The idea that sparked this episode came out of an early season two brainstorming session that happened before I’d joined the show. I think John Fawcett might have come up with it. Someone jotted it on an index card and tacked it to the corkboard: “Family Day at Rehab.”
Months later, when it came time to write the episode, we all agreed that the premise would be a lot of fun. We could lighten the tone a little, get a good dose of Alison, and reunite some of our characters who’d been apart for most of the season.
But as I dove into the material, I struggled to find a way to connect the fun and games at rehab to the larger story of Sarah and the clones. I knew we’d risk frustrating viewers if this felt like an unnecessary detour, however amusing it might be. When I’d voice this concern, Graeme and John would tell me they were confident we could get it there, and then they’d turn to one of the 9,000 more pressing things they had to do.
So I fretted and lost sleep and whined to my fellow writers. And finally the answer came, in the form of another index card that was tacked to the cork board. This one read “Leekie dies.” Again, this was a story element we’d all decided was right for this episode, although the how and why of it were not entirely nailed down.
So here’s an unsolicited tip for writers: if you have two seemingly insurmountable story problems, try simply drawing a line between them. More often than you’d have any reason to expect, one will provide a solution for the other. How would events at rehab impact the main clone story? They would cause Leekie’s death. How would Leekie die? Events at rehab would incite Donnie to confront him, and blood (and brains) would spill.
Two problems, each one an answer to the other. Once that connection was made, the rest of the story fell into place. So in an episode that includes the introduction of a powerful new character in Marion Bowles, the high-level scheming of Mrs. S, the reunion of Rachel and her long-lost father, and Sarah’s decision to take Kira from Cal’s protection and back into the lion’s den, it was this little link—the line between rehab and Leekie—that gave the story its shape.
This is an example of why Orphan Black is so exciting to write. Graeme and John lock onto ideas that they want to explore, and then we all work like mad to steer the stories toward them. It’s what keeps the show fresh and unpredictable. We surprise the viewers because we surprise ourselves.
I’ll end with a quick tip of the hat to director Ken Girotti. We pushed the farcical elements of this episode as far as we dared, and it’s thanks to Ken’s light touch that it remained grounded in reality. And of course the cast deserves credit too—they don’t exactly suck.