by Billie Doux
The Department of Corrections giveth, and the Department of Corrections taketh away.
The obvious theme of this episode was the lack of control that prisoners have over their own lives. Miss Rosa can't even choose to keep living, since the D.O.C. won't pay for an operation that is her only option. And Piper got the furlough that everyone wanted, but it didn't come soon enough for her to say goodbye to her beloved grandmother.
Miss Rosa has been a peripheral character, but here she jumped into the spotlight in a great big way. The flashbacks showed young Rosa as a hot, fearless bank robber deeply in love with money, who lost one lover after another to "bad luck". (Small hint, Rosa: robbing banks is just a bit dangerous and might have had something to do with it.) She finally got caught because she decided to double dip on impulse instead of planning ahead.
Present day Rosa knows she's going to die, and couldn't resist pulling one last very cute job with Yusef, the teenager going through chemo with her. This time, her guy did the job for her and he didn't die; instead, Yusef found out he was in remission. Maybe the "kiss before, kiss after" curse is broken and Rosa's luck has finally changed, and she won't die in that uncomfortable cot in the transitional purgatory bunkroom, sniffing her money like a smuggled drug. Perhaps.
Everyone hated Piper for getting a furlough. And yes, we get it. Young, white and pretty Piper gets it while Sophia didn't get furlough when her father was dying, and Poussey, ditto with her mother. Old latino Rosa the bank robber didn't get the operation she needed to possibly save her life, either. Totally unfair.
At the same time, I wanted Piper to be able to say goodbye to the grandmother who meant to so much to her, and it was sad that she missed the opportunity. How about Healy actually doing his job for a change, though? I also enjoyed the cafeteria scene with Piper yelling at everyone about her whiteness. Unfortunately, Suzanne's pie to the head was even more enjoyable. Sorry about that, Piper.
The Soso story fit in well with the "no control" theme. It didn't make much sense, especially for someone who got satisfaction out of cleaning other people's clothes. But the only thing Soso thought she had control over was the state of her own body, and now she doesn't even have that. It was sad. Of course, I don't have to smell her. (Let me add that depression often makes people neglect personal hygiene, and Soso is undoubtedly depressed. But so is pretty much every woman in that prison. They can't all not shower.)
The contraband-a-paloosa was the other big plotline, and it was also about the loss of control. A wild-eyed and angry Caputo spent most of this episode searching for the source of the contraband, and unwittingly discussing it with Red and Bennett, two of the three responsible. Susan quite rightly complained about being yelled at in public and about the unfair shots requirement, and he fired her. We all know that the real reason was because Susan was oblivious to his little crush, though.
Which brings me to my favorite scene in the episode. Nicky told Susan that being a bad prison guard reflected well on her as a human being, and that being fired was the best thing that could happen to her. Susan should go home, take a hot bath, and start looking into technical colleges. And then it was followed by "were you really making a pass at me", which was fun. Nicky gives great advice. Maybe that's why she's my favorite. Could we have more backstory and more center story around Nicky, please?
Susan is an interesting character, but I don't think I'll miss her much. Especially since the vile Pornstache, the guard you love to hate, has returned to replace Susan. I don't know whether to cheer or boo. Maybe I'll do both.
Bits and pieces:
-- We weren't told specifically when the flashbacks took place, but Rosa has probably been in prison a long time. One of the flashbacks pointedly included a print of the New York City skyline that included the Twin Towers.
-- Vee noticed that Red and Gloria were colluding, and tried to buy Gloria with a menthol cigarette. Gloria took the cig but protested that she kept her hands clean. Except that Red's contraband was hidden in Gloria's fridge while Caputo was on the warpath.
-- I kept thinking of the commissary while Caputo was going on about contraband make-up. Did he forget that the inmates could buy make-up?
-- Luschek was a terrible romantic option for Susan, and I'm glad things didn't go far with him. Plus he drinks schnapps with his morning cocoa. Points for style, though; it beats a surreptitious flask, like the nurse had.
-- Piper's grandmother told her to go out and eat the world, to not get stuck at home with some man. Good advice.
-- Frieda and Taslitz told Piper that they'd quietly taken care of Jimmy for years. They deserve a lot of credit for that.
-- Loved Flaca's advice column. Yeah, just whack a girl if she's stealing your shit.
-- Red asked Piper if she would check on Red's store in Queens, a quick ride on the N train. You just know that won't turn out well.
-- The Soso plot reminded me of one of my favorite M*A*S*H episodes where Hawkeye and B.J. refused to shower until Charles gave up the French horn. A lot funnier than what happened to Soso.
Healy: "The doctor recommends a bilateral salpingo-oopherectomy."
Miss Rosa: "Who doesn't love a surgery with 'ooph' in it?"
Red: "If they grow too big in here, they might not transplant well."
Caputo: "It's just little bitch vegetables like squash. Broccoli is no pussy."
I have just now realized that a lot of the obscenity on this show is female-related.
Pennsatucky: "You smell like a fucking turtle tank. Go take a fucking shower."
Yes, it was mean, but I'm starting to like the new Pennsatucky. Not because of what she said to Soso, but because she told Leanne and Angie off about the real meaning of friendship.
Freida: "No one gives a shit about old ladies. We remind everyone that they're gonna die."
Piper: "She taught me how to knit. I made a blanket for my stuffed monkey. It took me six months. And then my mother sold it at a yard sale for a quarter."
Taslitz: "Your mom sounds like a twat."
Caputo: "Chewing tobacco defeats the purpose of drinking kale, doesn't it?"
Bennett: "I like to think that they cancel each other out, maybe."
Sophia: "I ought to give you a skullet."
Piper: "What's a skullet?"
Sophia: "A mullet with the top shaved."
Piper: "You might as well. My family is expecting a hardened felon. It would be nice to meet their expectations for once."
Susan: "I had medical and dental. I was paying off my Kia."
Doesn't Susan look like the type of person who would have a Kia?
Yusef: "Enjoy prison."
Miss Rosa: "Enjoy your life, shitpot."
Soso: "I am demonstrating passive resistance!"
Bell: "We are demonstrating aggressive aggression. Let's go, Pocahontas."
Miss Rosa: "I always pictured myself going out in a blaze of glory. Hail of gunfire, screech of tires. But this kind of death, this slow, invisible disappearing into nothing, it's terrifying."
Good one. Three out of four skullets,
Billie Doux is the founder of Doux Reviews and has been reviewing her favorite shows for quite some time. More Billie Doux.