Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Orville Season 1, Episode 9: Cupid's Dagger

This week's episode of The Orville was a pretty good one, even if it was a mishmash of about ten different Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine episode.

On the plus side, the episode featured the return of guest star Rob Lowe as Darulio, who made a brief cameo in the pilot. Lowe's pretty much doing his Chris Traeger character from Parks & Recreation here, to great affect. Who could blame Kelly for having an affair with someone as just plain likable as Rob Freakin' Lowe?

On the down side, this week's episode dredged up Kelly's affair once again, which made me audibly groan. Yes, I get that her infidelity is a huge part of the series' premise, but in the past few weeks it looked like the series was finally starting to move past the incident. And suddenly it's back this week, in a HUGE way. Jesus, how many times does it have to be thrown in our faces? 

Happily, it looks like this episode may have finally put the issue to rest, as Mercer gains a bit of understanding into why Kelly did what she did. 

Since this was a Mercer-centric episode and dredged up the affair again, I assumed it was scripted by Seth MacFarlane, Nope! It was actually written by Elizabeth Heldens, whoever that is. She previously wrote for Friday Night Lights, Boston Public, Bionic Woman (the new one) and Mercy.

I enjoyed this episode quite a bit, even though the plot was very predictable and you could see the resolution coming down the street from a mile away. 
As soon as it was revealed that Darulio's pheromones were causing the crew to lust after one another, I knew they'd use them on the warring Ambassadors. Same goes for the revelation that the two warring species shared a common ancestor. Eh, at this point in time it's pretty much impossible to come out with a new idea, so it didn't bother me much.

Wow, I just realized there're only four more episodes left in the season! Can you believe it?

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
It's Karaoke Night onboard the Orville, and Kelly belts out a tune in reasonably respectable voice. Mercer's in the audience, smiling at Kelly as he remembers the good times they had. Unfortunately that's about to change, as Mercer gets a priority message from Admiral Halsey.

Halsey tells Mercer that two warring races— the Navarians and the Bruidians— are fighting over the planet Lapovius. He worries that if they go to war, they could drag the Union into the conflict. Supposedly an ancient artifact has been found on Lapovius, and the Navarians and Bruidians have agreed that whichever race's DNA is found on it will win control of the planet.

The two races have agreed to let a neutral party examine the artifact onboard the Orville. Halsey says he's sending a "forensic archaeologist" to perform the test. Halsey says the best possible outcome is for the two races to agree to share the planet.

The Orville rendezvous with the Olympia, and the mysterious archaeologist comes aboard. Unfortunately he turns out to be Darulio, the alien that Kelly slept with while she was married to Mercer. Ouch. Mercer's livid of course, but Darulio diffuses the situation by saying he there to work and this mission is bigger than all of them. Mercer reluctantly realizes he's right, and decides not to kill him. In private, Mercer and Kelly rehash the same old infidelity argument again.

Meanwhile, Alara escorts Darulio to his quarters. He accidentally steps on Yaphit, which seems to be a common occurrence on the ship. Yaphit says it's no problem, but notices a bit of his amorphous body stuck to Darulio's leg and asks for it back. He pulls the fragment off and places it back on Yaphit (Big Plot Point!).

In Sickbay, Doctor Finn examines Bortus' and Klyden's child Topa. Bortus reveals to the Doctor that parenthood is causing a strain on their relationship. I'm betting this subplot will boil up the surface before the season's done.

Yaphit enters Sickbay and once again professes his undying love for Doctor Finn. He offers her flowers, which she takes from his tentacle, briefly brushing her hand against it (Another Big Plot Point!). He then starts serenading her with a guitar and she flips out, telling him they're never going to be a thing, and if he doesn't stop she's issuing a formal complaint. A dejected Yaphit slithers out of Sickbay.

Kelly enters the lab and tells Darulio that she regrets their affair, and nothing will ever happen between them again because she's trying to rebuild a professional relationship with Mercer. Darulio listens intently, then suddenly reaches out and brushes a stray hair from Kelly's face. She instantly starts shamelessly flirting with him.
Isaac announces the Navarians and Bruidians have arrived in the shuttle bay, but Kelly's not there to meet them. Mercer goes to Kelly's very spacious quarters and finds her in bed with Darulio—again. Groan! Mercer and Kelly have another epic argument, and he quite rightly points out that her unprofessional actions could cause an interstellar war.

Mercer and Kelly enter the shuttle bay, where the Navarian and Bruidian ambassadors are about to come to blows. Mercer calms them down, telling them he's prepared luxury accommodations for both races. He then very professionally suggests they get some rest, and in the morning try to see if there's any way both sides can share Lapovius— just to say they tried. The Ambassadors are impressed with his logical and sensible manner.

