Orange Is the New Black recap: Woman on Top

Who is Litchfield's real HBIC? Gloria thinks she's it; this episode proves otherwise
Ep. 05 | Aired Jun 6, 2014

K.C. Bailey/Netflix

Are the Latina ladies of Litchfield getting a short shrift this season? Aside from that whole "Daya can't crap" plot and the brief peek into the kitchen we got at the top of episode two, they haven't had much of a presence as a group onscreen thus far. That changes in episode five, which reveals Gloria's sad backstory—and digs deeper into the war that's brewing between her girls and Vee's adopted posse.

As it turns out, Red and Gloria have more in common than just their successive command of the kitchen. Both worked in convenience stores before getting locked up; both engaged in shady behind-the-counter dealings. (Red's, you'll recall, had something to do with organized crime; Gloria was involved in a food-stamp scam.) And maybe most importantly, both women were also victims before they got to Litchfield.

Red found herself at the mob's mercy, all because of an accidentally burst breast implant. Gloria, on the other hand, faced an abusive boyfriend named Arturo. As flashbacks go, Mendoza's aren't exactly Orange's most compelling; it's tough to dramatize something like domestic violence without veering into Lifetime Movie territory, although Gloria's backstory scenes never get too melodramatic. At least, not until the very last one, which seems beamed in from a telenovela—and I mean that in the best way possible.

After Gloria is arrested for fraud, scumbag Arturo sneaks back into her bodega to steal her wad of stolen cash. (Like Sophia's, Gloria's theft falls under the "vaguely justifiable" category; she's been trying to save up so that she and her kids can get away from Arturo.) He takes the money and goes into the bodega's back room, a makeshift shrine to an army of Catholic saints. One of its candles gets knocked over, instantly starting a mighty blaze, one that Arturo is helpless to escape, thanks to the self-locking door he just personally installed. How's that for poetic justice?

Present-day Gloria is older and wiser, but maybe not quite as prison-savvy as she thinks. In any case, she's nowhere near the level of Vee, who's got a complicated plan for total prison domination—one that begins its second phase today.

Vee's opportunity to seize greater power comes via the most unlikely of sources: a literal sh-- storm in Spanish Harlem's bathroom. Crooked Fig, naturally, can't be bothered to spend the 80 grand required to stop the sewage leak; instead, she simply declares that whoever's unfortunate enough to be assigned to this bathroom will just have to take 30-second showers. This definitely falls under the category of cruel and unusual punishment.

The crappy showers spur a feud between Vee's crew and Gloria's. First, the Latina women barge into bathroom used by the black tribe, reasoning that if they can't cut the black women in line, they won't be able to make breakfast for everyone. The black women, spurred by Vee at her most Lady Macbeth, retaliate by stealing their rivals' shoes. And so on, and so forth; it's sort of like the camp prank war in The Parent Trap, but with a much more potentially dangerous edge. At one point, Janae trips Daya in the cafeteria, and Bennett gets so unbelievably angry that for a moment, it looks like he might pull a Healy and send her to the SHU. (If every other inmate doesn't already know that they're a couple, this could be the moment that blows their cover for good.)

As the group's leader, it's up to Gloria to parlay with Vee, and she decides to take an aggressive route, slamming the drug lord against a wall and threatening that if any of her followers put a finger on one of the Latinas, "There's going to be more than salt in your food next time." Wait, could there possibly be something worse than a tampon sandwich, or piss-flavored gravy?

NEXT: Red in retirement?


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