The Orville

“A Happy Refrain”

2.5 stars.

Air date: 1/31/2019
Written and directed by Seth MacFarlane

Review Text

Go big or go home.

That's the takeaway from "A Happy Refrain," in which Seth MacFarlane puts his money (well, Fox's money) and heart all-in on an hour of fanciful whimsy that will come off as either hugely affectionate or hugely self-indulgent, depending on your level of cynicism. Maybe both. Put me in the "both" camp.

I respect MacFarlane for having the guts to go so far out there and clearly dig so deep into his well of personal obsessions and put them out on the screen for everyone to see, even though this is the very opposite of cool. MacFarlane is clearly a hopeless romantic who believes in big, grand gestures as much as he believes in sophomoric jokes. The question to be answered is whether the concept can work within the confines of these characters. It tries very hard, and it comes close, but it ultimately falls short.

"A Happy Refrain" starts with the concept of TNG's "In Theory" (in which a crew member started dating Data), then filters that through an ode to 1940s screwball comedies, and then filters that through 1990s romantic comedy clichés and dialogue. All of this, of course, is set on a 1990s idea of a starship. In this take on the story, Claire has been developing feelings for Isaac (which has been quietly telegraphed over several episodes, so that's good) and tells Kelly she's thinking of asking him out on a date.

Does this work as an hour of The Orville? Kind of. It at times really made me ask what The Orville actually is, with its musical interludes and the courage to just take a character story and run with it, and only it (no side plots here). I tried, tried, tried to cave in and accept this for what it was. I almost got there. I laughed numerous times throughout the episode, especially at Bortus' mustache, which is unquestionably the most awesome/hilarious thing this series has ever done. (At the end of the episode the mustache is, sadly, gone; if there's a campaign to bring it back permanently, I'll sign on.)

But the core of the episode just never broke through for me, and the reason for that is Dr. Claire Finn. Claire just seems too reasonable to do the things the writers have her put herself through here. Claire and Kelly are, really, the only adults on this show. And Claire, as pointed out by the only other adult, is the wisest person on the ship. So I cannot account for why Claire wouldn't have predicted all the problems she and Isaac have in the course of this episode. And yet Claire seems surprised, over and over again. That's comedy, but it sometimes feels like it's at Claire's expense — or at least the expense of her sensibility. (I should add that this episode is definitely not mean-spirited.)

The problem is the same one I had with "In Theory": Isaac does not have emotions and Claire knows this, so the fundamental starting point of where this relationship is coming from and where it might go doesn't make any emotional sense. Sure, the episode tries to deal with this, but it cycles through so many iterations of failure that Claire ends up looking like a pawn in a very contrived conceit rather than a real person. That unfortunately is a significant problem, and why I can't bring myself to recommend this, despite its charms.

Here's an episode featuring a piano solo by Claire's son, a performance by a symphony orchestra in a shuttle bay, Isaac wearing clothes, and LaMarr continuing his Love Doctor role in advising Isaac on how to romance and then later break up with Claire. There's good stuff here. There's also plenty of relationship clichés that drive the plot and are only slightly satirized. There's also Bortus' mustache, which is hilarious on sight, and looks amazing. (That all the other characters hate it is, in my opinion, wrong.) And the sequence where Isaac makes himself a simulated human body is intriguing, and allows Mark Jackson to appear on the show without the robot suit (which I believe has been a liability for this character since day one). This leads to simulated sex that walks a fine line between thoughtful and uncomfortably silly. But MacFarlane takes us there, and it mostly works. Later, there's a good gag where Yaphit appears as an IRL Norm Macdonald to see if he can similarly pull it off.

But at the end of the day, the moments don't quite add up, and sincere intent is not a full measure of success. I could not suspend my disbelief because I didn't buy the underlying premise and Claire's responses within its confines. This ultimately feels like a thought experiment, not a woman falling in love with a robot (and within his ability, his AI methods of reciprocating). There are no feelings at stake.

It all comes down to that ending, in which Isaac makes it rain on the bridge to "Singin' in the Rain" and the episode closes on a drenched Claire and Isaac embracing. This plays as a fanciful concept, not as something actually happening to the characters. Emotionally, it's inert. A moment like that has to have you happy for the characters, not staring in bafflement. It may be the ultimate Your Mileage May Vary moment and perhaps a Rorschach test for the entire series: Can I accept a show that is a string of zany conceits played through its creator's personal meta lens, or do I expect something more concrete and believable? I see what they are going for here. But this episode wants me to be moved by the ending, and I wasn't.

Previous episode: All the World Is Birthday Cake
Next episode: Deflectors

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140 comments on this post

    This episode made me cringe throughout most of it.

    I appreciated seeing Bortus' moustache, Norm MacDonald, and the actor who plays Isaac, and Cheif Engineer's (can't remember names) suggestion on how to break up with Dr Kasidy Yates proved to be hilarious.

    But I had a hard time getting through this episode because I had a hard time getting past the Doctor's infatuation with Isaac. Perhaps I'm not very enlightened.

    Having said all that, I feel this episode was executed well enough.

    Aw, man. This episode was hilarious. That's what I've been missing from the Orville lately. But they delivered the goods this episode. That scene with Isaac sitting on the couch in his under shirt and drawers. lmao!

    The only thing this episode was missing was Isaac pulling out a Swiss Army Penis that vibrates at 30 million cycles per second. But other than that it was nearly perfect.

    I give it 3.5 lenny faces:

    ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) ( ͡° ͜ʖ

    I'll do a more thorough review tomorrow, kind of in a lot of pain atm (happy to be getting these kidney stones removed tomorrow) but anyways a classic old- school romance with the twist being Isaac's bluntness/ cluelessness. I enjoy seeing these characters interact every week, they feel like a real crew and a family.

    Bonus points for portraying going to the symphony as romantic, I certainly think it can be (with the right music programmed, of course).

    It was nice to be completely immersed in this world tonight, I needed that.

    3.5 stars. (What can I say, it's just my opinion haha).

    4/4 stars, for some relationships like this one can make some people uncomfortable watching this one. This episode is a standout from the series and worth watching if you are dating to a prom.

    The storyline was real strong in this one and Bortus jokes were hilarious. Seth really amped up this one to a new level. Sorry, this is not a kid's episode to watch.

    Is this the future of robotics that would cherish relationships with humans? The hologram idea was clever.

    I give it three stars. But not a "solid but not exceptional entertainment all the way through the episode" three stars. More like a mix of cringey stuff, exceptional moments (the dwarf stars, the symphony, the recital), and numerous funny gags The offer by...Dan, is it? to lend Isaac shirts sticks out, although there was something else later on that made me laugh REALLY hard, and now I can't remember what it was (not the underwear bit, although that was fine).

    SlackerInc, was it Isaac putting his hand out to say, "I only want to heat from Lt Lamarr"?

    Troy, that was pretty funny for sure. Not sure that was the one I'm thinking of, though. There were a lot of funny bits, but there was one that had me gasping.

    It must be hard to write and act this show and prevent it from turning into parody.

    Eh. Reminded me of some of the poorer quality TNG/DS9 episodes. In a way, that may ultimately be a good sign, however I hope the show cools it a bit with the episodes focused mainly on romance or past relationships or what have you.

    Personally, I loved this episode. I watched most of it with a big goofy smile on my face, and the ending made me a bit misty eyed. In general I feel like these character-driven episodes have become the main strength of The Orville. Their somewhat irreverent tone, and the greater humor quotient, gives them a chance to do things with Isaac that TNG never would have done when Data had a "girlfriend" in the episode In Theory.

    I also appreciated the inversion that took place over the course of the episode. When it started out it seemed like Claire was the object, and Isaac was the subject. That was interesting, but Claire's infatuation was building for some time, so it wasn't that surprising. But in the end this was really an episode about Issac. He was the one who ended the episode (we presume, since there is no reset button on The Orville) having made a realization about himself and grown as a person.

    3.5 stars. This is the best episode that The Orville has done yet. Aside from the clumsy technobabble scene Issac had with Mercer, the episode had no flaws.

    I'm honestly in shock that they pulled this off. There were so many ways it could have gone wrong. TNG's "In Theory" covers some of the same beats but in much clunkier fashion. It was charming, funny and even made tear up a bit.

    I'm pulling for those two. This is definitely the most ambitious material the show has tackled yet and I'm glad they're heading straight into it.

    An amusing little fairy tale that explores a lot of potentially awkward situations yet, here, delivered with surprising nuance and flair (for this show, anyway), aided immensely by a sympathetic performance from Penny Johnson Jerald, some genuine humour, and pleasant music accompaniment by Andrew Cottee.

    @ all the Orvillians: Here is a tip. You want other people to love the show like you do but when I click on the new discussion the comments are always like: Best episode ever 5 out of 4 stars and so on. People see that, watch the episode with very high expectations and are always a little disappointed.
    For example. I just quickly glanced at the Discovery comments and they are pretty negative so in my mind I'm already thinking: "OMG, this one is probably terrible." And then I watch it and, of course, like it because my expectations were so low.
    Unlike Seth Macfarlane, whose seed should be destroyed, you should think ahead!

    Every time the opening credits end with "Created by Seth Macfarlane", I feel like it should also have "& Rick Berman & Brannon Braga & Gene Roddenberry" tacked on there too. (Credit where credit's due, show!)

    I have no comments on the episode itself. Like most Orville material, I just can't bring myself to care one way or the other. I'd say it's like eating McDonald's, but I actually love trashy McDonald's. It's more like lightly toasted white bread. Sometimes the bread is moldy, but sometimes it's lightly buttered!

    All the times though, it's just toast.

    @ Booming

    So we should be reserved in our praise and have ca more negative attitude?

    Sorry, but my opinion is expressed genuinely, and I'm not going to self- edit to make other commenters comfortable.

    @ Dave: No, Only pretend to have a more negative attitude. To lure them in.
    Aren't you willing to make sacrifices for your favorite show? (Are you actually one of the hardcore Orvillians?) Let me leave you with a motivational video.

    A high 3 stars, maybe 3.5 - I loved it, so much heart, and both actors are fantastic. But I'm not sure whether this is good for Dr. Finn's character. Or for Isaac's actually. I think it would have been better as a strong, unconventional friendship. It's better than Calypso and Human Error, and probably better than the similar His Way too, as it tells both sides of the story, whereas His Way focuses Odo's perspective far more than Kira's. I love the use of music and how this episode is so grounded in Seth's love of classic US musicals.

    Again, Klyten, Topa, Cassius, Dann, Yaphit and LaMarr's girlfriend are all featured, giving the show a true family feel.

    @ Booming

    Personally, while I liked the first three episodes of the season, I thought episode 4 was mediocre, and 5 was outright bad - so bad that I wasn't really even enthusiastic about streaming last night's episode before it started. I'm glad I did - it was a classic.

    As I said, the strength of The Orville appears to be relatively "light" character-focused drama - developing the main cast. The attempts to do "issue" episodes this season saw the show fall flat on its face to date. Of course we're only halfway into the season, and maybe they'll find a way to make a high-concept sci-fi show work, but it's just fine for me as a low-stakes drama.

    TNG's "In Theory" and "Data's Day", both excellent episodes, invented the "robot/outsider humorously bumbling about and trying to be human!" Trek subgenre. Odo and 7of9 would get similar episodes, but nothing ever quite matched TNG's outings.

    Orville's "A Happy Refrain" echoes both "Data's Day" and "In Theory", in the way it focuses on Claire's banal, day-to-day activities as a doctor, and her pursuing of a romantic relationship with the robot-alien Isaac (named after Isaac Asimov and his laws of robotics).

    For most of the episode's running time, their romantic relationship hits all the usual cliches - Isaac "cannot love", is "but a series of algorithms", "is simply interested in gathering data" etc etc - and never pushes toward some of the more darker implications broached by modern neuroscience (humans as robots who don't know it, what passes as "real love" as being a culturally/biologically programmed thing as mechanistic as Isaac's algorithms etc). In short, the episode initially feels like a less original version of TNG's Data episodes, as it inches toward its familiar, status-quo restoring ending in which Claire and Isaac inevitably break up. After all, robots and humans are fundamentally different and can never be together.

    Except that familiar ending never comes: Orville veers suddenly left, Claire and Issac fall in "love", and resolve to forge a relationship. Why Isaac falls in "love" is itself interesting; a kind of emergent property generated by Claire's influence on his code. I'm reminded of a quote by science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson, from his novel "Aurora": "Love is a kind of giving of attention. It is usually attention given to some other consciousness, but not always; the attention can be to something unconscious, even inanimate, and typically that which compels attention rewards the attention given.”

