Saturday, March 7, 2009

Percolated Recap: Dollhouse: Gray Hour (Episode 104)

Eliza Dushku's talents showcased: An episode-by-episode breakdown.
Episode 1: Her ability to sound business-like.
Episode 2: Her athleticism.
Episode 3: Her singing voice.
Episode 4: Her ability to wear leather pants while delivering meta-Joss.

Recapper's note:
Being Canadian, I'll be spelling grey the canuck way from now on. I only made the exception because it's the title of the episode. Travellingone also had to deal with this issue in her instacap of this episode. Please note that this also applies to neighbour, labour, favour and anything else that has vowel issues. Unfortunately, vowel issues isn't something that someone's invented a medication for. Boo.

By now, I think everyone who knows anything about this show knows of the feminism/anti-feminism/post-feminism/anti-post-feminism debate that is plaguing the show. Yeah, well Joss Whedon, and all his wisdom, saw this coming months ago, thus we're delivered this script which is either a love letter or harsh reminder to fans. I believe it goes something like this:
Dear Fans,
Seriously? If all you're going to assume is I've lost my ability to create strong vibrant characters and am breaking into the more mainstream market by having an memory-challenged prostitute, let me whack you over the head with this episode as a reminder of that which I am capable. As for the whole sex thing: humanity will always take advantage of new developments that help with sex (well, death too, but that's outside my point at the moment) so of course when a bunch of young hot people are available to fulfill wishes, sex would be involved. Give me a break!
Engagement the Fifth: A Real Labour

We begin with Joss Whedon playing with our heads. There's a whole bunch of moaning and panting, leading everyone who doesn't know how much Joss Whedon likes playing with his audience, to believe that this is yet another case of Echo being programmed as a prostitute.

Well, while almost all the body parts traditionally associated with that profession are in use, this time Echo is imprinted as a midwife, making me wonder who the hell would pay to have a baby delivered by someone programmed to be the best midwife ever? Considering we're only four episodes in and we've seen the number of things that can go wrong with said programming, there are sometimes when the real thing is probably preferable. Up in a mountain cabin without hospital staff or drugs and delivering a baby with football player shoulders, is probably one of those times.
Calm and orderly, Midwife Echo avoids answering any disturbing questions about the baby's distress by asking about how the father and mother to be met. Yes, because when people are about to be parents they should totally be focused on themselves. Sorry, that's an issue with me I'm not getting into in a recap.

After some initial distress, baby Lucy, the future linebacker for some high school football team, emerges into the world, and shortly afterward, Midwife Echo is taken out of it. The obvious irony of the moment is that the mother wants to forget all the pain and agony of labour, while it's Echo who actually forgets everything about it.

Topher and Echo go through their whole "Did I fall asleep" routine, which is getting a little old.

After the wiping comes lunch, where Sierra and Victor join Echo and have the most insipid discussion about being their best. I guess when you have the personality of oatmeal, your conversation isn't going to be the most stimulating.
While three dolls having less than fascinating conversation in their Quaker state is tediously boring to me, to Topher, it is fascinating. Echo, Sierra and Victor ate lunch at the same table the day before. Hell, they probably had the same conversation too. The point that Topher tries to make is that their grouping is instinctual which he finds interesting and Boyd find confusing. What I find confusing is Topher's use of the term "man friend" when referring to Boyd. On a more seroius note, I wonder why Topher doesn't realize that Victor and Sierra are flocking to Echo, making her the natural leader. Perhaps she's the oatmeal with a little bit of sugar added, who knows. Perhaps it's because he's too amused by comparing the dolls to bison, birds or fish. On a meta-note, I can easily explain why they're attracted to each other: it's called being contractually obligated.

