Written by: Brett Williams, Special to CC2K
Episode Five of the new Fox series Dollhouse, “True Believer,” was an improvement over the previous two episodes, but that’s not saying a lot. While the episode did have provide interesting developments of the overall story, the means in which those developments occurred were so unbelievable that it really detracted from their revelatory significance. While I think this episode marks a step back in the right direction it still suffered from poor storytelling and an abundance implausible solutions to implausible problems. While “True Believer” is easily the second most enjoyable episode of the season (“The Target” being the first) it ultimately falls short of the mark. Let’s hope that the return of Joss Whedon next week as writer/director will right the ship. It’s going to take the kind of creativity and energy that he brings to an episode to make me care again. Overall I give this episode a 3.5 out of 5.0, the extra half a star being rewarded due to the fact that True Believer tried to progress the plot of the show as a whole, even if it did fall somewhat flat in the attempt.
This episode starts out in the town of Pleasant, Ariz. A mechanic is working on a truck and being overseen by a couple of rednecks who seem to just be hanging out. As they work, a church bus full of joyous singing piety shows up. The people inside file out and head into the nearby general store. The singing doesn’t stop, even while they’re shopping, which seems to make the shopkeeper a little uncomfortable. One of the men gives the shopkeeper a list of things they need and he is busy procuring them when Jesse, the mechanic, comes in and starts physically confronting one of the men. I assume the guy is the leader because Jesse, in true alpha male fashion, made a beeline right for him. The shopkeeper tells him to give it a rest and Jesse says it wouldn’t be a problem if shopkeeper wouldn’t serve them. “You know what they do up at that convent.” “No I don’t, and neither do you.” “You just don’t wanna know.” It’s kids, I’m guessing, something awful having to do with little kids. Convent isn’t exactly the right word, though. A convent is a place where nuns hang out. And let me tell you, if they like kids in this place then it definitely ain’t a convent. Nobody hates kids like nuns. I speak from personal experience.
So anyway, Jesse just keeps messing with the guy until the sheriff shows up and intimidates him into backing down. All the weirdo religious folk file out of the shop. Sheriff picks up the shopping list and sees a note written on the back of it that says simply, “Save Me.”
Cut to this week’s client and DeWitt. The client, a man, is talking about how these cultists (the folk from the first scene) aren’t happy because they’ve had all their humanity stripped away. DeWitt quips that something like that must be horrible. He’s aware of the irony, which is good, because if he weren’t then I’d say he had the IQ of a lobotomized prairie dog. He wants the Dollhouse to implant an active into a federal agency, the ATF to be exact, which he thinks is totally reasonable because he’s a United States senator and he thinks whatever he wants is what he’s going to get. Apparently the guy has been a client for a while and it’s his influence that helps to keep various law enforcement agencies off their back. So anyway, he’s telling her that the active wouldn’t be working with the agency. Instead, the agency would be liaising with the active’s handler, using him as a go between. He thinks the active should be perfectly safe. I’m not sure how you go from, “Actively working with a federal agency to bring down a radical cult” to “safe” but he seems to think it reasonable.
So this guy is concerned about women’s rights voters on the left and family values on the right. It’s apparently an election year and if it’s found out that anything crazy is going on behind the walls of this cult then he’ll be in trouble. So yeah, he informs DeWitt that they have a very limited window for this warrant. He’s worried the government will send someone into the fray that isn’t qualified to handle things like this. Because that’s how the government deals with things. They just pick agents out of a hat and randomly assign them to things. I mean, if the ATF thinks this place is a problem, don’t you think they’ve had people surveilling it for a loooong time? It’s not like they just overnight said, “Hey, those religious nuts out in Arizona?” “Yeah?” “Want to fuck with them?” “Sure, why not? It’s a slow Al Qaida month anyway.” This sequence all seems a bit clunky, which is pretty much par for the course. I felt like there was a lot of exposition without a lot of explanation.
Next we see Ballard walking down a hallway with a woman. He’s asking for help and she isn’t keen on giving it, but I get the feeling she will. Incidentally, this is the woman that played a post-op M to F transgender on a recent episode of SVU that was quite excellent. Not that it has any bearing on this, just thought it was a nice tidbit. So anyway, Lumis, the woman, wonders why Ballard isn’t home recuperating from his gunshot wound. It’s a valid question. He’s trying to get her to run Caroline’s (Echo) picture through some database that he doesn’t have access to. Apparently she has clearance the other guy he asked for help didn’t have so she might find something that he couldn’t. Ah bureaucracy. You run like a clock don’t you? She says she has plenty of faces to scan for people more impressive than him. “But not as charming”, he says. “Is that flirting?” “I think it was. It’s been awhile. Did I mention I got shot?” Humor? What? I laughed? What? So yeah, she takes the photo, which we knew she would.
