“There is no chicken. There never was any chicken. The chicken is an urban myth. A grand illusion. Something to give your life meaning, but which in fact is not there. We will make a poster.”
EPISODE 2: Tit Punch
HELLO. This is going to be sort of breathless, so prepare for that.
- Natalie “Fig” Figueroa: 40ish, white, Executive Assistant to the warden, v. stylish. Here at orientation as a formality, please hold your questions.
- Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson: 20s, Black, works in library and passes info to Healy. You will love her soon, trust me. For the moment, she’s getting in a brawl over some ice cream. Woman’s got her priorities in order.
- Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren (Uzo Aduba): 30s, Black, Bantu-knotted. Also my VERY FAVORITE CHARACTER. We are meant to be wary of her at first, because she’s in love with Piper, and coming on way too strong. I am not wary, because I am too busy cuddling my laptop in a corner, wailing about how misunderstood she is.
- Sophia Burset (Laverne Cox): 30s, Black, runs a pretty sweet, barter-based hairstyling business. I’m a gigantic fan of Laverne Cox, you’ll have to let me know if I gush about her too much.
KICK OFF WITH A FLASHBACK. Bunch of people sitting at tables in a small grocery store, chattering in a mixture of Russian and English. They’re rich, but like, tacky-rich –the women have bad highlights, gaudy jewelry, etc. A woman with hair in a familiar shade of violet-red is working behind the counter – Galina Reznikov, who we know as Red. Her husband is encouraging her to talk to the ladies, get in good with them. “These are very important people.” If you are assuming this means they’re connected to the Mafiya, because Russians on American TV almost always are, you are correct and your prize is nothing.
We’ll get more flashbacks to Red throughout the episode, as she tries to get in with the tacky rich ladies. She’s not so good at it, and that highlights why she values her power and influence in the kitchen so highly. She’s finally part of the “in crowd.” The hub of the in crowd, honestly. She’s not about to let that go, definitely not for some little blonde yuppie, just similar enough to the mobster’s wives to evoke ire.
Back in the present, we get a look at Red running her kitchen. She’s in her element: tough but fair, aware of the people she’s working with, their strengths and weaknesses, savvy about how to use them to her advantage. Also she’s proud of the tampon thing.
Piper’s trying to deal with her food situation. Can she be transferred? Healy listens attentively, indulgently, asking relevant questions, including, with horror, “Did someone try to engage with you sexually?” Nothing is solved. She tries offering Red a sincere apology, which is also useless.
“You seem sweet. You really do, honey. But I can’t do shit with ‘I’m sorry.’ Might not look like it, but there’s rules in this place. The most important of which is, the second you’re perceived as weak, you already are.” Remember this, folks. One of the keys to the entire series. All it means to Piper at the moment is that she needs to get creative.
Elsewhere, Daya is trying to re-establish a connection with her mother (“What’s the matter, you don’t wanna hit me again?” “From here on out, this place will hit you for me.”). Aleida remains cold, and matters are not helped by her new “daughter,” Maritza mouthing puta in the corner. Can we also talk about how Maritza looks way more similar to Aleida than Daya does? Slim and short with delicate features, where Daya is bigger and curvier, with plumper lips and larger eyes. That’s gotta sting.
The freezer gives out, and Red kicks it into high gear cooking-wise, to use up the food before it spoils. This’ll be hell for Piper. Crazy food symbolism in this episode. Given more time, I’d love to go all cultural-studies and sink my teeth into that, but alas, on we go.
Eventually, Piper gets back in Red’s good graces with a bottle of homemade jalapeno backrub, crafted from painstakingly procured ingredients (Sophia takes a few locks of Piper’s hair, to be used as weave-adornment, in exchange for shea butter). Well, except for the jalapenos. Those were a gift from “Crazy Eyes,” which will definitely come back to bite her in the ass.
OTHER RELEVANT FLASHBACKS:
- Piper and Silverman do an unsuccessful juice cleanse. Obvious parallels with Piper’s current situation – choosing not to eat vs. being forced not to eat. If you’re anything like me, this will make it harder to be sympathetic. I mean, juice cleanse. (Also, Silverman, what kind of Jew would agree to this? What are you?)
- Piper starting her “artisanal bath product business” with her friend Polly.
