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The Sleeping Beauty in the Dollhouse

May 3, 2009
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Warning: Spoilers for Dollhouse 1×11, “Briar Rose,” aired 5/01/09!

“The pain of it was sudden and sharp and Briar Rose felt faint.  She opened her mouth to cry out but she could only yawn, overcome with a strange sleepiness. […] “I am so tired,” she said. “May I sit here for a moment?”  The only answer to her question was a high, wicked laugh. […] No sooner had everyone fallen asleep than a thorny hedge began to grow around the castle. […] Each year the hedge crept higher and higher until all that could be seen were the tops of the towers where, in the highest room of all, Briar Rose slept on.  But if the castle could not be seen, stories about the sleeping beauty were heard throughout the countryside.  And so one by one the sons of the King came to gaze at the enchanted thorns and to dream about the girl who lay asleep in the high tower beyond.  Some even tried to fight their way through the hedge, but the deadly briars held fast.  When none of the kings’ sons returned, a darker legend sprang up.  The castle was said to be a piece of evil, and the sleep therein the sleep of death. [Then the prince comes along at the last minute and “saves” Briar Rose, and gets all the credit.] ” ~ The Brothers Grimm,The Sleeping Beauty, retold by Jane Yolen.

Dollhouse posterFirst of all, I would just like to note how awesome this episode was.  It was a masterpiece.  It was also so insane that I had to watch it twice to pick up on everything.  Also, welcome back to television Alan Tudyk!  More Firefly actors please!  Here is my live blog, edited with comments:

  • The episode begins with an unknown man searching through the trash in an alley, where he finds a body … it’s alive! (It’s also Alpha!) Goodbye Steven.
  • Echo is imprinted as a woman named Susan, and is reading Briar Rose to a group of kids. A younggirl is visibly agitated by the story, exclaiming, “This is crap.” She explains further: “So the curse was for 100 years, right? So the prince shows up on the last day, and claims he saved her.”  She then goes on to point out that Briar Rose had no buisness touching spindles on her 16th birthday (agreed) and that she should have woken herself the hell up. Echo/Susan plays devil’s advocate, pointing out that it was a curse, but the young girl, whom we later learn is also named Susan, is pulled out of the room. Echo/ Susan: “I guess I hit a trigger.” She knew that would happen. I would like to take this opportunity to point out yay! Briar Rose!  It was one of my faves as a child.


