Saturday, October 24, 2009

Recap of Dollhouse "Belonging", or The Wake-Up Call

We got a long look at the dark side of the Dollhouse's mission in "Belonging".
Our tour guide is a girl named Priya, who meets a man on a beach, and winds up being his personal plaything. She also shows us two staff members who take a good hard look at what they really do, and can no longer turn away. She also shows us an Active who is determined to be a wake-up call when the storm arrives. It's too bad the wake-up call doesn't apply to viewers, because they are missing one very interesting season.
Those who do know are also upset. They have to wait five weeks to see what happens next.

It begins with a blurry picture of someone saying "I was just trying to help her". It's Topher, but what is he talking about?
One year ago, we see an Australian girl named Priya selling trinkets at Venice Beach with another girl. We learn she's there without a work visa (quick, call Lou Dobbs!). They see a guy named Nolan who is very interested in her. He likes her paintings, and her. So, he arranges a show for her. It's great, but she doesn't like who's there. Then she meets...Echo? What kind of art show is this?
Actually, it's a seduction arranged by Rossum, makers of Dollhouses. Nolan is an important man in Rossum because of his medical skills. He talks to Harding, who's even more important. Aside from being there to enjoy Echo, he talks about Priya, and mostly about how Nolan wants her all to himself. Meanwhile, Echo tells Priya there may be money in this room, but she says art, like Priya's, is power because these guys can't make it. That's why they like girls like her. "Let them think they have the power," she says. "Our time will come." Let's hope so.
Nolan then introduces Priya to Luca, who's really Victor. He and Priya hit it off, a lot more than with Nolan. When Nolan tries to grad Priya back, she leaves. She says there's no way she'll ever love Nolan.
One year later, he's found a making her an Active. Actually, we've seen Nolan before in "Needs". He put her in the Dollhouse because she said "no" to him...and he admits it. He also says he's certain she'll come back to him with love and affection because she'll be programmed that way. In fact, he can make her anything he wants. He's got money, and a willing accomplice in the company he works for...Rossum.

Back at the Dollhouse, Echo sees Sierra painting a bird, and a big black splotch. She says she uses black because it's always there. Echo gives the painting to Topher, who's busy trying to perfect a remote wipe as Alpha did. She says "Sierra hates the bad man", but he dismisses her. After all, Actives are pets. "You're not looking hard enough. You never do," Echo says as she leaves.
This gets Topher thinking. He asks about Nolan, who we learn from Boyd that he's a big wig at Rossum, and has made advances in investigating mental illnesses. We also find out Sierra was a paranoid schizophrenic when she first came. Checking Dr. Saunders' files, Topher finds out Sierra has made a lot of paintings with black splotches. Her report says that may be due to her mental state before she came here, or rage aimed towards...Topher. But he says he's not the bad man.
As Victor and Echo get rid of the bad paints, and she says he's taking charge, Topher finds out other things. For one, Priya/Sierra's mental state was really caused by drugs given to her at the mental facility...owned by Nolan. Also, Adelle didn't pick this up, but she has now.
However, Nolan is not worried. Even if Adelle does call him "a raping scumbag, one tick shy of a murderer" while also asking him if he takes sugar in his tea, he reminds her she works for Rossum...HE outranks her. So, he'll just take Sierra home with him, thank you. He also thanks her for the tea, although she wishes she gave him a more appropriate liquid.

Later, Harding tells Adelle to give Sierra to Nolan. Although the Actives are there to fulfill the needs of clients, she says they are not slave merchants. He says Sierra will have a great life as Nolan's wife. Besides, he knows about her and Victor from last April, but that's not the worst of her indiscretions. "If feeling you're somehow decent and moral helps you get through your day, that's your business," he says. "This house, however, is our business." So, Nolan gets Sierra or Adelle's going into "early retirement." The one Dominic got, we're thinking.
Sierra finds Victor in the shower, getting rid of the evil black paints. She has a better use, painting his face, and then her own. She says he looks like an Indian chief...but it sets off a bad memory of war. It was something that got him to the Dollhouse. He collapses and says he doesn't want to take charge.
Neither does Adelle, considering the choice she has to make. Topher, now with Ethics (tm), also doesn't want to turn Sierra over to Nolan. He says Dr. Saunders wouldn't allow it. Which one, Adelle asks? The avuncular doctor that Alpha killed, or the one formerly known as Whiskey? Well, both would say no, but Adelle can't. The staff is there because their morals have been compromised, except for Topher because he has no morals. "You have always thought of people as playthings," she says (while looking at him as the son she never had). However, that is changing. Just as Angelus and Spike changed when souls were shoved into them, Topher has more than a soul in him. He has ethics. What will he do with them?

Meanwhile, Boyd has been shadowing Echo ever since the painting. He sees her read a book with big words, and that it's hidden in her bed. He doesn't notice the "notes" she's etched on the cover. He is told by Adelle to take sure Topher does what he's told, and keep the Dolls in their place.

