‘Orange is the New Black’ season 4 episode 7 review: Piper’s Scarlet Letter; Nicky returns to Litchfield

We have reached the midway point of this season of “Orange is the New Black,” and although it hadn’t had major drama yet before Pantygate, it’s built up to it in many different storylines. The suspense is killing us now that Maria Ruiz and Piper Chapman have beef about things that matter. Maria hasn’t bonded with her baby, and this new time added on because Piper framed her has killed the spirit of the once level-headed and peace loving character. Lost hope is a theme we have noticed, not only in Maria, but in Sophia and Nicky as well. It’s a very dark and depressing season, so for that reason the scenes with Suzanne and Morello, and Taystee’s good times as Caputo’s assistant, have been a great tension-breaker. Things are heavy, and we feel from here on out it is going to be brutal. The guards are a big focus this season, as well. Coates, as awful as he was to Pensatucky, pales in comparison to the new group. They are loud, obnoxious, and vile, and those are their good qualities. We are dreading their final influence on this season, but expect it to shake things up in ways that will forever change the halls of Litchfield.

Episode 7, “It Sounded Nicer in My Head,” picks up with Piper in the bathroom, surrounded by her Aryan disciples. She is still uncomfortable with the idea of aligning with white supremacists, but not enough to distance herself because she needs the safety in numbers. There isn’t much Piper Chapman won’t do if it benefits her. Her bunkmate is concerned about retaliation for her past assault on one of the Latinas that Piper ordered her to do, but Piper tells her she’s on her own. Sorry, good luck. The girls in Piper’s Nazi group have approached her to align with other such groups nationwide. Piper has reached her moral threshold and tells them they’re making it more dangerous at Litchfield. They blame Piper’s dismissal of them as white shame.

Nicky is back at Licthfield, and runs into Lolly first, who she quickly realizes is insane. This interaction sets us up for the episodic backstory reveal. It’s Lolly. We had to google the actress, Christina Brucato, who is playing young Lolly, because she was so spot on in looks, speech, and mannerisms as Lori Petty’s present day Lolly that it seemed impossible it wasn’t actually Lori. We learn that Lolly writes reviews of restaurants and such at a local newspaper, but that she has been going over her editor’s head and writing stories about local corruption. He kills the story because there’s nothing to back it up. As she leaves, she hears voices telling her negative things. The onset of schizophrenia has taken hold. She has nowhere to go as her sickness takes over, and she is taken to live in a group home for mentally ill. She runs off after a run-in with another patient before she can even move in. Lolly has been hoarding scraps of trash, and Piscitella turns her in to Healy. He tells him that the next time this happens, he intends to turn her in to psych to get the help she needs. All of her delusions are real to her and it is heartbreaking seeing how tormented she is. We meet her as a slightly younger vagrant in Seattle, making coffee to sell to earn a living, jangling bells to chase off the voices. Healy loves being needed by Lolly, but we wish he would let her go to psych where she really should be. She is very sick and doesn’t belong at Litchfield. In the most heartbreaking flashback of the episode, Lolly hears voices when the cops approach her, and she grabs her bells to jingle away the voices, but they misinterpret this as attempted assault with a weapon.

Cindy, Taystee, Suzanne, and Alison are trying hard to get a picture of Judy King with Alison’s secret cell phone. All of the photos they have managed so far have been blurry and unusable, but with the payday they know is all but theirs, they’re not giving up. They need to find a way to get her alone. There’s still tension between Cindy and Alison, but it’s nothing serious. Taystee tells them what they need to do, and how to do it. She’s gotten a taste of being important and it’s showing to the others. Judy King has a racist scandal on her hands due to a decades-old TV puppet show she was on featuring a blatantly stereotypical sidekick. She becomes paranoid that she is in danger from the inmates. She is terrified when the girls corner her in an empty hall, their motive as harmless of snapping a candid photo, but Judy thinks her life is in danger. Yoga chases down Caputo and implores him to get Judy security. It’s too late for her to get protection from the candid photo, as the ladies have captured a shot of Judy with Cindy, and it’s a classic. They see the racist scandal broke on the news complete with vintage clip. It’s awful. In light of this information, they recognize the potential for a bidding war on this photo, just as Alison’s phone dies. She has no charger. Oops. Judy has given Aleida a purpose. As she delivered Judy her private meal, Judy took note of her nails, which she does herself. Judy compliments them as perfect, and Aleida decides she will open a nail salon when she gets out.

Linda calls Caputo to let him know she’s showed his proposal about the educational program Caputo wants to start. Caputo’s heart is always in the right place, and he’s not thrilled when she says they need to change up the curriculum to add more vocational classes. Statistics prove that with education the women will thrive more with these classes, leading to a reduction in re-offenders. When she arrives to celebrate, she tells him it was overwhelmingly approved. He is thrilled. Just as we suspected, she screwed with the plan Caputo intended and it has devolved into nothing more than a chain gang. She is celebrating. He is shellshocked.

A really emotional moment for us was when Red first saw Nicky again. She held her in the most proud and loving embrace, choosing to take the shot from the guard rather than let go of her. Nicky is catching up on the current state of affairs at Litchfield and can’t believe the group Piper has fallen into. Piper tries to explain she’s not really racist, she just needs back up. Nicky can be very wise, and pulls no punches. She tells Piper it doesn’t matter how it is, but how it looks. She mentions the party Red set up to welcome her back, but Piper was not invited. Morello and Nicky still have the chemistry, and she wants Nicky to join her on custodial and explains the Great Poop Mystery. It takes Nicky ten seconds to convict Angie with a pretty funny, disgusting, and believable scenario to prove why it’s her. Morello is in awe of her, just like the old days. At the party, Gloria asks her if she saw Sophia. She tells them about the blood. The women are concerned. Red notices Angie and Nicky walk off together to make a drug trade. Piper shows up uninvited, and nobody is happy to see her. The cheese stands alone. Lolly freaks out at the party and Healy chases her, discovering her in her self-made “time machine”. He realizes she wants to go back and fix herself. Healy seems to long for the same. As Piper tries in vain to find a friendly face, she is approached by her bunkmate who wants to talk to her outside. Piper makes an attempt to apologize to her, and she uncomfortably rebuffs her before telling her “you gotta do what you gotta do” just as Blanca grabs Piper from behind with the other Dominicans and bring her to Maria. As the music blares at Nicky’s celebration, Pipers screams are drowned out. She has been branded a racist, quite literally. It is excruciating to watch and hear as Maria orders her arm branded with a swastika. Now, Piper has a label of her own.

Wow. This episode covered a lot! Maria has finally gotten her revenge, and Piper will be branded for the rest of her life. We feel her spirit will take longer to heal than her wound. It’s hard to feel sorry for her, but we sort of did. We wonder if Maria will be satisfied with this revenge, or if she will continue to target Piper, who is now solitary in a place full of people who don’t like her. Lolly needs help, and we hope she gets it soon. Healy is replacing his mother with her, and we hope that moment of heartache we saw cross over his face signals his understanding that he cannot be enough for her. Nicky is back and she’s hooked on drugs again. Red knows. We figure this will create tension between them, and we hope Red can encourage her to get clean again. It’s great to have her sardonic humor back in the prison. Grade A+

This review was written by Michelle Wilmot and if you’re not already following her on Twitter, you can do so at the link here.

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