Orange Is the New Black: Orange Black or Bleak: S5 E8 “Tied To The Tracks” (Netflix)

Orange, Black, or Bleak S5 E8: “Tied To The Tracks”

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.

Hope everyone had a great Fourth of July! Been a crazy week here, I am starting researching expungement laws in Michigan (sounds exciting doesn’t it?) and working on this post and my next Mr. Robot post. Apologies that there was no playlist this week.

If you have not watched OITNB before *Spoiler Alert*

5 Things About Season 5 Episode 8 "Tied To The Tracks"

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OITNB S5 E8 “Tied To The Tracks” is about:

* Flashing back to all of the problems Aleida’s irresponsibility and terrible advice have caused Daya throughout her life. Daya ultimately decides to turn herself in after calling George Mendez’ Mother and asking her to take over the care of her daughter.

* Blanca and Red continuing to carry out the dumbest plan in the history of television. Also, Nicky sharing with them that they have been doing a ton of speed and commiserating with Red about addiction.

* Piscatella getting humiliated by the CERT team commander and later he apparently figures out Red and Blanca’s ruse and decides to break into the prison despite being ordered to stand down.

* Taystee, Piper, Cindy, Alison, SoSo, and Janae starting official negotiations with (drumroll please) Natalie “Fig” Figeroa. Taystee shows off her incredible talents for interpreting and figuring out complex data (see Season 2). The negotiations go great until the world finds out about Humps. The Humps news forces them to consider turning Daya in (Piper suggests they answer what she calls “the Train Problem” but which is more conventionally known as “the Trolley Problem” in philosophy).

* Judy King, getting angry that she has to share her interview with Meredith Viera with Aleida Diaz. When Aleida starts to call her out for her lies, Judy responds by letting the world know that Humps got shot by an inmate (and inartfully threatening Aleida with sharing that it was Daya who did the shooting).

* Gloria (and Vause) talking Daya into taking responsibility for shooting Humps (this despite Gloria’s promise to Aleida to look out for Daya). Gloria also sneaks behind the port-a-potties to talk to Caputo about how to earn a furlough to see her son in the ER.

* Maria working hard to build social capital since she now knows that Piscatella wasn’t able to put extra time on her sentence and doesn't want everyone to expose her role in the abuse of the CO’s after the riot.

* Suzanne continuing to “play” with the CO’s (until she pisses off Pidge and Ouija who take the CO’s away from her and zip-tie Suzanne to a bunk).

* The Nazis joining with the Meth-Heads to torment Doggett (not allowing her to shower or use the facilities). This doesn’t make much sense to me since Sankey announced Doggett’s punishment in the first place, but whatever. Ultimately, Doggett ends up locked in the port-a-potties.

"Tied to the Tracks" refers to Piper's sharing of the “Trolley Problem” which presents a scenario where you are forced to choose to either let a runaway train crush five people or choosing to divert the train down a different track at the expense of crushing one innocent person.

In terms of how this scenario plays out for the Litchfield inmates, they can sacrifice the whole prison to protect Daya (the five people) or tie Daya to the tracks (the one person).

5. “The Train Problem”

As I just mentioned, Piper raised what she calls “the Train problem” when the negotiation team is faced with either giving up on negotiations or turning Daya in (it is actually known as the “Trolley” or “Tram” problem in philosophy).

Anyway, a few things about “the Trolley Problem:”

* it has a long and storied history in philosophy.

* Many philosophers find this kind of scenarios unhelpful because they are situations that presume conditions that real people never actually face. In addition, ethicists themselves rarely live up to expectations which might suggest that playing such games aren’t particularly helpful.

* Despite this, the onset of algorithms, robots, and artificial intelligence are creating new applications for ethical scenario gaming.

Now all of that said, in the Litchfield situation, they are facing the dilemma of either sitting back doing nothing while allowing people to die or killing to save. In other words, it is either a zero sum game (the best way to win is not to play) or SoSo is right in that you have to redefine the terms of the scenario entirely in order to succeed.

Why?

Because the truth is that all of the inmates are likely screwed either way (as someone says earlier in the episode “This Yellow Brick Road Ain’t Leading Anywhere But Max” - a CO was shot and many other CO’s were abused, the prisoners rioted, there is no way that amnesty is coming) meaning that by sacrificing Daya, you are most likely saving nobody.  

So, like I said, you either have to refuse to play (not accepting the terms of the scenario) or redefine the terms (SoSo’s suggestion is strangely like the Kobayashi Maru). Sadly, in almost all real protests of any kind, people rarely stay unified and often work against their own self-interest.

There is another layer to this, lifeboat ethics would seem an easy fit for prisoners, and in many possible scenarios I could see people selling each other out in secret or even as part of an internal battle among inmates, but a whole prison turning "rat" against another inmate? I just don’t see it.

