Thursday, February 26, 2009

Percolated Recap: Dollhouse: The Target (Episode 102)

I would include a brief recap of last week, just like the show does, but come on, if Echo doesn't remember it, does it mean I have to mention it? I will on the other hand, say that if the rumour about who is going to play Alpha is true, Joss Whedon, not only have you proven that you'll always go with a Whedon-alumni whenever possible, but also you've hooked me for the long run. I don't want to spoil anyone, but there is a massive hint about who would earn that level of my enthusiasm in last week's post.

I promise not to explicitly say anything about the identity of said rumoured actor. On the other hand, I wonder if we're getting a serious back story episode so early because Joss Whedon has bet on 6 as the number of episodes that'll be aired before the show is pulled.

After a brief fill-in on the important bits last week, we get the handiest plot device in television history.

There's a klaxon going in the background as some dolls in we haven't met are led into their beds. It's obvious they're all in their Quaker state because they don't seem as worried about the alarms blaring as they do about being forced into their beds before they've showered. Now, last week, I theorized that the beds might be to gas them, in case of invasion. Apparently, they also protect them from rampaging actives who have a "composite event." Now, either they're suffering from the longstanding television affliction where editors use snippets from reality TV to create a whole extra episode, showing us shit we've already seen, or it means all of Alpha's personalities combined. Somehow, I don't think all of his personalities were also as fun to deal with as, for instance, beagles.

Oh yes, and the painful bit of obvious symbolism from last week, about never being able to actually clean a slate, comes back to whack us on the head like, well, slate.

Topher's completely freaked out, understandably, but still insists a composite event isn't possible. He also gives us something I was sure we wouldn't find out before Fox canceled this show, the reason for Dr. Fred's injuries. I have to admit, rampaging active wasn't on my list of possibilities. My list may have included things like unfortunate incident when she was really an active and something as mundane and scary as a car accident or mugging, just in case I was being led into the land of the red herring, but not a rampaging active. Quaker states don't usually come across as dangerous.

Leading the response team, Dominic ramps up the creepy factor because I find myself strangely attracted to Reed Diamond. That has never happened before and I would like it to go away, soon. I blame the take-charge attitude while wearing a nicely cut suit.

While everyone is cut to pieces and the security team is scrambling, Adelle looks way too calm. She's either been through this before or has some serious psychopathic tendencies, or both.

While security doesn't find Alpha, the do find Echo, sitting, naked in the shower to help with ratings surrounded by the corpses of her fellow dolls. She can't comprehend what's just happened and pitifully mews, "They won't wake up." There are certainly some better retorts from past Whedon shows that would've been more apt.

Creepy music box title sequence.

Present: Adelle's explaining to a client, Richard Connell, about the opportunities an active can provide. She calls the oatmeal state, I mean Quaker state of the actives the "Tabula Rasa." While Aristotle and John Locke would be pleased with the reference, I'm sticking to Quaker state. Adelle describes the actives as "innocent and vulnerable as children." Nope, you're a little off there Adelle as most children who can walk and talk understand the concept of running when people come after them with a sharp implement.

After explaining the basic model of a doll, Adelle describes the upgraded model, or the imprint, which can be made into anyone.

Intermixed with this are flashes of other engagements Echo's been sent on and the process of wiping the memory.

While Adelle is seeing dollar signs, she misses what I didn't, even the first time around. He's throwing up red flags all over the place. What Richard Connell wants is a woman who actually is what she says she is. That was flag number one as it shows a genuine distrust of every woman. Flag number two is when Adelle says there's a problem and he instantly assumes it's the background check. I immediately wanted to know what could possible be wrong with it to make him react that way. If he has nothing in his background to be concerned about, why is he worried?

What she is actually referring to is that the engagement might be slightly risky, so he has to pay a bit more. Umm, did she at least not notice red flag number 3?

Of course, if he damages the active in an way, he would need to pay more. I was going to do a whole big thing about all the ways that previous statement exemplifies the ultimate wrong, but around point 716, you would probably quit reading.

Engagement the Third: Survivorwoman, Episode 1

Setting: Forest, bright early afternoon on a clear day. The sound of the water almost drowning out the dialogue.

