In this episode Echo, along with Sierra, Victor and November, suddenly awakened in their sleeping pods by not being in their tabula rasa state. Instead they are who they once were, although without their memories of who they were previously, their real names, and so forth. In a panic of where they're being held and why, they try to blend into the Dollhouse setting to figure things out, until they plan an escape from being held against their will and find out who they are, or were, because being in captivity. Echo decides to stay behind and get answers and free everyone, while Victor helps Sierra find the man responsible for placing her there and November tries to relocate her daughter she remembers she had. It appears they are making their ways to make things right....
However in the world of the Dollhouse, nothing is what it appears to be. The Actives were meant to be "awakened" as a form for them to complete their self-fulfilled directions, so to speak. After glitches were happening to their memories they were induced with something to have them fulfill those particular needs and once that is done they return back to their original tabula rasa state, having placed those needs to rest once carrying them out.
Meanwhile Paul Ballard finds a plant hidden inside his apartment, and gets a surprising contact message that may lead him another step closer towards the Dollhouse.
Actives, Reawakening and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies
The previews for the episode were kind of misleading in the sense that either all the dolls would regain their memories, or memories at all, but it made for an interesting reveal. In fact the moment it was implied that the Dollhouse was actually expecting this to happen, that it was all orchestrated from the beginning, I kept getting more and more intrigued, with good reason. This adds more to the mystery and operations within the Dollhouse and how far they'll go to achieve their ends, particularly with the threat of their dolls becoming the next Alpha.
One of the things I liked is how it panned out and, even though there were unpredictable moments especially regarding Echo, who still had the Caroline persona despite the lacking of past memories, but in the end everything reverted to how it had been before. This also gives us a chance to look at these characters from outside of their tabula rasa states; we already have been given flashbacks to Caroline, but seeing Victor and Sierra and November was very interesting, even though they had no previous memories it was who they were, personality-wise. And that other Active, Mike, who had initially been "cured" to be the catalyst for the rest of them for escaping and completing their journeys to those memories that were surfacing. I thought it was a unique way of presenting these character differently than we'd seen them before, and how they are basically drawn to each other because of the situation they're in. The atmosphere once awakening in their pod rooms, their own ideas of where they were was also an interesting touch (Mike had the alien theory, there was lab rats, government testing, prisoners, a place of healing, etc.) It really presented an authentic and realistic approach to how these people would react if they had really remotely, somehow, awakened had it not been all a test. Not to mention their reactions to the other dolls around them and their escape plan.
An interesting thing that is observed with these characters is their natural instincts about things; November knew that she'd lost something and needed closure on that. Victor wanted to help Sierra in any possible way he could, so he helped her achieve her mission in finding the man who'd placed her within the Dollhouse in the first place. I find that instinctive need to protect Sierra incredibly sweet and it really is something inside of him that probably will never go away, despite this test. Victor has shown a great deal of affection for Sierra and it appears she feels nearly mutual, as well.
But what I loved seeing was Echo taking action in that instinctive Caroline persona; she was Caroline without the memories of Caroline, if that makes sense? The need to make a difference, to change the morally wrong these people were doing. We know that Caroline is a human and animals rights activist and wants to change the world from its cruelty though, like Adelle mentioned, she can be kinda unrealistic in her approaches. She can't possibly take down the Dollhouse herself, even with those flashbacks from the previous episode we see her wanting to pursue taking down a major corporation that appears to be more powerful than she'd ever imagined (obviously powerful enough to create and fund the Dollhouse for what it is now). She has an idealistic sense of perception about how to go about things, but she has to have more information to make a solid plan of action. In this episode we see her taking action without really thinking it through as opposed to Caroline of the old days were she seemed to take it one step at a time.
Obviously this being more or less an experimental test and "game" so to speak to help these characters cope with unresolved businesses with their memories, this raises a lot of moral and ethical questions about the Dollhouse, the people inside and what really controls these individuals; the "what is right, what is wrong" scenario. Some will think this is a retelling of the BTVS episode "Tabula Rasa", and it may have elements to that, but in context of Dollhouse it makes perfect sense.
The Dollhouse: Nothing is what it appears to be...
If there's anything this episode brings us is even more questions regarding the Dollhouse and the amorality it presents, and how far is too far in regards to protecting their organization by allowing experiments such as these being done.
It actually surprised me that it was Dr. Claire Saunders that made this suggestion to allow these Actives to be "awakened" from their tabula rasa states in order to fulfill these unresolved needs of theirs, mainly because she seems more likely the kind of individual that would detest something like that. But in the end, she makes her statement and claim about not thinking of it as a game but more or less protecting the Actives, I actually very much believe her. She does care about them, she's presented her distaste and dislike for many of the operations and methods the Dollhouse uses multiple times; her suggestion about the experiment was risky, but it was more for her concern about these traumatizing memories that somehow, if prolonged, will make either one of them snap and turn into the next Alpha who we're assuming had something similar about memories coming back to him mid-tabula rasa state.
