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Dollhouse: “Stage Fright”

March 1, 2009
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My spoilery recap & review for the Dollhouse 1×03,”Stage Fright,” aired 2/27/09:Dollhouse poster.2

  • First, I would like to note that this episode was written by Maurissa Tanchaeron and Jed Whedon, two of the writers of Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog.  While the initial Bodyguardesque premise made me a little nervous, I loved the episode and thought that Maurissa and Jed did a great job.   The episode opened on a performance by Rayna (=Beyonce+Rayanna), a pop-star who is kind of a big deal.  One of her background singers catches on fire in the middle of the show, and panic ensues.  Rayna’s manager is a friend/ client of Adelle’s, and he enlists the help of the Dollhouse to protect Rayna.  Echo is then hired as a back-up singer named Jordan. We get to hear Eliza sing, and she actually has a good voice.  Jordan’s enthusiasm about getting the part is adorable, and it is clear that she really believes that she is getting her break-out gig.
  • Before Echo was sent out on the engagement, however, it is interesting to note her little bonding scene with Sierra.  Both dolls were running on the treadmill, when Sierra stops and after stepping off the machine gets dizzy.  Echo catches her before she can fall.  Sierra thanks her and explains the dizziness.  Echo replies, “I didn’t want you to get hurt.  You’re my friend.”  The two dolls agree that friends help each other, and the moment is really sweet.  It is also crucial for the rest of the storyline of the episode.  I love little details like that.
    There’s an interchange between Claire and Langton, in which he asks her to call him Boyd.   They have a nice conversation, establishing that they both want what’s best for the dolls, and that unlike the rest of the Dollhouse, they are not morally bankrupt.  When Claire checks in with Topher, she is furious about the dangerous engagement that Echo and “Boyd” have been sent on.  There’s an adorable line where she waves her report and laments, “Doesn’t anyone read these.”  Clearly not.  Topher: “Boyd? Are you guys buddies now? Of course you are. You both disapprove of EVERYTHING! You’re gonna get married and have scowly babies.” Hee.  One of the best lines of the episode.  My other favorite line is, of course, the title of this entry.
    Topher explains that  there is a difference between “persona” (Echo is imprinted with the persona of an aspiring singer) and “parameter” (a subconscious mission parameter imprinted in Echo that will make her compelled to protect Rayna). The parameter aspect must be what compels the dolls to get to their “treatment” after each engagement.  Clearly, there’s a subconscious element to these imprints which is utilized to control the dolls.  Exciting new information, yay!
  • We officially learn that Victor/ Lubov is a doll.  We have known since the first press releases that he was, as he was dressed in a yoga/ doll outfit in the promo photos, etc., but now it is officially confirmed.  He has an interchange with Paul’s next-door neighbor Mellie, whom IMDB identifies as “November.”  If she is really a doll, the the Dollhouse is certainly investing a lot of resources in keeping Paul busy and constantly watched.  Interesting.  Victor and Paul meet and it is a repeat of “I don’t know about any Dollhouse,” etc.  Paul doesn’t buy it, but he still seems to think these dolls are only used for sex.  He doesn’t suspect that Lubov is really a doll himself, programmed to feed him information. Paul shows his cynicism about humanity with a speech about how if the technology exists, it will be used.  He cites the atomic bomb as an example.  Lubovictor agrees that “Yeah, people are mostly crap.”  Aahh, Joss’s sunny view of humanity shining through.  Hee.  Lubovictor sets up Paul by giving him the location of a supposed Dollhouse-related warehouse.  It is of course a trap, and Paul is attacked by a few  mob guys.  Paul puts up an awesome fight, and even after getting shot he manages to kill all of his attackers.  This scene clearly establishes his  bad-assery, but he still ends up in the hospital. Get well soon Paul.
  • Back to the A-storyline, we learn that Sierra has been brought into the engagement as an adoring fan of Rayna’s.  She will only come into play in an extreme situation.  Langton asks Sierra’s handler (who is a total jerk) what happened to the previous Sierra.  He says thatShe got the job done.”  What does that mean?  Did she die on an engagement?  Did she graduate from the dollhouse, having completed her five year term?  Was she sent to the Attic?  Did Alpha kill her?  Hmmm.
  • JordEcho finds that protecting Rayna is a rather difficult task, as Rayna is discovered to be communicating with her creepy stalker.  JordEcho:Yo, he’s not a fan. He’s insane … You want him to shoot you. On stage, tonight. You’re crazier than he is!”  Rayna: “I’m not crazy, I just want to be free.”  Clearly freedom, like the song sung by JordEcho early in the episode, is a recurring theme.
  • JordEcho refuses to give up on Rayna, and uses a spotlight to identify the shooter. She saves Rayna from taking a bullet, and the people in the audience panic.  Rayna is pissed that JordEcho saved her. JordEcho argues that Rayna’s fans don’t want to see her die, but Rayna disagrees.  JordEcho: “Rayna, you are not o.k., o.k. … You are truly unwell.” Rayna: “I don’t exist. I’m not a real person. I’m everybody’s fantasy. Girl, you weren’t born in a lab, but I was … God put this voice in me, but God didn’t make it mine.”  The arguement continues until Rayna fires her, but meanwhile Sierra is kidnapped amidst all the commotion.  The video that the psycho fan sends reveals to Rayna’s agent and the audience that she has been in communication with the psycho, and wanted him to kill her.   JordEcho says “Getting what you want is not always the best thing for a person,” and then goes off to save the day.
  • Meanwhile, back at the Dollhouse, Adelle and her crack security team still don’t realize how dangerous this stituation is.  Methinks the Dollhouse is not all it’s cracked up to be in the brains department.  Each week the engagements seem to get out of hand, and the powers that be don’t realize until it’s too late.  Of course at the end of the episode, blame is pushed on Echo and her instability, but this is clearly a larger and more fundamental problem.
  • JordEcho seems to access Echo’s memories, and awesomely knocks out Rayna.  She states, “Friends help each other out.”  It seems that saving SierrAudra has become the priority, over protecting Rayna.  Woah!!!  JordEcho informs the psycho-fan that she has kidnapped Rayna and will exchange her for Sierra.  As Topher summarizes: “Wow, that does sound kinda bad.” Hee.  JordEcho and the psycho-fan negotiate, but he doesn’t do what she asks so she throws Rayna off the platformy thing. She’s hard-core.  However, there’s a rope, so Rayna’s fine. Her near-death experience convinces Rayna that doesn’t want to die anymore.  Everyone is safe.  Sierra’s handler makes a disparaging comment to Echo–he doesn’t want her to rub off on Sierra.  JordEcho wants to kick his ass, which Boyd is not entirely disapproving of.  See Topher, some things Boyd can get behind.
    “The Secuity Guard in a nice suit” recommends that they send Echo to the attic. Adelle awesomely defends her. Echo took the mission parameter, and did even bettter. She has the ability to think creatively. She’s special. Claire tells Boyd that “Special isn’t always good here.”  Echo wasn’t always the best; it appears that Alpha was also special, and look how that turned out. Hmmm. The song about freedom plays again as we are shown an ending montage.  November attempts to see Paul in the hospital. Sierra and Echo glide through the Dollhouse, while disapproving suits look on.  Sierra smiles at Echo, but Echo shakes her head, warning her not to show recognition. Sierra looks concerned, and corrects her expression.  Echo clearly has a lot going on in that supposedly wiped mind of hers.  That was my favorite part of the entire episode.  What a way to end!  Thoughts? Discuss below.
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