Season 1 Episode 3

Stage Fright

Aired Friday 9:00 PM Feb 27, 2009 on FOX
out of 10
User Rating
845 votes

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Episode Summary

Echo becomes a backup singer to watch out for a female singing sensation with a very overzealous fan. Agent Ballard's investigation takes a turn for the worse.

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    The good;

    Not much. Ballard is one tough nut to take on the Russian mobsters. If you never watched the ep 'Echo' then Victor's true identity is a heck of shock

    The bad;

    Such a weak story, you wonder if Joss had to take a week off sick? Must also have been hugely expensive?

    Best line;

    Rayna (of Echo); "Did they grow you in a lab?"


    Echo; "Bitch, you can fire me but don't ever think you can take me!"

    Packing heat;

    Echo takes the villain's Walther PPK

    Kinky dinky;

    Rock chick ED and scantily clad Rayna is stunning. Rayna's manager apparently uses twins (male or female?) from the Dollhouse to relieve tension (better than valium?). Topher likes the idea of Rayna and Echo getting romantic

    Notches on the Dollhouse bedpost;

    Echo; 2

    How'd they get away with that?

    The diva is so blatantly Beyonce it's a wonder she didn't sue?

    This weeks fantasy;

    Bodyguard and backing singer for Echo, No1 fan for Sierra.

    Total number personalitites; 1 each for Echo and Sierra

    Echo; 9

    Sierra; 3

    Victor; 1

    Total dolls;3

    Echo, Sierra and Victor

    Addy is a bit British;

    Faced with another British actor her accent goes into overdrive

    Topher is a bit geeky;

    Keen to know the inside scoop on the gorgeous music superstar

    Subverting the Hollywood cliche

    The successful Hollywood diva is actually suicidal


    Sierra tied up; 1

    Knocked out


    Sierra; 2 kills

    Echo; 1

    Dolls injured;

    Sierra roughed up

    Capt subtext

    Happy hookers

    Know the face? Jim Piddock who plays Rayna's manager was memorable as the Valet in The Trial episode of Angel (also a screenwriter now).

    5th Whedon alumni-Mark Shepherd, Amy Acker, walking action figure, Eliza Dushku, Jim Piddock


    Rayna's manager slaps her but possibly she deserves it? Echo then knocks her senseless with a chair and uses her as bait to trap the assassin.


    Plenty where Rayna and Echo do get romantic.

    Missing scenes

    Reminds me off;

    The assassin's crutches scene reminiscent of Day of the Jackal. No1 fan is how Mark Chapman described himself to Stephen King at a booksigning before later shooting John Lennon, a story which inspired Misery

    Questions and observations;

    Does ED do her own singing? If she does it's a pity she missed Once More with Feeling on Buffy. In lots of little ways Echo seems to be breaking her programming and her kinship with Sierra becomes apparent. Why does the Dollhouse seem to use Victor to set Ballard up yet has Mellie trying to get the inside scoop on him?

    Marks out of 10; 5/10, actually enjoyed this more when rewatching than I thought I would

  • Very interesting story but the episodes still feel isolated, I'm still not feeling a tying together of the main story elements.

    A very good episode but something is still missing, they are neglecting the Alpha story which felt in the previous episode like it could be the driving force of the main storyline.

    Rayna hates bodyguards so Echo is programmed to be a backup singer who unconsciously protects her. I had no idea Eliza could sing, impressive. The case just proves to be far more complex than first blush when it is Rayna herself who is suicidal and encouraging a psychotic fan.

    Though Echo's behavior appears erratic, it is obvious that she merely interpreted her order – protect Rayna from the person trying to kill her – in a uniquely creative way. Unlike the other operatives – like the extremely unimpressive Sierra – Echo uses the pieces she is given and 'thinks outside the box' as Langdon put it. It's easy to see why she could be a security risk but instead it should prove how versatile Echo is. They are comparing Echo to Alpha, in which case they are afraid she will go psycho like he did. It's possible that Alpha started out doing what Echo is now, which would explain why they are so alarmed.

    Revelation: Victor is a Dollhouse operative! No wonder Ballard isn't getting anywhere with him! They're using him to throw Ballard off with false intel. I may not like the guy but he's pretty good in a fight! Though how stupid is he to walk into an apparently abandoned building on a dodgy tip and not wear a vest?!

