'Orange Is the New Black' goes horror movie in an episode both amusing and terrifying

By Andrea Reiher
June 10, 2017 at 08:04 PM EDT
Jojo Whilden/Netflix
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At the end of episode 8, Piscatella entering Litchfield definitely seemed like an “oh s—” cliffhanger for the inmates. But in episode 9, it actually turned out to be a plot development that played both for amusement and horror, which is a very tough line to walk. It definitely is not going to be an episode everyone (or even most people) likes, but I actually kind of dug it. I like being scared, which this episode pulled off several times, and I enjoy theme episodes when they’re done well, which I also thought “The Tightening” pulled off.

So let’s dive right in. Piscatella is now inside the prison, wearing full riot gear and stalking the inmates like the psychotic bogeyman that he so clearly is. He first picks off Flores, who puts up a good fight, but he’s like the Mountain in SWAT armor, so the encounter is over fairly quickly. Then things really get creepy as Piscatella stalks and kidnaps Nicky, Big Boo, Piper, and Alex.

There are horror movie homages and references everywhere, from The Shining to Psycho to Friday the 13th — there’s even a What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? reference with Suzanne — and they delighted this horror fan to no end. But what made the episode such a winner is that in the very same moment where you’re smiling and delighted over the homage, you’re also completely freaked out at the sight of Piscatella just appearing in a hallway or dragging a body around a corner or flashing by an open doorway when the inhabitant of said room has her back turned.

Meanwhile, Red is running around doing her best Jack Torrance impression. She seems completely nuts — especially because she’s detoxing after chowing down on pharmaceutical-grade speed for the better part of two days — so no one will take her seriously about people disappearing, even though she’s 100 percent right (though she doesn’t yet know Gina, Anita, Yoga Jones, and Frieda are not actually Piscatella’s victims; they’re holed up in Frieda’s awesome rec room).

Eventually, Red finds the girls and prepares to take on Piscatella by herself. Her chances are probably not great, but if anyone can do it, Red can. As she reminded us earlier this season, “Real Russians have no proverbs. We have vodka and misery.” She’s fueled by a steel spine and rage, so if there are going to be any casualties in this riot before the season finale, perhaps it’ll be Piscatella at the hands of Red. Fingers crossed, right?

(Recap continues on page 2)

In other news, Taystee’s negotiations with Fig have hit a couple very important snags. First, of course, is Daya shooting Humphrey, though she turned herself in for that, so Fig is staying put (for now).

But the inmates are quickly losing the high ground, because there’s also the fact that their “education program” was derailed after a guard’s body was found chopped up into pieces and buried in the garden.

Taystee and Co. all know that the guard’s death actually has nothing to do with the merits of a credible GED program versus the “education program” that was actually just slave labor, but they don’t have any solid arguments to back that up, so it’s Caputo time.

Poor Caputo finally gets let out of the poo prison, and while he’s not happy about being rushed right into dealing with Figueroa, he knows this is his chance to possibly enact real change in the prison, explaining to Fig how MCC basically turned his great idea into a chain gang.

Things might be looking up for the inmates, except that Gloria has been told by MCC’s CEO Jack Pearson that if she sneaks the hostages out of the prison, he’ll try to get her to the hospital to see her son. You can’t blame Gloria for agreeing to this, but it’s also like — first of all, how are you possibly going to pull that off? And secondly, do you really think the MCC CEO is going to keep his word to you? After what you’ve seen since they took over the prison?

While it seems unlikely she’ll succeed — because losing the hostages would derail the entire riot and it’s a smidge early in the season to start wrapping that up — whatever happens definitely isn’t going to be easy or without violence.

Odds & Ends

  • I just can’t say enough about how much I personally enjoyed this episode, so I’m intensely curious if other fans have the same reaction. Did you love the horror movie theme or did you hate it? Was it fun in a good way or gimmicky in a bad way?
  • Red’s backstory wasn’t exactly analogous to the episode’s plot, but it is really interesting to see her as a young girl in Russia. With the older inmates, it’s cool to see them as children/teens, like with Frieda’s flashback in episode 2.
  • Thank goodness somebody came to Suzanne’s rescue. Lorna is actually at her most tolerable in situations like this, though urging Suzanne to go off her meds is probably not the best move.
  • Lorna: “You wanna know what I think, Suzanne? I think ‘crazy’ is just a word people invented to keep the extra-interesting people down.”
    Suzanne: “Mommy says there are as many shades of different as there are of people.”
    Lorna: “Well, I wish I was told that growing up.”
  • Black Cindy: “So, how’s not being in prison?”
    Fig: “It’s the best. We have these fancy gadgets to look at when we want to leave a conversation.”

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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