This is a recap of the ninth episode of the third season of Orange Is the New Black, a full-length stop-motion animated film about the intergalactic sexual exploits of Sunflower Rockcocker’s lesbian followers.
Piper’s Panties is an outrageous success. The inmates are making them, wearing them, dropping them off at the correct location at the correct time, and the new Babyface Guard is smuggling them out the door to Piper’s brother, who is selling them on the Dark Web. In addition to exploiting her fellow inmates just like the giant corporation of white guys who took over Litchfield, Piper is also enjoying staring lustilly at Ruby Rose all the day long. It’s a good time to be Piper Chapman.
It’s also — finally! — a good time to be Suzanne Warren. Her erotic fiction has become as worshipped as Norma in these hallowed halls, and so has Suzanne herself. Her groupies crowd around in the bathroom and the cafeteria and talk about what a genius she is, about her characters’ motivations, about the various sorts of tentacled situations they would also like to find themselves in with ol’ Sunflower. Suzanne becoming a beloved literary icon for just being her weird, wonderful self is hands down my favorite thing to ever happen on this show. (Maybe next season Soso can catch such a break.)
It is not a good time to be one of the dozens of Litchfield-ians who have recently converted to Judaism to avoid eating the slop they’re being served by their new corporate overlords. Danny has brought in a Rent-A-Rabbi to test them on their Jewish-ness to see if they actually qualify for kosher meals, which Caputo impotently complains is just another in a seemingly endless line of jackass behaviors by MCC. He’s pretty sure Danny’s violating the Constitution and also possibly is an Orwellian nightmare. Danny shrugs off the criticism like he shrugs off all criticism, and then goes home to swim in his vault full of gold coins like Scrooge McDuck.
Norma and her followers are having a service in the chapel when the lady who runs the Catholic group clomps in and kicks them out. She says they can’t just hang out in here and seek spiritual enlightenment unless they’re devoted members of a recognized religion that is responsible for the murder of millions of people throughout the course of human history. Also they need rules. Written ones. Leanne jumps up and says, “Hey! We’ve got a belief system; we believe in kindness and acceptance, and finding the peace within that can then radiate out into the world and create change. Through silent meditation, we address the war of pain and loneliness and tame it. And through reflection, we can see nothingness. And in nothingness, we find clarity. We have faith.”
Yeah, no, sorry. The Catholic lady already reserved the chapel; Norma’s followers gotta skedaddle.
Flashback! Leanne is tripping balls around a fire with some other kids who are also high and saying things about the ephemeral nature of life and the thirst of a weary soul while also chomping on some s’mores. Leanne excuses herself to use the restroom and stare in the mirror for a long time. The next morning, she stashes her backpack full of drugs in a cornfield and puts on her bonnet and walks home past a horse and buggy. Leanne is Amish, y’all. Amazing reveal! She walks into the front door of her house and talks to her mama in German and tells her she’s home from Rumspringa and ready to get her baptism on.
Red is so dejected about the new horrible bags of food she’s being forced to serve everyone that she has taken to lounging away her afternoon playing gin with the staff and making gagging noises instead of being the boss of the kitchen. It is into this bleak scene that Sophia wanders to yell at Gloria about how their sons teamed up to beat the hell out of another kid so bad that he ended up in the hospital. Sophia thinks it’s Bennie’s bad. Gloria thinks it’s Michael’s. Unfortunately for Gloria, Sophia’s the one with the car and the wife willing to drive it to Litchfield, so Bennie’s not invited to visit anymore.
Out at the loading dock, Coates is acting real familiar with Pennsatucky about donuts while she waits for the kitchen people to get the new slop bags out of the van. She’s aloof and so what and whatever, and he wants to know what in the world could be causing her to act like they’re not a couple of John Greene characters in the full blossom of love. It’s because she’s a prisoner and he’s a guard and he’s going to ruin everything if the other inmates realize they’ve become buddies. (Spoiler alert: That is not how he’s going to ruin everything! He sucks infinitely worse than that and I hate him with all my whole heart!)
