Orange Is the New Black: Orange Black or Bleak: S5 E2 “F*ck, Marry, Frieda” (Netflix)

Orange, Black, or Bleak S5 E2: “Fuck, Marry, Frieda”

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.

As you probably know by know I was not rewarding the OITNB hackers so, I just started my Season 5 recaps on Saturday. Thanks so much for the huge response (over 850 reads at least count for Orange, Black, or Bleak S5 E1: "Riot FOMO." 

If you have not watched OITNB before *Spoiler Alert*

5 Things About Season 5 Episode 2 "F*ck, Marry, Frieda"

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S5 E2 "Fuck, Marry, Frieda" is about:

* Frieda's backstory. Apparently, her Father was an early survivalist who believed the Russians were going to invade, so he taught Frieda (Dale Soules) to always be prepared for extreme survival. Oh, and she was also a "Nature Scout." Apparently, "Nature Scouts make great S'mores."

In other news, Dale Soules was just named a full-time cast member for future seasons (and far be it for me to argue - her character did cut off her husband's "member" with a butcher knife). Congrats!

* Maureen (Emily Althaus) and Suzanne (Uzo Aduba) discuss what to do with CO Humps (Michael Torpey) all while he regales them with tales of historical tortures. Ultimately, Maureen takes Humps advice to use what she has "at hand" (blowing bubbles into his IV tube).

* The Latinas make a spectacle of the CO"s, unite the CO's (with the help of Taystee's group), and take a group picture of the CO's, Warden Caputo (Nick Sandow), and Josh the PR guy (John Palladino) to send out via social media (in order to unify their message). During the spectacle portion of the program, Alex (Laura Prepon) stands up and leaves in protest.

* Judy King (Blair Brown) continues to try to manipulate everyone and get her way at all times all while her two husbands continue to wait outside for her "release."

* Piscatella (Brad William Henke) tries to agitate for the Management and Corrections Corporation to greenlight the COs taking Litchfield back by force while Red (Kate Mulgrew) rushes to find dirt on Piscatella.

Fuck, Marry, Frieda refers to the game of Fuck, Marry, Kill that the Nazi's play with CO Stratman and CO Blake. For the record, Frieda says that she would "Fuck Stratman (Evan Hall), Marry Blake (Nick Dillenburg), and Kill Piscatella."

5. "Or Would You Just Sit In The Corner With Your Doll and Want to Die?"

Young Nature Scout Frieda Berlin makes the above statement as she mocks two of her fellow Nature Scouts for being far too dainty about exploring nature (as they attempt to mock her for being too tough). But Frieda's statement pretty accurately replies to the surprisingly tentative (dainty) official response to the riot as well.

In my opinion, and I would have to ask a prison historian like Heather Ann Thompson first to be sure, there is no way that CO's and police would just sit around the front of the prison talking to each other and wondering what to do after a riot (especially since - while privatized - these are still Federal inmates).

To give you some idea of how normal "assaults on staff" go down, every officer has a panic button that they wear on their belts and whenever that panic button gets depressed every officer on call rushes pell-mell to that location.  

Only God could help an inmate who was actually found assaulting an officer. Brother and Sister officer's take these things very seriously (as you might imagine). 

I have literally NO doubt that they have procedures in place for riots and that those procedures would have been implemented starting the moment the riot broke out. I am pretty sure they have specially trained cadre's that would be called into service immediately.

However, once shots were fired those forces surely would have rushed the place (especially once they knew an officer was down and most likely knowing that the officer would need immediate medical attention).

I do understand that some fictions have to be maintained for the plotlines of the show to work, so I get it, but this seems to me a pretty big leap.

Anyway, I was pretty skeptical about the lack of official response to the riot.

4. "Good Luck With Your Rumsfeld Dinner Theater"

Alex Vause makes this statement after she stands up in the chapel and declares, in no uncertain terms, that she wants no part of Maria and the Latina's public abuse of the CO's and PR guy Josh (in front of the majority of the prison population). Right after she makes her statement, Alex leaves the chapel and heads to the yard.

In other words, Alex is representing the better angels of the Litchfield prison population.

Unfortunately, what happens on stage is all too typical of what happens when extreme shifts in power occur or when people who gain power have extreme revenge motives.

When I first saw this scene and Alex's response, it immediately made me think of the prisoner abuse perpetrated by US Soldiers on prisoners they thought to be responsible for the death of Americans at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.

The scene that unfolds, where the CO"s are forced to strip and are given body cavity searches is disturbing, but I think it is easy to forget that inmates are strip-searched whenever they leave or arrive at a new facility, are strip-searched whenever they arrive or leave the visiting room, and are strip-searched whenever CO's feel it is necessary (often including body cavity searches).

So, you might respond to me by suggesting that the CO's didn't do anything to deserve this treatment (even if Body Cavity Searches are awful).  Heck, even my visceral response to seeing those scenes was to think what the inmates were doing was grossly unfair and ethically wrong (emphasis on the gross).

But, I also remember that the CO's the prisoners were searching were the same ones who had been carrying out regular invasive body cavity searches out on them (often for years and with glee, perhaps you might remember Officer Wanda Bell suggesting in the officer's lounge that the COs should do even more body cavity searches during S2?).

To this argument, you might want to respond, "but Josh, body cavity searches were legal when done on inmates, the officers weren't breaking any laws."

To which I would probably respond, just because something is legal, it doesn't always make it right.

To an inmate, being body cavity searched feels wrong, intrusive, and like a violation. It certainly does not feel like something that should be legal and especially when it is cross-sex I am sure it can sometimes feel like rape.

