Episode Recap: Dollhouse 1×03 "Stage Fright"

Reyna Russell is the hottest pop star these days. Yet her tour has been plagued by problems. The latest tragedy is a background dancer getting burned by pyro effects by accident..or is it?

While the crowd is shocked, someone in the crowd seems…unaffected.

At the Dollhouse, Echo and Sierra are running on treadmills, Sierra gets off, then stumbles a bit. Echo helps her, since she is her friend. Meanwhile, Dr. Claire Saunders is patching up Boyd from last week when he had to deal with an evil Middleman. He wants to be cleared for his next assignment. He’s worried what may happen if Echo has a handler she doesn’t know. Claire says "we’re all strangers to them." He is also worried someone out there, that supposedly isn’t Alpha wants Echo dead.

Meanwhile, Lubov tries to break into Ballard’s apartment when Mellie caches him. Lubov claims Ballard knows him from "Old Navy", which sounds like product placement. He does leave a message for Ballard to meet him somewhere.

Biz, Reyna’s manager, meets DeWitt, and asks for an Active who can protect Reyna  without realizing it. So, Echo is now Jordan, a struggling singer grateful for getting the chance to be one of Reyna’s background singers. Oh, and Echo/Jordan can sing, too. She and Reyna even hit it off when they sing about freedom. We’ll soon learn this is musical irony.

Claire is concerned, though. She had instructed that Echo only do romantic jobs or good deeds, not anything dangerous. Topher assures her it will be fine. He’s also amused by Claire’s interesest in Boyd.  "You’re gonna get married, and have scowly babies," he smirks. We also see Echo will get backup, in the form of Sierra. She will become Audra, a giggly fan from Australia.

As Reyna prepares for her next gig, Echo/Jordan notices a lot more security, without realizing she is one, too. She also learns that fan mail goes straight to the cops. Reyna is being quite the diva, even throwing a fit because someone is eating a mint. Is she pulling a major J-Lo, or is it Stalker Guy?

Ballard meets Lubov at a party, Lubov insists the Borodins/Russian Mafia has nothing to do with this "Dollhouse" Ballard seeks. In fact, Lubov thinks the Dollhouse is just a myth, like "alligators in the sewers." He also reveals that Ballard can’t close cases, which may be why he’s got this snipe hunt. Then we get Ballard’s latest reason: "We split the atom. We made a bomb. We come up with anything new, the first thing we do is destroy, manipulate, control." Now, if this means the Dollhouse has had some role in  preventing him from taking down major cases, that’s a good reason to look for this place. Anyway, Lubov wishes there was a Dollhouse to escape his stressful life. In fact, "I want to start over, I’d be Doris freaking Day." What’s wrong with Rock Hudson?

Echo/Jordan snoops around and alerts Biz to a security hole at the freight elevator. Boyd is not too far off, and he and Topher talk about the mission. Then, they talk about Reyna. Boyd thinks she isn’t so down-to-earth, and Topher pretends to be crushed by this. Actually, we see he’s processing another Active. Of course, it’s Lubov, who’s really Victor. He’s part of DeWitt’s way of dealing with Ballard.

Stalker Guy gets to the concert, and so does giggly SierrAudra. He’s busy planning to shoot Reyna on stage. At the pre-party, SierrAudra is so star-struck, and maybe a bit annoying. She was cooler in "Ghost". Jordan is impressed by Reyna’s power, and asks SierrAudra if she’d take off her clothes and run down the street if Reyna told her to. As she asks if she gets to keep her underwear on, Echo/Jordan sees a suspcious guy approaching them and reaching under his coat. She clobbers the guy, to everyone’s surprise. He was just trying to get a picture of Reyna. Echo/Jordan just says, "I’m a Southie."

Lubov/Victor calls Ballard and tells him there could be proof of the Dollhouse at the basement of an abandoned hotel. Of course, we know it’s a lie. Ballard’s being set up. He finds some old mattresses, and two guys about to kill him. Although he gets shot, he takes them out, and confronts one of the shooters about the Dollhouse. The shooter doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and Ballard says "no one ever does." It would be nice to get some idea of why he thinks this way. He then calls for an ambulance for himself.