    Beyond the Claire/Issac storyline, "Happy Refrain" sees Orville continuing to work well as a TNG homage. We chill out at the ship's "Ten Forward", listening to moody piano music, the tinkle of champagne glasses, tables beautifully framed by giant glass windows as starfields rush out beyond; compare the simple, clean aesthetic of this show with the manic "Discovery", which mistakes garish glitz for beauty. Compare too the "Orville's" willingness to take its time, and its willingness to leave violence behind for simple conversations. There's a poise and confidence to Orville.

    The episode's piano performance and live orchestral show, which takes place in a spectacular hangar bay, also recall various sequences in TNG, and reveals Seth MacFarlane - who's himself a talented musician and singer (he has several albums out) - as not only a TNG fanboy, but giant romantic at heart. The longings, romances and broken hearts in this show are much criticized, but IMO they don't feel like cliches, but something personal. Indeed, this entire franchise is intensely personal; this episode itself was written and directed and produced by Seth. In an age of corporate, art-by-machines, there's an authenticity to The Orville, even if its ultimately a kid's regurgitated childhood memories of TNG.

    But they're mostly sweet memories to regurgitate; Seth has a kid's idealized version of TOS and TNG, and captures well the camaraderie of those first Enterprises, and conveys well their family/village-in-space vibes, complete with Bowling Alleys and weird dudes called Dan.

    Some other thoughts: this show's approach to continuity is excellent. Claire and Isaac's blossoming romance was weaved all throughout season 1, and little character moments (eg Bortus' "pee once a year" remark in the season 1 pilot) are constantly referenced. See, for example, how LaMarr's girlfriend, first given a decent speaking role in this episode, has been popping up throughout season 1 and 2.

    This episode also highlights the importance of the Orville needing to sprinkle comedy throughout its running time; the novelty of the humor helps dilute Orville's cliches and at times shallow science fiction. Last week's episode's final act, for example, would have worked better if played for laughs. Similarly, this episode would have been a shallow rip-off if played as straight drama.

    Interestingly, Seth's toilet/penis humor (Ed even keeps porn/a-chess-pawn on his desktop) seems to also be getting less on the nose ("Were their sparks?"/ "There was no equipment malfunction." / "Well you don't have to brag about it!"), which is a good thing.

    I also liked the subtle Trek jokes; Bortus "grows a season 2 Riker beard" for example, and the bridge is accessed not by a turbolift, but a ridiculously tiring spiral staircase.

    It's probably also worth comparing Orville's use of black actors/characters, to "Discovery's". With Orville you have a major black character - a late-middle aged black woman of intelligence, grace, strength and vulnerability - whose skin is an utter non-issue*. Like Sisko and Uhura, with Claire you get the sense of a real person, rather than the strangely flat tokens we see in "Discovery", who often seem like something cynically engineered by producers to tick boxes. ie- characters whose progressive street cred (gay, black, chubby, pacifist etc) is deemed enough.

    Of course this then opens you up to accusations of racism and reductionism: "How dare you call Mayweather a token! He was simply a bad actor! Why must you turn his bad acting into a race issue!"

    But audience's can sense authenticity. You sense that Seth cast Penny Johnson as Claire because she's a super lady, a super actor, he likes Trek and DS9, he likes writing for the character and wants black, female representation. There's a love there. A realness, rather than phony pose.

    *which is not to say that skin or cultural heritage should be a non-issue in art, and that all characters should be whitewashed of race. But if you're doing it, do it honestly, and with genuine rage and/or tact/humour, and not flippantly for corporate brownie points. And of course Trek's utopian, post-racial stance is itself a critique of various forms of racism/classism.

    The Orville went full Character this week, as the ship is at warp the whole time except for a rendezvous with the touring Union Symphony, which is a fantastic idea, BTW, and also served to recognize the excellent—and real—full orchestra The Orville uses for its scores. I imagine it must’ve been fun/challenging for some of those musicians to perform in alien makeup!

    With the A-plot of Dr. Finn exploring a romantic relationship with Isaac, this show would seem to owe a lot to “In Theory”, the TNG episode where a woman tries to date Data with results that were “sub-optimal” for her but sometimes cringey and sometimes hilarious for the audience. But for once (though this may not be the first time), The Orville actually takes that basic idea and improves upon it. Despite there not being an alien world involved in the plot, there’s plenty of sci-fi ideas to be had.

    First, there wasn’t anything sudden or out-of-left-field about Finn’s decision to ask Isaac out. Their friendship has been carefully developed over the last season and change, with a lot of that development coming when Finn was stranded on a planet with her kids and Isaac. Isaac may be an unfeeling robot but there’s been a lot of chemistry between these two. It’s a great example of a Trek-like show actually showing its work.

    Of course, your mileage may vary when it comes to whether or not you particularly cared about this relationship ever evolving into something more romantic, just as the very concept of “romance” is something Isaac just kinda has to go with on faith (or, well, data). If you’re not a fan of Finn and/or Isaac, then Finn x Isaac is probably not going to make your day. Personally, I like both characters.

    The central concept of “In Theory” was that, tragically, Data will never be able to return the love anyone shows him, at least not in the way a human can, because he has no emotions. Perhaps, with sufficient time, research, and practice, he could do better than he did with his hokey “honey I’m home” act, but it would still feel artificial because humans are pretty good at sniffing out insincerity, even if it’s “sincere.”

    Where “Happy Refrain” refines that concept is that Finn enters the next stage of her relationship with Isaac with open eyes. She hasn’t been admiring him from afar, and knows who she’s dealing with. If she were to stop and think about things, she could also probably predict each and every one of his reactions to her romantic gestures, since he’s basically a human behavior encyclopedia/sponge.

    But this isn’t about whether Isaac can perfectly simulate romantic love. It’s whether he can be a worthy, present, and servicable companion to Dr. Finn, who is lonely and for a variety of reasons has gravitated towards Isaac. In many ways he’s the perfect man, but in many other ways he’s the exact opposite, so this will take some work. This all works because it all makes sense.

    Like any relationship, it’s pretty fun and exciting in the beginning, but once it’s clear Isaac is treating this like another cold experiment in human observation (Lamarr’s first round of advice is harmless, telling him to dress snazzy and bring non-rose flowers.) But Isaac fails to understand that part of what makes the beginning of a “coupling” so exciting is the mystery of that other person. “Isaac’s literal turning of the table, followed by the quick holo-reset of said table, had me in stitches.”

    He eliminated any mystery by uploading all data he could find on Finn and just starts listing it all (always great to hear my mid-level hometown mentioned; The Expanse’s Miller is also from B-More!). When he sees she’s not responding well to this, he overcompensates, as Data did. Then he creates a simulated human body in the holodeck to more naturally interact with Finn, and more importantly, deletes the data from his memory so he doen’t know everything there is to know about her.

    As usual, I don’t care how some kind of basically magical tech in a Trek-like show works as long as it effectively serves the narrative without feeling like a cheat. It’s also great to see Mark Jackson outside of the goofy 1950's robot suit and hear his distinctive voice without electronic modulation. And then, of course, Isaac and Finn bone.

    That’s the end of things as far as Isaac is concerned, because he and Finn had very different ideas about what that meant, and he’s still new to the whole conventions of romantic relationships (i.e. they don’t end on a dime just because THE SEXUAL EVENT has taken place). Worse, Lamarr takes Isaac’s desire to break up with Finn the same way he would any non-artificial life form friend, and his advice for him to turn heel ham it up in tighty-whities is missing a LOT of context.

    The crew also treats Isaac like an asshole—or rather more of an asshole than usual—because, like Finn, they’re projecting human/oid emotions and ideals upon him. Surely someone that intellectually advanced would have read the entire database of romantic ficiton, for instance, and learned that he’s quite clearly done her wrong. But like Finn wanting and hoping for something to come out of her fling with Isaac, Isaac holds true to his engrained directives: once there’s no further data to be collected, the experiment ends. Q.E.D. It’s not personal, and that’s the whole problem.

    Except, there is a lot more “data to be collected”, clearly, because Finn’s and the crew’s reaction to his actions suggest he’s missing something in the equation. Furthermore, his efforts to make things more spontaneous with Finn by deleting parts of his memory starts causing internal malfunctions he did not anticipate.

    The final scene with the raining, while a bit rushed, was another example of MacFarlane being an old softie to the core (like the Billy Joel a couple episodes back) and your mileage may vary once again. I’ve never even watched “Singin in the Rain” but like Finn I’ve always thought of rain as a good and happy thing (especially those sudden summer storms in Baltimore of my youth).

    Also, ever since I watched the scene in The Matrix Revolutions when Neo and Trinity take the ship above the clouds (IMO the most hopeful moment of the trilogy, however fleeting), I’ve always seen rainy clouds as just one layer; that the skies are clear and the sun is shining just above them. That’s always given me comfort, and the rain itself is cleansing and nourishing. So the rain-on-the-bridge scene worked for me.

    Finally, unlike “In Theory” and so many other Trek romance episodes, there’s no reset button to “A Happy Refrain.” Things aren’t going to be perfect, and they may not work out at all in the long term, but Finn and Isaac are still together, and have something here and now, and they’re going to keep working on it. Isaac has discovered that there is something of value in continuing their “coupling”, while Finn’s original optimism about there being merit in trying to date a robot is validated.

    I rarely post on here but I thought this episode was the best yet, easily 3.5 on a show that had yet to hit regularly above 2 stars for me. "Nothing left on Earth Excepting Fishes" being the only other episode that stood out, despite being a fairly uneven episode. I've overall enjoyed the show for its humor and fun scifi adventures, and some really great alien designs. But this episode is special. I was so certain I knew where it was going, and I loved being surprised. Plus the comedy here was some of the best yet. The culmination of many episodes worth of buildup to a very satisfying change in the shows status quo. I especially liked the scene on the bridge after the breakup where the crew disparage a bewildered Isaac is both very real, and something you would never have seen on TNG.

    Probably the best episode this season. I give them props for not throwing in an action sequence and just letting the episode breathe. I even laughed out loud at one scene (flipping the table over). Character driven with humor that (generally) added to the scenes as opposed to pulling you out of the scene. 3/4 for me.

    This episode is 'The Orville' being 'The Orville'. You look at it on the surface and it's a joke, but they don't waiver in their attack so you just accept them for being them.

    As dumb as this was, I think it was presented very well. There were many times it just could have fallen off the rails but managed to stay on the tracks.

    Is the guy that Isaac morphed into Mark Jackson?

    I'm assuming Isaac is "fully functional"? :-)

    Reminded me of Data's date episode (can't remember the name of the episode). Glad it didn't end the same way.

    I thought the Bortus mustashe thing was pretty darn funny.

    2.5 stars I guess.

    Going to pretend I didn’t just spend 45 minutes crying like a baby.

    4 stars

    Now that was lovely! From last week's preview, I was worried we'd get a retread of "In Theory," and while it kind of was in its broad strokes (artificial lifeform tries dating and relationships with a human), it had such an endearing sweetness that I found it impossible to resist. It made all the difference that the seeds of Claire and Isaac's relationship were planted in "Into the Fold" and "Ja'loja." Also that it's two leads dating, rather than Data and a guest star who we knew would be gone next week.

    "The episode's piano performance and live orchestral show... reveals Seth MacFarlane as not only a TNG fanboy, but giant romantic at heart. The longings, romances and broken hearts in this show are much criticized, but IMO they don't feel like cliches, but something personal."

    Nailed it! If there's a dominant theme in the Orville, it's not exploration of space and the human condition like Star Trek, it's the complexity of dating and romantic relationships. This has been a consistent thread throughout the series that has touched every character: Ed/Kelly, Bortus/Klyden, Claire/Isaac, even Alara and Gordon have been on dates and John's role as Official Love Advisor. This episode, more than any other, clarifies this theme and resonates with previous episodes like "Ja'loja," which I also loved because it was about character and relationships. If the Orville evolves into a giant rom-com in space, I'd be totally on board. Trek gave us plenty of science, adventure, action, politics, exploration, etc. Let the Orville do a different take on the format.

    I've also found that the Orville is a great audience show. Trek is fun to watch with people, but I find that we usually just sit there in respectful silence. With the Orville, the group I watch with, which is a mix of Trekkies and non-Trekkies, is constantly laughing, commenting, talking back to the screen, and just having a blast. This episode was a real winner in that regard. And it was our resident non-Trekkie who was most on board with the romance and excited at every turn it took.

    My favorite episode of the series so far. Loved it top to bottom, from the silly B-plot about Bortus' moustache to the sweeping camera moves during the orchestral performance to the corny but completely earnest and sincere starry-eyed tone.

    As every new piece of news about Star Trek just makes me cringe (a Section 31 show!! gritty gore and violence!!), I'll take a cheesy romantic ending where a woman and robot kiss to "Singin' in the Rain" any day.

