Orange Is the New Black Recap: The Panties Bunch

Photo: JoJo Whilden/Netflix
Orange Is the New Black
Episode Title
We Can Be Heroes
Editor’s Rating

I’m not a huge fan of when the male characters are the ones who get the backstories. This is a show about women’s stories, which is something we don’t get on hardly any other show. To take that away from this great cast of truly diverse actresses just seems like a slight. If I want to watch stories about dudes, I’ll turn on just about every other non-Lifetime channel or go to the Entourage movie. (Please, don’t make me go to the Entourage movie.)

This is especially true of Caputo’s story, which makes it clear that he ended up working at a prison thanks to a bunch of decisions that he made himself. Many of these women are in prison because of systematic injustice and other societal forces that are forcing them to break the law in order to survive. Caputo, who is in the prison but has not lost his freedom, was free to make different choices than he did but ended up at this job he hates through no coercion at all. He chose his choice — as Charlotte on Sex and the City might say — which is not necessarily true of all the women behind bars.

It was especially hard to see the focus on Caputo after the last excellent episode featuring Pennsatucky’s rape. I wanted to see more of the aftermath of that, and hopefully see Coates put to justice. Instead, I was treated to Caputo and his famous beer-can ram-rodding Figueroa (say what?) before heading into work to deal with labor problems. We barely got to see any of Pennsatucky, other than her denying that she was raped, and that Coates is trying to make her feel good about it by giving her a cheap bracelet from the dollar store. Big Boo finally convinces her that what happened was wrong, and let’s hope that she reports it, the authorities believe her, and they take some action. However, knowing how rape is so often handled in this country, asking for any of those things is a fairly tall order, and getting all of them is exceptionally rare, especially for a woman with no power like Pennsatucky.

Back to Caputo: We learn that he’s made a life of always trying to go to bat for the underdog and it always ends badly for him, whether that is wrestling a student with Down syndrome or taking a job at the prison and marrying his ex when she was pregnant with another man’s baby. In this episode, he has to go hunt down Angie after she’s released from prison by mistake by some glitchy MCC software and some inept prison guards. His little foray into Dog the Bounty Hunter territory is only to save his and Pearson’s asses, but he’s fed up with how poorly the prison is being run and how MCC is treating his employees. But let’s just remember that he got everyone in this predicament in the first place because he was more worried about everyone having a job than taking care of himself.

What I don’t quite understand is how Caputo has been doing this for the better part of two decades. It must have been 20 years ago when his ex screamed at him, “You can’t keep holding the door open for people and getting mad when they don’t say thank you.” He’s repeating the same pattern, so shouldn’t he expect the same results? By that token, doesn’t he realize that his bid to reunionize the guards at the prison is either destined to fail or get him ousted from the prison altogether?

It seems like Piper’s very obvious parallel labor problems have a very clear instance of foreshadowing for Caputo. After Flaca finds a union pamphlet in the garbage, she decides to round up all of Piper’s stinky-panty bunch and insist that they get more money for the labor that they’re putting into her little operation. Piper is perplexed (as she so often is) and doesn’t figure out a solution until she talks to Red, who charges her dearly for a solution. Piper meets all of her employees’ demands, but then turns around and fires Flaca for being the Norma Rae of the bunch.

Can we expect Caputo to be successful in saving everyone’s medical benefits and then landing out on his ass? Probably. There haven’t been that many interesting plot twists or surprises this season, so I can only expect that this will all go according to plan as well.

The one good thing about Piper’s little union move is that it finally broke up her and Alex, who didn’t like to see her formerly meek girlfriend turn into a kingpin. As Alex points out, doing this turned from a little lark to a criminal enterprise, one that can get everyone in trouble with some serious consequences. Now that Piper is pissing people off, she’s already well on her way to getting ratted out for Dirty Drawers ’R’ Us.

Piper really is a lost cause at this point. Didn’t she have some huge realization that she wasn’t going to lie to people anymore to make them feel good? This episode, she just turns around and tells Alex that she didn’t hook up with Aussie Stella even though she really did. Has this woman learned nothing? It seems that, just like Caputo, she doesn’t really change, either. When the breakup finally happens, Piper accuses Alex of just being jealous of her prodigious criminal-masterminding skills. Yes, because everything has to be about Piper. But, hey, if we’re all going to be stuck with a character who doesn’t change and keeps making the same mistakes repeatedly, at least this one is a woman.