great as it is in the brochures. But then, something keeps the brochure business going, and people buy it, and that's Caroline.

I'm sad Dr. Saunders is off, just when she was starting to get interesting. I think I am the only one in the world who doesn't care a bit about Mellie/November/Madeline, sorry Ms. Laurie. Not at all surprised to see her back, nor do I care how her new life is going.

Overall, I did not think this episode was as good as last week's, but still enjoyable. I did enjoy the character of the dad and his transformation. I thought his handling of Echo was especially inspired. He could have a career as a handler.
I actually enjoyed it. I thought the first half was a bit weak to be honest, but the moment Echo whacked Topher I was on board. Which is interesting, because I'm finally starting to root for Echo a little. It might have taken 15 episodes, but I'm board with Echo's developing character. I don't want Caroline back now; self righteous people annoy me. Speaking of which, still hate Paul.

Love the Madeline and Echo baby parallels. Also loved Madeline, girls with confidence are such a turn on. Final imagery with the playground was good, but - was it just me - did that scene linger slightly too long?

Eliza was good in this. I'd say it's her best DH performance to date. I believed her as a mum. Also much credit is due to the baby daddy - he was really, really good. I loved the fact his character wasn't bad, also. That Echo was the one waving the knife around.

More Miracle, more Dichen, more Alexis. Please. Also, I'm hoping they can find something for Boyd to do. He was my emotional link to the show in season one, entirely due to 1x02 "Target".

Also, anybody else notice Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters have gone from Exec Producers to Consulting Producers? I didn't know that. Edit: It turns out I'm wrong.

[ edited by gossi on 2009-10-03 15:22 ]
I second gossi in wishing for Boyd. I liked him from the very first spoiler clips from "Ghost", and loved him in and after "Target". Just because Paul's gone through the Handler-imprinting script with Echo doesn't mean he gets to replace Boyd, as far as I'm concerned. Does anyone else wonder whether Echo still trusts Boyd?
If I was Echo, I'd trust Boyd over Paul. I know I'm in the minority here, but I still think Target is one of the best Dollhouse episodes. It sells Harry's character in a few scenes for the entire series. And Deknight directed the shit out of it.
Am I the only one that noticed that the actor that played the baby's father in this ep played Eliza's boyfriend in a couple eps of Tru Calling? Sort of an interesting coincidence.
It's up on Hulu now (not on the show page yet, but it got added to my queue so I got the direct link: http://www.hulu.com/watch/99410/dollhouse-instinct).

I thought this was a solid episode, not as good as Vows but on par with the better episodes from last season. Loved Echo punching Topher, and the scene with her back at the house, asking if she could be his mother.
Thanks for that Rachelkachel, I'll add it to the entry.
I loved last week's episode, but to me this episode was almost entirely exposition with a bit of manipulation thrown in. Every bit of the structure seemed forced and obvious, from the very opening scene between Paul and Topher where Paul gets up from the chair and they do an inverse of the wiping patter --(paraphrasing) Topher asks if Paul was sleeping (no) and Paul says he doesn't trust Topher one bit. OK I think I get it.

Each inversion/dichotomy is set up so blatantly that I couldn't suspend disbelief enough to follow or care about the story -- ok Echo is a real mom and Madeline isn't anymore; Echo feels, Madeline doesn't, Echo broken, Madeline apparently functional, Ballard hopelessly compromised while Senator Perrin picks up the good fight.

All the dialog seem like a blunt instrument to underscore each point -- Echo in the police station saying her husband has turned into a different person, Sierra: "That's what I'm here for," the absolutely clunky expositionary interchange between Paul and Echo at the end. The plot has been moved forward but I feel like I've been lectured more than entertained.

Eliza's acting was good (except where they didn't tell her where to put the baby for nursing, not really her fault), but Tamoh continues to remind me of a giant five-year-old who needs to pee. Ballard is a tough role to begin with and the writers haven't given him much to work with in this episode.

The "Don't take my baby!" trope always evokes cheesy movie for me, and the horror movie scene just drove that home. Maybe that was intentional, but I don't think it belongs on Dollhouse. It worked for Buffy because horror cliche as metaphor was the premise of the show. Bladerunner/Eternal Sunshine are much better models for this one, and that level of sophistication was just missing from this script.
Yeah, I have to admit - they line they gave Sierra, "That's what I'm here for". Just a leeeetle bit on the nose and over the wall.
I enjoyed "Target" as a quality action ep and a showcase for Boyd. And I like Matt Keesler, the dude who played the bow-wielding pscyho client. It was a damn pretty episode too. I don't think it stands as one of the best Dollhouse eps though. There is nothing remarkable about it compared to the goodness that came later, it's simply one of the best standalone-ish eps and probably my favorite almost-pure-engagement ep aside from "True Believer".

gossi said:
"I don't want Caroline back now; self righteous people annoy me."

I still don't know enough about Caroline to say I don't want her back (regardless of not liking her, it's still her body, even though she apparently willingly gave it up), but I realized the ExtremePeta vibe they were going for in "Echoes" would rub a lotta folks the wrong way and more than a few people reacted as such in the episode thread last season. I dunno if Caroline deserves to be looked on as self righteous in a negative light though, 'cause if someone doesn't stand up to corporations like Rossum, then isn't that bad ? I get from a TV viewer perspective that Caroline is probably not as interesting to watch as Echo, plus Caroline could continue to be a little annoying in her brashness/poorly-planned-stands when we get more of her (through flashbacks or having her back in the present), but I dunno if I can dislike her for being suspicious of a company she had investigated and decided was doing wrong. From a real life perspective, I'd be glad someone tried to do something (did they say anything about her trying to go to the authorities/FBI in "Echoes" ? I forget. Heh, Caroline and her boyfriend Leo probably would've been suspicious that law enforcement was in on it anyway though, so probably an unlikely option for them). Even if the end result was Caroline: 0, Rossum: 1, Leo: dead.