In the TV room, Taystee, Janae, Yoga Jones and Sister Ingalls are gathered for their daily news fix on the fate of Judy King. When Poussey arrives, they scoot over to make room for her to cuddle on in, but she’s there for a meeting of Normaism. She and Soso have joined up for the same reason: because they’re lost and alone and fully, clinically depressed. They want the clear eyes, full hearts part of this whole thing, but Leanne has decided that if they don’t have hard-ass commandments written in Elizabethan English, no one’s going to take them seriously. Soso pushes back against her and gets booted right out of Normaism. Poussey’s not feeling it. If she wanted to join the cult of a tyrant, she would have just followed Vee’s orders a whole season ago. She splits to re-up her membership in the Judy King Fan Club.
Flashback! At Leanne’s baptism, she takes a moment to break all the rules of being a woman and speak in church. It’s just that she’s so overwhelmed with gratitude that she gets to come home and be part of this community again, that they’ve welcomed her back. She quotes Rachel Berry, all, “Being a part of something special makes you special,” but before she can burst into a solo of “Defying Gravity,” her dad shushes her and the pastor baptizes her and that’s that. She apologizes to her pops when they’re leaving church, but he says he’d rather have one of her than ten silent, pious daughters.
God tests his statement as soon as it comes out of his mouth. Some police show up clutching Leanne’s meth-filled backpack that she left in the corn.
Suzanne is doing a little Q&A with her fans over lunch. Wait, no. First, Black Cindy tells her she doesn’t have to eat the crap from the food sacks because they’re the chosen ones now and they can have kosher meals. And then Taystee tells her not to buy into the propaganda that makes people think yogurt tastes like key lime pie or chocolate cake, because at the end of the spoon, it’s just “gnarly curds” like always. And then Red comes up and goes, “I want you to know I had nothing to do with what you’re eating! It came from a bag, and is in no way a reflection of what I do!” (“Okay.” “Okay.”)
And now it is time for Suzanne’s Q&A with her fans. They’ve got dessert for her, to stimulate her creativity. They’ve got lots of questions about her process (“I think of shit and I write it down.”) and who she bases her characters on and technical questions about the logistics of having two penises with shockers on them. Maureen wants Suzanne to add in a chapter for the lesbians and this just sends Taystee over the edge; she goes, “She has done enough for the lesbians! What has she done for the Not Lesbians?” She wants Black Cindy to agree with her, but Black Cindy is invested now that she heard about the double shocker penises.
Alex invites Lolly to join her for lunch, hoping to crack the code on her creepin’, but she is unsuccessful. Lolly is even more sinister when she says words instead of just peeping around corners like Inspector Gadget. Red interrupts Alex’s interrogation to reiterate that she did not make this food, and then Alex starts grilling Lolly about what she’s in for, where she’s from, how much time she has, what’s her favorite color — but Lolly mostly just grunts and shrugs and then leaves in a huff to “go take a quiz” when she’s had enough questions. Morello is glad she’s a sane, normal person; Lolly freaks her out.
Alex: Whatever, tell Piper I tried.
Piper: Tried what?
Alex: To have a scene with someone who isn’t you for once, but hello.
Piper: Cal’s coming tomorrow to tell us how Piper’s Panties is doing.
Piper: Are you looking at someone who isn’t me?
Piper: Are you thinking about someone who isn’t me?
Piper: Are you seriously worried about literally just staying alive right now and not about whatever thing is the most important to me? For example, Panties?
Piper: Yes you are and now I am going to cheat on you but remember this moment because you deserve it.
The time has come for the inmates to be tested on their commitment to Judaism. It’s my favorite montage the show has ever done. Taystee and Black Cindy are best because duh. Taystee says what she hates is “shrimps, damn dirty shrimps.” She hates them so much she doesn’t even want to talk about it. Black Cindy basically just lifts her life story from Annie Hall and Yentl. Actually, Angie is hilarious too: “There was a big book where I wrote down all the people I wish was dead, who, um, you know, God comes and kills them and not my peopl—me?”
Gloria’s in the kitchen worrying about Bennie when Aleida comes in dropping trans slurs all over the place and talking general shit about Sophia and her inability to parent properly, which: is rich coming from the woman who literally just tried to sell her daughter’s unborn baby for commissary money. Gloria brushes off the slurs and says she should probably apologize to Sophia, for Bennie’s sake, but Aleida tells her you should never put the needs of your child over your own personal need to fuel the fire of your Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and Gloria listens to her for some reason.
