ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK Recap: “Bed Bugs and Beyond” & “Empathy is a Boner Killer”

     June 18, 2015


New episodic recaps of Orange Is the New Black Season 3 post on Mondays and Thursdays. You can read all previous entries here

Similar to the Orange Is the New Black Season 3 premiere, “Bed Bugs and Beyond” and “Empathy is a Boner Killer” feel like vignettes rather than pivotal pieces to a larger story, but there’s definitely more crossover between the characters’ behavior and the details of the smaller storylines, and it’s really starting to make Litchfield feel like a fully realized world again.

Episode 2 features my worst nightmare – bed bugs. Flaca (Maritza Ramos) is the first to notice them and, sure enough, they spread throughout the prison forcing Caputo (Nick Sandow) and the guards to take some serious action. Not only do the inmates have to strip down and don paper suits, but they’ve also got to part with their mattresses and the library books, too.


Image via JoJo Whilden/Netflix

Amidst all the bed bug chaos, Aleida sits down with Pornstache’s mother, Delia Powell (Mary Steenburgen). Delia makes an attempt at reasoning with Aleida, but Aleida’s got an agenda and she’s going to do whatever it takes to get her family what they need/what she wants. It’s an especially tense back-and-forth between two completely different women, but both have something well worth fighting for. Yes, Aleida is unnecessarily tough and her demands feel a bit selfish, but Delia’s financial support really could completely change things for Daya and her baby, and it’s interesting to see Aleida process that.

During the conversation between Daya, Bennett and Aleida in the kitchen, I got the impression that Aleida genuinely wanted her granddaughter to have those clean towels, a bed and a happy childhood, but it’s also hard to dismiss the fact that she’s been very manipulative before. Does she want to hand the baby over to Delia for the money or because she genuinely cares about what happens to her? Hopefully we don’t lose sight of Aleida’s position in this situation because it could be interesting to dig into, but it definitely looks like the show is steering the scenario in Bennett’s direction instead. His flashback feels a little shoehorned in, but it’s about time we got to see what life was like for him in the army. However, the material would have made a stronger impression had there been a clearer connection between what he experienced overseas and why he chose to propose to Daya and commit to raising their baby now. 


Image via JoJo Whilden for Netflix

Meanwhile, Piper continues to play cute and innocent with Alex, but when the guilt sets in, Piper comes clean and admits that she sold her out. As one might expect, Alex is absolutely furious and their relationship seems irreparable, but then in an unexpected and unearned twist, Alex reconnects with Piper via hate sex. Perhaps it’s a suitable coping mechanism for some, but after watching Alex mope around the prison completely torn up about losing her chance to start a new life for two episodes, it seems like a bit of a stretch that she would cave that fast. The drama class role play, however, is a bit more my speed. It balances the palpable hostility with humor and heart, making the scene wildly entertaining, but also ensuring that the moment really means something, too.

Episode 3 also features more great material with Healy (Michael Harney) and Red. In “Bed Bugs and Beyond,” Red tries to get Healy to remove her husband from her visitation list after she finds out that he lied to her about their restaurant. Healy’s a bit firm with her when he insists that it’s not going to happen, but it’s a noble argument that strengthens his values immensely. Then in “Empathy is a Boner Killer,” Red gets to return the favor, but in a completely different manner. Whereas Red was trying to push her husband away, Healy is trying to fight for his relationship until Red sets things straight. It’s a powerful parallel that adds to the unique bond between the two characters.


Image via JoJo Whilden for Netflix

Episode 3 also continues what Nicky started in episode 2. After a brilliant fake-out from Luschek (Matt Peters), the two agree to team up and sell the heroin. However, based on how Nicky handled her business with Boo and what she does to her poor friends during her flashback, it’s clear that she’s got absolutely no problem screwing people over for completely selfish reasons. 

Natasha Lyonne’s been a charmer as Nicky since day one, but “Empathy is a Boner Killer” marks some of her best work yet and shows off one heck of a dark side for the character. The show’s been teasing Nicky’s issues for quite some time now, but Season 3 is really letting her go and Lyonne is certainly rising to the occasion. She’s tapping into a disturbingly dark place but is still keeping just enough of the Nicky we’ve come to know and love intact to make her downward spiral especially potent.

However, drug problems and bed bugs might be the least of Caputo’s worries if Litchfield really does shut down. He gets the bad news in episode 2 and submits to the inevitable, but when his guards catch wind of the issue and start pressing him for information, he decides to make a desperate play to keep things running. He calls Fig (Alysia Reiner) and she surprises him with a business plan. Turns out, a prison corporation was interested in acquiring Litchfield a while back. Perhaps they’d reconsider now. However, even if the company does save the day, I’d be surprised if the writers brought Fig back just for a single episode. As she teases at the end of “Empathy is a Boner Killer,” I’d like to bet there’s a lot of questionable tactics she could teach Caputo to ensure Litchfield stays firmly afloat.


Image via JoJo Whilden for Netflix

Overall, I do feel the absence of a big bad and some sort of overarching, full-season narrative, but I still find myself worrying about the fade to orange kicking in, so I can’t judge the format too harshly. Orange is the New Black will need to pull things together eventually if the season as a whole is going to have definition and make a lasting impression, but for now, I am very content and having a blast with each individual episode.

Episode 2 Rating: ★★★★ Very Good

Episode 3 Rating: ★★★★ Very Good

Honorary Shots:

  • “I have a travel iron.” – Bennett
  • “I will potato her at a future time.” – Suzanne
  • “How come all the guards get to wear real clothes?” – Angie “We’re exempt.” – Luschek “Do the bed bugs know that?” – Brook
  • “The trick is to imagine the bugs being bugged by you!” – Suzanne
  • Adrienne C. Moore is killing it! Hopefully Cindy will get a bit more to do so I don’t spend the entire season writing about Moore’s impeccable comedic timing alone.
  • “You know, that’s why you women ended up in prison, because you suck at crime.” – Luschek
  • There’s no way to quote Healy in text and get the same effect, but it kills me when he tries to imitate Rogers during drama club.
  • I miss the days of Taystee and Poussey being an unstoppable duo.
  • “I sold you bad fruit so you would come back into my store, and I know it was wrong and I’m sorry, but I’m also not sorry because it is so good to see you … customer.” – Piper