There is, of course, always a chance that Laura Prepon will abruptly exit her role as a lesbian, for well-documented reasons. But it hasn’t happened yet: the episode has barely begun before we see her among a group of new inmates on their way in to Litchfield Max. And if Alex’s love interest were, oh, just about any other person on this show, we might be affected by the dramatic irony of Piper not knowing what we do. But because it is Piper, her mistaken bereavement is as tiresome as every other thing about her.
Having had her interview with the FBI agents, Piper’s moving into C block – specifically, into a cell with Badison, who generously gives her ten minutes’ moping time before she has to clean up their quarters: “We’ve all had fiancés die. Nut up, Buttercup.” However, Piper is still in bed when Alex finds her. Copeland pretty quickly cuts off their reunion kiss, but Piper is happy with what she can get.
In the cafeteria, we learn that Alex was brought to an actual hospital so her shoulder could be treated, which required two surgeries. She also reports the identity of the other inmate who died, which Piper’s dad couldn’t find online: RIP, Kukudio. When Mendoza casually mentions Piscatella’s death, it’s the first either Alex or Piper has heard of it. No one knows who actually killed him, but now Piper realizes how her nihilistic attitude in her interview probably screwed Red over, under the misapprehension that Red was responsible for Alex’s death. Badison knows what’ll cheer Piper up: she orders an inmate from the cell next to theirs to put in for a transfer so that Alex can move in and be their neighbor. However, Badison’s motives for doing so are unclear: we see her trying to curry favor with block boss Carol by reporting on Frieda, but Carol already knows she’s in Florida, and dismisses Badison to get her some intel she didn’t already know.
Carol’s contempt for Badison is mirrored in Badison’s contempt for Eckelcamp (Alice Kremelberg).
Just as Badison barks at Eckelcamp for screwing up her joke timing by laughing too soon at “Gapman,” Badison’s hilarious new nickname for Piper, Carol critiques Badison for making a sex joke incestuous. (“I said ‘stepdad,’” Badison pouts. “It’s a fail, let it go,” Carol spits.) But whereas Badison’s relationship to Carol seems purely that of a groveling employee to her manager, Eckelcamp’s feelings for Badison may be more intense, judging by the way she practically murders her new cellmate for being too slow in following Badison’s order to clear out for Alex. The episode closes with Badison watching as Piper sleeps – though whether she’s thinking about how to exploit Piper to gain status with Carol, or about getting rid of Alex so that she can have Piper for herself, we’ll have to wait and see.
Also getting jumped into Max are more of the COs we know: McCullough, Blake, and Luschek. McCullough is still extremely rattled by her riot experience, and should probably be talking to a professional about the nightmares that are keeping her awake at night rather than spending those hours working as a Lyft driver, but Luschek is ready to slide in to the new CO culture. He’s especially excited about the inmate draft, and is planning a draft party in contravention of the specific preferences of league commissioner Alvarez. “It’s, y’know, better to ask forgiveness than permission, right?” Luschek shrugs. “Pretty sure that’s the opposite lesson in prison,” McCullough replies. So: stand by for guard drama.
There’s also a little guard drama among Donuts, Dixon, and Pennsatucky. She’s worried that she and Donuts can’t trust him, and impatient that her attempts to find a disguise to wear to Playland, so she won’t be recognized on any CC cameras, keep getting interrupted with Dixon’s suggestions of extremely attention-drawing Halloween costumes. Donuts privately tells Pennsatucky that if Dixon had wanted to report them, he would have done it by now. He asks her to be nicer, and it works: when, successfully disguised as a boy, she wins a giant teddy bear at a shooting gallery, she gives it to him on the grounds that the two could be twins.
