Orange Is the New Black, Season 2, Episode 10: “Little Mustachioed Shit”
Written by Sian Heder
Directed by Jennifer Getzinger
Released Friday, June 6 on Netflix Instant
How do you get what you want when the game is rigged? When the power is all out of your hands?
“System work you, you got to find a way to work the system,” says Vee offhandedly to her new, loyal cronies, and although it’s not like a big issue is made of it, they are certainly buying into that answer of hers hook, line, and sinker. They rule the prison these days getting extra waffles, cuts in line, and unrequested back massages, all because of their illegal contraband. To them, they have certainly “won.” But this is an absorbing episode, almost Game of Thrones-like in its exploration of the system from many angles, plus all the different ways one can buck it. And although it never quite lands on one route, it definitely points in a direction away from Vee’s, and toward one that is much less aggressive.
As would be necessary, Assistant Warden Figueroa is a big presence in this installment, to see things from the authority’s side. It’s remarkably subtle writing that we now must question how bad “the man” really is, per her revealing conversation with her husband; especially since… well… it still seems pretty bad. In all of Figueroa’s scenes, she is basically trying to quash things that people want, including the new, harmless newspaper. At the same time, though, we are made to see why her method and her notions of thinking big instead of small may absolutely warrant some merit.
In the episode’s key scene dealing with the system, Figueroa questions Daya “girl-to-girl” about her hook-up with Mendez, and gets out of her that she led him on. “Congratulations,” she says, “You’ve officially destroyed a man’s life.” In a way, as awful as Mendez is, isn’t it comforting to see that there is someone out there who cares about that—even if she can’t do anything about it in the moment, or maybe at all for Mendez himself? She may be a “pig in heels” holding bags of money, but she’s one with a conscience, however much that, and the whole situation, may make our heads hurt.
Not that a conscience is all you need to effect change, as no one showing up to Healy’s altruistic group without incentive, and as the cautionary tale of Poussey shows us. With Poussey especially we have one of the most moral characters on the show, constantly looking out for her best friend. Still, she has no idea how to go about saving her, except confronting her over and over, and finally exploding. In a repeat maneuver of her flashback story, Poussey drinks Chekhov’s hooch and rages into Vee, only to get a massive beat down back, by Suzanne. Tackling the system head-on will only leave you crying and bleeding on the shower floor, we learn.
This makes me think about the flashbacks, and what we are supposed to learn from them. What I first thought were scenes purposelessly pandering to Alex/Piper ship fans of the show, actually tell a completely parallel story to the prison. At first, Alex’s girlfriend Sylvia is like Poussey, all offense. This only drives Alex and Piper closer together. Then, she sends a “message” in the form of a flaming bag of excrement, which is purely emotional and juvenile. It also isn’t strong enough, since shockingly soon after, Piper and Alex are declaring their love for each other. After all, as Piper says, “rules are no fun,” and knowing you’re breaking them, and only having light consequences, may only spur you on further.
And so it’s only the truly smarter methods that make headway in this episode. Soso’s hunger strike, although not ingenious, does have a theory and conviction behind it, and does well, finally gaining an official member. “You are a true activist,” Yoga Jones tells the starving woman, sounding almost like a holy anointment. Ultimately, though, it is Sophia who has the softest, cleverest, and most victorious approach, by engaging in a totally different game with her son, who she is currently at the mercy of. By having him win at cards, they both do for what matters. As we move forward, this will be the biggest clue for a solution of lasting change, which we know from Nicky giving up her heroin, is thankfully, completely possible.