“Dollhouse” mini-cap 2.1 “Vows”

Welcome (back) to the Dollhouse! Joss Whedon‘s sophomore season begins with a big day: Echo is marrying Apollo. Or is it Faith marrying Lee Adama? Whether Greek letters are hooking up with Greek gods, or Slayers are tying the knot with Viper pilots, Jamie Bamber from Battlestar Galactica is the guest star. And he gets to drop the American accent and speak in his natural British one, so, cool.

But before she can shove wedding cake all over the groom’s face in that oddly passive-aggressive ritual straight people are so fond of,Topher has to imprint Echo with the personality of the bride-to-be.

Ousted FBI agent, new Dollhouse employee, and lipless stick-in-the-mud Paul Ballard watches as Topher does his thing. The monitor goes wonky and suddenly, the lab is picking up a rerun of The Bride of Frankenstein. Oh that Dr. Saunders. She’s messing with Topher because last season, she found out she’s actually a doll named Whiskey and boy, is she pissed. And has impressive hacking skills, apparently.

Downstairs, Adelle is at large and in charge, strolling the facility with her head of security, Boyd at her side. They run into Victor, whose face is healing nicely after being attacked with a scalpel last season by Alpha, the rogue doll with shaving issues. Adelle runs her fingertips gently over Victor’s skin. He says, “You’re touching my face.” Nothing gets by this guy.

Boyd doesn’t like the idea of Echo’s new assignment, but Boyd doesn’t like the idea of any of her assignments. Dollhouse clients, who hire Actives to do all kinds of crazy things, include Tempura Joe, a news anchor with a crunchy coating fetish. The rolling in batter is fun, but the deep fryer is a bitch.

But life for the dolls is pretty sweet when they’re not being hired out as assassins, dead spouses, or dominatrixes. There are free yoga classes, massages, and Wednesday is Pumpkin Pancake Day in the cafeteria.

Sierra is back from who knows what, dressed like Jackie O and sounding like Princess Margaret. She wants Topher to administer the “treatment” that deletes her last engagement’s personality, enabling her to go back to sitting around in yoga pants, eating ice cream and listening to whale songs, like all the other inactive Actives.

Topher’s too tired, so he tells his assistant, Ivy to take care of Sierra but Sierra doesn’t want some slant eye working on her. Hilarious.

Sierra: I’m not comfortable with Orientals.
Ivy: It’ll only take a second.
Sierra: It’s not a race issue, it’s just — your culture’s not really the thing, is it?
Ivy: Have a seat.
Sierra: I supposed I’m at your mercy. [lowers her voice] In fact, if you were to tie me down and spank me, I couldn’t hardly be expected to resist, could I?

Oh, if I had a dollar for every time — never mind.

Elsewhere, Dr. Saunders is still harassing Topher by unleashing lab rats in his office. It’s all part of her “Payback’s a Bitch 2009” campaign.

Boyd suspects that Dr. Scissorhands (she was Alpha’s first victim) has become a tad unhinged. She tells Tall, Dark and Worrisome, “My entire existence was constructed by a sociopath in a sweater vest. What do you suggest I do?”

Uh, write a book like Mary Cheney?

Boyd thinks all Saunders needs is a dinner date with him (what?) but she’s afraid of many things, damaged by her experiences, and more than a little bitter — not very good date material. So, basically, she’s like everyone in the Craigslist personals section.

Also weird? Ballard. He’s monitoring Echo’s wedding day and more importantly, her wedding night.

Ew. As he watches her do it with her new husband, Martin, he distracts himself from his inappropriate feelings of jealousy by dropping and giving himself 20.

The next day, Echo meets Ballard at his crappy little stakeout to report on Martin. Turns out Ballard is the actual Dollhouse client and had Echo imprinted to be his special agent partner. Their target: Martin, an arms dealer who’s eluded Ballard for years. Echo calls Ballard out on his stalkery bedroom peeping, but before he can protest too much, Echo’s handler enters the room and says it’s time for a treatment.

Back at HQ, Dr. Saunders give Echo an inexplicable pelvic exam, triggering memories of a past lesbionic engagement.

The LOGO Christmas Party?

But Echo remembers more than an open bar and making out in the bathroom.

Echo: Whiskey?
Saunders: Did someone say that to you? To call me that?
Echo: You were number one. I don’t remember the rest.
Saunders: Alpha cut up my face. Do you remember that?
Echo: Why?
Saunders: So you could be number one.

The dolls aren’t supposed to remember anything, but Saunders is different. She knows why the caged bird sings.

A senator is on TV making a pointed speech about evil medical research companies and singles out Rossum Corp, the Dollhouse’s shady parent company. Adelle suspects someone like Boyd or Ballard tipped off the senator, played by another Buffy alum, Alexis Denisof, better known as Wesley Wyndam-Price. If Halfrek or Glory show up next week, I’m going to be beside myself.

Tucking the senator’s agenda in the back of her mind for the moment, Adelle offers Ballard the job of becoming Echo’s handler because he’s up her ass 24/7 anyway, they might as well make it his job.

Saunders isn’t the only one who never leaves the Dollhouse. Topher is sleeping on a cot in the machine room when a hand reaches into the covers and starts fondling his hard drive. He bolts up to find the good doctor wearing a little silky number and giving him a come-hither look.

Topher pushes her hither away because he programmed her to hate even the smell of him, so, WTF? Saunders coos, “The one person guaranteed to reject everything you are; that’s real love.” Word.

Whiskey is so desperately unhappy about her made-up life, being afraid to leave the building, participating in something she finds repugnant, and her inability to find a good concealer, she wants to die. Welcome to life, sweetheart.

Back on assignment in Martin’s mansion, Echo is doing a very terrible job of being stealthy while snooping around his office.

He knows she’s not who he married and just for that, slams her head into the desk. Well now, if we all did that when we realized our partners weren’t who we thought they were, we’d all have concussions, wouldn’t we?

Echo doesn’t drop out of character, even with blood dripping down her face: “Look at me. Just forget about everything and look at me. I am your wife. For the rest of my life, I am and will always be Mrs. Eleanor Penn.” Oops! That was last season. Awkward.

Even though Martin clearly has a spy in his midst, he brings Echo along on his deal to sell dirty bombs to the highest bidder. Ballard is watching like the creepy stalker he is, but now, he’s being paid to do it. It’s nice when you find a job that essentially pays you to be douchey yourself. I should know.

Ballard calls Topher to check on Echo’s brainwaves, because they can do that sort of thing.

Topher sees some dropouts and spikes and signs of trouble. With no backup in sight, Ballard approaches the scene and reunites with his Battlestar Galactica co-star. Echo’s being all useless and dopey, so he taunts her until she her assassin/ninja/secret agent imprint comes back to her, as a clueless Martin watches slack-jawed.

Echo suddenly remembers she knows how to kick ass and take names and wipes out Martin’s entire goon squad in about two minutes. She jumps on his car as he tries to make a getaway and throws one of his dirty bombs through the window. They jump away just before the car goes up in a ball of fire. Time to go home.

Later, Boyd comes looking for Saunders, all gussied up for the dinner date she never agreed to, but she’s out of the office. Permanently.

Echo tells Ballard she knows there are many people inside her, but they’re not her.

And she’s going to find her real self. Right after some pancakes and a nice massage.