Wednesday, June 29, 2016

REVIEW: 'Orange Is the New Black' - The Guards Wield Their Power Over the Inmates in More Creative Ways in 'Turn Table Turn'

Netflix's Orange Is the New Black - Episode 4.09 "Turn Table Turn"

Maritza and Blanca figure out ways to rebel against authority. A news item has an unexpected effect. Red and Morello face personal disappointment.

Early on in this season, the audience got to see the thought process behind MCC's decision to hire veterans as new guards. They were facing a major staffing problem just as Litchfield was overflowing with new inmates. They hired veterans in order to get additional money from the government while Caputo just appreciated the military training and discipline. They would likely be more effective on the job than say Coates or Bayley have been. They are still learning the job. Since that decision was made, tensions have only increased between the inmates and the guards. The people in charge have such little regard for the people confined in this prison. They just want to see criminals who are more like animals that need to be herded around than people. It's so impersonal. The mentalities of the guards have promoted racism in the hopes of breaking down gang activity before anything gets started. That hasn't been completely successful. The white power group has formed out of the community carers while Maria is actively bringing drugs into the prison. And yet, the new guards are on quite the power trip which carries so many consequences for the recipients of those actions.

The picture of Judy kissing Cindy has been released to the greater world. That's the reason why the guards decide to crack down more throughout "Turn Table Turn." And yet, they have to be much more creative with their duties as well. Solitary is almost full. There are only a few cells left. So that can't be the punishment for anyone caught breaking the rules. Piscatella tells the guards that they need to freestyle. That promotes creative thinking that could really be quite detrimental to the entire facility. Caputo is off in his office worried about the legitimacy of Judy and Cindy's relationship. They are crafting a tale for him as they await payment - as if they wouldn't have gotten that before giving the picture to the magazine. They are playing into a fantasy. That's all Caputo is worried about. And yet, he should be worried about his guards being able to run free throughout the facility. They have all of this power. And now, they are using it to control the inmates and promote racism. The Latina inmates are still largely the only ones being patted down everywhere they go. Meanwhile, Sister Ingalls is trying her hardest but her minor offenses can't seem to get her to solitary to reunite with Sophia. These actions have been happening for too long now. It's time for the inmates to rise up. It's just a minor display of civil disobedience. But it's enough to potentially spark a revolution within the prison.

The poor state of affairs between the inmates and the guards is an effective story because the show dehumanizes the guards. None of the new ones really have names yet. The show has always introduced characters in a very atypical way. It's very interested in showing the minor details of living inside a prison. It has created a sprawling cast of memorable characters. All of whom add up to the community that is Litchfield. But it can also be difficult to understand which minor detail will be important plot wise later on and which is just pleasant character stuff. The new guards have been defined with a sexist mentality. They treat the inmates poorly and enjoy being able to order a bunch of women around. It's intoxicating to many of them. And now, they are starting to act on those horrifying impulses. Maritza has wanted out of her arrangement with Maria's crew. She even gets the guards to look at Maria's cousin who picks up the drugs much more suspiciously. But that really isn't appreciated at all. Maritza is rewarded with threats of even more violence. But it's even more despicable when one of the guards - the one who has been heavily flirting with her - presents her with a choice of eating a bunch of flies or a baby mouse. He got the inspiration from a harmless game she was playing with Flaca. But now, he's twisted it and compromised her safety. She's not on the Litchfield property. He could do whatever he wants with her in that moment. The episode purposefully leaves it ambiguous - which only adds to the overall horror.

Meanwhile, Blanca is the one taking a stand against the guards and their poor treatment of the inmates. She's the one inspired simply because it's been awhile since she's showered. She carries a noticeable smell around with her now. It's enough to get the guards not to pat her down. After being subjected to those for awhile now, it was a release not to have to do it anymore. So, she continued to push back and encouraged her fellow Dominicans to do the same. It's a similar lesson that she learned in this episode's flashbacks. She once worked as a home nurse for an elderly woman who liked pushing her around. Her relationship with Diablo gave her the confidence to push back. Having sex in the lady's bedroom while she's sleeping is a pretty badass move too. It's just the parallels between the two stories are pretty formulaic. It showcases that this is something that Blanca can be passionate about. She once started as a very minor character. And now, she is the one standing up to the guards. That's an empowering position. Plus, the guard she's ticked off gives her the opportunity to make it even more powerful. It helps solely because solitary is full. The guard needed to think outside the box and forced her to stand on the cafeteria table until she's ready to take a shower. But that could easily be seen as a way for the other inmates to rally around her and join in this fight against the guards.