AlanD said:
"I was hoping at the end they would reveal that the baby was actually a doll."

That would've creeped me right the fuck out. It also would've been a wicked reveal. But given the rest of the plot, I'm glad they didn't go that route 'cause I feel like it would've had slightly less resonance if Echo had been caring for a fake-baby and it wouldn't have made sense for the dad to have hired both while grieving over his wife. I guess the only way an imprinted-baby story would have made sense is if the dad was an Active too and the Dollhouse was just doing a little household experiment with gladular/hormone adjustments.

Azzers said:
"It's also not particularly fair since she hasn't been written any foreign parts yet except for the Russian Doll, which was certainly passable."

Heh, not according to my friend who's an insurance salesman and has a lot of Russian clients. He thought her attempted Russian accent was terrible. Having not known more than a couple Russians in my life, it sounded okay to me. A little put on, but not nearly the worst I've heard in film/TV-land.
I think Madeline is still an active; she just doesn't know it. If her grief was fresh and overwhelming going into the Dollhouse, it would still be after a vacation without her brain. Either that, or they can't put people back together again afterwards.

I'm assuming Adele brought her in specifically to run into Paul - either to see what happened or as part of a plan started when they let her out.
Good episode. Usually the stand alones don't work so well for me, but this one really rocked.

I was under the impression that Madeline had been deliberately put back without her pain. It had not dissappeared in the meanwhile, but Topher edited her, before he put her back in.

I actually found it very creepy.

[ edited by Changeling on 2009-10-03 13:41 ]
Who directed the episode?
Marita Grabiak directed the episode I believe.
Thanks for that.
I began by being disappointed with the episode,which seemed to be developing into a rather ordinary kind of one-issue stand alone. I should have known it wouldn't be that simple...and greatly enjoyed watching it all turn over with the Madeleine/grief issues, horror movie thunderstorm/knife parody, the young father's belated awakening to his son.

He (the father) seemed have been in a wiped-active-like state of suspended emotional animation..only to wake up instinctively, even growing some compassion for Echo, when he thought his son was endangered.

As to Madeleine's "not unhappy" state- are we sure she is telling the truth about this? She has made it very clear that she doesn't trust Adele or the Dollhouse in general, and that she is afraid that if she says the wrong thing, she'll get disappeared. She doesn't recognize Ballard, and encounters him there- is she maybe being cagey? She has a cool, slightly calculating air, is that what the original Madeleine was like? Maddie was, after all, an imprint.

[ edited by toast on 2009-10-03 14:38 ]
In Season One, when Ballard finally tracked down Mellie/M/N (using her fingerprints) the image that came up before it was all wiped off the computer, looked like a mug shot and I assumed that she had been arrested for something.
Now either that was my error, their error or it will show up later but in any case, I'm glad to see her back and am curious to see where her story will go.
The thunderstorm worked for me as it started thundering here at just the same time. Lent some verisimilitude to the scene!
Re: Fazekas & Butters, they were credited as Consulting in "Vows" too, nothing new here. I don't think there was any demotion going on, since it would have seemed weird anyway to get new writers as EPs that actually run the show. Tim was promoted to Executive Producer to do that.

Re: episode, I liked it, it had the sad and lingering quality "Haunted" had too (and I really liked "Haunted"), circling over this Very Big Concept (Life After Death then, Motherhood now) through the eyes of Echo and asking how the technology does or doesn't deal with it.

Eliza's acting was always okay for me, this one was not special in any way (in fact, the scene where they take her baby didn't set me on fire at all). First episode without any Harry Lennix in it is a tad sad, but I hope he'll be back next week.

As always, the engagement ties in nicely with the overall premise and themes of the show. A few scenes went kinda nowhere, I thought, like the inclusion of Sierra, which didn't engage me on any kind of level. I thought there was something (to be) said about female bonding in motherhood, but I guess I'd have to watch it again to see if I missed it.

I'm not sure I liked the "Echo becoming psycho" aspect of the ep, since it got close to portraying motherhood as a dangerous obsession. Still not sure if that was the intention (and if so, what they were trying to say by it), but the one aspect I really liked most in the whole ep, is that Echo's instinct breaks down in face of the narrative. She hears his story, and that's when she realizes that she's losing the baby. In that regard it reminded me a bit of "Man on the Street" with the similarity of a husband that has lost his wife and is trying to replace her in the classic narrative of a happy family (financial security and the shared joy of career advancement back then, raising a child now): It's also the point when we hear Joel Mynor's story that we "get" the engagement and sympathize with the client (and the "sometimes good" ways the tech can be used). However, while MOTS was questioning that very aspect very openly (with Paul's "predator"-speech and the "Porn!" joke), I was missing that questioning in "Instinct". What "Instinct" did was revert the question back to Echo and her realization that that pain is real and makes her awake, which is of course due to the effect that we're in S2, not S1 anymore, and the premise has changed a lot since MOTS.