Upstairs, Adelle is feeding some serious bullshit in the direction of the client. He thinks what he's requesting is totally confidential and that no one would be able to know what he wants in an active. Well, since the computer has to calculate the risk and Topher has to piece together a personality, I don't quite think confidential's an option.
While she lies so well that another guy on another new Fox show would probably be unable to tell when it comes to a client, she has difficulty staying her usual unflappable self when she's called by her boss. Now that is a character I would like to meet. This is all about stopping Agent Ballard, and the "appropriate measures" she talked about two weeks ago.
Thus, the only thing we know about the engagement is that it'll cost more and that it's a gift for someone close to the client.

Engagement the Sixth: Pulling Taffy's Plan Notes

Blue skies! All I've got to do is be completely obnoxious, dress like a hour and be asked to move my party upstairs. (It's got to be in a place all the people watching me would recognize.) In order to do that, I've got to do some majorly inappropriate PDA, where all the rich people might be reminded that they're not getting any.
Later, I've got to add a little fake blood in the mix, to get myself protected by some beefy security / snobby hotelier and escorted down to his office. (Pay attention to the code! I'll need it later!) Make sure to be all offended whne he offers me ten grand even though all the social signals are saying that I've been assaulted by three men, and that even women of my profession deserve some respect.
Then, I'll just knock the guy out. It's too bad this is a no-kill job but that's how the client wants it. Sure it's unprofessional, but I get a real kick of people thinking the only thing I have to offer is a hot body and no brains. So when pmpous hotelier wakes up, he's going to realize he tried to pay off the wrong girl.
And I'll be filthy stinking rich.

Creepy music box title sequence.

Engagement the Sixth: Pulling Taffy's Plan Notes

Make sure the team understands that I'm one of the guys by making cracks about my boobs (and their greatness) and cracks about blogging about the job later. (Okay, so that last part might be a little meta but blue skies to meta!) Also, remind them, in a passive aggressive humourous way that I'm the boss. I might also need to remind them if a client wants a no-kill job, that's what he gets.
Actual plan: During the grey hour, when the security-up-the-ass building next door upgrades its system, we're going to break in by blowing the connecting wall between pompous unconscious guy's office, and the basement next door. Sure, there are guards, but they aren't allowed near the vault because they aren't paid much beyond minimum wage. Because we'll be able to track the guards by their badges (bless GPS units), we'll know where they are while they won't have a clue we're there.

Oh yeah, don't forget to tell everyone that we're on Taffy standard time. It's a great little zime zone that follows me wherever I go.

Just to make sure these guys know I'm the boss and I'm the best, I'll compare myself to a pair of the most incompetent bank robbers of all time - Bonnie and Clyde. Since they couldn't keep their pictures out of the papers or couldn't pull a job without fucking up royally (that whole robbing a bank incident after the bank has shut down is a classic), they clearly weren't good at their jobs. Me, on the other hand, who has never been arrested or even had my name get out there, are a shitload better than some poor kids from Texas.
Because I'm keen on irony, I'll tell the boys it's okay to forget that I exist, after this job is over. I know I'll forget all about them.

Maybe the boys will realize my expertise when behave towards the safe the way most women would behave towards a hot guy. Plus, like I manipulate men, I'll have the safe doing my bidding in the span of mere seconds.

I'll have to keep the antiquities expert in line because he wants everything in the vault. Hell, I want everything in the vault but since I'm paid only to retrieve a frieze from the Parthenon, that's all I'm taking.

Ballard's Apartment

For those looking for the little details that help with fanfic, Ballard lives in apartment 204. Oh, and another fanfic detail, Ballard heals almost at Wolverine speed, considering he's out of the hospital already after being shot and nearly dying last week and all he's suffering from is some stiffness.
Also, Ballard has spectacular observational skills because he can be in pain, recovering from a gunshot wound and be released from the hospital way too early, yet still spring up and point a gun at Victor/Lubov without having a single clue he was in the apartment beforehand.

