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Recap / The Orville S1E07 "Majority Rule"

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The Orville has to rescue two Union anthropologists from a planet similar to 21st century Earth, where punishment is doled out based on public voting.


Tropes in this episode include:

  • Absent-Minded Professor: Claire comments that the anthropologist they retrieved would usually be so buried in his studies that he wouldn't notice the world around him. This was why he failed to give up his seat to a pregnant woman, because he didn't notice her.
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  • An Aesop: Democracy can be dangerous if taken too far and public opinion shouldn't be given too much weight. Or, as Bortus puts it:
    Bortus: A voice should be earned, not given away.
  • And I Must Scream: The fate of the Union anthropologist that is lobotomized. Claire says that the resulting brain damage is so extensive that even 25th century Union medicine is unable to do anything for him, and he'll basically be a vegetable for the rest of his life.
  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: The Union doesn't engage with civilizations that lack interstellar travel capability. Mercer has to use Loophole Abuse to help LaMarr.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Sargus 4 isn't changing its ways any time soon, but at least Lysella has learned to be a better person thanks to her interactions with the crew, turning off the latest apology tour instead of voting on it with insufficient information.
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  • Bookends: The episode begins and ends with Lysella waking up in bed and going through her morning routine, except the last one has her wiser from her experience with the crew of the Orville, and with a new distaste for the Master Feed.
  • Cassandra Truth: When LaMarr is informed of his potential fate if he gets 10 million downvotes, he becomes so scared that he immediately confesses to being an offworlder. No one pays him any mind. He does it again after he is barely acquitted, again to disbelief.
  • Convicted by Public Opinion: Quite literally in this case. At the age of 18, everyone is given a badge with an upvote and downvote tally. Anything and everything you do is worth one vote or another. One viral video can get you arrested and sent on an apology tour. If you fail to convince the public you're sorry, the downvotes accumulate exponentially. 10 million downvotes gets you lobotomized into a perpetually happy vegetable.
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  • Crapsaccharine World: Sargus 4 is very similar to 21st century Earth and appears to be pleasant on the surface, but it's a world where failing to give up your seat to a pregnant woman gets you lobotomized for being a jerk, even if you're just absentminded and didn't notice her standing there.
  • Democracy Is Bad: Sargus 4 runs on a total democracy. Everything is voted on by public opinion and facts are what the majority considers true. Essentially, conviction by social media. Of course, the Aesop seems to be that Democracy Is Bad only when taken Up to Eleven and not grounded in the rule of law, as Mercer extols the representative democracy of the Planetary Union.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • We eventually find out why the two anthropologists were corrected: they refused to give up their seats on the Sargun equivalent of a subway train to a pregnant woman. Claire speculates that this was merely the result of them being too distracted by their work to notice her, but as Lysella points out, their reasons don't matter; public opinion is all that matters.
    • Alara nearly ends up subjected to the Sargun justice system herself because her hat happens to be that of a culture to which she doesn't belong, which angers a native of said culture and attracts the attention of the public. Fortunately, Claire manages to defuse the situation.
  • Dramatic Irony: The viewer knows (or at least suspects) the Orville is on a doomed quest, but the crew doesn't figure this out until about halfway through the episode.
  • Easy Evangelism: Lysella is convinced rather easily about the problems a civilization ruled by total democracy has. While the crew of the Orville do talk about such issues a little, they don't really go into how they do things. In the end it seems like she is won over more by their jaw dropping technology and being quite nice than anything deeper.
    • Granted, she was clearly with them for a longer period of time than the very few minutes shown in scenes. It's quite possible that they talked more about it during that time.
  • Exact Words: The admiral shoots down sending in any armed intervention, but he never says they can't bring anyone out. Mercer decides to bring Lysella up to the Orville to get her help in swinging the vote in John's favor.
  • Fantastic Racism: On Sargus 4, people with too many downvotes are looked upon with scorn, with many establishments refusing to serve those with more than 500 thousand downvotes.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Undergoing the "correction", which is the Sargun equivalent of a lobotomy. One of the anthropologists tries to flee upon seeing the chair and is promptly shot by a guard. Claire determines that even Union medicine is incapable of reversing the brain damage.
  • Forgotten Phlebotinum: Alara being a Rubber-Forehead Alien would be a non-issue if someone had handed her one of the personal holographic generators Isaac made for Ed and Gordon in the previous episode.
  • Formerly Fat: A photoshopped image of LaMarr being a fat child is used to garner sympathy for him when the final voting begins.
  • Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul: If citizens get 10 million downvotes, they are subjected to "correction," which involves electroshock therapy designed to remove all negative thought.
  • Human Aliens: Sarguns are nearly identical to humans. Their planet is commented on as being very much like Earth. Their culture, clothing, and technology are pretty much at the level of 21st century Earth. Isaac even acknowledges the unusual similarity, calling it an extreme example of parallel evolution. The only major difference are names, as seen when a public servant finds the name "John" exotic. This is, of course, an homage to Star Trek: The Original Series, where such worlds were common.
