Orange is The New Black Episode 310 Recap: There Is A Monster At The End Of This Book

This is when things ramp up and the episode gets dark and low, like now we’re in the underground bunker where everybody is inside-out and all their ugliest bits are right there on their skin for everybody to see.

So we’re split, here, between two bathroom scenes: in the first, Alex confronts Lolly, who she’s convinced has been sent here by Kubra to kill her.

Really? You think I killed Maya now?

Really? You think I killed Maya now?

Maya? I'm here to avenge the death of MONA, bitch

MAYA?! I’m here for MONA, bitch.

Mona is not even fucking dead. What episode are you on?

MONA IS NOT EVEN FUCKING DEAD.

In the second, Gloria and Aleida are confronting Sophia, because she’s in “their bathroom” and she’s been acting really out of character and it’s awful.

You took the cookies from the cookie jar, didn't you?

You took the cookies from the cookie jar, didn’t you?

I DON'T EVEN LIKE COOKIES. I PREFER CAKE.

I DON’T EVEN LIKE COOKIES. I. PREFER. CAKE.

Aleida’s the one egging Gloria on but Gloria’s so torn up over losing access to her son that it’s not hard for her to take the bait.

Sophia: You have no idea who you’re messing with.
Gloria: No? Aren’t you the one who took Benny away from me even though he didn’t do nothin?
Sophia: You’re trippin’!
Gloria: No, I’m mothering. And I’m a ferocious, pissed off real mother but you wouldn’t know nothing about that, would you? Naaah. ‘Cause you ain’t nothing real.

It’s just so easy, right? You get mad at the trans woman and there you go, right next to you is a garbage bin full of jokes and insults and easy takedowns. It’s right next to the bin of recycled racial slurs that get slung around all day in here. So right there, at your disposal, the entire arsenal you need to rip somebody apart on grounds entirely unrelated to your personal disagreement with her at that time. But when Sophia pushes Gloria, Gloria hits the wall and collapses, and Sophia is instantly horrified and apologetic.

Orange_Is_The_New_Black_S03E10_1080p__1899

Here’s the thing, though: the Sophia we’ve followed through 2.5 seasons would’ve apologized to Gloria when she found out it was Michael’s fault the kids got in trouble, not Benny’s. Orange wants to tell a story about violence against trans women in prison, and so here it is, but the thing about violence against trans women in prison is that it doesn’t need a reason, it happens all the time for no reason. Trans women get beat up and raped in prison just for being trans women. Sure, plain ‘ol discrimination is not necessarily the stuff entertaining and complicated television is made of, but… is this?

In the other bathroom, Alex and Lolly are going at it but Alex can’t figure what Lolly’s talking about — terrorism, treason? The NSA? This woman cannot possibly be working for Kubra, can she? Lolly franticly assures Alex that she’ll work with Alex and tell her everything she wants to know, ’cause Alex is one of those NSA folks, right? So she’ll work with them if that’s what Alex wants she will!

Dude, you are REALLY BAD at CPR

Dude, you are REALLY BAD at CPR

“Shit,” says Alex, exhaling into the vacant embrace of her own (justified) paranoia. Lolly is batshit crazy and thinks the NSA is after her. She’s got nothing to do with Kubra after all. Shit. 

Orange_Is_The_New_Black_S03E10_1080p__1894

Shit, thinks Sophia as Aleida crouches by Gloria, still konked out on the floor.

Orange_Is_The_New_Black_S03E10_1080p__1900

Shit. Morello’s new boyfriend shows up at Christopher’s to ensure he really never sets foot in another FedEx ever again.

C'mon guys, we're gonna get Shane back for leaving Carmen at the altar

Oompa loompa loompity doo

Dad?

Dad?


FLASHBACK! Nathan’s leaving in the morning for Wyoming and Tiffany thinks shit is gonna suck extra hard without him here to give her cunnilingus and respect. Tiffany is a person who doesn’t do things so much as she lets things be done to her — that’s what women are supposed to do, right, as far as she knows — so Nathan leaving feels especially hopeless. She doesn’t see herself capable of finding another Nathan, all she knows to do is wait for another Nathan, and it’s hard to conjure hope out of stasis.

You know the rules. No boys allowed unless you got the password

You know the rules. No boys allowed unless you got the password

So Tiffany says goodbye to her One True Love and trudges upstairs for a beer from the bathtub — but Abe’s not far behind, palming a six-pack of her favorite soda and a grudge from that time a small flying insect interrupted his fuck-session by injecting her with venom. He shuts the door behind them in the bathroom, and he’s gonna get it.

Orange_Is_The_New_Black_S03E10_1080p__2002

He wants to get what’s his, he tells her, but it’s not his to take. It’s only hers to give, and she’s not giving. “I ain’t even fucking wet,” she says. He doesn’t give a shit. “Fuck your mama,” she says, and again. He tells her to relax, and he pushes through. She’s not giving it, he’s taking it, he doesn’t give a shit, and she resigns. Shit.

Her eyes go dead, her body goes slack. He rapes her. She becomes just a vessel waiting for him to finish with her, maybe already imagining it being over. Like a bee sting, except the scar he’ll leave is both deeper and more invisible than what any insect could ever do.


