Monday, March 30, 2009

Stupid Thing of the Week

Well, I am a dumbass.

But no big shock, I've realised that for a long time.

I heard about this fiction-writing contest the other day, and it really got my imagination off its arse. Amazingly, instead of just thinking about the story, I wrote it in longhand in my bed at 5:00 in the morning Wednesday night.

Can you say "in the morning Wednesday night?"

So, I typed it up the next day, and sent it to two of my friends to have them proofread it. I didn't really think I would win the contest, but I was absolutely sure that no one would write a story like mine. I'm almost arrogant that way.

Well, even though I knew I'd not win, I wanted the story to be good, so I did two other drafts of it. Just to be sure.

Tonight, I ran through it one more time, and formatted it to send to the contest.

I checked the website to make sure I had the right address, and--you know where I'm going with this--the contest had closed.

Not only that, the fuggin' thing had already declared a winner.

Now, I'm practically a fiction editor myself, so I know that for a winner to have been declared on the website, the actual contest must have closed days ago, maybe even weeks, to give the judge(s) time to read the entrants and evaluate them, maybe vote, maybe sacrifice a neighborhood child to the god of the spring thaw.

In other words, perhaps before I even wrote mine on Wednesday, the gates had been closed on me.

So, I'm a little disappointed. A wee bit upset. I wasted my time.*

But it ain't the end of the world. I didn't expect to win, like I said. And look at the bright side: I guess I wrote another story, beginning to end.

That and a dollar will buy me a chicken sandwich at Wendy's.

Rish Outfield

*And yours, if you're reading this.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Stupid Thing of the Week

So, I was writing this story that had something to do with a fraternity hazing/initiation thing. And it occurred to me that I didn't know what the leader of a frat is called, the head jock, so to speak. The Fuhrer of Der Fraternity, if you will.

Right now, I'm considering using "Captain." He's the Captain of the Fraternity. But that doesn't sound right.

Maybe he's the head of the fraternity. Head.

I'm sure there's a word for it, a more technical term. So, I turn to my trusty friend, the internet.

Wikipedia wasn't finding anything specific according to my searches, so I just typed "fraternity" (and then "college fraternity") into the search box.

There's some interesting reading there.

I discover that, because of political correctness, they don't call it "hazing" or "initiation" and the pledges are no longer called "pledges" or "initiates." So, that got me mad.

I looked through Wikipedia, trying to find out what the hierchy of the whole frat system is, and I started to get sidetracked. First, I looked up "List of Secret and Underground American Organizations." That was interesting.

Then I thought it would be cool to look up "Films About Fraternities." Which naturally led me to REVENGE OF THE NERDS.

"Wasn't there going to be a remake of that?" I wondered, so of course I looked that up, and found out what happened to it. They started shooting, then it got shelved. Depending on who you ask, either the head of the studio didn't like the dailies and canceled the project, or the college they were shooting at got a copy of the script and freaked out, throwing them off campus and forcing them to reconsider the whole thing.

Interesting. Remakes suck anyway, but that one might have been fun. Ish.

Then I checked out what kind of deluxe, extra-special DVD edition might be available of the 1984 film.

On its page, it says that one of the actors, Matt Salinger, is the son of J.D. Salinger. I look him up to see if I could recognise him from something else.

I have no luck with that, so I look up Curtis Armstrong. I just saw him in something the other day, but I can't remember what it was.

Wikipedia mentions that there was a reference to REVENGE OF THE NERDS on "How I Met Your Mother," which I've never watched. I check out that page, and read up about the show. Interestingly, during their second season, they shot a clip revealing who the Mother character is that they plan to use in the series finale.

What's the name of the hot chick that's on that show? What else is she in?

She was in a "Smallville" episode. I look that up, trying to remember if I've seen it, or her. I have seen the episode but I don't remember. I look her up on IMDB.


Is that the movie my brother was telling me about?

Oh, it's from the Broken Lizard guys. I met them one time. That film hasn't come out yet. Probably wasn't the one my brother talked about then.

I'll go back to REVENGE OF THE NERDS. Didn't I almost buy that one time? Seems like I rented it instead and didn't know if I wanted to buy it anymore. I hate it when that happens.

Oh, there's a little blurb about a clip on "Family Guy" featuring the NERDS characters. Apparently, they go to a screening of SCHINDLER'S LIST, and Booger yells out, "We've got bush!" I go to YouTube, looking for the clip.

