OITNB Episode 5: Gloria Goes Gangster

Don't f*** with Gloria's Girls
Don't f*** with Gloria's Girls


There’s been a war brewing between the Latinas and the Black girls for some time. Not only do they run the kitchen, the Latinas sit front row at movie night and on high pillows that cause them to block everyone’s view. Everything comes to a clichéd head in Episode 6 “Low Self Esteem City” when the Latina showers aka “Spanish Harlem” become backed up with sewage and the Latinas barge into the “ghetto” aka the Black girl showers, demanding to cut the line so they can make it to work in the kitchen on time. Ain’t no way that was going to go over. Vee, who has wiggled her way into the leader of the Black girls, unceremoniously shuts Gloria, the leader of the kitchen and apparently the Latinas, down.

The Black girls pow wow and decide the Latinas need to learn some manners. Taystee and Black Cindy “attack” by tying up their shoelaces while the Latinas are prepping for work. The Latinas retaliate by over-salting their food. Janae asks Daya for a new plate since she’s been sucked into this race beef just because she’s Black. When Daya dismisses her, Janae trips her in the cafeteria. Overprotective for obvious reasons, CO John slams Janae on the floor and takes her commissary for 30 days.

Gloria, who we learn in a backstory is in prison for fraud after she was caught running an EBT scam in the bodega she owned, has had enough. She squares off with Vee in the bathroom to hash out the Latina/Black girl beef. Vee complains to Gloria that she’s “too old for this sh—“ and is willing to barter: the “Spanish girls” can have the “ghetto” bathroom in exchange for transferring the Latinas in the warehouse to the kitchen so the Black girls can work the warehouse. It’s a deal.

Gloria thinks she has the upperhand with Vee until Red storms into the kitchen later, telling Gloria more or less that Vee played her entirely and “you have no idea what you’ve done.” Vee's up to something we just don't know what yet.

Over in Piperland, Piper’s mother and brother come to visit, and in the most round about way ever, reveal her grandmother is dying. Piper goes to Healey to ask for “furlough” to say goodbye to granny, reminding him that he did nothing when Pennsatucky attacked her. Healy still says “no”

Healy, who I’m slowly starting to believe is bipolar, goes to a local bar (sans wife since he talks to her so bad) and runs into Caputo. The guys get drunk and bond over how much they hate their jobs, particularly Fig. Healy would prefer not to talk to women about women’s issues, and Caputo just wants the bathroom fixed and for Fig to act like she cares about the inmates. This conversation gives Healy a change of heart about Piper’s furlough and he agrees to submit paperwork for a 3-day release.

Piper calls Larry for the first time since they’ve broken up and she sounds like Piper wants to work things out. Larry says he’s missed her as well. Womp, womp. Note to Piper: two dysfunctional people in a relationship does make it functional.


Some Other Thoughts….

* What was Black Cindy thinking referring to the Black guard as “Sister”?!

*Big Boo and Nicki decide to do a “Bang Off”, a competition for how many women they can have sex with in a given amount of time. When Boo pulls ahead in the game, Nicky sabotages her success by spreading a rumor that Boo has an STI.

*Gloria’s abusive boyfriend was a douche who had a bad ending coming, but even so, I felt bad to see him go out that way. RIP Arturo.

*Best line of the episode: “It’s hate speech, it’s not meant to be accurate. It’s meant to be hateful.”


What did you think of Episode 5? 

OITNB Episode 2 Recap: Taystee Girl

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Most OITNB viewers endure Piper to get to the characters they really want to see, and that’s actually by design. Show runner Jenji Kohan gave an interview to the Huffington Post in  December that detailed why viewers are subjected to Piper: "If you go to a network and say, “I wanna do prison stories about black women and Latino women and old women,” you’re not gonna make a sale.  But, if you’ve got this blonde girl going to prison, you can get in there, and then you can tell all the stories.  I just thought it was a terrific gateway drug into all the things I wanted to get into."

So we’ll endure her to get to everyone else in Litchfield, especially “Tasha  Jefferson” aka “Taystee”, who emerged as one of the break out stars of OITNB, (in addition to “Sophia Burset” aka Laverne Cox, who was so popular she landed the cover of Time Magazine.)

