Title: Orphan Black Season 5 Episode 7: Gag or Throttle
Genre: Science fiction, Biopunk, Drama, Thriller
Platform: TV – BBC America
Director: David Frazee
Writer: Renee St. Cyr
Release: July 22, 2017
Cast: Tatiana Maslany, Jordan Garvaris, Maria Doyle Kennedy
Feature image: Source
“When I was 6 years old, I became the only Leda aware of the other clones.” Young Rachel Duncan, Orphan Black
The late (but not great) Aldous Leekie (Matt Frewer) is talking to a group of Neolution bigwigs. They are there to meet Dyad’s prized exhibit, little Rachel Duncan (Cynthia Galant). Young Rachel: “When I was 6 years old, I became the only Leda aware of the other clones. Dr. Leekie shows me their files so I can understand how experiences determine traits.” Back to the present, grownup Rachel (Tatiana Maslany) is at a meeting with the board. P.T. Westmorland (Stephen McHattie) is on the screen bragging about the progress they’ve made and their new prized exhibit. He turns the proceedings over to Rachel. Rachel: “Our next phase with the LIN28A subject is biopsies of her liver, lungs, and stomach. You heard P.T. mention our modern day Eve. Here she is.” They bring Kira Manning (Skyler Wexler) into the room like a prized pig at the county fair.
Later, Kira gives Rachel a friendship bracelet. The gesture takes Rachel aback. Kira asks her if she ever gave anyone a friendship bracelet. She had in summer camp, but she never saw her again. Kira commiserates, because she and Sarah moved around so much that it is tough for her to have friends. Rachel is uncomfortable with feeling genuine human emotions.
“They’re doing it again. To another generation of women.” Siobhan Sadler, Orphan Black
Sarah Manning (TM) and Siobhan Sadler (Maria Doyle Kennedy) discuss Rachel forcibly taking Kira. Siobhan is unwrapping some firearms. Sarah: “S, we’re not storming the gates.” She reminds her mum that she always tells her to keep her cool. At the comic book store, Hell Wizard (Calwyn Shurgold) gets Scott (Josh Vokey), Scott thinks it is to play D&D, but instead it’s to let him know Cosima (TM) is back. They share an emotional hug while Charlotte (Cynthia Galant) tells them about their adventure at sea. They had landed and sent their boat back out to sea so Rachel and her Neo goons would think they were possibly lost at sea. As it turns out, Rachel tells Mr. Frontenac (Andrew Moodie) to keep looking for them, since Cosima has the cure with her. Cosima calls Sarah to tell her that Dyad plans to harvest Kira’s eggs. This news horrifies Sarah. Siobhan: “They’re doing it again. To another generation of women.” Cosima also informs them that Westmorland is a fraud; he isn’t 170 years old. Siobhan had a feeling he was a fraud. Sarah gives Cosima a new mission; find out who the bastard really is. Alison (TM) pops up on the call. She is still in California, but she is coming home. Siobhan promises to fill her in on what’s happening, and they advise her to leave her children with her mother.
Siobhan and Sarah discuss Westmorland being a fraud. If the people on the island bought into the Westmorland myth, maybe the board did also. They can use this information against him. In their lab underneath the Rabbit Hole, Scott, Hell Wizard, and Cosima go through the records of white male students at Cambridge University reported dead around the time P.T. Westmorland and Susan met and formed Neolution. Hell Wizard: “White Cambridge nerds, who died in the 1960s, present yourselves!”
Donnie Hendrix (Kristian Bruun) is busy trying to clean the house. Alison arrives with a new hairstyle and attitude. Donnie commits on her artsy, purple hair. Alison: “I wanted something creative and free.” When she was in California, she started studying Carl Jung. She is an open person now, who isn’t keeping what she feels inside and allowing it to come out in destructive ways. When Donnie goes to hug her and grab her buns, she is sensitive on one side. Alison got a tattoo to commemorate the new her, ‘Live Deep’. It looks like ‘Liver Deep’. Alison tells Donnie she is done with her arts and crafts. She is an artist now. She lifts a new keyboard out of a box. Donnie is confused that she is giving up on her arts and crafts, but he is excited about the keyboard. He wonders aloud if he should get a bass, when he doesn’t get a response from Alison, he changes it to a drum. Alison tells him to get what he wants, the new her is through controlling his life and telling him what to do. Donnie is confused now more than ever.
