Orange Is the New Black / Screen

Orange is the New Black flashes back to Miss Rosa’s bank robbery days in “Appropriately Sized Pots”

Orange is the New Black has been doing serious work this season to emphasize Litchfield’s corruption, and that of the prison system at large. With inmates like Suzanne, and even Lorna, who are more in need of psychiatric care than prison; Jimmy, who was put out on the street because Litchfield was unwilling to provide her with the care necessary for her; and Miss Rosa whose cancer is killing her but the prison system won’t help her. Her doctor’s recommendation for a surgery is ignored because there’s no one willing to pay for it, leaving Miss Rosa to a death more certain than before. 

Miss Rosa’s flashbacks are some of the most fun the show’s done before, probably because her crime of choice (bank robbery) is more splashy than that of her fellow inmates. She’s also apparently suffering from a curse that gets her partners in crime killed starting with the boyfriend who got her into robbery and one of their other partners who Rosa takes up with later, dying of a heart attack on the way to another job. It’s almost a given that her next lover is going to bite the dust as well, but he escapes the curse (possibly because he and Rosa didn’t kiss before and after the job).

Past Miss Rosa is fun-loving and almost infectious in her desire for more cash. She loves the smell of it, and her thirst for the thrill of it is what spurs her to rob another bank unprepared and alone. And she ends up jailed for her efforts. Watching Miss Rosa is thrilling, because the show flashes back to her days as a young woman, and it’s kind of fun to see the big hair. But it also makes apparent how much time Miss Rosa is serving, and the severity of her situation. She’s surely going to die in prison, and no one in charge cares.

Meanwhile Piper’s furlough comes through, and it turns the rest of the prison population against her. This season hasn’t made Piper’s overwhelming privilege (especially in comparison to the other inmates) as clear as last season, but this episode makes it apparent that no one’s forgotten about the special treatment Piper’s always garnered. Loads of inmates of asked for furlough over the years (including Daya last season), and they’ve never gotten it.  But Piper’s special. She’s well-off, white and has it good with Healy (who’s happy to go to bat for Piper but doesn’t even try to advocate for Ms. Rosa). One thing the show remains reliable with is calling Piper out on this. Even when she decides to try for a special speech moment, in which she blats everyone for being angry with her and her furlough, she gets brought back down to size when Suzanne flings a pie at the back of her head.

Surely it’s not Piper’s fault that she’s privileged by the system since she doesn’t ask for it, but that’s what white privilege is. It’s not a conscious request for everything to be handed to her, but it’s what the system does. And Piper not requesting it, doesn’t mean she can’t be called out for reaping the rewards a system routinely denies other people. This is why Poussey couldn’t leave prison to say goodbye to her dying mother and why Anita couldn’t see her grandchildren being born. And on a much larger scale, it’s why Jimmy got tossed out and why Miss Rosa’s going to die.

This season’s done a better job at making Piper slightly less annoying. Giving her enough of the knowledge to try not to be so self-absorbed helps her out, and in this moment where she’s almost intolerable telling everyone that she’s got furlough without considering what that might mean for them, tying it to an emotional weight like her grandmother dying helps. It’s hard to care too much since we’ve seen little of Piper’s grandmother and haven’t gotten to experience Piper’s relationship with her very much, but Taylor Schilling has done good work with portraying Piper’s despair at her grandmother’s impending death, and does so again when she gets the news that her furlough has come too late and her grandmother has already died. It’s a slight nod to Miss Rosa’s eventual fate as she’s certainly going to go the same way soon.

At her chemo treatment she gets to do one last job with her new friend, the surly teenager, stealing from a drunken nurse. It’s a cute sequence, due to Miss Rosa’s delight at stealing again and her young partner’s irritation with his cut.  Happily, he avoids the curse as well, and gets good news: he’s in remission. Miss Rosa’s genuine happiness at the news followed by her preemptive sadness at thinking he’ll die makes the revelation particularly emotional. But as Miss Rosa’s wheeled away, in a spectacular mood, it’s impossible not to think that she’ll likely never get that news herself not when Litchfield’s crackdown is growing even more severe.

With Fig putting on the pressure, Caputo heightens his search for contraband. When he figures it must be  coming through Red, he tears apart the greenhouse but comes up empty-handed because Gloria’s stashing all of Red’s things in the kitchen. It’s a narrow escape for them, but it’s not the same for everyone. When Fischer remarks about the new disciplinary measures, she gets fired for her efforts. Hers and Nicky’s later scene, as Nicky tells her to embrace being tossed from the hellhole that is Litchfield, is actually very nice and a nice nod to the comfort the other inmates have with Fischer, which they don’t have with any of the other guards. I’ll miss her especially since she gets replaced by Pornstache.

The legal ramifications aside, I’ve no idea why Pornstache is back. I mean I know why. He’s the worst, and somehow that makes him a joy to have on the show. But why, on a narrative level, is hard to come up with. He seems there as a gimmick, to make a nod to viewers who wanted to see Pornstache return to wreak havoc. But there’s nothing fun about Pornstache. He had a few good oneliners last season, but comedy doesn’t erase the fact that’s disgusting, and his return is only going to bring on more abuse for the inmates. We can argue that him coming back is another nod to the prison system’s disregard for the people it’s supposed to take care of, and it works for that, but it also feels cheap. The show hasn’t suffered from Pablo Schrieber’s absence, and no matter how good a job he does at being creepy and disgusting, there’s no apart of me looking forward to what he gets up to this time around.

Stray Observations

  • Miss Rosa: “Thank you for defending my veins, Bucket Boy.”
  • Ingalls: “Ssh”. Flaca: *flips her off* Ingalls: “Jesus saw that.”
  • Now Lorna’s even being checked up on in the garage. If only they’d been doing that a few episodes ago when she revisited her stalking days
  • Soso spends the entire episode smelling “like a fucking turtletank” and is eventually forced to shower by the guards. I don’t know what Soso’s deal is. I guess she’s just around for comic relief, which is weird because it’s already a comedy.

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