EPISODE 3: Lesbian Request Denied
- Miss Claudette: 60s, Black. Rumors that she’s in Litchfield for murder. Nobody messes with her.
‘NOTHER FLASHBACK OPEN
Burned-out skeleton of a house, a fireman is taking photos of credit card statements, as you do. When a second fireman comes in, they cover the statement, explaining the camera by saying the cops wanted pictures of the damage. “Burset,” is the name this fireman answers to.
Back at the station, Burset goes into a bathroom stall to change clothes. Under her clothes, she is wearing a pink bra and panties. This is our friend Sophia Burset in a previous life. At the sink, she gently prods and tugs at the skin of her face, expression quietly miserable. Match cut to Sophia present day, applying eyeliner and Kool-Aid-and-vaseline lip gloss. A full-body shot confirms that she’s gotten her sex re-assignment surgery.
FUN FACT: Pre-surgery Sophia is played by Laverne Cox’s twin brother, M. Lamar, an artist who does some cool stuff you should check out here. Casting director must’ve felt like they won the lottery when Ms. Cox mentioned her sibling.
Back at Litchfield, Piper is taking her first adventure into the bathroom. While there, she encounters:
- A hostile shower line, casually cut by her royal Red-ness
- A dearth of places to poop or change privately. The only options are
- One doorless bathroom stall, containing a urinating Sophia Burset (“It’s okay, honey, you can look. I spent a lot of money for it.”)
- One door’d bathroom stall, containing a woman speaking rapid, emotional Spanish. Satan’s stall, according to Sophia. You won’t get in there anytime soon.
- Sophia’s friendly disdain for her improvised maxi-pad shower shoes. She shows Piper her own “couture” sandals, elegant duct-tape numbers. The commissary doesn’t carry size 13.
Sophia advises her not to hold off on evacuating her bowels of the sticky prison food. She’s feeling sympathetic, having messed up Piper’s hair.
Character moments for Pornstache and Bennett. Pornstache makes lewd comments about the inmates, seems convinced that they all want in his pants. Bennet is uncomfortable as hell, but doesn’t stop him.
Time for medication distribution: the entire prison’s gone generic, and Sophia is only getting a quarter of her usual estrogen dose. The nurse is unsympathetic, only telling her to go talk to her counselor. Outraged, Sophia stalks off to do just that.
Elsewhere, Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren is cornering Piper on the track, professing her admiration for Piper’s lack of odor and “real woman”-ness. “I can’t waste my time with these silly bitches, I need a real woman.” She gives Piper a nickname, “Dandelion.” Also, she wrote a poem. She ignores Piper’s mentions of her fiancé. Oh, shit. They’re interrupted when a CO informs them that the track is being close. Budget cuts.
In Healy’s office, Sophia is being told that there’s nothing that can be done about her estrogen. She describes what will happen without it in detail, and Healy looks about ready to crawl out of his skin. She can’t see a doctor unless there is an emergency. This, apparently, is not an emergency. Healy has already moved on. Is there anything else?
“Yes.” Burset grabs one of Healy’s cutesy bobbleheads, rips the head off, and swallows it. “I’d like to report an emergency.” It’s a supremely badass moment, because Sophia’s got style, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that this is an act of complete desperation. Institutional transmisogyny, folks. Actually, there are a lot of subtle shades of transmisogyny depicted in OITNB, from the inmate that refers to Burset as a “he-she,” to Nicky, who accepts her as a woman, but only because her “pole” is currently a “hole.” Necessary for realism, I guess. I’m not really qualified to comment, except to say that I really hope that either Laverne Cox or another trans woman gave some input on this stuff.
At the clinic, Sophia is informed that a) she’s gonna have to pass that bobblehead all on her own, so good luck with that, and b) she’s actually getting taken off her hormones completely. Well.
It should be mentioned that Piper is continuing to give Alex the cold shoulder, despite Alex’s overtures of kindness. I mean, I guess I can’t blame her. She’d be planning her wedding to Silverman if Alex hadn’t named her in that suit. Crazy Eyes defends her “wife’s” honor by throwing her pie at Alex in the cafeteria. True love. Eventually, Piper ends it with a clear, firm declaration of love for her fiancé. Breathe a sigh of relief. This is over.
