5 Point Discussions – The Orville Episode 9: “Cupid’s Dagger”

by Sage Ashford

The crew of the Orville is assigned to help out with an old conflict between two warring races in the hopes of finding peace, but when the man who broke up Ed and Kelly’s marriage appears on board too, can the two of them keep it together long enough to keep war from breaking out?  Remember, if you like this article and 5 Point Discussions, please share it online.  And if you have questions or comments, please hit me up on Twitter @SageShinigami.
1. Anachronism Watch: The opening of “Cupid’s Dagger” features a fairly noticeable anachronism, with Adrianne Palicki’s Kelly Grayson singing Journey’s “Any Way You Want It” during the ship’s karaoke night. Again, there’s nothing wrong with this it just feels like the Orville consists of a group of people who like singing the equivalent of hymns in their time.
Having said that, a much more noticeable issue is how they had the words to the song appear on a screen in front of her in some kind of futuristic font that popped off the screen. Certainly three hundred years from now we’d just beam the music directly to your short-term memory for quick recall, no? Unless they tried that and the constant beaming of new information to people’s minds caused their brains to like, explode or something…
2. When The Orville began, its attempts at humor were somewhat juvenile and easily the worst part of the show, even for people who were fans from the beginning like myself. At best they were worth a tiny smile, or an inward chuckle–but certainly nothing laugh out loud. Still, the more comfortable the writers become with the show, the funnier it’s become–this latest episode had more funny bits that landed than ones that missed. Specifically, the “elevator” joke was a perfect example of how to do a running gag that both made sense, progressed meaningfully over time, and all while only lasting a single episode. If The Orville can do more of that, and less of “this alien ejaculates blue goop from his head when he gets nervous”, then we’ll be in business.
3. For as much as I liked various parts of this episode, this is also one of the most poorly timed episodes I’ve seen air on television in a long while. After weeks of allegations of sexual harassment and assault, the way we finally reached a resolution for the Yaphit/Dr. Finn subplot is easily the worst way this could’ve ended.
From near the beginning of the series, the gelatinous alien Yaphit (played by Norm MacDonald) has been consistently hitting on the ship’s doctor, Claire Finn (Penny Johnson), despite numerous rebuffs. Finally in this episode, she takes a stand and demands that Yaphit stop making passes at her or she’ll report him for harassment. The story really should have ended there, but instead, because of some weird “Who needs consent?” pheromones that I’ll get into in a second, Dr. Finn winds up artificially attracted to Yaphit.  Before you know it, by the middle of the episode Claire has all but abandoned her children in order for her and Yaphit to bang one another’s brains out. It’s the kind of joke that might have been legitimately funny a few weeks ago, but in the current climate feels hard to even uncomfortably chuckle at.
4. My problems with this episode don’t end with Yaphit and Finn, though. This whole episode is fraught with issues regarding consent, right down to the center conflict.
This week, Ed and Kelly are meant to welcome a group of warring aliens of two different races from the same planet. They’ve been arguing over who the planet REALLY belongs to for centuries, and now they’ve finally discovered an ancient artifact which could tell them which race was actually on the planet first. The Orville is tasked to attempt to mediate the conflict between the two in the hopes that they would learn to share the planet, while also allowing a scientist capable of analyzing the artifact the time to complete his work. The scientist turns out to be a familiar blue alien known as Darulio.
If you’ll remember, Darulio is the alien who ruined Ed and Kelly’s marriage at the start of the series, and as expected, his arrival quickly destroys all the work these last eight episodes have done repairing their relationship. And while Kelly visits him early in the episode to swear things off and say she was sorry it ever happened, a strange thing happens. Before she can leave, she starts blatantly flirting with him, and by the time they switch scenes, it’s obvious the two are going to wind up having sex with each other.
For Ed’s part, he’s somewhat clear-headed this episode, only staying angry at the guy for being on his ship while otherwise remaining calm…until Darulio and Kelly’s tryst causes her to miss welcoming the two alien groups to their ship. This makes him angry enough to fire Darulio, only something equally strange happens to him–before he can kick Darulio off the ship, HE winds up blatantly flirting as well.
Initially, I believed it was the device they found secreting some kind of love chemical in the air, which would’ve been miles better than what it turns out to be: Darulio’s race of people goes through a “heat” period, wherein they secrete a pheromone that makes them irresistible to anyone they come into contact with. He shook both Ed and Kelly’s hand when he came aboard, so they’re both crazy about him. He trips over Yaphit, and because he can absorb pheromones due to his unique biology, when Yaphit comes into contact with Claire, they wind up having freaky gel sex.
Combine this with the crew of the Orville being generally incompetent on even the best of days, and Darulio’s “innocent” search for a mate nearly leads to war between the two races on board, as they find themselves constantly ignored, with the head crew members even skipping the arbitration meetings THEY suggested. All this because Darulio’s aliens are a race of people who manipulate those around them to have sex with them every so often. Yikes.
Even the resolution to the conflict only comes when they use Darulio’s pheromones to cause the two leaders of the alien tribes to fall in love with one another, which is the most short-sighted and absurd solution I’ve ever heard of. They messily try to write it off by saying the artifact uncovers that they both have ownership over the planet due to sharing a common ancestor, but I just can’t figure out why you’d forcibly cause two people to have feelings for one another that you know will wear off?
5. The end of the episode also reminds you that, in the end, this show HAS to be about Ed and Kelly getting back together. Because television is still obsessed with the “they will” answer to “will they or won’t they”, ultimately they’ll both learn to get over what broke them up and start dating again, and it’s entirely possible I won’t hate that. But at the same time, I do wish they weren’t so weaselly about it.
At the end of the episode, Kelly asks Darulio if he was in heat the first time they had sex, and he suggests that maybe he was. But judging from Kelly (and Ed’s) behavior, it’s doubtful that’s what happened…and it’d be a cheap solution if it was. Sometimes you make a mistake, and you have to live with that. Which, to be honest, is much better than this solution, where she was coerced into having sex with the same guy twice because of alien pheromones.
The Orville is available for streaming on Hulu and airs on FOX on Thursday nights.

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