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"Man on the Street" is the sixth episode of Dollhouse. It was written by Joss Whedon and directed by David Straiton. The episode aired on March 20th, 2009.


Echo becomes the perfect wife for a lonely internet mogul (guest star Patton Oswalt), and Sierra’s attacker is revealed, while a TV reporter prepares an exposé on the Dollhouse. Meanwhile, Mellie’s life is in danger and Agent Ballard’s investigation takes a surprising turn when he comes face-to-face and fist-to-fist with Echo for the very first time.


A journalist is researching the truth behind the urban legend about the ‘Dollhouse’, does it exist or doesn’t it. He is asking people on the streets of Los Angeles whether or not they believe the stories about the ‘Dollhouse’ and what their ideas are on the matter.

We get to see Agent Ballard and Echo come face to face. With a shocked look on her face she wondered if her husbands internet business which suddenly paid out had something to do with porn. In the midst of the struggle Echo is pulled out by Boyd and taken back to the Dollhouse to receive her treatment.

All Paul Ballard can do is talk to Joel the loving husband to see what he can tell him about the Dollhouse. Joel explains his reasoning for using the Dollhouse services; his wife died in a car accident while she was on her way to see the very house they were sitting in. Joel explains that for years his wife supported him while he tried to strike it big with his internet start-ups and that when he finally found his fortune he bought the house he knew she'd love, and all because he wanted was to see the reaction when he told her he'd made it and the house was theirs. However, Ballard points out that he still sleeps with the women he gets, making him out to be nothing more than a predator at best and threatens to arrest him. Joel points out that Ballard has no evidence against him and Echo is long gone, while Ballard himself is guilty of assault and trespassing. Just then the police can be heard approaching. Mynor invites Ballard to wait and see which of them will be arrested, so Ballard flees.

Meanwhile at the Dollhouse Sierra gets hysterical when Victor walks up to her and places his hand on her shoulder. They with Victor who they are assuming is abusing Sierra even though they are not programmed to know what sex is. Victor and his handler are taken from the floor as a trap that Boyd sets up to lure out the actual abuser.

It emerges that Sierra's own handler, Joe Hearn, has been raping her. Using his knowledge of the layout and the implicit trust in him Sierra has been programmed with, he is able to lure into into a camera blind spot where he takes advantage. Thinking he is safe and that Victor has been blamed, Hearn tries to do this again. He asks her if she wants to play a game and she replies "no" but since she has no willpower and no memories of her own, she goes along in whatever he tells her to do. Just after he reminds her to be quiet and tells her to lift up her dress, Boyd comes up behind and punches him, sending him through the glass window of the room.

Adelle is upset that Boyd didn't tell them that he was setting up a trap for Hearn, however, they have wired a bonus to his account for catching the actual abuser. Adelle confronts Hearn and he literally says that it doesn’t matter since they are in the business of abusing the actives anyway. Adelle tells him that she has an offer for him, if he takes it he won’t have to go to the attic.

Adelle wants Echo to come face to face with Paul Ballard once again. While Topher is making the imprint he is called away and when he gets back he gives Echo her treatment. She is on a mission to find Paul and a fight ensues but when she gets her chance she tells him that the dollhouse is real. That someone at the dollhouse imprinted her with a message for him and that they will try to contact him again in the future possibly using the same body if they can. Paul asks her if this person was also the one who sent him the picture and the video. Echo denies it, she then tells him to run after she shoots an officer who responded to the fight.

A man breaks into Ballard's house, attacking Mellie and nearly killing her. She pulls off his mask, revealing it is Hearn. The phone rings and it is Adelle. Hearn is shocked when Adelle says a phrase over the machine, revealing that Mellie is actually a sleeper Active. The phrase activates Mellie and turns her into a trained killer. She fights back, breaking Hearns neck before Adelle then says the deactivation phrase turning her back into Mellie with no memory of what happened.

Paul Ballard is suspended pending investigation following the cop's shooting which, combined with the 'excessive force' on the guards in Joel Mynors house, has him accused of violent paranoia. Hearn meanwhile is identified as a Russian drifter with no ties to anyone important. Adelle decides to leave 'Mellie' where she is for now, as she knows Ballard won't give up so easily. She also tells Mr. Dominic to tell his counterparts in the other Dollhouses about what happened to Sierra to ensure that it never happens again, regardless of any scrutiny she may come under. As for Sierra, she seems to be back to normal and allows Victor to sit with her. All everyone can hope is that what happened is gone completely from her mind.

Adelle then goes to speak to Echo who is painting a house similar to the one Joel Mynor was about to show her, with a couple outside. When Adelle asks after the painting, Echo simply states she's not finished. Although Adelle initially thinks she's referring to the painting, it appears Echo remembers she didn't get to finish her encounter with Mynor which she later gets to. The episode ends with her happily reacting to the news of the house, allowing Joel to live his fantasy.