Back in the present day, Tiffany follows Coates outside, talking about rainbow sprinkles like he’s a Nathan and not an Abe. But he’s an Abe. Most men in Tiffany’s life are Abes. Like the addict in Season One who got her pregnant and suggested keeping the baby so they could get free baby food from the government and make it into casseroles, and then said he was too busy to take her to the abortion clinic. Like the guy who did drive her to the abortion clinic, and warned her not to use all his squirrel pellets when she reached for his rifle.

Is it any wonder she strode into prison in Season One with guns blazing, ready to strike first? Is it any wonder that the story we just got told is identical to the backstory of at least fifty other female addicts on Intervention? First comes scattershot parenting, then comes partying, then comes sexual assault, then comes addiction, violence, anger, numbness, a desire to prove oneself resilient and intimidating.

Coates: I got in trouble. I missed count yesterday because of our little detour. You told me we had enough time and I believed you.
Tiffany: Sorry. I didn’t realize you had to be back.
Coates: Well, now I’m on probation.
Tiffany: Oh that’s nothing, I can help you figure out when you gotta be back for count!
Coates: No, I don’t want any more help from you. All your help gets me is into trouble.

Yeah, that's right, he told me only one of us could have a fancy mustache!

Yeah, that’s right, he told me only one of us could have a fancy mustache!

She reaches for him and he pushes her away, and then grabs her closer, asking “Is this what you want from me?” and no, it’s not, but things have turned before Tiffany’s mind has even caught up. She fights back, he lifts her and tosses her into the van, no fuck your mamas this time, but she is a small person and he is a larger, stronger person, and it doesn’t take long for him to subdue her. And her face is the face of resignation, to the thousands of Abes out there, to the fact that undoubtedly Coates has done this before and will do it again, that maybe he wants to keep this job so bad because it gives him the power over women he’s always craved. He’s a creep, a criminal, a rapist, and she’s a girl who’s good at following orders and just wants to be loved. Yet somehow he’s in a uniform given to people who police criminals, not people who are criminals. And there’s her cheek flush against the seats of their new vans.

He presses her face into the seat of the van and rapes her. He calls her Dogget. He says, “This is what you asked for, I love you, I love you.” And all we see is her face: her dead, sad, loveless eyes.

And that’s the end of the episode.


Rape is not an easy thing to portray onscreen, but that hasn’t stopped television writers from subjecting their viewers to it, often gratuitously. There are some ways that this is done: for television aimed at children or teenagers, like Degrassi or an after-school special, we usually get a cut-away. The viewer is shown enough to conclude that rape is about to happen, but the scene ends before we see it. Then there’s Game of Thrones, Queer as Folk or True Blood, where we’re forced to watch it play out, all bodies involved seen in full.

But here, in this show, we don’t see both bodies, we just see one sad face, and briefly. This isn’t about a sex act between two people, it’s about one person being attacked by another. “I always think there’s like a lineage of abuse,” Taryn Manning told Buzzfeed about her character’s relationship with her mother. “It’s always like, who’s the person who’s going to change the cycle, and clearly it wasn’t her mom.” When I read that I thought, you know, chances are very good that her Mom is a survivor too, but probably has never talked about it or even thought of herself in those terms.

This story is tough to stomach, but it’s also so real — and real in a way that we don’t see quite as often as we see those other stories about sexual assault. How she checks out so quickly, and accepts trauma as an inevitable element of being female. I feel uncomfortable declaring that her past assault “fit in” with her character as she’d been written until now, because I feel uncomfortable declaring that rape ever fits in with anybody’s story, even a fictional character’s. But of course it fits in to her story! Because it fits in with so many of our stories. Because sexual assault is, unfortunately, a part of who so many women are. Especially in prison: Bureau of Justice Statistics found 57.2% of females in state prison and 39% of federal inmates were had been sexually abused in the past. Women in prison are twice as likely as women in the general public to report childhood histories of physical or sexual abuse. Once they get into prison, the numbers get darker: although women comprise only seven percent of the state prison population, they’re 46% of sexual abuse victims, and males are the perpetrators in 98% of staff-on-inmate sexual assault cases. Daya and Bennett’s story is the anomaly here. Tiffany and Coates’ story? That’s real. That’s awful and disgusting and so very real.

I’m not angry, I’m just sad.

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34 Comments

  1. Actually, the fact that Doggett’s rapes fit her character so well are why I wasn’t happy with it. Daya and Bennett were *not* an anomaly, they are a romanticized version of Doggett and Coates. I wanted the show runners to explore the abuse of power there instead of introducing another, more black-and-white version of the same story. I feel like a lot of the subtlety got thrown out the window this season, unfortunately to the disservice of the characters the show has spent so much time illuminating.

    • I’m completely agree that the storyline about Daya and Bennett is disgustingly romanticized, and I think similar problems show up in the interactions between Red and Healy. In the earlier scenes involving Tiffany and Coates I was expecting more of the same, so I feel like at least for once the show didn’t go that route.

  2. “This isn’t about a sex act between two people, it’s about one person being attacked by another.”