Back to the Dollhouse where Dominic is saying, “I don’t like it.” From here on out he will be BR Dominic, for “Broken Record”
Dominic. DeWitt tells him that the Senator is too much of an asset to turn him down. Dominic isn’t worried about the ATF, he’s worried about Echo. “Her field response has been erratic lately.” Okay, quick name change. Now “Broken Record” Dominic will be referred to as “Captain Understatement” Dominic. Although she can hardly be blamed for what happened in the vault job. It wasn’t her fault she was wiped remotely. Anyway. DeWitt says she thinks Echo’s ability to adapt to things beyond her programming makes her perfect for this job. Dominic wants them to be predictable, not adaptable. “You don’t like Echo, do you Mr. Dominic?” “It’s not that I don’t like her. It’s that I worry you do.” Oh, snap! I want your job bitch, and I’m gonna get it! Yeah!
Cut to Echo and Topher in the room with Doc Saunders. DeWitt enters and tells Echo to go eat. Doc Saunders is like, “Um…not before surgery.” So DeWitt tells her to go get a massage instead. This scene illustrates quickly that the dolls will do anything that DeWitt tells them to do. That would be helpful if I hadn’t been adequately informed of that over the course of the last four episodes. I’m officially dubbing this episode Pilot Episode No. 5, since it’s the fifth episode of the show now to spend most of its time explaining the premise.
DeWitt asks Saunders and Topher if the surgery in question is doable. As is usually the case, Saunders and Topher have a difference of opinion. It seems that they’re planning to perform some sort of brain surgery/eyeball surgery to turn Echo into a living camera. Hey man, I’m all for this William Gibson-esque cybernetic implant stuff. I love a good Gibson novel as much as the next guy. But I’m led to believe that this show takes place in 2009, and I’m just not buying that we can do that in 2009. If we can, the military is damn sure the only folks in this country that know about it. Looks like Rocky is warming up in the Disbelief Locker again.
Apparently, for the surgery to work Echo will have to be made “temporarily” blind. The technology they plan to implant her with is the latest in brain cameras for the blind, hence the forced blindness. This tech actually does exist but it is currently in the earliest stages of its development. It’s not out of the question to think that the Dollhouse funds research such as this through dummy corporations and the like, so their access to it isn’t what I’m questioning. It’s not the imaging tech that I have issue with, either. It’s the fact that they’re going to take a supposedly clear image from inside Echo’s brain and broadcast it wirelessly to the ATF command center at the compound. That shit just ain’t happenin’, I don’t care how much time they spend explaining it.
Doc Saunders goes on to say that this technology has been known to cause aneurysms in and even death in certain patients. She’s quite adamant about limiting Echo’s exposure to risk, which I point out for the third week in a row makes perfect sense. DeWitt is having none of it though. This job is important to her and she wants her best girl out there doing it, so she’s going ahead with surgery despite Saunders’s protest. It’s cool though. I’m sure nothing will go wrong. Nothing ever does.
Next stop is the ATF briefing room. A man going by the name of Jonas Sparrow A is their target. He’s 36 years old and apparently he’s been in and out of federal prison for the majority of those adult years. His last time in the joint he claimed he had a conversion experience which I’m guessing this ATF guy isn’t buying. He joined up with the Zion Ranch in Texas but eventually splintered off from them and set up shop in Arizona. In the past he’s been involved in both gun running and, you guessed it, human trafficking. Boyd is in with the group of agents listening to the briefing. Until recently the ATF hadn’t had grounds for a warrant. According to their reports Sparrow never goes into town himself, instead choosing to send his followers in to pick up supplies. This allows them to watch out for each other and I suppose keep anyone from trying to run away or follow them back. Apparently the “Save Me” note from the first scene is the grounds for the warrant. That seems like weak tea, especially for a government raid on a heretofore peaceful religious compound. I suppose the government’s done worse with less though, so not that hard to believe. They have only 48 hours to get inside and figure something out. One of the agents, a SMART one, is like, “We have 48 hours to infiltrate this group and get far enough inside to actually do some damage?” You mean that doesn’t seem reasonable to you at all? You’re not the only one. Instead of answering her, he introduces Boyd as a contractor who is being embedded at a very high level.