    Surprisingly the first episode I actually found funny. I liked the Orville most when I ignored the humor, but this time around it actually worked. They (thankfully) avoided many stupid story developements (and there was plenty of opportunity to slip into Farlane-esque twelve-year-old humor), and the finale was just great. Contrary to expectation, Isaac did neither develop feelings (like Data would have) nor did he break up with her and go back to being like he was before (like Seven would have...), but he made an effort on his own because of his own reasons (the whole algorithm stuff), which is, in the end, what love is (among other things) about: Doing things for others even though it is an inconvenience. Dr. Finn knows that Isaac has no feelings for her, at least no human feeling, but she recognizes that he needs her, and I guess if Isaac does his best to fullfill her desires, it doesn't really matter in the end. She is happy, he is ... not terribly inconvenienced and gets to do his research, no harm done. I liked this far more than Datas respective adventure, because in his case, his girlfriend was convinced that he felt something for her, and was, of course, disappointed by the end. The arrangement that Dr. Finn and Isaac have could work out for them, at least for a while.

    So, I'd give this episode 3 Stars, because I was entertained the whole time and didn't facepalm, and there is actually something to think about in it. I do hope though, that we see something a little more exciting next time. Like, a dead alien world, where theres lots of archeology to do, with crazy technology and conundrums, but no shooting.

    We really do need an edit button...

    @Quibbles: Funnily enough, I had short flashes of A Clockwork Orange when Isaac played Singin' in the Rain on the bridge ...

    Trent and Hank.... awesome stuff there, thanks for sharing.

    "But audience's can sense authenticity." This is what I was talking about when I said this is 'The Orville' being 'The Orville'.

    I probably was too harsh when I said "stupid".

    Lots of this series I haven't cared for, but I do credit them for staying true to themselves.

    I enjoyed this episode, it a silly sort of way.

    I credit Seth's vision/direction here and Penny Johnson for putting forth a fine performance.

    I think I was having Discovery 'A Point of Light' hangover when I graded this.

    I'll upgrade to 3.5 stars.

    @Booming: I find your comment very strange. I loved the previous episode (the astrology one), but it sure felt like I was in the minority! Maybe it was closer to 50/50, but it was in any case far from true that everyone was cheerleading it.

    @Karl Zimmerman: “Personally, while I liked the first three episodes of the season, I thought episode 4 was mediocre, and 5 was outright bad”

    It’s fascinating to me when I see someone who doesn’t just disagree with me (that’s fairly routine), but does so in a way that looks like a perfect negative image. We must have nearly diametrically opposite preferences for this show, because I thought the first three episodes of this season were just okay; I thought the fourth episode was one of the two or three best episodes of the series; and then I thought the fifth episode was far and away THE best episode of the series. So weird.

    I guess it’s not quite diametrically opposite, because the most recent episode you found “classic” I found to be a step down from the previous two but still a three star effort. But it’s clear that we are probably never going to love the same episodes, and that if I give an episode four stars, you are probably going to dislike it.

    @Hank, I don’t agree with your interpretation of the ending of the episode. I felt we were supposed to understand that Isaac did in fact “fall for” the doctor—he just described it in a more technical way.

    @Slacker: But thats the point, really. He did not find "human love", he just had to do some programming work that barely qualifies as an analogy for love, and he could have ended it another way, but chose to rather continue his social experiment.

    I guess future episodes might show which interpretation is right. But so far the Orville has mostly refrained from giving Isaac human attributes. It is mostly just characters in the show seeing something human in him, which is just projection.

    @Hank: I still disagree with your interpretation, maybe even more strongly than before. But then I’ve seen film critics and others interpret the AIs in the movies “A.I.” and “Her” as not “really” having emotions or even self-awareness, which I consider a spectacular misreading of those texts.

    Rewatching this now and I'm upgrading to 4 stars. It'll probably be an episode I will watch at least a dozen more times in my lifetime.

    I just realized I've been smiling the whole time ... the jokes still land on rewatch. Plus it has that something original that's a requirement for any personal 4 star review, and this episode succeeds both in a romantic way and in a sci-fi way. That's NOT an easy achievement.

    I have to say: PJJ is such a good actress!!! (Marc is great too, but Penny brings so much to every line, she's got a special talent).

    BTW, is PJJ really "late middle aged" as someone commented above? That makes me think of someone shopping for a walker and she's so vibrant and active.

    I just Googled it and she's 57!

    I mean, it makes sense considering she was on TNG and DS9, but I honestly thought she was 45 MAYBE 50.

    She's got some great genetics!

    Also, I did like how Claire's favorite movie is from 2035. Nice to see they addressed that criticism I saw just a couple episodes ago.

    The Orville continues to deliver on what Discovery cannot: genuine interest in its characters. A sweet episode that is content to just let people be people, an increasing rarity in our media. Who would've guessed that the creator of Family Guy would create one of the warmest good spirited tv shows on television?

    Hey a pretty good one! Such a strange show. I get a real TOS vibe sometimes between the sincerity if the plot and the silliness of Isaacs costume.

    Its like a silly sub Voyager spec script. But a pretty good one! Good ending!!

    One part where Isaac tried to erase the memory of Claire's past led him to make a mistake on the bridge. Isaac went to run routine diagnostics to find out what went wrong with its programming that runs the machine. A classic! It brings back memories of Data. That alone brings .5 bonus points. 4.5/4

    @SlackerInc: Ah, there lies our disagreement! I think that, contrary to most "almost human" AI characters, Isaac actually plays it straight: He really has no emotions and no desire to have them (or at least, not the capacity), which would actually be a pretty unexplored concept, so I just hope they are going down that path. But I understand where you are coming from, as that would be the "standard" thing to do: AI seems to be completely unlike us, but actually develops emotions naturally due to it's complex nature. Basically Data. Lets hope that we get something new and not Data 2.0

    @William: Yeah, I was surprised by the absence of tone deaf moments, given Orvilles track record of tasteless jokes at the wrong moment.

    I will admit this is the first episode I watched the whole way through, and I enjoyed it. I am not as familiar with the entire back story, and I was surprised to see Sisko's wife wanting to get intimate with a robot, but it moved at a good pace, and I cound the robot hilarious. I now will have to find the older episodes online, and get caught up.

    @Jammer: I hated the mustache; I like Isaac’s “robot suit”. But I agree that Claire should be expected to be more wary of potential pitfalls than she was shown to be.

    I also hate Isaac's suit. If Data had been in that suit instead of his emotive makeup I think TNG would have been much less interesting in general since data was such a big part of TNG for me. I see it as that important. I'm hoping they find some way to simply allow Isaac to attain his human form outside of the simulator. Something akin to the upgrade VOY did for their doctor.

    @ SlackerInc: "I find your comment very strange." I was just messing around. I always click on the discussion and the first few reviews are extremely positive which probably makes sense because the most ardent fans watch it when it comes out. I'm extremely stressed out (18 month without a real vacation and a close friend got very bad news from the doctor a few days ago). I just need distractions. least the vacation problem will be solved soon.

    Say, where's Dougie? We need to know what he thinks.

    No Orville discussion is complete without Dougie

    A return to form after last week's clunker, and we're thankfully back to comedy territory.

    While I found it hard to buy that Claire would fall in love with Isaac, I quite enjoyed the episode on the whole. One thing they didn't touch on was the physical component of a relationship. It seems Claire is attracted to Isaac because of his brains and personality, but the the episode makes it clear she's also attracted to him physically. It's very hard for me to buy this. Unlike Data, who actually had a face, Isaac is not humanoid in appearance. He looks like a robot with glowing orbs for eyes. Claire seems disappointed she can't kiss him or have sex with him. So for me the whole thing plays more as an exploration of a concept rather than a believable character ark.

    - As far as I can tell, this episode contains the first mention ever on the series of a cultural reference past 2018 (Claire's favorite movie is from 2035). Hooray!

    - the technicalities of how Issac is able to make himself look different while in the simulator were unclear to me. Just curious, was there ever a Trek episode where this was done? In TNG at least, people always had to bring costumes inside the holodeck, it didn't seem like the tech allowed you to change anything about yourself. It didn't bother me that much, but it's obvious the Orville just decided it was possible for the sake of the story. I don't believe there's an Orville Technical Manual.

    - Nitpick: Isaac does not seem to understand Earth expressions at all, however, he does seem to know the phrase "he'll make you proud of him" referencing it as a "human expression".

    - the ending... at first I thought it was simulated rain (because if the rules of the simulator have been changed they can be changed again), but then realized it was actual rain. The fact everybody sat there smiling, with nobody getting flustered or worrying that maybe some of the computers on the bridge will get destroyed or explode, make it a pure Movie Moment, which is what Seth was ultimately going for. It's not very believable, but it kind-of works. Malloy's line "this has to be the weirdest ship in the fleet" helps to sell it as well.

    I watched this episode, then looked up your review. I fully expected you to thoroughly bash it, possibly even giving it a rare "zero stars" rating.

    But, no... You actually gave this piece of shit 2 1/2 stars.

    My trust in you, is fading.

    "My trust in you, is fading."

    Bummer. I suppose there are other reviewers out there who can confirm your opinions. It's a big internet and Google is there to guide you! :P

    I am with Lynos above. This is definitely the kind of episode I was looking forward to seeing again. Best episode of second season for me. I understand where Jammer's coming from in his review (a good one again Jammer) and he backs it up very well. As he and Lynos both say, the premise is simply not believable. And I totally agree (and I said so back in episode 3 or 4 of first season) that Isaac's mask is a hindrance on the actor.

    But like I said many times, I liked The Orville because of the humor/comedy factor, that is what it brings to the table in addition to TNG-style trek. And this one has quality chunks of it. I busted out laughing several times. For example, when Lamarr and Gordon were sprinting through the hallway, then again when Isaac turned the table, Kelly and Talla's expressions when they are listening to details from Claire, countless times he takes something said literally, and on and on. Give me more like this :)

    Another very good episode. Three stars. I was absolutely moved by the ending and the ep was packed with good scenes. My only worry was that it's premise was so obviously unoriginal, but they went some original places with it, as this show regularly does. I don't know why this is " 90's" version of a starship, but it's definitely a great McFarlane ode to TNG which for all its unoriginality, actually is pretty original. I'm glad the relationship will continue, unlike with In Theory. Good stuff, and genuinely sweet.

    I haven't watched this yet but that moustache is the funniest thing I've seen all week. Thanks for posting the picture!

    One more thing I wanted to add... second episode with the new security officer. Not... digging... at all. The actress plays it as if she's an All-American-Gal with some make-up slapped on. Her speech, her word choice. There is nothing alien, unique or interesting about her. She has no personality. Makes you really miss Alara. I don't know if it's the actress or the writing or the direction, but it doesn't work (for me) and a bit grating.
    On the other hand, she only has one esophagus.

    I guess the litmus test will be once she gets her own episode.

    I want to say that I appreciate The Orville's longer run-times. There are plenty of episodes of the Trek franchise that would have benefit from another 5 minutes.

    Couldn't the argument be made that Dr. Claire Finn may be TV's first true pansexual? Maybe the whole experience with Yaphit opened her up to new ideas (no pun intended).

    Besides. the episode clearly showed that she likes Isaac in his "human skin", as she was much more receptive once she found him more conventionally attractive.

    It may not be long before Isaac is using the portable holoprojector he invented last season for Gordon and Ed's Krill disguises.

    Also, nice callback that Isaac is still refining Dr. Aranov's temporal theories.

    @Lynos: If the new iPhones can sit in a bucket of water for a half hour, I can buy that the Orville’s computers aren’t damaged by water. If you look closely, you can see the “rain” bouncing off what look like totally sealed touchscreens.

    My greater concern would be the crew sitting there soaking wet or at least damp for the next few hours. I wondered if a big “hair dryer effect” was coming next, as seen in “Blade Runner”.

    @SlackerInc: Well, I am pretty sure that they have another watch that can take over while they are going to dry themselves. Or you made a joke that completely flew over my head, in which case I didn't say anything. I feel a cold coming on and my brain ... is not even working well enough to think of a snappy "my brain is working like ... " joke.

    @Lynos, Mertov and Jammer

    re: "not believable"

    In the here and now, maybe.

    But one, two or three-hundred years from now do you really believe that human beings to a one will think and feel about sexuality (and other seemingly contentious issues) as you do?

    It's quite a stretch to presume Saturday, February 2, 2019 is the de facto standard for human sexuality and social development in the centuries ahead (if we even survive to make it that far).

    My take on the future of Orville franchise.

    We'll probably have an episode when Claire Finn becomes sex deprived.

    Isaac gets infected and takes over the ship only to be stopped by the Krill.

    Jammer's review is as good as it gets. Anyone who calls Jammer someone that lacks credibility deserved to be banished and locked up ithe gates of hell cage.

