Echo has been assigned a very tactical and dangerous engagement which involves government officials, where she has been imprinted to become a blind woman and infiltrate a religious cult where its crazy radical leader is probably planning some kind of terrorist-like attack. This involves making Echo slightly bionic by having a microchip camera implanted through her eyes so while she's blind the officials can see through her eyes. At first things start off rocky, but eventually she's accepted as one of their own, until something happens when the officials step in and suddenly, through force, she's able to visibly see again and poses it as a "miracle" and because it was God's will. The engagement turns more deadly as the radical leader decides to take all his followers and believers to a "safe haven" where they pray, ask for guidance, and where they will be "tested" of their faith, but Echo sees this differently and tries in her best interest, despite the imprinting, that she'll stop the madness herself. Meanwhile, Paul returns to his job and gets another anonymous package who sends him a disc that features Echo, a.k.a. Caroline, back pre-Dollhouse days, which later he recognizes her from a news coverage from her engagement.
Back at the Dollhouse Topher discovers an...interesting development involving Victor, as it seems that even during their blank and innocent state there are certain bodily influences that can interfere with such things. This can also be related or resulting to Echo's remembrances from previous engagements, but more on that.
Purity and Innocence: Actives and Freewill
The fascinating and troubling issue concerning the Dollhouse is how they are controlling this people who supposedly "volunteered" to be part of their program, and how they can maintain this sense of Tabula Rasa blank slate without any remembrance or any total recall of anything previously. The entire concept is just so disturbingly scary that, even with this present-near-future kind of technology it's not far from what is capable, especially those in society who have the same mindset of using questionable methods for doing "greater good" in the world. And if that means stripping someone from their own identity and freewill, they'll do so without second-guessing anything of the sort.
The issue in the episode was more lightheartedly dealt with, involving Topher going to Claire concerning Victor's "man reaction" in the shower, but that doesn't change the situation for what it is. Taking away freedoms of even the simplest of human involuntary bodily actions, what would you say to a person who does that to another human being?
This is representing that even without their own personalities and identities they aren't allowed to even explore through their blank states either. Friendships can't be acquired, friendliness towards the others sure but they won't remember them afterwards. It all goes back to the mystery of Alpha and why he became a threat, perhaps because of his efficient work and ability to acquire other aspects from his previous engagements and personalities that they want to make sure it never happens again. Safety precaution, but nonetheless restricting whatever ounce of freedom they have, voluntary or involuntary. However, this is highlighted for a reason because of what we see happening with Echo and how she's gradually becoming aware of certain things.
We're still not clear whether she understands what she's remembering or even knowing that she's remembering something from an engagement or anything at all, but she does have a certain recollection, and if it's just a fragment that's enough. She's also using those fragments and using them to continue with her other jobs. Even with being imprinted in this episode as a blind follower who was calm and softspoken and understanding, she was pretty kickass near the end, and I'm pretty sure that wasn't part of her imprinting. She's being resourceful, becoming more and more efficient with what she does, and the other handler guy doesn't like that. He's voiced it pretty clearly before and we saw in this episode he acted on that very feeling; he feels she's a liability to them and his comment to DeWitt about her favoring Echo more than the other Actives is very interesting, and it goes for what I was suspecting before.
The issue about imprinting and wiping is that there is no indication that these people know what's going on inside these people's heads, it's all based on brain waves and EEG monitoring, but the Dollhouse aren't mindreaders. They have no idea what is happening inside their heads, their thoughts or feelings. So the fact that the incidents we're seeing with Echo and how she remembers certain things, but not everything, without realizing it along with perhaps with some of the other Actives, tells us that perhaps the imprinting system doesn't hold strongly as they would've liked, as to be expected of course because even with a kind of idealistic utopian fantasy of "making things right" in society, as the Dollhouse seems to proclaim is what they do, many problems can and will arise with their creation (ex. Alpha).
