“Orange Is the New Black” 409 Review: “Turn Table Turn”

“Turn Table Turn” opens with Poussey, Soso, Taystee, Suzanne, Watson, and Black Cindy watching TME report Judy Likes Chocolate by showing Judy King’s staged kiss with Black Cindy. Taystee asks what everyone plans on doing with the money. Poussey wants to take Soso to Amsterdam (siiiiigh). Suzanne wants to rent a bounce house in the shape of a frog. Taystee wants to follow D’Angelo around like white people follow Phish. Watson jokes that she’ll probably spend most of it on rims because this is the season of stereotypes and race issues. Black Cindy, in one sentence, sums up the writing of this entire season: “Y’all, we ain’t think this shit through.” However, she’s referring to how Caputo and the other higher-ups are going to react to the Judy King situation. Poussey tries to assuage her worries by saying that Judy King is on their side, but Black Cindy hits the table with facts. Judy King used them and will come out of this situation looking post-racial while Black Cindy will probably get in trouble. Realization sets in on the faces at the table, and Suzanne ends with scene with, “Lesbians…am I right?”

In Caputo’s office, Judy King tells Caputo that the heart wants what it wants, and she and Black Cindy are indeed a couple. Caputo tells them that it better be real and not just a stunt. Black Cindy and Judy King start spending more time together. They have cookies and tea in Judy’s room, much to the dismay of Yoga Jones, who doesn’t like the new people in their room because “They might steal.” Yoga Jones, who used to be such a likeable character, is now the epitome of what happens when you give lagniappe to an undeserving poser. Soso vents to Poussey that Black Cindy and Judy King’s “relationship” has knocked them down as a power couple. Black Cindy and Judy King are Beyoncé and Jay Z, while Soso and Poussey are just Kim and Kanye.

Piscatella wants to know which guard was on Judy King duty and let her out of sight. Rapist Coates explains that he was her guard, but she told him to leave her alone. He left her because Caputo said to keep her happy. Piscatella is not concerned about Judy King’s dalliance with Black Cindy. He wants to know how the photo got out and demands they do a phone sweep, headed up by Luschek. Luschek is annoyed because not only does this require him and the other guards to look behind every nook and cranny of the prison for phones, but also, the phone used to take the Judy King photograph is his. Piscatella additionally informs the guards that the SHU is almost full, so instead of sending inmates there for every infraction they are now allowed to “go freestyle.” Haven’t they been going freestyle all series?

This episode does a good job showing foils, particularly with regard to friendships. There is the friendship between Sister Ingalls and Sophia. Sister Ingalls is trying to get sent to the SHU to prove Sophia is there. She is acting out, but her antics of cursing out Rapist Coates and smoking in front of McCullough earn her nothing more than a slap on the wrist. After explaining to Mendoza that she has a phone and plans to get proof, Mendoza tells her that she has to do something big to get sent to SHU. Sister Ingalls punches Mendoza, which finally lands her in SHU, where her cross is taken and she is placed in isolation.

There is also the friendship between Big Boo and Tiffany. Tiffany tells Big Boo that Rapist Coates apologized. Big Boo is not accepting of Tiffany’s empathy for her rapist and tells Tiffany that she’s done with her if she resumes a friendship with Rapist Coates. Big Boo is the ride-or-die friend that everyone should have. She’s not only a shoulder for Tiffany to cry on; she is also helpful in orchestrating revenge plots. Tiffany sees just how much she’ll miss her friendship with Big Boo when they share a look while Tiffany is sitting with her former crew as they discuss television shows. In both friendships, there is love and a sense of protection that one feels for the other, but Big Boo is at that tough love stage.

At lunch, Lorna Muccio (neé Morello) tries to make small talk with Nicky, but Nicky is not having it and questions how Lorna could meet someone and get married so quickly. Lorna tells Nicky that it is her fault because she loved heroine more than her. Nicky’s response is, “For your information, I was clean at the time, you peanut-brained, fickle-hearted whore.” Red walks up immediately after this statement, and Lorna tells Red that Nicky is back on drugs. When she asks if they’re going to pretend this isn’t happening, both Red and Nicky walk off. Later, Red and Nicky have a mother-daughter moment in the bathroom. Nicky assumes that Red is going to disown her, but Red says that she tried to be tough with Tricia and now Tricia is dead. Red doesn’t want that for Nicky, but she does not know what to do to help her at this point. This moment is why Red is the Russian matriarch we all need in our lives. She clearly loves Nicky and pleads with her to, “Tell me what to do!” Later, Nicky comes to Red’s office and tells Red that she’s going to get clean. Red holds Nicky’s face in her hands and softly says, “Okay.”