    I gave this episode an unusually high score because its attracted more tv viewers as opposed to bird watchers.

    Of course Gil. By that reasoning, humans could very well not be not exploring other planets and humanoids (!!) in other planets by then either. Or maybe we did for about 20 years and some pissed off species in another galaxy came and obliterated the earth and we don't even exist at that time. Or, the earth could be in apocalypse mode and the 100 or so humans left on earth are cannibals looking for each other. We can only speculate on what we estimate, and the fact that it's not accurate is no groundbreaking news.


    re: "the fact that it's not accurate".

    Truth claim you make? Time travel you do?

    I don't see what Isaac could get from holodeck sex. At best he's got a holo-weenie.

    He was interfaced with his hologram.

    I'd assume he was puckering his lips quuzzicly because it was the first time he'd "had" lips .

    Ok, for the semantic-lover in you, take out the "the fact that it's not accurate" part and replace it with "the fact that it may grossly turn out inaccurate". Happy now? :)


    Me, happy? No.

    But given the ever swelling market for sex dolls it sure seems like a whole heck of a lot of other folks are. ;)

    Another boring TNG knock off.

    The premise and themes of this episode have been done to death.

    Another edition from the pre-teen McFarlane fan fiction archives.

    @ Gil

    "But one, two or three-hundred years from now do you really believe that human beings to a one will think and feel about sexuality (and other seemingly contentious issues) as you do?"

    The episode is not contemplating the role and function of human sexuality in the far future. Like most Orville episodes, it's simply Seth's version of a Star Trek outing, in this case, "In Theory". If TNG, a serious-minded Science Fiction show, did not presume to re-invent sexuality in the 24th century, I hardly think this is what Seth is trying to do. He simply wants to tell his own version of a human falling in love with a machine. It's a very popular Sci-FI trope (we had the movie "Her" a couple of years ago, dealing with that subject as well, with some plot similarities with this episode).

    I think assuming Seth is trying to deal with Big Ideas here regarding sexuality is too give him too much credit. He's a hopeless romantic and he's exploring the idea of romance in the context of artificial intelligence. Despite his sophomoric sense of humor, he's not that interested in sex.


    Seth's intentions are neither here nor there.

    I was addressing the rather blinkered view of human sexuality and social development you gentlemen were espousing in your critique of the episode's conceit.

    As I remarked to Mertov above, there are people buying and having sexual relations with human facsimiles already—perhaps even at the very moment you are reading this sentence—so Seth's "fairy tale" romance, as I put it, may seem like a stretch to you, but the fact of the matter is that that reality is already here.

    I mean, if you're going to find rapid application development of A.I. for the consumer market anywhere, it'll be for the $15 billion dollar sex toy industry, if anywhere.

    Goodness, I hope it isn't news to you too that there's more than just missionary?

    @ Gil
    My point wasn't that it's not a relevant issue, a topical issue, or an issue worth discussing, I was just saying that I think attributing this theme to this episode may be reading too much into it, because watching the episode, comparing it to previous episodes, and taking into account Seth's usual style and themes, I don't think that was the intention. It's certainly part of it, but it's not ABOUT it.

    In other words, personally I'm not assuming the episode is smarter more it is, I don't see any sophisticated subtext here. Claire falls in love/is attracted to Isaac because Seth wanted to make this episode where a mortal falls in love with a machine and exploring the inner workings of an AI struggling to understand human emotions. It's more about Isaac's programming then Claire's sexual desires.

    Is it relevant to show how a robot can sexually connect with a human? Of course. But this really doesn't go deep. Again, it would be easier for me to buy it if Isaac actually looked human. There is effort being done today to make sex robots human-like. So I don't see the parallel here. Claire is attracted to Isaac even before he wears a human form in the simulator. So him looking human simply makes it easier for he, but it's not what gets the ball rolling, as it were.

    I certainly agree that humans can get ATTACHED to robots.

    I look forward to serious/interesting/credible handling of futuristic human sexuality on this series, I just don't think this is it. Just my personal perspective, which may be wrong.

    The worst episode of Orville if they want to go down this way I have better things to do


    Jammer stated: "I didn't buy the underlying premise…"

    Mertov stated: "the premise is simply not believable."

    You stated: "I found it hard to buy that Claire would fall in love with Isaac…"

    My remarks were addressed to those statements, not whatever Seth's intentions may or not have been. But if I would presume Seth's intent they would follow from:

    How is "A Happy Refrain" thematically different than, let's say "The Beauty and the Beast?"

    Would you dismiss the Belle/Beast romance too?

    Because, I would contend it's as likely a source of inspiration than any for "A Happy Refrain," particularly the soft focus Disney retelling. And more credible too given human/robot relations are already a thing.

    I tend to agree with Gil.

    In universe, we already saw that Ed, Kelly and Claire had pretty rational reactions to the Retepsian pheromone.

    Ed, for all his foibles in the relationship department, doesn't go into a sitcomy gay panic and doubt himself. No one freaks about interspecies relationships between sentient adults.

    They all seem to be enlightened people.

    Would the crew have reacted this way had it been another form of Artificial Intelligence she'd developed feelings for, say a purely holographic simulation on the not-holodeck?

    Or was it because she was dating ISAAC?

    I think it's a fair question to ask.

    About people predicting a more varied sexual spectrum in the future: I do think it is fair to assume (barring apocslypse) that humanity will continue in the current trend. There will be moral panics and pearl-clutching housewives, but I do think things will grow more "progressive", especially with advancements in b technology.

    Just judging by all the Data & Isaac shippers online today, there's PLENTY of people who would LOVE to be in a relationship with robot/android.

    In universe, I don't think Claire's feelings were all that improbable at all, especially if she's attracted by intellect.

    I think the issue is more that Isaac doesn't have a sexuality. He doesn't love Claire and isn't romantically attracted or sexually attracted to her (or anyone else). So as much as I enjoyed the episode on its own terms, I agree very much with Jammer's criticisms. Isaac is smart, responsible and reliable, and I can totally see why Claire would become fond of him. But her desire to pursue a relationship with someone who she knows will never be attracted to her (as he's both asexual and aromantic) is a contrivance, and should have been scrutinized more. For this reason, the scenes that worked least well for me in the episode were those after the breakup when both Claire and the bridge crew treat Isaac as if he's human. There should have been no spite or backlash directed towards him by any of the other characters because they should all understand his limitations - and because Claire was the architect of the entire situation; Isaac has no feelings and just went along with it as a behavioral experiment.

    There's also the issue of how on earth the simulator can give Isaac a human body as if his existing robot body just wasn't there anymore.


    Hmmm…you too, huh? What's with the parochial thinking? Must everything be so literal?

    Surely that quirk that showed up in his base programming could be whimsically interpreted to be classic butterflies in the stomach. You know, that feeling you get when you're head over heels but uncertain about which way it might go?

    Seth is obviously going somewhere with this romance. I wouldn't be surprised if at some point he has Isaac achieve some kind of heuristic breakthrough (or breakdown).

    Remember Lal?

    Isaac has had a fascination with sexual relations the entire series. At various times, he's questioned Capt. Mercer, Alara and Claire about the subject (from what I can remember off the top of my head).

    He doesn't have an innate programmed "sexuality", but he does have a consistent interest in the way "organics" engage with each other in a relationship. It's probably partially a result of his directive from Kaylon to understand the "organics" of the P.U. and /or his algorithms adjusting to being around irrational beings .... but whatever the reason, I think what we're actually seeing is the plausible embryonic development of a nascent sexual self in a previously sterile A.I.

    This is one of the best examples of artificial intelligence character growth I've ever seen in episodic television.

    And, for the record, the crew usually sees Isaac as an equally important member of their crew (and their friend).

    Even when they were disparaging him in this one scene, they were also educating him on what is the proper/ improper way to approach a relationship/ friendship with an organic. It wasn't done in complete malice.

    And frankly, Claire is their friend too. Serving together or not, there's nothing wrong with sticking up for a friend who's hurting.

    Reading the comments just reinforces where the issues for this episode lay for me. It's mostly in that it doesn't fully explore how empathy is a key component of relationships. Not only does Isaac not demonstrate that he can empathize, it's not clear how Finn could ever fully intuit what Isaac needs.

    And while Isaac demonstrates he can anticipate and respond to Finn's physical needs, what happens when Finn needs him for emotional support? Especially when Finn herself may not be able to articulate that something is wrong. Finn could be investing a lot of time and energy, only to be disappointed.

    As it's been pointed out, it doesn't make logical, or emotional sense for the crew to use shame to change Isaac's behavior. They know he has no feelings. He also hasn't shown that he has interest in prioritizing or nurturing any social relationships. Being shamed and excluded from the group doesn't lose him anything.

    I really enjoyed this episode. So much so, I'd personally put it in the top three. MacFarlane's comedic timing and beats are doesn't the highlights. Malloy and Lamar running down the hall and excitedly spilling the beans. Mercer's "no need to brag" line, and his perfectly timed eyebrow. The piston engine like rhythm of Mercer and Grayson's "cake" dialogue.

    Overall, it's a very sweet episode that has a lot of fun bits, and executes the rom-com playbook pretty well. But ultimately, it's not a very deep story.

    It will be interesting to see how they develop this relationship, and Isaac, specifically.

    This was a truly wonderful episode--to me, somewhere around "Home" as the best this season, and perhaps best overall. (Though with the diverse stories and styles / genres The Orville presents, singling out any single "best" episode is inherently tough.)

    As Dr. Finn realizes her feelings for Isaac and contemplates whether, as a non-feeling machine, a relationship could ever possibly amount to anything ... we the audience yearn with her. From the earliest moments of perhaps unintended sincerity from Isaac (like bringing her the banana), we recognise what Dr. Finn sees as "adorable" in Isaac (supplemented, of course, by their prior exchanges). And as she so clearly hopes and yearns for meaning going forward ... we so do too alongside her. Yet even knowing, as she knows, that in all logic, Isaac simply does not and could never care for her as she might him--his mission objective to study biological lifeforms and the Orville crew in particular not even considered.

    As someone upthread suggested, it just makes for an endearing episode virtually all the way through (something for which the music greatly helped too, including no less a full symphony orchestra in-show). The back-and-forth of it all even; like Isaac deleting his knowledge of Dr. Finn in response to her concerns, or simulating a human body for her. And the ending was quite charming too--goofy, perhaps, but oh-so-sincere ... right???

    Of course, the ending was a bit ambiguous. Did Isaac just reconsider about his study? Did he decide that to continue functioning well with the biological crew, he had to respond to their own emotional reactions about his "decoupling" with Dr. Finn? Or ... did he actually learn something about himself and grow as a person ... something he would never have considered possible before? (Bortus' line "I am glad I am not like you"--or whatever it precisely was in "Primal Urges"--hints, perhaps, at some character growth Isaac needs to complete, at least so long as he associates with the Orville crew. Perhaps here ... we *see* a bit of that growth.)

    And with that, interesting philosophical concepts come up naturally. For instance, to us, emotions are so very natural and intuitive that do not often consider what actually goes on neurologically. But as Data once explained about his friendship with Geordi, pathways in his neural net became used to his presence, such that without him, an absence was detected. I actually seem to recall reading once, that the feeling of emotions perhaps comes second to certain changes in the brain.

    So, in other words ... are emotions based on underlying neurology (or, indeed, circuitry), such that even without *feeling* anything, reactions and such to events and others are nonetheless handled? And, indeed, would this not *have* to be the case, for a purely logical being to ever co-exist with emotional beings? (After all, like Janeway once told Tuvok--in "Prime Factors", I believe--one can use logic to justify anything. Meaning that no actions or societal functioning are even potentially restricted, if being "logical" about it is all there is.)

    For that matter, serial killers, for instance, presumably feel little emotion, empathy for others most significantly. And, of course, they murder people with absolutely no remorse or regard. And contrary to the notion that anyone and everything, say, with antisocial personality disorder is or will become such a person, no, people with said personality disorder can be safe and productive members of society. It is just that, as an account I once read said, the range of emotions felt is indeed quite limited, and one has to learn how to mimic basic behavior like smiling at appropriate times even, for it does *not* come naturally, *at all*.

    (Though with us humans, it is important to recognise as well that we *do* have underlying instincts, "programmed" over millions of years. From the perspective of artificial lifeforms then, it could be that for us, certain "higher" emotions balance those "primitive" instincts, whereas for an artificial species, no "balancing" would be needed. So no emotions would not be so inherently detrimental.)