Survivorwoman begins with a leisurely paddle down a level 3 white water current. It's a refreshing, but not too daunting start to the day. This will be followed by a quick climb up a very steep mountain. As none of this is too taxing for our intrepid heroine, she lightens the mood by pretending to almost fall to her death.

Her companion will not find this so funny, as he knows her dark secret. She, on the other hand, thinks she has brothers ready to pound the crap out of him.


Well, Echo may not have brothers, but she does have Boyd, who is a little concerned about the adrenaline readings she's giving off. Assuring Boyd, Topher asks the handler to leave the science to the science guy and OMG? BILL NYE WORKS FOR THE DOLLHOUSE?

Boyd doesn't want to hear any of Topher's humourous banter, and, despite not saying the magic word, abracadabra, gets the technician to align another satellite. Since it'll take a few minutes to align the new satellite, Topher takes this time to declare his deep "man love" for Boyd. Everywhere, even slashers wonder if they want to touch that one.

Boyd isn't alone in the woods. He's with some random driver who would so be wearing a red shirt if this were Star Trek. Therefore, I'll call him Red. Like Boyd, Red hates the woods.

Last week's isolated setting

Not to be confused with this week's isolated setting, it's the cabin where little Davina was kept locked in the fridge. Somehow, Agent Paul Ballard learned about the events of last week and is a little late in investigating. This makes me wonder, didn't Echo have an injured knee last week? Is it really a great idea for her to be climbing rocks? Oh, Joss Whedon, you're usually a little better than this. One usually doesn't catch serious continuity errors this early.

In the cabin is someone who looks really familiar!

Badger takes a moment to explain the official version of events, none of which involve the dollhouse. Paul proves he has the bigger penis by smacking Badger down, verbally. Since someone involved with the shooting would need to blow in the door and Davina talked about the pretty girl, Badger can mock the idea the dollhouse was involved all he likes. Crestejo, Davina's father, is exactly the type of client that would hire an active, plus the official version of things don't add up, and Sierra is the worst crime scene cleaner in history, because she missed Elinor Penn's broken glasses lying on the floor. Oops.

As Ballard exits, having completely destroyed any claim of legitimacy of the official version - the kidnappers turned on each other - he exits to Badger mocking him about his search for who he doesn't know is Echo. "Be careful. Looks here she's pretty bad ass."

Oh the heavy handed foreshadowing of that statement hurts almost as much as an arrow to the heart.

Engagement the Third: Survivorwoman, Episode 2

Survivorwoman is taught by her companion how to use a bow and arrow. There is also some serious creepiness when Survivorwoman uses the closeness needed to show the correct grip on the bow, which only causes Richard Connell to talk about his father. He also show her his super secret sign, slapping his hand to his shoulder to symbolize putting the shoulder to the wheel.

Survivorwoman, demonstrating she has the same survival skill as she does in her Quaker State, ignores the significant, "Do the work. Earn your way. If you can bring down something bigger than you with just this, you've proved you deserve to eat it. If it gets away, it proved it deserved to live."

Thinking this is just some deep meaningful sharing between herself and her partner, Survivorwomand doesn't find it at all disconcerting that after talking about killing things with a bow and arrow, her partner tells her she isn't the first woman he's brought into the woods. It is important to note that after this adventure, Survivorwoman is not going to be asked to eat something odd or survive on just jelly beans and wits for two weeks. No, she's going to be asked to prove she can read the simplest of human signals. We have a feeling Survivorwoman will need some more fine tuning to say, survive.

This scene ends with our heroine and her companion planning on taking down a really big deer. Somewhere, Bambi is crying as Connell gives Survivorwoman explicit instructions as how to kill a living thing, and being sure never to take a shot unless she can take her target down.

We flip to a long time later. I know this because in order to skin a deer and eat, this has to be hours later. Despite this Survivorwoman and her companion still have plenty of energy which they are trying to work out by fucking like rabbits. The kissing is quite distracting, since Richard Connell's tongue keeps flicking in and out of his mouth, a little like a snake, while trying to kiss our heroine.

