Given what happens at the end of “40 OZ of Furlough,” I’m suddenly feeling sort of weird about all the times I’ve called OITNB addictive. But… holy crap, you guys. How are you even reading this right now, instead of tearing into episode 10? How am I even writing this right now, knowing that season 2’s endgame has officially begun?
Interestingly enough, that endgame comes in an episode with several parallels to the ninth episode of Orange‘s first season. Like that hour, this one finds Piper having a watershed moment of self discovery, one that will leave her forever altered; on a more practical level, like that hour, this one also hinges on drugs finding their way into Litchfield. Considering Tricia’s fate in the episode immediately following “F—sgiving” — “Bora Bora Bora” — it’s reasonable to feel a little worried about what’s going to happen to Nicky in episode 10 of season 2…at least, if the mirroring continues.
Another similarity: In both episodes, Larry actually has more to do than serve as a distraction. Sorta, anyway. He and Piper get some actual face time when she finally heads home on that furlough we’ve heard so much about. At first, it seems like her brief sojourn from prison could be just the thing to mend their broken relationship — but during a tryst in the bathroom the day before her grandmother’s funeral (classy, guys), it becomes apparent to both that things are really, truly, definitively over. (Does… does this mean no more Larry scenes? A girl can dream, right?)
Ostensibly, Piper and Larry are breaking up because they’ve both been unfaithful. In reality, though, the severance comes because of the way prison has fundamentally changed Piper, making her harder and bolder and less self-absorbed. She’s no longer the woman Larry fell in love with — a necessary transition, since I think we can all agree that two seasons of Pilot Piper would have been grounds for divorce from OITNB — but she’s also not sure, entirely, who she’s become, or what will become of her after her sentence ends.
Larry, to his credit, understands that a transformation has happened, even if he doesn’t totally get what Piper’s turned into — which is more than we can say for Piper’s family, who seem determined to keep her in the same box she’s always occupied. “You’re my little girl,” her father says to her, trying to explain why he hasn’t come to visit Litchfield. “That woman in there — that’s not who you are.” A couple at Grandma Celeste’s funeral-cum-wedding (more on that later) echo his sentiment after noting what a brilliant young achiever Piper used to be: “I’m sure you’re anxious to turn back into your old self.” Old Piper probably would have smiled, said something gracious, then headed to The Spotted Pig for an overpriced burger and a fancy cocktail; New Piper gently disagrees with them, then heads to a bridge to drink malt liquor from a paper bag and eat a burger from Storky’s (a.k.a. Taystee’s old employer). She’s caught between New York City boroughs, between incarceration and freedom, between whatever she was and whatever she’s going to be — but for now, at least, all that uncertainty doesn’t seem to be freaking her out.
Piper’s not the only one stuck in a struggle between the past and the future. Litchfield itself is in a similar conundrum — Vee’s still establishing a new world order, while Red is plotting gradually to restore the status quo. Except, as we discover in tonight’s flashbacks, Vee’s actually trying to reconstruct the system that was in place years ago, when a long-haired Red first arrived in prison. The fierce Russian bear of 2000s-era Litchfield was once a shivering, terrified prison newbie without so much as a toothbrush to her name. She arrives in lockup just as Vee’s returning for another spin in jail; it’s unclear how many times she’s been behind bars before, but this certainly isn’t her first time at the rodeo. Red is visibly relieved when strong, savvy Vee (and her GAAP, or “grown-ass-adult pigtails”) take the Russian under her wing, offering kindness and toothpaste in equal measure. When Red lets slip that she used to work with prison produce vendor Neptune on the outside, Vee also casually suggests that Red consider exploiting her connection on the inside.
Cue Admiral Ackbar: “It’s a trap!!” With Vee’s encouragement, Red slowly builds her contraband business, working her way toward becoming the queenpin we met in Orange season 1. There’s just one problem: Vee, naturally, who watches the operation grow and grow until it’s big enough that she, too, can take a cut. (In the last flashback scene, you can tell she’s decided to stop playing nice because Vee removes the GAAP, letting her hair rise around her like a glorious, intimidating cloud.) And Vee’s not just going to get hers by frightening Red into submission — when the Russian, still smarting from Vee’s betrayal, protests, Vee sics her enforcement gang on Red. It’s a beatdown violent enough to rival Piper and Pennsatucky’s bloody brawl — and as it happens, we finally understand why Red hates Vee with the fire of a thousand piping hot piroshki.
NEXT: One betrayal! Two betrayal! Three betrayals! Four!