Three episodes into season three of OITNB, and it’s apparent that in terms of storytelling, we’re in for a slow burn. Whether it’s the prison’s end looming on the horizon like a slock at the ready, a funeral service for literature, conflict resolution through improv, things lost and gained in translation, or an addict’s promise, Empathy Is A Boner Killer is a reflective episode. Many of the same problems from seasons past haunt the characters — and for some it’s their undoing.
A Little Help From Your Friends
We see that Nicky is squirreling the stolen heroin away for herself, lying to Boo and Luschek. Maybe she’s not using yet, but her predilection to behave like a lying junkie hasn’t seemed to dissipate. “You use people and throw them away. That’s your thing.” Soso tells her (albeit she’s talking about the fact that they were “intimate” and now Nicky ignores her), and even though Nicky protests she’s there for her friends, supporting evidence may prove Soso’s assessment to be true. We see Nicky in a flashback trying to score smack and when she smashes a stolen taxicab with her “friends” in the passenger seats she takes money from her affluent mother under the pretense she’s going to use it to bail them out of jail. Instead she uses the money to get high and doesn’t seem to have any guilt about leaving her companions in lock up.
“A person only gets married once or twice in her life. So go big or go really big.” Marisol “Flaca” Gonzales
Flaca and Ramos dote over the newly engaged Daya, excitedly talking about the plans for the wedding. Ruiz puts a damper on the fantasy that they’ll all be friends when they get out, “We’re not a family, we’re a Band-Aid.” It seems like she’s speaking from firsthand experience, but Flaca says that she’s just being a “bitch” because she can’t see her baby anymore. However, given that Daya is looking forward to a future family with Bennett – one that looks like won’t happen — these may in fact be wise words for the pregnant inmate.
Speaking of marriages, Healy’s is on the rocks again. For the second goddamn time (the first time in Season two), he recruits Red to serve as a translator-but-really-marriage-counselor between the mail order Ukrainian bride and himself. It’s not like he’s actually supposed to be her counselor, but whatever. A circle jerk group therapy session ensues, after Katya claims she was catfished by her now husband who yells at her and drools a lot. Red berates her for not seeing, “This is what a good man looks like” and that “At least he’s fucking trying, which is a lot more than I can say for you.” At first, I was confused why Red wouldn’t take Katya ’s side given that she’s divorcing her own husband for not being up to snuff (and Healy’s having her translate against her will). But I suppose Healy looks like a good option next to her seemingly useless hubby? Healy used Red as a surrogate spouse in the last episode, and I guess it’s her turn to do the same with him?
Caputo keeps his staff in the dark about the prison’s impending closure (surprising given that the shitty warden did the same to him) and he calls the only person that can help him— former boss Natalie Figueroa. Her political connections can help him save the jobs of his employees, but she really doesn’t give a shit. Fig once confided that her politician husband is secretly gay, and Caputo threatens to expose her “lying, embezzling, fudge packer” of a husband to his voters if she doesn’t help (“That’s offensive” …“Yeah homophobia’s a bitch”). She’s forced in the quid pro quo, producing business plans and insider information for a corporation looking to acquire Litchfield. Their farewell is playful, “So long beer can” says Fig, “See ya fangs” retorts Caputo, heralding back to the oral sex Fig attempted to use a bargaining chip back in Season two.
Drama, Dicks, and Deliverance
“It’s a dick.” Mei Chang (aka worst improv partner ever)
Alex and Piper hate fuck each other’s brains out. Their “It’s Complicated” relationship status entails Alex accusing Piper as branding her as her “sex cow” with a hickey. Bertie Rogers is running a successful drama class (much to Healy’s chagrin) and Alex reluctantly joins. In an improvisation involving the return of bruised fruit, the literally bruised Alex receives a sorry-not-sorry apology from Piper for her responsibility in landing her back in prison, “I wanted you back. Because I missed you.” Ugh. This cathartic theatrical exercise rids Alex of her furious sex drive and the two are left to “hate snuggle.” Yeah…it’s totally not a thing.
