November 9, 2017
There’s this planet that is inhabited by two bickering species, each claiming they were there first and therefore the other species should fuck off and die, please, thanks. To resolve this issue, some ambassadors from the two species and an ancient artifact from the planet are brought to The Orville, where the artifact is to be analyzed for ancient DNA: Whichever team’s DNA is found on the completely arbitrary artifact gets to keep the planet.
And to analyze the artifact, a forensic archeologist is sent to The Orville: namely the blue alien dude that Seth MacFarlane found in bed with Ex-Wife. Because we can’t discuss that particular plot point enough.
Everyone tries to keep it professional, but when Ex-Wife gets too close to Blue Dude, she finds herself drawn to him again and begins acting like a horny teenager, ultimately ending up in bed with him. But then! When Seth MacFarlane goes to confront Blue Dude, he finds himself attracted to him, too, and he also makes the sex with him.
Elsewhere, Dr. Finn makes the sex with the Mucinex monster, which I can only assume is the lowest point in Penny Johnson Jerald’s career.
Alara notices that everyone is acting crazy, and eventually, Blue Dude admits that his species goes into heat once a year, emitting a pheromone that makes those he touches want to make all of the sex with him. And through a series of improbable coincidences, the Mucinex monster also touched the Blue Dude making the Mucinex monster irresistible to Dr. Finn — and not Blue Dude irresistible to Mucinex monster. BUT OK.
Blue Dude uses his pheromone powers to make the warring ambassadors think they are in love with each other, and the artifact reveals that the warring species have a common ancestor and so everyone has a happy ending, especially Ex-Wife who is like, “HEEEEEY, WAIT, WERE YOU IN HEAT WHEN I DESTROYED MY MARRIAGE TO SLEEP WITH YOU?” And he just shrugs even though MAYBE HE OWES THE MACFARLANES AN ACTUAL ANSWER.
Look, I know perfectly well that this episode was meant to be a fun little farce about sexual attraction and finding common ground. I also know that this episode was written and filmed months before it aired and that the creators could not have possibly known what the political environment would be like when the episode finally aired.
While I genuinely believe this episode was made with the most innocent of intentions, it is still hard to watch a story about a male creature who knowingly takes advantage of people for his sexual benefit in today’s culture without cringing. Blue Dude is never presented as anything but a nice guy, friendly and outgoing (and under all that blue makeup, he’s none other than Rob Lowe) who isn’t going to turn away a sexual opportunity if it is presented to him — like most men, amirite, guys? HAR HAR HAR.
Except, the problem here is that Blue Dude knows perfectly well effect he is having on those he touches. But until Alara forces him to tell the others, he keeps this information to himself. It could even be argued that by deliberately touching Ex-Wife, he is actively stripping her of her agency and ability to consent.
(Not only that, but just from a storytelling perspective, it makes the root cause of the MacFarlanes’ divorce much simpler and less messy — if it’s not her fault, if she couldn’t control herself around Blue Dude, then does it negate all of the underlying problems in their marriage? While this is a “nice” solution that absolves Ex-Wife of wrongdoing, it also makes her, and their relationship in general, far less complicated or interesting.)
And I am fairly certain that these questions of consent and sexual assault are not what the writers intended to ask with this episode — if anything, I suspect the biggest question they intended to pose here was one about sexual fluidity and not shaming people for exploring their own preferences.
However, when every single day brings news of yet another once respected man forcing himself on women and men alike, it’s impossible to not view what should have been a fun lighthearted episode as something … else — a much darker look at power and rape culture and how we all normalize it with a laugh.
This show is still not good, y’all.
The Orville airs on Thursdays at 8 p.m. on Fox and I’ll never forgive you guys for this.