Dollhouse Episode 4 Review
Tuesday, March 10, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
I have decided that Eliza Dushku is probably limited as an actress. However, there are a few roles that she does really really well, and episode 4 ("The Grey Time"). She always shines as the rough and tumble bad girl, a la Faith, which fit this week's persona "Taffy" (yes, that was her real name) perfectly.

When the episode first started, I feared it was yet another case of Echo being hired out as a whore. And while the episode began with her literally acting like a prostitute, lap dancing with a guy and going off to his room for some good old fashioned boning for pay, it's quickly revealed that "Taffy" was just faking it, in order to trick the security guard into taking her to the locked security office after she was "attacked" by the 3 guys she was with. In fact, the Taffy personality is apparently the designated leader of a team of art thieves. Echo is the designated safe cracker/team leader, along with one tech guy along to track the guards on his laptop, one antiquities expert to identify the item they're there to steal from the adjoining building, and one explosives expert to blow up the wall between the hotel and the vault next door.

Unfortunately for Echo (but fortunately for us the viewers), just as she's about to wrap up the gig, the antiquities expert realizes that splitting the payday with just himself is better than splitting it with the 3 other people on the job, and he absconds with the item while locking the rest of the team in the vault. Echo calls back in to report the situation to Boyd, but someone (presumably Alpha) sends a signal over the line that "resets" Echo back to her default doll state, essentially turning her into a helpless "talking cucumber," as one character astutely observes. In a nice touch, Echo gets more and more visably freaked out, as no one returns her "Did I fall asleep? Shall I go now?" with the expected response phrases.

This kicks off several great moments that not only showcase Eliza's growing comfort portraying the default doll state, but also provides us with additional information about the technology and protocols behind the Dollhouse. It also provides the show with an opportunity to get Sierra in on this week's action, as the Dollhouse imprints Sierra with the same Taffy personality that Echo got, hoping that she'll be able to rescue the team. It was fun seeing Sierra parrot the same exact lines and stories that Echo's Taffy did, plus Dichen Lachman totally cracked me up when she bitched about learning to lap dance for nothing. Sierra is totally growing on, so I'm hoping we'll get to see a lot more Dichen Lachman in the future.

Long story short (get the full recap here if you want the play by play), things go bad for awhile, but eventually Echo manages to flee the vault with the one nice bad guy on the team, while Boyd is his usual kick ass self and shows up just in time to help his wayward cucumber get back to the crisper (I mean "Dollhouse").

Meanwhile, in the B plot, Paul Ballard's story unfortunately takes a turn towards Lamesville, as the show has him flounder around a little more and inexplicably decide to set up Lubov (nee Victor) instead of helping him. One, this seems out of character for Ballard. Two, I'm just not clear on how letting the Russian mob kill Lubov is supposed to help him get closer to finding the Dollhouse. The more I see of Agent Ballard's handsome sculpted face, the more I realize just how unnecessary he feels to the action week after week. I don't care if he "rescues" Echo. I'd rather have Echo either rescue her own damn self, or at least to have someone with a legitimate bond to her rescue her (either Boyd or Alpha spring to mind right now, though I could also see Claire, Victor or Sierra being involved). There's no need for an external force like Ballard to come into this story. The show has set up enough players for the Dollhouse situation to resolve itself internally already.

Things we learned this week:
  • One of Taffy's catchphrases, stated by both Echo and Sierra, was "always wear comfy shoes." Apparently, Taffy's idea of "comfy" is a knee high leather boot with a spiked heel. Yeaaaahhh... so what we really learned was this: wardrobe on this show does not get very good show notes.
  • Being rebooted in default doll state is actually quite traumatic, akin to being born according to Topher.
  • Alpha is at least as smart, if not smarter, than Topher when it comes to understanding how the mind mapping works. This complete speculation on my part, but I wonder if Topher had a narcissistic moment when programming Alpha, and included a part of his (Topher's) own personality or know-how into Alpha at some point.
  • Topher has rivals in the geek world who desire to take his position as lead (and apparently sole) programmer at the Dollhouse. Topher also has an underling who hopes to study at his feet, but who also must submit herself to Topher's demands that she fetch him snacks and juice boxes.
  • Echo and Sierra continue to have a bond in their default doll state. Victor is also starting to become one of the group, as we learn that the three have been eating together and even choosing the same table each day for lunch.
  • Topher has now been cleared by Adelle DeWitt to know the truth about Alpha's "death" and so forth.
  • Dolls CAN defend themselves in their default state, as we saw Echo stab her explosives expert with a hypodermic needle in self-defense after he threatened to kill her if she didn't fire on the guards. However, it took awhile for Echo to get to that point, so perhaps the reason the other dolls didn't fight back when Alpha attacked was that it just happened to fast for them to comprehend the danger they were in.
Things I want to know moving forward:
  • Adelle seemed distressed at the thought of losing Echo this week. That made me think back to the pilot episode, where it almost seemed like Echo (Caroline, at the time) knew Adelle prior to that meeting we saw. Is it possible that Adelle and Caroline knew each other in real life, and perhaps have a deeper connection than we're aware of at the moment?
  • How long has Victor been undercover just to cover the Ballard investigation? Why do they keep wiping him in between missions? Shouldn't he be busy actually working as part of his cover story? Because this week made it seem like he comes "home" to the Dollhouse every day to each lunch and shit.
  • Why did Alpha spare Echo's life, only to put her at risk twice now? Again, if it bears out that Adelle does have some sort of attachment to Caroline, then maybe it would make sense that Alpha wants Echo to die more slowly and dramatically, in order to get back at Adelle.
  • Can we get a lot more Dichen Lachman, please? I'd like to see an episode where the job requires two dolls, in order to get more Echo/Sierra action.
  • What was the point of that midwife scene at the beginning? Was it to show the range of jobs dolls are hired for? Or was it merely to set up Topher's dialogue later in the episode comparing wiping to being born? Either way, it felt odd and out of place.
Overall, I really really enjoyed this episode. It was a great stand alone piece. I give it a solid B+
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On 4:23 PM , Beers said...

Thinking about the Paul Ballard character, since the beginning of the show I can not help but suspect that at some point we will learn that there is a deeper reason driving him to find the Dollhouse. Perhaps his baby sister vanished one spring morning. I wonder if they offered David Deucovny the part first...