“No! Do not think small! We are dressing ourselves for the career that we want. You have to put it into the universe. Dress for Success.”
CHARACTERS I HAVEN’T MENTIONED YET:
- “Black Cindy” Hayes (Adrienne C. Moore): 30ish, Black. Acted as replacement-bestie for Poussey while Taystee was on the outside. Capable beatboxer. Gets a lot of the better lines.
- Flaca Gonzales (Jackie Cruz): early 20s, Latina. Nigh inseparable from Martiza, wears super heavy eyeliner and has a thing for the Smiths.
- Leanne Taylor (Emma Myles): 20s, white. Pennsatucky’s right-hand woman. Doesn’t read as terribly intelligent.
- Maria Ruiz (Jessica Pimentel): 20s, Latina. Was pregnant through most of last season, gave birth, then immediately came back to the prison, separated from her baby.
Open with a FLASHBACK: A park, a banner reading “Black Adoption Festival.” An adorable little curly-haired moppet (maybe 10 years old? I’m not a great judge of kid ages) is excitedly asking if we want to hear “her song.” She doesn’t wait for a reply. I am beautifuuuuul, in every single waaaay…she’s clearly hamming it up for the nice middle-class Black couple that comprises her audience, and it looks like its kind of working. Until another moppet crosses in front of her, interrupting the song.
“Brichelle! You back the fuck off!” The nice couple exchanges a surprised look, and the first moppet’s face instantly registers that she’s losing them. She attempts damage control. “She’s got impulse control issues, you know? I’m real smart. I know the whole periodic chart. I love science!”
Another lady, clearly in charge of the event, intervenes. “Okay, Tasha. How about we get you a shaved ice, yes?” Tasha offers a token protest, but she knows she’s lost. Next shot is of her sitting alone on the bench with her ice. A middle-aged woman in sunglasses approaches and wipes off the space next to Tasha on the bench before sitting.
“That looks vile,” she says of Tasha’s ice.
“It looks blue, but it tastes red,” Tasha responds.
“Blue and red are colors, darlin’. They’re not flavors.” The two clearly know each other. I won’t make any assumptions about their official connection, but at first glance I’d peg the feel of the relationship at aunt-niece.
“Well, it’s tasty. I like me somethin’ tasty. Especially on days like now. People only want the babies.”
“Of course they want the babies. Babies are cute.”
“No, you’re big,” the older lady says, looking at Tasha over those purple-tinted sunglasses, “and your hair’s ratsy. And you’re too eager and too dark. And now your mouth is blue. But I suppose it tastes like red.” She sticks a cigarette in her mouth.
While they’re talking, a teenage boy approaches and gives Sunglasses a roll of dollar bills. It feels light, she says calmly, accusingly. “Light ain’t right unless you like sleeping on the street.” Just big bills, he assures her. Well, then she’ll see him home for dinner.
“Aw, shit. You a connect,” Tasha comments. Sunglasses corrects her. Businesswoman. She ribs Tasha for bragging about her knowledge of science in front of the couple. Slightly petulant, Tasha informs her that she also knows pi to 56 digits.
“You care to learn to trade?” Sunglasses asks.
“Hell, no, not with no connect. I get in trouble, I never find a forever family.”
“You might wanna start thinking about making your own forever family, Taystee. You wait around for one to come along, you might die waitin’.”
“My name is Tasha.”
Sunglasses smiles indulgently. “Yeah, but Taystee suits you somehow. Like you said, everybody like a little somethin’ tasty.” The newly christened baby Taystee gives her a fantastic bitchface, the type you can only get from a precocious kid under the age of twelve.
“I’ll be keeping my eye on you Taystee Girl. See you round the way.” Taystee leaves the bench.
Cut to present day and ALRIGHT, looks like we’re FINALLY BACK AT LITCHFIELD, and it feels weird to be relieved to be back here, but I am, because now we get to see ALL OF OUR FRIEEEEEENDS. Yay! Friends! Friends in prison, yes. But friends!
