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October 24 2009

(SPOILER) Discuss the fourth episode of Dollhouse season 2. How dull was last Friday without Dollhouse? And next month? *shudders*. Anyhow the show's back tonight with a corker of an episode. It's called 'Belonging' and it's written by Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen and directed by Jonathan Frakes (yes him off Star Trek: TNG). Enjoy. And if you missed it, you can now watch it for free at Fox On Demand and Hulu and buy it on iTunes.

Without a doubt, my favorite episode EVAR.
Only 20 more minutes to wait... I can't wait!!
Total sidenote, but I'm loving Eliza's dress in this lead in.
I feel that this is the most intense episode we've seen so far. Seeing Sierra's fall--certainly one of the most dramatic scenes I've seen on television in a while. Followed by the scene giving full voice to Echo's insightfulness. Followed by the funny scene with Topher taking Echo's advice (with the added bit that "Saunders" was equally insightful). "I'm not the bad man." Victor's protectiveness of Sierra.

"She's gonna flip her biscuits."

And she does. You begin to wonder what is up with DeWitt's motives, and then they're addressed in a scene with a Rossum exec playing a reincarnated Holland Manners.

Dewitt to (apparently) amoral Topher:
"You have always thought of people like playthings. This is not a judgement, you always take very good care of your toys."

And what a presentation of the drama stolen from Memento: Echo's memories etched onto the ceiling of her pod person sleeping pod.

The episode takes an expected turn when Priya gets to face her black splotch, and then an unexpected turn when the image inverts and Priya herself becomes the black splotch.

Deus ex machina, Boyd arrives to clean up the mess. I was just as surprised as Topher to learn that in his trunk he had plastic and sulphuric acid and "a box of tools" to clean up the "consequences." Seriously? Poor Topher; he has taken a beating this episode. (Oh yeah, poor Priya too.)

[ edited by Canonical on 2009-10-24 02:55 ]
Say it ain't so, Darien! ;)
KEITH CARRADINE.

That is all.

(Except it's not. Great episode so far.)
I love Adelle's complexity.

[ edited by discordia on 2009-10-24 02:27 ]
I am loving this episode.

Yes, I really said that.
So we're 30 mins in and I'm gonna have to make a projection and say best ep. this season-I'm sitting not on the edge of my seat but on the edge of the edge of my seat--quite dangerous in fact.
I actually recruited 3 new people to watch this tonight. So happy. And next week, they'll tell 3 people and.....
Adelle's put-down of Topher was absolutely brilliant. This is Dollhouse at the tippy-top of its game.
This episode is reminding me how awesome the "supporting" cast is. Each actor is playing a wonderfully nuanced character, and the Frakes direction is also very absorbing.
I love that he imprinted her as Priya.
Where is Paul? Am I forgetting something?
Not reading these comments, because I haven't seen the episode yet, but only 14 comments 55 minutes in? On what is supposed to be one of the best episodes yet? I don't know if that's a comment on how few people are watching or how few people are posting on Whedonesque, but it's disheartening.
The only thing that bothers me about this episode is that both Adele and Topher seem to developed a moral compass awfully fast - otherwise, best yet.
For me I felt like I couldn't look away--even to comment!
I'll be immediately rewatching on DVR--a heck of a lot to think about!
I think it is because everyone was caught up in the episode.
The comment that most caught my attention was Adele telling Boyd that Topher "isn't following commands" - what was THAT about?

Great episode!
Whedonesque in general has been pretty dead the past week. I think (hope) it was just cause Dollhouse wasn't on last week.

But yes, it seemed like last season, if memory serves, even the weaker eps had 40-100 comments before they hit the west coast. Dollhouse also used to regularly trend on Twitter on Friday nights, which I don't think it's done yet this season.
That was one of the most beautiful, disgusting, saddest, intense, and just a little bit hopeful, things I've ever seen. Wow.
HOLY S$%#!!!!! Best ep ever- thought I couldn't love it any more and then this ep. Joss Whedon IS my Master!
Best episode yet. Without a doubt. Loved it.

And now, the long wait until December begins.
I was bawling for the last five minutes. The art symbolism was beautiful. I just...I can't even think clearly enough through all the awe to explain any more of it.
Same here discordia, I could hardly tweet because I didn't want to miss a second.

My favorite episode, by far. Everyone was at their best. Well, actors, writers, director, etc. at their best. Characters, pretty much at their worst.

And the preview for next ep? Love!
Jeez, don't oversell it guys! Still two more hours till it hits the west coast.
I could catch only the last 10 minutes--but I could tell it was a strong episode. The acting was fabulous in that period, and I haven't a clue what happened before. Can't wait to catch it online.
I don't think it's possible to oversell. ;)
Holy crap. That was a frigging great episode. Best so far, by far.

That episode delivered on all the promise the show has had since the beginning but could never quite crystallize. Even the good ones so far had serious weak points, for me. But this one was just great all through. Halfway through watching I thought "this should be a movie".

I've been pretty vocal about being disappointed with the show, but I'm going to have to eat my words, for a week anyway. That wasn't just the best episode of Dollhouse, it was the best episode of TV I've seen this season.

[ edited by dispatch on 2009-10-24 04:50 ]
Oh that was goooood!

Yes, there were some flaws, like Topher and Adelle gaining a whole lot of a moral compass. I mean, of course they have slowly been progressing toward this, but it just seemed to all kick in at once, especially for Topher.

Also, what WAS Topher thinking was going to happen when he sent Priya to the evil man? (forget his name, heh). Obviously one of them was going to end up dead and he's just lucky it wasn't Priya.

Aside from that, a wonderful episode that makes me super sad we have to wait over a month to see what happens next!

[ edited by fortunateizzi on 2009-10-24 03:10 ]
Tonight's episode was AMAZING!!Across the board.

Dichen Lachman and Fran Kranz really brought it tonight.

I'm just loving the development Topher is getting this season.Topher is really being opened up in season 2 into a very interesting character.And we get MAJOR payoff on Sierra's story from last season too.

Harry Lennix,Enver Gjokaj and Olivia Williams were also great tonight with each getting there standout moments.

And love the developments with Echo.Eliza was only in small role tonight but pretty major developments with what she had on the overall arc of the season.It seems Boyd is being pulled into her web as it were with Ballard(who was greatly missed tonight).

Without a doubt,the best episode of season 2 so far.And the promo for the next new episodes in December have my mouth watering.It sucks we have to wait till then.
Wow!! There are no words. Wish they could have shown this in the beginning.
And yeah, this can't be a good sign that there aren't more comments here yet. That week off and then the news of the month break probably threw people off.

[ edited by fortunateizzi on 2009-10-24 03:12 ]
That episode delivered on all the promise the show has had since the beginning but could never quite crystallize. Even the good ones so far had serious weak points.


I sorta feel the same way. While I feel like there have been some good episodes (heck, even a few really good episodes) I felt this was the first truly great episode of this series.
This season has been really strong to me. Loved Vows, loved Bella Chose...Instinct had a slowness that caused the ep to drag somewhat, but I loved Eliza's performance and Echo's development. It's all just continued to build on the quality in the latter of S1.

But this, this was like, an episode saying, "Hang on, here we go." This was Dollhouse's "Surprise/Innocence"--the show's going to another level now.
RavenU is right, at least as far as I'm concerned: I was on the edge of my seat and I wasn't going to be distracted by going online before the end. And it was awesome. The story was intense, the performances were brilliant, and I loved LOVED the music (Maurissa just twittered that Jed wrote & sang the song, 'Drones'; they seriously need to put out an album!).

I didn't think it was too soon to begin to show Topher's & Adelle's inner conflicts and their different responses... We wouldn't want until the end to suddenly have them develop the problems we've seen in 'Epitaph One'. This seemed to me to be laying down the foundation for the very twisted future.

I seriously loved this! I'm really sorry we won't see any in November (luckily I have my DVDs to enjoy again), and I'm thrilled that double 'Dollhouse' will be our Christmas present!
That was just beyond awesome. A powerful, compelling episode. I'm going to have to re-watch this several times just to absorb every nuance. Great character analysis and evolution in this episode. Adelle and Topher facing a moral dilemma, each in their own unique fashion. Boyd showing a surprising side of himself. Dichen Lachman was just brilliant! She really made Sierra human and made you feel for her. And it was so sweet to see Victor waiting for her, holding her hand, and the final shot of the two of them. Just loved every minute of this episode.
Maybe even better than Spy in the House of Love. This one really upped the ante. And Boyd? Used to think he was a cop. Now I think maybe he was a fixer for the mob. And Summer next week. Squee time in Whedonland. But TiVo says it's a two-parter. So I guess that means we have wait 'til December to see part 2. Anyway, how 'bout that J-Mo!? Epitaph One now this? I share Ruadh's concern that the moral compasses have developed too quickly (as has Echo's increasing ability with conceptual thinking) but they kind of have to put the pedal to the metal to get us in the vicinity of Epitaph One by Episode Thirteen.

Again, GREAT EPISODE!
I don't see a problem with Topher's moral compass. I think he really believed all of the actives were volunteers.
I am overwhelmed. To me, the best episode yet of the series. That's not to say that other episodes haven't been great -- they have -- but this one is where it all got crystallized and then zoomed up into the stratosphere of fabulousness. Dichen, Fran, Olivia, Harry, Enver -- all were fantastic. I love Carradine in this, too.

This episode broke my heart. In the best possible way.
I'll watch it tomorrow on our big HDTV when my husband is out watching the Nebraska game so I won't be disturbed.

I'll rephrase that....so I won't be interrupted.
Best DH episode yet by miles. I thought Topher was going to sneak something more subtle into Sierra that would result in her doing what she did, but simply making her Priya without the "mental illness" was simple and effective. Must rewatch.
One question, though: Who was slimier, Keith Carradine (Harding) or Kennard (the dead guy)?
I've gotta go with Kennard. By a hair. But Carradine/Harding made me shuddery. That is one nasty man. Sociopathic. Shuddery.

Edited to add: No way would I have commented during the episode. I was watching the thing. Couldn't look away.

[ edited by phlebotinin on 2009-10-24 03:41 ]
Someone already mentioned "Surprise/Innocence," but I loved the aspect of this episode that was like a dark counterpart (echo?) of the AtS episode "I Will Remember You." Wow, just wow... Edit: Ok, so "loved" is probably not the right word, given the emotions and subject matter, but you get my drift. Maybe "felt passionately about the aspect" would be better wording.

I haven't commented cause I was watching with other people and we just now took a break from excitedly discussing it! :D Now is the first pause I've had or wanted to have from experiencing the episode.

I did a little small scale promoting via Facebook and stuff, hopefully some people took the bait! This episode was mind-blowingly superb, and no, it can't be oversold. Not possible. When we all have time to catch our collectively-held breaths, I look forward to the discussion!

[ edited by CellarDoor on 2009-10-24 03:49 ]
So glad I didn't spoil this one by watching the clip early. Hands down the most dynamic and intense episode yet. And the "viewer discretion advised" bit piqued my interest more than I thought it would.

This episode was thick with mythology, text and subtext. So many references to season one and so much history was filled in during the process. Plus, insights into the future of the house.
I honestly worried at first that Boyd had jumped off the slippery slope, as it were. But it's nice to see that the dollhouse hasn't completely ruined his sense of morality. Damn Fox for making us wait a month for another episode. :(
Best episode of the season so far.
As other have said, I feel like this is the first episode to make me feel completely...satisfied. Dollhouse has had its flashes of brilliance and some very strong episodes but they have still had some little issues.

Tonight was just fantastic on every level.

Keep it up show!
Was that a Hell-A reference or just a coinkydink?
See, I was a little confused because I always thought Keith Carradine was the son of David Carradine...and I always thought Keith Carradine was Chris Potter.

I actually thought Kennard was Keith Carradine for a bit.
There was something so powerful about seeing who the person was before entering the Dollhouse. Suddenly I felt much more invested and connected to the person we know was/is/will be again (?) Priya. It's perhaps a foolish thing to wonder now, but I can't help it: would Dollhouse have grabbed more people in the beginning if we had known more about what and who, exactly, the Dolls had lost from their time before? I ask that as someone who has loved Dollhouse from the first episode.
Best episode of the entire series.

The whole thing just blew me away. It made me shiver, it made my teary, it made me laugh and I was completely glued to the screen. This and Epitaph One are in a league of their own. The whole thing was memorizing. After this episode the showís inevitable cancellation leaves me really sad.

I was so happy to see Boyd have more of a central role to the story again. I loved him piecing together whatís going on with Echo and man do I wish he was her handler again instead of Ballard. I loved little things like Echo hiding a book in her pod and writing on the roof. Marvellous!

And yay Adelle and Topher! My two favourite characters in the show got to shine so bright in these ep. I loved their moral dilemma and Olivia and Fran were remarkable. I especially loved the moment where she cups his face and tells him he has no morals.

Eliza was wonderful in the brief moments she had in this episode and Iím loving this stronger more self-aware Echo. I just love the idea of her strolling through that place with her own personal mission and I loved Boyd watching over her. Sheís a remarkable young woman and Iím cheering her on all the way.

And of course Dichen was just exceptional. She made me care so much about Sierra and Iím completely involved in her story now. I felt so much for her and what a terrible situation sheís had. I was really worried when I heard that Joss had hired a Neighbours star for one of his shows because man was Dichenís acting *bad* in that show. I was completely wrong and Iíll eat my words. Sheís marvellous and extraordinary and Iím so happy we have her.

Ö oh and Victor/Sierra? Pure joy! No other words to describe it, it just makes me gush and so happy. Itís a bright spot in an otherwise dark, harsh world.
Can we get Frakes to direct more episodes? The episode tonight was great on so many levels but the direction was a special touch.
@Vampmogs, you make a good point about Boyd and Echo working well together. I kind of feel like ever since "The Target" Echo has been looking out for Boyd almost as much as the other way around. That really shone in this episode--I think Boyd would follow Echo almost anywhere as we progress in the narrative (And "Epitaph One" seems to show that too). Who gets imprinted (in the maternal/fillial, not strictly Dollhouse sense) on whom during that "bonding" ceremony thing last season, I wonder? :)

Oh, and how 'bout those mysterious connections Boyd had in this episode? He even sounded different-must be an interesting past. I hope we get a chance to learn a little about him, and he doesn't end up being another Shepherd Book--mysterious father figure with a strong (but compromised) moral code and mysterious skills and connections that never get explained. :P

[ edited by CellarDoor on 2009-10-24 04:24 ]
Yeah I really love the Echo/Boyd relationship. I find it to be more ďpureĒ and nurturing than the one she has with Ballard but I guess thatís the point. As seen in this episode Boydís compromised his morals just like everybody else in the DH but heís less Ďtaintedí than Paul. Heís a far more practical, sensible character and more of a realist.

What I find so disturbing about Echo/Ballard is that he actually suggested to her that she can be wiped because itís too hard. That made my jaw drop. I love that Ballard just hands her the access key and leaves her to her own devices. Heís watching over her but I think he believes in her. Paulís too busy trying to save her.

And I also loved Frakes directing as well. It was inspired and really added something to the episode. I really liked Joss's directing in Vows, especially the pan from Sierra/Victor to Echo, but Frakes outclassed everybody this episode. I though the final scene with Victor/Sierra in the pod and Echo reading was just masterful.

I need to go re-watch this asap :D
If only this show could have come out of the gate this good.
I agree with everything everyone has said so far. What. An. Episode. At first I was worried that this would be a requisite "Sierra's Backstory" ep. Then I was worried that it would result in her being "permanently" assigned to that dude so there's an excuse not to use Dichen for a few episodes in order to save money, a la season 3 of Veronica Mars.

But, whoa. Just, whoa. Absolutely everything worked in this episode. The plot twisted and turned without ever being obvious. It also made perfect sense in the story arc (Boyd finding out that Echo's getting more proactive, Sierra and Victor get closer, Topher is well on his way to losing his marbles).

The acting was also superb. Dichen really blew me away - she hasn't been given much to work with up until now but I totally, completely fell for poor Priya. Enver proved yet again that he's the best actor on the show. Olivia Williams and Fran Kranz showed why they're characters are going to become...well, Epitaph One. And Eliza Dushku has shown yet again this season that she really is improving as an actor. She's just getting better every episode. This is the first time I totally bought all her characters when none of them was even remotely like Faith.

Also, can they bring back Jonathan Frakes? Number 1 proved to be one hell of a director. This is probably the best-directed Whedonverse episode since Out of Gas from Firefly.

And, of course, the writing. Oh man, the writing. This episode really fused together the brilliant Whedon wit with the less jokey universe of Dollhouse. Everyone's been pointing out Adelle's brutal, brutal demolishing of Topher (which, in my mind, is likely to be THE decisive breaking point between sane and not-so-sane Topher). But really, the best line is:

BOYD: You're a doctor. You know how to dissect a body.

TOPHER: Yeah, but that was in school! And why do you?

All in all, a stunningly good episode of television. I'll be damned if all the other scripted TV shows this season combined tackle as many intellectual and moral questions as Belonging just did. I am totally, utterly convinced: we must save Dollhouse!
@RavenU: I agree. I haven't had many complaints about the direction on Dollhouse until now, but Frakes did a standout job in an episode full of standout things.
i remarked two things to the people with whom i was watching the episode:

1) i would not be surprised if fran kranz walked away with an emmy nod for this episode.

2) jonathan frakes hit the show out of the park on every level. the whole aesthetic of the show was different. different lighting, different filters on the lenses, different angles and perspectives. it was remarkable.

oh, and to the moral compass folks, i feel like topher began developing one once whiskey started "tormenting" him, showing him as a monster.

the scene where his face is covered in blood... it was unflinching, and that's what made it remarkable. no fake vomit, no cliches. he just sat there in utter horror. so powerful.

i feel that between jed and maurissa's script, frakes' directing, and the performances of topher, victor and sierra set the bar for the show. this will be the standard by which every other episode is measured, past, present, and future.
Oh my god. This episode was perfect in EVERY WAY. That was by far the BEST hour of television I've ever witnessed. The writing, the acting, the direction... all phenomenal. This came together so beautifully. Everyone on the Dollhouse cast & crew should be ridiculously proud of themselves for bringing this level of storytelling and depth of emotion to network television. My hat's off to you guys.

Jed & Mo... wow, all the little details. So lovely. Dr. Saunder's report? Sierra and Victor playing with the black paint in the shower? The writing on the underside of Echo's pod lid? Topher and Adelle's conversation? I'm floored.

Special kudos to Fran, Dichen and Olivia for acting their socks off.

It's going to be a long, long wait until December.
Some things I liked about this one now that I've had time to mull:

• Echo's development was the first time I really liked Echo's development. The other times (usually at the end of an episode) that Echo showed a moment of awareness, my reaction was generally "meh". This time I loved those scenes as much as the rest.

• Topher and Adelle showed the first hint of what their relationship would become in Epitaph One. It was that moment near the end when she squeezed his shoulder.

I also don't think either Adelle or Topher's morals have taken any U-turn. Topher has been headed this way for a while, beginning with that moment that Whiskey said to him, "Why would you make me hate you?" The stricken look on his face when she said that was when his current arc began, I think.

For Adelle, it was even less of a turn, IMHO. Her character always had a "den mother" undertone to me-- and sometimes an overtone, in the serial killer episode, for example-- so she behaved pretty much exactly as I expected she would. Everything felt natural for both characters.

• Trivia! Jonathan Frakes played trombone on the Phish album Hoist and was the inspiration for the song "Riker's Mailbox", and I love that he's still proving his geek cred.

• The music really was great.