I think of "Instinct" as an episode that serves as the background color of the season: Family is the recurring theme in these early episodes, with two marriage-engagements in a row, and the introduction of Perrin's marriage, his actual family, and the second reference to his dead mother. Which for me begs the question, if the show is not consciously exploring a theme that a lot of people were complaining about as missing from the show. I still have that Joss-quote in front of me that Dollhouse is the show where he tried to say to his adoring masses to back off a bit, because they might not like what they're about to see. In the same way S1 viciously undercut our wish-fulfillment fantasies about Echo's growing self-awareness, maybe this season is about to question our need for (found and real) family and why we want to see it on TV.

Perrin's wife getting the documents didn't strike me as weird at all, just a usual scare-the-audience setup. She found documents on her doorstep, that's bound to make you silently wonder for a few seconds.

Re: re-ordering, I think "Belle Chose" might be a bit more exciting than "Instinct", or at least Fox thinks so. And when Fox took the one-week-Baseball-preemption into account, they decided to have the better ep ("better" in their eyes) be the cliffhanger/watercooler moment. Also, "Instinct" ties in very nicely with "Vows" along the long-term marriage-engagement aspect.

Also, I would like to point out that there's this new myth forming that every episode of S1 was shot out of order. That's just wrong. I think even Joss sometimes exaggerates that point. "Ghost", "Echoes", "Needs", "Briar Rose" and "Omega" (and "Epitaph One" too, but that doesn't count since timeline continuity kinda doesn't enter into the question here... :) were all shot as they aired. And taking into account that "order" is a relative term, we even have to acknowledge that "The Target" and "Stage Fright" (while being shot after "Gray Hour" [but airing before it]) were shot in exactly the same order they aired.

To say it the other way around: Season 1 had only three reorderings: "Gray Hour" going from 2 to 4, "Man on the Street" from 5 to 6 and "Haunted" from 9 to 10. Doesn't look that gloomy now, does it? ;)

And lest not forget the "Shooting things out of order is a perfectly normal part of creating a TV show."-mantra we all should know by heart in these times. ;)
First of all, that was one cute baby!

As a standalone, that was a pretty good episode. Did not like the whole horror-movie feel at the end with the blackout and convenient lighting though.

Eliza was really good in this epsiode: Echo/Emily's reaction when the baby was taken away was great and felt so real!
'So can I be his mommy?' Awww! I felt really bad for her!

We definitely need more Boyd and Alexis!
Oh, thanks wiesengrund - for some reason I thought Butters and Fazekas were EPs. I've no idea where I got that from.

Another aside - this ep confirms Sen. Daniel Perrin as from Virginia.

Also, UGLY BETTY got moved back for two weeks, which puts it against the baseball on FOX, not DOLLHOUSE, which is good.
Wisengrund says
the one aspect I really liked most in the whole ep, is that Echo's instinct breaks down in face of the narrative. She hears his story, and that's when she realizes that she's losing the baby.


Yes, thank you. That whole scene was one of my favourites because he treats her as real and capable of rational behaviour and she responds to that. After his talk with Adele, I think he realizes really what he has done and yes, finally bonds with the baby but that part was a given.
But I love the way you put it, Wisengrund. The narrative is stronger than the instinct.
I was surprised at how good a job the Reaper guys did. Like Dollhouse, their first series almost died from the 'job-of-the-week' episodes. Mundane to the point of distraction, which was a claim levelled at Dollhouse frequently during series 1 too.
Loved this episode.. I think it's funny how people have suddenly decided to disregard and not be receptive to any of Joss Whedon's stand-alone episodes. It's seems like all I hear these days is how people are only interested in the arc... It seemed like it was the oposite leading into angel season 5.. everybody wanted more stand alone episodes after season 4's arcy-ness.

pesonally this episode had enough arc in it to satisify me, and I think it worked much better as an introduction for new viewers..

It was like a ridiculously well written, compelling, and emotionally and ethically poignant version of the Ghost Whisperer (and oddly enough, I mean that as a compliment)
The term "stand alone" is seen as evilesque here nowadays, but, eh, I like them. Procedurals can be compelling TV. Just as long as we're not hovering over the reset button every week, I'm on board with the concept. The only thing with Dollhouse which alters the situation slightly is that if the engagement isn't compelling, the episode can collapse on itself as a viewer experience very quickly. See also, the pop star ep. It's not that the pop star episode is badly written; it's that nobody cares about pop star of the week.
true Gossi.. the pop star ep was pretty crud. Loved all the B storyline stuff in that ep though (finding out Victor was a doll was a real shock to me since I didn't read any spoilers in the lead up)

I just think people need to remember that most of Whedon's standout episodes (the ones which so oftem make it onto top 10 lists) are mostly standalones, with just a little bit of arc in them, so lets not turn against stand alone episodes in principal and come in to them thinking they'll be bad.
Left me cold. Episodes like this will get Dollhouse cancelled, imo.
What fleem said. The obvious and trying-too-hard quality of the writing and direction made it difficult for me to get into the story. And even casual moments, such as the conversation between besties Sierra and Echo, seemed forced and stilted. I guess it all wouldn't have been as jarring to me if last week's ep hadn't been so firing-on-all-cylinders good.
LOL at people ragging on Alexis for his "fake" American accent.
It's like people ragging on Jamie last week for his British accent.
This is the first time Alexis' American accent has convinced me.
I will say that, as a new mom, the scene in which they take the baby away in the police station and Echo flips triggered a complete melt-down for me both times I watched it, and I am not melt-downy as a general rule, so kudos to Eliza.

