Valentine's Day brings with it an excess of feelings -- particularly for flashback star Poussey

By Hillary Busis
June 06, 2014 at 07:10 AM EDT

What is love?

The ladies of Litchfield have infinite ways of answering that simple question: Love is light! Acceptance! Horrible pain that you want again and again! Sex! This thing you have once with your manager at Long John Silver’s! Take a closer look at the love stories told by this special Valentine’s Day episode, though, and a theme emerges: Each one is really a tale of frustration, depression, and heartbreak. Happy V-Day!!

Nobody at Litchfield may know the truth about love better than Poussey, who’s become an expert in unrequited affection — though it hasn’t always been that way for her. Flashbacks reveal that once upon a time, when she was just a stylish, carefree army brat, young Poussey fell head-over-heels in love with an equally stylish German officer’s daughter named Franziska. And wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, Franziska loved her back. Like, a lot. Episode 6 contains the most graphic sex scenes ever seen on Orange, including one to rival the frenzied sapphic coupling of Blue Is the Warmest Color. Blue may be warmer than Orange, but it’s endlessly amusing to see the series subtly throw shade at that landmark piece of lesbian cinema when Poussey and her girlfriend have to give up on a sex act that just isn’t working out: “I told you scissoring wasn’t a thing.” Haaaa.

Of course, because we can’t have nice things, Poussey and Franziska’s love story concludes in heartbreaking fashion. The German’s father walks in on them making love; shocked and appalled by their relationship, he transfers Poussey and her family back to the States. The flashbacks end without revealing how Poussey ended up in jail — though given the desperation that nearly drives her to draw a gun on her girlfriend’s father, we can gather that weapons and volatile feelings may have played a role.

Present-day Poussey is also suffering, but only partially because of her feelings for Taystee. The rest of her problems start and end with the letter Vee. The aspiring prison empress is moving Taystee away from the library — away from Poussay — and into custodial, for reasons that aren’t immediately apparent. Janae, who’s also been transferred, is less than pleased with her gross new job; even some amazing improvisation, courtesy of Suzanne and a friendly, British accented mop named Moppy, can go only so far toward making her feel better.

The gals perk up, though, when Vee unveils Stage 3 of her master plan: Importing tobacco into the prison via cans of cleaning supplies. (How, exactly, did she get the tobacco-filled cans into Litchfield in the first place? That’s a question for another episode.) It’s a smuggling operation that has the potential to seriously change their status, flipping the prison’s power structure on its head once more — but it’s unclear whether Poussey is going to take part. She and Vee have finally had the confrontation that’s been building since Vee spotted P spooning her protege — and though Poussey puts on a tough front, she’s clearly wounded when Vee sneers that Taystee will never love her the way she wants. Vee, on the other hand, is totally unmoved when P rightfully pegs her as a “f—ing vampire” who takes advantage of lost, scared children and then abandons them without a second thought when the going gets rough. Because she might be an actual vampire.

And so the rift Vee’s been chiseling between Litchfield’s greatest power couple grows ever wider. A few episodes ago, Taystee neglected to save Poussey a seat at movie night; this time, at the prison’s Valentine’s Day party, it’s Poussey who rejects her friend, pushing her away in favor of a cute blonde we haven’t yet met. Flashback Poussey told her German girlfriend that her nomadic upbringing makes it easy for her not to form attachments to people (though her gun-assisted outburst later proved that wasn’t quite as true as Poussey wanted it to be). Now that she’s older and prison-hardened, will she be able to squash her feelings for Taystee? While I hope she does manage to find a reciprocal romance, I can’t be alone in hoping that after the dust settles, Poussey and Taystee manage to remain friends. Piper and Larry’s relationship doesn’t work because she’s the sun (volatile, burning anything that comes too close) and he’s the moon (always reflecting her light); T and P’s does work because at their best they’re like twin celestial bodies, contentedly and equally revolving around each other. And doing hilarious “white people” voices.

NEXT: More tangled love webs

Put simply, nobody is having a good V-Day. Exhibit B: Daya and Bennett, who try to imagine what their holiday might be like if they were a normal couple instead of one that’s literally illicit. The role-playing is fun, until it isn’t: “I don’t want to play the ‘normal’ game anymore, ’cause I don’t know how we ever are going to be normal,” she tells him. (Side note: Be more obvious about your relationship, guys. Geez. They’re practically skywriting about it at this point.)

