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Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"I didn't lay my faerie eggs inside your inner ear canal to watch you die."
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October 08 2009

TV Squad doesn't believe in earning a doll's freedom! Discussion of November/Mellie's latest run through in the Dollhouse and her possible future use. Contains spoilers for last Friday's episode.

Mo Ryan's article below deals with this issue from Jed. Does it deal with it in its entirety? Probably not but he makes it sound de-lish.
My first thought on watching that apartment scene was that they implanted in her the desire to keep the dollhouse a secret and the "check up" was really a check up to make sure it was sticking.
Why implant the desire to keep a secret when you could just delete the secret itself. Give Madeline the memory of spending five years in the jungle working for the peace corps to explain her absence and a convenient lottery win or bequest in someone's will to explain the sudden healthy bank account.

Maybe deleting a whole chunk of memory might risk fading over time while a nagging desire to keep a secret, backed up by the very real and genuine knowledge of what Rossum is capable of, is more reliable?
The dollhouse has seen where memory implants have failed (Echo, duh), so they want to keep their former dolls close for monitoring. It's a lot less labor intensive to implant a desire to not spill the beans and have regular checkups to ensure the implant is working, than to implant a false memory and periodically send investigators out to covertly interview friends and family to see if there have been any glitches. Additionally, how would the former doll explain all that money they made if they were given a false cover like the peace corps?

Logically, the easiest way to have the former dolls keep a secret is to kill them or "send them to the attic." Since Rossum corporation is not totally evil and apparently intends to honor contracts (even if the contracts are for illegal activities), the simplest thing to do is implant a desire to keep a secret.
Erasing the secret gets you a more secure House and makes every kind of sense but it doesn't get you a too-distant Madeleine having an edgy chat with the woman who is essentially her former madame. I think we just have to accept that the technology is always and forever one big glowy-blue chair-shaped phlebotinum. Their security is either terribly good or terribly bad depending on the moment, too.
I think there's a strong tendency to paint Rossum and the Dollhouse in matte evil, when such a portrayal seems undeserved. I mean, Joss and co. said that they had intended for Rossum to be actually using the funds from the Dollhouse for life-saving research, and maybe nothing more. Fox mandated an evil corporation (funny, that) and obviously we know that the Dollhouse tech is going to a bad place, but I don't find it that much of a stretch to believe that they might genuinely honor a contract to put the Actives back where they found them.

Nothing's what it appears to be, I know, but maybe this can be taken at face value. I know that Joss tends to switch things up and follow the cliche just about at the point when I start to expect the twist.
This is all leading to a very morally grey and wonderful storyline for Madeline. Adelle's suggestion for her to travel and Madeline's response, that she'd rather stay close to home, made me question if perhaps the Dollhouse included a little social anxiety in their rehabilitated actives not unlike the quirks Topher gave to Whiskey.
I'm pretty sure Madeline is still an Active, albeit one on hiatus (mostly). I doubt anyone ever gets out.

There was a line early on in Instinct, where Ballard joked about getting some upgrades, and Topher said you had to be wiped first. That the brain was too complicated to do that (or words to that effect.) Then later, he offered Madeline some upgrades. Might have been a just a joke, but I doubt it. And if he tinkered with as much as one memory (for example, to delete her grief), doesn't that make her an implanted personality and not herself?
I don't think that writer really gets where Adelle's coming from. She has her own twisted logic behind what she does - she really believes she's helping people, and we know from Epitaph One that she does feel protective of the people the bodies belong to. Adelle honestly believes in the notion of a five-year contract, in order to benefit everybody.

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