• Dichen and Enver are so consistently great that I think I take it for granted now. But yeah, still great. I think there's nothing those two actors can't do.
I loved the episode, too. Don't have much else to say except that I am thinking Topher got a conscience because now he knows a little more about how it feels to be manipulated...and I'm sort of glad we get a time lapse so I can rewatch everything from the beginning.

Does anyone know what book Echo was reading?
I was out tonight and planned on watching this tomorrow and found that I couldn't. I had to watch to tonight. I think this was the first time I cried during a Dollhouse episode. And I was afraid I couldn't watch this one, once I found out what it was about in the first couple of minutes.
But it grabbed me and wouldn't let me go. I'm still pretty speechless. Any other show would have done Sierra's story and left it at that. But we got so much more. Victor and Topher and Adelle, and Boyd. Boyd!!
How did they manage to do so much with these characters in such a short time?
In addtion to the question of "what book is Echo reading", can someone post all the lines she has etched into her pod cover? The few I saw were very revealing, and I noticed that when Boyd searched her pod, he either didn't spot them or purposely ignored them...
Tonight was great, and not just for the top notch storyline. Topher's slowly becoming the best part of the show and Sierra gave her best performance yet. I also really liked the stronger use of music to set a mood. It was leaned on heavier than usual, and I thought it worked perfectly.

It also doesn't surprise me that a great episode is one that gives the heavy lifting to someone other than Eliza Dushku. She was used very sparingly this week, and as a result, we got a real gem of an episode. I'd LOVE if Dollhouse's focus shifted away from her and became a true ensemble show. I know I'd much rather watch a show about Topher and the other actives than I would about Echo.
Well honestly, this is the GREAT thing about not always requiring the full cast. I know it made people angry when we weren't seeing more of Enver, or Dichen, or Harry in previous episodes, but the Babylon 5 in me always realized that doing that can be a very good thing. It allows you to really develop specific characters very vividly without having to shoehorn a character in who pops in and eats five minutes of meaningless screen time.

You can get tell such probing stories about specific characters if you're not having to always tell little side stories.

However, as the resident Ballard fan... I'm going to say it needed more Paul. Just 'cause.

[ edited by azzers on 2009-10-24 06:01 ]
By the way... can Frakes come back? 'Cause I really like his work. ;)
Don't take this show away, Fox! Please.
Definitely the best episode of the series. I spent 30 of the 40 minutes crying. This is the emotion I wish more shows could convey. Episodes like these are why I do/will watch anything with Whedon's name on it.

I felt like I was in a time warp, as the episode seemed to be over in a flash.
Brilliant, amazing episode. Comes just a bit below Epitaph One in my book. Also written by J-Mo. What a rebound after the crazy pop star episode...
Don't hold the crazy pop star episode against 'em. There's a story about that which probably won't ever get told, but... Yeah.

This episode is amazing. I still think J-Mo deserve EP status on the show if it continues. And I absolutely mean it. They have a grasp on how Dollhouse works which continues to stagger me.

[ edited by gossi on 2009-10-24 06:07 ]
I was not big on Ep 3, but 4 was by far the best in the series. And I know that you cant hate on Eliza, but I think Dichen Lachman is not just a scene stealer but a show stealer. I fall in love with her every time she is on screen. I think at this point in the show Sierra is the most interesting character. Oh Fox! Dont take this show away! This is proof that it can be truly brilliant TV.
@mikeownby put a screen cap of Echo's pod up on Twitter, http://tweetphoto.com/c33afb

[ edited by Sunfire to fix link on 2009-10-24 17:45 ]
Was Topher okay with Sierra becoming a doll even though she had psychotic symptoms? He knew that she never really volunteered in that case, didn't he?

Why did Saunders say that Topher was Sierra's source of trouble?

What did Sierra say after Topher said (re their secret) 'I can keep it, but I donít know I can live with it'?

Now I'm dying to hear the pop star episode story...
On the west coast, so I just finished the episode. It certainly lived up to billing -- brilliant writing, acting, direction, and well... everything! The show is really hitting on all cylinders, and its nice to see some of the developments from S1 starting to pay off.

I haven't had a chance to read all of the comments yet, so maybe it's already been answered: can anyone ID the music in this episode? The soundtrack to this season in general has been excellent, but this eps music was a particular standout in terms of fitting the mood.
@shnoods, I think it was something like, "I don't think I can either, but then... I don't have to." And then she relaxed back into the chair. *sniff* Can't wait to rewatch!
Thanks CellarDoor - that makes sense.

I still would have liked to hear what Topher said to Priya before he sent her out to the guy... and why she would have gone to see him rather than just run away from the dollhouse entirely.
I'm speechless!
Superb episode!
Best Dollhouse yet.

[ edited by maxsummers on 2009-10-24 07:05 ]
Did anyone else expect Topher to send Priya back to Kinnard with her assassin skills still imprinted?
I don't think the original intention was to kill Kinnard. It seemed to me that Priya was just going to confront Kinnard and then take off, but then things got out of hand.
The song in the middle of the episode is an original by Jed and Maurissa I believe.
Actually topolino, the thought crossed my mind. The other thought I had was, the original imprint they asked for but with a very accident prone and reckless parameter in the programming leading to some sort of misfortune.

Obviously I liked what they actually did much better than my overactive "I wonder" thoughts, and I'm really glad that they explained that it was Priya who went back on her own. It would have been REALLY wrong if Topher was using her to set up that confrontation because it could have very easily gone the other way.
shnoods - I think Dr. Saunders said Topher was Sierra's problem in her report because she was projecting. AKA, that bit was meant to allude back to the fact that Topher was Saunder's problem.

dispatch - I agree with you completely that Adelle and Topher seemed very natural to me in this episode! Adelle's always been a den mother when it comes to those residing in her House, and by the end of season 1 when Claire discovers she is a doll and confronts Topher, we really start to see him evolve morally.
Boyd was easy to like in the beginning. He was the apparently (somewhat) moral person in a houseful of apparently amoral people, always pointing out the questionable activities and ethics. Adelle, and particularly Topher, were much more difficult to like because they seemingly had no problems with the Dollhouse and how it conducts business.

As the episodes have progressed, however, I'm increasingly of the opinion that Boyd may be the most morally questionable character on the show (yet still likeable). Adelle and Topher rationalize and delude themselves that they are somehow helping the actives. As they are confronted with evidence to the contrary, their world views are beginning to crumble and they are finally owning up to their complicity in the not so nice aspects of the Dollhouse. Paul is also adept at lying to himself about the moral aptitude of his actions. Though his motivations aren't always above his own self-interest with regard to Echo, he acts out of mostly good (yet misplaced) intentions.

On the other hand, Boyd has become more blase regarding pretty much everything. Think of his reaction when he was told of Victor imprinted as a serial killer on the loose in LA. He has no delusions that the dollhouse is helping people in any way. And yet, he remains and apparently does his best to protect the Dollhouse (at least the LA branch and its employees). The security card and the note at the end of tonight's episode might indicate that he is becoming slightly more proactive though. The extra insights into his character were also quite intriguing. His back story could be the most fascinating of them all.

[ edited by JossIzBoss on 2009-10-24 08:24 ]
Topher, Topher, Topher. I'm convinced he's intended as our way into the madness. We dismiss him as the geek dandy, we hate his casual cruelty. And then it turns out HE IS US.
In Saunders defense, it may not even be projecting at all. Topher is really the only constant she may believe Sierra sees. After all, no one is technically retaining memories as far as the Dollhouse is concerned so it can't be Hearn, and as far as anyone knew up until this episode the Doctor was innocent.

For the record, I think you're right. But I think there's enough incidental evidence to draw the Topher conclusion without it needing to be a projection.
Great great episode. I tend to prefer the more humor and action packed ones, but as a dark, twisted drama, this was unbeatable. Incredible how much Topher has developed in the last few episodes.

I never watched Trek, but this Frakes guy did a stunning job directing Super stylish with great performances across the board.

If it's not the best of the series it's certainly right up there with Needs and Spy In The House Of Love and Man On The Street and Epitaph One and Briar Rose and Vows and Belle Chose... and you know, for a show with a troubled creative history, it's sure produced a lot of wonderful episodes of television.

Also, I felt sure I already added this to my post, but I don't see it, so: the last song in the episode was Traveling Woman by Bat For Lashes off her excellent Two Suns album from earlier this year.

[ edited by bonzob on 2009-10-24 09:11 ]
After taking some time to think more about the episode, I'm wondering if maybe one of the reasons Victor, Echo and Sierra are grouping is because both Victor and Echo were at the art show with Priya before she became a doll. Perhaps remembering that initial encounter with her influenced their attraction (Victor) and desire to protect (Echo) her once these instances repeated inside the house.

Adding to that, Echo thinks on a higher level/is able to remember more than Victor, and (after tonight's moments of clarity from Victor) I'd guess Victor thinks on a higher level than Sierra. Since they're the three dolls we see most often, it seems there's a link between the amount of time one is a doll and how much of the true self/soul/etc comes to the surface. Victor did, after all, flash back to the war scenario while in his doll state.

Edited because "thing" and "think" are not at all the same word.

[ edited by CrazyKidBen on 2009-10-24 10:13 ]
Boyd Langton is the Shepherd Book of Dollhouse, I want to know his back story.

[ edited by Tymen on 2009-10-24 08:58 ]
I added links so people can watch it on the Fox site and buy it on iTunes.
Quick question Simon, sorry it's (kind of) OT but is there any way I can turn off those frikkin' tweets on the right ? I just got spoiled by some no-doubt not-actually-evil person.
Pure perfection, the best episode of the entire series. This is what Joss does best, with his always brilliant cohorts. Building a show gradually. Developing the characters with care and beautifully complex detail.

Think about it, this is the seventeenth ep of the entire series (counting E1 but not the original pilot because .... redundant).
Full seasons on the old network model were 21-22 eps, broken up by a summer hiatus (some still are, but generally now broken up by two hiatuses - if that's a word).
Using that model, DH wouldn't even be finished with it's first season.
This is the kind of long-arc storytelling that makes me want Joss to stay on TV (but CABLE, damn it!!)

Everyone was just jaw droppingly brilliant. Topher has actually been my favorite character from the very beginning, and Fran is IMO the best actor on the show, along with Enver - if I actually had to pick. Which is high praise, because I don't think there's a single weak link in the cast.

I love that it's opening up to more of an ensemble feel, but not because I've ever had any complaints about Eliza's acting - I think she's been near to perfect, from the start. But I loved that her smaller role actually gave her a chance to shine in a different way - more subtle and reflective, which she does just as well as she does the kick-ass stuff.

I hadn't really missed Boyd that much, because I'm a huge fan of Ballard, in all his screwed-up, windmill tilting, dysfunctional ambiguity. But in this ep, I remembered everything I've loved about Boyd (and Lennix) from the beginning.

Frankes totally knocked it out of the park, a pitch-perfect turn as a director.
I was pleased with the "Dollhouse is taking a break, but....", followed by a good promo for the next show and an emphasis on the upcoming eps being "back to back". And of course Summer as a selling point.

I refuse to think beyond that. This is now, and this ep was perfecr TV, on a par with Joss's best.
Yay team!! :)

ETA: Can't leave Dichen out, commenting on the brilliant acting. She is simply amazing.

[ edited by Shey on 2009-10-24 09:32 ]
This whole episode was great from start to finish. I will definitely have to give it a rewatch tomorrow morning when I'm not falling asleep. I've always liked Topher, even when he was just an amoral jerk, but now I'm really starting to love him. This is quite a journey he's making. The same goes for Adelle.

Two weeks ago, I wasn't particularly bothered by the thought of ending it at two 13-episode seasons. I felt like we'd had a good run and even gotten more than expected. Well, not anymore. I want to see more. So much more. This is an incredibly rich idea and we've only scratched the surface; and this week's episode shows us what's possible when everything is firing on all cylinders.

I agree with what JossIzBoss said about Boyd, that he's in some ways less moral than the rest of the very much morally compromised Dollhouse staff. What's he thinking? (My totally reasonable theory: Boyd is Book, and found a time machine to skip the apocalypse of Epitaph One. The names are even similar!)
Ruadh
"The only thing that bothers me about this episode is that both Adele and Topher seem to developed a moral compass awfully fast - otherwise, best yet."

Others have touched on this, mentioned that aside from needing things to line up for "Epitaph 1", there've been signs here and there of this sort of development, but I sorta figured that this was also the show allowing us to see these characters in moments/situations where they are less guarded. We rarely see Topher and Adelle alone together in trying situations like this to begin with in the present day/main thread of the show, so I could buy it. It did feel weird to see Topher so earnest and concerned, but...I guess Saunders/Whiskey really did a number on him and, through backstory, we're shown he has stakes in Priya's wellbeing.

Adelle is den-mothery with her Dolls (and staff, it seems), but she didn't really have a leg to stand on when arguing with Dollhouse higher-up Mr. Harding. As protective as she can be, she still sends these bodies she's been entrusted with on dangerous missions, and not just the assassination/security ones. Even the sexual engagements...there's no way they can for-sure guarantee that a client isn't going to give one of their actives a severe STD. Even with medical screening of clients before the engagement, there's a window for infection detection of HIV and the client could sleep around and catch something between when they set up the contract and when they go through with it. Even programming the dolls' personalities to insist on condom use won't do any good if rape happens and the handler isn't quick enough to get in there--or it goes all wrong like in "Target" with bow-happy Matt.

Man, how many others aside from Priya have been manipulated into the situation ? The only main character I can believe for sure volunteered for it, aside from the incarcerated man Alpha used to be, is the apparently shell-shocked/Post-Traumatic-Stress-suffering Victor.

gossi said:
"Don't hold the crazy pop star episode against 'em. There's a story about that which probably won't ever get told, but... Yeah."

Interesting...most fans already suspect that, aside from the stand-alone-ish nature of the first five episodes of Season 1, some of those plots may've been influenced by Fox execs, so it's no surprise if that's the case and explains Jed and Mo's first ep. Just my stab in the dark.

CrazyKidBen said:
"After taking some time to thing more about the episode, I'm wondering if maybe one of the reasons Victor, Echo and Sierra are grouping is because both Victor and Echo were at the art show with Priya before she became a doll. Perhaps remembering that initial encounter with her influenced their attraction (Victor) and desire to protect (Echo) her once these instances repeated inside the house."

You win for that theory, I like it.

I didn't feel this was the best episode yet, but it was very good and I was fully engaged the whole way through. Ensemble eps are always a good thing for this show. It was great to see more of Boyd, nice to take a break from Ballard, and so so necessary to finally get some development/substantial backstory for Sierra/Priya. I really felt like this character was in danger of getting lost in the shuffle, but I wanted them to give me a reason to care about her beyond just feeling sorry for her and thinking her and Victor were mushily heartwarming. I'm more interested in and intrigued by Topher than I expected to be this early on. This + "Vows" + him in "Epitaph 1" = developed to a point where I like him as more than just the one-liner spouting resident nerd-king...although the loneliness of him revealed when he spent his birthday with an imprinted Sierra was good solid development as well. Maybe this episode's revelations about his early protectiveness of her sheds new light on that engagement/buddy event.

I didn't catch the artfulness of Priya's black silhouette (as she rose from the floor of the apartment after killing her tormenter) matching up with the black blots in her artwork. Easy thing to catch (more than a few of you have pointed it out), but I was too wrapped up in the emotional state of the characters to consider or notice something like that at that moment.

[ edited by Kris on 2009-10-24 10:05 ]
God, I wish Dushku could play vulnerable like Dichen.
Best episode of the series, so far... No tied for first with Epitaph One. Dichen Lachman did such a wonderful job, she has such a great range. Topher, who at the beginning of the series I hated, now I'm really starting to like him. Despite Adelle saying that he had no morals, I think he's starting to develop at least some guilt at his actions and what they have lead to. (And Adelle seemed drunk during the present time parts of this episode. No, just me Okay!) Also Echo is a stronger character when she is not doing the whole engagement of the week thing.

Maybe it's just me, but I see this episode connecting a lot with Epitaph One, in why and how they ended up the way they all were then, going to be, going to become!?! (Oh, all the tenses are really confusing me, with the past and the present and the future. Headache.) Great episode on dealing with the past of the characters, the present and the future of the characters. Now it's six weeks to the next episodes, err.

Oh gorramit, forgot. Great episode writing by Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon. And my inner Star Trek geek loved that Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) directed.

[ edited by activebrowncoat on 2009-10-24 10:37 ]

[ edited by activebrowncoat on 2009-10-24 10:41 ]
At the beginning of the ep there, I thought we were about to get "Epitaph 1" scenes (thought maybe they'd been moved to this ep).

Forgot to mention this (and in answer to someone's question higher up about what was scrawled on the underside of the cover of Echo's pod)...I paused at that part and "My son killed me" and "I love my baby, [but] baby isn't mine" creeped me right the fuck out. That she's retaining stuff from "Haunted" and "Instinct" is really sad and strange.

And yeah, I forgot to give props to Frakes for his directing. Coincidentally, just had the surprise of a few pics popping up of a prototype of a statue from a favorite animated series of mine that's being made, which Jonathan Frakes did voice work for. He's a great voice actor. Xanatos on Gargoyles, a character who'd fit right in on Dollhouse in all his amoral awesomeness (he also sought immortality and was a filthy rich, influential, seemingly-untouchable businessman).
My god I was so close to tears all the way through that. And now. The whole episode was a massive stomach punch. A really moving massive stomach punch.

Thoughts: I love Topher. I love Adelle's cruelty towards him in her own despair. I think Echo works so much better when she's in the Dollhouse and with the others - not because of anything to do with ED, just because it makes me care about her, what's happening to her, what she's doing and why. I'm so glad Boyd is back, and relevant, and fantastic. Victor and Sierra - awwww.

And lastly, I think I would have liked to have seen Kennard killed more.

For anyone who wants, this is the most I could get from the writing in Echo's pod scene:

Since so many people were curious about the writing in the pod, have some screencaps and transcription here: http://community.livejournal.com/blank_dolls/346018.html
Thanks curlymunci, you were able to discern more than I was.

Brilliant,subtle and thought provoking way to recap what Echo is retaining. Reminds me of Sierra's handprint on the glass, provoking Sierra's repressed fear of Hearn after her repeated rapes. It forced me to go back and look at it repeatedly.

Beautifully designed by the writers and Joss, and props to Jonathan Frakes on his direction

"I have a right to survive" - This show DESERVES to survive!
The episode takes an expected turn when Priya gets to face her black splotch, and then an unexpected turn when the image inverts and Priya herself becomes the black splotch.

Yeah, I loved that. Dunno if it was scripted (probably) or "just" part of the direction but somebody brought a little bit of genius to the party. If it wasn't Frakes with that particular image then he did plenty of other stuff to earn a return invitation IMO.

- a couple of people have mentioned it in previous threads but I really like how the blank-slate dolls voices' have changed, their timbres are deeper and more "aware" - instead of children they now sound around about teenage. Lovely little detail.

- Echo (as mentioned above) going all 'Memento' not on herself (which would get her attic-ed pretty quickly) but on her sleeping pod, on, in fact, the cover or maybe even "window" out of her sleeping pod. Pretty sure there's something about the subconscious in there, can't quite tease it out.

- who the hell is Boyd ? He's the oddest mix of traits on the show IMO and in one sense I really hope he's not the Shepherd Book of 'Dollhouse' i.e. I want to see his backstory on the show (in another sense I suspect he might be close to most of our suppositions about Book though i.e. trained by the state to do its dirty work and now trying to live with it. Adelle seemed to think Boyd was a cop too IIRC and who else would be able to create a backstory good enough to fool the dollhouse but a government or shadowy agency thereof ?).

- love how Topher is now an entirely different person to who he was at the start, becoming a complete man (the scene at the end with Sierra seemed to be reaffirming the idea that pain is part of completeness - she doesn't have to live with it but he, to be whole, must). Don't agree he's showing a premature moral compass either, Fran Kranz is making it totally believable for me just as he made the earlier amoral prick Topher totally believable too (as well as fun to watch).