In another mother/daughter moment, Aleida and Daya briefly discuss Aleida’s impending release. She leaves in two days. Daya tells Aleida that she’ll miss her, and Aleida responds that they’re grown ups and it is what it is. Later, however, Aleida comes to Mendoza and asks her to look after Daya and not let her get into trouble. She worries that prison may turn Daya cold and doesn’t want that to happen, so she tells Mendoza that Daya is her daughter now. Aleida and Mendoza agree: “Daughters are the fucking worst.” This moment reinforces what we’ve known about Aleida since she slapped Daya upon seeing her in prison the first day: She loves Dayanara and wants better for her daughter.

This episode didn’t have a lot of Piper and Alex. Over lunch, they discuss their fantasy meal: a burger and shake from Shake Shack. Alex also wants a side of Cate Blanchett because this season would not be complete without a Carol reference. Piper and Alex ask CO Bayley if he will sneak them two burgers in, and he says yes. He will do it…for a hand job. Even though “society has conditioned [Piper] to see female sexuality as currency,” they decide to forgo the hand job for a burger and choose to eat guilt free Spam sandwiches instead. Alex is still coping with the fact that she killed a guy, and Piper is still reeling from her Nazi branding/window cover-up.

“We got power now. We can’t be petty and shit,” Maria Ruiz says when she informs her gang they have the numbers and are in control but do not need to do anything that will cause the officers to be even harder on them. Blanca says that the guards are already degrading them with the stop-and-frisks. Ruiz tells her that being in prison is degrading, and since the guards won’t find anything to just let it go. Ruiz also tells her to take a shower. Blanca says that the lines are too long. Ruiz tells her to go shower now and that she’ll cover for her.

With lather in her hair, blinds, a properly tiled wall, and a glass door, we are treated to a Blanca flashback. Prior to prison, Blanca was a caregiver to an elderly woman named Millie. Millie is old and set in her ways. She calls Blanca “Bianca” because she read her name tag wrong when they met and prefers the name Bianca. Blanca does not care what she’s called because with Millie she is Bianca, just a name and some comments, not a person with feelings or desires. Then she meets Millie’s new gardener, Dario, who tells Blanca that everyone calls him Diablo. We know Diablo as the man Blanca talked to in the bathroom stall and sent naked pictures to in Season 1. It was nice to see how they met.

Millie didn’t like how close Diablo and Blanca became, so she fired Diablo. Blanca didn’t like that Millie was trying to force her to bend to her will. In retaliation, Blanca had loud sex with Diablo in Millie’s room, waking her from her sleep. When Millie saw Blanca and Diablo, Blanca gave Millie a look that said she may not like the decisions, but they are Blanca’s decisions and Millie has to deal with it. The next morning, Blanca clearly won the test of wills because she microwaved Millie’s coffee, something Millie hates because it alters the taste. Blanca opened the blinds wide, letting sunlight pour on Millie’s face. Blanca chose a pink outfit, which is clearly not something Millie likes.

Through it all, Millie says nothing, and Blanca wears a satisfied expression.

What we learn from Blanca’s flashback is that she is more than just the “crazy” inmate who spoke to the devil in the bathroom stall. Blanca is a strong-willed character and a force to be reckoned with. Officer Stratman will not frisk her because she smells, which gives Blanca an idea. If she stinks, the guards will not touch her. She informs her fellow groped inmates that they do not have to be dirty, just smell bad by dousing themselves in foul smelling substances. This briefly works for them, but Officer Stratman demands that Blanca shower. When he next sees her and she still has not showered, Stratman forces Blanca to stand on a table in the cafeteria until she’s ready to stop her civil disobedience. Blanca’s response, “Well, dude…that could be a while.” Stratman later tells CO Dixon that this punishment was a spur of the moment decision, but they are going to have to ride it out. Blanca waves condescendingly, and Dixon, seeing the ease with which Blanca is standing, tells Stratman, “I feel like you mighta made a mistake.”

