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Orphan Black: Variation under Nature

“Welcome to the trip, man.”

If you weren’t already hooked on this marvelous show, I’m willing to bet you are now. This was an outstanding episode.

Beginning with Alison’s almost murder of Felix and the revelation that Sarah and her doppelgängers are clones, this episode doesn’t let up on its frenzied pace. Katja’s mangled remains are found in a quarry. “Beth” is reinstated. “Beth” is benched. Sarah learns to shoot. Katja’s killer calls the police station. Plot heavy, but not short on character development, “Variation under Nature” is a fabulously written episode.

We get to spend a little time with Cosima this week. She is cute, sweet, and curious. There’s really nothing to dislike about Cosima (at this point, at least). Cosima’s a PhD student at the University of Minnesota studying evolutionary developmental biology. Thank God one of the clones had some scientific expertise. Otherwise, everyone would just be in the dark.

Paul is still a relatively unknown quantity. Not much time is spent on him and he just seems to be Beth’s bland boyfriend. He shows up this week for some clean clothes and ends working Sarah up for revenge’s sake. Thankfully, he knows something is different with Beth. He just doesn’t know what that is. (Psst, Paul! She’s a different person!)

Sarah finally has everything she wants. She has the $75,000 and a perfect opportunity to abscond into the night with her daughter, but something stops her. What is it? Mrs. S’s words of wisdom? The knowledge that the money she so gleefully stole belongs to another living person? Sarah isn’t bad. She’s made some highly questionable choices in the past, but something in her has changed. Perhaps it’s the knowledge that she comes from somewhere, even if that place looks to be some crazy scientist’s lab. She’s always had Mrs. S and Felix, but now she’s a part of something bigger. She has sort of sisters who need her. One of whom is on the loose and clearly off her meds.

So it looks like Katja’s killer is another clone. This one is blonde, has scars that form wings on her back (shudder), and is currently impaled by a piece of rebar. She’s also, apparently, a religious freak. The Bible verse she had scrawled on her wall (“You formed my inward parts. You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”) is from Psalms 139:13-14. Interestingly, she does not kill Sarah after she finds out that she is not Beth. Why did she stop? It’s clear from Katja’s death and the attack on the woman she thought was Beth that crazy clone is killing the other clones. Why not kill Sarah?

Bits and Pieces:

The title of this episode, “Variation under Nature,” is a chapter heading from Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species. Variation under nature is divided from variation under domestication. The former refers to changes species undergo naturally, while the latter refers to changes in species that are cultivated.

Sarah’s Beth accent is getting better, but still isn’t perfect.

Mrs. S birdwatches. A nod to Charles Darwin and his finches?

The University of Minnesota is one of the US’s best research universities.

I wish we’d seen more of Felix’s adventures in babysitting.

The screeching music that plays when the crazy clone appears is very creepy, but they overuse it.


Alison: “We’re clones. We’re someone’s experiment and they’re killing us off.”

Cosima: “Sorry. I wanted to float that whole clone thing a lot softer.”

Cosima: “You just broke the first rule of clone club.”
Sarah: “What? Never tell anyone about clone club?”

Felix: “Clones? Clones!?”

Felix: “Dreadlock science geek Sarah? Arguably more attractive than your evil Sarah.”
Sarah: “Yeah, I was there, thank you.”

Sarah: “Just answer me one thing.”
Cosima: “Anything, yes.”
Sarah: “If we’re genetically identical, do you get that little patch of dry skin between your eyebrows?”

Crazy Clone: “She was just one of a few, unfit for family. Horse glue.”
Compare this to “I’m a few, no family too. Who am I?”

Gemma: “Look Mom! We’re cross dressers!”

Felix: “You cannot hide in minimalist furniture!”

four out of four lady-grip Walthers
sunbunny, who is probably not played by Tatiana Maslany


  1. Even though the first two episodes were very good, this was the one that did it for me. Up until now, I liked Sarah and admired her focus: all she wanted was a new life for her and Kira. But when Alison revealed the money from Beth’s account was hers, I kept wishing through the rest of the episode that Sarah would do the right thing. If she didn’t, then how could I root for such a selfish protagonist? I was afraid the writers would have her leave with the money and find a way to bring her back to the clones plot, but they really made the right choice there. Heck, having watched the rest of the season, I see now I never should’ve doubted them. They are completely on top of their game.

