“Me As Well” Orange Is the New Black: Orange Black or Bleak: S7 E7 (Netflix)

Orange, Black, or Bleak S7 E7: “Me As Well”

OITNB Final Season Hero 1.jpg

Several years ago, I decided to do a deep-dive into the Netflix show Orange Is The New Black to help explain things that folks watching the show who don’t have a background including incarceration might not catch. Seven seasons later, I am still rolling.

I am not a woman, which is a huge weakness of the coverage. I do consult with friends who did time in women’s facilities and try to ensure accuracy.

I did time in a state and not a federal facility, another huge weakness.  I try to consult with friends who did time in federal facilities and try to ensure accuracy.

If you haven’t been listening to the Decarceration Nation Podcast our most recent guest was John M. Eason, author of the book “Big House On The Prairie.”

Also, apologies, I missed something obvious last week, sorry for the sloppiness.

If you have not watched OITNB before *Spoiler Alert*

5. “That’s Why They Call The Bug Spray ‘Raid’”

Okay, Poly Con shut down the psych ward so some people were moved to psychiatric facilities while others, like Lolly Whitehill, were moved to Florida. Lolly is Frieda’s new bunky. And in classic Frieda fashion, she defuses Lolly by sending her on an impossible mission. 

Lolly was always one of the most sympathetic characters and another person demonstrating the absolute failure of incarceration as a stand-in for real psychiatric treatment.

4. “Chickens For The New Therapy Program”

Officer Hellman balks when Alvarez suggests using more respectful language about the women incarcerated at Litchfield but this isn’t just a question of so-called ‘political correctness.” We first learn the people we meet through language before we know anything about people we learn them through names or descriptive labels. If the first thing you know or hear about someone is a loaded and all-encompassing term, you will likely interpret everything else you learn about them through that same lens. 

Research has also shown that when we use “scary” words to describe people it triggers our lizard brains (the primordial parts of our brains governing many emotional responses) and also allows us to depersonalize and dehumanize people. This is why using what is called “person-first” language can make such a difference, it keeps people meeting people through humanization first. 

Another level of this discussion was represented in Bryan Stevenson’s now-famous suggestion that we people are more than the worst thing they have ever done. As someone who has done something wrong and done time, I can tell you from experience that I now am constantly aware of my capacity for doing evil deeds but I am also very much more than those evil deeds that I have done. If you only know me as “criminal” you don’t ever or are unlikely to want to learn anything more. Language can close the door and shut-out anything except the most superficial relationships. 

A personal passion of mine has been confronting the term “felon” and I crowd-sourced an article explaining all of the many reasons people think using that word to describe incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people.

Anyway, thanks for indulging me on the issue of language. I guess I am saying Hellman is not exactly my favorite character.

3. “Harry Bosch Books”

Try as I might, I just cannot get into the show Bosch (Amazon Prime Video) and I have never read the books. But, most everyone in prison reads whatever they can find. When I was in quarantine I read some god-awful books because those were the only books I had access too and I was locked in a room by myself for up to twenty-three hours a day. 

I remember there being one correctional officer that would distribute books from cell to cell on the sly. Supposedly, she had a bunch of books in a locker and would just rotate them around until people turned them back into her. 

These are the little moments of kindness I remember, there were not many of them.

At that same facility, I remember officers on the yard calling out the crimes of people whose crimes they thought were egregious, laying their history out before the entire yard. 

Anyway, somehow Suzanne recorded all of her memories from the last night of the riot in a notebook and Warden Ward ends up using it to convince Taystee that she should have some hope that a new trial might become possible as the result of what Suzanne wrote down.

I mean I am not sure why anyone would believe Suzanne would be a credible court witness not easily impeached by a prosecutor on cross-examination during a new trial...but I guess I want Taystee to end up back in the world, so I will just pretend this makes sense.

2. “You’re Habits are Becoming Disruptive”

Somehow Alex’s missive for Piper to work out her stress with someone new has worked its way into a masturbation addiction. Such an addiction that after a failed attempt to hook up with a guy in a gym she finishes herself off with his electric toothbrush before leaving his place.

Meanwhile, Alex is on the brink of hooking up with Officer McCullough.

Frankly, this all just seems forced and unlikely to me.

Speaking of unlikely things, before Warden Ward convinced Taystee to believe in life again, Daya sent her on a mission to recover a cell phone of hers that was confiscated after the police found their stash in the law library (I think I mentioned several times how ridiculous the hiding space in the library was). 

For this to happen, Taystee manufactures an excuse to discover where Ward hides the key in question, leaves an outdoor activity and walks alone back to the warden's office, lets herself in, and freely searches the office until she finds the correct key.

None of this could ever happen.

You can’t even walk the halls in a max facility on your own, I have never even seen a low-level facility without controlled movement (although I have been assured that at Federal Camps this happens there is no way it would happen at a max facility).

The idea that ANY person in prison would have seemingly unlimited access to the files of other people in prison is crazy enough on its own, but to be able to just walk in and out of the warden's office with impunity. That is just insanity.

You may wonder why I harp on these things but part of the point of this show is to let people know what prison is like, and to identify with prisoners plight, after this episode you would not have a very good idea of what these facilities are like or what people’s experience in prison is like.

1. “The Best Thing You Can Do As A Straight White Man Is STFU”

Caputo’s impression of himself is so delusional. 

Why in the world would he not realize immediately that many of the things, for instance, Luscheck is saying about him is TRUE (one of the very first episodes in the entire series features Caputo masturbating in his office after a routine appointment with Piper)?

I have exhaustively detailed all of the many troubling things Caputo has done over his time on the show. It is certainly true that he has also done many nice things, but he sold the women’s safety out multiple times so that he could move forward at Poly Con (or so he could hook up with Fig).

It was hard for me to even see how Caputo could walk back into the facility after what happened at the riot, much less be in charge of a restorative justice class (where being a good mediator requires being a neutral figure) but something like he pulled showing up at Officer Fisher’s house? You know this is insanity when Caputo goes to Healy for advice about how to handle the situation (if Healy was your counselor, it would be time to rethink your entire life).

Anyway, if Caputo walks back in to teach a restorative justice class and is allowed into a women’s prison in the middle of a #MeToo scandal involving his work in that same prison...I am just going to laugh because it is just not worth crying. I guess I will just write it up to the show being a “comedy” but why do the writers have to do things the hardest and most unlikely way possible.

Also, Fig has really turned out to be a pretty reliable place to get good advice.

Three last things:

  1. The context of Doggett’s dad was heartbreaking and adds a lot to the understanding of her character. I might criticize the writers a lot, but sometimes they do some nice writing.

  2. It is frustrating seeing Red reduced to sitting alone in a freezer lost. Red was one of the true forces of nature on this show. It is going to be hard to see her story arc finish out like this.

  3. Glad Blanca is getting some legal help, hope something good happens for at least one of the people going through ICE hell (even in a fictionalized example).

Okay, not a super consequential episode,  hope everyone had a great week!

Unlocking The Gates

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

Lots has happened since last season, I am now a policy analyst at Safe and Just Michigan, a consultant with #cut50, and still the host of a podcast. I am still 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.

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