Now, it's twelve-frigging-forty-eight at night, and I still haven't figured out what the head of a fraternity is called.

My story isn't done, but then, neither is my dicking around on the internet.

While I'm on YouTube, I think I'll check out more Louis C.K. stand-up.

Rish Outfield

Monday, March 23, 2009

"Dollhouse" cleaning?

Look, I can't come up with something clever every week. As Khan said, maybe I no longer need to try.

So, tyranist and I got together for our weekly TV watching. I actually enjoyed tonight's "Sarah Conner Chronicles," which hasn't been the case in a very long time.

I was looking forward to the "Dollhouse" episode that followed it, because people were saying that this was a "Mythology" episode, the way that they would any time "The X-Files" would stop the episodic paranormal investigations and look at aliens and conspiracies and black ooze and cigarette smoking dudes.

This week's episode was called "Man on the Street," and it was written by some guy named Joss Whedon. It is framed by a television news report on the Dollhouse, asking people on the sidewalk (on Hollywood Boulevard) if they believed the Dollhouse was real. Tyranist and I watched these closely because, had we written this episode, you would've seen Echo or Sierra or Golf or somebody walk past just as the guy being interviewed says, "Nahh, that's just like bigfoot in the city. There's no Dollhouse."

Didn't happen, though.

It felt to me, like something of a catch-up episode, in case you hadn't been watching much. It didn't even start with the usual "In every generation, there is a Dollhouse..." set-up, but went a bit more in depth as to what the show was about. I thought it worked, even though I could see the seams.

Anyhow, this episode was about FBI Agent Paul Ballard more than Echo, and we follow him as he finds a lead that's what he's really been looking for. Turns out that there's an internet zillionaire played by Patton Oswald, who hires out the Dollhouse every year on his wife's deathday, and they send someone (maybe it's always Echo, maybe it's not) out to the new house he had bought to surprise her before she was killed in a car accident. Echo arrives, thinking she's his wife, he takes her inside, they have champagne, they have intercourse on all the kitchen appliances.

So, Paul Ballard goes to this house, takes out Patton Oswald's bodyguards, and comes in with his gun drawn, meeting Echo for the first time.* Well, she thinks she's the wife and has no idea what's going on, and a moment later, Langton the Handler whisks her away, leaving Ballard and Patton Oswald to talk. We hear the story of how he kept his internet success secret from his wife until he could buy them her dream home, and that she died before she ever found out, and through the services of the Dollhouse, he is able to get that moment with her the Sky Bully stole from him.

It's actually much nicer than I'm making it out to be, and while I find it rather Sci-Fi that a hot chick would marry Patton Oswald when he was penniless, these are the sorts of fantasies that keep us from pulling a Sergei Kravinoff. One of the bodyguards comes to, and calls the police, which finally arrive. Of course, Ballard has no proof, so he is seen as a wacko, and that's the final straw at the FBI, and he is suspended.

There is a subplot that is rather significant. Over at the Dollhouse, our gal Sierra starts to freak out whenever Victor touches her. The brains start to wonder if she is getting molested by Victor at night. They play back the security tapes, and nothing like that is going on. Sierra's handler is pretty sure it's Victor, and he comes off as something of a tool around Boyd Langton. Langton goes around the building until he finds a spot where the security cameras don't show.

Sierra's handler is vindicated when security take Victor away for mistreating Sierra, hauling him to the doghouse, where he is to be neutered. Sierra's handler then takes Sierra to a shady alcove away from the cameras to perform sex acts, only to have Langton step out of the shadows and deck him. The Victor-thing was just a ruse to catch him in the act.

Back on the a-story, Ballard seeks refuge in the quite-capable arms of Mellie, his unsettlingly hot neighbour. He tells her all that he found out, and she tells him she believes in him and will help him find out the truth about the Dollhouse. Then, they roll around in the sheets.

We find out that there are cameras placed in Mellie's and/or Ballard's apartment, so Adelle and the Dollhouse can monitor them. Mellie knows too much. Adelle tells Sierra's disgraced handler that, if he goes to her house and murders her, then he will atone for his crimes and they won't terminate his employment.

