DISCLAIMER: This recap of The Orville: New Horizons episode “From Unknown Graves” has spoilers. Prepare to engage quantum drive, and proceed at your peril. 

Welcome back, Union officers! The Orvilles latest episode explores the nature of romantic relationships, compromise, gender dynamics and whether you can genuinely change your partner. It covers quite a bit of thematic ground. While the last few episodes were more drama-heavy and poignant, this outing infuses more of The Orville’s signature comedy, striking a perfect balance of levity and profundity. As per the show’s usual, “From Unknown Graves” knocks it out of the park.

Mark Jackson and Penny Johnson Jerald emerge as acting frontrunners, delivering nuanced and emotionally-charged performances in “From Unknown Graves.” Jackson, in particular, seamlessly executes the challenging task of infusing an AI with surprising depth. His shift from a monotonous robot to a vividly colorful, humanistic and deeply-feeling Kaylon showcases his versatility as an actor. 

Ready to delve into “From Unknown Graves”? Let’s get to it. 

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A Glimpse in Time/A Trip to the Sick Bay

We open with a family ushering K-1 into their household — a Kaylon to cater to their every whim. We’re, presumably, seeing a flashback to a time before the Kaylon uprising against the Builders. 

Meanwhile, Lt. Cmdr. John LaMarr (J Lee) and Lt. Cmdr. Talla Keyali (Jessica Szohr) are making whoopee. Unfortunately, LaMarr emerges scathed, and he rushes to the sick bay.

Dr. Claire Finn (Jerald) cautions LaMarr against continuing his rigorous “exercise” regimen in the simulation room, as that’s the excuse LaMarr gives her. Hey, there’s no shame in having sex with a Xelayan!

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Then, Claire and Isaac (Jackson) have dinner in the simulation room. Isaac resumes his “human” appearance. It’s always lovely to see Mark Jackson as himself onscreen. The pair discuss their relationship while Isaac genuinely tries to comprehend the nuances of biological flirtation.

Women Run the World

Later, Capt. Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane), Cmdr. Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki), Lt. Cmdr. Bortus (Peter Macon), Lt. Gordon Malloy (Scott Grimes), LaMarr, Keyali, Claire, Isaac and Ensign Charly Burke (Anne Winters) assemble to discuss a potential alliance with the Janisi. The Janisi, much like the Moclans, heavily favor one specific gender. The Janisi believe men are vastly inferior to women. Not only that, but the Janisi won’t ally themselves with anyone unless their views align with the Janisi moral code. 

Dr. Claire Finn, Capt. Ed Mercer and Cmdr. Kelly Grayson look attentive on The Orville: New Horizons Season 3 Episode 7 "From Unknown Graves."

The Orville: New Horizons — “From Unknown Graves” – Season 3 Episode 7 –Dr. Claire Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald), Capt. Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane), and Cmdr. Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki), shown. (Photo by: Greg Gayne/Hulu)

Thus, the team decides to have the women pose as the main crew, i.e., Grayson as the captain, Keyali as the commander, etc., while the men serve beneath them. Once the Janisi warm up to the idea of allying to create a united front against the Kaylon and Krill, Mercer will reveal he’s the captain. 

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So, Grayson, Keyali, Claire and Charly greet Capt. Losha (Sophina Brown), First Lt. Hodell (Paige Herschell) and First Officer Kava (Stephanie Drapeau) after their shuttle docks on the Orville. Meanwhile, Mercer and Malloy see to the Janisi’s luggage, of which there is a ton. This moment blesses us with some of The Orville’s signature slapstick comedy as Mercer and Malloy struggle to carry said luggage. 

Signs of Life 

Next, we see our team converge on the bridge while the Janisi delegates settle in their quarters. Mercer sits in the captain’s chair out of habit, but Grayson reminds him they must uphold the ruse for the Janisi, which yields more fun comedic moments. I love when everyone slowly turns to stare at Bortus before he departs. The Janisi might not take too kindly to a Moclan among the crew. 

Isaac picks up signs of life from the nearby planet. Everyone finds this peculiar since it’s purportedly deserted. Mercer, Malloy, Bortus and Charly take a shuttle to the surface to determine who’s there. 