Here's the issue at hand: nothing is completely black and white, what one person deems as immoral another will not, and sometimes there will be sacrificing something for the greater good even if that so-called "greater good" isn't always that great. There's that gray morality here that needs to be addressed. Most of these people working within the Dollhouse chain don't always agree with what is being done; Boyd and Claire have voiced their opinions and share similar views about things, Dominic seems to have a dislike for the dolls in particular but is quite efficient in his job. Sierra's former now deceased handler took advantage of his position. How are these people chosen, and why were they recruited for these jobs? Were they given offers similar to the dolls, or was it merely a security reason because of their previous works and how they would fit the profile as a handler or whatever?
Speaking of offers, an interesting thing came up which was also presented in the previous episode of how the Dollhouse chooses they Actives. Adelle DeWitt pretty much explains to Echo that every single Active in their care had suffered tremendous consequences for their actions, physically or psychologically, they had originally endured some suffering for something that happened in their lives and how they were approached by the Dollhouse gave them an offer especially in their most vulnerable points of their lives where they simply couldn't refuse even if they tried. They were chosen, the deal was sealed. Obviously these individuals probably had some kind of financial struggles or didn't appear to be anyone of importance in their regular lives, henceforth why they were chosen to be recruited in the first place. We have Caroline who had discovered and witnessed what the Rossum corporation was doing behind their facade and had been running from them after they had killed her boyfriend, and the Dollhouse, for at least two years before they finally caught up with her. Sierra had basically been sold to the Dollhouse after refusing to have sex with a very wealthy man who had once been her employer (and it is implied that he'd asked for her in other engagements to do just what she'd refused to do beforehand). It also seems that Victor had suffered from something traumatic when he was in the military -- he couldn't save someone, he'd seen too many tragic deaths and destruction in his time overseas -- that perhaps when the Dollhouse made him the offer he actually accepted because he was too traumatized to even neglect it; a rehibilitation of sorts, which is what the pitch seems to be for all that are recruited to be part of the program. And November, it seems her tragic loss was the death of her daughter, but how she had been picked we still have yet to know.
The sales pitch for the Dollhouse seems to be a replacement and rehibilitation for those who are suffering from major losses, have witnessed something or are going to be in huge financial and legal trouble unless they agree to start off with a clean slate, that everything they've done in the past will be wiped clean from their records and after their five year contract is up they can return anew, wealthy in money and can move on without any problems. But the Dollhouse obviously has flaws in their plans, and something more sinister underneath this so-called pitch of theirs. Something tied with secret government and/or political businesses that is funding for even more from them, and the other theory someone else mentioned is creating these perfect "soldiers" underneath the protection of the government, which can only be assigned and hand-picked to those more efficient in their roles as an Active. Like Echo and Alpha before her, as it has been noted they were the "best" Actives inside the Dollhouse.
I'm merely theorizing here in regards to that, but I am very enthralled with the entire concept involving the Dollhouse and what it really represents. Obviously human trafficking, exploitation and mistreatment and degrading of human beings and the capabilities we're willing to do to each other for other purposes...but the mystery remains, what purpose is the Dollhouse trying to achieve? With Alpha they were preparing him for something more as it has been implied, and the same with Echo.
What that is we have yet to find out, but I am intrigued nonetheless. It's all very complex and disturbing that I can't help but like where it's all heading towards.
Memorable Moments in the Episode:
++ Um, beginning dream sequence was pretty freaking hot. It's very hilarious how Paul is sexually confused between Echo and Mellie, and how he said "I have something she needs!" so casually was pretty funny. Also I liked how it definitely seemed like a dream sequence, because even though I want Paul/Echo to happen at some point in the future (or at least Paul/Caroline, since they have the same mindset of stopping such horrible organizations from existing) them making out definitely wouldn't have seemed plausible in real time, y'know what I mean?
++ I like how we finally get to see the connectiveness to the Dollhouse and where all the rooms are located in their entirety; most times we just get a snippet before cutting away to something else, but we finally see the rooms where the pods are, the hallways, stairways, all connected to one another. If there's anything I've learned about Joss Whedon is that he loves having his sets connect together and show it onscreen the pretty of the sets. Which, btw, I absolutely adore the setup for the interior designs of the Dollhouse. So gorgeous. ♥
++ Also inside the pods. The symbolism of them being dolls inside their cases is a must, obviously, but seeing it from the inside, the confinement they're living it, how they are trapped even in the safest of places one should feel comfortable and safe. Wow. Especially after "awakening" there for the "first time", too.
