Orphan Black Recap: Terrible Things for People We Love

Orphan Black
Episode Title
Certain Agony of the Battlefield
Editor’s Rating

It’s all I can do to keep from squealing with equal parts joy and horror: In one 45-minute swoop, Orphan Black has veered right back on track. The mess of the past season isn’t completely cleaned up, of course, but so many questions have been answered, so many loose ends dutifully, spectacularly tied, that I am beside myself with relief.

Forgive my excessive caps lock tonight, of all nights, because everything is just so beautiful. Let’s begin.

Sarah’s current default state is “hellish fever dream.” Guiding her through these hallucinations is Kira, or at least the subconscious projection of the one person Sarah would follow anywhere. The first sequence seems like a garden-variety nightmare, but it turns out it’s part memory — these hallucinations are the result of Coady pumping Rudy’s blood into Sarah’s body. Later, we find out that the Castors’ genetic defect actually manifests as an STD (!) carried by both Leda and Castor clones and passed on via the Castors (but not the Ledas — I’m assuming like HPV, since Donnie and Paul have been around this whole time). It attacks men’s brains and women’s ovaries, rendering both inoperative ... hence why most of the Leda clones are sterile. I’m trying really hard not to read into the gender implications of those body-part choices, because the fact is we’ve come back around to finally focus on what I originally adored about this show: its commentary on the patriarchal use and abuse of women’s bodies without their consent.

Delphine has swooped back into Cosima’s life in every possible way, not only to show her and Scott the disease protein they missed in both Seth’s brain tissue and Gracie Johanssen’s blood by comparing them, but also to reveal (to us, at least) that she’s been the one spying on Cosima and Shay, and she’s jealous as hell. (For the record, last week I misidentified Cosima’s new lady as Sapphire; that was the name of a different, failed Tinder match — but who among us would disagree that Shay looks as much a Shay as a Sapphire?) At the end, Delphine confesses that she really misses Cosima. Cos ain’t having it.

Tonight was really Paul’s time to shine, in almost every way (bested only by those season-one episodes where he walks around Beth’s house shirtless seemingly 24/7). He surprises everyone — or perhaps not, for ye true Paul Believers — by taking the late Parsons’ serial killer logbook full of women’s hair clippings and ID cards to Arlington and delivers them to his director at the Pentagon. (This show takes place in Canada and features mostly Canadian and European characters, but we’re mainly dealing with the U.S. government … ? Weird.) The government, or so it appears, didn’t know about Coady’s tests, or about these women who have been infected by these soldiers. The director tells Paul he’s making arrangements to shut down Coady’s operation for good, when actually ... well, we’ll get to that in a sec.

Returning to base, Paul discovers Sarah in sick bay, nearly out of her mind with fever. She tells him what Coady has been doing and when he refuses to help her escape without him, she says, “You’re the worst of them — I don’t even know where you stand.” Did anyone else feel like Paul was about to answer that question when Coady walked in on them??

Paul is suspicious and gets the real story out of another Army doctor: “The science” went underground after Rudy came to them having infected a woman (Rudy would be the first Castor to break the no-sex rule). That’s when Coady started having the Castors keep their creepy serial killer logbooks — to keep track of test subjects. Outraged, Paul enlists Mark, who is hella desperate for redemption, to help him sneak into Coady’s quarters, where he finds all the medical records that confirm the disease’s effects.

He goes right back to the infirmary and arrests Coady and her soldiers for knowingly sterilizing women. Rudy is away hunting Helena in the (possibly Mexican, according to Siobhan’s people?) desert; when Paul reports the arrests to his director, he tells Paul not to worry about Rudy, that backup would arrive to help Paul before he had a chance to return ... only to immediately call and tip Rudy off via satellite phone. And this is the team that keeps saying “never leave loose ends"? Amateur move, Paul, agreeing to leave Rudy unattended.

As Paul goes about his official biz, Sarah, whose fever is now up to 103 degrees, has one hell of a final hallucination in which she finds peace through a chat with Beth, the symbolic embodiment of both her guilt about taking her identity/not saving her sisters and her struggle to decipher Paul’s loyalties. “We do terrible things for the people we love,” Beth says. “Stop asking why. Start asking who.” Which is grammatically incorrect, but we’ll let Sarah’s addled subconscious slide this time.

While Rudy is on his way back to ruin everything, Coady tells Paul that Sarah is immune to Rudy’s disease because her ovaries work. She calls letting the Castors infect women “field testing.” It’s a horrifyingly casual admission, but certainly not unprecedented: This happens legitimately all the time in real life, from postwar illegal germ-warfare testing in San Francisco and the U.S. Public Health Service’s horrific Tuskegee syphilis studies on poor black men during the Depression, right up into this current decade’s prison system. In other words, get in line, Coady. (Also, Hail Hydra.)

