Monday, October 12, 2009

Dollhouse Recap: Belle Chose

In keeping with the theme of Horror Month, Belle Chose is a thoroughly creepy episode.

The hammer is my (surrogate) penis

The episode begins with a man, who you later find out is named Terry, dressing female mannequins in a scene of them playing croquet. Terry is having an increasingly creepy one-sided conversation with them, addressing them as family members.

It soon becomes obvious that they are not mannequins, but women who are somehow being compelled to stay perfectly still. “Aunt Sheila” finally collapses, and then slowly begins to crawl away. When Terry sees this, he becomes agitated and says “It isn’t very sportsmanlike to walk off just because you don’t like the way the game is going, is it?”

Terry reaches into a medical bag and injects her with what is later revealed to be a potent animal tranquilizer. Although obviously barely conscious, she manages to grab the discarded hypodermic and jab it into his leg in retaliation. It isn’t enough to take Terry down immediately though, and he proceeds to club her to death with a crochet mallet.

Terry says he needs a new Aunt Sheila and heads out to the crowded city streets to find one. He entirely focused on his goal and seems only peripherally aware of the drugs coursing through his system. Terry finally seems to find a woman that can be his next “Aunt Sheila” and walks towards her. Unfortunately for him, in his impaired state Terry fails to realize he is walking out into the middle of traffic and is hit by a car.

Back at the Dollhouse, Paul Ballard is looking for Echo. Since this is Dollhouse, he finds her in the showers. He is a little flustered to see her naked and quickly offers her a towel. Echo begins to walk away when Paul belatedly remembers what he is there for and asks her if she would like a treatment. She agrees she would enjoy one.

Adele and Boyd are doing another of their walk and talk meetings. Adele asks Boyd if he has had any luck in locating their “troubled and missing employee.” Boyd tries to imply that Claire (Dr. Saunders) isn’t really missing, she merely left. Victor hears them talking about Dr. Saunders and suggest that she can help the man “who is not his best” in the medical facility.

Entering the medical facility we see the man from the opening sequence on a bed with a number of electrodes attached to him. Topher is trying to figure out a way to use the Dollhouse technology to wake him up. Boyd openly wonders if they should wake this man up with his criminal record, but Adele reminds him that this is the nephew of one of Rossum’s biggest shareholders. Just as Adele leaves, Topher sees something on the brain scanner that worries him and calls Boyd over.

Meanwhile Echo is being imprinted by Ivy for her next engagement. Ivy goes over the details of the engagement with Paul, who is not thrilled to find out Echo is being programmed as Kiki, a student a community college who is programmed as the sex fantasy for a professor there.

Topher and Boyd come to Adele’s office to talk with her about the coma patient. Showing her Terry’s brain scan, he points out the “black” areas on the scan (meaning he doesn’t use those areas). These areas include the portions of the brain where empathy and compassion come from. Even Topher has ethical problems waking up a probable serial killer.

Ballard takes Echo to get dressed for her engagement, leading to some humorous interactions with the staff of the clothing department.

Back in Adele’s office, she has a meeting with Bradley Carrence. Adele asks Bradley why they should help revive Terry, especially since their examination reveals he may recover with conventional treatments. Bradley tells Adele it is a matter of time. Bradley is aware that Terry may have victims who are currently still alive, and is hopeful that living victims can have their silence bought. That is not an option if the press gets wind of a bunch of corpses.

Back at the clothing department, Paul Ballard sees Echo emerge and looks like he is entertaining some school girl fantasies of his own. His reverie is broken when Boyd walks in. He tells Ballard that he is taking over Echo’s engagement. They need Paul’s skills to profile a serial killer. Paul is actually relieved at this.

Back in the lab, Victor is imprinted with Terry’s memories. He is placed in a holding cell, where he is being observed via closed circuit camera by Adele, Topher, Paul, and Bradley. Bradley doesn’t understand why they just won’t let him speak to him, but Adele notes that Mr. Ballard was trained by the FBI. In this case, they will defer to him.

Paul begins by interrogating Bradley. Going over the missing person reports, he notes that there is no pattern he can discern. Since Bradley obviously sees one, Paul simply asks what he is missing.