Episode 2 begins with a backstory viewers have been waiting for. In Season One, we learned Tastyee didn’t have any family she could rely on when she was released from prison and wound up sleeping on the floor in an over-crowded apartment. But now we get the details. She grew up in a group “home”, desperate for a conventional “forever family” that never came despite being a smart girl with a big personality and a serious case of the cutes.

She’s around 10, when she encounters “Vee”, a neighborhood dealer who immediately makes me leery. It’s one thing to sell drugs, it’s another thing to seduce kids with crappy home lives into working corners for you by presenting yourself as a mother-figure, especially when the consequence of coming up short on the count is sleeping outside. Taystee, still just a pre-teen, has lived enough life already to suss out Vee as “a connect”, and despite her desire for a family, Tasha isn’t desperate enough— yet— to take Vee up on her offer to “learn the trade”.

Years later, Taystee is out of viable options. There are problems in her group home and Vee, who has always paid attention to her, is her last resort. She wowed her with her science skills when she was 10-ish, and years later it’s her quick math skills that win Vee over, and set Taystee on the road to prison.

The upside here is that Taystee gets the family she always wanted. In exchange for participating in Vee’s heroin operation, she gets a Mom (types of motherhood are a theme throughout the episode) who bakes bread from scratch, listens to—and humors— her crazy ideas and an older brother, RJ who lovingly teases her. When the family prepares for dinner in the kitchen table, it almost feels Cosby-esque— minus the heroin baggies they have to clear first.

Back at Litchfield— finally— it’s “Career Day” and we get an update on what the people we really care about are up to.

Taystee is the only one taking “Career Day” seriously. She picks the outfit that won the year before and she actually studies for the interview with a Phillip Morris recruiter. Her interview skills are impressive, perhaps better than most of the people on the outside with a legit job. Like most—but not all— of the women at Litchfield, she’s smart. With the right chances, a support system and a little luck—like say the cushy life Piper was born into and takes for granted— many of them could have gone far in life. (But, as Vee once told her, “you’re from the hood. You don’t get a career. You get a job. And this one [selling heroine] is the best one around.”) Still, Taystee is a stand out among the ladies of Litchfield. And best friend Poussey couldn’t be prouder.

Poor pregnant Daya hasn’t pooped in five days and swears she’s “dying”. Gloira and Daya’s Mom, Aleida—moreso Aleida than Gloria— battle it out to see who can make Daya poop faster. When she finally poops, Daya declares it a tie. They’re both winners.

Red’s not adjusting well to her loss of power in the prison. She’s let herself go – her hair isn’t fire red anymore or standing up— since she was ousted from both the kitchen and her position as the matriarch of her prison family. To make matters worse, her real family hasn’t added money to her commissary, so she’s forced to return to the cafeteria and face the Latinas who have taken over the kitchen— or starve.  Since she’s been kicked out of her group, the Grey Mafia offers her a spot in theirs. She declines. “My life is sad and small and a burden to those I love,” she tells her son on visiting day. Because old ladies don’t take no for an answer even from other old ladies, they ignore her rejection and push up anyway.

Little Boo (the dog) is no more after an incident between the dog and Big Boo got “weird.” The implication is that Big boo had the dog perform oral sex on her. Desperate times call for desperate measures… I guess. O_o

Morello is still holding on to the idea of marrying her fiance’, Christopher, when she gets out of prison. “Fig” aka the lady who runs the prison brought in some sort of resume specialist to help the women clean up their resumes and when he asks her what she wants to do for work when she gets out, she responds, “I just want to get married to Christopher and have his babies and make the house look nice.” Um, okay.

Pennsatucky isn’t dead, as we learned in OITNB’s season opener, but it’s here we get a glimpse of the damage Piper’s done. It’s been over a month since their big fight and Pennsatucky’s face has healed, but… When asked about the fight, Pennsatucky downplays how brutally Piper beat on her: “I suppose she got a few licks in”, she offers, but her teeth tell another story. If thought they were bad before….

New teeth or nah?

