Caputo's past comes to light and relationships in Litchfield are challenged in surprising ways in another fantastic season 3 episode.
Credit: Netflix

Orange Is the New Black has really been on a roll with the last couple of episodes, and one of my favorite stretches of the show continues with the Caputo-centric “We Can Be Heroes.”

Caputo has been another character on the show I enjoyed watching but never particularly cared for. He was amusing, though more frequently an ass to the inmates of Litchfield I sympathized for more, but “Heroes” changes all of that. Not to say some of Caputo’s less savory personality doesn’t rise to the surface during the episode, but the flashbacks so completely changed my view of Caputo that I couldn’t believe that I was rooting for him by the end of the episode.

The lookback at Caputo’s life begins with Joe in high school, and, surprisingly, he was one of the hotshots in school. Star of the wrestling team, loved by his coach, peers, and girlfriend, Joe’s future is irrevocably altered when he volunteers to wrestle with a special needs student. Little does he know, his competitor packs quite the punch, and seconds into the match Caputo goes down and dislocates his shoulder.

There goes not only states, but his future chance of any success from his sport prowess. Caputo moves on, though—he starts a band, finds a girlfriend whom he loves, but again his plans go off course when he finds out his girlfriend is pregnant. With his bandmate’s baby (the two had a fling when Caputo and she were broken up for a while). And even though the band is about to be the opener for a 10-month tour, Caputo tells her he’s going to leave that all behind, help her raise this baby, their baby.

So a well-groomed Caputo decides to take a job at Litchfield for the benefits, touring the place that would become the center of his universe. He may hate the job, hate aspects of his life, but he’s doing it because he thinks it’s what he has to do to support his new family. Unfortunately, that family is preparing to leave him, as his bandmate and his girlfriend have reignited their romance. She tells Caputo that she loves both of them, but with Hank, it’s different.

Caputo lists off everything he’s done for her, for other people, but she hurls that back right at him. Realization dawns as he understands he’s lived his life doing things for other people because he thought he was supposed to do them, not because he was asked to do them.

It’s an important lesson for Caputo to learn because it’s been the foundation of so many major choices. Right or wrong, he volunteered for that wrestling match, he volunteered to raise the baby that wasn’t his. But he’s usually not outright asked to make those decisions, and, despite good intentions, they’ve brought him to unexpected and difficult places in his life. Now, it’s not to say Caputo is a complete angel, as his fight with his girlfriend (and two seasons of his behavior) tells us he’s not infallible, but here we have such clear indications of Caputo’s good nature, and they don’t feel incongruent with what’s come before.

And it makes his plight in the prison all the more poignant. While contending with the old guards considering unionizing, he has to also deal with an escaped convict. Well, not escaped, per se—it’s more accurate to say the guards let her out. A mix-up in MCC’s new system, combined with the new guards’ unfamiliarity with the inmates leads to Angie being released with the assumption that she’s another inmate with the same last name. She makes it all the way to the bus station, leaving Caputo and Danny in a panic.

Danny makes the wonderful suggestion of the two taking a buddy comedy trip to the Utica train station to find her and bring her back before anyone notices. And despite his better judgment, as Danny intimates Caputo will get all the blame, Caputo goes through with it, though he leaves Danny behind. He makes it all the way to the station only to find Angie sitting there without a destination in mind. She has no one to go to and no place in mind, and with only $40 in her pocket, she’s not about to do anything crazy.

So Caputo offers her a choice—come back with her quietly, she’ll receive a minor punishment and all will be well, or attempt to run, the police become involved, and her prison stay is extended. She chooses the former, missing the security of prison, though she tries to bribe him with a blowjob to let her stay on the outside.

Caputo’s job secure another day, he heads to the bar at the request of his longtime COs. They still want to unionize, and they ask him for any advice on what to do. They’re an absolutely clueless bunch, and Caputo comes prepared with an actual plan, exciting them so much that they ask Caputo to lead them.

NEXT: Caputo hears the people sing while Piper runs into union problems of her own.