The scene abruptly cuts to Echo attending class. The professor is lecturing about medieval literature, and how the sense of self was much less of a concern than in today’s society. He also returns their essays on the Chaucer’s The Wife of Bath to the students.

Nice touch. The professor obviously has a sense of humor

Echo has received an “F” so she immediately goes to talk to the professor after class. A few lines of dialogue paint her as a blithering idiot. This is apparently just what the professor was looking for, and he invites her back to his office to “discuss” her grade.

In addition to his love of medieval literature the professor obviously also has a love of cheesy pornos.

Back at the Dollhouse, Victor is still waiting for someone to talk to him. He begins complaining loudly that the cuffs are cutting off his circulation. Paul Ballard enters the room and begins interrogating him. He shows them the pictures of the women and asks him where they are.

Back in Adele’s office, Bradley protests that they are taking the wrong approach to interrogate Terry. He says that Terry needs to know you are on his side, not see you as an antagonist. Adele chooses this time to ask Topher to show Bradley how they are taking care of his (real) nephew Terry, although it is obviously just a ploy to get him out of the room.

Back in the interrogation room Paul continues to grill Terry. Things escalate to the point where Paul finally shows Victor a video of the real Terry in a hospital bed. Initially Terry doesn’t believe it is him in the bed, but then he sees his Uncle Bradley enter the hospital room.

Paul pushes Terry on the location of the women, but soon realizes there is something different about the woman Terry thinks about as Aunt Sheila. When pressed on it he basically confesses that he murdered her.

Back in the professor’s office, Echo and the professor discuss The Wife of Bath. Echo states that Alyson, the wife of Bath, is a whore, but the professor disagrees. He says she understands the “power that all women have.” Echo notes that Alyson would know how get her F turned into an A, which causes the professor to say “You’re learning.”

This conversation would have enough of an “ick” factor on its own, but it is intercut with Victor talking about how the women in his life never have enough time for him and they make him do what he does. The combination is pretty chilling.

Paul makes his way back up to Adele’s office to discuss what they have found out so far. While he is there she gets a call that Terry is coding so they rush down to the medical center. When they get there they find out that it is a false alarm but quickly realize Bradley is nowhere to be found.

To no one’s surprise Bradley used the confusion to break his nephew out of the Dollhouse. Adele calls Bradley, saying that his actions are completely unacceptable. Bradley, who is driving in his car with Victor in the passenger seat, simply explains that Adele’s methods weren’t working and that Terry is just going to have a chat with his uncle.

Of course Victor uses this opportunity to smash his uncle’s face into the steering wheel. He casually walks off after the car crashes into a car parked on the curb.

Adele is frustrated that Bradley won’t pick up anymore, but sees the silver lining. Paul’s profile of Terry indicates that he will return to his victims. Since all of their actives are tagged, they will simply follow him back to his victims.

Unfortunately, Adele finds out that Victor isn’t tagged anymore. Apparently it was removed before they began Victor’s facial reconstruction. When Doctor Saunder’s abruptly left, the fact that he needed to be retagged was lost in the shuffle. Paul realizes that while Victor might not have a GPS tag, Bradley’s car might.

Meanwhile Terry’s victims are recovering from the paralytic agent. They are terrified that Terry will return but vow to fight him when he does.

Paul arrives on the scene of the accident. Paul has a hunch that Terry’s lair is not too far from where he got hit in the original accident. He decides to make his way there.

Adele doesn’t want to take any chances. She wants Topher to perform a remote wipe of Victor. Topher believes it can’t be done. When she reminds him the Alpha did it, Topher points out he did it over the phone, and they don’t have Victor’s phone number. Adele is not taking no for an answer though, and tells Topher to “think of another way and think of it fast.”

Back in the creepy professor’s office, Echo is reading the Wife of Bath. She gets up and turns on some music, which the two of them dance to. She asks if the professor is feeling her “Bathy girl power” and suggest that they “talk about this F.”

Back in the van, Boyd looks at the monitor and realizes the “romantic” part of the engagement has begun. He receives a call from Topher to let him know that they will be taking down the biolink feeds for a bit. Boyd asks why and gets a succinct description of the story so far. They are taking down the other actives feeds because Topher is hoping to use Victor’s feed to send the remote wipe.

