An engagement is the term used by Dollhouse staff for each Active's mission. The Dollhouse will usually be contacted by "shifty and rich" clients asking for an Active to perform an engagement. The Dollhouse (in particular the Head of Security) runs thorough background checks on each client to ensure the Active's safety. Usually riskier engagements (the ones where Actives are in danger of getting hurt or killed) also tend to have a higher price tag. The actives are monitored internally and remotely by their handlers, but they only listen in on the engagements that involve criminal activity. After finishing the engagement, the Active is told by their handler that they need a treatment, triggering a pre-programmed desire to go with their handler to the Dollhouse to be wiped (without realizing what the facility really is or what is about to happen to them).
Dollhouse staff sometimes refer to their clients by nicknames, such as "Miss Lonelyhearts" or "Tempura Joe", in part to preserve their clients' anonymity and privacy.
The nature of the engagements varies widely. Clients hire Actives to fulfill any need or fantasy, which can range from protection to criminal activity to romantic/sexual engagements. The Dollhouse does not appear to judge the moral nature of the assignments, interested only in the price tag that they can assign and in the physical safety of their dolls. Perhaps because the Dollhouse staff see their services as an altruistic endeavor, helping people find some form of fulfillment, they occasionally provide pro bono work, or allow their Actives to face risky situations to help others.
"Romantic engagements" are among the most common types, which is why the Dollhouse only seeks out physically attractive people to use as Actives. A romantic engagement involves a dream date followed by sex, all tailored to the client's individual needs. Actives on romantic engagements are programmed to fall totally in love with the clients and be exactly what the client desires.
Clients appear to hire Actives for a set period of time, like Matt's three days of no-strings fun with Echo in "Ghost," or to accomplish a set goal, like the recovery of Gabriel Crestejo's kidnapped daughter. The fee for such an engagement runs approximately in the "low millions." However, a risk assessment is performed before each engagement, and a substantial surcharge is added to a dangerous mission should the doll be damaged in any way.
- Spelling, Ian (2008-06-02). Joss Whedon offers a sneak peak at his brand-new Dollhouse. Sci Fi Weekly. scifi.com. Retrieved on 2008-09-23.
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- Mitovich, Matt (2009-02-20). Joss Whedon Spills More Dollhouse Secrets. tvguide.com. Retrieved on 2009-03-01.