This week, the show looks at a group of people with no will of their own, living together. This would describe Echo and her Actives...or a religious cult Echo has to infiltrate.
The cult, called Children of the Temple, live near Pleasant, AZ. They don't bother the outside world, but sometimes people bother them. They wonder why the members sing and smile, and buy weird stuff like duct tape and rope. The Sheriff isn't worried..until they find someone left behind the shopping list, with the words, "Save Me" written on it.
Senator Boxbaum turns to Adelle and her Dollhouse to find out what's going on in that cult. He thinks people living in "unquestioned serenity" with no will of their own is suspicious. Adelle wonders why the Senator is so concerned. Well, it is an election year, and that's reason enough. Besides, he's one of the reasons no one knows about the Dollhouse. I remember Paul Ballard had confronted a senator about the Dollhouse. Maybe it was Boxbaum. Anyway, despite Laurence Dominic's objections, and his accusation that maybe Adelle likes Echo too much, Echo will be sent to the compound to see what is happening. Unofficially, she will be working for Agent Lilly and the ATF, with Boyd helping out as a "private contractor".
Echo will be made blind, but actually made into a human camera. Dr. Saunders says it will be risky, and it could kill her. Still, Adelle has a Senator to please.
She is brought in by Boyd as a blind hitchhiker, who claims God is leading her to the compound, run by a handsome guy named Jonas Sparrow. Agent Lilly thinks the guy may have a lot of guns, looking for a sign to use them. Echo does come in, while the followers are skeptical. Jonas is intrigued when Echo, posing as Esther Carpenter, touches his face. She claims she saw him in a vision, and ordered her to come. That sounds compelling, and it works for now. Jonas tell his lieutenant, Seth, to keep an eye on her. Meanwhile, the gizmos that make Esther/Echo a camera are working like a charm.
Meanwhile, Ballard is still looking for the girl who he knows as Caroline. He asks a computer expert named Loomis to help out, and uses his injuries for sympathy. While Loomis agrees to help, there's no info on who Caroline is. It's possible the Active Corp. erased Caroline's identity when she became an Active.
Back at the Dollhouse, Sierra enters the showers while Victor is still there. They exchange small talk until Victor senses a change...between his legs.
Topher notices it because apparently there's video records of what the Actives do in the shower. Yes, I feel sick, too. Topher talks it over with Dr. Saunders. Believe it or not, she's not surprised. She points out Victor's been imprinted as the ideal boyfriend to lonely women several times, and maybe a side effect is his "man-reaction" to whatever it is. She swears she wrote a report on this, and Topher agrees....except no one read it.
At the compound, Esther/Echo is introduced to the rest of the cult, including Iliya, who was with Jonah in a previous cult. What she doesn't see, but the ATF does, helps them identify some of the members. She is taken to Jonas again, and this time he shines a flashlight at her face. He explains that he's not like an innocent Adam, but someone who is broken and impure. Despite this, it's up to him to protect his innocent followers. After all, they're no more prepared for the outside world than an Active is. The only difference is Jonas isn't programming people to be anyone. They only have to trust him. Now, though, he is trusting Esther/Echo because she insists she's no serpent ready to ruin his garden. However, she is providing the ATF with visual proof that he has way too many guns.
Back at the FBI, Mellie visits with Paul's meds and "leftover manicotti" that looks pretty fresh. She also has another envelope from the guy who gave him the picture of Caroline. It's a DVD of video from her college days, as in the pilot. Loomis admits the two are connected, but Mellie describes the person who had the envelope as someone cute. It's really the mail cart guy from the FBI office, not necessarily the source of the DVD. But was it Alpha, helping out while hiding in plain sight? No matter. The DVD has the clues Paul needs.
Topher and Dr. Saunders are also busy seeing some video...from the showers. They do figure out that Victor is attracted to Sierra. OK, so what's the problem? Well, Actives aren't supposed to be aroused by anyone...even if the Girls Next Door just happen to walk in.
As Esther/Echo is about to be accepted, Agent Lilly and his ATF are ready to pounce. Boyd wants to get her out, but Lilly is more interested in getting Jonas. Seems they have a history together. Lilly remembers Jonas when he had another group of followers, all underage girls. Lilly's upset Jonas got out of jail in only two years because a judge didn't like how the evidence was handled. Now, Lilly wants Jonas behind bars for good...no matter what. Boyd asks Dominic for permission to get Echo out, but Dominic says no. It's almost as if he wants Echo to fail..and worse.