Kelly talks with Alara and says she's in love with Darulio and wants to marry him (!). Alara's appalled, and doesn't quite know what to say. Meanwhile, Mercer talks with Gordon about what Kelly did. He says he's going to kick Darulio off the ship immediately.

Mercer goes to the lab and tells Darulio to pack his crap and get off the ship. Darulio says fine, but says he's discovered the alien artifact is an ancient birthing pot that contains DNA inside it. He's analyzing the data and should know which species it's from soon. Mercer looks in the microscope at the DNA, inadvertently touching the same surface Darulio did. His attitude instantly changes, and he tells Darulio he might as well stay and complete his research. He even asks him out for drinks later!

Cut to Yaphit's quarters (?), where Doctor Finn pays him a visit. She's wearing a slinky blue dress, and says she's changed his mind about him. They kiss, sort of, and Yaphit asks her if she'd like to "go for a swim."

Meanwhile, Gordon enters Mercer's quarters and finds him plucking his eyebrows in preparation for his "date" with Darulio. When Gordon asks why he's not meeting with the ambassadors, Mercer runs off to the mess hall. He's shocked to see Kelly at the table with Darulio as well. The two snipe at one another when Darulio leaves to get them drinks.

On the bridge, the ambassadors demand to speak to the Captain. Bortus does his best to diffuse the situation. Alara tells Bortus that Kelly's been acting odd lately, and Gordon says Mercer's doing the same. Just then Doctor Finn's horrible kids, Marcus and Ty, enter the bridge and say they can't find their mother anywhere. Alara goes to Sickbay to look for Finn, and finds her in her office, completely enveloped by Yaphit. Ew! Later after she's dressed, Finn tells Alara she's in love with Yaphit and they're getting married.

Bortus contacts Alara and says the ambassadors are fed up and threatening to settle the Lapovius dispute in battle. Alara goes to Darulio's lab and finds Mercer and Kelly there, still shamelessly flirting with them. She says she needs to speak to Darulio alone about a security matter, and the others leave.

Alara asks Darulio what's going on. He admits that once a year, Retepsians go into heat and release a powerful pheromone that's transferred through touch. He says he must have inadvertently affected Mercer and Kelly when he shook hands with them. He says it's a harmless reaction and will wear off in a few days. Alara points out that if the Navarians and Bruidians go to war, it'll be his fault.

Mercer and Kelly finally meet with the ambassadors. It doesn't go well. They begin arguing with one another, and the Bruidian Ambassador tells the Navarians he's calling in his battle fleet. The Narvians announce they're doing the same. Mercer says he's met the most wonderful guy, is late for a date and leaves.

Isaac examines Darulio's pheromones and says there's no known antidote. Just then the Navarian and Bruidian battle fleets arrive over Lapovius. Bortus contacts Mercer, who's in Darulio's quarters, where the two have apparently just had sex (!). Wow, that's something even Captain Kirk never did on TOS! Darulio looks out the window, sees the two fleets massing and finally realizes the seriousness of the situation. He goes to the bridge and says he may be able to help diffuse the Navarian/Bruidian conflict.

The two fleets open fire on one another, as we're treated to an impressive (for TV) space battle.

A few minutes later Alara and Darulio return to the bridge, and she opens a channel to both fleets. The Navarian and Bruidian Ambassadors then enter, walking hand in hand. They each tell their respective fleets to stand down, announce they're in love and that they're getting married. The two then embrace and kiss. Yep, exactly where we all expected the plot to go.

Sometime later, everyone's back to normal. Mercer apologizes to Kelly, who's just as embarrassed. Kelly wonders what'll happen when the pheromones wear off the Ambassadors. Right on cue, Darulio enters and announces that the DNA he found in the birthing pot was both Navarian and Bruidian, as the two apparently share a common ancestor. This means the two races will somehow have to share Lapovius. Also exactly where we all expected the plot to go.

As Darulio starts to leave, Kelly asks him if he was in heat a year ago when she cheated with him. After all, if he was, then she wasn't responsible for her actions and the affair wasn't her fault. He gives her an odd half smile and says, "Maybe."

Thoughts:

• The big question in this episode is whether or not Daruilo knows the effect his pheromones have on humans. If he wasn't aware, then the whole incident could be chalked up as an unfortunate accident. If he did indeed know how this would affect the crew, then it makes him look like a blue-skinned Harvey Weinstein. 

