“Dollhouse” 2.5 & 2.6 mini-cap: “The Public Eye” and “The Left Hand”

When we last left the Dollhouse, US Senator Daniel Perrin was snooping around its parent company, Rossum, in an effort to blow the lid off their nefarious operation and “save” the dolls from years of fake weddings, sexual role-playing and endless yoga. Echo had taught herself to read, think and other annoying self-fulfilling activities. And November had returned to civilian life under her real name, Madeleine, with all the gusto of a zombie on Xanax. Well, now that we’re all caught up.

Episode 2.5 “The Public Eye”

Senator Perrin is in a hotel, about to hold a press conference to announce senate hearings to investigate Rossum, with Madeleine as his Exhibit A. In the kitchen waiting to go on, his wife, Cindy, expresses concern for his safety. If you’re a politician who fears for your life, you might want to stay out of hotel kitchens, but whatever. She lovingly straightens his tie.

Cindy: Remind me why I love you so much.
Daniel: I’m your white knight.
Cindy: And I’m your beautiful damsel.
Daniel: Ever after.

Excuse me, I have to go vomit.

Perrin tells the gaggle of reporters, “At those hearings, you will hear a most innocent word. A word that will take on a new and grim meaning. A word that will become synonymous with human trafficking, prostitution and unconscionable abuses of neural technology.” That word? The “American Music Awards.”

Actually, that word is “Dollhouse.” The room gasps in knowing horror. So much for being clandestine and stuff. Madeleine gets up to make a brief statement about being exploited, and to mesmerize everyone with those fantastic eyes of hers.

Adelle, Ballard and Adelle’s creepy boss, Harding, watch the televised press conference in her office. Harding tells Adelle to let Rossum handle things, but Adelle, never one to sit idly by admiring her commemorative Princess Diana tea cozy while her house is under attack, has other ideas. Team Adelle, a.k.a. Boyd, Ballard and Topher, study tapes of the senator and his too-perfect wife. Echo wanders in from bonsai trimming class, glances at the TV, and says off-handedly, there’s something wrong with Cindy. They all slap their foreheads. Of course! Cindy Perrin is a doll.

Cindy babysits Madeleine in her home. To wile away the hours, she shows Madeleine some disturbing pictures of herself as November, killing a man after a violent fight. She then tells a horrified Madeleine not to feel bad about it — blame the Dollhouse. Daniel works late in his hotel room, hunting for more dirt on Rossum. He calls to say good night. “Remind me why I love you so much,” Cindy coos. “I’m your white knight…” Yeah, yeah, we get it.

Topher, the science whiz with bad hair and even worse jokes, has created a device he calls the Disruptor, a handy gadget that disables dolls by delivering a searing headache and a bloody nose from 10 feet away, but leaves regular people unaffected. He tells them the gentle hum emitting from it means it’s working. Insert your favorite vibrator joke here. Or just insert your favorite vibrator. Up to you.

Here, he demonstrates on Kilo. Outside, another doll tumbles down the stairs. Make that 50 feet.

Ballard plans to use the Disruptor to drop Cindy and grab Madeleine, but Adelle warns him it’ll drop both of them. Seems you never really leave the Dollhouse anymore than Ballard will ever really have lips. To further sabotage Perrin’s plans, they somehow roofie him and send Echo in as a call girl, who tapes him for the next installment of Senators Gone Wild.

Knowing instantly she’s a doll, Perrin grabs Echo and races back to the safe house with her, just as Ballard is breaking in to save Madeleine and give Cindy a migraine. Perrin and Echo are coming up the driveway when Ballard turns on the Vibrator of Pain. Madeleine grabs her head and goes down. Echo grabs her head and goes down. Cindy stands there like she’s waiting for bus. She’s not a doll after all. But guess who is.

Wesley Wyndam, uh, Fisher-Price?

Back at HQ, Topher, Boyd and Adelle are watching the action via Topher’s hacked security camera feeds coming from the house.

Adelle: Perrin’s the doll. We’ve been chasing the wrong person.
Topher: That would make Cindy —
Adelle: Perrin’s handler. Get Ballard on the phone. Warn him. Harding made a senator.
Topher: And sicced him on the Dollhouse. That made sense how?
Adelle: I don’t know. Unless he’s trying to sabotage this house, specifically.

While Adelle works on her conspiracy theories, Echo and Perrin tear out of the driveway and speed off into the night. By morning, Echo is having flashbacks of her former imprints and freaks out. “I’m not real! I’m not who I think I am,” she tells Perrin anxiously.

Things only get weird for Perrin when he starts having flashbacks. But in every one of them, he’s still just Daniel Perrin. No ninjas, no gigolos, not even a trophy husband for a boring, overweight spinster in this man’s doll past. What a gyp. Well, for different reasons, they’ve achievde self-awareness and boy, they not happy with what they’ve found.

