Orange is the New Black Episode 510 Review: Yep, I’m Gonna Cuss Everyone Out

WELL.

Here the fuck we are.

Let me start with this: I am so, so, so, disappointed and angry in this show this season. It’s messy, it’s joyless, it’s making light of really awful dangerous situations. This is not a dark comedy. This is not a drama. It’s tragedy porn. And after this episode, the writers finally got me to stop watching! Forever!

SO! “Reverse Midas Touch” begins in chaos. Linda from MCC is being chased by Cabrera, the Olds are chilling in the bunker playing scrabble and getting high, and Piscatella has six women — three of which I believe are naked — tied up in duct tape. He’s got guns and knives and all sorts of things that can be used to torture someone because guess what? He tortures them.

The writers then decided that we might want some of Piscatella’s backstory. I do not. I did not. I won’t write about it.

Leanne and Angie are running around and Leanne thinks she finds a stray BBQ chip on the floor, but nope, it’s Angie’s fingertip.

Caputo and Taystee are trying to get Figueroa to understand just how awful the conditions in Litchfield are. She rebuts by saying that, essentially this is all Caputo’s fault, and she is not wrong. Not one bit. But girlfriend, it’s your fault too, nice try.

Still covered in makeup from the last episode, Suzanne comes into the bathroom and sees herself in whiteface and the little scene she has primarily with herself is the best part of the entire episode, and maybe even the season. She reminds herself that ghosts aren’t real before doling out some self-affirmations that I want to scream out from the mountains in hopes that every Black Child in the United States will get to hear them. “Black is beautiful: from your hair to your derrière, from your nose to your toes. You make all the colors pop.” She washes her face and continues, “Your skin is beautiful. Like walnut wood and soil and western coneflowers and old metal and dark maple syrup in brown jars.” I love Suzanne. I love her so much and I hate that she’s in prison and I just want her to be safe and happy and healthy.

After giving herself a good pep talk, she realizes Maureen is in a bathroom stall, and her face is infected and yellow, and she’s begging for help, and Suzanne says, “I think it’s time to ask for help because sometimes you need help and it’s okay to ask.” Thank you for the reminder, because I needed it.

Back in the dorms, Ouija and Cabrera are on guard, and Cabrera makes a joke that if she’s any comedian she’s Kate McKinnon and all I wanna know is why we have to have five seasons about Piper’s boring ass queer life when we could have five seasons about the queer lives of quite literally any other queer character in this show. Gloria stops by and gets them to take a nap somewhere, because she has a plan brewing. My notes just say, “Gloria. Gloria Gloria Gloria Gloria.” I want so much more for all these hurting women that I sometimes don’t have the words to talk about it.

Piscatella has Red in a chair, attempting to make an example out of her to the other inmates. Red spits in his face. Nikki tries to make jokes to diffuse the situation, but he slaps her in the face. He puts a knife to Red’s throat, and everyone screams. And down in the bunker they hear them! They hear them screaming but they don’t realize what they’re hearing and so they ignore it! It’s so frustrating to watch because then Piscatella starts chopping off Red’s hair with a fucking hunting knife. He cuts her scalp off in a few instances as well, and then, because he’s tired, he takes a fucking drink of water.

There’s a moment in The Poo where Linda and Tiffany are both singing the song for Big Red gum and they comment on how often things get so out of control when you’re only trying to do something good. Tiffany sums up this entire season when she says, “Life’s just fucking weird, you know? Once we start on these paths it’s hard to get off it.” I feel like that’s where we are with this show. It feels like the writers started something that they shouldn’t have, but they’re so deep into it that they either can’t or won’t stop. And so season after season, this show just gets worse and worse, darker and darker.

The two have a few more sweet moments before Linda eventually gets out and offers to team up with Tiffany, once she realizes who she’s been chatting with, punches her dead in the face for stealing her best friend and walks away.

In negotiations it sounds like everyone has different goals. Figueroa is thinking about the Governer’s goals, Caputo is thinking about himself while making it seem like he’s thinking about the inmates, and the inmates are not even being considered anymore. Fig says, “You’re not going to reinvent the prison industrial complex in your shitstained boxers. The system is broken.”

I screamed y’all. I screamed in frustration at the computer while I watched this scene. Because how dare she try to act as if her hands are not as bloody as anyone else who’s supposedly in charge of these women? How dare she pretend as if she’s on the side of these women, as if she really is just trying to help them be the best that they can in a bad situation? I love her convenient forgetfulness. Remember when she cut every single program Caputo tried to add to the prison? I do!

