Orange Is the New Black: Orange Black or Bleak: S5 E6 “Flaming Hot Cheetos, Literally” (Netflix)

Orange, Black, or Bleak S5 E6: “Flaming Hot Cheetos, Literally”

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.

A very nice graphic designer named Sandra wrote me and asked me to make some changes to the way I was doing the recaps, hope you all like the changes and thanks to Sandra (I am a mediocre web-designer at best). If you are looking for easy ways to see more OITNB posts you can: Scroll down and use the carousel, click on the small Orange Is the New Black under the title, visit the slider on the main page, or search Orange Is the New Black from the search box. 

Another very nice reader named Sarah left a very detailed response to my hot take on “rehabilitation” in my “Sing It, White Effie” recap.  I truly appreciated hearing a different opinion and am glad there are other opinions being represented in the comment section. I embrace thoughtful and respectful disagreements and think it is good to have meaningful discussions about important issues.

Last but not least, don’t forget to Tweet @JeffBezos (if you have Twitter) asking him to please fund an “in-reach to hiring” employment education program for incarcerated people. I may have a small microphone, but nearly 1000 people read these posts and if everyone who reads this writes or tweets to Mr. Bezos, we could make a real difference to a ton of real people across this country together.

If you have not watched OITNB before *Spoiler Alert*

5 Things About Season 5 Episode 6 "Flaming Hot Cheetos, Literally"


OITNB S5 E6 “Flaming Hot Cheetos, Literally” is about:

* The story of Taystee meeting her real Mother for the first time (at age 18). Sadly, it does not go well but Danielle Brooks does some amazingly subtle acting during some of the resulting discussions between her and her Mom.

* Doggett being put on trial for aiding Donuts, giving the gun to Donuts, and as a result allowing Donuts to shoot Leanne’s fingertip off.

* The Governor’s office choosing to meet only the prisoners least important but most immediately satisfying (if shallow) demands. The obvious intent is to both drive a wedge between the hardcore prisoners and to trick the prisoners into giving up their leverage (the prisoners).

* Officer Bayley stumbling the earth trying to make sense of what has happened at the same time he seems entirely incapable of making any sense of what has happened.

* The world of television attempting to adapt to having Aleida as a guest on one of their news shows.

* Piper and Alex continuing to fight about if Piper should be less ambitious and if Alex should be honest about being involved in killing the guard that got buried in the yard (technically the real instigator of the crackdown that caused Poussey’s death and hence the riot).

* Nicky continuing to try to cope with Lorna’s insanity. Now apparently Lorna can’t be with Nicky because she has gotten pregnant through divine intervention.

* A surprising appearance by Poussey in a great flashback showing us how Taystee and Poussey met.

* Frieda getting bored in her extravagant bunker and decides to invite several of the other ladies to join her (Yoga Jones, Norma, Gina, and DeMarco). At first, they resist until they see that Frieda cleared out an old gym and swimming pool (apparently she found out about it from an old prison employee named Skin and Bones and applied her lifelong survivalist skills to make it viable).

Oh, and “Flaming Hot Cheetos, Literally” refers to Taystee and her crew collecting all of the remaining Governor-provided flaming hot Cheetos, taking them outside, and literally lighting them on fire (to show the Governor that they are serious about their demands).

5. In America, Everyone Has the Right To A Fair Trial

Boo says this after triggering her cell phone to play the “Law and Order” theme before she tries to have a meeting with her client (Doggett)  before the trial starts (the other prisoners immediately say “unless you are black, brown, or poor”).

I mostly want to repeat how much I loathe Law and Order, which has miseducated, indoctrinated, and poisoned the minds of millions of Americans over its unbelievably long run and even longer run in syndication.

Why do I consider it propaganda?

* Very few defendants ever take their cases to trial. As of 2012 97% of Federal cases are plea bargained while 94% of State cases were plea-bargained. Trials are mostly a luxury of the rich or the poorly represented. The truth, the entire system only works because people are forced into accepting plea bargains by overcharging (where one crime is charged 20 different ways (for instance, an armed robber would be charged with armed robbery, using a weapon in the commission of a crime, attempted murder, reckless endangerment etc.). In other words, the entire picture of the reality of the criminal justice system is misrepresented from the jump.

* The show constantly and exclusively posits that all people easily divide into good or evil and also that when “good” people go over the line, it is always justified but when “bad” people go over the line, society should ensure that the key is thrown away forever. It divides people into subjects and objects and simplifies what are almost always complex stories into simple morality plays.

* The show constantly and exclusively asserts that prosecutors are upstanding and ethical agents of public safety and police are always working to ensure public safety. Any abuses are always exceptions that say everything about the rogue agent and nothing about an unjust system or unjust laws. In other words, abuses are always seen as exceptions to the seamless functioning of a fully just system and never as proof that the system is fundamentally flawed.

I could go on all night about the reasons that I hate Law and Order in all of its forms, but you get the point. Rant over.

4. Irony Rules

So, one of the main themes of Season Five has been that while the public should often care about important things (the death of Poussey Washington) they care much more about idiotic things ("Black Lattes Matter").