He accepts, but the moment is made all the more important because of the flashbacks. Here, finally, Caputo is being asked to do something for others, not simply do it because he thinks it’s the right thing to do. It’s a change of pace for his life, and one that suits him, as he accepts to cheers and a surprising rendition of “Do You Hear the People Sing” from Les Miserables. And as Caputo glows in the praise of his guards, it’s impossible not to feel elated for a man that has gone from a hardass, pervy boss to a surprisingly sympathetic leader.

And the guards aren’t the only ones unionizing. The inmates Piper has brought in to her criminal underwear enterprise have learned how much she’s gaining from the whole ordeal—and the ridiculously small fraction of the financial gain that is trickling down to them.

Faced with rebellion, Piper goes in search of a criminal mastermind, and though she’s not her first choice, she partners with Red for some advice. For a cut of the profits, Red helps her set up a scheme to pay her workers and send funds straight to their commissary accounts, though it requires a cell phone. Piper goes on an Easter egg-filled search through the prison until she finds a phone like the one she previously discovered in the bathroom.

Her workers agree to her new terms, but she fires Marisol, who instigated the short-lived strike. Alex is fed up with Piper’s behavior, as she embroils herself in more criminal activity. Piper tries to tell Alex that she’s been equally acting out of character, but Alex doesn’t want to hear it. She’s out of the business, and of their relationship.

But one relationship, more accurately a friendship, that has been working amazingly well this season is the bond that’s grown between Pennsatucky and Boo. From their discussion in Mother’s Day to what transpires in “Heroes,” their surprising friendship has been one of the highlights of the season. And it all comes to mean even more when Boo reacts to discussing that Coates forced himself on Pennsatucky.

She so immediately shows compassion and a desire to help her friend, who is, at least outwardly, refusing to acknowledge the truth of what happened. Boo realizes that no matter what she says, Pennsatucky isn’t telling her the full story of what happened, so she uses what Boo knows best—a shock factor. She returns to Pennsatucky later, asking her for sex in exchange for snacks. If she’s willing to be bought by Coates’ trinkets, she should be up for doing the same for Boo.

Her newfound friend hammers this point home until Pennsatucky breaks and says she wants Coates to stop his horrible, disgusting treatment of her. It’s another tough few moments for Pennsatucky, but these two scenes are played fantastically by both Taryn Manning and Lea DeLaria, who have been doing tremendous work all season. Boo promises they’re going to get him, and if this season is certainly any indication, Boo is not someone you want to cross.


  • It was such a nice touch to see Rosa back in Litchfield even for a minute during Caputo’s flashback after she exited in such memorable fashion at the end of season 2.
  • Speaking of the flashbacks, a few small notes on Caputo’s story. 1. I loved that he had a different hairstyle in almost every flashback segment. 2. The young actor they picked to play Caputo in high school did a perfect Caputo inflection. 3.Caputo and Fig have had a routine affair going on!? He seemed nostalgic for her last week, but I never expected the two to end up in bed together, and yet, again, it doesn’t feel that out of character. Especially after they both say “Ew” after having sex.
  • Sex is causing more of a problem in Litchfield. Or at least, writing about sex is. When CO Donaldson discovers he’s the source of inspiration for Admiral Rodcocker in The Time Hump Chronicles, he takes Suzanne’s work to Healy, where she reveals she originally wrote it for Rogers’ drama class. It’s a loose enough connection for Healy to tattle on Rogers, who is put on indefinite leave while an investigation into behavior is underway. But make no mistake, Rogers promises Healy she’ll be back, and he can’t do anything to stop it.
  • The repercussions of Sophia’s showdown with Gloria are beginning to show, as Aleida begins to tell anyone who listens to her that Sophia is bad news. For now it’s just hurting her business, but what justifiably angers Sophia most is that some transphobia seems to be at the heart of all the hate coming her way.
  • The feud between Soso and Leanne continues as well. Soso wakes up in bed to discover some of her hair has been chopped off. And the likely culprit? Well there’s a pretty good chance it’s Leanne, who’s up watching as Soso finds clumps of her hair on her pillow.
  • A sweet moment between Ruiz and Daya goes south as Ruiz discovers Daya’s plan to give up her baby. It’s a small but surprising callback to “Mother’s Day,” when the father of Ruiz’s daughter tells her he doesn’t want their child seeing her any longer in prison.

Episode Recaps

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.

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