"Kokomo" Orange Is The New Black S6 E3 "Look Out For Number One"

“Look Out For Number One” Orange Is the New Black: Orange Black or Bleak: S6 E3 (Netflix)

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This is the 68th entry into my deep-dive into the Netflix show Orange Is The New Black from the perspective of a formerly incarcerated person.

I am Sorry that this recap is a day late, unfortunately, I had to spend more than a few hours in the hospital yesterday (long story but I am fine). Oh, and Wednesday is my birthday (feel free to bring cake).

I hope you have been listening to my podcast Decarceration Nation. We are on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher and now Tune-In (which I think means you can ask Alexa to “Play Decarceration Nation.” You can also find the episodes at DecarcerationNation.com.

There are really two recaps, Kathy's recap and my recap (below Kathy's and follows my traditional "Five-Things" format from the other 67 recaps to date).

If you have not watched OITNB before *Spoiler Alert*

Kathy’s Take

Multiple things going on but no trip to Hershey.  

The sheer stupidity and brutality of the officers continue to amaze me, with little to no accountability and they are portrayed and really stupid and dumb.  All I know is that Freida has earned herself not a permanent stay in ad seg, as she requested, but an upgrade in her housing to Florida, the land of pink grapefruit colored uniforms, arts and crafts, board games and plenty of Haldol and Thorazine.  

Most important lesson? it’s all about saving yourself regardless of whom you once thought was a friend. This episode had more dark humor in it than the first two episodes and I know the pain of having my personal hygiene products stolen from me, especially my Pantene.

In the opening scene, we see the women at the Cleveland facility lined up to get their hair shaved in an effort to stop the infestation of hair lice and this is where we meet Linda. Wrong place at the wrong time. Linda, is screaming at the officers, threatening their jobs as the razor starts it cruel buzz and we watch tendrils of her hair fall on the floor while at the same time two of the keystone cops identify her by her photograph and quickly apologize (but not until after she has lost her hair, well at least she does not have to worry about lice at least not on her head).  

The next scene we see her meeting with Jack and as she adjusts her wig she starts threatening to go to the press, to sue and Jack is begging her to be reasonable and trying to buy her off with this lame fruit basket, which as Linda notes is not even top of the line as it does not contain the dragon fruit. This “mistake” gets her a promotion to Vice President where she now is overseeing the facility where the riot occurred. I guess getting a buzz cut by mistake is one of the easiest ways to work yourself up the corporate ladder.  

You have to love Nicky for her for her spunky attitude, but even she realizes she needs legal representation and who does she call but her long-estranged father.  He arrives for their first meeting with her new lawyer, a sharp experienced criminal defense attorney who knows her stuff. With her sharp wit, she manages to get her daggers in at her dad who is totally unapologetic about his past transgressions until Nicky realizes that just like her piano teacher and French tutor that her dad is fooling around with her attorney too.  “Pro-ing your bono” as she calls it. It is then that her lawyer informs her that she and Nicky’s father have two children together and that they are getting married. Nicky abruptly ends the counsel visit and yells for the officer to take her back to her housing unit. Only after Nicky is in her cage out in the rec yard and gets word that officer Psicatella was killed does she realize she needs not only her dad’s help but also her soon-to-be step-moms help and yells for the yard officer that she needs to "speak with her attorney."  At their subsequent meeting she becomes aware of exactly what the investigators have on her - 30 inmate statements of her breaking into the pharmacy and stealing medication, of course, she finds this incredulous that they were competent to give statements when they all should have been high. Her dad and her attorney impress upon her the need for her to tell what she knows...to save herself.

