Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Percolated Recap: Dollhouse: Echoes (Episode 107)

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.
Episode 5: Her ability to play a blind person and hit us over the head with religion.
Episode 6: Her ability to remind us of Faith without actually being Faith.
Episode 7: Her ability to look constantly confused.

After the previouslies, where Joe Hearn gets dead thanks to November, the character we were told wasn't going to be in the show, but is anyway not like we didn't already figure that out and the debate about the control over Echo rages, we flash back to the meeting between Adelle and Caroline where Caroline signs five years of her life away.

We get some important information that the Rossum Corporation is behind is somehow connected to the Dollhouse. Also, Adelle and Caroline have known (or known of) each other for at least two years before the latter became Echo.
The important information we don't get is how far in the past this meeting was, because we suddenly flash forward to "Present Day" thanks to the title overlay.

We're in some lab where a pair of researchers find their friend, Owen, sitting on the floor in his boxers, convincing flies to fly free. While both of the friends try to find out what's driven him over the edge, they both make really awkward and painfully obvious moves to touch him. Moments later, they laugh at Owen's epic failure at head banging.
Where is all this taking place? We're on some college campus while Owen tries to escape the Rossum building via the window.

Back at the Dollhouse, Topher is paying the ultimate compliment to the chairman of the Rossum Corporation -- attempting not to vomit on the chairman's shoes. I knew Topher was a little full of himself, but no one's vomit is that special.

Okay, I refuse to spend the next hour hurting my brain to record the scientific facts here, so I'll just sum up. A memory drug that breaks down inhibitions in some part of the brain I can't spell, was ingested by the dead head banger. He OD'ed on it, and other college students are now running around without any inhibitions. Um, yeah, isn't that what we would traditionally call frosh week?

There's no antidote to the missing memory drug, and all they're doing with the stoned students is to sedate them. All the chairman wants of Topher is to find an antidote while the actives, who are, supposedly, immune to the the drug do to all the brain tweaking Topher does to them, secures the campus.

Speaking of brain tweaking, Topher gets way too excited about the differing effects drugs can have on individuals. It's the level of excitement that either states Topher's been doing some side experimentation with drugs on his own and not the type the Rossum Corporation is doing either.
Thus the action plan is as follows: after Topher gets all the actives back to college, he's to work on the antidote. While this is a good plan, it has one major flaw in it. Echo is out on an engagement and is supposed to "sit this one out." Yeah, like that's going to work.

Engagement the Ninth: A coda of Engagement the First

Hi Matt! You look really familiar, and you want me to try new things like ride a motorcycle and other such things. I'm having the weirdest sense of deja vu, even though we haven't known each other for long, I think I've done this all before.
Ballard's Apartment

Agent Paul Ballard is proving that someone's mother trained him well, since he's making Mellie/November breakfast. Somehow, we get from Ballard being exactly what most women would love to wake up to in the morning: a hot man cooking breakfast, into a weird spiral of conversation that ends with Mellie walking out. I think I've connected the dots, but they still don't seem to make that much sense.
Freemont College

In a great practical joke on Dominic, Topher's made Victor NSA Agent Tom. This means, that an active outranks the dollhouse's head of security. For all the times Topher has been a douchebag thus far, he's just made up for it, a little bit, with this prank.

Sierra is a doctor for the CDC, and equally quick with the snarky comments as Victor's imprint. This is going to be fun.
Engangement the Ninth: Alice in Wonderland

I can't believe I did this but I just tied Matt up! Now I'm trying to figure out how to use a video camera so that I can tape us doing -- OMG, I can't say that. What if we make a DVD and he accidentally returns it to Blockbuster?

Still, this all seems so familiar. I'm sure I've tied up Matt before except it wasn't me. What do you call that when someone reads the same basic story over and over again where the characters are slightly different but one character is definitely the same. It's almost like that character is telling the story. Geez, what's that called?
When I accidentally turned off the TV, I flipped it back on to find out Matt has the only TV on the planet that will immediately return to cable without having to press some stupid Imput button on the remote!

When I saw the news report about Freemont College, I knew I had to go help him. I don't know who him is and I did rush out of the room pretty quickly. Wait, why is Matt shouting at me that "it isn't funny?" I think I've forgotten something.
Creepy music box title sequence.