"Man on the Street" was the 6th episode to go into production.


Joss Whedon said that writing "Man on the Street" was "a very simple thing. I wrote it faster than anything I've ever written. It just poured out of me. All of that brewing we'd been doing became the soup for that episode. It really was a game changer for us on set and in production. The cast and the staff read it and a lot of tumblers fell into place. That's how we felt about the episode. There may be a negativity associated with hyping it. But a lot of the following episodes really work on the model of "Man on the Street." It was a big moment for us. We found a new level and were really proud of it. Other people may feel differently, but we walked away from shooting that episode going OK, we've just added a layer and we feel pretty excited about it."[2]

Whedon also mentioned that this episode is explaining the premise of the show by "[d]oing an episode that somebody who had never seen the show could walk in on because it explains the premise very clearly. In fact, it's about explaining the premise. At the same time, really getting under the skin of the dollhouse and of Paul's character and what's going on with everybody and the workings of the place and coming at it kind of sideways rather than just showing an engagement and flipping in some information around that engagement. This was one where we got to look at the cogs of the clock, and that's what gave it such momentum for us."[2]

As for having the network support the new direction the show takes after this episode, Whedon said: ""Man on the Street" definitely contains elements that were pitched by or developed by people at the network in terms of the motivations of "Dollhouse" and the feel of the politics of the thing and the thriller aspect. It wasn't like, "Oh, now they've shut up, and now we'll do it my way." It's very much the stuff they were pitching, but it also is storytelling-wise much more how I had envisioned coming at it. You know, to be only in a sense that is clearer than my original pilot. My original pilot was deliberately obtuse. You had to go along and figure it out .... We lay it out as simply as we did in the first five, but because we get to get inside the dollhouse and have the events take on more resonance, it's got what I had hoped to bring to the other episodes. It was really finding the code to a show that I can do my best work in and the network can still get behind. It was a meeting of the minds."[2]

Whedon also said that this episode marks the point where Dollhouse shifts from stand-alone episodes to a more serialized format of storytelling.[3]


Filming started in the middle of October 2008 in West Hollywood.[4] The gunfight was filmed on October 18th.


Active Client Alias Personality Mission
Echo Joel Mynor Rebecca Mynor Wife The Perfect day
Echo In House Unknown Assassin Frame or murder Paul Ballard
Echo Unknown Unknown Informant Provide Paul Ballard with clues into the Dollhouse
November In House Mellie Paul Ballard's neighbor Sleeper Active; Assassinate Joe Hearn


Cast & Crew[]

Numerous interviews with Joss Whedon and the cast of Dollhouse mentioned "Man on the Street" as the episode that starts exploring the mythology of the show. Tahmoh Penikett said: "Once I read the fifth and sixth episode, specifically [Episode 6, the Whedon-penned] 'Man on the Street,' I was like, 'This is it. This is the show.'"[5] Eliza Dushku commented on the way the show progresses: "we’ve now done 13 episodes, and people have said that the show took off once they finally realized that Joss is best off left alone to do his thing. That happens around episode six—six through 13 are just extraordinary. I love one, two, three, four, and five, but Joss’ first script that he did after the pilot is number six, which is called “Man On The Street,” and it is just unbelievable. From that point on, the world unfolds in Joss’ way, with Joss’ speed, and it’s really remarkable."[6] Joss Whedon said that "Man on the Street" (and "Needs") "represent a much stronger vision of what I consider the show to be."[7]

"I couldn’t sense how important it was in the grand scheme, because I hadn’t seen the other episodes. I could sense that the episode itself was so important, just because [creator Joss Whedon] took sort of this clichéd trope—this chubby, unattractive dude hiring a young hottie to do his bidding—and then he reveals this whole other level to the guy. And what I love is, you don’t walk away from it and go, “Oh, now I feel bad for him.” He’s still an awful guy, and kind of sleazy. But the fact that he has reasons for his horribleness? It reminded me of John Candy’s character in Planes, Trains And Automobiles. At the end of the movie, he’s still fat and obnoxious, but you sort of realize why, and you thought he was just an easy checkmark, like “Oh, that’s what that guy is.” Oh no, he’s this whole other thing, where there’s a reason behind it. So the fact that that much was getting put into it, and I could just tell that they were starting to fuck with the mythology… I could sense it was really something special."
Patton Oswalt[8]


