"You make people different. You can make me help." -EchoWhen Joss Whedon, Eliza Dushku and everyone else associated with "Dollhouse" were busy talking up episode six as The Greatest Story Ever Told, why couldn't they have slipped in a mention that episode nine would be pretty awesome, too? If anything, this is the episode that feels like it could cure my lumbago, pay my mortgage and cook me a Spanish omelet, it was that good.
Part of what made it strong was its density, the way the structure of Andrew Chambliss' script made it feel like we were getting four episodes instead of one. I complained earlier this season when Terminator did a similarly-designed episode, noting that the constant back and forth of the plot felt like an unnecessary stylistic flourish, since telling the story from different perspectives didn't tell us anything new each time the POV shifted. "A Spy in the House of Love" did offer us new insight as it went along -- notably why DeWitt was crying and why she would choose to end her affair with "Roger" -- but the format also worked because each segment could function as its own self-contained story about the Dollhouse, each in its own genre. Mellie's return to Ballard's apartment was a '70s-style paranoid thriller (ala "The Conversation"), Sierra's trip into NSA headquarters was a spy movie (and/or the show's most blatant hat-tip so far to "Alias"), the revelation of DeWitt as Miss Lonelyhearts was a romance novel, and Echo's internal investigation was a mix of Sherlock Holmes and kung fu fighting.
Along the way, we got new insight into most of the Dollhouse staff (except Topher, who's still the same disgusting jerk he's always been), our first look at how horrifying it is for someone to be "sent to The Attic," and the strongest sign yet that Echo is growing and learning as a character -- no matter how many times Topher tries to clean her slate, she can still see what was there before. The development I found particularly interesting was when Dominic pointed out to Echo-as-spy-hunter that she was a doll. With so many dolls imprinted with knowledge of the Dollhouse this week, I was wondering when one of them was going to put two and two together and freak out over the revelation that they aren't real and will cease to exist soon. Instead, Echo took it in stride, not only because there was a larger problem to solve, but no doubt because somewhere under the imprint, in a place in her mind that Topher can never get to, she understood this already, and understood that when the engagement was over, she'd still retain some memory of who she was and what she had just done.
There were some complaints after the last two episodes that Caroline's real personality is annoying, and not someone you might want to watch if the show ever shifts into a Caroline Vs. The Dollhouse format. But what if the point of all this isn't to bring back Caroline, but to turn Echo into her own personality, with echoes (pun semi-intended) of both Caroline and all her past imprints?
Also, in case you missed the Twitter-driven non-controversy earlier in the week, Fox won't air the 13th episode of this season, because it's technically the 14th episode from a network contract perspective, and the Fox studio only made it because they needed a 13th episode to fulfill their own DVD deals. I have no idea if Fox might renew the show (which does poorly in the traditional ratings but better once you factor in DVRs, streaming and downloads), but this issue won't play into that choice at all.
What did everybody else think?