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 Three, “(Don’t) Say Anything”
Read the review of the previous episode here.
To the question of whether Judy King is supposed to be Martha Stewart or Paula Deen, we have an answer: She’s no Deen, at least when it comes to racial sensitivity. “I get in more trouble for expanding those single-letter words, but never ‘N’s,” she told Brook Soso. “Despite this drawl, I am brighter than that.”
The fact that people might expect errant epithets based on King’s accent is a sign of the kind of prejudice that so much of this episode spent skewering. Brook’s entire storyline was a searing look at liberal shitheadedness, the mentality that wears the mantle of inclusion and enlightenment but doesn’t deeply understand—or maybe doesn’t really care—why those things are important; the irony of Soso and Judy’s interaction is that Soso herself had used the N-word earlier that day hanging out with Poussey. In the flashbacks, the 19-year-old Brook lept to the idea that a sex offender on the canvassing trail was a molester, and then employed the damaging stereotypes about him to bolster her own rep. In the present, she lept to the idea that her own girlfriend was raised in poverty, with her racism outweighing the stated facts about Poussey’s life. Every scene setting up and untangling this misunderstanding was wrenching and clever, capped with hot fire from Netflix against its old-school rival HBO: “I watched The Wire a lot—I made assumptions.”
Brook wasn’t the only one wielding false piety. There was Caputo and Linda From Purchasing celebrating the hiring of veterans for purely selfish reasons (and then Caputo trying to assuage his guilt by giving money to Donaldson), Judy assuming it was Poussey and not Soso who’d lived with homeless people, and Piper calling the Dominicans thugs while idiotically rejecting them from her panties business. All of this dovetailed with the episode’s larger concern with fairness and hierarchy, as seen when Piscatello reamed out Taystee for implying they were the same species, or when Piper continued to treat her roommate as a servant (with swift negative consequences), or when Red objected to Judy’s gardening privilege and then fed her laxatives to force Judy into the impolitic position of cutting in the Porta-Potty line. Inequality, condescension, and jealousy have been shown to shape the world outside the prison; they’re only amplified inside.
The best exchange about justice came, as many of the show’s best exchanges do, from the black girls (or asterisk-black-girls, given Soso’s inclusion). When Suzanne floated the idea of the most unfair thing to happen at Litchfield, the table casually recounted a litany of horrors: “How bout when Pornstache used to make the meth heads blow him for drugs in the mop closet?” “Or the time Chapman got furlough?” The hilarious twist of the scene was that everyone believed Taystee being moved off the cleaning crew to become Caputo’s secretary was unfair … to Taystee (or, as she’s apparently less commonly known, Tasha). She, though, seems plenty happy with the job, eagerly practicing her racial-identification skills over the phone and comparing her role to badass Song of Ice and Fire wardens. Taystee’s backstory has long been one of tragically thwarted ambition and bigheartedness; seeing her play white-collar go-getter for a bit is a nice change, though we can already see how her chipper attitude and lack of formal training could endanger her chances of staying in the role for too long.
For most of the rest of the episode, it seemed that the big scary drama at the start of the season about Alex’s murder plot was going to be relegated to the past, making way for bravura comic scenes like the co-ed When Harry Met Sally dirtytalk session between Morello and Vince in the visitation room. Alex counseling Lolly to “change the record in your head” was a succinct and touching glimpse at post-traumatic coping, and perhaps that was going to be it. But alas, a drone—maybe part of some MCC scheme to surveil without hiring more C.O.s—sent Whitehall back into a paranoiac fervor, sending her to dig up the garden (which she’d recently, hilariously, complained that Judy got to tour “like a fancy Shiba Inu”). Frieda’s announcement that they’d have to kill Lolly came in the dry, seemingly sarcastic tone she usually uses—but, chillingly, we’ve recently been shown that that tone isn’t sarcastic at all. Alex once suspected Lolly of trying to kill her; Lolly once saved Alex’s life; the third chapter of this saga, it seems, will be Alex returning the favor—or feeding the garden again.
Best line: Morello’s parade of misapprehension at the episode’s start: “What is that guy’s name? Oh! James Franco.” Suzanne: “Sisyphus.” Morello: “I did hear that rumor. You know those Hollywood types, they will stick it in any warm hole.”
Questions: Is Healy willing to accept that, as Red put it, “there’s no such thing as a consensual relationship between a prisoner and a guard”? Will Piper’s face end up stitched to a soccer ball after all? Will Cindy ever learn that Taco Bell beat her to her stuffed-tortilla idea with the Quesarito Burrito?
Read the review of the next episode here.