For a basically episodic series, The Orville Season 1 Episode 11 presents some substantial character development.
With LaMarr's promotion to Chief Engineer and the truth coming out about Grayson's involvement in Mercer getting the captain's chair, there's really no possible return to the status quo after this.
The neat thing about this episode was how unexpectedly important it turns out to be.
The standard norm is firmly in place at Chief Newton's going-away party where Mercer and Grayson were socializing easily and LaMarr and Malloy are up to their usual shenanigans.
Of course, the prank is typically juvenile and I have to say that, possibly for the first time ever, I felt bad for a Norm MacDonald character. Yaphit really gets yanked around here - physically, emotionally, and professionally.
I'm a little curious how Malloy and LaMarr managed to get a chunk of Yaphit without him noticing in the first place. If he could sense that it had been ingested, you'd think he'd notice when it was dropped on top of a piece of cake.
And the fact that it took feeding Bortus a sort-of conscious piece of a crewmate to discover the limits of his digestive system means that Seth MacFarlane's ability to carry a joke past the limits of good taste (hehe) is still very much a going concern.
To add insult to injury, suddenly Yaphit has to work closely with LaMarr, first on the preliminary anomaly investigation and then as part of LaMarr's team. Having to follow his orders has to be a hard thing to swallow, even for someone without an esophagus.
Mind you, eating could be seen as a secondary theme here, especially with the Horbarak's poor etiquette. The primary theme, of course, is pushing limits. At times the limits of our disbelief.
Although we see Yaphit working well with LaMarr when push comes to shove, it seems unrealistic to expect him to be totally okay with being passed over for the Chief Engineer promotion.
Yaphit: If we match the deflector amplitude to the quantum wave function, it should compensate for any field instability
LaMarr: I like when you talk dirty
Furthermore, LaMarr's acceptance of the responsibility of the Chief Engineer position after firmly establishing himself as the guy whose primary concern is whether he can have a soda at his station is a pretty wild gear shift.
Mercer's concerns about promoting LaMarr far above where he has shown any ambition to be is pretty sensible.
Kelly, he fed a guy to another guy. That's not something a department head does.Mercer
But Grayson is proving the queen of knowing what's best for everyone, isn't she? Even though she had no idea about LaMarr's high ability until she had to file a reprimand in his file (despite her duty as First Officer to assemble the best crew possible,)
Granted, she did encourage the Union Admiralty to give Mercer a chance at captaining the Orville in the first place. Keeping Mercer in the dark about it was ethically questionable but undeniably logical.
When she lets it slip by accident, she realizes that he's going to have to push his own limits to remain the reasonably competent captain he's proven himself to be.
Human ambition didn't vanish. The only thing that changed is how we quantify wealth. People still want to be rich. Only now, rich means being the best at what you do.Grayson
Her encouragement to LaMarr to utilize his impressive intellect isn't met with much enthusiasm despite the rather utopian side effect they describe regarding the invention of matter synthesis.
(It's an odd foible of the series that they can establish that money is practically ancient history but they can all still reference Doctor Who, Sesame Street, and Snoopy.)
LaMarr: I think we could create a stable quantum bubble inside the shuttle and preserve three-dimensional space.
Dr. Finn: So the outside would be squashed but the inside wouldn't.
Mercer: More space inside than out. Like Doctor Who's phone booth.
Grayson: Or Oscar the Grouch's can.
LaMarr: Or Snoopy's doghouse, yeah.
The other person I feel bad for here (not the Horbarak captain... he was gross) is Malloy.
He and LaMarr were a nice little Tweedle-Dee/Tweedle-Dum pairing on the bridge. Going forward, Malloy's gonna be the lone wolf at the helm although Isaac is probably willing to give "bonding" another try. Maybe Malloy will get that cat.
The "science" of the pocket dimension and the quantum bubble was painful to behold and reconcile. Sure, that's totally in keeping with Star Trek and other space-faring franchises but I felt like I should've had one of those nosebleeds by the time they figured out the plant and smuggler deaths.
This adventure can be best described as "contrived but necessary," I guess.
They needed Newton to leave to open up the position of Chief Engineer.
They needed the Yaphit prank to get Grayson into LaMarr's file to find out about his high aptitude level.
They needed a mystery space anomaly to investigate before they could promote LaMarr.
They needed a smuggler's ship full of Krill weapons to attract the Krill to force the Orville to hide in the two-dimensional world.
They needed Grayson's secret out so that Mercer would feel compelled to pilot the shuttle, giving him the opportunity to calm his insecurities as captain and to offer LaMarr the promotion.
They needed Grayson to verbally bitch-slap Mercer into waking up to how good they are as a team.
I want you and I to be okay but you are being a prideful ass.Grayson
And they needed Mercer to grow up enough to finally forgive Grayson. That little kiss on the cheek was just the right amount of open door for reconciliation.
It may not be the best script of the season - it certainly isn't the worst - but it was extremely FUNCTIONAL.
And when you watch The Orville online, notice how brilliantly they work the metaphor in of hiding a three-dimensional vessel (ie. The Orville TV show) in a two-dimensional space (ie. the comedy-spoof genre) to hide from the Krill (ie. TV critics)
As we eagerly await the first season finale next week, let's take a moment to reflect on a show that celebrates its camp while it forges new frontiers of satire and amputation jokes.
Which characters have been the biggest stand-outs for you this season?
What has been the biggest surprise about The Orville? Looking for both the good and the ugly here.
Where do they go next season? Do we want to see Yaphit's family reunion? Does Isaac get recalled?
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.