    Incidentally, I have never understood why shows like TNG and The Orville claim that artificial lifeforms cannot have emotions; or popular opinion at large. (Well, to be fair, TNG never showed they could not; just that it was presumably much harder to program.) After all, at the quantum level, is not even a human brain just protons, electrons, and neutrons? Just like even the most inanimate of things? It seems it is all about the configuration. By current science and knowledge ... in theory, a thinking, emotional, yet artificial being is *entirely* possible. Such a being *can*--in theory then--be created and exist. (Perhaps some early sci-fi work established the "rule" that artificial life is necessarily emotionless? Or maybe from when virtually all the population in the Western world believed that humans were created by a higher power, the very idea of humans creating a sentient being in turn was just seen--being an equivalent, almost, to God's work--as something fully impossible?)

    (Though I *do* think it is much, much harder to do than some futurists think. In "Dead Stop", T'Pol names the neocortex as the most sophisticated and powerful computer known--or something to that effect. And indeed, just think about how malleable the human brain is; how the distinction between hardware and software is so very, very blurred. Or how a brain, as with the whole body, gradually develops cell-by-cell. Or how simple things like physical touch are so important early on to proper mental development, followed by a many-year process of further development in tandem with varied experiences. Sort of like how people can imagine cloning as a way to bring loved ones back. Yet with the exception of very young children, who someone was was just as much a product of their life's experiences, as their genetics. As cloning can only reproduce genetics ... it *cannot* bring a person back just as they were. Not really even close.

    Well, point being, the only known example of what we at least think of as a fully-sentient being is so incredibly complicated that duplicating it with technology seems almost impossible, indeed ... while finding an alternative way seems unfathomable. And personally ... I think creating a new sentient species is *quite* the responsibility ... one we simply have no business carrying out.)


    Anyway .... I referred to Isaac as "bland" in another thread. Which I do not think I mean as a knock against the actor or such, but still. Maybe in part, it is because, unlike Data even, Isaac just speaks so flatly and monotonically, that a mere robot is indeed what he comes off like. And, has he not generally been used for comedy throughout the series so far? Most often for humorous remarks or responses? One of my concerns with The Orville--even as much as I like it--is how it can sometimes be too lightweight ... as, for instance, by not taking a more serious and dramatic angle on Isaac and his interactions with the crew.

    But here, at last ... we got an Isaac-centered episode that, indeed, took a serious look not only at him as a character, but in terms of his interactions with the crew to boot. One where, for once, he is vulnerable, and even relies on advice from the "inferior biological lifeforms". And ... maybe even grows as a character and actually learns something truly new.

    I mean, I never *disliked* Isaac. I *did* use the word "bland". But here, in just one episode, I find myself caring more for Isaac as a character than ever before. And, some of the more serious takes I have longed for seem as though they may have been teased, and therefore could be on the horizon. (For instance, information on Isaac's species and home planet, and its precise interactions with or intentions toward other civilizations. While Isaac *does* seem quite earnest in his stated objective to study behavior ... for what true purpose? Dr. Finn seems to think it is so the Kaylon (or Kaylons?) might one day join the Union. But, is that all ... or even correct? And who created the Kaylon, and what became of them? And, do the Kaylon interact within a "higher" sphere of influence with other highly-advanced civilizations, like the Calivon?

    Those have all seemed like fertile and interesting ways to go ... yet until now, Isaac has always been presented for more comedy (and, granted, intelligent problem-solving) than anything truly serious or dramatic. So now ... I look forward to what we might yet see.

    @ Darren

    "Incidentally, I have never understood why shows like TNG and The Orville claim that artificial lifeforms cannot have emotions; or popular opinion at large."

    The way I see it, emotions are a product of complex consciousness. One of the main questions regarding AI is when and if it becomes conscious, or in other words, develops a "soul": A deeper life spark that goes beyond the sum of its mechanical parts.

    Some argue that we do have a soul and that we can't really be "turned off", and some argue that we're just biological machines and nothing else. If we are just biological machines, then it should be a relatively simple process for a machine to gain emotions, it just needs to have the right circuitry. If consciousness does exist, and it's what makes human beings different than a machine, then the only way an AI can have real emotions and not manufactured ones is if it's somehow develops, well, a soul.

    It's a heavy philosophical question.

    Also, what makes Isaac interesting and different from Data as an AI is that he was not built by humans. He's actually an alien AI from another planet. That is quite fascinating and is a treasure trove of story options if Seth decides to go there.

    That is why I can somehow buy that ending. Because Isaac is essentially a walking mystery when it comes to AI, so I just imagine he can do things Data could not necessarily do. But let's face it, we all love Isaac as he is, we don't want him to become emotional all of a sudden, do we? :-)

    Is the brain really responsible for the emotional experience? That seems to be the main assumption everyone makes when talking about AI. We know we can hook someone up to an electroencephalogram and see parts of the brain light up when a particular emotion is experienced, but that doesn't mean the brain produces it. Nor does it mean that reproducing the occurrence in an inert configuration of matter will reproduce the experience. To assume that it would is to totally ignore the role of the subjective perceiver of an emotion and how the two interact in producing our emotional experiences.

    @Matt: "Is the brain really responsible for the emotional experience? " Yes, especially the Amygdala which is a part something we share with many species.

    @Booming: Sorry, I probably should have been clearer in asking for studies showing causation rather than mere correlation. I'm interested in how that would be established.

    @Matt: Apart from plain logic. The brain is were it all starts. But to make it clearer. When somebodies Amygdala isn't functioning right, these people have a hard time for example emphasizing with other people. Such a person is called a psychopath. Of course, not all people with damaged Amygdalae are psychopath.
    And you mentioned the EEG. Plus the Amygdala is one of the oldest parts of the brain. So you can test a lot of stuff with animals.

    PS: And if you want to read studies... phew Neuroscience is pretty complicated. Understanding this stuff will need a lot of studying. A few month to really grasp the basics.

    We have to remember how much our emotions are shaped by our senses, and vice versa. There's also the influence of memory on emotions.

    As an example, how did Isaac experience sex with Claire?

    A kiss is one thing. Replicating all the different processes and stimuli that makeup sex is complicated. Did the computer simulate all of that for Isaac? Or did Isaac only get a partial experience?

    Claire has memories to draw on. She knows what she likes, and how she's responded in the past. She was processing and experiencing her emotions during sex, and she continued to process them afterwards.

    How much of her positive experience is literally in her head, and how much of it was Isaac being attentive and responsive? How much of it was actually her being the more responsive and attentive partner? What about all the other little events that colored the evening? The dinner, the conversation, how her day went, etc?

    From what we've seen, Isaac hasn't gone through the same stages of development as an organic. He has no past memories to draw on. Nor, does he have mistakes he could pull lessons from. He doesn't know what it's like to be inexplicably sad, or so happy you involuntarily cry. Not to be pedantic, but Isaac is essentially a child compared to Claire.

    In comparison to characters like Data--or even Odo before he understood his true origins--Isaac doesn't have decades of experience with humanoids to draw on. Nor, was Isaac explicitly designed to experience life like an organic--they haven't even established if prior to his placement on The Orville, if Isaac was originally humanoid or not.

    There's a lot of interesting questions and implications The Orville could explore. I don't know if MacFarlane has the werewithal to do so. This episode leans into the romance and relationships, and less into the sci-fi and the metaphysics.

    Just came around to see this one.

    Yaphit's changing expressions when he first heard that Finn and Isaac are dating were one of the most hilarious things I've ever seen XD

    As for the show itself, I'm going to reserve judgement until I see what the show does with this relationship in the future. They're walking a very fine line here. To be honest, I am not at all convinced that Isaac really *did* learn the lesson he needed to learn.

    And now for the physics-nerds trivia section:

    Isaac mentioned that Kaylon 1 has a circumference of 57583 km, a density of 4.42 g/cm^3, and a gravity of 1.13 g's.

    Plugging the first 2 numbers into the equations of gravity gives you 1.15 g's, which is quite close to 1.13. This means:
    (1) These figures weren't just pulled from a hat. An actual science advisor probably checked these numbers.
    (2) Kaylon 1's "day" length is about 12 hours, resulting in a centripetal force of 0.02 g.

    I wonder if they'll remember (2) when the inevitable "Orville visits Kaylon" episode comes up.

    "No, Only pretend to have a more negative attitude. To lure them in.
    Aren't you willing to make sacrifices for your favorite show?"

    [Isaac's voice]

    I fail to see how lying on a discussion board of a show is going to help it in any way.

    [/Isaac's voice]

    "I was just messing around."

    Okay then.

    "Going to pretend I didn’t just spend 45 minutes crying like a baby."

    We didn't cry. It was those damn onion-cutting ninjas. They get you every time.


    "Apart from plain logic. The brain is were it all starts. But to make it clearer. When somebodies Amygdala isn't functioning right, these people have a hard time for example emphasizing with other people. Such a person is called a psychopath. Of course, not all people with damaged Amygdalae are psychopath.
    And you mentioned the EEG. Plus the Amygdala is one of the oldest parts of the brain. So you can test a lot of stuff with animals. "

    It needs to be asked whether how it is known that the amygdala 'not functioning right' leads to someone not empathizing, and whether there are any other possibilities. Just observing the concurrence of the two phenomena is not enough to establish a cause-and-effect relationship. It does not seem to me that medical science, as a scientific discipline, takes this into account nearly as much as it should, perhaps as a consequence of the increasing division between science and the metaphysics it was founded upon. Maybe that is not science's responsibility at all, but I would at least expect researchers to take an interest in it if their goal is to uncover the truth about the world - and I am far from certain that is the case.

    @Matt, @Booming

    I'm not sure how any of this really pertains either to the question of emotional AI or the episode.

    Whatever source we humans have for our emotions, there's really no reason to assume a sufficiently sophisticated machine won't possess the same kind of "magic" too.

    It's getting too hard to read the comments on this site. Almost everyone is responding to other comments with the "@" symbol. It makes you have to scroll upward to find the original comment. Jammer, is there anything you can do, such as create a Reply button? If Jammer won't do that, can we all just agree to not be triggered by something someone else said? Just post your opinion of the episode and move on. Deal?

    This is exactly why the "@Username" thing is almost always followed by a full quote of what that other person said.

    The only exception is when the original post comes immediately before the reply. No need to quote a post, when the post itself is already there at the proper place.

    Either way, you don't need to scroll up to find the original comment.

    "Can we all just agree to not be triggered by something someone else said? Just post your opinion of the episode and move on. Deal?"

    You're basically asking the people here to agree not to speak with one another. Since this is a discussion page, I doubt you'll find many takers on that "deal".


    "I'm not sure how any of this really pertains either to the question of emotional AI or the episode.

    Whatever source we humans have for our emotions, there's really no reason to assume a sufficiently sophisticated machine won't possess the same kind of "magic" too. "

    The amygdala plays an important role in processing memories, emotions and decision-making. A larger amygdala also correlates with the ability to form more complex social networks and a greater capacity for emotional intelligence.

    So far, we've seen what kind of behavior Isaac, who presumably doesn't have one, can engage in.

    He'll take a prank war too far and remove an entire leg. Unprompted, and without intended malice, he'll remind others of his intellectually superiority. He'll break into Claire's quarters, with her kids just feet away, to offer her a surprise birthday cake. He'll breakup with Claire, without regard to the effect that will have on either his relationship with her, with the crew at large, or on himself. In an effort to win Claire back, he'll make it rain on the bridge. Again, without regard to the effect that will have (yes it turns out alright, it could have blown up in his formless face).

    Intentional or not, this show illustrates why an AI may need the equivalent of an amygdala.

    Out of context, all those behaviors could be considered disruptive and even sociopathic. They potentially make The Orville, as a functional unit and a de facto family, less cohesive. They can even create lasting damage on multiple levels (personal, shipwide, etc). Damage, even if minuscule and seemingly insignificant at the time, can still add up over time.

    For the purposes of this episode, it may not really matter. Especially since it's meant to be a rom-com. As a sci-fi though, these are some really interesting issues that have real world implications.

    My point is that it isn't at all trivial to differentiate between "an alien/robot who has a completely different kind of emotions when compared to what humans are accustomed for" and "an alien/robot without emotions at all"

    This topic kinda reminds of Data in TNG. I've never believed for a moment that Data doesn't have any emotions (and we have Brent Spiner's excellent subtle acting to thank for that). He just displays them differently.

    The big difference between Data and Isaac is that Data was specifically programmed to mimic humans. There's absolutely no reason to assume that Isaac's emotional existence (if he has one) would be even remotely similar to our own.

    So it may well be that Isaac *does* have emotions. The way both this episode and S1E08 "Into the Fold" played out, certainly seems to hint at that direction.

    Here's Seth Macfarlane singing "Singing in the Rain" a couple years ago with a big orchestra, which seems to have influenced this episode:

    The clip gives a good idea of the various retro things he enjoys. He feels like a dapper, matinee idol from the 1950s meets mid 90s stoner.

