"Belonging" is the fourth episode of the second season of Dollhouse and the 17th episode overall. It was written by Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon and directed by Jonathan Frakes. It aired on October 23, 2009.


Sierra is forced to face her past as her connection to the Rossum Corporation leads to obsession and murder.

Plot Edit

The episode opens with a blurry shot of Topher, his face bloody, muttering about how he was "only trying to help her."

One year earlier, Priya Tsetsang is selling her artwork at a booth on the Venice Beach Boardwalk.  Nolan comes up and buys a piece from her, clearly something he's done before.  He asks Priya to create a larger, commissioned piece for him, suggesting he might even set a show up for her.

An undetermined amount of time later, Priya has created a painting for him and is attending the opening party at Nolan's flat.  It's overrun with shallow, rich types, and is clearly not Priya's scene.  It turns out, the party is thrown by Rossum, and many (all?) of the guests are dolls imprinted to talk Nolan up.  Priya runs into Echo, who has been imprinted as a charming young attendee.  Victor is also there, as an Italian art dealer (name of Luca Pallidio), and though he is programmed to further Nolan's advances, Victor is drawn to Priya and ends up inadvertently seducing her.  They try to leave the party together and are intercepted by Nolan on the way. As Victor's handler quickly leads him away for a treatment, Nolan confronts Priya desperately trying to win her, but she refuses, screaming, "Nothing in this world could make me love you!"  One year later, Priya is Sierra, leaving Nolan's flat after an engagement with a kiss, telling him she loves him.

Back at the house, Echo encourages Topher to dig around and he uncovers the truth behind Priya’s circumstances. Topher had met her a year earlier; she was institutionalized, a hopeless paranoid schizophrenic. And a perfect candidate to be the next Sierra. But a closer look at her original scans proves she was a healthy girl being poisoned, and go figure, her acting physician was Dr. Nolan Kinnard. He has also found out that when Sierra underwent Saunders' wish fulfilment exercise she went to confront Nolan.  He runs the story by Boyd, and they wonder whether or not Adelle is aware.  She walks in on them, and clearly had no idea.

Adelle DeWitt “flips her biscuits”, immediately calling Nolan in to confront him.  She is seething but veils it well.  Adelle attempts to ban Nolan from the house.  He demands to have Sierra imprinted and sent to him permanently.

Mr. Harding meets with Adelle, and sides with Nolan, claiming he is an asset to the company.  Adelle protests on Sierra's behalf, but Mr. Harding reveals he knows of her tryst with Victor.  In fact, he doesn't even care, as everyone “likes to take something home from the office once in awhile.”  Mr. Harding vaguely cites more serious indiscretions Adelle has committed, and she backs down. The order is to imprint Sierra and send her to Nolan forever.

Meanwhile, Sierra follows Victor into the showers where he is disposing of all the black paint.  She thanks him and touches his face, getting a little paint on it.  They laugh and begin to paint each other's faces, enjoying the game, when seeing the paint on Sierra's face triggers a flashback for Victor.  He sees a panick-stricken, screaming soldier, and the trauma causes his knees to buckle and he and Sierra fall to the ground.  She comforts him while he whispers "I don't want to take charge.  I don't want to take charge."

Back in her office, Adelle is giving Topher the order from Rossum.  She's obviously affected, pouring herself neat whisky and being quite harsh with Topher.  He does his best to refuse, but she shoots down every argument.  Adelle explains that all of the Dollhouse employees are morally compromised, with the exception of Topher who was recruited due to his complete lack of morals.  She tells him to let Sierra go.

Topher restores Priya, and sends her off to confront Nolan.  Nolan expects his new obedient wife, but when Priya reveals herself, the two argue.  It quickly escalates, growing violent and Priya stabs Nolan four times, killing him.  She calls Topher for help, though all he can think to do is run.  Having heard the outgoing call, Boyd shows up and completely takes care of the situation.  He orders Priya to pack Nolan's things so they can stage an attempt to flee the country.  Boyd has Topher dissect the body and dissolve it in sulfuric acid.  Topher says he was only trying to help Priya, as she doesn't belong in the dollhouse.  Boyd insists she does now, considering she's been abused and has taken the life of a man.