Flash back again to a year ago, because Adelle's there with a much better hairdo. This takes place after the previous Sierra had her last engagement. As Topher complains about Hearn (another man who took advantage of the next Sierra), she tells him about a woman who is a paranoid schizophrenic. It's, of course, Priya, loaded up with drugs thanks to Nolan. She tries to tell Topher but he doesn't notice. We see scenes of her happily leaving the Dollhouse to be with Nolan, interspersed with scenes of her dragged into the Dollhouse. According to Johnathan Frakes, former Star Fleet Commander and director of this episode, it's the same thing. How true, Number One.
There is a great exchange when she says she's in Hell. "You're in Los Angeles," Topher says. "I can understand the mix-up." That may be true in so many levels.
Topher tells Adelle it's done. She says if he's developing pangs of conscience, remember that he didn't have a choice. He agrees, and we soon see why.
Sierra is all set to be whatever Nolan wants to be. She asks if she should be aggressive, or innocent, or a mute. She grabs him by the neck...and angrily asks which one?
Nolan sees he didn't get Sierra. He got Priya....drug-free.
Topher, you are a man.

Back at the Dollhouse, Boyd confronts Echo over her actions. She plays dumb, but he's not fooled. He warns her that "some people are not ready to wake up". Echo disagrees. "Something bad is coming, like a storm," she says, "and I want everyone to survive it." He says she may bring the storm upon herself, but maybe she's looking for a steel-belted umbrella for that.
Priya then confronts Nolan for how she made her his Doll, then says she does love someone wh thrills her, and makes her happy. She doesn't remember meeting him, but she knows she loves him. It's Victor, of course. This makes Nolan angry, and she beats her up. In fact, he's getting a thrill out of it. As he's about to stab her, she grabs the knife and kills him. It's classic self-defense, but it will ruin Adelle at the next Rossum employee evaluation.
Topher arrives, probably after Priya calls him. He finds her covered in blood, and suggests they leave quickly. Boyd arrives, and he has a plan. In fact, we get the feeling he's done this before. He gets Topher to cut up Nolan's body and dunk it in sulphuric acid, while coming up with a story about how Nolan planned to leave the country with Sierra, but left her behind. Topher is shocked by Boyd's efficiency, and disgusted by the smells of what he has to do. "I was just trying to help her," Topher says, "Now she's ruined."
"You had a moral dilemma, your first," Boyd says, and it didn't go well."
"She does not belong in the Dollhouse," Topher says. Boyd says she does now.
For the record, Adelle seems to believe part of Boyd's story, but knows Rossum will believe all of it....maybe.

The final scene between Priya and Topher is tragic, but important in the development for both characters. People should see this stuff rather than waste their time with dancing celebrities. Anyway, Priya reflects on what she has done, and wonders why Topher didn't help her. He says he was fooled. He does offer her a beer. She asks if he and she are happy here. After some stammering, he says, "I have no idea."
"This secret we have," she asks. "Can you keep it?'
"I can keep it," he says, "but I don't know if I can live with it."
"I know I can't," she says, "but then I don't have to." She's the lucky one.
She then recognize Victor, and says she loves him...right? Topher says her love is real, and so is Victor's.
One treatment later, and she's back to normal. She's forgotten what she has done.
Topher wishes he could also forget. So does Adelle. Boyd is fine, though.
Finally, we see Echo receive something "for the storm": a get out of Dollhouse free card. Better than a steel-belted umbrella.
We also see Victor and Sierra, together in the same pod.

Is this the best Dollhouse episode, period? It may be, but it is also the most important. The "certainty" of the mission, to help people and give them what they need, expressed by Topher and Adelle so many times, is starting to crumble. They see the dark side of what they are doing, and the company they work for. Adelle knows that what happened to Dominic could happen to her if she doesn't look out. Topher now sees that people aren't playthings, and that he could be someone else's plaything, too. Ironically, he mentioned this possibility at the end of the original pilot: "We live in the Dollhouse, which makes us dolls, and the people playing with us little children. Children break their toys, Boyd."
Nearly a year later, he understands this even more.
Despite all this, would they be strong enough to rebel, and join Echo's wish to give Rossum a wake-up call? Probably not, judging from "Epitaph One," because they can't handle the consequences. Let's hope they at least try.

Let's also notice who wasn't there...Paul Ballard. Tahmoh Pentikett took the night off while Adelle and Topher were having their moral struggles. You have to wonder what Paul would be thinking about all this if he were there. Maybe he'll suspect he doesn't have to take down the Dollhouse because it will crumble before he finishes the job.

Because Fox wants to win November sweeps thanks to some help from the World Series, and reruns that seem to attract a bigger audience, Dollhouse is taking a five-week break. The show pulled in a 0.9/3 rating, and pulled in 2.1 million viewers. This was well ahead of the CW, and higher than Fox's Friday night sitcoms, but half of the audience of Ugly Betty. Actually, Friday's not a popular night for network TV shows. Fox hopes absence, and back-to-back episodes, will make the heart grow fonder. Until then, spread the word by getting people to catch up through Hulu or Fox on Demand. Also go to, or on Twitter at @whyIwatch, @echoalert or @LADollhouse.
We are lost, but we are not gone...and we're not gonna get ignored like ABC ignored the Pie Hole, either. Spend November telling people about Dollhouse December.

Here's one more reason...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

This is the Dollhouse, Mr. Langton, Not The Pie Hole!