"Rather than another repetitive mission-of-the-week episode, Friday's episode actually moves the greater story forward with some surprising revelations and an opportunity for Echo (Eliza Dushku) and FBI agent Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett) to finally meet."
Post-Gazette Review
"[T]his is indeed the best episode yet, and a well paced, entertaining hour of television that leads to some exciting revelations."
IGN Review
"All in all, not only a great hour of television, but also Joss Whedon writing an IOU to you, the viewers, for about five more years of fascinating stories about what it means to be people in our new dehumanizing information age."
io9 Recap
"I'm not sure if, at this point, Dollhouse can increase the audience it failed to attract after its initial weeks, but I know I'm along for the rest of the ride. "
Entertainment Weekly Recap
"I’m relieved by the gravity and seriousness of “Man On The Street.” Whedon tends to get credited for his snappy dialogue above all other considerations, and that gift is certainly on full display here, but snappy dialogue alone doesn’t fully explain his fervent cult following. At his best, his writing sings with passion and engages viewers with surprise and complex emotion. And “Man On The Street” was Whedon on his game."
AV Club Recap
"Whedon, you actually sucked me in again. Well played, sir. Well played."
Hitfix Recap
"Whedon has another big project on his hands and you get the sense here, finally, that he may be up to the challenge."
The TV Critic Review


"Man on the Street" reached a 2.6/5 Rating/Share, a 1.52/5 Rating/Share in the 18-49 demographic and a 1.8/5 Rating/Share in the 25-54 demographic. 57.69% of the audience was in the 18-49 demographic. The episode was watched by 3.591 million viewers Live, 4.142 million viewers Live+SD and 5.066 million viewers Live+7. The episode averaged a 1.25 Rating in the 18-49 demographic Live, a 1.52 Live+SD and a 2.03 Live+7. Overall "Man on the Street" had 1.475 million DVR viewers. 29.1% of all viewings of "Man on the Street" happened via DVR, that's the sixth greatest percentage of DVR viewing for broadcast TV shows of that week.

The half-hour breakdown showed 4.22 million viewers and 1.5/5 (Rating/Share) in the demo between 9:01 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., and 4.04 million viewers and a 1.5/4 between 9:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.

The quarter-hour breakdown:

Time Period Rating/Share Rating/Share (18-49)
9:01 PM-9:15 PM 2.7/5 1.5/5
9:15 PM-9:30 PM 2.6/5 1.6/5
9:30 PM-9:45 PM 2.6/5 1.5/5
9:45 PM-10:00 PM 2.5/4 1.5/4


Main cast[]

Recurring roles[]

Guest starring[]

  • Patton Oswalt as Joel Mynor
  • Patrick Stinson as Brett Locano
  • David Barry Gray as Bicks
  • Timothy Josefy as Blue Collar Guy
  • Katie Nisa as Blue Collar Guy's Wife
  • Katherine Jacques as Checkout Girl
  • Kaleti Williams as Head of Security
  • Dalton Grant as Conspiracy Theorist
  • Lydia Blanco as Housewife
  • Pam Trotter as Large Black Woman
  • Billy Beck as Old man
  • Karl Herlinger as Sketchy-looking Guy
  • Abby Cooper as Teen Girl
  • Jamie Silberhartz as Young Woman in Peasant Blouse
  • Erin Cummings as Staff Member


  • A reflection of a camera man is visible in the front of the oven when Ballard first confronts Rebecca and Joel.


  • 'Memory Box' by Alessi's Ark plays while Ballard and Mellie eat Chinese food.
  • 'Concerto For Oboe & Orchestra No. 11 in B-Flat Major, Op. 9: Adagio by Tomaso Albinoni plays during Mellie's attack.
  • 'Sweet Dream' by Greg Laswell plays over the end montage of the episode when Echo requests to finish her engagement as Rebecca Mynor.

Promotional Photos[]

Notes & references[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Seidman, Robert (March 21, 2009). Updated Friday Ratings: Dollhouse foundation holds up against NCAAs. TV by the Numbers.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Fernandez, Maria Elena (2009-03-18). Joss Whedon on 'Dollhouse's' humor, layers and 'ick factor'. Show Tracker: What you're watching. Retrieved on 2009-03-19.
  3. Robbins, Stephanie (2009-01-13). TCA: Joss Whedon Talks Dollhouse, Dr. Horrible. Retrieved on 2009-01-14.
  4. FEATURE - Inside Production - Terminator, Dollhouse and more. (2008-10-16). Retrieved on 2008-10-16.
  5. Ryan, Maureen (2009-02-18). 'Battlestar' actor moves into the 'Dollhouse'. The Watcher. Retrieved on 2009-02-27.
  6. Tobias, Scott (2009-02-27). Eliza Dushku. Retrieved on 2009-02-27.
  7. Mitovich (2009-03-13). Joss Whedon: Dollhouse Is about to Get "Stronger" and "Pretty Intense". Retrieved on 2009-03-14.
  8. Tobies, Scott (2009-08-26). "Patton Oswalt". Retrieved on 2009-08-26.

External links[]