By common consensus in reading around in all the usual Dollhouse internet haunts, last night’s “Belonging” is ranking among the best-ever among fans. How much of this is true, and how much is based on the knowledge that the show is going on a just-this-side-of-cancelled hiatus?

Well, it was a damn good hour, especially if you didn’t care whether Eliza Dushku was in it very much. As an origin-story for Sierra, this was one of the most emotional, and emotionally coherent, entries in the series, written by Maurissa Tanchareon and Jed Whedon, and directed by Jonathan frakkin’ Frakes. It’s always a better Dollhouse when you give Topher something to do besides be a wiseass. And last, he was proud of his molding of the pre-doll Sierra (Priya), who’d been “a paranoid schizophrenic when she came here… a psychotic,” as he put it, when she came to the Dollhouse. Of course, Topher couldn’t claim any fundamental virtue. As DeWitt said to him with her unique chilliness, “Everyone is here because their morals have been compromised in someway, except for you, Topher. You have no morals.”

Sierra’s manipulation by Nolan Kinnard — “a raping scumbag,” in DeWitt’s tart summation — was both repulsive and propulsive for the narrative. This hour sped by, aided by strong support-work from Keith Carradine as DeWitt’s imperious boss. In a sense, DeWitt was as controlled as any of her dolls, given the threats Carradine’s character made.

In the end, Sierra was brought together with Victor (who’s fast becoming my favorite chameleon-character… I know, just when it’s too late), and Echo spoke forebodingly of the coming “storm.” Her discovery of a computer card in her book with the note “For The Storm” certainly left things open-ended and ominous.

All around, a satisfyingly intricate and well-acted hour from top to bottom, from Dichen Lachman to Carradine (is he really dying in Dexter?).

What did you think, and how do you feel about Dollhouse‘s removal from Fox during November sweeps?