Season 3 continues its streak of surprising but fascinating flashbacks with a look back at the life of Leanne before her time in Litchfield. Leanne was always a character who I thought I understood about as well as I ever would, but “Where my Dreidel At,” flipped that expectation around on me yet again, offering the character a depth I’m so happy to have witnessed.
Leanne’s life before her time in Litchfield was quite different. For one, she was Amish. And though she had left the life (whether on an extended Rumspringa or simply had run away), she becomes sick of the lifestyle. All the drugs, partying, and general aimlessnes has caused Leanne to become disenchanted with life outside of her Amish community. So she stashes a bag of drugs and her other paraphernalia and returns to her home.
She’s accepted back, and even allowed to go through the baptismal service, telling her community that while those on the outside might think they are the free ones, it is really those who stay and become part of the community that are free.
Unfortunately, her freedom is at risk because of that bag she stashed away in the crops. It happened to have her ID in it, and after being discovered by the cops, she has one choice to make—either work with the police to help catch her drug-dealing friends or go to jail.
She chooses the former, as difficult as it may be to accomplish, but in doing so, she becomes a pariah in her Amish community. (It’s difficult to blame them when she put all their kids behind bars.) Sadly, the isolation extends beyond her to her parents, whose livelihoods are threatened by her actions. In the end, Leanne chooses to leave—if the community won’t have her, she’ll make sure, at the very least, her presence isn’t hurting anyone else.
This ordeal left her with some loss of self-worth. Late in the episode, she tells Norma that sometimes the kindest thing to do is to let someone go, that the unity of the group is more important than the feelings of one individual. She’s talking about Soso, who she scared away from Norma’s group after the two came to blows on their newfound spirituality.
But she isn’t just talking about Soso—Leanne is referring to her own past, and in doing so delivers another of the season’s best flashbacks. The parallels to her time at home with her time helping to shepherd Norma’s group forward are simultaneously heartbreaking and exciting, surprising in the way it expands our notion of Leanne. She’s been relegated to a similar role for more than two seasons, but this episode opens up just how we view her in the way Orange’s best flashbacks do.
Leanne’s plight all comes down to a sense of identity, which seems to have solidified as one of season 3’s most prominent themes. Leanne’s Amish community gave her a sense of purpose, which she lost after being thrown out. Now, she’s found purpose again, but, to her, Soso puts it at risk, and she must, at all costs, do what she can to protect it. Their discussion together, which ends in Soso and Chang laughing at Leanne, is a painful climax to the sequence, and will hopefully not be the last we see of Leanne’s expanded characterization.
Searching for that sense of belonging extends beyond Leanne and Soso, though. “Where My Dreidel At” finds its title in another identity-focused narrative, as the rise of kosher meals has made MCC suspicious of just how many inmates at Litchfield are actually Jewish. To validate that concern, Danny brings in a rabbi to test the inmates on just how actually Jewish they are.
Unsurprisingly, the interviews fail miserably. In a hilarious montage, just about everyone is at a loss for how Judaism actually works. Despite all of her studying, even Cindy can only get by with a couple of Annie Hall and Yentl references (as much as she may think, growing up Jewish does not boil down to being nervous, cooking lobsters, and having a thing for girls in suspenders). And sorry, Taystee, but hating shrimp is not the sole qualifier for being Jewish. Just about the only person who passes the test, as we later find out in the cafeteria, is Sister Jane. Turns out the abrahamic religions aren’t too different—until you get to Jesus, as Jane points out.
NEXT: Piper’s business gets complicated.[pagebreak]
And so Jane is the only one who can still order kosher meals, the irony lost on no one at Litchfield, but the food debacle has been the source of an identity crisis for another inmate—Red. She’s despondent, being forced to serve food without an ounce of herself in the preparation. She’s depressed, running from table to table to reiterate that she had nothing to do with this monstrosity of a menu. Her angst leads to a nice moment between her and Gloria, where Gloria tries to relate to her that no one blames her and that she needs to move on.
It’s a much-needed dose of reality, and it’s an impressive moment of honesty from Gloria, who is already dealing with problems of her own. Sophia is angry that their sons continue to hang out, especially after hearing that hers was arrested. She can only assume Gloria’s son was at fault, but after speaking to her own, she finds out that Benny was nowhere near the scene of the crime. She goes to apologize to Gloria, but decides against it after overhearing her and Red talking.
Just about the only person not struggling with her new identity/community/state in Litchfield is Piper, whose panty selling business is booming. Nervous at first, her fears are assuaged when her brother comes to report the good news. Other than a bad review or two, they sold out immediately and have a huge demand for more. Piper may have finally found what to do with herself in prison, and it only took selling some dirty laundry to discover it.
Her new empire is off to a great start, but nothing is easy in Litchfield, and as she tells Stella the good news, a problem arises. Her feelings for Stella, which have popped up throughout “Dreidel,” come to a head when the two discuss the business’ potential to grow. The two make a vague attempt to talk around their obvious attraction, but the two end up kissing so that neither is confused about how the other feels.
Unfortunately, it only confuses everything else, as there’s still Alex to consider.
- Speaking of Alex, she attempts to live harmoniously with Lolly, but quickly her suspicions of the new inmate reignite. Lolly gives extremely, almost comically vague answers about her life before Litchfield. And later on Alex is concerned when she thinks (though doesn’t definitively see) Lolly picks up a giant shard of glass that could spell danger down the road. Concerned for her safety, she takes a Lolly-free moment in the cubes to investigate her bunk, and finds the very notebook that closed out the last episode. So now that Alex knows someone is keeping track of her moves, what’s she going to do next?
- Another relationship in the prison takes a disturbing turn. Coates and Pennsatucky continue to get along, though she teaches him the ways of keeping up appearances so no one becomes suspicious of how close they are. Things take a turn for the disgusting, though, when they go for another day at the pond. While feeding the ducks, Coates begins to feed her, making her act like a dog. She plays along happily until he becomes angry at her and makes her crawl through the mud and retrieve a piece of donut with her teeth. After that he attempts to force himself on her and starts making out with her, pushing her up against a tree. She doesn’t reciprocate, and thankfully, he stops for the time being.
- Suzanne’s star continues to rise in the prison as she garners more and more fans for the Time Hump Chronicles. But the fandom grows to a dangerous size, as they begin to try to take ownership over her creation. And something tells me the page she crumpled up that a fan of her work picks up is only a sign of trouble to come.
- Caputo thought all was well with MCC, but as he revealed in the episode’s onset, he’s become so frustrated with them that he practically misses Fig.