Even after they manage to sneak away to do what regular pairs do on Valentine’s Day, there’s still plenty of tension in the air. Part of that is thanks to a Valentine that Daya has just received — which she thinks is from Bennett, but was actually sent by Mendez. (Consider this the beginning of season 2’s official Pornstacheocalypse Countdown.) The rest comes courtesy of Daya’s mother, who’s decided to exploit the leverage she has over Bennett… as do Maritza and Flaca, who cheerfully blackmail the guard for high-status contraband including an iPod Shuffle and a camera phone. Oh, and Yoo-hoo, because who doesn’t love Yoo-hoo?

Little do the ladies know that Litchfield’s about to become awash in more contraband than ever before. Not only is Vee starting a tobacco ring — Red is also finally starting to reap the benefits of her new greenhouse project. As it turns out, that grate beneath the floorboards does lead to the outside — but Red isn’t planning to use it to escape. (Breathing a sigh of relief over here; Orange may be heightened, but a “Red on the lam” story seems like it’d be a little too wacky to pull off.) Instead, she’s enlisted her sons to sneak beneath the prison using the tunnel and bring her bags of forbidden stuff — eyeshadow, sunflower seeds, Yoga Jones’s favorite New Age-y tea. As glad as I am to see Red staying put, it’s also incredibly sad to think that she knows she could break out but chooses instead to use a potential escape route as a method to regain her perch inside of prison. Better a big fish in a small pond, I guess.

But even Red can’t manage to have an entirely happy Valentine’s. She tries to buy back Gina Norma, and Nicky’s love and loyalty, but her attempt fails. Thus Red joins a long list of Litchfield folk whose V-days are a total bust. Morello is so despondent about Christopher’s wedding that she’s eating giant serving spoonfuls of mac and cheese straight from the tray; Piper almost reconciles with Larry, only to learn that his opportunism hasn’t dimmed since they’ve been apart; Caputo discovers that even though Fischer’s broken up with her boyfriend, she still doesn’t want to be with him; Pennsatucky’s former friends formally break up with her, tossing the worst insult they can conceive at their former leader (“You’ve been lording over this group like some sort of Hillary Clinton dictator!”); Healy tries to leave a romantic message for the woman who doesn’t love him, gets cut off, and returns to chauffeuring a party for a bunch of women who also don’t love him.

It’d all be too much sad trombone music if there weren’t also a few bright spots to be found — generally of pairs bonding because of their mutual loneliness. (Which is sad in and of itself, but eh, you take what you can get sometimes.)

For example: Depressed, drunk-on-bearded-lady-hooch Flaca and Maritza share a few kisses, then dissolve into uncontrollable giggles. (Hey, so some platonic friends are really platonic friends!) Boo and Nicky decide their sex contest is gross and happily end it with a tie. Pennsatucky and Healy share a heart-shaped cookie and a surprisingly robust hug. Then there’s Suzanne, who may be uniquely qualified to comfort Morello: There’s a secret about loving people who aren’t smart enough to be loved back, she says. “They don’t deserve it.” Morello’s touched; they embrace. It’d be a perfectly sweet moment… if not for Suzanne stealing a whiff of Lorna’s hair. Could a new obsession be brewing already?

The Commissary

– Some really on-point music choices in this episode; “Hey There Delilah” is guaranteed to inspire a rush of angsty feelings in anyone of a certain age.

– Important progress report: Probably thanks to Vee, everyone has finally started calling Suzanne “Suzanne” instead of Crazy Eyes.

– And also, just in case you were wondering, Suzanne is her own Valentine this year. But if you’re lucky, maybe she’ll choose you in 2015.

– Piper: “When you get out of here, who do you imagine yourself going home to?” Nicky: “Fiona Apple in the ‘Criminal’ video.”

– Was anyone else having subtitle issues while watching this episode? The translations seemed to appear too quickly; I kept reading them before the characters onscreen had actually uttered the lines being translated.

– That crazy Ferris Bueller thing Brook brings up? It’s called the Ferris Bueller Fight Club theory, and it actually might make the movie better.

– Red, doting mother: “I’m sorry she left you, Vasily, but I’m sure you did something to deserve it.”

– Today in Larry: Larry has decided to steal Reporter Andrew’s idea for a story about corruption at Litchfield. Not to be outdone, Piper has also decided that she’d like to write an article about that same topic — only she’ll be conducting her research under the guise of starting a prison newsletter.

– Dear Netflix: Please consider an OITNB spinoff in which Crazy Jimmy just keeps wandering into incongruous places. You could call it “Jimmy’s Day Out!” I’d watch the crap out of that.

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.
  • TV Show
  • 6
  • TV-MA
run date
  • 07/11/13
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