After months of waiting, Dollhouse is finally here. I’m assuming that this intro will reveal some clues as to Echo’s past, so excuse my extensive detail.
The scene opens up via security camera showing us two women sitting at small table (Eliza Dushku and Olivia Williams). The better dressed of the two (Williams) speaks first and says, “Nothing is what it appears to be” and she tells the other (Dushku) she can have a clean slate. This doesn’t impress the second woman who asks, “Have you ever try and clean an actual slate? You always see what was on it before.” The businesswoman moves a contract forward and asks if she’ll be volunteering. It’s clear she wouldn’t be “volunteering” and she wonders aloud “How did it get this far?” Finally, the businesswoman speaks the disheveled girl’s name – Caroline – as she warns her, “Actions have consequences.” This explanation doesn’t calm Caroline and she continues to argue until the businesswoman points out that she can take care of Caroline better than she’s been taking care of herself and that she’ll take care of “this mess” as long as Caroline signs up for a 5 year term. Caroline acts as if she’s being wrongfully sentenced to prison. She claims she was just trying to take her place in the world like “she” always said. Finally she sits down and agrees, “Actions have consequences,” to which the businesswoman responds, “What if they didn’t?”
Caroline is in a motorcycle race with an unidentified man. During the race, she crashes and lands on her leg but gets right back up again to just barely come in second at the finish line, which is a birthday party for the man, whose name we learn is Matt. Evidently when they met, they said no strings attached but Matt gives her a small heart charm necklace anyways. He leaves her to get another drink and as she walks, something comes over her that makes her walk outside to an awaiting van. The man inside asks her if she’s ready for her “treatment.” Matt looks after her from the bar and tells his friend that it was “time for her to go.”
The van arrives at a facility and she asks if she can go back to the party after the treatment. She walks right into a high-tech chair, still raving about Matt, when the technician warns her that the chair might pinch a bit. A bright light flashes around her head and her experiences with Matt flash backwards to the moment she met him and requested a no obligations experiment, then all the way back to childhood, then finally birth. The present-day girl drops the charm necklace in her hand as the chair sits her upright again. The technician addresses her as Echo and asks how she’s feeling to which she responds, “Did I fall asleep?” She then wanders out of the room.
The technician, Topher (he sits down and agrees, “Actions have consequences,&rdqu), explains to her handler, Langdon (What if they didn’t?”), that the “wipe” went perfectly fine and that Echo no longer remembers anything. He seems less than impressed with the whole process, so Topher says, “There’s nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so, man-friend” and then calls them humanitarians. Langdon clarifies that they are humanitarians that would spend their lives in jail if anyone were to find out about their place. The camera pans to a large Zen-like room where several people are aimlessly wandering around.
A little girl named Davina Crestejo is kidnapped from her own bedroom. She’s the daughter of Gabriel Crestejo (Kurt Caceres), who is a wealthy factory owner running his operation from the safety of the United States. Crestejo goes to the businesswoman to tell her what happened. The kidnappers are demanding 5 million dollars and he’s willing to pay. He requests a negotiator and the businesswoman, Adelle Dewitt, says that as a valued customer, they’ll take care of it. She says there’s a risk factor involved because the “actives” are not robots. She reminds him to never discuss where the active comes from with whom they send because the active won’t know that they came from the Dollhouse and any talk of it would only confuse her.
Echo gets a check up from Dr. Claire Saunders (Amy Acker) and they determine that some large object fell on Echo’s leg. Echo’s slightly bothered by the fact that she doesn’t know what fell on her. She wanders away from the doctor’s table, distracted by a bright flashing light. She wanders upstairs and curiously opens the door to find a girl hooked up to a bunch of wires on the chair, clearly in pain with shocks pulsing through her body. Echo comments that “she hurts” and Topher has to explain that they are making her better and that Echo will soon have a new friend named Sierra ().
In an interrogation room, Agent Paul Ballard () is being questioned on the case he was assigned to. In his 14 months on the “Dollhouse” case, he has physically threatened a senator, disrupted a seven-year human trafficking investigation, been arrested for trespassing on a yacht, and gotten a divorce. They ask him if he thinks that Dollhouse really exists to which he responds, “I know it does.” Although they tell him that the assignment is a joke, he proves that it obviously isn’t if someone up above won’t pull him off it. Dollhouse is important to someone, somewhere, or else the case wouldn’t exist. Someone believes that billionaires go to Dollhouse in order to have themselves programmed the perfect date, assassin, dominatrix, chef, or anything else. Paul explains that the only way to imprint a human with another personality is to completely remove that person’s original personality. He claims that to do that, these people may have well been murdered. They tell him it’s still a fairy tale and that he must back off the human trafficking case.
Topher asks Echo to get into the chair, although she’s obviously concerned after what she saw with Sierra. The bright light flashes. In another room, Dewitt explains the case to Langdon. Echo’s purpose is to facilitate the exchange and nothing more.
