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'Orphan Black' Recap: Every Experiment Needs a Control Group

By Craig Wack | TV Reviews | May 25, 2014 | Comments ()


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When last we saw the clones, Sarah and Helena were road tripping, Alison was drying out, Cosima was searching and Rachel was screwing …

A crucial component of the Scientific Method is the control group — the part of the experiment that is isolated from the other variables to contrast with the experiment’s results. Seeds with soil and water turn into plants, while seeds left alone do nothing.

In an Orphan Black episode chock full of a lot of juicy scenes and reveals, “To Hound Nature in Her Wanderings” most fascinating discovery is the one implied rather than directly revealed: That in the grand clone experiment by Aldous Leekie, Rachel is the control group.

Sarah’s investigation eventually leads her to the “Swan Man” she was looking for, Prof. Duncan, who has been on the run as a part of Mrs. S’s shadowy organization for 20 years. He lays the whole mess out Sarah when she tracks him down.

The good professor has been living under the name of “Peckham.” The ravages of being on the run and age have blunted what once was a brilliant mind, but he still has enough marbles to give Sarah many of the answers she’s been seeking.

Sarah and her innumerable number of sisters were intended to be prototypes, simple proof that humans can be cloned. While a scientific success, the program was supposed to be shuttered on ethical grounds. Leekie and Dyad (described as a Hydra by Mrs. S - I smell Agents of SHIELD crossover!) took the embryos to full term.

Duncan and his wife took Rachel, planned to raise and nurture her as their own daughter and then expose the whole thing to the world. Leekie had other ideas.

Leekie killed Rachel’s mother, sent Prof. Duncan on the run and raised the little girl as the Neolutionist control of this clone experiment: self-aware from a young age and without compassion. Her actions in the boardroom and the bedroom have always been about power plays. Rachel is the living embodiment of control.

At its core, Orphan Black has been a commentary on the Nature vs. Nurture idea. Dozens of biologically identical beings were loosed onto the world, raised by differing hands producing a variety of results: a grifter, a cop, a teacher, a scientist, a mother and an assassin who loves a good fart joke. At the center of it all is the seed plucked out of the soil, Rachel.

Here is this week’s clone by clone rundown:

Alison: After a week away, Alison is back in the picture. She’s still an unwilling participant in rehab, biding her time until she can get sprung and resume her life.

Everyone’s favorite psycho drug dealer, Vic, makes his way into one of Alison’s group meetings and confronts her afterward. Vic has gone straight and is following the path of the Buddha. He’s also a confidential informant for Det. Deangelis, getting dirt on Alison in exchange for his legal issues going away.

Alison is wary at first, but after some basketball therapy and some help with Donnie, she opens up and trusts Vic. They’re going to do craft projects together for family day.

Cosima: The living search engine is responding to the new stem cell treatment well enough that the next step in treatment is around the corner.

Delphine and Cosima’s duet turns into a trio when Scott goes from a Skype friend to an IRL colleague thanks to the workings of Leekie. While scratching an intellectual curiosity of his own, Scott discovers that Cosima’s treatment, derived from the stem cells of baby teeth, has a familial link to the clones.

Delphine does the math in her head — the stem cells are from Kira — and swears Scott to total secrecy. There’s a lot more going on in that RV than origami and bad cooking.

Helena: Her story was the most uplifting and heartbreaking of the episode. In the span of a season Helena has gone from the most frightening character to the most sympathetic.

The road trip starts out both prophetic and idyllic. Before they bed down for the night, Sarah wants to know why all the mystery about Cold River and Helena says she knows that Sarah would abandon her once she knew where the “Swan Man” was. Helena is evasive when Sarah quizzes her about what happened with the Prolethians.

Helena breaks the tension with some shadow puppets and a well-timed toot. The next morning, Sarah unsuccessfully tries to keep a straight face as Helena half remembers the lyrics to The Archies’ “Sugar Sugar” during an in-car sing along. It really looks like the seestrahs have formed a real bond.

When they reach the church in the “Swan Man” photo, Sarah leaves Helena in the car without even the radio to keep her distracted. Quickly bored of waiting, Helena slips into a bar to find some entertainment of her own.