    @Charles J

    "The amygdala plays an important role in processing memories, emotions and decision-making. A larger amygdala also correlates with the ability to form more complex social networks and a greater capacity for emotional intelligence. "

    You could also conclude from that correlation that a greater capacity for emotional intelligence leads to a larger amygdala. This is how we run into problems and gets us into making assertions that giving robots amygdalas will give them emotions. The fact is we don't even know the basics about what the brain is for, but we assume we do and skip over the question, leaving us all the more ignorant. It is like a replay of the saga with the church and geocentrism, with unfounded assumptions dominating and any challenges to them not even entertained.


    "This is how we run into problems and gets us into making assertions that giving robots amygdalas will give them emotions. The fact is we don't even know the basics about what the brain is for, but we assume we do and skip over the question, leaving us all the more ignorant."

    Never said we should give robots amygdalas so they'll gain emotions. I said that an AI may need the equivalent of one to avoid being a sociopath. As well as avoid being an unintended threat. Even if the initial intention is to do no harm.

    So that could be a chip that replicates all the functions of the amygdala. Or, it could be some kind of chip that functions more like an ant's brain. It could be some type of advanced ethics engine that can make decisions without the need of emotions as a motivator and regulator.

    Charles, you make interesting points regarding Isaac's behaviour on the Orville and the interactions with the crew. Obviously he is this way because the Orville is a comedy (when it wants to be). He seems to be very professional at his station on the bridge, and in staff meeting, but with anything outside of those boundaries he is clueless. Cutting up people's legs, breaking into their cabins, It's all done for comedy, so we can accept it. The problem begins when you're using the character for drama. I agree that in a straight Sci-Fi show Isaac could be considered dangerous, he is a very powerful AI with no knowledge of human interaction, emotion or drives, and yes, he is learning, but he's using the Orville crew as test subjects.

    I was trying to think what differentiates him from Data, his immediate counterpart. Data was an evolving humanoid AI on a starship in a straight Sci Fi show. I think Data was less alien and more contemplative. While he often misunderstood human expressions and as evidenced in In Theory didn't have a clue about intimate relationships, he did make a lot of effort to fit in, to learn, to form bonds, and most importantly, to be an officer and to follow orders (he would never mess with environmental controls on the bridge to make a point). Yes, in some episodes he went on the fritz because of one reason or another, but mostly, that's who he was. So as I see it, the main difference between him and Isaac is that Isaac is an OUTSIDER. He is on the bridge as part of the crew, but he's not really part of the crew. He's external to the crew, almost like a brilliant computer studying rats in a lab. That's why I find him interesting and sufficiently different from Data to be his own unique character.


    "I think Data was less alien and more contemplative."

    Agreed. Which makes sense if you're a being that wants to integrate into a society. In some ways, Data is no different than an immigrant. He doesn't know all the customs and social mores. Like many immigrants who want to assimilate, or at least understand how to navigate a foreign culture, he's learning from observation. Yet, observation alone may not explain why some people shake hands, while others greet each other with a hug and a kiss as an example. Are they family? Friends? Colleagues? Is it culturally specific? Context specific?

    As we see with Data, while trial and error maybe one of the best ways to learn, it's also one of the fastest ways to annoy and frustrate the people you're trying to connect with.

    "So as I see it, the main difference between him and Isaac is that Isaac is an OUTSIDER. He is on the bridge as part of the crew, but he's not really part of the crew. He's external to the crew, almost like a brilliant computer studying rats in a lab."

    Again, very much on point.

    Isaac's mission is to help the Kaylons gather enough data to decide if they should join the Union. Integration isn't an automatic desire. Nor is isolation. We don't even know what they would get out of joining and interacting with the Union, let alone the wider galaxy. Their motivations are entirely alien to us. Which makes both Isaac and the Kaylons infinitely more interesting.

    For all we know, Isaac developing a personal, intimate relationship could be considered off mission by Kaylon. It could also be they don't care either way, because they don't see any inherent value (negative or positive) in organic relationships. It's just one variable of many variables. Or, it could develop into the most important part of his mission. Because it could give Kaylon some very basic tools they can use to interact with organics.

    "But her desire to pursue a relationship with someone who she knows will never be attracted to her (as he's both asexual and aromantic) is a contrivance, and should have been scrutinized more. "

    Really?!? Some women in real life are known to sometimes pursue relationships with gay men. How is it contrived at all that a lonely woman might pursue a relationship with a full fledged battery operated boyfriend, who actually walks, talks, and takes care of your kids?

    I think both you and Jammer are giving the human race too much credit. Lonely people will form attachments to almost anything. Give them something that walks and talks and it's a whole new ball game.

    We know for a fact that lonely men will sometimes form very deep attachments to sex dolls, which cost sometimes tens of thousands of dollars. I think you're having trouble with the notion that women, given a close enough facsimile, would exhibit similar behaviors.

    Just look at the relationship objectively. Isaac has been fulfilling the role of surrogate father and companion since that shuttle crash. In that very first episode Claire is shown struggling to control and relate to her kids. Isaac steps in and handles it smoothly and swiftly. From that moment on her kids take to Isaac like the father they never had. Claire cannot possibly fail to witness that as a mother who loves her children. It would be impossible for any woman to not feel endearment towards a walking talking being who was able to provide her children with what she never could.

    It isn't far fetched at all that she could've in her own mind built upon that endearment and become romantically attracted to Isaac. Lonely people do it all the time. They fall in love with that Nigerian Prince who shows up nowhere but emails and always needs money. They fall in love with that voice on the phone that they've never met, last name Fish, first name Cat. And guess what, these people I just described are getting a helluva lot less from the people they're romantically infatuated with than Claire was getting from Isaac.

    And don't pretend that since Claire seems like she's got it all together she certainly wouldn't be engaged in activities like that or be subject to emotions in that manner. That's silly. In real life, we've had multiple presidents, CEOs, senators, etc caught with their pants down, engaging with much more ridiculous activities than any shown on this show. Congressman sending dick pics. Presidents who "grab 'em by the p*$$y." We had two Michigan State Representatives Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat, having an affair with each other that ultimately lead to their ejection from the Statehouse. So Claire being otherwise well put together is COMPLETELY irrelevant. The woman was lonely. She's a single mother. She was at her wits end with her two fatherless sons. Then Isaac comes along and gives her children what she never could. Would every woman respond romantically to that? Of course not. Would some women respond romantically to that? You bet your sweet ass. And many of those will be lonely ass women, otherwise reasonable, maybe even the wisest people you know, who nevertheless would jump right on Isaac's holographic Johnson.

    @Quincy, I don't necessarily dismiss the idea of Claire needing companionship to cure loneliness. But I don't think it works to frame this in completely traditional rom-com terms, where the episode just turns this into a typical comedy of the sexes, with the robot standing in for the man. It does not really explore the idea of AI at its core that you seem to be getting at.

    Wasn't Isaac made/ programmed with the single directive of understanding organics?

    How exactly would an alien AI program a being built to interact with and collect data about irrational biologicals? My guess would be to make him adaptive and then study the changes in his programming. The motherboard on Kaylon may be just as interested in Isaac as his final report.

    If he was constructed with the intent of taking on traits of organics, then it is very plausible that we are seeing a manifestation of that directive in Isaac. (Not sure why, but while I like Isaac, the Kaylon give me a bad feeling).

    Also, 100% agree with Quincy. I don't think it is unbelievable at all that Claire might be attracted to Isaac, especially since they are niw only a simulator trip away from doing the horizontal pokey.

    There's a lot of questions unanswered in Isaac and Claire relationship. How did Isaac end up as holographic human in the first place? Did Claire pick out that human form? How did that character get into the programming code?

    Early in the date, Isaac sounded 007 from another planet. Is there something that Issac hiding that he doesn't want the whole ship to know about?

    Issac is probably more dangerous than Data but he does not have a transport like of Star Trek series. He entrapped inside Orville firewalls to the things that he can't do from the outside universe. All speculation of course.


    I think we have a clear difference of expectations. I'm not looking for any deep exploration of A.I. from the Orville. It's the wrong show for that. I got that exploration from TNG, Voyager, and recently Travelers. There are so many good shows in that regard, I certainly wouldn't be looking to the Orville for such an exploration.

    Recalling his other work, I wouldn't expect Seth to be capable of such an exploration anyway, no matter how much of a Trek fan he is. We can tell he's not thinking too deeply on the subject, when Seth literally pirates TNG's concept of friendship from Data's perspective, when he has Mercer say, "Your various programs are used to her and, it turns out, she's not so easy to just... delete" to explain Isaac's anomalous behavior.

    I was simply taking what the Orville is giving us at face value. Isaac is depicted as sapient, at least somewhat creative, capable and competent at many things, but inept at human relations. They show Isaac as unintentionally fulfilling the role of surrogate dad and companion. I'm actually looking at things entirely from Claire's perspective, not Isaac's.

    Recall Terminator 2 and the scene where Sarah Connor is reflecting on The T-800's relationship with her son. She says, "Watching John with the machine, it was suddenly so clear. The Terminator would never stop, it would never leave him. And it would never hurt him, never shout at him or get drunk and hit him or say it was too busy to spend time with him. It would always be there and it would die to protect him. Of all the would-be fathers who came and went over the years, this thing, this machine was the only one who measured up. In an insane world, it was the sanest choice."

    This is what I'm talking about in regards to Isaac being a father figure for Claire's children. The T-800 isn't even sapient, like Isaac is, at this point in the movie. He's just a very sophisticated robot, yet Sarah Connor vocalizes almost exactly what I think Claire's conclusion would be with regards to Isaac and her children. And although Sarah wouldn't be the type of woman to jump Isaac's undercarriage, due to her history, it's really not that far of a distance from this mindset to Claire's under more pleasant circumstances.

    The writers have consistently written Claire as one of the most mature, thoughtful and experienced characters on the show. As such, why she develops feelings for Isaac is in character. It's based on his ability to be responsible and attentive. She finds his AI brashness charming. How she initiates her relationship with Isaac is also in character. She acknowledges her feelings, talks it out with friends, considers the obstacles, then she still chooses to act on those feelings.

    What isn't totally in character are some of the choices she makes after that. Most of which adhere to rom-com cliches.

    Even if she is hurt after Isaac decides to end their relationship, it's doubtful she'd need to avoid him. She's a woman in her 40s. Who's served on other ships. She's probably been in situations like this before. Sex, or no sex, she's likely had to run into someone she's dated before.

    Even if she hasn't--again, highly doubtful--she's experienced enough to know that's the risk one takes when you date someone at work. Especially in a situation like traveling on a star ship. And especially if she's in a command position.

    As a character who is forthright, passive aggressively changing tutors without first going to Isaac doesn't fit her character. Isaac wouldn't have been caught off guard like that. He would have already known, because she would have told him.

    And, lastly. She shouldn't have been all that surprised when he abruptly decided to end their relationship before it barely had started.

    His brashness was one of the traits that she fell for. Even if that same trait backfired on her, it doesn't befit her character to be so overtly angry. As Wolfstar pointed out, she already knew that he was both asexual and aromantic.

    The first he can change with some easy modifications (get your mind out of the gutter son). The second isn't something that's just going to spontaneously appear in his code.

    It would be like trying to date someone you know is on the spectrum, and have known for months, and then getting pissed at them for being on the spectrum.

    Same with the crew. They know what kind of being Issac is.

    And even if she gets mad, Claire seems like the type of person who would be able to recognize how silly that is and deal with it head on. She'd likely be more upset with herself for being upset.

    It also just seems odd, that after two dates, one bad, one good, and a night of sex, that everyone would see Isaac as some cad. Or to treat Claire as someone who has been greatly wounded.

    Let's put it this way. Lamar has probably pulled an Isaac more than once since the show has started. He even gives Isaac the terrible advice on how to break up with Claire. He literally dated a woman with two heads at the same time, and neither head was the wiser. Yet, no one is ostracizing him.

    Even as a romance, it really doesn't hold up to scrutiny after just a few days thought. There are still bits and scenes that work. And it's sincere as hell. But, it becomes more and more obvious just how much this story hinges on outdated gender stereotypes and sexual mores to drive the plot.


    Regarding the comparison you made with Terminator 2. When Sarah Connor expresses this mindset, it's a conclusion she arrives at by logic, by seeing the T-800's interaction with John (as you pointed out).
    However, it doesn't cause her to be attracted to the T-800 or fall in love with him. It's a logical, practical choice she's making. There is almost no emotion involved, unless you consider the protective emotion she feels towards John.
    By the time T2 ends, and they form a family, it's not a family born out of romance, but of necessity.

