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Epitaph One is the thirteenth episode of Dollhouse. It was written by Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon, with a story by Joss Whedon. It was directed by David Solomon.

Originally not part of Fox's Season One order, "Epitaph One" never aired on Fox. It was released on the Dollhouse Season One DVD set, and was screened at San Diego Comic Con 2009. The world premiere of "Epitaph One" was in Singapore via SingTel mio TV's on-demand Season Pass service on June 17, 2009. Most international markets air "Epitaph One" as part of the first season.

Despite the fact that "Epitaph One" never aired in its country of origin, it was widely received by viewers and critics alike as one of the best episodes of the entire series, and it proved vitally important to the plot arc of the second and final season of Dollhouse. "Epitaph One" has been so highly praised, in fact, that in 2010 it was nominated for the hugely prestigious Hugo Award (an annual awards ceremony for the best of science fiction and fantasy projects over the course of that year) in the category of Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.[1]


By 2019, Rossum Corporation has let the Dollhouse technology slip out of its hands, leading to wiping and imprinting on a massive scale. The world is in chaos, and a group of renegades are trying to avoid the tech that destroyed mankind, while also searching for Safe Haven. Instead, they find the place where the tech originated: the L.A. Dollhouse.


The year is now 2019. A group of "actuals" (non-imprinted humans) are attempting to get underground to avoid the technology that will wipe their minds. It is revealed that Rossum let the technology slip from their hands and China has created a way to spread the imprint not only through phone lines but also by blanketing an area with a wave, and as a result, the humans of the world have been imprinted to kill those who have not been.

A small group consisting of Mag, Zone, Griff, Lyn, a child named Iris and her wiped father, Mr. Miller, manage to get into the sewers and find a hole which leads them into the Dollhouse. The group explores the area and manages to reactivate the circuit breakers, bringing electrical power back to the Dollhouse. The group eventually finds the chair. Attached to the chair is a tablet with an easy interface and set of memories. Mr. Miller is placed into the chair and is given the memories one at a time. Through this, events leading to the post-apocalyptic state are revealed. The group realizes that this place is the origin of the imprinting technology. In one of the flashbacks it is revealed that originally, imprints had to be conducted with the use of leads and electrodes attached to an Active's head; this was a slow process, taking two hours per imprint. However, when Topher Brink came into the Dollhouse he devised a system (including the imprinting chair) that used waves and reduced imprint time to five minutes.

Lyn takes Iris to the bathroom. Lyn is delighted to find a shower with hot water and decides to take one. She sets aside her gun along with her clothes. Iris wanders off, and while she is gone, Lyn is killed by an unseen attacker who bludgeons her on the head with a flashlight. A flashback then occurs, showing Echo being imprinted as a naive Russian girl who speaks only Russian, to allow Paul Ballard, her handler, to infiltrate the Russian Mafia. However, after Ballard and Echo step into the elevator, she starts speaking perfect English, revealing that she is no longer subject to her imprints. She tells Ballard that the imprint of her Russian counterpart is intact and coexisting with Caroline. She also tells him that, as a result of her coexisting with her imprinted personalities, she is getting severe headaches. Back in 2019, Iris finds Lyn's body and her screams bring the group to investigate. The group retreats to the chair room, leaving Lyn's body behind. In a flashback, Boyd is seen leaving the Dollhouse. He has placed Echo in danger and does not wish to place Dr. Saunders in the same position. He is visibly injured but still decides to leave, but not before embracing Dr. Saunders.