The tone changes to where the archery, rock climbing and white water rafting were nothing in comparison as to what will happen. Proving he's a complete psychopath, Richard Connell gives Survivorwoman a 5 minute head start before he hunts her. Yes, a man chose hunting over sex.

Finally, the purpose of sending Survivorwoman out in the woods is revealed. Instead of dialogue, we're now going to get a lot of running.


I'm assuming this flashback is within a couple of days from the flashback at the beginning, as shown by the blood on things like the lampshades in the dollhouse. I wonder why, with all the money they're making, they don't just buy new lampshades?

I'm also a little surprised because Adelle is explaining Boyd's job to him and I would never have guessed, from the first episode, that Boyd had only joined in the nefarious deeds at the dollhouse just slightly under three months ago. In fact, his hiring was due to the composite event, so that he could protect Echo, one of the most requested actives. She needed a new handler because the puddle of blood on the floor is one of the largest pieces left of him.

Hey, it's Dr. Fred! I cannot believe I was completely wrong about not learning how she got all cut up before the show gets canceled, but o yay for Joss Whedon speeding up his story telling to accommodate Fox's axe of death.

Looking at the body of Echo's former handler, we learn that Alpha wasn't just trying to kill him. Alpha was trying to inflict the maximum amount of pain and injury. Not that I needed Boyd to tell me this. As little as I can see of the former handler's body, it reminds me of what happens when an aerator hits a lawn. What's really shocking is that Alpha was able to do this in about 8 seconds.

A few questions still remain. The first is why did no one other than me paid attention to the clean slate comment last week, since they're all so shocked that the imprints came back to haunt Alpha? The second is why didn't Alpha kill Echo?

Engagement the Third: Survivorwoman, Episode 3

More running!
More hunting! More dramatic music and scenery! It's all you could ever want from a Survivorwoman episode that didn't involve eating insects for protein! She winds up at the same rock face she scaled earlier. All that stands between her and death is a sheer rock face. She really is between a rock and a hard place in this one.


Ballard calls Lubov while he's in a car traveling on the safest road possible - the one that keeps moving while the car stays still. You all know that road. It was frequently used in old movies so that people could hold important conversations while not once really looking at the street in front of them. It's much easier when the road travels around on a loop and the car doesn't have to go anywhere.

While Lobov is in the middle of trying to get his love-off, Ballard ruins the mood by calling to demand more info on the dollhouse, which Lubov doesn't have. Honestly, I'm not too sure about the purpose for this phone call, other than to remind us Lubov is supposed to be Ballard's snitch.

We could've cut out the phone call entirely and just had the discovery of the envelope containing Caroline's picture in Paul Ballard's in-tray - the same picture we saw at the end of the pilot - and this scene would've been just as effective.

Engagement the Third: Survivorwoman, Episode 4

More climbing! More running! More hunting! More dramatic music and scenery! More evidence Survivorwoman has the survival skills of a dead roadkill squirrel! It never once occurs to her that it's a bad idea to be on lower ground when her hunter is on higher ground, thus giving him a bird's eye view of where she's running. Luckily, Connell doesn't follow his own advice and takes a shot without being sure it'll take her down, so it just grazes her in the leg.

He takes another shot, still not following his own advice, as she runs into the forest.


The satellite is finally coming back online, just as Red spots a park ranger pulling up. The story they tell doesn't come across as awkward or rehearsed, as Boyd and Red are professionals. The ranger buys the story but was concerned about the unsavory elements that will often find themselves in the woods. To prove his point, he shoots Red, justifying Red's name.


Boyd and Topher meet, and Topher introduces himself as "The man behind the gray matter curtain." I have to be honest here and say I watched The Village the day after this episode aired don't judge me on my film tastes and cannot stop thinking of Topher being the guy who couldn't stand wrinkled shirts.

The relationship is instantly established as Boyd being the alpha dog (pun intended) because he immediately points out that Alpha was Topher's creation. Boyd may not be winning friends and influencing people but he's certainly reminding Topher who is the bitch in this pair.

One of the major flaws with the dollhouse is the Quaker state. When they are left with the ability to defend themselves, people got hurt, but when they can't defend themselves, people still get hurt. It's also interesting how Boyd felt absolutely nothing for Echo at the start, describing her as a hat waiting for Topher to stick a rabbit in it. That sentence isn't half as dirty as it sounds.

