Dollhouse (2009) re-watch 1.07 ‘Echoes’

Previously on Dollhouse, Echo was married to Patton Oswalt, we found out there’s a mole inside the Dollhouse, and FRIENDLY MELLIE turned out to be THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE – and she hooked up with FBI PAUL!

MEMORIES


Trigger warning: please be aware that as with the previous episode, there are some references to rape and the depiction of rape included below.


STARTED AT THE TOP, NOW WE’RE– … well, right back where we started, actually.  Remember how the show started with CAROLINE and ADELE DEWITT conversing over tea in a meeting room within the Dollhouse? Well this episode throws back to that scene, and shows us what was said in the minutes leading up to that part of the conversation.  (Sidenote about DeWitt, by the way: whilst looking something up, I discovered that I have been misspelling her first name.  It seems counter-intuitive to have two ‘l’s in the name ‘Adele’, but regardless that is how her name is spelt, and so from now on I shall conform, though it be against my better nature.)

In this scene, we see the women shot from within the room, not from the security camera, which I do still think was an odd choice for the first episode.  Despite the different angle used, I expect that this scene was likely filmed at the same time as that in the first episode.  I know that a lot of the footage from the original [unaired] pilot (which I haven’t seen) was recycled for some of the subsequent episodes, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this conversation was originally used in full, then eventually cut across episodes when the pilot was discarded.  But I won’t know that for sure until I watch the pilot.

Back to the start

So what new information do we glean here? Firstly: that Caroline was stuffed in a black van then held for two days in this room, without any idea where she was, or what the Dollhouse wanted from her.  Yikes.  ADELLE makes an offer: “your life for your life.  I get five years; you get the rest.  You’ll be free.”

Caroline wants to know if Adelle is really the one making this offer, or if the ‘ROSSUM CORPORATION’ is behind it.  ‘Who is the ROSSUM CORPORATION?’ you ask.  Well we’ll be learning all about them shortly.  Caroline asks why she, of all people, was chosen, but DeWitt insists that she chose the Dollhouse.  “You and I have been doing this dance for almost two years,” she says.  I would love it if this show gave us an idea of what year each of these scenes takes place in, à la Person of Interest.  Keeping track of the time-line is tricky.  DeWitt then utters her “NOTHING IS WHAT IT APPEARS TO BE” line so that we know this part of the conversation immediately preceded the part we saw earlier, and then we cut to the PRESENT DAY.

Two University students walk into a lab at FREEMONT COLLEGE, and one of them is MEHCAD BROOKS, AKA JAMES OLSON from Supergirl.  He and the chick he is with find their friend, Owen, sat on the floor of the lab wearing just his boxer shorts and socks, talking to a jar full of flies.  Just typical behaviour, really.  Owen wants the flies to be free and is generally acting TRIPPY AF.  He pushes JAMES OLSON over, and starts smashing his head against the window.  And JAMES OLSON just starts laughing.  As does the girl.  It’s super unsettling to see them react in this way.  Owen keeps banging his head, with a lot of force.  We cut to a shot from outside, looking up at the blood-stained window, then slowly pull out, with jump cuts to positions further and further away from the building as the camera continues to zoom out.  Everybody else on campus goes about their regular business outside without noticing what’s happening in the window.  Then we catch sight of the name at the top of the building: ROSSUM BUILDING.

Nope, nothing unusual going on in there.

So who are these ROSSUM fuckers? Well, we meet their CO-CHAIRMAN, CLIVE AMBROSE, in DeWitt’s office, and he is one of many generic, white dudes in this show, indeed in this episode.  He shows DeWitt a vial containing a fluorescent yellow liquid – a new memory drug that Rossum Corp has been working on in their R&D department.  The one other vial in existence has gone missing and Ambrose wants the Dollhouse to send Actives plural to find it.  TOPHER BRINK enters and freaks out upon meeting the boring old white dude: “I might throw up.  That’s a compliment.”  It’s hard to understand why Topher is in awe, but he seems impressed by the fact that Ambrose is the third richest man in America.

