It's all about the familial relationships as the riot loses steam in a big way
Credit: Jojo Whilden/Netflix

Orange Is the New Black has always had a strong running theme of mothers and children. Inside Litchfield, there are “families” that usually have at least one mother hen taking care of her daughters. There are also the relationships the inmates have with their own mothers or kids outside the prison.

In “Breaking the Fiberboard Ceiling,” the show brings that theme to the forefront: There’s a wonderful turn for Selenis Leyva (who has been good all season but takes things up a notch for this episode), a tough family dynamic for Red’s branch of the Litchfield tree, and a meltdown inside Poussey’s group of friends that almost derails everything they’re working for.

In the story line most relevant to the standoff, Gloria is able to speak with her comatose son for a few minutes and decides it’s go-time to release the guards and be granted furlough by MCC — which, even before knowing the outcome, we all had to know was a tenuous proposition at best, right? Oh, Gloria.

But she manages to pull it off, and with some serious attitude no less. Gloria “takes charge” of the guards, since Ouija and Pidge are busy snorting coffee grounds like maniacs, and starts “punishing” them by locking them in the poo. It’s a clever way to separate them from the inmates, and the plan works — except someone beats her to it.

We don’t know who cut the fence, but Ruiz seems likely. She overheard Gloria’s conversation with Bennie, and Gloria confessed what she was about to do, to which Ruiz basically said, “Do it. You don’t owe anybody here anything.”

But Ruiz has a kid too, remember? And a desperate mama bear is not a person to trifle with or put much trust in, so smart money is on Ruiz taking Gloria’s plan for herself.

Either way, Gloria desperately clawing at the ground as the last guard runs away (taking all of her hope with him) was heartbreaking.
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Meanwhile, Red has Piscatella tied up in Frieda’s bunker and is ready for some payback. It’s definitely understandable, but it’s also not at all what Red or any of the other women should be doing, as most of Red’s group delicately tries to point out to her. They need to turn him over to the authorities, not sink to his level and risk whatever punishment they’ll suffer because of it.

Frieda is, of course, totally on board (because Frieda is awesomely hardcore), and Nicky tries to support her surrogate mom, but in the end, Red can’t go through with it, thankfully. That would have been tough to watch. It wouldn’t have felt inorganic or unearned, because not only is this season a powder keg of emotions and tension, but Piscatella has it coming from Red, so it’d be hard to blame her. But a big part of why we love OITNB is because the inmates are basically good people. Not perfect, certain flawed, sometimes even horrible — but most of them are not at the guards’ level of cruelty, and we don’t want to see them go that way.

Finally, Uzo Aduba readies her Emmy reel in this episode. She’s already been struggling with the loss of routine, and then Lorna goes and tells her she doesn’t need medication — bless Lorna’s heart, because it’s in the right place, but Suzanne is someone who definitely needs medication — and now Humphrey is dead in the medical bay and Suzanne can’t handle it.

Cindy, Janae, and Abdullah subsequently can’t handle Suzanne. She’s in meltdown mode, wondering about heaven and hell, desperate to be out of her current situation, and the two people who would have been able to diffuse the situation aren’t available — Poussey and Taystee.

Taystee tells Cindy to put on her big girl pants and deal with it, so she… kind of does, in her way. Telling Suzanne she needs to follow her schedule is a good first step, but giving her a random drug from the supply room is not a good second step. Lithium is not something to mess around with, and the sound effects make it seem as though Cindy gives Suzanne several pills. Um, yikes.

It seems unlikely the show would kill off Suzanne with an accidental OD — because wow, would that ever be ending another season on a horrific tragedy — but talk about continuing the theme of the sweetest inmates having the worst befall them (Poussey, Daya, and now Suzanne, in this scenario).

Odds & Ends

  • Red: “You have something to restrain him?”
    Frieda: “Something? I got everything. But we should move him. Let’s get him down into the pool so we have room to work, just in case.”
    Frieda, Dexter Morgan called and is wondering if you’re looking for a partner.
  • Also, good on Gina for recording a bit of Piscatella’s torture room. That’s some evidence that might actually get some things accomplished.
  • So Lorna is really pregnant. That’s… unexpected. Vinnie had better pull himself together, because his reaction when Lorna told him was pretty awful, and that was when we all thought she was full of it.
  • Linda’s secret is out. What do you think Big Boo is going to do to her? She talks a good game, but would Boo really throw someone to the wolves at this point? Hmm.
  • “This is our time, these days is all we got. Rest of our lives, people gonna treat us like garbage. But right now, people are listening. Right now, people care. You wanna miss out your chance to change some s— around here? You wanna sit out the one time that you got real power? Take some f—ing responsibility so that when all this is over you can stand up and say you f—ing did something.” — Ouija, who is not wrong. The prisoners have a chance to make some real change, which is not something that comes along every day. But there are two episodes left in the season, and with the hostages gone… things are not looking as bright for Litchfield as they once were.

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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