Taystee, Janae and Cindy are watching and realize that their conversation is going nowhere. Cindy says, “White people mess up everything” and lists things like twerking, braids, and the White House. And I mean, kudos to whoever wrote this, but talk about a self drag! Have y’all seen Orange is the New Black’s writer’s room? There is not a single Black person in it. And maybe two people who I can tell from looking are non-white. If we’re talking about the things white people mess up, we could literally start with this show right here. But let me mind my business.

Ouija and Cabrera are having trouble falling asleep because someone has the news on. It’s some 24-hour news cycle and they’re talking about the riot that’s happening at Litchfield and its relation to the “typical” prison riot. The two end up leaving and going back to their post right before hearing one of the commentators mention that riots never end well, especially for inmates who are active participants in keeping hostages. He says that inmates guarding hostages almost never survive and I rolled my eyes.

During sort of game where everyone sits around a table, Yoga Jones says to her bunker buddies, “I wonder where Red is?” They all think she has the prison under her command, because what else would Red do in a situation like this? Piper screams again, and FINALLY! Someone in the bunker decides to investigate.

This episode enters it’s fifth act and rushes through a bunch of other stuff that isn’t well fleshed out. Suzanne and Maureen finally make it to medical where there is no nurse because he’s with the meth heads, who are planning to force him to cut off another person’s finger and sew it onto Angie’s. Suzanne realizes that the guard that got shot is dead in his bed. Leanne chooses Stratman as finger donor, and Angie says it’s because she wants to be able to finger herself with his finger forever. They decide to take the finger on a test drive, which is just him fingering her in the laundry room. We learn Leanne has never had an orgasm.

Alex breaks free from her bondage and chokes Piscatella, who overpowers her, calls her a terrible name, and breaks her arm. In negotiations, Fig says she won’t do anything unless she has Caputo’s word that the guard Daya shot is alive. We get some nice dramatic irony because we know that actually, he’s fucking dead. Suzanne even tries to bring him to Taystee but is stopped by Cindy and Janae. Like, where the hell has everyone’s moral compass gone?

Piscatella is about to do something awful and mentions that women inmates aren’t broken by violence, but that they “have to” be broken, and obviously, he knows how! Right before he’s able to complete his last awful act, Gina stumbles into the room. Piscatella chases her and falls right into a booby trap, where they knock him out. We end the show with him on the floor, unconscious.

More than anything, I’m disappointed in just how willing this show is to show women and people of color in pain, for what feels like no reason at all. There’s this essay written by Elizabeth Alexander titled “Can you be BLACK and Look at This?”: Reading Rodney King’s Videos” that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, particularly with the acquittal of Philando Castile’s murderer, and the videos that have been released. I found myself thinking about it a lot during this episode. Alexander’s thesis is that when we show images of torture and violence we turn them into a spectacle, something to be watched, rather than something that needs to be stopped. Obviously, the show is fictional, but I can’t help thinking about the gratuitous use of violence in this season, and how it’s actually functioning.

We’ve talked about this before. The average viewer of this show is going to see this violence as exceptional or outside of the norm. They won’t believe that there are corrections officers who actually burn inmates to death, or tie them up and cut their hair off for sport. They think it’s an exaggeration. And so they’re not going to work for the abolition of prisons. They’re gonna binge another season.

There’s just this all around tone-deafness that keeps happening, both on and off screen. Lauren Morelli recently retweeted something that basically said, when we think of Poussey we should think of Philando Castile, and it’s like really? Do the creators behind this show not realize that what they’re doing is functioning exactly like white supremacy, but in a fictional world? Killing Black people for no reason should not be something that’s done to make a point. Torturing women and queers isn’t something that should be done to make a point about how shitty of a world we live in. And yet these are the devices they keep coming back to. They keep serving us shit, and keep trying to convince us that they’re actually saying something really deep, or making some profound statement about society at large, but they’re not! They’re using pain and trauma as entertainment. They’re creating a spectacle. And I’m done y’all. Spectacles rely on spectators, and I for one am not going to be pulled into this show anymore just to watch violence for the sake of violence. I can watch the news and do that, thanks.

Alaina is a 20-something working on a PhD in Performance as Public Practice. They are a mom to three cats, they listen to a lot of NPR and musicals, and they spend a lot of time on Pinterest lusting over studio apartments. They are actively trying to build A Brand on twitter @alainamonts. One day, they will be First Lady of the United States.

Al(aina) has written 257 articles for us.

32 Comments

  1. Yeah seriously where are the black writers? The bit where Judy King starts talking for the prisoners and Taystee is like “this is not your story to tell” – except it is because only white people write this this show!!