It transpires that FLY-OBSESSED OWEN from the lab ingested some of the drug, the primary effects of which are giddiness and light hallucinations, and then – eventually – loss of impulse control.  That certainly explains his decision to bludgeon himself to death against the window.

I had a hunch about the appearance of this drug in the vial, and my friend Kat, who has an MChem degree, confirmed for me: the fluorescent yellow colour is plain, old, inaccurate movie science.  According to Chemist Kat, unless it contains “a shit ton of fluorine atoms,” the liquid should be clear and colourless.  So there we have it.

Topher waxes lyrical about the joys of recreational narcotics, which he is obviously familiar with, though he insists that the Dollhouse’s bi-weekly drug tests are evidence enough that he does not partake.  He posits a hypothetical scenario in which he and DeWitt both take heroin:

“You snort horse once, don’t like it, you go back to your organic tea, have a nice life.  I do it once, I’m doing two bags a day for 20 years.”

The expression on DeWitt’s face is that of a woman who regrets introducing her irresponsible, teenage son to a very influential person.  Olivia Williams is an absolute delight in this episode.  I mean, she is always a delight to watch, but in this episode especially we really get to see what a class act she is and how well she works with Fran Kranz.

Topher realises that the Actives should be immune to the effects of the memory drug, as it attacks the natural inhibitors in the hippocampus – which Actives don’t have, I suppose because the Dollhouse removed them? I’m struggling to wrap my head around this to be honest. Anyway, DeWitt decides that Echo should be kept out of this Engagement, considering her tendency to go off-task.  Of course, Echo has OTHER IDEAS.

Paul cooks breakfast

One of the biggest revelations of the previous episode was that FRIENDLY MELLIE, neighbour of FBI PAUL, is a SLEEPER ACTIVE, AKA THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE.  When last we saw this ‘neighbourly’ couple, they were HELLA SHOOK, thanks to a home invasion by HANDLER HEARN, who was Sierra’s rapist Handler.  THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE killed HANDLER HEARN then went back to sleep, and so FRIENDLY MELLIE just thinks Hearn was SUPER CLUMSY and broke his neck on the coffee table all by himself.  FBI PAUL cooks her breakfast, and I swear I can smell the bacon and eggs through my screen.  FRIENDLY MELLIE still thinks FBI PAUL is dreamy, but she also doesn’t want to be coddled by him.  Let us not forget that she is programmed by the Dollhouse to serve a purpose, and she quickly realises that FBI PAUL is still intent on bringing the Dollhouse down.  He is sceptical of the Russian ID that the FBI attributed to HANDLER HEARN and suspects the Dollhouse of meddling with the evidence.  FRIENDLY MELLIE tries to convince him to drop the case, especially considering he is no longer officially assigned to it and is suspended from the FBI.  She leaves with a sassy remark about him finding his way across the hall, and somehow is not tempted to at least eat some of the eggs.  Girl, what? I would be all over that ish.

NONDESCRIPT BLACK VANS

Three large, nondescript, black vans roll up to the FREEMONT COLLEGE campus.  Out gets Dollhouse HEAD OF SECURITY, LAWRENCE DOMINIC, and one of the Actives, VICTOR, who we love.  Victor is all authoritative and giving orders, and SECURITY LAWRENCE introduces him to ‘Dr Gawa’, who is actually another of the Actives, SIERRA, who we also love.  Let me just pause here a minute to say that ‘Gawa’ is a terrible name, not least because Dichen Lachman is not Japanese, but also because it just isn’t a name.  I had a really weird feeling about this as soon as I heard it, so I looked for an explanation.  Remember my friend, CHEMIST KAT? Well she also knows Japanese, because as it happens all of my friends are infinitely more accomplished than I am.  Between the two of us, we ascertained that the kanji 川 (‘-kawa’, or ‘-gawa’ if put with something that alters the sound) cannot exist by itself, but instead needs at least one other syllable to precede or follow it.  For example, I used to know of a Mr Sagawa.  Other surnames include Hasegawa, and Ogawa, and there are many others, but you are very unlikely to see ‘Gawa’ by itself.  The lesson here is: if you’re going to write about another culture, or use names from another language, you have to at least do the minimum amount of research required to not sound like a fool.  I’m just a white girl from Croydon but even I, with my rudimentary understanding of Japanese word structure, knew that there was something not quite right with that name.  (As a side note: CHEMIST KAT blogs about learning Japanese, sharing the new vocabulary she learns, her attempts at translating Japanese language video games, and many other interesting aspects of language learning, which you may find fascinating.)