It figures.
Two weeks ago, Fox tells viewers that Summer Glau is coming to the Dollhouse on October 30h.
Oops, make that December 4th. It suddenly decides you'd rather see reruns of House and Bones because it admits it airs these shows as much as possible.
Dollhouse, not so much....since affiliates apparently prefer to plug their local news rather than show promos for that show.
No wonder Fox decided to close the Dollhouse for November.
I'm getting flashbacks of ABC last year, and what they did to Pushing Daisies. It only aired the last three episodes because the Paley Center beat them to it by three months.
However, Joss isn't worried about this. He posted on Whedonesque after a column by the TV Addict suggested he should take the Felicia Day approach: make a show and use the internet as your network. Makes sense, since DSL and broadband knows nothing about sweeps months, and web hits are the true measure of an audience. Besides, it sure worked for Dr. Horrible.

Well, Joss is a traditional man, and realistic, actually...

Hi guys. Lot going on.

First off, TV addict not dumb. (But you gotta get clean, man. We love you and you HAVE A PROBLEM. I'm just saying, try a book. A book about TV! Not cold turkey.)

Directing Glee. This is not a diabolical Fox scheme. This is me going "can I can I?" Did you see last night? Best cut-to-opening-credits moment since the halcyon days of BSG.

Howzabout that schedule? Well, I'm not as depressed as everyone else. We weren't about to rock sweeps anyway, and though there's a chilly November, December is CRAZY. It's like an Advent calendar of episodes! We get November to try to spread the word (which I'll be leaning on Fox to do, though it's hard to imagine them doing as good a job as the WhyIWatch guy) and then December is pure gluttony. Plus the episodes line up extremely well in these pairs, and we'll have an absurdly appropriate lead-in.

Back to breaking Tim's episode. Keep the faith, peeps. I'll bring you news (and hopefully a little humor, I mean would it kill me to punch these up a little?) when I can. -j

He's got a point, but the Dollhouse should not be treated like a pie shop, especially one run by a guy and his no-longer-dead girlfriend. Fans have been waiting MONTHS (or seems that way) for more Summer Glau, and wondering if the future of "Epitaph One" is inevitable, avoidable or really existed. After "Belle Chose", "inevitable" is taking an early lead. Fox ordered this show, hoping to make Friday night a must-see night, as ABC is trying to do with Ugly Betty, and CBS with Ghost Whisperer and Medium. The difference is you can see promos for those shows. Dollhouse is a different matter. Need we remind you of "Friday Night Fights"?
OK, Fox, we'll give "Dollhouse Night at the Movies" a chance. Just tell people, PLEASE? We certainly will, at least.

That being said, some fans think charging a buck or two to watch a Dollhouse episode sounds possible. Some people watch pro wrestling or off-market sports that way now, rent movies or buy episodes for iPod after the first airing. It may be three to five years before we pay for original dramas that way, if it's good enough. If anyone's going that route, Joss could be the first....unless Felicia beats him to it.

Until then, support Dollhouse through Why I Watch at , or on Twitter at @whyIwatch

Monday, October 19, 2009

Who needs Ziegfeld? Here Comes Joss!

He's made a musical version of Buffy about the most demonic song and dance man ever, followed by a small internet musical that enjoyed slight success...AND AN EMMY!!!

We should have known it wouldn't be too long before Joss Whedon would get back in the musical game. This time, he'll be directing an episode of Glee, also known as the real High School Musical. It's about Will, a guy who wants to bring the glee club of his old high school back to greatness. He's got some unlikely, but good, talent, but also has to deal with a wife who's faking a pregnancy to keep him, an evil cheerleading teacher who thinks ruining the glee club will eventually get her a hovercraft, and a counselor who thinks she has to marry the school coach but hopes to avoid touching him.
Try that, Ashley Tisdale.
If you want a better explanation, like seeing the show, go here, then watch the show Wednesdays at 9 PM Pacific, 8 PM for you Central or Mountain guys.

But let's hear from the man himself, who told Whedonesque why he's doing it...

Hey kids and parents of kids and super-old, like ancestor-old-but-not-dead-yet-type people, just poking my oversized head in to say that the rumors are true... unless something very odd happens in the next few months, I will have the privilege of shooting an episode of GLEE. Why GLEE? Because I love cops, serial killers and gritty urban drama (I haven't seen the show yet). Why me? Because they're struggling and can't afford real directors. And to head off a few queries:

No, this doesn't mean Dollhouse definitely won't get a back nine. Our numbers mean that! But I kid. Okay, we're not exactly saving all the good stuff for 14-22, but nobody's closed the door. If D'House suddenly busts wide, huzzah, we'll still bring it, and I'll still go and direct an episode of Glee, because of my love of cops. These realities can co-exist. And possibly cross over, at least in fiction that I have wri - read. About.

What can we expect from a 'Joss Whedon' epsiode of Glee? An episode of Glee. God willin' and the crik don't rise, a good one. A television director's job is, on some level, to be anonymous; to find the most compelling way to present a story without calling attention to himself. I had a wonderful time doing just that on The Office, and hope to again. A guest director can bring a huge amount to the party (we've had CRAZY talent on Dollhouse), but the party isn't his. I just want to work with good people on a show that I like enough to have watched every episode several times. (I lied: I HAVE watched the show. And seriously, when do the cops show up?)

