Review of NO ORDINARY FAMILY – No Ordinary Detention (2011)

Survival may mean learning to change perspective and make new allies

It was the day from hell for the Powells. For the first time, they were the ones trapped and looking for a way out. Their new lives were no longer just about testing with their new superpowers and dabbling in how to do good for others. This was graduation day.

Jim (Michael Chiklis) was trapped in the police station with a ruthless killer holding everyone hostage and a pesky internal affairs investigator watching his every move; Steph (Julie Benz) was trapped Survival may mean learning to change perspective and make new allies
in the lab with a shapeshifter and telekinetic trying to wean off the serum that Dr. King (Stephen Collins) was experimenting with; and Daphne (Kay Panabaker) and J.J. (Jimmy Bennett) were stuck in detention with the girl that broke J.J.’s heart and Daphne’s nosy school rival. Any other day, this might have been a workable situation for the Powells, but this day was stacked against them.

This episode could have been a comedy of errors, but instead it worked flawlessly. Jim and George’s (Romany Malco) crazy idea to reenact the plot from “Die Hard” actually worked in saving the hostages and disarming the bad guys. Steph came face to face with her worst nightmare: someone pretending to be her best friend and who learned about her abilities yet made another ally in the process. Then J.J. may have lost a girlfriend, but found that his lonely days may be shorter than he thought; and Daphne shared a secret but gained something more precious as a result.

But what really made it all worked out in the end was because each of them changed their perspective and took a leap of faith to trust someone that they normally would not have trusted. Jim had to trust the internal affairs investigator hunting him down; Steph had to trust Joshua (Josh Stewart), a man that she thought may be a closet-junkie; and J.J. and Daphne had to trust the least trustworthy people they knew — a kid with an arrest record and the girl from which Daphne stole the school election.

But their willingness to adapt and trust saved the day. Because the Powells are genuinely nice people who want to believe the best in others, they were rewarded with unexpected gestures of faith and goodness in return.

It was a powerful lesson to learn:  a little faith can go a long ways and it may win you unexpected friends a long the way.

Points of Interest

1. J.J. creating snowflakes to dazzle everyone in detention was a beautiful reminder that beauty is always around us, even when we least expect it.

2. It was cool seeing Joanne Kelly from “Warehouse 13” making a guest star appearance, reminding us once again what a wonderful government agent she makes. She made Agent Rachel Jacobs a lot more sympathetic that such a role normally would have been.

3. All the geek-speak testing Katie (Autumn Reeser) and Faux-Katie was hilarious. Did Victoria (Rebecca Mader) truly research all that geek knowledge in advance just in case she was ever quizzed when impersonating Katie? That woman is entirely way too prepared for such obscure contingencies.

What Worked

It should have been absurd, but instead it was fantastic watching Jim and George debate the pro’s and con’s of using “Die Hard” as a strategic plan to take down the escaped prisoners who had overtaken the precinct. Playing into their crazy idea was how they had to avoid detection by the I.A. investigator, which may the uncertainty of the situation more gripping. Normally it would be Jim against the bad guys, who would not have a chance. But by forcing Jim to play with a handicap, a suspicious investigator tripping up his rescue efforts, kept it from feeling routine and predictable. Plus, when Jim was shot, it felt more real that he could have been hurt and thus more fun when Rachel (Joanne Kelly) asked incredulously, “How the hell are you still alive?” and he quipped, “Well, it helps to be bullet-proof” while lifting his shirt to reveal a bullet-proof vest. It took us for a fun ride and surprised us a bit along the way. Nicely played.

It was also awesome how well the three different storylines worked simultaneously. It was not a matter of just watching Jim pull off the John McClane moves, there was the drama unfolding at the lab and the angst playing out in school detention. For the first time ever, we all wanted to know what was going on with everyone all at once. There was no weak link; all three storylines were intriguing and entertaining.

