1.09 “A Spy In The House Of Love” Review – The Good & The Bad

by admin on July 5, 2009 · 3 comments

Dollhouse 1.09

Here is my review for Dollhouse 1.09 “A Spy In The House Of Love”, focusing on the good and bad from the episode.


  • Trust and Pain. It was interesting to note Echo’s little speech about pain being an insignificant consequence of trusting another person. She may be right on some level – giving yourself to another person can be beautiful, but as Langton suggests, “that kind of trust always leads to pain”. In other words, there has to be a balance – trusting someone to the point of losing yourself is a risk too big for some. Their conversation was in the context of Echo’s dominatrix gig, but it takes on greater significance when applied to the wider theme of identity and empowerment. It’s perhaps also worth looking at this in the context of Langton and Echo’s relationship – she trusts him because she’s been imprinted to do so..but is there an even deeper trust there?

  • Needs. Interesting that Saunders should suggest that (some of) Echo’s engagements are ‘helpful’ in fulfilling her needs. This is nice carry-over from the previous episode, but also reminds me that these engagements are supposed to HELP the actives! Somewhere along the line that important fact got a little lost. Like Langton, I question the system, but Saunders does make an interesting point. I guess from her point of view ‘need fulfillment’ can be very liberating – but what if there’s something even deeper than a persons “needs”?
  • The Adelle/Victor reveal was decent. I guess she has needs to, eh? That said, it does further complicate her role in this unethical web. Now she’s not only a pusher but a user and abuser. Yikes!
  • Although the NSA spy set-up was clunky, I did appreciate the much needed ‘wider scope’ this storyline provided. Dominic essentially warns Adelle about the dangers of the Dollhouse technology. He gives her a cautionary tale about what will happen if the mind-wiping/mind-control technology gets out into mainstream society. At last we have some possible way to relate to the show, and it was brought home by Dominic’s words to Echo: “One day you’ll be erasing them..and even after all of this, they still wont see it coming”. It’s not quite “rise of the machines” but it certainly changes the complexion of the series.
  • The shifting perspectives ‘flashback’ mechanism was pretty neat. It served the story well, but on a deeper level it also says something about the shifting personalities and roles of the actives with each passing imprint they receive. Echo, for example, has gone from damsel in distress to alpha-female and protector of the organization which is seemingly depriving her of her identity. And yet there’s still something there. Whether it’s the real Caroline or some meta-Echo..I guess I’ll soon find out.


  • If the idea behind the Dollhouse is to protect the Actives from the “harsh realities of life”, why do they make it so easy for them to see and hear someone being brutally imprinted? Open doors, gunshots..it’s beyond lax. Perhaps this is just a story-telling contrivance but seriously..
  • Echo presented as a sexual object yet again. Let me qualify this by saying I don’t have a problem with dominatrixes. But how many times have we seen Echo with her butt hanging out? I get that they want to make Echo sexy and strong, but with each passing week she’s getting weaker and sluttier, in my opinion. The latter part of this episode redeemed her slightly, but slutty Echo seems to serve no purpose than a way to draw in viewers. Lame.
  • Echo’s sudden awareness and willingness to “help” was far too…sudden. This is one of the biggest problems with the show – the motivations of the characters has very little padding. We’re just expected to buy anything and everything that happens in an episode.
  • Dollhouse should leave the spy drama to Alias. There were so many eye-rolling moments throughout the Sierra/fake-Otto scene. For instance, how did no-one recognise that Sierra was an imposter? Furthermore, there’s no way Sierra would be able to out-run NSA guards with heels on –  she could barely walk in them! What really fails though, is the idea that Sierra managed to break into the NSA and all she had to do was knock out one security guard. OK, so perhaps they were all “in on it” since Dominic was NSA, but there were still enough shake the head moments in there to take me out of the scene.
  • They go to some lengths to present Topher as this “genius”, yet although he has his moments I really don’t see him as being all that incredible at what he does. He says a lot of ‘stuff’ but we never really see him DO anything that would befit his status. I think they have to work on marrying his so-called ability with his funny in future episodes/seasons.
  • Not only is Echo an Active, but she’s bullet-proof now? The fight scene with Dominic never recovered from that. Ah well, at least she didn’t glitch this time.