In the meantime the poor girls housed on D-Block or “Economic Segregation” (as they refer to it when seeing C-Block) continue to be taunted by their block leader “Daddy” and if that is not bad enough they are now delegated with cleaning C-Block, the unit of the Queens, the “honor” unit, the residents there get the “good jobs,” like wrapping of cheese for the prison industry while the lowly plebs of D-Block get called in to clean up after them under the supervision of Daddy who continues to hit on Daya telling her that bruised fruit is always the sweetest (ew).  Upon arriving on the unit they are greeted by Youtube fans of Flacca, however, that does not last long when one of the ladies dumps a packet of hot chocolate on a freshly mopped floor and the initiation starts. While cleaning the ladies spy the Pantene shampoo and are determined to get a bottle of it, they try asking Mendoza who is now a resident of C-Block but it’s a no-go, one day Mendoza will come to regret not being willing to help out her friends. While cleaning they come up with a scheme to get one of those much coveted “shower kits” they spy an unattended kit left behind by someone who is in the shower.  These bumbling clowns think they have hit paydirt and run a ruse to steal the kit until they are taking their showers with the stolen shower kit and realize that the shampoo has all been watered down with urine. Daya, the guards favorite punching bag complains and she gets a bully club to her calf, her body covered with so many bruises she is starting to look like an eggplant, in the usual fashion, they are not hitting her in any part of her body that is typically not covered by her uniform. As a way to make it up to Daya because she has feelings for her, Daddy brings her a “gift basket” with shampoo, toilet tissue, toothbrushes etc., and hidden in the cap of the shampoo she has included some pills for Mendoza to help with the pain from all the abuse she is getting from the officers.   When the ladies were moved to D-Block Daddy and her crew stole all their personal care products and did not even leave them with a toothbrush, so she is feeling a bit guilty. As a female I can tell you that these items, everyday things such as toothpaste, a toothbrush, dental floss, soap, shampoo, hair conditioner, and hairbrush are must-haves, they help make you feel human in a totally dehumanizing place, they help make you feel clean in such a dirty place.

Poor Red tells the investigator that officer Piscatella deserves to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law for what he did to them, at which point she rips off her white headcover to display the head scalping she received at his hands. It is during her interview she learns from the investigator that officer Piscatella, who tortured and brutalized is dead and they want to know who did it.  She denies all knowledge. Upon returning to her cell she frantically tries to skywrite to those in ad seg with her that Piscatela has died, found in in the pool and the investigators want to know who did it, well she fails in her attempt at charades, in fact she failed so spectacularly that even the officer’s watching are clueless, they think she is saying “Driving Miss Daisy” Red continues to verbally spar with her cellmate who has a running dialog of insults (Aunt Jemima, fur-fringed crystal ball, ‘serve you up like Easter supper’  ‘You don’t look out for number one, you end up stepping in number two’) yet the disagreeable cellmate is actually the only one who is able to successfully get the word out to the others during her yard time in the cage. As a result, word is now being spread like wildfire on the ad seg unit by the library clerk who has a book with a message in just for Piper. In the meantime Piper’s cellmate continues to get dished as the “child killer.”

Piper gets the message passed to her in a book which reads in code “Tall one killed in the pool” and immediately Piper assumes it means Alex, that’s it for Piper...life is no longer worth living. During her interview with the investigator and her lawyer, Piper still in shock and totally unfocused over the loss of Alex is shown the evidence against her namely a photograph of her during the riot with a cell phone taking photos of the book bonfire but claims to the investigator that all she was doing was collecting Cheetos. Too distraught to continue and provide any solid leads the investigator move on to others, namely Frieda Berlin.

Frieda Berlin in the meantime gives herself a makeover.  During her indoor rec hour she tries to brush off the persistent Red who keeps annoying her with concerns over Freida’s mental breakdown and the conspiracy theories (which is right up there with prison gossip in terms of frequency and accuracy)  Frieda grabs a bottle of bleach off the cleaning cart and shoves it down her pants, Red thinks that Frieda has plans to drink it in an attempt to commit suicide but Frieda has other plans. It should be noted that bleach has never been available on any cleaning cart that I know of in either prison or jail - it’s too toxic, has too many uses and has the highest potential of being used as a weapon, even in instances of fights there is supposed to be in on all units a “hazardous material” clean-up kit specifically for blood and every single time the bleach is missing, only time I saw bleach was in the kitchen and the bottle was carefully monitored but we still managed to get a small amount out to wash our clothes with.  But Freida is an old timer - she knows the ropes so well that on her way back to her cell from walking she spies a kite sitting in a drain in the unit floor and she fakes her gout pains in her legs and bends over in “pain” and scoops up the kite all the while keeping that bottle of bleach securely concealed in her pants, I really want to know how she managed to do that, it really is amazing. But like I said Frieda is old guard, she has these skills that none of us can ever master. At the suggestion of officer Copeland who escorted her back to her cell she asks for a pen and paper to start writing her gratitude (officer Copeland suggested this to her based on something she heard that experts recommend for those depressed to write down their gratitude list as a proven way to beat depression) but Frieda has a better idea to beat her depression that is to use paper and pen to decode the kite she picked up off the floor, once that is done she begins her “great makeover”.  Bleaching her red hair to grey, putting dark circles under her eyes transforming herself into a “granny” then she meets with the investigator. Feeble, hands shaking, mumbling, her memory not that good, the investigator keeps talking letting her know he knows about her secret bunker until Frieda decides to cut a deal, the contents of which we do not know, all she wants is to be kept in ad seg, that is the guarantee she gets for telling her version of the events. Back in her cell she is told to pack-up she is moving, but she is not supposed to move, that was not the deal she made and as all things in corrections she is not told where she is going. Using her walker to support herself she makes her way slowly down the halls looking confused and feeble shuffling past the various housing units, pausing at one she looks in and sees a familiar face, the death stares start and everything is frozen in time...Frieda locks eyes with her arch-enemy (Carol), shaking it off and at the officers urging she continues on her way with her walker until she arrives at paradise, the unit referred to as Florida.  Home of the pink uniforms, the board games, arts and crafts, probably weekly bingo, better known as the the mental health and geriatric unit. With the Beach Boys providing background music Frieda spots Suzanne who offers to share a pudding with her which she initially declines, she is escorted to her new cell and all the apprehension on her face disappears, she is in housing nirvana. She tosses aside the walker and gleefully joins Suzanne in the dayroom for that pudding. She’s on vacation in Florida and all initial indications are that she is where she wants to be.