"A Few Years Ago"

Sometimes, I think the title overlay is a recapper's best friend. It's right up there with illogical plot holes, show tropes, and dumb characters. We feed off these things.

It's just a brief glimpse of Caroline's former life. Considering she doesn't seem to have a career other than protesting stuff, she and her boyfriend live in a damn fine apartment and have a very comfortable life. I wonder why she'd want to mess that up?


Topher uses November as a lab rat with the drug. I'm not sure why, since the actives are immune but it does give Topher and Adelle some time to share. She's frustrated that the chairman can't "keep his affairs in order" and is sure she wasn't given his job because he couldn't do hers. Plus, Adelle says something that makes her far more terrifying than a woman who can calmly walk through a slaughterhouse and barely break a sweat or set up one of her handlers to be killed by an active. She is a true believer. Adelle believes in the work that the Rossum Corporation is doing. The problem with true believers, in any circumstance but particularly in the athiestic place that is the Whedonverse, is that they can always be the most dangerous of all.

Topher is clearly not as intimidated of Adelle as I now am because he asks her to fetch him a juice box like she's his assistant.
Engagement the Ninth: Alice in Wonderland

Well, Matt did say I would drive the motorcycle and he was right! The problem is I don't think he meant for me to drive away from him while he's tied to a bed, just because of some memory flash I don't understand.

What's weird is that I'm confronted by some guys in suits, and I think I should know them to. In fact, I think I should be a little jealous of one of them because I think he might be stealing something out from under me, along with another woman who I don't see but I know she's blond.
Freemont College / Dollhouse

Adelle is not pleased to learn that Echo's wandered into the middle of the Freemont mess. As for Boyd, he's not pleased to learn he has "mansions in his eyes." Some random female student with really closely cropped hair, clearly stoned on the memory drug, tells him this, and we get another painfully obvious clue as to how it's transmitted when we watch, in slow motion, Boyd push the girl's hand away.

Oh yes, and Topher just gave November the slowest high five in history, in case we haven't already noticed the method of transmission. I never thought I'd say this, but the lack of any sort of hiding this vital clue is seriously talking down to the audience. Someone needs to remind Fox this is a show watched by Whedon fans. We work just fine with subtlety.

Engagement the Ninth: Alice in Wonderland

I'm led into a house where that blond woman I vaguely remember keeps trying to give me a shot and all I can think is DO NOT WANT. Luckily, whatever is wrong with everyone will wear off soon, according to my new friend, Sam, who is going to help me get into the Rossum Lab, as long as I remember the way I know to get in. The problem is, I have to listen to myself and even I know I sound like I need that sedation shot now.

My new friend, Sam, thinks we're all just guinea pigs in some big lab experiment. He wants to help me get into Rossum because whatever this is, caused his friend to literally pound his head into a window, instead of realizing the statement "I could beat my head into a wall" is just supposed to be hyperbole.
The main man in the black suit I met earlier is now dealing with some random female student with really closely cropped hair, and I wonder if there's going to be an anvil dropped on my head due to the lack of all subtle hinting in my wonderland. Wow, I get really meta when I listen to myself. Luckily, the rantings of the student, gives Sam and I the opportunity to slip out, unnoticed, even if my shoes are so high I might have to wonder how anyone can walk in them so quietly.

Once I get outside, I'm approached by some man I think I should know who asks me if I want to have a treatment. All I can think is that a treatment might involve a shot or something else that blond doctor wanted to give me earlier, so I politely decline.
For some reason, this man thinks my refusing treatment is remarkably funny.

"A Few Years Ago"

Caroline's planning to do something to the Rossum Corporation that involves breaking and entering, and posting stuff on YouTube. Again, here she is sitting in a fantastic flat, with her like-minded friends and all I can think is that it's a collection of people who come from privilege and now feel guilty about it, even though they still live in privilege. She's angry she spent four years of someone else's (it's an assumption but I feel safe in making it) partying in the shadow of the Rossum Building.

I probably shouldn't be finding the real identity of the main character a hypocritical stereotype, should I?

Okay, yes, she has a point, the Rossum Corporation is evil but we have the advantage of dramatic irony, Caroline doesn't. She thinks the worst thing they're doing is animal testing.