There’s some more theatrical flare in the funeral service hosted by Poussey and Taystee for the burned books. “I’ve never been to a funeral for books before.” says the crestfallen Poussey as their fellow bookworms watch Taystee scatter ashes on a tree as a symbolic “ultimate book return.”
Returning to case of the missing drugs: Rice claims, “Deliverance fell from the sky” after being blessed by the increasingly prominent religious figure Norma, she credits her for the discovery of the hidden heroin. After realizing this, Nicky has to admit to Luschek she’d been hiding it. He confiscates it from the whacked out duo Rice and Taylor, “If you tell anyone about this I’ll fucking kill you… with murder.” Luschek’s abuse of power has never been seen to this extent. Before this he was an apathetic fuck with some pretty hilarious lines, but now he’s a thoroughly corrupt drug dealer. There’s also parallel to be made between him and Alex’ ex-boss who fancied himself a “heroin Robin Hood” seeing at Luschek wants to drugs out the prison so that none of the inmates can get hooked on the stuff, but doesn’t care if someone he doesn’t know (or care about) gets their hands on it.
“Never trust a fucking junkie.” Joel Luschek
Nicky and Luschek celebrate their successful sale, and Nicky instructs to have her share (larger now that she cut Boo out of the deal) is to be put into her commissary. Caputo gets wind of the meth heads tattling about the drugs (even though Officer Ford ignores them because he’s pissed he might lose his job). They search Electrical and Luschek stands smugly knowing that the drugs are out on the streets. But Nicky couldn’t help herself. “Like Gollum with the ring” she’s stashed one small baggy to the bottom of his desk.
Not surprisingly Luschek quickly says that it’s hers (which is true) and that he’s suspected her for a while (conveniently leaving himself out of the equation). They may have been business partners for the sale of illegal drugs, but he’s a Federal Corrections Officer and she’s an inmate: the power balance is uneven. She doesn’t attempt to rat him out in return, rather submitting to her fate at Maximum Security.
A lot of time was spent on the “bloodhound for oblivion” Nicky Nichol’s story this episode. Mainly centering on her relationship with her mother who in the flashback, sits across from her daughter facing 5-10 years stating exasperatingly, “I’m no match for you.” Her prison mother Red desperately asks her why she didn’t ask for help if she was struggling. Morello sobs as they take one of her dearest friends away.
“A least things can’t get any shittier” says Pennsatucky as she drives Nicky to Max. Nicky’s not so sure about that, remarking that she’s “resourceful” echoing her mother’s sentiment words for her addict daughter, “You have an unquenchable thirst to self destruct.”
“Some people never change” or so the saying goes. Whether it’s an addiction, a corrupt guard abusing their power, lesbian co-dependent relationship fraught with drama, a seemingly doomed marriage, a young woman consistently let down by family, or a man’s desperation to keep an institution afloat, it seems that Empathy Is A Boner Killer poses the question: Will things ever change?
Out In the Yard
What’s life like in Max?
“The SHU” (aka solitary confinement) is a punishment used for unruly prisoners, one that we were able to see. But Max remains a mystery; all we know is that life is worse there, but we’re never given a glimpse. Like Miss Claudette, is Nicky never to be heard of again now that she’s been sent down the hill?
“Prison is bullshit.” Bertie Rogers seems to actively trying to affect change. Caputo’s got his head up his ass about the whole camp might be closing thing. Healy’s too blinded by his own personal issues and the fact that he’s a dick. The guards are distracted by the prospect of unemployment. Rogers appears to be the only ray of light when it comes to staff helping the inmates in a profound way.
“You’re saying our mouths evolved to give blow jobs?” This episode gave us the gift of an ex-nun discussing evolutionary theory and oral sex. With a panel of Yoga Jones, Morello, Piper and herself, it honestly left me wanting more.