Ballard goes out to get ice cream and Chinese food and KY Jelly, and runs into Echo there. We get a fast-paced Buffyesque fight scene, but then Echo suddenly stops. We were led to believe in an earlier scene that someone may have tampered with her upload, and now, she tells Ballard that he has a friend inside the Dollhouse, and that together, they may be able to take the organisation down. Echo doesn't know who it is (and won't remember this conversation ever taking place), but they'll communicate again.

Back at Mellie's place, Sierra's handler bursts in, beats her up a bit, and starts choking her. Mellie's answering machine picks up a call, and it is Adelle's voice, uttering a phrase that triggers a subpersonality in Mellie. She becomes a superhuman killer, and kills her attacker instead. Yes, she too is an Active.

When Ballard gets home, Mellie has no memory of being triggered, and thinks that she managed to kill the assailant by accident. They hug. The end.

There was a heck of a lot going on in this episode. My chief complaint to tyranist was that this probably should have been two episodes, so that this information, the fights, the revelation, and the sex would have had more impact.

My friend Merrill, however, told me he thought this show was better than the first four episodes combined. So there's that.

I think I would've enjoyed the show more if A) I hadn't heard it was totally awesome before I saw it, and B) if I hadn't considered that Mellie might be an Active in the past. I'm sure it would've been an awesome surprise, especially if you thought our girl Mellie was about to meet her end.

Tyranist and I did talk about the mole inside the Dollhouse that gave Ballard the message through Echo. I thought it might have been Amy Acker or Alpha The Rogue Active. He thought it might have been Echo herself, or Amy Acker, or maybe, more intriguing, no one at all . . . that there is no mole, but that she was programmed to act like there was a mole to further mislead Ballard.

Time will tell, of course, and since this show has still not been canceled, we may actually find out.

Rish Outfield

*Unless you've already seen them meet in the unaired pilot like I have.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"Dollhouse" of the Lord

This week's episode was called "True Believer," and it was written by Tim Minear.

So, some singing members of a religious cult go into town to buy supplies, passing a note to the cashier at the gas station. On the back of the note, they find a plea for help. So, Echo is sent in there to gain the trust of the group, and especially their leader, who never comes out of there. The Dollhouse implants Echo with a camera in her eyes, and takes away her sight, so that she'll be blind. I didn't really get it either, but if you can buy that people can be imprinted with skills, personality, and memories, you should be able to accept that they can make you blind and turn you into a breathing camcorder.

Paul Ballard tries to find Echo/Caroline by using one of those facial recognition programs, but it turns nothing up. He also grows closer to his friendly neighbour Ellie, though that seems like little comfort to Agent Ballard.

Echo's personality is a very sweet, very trusting young woman, and sure enough, the group takes her into their compound. Their leader does check to make sure she's really blind, and is suspicious of her . . . but not too much to take her into his armoury, where the government agents (and Langton) can see enough guns to give Ted Nugent an erection.

Echo, apparently, has not been given any special instructions beyond joining them and convincing them of her faith. But once the g-men arrive and surround the compound, the religious leader knows who must have brought them there. He punches Echo, and a miracle happens . . . her sight returns.

Oh, and speaking of miracles (and erections), it would seem that Victor, the "Russian" Active, has been renobbing out when he sees Sierra in the shower. This should not be possible because the Dolls, when they are in their childlike state, are supposedly incapable of this sort of thing. And also, while they're sleeping, they are flashed images of Rosie O'Donnell dressed in leather, to further prevent boneage.

Anyway, the cult leader starts a fire, deciding that they should all burn up and depend on the Lord to protect them, but Echo knocks him out and tells everyone that they should live rather than throw their lives away on their knees. Well, Langton gets her out of there, and only the cult leader ends up dying. In the end, we find out that the government agent in charge of everything had manipulated the events so he could get a warrant and raid the compound, even going so far as to write the "Help me" note himself.

But I'm sure miracles still happen, kids. If "Dollhouse" gets a second season, that'll be one of them.

The end.

Tyranist felt oh, so sad for Ellie, and mentioned it, oh, I'd say ninety times throughout the show. But Ellie is so ridiculously attractive that she not only makes Echo look like a battery acid gargler . . . but I'm starting to suspect that she too is an Active, placed conveniently in Ballard's life so that he'll stop looking in any other direction but hers.

Hey, it could happen.

Also, I'm starting to think her name is Mellie rather than Ellie, even though I'm sure I heard it without the "M" the first time. And maybe it's like that piece of crap animated LORD OF THE RINGS, where Saruman was called "Haruman" literally every other time he was addressed. It breaks my heart that people I respect own that movie.

