Orange Is the New Black: ‘Friends in Low Places’

Reviewing the eighth 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 eight, “Friends in Low Places”

Read the review of the previous episode here.

“I think that I’ve been trying to win prison, and I’ve destroyed people’s lives.” Thus spoke Piper, in an extraordinary moment of clarity brought on by smoking crack in a cornfield while sitting on top of a dismembered corpse.

I winced, I confess, when she reached for the pipe. The end of episode seven, wherein Piper got a makeshift swastika tattoo at the hands of Ruiz’s gang was one of the darkest moments the series has offered up. Sure, Piper’s annoying, and sure, she was due for a fall after sauntering around like John Gotti, but watching her get branded with a red-hot iron while screaming in hysterical fear and agony was pretty bleak. So having her become a drug addict, too? Eesh.

A lesser show would have followed Piper’s iffy decision to inhale down a road of “Just Say No”-inspired degradation and misery (although maybe it would have added sweet irony to the fact that Alex calls her “Pipes”). And Orange still might, who knows. Instead (and I’m not advising this for people who haven’t been branded with a Nazi tattoo or forced to suffocate a cartel hitman), crack brought catharsis. Piper showed Alex and Nicky her arm. Alex admitted she’d killed a man. The grisly confessions seemed to relieve them both.

Morality, Orange continually says, is complicated, particularly in prison, where rules are enforced by people who unfailingly break them. The show emphasized this in “Friends in Low Places” by reviving The New York Times Magazine’s now-infamous debate about killing baby Hitler, after the inmates pondered what they’d do if they could go back in time. Hapakuka would “go back, raise him right, give him lots of love, encourage his artistic side, try to be a good mom figure to him. Maybe he’d have less anger issues.” One of the skinheads, in less cuddly fashion, would “go back and tell him to seize the Suez Canal early on. That’d secure most of the Mediterranean, giving the Third Reich easy access to oil.”

There was also Coates’s apology to Tucky, which came across as sincere and heartfelt. If he could go back in time, he told her, “I would have treated you like a person, not a duck, or a thing. I’m still trying to figure out why it happened, why I did what I did. I’m sorry, Doggett.” Boo thinks that Coates raping Tucky in a fit of rage makes him unredeemable, but the fact that he acknowledged his failings and sought forgiveness for his actions rather than hide behind contributing factors, if nothing else, sets him apart from so many others.

Definitely indefensible: Linda From Purchasing, for pointing a gun at Crystal Burset and telling her basically to get off her lawn. And Caputo, for having sex with her instead of throwing her out with the garbage. Let’s remember that in Linda’s hands Caputo’s plan to teach the inmates life skills turned into making them build a new dormitory in the blistering heat, unpaid. MCC might be forcing Caputo to keep Sophia in SHU, but he’s made plenty of his own horrible decisions this season.

Spencer, remember when we were wondering whether Judy was Martha Stewart or Paula Deen? I guess, given Judy’s racist puppet show on 1980s local television, the answer is Deen. Judy’s woe-is-me isolation also seemed to echo Piper’s in so many ways: “It’s hard enough being in here without feeling like everybody hates me,” she told Poussey. And although she probably is a racist, she’s “the friendliest racist that you’ve ever gonna meet, so can’t we all get along?” The first step in redemption is admitting you have a problem, I guess?

The second step appears to be pretending to be in an interracial lesbian relationship, letting your co-conspirators profit at the hands of gossip magazines, and thus thwarting public perception that you’re a racist. Genius.

Best lines: So many: “While not my first choice, crack in small amounts is actually good for you.” (Nicky) “When God opens a swastika, he closes a window.” (Red)

Questions: Will Aleida make her nail salon dreams come true on the outside? Will Sophia ever get out? Is Cindy’s mama going to flip about her daughter’s April-October relationship?

Read the review of the next episode here.