She lines up her own amped-up variation on the old “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” on the bar. She picks a fight with Carl the Goat, bar patron who gets a little too fresh, before Jesse, the not goat-like tow truck driver, steps in to defuse the situation.

Helena is instantly drawn to the man who was both kind to her and offered her pork rinds. Helena loves her some odd snacks so they hit it off immediately.

She tells Jesse wild stories based on the lives of her seestrahs; then engages in a little flirtatious arm wrestling.

All the while, Prolethian Mark and Dyad’s Paul are in the back of the bar splitting up the spoils of war. Mark will take Helena, Paul gets Sarah and their respective masters are happy.

Helena experiences genuine tenderness for probably the first time in her life when Jesse takes a break from being beaten in arm wrestling and has a slow dance, followed by a kiss followed by animalistic making out. It’s hard not to flash back to last week’s Mad Men during the tender parts of this scene.

The bliss and passion can’t last forever. Carl with has been steaming the whole time she and Jesse were flirting. He cuts in on the dance and releases the savage inside Helena. She cold-cocks him with a billiard ball then goes after his eyes like he was a Ukrainian nun, sparking a brawl in the bar.

Jesse tries to plead Helena’s case as she is led away in handcuffs. Sarah leaves the church to witness the scene and locks eyes with Helena as she is pushed into the police cruiser.

No charges are filed, but Helena is still cuffed to a chair while her paperwork is processed. The desk officer tells Helena that her sister has come to pick her up. Expecting to see Sarah, Helena meets Prolethian Gracie instead and the prophecy is fulfilled.

Gracie tells Helena that the eggs that were harvested have been fertilized and she needs to go back to the Prolethian compound so they can be implanted (and so Gracie won’t have to carry the embryo as a fallback).

Helena is seemingly on the fence about having a baby of her own until Mark meets her at the door with Jesse’s hat, which he lifted during the fight, saying Jesse wanted her to have it. Feeling betrayed and abandoned for the second time in an hour, Helena asks to be taken to her babies.

Sarah: The deeper Sarah goes exploring her nature with the clones, the tougher it becomes to like her. In the episode alone she uses Helena, Bell, Felix (who is out on bond?), Cosima and Duncan to her own investigative ends.

Her mission to save herself and her daughter is all consuming. For Sarah there is no “I” in team, but there is “Me, me, me, ME!”

Sarah leaves Helena in the car as she scams her way down to the archives of the now-defunct Cold River Institute.

Scientists at Cold River had been conducting the kind of experiments that would make a Nazi blush since the early 20th century before it was finally shut down. Sarah sifts through the boxes of horrors archived in the church paying close attention to the ones Duncan was most interested in during his visits.

There are gaps in the records that Maggie Chen stole, but luckily Bell found them and brought everything to the Felixcave to piece together. After getting a lead on where Duncan hiding out thanks to Bell, she ditches Helena and goes on the hunt. To give Sarah credit, she does ask Bell to try and get Helena released, but Helena was still treated like an asset devoid of usefulness rather than the seestrah who walked arm-in-arm out of the sniper’s nest.

She gets to Duncan’s place where Mrs. S greets her with a 9mm pistol and hot tea. Mrs. S helps care for the professor now and explains what she knows and what the audience has suspected for a while to Sarah.

As Sarah has her revelatory conversation with Duncan, Mrs. S goes outside and meets with Paul who shadowed Sarah to the house. Mrs. S knows all about Paul, his shadowy past in Afghanistan and that he is playing a dangerous game serving both Rachel and Leekie. She suggests that Paul jump to her side to seemingly protect Sarah and Prof. Duncan.

During her conversation with the professor, Sarah talks about the dire sickness she and the other clones, especially Cosima, face. Thanks to her previous interactions, it’s hard to tell just how genuine Sarah’s words of affection about Alison and Cosima are or if she’s just telling Duncan what he needs to hear to reach her own ends.

Duncan sets Sarah’s wheels into motion when he tells her it’s been Leekie in control the whole time.

