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Dollhouse Recap: Instinct

Topher may be a genius but he certainly underestimated the power of maternal instinct in tonight’s episode of Dollhouse. Though it’s impressive that the man can force a human brain to trigger a glandular reaction, once again we saw how ugly things can get when the guy overplays his hand. Meanwhile Madaline (aka Mellie/November) returned for a diagnostic and Senator Perrin got a few steps closer to uncovering the mystery of the Rossum corporation.

Before we get to the meat of the episode, let’s talk briefly about Senator Perrin (Alexis Denisof). He seems to have stepped in as the one guy (plus a wife) that wants to uncover the truth about the Rossum corporation. Last season, said guy was Ballard but he’s knee deep in it now and no longer needs to rely on tinfoil-hat-men and anonymous packages full of information to get to the bottom of the Dollhouse. Perrin’s objective seems to be legitimately fueled by the loss of his mother to Alzheimers. While he and his wife are waiting for some real witnesses to come forward and wondering if speaking up about the Rossum Corp. might have been a bad idea, someone drops an envelope off that gives them a few more leads to what’s going on in the Dollhouse. I’m curious about the wife, as she seems to be playing an active role in supporting his investigation. No, I don’t think she’s an active but I do wonder if there’s a bigger role for her to play in all of this, or if she’s just filling in as the person Perrin has to bounce dialogue off of.

Echo’s assignment tonight had her playing house with a widower and his baby. Mr. Jordan’s wife died in childbirth, leaving him to care for a newborn baby that did nothing more for him than remind him of what he lost. Rather than putting the child up for adoption, he hired the Dollhouse to give him a mother to bond with the child. As Adelle put it, a child that doesn’t feel loved could turn into a sociopath. So Echo was filling in as the baby-momma, believing herself to be the child’s actual mother. And why wouldn’t she? Thanks to Topher’s genius abilities, not only did she feel a natural bond with the child but she was also breastfeeding him.

Things went wrong when Echo started to question her husband’s suspicious behavior. Confiding in her friend Kelly (activated-Sierra), she talked about his distant nature with the baby and with her. Suspecting him of cheating, she dug through his stuff and found a bunch of photos of his deceased wife. She questioned him about it and he explained that she was someone he loved before he met her. Technically, that was the truth and Echo bought it. Still, Jordan was shaken by the close call and decided he’d had enough. Echo overheard him calling the Dollhouse to get her picked up and saying he was going to give the baby up for adoption.

Evading the Dollhouse people, including her new handler, Ballard, Echo snuck off but they caught up to her when she decided to go to the cops. They gave baby Jack back to his father and took Echo back to the Dollhouse for a treatment, only it didn’t take. When she woke up, she knocked Topher out and took off to get her baby back. At that point, Echo was in mostly-Echo-mode, though she still believed the baby was hers. It took Jordan explaining the full situation to her to get her to drop the knife and give him his baby back.

Meanwhile, tonight marked the return of Madeline, who was restored to her old self thanks to the deal Ballard made with Adelle. We learned that she’s living the sweet life in some fancy pad, wearing sexy, non-matronly clothes (a stark contrast to the Mellie we were all so familiar with last season) and content in her situation. She’s even got a new man. It surprised me that Mellie was completely aware of what she’d been through at the Dollhouse. No specific memories of her life as an active, or probably as a wiped-doll but she has full knowledge of the agreement she made. I sort of figured they would’ve wiped all knowledge of the Dollhouse from her mind when they let her go but apparently not.

She went in to the Dollhouse for a treatment and after declining Topher’s offer for mental “enhancements,” went to leave. She ran into Ballard and only remembered him as a guy she saw the day she left the Dollhouse. He, of course, remembered her from all of the boot-knocking and what not that went on when she lived across the hall from him.

Madeline talked to Ballard about how she lost her baby to cancer and how Adelle approached her and offered her the opportunity to escape her grief. She admitted that she doesn’t feel sad anymore, which is just weird to me. Sure, time has passed but still, I can’t imagine going through something like that and not feeling sad about it.

Speaking of feelings, that takes us back to Echo. During tonight’s post-fiasco sit-down between Echo and Ballard, Echo talked about how she feels everything that she’s been through. It’s more than just memories she has of who she was. She harbors the feelings that go with those memories. Ballard offered to tell Topher about it, believing he might be able fix this glitch that’s preventing the wipes from really sticking but Echo declined, stating that feeling nothing would be worse. She went on to say that she’s awake now.

I can’t help but feel like the return of Madeline and her lack of emotion toward what she’s been through is fairly significant to what’s happening with Echo. Madeline’s her old self, while Echo is in a sort of personality-limbo place. While Madeline is content feeling “whatevs” about her baby’s death, Echo is experiencing strong emotions toward her own experiences and she’s unwilling to let them go, even if they’re painful. What does that mean? Was Madeline’s grief wiped or is she genuinely over what happened? Does Echo’s unwillingness to give up her own emotions reflect on who Caroline was or is it more to do with those emotions being all she really has to hold on to? Perhaps a person in a doll-like state as Echo is, who lacks the distractions of things like nice houses and more money than they know what to do with is more willing to embrace their own feelings, both the good and the bad.

Kelly West
Kelly West

Kelly joined CinemaBlend as a freelance TV news writer in 2006 and went on to serve as the site’s TV Editor before moving over to other roles on the site. At present, she’s an Assistant Managing Editor who spends much of her time brainstorming and editing feature content on the site.