Saturday, July 12, 2014

Summer TV Rewind: Orange is the New Black 1.06: "WAC Pack"

“Some shit stinks more than other shit, Princess.”

“WAC Pack” was a little less focused than the earlier episodes of “Orange is the New Black,” but it did have two major characteristics that I can point to. There’s a plot about the creation of a Women’s Advisory Counsel at Litchfield that says a lot about the (possibly rightful) power imbalance in prison, and we also get some Nicky flashbacks. We also get rather quick nods to some of the other ongoing plots that are happening. I think we’re seeing a continuation of the fundamental change Piper made in “The Chickening.” She has finally realized she is no different or better than anybody else at Litchfield, and she’s getting very uncomfortable when anyone implies otherwise (like at least three people do in this episode). The end of this episode is kind of the crowning “people think Piper is better than the rest of the inmates” moment, and it will be interesting to see how Piper handles that going forward.

The Litchfield mini crisis of the week this time around is a photograph that has started circulating online. The photo is of the vagina of a Litchfield inmate, and it was found on a porn site. The reason the administration is concerned is because this means there is a cell phone in Litchfield. Rule number one of prison security: no cell phones allowed. To be honest, I’m surprised the searching for the phone isn’t a bit more frantic than it is depicted here. The search for the missing screw driver had more of a sense of urgency. With a missing screw driver, there’s just one weapon floating around. With a missing cell phone, somebody could potentially arrange for a bunch of weapons (and other things) to e smuggled in. Although, as we see from a few brief scenes with Pornstache in this episode, the ladies of Litchfield seem to have found a way to get contraband without a cell phone. (Hint: Pornstache smuggles things in all the time, and the tightened security following cell phone pic-gate is hurting his business).

Like I mentioned earlier, the flashback focus of this episode is on Nicky. It made me wish we had more Nicky flashbacks (more could be coming…I don’t remember). I feel like we really just scratched the surface of Nicky in this episode. The first flashback we see is Nicky recovering in the hospital after a nasty bout of presumably drug use related endocarditis. Nicky’s mom is there, and she is not motherly in the least. She mostly just lectures. Nicky tries to say she’s in the hospital for a bout of pneumonia, but the scar on her chest suggests otherwise. We learn that Nicky was essentially raised by a nanny while her mom shacked up in a separate apartment with a boyfriend who didn’t like kids. The moment where Nicky asks her mom to do something motherly (like giving her sips of water) was especially poignant.

I suppose there was a bit of a theme of mothers and daughters tying together many of the disparate elements of “WAC Pack.” We see the aftermath of Daya’s mom trying to put the moves on Bennett. Daya and Bennett have a closet meeting where Bennett assures Daya that he did absolutely nothing with her mom. Bennett is on edge because following the whole cell phone pic reveal drama, he got a very long lecture on inappropriate relationships (all the COs were being interviewed for possible involvement). Being freaked out by the lecture, however, doesn’t prevent Bennett from being willing to accept a blow job from Daya. Go figure. While she’s preparing for said blow job, Daya finds out that Bennett has a prosthetic leg. They have an awkward conversation about this later, but it eventually brings them closer.

Piper is also dealing with some mother/daughter issues in the aftermath of the big chicken over business decision of “The Chickening.” Piper’s mom comes to visit, and it isn’t exactly pretty. Piper’s mother is even more WASP-y than Piper herself, and she’s just not a very nice person. She goes on and on about how Piper isn’t like those “other” people in Litchfield, and if her case had just gone to trial, the jury would have seen that. Piper is embarrassed by this because she’s finally starting to accept that she made bad choices just like her peers. She and Nicky have an interesting conversation about this following the visitation. Nicky would just be happy if her mother would bother to show up for visitation, so she doesn’t really get why Piper is complaining. Although given what we’ve seen of Nicky’s mother, I don’t think the conversation would have gone much better than the conversation between Piper and her mother.

The Litchfield population overall is acting pretty unruly, so Healy makes the decision to reinstitute the Women’s Advisory Council (WAC). Membership is voted for along ethnic lines, which all of the ladies acknowledge is a pretty racist relic, but it is what it is. Morello is the top white candidate, because she has Red’s endorsement (she’s running against Pennsatucky). Nicky is upset that she herself wasn’t Red’s choice, since she sees Red as sort of her surrogate mother. We see in a flashback near the end of the episode exactly why that is. Nicky suffered pretty terrible withdrawal symptoms when she first arrived at Litchfield (she was a serious drug addict), and Red was the person who was there to hold her hair back, hug her, and tell her it would be okay. I get the distinct impression that nobody had ever done that for Nicky before. After this, like I said, I’d like to see more Nicky flashbacks, because I’d like to know more about how both Nicky and her mom became the people they now are.

Piper is also feeling some regret about choosing the chicken recently. Not because she’s still thinks she’s better than her fellow inmates, but because she let down her best friend Polly. She keeps trying to call Polly, and Polly finally answers while in the middle of an ob appointment. She is very, very close to giving birth, but she and Piper have a sweet conversation while the doctor is preparing to do the exam. Polly says she is going to take care of the business until Piper is released. In other Piper outside life news, Larry’s editor doesn’t love the article he wrote about “edging.” Instead the editor wants a “my fiancée is in prison and I’m miserable” article. Piper and Larry discuss this during visitation one day, and Piper doesn’t love the idea. She’s regretting how she felt about her fellow inmates when she first arrived at Litchfield, and she doesn’t want Larry to memorialize that in writing. Also, she feels like this is her story, not her and Larry’s story. She does say she’ll think about it, though.

Throughout the episode, the WAC campaigning is intense. I already mentioned the white candidate slate, but the African American campaign is also especially contentious. The top candidates are Taystee and Sophia. Sophia, of course, runs on a sophisticated, intellectual platform centered around better healthcare. Taystee wants more soul food served in the mess hall. Taystee wins. It becomes clear very quickly, however, that overall, the votes don’t matter. The administration just picks the people they want on the council. That is how, by the end of the episode, Piper finds herself on the WAC, despite not having even run for office. Piper has also figured out the source of the inappropriate pictures (a cell phone hidden behind a tile in the perpetually occupied bathroom stall), so she is sure to have some interesting times ahead.

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