Next time: Do you smell salt?

Craig Wack wonders who would win in a fight: Helena or Agent May? Please follow his Twitter.








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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


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  • Nancy Arseneault-Heald

    You said Me Me Me about Sarah and all i could think about was this:https://www.youtube.com/watch?...

  • emmalita

    The moment with Helena on the dance floor might be my favorite of the entire series.

    The last couple of episodes have reminded me that When we met Sarah she was an unreliable grifter. I think she is trying to look out for the team, but she doesn't have a lot of team playing skills to call on.

  • Berry

    This episode wrecked me. I'm so scared for Helena (and Cosima and Alison, too), and angry with Sarah, which in turn makes me sad, 'cause I love her, and don't enjoy being mad at her. Why can't it be Saturday already? Please fix this, Sarah. Pleasepleaseplease.

  • profession: none, or starlet

    It's kind of par for the course in some ways, though. Sarah's always been a hustler and a street kid. She left Kira for a year, after all. When the chips are down, she keeps HERSELF free first and foremost as long as other people aren't in imminent, critical danger.

  • Berry

    All true, but it's also true that in season 1 didn't take off with Alison's money, when she could have, and she went back to Paul to that club, at a great risk to herself. So this feels a bit like backsliding.

  • profession: none, or starlet

    Yeah, in some ways I think it is, although that's always been part of her arc as a character.

    She's also the one taking a lot of the heat and the burden for Alison and Cosima, so that they can keep their lives going as much as possible. Beth couldn't stand that burden; Sarah can.

  • Berry

    Beth couldn't stand that burden; Sarah can.

    That's an excellent summation of the character.

  • profession: none, or starlet

    Well, thanks. I try :)

  • _Alexander_

    I can't be too angry at Sarah since at the end of the day she didn't know that Helena was pursued by fish heads but yeah. I hope she goes back for her seestra

  • Berry

    True, and she's also sort of not in a position to just waltz into a police station. So there's that. And she did ask Art to help. But it still felt like it was a bit easy for her to leave Helena behind. Which is not surprising, all things considered, but it is somewhat disappointing.

  • _Alexander_

    True. But that's really who Sarah seems to be. She represses stuff. But I really did like that she called Art to make sure Helena is ok

  • _Alexander_

    Psst. Cosima is Sarah's favorite. Pass it on

  • vic

    Gods, I hate Paul. Just shouted at the bloody screen every time he came on. I still want to find out, though: Just what is the end game with him?

  • Uriah_Creep

    Vic? I thought you were in rehab with Alison. I'll kill you myself if you hurt her!

  • Berry

    I don't remember if Vic was on my "People Helena can go ahead and kill while I egg her on" -list, but he should have been. What a waste of space.

    ETA He was! Right on, past self.

  • Uriah_Creep

    Past Berry was smart.

  • Berry

    She was. Such a sharp mind.

  • Uriah_Creep

    And humble... don't forget incredibly humble.

  • Berry

    That's actually what I like best about her. Aside from the radiant smile, of course.

  • vic

    Ahhh, I promise! I actually completely forgot I have the same handle as a character on the show, since vic's not actually my name. I actually hate Vic, too, so it's unfortunate.

  • Uriah_Creep

    When I saw your Disqus handle in a thread about Orphan Black, I could not resist. Go forth and follow the way of the Buddah, Vic.

  • My favorite new difference in portrayal by Tatiana Maslany: Alison can carry a tune, Helena can't.

  • Uriah_Creep

    Nice recap, Craig. I do believe, though, that Helena is calling the other clones "sestra", which is a slavic term for sister. And of course, the others call her meathead ("Do not call me this.")

  • And why "brother sestra" was particularly entertaining last week.

  • asherlev1

    This is my favorite episode of the season so far. I feel like this was all about bizarre connections between two diametrically opposed people blooming to life under extraordinary circumstances. Helena and "Mike Ross". Alison and Vic. Sarah and Helena. God, the moment where Sarah talks to Duncan, who is essentially her creator. Even Felix and Art. Just, so many intriguing and often heart breaking bonds being formed.