When Alara confronts him in the third act, Darulio seems slightly surprised and says, "I must have infected Ed and Kelly when I shook hands with them."


That implies he probably didn't realized what was happening before, but definitely figured it out at that point. But instead of taking steps to prevent himself from infecting even more people, he just rolls with it, saying he doesn't understand why it's such a big deal. Even worse, he doesn't even isolate himself from the already infected Mercer and Kelly. In fact he goes right ahead and has a chemically-induced coupling with Mercer!

This colors Darulio's actions in a decidedly unpleasant light. He straight up roofied Mercer and Kelly and took full, knowing advantage of them, justifying his actions by saying he comes from a culture that believes "it's rude to turn down an offer of sex."

That changes Darulio from "Lovable Free Spirit" to "Sleazy Sexual Predator." Not really a message we need right now, in light of current out-of-control events.


And then there's Yaphit and Doctor Finn. I full believe Yaphit's infection of Finn was accidental and inadvertent. But based on the way Finn comes on to Yaphit— when she'd harshly threatened to reprimand him earlier— you'd think he'd have realized something was off somewhere, and tried a little bit harder to fight off her advances. 

By the way, how about the fact that Mercer— the Captain of the ship— straight up falls in love with Darulio and has sex with him? Talk about "Where No Man Has Gone Before!" Amazingly, the episode doesn't make a big deal about it. Sure, Gordon's a bit surprised by Mercer's actions, but not judgmental  Overall the crew isn't weirded out by the coupling, as it's just treated like a normal, every day situation. This is something even TNG never dared to tackle. Progress!

• One thing I enjoy about this series— the Orville crew seems to have a lot of fun together. The officers hang out together in the mess hall, they throw parties in their quarters, and this week they even have Karaoke Night. The crew members genuinely seem to like one another.

Compare that to Star Trek Discovery (what I've seen of it), where crew members actively stab each other in the back and everyone's a horrible asshole.


• Another thing I liked about this episode— for the most part, everyone did their jobs in a professional manner (until the pheromones started flying). Alara, Bortus and Isaac— who weren't affected by Darulio— acted like real starship officers and performed their duties efficiently and by the book. Even Gordon seemed uncharacteristically serious and restrained.

I was even impressed with Mercer's initial handing of the Navarians and the Bruidians, rationally asking them to consider sharing the planet, "just to say we tried." 

Of course his professionalism went all to hell the minute he was affected by the pheromones, but for one brief moment there, he acted like a true captain!

• During Karaoke Night, Bortus— who just last week announced he can sing— takes the stage. He's just about to belt out his rendition of My Heart Will Go On when he's rudely interrupted by a message from Admiral Halsey.


I'm betting this will become a running joke on the show, and we'll never get to hear Bortus sing until the series finale.


• Kudos to The Orville's makeup and costume departments, as they really outdid themselves in this episode. The alien makeup in particular was incredible this week— especially the "bone-headed" (literally) Navarians, and the John Kerry-esque Bruidians!

I particularly liked this character, who I'm calling Karaoke Guy. By the way, ten points to Gryffindor to anyone who can figure out how the actor inside this particular makeup can see out of it! Surely he's not looking out all those nostril holes, right?

Back in the day on TNG, show creator Gene Roddenberry outlawed any alien makeup that hid an actor's eyes, feeling they were the most expressive part of the face. That's why virtually every alien in all the modern Trek series ended up looking like plain old humans with oddly wrinkled foreheads. Boring!


Apparently The Orville has no such restrictions, so it's really nice to finally see some truly alien crew members for a change.


Even if the Karaoke Guy did look a bit like Doctor Who's Dalek Sec.

• Rob Lowe returns as Darulio, the blue-skinned Retepsian who's a thorn in both Mercer and Kelly's sides.

Lowe made a very brief appearance as Darulio back in the pilot episode as well. His makeup looked subtly different then— I have a feeling they must have switched makeup studios after the pilot, and sculpted a new prosthetic for this episode. Whatever they did, something about his looks has changed this week.

• The Bruidian Ambassador was played by 2004 Presidential candidate John Kerry, er, I mean actor Derek Mears. You may not recognize Mears' name, but if you're a fan of horror movies you've definitely seen his face. He's been in literally hundreds of films and TV episodes, including the Pirates Of The Caribbean movies, The Hills Have Eyes remakes and the 2009 Friday The 13th remake, in which he played Jason Voorhees.

He's also no stranger to Star Trek, as he had a small part in the Enterprise episode Borderland, in which he played a green-skinned Orion guard (that's him above at the left).

