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Dollhouse: Ghost

To help free a kidnapped daughter of a wealthy businessman who has connections to the Dollhouse, Echo takes on the persona, memories and experiences of a skilled hostage negotiator to keep the police out of the case and recover the child unharmed. Complications ensue when the persona's experiences affect Echo's actions. Meanwhile, a search for the 'mythical' Dollhouse puts an FBI agent's career in jeopardy.

Episode Info

Episode number: 1x1
Production Number: 1APK01
Airdate: Friday February 13th, 2009

Director: Joss Whedon
Writer: Joss Whedon

Alternate Airdates:

UK (Syfy) May 19, 2009


Guest Stars
Amy AckerAmy Acker
As Dr. Claire Saunders
Reed DiamondReed Diamond
As Laurence Dominic
Brett ClaywellBrett Claywell
As Matt
Kurt CaceresKurt Caceres
As Gabriel Crestejo
David DotyDavid Doty
As Dir. Sam Zimmerman
Tim KelleherTim Kelleher
As Detmer
Vincent LarescaVincent Laresca
As Mr. Sunshine
Haley PullosHaley Pullos
As Davina Crestejo (as Haley Alexis Pullos)

Co-Guest Stars
Greg CollinsGreg Collins
As Older Man
Jonny LeeJonny Lee
As Deerskin
Becky WuBecky Wu
As Assistant
Main Cast
Eliza DushkuEliza Dushku
As Echo / Caroline
Harry LennixHarry Lennix
As Boyd Langton
Fran KranzFran Kranz
As Topher Brink
Tahmoh PenikettTahmoh Penikett
As Paul Ballard
Enver GjokajEnver Gjokaj
As Victor
Olivia WilliamsOlivia Williams
As Adelle DeWitt
Episode Notes
At the beginning we see a short sequence between Caroline (Echo) and Adelle DeWitt (name unprovided, so Caroline may have known her as someone else), in which it is clear that Caroline has done something with serious repercussions, and feels trapped into signing a five-year contract with the Dollhouse. After the contract ends, her problems, whatever they are, will be erased, resulting in an, in Adelle's terms, "clean slate".

Whatever Caroline did, whatever the results were, it was done with good intentions -- she was, in her own words, "just trying to make a difference". So whatever happened appears to have been a case of misadventure rather than willful harm or outright negligence.

Laurence Dominic: (to Boyd) We'll skip any ex-cop heroics, if you don't mind.

Revealing that Boyd is an ex-cop.

Adelle DeWitt: Then tell me how we're going to contain this.

"This" is a file containing information on Alpha, a problem which will be developed over the coming episodes. Alpha appears to be a rogue Doll, who apparently went ballistic and killed all the Dolls in the Dollhouse, with one exception -- Echo. He will also be revealed as the cause of Dr. Saunder's facial scars, and is also feeding information to Paul. He also appears, briefly, unrecognizably from behind, surrounded by at least two dead bodies, sending Paul a copy of a videotape showing Echo as Caroline. In the videotape of Caroline, we see her, apparently about to graduate from college, but evidently before whatever catastrophic event led to her signing the contract to become a Doll.

I just thought I'd call attention to the title sequence. There doesn't appear to be a lot going on in it, so one tends to ignore it after the first viewing.

But one thing caught my eye that I thought worthy of mention that one might have missed -- the distant shots, while almost all shot using a standard camera, appear, really, if you look close, as though they are animated miniatures, kind of like those used on model trains and the like.

It's a very subtle touch that very much fits the "doll-like" component of the show.

Episode Quotes
Matt's Friend: Dude! Where's your friend?
Matt: Time for her to go. Had to get to her carriage before it turned into a pumpkin.
Matt's Friend: What?
Matt: Stroke of midnight.
Matt's Friend: Midnight?
Matt: End of the ball.
Matt's Friend: Dude, it's like... five (am).

Topher: We're great humanitarians.
Boyd: Who'd spend their lives in jail if they ever found this place.
Topher: We're all so misunderstood... Which great humanitarians often are.

