I don’t mind Piper Chapman. Not as much as other people might. She’s not on the level of Litchfield’s other inmates, but she’s not the worst (that’s Healy and Pornstache and Fig and Fig’s husband and some other people). But it’s clear that delving into her past is boring, and as “Little Mustachiooed Shit” dives back into past events, it becomes apparent that the show thinks she’s boring, too. There’s nothing new Orange is the New Black can tell us about Piper. Flashbacks given to other inmates are illuminating, shining a light on a part of their life that doesn’t extend to Litchfield outside of maybe being the reason they’re in prison in the first place. But Piper’s past has apparently been wrung dry as all the show can do for her is revisit hers and Alex’s relationship and throw in Alex’s then-girlfriend who isn’t above leaving flaming bags of poop on people’s doorsteps.
There’s not a lot else that can be given to Piper and Alex’s relationship. They love each other, but they’re mutually destructive in a lot of ways. And as Alex sends Piper another letter, the show tries to add more depth to the pairing. But it’s shallow. What does this ex-girlfriend have to do with anything? Why do we need another example of Piper looking past the problems in hers and Alex’s relationship in favor of keeping it alive? We don’t.
The flashbacks work better by including Polly in them (which is a weird statement since Polly is spectacularly boring). But in an episode that has Piper realizing that Polly and Larry slept together, it was nice to go back to their relationship as friends even if it did have to be latched onto Piper and Alex’s melodrama. The one thing I can say about Polly and Piper is that they at least were good friends. Even last season Polly was the only person to know the depth of Piper and Alex’s relationship pre-conviction, and though she disapproved of it (because she didn’t like Alex), she was always willing to listen. Because the show’s set in Litchfield, it’s hard to get a sense of Polly and Piper in present day. They’re rarely seen, and the flashbacks were a chance to explore that further but it got swallowed up by Piper and Alex. And the attempt to link the past to the present with Piper enlisting her new sister-in-law to leave flaming poop on Polly’s doorstep, doesn’t really work.
The last episode was a pretty good one for Piper, and she returns to Litchfield from her furlough in this one. She brings with her a big lie for Red about the state of her market, telling her that it’s doing better than fine. It’s a nice moment for the two of them, even though Red’s still going to find out the truth at some point. Piper’s usually so self-absorbed that seeing her try to protect Red’s feelings by lying is a nice beat for her character, and her becoming more aware of other people’s problems and emotional stakes is something I hope the show continues with it makes for a much better, much more tolerable Piper.
In Litchfield, Vee’s crew has risen to the top of the prison hierarchy. And uncomfortably so. The lovable and hilarious bunch we knew has been replaced by a group of women who are something resembling cruel. Even though relationships with other inmates has never been a strong point among members of different cliques, we’ve never really seen the kind of apparent violence and disregard pop up within groups as it does with Vee and Poussey. When a drunken Poussey attacks Vee in the bathroom, Vee turns Suzanne on Poussey who beats her and leaves her crying and injured on the bathroom floor. After the last episode, and watching Vee’s attack on Red in the past, it’s more apparent than ever that Vee’s a problem. It’s some of the most explicit prison violence we’ve seen even after seeing Pennsatucky come at Piper with a knife probably because Pennsatucky was a threat from the jump. Compare Pennsatucky’s recurring imbalance and danger to Suzanne’s generally sympathetic portrayal and it’s horrifying.
In the episode’s bigger storyline, after Bennett informs Caputo that Daya’s pregnant with Pornstache’s baby, it’s just a matter of time before Pornstache gets kicked to the curb. It leads to some more annoying talk between Daya and Bennett, as Daya tells Bennett she wants him to profess his love for her and claim her and their baby as his own even though it’ll surely get him sent to prison. Daya’s talking points this whole season have been strange, and the show likes to play them off as “hormones” as if Daya being pregnant means she’s lost all rational thought, but the show suddenly deciding that Daya should advocate on Pornstache’s behalf and encourage Bennett to send himself to jail is probably the worst.
Daya’s whole argument this episode was that Pornstache shouldn’t go to jail because he’s innocent, an argument easily undercut with the prideful looks of all the inmates who watch him as he’s escorted out of Litchfield in handcuffs. Pornstache isn’t innocent. He’s isn’t even likable. He’s coerced inmates into having sex, abused them physically and sexually, brought drugs in and covered up Tricia’s overdose. There’s no guarantee Daya knows about any of this but Pornstache’s infatuation with her doesn’t seem a strong enough reason for her defense of him now when the prison pipeline’s always been settled on Pornstache being a terror. It’s not like he’s innocent of what he’s being accused of. He did have sex with an inmate, he just wasn’t the only one. While I’m happy to see Pornstache headed out the door, it was a weak choice for the show to wait this long to finish out a story from last season. And his professions of love to Daya as he was taken outside make me worry that he’ll be back again next summer.
Elsewhere Vee takes Big Boo’s intel and suggests that she and Red share the sewer line in and out of the prison. The idea that anyone would believe this after the things that Vee’s done, both in the present and the past, is laughable. Why would Red go along with Vee’s suggestion after she came to her with a similar offer years ago and attacked Red for it? Even Vee’s claims that she wants to be friends again is hollow, reeking over her manipulation. And though Red seems to have been falling for it some, it all changes when Nicky brings her the heroin she was given. If there’s anything Red hates, it’s drugs especially following Tricia’s death so if there’s something that will set her firmly against Vee without hope of movement (even moreso than her own violent altercation with her) it’s a threat to Nicky’s sobriety.
- Maria and her boyfriend! Talking about paying bills late and wooden baseball bats!
- It seems out of left field in this episode, but Lorna meeting Christopher again as he turns up to scream at her about breaking into his house, is a beat the show had to hit after “A Whole Other Hole.” Though he’s definitely right about Lorna being dangerous and breaking into his house, it’s still hard to watch him yell at her, greeting her with “Don’t you fucking touch me” and making it painfully clear to everyone in the vicinity including a nosy Nicky, that he has no relationship with Lorna.
- Sophia has a haircut, and it’s adorable. She also got a sliver of a storyline as her son came to visit her for the first time since turning her in. Sophia’s been so underused this season that I hope we’re getting something more for her before its up, but I’m glad to see her family coming back into the fold. Considering the high profile Laverne Cox has garnered following season one, seeing so little of her this time around is strange.
- Healy makes up a support group with Pennsatucky, and no one’s interested.
- Yoga Jones joins Soso’s hunger strike after Janae’s sent to solitary again for having cigarettes in her bunk. I love Janae and Yoga Jones.
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