The group falls back into the chair room, and Iris is given a tattoo on her back with of her name. It is what the actuals call a "birthmark". It is used to identify the actuals from the imprinted. The group then look at the window to see Dr. Saunders is outside. The group run down to interrogate her, but it is clear that she has regressed to her Active self, Whiskey. The group are about to execute her, believing she killed Lyn. However, she says she can lead them to Safe Haven, which is rumored among actuals to be a sanctuary from the imprinted and the mind-wiping technology. Whiskey states that the memories in the tablet will lead them there. In another flashback scene Victor, who has been imprinted with Clive Ambrose, head of the Rossum Corporation, is informing them they are going to sell actives. For a nine-figure sum, a person can have immortality, similar to that of the episode "Haunted." Mr. Ambrose informs Adelle DeWitt that it would be all legal within a year as their services to high-ranking officials would push this legislation through. DeWitt believes it is morally wrong, but Mr. Ambrose states they have a choice to either join them or die; meanwhile, his mind is currently in ten other dolls, making the same ultimatum to the leaders of ten other Dollhouse branches.

Iris then comes into the room and asks about her father, who is in the imprinting chair. She then shoots and kills Griff, the only other person in the room, and frames her father, screaming to attract the attention of the group. (At this point, it can be assumed that Iris also killed Lyn). Zone takes Mr. Miller out to the bathroom and executes him. Whiskey sits down into the chair and activates a memory showing a flashback.

Dominic has been retrieved from the Attic. However, by this time the public has already been imprinted, beginning the apocalyptic events. He has been briefed on the situation and it is clear that Adelle has decided to break the house from the Rossum Corporation and as a result is at war with them. Gloating about his foresight on the matter, Dominic alludes to a run-in with a mentally crumbling Topher. He certainly enjoys lording the current circumstances over Adelle, regardless of her visible guilt over the way things have come to pass. Dominic shoots a decanter of whisky out of her hand, but she just pours a glass of vodka neat, implying a relapse. Adelle informs Dominic of the recent revelation of a potential cure, a "block" to prevent being imprinted. It seems Caroline is the only one who has it, which presents a problem for the house. Dominic can't even remember which doll Caroline was.

Whiskey, now awake, states that something has to go into the chair and points to the hard drive slot. Mag asks Whiskey what needs to go in there. Whiskey says she doesn't remember...yet. Whiskey is then given another memory. In this flashback, Victor and Sierra have been given their real souls back - their identities as Anthony Ceccoli and Priya Tsetsang, respectively - and they discuss what is to come. Anthony shows Priya a hidden cabinet filled with more hard drives - copies of all their personalities including Caroline's, just in case. (As a side note, Priya is shown to have the first "birthmark".) In 2019, Mag, Zone, Iris and Whiskey are all that are left and they go find the hard drives. Zone decides to give Iris a gun to protect herself. The group then go back to the chair room to upload Caroline's mind into Whiskey so they can find Safe Haven. However Iris turns her gun on them saying, she does not know how she ended up in a child's body but she wants out. She says she will take Mag's body and then imprint Whiskey with Caroline and get to Safe Haven herself. She tries to fire the gun at Zone only to discover it unloaded, and Zone quickly grabs Iris and puts her into the chair. Zone figured out Iris wasn't who she appeared when he executed her "father"; he had a birthmark but his name was not Mr. Miller, as Iris claimed.

Mag activates the tablet and another flashback occurs. The Dollhouse has now isolated itself from the increasing anarchy in the outside world and Adelle looks on as her former Actives pray. The dolls have had their real identities restored to them, in defiance of the Rossum Corporation. Topher - who by now has been stricken by mental illness and is holed up in a sleeping pod - then calls for Adelle and in a short conversation it is revealed that in an instant an army was created. A phone call had been made to everyone, and those who picked up the phone were imprinted, similar to the way Echo was wiped in "Gray Hour." An insane and guilt-wracked Topher now realizes that his creation of waves for imprinting is to blame for the unfolding tragedy outside. Adelle tries desperately to comfort him, but he succumbs to a fit, mumbling "I know what I know" repeatedly and rocking back and forth. Adelle cradles him in her arms, until a loud disturbance is heard off camera.