Boyd proceeds to tell them that he works with a very special girl who isn’t an undercover agent, isn’t military, isn’t law enforcement. But it’s okay, because, you know, she’s special. She knows these people like she knows herself. This sequence is intercut with footage of Echo in surgery. Boyd goes on to tell them that Esther’s (Echo’s) specialty isn’t getting out of places, it’s getting in. Because of this “talent” she will not arrive there as a stranger or intruder. Boyd tells them that she will walk right into that compound and be accepted. “How?” Another good question from the audience. “Through a miracle.” I’m sure that’s the answer she was looking for Boyd, thank you.
The scene introduces us to blind Echo. She and Boyd are in a car together, tooling down the open road. She thinks she’s hitch-hiking across country. Boyd enquires after her blindness and she tells him she thinks God took her eyesight to bless her, not to hurt her. She praises God for it. Saul of Tarsis made it to Damascus after being struck blind and he became a new person, she tells him. “You want to become a new person?” “More than anything.” Ah, more heavy handed parallels between Echo’s imprint and her emerging true self. This show is becoming as predictable as snow in Alaska.
The travellers pull up to the compound and Boyd has to let her go, which I’m sure is painful for him. I’d wager he likes this particular engagement the least of all the ones she’s been on. So anyway, Echo canes her way through the open gate into a community of people who look like Amish cosplayers if people cosplayed being Amish. Nobody will talk to her at first. She comes across a man who I believe is Sparrow and takes a nice long look at his face. “Jonas Sparrow. I’d know your face anywhere.” WHAT?! Okay, that makes NO FUCKING SENSE! Even if the girl had seen Sparrow before she went blind it would have only been on the television when her parents were watching the news, and even then it’s not like she could have touched the contours of his face. I mean, plenty of people look very similar to one another. I’m reasonably certain that if you put Ed Brubaker and I side by side that you could feel both of our faces blindly and we’d look very similar. But all of that is moot since she’s never fucking touched the man and, in the unlikely event that she’s SEEN the man, it was something like TWENTY GODDAMNED YEARS AGO! WHAT?!
At a whopping 13:16 seconds in they drop the Worst…Intro… Ever…on us. It gets worse each time I hear it.
Back to Ballard. He’s on the phone to someone about some drugs that they broke into somewhere and took from someone and he’s telling them where they can bring them down to his office. So anyway, Lumis is back and she looks none too happy about the drug conversation. Ballard explains that it was his neighbor on the phone. He forgot his pain meds (which, don’t those make you really loopy and drowsy? Like, the kind of state one should not be operating a firearm in?) and his neighbor is bringing them to him. I hope we get to see her. She’s cute and wholesome and nice and a little chubby, kind of like Kaylee. She’ll probably die…if she isn’t a doll.
Anyway, Lumis tells him she tried everything she knows how to do. Caroline (Echo) doesn’t exist as far as she knows. She says she’ll leave it active in the system and if anything comes up she’ll let him know. Of course, it’s entirely possible that she is in cahoots with the Dollhouse and is purposely keeping him off the trail. I hope that’s not the case as it wouldn’t make any sense. If the FBI didn’t want anyone finding out about the Dollhouse then they could just close the case.
Back to the compound where Sparrow is sizing Echo up. We get our first image from the eye camera brain transmitter whatzit and it’s clear but shaky. Sparrow seems skeptical about a blind woman making it all the way to Arizona by hitch-hiking. She’s all like, “Psh! Don’t sweat it none birdman. God brought me here.” He wants to know who told her about this place (Oh, I don’t know. Maybe the fucking news?) and she says that he told her even though he’s never seen her before in his life. She says that he appeared to her and spoke to her in a vision, telling her a place had been prepared for her and that she should come find them. In this vision he apparently let her touch his face so that she’d know him when he saw her. Christ.
Eliza Dushku is actually having to act in this episode as opposed to doing some approximation of Faith from Buffy. It’s actually refreshing. She’s doing a good job. Anyway, back to it.
Sparrow’s brethren seem to be convinced by this complete stranger’s ludicrous story. They’re all like, “Amen, Amen!” For his part he seems convinced too, which I’m sure he isn’t. They keep showing images of this woman with kind of curly brown hair and chubby cheeks. They show her reaction to Echo so many times that I can only assume she’s important. We shall call her Curly. They take Echo inside.
Back to Sparrow and the guy from the shop at the beginning of the episode. He’s Brother Seth, or BroSeth as far as we’re concerned. BroSeth seem totally stoked, in his own tired, brainwashed way, about this new miracle lady in the camp. Sparrow is skeptical. He reminds Brother Seth about the importance of protecting this “garden.” Man, I hope this isn’t something as simple as fucking pot. He tells BroSeth that if a serpent were to enter into the garden they must crush it under their heel. BroSeth seems okay with this, but I’m pretty certain he’d seem okay with anything Sparrow told him to do. That’s sort of the point.
