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Stephanie Watches Orphan Black: 5.07 “Gag or Throttle”

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Thanks to one of my die-hard Orphan Black friends, I’ve grown very fond of Rachel. She’s a thorn in the sestras sides for sure — and she’s done some truly awful things — but I knew there was always more to her story. And we delved deep into the Rachel psyche in this episode. We see why she is the way she is, what she truly desires in her life, and how this world has hurt her and used her for even longer than the rest of the clones we all know and love.

We see very young Rachel paraded out to DYAD investors by Dr. Leekie, as if she’s some sort of circus act. She recites clone tag numbers, including her own (779H41), and what she believes her purpose is. We see teenage Rachel getting examined with Leekie present and him refusing to share her medical results because she’s not exempt from the experiment. “Don’t patronize me,” she tells Leekie. We see maybe an early 20s Rachel who took it upon herself to kill another Leda clone because Leekie was waiting for her to die while Rachel believed her biology was too valuable to autopsy to get more information about the disease. He looks at her with suspicion in his eyes and asks, “What are you?”

As we know, Rachel was raised self-aware by her parents, Dr. Ethan and Susan Duncan, who she thought died in a fire. Turns out they abandoned her and gave her over to Dr. Leekie to raise. She came to see him as a father figure, even though he showed no trust and very little compassion for her. So, when her father, Ethan Duncan, returns and kills himself soon after their reunion, she’s lost yet another chance at developing a real father/daughter relationship. And when Susan Duncan returns, she does nothing but tell Rachel what a disappointment she is.

So, along comes PT Westmoreland to tell Rachel everything she’s ever wanted to hear from a parental figure, especially a father figure: You’re amazing, you should be in charge, you’re the daughter I never had, Susan was wrong, Leekie was wrong, how could anyone have ever doubted you? The list goes on.Not only that, but he allows Rachel the freedom she’s always wanted. She’s no longer just a tag number; she’s a real person.

You are no longer 779H41 or Neolution property. This document legally emancipates you. No more monitors. You’re free.”

And this is why Rachel trusted PT so implicitly, why she was so enlightened and happy in the beginning of this season, why she no longer needed to control Ferdinand through their sexual encounters. Sex with Ferdinand was the only thing she could control in her life; the only place where no one was watching her or making demands of her or making her feel like a test subject.

But she didn’t need that anymore. She not only had freedom, she had a fatherly presence that put her in charge, believed in her, and seemed to love her for who she is. Rachel’s not so complicated: she just wanted someone to love her.

But all this comes crashing down. Hard and fast.

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Rachel collected Kira at the end of the last episode. The two are chatting together and Kira gives Rachel a friendship bracelet she made. Rachel says she once made one for a friend. And Kira asks if they’re still friends. Rachel simply replies: No. This made me laugh for some reason. But it’s also proof that the Duncans attempted to give Rachel a normal childhood before their hands were forced to give her over to Neolution and DYAD to be molded into the cold, calculating woman she is today.

Sarah is frantic because she’s unable to contact her. S is ready to storm the gates but Sarah is the one who talks her down. This is such a different Sarah than we saw even last season. She was always reckless, rushing into things without thinking. But now the tables have turned. And this worries me about S’s fate. If Sarah has finally matured and is more or less taking S’s place in a leadership role, it deeply concerns me that S is not long for this world. And this thought will keep me up all week.

Cosima is back in the comic shop basement. She reunited with Scott in a scene that made me insta-cry. Plus, Charlotte’s there too. Can Cosima adopt Charlotte? They’re too cute together.

Alison’s back too! She’s got a new, artsy hairdo that completely surprised Donnie. It’s short, choppy, and purple-streaked. I think it’s adorable. Haters gonna hate but Tatiana can rock literally any look. She went to a Carl Jung retreat so she’s basically having a mid-life crisis. She’s giving away all of her craft supplies (when she grabbed the glue gun, there was a moment of extreme fear in Donnie’s face) and bought a keyboard. Not only that but she got a tattoo! #LiverDeep It actually says “live deep” but naturally Donnie misread.

I guess I should also mention Mark and Gracie are back. Mark is with Coady on the island. Gracie tracked Helena down at the convent. They’re probably scheming to kidnap her and take her to the island so they can harvest Helena’s babies’ eggs or something. UGH. THEY’RE THE WORST. Remember how Mark got Sarah kidnapped and Gracie nearly got Shay killed? The. Worst. A couple months before season 5 premiered, I had a nightmare that the new season was going to be all about Mark and Gracie. And now here they are! I don’t need precious screentime wasted on them, thank you very much. Because: Where’s Cal? Where’s Shay? Those are the questions I want answered. Anyway…

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Rachel returns to the island to pay her respects to her mother and Ira (Blair) who died at the end of the last episode. She meets Virginia Coady and PT orders her to have a surprise examination by Coady to ensure Cosima’s cure is working. While getting changed, however, she notices on the computer she’s still listed as Subject #779H41. This is unnerving for Rachel, but she carries on, allowing Coady to examine her.

Upstairs, she overhears PT talking to Mr. Frontenac about her, which raises even more suspicions. And she sees him put some sort of tablet away the moment he spots her. He orders her to bring Kira to the island while attempting to reassure sure that she’s still the one in charge. Master manipulating and gaslighting at its finest.

Before she leaves, Rachel checks one of the drawers in his office and finds that tablet. She switches it on and sees… what she’s seeing. The special eye that restored her vision, as well as granted her strange visions of the island, was put in place by PT. And he’s been monitoring her every move since he had it put in.