Boyd calls Adelle to inform her of Nolan's "vacation".  She's sitting at her desk, barefoot with an empty glass in hand.  Adelle takes this news without a flinch, doesn't inquire further, and seems happy that Sierra is back in the house, but acknowledges the fact that no thanks are due to her.

In the office outside the imprinting room, Topher tries to comfort Priya, and answer her questions but he isn't much help.  Priya decides she can't live with her actions and agrees to be wiped.  Now Sierra again, she goes to meet Victor and the two lie together in one of the pods, with Echo reading a book near them, watching over.

Cast Edit

Main cast Edit

Recurring rolesEdit

Guest starringEdit

Background InformationEdit


Principal photography went from August 25 to September 3, 2009.



""Belonging" is the most touching, heartbreaking episode that Dollhouse has produced to date."
E! Online Recap

""Belonging," which airs Friday, is one of the most emotionally compelling hours the show has ever done. Writers Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon give Dichen Lachman, who plays Sierra, a lot to do in this episode. Lachman does simply fantastic work, but every cast member brings his or her A-game. (...) "Belonging" is an hour that plunges headfirst into the moral quandaries and compromises that reside at the heart of the Dollhouse. It doesn't shy away from the queasier questions about what the dolls are doing during their working hours. It asks pointed questions about who has power, how that power is used and the consequences of using power. But at its heart, "Belonging" is an episode that serves as an "origin story" for Sierra, and as such, it's very affecting."
Chicago Tribune Recap

""Belonging" is (in a very unpedantic way) a genuinely radical feminist plotline, a truly unsettling metaphor about "false consciousness," the social condition that results when someone is convinced to crave something they don't in fact want at all. The moment one Dollhouse character shifts from one type of slavery to another is almost too hard to take."
New York Magazine

""Belonging" isn't just a platform for Lachman to play at least three different versions of her character. It's one of those episodes that delves into the most compelling and disturbing aspects of the series, specifically the point at which the show's treatment of female characters branches away from the way the Dollhouse itself exploits women. As we learned last season, Sierra was basically sold into slavery in the Dollhouse and in "Belonging," we find out how and why. In the early going, Whedon and Dushku declared that part of the show's goal was to make viewers uncomfortable and "Belonging" is one of the rare times that the show has achieved that objective."
HitFix Recap

"It’s easily the most compelling, surprising and emotionally turbulent episode so far this season, always challenging one’s perception of what’s real and unreal, of who’s a hero or villain or merely a tragic pawn in a deadly game."
TV Guide Recap

"This is I think the best of the second-season episodes so far. Soon after it begins a piece of information sets in motion a crisis far greater and far more interesting than any active's malfunction."
Ain't It Cool Recap

"Though loaded with well-orchestrated twists and turns—it was scripted by Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, the writing team responsible for “Epitaph One”—the episode goes deep into the fundamental ickiness of the Dollhouse itself and the complicated people who operate it and are offered up for hire. I know some have expressed frustration about all these slippery identities and nobody on Dollhouse being as they seem (hello, Zack Handlen) but I think episodes like “Belonging” (and certainly “Epitaph One”) go a long way toward expressing the tragic insidiousness of a place where everyone is a victim of some kind or another."
The A.V. Club Recap

"This episode certainly delivered a lot to chew on. In many ways, it is superior to almost every other episode of the show so far, and certainly has some of the best material Dollhouse has yet delivered."
IGN Recap

"It's somewhat ironic that upon news that Dollhouse is going on something of a hiatus and will likely not be back next year that it delivers one of the best episodes of its run."
TV Squad Recap

"The episode was great, to say the least. Despite her reluctance to play herself on-screen, Lachman broke out here. The episode also added even more to the lore of the romance between Victor and Sierra."
LA Times Recap

"Best episode of Dollhouse ever. Major, serious kudos to Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon for tapping into the true potential of this series as they delivered a compelling back-story for Sierra"
Cinema Blend Recap

"Everyone who's been complaining that Dollhouse pulled a bait-and-switch, showing us a post-apocalyptic world at the end of season one, then failing to revisit it in season two: quitcher bitchin'. We saw the roots of that dystopia last night."
io9 Recap

"For me this episode confirms that even with the best intentions, the idea of the Dollhouse is too traumatic and dark to be dealt with in a primetime show. The need for TV ready confrontations and drama don’t allow for the real human pain and conflict which the situations throw up."
The TV Critic review


"Belonging" reached 2.15 million viewers, a 1.3/2 Rating/Share, a 0.8/3 Rating/Share in the 18-49 demographic and a 0.9/3 Rating/Share in the 25-54 demographic.