Healy’s still trying to make headway with his wife when Pennsatucky shows up and reminds him that she remembers everything about her fight with Piper, specifically that Healy saw it revving up and did nothing. She might be a “hillbilly meth addict” (and completely delusional), but she isn’t stupid. She also reminds Healy that she is still the poster child for the Right to Life movement and her version of the story holds more weight than he thinks it does. Healy buys her silence by agreeing to fix her teeth.

Natalie Figueroa aka Fig’ is the executive assistant to the Warden and her husband is running for office. Hubs heightened popularity has brought more scrutiny to the prison that his wife runs. There are funds missing  (because she embezzled them) and an overbearing reporter is determined to get the story. Fig shows off her rehabilitation activities at the prison (aka “Career Day”), then flirts her way out of the questions reporter’s questions before brushing him off.

Outside of the Litchfield, we learn Piper’s best friend Polly had the baby, and her husband Pete promptly bailed to go find himself on a “vision quest in the Tundra.” Polly, is a stressed new mom who gives zero f****s, evident when she greets Larry, who’s pitching in to help, at the door with a boob hanging out.  For what it’s worth, she offers Larry her sympathies about his break up with Piper, but she’s loyal to her bestie: “She’s my friend and I will always take her side over yours,” she tells him. “And I will always be friends with her, and who knows how long I will know you.”

Piper’s ex-fiance’ Larry and his father wind up at gay bathhouse—Dad found it on Groupon—to discuss Piper. Larry isn’t ready to move on yet, which his father (and the entire viewing audience) doesn’t get. That said, I do understand why no one would be interested in him. He’s an ass, just like Piper. They’re actually pretty well-suited for each other. His one redeeming quality thus far is his paternal skills.

Other thoughts:

*Gloria has been locked up long enough that she doesn’t know what “Molly” is. Luschek, the CO who fixes the electricity, explains, “it’s the pure powder form of MDMA. It’s supposed to be a clean ecstasy, but it made me grind my teeth.” Here’s a CO admitting to taking illegal drugs. “How come you ain’t in jail?” Gloria asks Luschek. Technically, he is, which he points out. What she meant is how come he breaks the law, but isn’t punished for it like all the women in Litchfield. Gloria asked a great question.

*The only real lick we saw Pennsatucky get on Piper was when she cut Piper’s hand with the shank. But when an inmate sees Pennsatucky she says, “I heard you beat the holy mess out of each other.” Um, was there a part of the fight we missed? Or is the prison grapevine like a game of telephone where the story gets distorted the more it’s told?

*Taystee is none too happy when Vee shows up in the prison doorway after Taystee wins the interview competition, one that garners her $10 to her commissary, not the job offer she was expecting when she’s released.  The last we saw of Vee and Taystee, Vee was promising to protect her forever. Seems Taystee hasn’t forgotten she had nowhere stable to turn when she was released.


What did you think of Episode 2?

EPISODE RECAP: Orange is the New Black, "Thirsty Bird"

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I've never been to prison. There was that one time I went to the county jail for a high school civic class (only Black girl, nearly all Black male prisoners. Bad day.) And there was another time I waited in the visitor's area of a jail for hours because my best friend got locked up for driving my car 100+ mph (while I was in it.) But that's the extent of my experience. I never got into  "Oz", so Orange is the New Black is my first "real" taste of TV prison, which I am clear is crafted for my amusement and dramatic effect.

As far as prisons go, fictional Litchfield is bad enough. There's the SHU which drives everyone crazy, and tampon sandwiches, and religious zealots with shanks. You have little privacy-- although you can get enough stolen moments for lady sex and to electrocute yourself for the high-- there are crazy people and emotionally disturbed people, and sociopathic people and to be fair, very normal people who made seriously bad choices, often out of necessity, unlike our annoying heroine Piper Chapman, who did it for the adventure. But as bad as Piper thought she had it, she’s about to learn it can always be worse.

