by Billie Doux
This pilot episode illustrated realistically and thoroughly what it's like to have all of your choices taken away from you, and to be thrown into a hostile environment against your will.
Piper Chapman was all smiles and stoicism as she prepared to leave for her stint in prison. She talked with her fiance Larry and best friend Polly about it as if it were a forced vacation. Piper has "vacation" plans. She is going to get ripped, read everything on her Amazon wish list, learn a craft, and still manage to keep her eyebrows properly tweezed. But when she actually arrived in prison, Piper was lost. She wasn't even 'Piper' any more, because everyone is called by their last name.
Piper herself isn't all that likable. She seems to have become the "nice blonde lady" her lover Alex told her to fake during the courier thing ten years ago. But does Piper deserve prison? All she did was make a stupid mistake ten years ago because she was young and in love. Healy the lesbian-obsessed counselor mentioned that a lot of people are improperly sentenced. Which doesn't say much about our admittedly wretched prison system.
Is Piper really the nice straight blonde lady with the bath products business and a conventional male fiance? It just feels like she's faking it, and that there is another Piper in there, a lesbian, a risk-taker, waiting to come out. So to speak.
-- Piper talks constantly about creature comforts, and loves showers and baths, getting clean.
-- Piper's fiance Larry seems nice, but it also feels like his character was lifted directly from his American Pie movies.
-- I liked Morello, who gave Piper a lot of good, kindly advice in the van. Morello was obsessed with her upcoming wedding to her boyfriend, but Piper also saw her having passionate sex with Nicky.
-- Nicky is aggressive and in your face, but I couldn't help liking her, too. She just got out of solitary (SHU) so I am betting she's not terribly well behaved.
-- Watson is still an unknown, since she was angry and uncommunicative. Sort of can't blame her.
-- Piper was warned that she didn't want to get on Miss Claudette's bad side.
-- I liked what Yoga Jones said about seeing prison as a mandala, something that Piper should make the best of, and then wipe away as if it never happened. Nice philosophy.
-- Diaz, who just arrived, was slapped by her mother, who was already an inmate. Must be a story there.
-- One of the prisoners is a nun who chained herself to a flagpole at a nuclear test site. Needless to say, it doesn't seem like she should be in prison.
-- Healy the counselor told Piper that there are lesbians but Piper does not have to have lesbian sex. He said it in a way that suggested that he was either very turned off or very turned on by lesbians.
-- Caputo was nice enough to let Piper use his phone to call Larry, and then masturbated after she left. Ick.
-- Piper's former lover Alex showed up at the last moment of the episode, when Piper was completely overwhelmed.
-- And then there was Red, the chef, who handed out yogurt as favors and was deeply offended by Piper dissing her food. A used tampon sandwich? OMG.
Speaking of tampons (I like a good segue) I thought it was interesting that Piper used maxipads to protect her feet in the shower. It must symbolize something, although I'm not quite sure what. Another nice bit of symbolism was that inmates sleep on top of the already made bed, not in it, because in a sense, no one really lives there.
Morello helped Piper with a toothbrush and tissues and told her that they looked after their own -- it was tribal, not racist. But when Red's minions gave Piper the tampon sandwich, Piper's new "friends" laughed at her. They were in on the joke, and she was alone.
And no matter how bad it is, she can't get upset and leave. Apparently, prison is a lot like high school.
Bits and pieces:
-- The theme song ("You've Got Time") is just wonderful. All of objectifying and dehumanizing close-ups of eyes and mouths, symbolic of the fact that they're not in their real lives, they're not whole. They're real women who have been incarcerated, not actresses.
-- I'm a Star Trek nerd, and I love the casting of former Star Fleet captain Kate Mulgrew as Red.
-- The prison is in Litchfield, New York.
-- The creator of OitNB is Jenji Kohan, who is probably best known for the series Weeds. I've seen all of Weeds and although I often enjoyed it, it was never as strong as OitNB even on its best day. In my humble opinion.
Larry: "She's guilty she's leaving. It's a guilt pig-roasting box."
Polly: "Are we really going to eat that?"
Piper: "It's thematic."
Polly: "You're not serving time in Cuba."
Piper: "My mother told her friends I'm doing volunteer work in Africa."
Larry: "I bet they're all appalled that you're gone somewhere so filthy and dangerous."
Piper: "By the time I get out, there will have been three generations of i-Phones."
Piper: "Was this your grandma's?"
Larry: "No, my mom's saving that one for my sister. This is my great aunt Marcia's. She had thyroid cancer and a series of schnauzers all named Schnapps."
And that seemed to mean that Piper wasn't quite good enough for Larry's parents, didn't it?
Piper: "I wasn't ready."
Pornstache: "Tough shit."
Interesting how the nice guard acknowledged that Piper was right about the plug, but the nasty guard did not. Is she not a person to him?
Healy: "This isn't Oz. Women fight with gossip and rumors."
No, he's not sexist at all. Although I'm not denying that an all-female environment is different than an all-male environment.
Nicky: "Look at you, blondie. What'd you do?"
Piper: "Aren't you not supposed to ask that question? I read that you're not supposed to ask that."
Nicky: "You read that? What, you studied for prison?"
Hey, I probably would. Although it seems that if Piper studied, she didn't retain much.
Red: "You don't like the food? It's no problem."
Larry: "This is all just an adventure, with liver and Yoga Jones and racism…"
"I Wasn't Ready" is an excellent pilot. It established the story and the main character and made me want to know what happened next. Three out of four maxipads,
Billie Doux is the founder of Doux Reviews and has been reviewing her favorite shows for quite some time. More Billie Doux.