The Orville: From Unknown Graves
July 13, 2022 10:56 PM - Season 3, Episode 7 - Subscribe

In the midst of sensitive negotiations, the Orville discovers a Kaylon with a very special ability.

Highlights:
We see the childhood of the Kaylon.

Ed and Gordon become bellhops, Bortus is off to his quarters, and Kelly takes command. Talla and Jon discover what their relationship may cost. Claire and Isaac have to make choices.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit (13 comments total)
 
The A- and B-plots in this episode didn't go together as well as I would have liked, but I still thought this was a strong entry.

Let Mark Jackson act without a helmet as much as he wants—he's quite good. And they realize that if you have a powerhouse actor like Penny Jerald, you let her do as much of her thing as she wants to and it's all great.

We'll always ship Tallon in our hearts!
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:58 PM on July 13 [3 favorites]


What a long, varied episode! I also really enjoyed Jerald's work as Dr. Finn; she's just so cute when she's letting herself be in love, starting with her entrance into the first dinner scene. Jackson, as well, is a fuckin' riot doing his robot routine without the robot costume.

I think this treatment of the "Data gets emotions" and "Data tries romance" plotlines from TNG is very well-considered in general. Even though we're back to "regular Isaac" at the end, the character is well-served by this one-episode emotional journey, and it gives us-the-audience and Claire a lot to chew on.

Did you know, though, that women pack a lot of luggage for trips, and like white wine? The "battle of the sexes" bits of the script came across as pretty '90s to me.
posted by 4th number at 11:48 AM on July 14 [2 favorites]


Yeah, another planet of sexist people was not the most interesting thing in this episode.

What I sure wonder about is, what is galactic communication like, for a couple of systems that aren't in an alliance and aren't at war. The Union had a general knowledge of the structure of Janisi society. How is it even possible that the Janisi didn't know about gender equality in the Union? More generally, why isn't there a space wikipedia that any intelligent species can contribute to and also read in advance of a diplomatic meeting with an established spacefaring series?

Keyali and LaMarr were waaaayyyy too uninventive about how they solve their sex problems. It's the future! Use advanced technology. Exoskeleton for LaMarr? Use the environmental simulator somehow (we know it can provide a satisfying erotic experience)? Do ... something else besides what keeps breaking LaMarr?
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 2:22 PM on July 14 [5 favorites]


It was really sweet when Claire opened the door to see Isaac and he began to smile. In just a moment, without any dialogue, you understand what a transformation it has been. That's thanks to Mark Jackson's consistent neutral affect during all those dinner scenes over the past few years. Bravo, Mark!
posted by Monochrome at 3:34 PM on July 14 [4 favorites]


Yeah, the after school special message of the week was weak. For all the go-girls!, language was still very male; the use of "guys" to refer to a group, etc. Universal translator? I'd hate to apologize and suggest the translator also translated the male-default "guys" into the female-default alien version.

irl, I've been trying to use 'folks' when the group is mixed gender and reserve 'guys' only when they all are. Doesn't Mercer use "folks" sometimes (and intentionally used "us guys" this ep)?

I did like the one-stupid-trick about the Kaylons was that their creators gave them "pain" as pretty much the only stimuli to operant on. Everything was learned in avoidance of pain, of course they're going to see others in the same light.

That could be an interesting short story; a society with uniquitous synthetic intelligences created using only positive stimuli to establish conditioning, and how that could turn into a nightmare. Lust, greed, envy...
posted by porpoise at 7:42 PM on July 14


I'm extra disappointed in the Planet of Reverse Sexists right after an episode exploring the journey of a trans teen. Even if you take as a given that all aliens map exactly to human sexual dimorphism, how does this society deal with trans people, intersex people or nonbinary people? And why does this universe try to map them to human sexual dimorphism? The Moclans in particular make no sense with that model -- what does "female" mean if two "males" have the inherent biological ability to mix genes and bear children? In what meaningful way does a Gelatin have gender?

The justification also gives me shades of the whole thing with the Kelpians from Discovery which was problematic there, too.

