Monday, June 12, 2017

REVIEW: 'Orange Is the New Black' - The Inmates Reflect on the Past During a Break from the Riot in 'Full Bush, Half Snickers'

Netflix's Orange Is the New Black - Episode 5.07 "Full Bush, Half Snickers"

Black Cindy concocts a scheme to distract Suzanne when she spirals out of control. Taystee and Piper search for ways to honor Poussey's memory.

"Full Bush, Half Snickers" doesn't feature any flashbacks. And yet, it's very mindful and aware of the past for both the characters and the audience. So many moments throughout this hour have added depth to them because of the audience's awareness of a specific character's backstory. It doesn't need to be reminded through a set of flashbacks in this hour though. The story is too widespread for it to only give the spotlight to one character. As such, it makes this episode stand out even though it also plays as a transitional hour for the season. There is a moment of peace during the riot. Nothing big or dramatic is happening with it. The outside forces are regrouping following the inmates' public burning of the cheetos. Meanwhile, the inmates are adjusting to the new luxuries they have while also spinning out because the structure of prison is gone. It reveals how much some of them need the structure of this system in order to cope. Yes, it's an oppressive and abusive system that tends to trap these people inside it. But the riot has brought about freedom that is similar to what life is like on the outside. And that presents a new set of realities for the characters to cope with. So, that's a fascinating exploration throughout this hour as well.

Poussey's death really has hanged over this season. It was the big and traumatic event at the end of last season. It set the riot into motion. Everything that is happening now is because of that. Taystee and her friends need to remain focused in order to find justice for her. But it's been very tricky for the show to balance respect for that subject matter while also having fun in this changed environment. The characters themselves have struggled with their feelings and whether or not it's okay for them to have fun in the riot when their friend has been killed. Should they feel guilty for enjoying their lives? Or should they live their lives to the fullest because that's what Poussey wanted? This break in negotiations presents the characters with the time to actually reflect on these feelings. In the immediate aftermath of her death, Taystee has chosen action in order to cope with her emotions. She's been doing that so she doesn't become overwhelmed with the grief and sadness of her best friend being gone. And now, there isn't anything more for her to do. The negotiator on the outside is still crafting her response. So, that means thoughts about Poussey come creeping into her mind and whether or not this action is enough to honor her.

This season has done a good job honoring the legacy of Poussey. And now, the inmates form a memorial to honor her too. It's such a strong story throughout this episode. It once again revolves around the tense dynamic between Taystee and Soso who are both in mourning but have different opinions about what Poussey would have wanted. They are reaching out to the community for ideas. It's not surprising at all that the other inmates can't think of great ways to honor Poussey. They didn't really know her on a deep personal level like Taystee and Soso did. The other inmates focus on her being black and a lesbian. That's how they label her. They are still respectful of her and her memory. But it's still up to Taystee and Soso to figure out the best way to honor her. It's the only way it could be done. It winds up being about books too. They redecorate a hallway with books. It's absolutely beautiful. It's special because the rest of the inmates treat it respectfully as well. No one makes fun of it. No one tears it down. It's instead able to stand as is. Moreover, it brings Taystee and Soso together. It forces them to recognize each other's grief and importance while leaning on each other for support during this very difficult time. This is them dealing with the reality of their lives in a way that the typical prison structure would never allow.

