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ORPHAN BLACK Recap: Variable and Full of Perturbation Just.Changed.Friggen.Everything.

Alright, listen: I know we usually do the clone diaries here each week, but this episode of Orphan Black? This one is different in a B-I-G way, and as such, deserves a separate approach. Because — and mega super spoiler alert if you haven’t seen the episode — we have a brand spankin’ new clone and he’s not anything like the rest of the sestrahood: that’s right, I said he, because Tony is trans*.

So in the first 3 minutes of this episode we have the reveal that not only is there a new clone on the scene, but that Tony is trans* and it all somehow involves Beth Childs. Welcome to the trip once more, Clone Club. We’re getting down and dirty in the nature versus nurture, gender and sexuality debate now, kids!

Which is always — at least in part — what has made Orphan Black so fascinating. We’re living in messy times, my friends, in terms of identity on a sexuality and gender-specific level, constantly bucking the status quo and attempting to turn the tides regarding what it means to be human in a long-held two-pronged system that maybe is nothing more than outdated at this point in history. Times, they are a-changin’ — and FAST! In that way this episode, “Variable and Full of Perturbation” feels particularly relevant: we’re in it now the only choice is to move forward (damn it when hate when Delphine is right) at 10,000 miles per minute.

Seconds in we were introduced to Tony, a trans* clone with long hair, a bit of a stubble, and yes, a penis. Tony — formerly Antoinette Zwicky — identifies as a man but simultaneously bucks even that gender binary. He’s altered his biology and reproductive organs (read: shoots himself with testosterone, has a penis) while simultaneously expressing his gender in a non-traditional way. Showing up with Art at Felix’s doorstep after he made a call to Beth’s old cell phone, Tony had a message that also blew another hole in a different kind of long-held belief system: that Paul is a “ghost” (whatever that means), just like Tony’s friend/monitor Sammy was, and for Beth to keep what little faith she had in him. O RLY?


Conveniently, Paul has also gone missing — Rachel cannot find him and he’s essentially disappeared without a trace. No movement on his passport, no sightings at his home: nada. Guess homeboy really is a ghost (and apparently a far more adept one than we’d previously given him credit). Now is that melting cheese I smell or some sort of government conspiracy?

None of that prohibited our forward momentum, though: prior to the arrival of Ethan Duncan to the DYAD, Rachel let Delphine know that super-dead Dr. Leekie had a heart attack on one of their private planes and, how convenient, will no longer be the acting director. Naturally, Delphine was all-too-aware of what that meant: somebody killed Dr. Leekie, so there’s not much time left for Cosima. (We’ll get back to her in a minute.)

As for Dr. Duncan, a few bombshells were dropped on his end as well. Starting with the fact that Sarah Manning was technically considered a “failure” to the project because she was able to reproduce. You see all the clones were made infertile by design — something that, as evidenced in the dream sequence, upsets Rachel to her core. All this time what Rachel really wanted was a family of her own. What made Sarah Manning different was not some supreme success on the geneticists’ part, but rather a mistake.

Sometimes accidents are happy for a reason, folks.

And sometimes mistakes are truly better overall. I mean just look at Donnie and Alison’s relationship, eh? Who knew: their dual confessions to being accidental murderers actually brought them closer together. Those two crazy kids might just make it after all. Now all that’s left is figure out how to take care of a dead Dr. Leekie in the back of Donnie’s trunk. Go Go Super Housewife Mode, Alison Hendrix: go!

The most anxiety-inducing part of the episode came at the end, though, when Cosima, having just met her maker Dr. Duncan, falls into a blood-spewing seizure fit of the most terrifying order. WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE SAVE COSIMA?

Theories, Thoughts, and Things

– For more information on the differentiations, similarities, and differences between trans*, transgender, and transsexual — please click here or here.
– For as liberal and open-minded as we are, we are NOT OK WITH FELIX AND TONY MAKING OUT.
– Sorry it’s just too weird because of how much he looks like Sarah.
– Is it mean that we think it’s weird? I mean even Tony called him a sister-kisser!
– Another week without Helena. What will next week’s return to the farm hold?
– Anyone else think that Kira’s going to somehow absorb all that biologic clone genome information simply by perma-reading The Island of Dr. Moreau because she’s some crazy genius kid?
– Also the choice of that book, given the new addition to the clone club, feels particularly chilling and not in a very good way, does it?
– Do we think the clone experiment was more nefarious than simply “seeing if we can do it?” because I do.
– There’s no way this is the last we’ve seen of Tony, right?
– Overall this was a pretty Sarah Manning Lite episode. But considering how engaging the rest of the character’s storylines are right now, we’re not complaining.
– Until I’m told otherwise I choose to believe Cosima’s near-death stuff is a red herring.
– If any clone is going to die our money is on Rachel.

What do you think about Tony? Will Cosima live or die? Let’s discuss it in the comments (or on Twitter if you like)!

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  1. Saskia Scott says:

    All the really interesting bits were right at the end.. Paul being a ghost — I did a google search, and it turns out there’s such a thing as a Ghost Army… the US had one in like WWII I think, and basically they pretended to be the real army as a distraction. I think once DYAD started taking over the cloning, the military released some ghost soldiers as a trick to try and take them down. Paul is one of the ghosts. I also think he might have already known about the clones. That’s why he believed Sarah as soon as she told them she was a clone – he already knew it was true.
    Also, all those notes in Duncan’s book that Kira was reading at the end. What do they all say? Someone needs to take close ups of them. I think there’s a code in the book, as well as obviously drawings of some of the genetics.
    The Dr Moreau reference made me click to something that has been suggested earlier on the show, apparently – they’re crossing animal and human DNA. They must have wanted to breed super humans for the military. The Leda myth also suggested this, and also there were a couple other references apparently that I didn’t pick up before. Very intrigued by this episode! Can’t wait to see how they wrap this season up.

  2. This was not a great episode. I just feel the story lines were pieced together a little sloppily, just like Tony’s press and paste facial hair.

  3. Joan Harris says:

    I agree with your post, like the link to educate people re:trans issues, Tony will def be back, He can’t get a cameo pass cuz this IS def more than a clone experiment.  And they can’t kill Cosima…I don’t think this show is going to have GOT shocking murder of favs moments (like the Red Wedding in GOT).  This is THE best show on TV & my biggest frustration is NOBODY I talk to around me knows what it is.  I found out about it from my daughter in Norway. Come on USA, jump on board for the best TV experience there is!!!

  4. Leila says:

    I hope Cosima survives!!! she’s my favourite clone!!