Orphan Black Recap: One Hell of a First Date

Photo: BBC America
Orphan Black
Episode Title
Newer Elements of Our Defense
Editor’s Rating

Sometimes we have no choice: Call it faith or desperation, but sometimes we have to make ourselves vulnerable to the people we trust the least. That’s the lesson that quite a few clones learn this week as they are forced to sacrifice safety for success, in one form or another. Some bargains are more successful than others.

Like very bad men, we’re wished back into the cornfield, where Sarah has run to escape the notice of Mrs. Johanssen. There, she discovers a highly unlikely scene: Mark was shot in the gut and is still alive! Why Mama Prolethean wouldn’t just shoot him in the head to be sure is a mystery (perhaps hoping for a slow death? But that’s the oldest mistake in the book). Sarah, much to Mark’s befuddlement, immediately moves to help him, using his belt to help him make a tourniquet for his leg (which, as you’ll recall, was the first thing his mother-in-law hit when she ambushed him outside the barn) and half-dragging him deeper into the field, out of sight.

Shotgun in hand, Bonnie Jo picks up Gracie and takes them back to a strange, big house, where apparently her whole family, the last of the Prolethean clan (we think), are holed up and singing church hymns with an elderly blind man. Bonnie introduces him to her daughter as “Mr. Appleyard” (seriously?). He acknowledges her, gently, as the one “carrying the blessed child” and takes her to the kitchen to feed her. Gracie is pretty bewildered. Same, Gracie. Same.

Later, while in her room, Gracie starts bleeding, and despite her efforts to hide it, her mother discovers it. In the living room, Mr. Appleyard does some prayers and then pronounces the fetus dead and walks away. Mama Johanssen clears the room and, predictably, blames Gracie for the miscarriage, saying her elopement angered God, blah blah blah. And then she banishes her again! I guess I’m not entirely surprised, but EFF YOU, MOM?!? On the bright side, provided she can get over the whole clone-abomination thing, and provided Mark lives, and provided he can forgive her for abandoning him to be murdered by her mother, she can get her man back ...

Now, let’s get the two most (seemingly) incidental plot points this week out of the way. Rather predictably, they belong to Alison and Cosima. The Hendrixes are visited in their backyard — just as they’re on their way to hide their stash in “a storage container, like on Breaking Bad” (thanks, Donnie) — by a meathead crony eating a sandwich who tells them that Ramon was “working on commission” for his boss and that the drugs weren’t his to sell. Because Donnie Hendrix is a “lovable” dimwit, it takes him a minute to put two and two together: Ramon wasn’t going to college, he was fleeing for greener pastures with $30,000 in his pocket. Meathead casually threatens their children, so they agree to meet his boss in a parking lot that night.

Alison is searched, and Meathead says his boss only wants to talk to her ... because it turns out he’s a (hot) ex-boyfriend from high school! Apparently she “dumped his ass,” which bodes really well, considering he’s a suburban drug lord now and seems to still pine for her. I don’t know about you guys, but I read every single word as being loaded with dangerously bitter condescension. So even though he complimented her soap game and agreed to both, she offered to pay him back double what Ramon owed him if he’d just let her keep selling, I feel very uncomfortable about this. Plus, how has a Castor clone not found Alison yet? Am I forgetting something?

Cosima’s situation is far less dire: Kira’s tooth stem cells seem to be working, so she’s feeling a little better physically, but she’s pining for Delphine. Felix comes across her wearing a sweater that makes her look as though she’s been “mounted by a llama,” so he takes her to a bar, where he convinces her getting laid using an app that is definitely not Tinder would be good for her to take her mind off her heartbreak.

Okay then! Back to the good stuff.

Perhaps surprising to no one, but if this were a contest, Helena’s corner of the world would once again take the lead this week, for more than one reason. First, she gets some kind of string and ties off circulation to her arm like a heroin addict. It’s unclear what’s happening until she starts flinging things around — including a bucket of her own feces! GO, HELENA, GO! — and acting crazed so that guards will sedate her. Suddenly we realize the string is keeping the drug localized in her arm so she can just pretend to be unconscious when she’s left alone in the infirmary. She gets up to do some reconnaissance before the drug makes its way into the rest of her bloodstream, assisted by the encouragement of her imaginary scorpion buddy, whom I think we should call Mango from now on. Before she makes it back to collapse on the floor of the infirmary, she manages to catch a glimpse of a plastic-walled surgical room — and the bug-eyed Castor clone, head locked in a Medieval-looking metal vise, strapped into a chair inside.

Later, she’s back in her cell, gnawing on a rib bone in a completely ordinary, Helena-like fashion (i.e., like a feral animal that hasn’t had a bite in a week) — only wait, that’s not just savage girl-beast slobbering! Helena is literally gnawing a bone into the shape of the cell key. And it’s a damn good bone key, considering it pops the padlock right open! She creeps through the compound, heading back to the plastic operating room instead of straight out the door, much to Mango’s chagrin, where she finds Frankencastor still sitting upright in the chair, seemingly unable to move. She pulls off the plastic cap fastened over the metal vise to reveal ... THAT THEY HAVE REMOVED THE TOP OF HIS SKULL. I REPEAT: THEY HAVE DR. FINKELSTEINED THE CASTOR CLONE. This poor (quite literal) bastard looks at Helena and whimpers, Aliens-style: “Kill me.”

