Saturday, June 28, 2014

Summer TV Rewind: Orange is the New Black 1.04: "Imaginary Enemies"

“Hope is a dangerous thing.”
-Miss Claudette

The fourth episode of “Orange is the New Black” focused on one of my favorite characters, Miss Claudette. Miss Claudette is Piper’s Haitian roommate who found herself mixed up in (and later running) a sort of human trafficking ring. She doesn’t tolerate foolishness, and while she was basically presiding over the indentured servitude of girls, if someone tried to hurt one of her girls, they were in trouble. They might find themselves on the wrong end of her immaculately clean carving knife. “Imaginary Enemies” also dealt with the emotions of getting out of prison. The story of little-heard-from Mercy being released is viewed through the lens of her current and ex-girlfriends, and Miss Claudette considers whether she wants to reopen her case. There’s also yet another silly “Piper is a fish out of water” plot involving a missing screwdriver, but that didn’t have as much meaning as the rest of the episode.

I was very happy that this episode featured Miss Claudette, because I think she brings a much needed maturity to Litchfield. Despite the fact that she’s done some pretty horrible things in her life, she likes order, and she’s forced to suffer indignity after indignity at the hands of Piper. The episode opens with the first in a long line of such indignities. Piper is cleaning up the Crazy Eyes peeing incident (with some pads, naturally), and Miss Claudette is stressing that while Piper is getting rid of the liquid, she’s not disinfecting. We start to get a hint from the very first flashback why Miss Claudette is such a neat freak. When she was a teenager, a man named Baptiste brought her to the United States to work at a company called Clean Makers. Clean Makers was really a trafficking front. All of the girls were working off debts their parents owed back in Haiti. Baptiste seems to have a soft spot for Claudette, and the feeling appears to be mutual.

In more mundane news, Piper finds herself in an electrical shop class. She’s confused because when she asked to be in the “education program,” she thought it would be like being a TA in college. The CO who runs the electrical shop is Luschek, and he’s pretty much an idiot. A harmless idiot (compared to Pornstache, at least), but an idiot nonetheless. There is somewhat strict security around the tools in the shop, considering inmates can get pretty creative when they want to hurt each other. Luschek puts an especially ornery inmate in charge of collecting the “chits” everyone is supposed to hand over to get tools. Piper gets a screwdriver and diligently starts trying to fix a desk lamp. Piper, of course, is the only person bothering to try, and there isn’t exactly much direction. Luschek just gave her the lamp, a manual, and told her to tinker with it.

During lunch break, all the ladies working in the electrical shop get to go outside. Nicky and Piper have an interesting conversation because Nicky has been getting to know Alex better lately. Nicky is determined to learn more about what happened between Piper and Alex pre-incarceration. Piper’s not talking about it, though. When they go back inside, Piper accidentally leaves her sweatshirt on the outdoor bench, the screwdriver still in the pocket. Piper retrieves the sweatshirt when she is allowed to leave electrical shop for the day, and the screwdriver is still in it. This causes a huge problem, because used creatively, a screwdriver can apparently be a deadly weapon. The missing screwdriver causes a massive search effort throughout the facility. Piper has to let Miss Claudette know what’s going on, and this is yet another annoying thing to ruin Miss Claudette’s day. She manages to successfully hide the screwdriver during a bunk search, but not before Pornstache completely trashes the place. Poor, long suffering Miss Claudette!

The other big news at Litchfield besides the missing screwdriver is that a woman named Mercy is due to be released soon. Mercy’s girlfriend is a blonde woman with cornrows named Trish, and Trish wants to plan a going away party. She also wants Piper to look over a letter Trish hopes to use to win an appeal. Trish is worried that if she’s in prison for too much longer after Mercy has been released, Mercy will move on. Complicating things further is the fact that before Trish, Mercy dated another inmate, Boo, for two years. Boo still holds a candle for Mercy, and Trish, understandably, doesn’t like that. Beyond the sensationalism of a lesbian love triangle, though, the Trish/Mercy/Boo situation makes many of the Litchfield inmates contemplate what it would be like to be released. Trish wants to be sure to hang on to Mercy, obviously, and when some of the other ladies hear about Piper reading over the letter, they all beg Piper to look over letters for them, too. The crowd in their room is yet another of the indignities Miss Claudette must suffer in this episode. Of course, all of the ladies say they were really innocent for one reason or another.

In a second flashback, we see that Miss Claudette eventually grew up to run Clean Makers. One day Baptiste stops by with his new wife, and that really throws Miss Claudette for a loop. Around the same time, Miss Claudette notices that one of her girls is refusing to take a shower. When Miss Claudette pushes the girl to get a shower, the girl shows Miss Claudette some nasty bruises she suffered on the part of one of her “clients.” Miss Claudette visits the client’s house and says she’s the new cleaning lady. When we next see her, she is making sure the kitchen is immaculate, and she is paying special attention to cleaning a very large knife. The one mess in the kitchen is the dead body of the man she just presumably killed with the knife.

At Litchfield, the search for the screwdriver intensifies, and when a bunch search is done for a second time, Piper is worried that they’re going to be caught. She thinks the screwdriver is under her mattress, but it turns out to be missing. Piper thinks this gets her off the hook, but it’s not definite. If it’s used as a weapon and traced back to Piper, she could face some problems. It’s kind of nice to see how Piper and Miss Claudette interact through this whole drama. Miss Claudette is frustrated as all get-out with Piper, and Piper is as annoying and WASP-y as ever, but they reach an understanding for their mutual benefit. Anyway, it turns out that Boo took the screwdriver, and she’s been using it as a dildo, which to be honest, just seems painful. Luschek ends up buying a new screwdriver and passing it off as the old one, and thus the great screwdriver crisis passes.

Mercy’s release is kind of an emotional moment for the women of Litchfield. Trish and Boo are both worried they will never see their lover again. Piper kind of hangs back. It’s like she can’t mentally handle thinking about being released before her time actually approaches. Later in the day, Bennett stops Miss Claudette because he has a letter for her. Miss Claudette never goes to mail call because she never gets mail, but this time is different. It’s a letter from Baptiste saying that his wife has died and he wants to see Claudette. Miss Claudette decides right then and there that she wants her case reopened after all. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, this can’t possibly end well.

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