The Dollhouse is then on guard as someone tries to break through the fortifications. However it turns out to be Caroline and Paul, who have returned to take the ex-Actives to Safe Haven. In a conversation with Dr. Saunders, Caroline requests that Topher copy her personality. Dr Saunders says that Topher "doesn't go in there anymore" because of his mental illness, and says that she can do it. Caroline says she knows where to go and someday someone may need to know. She also states no one has been wiped at Safe Haven thanks to Alpha. Caroline now prepares to evacuate the Dollhouse. However, DeWitt is not among those fleeing. DeWitt asks Caroline whether she has come to lead the lambs. Caroline rebuffs her, saying that the former Actives are not lambs. DeWitt inquires whether she is going to save her or kill her, and Caroline asks if there is a reason to spare her life. DeWitt says she is not going to plead as she has made her mind up. Caroline then cocks her pistol.

Caroline has now been imprinted into Iris. She is surprised to see that Dr. Saunders held out, but soon sees that she has reverted to her Active state, Whiskey. Mag asks about Whiskey; Caroline says that she told her if she stayed she would lose her mind. She guessed it was the better option. The imprinted have now reached the Dollhouse and the group must leave. Mag implores Whiskey to come with them, but she says she must wait. Caroline, Zone and Mag go up the elevator shaft while Whiskey goes back into the Dollhouse and activates a nerve gas, which envelopes the main floor of the dollhouse where the imprinted are now beginning to overrun. She then sits down on the balcony and watches as the nerve gas quickly incapacitates the horde. Whiskey has obviously evolved and realizes her mission is to remain behind to guide those seeking Safe Haven.

The group climbs to DeWitt's old office. The group looks out the window to see the devastated world that they have made. A collage of photos of those "To Remember" is pasted on the wall. Victor, Sierra, November, and Caroline's photos sit on the wall along with those of many other Actives. Caroline picks her photo off the wall and states she hopes she finds herself alive before placing it back onto the wall. The episode ends with the group climbing out the window onto a ladder.


Main cast[]

Recurring roles[]

Guest starring[]

Background Information[]


Since "Epitaph One" wasn't part of Fox's 13-episode deal with 20th Century Fox Television, it was not expected to air on Fox, since Fox didn't pay for the production of the episode. Tim Minear said that the producers "always knew it would be for the DVD for sure" and that it was written as "a standalone kind of coda episode", not as a season finale.

Joss Whedon said about the episode: "The decision had to do with the studio saying, 'We need another episode for our package, and we can't afford one. Can you do a clip show? Can we show the unaired pilot?' I'm like, 'No, you can't. It wouldn't make any sense. Besides, we cannibalized it for parts. Most of it's in other episodes.' And they were like, 'Well, we really have to have 13 for foreign.' And I said, 'I'll tell you what. I'll shoot a post-apocalyptic thriller that's all on our sets in six days with a cast of four other people, then we'll pepper it with different bits from our regular cast, and we can do it all during the schedule. It'll cost you half. I can do this.' And I was so in love with the idea that I just came up with off the top of my head, and that's what it turned into. It's one of the best episodes we've ever made." [2]

At the San Diego Comicon, Joss Whedon screened the episode and later said that "even though the future is fixed, and the stuff we see in "Epitaph One" is definitely real, we haven't seen the whole picture. For one thing, the "flash backs" we saw featuring our main characters were memories and may have been unreliable, plus some of those events may not have played out the way we thought they did."[3]


Cast & Crew[]

Rocco Passionino, Dollhouse's visual effects supervisor, said about the episode: "The last episode is very interesting. The intention of that episode is bizarre and it's done for half the price of what a normal show is done. They contained their resources and the environments to not make it as expansive as a normal show. For us, I think the concept is phenomenal. I would have hoped that they could have brought the concept in earlier but it opens up everything and allows us to run away with the fact that technology has done more than they intended it to."[4]

Felicia Day, a guest star on the episode, called her role "such a great part"[5]and the episode is "the best script I've ever read"[2], and Tim Minear said Fox should air the episode "because it's awesome". Olivia Williams said about "Epitaph One": "When the DVD comes out, the thing to do is watch episode 13. When we had the scripts in, we were all sat around holding our heads, but that's what makes people addicted to sci-fi - it hurts your head trying to figure out all the implications. It's very, very clever - and crazy. Only a truly sick mind like Joss's could come up with this! It could either be the beginning of something fabulous, or the episode to end all episodes..."[6]


