Moderator: Chief Couch Potato Kylie
Who: “Orange is the New Black” is available to Netflix subscribers exclusively, as it is Netflix produced original content.
What: “Orange is the New Black,” a comedy drama about a Manhattan woman whose past catches up to her and for which she must serve time in federal prison.
Taylor Schilling plays Piper Chapman, a seemingly run-of-the-mill woman and maker of homemade soaps. Unfortunately, Piper learns that she must serve a short sentence in federal prison after she is implicated in the bust of an international drug cartel, of which her former girlfriend, Alex Vause (Laura Prepon), was a member and who Piper aided and abetted. What’s more, Piper finds, at first, that she is wholly unequipped for prison. Though some, like unabashed, self-proclaimed “lesbian junkie” Nicky Nichols (Natasha Lyonne), are kind and helpful to her, others, like kitchen head Red (Kate Mulgrew) in the first season, show her no mercy, particularly after Piper accidentally criticizes the cooking. In addition, the guards, all men, are mostly drunk on their own power, the prison counselors play favorites and are easily offended, and the prison population is divided by race, unofficially but automatically, which offends Piper’s liberal sensibilities. If all that weren’t complicated enough, Piper’s ex Alex is sent to the same prison, and Piper’s emotions are deeply conflicted, as she reasons that only Alex could have pointed the finger to get her in trouble in the first place, while at the same, the old attractions between the two women remain undeniably present.
When: All 13 fourth season episodes became available for viewing on June 17, 2016.
Where: The show is set in New York, though flashbacks for each of the prisoners who comprise the cast of characters sometimes venture away from New York.
Why: Many panelists saw the teaser trailers for the series while watching other programming on Netflix and also on network TV. Listen to prior podcast episodes to discover how individual panelists found this show.
How – as in How’s It Going? (THOUGHTS…at present)
CPU! has been covering Orange is the New Black since its debut on Netflix’s ever growing streaming service. You can read about the first season here and listen to podcast episodes about Seasons Two and Three below:
Orange is the New Black, Season Two
Orange is the New Black, Season Three, Part One
Orange is the New Black, Season Three, Part Two
This particular panel of fellow Couch Potatoes and Orange enthusiasts experienced a bit of change, not unlike our beloved inmates themselves, as we sat down to talk all things season four of the wildly popular Netflix drama for this latest podcast episode, including moderator and Chief Couch Potato Kylie, Kristen, Krista, Nick, and Amanda, as well as new panelist Andrew. We engaged in heady and heavy discussion about some of the plot lines that we saw emerge in the dramatic and heartbreaking fourth season. What do you think? Do you agree? Do you disagree? What are your hopes, fears, expectations, speculations, or predictions for the resolution of some of the fourth season’s cliffhangers going into season five?
This particular CPU! episode was recorded in October 2016, and there are, without question, MAJOR SPOILERS, as the panelists cover key plot points of OITNB Season Four. Listen at your own risk, and let us know what you think by commenting below!
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Remember, new episodes and blog posts are published weekly! Our next episode will resume our American Horror Story retrospective series with a discussion about Season Four: Freak Show, just in time for Halloween! Stay tuned!
Questions, Predictions, and Future Considerations
1) Is Alex dead? Or, did she survive and how? Did Lori Petty’s character, Lolly, swoop in and save her, as Kristen predicts in the podcast (part one)?
ANSWER: Alex is alive. Even though this viewer recalls a shot being fired at the end of season three, Alex was able to fend off her attacker thanks to, as Kristen predicted, the help of Lolly, who cold-cocked the fake guard. Unfortunately, this move did not kill the guard outright. They hid an unconscious but alive fake guard under tarp and plastic in the gardening shed, but when Alex returned to check on the body during lights out and found the man breathing, she made the decision to suffocate him to death. What’s more, she enlisted Red and Freida, one of Red’s gardening compatriots, to hide the body, which they elected to do by chopping it up and burying the bits in the garden, when Lolly couldn’t get her story straight (or keep her mouth shut). Listen to the podcast for more details.
2) Will the guard who raped Pennsatuckey (Taryn Manning) do the same thing to Maritza now that Boo (Lea DeLaria) and Tuckey let him go? Where will Boo and Tuckey’s new odd couple partnership take them next?