    The story is certainly getting more complex, very interesting branching out of Echo's programming. I can see this having a lot of potential but I'm not getting a huge impression of a grand plan for the primary story, each episode so far feels isolated from the others without a main connected storyline. It needs a core that ties the episodes together.moreless
  • Superstar Written by Jed Whedon And Maurissa Tancharoen Directed by David Soloman

    Echo (to Rayna): "You can fire me. But **** don't think you can take me."

    We've had dates of the regular and homicidal kind on top of a spot of hostage negotiating so for the third episode were we going to get something a little more original? Surprisingly enough we did.

    Like many acts in the charts and downloads nowadays, Rayna is hardly the kind of musician (or in her case pop star) that's making a detrimental change in the music industry. Boyd had her pegged as being shallow, vapid and narcissistic but the Dollhouse aren't exactly fussy when it comes to their choice of clientele.

    In some ways, Rayna is a deserving case. Given that she's being stalked by an obsessive fan who was able to set one of her dancers on fire, it's hardly surprising that her manager Biz (what a name) contacted Adelle on getting his little money making machine the perfect protection.

    However seeing as Rayna is something of a defiant madam, the only way Echo could ingratiate herself into the pop star's life was by Biz pretending he saw her as a bad apple during the auditions for a backing singer.

    It seems that along with her talents, Eliza Dushku can hold a tune. It's almost a pity now that Faith never featured in "Once More, With Feeling" because of this discovery. Needless to say, Rayna's actually impressed with Echo and didn't waste time in hiring her as a backing singer.

    For the rest of the episode we're given a good look into the world of fandom. Why is that science fiction shows primarily feel the urge to lecture or educate us on the ups and downs of fandom? For every sweet, humble, harmless like Audra (Sierra's engagement this week), there's also a raging lunatic who would kill their idol as quickly as worship them.

    Because of the programming, Echo not only had to act as backing singer, she also had the instinct to want to protect Rayna. Rayna's not exactly the worst pop star parody (she seems a little nicer than Celeste from Six Feet Under's fourth season) but a part of me wasn't that sympathetic towards her either.

    Some of the earlier diva moments, which included almost insulting Audra for no reason hardly endeared her and when Echo discovered that Rayna was actually in direct contact with the man who was terrorising her, it did raise some interesting moments.

    Echo pointed out that Rayna was clearly unwell if she was welcoming the idea of some maniac trying to kill to the extent that she even praised his obsession. Celebrity is something that is largely scrutinised. We praise/judge virtually everyone who is famous, regardless of how they found themselves that way.

    Rayna is to a lot of people the typical manufactured pretty pop princess. Her songs are hardly deep and meaningful (even if the song "Freedom" blatantly hit us over the head with her struggles) but she did discuss being fed up of her life all this time. Echo said she could change things if she wanted. Rayna instead decided to fire her instead of listen to common sense. Isn't that always the way?

    Of course Rayna's actions had consequences for Audra who wound up being kidnapped by the crazed stalker so Rayna would come to him. Although it was pretty that Sierra as Audra wasn't actually going to die in this episode, I did feel for her. Plus it played into a certain theme of friends looking out for each other.

    Echo appealed to Rayna's better nature by trying to get her to agree to meet up with the stalker and save Audra. When Rayna refused, Echo took the matter into her own hands and I have to admit I laughed a little when Rayna got smacked across the head with a chair.

    The one part about the plot that didn't work quite as well as everything else had been doing was the exchange. Stalker dude virtually lived up to every psychotic stalker fan boy cliché and when death was a possibility for Rayna, she realised she wanted to live. The scene should've been touching, reaffirming but oddly, it felt rather flat to me.

    Echo actually kidnapping the woman she was supposed to be protecting did raise some brilliant arguments with Adelle and Dominic. Dominic again wanted Echo sent to the Attic but Adelle fought him against. Personal care for Caroline or the simple the fact that she does think Echo is special?

    Boyd certainly seems to be on the thinking that Echo is special train. For him though, he was countered by Claire, who made a biting comment about settling for good effort. Claire does seem to be living in denial mode – first with the possibility of Alpha being still alive and now with Echo being special.

    Speaking of special, you know what should've been a shock? The reveal of Victor being an Active. Had Joss and company not blown that one months before transmission, it would've made for a great moment when we saw him getting treatment from Topher.

    As Russian dude Lubov though, Victor lead Paul up the garden path. He talked about the idea of a Dollhouse being a myth and then he lead Paul into getting a beating from those gangster blokes. Paul must be modelling himself on Jack Bauer because apparently even getting shot isn't enough to properly slow him down. He took out his attackers before the ambulance came for him.

