Orange Is the New Black: Orange Black or Bleak: S5 E11 “Breaking The Fiberboard Ceiling” (Netflix)

Orange, Black, or Bleak S5 E11: “The Fiberboard Ceiling”

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.

Surprise!

You might have noticed that I replaced the OITNB intro with a group of real former inmates telling their real-life stories. I was at the bi-monthly meeting of the Michigan Collaborative to End Mass Incarceration yesterday and the American Friends Service Committee showed us all the video embedded above. Not only do I know a few of the inmates personally, but it is a really powerful 15-minute watch. As I said on social media earlier today, the most important 15 minutes you will spend today, guaranteed.

If it moves you like it moved me, please share it liberally!

Only 2 more episodes to cover in Season 5 after this. After I finish Season 5, I will jump back to the last two episodes of Season 2 and then start on Season 3.

If you have not watched OITNB before *Spoiler Alert*

5 Things About Season 5 Episode 11 "The Fiberboard Ceiling"

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OITNB S5 E10 “The Fiberboard Ceiling” is about:

* Cindy’s sister telling her daughter (who doesn’t know that she is Cindy’s daughter) that Cindy was moved out of Litchfield. Since Cindy’s daughter has the internet, she is able to find out the truth and calls her “Mom” out for the lie. Kind of a strange and short out of place insert here.

* Frieda and the “bunker” crew starting to deal with their new “Piscatella” problem. Not surprisingly, nobody can agree on what to do and, after tying him to a chair, they start arguing on and off for the rest of the episode. Ultimately, they agree that they will release him once the riot is over. On the good side, Gina took a video of Piscatella brutalizing Alex and Red.

* Gloria noticing that Pidge and Ouija are starting to lose control (from lack of sleep) and starting to take advantage to put her “plan” to release the CO’s (and therefore gain amnesty) into action. Maria starts to follow Maria and gets to the bottom of what is going on. I can’t tell you how bizarre this is, as she is moving the CO’s to “The Poo” OITNB plays goofy 80’s movie soundtrack style music? WTF (these people are terrified and have been abused)? There is also a bunch of stuff about how far mothers will go to protect their children.

* Suzanne finally coming entirely unhinged after days of being deprived of her meds and routine which force Cindy, Alison, and Janae to implement a drastic solution. Of course, much of this was a result of Morello deciding (unilaterally) that meds are not necessary because everyone is beautiful just the way they are. Oh, Morello also finds out that she really is pregnant (how? I guess from the one-time consummation after her marriage to Vince?).

* Boo finding out that Von Barlow is really Linda from accounting and that she used to by Caputo’s boyfriend. It almost seems that Boo finally finds that she has a line that she won’t cross (loving the enemy).

* More on the continuing negotiations between Taystee and Fig. Taystee is somehow able to leverage the knowledge that Fig named her vagina “Tracy” because her childhood friend Tracy was (like her vagina) a “bitch.”

5. “Boo Out”

Over five seasons of OITNB, we have learned that Big Boo is pretty much in it just for Boo (at least she is honest about it, no disrespect). But, maybe for the first time, Boo finally finds a line that she won’t cross.

What lines?

Boo finds out that Von Barlow is actually Linda from Accounting and not the “counterfeit cunt of Connecticut (well, I guess she is kind of counterfeit).

Don’t get me wrong, Boo will most likely still find ways to use Linda, but she will 100% never again “love” her (and she was clearly heading toward the “L” word before she found the phone).

As much as I oppose crime and violence, this is kind of accurate. If you ask virtually any person who has been inside, it really is us versus them and we do not side with the CO’s against prisoners.

Part of that is a safety thing, snitches get stitches (as you might have heard) but part of it is because the only group that recognizes you as a person and not as a sub-human object are the other prisoners.

Even if we don’t all like each other, and often have real grievances, we seriously believe that we deal with those problems inmate to inmate. We also generally dislike CO’s.

I had some CO’s that were okay, but I knew at all times that they would turn against me in a second in defense of another CO. I had no illusions that they would ever tell the truth if they had done something wrong.

There is certainly more than a little self-fulfilling prophecy in this, but I still feel it today.

4. “Professor Fakey Pants”

Taystee is obviously right when she talks about the problems with medical care in prison (I didn’t lose an eye but I only kept my teeth by being insanely careful about saving enough money to always have dental floss, toothpaste, and a toothbrush).

