A month has passed since the last episode, and Aleida and Daya have apparently worked out a very efficient drug-smuggling workflow. From a contact known to her (also incarcerated) ex Cesar, Aleida gets drugs. She hacks a Nutri-Health smoothie powder canister to add a false bottom and puts the drugs inside. She gives Hopper — with whom she’s now living — the canister to put in the COs’ break room. When the canister is empty, Daya retrieves it from the garbage, gets out the drugs, and hands off to Daddy whatever she doesn’t snort herself. (Aleida’s cut goes directly into an account she can link to her debit card, but apparently she is, like all moms, constitutionally incapable of setting this up herself.) It’s going so well that she wants to start selling to C block as well, but Daddy tells her not to be greedy — or traitorous. (“I don’t see enemies,” says Daya. “I see customers.”) By chance, Hopper eventually ends up being the one to discard the canister; feeling the weight is off, he pries off the secret compartment and finds the stash, but we don’t know yet what he’s going to do about it — by which, of course, I mean we don’t know whether he’s sufficiently corrupt to try to horn in on the operation.
Speaking of corrupt COs: Luschek has come through on his pledge to Piper, and kickball has commenced. However, only intra-block scrimmages are permitted. Piper is trying to stay positive, but Badison is bossy as hell, and seems to be under the impression that the object of the game is to kick the ball up into the rafters and wedge it under the yard’s metal grate roof, causing the suspension of play until someone can get a ladder there to retrieve the ball again. (It seems as though this has happened a lot until Luschek remembers there are half a dozen other kickballs in a closet on the premises.)
As Luschek sets up the ladder and McCullough sends Piper up to get the ball, McCullough notices that Luschek’s wearing limited edition Back to the Future sneakers and asks what he’s doing to earn more money; her Lyft hustle hasn’t worked out because her crying made passengers uncomfortable. He recommends that she go hard trying to win at the fantasy inmate pool, but she tells him the contest is over, no one having scored points since the blocks have been segregated for yard time: “Except for Alvarez. He’s fucking Moneyballing that shit on minor infractions.” While they’ve been discussing this, Piper has been to the top of the ladder and seen the disused kickball field outside. Luschek’s not prepared to let them play on it — it isn’t secured — but suddenly he does think it’s a good idea for C block to play D block at kickball. C block’s team may regret this, though, when they get their first glimpse of Maria and the rest of the D block church ladies, who definitely have them beat when it comes to discipline and teamwork. When Piper is permitted to recruit from Florida, however, the addition of Pennsatucky to the team shifts the balance of power, and Piper is democratically elected captain over Badison.
Luschek is also fighting on another front: Badison has scared Mendoza off teaching dancercise and students are fleeing the class’s inferior substitute instructors. If the class is canceled due to lack of interest, he’ll need a new phone scheme. He asks Mendoza to come back, and she tells him she quit because of the gangs — which she had asked him to address, and which he ignored. His solution is to have Mendoza transferred to D block. In terms of the Max gangs, it’s good for her, since Daya can (and does) vouch for her with Daddy. But it’s potentially bad for her otherwise, since that’s also where Ruiz lives. It may also be bad in the long run in terms of Mendoza’s “Prison Mommy” role with Daya, since she can tell Daya’s been using; when Mendoza confronts her, Daya barely denies it before reminding Mendoza there’s little point avoiding drugs since she’s going to die in prison: “Shit! Why not?”
Caputo is half looking for a new job, half looking at porn GIFs, when he gets a mysterious phone call: it’s Black Cindy, who soon tires of half-assedly disguising her voice (which she needn’t have bothered to do anyway; he doesn’t recognize her) as she tells Caputo Taystee didn’t kill Piscatella, and that he should look into “the stormtroopers.” Fig sneaks him the coroner’s report, but he can’t really understand it, and has decided instead to orchestrate a chance meeting with a cop named Herrmann and bait him into saying something incriminating: “It worked for Columbo.” It … does not work for Caputo, whom Herrmann threatens with a restraining order if Caputo tries to interrogate him again. Caputo is undeterred, not only because Fig gives him the idea to fight MCC in the press, blaming the riot on the company’s negligence, but also because she’s come around to letting him call her his girlfriend.
In the spotlight this time, we get not one but two inmates: Barb and Carol. In the present, Barb is doing well, impressing several of her D block girls with a trick she says she learned in her waitressing days.
