The 2nd and 3rd episodes of Season 2 of Orange is the New Black actually go quite well together to a) re-introduce us to Litchfield and b) re-integrate hardened Piper back into the group. Primarily, though, we get a nice follow-through of the Taystee story arc, which will likely take prominence for a number reasons. The biggest thing about the Taystee arc is now we have another parallel to the Piper storyline: we have a woman whose interests have otherwise been well intentioned, a woman who is smart, but wound up in prison because of a longing for love and attention that she found in someone who was involved in criminal activity… whom she now must confront daily in prison.
The other thing about these last two episodes we seem to now establish a theme about the flashbacks – no longer is it just how these women got in prison, but we’re now explaining more about their psyche. Piper’s flashbacks were very specific to explain her behavior and inner conflict right before she perjured under oath. While Taystee’s past does hint at what got her in prison, you understand who she is and her ambitious nature, as well as her vulnerability. Then, we see Crazy Eyes and her struggles while growing up.
“Looks Blue, Tastes Red” was a humorous re-introduction to everyone at Litchfield. So many things about this episode hit well. We see life at Litchfield, sans Alex, sans Piper, and with Pennsatucky newly released from seg. Change has been brewing since Piper’s been in seg then shipped temporarily to Chicago – there’s growing mutiny in the laundry room with fears of Pennsatucky’s return (this chick is totally going to get more important, I feel it!), the kitchen is feeling the drudgery and not getting as much love as before, and Red has been outcast by the kitchen and even her own girls. Some things haven’t changed though – Healy is still one messed up bastard (it’s incredible that even Pennsatucky can strike enough fear in him that he has to win her silence by getting her new teeth), and Fig is still just barely keeping up appearances to save her reputation, over-touting programs like Dress for Success and Job Fair to a reporter.
The job fair takes the mainstage for this episode, as a great way to get the ensemble involved and re-show us all the different cliques. It’s staged as a mini competition for the women to show who would be the most successful once out of prison. It’s fun to see everyone get really into the Dress for Success portion – I mean, can you imagine just having a few racks of clothing to choose from after wearing the same uniform day in, day out? Sophia certainly takes advantage and has fun with it. The surprising thing about this is how mean-spirited this actually becomes – the woman who judges the outfits made suggestions to some of the girls, and winds up harshly criticizing them in front of everyone. Talk about some crazy mental games here! The next best thing about the Job Fair scenes was the montage of the resume and job aptitude test – everyone’s questions and concerns about their results were so punchy and funny, like the nun saying fashion is not a career option and Nicky calling out being recommended as a correctional officer as a career.
We watch Taystee’s rise to the top and her ambition in prison to “win” the job fair in conjunction with her past – going from group home to group home, ambitious in her attempts to win the love and attention of foster parents, to knowing she has to work hard to earn hers. At her lowest point, she uses her math skills to sneak her way into Vee’s business, now helping run it. The most poignant part of this is when we watch her basically come home for dinner with the most traditional family setting ever in her life – it is a moment of true peace and happiness for Taystee. But at what cost? What about the thin veneer in Vee? The moment they share when her friend dies is definitely meant for dramatic irony and tension, as Vee professes she will “always protect [her] babies.” What has that gotten Taystee? Time in jail, and as she wins the job fair (forcing out of Fig a $10 commissary prize), she gets confronted with Vee in the orange uniform.
“Hugs Can Be Deceiving” continues unravelling what will likely be a lot of crazy developments and plot turns. We see a lot of things establish here, the catalyst being Vee’s arrival and Piper’s return. Piper returns with some newbies, one of whom she now has to bunk with (Soso). The makeup artist did a fantastic job of showing the transition of Piper physically – Chicago definitely done messed her up, between being thrown into worse and crazier conditions and recognizing an even further betrayal of someone she loved. Piper is now kind of an expert at the game (although Nicky aptly points out there’s still the privileged white girl, look at me and my sad story complex in her) – and she doesn’t shy away from making it known to the super green Soso, eagerly looking for a new friend.
We also see the tension between Taystee and Vee play out – with a number of effects and consequences. Red’s been in long enough that in her time at Litchfield, she had previously met Vee. This prompts her to revamp her trademark Red look before confronting Vee. Vee creeps around the girls, realizing she can take advantage of Crazy Eyes to reclaim a sense of power in the prison. We really see this episode in Crazy Eyes’ perspective – fearful of Piper, and constantly put down by the other black girls while playing guess it charades or whatever, Crazy Eyes is once again vulnerable and without someone she can trust. It’s been a lifelong issue – she’s always been treated with this sense of fragility, having been adopted by a pretty well off white family who may not always know how to treat her behavior. It’s almost like they wanted to believe they understood her complex well that they tried to take care of it themselves – Crazy Eyes probably could have used more professional counseling than being “showered” by the love of a rich white family. It was a black nurse who was able to temper Crazy Eyes behavior in the hospital when her baby sister was born, you know. Maybe it’s just simple lack of understanding from being in an environment that doesn’t suit her, which continued to be a theme in her life – the sleepover where she was different and chastised (you know what Crazy Eyes? Dragons are cool! Those 6 year olds don’t know squat) and the all white high school she could not sing in front of. Vee recognized her vulnerability and used Crazy Eyes’ eagerness to illicit a favor out of her – fetch these cigarettes she hid long ago – and start using those cigarettes to trade in favors, like forcing the kitchen to bake a cake. Vee first invites Crazy Eyes to literally take the cake, and has a terse confrontation with Taystee, asserting she’s going to “take care” of the black girls of the prison. There’s definitely something suspicious going on here – we watch Red look on, and not happily. If Vee abandoned Taystee once, worse things can be wrought in prison. At least that’s how I read it.
And of course, we also deal with Piper and Pennsatucky and discover what really happened. It was starting to get suspicious why everyone was acting so weird about it – from Healy insisting there was no weapon and they both got hurt. In a flashback that went from Crazy Eyes in high school to feeling the same pressure to sing at the infamous Christmas pageant, we see her unleash her frustrations and anger on Piper in the middle of the Pennsatucky beatdown. What’s funny is Piper offers a peace offering here – thanking Crazy Eyes – but with this newfound confidence and counseling from Vee, Crazy Eyes insists she doesn’t need Piper’s friendship.
Probably the more important development here is Lorna – the otherwise collected and chipper driver and introducer to the ropes (she shows around the new inmates to their cells) has just been broken down, with a heartbreaking phone call that her long beloved Christopher is getting married on her desired date to someone else. I can’t wait to see more of this unfold.
It’s an exciting time to be back at Litchfield, and I can only wonder how much craziness and potential hurt can occur. Is the hardened Piper going to continue her rough reputation, and how much influence will Vee have on everyone?