Even though the troublesome incident involving Victor was innocent enough, ironically when DeWitt announces that all their Actives are to be "innocent" and "pure" and Victor's erection should never happen again to ensure that, this leads to what else might happen within the Dollhouse. What other little things may go off inside their heads, whether they'll become aware like Echo of these things or not, and what'll happen if they start remembering each other more and more.
Moral of the Story: The wolf in sheep's clothing is not all what they appear to be
With each passing episode the storylines are more solid and stronger, and even having such material you wouldn't normally see elsewhere (unless on other kinds of crime shows like Law & Order or Criminal Minds). But this is Dollhouse, a show primarily where the mysteries and engagements are all different and each episode has a particular theme to match with that said engagement. With this one, I think the timing is perfect in regards to seeing things around you for what they are and not for what they've percieved them to be.
An interesting thing about this episode is the reversal of the roles. Echo started off the engagement as a blind woman going off of blind faith for this man who is supposedly her and other people's savior through the Lord and everything, where the government officials could see everything she could not. Then, after she got smacked around and the video feed lost connection and she could suddenly see again, she started seeing things differently than when she couldn't before. Her imprinted faith was still strong but, interestingly, even after everything she saw this so-called leader for what he was and did something kind of not within her character range for that imprint. Which makes me wonder whether this is something Echo-esque that she remembers from previous engagements or it's pure natural "fight or flight" instinct everyone has, regardless of having memories wiped. She saw the wrongness of the situation and did what she could to save all those people, and that's the most righteous thing anyone could do, having faith or not, saving those then and there instead of relying on pure faith. Because truly, for those that believe, God helps those who help each other.
The thing about all of this is near the end, where Claire asks Echo about her vision, because of her initial worry that the implanting and imprinting of the blindness and vidchip could create permanent damage, Echo looks around the Dollhouse and happens to pause on the other handler that doesn't like her and focuses on him intently while saying, "I see perfectly."
This can mean a number of things, even after just being wiped I'm sure that perhaps Echo does remember somewhat of this guy, the fact that he's being featured a lot on the disliking of Echo list means that she understands that he's a potential threat. Perhaps her saying that she "sees perfectly" means that she assesses the situation and knows, instinctively, that he is to be avoided, or is Bad News, or something. We can't really know for sure since we're not in her head, but it's clear that something is up and she knows it.
The world is full of deception, is full of liars, people doing whatever they can to get what they want. The Dollhouse manipulate their Actives to do whatever they wish, or whatever their clients wish them to be, and the Actives themselves are the purest of the pure while during their blank slates. However, what would happen if suddenly one day Echo started to realize what is happening, much like Alpha had done? Would she see the wrongness of this situation, do some further investigation? What would likely happen to her or the others if they regained some sense of their protocols and engagements and other personalities and the lies they've been living underneath? All this and more is precisely what this show is prepping us for, and given the fact that the next episode is going to primarily be the start of the epic storyarc of the season rather than standalones, I think we're in for quite a ride concerning all that, and then some.
Memorable Moments of the Episode:
++ The beginning scene. Usually we start off having either Echo in an engagement of some sort or something involving the Dollhouse, but this was a nice change of pace from that formula. With the creepy happy singing and the smiling from the religious cult.
++ I loved the yoga scene in the middle of that room with the Actives. I just love the serene feel of the entire establishment, tbh. I like the modern architecture of the place, the soft lighting and just how amazing it looks. Is there a video tour somewhere from the set? I think they mentioned that a while back where Joss or Eliza was taking a behind-the-scenes tour around the Dollhouse set or something.
++ "Man reaction." LOL, oh Topher. I loved Claire's reaction to his initial freakout, like "wtf? just say erection you idiot" lol.
++ Also those showers, I also love them too. Unisex showers. Hee. And Victor's reaction to his involuntary bodily reaction was hilarious...he had no clue what was happening, awwww. He looked so befuddled with it, and Sierra so oblivious. Haha.
