Review: Dollhouse 1.7 - "Echoes"

Just a reminder these can also be seen over at Television Zombies. Which currently is running episode 77.5 which is a VERY important episode. Please listen.

Our recap hints at a few of Echo's previous engagements, including her first saying he'll never forget her and ending with Laurence hitting her in the face with a rifle butt in "True Believer." This leads into the meeting between Caroline and Adelle DeWitt, the meeting we believe started it all.

Caroline is a troubled woman, but we don't learn why. She approached the Dollhouse and Miss DeWitt, but she doesn't say why. We know that Miss DeWitt wants five years from Caroline, then she's free. They've also apparently known each other for at least two years and this isn't their first meeting. There's talk of a Rossum Corporation being owners or partners with the Dollhouse. Adelle pours some tea and says that nothing is ever what it seems.

A couple students enter a lab where a third is stripped down to his shorts, playing with open jars of flies. He's clearly hopped up something and proceeds to run into a window, then dashing his brains out on the window trying to flee. As he's smashing his bloody head against the spider webbed safety glass, we pan back to see the name on the building, Rossum.

A man named Clive Ambrose is talking to Adelle about a drug that's somehow been released on Freemont College's campus. It impacts impulse centers. They have only two vials, but one is missing, so he's asking the Dollhouse to send in all agents to lock down the campus, quarantine any infected students and keep it quiet. Also, Topher needs to come up with an antidote. The Actives/Dolls can't be affected because they already lack impulse inhibitors since they are blanks slates. Adelle finds out Echo is on another engagement. We also find another active's name is Foxtrot, so the phonetic alphabet continues. (My Doll name would be Mike, because it's lame.) Echo's other engagement is the same motorcycle guy from before, but different imprint this time. This time Echo is not as badass, but she is wearing a skirt very susceptible to wind and thigh high lace stockings. (This is me rolling my eyes.)

Our first of two scenes with Suspended FBI Agent Paul Ballard has him making breakfast for Millie. He wants to take care of her because he's sweet and noble and likely feels a bit guilty about all this. He assumes it's the Russians who sent Hearn to kill Millie. She says he should stay off the Dollhouse case, which he obviously can't do, so she leaves.

A convoy of black vans and SUVs pull into Freemont College. Victor, Sierra, Laurence Dominic as well as a slew of other agents and dolls coordinate their efforts. Victor is now NSA, which cheeses Laurence off because, as Victor said, "...a few hours ago you were saying how much you liked applesauce." Sierra is a doctor with the CDC and she's wearing a white lab coat. Do they do that outside of a lab? Meanwhile, Alice (Echo) has her motorcycle client tied up in bed getting ready to video tape some hot nonsense but she screws up the controls and turns the TV on. It's a news report about the student suicide at Freemont. She has a flash of something in her brain and says she has to go.

This flashes us back to an earlier time, likely around five years ago. Caroline and her boyfriend/husband Leo are sitting around drinking and eating and talking with their other social activist friends about the evils of Clive Ambrose and the Rossum Corp. Other than Caroline, they all look like activists. That's all I'm saying.

Topher has Millie (Doll sign = November) in the chair and he's giving her a dose of the drug so he can study and create an antidote. While doing this, Adelle tells Topher that Clive is not just a client, but Rossum funds a lot of what the Dollhouse does and in turn, the Dolllhouse returns funds to aid in what Rossum does. So it's a giant brain scrapping, whore pimping slush fund disguised as scientific research? Echo/Alice, gratuitous thigh highs and all, rides client's bike into campus looking for something but she's not sure what. Of note, early she said she'd never ridden a bike before. NSA Victor sees her walking around all stoned and thinks she's been infected so he brings her to their make shift medical center where she meets Sam. Sam was in the room with the student who smashed his brains out. They talk and she says she needs to get into that lab. Hey so does he and he can get them there, but doesn't know how to get in. She can get in but doesn't know where it is. Together they form a super sleuth team and avoid all security.

Boyd has tracked Echo to Freemont College which doesn't make Adelle very happy. As he's talking to her, another college zombie comes up to him and they make skin contact accompanied by an obvious slow-mo of the contact with hissing sound effect. I think at this point in TV world, we know infections spread a few ways; I don't think we need to be hit over the head with the "clues." Boyd is infected now and when he finds Echo/Alice and Sam, he gives her the treatment line but she refuses. He's flummoxed but laughs hysterically about it. We flashback to more of Caroline's Capers and her activist friends planning a raid on Rossum.

