Easily the best episode this season, as anticipated. So a year ago, Sierra was still Australian and still called "Priya" and selling novelty art on the beach, and a longer-haired Vincent Ventresca ("Nolan" is his name) approached her as a "collector" (ahem) and commissioned a painting, which led to a gallery opening, Officer Lundy from Dexter, here a Rossum higher-up, chatted with Nolan about his "expensive seduction," and he wasn't kidding, because he sent both Echo and Victor to chat with Sierra as part of his game. Basically, Nolan, a "medical genius" who's very important to Rossum, was pathetically obsessed with Priya, so he drugged her up and made her look like a paranoid schizophrenic, which got her sent to the Dollhouse as a last resort, where Nolan could then hire her at his leisure.
Today, Nolan is still renting out Sierra whenever he feels like it, but she's painting pictures of, according to Echo's description to Topher, a "bad man who makes her sad." This causes Topher to reminisce about how he "helped" Sierra, and to tell Boyd about his worry that Sierra's repeat engagement with Nolan is causing her emotional pain, and even though Boyd assures him that Sierra's brain activity has been normal on those missions, Topher does some digging and realizes that Nolan used his medical expertise to manipulate them and that there was nothing wrong with Sierra when she was brought in other than the drugs Nolan was pumping her full of. When Adelle gets wind of this, she brings Nolan in and calls him a kidnapper and rapist before informing him he will no longer be allowed access to Sierra, and he in turn tells her that if she doesn't imprint her by the end of the day and send her to him forever, she'll be out of a job. Well, that went well. Officer Lundy tells Adelle to go through with it, even bringing up her Miss Lonelyhearts excursion and calling it "the least of [her] indiscretions" before vaguely threatening her life, and Adelle in turn tells Topher he'll go through with the permanent imprint because he has no morals. This, however, is news to Topher, and he restores Sierra to her original Priya personality. Priya goes along with the game long enough to get close enough to Nolan to take her revenge, which starts with merely taunting him with the fact that despite all his efforts, she's in love with someone else. However, things quickly escalate, and in the fight that follows, she eventually gets the better of him and stabs him dead but good. Topher comes to the scene to try to help Priya, but moments after, Boyd turns up in a cleaner capacity and gives everyone marching orders, and the three of them cover up the extremely messy affair, with Boyd later lying to Adelle about the whole thing. When Priya returns to the Dollhouse, she asks Topher to restore her to her old personality one more time so she won't remember the grisly affair in which she just participated, but for any or all of a variety of possible reasons, he chooses instead to return her to her Doll state, in which she blissfully goes back to being in uncomplicated love with Victor, even going to sleep with him in the same pod. Aw.
Finally, showing the painting to Topher is only one way Echo is showing initiative in trying to get the other Dolls to become more aware of who they are. Boyd realizes that Echo is remembering things and confronts her on her newfound ability to lie, and she in turn tells him something bad is coming, and she wants everyone awake for it. Of course, given what happened in the rest of the episode, she might want to revise that opinion.
We open on an unfocused shot of Topher sounding somewhat damaged as he tells us, "I was just trying to help her" twice in succession. I'd say, given who we're dealing with, that that sounds like a bad idea on general principles, but the fact that his face appears to be covered in blood kind of obviates the sentiment.