  • Hypocrite: The talk show hosts of Sargus 4 seem to be the real power players of the planet, and seem to not take kindly to having their own opinion superseded. Early on, one smugly declares that "facts are whatever the people believe," yet they directly chastise their own audience at the end for not allowing their opinion to become the majority this one time.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Five minutes upon arriving on an unknown world, LaMarr decides to draw attention to himself in the worst way possible by grinding on a local monument. And this was after Mercer had specifically ordered the team not to call any needless attention to themselves.
    • LaMarr's publicist's job is to make LaMarr appear as sympathetic, apologetic, and remorseful as possible. He never bothers to explain to LaMarr who is depicted in the statue that LaMarr disrespected, nor what made her famous. Of course, LaMarr himself never asks, either. (They might have covered it after the first show, but by that point the damage was already done.)
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: After Lysella stumbles onto Claire and Alara with the latter in full Rubber-Forehead Aliens glory, they stop her from leaving and offer to buy her a drink. Cut to Lysella gulping down a wine glass like she hasn't seen water in days.
  • Invisibility Cloak: The shuttle has a cloaking device so they can land on the planet undetected.
  • Jaywalking Will Ruin Your Life: If the public downvotes you enough for it. The two Union anthropologists wind up with one dead and the other lobotomized for being oblivious to a pregnant woman on the bus.
  • Just in Time: LaMarr's downvotes stop just four shy of 10 million when the voting ends.
  • Kangaroo Court: Downplayed. When LaMarr starts his apology tour, one of the hosts personally downvotes him, thus skewing the public's perception of him right off the bat. However, LaMarr comes off as insincere and ignorant since he has no idea who the monument depicts, so his public perception issues are largely of his own making.
  • Loophole Abuse: Mercer is ordered not to send a party to retrieve LaMarr. Mercer decides that the order never specified that they couldn't bring someone up, so he has Alara and Claire bring Lysella to the Orville so she can help them save LaMarr.
  • Mistaken for Racist: Alara's choice of hat turns out to belong to a certain country which she is clearly not from, which is taken as cultural appropriation by a native. Since it's hiding her obvious alien features, taking it off isn't an option and she nearly winds up in the same boat as LaMarr. Fortunately, Claire quickly rushes her to the bathroom to improvise a replacement.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • One of the talk show hosts is clearly made up to look like Ellen DeGeneres.
    • Said talk show is of a format similar to "The View" or "The Talk".
  • Oh, Crap!: Alara and Finn, when Lysella walks in on them and sees that Alara is a Rubber-Forehead Alien. It's also Lysella's reaction to meeting an alien.
  • The One Guy: LaMarr is the only male crew member who accompanies Grayson, Alara and Claire on Sargus 4.
  • Phony Veteran: To evoke sympathy for LaMarr, Isaac creates a video depicting him as a war veteran coming home to meet his dog.
  • Political Correctness Gone Mad: On Sargus 4, failing to be polite enough to others or one lewd act in public can get you arrested and lobotomized.
  • Precious Puppy: In order to evoke sympathy for LaMarr, Isaac manufactures a "military guy reunites with dog" video featuring LaMarr.
  • Social Media Is Bad: The episode centers around a planet where the entire society is rooted in social media, to the point where they vote on what is considered facts (such as which medicines work, what products are healthy etc.) with what is most popular being considered the truth, and that people can be turned down from services if they receive too many downvotes (for which the count is never reset, so people who acquire a lot in their youth have to carry them for the rest of their life). This extends to the justice system, with guilty/innocent verdicts being rendered by "likes" and "dislikes". Get a few million dislikes, and you get a lobotomy. Lt. John Lamarr runs afoul of this when someone video tapes him dancing on a statue of one of the planet's beloved public figures.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: When LaMarr's public relations officer finds the name "John" exotic and assumes he's from another country, LaMarr just rolls with it.
  • Take That!:
    • Gordon compares the planet's social media law to American Idol, describing it as a dark time in Earth's history.
    • Social media in general is lampooned. No one bothers checking sources or thinking about context. They just instinctively react to whatever they see. Isaac even points out to Lysella that her people are confusing opinion with knowledge, and when Claire asks if people won't fact-check whether all the fabricated positive posts and videos about LaMarr are actually true, Lysella states matter-of-factly "don't worry, they won't".
    • A background news show has a scientist explaining how a certain area is contaminated, only for the host to point out that more than 70% of the public doesn't believe it and hence it must not be true, similar to how climate change is still denied despite all the evidence in its favor.
    • A jab is taken at the furor that erupts at times over cultural appropriation in the frame of public opinion democracy gone amok, over Alara's hat. A hat.
  • This Cannot Be!: Lysella's reaction to Isaac casually hacking into her planet's social network and flooding it with posts designed to evoke sympathy for LaMarr. Gordon merely points out that she's on a spaceship.
  • The World Is Just Awesome: Lysella is awestruck at being in space and coming aboard the Orville.
  • You Are Too Late: The Orville is dispatched to rescue two Union anthropologists on Sargus 4, but they were sentenced a month ago. One is dead, while Claire's friend has been lobotomized and is beyond treatment.

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