ANSWER: It turns out that the guard who raped Tuckey didn’t realize that he raped her. He sincerely believed that she liked him as much as he liked her, and that he had the go-ahead to do the business, adding timely commentary to the systemic rape culture dialogue. Because his feelings for Tuckey were based in some kernel of sincerity, he showed no interest in Maritza, who had other concerns, such as smuggling drugs for Maria and the Dominicans via her role as new prison van driver. In the meantime, Tuckey found herself conflicted about forgiving the guard for his male idiocy, while Boo railed against her acquiescence, thinking that it was a mistake to give the guard any inch. This dialogue dominated Boo and Tuckey’s odd couple friendship, but they remained friends nevertheless.
3) How can Caputo (Nick Sandow) save the prison now with the influx of max prisoners seen at the end of the season? What kind of fallout will there be if the “old guards” walk out?
ANSWER: Caputo was forced to hire any guards available to fill the void of those who walked out, but the prison was overcrowded and, as a result, still understaffed. The fallout mounted all season, with panelist Kristen’s famous dominoes being set up and toppling over, culminating with a prison protest, a prison riot, a death, and the threat of one prisoner shooting one of the more sadistic guards. Listen to the podcast for details.
4) How will the landscape change with the influx of max prisoners? Will we be introduced to tons of additional new characters, or will they be background/backdrop for our already established characters? Will it be “old characters” versus “new characters?”
ANSWER: Most of the max influx served as backdrop, though we met a few new characters, including Abdullah, who had ongoing conflict with Black Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore); Piper’s new Hawaiian bunk mate; Red’s snoring upper bunk neighbor; and a number of new white supremacists. Sometimes, the new prisoners made friends. Mostly, there was ongoing tension between the two groups. Listen to the podcast for details.
5) Does the influx from max mean we will see Nicky again? How about Stella?
ANSWER: Nicky came back to Litchfield minimum after a period of good behavior and being clean from her heroin addiction for some weeks. Before she returned, Stella (Ruby Rose) tried hitting on her, but Nicky shut her down, being fully aware of her antics involving Piper and Alex and the theft of Piper’s commissary (Nicky was on maintenance detail, and word traveled).
6) What will happen between Suzanne’s (Uzo Aduba) new love interest and her? Will the new love interest calm her down?
ANSWER: After the prisoners broke through the fence and enjoyed a swim in the lake, Suzanne and her paramour tried to make a break for it, but Suzanne was disturbed by her admirer’s request to live independently in an imaginary fantasy kingdom of freedom; Suzanne seemed to think her friend was crazier than her and to balk at the idea of not being cared for by anyone, including the prison system. So, Suzanne returned to prison and left her new love in the woods. Her paramour was rebuffed. They tried to reconnect, especially because Suzanne felt the need for sexual contact, but her admirer used it as an excuse to get her hot and leave her hanging as revenge for dumping her in the woods behind the prison. At the end of the season, however, one of the more sadistic guards, “Humps,” threatened both women, instigating them to fight each other, seeding a riot that later flowed over into the cafeteria. Listen to the podcast for details.
7) How will the prison/corporation deal with the aftermath of the lake and the breakout of so many inmates?
ANSWER: The corporation, via Caputo, managed to keep the escape quiet, rounding up every last prisoner, and quickly patching the hole in the fence. It helped that the inmates had nowhere to go unless they were excellent swimmers.
8) Will Red and Healy (Michael Harney) become romantically involved? Do we want that?
ANSWER: No, Red and Healy did not become romantically involved, and it’s better that they didn’t. Healy’s issues with women reached a peak this season, as we discovered in flashback that Healy’s mother abandoned him after suffering profound mental illness, a similar affliction which seemed to affect Healy by season’s end. He tried to channel this pain and sadness into helping Lolly, who demonstrated similar traits of paranoia as those experienced by his mother, but when Lolly seemed too far gone, confessing to murdering the guard that threatened Alex even though she did not deal the fatal blow, Healy found he had no choice but to commit Lolly to the psych ward, not being able to figure out if she was telling the truth or not. His apparent failure with her and with others under his charge, in addition to his ongoing inability to relate to his Russian ex-wife, resulted in Healy voluntarily admitting himself into an institution in the season finale.
9) Will Pornstache’s mom return? Will she suspect that Aleida (Elizabeth Rodriguez) lied about the baby being dead and being a boy?