Whom will I kill? When will that go away? Is death really the only thing I'm known for? I'd hope not. You know how many people in the world actually die? ALL OF THEM. You know how many I've killed? Statistically, somewhat fewer. Can't we focus on another element of my work? Having said that, probably Principal Figgins. (No! I kid! God.)

Anyway, I hope that clears things up. I'm going to do my best, and more importantly, I'm going to do my best not to gush like a fanboy for eight straight days on set. Don't worry. I practiced with Bamber. I'm a pro.

Happy Monday. Especially for me. -j.

Of course, this leads to many possibilities, like Sweet hoping to do to Lima, Ohio what he did to Sunnydale....until he meets Sue Sylvester, the evil cheerleading coach. He may find himself trapped in a love duet that makes him wish he could burst into flames. Then he could be saved by Rachel, the Singing Slayer.
Or not. At least the "singing Slayer" idea could work. It woudn't take much to turn the Glee Club into a proto-Scooby Gang for Ohio.

This will happen when Glee has the second half of season one, probably April. By then, maybe Will's wife will be out of the way once her pregnancy scam is exposed. The sooner, the better. The other plot lines can stay.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Relief and Concern

Summer is clearly over, but winter has arrived early in Sacramento...just like Christmas decorations.
The wind and rain knocked the power out for a couple of hours, but I did amuse myself with my iPod. Still, I would have preferred TV so I can catch up on the shows I haven't see since Thursday. I also have to see a PBS special as part of a poll, but I can squeeze in that before Countdown.

Response to 3-07 of The Guild has been strong, especially the ending where we see the police are involved in the Axis of Anarchy's torturing of Bladezz so the Knights of Guild will be slain, and such. Since Zaboo is Riley's pet (she walks him down the neighborhood, coming next week? Hope his mom stops that!), and Codex is begging Vork to come back (she is not finding her inner strength, no matter what people say, unless she guilts Tink to come back), the A of A is invincible..but also a bunch of geeks who are lucky not to be seriously challenged. The tide better turn by next week, or Riley could take over the show...and maybe marry Fawkes of the A of A. Yikes!

Fans of Dollhouse are relieved to know we'll get 13 episodes in season two, but that's all. This mean Joss and company have to condense 18 episodes of plot into nine, which means to "comedy relief" episodes. It's full throttle to the end, especially when it looks like we'll see plenty of familiar faces.
However, does this mean we won't go back to Los Angeles 2019, to see how Mag, Zone and MiniEcho are doing in their search for SafeHaven(tm). We should at least see Adelle DeWitt in total disarray, and MiniEcho says, "well, that's what happens when the company you trust f's you over in the end." Adelle, of course, would say, "Now I know what your original self didn't shoot me. You knew I'd wish you did."
Well, from the decisions Adelle made last week, she could have it coming. I just hope we have a direct-to-DVD episode where we'd have something like that.

Also, the fact that we may only get 13 episodes in season two means the t-shirts I made from may not be obsolete anymore. Click this link to see the slogans I made for a "Save Dollhouse" campaign, plus one for an Oscar bid involving a Nazi who could outscare anyone. Think Inglorious Basterds.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Original Slayer Comes To Sacramento

When it's not summer, Cal Expo in Sacramento plays host to many events from concerts to small fairs. This past Sunday, it hosted Witchapalooza, a Halloween-themed outdoor market and carnival. Kids had bungee rides and games, while their parents either dressed up in costume, or got some ideas for costumes. One of the more interesting ones was a Steampunk shop with goggles that Dr. Horrible's great-grandfather may have worn.

However, it did have something outdoor fairs don't usually have...special guest stars. A friend of mine from work dressed like Alex DeLarge from A Clockwork Orange, and met the guy who played him, Malcom McDowell. He also met many who remember him from Heroes three years ago.

The other guest, though, made me glad I skipped what would have been a depressing NFL weekend.

Fashion Sense Still There

Kristy Swanson, who first brought Buffy the Vampire Slayer to life on the movie screen, was there all day Sunday, signing pictures and even stakes. I was also lucky to ask her a few questions about the role and what she's doing now.
As you can see, she hasn't changed much since the movie was first shown in 1992, and could probably take down a few Hellspawn today, or teach a Potential how. I showed her my "Hemery High School yearbook" from the movie press packet, and she was surprised when she saw it.

Swanson said she was asked to come to Witchapalooza, and she agreed to do that. "They thought that Buffy would be a really good fit for Witchapalooza," she says. "Some of the fans would enjoy me being there, so I said 'sure, I'll come up.'" She said she has been in Sacramento a few times because she's friends with the Maloofs, who own the Sacramento Kings.
She also says she's "a big Halloween freak. I love Halloween. We would decorate the house, and we really get into it. If they had a Witchapalooza in L.A., near me, then I would go for sure and bring my son."

She was first seen as Buffy in August of 1992, and she said she got the part with the help of her co-star. "I auditioned for it, but I also had Luke Perry, who was in my corner, rooting for me," she recalled, "and letting them know that he really wanted me to play the part. They seemed to like me, just thought I was perfect for it, and I got the part."
She's recognized for her many roles in movies like Flowers in the Attic, Dude, Where's My Car?, The Phantom, and Deadly Friend, and in several TV roles, but she's often recognized as the Slayer. "It happens a lot. A lot of people say, "you're my favorite Buffy'," she says. "It's kind of funny. It's very sweet and flattering, and it makes me feel good."
What interested Swanson about the role was Buffy's sense of humor. "I just thought it was something that I could do and do well and be funny and have a good time," she says, "I like how she was such a teenager, but yet had all this responsibility, and had to be sort of a kick-ass kind of grown-up."

