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Orange Is the New Black, Ep 2.03: “Hugs Can Be Deceiving” expertly uses Suzanne to queen Vee

Orange Is the New Black, Ep 2.03: “Hugs Can Be Deceiving” expertly uses Suzanne to queen Vee


Orange Is the New Black, Season 2, Episode 3: “Hugs Can Be Deceiving”
Written by Lauren Morelli
Directed by Michael Trim
Released Friday, June 6 on Netflix Instant

In my last review I called Taystee a “girl,” and although much of the episode focused on her in the present as an adult, I didn’t even think to pause on that small, yet important age distinction. Calling her “woman,” truly, never even entered my mind. So, the question is… why not? I mean, isn’t she well over 18? Isn’t she doing hard time, baring her soul at AA meetings, and winning mock job fairs? What else does a lady need to do to get some respect? But apparently, I was not totally wrong with my oversight after all—that is, at least, if we listen to new, yet experienced inmate, Vee.

According to Vee, the black females we know and love in Litchfield are actually very different than the ones she was used to being around the last time she served. Those were women who conducted themselves in a certain self-respecting manner, and ran the entire show. The ones now, well, they have “bad attitudes,” and yes, are very much merely girls. It is an observation simultaneously dropped out of nowhere and yet revelatory in its perception (and not just for Suzanne).

With the more intimidating inmates Piper encountered in Chicago still fresh on our minds, it does look more and more like a major component of the season will be a transformation of the inmates as a whole. Because really, as time marches on, and the same people serve time together, how can everyone really stay bubbly and amicable? Soon enough, there will have to be real power plays and real pecking orders, and not just ones based on who is serving food in the kitchen, and random delusions of religious righteousness, however entertaining they may be.

Because, speaking of Pennsatucky, what is actually going on there? Is this a neutering of last season’s major physical conflict or the set-up for something more diabolical? If it wasn’t for the title of this episode, the scene between her and Piper would be a severe let-down. Her threat was never that threatening because of her stature and comical mannerisms, but this is a woman who very sincerely wanted to kill Piper, and is now simply offering her hugs, chocolate, and butterflies. It could be that the writers are willing to just pin her as more of a comic relief, or at least lower her down to minor annoyance, but the image from last year’s finale of her slicing open her own hand to rub blood on Piper will be a tough one to shake off, if that’s the case.

Perhaps, though, that’s not so impossible. Suzanne—this episode’s key figure—had a primary image of pissing on Piper’s floor, after all. That could have ended up defining her forever, but instead there is clearly so much else in store for her besides being a vengeful lunatic. It’s still part of her personality, no doubt, and even last season the writers found ways to integrate that into a character we came to adore (“Why does everybody call me Crazy Eyes?”)—but now we get truly impressive work, in writing and acting. What seemed like it could’ve been a one-off joke, with her parents being well-to-do white folks, loses all impressions of being a gimmick. To have her not just be raised by white parents, but by white parents who had a “miracle baby” of their own after adopting her, and yet again twist it by not having them be ignorant of her thereafter, but instead be pushing her to be excel too often, feels so real for Suzanne, and for her self-harming frustrations, that it hurts.

Not to mention the dramatic work it does putting her in a vulnerable position for Vee’s “friendship,” the nature of which was my favorite part of this packed episode. It’s incredible how fast Vee integrates herself into the cast and how naturally, in the span of just a few scenes. From her genuine-seeming apology to Taystee and rundown of her situation, to her silence in the room with Soso, we feel like she belongs. Even the cliché scene between her and Red—where the camera and music sets two people up to be enemies, then they slowly approach, then surprisingly hug—gets wonderfully turned on its head by its succeeding dialogue. They insult each other, but don’t have a hearty laugh afterwards. They talk frankly with each other, but also lie. They stand awkwardly, and look away.

What is going on here? Well, it is two women interacting, not two girls. Something we are, apparently, not used to seeing on this show, but something we are going to see more of very soon. Based on Piper’s hardened interactions with Soso, and sexually-charged discussion with a bored Nicky, maybe we will even see it in a couple of shocking places.