From the minimal advancement of plots set in motion several episodes ago to the origin story of a character it is nearly impossible to care about, “Changing Winds” really feels like filler. Make seasons shorter when you run out of things to say! Why is this so hard?
So here’s what’s still happening. C block and D block are still at war. (Relatedly: The laundry still smells like shit. With the drug supply chain broken, all the opioid addicts are still suffering (now much more visibly). Daddy claims she has a plan but doesn’t offer any specifics, suggesting that she still hasn’t thought of one. She does slip Daya one pill from Barb’s personal stash, but that doesn’t hold Daya for long. Daya finds and steals a baggie out of a mop handle, but gives herself away by taking more than she needs for pain management and just walking around super-high. Daddy threatens to sic her girls on Daya, who responds by kissing Daddy. Canoodling ensues.
Taystee is still a folk hero, and passes some pleasant time reading them with Black Cindy. When one is a poem in which the first letter in each line spells, “I want to lick your pussy,” it occurs to her that they haven’t seen Suzanne, who would appreciate that gag more than either of them. Taystee suggests that Black Cindy use the radio show to invite Suzanne to the roof, but Suzanne is stressed out about it: As she explains to Frieda and Pennsatucky — the latter having gotten herself transferred to Florida by threatening Linda with her knowledge about Linda and Boo’s season five sex life, not that she tells her new neighbors that — she’s scared of saying something she’s not supposed to and making her friends mad at each other. Frieda also doesn’t think it’s a good idea for Suzanne to share information with Taystee and Black Cindy, and thus tries to keep Suzanne from the yard by describing how scary it is. Suzanne goes anyway, and finds an ebullient Taystee and a wary Black Cindy, subtly cueing Suzanne in conversation: “Ain’t it good to see Taystee? … Everything’s going our way.” When Taystee checks that Suzanne’s meds have been sorted out properly, Suzanne explodes and orders them to stop mothering her before fleeing the yard, repeating Frieda’s language: “This dunghole. It’s not even a real yard, it’s just a bunch of bricks with big bullies.”
Remember how Ruiz was possibly killed in an extreme swirly incident on Mischief Night? Turns out she’s alive, and has been sent to Psych because the authorities believe it was a suicide attempt (hmmm, that’s a lot of points in the inmate draft!), and there was no evidence anyone else was in there with her; the psychiatrist can’t release her until he’s convinced she’s not going to try it again. At first, she claims to have been in despair about the years added to her sentence, but she’s better now; when the doctor says he’s not sure if she’s just saying what she thinks he wants to hear, she sincerely tells him she has a daughter and has to live for her. It gets her back in gen pop and away from the irritating Lolly, but she’s still got a long list of potential murder suspects who could now get at her any time.
Caputo’s apparently made his peace with the exorbitant cost of moving to Missouri, because he comes to Max to pick up Fig for one last date. He’s trying to be sweet and have a nice moment with her, and she seems like she wants to meet him on that level even as she keeps involuntarily defaulting to their usual snarly banter. When she orders him to turn off “I’m on Fire,” playing on the car stereo, she also indulges his request for a glimpse at the real Fig when she tells him she hates Bruce Springsteen because she was sitting practically next to Courteney Cox at the show where Bruce pulled her up onstage for “Dancing In the Dark.” (Only ‘80s kids will remember this.) “You know Courteney Cox was planted, in the audience, right?” Caputo asks. “That’s a conspiracy theory,” Fig snaps. “You weren’t there, you don’t know how real it was. He picked that tiny-ass pixie-cutted waif, and she had this amazing career because of it.” Fig is convinced that being passed over in that moment changed the course of her life: “It made me practical, pragmatic, hardworking.” “How’s that going for you?” Caputo asks. “Slow death by fluorescent lighting,” she admits. Caputo takes her to a bar with flattering lighting — and a karaoke stage, which he takes for (a surprisingly strong!) “I’m on Fire.”