    And yes, my heart ached for Helena. That moment on the dance floor with Mike Ross was EVERYTHING. I never wanted that moment to end; I wanted it to stretch on forever. I am so scared for her in the coming episodes. But it was amazing how much emotional depth we were able to gauge from Helena this episode. We see her singing along to a song that I frankly don't know, but it was just. It expanded her character so much - you see a side of her that just overwhelmingly humanizes her. And how vulnerable she is; how hungry for affection. She wants family, she wants relationships - she wants a sister, she wants a boyfriend, she wants BABIES. And that's heartbreakingly how the Proletheans get to her.

    Shit, I can apparently go on forever, so I'm going to try to edit myself. Alison and Vic? Seeing this rapport blossom between them was so lovely. Vic grew on me the same way he grew on Alison. Why can nothing good last? If nothing else, it was interesting to see that Vic does feel genuine regret that he's being forced to play Alison. But of course he's going to look out for his own interests first. I can respect that.

    Okay and that scene at the end where Sarah is trying to make real to Duncan the idea that his experiments are living, flesh and blood human beings??? Not just one daughter who he's still mourning for. But women who are suffering, women who are dying. HIS LITTLE GIRLS. URGH. /Curls up in bed with a cup of tea and clutches pillow to chest/

    Mrs. S continues to be badass.

    And Felix and Art! That was cute. Art is no-nonsense and quickly drags Felix out of his painting, alcohol-fueled stupor and into a mission to figure out just what the fuck is going on. I also enjoyed the drunken ass-grabbing.

    Alright, I'm going to shut up now.

    ETA: I think I just needed a place to babble on about the episode seconds after finishing it. Oops

    ETA2: Omg, I forgot to say that it totally didn't occur to me that they got the stem cells from Kira. Rather, I couldn't figure out HOW they would have gotten them. This review proved enlightening on that front. But seriously, say it wasn't Cal :((((

  • I'm just glad Helena was exposed to 60s bubblegum pop. "Sugar Sugar" is still stuck in my head.

    http://youtu.be/h9nE2spOw_o

  • The teeth could have come from Mrs. S. Maybe she was working some kind of angle. An exchange of Kira's baby teeth to hold at least one faction of Dyad off from Kira and Sara for awhile. After all, they did say baby teeth, not tooth, which would suggest that they were collected over a bit of time.

  • _Alexander_

    Helena singing " you are my candy girl and you got me wanting you " to Sarah was one of the most hilarious and adorable things I have seen in the show. Especially once Sarah let out that absolutely dorky laugh.

    Ditto on " You want a white russian " :) Helena's got game

  • John W

    I hope Helena gets to reunite with her boyfriend.

  • Sean

    I was always sympathetic towards Helena. She was raised by lunatics to be a killing tool. That is it. Also, Massey clearly loves playing that character. So Helena is the most fun as well. I think a Felix/Helena road trip would be more fun.

  • emmalita

    Add Alison to that road trip and you've got comedy gold. The two craziest sisters plus the brother-sister. Alison and Helena would eventually bond over song, Felix and Alison would give Helena makeovers, and then Helena would wear what she wants anyway, and Felix and Helena would pull the stick out of Alison's butt. It would be life affirming. Except for the people Alison and Helena would kill because they crossed the line.

  • Sean

    I was thinking of Helena and Felix competing to pick up men at bars. And Helena bragging about being more succesful.

  • emmalita

    Helena has a looser definition of success.

  • Muhnah_Muhnah

    I badly want to see Helena as a Shield agent. She's very clearly badass. You know she and May would immediately hit it off and basically kill the fuck out of everything in their way.

  • _Alexander_

    They don't have the budget to feed her anymore

  • The SHIELD agents were eating out of a hotel vending machine they have exactly the budget and right foodstuffs for Helena.

  • _Alexander_

    Quality yes but quantity.... ;)

  • You are telling me that Billy Koenig doesn't buy his pork rinds by the barrel?

  • _Alexander_

    Good point!

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  • _Alexander_

    Admit it. You are obviously a Proleathean trying to lure us in your cult with your sweet words of easy money and jello

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