(Boyd's comment about his first moral dilemma again harked back to the garden of Eden idea with Topher now most assuredly knowing the difference between good and evil. It's both a shame and yet fitting that it's going to be his undoing)

- Topher's little callback to his "birthday treat" with Sierra being allowed beer on "special occasions". The haunted look on his face as he says it tells us that's never going to have quite the same appeal as before.

Brilliant episode in all, great performances from everyone involved (I wasn't as impressed with "Epitaph One" as many seem to be so for me this was better than that by quite a way).
I seem to be the only one, but the episode did not work for me.
I give the actors a lot of credit, they were terrific, but the episodes pacing was way to slow for me. While I pretty much liked what happened and the whole Sierra-backstory, I must admit, that I was a bit bored.
A couple of questions about the story: Why would Adelle suddenly cancel the engagements with Nolan? Why would Topher sent Priya to him without any special fighting skills? The man was a lunatic! It was clear, that he was going to attac her and pure luck, that she survived! And why would Priya let herself get wiped again, if Topher could have just given her her old self minus the getting-kidnapped-becoming-crazy-killing-someone-part she will have, when he "wakes her up" again? And what exactly is Topher so shaken up about? That he had to take apart a body? He rescued the girl, who won't remember anything and I don't by him regretting the death of Nolan.
The Sierra-storyline aside - I don't understand, why they allow Echo to become so selfaware and meddle with the other dolls lifes.

Man, I really wanted to love this....
Brilliant episode.. I still slightly prefered Man on the street, epitaph 1, and spy in the house of love.. but this is as good as 'Needs'.

Can't wait for december
@saje I'll see if I can whip up something that hides the sidebar.
Cheers Caroline, that'd be aces. Don't go to too much trouble though, if it's not a quick fix I can just avoid the site until i've seen that week's episode ;).

(does kind of put me off Twitter in general though if people often post plot details about shows. Most of the time i'm not going to have seen them before most Twitter users, the breakdown of which is bound to be US skewed)
Eh...totally blown away by that...just phenomenal!! Topher broke my heart at the end and how cute was the last shot...Boyd helping Echo and Victor and Sierra together...Adelle is way too motherly in a badass sense...defo best ep yet!!
I cried through most of the episode.
Utterly superb episode. The strength of the whole team behind this show is absolutely jaw dropping.

Its not just that I'm heartbroken over the thought that we might not get another season, because it's great now and it seems to be getting better every week, but I'm also thinking about the other great show that all those people who were off screen this week could have been making.

Maybe its time to start thinking out of the box. Make some straight to DVD episodes to be released at the same time as the show is running. Make some webisodes for sale on the internet. Get the writers to put some short stories from the Dollhouse universe up on the web with a paypal contribution button. Release an album of songs from the show. Everybody's depressed because Dollhouse is in trouble on Friday nights. The truth is that Television is in trouble on Friday nights. Dollhousehas one of the few crews with the genius to try the things that television is going to need to do in the next 10 years to get it out of this post internet hole. Turn them loose and give me some way to pay them money to try whatever crazy stuff they really want to do.
Wow. This is what I've been waiting for--it's exactly what I want from this show. Dark, wrenching, very hard to watch at times, but taking the premise to its logical conclusions (in such a way that the audience and the characters are forced to confront them head-on).

And it was beautifully filmed too--I loved the shot of Priya with the painting behind her.

I love the character arc Topher's on this season, too, and the way this episode furthered that. And I loved getting more Boyd, too. (Though I couldn't help wondering where Ballard was--is there some secret rule that they can't interact this season? They never seem to be around at the same time.)

Anyway, definitely the best episode of the season, thus far. Possibly the best episode of the entire show.
I think Dr. Saunders said Topher was Sierra's problem in her report because she was projecting. AKA, that bit was meant to allude back to the fact that Topher was Saunder's problem.

In Saunders defense, it may not even be projecting at all. Topher is really the only constant she may believe Sierra sees.


Maybe both? Sierra isn't at Echo-levels of awareness yet, but she knows something is wrong about the Nolan engagements. There are lots of them, so any imprint could be the one that sends her back to him. She's stressed every time she gets a treatment. Saunders didn't know the back story, observed that Sierra was stressed whenever she was around Topher, and came to what appeared to be the obvious conclusion. Her own dislike for Topher certainly reinforced that.

[ edited by ActualSize on 2009-10-24 15:26 ]
Saje, thanks for reminding me about the call back to Topher's birthday. That really was a bitter sweet moment and another one played note perfect by Fran Kranz. Interesting to wonder - if he ever does that again, would he pick Sierra? Let her have a beer?
And this is the first time we have ever seen him outside the Dollhouse.
Akela, Adelle cancelled the engagements with Nolan because she found out that not only was he a scumbag who had put Priya in there in the first place, but it was affecting Sierra on a deep deep level.
@Akela, I can't do much but offer my early interpretation of what was going on:

Adelle suddenly canceled the engagements with Nolan because as she said herself when she took Boyd and Topher from surprise, she knows now. As the acting "mother" of all the children in the dollhouse, she suddenly had an awakening to the horrors going on, and to her, it was a different sort of scenario than the dolls face on a regular basis because she realized Priya had come to the Dollhouse without the ability to give informed consent. Kind of as though Priya had been given the equivalent of a date-rape drug and Adelle just realized she had been an unwitting collaborator, I think. The engagements horrified her all of a sudden (and I think she thought she'd have the upper hand, not realizing how easily Nolan could turn the tables on her. I mean, he didn't even drink the tea! There's something up with that tea).

I tend to think that Topher just wanted to give her Priya back to herself. If she was going to be a permanent imprint, it makes sense that he wanted her to be Priya, solely and fully. I think he knew she would not want to be with Nolan, but I don't believe he thought she would stab Nolan repeatedly (Topher's not exactly Einstein when it comes to social interactions, seemingly). Maybe it wasn't clear to Topher that Nolan would attack her--last time he used drugs, not a knife. Imprinting ninja skills would imply he thought Priya was going back to assassinate him, rather than instead to assert herself as a whole person, reject him, and get on with her life.

As for why she stays... I'm still mulling over that one. I think they could have just let her loose again, but you know... she sees Victor and knows she loves him. And Topher tells her that Victor loves her back, so WOW! She wants to be near him, and Priya couldn't have that at this point, whereas Sierra can. What I want to know is how Victor and Priya get to the point in their relationship that they're at in "Epitaph One." Or maybe I don't... :(

Given my opinion that Topher didn't think she'd go on a stabbing spree, I think he's shaken up by what he unsuspectingly unleashed, shaken up by what his choice to restore Priya (instead of some plaything like Nolan would have wanted) led to, shaken up by cutting up a person he spoke with and thought about, shaken up that his restart of Priya didn't lead to her healing but rather to her scarring, if not other, more personal and deep-running reasons as well.

I'm sure others can interpret better than I can. :) Hope you're willing to watch a second time!
@CellarDoor
Re Topher. I think our resident "God in a SweaterVest" had no idea what to do and resorted to giving Sierra free will in the situation. The result was her discovery of original sin, but in this case the sin was murder.
Good point, technovamp! That makes sense from a narrative and artistic standpoint, thanks!
I did sit there thinking "Surely he gave her martial arts... surely..." I guess for Topher it was a monumental enough step to give Priya back her self-knowledge. It felt like the first time he'd imprinted with full appreciation of what imprinting actually was. Realising he was putting someone traumatised and vulnerable in danger was maybe too complex a responsibility for him to grasp.

Also "I was fooled". What a character arc line. Loved it.
CellarDoor, I agree re: Adelle's reaction and Topher giving Priya her self back. He didn't just send her out blind, either; he told her what Nolan had done and what she'd been forced to do over the past year. I think he believed he was giving her the freedom to make an informed choice. Naive, yes, but I don't think he expected her to kill Nolan. [ETA: what technovamp said]

As for why Priya chose to stay in the Dollhouse, she was terribly traumatized by what she had done, even if it was well-deserved and self-defense, and she wanted to forget. And, on a practical level, she needed to be protected from any police investigation into Nolan's disappearance. She'd spent lots of time with him over the past year, and the authorities would likely want to talk to her. So, as Boyd said, she belongs in the Dollhouse now, just like all the other desperate people who signed the contract.

[ edited by ActualSize on 2009-10-24 15:51 ]
The result was her discovery of original sin, but in this case the sin was murder.

Priya didn't really "discover" original sin since Priya was a whole person who was already well aware of sins of all kinds. Topher put her back to let her confront Nolan and the situation got out of hand, simple as that (similarly, he didn't "unleash" anything either since Priya also wasn't a murderer, she killed Nolan in self-defence). If anything he was guilty of overestimating Nolan, of assuming that the guy wasn't a killer.

Interesting to wonder - if he ever does that again, would he pick Sierra? Let her have a beer?

True Lioness, now Topher has to wrestle with that sort of conundrum - is it better to bring her back once a year to let her be a "real girl" or is it better she never knows ? And if he brings her back then who is he doing it for, her or him ? I doubt this Topher could bring her back as the same imprint he's used previously (especially having met her), it'd either have to be bring her back as Priya or not use Sierra (or probably anyone) at all.

As to Adelle, she cancelled the engagements when she found out it was effectively rape in exactly the same way (and for the same reasons) that she "cancelled" Hearn.
Ohh, right, I tend to forget the practical side of things among the existential and artistic. It's a matter of containment that Priya conveniently didn't want to argue with. You make a good point, ActualSize! :D

@Lioness, Saje... The ramifications of this episode on Topher's memories of his birthday pal, powerful stuff. As pointed out earlier, he certainly looked haunted by the memories now that he realizes Sierra/Priya's situation. As you said, Saje, I don't think he'll ever have that sort of birthday pal ever again in his life, but I could be stretching and giving his newly-found moral compass more credit than is realistic.
It's a matter of containment that Priya conveniently didn't want to argue with.

I'm not putting this part on Topher; I doubt it crossed his mind. It would, however, be high on Adelle's and Boyd's priority lists. And yes, I do think Adelle knows what happened and most likely pulled the strings to make it so (/TNG).
I'm surprised by some of the comments on Topher (especially that people think his moral development began in season two, or at the earliest the end of S1). As early as "The Target," we saw Topher shaken and traumatized after the incident with Alpha--and I thought we were getting a glimpse of the real Topher, someone very different than the over-confident, morally indifferent genius who saw normal people as his toys.

From that moment on, I've suspected that his usual self is partly a persona, a disguise he puts on--a suspicion confirmed by his conversation with Saunders in "Vows." He made her question him as a direct result of the Alpha incident, because he wanted to make sure that no one got hurt. (Which suggests that he blamed himself for the Alpha situation, and for Whiskey's injury.) When Saunders scornfully dismisses the idea that he cares about people getting hurt, he responds, You don't know me.

Later in their conversation, he makes another illuminating comment: he could program a doll to be his lover whenever he wants. But on his birthday, he programmed Sierra as his platonic playmate--the most innocent use of the technology imaginable. Which is fascinating: that's a line that Adelle was willing to cross, but Topher was not. And again in "Belonging," Adelle is willing to comply with the commands from higher up, to do something that she knows is wrong--and Topher is the one who can't bring himself to do it.

Everyone (perhaps Adelle most of all) thinks she's more righteous than Topher, that she's more morally/ethically developed. But I think it's a lot more complicated than that. It's not that Topher's developing a moral compass for the first time: it's more that he's being forced to confront the reality of what he's doing, and the reality of how other people see him. He's realizing just how well his disguise has worked: nobody knows him. He may be at the point where he doesn't even know himself.
I think Topher actually thought he was a "good guy". He was SHOCKED when he read the report that Saunders said he was the bad man.

He never realised other people thought of him as having no morals or conscience. Adele told him, and he was SHOCKED again.

That's a harsh reality when all along you think you're doing good, and you're not.

Kudos to everyone that made the show possible. It was powerful.


Thank you.
This was great. I still don't like Adelle, but now I feel I have reason. Topher's a twerp. Boyd saved the day.

Is Sierra going to be doing regular escort jobs like Echo now? If someone can disappear a body and move a car, they could have built her a new identity - without wiping her mind.

GREAT EPISODE!!!
Excellent all round. Held my breath for so long during some scenes that I was worried I'd hurt myself.

Good points made in this thread and good questions asked.

MAN that Boyd has some deep secrets, can't wait to find out more.

I must ask however:

No one else is noticing that Echo is becoming more aware, except Boyd and Ballard?
What was Victor's original purpose in the set up to seduce Priya at the gallery?
No one objects at all that the dolls are now more familiar with each other (spooning in a pod)?


If I've missed an answer, pls forgive.
I think everyone (Adelle, Topher, and Boyd) is keen to let Sierra do whatever makes her happiest while she's in her blank state now that they know the horrors of her past. Hence not doing anything about her being joined at the hip with Victor.
I haven't read all of the comments so this might have been addressed but I think Topher may have been Sierra's "bad man" because in the mental hospital he said he would help her and then he sent her back to Nolan, over and over again.

I think Topher was hit so hard by the truth of how Priya ended up at the Dollhouse (drugged to look like a paranoid schizophrenic) because he really thought he was saving her, freeing her from her mental illness.

And, I kind of think he loves her.
Was just looking at the image of Jed and Maurissa that accompanies their song from Epitaph one: Blurry, guilty/sad looking shaggy blond Jed in the foreground with Maurissa looking alone standing in a white shift in the background. They seem to have written the same visual schema into this episode, starting with that blurred opening extreme close up "flash forward" of Topher and the white shift that the "crazy" lost Priya is wearing when Topher first meets her at the hospital. "Hey, Maurissa!","What, Jed?", "My brother has this really cute idea for a musical on the internet he wants us to help him write! It's all about a boyishly handsome guy who tries to woo this girl by pretending to be interested in her art or petition or whatever, then goes on to really cutely try to manipulate her into loving him during these not-quite-dates where he plies her with frozen yogurt. Wanna do it?","Sure, Jed! I can't see a happy, smiley gig like that leading us into a more deeply morally confusing world of storytelling! Let's go!","Cool...Oh, hey, Joss asked if we could pick him up at a friend's house...Some chick named Eliza..."
What was Victor's original purpose in the set up to seduce Priya at the gallery?

It took me a little while to understand the context of the whole art gallery scene. So Nolan has hired Echo and Victor to manipulate Priya, but it clearly goes wrong, because the Victor-Sierra bond derails whatever mission Victor actually had.
Wow. This is why I kept watching, even though I thought 2-2 and 2-3 were sorta lame. Big payoff, character development, excellent all around. This episode proves that it is totally NOT the case that we don't care about these characters.

My favorite scene was the one where Topher is looking through the magnifying glass, and we keep seeing different parts of his face distorted through the lens. Who is looking at whom? What do we see? And who are the monsters? Many, many shades of Frankenstein. Fricking brilliant.
So Nolan has hired Echo and Victor to manipulate Priya, but it clearly goes wrong, because the Victor-Sierra bond derails whatever mission Victor actually had.

Yeah, even as Priya she took one look at Victor and clearly fancied him (you can see it in Dichen Lachman's performance when they first meet). Presumably he was there as part of the "seduction package" - if you're an artist then knowing that this supposedly hot prospect (Nolan) has a lot of connections in the European art world is going to be a plus.

When Priya suggests they get out of there Victor's imprint says something like "Yeah, to talk more about Nolan", he's clearly there to "big him up", like a kind of bought and paid for "wingman" (it tells us a lot BTW that Nolan apparently doesn't have a single genuine "wingman" i.e. no friends willing to sing his praises to the woman he fancies).
(it tells us a lot BTW that Nolan apparently doesn't have a single genuine "wingman" i.e. no friends willing to sing his praises to the woman he fancies).

Indeed. Either he had none or the ones who had tried in the past gave up -- as any reasonable person would, given Priya's obvious disinterest. I suspect Victor was there to promise her major international exposure that would mysteriously evaporate once she was on the hook. Couldn't have her actually jetting off to Europe for openings and leaving her "devoted" husband behind.
Hee, yeah I liked Victor's delivery of that line... in spite of his imprint he wants to flee the party with Priya as well, and adds "we can talk about Nolan" almost like an imprint afterthought.

shnoods said Was Topher okay with Sierra becoming a doll even though she had psychotic symptoms? He knew that she never really volunteered in that case, didn't he?

Yeah, that and Priya agreeing to be a doll again really marred my appreciation of a powerful episode. Maybe they thought imprinting someone with severe mental illness was sort of OK in spite of the lack of consent - presumably she didn't calmly sign a contract that she understood - but in that case it's hard to be impressed or moved by their moral outrage when they find out the truth. And I find the rationalizations for her return to the dollhouse weak (she was traumatized, she loves Victor, she can't go back to her old life). Priya was so appalled at what she'd been forced to do, at all those photographs, but she's prepared to be wiped of herself and be a sex toy for other guys now? I didn't buy it.

Wonderful performances, and if it hadn't been for what I felt were plot holes I would probably be raving about it.

I love Topher, and I felt like in the S1 finale (before Epitaph 1... but I forget the name of that fantastic ep) he was showing real qualms and was left very shaken. His awakening conscience doesn't feel like a new thing for me, just... continuing.

And although she was barely in this episode, I really really liked Echo. The book (did anybody figure out what it was?) and the writing on the inside of the pod door, and her concern for Sierra, sort of "scolding" Topher for not looking hard enough - great stuff. And Boyd! Oh how I miss Boyd. It was great to have him interact with Echo a bit, and if the show is canceled I will be most sorry not to get his backstory. Mobster, someone suggested? Something very fucked up, anyway. I just love that actor, and his relationships (with Echo, with Topher, with Dr. Saunders) are my favorites. Great ending to the episode, too.

So I liked it (if that's the right word!) but I was frustrated by it too. For me, Dollhouse has a real implausibility problem. There are storylines (like Instinct) that I just can't buy enough to lose myself in the episode. This was such a compelling episode in so many ways, really traumatic to watch, and the utter horror of what was done to Sierra, the black splotch she becomes, all that was brilliant. I don't know how they could have brought her back to the Dollhouse in a way I would have believed / understood, but this wasn't it.
I do have a question, because I feel like on some level Adelle and Topher are getting a free pass in this episode where they should not. Topher and Adelle cling to the notion that "they didn't know" and it seems to have been at least accepted. And because what they did appears to be some sort of justice, we're not here judging them. Why?

Why is no one pointing out that a paranoid schizophrenic is in no position to give informed consent? Medically speaking, a severe case is going to lose its legal right to self consent, but I still fail to see where the legal right to determine treatment equals the legal right to be used as an experiment and be signed up for a five year legal commitment.

Adelle and Topher both knew what she was when they took her in. And they both knew (or very well could have - Topher met the client) that they kept sending her back to her Doctor on romantic engagements. It was a rape scenario they were knowingly complicit in. To me, the scenario isn't "worse" because of what transpired before. It's the same scenario with added details. But then, I'm a bit of a patients advocate so there you go.

[ edited by azzers on 2009-10-24 18:47 ]
Maybe they thought imprinting someone with severe mental illness was sort of OK in spite of the lack of consent

Given that Rossum started out experimenting on prisoners, I doubt this would have given them qualms. Rossum is a medical research company. Remember that the Senator started investigating them because (he thought) they were withholding an effective treatment for Alzheimer's. Here's a chance to see if their amazing technology can cure severe mental illness. If they're successful, they'll consider the results justified their actions. And it gave Topher, who after all did take their imprinting technology and step it up from version 1.0 to about 10, a chance to help someone and feel good about what he's doing. Win-win for Rossum.
Oh I get that. But they imprinted someone with mental illness, and then sent her back to fulfill her Doctor's romantic engagements.

