Orange Is the New Black: Orange Black or Bleak: S2 E8 “Appropriately Sized Pots” (Netflix)

Orange, Black, or Bleak S2 E8: “Appropriately Sized Pots”

As a formerly incarcerated person, I have decided to do a deep-dive into the Netflix show Orange Is The New Black to help explain some of the things that folks watching the show without a felony background might not catch.

For anyone wondering, I am back from the hospital, only time will tell if they have actually fixed my liver enzyme issues (oddly appropriate for this episode of OITNB). Won't lie, a bit bummed not one person congratulated me on getting a recap out while in the hospital.

Maybe I should have stayed in the hospital, I messed up the episode title - it was "pots" not "plots" - thanks redditors :).

Also, a reminder, I am not covering Season 5 (or watching it) until it is officially released by Netflix. When Season 5 starts, I will start writing contemporary recaps (and I will return to the retro pieces after I finish S5). In other words, I am not rewarding the OITNB hackers.

If you have not watched OITNB before *Spoiler Alert*

5 Things About Season 2 Episode 8 "Appropriately Sized Pots"

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OITNB S2 E8 "Appropriately Sized Pots" is about:

* Rosa's backstory including her curse. Rosa (Barbara Rosenblat) was a bank robber who had two problems: 1) she was so addicted to the high from robbing banks so much she ultimately tried to rob a bank by herself and without casing it first 2) She hooked up with every member of her crew and each of them died after the combination of hooking up with her and robbing another bank.

* Healy (Michael Harney) telling Rosa that the DOC will not approve the cancer surgery that her doctors say that she needs. Also, Rosa helps the kid at the chemo clinic steal the wallet of one of the nurses and finds out later, to her relief, that he is in remission.

* Piper (Taylor Schilling) dealing with the backlash after the Litchfield population finds out that she received a furlough and coming to grips with the death of her Grandmother (who dies before she is released on furlough).

* SoSo (Kimiko Glenn) is forced to take a shower (because for some unexplained reason she has decided it makes sense to refuse to shower).

*  Fig (Alysia Reiner) decides to crack down on contraband and threatens Caputo (Nick Sandow) who ends up going semi-crazy. When Officer Fischer (Lauren Lapkus) stands up to him he summarily fires her (partially out of frustration that she doesn't return his affections I suspect).

* The return of Officer Mendez (Pablo Schrieber) to Litchfield.

Now that I have been set straight, the "pots" (not "plots") reference refers to the pots Red is using in the garden (after a discussion with Caputo). I really need to never write these things late at night.

5. "Enjoy Your Life Shitpot"

Speaking of pots...

One of the hardest things to deal with in prison is facing the constant fear you will never get to see your loved ones again. 

The year I was arrested, for instance, my Mother was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and my Father came down with prostate cancer.

I totally understand where Piper (and the rest of the inmates) are coming from about furlough. 

Luckily, both of my parents survived and are still alive today (thank God and knock wood).  I was, however, worried that I would lose them and never be able to see them again (I live in Michigan and they live in Oklahoma so they could not visit me regularly).

Of course, there is also another end of the conundrum, at any point, you can perish in prison too (whether it is from catching a disease like Rosa or from getting stabbed for pissing someone off). 

It doesn't help that every day it feels like your life is uselessly passing before your eyes. 

Prison sucks.

4. "It Is What It Is"

Officer Fisher catches Nicky (Natasha Lyonne) smoking but doesn't do anything because she has just been fired by Caputo. This results in Nicky and Fisher having a conversation where Nicky tells Fisher, "it is what it is."

"It is what it is" is prison-speak for "shit happens" (as you likely guessed). I am mostly mentioning this to point out that it is authentic and normal "prison-speak."

Prison is about fatalism not about hope, it is about learning to accept that at any moment shit can fall on your head for almost no reason and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

"It is what it is." 

There are certain phrases that you would hear every single day in prison like "Good Looking" or "Good Looking Out" (which just means that you are showing someone appreciation for looking out for you).

There are a million other, typical sayings, I will do my best to point out any I recognize as the episodes progress.

3. "One Call Per Inmate"

When one of the officers (it wasn't a normal cast member) yells to Piper that she cannot make a second call without getting back in line first, it really took me back.

I used to go out of my way to hit the phones only during times when I knew that they wouldn't be busy.  Unfortunately, if you have the misfortune of being placed at one of the higher security level prisons your phone call time is limited and you will almost always have to deal with long lines.

I remember when I was at quarantine (the prison where all incarcerated people in Michigan are classified) you only were allowed to use the phones for one hour on every other day (or before lights out at night, if you could procure one of the limited slots).

Anyway, if there was a line you had to wait until a phone was free (and if you didn't get one before count you were SOL). Once you got a phone, you had 15 minutes to talk (the phone would automatically shut-off after 15 minutes after warning you and the person you were talking to).

Of course, the larger problem was the cost of phone calls. 

It is impossible for me to guess how much money the phone companies like Securus make on inmate calls in jails and prisons throughout the United States but the amount has to be massive. In many jails, because the Obama administration's cap on prices is currently under a court stay, costs for a 15-minute phone call can run between $10 to $20.

Sadly, since the election of our current President, the FCC has stopped pushing to decrease the price of prison phone calls.

But let's face the truth, prisoners are a literally captive audience and there is no shortage of corporation willing to collude with Counties and Department's of Corruption to exploit inmates and their families (mostly poor).

I am certain that there are ethical corporations in the world but the companies who go out of their way to exploit poor families and/or build up prisoner debt are evil vampires and should be ashamed (blood money).

One of the most perverse forms of this corporate vampirism is the growing replacement of in-person visitation with video visitation. The end result is a double penalty where prisoners can no longer experience important in-person visitation and families are charged excessively.

What people don't get is that the costs of prison are borne most often by families and those families almost never had anything to do with committing the crimes in question.

You can't ask people not to love their family members and it is evil to charge them excessively for the privilege. 

2. "I Am Non-Violently Resisting"

I honestly have no idea what SoSo's protest was about. I get that she opposes deodorant, but why does she oppose showering? 

As I have mentioned many times before, people in prison are germophobes, nobody would stand for an inmate who refused to take showers. 

Keeping it 100...SoSo is lucky that the CO"s forced her to shower, inmates would have made her cleaning much worse (sad but true).

1. "I Had Medical and Dental"

When Fisher gets fired, she mentions to Nicky that she was sad about being fired because she "had medical and dental."

Ironically, as a recent Vera Institute report documents, one of the largest costs of imprisoning people is paying for the benefits of the CO's. 

Let me repeat that, the costs of health care and benefits for CO's is often larger that the costs of prisoner health care.  Don't take my word for it, here is how Professor John Pfaff highlighted the problem:

Lots of levels to the mass incarceration onion. I guess what I am suggesting is that when you hear about how horrible it is that we pay such a large cost-per-prisoner, much of that cost is not being spent on prisoners.

Anyway, we have to attack the problem of mass incarceration on all of these levels if we want to solve the problem.

By the way, if you didn't know, the final song as the episode faded out was "Bitchin' Camero" by the Dead Milkmen.

Unlocking The Gates

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As you likely know by now, 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 would you miss most from the outside world if you were, incarcerated?" 

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

Today's book is John Pfaff's book "Locked-In."