Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Orville Season 2, Episode 7: Deflectors

This week on The Orville there's good news as well as bad. The Good: We get our first ever Talla-centric episode. The Bad: We get yet another in a seemingly endless series of glimpses into Moclan society. 

Jessica Szohr, aka Talla, did an awesome job for her first time in the spotlight. She proved she can carry an episode as well as the rest of the cast, as she absolutely nailed her highly emotional scenes. Great job!

That said, I felt the Talla/Locar romance was incredibly rushed. They shared one kiss after knowing each other for literally two hours, and that was somehow enough for the two of them to fall deeply in love. The whole thing felt completely unearned, especially Talla's sorrow over their untimely breakup.

Maybe if they'd taken things further than a simple kiss, or had known one another a week or more, their love might have been a bit more believable.

Speaking of rushed, Cassius' unexpected departure was also much too abrupt. Even though he's appeared multiple times this season, we've really only seen him and Kelly alone as a couple twice— and one of those times was in this episode! We definitely needed to see them together more often. As is, their breakup had little or no impact in this episode.

This seems to be an ongoing problem with this series— none of the story ever have enough time to breathe. Janel Tyler was introduced in the season premiere, and then in her second appearance she's revealed to be a Krill spy. 

Slow down, MacFarlane. Let your plots stew a bit before you serve them.

I'm also a little disappointed that Cassius' departure seemingly clears the way for Mercer & Kelly to get back together. The show's demonstrated time and again that they work better as friends rather than lovers, so we don't need to see it proved yet again. The whole "Will They Or Won't They" plotline played itself out long ago.

I was less than enthused to see we were getting another Moclan episode so soon. MacFarlane likes to use them to examine various gender and sexual orientation themes in our own society. That's all well and good, but they need to be used sparingly. Let's hope he dials back on the Moclans for the rest of the season.

That said, the Moclans were cleverly used in this episode. Their same-sex society, which is meant to seem progressive to us, is revealed to be oppressive and unyielding when it comes to accepting someone who's different. It's an interesting spin that's definitely intended to mirror or own world.

Lastly, at the end of this episode Mercer wonders aloud how long the Union will put up with the backward and destructive attitudes of Moclas. I'm betting this was a setup for a future conflict in which the planet's either secedes or is kicked out of the Union.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
Kelly & Cassius enjoy a recreation of 1945 New York City in the Environmental Simulator. Cassius pesters her to take a trip with him, but she says it's not a good time. He tells her she needs to find a balance between her work and downtime, like he has. Kelly asks him what he wants out of their relationship (uh-oh), and he says to eventually get married. She says she's been there & done that, and is in no hurry to marry again.

She then blindsides Cassius by saying they should break up. Cassius wants to discuss it further, but Kelly's called to the bridge. She tells him she doesn't want to see him anymore.

Cut to the Orville arriving at Moclas (again!?!?!?). A massive Moclan cruiser pulls up next to the ship, as a shuttle flies over to the Orville and lands in its bay.

In the Shuttle Bay, Mercer, Kelly and Bortus welcome Captain Rechik and Locar, a brilliant Moclan engineer. He's there to oversee an upgrade to the Orville's deflector shields. Locar greets Bortus, who grunts a tepid reply.

After Talla takes Locar to his quarters, Kelly asks Bortus how he knows Locar. Bortus says, "He was once my kodashik. What you would call an 'old boyfriend." He turns on his heel and exits, leaving Mercer & Kelly with their mouths hanging open.

Locar inspects Engineering, as Bortus and Talla look on. He says he hopes to have a chance to get together with Bortus later. Bortus grunts that he's much too busy and exits. Talla tells Locar to let her know if he needs anything. He gives her a long, hard look as she leaves (hmm...).

That night, Bortus eats dinner with Klyden and their son Topa. Klyden knows that Bortus' ex is on board, and asks what they talked about. Bortus says they spoke only about work. Suddenly Locar shows up at their door. Bortus tells him to get lost, but Klyden invites him in for dinner. Klyden asks Locar if he has a mate, but he says he's "too busy." Klyden gives him a knowing look.

The next day, Locar and John complete the deflector upgrade. Mercer contacts Captain Rechik and says they're ready for the test. The Orville activates its new shields and takes off, as the Moclan ship follows closely behind. The Moclans fire live rounds at the Orville, which are easily deflected.

Suddenly the Moclans lobs a powerful torpedo, which rocks the Orville. The new deflectors fizzle out, and John says he's calling off the test. Locar tells him to wait, assuring him the shields will reset themselves. Sure enough, they reset and return to full power. Locar and Talla exchange smiles (hmm...) as John calls the test a success.

Mercer enters Kelly's office and notices a cookie bouquet on her desk. She says it's from Cassius, and admits to Mercer that they broke up. Mercer offers a very week, "Oh no" at this news. Talla enters and says the upgrade should be finalized in another forty eight hours.

Talla returns to her quarters and is surprised to see Locar waiting for her. When she asks what he's doing there, he hesitates and says he's attracted to her. She's skeptical, since he's from a single-sex species. Locar says there are others like him on Moclus, but they have to keep their feelings secret or face imprisonment and familial disgrace.

He says he told her because he sensed she was attracted to him as well. She says she just met him, and doesn't know how she feels. Embarrassed, he apologizes and leaves.

In the Mess Hall, Kelly vents her feelings about Cassius to Mercer. It's hard to tell if he's glad or genuinely feels bad for her. A few tables away, Gordon and John watch the "Ed & Kelly Show." Talla says it's obvious that Mercer and Kelly are still in love, and asks why they don't just get back together. Gordon notes that the only two people onboard with a normal relationship are Claire and Isaac.

Talla finds Locar staring out a window. He says he hasn't even told his family about his feelings, as it would bring them great shame. Talla asks if he'd like to go for a walk. For some reason, she takes him to Kelly's New York program in the Simulator— a place and era that two aliens are sure to appreciate. She teaches him how to dance, and after a minute or two he leans in and kisses her. She doesn't stop him.

Suddenly Kelly calls Talla to her quarters. Talla tells Locar she'll be right back, and to enjoy New York. He looks around the simulation for a while, and then begins practicing dancing by himself (I guess it didn't occur to him to conjure up a holographic partner).