While many recognize Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy, Swanson says the show and the movie are different in many ways. "Buffy the movie is very lightweight and bubbly, and bubble-gummy and kind of fluffy" she says. "The TV series is much darker and different. So, it's like two different worlds."
She also wanted the right accent to reall bring her character to life. "It was written on the page," she says, "but I also sort of, I based it off my sister-in-law Jill and my friend Julie, ans the way they talk is very Valley."

Swanson recently visited DragonCon in Atlanta, where she was part of two panels that included Charisma Carpenter, Felicia Day, Julie Benz and James Marsters. She says she attends a couple of cons a year. "It's nice to come out, and there's really a lot of Buffy fans", she she also noticed a few fans waiting to get her autograph.
At Dragoncon, Swanson was asked about the rumors of a possible remake of the original movie. If it does come to pass, she says she'd like to be part of it. "I think that would be a lot of fun," she says. "I think a lot of the Buffy fans out there would be upset if I didn't participate. Whatever they're doing, they probably should ask me to do something, even if it's a cameo, just for fun."

Note: I have said on another blog that a Buffy remake can work if you include Swanson and Perry as parents of a 17 year old girl who's suddenly staying out late at night....and finding out why. Then Swanson's character says, "I told you she had the Mark of the Coven (the birthmark that identified the next Slayer)". I also mentioned the Slayer-in-training should not be called Buffy, which would allow SMG to get involved in future sequels. It's an idea would unite the movie with the TV show.

Swanson has another title these days: Warrior Ambassador for Iraq Star, Inc., an organization that helps provide reconstructive surgery for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. She says one of the surgeries was filmed for American Chopper, and will be shown next month.

Swanson will soon be seen in the movie What if... which will feature two other familiar faces, Kevin Sorbo of Hercules and John Ratzenberger of Cheers.

Finally, here's another photo....

Orignal Buffy...and her high school yearbook

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Recap of Dollhouse "Belle Chose" or Control Is Often A Mirage

A serial killer who kidnaps women so he can create the family he wishes he had.
A lonely college professor who wanted the perfect Penthouse Forum fantasy.
What do these two men have in common? Too much, but it's mainly that they want their fantasies to come true, and will do anything to do that.
The solution, of course, is the Dollhouse. However, it is also the problem, because it promises fantasies that come true, for a price. One other man will want the fantasy of a nephew who is perfect. All three wishes will lead to tragedy, and maybe the first step towards the world of "Epitaph One."

We begin with someone apparently fixing some mannequins, preparing for an Old Navy commercial. We also notice how this man is talking to these mannequins, like he's playing croquet with his mom, sisters and Aunt Sheila during brunch...and how the mannequins look life-like.
Actually, Terry Karrens is a very disturbed man. These are real people, who he's paralyzed so that they can be his toys to enjoy a past he never had. One of them, who is "Aunt Sheila", tries to crawl away, but he kills her with a mallet. After he does this, he feels nothing. He only knows he's got to find another Aunt Sheila.
He goes out to find a new aunt, but doesn't see a car coming towards him.

At the Dollhouse, Paul looks for Echo in the showers. He finds her, all wet and nude. Adelle also talks to Boyd over Dr. Saunders' escape. It's worrisome, and really puts a dent in the medical department. Victor seems to agree, as he points out that there's someone who's not at his best. It's Terry, in a coma. Adelle says it's important to revive Terry because his uncle is a major shareholder in Rossum, and they want, they get (sorry, Senator Perrin). She also seriously downplays the trouble Terry's in, and asks Boyd not to translate her remarks to reality. Topher thinks he can revive Terry if he sneaks up to his reticular activating system. It could also give him a man reaction.
However, looking at Terry's brain says otherwise. Seems there's a part of his brain that doesn't work: the part that includes empathy, compassion and the need to not disembowel puppies. It's so bad Topher suddenly has ethics against awakening dangerously crazy people.

As for Echo, she has an engagement with a college professor who apparently wants a sex fantasy with a student, and throw in some Chaucer in the deal. What we get is Kiki, who's way too peppy, and wonders if she can do some yoga disco. Paul's not looking forward to this.

Meanwhile, Adele talks to Terry's uncle, Bradley. He admits he's not been completely truthful about the unpleasant things Terry has done. He is worried about bodies and survivors, and what Terry's father will think. He wants to talk to Terry, and Adelle will do that....on her terms. This means putting Terry's personality in Victor, and using Paul to interview him. Boyd will have to deal with Echo/Kiki.

At this point, the episode compares Victor/Terry with Professor Gossen, how they see women, and what desires they have. Victor/Terry has very dark desires. He demands that he be set free, or speak to a lawyer. Paul tells him he won't get either, but he will explain why he wanted those women. Just who are they to Terry?
Switch to a lecture by Gossen on the Canterbury Tales, with Echo/Kiki in the audience. She gets her fake exam with a fake "F". It's supposed to start his engagement. As Kiki, Echo is a party girl, who begs the professor to change her grade. Of course, we know he will....and how he'll be persuaded.
Back to Terry, Paul asks him if he's been doing dentistry on big cats. It may explain the paralyzing agent he has on him. Of course, Terry's actually been doing some doll making. Terry denies he's kidnapped anyone, but Paul presses him. Bradley, seeing this in Adelle's room, says this is wrong. Paul should be on Terry's side, but Adelle says he isn't. She suggests Bradley visit real Terry in his hospital room.

