The governor tries to end Litchfield's riot peacefully
After a stellar dramatic episode that offered up some moments of comedy, “Flaming Hot Cheetos, Literally” keeps running with the ball, but with a very different tone. It’s also a very strong offering, but it’s more comedic than the episode immediately preceding it.
The central plot to this episode is that Governor Hutchinson is making a concerted effort to end the riot without any casualties. And that’s great. Unfortunately, he’s not taking the inmates’ demands seriously. He and his Gal Friday, Nita, think that meeting the demand for Flaming Hot Cheetos, Takis, and tampons will earn them enough goodwill for the inmates to let the guards go.
But they have grossly underestimated both the anger brewing inside the prison at how they’ve been treated and the intelligence of the inmates to see right through the governor’s “clever” ruse.
The sight of Taystee and Co. dumping garbage bags full of Cheetos outside the prison entrance and then lighting them on fire while telling Nita where the governor can stick it is utterly delightful. And they have a real point: Take us seriously, and come back when you’re ready to get real about the conditions inside Litchfield.
Now, Maria Ruiz does make a keen observation during all this: “I can respect the moral code, but being that blindly committed? That’s when s— gets dangerous.”
She’s absolutely right, and Taystee, Black Cindy, Abdullah, Janae, and now Piper (who has decided it’s time to stop being a conscientious objector) will hopefully realize this was their only chance for pushback and defiance. If the governor keeps taking them seriously and actually gives them something they want, they are going to have to release some of the guards as a show of good faith. They can’t have another Flaming Hot Cheeto tantrum.
These dealings with Nita are juxtaposed with a Taystee flashback, filling in some information about how she came to be in foster care. It turns out her mother was a 15-year-old girl who was living with her boyfriend and facing eviction for both of them if she kept the baby. She reached out to her daughter later, but Taystee couldn’t be told about it until she turned 18. When they finally met, it turned out Taystee’s birth mother had a new family (a husband and a daughter), whom Taystee, mistakenly thought she was going to live with since she’d aged out of the group home. In a heartbreaking confrontation, Taystee’s mom lamely told her it was “not a good time” for her to join the family, and Taystee ran away.
The flashback gives us more Taystee (and more Danielle Brooks), but it unfortunately doesn’t inform the present-day plot as much as one might hope. It also muddies the waters a bit as to when exactly Vee came into Taystee’s life. Maybe the Vee stuff predates Taystee’s meeting with her birth mom, and the crime that got Taystee put in Litchfield had nothing to do with Vee after all?
But it’s hard to worry about any of that after Poussey makes a surprise appearance! I actually started crying a little watching her first meeting with Taystee in the prison library. Miss you, Poussey.
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After helping Coates escape (and giving him their only gun), Angie and Leanne rile up a posse to put Pennsatucky in the poo. But Big Boo intervenes and gets Penn a trial for her crimes, which at first feels like it’s going to go the way of the guard talent show — kind of a goofy waste of time that takes us away from other, more interesting story lines.
But OITNB actually saves this plot with its conclusion. Big Boo and Penn appeal to the jury to be better than the guards who have been treating them so badly for so long, and lo and behold, the inmates decide that for Penn’s crime against “the community,” she’s going to do community service. White nationalist Sankey is the one to say they’re just going to talk to Penn “like people,” figure out what her skills are, and assign her a task accordingly.
Ouija adds, “We think our justice system should focus on rehabilitation. One crime does not define a person.”
It’s a nice moment. Obviously not all the women will come out of this riot singing “Kumbaya” and holding hands, but there are some real strides being made within the different factions, and it’s awesome. The unexpected duos are especially nice — Janae helping Soso with her anger over Poussey’s death, Flores and Red being nutty detectives together. Terrific.
Finally, the episode checks in with Bayley, who is still determined to answer for his crime even after he has sobered up. But that’s easier said than done when no charges have been filed against you, so he just decides it’d be better to try to end his life. His attempt is played a bit for laughs — he drinks non-toxic dog fur dye, for crying out loud — but there’s some real sadness here, too.
Bayley’s struggle with causing Poussey’s death parallels nicely with Alex’s struggle. The situations aren’t analogous, but the reality of having taken another person’s life and trying to deal with that is no laughing matter. Bayley needs help. I’m also curious, so sound off in the comments: Are you itching for him to talk to Taystee by season’s end, or is that just too much?
Odds & Ends
- Does anyone else feel like Piper got reinserted into the main story line because the show can’t go five minutes without putting her front and center? On the other hand, it’s very in keeping with her character that suddenly she’s bored with her current situation and decides it’s time to take up “a cause,” so at least that jibes with what we know of Piper. But Taystee and Co. don’t need her — they’ve been doing a great job on their own.
- I was hoping we would check in again with Frieda’s bunker, but it’s so much greater than I ever could have hoped for. It turns out she converted… is that an old swimming pool? … into a giant rec room (!), and she has now invited Yoga, Anita, Gina, Norma, and Gloria to join her. It’s amazing.
- Nicky and Lorna are in a pretty sad place. Lorna begs Nicky to have sex with her, which we know is at least partially in response to overhearing Nicky tell people she’s in love with Lorna. But in her post-coital guilt, Lorna claims she’s pregnant and blames it all on being horny. Nicky is right to call Lorna out on her B.S. (she is not pregnant), but she does it in her usual tactless way, and Lorna just looks crushed. Nicky, you know you gotta tread a little more lightly where Lorna is concerned.
- Gotta hand it to Nita — the dressing down of Piscatella was excellent: “Is that how you always speak with women? No wonder they’re rioting.”
- Also from Nita to Piscatella: “In the future, you should ask instead of demand. The CERT team cannot guarantee ingress into the prison without casualties. Governor Hutchinson cares about the lives in there, unlike other people involved — that’s you, I’m talking about you.”
- “She is a liar; no one likes Lisa Turtle the best!” Ouija FTW.
- Can someone please check on Caputo? It’s a serious possibility that he could have a stroke in the midday heat.