Engagement the Third: Survivorwoman, Episode 5

More climbing! More running! More hunting! More dramatic music and scenery! Look! It's the expected trip and fall. I have to say, my BFF was totally predicting Echo to fall and hit her head, causing her to remember something she shouldn't and I thought my BFF had a brilliant theory. Unfortunately, we were both wrong.


The satellite finally sends the signal that Echo's in trouble but since Boyd has a gun to his head, there's very little he can do about it.

Okay, I take that back. Boyd has some serious nerves of steel because not only does he manage to take a guy pointing a gun at his head, but also kicks the shit out of said guy for good measure, finishing the baddie with a choke hold. Well, I certainly know who I'm calling if I'm in danger. Although, if I could get a hold of Boyd, I'd probably be unable to remember why I needed to call him.

Back at Adelle's office, the chief of security, Dominic, has found another threat, Agent Paul Ballard. There is way too much sexual tension in the air, as Adelle insists they don't need to kill the agent because this is way too early for Joss Whedon to be killing a major character.

Okay, so perhaps that isn't Adelle's reasoning as she justifies that all "appropriate measures have been taken."

Before Dominic can argue, Topher interrupts with something far more important: the whole gun to Boyd's head thing.

Engagement the Third: Survivorwoman, Episode 6

More climbing! More running! More hunting! More dramatic music and scenery! This time, she finds the raft she'd used earlier with Connell, only to find one big honking hole in it.

Eventually, she comes across a house which looks far too civilized for a nature area. As I was on the phone with my BFF at the time this scene aired, I believe the discussion turned to the story of Bluebeard about now.

The first thing our heroine does is drink out of a canteen that is hanging in plain site. Somehow, I'd rather risk whatever would come out of the taps or drinking straight out of the river earlier as this is just too staged.

The sound of a radio brings Survivorwoman to the closet where she finds, instead of a bunch of dead wives, the dead park ranger. Calling out for help, all she gets in return is some taunting from Connell about whether or not she deserves to live. Usually, I'd be all excited because a scene like this should be really tight dialogue. Instead, it isn't and the only genuinely interesting turn of phrase is "prove to me you're not an echo." Now, as cool as that line is, why doesn't it cause a flashback? Weren't we warned about not referencing her life in the dollhouse last week?

Just as Survivorwoman is trying to turn the tables, going from the hunted to the hunter, the drugs Connell put in the canteen start to work.


Boyd is feeling a bit strange going through the handler/ active imprinting process with Echo. Since he's already indicated Echo will only be just a job to him, he doesn't want to go through something that seems really intimate. I'm not too sure where this might be going, symbolically, but there's a lot to be said about forcing some woman to trust a man she's never met with her life. Hell, there's even a script to go with it.

Boyd: Everything's going to be all right.
Echo: Now that you're here.
Boyd: Do you trust me?
Echo: With my life.

As Boyd is forced to recite the script and hold Echo's hand I wonder who is really bonding to who here. While Echo's being imprinted to trust Boyd, Boyd is clearly feeling like he's violating that trust. He wouldn't feel that way if this were just a job.

Also, this scene disproves what Adelle has been preaching. These dolls aren't clean slates. Even in their Quaker state, with the brain power and personality of oatmeal, they trust their handlers. It's not a clean slate as a faint image of what is put there remains, even after everything else has been erased.

Engagement the Third: Survivorwoman, Episode 7

Connell finds the cabin empty but he's still confident in finding our heroine, since her head is spinning due to the drugs from the canteen. Well, my BFF may have been wrong about how the flashbacks occur, but she was right that they would happen. While lost in the woods, Survivorwoman sees versions of herself: the first being Caroline, the shock of which causes the non-hallucination of herself to fall into the river.


Boyd's trying to get all the equipment up and running, because while Red may be dead, his job is to make sure Echo doesn't wind up the same way. Apparently, a part of his job includes shooting the faux-ranger in the legs to make sure a) he can't follow Boyd and b) he's telling the truth about why he's there. Faux-ranger was supposed to make the handler stall the response team. He didn't know why he was hired or who hired him, since all this was a business transaction over the phone.