"Do I know you from somewhere?"

So back to ‘Dr Gawa’, who I am just going to refer to as DR SIERRA, because of the awful name: she is from the CDC, whilst Victor is NSA, which means – hilariously – that he out-ranks SECURITY LAWRENCE, now lowly ‘Rossum security’ who is totally unimpressed with TOPHER’s programming of Victor.

At this point you may be wondering what ECHO is up to.  Well wonder no more.  ECHO is getting involved in some bondage AGAIN.  In another throwback to the first episode, we’re reintroduced to her client, BIRTHDAY BOY MATT, though obviously it is not his birthday anymore.  Accidentally switching on the TV, Echo catches sight of the ROSSUM BUILDING on a news report about STUDENT OWEN’s death.  She gets flashes of a vision of a lab, and then suddenly decides she has to be at the ROSSUM BUILDING, and so she dashes off, leaving Matt still TIED TO THE BED.

"Um, you're not supposed to be facing away from me."

And then we cut to a flashback from A FEW YEARS AGO, which is not specific enough a marker for my liking.  If the show is set in 2008/9, then are we to assume this was around 2005? Anyway, Caroline is in bed with yet ANOTHER generic, white dude, and really all we learn from this brief scene is that they both attend anti-war demos together so obviously we can infer that Caroline is a pretty principled activist kinda gal.  Oh, and that they love each other.  Which … meh, whatever. Back in the PRESENT, Echo takes BIRTHDAY BOY MATT’s red bike to get to the ROSSUM BUILDING where – because she looks so darn confused – Victor assumes she has been exposed to the drug, and has her taken to the frat house where victims are being treated by DR SIERRA.

Echo’s Handler, BOYD LANGTON, tracks her to the University campus and informs DeWitt whose response could be simply summed up as ‘FFS’.  DeWitt is already rather agitated about the entire Engagement at Freemont College, and as it turns out, ROSSUM CORP is not simply a client of the Dollhouse’s.

“The Rossum Corporation is why we exist,” she reminds Topher when he suggests that she could have turned down Ambrose.  “And I believe in the work we’re funding,” she adds.  “I also believe that the only reason I don’t have Clive Ambrose’s job is because he couldn’t handle mine.”  So Ambrose used to be BIG BOSS at the LA Dollhouse? And DeWitt has higher aspirations?

Topher is amused by his boss’ unexpected candour, but he ain’t seen nothing yet.  He’s also totally in awe of FRIENDLY MELLIE’s brain, and gives her a high-five, to which she reacts like a confused child.  That’s right, FRIENDLY MELLIE is IN THE DOLLHOUSE.  She’s sat in the chair in the IMPRINTING FACTORY, where Topher injects her with the memory drug from Rossum Corp, in the hopes of figuring out how to reverse its effects.  Mellie’s Active name gets a fleeting mention in this episode: she is NOVEMBER.

Whilst Langton is on the phone with DeWitt, he gets touched by a random chick who is HIGH AF, talking about mansions in his eyes.  She has a tattoo in the same place I do – on her inner, upper right arm, except hers is of an anatomical heart with the name ‘EMILY’ through it, and mine is of a space rocket.  LANGTON doesn’t seem as impressed by her tattoo as I am, because he politely swats her away, clearly wondering ‘WTF?’

One thing that I really like about this episode is that there is a lot more exterior filming in comparison to the past few episodes (with the exception of the Arizona-set scenes in ‘True Believer’).  Not since the JACKASS hunted Echo in a national park in the second episode have we seen so much greenery, and it really does break up the monotony of the sets with their late-2000s decor.

Nowhere is all this outdoor setting more evident, than in the number of wide establishing shots we see in this episode.  Most of them are used for various parts of the University campus, but we also see establishing shots for FBI PAUL and FRIENDLY MELLIE’s apartment building, Caroline and her flashback boyfriend’s apartment building, and also the Dollhouse building, mysterious though it is.