Adult Taystee is standing in front of a wheeling rack of clothing, cooing her approval at a black-and-blue dress. She’d rock this if she wasn’t trying to be all professional. “Why you care?” asks fellow inmate Black Cindy. “You know it’s all bullshit.” Bullshit or no, Taystee wants to win.
Almost the full complement of last season’s inmates are clustered around three or four clothing racks. Looks like Litchfield is holding some Dress for Success type of program, presided over by a middle-aged white lady in floral print who never gets completely comfortable.
Morello wants to know if there’s anything in white, because that’s her color. Nicky is sure that she can smell every other inmate who’s ever worn this blazer. Flaca, modeling an awful yellow-checked, shoulder-padded blazer, wants to know where the McDonald’s and maid’s uniforms are. Floral woman insists they should dress for the careers they want.
Black Cindy asks for the plus size section, and is directed to the end of the rack. She despairs at the choices offered. “I don’t wanna wear no sack. I got curves. I’m a plushious woman.” Anyone who tells me that isn’t their new favorite word is a liar.
Leanne wants to know what to wear if she’s interested in marine biology. Where are the wetsuits? Floral woman, seemingly bereft of anything like a sense of humor, says that she still might have to interview in the office. She offers Leanne a hideous peach outfit that she claims would work well with her skin tone. It doesn’t, by the way.
It takes three people and a few thinly-veiled digs at her “broadness,” but Sophia gets zipped into a glittery black and red number. Obviously she looks gorgeous, but it’s a look better suited to 2 a.m on a Saturday than 9 a.m on a Monday. Sophia doesn’t give a shit about dressing for success. She’s just “playing dress-up.” I guess it helps to have a family waiting for you on the outside.
Maria and Martiza are in the kitchen, whining at Gloria (now the head honcho, replacing Red) about how they’re stuck working while Flaca gets to do the job fair. She doesn’t even need it, her boyfriend’s like, the king of molly. Aleida wants to know what that is, and Luschek, that creep, pipes up from down by the radiator he’s fixing. Pure powder form of MDMA. Made him grind his teeth.
“How come you ain’t in jail, Luschek?” Aleida asks tartly.
“I am in jail. Every fuckin’ day.” Badum tissss. There’s a little more back-and-forth, Luschek gets pissed, and Gloria placates him with a brownie. Diplomacy. When he leaves, Gloria offers a clearly pained Daya something in a cup. What’s that for? Aleida wonders. Daya’s constipated. Why didn’t she tell her mother?
“You don’t wanna hear about my bathroom.”
“Of course I do.”
“Okay, Aleida. I haven’t shit for five days. You happy?” Chorus of giggles from the peanut gallery, and Daya storms off.
Then Aleida asks Gloria what she’s doing and Gloria’s all like, it’s fine, just a little olive oil and magic, nothing to hurt the baby and Aleida’s all, I’m the one with the stretch marks, and Gloria’s all yeah but she’s more comfortable with me…and goddamn I can see where this is going and I’m annoyed already. I like all these characters, but this subplot, this “no, I’m Daya’s mommy” shit is cheap and boring and sitcom-y. I hope it doesn’t continue for too long.
Back in the chapel, Fig is introducing a do’s-and-don’ts Dress for Success pageant with floral woman, whose name is Mrs. Sackin. The inmates line up in their finery, and Sackin comments on each.
Sophia, in cocktail attire: wholly unprofessional. Sophia strikes a few poses, unperturbed, to enthusiastic applause.
Morello, in a white sailor dress: childish. Companies are looking to hire adults. Morello gives a stinkeye.
Leanne, in the gross peach thing: ill-fitting, dated, not flattering. Leanne is pissed. “But you told me to wear it,” she snaps over crossed arms. Sophia vouches for her. “I just wanted to swim with dolphins!” Thank you, you can leave the stage now. The three storm off, along with inmate DeMarco, whose leopard print indicated poor judgement.
Flaca, in a black turtleneck and plaid shift: thumbs up, polished and conservative, but maybe turn your eyeliner down to like, 6? (I’m paraphrasing.)
