As much as we’d love for Lolly’s time machine to actually work, the fact is that it doesn’t. We can’t go back in time, and we can’t come back from this. It’s like the episode title says — toast can never be bread again. It’s past the point of no return.
Is Litchfield toast? It certainly seems that way. The prison was never meant to be warm and fuzzy, but the place we entered in season 1 is definitely not the place we’re leaving in season 4, where Poussey’s heartbreaking death is made even more heartbreaking in how she’s treated afterwards. Her body is left on the floor of the cafeteria as a pair of MCC corporate suits scramble to figure out how to spin what happened. They search her medical records to try and find an underlying health condition (nope). They search her prison records for a history of violent behavior (none). Caputo is told not to call the police, or even Poussey’s father, until they can craft a narrative that excuses MCC from any blame. Piscatella, too, tries to reframe what happened by spinning Poussey as a violent inmate who attacked a guard. “Don’t give them any time to start in with their victims’ rights crap,” he tells Caputo. “Our man was doing his job. This is not about race.”
Through all this, as Poussey is dead and everyone grapples with that loss, we also get to see her very much alive. We get a flashback of her visiting New York City with her friends and, after getting separated from them, having one of those epic, magical nights while trying to find them again. A pair of drag queens take her dancing after she asks to borrow one of their phones. She hitches a ride with a troupe of bicycle-riding monks who turn out to be part of an Improv Everywhere stunt. At one point, she even crosses paths with Bayley on the street, neither knowing their fates will soon collide in such a tragic way.
It makes the present-day timeline feel that much more cruel. Her friends sit shiva in the yard. Soso drinks to numb her pain, and Suzanne tries to understand Poussey’s suffering by weighing herself down with books and then an entire library bookshelf (the latter move sends her to medical, where she’s placed next to Kukudio, her face still beaten and bruised from their fight). Judy King packs her stuff to be released; her paperwork backdated — hello, celebrity treatment! — so she’s not tied to the previous night’s events. Red gathers her girls by the garden, reads to them from a book Poussey gave her, and gives them tasks to keep them busy and away from the riot she knows is looming. And Alex admits she’s been hiding notes around the prison with Aydin’s name, so his body can be identified. “He was a person,” she tells Piper. “No one should die without a name.”
Taystee, grieving but wanting to keep busy, goes into work at Caputo’s office. He asks her what she saw in the cafeteria that night. She cuts right to the heart of it: “What are you asking me, if she deserved to die?!” Poussey wasn’t aggressive, and she didn’t have a knife, she adds, but even if she did that doesn’t justify her murder.
That doesn’t stop Caputo from giving a statement to the press where he doesn’t paint Bayley as a monster like MCC wanted him to, but still essentially defends him (he’ll be temporarily suspended but can return to work) and doesn’t ever mention Poussey by name, thereby erasing her from the story. The other women are on lockdown in their dorms, but the outside world sees it on the news — Aleida on her couch, Healy in his mental health facility — and Taystee overhears while listening from the desk area she used as Caputo’s administrative assistant. Furious, she sets back to her dorm to call for action and the other dorms follow suit, each group arming themselves and pouring out into the halls ready to riot.
Piper and Alex get caught in it while burning the notes with Kubra’s name, and the same with Judy King just as she’s about to get out for good. CO Humphrey pulls the gun he illegally snuck into the prison but Maritza pushes him and it slides across the floor, ending up in Daya’s hands. She aims at his head, everyone yells as the camera spins around her, but we don’t see if she pulls the trigger. Instead, we end with a final look at Poussey on that night in New York City, smiling directly at the camera — youthful, happy, and full of life.