Jojo Whilden/Netflix
TV Show
Drama ,
S5 E4
June 09, 2017 at 07:00 PM EDT

Orange Is the New Black has never quite been able to decide if it’s going to be a comedy with serious moments or a drama with funny ones, and fans are often divided on the episodes that veer into the goofy or absurd — as “Litchfield’s Got Talent” does.

After the way episode 3 ended, with the demands being posted and the guards gearing up to ambush the inmates bringing them food, the show seemed to be ramping up the action again, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed that that’s not what happened. It’s not as though this was a terrible episode, but it was a bit of a letdown in terms of veering away from the driving force behind the season and into some silly territory.

That’s not to say there weren’t some genuine laugh-out-loud moments, but is laughter what viewers wanted from the show at this point? Of course, you can’t have 13 slam-bang episodes in a row, because there’s only so much action that can happen in this roughly real-time hostage situation, and a season needs to have crescendos and decrescendos as it builds to the finale. But it felt like episode 3 left off in such an important place, and then episode 4 dispensed with the two biggest sources of action in a really off-handed way — New York’s governor looks over the inmates’ demands and decides to deal with it in the morning, and Caputo nixes the guards’ ambush when he realizes Linda (pretending to be an inmate) was the target for the ambush.

It’s like the show just brought all of its momentum to a screeching halt, especially with the reveal of who took the gun from Daya.

The whole catalyst for the A-plot of the guard talent show is that meth-heads Angie and Leanne try to depants Gloria, and the missing gun falls out. She seemed like a likely candidate to have taken it from Daya (trying to protect her), but now there’s no more tension of a gun floating around the prison. Instead, dingbat Angie has it, and she decides the best course of action is to force the guards to perform in a talent show, wasting two bullets in the process.

The talent show has its moments — Stratman’s (and actor Evan Hall’s) commitment to his striptease is impressive, particularly when he gets down to where he’s only wearing a tube sock. And who knew CO Dixon (Mike Houston) had such golden pipes?

But overall, the whole endeavor feels like a waste of time, for both the inmates and the viewers.
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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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