The ladies of Normaism are still trying to work out the tenants of their faith. Leanne’s new thing isn’t just commandments, but also like maybe they could get the same haircut or an armband or some other Nazi-type thing. You know, for excluding people. Poussey really has had it with Leanne hijacking the movement, and so has Norma. She scrawls “KINDNESS!” on her notepad and Leanne sighs and rolls her eyes.
Flashback! Leanne is wearing secular teenage people clothes under which is a wire the FBI is using to record her scoring drugs from her Amish campfire friends. She doesn’t want to do it, but it’s that or jail, so she doesn’t really have a choice. She returns to the cranker flock and explains that she couldn’t deal with all the Rules when she went back home, so she has returned to get high and stare into the fire some more. The main drug guy, he hooks her up.
Ruby Rose is standing around naked in the bathroom complimenting Piper on — honestly, it doesn’t even matter. Piper masturbates to the voice memos she leaves for herself on her iPhone. It doesn’t matter that Ruby Rose is naked or flirting or a genuinely nice, thoroughly underdeveloped character. It matters that she thinks Piper is awesome. It’s a thing Piper also thinks. A person willing to celebrate the wonder of Piper is going to get into Piper’s pants. It’s her favorite foreplay.
Alex and Lolly are working together in the garden when Lolly trips and smashes into a window in the toolshed and cuts her arm. Also she apparently stashes a sword-sized piece of glass in her shirt or something because Alex mentally reassembles the shattered glass with her mind and freaks out when she discerns that a piece is missing. Lolly doesn’t know what she’s talking about. There’s no glass sword up her sleeve. She’s not going to use it to cut out Alex’s heart while she sleeps.
Leanne takes Norma’s advice of KINDNESS and goes to Soso’s bunk to apologize. She opens up about her Amish roots, and Soso and Chang think it’s the funniest thing they’ve ever heard in their lives. Chang calls her “Harrison Ford in Witness,” which is a really clever little writing thing because Chang assuming she knows everything about being Amish because she saw an ’80s movie about it is the same thing Black Cindy did with Annie Hall and being Jewish. Guess how well their ridicule sits with Leanne? Ding, ding, ding! It sets her blood on fire! She tosses out a racial slur and jets, returning to Norma to tell her Soso just doesn’t want to be a part of the group anymore.
Flashback! Leanne’s Amish community is shunning her because the kids she busted for being dealers were all Amish, so now everyone’s teenagers are in jail and she’s not allowed to have any cake. After the picnic where everyone jeers and hisses at her, Leanne overhears her mom and dad talking about how her mom should not have let her eat in front of everyone because it’s her fault their kids are in jail and you know that means her parents have to publicly starve her. It’s in the Bible. Leanne’s mom says she’s not going to not feed her own kid, get real, but Leanne’s dad says it’s that or their store is going to go out of business.
Leanne goes back to her room and decides the best thing she can do for her family is to run away. And so she does.
In the cafeteria, everyone is getting turned away for kosher meals, except Sister Ingalls. She says she passed the test because all Abrahamic religions are pretty much the same until you get to Jesus. Red has just had it. She climbs up onto the serving table and hollers out to everyone that she is not responsible for this food! “THE FOOD YOU EAT DOES NOT HAVE EVEN A PIECE OF MY SOUL IN IT,” is what she says, and I guess that philosophy explains why she thought she could eat that magical chicken and absorb its powers back in season one.
Maureen bebops out into the yard to sit with Suzanne while she writes, which: is adorable, but no, girl. Writers can’t write when you crowd in on them like that and talk to them and look at them. If you’re going to fall in love with a writer, prepare to spend a lot of time listening to her say stuff like, “I can see the words but I can’t them obey me” and then going to sit in a room by herself for three hours to stare at the wall. Oh, but Maureen is so into her, y’all! My heart is full to bursting watching how into Suzanne Maureen is! Suzanne’s writing makes Maureen feel like she’s not alone, and she tells Suzanne that if anyone ever felt the way Sunflower feels, they’re also not alone. She says this while snuggling right up next to Suzanne and leaning against the tree with her, and it freaks Suzanne out so bad that she grabs her notepad and pen and runs away like she’s got to go take a quiz.