I didn't much care for this episode.

I don't know why, exactly.

I guess I found the erection humour less than hilarious, and I just plain didn't GET the A-story.*

I have a real problem with religious nutjobs, and frankly, with overtly religious people of any kind, and my least favourite "Firefly" episode also happened to be the one with the religious cult.

I'm probably just too close to it.

However, I'm guessing that other people liked it, since it did get the highest ratings of the series beyond the first episode.

Rish Outfield

*Tyranist pointed out that I completely missed what happened to the chief antagonist, so maybe I just wasn't paying attention. Sorry.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

write-jection thoughts

I live in fear of rejection. Heck, I could even put "live" in quotation marks.

Surely part of the reason I didn't make it as a writer (or an actor, or a man, etc.) is because I am unwilling to put myself on the line and submit my work/myself for consideration, cringing at the possibility of rejection.

My friend Merrill is an aspiring writer also, though he writes less than I do. He and Big Anklevich and I were talking about websites and podcasts and magazines and web-zines to submit stories to, and a couple of names came up more than once. One in particular seemed to publish the kind of work I tend to write, and often, the work they buy is of a lesser quality than, say Asimov's.

So I submitted a story to them. It was one I wrote really recently, a short, silly little piece that's supposed to be both scary and funny, and probably ends up being neither. Big Anklevich absolutely loved it when I sent it to him, and kept insisting that I flesh it out more to a much longer story. Merrill thought it was good enough to submit, and though I was loathe to do so,* we did.

Well, it got rejected. That shouldn't come as a surprise, but it still did. And it really shouldn't have bothered me in the slightest (since I didn't think the story was all that great anyway), but for some reason, it still did. Merrill tried to comfort me by telling me that, despite my great love for that particular venue, it just ain't all that great.

I appreciated that, but I'm really one of those guys who spends twenty minutes mustering up the courage to ask that tall, cold-looking girl across the room to dance, so when the George Michael song starts, and I actually ask her, and she turns me down . . . I don't ask any other girls to dance. And I still remember it a decade and a half later.

Another friend of mine tried to get me a screenwriting gig recently, and while it didn't go the way I hoped, it wasn't a flat-out rejection. And yet, I haven't called that producer back to see if he might have more hoops I could jump through.

The reason? What if he tells me I'm not worthy of his hoops?

So I just don't call. Regardless of the fact that the guy is so busy he pretty much CAN'T call people who don't call him first, reminding him that they exist.

I am a worm.

No, I am lower than the worm. I am . . .

I am the worm's shadow.

Rish Outf--

Wait, I think I can call that guy. Nothing will come of it, but I might as well put my phone to good use and TRY. As Gretzy used to say, "You miss every shot you don't take."


*I don't know about you, but I can ALWAYS find areas to improve the story, or a word that just doesn't fit, or a sentence that could be reworked. I could do that forever, and never consider anything finished.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

"Dollhouse" work

So, the last episode we saw (and fourth episode of the series) was called "Grey Hour," written by Sarah Fain & Elizabeth Craft.

As I type this, I quickly check my sources to see if "Dollhouse" has been canceled.

Nope, not yet.

So, in this latest unnecessarily sexed-up episode, Echo gets imprinted with what appears to be the personality of a hot slutty chick. She goes to a nice hotel with a couple of dudes, mounts them, and then goes running down the hall calling for help when they apparently mistreat her. The hotel concierge takes her in the back room and apologises for what happened, and in return for her silence, attempts to bribe her with a stack of cash. She decks him.

Apparently, this was all a ruse to get her access to this back room, and Echo is actually a confident, competent, and hot thief. She gets her partners-in-crime, the two young dudes, and a a nervous art expert, to come in the room with her, and they blast a hole in the hotel wall, leading them right into the museum next door, which just happens to be upgrading its security system for the next few hours.

Echo's new personality is very self-assured, and takes charge immediately. They get into a high-tech vault, where zillions of dollars of stolen art and antiquities are kept. I saw the Ark of the Covenant, the actual Excalibur sword, and John Dillinger's penis in there. Well, the nebbishy art expert gets when he wanted, pulls a gun, shoots one of them, and makes it out of the vault with a sickeningly valuable sculpture, closing the others inside.

