Everything falls apart for the Litchfield inmates
Credit: Jojo Whilden/Netflix

I really, really wanted to give “Tattoo You” a better grade, but the Piper flashback and Piper/Alex interactions were so awful and out of place that I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. But before we wade into that mess, let’s talk about the other mess happening in the penultimate episode of season 5.

The video Gina took of Piscatella breaking Alex’s arm is going viral, and the governor knows what an absolute s—storm he has on his hands, so Figueroa is instructed to give the inmates everything they want. Everything, that is, except prosecuting Bayley, because that’s not something the state has any power over.

And because that means no justice for Poussey, Taystee tells Figueroa to pound sand — and this clip keeps playing in a loop in my head as this entire scene unfolds. Oh, Taystee. What are you thinking?!

Honestly, this feels a smidge out of character for her. It jibes that Taystee’s knee-jerk reaction would be “no deal,” because her emotions are so raw about Poussey. But after Caputo appeals to her about making real change, I think Taystee would see that this is what Poussey would have wanted her to do. If she says no now, then both Poussey’s death and the riot are for nothing.

Poussey was one of the gentlest inmates at Litchfield, and she would have been the No. 1 cheerleader of Taystee pulling this off for the inmates. Taystee is also smart enough to understand that prosecuting Bayley is not as easy as reinstating the GED program or hiring properly trained guards. So I’m not sure I buy this. It feels like a TV drama move, rather than an organic character choice. Do you agree, readers, or does Taystee’s choice track for you?

The only argument Taystee has going for her is that she thinks the guards are still safely locked in the bubble. Hostages mean more negotiations, in her mind. Taystee doesn’t know about the hostages, so she thinks she can keep fighting for her friend. That’s the only reason this story line works — but I still think she’s smarter than this.

Regardless, as it turns out, it doesn’t matter if the hostages are gone or not. The governor needs to end this now, and after Taystee says no deal, he’s going to storm the prison, which is not going to end well. It never, ever does.
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Interestingly, the ship is almost righted when Ruiz appears with the hostages, because Nita, Caputo and Figueroa all assume Taystee changed her mind and this is her way of agreeing to the terms. That… actually would not have been a terrible way to go, writing-wise. It’s the kind of misunderstanding that is so absurd you could actually see it happening in real life, and it still lets Taystee feel like she didn’t betray her best friend.

Alas, Ruiz ruins it, though she doesn’t know the whole story either — she has no idea how the powers that be are interpreting her hostage release. And it’s pretty tragic to watch her think she’s getting some kind of reward from MCC for letting the hostages go, when in reality MCC has little control over things like inmates’ sentences (and possibly even furlough, though Gloria probably had a better chance at getting what she wanted than Ruiz does).

It’s a series of tragedies that serve to remind viewers that this is still a case of a bunch of unorganized prison inmates up against the state of New York in all its power. They almost pulled off something remarkable, but there’s only so much you can do when you’re the disenfranchised, and it doesn’t help when you’re downtrodden by circumstances, tired and hungry from fighting, and fixated on personal causes as your primary motivation.

It’s not as if those personal reasons aren’t justified, but the inmates were so close to getting everything, and now they have nothing. It’s frustrating to watch, especially because I kind of expected more from Taystee.

It’s also quite the cliffhanger to leave us on, because it feels like things are about to get very, very bad inside the prison.

Odds & Ends

  • Back to that Piper flashback — hey Larry, we did not miss you at all.
  • In the present, Alex is all wounded because Piper wouldn’t play house with her during the riot. They’re the loves of each other’s lives, can of corn, blah blah blah. I’m honestly asking — does anyone even care about this anymore? I sure don’t.
  • The far more interesting love story is between Nicky and Lorna. After finding out Lorna really is pregnant, Nicky intervenes with Vinnie, telling him, “All her life, all she has ever wanted is somebody to assure her that she’s worthy of love.” And while the idea of Vinnie and Lorna raising a child is slightly terrifying, Nicky steps up big time to make Lorna’s life better because she loves her so much. It’s beautiful.
  • Pennsatucky decides to use the hole in the fence to go to the guards’ cabins and… try on Coates’ clothes and eat his cereal? WTF. That is some serious stalker territory and makes me like her position in this whole story line even less. Is this a ploy by the writers to keep her out of the bloodbath the prison is about to suffer?
  • Bayley goes to see Poussey’s family, and it’s just as sad as you’d expect it to be. The kid doesn’t even know which end is up right now, he’s so lost. And that doesn’t excuse him or make him less culpable, but Poussey’s dad is right — Bayley is the kind of person who will live with this for the rest of his life. It’s terribly sad all the way around.
  • Caputo and Figueroa almost have some quickie bathroom sex because of course they do. What a fun couple.

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.

  • TV Show
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