Piper meets with Cal. The business is going well. Super well. Piper is so pleased with her genius that she spontaneously orgasms right there in the visitation room while eating a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.
Sophia calls Michael and finds out it was him, not Bennie, who instigated the hate crime on the gay kid who ended up in the hospital. Bennie, in fact, ran away because he didn’t want to be a part of Michael’s bullshit. Ruh-roh. Sophia goes to the kitchen to apologize to Gloria, who is in there giving Red a pep talk about how she needs to stop acting like a defeated little baby and Red-up and take control of this slop situation, but Sophis changes her mind at the last minute. I don’t know why. Maybe because if she admits out loud that Michael is the problem, she has to face some facts about herself as a parent that she’s not ready to handle.
Pennsatucky and Coates stop at the duck pond to feed their mallards some donuts and things get real rapey real fast. It’s all cute and she’s a puppy and whatever, and then he throws a donut and forces her to go fetch it from the mud with her mouth, after which he slams her up against a tree and kisses her grossly and forcefully while she doesn’t respond at all, not even a little bit. He pulls away and “apologizes” and her face is just fucking heartbreaking. It’s like she already knows what’s going to happen, and she has absolutely no power to stop it.
Alex pretends to read a book while watching Lolly watch her, and when Lolly finally leaves her bunk to go to the bathroom, Alex creeps on over and rifles through her shit. Inside her cabinet is a notepad. Inside the notepad are details of every move Alex makes. Alex doesn’t have a girlfriend with whom she can talk about this horrific revelation because Piper is so high on Piper’s Panties that she stops by Ruby Rose’s bunk to see if Ruby has anymore super flattering things to say about her. Ruby does. Ruby does. She’s also got some ideas to make Piper’s business even more successful and make Piper even more rich. And so Piper kisses her right on the mouth.
Alex needs a new religion. I hope she chooses Sunflower Rodcockism.
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Great recap! I really liked Leanne in this episode. Pity she got progressively more irritating as the series continued.
FACT: The moon doesn’t actually exist. It’s really just Piper Chapman’s ego.
If you’re going to fall in love with a writer, prepare to spend a lot of time listening to her say stuff like, “I can see the words but I can’t them obey me” and then going to sit in a room by herself for three hours to stare at the wall.
^OH GOOD it’s not just me.
I hadn’t realized the other kids who got in trouble were also Amish– now that makes more sense! (Although does anyone know how realistic this portrayal/storyline is?)
This episode is when it crossed my mind that I would totally ship Poussey and Soso, but I thought it was an unlikely fantasy.
I watched a documentary about rumspringa that would suggest it’s pretty realistic. Amish teens throwing epic parties and getting into drugs.
Yup. I grew up with friends from various plan groups (Amish, Brethren, Mennonite). Even in groups that don’t have rumspringa you get the occasional kid that does drugs. It seemed like if they were good they were really good and if they went bad they were the wildest kids of all. Sort of like as they were rejecting their religion they were rejecting all sense of ethics or morals or human decency and it was anything goes. But the majority of people I know in those communities never did anything crazy. You don’t see them on TV though because they are boring.
Three things. First, Maureen is my very favorite new character of this season. I desperately hope that she and Suzanne can find happiness together some day. Second, it is my informed theological opinion that yes, Jesus would totally throw his pie for Leanne, or for any of us. And also that that there is some peak photo-captioning. Third, I happened to overhear a couple of guys talking about TV in the break room last week. One allowed that he’d enjoyed the first season of OitNB all right, but that the show had really gone downhill when they wrote Larry out of it. And I thought, “Eww.”
Yeeesh, I didn’t think it was possible that people could exist in this world who gave a shit about Larry.
loving these recaps. piper was a big WOMP WOMP this season. piper who even cares
ruby rose = hot and unlikeable and hot
alex = you are fucking crazy
suzanne is the absolute best character. when do we get to learn about her? imagining her fan-fic filled preteens. she would have grown up with harry potter. the magic plant in the first book vs snape sexually.
maureen = eh
Coming in to be Captain Buzzkill for a hot second: I thought the let’s-prove-we’re-Jewish montage was offensive as hell, and I HATED that Sister Ingalls was the one who passed as Jewish. So many anti-Semitic tropes I could barely keep them straight, with a fun kicker of “Jews are just Christians, without Jesus!” HOORAY.
