Monday, June 20, 2016

REVIEW: 'Orange Is the New Black' - Soso & Morello Change Their Realities in Order to Cope in '(Don't) Say Anything'

Netflix's Orange Is the New Black - Episode 4.03 "(Don't) Say Anything"

A new job puts Taystee close to Caputo. Morello has to get creative in her marriage. Soso and Poussey deal with some awkward truths.

Everyone distorts their realities just a little bit in order to properly handle everything that encompasses their worldview. That's what several characters are doing right now in order to adjust to the changing situation at Litchfield. They need to cope and find a way to live with a reality where the prison has become privatized, overcrowding is a serious issue and the guards and management team are in a constant state of flux. It's a lot to handle but "(Don't) Say Anything" does a beautiful job in exploring just how the various inmates deal with the latest twist to their existence as prisoners. This change at Litchfield doesn't change the fact that they are criminals bound to be here for a certain amount of time no matter what. They need to find a way to embrace the changes so that they can thrive in this environment. They can't be broken down by prison. They need to survive this somehow. So if distorting reality in order to find happiness is the solution than so be it. That can be a very good thing but it also hints at even more darkness for the season ahead.

All of this comes across wonderfully within Brook Soso's character arc in both the present day and the flashbacks. They tell two distinct stories but also showcase how much she has evolved since first arriving at Litchfield. She joined the prison in Season 2 and was quickly labeled as the annoying inmate who simply talked too much. That was her defining characteristic in the early going and was frequently played for laughs. And then in Season 3, she spiraled in a depression and wasn't able to get the help she needed. That story showed the inadequacies of the prison's mental health capabilities. Healy wanted to pump her full of drugs while internal conflicts kept the other counselor from being good at her job. Soso needed someone to talk to about what she was feeling. She wasn't getting that from Norma's religion after awhile. Poussey saved her after she attempted to kill herself in the library. This season has seen her come back to health all thanks to the sense of community and friendship Poussey has given her. That is crucial in helping her remain stable in the prison atmosphere. But Soso still has some issues with talking too much. But more importantly, it's talking about things to make the other person more comfortable or to make her seem more interesting. That's a nuanced approach to the subject that ultimately provokes quite the conversation throughout this hour.

In the flashbacks, Soso is still the idealist fighting on behalf of her community to stop a big corporation from destroying the local ecosystem. It's a fight that she would totally be a part of. And yet, the dynamic is dominated by her trying to prove something to her ex-boyfriend and her current crush. She dumped this guy in order to explore something with this new person because she felt he was the type of guy she should be worth. In order to prove it, she makes a bet that she can get the signature of a registered sex offender in the area. She heads into the man's house believing the worst in him and his past crimes. But the show subverts those expectations by simply saying he was caught having sex on a beach. That's why he's on the list. She listens to that story and sympathizes with his struggle. The rumor mill built up expectations for her that were in no way matching to reality. But Soso then builds on that fantasy as well. She concocts a story about him stalking a nine year girl and him coming on to her just so she can be more appealing to this guy she's interested in. She's creating a reality that makes her look more appealing. It's more exciting and fascinating than what the truth is. This story exposes that Soso has always lived this way.

So it's not surprising at all that Soso twists the truth quite a bit when talking Poussey up to Judy King. Poussey has had numerous awkward encounters with the celebrity prisoner. She has no idea how to walk up to her and have a normal conversation like two humans do. Soso pushes for her to take that first step by doing it for her. She approaches Judy to explain why Poussey has been acting so weird around her. Soso does this because she really does love Poussey and wants her to be happy. She's selflessly trying to do this thing for her. But instead, she breaks off onto a tangent about socioeconomic and racial differences in the culture. Poussey has had a non-stereotypical life. She has traveled the world as a part of an army family. Her parents have both had successful careers. But Soso explains that Poussey grew up poor and with a crack addict mother in order to make her seem more sympathetic to Judy. It's something Soso does for Poussey. But it does not create a genuine connection with Judy once the two finally sit down and talk. It actually showcases that Soso and Poussey need to actively listen to each other and accept the other for who they really are in this world. That's something Soso struggles with. But she also wants to make that effort with Poussey because she has enjoyed their time together.

