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Orange Is the New Black Episode 12 Recap: All Dried Up With the Puff Blown Off

There’s only one episode left, and I still have no idea how this season will end. That seems to be the beauty of Netflix TV right now; when the writing and production schedules aren’t influenced by advertisers, you have the freedom to stop pandering to the lowest common denominator.

But I digress. Piper is acting like a self-righteous douchebag again, so let’s get into it.

Piper is definitely doing janitorial duty, and starts this episode by cleaning out the E Block bathrooms. Crazy women ripping doors off, scared straight kids getting pushed out of wheelchairs, threats, sex, detoxing — does all of the drama on this show take place in the bathroom? This episode keeps that train rolling. Piper sees Suzy while prepping to clean the bathroom; Suzy isn’t in trouble, but likes to clean when “the feelings inside get messy like dirt.” Sweet, troubled Suzy is still reeling from Larry’s radio interview, and this is how she copes. When it comes down to it, though, Suzy finally voices what Piper both needs to hear and is unable to accept: “You’re not a nice person. You’re a mean person. You’re all dried up with the puff blown off.” That is a plate of COLD. DINNER. but an astute observation; for all of her apologies, Piper never changes her behaviors, or realizes how big a role she plays in harming the people around her. This isn’t to say that she’s responsible for Larry’s interview, but she was certainly careless enough to discuss them so callously in the first place. Suzy, who’s mostly been used as exposition in these past few episodes, wraps it up by saying, “You’ve got to start from the inside out.” She was referencing Piper’s mopping style, but it works as a set of instructions for what Piper needs to do to become the fully realized individual she claims to be already. Iyanla, fix her life.

Piper runs into Alex soon after, and confesses that she knows Alex ratted her out to the Feds. Piper says she’s over it, and kisses her with the wide-open stare of a serial killer, a clear signal that she will handle this the Waspy way, with feigned ignorance and abject denial. Alex eventually calls her out on this robotic response when they’re rubbing against each other in the kitchen, saying she’s glad the truth is out and everything is okay. That seems to be the push Piper needs to admit that they are NOT okay, that she’s angry, and she even starts to physically push Alex a little. I liked this little burst of anger; it puts her directly in the moment instead of her usual “keep my head down and get through this” approach to doing time.

Larry is still hanging out with Cal in the woods and avoiding Piper. He finally admits that he was using Piper’s story for his own gain, and even sounds a little remorseful about it. It’s too bad for Larry, but Cal is too busy being hilarious for me to care. He gets engaged to Neri via text message, and later fights with her about eating factory meat as foreplay (when she called him the “fat Bon Iver,” I thought I would die laughing). Cal loves the fighting; since he grew up in a family that pretended “everything was cool” when it wasn’t, he gets a thrill in “putting everything out there.” The Chapmans are really working through their family issues in this episode, right?

Daya is still trying to frame Mendez, and this time she enlists the help of others to help get caught in the act. When Caputo gets to the cafeteria, Lorna and Gloria run interference until they can coax Caputo to the supply closet, where he’s just in time to see Mendez and Daya boning. Mendez gets suspended without pay, but Fig doesn’t want to call it rape and tries to push it under the rug entirely. Bennett is less than thrilled when he realizes that Daya planned the whole thing, particularly after he goes out for a drink and Mendez professes his real love for her. Bennett begrudgingly accepts Mendez’s helpful hint about the drugs in the Neptune delivery and uses it to get in Caputo’s good graces. Caputo is thrilled, as he now has a way to take down Red, thinking she orchestrated this and knew about the drugs all along. I’m going to miss Mendez and Red going back and forth, one underhanded trick played against another, but maybe she finds a way out of this mess in the next episode? I can’t accept a next season without Red — we don’t even have her full backstory yet!

Fig has problems of her own. She gets a call from a reporter who heard Larry’s interview, particularly that part where he mentioned the prison had cutbacks that resulted in closing the track and switching to generic medication; he did a little digging, and Litchfield actually got an increase of $2.3 million, so where did the money go? Fig says she’ll look into that right as she gets into a Mercedes. Fig is embezzling!

When Caputo sees CO Fischer being nice to Nun Fabulous in the cafeteria, he pulled her into his office to throw down some creepy flirt moves and tell her to be more of a badass. He told her to call people “inmate” instead of by their names to remind them that they’re all the same. She was reluctant to do so at first, but eventually starts trying out her new voice and throwing her weight around. 

