Yay! Erection jokes! This really is a Joss Whedon show!
This episode was much better. Dave was out, so I watched it on my own, periodically interrupted by Toaster asking if he could stay up a bit longer, if he could read, yes he had brushed his teeth, etc.--I would answer/ask quickly and usher him out of the room just in case somebody started stabbing somebody else or taking their clothes off. Although, being eleven, he probably would have appreciated the erectile humor. Not for a few more years, kid.
This was fun, funny, and exciting. The mission-of-the-week was compelling, and there was also overall plot advancement. I'm relieved, and looking to next week's game-changer episode.
We open with a bus full of singing, smiling folks in suspenders and prairie-wear. They are so happy it's creepy, and while I would probably be annoyed by them if they lived in my town, I probably wouldn't throw them into the snack display when they go to pick up groceries, but different strokes. When they finally sing their way out of the store, the manager finds a note on the counter--"save me."
Adele is meeting with a senator who is asking for an Active's help in dealing with this crazy cult--his constituents sympathize with the snack display-shover. He needs someone to go in undercover and help ATF suss things out before they go storming in--we all learned from Waco & Jonestown. Adele delicately points out that the Dollhouse would prefer not to be involved with a government agency, thank you. The senator waves a hand and says it'll be fine. Adele decides to use Echo for this mission, thinking that Boyd would have an easier time than most handlers working the copspeak. Laurence thinks she's crazy, and reminds her that Echo has been "wildly erratic" in the field of late. Adele bristles and says that Echo has been wonderfully adaptable, and that's what this job requires. Laurence says predictability is what's necessary, and has she forgotten about Alpha? Adele says, "you don't like Echo, do you." Laurence shrugs. "It's not that I don't like her. It's that I worry you do." Points for you, Laurence. You seemed pointlessly evil up to now, but preventing a composite event like Alpha's is inarguably a good guy thing to do. Huh.
Paul is still looking for Caroline, and tries to be charming with both his colleagues and his devoted neighbor, and fails miserably. Devoted neighbor brings him his pain meds and "leftover" manicotti--and better still, another letter from Alpha, this one with the video of Caroline we saw at the end of the first episode. But there is no such person in any FBI database.
Dr. Claire and Topher are preparing a plan of attack for Echo's entry into the cult. ATF needs video surveillance, and apparently there's a new medical advancement on the market that lets blind people see--sort of. It's not quite clear. But anyway Echo won't see; they'll make her blind and use the new medical advancement to let ATF see what she's (not) seeing. Dr. Claire is very concerned about this procedure; a good sneeze could bring on a seizure, or, as Topher puts it, a "sneezure." Hehheh.
We get more backstory about the cult from the ATF Boss. The head of the cult is Jonas Sparrow, who has a history of gun-running and human-trafficking, but he got a shortened sentence because ATF Boss didn't do his job right the first time around. He's here to make damn sure Jonas Sparrow gets put away for good. Boyd is acting as intermediary with Echo and ATF; she's not undercover, he tells them. She's the real thing.
Boyd drives blind Echo--Esther--out to the compound. Eliza's acting chops are pretty good here; I like watching people be blind, as it seems just about impossible to me. She's very sweet, and oddly much prettier than she has been in previous episodes. She often looks kind of hard, but her features seemed softer. Esther finds her way to Jonas Sparrow, and is so innocent and full of faith and vision that she is welcomed with open arms by all. (Probably also because she has such a gorgeous knit sweater on.)
Topher is chatting on the phone, probably about the best way to beat the boss in Diablo or something, when he spots Victor--and little Victor--in the shower. Topher runs to Dr. Claire's office, where he proceeds to try to explain what he saw in as useless a way as possible--"Victor. He was naked in the shower. Having a man reaction." Which can't happen, when they're in their dollstate there's a "limpness." Dr. Claire surmises that this is because Victor's been imprinted with the same personality too many times (apparently somebody called Miss Lonelyhearts really likes him), and she was concerned about something like this lingering. Topher says if she was concerned, she should have told them. In a way that didn't involve the reports that nobody reads. They reluctantly go to the tapes for the last three months.