Back to the Dollhouse for the requisite communal shower scene. Sierra walks in and greets Victor specifically. Their serene pliancy is supposed to mirror that of the cultists while offering a counterbalance to it. They are similar, but the cultists are retreating from their humanity while Victor and Sierra seem to be finding theirs. They discuss how nice the water feels. Victor even stops and looks at Sierra, regarding not just her presence but her naked form as well. Then he regards his own reaction to it, which is an erection. This is the kind of base human response to one another that they’re supposed to be incapable of, yet here it is. Victor has a boner in defiance of Topher’s will. You go Vic! Get a piece!
Topher on the phone in his office. He looks up on the screen monitoring the shower and he sees Victor quite obviously ignoring his own hygiene to ogle Sierra. In true Topher fashion, he wigs. He has to leave his phone convo quickly. “I’ve gotta go,” he says. “Something came up.” Ha! Get it? Something came up? Something like Victor’s penis. Hoo-ah!
So Topher rushes off to find Doc Saunders. She seems annoyed that he’s there. He tells her he glanced at the shower screen and he noticed that Victor is naked and having a sort of “man reaction” in the shower. “Victor had an erection?” asks Doc Saunders. “I prefer man reaction,” says Topher. I think I do too, actually. From now on whenever I see something arousing I’m going to refer to myself as having had a “man reaction.” So anyway, Topher is wigging a bit more now, which is understandable since this is sort of a big deal. I mean, I don’t know just how big. This is PG-13 television after all. It’s not like they’re going to show us Victor’s penis. But big, nonetheless. In their doll state they’re supposed to be limp. Saunders says that she warned about this, that his last engagement was with Miss Lonelyhearts, who I’m guessing is a wildcat in the sack if she can burrow through all of Topher’s super-science and remind Victor it’s time to give Little Victor some posture lessons. Topher says that shouldn’t matter because he’s been wiped, no worries. But apparently Miss Lonelyhearts likes Little Victor and she keeps asking for him back. He has had the same imprint eight separate times, which Doc Saunders thinks is a bad idea because it could cause a breakdown of the doll state. Like so often before she’s been the voice of reason and nobody has listened to her, because at the Dollhouse they’re really not about doing anything that would make things glide a fair bit smoother. Topher confirms this by telling her that nobody actually reads her reports. Real professional. Since he has no idea how many times this has happend, Doc informs him that they’ll have to sift through three months of shower footage in order to find out if Little Victor has been all growsed up before.
Back to the compound. Curly is introducing Echo’s fingers to everyone’s faces. One face in particular troubles her. Well, not his face so much as his chest. His name is Elia, which would have been a lot easier if it were just Eli. So yeah, Echo touches his chest as Curly tells us that he was part of the group way back at the Zion Ranch. I guess she can tell from his heartbeat (which I’m assuming sped up when the Zion Ranch was mentioned) that he had a negative experience there? I don’t know. Personally my heart races when I see a pretty girl, which Echo certainly is. Maybe he’s just having a man-reaction. Anyway, apparently some bad juju went down at the Zion Ranch (with a charming name like that who would believe it?) and Sparrow saved them, led them away from there like Moses leading the Jews. Only these people are almost all white. Then BroSeth shows up and interrupts the face party to take Echo to Sparrow.
The whole time this is going on a printer is feeding high quality photos of the men and women Echo’s camera encounters to the ATF agents. They are then cross-referencing those images with some of the names of people they believe to be inside the compound. I’m here to tell you that this is in no way significant and doesn’t come up again throughout the entire episode. Suddenly the camera gets all screwy. Oh no, did something go wrong? That would be really out of character for a Dollhouse engagement if something went wrong. Nothing EVER goes wrong at the Dollhouse.
Apparently there’s nothing wrong with the camera. Sparrow is just shining a bright flashlight in Echo’s eyes to test for a reaction. If she reacts to the light then she isn’t really blind. Sparrow is interrogating Echo. He wants to know if she works for the government, if she’s with law enforcement of any kind. BroSeth is standing all tall and creepy in the shadows, watching. Sparrow wants to believe everything she says but he brings up the Garden of Eden story again, comparing her to the devil, the serpent. Then he goes on about how he’s corrupt, how he was evil, how he’s done bad things, but that the people he shelters are pure, that they are untouched by the world as he knows it. As he does this he loads a revolver, which seems like the sort of thing a bad man would do to scare a young woman. BroSeth doesn’t seem to protest. I think maybe he’s having a man-reaction too.