However, the medical research didn't require the preceding paragraph. For the record, I think you're right on your interpretation of Rossum's rationalization. My question is, as we're discussing it in the context of moral compasses... why are we glossing over it?

[ edited by azzers on 2009-10-24 18:55 ]
I loved last night's fare.

I think the reason why Paul wasn't in the episode for story reasons may be the fact that if Paul knew what had happened to Priya/Sierra, I have a feeling Nolan would not have made it to the point where he could have Sierra as a full-time imprint.
@ActualSize: What they do, though, is take somebody deeply disturbed, strip her of herself and, without her consent, send her out as a sexual plaything. So how are we supposed to feel when, upon learning the truth, Adele and Topher are so shaken? The truth makes Nolan a monster but either way what they did is horrific. I don't see why they can justify the non-consent of somebody with a mental illness but not that of a healthy young woman - it just diminishes (for me) the "moral awakening" at the center of the episode. They thought they were helping her???
[ edited by azzers on 2009-10-24 18:55 ]

azzers | October 24, 18:56 CET


Can people stop editing their comments before they post them ? Spacetime is fragile, y'know ? Be gentle ;).

And I find the rationalizations for her return to the dollhouse weak (she was traumatized, she loves Victor, she can't go back to her old life).

Yeah, that's fair IMO, it seemed thin to me (whip out the time in the asylum and the killing of Nolan and she's back to young and carefree Aussie artist, felt like we needed a scene to explain why she didn't choose that option. Would've smoothed over that particular crack).

My question is, as we're discussing it in the context of moral compasses... why are we glossing over it?

We're not (or i'm not). It seems to boil down to this from Adelle/Topher's perspective - they can sign Priya up for 5 years during at least which time she's not suffering a horrible mental illness OR they can leave her where she is with, as far as they know, untreatable paranoid schizophrenia. Maybe if they had the option to cure her without signing her up (or curing her first then giving her the chance to provide consent) they'd have taken it, maybe not. But knowing what we know about Rossum it's surely a stretch to assume they had that choice ?

In Adelle's mind there's a difference between non-consent and being unable to consent and to a certain extent society agrees - we do all sorts of things for the good of people we consider unable to consent (whether they're mentally ill or just under 16 - which, y'know, sometimes it's hard to tell the difference ;-) and a lot of the things we still do when they're actively non-consenting because we consider their non-consent to be worthless.
Fantastic discussion! So much has already been said I can't add much.

I greatly enjoyed the episode. Unlike some others, it didn't immediately strike me as "best" but definitely Top 5. Thinking back to some speculation at the beginning of the thread, I didn't even consider posting online while watching or after. There was way too much to digest. Had the episode been very average, then I may have wandered in here to peck about it. Last night? I was glued to the screen and watched the news in a daze afterward.

When the show began, I was impressed by Dichen at first, then wondered if it was really her looks that impressed me. Wow, she ripped my guts out last night. Hats off to her performance. It was certainly her best performance by far. And surely one of Kranz's as well.

If Boyd turns out to be Book, I'm gonna be seriously annoyed. Loved the way he brought out the acid without batting an eyelid. God, I love me some Boyd...

More SierraVictorTopherAdellePaulBoydSaunders, please! And I'd love to see November and Dominic again.

I really can't wait to see Summer Glau enter the fray. It stinks we have to wait, but I'm thrilled about the back-to-backs.

Dollhouse rocks. Technovamp, just what you said. You're my hero this month. Friday night television is in trouble, not Dollhouse.
While I loved everything about this episode -- from Sierra, to Topher, to the lack of Paul Ballard (sorry, but it's true), I did find Frakes' directing style a wee bit off-putting. I was noticing it. And that's not a good thing.

That said, this was the first Dollhouse episode where I actually cried.

It's gonna be a long, long wait till December :(

ETA: I think my quibbles with the direction last night may have been due to too much wine. I just watched it again and really loved it the second time. So, scratch that.

[ edited by ShanshuBugaboo on 2009-10-24 22:59 ]
I totally agree in the realm of medical consent Saje. The idea of an inability to consent is a large part of the ethical backbone of treatment of severe cases. Yes, it gets abused medically, but then I'm looking for a form of power that doesn't. I'll get back to you when I find one. We'll compare notes.

I'm not being disagreeable about using patients for research. Well, to a certain extent it worries me, but that's not what is grating me about this episode. That happens.

What has me flustered is, why the disconnect on the rape aspect. I don't mean the generic "being a doll as rape." I mean literally turning someone medically under your care into a sexual gratification pez dispenser.

It seems like the distilled reaction is:

Psychological invalid raped by her Doctor - OK!
Non-consenting woman turned into a psychological invalid who is then raped by her Doctor- BAD!

At least, this is the reaction when judging Topher and Adelle's reactions to this scenario. This to me is quite damning and might show that they have limits, but maybe just how far gone those limits actually are. After all, I do believe when working with inability to consent... there is still a burden of proof (lawyer please correct me because I'm guessing on the wording) that the Doctor is doing something that reasonable person would consent to.

And yes, I went extremely straw-man with that one. I'm simple sometimes. :(

[ edited by azzers on 2009-10-24 19:57 ]
They thought they were helping her???

Yes, I do think they thought they were helping her. In the context of what they already do, they thought they could help her. Doesn't make it right, and I'm certainly not giving them a pass, but this is - again - part of the moral ambiguity that Dollhouse portrays so well. This isn't the good guys versus the bad guys; it's about the moral compromises that we all make to some extent. We all want to see ourselves as good, and we can rationalize like crazy to make it possible to face ourselves in the mirror every day. When we come face to face with the consequences of our actions, those rationalizations come tumbling down. We can still be shocked when denial no longer works.
Equally, the most powerful and compelling episode to date. l was totally floored by the performances of the cast esp Dichen, Franz and Olivia. The latter two facing a moral dilemma while Dichen's character struggles to regain her humanity. This has to be the best episode so far in my opinion. lt just shows us that Joss is still on top of his game.
"You lost me at brain." -- Boyd

I forgot to mention that I was pleased to see the science reasonably well represented in this episode too (Topher's exposition on antipsychotics (and the older terminology, neuroleptics) and D2 and 5HT receptors). Also - thank you, Jed and Maurissa, for not equating schizophrenia with "split personality."
You guys answered some of my questions, thanks.

But I still would like to know, why deWitt, Topher and Boyd don't do anything against the more selfaware dolls. Obviously, the technology doesn't work properly, they now have three dolls they can't control or wipe completly. This is just a bomb ready to explode and nobody cares. Boyd is even handing out "Get away free"-cards...
I would get Paul doing this, but the other three...?
It would have been really funny/awful if Echo's door said "No more November."
Psychological invalid raped by her Doctor - OK!
Non-consenting woman turned into a psychological invalid who is then raped by her Doctor- BAD!

At least, this is the reaction when judging Topher and Adelle's reactions to this scenario.


Yeah, this is what made it hard for me to really feel their shock and horror.
They're shocked because they see it as a big difference and from their point of view I guess it is - they've gone from helping a paranoid schizophrenic (while using her - whether they wanted to or not - in experiences she won't remember having) to effectively helping a rapist carry a semi-conscious woman out of a bar after he's spiked her drink (several times, repeatedly over the course of a year).

What has me flustered is, why the disconnect on the rape aspect. I don't mean the generic "being a doll as rape." I mean literally turning someone medically under your care into a sexual gratification pez dispenser.

Yeah, I get what you mean, it's definitely a lesser-of-two-evils-that's-still-actually-quite-evil situation. There are two key points IMO, 1) she wouldn't be medically under their care if she wasn't then turned into a "sexual gratification pez dispenser", that's the deal with the devil (i.e. Rossum) that they made when they "helped" her and 2) as far as they're concerned (at least until recently) she also wouldn't know anything about it after she was returned to herself (if she ever would be - it's possible paranoid schizophrenia can't be fixed by imprinting technology and so returning Priya would be tantamount to condemning her to a life in asylums as far as they knew).

That second point is a biggie BTW because as Boyd, Topher and Adelle become more aware of the way Sierra, Victor and particularly Echo can remember and be changed by their imprinted experiences it should become harder for them to accept the whole imprinting idea. If the dolls can be harmed and traumatised by things that happen to them while imprinted and the blank-slate dolls are more and more seen as people then it becomes much harder to justify the dollhouse in the first place (since a big part of Adelle's self-justification has to revolve around the non-personhood of the blank-slates and the impermanence of the imprint experiences). It'd be great to see that developed in the show IMO.
First of all, I found "Belonging" to be fantstic, emotional, gut-wrenching with bits of humour and another lovely Whedon/Tancharoen song. (As soon as the song started, I knew it had been written by one or both of them and figured it was Jed singing.)

I have to go back and watch this episode again (and again, I'm sure), even though it was probably the hardest one to watch so far. My take on the Adelle/Topher shock was that Adelle thought they were helping someone with a mental illness live a life without that illness while Rossum worked on a cure for it. I also thought that one of them said that Sierra's repeat assignments were 'light romantic'. We don't know that Adelle knew that Nolan knew Priya/Sierra before he became a client. Certainly she knew that he worked for Rossum and most likely for/at that clinic, but it could have been the Keith Carradine character that made the arrangements.

If Adelle did know that Priya had been one of his patients (and I'm not sure that she did), that still makes it icky on a normal scale.

However, just because Topher saw the doctor when he went to pick up Priya at the clinic, doesn't mean that he knew that's where Sierra was going each time. My understanding is that Topher is given a set of parameters so that he can adjust the imprints to fit, but I have never gotten the impression he knew - or cared - who the clients were.

So I can understand their shock at putting all the pieces together and realising exactly what had been happening and their part in it. Adelle certainly tried to end it as soon as she could, not that that justifies in any way what they had been doing. It may not have been as black because of what they didn't know, but it was certainly dark grey!

My one quibble when thinking of all of this afterthe fact was if Topher was supposed to be wiping Priya's brain to help with the parnoid schizophrenia, why hadn't he noticed before that her brain scan showed the mental illness while she was on the antipyschotic drugs?
Where is Paul? Am I forgetting something?


Budget cuts means that not all the cast can be shown in one episode. Or something along those lines. But all in all, a fantastic episode. And the direction was stunning, movie quality. Kudos to Mr Frakes.

Now that Topher got his hands dirty, how soon will he go to pieces?
(warning.tl;dr. I started writing and it got really long, I'm gonna repost to livejournal)

I absolutely loved this episode. quite possibly the best ever. I only missed Dr.Saunders.
the back story was handled very well, and it was nicely told.
it was a pretty much perfect episode. the writing,the story,the acting,the directing, it was all rather brilliant.
I've seen some other episodes Frakes has directed and he is very talented and I'd love to see him direct Dollhouse again.

Topher has been my favourite from the beginning and I am enjoying this journey he has embarked in immensely. I don't think his moral compass has just sprung up.
He's had some qualms before, and I think it's gotten to a point where he can't ignore them anymore. can't justify them, he has to pay attention.
Things are changing, and fast and he's not equipped for it. He's facing the real and its problems and consequences while he's used to staying in the lab, where he doesn't see them and doesn't have to deal with them. in this episode, he literally has to abandon the house, he goes out, into the field. this is is the first we see a hands-on approach from him.
I don't think Topher's done much thinking, I think he's sort of going with his gut, with what feels right and wrong, and I think he's never done that before because he could always explain his work to himself, excuse it, find some logic in it to make it make sense except things now are changing too fast and he can't and they're too gruesome and it is like a punch in the stomach and he is simply reacting to it all.I think he is falling from grace. we all know he is incredibly smart. and very good at his job. but I think that's about it. and he knows that. his job is all he has. and while he is a god on his field, outside of it, he's lost. he knows that he's severely lacking as a human being, mostly out of practice, I think. like Adelle said, he's always thought of other persons as toys. things to play with which he understood how they worked but not how to interact with them. he buried himself in his work and rose high but now his creation are being thrown back in his face, from Alpha to Saunder and now Prya, he's being confronted by them and that has caused a rupture in the image he has of himself, and he has begun to deal with these new events not as a scientist but as a human. and he doesn't know what to do. he's shocked,tired,confused. and we know things don't improve for him.
Things won't get better around the dollhouse, we know what, they'll only get worse.

Adelle is suffering a similar problem, but she has an advantage, she has a much more clear idea of herself. of who she is and what she's willing to do, where her lines are. and now those are being questioned and bent or even broken and I'm thinking she felt rather disgusted with herself this episode.
I don't know why she started working at the dollhouse or why or what she's done before, although I would bet it was all in a morally grey area.
When she started working, she may have thought it would be different, I'm sure she found a way of justifying it to herself. but now she finds herself questioning the dollhouse and Rossum and their lack of ethics. I think she's wondering how far they'll go and if they'll ever stop.she's finding she has less power than she thought and that she may not be able to protect her house. and I think that scares her.

I was wondering if they'd go ahead with the permanent imprint or if there would be a last-minute save but then it struck me than, for dollhouse, going ahead made much more sense than saving her. and technically they went ahead and saved her at the last second.
I was surprised by Topher's rebellion, I never saw it coming.

I think this episode is definitely a breaking point for Topher. he'll no doubt remember this for ever.
I like seeing more of his relationship with Adelle, and how she treated him. he really does seem to look up to her, as more than a boss. and I think she sees him as part of her responsability as the leader of the dollhouse. I think she sees him as a boy, a genius one, but still a boy, still someone in need of care and protection.
which is what I think scares her. what Rossum could do to the staff.
I wonder if the early-retirement plan includes the attic. and if they ever want to attic topher, who would do it ? and who runs the technical aspect of other dollhouses?
who trained them?

I also thought the bit where Saunder wrote the bad man was Topher was indeed projecting. she hates topher, sees him as the source of the dollhouse's evil or something and therefore feels the active can or should be afraid of him. maybe for her it's logical, it's the only thing that makes sense.

I'm not surer Topher knew they were sending Prya back to her doctor for romantic engagements. they knew they kept sending her back to the same guy, but I don't think Topher knew/remembered the guy
Adelle knew him, maybe she knew he was her doctor, but to her eyes, he's another client, paying for a pretty girl.
nobody looked closed and they should have.
as to why they took her as a doll, I assume it's part of the research, to see if they can cure her illness and if they can, she gets to live a normal life again. after her time as a doll, which isn't a bad deal. and I think prya going back to the dollhouse at the end is part of her giving informed consent. more or less informed. she knows what they do. she also doesn't remember what they made her do. and she knows she'll wake up with no memories and be able to move on and I don't think that is looking too bad for her.
the situation is messy and complicated and painful and like many dolls,she doesn't want to live with it.

I find the idea of V and S falling in love while in their doll state to be most intriguing. specially since it translates to their actual personalities. she remembered him. somehow. how did that happen?

Boyd was all kinds of brilliant. I like how he's looking after Echo, worried about her, but in a father-figure way, not in a stalker-with-a-crush way like Ballard.who I didn't miss at all, by the way.
Someone mentioned Boyd being like shepherd book and it is not a bad comparison to make, but I actually a backstory this time. I want to know why and how did he,topher and adelle ended up at the dollhouse.

my mind is still kind of blown from the awesomeness of this ep but I remember hearing so many lines I liked.
the morals, adelle's description of topher and topher's line about the secret, it is so quotable.

I love how this episode referenced many others, I specially liked the callback to Sierra's and Topher's celebration from Haunted, which won't ever feel the same again. He won't be able to use Sierra and I'm not sure he'll want to do it again. it may all feel too fake.

It seems wrong somehow to use words such as 'liked' and 'loved' but I can't think of any others.
Made me realize I'll really miss this show :(
I need to "complain" about what I felt was missing from Dollhouse more often (not here, but elsewhere about a week before this episode aired), because some of my wishes were answered. And I have to say that focus being pulled far back from Eliza, though still using Echo in a very pointed way, was for the good. When it feels like all the episodes are Echo-centric, I start to lose what I felt was special about the show. Learning about the other characters in relation to how Dollhouse Corp. works, and why. It figures I'd be high from the show last night, and then a friend I don't speak with much anymore comes swooping into my movie forum to say basically, "Frakes did a crap job directing." I did feel as though the confrontation scene at the end went too quickly, as another acquaintance noted, but on the other hand, in the heat of passion, and knowing the history between those two from when it was revealed in Season 1 that Nolan was viciously abusing Sierra/Priya, that could be more a reflection of how shit can escalate that quickly.

So many character gems were given to us, I could make a virtual couture necklace out of them; one of my favorites was Adele telling Nolan he was a raping scumbag while in the same breath asking him if he wanted sugar. Just brilliant.
This was the best episode so far. Horrifying and moving. Some weird stuff, like Sierra going to the guy to get in his face without some kind of weapon didn't make any sense.

But the sight of Victor still waiting for Sierra when Priya looked down from the room with Topher, made me tear up.
I thought not having Paul in last night's episode was a great idea. You know if Paul did see what was happening, he'd go nuts. It was better to leave Adelle and Topher alone in their moral stuggles, and make their choices. He certainly would want to ask Boyd what exactly he did for a living before coming to the DH.
I did feel as though the confrontation scene at the end went too quickly


That was actually the only scene I thought was too long-- it was the only scene I can think of that didn't ring quite true to me. I just don't see it playing out that way. When you're with someone that dangerous, who's done that much to you, you're pretty much at the stab-them-in-the-neck-or-run-away point. He took her by force with men with guns in the first place, she had to expect something would happen. I can't see her just hanging out and talking like she did.
I loved the confrontation scene. And then after she stabs him...when she stands up and is just a black outline against the colorful painting of birds. She has become the dark shape that she dreads. I thought that was really gorgeous.
Stupid Joss... We're losing this show... Why'd you have to make it awesome now? Couldn't you have ended it on a few "Bad Eggs" and "I Robot... You Jane"... _Wouldn't have missed it then... But now...

And to every self proclaimed "Joss fan" not watching this... Don't you ever DARE complaining about this being canceled when it is... This time it's not FOX's fault, it's yours and only yours. Remember that in about 3 years when you all of a sudden rediscover the show and realize how absolutely fantastic it is. You brought this masterpiece down...
This was by far the best episode of the season. What a powerful episode. Standout performances by all involved, but especially Dichen and Fran.

[ edited by palehorse on 2009-10-25 13:34 ]
Okay Akela I'll jump in that pool with you. I have to say I did not find this episode nearly as awesome as apparently did all of the rest of Western Civilization. There was a lot of Jossy goodness. Lines like "You lost me at brain." Great, great acting, all of which has been commented on at length. I liked the way the show moved the mythology/arc along - more reveals on Boyd's mysterious background, Topher character development, the "everyone here is morally compromised" speech from Adelle (so what was her legal/moral lapse that landed her in the Dollhouse?) There was also the reveal of the fist inside the velvet glove of Rossum (Epitaph One spoiler I could go on, but everyone else already has.

BUT....but, man oh man, was that a one-dimensional cutout villain! We've seen him before - he's Warren, he's Billy, he's the psychotic serial killer from the last episode, he's the controlling, anti-feminist. But so much less interesting than Warren or even the last episode's psychotic. I'm sorry, I'm just used to better villains in the Whedonverse. (I like my evil like I like my men - layered.)
And to every self proclaimed "Joss fan" not watching this...

I realize the ratings being bad is upsetting but angry remarks about fans of one opinion or another or watching/not watching is really out of bounds. Some people in the fandom like the show and some don't, and fans of all opinions on the show post here. If you feel a need to rant and blame people, do it elsewhere.
Given my tirade earlier barboo, the only thing I'll say about the way they painted the villain was probably in an effort to not muddle the rest of the plot. To flesh out Nolan would be to give up screen time for Boyd, Sierra, and Topher that you really just didn't have.

