Orange is the New Black: Ching Chong Chang

"We're chasing an unachievable standard."

Last season, Morello's backstory stood out from the crowd and actually shocked me. We get to know these characters so well that I forget that they're in prison for a reason, and sometimes there's a very good reason.

In the flashbacks, Chang, whose given name is Mei, was rejected as a candidate for an arranged marriage because she wasn't pretty enough. Later, Mei's unpleasant brother suggested that Mei was perfect for smuggling their illegal aphrodisiacs because no one notices an unattractive woman. The marital prospect who rejected Mei said, "You will always be an ugly girl who no one wants, whether I live or die. Nothing will change that." Maybe he should have held his tongue. "Cut out his gall bladder." OMG, Chang.

Fu said that the aphrodisiacs made men feel powerful, which was what Piper said about women and lingerie. (Again, back to the theme of people needing to believe in something that doesn't work, or isn't real. Like the chicken back in season one.) The inmates were perusing the Whispers catalog, and talking about the perfect photoshopped bodies of the models who did not represent real women. I particularly liked Black Cindy estimating how far in they'd find a token African American and how black she would be on a scale of one to Grace Jones. Interesting how even Piper, who could have gotten a job as one of those models, didn't see herself as represented.

Prison has made all of these women invisible, and Chang is even more invisible than most. Everyone ignores her while she is completely occupied with feeding herself better food and watching movies on her hidden smart phone. (How is she charging it?) But even though she barely interacts with the other inmates, Chang is like them. She may have become a minor crime lord, but deep down, she just wanted to be beautiful.

The rest of the episode expanded on this theme. Red told Healy that when you take a woman's power away, she has only one coin left to spend. Healy then glanced at the photo of his purchased bride, who also had only one thing of value. Huh. I think Healy actually got it. He made it up to Red by getting her Flaca's job in the kitchen. Can I say again how relieved I am that this Red/Healy thing didn't become romantic?

Morello and Poussey were desperate to find someone to care about them. Morello was looking on the outside at guys who like to write to female inmates and trying to impress them with lies, and after several unsuccessful attempts, she may even have found someone in jiu-jitsu guy. (She said it was about her commissary, but I don't believe it.) While Poussey has finally realized that her obsession with the hooch meant she needed someone to love her for herself. I guess it would be too simple for Morello and Poussey to fall in love and satisfy their needs with each other, huh?

In other news, Lolly (Lori Petty) from last season's premiere "Thirsty Bird" has arrived at Litchfield and thinks it's awesome because the walls are clean and no one is screaming. Much like Chang exercising her control over her own food intake, Lolly, a Lutheran from Norway, requested kosher meals from the kitchen. Apparently, those meals are a step above what the rest of the inmates are getting, so Black Cindy is now Jewish. Laugh out loud.

For me, the highlight of Lolly's advent was how much it emphasized the change in Pennsatucky. Yes, she was still spouting racist garbage about "darker people" getting "free shit" (not to mention the oh so lovely "Ching Chong Chang"), but she was so freaking nice to the new inmates! Your family might not come, but that's because they're busy and not because they don't care about you. It made me want to hug her, something I never thought I'd feel about this particular character.

I wonder if Pennsatucky's family never visits her and she is able to forgive them for it?

Bits and pieces:

-- This episode began and ended with a red velvet donut, a trendy treat that is pretty but doesn't taste all that good. Yes, they had a theme and they stuck with it. I had to transcribe most of O'Neill's rant about it. (See the Quotes section below.)

-- MCC is hiring more part timers, of course, and Danny Pearson was acting like he hadn't been told, just like Caputo. Right.

-- Chang brushes her teeth with salt. Gag.

-- Celebrity chef Judy King (Blair Brown) was just convicted of tax evasion. Shades of Martha Stewart. I'm sure Poussey will get her wish and King will be arriving at Litchfield soon.

-- Piper suggested a simple way to use fabric more efficiently, and the guy from Whispers wasn't interested. More along the "invisible women" theme.

-- Piper was flirting with a new girl named Stella. Uh oh.

-- One of Morello's pen pals was a fat gamer who treats fat women with disdain.

-- Sophia agreed to talk to Crystal about bringing Gloria's son Benito on visiting day. That was nice.

-- Gina is working out her extreme mom issues in drama class.

-- Lolly never saw Piper. I'm waiting for that one because things didn't end well between them.

-- Taystee admitted that she wasn't an alcoholic or addict and just made up crazy stories in AA, and at first I couldn't remember any. And then I remembered the story about the barbecue sauce in "The Chickening."


