The flashback choices this season have been surprising, but many of them have done incredible work at rounding out characters that have been relatively one note. That’s not necessarily a dig at those characters—Boo, Nicky, and others worked as originally presented, but Orange has the incredible capability to turn the most ancillary characters into stars. Even with an entirely out of left field pick like Chang, “Ching Chong Chang” transforms a character normally used for punchlines and transforms her into this tragically misunderstood character.
“Ching Chong Chang” begins to add color to what has essentially been a blank slate the past two seasons, as we discover Chang at another low point in her life. Her brother is trying to sell her off as a bride to pay off debts, but none of the potential suitors accept her. To them she’s ugly, and as the matchmaker points out, she’s not exactly making up for it with charm.
But she has one trait she puts to good use—she’s invisible. And she uses that invisibility to help her brother during a business deal. He’s selling less than legal goods, but his supplier can’t deliver them because they’re in a locked warehouse. With the help of Chang as a ghost, she’s able to help the supplier get the goods.
At one of the deals, she discovers that her brother’s supplier has been given ping pong balls rather than the actual supply of turtle eggs. When he confronts the other men, they begin beating him up. Chang is not to be messed with, and kicks a surprising amount of ass and saves the supplier. She’s able to turn her one night of success into a prolonged position.
As a thank you, the supplier says he will do anything for her. And what she wants is the man who rejected Chang at the episode’s onset. And here comes the moral dilemma—he tells Chang she can kill him, but she’ll still never be pretty. And she may be right, she can’t be something she’s not, but she still has the supplier and other “business partners” take out the man’s gall bladder.
Driven to being something she wasn’t, Chang eventually landed in prison, where she still found no place to quite fit in. “Ching Chong Chang: shows us with a day in the life of Chang. She continues to be invisible here, slipping food out of the cafeteria to make her own concoctions, sneaking off to the shed (did she ever see Daya and Bennett together!?) to watch soap operas.
Even still, she’s made a life for herself in the cracks of Litchfield, but she still suffers for her… let’s call them personality quirks. Being invisible also means no one minds mocking her while she’s standing right in front of her, as Alex does when Chang brushes her teeth by pouring a box of salt on her brush. (Which, to be fair, is odd. Definitely odd.) But Chang isn’t doing anyone harm, anymore, and clearly has plenty of emotional strife to work through. She writes a version of the scene from when she encountered that man for drama class. Unfortunately, Suzanne is the only one who likes it. (Now that’s a pairing I need to see more often.)
Chang is just trying to live her life, as weird and strange as it may be to everyone else, whether anyone in Litchfield notices or not. But while Chang seems to operate in the shadows, Litchfield’s other dramas continue to take center stage. The new job making lingerie for MCC has its fans (Watson and Cindy) and its critics (Piper), but it does offer one major shift for the show—a new inmate. Stella, played by Ruby Rose, comes into Piper’s life with a mixture of attraction and tension. The two butt heads on philosophy of entitlement for the better looking women of the world but they also commiserate over their damned spot in the prison system. Looks like if Alex and Piper need another reason to second guess their relationship, Stella may very well be willing to be that reason.
NEXT: Red makes another play for the kitchen, and a surprising old face returns. [pagebreak]
The Red and Healy drama also continues, with Red coming in for a second round of manipulation. She wants that kitchen, and even if Healy is downtrodden about not having his feelings considered, Red expertly convinces him that she was only doing what she had to. She squeezes the sympathy out of him until he comes to see her point of view, and he decides to ask Caputo about transferring her back to the kitchen.
Caputo is embroiled in his own issues, having to hire new staff. Officers O’Neill and Bell are out for breakfast (do not give O’Neill a red velvet donut) when they discover an ad looking for new guards at Litchfield. With their hours and benefits cut, the staff demands Caputo do something, along with admitting he loves them, which unsurprisingly proves difficult for the man.
But he does want to do right by them, even if only to get them off his case, so he thinks taking on the hiring process himself will make things run more smoothly. He’ll play the part of a pawn to MCC and then try to prove to them that the old staff is worthy of more. But the large number of applicants enrages O’Neill and the other guards, ensuring whatever Caputo does, he’s damned.
All this commotion lowers his guard, and Healy is actually able to have Red transferred, in an episode-ending moment that gave me chills. Kate Mulgrew excels at playing an empowered Red, and her “I’m Back” set to “Rebel Girl” by Bikini Kill was an excellent way to bring things to a close, for now.
- The cooking show host Poussey loves, Judy King, is on her way to jail, and Poussey is praying—yes, she’s actually praying—that King will end up in Litchfield. (In Piper Kerman’s source material memoir, she talked about how it seemed that Martha Stewart would end up in Danbury, the real life prison Litchfield is based on, but then Stewart was sent to West Virginia—so Poussey may be out of luck.)
- Speaking of Poussey, she has a conversation with Taystee that touches on a bit of their story line from last year. She’s still depressed, even after finding out what Taystee was doing, but the real source of her trauma reveals itself. She wants a girlfriend—she wants love to help her get through prison. I hope the show doesn’t retread the territory it covered last year, but exploring Poussey’s pain with Taystee at her side could still be fascinating.
- Poussey isn’t the only one in pain. Lorna continues to mourn the loss of Nicky to Max, writing to a host of male pen pals. She puts on a front with each one so they’ll start giving her some cash for commissary, but in one of her meetings, she reveals the underlying reason she’s reached out to so many people. Like Poussey, she doesn’t feel whole. She’s missing someone she cared for so much, and without Nicky, Lorna has been lost for a while.
- Another new inmate Lolly, played by Lori Petty, has appeared on the scene. But she’s not entirely new—she appeared in the season 2 premiere, and while she hasn’t run into Piper yet, I’m excited for that reunion. In the meantime, she’s making waves in the cafeteria by asking for kosher meals out of respect to her religious practices (she’s from Norway and a Lutheran, but people aren’t allowed to ask about religion).
- Caputo may think he’s in charge, but Danny seems to be playing him easily, only making Caputo think he’s getting away with more power and responsibility.
- Have we seen the start of another friendship (or rivalry)? Gloria and Sophia discuss the possibility of Sophia’s wife bringing Gloria’s son up for visitation since they live so close. Sophia promises to check, but Gloria is so determined to have her son visit, she may only want to accept one answer.