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 six, “Piece of Sh*t”
Read the review of the previous episode here.
Well, Nicky is (almost) back at Litchfield, thanks to Judy King’s lawyer, Judy King’s money, and Luschek discovering a conscience amid a few month’s worth of mail. The segue between Piscatella telling Ruiz he was recommending she get an extra three to five years for her panty smuggling operation and Judy telling Luschek she’d solved his problem was perfect. First scene: “You know what we do with gang leaders, Ruiz? We make examples of them.” Second scene: “Oh, honey. A little money and a good lawyer go a long way.”
That Orange Is the New Black is able to make such blistering points about racism, sexism, prejudice, privilege, power, and corruption, but do so underneath the veneer of a screwball ensemble comedy is pretty bananas. The show has never been shy about depicting guards forcing inmates to give them sexual favors (it was actually the coda to this very episode, when Nicky decided to go back on drugs), but in Judy’s case, an inmate was able to do a favor for a guard and force him to repay it. “I took care of you,” she said, sweetly. “Now you take care of me.”
Once again, this was an episode without a flashback, possibly because the scenes in Max offered enough ghosts from episodes past (including a cameo from Stella, back on drugs, to the disgust of her sometime-lover, Nicky). The irony of the episode was that although she was in a maximum-security prison, Nicky finally seemed to be in a good place—she got to celebrate three years of sobriety and acknowledge how proud she was of herself, even though the guard took away her chip because it was contraband. But the impetus for her throwing all that away was encountering Sophia in a desolate state in SHU, and then having to clean up Sophia’s bloodied cell, with no sign of its former inhabitant.
Back at Litchfield, Piper was forced to acknowledge that she’d inadvertently formed an offshoot of the Aryan Nation, not to mention made an enemy for life in Ruiz. And here again the episode expertly wove in commentary on privilege and assumption—Piper sees herself as a businesswoman, being ruthless to protect the organization she founded and built from the ground up. But Ruiz, doing exactly the same thing, is a gang leader. And because she’s seen as one, she becomes one. Caputo can brainstorm all the educational programs he likes, but the reality is that the system he’s working within is so fundamentally flawed that it corrupts people rather than rehabilitate them, driving them to self-harm, drugs, and crime. At the beginning of the episode, Ruiz told her girls that they wouldn’t deal drugs because they had a “system”; by the end she’d figured, why the hell not?
Amid the grimness of the neo-Nazis and the trading of drugs for sexual favors, there were moments of levity, notably Cindy finally bonding with her roommate over their mutual love for Lawrence Wright’s Scientology exposé, Going Clear. (“Motherfuckers don’t even pay taxes.”) And at least we finally know what the drone persecuting Lolly was doing: taking paparazzi photos of Judy, now being billed in gossip magazines as the “Mother Teresa of Litchfield.” There was also the world’s saddest basket, woven by Pennsatucky out of discarded socks and trash bags. (“300 hours … It’s still not done,” she told Caputo.)
Best line: “Pizza, daisies, smelling markers, any animal, picking a booger.” Suzanne, in response to being asked what’s better than being famous.
Questions: Two episodes in, it seemed clear that this season was going to spark a race war. Between the prison’s new gang of white supremacists and the fact that the guards are only frisking inmates of color (a microcosm of stop-and-search), how ugly are things going to get?
Read the review of the next episode here.