Orange Is the New Black recap: Morello's flashback
Turns out there's more to Lorna Morello than lipstick and wedding magazines
We begin episode 4 with a shot of present-day Lorna Morello shortly after waking up, her hair twirled around improvised toilet paper curlers, her face stripped bare of her usual makeup mask. She looks unrecognizable and heartbreakingly vulnerable — appropriate, considering what we’ll soon learn about what she’s been hiding.
Who could have guessed that sweet, friendly, hopelessly romantic Lorna would turn out to be one of the most dangerous and unhinged women within Litchfield’s walls? Her flashbacks are a bait-and-switch masterpiece — at first, we’re led to believe that she, like Sophia, is a relatively harmless fraudster who landed in prison thanks to some unsavory credit card dealings. (That said, the reasons these two have for committing their respective crimes are pretty different: Sophia needed to fund her transition from man to woman. Lorna just wanted to get pretty clothes and shoes without having to pay for them.) Along the way, Morello meets Christopher, a slightly nerdy dude who looks a little bit like the men Lorna’s been tearing out of teen magazines and pasting onto her walls — and instantly, she falls head-over-heels in love with him. He dotes on her, takes her on surprise trips to the Jersey Shore, compares her to Audrey Hepburn.
It all seems too good to be true… because, uh, it is, as the last flashback scene reveals. Morello might in fact be the inmate most deserving of the nickname “Crazy Eyes”: According to Christopher himself, he and Lorna have gone on precisely one date. It did not go well, so he had no desire to keep seeing her. He expressed those feelings to her, annnnnnnd that’s when Lorna started stalking him. She called him, she texted him, she sent him Facebook messages, she even showed up at his house — and when he still didn’t want to be with Morello, things took an even darker turn.
Turns out that when we saw Lorna primping in preparation for her romantic weekend in Jersey with Christopher, she was actually getting ready to crash his vacation with his actual girlfriend, Angela. It only gets more horrifying as his testimony wears on: Because of Lorna, Christopher has had to change his phone number, email address, and even move. Twice. She threatened to strangle Angela, and she put a bomb under her imagined rival’s car. (Say whaaaat?! Guess someone who can make curlers out of toilet paper is also crafty enough to make a DIY explosive.) This may just be the most disturbing story Orange has told yet, and I’m including that brief bit about Boo’s Peanut Butter Incident.
Before we knew the truth about Morello, her wedding fixation seemed pathetic but innocuous — what’s the harm in a little bit of self-delusion, especially if it’s all that’s keeping you from going nuts in prison? Now that we’ve learned the real story, it may be impossible to ever look at Lorna (or “Almost Paradise”) the same way again, especially considering what her present-day self does in this episode.
Lesson No. 1 for the powers that be at Litchfield: Do not give a car keys and a running motor to an inmate with a history of stalking. And if you ignore that advice, at least try not to leave her and the vehicle unattended. Alas, poor Fischer either doesn’t know about Lorna’s past or is naive enough to trust that she’s seen the error of her ways.
After driving the C.O. and inmate Miss Rosa to the hospital for Rosa’s regular dose of chemo, Morello decides to go on an impromptu joyride to the home Christopher shares with Angela. She breaks in, discovering an array of objects that cruelly remind her of the life she should have had with him: multiple pictures of the happy couple. A seating arrangement chart for their upcoming wedding. A wedding invitation, which Morello pockets. A teddy bear wearing a t-shirt that says “Love Lives Here,” which she takes too. Angela’s wedding dress, probably not bought with bad credit, and her long, princessy veil, which Morello thinks it’d be a great idea to wear while taking a bath in Chris and Ang’s tub.
She leaves the house in the nick of time, right as Christopher returns home, and gets back to the hospital as Fischer and Rosa are exiting oncology. I’d call Morello’s just-miss contrived, if I weren’t so busy being relieved that she didn’t get caught.
Except, wait: Maybe we should be wishing that Lorna had gotten caught! The point, maybe, is that these twin urges — empathy and repulsion — are fighting each other. There’s no such thing as good guys and bad guys on this series. Even the most seemingly irredeemable characters, like Pornstache, inspire some small amount of empathy. But OITNB would be a simpler, less interesting show if it clung to the idea that every inmate is a pure soul who had a really good reason for committing the crimes that led her to lockup. (Incidentally, such whitewashing is why Piper Kerman’s OITNB book is so much less successful than the series on which it’s based.) Some of these crimes, like Sophia’s, are relatively easy to justify. Others, like Morello’s, aren’t — and that’s okay. Forcing us to question our impulse to sympathize with these women is just as important as establishing that they’re more than criminal stereotypes.