Sophia get a visit from her wife, and asks her to sneak in some estrogen. Crystal’s not feeling so supportive, seeing as Sophia’s credit card fuckery to pay for her surgery is why she ended up in prison in the first place. Prison is forever linked with Sophia’s transition in Crystal’s mind.
Piper is put with her new roommate, Miss Claudette, an ornery character with a million cleanliness-related rules. Of course, on their first night together, Crazy Eyes pays a visit and pees on their floor, to the tune of the best song ever written.
Also there’s some subplot with Silverman and Piper’s brother, blah blah blah.
OTHER RELEVANT FLASHBACKS
- Piper meets Alex in a bar. Alex is, unsurprisingly, a smooth operator.
- Sophia, having had her top surgery but presumably not her bottom, gets some help figuring out feminine clothing from her wife Crystal. It’s a sweet moment, until Crystal begs Sophia to keep her penis. Sophia tells Crystal she doesn’t have to stay. We all know that Sophia isn’t keeping her penis and Crystal isn’t leaving and the love and the fundamental disconnect here is enough to shatter your heart.
- Sophia out with her son, trying to buy a new pair of sneakers. He’s ashamed of his newly-minted mother, and runs out of the store.
EPISODE 4: Imaginary Enemies
ALRIGHT, folks. We’ve laid out most of the big players now, so I’m gonna try to move even a little faster. Ready? No? Tough noogies. Onward!
- Tricia Miller (Madeline Brewer): early 20s, white, awful cornrows, worse neck tattoo. Loving, overly optimistic girlfriend of Mercy, who doesn’t have enouh time onscreen to merit her own bullet point.
- Big Boo (Lea DeLaria): 40ish, white, super butch. Mercy’s former lover, still kinda bitter. Bark worse than bite (you will realize that last bit is a HILARIOUS JOKE later)
- Luschek (Matt Peters): 30s, white, does electrical stuff, runs the electrical shop. Always seems annoyed.
IN THIS EPISODE WE GET:
Miss Claudette’s Backstory: She’s brought to the States from an unspecified French-speaking country as a teenager to live in an apartment with a couple dozen other girls and clean apartments. The dude who brings her over is named Baptiste, and he’s extremely charming for a dude who’s involved in what appears to be a slaving operation. Miss Claudette grows up to run the racket herself. When one of her girls comes home covered in some pretty scary bruises, she heads to the abusers house herself the next week, and leaves him lying dead in a pool of his own blood. And that, kids, is why she’s at Litchfield.
Piper’s New Job at the Electrical Shop: She’s given a lamp and an instruction manual, and told to create light. Nicky’s there too, drilling a hole in the wall (“It’s an art piece representing the futility of blue-collar labor in a technological age. And vaginas.”), as well as Watson, who raises a stink and gets put on tool check-out duty.
At the end of the day, there is a MIsSING SCREWDRIVER. BIG DEAL. Since screwdrivers are considered deadly weapons and all. Luschek goes apeshit. Watson mouths off and refuses to get a pat-down, and is sent to SHU (solitary, if I didn’t mention it before).
Guess who’s responsible for the lost screwdriver. Guess.
It’s Piper. She frantically tries to hide it during bunk searches, until it mysteriously disappears. Miss Claudette is not even in the general area of amused.
Later, Luschek finds a screwdriver in his van. Asshole. All is well.
But actually no, because that’s not THE screwdriver, Luschek’s just an idiot. Big Boo has the actual screwdriver. She’s using it as a masturbation aid because of course she is.
A Very Obvious Budding Romance Between Daya and Bennett (Cute Non-Ponstache CO): The musical cues tell us that we are supposed to find this adorable, and it kind of works.
Mercy is Getting Out: an inmate we have not met before, and will not hear from again is getting out. There’s going to be a super depressing party. Tricia is convinced Mercy will wait for her to get out, so they can be together. Boo tells her not to bet on it. TENSION.
In the Library Alex and Nicky Are Making Friends, and Taystee Has Amusing Opinions About Books.
Piper Agrees to Help Tricia with her Letter of Appeal: then everyone else decides Piper will help them, as well.
