Alison's past and present struggles collide in a Hendrix-heavy episode
Credit: Ken Woroner/BBC AMERICA

After being basically sidelined for two whole episodes, we finally got ourselves a serious dose of Alison this week — and the mix of flashback and present-day dilemmas gave us greater insight into one of the original Clone Club members than we ever had before.

In an episode devoted almost exclusively to her, Alison struggled to reconcile the mistakes of her past (remember Aynsley?) and her feelings of inadequacy compared to her Leda sisters but came away the episode’s MVP. She stared down Rachel and won the battle — though, of course, it’s just one part of this whole big war.

Since the episode was so Alison-heavy, we’ll skip running the Ledas through our beloved Orphan Black Clone Status Hyper-Sequence Generator Calcutron and instead turn our focus to Mrs. Hendrix, the Fall Fun Fair, and Donnie’s, erm, interesting dance performance.

Flashback Alison
Before the season kicked off, Orphan Black’s creators teased we’d be getting more flashbacks this year, and here we have one that reunites Alison and Donnie with her old pal Aynsley and her husband, Chad. (Quick refresher for those who might be fuzzy on season 1: Aynsley was Alison’s neighbor and friend, whom Alison suspected of being her monitor — and because of that suspicion, slept with Chad and later did nothing when Aynsley’s scarf got stuck in the garbage disposal, strangling her to death.) Here, they’re having dinner together and everything is still rosy between the four of them — except for the fact that Alison keeps getting calls from Beth, who’s having trouble getting her to face facts on the whole clone situation. (She won’t even say the word “clone”: “We look alike, that’s it. This other C-word business, I don’t even know what to say about it. It’s hokum.”)

Beth thinks seeing another Leda might make her come around, and texts Cosima to have her drop by. Only problem is, Aynsley and Chad brought over some magic mushrooms — and Alison, likely as a means of ignoring Beth and all that clone business, decides to take a little trip. When Beth texts a now-very-high Alison and tells her to go outside, Cosima is waiting on her doorstep. Alison, needless to say, doesn’t react well — seeing another member of the Clone Club while tripping probably isn’t the best method of introduction — staring at her intently before cutting her off and scurrying back inside. (Cosima eventually realizes Alison is high, but to be fair, sober Alison probably wouldn’t have reacted much better.)

As we see throughout the episode, Alison was (and, in the present, still is) questioning the value of her suburban life and its merits compared to the other clones. “Why do I have this face? I could have been born with many faces — I could have been a cop or a scientist, but I wound up microwaving mini pizzas and chauffeuring kids to circus camp. Why this life?” she asks herself in the mirror. To Donnie, she adds, “sometimes, you look at me so strangely, it’s like our entire life is a lie.” (Pretty intuitive, considering she doesn’t know he’s her monitor or how far the Leda Project reaches.) He tries to explain it away as a bad trip, but she gets existential again laying on the lawn with Aynsley. “Do you think this is all there is for us, Bailey Downs?” Aynsley replies that their lives are good in this little suburb, but if Alison believes there’s a bigger purpose for her, she should trust that.

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Present-Day Alison
Alison is still grappling with her place amongst the other clones, and being stuck on the sidelines under Neolution control isn’t helping anything. When Donnie denies having knowledge of Helena’s whereabouts, she says, “Abandoned you, did she? Like you abandoned me in the woods?” Mr. Frontenac zeroes right in on Alison’s insecurities — Cosima is a brilliant scientist, Sarah and Helena are fertile, and then…there’s her. He adds, “As you go back today to your vapid existence, I want you to consider your worth, because even M.K. had more value than you.” Ouch.

On top of that, she can’t be part of the group’s touching memorial for M.K. (she and Donnie watch via video chat) and is upset she couldn’t do anything to save their sestra. It’s enough to make her want to skip the church’s Fall Fun Fair, but Donnie points out they’re the entertainment — he’s dancing, and they’re supposed to sing together. As she rifles through the craft room, lamenting the current state of her life, she comes across a bottle of prescription pills and pockets them — and then resolves that Nona Walker be damned, Team Hendrix will be there.

But when she arrives, Nona Walker isn’t exactly eager to see her — actually, she’d been warned Alison could try to commandeer the whole thing and tells her to quit while she’s ahead. Rebuffed again, she goes into a separate part of the church, pulls out the bottle of pills, and takes one — breaking her sobriety — and then dumps the remainder of the drugs into a bottle of juice in her purse. She first presents it to Nona as a “peace offering,” but then takes it back after the priest spots them making nice and praises her good deed. (Bullet dodged, but if a drug-spiked drink shows up in act one…) And a chance encounter with Chad and his kids at the church pushes Alison’s downward spiral even further. He muses that if Aynsley hadn’t thrown him out after learning of his and Alison’s affair, he might have been home and able to save her. Of course, Alison was there, but did nothing. So when she spots Ramon, her former dealer, she’s in a bad enough place that she accepts both a drink and a joint from him. Next thing you know, they’ve hijacked the bouncy house from all the kids.

