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Echo (Dollhouse)

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Title: Echo (Dollhouse)  
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Subject: Eliza Dushku, Chosen (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Tahmoh Penikett, List of Dollhouse episodes, Sierra (Dollhouse), Epitaph One
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Echo (Dollhouse)

Caroline Farrell / Echo
'Dollhouse' character
First appearance

Last appearance

"Epitaph Two: Return"
Created by

Joss Whedon
Portrayed by

Eliza Dushku
Aliases Many, Caroline Farrell (name before she was wiped)
Gender Female
Occupation Doll (Active)

Echo is a fictional character portrayed by Eliza Dushku in the Fox science fiction series Dollhouse, created by Joss Whedon. Within the series' narrative, Echo is an "Active" or a "doll", one of a group of men and women who can be programmed with memories and skills to engage in particular assignments; in their default state, Actives are innocent, childlike and suggestible. Before having her memories wiped, Echo's name was Caroline Farrell. The central character of Dollhouse, the series focuses on Echo as she begins to develop self-awareness. By the series' conclusion, Echo develops a fully formed self, personality, and the aggregate skills and abilities of all her many personalities, which she uses in her struggle against the evil Rossum Corporation which owns the Dollhouses and plots world domination.


Before the Dollhouse

Caroline Farrell is revealed to have been a student at a Los Angeles university which hosted a research lab for the Rossum Corporation.[1] Feeling called to expose the likely animal abuses carried on in the highly secretive laboratory, she and her boyfriend Leo snuck into the lab with cameras through underground piping and discovered not only encaged animals but also evidence of tampering with infants and the human brain.[1] She and Leo were caught in the act, and Leo was apparently fatally wounded. Knowing Caroline knew too much about the Corporation (whose research created the Dollhouse), and knowing that she was heartbroken over the death of Leo, Adelle DeWitt was contacted to recruit Caroline, but she disappears before the offer could be made.

Caroline became determined to take Rossum down, going so far as to sneak into Adelle's offices at the Los Angeles Dollhouse and steal confidential files on herself and Bennett Halverson. She then sought out Bennett at Arizona Technical Institute to use for access to Rossum's facilities, and the two became friends. Bennett later discovered Caroline's ruse, and offered her assistance in destroying the Rossum facility. Caroline and Bennett sneaked into the lab, and rigged explosives in the building; however, Caroline discovered that there were human test subjects in a secret room and tried to abort the plan to save their lives. It was too late, however; the explosives went off, and a pylon fell on Bennett, crushing her arm and pinning her to the floor. Caroline discovered that Adelle, Dominic, and several guards had entered the building, and that there was no time to get Bennett and herself safely out. She told Bennett to lie about her complicity in the bombing to keep from being punished by Rossum, and fled. Adelle and Dominic caught her in the corridor, and sent her alone to meet the head of Rossum, revealed to be Boyd Langton.

An undisclosed amount of time later, in the first scene of the first episode, a haggard-looking Caroline is seen in Adelle's office, begrudgingly agreeing to the terms of her sentence as an Active.

In the Dollhouse

Within the Dollhouse, Echo has been wiped of all traces of her former life. While not on active duty, she (like all Dolls) leads a simple, unquestioning life, intentionally stripped (ostensibly) of original thought or free will, in a state referred to in the series as both "being wiped" and "tabula rasa". When imprinted with a personality, she has been noted for her display of confidence, initiative, and problem-solving skills that transcend the parameters of her imprint. Notably, in "Stage Fright" she reacts to the unexpected revelation that the celebrity she is programmed to protect is suicidal (and thus in reality the primary threat to herself), by eventually kidnapping said celebrity and threatening to allow her to die, managing to scare the singer into having a will to live in the process; the latter is explicitly interpreted to be the obvious intent of Echo's actions by DeWitt. However, this same initiative and tendency to go outside of the set parameters of her programming is also questioned by Dominic in the same episode, and the actual reasoning behind Echo's actions during the incident is left somewhat ambiguous; when she states she feels the need to "save her" [sic], she is simultaneously shown glancing at a picture of fellow active Sierra, whose imprinted self has been placed into the very same hostage situation that Echo later drags her intended protectee into, and whom she actively claims to be trying to "exchange" the singer for at one point prior to the resolution of the incident.

An unknown operative within the Dollhouse has used Echo as a means of communicating with Agent Ballard. Ballard himself has long fantasized about rescuing her from the Dollhouse, sometimes with the thought of a romantic relationship. When Adelle DeWitt intentionally partially returns several actives' former personalities temporarily to help them gain closure in "Needs", Echo breaks into Dollhouse files, discovers Agent Ballard's phone number, and leaves him a message stating that the Dolls are trapped underground in Los Angeles somewhere, and requesting his help.

Echo is one of the most highly requested Dolls in the Dollhouse, both for her beauty and her unusual skill while imprinted. While she performs a variety of jobs, one of her most frequent is to give willing and adoring sex to customers. A widower, for example, has Echo imprinted with his dead wife's memories, to spend the anniversary of her death by living out the moment she would have learned that they were finally financially successful, had she not been killed in a car accident on her way home.