But for the most part, that episode was a little off, I thought. Mainly in the premise. So, fine, this guy and maybe even Adele think it's important that the wee motherless babe bond with somebody, but then what about the inevitable trauma of losing the one person he's bonded to? It's too dumb even for my very stretchy suspension of disbelief. Maybe the guy is crazy with grief or whatever, but still... as alliel put it nicely:

Wow. He must REALLY hate nannies.

Hee. Yeah. I agree with phlebotinin too that there were some cool ideas at work, but the execution failed. But this is my biggest complaint, always, with Joss Whedon shows (I realize he didn't write this episode, but I assume they've all been approved by him and it's a recurring failing of one of my favorite writers) - there is a particular emotion that he wants to nail, a "moment" that rips your heart out, or whatever, and if the plot enabling that moment is full of holes, never mind. I find that really frustrating.

That lightning storm too, and Echo with the knife... well, yeah, whatever they were trying to do it just felt hokey to me.

So it was a weird episode for me... both one of the lamest, and yet most emotionally wrenching at the same time. I think it was a pretty bad script, and a phenomenal performance by Eliza. Right the way through - "Can I be his mommy" and "I'm awake now." Yay her!

Curious to see where they're going with the whole Madeline thing though. It did seem to me that maybe they'd left her altered in some way, not the Madeline she was before, exactly. But either way, the contrast of this very "cold" but "real" Madeline to the warm and feeling but "fake" Mellie was nice.
for the folks saying tahmoh can't act, watch bsg, particularly seasons 1 and 3. his character is a little flat in this show, i don't know whether it's the writing or the actor, but since the beginning, it hasn't been his finest work, but i believe he can get there.

as for alexis, last week i remarked that "sandy rivers," the lothario buffoon from HIMYM, had ended up in the senate. this week, i thought his performance was quite nuanced, and i saw an actual character emerge. for me, this was really the highlight of the ep.

but for all the good acting eliza did (and this was one of her better episodes), i cared a lot more about what was going on inside the dollhouse than i did about the engagement. then again, that's about par for the course for me.
Kris,

I'd love to take friends word for it, but since I have a few Russian friends and have been to Russia more than one time, I'll stand by my statement. I said it was passable. Especially if knowing Russians makes me an expert on their accents. The only way to judge her accent would be to actually know where in Russia she was supposed to be from which I don't think was expressed. My main point was, not so much that the Russian doll was evidence of acting, it was that she hasn't been given those parts yet. She got one, and it wasn't even an accent. It was an accent in a foreign language for less than a minute which wasn't even the focal point of the scene. It was a setup for the conversation in the elevator. So judging her acting range on the number of accents she's displayed is a bit silly. She simply hasn't been written those parts.

[ edited by azzers on 2009-10-03 21:42 ]
I agree with writing Kefka. I'm not sure what range Ballard is supposed to have displayed in this show. I don't get that he's an overly emotive character.

Judging one persons acting skills on one show can be dangerous. I don't particularly espouse this viewpoint(specifically about Shatner), but I had a friend who for years would tell me how horrible William Shatner was as an actor. Recently, I'm being told how William Shatner is a great actor and Boston Legal was the proof. It's very easy to confuse acting range with the written part which is why I think it's dangerous to comment on an actor if you haven't seen them in a range of different parts. That makes typecast actors very difficult to judge because you never see their range unless you go see them in out of the way plays.

[ edited by azzers on 2009-10-03 21:48 ]
Good point Azzers, I never thought much of Amy Acker as Fred until Ilyria came along and Holy Crap! She can act!

Not saying she was bad playing Fred, just that it was very easy to just assume that's what she was like in real life and she was just doing an okay job. Ilyria, and Whiskey/Saunders, make you realise just how good she actually is.
Yes...more Alexis! Please!!! As for his real American accent... I wonder if that is the reason why he won't talk to the press on TV anymore. Too many people don't like his real "voice".

His "Pacific Northwest" accent never seemed to bother me.
But again, I too am a "Pacific Northwesterner"!

As for "Instinct"...it's always better with Alexis in it.:)
One of the best Dollhouse episodes so far and the best IOW to date. I wish there had been more like that last season. Also real cute baby.
I hate to say it, but bad acting is a major problem for the show, and this episode is a prime example. Echo, November, Sierra...they're difficult for me to watch. What could potentially be a great episode is, instead, rather forgettable to me.
Just a few quick comments because I'm so late to this thread.
1. Topher is really growing on me this season (wasn't crazy about the character last year). I think Fran is an amazing actor.
2. Miracle has the most amazing and beautiful eyes.
3. I've watched both episodes on Hulu, and I'm amazed when they're over. They are so entertaining, I lose track of time.
4. I need to go do laundry (okay, maybe that wasn't relevant to this thread.)
Later thoughts: I'm seeing a little bit of people arguing that this episode was a weirdly anti-woman thing. "Oh look at the crazy, hormonal mother." Except that the crazy part never happened under the mother imprint. Only the protectiveness.

The allegedly crazy part didn't happen until only one aspect of the motherly imprint was wiped, leaving a disconnected and decontextualized aspect of the motherly imprint behind in an undeveloped/underdeveloped doll-state.

