Orange Is the New Black: ‘Doctor Psycho’

Reviewing the fourth episode of the fourth season


For the fourth season of Orange Is the New Black, Spencer Kornhaber and Sophie Gilbert are discussing the series via recaps, taking turns to analyze one episode at a time. Spoilers abound; don’t read further than you’ve watched.

Episode four, “Doctor Psycho”

Read the review of the previous episode here.

Ugh, Sam Healy. His comic book equivalent, Luschek and Judy agree, is Wonder Woman’s Dr. Psycho: “Oh! Oh! Oh! The one who hates women.” But his defining trait, I’d argue, even more than misogyny, is pettiness. It’s what prompted him to tell Caputo that Judy had been “hanging out with some unsavory types.” (“Hard to avoid in prison,” Caputo sagely countered.) And it’s what compelled him to force Judy into staging a cooking class for the inmates even when she told him she’d really rather not, all things being equal. The idea that someone like him—with such virulent mistrust of women, and who takes such vast pleasure in tiny acts of totalitarianism—could be a counselor to some of the most vulnerable women in society beggars belief; it’s also (as history attests) completely plausible.

There was more backstory on Healy’s mommy issues in this episode. In season three, it was revealed that his mother suffered from mental illness, was occasionally abusive, and underwent electroshock therapy. In “Doctor Psycho,” we learned that she suffered from delusions, saw angels, and “people in the wall, and sometimes Roy Orbison,” that she hated the way her treatments made her feel, and that she ran away from her family in the middle of the night after making little Sam deviled eggs and orange juice. Later, grown-up Healy thought he saw her sitting in a doorway after a bad date at the movies, but it was another woman, whom he begged to stay with him all the same.

I could live without extra Healy exposition—it’s already been made abundantly clear that he has abandonment issues (note his desperation to please his mail-order wife), and that he has a pathological fear of women having sex with each other (which now seems related to his mother’s “episodes”). To this we can now add that he’s long used his power inappropriately with women—his date to the movies complained about him being her “therapist”—and that he seems to have deep-rooted angst about women having any degree of freedom. What was interesting to me in this episode, though, was how accidentally helpful he was. His cooking class with Judy was the best attended event in prison history, and seemed to really thrill the inmates (not least Poussey, who’s forgiven Soso), and his counselling to Lolly genuinely comforted her, even as it undermined the truth of the corpse in the greenhouse.

It’s a huge relief to see Lolly out of danger, and away from the oleander tea, at least for now. And it was funny to see Healy so easily dismiss her confession of killing a hit man who worked for an international drug cartel as the paranoid ramblings of someone suffering a mental break. But what of Alex? She mentioned in episode three that her insides “have completely liquefied,” and now that Red knows, that’s one more person aware of the rotting corpse under the tomatoes. (Side note: how have neither Caputo nor any of the guards not noticed that he’s missing?)

As you noted in your last recap, Spencer, the show is particularly deft this season at exploring prejudice. In this episode, too, it seemed to scrutinize privilege, particularly Judy’s. Yes, she gets a private room, a “nonthreatening” roommate, a tea kettle, and countless other luxuries, but she also gets to wield some of her own power against Healy, simply by complaining to Caputo that he makes her uncomfortable, and has power issues. Any other inmate airing these opinions would surely be on the fast track to the SHU for speaking out, but Judy has high enough status thanks to her outside-world fame that she won’t be bullied. It’s inevitable that Healy won’t take this well, but Judy’s certainly one of the better antagonists you could dream up for such a small, sad man.

Far more momentous, though, was the season’s first glimpse of Sophia, not to mention—super spoilers ahead—Nicky. Laverne Cox continues to do heartbreaking work as Sophia, now locked up in SHU for her fight with Mendoza, and with Caputo clearly unwilling to get her out. His cruelty to her as he lied about Crystal was breathtaking, but almost worse was how he proffered small amounts of empathy in order to be able to live with himself, telling the guard to get Sophia another shirt before she’s hypothermic, because “this isn’t Guantanamo Bay.” Sophia’s response—setting fire to her cell to force her way out—could easily have ended in tragedy (her guard seems not so attentive), but instead she was ushered to safety past Nicky, last seen being dragged off to max for possessing heroin.

The other epic—although slightly more subdued—showdown this episode was between Pennsatucky and Coates, who’s seemed mystified for four episodes as to why she isn’t being nicer to him. But she finally found the conviction to use the “r” word, telling him in a doorway that she “just wanted to make sure” he wasn’t raping Maritza. “But I love you, I told you that!,” he replied, mystified. “But it don’t feel any different,” she said. I still think Tucky’s evolution from a malevolent meth addict who murders doctors on a whim to a sensitive and plucky heroine is one of the show’s more implausible developments, but Tucky 2.0 is infinitely more compelling.

Best line: “Poison is beneath you. It’s for witches and bored housewives, not badass bikers with octopus tattoos.”

Questions: Can the show ever get over the Piper panties storyline, which is deathly? Will Aleida get Daya’s baby back? Do dragons have feathers or fur? (Suzanne’s list of questions for the public library seemed like a completely brilliant, gonzo chain of queries plaguing someone who doesn’t have access to Google.)

Read the review of the next episode here.