Honestly, I’m Jewish, and I can see why you feel this way, but I really thought it was hilarious, and pretty accurate. That is not to say that your feelings are not valid, or that because I enjoyed the montage and didn’t find it offensive means that it’s not offensive to you, I just wanted to offer a different opinion.
When I started university, I met a lot of people who came from small town for whom I was the first Jewish person they’d ever. They didn’t know anything about Judaism except, yes, what they’d seen in movies and tv shows. So the scenes where they’re all using Woody Allen movies to help them understand Judaism was, to me, a very funny and very accurate depiction of how people who don’t have a lot of experience with Jews or Judaism understand the culture and the religion.
I also think (and this goes for ANY issue in ANY show) that it important to think about what the SHOW is saying, not merely what the CHARACTERS are saying. And the show is, again, in my opinion, very clearly saying that testing people to determine how “Jewish” they really are is morally wrong, legally unconstitutional, and inevitably not very effective.
HOWEVER – this is an article I read after season 1 aired, which makes a lot of excellent points about how OITNB talked about Judaism in just season 1, specifically in relation to Larry and his family, which you might want to check out: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/07/18/does-orange-is-the-new-black-have-a-jewish-problem.html
Also, I just wanted to mention that Jenji Kohan is in fact Jewish herself, and apparently sends her kids to a Jewish day school. Not that any of that precludes OITNB from making offensive jokes about Jews, but it’s just something to keep in mind.
Gahhhh more things to say – I don’t know if you’ve finished the season yet, so I don’t want to spoil anything, but I just want to assure you that the Jewish storyline ends in the most amazing way, and the scene in the season finale is one of the most beautiful, powerful, and moving scenes this show has ever done.
First off — two Jews, three opinions, etc! I totally respect your reading of the scene, even though it struck me differently. I read that Daily Beast article back when the first season came out, and I thought a lot about Larry/his family during this season. That and this scene combined with the soap joke from a few episodes before this one — and, honestly, Piper’s underwear speech, which had some fun Hitler callbacks in it — the overall result isn’t good. While yes, the show is clearly trying to make a point about stereotypes etc, it’s put those stereotypes in the mouths of characters we’re generally supposed to find sympathetic (Flaca, Poussey, Taystee, etc). Generally I feel like the show’s track record isn’t good enough with Jewish characters to allow me to take this arc in good faith (HA). Also — Jenji Kohan is Jewish, but like you said that doesn’t excuse her (we’re more than capable of regurgitating horrible tropes about us), and I’m pretty sure she didn’t write this episode, so by me it’s a moot point.
That being said — the end of the season is beautiful, and I loved it. It didn’t make up for how much I hated the earlier episodes, but I was very happy with where Cindy ended up.
Two Jews, three opinions – entirely accurate.
Re: the soap joke. Yes – that was gross and horrible. And if you remember, the character who said it got fired. And re: Piper’s speech – yes, Piper is the protagonist of the show, but the show goes out of it’s way to point out how she is horrible and oblivious, so I don’t think the SHOW is condoning these things.
The characters say a lot of things the SHOW doesn’t believe. I think it’s really important to be able to differeniate what the SHOW is saying versus what are the words coming out of people’s mouths. Yes, the characters say a lot of racist, transphobic shit – but that’s because the SHOW is trying to say that people – including inmates, including women, including people of colour – say racist and transphobic shit. Even when its sympathetic characters saying it, the show is trying to make a point about how these characters have been socialized. That’s not to say all offensive shit on the show can be justified in this manner, but some of it definitely can, and I think the Jewish montage is a prime example of this. When a character says “Jewish control the media”, the SHOW isn’t implying that it thinks Jews control the media – the SHOW is saying “it is a common anti-semetic stereotype that Jews control the media, which this character, who has had very little experience with Jews, has been socialized to believe.”
I respect your point about the show’s Jewish track record, but I guess I just didn’t feel the same way.
I just wanna get in on this Jewish thoughts/feelings convo!
I found that montage pretty funny, and then the climax of the series pretty beautiful and moving- it really resonated with me.
What DID piss me off though was the ongoing joke that felt like “hahaha look at all these Black people trying to be Jewish” – it felt strange that the humour of it seemed to come from a kind of divisive and Othering place that I didn’t like. But I can’t quite put my finger on why- I’d probably have to rewatch and study it a bit deeper.
