B-plot first: Lubov screws around with Ballard for a bit, but the awesome twist is that he's actually a Doll named "Viktor." Viktor sends Ballard straight into the hands of three members of that Russian crime family, but Ballard badassedly manages to kill all his assailants, although he does take a bullet himself as well that causes him to momentarily flatline in the ambulance. Mellie shows up to the hospital to visit him, but he's under guard. I'm just glad she didn't drag a lasagna with her in vain.
Now, the A-plot: At a pop singer and former Mickey Mouse Club member named "Rayna Russell"'s gig, one of the dancers gets "accidentally" lit on fire, and the next thing you know her British manager, a past client, is showing up to the Dollhouse and telling Adelle that someone's trying to kill his client. He requests protection, which leads to Echo kicking ass in her audition (ED can sing) and charming the diva-esque pants right off of Rayna. Claire expresses her dismay at this development, because based on that guy Richard's dying comment last week, she's sure someone else is out there who wants to kill Echo, although it's clearly not Alpha. Also, Boyd isn't at full strength because of the arrow he took in his side last week, so Topher sends Sierra, who had a friendly moment with Echo in the beginning of the episode, in as backup in the guise of a crazy fan who wins a contest to hang out with Rayna and nerds it up at the afterparty. Through all this, a geeky-looking strawberry blond dude has been skulking about doing such crazed-fan things as assembling a rifle, and when we learn that Rayna has been exchanging letters with a nutjob who's supposedly her "number-one fan," we know it's him, but more interestingly, Echo figures out that Rayna wants the guy to kill her so she can be free of her terrible life, or whatever. The guy does fire on Rayna, but Echo saves her, only to hear her complain rather ham-fistedly about how she's not a real person but someone's out there who wants to kill her, and it's kind of funny that she's the only person who doesn't know what an exact parallel she's drawing is Echo. Meanwhile, the psycho guy ends up grabbing Sierra and threatening to kill her because he's jealous of her superfan status, and he creepily sings a duet with her (I am not kidding) while Echo suddenly flips the script and decides that saving Sierra is the most important thing -- even at the cost of delivering Rayna to the guy, as she knocks her out and offers her as an exchange. While they're tensely negotiating, Boyd arrives on the scene and calls in that he has a clear shot at the guy, but Adelle orders him to hold off, and it turns out Echo wouldn't actually have let Rayna come to harm, and she ends up handling the situation without anyone getting killed. However, Laurence uses the volatility of the entire mission to press his case that Echo be sent to "the Attic," but Adelle is not hearing that at all. In the end, Echo has another moment that makes it seem like her composite event may be nearing. Better hurry it up and slice Laurence to bits while you still have the chance.
We open on a tight shot of a young African-American woman in a cage, and if I didn't know what the mission is this week I'd be getting a little nervous already. But when we pull back, music starts and florescent lights kick up, and soon the woman, who's wearing a studded bikini top and a mini with large dangling spangles, is stepping out of the cage and singing in an R&B/pop-style (think Beyoncé, which fits, since the actress, Jaime Lee Kirchner, appeared in Beyoncé's "Work It Out" video. Also, she toured in Rent, so she's probably doing her own singing here) to the relatively intimate audience. Sparks fly up intermittently from a few nozzles around the stage as the backup singers sing and the dancers twirl, and everyone's having a good time until another singer comes out of an archway behind the dancers and gets full-on sprayed with sparks, which apparently wasn't part of the plan, because she catches on fire and falls screaming to the ground. Honey, didn't they teach you that you keep to the routine no matter what? Also, I'll note that while the dancers are appropriately skimpily attired, the singers practically look like they're wearing burlap sacks. I suppose that was necessary for the one girl for the fire stunt, and they dressed the other singers the same way for consistency, but given that the lead singer is practically down to pasties and g-string, it makes for a bit of visual dissonance. Anyway, the stage guys quickly douse the girl using fire extinguishers, and the star gets hustled off stage, right past a strawberry blond guy who looks, if you'll allow me to use a very scientific term, a few sandwiches short of a picnic.
In the Dollhouse exercise room, Echo and Sierra are running on treadmills. Sierra hops off, looks faint, and then starts to fall, but Echo catches her. Sierra apologizes, saying she was dizzy, and Echo says she didn't want her to get hurt. "You're my friend." Sierra brightens and notes that friends help each other out, and Echo happily agrees. However, her smile fades as she looks over at a nearby staff member, so it's like she knows this little interaction would be frowned upon. Interesting. Sierra seems to get that too, as she casts a quick glance at the staff member herself before walking away, and Echo soon follows.
Claire is re-bandaging Boyd's midsection as she reproaches him for removing the arrow himself, because he could have bled to death, as the type of arrowhead with which he got shot does more damage coming out. Boyd: "I'll remember that next time I'm being bowhunted." Heh. He asks if he's certified to return to work, but she suggests to "Mr. Langton" that he take a few more days to rest. He offers her permission to call him by his given name, and she pauses for a moment, a little thrown, before asking if there's a reason she'd want to. I know there's a reason I'd want to, but I'm the one typing here. Boyd tells her that if she doesn't certify him, Echo could end up with a stranger as her handler, which would be really bad since they both know someone out there is trying to kill her. He adds that the "word from upstairs" is that it can't be Alpha, which seems patently obvious since he's been protecting her, but it's true that if Richard's remark that "he" was right about Echo being special wasn't just the dying ravings of a demented psycho, there's someone else out there who wants Echo dead, and that someone must have given Richard the critical information of how to remove the handler from the game. Given his attitude this episode and the last, could it be Laurence? He could easily have made up that story about the background check. I'm leaning away from that being the case because it seems too obvious, but we'll see. Anyway, Claire does certify Boyd, but cautions him to keep his eyes open. "Someone else is watching." Boyd agrees: "Someone always is."