It would have been almost impossible for this episode to top last week, but it's still a good episode with that Jossian humor people prefer, and proof that the Dollhouse isn't as indestructible as it thinks it is. It can crumble a bit thanks to a drug, and a flash of memory that Echo gets...from her real past.
It opens with the same scene that started the pilot: Adelle DeWitt offering a girl named Caroline some tea, and a new life. However, we get more information. It seems Caroline saw something she shouldn't have, and a big group called the Rossum Corporation is involved. It also looks like the Dollhouse has been trying to "recruit" Caroline for two years. It ends with Adelle's classic line, "Nothing is what it appears to be."
Switch to Freemont College, where two students enter a lab. They see a guy named Owen dressed in boxers, trying to get a fly to escape. The girl touches Owen, but he says grabbing isn't part of the equation. He then tries to break through the window while she laughs. The other guy laughs, too. This all takes place in the Rossum Building.
At the Dollhouse, Clive Ambrose, co-chair of Rossum and a very Big Wig, shows Adelle a vial of an experimental memory drug. He thinks this is what made Owen go nuts. He also says a vial is missing. So, he needs all the Actives she's got. Ambrose points out the drug acts like a narcotic, then removes the impulse blockers in the brain, causing people to do who knows what. They show up at the school, with Victor as Tom the NSA agent, Sierra as CDC Dr. Gawa, and Dominic as campus security. Hey, he's not an Active. Echo, however, has another engagement with Matt from the pilot. She's a new girl, Alice, who's about to help him film amateur porn, with him tied to a bed. When she sees the Rossum building on a TV, she suddenly decides to go there because she has to help someone. Matt is stuck, tied to his bed. For some reason, this reminds me of a scene from St. Elsewhere.
Cut to a few years ago, where Echo was Caroline. She and her boyfriend Leo decide to plan something big, a major protest against a bad guy. Back at the Dollhouse, Topher tests the drug on Mellie, who is really November. Seems earlier that day, she and Paul talked about his search for the Dollhouse, and she actually asked him to drop the case. She also talked about how she suddenly knew how to take out assassins, as she got rid of Hearn last week. Of course, Paul won't quit on his search.
As the drug zips through November's brain, Adelle is actually a little worried over all this. She explains Rossum is the reason the Dollhouse exists, and it believes in the company's work. She also notes the reason Ambrose runs Rossum is because he couldn't run the Dollhouse. Topher is amused by all this. He then tells November her brain rocks, which seems a bit odd. He also high-fives her, which will turn out to be a bad decision. She had the drug on her, and now he does, too.
Echo/Alice shows up, and looks lost. Victor/Tom finds her, thinks she's affected by the drug, and has her sent somewhere else. Boyd, meanwhile, tells Adelle that Echo is at the school, which upsets her. So, she tells him to get her out of there. Before he does, a girl who clearly has the drug sees Boyd, and swears he's got mansions in his eyes. She also touches him, which means he's affected.
When Echo/Alice is in a holding room, Dr. Sierra tries to sedate her. She's distracted by the other victims, though, which allows Echo/Alice to get away with a guy named Sam. He was the one who found Owen going mad. Now, he says the drug is wearing off. He claims he was the victim of an experiment, while she says she has to get inside the Rossum building to save someone. She just can't remember who. If she "listens to herself", maybe she can remember. She finds Boyd, who asks her if she wants a treatment. She says no, and he...lets her go. We can thank Rossum's green goo for that.
Another flashback, as Caroline looks an one of Rossum's evil ads, and its evil slogan, "Because Minds Matter." She, Leo and their friends discuss what the company may be doing at the school. She says she has to do something to protest what they are doing. In the present, the Actives play CSI while Dominic mocks them. He then realises he can't load his gun, then how heavy it is. He's also under the green goo's spell. Not only that, so are Adelle and Topher. They learn from Victor/Tom what is happening, just in time for Topher to infect Adelle. They freak out in a good way. She asks Topher is he thinks she's too unfeeling or...British (which she'll admit to). Then she mentions she'd love to eat words like "indominable", and soon they are headed to Topher's Drawer of Inappropriate Starches. It's great to see Olivia Williams not act like a T-888 or Catherine Weaver. However, it also shows that it wouldn't take much to derail the all-powerful Dollhouse. Topher struggles to get Victor/Tom to understand what the drug is doing to them, since Actives apparently are immune. He also doesn't have his pants, but not one female fan is complaining. Since Boyd is infected, he calls Topher so he can hear him play the piano. It results in the most beautiful music to be played while one is on hold.
As for Sam and Echo/Alice, they try to find a way in the Rossum Building, and how someone named Lily Foundry will help them. Then someone calls her by her old name, Caroline Farrell. It's someone named Professor Janak, and she is also drugged.