  • Mellie and Paul: Paul is moving out.  Mellie tries to convince him not to, but he’s not having it.  Mellie gives a little speech that almost seems like she knows that she’s a doll, and that it is o.k. because she really loves him.  Paul responds: “You know, you just said exactly what I need to hear. That’s why I’m leaving.”  Mellie cries, “Don’t you see that it’s killing me?”  Paul: “You’ll get over it.” Ouch.  This scene, combined with last week, makes me kind of dislike Paul (but not you, Tahmoh!).
  • NSA technology arrives at Dollhouse. They have to ask Dominic about it. Addie pointedly tells Boyd that the fact that Dominic is in the Attic will not stop them from questioning him.
  • Topher and Ivy discuss Echo’s latest imprint.  There are two brain scans on the computers, and Ivy notes: “They’re not the same.”  Topher: “They kinda are.” He explains that “Echo’s imprint is the kid grown up,” and that Echo is the perfect example of what she could become, if all goes well. Very cool. I think this is my favorite imprint ever.  Topher comments, “Everybody wants to be righteous, … when they can afford it.  This feeling, it is not unlike pride.”  This is a very Whedonesque quote (or Jossy, if you prefer).  In fact, I think both Joss and Xander have uttered those exact words.  By the way, this episode was written by Jane Espenson, who wrote for Buffy, Angel, and Firefly, so she is very good with the Whedonesque dialogue … and is an awesome writer in her own right.   A phone call interrupts Topher’s happy sentiments: “End of the pride parade. Tell them to bring up Victor.”
  • Cut to Mellie standing on a bridge/ overpass. For a moment, I thought that she was going to try to kill herself. Fortunately, her handler steps in.  Riding in the van, Mellie comments, “I don’t know. I don’t know what I did wrong. I tried so hard. I did everything I could think of.”  Sad. OMG!  Paul is following her. Oooh.  Stealthy.  We cut to a flash of the book. Oh, I get it. The Dollhouse is the castle in The Sleeping Beauty. Hmmm. Too bad they didn’t use the amazing edition that I have (The Brothers Grimm. The Sleeping Beauty. Retold by Jane Yolen.  Illustrated by Ruth Sanderson. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1986).  The illustrations in the edition they used are much inferior.  I cherish mine.
  • Back to the children’s home:  Susan is sitting at the table marking up the book.  She says, “I’m fixing it.” So River!!!  “I’m fixing you’re Bible …  You’re Bible is broken. Contradictions.  False logistics.  It doesn’t make sense.”  Hee.  Echo/ Susan calls this editing, and tries to bond with her younger self: “You really hate that she didn’t save herself, don’t you?”  Echo tells her about her own experiences, of wanting to run away, but ultimately something always stopped her.  She concludes, “It seemed so much better to just pretend.  And I ended up feeling just as guilty as he was.”  So sad. The scene was very moving.
  • Paul goes to see his friend at the FBI with the amazing earings.  She protests: “You can’t come down here. The director’s already giving me suspicious eye.”  Ha ha.  Another extremely Whedonesque line.  Buffy or Xander could have easily said that.  Hee.  I will have to come up with a shorthand to ID such quotes.  Paul explains that the Dollhouse came to him, aka Mellie was sent.  He says that he knows where it is: 23 Flower.  Of course that’s the address. They do not give up on this Briar Rose metaphor.  He was in the building that you can see, but he explains: “I need to get into the one that is invisible.Paul is so the prince, trying desperately to figure out how to get past the brambles.
  • Agggh! Dominic is in Victor’s body!!!  When Dr. Saunders approaches to give him a sedative, he says “Whiskey.” She brushes it off, saying he’d rather have a drink.  Oh no, you silly doctor.  Whiskey is W in the NATO Phoenetic Alphabet!  Ergo, Claire Saunders is Whiskey!  If you need to brush up on you’re Dollhouse ABCs, click here. Don’t say that’s a spoiler, I’m just perceptive.  Hmmm.  More on this later.
  • Back to Echo/ Susan and the little girl (Susan).  Echo offers an explanation for the story: “The prince was her dream. She made him. She made him fight to get her out.”  Susan points out, “The prince was a boy.”  Echo laughs, “It’s not his fault.” HA!  I love this show!!!
  • Paul arrives at Wash’s apartment, and asks if he is Steven Something?   I think not.  Wash is really out of it. He’s got a room full of “medicinal carrots.” He’s really out of it, and babbles on about environmentalism.  He doesn’t want Paul there, saying, “I’m not comfortable having people in my home who are not delivering Thai food.”  Hee. Paul asks “Steven” if he built the Dollhouse. “I built the shell.  I designed it from here. I never leave here man.”
  • Terminator: Salvation trailer! “This is John Connor.” Aggh!
  • Back at the Dollhouse, Dominic/ Victor claims to have never seen the piece of tech.  Somehow, the gang figures out that Alpha sent it.  I’m confused as to how. Adelle needs the password, and Dominic/ Victor says Alpha, as in the Greek letter.  Yay Greek! Adelle learns that there was a body slashed in Tucson. She sends Sierra. As we will learn later, this is Steven what’s-his-name, the real architect of the Dollhouse.  So who does that make Wash?  Hee.