She then sees Paul has figured out Terry has kidnapped people who look like his mom, sisters and Aunt Sheila for some sick reason. He then explains Terry's motivation which would also apply to Gossen...and Adelle.

At some point, you decided real people weren't worth it. You pushed them away, alienated everyone in your life, so you could surround yourself with the fakes...It made you feel like you had some control.

Then Paul proves Terry has no control by showing him his own body. "Goodness gracious," he says. He even sees Bradley in there, too. Then Terry starts ranting about how it's "Aunt Sheila's" fault, they're never nice, they don't pay attention to him, and that they're whores.

Compare this to how Gossen explains to Echo/Kiki that Alison from "The Miller's Tale" isn't a whore. She's more bawdy and self-aware, and that she doesn't let men define her. This is ironic because the professor is defining her in this engagement. He also says has her own power with sex, using the quote, "Meself have been the whippe." If he is sincere, why did he want this Penthouse Forum fantasy? If he's paying for this, isn't he making Echo/Kiki a whore anyway? The fact we see this while Terry is calling women "whores" implies they're two sides of the same coin.

As Adelle and Paul discuss what they've learned, an alarm sounds that says Terry has suffered cardiac arrest. Actually, someone tampered with his bed. It was a ruse by Bradley to get Victor/Terry out of there. He thinks he can get through to him, and of course he's wrong. Victor/Terry knocks Bradley out, hits another car, and calmly leaves, searching for a new Aunt Sheila

Adelle isn't worried. They'll just follow Victor/Terry with the GPS strip on his body...which he doesn't have because it was removed when his face was fixed. D'oh! They do trace the location of Bradley's car with its GPS, and Paul is certain Victor/Terry will go back to his victims. They also suspect they could be in Beverly Hills, where the original accident took place.
The victims, meanwhile, finally recover from the paralyzing agent. One girl, Robin, tells another, Megan, "We're human, not his toys." They are determined to escape.
Adelle now suggests wiping Victor/Terry via remote control, as Alpha did with Echo in "Grey Hour." Well, he can't call him with the tone with no phone number, but he has to try. You know, this sounds like the "imprinting people via telephone" he ranted about in "Epitaph One". Is this how he started trying it? Thanks, Adelle.

Topher hits the tone, and Victor/Terry hears it in a disco. It seems to work, until the system blacks out twice. The tone instead moves Terry's Echo, just as Gossen is about to make his move in Echo/not-Kiki. He winds up getting stabbed in the neck, and she says "goodness gracious". Well, this is more like "Holy Excrement" or something like that. Echo/Terry makes the attack look like a robbery, and goes off to get a new Aunt Sheila..or worse.

So where's Kiki? Well, did you ever see The Hot Chick?
Yep, Kiki's in Victor's body, and he's turned into Disco Numfar, chatting up the guys while quoting Chaucer. When Victor/Kiki propositions one of the guys, he gets him, abut he slugs him right back. "You suck," he says, "Trying to hit a girl?" Boyd also finds Gossen, and hopefully he will survive.

Echo/Terry finds the missing girls, and threatens to kill them, but she stops when she gets flashes of what Terry has done. She says the only way to stop him is to kill her. At least one girl is reluctant, until Echo gives in detail how he stalked all of them. Echo would have sacrificed herself if not for the Dollhouse minions coming in time. Paul asks Echo if she's all right. "I don't think so," she says.

Echo is wiped, and seems to be normal. Adelle sees Terry's body, and hopes he doesn't wake up. Echo also sees Terry, and sees him die. Her only reaction.."goodness gracious."

Does this mean a part of Terry will live on in Echo, and that would affect future engagements, including the hidden one where she takes down the Dollhouse? That final scene, I think, is the start of the road that will lead to the post-apocalyptic world in "Epitaph One." Remember, in that episode, we saw Ambrose download his personality into Victor and several other Actives to announce Rossum is taking over the world through this new style of body snatching. If a piece of a serial killer is sleeping inside an Active, why not a whole person in more than one body?

This episode, written by Tim Minear, is the darkest episode yet, but also generates a lot of discussion about sexual fantasies, and how some men see women. Comparing the motivations of Terry and Professor Gossen really reflects that. Again, though, we see clues to how we may be headed to "Epitaph One," all because one big company wanted to to fulfill the fantasies of those would pay for it.

The show takes a week off next week for baseball, but this will happen only once. Episode four, "Belonging," is said it be another excellent episode. It's coming on the 23rd.

