Following the wider scope of the season premiere, episode 2 does what Orange Is the New Black does best — offers an in-depth and emotional look into the life of a woman we’ve spent so long with but never really knew well. This time, it’s Maria Ruiz. Until now, the most we’ve seen of Maria is when she had her baby in Litchfield in season 1, and when the newborn was taken from her to live with her taciturn boyfriend Yadriel, she dealt with the depressing heartbreak of being away from her child.
But before we get to Maria, let’s hit all of the new conflicts that the beginning of this episode sets up. Daya is upset that her newborn daughter will be raised in the foster care system following the news that her mother’s boyfriend was arrested during a drug bust. Aleida assures her daughter that her boyfriend (Cesar) will get off and return to taking care of the girl.
Elsewhere, the new bunking arrangements are causing trouble for Red, Piper, and Black Cindy. Red’s new bunkmate has a snoring problem that keeps her up all night, and Piper still can’t seem to intimidate her Hawaiian bunkmate. But the most heated of these bunking conflicts involves Black Cindy and her new roomie, a Muslim woman. The two bicker over space before religion comes into the argument. When Cindy, who goes by Tova following her conversion to Judaism in the season 3 finale, tells her bunkmate her name, she responds “You ain’t no Jew,” eliciting Tova to fire back “Like you was born in Karachi.”
The overcrowding concerns drive Caputo to call a prison-wide meeting to try and smooth things over with the inmates. Unfortunately for him, his solutions of Porta Potties, earplugs, and breathing exercises are not well received. Another thing that will likely not be well received by the inmates is his promotion of the super strict C.O Piscatella to captain of the guards. During the meeting, Sister Ingalls shouts out “Where is Sophia Burset!?,” a question which Caputo nervously avoids. (As a reminder, Sophia was last seen being placed in SHU “for her own protection” after being attacked by fellow inmates last season.)
But there is one person who is happy about the overcrowding: Blanca. Most of the new inmates are Dominican, which prompts Blanca to turn to Maria (who is also Dominican) and say, “We’re the majority now.” This leads into a flashback of Maria’s childhood — we see an angry, machete-wielding Dominican man riling up a group of impassioned listeners into a drug war with the Mexicans. But then the tone dramatically shifts from aggressive war-mongering to jubilee as the man lifts up his young daughter (Maria) to celebrate her birthday.
Soon after the prison-wide meeting, Blanca stirs up even more memories for Maria in the TV room. Blanca and her new Dominican posse take over the television to watch a game of soccer to the annoyance of the two white inmates also in the room, who beg to watch a show about hotels instead. After Blanca intimidates the two white women out of the room, Maria implores her friend to be less aggressive. She remembers a day that she returned home from school with one of her friends, and her father openly flirts with the young friend. Embarrassed and upset, Maria vents to her friend that she can’t stand her father’s prideful, do-nothing lifestyle.
Young Maria then looks out the window to find the police chasing down a Mexican drug dealer that hangs out near her school. Noticing that he threw his drugs in the bushes before being arrested, Maria runs down and pockets them. Later on, Maria finds the drug dealer (who turns out to be Yadriel, the future father of her child) at a boxing gym and gives him back the drugs, also starting a romance with him as they each open up about their dreams.
NEXT: The rise and fall of power[pagebreak]
Back in the present, Piper’s romantic fantasy about being the Don Corleone of Litchfield comes crashing down when Red hits her with a reality check, reminding her that the downside of having power is that people will come gunning for her. At another cafeteria table, Pennsatucky and Big Boo are analyzing Maritza for any outward signs that C.O. Coates has sexually assaulted her in the same way he had Pennsatucky, but they can’t find any reason to believe that he has. Finally, we also learn that Gloria has called her son and had him inform Sophia’s wife, Crystal, of her partner’s current status in the SHU, but when Crystal confronts Caputo about this, he brushes her off.
Before we get back to Maria, this episode’s protagonist, we should hit the other story lines that are being set up to become focal points of later episodes. Yoga Jones is assigned to be Judy King’s new bunkmate in her spacious, suite-like private room, but the striking contrast of her living privileges compared to the rest of the overcrowded sleeping quarters doesn’t sit well with Yoga Jones. We also see Caputo at a board meeting, in which every board member is completely laser-focused on saving as much money as possible. The only way Caputo can get the board to allow him more C.O.s to keep up with the influx of new inmates is by hiring military veterans for the government tax breaks. And to keep herself in power at the prison, Piper hires her Hawaiian roommate to be her “secret service agent”; elsewhere Poussey flirtingly promises Soso that she’ll protect her as well, and after Daya finds her mother weeping in bed at the news that Cesar is going away for a long time and thus won’t be able to take care of her granddaughter, she promises to be there for Aleida, too.
Finally, the drama of the episode comes to a head in the stairwell, when Blanca comes face to face with the two white women that she had spurned in the TV room. The women push her down the stairs just as Maria walks in, but she does nothing to help. When a couple of other Dominican inmates rush in to help Blanca and chase after her attackers, Maria stops them and promises she has a better way to get back at them, which turns out to be an ambush kidnapping and beat-up session in a hallway closet.
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In a flashback, we see why Maria has been so opposed to joining up with the rest of the Dominican inmates. She is shown fighting with her father, who is irate after finding out she is dating a Mexican man. Maria fires back that his hatred of Mexicans is unwarranted since his Dominican drug ring is no different than the rival Mexican drug ring. She caps it off with the most hurtful thing she can say to her passionately patriotic father: “If this is what it means to be Dominican, then I ain’t gonna be Dominican no more.” He kicks her out of the house, and she walks over to Yadriel to start her life with him.
Although she rejected the label in the past, Maria has come around to accepting being a Dominican yet again at the end of the episode. She walks over to Blanca and the other Dominican inmates playing dominoes; she sits across from Blanca and says to her “Let’s see how we do together.” It looks like there’s a new power clique at Litchfield, and since we saw Maria threatening Piper in the season 4 trailer, Chapman’s self-assured head honcho status may not hold up for long.