Of the many themes that run central to the storylines of Orange is the New Black, family is by far the strongest and most consistent. The inmates have fierce amounts of love and loyalty for both their chosen families in Litchfield and those waiting for them outside the prison’s walls. These bonds drive every decision made in their daily lives, and this episode clearly portrays the struggles that arise when conflict is present within a family and any resolution comes at a cost. Fortunately it was a relatively chill episode to watch and review; unfortunately that’s because episode ten was so disgustingly filled with gratuitous torture there’s no way this episode could’ve been anything other than chill.
With that said, the first family at bat is Red & Co. After successfully escaping Piscatella’s terrifying, unneccessary, completely NOT OKAY (have we made our point yet?) torture rampage, tying him up and dumping him in the pool, the group is at odds about what to do next. Red is seeing red and wants to FUCK (clap) HIM (clap) UP (double clap). Destroy him inch by inch to get her due revenge. She refuses to hear the others’ calls for taking the high road and turning him over unharmed so they sneak attack her and tie her to a chair to prevent her harming herself or Piscatella, and naturally Red is livid. They all get scared and start blaming each other for where they’ve ended up, and a full on screaming match about what to do next ensues. It only ends when Gina comes forward with a video she secretly filmed of Piscatella torturing Red and Alex. I wondered why she didn’t get the others to immediately intervene once she saw what was happening and this was why. She knew they’d need proof to be believed and had to make the terrible sacrifice of letting her family’s torture continue a little longer, and watch it happen, to ensure their safety in the future. Jenji, are you okay?
Taystee is still working diligently to be taken seriously and get the prisoner’s demands met. She’s kept Caputo and Figueroa up for hours in her quest and is disappointed and annoyed with Cindy when she comes to ask Taystee for help with Suzanne. Suzanne is struggling because she’s off meds as Lorna refused to give her any after taking over the pharmacy and deciding that prisoners with mental health diagnoses don’t need medication anymore because their differences are special and unique, and should be accepted not shunned. That’s cute, and advocacy for de-stigmatization around Mental Health IS important, but also wildly inappropriate as Suzanne’s medication is a necessity and she is a danger to herself and others without it.
Taystee isn’t willing to drop everything to help with Suzanne and tells Cindy to figure it out herself because she’s fighting a bigger battle and controlling Suzanne isn’t her job, so Cindy goes to the pharmacy to get meds. She grabs what turns out to be lithium, and heads to Suzanne’s bunk to find her in the middle of an episode. She’s tearing the ceiling tiles down trying to claw her way to heaven because all the death around her has been too much to handle, crying out that she is “good” and just wants to be in a better place. Uzo Aduba’s portrayal of Suzanne’s inner battle with her mental health is breathtakingly poignant as usual, and some of the best acting of the season. Cindy coaxes Suzanne off her bunk with a mixture of shock and sorrow in her eyes, gives Suzanne the lithium — despite Alison contesting the idea of giving her a random drug she knows little about — and sings her to sleep hoping she’s done the right thing.
Back in the pharmacy, Lorna faces her fears and takes a pregnancy test, knowing that if it’s negative she will have to accept all the things she’s been told about herself and her patterns of dishonesty/delusions. Surprise, surprise, its positive! She’s gonna be a motha! Meanwhile, Boo and Linda are having a makeshift spa date in the showers by running them all and turning it into a steam room. Boo grabs a stack of towels, causing Linda’s phone that was hidden beneath them to fall out. She picks it up, unlocks the phone and sees a photo of Linda beaming next to Caputo who is kissing her cheek. Boo is clearly shocked and betrayed, she really has feelings for Linda which is unusual for her so this is a painful revelation, but she doesn’t want to let on that she knows yet so directs Linda’s attention elsewhere.
In Spanish Harlem, Gloria gets to work on her secret plan to release the hostages in return for a deal that will allow her to see her son, Benny, in the hospital following his surgery. She plays a hard-ass and starts locking the guards in the poo for seemingly minor infractions so the other inmates don’t get suspicious. Maria Ruiz, however, is already suspicious and overhears Gloria talking to her son on the phone and saying she has a plan to see him soon. She approaches Gloria, seemingly as as a friend to ask if she’s okay, and Gloria confides in her about the deal and her plan to release the guards in order to see her son. Through tears Gloria seeks affirmation from Maria that she’s not a terrible person. She’s feeling guilty for putting her desire to be there for her son over the potential for the betterment of all the prisoner’s lives, people she loves and cares for. Doing this will derail the entire negotiation process, but she is a mother first and in a rare moment of vulnerability for her, she seeks that validation from another mother. Maria tells Gloria that she’s not terrible, she’s brave. She owes nothing to anyone and shouldn’t feel ashamed because any other mother in the prison would do the same.This exchange is another of the strongest moments of the episode.
Later on, Gloria, Ouija, and Pidge head out to check on the guards in the poo and when they get there, all the doors have been cut open and the guards are gone. Gloria, bewildered, immediately starts screaming “no, no, no” and looks around trying to understand what’s happened. At that moment we see the last guard of the group escape through a hole in the fence. Someone else, likely Maria Ruiz, carried out her plan exactly before she could. A grim reminder that in their world, even after all these years, they can trust no one. Gloria sees her hopes of seeing her son vanish and starts to run toward the opening in the fence but Ouija chases her and pins her down before she’s able to escape. At this point Gloria is clawing at the ground, dragging clumps of grass and dirt between her fingers and she cries out about her son. It’s an image i’m not likely to forget anytime soon. Ouija then chews Gloria out for selfishly thinking she’s the only one with a kid they’d like to see and hauls Gloria, still screaming, away with Pidge’s help.