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Meanwhile, we return to the flashback from the beginning of the episode with the K-1 and the family he serves. The K-1 questions every demand thrown at him, much to the patriarch of the family’s annoyance. He vows to contact the company from which he obtained the K-1. 

An Emotional Encounter

Then, our quartet arrives on the planet and encounters a seemingly desolate ship. However, a Kaylon named Timmis (Christopher Larkin) and a woman named Dr. Villka (Eliza Taylor) emerge, startling the crew. Of course, they distrust Timmis, and rightfully so, but Dr. Villka insists he won’t harm them. Why? Because she gave Timmis the ability to have emotions despite being a Kaylon. Whoa!

Dr. Villka and Timmis chat with the Orville crew on The Orville: New Horizons Season 3 Episode 7 "From Unknown Graves."

The Orville: New Horizons — “From Unknown Graves” – Season 3 Episode 7 — Dr. Villka (Eliza Taylor) and Timmis (Christopher Larkin), shown. (Photo by: Greg Gayne/Hulu)

Mercer and the group escort Timmis and Villka back to the vessel. Timmis expresses genuine remorse for the violence and havoc wreaked by the Kaylon in the war. LaMarr geeks out over Villka’s innovative, revolutionary work. A Kaylon that can feel is quite an asset. 

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While Charly gives the Janisi a tour of the ship, LaMarr pulls Keyali aside to ask her why she’s avoiding him. Keyali believes they should end their relationship before she critically harms him. As a Xelayan, it’s difficult for her to control herself during sex. LaMarr urges her to reconsider. They harbor a deep connection, so why not explore that? They’ll have to exercise caution. 

Achieving Consciousness 

Later, we return to the K-1 and the family he serves. The K-1 achieves consciousness and wonders why he must cater to the family’s every demand. After the patriarch orders the K-1 to power down, we’re back in the present, with Isaac and Timmis formally meeting. Timmis tries to persuade Isaac to consider undergoing the same procedure Villka performed on him. Timmis believes it’s vital to experience the full breadth of the emotional spectrum. 

Meanwhile, LaMarr injures himself again during intercourse with Keyali. Isaac helps him to the sick bay, where a furious Claire demands to know the truth. The “workout program” excuse won’t fly this time. 

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Then, we’re at the company’s headquarters that sells the Kaylon models. They’ve received 53,000 complaints from customers regarding models that refuse to follow orders and talk back. However, the CEO refuses to recall them, citing that it could tank the company. That’s not ethically sound, dude. 

A Truthful Dinner

Next, Grayson hosts a dinner with the Janisi. Mercer and the men are present, but Grayson reminds them that they must not speak unless the women address them. Through this dinner, the Janisi discover the truth — Mercer runs the show. An infuriated Capt. Losha cannot believe they’d try to curry favor via lies and storms out, unwilling to consider an alliance. 

Dr. Villka, Timmis and Lt. Cmdr. John LaMarr chat on The Orville: New Horizons Season 3 Episode 7 "From Unknown Graves."

The Orville: New Horizons — “From Unknown Graves” – Season 3 Episode 7 — Dr. Villka (Eliza Taylor), Timmis (Christopher Larkin) and Lt. Cmdr. John LaMarr (J Lee), shown. (Photo by: Greg Gayne/Hulu)

Villka and Timmis chat with Charly about the backstory of the Kaylon. Timmis offers his condolences to Charly regarding the loss of her friend (well, her love). He delves into the history between the Kaylon and their Builders. The Builders constructed the Kaylon to work as their slaves, utilizing pain receptors in their neural pathways to keep them in line. Of course, the Kaylon retaliated against their masters, refusing to succumb to enslavement any longer. 

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While Timmis gives Charly a Kaylon history lesson, we revisit the K-1, who’s now on the receiving end of cruelty inflicted on him by that family. They incessantly use the pain receptors on him for no reason other than torment. Finally, he hits his breaking point, and we see him kill the whole family, culminating in the start of the Kaylon uprising. 

Love on the Brain 

Then, we see our crew discuss relationships and love. Claire and Grayson chat about Isaac. Claire would love for Isaac to consider undergoing Villka’s procedure. She feels she’s doing emotional labor for both of them since he’s incapable of feeling emotions. Grayson advises Claire to be transparent with Isaac — tell him what she needs. 

