|Season 2, Episode 3|
|Airdate:||October 9, 2009 (US)|
October 27, 2009 (UK)
|Written By:||Tim Minear|
|Directed By:||David Solomon|
|Dollhouse Episode Guide|
Echo is imprinted with the personality of a fun-loving, seductive college student as the behest of a Casanova college professor seeking to relive his youth. Echo's mission collides with Victor's mission when he is imprinted with the personality of the psychotic nephew/serial killer of a Dollhouse shareholder (guest star Michael Hogan). Ballard then takes over both cases as he races the clock to save some hostages held by the comatose killer.
Terry Karrens is a wealthy serial killer who collects women. His uncle Bradley knows about this and protects him from the police. He suffered a mishap and ended up poisoned with his own drugs. Delirious, he wandered into traffic and suffered brain damage. Bradley asked the Dollhouse to transfer Terry's mind into another body, but during the checkup, Topher realizes that Karrens is a psychopath.
A man is in a warehouse adjusting very real mannequins into a summer croquet scene, similar to those seen in store displays. He's exceedingly polite; uses exclamations no stronger than "Goodness gracious;" refers to the mannequins as Little Sister, Big Sister, Mother, and Aunt Sheila; and generally seems to be attempting a 1950s-style "homey-ness." When the Aunt Sheila "mannequin" starts to crawl away, the man injects the woman with a paralyzing drug. Before the drug takes full effect, she tries to attack the man and he kills her with a croquet mallet. He looks at the other mannequins (who are really kidnapped and paralyzed women) and tells them they must find a new Aunt Sheila. On his search for a new plaything, he is hit by a car.
Back at the Dollhouse, Paul Ballard is having issues adjusting to his new role as Echo's new handler. Boyd and Adelle have a conversation about the recent departure of Dr. Claire Saunders (Whiskey). Victor vocalizes that he too misses Dr. Saunders. Boyd and Adelle walk to her office, where Topher is caring for a now comatose Terry Karrens, the victim of the car accident and the nephew of one of the Dollhouse's rich benefactors. Ivy gives Ballard the details of Echo's next engagement: a teacher/student fantasy. Topher informs Adelle that Terry Karrens' brain resembles that of a serial killer, and it would be a bad idea to wake him up. Bradley (Terry's uncle played by guest star Michael Hogan) tells Adelle the real reason he wanted them to revive Terry: they need to find Terry's victims and pay them off.
When Topher imprints Victor with Terry's mind, Ballard interrogates him while Boyd takes Echo (now Kiki) on her engagement. As Kiki confronts her teacher (the client) about her recent F on an essay, Ballard brutally questions Terry, with Adelle watching their interaction on a monitor. Terry confesses that he killed Aunt Sheila (because she was "a whore"), and when he goes to report back to Adelle, Bradley sneaks off with Victor/Terry.
Once away from the Dollhouse, Victor/Terry knocks his uncle unconscious and leaves to continue his search for a new Aunt Sheila. Adelle thinks it will be easy to track him down, because all actives are GPS tagged. Topher informs her that Victor's tag was removed when they started his facial reconstruction/scar removal, and it has not been re-implanted because Dr. Saunders left. Back at the warehouse, Terry's victims start to wake up. Adelle asks Topher if he can remote-wipe Victor, so he will not continue on Terry's kidnapping spree.
On Echo's engagement, Kiki and the teacher discuss Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, specifically The Wife of Bath's Tale and Alisoun's feminist power. The teacher tells Kiki she has a similar power. Boyd is waiting outside in the van when Topher calls, telling him the system will be down for a little while they try the remote-wipe on Victor. Victor/Terry enters a dance club when Topher tries to activate the remote-wipe. He suddenly has a searing headache, and all of the Dollhouse's systems shut down.
On engagement, Kiki is still dancing with her teacher, until he whispers in her ear "You are an incredible woman". A confused Echo then stabs the teacher in the neck with a letter opener. Then she sees herself in the mirror and says "Goodness gracious." Echo is now Terry.
In the Dollhouse, Adelle calls Boyd and tells him to bring Echo in. While walking towards the teacher's office, Boyd is almost run over by a car driven by Echo. He finds the teacher bleeding on the floor of his office and calls an ambulance. Boyd then sees "Whore" written on a mirror in the teacher's blood.
Adelle and Topher discuss how Terry's imprint could have been shifted to Echo. They realize that if Terry's imprint is in Echo, where's Kiki's imprint? A newly rejuvenated Victor dances frivolously at the club. He introduces himself to a group of men as Kiki. As Ballard shows up at the club, Adelle calls to inform him of the situation. Victor/Kiki hits on a male patron of the club, and a loud commotion is heard. The crowd falls silent and Paul rushes to Victor/Kiki who has punched the male patron in retaliation. Victor/Kiki asks why he would try to hit a girl, showing that she is not aware whose body she is in. Victor/Kiki sees Paul and grabs him, hugging him and asking him why he left.