    More interesting was the opening scene between Echo and Sierra as well the ending between them as well. Echo made the conscious effort to make sure that Sierra's handler didn't pick up on any prior rapport between the two of them. I don't know why but the whole 'friends help each other out' line at the start between the Actives made me smile. I like Sierra but at the same time, I didn't think I wouldn't.

    As for Mellie, wasn't there something pretty telling with that scene with her and Victor/Lubov as well. Mellie wanted to protect Paul in a feeble way (would she have put a good fight had Victor/Lubov attacked her?) when the latter was looking for her crush. Plus she was the only person who bothered to see Paul in the hospital. I don't want to be nasty about Paul but he isn't the most social of people is he?

    Also in "Stage Fright"

    When the episode wasn't throwing unsubtle/unearned parallels between Echo and Rayna, I noticed the latter started every one of her routines in a cage.

    Echo: "I didn't want you to get hurt. You're my friend."

    Sierra: "Friends help each other out."

    Echo: "Yes, they do."

    So far, Echo's had the aliases of random date, Eleanor Penn, Jenny and in this episode, Jordan. No, not the one who's divorcing Peter Andre.

    Boyd: "You know, you can call me Boyd."

    Claire: "Is there any reason I'd want to?"

    Topher (re Boyd): "You're gonna get married and have scowly babies."

    Claire: "Don't be an idiot."

    We met Sierra's handler, Joe Hearn in this episode. He also seemed to have a dislike for Echo and Boyd also disliked him.

    Echo (re Rayna): "What about her – diva or diva?"

    Backing Singer: "Ugh, it depends on the day. She's the real deal. She's earning it."

    Victor (to Paul): "Yeah, people are mostly crap. I don't think there's a Dollhouse. I hear different, I'll give you call."

    Victor's answer that he would like to be Doris Day if there was a Dollhouse was cute. It's obvious that he will end up having a tragic backstory of sorts as the season unfolds.

    Paul: "What do you know about the Dollhouse?"

    Attacker: "I don't know what you're talking about."

    Paul: "No-one ever does."

    Stalker: "I kill for you, you die for me, that was the deal. I wanna fulfil my part, Rayna. You have my number, call me."

    It's funny how Echo conveniently mentioned Britney's head shaving phase. At least the show's rooted in some reality.

    Echo: "Getting what you want may not be the best thing for a person."

    Biz: "You're supposed to be with her."

    Echo: "She fired me."

    Stalker: "Rayna I would never hurt you."

    Echo: "God, now you're changing your story too?"

    Standout music: Jaime Lee Kircher/Kimberly Cole's "Superstar (Smash It)" and "The High" by Light FM.

    Boyd (re Echo): "She's really special."

    Claire: "Special isn't always a good thing here, Boyd."

    For an episode so panned by a lot of viewers, I was expecting "Stage Fright" to be frankly quite **** but it surprised me. Not as good as the previous episode but certainly better than the premiere and I do have one of Rayna's songs now stuck in my head.moreless
  • One step forward, six steps back.

    One step forward, six steps back; 'Stage Fright' is a decidedly lacklustre offering, based on a premise that lacks any semblance of imagination or creativity. Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen's script is essentially a dot-to-dot of televisual storytelling that feels like it was cobbled together on the back of a cigarette packet as a last ditch resort to come up with something before the impending deadline. Really, this couldn't be more of a snooze fest if it tried. 'Famous singer is targeted by crazy fan and needs protection, so in comes Echo to save the day but whoops! Singer doesn't want to be saved really; she's a tortured soul so she sabotages her aide's efforts until finally, Echo uses her super-duper pre-programmed psychological intuition to tap into the celebrity's psyche, to the lost, scared, humble child within'. Obviously, she saves the day and the superstar with a death wish comes down off her whine-horse, fully appreciative of the wonderful life that she leads. Bravo Echo, another soul saved, another moral lesson dutifully delineated; and another woefully treated audience, battered around the head with predictability and cliché. The 'twists' are telegraphed before the plot's even had a chance to kick itself into gear, and the denouement just feels like one gigantic let down, a case of "yeah, well, is that it?" Interestingly, the production feels pretty half-arsed too, as if the crew were aware of the script's glaring weaknesses and couldn't bring themselves to even attempt to patch them up. The direction lacks flair, save for the performance sequences which, while not looking even remotely like any concert I've ever been to, are at least well choreographed and suitably glitzy, the support cast don't really gel, and even Dushku appears to be going through the motions, as if aware that her considerable talents are being wasted. This is the first time we fail to get any further insight into the Dollhouse itself too, which, given that this is the most promising aspect of the show, really negates the episode's impact. A bit of a waste of space.moreless
  • Echo works as a backing singer to protect a singer who has been getting death threats.