Just then Klyden enters the Simulator (what is it with this guy always barging in on people there?). He hisses that he knows what Locar is, and says he's going to inform the authorities.

In the most superfluous cutaway scene ever, Talla enters Kelly's quarters, where Cassius has apparently gifted her with a gigantic talking sentient plant. The plant talks up Cassius, and urges Kelly to get back together with him. Kelly's unimpressed, and orders Talla to remove it pronto.

Talla returns to the Simulator and finds Locar's gone. She asks the computer for his location, and finds he's nowhere on the ship. She tells the Simulator to replay what happened while she was gone, which is apparently a thing it can do (?). It displays Locar dancing by himself, as someone else enters the room. Unfortunately she can't see who the someone is, as their image has been corrupted. Suddenly the mystery person pulls out a blaster and disintegrates Locar! Holy Crap!

Cut to the conference room, as the Orville's senior staff and Captain Rechik discuss Locar's death. Gordon wonders why Locar was in the Simulator in the first place. Talla admits she took him there after he announced he was attracted to her. Rechik flies into a rage, saying he won't listen to such outrageous slander. He says Talla must have done something to Locar. Mercer tells Talla to wait in his office, and assures Rechik they'll get to the bottom of the matter.

Later, Mercer and Kelly meet with Talla and tell her she should have given them a heads up about her relationship with Locar. She says she'll make up for her mistake by finding his murderer.

Bortus accuses Talla of encouraging a dangerous impulse in Locar. She assures him that Locar was the one who came on to her, not the other way around. She says she expected more from Bortus, considering what the Moclans did to his daughter. This enrages Bortus, and he tells her to get the hell out.

Meanwhile, John and Isaac are in the Simulator, attempting to repair the corrupted image of the murderer. Isaac makes an adjustment, and the image resolves into Klyden. Yikes!

Cut to Klyden being held in the Brig, as Mercer and Kelly question him. Klyden says he went to the Simulator to tell Locar he was turning him in to the Moclan authorities, but didn't kill him. Talla tells Mercer she believes him, despite the evidence. Bortus asks to speak to Klyden alone, and demands to know the truth. Again, Klyden says he's innocent.

John tells Talla he's suspicious of the Simulator incident, because it was too easy to clear up the distortion. He says it's almost like someone wanted them to discover Klyden's incriminating image, in order to frame him.

Talla apologizes to Bortus for her earlier outburst. He confesses he met Locar years ago when they were both in the service, and fell in love with him. Shortly afterward he caught Locar with an alien woman on shore leave. He kept his "perversion" a secret though, as Locar's life would be over if anyone ever found out. Talla says she'd kill herself if she had to live in an oppressive society like Moclas. Bortus says suicide is also an unforgivable crime on his world.

Talla thinks about Bortus' comment, and comes to the conclusion that Locar isn't really dead. She gathers everyone in the Simulator and begins monologuing. She says after Klyden's threat, Locar knew his life was over, so he used his engineering skills to fake his own death. She believes he's still onboard the Orville. Mercer gives her permission to search the ship.

The entire Security Team begins a thorough search of the ship, looking in every nook and cranny (literally!). Talla checks out a shuttle, and hears a noise behind her. She realizes Locar's hiding inside the shuttle, and he suddenly appears. He tells her he's been using a personal cloaking device to hide until he figures out what to do.

Locar begs Talla not to turn him in. She says she can't do that, as it would mean Klyden would go to prison. She suggests Locar go to Mercer and request asylum. For some reason Locar refuses, and insists on returning to Moclas to face the music. He says Talla's betrayed him, and whatever happens next is all on her.

Later on, Mercer and Kelly have dinner. He says he doesn't know how much longer the Union will put up with Moclas' antics. Cassius approaches, and Mercer excuses himself. He asks Kelly if she's still in love with Mercer, and she mumbles that she'll always have feelings for him. A sad look crosses Cassius' face, as he says he's put in for a transfer to another ship.

Klyden thanks Talla for freeing him. She says she was just doing her job, and warns him to stay away from her from now on. Klyden returns to his quarters, where Bortus is staring out the window. He silently glares at Klyden, who walks away.

On Moclas, Locar is led into a courtroom in chains. He stands before a judge, who bangs a block on the bench, presumably sentencing him to life in prison.

Thoughts:
• This week we find out that Kelly likes spending time in a simulation of 1945 New York City. According to Kelly, the simulation makes her feel "less isolated," as she can "lose herself in another time and forget she's in space."

OK, I'll buy the losing yourself in another time bit, but why 1945? That's a whopping FIVE HUNDRED years ago from Kelly's perspective! That'd be like you or me enjoying a simulation of the 1600s! Personally I don't think I'd enjoy "losing myself" in a simulation filled with poor hygiene, untreated water, rampant disease and bloodletting!

Methinks some show on the Fox lot built a vintage New York City street, and MacFarlane saw it and thought it'd be fun to use it in an episode before it was torn down.

• For a second I thought Kelly was sitting in the New York City simulation practicing her breakup with Cassius. As it turns out, it was the real thing!

• Cassius doesn't let us down this week, as once again he sports some truly awful 25th Century fashions. While I'm sad to see the character go, I won't miss his taste in clothes.

• I really like the design of Moclan ships. They're sleek and intimidating, which I'm sure is their intent. It also looks like every race in this particular universe has adopted some variation of the Orville's "ring engines."

• Once again we see a race whose shuttlecraft are simply miniature versions of their capital ships. 

Also, why don't any of the shuttles on this show ever have landing gear? No matter what race it is, their shuttles simply plop down on their bottoms. Seems like that could cause unnecessary damage or place undo stress on the hulls.


• I audibly groaned when the Orville arrived at Moclus, as I thought this was gonna be yet ANOTHER Bortus episode. Nothing against him, mind you, but... he's hogged the spotlight enough lately. Time to give someone else a shot. Luckily it wasn't about Bortus after all, as it turned out to be a Talla episode.


• So Moclan society, which consists of a single sex, is prejudiced against anyone who's attracted to a different sex. I see what you did there, MacFarlane.

• During their awkward dinner, Klyden & Locar have the following conversation.