I agree with your overall point for sure– that some of it was kinda funny, that the end was beautiful, but that that stuff doesn’t make up for some of the really bad stuff, like the soap “joke” for instance. However with regard to stereotypes coming from the mouths of “characters we’re generally supposed to find sympathetic,” I think one of the overall points of the show is that nobody is just good or just bad, just sympathetic or just horrifying. Like even the characters we come to love and kind of trust are flawed and shitty products of a flawed and shitty world, and even the ones we hate occasionally do something good for someone (like, Vee, for everything she was and did, did in some way provide a family for a lonely young Taystee. A manipulative shitty family, but a family that anchored her for a long time).
That said I feel like there has to be a better way to convey that point than antisemitism that would be (to me!) funny/ok if it were firmly couched in a culture of “ignorance is the joke, Judaism/Jewish culture is not the joke!” but it’s not firmly couched in that culture, because of the soap joke, because of some of the Larry stuff, etc. Idk, for me it was a lot of context dependent stuff that by itself sat on the fence between funny and shitty, and context pushed it into shitty a lot but not always. I was laughing but also sometimes not laughing, basically.
It’s definitely interesting to hear how different Jewish viewers perceived these arcs though! Thanks for sharing and engaging, everybody!
Yes!! One of my favorite moments of the series.
Oops – that was in reference to the wrap-up of the story arc later in the season, not the montage.
This leaves out how Fucked Up and Grossly Antisemetic all the portrayals of Judaism are in this season – especially this episode. I’m not Jewish but from what I’ve heard from Jewish friends/people on the internet that montage you say is your “favorite” is incredibly offensive. We can love this show while still talking about what it gets very very wrong.
Jew here – take a look at what I just wrote in response to a similar comment above. Not that my opinion cancels out the opinions of your friends who found that montage offensive, just offering a different perspective.
Your description of Piper’s narcissism is so spot on and hilarious! I’ve always been a Piper defender and it became hard to keep doing that from about episode 5 of this season on but this episode was the last straw. She intentionally gets Alex thrown back in jail because she loves/misses her then turns around and cheats on her in the blink of an eye with a random nobody who complimented her? You cheat with Alex Vause you don’t cheat on Alex Vause! And of course digging the knife in deeper at that exact time Alex finds proof that she’s being targeted. Piper is so incredibly self centered that I wanted to strangle her with her panties at the end.
I’m sorry y’all were offended by the part of my recap where I said my favorite thing was the montage with the rabbi. I’d love to have a discussion about that, and hear from any other our other readers/writers, especially Jewish folks.
Let me tell you my thinking on this one:
First of all, I read a lot of reviews of this episode, most of them from Jewish writers and Jewish websites, and only one of the writers I read thought this scene was anti-semitic, and the commenters on that site all seemed to think the opposite. Lots of Jewish sites even had lists of Top Jewish Moments on OINTB Season 3, and this scene was on every list. The comments on the lists are also overwhelmingly positive. Again, from Jewish websites and Jewish people. That’s not to say that being offended by this is wrong or anything, or invalid; it’s just to say that the majority of opinions I heard were from Jewish people who weren’t offended.
My personal thinking on this scene is that every minority on this show has been skewered by characters in the show, right? Race stuff, sexuality stuff, ethnicity stuff, gender stuff, and religious stuff (especially this season). What I thought really set this scene apart was how purposefully absurd it was. They weren’t playing it for laughs at the expense of Jewish people; they were playing it for laughs at the expense of people who believe these stereotypes/only have very limited knowledge about actual Judaism. That’s unlike a lot of the stereotyping this show does with it’s dialogue, most of which is slurs aimed at a minority person.
I also think when you contextualize it with the conclusion of Black Cindy’s story arc, it really grounds the humor in some earned pathos.
What do y’all think?
I’ll tentatively agree with you here, Heather — it’s shallow non-Jewish people, not Judaism, being skewered here.
