In this episode, a couple of plot lines that have been simmering all season are given the chance to boil over. Let’s start with the Contraband Wars. Red’s greenhouse is coming along nicely, and looks like a rather nice space to hang out in. It’s sort of hard to believe that she’s able to sneak this much stuff into prison through a drainage pipe – wouldn’t she want to be more cautious, since it wouldn’t be all that hard to find the delivery point for the contraband? She doesn’t seem too worried, doling out treats to the inmates like the Red of Season One. She even tries to bribe her two former kitchen besties, who are still understandably furious with her.
She faces some serious competition, however, from Vee. This is why I love Vee: rather than go small time and compete with Red over who can smuggle in the most offensive palettes of eye shadow, she is just straight importing tobacco hidden in empty jars of cleaning supplies, and using her custodial crew to roll cigarettes. Even though this seems destined to blow up in more than one person’s face in a spectacular fashion (I am beginning to think that Litchfield might get shut down at the end of the season), it’s certainly fun to watch these two divas compete to become the prison’s biggest tycoon.
Through this rivalry we get Black Cindy’s backstory. She worked as a TSA officer, where she also moonlighted stealing snacks from Hudson News and iPads from travelers’ luggage. She gives said iPad to her “sister” during a visit home, who clearly adores her, while her mother is fond of her but wise to her flighty ways. When she reads Black Cindy the riot act for taking her “sister” on an hours-long joyride that ends with some casual pot-smoking in the projects, we learn that Black Cindy is actually the girl’s mother, but has been deemed too irresponsible for her to know the truth. Oof. She’s getting a twisted chance at redemption, though: when she decides to use Vee’s cigarettes to barter for things she wants instead of the stamps Vee is so intent on getting, leading to her being fired, Vee gives her a second chance. That’s the amazing thing about Vee: she really does seem to make her charges better people, but it’s all to serve her own nefarious ends.
Piper is hard at work on a “prison newsletter,” a conceit she came up with to mask her questions about how the prison is being run and where the money is going. She recruits Daya to be a cartoonist and Morello to write a beauty column, and it’s all very student-newspaper, complete with people fighting over whether or not one should be allowed to use the phrase “I could care less.”
The prison seems to be truly falling apart, both due to Figueroa’s mismanagement and the total anarchy among the guards. BY THE WAY: Figueroa seems to think that the real problem with the justice system is harsh sentencing laws that put inmates away for years for relatively minor crimes, which, you have a point there, but she is letting herself off the hook in a major way. Meanwhile, Bennett is being blackmailed by Daya’s mother and her fellow kitchen pals, until he puts his foot down, seeming to realize anew that he’s a guard and will always have the upper hand, not to mention that he, Daya and her mother cooked up a Plan B last season for when the administration starts to notice her pregnancy. Just to drive home the point that he won’t be blackmailed, however, he throws Maritza into the SHU for no reason. It’s an ugly reminder that despite the hijinks and silliness that make up a lot of the time spent at Litchfield, the inmates don’t have any real power. Daya’s pregnancy is like a bomb ready to go off this season; I’m a little anxious for someone (besides Fischer, who has a vague idea that something’s up thanks to her phone call surveillance) to take notice.
Finally, in perhaps the saddest commentary on the prison system, Jimmy the wandering Golden Girl is being followed by a guard to see how on earth she was able to escape. But when that guard gets distracted by a declaration of love from her fellow guard, as one does, Jimmy wanders into the chapel and jumps off a ledge, thinking she’s diving into a swimming pool. She breaks her arm and the prison decides to give her “compassionate release.” What this means is, since they lack the means to care for her full time, they are going to “free her,” i.e. leave her on the street to fend for herself. Who knows how long she’s been in prison, or where she will go? The assumption is she’ll die quickly in the real world, a fact that the other inmates seem resigned to.
Jimmy was one of my favorite new characters in season two — her horrible attitude was really funny — and it’s such an awful end for her character. It’s too bad that Caputo doesn’t seem willing or able to live up to his wish earlier this season to protect the women he’s in charge of, or that Fig doesn’t care that her stealing from the prison is having a very real effect on the lives and fates of the inmates. Farewell Jimmy; I hope you run into someone who will be able to take care of you.