Rachel, who thought she was free from the experiment finally, free to be her own person, was even more deeply entrenched and monitored than any of her sisters. It’s a betrayal that Rachel has a hard time wrapping her head around. This man who claimed to love her and think of her as his own daughter has been in her head and forcing her hand. Not literally, of course. But through calculated manipulation. He learned about her through her own eyes and saw her in her most private, vulnerable moments. It’s beyond violating. It’s grotesque and makes me sick to think about. And Rachel literally can’t even.

Rachel returns to DYAD and goes straight for the vodka. She hitting the bottle pretty hard — well, pouring it into her martini glass pretty hard. Over and over again. She has no idea how to handle her discovery. She allows Kira to call Sarah. And through the series of codes they developed, Sarah realizes that Rachel means to send her to the island. “I love you very much and I’m so proud of you.” This scene hurt because Sarah knows exactly what she’s saying but she can’t betray that knowledge while still talking to Kira. She has to keep it together and be strong for Kira so she can figure out what to do. Oh, my volatile hot mess Sarah has grown so much. I love her.

Rachel takes her martini glass and vodka to her video rooms. She watches the home movies of her as a child with Susan and Ethan Duncan. She continues drinking. PT calls her because he can see that she’s drinking heavily and wonders if her resolve to send Kira to the island is slipping. She tells PT: “I asked Leekie if I could call him, dad. Isn’t that funny?”

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Kira is brought in and Rachel very dramatically shoos Simon away. Seriously, watch her. Her arm flail makes me so happy. But she’s ordered to give Kira the sedative to prepare her for transport. Kira just wants to go home and can likely feel how torn up Rachel is inside.

Who hurt you?”
“All of them.”

Ughhhhhhhh. This is so painful. Meanwhile, Cosima and the boys have been tracking down PT’s true identity. They find a guy who died in the 1960s and Cosima recognizes his face from the photo Ira gave her. She sends this to Sarah, who passes it onto Rachel and asks her to call her.

Rachel calls Sarah in a last attempt to plea Rachel to free Kira. Rachel is drunk, distressed, and numb all at once, yet she is still calculating. She is still plotting. She knows PT can see and hear everything. Rachel simply tells her: “It’s out of my hands, Sarah.” And Sarah collapses to the ground with no hope that she can get her daughter back from the island. No hope that she can save her daughter from becoming just another test subject.

Rachel prepares the sedative and returns to Kira. In Kira’s place, she sees her younger self. “Why didn’t you run?” she asks her. “Where would I go?” is her answer. Even if she escaped DYAD, she would still be monitored. This is probably why she resented Sarah and Helena so much. They lived for so long without this intense scrutiny. They were virtually free from the experiment, most of their lives. Even as an adult, Rachel feels as though she has nowhere left to go.

Throughout the flashbacks, we discovered that Rachel has a nervous tick. She picks at her nail beds and the sides of her nails when she’s anxious. I can relate to this. She’s doing it in front of Kira, who gently reaches out and grabs her hands to stop her. “My mom used to do that.” I LIVE for Sarah/Rachel parallels so I loved that. She seems to come to a decision and forces Kira to drink down her sedative.

She marches back to her office and very loudly proclaims that Sarah is trying to blackmail them with fraudulent information about PT. So, she sends Mr. Frontenac off to deal with Sarah and S. Once he’s gone, she turns her Neo eyes to her necklace while texting Art Bell in her other hand away from where PT can see. “I assure you this isn’t a joke.”

Rachel then goes to her meditation room and waits for several moments so PT can see she’s in there, then closes her eyes. AND PUTS ON HER EYEPATCH.

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God, I was screaming so many cheers for this. She goes back to her video room, where Kira is passed out and strapped to a bed. She wheels it out of the room down a long hall to an elevator that opens to reveal Sarah, S, and Art inside. While doing this, she gets a flash of PT in her eye that causes her to stumble. Not only can he see through her eye, he can fuck with her too — as he did with the swan visions.

Rachel gives Kira back, knowing the dangers that lie in trusting PT. She sees herself in Kira. She doesn’t want another little girl to succumb to the same world she was forced to endure. And mostly, it’s a great big fuck you to PT, who betrayed her. She’s taking away what he wants most. As the elevator doors close, S mouths “Thank you” to Rachel. S’s love and her sisters’ trust transformed Helena from a vicious killer to the Helena we know and love. I wish the same could be done for Rachel.

Rachel goes back to her office as PT flashes in her eye again. She pours herself another glass of vodka, ripping the eyepatch off. When she gets another flash, she smashes the martini glass on the desk in anger. She collapses into a chair and stares at the pointed stem. For a fleeting moment, I thought she was just going to shank herself.

But no, THIS HARDCORE BITCH uses the STEM OF A FUCKING MARTINI GLASS and CUTS OUT HER OWN EYE AS THE BIGGEST FUCK YOU IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. It was horrifying and disgusting but god, it was so amazing. I have chills and I’m getting emotional just thinking about it and this entire episode.

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Rachel’s journey was beautifully done through these visceral emotions Rachel experienced. And ultimately, she made the right call for her sisters. I’m so proud of her and also relieved we finally got to know more about her motives. I hope she continues helping her sisters from here on out. But who knows.

One final note: Rachel did all of the above while wearing that little blue friendship bracelet Kira made her.

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