Pretty amazing that I get to say this, but welcome to Season Two! I hope I followed along, here, as out of practice as I am with this show, but this one was a pretty good start, I think.
So Ballard is working for the Dollhouse as agreed, and while Boyd has misgivings about the deal, Adelle and her ugly new haircut order him to go along while Echo continues on her new assignment, during which she gets married to some lame douchebag with a randomly awful British accent and consummates the deal during a musical montage, which is even more vanilla than the missionary position. Turns out, however, that the Britbag is an arms dealer, and Echo thinks she's Ballard's undercover FBI partner -- in Ballard's fantasy? Not quite -- Britbag is a real arms dealer, but Ballard for some reason is being allowed to use an imprinted Echo to catch him, and it's apparently been going on for a while, and Adelle suggests Ballard become her handler in order to better protect her. This idea, however, doesn't seem so bright when the Britbag gets hold of a photograph of Echo and Ballard and jumps to the right conclusion for the wrong reasons. Echo's imprint, however, is convincing enough to allow her to talk her way out of the situation -- until it goes haywire and betrays her. To save her, Ballard surrenders himself to the Britbag and then plots to have Echo's previous personalities resurface one after another until the wheel lands on the right one -- the martial artist that fought Ballard to a standstill in the alley that one time, who combines forces with Ballard to stop the Britbag. (Since that was an Alpha-generated personality, I'm not sure Echo should remember it, but I'm not going to think about that too much until the full recap.) All's well that ends well, right? Well, maybe not, as Echo confesses to Ballard that she remembers everyone she's ever been, and she wants to find the real people that gave her those imprints. Ballard swears his undying loyalty to her, and does in fact become her handler to seal that deal.
Whiskey has declared psychological warfare on Topher, leaving white rats in his office and playing with his naughty private parts while he's asleep and generally seeking to make his life hell, and also, although Victor's face, thanks to some surgeries, is almost back to normal, she's not interested in having her scars healed, as she thinks Adelle might send her back to Active duty. In addition, she takes Boyd's newfound interest in her as pity, but when Boyd asks her out on a date, she confesses she's been programmed with phobias that make her not want to leave the Dollhouse. She plays a seduction game with Topher, but she gets more than she bargained for when he tells her she's better than he is, and he turned her into a Dr. Saunders with different views from his own so as to best care for the Actives. He also reveals that it's in his contract that he can never fully know a Active, and while he programmed her to question him, the fact that she hates him was her decision alone. She, in turn, blows his mind by telling him she doesn't want to leave Whiskey's body because she doesn't want to die, and in the end, she leaves the Dollhouse despite her fears. If you're asking where Sierra and Victor are in this episode, you're not alone.
But: ALEXIS DENISOF has arrived! He's playing an ambitious politician who's recently become an outspoken opponent of the Rossum Corporation. Boyd thinks Ballard might have pointed him in Rossum's direction, but Ballard thinks the reverse might be true. My guess: Neither, but we'll have to wait to find out.
Down in the atrium, Adelle and Boyd pedeconference, and apparently Boyd thinks the mission Echo's on is too dangerous. Adelle points out that he's Head of Security now, not Echo's handler, although I'd be more inclined to concede her point if she weren't sporting an ugly new haircut. It looks like it's meant to be a sassy bob, but somewhere along the way it went on strike and now just hangs there limply. Sad. Anyway, they run into Victor, and Adelle is gratified to see that his scars are improving. As she inquisitively feels them, she goes on to add to Boyd that they made a deal with Ballard, a deal it would be best for them to keep, at which point Victor finally notices the fingering has gone on for a rather inordinate length of time and pipes up, "You're touching my face." He doesn't have the memories that would prompt him to add that old habits die hard, but the point is taken anyway, as Adelle snaps out of it and she and Boyd continue their ambulatory meeting. She tells Boyd that she's well aware Ballard is likely looking for a darker purpose behind the Dollhouse, or a weakness, not to mention his extreme devotion to Echo. Boyd: "So he uses her to fulfill some sad fantasy about righting old wrongs by doing something worse." Not the most charitable way of looking at it, which is probably why I approve. Adelle, however, displaying that keen ability to look below the surface, asks why Boyd is so offended by the particular engagement, possibly suggesting that Boyd sees a lot of himself in Ballard, which, especially given Boyd's interactions with Claire this episode, I'm guessing is a theme they're going to explore this season. Preferably with many more kick-ass fights between the two of them. Boyd sighs that after "that news anchor," one that apparently wanted to be rolled in eggs and flour and dipped in...well, he doesn't finish the thought, but only because Adelle sighs in remembrance, "Ah, Tempura Joe. Such a lonely soul," which makes me laugh far too long to be good for getting this thing in on deadline. Boyd's point is that he thought he'd seen it all, but this engagement is sick. I'm not sure I really see that, but at least he didn't use the dubious setup as an excuse to say it takes the cake. Actually, the sickest part of the equation is Ballard, at least in spots, and I wonder if that's what Boyd meant. Given what he seems to think of him, it wouldn't shock me in the least.