Freemont College

Dominic is possibly even less amused by the actives' imprints. While the actives are discussion strategies in regards to containment, Dominic remembers the vapid conversations they have in the Dollhouse, including a "love for applesauce." While that isn't a euphemism, it should be.

The drug is clearly affecting the Dollhouse's head of security, because instead of doing anything useful, he plays with his phallic symbol.
This does not escape the notice of Tom/Victor, and there's a momentary standoff, until the gun Dominic is holding becomes too heavy for his hand, making it tired. There's a "it's not that big" joke here to be made but damned if I can find it. There's also hand joke to be made as well, and even though I found that one, I'm not too sure I want to discuss Dominic's tired hand.


Agent Tom/Victor calls Adelle about Dominic's trip on the drug. Considering my theory that Adelle and Dominic behave like rabbits behind closed doors, Adelle's level of concern in her voice just makes my case stronger. Topher inadvertently adds some more proof to my theory, when he realizes that the drug's effects aren't due to purposeful ingestion, as "There's no way Dom would consciously try to have fun."
As Topher theorizes as to what spreads it, we get a close up when Topher suggests touch, because, at some point, every member of the audience must've sustained a head injury requiring close ups and little whoosh noises to clue us in. I was getting offended earlier; now I'm way past offended and heading into pique territory.

Adelle's rightfully frustrated with Topher's lack of progress but boy genius's exposure to the drug has to be the explanation. Instead of this being brought to light, Topher deflects onto Adelle by questioning what she's doing standing there being -- something. Adelle's suggestions are probably my favourite lines in the series thus far.

We digress into the best conversation this show has ever had, which not only fuses musings (lentils are incomprehenisble) about food with edible words (indomitable), the British word for potato chips (crisps) and Topher's "drawer of inappropriate starches" but also makes far more sense than the supposedly rational talk Mellie and Paul had.

Oh, and if Adelle thinks she's having a terrible day now, just wait until what she has to witness in just a few short scenes.

Engagement the Ninth: Alice in Wonderland

My day makes no sense. First, I wake up and everything is fine. Next, I meet Matt, and we do things that I'd rather not mention in polite company and finally, the TV tells me to come to Freemont. How weird is that?

Sam isn't sure I can save anyone, never mind the "him" I can't remember. Well, he might not be able to prove Rossum is the big evil (why does that sound familiar?) and do his mother proud.

Now all we've got to do is find Lily Foundry. The problem is, I don't know who, or what that is.


Is it bad that I don't care if the effects of the drug ever wear off or if Alice/Echo finds Lily Foundry? Well, to be honest, I would be quite happy if we just stayed on Adelle and Topher for the rest of the episode. Fran Kranz being hilarious while playing high is not unexpected, who knew Olivia Williams had such a comedic side, not counting accidental comedy from The Postman?
Topher is trying to warn the dolls, as he calls them oops on the phone, about the transmission through touch, I'm way too amused by Adelle jumping up and down on some trampoline that was, apparently, just lying around, even though you never hear the dolls talk about "I jumped like an idiot on a trampoline" while eating their organic lunch.

I'm so amused when AHHHHH! MY EYES, THEY BURN!
Obviously, one of the effects of the drug is not feeling abject horror and demanding brain bleach when confronted with Topher's skinny, pasty legs and white underwear. I'm assuming this as Adelle doesn't shout in horror like I did the first time I watched this. Which is why I'm surprised that she has enough semblance of mind to understand the most important thing is to keep Echo contained.

Unfortunately, Boyd doesn't think so, as he's spent his time in the containment area at Freemont, figuring out some piano piece that takes away everyone's worry as Dr. Sierra, Topher and Adelle, stop the very important work they're doing, just to listen.
Engagement the Ninth: Alice in Wonderland

I ran into this strange woman. She's like that woman, who has been in so many things I just know her as "that woman." Well, she thinks my name is Caroline Farrel and she taught me the history of the Americas. Sams says I should ignore her because she's high, but the seriuos soundtrack in the background (am I supposed to have a soundtrack to my life) says otherwise.

Adelle is convinced, that even with all the mind-wiping that Caroline is out to get her. All right, someone tell us what the relationship is here. I'm suspecting genetics might be involved, even though that would be a serious cliche.

The mention of Caroline sets November off. She's devastated that all anyone seems to talk about is Caroline, and is glitching not tripping, since she's remembering something that actually happened. Hold on, Topher, a glitch is so normal that it doesn't even affect you? Wow, I wasn't wrong about implying you were crappy at your job.

