New episodic recaps of Orange Is the New Black Season 3 post on Mondays and Thursdays. You can read all previous entries here.
Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning) was a standout throughout Seasons 1 and 2, but primarily because her crazy schemes and antics were so entertaining. Season 3, however, is much less about what she’s doing and much more so about how she feels and it’s turning the former violent leader of the meth heads into one of the most sensitive, endearing characters on the show.
We’ve seen peeks of the rough upbringing that put Tucky on the Litchfield track in previous episodes, but “A Tittin’ and a Hairin’” gives us a far more in-depth flashback. As one might expect, a childhood full of Mountain Dew and lectures from her mother about letting the boys just “do their business,” has turned Tucky into a young prostitute. However, it’s not as simple as swapping sexual favors for soda. One, she genuinely thinks that this is the right way to live her life and two, she’s still a warm, nice person, and it’s a tragic combination.
Even though Tucky is on a better personal path than ever in Season 3, old habits creep right back in courtesy of her budding, warped relationship with Coates. On the one hand, it makes sense for someone to buy gifts for a person they like, but paired with the episode 10 flashback material, it’s clear that free ice cream and donuts could create an extremely toxic situation for someone like Tucky. It is abundantly clear that Coates isn’t a good guy, but it’s also so easy to connect to Tucky and understand why she blames herself for what happened with him, making the rape scene extremely complex and downright haunting. Fortunately Season 3 has also taken the time to build the friendship between Tucky and Boo, and based on how episode 11 wraps up, that connection could prove to be one of the most powerful and satisfying relationships of the season.
On the other hand, Piper can’t seem to get me invested in a single one of her relationships. I’m still having fun with her dirty panty operation, but after what goes down in episode 11, “We Can Be Heroes,” I’m not quite sure the fun of seeing Piper build the business is worth destroying all of her integrity. Stella is the ultimate charmer and I could understand why Piper might be torn between her and Alex, but pairing that situation with Piper’s selfish and rather malicious business tactics makes it impossible to root for anyone but Alex. The show has conveyed that Piper is an especially impressionable person, so perhaps it makes sense for her to get so wrapped up in this scheme that she’s willing to cross the line and start a crime network, but it’s getting to the point where her recklessness and ruthlessness are making her too unlikable.
Meanwhile, Alex is also busy dealing with the Lolly situation. At the end of episode 9, she finds evidence that seemingly confirmed that Lolly was sent to kill her, but in a surprising twist, it turns out that Lolly is really convinced that the NSA is after her and that Alex is working for them. However, while Alex and Lolly’s fight turns out to be one big, weird misunderstanding, there’s a fight going down in another bathroom that’s far more serious. There’s been a good deal of tension building between Gloria and Sophia thanks to their kids’ behavior and in episode 10, they opt to take it out on each other. Even though Gloria starts the fight by antagonizing Sophia, Sophia is the one who pushes too hard, leaving Gloria with a nasty black eye and essentially turning the entire prison against her. Sophia’s always been in control more than most since the start of the show, so it should be interesting to see how she handles hitting rock bottom on so many levels. She’s worried about Benny, she’s losing her steady business and it’s all sparking some transphobia in the prison.
However, Caputo’s got his hands full with other predicaments. His flashback in episode 11 marks another particularly strong peek at a character’s past. Not only are those scenes engaging and moving all on their own, but they also make you feel for him more as he tries to navigate the MCC situation in the present day material. It’s always been clear that Caputo means well, but now we know that he means well to a fault. It’s tough to watch him give up his dream to take care of Lisa (Madison Micucci) and her baby only to have her leave him for Hank, but Lisa does make a very valid point – she never asked for his help. In the present, Caputo is in a very different situation. The guards are asking for his help, but he’s still got to ask himself, is he shooting himself in the foot by standing up for the underdog? By revealing how poorly things played out for him with the band and Lisa back in the day, episode 11 makes the stakes of this MCC predicament higher than ever.
Things are also getting especially tense for Daya as she gets closer and closer to having her child. Dascha Polanco is doing a fine job, but what makes her portions of these two episodes so memorable are the performances happening around her. First, we’ve got the return of Pornstache. After that scene in episode 10 between Pablo Schreiber and Mary Steenburgen, I’m wishing he was back in Litchfield so we could see more of him again. Schreiber strikes an absolutely fascinating balance between genuine passion and Pornstache’s delusions. He’s like a child who needs to get what he wants and he’s so volatile that it’s tough to predict how far he’ll go to make that happen, making it especially exciting to see how Delia reacts. Jessica Pimentel also continues to deliver big as Ruiz. Even though she doesn’t get all that much screen time, she’s carried the grief over being separated from her baby extremely well throughout the season and really let’s Daya have it over agreeing to give Delia her baby in episode 11.
Last up, let’s talk Suzanne. She’s got a lot going on right now. Her story is still making waves in the prison, and she’s even got the guards reading it. Trouble is, that means it eventually makes its way to Healy. When Suzanne reveals that she initially wrote it for Berdie’s drama class, Healy realizes that he’s finally got the upper hand and uses the material to have Berdie put on temporary leave for an investigation. I’m certainly curious to see how that situation shakes out, but the best thing that’s come out of this whole Admiral Rodcocker sensation are the layers it adds to Suzanne. Even though MCC doesn’t approve of her work, in a way, writing seems to have helped her mature.
We’re nearing the end and while I’m hoping Season 3 goes out with some sort of bang, I’ve completely forgotten about the lack of a central storyline or villain. There’s a lot going on right now, but the show can handle it, especially when it’s delivering episodes that have spot-on flashback and present day pairings. All shows need forward momentum, but a good deal of the fun of Orange is the Black also comes from falling in love with the characters and feeling like you’re trapped in the monotony of prison with them. It’s a delicate pairing that could easily sacrifice atmosphere for pacing or vice versa, but at the moment, Season 3 is striking the perfect balance and nailing both ends of the spectrum.
Episode 10 Rating: ★★★★ Very Good
Episode 11 Rating: ★★★★ Very Good
- “You know how rare it is I actually know the answer to any questions?” – Angie
- “I can’t help it if I have Pocahontas hair, and it’s not my fault you chose meth over teeth!” – Brook
- What a bittersweet situation for Angie. At least she got a soda and some chips out of it.
- Brook just doesn’t know when to stop talking, does she? Leanne was definitely hard on her in previous episodes, but it was a stupid move for Brook to walk out of her meeting with Berdie and declare that she’s better than everyone right in front of Leanne and the rest of Norma’s followers.
- “You can’t spend your whole life holding the door open for people and then being angry when they don’t thank you.” – Lisa