Meanwhile in the law library there is major commerce going on in the last row of law books, Carol and Freida have a good thing going, a nice little enterprise setup, along with live plants, a sofa cushion fashioned into a futon, pictures of Carol’s beloved Burt Reynolds on the walls, stacks of Playgirl magazine, doing a brisk business of selling drugs through the law books, totally undetected by staff.  Then Carol’s co-defendant, her very own sister Barbie (with the “no ass”) and her crew pay a visit and things get a little hairy. Barbie claims that Freida and Carol are invading her turf, they are running their enterprise within Barbies territory. Carol blames Barbie for killing their sister Debbie and said all she did was lure her to the lake. Just like on the streets, all dealers have their own territory and do not invade it for there is a steep price to pay.   Barbie tries to taunt the not tightly wound Carol (sister’s they know how to push each other's buttons) and tells her how their mother is coming to visit her that day, how she visited last week and the week before, this totally enrages Carol - and Frieda and Barbies posse have to break up the fight. Later that day, Frieda and Carol return later to their cozy spot in the law library only to find it totally trashed, their stash box including money completely gone, all their Playgirl magazines gone, everything gone or trashed and Carol’s beloved pictures of Burt torn from the walls and laying in shreds on the floor.  Carol blames Barbie and swears to get revenge as Freida says “Shoot a deer in the gut you end up chasing it for days, get it in the heart and your eating venison for dinner.” Fast forward at the inter-unit kickball game in the yard, Barbies’ team is in the field and Carol’s team is taking their turns at the plate. Carol’s turn is coming up and she is looking for Freida, she asked the others where is Freida and is told that Freida was escorted off the field, maybe she needed to use the bathroom. Carol is up at the plate with her sharpened pen stuck in her bra strap, as the ball rolls slowly on the ground towards Carol she gets this crazed look her eyes, stops the ball with her foot (it was a lame roll to the plate)  breaks into this primeval scream and stabs the ball with her sharpened pen totally deflating it, meanwhile that scream is the order for her teammates to storm the field. Carol heads straight for Barbie, pushes her to the ground and brings the sharpened pen to Barbies check which she slashes, Barbie who knows Carol well tries to talk sense into her, Carol blames Barbie for stealing her stash, meanwhile Frieda is in the Warden’s office, not the bathroom cutting a deal with the Warden with all the stash blaming Carol for everything in exchange for being moved down the hill, bye, bye Frieda. The last word to Carol from the warden in parting is to watch her back, word travels down the hill.

The only major commerce that I saw on this level was when I was a grievance officer on Rikers Island in the women facility, there was two of us and each day or so we travelled the entire facility visiting the various housing units to see if there were any grievances, and it was at this time that my co-worker did her drug dealing.  She maintained a little book in which she kept track (in code) of what she sold and to whom and what they owed her, during our rounds she would sell and collect while at other times they would visit the grievance officer to pay. When the amount became high she would have them have their family members deposit the money owed directly to her commisary account.   I realized what was going on when a few times people came to the office to make a deal and she was not there and they would ask me about it. Never having done drugs nor knowing anything about dealing I was totally clueless and would tell them to come back. There were some who were not prompt in paying at which point the price owed would triple. It was so obvious what was going on, but the officer and the civilian running the office never did anything to stop this commerce, and rather than get sucked into it, I quit the grievance office.  