Topher and Dr. Claire realize that it isn't Miss Lonelyhearts that's got Victor all hot and bothered--it's Sierra. She's the new element, and he only gets aroused when they're showering together. He's got a little crush. Topher seems to think this is cute.
Unsurprisingly, Jonas Sparrow doesn't quite trust Esther. He knows he's not a messiah. He takes her into his secret lair and shines a light in her eyes, but her pupils do not contract. She is genuinely (if temporarily) blind. He points a gun at her. She does nothing. Neither, by the way, do ATF or Boyd, which I found somewhat trusting of them. But then, they get what they're looking for, because while Esther cannot see that she is surrounded by high-tech weaponry, they can.
ATF are going in. Boyd thinks this is premature--after all, Echo is still in there--but ATF Boss is really intense and doesn't care. Boyd calls Laurence and asks for permission to extract her, but Laurence sees an opportunity to rid themselves of Echo, and says no. Boyd, of course, will go in anyway. First, however, he goes to the grocery store, and asks to see the tapes of the "save me" incident, to see if he can figure out who is their ally on the inside. Oddly enough, no one at ATF had requested them.
The reason why is clear enough--nobody from the compound left that note. ATF Boss did. He set this whole thing up (evidence, schmevidence). Boyd confronts him, and ATF Boss glowers at him. ATF goes in. They are clumsy and are spotted, and Jonas Sparrow accuses Esther of being a spy. He hits her a few times, and she has her sneezure--her eyesight returns. ATF no longer has their eye cameras, and Esther believes it is a miracle, as do all except Jonas Sparrow.
He brings his flock to the prayer house, and lights it on fire. Death by poisoned Kool-Aid sounds way better. He has Esther read how Jesus walked from the flames unsinged (she reads "Nebuchednezzar" really well for someone who hasn't been able to see since they were nine years old) and tells his faithful that they who are pure will survive. Esther isn't quite Esther-y anymore; some of Echo's strength is in there, is always in there, and threat seems to bring it forth. She tells Jonas Sparrow that this is crazy, that you can't force a miracle. He hits her again. She's had it, and whacks him with a candlestick. She herds everybody out the door, except for one very faithful and pure fellow, who spits in her face for trying to save his life. She clocks him too, and they pull him out. Jonas Sparrow stands up, points his rifle at her, and tries to rid his world of her evil. A man at the doorway in a gas mask shoots him in the chest.
He removes his mask--and it's not Boyd, as we would expect. It's Laurence. "Trouble ends here," he says, smacks Echo across the face, and leaves her to die.
Now the real Boyd comes. He gives Esther his mask--"I know your face," she says--and carries her out of the fire. Much to ATF Boss' disappointment. Paul comes to see him (he saw Esther on the news) and shows him Caroline's picture. Of course ATF Boss recognizes her, but he is an obstructionist creep, and refuses to help out. Paul is mystified, both by ATF Boss' reaction, and by what he saw.
Adele is upset about Victor's crush, and insists that he be scrubbed clean. Topher looks concerned, probably because he wipes them as clean as he can--what more can he do? I also think that he is pretty fascinated by the Actives in their dollstate--the flocking, etc.--and is disturbed by the idea of messing with what little identity they have left. (Maybe. It's possible I'm making that up.)
Adele confronts Laurence about his little trip out to the compound (I don't think she knows exactly what he was up to). He defends himself, saying that he's just trying to prevent another composite event, and if Adele isn't willing to send Echo to the Attic...Adele interrupts him, warning him not to gamble on what she isn't willing to do.
Echo is wiped, and wakes up to a subdued and concerned Topher and Dr. Claire. Dr. Claire asks her if she can see okay, and Echo looks down at Laurence. "I can see perfectly."