I theorize that the Kaylons themselves turned the emotional subcircuits into the "off" position and deprioritized those parts in subsequent design updates. Not every household would have been as awful as the one we saw in the flashback, and based on the behavior of the assistant, there likely were biologicals who realized that they were looking at emergent AI and would have been on the Kaylon's "side" up until the mass murder started. Clearly, though, the Kaylons decided that their only option was complete genocide. How do you handle the resulting feelings of guilt on the part of the individuals who had to murder friends and allies in the interest of the collective? Turn off your emotions.

Though now I want at some point to encounter a low tech world and discover it's made up of essentially the inventor species' Mennonite population who made an off-world colony just before the homeworld extinction and saw the whole thing as divine retribution for the sin of pride.

For the "positive reinforcement" I recommend the Galaxy Quest fanfic Artificial Devotion which explores why you'd need someone whose only job was to repeat the computer.
posted by Karmakaze at 8:18 AM on July 15 [4 favorites]


When they were poking around Kaylon circuitry and said “this could be a made into weapon against the Kaylon” do you think it’s like a kill switch or maybe… feelings themselves as a weapon: the mother of all guilt trips?
posted by Monochrome at 6:13 PM on July 15 [2 favorites]


I felt like this was one of the better episodes the show has delivered so far. There was a lot of throwing-shit-at-the-wall, but a lot of it stuck.

First off, because I am a basic bro, the dumb luggage gags were so extremely weird and tone-deaf that I had to admire them for sticking to the physical gag long enough to make me laugh despite myself. It was so, so stupid, and yet they managed to tickle my feather. Good job, I guess.

Part way in I was guessing that we'd see Issac grab the brass ring of "gut feelings and human emotions" and it wouldn't work out for some twisted O. Henry reason: Claire would sacrifice everything to give Issac emotions to find out that Issac had feelings but didn't have feelings for her — and then there would be The Big Plot Reset, where, because techno-babble reasons, we'd revert to the status quo except for the characters learned a big life lesson.

But it didn't quite work out that way, thankfully. We got a taste of the romantic potential between Issac and Claire and we still want that to work out eventually, somehow. It didn't work out this time for reasons that are pretty relatable in our sloppy, unpredictable, everyday, human lives. Claire asked Issac to try to be more than he could imagine and he tried and failed for reasons out of his control.

It feels like a safe metaphor for when romantic feelings betray us and just disappear, leaving us high and dry, and then we're suddenly renegotiating/rethinking all our intimate relationships. Real life is messy; strong feelings are tricky.

Anyhow, instead of a simple, idealized romance story, plus the basic Ronald D. Moore sci-fi formula, there was a lot of nuanced give-and-take in this episode around unequal relationships. This episode looked at the unequal relationships between the Kalons and their creators/enslavers; between the males and females in the Janisi culture; between the intimate physicality of John and Talla trying, and failing, to have fun sexytime (and John's masculine identity of being tough enough to be a good lover); between the Moclans and every other gender-binary race, and between Ed and Kelly's romantic relationship history. All these relationships, and their hiccups, were treated rather sensitively, fairly, and thoughtfully for a show that traffics in dumb slapstick humor.

So, yeah, it wasn't a perfect episode, but they were clearly swinging for the fences and didn't do too badly.
posted by peeedro at 8:32 PM on July 15 [4 favorites]


I think the show has been remarkably strong this season, without a dud episode in the bunch. It says something that this episode, which was pretty darn good, struck me as a bit of a let-down after the one-two punch of A Tale of Two Topas and Twice in a Lifetime.

I continue to just not get Claire and Isaac's relationship, and to be a little creeped out by it. She keeps asking him to change for her, to be things he's just not. She even makes him wear a human face when they go on dates! The actors play the hell out of it and they make it work as well as it possibly could, but I just don't know how we're supposed to relate to them as a couple. What is an equivalent scenario, with human beings? In real life it's never OK for somebody to say to their partner, "If we're going to be together you need to make huge changes to who you are as a person... and you'll have to wear a mask so I can't see your real face." Yes, Isaac isn't capable of being offended by it, but it's still weird as hell to watch.