O'Neill: "Do you think you can squeeze an extra dollar out of me because it's, like, ooh, trendy, it looks like it's bleeding? No, in your heart of hearts, you know red velvet is bullshit. It tastes like Play-Doh. It is not velvety. The only thing that's good about it is the cream cheese frosting, which is meant to live on top of carrot cake, like God intended."

Pennsatucky: "If you were a Christian, you could tell everybody what to do and then they do it so they don't hurt your feelings, 'cause that's against the law."

Pennsatucky: "Ching chong chang!"
Chang: "Fuck you, cracker."

Alex: "Anything is better than being stuck down in a sweaty basement with the fucking puppets from The Dark Crystal."

Red: "No one in here is people. You think this is a normal relationship? Human to human?"
It always seems to be Red who speaks the hard truths. And she does it so well.

Caputo: "I've got CO's up my ass like a lemon juice enema. Oh, like your mom never did it to you? Come on."
Jeez. Really, Caputo?

Gloria: "If you wanted to look like a real woman, you would let your roots grow out and get some bags under your eyes."
Sophia: "You know, historically, me and reality, not friends."

Morello: "Everybody loves jiu-jitsu. It's delicious."

Poussey: "Do you know how hard it is to get a squirrel into a laundry bag?"

Three and a half out of four puppets from The Dark Crystal,

Billie Doux is the founder of Doux Reviews and has been reviewing her favorite shows for quite some time. More Billie Doux.


Jess Lynde said...

I liked the "longing for love" theme running throughout this one with Chang, Lorna, and Poussey. Even SoSo was longing for her big Asian prison family because she's feeling so isolated. And I thought the final moments with Piper apologizing to Chang for making fun of her in the bathroom and Chang accepting the apology was a nice capper to the story. Someone actually recognized Chang as a person with feelings and reached out, even if only in a small way.

Can I say again how relieved I am that this Red/Healy thing didn't become romantic? You and me both, lady! Whew. I loved how she put him in his place without demurring one bit. And it worked! I thought him looking at the photo of his wife was an indication that he's even more attracted to Red now, but I like your take much better. It reflecting his recognition that his marriage is all about a powerless woman spending the only coin she had left is much more resonant.

So did Alex mean that Angie and Leanne are the puppets from The Dark Crystal? Because she used to work in the laundry room (the sweaty basement) with them, right? Do you think she views them as Skeksis or Mystics? Probably Skeksis. :)

Juliette said...

For a minimum security prison there sure are a lot of murderers in Litchfield. Presumably because most of them weren't actually caught and arrested for murder, but for other offences (I'm thinking Miss Claudette, Vee, Chang - all put away for different crimes - probably at least one of the older inmates who tried to take out Vee, Rosa (possibly before incarceration, certainly by the end when she killed Vee), probably Red considering she was in the Russian mafia, and Morello and Pennsatucky who are both actually in there for attempted murder (did the nurse Pennsatucky shot die? And she certainly tried to murder Piper). I guess it makes sense considering they were in dangerous, violent trades like drug trafficking and organised crime.

I have no idea what red velvet is. Has it replaced kale, which everyone in the US seemed to be eating a few months ago?!

sunbunny said...

Red velvet is a cake flavor that's basically just a very light chocolate and a ton of red food coloring, typically topped with a cream cheese frosting. It was trendy a few years ago although it's always been around.

Jess Lynde said...

Red velvet cake always makes me think of the scene near the beginning of Steel Magnolias with the groom's cake. It was shaped like a grey armadillo but was red velvet cake on the inside, and when they cut into it looked all bloody on the inside. I think Olympia Dukakis or Shirley MacLaine had a line along the lines of the "damn thing looks like it's bleeding all over the place." And now that's my forever impression of red velvet. :)

Marianna said...

I agree with O'Neil about red velvet. I don't get what all the fuss is about. I'll take chocolate over red velvet any day.

Juliet, I was thinking the same thing. It's not clear in this case what Chang was convicted of. It may have been smuggling/selling illegal animal parts (which I find disturbing as these myths are a major contributor toward species endangerment) or it might have been murder. She's been in prison for a long time so it's possible she started off in max and got moved to minimum like other golden girls. I'm not sure if Morello is there for attempted murder or the mail fraud operation she had going.

I felt so sad for Chang when Crazy Eyes was the only one who liked the scene she wrote. Aside from the terrible English, I actually kind of enjoyed it within the context of the really awkward assignment. And of course, because everyone underestimates Chang, they all assumed it was a crazy exaggeration when it actually wasn't far from how the actual event went.