The darkest parts of this episode involved Maritza. First, Creepy Officer Humphrey eavesdrops on Flaca and Maritza’s game of Would You Rather. Maritza asks, “Gun to your head, do you eat ten dead flies or an alive baby mouse?” Flaca chooses the flies, but Maritza says that she would eat the mouse because it’s like swallowing a big jelly bean and the wings of the flies would stick to your teeth and tonsils. Humphrey bends down and speaks to Martiza in Spanish, letting her know that he knows she’s been up to something with the van. Humphrey is this season’s version of Pornstache, but whereas Pornstache was obvious, weird, and unapologetic, Humphrey tries to be sneaky, and it’s annoying.

It’s Maria versus Maritza after Maria confronts Maritza about her cousin being caught by Officer Dixon, at Maritza’s urging. Maritza lets Maria know that Humphrey was on to their scheme and if they’d have gotten caught, Maritza would’ve gotten in trouble and Maria would’ve played naïve. Maritza lets Maria know, “I saved you, and I ain’t even Dominican.” Maria lets her Maritza walk away unharmed.

The same is not true for Maritza when she is alone and being guarded by Officer Humphrey. Humphrey makes Maritza come into the kitchen where, sitting on the table he has ten dead flies and a baby mouse for her to choose from. When Maritza tells him that he can’t make her do this because he has nothing on her and will find nothing, Humphrey literally puts a gun to her head, forcing her to make a choice.

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  1. Is it bad that my first thought regarding the whole Maritza/Humphrey situation was “Thank heavens Coates didn’t get his hands on her?” Still that scene was really messed up. Also Sister Mary and Gloria’s “fight” was hilarious a much needed comic relief.

  2. your first thing on autostraddle yay!!!

    also, wanted to die during the end of this. just straight up wanted to die. like eve fast forwarding through it wasn’t enough i felt disgusting after watching that.

  3. I loved the flashbacks of this episode (mad respect for Flores) And hate hate hated the ending. What happened to Maritza felt so unnecessary. It didn’t add anything to the story. We barely got any follow up on it. It was just like a throwaway traumatizing event within a season already filled with trauma. Maritza is one of my favorites and I just wanted to hug her and protect her after this episode.

  4. I think one of the things that’s bugged me about this season (outside of the “misery porn,” the massive increase in racism, the fucking disgusting treatment of human beings, the exploitation, and the myriad other issues that have been discussed elsewhere) is the fact that everyone feels more like… characters. Especially the guards. In previous seasons, the show made an effort to have characters that felt more like real people – we all know a Healey, a Pornstache, a Bennett, and even a S1/S2 Piper. But this season, everyone’s more like a caricature. There’s an element of… detachment, which is kind of disappointing when the show was so good at writing real, relatable characters before.

    • The really evil guard this season is so evil that it’s hard to understand how he happened

      I know people like that do exist, and many exist in private prisons, but something about the way this man was written comes off as nearly cartoonish

      IDK. A more delicate touch was needed I guess?

  5. I get the idea that the show wants us to admire Blanca for not taking shit from her racist stuck up piece of shit boss, but the portrayal of disabled people who need care is incredibly offensive in that it’s always either “they are imperious pains in the ass who oppress their employees” or “they are helpless pathetic and depressed and must be inspired and rescued by their employees.”

    As a person who needs PCAs, I find this to be both inaccurate and also incredibly offensive and dangerous.

    Blanca basically abuses her disabled employer, using her AB privilege to undermine and terrorize her– something PWD experience every day of our lives because it’s considered justified to treat us like The Man and subvert our independence and refuse to let us define things like how we want our food cooked, or what we wear, or if we get taken to the bathroom when needed. This is the kind of thing that you don’t get away with with a powerful employer, who will fire you, not knuckle under in terror when you’re caught.

    Deliberate efforts to undermine and fight back against exploitation and domination by an abusive employer are understandable. But the portrayal of the disabled employer wrt her caregiver as an abuser rather than a victim is a total reversal of the actual real life situation which is that abuse of disabled people by the people supposedly taking care of us is RAMPANT– the choice made by the show to erase this reality and perpetuate ideas that don’t serve either partner in the relationship is BS.

    I understand the historic imbalance between “the help” and rich white racists. But they could easily have chosen an able-bodied abuser, and not taken the opportunity to undermine disabled people who have been collectively fighting for BOTH our own survival AND better wages and benefits for the people who we depend on. Clearly the showrunners know nothing about this and didn’t bother to look into it, because they, like most other people, regard disabled people as expendable, undesireable, and not a valuable population engaged in personal and political struggle.