Being rightfully pissed about the hole in his side, Ballard wants to know who is feeding Lubov the information. Ballard suspects the informant is Caroline, but Lubov says it was some guy from southern Georgia -- the one in Russia, not the one famous for peaches. But the problem is that the gangsters know Lubov talks to Ballard, hence the set up so now Lubov needs to be helped, to get out of town.

A deal is struck where Ballard will help Lubov, only if Lubov promises never to contact the agent again. Obviously, this is a fair deal for the terrified Russian.
Engagement the Sixth: Pulling Taffy's Plan Notes

It's not as if we're stealing stolen art, we're just returning national treasures to the rightful owners, that is, if we were hired by the Greeks, but I'm not speculating, because that would be bad. We're stealing one of the Elgin Marbles, which actually did exist historically but so far back in the past, we won't have to pay copyright to mention it.

The best thing about me is that I always have contingency plans. I can even let one of my coworkers hit on me and still keep my head in the job.
Okay, so while I totally would've pegged one of the other two as the backstabber, at least my contingency plans mean that even though I'm surprised that the antiquities expert has the balls to stab one of my cohorts, and tries to escape, I have someone else waiting in the van to apprehend the no good history geek as he tries to take what I am rightfully trying to steal. There are always blue skies for my cell phone reception!
So the loser thinks he'll get away with it, locking us in the vault to be caught 39 minutes from now, but I'm Taffy, I can open any vault, just after this stupid interference with the phone clears up.

Engagement the Sixth: Pulling Taffy Apart

"Did I fall asleep?"

Topher is doing what every boss has done with every assistant at some time -- making her run errands and do all the stuff we really don't want to do. You know, I want one of those but unfortunately, I'm not that high up in my IRL job.

The assistant is named Ivy, and I instantly love her. She's got the snark necessary to both mock Topher's eating habits, which make the average 10 year-old's look healthy and mature, and keep him happy enough by praising his abilities that he doesn't notice she thinks he's a douchebag.
Unfortunately, the hilarious assistant, Ivy, and her introduction is interrupted by the computer showing that Echo's adrenaline has spiked well past the healthy range into the "Oh, god, oh, god, we're all going to die" zone.

Engagement the Sixth: Pulling Taffy Apart

Since Taffy's two other accomplices don't know the script after "shall I go now?" Echo's now huddled on the floor like a bowl of catatonic oatmeal. On a personal note, there's a legend in my family about the dog named Taffy who was too stupid too realize that a blowing curtain wasn't a reason to bark, since the curtain wasn't out to get her. I have a feeling that Cocker Spaniel had more brains than the huddled on the floor Echo, at this moment.
She's waiting for the answer, which no one can give, not even Topher who is trying to reach her by phone which she can't answer because she probably doesn't know what a phone is. Also, it probably doesn't help that one of the robbers after naught point two seconds of kindness, slaps her.

Upstairs, Boyd quickly catches the antiquities expert. It's not a testament to Boyd's cunning or athleticism. It's more like the thief can't run and carry the Parthenon at the same time. Eventually a deal is struck. The thief will turn over the Parthenon and Boyd will allow the thief to keep breathing. For some reason, the thief doesn't see this as a fair deal and hands over the bag only to try and run away.

At which point Boyd demonstrates his honestly and doesn't kill the thief.

Topher is trying to explain that Echo's vitals show a serious problem and that he can't get a hold of Boyd, who was on the not killing the thief mission. Dominic tries to justify the change in vitals due to the double-cross and being locked in the vault but that doesn't work for neuroboy.
In fact, Topher's so concerned he forgets to cover his own ass and admits that he tried calling Echo, and she didn't pick up. While that's against regulations, it's enough to convince Dominic to replay the phone conversation between active and handler, leading to some terrifying results.
Somehow, after hacking into the cell and learning the frequency (which, according to Topher, isn't the hard part) someone wiped Echo's imprint, remotely (which is the hard part). Topher and I definitely have vastly different definitions of hard and easy. Plus, Topher doesn't know how to add flavour remotely to a doll in her Quaker state.