Not sure how that's becoming, for some people, "oh, look, the show is saying that mothers are crazy hormonal psychos".
And I want so much to like this show better than I do. Alexis, Miracle, Tahmoh, Eliza, Amy, ALAN - great! I like Topher and Adelle less and less the more I see them. I remember last season many, many people whined about Eliza's inability to act. That seems over, thank God.

Maybe it's the whole using people are replaceable widgets that turns me off. I really like most of the characters/actors, but the stories always remind me these dolls are being used as real people, but they aren't. And the notion that Echo doesn't get wiped clean anymore, so she carries the often painful memories is even less attractive.

It's early in the season, though, so we'll see where it goes. Once Summer comes on board there may be lots more changes.
What's happening to the characters is often supposed to be unattractive. I'm not sure why that makes the show unattractive. (Not saying it's an invalid reaction. I just don't understand it.)
Yea, I didn't quite get the anti-feminist mother argument either. It seems like a reach.

Now I did hear what seemed like a logical argument at one point that the fact that Joss made the body more powerful than the brain was the offensive part. But I'm not sure if that's valid since you can come up with all sorts of scenarios where body chemistry overrides the morality of a human being. I don't think that's an anti-female stance, but I do understand how that can be "seen" that way since some men have used that argument in the past.

Still, as a former 13 year old boy... I'd be the last person to claim hormones don't matter.
And even the argument that making body more powerful than the brain is somehow problematic isn't accounting for the fact that Echo (which is where the alleged body overpowering the brain dynamic occurred) was in her doll-state at the time, which is an abnormal state and not, therefore, reflective of some more general statement about how anyone, let alone specifically a woman, might act.

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2009-10-04 03:51 ]
I think Paul claiming that it was her body reacting was just a cover because he is the only one who knows she is remembering (and doesn't want anyone else to know). So ya, the brain wins :)

My biggest problem with this episode was the crazy lightening lighting with the knife and the horror element. Just didn't fit at all. And of course that is the scene that Fox promoted the episode with *hits forehead*. Also thought Sierra was totally underused. It was almost like they added her just to add her which is just odd. Needed to be fleshed out a bit more, could have been interesting. Missed Victor and Boyd!!

Things that worked for me, Eliza's acting. Holy crap, that girl had me in tears for her sadness. She played the protective mama to perfection. Loved all the parallels with Madeline/Echo regarding the loss of a child. The warmness of Echo wanting to remember the pain then the coldness of Madeline being completely detached (although, I'm sure there is something more going on with her, them flowers are still in a vase somewhere me thinks). Loved the senator and his wife, go Alexis! Also enjoyed the baby daddy, glad they didn't turn him into the villain. Also loved the Topher/Paul at the beginning and the Paul/Echo at the end. Best part about this episode for me was Echo wanting to keep the memories so she can feel and be "awake" even though it was painful. Loved that!
What's happening to the characters is often supposed to be unattractive. I'm not sure why that makes the show unattractive. (Not saying it's an invalid reaction. I just don't understand it.)
The One True b!X | October 04, 03:28 CET


Since it's my reaction, you don't have to 'understand it'. I am not asking you or anyone else to explain it. I often don't understand others reactions, like all the whining last year about Eliza's acting. It is my reaction, and my comment.

[ edited by falina on 2009-10-04 05:04 ]
On re-watch, I still don't buy the notion that Ballard was covering. The timing and delivery in that scene isn't "oops, I'd better come up with a cover story", it was far more of a naturally-flowing reply in conversation.

The idea of it being a cover is compelling, but the scene still doesn't play like it is, for me.
falina, the entire point of me saying "not saying it's an invalid reaction" was to make it clear I wasn't jumping on anyone. An opinion was expressed, and then I expressed my own. That's all.
Bix - I'm about to rewatch it...would love for him to be covering for her, but perhaps you're right.
Really I'm fine with it not being explicit either way. I see what people are seeing in the scene, but it's not playing that for me. It's entirely possible that's only because it didn't play that wa for me the first time, and now I can't feel anything else.
The first time I watched it I thought Ballard was covering for Echo. He'd rather blame Topher than have Echo outed as another composite event. Upon a few re-watches Iím not so sure anymore but I guess Iíll go with my first take on it.
Doubling back to another issue, I realized that the other reason this worked for me as an engagement-of-the-week episode was that rather than the season one norm of having the scene where they introduce the client and why he's hiring an active, and then showing the engagement, this time they simply threw us into the engagement, leaving us to either figure out what the "mission" was or wait until they got around to explaining it. More interesting that way
Ballard passed himself off as FBI to get Echo out of the police station, right? Does he have some kind of ID still? He didn't have time for the Dollhouse to forge him any.

Echo figuring out how to drive seems to argue for a kind of muscle-memory retention. That should mean she may have sub-conscious access to all the skills she's been imprinted with, shouldn't it?

It seems to be ME dogma that pain must always be experienced and not avoided in order to emerge whole at the end. Madeline is, if my view of her arc is correct, on the downward path that Willow trod before her because she's tried to bypass the pain in the stages of grieving.

It's true that avoidance of pain can be probematic, but suffering can be permanently crippling, too, not just (eventually) ennobling or empowering. Future Topher would be an example of that. Although, if the show got the time that I don't think it will, ME would probably have had Topher come through the breakdown and be a Better Person.