    I’m sure most people have NO IDEA how hard it is to find people to work for us, doing the things we need in order to stay alive day to day. In my experience, very few people are capable of speaking to me in anything other than a goo goo baby voice during an interview, they refuse to see me as an adult, and are horrified by the idea of actually following my direction in terms of what I want to eat, how I want it cooked, what my schedule is, find it totally OK to keep me waiting, and find it inherently diminishing for them to have a disabled boss. It is not just me, either. It’s everyone I’ve met with a disability who gets this reaction. None of my personal associates are rich, but very few disabled people are.

    So, while I understand that this particular employer was a racist piece of shit, the show fucked up big time with this story. They even think the guards deserve a nuanced portrayal, but not disabled people who need caregiving.

    Furthermore, the way I see it, almost none of what they actually showed us proved the Lady was the only one at fault. Why was Blanca showering at mealtime? Are we supposed to believe that she doesn’t have regular hours, and time set aside to take care of her personal needs? Even the live in people I know have that. It’s just assumed here that Blanca is never given a moment to shower, when in reality, the typical situation is that you do in fact have a schedule and regular times on and off, and routines, and would have an idea of when you were going to be needing to do various tasks, like meals.

    I’ve known people to wander off in the middle of a shift and do whatever the fuck they want, because they figure I can’t follow them over there and won’t have the guts to fire them because it’s hard to find replacements and I can’t do without them while I look, and it’s exhausting to train them.

    The things the show chose to do to show Blanca fighting back are things many people do to us even when they aren’t being mistreated– I’m sure the show didn’t realize that, but they ought to fucking find out instead of just making shit up that’s so offensive.

    Again– I understand the history of racism and class dynamics for “domestic workers” but folding disabled people into this picture is the wrong way to go and perpetuates a lot of bullshit and harm.

    • This is exactly how I felt, Thank-you for putting it into better words and context than I could

    • I think that last paragraph is everything. They treated it more as a domestic worker situation rather than a home care aid for a disabled person. There’s a big difference between someone who cooks, cleans etc for you even though you can do it yourself, and someone who does it for you when you can’t.
      Again, in the show, the lady was a rich white *@$@, who didn’t treat Blanca like a fellow human being. But I thought her response of physically bullying the lady (and yes, I think having sex in front of someone who literally can’t get away on her own falls into that category) was pretty disgusting too.
      PS, I’m a poor, disabled POC who has a home care aid through medicare, if that adds any insight into where my comment is coming from. And she is the best.

      • I honestly think the sex thing goes beyond the realm of physical bullying and into full blown sexual abuse. Forcing someone to watch sex acts is at the very least sexual harassment and very quite possibly sexual abuse.

        I definitely agree with the original comment that they could (and should) have chosen an able-bodied employer for this story. It would have been much more poignant if there was that clear-cut power imbalance, rather than pitting one person from a historically oppressed group against another person from a historically oppressed group. In this case it seemed less like Blanca taking her own power back from a rich racist and more like her exploiting her own able-bodied privilege over someone weaker than she is.

    • Oh man, thanks for this! I hadn’t considered any of this, but now it seems so obvious how poorly written that story line was. I really appreciate you taking the time to type that all out!

    • For me, I found the situation with the sex definitely felt like the racist getting her comeuppance, but it was her behaviour the following morning that made me incredibly uncomfortable. Both the carer and the cared-for must have the freedom to make their own choices, and while first the inequality was against the carer, it isn’t right to redress that by completely limiting the freedom of the cared-for.

    • Thank you so, so much for putting this into words. Blanca is one of my absolute favourites and has been since the start, and this sudden shift made me SO fucking uncomfortable and sick to my stomach.

    • Thank you for your personal insight on this story line… My girlfriend and I were actually arguing about it last night, because she was totally on board with the employer, and I was trying to help her see the socioeconomic/race privilege/power dynamica, while somewhat agreeing with her perspective.

      You have lent a more fulsome picture to the very thin story the writers chose to portray here. Thank you!

    • So this whole show was awful, and because you’real disabled, all you care about is the bitchy old woman. Why is everyone a narcissist these days? Did you notice the Hispanic girl being tortured by a sadistic guard? Does anything matter except your disability?

  6. This episode made me feel so incredibly uncomfortable because I love Blanca and feel for her for having a terrible, gross, racist boss, but also elder abuse and the abuse of the disabled is so deeply upsetting

    And in that final flashback scene, the power dynamic,

    not the larger, systemic racial dynamic,

    – but the individual dynamic between Blanca, an able bodied woman who is the sole caretaker for this person, and Millie, who is physically at Blanca’s mercy,

    Shifted so completely and quickly that it sort of gave me chills.

