Episode Review: Dollhouse 1×08: "Needs"

The episode starts with Echo arriving at Paul’s apartment, saying she has a message from the one who inserts these messages in her. Paul doesn’t like the Dollhouse ruining his life, and suggests maybe he should hold her in handcuffs and have it come to his door. She says they both have something the other needs, then begs him to save her. He wonders if this is Caroline rather than Echo, but he’s too busy kissing her. It’s not long before they make out, and then Mellie catches them. She tells Paul he can’t help Echo because she’s dead. Then he sees Echo is indeed dead. While he begs Echo to wake up, Mellie’s head starts bleeding, and she asks him how "they" knew what they were doing. Of course, it’s all a dream, but it gets Paul thinking that maybe he’s been bugged.

At the Dollhouse, the Actives have breakfast, while the staff discuss how they will deal with recent events. They also have to deal with an overhaul of the security and electrical systems. Dominic says the Actives shouldn’t be seen as people, but as pets. Topher suggests changing the Actives’ meds while they sleep, but Dr,. Saunders say that could be harmful. Adelle says what’s important is to protect the Dollhouse, now that it’s "out of balance" and the "tide is rising". However, she is open to other ideas.

Meanwhile, Echo starts recalling what Paul has said to her, while Sierra remembers what her then-handler, Hearn, did to her. They head for their pods, but it won’t be a happy sleep.

In fact, Caroline Farrell has woken up, as herself, and finds herself trapped in the Dollhouse. She isn’t the only one.

Victor wakes up, as do November (Mellie), Sierra, and Mike. They have no idea who they are or where they are. They just want to know why they are there. Mike suspects aliens kidnapped them. They look around, and see others are there. One of them says she likes pancakes. She’s Tango. In fact, they talk abut food a lot. They do their best to pretend they are "normal", as in totally blank as people. They even have to deal with co-ed showers. Victor lists baseball players to avoid "man-reactions", while November goes with the flow. However, the Dollhouse staff catch Mike being too "normal" and they give him the treatment. So, Echo/Caroline, Victor, November and Sierra are on their own in their Great Escape.

It looks like it will end before it begins. Dominic tells Adelle what they are planning, and she says it’s going on schedule.

So, is this some April Fool’s prank she’s planned for Caroline and the Not-Actives? Actually, this is someone else’s plan.

Paul overturns his apartment, and finds the surveillance device in an air vent. He wonders what the heck it is. He later sends it to a guy named Jimmy, and he is stunned by how advanced the technology is. Maybe too much.

In the Dollhouse, Victor and Sierra get to know each other while trying to find an exit. It makes you think they’d really hit it off if they were regular folk with free will. They later spot Boyd talking to Sophie, another handler. When Sierra sees the guns, she suddenly remembers how she was put in the Dollhouse. Apparently she was put in there by force.  Later, they hide in the wardrobe room, and are susprised to learn it’s full of clothes they’re supposed to wear. There’s also a pram that November sees. She admits that she had a daughter, and wonders where she is. They are later forced to use the elevator to get out. They get as far as the parking garage, where they see a soldier get inside, while Tango, dressed like a French-speaking Sally Bowles, comes out. So, Caroline decides she has to bring the Dollhouse down, or at least make a difference. That sounds familiar.

Remember, Adelle and Dominic know exactly what is happening. So, why should we care if it looks the game is rigged? Maybe we still hope one of them will escape, if not all..or if not Caroline.

We see Victor, Sierra and November traveling, hoping to find the guy who put Sierra in the Dollhouse. As they see a young child, November says she remembers her life and may know where her child is. So, she leaves the others behind, while she looks for the child. Adelle and Dominic, meanwhile, see Caroline enter Dr. Saunders’ office for evidence.

Adelle sees that Echo is Caroline without the memories, but she also says Caroline was never realistic. Then, the lights go out. The Actives are confused because they don’t know what "dark" is. Topher is really worried about it, especially when he sees Caroline pointing a gun at him. He can’t call her Echo, "not anymore," she says.

She demands an explanation about what he does and what his bosses do. All he can come up with is "we’re good people. We help people become better by giving them what they need." He also says Caroline can remember who she is because she and a few others are part of a test. All she has to do is get in the chair, and things will be OK. Sure, she says…but you first, Topher.

That’s bad news to Topher, because a regular brain getting imprinted means an imploded brain. So, Caroline wants him to set the Actives free. He can’t do that…but Adelle can. She’s right there.

Caroline fires a couple of shots at the chair, while Topher is scared the sparks will burn his hair. She also calls Adelle a "sick *censormode*" for what she is doing, but Adelle insists what she has done is ease Caroline’s suffering by wiping the bad memories away. In fact, that goes for all of the Actives, who just can’t handle the big bad world. Adelle says she helped Caroline because otherwise, she wouldn’t be able to handle the consequences of what she did, which apparently includes losing a boyfriend.

As for the other Actives, Victor and SIerra meet up with Nolan, who put her in the Dollhouse because he didn’t like it when she said no to his needs. Now, she never will. He gets a few knuckle sandwiches from Victor, but Nolan reminds them the Dollhouse police will soon find them. In fact, they wind up hiding in a closet, and they actually share a romatic moment. As for November, she does find her child…in a grave.

Adelle tries to convince Caroline that the Actives, as they are, would be destroyed by the horrors of the outside world. Caroline, however, insists they should be let go. So, the Actives leave, and Echo is the Great Liberator….until she suddenly faints. So do November, Victor and Sierra. It’s a matter of time before they get a very special treatment that will keep them happy for a long time.

Then we get a flashback to the staff meeting, where Adelle asks if they have any "better ideas" of handling the Actives. Dr. Saunders has the answer: give them what they need. Whatever unresolved issues are within them, she says, they should have the chance to get closure. Let Echo/Caroline free the Actives and have her little anti-Eastablishment victory. Let November grieve over her dead child. Let Sierra confront the one took away her control. As for Victor, let him "get the girl". Then, they’ll be no trouble at all. After all, they aren’t people. They’re pets. This is no different than retraining a dog, or teaching a monkey to do the tango. It’s not like the Dollhouse was treating them as clients who wanted their own fantasies to come true.

Boyd and Dr. Saunders talk about it afterwards. He says he w
ished he would have been there to see Echo’s freedom march. He also says Dr. Saunders must be proud, but she asks if he thought she had fun doing it. She says while he has to look after Echo, she has to look after all of them, and it would have been a disaster if Echo/Caroline really did let the Actives go free and try to deal with the "horror and chaos" of the outside world.

I don’t think she’s right about that. She could have come up with a halfway house for the Actives to ease them into our evil world after leaving the evil Dollhouse. Is being programmed to do anything without free will that much better than being in the middle of the cold and cruel world, or is Dr. Saunders convincing herself that she did the right thing? Remember, she was brutally attacked by Alpha. Maybe she thinks the world is too cruel for the Actives to survive, because it’s too hard her her, too. It’s a tricky situation.

So what does this mean? Will the Actives, especially Echo, never make trouble for the Dollhouse again, and do their engagements without complaint? Will they tell each other how they like pancakes and bananas? If that’s the case, is the show over? Will it always go through the motions, like a typical procedural?

Not so fast. The final scene is Paul turning on his cellphone, and getting a message from Echo/Caroline. She tells him to find them. So, while Echo/Caroline got fake closure, he gets another lead, and his search for the Dollhouse, and personal closure, remains elusive.

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