New episodic recaps of Orange Is the New Black Season 3 post on Mondays and Thursdays. You can read all previous entries here.
After the especially disjointed flashback/present day material pairings in episodes 6 and 7, it’s nice to see the show put the spotlight back on a main player. “Fear, and Other Smells” focuses on Alex’s situation with Kubra (Eyas Younis). She’s certain that he’s going to send someone after her, but the question is, who? Right now, suspect #1 is Lolly (Lori Petty), the inmate Piper befriended during her flight to Chicago in season 2 who happens to be a new inmate at Litchfield in season 3.
It’s one thing to say that Kubra will send someone after Alex just because he’s the head of a drug trafficking ring, but the situation becomes far more dynamic and tense when you get to see what he’s capable of and the flashback in “Fear, and Other Smells” delivers just that, and in a way you might not expect nonetheless. The flashback begins with her mother’s funeral. Her passing hits Alex especially hard, so she convinces another one of Kubra’s employees, Fahri (Sebastian LaCause), to let loose with her at a nightclub. Trouble is, while partying, Fahri screws up an important assignment and they assume Kubra will hold them responsible. Fahri and Alex attempt to hide, but sure enough, Kubra tracks them down. Eventually, Fahri gets a bullet to the head, but Kubra has a more civil conversation with Alex. Not only does Kubra warmly express his concern for Alex’s condition, but he also insists on sending her to a rehab center. For a moment it appears he’s really on her side and Alex has it made, but then he reminds her of what he’s capable of by adding a sinister, “I have lots of friends. Remember that.”
Now there’s no dismissing Alex’s concerns. Someone is definitely coming after her, but who and when? Episode 9, “Where My Dreidel At,” seems to give it away, but I’m also thinking this could be one big misunderstanding. While Lolly and Alex are on gardening duty, Lolly breaks a window and moments later, Alex notices that a rather large piece of glass is missing. Lolly must have taken it. On top of that, Alex also finds Lolly’s notebook with Alex’s entire daily routine written in it, seemingly confirming her suspicions that Lolly is spying on her so that she can kill her.
It may seem as though Lolly was caught red handed, but I don’t think the writers would make it that easy. Lolly’s likely been in prison for years, probably in max at some point, so perhaps she’s just watching her own back and feels like Alex could be a threat. Right now, I’ve got my eye on a less likely suspect, Stella (Ruby Rose). She’s busy wedging her way into Piper’s business and personal life. Maybe she’s got an agenda and is trying to separate Alex and Piper for a reason. But of course, that’s just a theory and I’m currently completely smitten with Stella so would much rather see her continue to show off that undeniable charm and be more of a romantic foil for Alex and Piper instead.
When Piper isn’t busy flirting with Stella, she’s trying to get her underwear business off the ground. Episode 9 kicks off with a fantastic operation dirty panty montage detailing how Piper acquires the product, gets it out of Litchfield and into Cal’s hands for sale. Later on, Cal comes for visitation to give Piper a status report on the first batch – they sold out overnight. It’s still tough to tell where the writers are going with this storyline and if it’s there to add new layers to Piper or to foster a conflict between her, Alex and Stella, but it’s an amusing, clever scenario that I’m happy to see more of no matter how it pans out.
While Piper makes moves to expand her business, Norma and her followers are doing what they can to ensure that Litchfield recognizes them as an official organization. I’ve grown a little tired of the magic Norma scenario, but episode 9 adds an interesting new angle to it via a flashback. This time around we get to see what happened to Leanne (Emma Myles), one of Litchfield’s resident meth heads. Turns out, she’s Amish. She dabbled in illicit dealings during Rumspringa, but ultimately decided to go back, embrace her family and the Amish ideals. Trouble is, she left a backpack full of drugs behind with her ID inside. She agrees to help the police expose the other Amish on Rumspringa who are mixed up with the drug cartel and while her compliance does keep her out of prison, her community shuns her for betraying her friends. In order to keep the Amish from punishing her parents for her actions, Leanne takes off and leaves them behind.
