Monday 15 December 2014

Orange is the New Black – It’s the least we can do.

Orange is the New Black: 2x05 Low Self Esteem City.

Belonging is essential in Litchfield. It provides context, protection, friendship, community. The show is still in the process of mapping out the rules – in Low Self Esteem City, during a conflict between the Hispanic and the Black inmates about the bathrooms, one of the girls appeals to a black guard and is turned down all the more violently for assuming she will have her support – but at this point, not even Piper considers what first took her by surprise and what she thought was problematic an issue. There are only a few people who cross the lines. It seems like for the group that Red has joined and given a new task with the greenhouse, age is a more decisive factor for belonging than anything else, as it makes each of them invisible to the general population and the guards. 
This is Gloria’s episode. After Red’s downfall, she is now in a new position of power, and she is responsible for “her girls” who she has brought with her into the kitchen. But Gloria is new to the job, and as fierce as she is, and as openminded to any solution that might help (including a very refreshingly opportunistic approach to religion), she is in no cut out for a conflict with Vee, who has been in this game so much longer than Gloria, and is gearing up to get all her ducks in a row. While Gloria’s backstory unfurls in the flashbacks – she used to run a small deli, caught in an abusive relationship, and was eventually convicted of fraud – she and Vee come heads to head in Litchfield when the Hispanic bathroom stops working. It brings to light all the ways in which the prison is dysfunctional. Caputo and Healy have neither the means nor the power to authorize that the bathroom be fixed promptly, and Fig is predictably unwilling to allocate the resources, which are presumably already well invested in her new Mercedes and her husband’s election campaign. The system is failing the inmates, and as much as Caputo and Healy get it – in all their shared hilarious sexism – wrong, they do feel responsible. The failing of the system also opens exactly the kind of space that Vee requires to manoeuvre herself into power – in a corrupt system, the most ruthless and opportunistic villains have all the space they need, while everybody else suffers. Vee is good enough at the game that she knows she has to make herself small for now, to appear disinterested in power, to pretend that she merely wishes to resolve the conflict quickly and quietly, since she never ever wanted the responsibility for everyone else in the first place. It’s a lie of course – a lie that Gloria, who completely falls for it, never sees coming. Vee gets exactly what she wants, with only her girls’ discomfort at stake, and they are already too much in her hands to truly complain about it. Red and she are in synch and are both moving closer to having a line to the outside (girls walking in custodial, the green house), a way to smuggle in the black market goods that will give them the power they so desire, but it’s already hinted how much further Vee will be willing to go. 

Random notes: 

Nicky and Big Boo figure out the rules to their new game, and while Big Boo just goes off to collect points, Nicky decides to play the long game and try to get into Fisher’s pants – who somehow realizes, in the course of that awkward exchange that goes nowhere for Nicky, that the guards should be monitoring the phone calls. YO HABLA ESPANOL…MUY BUENO. Bad things on the horizon for certain secretly pregnant people. 

The episode is about divisions and class, belonging and not belonging, so all the more fitting that we see another attempt from Pennsatucky to fit in with the other white girls, now that her old gang has forsaken her (in her mind, having good tooth is all it takes to transcend class)

Pennsatucky: What are you all playing?
Nicky: A game as old as time.
Pennsatucky: What’s it called?
Nicky: Exclusion.
Pennsatucky: Cool. How is it played?

Poussey: They fucking with us this way because they know our people’s predisposition for hypertension!

Nicky: I was arrogant. It’s a classic story of hubris. I’m like Icarus whose wings melted before he could fuck the sun.

Healy is desperately trying to make his marriage happier, which fails terribly (somewhere in there is a point about how Healy brings all his frustrations back into his job and how he always gets it wrong even if he tries to get it right, because his sexism is rooted so deeply that he confused it for empathy and caring). 

Healy: I hate talking about women’s issues to women. It’s creepy.


Piper finds out that her grandmother is dying, applies to be able to see her, and of course, in his newfound responsibility, this is the one project Healy applies himself to. 


Anonymous said...

if she spoke Spanish well, she would have said 'Hablo español muy BIEN´ not BUENO!!

cathy leaves said...

YES. And yet, this is the best they can do.