Just a long way of saying that I don't think that Madeline's attempt to end her tremendous suffering was necessarily the moral weakness that the ME writers probably do.

[ edited by shambleau on 2009-10-04 06:58 ]
In "Target", Boyd and nameless-driver-who-is-shot have IDs to show that they are from a local news agency. I suspect that the Dollhouse provides all its handlers with a variety of usable cover stories and IDs on engagements.
Edit: nevermind, I am totally wrong! The police woman does say "this man's from the FBI".

[ edited by dispatch on 2009-10-04 08:57 ]
And even the argument that making body more powerful than the brain is somehow problematic isn't accounting for the fact that Echo (which is where the alleged body overpowering the brain dynamic occurred) was in her doll-state at the time, which is an abnormal state and not, therefore, reflective of some more general statement about how anyone, let alone specifically a woman, might act.


I agree that is is an abnormal state, which is precisely the reason why I think this can be interpreted in the generalized way. You said yourself that what was left after the wipe was the "disconnected and decontextualized aspect of the motherly imprint" (and I'd say it's just the decontextualized mother instinct, not an aspect of it), and what else is a generalization than having the pure, unconnected essence of a concept walk around half an episode? That's how I interpreted people saying the latter half of the episode was talking explicitly about Motherhood as a concept, as a general idea (as opposed to something contextualized via a story, an imprint) and that general idea seemed to be crazyness that was then stopped by a story, a context. It's not saying "mothers are crazy", but it can be interpreted as saying "motherhood, that thing deep inside of every mother, is dangerous".

Upon rewatch, it didn't grate me so much as the first time around, but I think it's not wrong to hold the episode to it's word. If they throw around such big concepts, and say stuff like they are "the most primal", and then let them walk around in their primalness, it's reasonable that people will read the episode partly in regard to what it is saying about that primal concept.
Shouldn't the perceived direct threat to the baby which causes Echo to act be part of this generalization? Then the generalization changes from "motherhood is dangerous" to "mothers are dangerous when their children are threatened", which doesn't seem all that problematic to me.
wiesengrund, my point was that the fact that Echo is overpowered by the mother instinct to do something rash and kind of psycho can't be used to argue the show is saying mothers are rash and psycho, or whatever anti-women stance various reviewers seem to be attributing to this story.

In a normal person, as opposed to the abnormal doll-state, the mother instinct is wrapped in layers of connection and context -- just like any number of other basic and primitive animal instincts are wrapped in layers which prevent them from running wild in a normal person.

That's why I say that whatever Echo did because of unwiped mother instinct can't be used to generalize to normal people.

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2009-10-04 18:20 ]
For me, it's all about the context. Echo isn't walking around as a mother with motherly needs as a woman so much as walking around as a doll who's unable to understand and process these needs. It's just like when Adelle told Caroline that bringing the dolls out into public in Needs would be traumatic for them because they aren't equipped to deal with these situations emotionally. That's what happened to Echo - she was no longer equipped to deal with the powerful emotions of the motherly bond because she'd been reduced to her doll!state. She had no coping mechanisms, only the powerful urge. It's a testament to how strong she is that she was able to even understand the father when he told his story. At that point in time, all she knew was "must save baby" "baby is in danger" "protect baby with my life" "AT ALL COSTS". Yet she was able to empathize with this grieving father and overcome the imposed mother-bond to hand the baby over to the father. That is the achievement.

Sanity is understood to be a "healthy mind" - I think everyone can agree that being a doll means not having a "healthy mind." So why be surprised when Echo acts unhinged while in her doll state? It's not a commentary on motherhood so much as on her being mentally reduced to a being without coping mechanisms or any frame of identity.
Also, she was never going to harm the kid, just the guy who she'd heard say was going to "get rid of" the kid -- and even then she just told him to leave, with the knife as incentive. Extremely normal mother behavior.

I thought the "convenient blackout" was actually a subtle nod to Echo having the memories/skills to cut power to a house. Maybe that's a stretch, but I also felt Topher's highly unenthusiastic line "I'm a good man" was also a subtle callback to the last few eps (I'm including "Omega"), where he's been questioning exactly that. So I see more going on here. Echo also seemed to be borrowing the knife element from her "soupcon of rage" imprint, and then consciously put that aside during the conversation -- "That's not me."

The slightly artificial and unsubtle conversation between Echo and Sierra could be explained the same way: the conversation sounds scripted because it was, more or less -- planned out by people concerned more with nailing the proper psychological points to keep Echo's long-term engagement on-track than with having it sound natural. I mean, why would Topher care if the conversation sounded real or not? All the people involved are going to forget it anyway...

My big gripe? Apparently people on Joss's shows always get hit on the left forehead. Buffy got whacked there a lot, Echo got hit there last week, now Madeline this week (and any bets that maybe that knock she took is going to help some flower-related memories surface?). It's always the left forehead and it's always curved. Really? Come on, show a little imagination with your injuries...
As with my rewatch, the more I see/think about it, and the more I hear your interpretations, b!X and Emmie, the more I see it that way too.
Maybe it's the left forehead because most people are right-handed, and so that's where they hit people.
Emmie for the win. I didn't see it like that before, but I do now.
My adverse reaction to the episode wasnít because of the suggestion that the Ďmaternal instinctí is dangerous but because of its naÔve validation of the pop psychology concept of a maternal Ďinstinctí in the first place.