Pennsatucky had her own horrifying interaction with a guard last season. Coates raped her. That was after they had developed a nice and simple friendship while driving the van around. But it was still a relationship defined by the rape that happened. That has consumed Pennsatucky's entire character arc this season. But unlike the other guards, Coates actually seems remorseful for his actions. He seemed genuine in the previous episode when he apologized to Pennsatucky. He looked inward and didn't know why he did such a despicable thing. It's easy to believe that as well because he has been more considerate to the inmates than the other guards have been since Pennsatucky confronted him. When the guards are all together as a group off shift, he's the one who still treats the inmates with respect while the others throw sexist and derogatory terms around. But now, Pennsatucky actually wants to forgive Coates for what he did. She's tired of carrying this burden and guilt around everywhere she goes. She does get lost in the fantasy of what their relationship was like before the rape. She really did like him. The rape changed all of that. Boo was the only one to comfort her in the aftermath. Forgiveness is something that Boo can't accept right now. Coates did this horrible thing that he has to live with for the rest of his life. Boo wants him to suffer so that Pennsatucky can thrive. But Pennsatucky struggles with what it means to ask forgiveness if she's not willing to give it. Boo justifies the crime that got Pennsatucky locked up in the first place. But Pennsatucky doesn't want to look at things cut and dry like that. She sees the complications of what it means to be human. And yet, that could easily destroy one of the best friendships on the show.

And lastly, Red is grappling with guilt over Nicky once again using drugs. She has always taken a hard stance when it comes to her makeshift family relapsing with their addictions. She's devastated to learn that Nicky has returned from max as an addict once more. That addiction helped Alex and Piper get through a real tough time. But now, they are realizing that they probably shouldn't have smoked crack with her. Nicky is on a downward spiral with no one really being there for her in a genuine way. She embraced drugs again to cope with her sad existence in max. And now, she doesn't know how to quit upon returning to Litchfield. She can get drugs so easily now thanks to Maria. It's alienating to her former friends which only makes her crave the drugs more. Red wants to protect Nicky. But she's at a loss on what to do. She was hard on Tricia for relapsing. That ultimately got her killed. Red doesn't want that to happen to Nicky. Red doesn't believe she did enough to help Nicky before she was sent to max. She wasn't there for her daughter when she really needed it. That guilt is weighing her down and she doesn't know what to do. It's a fantastic moment for Kate Mulgrew. Seeing Red like that is precisely the thing that gets Nicky to want to be clean and sober again. She needs to be there for her family. They are all just trying to get by in this cruel and depressing world. It's much better if they stand united against the forces that want to tear them apart.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Turn Table Turn" was written by Sara Hess and directed by Constantine Makris.
  • It was such a release for both Piper and Alex to get to tell each other the truth about what's been going on with them this season. And now, they are good friends again. Though it is startling to see them in a story that's basically them craving hamburgers and questioning if they should give Bayley a hand job in order to get them. It's weird given everything they've been through lately. And yet, they deserve some levity too.
  • It really is so surprising to see how many cell phones are actually hidden at Litchfield. Luschek does a sweep in order to find the phone that took the Judy-Cindy picture. Of course, it was his that took it. But it's still impressive to see him uncover over a dozen phones on the facility. But if there were so many, how did Alison have trouble finding a charger?
  • Time has really been moving slowly over the past few episodes though. Aleida hasn't even been released yet. The season is elongating her goodbye. It's a story that has all of these emotional moments with Daya and Gloria. So, something is clearly about to happen. Maybe, she's not going to be released after all - which will be so devastating to both her and Daya.
  • Gloria is also instrumental in getting Sister Ingalls sent to solitary. She needed to have a major offense in order for the guards to justify such a move. So, Gloria opens herself up to be punched. And now, Sister Ingalls will have to deal with the horrors of solitary all in the hope of helping Sophia - with a phone that she has hidden in a very compromising place.
  • Red is mostly concerned about Nicky right now with her drug relapse. And yet, she should be more concerned about Morello as well. She is falling into a very dark headspace believing that her sister and husband are having an affair - even though she told them to hang out more. 
  • Taystee trying to covertly spy on Caputo's meeting with Judy and Cindy was such a fantastic but minor moment. And so was Judy's surprised reaction to learning that Cindy is Jewish.
  • There were a number of TV show references throughout the hour as well. It was mostly the inmates complaining that they only get network TV and the blue skies programming of the USA network.