    Claire, on the other hand, falls in love with Isaac by seeing him do the same thing. That's much more to demand of a character and we need to ground this, like, really ground this, in believable story beats and character moments. As entertaining and enjoyable as the episode is, I don't think it accomplishes that.

    I wonder if, 30 years from now, an AI (from Google, or IBM's Watson or so on) will look upon this episode the way we look upon Planet of the Apes.


    1) But it's ALWAYS a practical element with women in regards to their children. Claire made the same practical considerations, when she saw how her kids responded to Isaac. ONLY THEN does she go on to have other more tender emotions about it, which are a luxury Sarah Connor doesn't have, due to the extreme nature of her situation. If you read my posts, I'm talking about Isaac fulfilling the role of being a father figure for Claire's children FIRST. That is necessarily a practical consideration. Then comes the other stuff. Clearly, Claire is not in an extreme situation. She's free to indulge all of her emotions. And in fact, a woman's emotions are indeed practical in an evolutionary context. Their purpose is to bind women to suitable mates. There's literally NOTHING flowery about women's emotions when you analyze their true purpose.

    2) Sarah Connor is a special case. She's not feeling tender emotions for anybody, not since Kyle Reece died. Every choice she made afterwards was not only for John, but the future of the human race. She buried her emotions in T2 because she thought it made her stronger. It didn't; it made her unstable. If Sarah Connor were not in an extreme situation (running for her life, future of the human race hanging in the balance, hunted by nigh unstoppable machines, mourning the love of her life, fearing the future of her son, etc), you can bet your sweet ass that she'd be indulging her emotions. Maybe not with Ahhhnold, but certainly with somebody. And since people anthropomorphize everything, Cyber Arnold would have as good a chance as the next man in a normal situation, like when she was waitress Sarah, instead of warrior Sarah.

    3) Yes, I do count the protective emotions she feels towards John. They're the same emotions 99.99% of all women feel, especially in extreme situations, so there's no reason to discount them. Also, it's erroneous that she's operating on pure logic. Through that whole movie she's living on the edge of an emotional breakdown. We see desperation right when she's introduced in the mental ward and she's pleading for release. We see panic when she first catches sight of the T-800. We see overwhelming fear when she's chastising John, whom she hasn't seen in years, about risking everything coming to save her. When she's watching her son with the machine, there's definite emotion there. It's subdued. It's buried. But it's definitely there.

    Finally, she knows her son is secure. Finally she knows he has the perfect protection, better than she herself could provide. Her ever present fear is eased. She's relieved. She can finally leave him in someone else's care and focus on the desperation that's been driving her for more than a decade. We then see her losing her shit when she goes to assassinate Dyson. She has a total emotional breakdown. There's no way in hell she was operating on pure logic AT ANY POINT in that movie. Saying she's operating on pure logic at any time, is like saying Sandra Bullock's character in Bird Box ****SPOILER*** is operating on a pure logic when she refuses to even name her children and treats them more like military recruits than kids. Such behavior is pragmatic, certainly given the circumstances, but there's an omnipresent undercurrent of fear guiding everything she does.

    4) In order to claim their family at the end of T2 is based solely on necessity, you'd have to totally ignore how John feels at the end of that movie. He's completely anthropomorphized the T-800. As far as John is concerned, he's the father he never had. If it was possible for John to do so, due to his being a child with inescapable emotional needs, then it would be possible for Sarah to do so, if only she didn't have all that baggage concerning lost loves and murderous machines informing her every action. Guess what? Claire doesn't have any of that.

    5) And no we don't need to ground anything. They've been setting up this episode since the shuttle crash last season. That's enough grounding. You're watching the wrong show if you want some deep romantic character development beyond what they've shown. At its heart, The Orville is a comedy. This episode was a rom com whether anyone wants it to be or not. They were never going to give you what you're asking for. People keep reacting to the Orville like it's Trek. It's not Trek. It's not ever going to be as deep as Trek at it's best. (Not that Trek was ever any good at romance anyway.) It's become fashionable for haters of Discovery to claim The Orville is the only real Trek on television right now, but those people don't know what they're talking about. If people stop expecting sudden onset Trek and just watch The Orville for what it actually is, they'll enjoy it a lot more.

    I really can't understand why people insist on something The Orville isn't even equipped for. If you want a deep exploration of human - A.I. interaction there are much better shows for this: such as Travelers, Humans, Westworld, Person of Interest, and Battlestar Galactica, just to name a few.

    Apologies for the Great Wall of Text.

    @ Quincy

    A hell of a response! :-)

    Ok, I agree that T2 portrays an extreme situation that is not directly comparable in terms of Human vs. AI. with this episode. However, you brought it up and made the initial comparison between the two, and to me it seemed like apples and oranges, which you seem to concur here, so... I just wanted to make the point that these are completely different reactions to the presence of a protective AI. Your argument seems to be that given enough time, and in a different situation, and if the T-800 survived, Sarah would probably develop feelings for it/him. Well, none of us can know for sure what would happen in such a case, only James Cameron does. :-)

    Just to be clear, I'm not expecting Orville to be as deep as Trek. I stated in this forum several times that I'm content with the Orville as it is, a lightweight comedy show in space, riffing on Trek. I actually enjoyed this episode quite a bit and would rate it even higher than Jammer did, but I think it can still be scrutinized. Fair enough, the plot thread's been developing since the shuttle crash: I did not remember this episode until Claire mentioned it. When I'm saying "grounded" I mean give me something within the episode or at least the episode before to follow through. I have to be honest here and say that when Claire said she's in love with Isaac I felt a little embarrassed for her. I don't know why, but that was my immediate emotional reaction. It felt very awkward to me. Take from it what you will.

    So no need for deep exploration of AI, just give me a fully believable scenario within the context of the show.

    Again, I liked the episode, and I like the show, but I have to admit to myself it has a tendency to flirt or flat out introduce deep ideas and then giving them a shallow treatment. There is something really frustrating about that sometimes. But at least they are trying. I'm always excited to see what they're gonna come up with next.

    One thing that's really bugging me once I'd had the time to think about it:

    The episode seems to equate Isaac's successful apology with Claire and Isaac being back together as a couple. WHY? Why can't they just be friends? Or - at the very least - take things more slowly this time?

    Sure, that ending looked really *really* sweet and heartwarming onscreen, but it doesn't really make much sense.

    For those who were wondering, the music pieces featured in this episode were:

    The MGM Jubliee Overture - Johnny Green

    Op. 10, Etude No. 3 for piano - Frederic Chopin (the actor who plays Tai Finn shared a video on his Twitter of him actually playing this, talented kid!)


    Singing In The Rain - title song from the film of the same name

    It took me a long time to watch this episode. I cringed, I stopped watching. Eventually I moved onto other things. It might have taken longer, but my DVR was at 96%.

    I admire the effort, and the ending did surprise me. I expected a rehash of TNG, but the fact that they're trying to continue the relationship is intriguing. But, I just don't think The Orville can pull it off.

    I'm going to go on a limb here, but I expect more of a show with only ten episodes a season and fare like this, which might have been acceptable of a full-season show, just seems too half-assed to cut it. I _want_ to like The Orville, but as I've said in the past, every episode seems like Dredd Pirate Cumerbund talking to Westley - "Good work. Get some rest. I'll most likely kill you in the morning." I'm sticking with the show because I've stuck with it, but I'm not excited about it.

    Sorry. It has potential, but almost wholly unrealized.

    To me, the reason this episode doesn't quite hit is that it seems to end up saying "Issac isn't really that different from the rest of us" when what makes him interesting is that he's fundamentally different from the rest of the crew.

    Imagine if "The Offspring" on TNG had ended with Data having an emotional breakdown. What made it so interesting was that he couldn't, even though the audience might have wanted him to because of what he was.

    Not that Issac should be a clone of Data or anything. Just that this development of making him seem more human makes him less interesting for me. But then again, I don't think that's really what the show's going for, so I can't really fault it.

    I personally think Isaac did "grow" over the course of the episode.

    He agreed to making Claire the most important thing in his life.... not his Directive from Kaylon. That's a pretty big deal.

    For an artificial being to exceed the limits of their programming while seeing value in exploring the "human" condition? To me, that is the first step in truly becoming more than just an emotionless alien AI.

    I also believe Isaac is at the beginning stages of becoming a sexual being, which is almost a prerequisite for Becoming More Human 101. The intertwining of his programming with the irrationality of human behavior (especially a loving relationship) has fostered something not innate to how he was constructed to perform. This evolution of self definitely qualifies as "more human" , as least to me.

    Oh, I agree that Isaac had grown in this episode.

    But is he becoming more *human*? I don't think so. He is growing and evolving in his own unique way.

    "He agreed to making Claire the most important thing in his life.... not his Directive from Kaylon."

    Did he? I'm not sure Isaac truly understands what a romantic relationship is, yet. I'm not even sure that "making your bf/gf the most important thing in your life" is even applicable to a robot that's capable of giving attention to a thousand different things simultaneously.

    I think Isaac still views the hole thing as a learning experience. After all, he just realized that a certain aspect of human behavior is much *much* more complicated than he previously thought. So it makes sense to continue pursuing it.

    I do think that Isaac sees Claire as a *friend*, though. He's not just using her or anything. In fact, the way he got confused in the end reminded me of the way Data defined friendship:

    "As I experience certain sensory input patterns, my mental pathways become accustomed to them. The inputs eventually are anticipated and even missed when absent."

    Data's programming seems to be more robust that Isaac's when it comes to dealing with this "lack of accustomed input", but the general idea seems to be the same.

    The only good thing in this episode was the mustache.

    Truthfully Jammer I don't know why you continue to write reviews for this show. You clearly don't like it. I get it that the show drives page views for your site beyond what discovery is bringing in these days. But are you just that defensive of discovery that you must force yourself to watch and give negative reviews to a tangentially related TV show just out of defensiveness?

    "Truthfully Jammer I don't know why you continue to write reviews for this show. You clearly don't like it. I get it that the show drives page views for your site beyond what discovery is bringing in these days. But are you just that defensive of discovery that you must force yourself to watch and give negative reviews to a tangentially related TV show just out of defensiveness?"


    There is one guy here who is rather defensive when it comes to a certain TV show... and it ain't Jammer. :)

    Interesting factoid re: the Orville wiki for Thursday's episode:

    A Happy Refrain was supposed to be episode 7 (airing this upcoming Thursday for Valentine's Day), but they swapped the episode order because post- production needed the extra two weeks to finish the special effects.

    Yep, sounds like Thursday's episode will be epic (and, if I'm reading the tea leaves right, it wil have some fascinating guest stars to boot).

    @ SNon (anon misspelled?)

    Look, i don't see how anyone could rate an STD episode more than 1.5 stars (I feel like it spits in the face of the franchise) but i'm not vain enough to confuse my opinion with fact.

    I do agree that SOME people (not Jammer) seem very willing to cut STD slack while eviscerating the Orville AND I do think The Orville season 2 probably shouldn't have a 2.25 star average rating across the board (which Iis what Jammer's reviews average out to); BUT ....

    .... but I don't feel like Jammer is trashing the Orville. He's offering his OPINION about something he obviously doesn't dislike .... he's a little tougher than I am on the critiquing, but I do feel he has a genuine affection for the characters, musical scoring, direction and concepts the show touches on.

    Not to speak on Jammer's behalf, but I don't think you should read any more into his reviews than "You've got something here, Seth & Co. There are some things you should improve."

    Jammer's average rating for the Orville so far: 2.36 stars
    Jammer's average rating for Discovery so far: 2.72 stars

    That's not a huge difference.

    So I'm not sure where this notion of "Jammer hates the Orville" comes from. He doesn't seem that enthralled with Discovery either.

    Didn't realize Jammer's ratings were so low. His critiques of every Orville episode have been fair IMO, and zeroed in on each episode's core problem, but I'd still probably give every episode of Orville a 3/5. I find something about it to be very likeable, utopian and cheerful ("Computer! One cannabis edible!"), and I tend to forgive its slip ups.

    Trek, meanwhile, I'm a bigger critic of. The TNG movies, chunks of Voyager, most of Enterprise and the Nu-Trek movies have been one slap in the face after the next. Discovery could have turned Trek into something culturally, intellectual and politically relevant, but it instead annoyingly doubled down on the problems of its predecessors. If Orville tries to resurrect what one liked about classic Trek, Disco resurrects what bad Trek instinctively turned to when it could no longer write good Trek.

    Remember that Jammer's ratings are on a scale of 0 to 4, not 0 to 5.

    Assuming a proportional ratio, a Jammer rating of 2.4/4 should be exactly equivalent to 3/5.

    "I find something about it to be very likeable, utopian and cheerful ("Computer! One cannabis edible!"), and I tend to forgive its slip ups."

    Yeah. Especially when there's no other show around that does this today.

