Airs Thursdays at 9pm on Fox in the UK
Writer: Liz Heldens
Director: Jamie Babbit
Essential Plot Points:
- It’s karaoke night on the Orville and Kelly is running headlong at ‘Any Way You Want It’. She gets a round of applause and is followed by…
- Bortus. Singing ‘My Heart Will Go On.’
- The crew are saved by an alert. Two races, the Navarians and Bruidians, have been fighting over the planet Lapovius for generations. On the border of Union space, the world is about to be home to yet another war. An ancient artifact has just been found on world and they’ve both agreed to it being examined by a neutral Union geologist. If either race’s DNA is found on the artifact, then they will have claim to Lapovius. The Orville is to host the artifact, the archaeologist sent to examine it and ambassadors from both races. This is a tough gig, but they’re ready.
- Or they think they are…
- Alara gets the personnel file on the archaeologist through and…sprints down to the shuttle bay to try and put a hold on the shuttle.
- Too late. The archaeologist is Darulio, the man Kelly cheated with.
- So…no pressure then.
- Darulio is actually pretty cool about it. He tries to get the three of them to put their feelings aside in favor of peace on Lapovius.
- Ed storms off, cooks off and we’re right back to episode 1 Captain Mercer. Hurt, angry and loud about all of it.
- Taking Darulio to his quarters, Alara questions him. They’re interrupted by Darulio accidentally walking through Yaphit. Who is on his way to sickbay with flowers and a guitar.
- He comes in as Bortus, who is fighting constantly with Klyden, leaves. Claire shuts him down, doubly so when Yaphit says he’s in love with her. Clair has had ENOUGH and threatens him with a formal complaint unless he stops doing this. Reluctantly, he agrees.
- Kelly checks in with Darulio, who’s testing the artifact. He tells her it’ll take a few days to get results and she lays it all out for him; they are not getting back together. And then…something…changes.
- The Bruidian delegation arrive but there’s no one there to receive them. Kelly’s on duty but is in her quarters. When Ed goes down there he finds exactly what he expected; Kelly and Drulio in bed together.
- Ed tears a strip off her and they race down to the shuttle bay, arguing as they go. By the time they get there, the two ambassadorial teams are seconds away from throwing down.
- Ed and Alara calm both sides down and Ed gets them to agree to theoretical peace talks the next day.
- That night, Kelly and Alara are chatting. Kelly explains that there’s just something about Darulio she genuinely doesn’t understand. And as she keeps talking, she decides she’s in love with him…
- Ed, in the conference room, is having basically the same conversation with Gordon. Gordon, clearly enjoying being the smartest person in the room, tries to talk Ed down. But Ed’s done, Darulio is gone. Darulio is fired. NOW. Ed storms into the lab, fires him and Darulio agrees but asks Ed to look at something through a microscope. It’s alien DNA. But he doesn’t know whose it is. Yet. In 36 hours they’ll have genetic markers, one way or the other.
- And then…Ed propositions him.
- Doctor Finn shows up at Yaphit’s quarters and her answer is very VERY different to that morning…
- Ed is plucking his eyebrows when Gordon comes in. Ed explains he’s meeting for drinks, playing it down even as he puts cologne on. He is completely irrational and he’s not the only one. Alara is talking to John about Kelly’s behavior when the Navarian delegation arrives. Ed brushes them off and finds Kelly with Darulio. Epic levels of sniping ensue.
- On the bridge, Bortus takes a call from one of the ambassadors who insists the test is being tampered with. Bortus downplays it. When the transmission’s cut, Alara and Gordon both mention Ed and Kelly’s weird behavior. Then Marcus and Ty arrive and explain that their mom has been locked in her office for hours.
- Alara goes to see what’s going on and finds her having sex with Yaphit. After getting dressed, Claire tells Alara she’s in love with Yaphit.
- Bortus interrupts and explains that both delegations are threatening to go to war. He gives Alara the location of Ed and Kelly, who are both at Darulio’s lab. More specifically, they’re both competing for Darulio yet again. Alara comes in and gets the pair of them to actually do their jobs.
- Alara demands answers from the archaeologist and Darulio gives them. He explains that once a year his race essentially go into heat. The pheromones are transferred by touch and drive anyone who comes in contact with them wild. Darulio shook both Ed and Kelly’s hands and walked through Yaphit. He’s the cause of all the problems, just not the problems anyone was expecting.
- Ed and Kelly finally get to the negotiations. Both are murderously angry and when Ed can’t stop talking about Darulio, talks break down.
- At the lab, Alara and Isaac discover that there’s no known cure for the pheromones. Disgusted, Alara confines Darulio to quarters as the bridge picks up both battle fleets heading towards them…
- Bortus calls Ed and finds him in bed with Darulio. He calls Kelly and she ignores it, crying into a cupcake as sad songs play.
- Darulio looks at the two fleets and finally realizes that his irresponsible behavior has consequences…
- Bortus calls the two ambassadors to the bridge and orders them to stand down. They refuse and Bortas orders Alara to arrest them both.
- Darulio arrives on the bridge and admits he may be able to help.