"I'm sorry but what kind of a name is Dr Gawa? I bet you're not even a real doctor."

In one of these established new buildings on campus, Echo meets JAMES OLSON, for whom the effects of the drug seem to have worn off.  Together they hatch a plan to break into the lab; JAMES OLSON believes Rossum Corp is responsible for the dispersal of the drug and Owen’s subsequent death, and Echo is determined to get into the lab even though she doesn’t know why.  They sneak back outside and almost instantly are found by Langton, who prompts Echo with an offer of her ‘treatment’ to make her come back to the Dollhouse.  However, ECHO REFUSES, and Langton just lets them go, then starts laughing to himself about it.

Also acting out of character is SECURITY LAWRENCE who is in the lab with Victor, swinging around on a swivel chair, and constantly emptying the magazine from his gun then reloading it as he mutters to himself about the Actives.  Victor, who is very officious in this episode, recognises that SECURITY LAWRENCE is behaving erratically and suggests he be taken to DR SIERRA and contained.  SECURITY LAWRENCE does not take kindly to the suggestion and draws his gun on Victor.  But then … he decides that his gun is TOO HEAVY TO HOLD.  IT MAKES HIS ARMS TIRED.

So Victor relieves him of the gun, has him carted away, and calls up the ‘security office’, which puts him through to DeWitt.

Faced with the update on SECURITY LAWRENCE, DeWitt and Topher realise that exposure to the drug must be viral or communicated through touch, as SECURITY LAWRENCE would not have ingested it willingly.  They rule out airborne dispersal, which would result in a lot more cases being reported.  But even whilst Topher considers the possibilities, HE TOUCHES DEWITT.  Remember that he high-fived FRIENDLY MELLIE, who had been injected with the drug? Well now he and DeWitt are in for a world of fun.  They both begin to show symptoms very quickly, and it makes for the show’s most enjoyably silly scenes.  When Topher struggles to think of the word to describe DeWitt’s current demeanour, she (un)helpfully offers a few suggestions: “Sarcastic? Unfeeling? British? … You have to admit, I am very British.  I don’t say hard Rs.”  As a linguist, I feel it’s my duty to elaborate on this.  DeWitt is referring to rhoticity, which describes the use of the consonant /r/, the sound at the end of the word ‘car’ when spoken in a standard American English dialect.  Whilst rhotic /r/ is prevalent in many American English dialects, Irish and Scottish English dialects, and indeed dialects spoken in a few small regions within England, Olivia Williams is from London and as such her dialect is decidedly non-rhotic, as is my own.  Thus, neither DeWitt nor I say ‘hard Rs’ (except in instances when it is immediately followed by a vowel).  Finally I put my degree to use!

23

Topher wants to know what brown sauce is made of.  DeWitt tells him IT’S MADE OF BROWN.  He seems to accept this explanation and remarks cheerily: “Brown mined from the earth by the hardscrabble brown miners of North Brownderton.”  To be honest I wouldn’t be surprised if that is a real town in Yorkshire or someplace.

By this point DeWitt is having a crisis over on the other side of the room because she thinks lentils are COMPLETELY INCOMPREHENSIBLE.  Also she wants to eat some crisps, which is ‘chips’ to those of you who are American.  Honestly there is a joy in seeing British characters who are allowed to be unapologetically British in North American TV.  The use of a single word such as ‘crisps’ or ‘trousers’ instantly makes me feel included.  Often British characters, even when played by British actors, will have their speech littered with Americanisms that stick out uncomfortably for British viewers.  Of course, we should grant a little leeway for communication accommodation theory, as interlocutors will often make changes to their speech (such as pronunciation and word usage), converging it closer to that of their speech partner, whether consciously or subconsciously.  But it would smack of inaccuracy to have every British character on American TV calling the pavement a ‘sidewalk’, or saying ‘pants’ instead of trousers.  It’s not offensive in the way that making up a Japanese surname is, but it certainly is – again – a sign of writers not carrying out basic research.  Fortunately, it does not happen on this show.  In the same way that Fitz and Simmons on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Ravi on iZombie are all allowed to retain quirks of British speech, so too is DeWitt.  She even says ‘schedule’ as /ˈʃɛdjuːl/ (shed-yool), which not even I do (this pronunciation is more common in older generations in Britain, but now seems to be less prevalent as many younger speakers have adopted the American pronunciation).  (For what it’s worth, I think the best attempt I have seen at a British accent by a North American actor is Canadian actor Jordan Gavaris’, in his role as Felix on Orphan Black.  He’s guilty of the occasional hypercorrection in pronunciation but for the most part his accent is very, very convincing.)

