When we last left the ladies of Litchfield, things weren’t going too well. Season 4 — which was met with critical acclaim and widely heralded as one of the show’s best yet — was a wild ride of competing panty operations, branded swastikas, sadistic prison guards, and the discovery of a dead body in the vegetable garden. But after multiple episodes of confrontation between the inmates and the guards (led by the ruthless Piscatella), the season culminated with the saddest and most powerful moment the show has ever seen: the tragic death of Poussey Washington, who was unintentionally suffocated by the inexperienced corrections officer Baxter Bayley.
As season 4 concluded, the prison was still reeling from Poussey’s death, and as the prison’s for-profit owners, MCC, debated how to handle the situation, warden Caputo went rogue and held a press conference, refusing to fire Bayley and paint him as a villain. As a result, the prisoners rallied against Caputo for not even mentioning Poussey’s name, and tensions came to a head as the cruel CO Humphrey brought a gun into the prison, only for the prisoners to knock it out of his hands. Season 4’s cliffhanger ending found Daya picking up the loaded gun and pointing it directly at Humphrey.
And that’s exactly where season 5 kicks off, as Daya’s fellow inmates gather around her and urge her to pull the trigger. Humphrey begins talking about his childhood love of frogs — “He’s doing that thing, trying to make us see he’s a person and s—,” Taystee explains. “I seen this s— on Oprah back in the day” — but Daya ends up pulling the trigger anyway, shooting him in the leg.
And so begins the Litchfield prison riot that will take up much of season 5, starting with a literal bang. Some inmates are hopeful that the riot will bring justice and attention to the prison, others just take it as an opportunity to go a little mad, and still others are keen to stay away from this whole anarchy thing entirely. As Morello succinctly puts it, “It’s like a party, except terrifying.”
Here’s where everyone stands:
—Maria Ruiz takes charge, rounding up the guards and trying to organize the riot. Daya is the one with the gun, but after shooting Humphrey, she’s exhausted and nervous — and before long, she starts panicking that there’s no way out of this. She eventually makes her way to Piscatella’s office to place a phone call to her mom, but someone hits her over the head and steals her gun. Not good.
—Gloria knows that if Humphrey dies, things will get a whole lot worse for Daya — and the rest of Litchfield. So she brings the bleeding Humphrey to Sophia, who has emergency medical training from her years as a firefighter. Humphrey recoils and hurls some extremely transphobic, hateful comments at her, but she just shrugs and tells him that he’s welcome to continue bleeding out on the floor if he doesn’t want her help. Gloria begs her to keep him alive, and she begrudgingly accepts.
Sophia doesn’t have the supplies in the beauty salon to stitch up a gunshot wound, so she wheels Humphrey to medical, where the last remaining medic, Adarsh, tries to stabilize him.
—In all the chaos, Red decides to slip into Piscatella’s office and do a little digging, where she finds Piscatella’s collection of competitive table-decorating photographs. After the hell that Piscatella put her through last season, Red deserves a little laugh at Piscatella’s expense.
—Josh, an MCC employee, is in Caputo’s office chastising him for going off script during the press conference when Taystee, Cindy, Alison, and Janae storm in. While the rest of the inmates are running around haphazardly, they’re treating the riot as an opportunity to make things right and get justice for Poussey. After a very satisfying punch by Taystee, they force Caputo to read a statement on camera, apologizing for Poussey’s death. He can’t bring himself to say that she was murdered, but Taystee does. It remains to be seen how much reach the video will have, but it doesn’t spell good news for MCC.
—Boo and Pennsatucky are holed up in the commissary, which is probably the best place to be. After all, there are Twizzlers there. Boo even shows off her best Billy Crystal Princess Bride impersonation with a jolly “Have fun storming the castle!” Flores comes to them asking for all the locks they have, and she proceeds to barricade the prison, preventing anyone from getting in — or out.
—Morello and Nicky try to raid the pharmacy, but Angie and Leanne are already there, trying to find their way in. But it’s easy to placate them with painkillers, and before long, Morello and Nicky have their own little hiding place. Still, Morello’s worried: The pharmacy isn’t exactly the best place to be when Nicky’s still struggling to stay sober after her recent drug bender.
—Piper and Alex are keen to stay out of trouble, trying to stay as far away as possible from all the riot shenanigans. But before long, they find MCC employee Linda Ferguson hiding in the bathroom. They try to get her out, but Flores has barricaded all the doors, so they reluctantly agree to adopt her and have her pose as a fellow inmate.
—Soso is in the library, still devastated by the loss of Poussey. Judy King, who was due for release that day, begs her to let her hide out in the library, too, and Soso reluctantly agrees.
—Gina tries to get into electrical to turn off the blaring alarm, so she smears some period blood on her face to convince Luschek that she’s wounded and that he should let her in. Which, ew, but also, points for creativity. She eventually manages to cut the alarm, but she also cuts off power to the entire prison. Oops.
Odds & Ends
—Over the course of the episode, different people refer to Humphrey’s fake shooting spree with references to various mass shootings: Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Virginia Tech, Aurora, etc. It’s a gag that’s both goofy and horrifying as you realize just how many recent mass shootings there are to reference.
—Zirconia, stealing Linda’s high heels: “Shoes we can use as weapons, but not to wear. They represent the patriarchy and the oppression of women, and they hurt like f—.”
—Piper on Linda: “She reminds me of how I was. But more annoying.”