Orange is the New Black S01E03 – Recap ‘Lesbian Request Denied’
Nexflix show balances blue humor and sentimental drama brilliantly
****Spoilers Ahead-You’ve Been Warned-Don’t Cry****
The third installment of the magnificent new series by Jenji Kohan, Orange is the New Black, finds fresh inmate/protagonist, Piper Chapman, dealing with the fallout from the end of the previous episode. After sweetly sharing her headphones with Chapman during movie night, Crazy Eyes makes her move, and claims Chapman as her “new wife.” This just adds to the growing list of problems she must face in her new life as a prisoner.
But before I get to Chapman…
This episode focuses on Sophia’s story. She is a post-op transgender woman who use to be a fireman (She now runs the prison beauty parlor) and still is a husband and father. I dig the Lost-style story telling device where each episode shows some back story of a different character and the events that led them to Litchfield Federal Penitentiary or “The Litch.” This show isn’t quite as obedient to that structure as Lost was, mostly using flashbacks only when it serves the story in the prison. Sophia use to be a working-class family man, but begins to steal people’s credit card information in order to get money for vagina surgery (and to buy his ten year old son a pair of $300 LeBrons). An incredibly heartbreaking scene shows Sophia as a person who identifies with being a woman so much that she asks her wife to smuggle in estrogen pills that she can no longer obtain. Sophia’s a misunderstood freak in the outside world; [In here, she’s an important woman, an educated woman.]
“I live in the preset, not the past. Plus she used to have a dick, so she knows what it likes.” – Officer George ‘Pornstache’ Mendez
Not only has Sophia completely ruined her own life to become a woman, but also her family’s. She’s been blindly and horribly selfish. The series’ theme is redemption, and by the end of ‘Lesbian Request Denied,’ Sophia gets an offer from C.O. Mendez (the pornstachioed scumbag prison guard) to prostitute herself for the estrogen pills; she chooses to go the honorable route and refuses the offer. She accepts her fate living a life without estrogen (not an easy thing for a woman, I would imagine). Powerful acting from Laverne Brown (as Sophia), and Tanya Wright (as her wife, Crystal).
Chapman Issue #1: Life of the Outside
Chapman is trying to not get squeezed out of her lotion company by her pretentious and pregnant business partner; Chapman’s also trying to get just one little ounce of sympathy from her extra pretentious mother. It doesn’t go well.
The most important part of her old life, Larry (Jason Biggs), is trying to be a good fiance. He’s supportive and even goes to visit Chapman’s off-the-grid brother, ‘Creative Cal’ Chapman. This is where Jason Biggs learns that Chapman does indeed have a B-word for a mother, and he also learns about “edging.” So he goes home and tries it, natch.
Okay folks, it only took three episodes before we were treated to a Jason Biggs awkward fetish masturbation scene!
One of the show’s funniest scenes features Larry casually mentioning to Chapman what groceries he bought. He mistakes Chapman’s enthusiasm for the descriptions of forbidden food for sexual horniness; he whispers, “…some wet, juicy Buffalo mozzarella and some sweet, sweet-ass organic blueberries… And my cock is hard, and I’m rubbing it against your ass.” But she’s not really into prison phone sex standing next to “woman who’s weeping.”
Having said that, my least favorite aspect of this show so far has been the heterosexual relationship stuff. The scenes with Biggs’ Larry and Taylor Schilling’s Chapman, along with the flirtation between the hunky C.O. and the Hispanic inmate have felt like clunky, clichéd rom-com throwaway scenes. On the other hand, the lesbian relationships are smart, sexy, crazy, funny, sad, and complicated. There’s a word for that…. Oh yea! Interesting.
Chapman’s new love triangle
Chapman still has to deal with her ex, Alex Vause (played by the ultra sexy Luara Prepon). Alex won’t leave her alone, so Chapman tells Crazy Eyes about it. Goddamn, Crazy Eyes gets crazy possessive, throws her pie, and scares off Alex. Uzo Aduba’s performance as Crazy Eyes is so impressive that her creepy obsessiveness is equally hilarious as it is scary.
Later, Alex confronts Chapman telling her to take responsibility for her involvement with their crimes (Message!). Also, Alex admits that when Chapman dumped her, it broke her heart. Maybe Alex isn’t quite the villain that we initially took her for?
Chapman eventually lets down Crazy Eyes oh so gently, and Crazy Eyes accepts this news surprisingly well.
Chapman: I’m not your wife.
Crazy Eyes: I threw my pie for you.
Chapman’s new home away from home…
Chapman finally gets a permanent housing assignment in “the ghetto” with the black inmates, and her new roomie is Ms Claudette. The other inmates gossip about all the bad-ass, hardcore shit Ms Claudette has done. [She killed a person; she hasn’t had a visitor in over ten years because she refuses strip searches; nobody has EVER seen her go dookie.] They describe her like Billy Connolly’s character from Boondock Saints. Ms Claudette is crusty, Caribbean, and she strictly will not tolerate any messiness, untidiness, or tomfoolery in (and around) her living space.
Chapman settles in, goes to bed, and wakes up in the middle of the night to find Crazy Eyes watching her sleep. Oh, but it gets so much better. The two women make eye contact, and Crazy Eyes unleashes a torrent of urine all over Chapman/Ms Claudette’s sparkling clean floor.
Smash cut to orange.
Prison Beefs and Favors
1. The Weeds-style cliffhanger endings work for this show. In part, because it’s a one hour show versus a thirty minute show, Kohan and company are able to tell a much more complete story in an hour, and then add a tag that sets up the next episode while still tying into the show show we’ve just seen.
Mostly, this structure works because of the delivery system. Netflix and its awesome all-at-once method allows the viewer to instantaneously see what happens next. How will Chapman clean up all of that pee-pee? What will happen to her if Ms Claudette finds out (or the guards)? What’s the real deal with Ms Caludette, anyway? Is piss the worst thing Chapman can expect from Crazy Eyes in the future? The answers are just a few clicks away.
2. Chameleon character actor, Michael Harney, wonderfully portrays Officer Healy. As Healy, he looks just like Jerry Gergich, and he acts a lot like an oddly homophobic Col. Blake. “Lesbians are Dangerous.”
3. The theme song, “You’ve Got Time” by Regina Spektor is fucking catchy! I’ve heard it about 7 or 8 times and liked it better with every subsequent listen.
4. What’s gonna happen after Chapman serves her time? I can’t imagine this show taking place outside of The Litch (I also can’t imagine a world where this show doesn’t continue to be produced). This program is off to a fantastic start! What does everybody else think?