EPISODE 5: The Chickening
Attempting to have a normal, relaxing Sunday morning on the prison grounds (with Velvet Underground’s “Sunday Morning playing in the background, because nothing is too on the nose for this show), and almost succeeding, Piper sees a chicken. Huh. Weird.
Nicky and Morello are fucking in the chapel. Loudly. Morello says this is the last time they do it, because she’s being unfair to Christopher. They argue for a bit, but then have to sneak away when they are interrupted by Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett (white, indeterminate age, played by Taryn Manning – if you know who that is, that’s all you need to know), who is loudly bothering the prison chaplain, because she feels she is being oppressed for her Evangelical Christian beliefs. Piece of work, this one. A character, as my grandma would say. She wants to hang up a gigantically ugly, glow-in-the-dark-paint-adorned 8-foot-tall cross she’s made in the chapel, and the chaplain won’t let her, the fascist. Pennsatucky laboriously drags the cross away over one shoulder, because of course she does.
Piper tells the rest of the white lady contingent about the chicken, and this is a BIG DEAL. They take her straight to Red. Who has apparently been having prophetic dreams of THIS PARTICULAR CHICKEN. The bird was smart enough to escape slaughter on a farm, and has been living off the land, periodically returning to Litchfield to torment the inmates. It is Red’s white whale. She is determined to capture and eat it. The first girl to bring her the chicken gets a box of Biore strips.
Elsewhere, At Big Boo’s suggestion, Sophia is attempting to befriend Sister Ingalls in order to get to her estrogen. There is no way this will go according to plan. In the end, it doesn’t work out, but they still kind of end up friends? So I guess that’s nice, but yeah, Sophia’s health is still in danger.
Another elsewhere, Pennsatucky and her cronies are attempting to hang her monstrosity cross from the ceiling. She succeeds for about four seconds, before the damn thing falls and the entire ceiling of the chapel caves in with it. “God has chosen to test our conviction,” Tucky intones.
Also Piper is trying to make some type of deal for Barney’s to carry her bath product line? And Polly screwed it up? It is very hard to care. Maybe it’s a testament to how great the main ensemble is, but I’m just not interested in Piper’s outside life. Maybe Piper’s life is just boring.
The inmates are set to work cleaning up the chapel (Pennsatucky isn’t going to SHU for some dumb reason), but afterwards, the grand chicken hunt commences. The Diaz ladies and the rest of the Latina prisoners are observing from afar. Martiza has a hunch the chicken is full of dope, and sets off to join the search. Gloria follows. Entertainment value, you know?
Back to the chicken hunt. Martiza’s rumor about the bird-dope has spread and mutated. Red’s losing steam. She has a madness in her eye that will be familiar to anyone who’s ever spent the afternoon chasing an animal who doesn’t want to be caught. “All I wanted was to eat the chicken that is smarter than other chickens, and absorb its power. And make a nice Kiev. But oh, well.” Piper has to pep-talk her back into the game.
Healy, on the other hand, wants the chicken business over and done with. He tells Piper to keep her mouth shut. She’ll rile the less-educated rabble. As she leaves his office, the PA intones the following philosophical treatise: “There is no chicken. There never was any chicken. The chicken is an urban myth. A grand illusion. Something to give your life meaning, but which in fact is not there. We will make a poster.”
Later, Piper is on the phone to try and negotiate with Barney’s, and fix some of the damage Polly created without her. Before the folks on the other end pick up, Piper sees the fabled white whale chicken out the window. After a moment of hesitation, she abandons the phone to run after it. A corner has been turned.
And yeah, nobody catches the chicken. See, it’s a metaphor.
- The Diaz ladies. Aleida going out for oysters in a fancy dress, leaving Daya to look after her four younger siblings
- Aleida brings her boyfriend Cesar’s drug operation into her kitchen, Daya is exasperated.
- She takes the fall for him, Daya takes the whole family up to Litchfield for a visit, where Aleida is pissed off and unpleasant. She doesn’t seem to give a shit about her kids, just getting a visit from Cesar. When they return home, Daya jumps Cesar’s bones, at least partially out of revenge, but probably also to ensure he’ll stick around and take care of them.
Alright, guys. Last season 1 post is in the pipeline, then onto the new stuff! BE EXCITED WITH ME.