In some hick town in Arizona, a busload of singing and smiling cult followers shows up on a field trip from their compound, and their "unquestioning serenity" is painted as a close parallel to the state of mind of the Dolls. A Senator who is not John McCain then shows up to the Dollhouse with the news that someone has sent a note out saying "Save me" from inside, and he asks for an Active to infiltrate. Adelle sends Echo in as a religious "true believer" but also as a human camera, basically having her eyes rigged to be recording devices that transmit instantly back to the Feds. The downside of the setup is that it renders Echo temporarily blind, and Claire objects because of the potential risks, but Adelle and Topher overrule her.
"Jonas Sparrow" is the cult-leader target, and he never leaves the compound, and Boyd, as part of his cover as a security consultant, briefs the Federal team about what Echo, or "Esther Carpenter" in this persona, is going to do, which is to feel up Brian Bloom's face, for which I am jealous. Sparrow is skeptical about Echo showing up on his doorstep, although her "praise be" imprint is thoroughly convincing to everyone else, and he questions her in detail and threatens to shoot her in the head, but her unwavering belief ends up convincing even him -- for the moment. The team watching then discovers that Sparrow has a hidden arsenal, but when Boyd learns that the team leader is going to invade the compound, Boyd asks Laurence for permission to extract her, but is denied. The Feds then botch the raid, and when Sparrow learns of their presence, he hits Echo it the face -- which has the effect of killing the camera setup and restoring her sight. When the cult members become aware of Sparrow's weapons, they fear it's going to be another Waco, but Sparrow tells Echo that the miracle that's just happened to her has shown him the way, and they won't need to take up arms to prevail.
While this is going on, Boyd tries to get the head Fed on to the idea of looking for the person who sent the note out, but the guy tells Boyd his services are no longer required just as news vans arrive on the scene, so Boyd takes it upon himself to figure out who wrote the note -- and it turns out it was the head Fed. Sparrow then has the building in which they're hiding out set on fire, thinking God will save them, so the head Fed sends men in -- one of whom Boyd knocks out and then takes his uniform and equipment. Inside, Echo gets tired of Sparrow slapping her and brains him with a candlestick before successfully convincing the followers to get the hell out of there. When everyone else is out, Sparrow comes to and is going to kill Echo, but a Fed shows up and shoots him dead instead, and of course we think it's Boyd -- but it's in fact Laurence, who then knocks Echo out and leaves her there. Not clear why he didn't let Sparrow kill her before taking him out, then, but Boyd gets her out of there safely, showing up the head Fed in the process.
Ballard gets some high-clearance woman to scan the FBI database for Echo's picture, but that goes nowhere, and then Mellie shows up to see him…with a package from Alpha she so happened to get from someone downstairs, containing the video we saw of Caroline in the first episode. Ballard is then thunderstruck when he sees Echo on the television coverage of the cult story, but he shows up too late to get anything other than an extremely uncooperative attitude from the head Fed.
In other news, Sierra and Victor have a moment in the shower, and Topher gets freaked out by the fact that Victor got, well, excited, so he babbles to Claire, and the two of them end up reviewing shower tapes for "man reactions." Claire hilariously analyzes certain patterns of "tumescence" before realizing that Victor only gets, um, "man-reacted" when Sierra is around. This news does not please Adelle, and she orders Victor wiped and his behavior thereafter closely monitored. In the end, Adelle makes it clear she knows about Laurence going to Arizona, so he tells her that Echo is behaving just like Alpha did before his composite event, but Adelle doesn't want to hear it. And when Echo comes out of her wipe, unbeknownst to him, she fixes Laurence with a dark look that suggests he'd better get his affairs in order. That showdown's going to be fun.
We get a shot of a sign that reads "Dillard's Auto Service" and a chyron that lets us know we're in "Pleasant, Arizona." Some mechanic stops working on a pickup when he hears something that seems familiarly irritating to him, and we see, coming down the street, a school bus that's filled not with children but with overly cheerful people singing overly cheerful songs about an overly cheerful God who's going to be all too overly cheerful in saving them from harm. I mean, believe whatever you want, but don't beg people to wipe the smile off your face while you're doing so. The herd enters a convenience store, and the cult member in charge of the field trip gives a shopping list to the guy behind the counter. After a very quick shot of a guy hiding under a baseball cap that I only noticed on second viewing, the mechanic from outside then gives the herd leader a bunch of shit, giving credence to what I was just talking about, and then tries to tell the store owner he shouldn't be serving them, referring vaguely to the happenings at the compound and implying from the duct tape and electrical cords the guy's buying that there's some kind of abuse going on. After a little shoving on the part of the mechanic, a member of the sheriff's department comes in and puts paid to any violence, but after the cult members move out, he opines that they're creepy: "It's not so much the singing as it is the smiling." I wish to subscribe to your newsletter, sir. Things get serious, though, when they turn the shopping list over and see that someone's written "Save Me" in block capitals on the back...
...and we cut to Echo doing yoga with other Dolls as a voice talks about bliss and unquestioning serenity. We're then in Adelle's office, where a guy goes on that true happiness requires some measure of self-awareness. "We're talking about people who have their very wills taken away." The guy is referring to the cult, not the Dollhouse, and Adelle chuckles at the irony, which the guy acknowledges. She's less amused, though, at the idea of placing an Active in the services of a Federal agency, especially since having this guy, who as it happens is a U.S. Senator, normally helps them avoid Federal entanglements. He dismissively says that it's only the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms they're dealing with here, and besides, the Active wouldn't be working with the government -- one of Adelle's security guys would be the liaison. He goes on that it's an election year (not anymore!) and he's got to make sure that nothing untoward is going on at the compound, especially since the ATF thinks there is. He then wraps up by saying that if they send in an impostor, the cult will figure it out, so he needs the real thing. "I need a true believer." I've been hard on the show when the use of a Doll on an engagement doesn't make any sense, so I'll give credit here, because sending one in on this mission seems completely logical. What doesn't seem logical is the coquettish look on Adelle's face during this speech, but it might just be force of habit.