“Dollhouse” mini-cap 2.13 “Epitaph 2: Return”

Humankind’s propensity to take an inventive idea too far has struck yet again. The first steam engine eventually ushered in 30 billion metric tons of carbon emissions. A simple drum made from animal hide led to Adam Lambert gyrating to the synthesized beat of his fabulousness. Now, in the year 2020, the world has finally gone to shit, thanks to Rossum and “the tech” that remotely wiped almost everyone on the planet.

The world’s population has been reduced to marauding killers known as “butchers,” zombie Actives now called “dumb shows,” and “tech heads,” who literally copy files to their brains using thumbs drives and ports embedding in their faces. For a company that sold expensive medical equipment, destroying civilization and all the health insurance that goes with it seems like a poor business model, but Rossum was run by a crazy person.

Sure as every post-apocalyptic dystopia is devoid of deodorant, McDonald’s and dentistry, there are pockets of survivors. A woman named Mag, her wingman, Zone and a 10-year-old girl are three such lucky stiffs. While gathering water near a dirt road, they hear butchers approaching as stealthily as a herd of bison. Guns blazing, they tear out of there.

Mag asks the girl if they’re heading in the right direction and calls her “Caroline.” Mini-Caroline says, “I don’t know. The last time I was up here, it wasn’t this bad. I could see over the dash.”

Some women want to look 10 years younger. Most men don’t want to grow up. Caroline has a backup version of herself that needs to sit on a phonebook. Mini-C tells her adult companions philosophically, “We are lost. We are not gone,” and leads them to the unfortunately named “Neuropolis,” formerly known as Tucson.

Inside city limits, the three are captured by some mysterious thugs and thrown in a cell, while upstairs, the latest incarnation of Harding is gorging on the spoils of Rossum’s tech war. Eliza Dushku’s brother, Nate, comes in to offer Harding the new suit he ordered. And by “new suit,” they mean man body.

“I can’t believe I let this one get so stretched out,” says fatuous Fatty McFatterson. He takes one look at the “suit” at the end of the rack and realizes it’s Ballard. Not knowing whom Ballard is/was, Dushbro casually mentions they picked him up with “some girl” and stares at the guy, wondering what the big deal is. Harding runs downstairs to check on his prisoners.

As soon as Harding is gone, Ballard head butts Dushbro and grabs some clothes. The Lipless Wonder strikes again.

Meanwhile, in the holding cell, Echo has made her presence known, disables Harding’s goons, and confronts Harding, himself. She points a gun at his doughy face. He asks why she bothers anymore, knowing he’s backed-up and ready for a new download, all Cylon-like. “Ask me again sometime,” she replies, and blows his head off.

While helping to free her fellow prisoners, Caroline realizes one them is her Mini-C; a chip off the ol’ block with the same medical knowledge and lock-picking skillz. In another part of the building, Ballard finds Topher, disheveled, malnourished, and mumbling to himself in the laboratory. Ballard says, “I’m here with Echo.” “Echo,” Topher echoes. If Ballard had said “Echo” just one more time, I could have died happy.

Through his psychotic break, Topher is able to tell Echo and Ballard that Rossum has been torturing him. For every day he didn’t discover a way to remotely wipe whole countries, they shot a person right in front of him. Now twitchy and quipless, Topher mumbles some gibberish about “the opposite, a reflection,” and finally says hoarsely, “I can bring back the world.”

Somewhere outside of Greater Neuropolis and a few clicks from Bartertown, sits Safe Haven, a hidden farmhouse where “actuals” and others are living off the grid, growing their own food, and wearing work pants, some for the first time.

The farmer in Adelle. The farmer in Adelle. Hi-ho, those jeans look swell, the farmer in Adelle.

Victor/Anthony and Sierra/Priya have a son, Tony, or “T” for short. No one bothered to mention what happened to the children, come to think of it. If Rossum really wanted to make a killing, they would have invented a tech that wiped kids’ minds and stopped them from running around in restaurants, screaming in movie theaters and whining in Walmart.

Echo, Ballard, Mag, Zone and Topher arrive, looking for a hot meal and a plan.

