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Haunted

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"Haunted" is the 10th episode of Dollhouse. It was written by Jane Espenson, Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon and directed by Elodie Keene. It aired April 24th, 2009.

PremiseEdit

When Adelle’s wealthy friend is murdered, Adelle imprints Echo with the woman’s memories and personality to solve the case. Ballard looks into Mellie’s past, and Topher secretly programs Sierra for an engagement.

PlotEdit

Margaret Bashford, a friend of Adelle's, is riding her favorite horse when she unexpectedly dies. However, Margaret is a regular Dollhouse customer and had suspected that she might be murdered. She had contracted with the Dollhouse to undergo regular, painful brain scans.

Echo awakens, imprinted with Margaret's most recent memories (which are current as of her last scan three weeks earlier). Enjoying food and wine with Adelle, Margaret relishes her young and beautiful body, and eventually explains her plan for the engagement: to see her own funeral and possibly solve the mystery of her own murder. Although the official cause of death is listed as a heart attack, Margaret believes that it is unlikely that she would die so suddenly, in such good health.

Boyd discovers this new engagement, and is deeply troubled by the philosophical implications of this form of life after death. He fears that Margaret might attempt to escape, using Echo's body to achieve a form of stolen immortality. He also worries about the morality of removing the imprint (and thereby "murdering" Margaret) at the end of the engagement. Distracted by these issues, Boyd absentmindedly approves Topher's request for a doll to run some diagnostics on, and gives him Sierra.

Margaret and Adelle arrive at the funeral. There, Margaret points Adelle to her immediate family: her son Nicholas, her daughter Jocelyn, her long-estranged alcoholic brother William, and her much younger second husband, Jack. Margaret explains that she has been preparing them for more than a year for the arrival of a beautiful young confidante named "Julia", so her identity will be safely established.

Meanwhile, Sierra awakens with a nerdy gamer's personality and interests, eager to have fun. Sierra and Topher embark on a weekend-long campaign of fun, playing laser tag, video games, enjoying junk food and speculating about creative ways to misuse their power over the "sleepies" (dolls).

After the funeral, Margaret expects the pleasure of reminiscing about her life with her own next of kin, but is rudely shocked to hear that she was perceived as cold, domineering and distant. Nicholas believes that she pressured him constantly into his current career as a stockbroker. Jocelyn believes that her mother ignored and didn't care about her, especially about her career as a photographer. William takes the most charitable view of his sister, saying she was much like her own mother (much to the chagrin of Margaret, whose upset reaction almost blows her cover). The family speculate that Margaret was murdered by her gold-digging husband. Nicholas attempts to seduce "Julia" but Margaret, horrified, resists her son's advances.

In her will, Margaret divided her fortune among her children and brother; her young and attractive husband received only her prize horses. Although she had intended her gift to her husband to be a sign of her love, he resents not receiving any of her fortune and being burdened with horses that he could have cared less about. He realizes that the family believes he killed his wife, which he finds ironic because he was left nothing of value. When "Julia" enters his room, he throws Margaret out, thinking she is a spy sent by the family.

Margaret realizes that Jack may not have inherited as little as she believed. He is selling her favorite prize horse as a racehorse, and expects to make a small fortune from it. Now realizing that someone very close to her might have indeed killed her, she calls Adelle, who dispatches Victor – imprinted as a horse buyer – to investigate. After talking with her family some more, Margaret realizes that there are things she never knew about her children. Her son Nicholas was millions of dollars in debt, her daughter had a career in photography she never knew about, and her brother claimed the two had reconciled the day before she died. Any of the four could have a reason to have killed her. Victor adds to the evidence when he discovers that their prize horse, now Jack's, has been carefully doped with steroids and a masking drug. This makes the horse look valuable now, but worthless for racing.

Boyd comes into Adelle's office after hours while she is drinking alone and watching the security cameras.  He lets her know of Victor's discovery, and that it's likely the same person injected drugs to kill her.  Boyd then asks Adelle if she's aware of the "Topher situation," but she replies that there's "no need to address the issue."  Topher's experiment is more of a means to help him connect to another human being, even if she isn't real.  Topher isn't quite capable of reaching out for himself, so once a year on his birthday, he gets to imprint a doll as a friend.  Boyd and Adelle watch through the security camera as Sierra presents Topher with a birthday Twinkie, complete with three lit birthday candles to blow out.

Margaret enjoys riding her horse one last time late at night, confiding that she would miss him most of all, when she is surprised by Nicholas. A Dollhouse customer himself (at the New York branch), he has guessed her secret. He admits to his massive gambling debts and the two reconcile when Jack mysteriously arrives with Victor. Nicholas and Margaret hide and hear Victor reveal that he has discovered the doping, which has destroyed the horse's market value. Victor storms off. Thinking he is alone, Jack screams with rage and frustration. Suddenly aware that he has been seen, he gives chase to Nicholas and Margaret.

Mother and son escape to her room, where she formulates a plan while Jack beats on the door in fury. She will write a note (in her own hand), accuse her husband of the murder she now knows he committed and backdate it to a week before she died. The note complete, she suddenly realizes that Jack knows nothing about horses and wouldn't have known how to dope the horse. Nicholas reveals that he was the murderer. With the family fortune in hand he can escape his debts, and with the note he can frame Jack for the killing. Nicholas brandishes a syringe, poised to kill his mother again.

