Oh, my friends. We deserved a chance to mourn Poussey. We deserved a chance to have an episode dedicated solely to her and to her friends, where we could grieve the loss of a beloved character. Instead, we got this episode. Here we go.
From what we learn from the MCC lackeys, I think the flashbacks in this episode are supposed to be from the night that leads up to Poussey’s arrest. But we don’t know that at the beginning. All we see is a young Poussey with a wicked faux-hawk riding a charter bus with her friends, who are trying to convince her not to go back to Amsterdam. Her smile lights up the screen, and she is full of energy and possibilities.
But this is the season of No Joy, remember? And so we cut back to Litchfield where Piscatella is telling Caputo how they’re going to discuss Poussey’s death. Everything he says is a lie: she was violent, he was doing his job, this isn’t about race. I couldn’t watch this scene more than once y’all; it made me physically sick. Piscatella is there to represent the system at its worst, and he does the job so well. There’s something in his past that Caputo threatens him with, and he finally leaves the prison. I don’t want to know what is in his past because I don’t ever want to see Piscatella again. I don’t care about the guards’ backstories. I don’t care about why they are the way they are.
Caputo leaves Poussey on the ground with a white sheet covering her and guards posted around her. It’s vivid Mike Brown imagery. No one even calls the police. He goes and comforts Bayley, who we find out didn’t know that he killed an inmate. He just wanted to help. Whatever. I have zero sympathies for this man that they tried to paint as a victim of the system this entire episode. Bayley is not the victim; Poussey is the victim.
Poor Taystee is hurting so much in this episode and it broke my heart. She asks the guards what are they going to do about this and they respond that it’s “just like any other night” and instruct the inmates to go back to their bunks. Cindy guides Taystee back to her bunk and tries to calm her down saying that it’ll eventually be the morning and they’ll get more answers. “I don’t want no morning,” Taystee replies, and my heart shattered again into a million pieces.
Suzanne is reeling from Poussey’s death and neither her friends nor the prison has the resources she needs. She places books on her chest to try and figure out what it feels like to not be able to breathe.
Back in the suburbs, Piper spots Bayley as she’s going to brush her teeth. He’s on his way to C Dorm to apologize to the inmates, and she tells him he cannot do that. In fact, she comforts him. She assures him that she knows he never meant to hurt Poussey and promises to tell the women of C Dorm that it was an accident. I had such trouble figuring out why this scene was included. Why are we getting so much air time for Bayley? Why is he being made out as such a sympathetic character? Why should we feel sorry for a man who killed a woman less than half his size because of his own negligence? Why, over and over and over and over and over do we get to see white people being comforted and reassured in this season, but never a Black or Brown person?
CO Dixon gives Bayley a ride home from the prison where he reveals he has also killed people. When he was overseas, he says he killed children to make up for the fact that he couldn’t catch terrorists, and that after raping a woman, he killed her because the family would’ve anyway. It feels like the writers are trying to tell us here that circumstances, not systems of oppression are what make people killers. And that just because someone kills someone unprovoked, they aren’t a bad person. Dixon reminds Bayley once they arrive at his home that “You’re a good guy. I’m a good guy. It was an accident.”
I want to clear some things up because this felt sloppy and irresponsible. There are systems of inequality that allow certain people to become killers and other people to be killed. Litchfield should’ve never been privatized in the first place—private prisons are dangerous, secretive, and overall, just terrible. Prisons are dangerous, period. MCC should’ve trained Bayley better. They should’ve trained all their guards better. But this was all his fault. Not Suzanne’s, not Poussey’s, it was Bayley’s. He was unprovoked. He used unnecessary excessive force. He was at fault. Just like Piscatella is at fault for this, just like Caputo, just like MCC. Bayley may not be a bad person, but he’s a part of a bad system—willingly—and he did a bad thing. He murdered someone. He should not be excused. No one is a good guy.
It’s now breakfast, which means Poussey has been on the floor a minimum of 6 hours. The police have not been called. The inmates are forced to eat breakfast outdoors.
