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Orange Is the New Black: Let's talk about (and rank) season 3

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Jojo Whilden/Netflix

Orange Is the New Black season 3 is finally here—and it even came out early!—and whether you’re just starting your binge or finishing it up, we’re providing you with a place to discuss the show with your fellow fans.

EW will be recapping the entire season over the next several days; you’ll be able to find all the recaps here. We’ll be ranking all of the episodes, updating the list as our recaps go live. (Fair warning, spoilers lie ahead.)

So with that in mind, here’s my continually updating, completely subjective episode ranking. (Update: Now through episode 13.)

1. A Tittin’ and a Hairin’: Based off the strength of Pennsatucky’s flashback, “Hairin'” ranks supremely high for me this season in its offering of the darkest episode yet, but coupled with the double bathroom showdown and the return of Pornstache, and the episode ranks as not just one of the season’s most frightening, but also its best.

2. Trust No Bitch: Ask me a few weeks from now and my answer might be completely different, but the finale was such a fantastic culmination of not just the season but the series as a whole. From its extended lakeside ending to so many individually great moments, there’s something for everyone in the finale. 

3.Where My Dreidel At: Whether it’s the hilarious rabbi meeting montage, Red’s frequent apologies for the terrible food, or Leanne’s surprising flashbacks, “Dreidel” is one of Orange‘s best comedic and dramatic mixes this season. 

4. We Can Be Heroes: I never thought I’d grow to love Caputo, but “Heroes” made me such a fan with its expertly executed flashback and parallel to the prison. Coupled with the powerful scenes with Boo and Pennsatucky and the end of season 3 continued to drive the year home on a high note.

5. Finger in the Dyke: An incredible showpiece for Lea DeLaria, “Finger in the Dyke” sheds some dramatic light on a mostly comedic character with tremendous success. And Caputo’s disastrous tour of Litchfield with MCC is a fantastic running gag.

6. Mother’s Day: The season premiere sets the stage for a lighter but still dramatic season, presenting both the horrors and delights of Mother’s Day at Litchfield. Throw in a series of great one-off flashbacks and engaging pairings (Boo and Pennsatucky bonding, Alex and Piper reuniting), and season 3 got off to a great start. 

7Ching Chong Chang: Chang is just such an unexpected choice for a flashback that the episode deserves recognition for doing what Orange does best—fleshing out seemingly one-dimensional characters. But the episode also continues the intriguing Red/Healy dynamic, brings in Stella and Lolly, and offers a host of other great, smaller moments.

8Tongue-Tied: Norma’s flashback is another surprising look into a character we thought we knew well. It’s a fantastic centerpiece to an episode that also does great work furthering the rest of Litchfield’s varying plots at the seasons midpoint. Caputo’s problems with MCC, Piper’s panty-selling business, and Cindy studying up on Jewish culture through searching for Seinfeld and Woody Allen are all great moments.

9Fear, and Other SmellsNot knowing what’s yet to come, the surprise that Lolly is tracking Alex is a big shock to a set of flashbacks that work but aren’t eye-opening in the way the season’s best have been. The best moments of “Fear” are those around Alex’s plight, from Taystee and Poussey’s stairwell talk to discovering Suzanne’s erotica is called The Time Hump Chronicles.

10. Don’t Make Me Come Back There: The penultimate episode of the season feels surprisingly slight when sandwiched right between a run of three great episodes and the finale. Still, there’s some great material from Aleida’s flashbacks, Daya’s baby finally being born, and a shocking ending.

11. Bed Bugs and Beyond: Whether or not you’ve loved the Daya/Bennett romance, “Bed Bugs” does some fascinating work exploring Bennett’s side of the relationship, as well as giving us an idea of the man he was while contemplating whether that is who he still is. The Alex/Piper cafeteria talk and the news Caputo learns of Litchfield’s precarious place round out another strong episode.

12. Empathy Is a Boner Killer: “Empathy” is another strong installment, but the flashback didn’t quite land as strongly for me as the higher four episodes. Still, the Nicky story in Litchfield is solid, Healy’s marriage counseling with Red is great, and Healy gave a series-best line reading with this scene.

13Fake It Till You Fake It Some More: The weakest of the initial batch, “Fake It’s” flashback just did very little for me. I didn’t feel like it shed the same amount of light as some of the better flashbacks this season. Red and Healy’s flirtation, Poussey’s squirrel problem, and a few of the other side stories were great, though.

Check back here in the coming days for more recaps and use the comments to debate the series as a whole, your favorite moments, what you loved or could have done with out, and everything Litchfield from season 3.

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