Meanwhile, Adelle and Topher are on the floor, surrounded by inappropriate starches. She is still coherent enough to say that people make choices, and they have to live with them...or die with them. She even accuses Echo of going to Freemont to hurt her, or at least the Caroline part wants to hurt Adelle. Then November shows up, and she thinks they're Paul. She admits she thinks Paul's too obsessed with Caroline. Topher figures out November is glitching, living a past memory....such as the one where Hearn tried to kill her until Adelle called and told her the third flower in the vase is green. That made November/ Mellie clobber him. Now, she suddenly thinks Adelle and Topher are Hearn. Yikes!
But first, we flash back to Caroline getting some plans to the Rossum building, and how to get inside through a secret room and entry. She's excited, but Leo is now having second thoughts. He'll still help her, though.
Then we go back to Sam and Echo/Alice, who discover "Lily Foundry" as a grate where they can take an underground route. For some reason, she says it's as if she has been here before, but how is that possible when she's never been here before? Anyway, they do find a way inside. She just hopes she doesn't have to fight because she can't remember how to make a fist.
Dominic spots them, but he's more interested in apologizing to her for trying to kill her two weeks ago. Echo/Alice doesn't know what he means, but appreciates it. Dr. Sierra then finds Dominic, and a few others exposed by the drug. However, she starts glitching too, not only back to what Hearn did to her, but maybe another rape. As she grabs a gun and aims it at Victor/Tom, he is also glitching to a past mission where he's a soldier, and there was an explosion. It looks as if he's shot by Sierra, but it may have been the memory.
Don't worry about Adelle and Topher, though. November didn't finish her mission, but she is sobbing about how her ex-boyfriend Rick had to sell his stocks. Also, Topher figures out the memory drug is also affecting the Actives, making them experience memory glitches. The good news is the drug will wear off. Owen, he figures, must have had an overdose, and Adelle thinks it's murder. Well, not quite....
Sam and Echo/Alice do reach the lab, which she claims is different. She still has this feeling she has to stop something awful. Sam reaches towards a test tube, and it's the missing vial of the memory drug. Seems he hid it all this time. As Echo/Alice figures that out, he gives her some of the drug.
So what happened the first time Echo/Caroline was there? Well, she and Leo (in flashback) discover they are experimenting on animals. Not only that, they also use fetuses and even some humans, As Leo films it all, they are spotted by a security guard.
In the present, we learn Sam and Owen had a plan to steal a vial and sell it to another drug firm for billions. However, Owen had second thoughts, and Sam had to act. Echo/Alice tries to stop him and fight the drug. However, she gets memory flashes of how Leo was shot by one of the guards, and died as they left the building. As her feelings return to her, she mistakes Sam for Leo. Sam decides to leave, but a fist from Boyd ends that. Once again, he had to rescue Echo/Alice when something went wrong, and that ruined the ending in my mind.
One more flashback: Caroline is in a hospital bed, as Adelle mentions that she fits the profile. Caroline gets away, but Adelle says she won't get far. We know that already.
Back to the present, Adelle and Laurence have an awkward moment. They feel stupid over how Rossum's green goo turned then into idiot children, but at least it didn't inspire them to have sex on top of police cars (sound familiar, Buffy fans?). She just wanted to eat big words while he hugged an invisible kitty. But, it's worn off, the Actives are OK, the fake story about Freemont students overdosing on drugs is bought by the press, and things will go on as before. Still, she checks on Echo to see she's still OK. You really wonder why Adelle has a special interest in Echo. Is it because Adelle had to make Echo an Active so she wouldn't reveal Rossum's deep dark evil scientific experiments...and she actually regrets it? How often have Actives been recruited to make sure they don't threaten the most powerful people?
The case also winds up affecting Paul. Mellie decides to move out, and maybe that's part of her program. Or maybe she's right in thinking Paul's too obsessed with Echo/Caroline. In any case, if she needs him, he says she knows where to find him. Would she even be allowed to look?
Back to the "make an Active and hide a secret" theory, we see Adelle preparing to share tea again, this time with Sam. It's Caroline all over again, except what he did was for gain, or at least help her mom because she's about to lose her house, and someone died. So, Adelle is there to calmly make him an offer, the same one she made to Caroline. She promises him his mom will have enough to live on, and after five years, they both will.
Still, you have to wonder. Sam and Caroline had secrets against Rossum. Would they ever be allowed to leave?
Were any previous Actives with dangerous secrets allowed to leave?
Although this episode really played with identity and memory, and had more humor than the entire season, that last point has to be considered. The Dollhouse does provide fantasy, as Echo "told" Paul last week, but do they have another purpose of removing threats to the powerful by taking away a person's true self, including that horrible secret, and reducing that person to a programmable puppet?
If so, is the Active Corporation actually proud of that, or does the fact they get billions to do that make that moral argument moot?
We also learned this week the NCAA could be the Dollhouse's biggest nemesis. The Regional semi-finals for men's basketball won the night. The show got less than three-point-nine million viewers, and also lost a bit in the 18-49 share. Already, some websites are predicting it will be a 13-week wonder. Whether it's the time slot or the premise itself is hard to say. Some are still hoping the DVR ratings, internet hits and iTunes sales will be enough to bring it back in the fall.