Oh well, as everyone says in prison, “It is what it is”

4.”Suicide Sunday”

Nicky shares this classic addiction saying with Red once she realizes that Red has been doing pharmaceutical grade speed for two days. But, this overall scenario still makes no sense to me all the way around (Nicky, in fact, calls Red out on her insane plan to “get” Piscatella and on her dismemberment of Humps). But the problem isn’t just that the plan is stupid, the problem is that it is entirely out of character for Red.

Why in the world would two days of doing speed turn you into a total moron? Dependence doesn’t really work that quickly and neither does addiction. Yes, drugs can make you irrational and sometimes can lead to questionable decision-making (usually about the use of drugs)  but this has to be the quickest degeneration in the history of dependency.

There is no way Red would lose all ability to make logical choices about anything in such a quick timeframe. And let me reiterate, this is the dumbest plan in the history of television.

Red and Blanca are inviting Piscatella to come back into Litchfield so they can “trap him” “Wet Bandits“ style (Home Alone)?

It is nice that Nicky and Red have finally been given the chance to commiserate about addiction on a platform of mutual understanding but Red is just not that stupid folks.

3. “Whatever We Did, We Have To Own It and Somehow Find Grace In It”

Gloria says this to Daya to  Daya as she is trying to deflect blame after the shooting of Humps. Apparently, it had a lot of impact on Daya too since she turns herself in partially in response to Gloria’s wisdom (as opposed to Aleida’s crazy advice).

Gloria’s statement had a lot of resonance for me for me too.

In my opinion, healing and finding grace only happen once you take true personal responsibility for whatever it is that you have done.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a million reasons why prisoners (or people in general) resist public declarations of guilt (often a prisoner can lose much of his support from family or friends by embracing guilt publically), but at the same time, healing just does not happen unless you take responsibility for what you did.

I don’t agree with everything I was charged with or even everything I pled to, but I know exactly what I did wrong and take full responsibility for it (often very publically).

It might be a little unfair and certainly exposes a prejudice, but despite how radical I seem on prisoner rights and on the restoration of all of the rights of the formerly incarcerated, I have a really hard time with any formerly incarcerated person who insists that they are 100% innocent of any crime

I guess I am just admitting my bias and suggesting that I am really glad that Daya turned herself in (I guess I agree with Alex Vause’s view of the world).

2. “Circle Jerk”

Suzanne asks the CO’s to play “circle jerk” but to her, that means everybody rubs each other's backs until someone gets tired and quits (the person who quits is the “circle jerk”).

Anyway, at some point Zirconia, Pidge and Ouija show up and start messing with Luschek, Suzanne takes offense and confronts them which results in one of the more brutal moments of cruelty in the history of Orange Is the New Black than when Pidge and Ouija zip tie Suzanne to her bunk.

It is getting hard to fathom why the riot is turning so many people towards the darkest parts of their souls. The meth-head are generally really annoying but they aren’t usually intentionally cruel and brutally evil (until now). And now, they have united with the Nazi’s to terrorize Doggett (who used to be their best friend).

I am certainly not suggesting that there are not sociopaths in prison (or in Litchfield), but I am suggesting that many mostly harmless inmates are being transmuted into truly terrible people during this riot  (and remember this is a very low-security facility).

1. "Exclusive"

So, Judy King was in prison and is now presumptively on parole or probation but because she gave an "exclusive" to Meridith Viera, she waits to disclose evidence of a crime that she saw in person until her televised national interview?

I am still pretty confused as to how nobody knew Humps had been shot until this moment (especially with all of the cell phone and internet access suddenly opened up between the prison and the outside world). But even if I accept this at face value, it seems unlikely that Judy King would be stupid enough to withhold this information from the authorities.

If her lawyers were unable to prevent her from going to prison it seems unlikely she could count on them protecting her after prison when she has even less legal standing (you are still considered a prisoner by the law when you are on parole or probation and there is no "legal right to parole" which means it can easily be revoked).

As much as they probably just want to wash their hands of Judy King, it would be hard for the FDOC to ignore such a blatant and public violation that could have put an officer's life at risk.

There is one other problem here, I am still virtually certain that the moment that they knew an officer's life was at risk, they would have to breach. It doesn't make much sense to me that the DOC would continue negotiations without getting Humps immediately turned over to them. How in the world does Daya's admission protect Humps?

Yes, I know Humps is dead, but the DOC doesn't know that they just know that an officer has been shot and that he is presumably in medical distress.  There is a zero-percent chance that they would continue negotiations until they had both Daya and Humps.

Obviously, giving the DOC Humps would also derail the entire negotiation. 

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).

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“Would you Save the Five (Killing the One) or Save the One (and Let the Five Die)?"

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