Another week of BBC America’s Orphan Black, another week of high-tension, few-holds barred suspense. I mean seriously, I know this show isn’t perfect, and I know it has problems. I just can’t bear finding out what any of them are. The only time this show stops to breathe and pause its plot momentum is from Sunday morning through Saturday afternoon, when it isn’t on the air. Even if there is someone out there who just downright hates this show for everything it delivers, credit has to be given to a storyline that initially gives its main actress more than a handful of roles to play, and then makes her constantly double down on portraying one character under the guise of another character. Instead of becoming severely over the top while ratcheting up the suspense, it takes advantage of the humor – albeit not everyone’s brand of humor – to center the momentum on characters rather than occurrences, and it proceeds like the Curb Your Enthusiasm of sci-fi drama. This is not a very special episode of The Patty Duke Show.
“Variations Under Domestication” is ridiculously farcical within its central storyline of a seemingly carefree neighborhood potluck drowning in behind-the-scenes madness, but it gleefully plows through everything with no hesitation, and rewards viewers with spare exposition. It also rewards viewers by introducing a wacky character who may prove to be somewhere near the center of this thing. And it’s sci-fi stalwart Matt fuckin’ Frewer! Max Headroom, people! Are there 20-year-olds looking at me weird right now? Let’s take this episode clone by clone.
This crazy bitch unwittingly used her husband’s guilty past extra-marital activities to convince herself that he played the Clone Monitor role in her life. But no, he just had an ex-fling that he kept close for personal reasons. (Him admittedly “losing” her to Lupus was a humorous high point in the series.) It also gave actor Kristian Bruun a chance to shine as husband Donnie, who, until his confession, was a wild card as far as his role was concerned. And he spent the entire episode tied to a chair after being bashed in the face with a golf club by his wife. By initially tossing off his guilt onto Alison for her lack of preparation in the day’s potluck, he sets the whole episode in motion, and causes Alison to drink too much on top of her medication, and she actually sleeps through most of the episode, after putting Donnie through one of the most badass interrogation scenes outside of Homeland. Because Sarah, who was in the Alison role at that point, got it into Donnie that he was treating Alison like shit for his own reasons, he ended up making the confession, and the couple may be all the stronger for it.
So if Donnie wasn’t a Monitor, then who is? Is it really one of her shitty neighbors? Do they all actually have monitors, or was it just Beth? Cosima’s story doesn’t seem to lead down the Monitor road either. So let’s go into that now.
Her new French friend Dolphine that she met last week also carried the Monitor sense to her, but she has now introduced Cosima into Matt “Trashcan Man” Frewer’s New Agey “next step” non-cult. He plays author and Neo-lution promoter Aldous Leekie, whose followers are called Freaky Leekies, and whose Dyad corporation is apparently into self-directed evolution and people applying technology to their person. While Cosima is a bit thrown off, she ends up getting into Dolphine’s personality, and they’re going to end up becoming something of an item. Unfortunately, Dolphine is in with Leekie. At the end of the episode, he appears to ask her in French, “How is she doing?” and she says, “Fine, I think.” Or something like that. I have to assume they were talking about if Cosima seemed to have caught on to their act.
Of course she has the most baggage attached to this episode. At the beginning of the episode, Paul cops to being hired out by a private contractor. Oliver (David Richmond-Peck) is his only contact. (Incidentally, Olivier looks like Terrance Howard and Eddie Izzard wrapped up into a strange package.) Sarah ducks him with a sexy shower ruse, and ends up getting called over to Alison’s to impersonate her during the awful potluck dinner going on. Of all the trouble it causes, it eventually leads to Paul, Sarah, and the missing-fingered Vic all standing in the same bedroom, making people want to scream at TVs and shit. While Vic thinks he’s running things, ex-military Paul clears all that up, sending Vic home with another hand injury – he shoots a nail through it during one of those batshit-escalating scenes that widens the eyes and the smile at the same time.
Moron neighbor Aynesley, who apparently confides everything in Alison despite Alison appearing to give no shits, should have caught onto things multiple times during the episode, and I guess she’s the weak link in this episode. But when she catches Sarah and Paul just after they kick Vic out, Sarah is forced to pretend as if Paul is Alison’s lover. Aynesley spend a while complaining about her own cheating husband, so it’s a crass move in all kinds of ways. So now Alison will have that to contend with next week.
Oh, and to get out of everything, Sarah confesses the entire clone situation to Paul, which makes him second guess his own intentions of drugging her through her own alcohol. Actually, her explanation is mostly kept to, “We’re clones,” and then Paul is like, “Oh,” and then he’s fine with it and doesn’t run out of the house screaming. But Paul is probably working his own angle.
The Sum Up
Loved this episode through and through, as ridiculous as it all got. I have a question though. Wasn’t Donnie talking to someone on the phone when he was burning “Ginny Nusbaum” letters? The mysteries keep piling up, so I’m not even sure what is a red herring and what is actually just non-essential plot decoration right now. I’d make a wager on how the show ends, but it just got renewed for a second season so all bets are off. But I’m having fun betting anyway, and that’s the important part.
Worth considering: Maybe Donnie’s infidelity during a longtime marriage to a clone is a sign that things aren’t perfect within the clone. None of these clones appear capable of suitable, lasting relationships. It isn’t him. It’s her.
Donnie wears tighty whities, like a boss.
I wish Fe had a larger role in the series’ events, and hope his role gets upped. He is a constant source of silly gay spontaneity that has somehow become a requirement, but watching him literally whore himself out to morgue attendants and burly men for laughs might get old soon.
Uhhhh Potluck song choices: Spice Girls “If You Wanna Be My Lover” and Montel Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It”
Alison has a multi-colored spindle of scissors handy.
So goddamned funny to hear Vic call himself “The Taxman.”
Donnie’s muffled “This is worse,” after knocking his chair over was the episode’s greatest out-of-place moment.