The comment that she made about Tylenol is true too, most of the time you get no assistance from medical. Let me shock you even further when I had MRSA they wouldn’t give me pain reliever because it was available on the commissary list.

In other words, despite being really sick and needing special antibiotics and lockdown, if I did not purchase my own pain reliever in advance, no pain reliever for me (luckily, I always made sure I was loaded up with pain reliever for emergencies).

But, I really wanted to talk about Professor Fakey Pants (aka Morello).

Morello decides unilaterally to deny all of the inmates (including Suzanne) their mental health meds because they are all beautiful and unique unappreciated people who don’t really need help.

As I have mentioned before, I have struggled at times in my life without both depression and panic disorder and I cannot tell you how many times people have told me meds were unnecessary (usually before they went off meds) or that treatment wasn’t important (usually before they had a meltdown).

I totally understand that there are a ton of bad therapists and that sometimes meds can make people worse and not better. But, slow your roll, just because therapy can be counterproductive and meds can get poorly prescribed, it doesn’t mean that you can necessarily function well without your meds.

In fact, for many people struggling with mental challenges, not having meds can cause abject misery and even if they don’t “need” the meds, they are often dependent on them and withdrawal without medical supervision can cause serious problems and even death or death by suicide.

So, basically, Morello has never been more “Loca” then she has been since taking control of the dispensary and in a way that could actually cause multiple people to literally die.

Awesome.

Even worse, this whole notion that mentally ill people aren’t really mentally ill  (pushed also, at times, by the FX series Legion - no really, in season one they suggest that mental illness is really a way of covering up super powers) is batshit crazy.

Remember, I am not saying that Psychiatrists and Psychologists always get everything right, I am suggesting that them getting it wrong does not mean the object of medication doesn’t need to be on meds.

Television shows should not act like Tom Cruise talking about Psychology and Psychiatry with Matt Lauer on the Today show (have some responsibility).

Most people who are in mental crisis, like Morello or Suzanne, absolutely need meds. I have, at times, needed meds.

I am not claiming that OITNB is endorsing this nonsense, but it is dangerous to play with ideas like this because most everyone on meds is constantly looking for excuses not to be on them.

Just saying.

It is no surprise to me that Suzanne is unraveling.

Even more shocking is Cindy deciding to randomly choose Lithium for Suzanne (simply because she read one time that Lithium can be ‘good for crazy”).

This is kind of on Taystee too, she basically washes her hands of Suzanne and leaves her to Cindy (who has never exactly been the most responsible person in Litchfield).

Anyway, what a total mental health shit-show.

3. The Second Dumbest Plan in the History of Television

Okay, as you probably remember, and has been borne out by events, Red’s plan was the stupidest plan in the history of OITNB.

The second dumbest plan has to be Gloria’s (move all the CO’s to ‘The Poo’ and then let them all out through a hole she cut in the fence.

Let me just start here, there is literally no way in the world that all of the CERT team members, the police, and the CO’s would just leave three-quarters of the prison yard area unmonitored during a riot.

How in the world is there an area of fence that is uncovered by officials days into a riot?

In addition, while some inmates would certainly run inside because it was raining, do you really expect me to believe that nobody would be outside at all? Not even to use the bathroom (which as you remember from earlier episodes are overcrowded and overused).

I won’t even go further into the absurdities (like Gloria walking in and out in front of the entire prison wearing a trash bag while carting hostage after hostage to "The Poo." Not one person cares?

But most important, why are the fences uncovered?

Lots of stuff is crazy about how the official response to this riot went down, but it is impossible for me to suspend my disbelief on this one.

2. “The Sisterhood Is Powerful”

Frieda is a total badass, I almost believe she could pull something like the bunker out.

What is harder to believe is all the arguing and acting up.

Generally, people are extremely respectful of other people’s stuff in prison. Fights break out over much less than what Yoga and others have done to Freida’s stuff.

But Frieda has given them space, food, games, and safety and still they disrespect her over and over again.

Would you really want to piss, of all people, Frieda off? I sure wouldn’t.

1. “Take Me Out To The Ballgame

I am not sure there has ever been a sadder scene in the entire history of OITNB than when Suzanne looks up at Cindy and asks (regarding the lithium), “Will these make me good?”

Only slightly less sad is Cindy answering “yes” and singing Suzanne to sleep with “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.”

I mentioned that Cindy is not very responsible, doesn’t mean she can’t be a beautiful person.

Unlocking The Gates

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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 Has the Most Unrealistic Event of Season 5?"

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