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Orphan Black 1×05 & 1×06 “Conditions of Existence”/“Variations Under Domestication” Recap

1×05 – “Conditions of Existence”

“Conditions of Existence,” is all about realizing that Orphan Black’s clones are more than just one thing.Individual women with different histories, yes, but also science experiments that someone has a vested interest in, and wants to watch closely.

And so, that’s where the existence of monitors come in.

But first, we’re given a shot of Helena in surgery (of sorts), while Alison slaps her husband away from making a move on her. The power that Alison holds in her life (while the rest of it spirals away from her) is over her home and her family. She rules in her household and over that neighbourhood, and it’s the one thing that she can control in her life. So when she begins to suspect that Donnie is her monitor… The paranoia that she keeps hidden away begins to slip through the cracks.

Sarah, meanwhile, is dealing with Paul, whose suspicions finally have proof, after he notices that Sarah’s missing a scar that Beth had behind her ear. But sarah’s own suspicions are mounting, after she wakes up to ‘dreams’ of being taken into a medical facility for testing. She throws up an electro-magnet in the bathroom, and realizes that they weren’t dreams at all- and that Paul has to be involved.

Photo: BBC America

Paul’s loyalty is a confusing question on the show, but there are hints scattered throughout that with Sarah, he wants to get away from the life that he trapped Beth in. But that doesn’t mean that he deserves that right, especially when the clones realize that they really are lab rats, and that Paul is instrumental in that: for both Sarah and Beth, who, Sarah realizes, was monitoring Paul as well.

Sarah entreats Felix to help her find the equipment, knowing that there’s a lot to lose here, because as Cosima tells her: “If the subject was to become aware it would either be a ‘eureka!’ moment… Or I would terminate.”

And while Sarah searches for evidence of Paul’s betrayal, so does Alison. And although she doesn’t see him talking on the phone about her moods, we get the full scene which confirms her paranoia. She searches through his drawers… But only after he burns the proof of his monitoring work, replacing it with adult DVDs. It’s still inappropriate, but not on the same level.

Paul meanwhile, like your typical ex-military stalker, follows Sarah to Kira’s school, texting her photos of the two of them as blackmail to come and meet. Because he wants to kill her? Or because he’s fallen for the new-Beth? Sarah, to be honest, couldn’t really give a shit about Paul’s feelings, she just wants anyone who’s threatening her daughter gone. Especially someone who kept Beth trapped the way that he did.

“It’s me this time.” “I know.”

Cosima, on the other hand, purposefully walks into the path of her monitor: the newly introduced Delphine. It’s fun to see more of Cosima outside of just the webcam, and being able to fully see her nervous, almost manic movements is a joy. Instantly, the pair have a connection… And it seems different to that of Paul and Sarah’s. Delphine’s treated as something far more dangerous than Paul in episodes to come, but she certainly doesn’t have the unpromising (to say the least) background with another clone that he does.

Vic, meanwhile, is back to cause trouble, after his finger is chopped off (remember that coke Sarah stole from him?), in a scene reminiscent of Jaime Lannister’s de-handing… If It weren’t for the “I’m good” croaked out afterwards, and the complete lack of bravery. He’s got the snark down though, whispering to Alison’s kids to “stay in school,” after a run in with them at the pharmacy, where he confuses Alison for Sarah, and gets pepper-sprayed because of it-because Alison is the best. Sarah pays Vic off with Alison’s money, but he makes sure to tell her that this isn’t the end.

But back to Paul: he and Sarah finally get their issues out in the open, and it’s so, so good. Sarah isn’t pretending anymore, and neither is Paul. They’re not the people that they’ve been trying to be for each other, and it makes for a much more interesting dynamic when that’s out in the open.

“You’re a plant, and she killed herself because the man that she loved didn’t love her.  How could you do that to her?”  “You think I had a choice?”  “…Just tell me why.”  “They don’t tell us why.”

1×06 – “Variations Under Domestication”


Ever been so mad that you’ve knocked your husband out cold?  Well, Alison has.

“Variations Under Domestication” isn’t really an episode where a lot actually happens… It’s just a whole lot of fun. Continuing on with the trend of monitors, the episode focuses on Alison’s life, and whether or not it’s her husband that’s spying on her.