    Thanks, Riese, for articulating the difference between rape in OITNB and rape everywhere else on TV (GOT I’m looking at you). Game of Thrones not only glorifies rape by portraying it as a sex act, it pretty much does the same thing with violence and murder.

    I am not interested in rape on TV as a plot device. I am not interested in rape on TV as titillation. We will only advance past the rape culture in this country when rape is shown for what it is — an attack, a show of violence and power, the effects of which can be extremely difficult to overcome.

    OITNB had some issues this season but I think they dealt with Tiffany’s chain of abuse better than anything else I’ve seen.

    • “I am not interested in rape on TV as a plot device. I am not interested in rape on TV as titillation. We will only advance past the rape culture in this country when rape is shown for what it is — an attack, a show of violence and power, the effects of which can be extremely difficult to overcome.”

      AMEN

  3. This storyline made me so fucking sad. It reminded me of how lucky I am that this has never happened to me, and made me think two thoughts: “will this ever happen to me,” followed quickly by “when will this happen to me?”

    Because rape seems so inevitable to so many woman, and it breaks my heart and I can’t even deal with the rage that this inspires in me.

    I want to take a sword and go out and fix all of rape culture.

    Actually in my ideal world, Big Boo would be wielding a sword, and she would have a horse, and there might be artistic flames. And everyone would be out of the prison but the guards, and the women would live in a beautiful commune surrounded by a ring of fire to keep out everyone that had wronged them.

    This episode seriously made me feel all the feelings.

    • I’ve always thought of rape as inevitable. “When will this happen to me?” is a question I’ve often asked myself, and though I’ve never thought this was a unique thought to have, it hit me pretty hard to see you ask the same question. *tight, consentual hug*

  4. Well the great commentary at the end of the recap made me cry.
    So I’m gonna go back to that line with Morrello’s face “I think my diva cup flipped” because this is the funniest thing on the Internet today.

  5. It’s amazing how my feelings regarding Piper and Pennsatucky have changed through the seasons. I was 100% cheering on Piper in season one and hating on Pennsatucky. That was slowly changing episode by episode until this one firmly planted me in the opposite camp. I felt horrible for Tiffany especially at the end as she was just resigned to getting raped. Meanwhile I wanted to rip Piper’s hairs out of her head one by one as she once again cheated on Alex and treated Alex as the interloper when she is her girlfriend not Stella. Oh and yeah as Riese pointed out there’s that little thing about how Piper got her thrown back in there so she’d have someone to play hide behind the library shelves with. Too bad Piper wasn’t the one getting coldclocked instead of Lolly or Gloria.

    • I agree I think that Tiffany has come along way from who she was in season 1 and I’m glad that she’s found a friend in Big Boo. Also I really began to despise Piper as the episodes went on. In season 1 and 2 I disliked her but found her to be more annoying than anything else. I’m not the biggest Alex fan but at least she’s more self aware and doesn’t try and pretend to be morally superior.

  6. No shade but Maritza and Flaca have way more sexual tension than Stella and Piper. I mean really their whole “panty twinsies” and “nipples got hard” lines, come on. Also I agree Sophia was acting pretty out of character when she hit Gloria. I mean you could argue that maybe stress from her son acting out combined by the threat of not seeing him as much caused her to do it but we’re just assuming these things.

  7. Pennsatucky was built up to be this horrible character in Season one and I felt this episode strike doubly hard because I was one of those who judged her and loved to hate her back then.
    Her whole arc tied in so perfectly with this episode, though, that it hurt.
    I wouldn’t have believed in a million years that of all the inmates, Pennsatucky’s storyline would almost physically strike me like this.

  8. I am sad, and I am angry.

    I appreciate the way you handled the TW, also. Sensitive in a way that is also upfront, frank.

    It was so difficult to keep reading these recaps, knowing that this episode was coming. Thank you for doing it, for using humor where you normally would have and letting it fade away where real life starts to really slip in. Thank you, thank you.

  9. This whole episode was terrible. Not even getting into the sexual assault bits.

    I also very, very much hated Alex in this episode. Again. Like, she’s a terrible person, but manipulating a seriously mentally ill person and just eugh. Using a seriously mentally ill person’s paranoia for your own gain. I really don’t like Alex. (I also really don’t like Piper and her blatant disregard of Alex’s mental health issues.)

    (But you don’t see a whole lot of criticism on Alex about the whole manipulating of a mentally ill person. And that’s a shame. Speaking as a mentally ill person.)

    • I’m confused…are you talking about this episode? How exactly did Alex manipulate a mentally ill person? She found Lolly’s journal that showed Lolly was tracking her every move. And then she attacked her when Lolly brandished the huge piece of sharp glass at Alex. As soon as Alex realized she was mentally ill and not send by Kubra she stopped choking her. I thought Alex behaved pretty admirably all things considered.

  10. Thanks for writing this. I am so sad about this storyline because it hits so close to home for me, and so close to home for so many. I always envied those who had some anger and defiance at their assualts (I don’t for a second think that’s a logical or fair feeling), but all I have is tiredness, sadness, and self-blame. I’m glad Tiffany has Boo.

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