  2. Thank you for this recap. I have PTSD and I’m literally still healing from this episode after 3 days. Just want to echo that mental health is so much more important than feeding a binge <3

  3. I felt so done after this episode. Torture porn is NEVER okay. And there was so much tone deafness this season. Allison’s story made zero sense, and far from humanizing headscarf-wearing women, it othered her even more: that she was caught in a marriage arrangement she didn’t consent to, that she had no control over her life. Focusing on Piper’s relationship made NO sense; they were just the mean girls of the prison, they used NONE of their privilege to push for justice or offer their help in the negotiations, and there was just no reason for them to have any screentime. Black Cindy’s judaism does not affect the character at all; in fact a lot of the individualism that was written for her and other characters over the last few seasons has fallen by the wayside. They’re now just a mass of tortured women with no agency. And as you said, cramming every single kind of torture and hardship, especially heaping them on POC and female and incarcerated characters, into this season cheapened the individual plotlines. I didn’t realize the writers’ room was so white; but now it all makes sense.

  4. The flashback was kind of confusing for me. Like yay gay representation that includes a moc, but hell no to the awful prison guard. Also, was kind of curious how he killed that inmate because of hate watching reasons and weird human curiosity. Ugh

  5. i’m wondering if other outlets are as disappointed as we are or if they like the direction the show has gone in. i’m also wondering if we were the only ones pissed about poussey’s death or if media cheered them on

  6. This all sounds like a giant mess, but, just to clarify, Leanne and Angie desecrated Humphrey’s corpse, used a dead human body as a tool for sexual gratification…and it was played off as a laugh?

    Any chance anybody on the team is looking to do a rundown of all the awful ways OITNB has used rape and threats of sexual violence as a punchline? Because I’m never going to stop being salty about how awful they’ve been to their WOC or forgive them for showing me more Caputo sex scenes than consensual black woman involved sex scenes, but this show regularly gets heralded as this great triumph of feminist values, but it’s glorified torture porn and a LOT of rape and coercion has happened and been mishandled as badly as their half-assed BLM storyline.

    • Leanne and Angie found a fingertip they thought was Angie’s on the floor, but actually it was Humps’ – Red had cut it off while he was dead/comatose to use to unlock his phone, and she must have dropped it when Piscatella captured her. The nurse tells Angie it’s been detached too long anyway.
      The guard whose finger they then try to take instead isn’t Humps, it’s the one who did the striptease in the talent show. They threaten to cut his finger off and he tries to buy time by offering her a hand job to test his finger first.
      So… Those two don’t exactly use a dead body like that but it’s still awful. When they talk about what they did later, Angie’s like “I’ve raped guys before, but he seemed like he was really into it”. And that was totally played for laughs.

    • ok, so that was a typo/confusion bc all white men look the same to me. Stratman (the stripping guard) is the one who’s finger gets taken for a test drive. Humps is catatonic in a wheelchair somewhere.

  7. “Angie chooses Humps as finger donor, and Leanne says it’s because she wants to be able to finger herself with his finger forever. They decide to take the finger on a test drive, which is just him fingering her in the laundry room.”

    WTAF

  8. I haven’t read any other recaps on AS for this season but I clicked on this one because that scene with Suzanne in the bathroom gave me chills and made me super emotional. She needs to win all the awards. And also Laura Prepon directed this episode, so imagine directing bound and gagged wrapped in a shower curtain and directing your own torture.

    I binged the season the weekend it came out. I heard it being slammed by critics because of the new model it followed this season (taking place over 3 days) but technically I watched it in 3 days so it fit with my timeline. And it got a lot darker I will give you that but it had to. As stupid as it sounds the show is a business and awards build your business and if awards can’t categorize you, you lose. The show was listed as a comedy when it started (and they won) and then some awards were categorizing it as a drama and some still as a comedy (and it lost because of that) so I think it had to get darker to solidify itself as a drama, which is a stupid excuse but it is what it is.

    Yes that makes this season tough to watch and the writers are trying to hard to make entertainment wrapped in a social message about the world wrapped in a business model and they just fall flat pleasing everyone.

    Also not sure if you want to fix this but, Leanne (not Angie) is the meth head that got her finger shot off (and never had an orgasm) and Stratman is the guard they choose to be the finger donor, Humps is the now dead guard.
    “This episode enters it’s fifth act and rushes through a bunch of other stuff that isn’t well fleshed out. Suzanne and Maureen finally make it to medical where there is no nurse because he’s with the meth heads, who are planning to force him to cut off another person’s finger and sew it onto Angie’s. Suzanne realizes that the guard that got shot is dead in his bed. Angie chooses Humps as finger donor, and Leanne says it’s because she wants to be able to finger herself with his finger forever. They decide to take the finger on a test drive, which is just him fingering her in the laundry room. We learn Angie has never had an orgasm.”

    Also Alaina I don’t know if I’ve ever read anything you’ve written before but this time I read your profile bio and just curious, why do you want to be First Lady some day and not President?

