“Orange is the New Black” Episode 407 Review: “It Sounded Nicer in My Head”

“It Sounded Nicer In My Head” opens with Piper flanked by neo-Nazis. She claims that their particular brand of racism isn’t one she wants to be associated with, yet when Blanca walks through the bathroom, she has no problem counting on the two of them for protection. After Blanca and Piper’s new task force groupies leave, Piper continues to be the worst by telling Hapakuka that in the midst of this tense racial environment she’s created, she won’t be able to protect her anymore. “I can’t help you, but I’m rooting for you,” she says completely unironically.

There is not much light in this season at all, but if a person coming back to prison can be light, Nicky Nichols returning to Litchfield is that lightness. Maritza is being cute and perfect, per usual, as she delivers Nichols from the van to the prison. “Do you remember this from when you were here?” she asks adorably before leaving Nicky to find out that things have changed quite a bit from when she was last here.

Throughout the episode, Nicky meets up with all of her old family, including a perfect moment of television when Red sees her for the first time. The two of them are the focus of the shot, and music swells, just a little to make your heart swell and then break. Nicky breaths in Red and Red hugs her daughter ferociously, ignoring the guard who promises to write them up because Nicky has maxed out her number of hugs for the day. “Some things can’t be rushed,” Red says, holding Nicky tightly.

Taystee, Suzanne, Cindy and her new roommate Alison continue their side plot of trying to capture a picture of Judy King on Alison’s contraband phone. They struggle to get a good picture of her, partially because of Yoga Jones’ insistence that Judy King needed special protection (remember, because Yoga Jones lied and said the big scary Black inmates knew about her racist video). When they finally do get a picture of her, it’s of Judy King running away from Cindy in what looks like an attack. At first, Taystee doesn’t think the picture will sell, but then…

For some reason, the writers of this show thought that we the viewers wanted to see a racist puppet show, even just two minutes of it. So we got to see a young Judy King being racist on television. So she’s supposed to be a Martha Stewart/Paula Deen combo. Got it. Once the women see King’s puppet show on the news, they know their accidental candid will fit perfectly into the picture the media is trying to paint. And then Alison’s phone dies. And she doesn’t have a charger because this is a prison and she can only hide so much in a headscarf without getting caught.

Somewhere else on the prison’s campus, Aleida and Daya are going at it because Aleida isn’t studying for the GED anymore. Daya’s angry because there isn’t anything she can do to help her children even if she wanted to, and from her standpoint, Aleida isn’t taking this seriously enough. Aleida is angry because the system is rigged against her and she knows it. “How’s a GED gonna make me not a felon?” she asks. “The GED only exists to make it feel like it’s my fault when I fail when the game is fucking rigged.” She’s right. She’s absolutely right. I wanted to hold Aleida forever after watching this scene.

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Caputo gets a call from Lisa/Linda/whoever saying his educational initiative passed 9-1! He’s a hero for the women of Litchfield or something. But surprise! None of Caputo’s proposed classes are in there. The only classes left are vocational—beginning carpentry, beginning electrical work, concrete making, foundation pouring. It’s a chain gang. Linda/Lisa quickly corrects him: “We need to emphasize the school part…otherwise, we have to pay them their 11 cents an hour!” She hands him a glass of sparkling wine and the two forget for a moment that they are the real criminals of this show.

The star of this episode, though, is Lolly. I’ve been drawn to Lolly since she was introduced to the show—it’s those wide eyes and the bright white hair that gets me—and it was nice to get a peek into how she is who she is. Through her flashbacks, we discover that Lolly was a journalist working at a free weekly paper when she first started hearing voices. After becoming convinced of a government plot to poison Americans, she lost her home and ran away from the assisted living situation a friend/coworker tried to set her up in.

In another flashback, we see Lolly living on her own. Something that struck me especially hard while learning about Lolly’s history is that even when she is homeless and she deserves better, she is free and is better off than when she is locked away in prison with people “helping” her like Sam Healy. She has a community watching out for her, she does things she finds enjoyable and important, and she has figured out ways to cope, as healthily as she can, with her mental illness.