Like Belle Chose, I didn't feel like any of the screen time could have been removed for something else.

And I hate to say this, but to make a man who would do THAT kind of thing anything other than a cartoon would probably require an episode by itself and would not be easy. And AFTER you'd spent an episode trying to make him fully fleshed and sympathetic, people would still hate him the way they do now. That's just not a crime people excuse no matter how its presented.

[ edited by azzers on 2009-10-25 04:52 ]
I thought that was flat out brilliant. My favourite Dollhouse episode so far. Only Spy in the House of Love comes close (I'm with Saje in not thinking Epitaph One was that great)

I do agree, though, with Catherine that I just don't buy Priya wanting to become a doll again

But everything else was superb - the performances, the direction, the dialogue. And it was a relief to not have yet another episode with heavy emphasis on the dull Echo-Boyd relationship. Boyd is just so much more interesting than Ballard and it was great to see a substantial amount of him again
angry remarks about fans of one opinion or another or watching/not watching is really out of bounds.

Ok... Should have probably skipped the "self-proclaimed" line and the use of quotation marks, gave it a bit too much of a sarcastic tint. However, it's rather unlikely that any of those fans, towards which that remark was directed, will see it cause since seeing as they don't watch the show, there's really no reason for them to read this thread... Which to be honest does bring up the question why I even wrote it in the first place...

But I think it was... In due time when people do discover this show and revisit these threads to read what people thought of it, which I'm sure some do, that then while they're silently ranting in their head "ARGH! WHY WAS THIS SHOW CANCELED!", I thought I'd answer that for them. We as a fandom has a history of placing blame all over the place, in fact we're kinda known for it. Not being able to now just cause the answer is closer to home, that seems hypocritical. FOX may have handled this show with considerable incompetence, but atleast they tried this time, I gotta give them that. They did not bring down Dollhouse.

And to be honest, while yes, something can be said about the tone which might have been a bit harsh, as for substance I didn't say anything that wasn't true (lackluster ratings is what is sinking this ship and that equals people not watching) and it didn't have any personal attacks. Didn't call anyone stupid or something like that, just said "if you want someone to blame for it's cancellation, blame yourself for not watching then" which as accurate as it can be. Although, I could have said that in a nicer way... I'll work on that delivery then... :D
I'm too tired to rewatch for the exact time now, but I can't stop thinking about the creepy Boyd moment. I don't know if anyone else caught it and mentioned it upthread (didn't see it earlier), but it's toward the end, when he's talking to Priya or Topher. There is a shot of his face; he's on the right side of the frame and we see his profile. He smiles a creepy damn smile. It's just for a second, but I caught it both times I viewed the episode. Given this occurred when we learn he won't hesitate to get rid of a body using saws and sulfuric acid, I can't help but think I'm not imagining it.

Doesn't make me love him any less. We are about to learn a bit more about Boyd. Shepherd Book's incomplete story won't fly twice.
WOW. It's going to hurt so much when they cancel this.
From the Dept. of Always Look on the Bright Side:

Fox has already aired more episodes of Dollhouse than it did of Firefly and, starting December 4th, Dollhouse will officially surpass Firefly/Serenity's seventeen hour combined lifespan.
Thanks for the answers and theories.

I tend to agree that Victor/Sierra must have both felt a connection that threw him off his original plan. Echo at least delivered her lines in encouraging her to "ride it out" for a while.

I'm also guessing now that Adele Topher and Boyd are prolly so stunned and disoriented at the turn of events that they are momentarily distracted from the need to keep discipline in the DH.

I also agree that the shot of Dichen's black shadow rising against her painting is one of the most powerful images of the series.

As for the other slight inconsistencies, I'm willing to forgive Joss for the time being! :-)
I think the debate of whether or not Adelle and Topher should be shocked was explicitly mentioned on screen: Mr. Harding was essentially asking that. "What are we already?"

And I also think that Topher seeing Nolan in front of the clinic doesn't lead to him recognizing the client later on. Topher's not interested in the clients. He asks Boyd for info in that regard. Also, Nolan cleverly set up the other guy as Priyas doctor (hence Boyd's first hunch about the bad man). "Belonging" also kinda reverse-engineers our understanding of the the end of "Needs": Has anyone actually doubted that Boyd was talking about Nolan when he said "Sierra needed to confront the man who took away her power"? Now we know he wasn't. Nolan was essentially invisible the whole time, a dark shape, which kinda makes it more creepy. Because you can put 1 and 1 together to figure it out, you know. Like they did in this episode. The shock of these people might also stem simply from the fact that it took them so incredibly long. That they are not having a hold of everything that they actually miss stuff and that the house is out of balance.

Overall, an astonishing episode. I was deeply moved and my guts were wrenched. Priya's silhouette standing up in front of the picture is the most iconic shot Whedon has ever produced since probably River's standing-in-a-pool-of-Reavers-shot in Serenity. (Okay, maybe that opening of "Epitaph One" with the "Dollhouse" birthmark on it might be up there too.)
Agree with most of the 'kudo' comments above. But am quite curious about Boyd now. Not so much about his background since, even before Adele's little 'compromised morality' speech, viewers had to have recognized that even the guy who seems to have the 'softest centre' must have some twisted past. But his seeming evolution from 'head of security' to 'Echo enabler' - as his actions following his discoveries suggest - is confusing. A guy who is as adept with dismemberment of bodies as he is would be more likely to nip any threats to the house in the bud, particularly as he might believe it could be accomplished (through a more thorough wipe) without hurting Echo.
But his seeming evolution from 'head of security' to 'Echo enabler' - as his actions following his discoveries suggest - is confusing.

I actually wonder if that's part of what I mentioned above re: dawning realisation and changing moral landscape i.e. Boyd, probably more than anyone else, sees Echo as a person (arguably has since even as far back as 'Gray Hour') and since the book of memories is clear evidence that she remembers her experiences while imprinted, he's more and more finding the very idea of imprinting unpalatable (because the situation has changed in his mind - they're no longer prostituting non-people who won't remember anyway, they're sending real people who will remember out to do things that can and provably do traumatise them).

Topher's coming to the same realisation IMO, largely because of Saunders (the artificial "daughter" who's teaching her "father" to be human). Adelle still seems to be kidding herself (or maybe placing all her emphasis on the choice aspect of signing up) and I don't think Ballard sees the blank-slates as real people (yet).
Saje for the win.
One thing I asked myself: Why did Nolan in "Needs" conclude after being punched by Victor that he's not her handler? Shouldn't he know that already from the party where he must have known he's a doll, what with being the client and all?

[ edited by wiesengrund on 2009-10-25 13:33 ]
Hee. Good point.

Fan wank: he was joking.
Watched the episode again. You guys have really touched on many important points. One thing, though, that I don't remember seeing corrected above (sorry if I missed it). The art "gallery" scene wasn't at a gallery, but at Nolan's home with his private collection--as was made clear in the subsequent shots--especially the one of Priya's silhouette before her painting (I agree with others that this particular shot remains one of the most astoundingly iconic in the series--congrats, Frakes!). I assumed, after seeing Echo appear, that ALL the people there were dolls-- aside from Keith Carradine's character and the handlers or security, like the one who whisked Victor away when his character took a fancy for Priya-- assembled there with their various imprints by Rossom for Nolan, to provide the ambiance for his seduction of Priya.

Another tidbit I noticed was that there was a circular sign in Topher's space that said "homework causes brain damage." Then Echo gets discovered doing her "homework"--but when caught, she says "exercising our brains makes us our best." Nice little touch.

And in the emotional scene between Topher and Priya, when she is surrendering herself to the chair, there is a picture on the back wall of a person (looks like a woman) holding a large white mask over her face. It looks almost as if she is raising it to her face, putting on her mask. Another nice touch.
Dollhouse : Priya as dark shape rising in front of painting :: Firefly : Inara giving absolution to Book at the end of the pilot episode

?
I'm having a lot of trouble buying the idea that Priya killing Nolan meant that she had to stay in the Dollhouse. I mean, the fact she killed him was well hidden by Boyd - she had nothing to fear from the police etc. So if she stayed because of the killing it must be more from horror at what she had done (and her becoming the black figure in her painting obviously supports this interpretation). But I have a few problems with that. For one thing, I honestly don't know how awful she would really feel about killing that truly vile man in a clear-cut case of self defence. I honestly don't think I would be too distressed about it if it happened to me (though, of course, you can't know unless it happens). And even if she did feel awful about it, would she feel so awful that she felt the need to give the Dollhouse more years of her life? Besides, couldn't she have just got those memories removed like she planned to when Topher woke her up? Why did she need to go back to being a doll for that to happen? I do understand that Topher probably wouldn't have allowed that to happen given that he was trying to hide what he had done from Adele and Adele wouldn't have allowed it to happen because of her fear of the higher ups. But I don't understand why Priya was seemingly fine with the idea of going back to being a doll. It's hard to imagine someone being kidnapped, drugged and then waking up years later and then discovering she had had her mind wiped and had been pimped out and then agreeing for that to happen again. And yet far from being distressed by it she didn't even ask Topher about the possibility of having her memory of the killing wiped and yet still go free. (I suppose it is possible that she asked Topher offscreen whether she could go free and he said no but that seems very implausible given the scene of those two that we do see)

So it seems to me that her decision to stay must have been for some other reason and all that springs to mind is that she was staying for Victor. But the show really does seem to be saying that she stayed at least in part because she killed Nolan eg. after she kills him Boyd says 'now she does [belong in the Dollhouse]". And I'm not really sold on the Victor explanation either. I'm a hopeless romantic but I struggle to see the appeal of being with someone you love if 'you' are not even there.

I hate being this critical because I thought this episode was superb. But it's a shame it was marred by such a significant plot hole
I saw it more as Priya wanting to escape from the knowledge of what Kinnard had done to her for the past year, in addition to where that had led her in this episode. Kind of like the numbness and exhaustion of staying in an abusive relationship and pretending because of how hard it would be to resolve what was happening. You know that saying - "the only way out is through", but she couldn't face going through it yet.

Don't know how plausible that actually is. Probably about as plausible a reason as Madeleine's baby.
wiesengrund reasoned:
"Why did Nolan in "Needs" conclude after being punched by Victor that he's not her handler? Shouldn't he know that already from the party where he must have known he's a doll, what with being the client and all?"

Nolan seems like the type who's so self-absorbed that he wouldn't remember someone so insignificant to his life. He briefly met Victor for a day. Heck, Victor turned out to be competition at that art show. Nolan "beat" him for ownership/control of Priya though, so, easily forgotten.

Or gossi's fanwank.

Saje said:
"who the hell is Boyd ? He's the oddest mix of traits on the show IMO and in one sense I really hope he's not the Shepherd Book of 'Dollhouse' i.e. I want to see his backstory on the show (in another sense I suspect he might be close to most of our suppositions about Book though i.e. trained by the state to do its dirty work and now trying to live with it. Adelle seemed to think Boyd was a cop too IIRC and who else would be able to create a backstory good enough to fool the dollhouse but a government or shadowy agency thereof ?)."

Maybe he's a Rossum plant. I'm not real keen on having much more double-cross by any more of the main characters, and I know he was shown being tender with Claire in "Epitaph 1" scenes, but...it would be an excellent play. The NSA managed to get Mr. Dominic in there. Might be Rossum company policy to have a spy in each of their dollhouses.

More Saje:
"whip out the time in the asylum and the killing of Nolan and she's back to young and carefree Aussie artist, felt like we needed a scene to explain why she didn't choose that option."

Do we know how doable it is though, for Topher to manipulate the recordings of the original personalities ? When they imprint one of their Actives with someone else's full personality (rather than the bits and pieces Topher concocts out of I-don't-know-what), from Adelle's friend in "Haunted", to the killer last episode, to Dominic-in-Victor's-body, their memories are up until whenever the person was last recorded (as mentioned in "Haunted", there're like a few weeks or a month missing from the real person's life up to her death, when she's imprinted on Echo). One would assume there's some manipulation possible, especially when considering that these actives are supposed to come out of their contracts for the better (re: Madeline, though we're still seeing her story unfold and it's undetermined what Topher may've done for her to help her get over her daughter's death--is this just a matter of time-heals-all-wounds where it's enough for the body to get some rest from the emotions, even if the mind comes back into it feeling like no time has passed at all?). Maybe Topher can place additions on top of the original recordings (ie, make Priya think she joined the circus after her stint in the mental hospital), but I don't think he can erase that she was in a hospital. Because he doesn't have a recording of her before that. However, Nolan's murder is seemingly easily gotten rid of--when they bring Priya back, just use that first recording of her. They almost don't need to even keep a recording of this most recent bit of Priya's life, except that it might come in handy some day, for some reason. The only way Priya might remember killing Nolan again is if Sierra retains it the way Echo's been retaining hers.

Apparentely being wiped and made doll also means being Americanized. Maybe it's been mentioned previously, but Sierra sounds US-English, while Priya seems to have grown up in Australia. Never considered how weird that was before, that the Dollhouse/Topher/possibly-the-team-of-scientists-before-Topher alter the kind of voice baseline doll personalities use. Interesting because it would had to have been a conscious decision on the writers' parts to have Dichen not use her natural accent for her most commonly-played role on the show.
I have to say that Priya's choice to return to being a doll makes no sense to me either. Surely if we are asked to suspend disbelief all over the place about Topher's mad skills (despite the constant glitches) in mind-alteration, we could believe he could place her back into pre-Nolan form. To me, it looks like another way of enslaving her - she has to go back to cover everyone else's ass. Rossum clearly knows about Nolan's obsession, and once his 'disappearance' is discovered she and the DH would be suspect if she wasn't happily back as an active. It is easier to believe that she was told that 'off camera' and that her 'choice' to return is not really free.
My brain is still turning over the gesture of Boyd giving Echo an all access security pass. The head of Security giving a doll the keys to the kingdom? Does he do it because he understands the consequences from upper management in the doolhouse when this all comes out? Does he want Echo to escape? Does he want Echo to take the dollhouse down? Or is Echo the only one Boyd trusts with his life?
I agree with baxter, I just believed her return isn't free will, I never even considered otherwise. Especially since she made the erasing request right before she was put under. I think if this was voluntary that would be the first thing she said, not a kind of "dying wish" like it was.

EDIT: Topher even said "I should've let you go free" at the end. Which implies that instead of doing so, he was just following his order with a twist. And that he told Priya up front what the deal was, i.e. "you HAVE to go to nolan" and decided to let the cards fall as they may. He probably just expected her to run away when she got the chance. But Prya confronted instead.

As it stands now, Topher is not quite prepared to break the rules so blatantly as to release Priya. That would be a violation of the contract. And it is just a lot cleaner if she returns as a doll. At the very least they got over the Nolan obstacle and live to fight another day. This might not be true if she doesn't return as a doll.

[ edited by narky on 2009-10-25 18:23 ]
I honestly don't know how awful she would really feel about killing that truly vile man in a clear-cut case of self defence. I honestly don't think I would be too distressed about it if it happened to me (though, of course, you can't know unless it happens)

You know, I'd venture to guess that no one here on this board (or only a very small percentile :) ) has every actually killed anyone -- purposely, in self-defense, or accidentally. We see TV and movie characters killing other people every day with, apparently, no long-term repercussions to their own psyches, so we absorb the belief that it's easy to bounce back. Perhaps Dollhouse is subverting yet another TV tradition here by looking at what the real aftermath would be. Not only was this an up-close-and-personal killing, Prya was there for the cleanup. She wasn't wrapped in a blanket being plied with hot drinks by victims' services. She wasn't whisked away for questioning and a referral for psychological services while the body was zipped up in a nice, neat bag and taken to the morgue. She had to be there while Boyd and Topher dismembered Nolan and dissolved him with acid. It makes me shudder just to consider it; what would it do to a participant who'd never done something even close before? (Yes, I know Sierra killed some people in "Ghost", but Prya doesn't remember it [ETA at least not in an "I experienced that" way].)

I'm also not convinced Priya had nothing to fear from the police. She'd likely been seen in Nolan's company frequently over the past year. He's well-known not just in the local community but around the world -- didn't I hear he'd won a Nobel Prize? Someone is going to report his disappearance, and he's not the kind of person the police would let drop off the radar without investigating. She's the first person they'd want to question.

I doubt Adelle is going to tell the Rossum higher-ups what really happened; they might be suspicious, but it's hard to say whether they'd lean on the police to drop an investigation or lean on them to pursue one. Nolan was a valuable asset, and it's mighty convenient that he "disappears" after demanding that Adelle do something she finds repugnant. I suppose Topher could have restored Prya to her pre-doll (sane) state, and he and Boyd could have helped her disappear. In fact, they might have been able to sell Rossum on the idea that Nolan took her and went underground. But if Topher removed her memories of the past year, she wouldn't know why she needed to stay under the radar and would be much more vulnerable to discovery by Rossum investigators if she went back to her art career. If he didn't remove the memories, well, see my first paragraph above.

A terrible dilemma for all concerned.

[ edited by ActualSize on 2009-10-25 19:13 ]

[ edited by ActualSize on 2009-10-25 19:14 ]
Well, I think it is way beyond credible that they would her back to the DH for 'her own good'. Should be pretty clear to all of them by now (at least with this last 'transaction') that they are in the business of human trafficking and that never 'of the good' to the trafickees.
And I think the human capacity for self-deception is just about limitless. Topher, Boyd and Adelle have "protected" Sierra before, taking out Hearn and making an extra effort to be sure those horrible memories were wiped. They've probably persuaded themselves that bringing her back to the Dollhouse is best for her, and if it just happens to coincide with their best interests, well, they can live with that. Or at least Boyd and Adelle can. We know Topher can't in the long run.
I don't understand how Dollhouse is doing so bad in the ratings when week after week we get glorious, hour long glances into sides of humanity we really need to be looking at. This episode, I believe, is my favorite thus far of this season. It's on par with "Epitaph One" in my overall favorites.
I'm a big fan of episodes not entirely focused on Echo/Eliza. The show is called "DOLLHOUSE", not "Echo the Doll," it makes sense to focus on other people every now and then. I never imagined that Sierra's back-story would be THAT engaging and awful (as in, "oh snap, she's had it rough"). Last season, we got a mere taste of what Nolan had done to her, but to know the full scope makes him that much more sinister, and shows how dynamic an actor Vincent Ventresca can be. Pity we won't be seeing him again...
On top of all that, and the phenomenal writing and superb acting all around, I must give HUGE Props to Jonathan Frakes. He's directed so many awesome shows, including one of my all-time favorite series "ROSWELL" and he just blew this episode out of the water. Definitely the best ep he's directed of anything I've seen so far.
Can we get rid of the wiping sequence closing each episode? It just seems especially redundant now with Echo remembering and the others glitching.
Didn't call anyone stupid or something like that, just said "if you want someone to blame for it's cancellation, blame yourself for not watching then" which as accurate as it can be.

My original warning stands. As I indicated before, addressing "self-proclaimed" fans who are not watching as a group and telling them low ratings are their fault is unacceptable. There's really no room for argument on this. If you want to talk about it more, feel free to email me.
Me, not having much trouble finding it easy (ie falling way short of the point where I have real fear I'm just fan-wanking) to imagine Priya staying. The following is not meant as a justification of the "rightness"/"wrongness" of her (or anyone else's) contribution to the decision, but to quickly bullet point the contributing factors (many already alluded to by others) that, in some combination, lead to the decision.

1. It doesn't have to be either total free will ("I choose to stay") or total coercion ("we will make you stay"), both b/c Joss likes the twisty situations and b/c the argument that one or the other possibility is hard to buy as a total solution doesn't logically rule out that possibility.