Ballard: Topher thinks he can flip it; create a pulse to restore all the wiped minds.
Zone: Yeah? He also thinks he’s a little teapot, short and stout.
Adelle: Topher Brink is a genius and you will keep a civil tongue in this house, or we’ll put it in the stew.
Mini-C: Good to see you’ve mellowed.

There are only two problems with the plan: Topher can’t build anything more than a slingshot if they stay on Walton’s Mountain, and if he were to develop the tech, it would wipe everyone’s minds, including Echo’s. Those who cannot learn from history because they can’t recall it, are doomed to repeat it. Besides, someone needs to remember where the keys to Adelle’s liquor cabinet are stashed.

They all realize they must return to the Dollhouse. Before anyone can pack an overnight bag, an armored 18-wheeler rolls into the compound. Out jumps Anthony, all Mad Maxed out, and his heavily armed band of tech heads. The new arrivals are all speaking a foreign language, until Anthony puts a gas cap to his face and switches to English.

Priya tells Echo she’s not as happy to see her baby’s daddy as the others are. Although he can help get them to the Dollhouse in one piece, somewhere along the way, they lost everything else having to do with each other. She wanted a home and a family, and he wanted to bedazzle his face. I guess it’s true: love really isn’t enough.

Tony catches one of his tech heads showing T his array of flash drives, which hang around his neck on a chain. Tony slams the guy against the truck and says he doesn’t want the boy to know about the tech. “Got it. Log off,” the guy says. After the apocalypse, slang like “log off” and “power down a sec” make “friend me” and “tweeting” sound downright quaint.

Meanwhile, Mag tells Negative Nellie, a.k.a. Zone, he doesn’t have to go to the Dollhouse if he doesn’t want to. He says, no, he gets it.

Zone: Who doesn’t want to spend some quality time with these awesomely normal people?
Mag: I don’t know. Could be all right. The little Asian’s kind of cute.
Zone: She’s a tech head, Mag. She’s a girl, Mag.

In the future, the only ones who survive are the strong, the smart, and the lesbians.

As the armored truck makes its way back to the Dollhouse, there’s nothing to do except process relationship stuff. In the cab, Priya is still mad at Anthony for choosing The Fight over home schooling and gardening. In the back, Ballard tells Echo he wants to be let into her heart.

Ballard: I’ve been knocking 10 years. You still won’t let me in.
Echo: I’ve let you in a few times. [smirk]
Ballard: When you were sure we were going to die. What happens if you’re sure we’re going to live?
Echo: What do you think happens?

Ballard tells Echo that even with 100 people in her head, she’s the loneliest person he knows. For some reason, she thinks that’s sweet. “Not for the person who’s with you,” he says sadly. Maybe he’s the loneliest person he knows.

The truck makes it back to Los Angeles by nightfall. Its decimated streets are crawling with butchers who start shooting as soon as they see the newcomers. Echo, Ballard and the tech heads jump out, guns blazing. In a world with no food, fresh water or electricity, it’s sort of amazing how there’s no shortage of AK-47′s. It’s a proud day for the NRA.

The gang makes its way toward a tunnel that leads into the Dollhouse as the butchers and the tech heads exchange machine gun fire. Mag gets peppered with bullets in both legs. She goes down, screaming. Ballard comes to her rescue, only to be shot in the head. Just like that, he’s gone.

Echo sees her lover dead on the ground. Without blinking, she orders everyone into the tunnel and yells, “Seal the door behind us!” leaving Ballard’s body lying in the street like yesterday’s trash. Given he’s an imprinted version of himself, maybe it’s just recycling day, but I doubt it. Echo’s just that kind of girl.

No one knows what they’ll find in the Dollhouse. Anthony and Echo go in first, in case there are butchers squatting in it. Not only is the coast clear, the entire facility is as it always was: full of placid dolls, padding around in yoga clothes, waiting for Jell-O. A doll wanders by and tells Echo, “I try to be my best.” Echo rolls her eyes incredulously and says, “Aw, hell.”