As for the ratings, they went up to 1.0, and 2.25 million viewers. The fan campaigns are working, and Fox seems to be reminded of that. Making promos of the show would also help. After all, some very special guest stars will be coming to the Dollhouse...including someone who may start reprogramming brains about seven years after the Academy did it to her.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Echo's Not Ready To Be Pushing Daisies

Last year, I saw one of my favorite shows die a slow death.
Pushing Daisies was an ABC comedy about a baker who could bring people back from the dead for a minute, and he uses it to help a detective solve crimes. The baker wound up reviving his dead girlfriend, but if he touched her again, she would be dead for keeps. Add two odd sisters and a short yet sexy lovelorn waitress...and maybe a promotions department who knew what it was's the recipe for fine TV.

Well, after the season premiere a year ago didn't meet expectations, ABC shifted its attention to those shows that still did well, from Desperate Housewives to Dancing With the Stars. It totally forgot about Pushing Daisies, and stopped airing the show in early December. The final three episodes were shown at the Paley Festival in Los Angeles three months before they were finally shown on TV...and that was done just to promote the DVD set.

The point is that once ABC seemed to forget Pushing Daisies' existence, its ratings went down, and the show never got the second chance it deserved.

Now let's look at what happened with Dollhouse's second episode, "Instinct". Its rating for 18-49 was 0.8, or less than two point one million viewers. That's a disappointing result, considering this is the only promo it got, and it was shown likely once.

Compare that to Stargate Universe, which was promoted to the hit by Syfy for weeks. It got two point three million viewers which is great for cable, but not if you're on Fox. Having two sitcoms as a lead-in doesn't work either.

However, gossi with Dollverse, and many other fans, are not taking this lying down. They are getting Dollhouse fans to demand Fox air all the 13 episodes they asked for. Besides, the best is yet to come. We know Summer Glau is coming, along with Ray Wise from Reaper. We still don't know how close Senator Perrin (Alexis Denisof) will be getting to the Dollhouse, and how it could affect him. Hey, we don't know if there will be an "Epitaph Two".

This is no time for Fox programming to be a "death panel" when Dollhouse is healthier than Dr. House's success stories. Give Dollhouse better promos, and no fair combining it with less-than-funny sitcoms.

If you'd like to help, do to or @gossi or @echoalert at Twitter.
As Echo would say, "We are lost, but we are not gone."
We will not lose. We will not be gone, and neither will the Dollhouse. Not now. Not when the real story is about to be told.

After all, ABC must regret letting Pushing Daisies die a slow death due to neglect, especially after it earned four Emmys two weeks ago.

UPDATE: Final numbers went up slightly, 0.9/3 but total viewers went down.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Recap of Dollhouse "Instinct", or What If Mommy Was The Doll?

Everyone has seen a little girl play house, pretending to be a mom by taking care of a baby doll. It's all pretend, but the child looks so serious about it.
What if the roles were reversed, and you got a Doll to take care of a baby?
That's what we have this week in "Instinct", where Echo becomes a mother with very deep maternal instincts. We also hear more from Senator Daniel Perrin, and a familiar face is back.

The episode starts with Paul Ballard looking at the chair that turns Actives into anyone. He even sits in the chair, which may give Adelle DeWitt some ideas if she saw him like that. Instead, it's Topher, who chides Paul not to touch the chair. He also raves about how he's now able to program an Active at a glandular level. He says he could make someone's brain fight cancer or be telekinetic. Paul asks if Topher could do it to him, but Topher says no. "The human mind if like Van Halen," he explains. "If you just pull out one piece and keep replacing it, it just degenerates." That's proof Topher preferred David Lee Roth.

Then we see Echo in her new role, new mom Emily Jordan, in bed with her "husband" (and client), Nate. She wakes up to check on her baby boy, Jack. We even see her breast-feed. Topher may have done some tweaking to make it easier for Echo/Emily to lactate. Keep this in mind.
Next morning, we see Nate ready to go to work, For some reason, he doesn't want to bond with his son. Echo/Emily talks about this to her friend, Kelly...who's really Sierra. Echo/Emily says he works late, and has these strange phone calls. There's also a black van parked outside the house, waiting for something. That's really Paul, doing his job as a Handler. Sierra/Kelly suggests her friend relax for a night. Instead, Echo/Emily breaks into Nate's desk, and finds some photos of another woman. Nate reveals it was Karen, a woman he used to know. He apologizes for not saying anything, and suggests she rest while he takes care of little Jack.
Later that night, she hears one of his strange phone calls. He says he's calling it off, and he's going to get rid of the baby. We suspect he was talking to Adelle DeWitt, but Echo/Emily thinks it's more sinister.

Meanwhile, Senator Wes--Daniel Perrin (Alexis Denisof, by any other name) wonders to his wife Cindy if he jumped the gun after last week's press conference accusing Rossum of questionable dealings and medical experiments. He'd hoped someone would step forward, but no one has. All they have, Cindy says, is a guy who claims Rossum mailed his liver to Saturn. At least Perrin has financial records, and anecdotal proof. He did have a contact in the NSA (Lawrence Dominic, probably) but nothing solid...until someone leaves an interesting green file outside his door.

Back in Los Angeles, Adelle decides to chat with the former Miss November, now Madeline Costly. Why? EVIL!
Maddie wouldn't be surprised. She admits if she says the wrong thing, like the Dollhouse is real, guys in suits will toss her in a van and take her away. While there is no van (right now), Adelle suggests Madeline do a post-Active diagnostic. After all, the Dollhouse doesn't cast aside former Actives to the wolves. I suspected this was really a plan to turn Maddie into an Active again, sort of like the Army's stop-loss program. This wasn't the case, but I bet if there was an emergency...