As for Echo herself, he compares being wiped with being born, but the trauma is minimized in the dollhouse. Out in the real world, she could go into a coma or become like Carrie at the prom. Who knew there would ever be a time when coma was preferable?

Engagement the Sixth: Pulling Taffy Apart

In the vault Thing 1 has calmed down enough to try and convince Echo that she's Taffy. All Echo can do is respond with the pre-programmed script of "I try to be my best." Thing one doesn't realize that all Echo can do is her name when it comes to the ideas he's throwing at her. Therefore it's up to bleeding Thing 2 to point out that Taffy is gone.


Well, not exactly.
As Sierra, now Taffy, awakens, Adelle is there asking for her help. Just to make sure we know the imprint has taken, Sierra smirks and says, "Blue skies."

Engagement the Sixth: Pulling Taffy Apart

In what has to win for the most obvious metaphor, ever, Echo is wandering around staring at art. At first, she stares at Van Gogh style sunflowers, but then moves to a Picasso style painting which she declares "broken." Now I could go into the detailed description about how she discusses with bleeding Thing 2 about the debate between looking right and feeling right in art and the Picasso-style painting being an excellent representation of the existence Echo leads. When Topher puts together and imprint, he puts all these parts that didn't naturally come together, only to stick it all in Echo's head.
Thing 1 thinks the art metaphor is a big massive waste of time because all he wants to do is get out of there.


Taffy 2 is not pleased to find out that Taffy 1 was sent on what she sees as her job. I'm pretty sure no one mentioned that the did send her on the job, but that's a moot point. She's not pissed that the client picked someone else, because, again to make sure we know Sierra really is Taffy, she makes the same crack about not second-guessing a client and wearing comfy shoes Echo did earlier. Again, I would debate the comfy shoes part, but I guess that's a much more personal definition. No, what made her mad is that she learned how to lap dance for a job she was never going to get.
I'm mildly amused by Adelle telling Taffy that she and Echo are cut from the same cloth, but I'm even more amused that they didn't have an emergency altruistic side put into this version of Taffy. Since what's now holding things up is Sierra's Taffy demanding to see the cash, I find the irony of Adelle having her wish put on hold until more money is paid, rather a neat little turn of events.

Back in the lab, Ivy's returned from the shopping trip Topher sent her on. Umm, in the middle of a massive emergency, sending one's assistant out of juice boxes might not be the most effective use of resources, Topher.

He's ranting how a group of people must be out to get him, since no one else on the planet could possibly be as good at his job. Ivy says the smartest thing anyone's said to him all day. "You need to take something."
Calling to get more information from Boyd, Topher realizes the handler's been left out of the loop, which is sort of bad as the title of the job sort of implies he's supposed to handle things it goes horribly wrong. In the midst of all this tension, I find Topher squeaking out "It's not my fault," probably far funnier than I should.

Boyd immediately calls Adelle's office, to find out that there is nothing for the handler to handle, officially. That's the problem with Boyd; if he isn't given something to do, he'll find something to do.
In the van, Boyd finds the easiest thing to do is scare the shit ouf the the antiquities expert to help the handler get into the vault.

As for Taffy, all she needs to get Echo out of trouble, is a phone, since she can't go in and rescue Echo personally, as the grey hour is up in nine minutes.

Engagement the Sixth: Pulling Taffy Apart

There's a brief art discussion about the appreciation of sky and how Echo's name is something different when she's near mountains. Okay, so Caroline has something to do with mountains. Thing 2, due to bleeding profusely, has given up on seeing sky again and wants to take his own way out of the vault, one that involves a needle and something that I don't think is a shot of vitamin B12.

Thing 2 makes things even more confusing for Echo by telling her she's a bad guy (and a talking cucumber) and that when people like them get caught, the get sent somewhere without any sky.

Thing 1 is not going to let anyone go gentle into that good night. Since Taffy is gone, he's in charge so he's lifting the no kill order.