• The Navarian Ambassador was played by J. Paul Boehmer, who's also a Trek alum. He guest starred on DS9, as well as playing a German SS Officer (?) on Voyager.

• Dann, the bulbous-headed alien in this episode who's obsessed with elevator music, was played by Mike Henry. He provides the voices for many animated characters in the MacFarlaneverse, including Cleveland Brown, Herbert, Bruce, and Consuela.

• Victor Garber returns this week for another brief appearance as Admiral Halsey. Appropriately, there's sort of a Titanic joke in this episode. Bortus starts to sing Celine Dion's horrible song My Heart Will Go On from James Cameron's Titanic. In the movie Garber played Thomas Andrews, the man who designed the the Titanic!

• Admiral Halsey orders the Orville to rendezvous with the Olympia and transfer the artifact and archeologist onboard. Um... if Darulio and the artifact were already onboard the Olympia, why not just stay there?


Answer: Because the action needed to take place on the Orville, so Darulio could infect Mercer and Kelly and the plot could happen.

• After Halsey signs off, the conference room viewscreen displays an image of the Space Dock orbiting Earth. It appears to be the same dock and possibly even the same shot of the one we saw in the pilot. Maybe it's like a screensaver, and cycles through images from past episodes?

• The Orville rendezvous with the Olympia, and Alara announces that the "Forensic Archeologist" has arrived in the shuttlebay. Kelly asks his name, and very oddly, Alara says the Olympia's sending that info shorty. Kelly then specifically orders her to send her the name on her comm as soon as it comes through. 


Alara then gets the info and sees it's Darulio. Instead of simply calling Kelly and Mercer on their comms as ordered— and giving them a bit of warning before they meet him— for some reason she chooses to run out of the bridge and try to intercept them. Or course she doesn't catch up with Mercer and Kelly until AFTER they're unpleasantly surprised by Darulio.


This entire scene is about as contrived as it gets. It also doesn't make any sense. As I said, all Alara had to do was simply contact Kelly on her comm. There was no reason whatsoever to try and tell her in person. The scene was awkward, clumsy, and obviously designed solely so Darulio's presence would be a big reveal to both Mercer and the audience. C'mon, Orville writers! You can do better than that.

• At one point Darulio tells Kelly that he cut out sugar and has been eating healthier. Was that a Chris Traegar Parks & Recreation joke?

• This week we're introduced to the Olympia, another Union ship. It's a slightly smaller vessel than the Orville, with only two engine rings. This of course makes it look even more like a ladies' slingback shoe.

• Last week I mentioned that every time we've ever seen the shuttle bay, there's always just one ship visible in it. The Orville has to have more than just the one shuttle, right? I said it'd be nice if every now and then we saw a few more of them lined up against the back wall.

Ask and you shall receive, I guess. This week we actually catch a glimpse of a second shuttle in the bay! Cool! Apparently the producers are reading my blog, and updating the show accordingly!

• In the sickbay, Doctor Finn hands Baby Topa back to Bortus and Klyden and says, "And we're done with all of his shots." I'm assuming "shot" has survived as a generic medical term, as they surely don't still use hypodermic needles in the 25th Century.


Subplot Watch: In this episode we get yet another very subtle hint that Alara's in love with Mercer. And another indication of friction between Bortus and Klyden. Expect both these B-plots to come to a head before the season finale.


• In the B-plot, Yaphit tries yet again to hook up with Doctor Finn. He says, "Look, just give me a chance, huh? I really care about you. I see how warm you are. I see what a good mother you are to those awful boys."


Haw! See? It's not just me! Even an amorphous blob thinks Finn's kids are horrible little assholes!


Speaking of Marcus and Ty, they make a brief and unexpected appearance in Cupid's Dagger. I would bet anything they filmed their short scene during Into The Fold, instead of calling them back this week just to shoot a five second sequence.

• As I was watching the episode, I couldn't figure out why Doctor Finn fell hard for Yaphit. After all, Darulio's the one with the pheromones, right? So it would make much more sense for her to be attracted to him, rather than a giant amoeba. 


At first I thought maybe Darulio's pheromones were floating all over the ship and making everyone horny for everyone else. But the chemicals don't seem to affect any other races on the ship except for humans. So again, why would Finn be attracted to Yaphit?


After watching the episode a second time (yep, I watch these shows more than once in order to write a review!), I finally figured it out. Darulio accidentally walked right through Yaphit, getting a hunk of his body stuck to his pants. 

Darulio then grabbed the piece of Yaphit and placed it back in his body. This caused Yaphit to absorb Darulio's pheromones, but due to his alien physique he wasn't affected by them.


