After being the nice guy for so long, Joe Caputo is tired of playing “whack-a-mole” with the contraband problem in Litchfield. The shot-quota fails and he snaps when Susan Fischer decides to speak her mind to him. Miss Rosa is given bad news about her cancer; Piper is given furlough; the effectiveness of the prison system is called into question. Health care, furlough, and contraband are all discussed.
The Contraband Ring
This episode begins with Caputo absentmindedly commenting on Red getting appropriately sized pots for her greenhouse; what he fails to realize is that is precisely where Red is stashing her contraband. He says that he will stop by the greenhouse every day for plant therapy; however, Red isn’t all too keen on Caputo sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong, whether or not he knows he’s doing it. It is not until Figueroa enters the prison and steps in gum not two feet in the door that Joe realizes there’s a problem with contraband. Although Gloria Mendoza is trying her hardest to stay out of the feud between Vee and Red, she does arrange to get Gloria cilantro for her kitchen in exchange for a favor — which we do not realize is to store her goods upon Joe’s contraband raid shit-storm/”whack-a-mole” game. It is only during a conversation with CO John Bennett that Caputo realizes that Red’s pulled yet another fast one on him. Although Bennett is one of the sources of contraband in the prison, Joe Caputo recognizes that “you make friends in this place.”
Gloria and her kitchen have become the turf over which Red and Vee play their tug-o-war game. Vee attempts to convince Gloria that Red is a scorpion who is using her to get her kitchen back, and Red reassures Gloria that Vee is trying to sabotage her. Gloria knows, however, that both Red and Vee are “scorpions” and she does not trust anyone. Gloria explains that she doesn’t want to be involved in “some whitey-versus-blackie war. Y’all got this history, I want nothing to do with that.” Even though it appears as though Gloria has allied with Red for doing her girls a few favors by hiding the contraband in the walk-in, Red silently disrespects the way Gloria keeps the kitchen, running her finger along the counter top to check the visible filth and grime.
The beginning of the episode addresses Jimmy’s compassionate release; Taslitz bets on Jimmy being “dead in a week.” As was discussed in the 207 treatment, an inmate would not be released as thoughtlessly and without a plan in the real world; however, we are left to mourn Jimmy within the confines of fictional Litchfield Penitentiary. The other Golden Girls explain that they hid Jimmy’s disease for years to protect her, but it seems as though they reached their breaking point. The Golden Girls inform Piper that “no one gives a shit about old ladies. We remind everyone that they’re gonna die.” Whereas Piper believes that old people are comforting, most people do feel the way that the Golden Girls delineate.
Sam Healy is forced to inform Miss Rosa that the Department of Corrections will not pay for her surgery that would be necessary to eradicate her cancer. The only option she has is to continue on with her chemotherapy. It is because of Healy’s position as bearer-of-bad-news that Rosa tells him that the administration is “all the same — useless.” It is this insult that leads Healy to do what he can to get Piper her furlough so that she can get closure and say goodbye to her grandmother. Without Miss Rova’s provocation, it is likely that Piper would have gone without furlough like the rest of the inmates who currently hate her guts.
Life and Death
We know from last season that CO Healy tried numerous times to reason with Chapman, given the fact that she’s beautiful, white, and young. Although they’ve had their differences, Healy is still partial to Chapman for being “one of his own kind,” and that’s exactly what everyone points to as the cause of her getting furlough, in addition to whisperings about supposed sexual favors performed on Healy. Even though Daya told Piper to keep the furlough thing quiet, it still gets around (whether or not she wanted it to), and causes a scene in the cafeteria. Not knowing what exactly to do with her 48 hours of freedom, Piper agrees to visiting Red’s shop in Queens if she has a chance, and she seems to even dread having to face Larry and the awkward family time. Sophia, also jealous but not nearly as much as everyone else, jokes about giving her a “skullet,” to which Piper says, “Well, you might as well. My family is expecting a hardened felon. It would be nice to meet their expectations for once.”
