God is a Verb: ‘Orange is the New Black’ recap for ‘Trust No Bitch’

While the season feels off on a logical level, the visceral, emotional reaction I have to this show was felt more than ever.

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 9.38.40 PM

“I don’t trust anybody,” Piper says to Stella as she gazes longingly into her eyes. Stella’s only known Piper for a short time, but we all know she’s full of shit. To be a fan of Orange is the New Black is to know that Piper is an unreliable narrator who can never be depended on to know her own mind works. For that reason, she is consistently irritating, and for that reason, we should all be grateful that the show has navigated away from focusing on her as the main character. Thank Toast Norma for that.

Even still, to pinpoint exactly why the third season of OITNB felt a bit uneven is difficult. It made the right choice in demoting Piper to part of the supporting cast, and once again it displayed its expertise at creating meaningful plotlines for an absurd amount of characters. My skepticism about concentrating on the privatization of the prison system was ultimately made silent through the numerous ripple effects the transition made, like the complications of Sophia’s solitary confinement and the guards walking out, thereby leaving a whole lot of inmates unsupervised. Perhaps the season was like Piper running her panty scheme; it just got too big for its britches by trying to do too much. While the season feels off on a logical level, the visceral, emotional reaction I have to this show was felt more than ever.

This season may have lacked some concentrated dramatic arcs, at which the first two seasons excelled, but it was not at all easy on these girls. It examined the loneliness and depression that can grip someone in a desperate situation. It explored religion as a driving force of decision-making and how doctrine and practice are absolutely different things. It studied impetus for behavior through the relationship between a mother and child.

The characters were put through their paces in this season and forced them to actually learn from the choices they’ve made, and most of them did. Caputo decided to stop being everyone else’s punching bag. Gloria’s sympathy for Sophia came too late. Red’s solution for her desperation was through fostering the thing she loves. Poussey realized her loneliness couldn’t be cured by a group of people, but maybe by one other lonely person. Aleida needed to feel her vulnerability and Daya needed perspective. Pennsatucky found her worth.  Until this episode, Cindy’s past was one of the only ones that was unredeemable, until she discovered that her fate isn’t decided until she decides it for herself.

The lake scene was an odd, but striking, choice for the episode’s last moments. How does nearly fifteen minutes of no dialogue round out a season? (And what did all those flashbacks have to do with anything?) But there’s just something so satisfying about seeing all of theses characters that I care about silently running toward several moments of freedom. With the arrival of dozens of new inmates, this is the last time we’ll get to see them as we’ve come to know them over the last three years. It wasn’t as climactic as the finale of season one or as triumphant as season two, but it was the most exhilarating moment that’s ever been featured on this show. The message of the episode may have been to trust no bitch, but the relationships between these characters has been solidified as ones full of love. They have found their people.

SEASON THREE RECAPS
EP. 1  /  EP. 2  /  EP. 3  /  EP. 4  /  EP. 5  /  EP. 6  / EP. 7  / EP. 8  /  EP. 9  / EP. 10  /  EP. 11  / EP. 12

Burying the Lede: ‘Orange is the New Black’ recap for ‘Don’t Make Me Come Back There’

“Jordache? Someone named their kid after pants?”

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 6.50.49 PM

The relationship between mother and child has been a strong theme underscoring this whole season, and it’s come to a head in this episode with the aptly-titled ‘Don’t Make Me Come Back There.’ Aleida has never been what anyone would call a good mother. Even in the first season, through Daya’s flashback, Aleida proved herself to be selfish and uncaring. She’d freely leave her slew of young children to go to dinner when they didn’t have anything to eat and she’d sort drugs in their kitchen while her kids observed.

It’s not until Daya starts having contractions that Aleida begins to consider the repercussions of her hands-off parenting approach. In intense pain and with no screen to filter her thoughts, Daya pushes Aleida away and accuses her of wanting to “sell the baby.” While it’s true that Aleida wanted some financial gain from the situation, her flashbacks show that it wasn’t her sole motivation.

Aleida sent Daya to summer camp when she was a young child because she admits she wants Daya to have a better life. Her mother’s response is, “Even if it doesn’t include you?” (It is pretty hard to blame Aleida, considering that at the likely age of eight Daya knows what a condom looks like and can distinguish it from an uninflated balloon.) Once Daya does go to camp, it’s hard for Aleida to initially let go, but it’s even harder for her to accept the idea that Daya had fun without her. Her selfishness extends passed even the eventual mistreatment of her children when she emotionally manipulates Daya into believing that her time at camp was unnecessary. Daya not only made three best friends (and six regular friends) at camp, but also found her talent in art. Aleida is quick to erase the all of the benefits of sending Daya away just to make herself feel more worthwhile.