++ VICTOR IS LOVE, OKAY?! I love his sarcasm and I love how the actor delivers his lines. "Noise, not helping!" "Okay, who doesn't want the alien guy to be placed back into the box?" and of course "We're all gonna die." And the shower scene? Srsly. That is classic Joss Whedon funny stuff right there, and Victor in general is just a;lskjd;faksdjf LOVE!♥
++ Also, Victor/Sierra? *draws hearts around them*
++ Speaking of, poor Sierra. The girl cannot catch a break can she? She was violated in her previous life (that guy saying that owning her was "better than real estate"? srsly? douchebag) and then she was violated again while within the Dollhouse, by her own freaking handler no less. She's a traumatized little thing, you just wanna give her a huge hug. I hope she comes out from this alright. *hugs her*
++ Echo/Victor/Sierra/November is the new Scooby Gang, f'reals.
++ I am loving Adelle DeWitt more and more, I can't help it. Even as the director of this particular Dollhouse she has her awesome moments and I like to think there's more to her than meets the eye, especially with her attachment and fondness over Echo in general. What she has in mind we don't know, but I am loving the actress more and more as the episodes go on.
++ I loved the confrontation with Echo and Topher and Adelle. How her Caroline personality and instincts just took over, and she just wants answers and to solve the problem. Not effectively because it was wayyy too easy to take over a powerful organization like that, but it's what the character needed, that release and resolve to let go of that urge stirring inside of her that was threatening to get out. Adelle took it in stride, knowing that if she gave Echo enough answers and did what was demanded of her, the effects would wear off and she'd return to being Echo again. I just loved the entire setup for it really. It was these characters "needs" to be released from their systems so no other dangers could harm them in the future. Which is kinda screwed if you look at it one way, but on the other hand it does make sense.
++ In fact the entire ending sequence with seeing the dolls walk out into the sunlight and Echo leading them there was kinda heartwarming, even if it wasn't real. But like what Boyd said, I would love to see a variation of that happen in the future.
++ Revealing that Echo left that message for Paul in the end -- which I assume was when she'd broken into Claire Saunders' office and grabbed his file or whatever, was really very clever. Another clue, another step closer. I do hope they meet again, either with the corrupted imprint with the message from the inside mole or as Echo herself, because that would be absolutely wonderful. Also? I want him and Caroline, the real Caroline, to meet. Her as herself meeting him because they have the same ideals, and Paul and Caroline working side by side with Alpha in the mix? How awesome would that be?
++ Next Episode: Who you y'all think is the mole? I predict that it's Claire, mainly because she's the most likely candidate based on her feelings towards the Dollhouse in general, and that she could be the one sending Paul those messages through Echo -- I mean, how convenient of her to have his file in her office and leave it accessible for Echo to find it during this experimental phase? Srsly.
Overall: The previews for the episode was MAJORLY misleading, but I'm glad it was because having the dolls regain their memories and escape in a Prison Break fashion is too soon. The concept as soon as we learn that Adelle knew what Echo/Sierra/Victor/November were up to was intriguing, and with the flashback to having Dr. Saunders create the proposition of having this play out was wonderful as well. I absolutely loved the entire episode, to say the least. It was different because it wasn't the same schtick with engagements and Echo remembering bits and pieces, even though that's great and all in and of itself, but this was a different change of pace and I loved the directions they're going with this. The survivalist instincts of these characters and even seeing them as how they were, at least in their personality rather than memories. It'll be interesting seeing the progression of the series as something happens for them to regain those memories as Echo has been doing. I love the mythology of Dollhouse, I love the character developments and the drama, the self-discoveries and these self-fulfilling prophecies; the morality questions and just, holy crap, I am loving this show. It continues to get better and better and it is awesome. ♥
In related news, it appears that there are high hopes for Dollhouse in regards of being renewed for another season, especially since there's been a boosting in DVR ratings. It's not definite yet, it still needs confirmation from the network, but I'm staying optimistic. Unfortunately, it doesn't look that great for TSCC as it appears the season finale this Friday may be the last episode ever if there is no sign of possible renewal for a third season. The plan seems to be that if all this ends up becoming true, FOX will move House to where TSCC used to be and move Dollhouse onto Monday nights, where I kinda wanted it to be all along.
The thing is, despite the disappointment in hearing about the low ratings TSCC is getting I can understand the sacrifice; the Terminator mythos is neverending, it's a timeless story and this was only one branch of that mythology. However Dollhouse is a bright and shiny new show which an interesting and unique story to tell that if canceled Joss will never be able to tell it in his own brilliant creative mind. Save one, sacrifice the other. I would prefer FOX keep both shows, but y'know, you can't win everything.