Since none of this is supposed to be taken personally, I hope the faux-ranger doesn't take the bullet wounds or the head injury personally either. Besides, I'm willing to bet once Dominic gets a hold of him, he won't have to worry about either.

Engagement the Third: Survivorwoman, Episode 8

The drugs cause Echo to briefly take over Survivorwoman's brain, as she remembers the shower massacre from three months earlier. She turns around only to see Alpha in the shadows, telling her to wake up.

This is weird because we're supposed to be afraid of Alpha, yet I'm not. For some reason, even the shadowed-memory of him is trying to protect Echo. She has to wake up before she's found by Connell.

The river is clearly a TV river, since, instead of drowning our heroine, it spits her up onto a bank where she can drape herself artistically. The voice telling her to wake up this time, is Connell's, because, somehow, the radio not only kept working after being immersed in water but also stayed with her for the entire trip down the rapids. For some reason, Connell's giving her more time to run, instead of just shooting her in the chest with an arrow. I guess he's one of those guys who is just more interested in the chase.

Ballard's Apartment

I'm glad they aren't pretending that just because Agent Paul Ballard is working on a fringe (not Fringe) case, he still isn't freaking hot. This is proven by his neighbour, Mellie, who is baking him lasagna, and no, that isn't a euphemism.

Immediately, I like Mellie. She's isn't the traditional stick-thin TV woman (see Echo) yet she's still gorgeous. Plus, she's doing exactly what I would do in that situation, that is, if I could cook.

Engagement the Third: Survivorwoman, Episode 9

More running! More hunting! More dramatic music and scenery! More me wishing we were beyond this as it's getting a little old! Although, I am relieved Survivorwoman finally ditches her too-white shirt. It doesn't make for effective camouflage.

While the trick of editing leads us to believe Connell is right behind her, Survivorwoman hides behind a tree, following that old adage about walking softly and carrying a big stick. Who she tries swinging it at isn't Connell after all, but Boyd. He repeats the assigned script and the moment Survivorwoman and Echo intertwine is visible. Her shoulders relax, and the terror dissipates as she replies, "Now that you're here."

Unfortunately, the script does not call for an arrow through Boyd's flank.


Boyd is bringing another imprinted Echo back from another engagement, listening to her go on about how she's fallen for someone who is not traditionally good looking (a phrase which here means, heavy). She scoffs at the bombardment of images of people with perfect teeth and hair and abs. She's impressed with meeting a guy who is real. Both Boyd and I are thinking the same thing.

It's even sadder as she tells him that she'll be right back, and he's uncomfortable knowing she won't be. Even though she isn't affected by constantly finding the right guy, because she's imprinted to, Boyd clearly is.

Engagement the Third: Survivorwoman, Episode 9

Instead of Boyd helping Echo, it's the other way around. Because she trusts him implicitly, she will not leave him behind to become a target for Connell. She's also able to confess what she's been seeing during her hallucinations and Boyd knows they are actual memories; because he knows what's been on the slate before, he can read the smudge marks.

The hallucinations have so disturbed her, that she asks Boyd if even he is real. "Yeah, this is real," he replies. Wow, I think that's the most loaded 4 words yet on this show. Unfortunately, Survivorwoman is too concerned with not dying to notice. Trying to confort his charge, he repeats the script, only to be taken aback by Echo's improv.

"No it isn't." Maybe that imprint trust thing wasn't so absolute after all. Topher's really not impressing me thus far with his ability to do his job.
No matter what Boyd says, this imprint, whose name is Jenny (not that the name is of any importance), is convinced that the only way to survive is to kill Connell.

Since this is outside this imprint's abilities, Boyd protests, until she asks, "Do you trust me?"

"With my life," Boyd replies.

Well, she must have the right imprint after all, since none of those fictional brothers she mentioned earlier, are democrats. She definitely knows how to use a gun. Thus, Boyd gives her his bigger gun, keeping his smaller, back-up piece for himself. I'm going to assume that was not intentional symbolism in this situation.