Outside, Poussey’s friends grieve her loss and the other inmates try to offer their condolences. Cindy is coping by eating. Watson is angry and strikes out at everyone. Suzanne is still trying to find something heavy enough to figure out what it must have felt like to be strangled to death. Taystee decides to cope by going to work.
Back in the offices, the jackasses from MCC are trying to figure out how to make this Poussey’s fault. They ask if she had a health condition that could’ve made this possible or if she was ever violent. But they can’t find anything on her. She’s in jail for a minor drug charge along with trespassing. She was a perfectly behaved inmate. It’s almost as if she shouldn’t even have been in prison in the first place. They go so far as to find a Facebook picture of Poussey with bunny ears and consider cropping it to make it look “thuggish”.
Oh, and by the way, Judy King is getting released today and they’re backdating the paperwork to make it look like she wasn’t there for the death. Cool.
Back in flashback land, the happiest parts of this episode, Poussey is in the club with her friends and they find out that while they thought they were seeing the Roots, they’re actually seeing the Rootz, a cover band full of white guys. When Poussey takes a picture of her friends, her phone gets jacked. America isn’t looking so grand to her right now.
At Litchfield, Humps walks into the prison with a fucking gun in his pant leg and the guards just let him. All the guards make up false stories and talk to each other about remaining strong with their lies. Caputo tells Taystee he hasn’t even called Poussey’s father to inform him of her death. And Poussey Washington, who deserves so much better, is still lying on the ground.
Coates is on guard as Boo and Doggett come in to finally set up some sort of privacy barrier. Doggett sees that Coates is upset and goes to comfort him. I felt sick to my stomach watching this. Forgiving one’s assaulter is one thing, and it felt important that Doggett was able to do that and heal herself from that trauma. But this was too much. Now we’re supposed to feel sympathy for a rapist? Because prison fights are too much for him? No, thank you.
Red talks to her family about rebuilding the garden after this tragedy. She reads a passage from a book Poussey gave her from the library and gives each of her children jobs so that they stay busy. Nicky and Morello get into a fight when Nicky sticks her hands in Morello’s pants without consent. After a yelling spat, the two agree that both their lives are kinda shit right now, and they link arms against the chain link fence. What they both need right now is a friend.
Alex and Piper are poking around near the greenhouse. Piper excuses Bayley some more, trying to make some comparison to what Alex did out of self-defense. She says he’s not a “murderer” murderer and that he just made a mistake. She catches Alex hiding a note in the tomato plant that says the guard’s name that she killed. Apparently, they’re all over the camp.
Poussey is lost in New York City in the flashback. She’s without a phone, and the only people who will talk to her to help her out are a pair of beautiful, friendly drag queens. They offer her a phone, but first invite her to a party. She goes along, and we enter into this techno/house/Neolution-type warehouse party. Poussey has a blast; we get to watch her break out of her shy shell a little bit into this carefree, adorable, perfect being. She leaves the club at the end of the night, calls her friends, and heads off.
Judy King is packing up to leave and Yoga Jones is begging her to have a heart. She pleads with Judy to say something once she leaves, to use her cell phone to call the police, to just do something. Judy King liked Poussey. She offered her a job. If King really cared, she would have done something, but this scene sums up what we’ve known all season: Judy King doesn’t care about anyone except herself.
Poor Soso is all alone with no community because Poussey was one of her only allies. She is getting drunk behind the library off of Poussey’s hooch when she hears something fall. She walks into the library, and all of the bookshelves have fallen over. Suzanne is underneath them, gasping for air and asking for help.
In the kitchen, Coates and Doggett talk and there’s an awful part where he says he might have to leave because prison is too much and Doggett kisses him and then he overpowers her. After the altercation, he once again says he might have to quit. This time, Doggett says that might be a good idea. Again, with the writers trying to force us to feel sympathetic for bad people doing bad things. I don’t. I won’t.