Sparrow points the gun right between Echo’s eyes and everyone at the ATF compound gasps. Boyd, buddy, new job. So anyway, he keeps watching her eyes, watching for a reaction from her. It’s a good trick, since anyone, regardless of their true intentions, would most likely recoil from a gun being aimed right at their head. Echo doesn’t react at all since for all intents and purposes she is actually blind. Sparrow, satisfied that she is in fact blind, welcomes her into the fold and kisses her on the head. Then he leaves her with BroSeth, which I wish he wouldn’t do. Anyway, Echo takes a “look” around the room and the camera picks up on some pretty heavy ordinance. The room they’re keeping her in is loaded with automatic and semi-automatic weapons. Either he’s running guns or he’s gearing up for a war. Boyd sees the guns and he looks like he’s going to be sick to his stomach.
Back to the FBI where Ballard’s neighbor, who I have a mad crush on, who I will shows up with his pain meds and some food. It’s leftover manicotti this time instead of leftover lasagna. Just like the last time, it’s a whole pan of pasta. The bastard doesn’t know how lucky he is. I would actually like to take a second to appreciate this character. She only pops up briefly but she is maybe the one character on this show MOST representative of what we’ve come to expect from Joss Whedon. She’s not the classic wispy model type you see throughout this show. This girl has hips, she has chubby cheeks, she looks like she enjoys eating, she loves to cook, and she seems to have a very positive outlook on things. She may be the most genuinely human character on the show Italian cooking neighbor, Mad Crush Girl, you get my Whedonite Seal of Approval. You’re the only character on this show so far that wouldn’t annoy the hell out of Mal and that Buffy wouldn’t kick. Way to go!
So anyway, she says she’s been meaning to come down which Ballard is kind of surprised at. I think it’s just her own awkward, nervous brand of flirting. She hands him another envelope like the one that contained the picture of Caroline( Echo). It has his name on it and she says that some guy in the hall asked her to give it to him. If that’s the case, chills up the spine, because Alpha was just in the vicinity of our vulnerable sweetheart, our new Willow/Kaylee/Fred if you will. Or maybe she just brought it herself because she’s actually not who she appears to be at all. -Sigh.- I really hope that’s not the case. Ballard takes the new envelope and the older one as well to his supervisor. He wants her to take a look at it because they were obviously addressed by the same person. He has Millie (neighbor girl) in there with him so she can describe the man who gave her the envelope. She’s describing for them what he looks like when Lumis asks, “Did he have a cart?” Apparently he was the kid from the mailroom who was too lazy to walk to Ballard’s desk. So anyway, the handwriting is definitely the same, confirming his belief that whoever sent him this also sent him the photo. The envelope contains a disc and on that disc is the video of Echo that we saw someone, presumably Alpha, watching at the end of Pilot No. 1. Ballard starts taking notes on everything and Millie sort of shrinks away. Ballard, the idiot, lets her go without even turning to say goodbye. At least he thanks her for her help.
Meanwhile, back at the Dollhouse. Saunders and Topher are watching a bunch of shower porn together, looking for Little Victor and his Man Reaction. Man that’d be a good band name. They’re definitely seeing some man reactions on the video. Topher, in his petulant and sheltered sort of way, is obviously uncomfortable watching man reactions with such a pretty girl nearby. Doc Saunders is just annoyed with him. She’s so clinical. Saunders has him pause on a few different images and through her skills of deductive reasoning she figures out that it has fuck all to do with repetitive imprinting and a whole lot to do with the hot, naked Asian girl showering next to him. He’s reacting to Sierra. Victor likes Sierra, which in a place like the Dollhouse is bad.
Back to the ATF who are waiting on word from the judge that they have a warrant so they can raid the compound. Boyd wants to remove Echo from the field before they do that. The ATF guy is like, “that can’t happen.” He’s entirely too shitty to Boyd about it too. If the ATF (or any government agency) were liaising with a private contractor firm to help in an investigation like this, one of their main priorities upon entering the facility would be to locate and extract the undercover agent. For them to even be arguing about this is ludicrous. This ATF guy has a hard on for Sparrow, wants him gone. Boyd figures this out and the guy tells him that a few years back he encountered Sparrow and his “followers.” Only then it wasn’t a church, it was a bunch of underage girls that I assume he was trafficking and/or having sex with. He doesn’t say. Apparently the judge on that case didn’t like the way they handled the evidence and Sparrow only got two years instead of the life sentence they thought he was going to get. Anyway, Boyd thinks they should wait, not rush in, but the ATF guy is like, “when this judge calls, I’m not waiting.” Which, again, is perfectly reasonable. A room full of illegal arms and armament is more than enough reason to go in and get the fucker. They don’t need to gather anymore evidence because a room full of ILLEGAL FUCKING GUNS is plenty of evidence. I don’t know why they’re both acting so fucking stupid.