    I don’t know how I was supposed to feel after that scene, basically. Millie deserved SOMETHING, but that last scene made my stomach churn.

  7. Also the scene with Marita??? Maritza is a precious ray of sunshine and light, first of all

    And second of all the scene got so fucking sadistic so fast that I was left flabbergasted and sort of incredulous over it??

    I was really expecting him to sexually assault her, which I realize they probably wouldn’t write about so explicitly two seasons in a row, even though that’s not even close to how common it is in actual prisons,

    But I was NOT expecting that, and I’m still reeling. Whose idea was that?? I need names.

    It didn’t feel like it serviced the plot.

    I’ve watched a lot of violent, fucked up shows,in which arguably grosser things have happened, but in those shows the violence built, and felt necessary for the story, and made SENSE.

    This just felt shocking for the sake of being shocking.

    The Only thing in this episode that felt well done and true and real for me was how Red wept to Nicky that she didn’t know what to do. It broke my heart. I’ve been the Nicky in that conversation, altho under very different circumstances, and it is the worst feeling in the world knowing you’ve made your mother weep because she doesn’t know how to help you when helping and fixing and patching up is all she wants to do.

    • I feel like this season is heavily relying on shock value rather then good writing I could barley watch the gerbil scene and had to take a break afterwards. Also this may be off topic but what is with the whole Maria/Walter White thing she’s got going on. I feel like the writers were like “Okay we need a villain, Maria lost her baby, let’s just make her evil”

  8. This season feels like the writers overheard people talking about how much darker and grittier Wentworth is than OITNB, and took that as a challenge. I stopped watching after ep. 8 but am still reading the recaps because I know I can trust AS authors to handle all the brutal details with nuance and insight, so thank you for that.

    • After finishing this season, I had a conversation with someone about wentworth where I said its like a darker, more violent oitnb… well except this last season, it was trying to be a wentworth!

  9. Maritza’s plot here was the most horrifying thing I’d seen in a long time; I can’t remember the last time I felt physically ill while watching TV. It was all the more frustrating that it didn’t seem to go anywhere – our follow up was severely limited and there didn’t seem to be any message outside of “Humps is a sicko”.

  10. I have a lot of issues with this episode. First, the truly unsettling amount of power Blanca had over her employer in the final flashback, then the whole Maritza situation and (imo) the poor characterization of Maria, who I really felt would have stuck up for Maritza in previous seasons. I’m also pretty tired of Poussey and Soso – the whole episode with Soso’s flashbacks completely turned me off them (and I thought they were cute but had little substance before that) and had me yelling at my computer that Poussey deserves better, and now I find I just don’t care. The Luschek/Judy situation is completely off putting, too, and honestly Cindy initially looked very uncomfortable when Judy started touching her so I just find that whole dynamic quite imbalanced. Also, Yoga Jones was utterly terrible.

    There were good moments but they were few and far between – everything between Red and Nicky, who were fantastic this episode and had me really emotional. I even found myself liking Piper and Alex much more when they were friends with each other and not running schemes or anything, just doing normal prison shit.

  11. I’m really enjoying Blanca this season. I had nothing to engage with in previous seasons. Yes her actions towards her employer were problematic but the characters are presented as real flawed individuals not impossible archetypes, this gives depth and allows engagement from the viewers.
    Also ..
    The scene with Humphreys was the most disturbing thing I have seen in this show and is rivaling some other horrid things (perhaps I’m sheltered) for most disturbing TV scene ever. Planned, sadistic and truly disgusting but also disturbing because of the abuse of power.

  12. Guh, I went out and everyone said all the true things already. Thanks a lot for being so passionate and perceptive you guys!! *this pout is fake, this is a fake pout*

  13. Everytime I read a recap I’m grateful again for being willfully spoiled on this season as quick as possible. My partner and I agreed to read through the AS recaps (trusting in AS to not sugar coat or try to let anything be “gotten away with”) and decide afterwards if we are going to try to watch it. I’m still not sure it’s something I will ever watch but I am so glad I don’t have to run into these scenes with no warning if I do chose to one day watch this season.

  14. Some of y’all are so damn serious… These reviews make it sound like y’all were expecting the show to be a documentary or a complete prison life fantasy.

    this show is good and the writing is excellent. The situation with Maritza was gross but I’m sure it will have relevance in the future.

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