Klyden: "Do you have a mate of your own, Locar?"

Locar: "I do not. My work demands much of my time."
Klyden: (in a patronizing tone) "It must be very difficult."

It's pretty obvious here that Klyden suspects Locar's "abnormal." In fact he probably already knows he's single, and asked just to see what he'd say. And Locar might as well have said the classic "I just haven't found the right guy yet" excuse.


• Bortus is my spirit animal! His expression here is identical to the one I tend to walk around with all day.

• Loved the cupcakes (complete with little Orville's on them) that Ensign Turco brought to Engineering!

• Man, Locar absolutely towers over the Orville crew! According to IMDB, actor Kevin Daniels, aka Locar, is 6' 5". If that's true, then the regular cast must all be five feet tall!

Daniels' height is especially noticeable whenever he shares a scene with Talla. Jesus, couldn't they have found a box for her to stand on?

• Speaking of height— apparently Yaphit is somehow able to "see" through the tendrils he forms. Either that or he's just guessing what buttons he's pushing! Wouldn't it be easier if he just stretched his body vertically a bit so he could see the console?

• Haw! I loved the fact that Mercer took Kelly's cookie bouquet for himself. I was a little disappointed that we didn't get a scene in which Mercer runs into Cassius in the hallway, and has to try and explain why he's got his bouquet!

So why's Mercer acting like this basket of cookies is such a rare commodity? It's not like there's a limited supply of them onboard. He could order one from the Synthesizer any time he wants!

• Not sure if this the marquee in the New York simulation was an Easter egg or just a coincidence. It lists Gene KELLY and Kathryn GRAYSON. Get it? Kelly & Grayson? Kelly Grayson? Eh?

By the way, there really was an Anchors Aweigh that starred those three actors, and it was actually released in 1945— the year in which the simulation's set!


• Once again the Environmental Simulator gets a workout during an episode, and gains even more peculiar abilities.

I'm always puzzled by these kinds of shots. Based on what we see here, the Simulator's back wall has to be parallel to the doorway. Which means everything on either side is a holographic projection, to give the illusion of depth, and make the room seem much bigger than it is. 

So what would happen if Talla or Locar decided to investigate those brownstone buildings behind the door? They'd walk right smack into the wall, right? Seems like the Simulator should do something to prevent that. Like parking a car in the way, or setting up a holographic sawhorse to block anyone from getting too close to the wall.

Another oddity: the Simulator apparently records everything that goes on inside it (yikes!), and can play it back on command. Here's where it gets really weird though not only does it display the holographic characters in its playback, but it apparently recreates REAL crewmembers and their actions as well! Much like a holographic security tape.

Wha...? Why the hell would it ever need that function? And how is it recreating real people? It'd be like having a VCR that recorded me watching the show I was taping!

Lastly, the Simulator has safety settings in it, to prevent users from actually getting hurt (just like the holodeck on TNG). These safeties can be overridden though (also just like on TNG). Amazingly, the Simulator is capable of creating a holographic blaster that can disintegrate a person! Does that seem right? How can a hologram kill someone? It'd have to be able to create a REAL gun in order to disintegrate someone, wouldn't it? Can the Simulator create real objects?

And yes, I know Locar faked the record of Klyden killing him with a holographic blaster. But the crew had no trouble believing someone could do this, so it has to be possible.

I enjoyed Locar's interaction with the holographic little girl in the Simulator.

Holographic Girl: "Who are you?"
Locar: "I am Locar."
Holographic Girl: "What's wrong with your head?"
Locar: "I am a Moclan."
Holographic Girl: "Oh. This is Betty. I got her for Christmas."
Locar: "That is not my concern."

• Apparently kissing is a universal demonstration of affection, practiced on multiple planets.

• This is a very minor nitpick, but still worth a mention— Talla's last name of "Keyali" is very similar to "Kelly." 


At one point Kelly pages Talla, saying, "Grayson to Kelali." The way she pronounces Talla's name makes it sound almost identical to "Kelly." So for a second I thought Kelly was paging herself!


• Jesus Christ, Klyden has a real knack for entering the Simulator at the worst possible time! Is there a lock on that door? If so, why the hell doesn't anyone ever use it to keep Klyden from barging in?

• Speaking of Klyden, how much longer is Mercer gonna put up with his sh*t before he kicks him off the ship for good? A few episodes back he stabbed (and technically killed!) Bortus as part of a Moclan divorce. This week he threatens a visiting dignitary, becomes a murder suspect and gets another Moclan sentenced to life in prison!

One more strike and he should be outta there!


• I reeeeeeeally could have done without the scene with the Katrudian in Kelly's quarters. It was painfully unfunny and didn't match the tone of the episode at all. In fact it felt like something they'd have done in the early days of Season 1. 

It was also completely pointless. You could excise the entire scene and it wouldn't affect the plot one bit!


By the way, according to Seth MacFarlane that was Bruce Willis voicing the giant plant. This is probably the most committed and energetic performance by Willis in twenty years!


• Poor Doctor Finn only gets one line this week. Actually it's barely a line, as all she says is, "What for?" I wonder how much she got paid for saying those two words?

• Bortus is angered by Talla's relationship with Locar, telling her, "You encouraged a dangerous impulse!" Yes, Bortus, this is nothing like the time you endangered the entire ship so you could masturbate in the Simulator.

• When Klyden's cooling his heels in the Brig, he tells Bortus, "Topa will be returning home from school soon. You should prepare his snack."

What prepare? This ship has Food Synthesizers, that can materialize any dish in seconds. Why's Bortus have to be there for that? Couldn't Topa order a peanut butter sandwich from the Synthesizer himself?

• Late in the third act, Talla suspects Locar's not really dead. She assembles her security team to search the ship for him.

Get a load of that baby-faced black security guard on the right. He looks like he's fifteen, tops! Things must be going badly for the Union if they're recruiting teenagers!


• Security leaves no stone unturned as they search for Locar. I love this guard here, who's actually looking inside a panel that's all of six inches deep! "Nope, no seven foot tall Moclan hiding inside this bread box-sized compartment!"

• Wow, the Orville has Jefferies Tubes just like every version of the Enterprise!

