“I think I’ve moved beyond stress into something more deeply disturbing.” –Piper Chapman
Man, things just aren’t going Piper Chapman’s way. Being a relatable character, but in a poor position by her own doing, garners just a degree of sympathy: Piper broke the law, and thusly, she’s imprisoned. But people throughout her life have easily manipulated how and where she lives. All prisoners lose agency of their lives, but Piper’s gotten a raw deal.
In the present, Piper is awoken in the middle of the night to hop on a bus and then continue her jet-setting ways in flying to the Chicago Metropolitan Detention Center for a prison transfer—all this, unbeknownst to her. By way of an unpleasant corrections officer, she’s tightly cuffed, given her beat down on Pennsatucky. If you thought riding U.S. Airways sucked, this was maybe worse: a stressful ride filled with sexual harassment, your buddy across the aisle in a Hannibal anti-spitting mask demanding Vaseline be rubbed on her face, a filled bladder and sitting next to a pessimistic pteromerhanophobe (“someone afraid of flying,” which I could have just written, but the actual word is phenomenal). Fun times!
If ever prison can look idyllic, the old haunt of Litchfield appears that way compared to the Chicago Met (which sounds like an overpriced, bougie art museum), with its one day per week out in the yard and just one hour per day out of the cell. Piper is re-booked, takes a much more flattering picture but ends up with the polar opposite of Nicky, Daya and Anita as roommates. Thought Anita and her breathing mask were obnoxious? How about two hardcore, killer cockroach coaches and an OCD astrologist in Mazall who hovers above you in the middle of the night and licks your face? Yeah, I’ll take “sometimes hard to sleep with the noise” over that.
But Alex is here! Amid a routine yard brawl, Piper spots her from across the yard; they’re in different blocks. She arranges the unsavory favor of swapping her panties to send a note Alex’s way via Darius, a creepy inmate who prefers four-day-old underwear. Alex updates Chapman on what’s going on: No, all of Pennsatucky’s brains didn’t litter the New York prison ground; she’s alive, granted with the shit kicked out of her; both have been moved to Chitown for the trial of Kubra, Alex’s old boss. Pipes is given the chance to seize a miniscule amount of control by truthfully testifying against the drug kingpin. Alex attempts to convince Piper to deny any relationship with Kubra, a hard sell given their past. It’s not a plan she agrees upon at the time, but upon seeing Alex stressing in the backroom, she changes course, busting out a handful of “I don’t recalls” and vague replies.
Piper was the annoyingly good kid we all hated growing up (I related to her and thought she was a buzz kill. I can only imagine what thoughts people had of sixth-grade me), as we see in the first childhood flashback. Did she care that boys would think of her as lame if she didn’t jump off the back of the bus? Of course not! Not following along was sign of her strength of character, as she says (if only she kept up such a judicious sense of right and wrong before becoming involved with a drug operation’s capo—just a thought). Her family instilled a strong moral sense… one quickly torn down during a clandestine trip to see Dazed and Confused. She spies her father kiss and drive off with another woman. Destined to do right by her family, Pipes tells her mom about this, but she shakes it off, saying, “Sometimes it’s not a matter or wrong… it’s making a choice that will cause the least amount of pain to others.”
At 12, the veil of her parents is shattered. It’s something everyone encounters, when we discover the people after whom we model our lives are flawed, sometimes hypocritical (not a word I just learned, unlike young Piper). At that point, the way her parents dismantled her ethos was cruel—her father living a lie, her mother accepting it. And it’s all fine. Despite living opposite of that, she conforms to her family’s way of submersing tough topics for the supposed greater good (which lead to the final flashback, a call during papa Chapman’s birthday during which Piper admits, “You taught me everything, Dad,” with enough subtext to make Hemingway proud).
Alex wants Piper to do as much, to follow her parents’ way just one more time. But opting to follow Alex once already resulted in her time behind bars; if ever there a time to turn down being dazed and confused by a former lover and hop back on the righteousness bus, it’s probably now, testifying against a drug lord with the hopes of a reduced sentence. Even though Piper’s prayer for her attorney, aka Howard, aka Larry’s father, aka the very disappointed father-in-law-to-be, to arrive, Piper acts selfless, dooming herself. Mr. Bloom leaves Piper behind, wistfully observing, “You live on a slippery slope, kid, and for some reason, you can’t seem to stop doing rain dances.” This all preludes Alex’s exit in street clothes, rejecting her own advice and showing no signs of solidarity by telling the truth, screwing Piper in the process. All’s fair in love and war, right? Don’t think it’s supposed to mean this way.
A great, emotionally deflating starts to Season 2. So glad that it’s back. Some random thoughts…
- Taylor Schilling displayed her acting chops in an even more distressing time for her character, notably her telling Lolly, the inmate next to her on the plane.
- Given my biological makeup, I wonder but have no means to test how effective a “pee pad” would be. Nonetheless, Lolly’s explanation was hilarious.
- Rappers best follow suit: poochie’s in, bitch is out; it’s not PC.
- Surprised to see Jodie Foster with the directorial credit! Naturally, she works the episode with the creepy protective facemask.
- Of course the one cockroach who could transport cigarettes to solitary confinement and return would be named Yoda. RIP (both) Yodas.
It looks like a return to Litchfield! It’ll be fantastic to catch up with all our friendly female felons after an episode solely focused on our protagonist.