The episode received a 1.3 Live+7 Rating/Share in the 18-49 demo, which is a 57% past airdate demo increase via DVR (that's the biggest percentage increase for broadcast TV shows of that week). 36% of all demo viewing happened past airdate via DVR, that's the biggest percentage for broadcast TV shows of that week.


  • This is the first and only episode to share the same title from another Joss Whedon show. An episode of Angel is also called "Belonging".[2]
  • Agent Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett) does not appear in this episode.
  • Keith Carradine is billed as a Special Guest Star.
  • Judging by DeWitt's reaction, "termination" likely isn't a simple losing of her job, but possibly her life, or her freedom by being sent into the Attic.
  • Written on the glass of Echo's chamber:
The attic is bad

I was trained to kill

My son killed me

I am a believer

I have a right to survive

My husband bought me a house

Blue skies

I love my baby

The baby isn’t mine

I like ?pain?

Women are whores

?I tried to make shape?

Where is Caroline

I am nobody

Friends help each other

I was blind

Shoulder to the wheel

Ghosts aren’t …

Mountains are safe

Topher makes me …

Dominic was bad.Boy…

November is …

Victor loves Sierra

Sierra loves …



  • When a screener copy of "Belonging" and "The Public Eye" was sent out to TV critics in October 2009, the following letter from Joss Whedon was attached to it:

We're back! With two brand new, never-before-sent-to-reviewers episodes of DOLLHOUSE, the show that's sweeping an unbelievably tiny portion of the nation. This is the year we all just get to have fun: twist the premise, go farther, darker, sillier ... make the whole world our Dollhouse. It's a party, and you're the first to arrive, which means the food's not ready and we're not dressed and who shows up to a party on time anyway? Losers. I mean, best friends ever. ... We really hope you enjoy these. ... Thanks and see you on TiVo! --joss
Reproduced by Sci Fi Wire


"I would no sooner allow you near one of our other actives as I would a mad dog near a child. Given that you’re a raping scumbag one tick shy of a murderer. I can't recall, do you take sugar?"
―Adelle to Nolan
"It's about the power. There's a ton of money in this room, but that's not power. Nolan's a medical genius, shortlisted for the Nobel — That's power. Art is power, because they can't make it. So what if you make Nolan all cute and nervous? Why not ride that a little? Make them think they have the power. Our time will come."
―Imprinted Echo to Priya
Topher: "Aren't we supposed to care for these people? Dr. Saunders would never have allowed...—"
Adelle: "Which Dr. Saunders would that be? The avuncular physician so brutally cut down not five feet from where you were standing? Or the last woman to whom you gave a permanent imprint? The other wounded flower you restored by offering her a new life? Who apparently found you so unbearable, she had to flee the city. Is it that one?"
— Topher and Adelle

Nolan: "What, and you, uh, came to get revenge for a year of loving every minute of it?"
Priya: "Did I love it? Must not have been very memorable."
— Nolan Kinnard and Priya Tsetsang


  • Just as they did with 1x13 "Epitaph One", writers Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen wrote a song for this episode too: "Drones". This time Jed sings, and it's heard in the middle of the episode.
  • The song that plays at the end is "Traveling Woman" by Bat for Lashes.

Promotional PhotosEdit

Notes & ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 Seidman, Robert (October 24, 2009). Updated TV Ratings: Dollhouse hits low note; Medium wins with adults 18–49. TV by the Numbers.
  2. There is, however, already an issue of the canonical Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 (#24: "Safe") that shares the title with an episode of Firefly.

External links Edit

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