Topher: Look at Echo. Not a care in the world. She's living The Dream.
Boyd: Whose Dream?
Topher: Who's next?

Supervisor One: Agent Ballard, you were assigned to case designated "Dollhouse" over 14 months ago. How would you describe your progress to date?
Paul: Slow
Supervisor One: I'm actually very impressed by what I see here. You've... physically threatened a senator, disrupted a seven-year human trafficking investigation, been arrested for trespassing on Prince Yamudir's yacht... The only legal action you've successfully followed through on is your divorce.
Supervisor Two: Paul, let me ask you -- after all this: Do you think The Dollhouse really exists?
Paul: I know it does.
Supervisor One: You've seen it, then. You could, like, take us on a tour? Look. We all know this assignment is a joke.
Paul: If it's a joke, then pull me off it. (pause) Except you can't, because someone bigger than you thinks it isn't a joke.

Gabriel Crestejo: A little surprised, though, that he'd send you.
Echo: I'm good with people. I set thm at their ease.
Gabriel Crestejo: In my experience, a beautiful woman never puts anyone at their ease. Fatherly types do that, they're warm and comforting, make people feel safe. A beautiful woman distracts people, makes them nervous or jealous... I can't afford that, not with what's at stake here. I think our friend sent the wrong person.
Echo: Fatherly types.
Gabriel Crestejo: Like Edward James Olmos. Hope there's no offense.
Echo: None taken. And I'm not leaving. You can hire someone else. Give them my fee. But I'm the one best qualified to save your daughter. I've been doing this my whole life -- just this. You want people to feel comforted? We're past that.These men are stone professionals. They took her from your house. Not... on the way home from school, or in the park, they came inside your house, your seriously fortified house, in order to tell you that they could.

Boyd: Glasses, Topher?
Topher: She's near-sighted.
Boyd: Is that supposed to make people take her seriously, like the librarian thing is gonna hide the fact that she's...
Topher: (interrupting) Am I speaking Urdu? She's near-sighted, Boyd!
Boyd: You can mess up her eyesight?
Topher: Ahhhh, I can mess up the neural connections to her eyesight. Make her brain process the information it gets anyway I want. As for example -- blurry.
Boyd: But why would you? Why handicap her in a job like this?
Topher: You see someone running, incredibly fast, the first thing you're gonna ask is: Are they running to something, or are they running from something? The answer is always... both. You see these personality imprints, they come from scans of real people. I can create amalgams of those personalities, pieces from here or there, but it's not a "greatest hits". It's a whole person. Achievement is balanced by fault... by... a lack. Can't have one without the other. Everyone who excels is overcompensating. Running from something. Hiding from something.
Boyd: The Past?
Topher: Sometimes.

Cultural References
Matt: Time for her to go. Had to get to her carriage before it turned into a pumpkin.

An obvious reference to Cinderella, who was warned by her Fairy Godmother that all the magic set upon her to turn her from a scullery maid into a princess would expire at the final stroke of midnight. Part of the magic included the transformation of a pumpkin into a beautiful carriage fit for a princess. Cinderella, caught up in the evening, almost stays too long, flees as the clock begins to toll, leaving behind her "glass slipper", which is later used to find her. The tale is ancient, with the current earliest known recorded version via Strabo, the story of Rhodopsis, from the first century BC.

Echo: Fatherly types.
Gabriel Crestejo: Like Edward James Olmos.

Edward James Olmos is an Emmy winning, Oscar-nominated actor, known for his roles in Blade Runner and Stand and Deliver, the Miami Vice TV show, and most recently as Admiral William Adama in the popular remake of the SF series Battlestar Galactica.

Topher: (interrupting) Am I speaking Urdu?

Urdu is one of the two official languages of Pakistan (English being the other one).

The technology shown in the show is vastly beyond any current capabilities, and the storage units for various personalities appear to be fairly standard hard drives, which would be woefully beneath the storage capacity of the human brain, even with unessential parts removed. This doesn't detract from the show, but it should be realized that, despite this appearing to be fairly concurrent, technologically, with our own world, the Dollhouse universe has little in common with our own in this arena. Current evidence suggests that the brain's storage mechanism is holographic in nature, and thus any technology to store memories and imprintings would almost have to be that kind of technology at the least, just to contain the vast and complex interlinkings between the memory elements, which are as important as the memories themselves.