The term instinct was originally used by animal ethologists to describe fixed and seemingly unlearned action patterns observed in nesting geese and the like. It also got co-opted by the Freudians for the far less scientific concept of instinctual drives, the death instinct for example. However, in common parlance the idea of a maternal instinct is a construct that seems to be used to explain away maternal feelings as something animalistic, universal and specifically female. Women are dammed if they have them (for being irrational) and dammed if they donít (for being unnatural).

I donít know, I just felt a distinct ookiness about Echoís constructed maternal feelings (and despite all the talk of sleeplessness and the physicality of the materal imprint she did look exactly like one of those perfectly coifed and made-up mothers in the Pampers ads) being contrasted so favourably with those of the actual mother (Madeleine) who chose to have her grief sleep walked away. This may, of course, have been the point.
Whedon shows are sometimes/often pretty simplistic in their science and even philosophy, not really a new thing. And, like it or not, people understand and relate to "survival instinct" or "maternal instinct" much more than "Well, it's complicated ..." i.e. even if the writers are aware of the true state of affairs, it's an understandable short-hand.

Not as good as 'Vows' IMO but it had moments. Eliza was heartbreaking twice, once when they take the baby away from her and once when, well, they take the baby away from her (different 'her' though). And I liked that the client talked her down, saw what had been done to her (where the vast majority are only concerned with themselves) and the whole idea of the engagement was "big" (though not particularly believable).

But the dialogue felt a bit forced at times and even when it didn't it almost never had that amazing, (seemingly) effortless multi-layered resonance that 'Vows' was chock full of.

I thought the lightning and horror tropes were a bit too on the nose but I can just about buy them as a signal that "primal forces" are at work, both inside and outside. And with this show, whenever I see lightning flash I can't help but think of 'Frankenstein', vital sparks and fire from the gods.

Totally agree with those saying it's not the maternal instinct that's being highlighted as dangerous, it's ALL unbridled "instincts" - Echo wasn't murderous until Topher took away her higher cognitive functions and even then, the father could talk her down specifically (IMO) because she's Echo and there's enough 'her' there in her unimprinted state to be reasoned with. If it had been any other doll then Dad may well have been in the shit, big time. To me it was clearly saying we're only whole when, as Whiskey might put it, heart and mind are in concert - take one away (whether with Echo or Madeline) and you're asking for trouble.

Also with those saying Topher "doth protest too much" in his gee-whizzery, felt to me like he was overcompensating, telling himself he was the same man and saw things the same way as he (apparently) did in early season 1. We even had a slightly melancholy "look" from him to reinforce that.
I finally got a chance to watch this on Hulu, and was very disappointed, largely because of the execution of the ideas in the episode, rather than the ideas themselves. By this I mean the writing, not what the actors did with it - for the most part they did very, very well with shaky material.

While I found the concept of using an active as a mother inspired, the situation of Nate & Jack Jordan - like many other aspects of this episode - simply snapped my disbelief suspenders. A person in Nate Jordan's circumstances is simply not going to be isolated enough to have a new mother for his child suddenly appear in his life. Where's his family? His dead wife's family? Co-workers, neighbors, friends? His attorney? How can he possibly explain the appearance of this woman who believes Jack is her son, and professes memories of a life with Nate that never happened?

There may well be believable rationales (e.g., moving to a new city after his wife died), but they were never offered. Indeed, the story seemed to imply that "Emily" was just inserted into the household after his wife died.

The handling of Echo throughout this engagement also didn't work for me. Taking the most popular active out of circulation for months, perhaps years, to be the child's mother? Let alone what appears to be the least-stable active in the house? How about Ballard's ham-handed apprehension of Echo after she first takes the baby? Why the hell wasn't Echo sedated in the van enroute back to the Dollhouse? Since she wasn't sedated, why was Ballard the only one man-handling her into Topher's office - it's not like there's a shortage of orderlies.

Dollhouse, like other shows set in some fantastic version of the real world, only work when their scenarios could plausibly occur with a relative minimum suspension of disbelief - but also only when the characters behave in a relatively reasonable, rational fashion that's internally consistent within that world's framework. For me, Instinct failed on both counts.
Just got time to watch it and I found it absolutely riveting. One of the best episodes of the show so far and it's great to know they're able to do such a good standalone

And finally, Alexis. His whole character, his everything, I'm just like "uh huh, Ballard, last season, already ahead of you." I am just not on his journey, and I'm not even sure why he's around. His scenes feel dropped in and completely disconnected with everything else going on in the episode. And I love Alexis Denisof, do not get me wrong, his acting is perfect. It's all the character.

I see almost no similarity except that they're both interested in taking down the Dollhouse (or Rossum). Ballard was a messed-up failure who became so obsessed with taking down the Dollhouse because of a creepy obsession with Echo. Perrin is a a successful, married man doing this largely to help his career. They're different in motive, attitude, life situation and pretty much everything else.

I also love that Perrin's personal ambition and his altruistic moties overlap here. It's a theme the show is starting to get into. As Adele says 'the two worries aren't mutually exclusive'
It's interesting to me that you had issues with a potential plot problem last week Let Down but not this - to me it was much more glaring in 'Instinct', with the engagement being much harder to believe. Reinforces my feeling that we really notice these things when the episode as a whole isn't working as well for us and don't when it is.