Cut to a close-up of Sierra taking a Polaroid picture on, I believe from the vaguely artsy abounding denizens, Venice Beach, and it's nice of the show to give its crew a chance to get some air every once in a while. Not that I'd want to drive the truck back to the Fox studios during rush hour, but at least they're not in the Valley. Anyway, it's one year ago, and Sierra, or "Priya" as she was called back then, is assisting a large woman of color peddle her costume jewelry in exchange for the large woman of color assisting her with peddling her paintings, or something. Also, Priya's still Australian, which she emphasizes by sassing Queen Elizabeth II, and this tickles the large woman of color, because as sassy as women of color are on American television as a rule, they don't often get to point said sassiness at royalty. Speaking of which, Costume Jewelry Woman sees probably our least favorite person in the Dollverse, Vincent Ventresca, approaching, and refers to him as a "prince," and I was going to say that further proves she knows squat about royalty, except then it occurred to me that if you looked at all the princes in the world through all time, the way this guy acts might actually be fairly close to the mean, so I'll give it to her. Priya somewhat tellingly tells Costume Jewelry Woman that Nolan is not her type, but CJW replies that she's certainly his, so we've got the ingredients all ready for "Creepy Stalker Extraordinaire," and we just need to see how the show mixes them up. Nolan comes over with a demure "aw, shucks" hands-in-the-pockets walk, and he buys one of the paintings she has out, apparently not for the first time by a long shot. She self-deprecatingly asks what he's doing with all the pieces, and he tells her she's a collector and the "real deal," and shouldn't be selling on Venice Beach "with all this novelty crap." This earns him a reproving side-eye from Costume Jewelry Woman, but I bet if she knew his true disgusting nature it would make her feel better. In a very narrow way, that is. Priya tells him she needs the cash, which I find hilarious given that she obviously didn't feel the need to defend her stand-mate's tacky offerings, and then whispers that she also doesn't have a work visa, which isn't the kind of thing she should be volunteering, I don't think, but he merely smiles before asking if she'd be interested in doing a painting specially for him, a big one "that will cost a lot more money." At this, Costume Jewelry Woman pipes up that he's "loaded," too, because while she may have terrible taste in both jewelry and men, she is still sassy. Priya, the prospect of a large cash infusion starting to overwhelm her better judgment, asks if he had something specific in mind, and he replies, "Yes. You." with such a lack of finesse that I'm surprised he doesn't punctuate the thought by licking her face right there. He recovers, though, to amend it to the desire for her to do her "thing," and adds that maybe he could even arrange a show for her. Priya definitely looks rather intrigued, and he gives her his card and takes off, and as we follow him, we hear CJW all "Hoo-wee, you hit the jackpot, girl!" I hope if Priya ever goes back to selling her stuff on the beach, she gets a pimp with better judgment.
So Priya apparently didn't have to think it over too long, as the next scene is the gala gallery opening, and the shorthand version is that even though the snooty crowd loves her stuff enough to make her the next It Girl, the whole thing is very much Not Her Scene. Well, that is until she investigates a room that's toward the back but hardly private and sees the beginning stages of a vaguely orgy-like event happening, but after you've watched Rome pretty much everything else of this ilk pales in comparison, so let's focus on the part where Echo emerges from the room, fully clothed at least, and compliments Sierra both on her art and her own beauty before encouraging her to stay with Nolan. "He finds an artist, they thrive." Next time Nolan goes to all the trouble to arrange such a scenario, I hope he insists that the participants have better grammar skills. Nearby, Nolan is chatting with the fabulous Keith Carradine, David Carradine's younger half-brother, who you may know from...well, numerous things over the years, but most recently Dexter, where he plays Special Agent Frank Lundy. Well, "played" may be the correct term, but as I'm writing this on Saturday we'll have to wait and see. Anyway, Keith Carradine tells Nolan that the whole setup is "an elaborate, expensive seduction," and Rossum is happy to do it as a token of their gratitude for all the work he's done for them, "but couldn't you just buy her a necklace or a boat or something?" Well, not to defend Nolan, but I'm sure he's off necklaces after all the recent trips to Venice Beach, and Priya would probably fear that any boat she got on would head straight for Sydney. Rather than tell Keith Carradine this, though, Nolan says that Priya is an artist and "free spirit," and as such can't be bought. Keith Carradine, getting the idea, offers that she can be lured, but wonders why Nolan doesn't just have them build him the perfect woman. Nolan, however, says he doesn't want a Doll. "I want her." I kind of wish it still were summer, because this guy is giving me the cold chills better than any air conditioner I've ever met.
Echo, not particularly believably, is keeping Sierra's attention with a poorly-acted speech about how money alone doesn't bring power, but Nolan, who's a "medical genius" and has been short-listed for the Nobel Prize, has power, and since the speech is not only unconvincingly delivered but also obviously came from Nolan himself, let's skip ahead to where Keith Carradine brings Victor over and introduces him as "the finest art dealer in all of Italy," a description with which Victor suavely demurs before taking Sierra over to the painting to ask her some questions about it. Echo, for her part, greets Keith Carradine as "Mr. Harding," and leads him away by his tie as she adds that it's always a pleasure. If they're heading for that back room, I hope we don't get another shot of it. Back at the painting, Victor asks if a particular painter influenced Priya's work, but Priya, being a free spirit and Australian and whatever, doesn't know who he's talking about, so Victor artfully (heh) positions that as a compliment, saying she's so naturally talented before insulting the crowd there for being so artificial, which of course is music to Priya's ears. He then asks