Orange is the New Black season five, episode three review: Pissters! (S05E03)

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Warning: spoilers ahead

Orange is the New Black has a variable track record when it comes to weaving characters’ backstories in with the episode’s storyline, but Pissters! does it better than most.

Sorority leader Megan tells her sisters: “I don’t care how cold it is outside – no hideous puffy coats, no pants, and no flat-ass f***ing hair.

Would YOU survive an Orange is the New Black prison riot?

“I mean, Jesus H!…I mean, this is the meaning of sisterhood, right?”

Orange is the New Black season five, episode three review: Pissters! (S05E03)

And that, of course, is how she dies – frozen to death by her lack of a coat, and neglect born from the compassionless false sisterhood she’s built into the group.

That’s not to say Linda’s not responsible for her death – which she implies to the cops was either a suicide or related to drugs and alcohol – or manipulative in the aftermath.

Her past reveals her as a devious, opportunistic shark who can bend situations to her benefit, just as she does again when trapped in Litchfield.

As well as charming most of the inmates with unnerving ease, she also shows a horrifyingly in-depth knowledge of gun pricings – $600 for an AK-47, but $560 if they’re on sale! – and attempts to blackmail Piper and Alex by holding the dead guard over their heads.

All of this paints a picture of someone willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead – a ghastly personification of corporate America – all individual profit, no heart.

Linda’s sorority backstory is a tale of how treating people badly makes them treat each other badly, and continues a negative cycle.

Of course, to be in a position to really negatively affect people, you need a position of power, and for that, you typically need privilege – which Linda also possesses, as Alex observes.

When Piper instructs her to display a more Litchfield-appropriate posture, Linda – or Amelia von Barlow (spelling?) – complains: “I have an anterior pelvic tilt.”

“You have anterior white privilege,” Alex tells her. “You look like you have too much to live for.”

The gap in privilege is made clear by Taystee’s reaction to finding Classic Air Max trainers, when she exclaims: “Cinder-f***ing-rella.”

This is her and her group – collectively, they are the princess, mistreated by their stepsisters for no good reason.

This privilege even affects CO Bailey’s dad in the opening scene. As he tells Bailey, “you will go broke in this industry trying to stick to your principles…hell, I put a stud on a poodle last week for a couple of fruits.”

This slightly homophobic comment is enough to reveal how unaware he is of his privilege.

Bailey had enough privilege to kill Poussey and get away with it, but he’s trying to do the right thing, and hands himself in at the police station – but his race and standing isn’t so easy to shake.

Drunk off his face, he tells the officers: “I’m a bad man, did bad things. I told you, Mr Caputo says it makes a monster.”

Naturally, they put him in a cell to wait it out.

Judy King, who is fully aware that she’s part of the one percent, unwittingly protects the rest of the prisoners with her celebrity.

The man calling the shots at MCC tells the guards simply: “If Judy King’s inside, no-one storms anything. You hear me? We wait this out.”

This predominance of privilege makes the prisoners’ attempts to treat the process and each other well even more important.

At one point, surrounded by sex, fighting and looting, Black Cindy comments: “Damn, it’s like Black Friday in here.”

Orange is the New Black season five, episode three review: Pissters! (S05E03)

Janae remarks: “Those sales are racist as s***. Make us fight over cheap TVs while white folks sit at home eating turkey, laughing at us on the news.”

The group, which has been the driving force behind the political side of the riot, struggles with the main problem of the season: trying to throw off the shackles of inhumane oppression without losing your own humanity.

It’s an impossible problem which the show addresses well, painting a complex picture.

Well Taystee asks why anyone else’s demands are important when “P was our girl,” Alison responds with one of the speeches of the season so far.

“Yeah, but this ain’t only our riot. Worst thing you can do is take another woman’s voice when she’s finally found it.

“Even if she’s driving you crazy, messing up your house, sleeping in your bed even, you can’t deny her the right to say her piece, or s*** can get real dark, real fast.”
The stark contrast between Linda’s sorority and their group is summed up in the next line, which is Black Cindy’s.

“She right, T. If we don’t work together, every day gonna be Black Friday in this b****.”

As it turns out, the prisoners’ demands are so basic and seemingly easily achievable*, it’s heartbreaking – and this is the point, of course, to highlight the terrible conditions in US prisons.

Other observations:

Boo in a suit is the absolute best. Don’t @ me.

Suzanne says the area where Poussey died is a sacred area – and then turns it into one. She often lives in the clouds, but here shows that if you say something, it can indeed be made true. It’s also a reminder that the whole season is fuelled by Poussey’s death.

Another score for the penis count, this time Caputo’s. If we’re including cartoonish representations, that’s several by this point. By my reckoning, breasts and penises are being shown equally.

Nichols explaining to Soso that she “can’t cheat grief” is a heartfelt, well-written love letter to Morello, and it’s gorgeous. Here it is in full.

“You can’t cheat grief. Unfortunately. I can give you some sleeping pills, but you’re gonna have to wake up eventually. I can give you some klonopin, or whatever expired off-brand version they have here, and you’ll feel good and numb for a while, but then you’ll spill a glass of water, or trip on your shoelace, find yourself weeping for four hours, no idea why, I mean…give you some velotted (spelling?) – nah, you’re gonna get addicted to heroin, get sent down to max for doing some stupid junkie s***, find yourself sucking off a CO in a closet for one last hit, and, you know, maybe realise that you were just hopelessly in love with an incredible, insane, beautiful woman who’s never going to love you back. It’s just not worth it.”

*Apart from the anti-gravity chamber, of course.