Nicky, in a black pants suit: also thumbs up, but “serious problems with personal grooming here.” Nicky interrupts her mugging to look sheepish for a second, then offended. Her hair is clean. No, Sackin thinks it’s “wild and slovenly.” Sorry it’s not uptight and boring, Nicky shoots back.
Taystee, in a black skirt suit and pearls: Her hair, a styled in a modest afro, is acceptable, and so is the subtle makeup. But the shirt is too sheer and the skirt is too tight. “Hold up, pause,” she says. This was the winning outfit at the last job fair! Not if you’re over a size 8, apparently. Sackin ignores her, she wants to talk for a moment about dressing for your body type and skin tone, which brings us to…
Black Cindy, in a pink-ish muumuu: Sackin insults the dress in exactly the same terms Cindy had used earlier, before donning the monstrosity at Sackin’s insistence. That’s this whole thing in a nutshell, really.
Taystee protests Sackin’s weirdly manipulative tactics onstage. She still looks “hella office.” Sackin proclaims Flaca the winner.
Skinny people, man.
Red is at the commissary trying to order a week’s worth of groceries, but she’s out of cash. She doesn’t look so great. Her gray roots are showing.
Caputo is in his office, wrapped in a scarf and rubbing his hands, complaining about the frost on his plants. Luscheck, trying to fix his radiator, informs him that the furnace needs to be replaced. He has orders from Fig to do his best, then go buy her a space heater. Caputo requests a space heater of his own.
Check in with Big Boo at the cafeteria. She had a puppy last season, but it’s gone now, for a reason I refuse to elaborate on because I feel it violates the sacred bond between woman and dog. Red’s in the cafeteria too, in line for the first time since she lost the kitchen, and Maria, Maritza and Daya, on serving duty, are suspicious. Maria thinks she’s lying in wait to take back the kitchen. Also they make fun of Daya’s poop situation, which makes me snicker like an eight-year-old.
Exiled from the tables occupied by “her girls,” Red sits down across from Flores, who talked to the devil on a cell phone last season. The Golden Girls (the old lady inmates, if you’re not up on your vintage sitcoms) invite her to sit with them, and Red declines. Dignity, I guess.
Cut to a hallway: Pennsatucky has returned from SHU, and her face doesn’t look so hot, especially in the teeth. Last thing she remembers, she was an angel.
Healy’s in his office listening to a “Learn Russian” tape. Not sure if I’ve mentioned this, but he’s got a mail-order wife, and he’s having trouble relating because, you know, mail order wife. Tucky comes in, and they start with the chit-chat. She seems a bit humbled. She’s “got all her marbles back.” Healy just wants to touch base about “that evening.” Well, about one specific aspect of “that evening.”
You see, while Pennsatucky was threatening Piper with a sharpened cross, Healy had been out in the yard to see it. Still not Piper’s biggest fan after she dressed him down from her cell in SHU, Healy pointedly did nothing about the impending fight. You know, exactly the opposite of what he was supposed to do. Now he’s trying to cover his ass. Tucky didn’t see him that night. Right? Right? “Don’t think for a second that anyone is going to believe a meth-addled hillbilly over me.” Are you remembering why we hate this guy? “What would help you forget what you think you saw?” he asks her.
Fig’s in her office dealing with a reporter, the same one who was poking around Litchfield’s financial situation last season. She’s trying to distract him with a little bit of leg, as seems to be her default negotiating strategy. Sounding a hell of a lot like a politician, she’s putting the hard spin on Litchfield’s budget situation. The job fair demonstrates their commitment to education and rehabilitation. There’s a little conspiratorial complaining about the DOC for good measure.
The reporter has noticed that her husband is running for state senate. Fig directs him to Jason Figueroa’s campaign office for answers about that and hustles him out of the room.
Down in laundry, Leanna and Angie, another former henchwoman, are folding. Leanne is complaining about how she got screwed at the job fair and managing to be pretty racist about it. Angie shares that their fearless leader has returned, having seen her on her way in.