Caputo asks Taystee if Poussey had a shiv like the guards were saying. Taystee is rightfully furious, answering that of course Poussey didn’t have a shiv. She complains to him about how unfair all of this is, that Poussey was more than an inmate, that she was her friend, and a human. Caputo tries to hug her and apologizes for her loss. Taystee has no time for his apologies and is sick of everyone apologizing for her loss. This wasn’t an old grandparent who died; it was a young, healthy woman who should’ve never been grabbed and pushed to the floor in the first place.
Back in the MCC offices, they’ve decided to push the blame onto Bayley saying he was a loose canon, untrained, and that he used brawn instead of brain. The two MCC executives high-five at their brilliance. I try not to throw up.
Poussey is back in New York, riding the subway, and enjoying everything that is quintessentially New York City in the middle of the night. She’s a happy observer of everything going on around her and is falling in love with this place she’s vowed to leave. Once she’s off the subway, she’s still lost and this time gets picked up by a group of bicycling monks.
In the yard at Litchfield, Sophia and Gloria are sunbathing. Sophia says she needs to catch up on her vitamin D intake. It’s a sweet moment between friends that is ruined by some unnecessary-to-the-plot transmisogyny from the white supremacists.
While the friends reminisce about Poussey, Blanca offers them some paper flowers. The Latina inmates in Maria’s crew offer to make some chilaquiles once they are able to get back into the kitchen. Cindy reflects on what they’re going to sing and decides on some old gospel as the best way to comfort everyone.
It is fifty-seven minutes into this episode before an ambulance comes to pick up Poussey.
The long-haired white supremacist says something smart-mouthed and Watson punches her in the face. Tension rises around their friends, but a fight doesn’t erupt. The white supremacists walk away to heal their wounds. Watson and Cindy decide it might be time to start carrying weapons in Abdullah’s headscarf. Abdullah agrees, but it’s revealed there might not be much room because she’s got a head full of red sister locs!
In their drunkenness, the meth-heads destroy the time machine in the laundry room. This scene felt sad to me, more than funny. In destroying the time machine, they were saying that there’s no escaping the hell of Litchfield, not even in your imagination.
Piper and Alex are getting the last slips of paper. Alex says, “Nobody should die without a name.” I think, “Yeah, if you’re a white guy.”
It’s time for Caputo’s press conference! There’s makeup, a “threatening” picture of Bayley in a Halloween costume, Linda/Lisa with an iced coffee—she thinks prison is “quiet”—and full lockdown reinstated so the inmates don’t have access to the press and vice versa. Taystee hides out under her desk so she can hear the press conference. Caputo finally finds an ounce of actual empathy for another person and calls Poussey’s father in the parking lot before he goes on screen.
In the penultimate flashback, Poussey talks to the monk—who is not a monk but an improv actor—about being blackballed from West Point. He says she should hang out in New York instead of going back to Amsterdam and offers her a spot dancing with rats at their next improv gig. But Poussey is getting ready to leave, she’s selling off her stash, tying up loose ends, and she’s just here enjoying right now; “To one amazing night.” Watching this, my heart broke thinking about the systems in place that inevitably caused her death.
Caputo gives a press conference about the death of Poussey but goes off script. He blames nothing on Bayley and everything on the dangerous inmates. He even defends Bayley and says he will be back at Litchfield.
Taystee is furious. “They didn’t even say her name!” she screams down the halls of the prison. The inmates of C Dorm and eventually the entire prison begin to rally, many gathering weapons, needing to do something to get rid of their anger. I hated watching this because I knew it wouldn’t be the victory any of them wanted. These women are angry, and rightfully so. They aren’t treated like humans. Their lives are taken away from them, sometimes literally, and they don’t even have names. They tried a peaceful protest and someone was killed. Their riot is righteous, but at the end of the day, they’re going to be the ones punished. There is no justice.
All the inmates gather at a four-way intersection when Humps reaches for his gun. Maritza pushes him before he can get hold of it and Daya picks it up. She points it at his head. “Fucking CO’s, y’all are pieces of shit.” The room spins as the inmates cheer her on to shoot him.
In the last scene, Poussey stands alone, hands in her pockets, looking over New York City. She breaks the fourth wall and smiles at the camera looking directly at us. Her life holds so much promise. Held.