(not a criticism BTW, just an observation)
Oh definitely. I guess I just didn't enjoy Vows all that much. That said, my problem with the plot last time (the timeline didn't match up) makes the story make no sense. The events are literally impossible. But here it's more of an implausibility. It doesn't take me out of the story quite as much

One thing I loved about this episode was how Adele uses the word 'imprint' to describe what happens to babies in their earliest months. This along with Boyd's line 'most people I know are poorly constructed' shows that they're finally getting into the theme of how constructed we all are (the theme is definitely there in 'Echo' but goes missing in all of the aired season 1 episodes)
... they're finally getting into the theme of how constructed we all are (the theme is definitely there in 'Echo' but goes missing in all of the aired season 1 episodes)

Hmm, dunno about that so much, Topher says things to that effect in the aired eps though he's definitely more coherent about it in 'Echo'. They're more explicit about it now but to me that was a theme in season 1.

(I also liked Adelle's wording though, as well as the fact that it was her that was stressing the importance of a nurturing environment)
I found the lack of even a mention of Whiskey a little bit jarring. It could be, though, that it's dealt with in episode 3 given that that episode was originally episode 2
I liked the "temporary mother" idea, but I wish they had come up with a way to put a timeline on it to make it more believable. (Rich guy's wife is in an accident & they want a completely dedicated replacement until she gets out of the hospital or something.)

In general, though, I think the fact that the show is set so strongly in our current world is a problem for it. Some of these engagements would be a lot easier to sell if we had a vision of a world where a certain echelon of society makes such frequent use of this technology that they have come to demand it--Why hire an escort who might be unconvincing when you can get a doll who is exactly you want? Why hire a possibly disgruntled butler when you can get one that believes he's descended from a long line of murder-mystery butlers who live to serve your family? Why take chances with any old midwife when you can get one programmed with the knowledge & experience of hundreds? Why hire a possibly inattentive nanny when you can get a temporary mother? As it is, the show is presenting the technology as kind of new (and very glitchy), which makes it hard to believe that people would turn to it so easily. I think they might have been better off showing us early on a glimpse of the "Dolls everywhere."
Old_Scout brought up a lot of good points that questioned how Echo-as-mom would have comfortably slid into Nate and Jack Jordan's lives. They often conveniently ignore extended family on TV though, if only for ease/pace of storytelling (how many characters on TV never seem to have grandparents, aunts, or uncles--ie Buffy, although Buffy must have had at least one aunt or uncle on either Hank or Joyce's side in order to have that cousin Celia that died in the "Killed by Death" flashbacks). And perhaps any colleagues and friends were giving Nate his space as he grieved, so it wasn't hard to sneak Echo in. That happened with a friend of mine who lost her father over a year ago. Everyone supported her while her dad was sick, during and immediately after the funeral, but when she took a couple months off work and kinda just sat in her house I think she was left alone a lot (I brought her food a few times, but other than sitting with her a few times, hand on shoulder while she cried/hug, etc, there was basically nothing one could do to help, it was a "need-time-passage-to-heal-wounds/come-to-terms" sort of thing). So it's not that unbelievable that Nate would've been given his space to adjust. And I guess we can't expect them to spare a few seconds of dialogue for explanation. It's something the writers either didn't think about including, or they thought about it and trusted the audience to fanwank some scenarios.

[ edited by Kris on 2009-10-05 17:19 ]
"I'm a mother. I'm totally a mother... .... But hang on a second. I have perfectly shiny smooth legs... I have oddly decided to wear a matching silk nightgown and robe while lactating. I have platform heels on for going to the park. ... Holy crap - I'm not real at all!"
Just throwing this out there, I'm pretty sure Adelle confronts Mr. Jordan's plan to give up the baby for adoption while they argue in her office. The engagement was not expected to be as long-term as it may have seemed, since Mr. Jordan hired Echo to nurture the baby only through the initial formative period. I do agree that it is still a pretty outlandish engagement for their "number one" active.
This episode really solidified the two reasons why I don't like Dollhouse as much as Joss Whedon's earlier work.

1) In all of his previous work, story came from the characters. For example, in Buffy/Angel the monsters of the weeks largely existed to say something new about the Scoobies. On Dollhouse, the show's engagements often try to comment on Echo or the Dollhouse as a whole, but it often does so by using very clumsy traditional plottiong. It's probably no coincidence that my favorite episodes (Man on the Street/Needs/A Spy in the House of Love/Briar Rose) had very little focus on any praticular engagement, and rather had story come from it's characters.

2) I just can't connect to Echo/Eliza Dushku on any real emotional level. I think her performance in this episode was excellent, but all the way through I felt like the writing, and her performance really wanted me to feel something for her, but I had no real emotional attachment. I'm not sure if it's her, or the writing, or my own internal biases, but I simply don't feel the connection.

As for the episode itself. I liked the few scenes in the Dollhouse. I also loved how it showed the consequences Echo has to face now that she remembers all of her engagements after the face. Not a bad episode by any means. I just found the plotting with the husband was very clumsy. I also found the engagement in Vows equally clumsy.
Sorry I'm (un)fashionably late to the party, my excuse is that I live in Australia.
I have a bit of an issue with the 'motherhood/lactation is the strongest bond ever' aspect of this episode. I also volunteer to work for free as the medical consultant to Dollhouse and ME - it is possible to trigger laction with current technology using medication (we do it in developing countries when someone adopts a child; it is cheaper and easier for the adoptive mother).
Quibbling aside (occupational hazard), loved the themes explored.

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