Recap: OITNB Episode 3- Oh, Suzanne!

images-3 Piper’s back at Litchfield, and she has a new swagger. Word has spread about her unexpected fight with Pennsatucky and everyone’s surprised that Pipes had it in her to fight— and actually win. Piper relishes her new reputation, but Brook, the newbie ,is the only person who’s remotely afraid of her.

Speaking of Brook… I didn’t know it was possible for a character to be more annoying that Piper, but then Brook- no “e”—  Soso arrived as a new inmate at Litchfield. She’s the worst of Piper O.D., even more privileged and more clueless. In comparison, Piper, at least now, is tolerable. Brook also shows us how much Piper has grown during her stay at Litchfield, especially when Piper gives  the “it’s gonna be okay” speech on Brook’s first night in prison.

Red overhears Vee singing in the shower, and it’s a voice she would know from anywhere. Her reaction to seeing Vee is about like Taystee’s in that she’s none to happy to be reunited with her frenemy. Red knows Vee from back in the day when Vee served a previous bid. And Red’s preparing for the worst.

The Black girls—Taystee, Poussey, Janae, Black Cindy and Suzanne aka “Crazy Eyes”—  square off in a game of prison Taboo.   Suzanne wants to play, but  instead, has been assigned to watch the clock. She feels left out— again. It’s been a reoccurring theme in her life.

Kiddie Suzzane

In a flashback, we see (again, her mother was shown in the visiting room during Season One) that Suzanne was adopted by an affluent white family, one that seems naïve about the needs—social and perhaps, special— of the Black child they’re raising in an all white community. One of these people is not like the others, but Suzanne’s Mom seems determined to pretend otherwise.  “You know which kids suffer in this world, Melanie?"  she asks a Mom who doesn’t want 10 year old Suzanne at her 6 year old (white) daughter’s slumber party. "The ones who are told they’re different,” Mom is impassioned and liberal and means well, but pretending Suzanne isn’t Black and that she doesn’t need a different (but equal) type of attention than other children doesn’t benefit her.

Suzanne’s not crazy, despite her nickname, but she wasn’t properly socialized, and maybe not told “no” by her parents enough (I’m thinking of the swimsuit with angel wings. On the fence as to whether that’s evidence the parents don’t set boundaries or them just choosing their battles with the kid.).  And maybe she just needed a Black mama. Suzanne freaks out in the hospital room when her dad takes her new sister away and her parents are entirely clueless as to how to calm down their own child. The Black nurse on duty automatically relates to Suzanne and chills her out. The same thing happens when Suzanne meets “Vee” for the first time. She’s being all, you know, Suzanne and “Vee” hits her with “don’t interrupt” in a firm Black mama voice. Suzanne  automatically pipes down again. Is it the Blackness or people who know what to do with kids, or er, child-like adults? Both? (I’m leaning toward both with an emphasis on Blackness.)

Pennsatucky was the unofficial leader and the one with the biggest bark in her group of girls, former meth addicts. While she recovered from/ was punished for her fight with Piper, LeAnn and the other girls realized there was less conflict and drama when Pennsatucky  wasn’t around, so they aren’t happy to have her back. There’s that, and then there’s Pennsatucky’s new teeth. All the girls have messed up grills, the physical markers of the women’s shared drug habit. But now Pennsatucky doesn’t have it anymore. Lookswise, she can fit in with any other white groups at the prison. Her improvement makes her friends self-conscious and too, jealous.

Vee and Taystee finally have their showdown. Taystee’s pissed she had nowhere to turn when she got out. She was likely locked up in connection to her work for Vee and Vee being her Mom and all, was supposed to take care of her. Vee apologizes, but Taystee isn’t getting it over it— yet.

Since she’s not up for taking on her daughter role to Vee in prison,  Vee sets her sights on Suzanne. She immediately senses Suzanne’s lacking sense of belonging and she is clichéd putty in Vee’s hands.

It’s nearly impossible for anything good to come out of Daya’s ongoing relationship with the CO and the resulting pregnancy. It’s just too muddled and that’s sad because they genuinely care for, if not love, each other. “I want to be better than my Mom,” Daya tells John. “I want this baby to have everything.” It could happen someday, but anytime soon?  No. We’ve seen what happens to women who give birth in prison. If they’re lucky, they get to coo over the baby on visiting day. That’s the best-case scenario, and Daya and John can’t even have that because John can’t publicly claim he’s the father.

Morello’s dream has finally turned into a nightmare. Everyone but her knew that fiancé Christopher wasn’t waiting around for her until she got out, but no one wanted to be the one to tell her. Or maybe because she’s such an incredibly sweet girl, they were hoping for the best along with her. But Morello’s sister, Franny, has confirmed the worst— Christopher’s getting married. Morello loses it, like we’ve never seen her before “You don’t go Jessica Simpson when you got Rihanna,” she bellows to Franny.  Great, great acting by Yael Stone.

Other thoughts:

*As a kid, Suzanne has a big personality and given the way she quotes Shakespeare and her dramatic flair for counting the clock, I wouldn’t be surprised if her parents channeled all her extra energy toward the theatre. In some ways, her story reminds me of Audra McDonald’s recent Tony Award speech where she thanked her parents for recognizing they had an energetic child, and instead of putting her on meds, they introduced her to the arts. Audra got some flack for that from a Mom who medicates her ADHD kid. And McDonald  responded that she wasn’t criticizing medication, just saying what worked for her. Suzanne’s parents seem to have the tried the Audra McDonald approach on a kid who needed more than that.

*Piper thought the administration knew how she got her now-healed battle scars from her fight with Pennsatucky, but they don’t. And Piper's not telling. It seems Suzanne had an episode after the Christmas pageant, stumbled out into the yard and went off on Piper whose blond hair and white skin reminded Suzanne of her mother. Being beat up by Suzanne is the only reason Piper's not facing additional time in prison for the fight. “You saved me,” Piper tells Suzanne when she tries to apologize. “I am so grateful to you.”

*Larry can’t escape Piper even when he tries. He gets a call from a journalist, the same one that’s on to Fig, and the guy only wants to know how to get in contact with Piper. He takes his father’s advice and tries to get laid and his date, who says she likes guys with no ambition, and the first thing she asks him about is… Piper. He can't win.


What did you think of Episode 3? 

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?