OITNB: Cindy and the Long Game

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

Orange is the New Black Season 2 Episode 7 — Halfway through the season, “Comic Sans” has Vee, Cindy, Red, and Poussey thinking ahead.

As we’ve come to expect, Black Cindy’s flashbacks focus on character development: she’s a TSA agent who helps herself to snacks from the airport stores, feels up passengers, and steals from passenger luggage. She also has a daughter that she loves, but ultimately is unwilling to make the long-term sacrifices it takes to be a parent. Instead, Cindy’s mother assumes parental responsibility, allowing Cindy to be the cool and exciting “big sister” who shows up occasionally to make a big splash.

Cindy’s flashbacks are interesting for two main reasons. First of all, Cindy is a relatively secondary character. She only joined the cast near the end of season 1, and other than the occasional well-timed quip, she’s not particularly important to the Plot’s progress. So why focus on her now? (Unless she’s going to become important to the Plot’s progress….) Also, like Poussey’s story last episode, this flashback never gets around to telling us what Cindy did to land herself in prison. Two’s a coincidence, but perhaps this points to a coming trend of focusing less on the past, and more on the future?

Otherwise in Litchfield, this episode is working on the long game. No big twists or surprises, just a couple of characters setting up their pawns for later moves.

Vee’s cigarette cartel is up and running, and she’s all business. We don’t use filters because they require larger cigarettes and that eats into our margins. We prefer Forever stamps over regular stamps because they appreciate in value over time. All business until, that is, Cindy points out that Vee’s taking a 90% cut for herself … now all of a sudden, this isn’t just about money, it’s an opportunity for self-improvement. A chance for the pawns to discover their hidden value.1

Thanks to the tunnel under the greenhouse, Red has her own source of illict goods and is slowly rebuilding her own customer base. Sophia comes for hair products and Gummi Bears; Gloria wants cilantro from the garden so she can make some decent rice and beans. Both Vee and Red are in it for the money — Red’s commissary is having cash flow issues — but there’s a growing tension between the two that seems only partially due to their past. When Big Boo comes sniffing for matches, Red refuses on principle even before she knows about Vee’s cigarette dealings. As Gloria and Boo both point out, the two could easily peddle their wares in parallel without competition, but Red’s responses suggest she’s not looking for a truce.

Meanwhile, Poussey’s relationship with Taystee continues to drive the Plot. Nichols comes looking for a smoke, but Poussey lashes out, clearly angry and frustrated about her best friend’s emotional distance since Vee arrived (and still smarting from Taystee’s latest rejection). Nichols warns her about getting too emotionally attached to straight girls, and suggests that if she wants to keep Taystee in her life? She needs to make nice with Vee. So, when Vee demotes Cindy from sales and gives Poussey another opportunity to join the action, Poussey (with silent urging from Taystee) agrees to consider it.

Thus far, Poussey and Red have been the only people willing to stand up to, and apart from, Vee. The interactions between these three characters (or, more accurately, between Vee and each of these characters) is quickly becoming the most compelling arc of the season.

Other action from Episode 7:

  • Goodbye to Kavanaugh, who was sent away under a “compassionate release” program. She’s going to be taken to the nearest bus stop and perhaps given a ticket into town, but then she’s on her own, despite a clear inability to care for herself.
  • During an argument in the utility closet, Daya is furious at Bennett for putting Maritza in the SHU as a way to stop her blackmailing him. He’s oblivious to the actual power differential in their relationship; even if he’s not going to write Daya up, the fact is that he could, and she would have no recourse.
  • Figueroa is embezzling money from the prison to pay for her husband’s campaign; they both appear to believe they’re doing the right thing, that the money will be better spent getting him elected so he can make “real change” from the top. Mr. Fig also appears to have a thing for his (male) campaign staffer.
  • Piper tries to get the reporter to expose conditions at the prison, but he’s much more interested in following the money. She writes a profile of Caputo for the newsletter, and with help from Morello (fashion tips), Flaca (an advice column), and Daya (political cartoons) spends most of the episode working on the first edition.
  • Larry and Polly finally have sex. Good grief. Larry’s later confusion and discomfort when Pete comes over to complain about Polly is palpable, and delicious.
  • Poussey to Brook, who complains about the agro-business complex: “Bitch, look around you. We in the prison-business complex. A cow breaks me out of here, I’ll stop eating meat that day.”

Tomorrow, Mooch gardens with Appropriately Sized Pots.

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  1. Or, in Suzanne’s case, to discover what their true value is NOT.  

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