At this point, in order to save their own asses, the ladies are all naming Red as the mastermind, Red wanted Piscatella taken down to the pool so that they could torture him.  Red’s obsession with the guard knew no bounds,but according to the investigator there is more than one set of fingerprints found on the gun...so they are all turning on each other.  With Freida moved off of ad seg, Red is pounding on her door demanding to speak with the investigator again.

Meantime all the officers want to to get their breakroom back, guess we have moved off from “fantasy inmate” it’s everyone for themselves.  While Fig, the newly installed Warden gets a call from Linda who used to be in purchasing and is now in a newly installed Vice President who wants to meet with Fig for drinks.

Definitely a fun-filled amusement ride, similar to a haunted house, not sure what will happen when you turn the next corner……... hoping the writers will make this ride worth it.   But am disappointed we never made it to Hershey…..

5 Things About Season 6 Episode 3 “Look Out For Number One”

 Netflix

Netflix

This was a fun episode but, in the end, I feel it was mostly an attempt by the writers to distort the characters in order to fix long-running plot problems (and not always in very successful ways).

5. “But She’s Still A Menace To Society”

There were a lot of terrible, nonsensical, and impossible events during the riot but few made me angrier than the idea that Linda from purchasing could be mistaken for an inmate and shipped out.

I explained all the reasons why in the recap of the last episode of season five, but inmates have an ID, a number, and count is done by computer printouts. They would NEVER have moved her, even if you believe that she could have gotten misplaced for a few minutes until they were 1000% sure that knew who she was.

Impossible.

Kind of improbable that someone as shallow and in love with material goods would agree to keep what happened quiet - given, as she admitted herself - the media was in a feeding frenzy over the riot. Don’t get me wrong, one of the real problems with private prisons is that way too often the companies are shielded from FOIA, but the media would have been watching and hitting up every source for information with multiple officers killed and if a senior administrator were missing? I dunno, probable but not impossible. But still, why wouldn’t she just sue the hell out of MCC? I mean they didn’t just fail to protect her and lose her during a riot, they failed to catch their mistake and then shipped her to  FDC Cleveland. Huge Lawsuit.

4. “And That Is Human Perfection”

So, you know I generally love the show, but sometimes they twist the characters into pretzels to work their way out of the corners they write themselves into.

As I mentioned in the Episode 1 Recap, there is NO WAY Frieda would have “really” tried to kill herself. So I was thrilled to see that Frieda had only been using the suicide attempt as a way to protect herself...that is until I realized that it made even less sense that she had to commit “fake” suicide (or suicide without the intention of dying) only because many years ago she had betrayed one of the block bosses at Max.

Maybe I could look past this if we hadn’t had an extensive backstory on Frieda over the last two seasons. Frieda has always been extremely well prepared and extremely loyal to a code of ethics. She has been one of the MOST reliable members, and often the only member of Red’s crew capable of getting the hard things done. She even invited her friends into her private bunker to protect and defend them.

So I get it, the writer's room had decided they needed to have Red take the fall for Piscatella and to do that they needed to explain that betrayal was in Frieda’s character...but in doing so they disrupted and betrayed everything they had worked so hard to let us know about Frieda up until now.

This was a classic example of “character as a prop.”

Anyway, I have a hard time believing that Frieda would have betrayed Carol of anyone else she had committed to supporting. I would also have a hard time believing Frieda (who we know was a total badass even as a kid because he Dad trained her from birth to be a badass) would have worked for Carol in the first place.

I also do not believe that Frieda is so scared of Carol that she would sell out Red.

Burt Reynolds or no Burt Reynolds.

I guess I am glad that Frieda found her way to Florida (kind of worried about her borderline racist tone, another questionable direction for her character in my opinion), but at least they haven’t turned Frieda stupid or suicidal.

4. “Burt Reynolds Sucks Balls”

Wow, did the battle between Carol and Barbara start because of how the murder of their sister went down...or because they disagree about Burt Reynolds?