Meanwhile, Echo/Emily tries to leave the house, but Nate suggests a family breakfast. She shies away from that, and calls Sierra/Kelly to help her escape. She arrives, but so does the van. She gets in, because it's time for a treatment. Paul comes in the house, and offers Echo/Emily a treatment. He hears voices, but finds a baby monitor in the crib. She and the kid have split.
Nate's upset Adelle is just sitting there with her tea. She assures him they are looking for Echo/Emily and Jack. She also points out that he asked for a mother who would bond with Jack in every way, as if she were the real mom. She even understands why he wanted this, and reveals he may give Jack up for adoption.

Echo/Emily manages to get some protection from the police, saying that she doesn't understand why Nate would change. "It's like the person I knew wasn't there anymore," she says.
Nate does arrive, and gets Jack. Paul's there to take Echo/Emily away while she demands she get her baby back.

Madeline gets her diagnostic, and she passes. Topher offers some enhancements, like maybe ventriloquism, but no dice. She's happy with her hula and ukulele...which is what Miracle Laurie does off the set (and quite well).
Paul then comes in with Echo. They try to giver her the treatment, but she gets away. She's soon knocked out, which upsets Topher because he can only wipe an Active when she's awake. Maddie is surprised that Echo really through she was Jack's mom, even though Paul said it's all make believe. Well, Maddie says, not to Echo. She wonders if she was ever like that when she was an Active. Paul plays dumb about this, but we know. It was love between them, because both wanted to believe it was real. He's also surprised to learn Maddie had a child that died from terminal cancer. She said she couldn't function after losing the child. That's when Adelle came in with a way to escape her grief, which also surprises Paul. He asks if Maddie is happy. She says she's not sad. Still, shouldn't she have some grief for her child, because it was part of her?
At the chair, Echo begs Topher to help her get Jack back. He promises he'll make her worries go away, and he does. He does the treatment, and she asks "did I fall asleep?" Topher says "for a little while."
Then Topher falls asleep....thanks to the uppercut Echo gives him. She asks if she can go, but that's a moot point.

Senator Perrin, meanwhile, is stunned to learn what the file reveals about the Dollhouse. He says the original issue is that Rossum wouldn't help his mom when she was fading from Alzheimer's. Now it's a bigger issue. His wife is worried what could happen to them, but it's a risk worth taking. They are coming close to the truth, because they have a name. We just don't know if it begins with a C, M or even A.

At the Dollhouse, Adelle asks what went wrong this time. Paul figures that because Topher changed Echo in a glandular level, "her body is stronger than her brain." Her maternal instinct, which can't be taken away, is driving her to Jack. Topher figures tweaking Echo to lactate more may have caused the problem. Well, it's more than that. She's at Nate's house with the baby, and a knife.
She won't give up Jack, and threatens to stab Nate. He then admits he needed an Active to be a mom to Jack, because Karen, the real mom and his wife, died in childbirth. He actually blamed his son at one point. That's why he did all this. Now, he's telling Echo he's not his mom, and can't be anymore. She's devastated, but gives up the child. We don't know if he decides to raise Jack, but he should.

Afterwards, Paul sees Echo in shock. "All of these things that happen to me," she says, "I feel them", rather than remember them. She can't believe they'd make her think she was Jack's mom, then take him away. Paul says maybe it's too tough for Echo to help him bring down the Dollhouse. Maybe he can help her forget these feelings she's having after the engagements.
"Feeling nothing would be worse," she says. "I'm awake now."
That last line is telling. Madeline says that she wasn't sad anymore she lost a child to cancer, thanks to being an Active. But is she still, in a way, asleep?
Echo would rather be wide awake, and be a real live girl...pain and all.

While people raved about Eliza Dushku's performance as Echo and Emily, I was a bit put off at the end. The episode made Emily a little too paranoid, only because she didn't know what was happening. That's the idea when you hire an Active, but it didn't work very well. I also didn't like the thunder in Echo/Emily's confrontation with Nate. It was over-the-top.

"Instinct" was written by Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters, the creators of Reaper, which was about a guy whose dad may have been Satan. We just know Ray Wise, who played Satan, will be on Dollhouse soon, likely complete with three-piece suits that are fashionable and evil. Maybe.

The show returns next week, then takes a break for baseball that may last one to three weeks.
Judging from the ratings, however, it could be longer than that. "Instinct" pulled in less than 2.1 million viewers, although it was a terrible Friday for Fox. The premiere of Stargate Universe had 200,000 more viewers, but that is big news that cable bested Fox and the CW. It's also sad news for the Dollhouse, now that at least one obituary has popped up on the internets.
Well, let's take some other factors into consideration: they didn't show any promos for Dollhouse until the night before. What promo they did show was basically this...

Combine comedy with sci-fi? Can't do it, unless you're Red Dwarf.
Eliza Dushku will spread the word about the show next week on Jimmy Fallon and David Letterman. Let's hope it helps for episode 3, "Belle Chose". If not, it may another slow death, just like what ABC did to Pushing Daisies last season.
Then again, whose idea was it to think stale sitcoms could draw sci-fi fans like honey? Human Target, which is coming early next year, could have been a better idea for Friday nights.