  • Paul is kind of an ass. (I wrote that comment while watching, and while I don’t quite remember specifically  why I wrote this then, but I agree now.) Paul and Wash continue on their quest of getting through the briars.
  • Echo is wiped at the Dollhouse.
  • Meanwhile, Susan reads the story out loud: “I will go and rescue the sleeping beauty,” etc. Cut to Paul in the Dollhouse: “It’s real.”
  • Sierra inspects the dead body:  “Someone’s getting slash-happy.”  Definitely Alpha!!!
  • Back at the Dollhouse.  Wash claims that, “They told me that this was going to be the new Eden.”  He also points out: “We suffer from unsightly visibility.” Ha.  Another Whedonesque line. Paul makes Wash take off his clothes to masquerade as an Active. Topher looks up and sees the intruders: “Hey, person I don’t know.” Hee. Paul tazers him.  So did he see Alpha or not?  Shouldn’t he know what he looks like?  
  • Wash finds a computer and admires the Dollhouse. “Bad people maybe. Good place.” Hmm. Paul sees Lubov.My whole life isn’t real.” Hee. Wash explains the pod lock system and tells him to go.  The prince is a little slow on the uptake.  “I said Go. That means go.  The course is clear.  Go.” Hee. Paul enters the pod chamber and sees Mellie/ November. I can’t believe that he’s just leaving Mellie. He has a valid justification, but it’s just the way he says it–like it’s an excuse to do what he want to do, and with no genuine remorse.  When he sees Caroline he gets a huge smile. He’s kind of gross with his Caroline obsession. (Again, not you, Tahmoh; I still love you!) Like in the previews, Boyd pulls a gun on Ballard. “You don’t get the girl.” Boyd tells Paul to hand over his gun. Echo sweetly asks who Paul is.  He introduces himself and tell her that she called him. Boyd tells her to go for a swim. Boyd nicely asks Paul to leave, but he doesn’t take him up on his offer. Oh, now look what the idiot has done. I officially think that Paul is the dumbest FBI guy ever. And a violent SOB. (not you Tahmoh, I love YOU!)
  • Dr. Saunders asks Victor what happened. “People were fighting on me.” Yeah, they were. Hee.  I love this show!
  • Boyd makes some valid points about the lack of thought-taking involved in Ballard’s non-plan. Paul is dragging Echo but she remembers her fight scenes with him in “Man on the Street,” and goes Ninja on him.  She runs off, but sees Boyd in trouble, and remembers all her trust for him.  When she tries to help, she falls down the stairs in the struggle between the two men. Then, she craftily pulls Paul’s legs out from under him (foreshadowed earlier by Wash!).  Echo saves Boyd and tells him that she trusts him.   I guess that new Handler imprint didn’t take, huh?  I told you guys not to worry about Echo and Boyd’s bond.
  • Aaaagh!  Wash is revealed as Alpha!  I knew this was coming (I’ve been spoiled for months), but it still shocked me in the moment. Alpha cut up poor Victor’s face. Saunders recognizes him in horror. Poll: How many of you already knew he was Alpha?  If you weren’t spoiled, at what point in the episode did you figure his true identity out? Alpha has Saunders by the throat and hair.  Don’t hurt poor Fred! This is very disturbing!!!  He asks her, “Have you always wanted to be a doctor?”  She says, “Yes.”  Alpha says “That’s a lie.”  Oh, yes it is.  This scene just confirms my earlier theory about Dr. Saunders being Whiskey.
  • Meanwhile, Boyd brings Paul in to meet Adelle. She really doesn’t like him. “Did you really think that you could just walk you into the dollhouse?”  Why yes he did.  He also thought that he could single-handedly bring it down, while suspended from the FBI, despite having no clue what the Dollhouse really is nor understanding the technology one bit.  Again, he frustrates me.  And he only cares about one victim!
  • Back to Alpha and Saunders:  She continues to answer his questions, describing how she first met Alpha.  He is angry and disturbed, and even a bit amused.
  • Paul: “If you really didn’t want me here, you shouldn’t have filled my life with so many lies.” Point one for Paul. Dollhouse logic sometimes resembles “insane Troll logic.” Adelle wants to put himin the chair. Hopefully, Boyd will talk her out ot that.
  • Claire asks Echo to come in.  TRAAAAP!  She sees victor on the floor bleeding (Poor Victor! Someone get him medical attention!  Where are all the people who work at the Dollhouse?), and then she sees Alpha. She remembers him, but vaguely. He says that he remembers “everything” about her.
  • Meanwhile, Boyd is against putting Paul in the chair without consent.  While this charming debate is going on, Sierra calls with an ID for the dead body–it was Steven J. Keppler–Alpha’s fake identity!!!  Also, he was not killed in Tucson, but rather right here in L.A.  The brain trust finally takes this opportunity to figure out what has been hapenning this ENTIRE episode.
  • Alpha puts Echo in the chair, and when she wakes up knows him well … like really well. They start making out, with lip-biting thrown in. Alpha: “I told you I’d come rescue you.”   Bloody-lipped Echo sighs, “Mmmm. My prince.” I knew I could trust the writers to figure out a way to make this show MORE disturbing in the last few minutes.
  • Next week: Are Alpha and Echo Bonny and Clyde? Aaagggh!  The preview is insane–too much to even talk about.  I will post a video of it, if I can find it.
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