Season 2 begins with Piper being transferred from SHU in the middle of the night via a "mystery bus", then onto a plane to an undetermined location. Turns out it's to a new prison-— a temporary, but indefinite assignment— in Chicago, one that lives up to the horror stories of prison and it's inmates that Litchfield did not. Chapman thinks it's a punishment for killing Pennsatucky in their season-ending snow fight, but actually it's because her ex-girlfriend's ex-boss is standing trial and Chapman and her ex, Alex Vouse, have been called to testify for the Feds. Piper may be many (horrid)  things, as Alex points out, but she is not a murderess.

At Litchfield, Piper squats and coughs upon entry. At The Metropolitan Detention Center, she bends over and grabs her ankles while a guard shines a flashlight up her ass. There's one hour of recreation time and one day a week in the yard, which is promptly cancelled when a fight breaks out because an inmate's "molest me, daddy" voice. Most of Piper's time is spent in a cell with her roommates, who include a Black woman who sings Aretha Franklin’s "Natural Woman" while taking one of her four—yes, four— daily bowel movements on a toilet in the cell, a Latina with a spider tattoo on her face who's killed 13 people-- and has the broken black hearts to prove it-- and perhaps the scariest of all, a white chick who Piper wrongly assumes is harmless because of her nerdy demeanor and odd interest in birth times and because Piper is Piper, her whiteness. But it's that chick, one with manic rage who once bit her girlfriend's tongue off and swallowed it, that climbs on top of Piper in the middle of the night and licks her face from chin to brow. Lesson: don't judge a book by its cover.

Piper starts off on the wrong foot with her new roommates when she  steps on a “Yoda”, a "biggie slow" cockroach capable of transporting cigarettes on their backs (with the help of toothpaste) from one cell to another. Piper is charged with finding a replacement— or else.

When Alex and Piper finally meet up in MPD, Alex has strict instructions for testifying: lie. Alex's ex boss incorporates "revenge as part of his business model... sick, deep revenge", Alex says, and she suggests they both lie about knowing him so as to escape his wrath.  Piper eventually decides to go along with this plan and lies on the stand, much to the dismay of her lawyer, her ex-fiance’s father.

Alex doesn’t take her own advice though. She tells the truth about her relationship with her old boss, and it conveniently lands her out of jail. I’m not sure whether she set Piper up so she would be more important to prosecutors as the only one who had testimony against her ex-boss or as Alex explains to Piper on her way out of jail, “everything just  happened so fast” and she really did just  change her mind at the last minute. (I've watched the whole season and still can't figure it out.)

Either way, Piper is in, possibly with a perjury charge coming, as her lawyer points out. And Alex is out.


Some other thoughts:

*I get that the crux of the show is Piper’s fish-out-of-water perspective on prison life, and she is supposed to represent the viewer, one privileged enough to own a laptop, have wi-fi, and a the disposable income for a Netflix account. And still, Piper’s middle-class cluelessness and inability to grasp the basic nuances of prison life or recognize her privileges is hella annoying. You’re asking the guard on an inmate transportation bus if he can stop to have a bathroom break? Really? In fairness, the flashbacks to her childhood show that she can't really help it. F---ed up people raise f---ed up kids.

*On the plane to Chicago, Piper sits next to an inmate who looks like what I imagine Ellen would if she never had money and did hard drugs. As much as Piper is freaking out about not knowing where she’s going, Lolly, who carries a “glob” of Vaseline in her ear to keep her face hydrated on the plane ride, doesn’t care. She’s excited for anywhere that has food daily, heat and a bed because “it’s better than where I been.” Prison is a preferable option to whatever she faced on the “outside.” And given the conditions of where they end up and how Lolly gets beat up in the prison yard, that’s scary.

*We don’t get many Black guys on a show about life in a women’s prison, but the self-described “predator” in this episode is the scariest and most stereotypical image of a Black prisoner ever— sort of. Piper thinks he’s a rapist, and it’s not far-fetched given his leers on the plane and the way he grabs his d--- at her in her in the cafeteria. That, and when Piper tries to barter a hand job in exchange for him passing a message to Alex, he asks for her four-day old panties as payment. I was as relieved as Piper to find out he was a hitman. I don’t like Piper very much, but I don’t want anything even worse to happen to her.

What did everybody else think of the FIRST episode?