The last episode gave us proof that Caputo’s campaign to smear MCC is having an effect, when Linda bought Sophia’s silence to stop her testifying for Taystee. This episode shows the company’s also moved on to a corporate rebrand.
MCC no longer exists: Now it’s PolyCon Corrections, and Linda is at Max to cast real COs and inmates for a promotional video. Suzanne gets cast, and though she keeps derailing the proceedings by reciting monologues from Shondaland dramas, Linda is pleased with the results: “The state of Connecticut is going to eat it up. They love seeing black people learning in prison. Makes them feel like they’re helping, but also that they’re safe.”
Speaking of the trial: When Taystee’s lawyer gives Caputo a frank (meaning: not especially optimistic) report about how it’s going, saying that Taystee’s best chance will be to inspire empathy from the jury. Caputo goes to Taystee’s holding cell to make sure she’s ready to turn it on, he finds her despondent after Black Cindy’s testimony. “How am I supposed to get a bunch of strangers to care about me when my own friend don’t give a damn?” Caputo tells her she’s wrong: He quit his job for her, and all the spectators who’ve been watching the trial from the gallery care about her too; he even extends Black Cindy the benefit of the doubt, pointing out that they don’t know what happened with her behind the scenes. He then plays his best card, saying Poussey would have wanted Taystee to fight for herself, like she did in the riot. “Maybe that jury will surprise you,” he says. “But they’re not going to get the chance if you’ve already given up.”
When Taystee takes her turn on the stand — noting at the start of her testimony that Ward has taken a personal day to attend — she tells the story of her childhood in foster care, and how her role as a peacemaker in her various group homes made her a natural negotiator during the riots, in which she participated because of Poussey’s death. She makes it clear, as well, that she wasn’t after revenge: “All I wanted was for the person who killed my friend to be up here, where I am now, telling you why he murdered — why he murdered an innocent person, instead of me explaining why I didn’t kill a guilty one.”
The verdict is yet to come, but if Taystee’s fate really does rest on her having connected to the jury, it seems like she’s done it.
Copeland’s scheme of housing the Denning sisters together in ad seg in the hopes that they’d attack each other and earn her some fantasy inmate points is scuttled when (a) they’re both too wily to do anything while Copeland is posted up right outside their cell, and (b) Alvarez busts “the illegal cage match that [she] orchestrated between two mortal enemies,” calling her a cheater and releasing Carol and Barb back to their respective blocks. However, merely spending time in forced confinement with one another has inflamed both sisters’ determination to kill one another, and they separately tell their people they’re headed for a gang war — a huge disappointment for Red when Carol tells her, since it means murdering Frieda is no longer the priority.
Alex comes to visit Piper, disheartened about her application to business school, only to get entangled in — what else? —Piper’s drama. Piper tells her about the heroin Badison planted on her — and also shows her, because she still has it. Her plan is to explain the situation to a friendly CO and request a transfer to ad seg, on the theory that it’s the only course with a bully like Badison. That they’re immediately interrupted by Stefanovic giving them each a shot because Alex isn’t in her cell suggests that a friendly CO might be harder to find than she thinks.
Hopper’s going through security (with, we may reasonably presume, his first all-heroin Nutri-Health canister) when Fig fetches him. It’s not because anyone’s dimed him out, though; it’s because PolyCon is implementing a new Prisoner Quotient system, and she needs him to enter data for all the prisoners so that the algorithm can rank them. “Must take a lot out of you, turning people into numbers,” comments Ward, reminding us, in case we’d forgotten, that she’s not playing the fantasy inmate game. Hopper says that it’s actually kind of relaxing. Eventually, he finds out the purposes of PQ is to get rid of the mild-mannered, short-sentence inmates and replace them with long-timers who have behavioral issues, to give PolyCon “more bang for the buck.” In fact, the inmates ranked Nos. 1 to 25 are going to be released at the end of the week. Basically, PolyCon has formalized the fantasy inmate game and made it a cornerstone of its business plan.
After her loss of faith in the last episode, Ruiz is extra hostile at kickball practice, particularly when some of her former fellow prayer warriors annoyingly distract her; she kicks the ball too hard and pops it. McCullough announces that practice is canceled, and as the inmates all complain about the ruling and come closer to her, McCullough gets anxious, pulls out her baton, and yells at them all to get on the ground before Stefanovic defuses the situation and sends the inmates back inside (not without offering to help McCullough work out some of her excess energy).