Mid-song, Caputo pulls Fig onstage Courteney Cox-style, and they have a sweet dance she enjoys for real, without all her shields up, before suddenly remembering why she agreed to this date, and darkening: “I can’t believe you’re leaving.”
Taking up the flashback spotlight this time is Badison, who we see not too long ago in a high school chemistry class where everyone — including the teacher — calls her Fartison due to a single occasion when she farted, in the fourth grade. Ball-busting in Boston is SAVAGE. In a rage, Madison smashes an Erlenmeyer flask, which is apparently the last straw for her school: She’s being expelled, as her parents tell her back in her room, where she’s still smashing everything breakable. When Badison’s mother screams that Badison is acting like a baby, Badison throws a very heavy-looking textbook at her face, so: “Everything breakable” may include Mrs. Murphy’s nose. Badison’s sent to a juvenile boot camp, where her property damage rap sheet can’t compete with those of, for example, a girl who was trading sex for blow. She can’t sell her attempt to rebrand herself as “Badison” by saying that’s what her friends call her — “They don’t call you that,” says fellow camper Duray, “that’s too Sadison” — and though there’s already a girl named Roach who seems to be at the very bottom of the social rankings, Badison’s efforts to ingratiate herself apparently make her, due to her neediness, even more loathsome. After Duray gives her a thermos that turns out to be full of sand, even the camp counselor tells Badison to quit taking their bait.
In the present, Badison is bored without a job, desperate to be reinstated as Carol’s lieutenant, and apparently a lot better than Daddy at making her own luck. She finds Alex on a downswing after a magazine quiz has determined that while Piper hasn’t peaked yet — something that inspires her to spend her time inside productively, writing her memoir — Alex’s peak is behind her. Wouldn’t Alex like to be at “the top of something big” again? Alex would not, but she does eventually tell Badison that, of the COs who’ve come over from Minimum, Luschek is the most corruptible — and furthermore, that smuggling in drugs is small thinking, given that, where they are, anything scarce has value. “Vauss,” says Badison. “You’re a fucking genius.
Badison approaches Luschek after Footrobics class fizzles due to his inability to fix the VCR. This isn’t the first time an inmate has tried to enlist him in a black market scheme, and he’s interested depending on how hard it will require him to work — and apparently the answer is not so hard that it’s onerous, as we find out the item he and Badison have partnered to smuggle in: phones. “Bitches love ‘em some Snapchat!”
Flashback Badison, frustrated that her fellow campers sabotaged her and Roach’s tent, announces that she’s going to get them back. But what actually happens is that she sprays something from an aerosol can through the campfire, setting Roach ablaze. Badison is horrified at first, of course, until she hears Duray admiringly commenting, “Badison burnt herself a Roach!” Attention! And power! What a successful gambit!
Then Piper’s in the yard telling Alex she found an old photo of a time when C and D blocks used to mingle freely, and saying she wants to bring back kickball — for the sake of prison comity, but also to give her memoir a good ending. Badison pulls Alex aside and shows her the hardware she’s hiding in her cast: “A phone’s worth more than a gram of coke. Carol’s going to beg for me to come back.” As two of the strung-out, D-block laundry workers watch from across the yard, Alex tells Badison she isn’t interested in participating in this operation, and Badison infuriates us all by proving Piper right: “I did you a solid, laying off Gapman and all? This is me, collecting on the fucking favor.”
The laundry girls come at Badison demanding pills. As the COs watch to see whose inmate’s about to rack up some points, Badison says she doesn’t deal drugs anymore, and smashes the stringy-haired laundress’s face with her cast. Her curly-haired associate then shivs Badison, screaming, “Don’t fucking mess with D block!” Despite her initial protests, Alex lets Badison give her the phone before the COs get there, and while the inevitable collapse of the phone scam is a problem to be dealt with later, the full-on brawl threatening to break out between C and D block while COs barely keep inmates apart is a problem that … may be more than a kickball revival can solve.