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If you read Savage Love or any other progressive, sex-positive advice column, you’ll occasionally come across comments from people who worry that they’re not sufficiently open-minded enough because they aren’t interested in participating in some sexual or role play act their partner, partners or sex squad wants to perform. While the puritanical sludge this country evolved from still makes it much more likely that a person will be shamed for enjoying sex at all, there is a flip side where a person feels they must engage in any and all esoteric kinks, lest they come across as uptight. In the homicidal robot and iPhone message history-enhanced holographic program dating world of the future, apparently that fear of not being expansive enough to let people just do, like, whatever, must be much more prominent, because it’s the only reason I can think of why the moment Ed essentially told Kelly halfway through tonight’s episode that either she try and make their relationship work again or he’ll just go ahead and date her time and space-travelling younger self, she didn’t just tell him to fuck right off.

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Tonight’s episode, “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” was a baffling combination of thoughtful, well-considered character moments and egregious emotional manipulation. It was like watching a group of friends who you know are very smart, but are involved in a relationship that’s so bad and so all-encompassing, they can’t even see the shape of it. Everyone was making dubious choices, and if those choices were called into question at all, it was for some tangential reason that didn’t even touch on how coercive it is for your ex-husband to date your past self. One thing I’m grateful for is through the entire episode current Kelly never wavered once —she’s not interested in getting back together with Ed, and reconciliation isn’t an option. He’s been pushing for it for quite a while, but Kelly appears to only have grown more resolute in her feelings that they had their time, they work better together as friends, and it’s a bad idea for the captain and commander to be in a relationship. And since as a viewer I’m in complete agreement with Kelly about all those things, I really hope this is the episode that lay that uncertainty to rest. And if unsuccessfully hooking up with your former lover’s former self can’t do that, who knows what can?

The whole mess starts out, as these things do, with Isaac and John tinkering around with their theoretical time travel cone. Kelly arrives to send John off on a task, just in time for the ship to be hit by a massive gravitational wave. This coincided with Kelly thinking about her first date with Ed, which created some sort of quantum bond with the machine’s disrupted field. The result pulled a younger, bangs-having Kelly onto the ship. After they circle each other in the requisite suspicious body double fashion, young Kelly is sent to med bay to make sure everything is okay. It’s quickly established that, yes, this is definitely Kelly from seven years ago, and no, there’s no easy way to send her back. So then it becomes a question of what to do with the stranded time traveler. Ed agrees to fold young Kelly into the crew and she begins to get comfortable and start making friends with the rest of the crew, which is totally reasonable until they can get back to Earth. It causes a bit of initial conflict when Kelly asks young Kelly to kindly refrain from sharing stories of running around hijacked shuttle bays in her underwear. And really, Kelly’s concern about losing control over her autonomy and compromising her relationship with the crew are perfectly reasonable. And this is where it starts getting bizarre. Young Kelly concedes, but then suggests she’s thinking of applying for a post on the Orville. Which, I cannot imagine being received with any response other than universal agreement that would be a terrible decision. The most minor conflict that would emerge from having two identical people, but with different goals and obligations would be stories that you don’t want told getting out. And if that’s already happened, it’s hard to imagine it would get any better.

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Which it doesn’t. Young Kelly finds out Ed and Kelly were married and now divorced. For young Kelly, her courtship with Ed is fresh enough that she’s still curious to see where it goes. Ed is still so hell bent on trying to get back together with Kelly, he’s willing to date her vulnerable, time-travelling doppelgänger just to try and force the outcome. I honestly don’t see how that could be accepted as anything other than a massive violation. There’s a power, knowledge, and experience imbalance between Ed and young Kelly, as well as how gross it was of him to lay down an ultimatum to Kelly that it was either her, or the other her.

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But sprinkled among the queasy relationship dynamic were some very fun observations about coming face to face with your younger self and how that will also oblige you to reflect on the person you’ve become. Kelly’s observation that “everyone has to make peace with the fact they used to be dumber,” is spot on, but, as she adds, “but they don’t have to look that proof in the face.” Old Kelly finds it tough being around her louder, more strident younger self; and young Kelly finds Kelly’s life to be a series of compromises and failed potential. Kelly goes and enjoys a glass of rainbow liquid (or regular liquid in a rainbow glass) with Dr. Claire to discuss how the simple act of living life will naturally shift the nature and proximity of the goals set when you were younger, and young Kelly goes off to seduce Ed and his truly ugly pajama shirt.

The imminent encounter with two Kaylon warships brings the whole crew to the bridge. Young Kelly has the idea to hide the ship among a planet’s ice rings and shrouding themselves in frost to prevent the Kaylons from tracking them. It’s a gorgeous scene as the ship flies among the glassy chunks of pale green and blue ice chunks, and it’s especially lovely as the crew watches a Kaylon sphere fly by through the frost-encrusted viewing window. Crisis behind them, Kelly realizes she’s being too hard on young Kelly, young Kelly realizes Kelly’s job is tougher than she gave credit for, and Ed decides to stop dating young Kelly —not because it’s super-creepy— but because it’s not new for him in the same way it is for her. Also he doesn’t like night clubs. Good timing all around, because John and Isaac announce they may be able to send Kelly back.

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Throughout the episode, the crew discussed if young Kelly’s predicament splintered the timeline or not. They’re uncertain about the combination of experimental time travel and memory wipes, but young Kelly argues that it will work because it did work, and confidently submits to being sent home again without her memories of the time aboard the Orville. Her certainty that this has all already happened makes the final scene’s twist simple but effective. Ed calls for a second date, and unlike the original timeline, Kelly tells him she just doesn’t think it will work between them. It’s a small thing, and who knows what, if anything, this means for original timeline Ed and Kelly, but it was an intriguing end to an inconsistent episode.

Stray Observations

  • Fashion Corner: Boy there were a lot of rough looks tonight. Ed’s aforementioned pajama shirt, young Kelly’s belted leather tunic with the double row of brass studs and basically everyone’s club look. I did like the scrunchy scoop-neck powder blue sweater young Kelly wore immediately after she came aboard the ship, though.
  • I do love the banter Ed and Kelly share. Not just from a story line perspective, but also due to their chemistry. It’s true the two just work better as friends. The overlapping snippets of conversation as they try and explain their divorce to young Kelly yielded some hilarious tidbits: “That’s kind of a textural thing.”
  • It was nice seeing Bortus and Klyden having a good time at the dance club for a change.
  • “Isaac, are you certain this will work?” “Not at all, Doctor.”

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