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 10, “Bunny, Skull, Bunny, Skull”
Read the review of the previous episode here.
“Bunny, skull, bunny, skull,” in addition to being a pretty zany manicure option, is also an apt metaphor for how season four is unraveling. This episode opened with warm fuzzies (Aleida hugging Daya and moonwalking her way out of jail) and closed with a human hand being dug up from underneath the prison garden. Bunnies! Skulls! Feel-good family moments! Rotting corpses! It’s enough to make a binge-viewer feel dizzy, but somehow, it works.
By unifying the prison’s isolated white supremacists, Piper has indeed, as she told Alex, created a monster. Maybe not one that threatens the inmates as directly as Piscatella’s John Yoo-approved disciplinary techniques, but definitely one that can make enough noise to ruin Taystee’s eagerly awaited screening of The Wiz. Meanwhile, Blanca is still standing on the table, and Piper’s entreaties to Piscatella that “standing for prolonged periods of time causes irreversible joint damage” seem to trouble him as little as the fact that she might, you know, die of dehydration. Alex noted that the prison’s rapidly turning into “some kind of grotesque social experiment,” and she isn’t wrong.
As far as grotesque things go, though, it’s hard to top the scene from last week, when Humps forced Maritza to confront the repulsive manifestation of her thought experiment regarding eating 10 dead flies versus one live baby mouse. After she rushed to the bathroom to throw up (and the guards pondered whether Humps had raped her as casually as they might have wondered if he’d made her a cup of tea), Flaca finally compelled her to explain what had happened, and Maritza’s description of feeling the mouse toenails catching in her throat was gag-inducing. So yes, Humps is a psychopath, and an animal torturer, but he’s only degrees worse than the rest of the guards, who all seem to delight in making the inmates perform increasingly painful tricks for their amusement. As Flaca said, “Those guards, they can do whatever the fuck they want.”
The exception, of course, is Luschek, who admitted to Nicky that he got roped into having sex with Judy King while Nicky was rifling through his workbox for drugs. (“It was very Harold and Maude.”) Nicky’s been cut off thanks to Red threatening all the suppliers in the prison—Ruiz, Angie (who was starting to get grossed out by the shower pooping anyway), and Officer Dixon, who rivals maybe Piscatella in sheer awfulness.
All season, people have been making digs at Caputo for adopting the trappings of his fancy new job and not spending any time in the actual prison. But in this episode, he at least seemed to be taking some time on a mission for good: Reading dannytalkstruth.com (wasted opportunity for Mike Birbiglia-centric marketing there) and sneaking a picture of Sophia in SHU on Sister Ingall’s confiscated cellphone. If it doesn’t fully make up for the fact that Litchfield under his watch has become a less balmy version of Guantanamo, it at least shows that he’s aware of how rotten MCC is as an institution, to the point where he’s willing to leak photographs of an inmate to a whistleblower to help get her out.
One of the more moving storylines this episode involved Aleida post-release. Orange hasn’t fully explored the transition into the outside world since Taystee left the prison in season one and deliberately violated her probation so she could return to Litchfield. The story that the new guard, McCullough, told Aleida right before she left about an inmate being released in the middle of the night and being picked up for suspicion of prostitution as she tried to walk to town captured the revolving door of recidivism—even when prisoners don’t want to reoffend, they’re permanently hindered by their incarceration in a way that makes it almost impossible for them not to.
For Aleida, this meant going to stay with her boyfriend’s pregnant new girlfriend because she had nowhere else to go, and trying to explain how she felt without being grilled about prison clichés: “It’s hard, and it smells like old farts, but I got people in there. I got nobody out here.”
Best line: “I’m looking for those letters I wrote you. I’m hoping to recycle them in a ‘Fuck You’ origami.” Nicky.
Questions: Will Aleida end up back in jail, or will she get her kids back? How ugly are things going to get with C.O. Piscatella now one of the guards has turned up in pieces under the tomatoes? What exactly is wrong with Kukudio?
Read the review of the next episode here.