Before the free yoga classes, group showers and long, peaceful days spent staring at river stones and Victor’s butt, Sierra was Priya, a poor, yet happy Australian artist. While selling her paintings on the promenade of the sunny, hippie freak show known as Venice Beach, California, she met Nolan Kinnard, a rich guy with a crush and an offer. And it wasn’t to buy her a corn dog and a tramp stamp.
One year ago. To win Priya over, Kinnard commissions a large painting and throws a party/art show at his home in her honor. Priya is out of place among his douchey rich friends and can barely hide her eye-rolling as she walks away from an insipid woman suffering from faux patrician lockjaw.
Echo sidles up to her in a cocktail dress slash sausage casing that has just enough “give” in all the right places. Thank you.
Programmed to be Kinnard’s wingwoman, Echo talks up Kinnard and his Nobel Prize-worthy awesomeness, all designed to nudge Priya closer to his bedroom. It’s all very “just between us girls” and effortless, but Priya’s not quite convinced. Meanwhile, Kinnard and an older man eye both women, discussing the cost effectiveness of dolls versus dating. Well, duh. A doll will never ask for anything from Cartier (unless that’s what you want her to do) or take half your net worth after 10 years.
Kinnard tells his friend he doesn’t want a doll, he wants Priya. Yes kids, Kinnard’s not only an art lover, he’s a Dollhouse executive, and a key developer of their medical breakthroughs. He knows not only about dolls, he knows it’s not for him.
Victor shows up. Priya is instantly drawn to his bad Italian accent and winning smile. They flirt a little while discussing the painting she created for Kinnard. He notes her use of birds in her work.
Are they a metaphor? An homage to nature? Perhaps she just likes seagulls. In a moment of spontaneity, she snaps his picture with the bedazzled Polaroid camera hanging around her neck. And here I thought that was just the world’s ugliest necklace.
Priya asks Victor if he’d like to go somewhere less pretentious. He’s all for taking her out of there, but before they can get out the door, Kinnard stops them. He blocks Priya from leaving while Victor is whisked away for a treatment, and to brush up on his definition of “wingman.”
First, Kinnard tries plain, old begging. When that doesn’t work, he goes with the popular but rarely effective, you-owe-me. When Priya tells him to shove it, he drops back and punts with you-want-me-too. Like my mother always said, “Money doesn’t buy class.”
Priya: It’s all in your head. Get off me!
Kinnard: I’m not going to take “no” for an answer. I’ll do anything.
Priya: Stop it! [slaps him!] You disgust me! Nothing in this world could make me love you!
Fast forward one year. She loves him. Gives him a kiss. Guess he changed his mind about wanting a doll. If Kinnard can’t have the real Priya, he’ll settle for Sierra imprinted with a Priya facsimile. We all make compromises, but seriously.
At the Dollhouse, Echo and Sierra are enjoying a painting class. Sierra’s painting more birds, but these are now the work of a one-armed 10-year-old. Victor happens by and compliments her art anyway, even that crazy black patch she’s brushing over and over like an abused child in art therapy.
Sensing something’s wrong with that picture, Echo shows it to Topher. “Sierra hates the bad man … It’s not like the others. He makes her sad over and over,” she tells him.
Instead of asking Sierra where the bad man touched her, Topher shows Boyd the painting and asks what he thinks. Neither of them passes Sierra’s Rorschach test. Boyd suggests that Topher check Dr. Saunder’s notes for insights into Sierra’s mind. Great. A crazy person’s assessment of a disturbed person. Good thinking.
Victor takes all the black paint away so Sierra won’t be sad anymore. Boyd watches with growing suspicion as Echo encourages and compliments Victor for “taking charge.” He then spies her, gasp, reading a book. Boyd’s mulling over what Echo could possibly be up to when Topher rushes in with the results of his snooping: Kinnard is a neuroleptic evil genius, whatever that is.
Topher proceeds to spout off an excited stream of medical gibberish about blocked mezzo-sopranos, partial inhibited Olympic pathways and increased conduction of iambic pentameters. Or something. It’s making Boyd’s head hurt. “You lost me at ‘brain,’” he said dryly. Yeah, well, he lost me at, “Hey, Boyd, guess what?”
In layman’s terms, Sierra was not the paranoid schizophrenic they thought she was when she came to the Dollhouse. Kinnard drugged her and made her that way. He owns the clinic they found her in, he’s on the staff there, and has his own agenda. The big question is: Does Adelle know?
She does now.
Adelle calls Kinnard to her office for a spot of tea and to tell him a “raping scumbag” like him can’t have any more dolls to play with. More sugar? He double dog dares her to call the cops and demands they imprint Sierra and hand her over forever, or she’s out of a job. Oh yeah? She’ll just see about that.
Adelle tells her boss, Harding, she’s not about to send Sierra to live with a rapey scum sucker who thinks he’s above the law and too lame to get a woman on his own. Harding reminds Adelle that she, too, has taken a little something “home from the office” when her alias, Miss Lonely Hearts, booked Victor for a weekend getaway. Oops. Awkward. How do you take that out of a paycheck?
