Orange Is the New Black Episode 512 Review: Half-Baked Proposal

Larry. “Tattoo You” reminds us Larry exists. And Larry’s ass. Yes there he is, and there it is, and OMFG he had the Kool-Aid Man tattooed onto his buttocks because of course he does. Yet in a way Larry’s White Kool-Aid Ass is the perfect metaphor for this episode. Like, we now interrupt this prison riot/social justice crusade with the most jarring thing you never expected.

Look, on any other show, I would be thrilled when one of the main female queer couplings moved their relationship to the next level on screen. Like, hallelujah, thank you for reflecting our real, everyday lives. (Yes, yes – insert your own U-Haul joke here.) And maybe in the first season I would be excited to see Piper propose to Alex, maybe. But here it sticks out like Larry’s White Kool-Aid Ass.

Because what season five should be about – the through line that should be engaging all of our emotional energy – is Taystee and the prisoners’ quest for justice and fair treatment in a corrupt corporate prison system. That’s it. It’s that simple.

And for a brief, shining moment we think they might have won. Negotiations have stalled at Litchfield between the two most unlikely negotiators, Caputo and Figueroa. Was anyone rooting to see these two together again? Yeah. But then the governor grants them everything to stop the PR nightmare unleashed by the publishing of Piscatella’s torture tape. Not because it’s the right thing to do, mind you, but because of optics. Whatever, victory is victory. Viva la revolución!

Yet Taystee sees it as hollow because they won’t give them is the one thing her heart needs the most: Bayley’s prosecution for Poussey’s death. Figueroa tells her to “trust the system.” Hahahaha. Oh, wait, she was being serious? Trust the same system that allows cop after cop to be acquitted and/or not even charged in the deaths of countless people of color across our country? M’kay, lady. Sure.

Speaking of people who don’t deserve to be taken seriously, Bayley pops up again this time to scare babies and ask Poussey’s father for forgiveness. Seriously, he can fuck right off forever. Don’t give me any of this tortured puppy dog with his tail between his legs bullshit. If the real-life officers who killed black men, women and children with impunity were so guilt-ridden by their actions, they wouldn’t put up such vigorous, successful and often racist defenses of themselves.

And while we’re on the topic of police brutality, Piscatella remains tied up by Red and The Olds. Amid the unnecessary wackiness and tonal deafness, season five has given us a few genuine glimpses of the dehumanization caused by a system intent of profiting off of systematic racism and human fallibility. And, even better, the grace it takes to overcome that. One is when Red instinctively offers a coughing Piscatella a drink, which he spits out violently. To which she says back to him: “In addition to not seeing yourself, you can’t see me. And we have so much in common.”

Another is when Nicky calls Vinnie to tell him to love Lorna like she deserves, even though she really loves her. There but for the grace of whatever you believe or don’t believe in go I.

Yet, oddly, the biggest emotional swing of this episode is one no one really asked for. Piper – who the show thankfully continues to move away from much to its own benefit – somehow manages to re-center herself in true Piper fashion. Our flashbacks are to both Piper and her fish-is-beauty tattoo and Alex and her love-is-pain tattoo. But these memories do little to move their relationship forward because we already knew all of this. They’re toxic, incompatible and hurt each other over and over – lather, rinse, repeat.

Still there Piper Elizabeth Chapman is, on one knee, with a can of baked beans asking Alex Pearl Vause to be her partner through love and pain and beauty fish forever. It’s the Larry’s White Kool-Aid Ass of plot-points amid a prison riot gone wrong, negotiations undermined by released hostages and a rapidly approaching SWAT team.

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Dorothy has written 14 articles for us.

14 Comments

  1. I did not like this season. It was so irregular, some parts of it were good but as a whole I will say it was the worst one yet.
    was it necessary for us to see Larry again?
    I Really don’t care about Piper and Alex or their wedding but if I had to guess I bet that’s going to be the series finale.
    But Poussey’s father telling Bayley off was the highlight of the season for me

  2. Larry… Larry… Larry…

    I’m sorry, is that a character I’m supposed to be familiar with? Honestly, Jason Biggs is a little too everyman for me. He blends into the walls very well.

  3. Larry! Ah – a flashback to when he was the worst thing about the show. Seems a long time ago!

    For the penultimate episode of the season, this is still lacking momentum for me. They can’t really go for the shock death angle again in the final episode but I’m struggling to see an upcoming twist. I’d hope they get back to slightly more normal prison based activity next season (and surely Piper’s sentence is up soon?!)

  4. As with many of the episodes this season, I felt this one *almost* got it at some points, but then just reverted to being a really shitty, tone deaf mess.

    The flashback sequences were evidence of this — there was a point in time when I cared about Piper and Alex to some extent (Season 1, maybe Season 2). I didn’t hate the idea of the tattoo-based flashbacks (I actually thought it was a pretty cool in terms of providing access to the backstories), but I don’t…give a shit about the Piper/Alex backstory anymore. If those sequences were thrown into an earlier season (back when Piper/Alex/Larry was a central conflict) I may have liked it, but in the context of this episode it was just wasted time.

    There are bigger, more relevant issues at hand. OITNB isn’t really a love story, nor do I think it’s supposed to be, so it’s disappointing that they seem to be turning it into one. I want more Poussey’s dad yelling at shitty white people and less “romance” and “comedic relief.”

    Also: I’m pretty sure no one asked to see Jason Biggs’s bare ass. Just saying.

  5. I do not like a lot of TV-shows, but when I do get very, very invested. And Orange Is the New Black used to be my absolute favourite of them all. When season 1 came out I bought it on DVD (the country I lived in didn’t have Netflix yet) and made myself watch no more than one episode a day in order to make it last as long as possible. It used to be a show about women; about the communities, friendships and relationships they create, and all the ways in which they are strong, flawed, vulnerable, beautiful, diverse, HUMAN. A show that educated and represented through a unique intertwining of comedy and drama.
    I mourn that show. It hurts to witness it fall apart and re-assemble itself in fragments of violence, misery, and meager (and often misguided) attempts at comedy and human emotion. I don’t understand why they decided to go in this direction, to make everything so brutal and horrifying. However, even though the damage is irreparable, I still find myself hoping they will somehow turn it around and return to the original spirit of the show. Because I KNOW they are capable of doing so – the first couple of seasons bear witness to this – and because I hunger for the representation and diversity OITNB has to offer. Like a mistreated dog that keeps coming back to its master, I am unwilling to give up Orange Is the New Black just yet – on the shadow of what it used to be. I hope next season it will somehow starts emanating some light again.

  6. “May you never have a day’s peace. Never”
    This was my favorite line this season, along with Daya’s “I don’t wanna hear your fucking story. Shut the fuck up.”

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