*Unlike the previous Orange Is The New Black recaps, this one is of episodes 8 and 9, as such will contain plot points from both. If you haven’t watch both, beware of spoilers.
With the major players now firmly set in place and with just five episodes left in the tank, it’s time to raise the stakes, and “Appropriately Sized Pots” and “40oz of Furlough” proved themselves more than up to the task, as both hours contained unexpected plot twists and major bombshells while still making time for rich character work.
In “Appropriately Sized Pots,” Piper learns her furlough request to visit her dying grandmother has been approved, an event so rare it even has Sister Ingalls speaking of miracles. For the rest of Litchfield’s population however, Piper’s temporary freedom is cause for hostility and jealousy, another example of the yuppie white chick getting special privileges. Piper endures the snark and insults until she can take no more, leading to an explosive rant at lunch time that starts with white privilege and ends with telling everyone to shut the fuck up. To which Suzanne responds by throwing her pudding at her head. It’s both a hilarious period on a tense scene and an out-of-nowhere callback to a time where Suzanne pull the same stunt to claim Piper as her prison wife.
Racial undertones aside, Piper’s furlough not only makes her a target of rage, but reflection; she becomes a kind of sounding board for inmates like Sophia or Anita to express regret, both about missing life-changing events as well as the opportunities for closure said events could have provided. Things get so bad that Piper marches into Healy’s office and attempts to give her furlough back, but he essentially tells her to ignore the haters and take advantage of the chance she’s been given. The show usually doesn’t give Healy the chance to be right, so it was nice to see him be supportive and understanding—to a woman no less—in a way that didn’t involve any manipulation or sexual politics. Whether his weekly therapy sessions with Pennastucky with have the same positive result remains to be seen.
Perhaps Rosa’s cutting remark about him being useless struck a nerve. “Approximately Sized Pots” delves into Rosa’s backstory, filling out the details on the bank robberies and husbands she mentioned a few episodes back. Rosa has referred to herself as cursed, and watching the repeated heartbreak she endures—one boyfriend, Marco, dies in her arms after getting shot during a heist, while Andy, her next beau, has a heart attack during a getaway—it’s hard to argue she’s got rotten luck when it comes to men.
However, what ultimately sends her to prison isn’t a curse or a kiss of death (hey, not kissing after the robbery spared Donny) but her own impulsiveness and greed, and what the episode seems to be nudging toward is, jail or no jail, cancer or no cancer, Rosa is still Rosa. It’s why she pulls off a mini-heist at the cancer ward, enlisting the boy she befriended to steal a hospital worker’s wallet, and later smells the stolen cash like it had the power to send her cancer into remission. And while the universe gives her a gift of sorts–her teenaged co-conspirator’s cancer is going into remission, thereby breaking the pattern of the men in her life dying—she is relentlessly pragmatic about her own sickness.
“I always pictured myself going out in a blaze of glory,” she tells Anita. “But this kind of death. This slow, invisible, disappearing into nothing. It’s terrifying.” For someone like Rosa, who possessed such a lust for adventure and thrills, it’s difficult to imagine that kind of death as anything but.
It’s possible Piper’s grandmother Celeste, whom Piper describes as “I’m every woman” type of broad (she took up stock trading and kayaking after her husband died), might have held similar sentiments. But neither we or Piper will know, as her mother tells her she passed just as Piper’s scheduled to leave.
Piper still goes home, but her plan to knock back rye Manhattans and chow down on burgers gets pushed aside by Celeste’s memorial services. Along with enduring the requisite stares and questions (“No I’m not wearing handcuffs”), there’s the Larry situation. The two engage in some minor snipage when she first arrives home, but all appears to be good when Piper attempts a bathroom quickie at the wake. However, Larry confesses he slept with someone else (he leaves out it was Polly), albeit at a most indelicate time—let’s just say Piper was getting ready to do a “job”–and these two can finally admit what they’ve both known for some time: it’s over.