So, most of the stuff between Carol and Frieda happened in a back corner of a traditional prison law library. As Adam Wisnieski explained in The Crime Report earlier this week prisons barely have conventional law libraries anymore:

“One big reason is Florida’s prison system — and a majority of state prisons systems — have dumped print materials for computer kiosks with subscriptions to legal databases.”

This has happened because, as the article mentioned, the 1996 Supreme Court decision in Lewis v. Casey substantially narrowed their 1977 Bounds v. Smith decision. Lewis made it so DOC’s didn’t have to provide full law libraries.

Now, most prison libraries are moving, for cost reasons, to computer kiosks using regularly updated CD-ROM’s. So many reasons this is messed up, first and foremost the kiosks are time-limited. In other words, 100 inmates could work in prison law libraries at a time (not everyone needed the same law book at the same time) while now prisoners are limited by the number of kiosks and the duration of their call-outs (the pass that gives you permission to go to the law library and tells you how long you get to stay).

There are lots of reasons why it is important that inmates have access to legal materials, not least of which is most cannot afford actual lawyers and a lot of totally ridiculous things happen throughout the legal process and during each inmate's stay in prison.

The law library is the ONLY route a prisoner has to learn how to fight back whenever something terrible happens or happened to them.

Being a good jailhouse lawyer has also led many of my friends to careers as paralegals, lawyers (Tarra Simmons is a great example), and even as law professors (Shon Hopwood leads the way here).

3. “I Really Need To Talk To My Lawyer”

Okay, I am calling shenanigans here.

There is a scene where Nicky is in the yard and she calls out to a C.O demanding to talk to her lawyer. That is just not the way it works. Kathy has already explained why she wouldn’t be in a cage on the same yard as the other inmates if she was in segregation but if she agreed to go to rec they wouldn’t just let her go back to the unit, and certain;y not to use the phones on command.

If she was at a lower security prison she could use the phones in the yard (as long as one of the phones was available) but you can’t just call a C.O. and they come running to give you access to a lawyer. You could call your lawyer when you had phone time, and your lawyer would come and get you a call out...but, you can’t just snap your fingers at the C.O’s and get what you need.

2. “Economic Segregation”

There are different “bosses” all over prison but in no world would one block get all the good jobs and benefits (like a block television) while another block was made to do all the terrible jobs and get none of the benefits.

Prison administrations don’t want to foment violence between blocks (which is exactly what an idiotic policy like this would do) and they certainly don’t like to create legitimate grievances and lawsuits (you have to let your grievances work through the system until you get the right to take your case to court).

In fact, prisons are so careful about this they make everyone get on a list for the good jobs and even folks who were overqualified have to wait their turn. I, for instance, taught in higher education for two decades before my arrest and couldn’t get a job as a tutor because the number of people on the list in front of me was just too long for me to move up high enough.

Part of the reason is that if I had jumped the line other people waiting would get pissed (not least because good jobs pay more).

Anyway, different block bosses could certainly have beef, but no prison administration would let one block dominate the good jobs at the expense of the other block. There certain;y could be "honor blocks" but those would not be set up competively and NOTHING about Carol's block screams "honor block" to me.

1. Piper, Frieda, and Nicky?

I guess I could see prisoners turning on other prisoners to get a shorter sentence or to stop themselves from getting a longer bit. But something about two of Red’s oldest allies flipping on her super easy? I just don’t see it happening.

And is Piper a moron? Why in the world would Red be trying desperately to tell her Alex was dead? I totally get that if Piper misinterpreted the message she might be pissed at Red but why in the world would Piper misinterpret that message?

Why would Piper be desperately trying to tell all “her girls” through pantomime that Piper’s fiance was dead?

Piper can be a very frustrating character, but I have never thought of her as stupid before.

Look, I get that the writers really messed up and put themselves in a terrible position after Season Five...But eroding all of the core character traits of your characters seems like a particularly cheap way to try to get everything making sense again.

Okay, see you next week!

Unlocking The Gates

 Netflix

Netflix

New recaps will come out once a week (usually on Sunday mornings).

I am a member of a Criminal Justice Reform organization called Nation Outside (The Voice of the Formerly Incarcerated) but I am not speaking for Nation Outside in any official capacity.

If you are interested in criminal justice reform or are formerly incarcerated yourself, please consider joining the fight (if you are a Michigan resident - you can sign up by clicking on the hyperlink above).

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