Topher has some delusions of notoriety, by accusing some Japanese programmer with trying to steal his job. Somehow, I'm guessing there are very few people in the world who even know what his job is, so this is just his paranoia speaking.

Ivy is the one to lead him out of that twisted path of craziness, but that leaves Topher with only one place to go. It has to be Alpha, except, he doesn't say that to Ivy. He just makes sure we know who he's talking about by giving the official death-story as given by Adelle to the staff.
In Adelle's office, Taffy is frustrated that Echo won't pick up. This is making Adelle, and more evidently, Dominic, more nervous, which causes Taffy to call him, "sweet."
The grey hour is over in 10 seconds, even though Taffy's got a plan to get the door open which involves resin and not breaking glass. I hope it made sense to the high class thieves out there because it made bugger all sense to me.

Engagement the Sixth: Pulling Taffy Apart

Thing one and Echo finish the countdown, but luckily there even more time in the grey hour. It turns out it was really more like grey an hour and a bit -- however long is necessary for the plot. Finally, Echo notices the phone in her pocket.


The extra time is justified with each of the security devices being turned on one at a time. You'd think for state of the art security, everything could be turned on at once, but a chance like this is the advantage of stealing on TV. Well, that and not getting arrested.

The next few scenes are cut between Adelle's office and the vault, as Sierra's taffy explains to Echo how to get the vault door open. The first thing they need is the resin in Echo's bra. This gives a bit of a thrill, mixed with confusion, for Thing 1 and 2 as Echo fishes around in her bra, only to pull out the resin and fish the nozzle out of her boot.

Echo also needs a drill, and now she's finding this far more fun than she did earlier.
She has to drill into the door just a little, until Sierra's Taffy says stop. The next step is to spray three quirts of resin into the hole, only to continue drilling, afterward, without moving her hand.
For some reason, I think pushing the drill all the way into the door qualifies as moving one's hand. My biggest clue? All the alarms going off. "Is that good?" Echo asks, and suddenly I'm reminded of another really innocent character from a whole different universe who often asks that question. I'm sorry, but the only two things the two verse share is Captain Spike but it's still enough of a connection for my twisted brain to make it.

While Sierra's Taffy is pretty much assuring Dominic and Adelle that they're screwed, Thing 1 isn't controlling himself as well, and smashes the phone into the wall. Things are much calmer at the dollhouse, as Taffy is sent downstairs for her treatment and the audience is momentarily fooled when Adelle emphatically says no to Boyd neutralizing Echo. Does it have anything to do with her caring? No. She just doesn't think Boyd has enough distance to do the job.

As Taffy is pulled apart for a second time, this time from Sierra, it's without any resolution to the problem.

Engagement the Sixth: Pulling Taffy Apart

Thing 1 looks like he's preparing the vault for war, hoping that by piling priceless treasures up in front of the door, the guards will be less likely to shoot. Thing 2 is trying something a lot less likely to draw blood, trying to teach Echo to put her hands above her head when the guards come in.
Thing 1 won't have any of that bullshit and gives Echo, in her Quaker state, a gun. I like Thing 2's plan better. Considering she doesn't have any concept of the threat posed to her, which Thing 1 would know if he saw the flashback from two weeks ago, all she can do is say she want's to go now. It's interesting that this time it's not a question, so I wonder if the remote wipe wasn't quite as clean as it should be. Plus, she willingly hurts Thing 1 as she chooses not to shoot, but to stab the syringe of poison into his neck.

This works out for the best as Thing 1 goes down shooting at the guards, who fire back, distracting the guard from Echo and Thing 2. Considering he's the one who called himself a bad guy, Thing 2 proves that even bad guys can have hidden depth as he throws a smoke bomb, and tells Echo the way out of the vault while staying hidden in the veil of smoke. At the end of the grey hour, there's a literal grey minute, enough to give Echo a way out.