At the start of the episode, Pennsatucky is a bit subdued. Alex jokes that they must have given her great drugs in the psych ward, but the truth is that she’s lost faith in God, which she of course blames on Piper. In a flashback, we learn that even though her boyfriend wants her to keep it because WIC “gives good vegetables,” Pennsatucky has an abortion. While at the clinic, a nurse snidely remarks that this is her “fifth one, and she should get a punchcard for her 6th one.” All those times in past episodes that she’s been praying for dead babies, she’s been talking about her own, which adds a layer of sadness to the story. She can’t handle being disrespected, so she goes out to the truck of the guy who drove her there, grabs a shotgun, goes back into the clinic, and shoots, presumably killing the nurse who called her out. I don’t know what I was expecting for her backstory, but I was NOT expecting murder. Pennsatucky becomes a hero to the right-to-lifer sect, and it fills her with a sense of purpose. She likes being adored, but also likes having a purpose that she thinks was given to her by God, especially since her attorney, appointed by a “Christian law firm,” has seen to it that her bills are paid and her family receives a stipend while she’s in prison.  

The other backstory this week, though not as involved, was Yoga Jones. When Janae notices that she’s canceled some classes, she seeks out Yoga Jones and gets her to talk. It turns out that she was an alcoholic who grew pot in Humboldt (“just an acre”), and she accidentally shot a young neighbor kid when she was drunk one night and trying to get rid of deer. Again, I totally didn’t expect murder to be part of Yoga’s backstory, either, but it explains why she punched Janae a few episodes ago. I really love their burgeoning friendship, even when it takes a turn for the weird and they try to electrocute themselves out of boredom. Yoga getting shocked, falling over, and getting up to declare how much better she felt was one of the funniest moments on TV this year.

Miss Claudette spends most of the episode anticipating her hearing; she and Piper make up, and Piper paints her nails before she heads off to court. She is hopeful, and looking forward to Jean Baptiste and “eating dinner at 7 p.m., like a person.” That line, with its simple reference to humanity, was fairly heartbreaking. When her appeal is denied, Miss Claudette comes back to the Litch looking like the life has been drained out of her. When newly minted badass CO Fischer gets in her face about not having a badge and wearing nail polish, Miss Claudette reaches out and chokes her. HOLY SHIT! The guards eventually pull her off and Fischer is okay, but Miss Claudette “doesn’t care” that she’s now going to maximum security for the rest of her life. I can’t even handle them locking up Grandma Claudette, or that she probably won’t be on the show next season.

When they’re whisking Miss Claudette away, Taystee comes out in an orange suit, freshly arrested and back in the Litch. Poussey is pissed off to see her back and gives an impassioned speech about the price of freedom, which Taystee counters with a healthy dose of the truth; she was working part-time, sleeping on the corner of a floor in an apartment where someone stole her check, and everyone she knows is in jail, dead, or gone. She “got fucked up in the head,” but jail is comfortable for her, and she knows how to navigate the territory. Though it’s definitely meant to spark commentary about recidivism rates, I can’t help but be pissed off that in reality, we make jails a legitimate option for people who can’t afford secure housing and jobs.

Pennsatucky confronts Piper about her part in making her lose faith, and decides that in order to get right with the Lord, Piper needs to get baptized. Piper entertains the thought of doing so for a minute, but when she realizes she will be baptized in a muck sink, she not only declines but denounces religion entirely. She skips out to go see Larry in visitation; he’s concerned that her experience in prison is changing them, and he wants to get married right now or break up. Piper stares at him, and we’re not going to get her answer until the next episode. That is, if she makes it; Pennsatucky, thoroughly shunned by Piper in the process of trying to befriend her, says, “She disrespected me. Now I’m going to have to kill her.” I sincerely believe she will try.

 Favorite Lines:

  • Larry: This isn’t even remotely coffee. Cal: No, it’s dandelions.
  • Poussey: What did you do to get back in here? Taystee: Well, first I got a can of Rockstar and 100 paper clips.
  • Will Piper, the “emotionally manipulative narcissist who bailed on Alex when her mother died,” really make it work with Alex, the “ruthless pragmatist who sold her out and then lied about it”? Or will she choose Larry?
Photo: Jessica Miglio for Netflix