Barb also gets a handmade 30-day sober chip from Nicky, since inmates have to leave them in meetings rather than bring them back to their cells. Barb’s good mood doesn’t last, though: She doesn’t get the Noxzema she ordered from the commissary because, she believes, Carol bought it all up to spite her.
Barb and Carol weren’t always so antagonistic. Before they were the rival block bosses we first met earlier in the season, they were high-school students, bored at their sister Debbie’s gymnastics meet. “I could kill her,” crabs Barb, as the announcer lets the spectators know Debbie is about to depart West Virginia to train with an elite coach in Plano; Debbie’s career is the reason the family hasn’t stayed anywhere long enough for her sisters to make real friends. “Well, we could, you know, if you wanted to,” comments Carol, as Debbie starts her ribbon routine to “Maniac.” Carol’s drawn a couple of cartoon versions of how it could go. Glass shards in her yogurt won’t work, says Barb: “It would have to look more like an accident. And you’ll have to burn that book.”
Present-day Carol confides in Red over piña colada pruno: Originally, she was sentenced to 25 years, but Frieda added 30 by squealing on the drug operation. Now she entertains herself inside bullying other inmates, having decided the best way to be mean is to pretend to be nice first, like Barb does — and to demonstrate, Carol tells an inmate she heard the COs talking about her being released early. “I’m conflicted about wanton cruelty, but it’s strangely reinvigorating,” says Red. “I told you: sport mindfucking is exciting,” Carol insists.
Carol’s cultivation of Red is definitely weakening what were formerly strong prison family ties. When Nicky tells Red that Carol’s people came after her, Red doesn’t believe it, convinced that the real culprit is Badison, Carol’s “Chevy Chase”: “I mean, what’s so funny about fucking everything up?” While Red insists she trusts Carol, Nicky defends Barb for at least trying to become a better person through her sobriety.
What Nicky can’t see is, of course, Carol’s crime, as we do. Forced to babysit Debbie, Barb and Carol drive her to a lake, at her request, so she can release a jar of hibernating tadpoles. Barb’s just fondly told Debbie she’s not so bad when Carol comes at Debbie with a hammer. Barb screams for Debbie to run back into the car and lock the door, but there isn’t a button in the back seat. Barb shows her the keys, which she tosses into the snow, and Debbie is locked in and screeching as Carol and Barb push the car into the lake, Barb serenely humming “Maniac.”
In the present, Frieda confesses to Suzanne that she’s been trying to keep Suzanne fearful of mixing with Barb or Carol’s crews. Suzanne’s life is not in any danger, despite what Frieda’s been telling her: “It’s me they’re after.” She thought Barb or Carol would try to turn Suzanne against her, but Suzanne sincerely promises to warn Frieda if she hears of any plots against her. “Have you ever heard of the Little Debbie Murderers?” Frieda asks.
And then we’re back at Max shortly after Barb and Carol were incarcerated — early enough that they’re on the same block.
Barb does her trick with a can, while Carol gives away her secret: she just plugs the hole with a plastic cap. Carol then tells a story about a customer at Domingo’s, where she used to work, ordering her to get him the classifieds (kids, ask your parents) — only when she went out, bought a newspaper, and delivered it to him, he thought she was crazy: “Why are you bringing me the classifieds? I asked for a glass of ice.” Barb snits that this actually happened to her, when she was working behind the bar. As a brawl breaks out, a disgusted Frieda takes off.
Present-day Frieda wraps up this story, which she’s just been telling Suzanne: “They expected us to buy into their fight. Take sides. I wasn’t going to die over some stupid story.”
And then Nicky is ingratiating herself to Barb by bringing her a jar of Noxzema stolen off C block, just as Barb and Daddy are strategizing about a strike against Carol. They’ve obtained the beauty salon schedule and intend to do it there — except, as Nicky sees, Red will be there too. Nicky tries to talk Barb out of this plan by saying she will inevitably end up in the SHU for it. Barb says she’ll be fine if they “grease the right palms,” and reminds Nicky of what Carol did to her, with the bath salts: “She will try it again.” (Daddy, sitting right there, betrays nothing.) Nicky desperately says there has to be another way, but Barb is laser-focused on her safety, adding, “In a weird way, this is all thanks to you, Nicky. You helped me get sober… I feel like I’ve woken from a long sleep. Like the world is flush with possibilities now.”
Now Nicky has two prison mommies, and gets the fun job of figuring out how to protect the right one without getting killed by the wrong one.