Following the events of Orange is the New Black’s Season Four finale, there’s no time to reacclimate to the charged atmosphere at the Litchfield Women’s Penitentiary—we continue in real time, with a livid prison mob spurring on Daya (Dascha Polanco) to shoot the guard, already: Humphrey (Michael Torpey), the one who abuses the women he’s meant to protect; who gets off on making Maritza (Diane Guerrero) eat live baby mice, and forcing Suzanne (Uzo Aduba) and Maureen (Emily Althaus) to beat each other to a bloody pulp; who brought the gun into the prison in the first place.
The tables have turned. He knows he’s in trouble, but he thinks he stands a fighting chance with Daya, who, until recently, wasn’t exactly one for power trips and violent force. She’s frozen in place, the gun pointed at his head, overwhelmed by the deafening sound of the alarm and the countless women screaming at her to shoot—their faces contorted into furious grimaces, their humiliated, violated bodies and souls crying out for justice.
In an attempt to humanize himself, Humphrey launches into a childhood sob-story, hoping to gain compassion for having been bullied and nicknamed “Tommy El Sapo”—but he makes one crucial mistake: He thinks that by relaying his tragicomic story in Spanish, he’ll create some kind of bond with Daya when, in fact, he’s merely proving what we already knew. He doesn’t give a shit about the women’s backgrounds, their personal stories and struggles. To him, they’re all the same. “I don’t fuckin’ speak Spanish,” Daya says, and BAM! With the bullet lodged dangerously close to his tiny cojones, he may very well have to rethink his tactics in future. ¡Toma, cabrón!
After everything the Litchfield ladies have been through at the hands of Piscatella (Brad William Henke), Humphrey and co., they’re ready to fight and give the guards a taste of their own medicine. While Flores (Laura Gómez) barricades the doors with all the locks she can find in the commissary, Pidge (Miriam Morales) and Zirconia (Daniella De Jesús) are in charge of locking up the hostages, McCullough (Emily Tarver) and Dixon (Mike Houston). Fortunately for Humphrey, Gloria (Selenis Leyva) and Sophia (Laverne Cox) opt to stich him up and bring him to the medical ward, where, ironically enough, he comes to share the room with Suzanne and Maureen.
Most inmates are happy to revel in their newfound “freedom”, running amok in the hallways with their breasts bared and nostrils flared, sniffing out the drug situation at the prison’s pharmacy, while others tend to the matters that could shape the future of their remaining Litchfield days. Taystee (Danielle Brooks), Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore), Janae (Vicky Jeude) and Alison (Amanda Stephen) pay Caputo (Nick Sandow) a visit and demand justice for Poussey (Samira Wiley). There is nothing Caputo could possibly say to excuse his cowardly approach to handling the situation, and Taystee lets it be known by reinforcing her stance with a sharp punch to his nose.
Caputo generally tries to do right by everyone, but in insisting Poussey’s death was an accident, he is failing the women of Litchfield. He cooperates when the girls make him read a prepared statement on camera, but draws the line at calling Bayley (Alan Aisenberg) a murderer. Caputo may be one of the “good” guys, but he’s obviously not selfless enough to put his own ass on the line, because admitting to Bayley’s lack of training is admitting to his own fault in Poussey’s death.
With the help of the PR guy, Josh (John Palladino), who filmed Caputo’s initial statement, Taystee posts the new video on his Twitter account. But it doesn’t garner the attention they hope for: Instead of inspiring a public outcry for justice, their plea turns into a joke in the form of a “Black Lattes Matter” Meme. Apparently, the world outside of Litchfield finds humor in Cindy slurping a latte rather than rage over the inhumane treatment of prisoners. They’re not getting anywhere with their non-violent protest, so when Pidge and Zirconia invite them to be part of their “racially inclusive riot” (“Litchfield 2.0” in the making), Cindy starts looking at the bigger picture:
“We got a chance to be heard and I ain’t talking ‘bout no Internet bullshit heard, I’m talkin’ about Obama ‘08, hope-y, change-y heard. Look, we’re gonna cross tribes, being post-racial and shit. It’s what P would have wanted. There’s more strength in a single, unified message.”
Taystee hands Caputo over to Spanish Harlem, where Maria has taken charge of the hostages—nine, not counting Stratman (Evan Hall) and Blake (Nick Dillenburg), who are stuck playing Fuck, Marry, Kill with Frieda (Dale Soules), Helen (Francesca Curran), Brandy (Asia Kate Dillon) and Sankey (Kelly Karbacz). That’s until Frieda darts the guards with what she makes them believe to be poison. During their “re-orientation,” the guards are stripped and searched with much the same finesse usually reserved for the inmates, and suddenly it’s all “mea culpa, mea culpa”—too little, too late. As Maritza tells Humphrey, who suffered a stroke when Maureen blew bubbles into his IV after enduring countless minutes listening to his knowledge of medieval torture techniques: “When we’re done with you, your outsides are gonna match your insides.”
Season Five literally starts with a bang, and if “Riot FOMO” and “Fuck, Marry, Frieda” are anything to go by, we are in for a hell of a ride.
P.S., I love Frieda.
Roxanne Sancto is a freelance journalist for Paste and The New Heroes & Pioneers. She’s the author of The Tuesday Series & co-author of The Pink Boots. She can usually be found covered in paint stains.