Plus, allowing Joshua to play superhero to save Katie and Steph was awesome. After setting him up for the better part of the season to be the big bad villain, it is cool to see him ripping away his mask and revealing a guardian angel. Love alone did not make him the protective soul that he is underneath his bad boy ways; for he was already keeping a protective watch eye on the Powells before he began dating Katie. But now that he has love on his side, Joshua is more of an avenging angel. Pity poor Victoria now that she has tipped her hand revealing that she has been trying to kill Katie.

Joshua also got to the white knight rescuing his damsel in distress. It was only too poetic when he threw Victoria though the glass and Katie stared at him in amazement asking, “Who are you?!” Even as Joshua realized in that moment that he may have lost her forever, he was willing to risk everything to save her. It was a noble act of self-sacrifice, which fortunately worked in his favor. For later, when he tried to explain things to Katie, she did not reject him, instead she accepted him. Only a girl who has been dreaming of superheroes her whole life would ever truly appreciate how lucky she is. Katie not only has a superpower boss, she now has a superpower boyfriend too. Never in her wildest dreams could she have imagined that her live would turn out so perfect.

Alas, not every girl will appreciate what she has until it is gone. In Natalie’s (Katelyn Tarver) case, her short-sighted sense of self-preservation compelled her to push away the one person who can appreciate all that she is. In breaking up with J.J. because she thought he was getting in the way of her school work, Natalie may have lost the one person who could have guaranteed her a gold pass to any college she wanted. Even superficial Bailey (Katrina Begin) figured out that J.J. is going places with that super I.Q. of is and that it would be easier to get through life with a guy like that at your side. It was pretty startling, yet funny when Bailey told Natalie, “Don’t you think the girl that Bill Gates dated in 9th grade is kicking herself now?” It was even more surprising when Bailey then later told J.J., “You’re smart enough to know that things happen for a reason. Don’t waste your time thinking about [Natalie]. I’m sure there’s better girls to waste your time thinking about.” With one kiss and the kaleidoscope shifted. It was as J.J. had noted earlier when he said, “Four months ago, I was flunking out of school, then something changed. Then I knew that anything was possible.” J.J. was no longer the guy dumped while in detention; he was the guy with the world at his feet.

Also taking a moment to shift their perspectives, it was fun to see how Daphne and Chris (Luke Kleintank) decided to trust one another. So when Chris softly said, “Hey, you never shared any secrets today” and Daphne cautiously said, “My secret is: I like you,” which prompted Chris to softly reply, “That’s a good secret” before kissing her, everyone’s hearts melted.

Finally, getting in the better line of the night, Steph made the understatement of the year when she said, “More importantly, who is [Victoria] going to be the next time she shows up?”  With a shape-shifter on the loose, everyone is at risk and no one is safe. The game is now afoot.

What Didn’t Work

Natalie choosing to break up with J.J. while in detention seemed a bit too cold and ruthless for such a sweet girl. Surely she would have waited until afterwards before breaking his heart. She is smart enough to know that revealing your private affairs in public is never wise and it only served to portray her in a very negative light. She would have much more savvy normally and we can only hope that she smartens up a bit right away.

It also did not make sense that Victoria did not just kill Katie when she had the chance in the break room. Why just knock Katie unconscious? It only led to further difficulties with Joshua and Steph. Victoria’s mission would have been successful if she killed Katie right away and then just injected Joshua with the serum. What did she hope to gain by pressuring Steph into using the flower to experiment on Joshua? Lots of hanging chads with Victoria and her murky motives.

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

“No Ordinary Detention” was written by Zach Estrin and Leigh Dana Jackson and directed by David Petrarca. “No Ordinary Family” stars Michael Chiklis, Julie Benz, Kay Panabaker, Jimmy Bennett, Autumn Reeser, Romany Malco, Stephen Collins, Josh Stewart. “No Ordinary Family” airs Tuesdays at 8:00 pm ET on ABC.

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