OITNB: Red Scare

A younger Red accepts a gift from fellow inmate Vee on Orange is the New Black
Orange is the New Black (Screen: Netflix)

Orange is the New Black: 40 Oz. of Furlough — Piper uses her temporary freedom to go on a bender. A contraband turf war begins to emerge in Litchfield between Red, Vee, and Bennett.

The episode title “40 Oz. of Furlough” refers to Piper getting out of Litchfield for 48 hours, so let’s dispense with her plotline before getting to what is actually interesting about Orange is the New Black. Rather than saying goodbye to her grandmother in a hospital bed, Piper’s furlough features Nana Celeste’s viewing and funeral. Between the two events Piper and Larry try to have hate-sex in her parents’ bathroom, but Larry tells her he slept with someone (he doesn’t say it was Polly—Piper’s already pissed). In the middle of Piper’s eulogy at the funeral, her brother Cal decides to hijack the event and get married to his girlfriend since everyone is in town anyway. I can’t with this, neither can Piper, and she leaves to get drunk off a bottle of Colt 45.

Back in the prison, Red is this episode’s flashbacker with a major supporting role from Vee. Their story picks up on their first day in the prison as bunkmates. As the racial politics go, the black women were at the top of the pecking order at the time, though the white prisoners were in the kitchen. Vee and Red struck up a friendship and both moved up the ranks of their respective groups rather quickly. It did not take long for Red to set up her contraband operation, which impressed Vee. However, the rift in their relationship happened once Vee became the leader of her group. She forced her way into Red’s operation, going so far as to have her goons savagely beat the chef. It’s a pretty brutal scene.

Unfortunately for Red, history may soon repeat itself. In an effort to make peace with her former compatriots from the white camp, Red made a special dinner in the greenhouse. While there, Big Boo discovered the sewer grate at the end of Red’s supply pipeline. Boo struck a deal with Vee—who is already providing cigarettes and drugs to the inmates—which could spell trouble for Red’s operation.

The other chaos factor in the prison: the return of Pornstache. Mendez makes his presence known instantly, bullying and harassing the inmates, issuing shots for made up offenses. Caputo essentially turns a blind eye since Mendez is satisfying Figueroa’s ridiculous requirements. Bennett notices this and decides the asshole route is the way to go in his relations with inmates. Bennett goes overboard after finding a cigarette butt and trashing the dorms, to the point that Mendez has to intervene. In a follow-up meeting with Caputo, Bennett outs Daya as pregnant, but says Mendez is the father.

The tonal shift in this episode concerns me. In a discussion about the first episode of the season, my sister Mary mentioned that the writers wanted to dispel the summer camp vibe that Litchfield created in season one.  Although that enhanced my appreciation for the first episode, it seems like that goal was lost in the intervening episodes. The violence of the scenes in this episode created discomfort—which should happen in a prison story—but it felt like the discomfort was being saved up for this episode, rather than being a part of daily prison life. That being said, the stakes are rising in the prison and I need to finish this sentence so I can start the next episode.

Tomorrow: Ryan closes out the week with his take on Episode 10.

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About Mike McComb 669 Articles
Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it "TV Camp." After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv