Photo: JoJo Whilden/Netflix
When the dulcet strains of the Orange Is the New Black theme song cued up on my computer, it immediately took me back to last summer when I furiously binged on all 13 episodes in a fury of sleepless nights and eating far too many Chicken in a Biskit. When Regina Spektor sang, “Remember all their faces? Remember all their voices?” I asked myself those questions and the answer was no. I did not remember all their faces, their voices, whom they hated, or what they were still doing in prison. I had watched the entire season so quickly so long ago that everything but the broad strokes were locked away somewhere deep in the prison of my cerebral cortex.
Luckily, this episode was here to remind me. Rather than moving the plot along, the premiere served essentially as a giant “Previously on Orange Is the New Black … ” giving us glimpses of all of our favorite inmates (and some new ones) and how they’ve fared since the season finale. The episode is set around a Mother’s Day party at Litchfield where all the women’s children get to come visit for a field-day-type event, but not even the dingiest schools in the land have impossible miniature golf windmills made out of an electric fan and some pieces of wood or face painting to make the kids perfect for a My Chemical Romance concert.
The biggest revelation was an inevitability: Alex is back in Litchfield after Piper ratted her out and had Larry/Polly tell her parole officer that she was going to skip town. Piper pretends to be shocked that she’s there and listens sympathetically as Alex talks about how angry she is that she’s back. Just when you think she’s going to fess up and tell Alex that she did this to save her from the evil drug lord who was going to kill her (or because she can’t survive without someone to adore her), she tells Alex that she’s a victim of the system. Naturally it’s only a matter of time before Alex finds out the truth and, based on how she is acting here, it’s going to be very messy.
Red is out of the hospital after Vee beat her, and she has been assigned to Rosa’s bed after she went out in a solo Thelma-and-Louise journey outside of the gates. Red gets a visit from her sons and her husband, and no one tells her that the store is closed. It’s very sad. Red only has three years left on her sentence, so she says she’s going to play by the book and fills her tunnel in the greenhouse with cement so that no one can traffic through it.
This is bad news for Nicki, who still has Vee’s stash of heroin. She and Big Boo plan on smuggling it out through the tunnel that no longer exists. Nicki has been spending a lot of time in the laundry room guarding her stash, but Angie thinks she has a crush on her. Nicky better watch out because Angie will — how do I put this delicately? — suck a dick for a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, so who knows what she’ll do for that stash? And I don’t blame Angie. You don’t know what I would do for a Chicken in a Biskit, and you don’t want to ask me what I would do for a Klondike bar.
Daya and Bennett continue to mope around like two clowns whose dogs got run over in the driveway, and Daya’s family keeps pressuring Bennett to be a part of them, even though when he tries, it’s a disaster for him personally and makes Caputo call him out for acting inappropriately. (His pervert pro tip: Masturbate while fantasizing about the inmates rather than touching them.) Daya has some mother trouble of her own now that her mother knows that Pornstache’s mom is a rich lady who lives in Greenwich. I’m from Connecticut, and I can say with some authority that it is a home of many proud, mustached Americans, so that makes sense. Aleida stole the letter that Mendez’s mom wrote Daya, so you know she’s up to no good.
While we’re caught up with all the major story lines, we also got to meet Deputy Rogers, the new CO who will be working with Healy. Healy doesn’t like the smell of her, in that he thinks she actually smells bad. While Caputo is quick to dismiss his frustrations, it seems like more than a little bit of foreshadowing when he says there is something wrong with her. But she seems very smart and capable from what little of her we’ve seen.
Sure, the episode was mostly catch-up, but the way it handled mothers was actually quite interesting, showing us how they can both mess their children up and be a redemptive force in their lives. Well, except for Sophia, who is a better parent than any of them by being both a father and a mother at the same time. Aleida is definitely destructive for Daya, even though the moment she was born, which we see in a flashback, was one of the best moments of her life. Maybe she’s just trying to keep that magic alive the only way she knows how. And if she wants to practice magic, maybe she should work on passing a ball of blue energy under the full moon.
But for Poussey, her mother, who has since passed away, was a sweet force who read Calvin and Hobbes with her and pushed her to be educated. While Crazy Eyes and Taystee had Vee as a replacement mother — one Taystee is happy she lost, but Suzanne thinks is still alive — Poussey never went for that. It’s strange that now she is feeling some longing for her mother. She wants a sign and gets one when she sees a piece of paper from the busted, empty piñata (Soso accurately describes it as a metaphor for these children’s lives). It’s a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon, and she feels her mother watching over her. Is this a theme that is going to have some impact on the season, or was it just a little bit of a Kleenex moment for this special maternal episode?
Not every mother was so nurturing, but, as Freud said, it’s never not the mother that messes people up (or maybe he didn’t say that, but he should have). Nicky’s mother was definitely a bit of a pill, wanting to spend time at the spa rather than read her card and eat her muffins. That would explain the empty void inside of her that she’s been trying to fill with drugs and sex her whole life. Healy’s mother was mentally ill and abusive (though quite amusing), so his treatment of the ladies inside finally makes sense.
Pennsatucky’s mother got her ramped up on Mountain Dew before taking her into the welfare office so she could get extra benefits. That came back around so neatly when we see her building little graves for the six fetuses she aborted — all with B names, naturally — and she pours out some Mountain Dew for them and feels like a failure. Big Boo comes around looking like a clown that stepped right out of American Horror Story: Special Victims’ Unit, and tells her about the chapter in Freakonomics that says the reason that crime went down in the ’90s was because abortion was legalized in the ’70s. Since Pennsatucky is such an awful meth head, her children probably would have been as well (which seemed to be the case with her and her mother). “You spared society the scourge of your offspring,” she tells Pennsatucky, which brings a smile to her face. She was a good mother by getting an abortion.
Never have I seen such a politically profound statement come out so jagged, warped, and lovely, just like all of our inmates here at Litchfield. But now that we’re all caught up, when is the real action going to start?