Previously on Orange is the New Black S4E1-E3
In another great 3-episode stretch, Orange is the New Black isn’t showing any signs of slowing its momentum. Despite the increase in cast, and the associated growth in plots and subplots, the show has managed to keep each and every story both interesting and important. With the long-awaited return of two sorely missed characters, the deeper dive into the corporate greed of for-profit prisons, and plenty of ups and downs for the ladies at Litchfield, episodes 4 through 6 were jam-packed. Let’s reflect on some of the key events.
One of the more abhorrent aspects of the prison system, OITNB explored life in the SHU early on, but this time around it feels all the more haunting. Piper’s time in solitary was no walk in the park, but it sure feels like one now compared to the toll we’ve seen it take on Sophia. She’s not doing well, to say the least, and it seems as though she’s essentially been forgotten about. In an effort to get Caputo’s attention, she starts floods and fires, but it doesn’t get her far. It’s a small bit of luck that Nicky happens to find her while on janitorial duty. With little to offer, she gives Sophia a magazine hoping it will at least occupy her mind. A short time later, however, all that remains in Sophia’s cell is a blood spattered wall and that same magazine torn to shreds. It may take another season to find out, but remember: if you don’t see a dead body on TV, there’s always hope.
After a whopping 15-episode absence, Nicky is back! She’s keeping it together as best she can down in Max. She recites the state capitals to stay sane, and sends amusing hate mail to Luschek as an outlet for her anger. Just as she celebrates 3 years of sobriety, Luschek has to come and screw everything up. Merely wanting to clear his own conscience, he visits her to offer an apology, but all it manages to do is resurface her buried pain. The torment on Natasha Lyonne’s face while she tells Lushcek off is profoundly heartbreaking. Between this encounter and the state of Sophia’s cell, it’s easy to understand why Nicky would fall back on old habits. The timing of everything was, of course, for dramatic effect, but it’s a damn shame her transfer back to Gen Pop wasn’t approved just a few moments sooner.
The Panty War
Sadly, the respite from insufferable Piper is over. She deliberately causes “random” searches of the Latina women when she insinuates to Piscatella that they’ve been gathering in gangs. She then uses the good faith earned with the guard – and her overwhelming white privilege – to start Community Carers. At best, they are a sad excuse for hall monitors, but at worst, they’re an officially approved gang of white supremacists. Her utter shock when the women she’s gathered start chanting “white lives matter” is ludicrous; her naivety is just too damn much at this point. As is typical, Piper’s plan backfires when the Carers sniff out the panty business going on in the prison. As a means to take the heat off her own enterprise, Piper deliberately frames Maria for stealing the underwear. With more time added to her sentence, Maria has been pushed to her limit with Piper.
“I am going to bury you. You ain’t never coming back from this, never.”
My hope is that truer words have never been spoken to Piper. That said, it looks as though Maria is going to frame Piper for selling drugs, and that would likely mean more time added to her sentence, as well. As much as I want Piper to pay for her arrogance, I’m not sure I want that more than her character getting out of prison and leaving the show.
Both Healy and Maritza got to spend some time in the spotlight during episodes 4 and 5, respectively. (It’s worth noting that episode 6 had no backstory at all, and it was definitely the best of this three-episode bunch.) While their stories did manage to stay relevant to the episode at hand, each of them came with their own specific problems. Maritza’s journey from small-time scamming to large-scale swindling was undeniably hilarious to watch. Her aptitude for manipulation and the way she moves so damn quickly on her feet was almost inspiring. It was a fitting way to reflect the scheme she was trying to pull in the present day for Maria’s new panty business. Her story had an abrupt ending, however, providing no real resolution and a very fragmented feeling. At least Maritza’s was a fresh story to explore.
Healy, on the other hand, has already had multiple plots dedicated to him, including bits and pieces from his childhood in season three. Not only is it frustrating that the show seems to keep giving certain characters more attention than others, it’s hard to understand why it chooses those particular ones. Why Healy? With the exception of most of the guards, I can’t think of anyone I want to know less about. It’s not like these stories offer him any redemption, either. Yes, we learned why he’s so messed up – his father believed lesbianism is a disease, and his poor mother had a serious mental disability, which was improperly treated – but it doesn’t do anything to endear us to him. An asshole is still an asshole, no matter how nuanced you try to make it seem. Only one good thing came from this extra time with Healy: Lolly is under control, which means Alex’s secret is safe, for now.
Ms. Jefferson speaking
Taystee is taking full advantage of her role as Caputo’s assistant. While he’s away at the convention, she hacks into his laptop and falls down the proverbial Internet Rabbit Hole. Prompted by a magazine photo of Judy King in the Litchfield garden – now we know why that drone has been flying overhead – Taystee does some research on the kind of payday she could get for a celebrity photo. She shares the idea with Suzanne and Cindy, and now all they need is a cellphone. Alison, Cindy’s bunkmate, just so happens to be hiding one, but her and Cindy will have to make peace before an agreement can be reached. After jabbing at one another’s religions since they met, it’s a small bit of irony that they should happen to bond over the same topic. Scientology, and their simultaneous fascination of and aversion to it, is what finally brings Alison and Cindy to a truce.
The corporate convention for prisons may have a humorous name, but it’s one of the most disconcerting ideas ever for a trade show. A place to find cost-cutting solutions and network with industry hot shots; the only thing that makes this concept even more disturbing, is that it’s probably not far off from what’s actually happening in real life. It’s a world in which capital punishment is seen as a “sexy” topic. Where the war on drugs and immigration violations are viewed as Gold Mines. It’s sickening, and it’s appreciated that the show portrays it as being the absurd thing that it is. For Caputo, it’s like being a kid in a candy store. You can see the wheels turning in his head as he passes by the vendors, each with their own promise of how to increase profits.
Unfortunately, he overlooks the one product that would have been a wise and ethical choice: reusable menstrual cups. Back at Litchfield, the budget for “inessential” items like tampons and pads has run out, dividing a line between the women who can buy them from commissary and those who don’t have the means to do so. I can’t even begin to explain the anger I felt at hearing the word inessential, used in reference to these extremely essential products. Surely a women’s prison would have a better handle on this inherent issue. It’s like there just asking for a riot to start.
- Poussey and Soso are giving me a toothache; I can’t stand this sickly sweet relationship.
- Taystee’s call to the public library to find out if Beyonce is getting a divorce leads me to believe there is no HBO at Litchfield. Having no access to Lemonade is surely a worse crime than most of the inmates have committed.
- As funny as the idea of a Poop Detective is, I can’t help but feel Uzo Aduba’s talent is being sorely wasted on such a silly plot.
- As horrible as life in prison must be, it does offer certain comforts, like food and shelter, that aren’t always easy for ex-cons to find in the outside world. Aleida’s eligibility for early release opens up a world of crunchy material, which I hope is touched upon a little further.
- I call bullshit on Coates not believing he raped Pennsatucky. It seems as though they’re trying to make him likeable, at least in comparison to Luschek, and I’m not here for it.
Orange is the New Black S4E4 thru S4E6 = 8.5/10