• I'm really starting to dislike Klyden. He guesses Locar's "perversion," and decides to squeal to the authorities. He could have easily kept quiet about it like Bortus did, but he rather ruin Locar's life and get him sentenced to prison— for something that's none of his goddamned business.

Add this to Klyden's enthusiastic insistence on turning Topa into a boy, and I have to wonder how much longer Bortus is going to put up with his awful mate's antics.

Locar's no saint either, as he actually fakes his own murder in order to frame Klyden! Yes, Klyden was about to ruin Locar's life, but is retaliating in kind really the answer? It doesn't exactly endear him to the audience.

If that wasn't enough, Locar tries to guilt Talla— who he supposedly loves— into going along with his plan and letting Klyden hang (or whatever they do to murderers on Moclas). It's manipulative and unfair for him to put her in that position.

Bortus is the only Moclan who comes out of this episode with his reputation unscathed!

• This Week's Incongruous 20th Century (And Earlier!) References:
Not too many this week, other than the New York City simulation and the song (They'll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs Of Dover.

The song was written in 1941, about a year after the Battle Of Britain. The Nazis had conquered much of Europe at that time, and were still bombing England—  specifically the Dover area. At the time, America and Russia had yet to join the war, so England was the only major European power battling the Germans.

The melancholy song lyrics look forward to a time when the war would be over, and England would finally be at peace. It's a particularly apt song for this episode.

• This Week's Star Trek Swipes:
Deflectors is VERY similar to the TNG episode The Outcast. In that story, the Enterprise-D encounters the J'naii, a race of androgynous, genderless beings. Commander Riker works closely with a J'naii scientist named Soren. Eventually Soren admits "it" identifies as a female, an act considered a crime on its world. Soren also confesses she's attracted to Riker. He tells her the feeling's mutual. Eventually Soren's "perversion" is discovered, and  the government forces "her" to undergo mandatory conversion therapy.

It also shares elements with the TNG episode A Matter Of Perspective, in which Riker (again!) is accused of murder after a visit to an alien planet. The crew then uses the holodeck to recreate and the crew uses the holodeck to recreate the incident in question and prove his innocence.

It's also somewhat similar to the TNG episode Peak Performance, in which an alien consultant comes aboard the Enterprise-D to observe them during wargames.

Locar faking his own death and Talla searching the ship for him is a nod to the TOS episode Court Martial. In that story, Lt. Commander Finney resents Captain Kirk for an imagined slight. He then fakes his own death, in order to incriminate Kirk. Spock figures out that Finney's not really dead and is likely still on board. McCoy uses a souped-up medical sensor to locate Finney's heartbeat in Engineering, where Kirk confronts him.

This Week's Best Lines:

Ensign Turco: "Hey, guys, I brought us some good-luck cupcakes."
Dann: "Oh, my God, Jenny, those look amazing."
Ensign Turco: "Yeah, see, look, they have little Orvilles on them."
(Dann picks up a cupcake and moves it toward his mouth.)
Dann: "Uh-oh. Tractor beam activated. It's pulling us in. Oh, no!"

Ensign Turco: "Locar, cupcake?"

Locar: "No."
Ensign Turco: "You sure?"
Locar: "I HAVE GIVEN YOU MY ANSWER!"

Kelly: "Your ex seems like a pretty nice guy, Bortus."

Bortus: (growls incoherently)
Isaac: "May I ask why you terminated your coupling?"
Bortus: "We were incompatible."
Gordon: "When Moclans break up, is there, like, all that stabbing, like with the divorce?"
Bortus: "No. Each Moclan extracts a tooth and leaves it with his former mate."
Gordon: "Yeah. I knew it had to be something like that. Do you still have the tooth?"
Bortus: "No. It is given to the next mate."
Gordon: "Uh, let me guess. He eats it."
Bortus: "That is correct."
Gordon: "Yes! Man, I'm getting so good at this."

(The Moclan ship fires live rounds at the
Orville to test its new shields.)

Gordon: "That was a torpedo!"
Mercer: "Hey, guys, no torpedoes, okay? We said no torpedoes."
Captain Rechik: "My apologies, Captain."
Mercer: (to Kelly) "We said no torpedoes, right?"
Kelly: "I was right there when we said it."
Mercer: "You were right there."

Mercer: (seeing the cookie bouquet on Kelly's desk) "Is it, like, an anniversary or something?"

Kelly: "No, I, uh I broke up with him."
Mercer: (in a flat, emotionless voice) "Oh, no."
Kelly: "Wow, that was really convincing."

Gordon: "You know, there's something seriously wrong with all of us when the most stable relationship on the Orville is Isaac's."

John: "Yeah, man, what's your secret?"
Isaac: "Doctor Finn has cautioned me against speaking too openly about our coupling."
Talla: "Did something happen?"
Gordon: "Oh, yeah. He was going around the ship asking everybody what sexual positions are most pleasurable to biological life-forms."
Isaac: "I was merely attempting to provide Doctor Finn with the most dutifully calibrated coital experience."
Gordon: "Yeah, no, that's what women want: dutiful coitus."

Talla: "It's got to be hard living there feeling the way you do."

Locar: "For a long time, I had no one to tell. I tried to hide it, not only from others but from myself. Had I not left Moclus, that would still be so."
Talla: "I'm assuming your family doesn't know."
Locar: "The shame would be theirs as well. They would be ruined."
Talla: "Tough crowd on your planet."
Locar: "On Moclus, mediocrity is the only behavior above suspicion."

Talla: "I mean, this has to be the most insane thing that's ever happened on this ship."

John: "One time I almost died 'cause I humped a statue."
Gordon: "Isaac once cut my leg off."
John: "The captain and commander, they got put in a zoo."
Gordon: "And Bortus almost crashed the ship 'cause of porn."
Talla: "I see."

Locar: "My brother says, 'No friendship is complete until your friend turns to you in despair.' I turn to you now."

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Happy 20th Anniversary To Office Space!

Grab your TPS reports, because it sounds like somebody's got a case of the Mondays! It's hard to believe, but Office Space was released a whopping TWENTY YEARS AGO today on February 19, 1999!

