ORPHAN BLACK Review: “The Stigmata of Progress”


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Airtime: Thursdays at 10PM on BBCAmerica
Episode: Season 4, Episode 3 (S04E03)


Tweetable Takeaway: The Neolution plot thickens this week on #OrphanBlack

This episode of ORPHAN BLACK was definitely a palpable gear shift, generating momentum for another explosive season. From Castor clones to dental implants to Helena’s possibly eidetic memory, we learn quite a bit.

First, we learn Rachel is still nasty. Castor is also a thing that’s still happening — a Castor clone performs an exam on Rachel’s new bionic eye in the opening. Rachel’s met her match — she’s dealing with the Castor version of her. A boy clone who grew up autonomous and has no attachment to any of his siblings. Or, for that matter, any sense of attachment whatsoever. He puts a needle in Rachel’s eye as their mother’s newest clone-daughter looks on. It’s delightful. God I missed this creepy show.

rachel eye ob 403

Cosima & Scott examine Sarah’s neo-worm. It’s not a device, but they can’t figure out what it does without studying it further — and since the neo-worm has a self-destructing mechanism that kills its host, remember? That’s gonna be kind of a pickle to do.

Rachel’s got quite the bouquet of Mommy issues. When Susan tries to help her up after a tumble in physical therapy, Rachel tells her to go to hell. Speaking of mommy issues, Sarah’s still not sure how she feels about Felix finding his. Siobhan tells Sarah that if Felix wants to look for his birth family that’s his choice and they have to back off.

Donnie checks Alison for the neo-worm. She doesn’t have it, but as Cosima explains the severity of Sarah’s predicament, Alison realizes she knows someone else who might… Dr. Leekie, whose dead body is buried beneath the Hendrix garage.

Sarah finds a drunk southern woman in Felix’s apartment who offers her money and thinks she’s a drug dealer. Felix comes in, still high. These two have clearly been partying all night. Sarah is none too happy when Felix introduces her as Adele, his biological sister. Let the territorial pissings begin! Sarah confronts Felix about being high while Adele makes herself a breakfast martini. Sarah tells Felix something important came up and he has to tell Adele to take a rain check. Felix, for the first time, refuses. He says he’s not going to drop all his shit again because Sarah’s short a sidekick. This truth hurts, and the two don’t part on good terms.

Donnie has Helena watch the kids while he and Alison dig up Leekie’s body. Sure, that is a totally normal thing that should go well…

Sarah finds her way back to the Club Neolution guy. She says she’s MK’s sister and just wants to talk. The guy’s ready to send her packing until he realizes Sarah has the neo-worm. He says there’s a bunch of theories about what it’s for: bio-metric monitor, delivery system for insulin or narcotics. He thinks whatever the worm is for, it’s placed in the jaw because of the jaw’s proximity to the brain. He offers to help Sarah if she tells him more of what’s going on. He identifies the man in the Club Neolution video Sarah’s looking for is Alonso Martinez.

Rachel eats dinner with Susan and Ira, Susan’s Castor son. Rachel confronts her mother about failing to find the original. They’ve been bested by Sarah yet again. Susan reveals Charlotte, her new clone-child, was cloned from Rachel herself. Rachel tells her to get out, she’d prefer to eat alone. Mom and daughter get into an awkward-ass fight with the white-clad, oddly apathetic Ira between them.


Alison and Donnie dig up Leekie’s body. He stinks to high heaven, the smell makes them both throw up. Sarah comes to see Art, who’s still watching old security footage and thinking about Beth. She tells Art she has the neo-worm. They watch a video of the worm killing a host as it self-destructs. Art goes to the station to track down Alonso Martinez.

Felix and Adele get drunkity drunk drunk in a skate park under a highway. She asks Felix why he tracked her down. It turns out Felix’s mom was a dancer that he and Adele’s father had an affair with while he was traveling abroad. She died when Felix was young and he doesn’t really remember her. Adele says her mom knew about the affair, but not about Felix — that didn’t come out until he died. Adele that Sarah seemed pretty upset about Felix finding his family but Felix doesn’t care now.

Helena calls Sarah and tells her she’s having twins. Sarah’s touched and thrilled for her. Helena confesses she doesn’t want the kids to turn out like her. In the worst timing ever, two Detectives show up at the door, thinking Helena is Alison, and want to ask her a couple questions about a triple-homicide a few weeks back. Helena lets them in — completely unaware that Donnie and Alison are in the process of digging up a dead body mere yards away in the garage.

Donnie walks in on Helena talking to the Detectives and they ask him to join them. He excuses himself quickly and runs back to the garage to alert Alison, who’s still digging up the body. Alison quickly begins covering the mess up with a tarp. Meanwhile, at the Comic Book Store, S. leaves Cosima in charge of Kira, who’s been acting progressively weirder throughout this entire episode. Cosima snaps Kira out of a faraway daydream and Kira said she was dreaming. She saw all the aunts and Cosima set on eon fire “because she was changing.”