Linguistics segues aside, Topher decides to tell Victor that they’re only going to see more cases develop if they keep letting strangers touch everybody, and in trying to explain that both Victor and Sierra will be safe, accidentally refers to them as Dolls.  He then hilariously attempts to explain it away, even though there’s no risk of Victor understanding what he was alluding to.  It reminds me of one of my favourite moments in The Flash, when a drunk Caitlyn comments on how fast Barry is in front of a room full of people, then scolds herself because she’s worried she revealed his secret identity to them all.

Meanwhile, DeWitt is BOUNCING UP AND DOWN on Topher’s trampoline, calling out for Topher to say hi to Victor from her.  Apparently she has a good story to tell about the Active, but we sadly don’t get to hear it because then they receive a call from Langton, who has something very important for them to hear.  The camera pulls away to reveal him sitting at a piano and he BEGINS TO PLAY FOR THEM.  They listen in awe and wonder, whilst DR SIERRA looks at Langton, now one of her patients, with a look that says ‘the CDC did not prepare me for this level of weird’.

Meanwhile, Echo and JAMES OLSON plot how to get into the lab.  We learn that JAMES OLSON is on a scholarship, is the only family his mother has, and looks good shirtless.  Oh wait, we already knew that last one.  Echo thinks they have to find Lily Foundry, and so they set off and come across OCTAVIA SPENCER, who recognises Echo and calls her ‘CAROLINE FARRELL’.  She’s also HIGH AF.  It’s such a random appearance.  Octavia Spencer is one of those absolutely class actresses who does not get anywhere near as many opportunities as she deserves, which is sadly true of a lot of actresses of colour.  She is, however, in the upcoming Hidden Figures, which I am very excited to see.

Anyway, through flashback we learn that Echo and her boyfriend hoped to expose Rossum for its animal experimentation.  They planned to enter the lab through utility tunnels and document what was going on inside.  And as it turns out, there’s an entrance to the utility tunnels at Lily Foundry, which is a grate in the ground on campus.

Flashback

Echo and JAMES OLSON follow the tunnels and get into the building, but then they are found by SECURITY LAWRENCE who has somehow escaped from containment.  He HUGS ECHO, and apologises for trying to BURN HER TO DEATH in the fifth episode.  Echo and JAMES OLSON run away again, and DR SIERRA finds SECURITY LAWRENCE.  Converging in the same room with some security guards, Victor decides to confiscate everyone’s guns, considering how out-of-hand the situation has become, but then DR SIERRA suddenly starts glitching, and recalls the traumatic experiences she suffered at the hands of her Handler, Hearn.  At the same time, Victor has a flashback to a time when he was in the military, struggling to convince a civilian woman to evacuate a building.  He tries to help Sierra but at the same time she is reliving the trauma of Hearn on top of her, and resists.  It’s very distressing to watch.  Whilst the previous episode made it clear in no uncertain terms that Handler Hearn had been raping Sierra, it was thankfully never shown on-screen.  Here, in flashback, we have a few frames of close-up on Sierra’s face as she lies on the floor and struggles against an obvious body double of Hearn.  It’s horrifying, and I don’t believe it was necessary that this be included, considering it was obvious enough why Sierra was resisting against Victor.