Meanwhile, on orders from Rachel to push the Hendrixes even further in hopes they’ll share where Helena is, Engers (a.k.a. Detective Neolution) and Art come by the house and present a kilt-wearing Donnie — he’s highland dancing at the Fall Fun Fair, because of course he is — with a search warrant purportedly tied to the murders of Pouchy and his cronies (committed by Helena back in season 3). Unable to stop it and with a dance performance to go to, all he can do is ask Art to keep the cops out of the garage…because we all know what’s in there. Of course, Enger does go in there to plant evidence, but spots the patched-up cement on the garage floor first and realizes that buried bodies make for even better leverage. Cue the jackhammer!

At the fair, Donnie finds Alison and, realizing she’s not in a position to be of much help, calls Sarah with an SOS. Relieved she and Felix are en route, he grabs a beverage – yes, that beverage — from Alison’s bag and drinks the whole thing before heading on stage for his performance. Guess how well that goes. Donnie’s dancing goes from impressive to wobbly and then he goes down hard, giving the entire audience a view right up his kilt. Alison (who sees the empty bottle roll past from the wings and knows exactly what happened) rushes out on stage with Felix to help, and when she hears Nona Walker make a snide comment from the crowd, she calls her out on it — and the whole crowd, for the hypocrisy of judging her while many of them also bought prescription pills from her. She also admits feeling hurt that the town has pushed her to the side, but tells them her life is “so much bigger than Bailey Downs,” adding, “I am part of a sisterhood you couldn’t begin to understand.” (Thankfully, Felix cuts her off before she can say anything more. First rule of Clone Club – don’t talk about Clone Club.)

At Chez Hendrix, Art is not too thrilled about the excavation in the garage and Sarah points out it’ll be bad for all of them if Rachel finds out they killed Leekie. Conferring with the church contingent via phone, Alison comes through with a plan that doesn’t involve giving up Helena — a way to, in her words, “make myself useful for once.” She shows up at Dyad — unbelievably, this is Alison and Rachel’s first face-to-face meeting — and Alison reminds Rachel that she’s an OG Clone Club member who’s been part of this fight since the very beginning, even before Sarah got involved. And just as Engers strikes headless paydirt digging in the Hendrixes’ garage, Alison drops that missing piece on Rachel’s desk: Dr. Leekie’s head. “It was an accident — Dr. Leekie pushed Donnie over the edge and he didn’t have basic firearm safety,” Alison says, like that’s a perfectly logical explanation. Rachel says that if she tells her where Helena’s hiding, they’ll ignore Leekie’s body and the Castor clone also buried down there, but Alison calls her bluff — if they file murder charges, it still all goes back to Dyad and Rachel, and her new boss wouldn’t like all that attention on Neolution. Bingo. Rachel calls and tells Engers to stand down. You go, Mrs. Hendrix.

Back home, having faced down Rachel and lived to tell about it, Alison takes stock of everything that’s happened and decides she needs to go away for a while and see who she is “outside of all this.” (Hopefully, this includes recommitting to her sobriety.) But she and Donnie do get to sing that duet together before she goes.

Additional Genetic Material
-“I studied kinesiology!” — Alison’s retort when Mr. Frontenac questions her scientific know-how.
-Rachel has somehow gotten her hands on Helena’s medical records and knows about the one twin’s miraculous recovery. According to her, those babies could prove to be more valuable than Kira.
-Speaking of Kira, she won’t tell S or Sarah anything about her meeting with Rachel. (So far, all we see is Rachel clipping Kira’s nails — presumably for her DNA — and giving her a pet mouse. That’s an apt metaphor: A lab rat in a cage.)
-Also potentially symbolic: The mouse Rachel gives her is a spiny mouse, which can regrow its own skin and fur as a way of escaping predators.
-”Why does Felix insist on painting naked, Sarah asks? “It’s my process, and you have no influence on it.”
-”Talk to the bouncing hand, Donnie” — Alison.
-I never want to hear the words “found the squishy” ever, ever again.
-After S leaves Kira’s room, the kiddo goes into a drawer and pulls out a switchblade. What could she be using that for?
-And meanwhile, Helena is still safely hidden away….in the convent. Makes sense she’d return to territory she knows, but how long before she’s discovered or gets called back to her sisters?

Episode Recaps

Orphan Black

Tatiana Maslany plays half the cast of BBC America’s paranoid clone thriller.

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