Airs Thursdays on Fox at 9pm in the UK
Writer: Seth MacFarlane
Director: Kelly Cronin
Essential Plot Points:
- The crew are at aleaving party for the Chief Engineer. John and Gordon have put a small piece of Yaphit in the buffet and are waiting for him to figure it out. Instead, he goes to visit Claire and explains he feels like he’s missing a piece.
- Then Bortus comes in. He is ‘experiencing digestive discomfort.’
- From Yaphit.
- Worse still, Yaphit has to go in and get the piece out. Which, to the tremendous gratitude of everyone, he does so through Bortus’ mouth.
- John and Gordon are read the riot act by Kelly, who places formal reprimands on their records. When she does, she finds something unusual on Gordon’s file…
- She takes it to Ed and reveals the truth; aside from Isaac, John Lamarr is the smartest officer on the vessel. Kelly has an idea; John as the new Chief Engineer.
- Ed is, to say the least, very dubious.
- Their discussion is interrupted when the ship is hurled sideways out of Quantum drive. They’ve bounced off the side of a spatial anomaly and, while damaged, are basically fine. Ed orders them to map the anomaly. Isaac suggests checking the ship’s internals too and, sensing her chance, Kelly assigns John to help him.
- With Claire’s kids tagging along, they pick up Yaphit. Yaphit is not happy John’s on team but he agrees to work with them. There’s something odd in the vessel’s internal structures; a quantum wake.
- And that’s when the kids notice the plants. The ones that have been aged to death…
- The officers brief Ed and tell him that the quantum wake shouldn’t pose a threat. Kelly persuades Ed to let her put John in charge of the investigation team. She also blurts out that she talked to Halsey about Ed.
- He takes it very, very badly.
- And even more so when Halsey confirms it. Halsey tries to tell Ed no one has any doubts in him. Ed makes it clear that he certainly does.
- Kelly calls John to her office and talks about how humanity changed when wealth became obsolete and reputation became currency. She asks why he hasn’t applied himself and he makes it clear he isn’t interested in pushing himself. She accepts that, but gives him the anomaly task force anyway.
- Bortus detects a ship en route to the anomaly and Ed orders them hailed. He warns them away from the anomaly. The ship, run by smugglers, doesn’t believe him and plunges straight through the anomaly. There are no life signs aboard when it comes out.
- Ed takes Kelly, Claire and Alara cross over to the stricken ship to try and render aid.
- When they go aboard they discover the ship was smuggling Krill weapons. This is a diplomatic incident waiting to happen.
- Back on the Orville, Kelly confronts Ed. He tells her he’ll now second guess every decision he makes. She tells him to trust her, and her instincts. Ed throws a strop and comes to his office to find Yaphit waiting for him. He’s furious about John and storms out.
- John is really nervous and Gordon, because he’s actually very sweet, suggests an exercise to break the ice where everyone takes a gum drop and tells the others something about themselves. It goes badly.
- Despite that, John and Isaac find out something incredible; the anomaly causing the wake is not a pothole, it’s a doorway. A doorway to a pocket of two dimensional space. When the smuggler’s vessel passed through the anomaly it briefly shrunk to two dimensions. The Captain died when the shape of his cells was permanently warped by the anomaly. Likewise, the plants on the Orville.
- An alarm sounds; three Krill ships are 31 minutes out and the Orville needs over an hour before it’s repairs are complete.
- John has an idea; they may not be able to move but they can create a static Quantum bubble. If John can keep it stable, they could park the ship inside the 2D bubble and hide from the Krill.
- John and Yaphit put it together in time and they hide just as the Krill ships appear.
- In the bubble, the bridge crew are stunned; there’s a colossal, complex machine inside the bubble. Isaac tells them it may even be a two dimensional civilization, one that they can’t communicate with due to how incredibly different their senses are. With the Quantum bubble stable, they can sit inside the anomaly and observe for a few hours until the Krill leave.
- Kelly finds Ed and apologizes to him. She does this by kicking his ass in the exact way he needs it. She calls him a prideful ass and shakes him out of his colossally grumpy bubble. Ed admits he was wrong and tells her he’ll need time to shake it off.
- And then the quantum bubble partially collapses. It snaps back but its deteriorating. The crew, all bleeding from the cell compression, scramble and Ed orders them to leave the anomaly.
- But it’s closed.