Although this is the first “honest-to-goodness miracle” that Sister Ingalls has experienced, it doesn’t seem like one to Piper. Numerous inmates express their failure with the furlough process and their contempt for Piper. Aleida tells her it’s a waste because she’s not even with Larry any more and she can’t put that time to use sexually; Poussey antagonizes Piper, saying that a white old grandmother is apparently more important than someone’s dead black mother; Taystee accuses her of getting special treatment ever since she got to Litchfield. Piper tries to “give back” her furlough, but Healy demands that she do what she intended to: get closure with her grandmother.
Things escalate so greatly that Piper exclaims:
I guess white privilege wins again. And as a speaker for the entire white race, I would like to say I am sorry that you guys got the raw deal, but I love my fucking grandmother. And, yeah . . . she may be a whitey, too, but she’s a fucking person, and she’s sick and she needs me, so shut the fuck up.
After that eloquent presentation, we are reminded of perhaps one of the most memorable lines from season one: Crazy Eyes throws her pie at Piper, rather than for Piper.
Effectiveness of the System
Since Caupto is having a hard time controlling the flow of contraband, the effectiveness of the prison guards and the system is called into question. Figueroa asks Susan Fischer: “Are you just here for decoration or are you gonna do something about it?”
The prison staff’s loyalty to the prison’s goals is questionable, considering Luschek watches Nicky use a contraband lighter to light a contraband cigarette and even covers for her when Caputo comes over. In addition, this scene calls into question the people they hire to do the jobs at the prison. What kind of head of electrical is Joel if he doesn’t even know how the battery-and-gum wrapper makeshift lighter works? Joe Caputo comments on the quality of correctional officers they get at Litchfield considering the job only pays $18/hour. This is one of the reasons listed for the prevalence of contraband in prisons in the United States (Clarke).
Unfortunately for someone as honest and upstanding as Susan Fischer, standing up about the unfair shot-quota and the use of punishment costs her job. In case you forgot what she said, here is her assertion about Joe Caputo’s management of Litchfield:
I’d like [the inmates] to think that when they’re disciplined, it’s justified. I mean, otherwise, why follow the rules at all? . . . You can’t just punish someone arbitrarily to make an example out of them.
Ironically, it is these very words that get Fischer fired and George “Pornstache” Mendez rehired. According to Sam Healy, he was just as passionate and gung-ho about making a change to the system as Fischer was when he first started. He was “idealistic,” and now he realizes that he is simply a pencil pusher that can’t do much of anything, hence why he tried so hard for furlough for Chapman.
There is a moment in this episode that foreshadows the season finale: the “Ask Flaca” column gets a question about a bunkie that is stealing her stuff — Flaca, in jest, suggests that she “buy a lock, stick it in a sock and slock the bitch down.” If you recall, this is the exact method that Vee uses to take out Red with. Perhaps she wrote to Flaca? Or perhaps it was just a coincidence? Maybe if you’re going to try to kill someone, that’s the way you do it in prison.
Litchfield: A Comedy
Sam Healy: “The doctor recommends a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy.”
Miss Rosa: “Who doesn’t love a surgery with ‘ooph’ in it?”
Brook Soso: “There’s something so gratifying about washing someone else’s clothes and being of service to another human being.”
Pennsatucky: “Well just wait [’til] you come across some of them period-soaked panties or the shit stains on the undies and see how gratified you are.”
Pennsatucky [to Leanne]: “A real friend tells it like it is. Watch and learn. [to Brook] You smell like a fucking turtle tank. Go take a fucking shower.”
Taslitz: “Did he say furlough?”
Golden Girl: “You’re deaf as a post, honey. Nobody gets furlough.”
Natalie Figueroa: “Am I the only one who sees this? Do I have super vision? Am I like the boy in The Sixth Sense who sees infractions no one else sees? Am I in a fucking M. Night Shalamalama movie, or is that inmate wearing green eye shadow?”
Sister Ingalls: “Shhh.”
[Flaca flips her off.]
Sister Ingalls: “Jesus saw that.”
Yusef: “Enjoy prison!”
Miss Rosa: “Enjoy your life, shitpot!” [Laughs]
Clarke, Matt. “Contraband Smuggling a Problem at Prisons and Jails Nationwide.” Prison Legal News. Prison Legal News, 15 Jan. 2013. Web. 6 July 2014.