"What’s striking about “Epitaph One,” apart from the general awesomeness of the conceit, is seeing how far Dollhouse has moved past The Eliza Dushku Show of the first five episodes and into much more of an ensemble piece. Though some might speculate this was done in recognition of Dushku’s limitations, I think the show has finally been given the freedom to explore the complex, terrifying implications of its premise (as opposed to the shallow, Charlie’s Angels-like objectification of the early eps)."
The A.V. Club Recap

"Fast paced, intriguing, hugely important to the show’s arc story, it’s difficult not to look at this as an excellent episode. But my reviews are based on what’s good for the show as a whole and I’m not convinced that this is."
The TV Critic's Review

Flashback continuity[]

Epitaph One contains a number of flashbacks and flash-forwards. Joss Whedon has stated that even though the future of 2019-20 is set, the memories seen in this episode may not be reliable. He went on to confirm that over the course of the following season, viewers would learn which memories were true, which were false, and which had been tampered with.

  • Flashback to a meeting wherein Dewitt is explaining details regarding an romantic engagement to a client.
  • Flashback to Topher's first interview with the Dollhouse. Confirmed true in this episode.
  • Flashforward to Echo's Russian imprint. Confirmed false in "A Love Supreme."
  • Flashforward to Boyd injured and leaving the Dollhouse. Confirmed true in "Getting Closer."
  • Flashforward to Clive Ambrose/Victor arguing with Adelle DeWitt. Referenced in "Getting Closer", confirmed true by Tim Minear.
  • Flashforward to Dominic and DeWitt in DeWitt's office. Unconfirmed as of "The Hollow Men" (the penultimate episode).
  • Flashforward to Anthony and Priya discussing back-ups. Unconfirmed as of "The Hollow Men."
  • Flashforward to the Dollhouse, to DeWitt and the mental Topher's conversation, and Caroline and Ballard's return. Unconfirmed as of "The Hollow Men."
Although the specifics of these last three are not confirmed, the fact that Topher's belongings are all still surrounding a bed chamber confirms that Echo, Adelle and the others did live in the Dollhouse after the Apocalypse. Given that Whedon's initial plan was for five seasons, it is likely these would have been shown after season 2, had the show not been cancelled.


  • Chronologically, this is the final appearance of Claire Saunders and Whiskey, as neither personality is seen in "Epitaph Two: Return" (as actress Amy Acker does not appear in the episode), with the episodes present (Whiskey's appearances), and several flashbacks (through implication within Claire Saunder's appearances) set during the time period between "The Hollow Men" and "Epitaph One". It is unclear whether the gas she deploys is lethal implying that she has committed suicide or knockout gas implying that she intends to implant the unconscious transforming them into more guides for the safe haven. 


  • When Boyd leaves Claire in a flashback, he grabs his bags and the drugs Claire gave him fall out.


The episode closes on "Remains" which was written by Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon (who also wrote the script for the episode), with vocals also by Maurissa Tancharoen. The song is available through and iTunes.

Notes & References[]

  2. 2.0 2.1 Topel, Fred (2009-04-15). Joss Whedon speculates on Dollhouse's future and teases the 13th episode. Retrieved on 209-05-14.
  3. Anders, Charlie Jane (2009-07-24). Dollhouse Brings The End Of The World, And We Beg For More. Retrieved on 2009-07-24.
  4. Bennet, Tara (2009-02-18). Zoic's Dollhouse Mind Wipe. Retrieved on 2009-02-19.
  5. Day, Felicia (2009-04-09). Twitter / Felicia Day. Twitter. Retrieved on 2009-04-09.
  6. French, Dan (2009-05-15). Olivia Williams ('Dollhouse'). Retrieved on 2009-05-15.

External Links[]