    I was disappointed at first with the revelation that the clones were someone’s experiment. It’s such a simple premise. In fact, while watching the second episode, I thought “please, don’t let this be a government experiment. And don’t get aliens in the mix.” But, like I said, the writers are so on top of their game, they really know how to make the whole story work, both character and plot wise. Take for example (one among many) that whole sequence of the crazy clone shooting Art, then Sarah persecuting her, then the clones fighting each other and the crazy one escaping, leaving Sarah behind. The entire thing was so awesome and tense.

    I will praise the writers once more with one little thing that makes a world of difference to me: they give us answers. I’m a fan of Alias, but words cannot express how disappointed I got throughout the series, especially when the writers where lacking on actual plots and started dropping random words that we were supposed to care about (“there’s a Passenger thing. That’s important”, “there’s a Horizon thing. That’s also important. Please, do care, we’re getting somewhere with this. We promise”). I was so disappointed by Alias’ final episode (at least as far as the Rambaldi arc goes) that I promised myself I would only commit to Lost if its fans liked the finale. And as that show went along, people kept saying it was a collection of questions, just like Alias but worse, so I decided “it’s not for me”.

    Sorry for the rant, I needed to get if off my chest. Back on Orphan Black, what I really like about its several arcs is that the writers don’t come with a vague plot thread and throw a bunch of questions on our faces. The questions come naturally, and we do get answers! Yay! In a way, I felt very secure while watching season one. The Powers That Be clearly had a very layered mythology built, and it shows and gives you confidence to go along with the ride.

    No praise is enough to compliment Tatiana Maslany. She rocks. And Felix rocks too. His babysitting of Alison’s children and his reaction to Paul and Sarah’s make out section were hilarious.

  2. I knew from the beginning that it had to be clones, partly because I'm a sci-fi fan and partly because there's a book by Ken Follett that has a similar plot (guy runs into someone who looks exactly like him during the commission of a crime, realizes there are others, etc. -- it's called The Third Twin and has interesting things to say about nature vs. nurture).

    That said, I was still deeply impressed with this episode. Maslany is in every scene, sometimes twice and occasionally three times, and you just buy that they are all different women. That's amazing acting, and requires a whole lot more than different hairstyles and costumes. I liked how smart Sarah is (the fact that the clones are all brilliant must be important!), flirting the IT guy into helping her "remember", watching Art for clues and doing what he does, getting weapons training from Allison. The scene where she was chasing the "bad guy" who turned out to be another clone was so strong because you could just feel how totally lost Sarah was, how she was just frightened and untrained in that sort of situation no matter what a quick study she was.

    I also really liked that she (1) saved Art, (2) decided to make the right decision with her daughter and (3) decided to return the money to her "sisters".

    Also loved Felix getting the kids to dress up in drag. And now I like Art, too.

    Terrific review, sunbunny.

  3. First time I saw the killer clone (or should that be clone killer?) I flashed back to Buffy's hair nightmares from season 4. Honestly, I think these two had the same stylist.

  4. This was excellent! I'm really jealous of all of you having finished the first season already, and I'm excited to join the ranks of Orphan Experts in the next day or so.

    I knew that this show was about clones from the previews or just hearing about it, I guess. I wonder if I would stick with it through two episodes it I didn't know that. Hmm...

  5. I am fascinated by the nature v. nurture debate. It doesn't get much stronger than here. A multitude of women, all whom share fingerprints and (I assume) DNA, yet all of whom are completely different personalities.

    I have joined the ranks of the Maslany fan club. She is doing an amazing job giving each of these women different characteristics and traits. I find it fascinating to watch her act with herself -- no easy task, I am sure.

    While I wouldn't say that I am completely hooked on this show, I am interested enough in it to keep going. I do like the plot twists (the killer clone made me jump) and, as Lamounier says, I like the fact that we get answers with our questions. The writing is first rate.

  6. Evil cackle is right! How am I supposed to get any work done with you people recommending new shows all the time! Loving your reviews sunbunny.


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