The Valentine’s Day episode of Orange is The New Black is definitely a better example of how to deal with a TON of different storylines at once, primarily because it is well-paced. We’re jam-packed with a lot of little developments and each scene moves well, as opposed to lingering on some of these storylines too long. Seriously. Even the Larry stuff was better paced – I’d rather Larry is treated this way the remainder of the season, with quick hits that get to the point and provide a lot of movement.
A lot of the attention for this episode is primarily spent on the kitchen crew – at least, they seemed to have the most scenes to cut back to, especially with Flaca/Maritza and Daya/Bennett. They had the fun storyline of setting up the Valentine’s Day party the prison throws for everyone, baking cookies, hypothesizing about love. Flaca and Maritza share some hooch and get a little too tipsy, then share a brief moment of intimacy as a result. Look what being lovelorn and alone in prison does to you! We also get more of the Daya/Bennett ups and downs – they’ve been a little more boring to me this season, but it was nice to get more of their dynamic, especially given Daya’s crazed hormones. It’s sweet that they try very hard to be the “normal couple” – they even role play – but they both recognize immediately that it’s a foregone reality they’ll never see, especially once the baby is public knowledge. The other great thing about their arc in this episode is we finally get a hint of Pornstache (Mendez) making his return, him having sent a mysterious Valentine’s Day card to Daya. They both acknowledge this soberly, and we know there’s more trouble ahead for them.
The next big development here is Piper making more of her stamp again in prison life. I was waiting for that snooping journalist to come back into play, even in the smallest of ways. After the brief reconciliation with Larry, he introduces the idea of exposing the Litchfield prison and having Piper work from the inside. Although the idea of teaming up initially causes another rift between Larry and Piper, it does wind up inspiring her to pursue investigating on her own, touting a prison “newsletter” to Healy as a cover, with benefits for Healy (The girls will like you again is Piper’s promise!) The testimonials about what love means to the prisoner is a wonderful interlude throughout the episode, and it becomes clear toward the end that it’s Piper asking the question of the prisoners. There’s a lot of wonderful insights here, where the prisoners all get to wax poetic verbally and nonverbally (Norma’s simple response is so comical but sweet) – this was an awesome way to thread this through. Ending with Piper explaining that “home” is more or less what love is also a poetic stamp on Piper’s storyline in this episode. After meeting Larry again for the first time in months, we see her go through the existential frustration of not feeling at home, and not having love at her grasp for the first time. We see her chuck away a Valentine’s Day card from Alex, and she clearly has more to do to make peace with Larry. To finally proclaim Litchfield as her home for now(even if just to cover up for the investigations) was clearly a liberating moment for Piper, another moment of acceptance in her self journey and her sentence.
Oh, and Larry is finally interesting again when he plants one on Polly as he tries to drop off Piper’s stuff. His whole monologue to Piper in the prison is wonderfully written, and he performs it well. The metaphor of the sun vs. the moon totally works for them, and of course now we have a triage of conflict with Larry making a move on Polly – her husband just returned, and then there’s Piper. The way the scene plays out is also well-edited: with Piper’s VO over Larry making his way over to Polly’s, and just that quick hit of the kiss.
We finally start to see Vee’s plan come to fruition as well, having transferred more of the girls to custodial. This creates yet another rift between Taystee and Poussey, as Poussey loses her library buddy and also the disagreement on what Vee means to do in the prison. Let’s see how long Vee’s operation stands.
Getting more of the prison staff in was wonderful too – Caputo has a crush on Fischer, and tries to sneakily ask her out by inviting her to one of his shows. I love Caputo out of the prison – he’s definitely a loveable, well-meaning guy. Of course, Caputo doesn’t count on Fischer inviting other CO’s out – in fact, 2 of the CO’s are going out, which was a cute and funny discovery of the episode! The catch? Heartbreak for Caputo, as he realizes Fischer brought a date to his show. I will say the end reveal of the clearly-dementia-ridden “Jimmy” was creepy and great – she snuck her way out of the prison and smiles at Caputo from the bar while he performs. It makes you wonder if they’re connected in any way, or who he must remind her of that she’s been looking for in her past.
My biggest disappointment is that there’s not enough time spent examining Poussey’s past. It was definitely sacrificed for the sake of moving along all the other storylines in this episode. Poussey has quickly become one of the more fascinating characters to me, and the quick blips into her past only bolster that for me. I definitely watched in amazement her worldliness and her passion – it was amazing to see her fluently speaking German. Her passion definitely took itself other places though – she knows how to be stone cold, but she also has so much burning inside her it could push her to do the wrong thing, as it almost did when she confronted her German girlfriend’s father. Luckily, she has an understanding enough father to stop and defend her. Though we don’t know yet how she got in exactly, we get the hint that her passion got the best of her, whatever it was that did her in.
There was so much that happened, all in the span of basically a day. This was definitely writing at its finest, where we get wonderful snippets of moments, and we start moving developments along for many of the characters. Who knew Valentine’s Day could be so much fun and so life-changing in a prison!