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Orange Is The New Black Gets Post-Vacation Blues In The Season 4 Premiere: Let's Rank The Storylines!
The Litchfield inmates return from their summer (afternoon) trip to the lake to find their home smaller than they remembered it.
Changes are coming to Litchfield -- which is probably something that gets written at the beginning of every season, but we really mean it this time, guys. MCC, the private company that purchased the prison last season, is attempting to increase profits by stuffing one hundred new inmates into Litchfield's already tight quarters. This means new characters to replace the ones we lost to max/the SHU last season (Nicky, Sophia); new bunkbeds; and new, more professional guards.
While the Season 4 premiere begins to integrate these new elements, "Work That Body For Me" spends most of its time wrapping up stories from last season's finale and catching up with our favorite group of female criminals. (As usual, some of the best scenes here are of the various families just shooting the shit. Morello's failure to elicit interest in her wedding after everyone returns from the lake on the other side of the broken fence is a particular highlight.) With no character-spotlight flashbacks to deal with (hooray!), let's rank the premiere's new and old storylines, from the ones that sing-sing to those that should be removed from gen pop for their own well-being.
- Badass(-ish) Piper
The only positive thing about Piper coming into her own as a "gangsta, like with an 'a' at the end" is how big a joke her fellow inmates think she is. Congrats, Piper, you snuck some contraband under a cute lesbian's bed; that doesn't give you the cred necessary to run a prison like Red or Vee. Gina isn't going to cow when you warn her about speaking to you with respect. Your "badass" infinity tattoo isn't badass, it's infected. I love that the most we've ever heard Chang speak at once is a direct rebuke of Piper's desperate posturing.
With a hundred new inmates flooding the prison, though, come a hundred women who don't know what a poser Piper is. Flaca sets Piper up for her inevitable fall by telling one of the new inmates that she runs the game. While the new inmates remain unintegrated, Piper can try to play the gangsta. But how long can that believably last? All it should take is one word from Litchfield's old guard to let the new kids know that Piper is nothing more than a Nick Hornby-reading, artisanal soap-making yuppie.
- Meet Judy King!
As much as I enjoy Judy's bonding with Luschek, it felt like the writers stalling for time while they wrapped up the lake vacation plot. Blair Brown is a marvel, though, so I didn’t really mind. My favorite moment of the episode is when everyone's new favorite Martha Stewart surrogate arrives in "the ghetto," is witnessed only be mega-fan Poussey, and then gets relocated to an air mattress in Healy's office before Poussey can wake up her friends. It's hilarious, and I can't wait for the inevitable payoff when she appears in the mess and proves to everyone that Poussey wasn't hallucinating after all.
Aside from the hundred new inmates, the biggest change of Litchfield's new reality is the prison staff. With OG guards like O'Neill and Bell on strike, Caputo orders a gaggle of guards from max to help maintain order. Piscatella, a giant, bearded bear of a man (who is kinda doing it for me, just saying), is the most visible new guard in the premiere. I do not have a good feeling about this guy. Like Pornstache before him, he seems a little too into the "ordering women around" aspect of his job. Maybe he'll turn out to be more of a giant teddy bear, like Time Hump inspiration Donaldson, but there's no doubt that such an imposing, masculine presence in a female prison is, in and of itself, incredibly frightening.
- Lolly Will Pop A Bitch
Without no flashbacks to guide us, I'd say Lolly and Alex's attempt to dispose of Alex's would-be assassin's body constitutes the A-plot of the episode. Lolly's mere involvement makes this story a winner, but what really puts it over the top is Frieda discovering Aydin's body and proceeding to explain to his killers the "murder math" of "digging six one-foot holes instead of one six-foot hole." Cue the garden shears.
I'm so conflicted about the pairing of Alex and Lolly. Almost everything Lori Petty says on this show, whether it's intended to be funny or not, makes me laugh. I love watching Lolly's Muppet arms flail around while she explains which three-letter government agency is responsible for her lame parking lot conspiracies. (I'm aware that paranoid schizophrenia is not quite as kooky as OITNB makes it out to be, but let's not pretend this show doesn’t overindulge in quirk.)
Alex, meanwhile, is my and a host of other people's least favorite main cast member. Her story beats started feeling repetitive before the first season was even over, and Laura Prepon has never possessed the acting chops necessary to elevate her character beyond the writing. And forcing her to play the role of the sane sister to Lolly only makes Alex seem more like a drip in comparison. It's telling that the only part of their story that lost my interest was when Alex, on her own, discovers that Lolly hadn't quite killed Aydin, and has to finish him off herself. The scene relies entirely on Prepon's ability to convey an emotion other than bored sarcasm, so, suffice it to say, it doesn't exactly work.
- Crazy Love
Poor Crazy Eyes. She finally meets a woman with whom she could potentially develop some sexual chemistry, and she turns out to be even more unbalanced than Crazy Eyes herself. When the new body-armored prison guards arrive to return the Litchfield flock back to their pens, Kukudio persuades Suzanne to continue exploring the forest and partaking in improv games with her instead. Suzanne eventually abandons her when it becomes clear that Kukudio's love of the imaginary (including her obsession with the Time Hump series) borders on dangerous. If I had to guess, I'd say this is just a minor setback in their relationship. I'm looking forward to watching these two lunatics learning to find love in a hopeless place.