Back at the warehouse, the kidnapped women almost escape when Echo/Terry shows up. They think she is there to help them but Echo attacks one of them women with a croquet mallet. They plead with her to let them go and she/he goes on a rampage. Before she's able to hit another captive, Echo glitches.
Paul brings Victor/Kiki back to the house, and Topher finally gets the system running again. Topher uses Echo's GPS tag to locate her. At the warehouse, Echo tells the women they have to kill Terry before he takes control of her mind again. "Big Sis" has no problem with that idea and starts beating Echo/Terry with the croquet mallet. "Mother" stops Big Sis from killing Echo until Echo tells her how Terry stalked her. The woman raises the croquet mallet but is stopped by a Dollhouse employee. Ballard shows up and asks if Echo would like a treatment.
Later at the Dollhouse, Adelle tells Ballard that the comatose Terry is going back to a regular hospital. Ballard is standing over him when Echo comes in behind him, showing that Terry is now dead (presumably/possibly) deliberately by Ballard unplugging his life support system. A wiped Echo looks at Terry's lifeless body and exclaims "Goodness gracious." A sliver of Terry remains.
The episode's literary subplot for the first half, in which Echo is hired out by a medieval literature professor, examines notions of empowerment. Professor Edmond Gossen suggests to Kiki Turner (Echo) the example of The Wife of Bath from Geoffrey Chaucer's Middle English poem The Canterbury Tales. Drawing on Chaucer's Wife of Bath, he posits a notion of female empowerment whereby women can utilise sex as a means to manipulate men, insinuating Kiki could seduce him to improve her grades from an F to an A. However, the situation illustrates many ways in which men still retain power in these situations: the entire Gossen-Kiki encounter is a fiction of Gossen's mind, and while Kiki believes she is exercising her own agency in seducing her professor, in reality she is Echo whose consent to have sex is an irrelevancy. A male-dominated world means that these expressions of female 'power' are illusory, as they ultimately serve to satisfy male pleasure. The parallels between Kiki and Echo as separate identities would suggest that under Gossen's view, Echo in the Wife of Bath role must endure the sexual economy of the Dollhouse in order to construct the cognizant identity and in turn power to enact her own nascent plan to 'free' the Dolls.
The paralyzed women in Karren's lair are of course parallels to the dolls themselves, immobilized and forced to endure suffering and roleplay scenarios, with fleeting moments of agency and designs for freedom.
The episode also makes some questions about gender roles and authority. Ballard comments to Terry Karrens that all of his names are girls' names. When Kiki is transferred to Victor's body, there is no scene which illustrates a realization of a new gender identity; rather, she continues in her ordinary personality, and flamboyant behaviour, which causes club patrons to mistake her for a gay man.
[Please add to this section with your own thematic analysis, while trying to maintain a balance of interpretations as you edit.]
- Eliza Dushku as Echo/Kiki Turner/Terry Karrens
- Harry Lennix as Boyd Langton
- Fran Kranz as Topher Brink
- Tahmoh Penikett as Paul Ballard
- Enver Gjokaj as Victor/Terry Karrens/Kiki Turner
- Dichen Lachman as Sierra (credit only)
- and Olivia Williams as Adelle DeWitt
- Michael Hogan as Bradley Karrens
- Joe Sikora as Terry Karrens
- Arye Gross as Professor Edmond Gossen
- Matt Winston as Franklin
- Danielle Langlois as Aunt Sheila
- Susan Ziegler as Robin ("Mother")
- Deanna Douglas as Megan ("Little Sister")
- Tara Holt as Big Sister
This episode was shot before 2x02 "Instinct". The original intended order can be discerned from the fact that Paul is clearly new to his job as handler in this episode and has never been to the part of the Dollhouse where Actives are dressed for engagements, but "Instinct" opens with him overseeing an extended engagement. Also, this episode shows the immediate fallout of Dr. Saunders's departure.
Enver Gjokaj described his approach to playing Terry Karrens as follows: "I've never gotten the opportunity to play someone like that before. I was able to approach it differently this time, cause if I'm imprinted with someone you've already seen in the episode, as we did with Dominic last season, obviously I'm making their acting choices. They allowed me to establish this character, which means that they shot me first, then had the guest actor.... I guess the rest of it was the writing. There was a gentility and a bizarre self-control that was written into the character because this character feels like if he doesn't control his urges then someone could die or he could basically kill someone -- which he does."
- "I have to admit, cancellation worries somewhat clouded my enjoyment of “Belle Chose,” an otherwise good-but-not-great hour, because I’m feeling extra impatient about the show’s need to move forward and address the overarching plot. Though maybe a slightly stronger episode than last week’s, it again felt like a more polished and confident version of the self-contained first five episodes of last season."