“You’re not exempt from the experiment Rachel.” Aldous Leekie, Orphan Black
Back on the island (I thought we were through with it), Rachel lays flowers on her mother’s grave. Westmorland walks up behind her and puts a hand on her shoulder. She tells him that Susan never believed in her, but he assures her he does. We flashback to her first meeting with Westmorland. He asks her to help him lead the Neolution movement. Rachel is sitting at a table with a document before her. Westmorland: “You are no longer 779H41 or Neolution property. This document legally emancipates you. No more monitors. You are free.” Rachel feels relived; a lifelong burden is off her. Back in the present, Westmorland takes Rachel to the basement to introduce Rachel to Virginia Coady (Kyra Harper). Virginia is pleased to meet her. She’d like her to change so that she can take a biopsy to find out if Cosima’s cure is working. Westmorland assures Rachel that Virginia wants to find a cure for the Leda clones too. Rachel is hesitate, but consents. Once she is in the medical gown, she sees on the monitor her old number, 779H41. We go to another flashback; Rachel is an adult with long hair. She is talking to Leekie. She is in a gown during another biopsy procedure. She is picking at her nails like she did when she was a girl. They are discussing sick clones. Rachel asks about her own medical condition. Leekie tells her he can’t discuss it with her. She demands he tell her. Leekie: “You’re not exempt from the experiment Rachel.”
After cleaning herself off, Rachel lurks outside Westmorland’s office listening to a conversation he is having with Mr. Frontenac. When he sees her, he slips a computer tablet into his desk. Westmorland orders Kira brought to the island after they harvest her eggs. Rachel argues that they can do the same experiments at Dyad. Bringing her to the island would cause trouble with Sarah. Westmorland accuses Rachel of getting close to Kira. Westmorland: “On whose behalf are you arguing now?” An escorted hooded figure walks down the hallway; Rachel asks whom the hooded figure is? Westmorland tells her the hooded figure is Virginia’s guest. The hooded figure is Mark (Ari Millen), the Castor clone who married and escaped with Gracie (Zoé De Grand Maison), the daughter of Henrik Johanssen, the Prolethean leader who Helena killed in season 2. Virginia tells the guards to take the handcuffs off him. Mark is there because Virginia promised to cure him. Virginia casually asks him to masturbate so she can have a sample. He also has another ‘present’ for her; he can help her find Helena (TM). At the convent, a nun leads Gracie to Helena’s room. Gracie stands over Helena’s bed, and Helena asks her, “What are you doing here?” Virginia later takes Mark to Ira’s grave, and she sadly says all his brothers are dead. He gives her a comforting hug and she thanks him for trusting her.
Rachel sneaks back to the office after Westmorland leaves; she takes the computer tablet out of his desk and sees her hand holding the computer tablet. Rachel realizes her eye has a camera in it and Westmorland has been spying on her the whole time. She looks physically shaken. Another flashback, Leekie is looking at an autopsy report on a clone, Miriam Johnson. He is shocked to discover that Rachel had her killed so they could do the autopsy. Rachel tries to justify her actions, but Leekie looks at her as if she is a hideous creature. Leekie: “What are you?” After Westmorland narrowly catches her in his office, Rachel flies back to Dyad. Once there, she immediately begins drinking heavily. She gives Mr. Frontenac permission to let Kira talk to Sarah. Sarah and Kira video chat, she tells Sarah a story about a mouse and an elephant who is sending the mouse to wonderland. Kira starts crying and Sarah tries to reassure her daughter they can write this story together when she gets home. After the conversation, an upset Sarah explains to Siobhan that the story was in code, Kira is the mouse, Rachel is the elephant, and wonderland is the island. They are taking Kira to the island.
Now drunk, Rachel watches the videotape of herself as a happy child. Westmorland calls to check in on her. He can see her drinking. She tells him she is okay and ready to proceed. Kira sees Rachel and asks, “Are you okay? Who hurt you?” Rachel responds, “All of them.” Westmorland’s face beams on the big screen and he says to Kira, “Hi Kira. I’m Mr. Westmorland; do you have any idea how important you are?” Kira begs to go home. He ignores her request and tells her he is counting down the minutes until they meet in person.