2. The Dollhouse might potentially offer not just protection from murder investigations, and not just help with trauma of having killed, but also, now, a version of their standard devil's bargain: "give us some years, we give you money/etc"

3. Priya mentions she is in the U.S. illegaly/w/out proper visa, which is extra reason whe might either/both feel forced or feel desire to accept deal that removes that obstacle.

4. Some twisted version of staying to either be with/anticipate eventually leaving with Victor.

5. Whatever our past/priveleged experience of Topher is, Priya has, in her brief experience, some actual good reasons to feel he is trustworthy in the sense that he wants to help/protect/look out for her while she is a doll (and, of course, his doll tech is the only tool HE has by which to try to do this). Similar feelings might exist about Boyd.

6. Actual timeline of new "deal" presented to her is unknown to us -- given what she's been through (the neuroleptics prior to DH plus time as doll), wonder if it is even safe to go "cold turkey" back into the world.

7. And, of course, yes, Adele and co likely made convincing arguments that they would not let her leave (likely expressed as combo of "if you leave we will find you" and "if you leave, we can't use our tech/power to help you." One note: I don't think Topher's line about "I should have just set you free" can be confidently read, as some have, as an indication of his power to force her to return to Dollhood: He and Priya are discussing specifically whether he should have sent Priya back to confront Nolan, ("I never should have let you go there. I should have just set you free"), so doesn't apply to the question of him potentially requiring her return to dollhood.

All in all, I find it likely that most of these factors are in play for her to some extent, so the decision to stay is, at the very least, not a cut and dried plot hole or implausibility. And you can, without being an apologist for the dollhouse or a fool, find it thoroughly believable that Priya, in her situation, could view her return to dollhood with at least some feelings that are positive, desirable, or hopeful.
I'm almost glad I had to wait for Hulu to see this ep, since I was able to bawl my eyes out in privacy toward the end of the episode. Truly a disturbing storyline here, and the actors conveyed the hideousness of it wonderfully.
doubtful guest, I have to say I think you are fanwanking it

There is absolutely no evidence for 2 and 6. That is, we have no reason to believe that Priya has now been offered the standard bargain or that it's somehow unsafe for her to head back into the world. And, in fact, 2 seems impossible. Adelle would be the one that would have to make the offer but as far as she knows Priya never came back. There's no way Topher or even Boyd could have made that offer. And 6 seems, at the least, implausible. Priya was suffering no side effects when she came back as far as we know. You've got to admit that it's pure fanwanking to say that she might think that having her memory erased and having various personalities inprinted onto her would somehow help her with problems going back into the world that she has no reason to believe she had in the first place

5 is very, very unconvincing. Assuming she does trust Topher (the guy who took her from a mental institution, wiped her personality and pimped her out), why would that lead her to become a doll again? If someone I liked and trusted made me that offer I'd say hell no. My point that she needs some independent reason for wanting to become a doll. At most her trust of Topher could seal the deal ('well, I do need / want to become a doll again and I suppose I sorta trust this Topher guy')

In 1 and 7 you talk about the fact that she might have been coerced or induced by Adelle, Topher or Boyd to become a doll again. Firstly, Adelle can't have done that because she didn't know Topher brought Priya back in the first place. I suppose it is at least possible that Boyd and Topher made her stay there (they have motive) but it seems inconsistent with what we see on screen. Priya seems fine with going back to being a doll. She shows no resistance or resentment at all as Topher is about to wipe her personality. And if it was really coercion how did she get to the Dollhouse? Wouldn't she have just left Topher and Boyd after they cleaned up the body? Did Topher and Boyd make her come back? If so, I think that would be a fairly important scene that we can't really just imagine into the show

And 3 is also implausible. She doesn't have a work visa. So what? She was already happily working without one. And even if for some reason she couldn't work in the US she could always head back to Australia (or some other country where she could get a work visa). Surely that would be better than losing years of her life and still waking up without a work visa

4 is the reason I find most plausible but even there I'm sceptical. She won't even experience that time with Victor. Even if we accept that Sierra in her wiped doll state is Priya at all, she won't remember spending any tmie with Victor. As far as she knows, her experience will be this: she will get into the chair and she will wake up years later not remembering anything that happened.

So I've gotta say I'm not remotely persuaded by one of those 7 reasons. I wish I were
And I also think that Topher seeing Nolan in front of the clinic doesn't lead to him recognizing the client later on. Topher's not interested in the clients. He asks Boyd for info in that regard. Also, Nolan cleverly set up the other guy as Priyas doctor (hence Boyd's first hunch about the bad man). "Belonging" also kinda reverse-engineers our understanding of the the end of "Needs": Has anyone actually doubted that Boyd was talking about Nolan when he said "Sierra needed to confront the man who took away her power"? Now we know he wasn't. Nolan was essentially invisible the whole time, a dark shape, which kinda makes it more creepy. Because you can put 1 and 1 together to figure it out, you know. Like they did in this episode. The shock of these people might also stem simply from the fact that it took them so incredibly long. That they are not having a hold of everything that they actually miss stuff and that the house is out of balance.


Wow, I completely agree with wiesengrund on something Dollhouse-related. The world must be coming to an end ;).

Finally got round to viewing this episode. It has been burning a metaphorical hole in my DVD-player for a few days now, but I just didn't have the time to watch. Which: frustrating. But after having seen it, I can only Echo (heh) everyone else: best episode of Dollhouse yet, by a long shot.

As for having Priya choose to stay, I felt it was explained nearly-but-not-quite satisfactory while watching. The minor reason (or rather: the added bonus) of staying was Victor. Which made the choice easier. The main reason, it seemed to me, was because she had to. She was back 'on the grid' in the Dollhouse and no one apart from Topher and Boyd knew the original Priya had ever been programmed back into Sierra. Topher simply couldn't just have made her disappear without serious repercussions for, one would suspect, all of them. They might have gotten Adelle to go along with it, but at the very least it would've given rise to further questions from the Rossum corporation.

In many ways her situation after the events in this episode were very similar to the 'normal' reasons people sign those contracts. Her reward will be the same as everyone else's plus the added bonus of losing that day.

The only minor question remaining is why she doesn't ask Topher to take away that day now and free her. I get why he doesn't without her asking for the reasons stated above (I also believe this Topher probably would have, had she asked), but the only reason I can think of for her not asking is because she knows what Topher and Boyd did to save her and she doesn't want to jeopardize them (and probably herself too, though she arguably doesn't know that). But that would be a greater grasp of the situation and its subtleties than I would expect after the traumatic experience she's had.

ETA that re-reading some of the previous posts, the question of why she's back at the Dollhouse in the first place, is also a good one. Again, I get why Topher/Boyd would want her back - because everything'd fall apart otherwise - but I'm not so clear on why she would choose to come back. I can only think of the same reason I offered above, which is not at all air tight.

[ edited by GVH on 2009-10-26 04:57 ]
narky posted It would have been really funny/awful if Echo's door said "No more November."

Very clever. I'm still chuckling a day later.
Let Down, I believe I did not clearly enough emphasize that I don't believe all 7 points need to be true for my interpretation or the overall plausibility, nor is my own, for lack of a better word, "gut feeling" about which make most sense equal for all seven -- I fully agree with you that #6 feels like the biggest stretch, both in the sense that it seems to me least likely to apply both intellectually and emotionally, and I included it mostly because I did find myself wondering about the washout for whatever they did with the neuroleptics -- many of the "real" ones can be problematic to quit "cold turkey, and I have no idea how to expect regular "doses" of our friend Printy would correspond to the other ways we know of to manipulate brain chemistry.

That said, some small and large rebuttal: Re: #1: introduced to make the logical point that this is not necessarily a case of the "excluded middle," and #7 included largely because I assumed from a large number of the previous comments that many, possibly most, posters here were more convinced that, ultimately, coercion was the most plausible/dominant reason she would return, and felt I would be accused of sugar coating if I did not include it in my "bullet points." In your discussion of what Adelle knows and whether Topher or Boyd had an opportunity to act coercively, ou seem like you may be coming from a perspective actually closer to my own of believing we are meant to assume Priya did in large part "choose" to remain (whether or not you find it plausible that she would make such a choice). All I would add is that, since Priya's scene with Topher is the last of the show except for the going-to-sleep sequence with Echo finding the key card, we don't have definite evidence of what, when all is said and done, Adelle knows about (she didn't initially know Topher sent the real Priya out, but she sure as heck knows Priya/Sierra came back to the dollhouse, which was not the original plan!) or what arrangements Topher and Boyd ultimately made with each other or Priya after the clean-up. Similarly with #2: Topher and Priya's final scene picks up after she has clearly been told/decided to go back to being Sierra, and she seems to have ended up with a fairly decent grasp of what the dollhouse does, suggesting someone has given her some basic explanation of where the hell she is/what has happened to her. Given all that, does it really feel unlikely that someone introduced some short version of the traditional "we'll give you boatloads of money" spiel, especially given Topher's newfound desire to exercise his conscience?

Regarding 4, I find it hard to believe most viewers don't at least assume she's pretty deeply conflicted about what to do about her love for Victor. Are you saying you find it unconvincing it would be her ONLY/MAIN reason for staying (which is not at all my point), or that you find it ultimately unconvincing it is at all involved significantly with whatever stew of motives and necessities leads to her staying (which I would actually be kind of shocked if you really thought). Similarly, with #3 (the visa): before, she was not the target/"property" of a shadowy multinational ring of mind-wipers, which probably sucks way more than worrying about the INS. Given the new circumstances, seems hard to deny this reality would cross her mind -- If I were her and got the slightest chance to ask for favors from this massively powerful organization as part of agreeing to going quietly back into the dollhouse, a fresh no-questions asked passport/identity would be a likely request.

Last, but not only not least but actually, for me, most: #5. While I respect your right to be unconvinced, This one was the thing I took away from my first viewing of the ep and that I, personally, find so entirely convincing that I find the episode unintelligible without it: It seems obvious that we see her and Topher having quite a moment of soul-baring naked truth-telling, such that I find it hard to imagine that, as she sinks back into that chair, even if doing so for reasons that are 99.9% based on coercion, she isn't feeling some comforting spark of "I think this guy will really try to protect me from now on."

In the moment of first watching, my gut response was that I did find her choice plausible, even as I remain unsure what proportion was also coercion. Re-viewing and then reading comments, my list was a way to articulate this by noting the major contributing factors to Priya's decision/"decision" that I'd seen others make or that I'd been thinking about myself. I've neither insisted that my list is all inclusive, nor that all things I've noted are necessary. Trying to figure out why my gut response was as it was (that I fully intellectually and emotionally "bought" Priya's return to the dollhouse on first viewing and continued to feel this way on subsequent viewing) is not at all the same as the active hand-waving to deny/remove an annoying plot hole or character implausibility that pretty much defines fan-wanking, so I will, with maximum effort to avoid acting pissy, state that I ferverently and absolutely deny that having the response I had and then thinking it through qualifies at all as fan-wanking.
Hey doubtful guest, I didn't mean my response in any aggressive way so don't take offense. It was just in the spirit of argument and also in the vague hope that someone would persuade me that I'm wrong and make me love Belonging without exception. I read your response and I'm still not convinced but that's my loss
I think, as doubtfulguest says the closest we'll come to a believable reason for her returning (with what we know at the moment) is "It's messy and there're lots of small reasons that all add up". I find most convincing (as a single reason) the idea that she's aware of how much shit would come down on Boyd and Topher (and herself) if she chose to go and so makes our old 'Dollhouse' "friend", the pressured-but-unforced choice to stay. It never occurred to me that she was forced BTW because we see no evidence for it (she doesn't seem like a woman being forced totally against her will in that final scene, nor does she seem particularly despairing).

And Actualsize - who's recently taken to posting my thoughts about 30 seconds before I do ;) - makes a very salient point IMO in that if she keeps the memories she's scarred for life and if she gets rid of them she's a sitting duck for Rossum to do anything they like to - as Priya she's kind of between the devil and the deep blue sea, as Sierra she at least has a chance of one day being restored to herself and allowed to go about her life. And she gets to spend her off time with someone she loves and who loves her.

It's still pretty thin though IMO, and as I say above, we could really have done with a scene where some of that reasoning was made explicit.
I think, as doubtfulguest says the closest we'll come to a believable reason for her returning (with what we know at the moment) is "It's messy and there're lots of small reasons that all add up".


Funny, how this actually reads like the renewal-thread. ;)
Heh, it's a general purpose comment ;).
Wondering if Boyd might have been an undercover cop, who got into a "situation" in that. That could explain both the obvious police background and the newly revealed bad guy connections including knowing how to dispose of a body.
I think Boyd has a background in organized crime.
"Let them think they have the power. Our time will come." -- Echo, under Nolan's imprint at the beginning.

Nice touch: as Victor and Sierra lock gazes over the painting scene, there's a faint "ting" from the soundtrack, accenting the moment.

Echo encourages Victor's paint removal to go even further, and fascinatingly, she uses a metaphor. Which is a kind of lie...

Echo knows how to play a doll quite well, of course; she also knows that with Topher, at least, she can drop the act to make an impression. (She's done it before -- winning the argument with a doll, volunteering to be made different in "A Spy," and touching him at the end of Omega.) She's using the Dollhouse phraseology as a disguise, especially in her scene with Boyd later on, and her real self as a tool. Talk about empowerment from the very depths -- she's building her sense of self from scratch, and once she's got enough to go on she immediately begins to use her identity. Here's a girl who doesn't have to reach for her weapon...

Victor's "We can talk more about Nolan" is clearly an afterthought, prompted by the programming... they're already falling for each other.

The "war paint" Sierra and Victor put on each other tracks to the camouflage paint the soldier was wearing, in case anyone didn't catch that. It also wouldn't surprise me if Victor in his soldier incarnation was nicknamed "chief" or something along those lines.

Brilliant throwaway sight-gag in Adelle's facial expression at Topher's reaction to Echo's imprint.

Frakes knows how to use his background. In the gallery scene we see Victor and Harding in the background or foreground several times before they come into the main action of the scene, and in the clinic we can see Kennard in the background, watching, as Topher enters. Then in the fight at Nolan's place we see the knife at once, so we know it's there. As for another beautiful detail: Priya's final tear still on Sierra's face as she wakes up and smiles.

What does Adelle mean by "to keep the Dolls in their place?" Is this perhaps a code to tell Boyd to deal with Kennard? After all, if anyone in the Dollhouse knows his background and capabilities, it would be her. (Boyd turns up dressed for the job -- is this the first time we've ever seen him out of a suit and tie?)

Anyone else notice how much Topher goes on about helping Sierra? Who else has he decided to help in the past? The girl in "Briar Rose," who, while not psychotic, is obviously very emotionally disturbed. (Also, later on, Whiskey gets grouped into the same category.) And Topher has some odd mental tics himself in this episode -- pronouncing Saunders' punctuation and arguing with himself, while comparing himself to Alpha. Which draws him up short, a realization that's cut short in turn as Echo surprises him. Plus we all know where Topher winds up. Is Topher perhaps aware of his own mental instability, on some level?

Nolan may resemble a cartoon cutout -- but I've seen cutouts like that in real life, my friends. In the scene at the doorway, all of Nolan's words reek of people (especially men) treating other people (especially women) as commodities. You pay a certain amount in attention and in gifts, and then you expect something in return. It is capitalism applied to relationships, an expectation of a return on investment, and a show like Dollhouse with its critique of capitalism would of course tackle that. No, Nolan is all too real.

Especially with that trophy collection of photos in his drawer. And he feels entitled to use part of herself, with that picture-taking. After all, he owns her, he's using her; why not use one aspect of her personality for himself, as well? After all, when you buy a house, you can tear down the parts you don't like (such as revulsion) remodel the bits that you're not quite satisfied with (free spirit), and use the parts you're already at home with?

Adelle is magnificent in her scene with Kennard -- a classic representation of the Whedon archetype, the powerful woman defending her family. But Kennard pulls the same crap on her that he pulled on Priya: he owns her. Thanks to his money, he's bought and sold her: note the way he moves close in to her personal space, his tie close enough to mockingly sweep across her shoulder. From Kennard's perspective, he has the power to bend Adelle over her tea table and rape her right there, if he wanted do, and totally without consequence, because he owns her.

Harding's revelation that Rossum knows about "Ms. Lonelyhearts" is incredibly telling, and very similar. They don't view the Dolls as people -- they're like office supplies to them! Whereas Adelle felt deep shame about her indiscretions, tried to hide them, and eventually gave them up (and also note that Harding alludes to the compromised ethics that landed her here), Rossum is increasingly blatant about not caring about the people they've bought and sold. They include Adelle in that: "This house is our business, and you will run it the way we tell you to."

As Priya arrives at Nolan's place, notice how he's startled at her playful shove, and she notices it too. In Nolan's world, he's always the only one ever calling the plays. He doesn't allow her the power to take the lead, ever. And note Priya's commentary: all the things she lists as possibilities for what Nolan wants are all powerless: innocent, imbecilic, voiceless.

And then when she starts using her rediscovered voice, that's when she goes too far for Kennard, and he can't bear to hear it, and he says what we know he's been thinking all this time: "You were mine." Why, look at that, fellow Whedonites -- it's the essential statement of slavery! And he follows up with equally rough words of power, control, ownership. She counters with words of independence and love for someone else. He counters with the ultimate resort of the powerful, when they find themselves suddenly dispossessed: violence.

This, Joss is saying, is what money and power do to people.

Despite Rossum's intimidation and blatant buying and selling of people, Adelle places responsibility for sending Sierra to Kennard on her shoulders, hers and Topher's.

And Topher, thanks to Adelle's brutal honesty (note that her first comment in that scene makes sure Topher can't weasel his way out of this), begins his trek in the opposite direction from Kennard's and Rossum's. They grow to see people as commodities because it's so easy to buy and sell and coerce; Topher begins to stop seeing people as toys and seeing them as people.

Because Joss wouldn't be Joss with just the dystopia; he's also going to show redemption.
Wow, just about everyone posting seems to have been blown away by Belonging. It was certainly more intense than most other episodes this season. The villain was particularly vile. While I enjoyed the performances, especially Dichen's, and remained interested in the story, I can't say it moved me much. That's been my response toward Dollhouse from episode 1 on. I can't seem to connect to this show.
Wow, this episode was even more over-hyped than "Man on the Street". Topher's voice is annoying.
Riker, Keith Carradine is David Carradine's brother (their mutual younger brother Robert was in the "Revenge of the Nerds" films for Fox theatrical).

I think that Topher might have believed that being confronted by Priya instead of receiving a compliant Sierra might be enough to put Nolan off. It seems that Topher's if/then reasoning is not called upon often to sort out anything other than neural pathways.

I also think that Boyd prevailed upon both Priya and Topher to have Priya come back to the Dollhouse, due to the absolute rain of fire that would descend on Topher, Boyd, Adelle and Priya if Priya were seen walking about the street. The Rossum Corp. would be very unhappy, with consequences possibly worse than being "re-Activated."

Whoever said Boyd may be a Rossum plant, "Epitaph One" notwithstanding, I was wondering the same thing myself ...
Wow, what an amazing episode! I sat on the couch with my jaw on the floor the whole time. I turned to my bf and said I can't believe this is on cable tv, I mean, I feel like it is Six Feet Under caliber and deals with some pretty heady issues.
Dichen and Enver are fantastic actors. More of them please! I like the subtle Echo developements in this episode. I know it Dushku's show and she's the star and she's great an all. But I'm glad DH is focusing on the supporting cast more. That's what made BtVS so amazing. Buffy may have been the heorine but her friends and the relationships she built are what kept me watching. That and Joss is amazing.
Topher, my heart bleed for Topher. I was not so sure I was going to like him in the first Season. The sarcastic, brainy nerd who knows he's a genius. Kind of cliche. But I should have trusted Joss. WAIT! Gotta run, my boss is coming
ManEnoughToAdmitIt, I had a different interpretation of Topher's being drawn up short after comparing himself to Alpha. I thought he was having an insight into how to solve the remote-wipe problem he was working on, and that it involved Alpha's multiple personalities, somehow, but he was interrupted before he could follow up on it.
I found this online. Someone wrote down what Echo wrote on her sleeping pod as far as they could make out.