Meanwhile, Boyd and Joe (Sierra’s handler) discuss the case.  Boyd notes Sierra is new, and wonders what happened to her predecessor. Joe just says "she got the job done."

Echo/Jordan talks to Reyna in her dressing room. She also finds new fan mail from Stalker Guy, and guesses Reyna is a bit too close to Stalker Guy. She also finds out he plans to kill her on stage. Yet Reyna is almost looking forward to it. "I’m not crazy," she says. "I just want to be free." Didn’t we have this last week?

We did, only this time she wants the hunter to kill her. She even sings a song that’s more like a dare for Stalker Guy to kill her. She even brings SierrAudra on stage, and calls her "her #1 fan". Echo/Jordan tries to stop the concert, but is able to stop Stalker Guy, but not before he fires two shots. This is followed by Paul in an ambulance, apparently neutralized by the Dollhouse.

After the concert, Reyna is actually upset by what Echo/Jordan did. She claims the fans were disappointed in not seeing Reyna die on stage. Echo/Jordan doesn’t understand, especially when Reyna calls herself "everybody’s fantasy" It’s almost as if she was a musical Active, and she just wants out..permanently. As she puts it, "God put this voice in me, and forgot to make it mine." Some viewers may suspect there’s not much difference between how Actives create anyone, to American Idol or reality shows creating singers. Hmmmm…

In any case, Stalker Guy is now jealous, and kidnaps SierrAudra. He sends a video message to Reyna to come to him, or he kills the "#1 fan". He’s clearly jealous because he liked the current relationship, where he kills for her and she dies for him. Oh, and she has his phone number. Whaa?
Biz slaps her, but Echo/Jordan pushes him, since she’s programmed to protect her. That’s reason enough to help her, no matter what.

At the Dollhouse, DeWitt is told by Dominic what has happened, but isn’t too worried. They’ll just fish Sierra out of there. DeWitt then asks if Dominic was a fan of Reyna’s music, which seems like an odd question.

Still, it’s sane compared to what’s happening: Stalker Guy forces SierrAudra to sing just like Reyna, while Reyna rehearses her routines as if nothing is wrong. Echo/Jordan tells Reyna she will feel somthing if she helps SierrAudra. If not, maybe hitting her with a folding chair will.

As Dominic’s army comes to save SierrAudra, and Reyna, they find a phone message from Echo/Jordan to Stalker Guy. Dominic then slams Topher against a wall, saying "your little brain child just backfired." Actives don’t improvise..or do they? Topher grows a spine by yelling "you’re in my house, Laurence…Of the two people here, one of us is a genius and the other is a security guard in a very lovely suit." So, the guy in the suit asks why it’s OK that Echo/Jordan has grabbed Reyna to give her to Stalker Guy. Topher’s not sure about that one.

Actually, it’s because Echo/Jordan is improvising. She proposes a trade to Stalker Guy, Reyna for SierrAudra. That way, everyine gets what they want, except for SierrAudra. Stalker Guy goes nuts over what’s happening, but Boyd is there to take him out. DeWitt tells him to hold off, figuring Echo/Jordan is somehow giving Reyna therapy to cure her of her death wish. She winds up pushing Reyna over the catwalk, but she was tied to a rope, and is left hanging. Stalker Guy is
dispatched, and Echo/Jordan saves the day, This calls for a treatment.

Dominic calls Echo an increasing threat who should be put into "The Attic", whatever that is. DeWitt, meanwhile, thinks Echo’s resourcefulness saved the day, and straightened Reyna out. That’s very generous of DeWitt, and makes me wonder if Dominic may attempt a coup. Boyd and Claire are also impressed with what Echo did. She is also worried that Echo may wind up being too special, as in Alpha-special. "Sometimes the best thing to hope for is good enough", she says.

As the episode wraps up, Reyna is singing that song about freedom, Ballard is alive, but is about to get a visitor…Mellie (who may or may not be an Active). Sierra and Echo see each other, but Echo shakes her head, as if she’s telling Sierra not to say anything about what happened…as if they remembered any part of it.  Wait, they’re not supposed to. Sierra didn’t, but maybe Echo did.

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