Mango needles her some more as he continues to beg for the end (“Stupid girl, why would you waste your chance to escape on him?”), but her heart-crushing response is proof why we continue to love Helena so much: “We’ve both been abandoned by our family, left to suffer. I will make it go away. No more pain.” Singing softly to him, she picks up a scapel off the table and, in her deeply disturbing way, jams it deep into his exposed brain, murmuring, “Sleep now, sleep,” and kissing him on the forehead.

Of course, she’s lingered too long, and now here come Dr. Coady and her Croanies™, who are none too happy about this whole situation. Great, because neither is Helena! “You say you love boys, but you lie!” she bellows as they take her back into custody. “You are a shit mother!” If something bad happens to Helena next episode (and considering they’ve already waterboarded her when they weren’t even angry with her, that’s very likely) I am going to FLIP OUT, you guys.

And now back to the biggest beast: the Sarah and Mark saga. And boy, is it.

Turns out the shot to the gut hit muscle and went straight through him, so he’s not bleeding out just yet, but he needs Sarah to dig out the bullet still lodged in his leg. In exchange for doing this disgusting thing, he agrees to tell her about Project Castor and what, exactly, is going on with Helena. They swig alcohol and disinfect the wound, then embark upon a feat perhaps even grosser than Cosima’s game of Operation last week (hey, at least that was a dead guy!) and dig the bullet out, first with a razor blade and then with pliers. Much, much blood is gushed. The two of them — and I along with them — dry-heave repeatedly.

Meanwhile, Mark tells her some stuff. Namely, the stuff about the Castors being raised together and being forbidden from forming attachments with outsiders (how’s that for Stockholm Syndrome?), and how he thought he could exchange the samples he was sent to obtain for freedom after he fell in love with Gracie.

Then he passes out mid-sentence. Instead of resuscitating him, Sarah, ever the pragmatic con artist, takes his motel room key, calls an ambulance, and goes back to his room, where she discovers the box from Finch’s barn. Among the papers Mark carelessly threw aside: a form that lists Henrik Johanssen as having been Duncan’s lab assistant during Project Leda’s inception! Which means he had original Castor material, too! Sarah calls Cosima and has her translate the scientific notation, which implies that Johanssen used the samples he had left to make more Castor clones (and presumably also Leda clones, given the whole taking-Helena’s-eggs thing).

Now, okay, that is a plot twist.

And now Mark, just unconscious a second ago, is strolling in the front door, easily taking Sarah’s gun and turning it on her, despite being near-mortally wounded. She asks if Johanssen ever mentioned a son. Cut to them pulling around the back of a darkened house, the one Mark says Bonnie and Henrik lived in when they were first married, to a small grave, where they buried the sample-tissue son years ago.

Mark is healthy enough to haul his ass to the motel and pull a gun on Sarah, but not enough to help her dig, so he sits back and watches, asking why she’s making “an awful lot of effort to save someone [she] once tried to kill.” She does the not-Helena’s-fault-she’s-a-monster routine, says she can feel she’s still alive, etc. As much as I believe her, the whole thing where Sarah grandstands constantly about getting Helena back is kind of getting old. Mark asks why she kept him alive when he’s “not really [her] brother,” and she responds: “Biology says you are.” How essentialist of you, Sarah. (Though I suppose as a foster child and, you know, a clone, she’s allowed to over-value blood relation.)

Then, just as the shovel hits the box, Rudy shows up?! And he’s got the gun?! And she’s still demanding he give back Helena?! He makes her open the box, which contains a really heartbreaking little baby skeleton for which I was not prepared. Neither was Rudy, it would seem, because Sarah hits him in the head with the shovel and runs into the barn nearby. What is it with these people and barns?

Rudy recovers and follows her into the barn, where he proceeds to act out The. Most. Hackneyed. Villain. Hunt. Ever. Complete with monologue. “I would have made it quick and painless for you — well, relatively.” Provoking her with an imitation of Kira. To make it worse, then Mark shows up and tries to pull rank on Rudy, telling him to stand down. Rudy refuses, calling Mark a traitor and knocking Sarah temporarily unconscious, but finally Mark convinces him they’re on the same side by challenging Rudy to kill him, and then they man-hug. Rudy gets the coffin box, which Sarah brought into the barn with her, and then reminds Mark that they “don’t leave loose ends.” Mark replies, “You’re right, we don’t.” Uh oh, Sarah, you're in danger, girl! That’s what you get for helping a blood relative instead of killing him, apparently.

Remember when this show used to be unlike any other show on television? Me, too. This would be a two-star episode if it weren’t for Helena and her poop-flinging heroism. For now, all we’re being reminded of, constantly (besides the fact that Sarah wants Helena back), is that in this world, death is the only reprieve any of these characters get from the pain and madness that is their existence. Seriously, these dying Castors are the lucky ones.

Preview reel: Gracie is free, which means she gets to dress like a stripper now! And Cosima gets to make out with a hot blonde who isn't Delphine!