It's too late now. An ATF agent accidentally sets off a tripwire, letting Jonas know he's being invaded. He slaps Esther/Echo's face hard, and ruins her visual connection with the ATF. However, it does something else...it restores her sight. The cult is stunned by what has happened, but all she knows is that she can see now. It's not as if she led the ATF to their place.
Except she did.
Now the plan is coming apart. The press is here. Jonas doesn't know what to do. Lilly just wants to get Jonah, and Boyd has to get Echo out somehow. He does a little detective work, and figures out Lilly was behind the "Save Me" note, and wanted to get Jonas.
Meanwhile, Paul is seeing what is happening at the cult compound on TV...and also sees Caroline as one of the cult members. She is becoming even more real to him.
Jonas, meanwhile, is planning a miracle. He'll set the house on fire, and tells his followers to pray for a miracle. Esther/Echo disagrees, saying that "you can't force a miracle". Jonas tells his people to keep praying for a miracle, and he gets it....Echo smiting him over the head. Seth is stunned by this, but even more by Echo's sermon; "The blind girl is looking at you in the eye. Do you know what that means? God brought me here He has a message for you--and that message is 'move your ass!'".
Iliya, however, doesn't want to go, but a well-placed punch changes that. Jonas is about to shoot Esther/Echo, but someone shoots him. It's Dominic, of all people. Maybe he's changed his mind about Echo...until he knocks her out and leaves her to die.
Boyd, however, is able to find her, and get her out. This, despite the fact, that Lilly has accused Boyd of being with Jonas...only to cover up what Lilly was trying to do.
Ballard finally gets to Arizona, but too late to find Echo. Lilly is shown her picture, but he refuses to help. All of a sudden, he does things by the book, even though he wanted to bend the rules to get Jonas.
Back at the Dollhouse, Adelle is talking abut temptation, and how it can ruin things in the Dollhouse. That's why she tells Topher and Dr. Saunders to "scrub" Victor, and keep him under observation. She also talks to Dominic about his quick trip to Arizona. He says Echo was malfunctioning, and he was just protecting Adelle's interests. She doesn't look convinced. He again tells Adelle Echo should be put in the Attic, because she may "composite" just like Alpha. Adelle gives Dominic a subtle threat, and tells him to take the stairs.
Finally, Echo is finished with her treatment. Dr. Saunders asks her if she can see. Echo takes a nice long look at Dominic, and says, "I can see perfectly".
Fortunately, so can Adelle...but can she protect Echo, and for how long?
It seems the show has settled into a pattern: Echo is sent to do a job, something goes wrong, and she is rescued with some help from Boyd. Meanwhile, the rest of the Dollhouse fear someone named Alpha, or just fear being exposed, while an FBI agent searches for someone named Caroline, but the all-important clues are forever out of his reach. The Dollhouse even seems to taunt him, as it provides some roadblocks so he never finds it. In other words, this will be the basic plot for Dollhouse, told and re-told for years.
Except Joss Whedon invented this show, and he is NOT a procedural guy. That's why he'll bring in Patton Oswalt as an Internet millionaire who needs a wife, and Ballard makes a shocking discovery (unless fans saw Jimmy Kimmel Live last Thursday, because it showed that clip where Ballard gets, well, shocked). On March 20th, Joss is taking back this show, and it may be just in time.
As far as ratings are concerned, it actually got its best numbers since the premiere, although the 18-49 share stayed the same. It has picked up a lot of fans from the non-traditional sources, from iTunes to Hulu and the Fox website. DVR numbers also give it a big boost. Network execs say a second season is possible if it's feasible from a business standpoint. That would be true for any show. Still, Fox, and Neilsen for that matter, should realize there is a fairly sizable audience for Dollhouse, no matter when they decide to see the show, or how. If the ratings jump even more after the all-important episode six, "Man on the Street", then we can look forward to season two of Dollhouse, which may be very different from the show we are seeing now.
One more thing....Sofa Dogs has a special interview with Tim Minear about this episode. It's on mp3, which means you can listen to it while watching the episode on Hulu, iTunes or Fox on Demand. It's like Rifftrax, but more interesting.