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'No Ordinary Family' recap: Clear eyes, heavy hand(ed), can't lose?

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Image Credit: Michael Desmond/ABCIs it just me, or are any of you worried that No Ordinary Family wants to be the Grey’s Anatomy of superhero shows? (I’m filling in for Jeff Jensen this week, so you’ll have to settle for soapy medial drama references instead of comic-book ones.)

Think about it, though: In the halls of Seattle Grace, it seems like no medical case exists that doesn’t shed introspective light into the dark corners of the protagonist physicians’ minds. Similarly, last night’s “criminal of the week” story arc on No Ordinary Family was nothing more than an extended riff to drive home the Very Special Message to Jim that “family > work/hobbies/extracurricular crime-solving activities.” During Jim’s two conversations with the prime suspect, Tortured Vigilante Guy didn’t talk about his shooting crimes in Franklin Park, but rather, discussed his crimes of poor parenting against his late son:

* “One day you’re their hero, the next they want nothing to do with you.” (Get it? “Hero?” The subtlety didn’t slip past anyone, right?)

* “I lost him because I was so busy with work.”

* “I was his father, and I should’ve been there.”

* “I did it. I killed my son.” (Metaphorically, obvs.)

* “You love your kid so much, what the hell are you doing here with me?”

Cue lightbulb over Jim’s head: D’oh! I shouldn’t have canceled my Friday night camping trip with pint-sized, troubled, and curiously coiffed 14-year-old J.J.! (And then he wouldn’t have ended up at a boozy party for high school seniors!)

Such egregious hokum-pocus is a shame, because certain aspects of No Ordinary Family are as spot-on as they are entertaining. I love the fact that four episodes in, the Powell clan is still struggling to master their superpowers — and more importantly, struggling to merge these powers with their mundane lives.

That was certainly the case with Daphne, who used her mind-reading techniques the way you’d expect an insecure sophomore girl might: to discover the super-secret location of a party for upper-classmen. Unfortunately, the plane crash that gave her a direct portal into strangers’ minds couldn’t get her into their good graces, and she wound up getting very publicly crushed under some older mean girls’ boots. “We have a strict ‘no losers’ policy,” declared the blonde she-beast who demanded Daphne’s exit. Plan B — blackmailing the embezzling cashier at the liquor store to let her return to the party with a trunk full of booze — backfired as well. “No problem. You want some meth, too?” the guy asked incredulously, as Daphne brought her shopping basket to the register, then requested a keg of beer (preferably German!). I liked that the writers let Daphne fail so spectacularly on every level, and that she wound up getting escorted home by the police; it would’ve been more predictable, and far less interesting, if she’d at least managed to get the alcohol to the party before she got busted, scored some cool points with her peers. As it stands, Daphne remains at the bottom of the high school food chain, depressing proof that all the brainpower in the world won’t get you to the top of the social network. Not in high school, anyway.

J.J.’s story arc this week was silly fun, too. While he tanked last week in using his grad-student intellect to impress a girl, he had better luck applying it to the playing field after realizing that football is just one big math problem. “An ordinary differential equation supports this!” he told Daphne, as I rolled my eyes. I just wished the writers had given this plot line a little more time to develop. Really, the kid throws a single practice pass and lands a spot on the varsity team? And where’d he develop that power arm? (He is the size of his coach’s dog, after all.) I also don’t understand why Nefarious Eyebrows the Math Teacher has such a crazy obsession with bringing J.J. down. Okay, one out-of-left-field A+ on a test might indicate cheating; but what teacher would respond with vehement rage toward a kid who’d permanently turned his grades around? Either way, I would’ve expected Jim and Stephanie, who are by most counts a pretty devoted pair of parents, to put up more of a fight on their son’s behalf than to casually assume he was taking academic performance-enhancing drugs.

I won’t spend too much time on our superhero parents this week, seeing as how their stories were relegated to the background. Poor Stephanie did show an iron strength not bursting out laughing when her jealous colleague announced “I’ve been around the nucleotide block.” But how come spunky assistant Katie found it so startling that their “genetic spackle” predecessor stopped his research due to a little thing known as death? (Side note: Does anyone really believe the mysterious Dr. Bolton/Volson — I couldn’t make out which — won’t rear his geeky head before May?) And wasn’t it a working thesis that the genetic mutations in Stephanie’s wonder plant might be similar to what was happening in her own body?

As for Jim…he’s proving to be quite possibly the most ineffective crime-fighter ever, which is a realistic touch, considering his experience is in sketching, not catching, criminals. He managed to get spotted by the potential perp as he came out of the lineup room, made extended and direct eye contact with those passers-by in a darkened park, and did nothing to disguise himself dropping off that mugger at the emergency room (which you know has to be crawling with security cameras). As George pointed out, “If enough people say they got busted by Mr. Clean…” On paper, watching Jim’s crime-fighting learning curve holds all kinds of dramatic/comedic possibilities, but the writers will have to do better than that wretched scene of Jim feigning allergies and hiding his face with a tissue while sketching himself for those park walkers. I mean, extended games of peek-a-boo are a blast, but only if you’re under the age of three.

What did you think of this week’s No Ordinary Family? Did you like the focus on Daphne and J.J. this week? Do you think there’s more to Nefarious Eyebrows the Match Teacher’s overt hostility? (Could he be in cahoots with Stephanie’s boss or some other baddie?) Did you find the vigilante’s “I shoulda been a better dad” talk as heavy-handed as I did? And were you surprised Michael Chiklis was game enough to play out a scene where he was described as “no spring chicken” with a bowling-ball head? Sound off below.

Slezak on Twitter: @EWMichaelSlezak.