This hour touches on mental illness in an interesting way as well. Both Suzanne and Lorna are presented as "crazy" and "delusional" characters. And yet, there is so much more depth to them as well in the story. Suzanne has thrived because of the rigorous structure of prison. When those rules are used to manipulate her, it can actually be quite devastating and destructive. She's been a victim of the system for other's sick and twisted personal gain. And now, she's spiraling because it's visitation day and there are no visitors. That was her comfort in prison. It was familiar to her and she relied on it for support and strength. Her determination to stick to the schedule can be very baffling and crazy to the inmates who don't know her well. It's interesting to see Pennsatucky talk with Suzanne. She doesn't know or understand her but she still seems supportive. She doesn't immediately write her off even though she does ultimately choose to walk away despite something more going on with her. It's fun to see Black Cindy and Alison need to handle the situation as well. They do so by creating a prison within the prison. They provide the structure to her by using the hostages as additional inmates. It's a reminder of how healthy this is. But it also strikes a chord with Black Cindy and Alison too. For Alison, it reminds her of her daughter and the life they used to have together and how she's missing so much while in prison. And for Black Cindy listening to Alison, it's a reminder that she never had that connection with her own daughter who was raised as her sister instead. That moment lands so well because the audience is aware of that past. It makes Black Cindy a fully-dimensional character and not just someone lusting after James from PR. It's devastating in its own way because she has this connection with Alison but doesn't know how to talk about it.

It's also fascinating to see how the various inmates react differently to Suzanne and Lorna. With Suzanne, they do see her as crazy. But it is something serious with her. But with Lorna, she's delusional and it's frequently played for comedy. She's always talking about her husband and the life she's going to live with him. She doesn't think he will ever hurt her in any way. And now, she may actually be pregnant. When the other inmates hear that, they believe it's just another manifestation of her delusions. To them, there's no way she could be pregnant because she's in prison and he's not. Of course, the audience knows that she and Vinny actually had sex after they got married. So, it is possible for her to be pregnant. That's what makes this story so strong. To Lorna, it's not a delusion. It's all completely real and people are making fun of her for it. She enjoys making it into a big announcement for Vinny. She doesn't care about the riot happening. She just needs to tell her husband that she's pregnant. She believes it to be this joyous thing that can't be corrupted. Of course, it quickly is because Vinny runs away after reading the sign. Despite the open lines of communication this season, Lorna doesn't really know what he's feeling in this moment. They are so far away and can't hear each other. This is now Lorna's life. She can't even return to Nicky either. So, she may need to find a new outlet to cope with her life and actually address the problems she's had over the years.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Full Bush, Half Snickers" was written by Anthony Natoli and directed by Uta Briesewitz.
  • The makeshift coffee shop that springs up in Litchfield is the only story that has nothing to do with the past or the audience's understanding of the character's backstories. It works that way too. It's instead about this moment in their lives. How they are coming together as a community for something fun and good. And then, it all gets corrupted and turns violent as soon as the coffee is gone. That will more than likely reignite the riot because that final moment is pretty destructive.
  • Ouija doing impressions of the other inmates is pretty great. It's probably one of the writers seeing the actress do them on set one day and needing to incorporate it into the show somehow. This character hasn't had meaningful interactions with these major characters. And yet, it's still funny because they are just really great impressions.
  • It's a lot of fun to hang out with the characters inside the bunker as well. They are just kicking back and relaxing because they no longer feel the pressure to fight for justice. They had their time and their fights. This isn't their fight. So, they're staying out of it. However, the bubble does burst. Gloria gets the news that her son is in the hospital. So, she can't check out of the world for these couple of days.
  • Flaca and Maritza doing makeovers for some of the inmates is a funny subplot as well. It's startling to see Blanca, Nicky and Alex with different looks. It gets Piper to have sex with Alex again. Nicky has the confidence to move on from Lorna. But Blanca's makeover largely happens so she can seduce the nurse who is still somehow working and incredibly calm during all of this.
  • Speaking of Blanca, her mission with Red is only getting crazier and sillier. It's played for laughs even though Red cuts of one of Humphrey's fingers off to unlock his phone. Meanwhile, inviting Piscatella into the prison could prove to be very dangerous. He's been itching to get in on the action. That's going to explode at some point this season.
  • Linda and Boo have sex. That's a fascinating development as well. It's Linda becoming more entrenched in the prison atmosphere. She's falling into a lesbian relationship and not really caring about anything else because she has Boo to protect her. And yet, this romance isn't set up to last because Linda isn't actually an inmate.
  • Of course Piper is a Slytherin and of course she would be surprised by that!

As noted in previous reviews from this show, 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.