ORPHAN BLACK Review: “The Mitigation of Competition”


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Airtime: Thursdays at 10PM on BBCAmerica
Episode: Season 4, Episode 9 (S04Ep09)

Tweetable Takeaway: Helena is back and better than ever this week on #OrphanBlack

Boy oh boy, I bet Rachel misses when swans were her biggest problem. In this episode of , Rachel and Sarah must reluctantly join forces to take Evie Cho down. They both need Evie gone, but Rachel’s not physically able to take that heaux out alone, and she wants to “use Evie’s villainy” to defeat her. Problem is, Rachel and Sarah are probably the two most immovably Type-A Control Freak Leda clones, so collaboration’s going to be an issue. Sarah insists they do the with her people, her way. But they’re not the only ones who are out for Evie Cho’s blood: someone’s emailing Evie blackmail with a damning video of a Brightborn baby being euthanized.


Art and Sarah’s hunt for answers leads them to a crime scene of a woman named Tabitha, who hung herself in her dorm room while 8 months pregnant. Sarah, undercover as Beth, get a tip at the crime scene that Tabitha was a Brightborn surrogate and her death might not be an accident; and that one of her fellow Brightborn surrogates, Kendra, is still in the wind. Art and Sarah find Kendra and her blind Brightborn baby hiding out and find out it was Kendra who sent the video of the baby being euthanized to Evie Cho; she’s still got it on her phone. Kendra tells Art and Sarah that some of the Brightborn babies are born “different,” and those babies get put down. Jake, her son, was born blind, and she’s on the run because she knows if they find her baby boy Jake they’ll put him down too. Art and Sarah try to convince her to come forward and speak out about what Brightborn is doing, but Kendra refuses. This is when Rachel takes matters into her own hands and orders Ira to put their “contingency plan” in motion: she blackmails Kendra by threating the safety of her other son, who’s with an adoptive family somewhere, unless Kendra and the baby come with her. Kendra submits, and we’re almost scared that crazy Rachel’s going to throw them before Evie Cho like lambs, offering Kendra, the baby, and the video up in turn for a place at the Brightborn table. Evie concedes — and then we realize Rachel’s recording this whole thing through a hidden camera in her necklace. Ira’s about to upload it to as many websites as he can. During Evie Cho’s press conference, the video of the Brightborn baby being euthanized appears on all the reporters’ phones. As the event descends into chaos, Rachel watches from the back of the room like a cat who ate a canary.

Meanwhile, on the Island of Dr. Moreau, Susan walks Cosima through fertilizing Sarah’s egg with Ira’s sperm. Cosima’s hurting and Susan notices. She offers Cosima the book of Neolution to read while she rests up. Cosima meets little Charlotte and they bond over being nerds together, looking through the tome of Neolution as though it were light summer reading. Cosima figures out how sick Charlotte is and confronts Susan Duncan about it later. They’re both hoping they can cure Charlotte, and soon: it looks like Sarah’s egg is fertilizing. But something tells me Charlotte is the Polyxena of these Trojan Women and won’t be making it out of the season alive.

Most importantly…

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YAAAS HELENA! This episode showcases Helena’s triumphant return. That’s right kids, Helena is back and badder than ever, rocking some fur pelts and a serious baby bump. She’s carrying a deer on her shoulders through snowy woods that I have no doubt she killed with her bare hands. She gives Sarah a call from an impressive-looking snow hut she’s holed up in. Helena’s also super-pregnant now, but she’s living a lumbersexual’s dream life in a hut that’s decorated like a fashion influencer’s apartment. Helena is hands-down the Marla Hooch of this League of Their Own: 100% Pure Badass, good intentions, so-so timing. Her waltzing into Felix’s apartment right in front of Adele was unfortunate, as it brought about at least a temporary goodbye between the two bio-siblings, but she couldn’t have dropped into the Hendrix home at a better time, that’s for damn sure.

