On The Orville Season 1 Episode 7, the show really hits its sweet spot with an adventure on an Earth-like alien planet.
What starts out as a reconnaissance and possible rescue turns dire when LaMarr's impromptu grindy burlesque, using the statue of a culturally-revered historical figure as his own personal dance pole, goes viral.
There are a few fun little tweaks to the show's formula here. This is the first away team that isn't led by Captain Mercer.
Instead, Grayson is the ranking officer and for some (plot-driven) reason, Helmsman LaMarr gets a chance to stretch his legs. In really uncomfortable skinny jeans.
Grayson: I think you look good in skinny jeans
LaMarr: If I wanted to scratch my balls right now, I'd have to reach in my back pocket.
Grayson: Why are you sitting like that?
LaMarr: It's these friggin' jeans. If I lean back right now, I'd give myself a vasectomy
Of course, he's able to break in the jeans enough to easily get his pelvic-but-rhythmic moves on with a statue.
What we learn from this and from The Orville Season 1 Episode 6 is that Malloy and LaMarr should NEVER be allowed to hang out in alien environments where they need to keep a low profile. Malloy could not shut up around the Krill when he was nervous, and LaMarr apparently dry humps stuff when he's excited.
LaMarr's arrest puts Mercer in position even more uncomfortable than skinny jeans with Union Command and, hoping to get the go-ahead to pluck his helmsman from danger, he makes some pretty ambitious promises.
I will personally order him not to hump thingsMercer
For Star Trek aficionados, this was a homage episode that felt like an old friend with a bit of a face-lift.
In a salute to Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 3 Episode 4, "Who Watches the Watchers," the Orville comes to Sargus-4 looking for two anthropologists who have gone missing for a month.
However, instead of a primitive society with no concept of religion, the script then moves on to echo the film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and presents a planet almost exactly like 21st century Earth, right down to coffee shops and cell phones.
Instead of the away team worrying about NOT having non-human features, the inhabitants of Sargus-4 are identical to humans, leaving poor Security Chief Kitan to find head coverings that will disguise her "eight-pack forehead," ridged nose, and ears.
Lysella: What happened to your nose?
Kitan: It's a deviated septum
Grayson: She's a coke addict.
The distinguishing feature of Sargus-4 is its mob-rule justice system with every adult subject to the opinion of the population where the balance of up- versus down-votes determines whether you are considered a good or a bad person. Anyone else creeped out by how close to our reality that feels?
Mind you, Isaac sounds almost impressed when he sums up the system of justice Sargus-4 operates under. Malloy, on the other hand, is noticeably somber in comparing it to a "dark time" in Earth's history.
Grayson: We haven't seen evidence of any codified legal framework. It all seems subject to public vote at any given time.
Isaac: Captain, what she is describing is an absolute, unstructured democracy. There is no record of any previously discovered society operating in such a fashion.
Malloy: Government by American Idol.
Like some of the best Trek episodes, The Orville manages to wrap a serious message in the trappings of a space romp. It's not like we don't expect LaMarr to face some repercussions for his booty-shaking but it's a bit chilling to discover that Tom was killed and Lewis lobotomized for being UNAWARE they were not being courteous.
For NOT NOTICING there was a pregnant woman standing behind them, the men were condemned by public opinion to "correction." And that this is perfectly okay is confirmed by Lysella's explanation of how she was taught.
My dad always says the majority are the truth. I mean, you always know what the majority wants. That's what matters.Lysella
Again, to twist the plot of "Who Watches the Watchers" a bit, Lysella's first instinct upon exposure to inter-planetary visitors isn't to worship the crew of the Orville as gods. Instead, she is understandably awed but completely able to interact and assist them in their plan to hack the planet's Master Feed.
For me, this begs the question of why they couldn't just directly hack the votes. It couldn't be "legal" to hack the feed so how would it be any different to make the numbers acquit LaMarr of any wrong-doing? Heck, they could've voted him planetary Homecoming King if they'd wanted to. Well, if Isaac had wanted to.
That the fate of LaMarr's entire identity and intellectual ability ends up resting on four little down-votes that never materialize is a bit of a butt-clencher. His near miss still doesn't improve his diplomacy skills though.
I just wanna say, all y'all can suck ass, and I'm a space man.LaMarr
On first viewing, this was a straight-forward planet-of-the-week sort of piece but if you were to watch The Orville online and pay attention to the periphery, there are some tidbits dropped hinting towards long arc developments.
Kitan's relationship issues and her interactions with Mercer lead me to believe that they'll explore her crush on him more thoroughly in the future. It's bound to be awkward and funny and possibly lethal since she can, quite literally, CRUSH him. Or Grayson if she gets in the way.
Will we get to hear Bortus sing to his child?
Lysella: Everyone deserves a voice. That's what we're taught.
Bortus: A voice should be earned, not given away.
Does Mercer think pretzels are the intergalactic conference snack? I would've guessed he'd ask for pickles myself.
As the most experienced crew member, it isn't hard to believe that Dr. Finn has attachments to and relationships with other Union professionals and academics. This could be explored further.
After all, we don't know a lot about her beyond the fact she's not interested in pursuing a relationship with Yaphit. However, we have seen her offer advice and a variety of skills to assist her crewmates.
The Orville does here what The Orville does best, delivering some laughs with an exciting adventure and a subtle-but-not-too-subtle message of caution/advice. Best of all, it steers clear of time travel and war crimes. Woot.
Was this a solid return to form for you after a week's break?
Did this satisfy your sci-fi/comedy craving? Or are you still in search of Malloy's Manwich?
Does the Kitan/Mercer/Grayson triangle intrigue you at all?
Random thought: when the merchandising starts rolling out, it would be a crying shame if they don't make an Orville-shaped bottle opener.
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.