“Dollhouse” mini-cap 2.2 “Instinct”

Ballard has some free time between staring at Echo while pursing his lips with lustful concern, and rifling through Adelle’s desk, looking for Dollhouse secrets and breath mints. He wanders into Topher’s lab and fondles the treatment chair with curiosity, a hundred questions racing through his mind. What’s it like getting your entire personality erased? Does it hurt? How’s the lumbar support on this thing?

Topher discovers Ballard and scolds him for touching the equipment. But he quickly forgets about that because he would rather talk about what a smarty-pants he is. Topher’s found a way to change the Actives on a “glandular level,” which would explain the lack of acne, PMS and obesity in the Dollhouse ranks.

The possibilities are endless. Topher says he could program someone to cure cancer (he doesn’t) or be telekinetic (again, not worth his time) or play “fancy piano.” I don’t hear any Chopin, do you?

All that power and Topher spends the bulk of his day dusting his action figures and styling his hair for that “just rolled out of a moving car” look.

Ballard asks if his glands can be adjusted, but Topher reminds him only the eternal sunshine of a spotless Active’s mind can be programmed. “The human mind is like Van Halen: If you just keeping pulling out one piece and replacing it, it just degenerates,” says Topher. Oh. I totally get it now.

On assignment in a McMansion somewhere in the ‘burbs, Echo gets up in the middle of the night, leaves the man who’s snoring next to her, and goes into another room. She picks up a baby and starts breastfeeding it.

Glands — it’s what’s for dinner.

The next morning, it’s the picture perfect nuclear family except something is off. Nat, the husband, seems distant towards Echo, a.k.a.”Emily”, even though she’s clearly his baby’s mama, and uninterested in Jack, (said baby) even though he has a really fun face and all that great, new baby smell.

Echo passes Jack to daddy so she can make coffee. Nat takes the kid as if Emily’s just handed him nine pounds of radioactive dog doo.

After Nat races out the door for the sanctuary of his job, saying he won’t be home for dinner (again), Echo goes to the park, where she complains about her fake marriage to her fake friend, Sierra, who’s been imprinted to be her BFF. Sierra assures Echo/Emily that after a good night’s sleep, she’ll stop imagining Nat’s having an affair, doesn’t want the baby and hates her. That’s a lot to ask from eight hours of shut-eye but maybe she has one of those Sleep Number beds with a setting marked “denial.”

Instead of making a meatloaf or crafting, or whatever it is stay-at-home moms do all day, Emily goes home and jimmies the lock on Nat’s study. She starts snooping around, looking for evidence of his affair.

Nat finally comes home to find the house is dark, the door to his study ajar, and Emily and Jack are nowhere to be found. He turns the light on in the kitchen and is startled by Emily, who’s been sitting in the dark with a pile of photos featuring a pretty blond woman. “Who is she?” Echo yells. Busted.

Nat talks her down by admitting it was someone he loved before they met and she’s dead now. Emily seems to accept this explanation and goes to bed, until she’s awaken by the sound of voices. She pads down the hallway and eavesdrops as Nat talks on the phone.

“You promised something you can not deliver. This is not working, I’m calling it off. Get rid of her. I’ll get rid of the baby,” he says angrily.

Dude, you have the wrong number.

Meanwhile, near our nation’s capitol, Senator Wesley Wyndham-Pryce Daniel Perrin is investigating the Dollhouse’s sketchy parent company, Rossum. There’s something about their medical research, numerous experiments, and healthy profit margin that’s piqued his interest, as if that makes Rossum different from any other huge pharma. His wife looks on supportively, disappears for a suspiciously long time when the doorbell rings, and returns with a mysterious envelope full of leads. Keep an eye on her.

Adelle gets out of the office to pay ex-Active Mellie/November/Madeline a house call. Adelle is sporting a new hair-doo this season. And Madeline is sporting a whole new life. Let out of her contract a few years early, thanks to Ballard, Madeline now enjoys the good life, which includes hanging around her freshly remodeled loft in full makeup, a dress and heels.

Um, when did Madeline get so hot? November could have kicked your ass, Mellie would’ve made you dinner, but Madeline is a smart, hot femme who’s not fooled by Adelle’s small talk.

Madeline: Adelle, don’t misunderstand. It’s nice to see you. But I have this irrational fear that if I say one wrong thing, men in suits are going to throw me in a black van and take me away.
Adelle: Not at all. Your obligation to the Dollhouse is complete.
Madeline: Right. So you’re just here for a friendly chat?
Adelle: You haven’t come in for your diagnostic. Just because you leave our care, we don’t cast you to the wolves, Madeline. I’m worried about you.

