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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 seven, “It Sounded Nicer in My Head”

Read the review of the previous episode here.

“This isn’t what it looks like,” Piper told Nicky as her melanin-deprived posse lifted buckets and grunted about C.S. Lewis behind her.

“Of course not,” Nicky replied. “But real talk: Sometimes what it looks like is all anybody can see.”

Yep, real talk. After the literally searing end to this episode, all anybody will see about Piper is that she’s a neo-Nazi, even though she doesn’t think she’s one—which draws parallels with how the mark of a criminal conviction works in the larger world. It’s hard to not feel both sad for Piper and mad at her. The game she had been playing with the Latinas was less about politics or profit than pride, and even worse, Piper was sloppy: a serious operator wouldn’t make a strategic mistake like abandoning Hapakuka. She inflicted very real consequences on Ruiz, and Ruiz has now returned the favor, in some ways rendering physical the mental and spiritual corrupting that viewers have noted in Piper over four seasons.

Lolly has a contrasting view on perception from Nicky—“Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist,” she told Healy—but that’s because of medical problems, not Piperesque hubris. This episode poignantly showed the frustration and sadness that Lolly, a typically comic character, has faced throughout her whole life, reminding that correctional facilities often end up as places to stow the mentally ill outside of society’s sight. It’s been a long struggle—spanning the Amiga computers era to the 2000 election to whenever gentrifiers first started eating green spaghetti—and Christina Brucato was so good at aping Lori Petty’s mannerisms and vibes that it took me a while to disbelieve my eyes and realize these were two different actresses. In helping Whitehill, Healy got probably his best and last chance for some amount of image rehabilitation with viewers—who can’t relate to his speech on the passage of time?

Poor Judy King is also facing the issue of perception vs. intention. Whatever person she is today, in the ’80s she put on a puppet show whose very synopsis is enough to make Yoga Jones wince. In turn, Taystee & co. are trying to capitalize on the demand for images of King that “tell a story”—the truth of the story itself be damned. The world is now primed to believe that the photo of Judy running from Black Cindy reflects larger controversy, and so in this show where the most hilarious/tragic thing that could happen usually does, we can expect that the world shall have that photo in circulation soon enough. Until then, we get hilarious scenes of Judy trying to cloak her utter terror while misunderstanding why the black girls are suddenly trying to get her alone.

Newly returned Nicky is an expert in how to put on one particular kind of appearance: of sobriety. The fact that she got hooked again right before returning to Litchfield is heartbreaking and a bit frustrating as a viewer—it would be so much more fun to have Natasha Lyonne using her arsenal of facial tics for the camera without having to worry about when her narrative will turn dark again. Of course, addiction is addiction; the storytelling around it has to be, to some extent, repetitive. For now, we can appreciate her vulgar mouth, tell-it-like-it-is intelligence (shower-pooper case closed, instantly), the sight of Morello hanging off of her (a preview of marital infidelity?), and her ability to make Red into a soft, loving presence—though one imagines Red won’t be happy when she realizes her stove has been used for human branding.

Best line: Morello: “I don’t think racism should be a group activity. It’s private!”

Questions: Will Piper endure the pain to turn her swastika into a four-square? Is Red and Gloria’s peace with each other permanent, and will it result in any action on saving Sophia? Will Aleida’s nail-salon ambitions stick? Just how ripe for lawsuits is the pending chain-gang education program? And is the next great Litchfield scandal over a seltzer machine?

Read the review of the next episode here.

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