Meanwhile at Dollhouse HQ, Topher go it from November and then he gave it to Adelle (again, slow-mo and hissing.) They get progressively higher and the rest of the show turns into a big pot joke. It starts with Laurence turning very effeminate and finally handing over his gun to NSA Victor because it's heavy. Sam and Alice go back to his room to get a map of campus and so Sam can change shirts. (Are we sure this is done by Joss Whedon and not the iCarly Fan Club? Yeah, Sam's hot and cut.) They have to find Lilly Foundry for some reason only Alice knows. Topher and Adelle are cute and high and she says she's too British and Topher doesn't have pants on. Boyd calls in and says he's figured it all out, but then plays piano to Adelle and Topher on speaker phone while Sierra watches him. (Yes, he's in with all the other infected people.)

While Topher and Adelle are talking about what the color blue means to you, Millie arises from her chair and starts reliving her event with Hearn, even quoting the Doll-Kill-Now command, but she's talking as though she's talking to Paul. Clearly the drug is screwing up the actives as we also see Sierra reliving an event in a warzone where a soldier tries to rescue her as well as the "game playing" by Hearn. Victor starts collecting firearms after a security guard with an invisible humping dog starts shooting into the air.

Echo/Alice and same can't find the building but they find Lilly Foundry is a man hole cover so they go underground and Alice starts having more Caroline memories of breaking into Rossum. She leads Sam to the lab. It's the same lab she was in with Leo where they are there to video tape all the animal cruelty. But they find babies in jars and computers with brain scans and as they try to make sense of it, a guard comes in and shoots Leo as they're fleeing. Along the way, Laurence sees Echo and starts drunk-apologizing to her about trying to burn her to death. She says it's ok but he's in a mood and will not let it go, girl.

Sam, it turns out, wanted to get back to the lab not to get evidence, but to hide it. The drug was his and his friend Owen's; the student with the glass brains. They were going to sell it to a rival of Rossum and make a lot of money. Sam's mom was counting on him being a good college student and making money to help support her. It was his chance. So he doses Alice with a drop on a handkerchief and bolts. She fights through it and follows him. Her past and her present line up and she's chasing Sam and following Leo. Leo dies in her past and Boyd punches Sam in her present. Only now does she go in for treatment.

And then it all wraps up nicely. Topher figures out how it's affecting both regular people and Dolls and is obviously able to work out an antidote. We see Echo strolling leisurely inside the Dollhouse. Adelle and Laurence, though they never interacted in their goofy state, apologize to each other and it's back to business as usual. Millie packs some bags and leaves her apartment for a while, not sure when she'll be back. Paul is sad but says it's better he not know where she is, but reminds her that she knows where he is. We end with Adelle pouring a cup of tea for Sam and making him an offer including help for his mom.

Five years, then you're free.

Free from consistency, apparently. Did anyone fact check this or run it past a group of thinking individuals?

Here were my problems. When the show starts, Clive Ambrose is showing a picture of a dead Owen to Adelle and Topher and saying he was working on a psychotropic memory drug that has many phases, the first of which is giddiness followed by a loss of impulse control. But that it also spreads like a virus because "one vial could take down the entire student body." So, the drug they are making is transmittable LSD. You don't need pushers any more, you need zombies. Shoot 'em full of this stuff and let them loose into populated areas. In a show that's already pushing it as far as plausible science goes, introducing a new viral drug from which you can get high just by touching someone is a little much to center an entire show around.

The loss of impulse control would be a danger, as seen by Owen doing his best moth near a window impression and the air-dog guard shooting into the roof, but the rest seemed recreational. It was obviously an unintended side effect of the compound they were working on, but it seemed sloppy. They had a drug that changed people's inhibition levels, altered their hippocampus chemical makeup and was transmitted by touch, and yet they had students with access - no, the students made it?

Because it was Sam and Owen that made it, probably with the encouragement or even help of Rossum. But when Owen drove his own hippocampus through the safety glass, they didn't suspect that his best friend and co inventor Sam had maybe hidden the other vial?

And why wasn't Sam infected? He'd come into contact with Owen early. was he immune? Did he have an antidote? Are you telling me cracking open a container of a highly contagious drug and using only a handkerchief will keep you safe? And by the way, stop it with the handkerchiefs. They're only used by old men and creepy guys who want to drug hookers with chloroform. A college student wouldn't carry one, for real. Stop it.

Topher may have saved the day today, but he also claimed that the Dolls wouldn't be affected by the drug. Based on his advice, Adelle okayed the operation which included almost all actives and when they became infected it nearly cost lives. Had he been more cautious instead of being a fearless hipster scientist, half the story doesn't get told. And did he save the day? He mentioned proteins but that was about it and the next thing we know Laurence is getting his gun back from Ms. DeWitt.

"Echoes" felt sloppy. It felt like the story wasn't told as tightly as it could have been even in the face of the story itself being a barely controlled outbreak. The timing only worked when Echo's past and present lined up. It only worked with Adelle first offering Caroline the chance at a new life and then 40 minutes later offering it to Sam. The rest of the time was disjointed and it didn't feel like it was done purposefully, but more with a careless lack of attention.

Three creepy doll heads.

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