NEXT: “All this pee hole business. Like, what the f— else don’t I know?”
Much of the rest of the episode is also concerned with exploring these characters’, uh, hidden depths — particularly in a running plot that has the prisoners learning the finer points of female anatomy. (None of the natural-born women really have a clue what’s going on between their legs; Sophia, who spent her entire life wishing she had a woman’s body to take for granted, is an expert. Figures.) Orange is too smart and prickly to posit prison as a vehicle toward self-discovery — or, as poor idiot Brook puts it, “community and girl power and stuff.” Still, there is some element of that idea at work here—when you’ve got literally nothing but time on your hands, you may as well use some of that time to get acquainted with your own vagina. Or a bunch of other people’s vaginas, if you’re Nicky and Boo. (The two have decided to compete to see who can bang more girls. I know who I’m putting my money on.)
Naturally, not all this depth-plumbing — literal and figurative — has a pleasant outcome. Take Brook, for instance: Even after Piper’s snarling “I’m a lone wolf” monologue, she’s still convinced that Chapman is destined to be her prison bestie. But when she looks beneath the surface of Piper’s nonthreatening whiteness, she finds something ugly: a woman who’d rather pimp Brook out for a blanket than be her friend. Brook has quickly become Litchfield’s most annoying presence, but it’s tough not to feel for her in this moment. (Not to mention the moment when Nicky, who’s had it with Brook’s incessant chattering, ends up sitting on her new lover’s face just to shut the girl up.)
Wait, speaking of feelings: Poussey and Taystee! Poussey and Taystee!! Their easy, warm friendship has long been one of Orange‘s most delightful facets — but in this episode, we learn that there’s been another level to it all along. Specifically: P’s in love with T. T, unfortunately, doesn’t share those feelings.
Suddenly, we can’t see them as the best of platonic pals anymore. There’s a hidden tension there, one that can’t help but taint the purity of their bond. Part of me wishes Poussey could realize that they’re not destined to be together, or at least keep her true feelings to herself; another part of me wishes Taystee had a gay bone in her body, because a romance wouldn’t necessarily ruin their relationship — it’s got potential to make it even stronger. Either way, this situation is primed to cause some serious angst both for the parties involved and for Orange fans… and judging by the look Vee gives the two when she catches the pair cuddling, the dynamic duo’s days of carefree palling may be over soon. Psst, Vee: If you tear these two apart just to shore up your own power, I will end you. (Kidding. Don’t hurt me, please.)
– Red is still adrift, shunned by both the majority of the inmates and her old pal Caputo, who blames her for the drugs that hit Litchfield last season. A sure sign of her declining authority: For the first time in who knows how long, Red has been assigned a bunkmate (Piper). Caputo invites her to kick back and enjoy retirement; instead, she decides to launch a new gardening program with the Golden Girls in Litchfield’s decrepit old greenhouse. One that’s got a tantalizing grate underneath its floorboards. Wait a tick — is Red plotting an escape from prison?
– Another example of hidden depths: The snotty kid who sits next to Rosa in the chemo ward is surprised and sort of delighted to learn that she’s actually a prisoner. And not just any ordinary prisoner — a serial bank robber!
– Vee wants to be Taystee’s surrogate mother, but she’s sounding a lot more like her creepy ex-boyfriend: “[Poussey] doesn’t know you like I do.”
– Not only is Vee breaking up Taystee and Poussey, she’s also trying to turn P’s hooch hobby into a business. That’s gonna end well.
– I can’t be the only person disappointed that the joke Rosa told the teen had nothing to do with penguins and eggplants.
– Litchfield’s movie night entertainment: The Secret to My Success, in which Michael J. Fox gets ahead by pretending to be somebody else. I’ll let you draw the thematic connection yourselves.
– Caputo’s plants have a “mealy bug infestation” — a metaphor for Litchfield’s sorry, deteriorating physical state, or is that too easy?
– The way Morello says “Christofuh” gives me serious Sopranos/Adriana flashbacks.
– Boo’s final assessment of Piper: “You know, she’s right, Chapman. You’re a horrible person.” Agree/disagree? Please have your essays on my desk by 10 a.m. tomorrow.
– Today in Larry: Are Larry and Polly going to have a boring affair? Survey says: Probably!
Orange Is the New Black
Jenji Kohan’s absorbing ensemble dramedy, based on Piper Kerman’s memoir of the same name, takes viewers inside the walls of Litchfield, a minimum security women’s prison where nothing’s as simple as it seems—especially the inmates.