    • i think the show is doing something really unethical though, whether or not it’s trying to win awards. and it’s advertising itself as something more progressive than it is. that’s my problem with it. and also, it’s tragedy porn for white people. which is my primary problem.

      i fixed the mixup–thanks!!

      i want to be first lady because i don’t want to be president. my goals in life are to be a housewife and raise kids, and first lady is like, the ultimate housewife. 🙂

          • i’m of a similar mindset, I’m physically disabled, trans and worked as a assistant at a centre for LGBT young adults for a while with a graduate cert in suicide prevention and a B.A in psych science. This show at one point had Power it had power with the kids i worked with because it showed a real narrative a painful one and leveraged it with humour. Now it wants to make out like this season in particular has some grand point . to make and if it did that’s great but you need t consult the community about which your point is to be made to make your point. Killing Poussey could have worked had the writers had the will and the vision to put the focus where it needed to be but you can’t make a martyr of a person of colour then put racist Nazis on a comedy pedestal. This is because your average viewers then like these characters because they are funny, do not make your literal nazis likeable and successful if you are trying to say black lives matter Also make up your damn mind over if the guards are flawed humans or sadistic monsters because you can’t play both sides, you can’t literally show a woman being tortured by a guard cut to another scene have a guard in peril from angry inmates and expect sympathy for the guard. And finally if the women lose and nothing changes about the status quo overall and there is not punishment for the guards and no one learns anything whats the damn point in showing us these horrible things that to say things are this bad? Because the end of last season showed it was this bad and any minority knows its this bad. So whos it for? No one.

  9. I stopped watching OITNB around season three, and every time a new season comes out I think “oh, maybe I should catch up.”

    But this just sounds like a nightmare? This doesn’t even sound like the same show???

  10. I haven’t watched this season because I had a bad feeling after Poussey, but this review came up on my twitter.

    Anyway, with that disclaimer, I came out of this review thinking, there are ways to depict the pain of marginalised people – and use that pain to educate privileged people – without it being torture porn. Orange is the New Black has clearly dramatically failed at that, but I can’t help but compare this to Dear White People which also depicted black people suffering at the hands of institutional racism but did so in a way that seemed much more human, and didn’t invest too much time in humanising the racists.

    I’m not sure what I’m trying to say, only that I’m really glad I haven’t watched this season and horrified by what I read. Netflix can and should do better.

    • and i think the main difference comes down to the writer’s room. just did a quick google search and dear white people’s writers were overwhelmingly black. and like, i didn’t even like that show! but i think you’re right, that they were able to move white folks to action in a way oitnb isn’t moving privileged folks to action.

  11. Hi Alaina, thank you for your post. I would like to request that you remove the expression “tone-deaf” from your article because it is an ableist and oppressive phrase. There are many other ways to express the same sentiment. Thank you!

    • I am interested from a linguistic standpoint of some of the other ways/phrases to use in lieu of “tone deaf” (you refer to many others), though I recognize that it’s not your job to educate me (goes to ask the internet).

      “What are synonyms for tone deaf?”

  12. I realise this is an ensemble show, but I wonder, this season, if that’s gone a bit too far. I have no qualms around the darkness and tone of the season, I just think the show is suffering from a severe lack of focus. I get the social commentary they are making but being as it’s wrapped in an aimless show limping along without a sense of where it is going, it rather loses its audience along the way.

    We flit from character or group to another character or group but don’t spend sufficient time with them to really develop anything particularly engaging.

    I actually enjoyed the Piscatella scenes. Dastardly he may be, but he serves as kindling to light something that has been strangely lacking this season. He’s an antagonist as he was last season and Vee and Pennsatucky were previously in 1&2 (let’s forget season 3 ever happened). Alas, I think it’s come a bit too late. The series overall has been overcooked. Given that the excellence of last season followed the relative boredom of season 3, I’ll give the show another chance next season!

  13. Hey Alaina and commenters-

    Thank you for being here. Last season was bad, hated myself a bit for eventually tuning into this one a little. It was this episode that I couldn’t anymore. Violence for violence is right. This episode reminded me of the one last season with Maritza and the live mouse. I was fucked up for a week after that, and I am mad (with space and sympathy) at myself for re-engaging what I knew was trauma porn. I am done now. There was no point. Maybe last season the sadist guard point “needed” to be made, but it was made. When they made the people in the bunker not hear them twice as a plot device, to build tension. That was. The scalping. That was. The shower. That was. This is disgusting, baseless, racist, trivializing of incarcerated issues, and over. It’s over.

    And after the episode wrapped and I knew I was done with this show for good, I came here. Because I needed to see and read people who felt like I did, who just saw that and felt that. God I love Autostraddle. I am so glad I could come here after all the horrible experiences of this year, and so worried for those who don’t have such a space. Thanks y’all. Fuck.

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