The film, which was written and directed by Mike Judge (of Beavis And Butt-Head fame), held a mirror to the dull, depressing environment of the modern office workplace. Viewers saw themselves and their co-workers in the film, as main character Peter Gibbons provided them with a cathartic release from their corporate drudgery.

It was a comedic, yet realistic look at the many passive-aggressive horrors inherent in working in an office. It's also one of the last genuinely funny comedies to come out of Hollywood, as they've pretty much given up on the genre these days!

Although the film's considered a classic today, it was a certified box office bomb when first released. I can vividly recall seeing it in the theater, with just two other people in the audience! The film grossed a dismal $10.8 million dollars, against its very modest $10 million budget. That ain't good.

Judge blamed the movie's box office failure on 20th Century Fox's bungled marketing. In particular he wasn't happy with the poster they created, which featured an office worker covered in Post-It Notes. Judge said the poster looked like Big Bird carrying a briefcase, and likely scared off potential viewers. He's not wrong!

Fortunately the film was saved by the then-burgeoning DVD market. Office Space made far more money on home video and repeated TV airings than it ever did in the theater! It's especially beloved by office workers, who quote the film's lines endlessly in their every day lives.

So get out your Jump To Conclusions mat, put on your flair and show us your "O Face!," as we celebrate 20 years of Office Space!

Monday, February 18, 2019

The Flash Season 5, Episode 14: Cause And XS

This week on The Flash, we get another one of those Groundhog Day-esque episodes the Arrowverse seems to love so much. Legends Of Tomorrow did one last year with Here I Go Again, and now it's apparently Team Flash's turn.

I'm assuming it was intentional that this episode aired shortly after the actual Groundhog Day, and the same week as time loop slasher film Happy Death Day 2U.

Time loop episodes are tricky things to write, as the audience knows that nothing that happens is gonna stick. You can kill off the main cast as many times as you like during the episode, but we all know they're gonna be alive and well at the end.

The secret is to come up with interesting ways for the characters to play around within the confines of the loop. Legends did this brilliantly in the aforementioned Here I Go Again, as Zari had fun with the fact that she was reliving the same hour over and over.

Not so with Cause And XS, as Nora makes the same mistakes over and over and over, to the point of distraction.

For the second time in a month, Barry barely appears in an episode (he sat out most of The Flash & The Furious as well). I assume this is due to the fact that Grant Gustin recently married actress Andrea Thoma, and he's taking some time off from the show to honeymoon.

Speaking of absences... Told you so!

A couple months ago Cisco suddenly announced that he resented his powers and wished he could settle down and start a family. This sentiment came completely out of the blue, and I wondered if the writers were setting him up for a departure. 

Shortly after that Cisco was conspicuously absent from several episodes. Again, I noted that it seemed like the producers were easing the audience into his departure and taking tentative steps to write him off the show.

Turns out I was right. This week news broke that actor Carlos Valdes, aka Cisco Ramone, is leaving The Flash at the end of Season 5.

Supposedly Valdes is quite devoted to musical theater, starring in such productions as High School Musical, The Wedding Singer and Jersey Boys. Apparently he's itching to return to Broadway.


Note that this is the exact same reason Victor Garber, aka Professor Stein, left Legends Of Tomorrow a year or two ago.

Good luck to Valdes I guess, but I'm afraid his absence will be keenly felt. Cisco's always been the nerdy comic relief in an otherwise serious cast. Plus he's always had great chemistry with the various versions of Harrison Wells. 

Can the show survive without Cisco? Probably, but it definitely won't be the same. Maybe Ralph can step up and take his place as the resident jokester.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
Cisco sits in his lab, cyberstalking Kamilla by going through her online portfolio. He wonders if she's too good for him. Just then a timer sounds and he sees his metahuman cure is finished. There's a catch though.

Cut to Cisco in the Cortex, explaining to Team Flash that the cure will take thirty days to "synthesize." So it WASN'T ready then, right? I'm already confused. Barry says they can't wait a month to use the cure on Cicada. Sherloque suggests Barry take the cure into the Speed Force and expose it to tachyons, which will cause it to synthesize in an hour rather than thirty days.

Barry suits up and prepares to enter the Speed Force. Nora suggests she do it instead, as she doesn't think it's a good idea to leave the city Flash-less for an hour (?). Barry tells her she can handle anything that comes up, and zooms off into the void.

Nora returns to the Cortex, where she starts writing in her journal for no good reason. Ralph brings out his homemade Book Of Ralph relationship guide again, to help Cisco prepare for his big date with Kamilla. Iris, Caitlin & Sherloque all flee for their lives, as Ralph begins outlining his horrible dating advice. Cisco says he's not interested and starts to leave. Ralph says fine, but claims he investigated Kamilla on social media and Cisco's definitely not her type. Cisco can't help himself and peeks at the info, seeing a photo of Kamilla with a businessman. He realizes Ralph is right.

Nora sits down and nervously waits for Barry to return.

Meanwhile, Iris is working on a story in her office (which must be reeeeally close to STAR Labs). Suddenly Cicada appears behind her and knocks her out.

Cut to Jitters, where Kamilla's waiting for Cisco. He arrives late, dressed in a suite & tie and claiming he was held up in a business meeting. Kamilla says she thought he was a scientist, and Cisco lies about owning his own company, called Ramone Industries. Kamilla's unimpressed.

Iris wakes up tied to a rooftop, as Cicada stands nearby. He says he knows who she is, and that she works with the other superheroes. He says he's going to beat them all. She activates her alert.

Cisco gets the alert and tells Kamilla he has to go. He asks if they can have a do-over date but she leaves in disgust. At STAR, Nora, Caitlin and Ralph get the alert as well, and rush off.

Cicada sees Nora coming, and hurls his dark matter dagger into the sky. Nora arrives on the rooftop with Killer Frost. Before either of them can do anything, the dagger boomerangs and comes up behind them. It stabs Killer Frost in the back, killing her instantly. Cicada looks at Iris and growls, "Told you!"

Nora's shocked and stunned, and immediately does her "Run So Fast She Reverses Time" trick. She finds herself back at STAR Labs, as Ralph gives his book to Cisco all over again. Nora furiously scribbles down everything that just happened into her journal. 