Over in the Hendrix camp, Alison busts Donnie out of the klink and they head home to talk to his lawyer Adele. Everyone’s starting to figure out that making Adele Donnie’s lawyer was a convenient idea in the moment, but is ultimately causing more problems than it’s worth, because Alison, Felix, and Donnie must walk on eggshells constantly to prevent one another from accidentally inducting Adele into the Clone Club. They almost slip up when talking about Duko. Helena’s surprise appearance, and Felix covering his ass terribly by offering up the lame-ass explanation of “oops Sarah’s a triplet not a twin I forgot to tell you,” makes Adele rightfully suspicious. Adele confronts Felix, demanding the truth, and Felix refuses to tell her. Adele sees this act in itself as Felix making his choice, and she departs. Later, Alison’s freaked out about all the eyes on them and convinces Donnie to flee with her and the kids to Niagra. While Alison and Donnie prepare to flee to Niagra, a Neolution thug disguised as a paramedic takes Donnie hostage. He hotgies Donnie and puts Alison in a chair. Holding a neo-worm up to her face, he grills Alison for details about Detective Duko. But Alison Hendrix has balls of steel and instead of caving on her sisters, she preys to God to watch over her children. As she’s about to eat the worm, Helena busts in proving again why she’s *SO NECESSARY* and shoots the Neo-thug through the neck with a bow and arrow.

Rachel’s visions get worse and worse over the course of the episode, evolving from just a swan to now an old man leading her across a strange island. Soon we find out the sad truth about her swan friend when we see the old man lead Rachel to a campfire, where he grabs a nearby swan and gets ready to cut its head off. By the end of the episode, Rachel’s trying to convince Ira that her visions aren’t a glitch — the swan is trying to tell her something — sets up our end-of-episode reveal, which most of us totally saw coming, is that Delphine is still alive.


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This episode lands in A-letter-grade territory for me for 3 reasons: 1) Helena, CLEARLY. 2) Helena’s homemade fox-pelt hat, with feet and head still on it (LOL when Adele asks her what its name is) and 3) its storylines are balanced better than the last several episodes of the season. All our O.G. Clones have a meaningful arc; even Cosima, despite having very few scenes, has a fully developed journey when she must contend with Charlotte’s fate as well as her own, and her discontent with this plants potentially explosive seeds for next week’s finale. Alison’s crisis-of-faith arc felt extraneous and also not grounded in the rest of the episode; its inciting incident was when she tells Donnie that her musical’s going horribly because she can’t pray and feels her performance is inauthentic, but we never see any of this, so it’s not exactly the most visceral or memorable jumping-off point for the story. This episode felt grounded thematically in discussions of family, specifically found vs. chosen family: Felix must choose between protecting Sarah’s secret and gaining Adele’s trust, Kendra must literally risk one son’s safety to ensure the other’s, and I have a feeling Rachel’s whole “using Evie’s villany to defeat her” master plan is setting up some real A Wrinkle in Time shit in next week’s season finale, in which Rachel exploits her bond with her sisters to prey on Evie’s apathy and how it makes her vulnerable. Given all this and how nicely everything dovetailed together thematically, Alison’s crisis-of-faith storyline felt like an unneccessary distraction.

With only one episode left, I feel like a kid before the lights come up at Icescapades: what are we going to see? Who’s going to do cool tricks for us? I mean… Helena’s going to pop out these kids, right? Or at least start that whole process? And I love that Delphine is still alive and will probably reveal herself to poor sick Cosima and renew her will to live or whatever, truly I do, but with so much story to still knit together, especially in terms of the Brightborn of it all, is there a way to re-introduce Delphine without letting her upstage Leda even a little bit? Because the showdown I’m popping popcorn for at this point is between the Clone Club and Evie Cho. Damn, what a good Big Bad she is, you guys. I repeat what I said at the beginning of the season which is Evie Cho’s so terrifying because she’s so apathetic and detached — the complete opposite of our Leda girls, who are bonded by their experiences together as well as their DNA. My chips are on Rachel capitalizing on this difference to undo her; we’ll see if I get to cash in or go home hungry and bum a cigarette on my way out next week.


Ellen is a writer mostly because she can’t be a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race.

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Ellen Duffy | Contributor

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