The final
showdown demonstrates the shift in power between Surivorwoman and Connell. She uses his radio to taunt him, just as he thinks he's moving in for the kill. Instead of Connell watching our heroine, she is watching him. She's going to fulfill the promise she made earlier, to kill him.

With this, the character of Connell crumbles. All his brave talk about earning the right to live is bullshit, considering he looks like he's about to crap his pants. If he truly believed it, he would be pleased to be able to prove himself against a worthy adversary.

She gives him a chance not to die, by giving up his bow, but his bravado recovers, although, not before she grazes him with a bullet. It's an eye for an eye thing, but extremity wound for extremity wound doesn't sound as good.

More running! More hunting! More dramatic music and scenery! More radio taunting! Finally, the pair of them come to a clearing for the final standoff, or as Connell puts it, "the best date ever."

The one who stalls in the standoff isn't Survivorwoman, but Connell, proving what a coward he really is. I could do a detailed explanation of the back and forth between them, but really, all that anyone needs to understand is that he keeps trying to negotiate not being killed. Sure, it's pretty cool when they both fire at th same time, but the math between the amount of time the bullet and the arrow take to get to the other person seems to be off. You'd think Connell would already be dead on the ground well before the arrow nicks his prey.

One of the imprints Topher must've used was Faith, because she kicks Connell's ass seven ways from Sunday before he gets in one lucky punch. As he tries strangling her, she sees different versions of herself, watching, disgusted that she's giving up.

She reaches over, grabs a fallen arrow and stabs him in the neck. I hope, that since she's killed him, she doesn't have to eat him now. That would be a whole other imprint, I think.

As he dies, he tells her that she is special - just in case the audience hasn't already figured that out, and that she has to keep her shoulder to the wheel. The last thing he does is that creepy salute, where he slaps his shoulder, before expiring.

To the slow piano music of resolve, she makes her way back to Boyd, just moments before they are rescued by Dominic and the dollhouse security team.


We get the imprint removal special effect, reliving the entire engagement, backwards. This time, Boyd is with her, and showing the attachment between them, he willingly takes her injured hand, to comfort her.

Even though the engagement is over for Echo, it isn't for Adelle and Dominic. The background check that Connell so obviously was worried about earlier came back as fake. Everything in it was fake, including the reference. Unlike the wiping problems and Topher, I don't think this is an indication that Dominic is bad at his job. Instead, it shows that someone knows how to circumvent all of the dollhouse's security measures. It's probably the same person who killed the faux-ranger in the woods.

From the wounds on the faux-ranger's body, as we see when Dr. Fred shows Boyd the corpse, there is only one person it could've been.

No one, except for Dr, Fred (who is just desperately clinging to the idea) thinks that security team killed the rampaging active and Boyd thinks this all leads directly back to Echo.

Boyd's not the only one that's come to that conclusion - so has Dominic. He confronts, as much as one can confront a doll in their Quaker state, Echo about how so many people wind up dead around her. He even taunts her about how she can't feel unless she's told, and that there's no one inside her, but I'm not entirely sure he believes what he's saying. He wants her put in the attic, or the ground, he really doesn't care which direction as long as it's far away from him.

As Dominic walks away, and I want to know what the heck the attic is, Echo proves that his suspicions are correct.


  1. Yeah, Alpha's what's hooked me too. even if I'm having problems putting a 'semi-muscular man' as crazed active. I'll deal though. But if I hear the word interesting applied to Alpha, I'm gonna slide off my chair laughing.

    Like I did when Badger turned up as a Fed. *goes off to snicker some more*

    (And I should say "Hi Spy!" I've been reading your Numb3rs recaps for the last couple of months on recapist, and have followed you here!)

  2. Hmm - I agree that all the running and chasing got kind of monotonous, but I love this episode for two reasons: how the relationship between Echo and Boyd was fleshed out, and the presence of Matt Keeslar (who played Connell). He was one of the leads in a now-cancelled show called The Middleman that I absolutely loved, and it was, um, highly enjoyable seeing him run around in that tight sleeveless costume and tousled hair.

  3. I think the best part was Boyd and Echo. Douchebag plot line I could have done without.

  4. @ Daydream-queen. *waves* Hi! I'm glad you found your way over her from the site that shall not be named.