While lamenting the absence of her child, Maria confesses to Aleida, “I’m not freaking out because she needs me. I’m freaking out because I need her.” Aleida understands that every action she’s taken in relation to Daya has been for her own use and benefit, and until now she’s never tried to relate Daya’s feelings to hers. But in seeing Daya in pain and wanting to help while Daya pushes back, she finally admits that she’s a terrible mother: “I loved you. I wanted you around me. And now here you are, doing the same stupid shit I did… I never want you to feel the way I feel.” Though Daya doesn’t realize it, it’s in this moment that Aleida admits that putting the child up for adoption was less about the money, and more about letting it have a chance in the world. She understands that letting go is the hardest thing she could do, but keeping it while its mother is in prison is not giving it the life it deserves.

As Daya is being taken to the hospital, it’s heartbreaking to watch Aleida look on, knowing she can’t be there to help her daughter get through childbirth. Still, she did the best thing she could for Daya by telling Mama ‘Stache that the baby had died. It may have gone against what Daya ultimately decided she wanted to do, but the gesture proved that Aleida didn’t care about the money. For perhaps the first time, she thought of her daughter’s needs before her own.

RANDOM THOUGHTS:
– Keeping in line with the motherly theme, Taystee now realizes she’s the mom of her group. She may not have asked for it, but she’s definitely the best at it.
– Just as Piper admits that she’s not very good at being on her own, Stella tells her she’s getting out. It’s unfortunate for Piper, but she really should get over her serial monogamy at some point.
– Red’s storyline in this episode was a micro plot all of its own. And talk about suspension of disbelief! How the hell are they able to get away with this dinner?!
– It’s hard not to root for Boo and Pennsatucky to use their “doggy night-night pills” to get back at Coates, but I’m glad they didn’t end up doing it.
– Sophia’s plot seems as though it’s been finalized, with her post-jumping trip to the SHU. It wasn’t my favorite this season, but the social commentary was definitely worth mentioning.
– The addition of the mysterious yard chicken was wonderful, especially since it also points out its origin: the hole in the fence where Chang keeps her oranges. So many great details!
– Is Soso dead?!?!
– Best line of the episode: “I guess she lost faith. Either that or there’s some kind of flaw in our randomly improvised Norma-based theological system.”

SEASON THREE RECAPS
EP. 1  /  EP. 2  /  EP. 3  /  EP. 4  /  EP. 5  /  EP. 6  / EP. 7  / EP. 8  /  EP. 9  / EP. 10  /  EP. 11  / EP. 13

Do You Hear the People Sing?: ‘Orange is the New Black’ recap for ‘We Can Be Heroes’

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 4.31.32 PM

In a show where the inmates of a prison are the heroes, it’d be very easy to make the superiors the bad guys; the incompetent, uncaring antithesis to the inmates’ journeys. The hard thing to do is construct a show where the audience cares about both sides of the spectrum, and OITNB laid the groundwork in the first two seasons to do exactly that. As much as I’m still unsure of the degree of focus that should be placed on the prison staff, that focus is creating a lot of meaningful layers.

Caputo’s arc has always been tragic. He had always been one to take the high road, to do the hard thing for the sake of morality. There are some people who do the hard thing so that they can take the credit and make themselves look better than others, but it’s hard to be that cynical in Caputo’s case. Even as a teenager who could’ve just been doing the stand-up thing for a girl’s affection, it’s clear that there is no self-fulfilling prophecy with Caputo; he just wanted to be a good person.

Unfortunately, so much self sacrifice led to an unsatisfying life for him. He wound up at Litchfield for the health benefits because he took on the task of being a father to a child that wasn’t his. But taking on that responsibility was not asked of him and his volunteerism ultimately went unthanked when his girlfriend left him for the child’s real father. Caputo’s frustration culminates in resentment, and the tragedy is that his girlfriend is right when she says, “You can’t spend your whole life holding the door open for people and then being angry when they don’t say thank you. Nobody asked you to hold the fucking door.” The world is not out to get Caputo, but his aptitude for doing the honorable thing has left him vulnerable to the world’s abuse.

In most cases, I’d root for a character like Caputo to wise up and start being a little bit more shrewd. But his place as the caretaker of so many inmates that we care about is one that needs to be preserved. He is inmates’ voice when new MCC regulations threaten their wellbeing, and new, worse threats come each episode. (He is also, apparently, the Marius to the French Revolution that is the C.O.’s campaign to unionize.) So as far as I’m concerned, he can keep hate-fucking Fig to create that small leak in his “overinflated resentment balloon” so long as the rest of the characters on the show remain cared for. Someone has to do it, and it may as well be Caputo.