Elsewhere, Morello is struggling with just how atypical her marriage really is. The episode starts with the janitorial crew commenting that there is no way that Vince is staying faithful to Morello. The difficulties with prison life are just too high. Morello isn't getting out anytime soon. That's a long time for Vince to wait with no indiction of if they'll be able to have sex again before then. Morello doesn't want to believe that. She trusts that he'll stay faithful to her. She has that confidence because she has created a reality for herself where she's not a prisoner. She is simply stuck in traffic and that's why the two of them are having phone sex. But the difficulties of their situation still present themselves. Morello is a prisoner while Vince actually lives with his parents and younger brother. This isn't going to be easy for them. And yet, this story is building to that wonderful scene where they both play into the fantasy while in the visitor's room. They are able to satisfy each other solely with their words and their passion. They don't care about anyone else in the room. They just wanna be with each other and do so in the only way they know how. It's a hilarious scene made even better by everyone's reactions to it. Bayley has no idea what to do and actually finds it quite funny as well. Meanwhile, Gloria makes sure her son isn't too distracted by what Morello is doing. It's really quite great that shows that this coupling may actually be good for both of them.

Piper is also suffering from a distorted sense of reality and power. She believes she's in charge of the prison because of her booming panty business and because she got Stella sent to max. But again, it's just a panty business. It's not that dangerous or life-threatening. But Piper is making it out as such. To her, this business opportunity is life or death. This is her making her mark on the prison by exploiting the new opportunities presented by MCC. And yet, she is just becoming more and more delusional. It's an arc that is clearly building towards conflict. Piper is going to be taken down a couple of notches. And now, it seems clear who is going to do that to her. The conflict is coming from the Dominicans. Maria wants to volunteer a couple of her new friends for Piper's business. She wants a partnership that would be mutually beneficial for all involved. Piper declines that offer in order to maintain control. But that has some pretty important consequences. Now, she is being followed around everywhere she goes. Plus, the Dominicans may be starting their own business that will compete with hers. Piper is struggling to hold onto her current workers. Her gifts of support aren't being appreciated while others are walking away completely. The business is slowly slipping away from Piper. It's entirely her fault as well. How she reacts to that should be very telling.

Some more thoughts:
  • "(Don't) Say Anything" was written by Jim Danger Gray and directed by Andrew McCarthy.
  • Taystee as Caputo's assistant is fantastic. Such an amusing new opportunity for story. It's great watching her do her best to take notes and answer the phone. But she's not doing any of it particularly well yet. She doesn't even know who's calling on the phone when she takes a message for Caputo. It's a rough transition but I'm fairly confident she'll get the hang of it eventually.
  • Caputo is actually struggling to justify all of his actions that led to his promotion at MCC. He enjoys the benefits it has provided him. He is in charge of Litchfield and has the confidence to go out on a date with a woman who isn't Fig. But everywhere he goes, he is confronted by the harsh choices MCC made to make Litchfield as profitable as possible. He is trying to make himself feel good when he tips Donaldson twenty dollars for being the busboy at a restaurant. Donaldson calls him out on it but it seems Caputo is coming to accept the new lifestyle he wants and can have right now.
  • Piscatella is really intense. That's the mentality he needed to have as a guard at max. But now, he has shifted jobs and is charge of the guards at Litchfield. But he's still very forceful with the inmates and the new guards as well. He can't even do an icebreaker in a way that bonds the guards together.
  • Healy foolishly believes that Red and Judy will get along well because they are both big personalities who love to cook and have red hair. Those similarities are striking. But it's also important that Red calls out every kind of special treatment Judy receives - oftentimes to the detriment of all the hard work Red has done. Though Red gets her revenge by spiking Judy's food so she'll go running to the bathroom.
  • Also, it's great that Red effectively destroys any possible relationship between herself and Healy. That was a strange subplot last season. And now, she realizes just how non-consensual it would be considering she is still a prisoner. It's great and shows that Red is back to being in charge.
  • It has been interesting that Lolly is freaking out more about killing a guy, chopping his body up and burying him in the garden than Alex is. She's very unpredictable and will likely be the reason the body is discovered. She freaks out when a drone is seen in the sky. That can't be a sign of anything good to come.
  • It's hard to tell if Frieda is serious or not about needing to kill Lolly in order to keep their secret about the dead body in the garden. When Red makes a comment like that, the audience knows it's being played for laughs. With Frieda, it's very uncertain. 

As noted in previous reviews from this series, every episodic review was written without having seen any succeeding episodes. Similarly, it would be much appreciated if in the comments, the conversation would only revolve around the show up to this point in its run.