Orange Is the New Black Episode Five Recap: Definitely a Chicken

Orange Is the New Black

The Chickening
Season 1 Episode 5
Editor’s Rating 4 stars

Orange Is the New Black

The Chickening
Season 1 Episode 5
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Photo: Eric Leibowitz/Netflix

Have we talked about the treatment of sex on this show yet? It is hilarious and marvelous. The stats about assault in prison are thoroughly sobering, but I’m glad that this show is using sex as a way to give us moments of humor and a deeper connection to the ethos of the major players. It helps that the person having the most sex right now is also the funniest, and Nicky seems to revel in the comic relief that sex provides.

It’s Sunday at the Litch, and Piper is creating her own religious experience by chomping on some peanut butter and granola and reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn against a tree in the yard. Has someone started an OITNB book club by now? They’re reading so much good stuff on this show. We get to peek at the routine Piper mentioned to Nicky in the last episode, how waking up is a struggle of realization between where she actually is versus where she wants to be. Later in the episode, Larry reveals that she’s been in prison for three weeks; I wouldn’t say she’s fully adjusted, as her wide-eyed stares and frequent obliviousness often discloses, but it looks like Piper is at least coming to terms with the fact that she’ll be here for a while.

Then she sees a chicken.

The chicken is both real and an allegory, a symbol of impossibility and freedom. How did it get into the yard? Why is Piper the only one who is able to lay eyes on it? Does Lorna actually think American bald eagles are strolling around upstate New York? When Piper tells Lorna, Norma, and Gina that she saw a chicken, they mysteriously insist she tell Red. After they run down the gamut of what type of bird it could be (quail, pheasant, pigeon, spruce grouse, the aforementioned American bald eagle), Piper confirms that it was, in fact, a chicken, and Red loses her mind with joy at the thought of fresh Chicken Kiev. Since it’s Red, there’s also a backstory about how the chicken magically escaped slaughter and appeared to Red in a dream wearing a top hat, but the main idea is that this chicken needs to be caught. The best part of this scene is almost a throwaway line: Red offers a box of Biore strips as a reward to the lucky chicken grabber. This tiny prize is a nod to Red’s power and influence both inside and outside of the joint. How does she get this shit into the kitchen? Is Healy oblivious or turning a blind eye? Who are her connections on the outside? If her prison stint is at all related to her tit-punching the wife of a well-connected Russian mob dude, you would think she wouldn’t have many friends left. Or is her husband somehow still in the picture?

Soon everyone is looking for the chicken when they see Red out in the yard; the Latinas think it is stuffed with drugs (“My boy Potato Chip told me they used to bring in dope by putting that shit inside birds”). Red is pissed at Piper when she sees everyone else roving the grounds, searching for the chicken, but Piper reels her back in with an inspirational speech. I’m surprised that worked; Piper isn’t particularly inspirational, and Red can smell bullshit from ten miles away.

When Polly and Larry come to visit, she gets news that Barney’s has concerns and Polly is thinking of pulling back on the business since Piper is not around to help out; Piper offers to talk to Barney’s and smooth things out through a complicated three-way call. The more she adjusts to prison, the less we see of her privilege, but it’s still there, and this is classic Piper: She offers little in the way of trust to her business partner, feeling that she can do a better job of running the business with hardly any communicative tools and a need to obscure her incarceration from the people she wants to do business with. She entirely glosses over Polly’s revelation that she’s getting ready to have this baby, and prioritizing her family seems to make the most sense to her right now. Piper and Larry instead selfishly launch into a guilt trip about how they were “counting on that money” from the business.

Larry is still an unknown element for me. He is self-righteously pissed off when he realizes Alex is in prison with Piper, and he’s pissed off that she “lied” to him. He’s sort of straddling this place of wanting to be with her but not knowing how to navigate the relationship in her physical absence. The more we see him, the more he seems to resent Piper, or at least resent the situation she’s put them in. Later, he makes the decision to conceal from Piper that Alex unequivocally gave her name and lies to her instead, saying Alex did not name her. Even though he’s pissed off that they’re incarcerated together, he follows his dad’s advice, choosing to let her finish her time without anger.

Nicky and Lorna celebrate Sunday with religious deference of their own by fucking in the chapel. Lorna want to stop (Nicky protests, not wanting to look unevenly buff “like a crab or a tennis pro”), but Lorna means stop having sex altogether since she’s both engaged and worried that Nicky is “making her feel like a cave.” Lorna calls it off without getting Nicky off (“It’s not very classy.” “We’re having sex in a fucking church!”), and their coitus is interruptus by the Chaplain, Sister Ingalls, and new character Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning) getting ready for service. Nicky doesn’t seem too heartbroken about losing her fuck buddy, but we’ve mostly had surface-level reveals at this point. Is it possible that her aloofness is a front? Or is she actually coasting through her time in this lighthearted, Teflon-coated way?

