In this episode, everyone is sick or at war.
Prison culture makes it easy for people to dislike Piper; on the outside, her privileged behavior would not only be tolerated but would probably be the norm. It’s only when she’s in close quarters with people who have had wildly different experiences that she’s able to manage her expectations. Or at least she would be, if she could stop feeling sorry for herself. But even that statement sounds unfair; in the past few episodes, Piper has been settling into her incarcerated reality a bit more, and in this episode her sadness feels heavier and more relatable.
Piper has made a powerful enemy in CO Healy. He is PISSED OFF, and wants to make it clear to Piper that their relationship is no longer friendly. He goes out of his way to get a copy of the New York Times featuring Larry’s article, only to toss it in the trash and pour hot coffee over it. Healy is basically acting like a scorned lover, performing vindictive little actions in order to make it clear that he’s over her.
Red is also at war, with Mendez. We learn in a flashback that Red was responsible for getting Neptune produce in prisons after suggesting to the owner that he look for a larger, recession-proof operation that would allow him to keep laundering money. Mendez is hell-bent on moving drugs into the prison via her kitchen, and is resorting to threats and scare tactics to get information from her crew on how to do it. He almost can’t wait to tell Red that one of her girls, Tricia, is in withdrawal, and blackmail her into helping the girl get through it without anyone from the prison catching on. Red is pretty good at the scorched earth (or “two strikes”) approach to life; rather than help Tricia, she boots her from the crew (using Nicky as the messenger) and makes an example of her. Tricia is sent to SEG with an extended sentence, and Caputo wonders how she’s just now going through withdrawal after being in prison for ten months. The jig is basically up, even though no one knows who to blame.
It’s interesting to watch Mendez do this tap dance; he’s always been a bit of a bastard, but the lighthearted goofiness behind most of his actions has been replaced with a real, deep anger. I was levitating above my couch with tension when he drove Lorna into the woods, not at all sure of what would happen next. Yael Stone (the actress who plays Lorna) deserves an armful of Emmys for this scene, eyes welling up with beefy tears and her face paralyzed with terror, certain that Mendez was about to sexually assault her. The inmates may starve each other out and threaten each other with violence, but the men running the Litch have a dangerous and unwieldy power.
Everyone seems to have the flu this week; Piper crafted face masks out of maxi pads and two hair ties for herself and a reluctant Miss Claudette, but everyone else is puking, sneezing, coughing, or, like Maria, in labor. It seemed weird that it took so long for them to even acknowledge that she was in labor, right? Her friends tried to help her with their homemade pregnancy advice (“Drink pineapple juice” and “Play with your nipples to get your hormones going; you gotta just twiddle them, you wanna try it?”), but she mostly walks around suffering through the pain. While in the middle of intense labor pains, she reads Daya and Aleida for filth, saying they fight like they’re in a telanovela and are a walking cautionary tale about NOT having kids. Their bickering is tempered by Daya’s illness, but they still trade barbs. I really love their dynamic — it feels real that Daya wouldn’t have much love for the mother who essentially left her to grow up on her own, or that Aleida is possibly not ever going to get over the fact that her daughter slept with her boyfriend, Cesar. Being in jail may force them to revisit the possibility of reconciliation more often than they would outside, but it’s good that there isn’t a clear healing happening between these two — let them have the friction for a bit.
Piper and Alex have a sort of healing, though, when she is sent to fix a broken dryer that Pennsatucky eventually locks Alex in. Alex uses the opportunity to remind Piper that she never takes responsibility for anything, and beg her not to leave when she threatens to go get help. They share some hard truths, but Luschek finds them and takes them to Healy’s office, where he mocks Piper again, asking if he, too, can write an article about her. As per usual, Healy is offended at the thought that she and Alex might have been having sex (which would be truly special through a locked machine), and sends them away with warnings.
Nicky, too angry with Red to even focus, eventually rats out Red to Mendez. She had a really interesting interaction with Red this week about drugs, trying to convince her that addiction is an illness and Tricia deserves another chance, but Red stuck with her hard and fast rules. For all of her comedic posturing, I think Nicky is scared that Red will boot her, too, should she ever relapse. Nicky is yet again begging for compassion from a “mother” who is unable (or unwilling) to give it to her.
Taystee hears back from her review board and is getting out! She seems conflicted about it while talking to Poussey, but her enthusiasm wins out in the end. If this works out, I’ll miss the necessary comic relief she provides to round out the cast, but it will be interesting to see if they follow her release story.
Most of the emotional heft of this week happens between Piper and Larry. Pete and Polly throw a party celebrating Larry’s column, and Polly goes into labor (but not before Larry can revisit the overly maudlin conversation about his inability to have fun while Piper is in prison and Pete gets blindingly drunk). Piper is already sad that “the rest of the world got to read your story before I did,” and with Polly giving birth she’s really feeling left out. Everyone is congratulating Larry for “capturing Piper’s spirit” and experience in prison, but he really has no idea what she is going through even though he sees her regularly. I like that there was a bit of anger there, that Piper wasn’t willing to accept his tale of “one sentence for two people” as the full scope of what was happening. Larry may miss Piper, but she’s the one doing the time, and she feels like she’s not the girl he wrote about in the paper. She isn’t the “cool story at a yuppie cocktail party,” and she doesn’t want her relationship with Alex whittled down to an adventurous instance of gross misjudgment. This is her life, not an anecdote.
During a scene where she and Miss Claudette are talking before they go to bed, we learn through flashbacks that Piper thought she might have been pregnant three months before she was going to prison. She thought she might have wanted that baby and is sad when the test turns out to be negative. Larry was pragmatic throughout, bringing Piper back down to earth when she claimed she could “raise the baby in prison” because people always say there’s never a right time to have one. Um, I can guarantee that no one would think “on your way to jail” is the optimum time to have a baby. It was an interesting callback to her complete naïveté. Larry reminds her that the baby would come home, but she would still be in jail, which we see in action when a depressed Maria comes back from the hospital. That was a great moment, the contrast between Piper’s flight of fancy and the reality of being pregnant in prison. She goes to see Alex and finds some comfort in talking about her feelings, ending on a good note with Alex reaching for her hand. Close quarters are bringing them some peace, it seems, since they finally have to confront their bullshit.
In the end, Aleida performs a motherly act by bringing Daya a bucket to puke in. Daya thinks she’ll be getting over the flu soon, but Aleida looks at her and says, “You’ll feel better in about nine months.” Is Daya pregnant with Bennett’s baby? How would that even work?
Best lines and scenes:
- The Crying Woman of the Bank of Phones passes by with tissue just as Piper starts sobbing. This is probably my favorite running joke on this show.
- “Someday you’re gonna write the whole paper, bro.”
- Piper finding a way to electrocute herself every episode is my second favorite running joke.
- Poor drunk Pete, passed out next to his wife and baby’s crib.
- “You put your pee stick in my rinsing cup!” “Well, you put your pee stick in my vagina and that’s why we’re in this situation.”