Harding ominously warns Adelle about the Dollhouse’s early retirement plan (sounds permanent) and orders her to fill Kinnard’s request.
Downstairs, Sierra finds Victor pouring the bad man paint down the shower drain. They share a sweet moment painting each other’s faces and giggling, until Sierra calls Victor an Indian Chief, the paint running down her face as she laughs. Suddenly, Victor collapses, struck by the memory of a soldier with blood running down his face, screaming, “Sergeant! What do we do?!” Victor mumbles, “I don’t want to be in charge.” It’s all fun and games until someone has a flashback.
At large and not really in charge, Adelle tells Topher they have to send Sierra back to Rapeytown.
Topher: Aren’t we supposed to care for these people? Dr. Saunders would never have allowed —
Adelle: Which Dr. Saunders would that be? The avuncular physician so brutally cut down not five feet from where you’re standing? Or the last woman to whom you gave a permanent imprint – the other wounded flower you restored by offering her a new life, who apparently found you so unbearable, she had to flee the city? Is it that one?
Yeah, that one. Oh, Adelle.
Topher was chosen for the Dollhouse because he has no morals. This makes it tough now, because he’s starting to grow a teeny, tiny conscious. What an ill-timed pain in the ass. He somberly takes Sierra for her last treatment. Victor wants to come with her but he’s barred from the treatment room. He sits down for what’s going to be the longest wait for a girlfriend at the doctor’s office, ever.
In a flashback, we find Topher meeting Priya for the first time. On Kinnard’s “suggestion,” Topher picks her up at the loony bin, where she’s an unkempt nut, ranting about being held prisoner and poisoned.
Topher asks Priya if she even knows where she is. “Hell,” she says. Close, she’s in Los Angeles. You can tell the difference by the number of fires and liars. LA has more.
Back in the present, Topher has imprinted Sierra and sent her back to her rapist. She arrives at Kinnard’s place brimming with the kind of lovey-dovey happiness only Topher’s chair or a tab of ecstasy can provide. She straddles Kinnard and suggests a naughty appetizer before dinner.
Priya: [cooing] Did you want me wide-eyed, demure? Or stupid? Did you want me to be a mute? [coldly] Which is it, Nolan? Which fantasy did you want to keep forever?
Priya: You just couldn’t take “no” for an answer.
Look out. Mama’s home.
Remember Echo? While we’ve been following Sierra, Echo learned how to read. She plays the zombie card when Boyd asks her about her secret book, saying she likes to try sounding out words for fun. She’s also learned how to lie. The kids grow up so fast, don’t they? One minute they’re blithely going out dressed as dominatrix and coming home to a nice bowl of ice cream, the next, they’re reading Suze Orman and demanding profit-sharing and a 401k plan.
Boyd warns Echo she’s going to get in trouble if she doesn’t stop egging on the other actives, questioning management and stirring up trouble.
Back at Chez Dahmer, Kinnard’s head explodes when he hears Priya say she’s in love with another man. The realization forming in her head as she’s saying it, she tells Numbnuts there’s a wonderful guy out there, she doesn’t know how or why, but she loves him. Kinnard goes ballistic and they get into an all-out brawl. Domestic violence is never right. Except when it ends with multiple stabs wounds in a rapist’s chest.
Well, that’s just great — she’s gone a killed the VP of Neuroleptic Whatchamacallits.
Topher and Boyd show up as the “cleaners.” Having had some experience in this area, Boyd orders Topher to cut up the body with a saw, and marinate the pieces on sulfuric acid. Here’s a helpful hint for all you at-home body disposers: Slit the femoral artery and drain the body. It makes cutting up a body a breeze!
Who wants a leg?
While Topher dry heaves his way through the hack job, Boyd is busy making fake travel reservations and Priya packs a suitcase full of Kinnard’s clothes. After the body’s been reduced to a frothy, soupy mess and all the clues are in place, Boyd calls Adelle to tell her Kinnard seems to have left town, leaving Priya behind. Of course, she doesn’t believe any of it but she lets Boyd’s story go down as easily as that bottle of scotch she polish off an hour ago.
Safely back in the Dollhouse, Priya wants to forget ever being used, abused and confused. And killing a man isn’t something she’s proud of either, however heinous he was.
Priya: I woke up from a nightmare only to live in one. You were supposed to help me.
Topher: I thought I was. I was … fooled. I’m so sorry. If there was anything I could do to make it better.
Priya: Do you have any beer?
Mindwipes: It’s Australian for “beer.”
Priya sees Victor, still sitting on the floor, waiting for her. She asks Topher, “I love him. Is that real?”
He assures her that her love is real. Before going back into the chair, she asks Topher to erase this day from the books. I’ve had some of those.
Sierra awakens, fresh and new. She finds Victor, right where she left him. They hold hands and skip away to see if there’s any more tapioca in the cafeteria.
Meanwhile, Echo is reading in secret when she finds someone has slipped an all-access keycard for the building into her book.
Finally — a way into Adelle’s private bathroom. Screw you, group showers.