So I have some questions. Yes, the usual wow, that's a lot of money, is it really worth it? But also--how do you guarantee that the Active will do what the client wants; for example, the first episode with the birthday weekend. They met at a cafe, and agreed to have a weekend together, and we're to presume that Topher has imprinted Echo with a certain readiness for a no-strings-attached weekend. But what's to say the client is running late, and some other guy comes up to her first. Does he get a freebee? And where do they get the personalities for imprinting? I remember from the first episode, one of the personalities Echo was using had killed herself. Are all of these people dead, and they, what, donated their bodies to science? Is my personality included in my organ donor status?
Some of these questions about the logic behind the Dollverse are akin to:
1. Why in the beginning was there only one slayer?
2. Why is it a 16 year old girl?
3. Why does the Council have money to fund itself but they can't pay Buffy a living wage?
4. How on earth does Angel Investigations stay afloat? I mean really.
Others I imagine will be answered in time.
The episode starts out with a rather awkward moment between Echo and Sierra--Sierra has been jogging too hard on the treadmill and is dizzy, and Echo catches her. Echo explains that they're friends, and friends help each other out. It feels weird because we haven't really seen any evidence of their friendship before this moment, but perhaps Echo just means that all the Actives are friends with each other. (Doubtful).
Dr. Claire and Boyd have some lovely non-paternal vibing as she instructs him to next time he gets shot with a bow and arrow to leave it in. He begs her to clear him for duty, saying that otherwise if Echo gets sent out on a job, she'll be with a stranger. Dr. Claire points out that they're all strangers to Echo, but clears him anyway.
Which is good, because against Dr. Claire's recommendations (nobody reads them anyway) Echo gets sent out on a bodyguard mission--megapopstar Raina is being stalked by an adoring fan, and she needs protection of the undercover and deeply devoted kind. Echo auditions to be a backup vocalist, and she's got some decent pipes (are we to infer that Topher has given her the singing chops, a la nearsightedness and asthma? Or could Caroline sing?) She has been molded into exactly the kind of person Raina likes to keep close, so Echo's got it covered, but the Dollhouse sent in some backup--Sierra is there as another adoring fan, who won the supersweepstakes get to hang out with bitchy Raina prize.
Over on Paul Ballard's end of things, devoted neighbor is still waiting devotedly for him to notice her (please tell me she goes away soon) and he's meeting with Lubov. Lubov tells him so what, scientists got a chimp to dance the tango, doesn't mean the technology is being used on people. At which point I turned to Dave and said "oh, please, what world is he living in?" and Ballard proceeded to tell Lubov just that, only he used way more words. Flashy flashy to Topher's lair, and duh duh duh--Lubov is an Active! The Dollhouse is just messing with Ballard! Active Lubov sets Ballard up for a whooping, which doesn't really work out, as Ballard is a bad ass and takes out four guys despite having been shot. (Dave asked whether Ballard's superiors would now start believing him, but the thing is he was attacked by the Russians, who his superiors clearly told him to stay the hell away from, so no. Not so much).
Echo learns that while Raina does in fact have an adoring fan, he's not necessarily the murdering kind--it's Raina who wants Raina dead, and the fan just wants to love her however she wants to be loved, even if it means killing her. Per Laurence and Adelle's plan, Sierra has drawn the adoring and euthanasia-ing fan's attention, and he's kidnapped her (he's Raina's biggest fan, dammit!) Raina appallingly states that Sierra would want her to just go on singing, Sierra loves her, she doesn't have to do anything to stop this situation she's had a hand in creating. Echo then hits her with a chair.
Which kind of goes against the "protect the client at all costs" imprinting Topher has laid on her. I gasped to Dave that Echo's personality must have taken a much stronger hold than we'd thought, although damn she might want to grow some morals as setting the client up for a trade with the adoring fan is a slightly too dark shade of gray. Echo's need to save her friend Sierra (not knowing, of course, that the Dollhouse has the situation well in hand) seems to have completely overtaken any sense of right or wrong, and I began to worry that we'd have another Alpha on our hands.
Instead, it's unclear. It turns out that Echo had no intention of handing Raina over to her fan, but just wanted to show her what dying really feels like. Adelle points out to a very disturbed Laurence (who wants to send Echo to "the Attic") that Echo didn't in fact go beyond the mission parameters, that she was instructed to save the Raina, and she did, even from Raina's largest threat, which was Raina herself. Boyd is all impressed with Echo's ingenuity and creativity, but Dr. Claire is worried, and says that Alpha was the best too, and that perhaps here, the best thing to be is mediocre.
Her point is proven when Sierra comes to say hi to Echo, but Echo sees that she is being watched and discussed suspiciously, and shakes her head at Sierra to leave her be. Sierra keeps walking. This was very cool, but I'm not sure it means what Dave thinks it does, that they are both so developed and awake as to be able to communicate with each other to this extent--Echo certainly is, but Sierra could just be acting as any Active would--someone shakes their head at you, you go away, nuance-free.
I liked this episode okay. It's hard for me to understand or care about the complexities of being a pop star, so that was just generally eyeroll inducing, but on the other hand, this episode had a much lighter feel to it, and there was a great deal more humor than we've had (most of it coming from Topher, as to be expected).