Boyd phones Dominic and asks or permission to remove Echo early, to forcibly extract her from the compound. Dominic thinks Echo has fucked up again but that’s not the case and Boyd tells him so. God, this is so fucking stupid. It wouldn’t go down like this at all. They would just assign part of their team to move in and quickly extract the girl. It’s one of the FIRST THINGS they would do upon entering the compound! Dominic tells him not to extract her. This would make sense if he were thinking like I am, but he’s not. He’s thinking Echo will probably get killed when all of this goes down and that will solve his problem. It’s easy not to worry about her screwing up if she’s dead.
Inside the compound Sparrow is telling the story of Esther to his followers as he prepares to introduce Echo as the newest official member of the family. He’s explaining how Esther could see things that nobody else could. Heeeeey, kind of like Echo. Clever. This speech is intercut with footage of the ATF people getting into position for their raid. BroSeth brings Echo up to the front of the room so that she can repeat Sparrow’s creepy oath and join the ranks of their flock for good. Any minute now Sparrow’s going to turn into a giant snake and Conan is going to burst through the walls and engage him in mortal combat. So yeah, she gets all initiated and the ATF gets into final positions for their raid. The flock have a giant hug fest and then some ATF guy trips over a completely conspicuous tripwire which throws a bunch of lights and makes the place look like Rockefeller Square at Christmas time.
Seriously…? The ATF didn’t accurately scout the compound before assaulting it? And even if they didn’t take the time to do proper reconnaissance and spot things like tripwires, don’t you think that these federal agents would at least be TRAINED to watch for shit like this? I mean, it’s not like it was a motion sensor buried under the ground. It was a goddamned wire the size of an oil pipeline just hovering there for all to see. Maybe Echo’s not the only one who’s blind.
Jonas and BroSeth run downstairs and grab a couple of machine guns, then they hustle back up. Sparrow starts accusing Echo of bringing the feds down on them. She doesn’t know what’s going on because she’s built not to know what’s going on. Sparrow slaps her. That’s three weeks running now a woman’s been slapped on screen. Quick cut back to the ATF where her getting slapped has distorted the camera. Well isn’t this just another brilliant clusterfuck?
Sparrow keeps threatening Echo, manhandling her. He goes to smack her again and she grabs his hand. Apparently a solid smack to the jaw was all it took to completely fuck up Echo’s imprinting and make her able to see again. That’s right, the extremely difficult thing they did last week where whoever is fucking with her went to inordinate trouble to screw with her imprint remotely, apparently it could have been handled just as easily with a quick knock on the jaw. The situation isn’t quite as dire as last week though, as only the part of her imprint that made her blind has been removed. Convenient. Oh yeah, the camera definitely doesn’t work now either. This is the requisite moment in the show where I say, “This makes so little sense that I’m not even going to try and
So now it’s the next morning and we have us a standoff. ATF guys on the outside, armed religious fanatics on the inside. Hey, you could just do what war hero Wesley Clark did back in the Clinton Administration and burn the building with all of them still alive inside of it. What’s a few innocent women and children in the fight against domestic terrorism, right? Anyway, Curly and Elia are really frightened, they don’t understand why he has guns, they’re trying to comfort Echo. BroSeth is telling Sparrow that he must try to comfort his people, to assuage their fear. He wants to know if BroSeth believes in her, believes in Echo’s “miracle.” Sparrow crawls over to her and tells her that he believes her, that he doesn’t think she brought these men here. Mind you he doesn’t bother apologizing for the smack on the jaw. So Sparrow is confiding in her, asking if this really is a miracle. She quotes “Amazing Grace” to him which I suppose is all the answer he needs. He believes that she was sent there for them, to help them through this, that her miracle shows him what he must now do.
Back to Boyd and the ATF guy, reaping the fallout of their wholly unbelievable idiocy. The ATF leader is all pissed because Boyd can’t communicate with Echo in any way. He’s like, she’s just another one of those cultists now so that’s how I’ll treat her. Jesus fucking Christ this is unbelievable. Boyd wants to know about the person who sent the note, the “Save Me.” He wants the ATF to send a signal to him/her. I’m not sure how they’d go about doing that since they have no way of either sending a signal or knowing who they need to send it to in the first place. Just as the ATF guy and Boyd are getting ready to regurgitate some more Alpha Male on one anther’s shoes, the local news shows up.