But I do think that Liz has a larger, and valuable, point:
The earlier roundtable in the 306 recap highlighted problems with that episode’s use of some tired Asian stereotypes. And I’ve been really uneasy throughout the show with the over-broad generalizations about Appalachian life in Pennsatucky’s backstory. (Disclosure: I live and work in a state that ends in “-tucky.” Stereotypes of Appalachian life that remind folks of Deliverance and its ilk aren’t popular here.) Emma Eisenberg did a pretty fine piece of writing over at Salon, “We still don’t know how to talk about Pennsatucky,” in response to episode 310. It’s worth reading. As far as this episode goes, like Abbie, I’m not sure how close to reality this portrayal of Amish life is. Truth is, I don’t know; I’ve never had direct contact with that community, and haven’t spent enough time learning about it to know which sources to trust and which (besides Witness) not to. But I’m moderately suspicious of this portrayal, just because of some of the other mis-steps we’ve seen the show take when portraying other “othered” communities. (Which makes me start questioning my judgement in this regard: why am I suspicious of this portrayal of the Amish, while I didn’t have similar misgivings about, say, the portrayal of Red’s backstory?)
I probably wouldn’t nitpick like this, except that the writers clearly are able to get some things very, very right. (Sophia’s story arc is IMHO a crowning example of this.) I love the show. I guess I wish it could be perfect.
Really good points, Willow. Thank you. (I want this show to be perfect too.)
Hey Heather – Jew here. Personally, I LOVED this montage as well, and Cindy’s entire conversion storyline in general. I just wrote a huge long post, and the server ate it, so let me just say this – What you say right here, “They weren’t playing it for laughs at the expense of Jewish people; they were playing it for laughs at the expense of people who believe these stereotypes/only have very limited knowledge about actual Judaism.” THIS. This is entirely right. It’s all about context – what is the SHOW saying, as opposed to what words are coming out of the character’s mouths.
To me, the show is saying that testing people to see if they are Jewish is an exercise in futility. As a Jew who has often been the first Jew other people have met, these scenes really resonated with me, and I found them really accurate and HILARIOUS.
And not to spoil anything, but anyone who has seen the season finale knows that this storyline ends in the most beautiful way, and in a way that flat out PRAISES the Jewish religion.
Thanks for your thoughtful response, Heather, and also thanks for doing due diligence on the Jewish response to the episode! I said this up above, but in general I feel very strongly that the show’s track record on Jewish characters (namely, Larry and his family) is terrible, and for me, they haven’t yet gotten to a point where I can take a scene like the rabbi montage in good faith (the pun so nice, I used it twice). I know that there are plenty of my fellow Jews who didn’t find it offensive, and I respect their opinion, but I’m just sick to death of those tropes cropping up anywhere there’s a Jewish character. I know there are plenty of people that think those things, and that’s supposed to be the joke — but I just don’t think it’s funny. And this season has had a couple of other weird, disturbing jokes like this, so.
That being said, Cindy’s arc was ultimately beautiful, and I loved the last episode. I just think the beauty of that was possible without all the lazy, offensive crap that came before it. YMMV.
Thanks for talking it through with me, y’all! I loving having these kinds of conversations with smart, empathetic people who are just wanting do good and be good. Thank you also for being patient with me.
Mostly tired of Woody Allen being part of Jewish stereotypes/ tropes, because fuck Woody Allen.
Didn’t Larry end up saying he wasn’t Jewish at one point?
I agree, Heather. We were meant to be laughing at their ignorance. It was pretty clear in the context of this episode (even without knowing that by the end of the season they make it sound like Judaism is the most complicated wonderful thing on the planet) that they weren’t presenting the stereotypes themselves as funny, but the idea that someone would be so narrow in their assumptions.
I think there was another thing going on too, though, which was that if this had happened on the outside and someone wanted to “pass,” there would have been a lot more information available to them. Sure, Angie and a couple of the others probably wouldn’t have bothered, but access to a library (no books there anymore) or the internet would have allowed them to do at least some perfunctory research. Being imprisoned makes it difficult to even satisfy basic curiosities and routes to education, and then we expect these people to come back out into the world and just find their way. It’s just a limited paradigm in there, and the show often demonstrates that that’s why so many of the inmates rely on oversimplified stereotypes about things/people they don’t know about.
Much of the show’s bread and butter, in fact, is presenting oversimplified stereotypes and eventually exploding them.
“I also think when you contextualize it with the conclusion of Black Cindy’s story arc, it really grounds the humor in some earned pathos.”
