We begin with a convoluted analogy that Brett Favre might appreciate, and not just because last night’s episode of No Ordinary Family was all about ethics, honesty, and allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct. My tortured comparison: The episode, entitled “No Ordinary Quake,” was like a high-powered football offense that receives the ball and develops a really promising drive toward the goal line—a few great plays, several first downs, a coach’s challenge that goes their way—only to stall after two sacks and an incomplete pass and has to punt the ball away. To be more plain about it: Last night was the first time this season that this solidly-produced, always-appealing dramedy left me feeling a little disappointed.
“No Ordinary Quake” was yet another riff on what is becoming one of the show’s go-to themes. Jim Powell spelled it out for us. “Honesty is more complicated when it comes to our powers,” the Indestructible Man said. And so it went that we got storylines about the tricky business of secrets—acquiring them, keeping them, doing the right thing with and by them. (The conspicuous Pride and Prejudice reference was especially instructive here.)
Mind-reading Daphne thought she had learned a big one when she happened upon a fellow student having an intense, tearful conversation with a teacher at a coffee shop. She used her powers and caught a stray thought that led her to assume that her school had a Mary Kay Letourneau situation on its hands. But Mr. Robbins wasn’t sleeping with Olivia—he had actually just terminated a slightly less egregious, short-lived dalliance with her mother, and the break-up wasn’t going well for anyone. Yet Daphne became convinced of her erroneous interpretation and tattled on the teacher via anonymous tipster note to the principal. This tepid conflict intensified as far as it could go, then petered out as the truth was made known and common sense prevailed. Mr. Robbins kept his job, Daphne apologized, everyone learned a lesson.
I think it’s time No Ordinary Family took Daphne to the next level with some more interesting, less Afterschool Special-ish stories. I’m also frustrated by how her powers work. You would think she could just tune into people’s heads and listen to the running commentaries that go on inside their brains. Instead, she can only “hear”—or only allows herself to hear—brief bursts of thought at any given time. That’s fine, but as it played out last night, this limitation seemed way too contrived. Ditto the deliberately phrased “thoughts” themselves, sculpted to lead Daphne to exactly the wrong conclusion yet capable of supporting the real truth. Just one more brain-scan, and I’m pretty sure Daphne would have sorted the whole thing out for herself. It was the super-powered gloss on a standard issue sitcom conflict (wasn’t this the basic premise of every episode of Three’s Company or Saved By The Bell?), and yawwwwn.
Meanwhile, Jim and Steph continued their respective investigations into the larger mythology of the show’s secret world of extraordinary people. With an assist from JJ, Steph and sidekick Katie decrypted Dr. Volson’s disc ‘o secrets, only to learn that… it needs more decryption. (Groan.) Meanwhile, Jim met another super-powered rogue living on the fringes of society, although I’m guessing her motivations are more desperate than nefarious: A woman named Rebecca Jessop, with the ability to produce concussive blasts of energy, i.e. “little earthquakes.” (I’d like to think the show was making a coy Tori Amos reference with her character.)
NEXT: The writers squander some interesting possibilities for J.J.