The dawn of a new day in Litchfield has everyone in high spirits — which, of course, means everything is about to go south
Credit: Jojo Whilden/Netflix

Orange Is the New Black has so far plotted a really solid course in season 5. It started out with a lot of intensity — it had to, after that season 4 cliffhanger — then pulled back, offered up some levity but also some important plot developments, and now has logged an excellent pivot for the halfway point of the season.

In “Full Bush, Half Snickers,” a new day has dawned at Litchfield and with it comes so much promise. Pennsatucky is doing her community service by passing out “yellow drink” to the inmates; Piper and Taystee are organizing a memorial for Poussey; the bunker babes are just generally being their awesome selves; the guards are getting a taste of their own medicine; and Ouija, Pidge, and the Nazis are coming together to run a coffeehouse. It’s wonderful — and obviously too good to be true for long.

But for a few glorious hours, it’s genuinely uplifting. All the story lines are really effective, showing the different ways people are coping and keeping busy.

Suzanne’s story line is especially affecting this episode. She is still really struggling with the events of the past few days and Abdullah realizes what she needs is routine and structure. So they draft the guards to come be “inmates” for Suzanne’s daily prison routine. It’s perfect because, while the guards have been getting a dose of their own medicine by being hostages, it’s not the kind of message that really sinks in because it’s so extreme. But this set-up is letting them see how even in the mundane, day-to-day activities, there’s a way to be a person and a way to be an a–hole — and maybe they should be more like people and treat the inmates as such.

It feels like, for at least a few of them, the message might finally be coming across.

Meanwhile, Taystee needs something to do because when there’s too much downtime she just feels ineffectual and sad. So she and Piper start auditioning people to create some kind of memorial to Poussey — which is a little terrifying. Maureen and her “hair dolls” are the stuff of nightmares.

But Brook takes time out from her rage training with Janae (which is still going on and is still awesome, BTW) to talk about what Poussey would have really wanted — people coming together to create something beautiful. Taystee is having a hard time letting Brook be right about anything Poussey-related because she doesn’t want to acknowledge someone else might be hurting as much as she is, but Piper convinces her to give Brook a chance and then we are treated to one of the most wonderful scenes all season.

I legit started openly crying when Brook revealed the new library in the hallway. Sure, it’s completely insane and impractical and where did she possibly get the time and supplies to set that up? But whatever, it’s a beautiful TV moment and I’ll cry if I want to, especially after Taystee and Brook come together for a half-hug.

Other than those two threads, the rest of the episode is made up of a series of funny, enjoyable, unexpected groupings having a good time and making the prison a nice place to be for a while. None of them are really advancing the plot at all (save Red and Flores, which we’ll get to in a minute), but they’re just delightful, easy plots that serve as reminders of how well OITNB can do comedy.

What is also noteworthy about this one is the absence of a flashback — honestly, I didn’t miss it one bit. Sometimes the flashbacks are so in tune with the present-day story that they really enrich the episode. But other times (actually a lot of the time this season) they feel a little forced and it’s nice to just stick with the action in the prison. This was definitely one of those times.

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Just when everything is going swimmingly around Litchfield, stupid Angie and Leanne steal the coffeehouse’s cold brew supply and then a huge fight erupts when suddenly there’s no more coffee for anyone.

It’s a good reminder that supplies are running dangerously low since, presumably, the prison gets deliveries on a regular basis. But it’s still sad to watch.

However, as a turning point goes, it’s perfect, especially when coupled with what Red and Flores have been up to this episode.

The Russian and the Eyebrow (anyone else smell spin-off?) manage to get their hands on Humphrey’s phone and want to use it to lure Piscatella into the prison because they think they’ll get him to confess to killing the inmate in max and get him fired once and for all. They really should know better, but they are completely high on energy supplements and sleep deprivation, so they obviously aren’t thinking straight.

Humphrey’s phone is locked, but a quick trip to medical to use his fingerprint solves that problem — and it won’t be a problem anymore because Red cuts his finger off so she can take it with her. Holy crap.

But they text Piscatella as Humphrey, asking for his help inside the prison, which fits nicely with Piscatella’s own personal narrative that he’s the only one who can solve this crisis and it’s time to stop dilly-dallying around with the governor’s “no violence” approach and start bustin’ heads. (Presumably, that’s what it sounds like in his head, only with more profanity.)

So between the inmates fighting again and Piscatella with a mission to get inside the prison, the show has beautifully transitioned to Act II of the season. The action is about to ramp back up and it likely will not be pretty.

It won’t be the season’s climax because that will obviously come in the final couple episodes, but things are about to veer back to the dark side for the women of Litchfield.

Odds & Ends

  • Seriously, like 90 percent of the time, I just want to drown Angie and Leanne in the lake. They are the worst.
  • All the Harry Potter talk was wonderful, especially because we already knew that Taystee is a huge HP fan. And of course Piper is a Slytherin, Taystee is a Gryffindor, and Abdullah is a Hufflepuff. Duh.
  • The bunker babes aren’t really up to anything of consequence, but their sparkling conversation is hilarious. Frieda: “I always been more of a girth gal, myself. Don’t like them long jobbies that poke your cervix.” Gloria: “Imagine picking up a hot dog with your toes and then massaging it with your arches. It gave me calves like a speed skater.”
  • Let’s hope whatever happened to Gloria’s son isn’t too serious. That would terrible.
  • I’m kind of over the Lorna la Loca pregnancy story line, so hopefully Vinnie’s mad dash after realizing she’s pregnant (she’s not) will snap her back to whatever senses she still has. Look, mental illness is a serious problem, especially in the criminal justice system, but Lorna is just a bit much sometimes, especially when contrasted with Suzanne, who is such a strong portrayal of mental illness on the show.
  • Well, it didn’t take long for Linda to go all in on prison life, did it? It’s hard to tell exactly where this is going (maybe nowhere, honestly), but it is fun to watch.
  • Snaps to Skinhead Helen’s poem:
    Full bush, half Snickers
    Revolting women, my sisters.
    Stand united, better guards
    Yummy snacks, nicer yard
    Maxi pads, cleaner showers
    Voices screaming, “Fight the power!”
  • Can someone please check on Caputo? And Stratman, I guess. But mostly Caputo.

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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