Orange Is the New Black has really been on a roll with the last couple of episodes, and one of my favorite stretches of the show continues with the Caputo-centric “We Can Be Heroes.”
Caputo has been another character on the show I enjoyed watching but never particularly cared for. He was amusing, though more frequently an ass to the inmates of Litchfield I sympathized for more, but “Heroes” changes all of that. Not to say some of Caputo’s less savory personality doesn’t rise to the surface during the episode, but the flashbacks so completely changed my view of Caputo that I couldn’t believe that I was rooting for him by the end of the episode.
The lookback at Caputo’s life begins with Joe in high school, and, surprisingly, he was one of the hotshots in school. Star of the wrestling team, loved by his coach, peers, and girlfriend, Joe’s future is irrevocably altered when he volunteers to wrestle with a special needs student. Little does he know, his competitor packs quite the punch, and seconds into the match Caputo goes down and dislocates his shoulder.
There goes not only states, but his future chance of any success from his sport prowess. Caputo moves on, though—he starts a band, finds a girlfriend whom he loves, but again his plans go off course when he finds out his girlfriend is pregnant. With his bandmate’s baby (the two had a fling when Caputo and she were broken up for a while). And even though the band is about to be the opener for a 10-month tour, Caputo tells her he’s going to leave that all behind, help her raise this baby, their baby.
So a well-groomed Caputo decides to take a job at Litchfield for the benefits, touring the place that would become the center of his universe. He may hate the job, hate aspects of his life, but he’s doing it because he thinks it’s what he has to do to support his new family. Unfortunately, that family is preparing to leave him, as his bandmate and his girlfriend have reignited their romance. She tells Caputo that she loves both of them, but with Hank, it’s different.
Caputo lists off everything he’s done for her, for other people, but she hurls that back right at him. Realization dawns as he understands he’s lived his life doing things for other people because he thought he was supposed to do them, not because he was asked to do them.
It’s an important lesson for Caputo to learn because it’s been the foundation of so many major choices. Right or wrong, he volunteered for that wrestling match, he volunteered to raise the baby that wasn’t his. But he’s usually not outright asked to make those decisions, and, despite good intentions, they’ve brought him to unexpected and difficult places in his life. Now, it’s not to say Caputo is a complete angel, as his fight with his girlfriend (and two seasons of his behavior) tells us he’s not infallible, but here we have such clear indications of Caputo’s good nature, and they don’t feel incongruent with what’s come before.
And it makes his plight in the prison all the more poignant. While contending with the old guards considering unionizing, he has to also deal with an escaped convict. Well, not escaped, per se—it’s more accurate to say the guards let her out. A mix-up in MCC’s new system, combined with the new guards’ unfamiliarity with the inmates leads to Angie being released with the assumption that she’s another inmate with the same last name. She makes it all the way to the bus station, leaving Caputo and Danny in a panic.
Danny makes the wonderful suggestion of the two taking a buddy comedy trip to the Utica train station to find her and bring her back before anyone notices. And despite his better judgment, as Danny intimates Caputo will get all the blame, Caputo goes through with it, though he leaves Danny behind. He makes it all the way to the station only to find Angie sitting there without a destination in mind. She has no one to go to and no place in mind, and with only $40 in her pocket, she’s not about to do anything crazy.
So Caputo offers her a choice—come back with her quietly, she’ll receive a minor punishment and all will be well, or attempt to run, the police become involved, and her prison stay is extended. She chooses the former, missing the security of prison, though she tries to bribe him with a blowjob to let her stay on the outside.
Caputo’s job secure another day, he heads to the bar at the request of his longtime COs. They still want to unionize, and they ask him for any advice on what to do. They’re an absolutely clueless bunch, and Caputo comes prepared with an actual plan, exciting them so much that they ask Caputo to lead them.
NEXT: Caputo hears the people sing while Piper runs into union problems of her own.