Later Yaphit slithers into Sickbay and offers Doctor Finn a bouquet of flowers. When she takes them from him, she inadvertently touches his tentacle, and voila! The pheromones get transferred to her through touch, and she falls for Yaphit instead of Darulio! Subtle and convoluted, but it makes sense!


• This is some hardcore nitpicking, but whatever. Yaphit is an amorphous, blob-like lifeform with no discernible brain or organs— in fact, nothing but a crudely-formed slit of a mouth. This means his brain isn't centralized like ours is, but distributed evenly throughout his entire body. In effect, every cell of his body IS Yaphit! 

When Darulio walks through Yaphit, he gets a piece of him stuck to his pants. For some reason, this piece just sits there like a large, inanimate booger. Shouldn't that piece of him be just as alive as the rest of his body? Why doesn't it crawl down Darulio's leg and jump back into Yaphit, the way the T-1000's parts flow back into him?
Told you it was hardcore!


• One last thing about Yaphit. When Finn's trying to seduce him, she spots a photo on the wall, and for some reason asks if it's of him and his mom. Why she'd that's his mom in the photo, or even HIM for that matter (since it's impossible to tell just who it is), is anyone's guess.

Anyway, Yaphit answers her by saying, "My species reproduces by mitosis. That used to be my mom, but now it's me and my brother."


So... Yaphit's mom changed sex when she split in two? That doesn't make any sense. Here on Earth, mitosis is described as the process in which a "mother" cell divides into two identical "daugther" cells. Unless things are radically different on Yaphit's world, he should be a perfect copy of his mom.


Does this mean someday Yaphit's going to reproduce and become a female?


• Jesus Christ! In this episode we see that both Mercer and Kelly have absolutely enormous two story cabins, complete with staircases (!) leading to the upper level! Man, even Captain Picard didn't even have that much personal space on the Enterprise-D! How the hell can there possibly be that much room in the ship?

I guess rank really doth have its privileges!


Heck, even Yaphit seems to have an hilariously huge cabin as well. Why the hell does a small blob need that much space?

• Once Alara figures out what's going on, she places Darulio under house arrest. Apparently that doesn't mean actually locking him in his quarters, because a bit later he shows up on the bridge!


• This Week's Incongruous 21st Century (And Earlier!) References:

The anachronisms in this episode mostly involved songs. Kelly sings Any Way You Want It by Journey during karaoke night. Bortus starts to sing Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On before he's rudely interrupted. And after Kelly's dumped, she listens to Carole King's It's Too Late Baby.

Once again, this would be like us listening to music from the 1500s! 

• THIS WEEK'S STAR TREK SWIPES:
Good lord, there were so many this week!

TNG did the "Warring Delegates Meets Onboard The Enterprise" plot several times. In Lonely Among Us, the Enterprise-D hosted the Relay and the Anticans on board the ship. They also brought Antedean delegates onboard in Manhunt, the Legarans in Sarek and a whole host of ambassadors in The Price. And those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head! There were probably even more of these episodes in TNG and the other various Trek shows.

TNG also did the "Alien Visitor Inadvertently Affects The Mood Of The Crew" trope many times as well. When Spock's father Sarek came onboard the ship in, er, Sarek, his space Alzheimer's psychically affected the crew and made them start fighting one another. In Violations, the visiting Ullians traumatize the crew with painful memories. 

The most blatant use of this plot was in The Perfect Mate, which features a Kriosian woman named Kamala, whose powerful pheromones adversely affect the males of the crew! Sound familiar?

These plots weren't limited to TNG either. In the DS9 episode Fascination, Lwaxana Troi visited the station while suffering from Zanthi fever. This caused her to telepathically project her feelings to everyone on the station, causing them to temporarily lust after one another.

Also, The Original Series and TNG both used an alien virus (transmitted through touch) to infect the crews, make them "drunk" and start hitting on one another. 

Again, there were probably more of these types of episodes in the other Trek shows, but these are the ones that immediately come to mind.

I'm not sure, but I think this episode marks the first time we've seen the elevator interiors on the Orville. Note that they feature lighted indicators to show that the elevators are traveling up, down and sideways— exactly like the ones in every Trek show ever made!

During the battle between the Navarians and the Bruidians, Isaac suggests the Orville try to extend its deflector shields between the two sides, to prevent them from destroying one another. That tactic was tried several times over on TNG

When Doctor Finn visits Yaphit's quarters, he shows her his "bed." This turns out to be just a shallow basin he can flow into when he relaxes his form. Over on DS9, Odo, the station's shape-shifting constable, had a small bucket that he'd flow into when he needed to rest and recharge.

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