Alpha appears out of nowhere and gives Echo a hug. A real hug. She thought they lost him in Reno, but he tells her he just got sick of the fight, laid his weapon down and walked away. He gives Anthony a hug, too, and ribs him about his new face. Alpha’s enjoying some refreshing sanity and so forth? Hey, if Adelle can trade her Louboutins for Levis and Priya can give up painting for parenting, I guess anything’s possible.

The happy reunion is cut short when the other tech heads stage a coup. They don’t want to be wiped — they like being badass and bedazzled, thank you very much.

Echo’s threats mean nothing to them. Anthony tries to relate to their plight, but they scoff at their former leader. One of the tech heads calls Alpha a Luddite and he loses it. The coup lasts all of two minutes, with the tech heads on the floor. Echo grabs their module necklaces and orders them into a holding cell. Injured Asian tech head looks at Echo dreamily and says, “She’s so cool.” Correction. Injured Gaysian tech head.

As Priya and Echo destroy the necklaces, ending what was probably the most fun you could have without getting wet, Priya takes a special angry satisfaction in smashing the thing that came between Anthony and herself. Echo tells her to get over herself.

Priya: This tech has been eating at my life!
Echo: Are you really that thick? This isn’t something that comes on a drive. They tried to pull it out of him. They wiped his mind for years, and he never stopped loving you — you can string him along for years, you can spend years together and what do you do? You waste it. Never tell him that you love him! Never tell him that you’re grateful for him! He’s deeaddd! I’m alone! I’m always alone.

Um, are we still talking about Anthony?

You want alone? Talk to Topher. Even in the salad days of free massages and, well, salad, he never left the Dollhouse. A friend was something he imprinted on Sierra as a birthday present to himself. And when he finally met Bennett, a geek after his own heart, she ended up with a bullet in that smarty-pants head of hers. Love stinks.

Well, at least she left a series of instructional science videos that he can watch wistfully. Suddenly, he gets an idea. In even death, she’s teaching him what she knows. He can fix it. His father is a TV repairman with an awesome set of tools — oh wait. Wrong show.

Having found the answer to creating a mind-wipe reversal, Topher tells Adelle, ( his only friend?) that an explosion would send the pulse in all directions, even if it means sacrificing his life to detonate it. Topher invented the tech that wrought the apocalypse, now he’s gonna die fixing it. She doesn’t want him to die alone but they don’t call him Brink for nothing.

“I’ll fix what we did to their heads. You fix what we did to the rest of the world,” he tells Adelle, “Your job is way harder.”

To prepare for the advent of What Was Old Is New Again, Zone takes Mini-C above ground and vows to move her into the best school district, just as soon as there are schools. In the infirmary, Gaysian and Mag realize they both like Tegan and Sara, long walks on the beach, and quiet nights at home, thus beginning what is sure to be a fun year underground, while they heal and wait for gay marriage to become legal.

Along with the new girl couple, Priya, Anthony and Anthony Jr. will be staying in the Dollhouse, away from the pulse blast. They want to remember who they are. Echo will also stay, so she’s battle-ready in a year, to take on anyone who didn’t get Topher’s memo. Adelle will lead all the remaining dolls into “the light” because she’s the only one who can.

Everything is in place. Topher goes up to Adelle’s old office and assembles his bomb. He turns to see a BSG-style collection of photos on the wall. Fittingly, “Huh,” are his last words as the bomb goes off.

A nanosecond later, the world wakes up to wonder, “Did I fall asleep?” Adelle is wondering, “Who’s going to clean up this mess?”

In the Dollhouse, Echo finds one last imprint waiting for her on the chair. She pops it in, sits down and fires it up. It’s Ballard. When someone you love dies, they live on, if only in your mind. In the Dollhouse, they literally live in your mind. Echo starts having a lovey-dovey conversation with Paul. She gets into her bed in the floor, smiles slyly, and shuts the lid. What’s that going to be like?

So now Echo finally let him in, so to speak. Together 24 hours a day, everyday, forever, sharing every thought, every feeling. Dear God. Who do they think they are? Lesbians?

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