Inside the compound Sparrow is telling his people that he and BroSeth have been stockpiling weapons in the event that something like this day could occur. He then tells them that Echo was sent there by god in advance of these men and that her arrival means they won’t have to take up arms. I’m not sure how he got from that point A to that point B but I’m assuming he’ll explain it in a minute.
Cut back to Ballard. He’s eating something from a vending machine instead of eating say, I don’t know, FRESH MANICOTTI! Idiot. So anyway, some of his coworkers are watching a news report on the office television about the ATF showdown in AZ. That’s right people. The freaking FBI found out about a showdown on American soil with an army of religious nutjobs from the freaking news. Not a phone call, not an e-mail, not a “Hey, we could use your help,” heads-up. They found out about it on the TV. I think I might join that cult after this. This episode has me clutching my forehead and uttering Jesus’s name every few minutes so I might as well join a group of people who do things like that all the time. Ballard is watching the screen, which pauses on footage of the flock running out of the compound. You guessed it, he spots Echo amongst them. Ah, so that’s why they had to find out through the TV, so that Ballard could see her run out. If you look closely you can see that then brand name on the television is Deus Ex Machina.
Back to Boyd who is using his “I used to be a cop” detective skills to try and figure out something about the “Save Me” note. He’s in the general store asking the manager for information. The owner tells him about Jesse screwing with the people and Boyd wants to know why. The owner mentions all the rumors about what goes on up there and that he’s more inclined to believe them now that he’s seen that note. Boyd wonders if anyone checked the store’s security tape. He thinks maybe the note was written while the flock was in the store, that maybe the person writing it could be seen.
Boyd then heads back to the compound where the ATF guys are making plans. Either that or they’re playing Risk. It’s hard to tell. ATF leader guy tells Boyd he’ll let him go in for his girl under conditions. Boyd throws him into a truck and tells him that the only condition is that he goes in for Echo and in return he doesn’t tell anyone that ATF leader guy set this whole thing up. Boyd shows him a security photo he has of him leaving the store the day the note was found, proving that ATF leader guy wrote the note. If you go back and watch that first scene you can see the ATF leader in a ballcap sneak into the store while the flock are doing their sing-along. I guess that whole, “travel in packs so we can look out for each other” thing doesn’t work too well though because not one of the many joyous singers saw the strange man screwing with their shopping list. That’s made all the more ridiculous when you see just how small the store is. Anyway.
Back inside the compound everyone is hiding and huddled together. We haven’t received that explanation I assumed was forthcoming, the one that would clue us in on why Echo coming there meant they didn’t have to shoot anyone. Anyway, Sparrow sends BroSeth out on some secret mission. He’ll probably get shot. Then he asks Echo, who should be reading at the level of a nine year old, to sight read from the Good Book. She does just fine. This is interspersed with images of BroSeth on his secret mission which is apparently to set something on fire. This is made all the more clear by the fact that Echo is reading about fire. Subtle this show ain’t. Okay, yeah. So BroSeth lights the building on fire. Sparrow tells them to prepare for another miracle at which point it dawns on Curly that this crazy motherflipper is about to light them all on fire. She’s all like, “I’m the fuck out of this.” Sparrow calms them down by telling them that the flames will only burn those amongst them who lose their faith. Fire’s not all that discerning, but okay.
The ATF leader says that fire or not, they’re still there to serve a warrant. The situation is hostile, they’re not there to rescue people. At least, that’s the way he sees it. So they’re going forward with their plan which we’re just not going to be privy to I suppose. Then he tells his second in command that if he sees Boyd he should take him down because he thinks Boyd is working with Sparrow and that he must have set the fire. Only a crazy person would draw this conclusion, only an equally crazy person would accept it as logical, so I guess we’re meant to infer that the ATF is run by crazy people.
It looks like the plan is just a frontal assault on the building. So they get to assaulting and int he meantime Boyd is Batmanning around the place. He knocks out an ATF guy that is curiously alone, I assume to steal his fire gear.
Back inside the building the smoke is starting to get thick, people are starting to cry along with their praying, and Echo is trying to convince Sparrow, who honestly seems to believe all this nonsense, that you can’t just make a miracle happen by lighting churchgoers on fire. Haha, foolish girl! Of course you can! So she keeps on him, telling him that people will die from smoke inhalation before the fire even gets to them. So yeah, he smacks her again. When she stands back up she’s blind…blind with FURY! She knocks Sparrow the hell out, which he more than deserved. The people are shocked, but let’s be honest, they’re obviously easily led so I’m thinking none of them will have a big problem with this.