At this point, Jack breaks the door down; he realized earlier that Nicholas had set him up and was pursuing him for murdering his beloved wife. The two fight and Nicholas is subdued. Margaret burns the original note and writes another. Attached, she has written an addendum to her will, disinheriting Nicholas and giving his share to everyone else. She has also written messages to her family expressing her love for them and healing old wounds. She finishes by giving a private note to Jack, who genuinely loved her, confirming to him that he was more than her plaything.

Back at the Dollhouse, Adelle expresses surprise that Margaret didn't at least attempt to escape. Margaret admits she thought about it, but knew Adelle well and realized she wouldn't have made it to the airport. Sitting down to die a second time, she bids her old friend goodbye. Adelle holds her hand as the imprint is wiped from Echo.

EngagementsEdit

Engagements
ActiveClientAliasPersonalityMission
EchoMargaret BashfordJuliaMargaret BashfordDiscover Margaret's murder and find closure
NovemberIn HouseMelliePaul Ballard's neighborDiscover what Paull Ballard knows of the Dollhouse
SierraTopher BrinkUnknownFriendFill the lonely spot in Topher's heart for his birthday
VictorIn HouseDrew ChiltonHorse BreederAttempt to purchase a Horse from the estate where Echo is engaged.

CastEdit

Main castEdit

Recurring rolesEdit

Guest starringEdit

Background InformationEdit

ReceptionEdit

Cast & CrewEdit

Joss Whedon said about the episode: "The next episode, 'Haunted,' is a standalone. It's a quirky little piece with a lot of guest stars [he also called it a 'drawing-room mystery']. I'm a little nervous about it. I think Eliza's great in it. But I'm wondering, are people going to go, 'Now wait a minute, [where's the mythology]?' But it was my decision in the middle of all this [i.e., the development of ongoing stories] to say, 'Wait a minute, we can't just be about our own mythology. Let's try this other thing.'"[2]

CriticsEdit

"As for “Haunted,” I thought the concept was by far the most intriguing of the standalone episodes so far, which made the merely decent execution a little disappointing."
-The A.V. Club Recap
"Talk about wasting a great idea on a lousy execution."
-Zap2It Recap
"We're back to the mythology next week, so hopefully the season's final two episodes will be more along the lines of the batch we got before this one. But if the show's going to come back next year, either the paradigm needs to dramatically shift, or the execution of these standalone stories needs to be more interesting."
-Alan Sepinwall Recap
"This is the sort of philosophical story that Joss and company excel at. [...] After tonight's interesting episode, I think it would be a crime to cancel this series and not let Joss and company further explore these concepts."
-TV Squad Recap
""Haunted" was one of the best episodes of "Dollhouse" this season. It wasn't action-packed and didn't have a huge amount of mythology, but it was so unforced. The humor -- and there was a lot that finally felt up to Joss Whedon's capabilities -- was natural and the relationships real."
-Pioneer Local Recap
"A nice idea for an episode but once more it falters under the sheer weight of possibilities which Dollhouse’s technology can allow."
-The TV Critic's Review
"All in all, it was another pretty thought-provoking episode, and there was plenty of stuff I suspect will pay off down the road."
-io9 Recap

RatingsEdit

"Haunted" reached 2.920 million viewers, a 1.9/3 Rating/Share, a 1.2/4 Rating/Share in the 18-49 demographic and a 1.3/4 Rating/Share in the 25-54 demographic.

The quarter-hour breakdown:

Time Period Rating/Share Rating/Share (18-49)
9:01 PM-9:15 PM 1.9/4 1.1/4
9:15 PM-9:30 PM 1.9/3 1.2/4
9:30 PM-9:45 PM 1.8/3 1.2/4
9:45 PM-10:00 PM 2.0/3 1.2/4

TriviaEdit

  • Until late in the second season, this was the only episode depicting Echo with a single imprint (of Margaret) from beginning to end, without showing her in her neutral state or as her original self, Caroline. Not until Echo fully unified her various imprints within her evolving self - a process completed in "Stop-Loss" - would her character hold onto a single identity through an entire episode.
  • Nicolas' collar changes position from shot to shot as he and Echo/Margaret talk in the stables.
  • Topher's birthday occurs during this episode, and while no age is mentioned Sierra (during her imprint) uses three candles, perhaps indicating an age of 30 years old (although Dollplay states he is 27). It could also indicate his third birthday in the Dollhouse. What is known, however, is what month his birthday takes place, as Margaret Bashford (imprinted into Echo) dates a letter in April of 2009, just before her actual's death. It is also known that this episode only covers the span of a few days, and later comments by Stephen Kepler in "Briar Rose" about Earth Day could support this.

Promotional PhotosEdit

Notes & ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 Seidman, Robert (April 25, 2009). Updated: Friday Ratings: Dollhouse sinks to series lows, Ghost Whisperer wins again. TV by the Numbers.
  2. Ryan, Maureen (2009-04-20). Joss Whedon on 'Dollhouse's' renewal chances, that missing episode, 'Dr. Horrible' and more. The Watcher. chicagotribune.com. Retrieved on 2009-04-21.

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