“Empathy Is a Boner Killer” feels very of a piece with its predecessor. If “Bed Bugs and Beyond” concerned the Litchfield employee’s desire for control over any meager portion of their lives, “Empathy” is about the spiral one can face when that control is taken away.
And there’s no better case of a life off the rails in Litchfield than Nicky. Late in the episode, she calls herself a “bloodhound for oblivion,” she and it seemingly intertwined since way before her time in Litchfield. Nicky and her drug-addled friends are living life looking for the next fix, but unlike the rest of her circle, she has a wealthy mother willing to bail her out of trouble.
So she steals a taxi, crashes it (native New Yorkers don’t need to drive, after all), but is freed from prison while her other friends are locked up. Her mother, who we were last shown to be distant, may not be Mother of the Year, as her behavior may somewhat enables Nicky’s darker tendencies. But she’s doing what she believes is right to save her daughter.
Nicky isn’t faring much better in Litchfield. Her conspiracy to sell the stash of heroin goes awry when she tells Luschek the stuff has gone missing. Really, though, her junkie habits have gotten the better of her, and she’s stashing the heroin in the very lights she’s supposed to be fixing. She later fesses up to Luschek when Angie and Leanne stumble upon the poorly hidden drugs and indulge in the stuff.
The situation gets away from her, though her surprisingly trusty partner Luschek (oh who am I kidding? He just wants the money) confiscates the drugs and promises to sell them off. Word of the drugs gets around to Caputo and the other guards, though, and just when Nicky thinks she’s locked her latest scheme into place, Caputo and the guards raid Luschek’s shop, where he places the entire blame of the discovered contriband on Nicky. Caputo, not wanting to rock the boat, sentences Nicky to Max (finding a new electrician involves too much paperwork, I’m assuming).
Nicky’s life is out of her control—it’s slipping away from her both by her and others’ doing. But things aren’t looking so dour for the rest of Litchfield’s inmates, even if they don’t quite have control of their futures either.
Alex and Piper are still angry—and still having angry sex—but solving their relationship issues is a problem that lies outside their grasps. Instead, it takes the new counselor Rogers, who holds a surprisingly packed drama class. It’s initially about as painful experience as you’d expect, with the inmates showing off as much acting prowess as a group of middle schoolers trying out for their first play.
Thankfully, Alex and Piper only have to put in the bare minimum of fruit innuendos before diving into the scene and hashing out their feelings with one another. Their true anger, love, frustration, and care all bubbles up to the surface, and while it’s likely not repeatable for whatever rendition of Romeo and Juliet or West Side Story Rogers has planned, it’s good enough to allow the two to put aside the horrible things they’ve done to each other. For now.
NEXT: Couples counseling with Red.