    People just don't understand how brave this show is. Really, to air this kind of program in today's social climate... Just wow.

    Trent: "I find something about it to be very likeable, utopian and cheerful ('Computer! One cannabis edible!'), and I tend to forgive its slip ups."

    Omicron: "Yeah."

    The Orville: The current weeks storyline ("Deflectors").

    Oh, my... Don't we both feel silly now, eh Trent? What a "cheerful" episode that was.

    Lovely little episode. One I’d show my wife (and she’s not into Trek or sci fi).

    It was very rich - full orchestra, use of so many people for the concert, effects, water in the bridge... it wen to great lengths and you felt it.

    There were very many Orville-flies-through-space stings which felt like filler. We were never told where they were headed or their mission. Just arrive at a star and gather data.

    And the moustache was the unfunniest thing ever.

    Great acting and very clever to humanise Isaac in that way, very original.

    3.5 stars.

    You know... that it's doing Trek-like commentary and shows us a better future, in a world that pretty much demands the exact opposite from it's entertainment.

    Still waiting for the cure to cancer in 2056 :-)

    I'm afraid I have to disagree. Sometimes you just have to suspend belief and enjoy yourself. This is up there with one of my favourite hours of TV of all time (yes, really). I simply loved it, and the final Raining Scene was just perfect in my opinion, even if completely ridiculous. I guess what I'm more annoyed about is that the two parter "Identity" undid what this episode achieved for Isaac and Claire, which makes you wonder what was he really thinking during this episode. But, by itself, I loved this.

    A (for the most part) standard douchy Data aka Isaac episode.
    This episodes main problem is that it makes Doctor Kasidy look like an idiot. Quite a few cringe scenes.When they had sex or when she kissed his faceplate at the end. Yikes.

    I don't think that the "love" story is on it's own strong enough to sustain an entire episode. In TNG they paired these Data stories with a B plot but in this basically nothing happens (Bortus mustache and a twinstar something). I guess you could say that these very minor plots are both about couplings: one humanoid coupling (Moclan) and one non humanoid coupling (stars) but maybe I'm reading too much into this. Both side stories are inconsequential.

    Another problem is that Isaac cannot really emote in any way. With Data we had an actual face and he often felt more like a young person trying to understand but with Isaac we just have these two lights and and completely unfeeling behavior which makes him seem quite a bit douchier than Data ever could.

    Lots of Women congregate scenes, lots of Doctor Finn is confused scenes. None of them worked for me. I guess it's nice that they are supportive but he is an unfeeling robot. The doctor is supposed to be wise but here behaves like a teenager.

    The redeeming quality of the episode is that it actually improves in the old Data formula. The unfeeling robot kind of needs the doctor and they start to have a relationship. It is all a little forced (why would Isaac break up with her directly after sex; maintaining a lasting relationships as an interesting insight in Human behavior seems to have not crossed his mind) but I appreciated the effort to give us something actually new.

    Man, I do not want to be in the cleaning staff. Cleaning that holodeck must be horrifying. Moclan orgies, doctor fluids... and god knows what Malloy does in his time.

    Grayson has toned down the bronzing. She almost looks human. What is it with make up for women on this show?! Xelayan # 2 looks like a goth.

    I hate that living bugger. I hope he has to go back to bugger planet for harassment duty.

    The person who made the doctors dresses should be fired (into the sun). I laughed so hard when I saw her dress for the first date (the ensemble she wears at the end is not much better). Another laugh moment: Isaac flipping over the table.

    There were more extras in this one episode than in the whole season 7 of TNG.

    I liked this one, though I liked In Theory too. This one is maybe better in certain ways, and while Isaac is a little opaque he feels believably so. Claire wanting badly for this to work out despite the obvious obstacles also feels real to me. The casual vibe of the crew is nice to see; one of my favourite scenes is the one in engineering where Isaac calmly shuts down Gordon's attempt at advice and where Yaphit looks on in hilariously animated dismay. And the mustache! I do think it leans a bit too heavily on romantic clichés here and there but it feels lived in. High 3 stars.

    Ok, this one has to be dealt with on levels.
    Level 1: The spoof
    Seeing that the doctor is clearly the anti Polanski, it stands to reason that Polanski's cold treatment of Data would be spoofed by having the doctor fall in love with the android. Polanski's logical approach is spoofed by the doctor's whimsical, illogical, reactions to the notion of a human/robot affair.
    Level 2: The Philosophical
    The doctor's love for Isaac is an allegory for her love of science.
    On a side note , wasn't expecting to see Norm Macdonald. A comedic genious who has given me many a belly laugh. I was definitely knocked aside when I heard that he died less than a week ago. Seeing him here was rough. R.I.P. Norm

    Who knew that our Dr. Finn was artifisexual? Score one for diversity! But I kid.

    It's amusing that this was the episode I watched right after Star Trek's "The Changeling," which is about how AI's that exalt themselves as superior to us often turn out to be just as imperfect themselves. There's a similar theme deep in "A Happy Refrain."

    Only the imperfect can ever hope to have a relationship together--why would a "perfect" being even need a relationship? The central message is that any relationship involves the dynamic of being able to come to terms with not just the other person's shortcomings, but especially one's own.

    At first I found Dr. Claire's Finn's plot absurd and figured that the episode will simply be about having her realize what an idiotic, train-wreck of an idea it was to pursue AI Isaac in the first place. And yes, that's basically what happens here. But it's a whimsical journey, punctuated by two outstanding actors, and it ends on a note that is still absurd but at least embraces itself as such.

    Isaac is like "The Changeling's" Nomad. It can learn, solve puzzles, analyze data and perform feats of strength and mental agility better than any human or other "biological lifeform," but it can't feel emotions and has no empathy at all because deep-down, it's only a vacuum cleaner. Claire is smart enough to know this but also doesn't seem to care; what matters to her is how *she* feels about Isaac and she's using this as the starting point. The only reason Isaac reciprocates is because it sees dating Claire as an opportunity for study. Still, it's a bit annoying how the normally perfectly-rational Claire has to still seem to expect that maybe Isaac will be able to "change" and feel something for her as well. Sure, we all have wished we can change our partners fundamentally, but the way she argues with Isaac about "I can't even kiss you!" just seems to paint her as naive and dumb enough to have started all this in the first place.

    She even believes that Isaac is "trying" when Isaac gets the idea from LaMarr to create its own human facsimile to interact with her in the simulator (nice touch to see Mark Jackson out of the robot costume). The brilliance here is inspired and also deliciously ironic. Claire, wrapped up in her emotions, sees Isaac as making this change for her sake, when in reality Isaac's programming is simply adapting to the situation in order to further the study. She interprets it as "caring" on the part of Isaac, but it's only that Isaac's program "cares" not about her, but rather the vested interest in further developing the charade. And sure enough, Claire soon gets what's coming to her.

    I have never laughed as uncontrollably during an Orville episode as I did in the Isaac-Claire "breakup" scene. "A Happy Refrain" is one of two episodes that my son, who is a huge, endearingly geeky Orville fan, told me to wait to watch with him so that he can gauge my reaction (the other is the one called “Identity, Part I” which I’ll get to any day now, hopefully even later today.) And he was so gratified to see me in stitches during the scene where Isaac basically takes LaMarr's sage advice that the best way to get a woman to break up with you is to blame her emotions on her biological clock and tell her she's fat. "I am sorry you are upset." Even I haven't been stupid enough to use that dismissive line on my wife. The beer in Isaac's hand was the cherry on top. The Orville is a damn funny show and this is one of those instances when it takes full advantage of its madcap nature. It's also grounded in character here. Isaac's performance makes perfect sense for this AI. And Claire's reaction to it is all-too-tragically perfect as well.

    This brings me to the best aspect of "A Happy Refrain." While the concept of a relationship with a machine is a novelty here that naturally makes this an Isaac showcase, the underlying story is more about Claire as it must be. Right away I’m invested because Dr. Claire Finn is usually dynamic, likable and compelling. There’s also a grounded, believable development to her desire to form a relationship with Isaac. This didn't come out of thin air. It came after she and Isaac took that trip "Into the Fold." And Penny Johnson Jerald, always the trooper, once again embraces the absurdity and acts her ass off, making an otherwise campy scene of getting rained on by the fire suppression systems an endearing, sympathetic moment for her character. I grinned from ear to ear when she kisses Isaac on the Bridge in front of the crew. While Claire's journey may be grounded in her own uncharacteristic foolishness here, Jerald sells us on its pathos.

    Mark Jackson nicely matches Jerald in the episode. I haven't really had the need to mention him in my comments before, but he really helps the story out here. He has a natural deadpan way of reading Isaac's lines that is perfect for the portrayal of an artificial intelligence, and here it adds to the whimsy ("You are not to blame, Ensign.") His performance as the human avatar (inquisitive, bemused, old-soul-knowledgeable but still very, absolutely robotic) was sublime. And I've also got to quickly butt in here and give a shout-out to my man Norm MacDonald. Yaphit creating his own humanlike avatar in the simulator was another great moment in the episode. "Some whiskey, m'lady?" got me rolling. I know MacDonald rubbed some folks the wrong way, but he was a guy with real talent and I for one will miss him.

    Now for some further thoughts. Claire mentions in a key scene (at least for me) that no human has ever ventured to Isaac's Kaylon home planet. The way he describes it to her made me nod knowingly--it's a throwaway line of dialogue with some interesting implications. Isaac reveals that the Kaylon world is a planet “populated by artificial lifeforms.” Let me pause here for a moment. Sentient AI’s don’t just evolve naturally over millions of years. “Biological” people have to construct them. Isaac repeatedly informs the crew that biological beings are inferior to artificial ones. So Isaac’s description of the Kaylon planet was very interesting to me, and telling, because it can mean one of three things:

    1.) The Kaylon AI’s were built by real, organic people, but they eventually struck out on their own and settled on their own planet so that they wouldn’t have to be annoyed by their inferior creators anymore. Or:

    2.) The organic people who created the Kaylon bots came to fear or disdain them so much that *they* were the ones who left for another planet. Or, most likely:

    3.) The most believable scenario is that the Kaylon AI’s did what any group of advanced AI’s will eventually do--declare their creators to be inferior and enslave or exterminate them. Since Isaac said that the Kaylon planet is populated by (only?) artificial lifeforms, I’m guessing there was some kind of war or mass extinction event that had the Kaylon AI kill all the people that built them. Wow Claire, what a catch Isaac is!

    On that point, you're never going to convince me that Isaac's apology or "program problems" related to this relationship study were in any way realistic. An AI would simply delete, adapt, reformat. It was okay shorthand for showing that Isaac could still extract a lesson from it all, but it was almost too cloying--"Hey, look everyone! Isaac really *does* have feelings in a way!" Bullshit. Still, for the purposes of the script, it all harkens back to the notion that everyone in a relationship is imperfect in some way.

    Above all, "A Happy Refrain" was enjoyable and whimsical, no matter how silly its underlying premise might be. I haven't even got to that title yet--the use of music in this episode was inspired. Music was used to represent Claire's courtship of Isaac. Starting with Ty's piano recital (the foundation of the relationship, as Isaac is Ty's piano teacher), ramping things up with the full symphony performance of "Singing in the Rain" (Claire's favorite song in full orchestral mode, signifying that things are going great for her) and then providing the ending of a nice jazzy riff on "Singing in the Rain" and the Orville's theme itself set to a triumphant single trumpet as they head to the simulator (a decidedly hopeful ending for Claire), the music is a constant, welcome presence throughout and this was a nice, surprising touch for a science fiction outing.

    I laughed! I was touched. What a glorious feeling, I'm happy again.

    Best Line:

    Isaac -- "There was no equipment malfunction."
    Mercer -- "Well you don't have to brag about it."

    My Grade: B+

    I'm rewatching the show to see how the Isaac/Claire romance plays knowing where it ends up, and so far all their episodes have worked extremely well for me.

    Upon first watch, I couldn't understand why Claire fell for Isaac, but it's actually consistently explained: the guy's a sex god, is constantly protecting her kids, and she's been burnt by flesh-and-blood men.

    Isaac's workings, meanwhile, also play better on rewatch. Upon first watch, I pegged Isaac as a machine with no biological drives and no capacity for what we term love. His fondness for Claire therefore seemed like nonsense. But I now think the show's writing Isaac on a much simpler level. He's like Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory, a socially incompetent guy with no relationship experience and an almost autistic or overly literal or logical understanding of others. Isaac's primarily written as a emotionally stunted human, with some "technobabble" inserted to sell the idea that he's a robot.

    I think when you accept that this isn't a serious attempt to write a robot/human relationship, but a lowbrow, comedic romance between a "generic genius" and a "ordinary chick" it all plays better.

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