Uh huh.

Back on the set of Em & Nat, Plus 8, er, Minus 7, Emily is trying to make a break for it with the baby, when Nat cuts them off at the front door and threatens them with scrabbled eggs. Emily fumbles for an excuse to leave but Nat has a logical reason to dismiss all of them. He tries to take the baby from her.

Unable to escape the house, she wrestles Jack away from Nat and calls Sierra for help. But help arrives in the form of the ominous black van and Emily sees Sierra getting into it without a fight.

Ballard goes upstairs to take Echo away for a treatment but she’s gone out the window, and down a home fire escape ladder, all with a newborn in tow. In her teeth, I’m guessing.

Nat goes to the Dollhouse to lodge a customer service complaint with Adelle. What kind of fly-by-night operation is she running, sending a nut into his home, who then steals his son? Adelle reminds him they are the very best fly-by-night operation and they gave him exactly want he wanted.

He could have hired a nanny or a babysitter, but no. He wanted someone to bond with Jack because he was too busy being a bad father. Adelle plies Nat with tea until his bladder is so full, he doesn’t care about anything but finding a loo.

On the run and tailed so closely by the black van, even a blind person would sense they were being followed, Echo and Jack find some cops and report their emergencies: Nat is trying to kill her and Jack needs a diaper change.

One cop actually rolls his eyes at the paranoid lady with the baby carrier, but they take her in the squad car and off they all go to the precinct.

Once there, a nice lady detective assures Emily she’s safe from the bad, bad man until the bad man show up with Ballard looking for his son. Echo doesn’t want to hand over the poop machine and a fight ensues.

Good job with the glands and everything, Topher.

Back at the Dollhouse, Topher isn’t programming Whiskey to cure leukemia and Victor isn’t tickling the ivories either. Madeline is getting her diagnostic and all systems are go. She has no nightmares or déjà vu, she’s calm and normal and ready to go home. Eager to try out some of his latest enhancements, Topher offers her today’s special: ventriloquism. She takes a pass.

Just then, Echo gets dragged in, kicking and screaming. She escapes only long enough to be tackled and sedated by security.

In the melee, Madeline has cut her head. With no memory of her old crush, Ballard, she lets him take her for a Band-aid. After assuring her Echo won’t be agitated for long, Ballard learns something about Madeline: she had a daughter once, but she died of cancer.

Ballard: I had no idea.
Madeline: How could you? But what I’m telling you is, it all worked out. I met Adelle.
Ballard: She came to you?
Madeline: [nods] She told me I didn’t have to suffer anymore. I go to sleep for five years, I wake up without pain.
Ballard: So what, you’re happy now?
Madeline: I’m not sad. It was nice meeting you.

So, the Dollhouse is basically one gigantic Zoloft?

After Echo’s wipe, she sits up in the chair and has the typical exchange with Topher.

Topher: Hello, Echo.
Echo: Did I fall asleep?
Topher: For a little while.

She suddenly punches him in the face, sending him to the ground. So, that’s new.

Back in Arlington, the good senator is reviewing the Mysterious Folder of Clues. Its contents are shocking. Medical malfeasance, ethics violations, human trafficking, prostitution, and look at what they’re charging for a sonogram! It’s a goddamn outrage! When his mother was sick, they had the means to help her, but instead — the senator’s voice trails off and disappears into the foreshadows.

In the Dollhouse garage, Echo has made her escape, sort of. She’s gotten into a car but the knowledge of how to drive has been wiped from her pretty noggin.

“Go, please,” she says to the car.

It doesn’t take long for everyone to figure things out: Echo turns the car key and gets behind the wheel. Ballard knows her maternal instincts are too strong for a normal wipe and she’s headed back to the baby.Topher sees now that making her lactate was probably overkill.

Adelle calls over to Nat’s house to warn him Echo is coming back for the baby but the line goes dead. Echo’s already there and she’s cut off the power. It instantly starts to thunder and lightning, because as we all know, when an intruder is screwing around with your fuse box, it has the power to change the weather.

Echo grabs little Jack and a big knife. She waves it at Nat, who tries to talk her down.”They made you love Jack because I asked them to,” he tells her.

He admits he blamed the baby for his wife’s death and couldn’t bond with him. But he’s better now and knows Jack is all he has left of his dead wife. Besides, the kid makes some great faces.

Ballard offers to take Echo back and tell Topher she can still feel the pain and fear and sadness of being Jack’s mother. Topher can fix her.

And bonus; he can probably replace it with something fun, say, unicycling skills. “Feeling nothing would be worse,” Echo says, knowingly. Just ask Madeline, who’s home eating Cheese Nips and staring into space.