Saturday, July 19, 2014

Summer TV Rewind: Orange is the New Black 1.07: "Blood Donut"

“Now the problem as I see it, is that we have a budget situation. Now I can do my best, but it’s going to be hard to do all these things and still be able to bring donuts to our meetings every month. And coffee.”

While I don’t feel like “Blood Donut” really coalesced around a central theme like some of the more refined episodes of “Orange is the New Black,” I did appreciate that several of the many disparate plot elements in play intertwined by the end of the episode. I also liked that we got to know Janae, who just had a rather small role several episodes ago (she was the mouthy inmate who got in trouble for the missing screwdriver incident, I believe). It was an interesting, although perhaps somewhat clichéd story of someone with a lot of promise who just can’t help but go down a bad path and make poor choices. We also saw Piper use her gift for scheming to do something nice for somebody else for once. Although that doing something nice did have the added benefit of easing Piper of some guilt. So it wasn’t completely altruistic.

Like I said in the intro, the focus of this episode is Janae, who got herself sent to SHU several episodes ago due to being the one in charge of the tools (and being rather belligerent) when Piper accidentally took a screw driver. At the beginning of this episode, Janae is picked up from SHU by Morello and driven back up to the main Litchfield building. She gets out of the van and just stands with her arms out, grateful for the (relative) freedom. It really makes you wonder what sort of a place SHU must be if “regular” prison seems like such a nice place in comparison! Many of the other inmates see Janae’s homecoming, including Piper. She sees what a wreck Janae is following her SHU time, and of course the guilt starts eating away at her.

Naturally, we get several Janae flashbacks throughout the episode. The first shows Janae as a child, playing a game outside with other children. Janae is such a fast runner that nobody can catch her. This makes Janae awesome, but it also makes it difficult for her to make friends, because kids don’t have fun playing games when they can’t win. Later on, we see that Janae became a high school track star. She was so good that she had a college scholarship pretty much in the bag. Janae, however, like many teenagers, wanted desperately to fit in. We get a scene where Janae goes to a party that seems like it’s being thrown by a local drug kingpin. Said kingpin tries to have Janae escorted out because he wants better for her than a life involved with his crowd. When a guy pays attention to Janae, he’s just interested in having her help with some petty crime. Janae then gets arrested following one of said petty crimes. She’s poised to run off, but then her guy tells her not to show off, just like those kids on the playground did. It stops her dead in her tracks.

My favorite scene of this episode (and perhaps all of “Orange is the New Black” thus far) is the first meeting of the WAC. It says so much about how difficult it is to change bureaucracy and institutions using very few words. Healy brings a box of Dunkin Donuts to the meeting, and of course all the ladies are salivating over such a treat. To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of Dunkin (the donuts tend to be kind of dry), but I can see why the donuts would be a big deal to the WAC ladies. The ladies start giving their list of improvements they would like to make (Piper wants to beef up the education program and help teach it, of course). All of these ideas cost money, though, and it wouldn’t be a government-run operation if there weren’t budget issues. Healy is very good at spinning this to the WAC ladies, though. He tells them that if he starts taking all these suggestions, he won’t have money to bring them donuts. And he’ll add coffee for future meetings to the bribe, too. So now the WAC ladies know the price at which they can be bought. Piper is the only one who hasn’t completely wanted to trade progress for pastry. She still wants to accomplish something, and the goal she sets for herself (out of guilt over what she did to Janae) is getting the prison track reopened.

Meanwhile, losing the election has sent Pennsatucky off the deep end even more than she already was. She’s deeper into the deep end now, if you will. Pennsatucky tries asking Piper to help her get dental work and threatening Piper, all in the same conversation. Alex tries to get Pennsatucky to knock it off, but she’s not really successful at first. What finally gets Pennsatucky to be quiet is Alex essentially threatening to rape her. Which was really not okay at all. Rape is rape, no matter the genders of the individuals involved, and it’s always wrong. I’m kind of surprised the show went there, really.

In other Litchfield news, Taystee has a parole hearing coming up soon, and Black Cindy and Poussey are trying to help her prepare. They drill her with parole board questions and take her to Sophia to get a new, more “respectable” hair style. This whole subplot is a wickedly sharp little bit of social commentary. Taystee is basically instructed to try and play on white guilt to get out of prison. Black Cindy and Poussey do a bunch of “Stuff White People Like” impressions, but beneath it all is so much more. Taystee hopes to never return to Litchfield. She wants a good clerical job, or maybe she’ll go to college. Her friends quickly try to disabuse her of that notion. She’s in the system, and she’s stuck there for life.

When Janae finds out that Piper is responsible for her trip to SHU, Piper’s guilt goes into overdrive. She tries to make a deal with Healy to get the track reopened. Healy says he will reopen the track if Piper finds and turns in the phone being used to send out pornographic pictures. Piper knows exactly where the phone is, of course, and she struggles with reaching her goal versus being a snitch. Piper tries to find a middle ground. She gives Healy the phone with everything (including the call history) but the photos erased. This isn’t good enough for Healy, so Piper tries another tactic. Next thing you know, the Assistant to the Warden is telling Caputo that Healy found the phone, and Caputo is jealous.

When Officer Fischer relays Piper’s track idea and ties it to better health outcomes for inmates, Caputo is only too happy to reopen the track. Healy is unhappy about this. Not having Piper on his (perceived) side anymore has kind of shaken his world view. Oh, and his wife is a sort of Eastern European just waiting for her Green Card type, and she’s a little odd. By the end of the episode, the track is reopened, and Janae is running around it like there’s no tomorrow (previously, she had been doing exercises in the middle of the night and pissing everybody off). Piper, feeling slightly less guilty now, enjoys a run herself, and Healy glares at her as she does so.

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