LaMarr vents to Malloy about his relationship with Keyali. Malloy suggests they take sex out of the equation, but LaMarr craves that physical intimacy. He observes that he and Isaac have what the other one needs. Isaac needs the love LaMarr shares with Keyali, while LaMarr wants the sex Isaac gets without, you know, winding up in the sick bay. 

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Later, Keyali sobs in bed next to a battered and bloody LaMarr post-coitus. LaMarr heads to the sick bay once again and agrees with Keyali that perhaps it’s time to end things. Oh no! I like these two together! 

Isaac approaches Villka and Timmis, informing them about his desire to undergo the procedure. Meanwhile, Grayson finds a loophole to win the Janisi over to their side. When Janisi get married, men aren’t allowed to commit adultery, but women can take on multiple partners. 

Lt. Cmdr. Talla Keyali, Cmdr. Kelly Grayson, Dr. Claire Finn and Ensign Charly Burke meet the Janisi delegates aboard the Orville in The Orville: New Horizons Season 3 Episode 7 "From Unknown Graves."

The Orville: New Horizons — “From Unknown Graves” – Season 3 Episode 7 — Lt. Cmdr. Talla Keyali (Jessica Szohr), Cmdr. Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki), Dr. Claire Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald), and Charly Burke (Anne Winters), shown. (Photo by: Greg Gayne/Hulu)

A Last-Ditch Effort

So, Grayson and Mercer sit with Losha, Hodell and Kava in a last-ditch effort to negotiate an alliance. Grayson reveals she cheated on Mercer when they were married. However, Mercer claims he wouldn’t want anyone else serving as his first officer. Despite the infidelity, they enjoy working together. Losha appears to reconsider the prospect of an alliance, disclosing that she wouldn’t turn away a Union delegate should they visit the Janisi homeworld. 

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A Magical Date

Claire finds a package outside her door containing an invitation to dinner and a gorgeous dress. Seriously, I would wear that dress today. Plus, she looks stunning in it. Claire meets Isaac for dinner to discover he went through with the procedure. He’s completely different here. Isaac expresses the depth of his love for her, and the pair share a smooch. He doesn’t regret experiencing the entire emotional spectrum, either. Jackson knocks it out of the park in this scene. They even share a dance, which, admittedly, is sexy as hell. 

An Unfortunate Malfunction

Unfortunately, something within Isaac malfunctions, and he loses his ability to feel. Claire brings Isaac before Villka, Timmis and LaMarr, hoping to remedy the issue. We learn the only reason the procedure was successful for Timmis is that he’s an original Kaylon model created by the Builders. Isaac came about after the uprising, crafted by the Kaylon. 

Dr. Claire Finn and Isaac chat on The Orville: New Horizons Season 3 Episode 7 "From Unknown Graves."

The Orville: New Horizons — “From Unknown Graves” – Season 3 Episode 7 — Dr. Claire Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald), Isaac (Mark Jackson), Dr. Villka (Eliza Taylor) and Lt. Cmdr. John LaMarr (J Lee), shown. (Photo by: Greg Gayne/Hulu)

They could reestablish his emotional core, which would require a memory wipe. Isaac places the decision on Claire. While he doesn’t recall what he did/said during his date with Claire, he remembers how the procedure made her react. Claire tearfully declares that she won’t force him to change his personality for her. It’s so heartbreaking. 

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Mending Fences

Later, Charly approaches Isaac, who’s hard at work. She apologizes to Isaac for giving him the cold shoulder, revealing her understanding of Kaylon history. Isaac accepts her apology and, despite claiming he didn’t need her assistance, he allows it anyway. We love a heartwarming ending! 

I’m glad Charly and Isaac bridged the gap between them. It feels organic, especially given their confrontation in last week’s episode. “From Unknown Graves” also explores the power of empathy and how humans languish in that department. Everyone’s so quick to pass judgment without putting themselves in someone else’s shoes. 

Of course, the gender dynamics provide some fun moments and laugh-inducing bits. I hope we get some Moclan/Janisi scenes in the future. I’d love to see these species interact extensively with each other. 

Overall, this show presents another engaging, relevant and immersive hour of sci-fi. Hulu, please renew this series for a fourth season. We need it. 

The Orville: New Horizons drops new episodes every Thursday on Hulu

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