IDEAS/FACTS
The Attic is Bad
Where is Caroline?
I am Nobody
Friends Help Each Other (Stage Fright)
I Was Blind (True Believer)
Shoulder to the Wheel (Target)
Ghosts Aren't Real (Echo)
Mountains Are Safe (Grey Hour, Needs)
Topher Makes Me
Dominic Was Bad
Dr. S... (aunders)
Victor Loves Sierra
Sierra Loves Victor
Novemember K.....


IMPRINTS
I was trained to Kill (Man on the Street)
My Son Killed Me
I'm a Believer (True Believer)
I have a rght to Survive (Target)
my husbund bought me a house (Man on the Street)
Blue Skies (Grey Hour)
I Love My Baby (Instinct}
Baby Isn't Mine "" ""
I Like pain??? (hmmmm... Belle Chose)
Women are whores (Belle Chose)
I Tried To Make (Wake) ...... ?? ( i have no idea about this, please help me out!)
I am nobody = "Echo"
My Son Killed Me = "Haunted"
I Like Pain = "Spy" (dominatrix)

Link to where you got those, Let Down?
Sunfire you can find it here: http://www.criticallytouched.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=20@t=586
Yeah I was puzzling over "I tried to make ..." from the screencaps linked upthread. It looks like "shape" or "shapes" to me but that doesn't seem to fit with anything. Or is it "I tried to take ..." ?
ManEnoughToAdmitIt, that was an amazing comment. I especially liked the paragraph about Echo ... "She's building her sense of self from scratch."
And your observations about Franke's masterful visual technique.

That was a better read than most reviews.
Ugh, my stupid TV cuts off the ends and shows everything in the fullscreen ratio. Uncool.

And one thing that's been tearing me up about this episode is whether or not Adelle intended to have Nolan taken care of. Typically it wouldn't surprise me at all, I would actually expect that of her. But her actions are so contradictory in this episode, I'm not sure!

She tells Boyd the order is to "keep the dolls in their place" which admittedly does sound a lot like code for "f*cking get rid of that d-bag Nolan", but she spends the rest of the episode pretty damn miserable. If she was really setting wheels in motion, wouldn't she be a little more confident? She spends the rest of the night alternately drinking alone and lashing out at Topher (LOVE that, by the way, man she was harsh) which seems like a reaction to having her hands tied by Rossum. And by the end seemed genuinely surprised to learn Sierra was back in the house. Obviously, at that point she knew Boyd had taken care of things, but before, I don't know.

I'm leaning toward Adelle truly believing Sierra was done and gone because emotionally it's much more interesting. Plus there's the aftermath of having to accept that she sat back and did nothing, while others took care of business. That's a whole new load of guilt to deal with, along with whatever these mad "indiscretions" are to which Harding alluded. Hmm... Thinking, thinking...
To me Adelle thought Sierra was gone and she didn't intend for them to get rid of Nolan - apart from anything else that'd be a very dangerous choice for her to make since it's defying a direct order from Rossum (with its implicit threat of death or worse) which was given over her vehement objections i.e. it'd look very suspicious to her bosses (and still does, wouldn't be surprised if there's fallout from this somewhere down the line).

She certainly seems to know (or have her suspicions) after the fact though.

(I also don't think she was being intentionally harsh to Topher. She was giving voice to truths best left unsaid - like hurt, drunk people since time immemorial - but she believed it, she wasn't saying it to be hurtful because at that point she didn't believe he could be hurt in that way. Later on - in the Backups vault - she starts to wonder if she's wrong and Topher actually is changing)
I agree that she wasn't purposefully trying to hurt Topher's feelings, just lashing out for reasons that have little or nothing to do with him. It was pretty rough though, I must say. Telling him Saunders left because she "found him so unbearable she had to flee the city"? Ouch.
Adelle has some idea that she still has principles, and needs to feel morally superior to someone. Topher's the only candidate available whom she can accuse of being less ethical than herself.

Remember what a child he was at the beginning. Now he has to stop playing with the toys. To me it seems his initial lack of conscience was immaturity, an inability to grasp consequences, and now he's growing up. He's waking up, just like Echo, but not liking who he's turning out to be.
We tend to see amorality as less mature (less civilized) than a strong moral compass but i'm not sure if that's really true or just a story we tell ourselves (morality and particularly a shared morality is essential to society but whether individuals are actually better off with it, whether it's somehow objectively better just because it follows our normal development - selfish baby to hopefully less selfish, more socialised adult - i'm not so sure). Topher seemed much happier as he was for instance and by most measures was leading quite a successful life.

Telling him Saunders left because she "found him so unbearable she had to flee the city"? Ouch.

'Ouch' because we'd find that painful. Again, I really don't think S1 eps 1-10 (ish) Topher would've cared about that since to that guy Saunders wasn't a person and so how she found him was immaterial (it'd be like my boss telling me that my car finds me unbearable and so refuses to start).

May need to watch the scene again though to see if she seems to see his discomfort and continue anyway.
well Topher was certainly leading an economically successful life.. I wouldn't say that he was happy though. He seemed to enjoy his work (playing with dolls), but was also lonely (as we see from his birthday present in haunted).
Sure, hence 'most measures'. Lots of people are still lonely that don't have high-paying jobs they love. And I don't see a lot of evidence that his burgeoning morality leads to a wonderful friend-filled life either.
well, he gains a quasi-mother in Adelle... that's something.

and to be fair, his burgeoning morality leads to his emotional and mental downfall because (while not morally aware) he helped to end the world. not exactly a common load for morally aware individuals to bare straight off the bat.
My point is, he might be less lonely (we don't know that since he's barely coherent in "Epitaph One") but he loses everything else (even before the end of the world) ETA: OK, in fairness, he's still getting paid before the end of the world ;)[/ETA]. Not necessarily as a result of becoming morally aware, granted. But then the supposed "pluses" (maternal Adelle being the only one we've seen so far) aren't necessarily a result of becoming morally aware either.

As I say, moral awareness being a positive is an assumption, not a given.

[ edited by Saje on 2009-10-27 17:08 ]
There is a reason we tend to associate "amoral" characters with "immaturity": we've got enough child development research (not to mention aeons of parenting/etc) to see that people do gain a certain deeper understanding of how things like "morals" or "ethics" work as their cognitive development proceeds and as their experience grows. Of course, there are also those who by chance or choice remain/return to an "amoral" approach to others, but that doesn't mean there's not some solid grounding for the general assumption that amoral behavior in (especially younger/less worldly or experienced, even if very smart) characters is likely an expression of immaturity. Seems very reasonable to suppose Topher's ethical blindness is different than, say, Nolan's character.

As for such awareness being positive, the vague term there is "positive": I suspect that most people viewing the whole of the narrative of Dollhouse or Angel or Buffy (how else can you make such good villains of the Trio?), etc, would see in it a defense of the idea of "maturity" of ethics or morality (even a painful, conflicted maturity) being a postive. Topher may be happier in the future if he forgets all this fancy conscience stuff, but I really doubt you'd be able to get Joss or the creators of the series to view that as a positive or desirable thing. Not saying its not an assumption, but that there's good evidence it IS a part of the moral stance of the show.
Oh I pretty much agree that's how the show sees it (though as with anything Whedon related, it doesn't present it as an unalloyed positive, there're always consequences and responsibilities). The show also presents having personal autonomy as better than not having it and that's a similar idea IMO - it's so ingrained in Western culture that autonomy and moral awareness are positives that it usually goes unexamined.

And yeah, as I say above, becoming more morally aware as we grow is our normal development - society wouldn't work without it and by and large i'm for it ;) - but i'm saying that's a correlation rather than a causal relationship and assuming that, therefore, being more morally aware equals being more mature is just that, an assumption. From an individual's perspective you could make a pretty good case that amorality is a "winning tactic" IMO (luckily most of us just aren't built/raised that way).
It seems to me like Topher has always been on the cusp of growing as a character and recognizing some of the implications of what he does. He kind of toes the line, and while the plot's gotten him closer and closer to that change he always pushes back. He's kind of clutched to the arrogance for awhile now rather than grow. I think his admission at the end of this episode that he really has no idea if the Dolls are happy or not signals that something significant changed for once. He's starting to question himself a little bit. He's never done that before. It's a fascinating character arc.

I was disappointed though that Adelle gave in to Rossum in this episode. She's never had a moral code I agreed with but I've always respected that the most evil-seeming character on the show has one, that it seems internally consistent, and that she enforces it with a will of steel. Maybe my expectations of her were too high but I expected her to do something calculating and subversive in response to a direct threat to herself and someone under her care.
That would've been the perfect scenario in some ways, we always like to see folk stick it to The Man, especially when, as in this case, he's such an evil bastard. But Adelle isn't a hero, she's "just" a person doing the best she can so it's appropriate that at times we see her falling short of the heroic ideal. If she disobeyed and got caught (and as I say, suspicion is going to fall on her after she lodged her protest) then she'd be killed (or worse) and some Rossum yes-man/woman that doesn't give a shit about her actives would be shipped in. And Sierra would be sent to Nolan anyway. One way to see what she did is as a rational transaction - one active's welfare for the good of the rest.

Course, another way is as moral (and physical) cowardice. The truth very likely being something in-between.
So the Topher thing- Agreed, I wouldn't necessarily consider Topher's situation completely negative- he's a scientist, he should be distanced to the point of seeing people for their physical and chemical merits, that's how science advances. What I love about his moral education is that it still comes from a place of assumed superiority. The idea that he could be so easily fooled is a complete anomaly, and it festers. When Topher sets Priya free to confront her attacker, itís almost a compulsion on his part. Again, it really has very little to do with actually feeling something for the girl, it's more about him being mistaken.

Of course, when he subsequently spends the evening dissecting a body and dissolving the remains, the game changes a bit, but still. Very cool to watch him fumble, play a game he doesn't totally understand yet.

Adelle - I've always found her to have a nearly unwavering moral compass, inexplicable so, considering her employers. And I agree, I sort of expected her to go to the mat for Sierra, but even though she basically folded, I love how the episode played out for her. First, the fact that she gave in at all proves that Rossum has some serious dirt on her. Man, I hope we get to learn more on that. :)

And second, it's much more heartbreaking to watch someone crumble when you'd expect them to have their moves planned out 8 or 9 steps in advance. It's a little unexpected, and emotionally oh so interesting.
Adelle didn't exactly fold easily. First she tried to smack Nolan down. Then, when he rebuffed her, she went over his head to Harding, who basically said, "If you don't cooperate we'll put you in the Attic." (What else would they do with disgruntled employees who know that much?) So yes, she folded... because Harding had a metaphorical gun to her head.

I rather imagine, however, that she's been clinging to her morals for some time now because of her past, in spite of her past -- I think she's been running from nefarious deeds by trying to play at being good. But now the masks are dropping; she knows that won't fly anymore.

I think she still believes that the Dollhouse itself is okay. She's definitely having second thoughts about Rossum, though, and probably breaks with them permanently after the scene with Ambrose in "E1."
The Rossum guy did have to threaten her to get her in line. And I never expected any kind of outright heroics from her. Doing anything openly opposed to their order after that conversation would have been out of character. I expected her to be the one who felt she'd been forced to do something like Topher did though.

I agree with GoldDust that it's definitely unexpected and interesting for both characters. And I see how it fits in thematically since she and Topher are both a little less convinced they're really helping people by the end of the episode, and they're both pretty badly shaken by their respective decisions.
By 'heroic' I obviously don't mean going Rambo on anyone's ass, I mean acting for the good at all, the "small heroics" that make good people good people. In the context of Adelle, her doing anything that's not even slightly self-serving would be heroic. That might be an element of her arc but she's not there yet.

(saving Sierra had no upside for her or the dollhouse/other actives, it was a purely moral, selfless act)
I think the most interesting thing about Adelle, at this point, is that we have essentially NO backstory for her -- we have hints last season that she was involved in research that seemed to be, if I recall, in areas like dementia or similar, which suggests the barest outline of why she might end up working for the dollhouse and believing it served a greater good, a belief she has several times mentioned. To some extent, it is that backstory (that we may never get, or get only if the show survives another season or whatever) that will ultimately make it possible to see just how self-serving vs. deludedly noble her actions were at various points in the story we've seen so far. This being Joss, the backstory on her will likely arrive only when it is most useful in revealing the full tragedy of how far I suspect we will find her to have fallen by that point. (God, hard to imagine we didn't learn Spike's effulgent backstory until more than three years after his first appearance on the scene!)

Speaking of villainous blondes with a taste for danger, of the rest of the dollhouse staff, the one I think has the greatest possibility for a backstory that brings real subtlety to the moral equations is Dominic, whose ruthlessness we know, but whom we also have reason to believe was under cover at the dollhouse for reasons pretty tightly linked to a really strong sense of ideals about the use of such powers. If the show continues, brining him out of the attic may open more story possibilities than plumbing Boyd or Ballard's backstory (Hey, just because we know his body is still in the dollhouse in Epitaph One doesn't mean they can't figure out a storyline that gets him back out temporarily -- certainly his last talk with Echo when he was captive in the van raises the possibility of her seeing him as a pragmatic ally at the right time (a la Spike's betryal of Angel in Season 2).
Finally - Dollhouse has gone from something I want to watch to something I have to watch.
After I rewatched the ep, it seemed like Priya had no choice but to return to the DH.

I agree with Azzers and Catherine: Topher and Adelle know that Rossum does bad things, at least some of the time. Did it not occur to them that doctors not connected with Rossum might be able to help Priya?

When someone cannot give consent, someone else (such as a guardian)
can OK experimental treatment in hopes of helping them. Priya was put in an experiment where her body was used for commercial purposes. Topher has to have learned about informed consent in research.

I think some viewers are like Topher and Adelle. They continue to think that what happens at the DH is morally gray or morally ambiguous.
Sure, if we disagree we're kidding ourselves, are amoral or morally immature, heard that one since the beginning of season 1.

It's clearly not grey in Sierra's case and i've said that from 'Needs' onwards (when we had, y'know, actual evidence that she was forced into it). That doesn't mean no-one gives consent when they sign up or that consent is black/white and without nuance (all choices are pressured, none are made in a vacuum) and it doesn't mean the dollhouse can never have a net positive effect in some cases. That, to me, is too simplistic.

...the one I think has the greatest possibility for a backstory that brings real subtlety to the moral equations is Dominic...

Yeah, he's interesting, a zealot on the side of the "angels". I think he may be one of the few Whedon characters I remember who's - as far as the show's hero is concerned - an out and out bad-guy BUT is also actually right (just look at what happens as a result of the technology escaping). To some extent though I don't want him "explained", y'know ? I don't want some story that makes him understandable because I like the fact that he's a baddie that's right, I want him to stay a baddie rather than be rendered more sympathetic (they could maybe round him out without making him more sympathetic but it's a fine line to walk).
Well, they walked that line with Mayor Wilkins, even while actually making him more sympathetic. So, doable, I think.
Yeah, like I say if they make him more sympathetic then they've gone over the line - that's what I don't want to see happen (with The Mayor, partly thanks to Harry Groener's performance, you could view him as having genuine feelings for Faith and then view him as just using her, often within the same scene. But ultimately he was slightly more sympathetic as he softened towards her. That relationship humanised him and, being humans, it's in our nature to sympathise with other humans - that's why we demonise and dehumanise the enemy during wartime).

I agree though, there's probably a way to show us more of Dominick and reaffirm his baddie status and his correctness at the same time. And if anyone can do it, it's Joss and the gang.
Saje, you hold your opinion on moral ambiguity as strongly as I hold mine that what the Dollhouse is doing is wrong. You and others continue to talk about moral ambiguity, and that's been said at least a couple of times upthread. If you can continue to express your opinion, then I feel free to continue to express my opinion that you're wrong, especially because I still don't think you've dealt with the arguments made by me and others.

That's why my latest theory is that Joss is hoping that viewers like you will wake up to what the DH is doing, just as Adelle and Topher are slowly waking up to it.
We do hold our opinions as strongly as each other Suzie and that's great as far as i'm concerned (as is you expressing yours). What's less great is the implication that my opinion makes me some sort of moral degenerate (and the related if slightly circular idea that me being some sort of moral degenerate makes my opinion less valid). That i'm not so keen on you expressing since it's a direct personal insult which isn't really allowed on this board (part of what makes for great discussions).

As to not addressing arguments, I see a lot of you seeing events on the show differently to me and using your interpretation as justification for your position, just as i'm doing. But feel free to make those arguments again if you like and if I can meet them I will (if I can't meet them then who knows, maybe you'll have convinced me that you're right).

FWIW BTW, as the situation changes in the dollhouse (i.e. as the blank-slates become more aware and traumatised by their experiences and especially as the people around them become more aware of that awareness) then I think it is becoming more morally clear-cut. It's much harder to justify Adelle or Topher's behaviour when they know the blank-slates are, if not full persons yet at least growing towards it (and the characters themselves are reflecting that by, in turn, finding self-justification more difficult). That's something i've already said upthread.
Sorry to derail the conversation with something off-topic but I don't think anyones answered this/fanwanked it.

If Boyd believed that Priya now belongs in the Dollhouse and she ended up going back there, why did he tell her to pack some of Nolans clothes and tamper with Nolans passport?

Again, sorry if someone already answered this, I mightve missed a comment.
I don't think you're a moral degenerate, and I hope you don't think I'm a simpleton incapable of a philosophical argument.

But this is what I think: Time and again, Joss has shown that it's wrong to control someone's mind, whether with science or magic. It's wrong for Warren to create a robot girlfriend. It's wrong when he uses magic and tech to try to make his ex consent to sex. It's wrong for Tara's memories to be wiped away. Even if people consent in some fashion to follow Jasmine, it's still wrong. It's wrong for the Alliance to try mind control, even if it has the best intentions of making people more peaceful. It's understandable for people to do things to save their lives, but they become heroes only when they do the right thing, no matter the consequences. As Echo says: Even if bad things happen, they need to wake up.

After all, Joss is the man who didn't want his kids playing with mechanical dogs because he doesn't want them to get the idea that dogs exist only to serve them. He understands that some of us think he is our god or our master, but he doesn't want that.

As he says on the 1st season DVD, it's fine if the Patton Oswalt character fantasizes about his wife seeing the new house and having sex with him, etc. But, he says, if the DH were real, it would be unacceptable for the rich guy to hire a brainwashed woman to play the wife.

Just as we see Dolls coming to consciousness, in some fashion or another, so we see Adelle and Topher beginning to accept that what they're doing is wrong. Boyd already knows it's wrong as does Ballard, even though they participate in it.

Yes, of course, the DH sometimes has positive effects, but that doesn't make what it does morally ambiguous. If the DH captured me and turned me into a skilled neurosurgeon, I might do some good, but it wouldn't be right.

Here are a few arguments on consent:

I doubt that Dolls are *fully* informed. In other words, they may be told that they will go on risky assignments and may have sex with people. I doubt they are told: During risky assignments, you may kill people or be killed. You may be disfigured or disabled. You may be sent on sexual assignments that would make you sick to your stomach if you knew what you had done. Memories of what you've done as an Active may come back to you - we're just not sure. All of this technology is experimental and it glitches regularly. If you malfunction in some way, you may be sent to the Attic, where you will remain in limbo for an indefinite period. In fact, we have had an Active who went crazy, killed a bunch of people and then escaped, doing who knows what now.

