To help us recover from the gut-wrenching tragedy of last week’s episode, Orphan Black gave us a Hendrix-centered episode. While I love the anxiety-inducing drama the other sestras are always in, Alison and Donnie always bring much-needed hilarity. I always say the episode that hooked me on this show for good was 1.6 when Alison has the Bailey Downs party with Donnie tied up in the basement. Sooooo good.
Anyhoo, I like to think of this episode as a character study of Alison — her place in her regular life and how she fits in with her sisters. The flashbacks helped facilitate a lot of this as she dealt with the guilt of wanting more from her suburban mom life and wanting the freedom to take ownership of her life as a clone. The world of DYAD and Neolution thinks of Alison as more or less useless — Mr. Frontenac (in an attempt to scare the Hendrixes into revealing Helena’s location) tells her straight up that even MK had more value than her in death than she does in life. Later, even Rachel mentions how she doesn’t think much about her at all.
Alison spends this episode trying to prove her worth in her community that wants to leave her behind and also with her sisters. People walk all over her, assuming she is the most worthless sestra. But she’s arguably the strongest. She shouldn’t have to prove her worth. Remember last season when a Neo agent was dangling a maggot bot above her face and she was willing to let him kill her in front of Donnie before she would ever give up Sarah’s location? Yeah, Alison is bad ass and devoted to her immediate family, as well as her found family.
In the flashbacks, Alison has recently learned she’s a clone but is trying her damnedest to ignore it. But she can’t ignore the calls from Beth (BETH!!!!!!! Way to make me immediately emotional, show), who wants to show her more proof by bringing Cosima to her front door during a dinner-party-turned-magic-mushroom extravaganza with Ainsley and Chad. As we know, Alison is eager to blur her mind with a substance when confronted with the reality of her clone life. (She and Sarah aren’t so different, eh?)
So, when Alison meets Cosima for the first time, she is HIGH as a kite. It’s adorable and hilarious. If I had bet which clone would be high when meeting another, I would have lost terribly since Cosima is our resident stoner. But this leads Alison to have a bit of an internal crisis because she can’t ignore her truth. She lies in a pile of pillows with her former best friend Ainsley as they contemplate if there’s more to life than kids, barbecues, and Bailey Downs. It was really painful to see Alison and Ainsley actually being best friends. I was quick to write her off in season 1 because I was so annoyed by her nagging presence. But that was Alison’s best friend. And she let the clone world consume her so deeply that her paranoia took over, causing her to let her best friend die. That’s so terribly awful.
She has to confront this head on once again as she tries to regain control of the community Fall Fun Festival. No one trusts Alison after Donnie’s been arrested for drug trafficking and Alison’s been in rehab. Ainsley’s husband Chad, who Alison slept with, is also there with his children. It’s a reminder that her actions had terrible consequences. By letting Ainsley die, she left two children without a mother. Chad doesn’t help when he tells Alison he feels responsible because they slept together. If they hadn’t, Ainsley wouldn’t have kicked him out, and he would have been home to rescue her from death. To deal with all of this, Alison turns to what she knows best: pills. She takes the edge off and finds her former dealer Ramon, who gives her a bunch of booze and weed to smoke. She just has a complete and total relapse. But who can blame her with everything going on?
Meanwhile, Rachel wants Helena and her babies for further experimentation because she believes they may be even more valuable than Kira. So, she sends Art and his partner to shakedown the Hendrixes even more for Helena’s location by searching the house for anything and everything. But really, it’s to plant evidence to tie them to Helena’s murder of the Pouchy family. And, of course, they start digging in the garage where a headless Dr. Leekie and a Castor are buried.
Donnie leaves Art to it and heads to the festival to perform his Scottish dance. He calls Sarah for help, even though she and Felix are on a time out from Siobhan. But Sarah is eager to jump back into the fray rather than sit and drink while Felix paints a portrait of her. After an argument with Alison, Donnie accidentally drinks a juice filled with pills that Alison had prepared for her festival nemesis. During his performance, the pills begin to take effect and he passes out with a hardcore thud. Alison’s nemesis makes a snide comment (“Looks like they’re both alcheys”) and Alison is just DONE. And when Alison is ready to give a speech that says “eff you” to everyone, she always delivers.
I’m sorry. I may have my demons but don’t you dare go after my Donnie. No, I know exactly what you all think of me. Well, I’m not just a boozer, I’m a pill popper too! That’s right, and half of you bought them from me! Don’t pretend you’re so innocent. You’re hypocrites. All of you, hypocrites! You know, I’ve given my heart to this community. And I can’t help but feel a little bit hurt that you’re pushing me to the side but, you know, I’ve atoned for my sins. And I have a life that is so much bigger than Bailey Downs. I am part of a sisterhood that you couldn’t even begin to understand.”
During this speech, she sees Ainsley smiling at her in the audience. I think that to her, this is her best friend’s sign of forgiveness and acceptance. And she can maybe move on from this life of trying to prove herself to people who don’t care about her when she has her sisters who do care and do value her.
Sarah reports that they’re halfway through digging up Dr. Leekie and figures that once Rachel finds out, she’ll be pissed and come after everyone. Donnie decides he’ll finally come clean about Helena’s location. But neither Sarah nor Alison want that. Everyone seems to be at a loss but Alison has a new plan. “I’m going to make myself useful for once.”
Alison brings Dr. Leekie’s head in a bag for Rachel. She figures coming clean is better than Rachel finding out a different way. “It was an accident. Dr. Leekie pushed Donnie over the edge, and he didn’t have basic firearm safety,” she explains. Rachel is shaken by the head of her dead father figure. But Alison stands strong. (This is one of those scenes where I forget this is the same person playing both characters.) She won’t reveal Helena’s location, even if she knew, and knows that the dead bodies will just lead back to DYAD and Neolution. Surely, Rachel’s new boss PT Westmoreland wouldn’t be too thrilled about that. So, Rachel backs down and calls off the shakedown.
I feel like I’ve been rattling around in my skin for some time. And I think I finally popped loose.”
Although Alison was successful at thwarting Rachel and protecting her sisters, she has some stuff to figure out. She tells Donnie she wants to go away for awhile. Not from him or the kids, but just to figure out who she is outside of her life in Bailey Downs. But before we leave the Hendrixes for a while (I assume they’ll be out of the picture for a few episodes), we get one of the sweetest send-offs ever. Donnie plays the ukulele while he and Alison embrace and tearfully sing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” If you don’t tear up during this, you might be a monster. It is one of my top scenes of the entire show. But this all leads to Helena’s location: she went back to her convent in the Ukraine.