The problem with November remembering an imprint is also that she remembers a very important being attacked by Hearn and a very important phrase. "There are three flowers in a vase --"
"A Few Years Ago"

The blurry nostalgia lens is in full usage, as Caroline proves that she is some rich girl using her assets to change the world. She bought the sealed plans for the Rossum Building from the planning office. Luckily, they supersecret evil corporation was dumb enough to leave an obviously empty room and secret tunnels on its plans.
Her boyfriend is now wary of the plan and I would be too, since her overall goal is to "piss off" the big company. Yeah, that's the phraseology of someone who thinks she can buy her way out of trouble. The problem is, he's not wary enough to back off, which means he's so dead in about ten minutes.

Engagement the Ninth: Alice in Wonderland

Lily Foundry is the name printed on a sewer grate. For some reason, I'm just not that interested in my own story to record anything more. On the other hand, my outfit is still awesome.

Considering it's only 10 feet upon finding the red pipe to the ladder that conviniently enters the Rossum Building, I'm glad that not only am I in the world's cleanest underground tunnel, but also that I don't have to walk too far underground in the shoes.

Oh yes, and Sam thinks I'm crazy but he's the one who suggests we act like ninjas to sneak past everyone. The problem is that all these people who are affected are also acting like ninjas because this one guy creeps up behind me only to keep apologizing for trying to kill me. I think I should remember if someone tried to burn me to death. He keeps babbling about guns, and how there's more to him then what I see. He's really worrying me.

Freemont College

Once Alice and Sam are off the scene, Dr. Sierra tries to escort Dominic back to the holding area, while another active is having a glitch about some invisible dog trying, I think, to hump his leg. Since all the active is doing is shaking his leg mumbling about it not being a nice doggy, that's all I can think.
Agent Tom/Victor, realizes, after the other active shoot at the imaginary dog, perhaps carrying guns isn't such a bright idea.

The next active to glitch, is Sierra, who remembers being sexually assaulted by Hearn. She picks up the gun Agent Tom/Victor just put down, and thinks she's about to be attacked again. This brings on Victor's glitch, where we learn that Victor was once a soldier, as we see an equally unmockable memory of him trying to save a woman, moments before she's killed in a blast.

On the other hand, Dominic is petting his suit like it's Dr. Evil's cat, so I'm going to focus on that, instead of all the squicky, uncomfortable and upsetting moments.

Adelle and Topher are hiding from November because the doll has yet to determine what colour the third flower is.
November's glitching (she's now babbling about the whole "dropped the stock" Mellie memory) changes to the non-lethal imprint, allowing Topher and Adelle time to get her in the the chair, and Topher to have a eureka moment.
Essentially, Owen the failed head banger OD'ed on the drug, whereas everyone else who was exposed to it, such as normal people and the dolls, will recover from the symptoms in a couple of hours. Therefore, Owen's death was murder and all the crazy mansions in the eyes and need for inappropriate starches, will pass. Now the only problem that remains is who killed Owen?

Engagement the Ninth: Alice in Wonderland

I don't understand. As soon as we get in the lab (which is different from what I remember), Sam's able to find the drug and as I'm so ridiculously naive because that's the way Matt wanted me (where did that thought come from?) I don't see his betrayal coming. Suddenly, I'm being suffocated as we go into commercial break (hey, I want to know where that thought same from too).

Random Recapper OMGWTF: I just have to take a minute and deal with a prop that's in the lab. If you've been reading my recaps for a while, the prop will seem very familiar. Yes, it's the random DNA molecule model that's both massive, and superfluous. In my Numb3rs recaps, I've spent the better part of three years, using it to exemplify dumbass set dressing. Shouldn't the people working in the lab know what a DNA molecule looks like? Do they really need a middle school science prop to remind them. More importantly, how many more of the the shows that I recap will use this ridiculous prop?
"A Few Years Ago"

Caroline and her boyfriend, Leo, find the monkey from Outbreak, better known as Marcel. They also find dogs, fetuses in jars, proof of human experimentation, but no black market beagles.

They're black ops mission into the clearly labeled heart of Rossum is interrupted by a security guard, and the chase is on.

