Orange Is the New Black Recap: Oh, Nicki, You’re Not Fine

OITNBS3_4JUNE14_WHILDEN_D0858.NEF Photo: JoJo Whilden/Netflix
Orange Is the New Black
Episode Title
Empathy Is a Boner Killer
Editor’s Rating

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when plots are bad. I didn’t notice how much I loved you, until you took my Natasha Lyonne away.

Seriously, what is up with the backstories this year? It’s more of a curse than a blessing. Last episode we learned what a coward Bennett was in Iraq, and it turns out he’s an even bigger coward than we imagined. Not only did he leave Daya’s old crib on the side of the road, but he’s taken off for good and left his “fiancée” and child in the lurch. I bet Annalise Keating is real happy about that.

Now we got another Nicki backstory, one of the few characters to get a second helping, and she was carted off to maximum-security prison when her plot to smuggle heroin out of the prison with Luschek went south. Is that what this whole season is going to be? If so, please please please let us get a Piper backstory next so we can cross her off the list. If more information means throwing people out on their incarcerated heinies, then Jesus save Black Cindy, Taystee, and Lorna, who are my favorite characters now that Nicki is gone and all. But maybe they’re not gone forever. Like comic-book superheroes, these characters have a way of not staying dead. Even disgraced Figeroa made a return cameo this week, and you know Pornstache is lurking somewhere just beyond the fence ready to make an appearance.

What I loved the most about this episode was the ambiguity that we get regarding Nicki and the heroin. She definitely lied to Big Boo and Luschek about it being stolen so that she could keep it around, but I didn’t think she was using it — I thought that she just wanted to have it there to comfort her. It was about having something of value in this place where everything is stripped or stolen from you. As she tells Big Boo, she could pull a Courtney Love every day until her sentence is up with that much heroin, but what is the point of slowly committing suicide?

Leanne and Angie find the stash when it falls out of the light where Nicki put it, but they think it’s a consequence of Norma’s ball of blue energy magic. Nicki figures out they have it, and Luschek gets it back, smuggles it out, and sells it for the two of them, making a boatload of money. The meth heads snitch on Luschek and Caputo, desperate to keep his guards obedient before the prison closes in two months, makes them search Luschek’s desk. They find not the entire stash, but just a small baggie. He blames this on Nicki to save his job (maybe someone should have told him that he was going to lose it anyway) and stay out of jail himself, and Nicki gets sent away. At least he had the decency to feel bad about throwing her under the bus, or at least in the van with Pennsatucky. I doubt he’ll be cool enough to give her a bigger cut of the money.

The thing is, we’re not sure what is true and what isn’t regarding Nicki. Someone stashed that bag at his desk. Angie and Leanne ratted him out, but they didn’t have any of the stash left to do it. Did Nicki really put it there when she was standing at his desk before the cops rolled in? Or was it just one bag that got stuck there and left behind, and Nicki took the blame for it?

But was she using again? Is that why she kept the stash all along? But if she was using, why would she have it taken away? Unless she was ready to detox again and have Red scream at her like she did last time, that wasn’t really going to work. Was Nicki holding but not using? Did she just want this little fetish against her addiction with her at all times? I wanted to think Nicki was taking a fall, but when we see her in the van on the way to maximum security, she is conspicuously sweaty. Is she nervous about her transfer or is she already starting withdrawal?

Nicki obviously knows that she’s better off the heroin. She calls herself a bloodhound for oblivion, and her mother says that she has always been hellbent on destroying herself. Is this her doing that all over again? Her backstory (and Soso’s confrontation in the laundry) show her using people to get what she wants, but hasn’t she changed and improved? Isn’t the Nicki we know better than that? And who is she using in this scenario? Is this some sort of penance that she’s placing on herself for not bailing her friends out and stealing her mother’s money and all the other awful, selfish things she’s done in the name of drugs?

I have so many questions. When she’s in the lawyer’s office with her mother, she tries to blame her for her problems, but the mother turns it back around and lets Nicki know that she is the only person who can save herself. She had the power and she didn’t use it. In jail, however, she has saved herself, but now she is powerless over her own destruction. Nicki knows that no one would have believed it wasn’t hers after Luschek tattles on her, even if it wasn’t hers. Maybe she’s just accepting her fate gracefully. That’s a cruel irony, unless she actually was using and that was her stash. But why? Is this some sort of Mad Men lesson that people try to change, but they really don’t? Was Nicki agreeing to go off to maximum security because she “slipped” as she told Red, just part of her appetite for destruction (thanks, Axl)? I don’t know, and it’s driving me crazy.

In other news, Alex and Piper were having some weird Fifty Shades of Beige abusive sex relationship because they were both mad at each other, but kind of still in love. Then they had to go to drama class and do an improv, and there was a painful extended metaphor about how Piper sold Alex bad fruit, but she did it for the right reasons, and Alex bought that bad fruit and the story about the bad fruit. I would much rather eat all the bruised fruit in the realm than talk about this story anymore because it is boring, and if there is not going to be some development in it, I want it to go away forever because I am sad that my wonderful Nicki is gone and I’m stuck with these two busted piñatas.

Please, Jenji Kohan, with all the magic blue energy power that I possess, give Piper (or Alex, whichever) the backstory next week and vote them off the island, to use a metaphor that would have been cool 14 years ago. It’s the least you can do after robbing me of my Nicki.