Two questions are cleared up in this lighthearted episode
Credit: Jojo Whilden/Netflix

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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The big side plot this episode is Yoga Jones, Anita DeMarco, and the three white nationalists kidnapping Judy King, strapping her to a wooden board and forcing her to take them to her “secret supply drop” on the roof. Of course, there’s no supply drop; Judy was just saying that to buy herself some time with these crazies.

But things really get weird when they’re all up on the roof and an actual helicopter shows up. At first, it seems like it’s the transport Judy demanded from her lawyer, but when someone in the chopper starts snapping pics, it seems to imply paparazzi. But… are the paparazzi just hovering nearby? How would they know Judy King was on the roof? It’s unclear at this point, but again — it’s a plotline that really goes nowhere.

The only thing the Judy King plot facilitates is the parallel story line involving Sankey and Abdullah, each of whom left her husband behind with another woman. Abdullah did it because they chose to take a second wife into the family. Sankey did it because she knew she was going to be in prison for a while, and she wanted her man to have a woman he knew was a safe person to have sex with, the idea being that would keep him from sleeping around with any ol’ person (or multiple people).

The problem in both cases is that neither Sankey nor Abdullah can actually handle sharing her family with someone else. Sankey finds Facebook photos of her man with the new woman (who is also attending her daughter’s birthday party), while Abdullah was dealing with this before she even went to prison.

It’s actually the most compelling thread in the episode, and how great would it have been if the two women could have had a conversation about their shared experience? That may be a little pie in the sky, considering Sankey’s racism, but the set-up for the conversation is at least coming from an organic place. Alas, a missed opportunity — at least for now.

Finally, there’s a séance for Poussey’s spirit, which seems silly on the surface, but at least it’s letting all the people who cared about her come together and grieve. If the séance had been set against the backdrop of a more serious episode, it probably would have felt like a nice light, poignant moment.

Odds & Ends

  • A group of rats really is called a “mischief.” You learn something new every day. Thanks, Suzanne!
  • Seeing Gina holed up in electrical watching videos and figuring out how to turn the power back on was a nice touch. The season can’t stay bathed in darkness forever.
  • Flores and Red find Piscatella’s file and clear up that mystery. It turns out he killed an inmate in max. The inmate was found unresponsive in the shower with burns over 80 percent of his body. Is this the mysterious Driscoll? Sounds like it.
  • “I probably have Wolfgang Puck’s herpes, but I don’t go around announcing it.” — Judy King
  • “Takin’ selfies. Or as they’re called in prison, ‘cell-fies.'” — Luschek’s stand-up routine. It’s a total dad joke, but that got an LOL out of me.
  • Sophia has a small plotline this episode, “escaping” the prison to go see Sister Ingalls, whom she assumes is still in the SHU. But it turns out Jane contracted pneumonia down there and wasn’t doing well at all, so they let her out on compassionate release. So… is that it? Is she back in the real world for good? Will we see her again? Here’s hoping we do; otherwise, this would be a terrible send-off. And what of Sophia? Is she back in solitary confinement?
  • Josh “wins” the talent show and picks Caputo for Angie and Leanne to punish, which they promptly do by putting him in a port-o-potty and duct taping it shut. Well, that’s gross, but also — that can’t be good. Caputo is a voice of reason among the guards, and now he’s gone. Hmm.

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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