Written by Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon
Directed by Jonathan Frakes
We get Sierra’s backstory. She was Priya Tsetsang, an artist who sold her work on the pier. She was happy and carefree, but Nolan, a rich doctor, was interested in her. She was not interested back. He tried every way he could think of to buy her affections, including sponsoring an art show for her and engaging Victor and Echo both to talk him up to her. No dice. She’s not freaking interested, thank you. So he had her shot up with anti-psychotic medication, making her appear like a paranoid schizophrenic. Enter Topher, who genuinely believed he was helping her by taking her to the Dollhouse. One year later, in the present, Echo wants Topher to do something about the black shape in Sierra’s life (and in all her simplistic doll paintings). Victor tries to help by getting rid of all the black paint so she doesn’t have to use that color. Thanks to Echo’s tip, Topher figures out that Nolan faked Priya’s mental illness so that he could get her as a doll. Adelle is livid, and she tries to blacklist Nolan, but he kind of outranks her in Rossum, so her bosses tell her to give him what he wants or risk more than her job for it. She tells Topher to send Sierra to Nolan permanently, as per his request. Topher does so...but instead of giving her an imprint tailored to Nolan’s preferences, he just sends her as Priya. She briefly pretends to play along with Nolan, before telling him exactly what she thinks of him. He refuses to believe that she could have managed to not develop any feelings for him after all the romantic engagements he had her for, but she also tells him about Victor, who she somehow managed to fall for even though she doesn’t remember him. They end up struggling, and he nearly kills her, but then she gets a hold of the knife and stabs him until he’s dead. This wasn’t what she wanted to happen, and she’s very traumatized by it. She calls Topher, who still wants to help her. Boyd shows up too, and he orchestrates the cover-up so that Priya won’t be blamed for this and the Dollhouse won’t be liable for Nolan’s death. Then they go back. This was actually Adelle and Boyd’s plan all along. Priya voluntarily gets wiped again because she can’t live with the memories of what she just did. She and Victor snuggle together in one of the pods while Echo sits in the center and reads.
“Belonging” is amazing. I kind of feel like if you want to test whether your friend will enjoy watching Jessica Jones, you should see how they react to this episode, because they deal with very similar material. I love stories that demolish the Stalker with a Crush trope. Nolan and Kilgrave are both entitled monsters that absolutely don’t deserve to get what they want, and they’re such narcissistic sociopaths that there’s no changing them for the better. But the way the episode handles a creep like Nolan isn’t even half of why it’s awesome. The Echo plotline is just a tiny part of the episode, but it’s instrumental to everything else and it’s the connection to the larger arc. Topher and Adelle both get some excellent character development that makes them even more likable than they were, and Boyd’s actions suddenly raise a bunch of ominous questions about him. Like why does he seem to have assassin skills and the contacts to go with them?
Things I Liked
Things I Didn’t
This episode is when Topher went from being the most entertaining character on the show because he’s hilarious to being one of the best characters on the show because character development. I don’t think Topher is a sociopath. I just think he’s let himself get so absorbed in his puzzles and his brilliance, and the fact that he’s so much smarter than most of the people he interacts with that it simply hasn’t occurred to him to think about things in terms of morality and ethics. But we’ve seen glimpses before of him taking his mistakes very seriously. When Alpha composited and killed Dr. Saunders and wrecked Whisky’s face, he made someone who would be a system of checks and balances for him. And now he can barely handle the thought that he was tricked into sending an innocent girl to her abuser over and over, all while believing he had helped her. If it wasn’t for how happy Sierra is with Victor at the end, I don’t think Topher would be able to get past this very well.
Poor Priya. She has had a dreadful time. Put into the Dollhouse by one rapist she was forced to have countless engagements with, where she was also abused by another rapist she was programmed to trust. Thank goodness for Victor and Echo—and Topher!—, or Nolan would have won. People in situations like Priya aren’t always capable of getting themselves out, or of recovering on their own. The people who care about them have to play their part too, whether that’s letting someone who can do something know, actually doing something, or just being there for them.
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.