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Handlers are employees of a Dollhouse facility who are responsible for escorting an Active to and from an engagement while monitoring them during their time with clients for their safety. For the most part, Handlers do not listen in to the actual engagement, unless it may involve criminal activity or threats to their safety. Handlers are generally armed with handguns and are found within the black van used for transportation. During certain types of engagements, the Handlers may be involved in a fashion, often acting as a contact to the Active to ensure successful completion. In extreme cases, Handlers are expected to dispose of an Active to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands. They, as direct employees of a Dollhouse, are hired (and fired) at the whim of the House Head.
Because a handler is responsible for an Active's well-being above all else, and for returning him or her to the Dollhouse at the end of an engagement, it is necessary for the handler to be the one memory that the dolls retain in both their imprinted and tabula rasa states. To accomplish this, Topher Brink supervises an imprint process for each handler/active pair. The process involves a combination of the Dollhouse's mind-altering technology, physical contact, and a script, which Topher snidely refers to as a "spell." The script emphasizes the doll's trust in the handler, and the handler's care for the doll. As demonstrated in "Man on the Street", this trust can be abused.
While an Active is out on an engagement, the handler monitors his or her vital signs and/or listens in on the conversation, depending on the nature of the assignment. If necessary, the handler communicates with Topher about whether or not the doll's stats are within mission parameters. The handler is only to interfere with the engagement if the safety of the doll is compromised, not to aid the doll or client in accomplishing the mission.
At the end of an engagement or in an emergency, the handler approaches the doll and signals a return to the Dollhouse by mentioning the word "treatment." The doll immediately accepts the handler and treatment and incorporates them into his or her reality. Echo has resisted her handler programming.
Actives are sometimes paired with a handler other than the one they are bonded to, likely on low-risk engagements.
Selena Ramirez is Victor's handler. She was one of two handlers to kill Echo if she "fell into the wrong hands" during the episode "Stage Fright." She was on leave during the events of "Man on the Street," leaving Bicks as Victor's temporary handler.
Bicks was Ramirez' replacement as Victor's handler during "Man on the Street." When Victor was still suspected of hurting Sierra, Bicks was seen be dragged up the stairs by two other handlers, screaming that both he and Victor were innocent of any wrongdoing. Bicks has not been seen or mentioned since and it is unclear whether he is still a handler or, indeed, if he is still alive at all.
Travis is Boyd's replacement as Echo's handler, after Boyd is promoted to chief of security at the end of "A Spy in the House of Love." He is much more dispassionate than Boyd and Echo never gained the same level of bond with him that she had with Boyd. He was relieved of duty as Echo's handler at the end of the season two premiere "Vows," when he was replaced by Paul Ballard.
Sophie Alvarez was Whiskey's handler. Her current active is unknown. She has a much colder viewpoint than Boyd Langton and while discussing the Actives in "Needs" she comments that Dominic's statement that the Actives were "like dogs" was accurate, and even goes on to tell Boyd that he should watch Echo's glitching more carefully, stating cryptically that "even a good dog needs to be put down sometimes."
Paul Ballard became reluctantly involved with the Dollhouse at the end of the first season, after he came to the conclusion that the only way to defeat them was from the inside. He still believes that the Dollhouse is morally and legally wrong, and Adelle DeWitt uses both his attachment to Echo and his belief that he can save her and stop the Dollhouse to manipulate him into becoming Echo's handler at the end of the season two premiere, "Vows."
Boyd Langton was Echo's handler. He went far beyond the parameters of the average handler to protect her by all means, although he hated the job and felt like he was exploiting her. He formed an emotional bond with Echo, and in both "A A Spy in the House of Love" and "Briar Rose" Echo has shown to maintain her trust in Boyd beyond her memory wipes.
In "A Spy in the House of Love", Boyd was promoted to chief of security. Since his promotion he has shown a marked interest in Echo's safety and her engagements despite no longer being her handler. Boyd was replaced by Travis, then an unnamed handler and then later by Paul Ballard.
Joe Hearn was Sierra's handler, and appears to have been the handler for her predecessor, as well. He used the handler/Active bond to exploit his charge in a sexual manner. When DeWitt sent him to murder an innocent woman, Hearn showed no compunctions or regret and was fully ready to kill her to save his own life. Ironically enough, the woman he attempted to kill was not only an Active but a sleeper agent who in turn killed him.
Samuelson was Echo's handler prior to Boyd, and was killed in Alpha's rampage.
Blevins was Alpha's handler, and was also Alpha's first victim after his composite event.