“Don’t get me wrong or nothin’, but since she’s been away, hasn’t it been, like, kinda nice in here?” Leanne says this like Pennsatucky could be lurking behind the washing machine, ready to pounce on her for losing faith.
“What do you mean?”
“I dunno, like, peaceful. Easy. No yelling, telling everybody they’re gonna go to Hell. Just quiet, you know?” Angie agrees, and promises to keep her mouth shut about it.
Cut to, goddamn it, Silverman and Mr. Bloom. They’re sitting in a sauna. Basically, Silverman is asking questions about Piper, and Mr. Bloom isn’t her biggest fan at the moment and thinks he needs to move on, go get laid or something. Silverman, easily swayed sheep-man that he is, agrees by the end.
Also while they’re talking about all of this, their fellow sauna-goers are getting to third base for each other. It’s a gay sauna. Mr. Bloom had a Groupon and hey, “a schvitz is a schvitz.” Did you forget they’re Jewish? Because they’re Jewish.
The job fair continues. Time for resume help. Flaca learns fancy terms to describe her work experience from an old dude in business casual: she didn’t “help make sure no one stole shit” from her cousin’s store, she “monitored inventory and provided security.” Poussey (HELLO NICE TO SEE YOU I MISSED YOU) wants a job where she can just chill, you know? Maybe on the beach? According to the aptitude test, Nicky should be either a professional athlete, a park ranger, or a correctional officer. She doesn’t think that’s funny. Janae actually wants to be a pro athlete, but she’s pretty realistic about her chances. Morello just wants to marry Christaphuh and have his babies. Suzanne (gonna try to avoid calling her “Crazy Eyes”) wants to work with mentally ill children, because she might have valuable insight and be able to help them heal and oh God my heart. She would also like to work with round objects.
Taystee, unsurprisingly, is the star pupil. She already knows the fancy resume language for her less impressive accomplishments, and has actual skills to put down as well: “high retention abilities and exceptional math skills.”
In the visitor’s room, Red is sitting across from her (ahem, insanely attractive) son, Vasily. He’s got a gnarly black eye. His girlfriend Lida hit him in the face with a bag of change when he stumbled in drunk one night. “Good for her,” is Red’s response. She didn’t raise him to come home drunk and upset his wife. She’s not my wife, ma. She’s the mother of my grandson, what should I call her? She thinks that Lida’s a nice girl, and they should get married. Ok, I mean, listen, in most cases, I’m all for Red’s flavor of always-support-the-ladies-no-matter-what attitude, but in this case, maybe you should be listening to your kid?
There’s no money for Red’s commissary because their store is empty. Everyone knows that Ganya, presumably the mob guy from last season, is mad at the Reznikovs for blowing the prison contract that was supposed to be their steady income. Shit’s rough, they’ll get her some money next week.
“You’re a good son. Not great, but pretty good.”
“I’ll take it.”
A few tables over Maria is meeting with her taciturn husband/boyfriend/presumed baby daddy, and cuddling her baby. I guess it’s sweet, but I can’t really comment. I am a dog person, not a baby person.
“Soon we’re gonna spend lots of time together. Before you even remember stuff, we’re gonna be together.” Ok, that tugged a heart string.
In the dormitories, Taystee is convinced that a) she’s gonna win the job fair and b) the prize will be a real job. She heard a rumor from the woman who won last year. Her dream job is a spot as an assistant to a TV judge, preferable Judy. Poussey expresses dismay that Taystee did not inform them of this job-prize. Taystee just didn’t want the competition. She’s a child of the system, she says, all mock poignancy. No one ever taught her right from wrong.
In the kitchen, Aleida sneaks into Gloria’s office to steal some yogurt from the fridge.
Back outside to, uuuuuuugh, Silverman again. Why are you doing this to us, show? Don’t you like us? Don’t you care about our needs? Which, at the moment, call for like 300% more Poussey and Nicky and ABSOLUTELY NO Silverman.
