Portrayed by Miracle Laurie, Mellie (last name unknown) is Paul Ballard's neighbor who is attracted to him and spends her time waiting for him to appear at home so she can attract his interest with homemade lasagna.
Despite the fact that Mellie lives and sleeps in an average middle-class apartment in Los Angeles and not in the plush surroundings and in-floor beds of the Dollhouse, she was, in fact, the Active November set up as a "sleeper Active." The exact parameters of her engagement with Ballard are unknown; she was assigned as a surveillance tool, and Adelle DeWitt's remark about Mellie's love for Ballard suggests that their romance is at least tolerated within the parameters of the assignment, if not actually the Dollhouse's aim.
Before pursuing Ballard, Mellie was involved with Rick, who works at a doughnut shop and spoke about their relationship in investment banking terminology. He left her, saying he wanted to "dump the stock before it went public." Whether Rick actually existed or was just a part of Mellie's fabricated memories is unknown.
Mellie lives across the hall from Ballard, and listens for his arrival so she can meet and chat with him in the hall. What she does with her time when she is not listening for her neighbor, baking "leftovers" for him, or hand-delivering his pain medication to him at work is a mystery. Her interest in his life, programmed or natural, keeps her involved in Ballard's investigation of the Dollhouse. She caught Lubov in the hall one day rather than Ballard, and listened to his take on the case; and she was the one to deliver the DVD of Caroline to Ballard when she was at Ballard's office on an errand for him.
Although she actively pursues Ballard, Mellie is self-deprecatingly shy. She minimizes her significance in his life, stumbles over her words, and backtracks when talking to him. However, she compensates for her foibles with a sense of humor, cracking jokes at her own flaws. In "Man on the Street", she flippantly acknowledges, "I get that I'm not the 'gold standard' in LA," referring to what she believes to be her own sub-standard attractiveness. Like several other female characters in Whedon shows, she is portrayed by a woman visibly larger than the Hollywood standard. Larger, that is, but by no means large, and still definitely "gorgeous" according to Ballard. Living in the town that produces that standard, she finds the difference important enough to comment on - but still makes it a joke, continuing on to state that she has "access to important government information that [she] doesn't understand." Ironically, she is really one of the Dollhouse's "young and beautiful" Dolls.
Little is known about Mellie's role as a sleeper Active. Whether she has been placed near Ballard to hinder his investigation, to distract him from it, to spy on him, or for some other reason entirely, is as yet unclear. Mellie's her "sleeper" imprint is combat-ready. When Hearn attacks her under the impression that he was assigned to kill her to save himself from being sent to the Attic, Adelle DeWitt phones with a code to activate Mellie's combative ability so that she can instead execute Hearn.
In the aftermath, Mellie tell Paul she is going away to stay with her mother for a while (in actuality, November is recalled to the Dollhouse).
When she returns, the illusion is broken for Ballard when the Dollhouse the mole informs him through November that Mellie is an Active used to keep tabs on him. After the Mellie personality reasserts itself, Ballard is forced to pretend to still have feelings for Mellie even though he knows that really, she's not real and that having sex with her would be wrong.
Ballard tries to be distant with Mellie but it proves difficult; he gives into desire in "Haunted" regardless, after she desperately offers herself to him in a self-deprecating, debasing manner. He later cannot handle the guilt which makes him as bad as any Dollhouse client, in his own moral worldview, tantamount to a rapist and becomes cold with her once more. In "Briar Rose", Ballard cruelly rejects Mellie. Programmed to love him wholly, she is beside herself with grief. Crying, Mellie is about to commit suicide, when her handler finds her and takes her for her "treatment".
Mellie ceases to exist for a time after November is released from the L.A. Dollhouse's care; as Madeline Costley, she is easily manipulated by Rossum and eventually recaptured by the D.C. Dollhouse. Paul rescues her. During the L.A. Dollhouse's conflict with the Rossum Corporation, Adelle chooses to awaken November as Mellie rather than Madeline, because Mellie is devoted and trustworthy. Mellie is overjoyed to see Paul and see that his theories about the Dollhouse and "Caroline" were all real, and she does not immediately question why she is involved in the fracas.
Much like Claire Saunders, Mellie soon becomes aware of and struggles with her status as a doll. In "The Hollow Men," Paul initially confronts Mellie about her continued infatuation with him, causing her to reluctantly accept that she is a fabrication. Later, however, Paul concedes that what they feel is real, and they should trust to it. They work together to destroy the Rossum Mainframe, but after bringing down the cooling system, Mellie's sleeper persona is activated. In this persona, she attempts to shoot Paul, only to have Paul discard his weapon and offer himself to her in an attempt to cause a reversion. Mellie, tormented, surfaces briefly; she resists her programming long enough to tell Paul that she feels real, before turning and committing suicide.
Mellie is Ballard's neighbor, and is engaged in a romantic and sexual relationship with him. She is smitten with him and will go to great (and awkward) lengths to catch his attention. Early in the first season, she cooks and runs errands for him; in "Man on the Street," her efforts finally capture his attention. He kisses her after being shown that rescuing Caroline is his fantasy, throwing the reality of his "gorgeous" next-door neighbor into sharp relief. Mellie, though shy, insists that he should not think of Caroline when kissing her, and attempts to reassert their friendly, neighborly relationship. He overcomes her objections and they sleep together.
Romance aside, Mellie is Ballard's moral support and confidante in his investigation of the Dollhouse. He tells her details about the case and she encourages his efforts. Eventually, he offers to share his files with her and get her perspective on his research. Joe Hearn's attack on Mellie lends credibility to her role as Ballard's supporter, making it difficult for him to suspect her connection to the Dollhouse.
Notes & references
- FOX Broadcasting Company: Dollhouse. FOX.com. Retrieved on 2009-02-15.