As Echo is getting instructions as to how to get out, Boyd is following the map given to him by the antiquities expert to find the entrance point the thieves used.
Upon locating the office, he does the old, get into any locked door trick -- shooting it open. Just as he gets into the office, Echo emerges from the hole into the vault floor, dragging Thing 2 with him. The only good thing about the active in their Quaker state is that they won't let a friend get hurt and Thing 2 is really her only friend.

Echo gives Thing 2 to Boyd to help and rejects her handler's assistance. In a far better, less anvil-ly and more appropriate symbolic statement then the clunky art metaphor from earlier, Echo defiantly tells him, "I'm not broken." Boyd looks at her for a second and agrees.
Ballard's Apartment

Hey, with all the action going on elsewhere, all of this seems really superfluous. After promising to help Lubov, Ballard has a better idea. Instead of helping, he put Lubov on every be on the lookout list out there, making something that was supposed to be quiet, very, very public. It has nothing to do with helping Lubov, it has to do with solving the case. If Lubov turns up dead, Ballard will have far more useful info than he did while Lobov was alive. If he's killed by the Russians, Ballard will know. If Lubov is only made to look like the Russians took him out, Ballard will know that too.
As Lubov leaves for what should be an instant death sentence without appeal, he challenges Ballard's hard ways, implying the agent will care if the Victor/Lubov turns up dead. Um, I'm not so sure, because I think Ballard might be trying to rival Adelle in just plain cold.


The wipe is wiped and we get a reverse highlight real of Echo's time in the real world. This time, I expect she got the usual answer to "did I fall asleep?"

Upstairs, Adelle admires the piece of the Parthenon, giving us another symbolic statement about how Michelangelo (the artist, not the ninja turtle) believed sculptures were already in marble, waiting to come out. Somehow, I think we just got our first real piece of Adelle with that line. I think it's what she uses to justify what's being done with the actives.
Back in her business mode, Adelle tells Dominic to turn over the frieze and the antiquities expert to the client, tomorrow. I think one's going to get slightly better treatment than the other.

As Dominic leaves, Topher enters, to report that Echo is "fresh as morning dew." He's also there to make sure his job is safe, and it most definitely is. Even though there's a moment of misunderstanding when Adelle asks him, to sign something, something Topher thinks is his notice of termination of employment, his job is definitely secure. She's just upped his security clearance so that she can keep him informed about Alpha.
This is a careful what you wish for moment because now that Topher knows Alpha's alive, instead of it just being a suspicion, he now has a right to be shitting his pants in fear.

In the main part of the dollhouse, Echo is going through the motions of being her best. She nods at other dolls. She goes for a swim but instead of doing 30 laps, she sits at the bottom of the pool, like she doesn't quite know what to do next. Later, after she showers, to help with the ratings she stares into a fogged up mirror and then draws a broken face, not quite Picasso style. It's more suggested, but we get the symbolic point, even though we're still recovering from that anvil from earlier. After a moment, she wipes it away, and stares at herself.
Not like that was hard to figure out. Seriously, could we try for more subtle metaphors next time?

Recapper's Note the Second: Next week, I'm heading off on vacation. While I'll have time to complete my regular Numb3rs recap, I won't have time to get one in for Dollhouse. Therefore, my awesometastic best friend no, I'm not biased and person who has been instacapping this show for me all along will be doing it. So if you're looking for it, search here.


  1. Wait... not to disregard everything else in the recap, but they actually spell grey that way? Who knew?

  2. Am I the only person to notice that this show often makes Numb3rs look well lit by comparison?

    Have fun on your vacation. We'll be here when you come back.

  3. Loved your recap, but man I was really reminded how peculiar my frame of reference is.
    (When you mentioned another innocent character you're reminded of and Captain Spike, I totally flashed to Radical Edward and Spike Spiegel from Cowboy Beebop)
    Ha ha I win hopeless nerd award, can't wait for your next one have a fun va-cay!