As a Jew- I loved this scene. I think it’s okay to love this scene (or not love it). For me it felt like the butt of the jokes were the assumptions the characters were making, not Jewish people. Which is kind of what matters, right? I think there are always going to be audience members that watch this and go “YES THOSE ARE CORRECT FACTUAL THINGS ABOUT JEWISH PEOPLE” – but the majority of us can go “hahaha, of course Jews don’t control the media”
I think one of the things that I love about the AS staff is that you’re so willing to engage and question and accept criticisms without defensiveness. Thanks for coming into the comments to discuss it HH!
Black Cindy’s conversion is also one of my favorite moments of the series! It’s almost like she’s the exception to the whole season. Everyone else sought something spiritual but found only disappointment, while Cindy, whose main experience with religion had been an angry Christian father, actually found something real and resonant and uplifting in her study of the Jewish faith. I’ll talk more about that in my finale recap!
Completely agree- I was super moved and emotional watching that scene with her and the rabbi and then the (no spoilers) end scene as well. It was nice to have something uplifting in a series I took really hard due to (no spoilers) episode 10/11’s events.
It makes me really sad that Sophia’s feud is with some of the latinas! Like, come on, those are the two groups i belong to (trans and latina) and they’re fighting and being awful to each other all season? no me gusta!
I agree I’d much rather have Sophia gain a new love interest than the storyline that we got for her. It also irritated me that none of the African American girls Poussey, Taystee, Black Cindy etc stood up for her. It did give us some pretty good Sister Ingalls/Sophia bonding
So, as a queer ex-Mennonite, I had mixed feelings about this episode… Nothing about it was accurate, but like, it doesn’t matter? Of course most people/ media will have an incomplete vision of private, secluded lifestyles. It doesn’t matter that this isn’t how excommunication works, or that Amish kids (even the ones who participate in rumspringa) are socialized differently than the average screenwriter and would not ever say the stuff a writer would come up with. Although I did think it was kind of… silly? to make the most fanatical person in Norma’s group be explained as formerly Amish, and it’s ironic that Leanne complains about Amish stereotypes in a story that uses every one there is, it’s not like Amish people care this much about how the outside world sees them- I don’t see any teenagers standing up to talk about it during a baptism. Combined with the presentation of Jewish stereotypes in this episode, the whole thing felt like an extremely flat, cheap, shallow view of faith and spirituality. (Sorry for the rant! I am not even religious but I have a lot of feelings about this season’s theme of faith and how it went about portraying that in various extreme ways!)
Thanks for that perspective. Very helpful.
The captions were fantastic as usual, but this one was my favourite: “Oh my god, fine. You’re the best baseball player in the world, so much better than your sister, can we talk about literally anything else?”
I was really frustrated with the Sophia/Gloria feud because it seemed to rely on the lazy plot device of “we just won’t communicate and clear things up” to build up to a pretty awful (but realistic) scene with Sophia . I just…sigh. If the people involved in Sophia’s storyline were random extras anyways, I don’t understand why the writers went this route with Gloria.
Plus, Aleida’s transphobia was whoa :/
A League of Her Own references never get old!
FFS people. Just because you don’t like something does not automaticly mean it’s offensive. It might just mean you don’t like it. If I got offended every time I didn’t like a story line on a TV show about a lesbian or a black woman I would walk around like the angry black woman stereotype all day everyday. Or I would just hide in my house because really how many of us are there on TV anyway.
Did anyone else think the Amish backstory just didn’t fit? I mean, taking comfort in rigid religious structures and the partying/getting into drugs I can understand from this, but her whole personality just doesn’t make sense as someone who would have grown up in that kind of community?
Yes, I felt like that storyline is something they came up with after the first two seasons.
Yes def a last minute idea on the writers part! I mean if she was raised and schooled in a closed predominantly German speaking community with no American media wouldn’t she have at least a slight accent speaking English?
And would she be likely to have a name like “Leanne Taylor”? Granted, I know next to nothing about Amish naming conventions, but I’d expect something more Germanic and/or Biblical-sounding.
I agree that the Amish storyline felt like it was cooked up as an afterthought, but I imagine that there is as much variety in personality types amongst the Amish as in any other group of humans.