Topher initiates the wipe, which is obviously having some effect on Victor. At that point the servers crash and the lights go out.

Back at the professor’s office, the two are dancing cheek to cheek. Echo then stabs him in the neck. Seeing herself in the mirror Echo, who is now obviously imprinted with Terry, realizes that he is now in a woman’s body.

Adele calls Boyd and lets him know that all of the Dollhouse’s systems are down. She wants all of the actives brought in until the situation is resolved. Boyd says he will put the word out. As he is making calls he sees Echo speed past him in an SUV.

Realizing something is terribly wrong; he breaks into the professor’s office and finds him lying on the ground. Calling an ambulance, Boyd looks up to see that the mirror had the word whore written in blood.

Back at the Dollhouse they are attempting to assess this new information. If Echo now has Terry’s personality, Adele idly wonders what happen to Kiki’s personality.

We don’t have to wonder because we see Victor at a local club now imprinted as Kiki. He dances around enthusiastically and attempts his best to seduce a group of club guys. This eventually leads to a small fistfight. Luckily Paul Ballard, who was tracking Victor, has finally arrived on the scene. Victor, who as Kiki thinks Paul is her handler, runs into his arms.

Back at Terry’s lair, the women have finally broken out of their cage. When Echo arrives they are initially relieved that it is not Terry, at least until she clubs one of the women with a mallet and declares that she is him.

Terry’s personality imprint is becoming increasingly erratic and she begins to attack the other women as well. She thinks they all should take a lesson from “Aunt Sheila”, who is currently a corpse laying on the floor. Just as she is about to strike a killing blow, Echo shudders and says, “Did I fall asleep?”

Back at the Dollhouse, Topher finally gets the system up and running. He quickly brings up Echo’s GPS tag and locates her in Beverly Hills.

Back in Terry’s lair, Echo tells the captives that he is still here. She drops the mallet and tells them that they will have to kill him before he kills them. She then grabs her head and begins screaming that he is coming back.

One of the victims begins to attack Echo with the mallet, but another one of them stops her. Echo feels Terry’s persona attempting to assert dominance and tries to convince the victims that they need to kill her to stop Terry from hurting them anymore. She provides them with details about their abductions and it almost works… before Dollhouse operatives swoop in.

Paul Ballard runs to Echo and asks if she is OK. She doesn’t think so, but agrees to go with him for a treatment.

Back at the Dollhouse Echo, in her default state, wanders into the medical center where Terry is still in a coma. The scene makes it obvious that she still has a part of Terry in her, just like the rest of her imprints.

The Good

The scenes in the beginning with Terry were nicely creepy.  While they had a somewhat stereotypical serial killer vibe, the fact that he posses women like dolls was a nice touch.  It helped drive home the fact that for all of Adele DeWitt’s fancy talk, she is just as guilty of dehumanizing people.

I was humored by the scene with the handler waiting for his Active to get out of the dressing area.  We have all been there.

Victor as Kiki was also pretty funny.  I especially enjoyed Paul Ballard’s, “You got a problem?” when people were staring at Victor clinging to him.

Speaking of which, I have to admit that despite some telegraphing, I didn’t see the imprint switcheroo coming.  I am glad that they had something more interesting than “Victor kidnaps Echo” in mind

The ending was great.  I am glad to see the downside to the fact that Echo is beginning to remember her imprints.

The Bad

It seems pretty unbelievable that the college professor could afford an Active.  That being said, the engagement itself was nicely creepy, especially in the little details of the professor’s fantasy.

Despite being off the grid and being a completely self-contained environment, the Dollhouse apparently has no security whatsoever.  People can just wander in or out whenever they choose.

In Conclusion

A better than average episode with some nicely creepy bits.

4 out of 5 dolls


Medraut said...

Just wanted to note that a comment on Whedonesque explains how a college professor could afford an active. According to the mission tablet, he is a best-selling author of Non-Fiction English History.

It still seems a little far-fetched to me, but I am willing to give them points for putting forth for making the attempt at explanation.