Hey, whadya' know? A month in to the run of this rapidly-dying muddle of a show and we finally got a good episode!
We start off in mid-mission with Echo as a midwife helping a couple deliver their baby amidst embarasingly bad dialog ("You mean she's going to be a lesbian?"), then we cut to deprogramming and Echo back at the Dollhouse hanging out with Sierra and Victor. Topher has noticed this, and attributes it to the herd instinct you see when flocks of birds turn on a dime, and not some kind of hidden memory.
Bratac from Stargate: SG1 shows up asking for a very expensive mission "As a present" for someone. Miss DeWitt agrees, for additional fees.
Next we see Echo as a high-priced call girl skrogging around with a guy in a hotel bar/lobby. They're making a scene, so the hotel dick asks them to take it up to their room. They do.
Next we see Echo in torn clothes running down a hallway, pounding on doors, screaming for help, followed by the guys from the bachelor party. Evidently she's been gang-raped. The dick intercepts her and takes her to his office in the basement, offering to buy her off for 10 grand. She disagrees, and knocks him out, then calls down the guys from the 'bachelor party.' It was all just a ruse to get in to the dick's office.
Echo is called "Taffy" and they're plannin' a heist!
They set off some explosives to get in to the secure building next door during the one hour a day when their security is conveniently turned off. They then get in to the vault, which is full of stolen art, and steal a missing hunk of the parthenon. Suddenly the antiquities dude along with the heist screws them, takes the piece, locks them in the vault, and runs off.
"Taffy" calls her handler and alerts him, then the phone is hit by static and the "Taffy" personality is wiped, replaced by...Echo. Echo goes semi-catatonic while the Handler shoots the antiquities dude and recovers the piece of the parthenon.
Meanwhile, Topher is babbling to his never-before-seen lab asistant about juice boxes and conspiracies when they notice Echo has shut down. After some discussion, they decide to implant the "Taffy" personality in to Sierra, the blonde Japanese lady, and have her salvage the mission. They tell Taffy-sub-2 that they gave the mission to someone else who melted down, and she (Taffy-sub-2) has to save the day.
Taffy-sub-2 phones it in - literally - telling Echo how to open the vault, but it goes wrong and the guards come a-runnin'. One of the other two dudes from the heist decides to kill guards to escape, but Echo disables him, while the other dude and her escape to be recovered by her handler.
In our unrelated helo-subplot, Paul Ballard is approached by Victor, who asks him for Federal Witness Protection. Ballard ends up trapping Victor even worse than he claimed to be trapped before hand, effectively turning the tables on the Dollhouse stooge.
Easily the best episode so far, but there were still a lot of things that made no sense whatsoever:
1) Echo was a midwife at a ski lodge? Really? Someone payed like a million bucks for....a midwife? What the hell kind of sense does that make? I don't know how much a normal non-slutty midwife would cost, but I'm expecting it's probably way, way, way, way less than that. Maybe only like a half-million dollars, right? For a million bucks, they should have at least thrown in Sierra as a Doula. Geez.
2) Why did Taffy-sub-2 (Sierra) have to talk to Echo on the phone? That makes no sense, given what a basket case she was at that moment. Wouldn't it have been more logical to talk to either of the other guys trapped with her?
3) I didn't really understand what Paul did to Victor in this episode. I mean, he explains himself, and I understood the explanation, but even so, his reasoning makes no real sense.
Good stuff about the episode:
Well, it was a heist and those are always fun. I particularly liked the hide-in-plain-sight aspect of it, with them being loutish in the bar and evidently even worse up in the room. Nice bait-and-switch there, though the misdirection with Bratac didn't work quite as well as it was obviously intended to. (We're supposed to believe Echo is the present, for a wedding, in fact the parthenon is a present, but it's shot in such a way that we never quite fall for that.)
I liked that Topher was babbling about conspiracies to his lab assistant who (i'm sure) will turn out to be a plant working for the conspiracy.
I really like Echo's handler. He's the best thing about the show so far.
In the "I told you so" department, we finally confirmed that (A) Alpha is alive and (B) there's a rival "Dollhouse" out there, which I predicted weeks ago.
"You shot me."
Bad stuff about this episode:
Taffy's speech about bonnie and clyde was soooooooo very belabored and tedious, and entirely un-needed.
The "Tabula Rasa" dialog between the un-imprinted Actives is supposed to sound naive and child-like and vapid, but it really grates on me, with it's flat affect and (Deliberately) bad acting:
"I swam thirty laps in the pool today."
"good for you."
"I try to be my best."
"And are you?"
"Are you your best?"
I've never actually seen a porn movie, but I get the impression the dialog is all sort of like that, bland and flat, and full of double-entendres while people pick each other up in grocery stores and have illicit sex in the milk-cooler or whatever. All that's really missing from these scenes in Dollhouse is a wah-wah guitar.
It's interesting that DeWitt was thinking about killing Echo rather than let her be captured, and she didn't want her handler involved in that. It's also interesting that Alpha's Rival Dollhouse evidently has superior technology to Topher's stuff.