BroSeth, obviously freaked, starts praying over Sparrow. The rest of the people just look confused. Sort of like cattle in an abattoir. Echo starts telling BroSeth that his duty is to protect these people, that their salvation is why they are there, that he’s staring a miracle right in the face. It’s a good thing BroSeth will never know that his “miracle” is actually just Topher’s increasingly shoddy science. So she lights a fire under them, figuratively of course, and herds them all outside.
The ATF is waiting for them, shepherding them through the gates and no doubt into a nice, cozy paddy wagon. Elia is still in the burning building, praying. He doesn’t understand how Echo could doubt after God had returned her sight. She rationally (for someone who believes this hard) tells him, “I don’t believe God let me see again so I could just…watch.” So he spits on her because their home is gone, which isn’t her fault because she’s not the crazy asshole who tried to light them on fire. So she punches him, I’m assuming to knock him out and take him out of the burning building. But maybe it’s just because he spit on her. I’d be okay with that. I’d actually be more okay with that.
BroSeth runs back in and drags Elia out. Then Sparrow gets up and points the gun at Echo. Though instead of immediately shooting her he decides to sermonize a bit. This sermonizing costs him his life when someone decked out in fire gear shows up behind Echo and blows him away. We’re assuming this person is Boyd but in fact it’s Dominic. We know that it’s Dominic because he takes off his mask. You read that correctly. He takes off his mask. Then he knocks Echo out. Why would he do that, you ask? Why would a man as smart as Dominic, who obviously doesn’t care about reassuring the woman he’s obviously there to kill, take off his gas mask in the middle of a burning room full of smoke? He wouldn’t. The only reason he removes his mask is to show the audience who it is underneath. That’s bad writing and it ruins what would have been an otherwise interesting double-cross.
So we come back from the break and it looks as though Dominic has simply left Echo for dead. I don’t really understand why you would leave someone for dead when you have a gun in your hand and you could just leave them dead instead of leaving them for dead. So anyway, the ATF leader is like, “Pull your men back,” because he thinks Boyd and Echo are still inside and his illogical mind is convinced that Boyd and Echo are deserving of burning to death.
Another person in fire gear shows up in the burning building as Echo is waking up. She wigs, thinking her attacker has come back. This time it really is Boyd and we know because he takes his mask off too, but it makes sense for him to do that since he gives it to Echo so she can breathe in the smoke.
Back outside the ATF guy is giving an interview to the news as the compound burns behind him. He’s telling them he doesn’t believe there are any more survivors when Boyd walks out carrying Echo. Poor ATF leader guy, you didn’t get to see your crazy murderous wish come true.
The next day Ballard shows up and starts quizzing the ATF leader guy about things. He wants to know where the people are being held, where he can find them. The ATF guy, truculent as ever, tells him that if the FBI has a problem with how he handled things they could take it up with his superiors. Ballard assures him that’s not the case. He shows the guy the picture of Caroline (Echo) and he acts like he doesn’t recognize her. Ballard wants to question the people from the compound and the ATF guy tells him to get a warrant. I don’t know a ton about federal law enforcement and I’m aware that over the years these organizations have had their problems working together, but it seems unlikely to me that an ATF agent could just flatly deny an FBI request since they handle the same cases. Especially if that request was to interrogate someone from the compound who could be tied to an ongoing FBI investigation.
Back to the Dollhouse. DeWitt is talking to Topher and Saunders about how someone like Victor showing that much humanity could lead to disastrous consequences. She tells them to scrub Victor (which I assume means to reset him completely?) and to monitor him closely. Or you could just kill him. I mean, wouldn’t that solve the problem in a way that leaves zero margin for error? I mean sure, even dead he can still have a man reaction, but I hear that wears off pretty quickly.
DeWitt and Dominic take a walk. She asks him about the weather in Arizona, questions him about the requisition of a company jet. He tells her that he thought Echo was glitching on a government job and that he should be on site in case things went way South. DeWitt seems increasingly annoyed with him, a sentiment I…um…echo. -Snicker.- Dominic keeps talking. You can guess about what. He expresses his growing concern that Echo is exhibiting the same behaviors as Alpha before his composite event. He thinks DeWitt is gambling with their organization. “Don’t gamble on what I’d be willing to do Mr. Dominic.” Icy. She’s getting tired of him.
Topher and Doc Saunders are with Echo after her wiping. She walks off and Saunders follows her out, asking about her vision. She wants to know if Echo can see alright. Echo takes a look around and then spots Dominic. “I see perfectly,” she tells Doc Saunders. Then she takes another long look at Dominic, like she recognizes him, like she remembers him leaving her unconscious in a burning building.