With D block at kickball, Piper is free to make her first attempt at cultivating a friendly CO, begging Copeland, “I need you to transfer me to ad seg so Badison can’t steal my date.” Copeland tells her to stop living in fear and run toward the problem by getting to know Badison better. The fact that Piper is on Copeland’s fantasy inmate team surely has nothing to do with it.
Alex, pretty sure Piper’s plan won’t work, goes to Badison herself and tells her to leave Piper alone. Badison says Piper mouthed off to her in front of her crew, which cannot stand — though she might consider backing off Piper if Alex came to work for her. “Carol’s the big boss,” Alex tells her. “You’re a fucking child.”
Ward flees a gleeful conversation among COs about Taystee getting “fried” to splash some cold water on her face in the bathroom, where she can smell someone smoking. No one responds as she calls to ask who it is, so she peeks over the divider and sees McCullough, soothing herself by burning her thighs with a cigarette. She knows she overreacted at practice, but she couldn’t help it: “They are horrible people who have hurt me, and they are regular people who just want to play a game. Or get through the day, or feel human. And I just get so messed up when I can only see the horrible, which is pretty much all the time. But I don’t know how to exist in the world with so much hate inside me.”
Badison has taken Alex’s request so much to heart that she … goes to Hellman with a cash offer for whatever he can do to get time added to Piper’s sentence. He’ll take her money, but further demands blow jobs from inmates in her crew he calls “Mulan and Jasmine over there.”
Having been tipped about the coming gang war by Daya, recruiting new soldiers from among the former camp cookies, Mendoza tries to approach Luschek to intervene, but her prohibition from exercise class still stands and two of Badison’s cohorts chase her out. When she tries to get to him by guest co-hosting the radio show, he’s on his way out to star in the PolyCon video and tells her to leave him a note; to do so, she goes into his desk and finds everyone’s fantasy inmate score sheets. With Alvarez, the substitute producer, still out of the room getting them water, Mendoza jams the door, gets on the mic, and exposes the fantasy inmate game, and how it’s in COs’ interest if they fight each other. Flaca, moved, tells her to do it again on the air, because, wah wah, they aren’t live until a CO turns a key. Mendoza might not be interested in enlisting in D block’s army, but Ruiz is: Barb gives her a modded Bible with shivs inside.
Alex goes over Badison’s head straight to Carol, asking her to get Badison under control, and lowering Badison’s value for Carol by letting her know that the phone scam is entirely her conception. Carol’s impressed, but warns, “I do this for you, it means you’re working for me now.” “Then I guess we have a deal,” Alex replies. True to her word, Carol orders Badison not to steal Piper’s date, informing her that Alex is in the gang now: “Keep mouthing off, and you’ll be working for her.” Badison tries to call off the blow jobs, but they’re already done (and she owes the blowers some mouthwash). Badison looks to the upper tier, where Hellman is delivering paperwork to Hopper: an incident report stating that Piper assaulted Badison.
Oblivious to all these machinations, Piper tries Hopper next: “So if drugs are coming into the prison, you’re responsible?” “What do you mean?” he asks, guiltily. She shows him the heroin Badison planted, telling him the backstory, and says that if he helps protect her from Badison, she can sniff around on his behalf and find out who’s bringing the drugs in.
Red gets a break from seething about Frieda when she gets some good news: Not only has her son come to visit, but he’s heard the requests she’s been making for months and brought her grandchildren. Red’s in line plotzing about meeting the kids for the very first time when she sees Frieda on the other side of the hall, returning from court. Unable to stop herself, Red attacks her and gets dragged to the SHU …
… while her family waits.
Badison passes Piper with a pleasant smile and no guff; Piper’s certain it means she solved her problem, and Alex doesn’t correct her. She does, however, let her know that she has submitted her business school application.
Carol shows Badison a new shiv, and orders her to make enough to arm everyone for the kickball game. Badison asks whether Alex got one, but Carol says, “Let her handle the business front. I only give weapons to my warriors.”
At his desk, Hopper pulls up Piper’s PQ profile, ponders Hellman’s fraudulent report, tears it up, and messes with her data until she ends up at the very top of the rankings. After all that hassle, Piper might be turfed before she even gets to play kickball, which is almost certainly the least of the problems she doesn’t even know she has.