There are a lot of narrative styles woven throughout The Orville Season 2 Episode 3. Disguised as a bit of a mystery-turned-hostage-situation, it's also a family reconciliation story and a farewell episode.
After the lackluster outing of The Orville Season 2 Episode 2, this was a huge relief and, more than a return to form, this may have been the best bit of writing the series has offered to date.
Solana: I have a theory. I think the soldiers and the intellectuals all secretly want what the other has. The muscle wants the brains and the brains wish they had what it takes to clobber the barroom drunk who gets out of line.
Alara: Why can't a person have both?
Alara Kitan has been a core crew member since the series premiered. Young, deceptively dainty-looking, Lt. Kitan has, by turns, been the uncertain ingenue and the heroic muscle.
The running joke last season was Mercer sending her in to perform feats of strength, referring to them as "opening this jar of pickles" and relying on her consistently and without question to perform the duties of Security Chief.
His confidence in her abilities is a large part of why her clear affection for the captain has been so believable on a show where the relationships are contrived at best and mostly just awkward.
We met Alara's parents (played Star Trek alumni Molly Hagen and Robert Picardo) over the video communicator on The Orville Season 1 Episode 10 and their disapproval of her career choice was apparent then.
Here, we discover that it wasn't just her career they disapproved of. Her relationship with her parents is powerfully dysfunctional while she and her sister share an uncomfortable sort of affection.
I guess a lot of us look at people like you and we think that we're better, more evolved. But, you know I'm proud of you, sis.Solana
Her parents' unsupportive, patronizing role in her life is a major reason she pushes herself as much as she does. A fact Mercer verbalizes after meeting them (just before expressing the desire to punch Ildis in the nose).
However, at the core of it all, she WANTS to love her family. It's just that she's spent twenty years feeling like an outsider and really can't see a way in.
As settings go, Xelayah is indisputably beautiful (and deadly to humans as demonstrated first by the can-flattening experiment).
Malloy plays chauffeur a lot here, shuttling Mercer and Alara back and forth (and back again), and his most memorable line is in extolling the blissful glory of the planet and how it makes him hate himself and everything he comes from.
Y'know it's places like this that make me realize... God, I'm trash. My family's trash.Malloy
The mystery of the beach house is paced perfectly. Granted, most of us were probably distracted by the appearance of John Billingsley (yet another Star Trek credential) as Cambis Borrin.
The idyllic setting of the beach house with the implied threat of some sort of intruder painted shades of Cape Fear in my imagination initially. Of course, when Cambis reveals his true intentions, it's a chilling horror of a twist.
I'll admit to being surprised by the villainous Borrins although I should've suspected something with how smoothly they were able to insinuate themselves into the Kitans' house.
I don't know you. I never even tried to know you.Ildus
The fact the Borrins' late son was an anti-vaxxer shouldn't really enter into the debate on the merits of the episode but it is a jarring inclusion.
Its controversial implication is reasonably balanced with Ildis' explanation that their son could've been correct but his science was rushed and flawed. Of course, his parents can't be expected to respond to reason.
This season has had a plethora of latex-masked guest celebrities with both Jason Alexander and Will Sasso appearing on The Orville Season 2 Episode 1 but Patrick Warburton's turn as interim security chief, Lt. Tharl, may be a longer-term situation in light of Alara's departure.
Warburton, of course, has been a member of MacFarlane's Family Guy posse for decades so it's no surprise he's on board for The Orville. He of the dual esophagi and uber-casual observations feels like a good fit for the crew.
If he and Dann were to hang out a bit, I might even find that amusing.
My last captain had a total boner for me. Not a boner boner. A professional boner.Lt. Tharl
Continuity/logic glitches continue to crop up. Not sure how Mercer and Malloy knew where the Kitans' beach house was or why Mercer couldn't be beamed directly back to the ship when his gravity shield was damaged.
The big question we're left with is whether Alara's departure is permanent. If so, she'd be the first core member of the cast to leave the show.
With the potential Lt. Tyler story on the horizon, might Alara return to save the captain from a Krill threat?
There are rumors of a new Xelayan crew member. Could it be as simple as replacing Alara with another of her species?
Who else spotted the tips-of-the-hat to Final Fantasy and Dragon Ball Z? My inner(?) geek-girl is so in love with all the little details.
Could Yaphit be in the family way? And also, YAY! YAPHIT!
Grayson: Yaphit's six-month evaluation was last week and he asked what our parental leave policy is.
Mercer: Why? Is he thinking of splitting in half?
Grayson: We can't legally ask him that.
There's so much to check out here when you watch The Orville online this week.
Between the fantastic dramatic performances turned in by Picardo and Billingsley, the actually-funny little asides in the ship's housekeeping scene in Mercer's ready room, and that "awwwwwww" moment with the jar of pickles, The Orville really hit all the right notes in an ambitious bit of story-telling.
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.