Dollhouse Episode 3 Review
Monday, March 02, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
This episode could have been called "The Bodyguard 2: Electric Bugaloo", because it had a lot in common with the Costner/Houston magnum opus. The basic plot of the week: a pop star named Rachel Marro-... oh, I mean "Rayna Russell"- is in danger from a crazy stalker fan who wants to love her to death, literally. So, her manager (a repeat customer of the Dollhouse and apparent close friend of Adelle DeWitt) hires the Dollhouse to provide a bodyguard. However, to keep things interesting - and to give the show an excuse to put Eliza Dushku in hot pants - the manager wants a bodyguard who isn't aware that they're actually a bodyguard. Rayna is a queen diva who will reject any obvious attempt to latch a bodyguard onto her, so the Dollhouse programs Echo to believe that she's a backup singer (her "persona"), while secretly embedding bodyguard tendencies deep into her brain so that she inexplicably feels compelled to protect Rayna (her "parameter"). Echo is configured with a personality that guarantees that Rayna will choose her as the new BFF of the week, and sure enough, the girls bond (however, sadly there is no sexy foreplay over a razor sharp samurai sword).

The twist comes when it's revealed, via incredibly hamfisted dialogue meant to echo Echo's own predicament (no pun intended), that Rayna feels trapped by her life and has been intentionally conspiring with the stalker to arrange her own death. Echo screws all that up by saving Rayna from the stalker's bullet, which just pisses off Rayna AND the stalker.

Also taking part in this week's A plot is Sierra, who has been programmed with her own persona (squealing, giggling OMG #1 Super FAn!!!!!) and parameter (unclear, but either the worst bodyguard ever or intentional stalker bait). She's allegedly there as the winner of some "#1 Fan" video contest, in order to give her a reason to follow Rayna around. Also of note: the persona is from Australia, giving Dichen Lachman an excuse to break out her real life (and totally adorable) Aussie accent. Anyhoo, the stalker, pissed that not only did he not get to kill Rayna, but also that someone else has been crowned Rayna's #1 Fan, goes ahead and kidnaps Sierra, and here's where things get interesting. One, it leads to a gross and creepy scene where he forces Sierra to duet with him on one of Rayna's songs. Two, it leads Echo to take drastic measures to resolve the situation. She kidnaps Rayna herself, summons the fan to the scaffolding above the stage, where she then THROWS Rayna off (no worries, Rayna is tied to the scaffolding). Stalker guy doesn't really want Rayna dead (he just believes he's fulfilling her wish), so he freaks out, and Echo disarms the situation. Meanwhile, truly facing death shocks Rayna out of her funk and at the end, she realizes that she does want to live, but on her terms now (versus what her handlers want).

The big question is: who was Echo really trying to save here? Yes, you could argue that Echo (as Adelle DeWitt does) was simply being creative in her interpretation of her parameter, since she was saving Rayna from herself. However, you could also make an argument that while Echo wasn't looking to hurt Rayna, per se, her real goal was saving Sierra. At the beginning of the episode, we see Echo and Sierra sharing a stitled "friendly" moment, but it's clear they're just two empty vessels reciting rote dialogue to each other. But at the end, we see that something has changed - Sierra clearly recognizes Echo and sincerely smiles and waves at her. We also see that not only does Echo also remember Sierra, she's also becoming more aware of how dangerous that fact is, as she hurriedly signals to Sierra NOT to show signs of affection. That's a good thing, as Laurence (the creepy head of security) is clearly looking for an excuse to send Echo to "the Attic", whatever that means.

Meanwhile, Boyd and Claire both observe that Echo is special in her ability to "think outside the box". Apparently, most dolls will just rigidly follow whatever parameters are in place, but Echo can do the lateral thought process that allows her to come up with solutions like "throw client off scaffolding in order to save her". This may be why Alpha has an interest in Echo - does he possess the same lateral thought ability as well?

In other twists, we learn that the bumbling Russian mole that Paul was working with is actually a doll named Victor! Victor sets Paul up for some good old fashioned murderin' at an abandoned building. However, instead of just shooting him right away multiple times, the bad guys talk a lot and then only shoot him once in the stomach, allowing Paul to kill his assailants and call for an ambulance before he passes out. Good stuff there - where will Paul go from here, how will Victor be used by the Dollhouse to further thwart Paul's efforts?

My main problem this week was that the A plot was annoying as a stand alone episode. Rayna was... kind of an asshole. Echo's persona was also sort an asshole when she was hanging with Rayna. Therefore, I didn't really care if Echo saved Rayna, nor did I get a warm and happy feeling at the end when Rayna decided to change her life. Like, do you want a medal for deciding not to be a snipey jerk?

However, the B plot was good, and we got lots more good info about the Dollhouse, so from that perspective I was happy. Next week's episode looks exciting - Echo reverts to doll form in the middle of a mission. Ooh! Anyhoo, this week's episode gets a B grade from me.

Things we learned this episode:
  • Eliza Dushku can really sing. Damn. Now I'm upset that Joss didn't find a way to work Faith into the Buffy musical episode.
  • Sierra's handler isn't the nicest guy in the world. He didn't seem too concerned that she was kidnapped.
  • Boyd is awesome and adorable. His father-like fretting about Echo's performance at her first concert was sweet and touching. He once again showed his willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty, and seeing him alongside another handler just emphasized how Boyd is willing to do things other handlers won't.
  • Boyd and Claire get a good scene together, with hints of some sexual chemistry there. This also sets up Topher to get the best line of the episode (suggesting that Boyd and Claire get married and have a litter of "frowny babies"). I approve of this potential storyline. However, since Amy Acker just got cast in a new pilot, does this mean that Claire may become the tragic Jenny Calendar to Boyd's Giles?
  • Sierra may herself be experiencing some kind of composite event, as she clearly recognized Echo at the end of the episode, and was conscious enough to recognize Echo's warning about not appearing too friendly while others were watching.
  • The Dollhouse has at least one set of twins, which they pimp out together for sex. Which... gross. Just gross.
Things I want to know moving forward:
  • Who authorized the insertion of Victor into Paul Ballard's case? Is Adelle DeWitt behind it, or is Laurence running his own shenanigans on the side?
  • Why didn't Sierra's parameter kick in? I mean, once the stalker revealed himself, wouldn't it have made sense for Sierra to snap into ninja mode and take the guy out?
  • What is the point of Mellie, Paul's neighbor? We saw her rushing to his bedside at the end of the episode, but didn't get to see Paul's reaction to her. Is she just there to get her heart smashed to pieces once Paul starts to fall for Echo?
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On 3:03 PM , grottogirl said...

I'm not sure Sierra had a parameter other than being some sort of all-purpose, ambiguous bait for the killer dude. I'm about to rewatch this episode on hulu to see what subtleties I might have missed during the live show.

I thought this ep had a lot of problems, but I felt like Dushku took a big step forward in claiming her role. And you're right about the B's worth watching just for those tidbits.

On 9:42 PM , Mad Typist said...

It's still sort of a weak explanation, if you ask me. It's more like the writers were lazy, wanted to put Sierra in peril and wanted to arrange for Echo to rescue her. I mean, I like Sierra, so I'm happy to see her in the episode, but it's a disconnect from the pilot episode where they seemed much more concerned about protecting the "merchandise" out in the field.

Nonetheless, not a terrible episode by any means.