- ―A.V. Club Recap
- "All in all, one of the most enjoyable hours of the season. Or as Kiki would say, this stuff about “Chauncey ” deserves an A. Or at least an A-."
- ―EW Recap
- "Despite a couple of flaws (...) "Belle Chose" was Exhibit A for how great Dollhouse can be when the concept is handled right."
- ―io9 Recap
- "In "Belle Chose," writer Tim Minear and director David Solomon delivered the best, completely standalone episode of Dollhouse since last season's "True Believer.""
- ―TV Guide Recap
- " In some ways, “Belle Chose” feels like what the show should have been from the start. There’s basically no advancement in the series’ overall arc in the episode, but the standalone story is one of the strongest the series has come up with, both deepening the series’ major themes and offering up a number of compelling character moments and plot twists. In short, this is probably the best pure standalone “Dollhouse” has done yet, and while that shouldn’t sound as impressive as it does, it’s taken this show quite a while to figure out how to tell the kinds of stories it likes to tell in a format where the story is over by the end of the episode."
- ―HitFix Recap
- "With the third episode of Dollhouse’s second season, the show has hit its stride. “Belle Chose” is the first self-contained episode that's fully held-up on its own, that didn’t feel like an intermission or unwanted distraction from the broader story arc. While the latter are always the highlights of the Whedonverse, the show needs these single-episode stories to work. When they are successful, they help draw in new users and they keep the series from being one giant extended tease. But, more importantly, they give the space and concreteness needed to ground the drama and character development, without which the arc matters little. And, at last, we have a self-contained storyline that works wonderfully."
- ―Paste Magazine Recap
- "Despite initial appearances’ this is a forgettable episode. The logic holes undermine the story at each stage but in general the plot doesn’t go anywhere and follows the repetitive pattern of each episode this season."
- ―The TV Critic Review
"Belle Chose" reached 2.24 million viewers, a 1.4/2 Rating/Share, a 1.0/3 Rating/Share in the 18-49 demographic and a 1.1/3 Rating/Share in the 25-54 demographic. It ranked No. 3 in the hour among Adults 18-49 and Teens and No. 2 among Adults 18-34.
The half-hour breakdown showed 2.295 million viewers, a 1.0/4 Rating/Share in the 18-49 demo and a 1.0/4 Rating/Share in the 18-34 demo between 9:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., and 2.198 million viewers, a 1.0/3 Rating/Share in the 18-49 demo and a 1.1/4 Rating/Share in the 18-34 demo between 9:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.
The episode received a 1.4 Live+7 Rating/Share in the 18-49 demo, which is a 40% past airdate demo increase via DVR (that's the second biggest percentage increase for broadcast TV shows of that week). 29% of all demo viewing happened past airdate via DVR, that's the second biggest percentage for broadcast TV shows of that week.
- "Goodness gracious."
- ―Terry Karrens
- Kiki Turner: Did I win a prize?
- Franklin: You are a prize.
(Franklin leads Kiki off to pick out some clothes. Ballard sits down next to a weary-looking black handler.)
- Handler: (sighs) I don't even do this for my wife...
- Kiki Turner: OK, so, I probably never should have taken this course to begin with, but, I figured it was mid-evil lit, not advanced evil... how hard could it be? So I skipped "intro to evil", or whatever, but, how is it that I get an "F" when this guy that we're reading, Chancey, can't even spell?
- Edmund Gossen: It's "Chaucer". It's Middle English....
- Kiki Turner: Right, like Hobbits or something.
- Edmund Gossen: As I said, my office is open, if you'd care to discuss it.
- Kiki Turner: Yeah, I'd care to discuss it. I'm like the Scarlet Lady with the "F" on her chest.
- Edmund Gossen: "A"...
- Kiki Turner: If only!
- Topher Brink: This is a brain. A healthy brain... Frankly, an overly smart brain. It's my brain. And this is Terry Karren's brain. See these dark areas, how they extend all the way out to here? Know why that looks like that? That's because Terry Karrens doesn't use that part of his brain. And that's where you'd find stored such things as empathy, compassion, and aversion to disemboweling puppies. Basically, this is what some of your more famous serial killer's brains look like.
- Adelle DeWitt: You're quite certain of this?
- Topher Brink: Sure enough that I have serious ethical problems waking him up.
- Boyd Langton: Topher has ethical problems. Topher.
- (Ballard walks in with Victor firmly latched on to him)
- "I see you've made a new friend."
- ―Adelle DeWitt
- Little Boots - "Remedy" plays in the disco where Kiki is dancing.
Notes & References
- Seidman, Robert (October 10, 2009). TV Ratings: Dollhouse rises; Ghost Whisperer leads CBS to win. TV by the Numbers.
- Phillips, Jevon (2009-10-10). 'Dollhouse': Victor the serial killer, and the actor who plays him. Show Tracker: What You're Watching. latimes.com. Retrieved on 2009-10-11.