Echo calls her handler, and he catches the thief (who stole from the other thieves, who were apparently taking stolen property from other thieves). He's talking to Echo on the phone, when there's a strange sound through the earpiece, and suddenly Echo is back to her default, childlike state. "Did I fall asleep?" she asks. She has been rebooted.

Well, the two remaining thieves don't get what's going on, or why their ringleader suddenly has the IQ of a Larry the Cable Guy fan. They try and get her to remember how she was going to get them out, but the knowledge is simply not there.

Back at the 'house, Topher the technogeek is freaking out, since someone hacked into the system, and using their extensive knowledge about Dollhouse operations, has wiped Echo's imprinting. His best guess is that Alpha, the rogue Active, was not killed as everyone was told. He tells Adelle, and with time running out, they grab Sierra and imprint her with the same personality that Echo had.

This is a really interesting transformation, and I gotta say, I'm more impressed with this Sierra chick every week. She's furious that someone else got her gig, and is initially unwilling to help, since the woman they put in charge of the heist was obviously incompetent. There's not enough time to get her down to the building and inside before the security system gets back online, but she calls Echo on the phone and tries to talk her out of the vault.

Echo doesn't know what she's doing, and triggers the vault door alarm. Before the security guards can arrive, she and the other thief grab the injured third man, and get the hell out of there.

Meanwhile, Boyd Langton is tired of waiting around, and he goes to the hotel and into the back room to rescue Echo. He arrives just in time to see that, somehow, his rebooted Active still managed to escape without being caught. They get her back to the Dollhouse and everything is back to normal (except that Topher now knows that Alpha is still out there, and is playing with Echo for some reason). Echo looks at herself in the mirror . . . but what does she see? The end.

This was a very interesting, very well-done show. I didn't love it like I did the episode before, but it's keeping me going. It also got terrible ratings, which I can't explain (strangely, the next week's show was up not only higher than this one, but higher than the one before too), but I enjoyed it.

I was telling tyranist that, were it my show, I'm sure I wouldn't have had the second/third episode be the one where Echo's assignment/John has lied and just wants to murder her, and I certainly wouldn't have had her get wiped in the field on just the fourth episode. Those seem like later season-type stories, where you turn the adventure on its ear, since the first few episodes should be to introduce the world and the typical adventures the character will have.

However, maybe, like "Firefly," they're aware that they might not get the chance to do these episodes, the stories they really want to tell, so they front-loaded them, making sure the ones they really want to see are seen.

We'll see how many more they get.

Rish Outfield

Friday, March 06, 2009

eye lyke two reed

So, I finally finished "Dead Until Dark," the book tyranist bought for me more than a month ago. He, of course, finished it approximately eight minutes before even picking it up, but I've long since learned that competing with him is like trying to out-bodyhair Robin Williams, or out-whore Madonna.The story is about Sookie Stackhouse, a Southern waitress afflicted with the ability to read minds. In her world, vampires have recently announced themselves to exist, and have been co-mingling with regular folks and drinking synthetic blood. Into her little town comes Bill Compton, a vampire who owns the big house near to Sookie's grandmother's, and they hit it off pretty much right away.

There's some murders, a little sex, some vampire intrigue, a little more sex, a vampire Elvis, and a dog shapeshifter, and there are apparently several books in the series (all with "Dead" in the title).

But the lateness of the hour notwithstanding, I quite enjoyed the book, and was telling Merrill about it the other day, trying hard not to invoke comparisons to "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," or worse, those gorram "Twilight" books.

A hundred years plus Stoker's "Dracula," I never would've thought that there's still room for interesting vampire stories, but hey, I'm wrong a lot.

And it's funny, I still can't get used to the name Sookie Stackhouse.


Monday, March 02, 2009

"Dollhouse" warming

For me, "Dollhouse" already had two strikes.

I'm sure you're thinking 1) it's on FOX, and 2) it's on the Friday Night Death Slot.

And while those two things are true, I'm talking about what was going on with "Dollhouse" and yours truly.

Strike number one was that I, frankly, just didn't care for that first episode. The idea is interesting, but the episode itself did nothing for me. If I didn't love Joss Whedon like a pervert loves a raincoat, I probably wouldn't have continued.

And Strike Number Two was that, to my confusion and disgust, Joss's original pilot episode was scrapped, and not shown second, as we had been told (and indeed, as I had told everyone).