++ I loved how Eliza portrayed being blind. Her non-reactions to things and just looking blankly ahead, smiling in such tense situations like having a gun pointed directly at her without realizing it. Such a lovely job. And she looked so gorgeous in this episode, and by that I mean the wholesome innocent attire she wore really looked amazing on her. ♥
++ I love Boyd, have I mentioned that? He deeply cares for Echo and doesn't want anything bad to happen to her, and I love that about him.
++ Paul! Hee, playing the sympathy card about getting shot, and then back at his office and getting yet another Alpha-related package -- and finally seeing Echo! Or Caroline, really, but Echo in the sent video disc of her before and then the news coverage from the cult the very same day. Awww, his neighbor is totally adorable with her obvious little innocent crush on him. Making "leftover" foods even though they are freshly made. I think it's adorable, and how he's so oblivious because of his investment over Echo. Awww.
++ "God has a message...and it's to move your asses!" OMG THAT IS MY FAVORITE LINE OF THE ENTIRE EPISODE! Still imprinted with that personality but manages to be kickass nonetheless, taking charge. And when that dude spit in her face because she wasn't "having faith" like he was by staying inside the burning building? Hell no, she wasn't having any of that and she punched the dude in the face. Same as she used the alter to whack the crazyass leader on the head. LOVED IT!
++ I don't like that other handler guy (ETA: who apparently isn't a handler at all, but is Mr. Dominic the main head security of the Dollhouse) because it's obvious he doesn't like Echo, but really, how ironic is that considering of what they do at the Dollhouse anyway? And when he knocked her out I was like, wtf man?! Srsly. But yay for Boyd for saving his girl....and Echo remembering him. OMG. Either from previously in the episode or that little fragment recall from all those other times.
++ She called Boyd an "angel", which even though it's the imprint talking, he technically is her "guardian angel" in a sense. Awww.
++ I really enjoyed the engagement mystery in this episode. It was very realistic to some of the current events that happen in our society, the religious cults, the false kind of corrupt leaders with their innocent followers, playing God and having a hidden agenda under everything. It gives a sense of the real insanity of the world out there, and that sometimes some people are out for themselves or have something in store and manipulate and use people in order to achieve their goals. This man, this religious leader of the cult, fed off their love and their charity, their neverending doubt in him and used it to his own devices. Echo proved that even with faith you can't believe in some people's crazytalk, and I really liked how it was all handled. And not just with the cult but with government officials too, who also used this opportunity to manipulate the situation to get what they wanted (the one that planted to "help me" note which gave them access to the case and get the bastard). Very well done, indeed.
++ "I see perfectly." This line gave me chills, I'm not gonna lie. Loved it.
Overall: This episode was simply amazing, everything from the engagement to the message behind it and all things considered, Dollhouse is becoming more bold with going to different places for personalities. Echo becoming blind and using different kind of technology, which is questionable at best to even test such a thing on a non-consenting human being (which is what I believe these Actives were never volunteers to be part of such a program to allow their bodies to be used however someone else's wished, but that's for later meta posting), and using a serious engagement that involves the authorities which the Dollhouse clearly doesn't want to tangle themselves with. But also the fact that with each of these now five episodes into the show, we've seen progress with these characters without overdoing the information or too little of reveals; they are just about right to keep us intrigued and questioning and wanting more without getting frustrated about not getting answers right away, seeing as how we get everything bit by bit. At least I see it that way, others may not.
This episode presented a nice setup for what's to come, and with Joss' words that the next episode and beyond we'll be getting further into the mythology of the show and the mysteries surrounding the Actives, Alpha and why he's after Echo, Paul and his mission and so forth. It's definitely going to be interesting to witness, and hopefully those that have held out this far and still need a little more convincing to stick with the show will get to see that before they make their final decision.
On a similar note, there's a Dollhouse Friending Meme that is for finding new Dollhouse friends, which we all need to stick with each other so the fandom can grow into a huge community, amirite?