At the Dollhouse, Topher’s figured it out: Perrin is a doll version of himself. He tells Adelle that Perrin comes from a long line of overachieving politicians, but he was a good-for-nothing frat boy until the backend of his 30s, but only after first washing out at Yale. Sound familiar?

Echo calls in to tell Adelle she’s not pleased with how her life is going. Perrin gets on the phone, so Adelle offers to help him find out who dolled him. Before they can agree to anything, Cindy drives up out of nowhere and carefully asks Perrin to remind her why she loves him so much. He has one last flashback of her as his handler and suddenly doesn’t want to play that cloying game anymore. He tells her to screw herself. She immediately pulls a gun on him. Wives don’t like to be spoken to in that manner.

Senator Perrin has no skillz except filibustering and loving his fake wife, but Echo remembers she knows how to kick ass. She bitch slaps Cindy into next Tuesday while dodging bullets and leaping over cars in a dress.

Echo and Daniel start to drive off, but they don’t get very far when they’re both disabled by Topher’s Disruptor. Cindy stands in the middle of the street, holding the device and smirking maniacally. Never trust a woman with a gun tucked into her business slacks.

Over at LAX, Madeleine is trying to catch a flight to Washington to testify before Perrin’s sub-committee about Dollhouse atrocities. Ballard has tracked her there and tries to convince her she’s being used. She doesn’t believe him because the White Zone is for loading and unloading passengers. There is no stalking in the White Zone.

The Dollhouse’s Washington office is waiting to receive the captured Perrin and Echo. And here’s Summer Glau, finally, as Bennett Halverson. Bennett is as smart as Topher, as dedicated and refined as Adelle, and as crazy as Whiskey and Alpha put together. She’s even more insidious because she hides it well. It’s either under the cute little barrette in her hair, or in that creepy black sling that cradles her dead hand.

Upon seeing one of her Actives (who’s just back from a “long-term with a closeted councilman”) Bennett asks why he’s not in holding.

Bennett: Why is Hades still on the table?
Assistant: He should have been —
Bennett: [muttering] It should. Should. A condition contrary to fact, contrary to fact — like a lie. Should. Should —

Helloo, Crazypants.

Cindy brings Bennett a gift: Topher’s Discombobulator. She’s fascinated and impressed by its design and recognizes his handiwork. Before she can tinker with it, she has to re-imprint Perrin. He wakes up long enough to see he’s in for fun times in our nation’s capitol.

Perrin: Please! Please don’t erase me! I don’t want to forget! It’s my mind!
Bennett: Not for some time now.
Perrin: Oh God. Who are you?

Bennett tells Cindy to make sure they weren’t followed, but Cindy doesn’t think it’s necessary. Bennett says, “Will you please make sure? Will you please make sure? Will you please make sure?” Putting the “ass” in Asperger’s since 1981.

Bennett has been saving her special attentions for Echo. She looks at her and says quietly, “Caroline. You always said you’d come back to me. Let’s play.” And zaps her with 100 jigawatts of juice.

Some girls really can’t handle being left.

Episode 2.6 “The Left Hand”

After turning off the power, Dr. Frankenbitch tells Echo she’s just a shell and that searing pain is one of her favorite things. In the other room, Cindy is taunting Perrin about being a former nobody who should be grateful he’s a doll. Why aren’t the boy dolls called Action Figures?

Perrin: No. you didn’t create me. I’m going to expose you, you know that?
Cindy: See that righteous indignation? Yeah, we gave that to you, too. We spent three years building up your credibility. When you finally exonerate Rossum at the Senate hearings today, no one will question you.
Perrin: Why are you telling me this now?
Cindy: Um, because it’s funny?

That, and it’s in the Evil Nemesis Handbook to divulge your entire diabolical plan in a smug soliloquy that will come back to bite you in the ass later. It’s right between the chapters on how to build a hideout in a dormant volcano, and how to keep an inexplicably large staff of minion from blabbing about their secret jobs.

Adelle takes Topher on his first ever limo ride. “Very fahn-cy,” he says as he touches every single button. Adelle reminds her rube that they’re there to discover Rossum’s real plan, saying, “Your sole purpose here is to hack into the DC office mainframe and acquire Senator Perrin’s imprint. This will require stealth, clarity of purpose, and above all, calm.

It’s like trying to talk to a monkey.