Lolly’s story brings to mind questions of why we incarcerate mentally ill folks. Who is it really to protect? Lolly attracted police attention because she didn’t look like a gentrifier. But she belonged in her neighborhood; she was as safe there as she is imprisoned. I just kept thinking: she deserves better. All of the women of Litchfield deserve better.

Back at Litchfield, Lolly does the best she can with the crap she’s dealt with, but she could be doing better. Healy is better in this episode, I will give him that, but he’s still functioning on a belief that he can change lives out of some masculine God complex he inherited along with some Mommy/Daddy issues. When the two of them are sitting in Lolly’s time machine, there’s a moment when she comforts him. It’s sweet but totally inappropriate. A bad childhood isn’t an excuse to do your job poorly.

The episode ends at Nicky’s welcome back party. Sister Ingalls and Gloria corner Nicky and ask her what she knows about Sophia. “Sometimes people feel like fighting so they punch the walls. That would be the best case scenario based on what I saw,” Nicky says before Morello offers her a dance to take her mind off of it. Nicky refuses, though, choosing to seek out Angie instead. Red sees her leave the common room with Angie and watches her go sadly. 

Hapakuka finds Piper alone and Piper tries to apologize for being a jerk. Hapakuka asks if they can continue their conversation outside of the common room because it’s quieter. Piper agrees, and that’s when Ruiz’s gang captures her. They take her into the kitchen and lay her over a stove.

As Robyn sings, “I’m right over here, why can’t you see me?” Piper Chapman is wailing in fear. “Hold tight! Don’t let her move!” one woman hisses. “If you move, it’ll get messed up,” another tells Piper. This scene felt so out of character for any inmate of Litchfield, especially Ruiz, who we’ve watched fill a room with love towards her baby and boyfriend, who overflowed with grief at the thought of not seeing her daughter again. These are women who we’ve been shown over and over want nothing more than their freedom. But not today.

By the end of this episode, it’s clear the writers care about shock value more than character consistency. In a move no one would’ve guessed at the beginning of this season, we hear Piper scream in pain as the inmates brand her arm with a hot metal bar. The camera pans up to reveal a drawing of a swastika on a paper towel.

Ari is a 20-something artist and educator. They are a mom to two cats, they love domesticity, ritual, and porch time. They have studied, loved, and learned in CT, Greensboro, NC, and ATX.

Ari has written 322 articles for us.

34 Comments

  1. I didn’t really want to see a racist puppet show! The details revealed piecemeal actually were perfect and allowed me to, you know, get the general idea without having to, you know, watch a racist puppet show.

    I think something I’m very aware of with OitnB is that since Netflix doesn’t require set episode lengths to fit a set schedule, everything is in that show because the writers genuinely think that it belongs. There’s really no excuse for filler.

    • I literally got sick from it. I just watched it last night and it has completely ruined my day today. I’m actually thinking of leaving work early.

      It just crossed such a different line for me. I’m thinking of just stopping the show completely. It’s only episode 7 and they throw in something like this?! Everyone said the really traumatic stuff doesn’t happen for another couple episodes! I don’t think I have it in me.

      • I’m so sorry that you’re having such a difficult time. Scenes like that in television and movies deeply affect me, too. I had to go to choir rehearsal after I watched that episode, and I almost couldn’t do it. (Oh gosh, every time I see Doggett’s rapist on screen I get sick to my stomach.) I am going to watch the rest of the season (I haven’t watched past this episode, yet) but I’ll report back and let you know.

  2. When the camera cuts back and forth between the party and the final scene, I just kinda had this thought, like “we can’t just have nice things, can we?” I think the writers were desperate for some way to show the magnitude of what Piper did to Maria, which is hard for the audience to remember objectively when Pipes has been serving an 18-month sentence for 4 years

  3. It was hard to feel sorry for Piper given she put herself in that situation and was more than willing to use the white supremacists to her benefit until right before she was branded. That said, I agree that Maria’s actions were out of character for her. It’s like the writers decided they needed a new Vee this season so they retconned Maria’s character to facilitate that.