I’m gonna make this quick: So, Piper’s friend Polly has had the baby, and her husband has taken off for some voyage of self-discovery on the tundra or some shit because he’s terrible. Larry is helping out, bringing over some groceries. When he opens the door, Polly’s got a boob hanging out from nursing the kid, and she doesn’t even care if Silverman sees because she’s so comfortable with him, and sigh, I guess this means we’re supposed of start seeing sexual tension between these two. Neither of them has talked to Piper, but they both think she’s being self-destructive. Silverman agrees to look after the kid while Polly takes a shower. There’s more tense boob-looking. Ugh.
Finally, the bathrooms at Litchfield. Aleida is standing outside the stall. The yogurt from earlier was for Daya, obviously. She’s explaining that she remembers Daya shitting like crazy when she ate yogurt as a baby. It’s working for adult Daya as well, right? Right? Daya just wants her mom to stop talking to her while she’s on the can. “God, can I just shit in peace?”
“Fine, but if you have any…action, you let me know, alright?”
“Fine, fine, just go!”
At the library, Taystee is preparing for the interview portion of the job fair with a how-to book, and Poussey is helping her by altering the skirt from earlier. “That’s what you do for family,” she tells Taystee when she says thank you.
“Yeah, what, you my crazy Aunt Poussey now?”
“Naw, I’m your sister from another mister, ‘bout to beat your ass if you don’t read that book till you know it cold. You got some interview ass-kicking to do. Make me proud.” Taystee offers an annoyed-but-affectionate sisterly smile. Can I have an “aaaaaww?”
In the cafeteria, the Golden Girls are converging on Red’s lonely perch. She’s attempting to ignore it. “You really don’t need to do this,” she says when they try to make conversation.
“I appreciate the gesture and everything but-“
“But what,” one woman croaks. “We’ll be ostracized? Already no one notices us. We’re old and invisible, so why not be old together? We keep each other company.”
“You calling me old?” There’s a big round of jokes and kind euphemisms after this one, as there usually is when discussing a woman’s age on TV. Red warms a little.
Pennsatucky’s getting into the van with two COs. “Where we going?” Morello asks from the driver’s seat. Tucky’s finally getting her teeth fixed. She’s grinning like a maniac through her old smashed-keyboard teeth.
Final round of the job fair in the chapel. A representative from Philip Morris, the U.S.’s leading cigarette manufacturer, is there to conduct the interview. “The only people who want to hire felons are already hated by everyone else,” Poussey notes to Black Cindy in the audience.
“Nah, see, they ain’t so bad,” Cindy replies. “See, people can decide for theyselves if they wanna smoke. The real evil is they companies killing us without consent. Monsanto. Rio Tinto. Big Pharma, BP, Halliburton. I been reading there’s some dark shit going down. Not that any of ‘em motherfuckers ever wanna hire us. The real criminals, they don’t bother with us small-timers.” Again, OitNB, suuuuper heavy-handed. Not that I don’t agree.
Taystee and Flaca, in their job interview attire, sit down on either side of the rep. No use recounting all their answers, because the whole thing is pretty Goofus and Gallant, Job Interview Edition: Flaca comes off as clueless and under-prepared, and even comes on to the interviewer (shudder). Taystee gives concise, well-worded answers that convey her strengths in a matter-of-fact way, and seems focused, enthusiastic, and crazy well-informed. You can guess who wins.
Daya emerges from the bathroom to see both of her “moms” waiting for her. “Victory,” she exclaims, brandishing a roll of toilet paper. Both are excited, but Aleida leans into it, embracing her daughter.
“It was the yogurt, right? A mother knows.”
Gloria counters: “The drink that I gave you has helped women in my family dookie for 14 generations.”
Daya diplomatically posits that it was a combination of the two. CO Bennett, the unfortunate father, approaches and asks what’s up. “Daya finally shit!” Aleida exclaims gleefully. Daya storms off like a pissy teenager, complete with a “God, I’ve never been so humiliated in my entire life!” Gloria tells him to follow and comfort her. After he leaves, the two mothers seem to come to a truce of sorts, but Gloria does want to know where Aleida got that yogurt from.