Also unexpectedly glitching is NOVEMBER, who DeWitt and Topher had completely forgotten about in their current state. Whilst they clambered about Topher’s office, eating snacks, and in various states of undress, November presumably had been left in the chair in the IMPRINTING FACTORY.  DeWitt tells Topher that Echo went to Freemont College to let Caroline punish Adelle, but before she can expand on that, a distraught, crying November wanders in, electrodes still attached to her head.  She rambles about Paul, revealing FRIENDLY MELLIE’s jealousy of Caroline, and then remembers Hearn assaulting her and she begins to recite the prompt DeWitt used to awaken her in the previous episode.

November

DeWitt FREAKS OUT, and she and Topher hide on the lower level of Topher’s office until the coast is clear.  They find November lying on the floor, having not finished the trigger code, and so they drag her back to the chair in the IMPRINTING FACTORY.  DeWitt reminds Topher that his actions, and consequently, his missteps, reflect poorly on her, and that he better damn well fix whatever is going on.  Topher realises that if November is also affected by the drug, then the aphenethylamine compound that it contains must be breaking through the manmade memory blocks that he has given each of the Actives, thus causing them to glitch to traumatic memories.  Considering the effects of the drug are wearing off for both Topher and DeWitt, they come to the conclusion that the dead student, Owen, must have taken an extreme dose.

Hiding from November

“Way more than you can absorb.  Way more than he would have taken,” says Topher.

“It’s a murder,” DeWitt realises.

We soon find out who committed it.  Echo and JAMES OLSON finally manage to get into the lab, and JAMES OLSON instantly heads for the fridges where it transpires he has hidden the second vial of the memory drug.  It turns out that he wanted to sell the drug to a different company, which was willing to pay more for it, but Owen backed out.  JAMES OLSON had drugged Owen to keep him distracted, but obviously that ended badly.  He tells Echo all of this, then exposes her to the drug as well and she starts having flashbacks of when she and her boyfriend broke into the same lab, except back then it contained cages filled with dogs and monkeys.  Even more disturbingly, there were large glass jars with DEAD BABIES INSIDE.  That is some seriously dark shit.  They got discovered by a security guard who gave chase and managed to shoot Caroline’s boyfriend.  As Echo stumbles after JAMES OLSON, chasing him through the corridor, she relives running through those same corridors years earlier, with her boyfriend bleeding out beside her.  She catches up to JAMES OLSON and knocks him down onto the ground, and in flashback we see her boyfriend die in the same spot.  Before JAMES OLSON can get away, Langton does what he always does best, and appears from nowhere to sucker punch him.  Then he offers Echo her treatment and this time she accepts.  It’s a nice brief moment between these two.  As their storylines were separate in the previous episode, we haven’t really seen the support that they can provide one another since Langton carried Echo out of a burning building in ‘True Believer’.  There are a lot of high-angle and low-angle shots in this episode, and with the two stills below, you can see some of the ways in which those angles are used to create an effect.  When JAMES OLSON made Echo breathe in the memory drug, we see him press the cloth to her face from a high angle, isolating Echo and her assault, placing her out of reach as terror presses down on her.  When Langton rushes to aid Echo and reassure her, the camera is low on the ground with them, bringing us to their level, placing us with them as Echo is comforted.  I’ve mentioned twice now that I thought the opening shot of the show – from a Dollhouse security camera – seemed like an odd choice.  Now I think maybe I understand it.  That shot was also from a high angle, looking down on DeWitt and Caroline, and perhaps that combined with the fact it was security footage was supposed to make us as an audience feel separated from the conversation, like we were a fly on the wall listening in on the undertakings of a secret organisation.  Caroline was isolated then, too; without aid, without hope, and under a lot of pressure.  Then, as now, we were isolated from the action, unable to do anything about it for this woman in need.

In another flashback, we see Caroline lying in a hospital bed.  Out in the corridor, DeWitt is conversing with somebody who alerted her to come because Caroline ‘fit the profile’.  Before DeWitt can act however, Caroline has already left her bed and disappeared, presumably beginning the two year cat-and-mouse chase between her and DeWitt that was alluded to in the episode’s opening scene.

Mellie leaves

Back in the PRESENT, FRIENDLY MELLIE decides to go away for a while, and so takes her suitcases and says goodbye to Paul.  Presumably she is returning to the Dollhouse to be decommissioned for a while.  I wonder if we will see NOVEMBER with different personas in the meantime, before Mellie makes a return.  This is only the second scene in which Paul appears in this episode, and I have to say it is actually nice to have him put on the back-burner, whilst the Dollhouse-related shenanigans take precedence.  I’m sure it won’t last long, though.