I have literally never paid attention to Taryn Manning before — has she always been this fantastic an actress? Pennsatucky, a meth-toothed firecracker with a scratchy voice, wants to hang up a glow-in-the-dark cross representing her own religion, but Chaplain ain’t havin’ it.  She’s upset that other religious inmates are getting preferential treatment, calling Sister Ingalls the “pope’s bitch” (“I like to think of myself as the Pope’s homie”) and feeling mostly persecuted. Bringing on new characters like this makes it hard to watch this show one episode at a time — please tell me Pennsatucky will be in our lives for the rest of the show? Actually don’t tell me, I need the suspense.

Tensions rise when the AA meeting has to share space with the yoga group since the chapel is destroyed; Nicky makes lascivious comments to Lorna, and Piper is deeply distracted by Alex. (“Oh man, I did it — I fucked up your Zen.”) Taystee gives an impressively comical recount of what made her want to sober up (“So I’m sitting there, barbecue sauce on my titties, and I’m like what. The Fuck. Again?”), and Alex reveals that she started using heroin when Piper “abandoned” her. When Piper hears this she rolls up her yoga mat and saunters away. It’s possible for the dynamic between these two to come to an ugly, angry end, but with Larry lying about Alex’s involvement in Piper’s incarceration, will Piper find a way to forgive her? Even if she does, should she? So far Piper has been an emotionally stunted WASP with little remorse about ending her relationship with Alex or her role in their drug ring; she admits that she should be in prison, but still looks to put the blame on others for putting her there. It’s a complicated dance, the way she shuffles between innocence and complicity, and I don’t think she can fully come to terms with her current relationship with Alex until she admits her own need for emotional growth.

Boo convinces Sophia to try to bum estrogen from Sister Ingalls. She spends most of the episode sucking up to her in various ways (including going to and helping fix up the church after Pennsatucky’s cross brings a portion of the ceiling crashing to the ground), but Sister Ingalls knows what’s up and refuses to share her Gynotab. I’m so into Sister Ingalls — she approaches her time in the Litch with grace, but what the hell did she do to even get there? She seems to go along to get along, but I feel like there’s a deep, possibly dark story brewing in her.

Daya and Aleida try to make amends; she agrees to thread her mom’s eyebrows of she’ll let her play dominoes and stop being such a megabitch. Daya and Aleida are the backstory this week; we learn that Daya took care of her four siblings while her mom ran around with drug dealer Cesar. Though we don’t know the details of how it happens, Aleida gets busted when Cesar moves his operation to their kitchen. Daya says she’s not boning Cesar when she visits her mom with the kids, but she’s TOTALLY boning Cesar, and that’s probably why Aleida slapped and shunned her from the moment she arrived at the Litch. Did Daya go to jail for the same reasons her mom was sent there? Their dynamic reveals Daya to be a little less than innocent, but ultimately I’m wondering what happened to the kids in their absence. This show is making me sort of hate men and simultaneously want to foster a bajillion children.

Bennett has been acting like a grade-A dickhead, but quickly reveals that he has to be mean in front of other officers so they won’t think he’s soft. Daya leaves a note for Bennett to meet her in the supply closet; when he arrives, it’s actually Aleida, fully naked and ready to go. Is this revenge? Her motherly way of keeping Daya safe? Does she actually bang him? I can’t figure out if Aleida has Daya’s best interests at heart since she seems to have little in the way of maternal instincts.

Piper makes the call to the Barney’s rep with Polly on the line (Weeping Woman present on the other line, of course), but abandons the call when she spots the elusive chicken. She scoots after it, only to find that it has somehow made it to the other side of the fence. Did it scale the barb wire-covered fence? Slip through a crack? As it clucks around the grounds safely on the other side, sun glinting off the lake just beyond, the camera pulls back to reveal Piper pressed against the fence, defeated. If there is magic to be found on the grounds at the Litch, it will stay just beyond her grasp.

Best lines:

  • Piper: “It is beautiful up here in the fall!” Lorna: “Yeah, I got myself incarcerated just so I can see the changing colors.”
  • “What grows on trees?”  “Nothing.”  “That’s right.”
    Aleida for Mother of the Year, please
  • Pornstache and Pennsatucky are the best comedy duo: “Jesus Christ, how the fuck did you survive infancy?” “My auntie helped my mama.”  “It’s a rhetorical question!”
  • The reaction when Larry tells his mother about his article on “edging”: “A man needs to come! Larry — tell me you’re coming!”
  • Healy: “You think this is the first time that I’ve heard about the chicken? It’s popular fiction, like global warming or female ejaculation.”

Orange Is the New Black Episode Five Recap