While Bennett tortures Echo by imprinting her own personal and painful memories of losing the use of her arm, (making Echo’s own arm go as limp as Adam Lambert at a Victoria’s Secret fashion show) Adelle and Topher get the Washington run-around from her east coast counterpart. Back at the LA office, Topher has imprinted Victor with his own geek self, because he doesn’t trust anyone else to mind the store. Enver Gjokaj, (Victor) does a dead-on, hilarious impersonation of Fran Kranz (Topher) that’s so good, it almost makes having two Topher’s tolerable. Almost.

Bennett has a nerd crush meltdown when she meets the one and only Topher Brink. She tells him his skin is pink, like a pig, but in a good way. “People assume that pigs are bad, but I love them. I like them,” she offers. Dear God, stop talking, you torture-lover with a dead arm who’s socially awkward and clearly insane. Hey, wait a minute — I think I dated her once.

Topher isn’t much smoother when he excitedly compliments her work and then blurts out, “What’s up with your arm?” See kids, there’s someone for everyone.

The only one who has any game is Adelle. When her counterpart calmly tells her she’s not going to get Echo back, has no allies atRossum and doesn’t know how to bluff, she shows him how she handles annoying men who stand in her way.

Meanwhile, Topher calls Victor/himself to establish a link and hack into her mainframe, and do a little gushing about her hot librarian energy.

Victor: Glasses?
Topher: Glasses on a chain.
Victor: For the win!
Topher: Dude. She has a dead arm!
Victor: Like, dead? Like, in a sling with the glove?
Topher: Imagine John Cassavetes in The Fury, but as a hot chick.
Victor: Which you know I often have!

While that meeting of the minds is taking place, Bennett allows Echo and Perrin to escape, throws her head face-first into a glass door, and wobbles out, bleeding. She tells Topher a bullcrap story about the Actives getting away. Never underestimate a librarian with a grudge.

Out on the street, Echo and Perrin are on the run. If they want to blend in and go undetected, maybe they shouldn’t dress like mimes.

They duck into a coffee shop and cut out the GPS tags embedded in the backs of their necks using a dull, dirty knife. Has no one heard of hepatitis? They make their way to the Perrin family compound to figure out their next move. Should they use their knowledge of the Dollhouse to bring it down at the Senate hearings, or go off and be the people they want to be? They decide to do both, but before they can call a cab, Perrin grabs his head and drops to his knees.

Back at the house, Topher and Bennett have adapted the Disruptor to target only Echo and Perrin. Topher thinks they’re just trying to catch the wayward dolls, but Bennett completes her double-cross when she remotely imprints Perrin with assassin skills to kill Echo. During the ensuing fight, Perrin slams her into a garage door and tries to impale her with a small pitchfork. Echo realizes she truly does control her own destiny and upon saying it aloud, her imprinted dead arm comes back to life. Replacement gardening tools, $32.00. A neck brace, $44.95. A metaphor for psychological freedom that doubles as a mean left hook? Priceless.

Back at the Dollhouse, Topher realizes his dream girl is kind of a bitch.

Bennett: Do you know who Echo really is?
Topher: She’s a friend.
Bennett: Friend? That shell? I was her friend. I was her best friend. This is what I got for it. [flops her dead arm around] This is what I got from Caroline.
Topher: This isn’t about Caroline, this is about Echo.
Bennett: They’re the same. Caroline has power over people. And however well you wiped her, she clearly still does.
Topher: She has no power over —
Bennett: When was the last time that you described a doll as your friend? I know about Alpha, and Ballard. You’re saying she doesn’t have some power?

So, her entire campaign of evil is because Echo’s more popular?

As nice as it is to find someone who gets you, the moment you discover they’re crazypants is the moment it’s time to run. Topher punches Bennett in her quiet, little face and frantically works with Victor to undo Bennett’s master plans.

Topher’s not the only one with a disappointing relationship. Cindy arrives at the Perrin compound, only to find he’s over her in a big way. He grabs her by the throat and chokes the life out of her.

Topher disables Perrin’s assassin imprint, just as Cindy Loo-Who hits the floor. Perrin and Echo make a break for it and arrive at the Senate hearings just in time. Daniel tells the room that Rossum is good and it was its competitors who tricked him into attacking them. Oh, and by the way, they killed his wife and Madeleine was never a doll. Madeleine can’t believer her ears. So, to review: Cindy’s dead, Rossum’s good, other unnamed medical corporations are bad, and Madeleine’s a mental patient.

Madeleine ends up in Bennett’s Chair of a Thousand Faces. “No one should be alone,” Bennett says as she throws the switch. Why doesn’t she just imprint Madeleine to be the friend that will never leave her?

Adelle and Boyd wonder what’s coming next from the Manchurian Candidate, Daniel Perrin. And no one knows where Echo is, who wanders the streets alone.

One thing’s for sure; without the Dollhouse, she’s got no fashion sense.