Piper, Vause, and Fan Fiction: Orange Is the New Black S3 E3 “Empathy Is A Boner Killer” (Netflix)

Orange, Black, or Bleak S3 E3: “Empathy Is A Boner Killer”

As a formerly incarcerated person, I have been engaged in 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.

Thanks for continuing to take this journey with me.

If you have not watched OITNB before *Spoiler Alert*

Some Things About Season 3 Episode 3 "Empathy Is a Boner Killer”

Netflix

Netflix

OITNB S3 E3 “Empathy Is a Boner Killer” is about:

* The backstory of how Nicky ended up in prison. Nicky and a crew of other addicts decided to rob a house and steal a bunch of signed first-edition books in hopes of selling them to get money to score heroin. The crew got caught and Nicky was sentenced to 5-10 years. Prior to being arrested for robbing the house, Nicky was arrested for stealing a cab, after her Mom bailed her out she took money to bail her friends out of jail too but instead used that money to score (leading to the book-stealing break-in).

* Luschek and Nicky decide to restart their ‘partnership’ to sell the Heroin that Boo and Nicky acquired last season. In order to start their plan, Luschek has to get the heroin back from the meth heads (Angie and Leanne). The meth heads tell officer Ford that Luschek has drugs and it percolates up to Caputo who orders a raid on Luschek’s office. Unbeknownst to Luschek, Nicky secretly hid one packet of heroin by affixing it to the top of one of his desk doors with a piece of gum. Luschek immediately blames Nicky who is immediately shuttled off to Max.

* The Latinas have a discussion about attending Daya’s wedding (despite Bennett being MIA).

* Red is forced to help Healy translate for him and his wife. During the resulting discussion (in which Red called Healy’s wife out for not living up to her end of the arrangements), it becomes apparent that Red has feelings for Healy (which is really weird).

* Caputo tries to blackmail Fig into helping him keep the camp open, she suggests Caputo tries to entice the Management Corrections corporation into buying the management rights to the camp (they are a private prison company).

* Taystee and Poussey hold a funeral for all of the books burned during the bed bugs crisis.

* Counselor Rogers hosts a well-attended drama class (much to the chagrin of Healy). During one of the improvisation exercises, Alex and Piper work out the seemingly never ending 'do we love each other' drama again.

The ‘Empathy Is a Boner Killer” refers to Alex not being able to engage in hate-sex with Piper anymore after they make peace (as a result of the improv exercise).

Laundry Efficiency

I realized that I left something out last week. One of the odd things about the bedbug incident is that there was a long period of time where the inmates were required to wear either underwear or paper outfits. In my opinion, this was fairly unrealistic (and perhaps an attempt to ‘get sexy’ by having the inmates half-naked).

Generally, every unit has a laundry and every laundry works nearly 24/7 to constantly churn out clean clothing. There are very few jobs as lucrative in prison as being one of the unit ‘laundry women’ (in my experience laundry men). It would not take too long for the laundry to get everyone’s clothes cleaned (as long as all the machines were working).

"You’re Like Gollum With The Ring"

Addiction is one of the largest problems in prison. A very large number (I have seen stats above 60%) of people in prison suffer from some form of an addiction problem while many people are in prison for personal use or for dealing drugs.

At the same time, for most prisoner’s, treatment consists of a very basic course (usually taught by correctional officers with little training in substance abuse) and, if they are lucky, a 12 step meeting once or twice a week.

For many inmates, jail and prison are a form of forced rehab without any of the trained support and without any of the medical assistance Instead of helping people find a better path to recovery, prisoners are just left to dry out. Most people seem to assume that once you are in forced sobriety (because of lack of availability) they have ‘recovered’ but nothing could be further from the truth.

Forcing an addict to dry out creates NONE of the cognitive changes necessary to distinguish sobriety from recovery. As a result, a large number of addicts leave prison only to go right back to using. And, even worse, many addicts do not dry out in prison.

As you might guess, there is a high availability of drugs in prison (for a high price). The problem is so acute that, as I mentioned last week, the Michigan Department of Corrections has dramatically changed its mail policy to prevent inmates from receiving Suboxone. Of course, as everyone who has ever been in prison knows, the vast majority of contraband that enters prison comes in through Correctional Officers, and the DOC’s know this too (but they sure are not going to take responsibility for the part they play in the problems).

Anyway, my feelings are as follows:

* Nobody should be in prison for a purely drug related crime. They should all be diverted. As Bernie Sanders famously said during the early Presidential Debates, “Addiction is a disease,” Addiction is not a moral failing.

* When someone is in prison for addiction, or for another crime connected to addiction (like Nicky was), they should be offered Harm Reduction, Treatment, and Support from incarceration through release and beyond (services should be linked up for every inmate once they leave prison or jail).

* As Johann Hari says (see above), “the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it’s connection.”

* Luschek was equally (if not more) guilty as Nicky, he was helping her distribute her narcotics. What played out during this episode is exactly what happens in prison. CO’s create distribution networks with prisoners, but when things go wrong, it is always the inmates who are left holding the bag.

As I have mentioned before, I wrote a book about addiction and recovery. I also heartily recommend Maia Szalavitz book ‘Unbroken Brain,” Johann Hari’s book ‘Chasing the Scream,’ and ‘In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts’ by Gabor Mate.

To review how it played out on the show, Luschek gets all of the benefits of having helped traffic the drugs with none of the cost while Nicky gets shipped off to Max. At the same time, Nicky clearly created the problem (by saving one packet for later use). If anything, this episode does a really good job of communicating why treating drugs as a criminal (and not as a public health) problem will rarely work.

Nicky is an addict, when she says, “it isn't logical,” she is 100% correct. If addicts could simply DECIDE not to act out once the consequences grew too severe, there would be no addicts. Nicky should be in prison because she stole a cab and robbed a house, however, the driver of those actions was her addiction, and that NEEDS to be treated. 95% of people in prison will be returning to their communities some day, it does not benefit public safety to allow people to return without the tools necessary to succeed.

"Fan Fiction"

After watching the entire series and recapping three full seasons, I am growing a bit tired of the do Piper and Vause love each other storyline. It has almost become like Orange Is the New Black “filler” to throw an Alex and Piper are 'love-fighting' scene in almost every episode. It would be nice in Season 6, if they are still at the same facility, for them to face a plot point together as a couple. Enough lazy and repetitive writing.

This brings me to the week’s biggest OITNB news. Earlier this week, Jenji Kohan admitted Season 5 was pretty sloppily written. In particular, she suggested that Season 5 came off like ‘Fan Fiction’ which is a bit of an odd way to put it since fans good graces are the only reason the show survives to reach Season 6. Certain elements of Season 5 were unbelievably sloppy (as I exhaustively pointed out in my Season 5 recaps).

Regardless, it seems an odd choice to turn on fiction written by fans in your mea culpa about a poorly written season?

Let us hope that Season 6 will be a better product, Season 5 could have been truly groundbreaking television given that it started with a prison riot and we already empathize with almost all of the main character's plight.

Wasted opportunity.

Unlocking The Gates

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Netflix

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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“What Annoys You (If Anything) About Piper/Vause"

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