(Might there be just a little passive-aggression in her saying she’s going to call it Baby Dix? Perhaps.) The three hit all the rides – and, per his request, he doesn’t seem to be the single rider on any of them. He even takes it to heart when Donuts deflects his nosy questions about where Donuts and Pennsatucky had sex – “The power dynamics between me and her were really messed up in the beginning” – so that when a couple of Jersey Shore rejects sling a homophobic slur at Donuts and Pennsatucky, Dixon sticks up for them: “Their whole relationship, they’ve had to put up with people from the outside judging them, or hiding it….Those faggots are my friends, because when I told them, ‘Hey, I know we don’t know each other that well’ – because how well can we ever really know one another when we’re all just a collection of skin masks covering up our fears – I said to them, ‘Would it be cool if I came on your vacation getaway?’ And they said yes.” “So y’all could fuck,” says The Situation Jr., to which Dixon responds by punching him in the face. Love wins.
Collegiality between penal system employees and inmates may also cause the riot investigation to be resolved justly rather than expediently. Taystee is the last to be called out from ad seg (Ruiz, not a rat, took one of the 10-year additions to her sentence, we learn), and not even to talk to FBI agents: she hears from her public defender that they already have enough testimony about her from others to proceed without talking to her. And what they’re proceeding with is that she killed Piscatella. It’s news to Taystee that Piscatella’s even dead, but her lawyer tells her it doesn’t matter that she didn’t do it: she shouldn’t go to trial given the case the AUSA has against her, and her only advantage is the authorities’ need to contain the story. Taystee appeals to their history to get Ward to pass on a message for her, and Caputo, thus summoned, comes to Max. “They’re saying I killed Piscatella,” she tells him. “Did you?” he replies. She reminds him that he was with her for most of the riot, and he complains that she messed up their chance to effectuate real change because of her need for revenge. He thinks he’s so disgraced that speaking up for her wouldn’t mean anything anyway, but Taystee’s facing a life sentence: she needs his help.
Speaking of which: Aleida takes a break from her new career as an aspiring MLM magnate to visit Daya and find out about her plea. Hellman cuts their conversation short and she mouths off to him; CO Hooper breaks it up and hits on her, to which Aleida hits right back…with a sales pitch for Nutri-Herbal.
Stepping into the flashback spotlight this time is Nicky. Michelle’s all ready with a statement for her to sign, but Nicky doesn’t want to accuse Red of false imprisonment. She’s fine fingering Frieda, but Les says Red is the government’s target. Also, if Red takes a plea deal before Nicky submits her statement, Nicky won’t get to make a deal.
Nicky and Red manage to be next to each other at the phones, but fake their conversations with loved ones on the outside to communicate, barely in code, with each other. Red wants Nicky to stand strong, but then she hears about the threat of a 70-year sentence Nicky’s facing.
The illustrative story from Nicky’s past involves her bat mitzvah. Her parents are, by this time, already acrimoniously divorced, Nicky’s narcissistic mother Marka trying to get back at Les by cutting from Nicky’s speech both Les’s jokes and a thank-you for Nicky’s stepmother Pamela – who, when we see her, is kinder to Nicky than either of her natural parents. Nicky finally goes off-script, darkly commenting that her parents would love her more if she were someone else, mentioning the Holocaust, and winding up, “Why is it so important to God that you honor your mother and father when they really don’t give a shit about you?”
Red, questioned again, learns that the agents aren’t trying to say she killed Piscatella – merely that she ordered it. But does she really want to die in prison?
In the last flashback scene, both her parents ream out young Nicky for her speech; each tries to punish the other by consigning Nicky to spend the night with them, but both parents refuse to take her. Nicky is sorry. Marka, melodramatically: “Some things are not forgivable.”
And in the present, Stefanovic comes to retrieve Nicky and take her to gen pop. Red watches from the tier above as Nicky is cuffed, and pounds on the glass to get her attention. Nicky can’t meet her eye, but Red pounds again, and Nicky looks up.
“It’s okay,” Red tells her. She didn’t want to die in prison, but she doesn’t want Nicky to, either. Nicky goes on to her new block, secure in the knowledge that, though Pamela may be long gone, Nicky did get one true mother in this life after all.