“She needs her family. You needed, you needed your family and he took them away from you as an experiment. Don’t let that happen to Kira. Let her come home.” Sarah Manning, Orphan Black
Cosima discovers who Westmorland really is, John Patrick Mathieson, the son of a rich Texas oilman. She relays her discovery to Sarah. Rachel is in her office mixing a sedative in Kira’s juice. Sarah emails Mathieson’s obit to Rachel. When Sarah calls him a fraud, Rachel replies, “Frauds. We’re all frauds.” Sarah threatens to send this obit to the board. Rachel tells her the board won’t listen to Sarah, the ‘nuisance clone’. Sarah pleads with Rachel, “She needs her family. You needed, you needed your family and he took them away from you as an experiment. Don’t let that happen to Kira. Let her come home.” Westmorland listens in. Rachel tells Sarah it’s out of her hand and hangs up. Sarah is devastated. Westmorland is pleased. Rachel walks into Kira’s room to give her the sedative. She sees her younger self in Kira. Rachel starts picking at her fingernails. Kira holds her hand and says Sarah does that too. She makes her drink the juice. Rachel summons Mr. Frontenac. She tells him Sarah is going to send a ‘false’ email to the board and for him to stop her. He immediately leaves. She looks at her necklace, but holds her phone to her side so Westmorland can’t see it, she sends someone a text without looking, and telling the mystery person this isn’t a joke.
Art Bell (Kevin Hanchard) shows up at Siobhan’s house and tells Sarah you won’t believe this. Westmorland continues to watch Rachel, so she pretends to meditate and puts an eyepatch over her eye. She gets a sleeping Kira. Frontenac and the Neo goons bust into Siobhan’s house. It is empty. He calls Westmorland, and he tells Frontenac to hurry back to Dyad. Westmorland sends an image to Rachel’s eye but she ignores it. She arrives at the back entrance with Kira, and Sarah, Siobhan and Art are waiting for her. Siobhan’s mouths thank you to Rachel. Westmorland send an image of himself to Rachel’s eye, and he continues to try to call her on the phone. Rachel goes to her computer and sends Mathieson’s obit to all the board members. Rachel steadies herself with another drink and shatters the glass. With the sharp end of the martini glass stem, she digs her camera eye out of her socket. Rachel slumps in her chair, covered in blood.
I never thought about it before, but the clone Rachel is most like is Helena. They were both raised by two dangerous cults; Rachel, Neolution and Helena, Prolethean. Both were taught to hate the other clones and see themselves as apart from them. Helena thought they were abominations and had to be destroyed, while Rachel saw them as property serving the needs of Neolution. Both suffered horrible physical and psychological torture, Helena’s being the most obvious. This episode showed what Rachel went through, and it might not have been outwardly as brutal, but still efficient. Rachel was deprived of her personhood. By being accepted by her sestras, Helena was able to overcome her upbringing (aside from a few homicides here and there). Rachel breaks free when she realizes that she wasn’t freed by the document Westmorland gave her, but she was still considered Neolution property. Having a camera in her eye monitoring her every movement was the last straw.
What also brought Rachel over to the light, was the hustle Kira pulled on her. I think most of Kira’s actions came from a good heart, but it was also calculated. The friendship bracelet, asking who hurt her, and holding her hands while Rachel was picking at her fingernails. Those were acts of genuine human connection, something Rachel has been deprived of. It helped her connect to Kira and eventually led to her freeing her. Good work little hustler; Siobhan, Sarah, and Felix have to be proud.
This was an exceptional episode, a great character study of Rachel. It was good having Alison back, she was missed. Liver deep Alison. Now bring back Felix. The story moved swiftly, and the final scene with Rachel taking out her eye made me squirm in the best possible way.
Rachel Duncan. I never thought I would ever be sympathetic to Rachel, but they did a great job explaining who she is, while not trying to excuse her actions. Here’s a link to an interesting story about the episode.
- Moon Knight: Steven Grant of the Giftshop - April 6, 2022
- Eternals: Through the Ages - April 3, 2022
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: Slackers - March 12, 2022