- John and Gordon have a plan; the engines may be dead due to the damage they sustained but the shuttles’ engines aren’t. There’s another anomaly, that could be a gateway home, 4000 kilometers away. A shuttle could be used to tow the Orville there with a Quantum field keeping the interior in three dimensions even as the exterior is crushed to two. John can run the field generator, but he needs a pilot. Ed volunteers.
- The Science Team prep the shuttle, and give Yaphit flak for the damage the ship took. John tears a strip off them, telling them it was his call and that maybe now people will believe him when he says he isn’t command material. Except as Isaac silently notes, that’s exactly what a good commander would do…
- The shuttle launches and they begin towing the Orville home.
- On the shuttle, Ed complements John and asks him why he hides his intelligence. John explains the colony where he grew up was brand new and very practical so he learned to conceal his intelligence. Ed tells him Kelly was right about him, and ‘a lot of things’ and if they get out of this, John will be his new Chief Engineer.
- And then the field collapses.
- With no choice, Ed takes them to Quantum speed, with John battling to keep the field stable and both ships intact.
- They make it.
- Later, Ed apologizes to Kelly. He explains that he tries to play it off like he doesn’t care but that the Orville means everything to him. Kelly, because Kelly is great, already knows that. Ed thanks her and, at long last, the air is clear between them. Ed kisses her cheek and leaves.
- In Engineering, Lt. Commander John Lamarr briefs his team for the first time. And, for the first time, feels like he deserves to be there.
This one caught us napping and we love when a show does that.
The fact it’s a John spotlight episode, coupled with the return of Whiny Ed, did not fill us with confidence. Or indeed anything other than an overwhelming sense of foreboding. The show has done such a good job of moving past this with Ed, and such a terrible job with the last time John was in the spotlight, that we really were not relishing this at all.
And then, about ten minutes in, the episode turns itself on it’s head and becomes not just a great science fiction story but a really sweet, and at one point honestly moving character study. John’s reluctance to use his intelligence, and reasons for it, will strike a nerve with a lot of lonely, clever kids and he’s more likable here than he’s ever been before. J. Lee does great work, and that final scene of John squaring the circle with his people, his team is lovely.
But to our tremendous surprise, the Ed and Kelly plot was our favorite thing this week. While Kelly letting it slip that she got Ed the job is clumsy, the result is anything but. Ed whines, Kelly listens and gently, and kindly, kicks his ass.
And Ed listens. And learns. And grows.
The way the two interact has only ever got more interesting and this episode is no exception. While there’s still undoubtedly a romantic element to the relationship, that last scene honestly between them is sweet even without it. It’s two brilliant, flawed, people realizing that both those things matter and using them to build something even better. That’s inspirational even without the Dumbo quote. With it, it honestly made us tear up. And that’s not something The Orville was within a light year of doing when it started.
Sweet, funny, weird and complicated, this starts off looking like one of the most average episodes of the show. It ends up as one of it’s finest hours.
- The central science fiction mcguffin here is flat out brilliant. It’s also lovely that the ship, and episode, shifts from a military footing to slack jawed scientific wonder at the 2D race.
- The parallel narratives between John being uncomfortable with his intelligence and Ed being uncomfortable with command work really well.
- J. Lee is very good here and this episode gives us a John who is vastly different from the idiot at the center of ‘Majority Rule’.
- Character evolution! Really nice to see a show mix things up like this at this stage.
- Claire still being angry as hell at Yaphit makes a lot of sense. Nice internal consistency too Likewise the cameo from her kids.
- Flatland! Actual book! Excellent book too!
- Yet more incredibly pretty special effects shots. The 2D civilization looked incredible.
- ‘Who knows if I’d ever have had a chance to prove it without a handout from my ex-wife?’-Oh for God’s sake.
- The ‘that’s racist!’ gags about gelatinous lifeforms from Yaphit fall completely flat.
- The clash between Yaphit and the rest of the Engineering team feels rushed. It would make much more sense if this had been telegraphed across the season (Yaphit is, after all, kind of an asshole).
And The Random:
- It is supremely weird watching Victor Garber on Legends of Tomorrow and then seeing him here.
- Kelly Cronin also directed for Dads and has been a script supervisor for a legion of productions including MacFarlane’s own Ted and Ted 2.
- ‘At any point did you consider what you were doing might be stupid?’
- ‘Kelly he fed a guy to another guy, that’s not something a department head does.’
- ‘How did you get into my office?!’
- ‘It’s not the feather, Dumbo. It’s you.’
Review by Alasdair Stuart