RANDOM NOTES:
– KILLER cameo by Rosa! What a treat!
– Angie was so close. But her admission that “freedom is weird” was a nice reminder of what Taystee experienced in season one: prison sucks, but getting out doesn’t necessarily make it better.
– Piper had a hard one this week, but I agree with Alex that this whole thing is getting way too out of hand.
– And I’m so glad Alex broke up with her. They’re no good together when they’re not mad at each other.
– We’ve likely seen the last of the Timehump Chronicles thanks to Healy and his overzealousness.
– I really hope Berdie isn’t gone forever! She’s such a badass.
– This episode again proves that Boo and Pennsatucky’s relationship is the best thing this season has had to offer. Boo’s tactics may have been harsh, but it’s the only thing that could get through to her.
– Best line of the episode: “Poor Russell Crowe. He sings like a dead carp getting a blowjob.”

SEASON THREE RECAPS
EP. 1  /  EP. 2  /  EP. 3  /  EP. 4  /  EP. 5  /  EP. 6  / EP. 7  / EP. 8  /  EP. 9  / EP. 10  /  EP. 12  / EP. 13

Of Donuts, Mountain Dew, and Molasses: ‘Orange is the New Black’ recap for ‘A Tittin’ and a Hairin”

“Now you’re like a case of pop. You got value.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 7.39.33 PM

Even in 2015, with the all of the hyper-PC internet activism, the word “feminism” is met with a good amount of eye-rolling. Feminism as a concept has permeated so deeply that there are actual, real-life Men’s Rights Activists. (this website is so ridiculous it’s actually hard to figure out whether or not it’s satire.) Men’s rights activism and the similarly themed #AllLivesMatter are accomplishing the same thing: a lack of empathy has made these groups defensive, and the notions that men need to “retake” their rights or dismissing #BlackLivesMatter is ignoring the seriousness of the matters at hand.

C.O. Coates calls himself a feminist. He does so right after apologizing to Pennsatucky for making her feel uncomfortable for coming onto her in the previous episode then admitting that “women can be confusing sometimes.” His assertion of, “I am a feminist.” acts as a preemptive pardon for himself, kind of like when people start a sentence with “I’m not racist, but-.”

Feminism needs to exist because of Coates and because of Tucky’s mom. When Tucky gets her period for the first time, her mom doesn’t sit her down and explain to her how her body works or why she’s suddenly bleeding. She doesn’t provide her with a copy of Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. and have a discussion with her about the themes and what they mean to her now. Rather, Tucky’s mom explains how she is suddenly a commodity: “Now you’re like a case of pop. You got value.” She continues: “They’re gonna treat you different and soon they’re gonna do you different. Best thing is to go on and let ’em do their business, baby. If you’re real lucky, most of ’em will be quick, like you’re daddy.” At the age of ten, Pennsatucky was taught that her body exists only for the purpose of men’s pleasure and to just let them do it.

That she exchanged sex for Mountain Dew (and its generic equivalent) as a teenager should not be a surprise; neither should her response of “What do I gotta do?” as her first reaction when the sweet boy, Nathan, asked her on a date. Sex was so devalued for her that even porn intimacy was strange. “Why is she smiling?” she asked as the man went down on the woman. When Nathan took his time with her, she told him he was slower than molasses. Sex did not equate to pleasure for Pennsatucky. Her only role was to endure it while the man did his “business.” By the time she realized the potential for sex as a loving and consensual act of affection, Nathan was gone.

Pennsatucky’s mother isn’t the problem in how Tucky thought of sex because it’s likely she was taught the same things as a child. That, coupled with Coates’ crooked definition of feminism, serve as a commentary on the systemic belittling of women in the world. Even after trading sex for soda and subsequently understanding what sex is meant to be, Pennsatucky still responds to Boo’s joke of trading blow jobs for ice cream cake with, “Come on, you know that would melt before it got here.” Coates likes Tucky and she likes him. He gives her donuts and they talk about “deep shit,” but her affection is met with his retribution for inadvertently getting him in trouble. As he rapes her, he replaces “Is this what you want?” and “This is what you asked for, isn’t it?” with “I love you, Doggett.” If nothing else, feminism needs to exist to change certain people’s perceptions of what love actually is.

RANDOM NOTES:
– Isn’t Vinny kind of absolutely perfect for Morello?
– Piper has no idea what she’s getting herself into. That ever-present lack of self awareness is the gift that keeps on giving, even if you don’t really want it.
– Daya has finally agreed to let Mama ‘Stache adopt her baby and while the wishy-washyness of her decision making is tedious dramatically, it does make sense when considering what a hard choice this would be for her.
– Poor Soso is spiraling, and Healy’s selfish ego is more than a nuisance now; it’s actually negatively affecting people.
– The dual bathroom fights end up being total misunderstandings, and it’s doubtful that there won’t be repercussions from them.
– Best line of the episode: “I’ve had the same itch for three months straight!”

SEASON THREE RECAPS
EP. 1  /  EP. 2  /  EP. 3  /  EP. 4  /  EP. 5  /  EP. 6  / EP. 7  / EP. 8  /  EP. 9  / EP. 11  /  EP. 12  / EP. 13