Adelle DeWitt: "Nothing is what it appears to be"

These are the first words uttered in the show. Does it reflect some deeper element, some harbinger, of the events to come? Does it describe merely the Dollhouse and its actives, or does it refer to the actions of The Dollhouse, and the actors behind it? As the show proceeds, more and more underlying information comes to light, showing that, in fact, there is more going on with The Dollhouse than it seems to be -- even on the surface of its ability to make people into anything or fit any role. The Dollhouse, itself a facade for the secrets of others, may itself be holding a vast array of secrets of its own.

It's clear from Boyd's behavior, even from the very start, that he has problems with the entire concept of The Dollhouse. For whatever reasons in his past that he has taken the job, it does not override his own moral and ethical problems with what The Dollhouse does. He tells white lies to Echo, such as not advising her that, upon returning from an engagement, that, after her "treatment", she won't remember anything of what she is feeling or thinking about the time spent, despite her illusions to the contrary. But it's quite clear that it doesn't sit well with him, and that, while he goes along with it, it may not be forever. He clearly takes his role as Echo's protector and "handler" very seriously, and will do whatever he thinks necessary to keep her safe.

Topher: We're great humanitarians.
Boyd: Who'd spend their lives in jail if they ever found this place.
Topher: We're all so misunderstood... Which great humanitarians often are.

This interaction shows what Topher's outlook is -- while certainly he gets to show off his own skills at the very cutting edge of technology, he doesn't look at what The Dollhouse does as being evil or wrong. He knows (or at least believes) that anyone in The Dollhouse is there of their own accord (although this may not be true of certain people guilty of serious criminal acts), and, once that choice was made, any moral or ethical concerns about what is happening has been neutralized. While some, if not all of it, may be done for a fee, that is merely to cover the operating costs of that which is done. He sees the actions of The Dollhouse as essentially good in nature -- "no harm, no foul", as it were.

Other Episode Crew

CreatorJoss Whedon
Executive ProducerJoss Whedon
Co-Executive ProducerSarah Fain  |  Elizabeth Craft  |  David Solomon
ProducerEliza Dushku  |  Kelly A. Manners
Consulting ProducerTim Minear  |  Steven S. DeKnight
Associate ProducerChris Cheramie
Production DesignerStuart Blatt
EditorPeter Basinski
CastingAmy McIntyre Britt  |  Anya Colloff
Unit Production ManagerRobert D. Nellans
First Assistant DirectorW. Scott Wolf
Second Assistant DirectorPaul C. Domick
Staff WriterJed Whedon  |  Andrew Chambliss  |  Tracy A. Bellomo  |  Maurissa Tancharoen
Music SupervisorAndrea von Foerster
Costume DesignerShawna Trpcic
Key GripBobby Reid
Set DecoratorDavid A. Koneff
Location ManagerChris Campbell (2)
Transportation CoordinatorLeroy Reed
Property MasterMichael Blaze
Construction CoordinatorTed Wilson (2)
Production Sound MixerColeman Metts
Script SupervisorNirvana Adams
Production CoordinatorLynnet Price
Script CoordinatorStefanie Leder
Assistant EditorRobert Hudson (2)
Post Production SupervisorJeff MacVittie
Re-Recording MixerGeoff Rubay  |  Ken Teaney
GafferDan Kerns
Director of PhotographyRoss Berryman
Stunt CoordinatorMike Gunther
Art DirectorLeonard Harman
Production AccountantTony Lindo
ScoreMychael Danna  |  Rob Simonsen
Main Title Theme Written/performedJonatha Brooke
Main Title Theme Written ByEric Bazilian
"A" Camera OperatorTony Politis
Department Head HairVito Trotta
Sound SupervisorWilliam Dotson
Assistant To The Executive ProducerTony Dodds  |  John J. Gray  |  Natalie Farrell
Special Effects CoordinatorChris Nelson (3)
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