On the whole, I felt this episode was overly long – it bored me at times and I can think of several scenes which should have remained on the cutting room floor. That said, Remote TV wont be around for long. There was also the traditional Dollhouse contrivances that never seem to go away, and Ballard is just gone for me. I almost forgot he was a part of the show until his cringe-worthy scene with Melvember. His character needs a lot of work if he’s to redeem himself, both in terms of his value (to the show) and the fact that he effectively (and knowingly) rapes Mellie (at least that is the suggestion). Actually, I doubt there’s any coming back from that. Some obsessions just aren’t worth it, Paul! I mean, what is he really fighting for – humanity? I don’t think so. He actually is trying to live out a fantasy.

That said, this episode was surprisingly rewarding in how certain themes and elements came back around towards the end. I particularly enjoyed the focus on ‘trust and love’ – two things which Adelle lost by the end of the episode. It’s notable that Adelle played out the conversation between Langton and Echo – the conclusion, for Adelle, being that trusting someone entirely leads to pain. But that pain also builds character – Adelle will surely govern her operation with greater scrutiny in future. She will evolve from her experiences, in a similar to way to how Echo is evolving, learning, growing. What I find interesting is that Echo was basically presented as a ‘higher being’, the next rung of humanity..a human-machine hybrid of sorts. There is plenty of subtext there and I really hope they do something interesting with it.

As for my favorite moment – it has to be Echo swearing in her new handler, Travis. This scene was exceptional for me because in that moment we got to see Langton’s needs – he needs to protect Echo, that’s his purpose..his focus. Something in his past must have manifested this desire to protect those who trust him. As I mentioned earlier, Echo seems to trust him beyond a mere imprinted instruction. So for him to see her ‘trusting’ another guy must have been heart wrenching..his face said it all.

It was also interesting to see Echo’s conflict – she even looked at Langton whilst she was undergoing her ritual. One wonders whether Langton was hurting partly because he trusted Echo entirely. How can you trust a doll..someone who’s imprinted (made) to do certain things? I guess it’s a similar dilemma to the one Adelle faced with Victor. Adelle chose to protect herself, she put her barriers up before Victor (or his imprint) got the opportunity to hurt her. She took control through a lesson learnt with Dominic. Once again, trust and love.

Episode rating 7.5/10 – still not great but better than a few episodes ago.

Phoenix July 6, 2009 at 4:49 pm

I thought you might enjoy this episode better than some of the previous ones. I was actually going to just get irritated with it when I noticed that in the first few minutes Echo was in slut-wear again, but I was pleasantly surprised at how they managed to make it a theme of trust and love that they carried throughout the episode — not something “Dollhouse” has proven particularly adept at.

My favorite parts of this episode were definitely all the parts with Adelle in it; it was refreshing to see the facets of her personality that she keeps hidden and how she gains icy control over herself by the end of the episode. The whole “bullets don’t hurt me” thing was a little lame, but it did drive the theme home; it was nice to see that they gave the wonderful Olivia Williams some meat to work with.

And, yes, the NSA scene was not all that great, but I enjoyed it purely because of the ALIAS-esque parts of it and also because it gave “Dollhouse” some wider relevance. But the real reason I enjoyed it was because I’ve noticed something: the more she isn’t the dead center of the show, the more Eliza Dushku’s acting improves.

I think Eliza is a wonderful actress, but she becomes more more in-character and has more room to work with when she’s only providing half of the show; now that Victor and Sierra are getting more air time Echo isn’t the only focus, so maybe the lack of stress of carrying a show on her own is helping? Call me wrong, but I think she did better in “Needs” and “Spy” than she’s done in any of the other episodes.

Like I’ve said before, I doubt you’ll be too thrilled with “Haunted,” but I can’t wait for your thoughts on “Briar Rose” — definitely my favorite episode of the season.

Roco July 7, 2009 at 2:59 pm

Yeah, Adelle was much better in this episode, although I had the same problem with the “bullets” thing – that was quite ridiculous. We already got the point, they didn’t need to spell it out for us 🙂

I agree re: Dushku. Infact I barely noticed her in this episode (although she still had a lot of screentime), which is refreshing, since the show is a lot better when her character isn’t the center of attention. I always said this would be the case so it’s nice to see the show addressing this issue.

Hmm..”Haunted”..surprsing title for a show like this. They’re not about to go all “Ghost Whisperer” on me are they? lol!

Adam July 7, 2009 at 7:54 pm

Lol just get through Haunted fast so you can watch Briar Rose. I’d rather read you views on that.

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