Echo enters the Crestejo household thinking she’s a woman named Eleanor Penn. Crestejo isn’t happy they sent a beautiful woman to facilitate the exchange. She explains that she’s been negotiating her entire life and that she’s the best person for the job.
Langdon, watching, asks Topher why Echo’s wearing glasses. He explains that she’s nearsighted because her personality comes from imprints of actual people. So, she also has asthma.
Eleanor Penn talks with Mr. Sunshine, the kidnapper, and demands that he call her Ms. Penn. He responds and says, “So you’re the schoolteacher now” and then gets really upset with her. She ups the exchange price from 5 million dollars to 8 million dollars, to the dismay of Crestejo. She says that 8 million would be better because then they could have 2 million a piece and then demands that Mr. Sunshine calls back to let Davina talk to her father and then she hangs up. Crestejo notes that Ms. Penn knew that there were four men.
When Mr. Sunshine asks for more money, Ms. Penn hangs up on him. Davina talks to her father and as she starts to try to tell her father something, Ms. Penn cuts them off. She explains to Crestejo that it’s better for her if she doesn’t try to send him messages. They set a meeting for the exchange the following day.
Crestejo obviously very upset. When she tells him that he has to trust that she’s done this many times, he starts taunting her. While giving her negotiation background, he cuts her off and demands that she tell him why she does the job. Ms. Penn reveals that she was kidnapped when she was 9 years old for three months. She has a brief flash of seeing Sierra screaming back at Dollhouse but doesn’t know what she’s seen.
Agent Ballard’s at a bar following a younger man named Lubov (Enver Gjokaj). He follows him into the bathroom and puts a gun to his head. Ballard demands that Lubov finds out who’s connected to the Dollhouse or else he’s coming back for him.
At the meet, Langdon is watching with a sniper rifle from a nearby roof. Crestejo and Ms. Penn bring out the moneybags. When the fourth man walks out, Ms. Penn starts hyperventilating. Topher informs Boyd Langdon that something’s wrong. Ms. Penn collapses on the dock and tells Crestejo that they won’t give her back. When he tries to run to the boat, he’s shot in the shoulder. Langdon shoots one of the kidnappers from the roof. He runs down to get Echo and all she can say is, “You can’t fight a ghost” over and over again.
In the van on the way back to Dollhouse, Ms. Penn is having a breakdown. She explains that they will never give the girl back. Langdon figures out that one of the kidnappers was the man who kidnapped Ms. Penn when she was a little girl. She explains that the man won’t touch the girl until he’s gotten rid of the other men. The men will probably ditch the boat, then go count the money, and while they’re still excited, the man will kill the other two. She also deduces that Davina must know whomever the man in the mask because he doesn’t allow her to see him.
Langdon convinces Ms. Dewitt cannot wipe Echo because Ms. Penn is the only one that can find her previous kidnapper. She initially refuses because the client, Crestejo, might die. He yells at her telling her they still have a mission and she corrects him and tells her that they prefer to call them engagements. Finally, Langdon tells her that if they really help people, they’d let Echo help this girl.
Ms. Penn deduces that the man in the mask is probably the schoolteacher. They find a schoolteacher from Davina’s school that has been absent during that week and that his sister has a waterside house. Ms. Penn touches down in the helicopter and asks for ten minutes.
Topher explains to Langdon that the woman whose personality was the one that was kidnapped and rapped killed herself eventually.
Ms. Penn knocks on the door and they let her in. She tries to tell the men that the bald-headed man will try to kill them after the money is counted. They don’t believe her until she explains that she knows Davina is probably in a fridge in the kitchen. The bald-headed man gets more and more upset with her as she explains he had dumped a girl in the river before he knew she was dead. He punches her and as he raises his gun, the schoolteacher, Mr. Shepard, shoots him. He tells her to leave. As she’s walking out the door with Davina, Sierra blasts through the door and kills the other two men. They had heard shots so they made the call to enter the house. A team comes in to bag the money and sweep the house.
Echo’s wiped again, and goes to rejoin the other actives in the Dollhouse (and group showers). Dewitt discusses the case with head of security Laurence Dominic (Reed Diamond) and he calls it a win because they collected the girl, the money and the client is stabilized. She agrees, but then asks them how they’ll contain this other case. She hands him an “eyes only” folder labeled Alpha.
Alpha is probably the naked man who’s watching an old college video of Caroline (Echo). He writes her name on the back of a photo and then puts it in a folder to mail it to Paul Ballard. Whichever house he’s in watching the home video, two people lie dead on the floor. Video Caroline ends the episode by saying, “What can I say, I want to do everything.”
-Kim Wetter, BuddyTV Staff Columnist
(Image Courtesy of FOX)