The riot takes a break as the inmates prepare a list of demands
Credit: Jojo Whilden/Netflix

After two episodes of almost nonstop action this season on Orange Is the New Black, “Pissters!” lets the inmates take a little time to breathe and realize they need to settle in for the long haul if they really want this insurrection to succeed. It’s a nice break for the audience as well, but a couple of storytelling staples seem to indicate that the s— is about to hit the fan again.

But first — the outside world finally realizes what’s going on inside Litchfield after all the captured guards, plus Caputo and Josh, are stripped and photographed. Having these hostages gives the inmates some power, so the guards outside and MCC finally ask the prisoners what their demands are — and an anti-gravity chamber is definitely priority No. 1. Good call.

But in all seriousness, luckily there are enough leaders keeping their wits about them, and the inmates manage to come together and make excellent suggestions as to what needs to change inside Litchfield. While Taystee, who is overcome with grief, is understandably upset that “arrest Bayley” is not their first demand, the rest of the inmates understand what the underlying problem really is — the guards.

Season 4 masterfully built to the riot in an organic way by privatizing the prison and putting a crew of guards in place who have absolutely no business in their positions. Piscatella, an alpha male who constantly needs to assert his authority and also views the inmates through a very distorted lens, is the worst person to be in charge. Couple that with a severe lack of training and Litchfield became a powder keg just waiting to explode due to the guards’ inappropriate behavior.

So it’s smart on the part of the inmates that demand No. 1 is: “Replace all current guards with properly trained ones.” And honestly, after what happened with Bayley and Poussey, which was due at least in part to lack of proper training, MCC should have no trouble giving in to this one. It’s actually a great PR move for them, and we all know that’s all they really care about.

The other demands may be a little harder to come by, only because MCC has proven to be such a tightwad about money. But none of the demands are unreasonable, and the calm way in which the inmates arrive at their list and post it to the prison windows might give us some hope that this will resolve itself in a generally positive way… if this were happening in episode 11 of the season, rather than episode 3.

Unfortunately, a few red flags and the fact that we have a long season ahead of us are making me nervous.

First, the amnesty demand says “provided that there are no casualties,” just as we see a montage of the guards preparing to make their move against the inmates and Judy King getting chased through the yard by the white nationalists as she tries to make a break for it. Plus, Humphrey is just sitting in the hallway in a chair with a penis drawn on his forehead. It’s not like he really deserves much better, but if he dies… that’s game over for at least Daya, and probably a lot of other people.

Second, Piper has the gall to say during dinner, “I like how calm it is in here. I think everything is going to be okay.” OMG, SHUT UP, PIPER. You are just asking for everything to go sideways, and you aren’t even really participating in the process, so take your rainbow-colored BS and shove it.
(Recap continues on page 2)

Speaking of Piper, she and Alex can’t keep their heads down anymore after they find Linda from HR hiding in the bathroom. At first, the presence of Linda in the prison seemed like a good idea from a storytelling standpoint. Not only can she get a taste of what prison is like and possibly do some good at MCC, but there’s the added tension of keeping her identity under wraps and her relationship with Caputo.

However, for some reason the writers decided she should get a flashback episode — and that didn’t work for me. I’m curious how you, dear readers, feel about it.

Did the viewers really need to see her life in a bonkers sorority where she left an obviously too-drunk sister out in a snowstorm wearing barely anything and then lied to the cops about it after said sister froze to death? Is anyone really that surprised? Did the flashback illuminate things about Linda that are important to the present-day story?

Because either Linda is going to take up the mantle of the inmates — and we’ll all know if the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes that day without having to see the flashback — or she’s going to abandon them, Litchfield, and Caputo the way she abandoned popsicle sister (popsister?), which we already know enough about her not to be surprised by.

Going into season 5, I was curious how the flashbacks would feel when intercut with such a tense present-day story line. It was actually a smart move on the writers’ part not to include a flashback in the season premiere because there was just too much going on to take viewers out of the action.

Episode 2 was a pleasant surprise, in that Frieda’s backstory was actually kind of awesome, and it dovetailed nicely with what she was up to during the first night of the riots. And can we all just take a moment to appreciate her amazing bunker under the prison?! It’s a shame the show isn’t going to check in with her once an episode, just to see what she’s doing down there for a few minutes.

But this episode kinda biffed it with the flashback. Considering that Maureen takes a solid stab at killing Humphrey, it might have been nice to see her flashback. Or perhaps since Abdullah comes front and center as demands are issued, we could have gotten more of her story.

So, the jury’s still out as to whether these flashbacks fit in this season, but it is understandable that sustaining the roughly real-time element over 13 episodes is a tough needle to thread, and eating up some of the episode with flashbacks makes it easier to keep the prison action from stalling.

Either way, episode 3 was a solid offering, even if not quite as good as the first two season 5 episodes. But it let everyone take a breather, and now it feels like the action is about to ramp back up again.

Odds & Ends

  • Love the two little ongoing mysteries of the season so far: The first is who’s got the gun, which is a great source of tension. And the second: Who is Wes Driscoll, and what was he to Piscatella? He probably wasn’t a rival competitive table-setter (snort), and hopefully this means we’ll find out what Caputo dug up on Piscatella about his time working in max. Were they lovers? Did Piscatella somehow get Driscoll killed?
  • The Piscatella mystery is also giving us a terrific new pairing in Red and Flores. “I need to go feed the eyebrow.”
  • “Maybe realize that you are just hopelessly in love with an incredible, insane, beautiful woman who’s never going to love you back.” It’s been really interesting to watch Nicky and Lorna back together. There’s no doubt that Nicky loves Lorna, but does Lorna reciprocate her romantic feelings? Or does she just love her as a friend? I’m leaning toward thinking she reciprocates, but can Lorna deal with the person she’s in love with being a woman?
  • “F—ing Leonardo DiCaprio is a character actor; he is not a leading man.” Never change, Luschek.
  • The scene where Suzanne and Maureen came to dinner and Suzanne cordoned off the area where Poussey died was beautifully done. Brook joining them and Gloria bringing them meals brought tears to my eyes. People need to grieve for their loved one, something Taystee is obviously going to be working through this season because she hasn’t really been allowed to do that yet.
  • Speaking of Taystee, Danielle Brooks is killing it this season. The acting on this show is always top notch, but she is definitely the scene-stealer so far.

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
  • 6