All I needed was one more strike, and then, it was anybody's ballgame.

Tyranist invited me over yesterday to watch the show with him, but I didn't really want to. I'm behind on work and writing, and that damn Facebook has games on it, so I was content to just sit around and do nothing. But I changed my mind today and hoped he'd invite me again. When he did, I quietly agreed and drove down south to his crumbling, hundred year old manor.

His monstrous spawn was only somewhat so tonight, and after watching a very uneven (and unsatisfying) "Sarah Connor Chronicles," it was time to visit the dollhouse.

Apparently, the new second episode was called "The Target," and was written and directed by Steven S. DeKnight. I knew his work from the later seasons of "Angel," but since that ended, I've been catching up on "Smallville" episodes, and saw his name on many of those (usually the better ones).

So, Echo is . . . "given" to a handsome outdoorsy type played by Matt Keeslar. I don't know where I know Keeslar from, or how I even knew his name was Matt Keeslar, but tyranist kept referring to him as "the other Paul Atreides," from the DUNE movies (the other being Kyle McLachlan). Still, he's Matt Keeslar to me, for some reason.

He takes her out into the wilderness, for a hike, some rafting, some archery lessons, and some sleeping bag copulation. Then he tells her she has a head start, and then he's going to hunt her and kill her. I said to tyranist, "Already? They went there on the SECOND episode?" You'd at least think we'd get four or five regular assignments before she gets the guy who just wants the Active so he can kill her.

Well, we find out a bit about her handler, Boyd Langton, and get flashbacks to when he was brought on in that capacity. It was right after "Alpha," the rogue Active, went crazy, and killed a bunch of Actives, let Echo live, and scarred up poor Dr. Saunders's face. We see a bit more of what Echo and company are like before they've been imprinted, and see how they are "bonded" with their handlers. When Matt Keeslar's associate tries to take Langton out, we also see that he can take good care of himself.

Echo is pursued by Matt Keeslar, who is bowhunting, and puts one in Langton's stomach. Ultimately, Echo turns the tables on Keeslar, and shoots him, beats him, and sticks one of his arrows in his neck. This experience certainly brings Langton closer to Echo, but it's hard to tell if it makes any impression on Echo, since her memory of the whole ordeal is wiped along with her recent personality.

There's a subplot with Agent Ballard still trying to find out if the Dollhouse exists, and his badgering of a Russian thug named Lubov. He's sure Lubov knows about the Dollhouse, even though nobody else believes in it, and Ballard is a joke at the FBI. He and Fox Mulder should have coffee sometime. Also, Alpha sends Ballard a photo of Echo (back when she was Caroline), seemingly encouraging him in his investigation.

Oh, and we meet Ellie, Ballard's lovable neighbor girl. I thought she was attractive, oh yeah, but tyranist began writing love poetry in the air around us using his son's sonic screwdriver replica. It's happened before with him, but I can't remember when, it's been so long.

This episode was good, certainly better than the previous one, but I have to admit that I wasn't really jumping up and down with joy about the show.

It's not exactly rocking the kasbah in the ratings, and I have to admit that I'm unsettled by FOX's attempts to use sex to sell the show (which it is also doing with "Sarah Connor," which is an even less sex-centric show than this is).

Hey, I'll be the first to tell you how hot Dushku is in person, but the show isn't really about that (or at least it shouldn't be), and I'm aware of how coveted the Male 18-34 demographic is . . . but I can't say I appreciate each episode's obligatory sex or semi-nude scene. I guess I'm getting old.

But what FOX needs to be aiming for is the FEMALE demographic on a show like this. Joss Whedon's shows always tended to skew toward women (except maybe "Firefly*"), and with a strong female main character (as well as a title that's gonna resonate with girls rather than boys), and a lead in show with a strong female main character, I'd hope they'd realise that women are important, and probably less fixated on cleavage than, well, others.

Besides, even though I've heard detractors of the show call it "Whorehouse," it's got a really interesting Sci-Fi premise, is smart (or trying to be), and seems to be aimed at viewers who pay attention. And women aren't the lowest common denominator, shite-slinging talk shows notwithstanding.

I wouldn't be typing any of this had we not watched another one, so let me move on to what I really want to talk about.

During the end credits, the promo for the next episode began. Echo is protecting a R&B star by going undercover as a back-up singer. "Oh no," I thought. It was as though the episode was tailor-made to turn me off.

