TV Recap: Dollhouse - True Believer

Echo sees perfectly. Tonight’s episode put our favorite active smack in the middle of a Waco-style situation. Meanwhile, Agent Ballard is hot on Echo’s trail and something just came up for Victor back at the Dollhouse. Dustin’s away for the weekend, leaving me to cover this week’s episode for you. I’ll do my best not to devote the entire recap to complaining about how Tahmoh Penikett’s shirt was on in every scene he appeared.

This week’s episode involves a compound filled with religious fanatics, one of whom may not want to be there. After some of the cult people stop in town to get supplies, one of them leaves a note with the words “Save me.” It’s turned over to Agent Lilly of the ATF and he’s put in charge of leading the mission to attempt to diffuse whatever situation is going on within the compound, including taking on the leader, Jonas Sparrow.

As it turns out, Jonas isn’t just a cult leader. When he’s not spouting biblical references, he’s running guns. Most of the people in the “Temple” don’t know this though. There’s a history of problems with this group and it’s clear none of them want to repeat what happened in the past. They just want to enjoy their lifestyle and praise God.

Among the rich and prestigious clientele of the Dollhouse is a Senator who doesn’t want the Temple situation to go awry, it being an election year and all. He hires the Dollhouse to send someone in undercover to help out with taking down the place, preferably without incident. The note left behind is enough evidence for Agent Lilly to get a warrant to enter the premises but they don’t really know what they’re up against. The Dollhouse sends in Echo, masked as a blind woman who has a true faith in God and believes she had a vision of Jonas Sparrow.

Her blindness isn’t just a mind trick. Through surgery on her eyes and brain, Dr. Saunders and Topher actually make Echo blind and using an experimental procedure, turn her eyes into cameras that can send live video feed to a remote location, giving Langton and the ATF people visual evidence of what’s in the compound. It’s all great in theory but there’s a risk of brain damage. It’s clear that Dr. Saunders is uncomfortable with putting Echo through this. We’ve seen a lot of this behavior from her in the past. While Topher is all about tinkering around in the heads of the Actives, Saunders seems more than apprehensive about the work she’s doing and the fact that Amy Acker is listed as a guest star on this show leads me to believe that it’s only a matter of time before Saunders walks or else some other incident happens similar to what happened with Alpha and this time she might not walk away from it.

When Echo, going by the name of Esther, shows up at the compound, the people are happy to meet her and amazed by her story of the vision of Jonas and how she hitchhiked across the country to meet him but Jonas is skeptical. Given that he knows there’s people in the federal government looking to take him down, it’s understandable that he might be wary of newcomers. He and his #2, Seth take Esther down to the gun room to see if she’s really blind.

Honestly, Sparrow. Is that really the only place you could take her? If she wasn’t blind, wouldn’t you be giving her a grand tour of the place? I suppose it wouldn’t matter as he seemed more than willing to shoot her if she didn’t pass his test. He shines a light in her face and watches her pupils, which don’t respond. He’s convinced she’s on the level, at least for now and Esther/Echo gets a good look around the room, giving Langton and the ATF people a nice little video of the arsenal Sparrow has set up in one of the basements on the compound.

This gives the ATF everything they need to go in. Langton calls the Dollhouse to ask Mr. Dominic for permission to pull Echo out of there before the ATF people go in because her programming won’t protect her from the kind of Waco-esque mayhem that might ensue. Dominic’s been itching to get Echo gone because he believes her special-ness makes her a threat to the Dollhouse and he’s not looking to have another Alpha on his hands. One is enough. He hangs up on Langton without giving him permission, likely hoping that if mayhem takes his course, Echo might be out of the picture without him having to continue nagging DeWitt.

Just as the cult initiates Esther, the ATF people step onto the premises, tripping the floodlights in the process and letting Sparrow know they’ve arrived. He of course thinks Esther’s behind it and starts smacking her around. We knew from what Saunders and Topher said about Esther’s surgery that any startling physical response could trigger a seizure (or sneezure if you’re speaking Topherese) . Echo doesn’t have a seizure when Jonas knocks her to the ground. Instead, it appears he smacked the blind out of her. She can see! It’s a miracle! Everyone is amazed and even Sparrow inevitably admits that it must be some kind of miracle because he knew she was definitely blind when he checked her out. If this miracle can happen, why not try for another?