While DeWitt shows pleasure and perhaps even pride in Echo's abilities as an active, former Dollhouse Head of Security Laurence Dominic frequently expressed concerns about Echo's behavior (see above, ref. "Stage Fright") and has repeatedly suggested "sending her to the attic" (which is later revealed in "Spy in the House of Love" to be a form of mental torture: "like having a word on the tip of your tongue, only for every single thought").

It is revealed in the episode "Omega" that once Echo joined the Dollhouse, the Active Alpha became immediately attracted to her, going as far as to attack fellow Active Whiskey while pruning a bonsai tree, apparently so that Echo may become the most requested Doll, stating, "Why don't you let Echo be number one?" In "Briar Rose", Alpha finally reenters the Dollhouse and imprints Echo with a personality previously imprinted within Whiskey. He takes all of Echo's "wedges" (computer hard drives each containing a personality imprint), including her original personality, and destroying the lone back-up of the latter. In "Omega", Alpha attempts to recreate the same composite event that he experienced, imprinting Echo simultaneously with every single personality she has ever experienced except for Caroline- whom he separately imprints into a waitress whom he has kidnapped, with the intention of allowing the newly composited Echo to kill her. Instead of destroying her original personality, however, Echo attacks Alpha, saying that even with all of her personalities, not one of them is the one that truly belongs inside of her body, and that she is nothing more than an empty shell. She mentions at that time, all of her personalities totals up to thirty-eight. She later chooses to save her original "wedge" so that one day Caroline can be imprinted back within her body.

In the un-aired thirteenth episode ("Epitaph One"), Paul Ballard is possibly now her handler and they now seem to be tasked to an assignment rather than an engagement. Topher imprints Echo as a Russian girl coming to America with a dream and specifically states that she has no English skills. However, Caroline is shown to have evolved to the point where she is able to control both her own persona as well as the one she has imprinted as she speaks to Paul in perfect English and states that the imprint is intact. However it seems as though she is now becoming immune towards the imprints as she is now suffering headaches as a result. It should also be noted that in a confrontation between Dominic and Adelle DeWitt, Adelle DeWitt states that Caroline has a block to the imprinting. In the flashbacks pertaining to Caroline's memory, she and Ballard has found safe haven from the madness and chaos plaguing above ground and is about to bring the remaining Dollhouse staff and the Actives there.

In the year 2019, Caroline's last updated personality is uploaded in a little girl's body, Iris, by the Actuals, and together they begin their journey to track down her original self and the location of the safe haven.

Along with gravitating towards her fellow actives Sierra and Victor, Echo has been shown becoming increasingly self-aware while in her tabula rasa state, and has occasionally shown recollection of previous incidents when the memories of which should have been wiped away entirely; such incidents include having visual flashes of previous engagements or her original personality's memories when exposed to mind-altering drugs in "The Target" and "Echoes"; using a hand gesture in "The Target" during her tabula rasa state that her imprinted persona had previously learned; in "Gray Hour" drawing a Picasso-esque face in a steamed mirror after having viewed and extensively discussed a Picasso painting despite having been since "wiped" again; and restating the line "I am not broken" from "Gray Hour" in "Spy in the House of Love". The series has not shown any explicit indication that anyone else has taken notice of these particular incidents, though she is sometimes referred to as "evolving" by some Dollhouse staff members, including Dominic and in "Spy in House of Love", by Topher Brink as well; Topher was given a particular example of Echo's self-awareness when she actually volunteered to be imprinted with a personality that could help him in his efforts to find a spy in the Dollhouse, telling him that she knew he could change people and offering to be changed so that she could help.


"As actors, we're expected to play characters, and in a way it feels like people are trying to download the latest trend into a Hollywood actress and make them like everyone else."

Eliza Dushku reflects on the parallel between the Dollhouse and Hollywood.[2]

Dollhouse was created during a lunch between Joss Whedon and Eliza Dushku where they discussed her career and her recent development deal with Fox. Inspired by Dushku's life as an actress, Whedon came up with the premise of people who were hired out to be everybody's fantasy.[3] Whedon and Dushku had long been friends since working together on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in which Dushku portrayed Faith, and he would occasionally intervene in her life to offer career advice. At one time, the two had considered producing a Faith spin-off project together.[2] Whedon commented that he got "frustrated with all these crappy horror movies she was making. Like Wrong Turn and Soul Survivor and whatnot" which he says "broke my heart." Over lunch, Whedon told Dushku that he feels she possesses "something that no other actor I've worked with has" and from there, the concept of Dollhouse and Echo began to develop.[4] Whedon propositioned Dushku, "I know the perfect show to write for you. ... I've known you for 10 years, and I have no idea who [or] what you are, so ... let's just video it."[5] Echo's story was very much inspired by Dushku's own career; Dushku had in Whedon's words, spent her whole life "trying to take control of her career" and feeling, in Dushku's words "like everyone wants you to be a different person".[6] Consequently, Dushku believes there is something of herself in Echo, in Caroline, and in every engagement identity Echo assumes.[5] Whedon has described Echo as being "absolutely the essence of strength boiled down" and commenting "She's at her strongest when she's at her least powerful. She has an extraordinary tenacity."[7] Dushku has described the character as "fierce" "hot", but also "so complex" and "tripped out" due to being "in a world where there are people who can click a button and succeed in making you be what they want you to be".[8]

See also


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