I think Bortus' remarks about the sexism of the delegates were supposed to be a gag, like he's a hypocrite saying that stuff when he comes from such a sexist culture himself. But the thing is, he's not really a great character for that gag anymore. We've recently seen him make huge changes, accepting his daughter as she is and rejecting all this BS he's been taught about gender. His annoyance with the delegates' closed-mindedness almost played like, "Ugh, was I ever really like that?" But I think it was supposed to be funny, unthinking hypocrisy instead, and if so it didn't work for me.

The whole misandrist delegate thing did feel like a bit of a throwback, and the ruse was kind of strained, sitcom-y stuff, but I didn't hate it or anything. My only real problem there was Kelly trying to use her infidelity to bond with the delegates. I'm not even sure how the delegates were supposed to relate to that. When the head delegate finally warmed to them a little bit, it almost seemed like, "Jeez, you people are obviously so desperate for a treaty that you'll try anything. OK, we'll think about it..."

Did you know, though, that women pack a lot of luggage for trips, and like white wine?

I don't think the luggage bit was about the delegates being female. I think it was just a sight gag about how the guys were being pressed into duty to haul luggage, and then it turned out to be a comically large amount of luggage. They probably would've done the same gag if the guys had been forced to schlep luggage for male delegates. And I don't think the wine thing was meant to be a joke. She just liked the wine.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 11:00 PM on July 15 [2 favorites]


I think Bortus' remarks about the sexism of the delegates were supposed to be a gag, like he's a hypocrite saying that stuff when he comes from such a sexist culture himself. But the thing is, he's not really a great character for that gag anymore. We've recently seen him make huge changes, accepting his daughter as she is and rejecting all this BS he's been taught about gender. His annoyance with the delegates' closed-mindedness almost played like, "Ugh, was I ever really like that?" But I think it was supposed to be funny, unthinking hypocrisy instead, and if so it didn't work for me.

I'm reminded that television production is extremely non-linear. The writers may have written these 2 episodes in the inverse of the order they aired, in which case it would have come off as funny, unthinking hypocrisy. But you are correct that in the order they were broadcast, it is out-of-character.
posted by mikelieman at 6:33 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


I read in an interview with MacFarlane that they filmed the entire season based on set/location and not by episode. I imagine it's hard to create an entirely consistent tone across all the episodes and have it make sense linearly, when everything was shot out-of-order.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 6:51 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


I thought this was great. I've been commenting the last couple of weeks how much I like the writing for Isaac, how they've kept him being truly alien. Well this is the week where Isaac (and Claire) get to experience him being less alien. I thought they did a great job on the story and I'm also glad that they reset things to the alienness before.

One subtle thing I picked up on and I'm not sure if it was intended; emotional Isaac felt pretty unhinged. Jacobson leaned heavily into the "I am feeling everything so much" aspect of Isaac's moment. Which worked well enough but it left me worrying that we'd end up with a manic Isaac if the emotion change was permanent.

The other nuanced bit of writing I liked was the structure of the Kaylon story, in particular how we're off-balance not knowing if there was some relationship between slave K-1 and the emotionally liberated Timmis. At first I thought maybe it was the same Kaylon and that somehow he'd killed his slaver family and was now merely pretending to be nice as some sort of revenge plot. I think that possibility was intended. But then it didn't quite land when it turns out that Timmis really is who he says he is. That could have used a bit more writing to cement.

I won't quite say this season is flawless but it is some exceptionally good sci-fi writing. The Kaylon story in particular has seemed very effective to me. And while I agree it was clumsy putting this sexist alien story against the intersex-allegory of the other sexist aliens, it's a testament to the strength of both stories that I noticed and cared.
posted by Nelson at 6:54 AM on July 21


Keyali and LaMarr were waaaayyyy too uninventive about how they solve their sex problems.

I thought LaMarr getting injured in previous episodes was a pretty bad joke, then they repeated it in this episode (groan) and then they broke up in a scene with LaMarr's face beaten, bruised and swelled up. It turned from "funny" sex injuries into laughing at physical abuse.

Compare and contrast that with the episode's heavy-handed "reverse sexism" and I'm starting to think this series wants to be progressive but because it's still run by the dude who did Family Guy, it feels regressive in so many ways.
posted by crossoverman at 4:14 AM on July 24 [1 favorite]


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