    The best storyline this season has been Lolly’s. I really hope Lori Petty gets some kind of awards recognition this year for her performance.

  4. Really, really horrible things have happened to Ruiz and she’s been beaten down by the system her entire life and was raised to think violence was the answer to most things and despite fighting against that, she’s been taught over and over that restraint gets you nowhere. We knew last season Ruiz wasn’t sentimental and had essentially lost any real sense of hope, so I felt like there was plausibility here. What Piper did to her (and got away with) was the final straw. This was likely the worst thing she’s ever done and completely out of character for her — but unbearable circumstances make even the best of us behave out of character.

  5. I have literally despised Kit Keller since Dottie let her win the World Series. I cheered when she got beat up last season. This season, I feel like they’re trying to make me like her more, but nope! I am loyal to a fault!

  6. Trying to avoid spoiling anyone, by putting a long rambly bit in the beginning of this post. Blah blah blah blah blah blah… I hope this is enough.

    Here’s a little more for good measure.

    ……

    While obviously I don’t think branding anyone, with a swastika or anything else, is righteous behavior, I think that from Maria’s perspective, what Piper did to her was much worse. She’s being deprived of raising her daughter. She’s had her sentence significantly lengthened. She’s now having her time served be full of constant invasive searches and other forms of harassment. She’s being stopped from sitting with her friends.

    And for what? So Piper could be the ONLY one running a panty business?

    Piper leveraged her racist privilege to crush the entire Latina population of Litchfield, all because she wanted ALL the business and ALL the control– she wanted to dominate, she wanted to be an overlord, and she went about it in the laziest and whitest way possible. She managed to collectively punish an entire population, not just putting an end to their business, but effectively making them even bigger targets for sexual assault and administrative abuse.

    The branding was terrifying and extreme, but the weight of what Piper did to them carried the weight of just as much trauma and terror and history, and having that thrown back at her in the way they did it, was I think way more effective than if they’d just beaten her up or poisoned her food or some other more generic response.

    The branding was actually a very articulate way of saying: this is not just a turf war, business competition, or a personal dispute. You invoked something much greater, and our response comes from that place. It sends a message to Piper but also to the audience, that this is something very serious, and exactly what kind of serious it is.

    • @ EM: exactly! well said..

      oh man, this season is really going tolstoi style. unfortunately for piper and everyone else nicky wasn´t there before the panty war started. i really enjoyed her incidental as usual but somehow wise mandala/”using your time as a sand maze” advice to piper.

      and i appreciate the reviews! very much! i´m watching from germany but somehow it doesn´t really matter. it´s just nice to read all the other thoughts on the episodes.

  7. I’m sure Maria would have rather been branded twenty times than not see her daughter for five more years. I don’t know, I didn’t feel sorry for Piper at all, nor did I think it was necessarily out of character – we already know Maria has been deeply changed by the loss of her daughter. I was expecting life-threatening punishment for the magnitude of what Piper has done (sabotage a woman’s life with the help of neo-nazis), I was actually relieved that I didn’t have to watch something worse. Within the twisted moral system of prison, I thought it was a rather moderate and almost fitting punishment for, like, literally setting up an Aryan Sisterhood for her monetary benefit.

  8. The phrase ‘tragedy porn’ is starting to come to mind.
    As if someone in the writing room or what decided what their audience liked so much about the character was bad stuff that happened to them. Not the diversity and 3 dimension dimensionality, but the bad things so they went and ratcheted that up.
    Just completely fucking forgetting some of those ‘farway bad things’ happened to or are a part of the life of some of their audience. Like what happened with Poussey.
    Actually I imagine a large portion rather an just ‘some’ because nuanced characters that aren’t white don’t we don’t have much of supply of. Like the Oscars.

    I think you’re absolutely right Alaina they’re caring more about shock value than character consistency.

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