Back in the Dollhouse, DeWitt and SECURITY LAWRENCE are both very stiff and awkward, clearly embarrassed by their respective performances under the effects of the drug.  I think they would be more embarrassed if they had seen each other under the effects.  DeWitt returns SECURITY LAWRENCE’s gun to him.

“And Echo? I suppose you’ll be recommending she be sent to the Attic,” says DeWitt.

“That’s your call, ma’am,” responds SECURITY LAWRENCE.

They’ve been having this dance for several episodes now.  I hope it comes to an end sooner rather than later because there’s only so long it can be dragged out for until it becomes tiring.  Either Echo must go, or SECURITY LAWRENCE must.

DeWitt then goes back to the room where she had kept Caroline waiting for two days, and now inside there we find JAMES OLSON, who is understandably furious with being kept locked up.  DeWitt makes him an offer: a monthly stipend to go to his mother, who is in financial trouble, in return for five years of his service.  As with Echo, it is being sold to him as a freedom from burden – being in the Dollhouse for five years would certainly keep him out of the hands of the authorities who undoubtedly would like him for the homicide of his friend.  I’ve wondered before how the Dollhouse enlists its new Actives, and from these two examples we have seen that the answer seems to be opportunism; both Caroline and JAMES OLSON had run-ins with the Dollhouse, and were in a state of desperation or had hit rock-bottom.  Caroline was having to live with the death of her boyfriend as well as any subsequent issues in her life between then and DeWitt finally catching up to her, whilst JAMES OLSON had a mother who was solely dependent on his support and struggling financially.  DeWitt took advantage of their situations and made them both an offer they couldn’t refuse: be free of your pain and anxieties for five years, and after that you get a clean state and can start your life anew.  But what does JAMES OLSON’s mother think has happened to her son when he disappears for five years, or even permanently? Everybody in LA seems to have heard the rumours about the dolls that rich people pay for, but surely there must also be a number of unexplained cases of missing persons?

Another offer

Despite still not knowing how this gets handled, it actually doesn’t feel as though this episode raised too many new questions, which makes a change.  We now finally have some idea of what Caroline was getting up to before she became an Active, and how she ended up on the Dollhouse’s radar in the first place.  We have a slightly clearer picture of how the Dollhouse selects its new Actives; in the hospital scene, DeWitt spoke of a ‘profile’, which Caroline apparently fit.  We don’t know explicitly what that profile is, but I imagine it includes a winning combination of desperation and attractiveness, considering both Caroline and JAMES OLSON match that description.

AMY ACKER’s Dr Saunders was absent in this episode, and at first I was wondering how she could have been inserted into the story, but then I realised exactly why she was missing.  I won’t talk about it just yet.  I don’t know how soon it will be until we see some of her secrets revealed, but I am really looking forward to it.

As for the Dollhouse’s place in the world, we now know that not only are they connected to powerful politicians in America and abroad, but that they are also deep in the pockets of mega corporations, such as ROSSUM.  What was Rossum planning to do with the memory drug? It’s not really clear, and neither do we know what happened to the second vial, which JAMES OLSON made off with, although presumably it was recovered when he was picked up.  The drug’s effects on the regular population don’t seem to affect memory, so it seems safe to say that either it needs some tweaking, or ROSSUM’s plans for it are connected to the Actives and not regular people.  But all it does to Actives for the time being is make them glitch until they remember traumatic experiences – not exactly a useful outcome.  It’s all rather shady and terrifying, and hopefully we will see some development of this story thread soon.

Now that we know about the ROSSUM CORPORATION, I imagine this aspect of the world will continue to be shaded in.  They must have plans for the Dollhouse, and of course we must not forget Echo’s words to Paul in the previous episode: “the Dollhouse deals in fantasy: that is their business. But that is not their purpose.”  We’re not any closer to understanding what is their purpose, but ROSSUM undoubtedly must be connected.

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