Engagement the Ninth: Alice in Wonderland

Sam's whole plan was to steal the drug and sell it to another drug company. I tell him he's insane, but after thinking about it for half a second, I realize that wasn't the right thing to call him. He's greedy and wants to make money without considering morality. Perhaps I should start making thos distinctions to avoid everything I say from sounding so trite.
I have a flashback. At least, I think it's a flashback, even though I can't remember who the guy next to me in bed is. Whoever I was with whoever he was, had a lot more strength than me. I use her (my?) strength to confront Sam with what he's done. While he didn't intend to kill his friend, because they were in on this plot together, he's still responsible.

Unfortunately, Sam has an advantage I don't. He can walk in a straight line because he isn't tripping on some funky memory drug.

I see myself, running down the the same hall, except I'm being chased, not the one doing the chasing. There are guards and they're firing at the me and the man from my flashback. In my head, I confuse Sam with all the people responsible for killing the man who was with me before. I may not be able to keep the present and the unremembered past straight in my head, but I know killing is killing, and that's all I need to know, at the moment.

I can't stop. Even when that strange man in the suit keeps apologing to me for trying to burn me alive. I can't pay attention to the blond doctor huddled on the couch in an almost catatonic state.

I must be really pissed. I was able to keep up with Sam, despite wearing heels that are high enough to be a hazard to walk quickly in, never mind run. When I tackle Sam on the lawn, all I can remember is the man, Leo, dying and my screaming at him to stay with me.
Sam gets the upper hand, calling me the crazy one, and unlike when I called him insane, this time, I think he's correct. The man from earlier, the one from whom I refused the treatment, is the one to finally subdue Sam, and whatever I'm remembering, I would rather forget, through a treatment, than relive it.
"A Few Years Ago"

Caroline is in a hospital bed for reasons I can't understand because, to be blunt, she wasn't the one who was shot. Out in the hallway is Adelle, who has been called by the doctor because Caroline "fits the profile." Hold on, does this mean that Adelle and Caroline didn't know one another in the past? What's with all the implied history between them then? Plus, at the sound of Adelle's voice, Caroline escapes out the window and Adelle finds far too much amusement in the young woman's escape.


Adelle listens awkwardly while Dominic, who is equally as awkward, gives the final report for the day. All the dolls are fine, just like the head of security. And yes, I will be twelve and giggle that it's Adelle who gives Dominic his phallic symbol gun back.
The entire scene is rife with subtext. Dominic can only hope that Adelle doesn't know the extent of what he tried to do to Echo, so much so that he doesn't make a request for Echo to go to the attic, which just makes him look more suspicious. Fortunately for him, Adelle is too busy hoping no one will know she spent the entire day with Topher, who had a brief bout of dispantia. Previously, I thought this fictional television disease might be limited only to the Whoniverse, but I guess James Marsters brought it back to the Whedonverse after his stint on Torchwood.

Once she dismisses Dominic and the entire day Adelle gives me more fodder in my theory that the thing between Adelle and Echo/Caroline is a long-standing one. The Dollhouse's leader watches some looped footage filmed weeks ago, but we're supposed to pretend that it's the security footage from right now. Okay, I'm worried about a show when they're trying to save money by reusing shots and hoping the audience doesn't notice.
As for Adelle, she's clearly looking for something, and right now, that's the mystery I find most fascinating.

Ballard's Apartment

Mellie / November's engagement is done but the story she feeds Paul is that she just needs to get away. She offers his a way to contact her, but he refuses, for her safety. He does remind her that she does know where he is. Sorry Paul, I hate to be the bearer of bad news.

The episode ends with the same sort of tea ceremony we saw between Adelle and Caroline, except this time, the head of the Dollhouse is making Sam an offer he can't refuse. Five years, a tonne of money for his mother, and Rossum won't bury him where he'll never be found. All right, so she doesn't add that last part, but we all know it's there.
Recapper's Random Thought: This show is a lot like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Alice may be the heroine and it's her journey to get home we follow as an audience, but she is the means to the end. Through her, we meet the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts, the bumbling White Knight, the Cheshire Cat, and a whole host of other beloved characters. That's how I'm going to choose to see Echo. She's Alice, and sure, she can be overshadowed by the characters around her, but, just like Alice, Echo is the one who has to fall down the rabbit hole so that the rest of us can get there.

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