I personally remember being asked to strip by a Doctor at quarantine only to have him repeatedly grope me as he told me that I wasn't going to do very well in prison.

It didn't feel legal, but I knew my complaints would fall on deaf ears.

I can see why people's first instinct might be to revisit abuse on their abusers. I even see why people wanted to punish me and why I deserved to be punished, but I have always been a deeply non-violent person (I have actually never hit a human being in anger as an adult..not even in prison).

Anyway, I don't believe that violence is an appropriate response to political or physical oppression and I don't believe that two wrongs make a right.

In situations where I have been the beneficiary of a reversal of power-relationships, I have thankfully reacted more like Alex and less like Ruiz. 

I think it is important to feel uncomfortable watching the COs abused.

I think it is important to feel uncomfortable knowing that many of those same COs visited that exact same abuse on many of those same inmates (often cruelly or to get a thrill).

The abuses the prisoner's commit might be "worse," and should not be supported, but they should at least remind you of the many cases of abuse these exact same CO's committed on those exact same inmates. 

This violence is not happening in a vacuum (so often the serial nature of television can make us forget context).

And, I think it is important to think about the differences between what is legal and what is right.

It has been suggested before that the central question philosophy has been trying to answer since the end of World War II is why people kept following orders during the Holocaust. I am obviously not suggesting Litchfield is similar to what happened in the Holocaust but COs who worry more about their jobs than they do about the ethics of carrying out unethical orders or enforcing unjust laws come from the same place.

It would be nice to think that our ethics come before our paycheck, but too often that seems not to be the case.

I think it all originates in what Better Call Saul referred to earlier in its season as "The Fallacy of Sunk Costs."

Perhaps we should each get to a place where we strive to do better than committing legal atrocities to preserve our paychecks?

Which takes me back to Abu Ghraib and to Alex's statement. I suspect Alex called the Chapel spectacle "Rumsfeld Dinner Theater" because Donald Rumsfeld was ultimately forced to resign over what happened at Abu Ghraib (thank goodness). Mr. Rumsfeld often suggested that his Department had nothing to do with Abu Ghraib, but the Senate report (that I just hyperlinked) exposed his (and his departments) complicity.

In Michigan right now we are dealing with something similar over the legal consequences of the ongoing Flint water crisis.

In this case, the prison system created these monstrous violations and some of the prisoners chose to follow this bankrupt structural logic to the extreme. 

I do know this, violence usually begets (and rarely solves) violence (Gandhi and MLK were right). But we are surrounded by miniature Abu Ghraib's, by people who refuse medical treatment when people can't pay or who go along with rolling back food stamps and healthcare to pay for tax cuts for rich people. 

We may ideologically or politically disagree about a lot, but I would love to think we would never deny even lazy people food or healthcare?

It would be irresponsible of me not to mention yesterday's violence in this context. I am absolutely opposed to what that individual did at that ballpark and I am also absolutely opposed to politicians cutting the social safety net.

In other words, I believe comity is good, but that comity should never provide cover for immoral actions (like cutting social benefits from poor people). At the same time, violence is never the appropriate response, in my humble opinion.

3.  "Who Gets Guillotined First?"

Judy King suggests to Brook SoSo (Kimiko Glenn) that when peasants raise up they always start out by guillotining the "One Percenters."

Judy, in typical fashion, doesn't hear SoSo's "Marie Antoinette" response, which seemed more accurate to me. A one percenter might get executed first, but it probably would never be one intimately involved in the corruption that caused the uprising.

Eventually Rumsfeld, for instance, had to resign, but only after the entire Abu Ghraib prisoner scandal was first laid at the feet of Commander Janis Karpinski (aka Marie Antoinette).

2. "Wait Until You See Arabian Fantasy"

Red says that after taping a picture of Piscatella in costume in front of his place setting for an Arabian Fantasy dinner for some contest he participated in at the State Fair.

I get that Red hates Piscatella. 

I get that Piscatella could, potentially, lay the "garden murder" on Red.

I even get that Red can sometimes be cruel and irrational. 

But, I don't get why Red is "Queer Shaming" Piscatella?

Half of Red's crew is Lesbian? Why does she keep making derogatory comments and trying to humiliate him because he has a stereotypically queer hobby?

Anyway, Red seems to have almost entirely lost her mind this season and whatever drug she and Flores are taking is not helping the situation.

One can only hope they get whatever secret information they can soon (this whole subplot seems more than a little out of character for Red IMHO).

1. "Looks Like Danita's Work"

Sophia (Laverne Cox) has been talking about "Danita's" bad work as a hairdresser since Season One.

Okay, in prison you are allowed one "official" haircut call-out a month (a call-out is your scheduled permission slip that allows you to go to an area beyond your "house," the cafeteria, or the yard).

But, most people also hire someone who cuts their hair in the unit (not in the Barbershop). Given that Sophia occupies the Barbershop, I suspect Danita cuts hair in the unit.

If you want the most cut-rate, not well-done haircut possible, you don't pay for your haircuts. The Barber in the prison Barbershop will cut your hair but - absent pay - that Barber will, in no way, try to make it look right.

If you want your hair to look good, you usually have to pay the barber at least one or two soaps. Getting your hair cut in the yard or on the unit costs more (which means that people pay Danita more than they likely pay Sophia - this probably accounts for her continuing disdain for Danita's work).

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). 

If you were wondering what the song during the credits was it was System of a Down "Pictures."

Today's Comment Question is:

"What Demands Would You Have Made If You Were A Litchfield Inmate During the Riot?" 

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

Today's book is Marie Gottschalk's book "Caught."