Orange Is the New Black season premiere recap: Back in Black -- Er, Orange

Things take an unfortunate turn for Piper in season 2's surprising, devastating opener
Ep. 01 | Aired Jun 6, 2014

JoJo Whilden/Netflix

This information is conveyed, naturally, by Alex herself, who's also on hand to testify against Kubra -- and who will evidently always be just a few steps ahead of Piper. There's a whiff of familiarity around Chapman's sudden encounter with her ex; she and Alex reconnect abruptly and randomly, just like they did in OITNB's pilot.

In fact, Piper's time in Chicago feels like a funhouse mirror version of her introduction to Litchfield in a lot of ways: Once again, she immediately antagonizes her scary new cellmates, not by insulting the food they made but by stepping on their beloved cigarette-running cockroach. Once again, she's caught off guard by an exchange with another inmate about bed-making. And once again, she's immediately and aggressively pursued by an unstable fellow prisoner, albeit one who seems a lot more dangerous than the Woman Formerly Known as Crazy Eyes: It's tough to imagine Suzanne ever biting off another woman's tongue and swallowing it. (The face lick made me want to write fanfiction about Biter and Huck from Scandal. That's a normal reaction, right?)

The difference, of course, is that the very air in Chicago seems tinged with malevolence; even the group of women who invite Piper to stay warm with them during rec time seem threatening. (And naturally, a fight breaks out not long after they extend the invitation.) Then again, Piper -- and viewers, by extension -- felt pretty similarly about Litchfield before we got acclimated to life there. Could it be that if Orange spent a little more time in Chicago, we'd eventually get to know and love these ladies (and men), just as we did in Litchfield last year?

It's an open question, and one we'll have to ponder later, because I haven't even gotten to Piper's testimony. Before the trial, Alex urges her ex to perjure herself, saying that it's the only way to protect against Kubra taking "sick, deep revenge" against them: "There is no justice, Piper," she explains. "So we will lie to protect ourselves. Or I will."

The idea makes Piper understandably uneasy, though the episode's flashback sequences show that throughout the course of her life, she's gradually grown more accustomed to lying: As a nerdy, rule-abiding child, Chapman once caught her father kissing another woman. When she told her mother what she'd seen, Mrs. Chapman responded by transferring her anger about the infidelity onto Piper herself. Over milkshakes, her beloved grandmother explained that strange reaction by reciting the main thrust of the WASP Code of Conduct: "Sometimes it's not a matter of right and wrong. It's about making a choice that will cause the least amount of pain to others -- keeping things to yourself, sitting on information and feelings, and living with your secrets."

So wait: If grown-up Piper sits on the information she knows about Kubra, does that mean she'll be inflicting the least amount of pain on others? Not exactly. Although she may save herself (and Alex) from the drug dealer's wrath, she'll also cause plenty of suffering by obstructing justice and preventing the feds from putting him away for good. Lying in court -- and thereby putting herself at risk for added time or resentencing on new charges -- also means hurting Larry... especially because his father, who's also acting as Piper's lawyer, is there to hear his client tell a judge that Alex was the love of her life. Lying about her acquaintance with Kubra is just icing on the cake.

Mr. Bloom is disgusted with Piper, telling his onetime future daughter-in-law in no uncertain terms that after this latest betrayal, he's done with her. Piper seems sad to see him go, but she also doesn't regret her decision; if prison's taught her anything, it's the importance of looking out for number one. And then Alex walks by Piper's holding cell... wearing street clothes. All the air is immediately sucked out of the room. "I had to tell the truth," the woman who landed Piper in prison tells her.

Wait, Alex is getting out early?! And Piper could have gotten the same deal, if only she'd listened to her own instincts instead of her WASP conditioning and her ex-girlfriend's bad advice? This... is... brilliant. Devious, and terrible, and shocking, and brilliant -- not to mention an elegant way to get Laura Prepon off the show, at least for a little while (more on that below).

We're left with the sight of Piper, totally shattered and disillusioned, until she spies a cockroach faithfully carrying a cigarette on its back. So even in the frequently bleak universe of Orange, miracles are possible every now and then. Maybe Piper can get over this latest setback by eating the roach smarter than the other roaches and absorbing its power.

And now a collection of miscellaneous thoughts, questions, observations, and quotes that I'm going to call The Commissary:

- Waaait a minute -- cigarette-running roaches are real?!

- A semi-spoiler: According to Buzzfeed, we can expect Laura Prepon to show up in three more episodes this season, and as a series regular in season 3. Which means we probably shouldn't count on Alex keeping her freedom.

- Hey, Piper's 33rd birthday is June 7! Figures she'd be a Gemini.

- When Piper was first hauled out of the SHU, I thought she might be taken to a maximum-security prison—and held out hope that it'd be the same place where Miss Claudette is currently incarcerated. Will we see Miss Claudette at all this season, do you think? It doesn't seem very likely, especially since the actress who plays her (Michelle Hurst) was in a serious car crash earlier this year. (She's on the road to recovery, thankfully.)

- This episode, like season one's "Lesbian Request Denied," was directed by Jodie Foster. Notice any formal similarities between them?

- Who else felt a little tingle when Uzo Aduba's name appeared in the opening credits?

- Today in Prison Ingenuity: The Pee Pad, "two maxis stacked, so they're like a Maxi-maxi." Never underestimate OITNB's ability to simultaneously fascinate and disgust you.

- Piper, when Hannibal-Masked Inmate requests a bit of the petroleum jelly Lolly stored in her ear (eww): "Even if I was willing to touch her ear glob, and even if I was able to reach across the aisle with no guard noticing, what makes you think that I could get up underneath that mask and touch your lips?" Hannibal-Masked Inmate's eloquent response: "F--- you, you dumb bitch!"

- Another great moment from Con-Air: "Well excuse me, Carmen Sandiego."

- I'm sure there's no way to bring Spongey back onto the show, but I want to know his whooooole story.

- Inmate Joyce's favorite cockroaches: Yoda, Gremlin, Fred Savage III.

- The line that may sum up Orange better than any other: "Hello, passengers. We want to thank you for flying with us today. We know you have a choice in your air travel… kidding! You have no choice at all, because you're prisoners. Relax and enjoy our in-flight entertainment, which is staring off into space."


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