*SPOILER ALERT* *SPOILER ALERT* *SPOILER ALERT* *SPOILER ALERT*
Most OITNB viewers endure Piper to get to the characters they really want to see, and that’s actually by design. Show runner Jenji Kohan gave an interview to the Huffington Post in December that detailed why viewers are subjected to Piper: "If you go to a network and say, “I wanna do prison stories about black women and Latino women and old women,” you’re not gonna make a sale. But, if you’ve got this blonde girl going to prison, you can get in there, and then you can tell all the stories. I just thought it was a terrific gateway drug into all the things I wanted to get into."
So we’ll endure her to get to everyone else in Litchfield, especially “Tasha Jefferson” aka “Taystee”, who emerged as one of the break out stars of OITNB, (in addition to “Sophia Burset” aka Laverne Cox, who was so popular she landed the cover of Time Magazine.)
Episode 2 begins with a backstory viewers have been waiting for. In Season One, we learned Tastyee didn’t have any family she could rely on when she was released from prison and wound up sleeping on the floor in an over-crowded apartment. But now we get the details. She grew up in a group “home”, desperate for a conventional “forever family” that never came despite being a smart girl with a big personality and a serious case of the cutes.
She’s around 10, when she encounters “Vee”, a neighborhood dealer who immediately makes me leery. It’s one thing to sell drugs, it’s another thing to seduce kids with crappy home lives into working corners for you by presenting yourself as a mother-figure, especially when the consequence of coming up short on the count is sleeping outside. Taystee, still just a pre-teen, has lived enough life already to suss out Vee as “a connect”, and despite her desire for a family, Tasha isn’t desperate enough— yet— to take Vee up on her offer to “learn the trade”.
Years later, Taystee is out of viable options. There are problems in her group home and Vee, who has always paid attention to her, is her last resort. She wowed her with her science skills when she was 10-ish, and years later it’s her quick math skills that win Vee over, and set Taystee on the road to prison.
The upside here is that Taystee gets the family she always wanted. In exchange for participating in Vee’s heroin operation, she gets a Mom (types of motherhood are a theme throughout the episode) who bakes bread from scratch, listens to—and humors— her crazy ideas and an older brother, RJ who lovingly teases her. When the family prepares for dinner in the kitchen table, it almost feels Cosby-esque— minus the heroin baggies they have to clear first.
Back at Litchfield— finally— it’s “Career Day” and we get an update on what the people we really care about are up to.
Taystee is the only one taking “Career Day” seriously. She picks the outfit that won the year before and she actually studies for the interview with a Phillip Morris recruiter. Her interview skills are impressive, perhaps better than most of the people on the outside with a legit job. Like most—but not all— of the women at Litchfield, she’s smart. With the right chances, a support system and a little luck—like say the cushy life Piper was born into and takes for granted— many of them could have gone far in life. (But, as Vee once told her, “you’re from the hood. You don’t get a career. You get a job. And this one [selling heroine] is the best one around.”) Still, Taystee is a stand out among the ladies of Litchfield. And best friend Poussey couldn’t be prouder.
Poor pregnant Daya hasn’t pooped in five days and swears she’s “dying”. Gloira and Daya’s Mom, Aleida—moreso Aleida than Gloria— battle it out to see who can make Daya poop faster. When she finally poops, Daya declares it a tie. They’re both winners.
Red’s not adjusting well to her loss of power in the prison. She’s let herself go – her hair isn’t fire red anymore or standing up— since she was ousted from both the kitchen and her position as the matriarch of her prison family. To make matters worse, her real family hasn’t added money to her commissary, so she’s forced to return to the cafeteria and face the Latinas who have taken over the kitchen— or starve. Since she’s been kicked out of her group, the Grey Mafia offers her a spot in theirs. She declines. “My life is sad and small and a burden to those I love,” she tells her son on visiting day. Because old ladies don’t take no for an answer even from other old ladies, they ignore her rejection and push up anyway.
Little Boo (the dog) is no more after an incident between the dog and Big Boo got “weird.” The implication is that Big boo had the dog perform oral sex on her. Desperate times call for desperate measures… I guess. O_o
Morello is still holding on to the idea of marrying her fiance’, Christopher, when she gets out of prison. “Fig” aka the lady who runs the prison brought in some sort of resume specialist to help the women clean up their resumes and when he asks her what she wants to do for work when she gets out, she responds, “I just want to get married to Christopher and have his babies and make the house look nice.” Um, okay.
Pennsatucky isn’t dead, as we learned in OITNB’s season opener, but it’s here we get a glimpse of the damage Piper’s done. It’s been over a month since their big fight and Pennsatucky’s face has healed, but… When asked about the fight, Pennsatucky downplays how brutally Piper beat on her: “I suppose she got a few licks in”, she offers, but her teeth tell another story. If thought they were bad before….
Healy’s still trying to make headway with his wife when Pennsatucky shows up and reminds him that she remembers everything about her fight with Piper, specifically that Healy saw it revving up and did nothing. She might be a “hillbilly meth addict” (and completely delusional), but she isn’t stupid. She also reminds Healy that she is still the poster child for the Right to Life movement and her version of the story holds more weight than he thinks it does. Healy buys her silence by agreeing to fix her teeth.
Natalie Figueroa aka Fig’ is the executive assistant to the Warden and her husband is running for office. Hubs heightened popularity has brought more scrutiny to the prison that his wife runs. There are funds missing (because she embezzled them) and an overbearing reporter is determined to get the story. Fig shows off her rehabilitation activities at the prison (aka “Career Day”), then flirts her way out of the questions reporter’s questions before brushing him off.
Outside of the Litchfield, we learn Piper’s best friend Polly had the baby, and her husband Pete promptly bailed to go find himself on a “vision quest in the Tundra.” Polly, is a stressed new mom who gives zero f****s, evident when she greets Larry, who’s pitching in to help, at the door with a boob hanging out. For what it’s worth, she offers Larry her sympathies about his break up with Piper, but she’s loyal to her bestie: “She’s my friend and I will always take her side over yours,” she tells him. “And I will always be friends with her, and who knows how long I will know you.”
Piper’s ex-fiance’ Larry and his father wind up at gay bathhouse—Dad found it on Groupon—to discuss Piper. Larry isn’t ready to move on yet, which his father (and the entire viewing audience) doesn’t get. That said, I do understand why no one would be interested in him. He’s an ass, just like Piper. They’re actually pretty well-suited for each other. His one redeeming quality thus far is his paternal skills.
*Gloria has been locked up long enough that she doesn’t know what “Molly” is. Luschek, the CO who fixes the electricity, explains, “it’s the pure powder form of MDMA. It’s supposed to be a clean ecstasy, but it made me grind my teeth.” Here’s a CO admitting to taking illegal drugs. “How come you ain’t in jail?” Gloria asks Luschek. Technically, he is, which he points out. What she meant is how come he breaks the law, but isn’t punished for it like all the women in Litchfield. Gloria asked a great question.
*The only real lick we saw Pennsatucky get on Piper was when she cut Piper’s hand with the shank. But when an inmate sees Pennsatucky she says, “I heard you beat the holy mess out of each other.” Um, was there a part of the fight we missed? Or is the prison grapevine like a game of telephone where the story gets distorted the more it’s told?
*Taystee is none too happy when Vee shows up in the prison doorway after Taystee wins the interview competition, one that garners her $10 to her commissary, not the job offer she was expecting when she’s released. The last we saw of Vee and Taystee, Vee was promising to protect her forever. Seems Taystee hasn’t forgotten she had nowhere stable to turn when she was released.
What did you think of Episode 2?