ANSWER: Pornstache’s mom stayed away. So far, she appears to believe Aleida’s tale, that her grandchild had died. Still, Daya’s (Dascha Polanco) daughter is lost to the foster care system, given Cesar’s arrest in the third season finale. Aleida was released from prison in the fourth season, paroled early for good behavior. She vowed to find her children and her grandchild for Daya but was momentarily derailed by the season ending events (listen to the podcast for details).
10) What happened to the baby?! Where is Bennett? Will he return? And not be on How to Get Away with Murder so much? How will Daya react once she finds out about their fates? What will Aleida do?
ANSWER: The baby is in the system. Bennett is getting away with murder and has not yet returned. Daya was distraught to learn of Cesar’s arrest but took heart when Aleida announced that she planned to fight for her daughter, until Aleida started to think of life after prison and consider ambitions for herself, including opening a nail salon. After Aleida was released, Daya was also wooed to the Dominican gang by Maria, who looked to shore up her numbers while also watching after a fellow Latina, against the wishes of Daya’s surrogate mom, Gloria (Selenis Levya). This alignment set up the end of the season in a big way (listen to the podcast for details).
11) How will the already overrun prison deal with the addition of Blair Brown’s fake Martha Stewart character? Will she be accepted? Will Poussey (Samira Wiley) invite her into the family that also now includes Soso, since P is her biggest fan?
ANSWER: Judy King, the fake Martha Stewart, was afforded all sorts of special treatment. She was given a private cell (a converted conference room), a begrudging Yoga Jones as her roommate, and all the amenities her charms could win her. She was also the local celebrity, and while some, like Red, were unimpressed, others, like Poussey, were star-struck. That is, until the prisoners learned of Judy’s one-time racist puppet show for kids, which aired on fictional Southern TV. Her star tarnished, particularly in P’s eyes, but was never lost. Ms. King also taught a cooking class at Healy’s insistence and invited Poussey to apply for a job with her company, upon P’s release, after P served as her classroom assistant. Sadly, we’ll never know what may come of that… Also, Judy agreed to be part of a scheme to pose as Black Cindy’s interracial lesbian celebrity May-December lover in exchange for the cut of selling a black market photograph, courtesy of a cell phone smuggled into prison via Abdullah’s hajib, to the tabloids.
12) Are Soso and Poussey a couple? Kristen and Nick think they are.
ANSWER: Kristen and Nick were right. They were awkward but adorable…
13) How will Morello’s (Yael Stone) new husband and his beating of the erstwhile Christopher affect Morello’s continued prison stay?
ANSWER: No one found out about the assault on Christopher. Morello continues to luck out in this regard. The only effect her new husband had was to give her an excuse to gush about her wedding all season, relishing her position as center of attention, but also to become jealous and quasi-stalker-y again when she asked her sister to check up on her husband, thinking that he was stepping out on her with another woman (her sister included), only to discover that he was merely being cagey about living with his mom.
14) Will the “Norma” religion endure? Will Red and Norma start season four on more equal footing?
ANSWER: The Norma religion lost its steam this season. The character of Norma barely appeared, in fact. Perhaps, she decided the religious life wasn’t for her after all.
15) If Stella stole Piper’s commissary, where will that leave Flaca (Jackie Cruz) and some of the more demanding entrepreneurs involved in the panty-sniffing business?
ANSWER: They quit. They all quit. Piper tried to stay in the game, but she was kind of an asshole to her workers, which drove them away, despite Piper’s best attempts to be a bad-ass gangsta’. Flaca and Maritza defected to Maria when she decided to start poaching the panty business (and then when she converted said business to drug running and sales).
16) How will Black Cindy’s new religion affect her relationship with the rest of her “family” unit?
ANSWER: Her family was largely fine until max transplant Abdullah arrived on the scene, a professed member of the Nation of Islam, which also drew Janae into some family conflict (as she was a member of the same religion). Mostly, it was bunk turf war, but religious observations were spicily made by Black Cindy, because she spicily comments about everything.
17) Will Piper be found out regarding her business? Will it affect her prison stay?
ANSWER: Piper managed to stay out of the warden’s limelight, but the business dried up when all of her panty-wearing volunteers quit because she was posing as a gang leader. This was especially cemented when she started a “neighborhood watch” type group within the prison, for the purpose of ratting on Maria and company to eliminate her competition, only to attract the attention of the white supremacists, who thought Piper was leading an anti-minority charge. This resulted in the Dominicans, led by Maria, to brand Piper with a swastika in a scene lifted straight from Oz, though Red came to her aid and turned the swastika brand into a window, to remind Piper of what she went through to CTFD, finally.