Everyone starts to leave again, including Iris. Nora nervously talks her into working on her story at STAR, rather than her office. Nora breathes a sigh of relief, believing she's saved Killer Frost. Cisco sees a photo of Kamilla with a gym rat, and gets an idea.

Cicada goes to Iris' office, but sees she's not there. He then goes across the hall to Ralph's office and knocks him out.

Cut to Jitters, where Cisco shows up for his date dressed in gym clothes. Kamilla asks if he works out, and he rattles off a bunch of made up fitness routines he's into. She's unimpressed.

Ralph wakes on the rooftop, and Cicada tells him he knows who he is. Ralph manages to send out an alert. Cisco gets the signal and tells Kamilla he has to leave.

Cicada sees Nora coming and throws his dagger. Nora and Killer Frost arrive on the rooftop, and Ralph tells them to duck. They both dive for cover, and the dagger hits Ralph in the back, killing him.

Nora runs back in time and finds herself in STAR Labs again. She writes in her journal, Ralph brings out his book, everyone starts to leave. This time 
Nora corrals them all and gets them to stay at STAR. Cisco has a vibe vision of his dates with Kamilla, and mentions to Sherloque that he's having deja vu. This seemingly offhand comment intrigues the detective.

Sherloque then goes to Iris' office to see why Nora doesn't want her going there. Suddenly Cicada shows up and captures him. Cisco arrives at Jitters, where he lies and tells Kamilla he's a photographer and social media influencer (???). Sherloque wakes on the roof, and Cicada says he knows who he is. He manages to send out an alert.

Cisco tells Kamilla he's about to get an alert seconds before it happens. He wanders off, leaving a puzzled Kamilla behind. Team Flash gets the alert, but Nora tells Iris, Killer Frost & Ralph to stay put, as she'll handle it herself. She arrives on the rooftop at the same time Cisco breaches to the scene. Cicada's dagger lands in Cisco's back, killing him.

Nora speeds back in time to STAR again. She wonders why she can't seem to fix things or go back farther than an hour. Ralph enters with his book, and she realizes the whole thing's starting all over again. She zooms everyone into the lounge and tells them they have to stay there for an hour. Suddenly Cisco has a vibe vision of the previous time loops, and tells everyone to do what she says. He texts Kamilla and tells her he can't make it.

Cicada breaks into Iris' office and sees she's not there. He snoops around and sees photos of her family.

In the lounge, everyone gets an alert from Cecile. Nora tells everyone to stay put, and zooms to the rooftop. She arrives just in time to see Cicada's dagger kill Cecile. Nora runs back in time again to STAR. We then see a montage of her trying over and over to fix things. Each time there's a different disastrous outcome.

Frustrated and angry, Nora decides to get Barry out of the Speed Force to help. Unfortunately she's too weak (I guess?) to enter it.

Defeated, she shuffles back to the Cortex. Team Flash is there waiting, demanding to know why the hell she's been reversing time. She asks how they knew, and Cisco says he's been vibing the same moment over and over, and figured he must be caught in a time loop (sure, why not). He says this must be a fixed point in time, explaining why Nora can't change it.

Nora reads through everything she wrote in her journal and tells them all what happened during every loop. Sherloque suggests using Cicada's dagger against him.

Cicada breaks into Iris' office, but sees she's not there. For absolutely no good reason, he then goes up to the rooftop alone. Iris steps out from behind a shed and says she knows who he is and they're going to beat him. He sees Nora speeding toward the building and throws his dagger like always. Vibe breaches in, along with Killer Frost and Elongated Man. Frost forms two ice daggers, as Vibe opens two breaches in mid air. Nora arrives and reverses time, jumping into one of the breaches and exiting from the other, while adjusting the trajectory of Cicada's dagger. If all this sounds muddled and confusing, that's because it is. It's hard to figure out exactly what's happening.

Once Nora's adjusted everything, she starts time flowing normally again. The dagger hits Cicada in the shoulder, causing him to scream in pain. As always, the heroes watch him for a few seconds instead of trying to capture him. He eventually leaps or flies straight up (your choice).

Back at STAR, Iris confirms there's no trace of Cicada or his dark matter anywhere in the city (why's Iris running this scan when Cisco & Caitlin are there?). Barry finally exits the Speed Force, and says the meta cure's all cooked. He looks around and realizes something major happened while he was gone for an hour.

Cisco goes on his date. This time he finally learns to be himself, and excitedly nerds out about his project to Kamilla. He apologizes for being late, and asks if they can have a do-over. This time she says sure.

Nora tells Barry she tried to fix the timeline fifty two times. He tells her there are always consequences to time travel, and smashes a coffee mug to make his point
— a demonstration that seems awfully familiar. He says no matter what they do, the timeline will never be normal again.

Sherloque apparently forgets all about protecting Renee Adler, and resumes his work on translating Nora's journal.

Nora returns to 2049 and tells Eobard Thawne they're making things worse. He flies off the handle and tells her HE'S the only speedster who understands what they're doing, and to stick to the plan. He says if she follows his instructions they can defeat Cicada and save Barry.

Thoughts: 

• I'm very confused about the meta cure in this episode.


In the first scene, Cisco's apparently still working alone in one of the abandoned Tannhouser black ops sites. Suddenly the computer announces that the cure's been 100% synthesized.

He pulls a vial out of a high tech centrifuge or something, and begins shouting, "WE DID IT!"

Based on this evidence, I think any rational person could correctly assume he'd finally completed his meta human cure. 


Smash cut to Cisco in STAR Labs, where he tells Team Flash they can't use the cure for twenty nine days. Caitlin backs him up, saying it'll take a month for the cure to fully synthesize.


So which is it, writers? Is the cure fully synthesized or not? And if not, then why the frak did that screen say "Cure Synthesis 100%?" Do you know what 100% means?


• Cisco and Nora are shocked and horrified when Ralph produces photos of Kamilla that he obtained online. They even go so far as to accuse him of cyberstalking her.

Why's Cisco so outraged? Didn't he do the exact same thing as Ralph at the beginning of the episode, when he was scrolling through Kamilla's online portfolio?

• Ralph plops his Book Of Ralph onto the desk, intent on teaching Cisco the art of love and dating. He says, "Chapter one: Initial Planning." Cisco replies, "Initial planning? It's a first date, Sun Tzu, not an incursion."