It's important for people to have the right to change their minds, and the Dolls lack that opportunity. Feminists are fighting this in regard to rape in the U.S. In some states, if someone consents to sex, the other person can do other sex acts or have repeated sex with her, even if she says no. This goes back to the days when rape was a violation of a man's rights over a woman, such as his daughter or wife. Once she was despoiled, it didn't matter what else was done to her -- she was already ruined.

This isn't akin to medical situations, in which someone is always supposed to be looking out for the well-being of the unconscious patient, and there are various rules and regulations. It's not done in secret by people with commercial interests.
If Boyd believed that Priya now belongs in the Dollhouse and she ended up going back there, why did he tell her to pack some of Nolans clothes and tamper with Nolans passport?

That was all was part of staging Nolan's "trip." Which they need to do no matter where Priya ends up, just to cover the whole thing up.
Ah right, Im saving my rewatch for when its airs in england so I couldn't remember if Boyd had made some sort of fake ID for Priya or not, which would obviously be a bit confusing.
Time and again, Joss has shown that it's wrong to control someone's mind, whether with science or magic. It's wrong for Warren to create a robot girlfriend. It's wrong when he uses magic and tech to try to make his ex consent to sex. It's wrong for Tara's memories to be wiped away. Even if people consent in some fashion to follow Jasmine, it's still wrong.

To me he's shown it's wrong to control someone's mind against their will whereas part of the ambiguity of 'Dollhouse' for me is (and has been all along) is it against their will ? He's also said that this is different to what he's done before (and that it might well make some of his fans angry though AFAIK he's never said why he thinks that). It's also the show of his that's most grounded, it's got one macguffin, once that's accepted everything else is basically our world. So it makes sense to me that it's going to address real-world messiness and not always deal in black and white, either/or situations.

I doubt that Dolls are *fully* informed. In other words, they may be told that they will go on risky assignments and may have sex with people. I doubt they are told: During risky assignments, you may kill people or be killed. You may be disfigured or disabled. You may be sent on sexual assignments that would make you sick to your stomach if you knew what you had done. Memories of what you've done as an Active may come back to you - we're just not sure. All of this technology is experimental and it glitches regularly.

I doubt they're told any specifics at all myself, I imagine the information being along the lines of "We'll use your body for anything we choose and though there's some danger we'll expend massive resources to ensure no permanent harm comes to it. At the end you'll be restored and go about your life none the wiser and much richer" (as Adelle sees it - or saw it anyway - that's all true BTW) - whether it would turn their stomach if they knew is immaterial because at sign-on time Adelle believes they won't know. I agree about the glitches though, that's one reason i'd rather we saw more engagements that worked flawlessly (in 'Echo' alone I think there're 3, pity it didn't air for that reason) - Adelle shouldn't have any faith in the technology and neither should Topher because it fails constantly. And as you say, it's a business which means there's an element of sales bullshit involved (glossing over undesirable details etc.). Again though, i'd suggest that that always happens to varying degrees.

To you it seems like if the consent isn't fully informed then it's not consent. But to me consent is never fully informed in that sense because we never know what's going to result from a decision. Consent falls on a spectrum from "fully informed/totally unpressured" (which I contend doesn't ever happen in practice since there are always pressures and we never have perfect information about the future or even the present) to "not informed at all/forced" (which, sadly, does happen in practice). The only active we see at the "not informed/forced" end of the spectrum is Sierra (the first time) with Echo being more like "partly informed/heavily pressured" and Madeline "partly informed/not overtly pressured" (but also maybe not thinking clearly due to grief).

It's important for people to have the right to change their minds, and the Dolls lack that opportunity. Feminists are fighting this in regard to rape in the U.S. In some states, if someone consents to sex, the other person can do other sex acts or have repeated sex with her, even if she says no.

First of all that just doesn't make sense to me, it's disgusting there's even a requirement to fight it - for people, unique events require a corresponding unique choice to be made wherever possible.

That said, in the dollhouse, until recently, as far as Adelle (and Topher) knew, the blank-slates weren't people - they had no agency or responsibilities and so they also had no right to the considerations we extend to persons. As I say now the blank-slates have shown the potential to develop into people so they're more like children which means the final restoration is akin to murdering them (something Ballard still seems fine with) and causing them trauma through engagements is like child abuse.

And can you consent once to things that will happen when you're no longer in a position to actively consent ? That's a different question to "Should future consent be assumed" BTW (no IMO). In reality we make agreements all the time wherein we accept that we won't be able to change our minds. The sticking point there I think is "5 years" cos it seems like the length of time you'd want to change your mind in (it's not an instant or the time between ordering a meal and eating it, it's a while, things change in 5 years). But not for the "volunteers" (in theory at least) - for them the 5 years are over in a blink, the only thing experiencing the years passing is their body which in the dollhouse isn't them, it's just a "vessel".

This isn't akin to medical situations, in which someone is always supposed to be looking out for the well-being of the unconscious patient, and there are various rules and regulations. It's not done in secret by people with commercial interests.

There are parallels there to DNR arrangements or joining the military or even just working for someone else IMO - i'm not saying it's the same BTW, i'm saying all of those are on a "consent spectrum" as are all the actives' situations. And in the dollhouse someone was looking out for them - Adelle, capitalism's broken, flawed answer to a mother hen. Also (certainly in the US but even over here) medical considerations aren't separate from commercial considerations, much as we might like to believe they are (human life is priceless, right ? Maybe, but it's not costless unfortunately).

Ultimately no, I don't in any way think you're a simpleton Suzie but I do think you're comparing an idealised version of the real world to Joss' messy, realistic take on the real world and, unsurprisingly, hitting inconsistencies. Should all consent always be "fully informed/totally unpressured" ? Absolutely. But it isn't IMO. Should we, as soon as there's any evidence in support, extend beings the rights of personhood ? Arguably. But we don't. Does no always mean no ? Absolutely (or we MUST assume it at least). But does not-no never mean yes ? It might be easier but it's not how the world works as I see it and 'Dollhouse' reflects that.
I do think you're comparing an idealised version of the real world to Joss' messy, realistic take on the real world ... Similarly, Sage, I think you're not acknowledging what goes on in the real world. Joss often let's us understand the motivations of bad guys; he may make a character sympathetic or likable. But I don't think he's saying situations are morally ambiguous, and there's a difference.

Can "not-no" = consent? Sure, some times. But it may be hard to tell. Some girls and women go along with things out of fear. If so, it may be hard to prosecute their case. Consider this essay on "not-rape."

A person taking action that might be deemed harmful ought to make sure he has consent. That's why, at my local university, men against rape are wearing T-shirts that ask: "Got consent?"

I don't know if you're saying this, but some people appear to be suggesting that no harm is done if a person doesn't know how her body was used. This also has been a big issue in seeking justice for rape victims. Some guys see a woman passed out and think they can do what they want with her body as long as she never finds out.

Like Ballard, I am being idealistic in my hope for justice for victims.

I agree that some parallels can be drawn to DNRs; other medical care; the military; and other employment. But in all those cases, there are various rules set by lawmakers, regulatory agencies, etc. A person with a DNR can change her mind. If a DNR isn't respected, and the person who disregarded it did so for monetary gain, they can be prosecuted. Health-care professionals can be sued if a patient wasn't sufficiently informed. I'm not big on the military, but a person can be prosecuted for following an order that is considered wrong, such as slaughtering innocents. Similarly, employers may use various ways to coerce employees, but if an employee does something morally wrong, he can still be prosecuted.

I agree that there is much ambiguity and nuance in the real world, but in the real world, people often must make decisions about what is wrong and what is right. That includes issues of consent. Just because others conceal information or use coercion to get consent doesn't mean it's OK for the DH to do that. When I talk about fully informed consent, I generally mean it in the way that it's applied to health care and medical research.

We know that, in modern-day LA, what the DH is doing would amount to voluntary slavery, which is illegal. I know some people on this site think that there's nothing wrong with indentured servitude, and that it should be OK for people to volunteer to be slaves. I disagree - I think that harms society. To me, that's a moral wrong.

the blank-slates weren't people - they had no agency or responsibilities and so they also had no right to the considerations we extend to persons. I find this view abhorrent, although I'm sure you're a fine person in real life. Do you think mentally disabled people also are "non-people"?

There's a long history in the Western world of viewing women only as "vessels." That's why it can sound so offensive when someone suggests the Dolls are simply vessels.
A person with a DNR can change her mind.

Well, not after they're unconscious right ? That's the analogous situation - can you consent beforehand to things being done to you once you're unable to give consent ?

And you're right, there are a lot of protections in place. I feel that's partly because there are so many ambiguous situations that people - even good people - are tempted to "tweak" circumstances for what they consider a greater good (a doctor might want to end suffering and kill a terminal patient for instance - is that always illegal ? In most places yes. Is it always immoral ? Not always IMO, no).

... but in the real world, people often must make decisions about what is wrong and what is right ... When I talk about fully informed consent, I generally mean it in the way that it's applied to health care and medical research.

Right, in the real world we must decide one way or the other, our actions have to be definite, a line must be drawn. But to me that doesn't mean that the underlying situation isn't grey, ambiguous and complicated, it just means that (in some cases) it's so complicated that we can't actually "solve" it definitively, we have to just go with our best approximation. Which is partly why those "approximations" change and what is and isn't deemed morally acceptable changes with it. Or possibly you feel there's one true morality (perhaps you're religious) and that anything that deviates from that is, by definition, immoral ?

I know some people on this site think that there's nothing wrong with indentured servitude, and that it should be OK for people to volunteer to be slaves.

I can't speak for "some people" but for me it's not whether it should be OK, it's partly whether it's always morally wrong to do so, whether a free person should be allowed to do so if they wish and even whether a free person even can do so.

I find this view abhorrent, although I'm sure you're a fine person in real life. Do you think mentally disabled people also are "non-people"?

This is an abstract debate about a TV show, abhorrence doesn't and shouldn't prohibit discussion. For me, mentally disabled people are one of those arbitrary lines we've drawn in our society. Are they "full people" any more than for instance the great apes are (to which, as with the blank-slates, we also don't extend the rights we give to people) ? Frankly, I don't know. We treat them like they are though, albeit people without ALL of the rights of "full people" (for instance we don't always care what they want to do so again, the real world consent and choice issue is more complicated than the "perfect world" ideal) and I think that's probably a good idea (even if it's based more on the fact that they look like people) since what is and isn't a person is a grey area - better to hedge on the side of compassion.

With that as with most things we're rightly worried about the "slippery slope" - if we stop treating some "people" as people then where would it end ? But of course in many parts of the world we already treat what some consider people (and what all of us would surely see as "potential people", just as the blank-slates are) as non-people since we allow abortion.


Anyway, i'll possibly come back to this in a bit (I have to go to work, boo ;).

[ edited by Saje on 2009-10-29 08:34 ]
Can open. Worms everywhere.
You would not believe just how little I want this to turn into a debate about abortion curlymynci (it's just too emotive, too divisive - besides which I suspect Suzie and I may well agree on it anyway). But it seems to me that it's kind of the elephant in the room in these discussions. It speaks directly to the idea of personhood and the rights we do or don't extend and it's also related to consent.

And most importantly for the general tone, I think it's an area where right thinking people (who are neither morally immature nor simpletons ;) can disagree about the morality of the situation just because it's (to me) so incredibly complicated BUT at the same time many legal systems have had to draw one of those arbitrary lines even though it might be the ultimate grey moral area (it's also a line which moves - or may have to move - as technology advances so pertinent in that respect too).
I can't help but think that we've meandered a bit from the original topic. If we could back to discussing the episode then that would be absolutely lovely.
...it's just too emotive, too divisive...

And the other reason being, the mods don't like it ;).
Damn, and I was just about to demolish all of your arguments.
Phew in that case, bodyswerve ;).
So, how about that Enver dude, huh? Quite the chameleon, don't you think?

Okay, actual topics. Is Topher getting the lazy writing treatment that Willow and Fred got - piling on previously unmentioned skill-sets to suit the plot?

Or this one. I thought for a while that this show was partly about how people involved in inhumane systems justify themselves to themselves. There wouldn't be any cardboard cut-out bad guys who are just one hundred per cent eeevil. No villains who actually think they're immoral and have no qualms about it, who don't have at least rationalizations about what they do. And yet in Belonging we have two.

There's Nolan, of course, one of ME's vilest villains ever, with practically no shadings, but at least I can see why ME didn't want to humanize him. But Keith Carradine's character is no less vile. He seems to be saying that he thinks everybody at Rossum is evil, including him, and the sooner DeWitt gets over herself and recognizes that the better. Do people think like that, outside of tv villains? Not to mention its a bit short-sighted to undercut your underlings' reasons for carrying out your operation. Does he want to bring on a crisis of conscience?
Aaah fantastic, 11/10. In awe of everyone involved + well done Jonathan Frakes. Thanks!
There is a mole in the LA Dollhouse. Probably a handler or other low-ranked individual.

Reason: The visiting Rossum VIP mentioned the "Ms Lonelyhearts" indiscretion. But this was clamped down quite well - only DeWitt and (possibly) Topher knew. For the Rossum guy to know, they had to manage both:

1. Have Ms DeWitt monitored, to catch Victor showing up at her house. Ms DeWitt's office could also be bugged, or watched via telescope. Anyway, monitoring of a mundane variety to catch the indiscretion.

2. "Ms Lonelyhearts" is a slang term used by the handlers in the LA Dollhouse for this particular engagement. Only someone inside would have heard it, since it is not the supposed client's name.

I'd like to think that DeWitt could not make overt moves because she'd been tipped off to being monitored. But I'm not sure. Not even after her oddly-worded order to Boyd, and the apparent effort to push Topher's buttons. Adelle is complicated.
I don't think any of that requires a mole. Just someone over Adelle's head with higher security privileges than she grants to any of her staff. Topher doesn't know-- he made fun of Miss Lonelyhearts right in front of her in a very unknowing way.
Yeah, I don't think it was necessarily a mole. I'm sure there are other ways for Rossum to figure things out. I mean, she's certainly being monitored by them in her office, Rossum just seems like they wouldn't change the light bulbs in a room without installing a few cameras, but I don't think that's any news to Adelle.

She did seem pretty shocked that they new about Victor, and I love Harding's reaction. Especially because I hadn't really thought about what the houses run by men must be like. Hell, Harding himself has slept with Echo, and he doesn't even work on site! I love that Adelle carries around all of this guilt over using Victor, but the men at Rossum wouldn't have flinched at it. This isn't about to turn into a feminist rant on gender roles or women in the workplace, or anything like that, I just think it's an interesting dynamic. Of course, Adelle had quite an attachment to Victor, most of those men were probably not thinking that way.

Also, I really, really want to know what they've got on her. Grr, I hate waiting...
I agree he could have found out about the Victor engagements any number of ways. What tripped me off is using the "Lonelyhearts" title. It's unofficial slang within the LA house, not in the records. The only way to hear it is to talk to lower staff members.

In theory, they could have bugged less-important areas of the House. Like the handler ready room, if there is one. But bugging an underground facility is much harder than a windowed office - the problem is getting a low-powered signal out.

btw - forgot to mention in the first post. Belonging was Excellent. More, please.
But bugging an underground facility is much harder than a windowed office - the problem is getting a low-powered signal out.

That only really applies to wireless bugs though - i'd be pretty surprised if the dollhouse wasn't designed from the ground up (or the 'underground up' but you know what I mean ;) with wired audio surveillance (at least), there's just too much at stake for Rossum to trust the managers without keeping tabs on them. The puzzle is that Adelle hadn't considered that herself (because she definitely did look surprised to me) but that may all be part of her self-delusion as it stood at that point.

From Harding's perspective it was just a reminder to her that they knew, that they held all the cards and had chosen that point to play a trump.

(that said, we don't know it was purely informal slang, that's an assumption - maybe Topher referred to the engagement by that name in a report for instance. Or maybe he mentioned it to somebody at the last company picnic ;)

Of course, Adelle had quite an attachment to Victor, most of those men were probably not thinking that way.

Probably, in fact, saw the "no attachment" aspect as a plus. That BTW was one reason I felt sorry for Adelle at that point - leaving aside for a minute the morality of using Victor that way (raping him as some here view it) seeing her one concession to her own humanity, the one thing she let herself have genuine human feelings about being exploited in that way was horrible (which is the point I guess - Rossum has no place for human frailty or individuality and makes no concessions to our weaknesses except in so far as they can exploit them. Joss/Jed/Maurissa are not so much with the corporation love, huh ? ;).
Can open. Worms everywhere.
curlymynci | October 29, 09:00 CET


Good thing I came on after this one was nipped in the bud by a mod, because I'm really offended by the assumption of the "elephant in the room issue", because it most definitely is not an issue, to those of us who have different beliefs about when "personhood" does or does not begin.

Off that specific topic and more in general, my interpretation of what DH is primarily "about", runs more in the direction of the rights of the powerless to identity/autonomy - those who are backed against a wall because of misdeeds, or well-intentioned deeds gone wrong (Caroline), VS the "rights" of those with an obscene amount of power to coerce desperate people into something that obviously does not involve full disclosure of the potential for using/misusing your body in ways no one would probably ever consent to.
So in that sense, consent is an issue. But IMO, the larger issue being explored here is power and how it corrupts - an old saw, but as always, Joss takes it to more twisted, ambiguous places.

And so it becomes more about how people delude themselves in order to have a piece of that power, and the inevitable breakdown of the self delusion, for anyone with a shred of human integrity.

One of the things that makes Belonging such a shattering ep for me, is the whole power dynamic theme. Adelle's initial assumption that she had the power to refuse to do something that was so clearly not what she signed on for, and how shockingly she was shot down by someone with real - and lethal - power, over her.
Then her making it crystal clear to Topher that he wasn't about to weasel out of his share of the responsibility.

Sierra's plight has been heartbreaking from the first reveal of her repeated rape by her handler and the first hint that she did not "volunteer", even with coercion. But I think that in Belonging, while fleshing out Sierra's story and making her plight all the more tragic, the overreaching theme is the different levels of power, or lack of same, in the Dollhouse hierarchy.
And even in Sierra's backstory, we see a modern young woman with the casual assumption that she has the power to rebuff the unwelcome advances of a man who has a very different set of assumptions about power. And the way that plays out, is just gut wrenching. This to me is Joss at his best (in the sense that his sensibility informs everything done on his show). The way Sierra's story plays out, is a horror more disturbing than a dozen slasher/gore films combined.

And then there's the question of, do original intentions somehow make you less culpable, when you get caught in the devils bargain to the extent that it's made clear that your own life is on the line (Adelle)?
Or when someone, due to a combination of youth, arrogance and naivete, finds themselves in a position like that of Topher?

As for the slavery/servitude issue, it seems to me that the keepers of this Dollhouse are rapidly falling into that category, along with their "charges". Just on a whole other level. Which is endlessly fascinating and deeply disturbing.
My favorite episode yet! I always knew Topher had some remorse in him and it was nice to see some backstory on Sierra.
Topher and Adelle don't know they are bad guys. Talk about a brain wipe.
Moral Dilemmas do not lend themselves to quick fixes.

That said, if I were Topher this was the only solution that would give me even the possibility of sleeping at night. Not to mention led to living another day.

Rossum's people are quickly succumbing to the truth that "Power corrupts, Absolute Power corrupts absolutely".

Boyd's actions as the cleaner were spot on in my opinion and I look forward to seeing what Joss & Co. do next.

Fox Execs please defy my expectations and leave this show on the air. I enjoy it immensely.
Just watched the episode again: holy bejeezus, it's an amazing ep.

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