18) Are the OITNB producers planning to end the show at the end of Piper’s sentence? (That will be a question for awhile). How much are the producers now relying on Piper Kerman’s original book?
ANSWER: According to panelist Krista, the book is all but forgotten at this point. Piper hasn’t been released yet, so the remainder of this question is still a question.
1) Are we to assume that Suzanne’s flashback this season provided the back story related to the reason for her imprisonment: involuntary manslaughter of a child? Because her flashback episode was situated within the last three jam-packed episodes of the season, the panel assumed this to be the case but was not certain.
2) Where is the story in terms of Piper’s overall sentence, and how much longer does she have in prison?
3) Will we see Healy again? Panelists Kristen and Kylie predict that we will, since he seems to have voluntarily checked himself into an institution (rather than being involuntarily committed).
4) Will Laverne Cox/Sophia be in season five, given that Cox is part of a show that has been picked up by CBS for the new TV season? How will the prison or the show deal with the controversy of leaving Sophia in solitary for her “protection.”
5) Where will season five pick up given the end of the season? Will it pick up right from the moment at which season four ended, or will time of any significance pass?
6) Will Daya shoot Humps? Or, will another prisoner intervene? Or, if she does shoot him, will someone go to bat and take the fall for her? Will Humps survive this riot? If he does, will anyone find out about what he did to Maritza, Suzanne, and others?
7) Will Judy King make it out of prison? Will she grab the gun from Daya? Will she be a casualty of that final riot?
8) Will Litchfield continue to run after all of the chaos at the end of season four? Will the prisoners be split up? Or, is that a way the series might end?
9) How will Soso and Taystee (Danielle Brooks) deal with their particular grief about Poussey? Will they come to bond more? Will Soso remain a part of P’s “family?”
10) Will Sister get out of solitary, or will she be left there?
11) Will Red have a better story line next season?
12) Do we still care about Piper and Alex as a couple? Did Piper miss any of Alex’s written “confessions” that she hid around the prison in an effort to assuage her guilt?
13) How long will Nicky remain clean? Have she and Tuckey just become friends, given Tuckey’s willingness to nurse Nicky through a cold turkey withdrawal from heroin during the prison lock down?
14) Will we see the young, nice guard Bailey again? Will the old Litchfield guards return in light of all that has happened? And what exactly did Piscatello do to which Caputo hinted at the end of the season?
15) Will we see Lolly again now that she has been transferred to the psych ward?
Our Orange is the New Black panel, slightly changed thought it was, continued to provide mixed reactions about the fourth season of the Netflix comedy/drama, though overall, the reaction appeared to be more favorable toward season four than season three, given the strong but devastating conclusion of the season. The panel also started, ever so slightly, to warm up to Piper, believing that she is beginning to learn lessons that her real-life counterpart never had to learn because Piper Chapman makes less intelligent choices than Piper Kerman. All in all, consensus was reached by the panel that the story trajectory beginning from the point at which Litchfield received the influx from max, and from the aftermath of the escape to the lake beyond the fence, was successful and compelling, even though season four started slowly but gained steam through its roaring and heartbreaking finale. The new characters from max were meted out and introduced judiciously, there was not an overwhelming number of new faces and names to learn, and the tensions and conflicts that arose from pitting the two populations against each other were rooted in a calculated gamble that ultimately paid off. All of the panel plans to continue to watch the show and season five to find out what happens, particularly in the wake of the passing of Poussey and given the fact that Daya, another well liked character, was squaring off against the sadistic guard Humps, pointing his own weapon at him. At this time, the panel continues to acknowledge that the writing remains dynamic and top-notch, though, as a rule among most panel members, somewhat less “binge” watchable. The panel also continues to maintain high hopes and expectations that season five will continue the overarching quality of storytelling, though some members are mildly nervous – or more nervous than others – about the current trajectory; at least one panelist feels “shark jumping” potential, while others are concerned about what the show will feel like and how engaging it will be without a beloved character like Poussey.
Orange is the New Black was renewed for a fifth (as well as a sixth and a seventh) season, which is tentatively slated to premiere in June 2017. Until then!