Orange Is The New Black: Orange Black or Bleak: S1 E9 “F*cksgiving” (Netflix)

Orange, Black, or Bleak S1 E9: “Fucksgiving”

As a formerly incarcerated person, I have decided to do a deep-dive into OITNB to help explain things that folks watching the show without a felony background might not catch or have the context to understand.

Just a heads up, but next Tuesday my "Better Call Saul" recaps return (haven't decided on a name for this year's version yet). If you like my stuff, I also do recaps of Game of Thrones (HBO), Mr. Robot (USA), and Halt and Catch Fire (AMC).

If you have not watched OITNB before *Spoiler Alert*

5 Things About Season 1 Episode 8 "Fucksgiving"


S1 E9 "Fucksgiving" is mostly about:

* Red's continuing battle with Officer Mendez (Pablo Schrieber) over smuggling drugs into the prison.

* Much of Alex Vause's backstory from her being picked on as a kid to how she got recruited into dealing drugs after trying to reconnect with her deadbeat absentee Dad (a burned out ex-Rock Star).

* The acceleration of the enmity between Doggett (Taryn Manning), Piper (Taylor Schilling), and Alex (Laura Prepon).

* The release of Taystee (Danielle Brooks) from prison.

* The escalation of the battle between Counselor Healy (Michael Harney) and Piper.

5. "Taxpayer's Don't Give A Shit If It's A Holiday...We're The Badguys"

Holiday meals were kind of a big deal. 

When I first got to prison the holiday meals were really surprisingly good and many millions of degrees better than the crap we got on a daily basis.

For whatever reason, for those special meals, we would get what seemed to be real meat, decent vegetables, and tasty desserts. It really was something people looked forward to.

Don't get me wrong, a holiday meal in prison would still only pass for an average meal at a local cafeteria on the outside. But, when you have been eating food that you can barely identify for months...those holiday meals were damn good.

When Red talks, in the context of trying to make due with the "turkey parts," about nobody on the outside caring about prison food on the holidays, that is most certainly true. 

Now, why is it that Red doesn't get all her food through Federal procurement again (it is a Federal Prison right)? 

4. The Pensatucky Stuff

So, I have talked a bit about parts of the basic code everyone follows in prison. In short, everyone is responsible for themselves and for their own problems and nobody goes to the CO's.

So, it made sense to me that Doggett would test Alex (by taking her mattress or breaking her glasses). And to be 100% honest, from a former inmates perspective, Alex absolutely failed. If you don't stand up for yourself, or for your stuff, nobody will respect you (absolutely no one).

One of the toughest parts of prison is knowing that you have to avoid violence to stay physically safe and to make parole more likely while also knowing that if you don't stand up for yourself when challenged, you will become a target of all the predators. 

You might not actually have to fight, but you do have to make it clear that you would fight (and, if someone calls that bluff, you absolutely would have to fight). You cannot let disrespect stand (Alex appears to just let it go).

If you don't at least let people know you would fight, the predators and extortionists will move in (they target the weak) and nobody will care. Nobody stands up for someone who won't stand up for themselves.

Okay, so it makes sense that Doggett would test Alex.

It makes ZERO sense that Doggett would rat out Alex and Piper to Sam Healy. An inmate would not go get an officer in order to get another inmate in trouble. That would be suicide.

Doggett didn't even do this in secret, she went and got Healy and dragged him to Taystee's going home party. For the rest of her sentence, even her own meth-head friends would want nothing to do with her. Nobody would trust her. Every single time that the CO's got inside information, they would assume Doggett was the rat.

You deal with your own problems in prison, you do not go to the CO's.

3. "Are You Real?" ..."I Don't Know"

I am not going to go on and on about this but like I said before, solitary confinement is brutal.

This is one of the most accurate depictions I have seen of solitary, and the reality is even more brutal than what they show. 

The time-deprivation stuff is also true, you cannot see a clock and they leave the lights on at all times so you do actually lose all track of time and your body loses all of its normal time-based rhythms.

I just cannot tell you how painful it is for me to watch these scenes. 

Particularly brutal was the shower scene.I have taken way too many showers with guards shuttling us in and out like cattle in a pen while screaming at us to hurry up. 

I have not been forced to wear restraints in the shower, but I am sure that many people are forced to wear restraints in high-security situations.

I did think it was shocking that the CO watching the SHU shower was male. 

I had friends inside who spent over a year in solitary.  I have no idea how they made it back from Solitary Confinement with with their sanity even remotely intact.

2. Re-Entry

At hospitals, they start planning for your release the minute you arrive.

In a prison, they don't start thinking about your release until after you are paroled or until just before you are to be released.

It is a terrible model for re-entry.

Also, as Taystee finds out, when you are on probation or parole there are large numbers of restrictions as conditions of your release that make life even more complicated than just if you have a place to live or a job (although those are huge questions too). 

Technically, this is because when you are released you are still a prisoner.

You are not actually free until after you are "off-paper" (done with prison, parole, and probation). In Michigan, that is known as being a "level zero" prisoner. 

Anyway, since the 80' all notions of rehabilitation, education, and training being part of the prison experience have been largely eradicated. We are, as a society, so committed to prison being part of our "tough" punishments that we seem to have forgotten that over 90% of all the people in prison are, at some point, going to be released back into our communities.

It is a very stressful and troubling experience. In many ways, parole and probation were more stressful for me than prison. Everything is a potential violation (I even got yelled at once for being at my parole-mandated group therapy because my agent had decided to drop by my house for a surprise visit). 

Even getting out itself was crazy. My prison counselor sent me to the wrong county (no, seriously, he sent me to a different county than the one I live in). I looked at my paperwork upon release and about had a heart attack (I had to get a friend to mapquest driving directions to the parole office in a county about an hour away from where I actually live).

There will be much more about this topic in future recaps.

1. I Don't Have the Write-Ups to Justify It

Caputo (Nick Sandow) is right here, you actually do have to have a documented reason to place someone in solitary.

Healy would most likely be disciplined himself for the way he handled the Piper situation at Taystee's party. 

It is much more likely that he, being a long-tenured officer, would have created situations that would have justified disciplinary action on Piper. 

CO's have most of the power, but there are rules and regulations and they do have to follow procedures. 

Unlocking The Gates


This episode was a really tough one for me to watch (not PTSD per se, but pretty disturbing).

Anyway, 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). 

Today's Comment Question is:

"What issue raised on OITNB Gets you the most interested in Criminal Justice Reform?" 

Leave a comment, let people know.  Or, if you have questions, I respond to 100% of my comments! 

Today's book is Michelle Alexander's book "The New Jim Crow."