As someone who absolutely loves Alison, Orphan Black Season 5 Episode 3 was easily one of my favorite hours of the series as a whole.
"Beneath Her Heart" was heavily Alison-centric, relying on flashbacks and a domestic subplot, while still managing to give her something important to do within the larger clone drama.
Ainsley's death is something that I feel the show never sufficiently addressed, but this installment manages to return to that and close the book on it in a satisfying way.
In many aspects, this was a turning point for Alison.
In the present, Alison was dealing with something she's struggled with since the very beginning: her feelings of uselessness, inadequacy, and existential dissatisfaction.
Alison: Why do I have this face? I could've been born with many faces. I could've been a cop or I could've been a scientist. But I wound up microwaving mini-pizzas and chauffeuring kids to circus camp. Why this life?
Donnie: Because we're happy?
Before, she used alcohol and pills to cope with that feeling. Now, she's finally reached her breaking point.
Much of the hour centered on Alison's quest to reclaim her position as the organizer of the Bailey Downs fall town fair from the usurping Nona Walker.
When that failed, she quickly flew off the rails.
Of course, like most things in Alison's life, her anger over the town fair issue was nothing more than an emblem – something concrete and minor to focus on in light of her larger, more serious problems.
This time around, that included the fact that Rachel was after Helena's location, having sent Neolution cops to the Hendrix home to dig up blackmail dirt, and that there was nothing Alison could do to stop it.
Alison was also feeling guilty about MK's death, believing she could have been more of a help during the Kira rescue attempt.
It's true that, since the pilot, Alison and Donnie have both remained largely outside of the bigger clone drama, dealing mostly with their own issues and subplots.
This time around, Alison finally took control. And bonus: She finally met Rachel!
I was completely shocked to realize that, after all these seasons, Alison and Rachel actually had never met. The way Tatiana Maslany played their big confrontation, though, was absolutely perfect.
I love Alison so much because she's a whole barrel of rage and sass buried beneath a prim and proper exterior. But she can hold her own when she needs to – and with Rachel, she totally brought it.
Alison marched right over to Rachel's office and presented her with Leekie's head – a total power move.
Essentially, she was able to intimidate Rachel into not turning Alison and Donnie into the police for Leekie's murder, for fear of bringing too much attention to Neolution's own nefarious plans.
Alison provides so much of the show's comic relief, it's no wonder that this was one of the funniest hours of the series ever.
A high-as-a-kite Alison in the bouncy house with Ramon? Hilarious.
Talk to the bouncing hand, Donnie!Alison
The shrooming reactions in the flashback were equally funny.
My hand is purple, and it makes the air all fuzzy.Alison
I couldn't get enough of what turned out to be the very first time Alison (tripping like crazy) and Cosima ever met. Alison imagining Cosima's over-the-top and not-very-Cosima-like reactions was so good.
At the same time, the show managed to balance darker and more serious themes with the humor. Particularly when it came to Ainsley.
Encountering Ainsley's husband Chad (with whom Alison had a short-lived affair) set off her guilt about standing by and allowing Ainsley to get strangled to death via scarf-in-the-garbage-disposal.
While Ainsley was "haunting" Alison in the present (right up until Alison gave her big "screw you guys" speech after Donnie collapsed mid-dance at the fair), flashbacks intertwined with the narrative to show the quartet of friends in a happier time.
Importantly, even though it was pre-clone drama, Alison was still notably unhappy. It was clear that she'd been that way for a long time.
A particularly strong moment was the conversation that shrooming Alison and Ainsley had while laying beneath the stars.
So, in all, it made a lot of sense that Alison would end this installment by deciding that she needed some time and to get away.
Of course, we left things on a strong note for Alison and Donnie, despite Alison's impending absence: a beautiful cover of the two singing "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."
It was easily the most loving and most purely happy moment we've ever seen from those two. I absolutely adored it.
Elsewhere, other minor plots were unfolding.
Art was struggling to balance his duties as a cop with his promises to protect Sarah. That almost culminated in him shooting his Neolution partner Enger, not realizing at first that Alison had successfully talked Rachel into calling off unearthing Leekie's body.
Thank goodness he didn't. That would have spelled all kinds of trouble for poor Art.
Elsewhere, Kira was bonding with Rachel, while Sarah was spiraling more and more about the fact that her daughter had become so distant.
Rachel hasn't done anything too noticeably nefarious with Kira yet. But I suspect once she realizes that Helena's babies are more valuable, she'll toss Kira (and any bonding attempts) to the wayside.
That will probably wind up being the wake-up call that Kira needs.
- It was nice to see that in spite of her horrible demise, MK was given a proper send-off. All the sestras were appropriately aggrieved to lose the clone they didn't know that well.
- She wasn't technically in this episode, but Beth did have a small moment in Alison's flashback phone call.
- I'm getting SO WORRIED about Art. He better survive the series. I'll be devastated if he's a casualty of the final face-off (whatever that may be).
- No Cosima at Revival or Delphine at wherever in this installment. More importantly, we have no idea what important information Delphine delivered to Mrs. S.
- Felix painting! Buck naked! I feel like it's been so long.
- I have to admit that I'm really not invested in what Kira's up to at all. The Swiss army knife thing is a little intriguing, but I just find her character so deeply annoying and her choices so nonsensical at this point.
- Surprise! Helena is in a random convent. What's she writing so intently in that journal?
What did you think of "Beneath Her Heart"? Share your thoughts by commenting below, and remember that you can watch Orphan Black online anytime here at TV Fanatic.
Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.