Turns out Cisco's little joke was eerily accurate. Ralph actually printed out Sun Tzu's The Art Of War, and simply crossed out his name at the top and scribbled in his own!

• For years now The Flash has been happening more or less in real time, as quite often a month on the show corresponds to thirty days in our world.

Tonight we learned the show's apparently happening live as well! Early in the episode Nora sits down to wait for Barry to return from the Speed Force. She glances nervously at the clock, which reads 8:07. I checked my phone and sure enough, this scene happened at exactly 8:07!


• Damn those photos in Iris' office! Without them, Cicada wouldn't have figured out who she was and who her friends are, and used her as bait.

Once Team Flash realized Cicada was killing them all over and over, you'd think Iris would have wised up and stuffed the photos in a drawer or something. That way Cicada wouldn't have been able to find out who her loved ones were, and no one would have died.


• Man, that was one clean rooftop where Cicada was holding Iris hostage! Look at that thing! It's spotless! You could eat off it. Remember this is an area that's exposed to the elements twenty four hours a day. Does the janitor of this building climb up to the roof and sweep and mop it every night?

• This week we get a really good look at the back of Cicada's duster. Has it always looked like that? I honestly can't say for sure. He usually only shows up at night and sticks to the shadows, so I don't think I've ever seen him from the back before.

• I guess Nora really is a lot slower than her Pops. Cicada perches on the rooftop and watches as she "speeds" toward the building. Thing is, he sees her coming for a good five seconds. That... that doesn't seem right. She's a speedster, for corn's sake! She can literally run so fast she can travel back in time. If anything, she should just suddenly appear in front of him without warning!

• So Cicada kills, er, Killer Frost with his dark matter dagger. Nora instantly springs into action and runs back into the past for a do-over.

It's patently obvious that actress Jessica Parker Kennedy is just running in place in front of a green screen here. And doing quite a poor job of it too, I might add. Grant Gustin, aka Barry, can usually pull it off, but he's had four extra seasons of practice.

Would it kill the production staff to buy a treadmill for these actors, so they actually look like they're really running and not awkwardly jogging in place? How much could that possibly set them back?

By the way, when Nora's "running," she speeds past a couple of kids with balloons (that magically un-pop themselves to illustrate that she's reversing time). What the hell are two unaccompanied eight year olds doing wandering the curiously deserted streets of Central City at 8:30 pm?

• Writing time travel stories that make sense is darned near impossible, as demonstrated by this episode. When Nora reverses time and finds herself back in STAR Labs, shouldn't she already be there? She'd have to be, right? 

Think about it— Nora gets Iris' alert around 8:30. So Nora 8:30 zooms out of STAR Labs and arrives on the rooftop at 8:35. Nora 8:35 then sees Cicada Murder Killer Frost. Nora 8:35 runs back in time five minutes to STAR Labs, where Nora 8:30 should be sitting in a chair!

From that point on there should be two of her!

Heck, you could probably argue that there might eventually be fifty three of her! Each time she runs into the past, she should find herself there before she left, lather, rinse, repeat.

Also, every time Nora returns to the past, she writes about her failed attempt in her journal. Note that these entries are cumulative— by the end of the episode there are fifty two entries. That's not right, is it? Shouldn't the journal reset itself along with time?

• After living through the same hour fifty two times, Nora should know exactly where Cicada is at any given second. So right before he captures Iris (or Ralph, or Cecile), why doesn't Nora just speed up behind him and clock him in the head? Problem solved!

That's the trouble with writing superhero stories. There're always dozens of ways around every problem.

Sigh... This week Cisco learns the most valuable lesson is to always be true to yourself. The same exact plot featured in every terrible kids' book ever written. 

What was the thinking here? Was he really planning on pretending to be a "Science Businessman" around Kamilla for the rest of their lives? This was just poor writing, plain and simple.

For the record, Cisco tries out three ridiculous personas before finally wising up and settling on his default personality. He starts out as the aforementioned "Science Businessman," whatever that means...

Then switches to Gym Rat, who drones on endlessly about his workouts...

And then some sort of Hipster Photographer. This one's especially stupid, since Kamilla is herself a professional photographer and should be able to see through his bullsh*t within seconds.

By the way, was that magnificent mane really Cisco's actual hair, or a wig? If it was real, then it was most impressive.

At the end of the episode he finally starts acting like a human and ends up winning over Kamilla.

• Welcome to Cecile's one and only appearance in this episode— as a very surprised-looking corpse! She didn't even get a line this week! I wonder how much Danielle Nicolet got paid for this five seconds' worth of work?

• Dammit, Nora! Are you changing the past again like your dad?

• When Team Flash asks Nora what the hell's going on, she tearfully tells them she's been trying to save them all from Cicada for the past hour, but no matter what she does, one of them always dies. Iris says they'll all just hole up in STAR Labs till the hour's up, and everything'll be fine. Nora says that won't work, because then Cicada will just turn to Cecile and kill her.


Sigh... I guess Nora forgot she's a speedster again, and could simply zoom out, grab Cecile and bring her back to STAR while Cicada's blinking.


• By the way, Nora tells Team Flash that she's tried fixing the past a whopping FIFTY TWO times. Shouldn't that much time meddling attract the attention of the Time Wraiths? Why, it's almost like they only show up when it's convenient to the plot, and ignore temporal shenanigans the rest of the time.


• Speaking of the number 52... If you're a fan of the various modern Star Trek series, you probably noticed the number 47 shows up over and over in virtually every episode. This custom was started by writer Joe Menosky, who attended Pomona College in California. The number 47 originated there as a campus superstition in 1964, and Menosky liked to slip it into his Trek scripts.

In a similar vein, the Arrowverse is riddled with instances of the number 52. This is a reference to The New 52 from several years back, in which DC Comics revamped their entire line, releasing fifty two books and paring down their multiverse to fifty two different Earths.