Leanne may be responsible for sparking loads of zany antics in Litchfield, but her flashback is surprisingly heartfelt and grounded, making her easy to understand and connect to now. You’ve just got to feel for someone who gives into temptation only to come to realize she’s gone too far. After the episode clearly establishes that Leanne is a good person and gives just a little bit of hope that things might wind up working out for her, she’s practically shut out of the home she loves and it’s absolutely heartbreaking, especially because we know what it does to her – compels Leanne to turn back to drugs.
The flashback material also works beautifully with everything going on in the present day regarding Norma. While I can certainly get behind the idea of a silent smile and a hug packing the power to make someone feel better, the whole “magic” Norma thing feels like it’s gone too far. Do the inmates really believe she’s got powers? Didn’t they learn anything from Pennsatucky’s religious antics? In Leanne’s case, however, the unwarranted dedication makes sense. Just like her days in the Amish community, she’s looking for someone to follow, a sense of order and something to believe in.
Meanwhile, Caputo continues to deal with the MCC issue, although this time around, the situation takes a bit of a left turn. After a good deal of manipulation and hollow promises, I was positive that Pearson genuinely considered order and profit top priorities, but he’s really only doing his father’s bidding. Pearson is bound to crack soon, and I look forward to seeing what happens when he does because his actions greatly effect Litchfield and every single person in it.
MCC’s involvement also opened up a very promising door for Tucky. She’s already gone through a lot in two and a half seasons, but this romance she’s got going on with Coates (James McMenamin), the donut shop employee-turned-prison guard, could hit her especially hard on an emotional level. Initially I got the impression that he genuinely likes her and, of all people, Tucky could be the one to live happily ever after with a guard – but then we get that duck pond scene. Perhaps Coates just has a weird sexual fetish, but that outburst felt pretty malicious. Tucky’s trudged through a good deal of traumatizing conflicts over the years, but she’s always done so with a degree of sass and confidence. Will she be able to do so with Coates if he breaks her heart, manipulates her or worse?
Uzo Aduba is also getting a good deal of fresh material to work with, letting her tap into some new territory with Suzanne. I never thought we’d see the day when Suzanne would have the upper hand at Litchfield, but everyone is just clamoring to read more of Admiral Rodcocker’s adventures. Suzanne has a habit of getting the short end of the stick so, simply put, it’s nice to see her shine for a change, especially because the work she’s doing is bringing the inmates together in a kooky yet oddly sincere way.
Orange is the New Black definitely hit a troubling snag with episodes 6 and 7, but “Fear, and Other Smells” and “Where My Dreidel At” certainly put things on the right track again. The fun, heart and sky-high entertainment value are back, and certain storylines are building, putting select scenarios in good position to suggest that Season 3 could have a somewhat cohesive and memorable big finish.
Episode 8 Rating: ★★★★ Very Good
Episode 9 Rating: ★★★★ Very Good
- We’ve got two killer montages this week! Not only does the panty sequence make for a fun start to episode 9, but then there’s the one with the inmates trying to convince the rent-a-Rabbi that they’re Jewish so that they can keep getting those kosher meals. Almost every single snippet earned a laughed, but Angie’s (Julie Lake) attempt to speak Hebrew had me cracking up big time.
- That’s quite the situation Sophia is in. I was sure Gloria would apologize for Benny’s behavior and that the show would leave it at that, but I certainly didn’t expect Michael to be the bad seed and for Sophia to fail to own up to it.
- “Who needs a knife? She’ll die from eating today’s lunch.” – Red
- It’s about time Daya stepped up and made a decision of her own for her baby’s future. Even though Delia gives the impression that that’s the end of their arrangement at the end of episode 9, I wouldn’t be surprised if Daya is still interested in having her adopt the baby. Related or not, Delia is that baby’s best shot and Daya knows it.