Dollhouse: Blue Skies and Scared Scientists

Note: Dollhouse originally aired in the US in 2009, and is currently (finally) being shown on Australian free-to-air TV.

So far, Dollhouse has been mostly focused outside of the actual Dollhouse, and mostly following Echo very closely. This time, we got more of a glimpse of the other actives and how they interact. And while they are supposedly rather "blank" in their resting state, it is still more interesting than just following Echo around on her "imprint-of-the-week" story.

This episode begins with Echo, Victor and Sierra sitting together while eating in the Dollhouse. According to Topher, the three are "grouping". And, with his usual slightly scary mad-scientist vibe, it's hard to tell whether this is a good thing or not. For the sake of the three Actives, I'm going to say not, as this is something that Topher and his science cronies can't control or wipe -- and the Dollhouse is all about control. The "grouping" is a survival instinct, something that is happening at a base level.

Anyway, the three Actives are being rather philosophical, as Sierra says it's important to "try to be your best". Echo asks if Sierra is her best. Victor, cool as a cucumber (or as empty as a box) replies that every day is a chance to be better. Hear that, kids?

Meanwhile, Adelle is talking to a prospective client, who has another high-risk assignment. Of course, Echo will be tasked with the job. During her meeting, however, Adelle gets a call from who I assume are her higher-ups. They want Agent Ballard sorted out. Calmly, they say that as Ballard seems to want closure, they'll provide him with that. She's left a little flustered. Is it me, or do British people do flustered really well?

Echo's imprint this time is dressed up and acts like, well, a hired prostitute. But she's not, really. Along with the three other "gentlemen", she has actually been hired to be a thief, playing pretend in a fancy hotel. After all, they are high-end thieves -- though not quite Ocean's Eleven-like. After tricking the hotel manager, Sassy-Thief Echo gets the other two thieves into the basement of the hotel -- which just so happens to share a wall with a "high-security building".

Sassy-Thief Echo likes to say "blue skies", much like "five by five" -- Eliza Dushku must love these catchphrases. Anyway, the "client" has put together this band of merry thieves to steal a "freeze-frame" marble piece from the Parthenon. Sassy-Thief Echo is put in the charge of the whole operation. The security building that they are about the break (blow) into is on schedule to update its security systems, and Echo's thieving team will use the update downtime, the "gray hour" (which is incidentally the name of the episode), to get in and out with their specified loot.

Just so we know who is who on her team: there is an antiquities expert, a bomb expert, a computer genius and our Sassy-Thief Echo is the safe breaker -- all are apparently the best at what they do. But, of course, things go horribly wrong.

While Bomb Expert is hitting on Sassy-Thief Echo and Computer Genius is sulking for ... who knows why, Antiquities Expert finds the Parthenon piece they are looking for, and makes a run for it, managing to stab Computer Genius in his escape, and then locking the three inside the safe.

Sassy-Thief Echo calls Boyd, explaining that the expert has made a run with the loot, and that he needs to finish the "job" for her. But before they hang up, the phone cuts to static, and Sassy-Thief Echo's face goes blank. Somehow, she's been wiped back to Echo, and she's having a slight panic attack as she has no idea what's happening. Computer Genius and Bomb Expert aren't happy.

Topher notices Echo's crazy vitals levels and tries to call her, but Echo is too busy freaking out to answer. He tries Boyd, but he has left the van to stop Antiquities Expert, shooting him and taking the marble piece of the Parthenon. Boyd is so bad-ass.

Topher goes to Adelle and Lawrence, and they realise that Echo has been remotely wiped, which shouldn't be possible, as firstly, it's not a good idea, and secondly, the technology hasn't been tested. Cue Topher freaking out. He's also concerned that someone is trying to sabotage him to try to take his job.

Side note: Topher has a protégée named Ivy. Nice of them to finally introduce her/mention her at all.

Adelle has Sierra imprinted with the same personality that Echo had been, the Sassy Thief, to help sort out the situation by breaking the thieves out of the safe before Echo gets captured. Topher lets Boyd know that Echo has been remotely wiped -- and also that it wasn't his fault. Is it ever, Topher? Boyd makes Antiquities Expert draw a map of how to get to the safe. Boyd loves his calm, encouraging threats. He does them well.

Sassy-Thief Sierra decides that the way to help them is by giving Echo instructions over the phone. It's fun seeing Eliza Dushku and Dichen Lachman basically perform the same character -- and they do a great job, not just because of the similar dialogue catchphrases and costumes, but also with their very similar mannerisms.

Echo talks to Computer Genius, and he's not doing too well with his stab wound. They sit around discussing a painting, and Echo realises that her name is something else when she's "there" -- at the Dollhouse. Computer Genius tries to kill himself with an injection, but Bomb Expert stops him. Bomb Expert decides to arm himself with a big gun.

Echo answers her phone, and Sassy-Thief Sierra walks her through drilling through the safe door, but then the alarms go off. Sassy-Thief Sierra is taken away to be wiped, and Adelle tells Lawrence to send other people to possibly neutralise Echo if the need arises, as Boyd is too attached now.

Back in the safe, they realise that the guards are closing in on them. Computer Genius is quite willing to surrender, but Bomb Expert wants to go out with -- ahem -- a bang. Echo doesn't want to shoot, but Bomb Expert threatens her. She sticks the needle, which Computer Genius wanted to use on himself, in to the Bomb Experts neck. He goes down, shooting at the security men outside. Computer Genius tells Echo to throw a bomb outside to help her escape, and to leave him there.

Boyd eventually finds Echo and Computer Genius limping out. She's concerned, but determined to help him. Even as a wiped Echo, she has a very strong personality. Back in the Dollhouse, they wipe her again, making sure that she doesn't remember anything, and with numerous tests they make sure that she doesn't have any damages due to the remote wipe. It's strange that they keep putting her in high-risk assignments, even knowing that Alpha is targeting her.

Meanwhile, Ballard, who's still recovering from being beaten up and shot, gets a surprise visit from Lubov/Victor. He seems to be in trouble, and is hoping that Ballard will protect him by relocating him or putting him in the witness-protection program. Ballard isn't about to help the guy who set him up, even though Lubov says he didn't do it. He realises that this "Russian family" must know that he is talking to Ballard. Ballard doesn't trust him, and puts him on a FBI look-out list so he can't leave Los Angeles. Lubov now has no choice, and has to stay. He isn't happy, but is certain that if anything happens to him, Ballard will care.

Topher is now convinced that Alpha is still alive. The poor guy at first thinks he's going to be fired for figuring it out. Paranoid little scientist, isn't he? But Adelle tells him that he will be pushed up in his security clearance. As the full scale of what that means -- Alpha is still out there and kicking -- Topher is appropriately freaked out. Or, as he puts it, "I'm scared like a little girl."

There are interesting times ahead. While Alpha didn't appear in this episode, his presence is felt rather acutely with Echo's remote wipe. It proves just how far advanced in technological skills he is, and that he is a formidable threat, as if that wasn't already obvious. Now, if only he'll come out and do something really obvious. I can't wait for the big, bad reveal!

Questions:

... What do you think Alpha was trying to do with the remote wipe?

... Do you think Agent Paul Ballard will get anywhere without the help of Alpha?

... Do you think Topher will figure out how Alpha is able to do all that he is, or how to stop him?

Dollhouse airs Mondays, at 10pm AEST on Channel 11.

Read our recaps of episode five, episode three, episode two and episode one.

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