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 nine, “Turn Table Turn”
Read the review of the previous episode here.
In a prison that denies its residents lives that, in Kip Carnigan’s words, “feel full,” prisoners resort to fantasy. Suzanne’s interstellar erotica is one example; Lolly’s time-travel machine, and the daydreaming it spurs in other inmates, is another. Piper’s panty ring was an act of imagination, of sorts—she got so carried away pretending to be a gang leader that she accidentally became one. But the most common kind of escape is through the mere act of conversation, the bantering that makes this show so fun to watch—like when Flaca and Ramos debated whether they’d rather eat a live baby mouse or a bunch of dead flies.
So it’s a particularly demented kind of cruelty that weaponizes the kind of harmless nonsense fun that keeps inmates alive. C.O. Humphrey’s torture of Ramos at first struck me as way too outlandish—TV-typical fake drama, creating a new big bad prison-guard villain just when the horrors of Pornstache had all but faded from memory. But elsewhere in this episode, Piscatella told his employees to “go freestyle” with the inmates, with the “Abu Ghraib-y” punishment of Blanca highlighting how imagination, when wielded by people in positions of power, can be a sick thing. It’s only a small stretch from there to believe a corporation like MCC would have hired not only thoughtless frat boys but a secret psychopath.