'Orphan Black': Clone Prison Blues

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[This is a review of Orphan Black season 3, episode 5. There may be SPOILERS.]

Apparently frustrated by having Orphan Black's plot jump around as it drops in on the lives of various clones, Dr. Virginia Coady has brought three of her Castor clones home to roost and puts the recently captured Sarah in a cell next door to Helena. Unfortunately for Sarah, Helena has at some point bought into the lie that her dear 'sestra' sold her out to the military, and has switched allegiance to her imaginary scorpion friend Pupok.

"Scarred by Many Past Frustrations" is, first and foremost, a prison break episode. The bulk of its narrative is based around Helena and Sarah's predicament and their attempts to escape from it, and a prison break is a really solid concept for a story. There's tension, suspense, frustration, betrayal - it's a great recipe for entertaining drama.

While Sarah and Helena eat prison food off a plastic tray, Sarah's friends are blissfully unaware of her situation but beginning to worry about the fact that she hasn't checked in. Felix and Siobhan have more troubles on their plate, however, as cast-out Prolethean Gracie shows up on Art's doorstep in need of shelter and ready to start behaving like a teenager. That means fishnet tights, cocktails, and awkward dancing, all of which combine to present a rather bizarre contrast to the scenes of Helena and Sarah fighting for their freedom.

Cosima, meanwhile, is off in her own little bubble of romance as she goes on a date with Shay, a holistic healer who turns out to be surprisingly (and even suspiciously) pleasant for someone who was discovered via a smartphone app. During their date, Cosima repeatedly mentions Delphine, which would usually be considered bad form, but we'll let it pass since there's a decent chance that Shay is some kind of spy. A creepy shot of the two of them through the lens of a camera also indicates that someone - perhaps Delphine, perhaps not - is keeping tabs on the Clone Club's resident science geek.

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Sarah's presence at the military base proves to be pretty distressing for "Dirty" Paul Dierden, but what's bad for Paul's emotional state is good for his character. Thus far the Major has mostly been terrifically bland, so putting him face-to-face with the woman he loved (and probably still loves) at least livens him up a little.

Orphan Black's overall season arc is still suffering from the fact that the primary plot thread involves finding a cure for the Castor clones, whom the audience hasn't known for very long and hasn't been given much reason to like. This week's episode does offer an intriguing new development when it comes to their physiology, however, as it turns out that the women whom the Castor clones have been intimate with have developed some kind of horrible illness that turns the whites of their eyes red and - in Gracie's case - leaves her writhing in agony on the floor.

The focus on Sarah and Helena means that Alison isn't in this episode at all, and neither is the one-eyed Rachel Duncan, but both are set to return next week. It definitely feels like there have been fewer scenes of the Leda clones interacting with one another this season, possibly as a result of where their respective plots have ended up and also possibly as an effort to curtail the number of scenes that are tricky to shoot.

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There's also some interesting backstory offered up this week, as Sarah recalls a time when she missed out on an entire year of Kira's life (the year before the show's story began) due to holding a grudge against Siobhan, and Siobhan herself makes some sorrowful recollections about her husband, whose life was cut short by a pair of shears.

The plot is thickening, but it still feels like Orphan Black's third season is moving along very slowly with a lack of forward momentum. "Scarred by Many Past Frustrations" is a fairly strong piece of the puzzle by itself, but the overall jigsaw is starting to look a bit disjointed.

Orphan Black returns to BBC America next Saturday @9pm with "Certain Agony of the Battlefield." Watch a preview below.

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