We expected mind-games from Dollhouse, Joss Whedon's new show about a puppet whose memories have been erased. But now a trippy leaked script and (possibly NSFW) promo pics raise new questions. Update: script is fanfic.

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I'm not sure if these new promo pics are NSFW, but you might get some funny looks from your coworkers for looking at a couple of them, especially the "gun-toting wet-T-shirt contest" one. The poster definitely looks real, and the cast pic seems like a real pic, but not sure about the other ones. They're all from SpoilerTV.

Meanwhile, reader Diane33 points us to a newly leaked Dollhouse script, with a title page missing the writer, episode title and name of the show. It's either a very very good fake, a decent spec script, or an actual script for the show in desperate need of polishing up. It's clearly not the work of Joss Whedon or Jane Espenson, but could be the work of one of the show's other staff writers.

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Update: Turns out it's actually a spec script written by fan writer Jackal.

The script includes some clever moments and some nice bits of characterization, but a lot of the dialogue is just a bit clunky and the characters are drawn more crudely than in other Dollhouse scripts I've read. In particular, Topher, the guy who programs the "Actives" with their personalities and instructions, is much more of a buffoon than he's been in other scripts. He keeps hitting on his female coworkers in a way that would probably get him mind-wiped and programmed to become a male stripper.

In spite of all that, I'm leaning towards thinking this script is "real," in the sense that it was actually written by a Dollhouse staff writer. The only other possibility is that its author spent hours and hours studying the show and attempting to emulate its little quirks and incorporating minor details from other scripts. And yes, fans are obsessive, but it seems unlikely.

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In any case, if the script is real, it highlights just how trippy and swervy the show is going to get. And just how quickly Dollhouse will be giving us answers to key questions - some of the information in this script is stuff I would have expected the show to hold back until season two or three, but we keep hearing Fox asked Joss to ramp up the pace, so maybe he's obliged.

In a nutshell, the episode gives us the origin story of Echo, Eliza Dushku's "Active" character. Before she was Echo, her name was Caroline, and she ran away from home and then ended up signing the five-year contract at the Dollhouse.

In the unnamed episode, Caroline's mother Janice shows up and wants to hire Echo for a day - so Echo can be reprogrammed with Caroline's original memories. Janice and Caroline can spend a day rebuilding bridges, and then Caroline can go back to being Echo.

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After much debate, the Dollhouse crew agrees to allow this to happen, but it quickly goes wrong. Caroline wakes up, disoriented, in her old house, and then freaks out and runs away. Somehow her "handler," Boyd, loses track of her. So the Dollhouse programs another "Active," Sierra, with Caroline's memories, so Sierra can help track Caroline down.

Meanwhile, we learn why Caroline was estranged from her mom, and why she decided to go become an empty vessel for hire. It turns out Caroline and her boyfriend broke into the headquarters of Rossum, an evil pharmaceutical company (which I think is linked to the Dollhouse.) Caroline's mom called the cops, and when Caroline's boyfriend tried to explain, the cops shot him.

Eventually, both Caroline's mom and the Dollhouse crew track Caroline down. But when Caroline hears that her mom is dying with stage four breast cancer, she doesn't want to go back to being Echo. She resists her programming, and even when the Dollhouse crew tries to erase her mind remotely, it just gives her a brief migraine. So they call in a SWAT team on her.

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The SWAT team almost catches Caroline, but then FBI agent Paul Ballard miraculously swoops in and rescues her. Ballard is still trying to dig up dirt on the mysterious "Dollhouse," and in the episode's teaser he watched Echo and her friends serve as prostitutes to sting a drug dealer. Ballard's decided he's Echo/Caroline's "knight in shining armor," sort of.

So Echo/Caroline almost gets away, but the Dollhouse programs a third "Active," Victor, to be a bounty hunter. The newly skilled-up Victor pwns Paul and Boyd, and grabs Echo. She's taken back to the Dollhouse, where she screams and thrashes around as they slowly erase the day's events from her mind. But even after her mind is erased and she's returned to being Echo, she still remembers in some part of her. And when she's put in her coffin-like "bed," her eyes are silently pleading to be set free from her fancy prison.

(And meanwhile Boyd, her "handler," decides to quit the Dollhouse at the end of the episode, because all of this human trafficking is making him squicky.)

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As I said, the script definitely moves the story forward at light speed, and increases the sense that Echo is inevitably going to break free of her conditioning altogether. There are also hints early on in the episode that she's thinking for herself a bit too much when she's supposed to be in her "blank" mode. It also massively ramps up the horror quotient of having Echo be a mental and physical prisoner in this compound that keeps her docile and mindless most of the time, because we see her struggling against it.

I suspect that, with some polishing by Joss and company, this script - if it is real - will turn out to be a pretty great episode, possibly even reminiscent of the Firefly episode "Ariel." And even if it's fake, it proves that Dollhouse can work as a twisty, suspensful thriller. I guess we'll find out sometime this spring.