If I had any love left for Vee, it flew out the window in this episode when she picked on Rosa and had Poussey beat up.
I genuinely appreciate a character with layers and nuance, especially when they’re well-written women, but fuck Vee all the way right now. She’s a dastardly villain, preferring first to gain the trust of her marks before she pounces on them and ruins their lives, but with three episodes left I’m worried about the irreparable damage she’ll cause. She’s already busted Poussey and Taystee apart; she’s ruined Red’s life once before; and, with this episode, it’s clear that she’s turned Suzanne into a well-leashed thug, which is the most heartbreaking and fascinating change of all.
It’s not enough that the seas part when Vee gets in line for breakfast so that she can go first — she has to demonstrate her hold over people by having Suzanne pour water over Rosa’s meal in an attempt to get her to move, even though there was plenty of room at the table, even though Rosa has cancer and mere weeks to live, for fuck’s sake. When Poussey figures out that Vee has her crew dealing hard drugs, Vee not only pushes for Poussey to quit her library job (or else), but has Taystee wrapped around her finger so much she calls Poussey a “bougie bitch” and physically pushes her away. When Poussey, drunk on her own home brew, confronts Vee in the bathroom, Vee, with one nod, sets Suzanne into action, practically breaking Poussey’s ribs by slamming her on the bench and kicking her repeatedly while she lays on the ground wailing. All of her former friends stand around doing nothing. And why would they? If their massive commissary hauls and free back massages tell us anything, it’s that this is not only a good business, but well-deserved retribution.
Suzanne is also called off with a barely discernible head shake; when she puts her hand on her own chin and lifts it, looking Vee dead in the eye, it’s a call back to their earlier interaction in the episode where Vee validates her completely, calling her a garden rose to Piper’s weed. Even when Janae’s cell gets tossed during a sweep and her tampon cigarettes are found, causing her to go back to the SHU, Vee is protected. Vee has reached her full strength, and for everyone else, it’s all downhill from here.
The sweep was also unlucky for Nicky, who had to hide her heroin stash in full view of an angry Gina. Nicky, what are you doing? I love Gina’s silent stares of judgment; is she the new Norma? Not that we need one, but her introspective silence piques my interest in a building that’s full of so much noise. Nicky toys with the heroin for a bit, then hands it over to Red as Gina suggests, right at a moment when Red needs to believe and understand that people can change. It was pretty fraught; Nicky could have easily slid down that hole, having just told us that heroin was her girlfriend, the thing she loved the most, but maybe remembering Tricia really did help change her mind.
Red needs to believe people can change because Vee tells her that’s possible right after she finds Red’s transit tunnel in the greenhouse and wants to use it. Vee is the ultimate motherfucker, man! She has her grimy hands in everything, and takes with force anything she finds profitable. Vee clearly hasn’t changed — she’s using the same manipulative tactics on Red and everyone else that she used on Taystee. Right now everyone has enough, but Vee’s greed threatens to bring that to a grinding halt. During the sweep the guards discover that everything smells like shit, and assume people are trafficking goods in their buttholes. Is it just a matter of time before they find the tunnel, locking Vee out of the opportunity to take Red’s business anyway?
Don’t think I missed the metaphor of Healy’s safe space being empty! He created a support group that no one cares about, but keeps his own violent personal therapy going. He’s not conflicted about his mail-order wife, but hates that they have nothing in common; through all of his insistence that he’s a nice guy who helps people, have we seen anything more than a mid-level paper pusher with anger issues? Is Healy’s ultimate disappointment that he’s mediocre? I think his more misogynistic side is authentic; he registers such sadness when it’s not reciprocated, and he always seems to have his antennae up to find like-minded dudes. The ultimate hilarity for me this season is that Pennsatucky, the unstable Bible-thumper who also acts out of “goodness,” is his closest confidante.
Piper … well, Piper be Pipin’, what else is new. She’s back at the Litch and we never get to see the results or punishment with regards to her urinalysis, so I assume she gets off scot-free. Sadly, she chooses to lie to Red about her closed storefront, which seems like a shockingly bad decision. But in the flashback of this episode, we get a glimpse of how Piper handles deceit when she finds out Alex has a girlfriend, Sylvie, right after they have sex. When she follows Alex to the bathroom of that burlesque place with the Ray Romano puppet act, Piper tries to play the bad girl (“rules aren’t any fun”), but it’s so obviously an act; throughout her life she has railed against deceit, from her cheating father to the very reason she turned herself in. When Polly comes to visit and it becomes clear that she was the person Larry cheated with, Piper is so mad she punches a wall until her knuckles are bloody. Not even having Neri deliver a bag of flaming poop is enough to lift her mood. When Alex sends her another letter, Piper holds onto it, but tells Nicky that Alex has been a liar from the very beginning and she hates the hold Alex has on her. When the reporter visits and tells her he needs to see invoices, there’s a deadness in Piper’s eyes, and I wonder if she’s finally giving in to the world as it is, instead of the world as she wants it to be.
The ghosts of Daya and Bennett (R.I.P.) argue about the truth, too — namely, that Daya wants him to come clean but he won’t risk his job and freedom to do it. Daya, I know you’re a ghost, but you can’t think it makes sense for both of your child’s parents to be imprisoned at the same time, right? Also, as Bennett brings up, the original plan was to screw over Mendez, so why is she so fraught about it now? She’s upset because of the moral quandary, of course — no matter what, she’s ruining someone’s life, and that is a shitty position to be in. As a feminist, I hate that she’s even in that position — why put the onus on her to shoulder the guilt for this when both Mendez and Bennett were squarely involved? — but I’m also not onboard with Fig telling her to “close her legs” or trying to remind her that she’s “destroying a man’s life.” Mendez did just fine destroying his own life, thank you.
Caputo cannot contain his glee now that he thinks Mendez got Daya pregnant, so when he sees Figueroa to tell her the news, he insists that he be the one to fire Mendez. When he tells Mendez that Daya is “carrying around a sadistic little mustachioed shit inside her,” Mendez gets weirdly proud until he realizes he’s going to be arrested. He claims his undying love for her on the way out as Figueroa is talking to the press, and asks Daya to wait for him. Mendez is being locked away for loving too much, and I feel like that’s maybe okay.
OUT IN THE YARD
- Piper, who had never gone down on a woman before, claimed to be only the “boob-touching kind” of lesbian.
- What is that brown sauce on all the tables at every meal?
- Maria’s silent boyfriend and cute baby are my favorite sublevel story of the season.
- Polly really did deserve to have that bag of poop lit on fire and left at her door.
- Why does Caputo have a spaghetti strainer in his pencil jar?
- Michael finally visited Sophia! The tension was broken with a card game, and Sophia seemed happy, even though Red wanted her to strangle him for turning her in.
- Is Piper going to get the invoices that reporter is asking for?
- Aw, Soso and her hunger strike. Yoga Jones, sick of the “inhumane torture” she sees all around her and guards using solitary as “toddler time-out,” reaches out to Soso and tells her she’s a true activist. Is she going to put her money where her mouth is?
- Poor Morello. Christopher comes to visit, but only to tell her he knows that she broke into his house, he thinks she’s a psycho stalker, and he will kill her with his bare hands if she ever comes near him again. Nicky did a great job of comforting her, but Lorna recognizing “there is really something wrong” with her might be the sign she needs to get help.