With her ‘nanny-can’ she spots that Donnie got up in the middle of the night- and went where? She doesn’t know, and when he avoids her questions, she hits him over the head so hard that he’s knocked out. Alison then dragging his unconscious body out of the entryway is hilarious, her tying him to a chair in her craft room sealing the deal.

Alison doesn’t seem dangerous, but push anyone far enough the wrong way, threatening what they love… And they’ll push you back. (Or just lose it a little bit.)

The problem is, that on the day her husband’s tied to a chair downstairs? They’re supposed to be hosting the neighbourhood pot-luck lunch at their house.  Cue Sarah and Felix, here to save the day- as a fake-Alison and the bartender, respectively.


So while Alison proceeds to get drunk upstairs, Sarah gets the truth out of Donnie: that he’s not her monitor, and that he got up to watch the cricket. And those documents he burned? An ex-girlfriend’s love letters. Sarah doesn’t let him off lightly though, reminding him of exactly what he has with Alison when he gets snarky with her, behind that pretty, pink blindfold of his. And what he does has: a house, a family, a stable life… It’s everything that Sarah doesn’t have.

But then again… She does have hot Paul after her, so that’s something, yeah? He traces her to Alison’s house (the military man is on the chase; all feelings have been put aside) but he’s not the only one, Vic turning up as well, thanks to Felix leaving his computer open in his unlocked loft with the address.

Paul, while looking in on Donnie tied up, sees Vic threatening Sarah upstairs through the nanny-cam, and goes up there to join the party- and ends up with a gun at his back, Vic demanding a share of the profits for whatever scheme they’ve got going.

Vic, however, has no idea who he’s dealing with, getting a nail gun in his other hand for his efforts. He won’t be trying to make anymore contact with Sarah after that ordeal.

Which is where Ainsley comes in (Alison’s best friend and newly suspected monitor), Sarah-as-Alison quickly pretending that Paul is just her…  bit on the side. (Paul himself having a bit too much fun playing the part, for Sarah’s liking.)


But by this time, they’ve made it. The party’s over, and Sarah gets to go home- to Paul’s. He wants the truth, and has spiked whiskey to get it out of her. But as he’s pouring, Sarah lets him in on it. She tells him that they’re not twins, or triplets, but that she, Beth and Alison are clones. Paul’s been monitoring a science experiment, the results of which go to a man called ‘Olivae.’ He puts back the altered whiskey and grabs another bottle, taking a swig of it first as if to prove that this is safe.

Sarah let Paul in, and now he’s doing the same for her, in a small, subtle gesture. He’s protecting her, as he’ll continue to do in the future episodes.

Cosima’s back in the flesh this episode too, attending a lecture on ‘neolutionism’ with her monitor, Delphine. And what’s neolutionism all about? The evolution of the human organism- through cloning, perhaps? Delphine’s relationship with the professor seems to suggest so.

“Self-directed evolution: a human right,” he tells the audience. Cosima eyes him sceptically, and with those sets of scenes we’re reminded that Orphan Black has more than just its suburban antics going on.Not that I didn’t love them, episode six being an all-time favourite of mine, but there are still crimes to solve and mysteries to unravel, from further afield than Alison’s desperate housewives neighbourhood.

Although don’t worry, Ainsley and Donnie will be back as Alison struggles to keep her life separate from the science.

Memorable Quotes

  • “I have three simple words for you: Rio de Janeiro.” And I have two: PAUL’S ABS.
  • “I was just assaulted by a disgusting thug who thought I was you!” “What did he look like?” “I don’t know… Urban.” “…What does that mean?” “…Not white.” Welcome to my recaps for Orphan White.
  • “Is every man in your life a complete wanker, except for me?” Pretty much, Felix.
  • “Stick to the science, Cos.” “Stick to the science? What am I, the geek monkey now?”
  • Alison’s angry, and it’s a little bit heartbreaking: “YOU TURNED MY LIFE INTO A BIG, EMBARRASSING LIE!”
  • Not a quote, but I loved the spice girls music in episode six. Actually I just loved episode six itself a stupid amount.
  • “As long as the subject makes her own choices there are no wrong decisions.” Olivae’s a creep, yo.
  • “You’re the only person I can talk to, and you’re just another version of me.”