'Dollhouse' Episode 2.04: 'Belonging'

Episode Title: "Belonging"

Written By: Maurissa Tanchareon & Jed Whedon

The Story: The lens is tightened upon Sierra (Dichen Lachman) as viewers learn about her tragic past. Even worse, it dawns on Topher (Fran Kranz) and other Dollhouse officials that Sierra never came to the Dollhouse willingly — but that discovery comes with wildly unpredictable results for Sierra, Topher and more. Meanwhile, Boyd Langton (Harry Lennix) begins to realize that something has changed about Echo (Eliza Dushku).

Cognitive Dissonance: It's not the least bit bizarre that the season's best episode seems to have nothing, or almost nothing in common with Echo herself. "Belonging," which was directed by longtime "Star Trek" actor Jonathan Frakes, focused squarely on Sierra and Topher, with periphery roles for Boyd, Victor, Adelle and Echo. Other than a few choice lines of dialogue, this episode didn't do much to push the show's overall mythology, yet still I think it was the greatest installment we've seen since the season premiere.

You Have No Morals: Sierra and Topher are typically two of my least favorite "Dollhouse" characters, but this episode made them phenomenally watchable. I really felt for Sierra once we learned that she didn't come to the Dollhouse on her own accord, but was poisoned by a wealthy pervert to get there. Topher, on the other hand, is completely rocked by this revelation, and actually makes a moral decision: in order to effectively rescue her, Topher — with the help of Boyd — ends up vicariously killing Sierra's victimizer through Sierra herself, which leaves every character in a sticky situation, both morally and literally.

Sitting In A Tree: For viewers that can't get enough of the romantic tension on "Dollhouse," this episode was ripe with it. Victor and Sierra's instinctual love for one another takes an interesting leap within the walls of the Dollhouse, as they paint each other's faces with glee and lie with one another in the same bed. Topher and Adelle, meanwhile, can only watch, despite their obvious — if unspoken — feelings towards Sierra and Victor. It's quite the delicate love quadrangle, and one that should have an interesting development as the episodes wear on.

Something Bad Is Coming: Echo's presence was tremendously diminished this go around, but I actually thought her scenes worked well in this lessened capacity. Boyd makes the discovery that Echo has learned how to lie, indicating that perhaps she is "waking up," which Echo hardly hides from him upon a later confrontation. According to Echo, there's a bad storm on its way to the Dollhouse, and she wants all of the actives to be fully prepared for it. Based on her conversation with Boyd, it strikes me that he'll be on board when the time comes.

Best Quote: "Draining the fluids makes it easier to cut up." — Boyd Langton

Final Imprint: Well, I loved it. I thought this was the best "Dollhouse" of the season, and one of my favorite episodes of the series. The problem, I suppose, is how little it focused on pushing the overall mythology — but that was a casualty of some truly excellent character growth. I'm fine with that trade-off, but since it's growing more and more obvious that "Dollhouse" will end with this season, I just hope that Whedon and his team have the time to resolve everything in a compelling, thoughtful manner.

Next Mission: This is where we say so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodnight! "Dollhouse" is off the airwaves throughout November, but when the show returns, Fox will air back-to-back episodes every Friday night in December. The first double-header focuses on another Dollhouse institution, where we finally get our first glimpse of Summer Glau. Hope it's worth the wait!

What did you think of the most recent "Dollhouse" episode? Sound off in the comments or on Twitter!