Back in the chapel, after Taystee is announced as winner of the job fair, Fig sets about crushing her dreams, telling her there will be no job as prize, and taking a few lines to remind us what a shitty person she is. Taystee will be getting $10 added to her commissary fund. That’s almost the same thing, right?
The camera pans after Fig as she leaves, to reveal a big-haired figure in new-inmate oranges: Vee.
“Oh, shit,” Taystee groans.
And, okay, I know it’s completely useless to imagine an alternate universe where that nice couple from the flashback adopted baby Tasha, and she like, won the Intel Science Talent Search in high school, and went to law school and is currently a junior partner in a hoity-toity law firm with a devoted boyfriend who cooks her dinner every night and an equally devoted corgi puppy to greet her at the door, but it’s hard for me not to do that. I just really need Taystee to be happy, dammit!
- Taystee, probably a teenager, headed off to a fast food job from a group home, stops to talk with a friend having a smoke. Sunglasses approaches with an entourage of teenagers, and asks her to join them for something to eat. Taystee declines, but offers a friendly greeting to one of the entourage, RJ, on their way off.
- Slight older, and in tears, Taystee comes back to Sunglasses in the back of a store that she apparently uses as a front for her dealing. For unspecified reasons, she can’t stay where she currently is, and needs help. Sunglasses (whose name appears to be “Vee”) is uninterested in helping, until some dude who owes her money wanders in, and Taystee works out his debt on the spot with those freaky math skills of hers. “You ready to work?” she asks Taystee.
- Taystee is returning to Vee’s house from the hobby shop, laden with art supplies. She was told to get some simple stamps to mark Vee’s dope envelopes, but she wanted to get ~*~creative~*~. Puffy paint and pipe cleaners, bitches. Vee is cooking, and RJ is sitting at the table, pawing through Taystee’s haul, and teasing her about it. All very domestic. Taystee thinks Vee needs a trademark or something to set her apart, and RJ agrees. They decide on a horse stamp, because heroin’s called horse. Horsey horse! Taystee, you are the dorkiest drug dealer ever and I love it. She seems to have big dreams – this isn’t her “forever career.” Vee is skeptical. Dealing gets you money, which gets you respect. What more do you need? The three set the table for dinner, and we get a long shot of Taystee staring at the scene with wonder and love. It’s a little heavy-handed, but it definitely drives home the family-found moment she’s having, among the squash soup and homemade bread.
- RJ’s funeral. Taystee sits outside with his portrait for the ceremony, afraid to go inside and see the body. Vee sits down next to her and offers comfort. Taystee says that they had tickets to go to the Statue of Liberty together because neither had ever been. This ruins my immersion a little bit, because what New Yorker gives a shit about the Statue of Liberty (I’m not even from NYC and I don’t care), but this is a moment, so I’ll stop being an asshole. Anyway, Vee swears that she “protects her babies.” And that she’ll die before this happens again. She will keep Taystee safe. Seeing as how Taystee’s in jail at the moment, doesn’t look like she did such a great job.
Alright, there we are. Man, this thing got long. I’ll try to be a little more concise on the next one, which will hopefully be out before the weekend. Maybe I’ll aim for Tuesdays and Fridays? Anyway, talk to me folks: who’s your favorite character so far? Basic question, I know, but it forms the basis of all good TV discussion. I’m obviously in love with Taystee, and, like everyone else in my corner of the internet, I’m nursing a stupid huge crush on Samira Wiley/Poussey. Also Red and Nicky and Daya, though I think I might like Dascha Polanco better than I like her character. Any theories as to why Silverman is still hanging around? Nobody seems to like him, and even Jason Biggs knows it, judging by this interview (skip to about 3:40). And most importantly, am I the only one who’s weirdly into Red’s son?
Also, Dress for Success lady can go fuck herself, because Nicky’s hair is perfect.
(My hair looks a lot like Nicky’s, ok?)