Meanwhile, Rudy has freed his Army bros; Paul and Sarah try to escape, but Paul has to fight one of the Castors, who fatally stabs him in the gut just as Paul snaps his neck. A wounded Paul then does the thing where he makes her go first through the air vent to escape and closes the grate after her, staying behind — a corny writing choice, to be sure, but his final line as he goes back to finish the job is the stuff of superfangirl magic:

“It was never Beth I loved.”

Hold on, give me a minute. I need to catch my breath.

As he bleeds out, Paul — who really did love his men too — begs an armed Coady: “Cure them, Virginia. Drop the rest.” She gets so angry that he doesn’t understand her greatness that she pumps four or five bullets into his chest. As he dies, he reveals the grenade he had hidden under his arm. Rudy might have killed every loyal soldier in the place, but Paul can clean house, too — or at least we can hope he did. I’d bet Coady is still alive, that tough old maniac.

This episode gets five stars not only for the glorious plot relief we’ve longed for and long-deserved; it also features three of the best scenes this show has ever seen, all of which are ancillary to the main plot but crucial for our souls.

1. ALISON AND DONNIE’S UNDERPANTS RAP VIDEO. My notes for this scene are just a million exclamation marks. That’s how great these 100 percent gratuitous, impossibly redeeming 15 seconds are, wherein the couple — wearing only pastel-colored skivvies (yes, Donnie, too) — jump on the bed, twerking, freak-dancing and flinging around 100-dollar bills like the adorable suburban gangsters they are, to an honest-to-God RIFF-RAFF SONG. THESE FEW SECONDS ARE BETTER THAN 1,000 SPRING BREAKERS. Then their daughter Gemma walks in on them and ruins the vibe, but hey, it was good while it lasted. Seriously, RiFF-RaFF!!!

Turns out they’ve made so much drug money that they’ve paid off Ramon’s debt and want to continue dealing with Jason. He advises against it, kinda, but they suggest laundering their money through Bubbles, Alison’s mother’s Bath & Body Works knockoff. That convinces him, but I still have “such a bad feeling about this” written in my notes, so we’ll see. This is starting to feel a lot like Weeds, which can’t mean good things for the Hendrixes.

2. FELIX WILING OUT ON RACHEL. He and Cosima bring Gracie to Dyad for a checkup (turns out, yes, she’s infertile, too, now), but Felix has an ulterior plan: With Scott’s help, he visits Rachel, who is still struggle-busing but now also watercolor-painting seemingly random symbols all over the place, to annoy and humiliate (but not actually torture) her into divulging Castor information that will help him find Sarah. Watching Fe get more and more desperate in his attempts to find his sister utterly ripped me apart. Jordan Gavaris had better get an award for his heartbreaking work in this scene. All Rachel does in response, however, is beg him to help her escape, which he of course does not do (foreshadowing, though!). Later, Scott realizes the weirdo symbols she’s been painting also appear in Duncan’s Island of Dr. Moreau code, meaning she knows the original sequence after all! What do we think, was this a leftover secret of Rachel’s, or did Duncan sneakily teach her the sequence as a kid, and she just didn’t put the pieces together as an adult until her brain started oozing out her eye hole?

3. HELENA EATS MANGO. Still making her way through the desert Helena is chastised one more time by her little scorpion bud about putting Sarah ahead of saving her unborn child, but she’s finally done with the self-preserving mistrust Mango represents. So she eats it. I wouldn’t put it past Helena to eat a real scorpion, but thank GAWD this was her imaginary friend and not a VENOMOUS KILLING BUG. RIP Mango, you were shrewd and your voice was adorable ... but good riddance. When Paul’s grenade explodes, Helena is there to rescue Sarah from the underground tunnel — they’re sestras, after all.

One more thing:

Several of you have mentioned this in the comments, and it’s high time we broached it up here: Let’s talk Eisenhower.

Every OB season thus far has drawn its episode titles from famous texts based on its overarching theme. Season one was Darwin’s On the Origin of Species; season two’s were from pro-science philosopher Francis Bacon. Season three’s titles, fittingly, are less academic: As the Ledas’ predicament becomes as political and violent as it is scientific, now we’re using Dwight Eisenhower’s famous 1960 speech criticizing the military-industrial complex.

The most recent two episodes derive their names from this line, in defense of diplomacy, and it feels particularly relevant this week: “That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.”

Instead of working the ethically upright channels, the increasingly desperate and power-hungry Coady and Castors — now murderers, torturers and sex criminals — have chucked the proverbial diplomacy table out the window in the name of their goals. Because there are two now: the former, more noble one — save the lives of good, loyal soldiers — and Coady’s disturbingly tyrannical new one. Here’s hoping she doesn’t get far enough to have her own Oppenheimer moment.