She does Larry the courtesy of not making attending Celeste’s funeral mandatory. Though if he had gone, he would have gotten two awkward family gatherings for the price of one, as Cal turns the funeral into a wedding for him and his wife which, given his pseudo-hipster slacker pretensions, makes perfect sense. Piper seems non-plussed by this turn of events; aside from tears shed sharing a memory about Celeste, she appears detached from the proceedings, like a ghost. And in some ways she is, at least to her father and other relatives. They’re believe she is– or in the case of her father, anxious for her–to get back to the person she was before prison. But, later as she sits at a bridge, guzzling a 40oz and taking a bite out of a burger, she doesn’t appear to be in any rush.
Aside from all the emotional business, “Appropriately Sized Pots” and “40oz of Furlough” dealt with the continued power struggles at the Litch, both among the inmates and the administration. Figueroa has a bitch fit over the rampant contraband and reams Caputo and the staff out; the result is a manic Caputo stalking the grounds, checking facing for makeup and trashing Red’s garden. Fischer dares to speak up against the bureaucratic lunacy and is fired for her common sense.
The vacancy leaves the door open for—you guessed it—Mendez, a.k.a Pornstache, a.k.a D-list Burt Reynolds But More Rapey. And the man didn’t disappoint, busting through the double doors like the deluded wannabe bad ass he is, shouting infraction numbers and handing out shots. Mendez, of course, is still in love with Daya, and his presence, along with Red revealing her knowledge of Daya’s pregnancy, sends Bennett over the edge; trying to assert his power, he goes overboard and terrorizes the inmates before Mendez pulls him away. Bennett returns the favor by telling Caputo Daya is pregnant, and naming Mendez as the father. Aww hell.
Red strikes a side deal with Gloria to hide her contraband in exchange for kitchen goodies, an arrangement that comes in handy now that Caputo’s on the warpath. Vee spies the two colluding and inquires about it, but Red shuts her down. Though Red has expressed wariness about Vee’s methods and her enterprise, “40oz of Furlough” snaps into place how acquainted she is with the former; through flashbacks we see how Vee worked her dark magic, convincing Red to start a smuggling operation then literally strong-arming her into giving it up.
It’s a lesson Red has not forgotten, and one that has clearly informed so much of her ruthless attitude and many of her decisions afterwards—including getting her “family” back together for an impromptu dinner in the greenhouse. Red recognizes the need for a crew, and if it takes playing Russian Big Mama and finally saying “I’m sorry” then so be it. Unfortunately, Big Boo spies the smuggling hole in the greenhouse, and the smack Red gives her for mouthing off smarts enough for her to run to Vee and give up the goods.
This is gonna get a whole lot worse before it gets better.
–Soso’s fed up with the horrible conditions and has started a hunger strike after her bath strike is squashed. Leanne, or as ‘Tucky calls her, Stitch, appears to be joining in. Let’s see where this goes.
–Poussey and Taystee’s friendship continues its downward spiral; afterward Leanne comes to her seeking something a lil’ stronger than tobacco, Poussey puts two and two together and goes to Taystee about her concerns. Unfortunately, Taystee’s totally under surrogate mommy’s thumb, and warns Poussey to stay out both of Vee’s and her way. Judging from what happened to Red and Rhonda (well, we still don’t know what became of that chick), it’d wise to take that advice.
–Piper keeps her promise to Red and visits her old shop, and finds it’s now closed. One of this season’s big themes has been the inmates’ struggles with identity—who they were on the outside, who they’ve become while on the inside, who they will be once they leave—and the sight of the shop’s shuttered door shows part of Red’s past, along with her pre-Vee naiveté about people, is gone.
–As their straight jack move of the Latinas kitchen supplies proved—though they did politely return them afterwards–The Golden of the Litch ain’t nothin’ to fuck with. Age ain’t nothin’ but a number.
By Kevin Clarkston kclarkscorner.blogspot.com