    And so this series continues and so nothing of any real interest seems to happen.

    At the risk of upsetting Joss Wedon fans, this show is a dud in the making. Surely by the third episode I should be starting to get into at least one of the characters but I'm not.

    Eliza Dushku again shows that she isn't an leading actress. Well, certainly not in a show like this where its needed to have different chacterization each week. She was ok in Tru Calling, but doesn't have it for this show.

    This is was basically a rehash of a plot you would find in a 70's show like Charlie's Angels. The only difference is that if it had been in that show there would have been a certain degree of tongue-in-cheek to the thing.

    In this episode Echo gets back up from Sierra, another member of the Dollhouse. Like Echo she too is quite dull and uninteresting as a character. The last episode you may want to watch again, but this is one of those episodes that you would skip if you have the series on DVD and hardly watch it.moreless
Kevin Kilner

Kevin Kilner


Guest Star

Jim Piddock

Jim Piddock


Guest Star

Graham Norris

Graham Norris

The Fan

Guest Star

Amy Acker

Amy Acker

Dr. Claire Saunders

Recurring Role

Reed Diamond

Reed Diamond

Laurence Dominic

Recurring Role

Miracle Laurie

Miracle Laurie


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (1)

    • When Olivia is in her office and reaches for the bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label, she uncorks it then pours a drink. The problem is that Johnnie Walker Red Label is the least expensive of all the company's brands; it doesn't come with a cork, it always comes with a screw top to keep the cost low.

  • QUOTES (9)

    • Dr. Saunders: (while bandaging Boyd's wound) You shouldn't have taken the arrow out. You could have bled to death. And a broadhead arrow does more damage coming out.
      Boyd: I'll remember that next time I'm being bow-hunted.

    • Topher: That's enough! You're in my house, Laurence! Of the two people here, one of us is a genius and the other is a security guard in a very lovely suit.
      Laurence: Alright, genius. Tell me why Echo would kidnap the girl you programmed her to protect and bring her to the man who's trying to kill her.
      Topher: Wow. (giggles nervously) That does sound kind of bad.

    • Topher: Oh my God, are you nervous? Opening night jitters? Your little girl out there, on the big stage?
      Boyd: On the stage where the last little girl caught fire?
      Topher: Fair point.

    • Adelle: Hello, Biz.
      Biz: Ah! Well, I did try to respect your no sunglasses rule, but... what is this, a greenhouse? I'm photosynthesizing here.

    • Echo/Jordan: (To Rayna) Unbelievable. I mean, is it always like this? People just do whatever you tell them to?
      (Rayna nods)
      Echo/Jordan: (To Sierra/Audra) If she wanted you to take off your clothes and run down the street right now, just for kicks, would you do it?
      Sierra/Audra: Oh, uh... With or without my undies?

    • Echo: Ok, are there any drugs you´re not on?

    • Dr. Saunders: You sent Echo out on a high-risk engagement?
      Topher: Dr. Saunders! Here! So good of you to annoy me.
      Dr. Saunders: I had her flagged for romantic or altruistic engagements only. Does anybody read these?
      Topher: Her last romantic engagement turned out to be extremely high risk. Maybe her engagement with Rayna will turn romantic. (beat) Ooh.

    • Echo: You can fire me. But, bitch, don't think you can take me.

    • Dr. Saunders: Sometimes the best thing to hope for is "good enough."

  • NOTES (3)

    • Kimberly Cole wrote the song Freedom specifically for the series.

    • International Airdates:
      Latin America: August 18, 2009 on FX
      Norway: October 12, 2009 on TV2
      Czech Republic: December 11, 2009 on Prima COOL
      Slovakia: December 14, 2011 on JOJ Plus

    • Music: Superstar (Smash It) (Kimberly Cole), Freedom (Kimberly Cole), The High (Light FM), Overdose (Kimberly Cole), Blow the Lights Out (Kimberly Cole), Make Your Move (Jaime Lee Kirchner)


    • Biz: Rayna has had stalkers ever since she was singing for the mouse.
      Referencing The Mickey Mouse Club, an ABC TV series produced by Walt Disney which featured a group of teenagers (the Mouseketeers) singing and dancing, interspersed with Disney cartoons. It was later revived in the 1970s as The New Mickey Mouse Club where stars such as Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, and Justin Timberlake started their early careers.