Yes, I’ve been pretty mean to this season of Orange Is the New Black. I’m finding it very hard to get into, with so many story lines and some so disparate that I have a very hard time caring about what’s happening even as I’m fully enjoying the characters on the show. Then there is the stupid stinky-panty heist, which I just can’t really endorse because of its willful wackiness. But finally, we have something to praise: an episode that is as good as any of them that have come before. There were two moments that broke my heart, a hilarious plot-turn, an insane turn of perspective, and some devastating consequences for some of our favorite characters.
Of course this episode belongs to Pennsatucky, not only because she got the flashback but also because Taryn Manning was so unbelievably good playing this character who was a cartoonish villain in the first season and comic relief in the second. Finally, she is fully fleshed-out, but sadly, it’s because of the men who have abused her for so many years. If anyone needs to understand what rape culture is all about, they should watch this episode of the show.
Tiffany (let’s use her real name today, shall we?) is taught by her mother from the very first moment that she “becomes a woman” that her body has little to no value. Her mother tells her that men are going to want to do things to her and she should just let them do whatever they want and hope that they’re quick about it. “It’s like a bee sting,” she tells her daughter, giving her just about the worst advice ever.
Because she has never viewed her body as her own, Tiffany gives it out to any guy who will bring around a six-pack of Mountain Dew and lets Abe have his way with her behind an abandoned factory. Later, she learns how a real man should touch her, that her body can be used to give her pleasure as well, and with that pleasure can come love. But when her boyfriend leaves for Wyoming, Abe comes back and takes what he feels is owed him. She is finally empowered enough to say no, but she can’t fight him off, and he rapes her in the bathroom at a party, the fight going out of her body and a dead look creeping into her eyes while she does what her mother taught her and lets him do what he wants without protesting.
After their rapey encounter in the woods last episode, things actually look decent for Tiffany and Coates, the officer who has taken a shine to her. He confesses that he really likes her and she seems to like him, too. She likes that he listens to her, is giving her special attention, and makes her seem like a real, worthwhile human being. That is, until one of their excursions gets him in trouble. When she tries to tell him that she’ll take care of him, he finally gives her what he claims she wants, violently, in the back of the van that has become her sanctuary. He ruins everything for her — a chance at love, the hope for some momentary freedom from prison, her purpose in the pen. This time, when the dead look falls into her eyes, there is also a tear, a sadness that she thought this guy might be different, but he was just like all of the rest. In that moment, my heart really broke for her, a sentiment I never thought I would feel for this character, but it's excellent that she finally got this depth.
Daya also had a breakthrough heartbreak moment, when Mrs. Pornstache comes to visit. After Daya told her that the baby is not her son’s, she goes to visit him in prison (the mustache is gone but he has a reinvigorated mullet), but he won’t believe the news and says that he’s going to prove to the world he can still be a great father. Mrs. Pornstache goes and says she’ll still take the baby and that Daya can be involved. Sure, her motives aren’t entirely altruistic, but she knows the baby has a better chance with her than growing up in a two-room apartment with a half-dozen other children.
Daya finally relents and accepts. “Take her and give her the best life you can give her,” she says. It’s a hard realization that the best thing for her baby is a life without her. But now that all of Daya’s excuses are done, she’s stuck with that reality, and makes a difficult sacrifice.
There were two other excellent reversals this episode. After tracking Lori Petty and going insane for another episode, Alex finally confronted her in the bathroom, and things got violent. But Lori Petty was only paying so much attention to Alex because she thought Alex was spying on her for the NSA. She’s not working for Kubra; she’s just crazy! Alex is off the hook. You know that means that Aussie Stella is the one working for Kubra, right? She’s gotta be.
The funniest moment, though, was when Lorna convinces Vinny, her new boyfriend on the outside, to beat up a guy whom she says has been writing her inappropriate things. I thought it was going to be the boring guy who visited her early in the episode, but it was good old Christopher. Man, will this guy ever stop being tortured by Lorna? I know he’s the one obeying the laws in this instance, but I was so happy to see him get the crap beaten out of him by Vinny and his boys. Though he doesn’t, I feel kind of like he deserves it. Maybe I’m just happy that Lorna has finally found a soul mate, one as messed up and totally insane as she is. May they live happily ever after (and never have children).
Things also heated up between Sophia and Gloria. Sophia is frustrated that her son is acting out, but she can’t do anything about it and is taking it out on Gloria. Gloria is frustrated that she can’t get her son up to visit her more, and can’t do anything about it and is taking it out on Sophia. This is one of those miscommunications where if they could sit down and hash it out like rational people,, they would see that they have the same problem with similar solutions, but instead they end up fighting. It’s like when two superhero teams have a crossover, they always have to get in a big brawl before someone stops them and says, “Why are we fighting?”
It all comes to a head, literally, when Gloria threatens Sophia in the bathroom, egged on by Aleida. She’s walking away and Sophia pushes her, and she crashes her skull on the bathroom wall. I hope for Sophia’s sake that she’s going to be fine, but I’m not hopeful.
Crazy Eyes, the muse of Admiral Rodcocker, was the only one whom things were really working out for. Thanks to her erotic novel that has been making the rounds, she’s attracted the attention of an inmate who comes on to her with a poem that barely rhymes. She tells Suzanne to meet her in the broom closet that night, but Suzanne is afraid to because she’s never had sex with anyone before. She asks Lorna for advice, who tells her that she just has to do it and fumble around and figure it out like anyone else. When the big night approaches, Suzanne is too scared and can’t go through with it. I hope she gets another shot at love, because after everything that happened with Vee, she deserves someone to do some nice things for her.
Wow, I actually really cared about all the stories this episode. Oh, wait, there was Piper. Now she’s really cheating with Stella. Why? “I’m not sitting around analyzing everything I do anymore,” she says. Um, why not? Wasn’t her big realization about lying to Red and Alex that she shouldn’t say one thing and do another? Wasn’t it to be more self-aware about her motivations and her actions? Now she is just saying, “Oh, now I don’t think about other people’s feelings, I just do what I want.” How is that any different from before? Ugh, Piper is always going to suck, but I’m glad that this season of cobbled-together narratives is finally starting to pay off emotionally for these women I really do care so much about, even when the show they’re on doesn’t do them justice.