It strikes me as more than a little ironic that the memes I have seen the most about Season 5 often involve Flaming Cheetos and Takis (this was also the demand whose inclusion made Taystee the angriest).

 It would be sad if what people remember from a season about an unjust murder, abuse by correctional officers, corruption, and the absolute shitshow known as private prisons is a stupid song about snacks.

Yup, that’s America.

3. Frieda’s Bunker

Can anyone explain to me how Frieda accomplished the bunker?

Yes, I get that she is really crafty and an experienced survivalist. I get that much of the furniture might have been stored down there in perpetuity. But how did she move hundreds of cans of food (no commissary that  I have ever seen sells cans of food)? How did she have so many personal items? And how in the hell did she go back and forth over a long period of time undetected to set it up?

How did she get tools, a television, and a computer (I guess they could have been left down there too)?

Basically, to set the place up she would have to disappear off of the grid for long periods of time (never missing count or emergency count)  and manage to sneak in and out over and over again without ever being detected. In addition, no CO could ever find the locker entrance accidentally.

Okay, I will stop complaining, I guess sometimes you have to just let things be (artistic or dramatic license and all that).

2. Officer Bayley

Believe me, if anyone understands feeling terrible about having committed a crime, I do (most all of us do), so I get him being catatonic. I also get that sometimes the system refuses to punish people who feel that they deserve to be punished while at the same time the same system grinds millions of people to death.

But, I just have to say this, Bayley is not the sharpest tool in Litchfield’s shed (and not just because he tried to commit suicide by drinking his father’s non-toxic dyes).

1. Demands

Let me preface this by admitting that I know that I come across as radical sometimes. When it comes to prison and criminal justice reform, I believe radical is called for now.  And I am angry, not because of what happened to me (although that makes me angry too), but mostly about what I saw happening to others.

Now, what I said last week about not owing anything could easily be misinterpreted. All I was saying was that while I might owe any victims a debt, I paid my debt to society by serving my sentence. When I was growing up, this was a common and just belief.

I love that the inmates decide to basically give the Governor the finger by lighting all of the Flaming Cheetos on fire right in front of the prison (also kind of a commentary on the Cheetos and Takis meme that the same writer’s created).

I am glad that Jenji and the writers didn’t take the easy way out and let divisions inside the prison stop the riot instead of forcing the confrontation between the system and the inmates to play out. The real issues are the systemic issues forced when a system treats human beings like animals. In the end, the system corrupts both the inmates and the correctional officers by forcing them to become their worst selves.

I believe that the only workable system is one in which prison is always the last resort and never the first resort. A system where when we are forced to imprison people we should do so in a way that treats them with dignity and where even if there is no chance of redemption (and I do not believe such a situation exists) there is no world in which a civilized country responds with brutality.

We should use diversion wherever diversion is possible, harm reduction where it is possible, restorative justice wherever it will work, and treatment everywhere it can be used.

Think of it like this, if someone has a compulsivity that cannot be solved and is beyond redemption, why would we morally blame them and treat them with brutality again? If the person can be treated and redeemed, again, what purpose is solved by applying brutal means? I have read no evidence that “tough on” methods work and a great deal of evidence that proves that these approaches are counterproductive.

Let us just look, as an example, at the evidence from the field of addiction where a large cohort of treatment specialists and programs still revolve around “tough on addicts” methods.

White, W. & Miller, W. (2007). The use of confrontation in addiction treatment: History, science and time for a change. Counselor, 8(4), 12-30.

“Reviewing four decades of treatment outcome research, we found no persuasive evidence for a therapeutic effect of confrontational interventions with substance use disorders. This was not for lack of studies. A large body of trials found no therapeutic effect relative to control or comparison treatment conditions, often contrary to the researchers' expectations. Several have reported harmful effects including increased dropout, elevated and more rapid relapse, and higher DWI recidivism. This pattern is consistent across a variety of confrontational techniques tested. In sum, there is not and never has been a scientific evidence base for the use of confrontational therapies.”

There is also no convincing evidence that harsh punishments or long sentences deter. The bones on which our entire system was changed starting in 1971 (the onset of the drug war) were diseased and corrupt.

Fyodor Dostoevsky once said that “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” How civilized would America be judged after surviving such an audit?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we, as a society, started to answer the demands of the Litchfield inmates? If we decided to be ethical instead of cruel and returned to the world where the saddest thing we could do is commit a human being to confinement.

As I mentioned a week or so ago, these demands really are the demands of many of the millions of inmates in jails and prisons throughout the United States and should also be our demands for our prisons.

Burn Cheetos burn.

.By the way, you should check out Saul Williams (the poet and musician who was responsible for the song above - and at the end of the episode).

Unlocking The Gates


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 Been the Most Heartbreaking Moment of the Season So Far?"

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

I am not doing a book this week, I have covered all of the books that I have recently read and don't want to just keep repeating the same 10 titles again and again. Anyway, if you read the books that I have highlighted, I think you will get a pretty good background in the facts and pain that mass incarceration has caused.