The Detectives question Donnie and Helena about the Posino family because materials from Alison’s campaign were found at the crime scene. Donnie keeps feeding Helena answers, which makes the Detectives suspicious. Helena gets asked a question about Alison’s campaign that no one thinks she can answer, but she pulls it off without a hitch. After they safely get the Detectives away, Alison and Donnie get back to business. They wonder how Helena knew so much about the campaign. Alison finally reaches Dr. Leekie’s body, which is kind of awesomely decomposed at this point — and she finds evidence of the neo-worm on one of his atrophied cheeks.

Meanwhile, back at Casa Gordon, Charlotte and Rachel draw together. We see they’re communicating in secret by writing on their canvas, because they know they’re being recorded. Rachel asks Charlotte if she got her message out and Charlotte says yes. She coughs up a little blood on the canvas. Rachel’s concerned.

Sarah gets a call from Art whose trail ran dry on Alonso Martinez. From the looks of it he high-tailed it to Bogota except for one trip back into town for a one-day clinic — on implants. Art sees the department shrink Beth saw before she died, Marty, and stops him. Confronts him about paying Beth a visit at home. Marty’s dodgy. Art is suspicious.

Donnie and Alison Skype with Cosima and debate about whether they can get away with telling her about the worm without telling her where it came from. Donnie confesses to Leekie’s murder in passing and reveals they have a neo-worm. Cosima’s stunned. Alison says if Cosima wants the worm, someone should come get it.

Sarah finds Martinez’s dental implant clinic and sneaks in. A nurse comes over, thinking she’s Beth, and confronts her about being here. Sarah fishes carefully, trying to figure out what Beth’s relationship is to the woman, and susses out that this one of the nurses who helped Martinez put the neo-worm in people. She reveals she knows how to get the worm out and tells Sarah to wait in the back.

Siobhan meets Ferdinand in the park at night, thinking she’s meeting Benjamin. Ferdinand confronts Siobhan about looking for Martinez. He’s figured out someone in Siobhan’s circle has a neo-worm, and his first two guesses are Kira and Sarah. Art calls, saying he can’t get in touch with Sarah. He knows she was investigating the dental clinic and is scared she’s in trouble.

Leslie (SIOBHAN MURPHY), Ferdinand (JAMES FRAIN) and Sarah as Beth (TATIANA MASLANY)

Our mystery nurse in candy-pink scrubs closes up the dental clinic and puts Sarah in a chair. She clamps Sarah’s jaws open and is sweet and deliberate with her but we can’t help but get the feeling that something is very very wrong. She explains that she’s penetrated the worm and Sarah can’t move without activating the worm, which will erupt and send a poison through her jaw. The nurse explains that Beth’s gotten herself in over her head and she had to call her superiors, who are on their way. A man arrives, brandishing a knife, and kills the nurse. It’s Ferdinand. He’s standing over Sarah, jaw still clamped open, and he knows she’s not Beth. He tells Sarah he heard from Rachel that Susan Duncan is still alive.

Susan is watching Rachel sleep, which isn’t creepy at all. She apologizes to Rachel for abandoning her. Rachel’s bitter that she chose to raise a Castor clone instead and Susan implores her to be kind (um lady do you know who you’re talking to? Rachel is the Blair Waldorf of Leda clones). Susan tells Rachel one day she may take over, but she has to be patient and recover. Susan believes Neolution’s purpose is to serve the greater good and create a perfect human being. Rachel doesn’t believe in good in general, I don’t think so this should be a pretty fun match to watch down here in clone ‘Night, Mother hell.

What gets my thumbs-up:

Revisiting Rachel/Susan and Castor Clone storylines in one fell swoop! I’ve been waiting to see how they’d pick up where that left off.

Alison and Donnie digging up Leekie’s body. That was too significant of a body to drop just once.

Alison: “My sister has a robot maggot in her face. You tell me what the solid plan is.” , girl. You’ve got us there.

Rachel’s relationship with Charlotte, Susan’s younger clone-child and a clone of Rachel hereself, is touching and kind of sad in a way and humanizes Rachel a little, thank goodness.

When Kira says to the Comic Store guy, “They never tell me when things are bad. But I always know.” Kira’s arc in general is fascinating this season: she’s entering tweendom with a neo-worm in her jaw, so maybe that’s where her weird Exorcist-like trance is coming from, maybe it isn’t, but I’m intrigued either way!

Felix discovering Adele and how threatened Sarah feels by her is so relatable. There’s no love quite like the love between a scrappy gal and her gay sidekick and for millenials, that bond can totally be worth cutting a bitch over.

Things that got one eyebrow up from me in this episode:

The dialogue, particularly Art’s, felt a little rote and expository this week. I feel like poor Art is in danger of becoming more of a convention than a character, as in “Hey! We need Sarah to get this tip or clue and we already had Siobhan, Cosima and Felix find something in this episode so… Art!” A show that’s capable of maintaining as many storylines and as many hijinks as this one can do better.

Kendall Malone… Was she just taking a nap this whole entire episode because: leukemia?

This episode of Orphan Black was the season’s most satisfying episode yet. With Rachel, Susan, Project Castor, and Beth’s old case all simmering in the pot together now, it feels like we’re back in the saddle and finally cantering. Whether it’s more decomposing bodies, needles to the eye, throat slashing, or something else creepy but totally badass, I can’t wait to see where this wild ride leads us next.



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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