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.