Sparrow leads them all to the church or common area or whatever and has Esther read a bible story about a bunch of people who were in a burning building and walked away without getting burned. While she’s reading this story, Seth’s outside on Sparrow’s orders dousing the outside of the building with gasoline and setting it on fire. He goes inside and Sparrow assures everyone that God will protect them from the fire and it’ll be a miracle. Esther’s not down with that though. She doesn’t think trying to force a miracle is the way to go about it. Is this Echo’s programming or her survival instinct? When Sparrow hits her again and then turns to assure everyone that they’ll be ok, Esther hits him over the head with some blunt object and tells everyone to get out of there. God didn’t let her see just so she could watch. Convinced by her pleas, everyone but one guy and the fallen Sparrow bolts for the door. Esther approaches the guy to convince him to leave but he spits in her face for not believing. She punches him in return and then some people get the guy out of there.

Just as Esther is about to leave, Mr. Dominic shows up disguised behind a smoke mask, shoots Jonas and then knocks Echo out, leaving her to die in the burning building. I guess sitting back and hoping she might die on her own wasn’t enough. He leaves without being noticed and fortunately, Langton shows up and pulls his girl out. I’m not entirely sure Dominic didn’t just leave when he saw Jonas was about to shoot Echo. That would’ve been easier, I think. He took the mask off before he hit Esther and from the look on Echo’s face when she saw Mr. Dominic at the Dollhouse, it seems like a good possibility that the incident will have left at least some impression on her.

We found out earlier that it was Agent Lilly who wrote the “Save me” note. Langton spotted him on the security tape sneaking around the convenient store while the cult people were in there shopping. Lilly’s determination in getting Jonas Sparrow back in prison was making him impatient and he decided to take matters into his own hands in giving the judge a reason to let the ATF go in there.

Back at the FBI, Ballard’s ignoring his gunshot injury and back at the office trying to find out anything he can about Caroline (Echo). He attempts to charm a co-worker into helping him look. She sees right through his ploy but is charmed nonetheless and tries to come up with something on the girl. Of course, she finds nothing but she agrees to keep looking.

Ballard forgets his pain prescription and has Mellie bring it to him at the office. It’s clear she’s happy to have an excuse to come visit him at work and in addition to his pills, brings him some “leftover” stuffed shells. Judging by the type of food she cooks and her attempts to get into Ballard’s heart through his stomach, I’m guessing the adorable but semi-stalkery Mellie is of Italian descent. Ballard is polite as usual but gets distracted viewing the latest video of Caroline that was delivered to Ballard at work. Mellie watches him watch it and then makes her exit. This is the second time she’s witnessed something Echo-related as it pertains to Ballard’s work. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. If Mellie’s not some kind of secret spy (did she really get that envelope from the mail-guy?) then at the very least I’m guessing she’ll eventually get caught up in Ballard’s investigation. There has to be a point to her character other than as a possible love-interest to Ballard. Am I overthinking this?

When the cult thing makes the news, Ballard spots Echo among the people in the compound and leaves for Arizona but by the time he gets there, the whole thing is over and Echo’s long gone. Agent Lilly won’t even let him speak with the cult members being debriefed and once again, Ballard goes home empty handed.

Finally, back at the Dollhouse, Victor goes from six to midnight when chatting it up with Sierra in the shower. Topher’s gabbing about something on the phone when he glances at the shower-cam and spots said wood. This isn’t supposed to happen. I guess there’s a sort of ken-doll thing going on with the male active’s that’s supposed to keep them from getting erections when they’re not imprinted. The word erection translates to “man reaction” in Topherese. He reports the man reaction to Saunders, who thinks it’s due to Victor being sent to the same client as the same person too many times. Her belief is that repeated imprinting with the same personality might be a problem for actives.

Saunders insists on watching as much shower footage as they can to analyze Victor’s behavior. All in a day’s work right? What they conclude is that it isn’t the imprinting that’s causing Victor’s man reactions. It’s Sierra. The behavior only started after she showed up and Victor only “reacts” when she’s in there with him. It’s not supposed to happen but it is. DeWitt orders Victor to be “scrubbed” but I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of this story arc.

Random sidenote, I loved seeing Rebecca Field (October Road) this week. She was the female cult-member named Kris, who tried to leave when she realized Sparrow was going to have them all barbequed. Great episode but I’m more excited about next weeks! Photos and details about what’s coming are here.

Kelly West
Assistant Managing Editor

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.