OITNB: Morello’s Family Matters

Orange is the New Black (Screen: Netflix.com)
Orange is the New Black (Screen: Netflix.com)

Orange is the New Black, Season 2 Episode 4: “A Whole Other Hole” delves into Morello’s past, and examines how families are sometimes constructed. [Content note: Emotional abuse, genitalia, stalking.] [Content note: Emotional abuse, genitalia, stalking.] Given the number of visibly queer characters in this show, I’m surprised Orange is the New Black is just now addressing the issue of intentionally (and not-so-intentionally) constructed family. But first, everyone loves a good red herring! In the episode’s first flashback, we’re transported to Morello’s family home. It’s a loud, crowded, chaotic space. When Morello gets overwhelmed, she retreats into her bedroom to unwind by ogling a few collages and engaging in a little fraud1. For a minimum-security prisoner who’s allowed to drive off the grounds with little supervision, it seems reasonable that Morello would have committed a relatively innocuous offense. Who can blame a girl for being thrifty, amirite?

Back at the ranch: Poussey has invented a stand-to-pee device, and discovers that Taystee thinks urine comes out through her vagina. Animated discussion and good-natured teasing ensues, but Vee decides she doesn’t want to hear it and leaves, calling Suzanne after her. Cut to the bathroom for the obligatory let’s-check-out-our-vajajays scene, and here comes Sophia with a mirror and some anatomical facts2. It’s a really sweet bonding moment for many of the black prisoners, and unfortunate for Suzanne to have been excluded. Vee uses similar tactics later in the episode, encouraging Taystee to distance herself from Poussey. It’s a textbook pattern of abuse on Vee’s part, separating Suzanne and Taystee from their peers in order to make them more vulnerable and needy.

Meanwhile, Piper finally gets transferred into her permanent bunk, and instead of working on rebuilding relationships with her fellow inmates, she immediately starts reclaiming the belongings left behind when she went to the SHU. In case you needed a reminder: Piper cares about stuff, not people. She even agrees to exchange Brook, the annoying and doe-eyed newbie, for Miss Claudette’s old blanket as part of Big Boo’s campaign to out-sex Nicky. Big Boo’s right: Piper is a horrible person.

When we do finally return to Morello’s backstory, we begin to see her relationship with Christopher unfold. They meet when they (literally) run into each other at the post office, then decide to go out for coffee. It’s all very innocuous — until Christopher is in a courtroom, recounting the explosive device she planted underneath his car as part of an escalating string of violence. All of a sudden, her extraordinarily painful-to-watch phone call in episode 3 transforms from the anger and sadness of a women scorned to the frightening instability of a woman coming unhinged.3 We’re still rooting for Morello, though, shouting at her through the screen: NO! Don’t drive to his house. NO! Don’t break that window. NO! Don’t try on that veil. NO! Don’t get into that tub. NO! Don’t fall asleep. She’s kept herself in check for so long, it’s tragic and heartbreaking to see her falling apart.

Morello has constructed a certain kind of family in her own head, and is doing whatever she can to protect that image. The same is true of Vee and Red, who both believe in their own places as matriarchs; Poussey, who conveniently forgets that her feelings for Taystee are unrequited; even Big Boo and Nicky, who bond through competition as they snipe at each other. They’re all trying to build families, to create (often dysfunctional) support structures for their (often misguided) purposes. And while we can begrudge them their methods, it’s harder to begrudge the goal.

Tomorrow: Mooch closes out the week with his Episode 5 writeup.

  1. You know, as you do.  
  2. Because if we’re talking about genitals, it must be time for the transwoman to appear briefly, and then not be seen outside of that context for the rest of the episode.  
  3. Whooooooops, and here we were thinking Suzanne was the one to look out for!  

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  • Two things:

    1) Did anyone else have Alanis Morissette’s “Your House” stuck in their head during Morello’s visit to the house?

    2) I highly recommend the movie “He Loves Me…He Loves Me Not.” It stars Audrey Tautou in a similar, though more dangerous, storyline.

    • I had not previously heard “Your House” … but you’re right, that song is perfect for that scene. I spent the whole scene just groaning with empathetic regret along with my viewing companions.

  • bsawhill

    I think Morello character was one of the best in this group. And possibly the most terrifying too. She’s right up there with Alex and Vee with her ability to take reality and turn it totally on it’s side. Woe be to those who see it in a different way….

    During the scene where she was galavanting about Christopher’s place (I too was groaning about the improbability of all of this…) I was sitting in a darkened room and thinking about how many locks I have on my doors…point being: she quietly scared me silly, because you just never quite knew when things were gonna snap or what would happen when they did…terrifying.

    • Agreed! I went back and watched the phone conversation when she finds out he’s getting married … it almost looked like her eye was going to start bleeding.