But it was already on tyranist's TiVo, so we started it up.

This one was called "Stage Fright," and it was written by Marissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon.

It begins with the performance of your generic sexed-up pop song, sung by a young, cleavagy black chick named Rayna. Something goes wrong and one of her backup singers bursts into flames. Well, it turns out that Rayna was supposed to be where that "accident" happened, and that, combined with several disturbing fan letters, cause her manager to go to the Dollhouse and get some kind of special protection for her (since Rayna despises and/or distrusts all her bodyguards). Of course, that protection turns out to be Echo, and they imprint her with aspirations to be a singer. She auditions to be the new back-up singer, and Rayna takes to her like a fatherless child to a Bratz doll. It seemed odd to me that Rayna would befriend Echo so quickly, but at least the other characters mention it (and it's possible that Echo was uploaded with all the personality traits that Rayna appreciates in the hopes they'd hit it off).

We also see Echo interacting with Sierra, the angular new Active, who is also dropped into the scenario, this one as an Australian fan who won a contest and gets to hang around with Rayna night and day. Despite myself, I found myself liking her (Sierra), since she was so harmless and passive, compared to the Terminatoresque persona we saw in the pilot 2.0.

Meanwhile, Ballard gets a call from his Russian contact, Lubov, telling him he's found news about the Dollhouse. Immediately after, we are shown that Lubov is also an Active, codenamed Victor. It seems to be a set-up, and Ballard is nearly killed by legitimate members of the Russian mafia. Tyranist's raison d'etre, Ellie, tries to be by his side and comfort him, but is prevented, and Ballard ends up thinking he's as alone in the world as, I don't know, Rish Outfield.

Meanwhile, Echo discovers that one of Rayna's fans, a gross-looking Ginger guy, has been sending her "I'm Gonna Kill You" cards (which Hallmark discontinued around 1997), and that Rayna has no intention of stopping her performances or wearing a bulletproof push-up bra. The crazed fan, we later learn, is so horrified by the public's (and media's) treatment of Rayna, and their constant attention and scrutiny, that he wants to put her out of her misery.

And I realised something at this point: either intended or subconsciously, this was the "Leave Britney Alone" guy. I found myself smiling, REALLY digging the show, all of a sudden.

Well, Number One Fan goes nutso when he discovers Sierra is being touted as Rayna's new number one fan, so he tries to kill her instead. And Rayna is really upset by this. Echo understands that Rayna WANTS to die. She is tired of how hard her life is, and thinks that being killed (especially in front of the fans and/or cameras) would be a really awesome career move. Echo then clobbers the singer with a chair.

Wow. The smile on my face had become a grin.

Well, the Dollhouse brass is really shicking a brit over Echo's behaviour, and want to pull the plug on Echo, "sending her to the attic," whatever ominous fate that is.

Meanwhile, Ginger Stalker takes Sierra hostage and Echo offers to trade Rayna's life for hers. They go up on the catwalks and Rayna nearly falls to her death. Echo and Langton her handler take the stalker out (and poor Sierra apparently never realises she's not just a big fan), and Echo rescues Rayna, only after Rayna discovers she doesn't want to die after all.

And that was pretty much it. Echo and Sierra get taken down to Anchorhead and have their memories erased, and about two seconds before the credits, they share some kind of look. A look that says that, hey, maybe their minds weren't wiped after all. The end.

Dude, I gotta say, this episode was right on the money. I shouldn't have liked it, but there were two or three great twists I didn't see coming (come to think of it, maybe there were four or five), and suddenly, I was completely invested in the show. You're damned right I'll be watching next week.

Thanks, kids.

Rish Outfield

*I can imagine FOX had even given a damn about "Firefly," and had tried to sex it up the way they do with these two shows.
"A space captain . . . in love with a space whore. But she's too busy screwing to notice. Fridays on FOX."
"A space harpie who really wants sexual intercourse with the hot new guy. But he's too busy being a space doctor to notice. Fridays on FOX."
"A crazy teenage girl who might go on to be hot one day. Will anybody have sex with her? Oh yeah, in space! Fridays on FOX."
"A tough brute with no sleeves on his shirt. He sleeps with guns. But is that all he does with them? Fridays on FOX."
"This week . . . space lesbians! Watch 'Firefly' Friday on FOX."