Starting with a “Previously on...” this time, hitting the high points: super-secret organization supplies rich people with brainwashed sex cookies with kung-fu skills – including our heroine, Echo – and the dogged FBI agent, Ballard, who’s trying to expose the place.

Then we’re looking at a hot chick in a metal fringed bikini dancing in a cage. I’m wondering where I’m supposed to go to get my bills changed into singles. She’s a singer in the Britney/Christina/Beyonce mold. And now one of her back-up singers is on fire.

No, seriously. It’s so out-of-nowhere that I’m laughing until I snort. You have BritTinaYonce moving like a pole dancer, and then boom, someone’s hosing down a girl with a fire extinguisher.

And here’s our culprit, staring from the audience. Not much of a mystery. He might as well have a shirt that says “STALKER WITH DANGEROUS OBSESSIVE QUALITIES” in glow-in-the-dark lettering.

[More after the break...]

Cut to Boyd, Echo’s handler, with Dr. Fred – sorry, Dr. Saunders – still wearing the scars she got from Alpha, the active who went rogue and slashed up the whole place. She warns him that someone else is watching, which is meant to imply there are more conspiracies at the Dollhouse than just the brainwashing and human trafficking and illegal experimentation, I suppose.

The boss, Ms. DeWitt, meets with another Brit, played by a Jim Piddock, a Simon Cowell look-alike (no, really, that’s on his résumé). Biz, he’s called, is the manager of the pop tart who was on stage a moment ago.  Her name is Rayna, and she has a stalker who’s threatening to kill her. She needs someone who can become her best friend and protect her, despite her diva tendencies.

I’ve harped on this before, but this is the first time the show has come up with a job for an active which would actually require the kind of high-tech personality implant they use. Someone who can be the perfect friend and the perfect guardian, and can sing.

Sure enough, we see Echo auditioning for Rayna like on “American Idol,” singing a song meant to tug at Rayna’s heartstrings. And, like on “Idol,” everyone pretends the hot chick doesn’t have a voice that could burn kittens to death. She gets the job, of course.

Backstage at rehearsal and Eliza Dushku is in a bra, then she takes it off. That’s pretty much all you need to know about this scene.

Ballard meets with Russian Thug at a pool party. One more time, Russian Thug tells Ballard the Dollhouse doesn’t exist, it’s an “urban legend.” (I’ve heard the one about the Mexican hairless dog and the spiders in the hairdo, but this is a new one.) Ballard says the place has to exist, because, you know, the atomic bomb. Russian Thug agrees to keep looking for the Dollhouse – which is good, since he seems to be Ballard’s only lead.

Then we learn the Russian Thug is not a mobster at all, but an active himself, named Victor. Wait, what?

No time to worry about that. The stalker clears security using crutches – that you just know are going to turn into something deadly – and wanders around backstage unimpeded, despite the allegedly high state of alert over the death-threats. Another active shows up, Sierra, who’s there as back-up for Echo, posing as a fan of Rayna’s who won a contest.

They all go to a party, where Rayna and Echo bond a little before Echo nearly cripples a paparazzo she mistakes for a threat. No one finds this – or Echo’s intermittent Bronx accent – unusual.

Meanwhile, Victor calls Ballard and tells him to go to an abandoned hotel for a lead on the Dollhouse. You can start to see why the FBI put this guy on the X-Files desk, because he clearly sucks at his job. He walks into the obvious trap alone and is attacked by guys from the Russian Mob. (Wait a second, so Victor is a mobster after all? Oh well, just go with it.)

Ballard may be dumb, but he’s a certified asskicker.  He beats the Russkies stupid even after he gets shot. He’s so tough he calls 911 for himself before succumbing to shock and blood loss. (Don’t fret, he survives.)

In Rayna’s dressing room, Echo learns Rayna is encouraging the stalker, corresponding with him in a death wish. She says, “I just want to be free.” Right. Because millions of dollars, slobbering fans, devoted underlings and massive fame are exactly like being locked in Gitmo. Still, it is a nice little twist that Rayna is trying suicide-by-stalker, and explains how he managed to get everywhere so easily.

Rayna goes on, the stalker aims his gun, and Echo tries to find someone to shut the show down. Apparently it has to be just the right someone, because it takes her a long time. The stalker is still aiming. Rayna gets bored waiting to be shot, so she introduces Sierra, her “number one fan” (Oh, that’s not going to go over well). Stalker: still aiming. Echo finally finds Biz, who apparently cannot stop the show after all. So Echo uses a spotlight to find the stalker in the catwalks, and despite all his aiming, he misses Rayna by a mile.

In the aftermath, Sierra is kidnapped. The stalker uses her as bait, sending a video to Rayna, telling her he’s supposed to be the number one fan. (Told you.) Little does he know the Dollhouse is waiting just outside his creepy loner one-bedroom, ready to take him down.

Except Echo goes rogue again and screws all that up. She kidnaps Rayna and offers her in exchange for Sierra. The Dollhouse SWAT team shows up at the Stalker-Cave too late. (Best line of the night: DeWitt’s assistant Dominic asks the geek in charge of the mind-wipes, “Are you doing this on purpose or just terrible at your job?”)

Echo and Rayna meet the stalker and Sierra in the catwalk above the stage. Standoff. Echo threatens to toss Rayna to her death if the demented fan doesn’t give Sierra back.

Boyd is there too, but holds off shooting the stalker in the head because DeWitt orders him to wait for some reason. Rayna, meanwhile, begs for her life and probably considers doing a background check before hiring next time.

Echo throws Rayna over the side of the catwalk. The stalker, distraught at the thought of losing her, or not being the one to kill her, drops his gun. Echo kicks his ass. Sierra is unharmed, and so is Rayna, dangling from the bungee cord rigged by Echo.

In the end, DeWitt calls it a job well done – which says a lot about her management style. She says Echo convinced Rayna she really wanted to live – nothing like violent trauma to erase depression. And Sierra tries to thank Echo for saving her – even though neither are supposed to remember it – but Echo waves her off, since there are people watching.

Interesting. So maybe it’s not just Echo who’s remembering stuff. Maybe the dolls have their own loyalties... We’ll find out more next week. Guys, you’ll just have to pause your TiVos at the bra scene until then.

Thoughts on this week's episode?

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