- Isaac suggests extending the deflector array to put a barrier between the two fleets. The Chief Engineer has good news; he can get it done but only if Yaphit can help. Yaphit, who is confronted by a teary, vengeful, gun toting Claire on the way to Engineering…
- And then, when all seems lost, Alara brings the two ambassadors back. Holding hands. They order the fleets stood down and they leave. Together. In love.
- A couple of days later, the pheromone has faded. Ed is cleared for duty and thanks Nurse Park, the member of Claire’s team who was able to synthesize Darulio’s pheromone.
- And then he goes to see Kelly. The pair of them agree to never ever talk about it again. Ed apologizes anyway. But there’s still a problem; what happens when the pheromone wears off? Darulio arrives and explains that it won’t be a factor. There’s DNA from both races on the artifact. They have a common ancestor. They have to share Lapovius.
- Ed dismisses Darulio but before he goes, Kelly asks if he was in heat a year ago when they met. He says ‘maybe’ and leaves Ed and Kelly with way, way more questions than answers…
This is probably the most complex episode of The Orville yet. Ed, Kelly, Bortus, Alara, Claire, Yaphit (No wait come back!) and three supporting characters all need air time. There’s some fun space archaeology, a war to stop, Ed and Kelly’s relationship to rip open again. It could so easily have been a mess.
Instead? This is actually pretty good. Frequently great. And that’s largely because of the scale.
Had this just been an ‘Ed and Kelly yell at one another’ episode it would have been disastrous. But the added framework for it, Alara’s added responsibilities and the other plots all mean that particular arc never outstays it’s welcome. Instead, you get a well balanced story set on a ship in the middle of an extremely high stakes mission that, by and large, is looking like it isn’t up to the task.
That’s the second reason this episode works so well. There’s no magic cure, no sudden last minute recovery for Ed and Kelly. They’re benched, completely. The situation is resolved by Bortus and Alara being very good at the most disturbing part of their jobs; being the ship’s senior officers when the senior officers are incapacitated. Halston Sage and Peter Maclon have been great from the start but here they really excel. Plus it’s clear the show is starting to notice that. Something seems to be brewing with Bortus’ relationship with Klyden and we know next week is another Alara spotlight. All of which speaks to a show that’s recognizing it’s strengths and starting to do the best possible thing with them; put them front and center.
The third reason the episode works is the oddest. Darulio was a one shot gag character in the pilot and, well, the shot missed. Here, Rob Lowe gives him the exact right edge of mildly self righteous new age bro but also adds a welcome sense of maturity. The moment where Darulio realizes what he’s done, and how he can help, really lands and makes him something much more than a pantomime villain. He’s still a colossal jerk, make no mistake, but he’s not a bad guy. And the final scene with him does what, just 9 episodes ago, looked impossible; puts a wrinkle in the Ed and Kelly relationship that feels earned, significant and real.
There are elements that don’t work of course. We really could have done without Claire going stalker-y on Yaphit and, as we discuss below, there’s a massively disturbing interpretation of how the crew solve the problem. But even with those faults this is a strong, ambitious episode that absolutely sticks the landing.
- Kelly being slightly rubbish at karaoke is really endearing.
- The logistics of the two ambassadorial teams being aboard is well handled.
- The Orville has stairs! We really like that the Orville has stairs!
- Ed and Darulio, it’s pretty clear, have sex. There’s no big deal made about that. On a show on FOX. That’s…kind of amazing.
- Excellent practical make up on the two warring races. Cosplayers, start your engines!
- ‘YOU WILL BE SILENT!’ made us laugh entirely too much.
- ‘Oh I know these moves! These are your stupid moves! You use them on ME!’
- The eyebrow ejaculation still isn’t funny.
- The ‘elevator playlist’ gag feels like it’s paid off way too early. If we’d had Dan the alien crewmember as a regular feature up to now it would have worked so much better.
- The episode looks straight at some really interesting issues surrounding sexuality and consent and pretty much keeps eye contact while it bolts for the door. Darulio’s laissez faire attitude works and Ed being somewhere on the bisexuality spectrum actually makes a ton of sense. But the alien ambassadors? That…yeah. Even if the pheromone just magnifies feelings that are already there the Orville crew have essentially stopped a planet-sized war with a piece of (sort of?) well-meaning sexual assault. It’s choppy, DEEP waters and we commend the show for going there but it leaves important, necessary, difficult elements of the plot unexplored.
And The Random:
- How weird is it that Kelly has significantly better, and larger, quarters than Ed?
- Darulio is played by Rob Lowe. An ’80s icon, Lowe is best known these days for his iconic role on Parks and Recreation. But, to us, he’ll always be speechwriter and not-quite-Senator yet Sam Seaborne from all time TV great. The West Wing.
- This week’s episode is directed by Jamie Babbit. She’s previously directed The Quiet, Itty Bitty Titty Committee and the amazingly great But I’m A Cheerleader as well as episodes of Gilmore Girls, Malcolm in the Middle and The L Word.
- This week’s episode was written by Liz Heldens. A WGA award winner for her work on the first season of fiercely great American Football series Friday Night Lights, she’s also the creator of Deception.
Review by Alasdair Stuart