• In the third act, Cisco's embarrassed by his antics on his date with Kamilla. He and Nora then have the following conversation:

Cisco: "This, this intelligence and reconnaissance mess, I don't need this. All I need is to be myself. Duh! And I sure as hell don't need to dress up like Ozone just to impress Kamilla. Sorry, that is an outdated reference."
Nora: "No, from the movie Breakin.' Yeah, I've seen Electric Boogaloo too. I've seen them both, like, a hundred times. I know every move."
Cisco: "Wow, fangirl!"

The Ozone character they're referencing was played by break dancin' superstar Shabba Doo, aka Adolfo Quinones. Because knowing is half the battle!

• In order to defeat Cicada and save all their lives, Team Flash has Nora write out all fifty two of her previous attempts on their hard to read transparent board.


For some reason, she writes down everything in the special "time language" she invented, and then translates it all into English. 

I can't think of any good reason as to why she'd spell out everything twice. In fact her bone-headed decision here will turn out to be her downfall, as it gave Sherloque enough info to finally be able to translate her journal.


• Team Flash cooks up a convoluted plan in which Cisco, Killer Frost and Ralph all attack Cicada at the same time. Oddly enough nothing ever comes of this combined barrage, as Nora ends up going back in time to before they arrived, and simply shoves Cicada into the path of his dagger that he threw a few seconds earlier.

Couldn't she have done that without the help of the other three? I'm confused again.


• Cicada's seriously wounded by his own dagger and falls to his knees for a few seconds, wailing in agony. Note that once again, Team Flash just stands motionless watching him, instead of making any attempt at capturing him. Of course he manages to summon the strength to super-jump away. Well done, guys!

• Last week Nora steered Sherloque's attention away from her journal by introducing him to Renee Adler. At the end of the episode he decided to devote all his time to protecting Renee, who he suspected was a meta, from Cicada.

Annnnnd this week he's right back to translating the journal again. So what the hell was the point of the meet cute with Renee? Did someone mix up the order of these two episodes? Or did the writers forget what they wrote last week?

• At the end of the episode, Barry's shocked when he finds out Nora altered the past fifty two times in an effort to save everyone. He then lectures her on the dangers of time travel and altering the past. Barry does this. Barry Allen, the guy who's torn the timeline a new asshole on more occasions than anyone can count. That Barry Allen schools his daughter.

Anyway, as I was saying, Barry lectures Nora about the dangers of time travel by breaking a coffee mug.

Note that Barry's speech is almost word for word the same as the one Jay Garrick gave him back in the Season 3 episode Paradox. In that episode, Jay broke a coffee mug to illustrate how it's impossible to completely restore the timeline, just like Barry did to Nora this week.

Here's the text of Jay's speech to Barry:


Jay: "But the thing is, there are consequences to time travel."

Barry: "I have heard all of this before."
Jay: "Not from me you haven't. I'm not some doctor with a theory, Barry. I'm a speedster, like you, who's traveled in time, and made these same mistakes you are making right now.
Here, let me show you something."
Barry: "Okay, you know what?"
Jay: "Humor me, kid. This coffee cup right here."
Barry: "All right, yeah."
Jay: "Think of it as the space-time continuum. Whenever you go back in time it breaks."
Barry: (shocked that he's damaging the diner's crockery) "For real? I mean..."
Jay: "Now you can reset the timeline, you can try to fix it, but no matter how hard you try it's never gonna be exactly how it was."
Barry: "Look, I've learned all this stuff that I didn't know before, okay? I'm not gonna make the same..."
Jay: "Mistakes. Yeah, what you just said right there? That is the paradox of time travel, and also the paradox of life. I mean, if I only knew then what I know now."
Barry: "Why have these powers if I can't go back and fix what I broke?"
Jay: "We're not gods, we're men, who, for whatever reason, have been given extraordinary abilities."

And here's the text of Barry's speech to Nora:

Barry: "Fifty two times?"
Nora: "Fifty three, if you include now."
Barry: "That's a lot."
Nora: "What was I supposed to do, let one of them die?"
Barry: "The thing is, Nora, there are consequences to time travel."
Nora: "Oh, I know."
Barry: "No, you don't, not like I do. Let me show you something. Imagine this coffee cup is the space/time continuum. Whenever you go back in time, it breaks. Now, you can try and reset the timeline, try and fix it, but no matter how hard you try, it's never gonna be exactly how it was. It seems like things worked out this time, but that's not always gonna be true, and it's impossible to know how these changes are gonna unfold, the ripples you'll cause, whose life you're gonna affect. No one can do that."
Nora: "No one?"
Barry: "No one. We're not gods, Nora. We've just been given extraordinary abilities."

• In the tag scene, Nora returns to 2049 and tells Thawne she's worried that her time-meddling is making things worse. He flies into a rage and tells her he's the one who does the thinking around here and to stick to the goddamned plan.

Obviously Thawne's so pissed because Nora is constantly pestering him. Think about it— a few weeks ago we saw that he most likely has less than an hour to live before he's executed. 


For Nora, days or even weeks are passing between her visits to Thawne in the future. 

But from his point of view, she's showing up every ten seconds with some stupid question. He no more answers one question and sends her on her way before she pops right back in a few seconds later with another. No wonder he blew his top!


This Week's Best Lines:
Barry: "We have to wait how long before we can use the meta-human cure?"

Cisco: "Not even that long."
Iris: "Cisco."
Cisco: "It's gonna go by like that."
Iris: "Cisco"
Cisco: "Twenty nine days."
Nora: "A month?"
Cisco: I know, right? Just one, teeny, tiny, month until we stop Cicada's purge. You know, historically speaking, this is way faster than we've ever stopped a big bad so..."

(Ralph breaks out his book on dating, much to Cisco's horror. He looks around the room for help.)

Cisco: "Um, Caitlin?"
Caitlin: "I've gotta finish working on the device to inject the cure."
Sherloque: "Also I have to inject the device for the cure."

Nora: "You cyber-stalked Kamilla?"

Ralph: "No, no, no, no, of course not. That's her public profile. But it did happen to have some info on the types of guys that she might be into."
Cisco: "The types of guys that she's into?"
Ralph: "Yes, and, unfortunately, you are nothing like them, but hey, if you don't wanna get a second date, be my guest. Just don't come crying to me when everything inevitably goes horribly, horribly wrong and you die alone. No big deal."

Cicada: (said multiple times throughout the episode) "Told ya."
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